Is Polyamory a Viable and Healthy Relationship Choice?

Carrie Jenkins thinks so.

“Nonmonogamy can include so many forms,” she says. “You could just be ‘monogamish’ ” — a term coined by the advice expert Dan Savage for long-term relationships in which partners allow each other to have occasional flings. “You could be swinging; you could have a ‘friend with benefits’ while looking for more-traditional romantic relationships. I sort of switched over to using the ‘polyamory’ label because this really means multiple loves. I have multiple loves.”

I have always found this topic to be fascinating. As a happily married monogamous man for the past 8 years and an ethical slut for the preceding 15, I’ve wondered if it was possible for men and women to have their cake and eat it too, so to speak.

I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage. But that doesn’t mean that my wife and I don’t find other people attractive and talk about what’s possible. Yet we always arrive at the same conclusion: there’s a very practical reason for monogamy.

Like communism (or libertarianism), polyamory sounds great in theory, but often has messy implications when normal human beings get involved. Jenkins disagrees.

“(She) believes that we are in urgent need of a more expansive concept of love. And she believes that philosophy, the discipline named for the “love of knowledge,” needs to become more expansive — treating a wider range of questions and addressing a broader audience — in order to help create it.

Like communism (or libertarianism), polyamory sounds great in theory, but often has messy implications when normal human beings get involved

Take the assumption that nonmonogamy is psychologically damaging. “Different people are different,” Jenkins and Ichikawa wrote. Many nonmonogamous people report that they come to feel less jealousy over time; conversely, many monogamous people complain of experiencing sexual jealousy. In response to the charge that nonmonogamy is “unnatural,” Jenkins and Ichikawa pointed out that virtually no species are sexually monogamous, even if they are socially monogamous or pair-bond for life.”

I read in “Sex at Dawn” that virtually no species is sexually monogamous. We are most closely related to the bonobo and for thousands of years lived in polyamorous communities of less than 150 people. It wasn’t until we moved to an ownership society where men own land and women sought resources and protection that we came up with the concept of marriage. But still, something feels dissatisfying about Jenkins’ assertions.

It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that sex or love outside marriage can be considered perilous to the marriage itself. If anything, it’s pretty predictable.

Let’s agree that monogamy isn’t natural and that we’re genetically programmed – men and women alike – to want to sleep around and crave variety. And yet here we are. A polyamorous author and philosopher trying hard to justify her life decision through iffy logic. So what if some monogamous people are jealous? That’s not an argument against monogamy. So what if some polyamorous people overcome jealousy? The reason that most people aren’t polyamorous – myself included – is because we determine that the costs outweigh the benefits.

At least that was how it sounded when Michael Sonmore talked about his open marriage in New York Magazine.  It was almost as if he was trying to convince himself publicly that he felt good about his wife fucking other people while he was home with his kids. Sure didn’t sound that way to me. I’m about as secure as they come and the thought of my wife taking a lover doesn’t make me feel jealous; it makes me feel icky.

It’s unfortunate that polyamorous people are judged morally by society. They shouldn’t be. Similarly, polyamorous people have to get that we monogamous folks aren’t prudes afraid of societal backlash. Nor are we less “evolved” than you. We just make decisions like every other couple else does – “would this help our marriage or hurt our marriage?”

It shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that sex or love outside marriage can be considered perilous to the marriage itself. If anything, it’s pretty predictable.

Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Katie

    I find the choice of female model in the picture here interesting. Interesting in an actual interesting and not passive-aggressive-and-assumptions-are-being-made-because-feminism way.

    I notice that she’s not as conventionally attractive as usual, compared to other pics chosen for articles. Leads me to consider how the picture could be interpreted differently if the woman WERE more conventionally attractive. Gorgeous woman plus two men pic WOULD look different. I think it would  look more like the power were disproportionately with the woman – Like the dudes were being used. On the same note, if it were one dude and two chicks in the pic, a Brad Pitt type would equally show a level of uneven power.

