Dear Margo prints another poly letter
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . She's been good about the topic in several past columns.
Here's my friend Anita Wagner's take, on her Practical Polyamory blog.