Someone recently asked me what I thought needed to be said that isn't already being said on the topic of open relationships, and I immediately said, “Sustainability.”
I went on to explain that I see a troubling polarization in the discourse on alternative relationships. On the one hand, we have Esther Perel's argument in Mating in Captivity, which is basically that if we value the institution of marriage, we need to re-think our expectations around sexual fidelity; on the other hand, we have Laura Kipnis's polemic Against Love, which calls into question the whole idea of relationship maintenance as a worthy goal. It's either couple privilege or it's solo poly.
Do you want structure, stability, and commitment? Then you're looking at a slightly modified version of what already exists the world over: a primary couple, with maybe some extra-marital satellites, who are allowed to orbit only so long as they do not exert too much gravitational pull. Do you want freedom, fluidity, and self-sufficiency? Then you need to embrace the real truth, which is, to quote a Sharon Olds poem, the “single body alone in the universe / against its own best time.”
Maybe it's all that deconstructionist philosophy I had to read in grad school, but I am suspicious of forced choices. I don't want to pick A or B. I'm looking for a third way. I wonder if there's such a thing as Relationship Permaculture?
This is too big a topic to get into right now, one hour before a dinner-and-a-movie date, so I'm gonna bookmark this idea and get back to it later.