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[personal profile] greensword
What is it about a romantic relationship that makes it different from other kinds of relationships such as friendships and family relationships? Is it something more than sexual intimacy? Why are romantic relationships so commonly exclusive? Is there something about romantic relationships that leans inherently toward exclusivity, or is it just a common cultural preference?

Date: 2009-06-07 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gileonnen.livejournal.com
I'm interested in what people have to say about this. I've never had a problem with any of my past partners seeing other people, and currently I'm in a committed three-person relationship. While I ascribe neither moral superiority nor moral inferiority to my paradigm, I'm just sort of confused about why other people seem to mind forms of non-monogamy.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
What, besides sexual intimacy, is different between your relationship with partners and your relationships with friends?

Do you feel like you will one day one to "settle down" (I guess what I mean is decide to be someone(s) in a forever sort of way) and if so, are you open to making that commitment with multiple people?

Do you feel like your relationships with monogamous people have been different in any way from your relationships with non-monogamous people?

Date: 2009-06-08 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gileonnen.livejournal.com
We don't actually have sex. >_>;; So, er, no sexual intimacy. And I'd say that it's not so much the depth of the investment as the tone, the character--my time talking to them is inflected differently, I suppose. As to what that difference is and how I can recognize it, that's harder to say--I guess it's something like the difference between eating frosted wheat and eating cheesecake? Both are sweet and filling, but the latter feels denser, richer, softer.

I'd like to settle, yes--I'd like for the three of us to find a place somewhere and have a garden and maybe a cat and a great big pile of books. But (and this is nebulous and definitely not something we're talking about yet) I don't know whether that's an ambition rather than simply a dream, and I don't know whether it's something that will change the tenor of our relationship, and I don't know how open we are or would be in those circumstances. Kylee's had some bad experiences with open relationships in the past (although she doesn't object to them on principle), so being open and being able to be in relationships outside of our relationship is something I wouldn't want to do lightly. And honestly, I haven't spoken with Dani about the degree of openness in our relationship, present and future. So these are conversations we'd need to be having before I could give you an answer about how, in our relationship, these aspects of commitment would work.

My past relationships have been a mixed bag. I never really talked about monogamy/non-monogamy with the first two ladies I dated while I was dating them, so the issue never had a discernible impact; later, when I got into this relationship, I talked with one of those exes, and it turns out she's monogamous. I can't say whether our relationship would've been any different if she hadn't been, but I really doubt it. My first boyfriends, on the other hand, were fiercely monogamous and jealous people, and when I came out to them (I said it as 'bisexual,' although now I go by 'pansexual'), they found the idea deeply threatening. They thought it meant I couldn't be satisfied with only one person--and as a direct result, both left me. The next relationships I had were rather complicated; I was interested in two people simultaneously but never expected to get with either of them, so when both of them said they were interested within two days of each other ... I did a very stupid thing and tried to be with both. This was my very first experience with the idea of non-monogamy in my own life, and I really had no idea how to talk about it or manage it meaningfully. And they were both monogamous-ish (the lady less so than the gentleman), so this DID NOT WORK AT ALL. Eventually, the issue of monogamy/non-monogamy ended both relationships. And now, Kylee and I have always had an open relationship that neither of us has seen any real reason to act on, until autumn last year. By that time we'd been dating two years, and Kylee's friend Dani got back in touch. And Dani was sweet and awesome and crushing hard and adorably on Kylee, so we talked things through and opened the relationship up--and it's been lovely. As far as I can tell, we're all kind of contentedly non-monogamous, with no real drive to go pursuing other people; speaking from my perspective, though, I'm totally all right if either of them sees other people.

*shrug* So I guess the short answer is, I've had more positive relationships when monogamy/non-monogamy is either off the table or something we've discussed and dismissed as an issue?

Date: 2009-06-08 02:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
when I came out to them (I said it as 'bisexual,' although now I go by 'pansexual'), they found the idea deeply threatening. They thought it meant I couldn't be satisfied with only one person--and as a direct result, both left me

I've heard this a lot before. Do you think there's any truth to it? I tend to think that it misrepresents the nature of attraction - I am attracted to people, not bodies - and I am just as likely to meet someone attractive of one gender and be tempted to stray as someone of another, regardless of the gender of who I'm seeing. But I wouldn't want to speak for all bisexuals...

