The Logic of Relationships

Okay, hi, hey there. What’s shaking people of Facebook?

So. Anyone who knows me on a basis of more than acquaintances (aka, anyone who has ever had a drunken conversation with me, coffee in a dark room, read some of my writing, or has tried dating me) will know by now that I fall into a growing pile of people that leans towards non-monogamy.


Caitlin, you mean, you sleep with EVERYONE and ANYONE?

It doesn’t really work like that, no.

Although this particular methodology of just boning everything in sight might work for some, it does not fall into my realm of what I deem to be a valuable relationship.

What I would like to draw to your attention to is not the benefits of having various sexual partners, but the strange way in which we have formed the structure of relationships in this day and age.

I’ve done the research, I’ve read the books, but regardless of me telling you this, most of you will be extremely doubtful of anything other than monogamous relationships. However, I shall do my darndest to try and be as subjective as possible.

Firstly and foremost is the understanding that this social construct is just that: a construct.

Also to note:

1. There is no God talk here, no Adam and Eve, just evolution.
2. Humans are sexual creatures (if not the most so). We bang just to bang; we are hypersexual; we have the anatomy to enjoy the shit out of sex; there is naught about our bodies that tells us to be chaste.

The researchers who study this junk are well aware of how mightily difficult it is to say: humans are not meant to be monogamous, because, really, who’s to say we aren’t? And the history of sexual relationships and polyamory’s place within that history is a vague one. But they take what they can get, and they make some fairly decent points.

To start: our caveman and woman selves were non-monogamous creatures. Men and women were ‘frivolous’ and sexually permissive.

But Caitlin! You exclaim. Their lives were “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” why would we want to go backwards in our growth as a society?!

Well, dear Facebook friend and any other who stumbles upon this here said post, this ideology was very inaccurate, and is referred to as ‘Flintstonization’ (side note: as I sit here, my dear friend Monica is giving me an in depth explanation on her theories that the Flintstones were swingers… “I’ve seen the way Barney looks at Fred’s wife, come on.”) in the acclaimed book ‘Sex At Dawn‘. The majority of this book is based on proving why the idea of Flintstonization is inaccurate, a topic on which I shall not get into in this post, so you’ll either have to trust me, or go read the book. Basically: we weren’t as mentally stunted or evolutionary stagnant as the histories make us out to be.

not what I remember at all...

Now take it sideways to our closest relation, and the lovely Kinsey informs us:

“In the bonobo chimpanzee, our nearest primate relation, sex is the glue of social cohesion and peace. Cleared of notions like romantic love, or religion, or morality, their society’s behavior hangs together as a coherent unit of biology and conditioning.”

But we aren’t monkeys either, Caitlin!

Well…. yeah, we kind of are.

So, what are you saying? That I should just give up my search for my one true love and start my own Big Love series?

If that’s what floats your boat, go for it! My main goal in writing this specific article is to open the mind to the acknowledgment and acceptance of various forms of relationships.

IF: You are currently in a monogamous relationship and are being tempted to cheat on your significant other, this may be an important thing to discuss. You have the ability to reconstruct your relationship to best suit your individual needs, as well as those of your partner.

Humans are wired to want variety in their sex lives (proven by the percentage of people cheating, divorced couples and all the flippin’ movies about the ‘other man/woman’).

The problem resides in one word: jealousy.

This is when some self-work needs to be achieved. Jealousy is a learned behavior. Just like eating a tub of ice cream when we are sad, and just like we get anxious before we are about to take a test.
Jealousy is the trained reaction society has deemed appropriate when dealing with ownership within relationships.

Which is kind of ridiculous.

Step back from it all and see it from clean eyes: how much sense does it make to believe one has ownership rights to another person?

The Mosou people in the mountains of East Asia, the concept of jealousy is laughed at: who could think they were so important as to take away the sexual and emotional freedom of another person?

