A friend sent this to me through StumbleUpon today, and I thought it was worth sharing – it is an attempt at representing all of the various types of relationship models regularly engaged in by people. The comments around the diagram make it much more fun and understandable
This is third or so version of the informatic, as its creator (Franklin Veaux) kept adding new relationship models as he thought of them, and then started adding the comments. You can see all of his blog posts over in live journal:
Just wanted to post about the article published in Sunday Life (a section of the Sydney Morning Herald) back in July. I was overseas at the time so missed it when it was published, but have just got my hands on it and was really happy with the article. I cannot find an online version at SMH, but a scanned version of the article can be found here:
Three’s Company + Meet Australia’s Polyamorists
Another Post about the article has been made on the “Polyamory in the News” blog:
Publicity Breakout in Australia
One quote from the article which I think really captures one of the beautiful aspects of Polyamory, is actually the final paragraph:
As for the Fords, they say polyamory has enriched their marriage and offers them fulfilling romantic relationships. “Being poly relieves you of the crushing burden of having to be everything to somebody,” says Ford. “You can be yourself and your partners can be themselves, and nobody has to try to be everything to everybody or worry about being traded in for ‘someone better’.”
I just like that.
Part Two of Two – Read part one first: Stranger in a Strange Land – Love vs Jealousy
Polyamory is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Most people have heard of it, and I imagine that everyone who has heard of it just as quickly dismisses the concept as one of those ideas that “can’t work” or simply “doesn’t work”. I want to explore that instant dismissal briefly.
I don’t know of any rigorous studies done on the subject, partly because I haven’t looked (this is just a topic on my mind, not something I have studied extensively), and partly because such a study would be very difficulty to do as most such relationships would be very private arrangements – polyamory still being something not accepted by society at large. So I think it would be hard to actually know how many of these relationships there are, let alone how many of those relationships ‘fail’, and more difficult still – how many of those failures are caused by the structure of the relationship, as opposed to normal reasons for relationship failure and outside factors.
So if we consider the scenario created by a polyamorous relationship we are immediately struck with two strongly negative forces: 1. The social conditioning of the participants and 2. The constant non-subtle judgements passed by people outside the relationship.
It is difficult to really say anything about the first negative force because it will vary greatly from person to person and from one childhood environment to another. However I don’t think there is a person (at least in our western society) who doesn’t know that you are ‘supposed’ to have one partner and only one partner, and that anything else is ‘evil’ in one way or another. ‘Knowing’ it isn’t really the problem though – the real problem is the underlying subconscious thought processes, the trained ways of thinking, the assumed roles and consequences which have been bred into us by a consistent world that will create mental hurdles. I guess that most people are unable to jump all of these hurdles, and inevitably trip on one or another, and find themselves ‘unable’ to be polyamorous.
The second negative force is probably just as powerful as the first. Most people simply won’t understand polyamory. Not that they can’t – but they won’t. And they will express that choice in numerous judgemental ways that will constantly drain on the energy of someone ‘trying’ to be polyamorous. With the self-doubt already well implanted in the mind of anyone raised in our society, the constant barrage of ‘concern’ by their family and extended friend group will only help to rock the delicate balance of the mental boat.
So, are Polyamorous relationships destined to fail? Probably – but not for the right reasons. Not because people can’t love more than one person – you have to be a very special case of ‘protected from life’ to think that someone can’t love more than one person at a time. Also, as I argued in the point above, I also do not think that they are destined to fail because of jealousy – we have as much opportunity to ignore and overcome jealousy as we have opportunity to ignore emotional desire, lust and affection for people who are not our spouse. Maybe it is failure will come from the complexity of maintaining relations with more than one person?
