Poly: Choice or Predisposition?

Marcus

Well-known member
I also think that comparing a structure for relationships to one's sexual orientation is crap. One is just a way to approach having relationships, while the other is who one is attracted to based on the internal interpretations of gender identity/biological sex/gender expression of oneself and the person to whom one is attracted. Much more complex than the question of how many people you feel comfortable having relationships with, IMHO.

There seems to be a new attraction to squeezing "orientation" into this kind of discussion. I expect it is related to the fact that we understand sexual orientation to be somewhat predetermined and that no excuses or explanations are needed to have one orientation vs another. Having the ability to superimpose this certainty onto other aspects of our personality or our life choices would seem to be pretty comforting.

Personally I find this push to be counter productive. I actually find it unfortunate that I don't have the ability (or at least not much ability) to shift within my own sexual orientation spectrum. I think it would be terrific to be able to just switch my sexual orientation depending on where I am and what my current options are. I can't though, because I'm hard-wired to an orientation within a very limited spectrum.

It's a very different discussion with my ability to minimize jealousy, enjoy intimacy with multiple people at the same time, etc. I can have romantic love for one person at a time (and this is the norm for me) but why would I want to cut off the possibility of more with something like calling myself "hard-wired"? There are very few things that a human is truly wired to do; that is, they will turn out that way no matter what obstacles their environment presents. The rest is tendency based on a formula including genetic layout and environmental conditioning over time.

I choose not to limit my options by pigeonholing myself with terms like "hard-wired" or "orientation" when that isn't actually the case.
 

SchrodingersCat

Active member
If there is absolutely no hard-wiring involved in the desire to pursue multiple relationships, why do so many people cheat on their spouses despite genuine desires to remain "faithful?" Given that these people have so much to lose, from the respect of their peers to their very relationship, and that these people claim to genuinely want to be monogamous, why do they struggle so?

Our society overwhelmingly dictates that we be monogamous. Our behaviour as an animal species overwhelmingly demonstrates that we are not. Governments have been trying to make us monogamous since the dawn of agriculture. It makes transfer of land titles so much simpler when you know who's your daddy, and who's your daddy's eldest son. Yet despite 20,000 years of "nurture," here we are: as non-monogamously-inclined as ever. It appears as though nurture is losing the battle.

There's exactly one species of ape (gibbons) that is hard-wired for monogamy. They live in single family units, with a good 40 km between groups. Each and every other species of ape lives in some kind of larger social group, with sex shared in some way between at least some members of the group. Humans are apes. We're not above them, we're not evolved from them, we are them. Our closest relatives, chimps and bonobos, are tremendously non-monogamous. They don't even pretend. We're a little more clever than most of them, which allows us to make choices to override our biological urges, but intelligence does not negate the existence of hard-wired tendencies.
 
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MeeraReed

Active member
Wait, SC, you just confused me. You believe that humans as a species are probably hard-wired for non-monogamy at the ape/biological/evolutionary level...which I tend to agree with...but a few posts ago in this same thread, you were offended that someone dared suggest that all humans have the innate capacity to love more than one person.

How do you reconcile those two views? This is something I struggle with, because I do recognize that many, many people identify as mono. I don't in any way think that their experiences are invalid.
 

SchrodingersCat

Active member
Well first off, I wouldn't say I took it personally enough to be "offended." That would entail a level of giving a shit that I just don't possess :)

Something being a product of the environment does not prevent it from becoming physiologically wired. For example, people who grow up in Japan develop differently shaped ear cochlea than people in England. Take a baby out of Japan when she's born and plop her down in England with English parents, and she'll develop cochlea suited to hear English sounds that aren't present in the Japanese language. Environmental stimulation, physiological response.

The problem with nature-nurture debates is that they assume a dichotomy, that things are either one or the other. This, of course, is bullshit. Nurture is the process by which natural potential comes to fruition. Within our genes, we hold the building blocks to become many kinds of person. But most of these blocks are cemented in early childhood and cannot be changed in adulthood. Sometimes they're cemented with flour paste and only minimal effort is required to build something different. Sometimes they're cemented with industrial strength mortar and re-wiring is a lifelong process.

