Friday, January 9, 2009

Is Monogamy Really A Selfish Form of Marriage? Answer to the Pavlinas Polyamory Argument

I have been married to my wife for nineteen years and we have felt lots of sexual tension, not to mention emotional extremes, but because we are both committed to the marriage and to each other, we have had no other choice than to work it out.

Frankly, I have always been a "live and let live" sort of guy, but to hear Steve and Erin Pavlina state that monogamy is actually a selfish form of marriage, because each partner acts as though they own the other is to denounce monogamy for its most failed manifestation, the marriage entered into for selfish needs or by two people who have no desire to stretch and grow. My wife and I meet each others needs, not because we are slaves to the other or owned by one another, but because we have, of our own free will, given ourselves to each other, and desire to make this life and forever together, a wonderful experience for the companionship of each other.

There are incompatibilities in any marriage, and the answer most assuredly is not for me to go find someone else who meets this or that need that my wife just won't. A lot of times, not doing so causes me to figure out what I want more, or whether or not this need is in fact a need. Most of the times, we should not go fulfill every deviant want that we can imagine is really a need.

I still feel that the Pavlinas deserve whatever kind of marriage they want, and I must also say that when they describe polyamory as a way of building a stronger marriage because both partners are happiest in this form of marriage relationship, I have to say, in my humble opinion, that no happiness garnered from experiences outside of a loving devoted companionship, could ever be greater than that experienced by two people who have learned and loved together, and decided that each other's needs are more important than a moment or two of pleasure that they might find elsewhere.

My marriage to my wife will last beyond the life we are living now, because we have raised children together, struggled together, fought side by side against a common enemy, and fought with each other about what was important to each of us. To live a life where we go and satisfy every desire when we have it and always meet every need the moment our partner does not, is to live a highly undisciplined existence which in the end, does not build strength of character or a strong love bond between two people.

I personally cannot see how polyamory could be described as a proper way to build a strong bond of trust between two people, because even if we are to shed all our selfishness, and envy, which is and should be the goal even in monogamy, the entwining of two lives is not as the Pavlinas describe, a shaky foundation of pillars so close that the structure tumbles, but is the divine multiplication of the gifts each individual brings to the marriage that strengthens the two as they become one flesh, a scriptural principle worth noting and as it is exemplified in my own life, with my own wife, and yes she is mine, and I am hers. Not at all selfishly, and yet, in a way that causes me to love her as I love myself. But I have to love myself enough to appreciate her.

To me, polyamory is not and could not be described as less selfish than monogamy, when both are lived to their highest forms. Monogamy does not mean to me that I cannot have emotional bonds with other women, nor my wife with other men, but the danger in living a life based upon excusing myself from even trying to meet my partner's needs that are uncomfortable to me is that it becomes a lazy way of loving and soon enough, one or the other will find someone else who meets more needs, better; then what?!?


Dragonblogger said...

I agree with your point of view whole heartedly, it is one's commitment to love to stay true to ones love.

One would say there is no point in being married or saying you are committed to someone, if you aren't going to be "committed".

Polyamory, is for people to indulge in desires either through unsatisfied curiosity, or unhappiness at home.

People who enjoy that lifestyle are fine, just find somebody compatible who shares the same views, it is a small minority, but you will find them.

Note: Declaring yourself polyamorous up front and sharing it with your partner is far better than pretending to be monogamous and cheating on your spouse.

Melissa - Mindful Construct said...

I agree that the "entwining of two lives is not...a shaky foundation of pillars so close that the structure tumbles." That's the Pavlinas' personal experience, not necessarily true of everyone. People will have their own experiences in their relationships, which will color their view of how relationships "should" be. And they will base their lifestyle philosophy off of that.

"There are incompatibilities in any marriage, and the answer most assuredly is not for me to go find someone else who meets this or that need that my wife just won't."

It takes more courage to look at *why* a need is not being met and *why* it is even a need at all (instead of a want, or some mode of escape) -- than to immediately seek another source to "fulfill" that need.

In the first case, you have an opportunity to find a solution to the problem, and to create even greater intimacy by doing so. In the second, you have an easy way to avoid intimacy with your partner by masking the problem -- and you may even do so under the guise of "creating more intimacy" with other people.

The way I see it, both monogamy and polyamory are selfish. In monogamy, you want one partner all to yourself. In polyamory, you want more than one partner. In monogamy, you want as much of your partner's attention as you can get. In polyamory, your partner gets less of your attention because you have to divide it across different relationships, all of which serve you. So, they both are selfish in their own right.

Last week I wrote a blog post about how neither of the two are more "natural," or even "loving" --