Facing judgement for non-traditional relationships

When folks ask about large scale changes in the dynamics of my polycule, often its simply interest in my personal life, because the asker is someone I’m close to.  Often is curiosity, humans lives are interesting and how we relate to others is one of the most interesting aspects of them.  I’m a nosy little fuck, so I completely understand why someone would want to know details of my personal life to satisfy their own curiosity.  Sometimes though, especially with large changes that face a certain amount of societal judgement, it is hard not to feel as though someone is asking so they can pass their own judgement on a person, usually not positive.

This is something I encounter more these days as a relationship anarchist.  My dynamics are tailored to fit what both individuals in them want and need at the time,  and are fluid, so they can shift as our needs change.  This has served to create great dynamics with a much higher degree of comfort and intimacy, because we can establish trust that we truly respect and nurture each others needs and wants.  It has also served to create greater longevity, because needing to change the structure of a dynamic does not as often necessitate that it end, simply that it change shape.

When Kelev confronted me with his decision to move out, that was a moment that may have well shattered many typical monogamous or relationship escalator based mono or polya dynamics.  In fact, despite us practicing relationship anarchy and having been fluid in the past about -big- things, such as sleeping arrangements, relationship titles, kink dynamics, and room sharing, he was scared to bring it up.  I had proved again and again in practice that I was more then happy to adapt to dynamic changes, and our emotional connection would endure and strengthen through them.  But society is not as flexible, so even with years of past experience of me being understanding and adaptable, he had many more years of societal conditioning that this was something you are broken up with for. This is a thing that causes people to walk away, that will create enough anger for someone to cut you out of their life, etc.  When he expressed the fear that I would do those things, I immediately supplied reassurance, but it was sadly not hard for me to see the origins of those fears.  So many people are willing to toss a wonderfully functional healthy dynamic to the curb simply because it does not take the perfect shape they always dreamed of, or disappoints certain expectations.  I support realizing what you do need to have a relationship be worth while and having boundaries for yourself of course.  But with polya folks where often you do not live with -every single one- of your partners, there is still a large contingent who would end things if a nesting partner suddenly stopped nesting, because they center their needs for that relationship in particular, over their connection with the person.  They would rather attach themselves to the role they fit that person into, than attach to the person themselves in a way that allows people to grow and change while maintaining intimacy.  So even within a very fluid and adaptable dynamic, there is still sometimes fear of judgement.

It isn’t surprising then, that when people ask about those kind of large scale changes, the sort that often spell doom in society’s rigid relationship structures, I wonder how what I say will be twisted around into a negative judgement.  When I told my parents about his decision, I did so with considerable apprehension, ready to leap to his defense.  I knew his decision was not a betrayal, it was not a reflection of any damage or cracks in our relationship, but I also was prepared for it to be seen that way and to fight those assumptions off.  I was waiting for them to suddenly see him as less of a partner, and terrified they would treat him as such, especially knowing how much their love and acceptance has always meant to him.  I felt like I had to balance my words just right, find the exact placement for them when giving my explanations, so that the message could be conveyed with absolute understanding.

I suppose what it came down to was, our relationship was not existing in a vacuum between the two of us.  We had built a beautiful dynamic from the ground up, tossing off societal norms and deciding to love each other completely without rigid rules and structure and expectations that would stifle our growth.  We wanted to be able to change and grow as individuals, have fluctuating needs in the moment, and enhance our intimacy by embracing that in each other and providing support and companionship through those changes.  But other people in our lives related to our relationship, they had ties of love and family and friendship to our dynamic as well as to us as individuals.  So, while we had dropped the silly notion that society should tell us certain changes should feel like our relationship was less strong or one had committed a betrayal, they may not have done that emotional work and might feel for us, something we had decided made no sense for us to feel.  You see this often with polyamorous people just coming out. Their friends decide to feel righteous anger and indignation for them, for their spouse cheating on them, despite the couple having done the emotional work to detach feelings of betrayal from the idea of sexual or romantic fidelity.

