People Who Hide Behind “Poly”
I found the following article from the website “Heartless Bitches International.” So much of what she’s said in this article I agree with wholeheartedly. It’s wonderful to read this, as this truly sums up some of the “poly” encounters and “relationships” I’ve had over the past two years.
I’ve pasted some excerpts here that I can most specifically relate to. I have a problem with her final paragraph about mental illness, although I can relate to that as well, especially the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as I’ve written about here. “Acknowledging” the “problem” is certainly the first step, and it’s not nothing, and I agree with her about a commitment to work on one’s issues, no matter what they are, as I’ve so often stated here. The biggest problem I have with these diagnostic labels is that it throws a lot of individualsin a category of “crazy” when there is a wide spectrum of behaviors within any given label, and that’s assuming that the given label is accurate to begin with. Still, labeled or no, we all must face our inner demons and struggles and actively work on them. I’ve covered this in my post “The Problem with Self-Awareness,” so I’ll stop there.
The rather long article is called “Poly People I Can Do Without,” and below are my favorite parts.
I have discovered that there is a segment of the poly population I can do without: The people who label themselves “polyamorous”, and forget the “amorous” part, or think it means “sex”; People who find the concepts of “ethics” and “values” detrimental to their pursuit of self-gratification…
Now I have nothing against casual sex and the people who enjoy and practice it *responsibly*. The “poly” people I can do with out are the ones who want to be able to do WHAT they want, WHEN they want, with no regard or consideration for the feelings of their other “partners”. And I’m not talking about the occasional time that we ALL do something that we didn’t realize would adversely affect a partner – I’m talking about people who USE other people for their own gratification and don’t CARE if something they do is hurtful to another. They think that by using the word “poly” to describe their behavior, they can somehow legitimize discourteous, disrespectful, careless, and self-centered behavior. The worst of these types will be courteous and considerate so long as nothing impinges on THEIR want of the moment, leading a partner to trust and believe in them. But the moment they want something that might adversely affect a partner, consideration and caring are conveniently discarded as unnecessary burdens. And any bad feelings a partner may experience as a result of this behavior are also treated as excessive burdens which THEY don’t want to have to deal with.
Boy have I come across this time and again. Emphatically so. Polyamory is not the same as swinging. Certain “swingers” and “players” have taken up the term “polyamorous” because there is less of a stigma attached to it. I find this highly disturbing and confusing for those of us who focus on establishing and maintaining multiple loving, committed relationships.
It’s dishonest and potentially (usually) quite damaging to the loving polyamorous person in the coupling. These people have no trouble justifying this, as shown in her next segment:
In justifying this behavior, the hallmark phrase of these “poly” types, is “Your feelings are your own. I’m not responsible for your feelings.” While in the truest sense of the word, we are all responsible for our own feelings, in order to have REAL emotional intimacy, one must show CARE and consideration for a partner’s feelings. While you can’t be responsible FOR them, you can be responsible TO them. One must NURTURE and feed the feelings of your loves, for to be truly emotionally intimate with someone is to be vulnerable. This is NOT the same as “being responsible for another person’s happiness”, it is about the kind of bond of intimacy and genuine caring that builds a truly deep, meaningful relationship.
“As people involve themselves in a growth movement, at first, they often develop a “Screw you, it’s YOUR problem” attitude. This misinterpretation of the concept of individuality reflects a misunderstanding of power, aggression, and assertiveness.
The ‘It’s YOUR problem’ philosophy is an attacking, aggressive position which doesn’t allow for real listening and sharing of wants, needs and thoughts. While assertiveness is also a non-passive position, IT does permit listening and encourages understanding. Assertiveness is the ability to create and maintain the conditions you want. It is a process and not an end in itself. This kind of power permits choices without losing sight of others.”
– Dr. Melvyn A. Berke
If someone is just into casual sex without regard for the feelings of their partners, then I’d call the behavior “swinging” or “fucking around” rather than “polyamoury” or “responsible non-monogamy” – because to me, the word “responsible” in the latter phrase means more than just wearing a condom. (And some folks can’t even be responsible enough to do THAT). “Responsible” means being responsible to/for more than just your OWN feelings:
- “Responsible” means KEEPING relationship agreements and sticking to your word, even when you really WANT to do something different – in other words, not sneaking around behind a partner’s back just because your commitment is now uncomfortable.
- “Responsible” means being honest and mature enough to sometimes change your plans (delay gratification) to show care and consideration for how your actions might affect a partner.
- “Responsible means talking to a partner in advance when you KNOW that something you are about to do is going to adversely affect them. (and willful ignorance just doesn’t cut it in my books).
