A slap on the cheek (to cheek to cheek)?

Last year John Shore published an interview with a polyamorous woman on the blog Unfundamentalist Christians. I thought the interviewee spoke a little too broadly about other polyamorous people and how relationships are named, but I was thrilled to see a relationship like mine presented in a positive light in a Christian space. It’s not something you see too often, especially with fundamentalists crying that if we legalize same-sex marriage then polyamorous marriages will be next, and progressive Christians saying “That’s not true at all.” Whatever issues I had with the particulars, it was one of the few times a Christian talked about polyamory without dismissing it.

Obviously that was too good to last. A couple of days ago, in response to a letter he received from another polyamorous person, John put up another post, this time on his own blog, about polyamory. He states up front that he does not see how polyamory itself is a moral issue, even going so far as to say what’s the big deal if three- (or more) person marriages happen. That’s a lot more than we get from a lot of progressive types.

“I love two people; they both love me; they also love each other. Where is the harm in that?” they ask.

That’s a fair enough question, don’t you think? It’s one that I’m asked all the time—albeit usually by right-wing Christians (always, alas, bitterly) making the point that if gay marriage is legalized, why shouldn’t three-way marriage also be legalized?

Why indeed? I see nothing at all inherently immoral about polyamorous relationships. If three people living in such a relationship say it is working for them, why should anyone argue it? If no one is being hurt, how is it anyone else’s business?

Pretty freakin’ cool, no?

Unfortunately the rest of the post is about how my relationships and others like it are just… not as deep, intimate, or loving as monogamous relationships. In discussing why he and his wife choose monogamy, John says, “I don’t want the power of our intimacy diluted by one-third.” Cat, John’s wife, goes so far as to say “I think being in a polyamorous relationship is a way to avoid emotional intimacy,” and John agrees.

After this John goes on the defensive about how his monogamy doesn’t make him “barbaric or simplistic.” I understand this response, as there are so many polyamorous people who insist that polyamory is better, more ethical, more enlightened and non-possessive than monogamy. I wish this would stop, because we don’t need to tear down other people’s relationships, relationships that are fulfilling and loving, in order to build up our own.

Unfortunately, John feels the need to do just that. He tears down my relationships, decrying them as less intimate, diluted, even a tactic of avoidance, in order to build up his monogamous ideal. Despite couching it in “personal opinions,” he makes general statements about how love, intimacy and romantic relationships work for everyone. Because I love and share my life with both Kristi and Elizabeth, John says I’ll only ever know them half as well as if I had but one partner.

You want intimacy? Put four adults (in my case it’s myself, my two partners and one of my partners’ best friend) in one three bedroom house. Four people with different temperaments, habits, desires, priorities. Now have those four very different people dedicated to one another. Dedicated to being there for and supporting one another. Dedicated to making sure everyone is cared for. Dedicated to being a family, however odd our family may be. You think that doesn’t create intimacy? You think there’s anything in that situation that can be classified as “avoidance?” No, we can’t live like that and avoid much of anything. We have to face everything, including each other, head on.

But even if it were the case that I could only ever know my partners half as much because there are two of them, I’ll take that, because the idea of life without knowing one or the other of them is heartbreaking. There are tears in my eyes just considering that.

Our intimacy may not look like what others have. Our family certainly doesn’t look like what other families look like. But it is deep, it is powerful, it is loving beyond what I ever thought was possible. And until you see what goes into the ways we love one another, kindly keep your opinions about my family to yourself.

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