This all results in a feeling I’ve had with big relationship shifts, like deciding to un-title things, deciding not to cohabitate, deciding to have a platonic dynamic, that I must justify and defend these choices to people in my life so that my partner is not judged harshly for them.  Or at times, so that I am not.  Sometimes it is a matter of finding reasons that allow it to be understandable or forgivable to people who do not relationship the way we do.  Sometimes there are no explanations that would fit into societal norms, so that isn’t possible.  When that is the case, what I really am asking of people is that they do the emotional work we have done, not nearly to the same extent, but enough so to look upon us favorably for the love and intimacy we share, instead of condemning one or the other or both partners for violating a societal taboo of what happily-ever-after must look like.  It is their right to choose not to do that work and pass judgement instead, but I always hope that won’t be the case.  Because if you do bend your mind to step into our wonderful fluid polyamorous or relationship anarchist world for a moment, you will find not only the relief of not having to judge harshly the “betrayals” that are hurting no one, but you may also get to enjoy some of the beautiful growth and personal discovery that makes this life worthwhile for us.

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Does helping someone else cheat make you a cheater?

There are many bumps and pitfalls when you engage in relationships outside of the societal norm, such as polyamory and relationship anarchy.  In a monogomous relationship, sharing sexual or romantic intimacy with someone else is almost always seen as cheating.  In a polyamorous relationship, cheating is still possible, just not so easily defined.  Since polyamory involves engaging in multiple romantic or sexual dynamics, cheating is usually defined as breaking a relationship agreement.  This almost always refers to relationship agreements relating to intimacy with other people though.  After all, while your spouse might get jealous if you watch the newest episode of Desperate Housewives with your friend Jay, even though you may have promised to watch it with your spouse first, they are unlikely to label this as cheating. If on the other hand, you have sex with Jay and tell your spouse afterwards, and you have agree to run new sexual partners by each other beforehand, then your spouse would likely feel that you had cheated on them. When a relationship agreement is broken, in a monogomous or polyamorous dynamic, and it does relate to intimacy with other people, the label of cheating is often applied.  And cheating is often seen as the worst offense, the sex you had with Jay is a much greater betrayal then your watching of Desperate Housewives together. So what about when you are not the one breaking an agreement, but you are Jay, and are just the third party involved in the breaking of the agreement?

So you have ventured into polyamory, or maybe you have been polya or a relationship anarchist for years.  You befriend an adorable creature who shares some social circles with you and begin to get to know each other.  You meet up for coffee and get lost in their eyes, your discussions stay with you for days after.  Soon you realize well fuck, I really want to kiss this person, but alas, they are in a monogomous relationship.  What do you do? Okay, well obviously don’t kiss them without consent, you have to make sure they want to kiss you too, but assuming mutual desire has been established, do you go ahead because you both want to, or do you refrain from doing so out of respect for their relationship? The cry I’ve heard echoed in most all the polya circles I’ve been in is full stop! Respect their relationship!  For many years I was in Camp Respect, I would have said that you were enabling cheating, and in doing so you were just as bad as a cheater yourself.  If that were still the case this writing would be pretty boring, as it would end here.  I no longer believe that.

This boils down to an ownership mentality.  While polyamorists often try and unpack the idea of owning their partners much more then monogomists, it is hard to completely throw off that societal conditioning.  But I don’t feel like I own my partner! they may say incredulously.  Well, do you accept that your partner is a completely autonomous being who has every right to have and express their emotions as they come up, and share their own body as they wish? If not, do you feel you have a right to restrict how your partner feels and expresses their feelings or shares their body?  If you answered yes to the second question, there is a sense of entitlement over your partner’s body and mind. That possessiveness is the ownership mentality I’m speaking of.  You may have answered yes to the first question, you do accept that your partner is autonomous and can share their body and heart with who they choose, and that means we’re on the same page. As a relationship anarchist, this principle is of extreme importance to me. Shrugging off the ownership mentality, the idea that I had some say over how the people I am close to could share themselves with others, was no easy task, but one I continue to put a lot of effort into.  The motivation behind that is the most important thing.  I truly do believe in the importance of autonomy. I do not believe your partner is ever your possession, or that anyone has a right to treat someone else as a commodity they can keep to themselves or only rent out to others as they choose.  So, in a situation where a person is in a relationship where their partner has dictated, or the societal norms have dictated, that they may not do the delightful kissing or other such things with other people, respecting that is buying into that ownership mentality and acknowledging that they are a possession of their partner.  I refuse to take part in that coercion any longer and as such, if I consent to the kissing of the new adorable creature over the coffee date and they consent to kissing me as well, I will not respect a monogomous dynamic that allows their partner to dictate what they may consent to, and in doing so disrespect their own autonomy to decide.  Now I do acknowledge that them breaking the agreements of fidelity with their partner are hurtful, even if I believe imposed monogomous relationship agreements are unethical.  I also acknowledge that cheating usually includes an element of deception, and that is not a dynamic I will walk into, so usually I end up refraining from the kissing for that reason.  I have no interest in helping someone lie, because while I do not find a disregard for possessiveness and restriction of autonomy to be unethical, I do find dishonesty to be unethical.  My response would likely to be an expression of my desire to kiss the person, but an acknowledgment that I have no intention of being part of a secret where we mutually work to keep it from their partner.  And if they express that they will keep it from their partner, and I need have no part in that, possibly because I don’t know or will never meet their partner, well the desire to do the thing is gone because I don’t really need to be swapping spit with someone who is happy to lie.  So, it’s often a non-issue, but I feel the reasoning behind it to be very important from an ethical standpoint. Especially when my ethics dictate bucking against a culture of owning-ones-partner as much as possible.

