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Why people aren't interchangeable
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saxifrage00
For my reading, and for everyone who values intimacy in relationships (especially if, like me, the reaction to that was "well, duh, of course I do"): http://www.xeromag.com/fvessay06.html

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This sounds good but I'm not sure this is empirically true. How often do we say things like "Wow, thanks! I really had to say this to somebody." Obviously we mean "someone I respect and trust". But there might be many people who would have served the purpose. Maybe you'd really have liked to call up A. to tell them, but they are away on some camping trip, so you call B.

I don't think this denies that one has a unique relationship with A or B. Just that people have needs for intimacy, and to some extent, *any* intimate relationship can help fulfill those needs.

I've always been serial-monogamous, and it seems to me that breaking up while polyamorous has to be very different. That jump is from sex-on-a-regular-basis to nothing. And holy hell, that thing alone makes a huge difference in most people's psychic health.

And if you're like most North Americans, you don't have a lot of close friends, so a monogamous breakup means going from one intimate friend to zero. The default "person you do stuff on the weekends with" to "I just don't know what to do with myself."

Also... if you break up with A, B might come around to make sure you aren't spending the Saturday mornings with the curtains drawn.

It just seems like it has to be a different experience, and somewhat mitigated by the other intimate relationships available.

...and another thing. After a break-up, the mono-amorous often go through some period of feeling that they are unattractive and unworthy of anyone's attention. Do polyamorous people feel that too? It seems to me that should be off the table since, well, there's your other sweetie(s).

I think the distinction the author is trying for is between the loss itself, and all the rest of the painful things that one's brain kicks in for bonus pain. The loss itself is still crushingly painful and no amount of attention from remaining relationships makes that better.

You're right about the peripheral things though—other sweeties are there to kick one's mental ass when one starts thinking self-defeating thoughts. So, in a sense, it's easier because one isn't allowed to compound the pain. The loss itself, which is what many people focus on (and unconsciously tag as the source of all the peripheral things when they go through a breakup, rather than themselves), isn't any easier.

Why does everyone understand that children are not interchangeable, but still assume that lovers are?

I don't know where that author takes this "everyone" from. Strangely enough it's the second time that I read something about that "monogamous people don't get that people are not replacable" by a poly author. Speaking of misconceptions of the other side, huh.

To be fair to the original author, he is intending that generalisation that is overly-broad, as written, to apply specifically to those very many people, monogamous, poly, or otherwise, who act as if people are interchangeable.

I've heard it, personally, that it must be easier to go through a breakup when one is poly. The speaker doesn't only assume that it's easier because the poly person breaking up has a good support network in their other partners. They also assume that it's easier because the person doesn't have to be alone—they have somebody, anybody, to be with. As if the only thing of value in a partner is the role of "partner" that they fill up, rather than the value being in who they are.

The point of the article isn't to knock monogamous people for making these assumptions. The point is that we all fear being replaceable, and getting past that fear requires understanding the mistaken assumptions we make about relationships and their value. In all good relationships, the partners value each other uniquely, because of who they are. (Fortunately, almost everyone I know in a relationship has a good one.) When one or the other person is in a relationship because, hey, the other person is willing to be with them for some reasons, and it's better than being alone, the relationship will inevitably be a bad one.

The point of the article isn't to knock monogamous people for making these assumptions. I got that and also the point of the article ;) It just stood out to me that I read something similar already where it was remarked on that mostly monogamous people ask this question / don't know the concept. This article in question didn't explicitly put that way, it was clear that this was about a general view of relationship. But again it was a monogamous person asking. Maybe it just stood out to me as odd because I'd never even get the idea to ask anybody this, poly or not.

Well I have seen enough of your relationships, romantic and familial, that I am entirely unsurprised that you'd never think to ask such a question. :) I think you're one of the people that intuitively understand that each person, and each relationship with them, is individual.

I wonder if it's a European/NAmerican difference? I know there are a lot of neuroses that are particular to this continent. I wonder if this weird relationships-without-intimacy thing is more common here?

Well, I hope so :)

It might just be because I'm particularly lucky with those relationships. I'm even exceptionally lucky with my extended-family-to-be. I just never had reasons for neuroses concerning that. Which is unfortunately not the standard :/

Then again, all people I know who had a relationship-without-intimacy were very aware of that fact and drew a very rigid line between those and relationships with intimacy. And I always noticed that there is much more fuss about relationships in general made on your continent. For example the whole dating concept which is virtually unknown here, or the seriousness of the term "boyfriend".

Whatever the original author meant, I'm interested in how you perceive relationships. It seems really different from my experience.

Let's go back to children, I think it's a great example. I assert that, to some extent, children are replaceable. And this doesn't mean that the parents are somehow like rabbits or other mindless reproducing machines.

Parents, for the most part, love their children. They don't fall in love with them for some distinct quality they have, different from all other children. They love them just because they are their children. Some relationships are more congenial, but the parental bonds are strong nevertheless.

So there is a real sense in which children are interchangeable. Let's further assume that exercising a capacity for parental love is part of what makes many people happy. It follows that if a couple loses a child, having another will help ease the pain and fill the void. And I think one sees this happening all the time. I once knew someone who had three miscarriages in a row, and had a nervous breakdown, but her fourth pregnancy worked out okay and I think this helped her to heal.

So, back to romantic relationships. These are a bit more driven by choice and compatibility, so yeah, there could be many different sorts of relationships all at once, like non-interfering colors of light. But I believe that, at base, we are driven to love and be intimate with whoever is at hand. And in some way every one of us is 'loveable' by any other. There are just fewer things in the way for some.

I don't know how else one explains love relationships in a small town. You would think that by the law of averages, there ought to be less love and affection in small towns, say before the automobile. They meet fewer people, so how can they find their ideal match? But this doesn't seem to be the case.

I bet people in cities are better-matched, just by elementary sorting principles -- more confluence of interests, more exact matching of ambitions and tastes, etc. But do small-town relationships have less love? I really doubt that.

I guess I think of love as a sort of function of the species. Intellectual connection, matching of interests -- that all takes place in the higher brain and yeah, some of those relationships might be irreplaceable. Are there particular frequencies or colors of the base thing, love?

I tend to think not, but I may be a poor judge here, given that I have just been monogamist and couldn't compare simultaneous relationships.

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