For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Monogamy and power

(Still deep in exam time. A five-minute jotting down of thoughts:)

There’s a term in the poly community called ‘compersion’. It means being happy that your partner is happy with someone else, like the opposite of jealousy.

I think, had I queerplatonic relationships, I would comperse VERY easily. To the point of barely caring what my partner got up to. The way I see it, as long as I’m happy in our relationship, it wouldn’t bother me what else they’re doing. If I’m not, it’s probably a fault of our relationship, not other relationships they’re having.

With friends, however, compersion tends to be more difficult.

I think the reason for this- the reason I would find it easier to be in a poly arrangement than a person who started out monogamous, is to do with power. Monogamous people are used to a lot of power. In some cases, enough to say things like “I don’t care if she’s the best receptionist you’ve ever had, I don’t want you employing attractive women!” and have that be seen as reasonable or in some way founded in rationality. Aromantic people have so depressingly little power. Often, not enough to say “It’s great that you’re connecting with her! Now, maybe we could go grab a coffee sometime and talk about it… oh, ok. See you around…” without being unreasonable, irrational.

I think that’s why I’d have an easier time dealing with jealousy than previously monogamous people. I’m so used to having no power at all, to the idea that, throughout my life, I might only get a tiny handful of relationships where my wants are respected enough to keep me on as a friend in some vague capacity after pair-bonding, that the idea of any power at all, any statement of “You’re special to me. Don’t leave,” any hint that I’m worth basic respect, that my love is worth prizing, would mean the world to me. As an aromantic person, that basic level of satisfaction, that major poverty of power, would be a state beyond a dream.

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Comments on: "Monogamy and power" (4)

  1. This is a very powerful post.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how jealousy and our intimacy-starved culture interact. It seems to me that the only place you’ve got a serious shot at intimacy in this culture is in the context of a (sexual) romantic relationship. Combine that with the monogamous assumption that you can only have feelings for one person at a time, and an outside person is quite literally threatening to take away all intimacy from your life.

    In that sense, poly and committed-but-platonic relationships are quite radical acts. We’re saying that you don’t have to be starved for intimacy, and you don’t have to protect the little scraps of intimacy you’ve collected.

    • Thank you. I love your interpretation of monogamy and romantic-relationship-only-intimacy as a culture having the effect of creating intimacy scarcity where there actually isn’t any.

      And I completely agree about the radicalness of polyamory and all forms of platonic rule-breaking.

  2. Oh, yes. So much. And the thing about having no power is that you’re so much less secure as well.

    See, I actually don’t care if people I care about care about other people besides me. I enjoy that–compersion is my basic state. What upsets me, what has been known to make me jealous, is if the relationship balance gets all twisted so that I don’t get to see them as often. And if I had the power to say “hey, this is unbalanced and hurting me” and assume that I would be listened to in my relationships, I could sit happily and only worry if an actual problem shows up.

    I don’t have that power. So that every time a person I rely on starts dating, a part of my brain–not a large one, because I trust people, but a part–starts becoming anxious. Will this be the one they leave me for? And because there’s nothing I can do to address the situation, it becomes that much scarier a thing to contemplate.

    • “See, I actually don’t care if people I care about care about other people besides me. I enjoy that–compersion is my basic state. What upsets me, what has been known to make me jealous, is if the relationship balance gets all twisted so that I don’t get to see them as often. And if I had the power to say “hey, this is unbalanced and hurting me” and assume that I would be listened to in my relationships, I could sit happily and only worry if an actual problem shows up.”

      Same. I could comperse till the cows came home, if I had a vaguely sensical power dynamic going on.

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