“Two Bloggers Meet on the Internet” – The Struggles of Polyamory

“Bat your eyes girl, be other-worldly

Count your blessings, seduce a stranger

What’s so wrong with being happy?

Kudos to those who see through sickness

–Incubus, “Warning”

Hey, my kinky, polyam peeps! Sorry it’s been so long since my last update. Between being on vacation with Panda’s family, the recent SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, a trip to Europe, and a Covid diagnosis, I haven’t had a lot of time, and frankly, energy to put in the hours. As a writer and a business person, I understand the need to not want to alienate your readers. Too often I’ve seen an important message being lost because someone heard the first sentence and decided not to listen to anything else. With that said, a person’s right to control their own bodies and reproductive choices is not “politics”. If we don’t have bodily autonomy, we have nothing. If me writing this offends you, well, I hope it doesn’t dissuade you from future articles and I strongly encourage you to reconsider your viewpoint, because for me, this is non-negotiable.

Like most of my blog posts, this one is going to start with a story. Nearly every day I spend about twenty minutes strolling through Google for kink and polyam news for the news section as well as blog ideas. Last month as I did my search, I continued to come across an article from HerWay.net entitled “Why Polyamory is Bad: 11 Honest Reasons”. Now naturally, because this is a pro-polyam blog, and, in my experience, most of these articles are written by people who object to polyamory based on “moral grounds”, there really wasn’t any point in me reading it. Still, after Google shoved this article in my face half a dozen times, I thought to myself “I’m a masochist. Maybe this is a sign from the Universe that I deserve some punishment”, so I opened it up and read it.

To my surprise, the article was written from a relatively objective viewpoint. The author, Ms. Ariel Quinn, starts out by stating that polyamory has some benefits and wanted to use the article to point out its drawbacks: sort of a “both sides” discussion, which in this case I respected. As I read through her eleven reasons, it became very apparent she didn’t know square one about what it meant to be polyam. As I mentioned in my post on Couple’s Privilege, I’m making a conscientious effort to “show more grace”. I’m trying to embrace Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance”. Rather than attack this author, I saw this as an opportunity to educate. I wanted to extend an olive branch on behalf of the polyam community and start a dialogue so she may understand why what she wrote was incorrect and potentially harmful. I sat down in front of my laptop and wrote her a 1,700 word e-mail detailing my concerns and shot it off to her and waited.

And waited…

And waited…

Finally, after over a month without a response or even a recognition of “Hey, I got your e-mail! Let me have a think on it and I’ll get back to you.” I decided the time for grace had passed, and now THIS is gonna happen:

Cersei was the OG Brat…

While I continue to encourage Ms. Quinn to contact me for a discussion, if they’re not open to talking, well, you’re just gonna have to live with my side of the story. I want to reiterate that I don’t think Ms. Quinn is being malicious, I just don’t think she’s actually had a conversation with a polyam person. While I don’t see a problem in writing about topics that you’re not immersed in personally, much like I don’t write about women or the LGBTQ+ community without having extensive discussions with those communities so as to accurately reflect their viewpoint, you can’t write an article about polyam without speaking to polyam people. Either she didn’t do that, or worse, she spoke to people who tried polyam and flamed out for not doing their own research. Either way, her research, or lack thereof, had to have been incredibly biased, as I will lay out through the rest of this post.

In addition to this lack of research, another common thread runs through her article. Simply speaking, I believe Ms. Quinn confuses “polyamory” with relationships. Most of what she sees as “problems” with polyam are actually problems that exist in all relationships, but are more easily masked. Case in point:

1. The Jealousy Issue – First, Ms. Quinn starts off by stating “Polyamorous people claim that they don’t get jealous”, which, if they had spoken to the polyam community, would recognize this is the exception, not the rule. Polyamory doesn’t “create” jealousy, it merely “exposes” it. Monogamous people can use their relationship status to shield their feelings of jealousy where as polyam individuals don’t have that luxury. It’s like if someone kept getting pulled over for drunk driving on their way to work in the morning and their solution was to start taking the bus. While “technically” that fixes the problem, the better answer is “don’t go to work drunk”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying monogamy is bad or that everyone person should be polyam. I am saying that expressing jelaousy and using monogamy as an excuse for the behavior is not okay. We should all be actively working on jealousy when it arises, regardless of how we love.