Date: 2009-06-08 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gileonnen.livejournal.com
I disagree to some extent--because to say that 'I'm attracted to people, not bodies/genitals' unfairly implies that monosexual sorts are attracted to bodies/genitals. And I think it would be dangerous to conflate love and attraction--I find lots of folk attractive (see: Acquaintance in Bondage Gear at the Pride parade) with whom I want neither a romantic relationship nor a fling. But I'm not really into flings; this might be because while I'm potentially romantically attracted to anyone, I'm sexually interested in almost no one. I certainly don't feel like I need 'one of each' to be satisfied; in fact, 'none of any' would be much better for me from a sexual standpoint. From the standpoint of the relationship--I don't feel a compulsion to be with multiple people. I don't feel unsatisfied in a relationship with one person; if Dani had never come along, I would've been quite happy to be monogamous in every practical sense with Kylee. Which doesn't really answer your question, I suppose, but it's the best I can do.

Date: 2009-06-08 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
to say that 'I'm attracted to people, not bodies/genitals' unfairly implies that monosexual sorts are attracted to bodies/genitals

Does it? I guess I meant more that my process - and the process of most people, both bi and mono-sexual - seems to be to meet a specific person, be attracted to a whole combination of looks and personality, and only then start considering them sexually. If that's the way I work, then I'm no more likely to want to look outside a relationship for someone of one gender than another. I guess the difference between bi and mono would be that if you aren't attracted to a specific body type in general, then you don't move from general attraction to sexual attraction. So maybe it cuts the chances of wanting someone else by 50%, but it doesn't change things fundamentally.

Date: 2009-06-08 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
And I guess in your case, you don't really transition from that sort of general attraction to a sexual attraction? Does that model work for you at all?

Date: 2009-06-08 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gileonnen.livejournal.com
... I don't know, really. Now that I'm thinking about it, there's a major difference for me between sexual arousal and sexual attraction--I mean, Guy at the Parade was extremely arousing, but I didn't actually feel any need to get with him. Whereas, with the people I'm dating, there's a lot of attraction, but not usually much arousal. And I'm not sure what to do with that.

Date: 2009-06-08 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gileonnen.livejournal.com
*shrugs* It's just that I see that rhetoric used a lot by people who for some reason or another want to suggest that bi/pansexuality is somehow more ethical than monosexuality. You might not have meant it that way--and knowing you, you probably didn't--but most of the time, when I hear it, there's an implied or explicit 'unlike you.'

Date: 2009-06-08 03:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
to suggest that bi/pansexuality is somehow more ethical than monosexuality

Ugh, no. How can something that's not a choice (who you're attracted to) be ethical or not ethical?

Date: 2009-06-08 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gileonnen.livejournal.com
*shrug* I have no idea. But I've run into about six of these people. And was one for a short time before I pulled my head out of my rear end.

Date: 2009-06-07 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cette-vie.livejournal.com
I could say a lot about the evolutionary benefits of monogamous romantic relationships. But that mostly concerns women. Females like humans who take a long period of gestation and have offspring that are weak and unable to be independent for years and years find it most advantageous to secure a male partner who can help defend his contribution to the gene pool and ensure their survival. On the other hand, males pass on their genes best by having sex with as many females as possible. Go figure.

But my simple reason would probably be that I'm too jealous to tolerate another person in this kind of relationship. Other people can establish any kind of two+ relationship they like, but I would just never go for it.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
Eeeeeehhh, evo psych. I kind of hate evo psych.

What makes a relationship romantic besides sex/sexuality?

Date: 2009-06-08 02:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cette-vie.livejournal.com
Yeah, evo psych (hehe) is only capable of holding as much water as you want it to.

Part of what makes a relationship romantic is (again, call me selfish but) the fact that someone is doing something for you/ feels something for you that they could with someone else but they're only doing that/feeling it for you. And it's the choice of devoting yourself to that one person that makes it so special.

Date: 2009-06-08 03:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
So romance (for you) is inherently monogamous? You could not have romantic relationships with multiple people because they would just not be romantic if they were not exclusive?

Date: 2009-06-08 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cette-vie.livejournal.com
I think I could have informal relations of a romantic nature with multiple people, flirtations and hook-ups, but yes, essentially. Part of a relationship is that you commit yourself to one person, and that act makes it a real relationship.