- “Responsible” means *talking* to a partner when you HAVE made a mistake, apologizing, and genuinely showing consideration and compassion for the partner’s feelings as well as attempting to repair the damage and help heal the hurt.
- “Responsible” does NOT mean invalidating a partner who has been hurt by your actions as if somehow the very fact that they have expressed any pain is an unreasonable infringement on your “rights”.
- “Responsible” means telling your partner the TRUTH when you are having uncomfortable feelings instead of encouraging them to do something, and then complaining that it hurt you after the fact.
- “Responsible” means being HONEST and not having a hidden agenda. It means talking to your partner OPENLY about expectations. It means telling your partner the same thing you are telling other people.
I’m tired of people who pay lip service to “personal responsibility”, saying that they “take responsibility” for their actions, but then refuse to do anything about any resulting pain or damage those actions cause. What they are REALLY saying is, “I take responsibility for the EXECUTION of my actions, but I take no responsibility for the EFFECT or RESULTS my actions may have on you or others.” And there you have it folks, Personal Responsibility Lite ™. Tastes Great, less filling! All of the lip service, none of the work! Any expectation of true acceptance of responsibility will have them parading themselves around as “victims” of your unreasonable expectations.
Actually CARING for a partner means fessing up and fixing up when you fuck up. If a responsible person broke something accidentally at a friend’s house, that person would either attempt to fix the item or offer to pay for a new one – they would try to repair the damage. People’s feelings are no different, but somehow there is a segment of the poly population that thinks the only “feelings” that are important are their own.
Another classic responsibility cop-out line, used by the “Personal Responsibility Lite”-polys is “What happened, happened. There’s nothing I can do about it now.”, as if the very passage of time absolves them of all responsibility for restitution. There is ALWAYS something you can do about a mistake or action which caused a partner harm – the question is HOW MUCH effort are you willing to put into fixing your fuckup? The worst of it is that these people don’t even want to put any effort into NOT MAKING THE SAME MISTAKES OVER AND OVER AGAIN…. It’s just so much (hand at brow, *sighing*) WORK!
I quite honestly could not have said it better myself, and I’ve been struggling with the subtleties of this issue for a few months now. Bravo, Annesthesia
I’m tired of “poly” people who go on and on ad nauseum about “communication” and how IMPORTANT it is, but then go on to snipe, backstab and otherwise attack others and reject any offer of open face to face dialogue.
I’m tired of poly people who would rather play the VICTIM and seek sympathy from others, rather than CONFRONT a problem or issue head on and DEAL with it like an adult.
I’m tired of double standards: People who want consideration for THEIR feelings from other partners, but then don’t want to make the same concessions and consideration for OTHERS. Someone who identifies as “poly” actually said to me “Taking your feelings into consideration means I wouldn’t get to do what I WANT”.
This is not about changing fundamental behavior and sacrificing basic NEEDS – this is about people who cannot delay gratification for a WANT long enough to take someone else’s feelings about their behavior into consideration. They will imply that *any* expectation of consideration for how their actions might hurt someone else is “manipulative” and “controlling”. And I’m not talking about mono/poly paradigm issues here, I’m talking about people who call themselves “polyamorous” and have “poly” partners, but think any expectation of modifying behavior to take someone else’s feelings into consideration is unreasonable. They call themselves “polyamorous” as an attempt to legitimize ego-centric behavior, or because they can’t trust themselves to be honest or faithful. This doesn’t meet MY definition of “responsible” and it sure as hell doesn’t do anything with the “amory” half of “polyamory”… Ironically, these are the FIRST people to get upset when someone ELSE doesn’t take THEIR feelings into account. And if you can’t trust yourself, what the HELL are you doing encouraging other people to trust and believe in you?
I experienced this (and the rest of these for that matter) with my most recent ex. He was all about “personal responsibility for one’s own emotions,” and he fully meant that if I felt anything other than happy, he didn’t want to be bothered. On the other hand, when it was he who felt hurt by a misunderstanding, he made it very clear that it was my fault and I wasn’t taking his feelings into consideration before saying something. IN THE SAME BREATH, he said he didn’t want to have to take my fears into consideration before doing or saying something. Honestly.
I’m tired of people claiming to be polyamorous when all they really want is a “guilt-free” opportunity to get their rocks off with whomever is available when they’re horny, without regard to the consequences to the other person, OR their other partner(s). Why not just say you are monogamous but you want the opportunity to fuck around when it suits you? The net effect is pretty much the same.
