I’ve spent today thinking about relationship endings. It started with an interesting thread in a list I’m on. Then I ended up commenting in my almost-ex’s LJ, having a discussion with a current partner in IM, and looking at various links and websites. The more I look at all of this, and the more I talk to various folks on- and off-line, the more convinced I become that this is something that the world needs to talk about more. I’ve talked about it before, and I’m sure I’ll talk about it again. Today I’m here to post something I wrote some time back. One of my friends in LiveJournal suggested that I post it more publicly. This post is, in part, my attempt to fulfill on that promise.
I welcome your input on these thoughts.
It is hard (possibly impossible) to say how big of a factor poly was in the breakup [between myself and my almost-ex]. It’s sort of like asking “did the ocean cause the fish’s death?” We were both poly-at-heart before we ever got together, so our whole relationship was within that context, all the way back to 1987. Honestly, I see the form of poly that we eventually embraced as the (attempted) solution to our various relationship problems, not the problem. Had there been no poly, I’m guessing we would have “broken up because of his infidelity” which in turn would have been *really* caused by his looking around for other people to meet needs that I wasn’t meeting for him (and vice versa, though I found non-romantic/sexual partners to meet some of my needs there). I see all of this as different ways of saying “we weren’t able to be good partners for one another.”
It’s also worth noting that few people ever ask “how big a part did monogamy play in the breakup”? I’m willing to bet that for an awful lot of breakups, trying to be exclusively monogamous contributed to the stress that eventually caused the breakup. Also, if people weren’t “monogamous,” then no one would need to break up because of “having an affair”–the concept of “affair” simply cannot exist without the concept of “exclusivity.” In LOGIC terms alone, all “affairs” are therefore “caused by” monogamy! Really, the reasons for the ending or transformation of a relationship are much more to do about the compatibility of the people, and their skill at relating. These qualities/issues are present in EVERY relationship, mono or poly.
It’s also worth noting that few people
ever ask “how big a part did monogamy
play in the breakup?”
Is this clear at all? I’m feeling like this is very hard to explain, especially to people who are still mired in the monogamous paradigm. It’s sort of related to the issues around characterizing “obesity” as the “cause” of fat people dying or getting diabetes, for instance. Correlation is not causation. There’s a boatload of evidence out there that people get fat because they have diabetes, not vice versa, but explaining that to someone who’s trying to get you to “lose weight for your health” is usually a losing (har har) battle. The mindset of fat=DEATH is so ingrained, that people just cannot see around their assumptions. But the fact is, just because being heavier might be correlated with higher incidence of various issues, does not mean that LOSING weight will LOWER your risk of these issues. The issues come first, not the fat.
Similarly, “cheating, aka non-monogamy, aka poly”=DIVORCE is so deeply enculturated that people have a very hard time understanding that correlation is not causation here too. Once one accepts the assumptions that a) poly=cheating, b) success=longevity of relationship, and c) divorce/end of this form of relationship=FAILURE, then it becomes quite difficult to understand anything that is based on other presumptions (e.g., “cheating=breaking your word,” and “success=partners bring out the best in each other”). Again, the issues come first, not the divorce, or even the poly.