Open relationships and polyamory… My, oh my. Always it starts out in this perfectly reasonable theoretical realm, a logic without reproach, and always also it seems to end with at least one partner crying in the fetal position. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s been my observational experience. Jealousy is this biologically hard-wired drive, a competitive evolutionary advantage, passed down and built upon by our successful ancestors. It exists, no denying it.
But one can also argue that monogamy itself is suspect, that friction fades and sex changes over time in a relationship, that expecting one person to fulfill every important role in your life (to be the consummate lover, your best friend, your intellectual equal, to share your sense of humor, hobbies, tastes, everything) is both unrealistic and an unfair standard to hold a human being up to. We set ourselves up for disappointment, and our partners up for failure, when we compare our lives to the unfinished happy endings of movies. Most happy endings are simply stories that didn’t go on long enough. If you watched past the credits you’d eventually see a fight over dinner about habits, mundane garbage, toenail clippings. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and that doesn’t mean the people who stay coupled together are optimally happy that way–or even happy at all.
And yet, to move beyond monogamy to a pluralistic, monogamish approach to modern sexuality, one had better prepare to stare down jealousy. It’s in us, at a genetic level, and our evolution hasn’t yet caught up to our capacity for abstract reasoning. It does seem to vary, person to person, and insecurity has its greasy fingers in there, but in every case I’ve seen, it’s eventually become a big-ball-of-pain type problem. I know success stories exist; I haven’t met them.
All I’ve got in closing is a shrug, and an apology if it seems I’ve tried to speak for anyone, or offered any judgement. For all my misgivings, all the pain I’ve seen it cause, the reward is potentially worth the risk. I guess the only wisdom I have to pass on, from my observations to any brave explorers, is be open and honest with yourself and your partners, and take your lumps as they come. Because they will come. Good luck to you all, my earnest and intrepid sexual adventurers. I hope it works out. I really do.
And if you do find yourself crying in the fetal position, I’ll be right here, with music. You’re always welcome to curl up and join me.