Blast from the past: Polyamory and the maintenance of autonomy

26 01 2008

(Originally written December 16, 2006 on my old blog.)

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately and have figured something out about the difference in views about relationships that poly and non-poly folks have. Through conversations with friends, colleages, etc. I’ve noticed that what bothers a lot of people about non-monogamy is not so much the fact of there being more than one simultaneous relationship in the life of one or both partners, but the maintenance of autonomy within “the couple.” 

What I mean is that there seems to be an unspoken rule in many exclusive relationships that, in exchange for the emotional security and intimacy that one receives, one must give up their individual autonomy and identity. ALL decisions, big or small, ranging from a night out with friends to whether or not to get a tattoo, must now be made by THE COUPLE: this new unit composed of two parts.

When I tell people that I date that my view of a relationship does NOT include the loss of my sovereignty over my own body and my own life, they run away screaming (metaphorically). Actually, it’s more like they back away slowly with big round eyes.  When I tell them that if I ever live with someone again, we will each have our own rooms because sometimes I prefer to sleep on my own, they think I’m a freak. I also tell them that, if I’m invited to a party or any other event on a certain night, I will not call them to check if we have plans before I accept. Why? Because if WE had plans, I would know about it, right? Why would you (my hypothetical partner)
make plans FOR me without consulting me? If WE are invited to a party and you are not there, I will accept for myself and tell people that I will inform you of the event and that you will be free to accept or decline, even if I know you well enough to know that you will probably accept because you love parties (ooops, almost wrote panties hehehe). And I expect you to do the same. Therefore, neither of us makes plans for the other. I call that respect of individual autonomy. Some people call it lack of respect for the
unity of the couple. Go figure.

In any case, this kind of stuff is what seems to scare people away. Not so much the “simultaneous sexual and/or emotional relationships” aspect but the “maintenance of individual autonomy” aspect. Interestingly though, for me they go together. The right to establish other relationships of different natures outside of my “primary” relationship is, to me, a question of autonomy. I know that there are polyamorous people with agreements such as veto power, etc. but that kind of negotiated agreement does not indicate a loss of autonomy to me because it’s verbally laid out and negotiated whereas the clause that stipulates loss of autonomy within “(stereo)typical” monogamous arrangements is unspoken and unarticulated until broken. And even then, it’s articulated with difficulty.




One response

23 02 2008
V : Polyamory and the maintenance of autonomy

[…] Source: Jacky’s Place […]

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