    I’m curious to know how much thought went into picking the best pic for this. I bet it wasn’t an easy choice.

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I have an assistant. She’s a woman in her sixties who has been working with me for 5 years. She has access to a bank of stock photos. She chooses them herself. I never even see them until you do. Talk about overthinking…

      1. 1.1.1
        Katie

        Evan@1.1 “Talk about overthinking…”

        Katie@1 “Interesting in an actual interesting and not passive-aggressive-and-assumptions-are-being-made-because-feminism way.”

         

      2. 1.1.2
        GoWiththeFlow

        I always assumed the photos were from a “stock” source.

        What came to my mind when I saw the 2 guys-1 gal photo was the punch-line from a joke by Bill Maher:  “It’s like finally talking your wife into a threesome. . . and she brings home another guy!”

      3. 1.1.3
        ScottH

        I knew they were stock photos and I’ve usually been impressed at how well  they do seem to convey the nature of the topic.  Not always, but usually.  Good job Cindy.

        I was intrigued at the picture used for the posting where Evan answered my question a couple years ago.  I’m still trying to understand my reaction to it.  And I’m way better looking than the guy in the pic.  You’d need a picture with Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise to accurately represent me…  (some would say Urkel)

    2. 1.2
      JB

      Thanks for clearing that up Evan. I always knew that the photo’s used on your blog weren’t the actual op’s (but usually above average looking model types etc…). It’s just funny when we all read the posed question/scenarios as we look at the model pics chosen we come to different conclusions…..lol I’ve always said on here I can’t make a 100% factual judgement/opinion on any question posed unless I see what every person in the scenario really looks like.

  2. 2
    Stacy

    I think few people can do this (even if some believe that monogamy is not our natural state of which I disagree) for a variety of reasons. Human nature is human nature and elements such as jealousy, practicality (especially if planning on having a family), safety, emotional intimacy and disconnection issues are all too real for me to give it any serious thought). In other words, I don’t see how another dick is worth the ever present risks of living this type of lifestyle.

    However, again, I think some people are able to do so (and I believe more men than women would be happy with this sort of arrangement.

  3. 3
    Myth

    I’ve been in polyamorous relationships for the last 14 years.  I’d agree that different things work for different people.  I knew I wanted to be poly before I started dating as a teenager, and I’ve never wanted a monogamous relationship.  Committed, yes.  Monogamous, no.  I also find that I don’t get particularly jealous.  It’s not something I have to fight – I’m just happy that my partner is happy spending time with others.  I deeply value the interconnected network of friends and lovers and lover’s lovers that builds up in polyamorous relationships.  I’ve gone on vacations with a boyfriend’s girlfriend before (with or without the mutual boyfriend).  We’re a team in supporting our mutual partner when things get hard.  I find it healthy and joyful and deeply fulfilling.  That said, it’s definitely not for everyone!  If it doesn’t appeal to you, don’t do it.

    1. 3.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      @Myth: “Committed, yes. Monogamous, no.” You realize this is a contradictory statement to most people, right? If I slept with someone other than my wife, she would have every right to feel I wasn’t committed to our relationship because I went outside of it. I know you can square this internally. Most people associate sleeping with others as a lack of commitment.

      1. 3.1.1
        Stacy

        I was thinking the same thing…

      2. 3.1.2
        GoWiththeFlow

        Yeah if my boyfriend or husband slept with another woman then said, “It was just sex, the important thing is I’m committed to you!”  I WOULD NOT BE HAPPY!

      3. 3.1.3
        Just saying

        I think Myth was suggesting emotional committment but not physical committment. It may be more likely for men to be able to do this, but at the end of the day, an eroded physical bond is more than likely to erode an emotional bond anyway – so yes the two can’t reasonably be expected to co-exist in the longer term. I think a couple that is polyamorous don’t have that strong an emotional bond to start with, more like FWB that get along really really well.