Now what about if the person you are interested in is polyamorous, and it’s not a matter of coercive monogamy structures in which fidelity is assumed and there is an expectation of a persons body belonging only to their partner, but instead you have people who respect each others autonomy and desire to explore with others, but have made agreements to guide how they do so? This is where it gets sticky and even I am still working out my hard feels about this. So if you make an agreement with your partner that you will let them know before you have sex with other people, is that coercive and ownership based?  Sometimes I think the answer is yes, I’ve seen these sort of agreements made, where one partner felt they had to agree to restrictions to be “allowed” to be polya, and that is clearly coercive.  Assuming though, that there wasn’t overt coercion, is there a problem?  Well, if you want to tell your partner beforehand, and your partner wants to tell you beforehand, you both will do so, is there need for an agreement there, that if broken = cheating?  If the agreement is truly being made out of a mutual desire to do so, there really isn’t a need for an agreement at all, because both people will do the thing anyway when acting out their wants.  If one person no longer wants to do the thing, then honestly, they are no longer a mutually consenting participant in the agreement.  I think though, brains are not that simple, and desire is not that simple.  If we are assuming agreements made without coercion, without any pressure from the other person that restricts autonomy, and with a deep respect for each others desires, then a person might agree to something that they know is an overarching want, even if their in-the-moment wants might conflict with that. I have agreements with some of my partners to discuss new partnerships with them as I am considering them.  I have these agreements because my base wants are to share my emotions as I enter new experiences, and to give my partners a platform to share their emotions.  I will not let a partner control my new connections, but I do want to know and understand what they are feeling and address that with them, and also include them in my emotions and life experiences, even ones that don’t directly involve them.  In the moment I may at times find these agreements restrictive, and for that reason I do question them, and I may evolve away from them over time.  But at this point I have chosen those agreements and they are my primary want, even if they conflict with other momentary wants.  So I keep to them.

What do you do when you are the third party in these situations though?  You don’t know if agreements that a polya person has with their partner might contain some elements of coercion, or if they are agreements gone into with a respect for autonomy.  When the adorable creature you want to kiss tells you that it would be breaking their agreement but they wish to do so anyway, is there wish to do so a passing fancy that conflicts with their overarching desire to do the thing they agreed to, or are they bucking against and agreement they did not desire to make?  For this matter of ethics, I would say you can’t really know.  All you can do is ask and then trust their answer, and if they say that they truly with to do the kissing, more then they wish to do the keeping of the agreement, you are not ethically bound to hold them to an agreement they do not want to be engaged in.  Now again, I would likely have other reasons for not moving forward.  One reason would be again the possibility for dishonesty here, are they someone who would lie to their partner about this later, or are they letting their partner know and informing them that the agreement is no longer something they can keep to?  And also, I would likely disengage at this point because I do take agreements so seriously due to my distaste for ownership and coercion.  I want to make sure my partners will only agree to things with me that they are sure they want to make a commitment about, because they know they do have a strong autonomous overarching desire for it. I want partners who are self aware to be able to see these things about themselves and determine their own wants and needs.  Someone who is going around making and breaking agreements, when coercion isn’t a factor, is lacking a measure of self awareness and understanding of their desires before making commitments, and I don’t want to get involved there.