I’m tired of “polyamorous” people who misrepresent their intentions and their desires for relationships. If you have been moaning that you don’t want casual sex and fuckbuddies, you want a committed long term relationship, but then jump into bed for a one night stand when the hormones are raging, you won’t get any support from me. And if all you want is something casual, then don’t mislead your partners into thinking you want something more serious so that you can get them into bed.
To that end, I’m tired of narcissistic “poly” people who do the “romantic” thing, who prey on other’s deepest desires, just to evoke adoration, stroke their own egos, and to get a rush from someone “falling” for them, but they don’t want to be responsible for the consequences. Especially those that KNOW full well what they are doing, and still continue to do it, all the while complaining about the *inconvenience* of the after effect:
“Some of the problems I bring about by vamping, pumping up the emotional content of a situation. Of course that’s easy to do with a new friend. I have a stock of techniques and behaviors, tested. I’m also inventive … so I pick up new techniques fairly quickly…
It’s just I’d rather enjoy the “romance”. It comes naturally to me. I enjoy doing it. It’s also a head trip for me, with my poor self esteem, to have someone so taken with me. I like the first results, the joyous feelings, the elation, the euphoria, just not where it leads.”
These people give their partners mixed messages – the actions imply romance and love, but the words (especially when called on the behavior) backtrack quickly to “friends” and “casual” and “nothing serious”… They want the “head trip”, not the relationship. When the expectations and demands for real emotional intimacy surface, they quickly become cool, and refer back to their “words” around the relationship expectations, denying any culpability for the fact that their actions were often seemingly in direct contradiction to those words.
Even WORSE, they continue the relationship KNOWING full well that they are not ANYWHERE as deeply emotionally involved as the other person. They use excuses for USING this other person, like: “Well I TOLD [person x] that I’m not as emotionally involved, and there’s no chance for a long-term relationship. If she still wants to see me and have sex with me, well, she’s an adult, so who am *I* to say anything? SHE knows the score. It’s HER decision.” They will imply that by taking any action themselves, they might be “patronizing” to [person x]. It’s a clever manipulation of psychobable that CONVENIENTLY glosses over the fact that [person x] is EMOTIONALLY VULNERABLE, and is very likely NOT operating from a very healthy place. This “It’s YOUR decision” behavior (which is very close to the “it’s YOUR problem” behavior mentioned above) abdicates any responsibility that the USER might have to NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE of someone who is clearly vulnerable. Invariably the vulnerable person gets hurt MUCH worse than if the USER had broken it off the moment the imbalance in expectations was uncovered.
RESPONSIBLE Poly’s do NOT continue relationships with people where there is a clear imbalance of feelings, expectations, or ability to meet needs. They don’t take advantage of emotionally vulnerable people because they happen to be a convenient sex partner.
OMG! Did this woman date the same man!? Uncanny, really. An this last short paragraph was exactly what he was setting me up to be. The exact same thing he said about his other girlfriend the week before. After realizing, again, for I heard this several times over the three-month relationship, that he didn’t know what he was getting out of the relationship with his other GF and considered ending it, he decided he wasn’t going to end it because he “want[ed] to be sexual with her when [he] wants to be.” To my knowledge, the poor woman is still with him, suffering his covert abuse. My heart goes out to her when it’s her turn to be devalued and discarded.
I’m tired of poly people who encourage, subtly, overtly, or by turning a blind eye, their friends and partners to be rude to, and inconsiderate of other friends and partners. These people ENABLE and CONDONE by their SILENCE.
I’m tired of poly people who won’t “call” a partner, or so-called “friend” on unethical, rude or inconsiderate behavior – Not because they don’t think it’s their place, not because they think that it is wrong to take a stand on their values and assert reasonable boundaries in relationships, but because they want to reserve the right to pull the same self-centered stunts themselves at some later date. They think that by fence-sitting, they have somehow exempted themselves from the label of “hypocrite”, and they do it at the cost of their own integrity. Invariably, their rice-paper “values” only apply to how other lovers/friends treat THEM, and not to how they, or their partners treat other friends/lovers. It wouldn’t be so hypocritical if they didn’t get so indignant when THEY are the object of the disrespect, however.
I’m seeing this throughout the poly community here in Austin. I have no doubt it happens elsewhere. And I can understand to an extent, especially when it comes down to a He Said, She Said scenario. I don’t particularly think (in my experience) any of these people are turning a blind eye so they can do the same things themselves, but they are turning a blind eye just the same. This is a dangerous business, matters of the heart and soul, especially when Sexual Safety is a huge issue in a community that shares partners with others and the concept of open, honest communication is at the core of the lifestyle. It’s a feeding frenzy for predators if the community doesn’t look out for their own.