Of course, the fact that I feel like this is inherent to a romantic relationship doesn't really answer your question of "why?", I understand. I don't know if I have an answer for it. When I try to picture a romantic relationship with multiple people, it just doesn't feel as genuine to me. Or serious, for that matter. It's more like I feel that a serious romantic relationship has to be exclusive. And maybe I have been brainwashed into believing that a social construct is the undeniable truth... but ask yourself this:

If we believe that there are lots of fish in the sea, lots of people in the world who are compatible with us, whom we can love and be loved by, maybe even simultaneously, where do we stop? How many relationships is too many? Too few? Why shouldn't we endlessly give ourselves? Possibilities exist regardless of our choices, but... okay, and the Harry Potter quote suggests itself here so I have to say it - it's our choices who make us who we are. Who we choose to love we also choose to make a part of our lives, and at a certain point, I think that it becomes about defining yourself.

Here, insert an economic argument about the effort it takes to identify yourself through a myriad of people versus just one person, and simplicity and such. I haven't really thought this through, obviously, but does this suggest much to you?

(Also, I'm back in Boston in a week. =) Would you be interested in getting bubble tea in the Square?)

Date: 2009-06-08 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
If we believe that there are lots of fish in the sea, lots of people in the world who are compatible with us, whom we can love and be loved by, maybe even simultaneously, where do we stop? How many relationships is too many? Too few? Why shouldn't we endlessly give ourselves?

Because relationships take time and effort and energy, and if you tried to juggle a dozen or something, you wouldn't have time for anything else in your life? But if you have the emotional resources for two or three - and if you have two or three people you really love and who are happy with such an arrangement - why not?

I think there is something in exclusivity that is appealing as a gesture of devotion/affection - that sense that I am attracted to and care for others, but I will give that up because you are more important - but I don't think it's necessary for me, personally. There are other ways for someone to show their devotion to me.

Here, insert an economic argument about the effort it takes to identify yourself through a myriad of people versus just one person, and simplicity and such.

Not sure what you mean here... care to elaborate?

(Also, I'm back in Boston in a week. =) Would you be interested in getting bubble tea in the Square?)

I actually dislike bubble tea, but I'd love to get a smoothie or coffee or something with you while you drink bubble tea.

Date: 2009-06-08 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cette-vie.livejournal.com
Smoothies sound good.

I have papers, so I'll have to pull out of the convo. But I'm glad you've brought this up. It makes me think a lot too. =)

Date: 2009-06-08 04:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
Cool, let me know when you're around here, and we'll make more concrete plans.

Good luck with your papers!

Date: 2009-06-07 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flamingnerd.livejournal.com
I'm not sure. I'm guessing these boundaries don't really exist except in our enforcement. I don't enforce. It leads to confusion, but I'd rather have confusion than rigidity.

I'm guessing it's the investment (time, emotion, etc) that causes the tendency towards monogamy.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
I'm guessing it's the investment (time, emotion, etc) that causes the tendency towards monogamy.

What do you think is different between trying to balance time and emotional energy when dating multiple people, vs. trying to balance that with a significant other and close friendship and/or family ties/obligations?

Date: 2009-06-07 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] imofish.livejournal.com
This is fundamentally what I do not understand.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
I'm with ya.

Date: 2009-06-08 12:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grolby.livejournal.com
The anthropological evidence overwhelmingly points to serial monogamy (the way we do things in the West, by and large) as being a cultural artifact. There are lots of different ways that cultures throughout time and space have constructed their sexual relationships.

And yes, I really think that what makes a romantic relationship is the sexual aspect. That doesn't mean that the people in the relationship are having sex, as such - it's reasonable to characterize, say, a middle-school dating relationship as sexual. What I mean is that relationships exist on a continuum. I see the construction of romance as something that you do exclusively with a sexual partner as entirely synthetic and, sometimes, not a little weird. I think that we could all be a little healthier if we applied the idea of romance, which seems like a semi-ritualized expression of care and intimacy, to all of our relationships. Maybe this is just my particular handicap speaking, though - I tend to overgeneralize in the other direction. I am romance-impaired in my sexual relationships!

I'm not fond of theories explaining monogamy as some kind of adaptation for child-rearing, because they are often proffered in total ignorance of human social history. We should remember that the nuclear family, two-parent model as the basic child-rearing unit is a very modern development. Throughout the vast majority of our history, child care has been a community endeavor. Serial monogamy and the two-parent model of child-rearing are both almost certainly products of a modern industrial society, which are decidedly not the conditions under which we evolved.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
I think that we could all be a little healthier if we applied the idea of romance, which seems like a semi-ritualized expression of care and intimacy, to all of our relationships.

