Mage has just posted something about the intersection between polyamory and aromance, which, coincidentally, is what I was gearing myself up to write.
They talk about why friendship can have the same sorts of intimacy as an emotional affair, but without the judgement. It’s like a get-out clause in conventional monogamy, the poly-style steam vent without which the whole thing would certainly blow.
(It’s also, as a side-thought, often routed in heteronormativity. “My boyfriend can go out with his guy friends because men don’t form threatening relationships with other men”, “My girlfriend can do likewise, because even when girls do form relationships, they’re sexy and controllable.” Hence the gay best friend. Hence one of the reasons many people don’t want to date bisexuals (because they know they’d have to be jealous of everyone, thus allowing them no friends). It doesn’t work when you start to consider the real gender-sexuality smoosh.)
I don’t want to be one of those non-monogamous people who then decides monogamy is terrible and should be destroyed (but I’m allowed my tactless venting period, right? Like snotty new AVENites?). However, I don’t think I’m stretching my luck when I say- It’s impossible to get all your intimacy from one person.
Monogamy is going to have to struggle with that fact. Doesn’t mean it can’t survive (as Mage calls it, ‘monoamory’), but it can’t pretend otherwise. When it comes to intimacy, humans will always be sluts.
I think polyamory and aromance have a lot to offer each other. And not in a theoretical, we can both learn things, kinda way. In a practical, “Hey, Poly, wanna hook up?” “Sure, Asexy, prepare to be cuddled harder than ever before” kinda way.
It seemed weird to me, first pondering this, that the answer to ‘I can’t have one romantic relationship’ would be ‘have several’. But there’s two very important points about polyamorous people.
Firstly, as a group, they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about relationships, figuring out why the relationship structure they saw around them didn’t work for them. They’re going to sympathise, if you can spin it right.
Secondly, they’re less keen on this idea that intimacy has to look a certain way, and all come from the same person. That means you’re more likely to get a tailor-made relationship with exactly the kind of intimacies you both want, and both of you having the freedom to look elsewhere to fulfil your remaining intimacies.
At the end of the day, a monogamous person who hopes to find the one and have a traditional relationship with them can never be more than ‘just friends’ with poor old Asexy. You can break the occasional small friendship boundary, you can commit to each other and look after each other more than normal, but they’re always going to be holding a little bundle of intimacies out ready for Mr. Right.
What you need, my dear, (he says, giving out fake advice to an imaginary person who is clearly actually himself, somewhere in the depths of the internet) is something queerer. Someone who won’t bind you up with ‘just friends’.
Another awesome plus is the visibility. If you reject the relationship binary and then hang out with people who haven’t, then you’re never going to be read as anything but friends. In the same way that asexuals aren’t assumed to be asexual, they’re just assumed to be single. Whereas if you create interesting relationships, that gives you the ability to subtly indicate to your corner of the world that stepping outside the binary is possible. And, as David Jay would say, it also gives you something to gossip about.