By Readers’ Request: Polyamory

Reader Bola asks, “What do you think about polyamory?”

I’m probably the most monogamous person anybody has ever met. I have had a very intense personal life but I always had a single partner at any given time (or no partner at all.) For me, being in a relationship is a concession I make. I’m a person who is very happy being single. I practice singlehood like a form of art. So for me to agree to be in a relationship, I have to experience such a profound passion for a person (which might last 2 hours or 20 years) that nobody else exists in the world. When I’m in love, I literally don’t see a huge group of naked, athletic men running around me.

But other people are just that, other people. They have other needs and other ways of achieving personal happiness. I could never be in a polyamorous relationship, just like I could never be in a lesbian relationship. I do, however, firmly believe in everybody’s right to find sexual happiness and fulfillment the way they want. For me, polyamory is neither better nor worse than monogamy. It’s a way of being that other people prefer and that makes them happy. And I celebrate that.

P.S. This was the easiest one, so I answered it first. 🙂 Thank you, Bola, for making my live easier. 🙂

31 thoughts on “By Readers’ Request: Polyamory”

  1. So Bola, do you know happy polyamorists? I do not: from what I’ve observed the scene resembles the Jerry Springer show, although people are more controlled and know they are supposed to be cool and content. In a these groups there seems to be a person who is the most desired and the most powerful, and some other people who are biding their time as they hope to get into a more exclusive relationship with the group member they most desire. Then there are others for whom it is comfortable since they don’t have to commit to any one person fully and yet always have someone to hang out with. My gut reaction is that that is wishy washy although who knows, perhaps it’s healthier. Still I tend to think, it’s hard to forge a good relationship with one person, and it has to be harder with more.

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      1. How do you define it? How do you distinguish from the old “group marriage” and from plain old non monogamy, and also from polygamy?

        I’ve got an officially poly associate but in practice it just means he has a domestic partner and a lover, and that the domestic partner feels stepped out on, yet too invested to split. So I am having trouble figuring out how this “poly” guy differs from every other person in town who has a spouse and a lover. He says he is very advanced and would like
        to install various lovers to live in the different bedrooms in his house, so he could visit each one. And that reminds me of the Tale of Genji, and I have trouble figuring out how he differs from, say, the Mormons.

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        1. I think the difference is that in the case of your acquaintance, there is honesty. Everybody knows about the other people involved and consents.

          With infidelity, there is no honesty. It’s childish, sneaky behavior of immature people who do not believe they have the right to their own body. While I respect polyamorous people, I don’t have respect for cheaters. Simply because infantile behavior in adults annoys me.

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          1. *people who do not believe they have the right to their own body*

            Of course, they believe they do! They just don’t want to give their spouse the right to leave them (give the possibility of informed choice) or have a lover him/herself too.

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            1. If you believe your body belongs to you, it would never occur to you to conceal what you do with it, in my opinion.

              But I agree with what you say in that a polyamorous person respects their partners by giving them the right to consent or not. A cheater withholds information and robs another person of any legitimate consent. Again, childish.

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              1. As long as you warned them at the beginning of the relationship by saying: “I don’t owe you information about who I sleep with. So when I have sex with other people, you will not know” and the partner agreed, then obviously that’s perfectly fine.

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              2. In short, I believe that every relationship format to which adults have given their informed consent has a right to exist and is neither better nor worse than any other format.

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  2. I think that every relationship that involves consented adults should not be condemned per se. Of course, in every type of relationship you can find good and bad eggs. What interests me more than moral judgment is how people think of polyamerous relationships in the sense of ‘would this be something for me?’ and the reasons behind their answer.

    In my opinion, polyamerous relationship have an advantage in a world where people constantly move around and where you cannot guaranty that your loved one will be able to move along. Since you might have to move because of a job and your partner might have to stay for a job, in a monogamous relationship, you may have to choose between your career (and being a single in everything but the relationship status on facebook) and being in a relationship (and unemployed).