        And for those who will challenge me about not having a strong emotional bond with someone you are polyamourous with, let me ask you a question :  How much of a financial, resource and time sacrifice are you willing to concede to a partner whom you know you are not exclusive with ?

        1. Sylvana

          I fully agree about the bond. I’ve had those type of relationships before. You’re description of a very, very good friend with benefits is pretty much dead on. The person you’re with is special, but not that special… It’s a convenient relationship, were you get the good, supportive, cuddly stuff, but also still get to have whatever fun you want. Or, the other partner is more of a sex object than an equal partner (if you like to watch them perform).

      4. 3.1.4
        Tron Swanson

        Once upon a time, “Committed, yes. Heterosexual, no.” would have been a contradictory statement to most people. Times change…

  4. 4
    Tiana

    OMG, Evan, right on time! I’ve just started dating an incredible man who considers himself as a poly.  I’m absolutely lost and confused, read all I could find online, asked him tons of questions… still cannot get the whole idea, what could be the reason to avoid a healthy, great, trusted and very secure relationship with just one person in a trade of dating-dating-dating…

    1. 4.1
      GoWiththeFlow

      Walk away.  You have a base level incompatibility.

    2. 4.2
      Just saying

      Obviously someone who does not wish to bond on a deep emotional level and be called upon to make sacrifices for

  5. 5
    Stacy2

    I suppose, this would work well for people who place a high premium on variety. I don’t so count me out LOL.

  6. 6
    Elaine

    That really doesn’t make sense, Evan. Commitment is about so much more than sexual exclusivity. I’m surprised you would even suggest that. It’s like saying my best friend can no longer be my best friend if I go to the movies with another friend. It really does in my mind go back to the idea that we want to possess another person, control them. I have agreed to be monogamous with my current partner, but to be honest, I don’t know how long I can be with him, and it makes me sad that I would have to give that up, but having been previously married for 13 years, and been miserable and feeling trapped, I’m not going down that road again. Relationships change, no matter what outside structure or definition we put on it. Marriage is a civil/legal arrangement.

    I think this piece adds some more texture and perspective: https://medium.com/@JasnaTod/the-bigger-picture-of-polyamory-680a573f3d5f

    Here’s a quote:

    But the focus is all wrong. It’s not about romance. It’s not about physicality. It’s not, in the end, about polyamory at all. It’s about human connection in whatever shape it may take.

    1. 6.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Actually, it makes perfect sense. Just because you want to choose an alternative lifestyle doesn’t negate that the very definition of marriage for most people is a monogamous relationship. In other words, your feelings about marriage or commitment don’t change the definition of marriage or commitment to the majority of the world.

      I’m sorry you feel trapped by monogamy. All I can tell you is that even if YOU think about “human connection in whatever shape it may take,” it doesn’t matter if your PARTNER thinks that it means an open license to have sex with other people. I have no moral judgment of your choices – my metric for successful relationships is whether it’s good for the RELATIONSHIP. Introducing other partners sounds wonderful in an idealistic, utopian way. In reality – for most people – it’s fraught with danger, emotion, insecurity, jealousy, and instability. If that doesn’t apply to you and you can have a 40 year relationship that includes polyamory, God bless you. You’re the big winner.

      1. 6.1.1
        Stacy2

        In other words, your feelings about marriage or commitment don’t change the definition of marriage or commitment to the majority of the world.

        Are you sure about that? I mean, the definition of marriage has been pretty fluid. Not a long time ago you couldn’t marry a person of a different race in this country. Even more recently, you couldn’t marry a person of the same sex. At the same time, there are countries now where men can legally have multiple wives. So… as the LGBTQ alphabet queue gets growing, perhaps in not so distant future we will be adding a P to the end of it, and you will go down in the internet history as an intolerant bigot. Just sayin’

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          I could not be less worried about your hypothetical outcome.

