20 Years of Polyamory: The Analogy

(Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography)

Read the whole 8 part series:

1. The Introduction
2. Thoughts on Monogamy
3. Q & A
4. The Poly I’m Not
5. Jealousy
6. The Analogy
7. Personal Boundaries
8. The Wonderful

The Analogy

If I had to pick one thing to give as advice for polyamorous people, the choice would be easy. My favorite idea that I’ve ever had about polyamory that I use all the time, I think of as The Analogy. The idea is very simple: If you’re having a polyamory problem, replace the sex or romance with work or a relative (or other non-touchy topic) instead and see if that helps clear up your thinking about the problem. It’s an analogy, so it’s probably easiest to talk about with specific examples.

Your partner is out on a date with a new person and said he would be back right after dinner. Instead, he’s wandering back in at midnight, saying they had such a good time talking they lost track of time and he forgot to call. You’re furious. If the scenario were instead that he was supposed to be home from work at 8 but got caught up in some big project and forgot to call, would you still be furious? What if he was out with his mother and they got to reminiscing and he forgot to call. Would you still be furious? Why or why not?

Your partner is madly in love with a new person and can’t seem to talk about anything else. Ever. For days. Weeks. Months even. You think you’re being disrespected. You feel disgusted. You want to stab someone. What if the scenario was work? What if your partner had just gotten a new job or a promotion or there was an exiting new project at work that she couldn’t stop talking about? What if your partner had just picked up a new hobby and couldn’t talk about anything but sewing or model cars for weeks on end? Would you still feel the same? In a case like this, maybe you still feel annoyed, because you don’t give a shit about model cars, but if the feeling and the imagined expression of it is a lot less nasty, then it’s worth considering what’s really going on in the poly situation.

It’s your anniversary and you’re out to dinner. Your lover’s other lover called saying she is in the hospital with a broken leg and your lover leaves dinner to rush over there. You think, “That bitch! She knew it was our anniversary, so of course there’s some kind of drama!” What if it had been his mom with a broken leg? What if there had been some emergency at work? I’ve heard people respond to this by saying that the other lover is always causing some kind of problem. But some people’s jobs are one disaster after another. Some people’s relatives are one disaster after another. And these often don’t rate the same kind of judgement. If you would say about the unpredictable job, “Well, it makes it hard to make plans, but he loves the job and it pays really well,” why wouldn’t you say something similarly forgiving about the lover? If you would say about the crisis-prone mom, “She’s got this knack for calling during dinner, bless her heart,” why wouldn’t you be as casual about the lover?

Between her three other boyfriends, you never seem to have enough time with your girlfriend which you respond to with jealousy and perhaps demanding that she stop scheduling so much time with the other people. What if it were your three kids instead? Between school drop offs and pick ups, shuttling everyone to extra-curricular activities, coordinating dinner with everyone, helping with homework, and managing bath and bed time, you never seem to have enough time together as a couple. There may be a valuable conversation to have here about time management or about carving out special time for yourselves, but if your feelings about the two situations are drastically different, then there’s something larger to examine there.

These could go on forever. I’ve found The Analogy to work in an endless number of scenarios over the years. When you plug in work/relatives/hobbies things often look very different. Sometimes this allows you to talk about the situation rationally. You can set aside your jealousy and just express that you’re sad that dinner got interrupted, for example, or you’re wanting to find more time together. Sometimes this points out that what you really have is a problem with polyamory. I’ve met a number of people in polyamorous relationships over the years that I just don’t think were compatible with poly. They’re able to hide this fact, though, because people are really good at rationalizing their feelings and making up reasons that sound good for why they feel like they do. Once you plug in a different topic, though, it becomes clear that they’re really just mad that their partner is fucking or loving someone else. Which makes it kind of hard to be happily poly!

Have you ever used The Analogy to work through a poly issue? What other kinds of poly conflicts have you seen that might benefit from The Analogy?

Read the whole 8 part series:

1. The Introduction
2. Thoughts on Monogamy
3. Q & A
4. The Poly I’m Not
5. Jealousy
6. The Analogy
7. Personal Boundaries
8. The Wonderful

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