Imagine living in a parallel universe where everything was exactly the same as the universe we live in except that the socially accepted norm for marriage was homosexuality. Imagine that heterosexual marriage was frowned upon, and that the current civil rights movement involved trying to achieve marriage equality not for homosexuals but for heterosexuals. If you are among the very few who have homosexual tendencies, you might feel comfortable living in such a universe. If you are like the majority of people, though, you’d find that being a straight person living in a gay world would be very uncomfortable.
One could argue that heterosexuality is “normal” and that homosexuality is “abnormal,” since fewer than 10% of people are strictly homosexual and only about one third of people admit to being not exclusively heterosexual. One could argue that society’s preference for heterosexual marriage and its disdain or fear of homosexual marriage merely reflect the natural proclivities of the majority of the population. Equal rights aside, that seems like a perfectly reasonable and perfectly defensible position. The problem comes, however, when we apply the same reasoning to society’s preference for monogamy.
For anyone who may be attracted to polyamory and only scared off because of the fear of jealousy, I would like to point your attention to a great blog post about one woman’s experience with jealousy. I would stop writing right here and just say go read it. But since I know there will be some who won’t click on the link, I’ll just summarize a few things here. But don’t let my commentary fool you. Go read it anyway. Seriously. I’ll wait.
If you’ve ever been a kid with exactly one friend, you might be familiar with a feeling of horrible jealousy you might get when your friend decides to play with someone else, and not you, on the playground one afternoon. You might mope and kick rocks and cast sad looks in their direction and get angry that they aren’t noticing how clearly upset you are not to be included. Your attention is focused entirely on the fun you aren’t having.
I stumbled upon a great post this morning about the social imprint of monogamy and the unachievable ideal prevalent in society of finding your “one and only” when you marry. The post in question was titled How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person. It is clever and insightful about the ways in which many of us enter marriage without really understanding it, and about how marriage can never meet up with the fantasies we entertain about it in our minds.
Unfortunately, in trying to explain where we go from there, the author fails to continue to use the critical thinking that got him that far in the discussion. Or, perhaps more accurately and more fairly, in listing some alternatives to the problem of what to do when we find ourselves in a marriage that doesn’t meet our admittedly unrealistic expectations, he is either blind to or conveniently dismissive altogether of one of the most practical solutions to this problem: that of polyamory.
I recently read a post on Deborah Mitchell’s great blog Kids Without Religion that discussed god as the enabler in a relationship with an addictive partner. In talking about how a politician named Mark Sanford took his recent win in the polls–despite having been involved in scandal after scandal that should have proven to the public that he was unfit for office–as a sign from god that he had been saved from his repeated sins, she wrote:
How convenient. His god forgives him. Again. And again. Like many folks, Sanford’s an addict and his god, the enabler. That’s the reality. Sanford knows that he’ll be forgiven as many times as he needs it. And God doesn’t even exact a punishment. Instead, he rewards him. “Saves” him, whatever the heck that means. How does Sanford know that he’s been saved? Did God tattoo a stamp on his derriere ‘SAVED!”? Or does he just know he’s saved because he’s won the race and he’s in his happy place? (The answer is the latter.)
She goes on to talk about the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions and not just continuing to harm others, trusting that in the end god will make everything right again. It’s a really great point and a good read as well. What really caught my eye, though, was slightly off-topic from her main points. The idea of finding signs from god in unlikely places kind of intrigued me, and I wanted to discuss that a little bit. As a Mormon, I knew the feeling of looking for god’s approval in signs similar to Sanford’s electoral victory.