Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Astronomy, Monogamy, Polyamory: Relating Relationships

Well, I'm not sure about my readers on my college's blog page, but my recent blog on polyamory was well received here. Which, while I'm pleased to see, causes a tiny problem.
I wrote the closing of that blog in a bit of a hurry, as I was late for class. Reading back over it, it seems to make the case (despite my intentions otherwise) that I believe monogamy to be flawed, or wrong in some way. It does state that I do not feel that way, but I have no doubt those that don't know me well might have mistaken a hurriedly typed disclaimer for sarcasm.
And not two days later, I came across a blog on another site that was very much a scream of rage about the way poly individuals look down on monogamous individuals.
Now I stand by what I said in my earlier post, but I feel it could use a bit of expansion:
Monogamy and polyamory are not different. There. Coffee, anyone?
What? Oh, more expansion. Right, sorry.
As ridiculous as it seems, there really is very little practical difference between the two. My concern, badly expressed earlier, is when individuals who might want or need poly in some form are in mono relationships because they've been taught that poly is wrong.
But I have an equal concern when individuals who are or want monogamy try to be or have poly because they feel pressured to seem evolved.
I know, for anyone out there that's just tuning in to the madhouse that is my life, that seems ridiculous. After all, multiple relationships are wrong! Society hates them! No-one would dare to feel so proud of their multiple relationships as to make others feel un-evolved!
Well, in my world it can happen. The various alternative communities that aggregate to make my world have a lot of poly people in the mix, and poly can seem to be more "normal" in my world than monogamy at times.
Having reduced my opening statement to the relative clarity of lead soup, I will now explain why I believe there's no difference: every single relationship ever has one thing in common. 
It's a relationship. 
"Yes, thank you Captain Obvious," someone just said. 
Let's break that down for a moment, though. We sling the word around so fast these days, it's easy to forget what it means. 
It's the act or choice or fact of relating to another person in some way. It's the word that means the dozens of subtle connections that form between two people, two planets, two molecules, two galaxies, two electrons. It's any effect on a person caused by another person. In a very real way, everyone who's ever had any effect on your existence has had some small relationship to you.
But there's the key: to you. Not with you. To have a relationship with something, both objects have to be involved. For example, the sun may have a relationship to us, but we're not exactly big on its list of concerns.
Back to some semblance of a point, though. Monogamy and polyamory aren't two sides of a coin; poly isn't the advanced class on mono; mono isn't the spiritual leap from poly; "insert claim of definition about the differences between mono and poly here," then know you're almost certainly wrong.
It's a relationship. To give an idea of why there's no difference, let's look at a type of relationship that can bear strikingly similar properties: gravity.
Now, off the top of my head, I can't think of any truly perfect two body gravitational systems. But that's only because (pay attention! disclaimer ahead!) everything connects to everything else. So, to clear any confusion, think of the universe as a room full of people. All those other things tugging on two body systems? Those are friends, co-workers, family. 
Settled, then. So, the Earth and the Moon are a good example of a two body system. They orbit each other, spinning delicately around a single point in space as they twirl around the Sun. The Earth holds the Moon steady and maintaining its stable orbit [citation needed]; the Moon's passage creates slight shifts in gravity that allow for tides, and weather. 
They affect one another in subtle ways, locked in a system of reaction and counteraction so complex it took hundreds of years to get to the point of understanding it enough to predict it. And we still don't know precisely how the force that allows for it works! Sounds like love, no?
On the other hand, let's look at Jupiter. Oh, Jupiter. That planet has a freaking harem of moons. Lots and lots of little heavenly bodies spinning and dancing around and about each other, responding to their closest dance partner and to the planet's gravity. And Jupiter is affected by the little planetoids and planetesimals in turn, brewing up the huge clouds and storms and auroras that coruscate around and over its surface all the time.
"Whoa, whoa," I hear someone saying. "Time out. That sounds a heckuva lot more complex that the Moon and Earth. And way different!"
Nope. See, that right there is the fun bit. The only practical difference between the orbits of Earth and its Moon, and the orbits of Jupiter and its dozens of moons, is that it's harder for an outside observer to grasp the latter!
That's all! The difference is not internal complexity, but observer complexity. The observer sees something they don't understand, or can't make good assumptions about, and poof, we have what appears to be a highly complex system. And there are two body systems (binary stars come to mind; comets and suns, also) that are wildly complex, dancing in variances and elliptic that make Jupiter's little kingdom seem tame! 
But within a system, everything works. Objects and people find their balances and come to a state of equilibrium; or they don't, and spin away to find somewhere else to be, or sometimes slingshot off into the depths to find somewhere far, far away to be. 
Sometimes rogues spiral through working systems and unbalance them; sometimes the systems capture and tame the rogues. Sometimes the rogues whirl through and the system settles down behind it without much of a fuss.
A relationship works or it doesn't. The people involved work at it or they don't. If it works better with two people, or five people, or fifteen people, or one guy/girl and a stack of magazines (don't hate, I know a few) it's still a relationship in some form. At the end of the day, a successful relationship is people affecting people in a way that makes them happy. And regardless of what an outside observer sees or understands, if it works, it works, and that's all that matters.
So, the next time y'all poly's out there look at a mono and sigh for the lack of evolution, remember: two people is just as complex and subtle as five. It's just easier for the outside observer to make assumptions about where the pieces fit.
And the next time y'all mono's feel put upon by poly's, remember: it ain't Relationships 201 you're looking at. It's just a relationship that has a few more connections involved.
This has been my clarification for the day. Now go forth and orbit, swiftly and all over the place!