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Monogamy VS Polyamory: Why is monogamy considered the only stable or secure relationship style?

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CNN ran an article online Wednesday, October 28, called Mate Debate: Is Monogamy Realistic? (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/10/28/monogamy.realistic.today/index.html)  The article mentions polyamory which is another example of the growing mainstream interest in the subject.  I agree though with Alan of Polyamory in the News (http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/) said  “I just wish the subject had been treated more as a positive expansion of love in its own right, rather than as a workaround for monogamy’s failures.”  The article talks about perceptions in other countries about sex and infidelity stating that Americans tend to be the most uptight and judging.  It was interesting however that in light of all the evidence the article ended with “Mongamy’s payoffs”. I see this over and over again in the US media, they tentatively bring up the subject of infidelity and non-monogamy, talk about the studies, challenges and evidence that monogamy for most is not working and they conclude with some reason about why monogamy is better, healthier or good for society and children.  In this particular article they talked about the need for trust and security.

Most of these articles only mention polyamory and say that it is challenging and difficult but what about the upside.  Certainly poly relationships have their challenges as do monogamous ones.  What I think many people do not realize when looking at how polyamory works or doesn’t work is the learning curve involved and the learning of new way to think about our needs, communication and even honesty.

Most of us can remember the agony of dating as a young adult or teen.  Most people do not take to dating or relationships naturally; they experience growing pains and drama.  This is true of people new to polyamorous dating as well.  The challenge is many people who dip their toes in the poly pool, do so as adults.  They come to explore and falsely believe as adults they are equipped to handle the emotions that come with poly dating and exploring.  What they don’t realize is that just like dating when they were younger, they will experience unfamiliar and challenging emotions that will create similar drama to when they first experienced romantic relationships.  It is normal but many do not realize or allow themselves to grow through these emotions and experiences.

When we are a teen or young adult and we feel jealousy, hurt, excitement and pain of loss, we can often turn to an older sibling, parent or other person to talk about these emotions.  Our mother will tell us this is just part of the process of growing up and relating as an adult.  People around us often support us through the process of learning relationship skills and offer advice.  As people explore poly, many do not expect it to be challenging like this.  When they are hit by the whirlwind of conflicting emotions they don’t often have someone to talk to who has gone through this.  Their partner is usually dealing with their own emotional chaos and not always the best person to help you through this learning curve.  As more books are written, advice available and support from family because of acceptance, I believe the success rate and stability of these relationships will go up.

We know and understand there are challenges to open relating much of it from our cultural programming but what about the good side of polyamory?  What are the perks and why is it that the mainstream media rarely covers the perks?

In the CNN article they talked about monogamy providing for our need for trust and security.  It is true that humans need to feel a sense of security and trust with their partners.  This can come with monogamy and polyamory.  Polyamory can provide a venue for profound honesty, intimacy and security.  As I have moved through the growing pains of polyamory I have grown to appreciate the security of knowing the truth of my partner’s desires, needs and that they will tell me when they are interested in being with or loving another person.  The more my partner shares this with me, experiences connection with others and still spends time loving me, the more secure in the relationship I am.  When I know that he or she will tell me what they are feeling for me and for others, and then trust grows as does intimacy in a profound way.  My security comes from knowing my partner or partners are with because they truly want to be there, not out of duty, obligation or for the kids.

Polyamory can expand our experiences of love, physical and emotional intimacy, community and support.  Poly relationships can be secure and a great place to raise kids.  Most people come to explore polyamory as an alternative to monogamy, many find much more.  People often find a sense of community and extended family.  Sexual and pleasure bonding with other people brings connection and trust among a group of individuals that goes deeper than simple friendships.  Even when we speak of the very common V-triad, the connection can extend beyond the hinge person (the person in relationship with two people not involved with each other) and the two people not sexually or romantically involved can have an intimacy with each other they do not have with others.  This is directly because of the shared intimacy with the person who is the hinge of that V.  This does not always happen but when it does it can form a deep bond between all three people.  This extends as a possibility from quads to networks of intimate and romantic relationships.

I believe for many poly folks, myself included; polyamory offers connection and extended family that many of us are missing in the nuclear family/monogamy model.  We live in a culture that can isolate families.  The US population is very mobile, moving for careers, relationships and just to be somewhere new.  We often do not live close to family or we do not feel a close connection to our family.  There was time when we lived with and around extended family.  We had grandparents, aunts, uncles and such for support, to help with family needs and child rearing.  Now most people live far away from their family of origin, grandparents are often retirees ready to enjoy life rather than help raise children, careers demand we be mobile and we have been sold the idea of an independent nuclear family.  Church can replace the need for extended family for some but if you are not religious there are few alternatives to finding the support that more adults can bring.  Combine this need for connection of extended family with people’s basic nature of intimate connection beyond their partner and polyamory can become a great solution for many.