    Another solution to this problem is of course a relationship with just one bread winner, so that the other partner can allways follow. However, there are two problems I see with this solution. First, not everbody wants to be in a bread winner – house keeper relationship and, second, not every partner that could move along is willing to do so.

    However, I think that polyamerous relationships have the disadvantage that has been noted before: Rivalry. Many/some people want to be the most important person in their partner’s life. Many/some people do not want to share their partner with another partner. It is already the case that you do share a partner with so many other people such as relatives, friends and colleagues but at least the type of relationship you have with him or her is unique – as long as he or she has no partner beside you. Moreover, even if you are willing to share your partner, how can you be sure that his or her other partner does not actually want him or her just for him- or herself alone?

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    1. I understand the points you are making, Bola, but for me, polyamory is akin to homosexuality in that I can’t adopt it for practical reasons or because it is convenient. It’s just not part of my sexual orientation. Just like people don’t become gay or straight by sitting down and making a list of pros and cons, they don’t, in my opinion, become monogamous or polyamorous in that way.

      If there were a gazillion advantages to me from becoming polyamorous, I still wouldn’t because this is not how my sexuality works. And I believe that it’s the same for polyamorous people. They can’t just choose to become monogamous on a logical level without repressing a huge part of themselves and becoming intensely unhappy.

      This is why any plan to “change” a gay man or a polyamorous woman by convincing them and showing them the “correct” way (which is what some people still believe in doing) is wrong. And doomed to failure.

      Sexual preference is not ideological, reasonable or logical. I strongly believe that it’s just something that happens.

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      1. bloggerclarissa :
        Just like people don’t become gay or straight by sitting down and making a list of pros and cons, they don’t, in my opinion, become monogamous or polyamorous in that way.

        I am refering to a situation where one does not need to change one’s sexual orientation. A situation in which you have several choices and you find several of them attractive but must choose one of them. In the case of polyamory e.g. you cannot have a polyamerous and a monogamous relationship at the same time. Or if you are bisexual and want a monogamous relationship, you cannot have a male and a female partner. Since you find both genders attractive, you might decide to flirt with members of a certain gender only depending on whether you want children, I would imagine. And so on and on.

        Let’s say you love A and B and you might be happy with just one of them, if either of them could spend more time with you. You might be happy with both of them because between them you get to spend more time with a person you love if you didn’t fear that rivalry would be involved. So you might weight the advantages and disavantages of one situation against those of the other situation.

        Does it make more sense now?

        bloggerclarissa :
        This is why any plan to “change” a gay man or a polyamorous woman by convincing them and showing them the “correct” way (which is what some people still believe in doing) is wrong. And doomed to failure.

        I don’t think that you imply that I support such plans. Nevertheless, I want to make clear that I don’t suggest one should try to convince another person and show them the correct way. I am talking about a person’s own reflection on a choice that is presented to him or her. And as people are different, each one will reflect in his or her individual way.

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        1. ‘I don’t think that you imply that I support such plans. Nevertheless, I want to make clear that I don’t suggest one should try to convince another person and show them the correct way. ”

          -No, not at all!!! I’m not feeling very well today, so I express myself clumsily. I had some people I know in mind who are doing just what I described.

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        2. “Let’s say you love A and B and you might be happy with just one of them, if either of them could spend more time with you. You might be happy with both of them because between them you get to spend more time with a person you love if you didn’t fear that rivalry would be involved. So you might weight the advantages and disavantages of one situation against those of the other situation.”

          -From my perspective, it’s pretty much like saying, “Let’s say you have two heads, and they are both pretty good heads, so you good always just wear one of them.. . ” 🙂 As I said, I’m the most monogamous person in this world. 🙂

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  3. This is an interesting discussion. I have a question for you, Clarissa, though.