        2. Just saying

          There is a functional utilitarian definition of marriage that has withstood the test of time and the marriage you refer to (ie gay, lesbian etc) is an artifact that bears no relationship to the origins and time honoured definition of marriage. Yes, the concept of marriage has changed because of technology and people don’t need to be bonded together in traditional family structures to survive any longer, so really the current treatment of marraige plays a more self validating and self celebratory and self congratulating role than anything else. As more multiple wives, this served a historical function that no longer exist, so yes even that construct of marriage is more cultural assertion than anything else.

    2. 6.2
      Just saying

      Elaine, we are talking about a life partner, not a friend. I couldn’t care less what my friend did when I’m not around , but if I were responsible for my friend’s debts because are debts and liabilities are joint, then I sure like hell will care a lot !!!

      So if you are not about control and all for freedom of expression and the human experience in whatever form it make take, join a commune or simply engage in multiple relationships at a superficial level. This is NOT marriage nor committment type relationship – let’s call a spade a spade.

      By the way, I am like you. After a 15 year marriage, most of which was unhappy, I am in no mood for full on committment type level relationship – happy with my FWB arrangements at the moment, but I am not pretending this is anything special or momentous or anything comparable or equivalent to a marriage type relationship.

  7. 7
    sandra

    I am just curious as to what happens to an otherwise successful poly relationship when either long-term “main” partner is no longer able to obtain or attract additional lovers.  For the woman,  depending on her physical appearance, she may start having difficulty in her 40s and certainly 50s.  I guess I am just wondering how happy a poly lifestyle can be when one can no longer attract the men or women they find desirable.

    1. 7.1
      Anne

      I’m almost 50 and have no trouble finding attractive people who are interested. I probably do better than many 30 year old women!

      1. 7.1.1
        JB

        I agree with Anne, on any online dating site women 45-60 get way more responses and action then men of the same age I can assure you. They just disqualify most of them because of ridiculous delusional self value and expectations. Most women (not all obviously) have the advantage in any “poly scenario” because they’ll always have more options. Men are more open to any non monogamous/casual situations on top of that.

        1. Just saying

          JB, it is my right to disquality anyone to does not meet my “standards”, justified or not. Women are not like men who will “slum it” – we are able to go without sex than have sex with someone whom we don’t particularly like or are attracted to.

          As a woman, if I am going for pure casual sex, why should I do it with an aged unattractive slob when I can get it from a young strapling buck – use your male logic here.

  8. 8
    Robyn

    Ah yes, the proverbial three-some…. not my cup of tea, since I’m a highly territorial child who DOES NOT share her favorite toys…!

    Many years ago, one of my very best male friends – who was very liberal and anti-marriage and anti-monogamy at the time – admitted to me that he was so psyched up when his girlfriend was keen for a threesome. And he let her choose the other girl (one of her friends), so he figured this would all go off splendidly.

    Fast forward a few weeks later – my buddy is totally disappointed by it all. He ended up feeling totally left out when the two girls got totally into each other (i.e. instead of both focusing on him) and then to make things more complicated, the other girl became totally fixated on him (standing outside his apartment in the rain kind of fixated).
    Can you say awkward with a capital A…

    He admitted that it was soooooo not what he expected it would be, and was very surprised that it had turned out that way (yeah, real life is not like those porn movie plots!).

    For all that at a biological level we are – somewhat – not wired for long-term monogamy, our emotions and our egos do not deal well with “competition” (regardless of whether you’re male or female). Especially when we place a high value on our partner – which is why many people choose to not stray, because they don’t want to lose what they have in their partner.

    I think it takes a very unique couple with very unique circumstances for polyamory to work for BOTH of them. It can be done. I do know a few successful “poly” couples. But it’s very much the exception, from what I have seen.

    That doesn’t make it “wrong” – it just makes it “different” from what most of us expect when it comes to long-term relationships.

    But it’s not for me.