I really, really like this idea - both this way of conceptualizing romance and the idea of applying the concept to other relationships. How would you go about doing that?

I'm not fond of theories explaining monogamy as some kind of adaptation for child-rearing, because they are often proffered in total ignorance of human social history.

Amen. Or whatever the atheist equivalent of 'amen' is.

Date: 2009-06-08 03:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grolby.livejournal.com
I really, really like this idea - both this way of conceptualizing romance and the idea of applying the concept to other relationships. How would you go about doing that?

This is really, really tough, because I'm not really sure that you can readily both do this AND maintain a conventional monogamous approach to sexual relationships. I'm trying to think of how to best explain this. Basically, like I said, I think relationships exist on a continuum where there isn't necessarily a hard line between a sexual and non-sexual relationship. And not only are different relationships in different places on this continuum, but individual relationships can fluctuate in their position on that continuum over time. I can't speak for anyone else, but the people I am sexually most interested in tend to be people who I am already friends with (why would I want to have sex with anyone else?). And sometimes I am interested sexually in someone, sometimes I am not. Either feeling does not necessarily imply I will not at some point in the future not feel the other way. And sometimes it's just hard for me to say one way or the other if what I want is sex or just physical, emotional and intellectual closeness (it should be understood that I want these things to come WITH sex).

The point of all this is that I think that the conflation of romance with sex makes it difficult, given the rigid, exclusive way in which we construct sexual vs. not sexual relationships, to be romantic in non-sexual relationships, especially ones that are nowhere near the sexual end of the continuum, without it feeling real real weird or uncomfortable. And yet, we do it - close platonic and familial relationships often have elements that bear a close resemblance to what we think of as romance. In a world where we construct sexual and non-sexual relationships in a more fluid way, this might be easier. That's not to make a judgment and say that everyone should just try and start living in that world or that it would be impossible to broaden the concept of romance in the real world of how most of us construct relationships. It's just that we have a lot more heavy lifting to do in a monogamous world, I think. I hope that makes any sense at all. In order to illustrate, I have created a handy graphic, a field with two axes, one each for intimacy and sexuality in a relationship. The dot in the upper left is my platonic best friend; in the upper right is my romantic and sexual partner. The dot in the middle is my friend who I care about and love and also rather dig and would like to get in bed with. Keep in mind that she might have the dot representing me in a totally different place on her chart. ;-)
A professional relationship would probably be way down in the lower left-hand corner. Anyway, romance would go along with the intimacy axis. How do we make this happen? I dunno, but I like the idea.

Image

Date: 2009-06-08 04:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
Oh my goodness you made a graph! I think you just moved yourself a little to the right on my x-axis. ;)

the conflation of romance with sex makes it difficult, given the rigid, exclusive way in which we construct sexual vs. not sexual relationships, to be romantic in non-sexual relationships, especially ones that are nowhere near the sexual end of the continuum, without it feeling real real weird or uncomfortable.

Some of the things I associate with partner-romance that could theoretically make the leap to friend-romance if we could get past the weirdness: consistent keeping in touch (my boyfriend and I talk every day, even if it's just briefly, to make that connection), verbal affirmations of what you like about the other person, notes/gifts/kind gestures to show you are thinking about them. Also - concrete discussions about how the relationship is working and what your expectations are and if you want to change things, when and how.

Some of that (especially all of that together) does seem weird in the context of friendship, but perhaps some of it can and should be worked passed. And for my very close friendships, I do some/much of that already.

Date: 2009-06-08 06:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefieldsbeyond.livejournal.com
When my last girlfriend and I were about a month away from breaking up but I didn't know it yet, I read a book called "Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women" (or something like that).

(Backstory: Secant and I had been together for almost six years and had been non-monogamous (at least nominally) for about five of those years; I'd been dating the girl in a tortuous on-again-off-again sort of way for about two years, and she'd started seriously seeing this other guy a few months ago and he was trying his hardest but was really really not okay with sharing her and totally hated my guts.)

