Transience

Well, that didn’t last long. A and I are not really an item, to whatever extent we were before. We had an unresolvable mismatch on how we view getting involved; A is looking for more of a committed, traditional, poly setup than I’m willing to accept (to whatever extent something can be both “traditional” and “poly”). I won’t commit to not sleeping with people that I’m not already in a relationship with, and A isn’t comfortable with the level of risk that entails.

S’alright; we’re still friendly, and we hadn’t had time to get as attached as we might have. It’s good that this came out early. We’d only really known each other for two or three weeks. Ideally, we’d have spoken about this even earlier, of course, but in that negotiation-plus-getting-to-know-each-other phase there isn’t really a chance to cover everything without some sort of disclosure form. I’m not one to complain about “killing the romance” or what-not, but I’m also not into the idea of running down a checklist every time I’m going to get involved with someone.

It strikes me that people in general, mono or non, tend to act as if all relationships exist on a spectrum between “monogamy” and “polyamory”. In reality, there are multiple axes at work here. Between A and myself, what was more important was a spectrum between “committed” and “uncommitted”. I probably sit somewhere toward the latter end of that spectrum; I’m not a commitment-phobe by an reasonable definition, but I’m certainly relationship-skeptical.

Because we’re all nerds here, or at least I am, and because nerds like charts, check it:

Just a quick and dirty thing I mocked up in Excel, but it gives a good idea of about where things seem to be. My attitude is much more toward the Fuckin’ quadrant than the Poly one, which is part of why I don’t care to identify that way. The poly-monogamy spectrum, as normally understood, really runs along the top of this graph; there are lots of ways to be nonmonogamous without being poly, and lots of ways to be monogamous without being a One True Love type. A, I suspect (and I’m sure she’ll let me know if I’m wrong) is more toward the Poly quadrant, near the intersection of low levels of Monogamy and high levels of Commitment.

The numbers on this chart shouldn’t be taken to mean anything except relative levels of commitment and/or interest in monogamy. It’s not a judgment on which is better, by labeling it either more positive or more negative. Nor are these the only axes on which one’s relationship style can be described; I’m pretty sure that a perfectly accurate chart would require an infinite number of dimensions and values, or at the very least enough space for 8 billion independent points and about as many axes. Still, even though it’s a crude tool, it’s a good visual for getting away from the usual false dichotomy.

It’s also, I think, important for some poly folks to realize that monogamy doesn’t only exist in that upper right hand corner. This is the source of comments like “monogamy is just like polyamory except with more people“; it is a mistaken equation of “monogamy” with “what happens in movies wherein the protagonists get married”.

In summation, I’m not really looking for a white picket fence, no matter how many people are inside it. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the salient one is just that it isn’t what I want, and if I’ve learned anything here it’s to be clearer about that bit up front.

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4 thoughts on “Transience

  1. This is a fascinating idea – “traditional” poly, ha! It sounds like what A was looking for was something closer to polyfidelity, where you’re in several relationships but those relationships are sacrosanct, and any new relationships/fucking arounds need to be seriously pre-negotiated, or are off the table entirely.

    I don’t feel like most – or maybe, any – of the people I know in the Boston community do poly that way, and while I’m perfectly fine with you not identifying as poly (it’s your identity, after all), I just wanted to drop in here and say that I think poly has a broader definition than you’re giving it, and certainly, plenty of the poly-id’ed people I know do a lot of the ol’ fuckin’ around. 🙂

  2. I’ve gotten a little more over the resistance to the label since writing this; I still wouldn’t self-describe as poly, but don’t have a problem with being described that way by others.

    I don’t think, though, that it’s incoherent to refer to a “traditional” poly structure, any more than it would be unreasonable to refer to “nontraditional” monogamous marriages. There’s a shape in many-if-not-most folks’ minds that is referred to by polyamory, and it’s what’s embraced by the “we’re not swingers” or “poly is just like monogamy” crowd. Not everybody, er, swings that way, obviously, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just means that there are also “nontraditional” forms of poly (which are probably more common than the traditional ones, just like nontraditional monogamous relationships are also more common than strictly traditional ones).

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