Monogamous relationships can get so monotonous. I always had a fascination with having more than one partner, specifically in an environment where all parties are aware and accepting of the situation. Much of my time these days is spent researching the relational constructs of multi-partner relationships. From watching Showtime's Polyamory: Married and Dating and Sister Wives, to writing relevant blogs and articles, to staying updated on recent news and research, I have found the construct of this relational phenomenon integral to how society perceives community and relationship. While monogamy prevails as the dominant form of relationship in society, alternative relationships are often regarded with contempt and cynicism within the relational space. Rising media advocacy, scholarly research, and more people revealing their multi-partner relationships, has significantly increased interest and early signs of its acceptance.
There are various types of multi-partner relationships. In this post, I plan on covering one in particular. 'Poly' is many. 'Amory' is love. Polyamory is 'many loves.' According to Polyamory Society, "polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously." There are many myths around polyamory; one being that the relationship is not serious or genuine, given the sexual sharing of partners. However, polyamory's principle beliefs include, but are not limited to: open communication, choice, gender equality, and honesty. The structure involves many intricacies. For example, polyamory promotes a diverse range of sexual orientation identities, i.e. bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, pansexual, queer, etc. The choices are endless and the premise is: love whom you choose.
Recent scholarly research reports a growing positive appeal around polyamory. The article, "Hot bi-babes and feminist families: Polyamorous women speak out" explores a feminist perspective: "Whilst it [polyamory] is often seen, from the outside, as fulfilling men's fantasies (representing the possibility of infidelity without guilt and having sex with more than one woman), many within the polyamorous community regard it as a more feminine way of managing relationship," the study says, "with much emphasis placed on the importance of open communication, the expression of emotion, and support networks." Based on this frame of thought, polyamorous relationships could promote a more egalitarian system.
On the other hand, I further question the agency women have within these relational communities, especially if the woman or man identifies as heterosexual. Within polyamory, sexual identity is vital to the creation of relational infrastructure. Sexual identities contribute to a hierarchy or balance in the relationship. For example, within a triad (comprised of three people) of one male and two females where all parties identify as heterosexual, a sexual hierarchy may exist within the relationship as the two females would presumably not engage sexually with one another. The patriarchal focus can be overcome by the women's individual freedom to seek other men which would alleviate feelings of jealousy and insecurity.
Poly folks believe in overcoming their jealous tendencies through the application of the 12 Pillars of Polyamory, regarded by some as the principle belief system. Bjarne Holmes shed light on this topic in an article from LiveScience.com. "One thing that seems to unite the polyamorous community is a real enthusiasm for digging into emotions. Honesty, openness and communication are cornerstones for polyamorous relationships," it says. From a psychological standpoint, these relational practices can reduce feelings of jealousy and insecurity which tend to have a damaging impact on any relationship. With polyamory being a complex relational design comprised of numerous arrangements, often intersecting with social structures within our society, there are always more variables to research. Although, monogamy continues to be a more popular option in society, we should still aim to eliminate the destructive myths around multi-partner relationships.
Researcher Dr. Elisabeth Sheff states, "I think polyamory will co-exist as a less popular option than monogamy. Or people will phase in and out of it at different times in their lives."
This is an interesting statement regarding polyamory's imprint on society, and why humans continue to choose monogamy as a more viable option. In the future, I hope that a relational equilibrium will be found amongst monogamous couples; a society where polyamory has replaced the countless relationships that have been tainted through the act of being unfaithful.