I think in the end what we need to understand is that ethical blame is often misplaced due to the normalization of ownership mentality and a lack of respect for autonomy.  Cheating is not unethical because you are sharing yourself in an intimate way with another human, it is unethical because of the dishonesty and breaking of commitments involved  And breaking those commitments is not always even unethical when they were not made in an environment free of coercion in the first place.  When you are participating from the sidelines, not the person who is breaking their agreements to begin with, but the person who is just engaging with an individual regardless of their agreements, you are not taking an unethical action.  Respecting someone else’s choice to decide for themselves what to do with their body is not unethical. You are not required to buy into respecting their agreement to hand that control over to someone else.  You are not required to buy into the concept that someone else is owed or deserves that control.  And you are not responsible for deciding which of their wants are most prominent or overarching, especially if they tell you otherwise or don’t have the self awareness to tell you at all.  I would advise against engaging in those kind of dynamics for many other reasons, dishonesty and causing hurt being some of them.  But I would like to dispel the myth I once perpetuated that helping someone cheat makes you a cheater as well, and put forward that instead we dismantle the structures where we feel we can own someone else’s body and cheating is even a thing.

The importance of freedom

Relationship anarchy is a style of relating to others that highlights freedom and autonomy. It focuses on the desires of the individuals and finding the areas in which they overlap to create the fuzzy little space of the relationship you can curl up in.  It also focuses on the freedom of each person to define their own boundaries and express their own preferences, and to live a life in which they pursue dynamics that fit their flow, without unwanted restriction from other dynamics.

Freedom is one of the merits of relationship anarchy, one of the things that makes it so appealing to many people.  To really understand why people choose relationship anarchy as a life path or relationship style, we have to first understand the value of freedom.

I was a philosophy major the first time I went to college.  I did not graduate with a degree in it, because when I was close to doing so I got distracted by a need to craft things with my own hands and ducked off stage a few credits shy of my degree. I had enough for a degree in general ed, so I took that instead, but I had amassed the knowledge from a plethora of philosophy courses, despite having no big official paper to show for it.  And boy am I rusty when it comes to philosophy in an academic sense, but I did learn ways of thinking that I still apply every day. After all, philosophy is the study of learning, the study of knowledge, and the study of existence.  We all apply principles of that in the daily meanderings of our minds.  For me, my love for philosophy and understanding is why I sometimes end up sitting and trying to really deconstruct why freedom is so important to me.

It is easy to justify things based on what would be lost in their absence.  Without freedom, you have restriction, rules, a box to fit in.  Society is pretty big on boxes you know, which makes sense since the human brain is wired for categorization of things, and society is a group of people with shared dominant cultural expectations.  So society naturally expands on the human tendency to categorize, and creates strong expectations or boxes for what different relationships are and the expectations within them. There are restrictive ideas in the culture I exist in, on what a friendship is, what a romantic relationship is, the exclusive nature of a romantic relationships, and the inferiority of friendships in comparison with that one special romantic relationship.  These boxes are in opposition with the freedom of relationship anarchy.  They are defined by an absence, having one monogamous relationship is a thing because you are choosing or agreeing to an absence of any other romantic or sexual connections.  Having a romantic relationship being prioritized above friendships is a thing because friendships are seen as being absent of the amount of commitment, life integration, depth of emotion, and depth of connection that romantic relationships have. Without freedom to explore each connection based on exactly what you desire with that individual at that time, you are forced to build a dynamic based on absence, knowing that you have limited allowances for what it can and can’t be while being socially acceptable. So we can justify freedom because we do not want to lose the potential that any new relationship has. We want the potential for friendships and romantic relationships to not be limited in their depth because they are seen as different societal boxes, to not be exclusive in nature and limit the potential of other connections.