    1. 8.1
      Emily, the original

      Robyn,

      He ended up feeling totally left out when the two girls got totally into each other (i.e. instead of both focusing on him)

      That’s exactly how a friend of mine described his threesome experience. IDK … maybe the women wanted to get together with each other all along and having a guy there just made them more comfortable with the idea. He was the gateway to what they really wanted and, once that door was open, he became a third wheel.

  9. 9
    loretta

    I dated a guy fresh out of a divorce (his second) from a woman with whom he agreed to have an open relationship. He happily (?) drove her to the airport on a regular basis where she caught a plane to see her lover. He didn’t find another partner in the meantime, but he visited a local BDSM “cave” to watch. Perhaps predictably, his wife left him for her lover.

    When he asked me about having a poly relationship, I said, “Oh, sure. How’d that work out?” To me, it’s difficult enough to have one lover with whom you invest your emotion, resources, time let alone more than one. I don’t know of any success stories except those from people who post online – and who knows if those are even true? To me, the odds are against it working, even worse than the odds of a monogamous relationship working.

  10. 10
    Elaine

    People can emotionally cheat on their spouses without ever even kissing someone. So it’s not as cut and dry as sexual exclusivity. That was my point.

    1. 10.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      That’s not much of a point. Polyamory is about NOT being sexually exclusive, thereby breaking the boundaries of what most people consider conventional “commitment.” Again, if you can handle it, God bless you. I think most people WANT to be able to, but, in the long run, the possibility of your partner falling in love with someone else (or you falling in love with someone else) overrides most people’s desire for sexual diversity.

    2. 10.2
      Just saying

      Not quite sure what your point is. If there is emotional cheating, then there really is no marriage or committment in the relationship. End of story.

  11. 11
    Elly Klein

    I have friends who were one of the best couples I knew. Rock-solid. When they decided to ‘spice up’ their marriage by going to swingers’ parties and the like, it appeared to work extremely well… until it didn’t. What initially brought them closer eventually tore them apart, and now they’re divorced (with kids). Too many boundaries were pushed. Too much damage was done that they couldn’t get past. It’s heartbreaking.

     

    I agree with Evan it’s something that seems possible in theory but rarely works in reality. So, if you’re considering if but are on the fence, I’d caution you against it. Only do it if you’re absolutely 100% poisitive it’s for you.

     

    Ultimately, it’s best to sew your wild oats when you’re single so you’re far less tempted to look sideways once you’re committed to someone for life because you’ve been there, done that, and are satisfied with your experiences.

    1. 11.1
      GoWiththeFlow

      The two couples I knew who were into swinging eventually broke up.  In one case, the partner who was a swinger before he met and introduced his girlfriend to it, ended the relationship because he “couldn’t fully explore life in a constraining situation.”  His open relationship was too limiting.  The second couple. . . well one wound up in prison for sex crimes.

    2. 11.2
      Just saying

      Yeah, only do it if you are prepared to lose your partner – which really means you do not have that strong a relationship to begin with.

      Sorry, but I beg to disagree. Having “experience” in the part does not increase your ability to stay committed – I think studies have been done on this. What ultimately determines your ability to stay committed is character and family upbringing and the religous/civic values of their community.

      And interestingly enough, people of character brought up in such an environment don’t need nor want multiple casual flings when young. These people tend to marry young, and stay married or else go from one LTR to another until they find “the one”.

  12. 12
    Tron Swanson

    When I was younger, I tried to have relationships, but they all ended because I was not capable of–or interested in–monogamy. I gave monogamy my best shot, but I never made it more than a few months. Also, I’m unlike most men, in that I’m apparently incapable of jealousy. Women’s attempts to make me jealous have often yielded hilarious results.

    I’d be open to polyamory, but unless/until the idea becomes more popular, FWBs is my more realistic option.

    1. 12.1
      Just saying

      I guess you aren’t too much into having a family either, then. If you are, then I don’t know how you are going to square this with your inability to bond long term. Because you know, if you keep losing sexual and romantic interest in your women, how on earth are you going to show self-sacrificing long term (as in forever) love for your children ?