This is not to say that for some people monogamy is the best choice, it is for many.  What polyamory as a movement is saying is that there is a workable option.  There is an option of love, of cultivating intimate and sexual bonds that bring with them security, trust, love, support and family.  We have more than one option for finding security, love, long term companionship, positive environment for children and something that can strengthen our society.  It is possible to accept polyamory without rejecting monogamy.  Both forms of relationship structure are valid and possible.  Both take honesty, sensitivity to others needs, trust, communication and love.

I do not believe open relationships, polyamory, swinging or Polyfidelity will replace monogamy.  I do see hope in the fact that polyamory and other open relationship styles are becoming more talked about as a possibility.  I understand this is scary for some people and that mainstream media does not want to seem as if they support anything other than monogamy for fear of the backlash.  Still amid the propaganda of family values and shunning of cheating spouses, open relationships and polyamory are expanding people’s possibilities.  This movement is growing and shows little chance of slowing down anytime soon.  People want to have loving relationships that work and for many this means looking for alternative to monogamy or the painful practice of serial monogamy, divorce and the judgments that often comes with it.

Polyamory for me has brought challenges but more it has brought wonderful perks.  I have grown as a human being and as a partner to those I love.  I have experienced wonderful intimacy with men and women, found community and extended family.  I have learned to look within myself first and then to speak as honestly as I can about my needs and desires.  I have met amazing people and I feel blessed to have an expanded family of choice.  My kids have learned amazing lessons by being a part of mine and their father’s journey.  They communicate their needs very well and take responsibility for their choices and actions.  And yes it has even brought stability and security to my life and the lives of my children.  I am very glad to see the awareness expanding and can only hope it will continue and eventually become as acceptable and normal as monogamy is.

Loving More staff writer – Robyn Trask (38 Posts)

Robyn is the Executive Director of Loving More Non-Profit, a national leader for polyamory awareness, polyamory counselor, workshop facilitator and writer. Since 2004 Robyn has worked to expand media awareness of polyamory appearing in numerous articles, radio shows and TV. Robyn and Loving More were instrumental in the formation of Polyamory Leadership Network. A national speaker and advocate for polyamory she has been a speaker at conferences, taught at universities and been a featured keynote speaker. Robyn has been openly polyamorous for 23 years, raising three children in a polyamorous family. Robyn has been running polyamory support groups, teaching and facilitating relationship and sexuality workshop since 1999. In addition she counsels polyamorous individuals and families. Currently Robyn is working on two polyamory related books.


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Discussion

  1. David Oshman  November 7, 2009

    What a great article. I’ve been struggling in a “monogamist” world knowing that there is a better, and more real, way for me to relate, develop and maintain relationships, and care and love. Here in New York, I often feel alone, and shunned. I date nice women, and as soon as they hear that I am a ploymorist, they flee! They are looking for their ONE AND ONLY! And assume that this requires surrender of options in other relationships. My first book, Avoiding Capture, deals indirectly with the ineffectiveness of classis paradigms in relationships. My newest book, “WRONG.”, will consider more of the efficacy and value of choosing our own relationship styles, and life-styles. I understand that many people need encouragement, and “permission”, to explore alternative choices. Spiritual anarchists unite! Let’s be different together!
    -David Oshman, M.Ed.

  2. Mazin Al-Hadhrami  December 4, 2009

    I wrote a paper about monogamy in one of my classes, and I learned about polyamory for the first time. One of the things that I researched was that humans are naturally jealous and therefore, polyamory goes against human nature.
    Also, sharing your body with many people without a commitment increases the chances of STDs, obviously, and we are currently experiencing a pandemic!
    After researching this topic, I came to the conclusion that monogamy is the best choice.
    However, I also found out that polyamory and serial monogamy are not that different in terms of STDs. In fact, serial monogamists probably get even more STDs because they don’t use protection because they’re only with one person at a time.