I would rather justify things based not on absence though, but based on abundance.  I am not just an advocate of freedom and relationship anarchy because I do not want my life and relating to other people to be restrained.  It is in part about bucking against those boxes and throwing off the restraints, but it is also about what happens next when instead of an absence of potential you have an abundance of it. When I started forming relationships that were not structured around certain titles or expectations, where everything in the dynamic was based on the desires of the individuals and where the overlap was, and where the freedom of each person to pursue connections and have their autonomy respected was given focus and priority, something magical happened.  Embracing that freedom sparked a change in myself.  Suddenly there was an abundance of potential in my world, there was an explosion of fluidity and growth.  When I engaged in a relationship it was with the understanding that it could achieve any depth of connection, any range of life integration, it was alright if it changed and shifted over time, and expressions of love and affection and sexual interest were based on mutual consent and desire and not on a certain title or level of societal acceptability.  I had the freedom to move around and grow and expand, like a glorious tentacle beast uncurling on the floor of an endless ocean, or a fabulous demon spreading sparkling leathery wings after shedding it’s chains.

Here’s what actually happened, and what is still happening every day as I experience the self growth this freedom has given me.  I have learned to express affection and love freely to my friends. I can tell my friends that I love them and shower them with adoration and compliments of how spectacular they are. It no longer feels awkward or too much or prohibited.  I have found that when I simply lack the time and energy for new connections but miss the amazing fluff-balls-in-the-chest feels of meeting and getting to know someone and feeling that spark as love and passion develops, I still can experience that because I watch my friends and loves and partners do so and their happiness is contagious because it does not in any way detract from what I have with them.  I have less fear of break-ups because for the most part they are no longer a thing in my world. Dynamics may change, the type of interaction and level of connection may change, but unless the other individual wants to sever ties completely, it is more a matter of a -shift- and not an -ending-. Having that fear eliminated or minimized has made me less controlling, and as such, I’ve learned that being controlling actually was making me feel pretty shitty and I hadn’t noticed how much it ate away at me.

And one of the changes I value the most is this: When I was a kid, I went to a glorious socialist jew camp, and it was the norm for kids to sit in lines of one person leaning back in another’s lap, and that person leaning on the one behind them, and so on in a big train. Big cuddle piles of friend on a bed were a natural part of every day life.  I had an abundance of platonic touch and affection, and some that evolved into more romantic or sexual touch and affection, but it didn’t have to.  Touch was just absolutely normal and comfortable.  And then fast forward through years of trauma, sexual assault, toxic relationships, and becoming a controlling, insecure, and sometimes emotionally abusive person. I came out the other side extremely touch averse, with only a few partners as exceptions. I worked hard to not be a controlling fuckwad of the highest proportions, and did a pretty decent job of making myself into a person I could respect and that those in my life seem to think is pretty rad. But I was still very averse to touch, and that made me incredibly sad when I compared it to my childhood and early teen years.  Well, in the past year, as I’ve dived head first into the rabbit hole of relationship anarchy, after dancing around the edges and dipping my toe in for so long, I’ve slowly started to heal.  I am not the bouncing cuddly ball of rainbows I once was, but I have times where I have platonic cuddle-time with my friends and loves and feel warm-fuzzy-connectricity instead of skin-crawlies.  Giving myself the freedom to explore the abundance of human connection has helped me start connecting more in the moment and feeling safe with touch.  That is what freedom creates, that is why it is important, it gives you a field that is ripe for personal growth and healing.  It presents your fears for you to confront and overcome, and it allows for abundance and exploration in the ways you connect with other human beings.

So freedom is and always will be of extraordinary importance to me.  I want a life filled with abundance, I want a life with an absence of restrictions, and I want more then anything for all those I love to have the same and to never be someone who takes that freedom away.

Relationship Anarchy is an act of Self Love

Relationship anarchy is an act of self love, and here’s why:

Relationship anarchy is fucking terrifying.  It isn’t just, as some often suppose, an egalitarian form of polyamory in which there is no hierarchy or sneakarchy to place some partners in positions of power or priority over others.  Relationship anarchy has deep anarchist roots and involves bucking the societal system of rules and structures and questioning their worth and merit.  It involves forming relationships rooted not just in consent, but in desire.  I want to go into that more deeply in another piece, but suffice to say, relationship anarchy involves navigating away from rule based dynamics and rules masquerading as agreements.

