One of the never ending discussions polyamorous people have is around jealousy. For that matter, people who are monogamous and just talking to someone poly always want to talk about jealousy. Jealousy is apparently a fascinating topic–what it really is, how to deal with it, is it learned or ingrained, etc. I’d like to offer a different way to look at this question: Tightly versus Lightly
Some people hold on to relationships very tightly. They try to control them and shape them so they feel safe. They’re the ones who set up rules and vetoes, who have problems with jealousy, who constantly wonder when things will go wrong. And things always do.
Other people hold relationships lightly. They don’t make any relationship the focus of their happiness, they naturally avoid jealousy and they are happy when their partner goes off without them, whether it be to another lover (poly) or a hobby (mono).
People who hold relationships lightly don’t constantly wonder when things will go wrong. Because they know things will.
Ha! Gotcha there didn’t I? You thought I was going to make the claim that holding relationships lightly was a cure-all for relationship problems! Well, that would be stupid, because there IS no cure. Annalisa’s #1 relationship rule is:
All relationships end badly
(Note: This is written simplistically so it can be catchy. The true statement is: All relationships end. And unfortunately we live in a society that equates “ending” with “failure” so many people consciously or unconsciously fear a relationship’s end and automatically label it as failure).
It’s true. You either break up (which is usually framed as “the relationship was a failure”), or one of you dies (which maybe isn’t the same kind of “badly” as being dumped, but it certainly isn’t a good thing). I suppose we could consider the case of two people who die at the same instant (maybe a la Thelma and Louise), but that’s pretty rare and anyway, you’re dead, so the relationship is over.
The great thing about really accepting the fact that all relationships end is that you stop thinking you can do something to avoid that fate. And then you stop worrying about the end (ZOMG I don’t want to be alone!) and start focusing on the middle (aka the present). You can stop thinking “If my partner is poly he might find another woman and she might be younger and prettier and that might mean he likes her better and then he might leave me so to protect myself I’d better create 3,846 rules!” and start thinking “Right now, what would I like?”
Whether you’re more comfortable in a monogamous or a polyamorous setup is in my view not the most important question. Every monogamous relationship admits other people into it (family, children, friends). Every poly relationship has limits (number of partners, certain people who are deal breakers). In modern society, where men and women work and play together as equals (mostly) and mingle in all settings, there’s really no sharp distinction. There are tons of “monogamous” couples who have the occasional threesome and tons of “poly” couples who have “we two only” activities. It’s not a bright line at all.
But I honestly do believe that if we could all accept that at some point, our relationships will end (possibly sadly) and that we can’t change that we might be able to let go of some of the fear, jealousy and name calling. We’re all in the same boat after all. No one gets out alive, so we should concentrate on enjoying the ride as honestly and fully as we can.