I have been watching House of Cards these past few days. I like it a lot, as Netflix said I would. It has been pretty accurate so far in its recommendations, and I suppose eventually I can look forward to an algorithm telling me everything I ought to be watching next. I will save plenty of thinking, when that finally comes about.
The thing that really interests me is the interaction of the two leads, a straight married couple called Claire and Frank who have an awful lot of money and power between them. Early on in the show Frank is talking to an attractive younger woman who has put a special effort into showing off her cleavage, and Claire shows up to say hello. After the younger woman leaves, Claire and Frank both show real disdain for her obvious attempts to look sexy and thus sway Frank's opinion. I would expect such an interaction to feature jealousy, or at least insecurity, but Claire was utterly unmoved. They both make it obvious that not only is there no threat there, but even the idea of it being threatening to their relationship is a joke.
I described this scene to Wendy and she felt it mirrored our own interactions. Cleavage (or other sexy displays) certainly turn my head and get my attention. Physical attractiveness is a thing for me. But as an actual threat to my marriage? Ludicrous. That was always true through our marriage, whether or not we are talking about our monogamous beginnings or our polyamorous current situation. Nowadays I can and do go off to have sex with people, though certainly the physical sexual attraction component is only a single factor among many.
That doesn't mean those relationships are shallow though. The sky is the limit, really, and other relationships can be deep, meaningful, and powerful, but they just aren't a *threat* in that way that our society often assumes they must be. People and my relationships with them can be really important to my life, but to replace Wendy? Hah!
That interaction cuts both ways. I have had people ask if I worry that given that we are polyamorous, that she might find someone else more interesting and leave me. There are two reasons I don't buy into that concern. First, monogamy is obviously not especially successful at preventing that happening (See: The world) and secondly my towering self confidence can't admit it. Perhaps I could be more polite and call it my towering ego instead? In either case, who would such a person be? I have met a lot of people, and though they so often seem so invincible, so impressive, so magnificent when viewed from afar, when you get to know them they are universally fucked up in amazing ways.
And people, I do love you. Some more than others, obviously. But you are all unbelievably fucked up. Seriously, the fact that anything gets done right stuns me at times.
I am confident that most people will chalk up my certainty to irrationality, or youth, or something else like that. Fair enough, since that is right in most cases that look similar to mine, and quite probably even in mine. But the point isn't whether my certainty is justified by the numbers but rather simply that it exists.
People expect worry, but my actual reaction is more like this.
When I read about other poly relationships it so often revolves around all kinds of rules and constant drama. I posit that these things are related - that lack of confidence, lack of certainty in oneself, and having relationships be dictated by that attendant fear and worry.
I watched more House of Cards, and Frank and Claire's relationship turned out to be an open one, though the dynamic is not the same as my own. They are utterly dedicated to each other, at least so far as I have watched, but they are perfectly comfortable with each other having other lovers. Their total belief in their union is on display regularly, where they make it clear that they simply cannot fathom someone else threatening them. Sex and love for others, these are irrelevant in the face of the bond they share.
This fictional couple shares this one thing with me... though I share virtually nothing else with them.
I do wonder though how much of that certainty in relationships comes from the dynamic of the relationship itself and how much comes from ego. Could I be so certain merely because I think so much of myself, and that I have placed Wendy on a pedestal? Or is there something about the way the two of us interact that grants that certainty for much more logical and defensible reasons?
Certainly Frank and Claire both have huge egos, but they also seem to have a really strong relationship that works uniquely well for them.
Being realistic for a moment, it is obviously both to some extent for Wendy and I too. We both have big opinions of ourselves, though it is a lot more obvious with me, but also our relationship really works. 3 fights in 14 years isn't an accident. Probably I should tack on time there too. Even if another person of equal overall quality to me showed up, Wendy doesn't have those 14 years of built up trust and understanding with them. A threat would have to substantially exceed the qualities of one of us to be a threat, really, and that isn't going to be easy.
We have our struggles, compromises, tragedies, and strain. But all relationships have those things in the long term. The thing that makes me so certain and which gives me so much optimism is the way we cope with those things.
That Frank and Claire will have traumatic difficulties seems a given. The show wouldn't be interesting if everything was always peachy. But while it exists, I enjoy seeing their unshakeable certainty in themselves and each other. It makes me smile to see it, because I want that to exist in the world. I want people to be free to explore their passions without fear for their domestic lives. I want people to accept this as a reasonable way to be, so people can pursue it either in the light of public scrutiny or in the dark of anonymity, whichever suits them.
Mostly I just want to be able to describe my life at parties and not have people react with a gasp and a concerned "But aren't you worried that both you are trivially replaceable?" because no, I am not.