Special Cases?: Differing Philosophies on Non-Monogamy
So, some amount of time ago, I was reading one of those ‘rules for non-monogamy’ lists (unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find this particular one again), and one of the points listed was ‘have an exit strategy’. This point was talking about having a plan to end any of your non bounds-primary relationships, to use in the case where your bounds-primary decides that they can’t handle you having that relationship anymore. And, this being one of those times when seeing someone for whom something works differently than it does for me makes me realize the existence of these multiple possibilities, this led me to some thoughts.
In the set of ideas on relationships that is prevalent in our culture at the moment, relationship partners do not have the right to control most elements of each other’s lives. If I don’t like one of my partner’s friends, or if they don’t like one of my hobbies, we can try to discuss this with each other. We can express worries or concerns. We can decide how and whether to address the other’s concerns. If this is a serious enough dislike, we can end up parting over it. But, unless there’s a serious effect on our lives together (my partner’s friend is stealing from us, or I’m neglecting important household responsibilities to engage in my hobby), we do not have the right to expect that because we don’t like this about the other, the other needs to put an end to it.
Sex, similar intimacy, and relationships are the major exception to this. They are a special case. In mainstream ideas, I’m expected to want my partner to not have these things outside of me, they’re expected to want the same of me, and it is accepted that we should abide by each other’s wants in this.
Some kinds of non-monogamy keep these as special case, while having a different idea of what the people involved might want. In this non-monogamy, each partner does not put a blanket veto on the other partner’s outside sex, similar intimacy, and relationships. However, they still have the right to more specific vetoes – ‘don’t go to this restaurant’, ‘don’t do this specific sex act’, ‘all other partners must be approved by me’, etc.
On the other hand, some kinds of non-monogamy do not. In this kind of non-monogamy, I have no more right to tell a partner they can’t date or play with someone else than I do to tell them they can’t play chess with someone else. I can express concerns and expect them to be addressed in some way, and not dismissed. I can share feelings I’m having and we can work through them together. I can, if there’s a situation we cannot come to a mutually acceptable place on, decide to end the relationship. But I do not expect that my desires on my partner’s other sex and relationships should take precedence over theirs, just like I do not expect this for other parts of our lives.
[Note: While I at least currently think that type two is the kind that works best for me, none of this is a value judgment of any kind. Different things work for different people, and as long as there is open communication, consent, etc, whatever works for whoever is totally fine.]