Monday, March 31, 2008

Jenny Block on Open Relationships in Huffington Post

Writer Jenny Block, author of the soon-to-be-published book Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage, has just made her first blog post to Huffington Post as a regular there. It's called Open Relationships: What the World Already Has. In it she challenges the sanctioning of cheating over the acceptance of honest and open relationships. In one part she speculates about why people have such negative reactions to the concept of polyamory.

.... there is nothing more terrifying than feeling like you're not strong enough to go out on a limb and attempt something that might actually improve your life. Better to yell, "Freak!" at those who are trying. And then everyone doing the yelling -- unhappy, cheating, or just plain judgmental -- feel themselves in the "right" and thus in the clear.

I have another theory about why so many people react so negatively to the idea of polyamory. What if their own spouse should find the idea of polyamory appealing, especially in light of increasing acceptance of this alternative to monogamy? How will they be able to continue to enjoy the illusion of security that monogamy creates? They LIKE having a sense of ownership of their spouse. It makes them feel secure. And if they feel jealous of their spouse's appreciation of another, society says they are entirely justified in crying foul.

Thank goodness there are rules about these things, right? Polyamory is particularly troubling to those who need rules that everyone is expected to following in order to feel safe. Trouble is, one person's sense of security is another person's cage, and a cage is no place to conduct a relationship.

Some say that the potential for upsetting the emotional teacart is evidence enough that polyamory is a bad idea. I see it as evidence that the time is coming when society will re-examine its extreme expectations around love, commitment, possessiveness, and sexual and emotional exclusivity. It seems to me that possessiveness and ownership of one’s spouse is self-serving and therefore more about love of self and avoiding uncomfortable feelings than it is about love for another.

It's true that polyamory demands a lot of self-examination, self-awareness and communication to work. It's also true that jealousy in even agreed-upon polyamorous relationships sometimes occurs. It's a part of being human, a part of our emotional make-up just as much is our apparent desire to pair bond but non-exclusively. The difference for polyamorists is that we own our jealous feelings, avoid casting blame, and we learn together how to effectively resolve jealous feelings instead of allowing them to derail the relationship.

Polyamory isn’t for everyone, true, and monogamy is a legitimate choice. It’s just not the only one. As long as the people who are together agree to the same choice, it’s all good.


Anonymous said...

I would like to know if Ms. Block's in laws appreciate her lifestyle? What about her child's school teachers? Is there any room in her life for Church?

Anita Wagner said...

I can't speak for Ms. Block, only for myself. If your point is that surely the in-laws object, the school teacher disapproves, and having two partners leaves no time for church, all I can say is that I know a lot of poly people for whom none of that is true.

Poly people are no less loving family members to their partners' biological families than anyone else. It's my understanding that Ms. Block's husband is an equal partner in their choice of living a polyamorous life, so she is no less acceptable a daughter-in-law than he is a son-in-law.
Neither is there any reason to imply that they any less responsible as parents as anyone else. As for church, I go to church just about every Sunday, as do many other polyamorists I know.

Certainly time is not unlimited, and we all arrange our poly lives to accommodate what is important to us. As a spiritual person, I organize my life to accommodate both my relationships and my church attendance. The poly parents I know prioritize time for their kids over everything else just as any other good parents would do.

SereiT03 said...

just wanted to say, that was a great post. I've been frustrated by those issues in lots of people. :-(

Suzanne Portnoy said...

Check out my piece on the Huff Post too!