So, she told me she wanted to put the sexual part of our relationship on hiatus for a while while she figured stuff out with this bloke and in her own head, but wanted to keep the closeness. Then I found this "Romantic Friendship" book. It was about pre-feminist revolution women who had really close friendships in which they'd write each other passionate love letters, snuggle, kiss, even kick their husbands out of bed when they came to visit. I thought, "Nice! That's perfect! That's the kind of relationship we can have!

The book ended up mostly saying "And they probably had sex! Look, undercover lesbians throughout history!" It was really interesting (I was especially amused at how the husbands didn't think two women could possibly get up to anything together--neither of them had a penis, so clearly there was no threat), but not the validation of a sexless romance that I was hoping for. It also seriously didn't work with the ex-girlfriend, because what she meant to say was "I don't love you anymore but I don't want to hurt your feelings, and also my boyfriend hates your guts." But I still really like the idea of romantic friendship--deep love, intimacy, letters, snuggles, all the closeness, maybe even some of the sexual tension, but without sexual frustration. I think it's possible.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
It was really interesting... but not the validation of a sexless romance that I was hoping for.

I actually (and don't judge my dorkiness here) once wrote a really impassioned essay on why people 'shipping Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings frustrated the hell out of may. The basic gist was that fans were taking a relationship that was about as intimate and strong as a relationship could be - Sam goes to the Tolkien equivalent of hell not just with Frodo, but for Frodo - and adding in a sexual element. I was fine with the sexual element, but it really annoyed me that many fans were saying that the closeness of their relationship implied or necessitated a sexual element.

Anyway, moving beyond hobbits, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the women in your book did have a sexless romance. I think with women especially these categories are a lot more fluid. If you have a romantic friendship with intimacy and love and snuggling, and then you have sex once or twice, it's still pretty much mostly a sexless romance, isn't it? I think we also have a tendency in our culture to categorize based on actions, even a few of them, rather than on feelings and motivations.

Date: 2009-06-18 05:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hethatishere.livejournal.com
You are a beautiful, beautiful dork.

Beautifully said.

Date: 2009-06-08 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grolby.livejournal.com
Oh my goodness you made a graph! I think you just moved yourself a little to the right on my x-axis. ;)

Aw, well now you've made me blush. I am very pleased, thank you. An appreciation for graphs certainly is attractive, comes from the doing science, I guess. ;-)

There seem to be a couple of possibilities that could explain the weirdness of romance-type rituals in non-sexual relationships:

1. There are some "romantic" gestures or acts that are in fact overtly sexual

2. We tend to allow a greater degree of intimacy (understandably, and perhaps somewhat unavoidably) in close sexual relationships.

I'm guessing it's a bit of both. For what it's worth, when my best friend and I were living together in college, we conducted our relationship in a way that made more than a few people do a double-take - were we a gay couple? After all, if Ben were going out somewhere, I would ask where, and ask when he would be back (we didn't have cell phones yet), and he would do the same for me. He would rest his head on my shoulder when he was sleepy in Bio 100. We would argue in the cheese section at Whole Foods, and so on. So it's not surprising that some people wondered! And we would have discussions when we noticed an unusual degree of tension in our relationship, and what to do about it. So that's a personal example of what I'm talking about. It doesn't have all the elements of what we typically think of as romantic behavior, but there are definitely parts. It's hard to come up with anything better than that, since I'm not really very romantic (in terms of stuff like flowers and little gifts or candlelit dinners) in my sexual relationships, either.

Date: 2009-06-08 02:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
1. There are some "romantic" gestures or acts that are in fact overtly sexual

I'm having a hard time coming up with them. The only thing I can think of is buying someone lingerie.

We tend to allow a greater degree of intimacy (understandably, and perhaps somewhat unavoidably) in close sexual relationships.

Why do you think we as a culture are so uncomfortable with allowing a lot of intimacy in non-sexual relationships?

Date: 2009-06-09 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] grolby.livejournal.com
I'm having a hard time coming up with them. The only thing I can think of is buying someone lingerie.

Fair enough. I was thinking along the lines of the stereotypical slow dancing to soft jazz music while candles softly perfume the air, before retiring to the bedroom to make sweet, sweet love (can you say "eww"?). But that's the idea of romance that doesn't appeal to me, in no small part because it's so hackneyed.

Why do you think we as a culture are so uncomfortable with allowing a lot of intimacy in non-sexual relationships?