Hard-wired is not synonymous with permanent. Any computer can be rewired. The process is simply more involved than software upgrades.
 

bofish

New member
I chose

I chose to be in an open marriage. I always thought i would be monogamous. I never had any mindset other than that. After many years of marriage, and finding that neither of our needs were getting met by the relationship, we decided to open up and try to meet some needs at home and others outside the relationship. This works more less for us.

It's complex though. When I'm really into someone, I do not look at other guys or fantasize about other guys or want them. That would make me sort of monogamous. However, I don't believe that this kind of interest (coupled with the stress of a home life can survive). I can only speak for myself, but there are many many unhappy married people.

That said, I also was never one to keep myself in a nuclear family. I have had friends (platonic ones) who I would say I am as dedicated to as my family. These relationships have sometimes included daily interactions for plus 10 years. Is sex the only element of monogamy? I would say that these friendships with people I have intense emotional dialog and commitment to would also be a form of polyamory.

I actually consider what I do closest to something gay male couples have always done.
 

SchrodingersCat

Active member
Personally, I think the idea that we are wired one way or another is crap. We have a potential for many choices and what feels right to us is formed by many elements, such as our personality, what we are taught is acceptable, familial and societal influences, and how comfortable we are with certain choices.

Do we choose our personality? If our personality reduces the choice between poly relationship or mono relationship to fulfillment or misery, then what kind of choice is it, really?

Gay people can choose to enter heterosexual relationships. That's a fact. Many people have, under pressure of family and church and state, accomplished it, even having kids and white picket fences, the whole American Dream. But making that your political platform is considered discriminatory and judgemental by the entire LGBT movement.

Poly-inclined people can choose to enter monogamous relationships. Mono-inclined people can choose to enter poly relationships. I don't deny this either. Hyper-sexual people can choose to enter asexual relationships.

But all of these choices come with the consequence of being miserable and unfulfilled. So saying it's a choice, knowing that one of the options will make these people miserable, is empty at best.

You can say that forming those relationships is a choice, and I don't disagree. But what motivates the choice? At some level, these choices are reduced to "fulfilled or miserable" and then the concept choice is rather meaningless.

Think of the people raised in societies where polyandry is part of the culture, such as the Na of China. Culturally it is taught to them that having multiple partners is a-okay. Just because the majority of people in that culture live that way, does it mean they are wired for only poly? Does it mean that no one in their culture ever desires monogamy? Would saying that a Na person has the capacity to be monogamous insulting to their cultural identity that promotes and encourages having multiple relationships? I don't think so.

The Na are not polyandrous. Polyandry is a form of marriage. They've rejected the entire concept of marriage, monogamous or otherwise. But regardless, the answer is yes: forming a marriage and being monogamous would absolutely insult their cultural identity, just as many people on this forum feel shame and guilt for being unable to feel fulfilled within the type of relationship dictated by our monogamous society.
 

Myrrhine1

New member
I really do feel polyamory is a part of my sexual identity. Since I can remember, I have always been drawn to romantically love more than one person, which is what caused all sorts of confusion and anguish to me before I realized I wasn't just a serial monogamist. That is a part of me I don't feel will ever change, so personally I do feel "hard wired" to non-monogamy.

The only way choice factors into this, again in my own observation, is how I choose to develop and explore relationships with people. I don't at all think relating polyamory as an aspect of my sexual identity is counterproductive.

I think what is counterproductive is to pidgeonhole sexual identity into just gender attraction in a purely monogamous way. I wonder how many marriages and relationships could be saved if people were more honest and open-minded to exploring their sexual identities in a way that might exist outside of the framing of monogamy.
 

Tiberius

New member
To me, it seems a lot like my atheism. I'm an atheist because it just makes more sense to me that there is no God.

Likewise, if I'm in a relationship (which I am), and I develop feelings for someone else, it doesn't make sense to me that I should be forced to choose to pursue only one of those relationships. If I end up being in love with two people, or three or however many, then why shouldn't I follow my heart? After all, people can have several best friends and none of those friends feels like they are being cheated on. Parents have more than one child and the children never feel like they are being cheated on when the parents give a bit more attention to the sibling. Why should romantic love be any different?
 

Tonberry

New member
I feel the same way as you, but....