      1. 12.1.1
        Tron Swanson

        I’ve never wanted to have kids, so that isn’t an issue.

  13. 13
    Stacy2

    FWIW, i know a couple that is in an open relationship. They have the most solid marriage that I know of – but they’ve been together as a couple since high school, so almost 20 years now, OR for 15 years or so. They have kids, a dog and a house, the whole 9 yards. Their marriage is rock solid. For some people it seems to work.

    1. 13.1
      Just saying

      We never know the truth behind closed doors, but yes, exception do exist but they do not prove the rule.

  14. 14
    Elaine

    Elly Klein, It seems like something was missing in the relationship to begin with, to make them want to go outside the marriage. How do you know it wouldn’t have broken up anyway? How do you know one person wouldn’t have cheated instead? At least this way it was out in the open and they were both responsible. There are a lot of unhappy, bored couples out there, and we’re expected to be one person’s source of all fulfillment? That seems like a lot to expect from one person. Blaming the end of a marriage on an experiment in polyamory seems as silly as blaming the end of my marriage on monogamy. Just as we need healthy models of monogamous marriage, we need healthy models of polyamory, and they do exist.

    Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe I just need to find the right person, and once I’ve met that person, I’ll not want anyone else. Ever. But I’m already 46 years old and that seems like such a fantasy… so I don’t know about the “sowing oats” comment…I had several boyfriends before I got married and have had a fair number of partners. So maybe it’s just my nature. I know I”m “weird” for not wanting/needing exclusivity, especially as a woman.  I read all this dating advice and feel left out and strange because there’s just this assumption that all women are looking for exclusivity and marriage–but maybe I’m just not the intended audience. I’ve only recently come to accept that this is who I am… after many years of beating myself up for wanting something different.  But at this point, I’ve already had my kids so I don’t feel as driven to find a partner and I don’t see any point in settling for something that’s “good enough.”

    And to a previous poster who talked about a threesome–that’s not really what polyamory is for most people. Polyamory is having an intimate relationship with more than one person–not necessarily a threesome.

    1. 14.1
      Stacy

      Evan is not saying you are wrong if it works for you and your partner. He is saying that most people don’t want a polyamorous relationship because of many factors that usually don’t end up working for them. If you can handle it, then yeah, the monogamous advice is not for you.

      I do not expect my boyfriend to fulfill my every need – this is why I have different friends, hobbies, books I read, etc.  No one can fulfill all your needs but for me, that is not why I am in a relationship. I am happy with my boyfriend because we have a connectedness that grows through time because of experience and trust. For ME, sleeping with different men and sharing such an intimate and sacred part of who I am is one of the best gifts I can give my boyfriend and myself. I happen to think that soul ties are built with the person you sleep with…this is why things change when sex comes into the equation (and at least for a lot of women). Plus, I trust my boyfriend implicitly and the person I NEED to trust the person I am giving my body to. So for me and lots of others, it is not JUST sex. Sex comes with a lot of responsibility and risks (and rewards). However, if YOU can handle the consequences and are not beholden to different and/or random sexual partners, then do you by all means.

    2. 14.2
      Just saying

      Elaine, were you always like this ? To be honest, I was quite surprised when you said you had children. Couple of things seem incongruent. Women don’t tend to want to have children with a man they have no bond with, or a very unstable bond with. You must feel very confident in your ability to be sole provider and protector of your children. Or maybe you had children in a traditional structure hoping for the best, and expecting you would “change” or that your children would “change” you  – very like my ex-husband. I don’t know how you could have a deep sacrificial love for your children while getting bored and constantly losing interest in long term partners. Children are long term, no ? Not the sex part, but the part to do with building something deep and strong and long lasting with your children despite the challenges and hard times you inevitably face with them. You just can’t walk away from your children – or maybe you did ?