  3. Aussie polamoury partner  January 17, 2010

    With regard to Mazin Al-Hadhrami’s item of December 4, 2009: I find it interesting that Mazin seems to not quite understand what polyamoury is. There is a difference between being a swinger, which is what Mazin seems to be writing about, and a committed polymourous relationship.
    Polyamoury is not only about swingers – those who have non-committed relationships with more than one person. I am in a relationship with a woman who maintains a strong and healthy marriage with her husband. He knew of the potential of his wife exploring a possible relationship with me prior to our developing our union beyond verbal recognition of our feelings.
    The three of us see this as a lifetime commitment for each of us. It means that our partner lives at two houses: The house that she and her husband are buying, and at my home.
    One thing that was not part of the equation, and never has been, is jealousy. It is of course possible that people accept the conditioning of moralists that they encounter through their lives seek to make them believe that jealousy is a constant of human nature. That they believe they have been able to solve the ‘nature v nurture’ debate, before anyone else in the world who makes a philosophical career of such exploration, is quite sad.
    If anything, our situation is about both the husband and I acknowledging that our love for the woman in question is one based on unconditional love. If this is what she wants – then we both find that it would be hypocritical to offer love, and put a conditional barrier in the way. No jealousy, just strong support.
    We are not looking to add another to our small community. There is no desire for us to grow in that way.
    One reason that Mazin might be so confused regarding the difference is that almost every polyamoury web presence seems to provide focus on swingers and not polyamoury as a choice of love and commitment. Should we be celebrating the size of our families, or the absolute honesty and trust that is required to ensure that any relationship is successful, mono, poly or whatever.
    No, there is no STD issue, unless, of course, you are sleeping with partners who are sleeping with those outside of the stated consenting relationship.
    In summary, I hope Mazin reads this and considers the difference between a swinger community and commitment-based poly relationships.

  4. Adult Intimacy  January 21, 2010

    I have to agree that polyrelationships work! Everyone is completely satisfied and has no reason to stray when polyrelationships are developed and remain as a norm in the household.

  5. Rachael  January 31, 2010

    Hi,
    This article is really interesting. I havebeen struggling a lot in the last year, as I have found that I am in love with two people, and I would happily be in a relationship with both at the same time and a collective thing. But obviously living in a society like this would never allow that. Both of them are friends, and are both monogomous. It is just hard for me to know what to do.

    My friend who I have indulged in, says I cannot love two people at the same time equally, as true love means you cannot do that. But I feel as if i can, and that there is enough love in me to make it possible. I find this situation incredibly hard as I will have to give up on someone I love to be with another, and it breaks my heart.

    I truly think the way I am feeling is possible and is not wrong, but with the amount of people I hear say it is wrong, I cannot 100% like myself for feeling this way. As a little part inside of me thinks it is wrong on them. I love them both so much, and couldnt hurt either one.

    • admin  January 31, 2010

      Rachael,

      My heart goes out to you. I have been where you are at and it took me some time to come to terms with my feelings. I have often been told “you can’t love two people” or “you can’t be in love with two people at once”. This is simply not true for me, it may be true for some people but not all.

      Do we ever love people the same? I do not believe we do because each person is an individual with qualities that we connect with. This does not mean however that we love one or the other more. People often react because of long term programming and I love to use the analogy of children with these people. No one would go up to a pregnant woman who was holding a child and ask them why one child was not enough or don’t they love the child we have. We are capable of loving many people in many different ways and this extends to romantic and sexual love.

      People often react strongly because it is outside the so called norm and many people pretend they never feel this way. Yet if we look at the statistical data, studies and just common sens we see many people engaging in loving sexual relationships with more than one person. They usually are hiding it, cheating, sneaking around and full of guilt. It is almost as if we accept non-monogamy if you feel sufficiently guilty.

      Your post sounds like someone who is truly feeling love and concern about honesty and integrity. This is hard and challenging but can have the greatest rewards. You have to find what is right for you. I personally think love is wonderful in all the many forms it can come in. I know many people in strong and stable triad relationships. It is not easy as you are working out issues between three people instead of two with many similar challenges multiplied. Anything worth having is worth working for. How can loving someone be wrong?

      Robyn
      Loving More

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  7. Colin  May 22, 2012

    My wife suddenly, after a 10 year relationship, informed me she wants to move back into this area where she once was. My reaction was not good but I am trying to understand. However, everything I read tells me that open relationships work only if both sides are in complete agreement. As much as I may try, I do not know if I can do it without all the emotions that will eventually tear us apart. I sometimes think I should just give her the freedom she wants and let her go. It is hard to overcome a lifetime or mores and standards, even if they have become outdated.

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