[Follow up to this.]

Look, guys. I am not dissing the idea of "emotional monogamy" or whatever is the opposite of emotional infidelity. I totally understand that most people feel this way. That is why I try really really hard not to do things that strike other people as threatening to their relationship,and why I fuck off if it becomes evident that this is shaping up to be the case. I don't want to sow the seeds of chaos. I just feel about it a lot like Dan Savage feels about traditional monogamy: If this is for you, then fantastic, but if it is not for you, then the widespread assumption that it should be what you want is liable to fuck your life up seventeen different ways from Sunday, whether you try to conform or not.

I am not misunderstanding the nature of romantic relationships. If I am, then the world needs to get a much better system for determining who to ask for advice, because this is stuff I get asked about all the goddamn time and given the kind of feedback I get, I'm stupefyingly good at handing out answers, or at least coming up with useful questions. I have never in my life attempted to "steal" anyone else's mate. I don't want to. I have gained what I think is a reasonable understanding of how much time, effort, and emotional energy other people feel is normal to expend on this one relationship with this one person via a lot of observation, both of explicit messages (relationship advice books, anecdotal data, watching other people who seem to be very happy in their relationships), and tacit ones (implying that there is something broken about someone who prefers to be alone rather than be in this kind of relationship, making the automatic assumption that an SO will come first regardless of circumstances, accepting that of course you'll drift away from your friends when you acquire a partner).

I am saying that since I don't work this way, I don't have that gut-level understanding of why this specific thing is automatically hurtful. It seems to be the kind of thing that other people grasp as a punch to the solar plexus, the same way they feel the visceral wrongness of being strung along by someone who's only pretending to love you, or finding your SO in flagrante delicto with one of your siblings. I have to figure it out cognitively, and that is not as accurate an indicator as using the "something is rotten in Denmark" alarm installed deep in my lizard brain. The SIRID detector does not respond to this, so the alarm doesn't go off. The things it makes you do are definitely hurtful, and those do give me the gut-punch feeling, but people do things like lying and sneaking around and breaking promises not because this is a required part of forging emotional bonds, but because this is considered infidelity, and because lying and sneaking and promise-breaking is kind of required when you're trying to get away with things you know your partner considers bad. Banging an outside party in accordance with the rules of a cooperatively-derived open relationship? Peachy keen. Banging an outside party in violation of the rules of a cooperatively-derived monogamous relationship? You are a miserable sonuvabitch and I hope s/he gets the house in the divorce.

This is one of the social things that I am weirdly blind to at times. There are many others, and they get me into trouble as well. I'm great at making casual comments about things I don't realize other people think are embarrassing and are trying to keep me from noticing, mainly because I think there's nothing wrong with them, and fail at assessing whether other people feel the same. It took me fucking weeks to notice that the rest of our anthropology class thought Moggie was a complete space case -- she didn't talk much and spent most of her time looking around, which they took for timidity and confusion. I took it for being watchful, and it turns out that I'm the one who guessed correctly.

It's somewhat akin to how the military in WWII used to use colorblind soldiers to pick out stuff hidden by cammo nets: Having red-green colorblindness meant that they weren't keying on the color of the cammo net, which matched the surrounding forests, but had to key on the texture instead, which didn't. I am obviously keying on something different than most other people. They see a solid wall of greenery; I see disparate parts. The best I can do here is observe other people when they look at the tableau and hazard a guess as to 1) what they see, 2) what quality they're keying on, and 3) what things are likely to have that quality, usually by process of elimination and contextual pattern-matching. Sometimes, I fuck it up.

I also, as a number of my readers can probably attest, suck massively at picking out people on the autistic spectrum. I note the individual characteristics and behaviors, but my lizard brain doesn't seem to flag them as being "wrong" the way other people's lizard brains do. I'm well aware that they're statistically unusual, and that I probably have to do some other statistically unusual things myself to communicate with their owner, but none of it ever adds up to that general sense of "something ain't right about that boy" that other allistic people apparently get.

