Shaming and jealousy (via polytical.org) July 10, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: jealousy, polytical, relationships, shame
Yesterday, Dan Jasper over at Polytical posted some thoughts about shaming and respectful dialogue. As anyone who knows me will guess, I think about the issue of respect and criticism a lot, so this was a subject which grabbed my interest.
I put up a comment (currently awaiting moderation) and wanted to put that comment up here:
Breast milk IS better. The patriarchy IS alive and well. The veto rule IS dangerous. Biblical inerrancy IS illogical. These ideas might be inferior to their counterparts, yet couldn’t that be demonstrated through respectful dialogue, as opposed to shaming?
Sometimes, yes. But not always.
Christopher Hitchens, a personal favorite of mine actually, personally used shame as a tool against representatives of the Catholic Church (during debates with them, in some cases) in addition to rational points. He did not respect the Church, and so why would he act as if he did? In my opinion, Catholic doctrine and actions throughout the world are shameful, and in some cases the people in charge SHOULD be ashamed of what they have done, represent, etc. We should not merely shame them, but sometimes emotion is the key to rational action.
Your seeming dichotomy between respectful dialogue and shaming is problematic, I think. For me, respect is based upon honesty, truth, and a willingness to challenge and be challenged, not merely being nice. Pure rational approaches (if this is what you mean by “respectful dialogue) are not always effective (or affective–HA!). Unless we are to become straw-Vulcans, we have to recognize the relationship between emotions and intelligence, and that people don’t get to conclusions through purely respectful (especially if only rational) dialogue. Sometimes the only way to get through to us is to show us how ridiculous our ideas are by playful mockery, pointing to moral failings in our ideals, etc. In many other cases such tactics are not useful or helpful, but I don’t think shame is never appropriate.
Jealousy is a problem for many, not so much for others. It is not a moral failing, but it is an unfortunate reality for many people. I don’t think anyone should be shamed because they are jealous. I think people should have compassion for the struggle with jealousy. But if someone is not struggling–not trying to improve their relationship with–jealousy (or other emotional realities), then perhaps they are not working as hard as they could to make themselves emotionally healthy people. Is that worthy of being ashamed? No, I don’t think so.
But the measure of a person is not so much what you are given, but what you do with it. If a person who suffers from bouts of jealousy does not confront that problem as best they can, openly and with a desire to actually change it, then perhaps shaming is not appropriate but perhaps transparent disappointment and constructive criticism are appropriate. And the unfortunate reality is that disappointment and criticism cause shame in people–because they actually are ashamed of being ridden with something. That is, sometimes shame is the cause even when it is not the tactic used. So, should we avoid any sort of interactions which might trigger shame, or should we only not intentionally shame?
And if someone is shamed by our attempts at respectful dialogue, should we be ashamed of doing so? This is more complicated than respect/shaming dichotomies. Just some thoughts I had after reading this yesterday. While I agree with many of your points, I think that I disagree with what I perceive as some background assumptions which I see here.
I think that people feel shame quite often not because they were shamed, but because they are ashamed. Thus, it seems that this question of whether we should use shame, while interesting, is not the whole story. Criticism is not using shame, and the post at polytical seems to create ideas which could conflate criticism with shaming, which is problematic.
(sorry for my lack of activity recently. I’ve been feeling sort of depressed recently and am doing what I can to get out of it. Apparently reading polytical.org helps…)
Recommended reading: On being insecure March 19, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: insecurity, jealousy, polytical
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I follow a few blogs about polyamory. I specifically like polytical.org, a group of poly people in the UK who often have many good things to say.
Today a post went up that deals with what Lola O, the author, thinks of as some contradictions in the polyamory community. But, primarily the post is about the tension between the goal (or what might often be an expectation) of becoming a non-jealous super-partner in order to be poly and the reality of human emotion, struggles with said emotions, and the stubbornness of those twice-mentioned emotions in not simply disappearing at will.
In any case, the post there is long enough without my predilection to ramble on (and on, and on) adding to your reading. So without further ado I will supply you woth the link:
Jealousy and polyamory March 4, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: compersion, envy, frubble, jealousy, monogamy, relationships
One of the most cited reasons that people are not polyamorous, even if they are not against the idea in principle, is that they simply could not do it. They are too jealous.
But jealousy is not a sufficient reason to not be polyamorous. Not being polyamorous for this reason is simply a way to avoid dealing with the problem of jealousy.
Ever listen to love songs on the radio? Ever watch a sappy romantic comedy where the blunt end of the joke is the presence of competition or possessiveness? The lamenting lyrics of wanting someone’s girl, seeing someone beautiful on the train but she was with another man, or sappy words about how someone belongs to someone else is so ubiquitous that not even us polyamorous people always notice it. But it is pretty ubiquitous.
