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Mike_Blume comments on Eutopia is Scary - Less Wrong

33 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 January 2009 05:28AM

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Comment author: Mike_Blume 12 January 2009 11:45:34AM 18 points [-]

I've been thinking about roughly this question a lot the past few weeks. My best guess is the end of sexual fidelity and/or self modification to remove sexual jealousy. Were I to be frozen and then thawed, and find that poly was now the norm I would honestly be disgusted and afraid. The kind of love that I had hoped and dreamed of would be effectively dead. None the less, I know that even with our current mind design there are people today who are poly and seem very happy with it. It seems at least plausible that without the complication of jealousy, romantic love could be that much more Fun.

I don't want this to happen, not at all, but if forced to make a guess, that would be mine.

Comment author: MBlume 08 December 2010 09:52:13PM 37 points [-]

blinks bemusedly at past-self

Comment author: wnoise 15 January 2011 03:13:54AM 5 points [-]

So what are your current feelings?

Comment author: MBlume 16 January 2011 04:40:53AM 17 points [-]

lol. something like "poly is awesome and so is my girlfriend" ^^

Seriously, I've kind of pulled a 180 here.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 16 January 2011 05:36:07AM 6 points [-]

What made you change your mind? And how sure are you that it won't change again?

Comment author: MBlume 28 January 2011 11:04:36PM *  21 points [-]

Of course I'm not sure -- that would be quite silly given my track record =)

What changed my mind...I'm still working on this one[1]. It was half conceiving a specific ideal of myself -- looking at the way I had experienced jealousy in the past and deciding that that wasn't a part of myself that I liked, wasn't a set of motivations that I endorsed. And it was half looking at how poly relationships seemed to work, and deciding that they seemed better engineered[2] to my eyes -- they don't present some life-altering crisis every time you realize you're really really attracted to someone else. They allow for an ebb and flow of relationship intensity -- friends become lovers become partners, break up, wind up friends and occasional lovers -- that appealed more than the almost catastrophic shifts in status that monogamy seems to require.

[1] As I write this, it occurs to me that I should probably start being suspicious when I say things like this -- I suppose it's entirely possible that this simply means "My brain is still piecing together the optimally self-congratulatory story for me to tell myself." I need to journal more.

[2] If this seems an odd turn of phrase, it's worth adding that I'm a software engineer by trade, and that the parts of my brain that made these judgements felt like the same parts that look at a piece of code and decide whether it's well-factored, maintainable, etc. etc.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 28 January 2011 11:28:48PM 13 points [-]

Thanks for elaborating.

On some level, polyamory has always been part of my self-ideal; I have been committed to not being jealous, and to giving my partners whatever freedom they need to be happy. On the other hand, I've never felt a need for more than one partner, so for most of my life I've been monogamous because it was the norm, even if I made it clear to my partners that they need not be.

Discovering the polyamory community and, almost as importantly, the very term polyamory, representing a thing people could actually do changed that for me, and I've been in non-monogamous relationships for about a year and a half now.

However, my confidence has been a bit shaken by the degree to which I've seen problems. A girlfriend of about a year started acting very jealous of another girlfriend of about five years. The former has been outspokenly poly and in many relationships for more than seven years, and her self image was tangled up with being poly to the extent that she refused to admit that she was acting out of jealousy. She refused to talk about her feelings (unheard of for her, being a professional counselor), and would only say that she was "over it" and nothing was going to happen again. This ended up poisoning and eventually ending our relationship.

And while I've seen examples of this working---two of my other girlfriend's boyfriends have become good friends of mine (she knows how to pick 'em!)---I've also seen several examples of people who aren't being honest enough with themselves to make it work.

So polyamory, as always, matches both my own ideal of myself, and my idea for how a good relationship should be engineered, as you put it. However, I'm a little dispirited as to how many people can make it work, if the community is already so small that it consists of the people who most desperately believe in it, and they still keep falling down. I'm glad to hear of your continuing success.

Comment author: MBlume 02 February 2011 10:05:59PM 12 points [-]

I'm glad to hear of your continuing success.

Thanks, but I've been at this for a couple months -- congratulate me next year =)

The former has been outspokenly poly and in many relationships for more than seven years, and her self image was tangled up with being poly to the extent that she refused to admit that she was acting out of jealousy.

As I say, I'm pretty new, so I feel really hesitant to say this, but it really seems like she was just doing it wrong.

I mean, I dance. Dancing is part of my self image. I go out and dance swing every Thursday evening and every Saturday afternoon. I'm not that good yet, but I'm getting better every week.

And sometimes it hurts. Sometimes my feet get sore. Sometimes I get really out of breath. Sometimes I get really warm and sweaty and uncomfortable. Sometimes I can tell my heart just can't keep up with the amount of oxygen my body's demanding. One time I fell straight over on my face and banged my knee, and it was painful to walk for the next couple days.

None of these things mean I'm not a dancer -- they're just things I deal with because I like dancing.