You don't ask any easy questions, do you? ;-) Here are a couple brief thoughts:

1. It seems kind of obvious that, if romance and intimacy are something that we associate so strongly with sex, that they become very uncomfortable in relationships where sex is not desired or appropriate. Romance and intimacy imply sex, and if sex is not what we want, well, ick.

2. My girlfriend has suggested sexism as playing a role at least in the difficulty that (straight) men have in relating to other men intimately, and in relating to women non-sexually. Basically, because women are the "other," men don't interact socially with them very much (not that you don't know this, but bear with me). As a result, the only way that many men relate to women at all is sexually. Because intimacy and romance are so closely associated with their sexual relationships, this causes these men discomfort when it comes into their non-sexual relationships with other men. And of course, being a progressive and feminist man who has many non-sexual friendships and social interactions with women does not make me (or any other man) completely immune to this. For obvious reasons, this doesn't pose as much of a problem for women in general, but it can be issue for non-sexual friendships among women as well.

So those two things might be a start.

Date: 2009-06-08 06:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefieldsbeyond.livejournal.com
The graph is *perfect.* Well put. :-D

Date: 2009-06-18 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hethatishere.livejournal.com
Amen. Or whatever the atheist equivalent of 'amen' is.

Ooh-Ooh! I got this one! Unitarians of the humanist, atheist, or agnostic persuasion often say "So it may be." Although, recently I've seen some people respond by saying 'Word' to a reverential statement. I find something about this appropriation delightful.

This is a fascinating conversation. I am enjoying watching it unfold. I only wish I had something more of substance to add to the discussion.

Date: 2009-06-18 08:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
This is a fascinating conversation. I am enjoying watching it unfold. I only wish I had something more of substance to add to the discussion.

You know your input is always welcome, to matter how unsubstantial it is. ;)

Date: 2009-06-08 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] doxamully.livejournal.com
While I can't exactly say why monogamy is considered the norm or how it came to be that way, I can say for myself personally it's just how I am. I'm only capable of romantically loving one person at a time and so I feel it's only fair that I ask my partner feel the same way. I won't claim to love any deeper or any more than anyone else though :).

Now I do think it's interesting to ponder what exactly is different with romantic relationships aside from a sexual/physical aspect. Again making this about myself (sorry it's just...I'm me and that's the best reference I have!), I personally find I'm just a whole lot closer to anyone I'm dating (I spend a lot more time with a partner and I know them so much better). I have a few close friends certainly, but it's a lot more casual of a feeling. I'd honestly say there's only one person who I'm as close to as my significant other and really the main reason being that we talk frequently.

Date: 2009-06-08 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sliceydicey.livejournal.com
A think there are a few reasons I generally go for a monogamous relationship:

1. It's generally easier to find two people who get along with each other than three or more people who all get along with each other. So as a matter of practicality, it's less work to be in a two person relationship than a relationship with multiple people.

2. If I really care about someone I want to spend a lot of time alone with them for various reasons (can be more honest in private, less social pressure than a group, sex, etc.). If that person has another romantic partner then they're likely going to be spending a lot of time with them, which means I see them less, which means a generally shallower relationship.

3. Power Dynamics: When in any kind of relationship with multiple people, the opinion of the crowd tends to trump the opinion of the individual. That usually works okay for friendships and such because what's being decided doesn't tend to be life altering, but in a romantic/particularly intimate relationship there are important questions that you want equal footing in: should we have children, should we move to another state, etc. Also generally someone in a very close relationship is going to have a deeper impact on your life view, so you don't want to feel like opinions and stuff are being shoved down your throat.

4. Intimacy/Risk Taking: There are a lot of potentially risky things you reveal in a romantic relationship. Sexual quirks, political views, etc. Revealing those to one person is risky enough but more people makes it even riskier and has more potential to backfire when you consider the whole power dynamic thing.

In general, I consider a romantic relationship different because there's sex, yes, and because the relationship is going to tend to be more intimate, have more honesty and sharing and that sort of thing in it, as well as more time spent hanging out with that person in general. I think a lot of those things could probably be replicated by an extremely close friend, but I've found that even with very good friends I tend not to be as honest or open, because I'm nervous about the response or I'm just not in the situations (1 on 1) that welcome that kind of talk as often.

So for me a monogamous romantic relationship is a mix of practicality, intimacy, and happening to want to spent most of my time with that person.