Jealousy, whether in the form of competition, possessiveness, or destruction of property is a part of our culture. It is, indeed, part of the mythology of love in our culture. I use the term myth here because if possessiveness or jealousy are anywhere near the core of love, something is wrong.
But it often is near the core of love in our culture. Our culture’s use of love, expectations of relationships, and folk wisdom about how to respond to jealousy are pretty unattractive. It is not surprising that this is the case, especially given that the Bible (which is a part of the foundation of our Western culture) seems to condone this behavior in the book of Exodus.
20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
and it gets better two verses later!
20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
See, god loves us, but if we were to cast a casual glance to some other god, he would smite us. And we’d deserve it, of course! How could we be so slutty….
Jealousy as a bad thing
The problem is that people don’t see jealousy as a bad thing. As the picture at the top of this post shows, there is an idea in our culture that jealousy is somehow an indication that the love is real, rather than imitation love or whatever. I have been told before that if I don’t mind my girlfriend sleeping with other men, I don’t really love her. Such people say that when I meet someone who I really love, I would not want to share her.
I suppose I don’t love either of you, Ginny and Gina. Sorry….
Bullshit! That idea is patently absurd. I love both of them and I don’t see how bowing to any jealous or possessive feelings I may have is someone more real than recognizing that they are both intelligent, talented, and beautiful people who anyone could love. How is it rational to love someone (or some thing) and not expect other people to love them too? And what right do I have to claim possession to a person just because I love them? That is the implication, right; I love them, and anyone else who does is competition.
Of course, for many of us anyway, jealousy still occurs. Sometimes it’s mere envy, but sometimes it’s not. But what do we do about it? Do we address the object of our jealousy or do we address the fact that jealousy is damaging to relationships and love in general? Most resources I have seen seem to emphasize that the feeling is probably unwarranted; that what we fear is not happening and we need to stop being so suspicious. But when you share your lovers, the thing you feel jealous about is happening! The question is whether you should feel bad about that.
Obviously, if you are agreeing to non-monogamy with your partner(s), you have no justification to be angry about it happening, even if you do feel jealous from time to time. In such circumstances, your project should be to find ways to rid yourself of those types of reactions so that your good feelings for those people are not tainted by unpleasant experiences of feeling possessive or insecure as a result. Eventually, you may grow to like the idea of sharing (some call this compersion. I hate that term. It’s still better than frubble), and jealousy may be nothing but an unpleasant memory or a curiosity for reflaction on human nature.
Monogamous people may have reasons to be angry if their partners have romantic or sexual relationships with other people (since this was not agreed upon, by definition), but the jeaousy is still something they should try and transcend. Jealousy does not stop it from happening, and if it is not happening it causes unnecessary anxiety. It is a sign of lack of trust, security, and can only act to drive people apart, rather than help in any way.
Therefore, there is no excuse for tolerating jealousy, even if one is monogamous.
Monogamy is not a cure for jealousy
Even if you choose a lifestyle of sexual exclusivity, your partner will probably love someone else. They will probably find other people sexually and/or romantically attractive, they will have fantasies about those people, and ultimately they will probably want more than you are able to give. If you decide to structure your relationship such that neither of you will pursue anything beyond friendship with others, so be it, but this will not eliminate the existence and problem of jealousy.
It will just avoid the problem by treating the symptom rather than the underlying cause.
The love you have for someone is because of who they are, and should not be dependent upon who else loves them or who else they love. So, for someone to say that they could not be polyamorous because they are too jealous, what they seem to be saying is that they do not want to deal with the reality of human needs, desires, or the possibility that they may not be able to satisfy every need a person has.
Jealousy is not a reason not to be polyamorous; it is a reason to consider not being in a relationship with anyone. Jealousy does not go away just because you are not sharing, it just isn’t challenged when we are not sharing. It’s sort of like teaching children how to share toys; if you just keep them all separate and let them play with their toys separately, the problem never arises. But when you put children together, they fight over toys. Separating them does not alleviate the problem, it only avoids it.
Similarly, separating everyone out with monogamous pairings does not make jealousy go away, it just tries to create a dynamic where it ideally is never relevant. It is an unrealistic expectation and is rarely possible. So why try?
Only because it avoids the problem most of the time. From a practical point of view, it is easier to not deal with hard problems. But this is short-term thinking, and does not lead to us growing up to emotional adulthood. Jealousy is one of the many aspects to human behavior which we need to address as a species, and too often it is shelved in the name of practicality.
