Tightly vs. Lightly

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.

6 thoughts on “Tightly vs. Lightly

  1. Well done~ however if you believe in reincarnation, relationships are eternal on the spiritual plane just as our souls are~
    Early morning thoughts~

  2. Well, (unsurprisingly for an atheist), I don’t believe in reincarnation or souls. But I think you’ve misunderstood the idea of reincarnation, actually. In both Hindu and Buddhist philosophies/religions, reincarnation is supposed to be about learning from each life and transcending the problems and weaknesses. The goal is to eventually get OFF the wheel of reincarnation (either by achieving enlightenment or merging with Brahma) and at that point, human relationships are meaninglessness.

    And even if we did reincarnate and we did remember past lives (so we cared about and reconnected with lovers deliberately) and we didn’t want to move past human relationships, we would still suffer and build up bad karma by holding on too tightly to a relationship.

  3. Upon meeting members of this board, I originally had some major concerns about polyamory due to a friend’s relationship with a poly couple. My friend N was involved with G, and his wife, C, was starting to harbor major resentment/jealousy toward N. Things eventually calmed down, but considering how upset C was toward N, I had concerns about feelings being hurt in the same way.

    I recently asked N what was the actual dynamic in her relationship with N & C. She said that their relationship was considered ‘polyfidelitous’, and that G could see any women he pleased, and that N, who is bi, had to ask G for permission first before engaging with a girl. That being said, men are completely off-limits to N. Call me crazy, but I don’t feel that their arrangement is particularly fair. I could understand if N didn’t want to see other men, but for her to be flat-out forbidden from doing so, and then having to ask PERMISSION before seeing a girl just doesn’t seem right when G can see whomever he pleases. I have no idea how things are for C, but I’m sure it’s similar.

    I’d be foolish not to think that there aren’t variations to the poly dynamic, but for their situation, I don’t consider it healthy. Lots of room for resentment and jealousy. But maybe that’s just me.

  4. Ash, I agree with you–people who set up roadblocks or limit whole classes of people (a gender, for example) are not doing healthy poly. They are trying to open things up without confronting their fears, concerns, and baggage and that will always, always end up blowing up in someone’s face. I hope your friends figure this out without too much jealousy and resentment.

  5. I’m not sure what G’s entire story is, but that’s a good point. I’m just glad that that is NOT how poly is supposed to go! It’s alleviated a lot of fears/concerns on my end.

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