I will also add that Ms. Quinn did begin to use the phrases “polyamory” and “polygamy” interchangeably, to which I pointed out that these two things are not exactly equal and why those in the polyam community would take issue with the phrase “polygamy”

2. The Emotional Connection – When I came out as polyam to my parents, my Mother told me (through my sister, because six months after the fact, we’ve yet to talk about it) that she was worried I would get my feelings hurt. This is the same argument Ms. Quinn makes. With multiple relationships, some of them will inevitably end in heartbreak. My response is “Yeah, so…?” That’s also how monogamy works. Not every relationship is going to pan out and that’s part of… life. Ms. Quinn also raises the question of “What if you grow to love [this new person] more than your primary partner?” This undoubtedly will happen to some people. It’s the risk you take when you open your heart to love.

3. Equality is Impossible in Practice – There are some points in her article where Ms. Quinn gets it right, and I wanted them to know that. To their point, equality is impossible in practice. However, if you’ve read my blog enough, you’ll know that equality isn’t, nor ever should be the goal. Equality is treating everyone the same. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach that presumes each of your partners have equal needs. Rather than equality, we should strive for equity: The idea that each partner should receive what they need, which may be more or less than the other person. Striving for equality is like putting a square peg in a round hole: it won’t work and nobody wanted it in the first place.

4. Emotional Investment – Essentially a reiteration of points #2 and #3, Ms. Quinn states that polyamorous people will be unable to spend equal amount of time with all their partners and that the level of emotional investment is also likely to be out of balance. Again I ask “How is that any different than monogamy?” How many of us, polyam or not, have been in a relationship where one person was more committed than the other. Ms. Quinn appears to be obsessed with this idea that, because monogamous couples tend to be equally invested in the relationship, that equality should carry across all relationships. That’s simply not the case. Some relationships will be more serious than others, some more casual, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

5. A Power Struggle – I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: “Love is infinite. Time and energy are not.” Outside of jealousy, Ms. Quinn treats relationships as a competition. She even says so in her article: “I’m not only talking about women fighting over one man or vice versa. I’m talking about the power struggle between you and your primary partner. Who’s slept with more people? Who went out on more dates? Who gets hit on more?” While we can recognize that egos can get hurt, much like the drunk driving analogy I used in point #1, the solution is not to avoid difficult situations, but rather, confront them and work through them. Monogamy will not strengthen your fragile ego, it will simply give it less opportunities to be damaged.

6. Legal Issues – This is another one of the few points in which Ms. Quinn actually hits the nail on the head. In our mononormative society, polyam people lack the legal protections that married monogamous people do. As someone who’s trained in financial planning, I’m familiar with how the law favors monogamous marriages and the nuclear family. While Ms. Quinn is right to point out polyam’s pitfalls in this area, again, she overlooks the broader issue in that this isn’t a polyam problem, but a marriage problem. In the eyes of the law when it comes to financial and health matters, you’re one of two classes of people: Married or unmarried. A polyam person with multiple relationships faces the same legal challenges as an unmarried one in a long-term, committed monogamous relationship. The solution then is not to cling to monogamy, but rather, deconstruct the privileges associated with monogamoous marriage, which is a whole other topic of discussion.

7. Monogamy is Complex Enough – Ms. Quinn speaks of the stress and complexity in polyam relationships. For those who find difficulty in handling one committed relationship, juggling multiple at the same time can be a nightmare. Polyam is not for the faint of heart, and those who “wash out” are often the ones who underestimate the amount of work it takes.

8. Unclear Rules – It’s no secret that polyam relationships impact one another. When you have multiple partners, your attention and time is pulled in multiple directions. In addition to this, each partnership can have their own unique boundaries and agreements. Ms. Quinn states that ambiguity around these boundaries and agreements can create friction, which is not untrue. Again, I ask, how is this any different from a monogamous relationship? Do mongamous people not have conflicts between their partner, their family, and their friends. Ms. Quinn seems to be under the assumption that your romantic partner always carries priority in your life, and while they may often take precedent, I don’t know any monogamous person who lets their partner always have the final say in every matter.

