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[personal profile] greyine
A ponderance:
On the poly community, the opinion was recently brought up that in order for polyamory to work, there has to be a sense of the other person's happiness outweighing your own, with the understanding that your happiness will outweigh their own. Now, I've come to believe this isn't a good thing in general, polyamorousness or not, and my SO agrees: it fosters codependence, and you can't love someone else fully before you love yourself. That aside, the concept of each person acting sub-optimally for themselves in order to make the situation as a whole come out optimally is at the heart of popular gaming theory. A common gaming problem is this: if neither of us talks, we'll each get 1 year in prison. If one turns in the other, the turn-coat gets off scott-free and the other gets 3 years. If we both turn in each other, we both get 3 years. The best solution is for us both to take our one year in prison and resist the temptation to make a deal for a better offer. This very rarely occurs in practice, though, because of the greedy nature of human beings. So, gaming theory does indeed foster an atmosphere of codependence - you are dependent on your partner or teammates for an optimal result. Where, then, are the core incompatibilities in applying game theory to happiness in relationships, if codependence is necessary for one and (IMO) unhealthy for the other? Perhaps the difference is in the definition of "optimal" solution, as it is difficult to quantify an optimal solution in a relationship as simply as outlined in the gaming example above. Hm. I wonder how one would go about quantifying an optimal solution for a polyamorous relationship?

Prisoner's Dilemma and Primacy

Date: 2003-06-11 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Poly relationships are not zero-sum games, so Prisoner's Dilemma doesn't work well with it. In poly, everyone can win if everyone takes extra care to guard everyone else's feelings. Of course, people can lose, too, despite everyone's best intentions. Relationships are complicated and are not easily quantified or optimized.

Prisoner's Dilemma does not apply to poly relationships because it assumes that the various people care only about themselves. That's not true in poly. You're looking out for the other person's safety, too.

The optimal solution, in my very educated opinion, involves one couple designating each other as "primary" and then all other partners take a secondary role. Any other solution sets up a potential for very painful situations when someone has to choose one partner's feelings over another's -- and thus choose a primary for that situation. If you set up the expectation of primary before-hand, then it's an easier pill to swallow for the partner that gets left without primary support.

My typical example is this: By some strange and evil coincidence, within the same hour in different states far apart, each of your partners gets hit by a car. Both of them need you badly. Who do you go take care of?

You cannot have two primaries. You can only have two secondaries. If you choose no primary, than neither partner gets the emotional safety net of knowing that there is someone in their life that puts them before all others. Meanwhile, you have two partners who put you before all others. It's a bit greedy, really.


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May 2003

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