Date: 2009-06-09 01:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aliterati.livejournal.com
Hey, fascinating thread, sad that I don't have time to answer in depth with my thoughts (still in travels, etc). But I wanted to respond to one/thread comment:

I think there is something in exclusivity that is appealing as a gesture of devotion/affection - that sense that I am attracted to and care for others, but I will give that up because you are more important - but I don't think it's necessary for me, personally. There are other ways for someone to show their devotion to me.

So, the first half of this paragraph is your concise summation of comments several people have been making--i.e. monogomy arising as some kind of conscious self-limitation, either because of time constraints or as a gift/gesture toward a partner--and I think that's fundamentally wrong way of looking at it for most monogamists. I'm about to parrot Carolyn Hax, but here goes: From what I gather, commmited monogamists do not see monogamous commitment as a limitation or a closing off of possibilities or a sacrifice ("giving up") in any way. They commonly--at least at the height of the relationship, when the commitment is made--have zero interest in another possibilities. This notion about not having enough time/energy/resources/etc--the way to look at is that if a monogamist ("monogamist" based on me, my past guys, and pretty much all friends in relationships I know) had more of any or all of those things, he/she would want to spend it with his/her partner. The point is that, in the ideal situation--which I do think people often reach--this partner does romantically fulfill you entirely. (I realize that I'm ignoring the question about defining "romance"--let me just cheat, cut to the end, and for the sake of this argument posit the one premise that a romantical situation is qualitatively different from a purely platonic one.)

Anyway, I'm guessing that this thread arose partially out of our conversation by the river. This is precisely what I was saying about how, to me, purely from a theoreticalperspective, mongomy seems like a more psychologically gratifying arrangment (for whatever reason it emerged in culture/nature). Being psychologically wired to only want one person and then getting that person seems more fulfilling than potentially wanting multiple people, but eventually being forced to constrict how many people you get involved with (to, say, two or three) through the material and contingent limitations of time/energy/resources. Let's just say--can't resist the pun!--that those two options strike me as very different forms of "settling."

Date: 2009-06-09 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
They commonly--at least at the height of the relationship, when the commitment is made--have zero interest in another possibilities.

Of course, how one feels at the height of the relationship and how one feels throughout the course of the relationship are two different things. Even extremely strong monogamous relationships can and do undergo periods where the people involved desire sexual or emotional relationships with others. Life is long, you know, and no relationship is perfect.

I think in traditional monogamous relationships, people deal with these feelings as best they can, either harshly or with understanding, but with the goal of getting them to go away or to minimize the threat to their relationship. I think there may also be a tendency for some monogamous people to think that if someone is desiring someone else, it is a sign that their own relationship is somehow weak (which may or may not be true).

Whereas some people might see their desire for another person as unrelated to their love for and strength of their relationship with their current partner. And so, if all people are willing and inclined, they might pursue a relationship with that other person while maintaining your current relationship, instead of giving up one for the other.

Being psychologically wired to only want one person and then getting that person seems more fulfilling than potentially wanting multiple people, but eventually being forced to constrict how many people you get involved with (to, say, two or three) through the material and contingent limitations of time/energy/resources

I agree, but I think there is no strict line between polys and monos - perhaps more of a spectrum. I think most people make some sacrifice of not pursuing others they are interested in, it's just that for many of those who identify as monogamous, it's a relatively trivial sacrifice (the pull is not very strong, they value the exclusivity and commitment of their current relationship far more). For other monogamous people, it's much more of a sacrifice, but still worth it. For other "monogamous" people, it's such a pull that they cheat on or break up with their current partner. And for poly people, they also make that sacrifice, but based more on emotional energy constraints than on a sense that exclusivity is desirable to them.

Date: 2009-06-09 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aliterati.livejournal.com
I think there may also be a tendency for some monogamous people to think that if someone is desiring someone else, it is a sign that their own relationship is somehow weak (which may or may not be true)... Whereas some people might see their desire for another person as unrelated to their love for and strength of their relationship with their current partner.

Sure. Although, in regard to the former, there are definitely some people who specifically care and privilege a single, utterly unchallenged monogamous relationship as something they want (aesthetically/culturally/psychologically). And--I doubt we disagree on this--whatever its cultural roots, that desire is just as legitimate (or contingent) as polygamy or any other preference.

Date: 2009-06-09 08:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greensword.livejournal.com
Absolutely.

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