A Love Poem for the Not‑So‑Polyamorous

Red heart melting
Image by Seyed Mostafa Zamani (CC BY 2.0)
This is the first blog post I’ve been able to write in a month! Hurray!

I am so not the right person to write about polyamory. I wasn’t born that way, and I have no success stories to share (yet).

I can tell you not to do it with someone who has communication paralysis, or someone who believes in strong and silent. Guess which one was me? I can also attest to the sex-to-processing ratio and poly dominoes (FetLife login required).

And I can tell you that a lot of poly writing bothers me.

I will reluctantly put up with more calls for secondaries to be treated like human beings. If people need to hear it, people need to hear it. But what on earth is the point of telling us, lengthily, that jealousy means everyone else is doing it wrong? I mean, I’m happy for you, but you’re just making the rest of us feel inadequate. And jealous!

Moral trumpeting doesn’t work so well for me. My ethics are processed through the heart. I question my squicks, I unfold my squees. Tell me how you feel. The pain, the beauty, the grit. Then I’ll want to do what I should do.

And that’s why I treasure this poem about Mormon sister-wives.

I look in the mirror.
The glass is my friend.
I count all the wrinkles.
They never end.
He touches my forehead.
He kisses my cheek,
And I know he is thinking of her.

We walk by the temple.
We rest by a tree.
He looks to be thinking,
But not of me.
He stood here before,
And the memory’s good,
And I know he is thinking of her.

I see how he watches
Her step and her smile.
He laughs and he listens,
And in a while
He gives her his hand –
But that hand is mine!
It is not. It was given to her,
That terrible stranger,
My beautiful sister,
His wife.

– Orson Scott Card, Saints (end of Book Seven, 1984/2001)

The book says this is a love poem for a sister-wife. Hmm. I’m not sure what it is. But I do know that as a monogamous type, when I try to navigate the poly world with honesty and humanity and love, this is me.

 

4 thoughts on “A Love Poem for the Not‑So‑Polyamorous”

  1. A couple of counterpoints to ‘Poly people shouldn’t be jealous’ from one of my favourite poly bloggers:

    http://www.theferrett.com/ferrettworks/2014/03/why-compersion-should-not-be-the-base-value-of-polyamory/

    https://fetlife.com/users/338073/posts/1968514

    The distribution of things like jealousy is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It seems like there are tons of feelings and reactions that people have mistakenly assumed to be basic human drives but when you start doing detailed surveys, it turns out that there’s way more variation from the median than you would have expected.

    I also suspect that am ideal relationship with multiple emotionally mature adults who are all excellent communicators and with complementary needs would be able to have jealousy-free poly relationships even if they weren’t part of the subgroup of people who seem to be lacking the concept of jealousy in their emotional lexicon. But like the spherical cow in a vacuum, those circumstances are massively idealised.

    1. YOUR LINKS ARE GOLD. Thank you! I don’t always agree with The Ferrett, but those two essays really spoke to me, especially the second one.

      I suppose all physical pain is an indication of less-than-ideal circumstances, so jealousy might be the same way. But I don’t find it very useful to think of it as avoidable failure. I really really like The Ferrett’s idea of diagnosing jealousy as if it were any other pain symptom, without moral value in itself.

      So I guess you are right to say that I am more practically minded than you. Though goodness knows I have my head in the clouds compared to most of my friends! Except you. :)

    1. Thank you! Like all my best lines, it’s a misquotation.

      It was Anne Edwards’s greatest delight that humans and VaRakhati of both species shared basic emotions, for though she was a woman of highly trained intelligence, she passed all experience through her heart.

      It’s from one of my favourite books, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Jesuits and aliens in spaaaace!

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