I expect it would be harder to maintain extremely intimate relationships with more than one person at a time, and that would cause difficulty, but that is a problem to be tackled on individual merits case by case as we currently do when dealing with our single spouses, friends and family. As a matter of fact, having said that, I can’t think of anything else to say about the difficulties of possible polyamorous relationship structures, because the number of possible ways it could be worked are extensively numerous. For every difficulty, there is a way to do it which avoids, compensates for, or embraces that difficulty. When the real idea here is simply dispensing with jealousy, and embracing those you are close with into a closer circle of affection, the way it is done is immaterial to the ends.
Regardless of whether polyamorous relationships are destined to fail or not, it is worth noting that a large proportion of monogamous relationships also fail – repeatedly. Most people practice monogamous relationships from their mid teens, always looking for ‘the one’, and still about 40% of Australian marriages and up to 50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce. Take into consideration that these are the monogamous relationships which both individuals decided would last ‘forever’, and that was after (in most cases) a series of monogamous relationships which were discarded leading up to this marriage because of not meeting the requirements. Also consider that these are just ‘divorce’ rates – this does not factor in other de facto relationships, and versions of ‘life long’ monogamous relationships which break up.
When you factor all of that together, you end up knowing that the clear majority of monogamous relationships ‘fail’. Take the time to consider the fact that most of these relationships started because of an emotional closeness between the individuals involved – an affection, a desire, sometimes a sense of love. Two individuals who love each other, and nonetheless statistics say that that relationship will fail. Why?
Maybe monogamous relationships aren’t are great as we have convinced ourselves that they are. Divorce rates for second and thirds marriages enter the 70 percentile range too… so it only gets worse.
Maybe if both partners of a monogamous relationship allowed each other the freedom to love openly – repressing the ‘bad’ jealous emotion rather than the ‘good’ affection/lust/desire emotion, more marriages would last. Why would you leave the man/woman you love for someone else, when you can have both?
Jealousy makes no sense at all.
Posted by Aegist
Stranger in a Strange Land deals very much with social taboos, and with the concept of polyamory (amongst other topics). It was an interesting book for me to read at this time because I have been actively engaged mentally on this topic recently. I have thought quite extensively about polyamory and other forms of non-monogamous relationships in the past, but I think the past few years have helped me refine my understanding of relationships and people in general.
There are two primary things I am interested in talking about in this post. Firstly I want to talk about the ‘goodness’ and the ‘badness’ of certain things/actions/feelings. This comes almost directly from Stranger in a Strange Land and is something which has really struck me. Secondly I am interested in the idea that “everyone knows that open relationships/Polyamorous relationships never work”.
Love and Jealousy
To start with, I want to quote ‘Mike’ (The Man from Mars) directly. This quote directly follows on from a friend talking about how he felt while ‘making love’ to one of the women in Mikes inner circle, and how if he was younger he would have eagerly married the woman:
“That’s what it should be. But that’s what a I slowly grokked* it rarely was. Instead it was indifference, and acts mechanically performed, and rape, and seduction as a game no better than roulette but with poorer odds and, prostitution, and celibacy by choice and by no choice, and fear, and guilt, and hatred, and violence, and children brought up to think that sex was ‘bad’ and ‘shameful’ and ‘animal,’ and something to be hidden and always distrusted. This lovely perfect thing, male-femaleness, turned upside down and inside out and made horrible.
“And every one of those wrong things is a corollary of ‘jealousy.’ Jubal, I couldn’t believe it. I still don’t grok ‘jealousy’ in fullness, it seems an insanity to me, a terrible wrongness. When I first learned what this ecstasy was, my first thought was to share it, share it at once with all my water brothers – directly with those female, indirectly by inviting more sharing with those male. The notion of trying to keep this never-failing fountain to myself would have horrified me, had I thought of it.”
*understood in a holistic way
Several times throughout the story this very pertinent point is made. Sex is not a bad thing in and of itself. The sexual act is physically pleasurable, and emotionally enjoyable. Sex is made bad by social pressures. When all social stigma is removed, Sex is distinctly a ‘goodness’. It is positive in every way – It causes pleasure, and helps people grow closer with one another.