9. STI – It’s a very common misconception that the nonmongamous community have a greater prevalence of STIs than monogamous folx, and Ms. Quinn is quick to make this assumption. It makes sense on the surface because one would think more sexual partners means an increased likelihood of exposures. However, I like to continue to point to this 2015 study from the National Institute of Health that shows that, because the ethically nonmongamous community are more likely to use protection and get frequent STI testing, their incidence of STIs is not statistically significantly different from that of the monogamous community. It’s a very hurtful stereotype that has no basis in fact and I wanted to be sure to point it out.

10. Unhealthy for Children – Ms. Quinn states that exposure to polyamory can be unhealthy to children, citing “studies”, but never actually lists their sources. I know there’s a lot of controversy in the polyam community about how much academic research has been done, so I can only speak to what I know and have observed. Is polyamory harmful to children? I don’t know, only because I don’t have any data. What I do know is this: What creates a home for a loving child is not a mother and a father, but rather stability. I also know that polyamorous relationships statistically last just as long as monogamous ones. I’m assuming that Ms. Quinn labors under the assumption that most polyam relationships are “flings”. The truth is they are just as stable as monogamous marriages with the average polyam relationship lasting eight years, the same length of the average marriage in the U.S. If Ms. Quinn wants to argue that polyam relationships are unhealthy to kids because of their instability, the data dictates that argument must be carried over to monogamous ones as well.

11. Breakups – Early on in my polyam journey, I had a discussion with someone in a Myers-Briggs group on Facebook. It’s a place for pedants like myself to wax and wane philosophically about inconsequential details because we love a good debate. This individual asked what happened if there was a break-up in the polycule. “Do you all get together and vote to see if they’re no longer in the group?” It took me a while to understand what he was asking because the question put me back on my heels. In my mind, I didn’t understand what this person wanted to know. Well, apparently Ms. Quinn has the same question. In her mind, a polycule is like a reality show in which an offending contestant gets “voted off the island” and everyone else remaining in the polycule is no longer allowed to have contact with them. Naturally, this concept is completely asinine, not to mention juvenile. It reeks of prepubescent antics in which a “clique” of pre-teens decided to ostracize one of their own because one person was slighted. The truth is that polyam breakups work just like breakups in the monogamous world. Just because I break up with a partner doesn’t mean my friends or partners have to cease contact with them, because we’re mature adults, and that’s not what mature adults do.

It was only after I sent Ms. Quinn the e-mail did I take a deep dive into her other articles. I read the most recent two or three before writing my e-mail, but afterwards, when I began to go back several weeks and months into her writings, I noticed a very heavy mononormative, pro-nuclear-family, Christian slant to her writings. While Ms. Quinn is certainly entitled to their opinions, polyamory simply cannot be viewed through that lens. The bulk of her criticisms come from how polyamory conflicts directly with the Relationship Escalator. Questions like “How do you spread your time equally?”, “What about your primary?”, and “How do you deal with conflicts between partners?” all arise from the assumption that relationships have a clear sense of hierarchy and the primary relationship (or relationships) should take precedent over everything else in life. For those who are frequent readers of this blog, you’ll know that polyam denounces these concepts, Ms. Quinn’s arguments are akin to asking “Why does my cat get upset when I put him on a leash and try to take him for a walk?” Well, because it’s a cat. You’re trying to impart your values on something that, by its sheer nature, won’t accept it.

As a parting note, I want to reiterate that I don’t believe Ms. Quinn was being malicious. Their tone in the article was one of genuine curiosity, which is why I suspected they would be open to a conversation. However, intent does not equal impact, and good thoughts don’t make up for the mountains of misinformation they published. I can only hope that they eventually decide to pick up my e-mail, read it over, and reach out. I believe that no one is done learning, myself included, and it’s only through communication and feedback that we can better ourselves.

Until next time, stay kinky, my friends…

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