After all, people can have several best friends and none of those friends feels like they are being cheated on. Parents have more than one child and the children never feel like they are being cheated on when the parents give a bit more attention to the sibling. Why should romantic love be any different?

Both friends and children can feel extremely jealous and cheated on in the exact situations you mention. It's just that we're taught that that jealousy is bad, while romantic jealousy is "normal and means you care".
 

Tiberius

New member
I feel the same way as you, but....



Both friends and children can feel extremely jealous and cheated on in the exact situations you mention. It's just that we're taught that that jealousy is bad, while romantic jealousy is "normal and means you care".

But the simple fact that I have friends is not going to make any of my other friends feel bad. It is perfectly acceptable for someone to have several friends. It is perfectly acceptable to have several children. Each of these involves a kind of love. Why should we say that a person can love several people if it is parental love or platonic love, but then arbitrarily say that it is wrong when it comes to romantic love?

Yes, as you said, feelings of jealousy can exist in all these kinds of love. But to me, that suggests that the kind of love itself is not the thing responsible for that jealousy. After all, how can a person say that loving two people romantically leads to jealousy when other kinds of love also lead to jealousy? It does show that the type of love itself is not what is causing the problem.
 

Spock

New member
But the simple fact that I have friends is not going to make any of my other friends feel bad.

Of course it can. I have friends who feel jealous when they aren't invited to specific events.

It is perfectly acceptable for someone to have several friends. It is perfectly acceptable to have several children. Each of these involves a kind of love. Why should we say that a person can love several people if it is parental love or platonic love, but then arbitrarily say that it is wrong when it comes to romantic love?

No one is saying it is wrong, are they? It may not be fair, or reasonable, or responsible, but I don't think anyone says it is wrong.

Yes, as you said, feelings of jealousy can exist in all these kinds of love. But to me, that suggests that the kind of love itself is not the thing responsible for that jealousy. After all, how can a person say that loving two people romantically leads to jealousy when other kinds of love also lead to jealousy? It does show that the type of love itself is not what is causing the problem.

Right, but that means love itself isn't the problem, regardless of the type of love, so much as need or want.

My daughter, two years older than my son, is jealous when I spend time with him, jealous that he still gets to be carried (she is much heavier!), still upset that I will lay in bed with him to get him to sleep (she, of course, doesn't think it is fair despite getting the same treatment when she was his age), and is jealous of the time I spend with my wife (Why don't you have a date at Carl's Jr, so you can stay with us, too?)

I wanted to go back to your original question, too:
why shouldn't I follow my heart?

1) Because you can't afford to.
2) Because the time spend on N+3 reduces the time you spend with N+2, N+1, and N.
3) Because N+1 needs more time than you have when you met N+2, which means you previously met N+1's needs but now cannot. Of course N+1 is always free to seek others to get unmet needs satisfied, but you created this need where before it was already satisfied.
4) Because you need to budget extra time and energy for emergencies instead of allocating 100% of your resources. If N+2 gets sick, which then gets N+1 sick, you might need to spend less time with N to deal with N+2 and N+1, which gives you no room for N+3
5) Because you aren't capable of dealing with 4 partners no matter how much your heart wants them; maybe you can't even deal with 3, or 2 partners!

So, yeah, reasons.
 

SchrodingersCat

Active member
Because N+1 needs more time than you have when you met N+2, which means you previously met N+1's needs but now cannot. Of course N+1 is always free to seek others to get unmet needs satisfied, but you created this need where before it was already satisfied.

So, yeah, reasons.

We don't create needs in other people. Their need are their own. We have a choice to meet those needs or to let them be met in other ways.

If N+1 gets used to spending lots of time with me, that does not create an obligation on part to continue spending that much time with them if my situation changes. Indeed, spending time with them out of obligation energy is a surefire way to sink a relationship straight to the bottom of the ocean.

None of what you said is a reason why I "can't" date whomever I want, they're reasons why I might choose not to. In friendship and romance alike, some people prefer lots of casual relationships while others prefer few close relationships. Neither is right or wrong, just different.
 

Spock

New member
We don't create needs in other people. Their need are their own. We have a choice to meet those needs or to let them be met in other ways.