  15. 15
    Elaine

     

    In no way have I walked away from my kids. I’m deeply committed to them and sometimes they are the only thing keeping me alive. I’m a bit offended by this comment, and I think you meant to offend me, “Just saying”. I birthed my children. They are a part of me and always will be. Relationships with children are very different from romantic relationships. There’s some sacrifice and commitment, yes, but I know that I will always like and love them. I also know that while I’ve had to give up things for awhile, it’s not for the rest of my life. My older daughter will be off to college in another year and they will both eventually be independent and living their own lives. I will be free to pretty much do what I want. And I enjoy watching them grow–raising children is the very definition of things always changing!!!

    I can’t make those same guarantees about any man I”m with. Losing my children would feel like losing a body part. I didn’t feel that way about my ex, and I can’t say I’ve felt that way about any partner I have been with. Yes, I would be sad and miss them, and I do get lonely, but I wouldn’t feel that I’ve lost some part of me. And I”m not sure I believe in the whole “soul mate” thing.

    I did have a bond with my husband.  We just didn’t understand what we needed to do to make it last, and society puts a lot of pressure on a couple and a family to fulfill needs that historically were met by larger kinship groups. There may have been some hope for us, and I may have been willing to keep sweeping my feelings of wanting more under the rug, but my ex then proceeded to ruin our lives financially partly as a result of his own unwillingness to help himself and do the things he needed to do. I’m hardly the irresponsible party here–I’ve done what I had to do get a job, even though it has meant taking one well below my skill set and educational level to keep me and my kids afloat as well as accepting help from family. I’ve concluded that whatever the nature of our emotional relationship, I can’t be married to someone who so threatens the well-being of me and my kids. And even in this day and age, there’s still a lot of judgement (inner as well as outer) when it comes to leaving your spouse. It wasn’t an easy thing to do–I struggled with for a long time. Even my therapist told me she’d never seen someone work so hard at a marriage.

    What bothers me is that while there seems to be some lip service to the idea that polyamory is a valid choice, the underlying message I’m getting from most people here is that it’s really not. Just because you’re not monogamous doesn’t mean you can’t have a deep, intimate, committed, secure relationship with someone. You can, you can, you can–people do it. No, not everyone can do it. But that’s also because it’s been drilled into our heads from day one that that’s the “valid” model. Heterosexual, monogamous coupling is the norm in our society and people are threatened by deviations from it,  and you can throw all the psychological/emotional justifications you want at it, that’s as sociological situation that is reinforced by our society. Whether it’s a biological urge/desire is what was challenged in the book Evan mentioned.

    I accepted long ago that I had to trade my desire for novelty, fun and excitement for security, stability and a partnership with someone. That ended up being a joke because he failed me and my family so miserably (I had to restart my meager retirement account).  So perhaps that’s why I’m jaded and why I”m reluctant to make a long-term commitment to someone. Before I had children, I saw the point of making a long-term commitment to someone. Now? Not so much. I was very skeptical about marriage before I was married; I’m even more skeptical about it now. It does seem to work for some people, and I would love to feel what others seem to have. I’ve seen people who have been married for 20+ years say they’re still crazy about the person they’re with. Apparently, it’s possible. Not sure if it is for me, and believe me, I would like to be that way. I would like to have that. Just based on my experience, I wonder if it’s possible *for me.*

    I resent being cast as someone who is unhealthy, immature, or whatever.  I think a lot about relationships and what’s fair and honest. I try to be open and honest with myself and with others always. But, I’m also not very conventional when it comes to a lot of things. That does not make me somehow less human.

    I appreciate the discussion, but I don’t feel these kinds of conversations are really that productive, unfortunately. Still, I got to articulate some things for myself, so I guess that’s useful.

    1. 15.1
      Rampiance

      I really feel you, Elaine.  I could have written much of your post here, our histories share so much in common.

      EVERY relationship is its own unique experience.  I agree with Elaine about how children are a totally different relating experience than romantic or partnership experiences.