On the other side of the coin there is Jealousy. Jealousy appears to be pure ‘badness’. Jealousy will drive ‘good people’ to do terrible things – insults, accusations, violence, abuse, and murder to name some of the obvious ones. There is nothing good about the emotion ‘jealousy’ itself, and nothing ‘good’ comes of it.
I find it odd that our society is as tolerant of jealousy as it is. Worse than that, we often find ourselves or others like ourselves even promoting it! Everything which comes from this emotion is negative, yet we still see family and friends protecting each other’s jealous feelings; sure, it has been written numerous times that jealousy is an ugly emotion, but when it comes to how we actually live, jealousy is by far more acceptable than embracing the infidelity of a partner. How many times have we heard the story of the boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend with her best friend? The automatic assumption is always that she has been betrayed and he deserves whatever retribution she wants to dish out to him. Never is the case made that she should be happy for him and her best friend. She loves both of them doesn’t she? So why is she systematically destroying everything that was ever good between herself and the both of them? What has she gained by falling prey to the emotion of jealousy in this instance? And why does everyone always support her in this course of action? Jealousy is a ‘badness’ and there is no justification for succumbing to it.
At this point it would be fair to question the point of talking as if an emotion is felt by choice. “Surely jealousy will be felt regardless of whether I want to feel it or not?” Well, yeah, to an extent. But a married man will lust after women he can’t have whether he wants to or not – yet we have the Bible telling us we must never do it – most social codes seem to generally agree with that sentiment. We are outright expected to suppress a powerful emotion (a fundamental driving biological emotion to be specific) and act as if that emotion simply doesn’t exist. There usually isn’t much support for the ‘cheating’ spouse when everyone finds out what they have been doing…
So can we stop ourselves feeling jealousy? No more or less than we can stop ourselves lusting after other women or men while married… So why do we choose to block the emotion which drives us towards a ‘goodness’, and allow ourselves to be exposed to the emotion which drives us towards ‘badness’?
- Think about what it is like to ‘fall in love’, what it is like to find yourself attracted to someone, what it is like to feel ‘connected’…and think of the consequences of allowing yourself to explore those feelings without regret and guilt. What consequences do we see? We see growth, we see happiness, pleasure, enjoyment, we see increase in well being all round.
- Now think about the consequences of jealousy. A wife catches a ‘cheating husband’ and the jealous reaction is an overwhelmingly negative one. If it isn’t immediately violent, then it is probably immediate depression, despair, and collapse. Allowing jealousy to rule will result in despair, heartache, loss and overwhelming depression – with or without a divorce. Jealousy often drives people to particularly vindictive actions too – malicious divorce where the slighted partner’s sole purpose is to get us much money out of their ‘cheating’ partner as possible, and where kids are involved the jealous individual will even go so far as to attempt to stop all access between their ex-spouse and their children. Further extending the ‘badness’ effect of jealousy, and having the unfortunate effect of impressing upon those children that it was the ‘cheaters’ fault that this has happened – “if only he had stayed true and been monogamous, then none of this would have happened” – a strong lesson to impressionable children. Never is it taught that jealousy is the real cause of the pain and suffering.
I can’t see how this topic can be any more lucidly clear than that. There is a confliction, but one is clearly good, and the other is clearly bad – why does society insist we keep choosing the bad option?
Love is a positive emotion. Affection, friendship, closeness – all of these feelings of kindred-ship we experience with one another are the most beautiful and positive things available in the human experience. We have an endless supply of these positive closeness emotions in all of their varying intensities. It is an ‘endless fountain’ within us, but we constantly let that fountain be blocked by the jealousy of another – and ironically we only let that other person do it because we love that person, and we have been convinced that they have the right to feel ‘jealous’.
What would the world be like if our moral guidelines dictated that no one should allow themselves to feel jealous of another persons good fortunes, and just as importantly recommended that we all openly embrace our love for one another without guilt?
Part Two Follows – On Polyamory
Posted by Aegist