But, everyone is too afraid to get involved.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
And nothing is exactly what they’re all doing.
I’m tired of manipulative poly people who insinuate that any open statement by a partner about expectations and needs is being “manipulative”, “demanding”, or “controlling” because it forces them to actually FACE up to their behavior and make choices. (Some times you just CAN’T have your cake and eat it too.) These people find it so much easier if their partner doesn’t say anything, because then they can claim plausible deniability when they behave badly. If the partner actually SAYS something, however, they can’t get away with it as cleanly. I’m tired of the types that subtlely or overtly try to browbeat a partner into NOT expressing feelings of hurt or anger, because they don’t want to deal with the consequences of their own actions…
Safe People: People who draw you closer to who you were meant to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. They encourage you to be your most loving, growing self.
Polyamoury – the loving kind, isn’t an easy road to travel. It requires immense amounts of communication, honesty, trust and WORK. For me, I would add that “Safe Poly People” are people who don’t AVOID problems by dishonesty and betrayal of trust, but have the strength of character to work (and yes, suffer) THROUGH a problem in order to solve it. They don’t cop-out and blame their inability to deal with a problem on the other person’s “anger” or because they “fear confrontation”. They don’t blame others for their fears, problems and mistakes. And they don’t play the “martyr”. They exhibit the following characteristics:
“What are these tools, these techniques of suffering, these means of experiencing the pain of problems constructively that I call discipline? There are four: delaying gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing. As will be evident, these are not complex tools whose application demands extensive training. To the contrary, they are simple tools, and almost all children are adept in their use by the age of ten. Yet presidents and kings will forget to use them, to their own downfall. The problem lies not in the complexity of these tools but in the will to use them. For they are the tools with which pain is confronted rather than avoided, and if one seeks to avoid legitimate suffering, then one will avoid the use of these tools. Therefore, after analyzing each of these tools, we shall in the next section examine the will to use them, which is love.”
-(from The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck, MD)
I have looked inside myself, and know that I am still fundamentally polyamorous, despite bad experiences with unsafe “poly” people. It hasn’t changed my belief in poly, but it has made me more cautious and more assertive about what boundaries I will maintain now and in the future. For me, the inviolate boundaries are around honesty, courtesy, consideration and respect. I require that from/for my partner, AND from/for my partner’s partners.
In fact, I highly recommend anyone interested in learning about living life responsibly and growing spiritually to pick up and read a copy of “The Road Less Traveled”.
If you are on a quest for understanding poly, there *are* genuinely caring, responsible people out there. Unfortunately, the marginal types are really good at “talking the talk” so it takes a tremendous amount of awareness and trust in our own gut instincts to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s important to note that the unhealthy ones are the first ones to accuse you of being “judgmental” when you start asserting healthy boundaries and confronting them on their bad behavior…
And I’m with her on this one, too. I am still poly, albeit a celibate one for the time being. I believe that love is infinite.
Love breeds love.
Desire breeds desire.
There are no limitations, and I believe there are good people. The past two years (and especially the last 6 months) have taught me that predators run rampant everywhere, including the polyamorous community, where, I naively thought, I would be safe from them.
Despite the predatory people who prey on loving people, I know there are good people out there as well. Some predatory people (as well as some of the loving people) suffer from mental illness, diagnosed or not. As long as those good people are self-aware and working on their issues, even if they are significant like BPD or NPD or others (the individual is what matters, not the label*), and as long as they are open, honest, caring, and take responsibility for their actions and words, then I look forward to meeting them and loving them.
* side note about mental illness: some of the most honest, real, and stable people I’ve met in my life suffered from “mental illness,” and some of the most drama-causing, crazy-making, cruel and deceptive people I’ve met in my life don’t. Or are at least undiagnosed. Let’s not perpetuate the stigma of mental illness, whether that be depression, anxiety, bipolar, or a personality disorder. Anyone who not only acknowledges their issues but also works on them is self-aware enough to have a wonderful, fulfilling relationship.
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~ by omgrey on June 13, 2012.
Posted in Romance & Relationships
Tags: anxiety, author, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, bpd, broken heart, deception, depression, drama, fear, grief, healing, honesty, infidelity, lie, lies, love, LTR, mental illness, misogyny, narcissism, narcissist, narcissistic personality disorder, non-monogamy, o.m. grey, olivia grey, open, open marriage, poly, polyamory, relationship advice, relationships, romance, self-aware, self-awareness, self-protection, self-respect, sex, swinger