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A chat a few days ago with MLRF lead to an interesting discussion of sex and ego. She describes herself as a "serial non-monogamist", though she has remained monogamous with her current mate for some chunk of time measured in years. We got to talking about monogamy vs. polyamory vs. open relationships, and it led to an interesting observation that monogamy (or perhaps more precisely monoamory) is closely tied to ego.

This of course wigged me out a little bit. I've explored the idea of polyamory within my own little field of relationship issues, and though I do think that I could comceivably work within a poly framework, there is a part of me that wants to be the one-and-only, to be the primary, to be number one. And yowza, that part is modef ego.

I try to be egoless. Not always successfully, but I do try to not get an overinflated sense of self-importance. It's a task riding herd between wanting to be self-confident and not wanting to be an egotist, so this backdoor revelation kinda took me by surprise.

For a long time I was in a technically open relationship. In practice it was almost entirely monoamorous. The rules were that there would be no secrets, and that there would be no emotional attachments (i.e. no falling in love). As it turned out, that last one was an impossible rule to play by, and it pretty much spiraled into the end of the relationship; a catalyst rather than a cause.

I've spent a couple of years now doing the on-and-off introspection and study of relationships: my own role, different ideas and meanings, different forms, what I'm willing to offer, and what I'm willing to accept. And honestly it hasn't brought me any closer to being relationship-ready.

Sure, I miss the feeling of belonging, the partnership and camaraderie, the not feeling alone, the sharing. But at the same time, I see a lot of relationships that are frustrating messes and I begin to wonder if the model of relationships that we have isn't completely dysfunctional at the core. Jealousy seems to be a huge issue, and everybody seems to have different boundaries.

For me, it's been pretty clear for a long time that a relationship is not the same as ownership. I'm not "locking you away" in any sense of the word, and if I ever find myself getting jealous of something you do, I have to go back to that core concept and see exactly what the hell is happening. And I find that the thing that can make me angry is dishonesty.

I probably don't have the time to put into a relationship right now. That's likely by design-- if I keep myself busy, it keeps me distracted-- and I wonder if I did somehow become involved with someone if I could devote the time to dating and being together that it would entail. I'm already pretty light on social committments because of all the stuff I'm doing.

I dunno. It's hard to take in all at once.

So what about you? Where does monogamy/monoamory fit in with your life? What about fidelity? What would constitute "cheating" to you?

(I'm opening up this one to anonymous responses for those of you who might like to respond but don't feel comfortable saying it publicly.)


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2006 08:40 pm (UTC)
I am comfortable with polyamory. I love you, I love to be with you, I love sex with you, then you go home to your wife.

I haven't had much in the way of monogamous relationships and what I know for myself is that no one ever can control my sexuality.
I repressed myself for years. no more.

I may be quite celibate but not because of somebody elses rules.

If I love you, for real, I want you to be happy. Watching you love someone else is good because love is good and it makes you happy.

that's how I know we're really solid.
Apr. 6th, 2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
Very well said.
Apr. 5th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty certain I couldn't handle a polyamorous relationship. I'd get jealous. I also tend to throw myself completely into relationships and it feels like an effort with one person, I'm not quite sure how I'd feel about more than one person to be involved with.

I'd probably play favorites, I'd prefer one person over another. If if was the case of me and another woman and one guy I'd probably feel insecure if he spent time with her over me, and I'd feel slighted, and it'd become a competition.

When i'm emotionally attached I can only be with one person at a time. I just don't seem to be attracted to others beyond the "he's very attractive" sort of way.
Apr. 5th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
I'm extremely happy in a mutually monogamous relationship. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't look for sex elsewhere even if I couldn't get it from my husband, for some reason. (Physical disability, distance, etc.) Sex is a small but important part of our relationship. It's also a very powerful symbol in our society of commitment and love. I can respect that other people choose to decouple (ha ha) sex and relationship commitment, and I'm glad it works for them. It's not the way I choose to experience relationship, and I'm really quite happy with that. I believe my husband is as well.
Apr. 5th, 2006 08:59 pm (UTC)
Just one perspective, your mileage may vary
Well, I was involved in a relationship that wasn't monogamous, but then it turned into overwhelming hassle, so now we're dating exclusively.

I don't know if I'd handle it well if everyone was decent and respectful to one another, because I haven't had that experience.

I know that I *didn't* handle it well when I was publicly insulted or marginalized by a fuckbuddy.

Here's what I think on it now. Relationships normally have conflict, trouble and bumps. Adding more relationships also adds more conflict and bumps and *everyone* involved had better be willing to try not to make anyone else miserable.

BUT, it seems that the people most attracted to nonexclusive dating seem to also be the types to thrive on drama.

I'm sure that's not always true, but it's common enough.
Apr. 5th, 2006 09:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Just one perspective, your mileage may vary
BTW, love the icon.

it seems that the people most attracted to nonexclusive dating seem to also be the types to thrive on drama.

Oooh, yowch. :)

I wonder if there's a cause-and-effect relationship happening there, or if they're both symptoms of something else.
Apr. 5th, 2006 09:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Just one perspective, your mileage may vary
I wonder if there's a cause-and-effect relationship happening there, or if they're both symptoms of something else.

I speculate that there are sane, healthy people who are involved in non-exclusive dating.

I also speculate that if someone were the type to be insane and constantlyclusterfuckneedy, polyamory would be the best place to find all the fun and games they could ever want.