Of course, I was just pointing out that Tiberius had been meeting needs and then choosing not to.

If N+1 gets used to spending lots of time with me, that does not create an obligation on part to continue spending that much time with them if my situation changes. Indeed, spending time with them out of obligation energy is a surefire way to sink a relationship straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Of course there is no obligation to meet the needs of people you love.

But at the same time, you should be taking their needs into consideration because you love them.

None of what you said is a reason why I "can't" date whomever I want, they're reasons why I might choose not to. In friendship and romance alike, some people prefer lots of casual relationships while others prefer few close relationships. Neither is right or wrong, just different.

Yes, but the question was clearly, "Why shouldn't I", not "Why can't I"?

Of course you can. But should you?

You can choose to do lots of things. You are the change you want to see, after all.
 

SchrodingersCat

Active member
But at the same time, you should be taking their needs into consideration because you love them.

Of course. But that's a two-way street. It includes them taking your needs into account, such as the need for self-expression and autonomy.

"Spending more time with me" is not a need, it's a strategy for meeting a need, such as the need for connection or intimacy. However, merely spending time together won't meet that need if I'm only there because I feel like I have to be. I would much rather have my partners spend time with me only when they truly want to, and then have that time be of a higher quality because we both want to be there.
 

Tiberius

New member
Of course it can. I have friends who feel jealous when they aren't invited to specific events.

Ah, but that's not what I was saying. I said that "the simple fact that I have friends is not going to make any of my other friends feel bad". You are adding in something additional to that.

I have never had a friend who said, "Oh wait, you're also friends with other people? I'm sorry, I can't handle that. I want you to be friends with me only." And I don't think anyone would actually WANT to be friends with someone like that.

No one is saying it is wrong, are they? It may not be fair, or reasonable, or responsible, but I don't think anyone says it is wrong.

I'm not saying anyone here is. What I meant was mono people tend to look at it like that. The norm in society is that if you are in a relationship with someone, it is not allowed for you to also be in a relationship with someone else.

Right, but that means love itself isn't the problem, regardless of the type of love, so much as need or want.

My daughter, two years older than my son, is jealous when I spend time with him, jealous that he still gets to be carried (she is much heavier!), still upset that I will lay in bed with him to get him to sleep (she, of course, doesn't think it is fair despite getting the same treatment when she was his age), and is jealous of the time I spend with my wife (Why don't you have a date at Carl's Jr, so you can stay with us, too?)

It sounds like both of your kids are pretty young, so that's a little different. I'm talking about relationships between emotionally mature adults.

I wanted to go back to your original question, too:

1) Because you can't afford to.
2) Because the time spend on N+3 reduces the time you spend with N+2, N+1, and N.
3) Because N+1 needs more time than you have when you met N+2, which means you previously met N+1's needs but now cannot. Of course N+1 is always free to seek others to get unmet needs satisfied, but you created this need where before it was already satisfied.
4) Because you need to budget extra time and energy for emergencies instead of allocating 100% of your resources. If N+2 gets sick, which then gets N+1 sick, you might need to spend less time with N to deal with N+2 and N+1, which gives you no room for N+3
5) Because you aren't capable of dealing with 4 partners no matter how much your heart wants them; maybe you can't even deal with 3, or 2 partners!

So, yeah, reasons.

1. You don't know my financial situation.
2. How many partners do you think I have?
3. Again, you are assuming things about my situation which you do not know.
4. If that actually happened, then I would hope that every person involved would be mature enough to say "Person X is sick, so they need a bit more attention." I mean, does anyone here really want a relationship with someone who'd say, "You're not spending enough time with me! I don't care that your other girlfriend is in a critical condition, Tuesday is our date night, and dammit, you have to be there!"
5. Again, you don't know my situation.
 

Tiberius

New member
Of course, I was just pointing out that Tiberius had been meeting needs and then choosing not to.

And what needs were those? Like I said, you do not know my situation, so I think you're overstepping your bounds by telling me all these reasons. It's pure speculation on your part.

Yes, but the question was clearly, "Why shouldn't I", not "Why can't I"?

Of course you can. But should you?

You can choose to do lots of things. You are the change you want to see, after all.