Imagine yourself creating relationships as an autonomous being, with another autonomous being, where you both decide what the relationship will entail and build it from the ground up.  The relationship, and I don’t mean just a romantic dynamic, but any friendship, partnership, way of relating to someone with emotions or vulnerability or touching of your squiggly bits, is tailored to fit exactly what you both decide.  You start with respect for another individual who you see merit and worth in, and therefor want in your life. You desire a connection and way of relating and sharing experiences with that person.  You engage with them, and begin to discover the ways in which they want to relate to you.  You discuss, open up, form a connection, and find the common ground in the fuzzy happy places you want to curl up in, in each others lives.  There are no rules in these dynamics based in desire and respect for autonomy.  Rules are manufactured by society, but a society that clings so sharply to fear and control. A society in which our very ability to eat and have shelter is based on coercive relationships such as working for a wage or buying goods born of others’ exploitation.  Relationship anarchy can be something of a haven away from that.  It can be descriptively at any given time, monogomous or polyamorous, because people can have those particular romance shaped feelings for one or for multiple people at a particular time in their life. But it throws away the societal structure that imposes that you should feel those romance wiggles for only one or only certain people, or that you need certain titles or to follow a relationship escalator when you do. So relationship anarchy is a ideology that centers the autonomy, desire, and choices of the individual, and the respect for another’s autonomy and as well.

Now what does that have to do with self love?  Well, when you embrace relationship anarchy and buck the coercive structures of society, you are saying that a person is autonomous, they have worth, they deserve respect, they should not be controlled by a societal system or a relationship title or rules. And in that, you are also saying that you have the same things, you are also an autonomous being with worth and deserving of respect.  I’m not saying that relationship anarchists do not suffer from shame and issues of self esteem and self confidence.  But to choose a way of loving and connecting that on a base level embraces and elevates personal worth and respect for autonomy and individuality, you are doing something that exhibits radical self love.  You are placing your own freedom and vulnerability and ability to connect, above the judgement and coercion of society as a whole.  You are treating others as individuals with whom you can form unique self made fluid dynamics, and as such you also are honoring the individuality and worth in yourself as part of those dynamics and shared relationships.  You are allowing yourself to make a relationship with another glorious human based on what you desire with them, and in doing that you are acknowledging your desire as having worth.  That is a radical act of self love, and you deserve to have it recognized as such.

And back to the fucking terrifying aspect, because yes, relationship anarchy is deeply scary.  When you decide to form relationships (platonic, romantic, sexual, power exchange, and all the squiggly in betweens) that involve creating a mesh of your mutual desires, and experiencing your ways of relating with another person that you both actively and enthusiastically choose at that time; and when you have relationships that recognize your autonomy and respect the individual, there’s a problem.  In the context of society, there is a big problem.  That lovely ball-of-joy-giving person that you are feeling all the fuzzy vulnerable things for, can walk away at any point in time!  Their squiggly happy feels for you can change! And you are in a relationshipping style in which you aren’t coercing them to stay, you aren’t exerting control, you may not have titles or ties to bind them to you, and you could lose everything at any point in time!  Yes, society sees this as a big problem which is why the typical societal relationships, even polyamorous ones, often do involve a carefully orchestrated web of titles and rules or agreements to give you structure and a false feeling of safety.  The secret that they don’t want you to know though, is that the safety walls you created are all smoke.  If someone doesn’t want to stay with you, a marriage license and two and a half children and the house you own together, likely won’t stop them from leaving.  Relationship anarchy is much more vulnerable and raw in acknowledging that people may choose to come and go from your life, that dynamics are fluid, and that we have no right to own or control people, so we cannot make them stay.  Hoo boy, that is scary!  I would like to address the depth of that uber scary sinkhole, and how glorious it can actually be, in depth at another time, but right now I’m going to relate that back to self love.  When you decide to engage in relating in a way that is so intensely vulnerable and admits that your spectacular connections may not in fact be safe or solid or last for the rest of your life and beyond, and that safety nets and guarantees are not real, and nothing is ever certain, you are forced to acknowledge something truly valuable.  That you as a person exist separate from your relationships, that you are an independent being, and that you will endure and survive as an independent being regardless of the ways your relationships with the people you love and adore continue to endure, or change shape, or end.  And facing that again is an act of self love.  It is an acknowledgement that you take up space in this world and you exist and are worthy of life, separate from all the people who’s lives you are a part of.