It would be duplicitous of me to enter into a romantic relationship knowing that the other person assumes I want the same thing that most people do. I've tried it, and it ends in predictable misery: He is hurt because he perceives my behavior as meaning I'm lying about how much I care for him, and I am desperately unhappy because all the "if you loved me, you'd ___" demands keep piling up, and I can't meet them. I fully realize I am the mutant here, so I pretty much just don't do romances, at least normal ones. I do my best not to run afoul of it in friendships, but never taking the risk that some third-party won't like my presence essentially means never attempting to bond with anyone else ever. I've done the no-friends thing, and that's not acceptable either.

Ultra-casual FWB works better, although I'm not much into people I can't talk to when we're not having sex.  (Smart boys are my kryptonite. I'll look at pretty-but-dumb, but have no desire to ever pick one up.) I have never gotten anyone to understand my idea of a steady-but-casual sort of weekends-and-free-time affair, which involves us going home to our own apartments most of the time and me not being particularly fussed if he wanted to also run around with someone else when I'm living my own life, but also me being utterly thrilled to see him when he is there and enjoying the hell out of his existence. I think "mistress" would be a perfectly grand position for me, if I lived in a society where the existence of the "other woman" wasn't so devastatingly hurtful to all involved. I don't even really care if my half of the relationship is open -- I'm interested rarely enough that I've never been in a position where I was torn between dating two men. I want alone time far more than I want any other human being, and that by itself is most of what keeps me from being able to adhere to my society's standards for pair-mating.

I am perfectly capable of maintaining very long-term friend relationships at a functional level, mainly because there is a lot less social pressure from either inside or outside of the relationship to pick one person to be my single emotional support, or telling me that I'm some kind of defective if I'm not stressing out about having to have one and only one really good friend. There are people I have been talking to off and on for over half my life, and they inexplicably liked me enough even at age fourteen to have smacked sense into me figuratively rather than literally. Moggie has known me going on nine years now and shows no signs of wanting to be rid of me. If I could get a boyfriend to behave like my best friends and accept that I loved him even if I sometimes don't like other humans for a few days at a time, that my attaching to other people doesn't mean I am less attached to him, and that out of sight doesn't mean out of mind for me, I would be married to him already.


  1. You know there's a fair number of polyamorous people around greater Boston? The last I heard, there was a regular poly-pagan social night at Diesel once a week. In case that helps.

    1. You are not the first person to bring this to my attention -- not even the first person to bring this to my attention this week, in fact. I don't go to these things for the same reason I don't go to "regular" dating sites, which is that I am perfectly happy being single and have no inclination to go sorting through people specifically to find romantic partners, much less multiple ones at a time.

      I expect I'd get along fine if I tripped over a guy who was polyamorous and got mixed up with him, but I'm not really interested in getting randomly hit on. Friend-wise, I find enough sane people that I don't think I need to sort all my hang-out partners out of a poly population -- it's just that the outliers lie REALLY out there, and make me gun-shy.

  2. I suspect the best reason to find poly people would be so that you didn't need to worry about a platonic friendship with someone's lover being a problem with anyone in the social circle at all. The jealousy dynamics are different. For instance, my metamour doesn't have a problem with me(she likes me, has held my hand during medical procedures, has given me beads, etc.) but, occasionally she will object when I am the one that has gotten to go to the nifty new restaurant and she has not. I'd be fine if we ALL went to the nifty new restaurant.
    Poly folks also have a reputation for talking things out and negotiating relationships instead of assuming the societal default. Assuming the societal default is dangerous in my mind because there isn't actually ONE....just the one that you have percieved from your position. Monogamy, for instance, is a default....but, what is cheating? Looking at someone else? Thinking about someone else? Masturbating? Porn? Flirting? Cybering? Hugging someone else? Kissing someone else? Cuddling with someone else? Out to dinner with someone else? Sex? I have seen different people say yes or no to ALL of those, so even with a cultural default to monogamy we aren't seeing the same thing always. Discussion and negotiation is better because you are looking at something from different angles and coming up with a shared perception.


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