Polyamory and Mental Illness

Via Twitter, I found this advice on talking about mental problems when in a polyamorous relationship:

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how they never do their share of the dishes, stop. Is it fair that you are doing most of the dishes? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for the dishes isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you are doing all the dishes. But who does the dishes is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the dishes problem, your partner needs to heal. That, as I have said elsewhere, takes time.

As is so often the case with stories related to polyamory, the example could easily apply to a monogamous relationship. This is probably deliberate, because it deflects attention from the serious issues that are unique to polyamory. Were the example to be specific to polyamory, it might read:

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how you want to sleep with your other lovers more often, stop. Is it fair that you can’t sleep with your other partners? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for sex isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you can’t be with your other lovers as often as you like. But having sex is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the sex problem, your partner needs to heal.

Putting it like that raises the obvious question: should someone who is mentally ill be in a polyamorous relationship in the first place, given the additional stresses and burdens such an arrangement inevitably brings?

Or is being mentally ill a requirement?

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

One would almost think the two to go hand-in-hand.

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12 thoughts on “Polyamory and Mental Illness

  1. “Or is being mentally ill a requirement?” Perhaps not, but it probably is what doctors misleadingly call a ‘risk factor’ which merely means a positive correlate.

  2. “should someone who is mentally ill be in a polyamorous relationship in the first place”

    But if they aren’t there wouldn’t be any polyamorous relationships.

  3. But if they aren’t there wouldn’t be any polyamorous relationships.

    Ooh, I don’t know. I knew a polyamorous woman who seemed relatively normal, once you got past the angry outbursts, daddy issues, drug-taking, lying, refusal to communicate, promiscuity, attention-seeking, inability to form relationships, and overall self-destructive behaviour for which she took no personal responsibility whatsoever.

  4. “…. the angry outbursts, daddy issues, drug-taking, lying, refusal to communicate, promiscuity, attention-seeking, inability to form relationships, and overall self-destructive behaviour for which she took no personal responsibility whatsoever.”

    You could’ve just said Feminist.

  5. You could’ve just said Feminist.

    She was one of them too. And in another development that will completely blow you away, she was a Clinton supporter living in Brooklyn! What are the odds?!

  6. “…. the angry outbursts, daddy issues, drug-taking, lying, refusal to communicate, promiscuity, attention-seeking, inability to form relationships, and overall self-destructive behaviour for which she took no personal responsibility whatsoever.”

    So, um, most of the lefty-leaning women out there, then.

    I think various people on tinterwebz call them cat ladies or bitter spinsters or something. ‘Feminists’ might create an illusion they care about other people (well, women like them, at least) rather than just themselves. And their cat(s), of course.

  7. May I make a small very unimportant point? The article you quote also shows the casual use of profanity, now very common, to make an insignificant point sound edgy and sincere. “Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you are doing all the dishes.”

  8. Further to Dom’s unimportant point: hands up, everyone who has ever found fucking to be “annoying.”

  9. should someone who is mentally ill be in a polyamorous relationship in the first place

    Fixed that for you.

    Relationships should not be codependent or parasitic. Someone with a diagnosable, untreated mental illness is not capable of meaningfully contributing to a relationship or supporting their partner.

    Depending on one’s views on “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse” one can admire a spouse who sticks by a partner who develops severe mental illness during the marriage, but someone who chooses to form a permanent partnership ab initio with someone who is severely mentally ill is just masochistic.

  10. The article you quote also shows the casual use of profanity, now very common, to make an insignificant point sound edgy and sincere.

    Indeed, it is very annoying. I sometimes do it but only if I think it works: profanity can work to emphasise a point, but when used to sound edgy and passionate it comes across as immature. You see it a lot with these sort of people, especially women. One 40 year old New York feminist (dyed hair, horn-rimmed glasses, etc.) I used to read on Facebook was forever posting stuff like “I am so fucking done with this shit!!” as if she was 14. Mentally, she probably was.

  11. Relationships should not be codependent or parasitic. Someone with a diagnosable, untreated mental illness is not capable of meaningfully contributing to a relationship or supporting their partner.

    Absolutely.

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