All relationships have miscommunication. ("What? Marble-Jack cheese? I wanted Co-Jack!") Multiple relationships just have MUCH more room for miscommunication to become exciting.
Apr. 5th, 2006 09:40 pm (UTC)
And I forgot to say...
I know you've already got millions - but, feel free to steal the icon if you want, it was made by someone who works for Comedy Central anyway. :)
Apr. 5th, 2006 09:19 pm (UTC)
oh. heres my two sense.
i dont think Vs work too well. I think triangles are more stable where even if two of the three arent sleeping together they still have love between them. I just saw the movie the Edukators last night and polyamory formed in the movie. I thought it was a great representation of a strong triangle. I also thought it was one of the greatest movies about poly forming I have ever seen.
so I dont believe in love without jealousy. But there is an lj group that discusses it called compersion. I think poly can be twice as heartbreaking or twice as warming as monogamy. twice as much love - twice as many breakups. and it takes really special people to make it work. all three people must have independant relationships to eachother that include love and repsect. If your not good at monogamy you come into poly with a disability.
Something more;
Poly is not fair and that has to be okay with you. It cant be fair. Cause if your two other loves fight with eachother you are going to suffer too. Even if they both love you they will both be in the dumps and it will effect you. Thats not fair.
fidelity to me just means a promise, a boundary. My amory comes with fidelity it is very important to me. I dig fidelity. (now i should go look up the technical definition)
and I dont think honesty keeps you emotionally safe. It doesnt make anything hurt less if its gonna hurt.
Apr. 5th, 2006 10:02 pm (UTC)
While I could engage in poly relationships, I think I'd be really, really annoying to be partnered with. I would have no issues with the sex or the jealousy*, but I'd struggle with managing my attention. I'd get really into a new relationship and any existing relationships would suffer. Time management would drive me nuts, too, I'm sure.

Cheating is breaking a promise. I'm okay as long as you don't promise me something then let me down. Of course, if I care less about someone I'll be less likely to request promises.

*Several years ago I made a concerted effort to manage my feelings of jealousy. I think I've successfully removed jealousy as a reaction or feeling I experience in relationships.
Apr. 6th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)
I tried an open marriage on the second one, but I think it was a symptom of an empty marriage. I wouldn't go that route again. I like being the special person of my partner, and I like being his. For me, a loving relationship adds energy and strength to my life.
Apr. 6th, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC)
I completely disagree with MLRF's assertation. Monogamy isn't about ego. Monogamy is about allowing one's ego to be utterly and completely a part of another's sense of self, and vice versa. It's the ability to surrender one's ego that allows a relationship to last. And that sort of thing requires one important trait to work: Trust.

I'm speaking of being able to be utterly and completely yourself with another human being. More to the point, I'm talking about being completely honest with no fear that the truth of who you are will drive your partner away.

A good partner is tough to find. A good partner in whom one can develop that kind of honesty and trust is even tougher.

I've always maintainted that SpousalGoddess and I hooked up the way we did because we became best friends before we became lovers. But saying "hook up with your friend..." is too simplistic. Face it: As we get older it's really hard to find friends that we can honestly trust. Even the best of friends don't really get to see all of we really are. No, we keep a certain distance, partially out of a sense of propriety and partially out of simple self-preservation, and keep the rest to ourselves.

Thing is, that doesn't work with a life partner. That is a person in who we must be able to invest passion, love, sex and yes, trust in all things that make us up. It's the ability to be genuinely naked in front of your partner -- which is an entirely different thing than being nude -- that allows those bonds to form and, with time, grow.

And yes, in my opinion, part of that bonding process involves a period of genuine monogamy.

Here's the kicker, though: One sign of a good relationship is that the desire to remain monogamous isn't demanded, it's desired. Later on, after the bonding has been solidified, if a couple decides to broaden their boundries then they should have at it. But that core relationship has to come first. If it doesn't and the couple decides to "spice things up" then the relationship is doomed.

I say this because I've seen it. Back in 2001, SpousalGoddess and I were introduced to a group of, for lack of a better term, "beautiful people" around town. During that time we encountered about a dozen couples for whom the phrase "It's just fucking!" dictated their attitude towards sex. These were people who seemed to have it together. They were apparently happily married, they had great homes, and they were seemingly successful. Indeed, these people tended to run with the executive class, and were quick to point out how much money they'd made over the past few years. (And yes, for the record, we got propositioned...a lot. We got really good at politely declining and running for the door, but that's another discussion, too.)

Care to guess how many of those couples are still together?


This wasn't a shock to either of us. The couples who broke up were clearly dishonest with each other. You could see them posing for their partners, playing their roles. It was like they couldn't trust their partner to like who they really were. And sure enough, the moment that they could get away from each other they become completely different people. By contrast the couples that did stay together were honest with their partners first and foremost.

No magic formula required. Just honesty and trust.

The irony, of course, is that the couples who have stayed together are widely considered "unhealthy' in today's climate. "God, they're so co-dependent!" was a common sneer behind those couple's (and, truthfully, our) backs. Thing is, if the choice is living alone and dealing with that kind of nastiness or living with a person whom I love completely and utterly, and with whom I am honestly a co-dependent partner, guess which choice I'll make?

Does this mean I give up some of who I am for my partner? Yes. And I do so gladly.

Does this mean I expect the same from her? No. I love her for who she is, warts and all. Indeed, some of those warts are what I find so endearing about her.

But the bottom line is that I trust this person with every part of who I am. And it's that ability to invest that kind of trust that is the most important. Not ego; honesty.

Just my two cents.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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