      Far from feeling casual or superficial about my intimate relationships, I feel more deliberate than most people I meet.  An analogy might be shopping for clothing.  Many people are satisfied with going to a department store and buying off the shelf, using standard assumptions about what “relationship” means.  They probably don’t even discuss much with each other about what “relationship” means, because they both already know what they think everybody knows about what “relationship” means.

      Others go to a boutique because they have particular standards that only a particular boutique will meet.  Evan’s marriage sounds like the boutique style.  He was conscious and deliberate about his standards.

      Others go to a designer or tailor for clothing crafted especially for their unique desires, or they craft their clothing at home.  These are the most conscious and deliberate arrangements, and they call for plenty of openness, scarcity of assumptions, and forethought for every stitch.  That’s a LOT of time, expense, energy.  Most people decide it’s too much hassle, whether for clothing or for sensual connection, so they go back to the racks of mass merchandise.

      I don’t find my sensual connections among mass assumptions or culturally approved conditions.  So I take the time, energy, and expense to craft every one of them with loving care.

      1. 15.1.1
        Elaine

        Well articulated! Thank you.

  16. 16
    Elaine

    I also think there needs to be another post really defining/explaining polyamory vs. “swinging” vs threesomes vs casual dating. People here don’t really seem to understand this.

    1. 16.2
      Katie

      I agree. There seem to be a lot of misunderstandings here, judging from knee-jerk responses I see in this thread.

  17. 17
    juli

    I was in a birthday party and i was chatting with some friends from college, all about my age: fifty something. One lady told us that her daughter )24 years old) was in a polyamory relationship with two guys, living with one of them and visiting the other. And that everyone of them have other sexual companions from time to time. That precise weekend the girl was away with her girlfriends and both guys went to her house to have lunch with their “mother in law”.

    I never heard of this before (and neither of other people who was in the same table) and I was eyes wide open. I think that jealousy and love are somehow linked, all literature history witnessing. And what happens with passion, partnership, even family finances and children upbringing? How do they deal with this situations?  I think that not lying to each other is not enough not to make anguish, anger and insecurities disappear.

     

  18. 18
    JL

    Your upshot seems to be “live and let live”. If you find non-mongamy icky, then neither you nor your wife should practice it! It’s not for everybody. Conversely, monogamy isn’t for everybody either. The sticking point is when you try to be one but are really the other.

    Also, non-mongamy suffers from being one term to convey so many different levels, as the first paragraph points out.

    I’ve been in both kinds of relationships and they were good. (As Dan Savage also says, just because a relationship ended doesn’t mean it was a bad relationship.)

    In my open relationships, I would let my boyfriend have sex with other women when he was traveling on business, although he said he was so busy he didn’t do that in the year we were together. We attended swingers parties together and enjoyed watching each other with other people. I enjoyed watching women flirt with him in public because I knew he was coming home to me. I also know that most people would hate this kind of relationship, but it worked for us.

    I see a lot of comments on here about people knowing of others who were in polyamorous relationships and those relationships failed. My question to those who are using it as “proof” that poly doesn’t work is: Do you know of any monogamous relationships that ended in divorce? My guess is you probably do. Maybe sexual fidelity was the cause of those “failed” relationships, but maybe it wasn’t.

    On a more random note, I found the results of this research pretty fascinating: The Unique Benefits of a Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationship. “As part of this paper, the researchers asked 175 people who were currently in a CNM relationship to describe in their own words the benefits of consensual non-monogamy. Their responses were then coded for themes and compared to the responses of participants in a separate study who were asked to describe the benefits of monogamy in their own words.”  Not the most scientific method, but better than a bunch of desk chair analysts!

    Just my .02

  19. 19
    Tash

    Dear Evan,

    For some reason I agree with 99% of what you write about every topic on your blog. Our values on love marriage and commitment etc. are aligned. So I want to thank you for your very clear, very sensible, straight to the point and very helpful advice. Your advice is invaluable and you are providing a great service. I hope that you feel appreciated for all the wisdom you share, and I hope you will continue to provide this wonderful service.

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