[They] consider openly expressed jealousy aggressive because of its “implied intrusion upon the sacred autonomy of another person”, notes Ryan. Jealousy for the Mosuo “is thus met with ridicule and shame”.

What I’m not telling you:

To ditch your boyfriend/girlfriend situation and start getting your groove on with anything in something shiny.

Sometimes the ‘classic’ monogamous relationship works exceedingly well for some people.

BUT- it is NORMAL and BIOLOGICAL to swerve to the concept of wanting various sexual partners.

These guys say it all too well:

Deep conflicts rage at the heart of modern sexuality. Our cultivated ignorance is devastating. The campaign to obscure the true nature of our species’ sexuality leaves half our marriages collapsing under an unstoppable tide of swirling sexual frustration, libido-killing boredom, impulsive betrayal, dysfunction, confusion, and shame. Serial monogamy stretches before (and behind) many of us like an archipelago of failure: isolated islands of transitory happiness in a cold, dark sea of disappointment. And how many of the couples who manage to stay together for the long haul have done so by resigning themselves to sacrificing their eroticism on the altar of three of life’s irreplaceable joys: family stability, companionship, and emotional, if not sexual, intimacy? Are those who aspire to these joys cursed by nature to preside over the slow strangulation of their partner’s libido?

A little dark and daunting, yes, but they sure as hell get their point across.

In summary:

You are ‘allowed’ to re-assess the socially constructed ‘ideal’ relationship.
You are ‘allowed’ to want to have various sexually partners.
You are ‘allowed’ to separate sex and emotional attachment.
You are ‘allowed’ to decide what you want and don’t want in your relationship– this is your life.

A personal note: The idea of open relationships, non-monogamy, polyamory, whatever term you please, was first introduced to me at 18. It has taken me a decent 2.5 years to eventually realize this is something I believe would work for me.

Let it simmer.

3 thoughts on “The Logic of Relationships

  1. I don’t personally think jealousy is too ridiculous. It exists beyond just relationships- and I don’t think its something that’s developed. Humans automatically put people in groups, this is a natural thing. As a result of that there becomes higher and lower. Why would it be a developed thing to want to be higher than someone else? It’s just an opinion- I’m not saying “NO CAITLIN- YOU MUST BE MONOGAMOUS” Actually, I’m quite okay with everything else you said, I just think that jealousy is a natural emotion.

  2. At first blush, I am not convinced that jealousy is a learned behaviour. As was mentioned above (or below?), it emerges in many forms of relationships (hello, sibling rivalry). Plus, I think it’s important to note that it’s a sort of umbrella term for a multitude of emotions, the combinations of which may vary across situations and individuals. I can appreciate the proposition, though, and, as I am currently engaged in a case study on jealousy, I’m interested in learning more about the Mosou people (though my naive suspicion is that their social systems ‘train’ the individual to confront and overcome the natural fears in which ‘jealousy’ is rooted).
    In any case, I fully agree with the notion that our culture tells us that we are justified in feeling and in fact embracing our jealousy when it comes to the possession of our lovers.
    Though I expect you are already familiar with it, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy provide an excellent treatment of jealousy in “The Ethical Slut” and even provide exercises for becoming better acquainted with the phenomenon that is jealousy. A really great resource for handling the logistics involved in implementing more open relationships.

  3. I don’t know if comparing sibling rivalry to romantic jealousy is apt, tarochip.
    I once was jealous of a friend because of his immense wealth. In that scenario, I desired his money and consequently his free time.
    Around the same time, I was also jealous of a boy my girlfriend-at-the-time had a crush on. I was jealous and angry because I felt she was MY girlfriend.
    I don’t think either were healthy, but only one implied ownership of another person.

    It’s taken me about 3 years to warm up to the idea of non-monogamy as well, ever since I first heard Dan Savage talk about it. I definitely back the idea of two (or more) people defining their own rules about a relationship, not trying to confine themselves into the socially constructed ones.

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