Or, why is polyamory like vegetarianism? There’s been an excellent and opposite analogy put forward by the authors of Sex At Dawn (which is amazing, by the way; when I retrieve it from the friend I’ve lent it to, I’ll write something about that), talking about being monogamous as being like vegetarianism – something that we may not have naturally evolved to do, but a perfectly reasonable choice in modern society.
For me, though, as a vegetarian, it feels like the comparison goes best the other way. And interestingly it also helps me make sense of some people’s reactions and responses to polyamory. Incidentally, I come down strongly on the side of poly being a choice, not an innate orientation. Vegetarianism is also a choice. Both are choices I’ve made because I think they are better for me, not for anyone else. I don’t care about other people’s diet, and I don’t care about their relationship choices, as long as they are mindful and happy and informed.
But interestingly, both can sometimes provoke the same sort of defensiveness. Pretty often, when I tell someone I’m vegetarian, they respond with an immediate ‘oh, I’d be vegetarian except for bacon’ or similar, and come up with reasons why my choice wouldn’t work for them. Same thing with poly. It wouldn’t work for everyone – certainly not! – and not because polyamory is somehow ‘better’ or ‘more evolved’ and therefore you have to be a special magical super-communicator and not everyone is ‘good enough’… Yuck. No, because there are as many different ways of organising your life and relationships as there are people, pretty much, and as long as everyone has found a path that brings them and their loved ones happiness and fulfilment, then we’re doing well.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate with most people’s reactions when I tell them about the non-monogamous part of my relationship; in fact, most have been either positive or indifferent (and there I thought I was fascinating and scandalous and bohemian… hrmph). Those who’ve been less than positive have mostly got caught up in why it wouldn’t work for them, or their relationship, and why they wouldn’t want to do it. Which is in a way, I suppose, a good thing – more people considering their choices, including when it ends in them saying ‘hurray, I like monogamy, it makes me happy, I love the intimacy and intensity of it, and that is the shape I want for my relationship’, has to be valuable.
Still. Aside from my total nosiness about other people’s lives, I really don’t care. I am pleased that I am vegetarian, and I am beyond joyful about my relationships, and I don’t need other people to make the same choices to validate my own. Eat bacon, eat broccoli, have one boyfriend, have five – be happy and mindful and care for those around you, and we’ll all figure the rest out as we go 🙂