Are poly relationships "more highly evolved"?

October 2000

On alt.polyamory, a regular topic that arises from time to time is whether or not polyamorous relationships are inherently superior, or "more evolved", than monogamous ones. Most regulars on alt.poly see the main issue as a being difference in styles and preferences rather than one relationship style being inherently superior to another; nevertheless, the "more highly evolved" nature of polyamory is a subject that tends to come up on a regular basis, often due to newly-minted polyfolk who've just discovered the benefits of poly in their own relationship, and are waxing all breathlessly enthusiastic and evangelical on the topic.

In this case, one poster to the group was wondering if polyamory was superior to monogamy because the openness and honesty that underpins the idea of "responsible non-monogamy" can be seen as a big improvement on what this poster saw as the self-deception and lack of honesty often seen in many monogamous relationships. Here's my reply to this suggestion.

Well, I agree with what you say, up to a point. I'm very much in favour of openness, honesty and all that sort of stuff. Yay for good negotiation skills, and so on.

But I do see that sort of thing as being rather orthogonal, at least in theory, to mono/poly relationship styles. Yeah, poly works a whole bunch better if it's done using good "relationship tools", and a poly relationship is more likely to blow up if you don't use these "tools" than a mono relationship, at least as far as I see it. But I think that may have more to do with expectations and a lack of society roles and general support for poly than for anything inherent to the relationship.

In my opinion deception, externally imposed roles and expectations, and unwillingness to take responsibility for one's own words and actions suck. No argument. But I've seen lots of polyfolk doing that stuff as well as mono folk.

I suspect that the biggest difference between the two styles in these matters is that there is a vast mono "mythology" of how relationships go, a set of expectation and if-you-do-X-then-Y-will-happen stuff that doesn't get applied to poly situations in the main, and that the "mythology" includes stuff that supports and aggrandises some of the things that we complain about on a-p - the roles and stereotypes, the expectancies, the scripts. The Jealous Wife, the Cheater, the Emotionally Absent Husband, the Anxious Housewife, etc etc ad nauseum - these are roles that many folk can use to interpret what's happening in their own relationships, that assure them that their own reactions are "normal" or "expected" in some way, and give them a framework that can assist in making choices based on the assumptions implicit in the roles.

Poly relationships (at least, the ones that tend to involve the use of "relationship tools" that I mentioned earlier) don't tend to fall into these stereotyped patterns so neatly; thus things may get worked out more on their own merits rather than according to specific scripts.

But I do think that mono relationships benefit just as much as poly ones from the use of these "tools". It's easier just to go with what everybody else does rather than do all the processing involved"tool use"... which is why I suspect that falling-into-the-roles is so prevalent, despite the fact that doing the extra relationship processing can be so much better outcome wise. But I've known some mono folk who do the same sort of processing, use the same sort of "tools" that we talk about here on a-p, and I must say that their relationships look just as "evolved" as mine.

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