I was meaning, "What moral/ethical reasons are there against being in a romantic relationship with several people at once?" It doesn't matter if it is two or ten or more. I certainly can't think of any.
 

Marcus

Well-known member
And what needs were those? Like I said, you do not know my situation, so I think you're overstepping your bounds by telling me all these reasons. It's pure speculation on your part.

You were creating a hypothetical (or at least that's what it looks like) in which you seemed to be saying there were no reasons to not follow your heart. Spock responded to said hypothetical with a list of reasons which would be a stumbling block to having multiple relationships. Simply put, there are real world reasons which would hinder the ability to follow ones heart and have romantic love for as many people as they like; the real things Spock mentioned like time and resources.

Ah, but that's not what I was saying. I said that "the simple fact that I have friends is not going to make any of my other friends feel bad". You are adding in something additional to that.

Which is creating a hypothetical within a vacuum (separated from real consequences). Even in this theoretical vacuum, the simple fact that you could have multiple best friends could be more than enough for insecure people and could prompt unpleasant feelings in them. I'm not proposing that would be your responsibility, but pointing out that the statement is not always going to be true.

As you and Spock have agreed upon (and is at the heart of the issue), the type of love or association is not a catalyst for feelings of envy or jealousy. Generally speaking, fear of loss of what was there before or what could be there in the future causes jealousy, regardless of the type of relationship. Envy is even easier for us to feel as it simply requires desiring something we don't have and can't seem to get.
 

Spock

New member
Ah, but that's not what I was saying. I said that "the simple fact that I have friends is not going to make any of my other friends feel bad". You are adding in something additional to that.

Yes, I am adding reality. People are covetous, needy, greedy, and jealous.

Some people are even unreasonable.

I have never had a friend who said, "Oh wait, you're also friends with other people? I'm sorry, I can't handle that. I want you to be friends with me only." And I don't think anyone would actually WANT to be friends with someone like that.

Exactly! So you admit there are people like that, but you choose not to be friends with them.

Well, lucky you. Someone got tricked into being their friend, and then what? Drop them?

I'm not saying anyone here is. What I meant was mono people tend to look at it like that. The norm in society is that if you are in a relationship with someone, it is not allowed for you to also be in a relationship with someone else.

That's what people keep saying, but that's not what I see. I see people having rich, multiple, simultaneous relationships all the time.

What we don't have is a society that allows us to grace the word 'marriage' or 'couple' to them. Heck, we don't even regularly allow two men or two women to be a couple, yet.

It sounds like both of your kids are pretty young, so that's a little different. I'm talking about relationships between emotionally mature adults.

How many threads have you ignored on this board? Emotionally mature adults are rare!

1. You don't know my financial situation.
I don't need to because your financial situation is irrelevant. You asked why you shouldn't, and if you can't afford to, you shouldn't.

The reverse is true; if you can afford to, you can.
2. How many partners do you think I have?
Also irrelevant. You clearly said 'Follow my heart'. You never said anything about how many partners you have. I created a situation where you shouldn't necessarily follow your heart.
3. Again, you are assuming things about my situation which you do not know.
Nope, I assume nothing. I assume that N is a number greater than 1 and that eventually you hit a value large enough where what I say is true. For me it might be 2, for you it might be 20, but at some point N is going to be true.
4. If that actually happened, then I would hope that every person involved would be mature enough to say "Person X is sick, so they need a bit more attention." I mean, does anyone here really want a relationship with someone who'd say, "You're not spending enough time with me! I don't care that your other girlfriend is in a critical condition, Tuesday is our date night, and dammit, you have to be there!"
You don't get to choose how inconsiderate other people are.
5. Again, you don't know my situation.
I don't need to. You put out a hypothetical, I responded in like. Again, N isn't bounded. It might be you can deal with 4, but not 20, so set N=20 and my point is still true.
 

Tiberius

New member
You were creating a hypothetical (or at least that's what it looks like) in which you seemed to be saying there were no reasons to not follow your heart.

Ah, sorry, here's where the confusion lies.

In a way, it was a hypothetical, but not just a random person/random person one. It was a hypothetical for myself. My post was actually about me, I wasn't using the word "I" to refer to a hypothetical person.
 
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