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.