Monday, August 18, 2008

Snappy Comebacks and Commitment in Poly Relationships

I administer a yahoogroup called CPNPolyMono, it is a support group for poly people with monogamous partners. Someone there posted the following:

"I just heard that tired, whining bandsaw of 'Why Can't Men COMMIT?' for the 5,892,436th time...and it occurred to me to ask in return, 'I don't know, Why Can't Women SHARE?'"

Here are my thoughts on this issue. Certainly poly people find that commitment question irksome, but in my experience, such responses rarely improve the situation, especially if the tone in which they are delivered is less than sincere. What actually tends to happen is that both parties end up feeling angry, defensive and resentful, and the chasm between the two widens. It's safe to say that this is probably not likely to move anyone closer to understanding and acceptance.

When handling this problem, this is a perfect time to be as emotionally intelligent as possible in its handling. I recommend taking the high road as much as possible and refusing to be baited. Instead of responding like someone wrongly accused, i.e. defensively, it's better to answer the question about commitment calmly, clearly and as lovingly as possible. It helps to validate the partner's feelings and frustration by affirming that it's understandable that polyamory might appear to represent a lack of commitment. People who don't understand polyamory feel very threatened by it - mono partners particularly see it as a situation where they have nothing to gain but a lot to lose. Plus, we all come from lifelong social conditioning that tells us that commitment equals exclusivity. When viewed from that perspective, it's hard to blame people for thinking that way.

The poly person's job is to explain how it is that this is a false dichotomy and how it is possible to be committed to a partner without being exclusive. I recommend that being prepared to back this up with info easily find on the internet on polyamory and commitment that has been printed out for the poly person and their partner to read and discuss together. Just google the words polyamory commitment - there's lots of useful info to be found that way.

Of course, all this assumes that there is indeed a commitment to the partner concerned and that relationship. If that commitment is less than solid, the partner will know it, and all the explanation in the world won't help them feel any more secure in the relationship. If that's the case, there is a much bigger question to answer about whether it makes sense to continue traveling life's road together.

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