So my lovely long time relationship anarchists, and my beautiful budding new loving anarchist folk, to those who are curious and dipping a toe into learning about it all, and everyone in between: Remember your worth, remember your power, remember your freedom, remember your independence, remember your autonomy, and remember to love yourself always.  When you live this way, you already are practicing a radical form of self love, so recognize that within yourself and embrace it.  You are glorious.

Is Jealousy a Magical Emotion?

“I couldn’t be polyamorous, I get jealous too easily”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that statement or ones like it. Tell me a little about your emotions. I imagine you feel a variety of emotions through life, such as happiness, excitement, anger, sadness, confusion, irritation, joy, exhilaration, and so on. Now I imagine the emotions that most folks deem as positive require little analysis, you don’t feel a need to -do- anything with them, you just feel them. But the others, well those are often addressed by all but the most emotionally obtuse people at some point or another. So when you feel confusion, irritation, anger, etc, what do you do? If you’re anything like me, I imagine you try and sort out what you’re feeling, why, and what to do about it. Folks process emotions differently, both depending on the person doing the processing, and the situation in which the emotion occurred. If angry for example, you may reason with yourself until you calm down, vent your anger and let it out, recognize it as unneeded or irrational and let it go, channel it into a healthy outlet of some sort, figure out the source and solve it, and so on. The end result is you see you are doing the emotion, you work through the emotion, and hopefully you continue on with your life. Does it work perfectly every time? No, I doubt it. But are you going to stop leaving the house because people like Douchebag McGee in his Mercedes cut you off yesterday and made you angry and you had to vent to your friendo until you calmed down? Also probably no.

Then there’s jealousy. The way mono folks talk about not being able to be polya because they le gasp would get jealous, just baffles me. Do they suppose us polya folx never get jealous? Wouldn’t that be nice! What is so magical about jealousy that makes it an emotion you would drastically limit your life to avoid, instead of just dealing with it, the way you would any other negative emotion that comes up? (And don’t get me started on “negative” emotions, the strange idea of some emotions being bad and others good is a rant for another time.) Sure, jealousy can be pretty unpleasant as far as emotions go, I’ve felt it to the point of being overwhelmed with a shaky paralyzing heat that seemed to be consuming me alive. Not a fun moment truly, but then I’ve also felt overwhelming grief, fiery hot anger, humiliating confusion and uncertainty, and a whole host of other also at-the-time unpleasant emotions. And when I dealt with them, I often learned a little thing, or came out of it a stronger or better person. The same goes for jealousy, some of the best parts of me are forged from the walks I took through jealousy and managing it when it reared it’s head.

I suppose if one has no desire to be with other people, it would be like someone living in a near-Utopian community choosing not to venture into the outside world and risk being cut off by Douchebag McGee and his Mercedes. Why subject yourself to that when you got all you need already and have no motivation to? I can grok that, but you know, that’s not what I often see. The mono folk I know who are saying “Oh nope, could not do that polya thing, I would be the jealous” are not talking about not wanting to be polya themselves because of lack of interest. They are wanting their partner not to be polya, that’s what they would be doing the jealous of. Look, I could write some nice things about no one true way, and all ways are great, and everyone can live their own life and that’s just fine and dandy, and that would make everyone happy (or almost everyone, someone always finds something to birch about). But I don’t believe that, I don’t actually think engaging with another human being in supreme closeness with the desire to restrict their behavior and potential to connect with other glorious humans just because you get this magical jealousy emotion that you won’t tackle the way you would any other negative emotion, is healthy. I’m not saying monogamy can’t be healthy in other contexts, two little humans who have no desire to engage in romance squiggles or sexy time with other humans and so they just choose each other for that, is lovely. But two people elevating jealousy to some magical pedestal as the untouchable emotion and negotiating a dynamic with their partner in which they decide they will both restrict their behavior -because- of jealousy being a thing you don’t work through and that you avoid at all costs, that ain’t healthy. Jealousy isn’t magic, it isn’t untouchable, and it isn’t healthy to try and avoid at the cost of not living a life of beautiful connections you might otherwise be curious about.

Oh and spoiler alert, if you’re that concerned about getting jealous to the point that you choose monogamy for that reason, you’re shit out of luck. Monogamy isn’t a cure to jealousy, Douchebag McGee is driving his Mercedes into your living room when you least expect it and at some point, you’re gunna feel that jealousy anyway, and you may not have the skills you would have otherwise learned to handle it with.