In my last post, I discussed how monogamy is unlikely to satisfy all of our needs. I was aware of a few issues tangential to that, but wanted to leave them aside in the interest of keeping posts shorter. So I will address two issues today; non-sexual friendships and our ability to satisfy needs and desires without relationships.
“The Greatest Love of all”
As I mentioned the other day, in order to have successful relationships, you need to start with yourself. We need to find where it is possibly, and even preferable in some cases, to find ways to make ourselves happy on our own.
Surely, there will be many circumstances where there will be overlap between this self-satisfying of desires and our relationships with other people. Our sexual needs, for example, sometimes can be answered with masturbation and sometimes will require, you know, sex with other people. Also, there will be times when an emotional challenge can be solved by some serious thinking, reflecting, and evaluation of a situation on our own. Other times we will need the perspective of others to help us, as often other people see things in us we cannot see.
We are not island nations, but sometimes our own domestic policy is sufficient for answering to issues of the day rather than appealing to other nations, (or whatever the UN would be in this analogy) for help.
But the essential point is that when it comes to our needs, simply looking within is a great way to go satisfy them. Therefore, I encourage everyone to maintain a healthy relationship with the complexity inside our own heads. I encourage self-love, without getting all hippy about it or something. Dammit, I think I might be too late….
Polyamory as a footnote to Plato?
…or at least Platonic friendship.
Many of the needs we have in our life, complex as they are, do not require finding a sexual partner at all. The needs which are not satisfied by our partner(s), which are not satisfied by them, do not necessitate finding another romantic or sexual partner necessarily. Sometimes just a Platonic partner, or friend, is sufficient.
As I have written about before, polyamory does not require sex to be polyamory. As a result of this, many people are already polyamorous even if they don’t use the term, or know the term. Friendships outside of a relationship, especially if they are very close, are so much like what polyamorous people are doing that I often use it as an example of how poly works to people who seem confused by it’s strangeness. It’s really not that strange.
If you are in a monogamous relationship, there will be things you want and need to do which your partner does not satisfy. Whether that is watching sports, going shopping, or getting some drinks on a Wednesday night, our friends fulfill many of our needs which our committed, exclusive, relationship do not.
Assuming that one partner in a coupling does not interfere with their partner’s friendships, which does happen (and, I think, is due to the same jealousy which makes most people avoid polyamory), those relationships are highly rewarding, meaningful, and important to us.
Most monogamous people have arrangements just like this, and many of them, in reading this, might be confused why this has anything to do with polyamory. “So,” the objector may say, “why would people need polyamory when we have friends, ourselves, and our one loving partner to satisfy our needs in life?” Well, if these things actually do satisfy your needs, then perhaps we don’t need to be polyamorous. Where I have the problem is that people ignore, repress, or rationalize away other needs they may have in order to maintain monogamy artificially. My problem is when monogamy is maintained for its own sake, and not for the sake of authenticity and honesty about what we want.
That is, many people pretend like monogamy+friendship=satisfaction of all needs, when in fact it does not.
What happens when a friend of ours starts to become someone you are very attracted to? What happens when you develop feelings for a person at your gym, book club, or run into an old flame? Why should we ignore this reality, just because we have a sexual/romantic partner? And if so, why?
What’s wrong with enjoying sex, safely, consensually, and transparently with other people whether we, or they, are in a relationship?
What’s wrong with wanting your cake and having it too?
Pursuing every desire?
Yes, there are people out there I am sexually attracted to who I don’t pursue. I don’t pursue every potential relationship I find, because I recognize that it sometimes there are complexities of desire which are more than I need or want, and so I don’t pursue every desire.
But sometimes the feelings are too strong, the desire to intense, to ignore. And depending on how much time I have in my life, I will pursue sexual/romantic partners to various degrees. Right now, my fiance and my girlfriend take up a lot of my time, so pursuing anything very involved or serious is unwise and unwanted at the moment. That said, if I really got into someone, I would probably find time, because, well, love is worth the effort.
But finding a friend with whom I can share a sexual relationship, especially if that desire is two-way, is healthy and available to me. It does not threaten my relationships to do so, and it brings some pleasure and joy to my life. Why should I not want and pursue such things?
Friendships are great, whether they are Platonic or not. We should allow ourselves to express how we feel about people without artificial censorship or repression because of some strange obsession with maintaining monogamy in our culture. So keep up your relationships with yourselves, enjoy your friends, and allow yourselves to have the relationships with the people around you as you want, and let “normal” social expectations and pressures have minimal say in how you do so.