Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

April 1, 2010

Dear Margo prints another poly letter

Many newspapers

Margo Howard, leading newspaper advice columnist, prints a letter from someone arguing that polyamory should be recognized as an inescapable drive that certain people are born with. The letter is cogent, but he makes poly sound like his partner's unfortunate affliction. Margo responds somewhat unsympathetically.

A Question for the Ages

Dear Margo: I have some thoughts on monogamy. Some people are wired to funnel all their attention to one partner, but many are not. If I ask my partner to be true to me at the expense of being true to herself, I am setting myself up for inevitable heartbreak, and more importantly, I am insisting that she engage in unsustainable, self-destructive behavior.

I will concede that most people would struggle mightily to develop the communication and relationship management skills necessary to succeed in open or polyamorous relationships. Many people will fail in such attempts. Can it really be worse to acknowledge someone for who he is and what he needs than to pretend he’s something else entirely? I prefer to be my partner’s only partner, but I have no chance of knowing whether this can happen unless she is free to say she prefers something else without any risk of stigma.

When society stigmatized people who came out as gay, many gay people felt they had to pass for straight as long as possible. Current arrangements are no better for people who were not built to pour all their romantic attention into a single individual. A person’s sense of obligation or morality may overpower libido for weeks or months, but looking at years and decades has never been realistic and never will be. — Somewhere in the Heartland

Dear Some: Some people agree with you that fidelity is based on insincerity, if not pretense. Many others do not, and they choose to live monogamously. I will say this, however, about your analogy: I believe the gay community will clear all the cultural and societal hurdles and prejudices long before the open marriage or polyamory crowds. — Margo, psychically

Here's the original.

Soon as I post this, I'm gonna go weigh in to say that poly is not just about coping with a problem condition.

I have mixed opinions about the whole "I was born hard-wired poly" claim. It does seem to be true for some people. But others, who felt perfectly happy to live a monogamous life (like me), discovered poly by some fluky happenstance — an amazing person entering their lives, or seeing poly friends living well together, and/or by sitting down and making a deliberate philosophical choice for love's enlargement.

And, "I was born this way" can be an easy bullshitter's excuse for bad behavior. Of any kind.

Some of the reader comments on Margo's homepage are pretty good; go join in. You can also mail her directly at dearmargo@creators.com . She's been good about the topic in several past columns.

Here's my friend Anita Wagner's take, on her Practical Polyamory blog.


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Blogger Desmond Ravenstone said...

I've debated the "wired-for-poly" angle before, with a mixed response. I do believe that some people are "wired" for specific attributes necessary for making a poly situation work -- more patience, better innate communication, less possessiveness, and greater ability to handle the demands of time and energy required of multiple relationships.

My view is to parallel relationships with employment: While most people work a single full-time job, some people surive and even thrive on having more than one work situation. Similarly, while most people focus on one committed relationship at a time, others are able to handle two or more, and even thrive under such circumstances.

April 01, 2010 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that, just like gay & bi people, some are hard-wired that way, while for others it's a learned behaviour.

April 02, 2010 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Polycuriosity said...

I have to agree with Misskitty. I also think that I happen to be poly-oriented, so I guess I'm biased. I have always (well, since I was 15 years old) wanted to have serious, loving relationships with multiple partners. It's just taken me a long time to get over all of the times I was called crazy, weird, a slut... you get the picture. Well, and I didn't know that polyamory even existed until a few years ago.

My husband, on the other hand, had no inclination towards polyamory himself. He is, however, a person who has no jealousy issues, is not judgmental about anyone's choices, and is willing to give poly a shot. So I guess he is wired kind of poly-friendly.

Other people, like most of my poly friends, come to polyamory through logic or enlightenment. Either way, they figure out that love does not have to mean possession or exclusivity, and can proceed to make it work just as well as those of us with funny wiring.

I, of course, vehemently disagree with using one's orientation... or desires, or feelings, or whatever, as an excuse to engage in harmful or unkind behavior.

The comments on the column left much to be desired, I had to stop reading.

April 04, 2010 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I'm with Desmond. I think some of us simply are more likely to have traits that are poly-friendly. A poly friend and I discussed how we want our relationships to be as simple and streamlined as possible, which may seem counterintuitive for poly, but basically what it comes down to is that we're wired for high-communication, low drama, as well as valuing love in all forms.
(My friend and I are both sorta-Catholics (I like calling myself an Agnostic Catholic, Crypto-Catholic, or just "heretical Catholic") and to me, the core of both Catholicism and polyamory is Universal Love. Agape FTW!)

April 10, 2010 2:49 PM  

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