Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Seven Unworkable Rules in Polyamory

I was recently thinking about weird, unworkable rules in polyamory. Well, at least I think they're unworkable rules ...

"We can't be seen in public. You're not my primary partner."

I suppose I find this to be the ultimate in offensive and it's the antithesis of Polyamory (open, loving, consensual, relationships). You can't put a relationship in a box - it'll suffocate. Even from a standpoint of not being out, I'd think it utterly demeaning if not an open act of cowardice. It's not something that promotes a healthy relationship; nobody wants to be a dirty little secret.

"We cannot have my other lovers in our bed."

This one's crazy to me. It's a bed. Sheets get changed. Nobody seems to have a problem staying in a hotel? No, no: I refuse to stay here until you throw out this soiled bed. And what if both parties have this wacko rule in play - now what? Where do they go? What do they do? If you don't have a guest bedroom and a spare bed, maybe they'll buy a shaggin'wagon, throw 'em in the back, drive around the block? Silly.

"We can't go to that restaurant. My wife forbid me; that's her favorite place."

Myself, I don't mind if my wife or girlfriend were to make this request, but it comes from a place of wanting to keep something unique and sacred between us. I could honor a request or two like this. I think where it becomes untenable is when everything is sacred. You can't go there ... or there ... or there, nope, not there either, and there ... certainly not. That'd be a huge problem after a while, particularly if all of the people involved enjoyed similar events and destinations. That'd be a pain.

"I'm okay to suck your cock but I'm not allowed to kiss you."

This one is a manifestation of some weird insecurity. Genital contact is a-okay but it's kissing that leads to that which is most threatening: twuu wuv. You can avoid twuu wuv if you convince your partner not to kiss anyone on the lips because that there is the path to real emotion. Oh dear. That won't stick.

"So long as my husband and I don't talk about our dates, we'll be okay."

Another variant of "don't ask, don't tell", jealousy is somehow avoided through a strategy of obscurity, as if the imagination and the unknown isn't a 100x worse than reality. It's unworkable because the unknown partner gets bigger, badder, scarier over time, up to a point where it'll get all contentious.

"He's a jealous type. If you sneak out of the house before he gets home, it'll be okay."

And how does this have anything to do with polyamory? Sounds more like cheating. More "don't ask, don't tell stuff" - purely avoidance and nobody is dealing with root-level insecurities in a constructive way. At some point down the road, people have got to meet and deal with their fears rationally or it'll get all 'splody.

"I've got to have you change your social network relationship status to reflect me!"

I guess I've seen situations where the relationship statuses were changed within hours of a breakup, or, the need for an announcement of a relationship demanded a status update in some social network. I think it's a modern day equivalent to carving your initials into a park bench, a tree, or bathroom stall. It's a public acknowledgement: I'm Dick and I'm in love with Jane! Ta-da! If it's not LIKED then it can't be real, right? I don't know ... I guess I see this one as a constant stressor where the hyper-connected partner wouldn't be fulfilled until the status update formally recognized the union.

Okay, what are some other unworkable rules that you've encountered?



Minga said...

Veto power. In the very beginning, my partner suggested that we could have a veto over each other's non-primary partners, in case one of them turned out to be abusive, criminal, etc. We dropped this rule pretty quickly when we realized how easily it can be abused. Plus we trust each other to make those decisions for ourselves if a relationship is not healthy for us.

Minga said...

Veto Power. My partner suggested that we could veto each other's non-primary partners in case one of them turns out to be abusive, criminal, etc. We dropped it pretty quickly when we realized how easily it can be abused. Plus, we trust each other to make those decisions for ourselves if a relationship is unhealthy.

Reid said...

I think your first rule is actually workable. My partner is married and our neighborhood is small and unimaginative. We keep a low public profile in the immediate town. I don't feel like a dirty little secret, I feel like I'm protecting him and his wife from scrutiny (my life is so openly unconventional already, I wouldn't care about the scrutiny).

Unknown said...

Yes, not everyone can have a completely open polyamorous relationship and there are people that are understanding.

Also, Don't Ask, Don't Tell arrangements work perfectly well with some people. It is only incompatible with someone who is insistant on meeting and often befriending their metamours. It's offensive to suggest that people who operate this way somehow have inherently flawed relationships. Just like it is offensive when they suggest people who need to meet, befriend, and have friendships with their metamours are insecure and incapable of trusting.

Polyfulcrum said...

I'm a big fan of negotiating the bed thing too. Of particular "yucky!" to me is getting kicked out of my bed (the place I always sleep) to clear the space for sexy time for others, if I would like to be sleeping.

That said, there are accommodations that can be reached, and compromises to be had, even when space is tight.