Fish Breakup -- Still Hanging Around

Did the Ocean Cause the Fish’s Death? [revisited]

Today I’m offering up one of my early posts that many here may never have seen, expanded and with a few new links.  In it I discuss some things around relationship endings, the compulsory monogamy paradigm, and the relationship between correlation and causation. I welcome your input on these thoughts.

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Fish Breakup -- Still Hanging Around


It is hard (possibly impossible) to say how big of a factor polyamory 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 itself. 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 thinking in the compulsory monogamy 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. [Humorous take on this over at the xkcd comic.] 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. [And in fact, dieting behaviors themselves can be damaging, especially long-term.]

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.

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So, what do you think? Does polyamory cause breakups? Does monogamy? What results in relationship longevity… and is that the best marker for relationship success?

If you want some more thoughts on relationship endings, markers of a relationship in trouble, and some possible shifts in measures of success, you can download my free report called “Is It Over?” [Note: You’ll need to give me a valid email address AND confirm it in order to get the email with the report link in it.  That’ll put you on my Newsletter list, which you can always unsub from at any time if you’re getting too much mail.]

If you have any thoughts, I’d be happy to hear them.  You can comment below, in my Facebook, or send me a message.  Whatever your thoughts, I hope you remember that no matter who or how many you love…

Love is ALWAYS ok!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Check out the the many ways to wear your heart on your sleeve via my LoveOTB Zazzle store!

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[© 2011, 2014 Dawn M. Davidson]

One thought on “Did the Ocean Cause the Fish’s Death? [revisited]

  1. SophiaB

    So right on. I get so tired of trying to address relationship issues with someone who can’t look beyond a decision/choice/mistake I made (and admitted to and apologized for even though it would have never surfaced otherwise) to delve into the WHY. And that lack of curiosity is why I am losing hope we will make it further down the road. It has nothing to do with our poly life but this issue gets used as a smokescreen and a tool for manipulation.

    I also suspect more marriages would thrive if we didn’t live in such close quarters. More conflict over living space and no escape hatch can mean disaster. JMHO.

    Thanks for the always timely post.


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