We can do better than that.
Objections to polyamory January 14, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: exclusivity, jealousy, monogamy
I have had a number of conversations about relationships, sexuality, and exclusivity over the years. I’ve heard many proposed reasons why polyamory cannot work for people in general or for specific individuals. But what are most interesting are the objections which are intended as critiques of polyamory, but if analyzed they turn out to be apologies for remaining jealous or possessive.
Now, I’m not quite an evangelical for polyamory, although I believe that it would be the inevitable outcome of people being honest with what they wanted, assuming they are willing to do the necessary work to mature and be capable of maintaing healthy relationships.
But what many people who argue that polyamory is not for them or is not ideal (or sinful or some other equivalent to it being wrong) seem to be doing is romanticizing poor relationship attributes. That is, there is a difference between saying that you are happy in your exclusive relationship and saying that you could not be polyamorous because you are jealous or possessive.
Further, many arguments against polyamory could be viewed as arguments against relationships in general. This is true especially when people ask me why I’m getting married if I’m polyamorous. The assumption seems to be that to marry is to sacrifice through exclusive commitment, which somehow makes it more meaningful. Perhaps it is a reminder that marriage’s origins (as a cultural institution) are ultimately derived from a property relationship.
Essentially, much of our modern concepts about relationships are based upon the model of marriage, or at least engagement, which are ultimately derived from property relationships. And so when people argue for the conservative idea of monogamy, they are stuck in a cultural tradition forged in the fires of seeing our romantic partners as our possessions, rather than true equal partners.
Yes, I think that’s it. Much of the romanticization of exclusivity are essentially about thinking about other people as property. How many “love songs” talk about belonging to each other, being mine, etc? The myth is that the closeness of that special exclusive bond creates something which is unattainable or at least cheapened by non-exclusivity.
And being in two serious, intimate, and loving relationships, I can safely say bullshit. Much like there are many myths about the worthiness of faith, love of god, etc there are myths about relationships. And much like faith being irrational and unhealthy, assumed exclusivity in relationships, which is ultimately derived from property relationships historically, is unhealthy.
Your lovers and romantic partners are not your property. You are not sharing what is yours in being polyamorous, you are just recognizing the reality that they will love other people and are grown up enough to not demand that they ignore this fact.
When it rains it pours July 24, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: compersion, frubble, jealousy, love, new relationships, sex
I am just in a great mood! I had such a wonderful weekend, and I want to share it with the world.
Being polyamorous with someone as wonderful as my dear Ginny is amazing in itself. I feel very lucky to have someone who fits me so well, who is so beautiful inside and out, and who I can expect to spend a fun, nurturing, and challenging (in the good way) life. But recently we met a couple who just got married, and since they are also polyamorous (and they are not exactly a couple; there is a third in there), we started to spend some time with them over the last couple of months or so. And just this last few days it blossomed into a great situation where I find myself beginning what I hope will be another intimate and meaningful relationship. Of course there is no way to know at this point whether it will be successful or not, but my instincts are good. I am able to be objective enough to know that intense emotions can cloud judgment and foresight, but I have every reason to believe that all the ingredients are quality, the chemistry is right, and our desire to create something awesome is mutual.
In other words, I met someone I really like, and am feeling really positive about it. (I have not asked her if I can use her name here, so for now she will remain nameless). In fact, not only has my fortune been good, my fortune hit the jackpot and doubled. In addition to the one nameless (girlfriend? Hmm, I guess we have not discussed titles yet) woman I just left less than an hour ago, I have also started to see another woman who I clicked with very easily. Just yesterday (Saturday) I had a fantastic first date with someone I had met a couple of years ago (before my brief stint in Atlanta), but she recently discovered me on OKCupid (where all the awesome poly peeps are, apparently) and we went out and have a fantastic time. That on top of seeing my new lady friend both Friday and tonight…I’m a little worn out, I have to say….
And on top of that, Ginny is having a great time with her new boy toy…ok, I don’t know what to call him either. I suppose all that will work itself out in time. We are just happy and evolving little poly family here, and I am loving every minute of it.
For those of you who think that this polyamory thing cannot work, that it is destructive and can only lead to hurting people, all I have to say is bullshit! I am happy to see Ginny happy and enjoying herself with another person, and she is happy to see me happy and enjoying myself with another person. (This phenomenon is what is referred to as compersion, or sometimes as frubble. Google is your friend). We love each other, are affectionate and open with each other, and we have other people we care about and have sex with. And, while ultimately I just want people to find what makes them happy, fulfills their desires, etc I think that many monogamous people who say that they could not do this are really missing out on something awesome. But, again, I’m riding high on emotion and am, perhaps, not seeing it all clearly at the moment; I just know that right now I am feeling the poly high.