I'm new at this, so I suppose this is particularly to be expected, but still. I feel jealousy sometimes. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes I ask my partner for help/support/care and she helps me deal with it. Sometimes I seek a friend. Sometimes I deal with it on my own. And sometimes I just have to sit there and feel it and get on with what I'm doing. That doesn't mean I don't want to be poly, and it certainly doesn't mean that I'm lying when I call myself poly -- it means I like being poly so much that I'm willing to handle these things from time to time.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 February 2011 10:18:10PM 8 points [-]

(nods) My version of this, back when my social circle was dealing with the question, was that poly was like turning somersaults. Some people are good at it and some people aren't, some people enjoy it and some people don't, some people can significantly damage themselves and others by trying it if they don't choose a time and place carefully, and even people who are good at it and enjoy it will get hurt doing it from time to time, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't do it. Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chances.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 02 February 2011 11:38:32PM 1 point [-]

and even people who are good at it and enjoy it will get hurt doing it from time to time

This I think is true. The woman in question does polyamory well, and has for a long time, and in my opinion should continue to for her own happiness. However, she definitely wasn't doing it right at that time. To my knowledge, it's the only problem she's had that has stemmed from her.

Comment author: ciphergoth 04 February 2011 08:09:20AM 2 points [-]

This metaphor I think captures some of it, but it has the downside that it introduces an asymmetry between poly and its alternatives. I've never been anything but poly, so for me it would be any other style of relation ship that would be a potential strain and risk.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 03 February 2011 12:07:08AM *  5 points [-]

it really seems like she was just doing it wrong.

No, this is true. However, I would like to stretch your analogy a bit:

Some people are natural dancers, and don't really encounter the problems you're describing. Some people just know they want to dance, and deal with them.

The person in question is more of the former. In dozens of relationships she's never acted jealous before (I've known her for 10 years). She's never seemed to have an issue with it. This time, the first time I've seen her act jealous, she rejected the notion that jealousy could be the source of the problem because she was proud of the fact that she's never jealous.

I'm a dancer too, a really lousy one. By contrast, my other SO is a great dancer. Within six months of starting blues dancing, she was being paid to travel to other states and teach at blues workshops (by the way, if you like swing, you should really try blues). She picks up new dances all the time; I've worked for years on swing dancing and feel barely mediocre. If she encountered a dance style and had our experience with it, she might just give up. She doesn't deal with those difficulties because she doesn't have to.

In poly, I'm somewhere in between, but closer to "natural". I've felt jealous pangs a few times, but never felt them long enough for me to get a chance to talk them over with someone. I always mention them to the person they were regarding after the fact, but they've always gone away before I need to take action to get rid of them. If the next time it happens it lasts a lot longer, I think I'd know what to do, but it would also be so unusual and unpleasant that it could perhaps shake my commitment to poly. If it did and if my self-image was so wrapped up in poly that admitting that was unacceptable---I'd like to think better of myself, but maybe I'd just ignore that instance and move on.

Comment author: MBlume 07 February 2011 01:30:33AM 2 points [-]

Oh. I now feel really quite silly for not having immediately guessed that where there were naturals there would be a Curse of the Gifted.

I've heard really good things about blues -- basically I've heard that swing originates from a cleaned-up version of blues? -- and your comment is tipping me further towards "oh for goodness sake check this out already," so thanks for that ^_^.

Comment author: ciphergoth 03 February 2011 02:26:38PM 6 points [-]

BTW feel free to email in confidence if you find yourself in circumstances where the ear of another poly rationalist might be useful - paul at ciphergoth dot org. Been poly for coming up to twenty years, and had some interesting experiences...

Comment author: Strange7 09 December 2011 05:28:20PM 3 points [-]

next year

I was digging through some records of things I've been provably associated with and saw a link to this. Is it still too early (or worse yet too late) to offer you justifiable congratulations on the topic?

Comment author: MBlume 10 December 2011 12:51:48AM 4 points [-]
Comment author: Blueberry 04 February 2011 11:29:16AM 3 points [-]

So, do you remember why you thought of poly relationships as so disgusting and horrific? I can understand not thinking they would work for you, but why the intense revulsion?

they don't present some life-altering crisis every time you realize you're really really attracted to someone else.

While I agree with you that polyamory is a great approach and works well for a lot of people, I'm not sure this is an accurate description of monogamy: most monogamous people find themselves really attracted to others at times, and just decide not to act on it (as poly people might do sometimes also, for other reasons).

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 February 2011 03:54:25PM 2 points [-]

most monogamous people find themselves really attracted to others at times, and just decide not to act on it

...or decide to act on it in various ways that don't involve getting involved in a romantic or sexual relationship with those others.

Comment author: Nisan 04 February 2011 08:34:52AM 11 points [-]

Heh. When I was religious I would have predicted, with some sadness, that in the future everyone would be atheist.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 22 June 2011 01:51:45PM 2 points [-]

Did this tip you off that maybe atheism was true or what you really believed? Do you think in hindsight that it should have?

Comment author: Nisan 22 June 2011 02:19:55PM 3 points [-]

It certainly should have tipped me off. But my mind conscientiously avoided that chain of thought. It was not until I read the Sequences that I realized what was going on.

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 June 2011 12:33:49PM 2 points [-]

Perfect illustration of the post. You were disgusted and afraid by something that took you less than two years to prefer, and you weren't even frozen and thawed.