    When you said this…

    “I do, however, firmly believe in everybody’s right to find sexual happiness and fulfillment the way they want. For me, polyamory is neither better nor worse than monogamy. It’s a way of being that other people prefer and that makes them happy. And I celebrate that.”

    I want to ask if you believe the same to be true for polygamous relationships. That is, do you believe that – to substitute the words “polygamy is neither better nor worse than monogamy. It is a way of being that other people prefer and that it makes them happy…” Of course I’m not asking if you would practice it, but whether you would “celebrate” it as well as you would polyamory.

    If not, why not?

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    1. That’s my question too. In the polyamorous groups I’ve observed there’s a lot of unhappiness because some group members are less popular within the group than others, and there’s a lot of jockeying for favor with the more magnetic people, etc.

      I’ve actually been in an open relationship that worked but it was because of commuting and also because it was clear to us both that we were the principals. Had it been more asymmetrical it would have been more problematic. We also found that while we were fine with knowing about the other lovers and even interested to hear about them – as one is interested in peoples’ friends and coworkers and family – we didn’t want to see actual evidence of their existence, or run into them. I also think that if we’d ever gotten more serious, moved to the same town permanently, etc., we’d have either dropped the other people or broken up.

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    2. I don’t want to get lost in terminology, but from what I understand the difference is that in a polyamorous relationship everyone is polyamorous and get fulfilled with many people. In a polygamous relationship, one person is polyamorous and gets fulfilled with many people, while other participants are either monogamous and miserable that their partner isn’t being monogamous with them or polyamorous and miserable because they can only have one partner. This means that most people in a polygamous group do not get to live their sexuality the way they want to. So it’s definitely not equal to a poly group or a monogamous couple.

      If I got confused on terminology here, let people correct me, please.

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      1. And I thought that polyamory is a form of polygamy where the people involved must be married. By now I think polyamory is just a modern way of saying polygamy in order to avoid the association connected to the latter. To me it seems that polygamy is often mistaken for a man with several wives while the true meaning is just a relationship between more than two people of any gender combination where either all have relationships with each other or not.

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  4. A large percentage of people are wired to be poly-amorous, otherwise it would be just as impossible to get involved in a second relationship as it would be for a heterosexual to get involved with a member of the same sex. It just wouldn’t happen.

    The evidence is that many married people do get involved with a second person. Sadly, this society is still bigoted toward polyamory, so people are compelled to suppress it, just as homosexuals used to be.

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  5. Okay, so I’m back on this. (I’ve been away).

    Here was your post: “I do, however, firmly believe in everybody’s right to find sexual happiness and fulfillment the way they want. For me, polyamory is neither better nor worse than monogamy. It’s a way of being that other people prefer and that makes them happy. And I celebrate that.”

    Back to polygamy, and by extension polyandry. I ask again, would you say the same thing of them. That is, if in this polygamous or polyandrous relationship, everyone in it is sexually fulfilled and happy. Do you consider it “neither worse nor better than monogamy” as “a way of being that other people prefer and that makes them happy.” The key words here are “prefer” and “happy”.

    From your initial response, it seems to me that you assume automatically that participants in polygamous or polyandrous relationships are automatically miserable. We have no evidence of that.

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  6. I don’t know anyone who is into polygamy, but I would assume some of them are very happy with their life choices. Some are however shoved into it because of the expectations of the people around them. Very similar to how males and females marry each other because of expectations. Some are happy, some not, some feel forced to stay in such a situation.

    Through my teens and early twenties I practiced serial monogamy. One relationship after another with breaks between, as most people seem to do nowadays. No single person ever fulfilled every desire I had. Sure some seemed great for a while, but one person just can’t be EVERYTHING a person needs. At least not for me. I want the dreamy artist who writes poetry and takes me to the ballet. I also want the rugged fix it guy who likes to work on cars and has never been to the theater. I also love the touch of a woman. I want it all.
    Monogamy is not my natural way.

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