So, now that I am on the verge of finding a way to build three relationships (of varying significance and intensity), I find that I’m looking forward to it. What more could a person want than more love, friendships, and hot, hot sex with sexy people?
Life is good.
New Relationship Energy June 7, 2010Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: compersion, frubble, jealousy, new relationships, NRE
I’ve been in a relationship for some time now with a wonderful woman called Ginny. The circumstances of how our relationship started have to do with a heart-wrenching break up in January of this year and the right person at the right time and place. Due to the timing of this meeting, it took a while to allow myself to grow closer to her, although closer I grew and I would not want to imagine life without her now. She will never fully understand how her presence in my life was essential for me through an awful time that still occasionally causes sleepless nights.
Because of the slow emotional growth that occurred between us and my emotional fragility in which it grew, there was not that intense emotional high that often punctuates the beginnings of a relationship. I was emotionally cautious, having been hurt so badly so recently, and didn’t allow my emotions to flower in ways they had with previous lovers. I had missed the high of the New Relationship Energy (NRE).
This is not to say that I don’t have intense feelings for her, only that they developed slowly, and thus settled deeper. There is depth that may not have been created under more normal circumstances. Well, normal is relative, right?
What I mean is the situation I am in now is relatively normal within polyamorous circumstances, but not so normal outside of that worldview. You see, there is this girl (who I will leave nameless because I am not sure she would want to be identified) that I have liked for quite a while now. In fact, she was among the first people I met when I traveled to Atlanta last Summer to look for apartments for my ex and I to move into. It just happened to be the weekend of Dragon*Con, so of course there was that too.
When we met, I was instantly attracted to her (and her to me), but I was not in a place to pursue a relationship with anyone else because my ex and I had decided to be exclusive for a while before opening up our relationship. With us moving from Philadelphia to Atlanta and her constantly traveling for work, the amount of relationship tensions were going to be high so the arrangement seemed prudent. I respected that arrangement in act and intention (not like it mattered in the long run) and kept a respectful distance between us despite the mutual attraction.
But once the ex abandoned me (after inviting me to move down here 3 months previous) I re-connected with her and re-initiated a friendship. (You see, the ex didn’t approve of her at all, even as a friend, so…). We have been talking over the last few months, spent some time together, and then this past weekend we spent a lot of time together. She met my girlfriend, they liked each other, and I asked her is she wanted to be my girlfriend as well. The answer is forthcoming (and it looks like she may say yes, but we shall see) but in either case the last couple of days have been filled with that high, that NRE, that I had not felt since the ex who I will not name (not out of any hatred or resentment on my part, but out of reverence for her wishes) and I first started spending time together. Ah, for the blissful days of innocence before the fall….
In any case, I’m experiencing NRE big-time, and I look forward to seeing her again (I will tonight). I’m all giddy, tingly, and excited just thinking about it. I hope that she will say yes to my proposal, but even if she does not I will want to remain close with her because even if she does not want to be my lover, she’s gotta get with my friends…sorry.
So, what does this mean for Ginny? Well, she approves of my proposal and is happy for me being happy. There are concerns about how it will effect our relationship, but we have talked (and will continue to talk) about any concerns she has. Open and honest communication is paramount in relationships, especially in arrangements like this. If she accepts, it will change the dynamic of my relationship with Ginny to some degree. The ideal is to add to the dynamic in ways that benefit everyone. Whether that means a triad (three people in relationships with each-other), a “V” (me having separate relationships with both of them, ideally with them on friendly terms), or something in-between is yet to be seen. But for now I will ride the NRE wave as long as it will last and try to allow it to settle into a relationship of genuine love, affection, and mutual growth.
The key is to not allow the NRE to take away from my existing relationship. It is easy to get caught up in that NRE and to leave the other person feeling under-appreciated. This is a difficult avenue to navigate, one that I have made mistakes with in the past, but I hope that I have learned sufficiently to not make those mistakes again.
And certainly this phenomenon is not unique to Polyamory. How often have you noticed that early in an intense relationship you see your friends less, get less sleep, and otherwise get caught up with the intensity of it all? Now imagine having this while another lover of yours sits aside watching you ride this wave. While frubble or compersion might come into play (as it has for Ginny in the last couple of days), often some envy or jealousy might as well. It is really important to be aware of this (even if it is with friends rather than other lovers), because those close to you will miss you while you ride that wave.
So, be aware that your NRE will affect others around you. And if you can, try and spread some of those good feelings around; share some of that intensity with others so that they can get an idea of how good you feel.