Monogamy vs. Polyamory: A Case For Monogamy
Blame TED Talks if you want, but monogamy has taken a hard hit in recent years. Podcasts, websites, books, talk shows—and yes, TED talks—like to say that humans are not built to be monogamous. The source of human relationship angst, they say, is that we attempt to box ourselves in, limiting ourselves to the unreasonable notion of being with just one partner for the rest of our lives. Shatter that outdated paradigm and find the way to happiness, they say.
On this site, we like to encompass many views. Where two people (or in this case, three, four, or five people) can find happiness together, good for them as long as it’s legal. So here is just one side to the monogamy vs. polyamory debate.
Humans Were Not Built That Way?
Polys often point out that humans are capable of having sex (and building connections) with more than one person. Prior to committing to a relationship, people often have multiple sex and relationship partners. We are animals, after all. Then, by the stroke of a pen or utterance of a few words, we suddenly become non-animals, extinguishing that core part of ourselves.
The opposite view is that humans engage in many civilizing activities that are typically considered not to be part of “human nature.” If we were “not built” to abstain from murder and theft, why do all societies on earth have restrictions against this? If we were “built” to kill each other in anger, perhaps we should let our true selves come out. Why limit ourselves?
Sure You Want More Logistical Complications In Your Life?
Interested in pursuing casual sex with people you’ll never see again after the door closes? If that’s what you want, consider an escort service. That raw exchange of money for sex is about as uncomplicated as it can get—and it still can get plenty complicated.
Now imagine having not just sex but relationships with multiple partners. And maintaining those relationships within the framework of your already busy life of work, school, family, trips, hobbies. Successful polys are adept at juggling all of the balls at once, and even they drop a ball from time to time.
Complications mentioned in this section are limited mainly to the logistics of adding one or two big things in your life. As Loving More says, “Love may be infinite, time isn’t.” But what about emotional complications?
As for the Emotional Complications…
One xoJane writer details the emotional hotbed of sharing an apartment and bed with an established couple. The idea was great at first, but feelings became “intense and volatile” as time wore on, with jealousy and pettiness reigning supreme. The writer eventually left the relationship. One explanation might be that the writer wasn’t fully committed to the lifestyle; basically, she just walked into it. But it does lay bare the raw emotional aspects to being in a poly relationship.
Some polys like to say that they are better at dealing with jealousy than everyone else—what polys call “mainstream norms.” One basis of this belief is that they subject themselves to jealousy-provoking situations so often, they become adept at mastering it.
A commenter on Slate Star Codex mentions his personal experience with polyamory at its absolute worst:
I came home from my tour in the US Army in the Middle East. I have only been back two months. My wife and I have three children. We have been married for ten years. I came back and Sarah had changed. Didn’t want anything to do with me. This is typical for returning veterans so I figured it would just take time. Fast forward to now, I just discovered, she has been recruited as a “unicorn” by a neurologist at a hospital in town. She abandoned me and our middle child who has autism. She took the youngest and oldest boy and they are considered now Mitch’s children. So, excuse me if I can’t be open minded enough to understand this. I don’t. It hurts incredibly bad and I don’t understand how a doctor, with a wife and six children, could steal my wife and try to take my children. Is this common for polyamorous men to seek out other men’s wives? It has caused ripples everywhere through our family and friends. She has alienated herself from everyone.
Surely this scenario does not describe the majority of polys, many of whom treat the book The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy—emphasis on ethical--as a kind of Baedeker for navigating the poly world. However, it demonstrates how some people use their “poly badge” as justification for doing things they ought not to do.
One difference between monogamists and polys is that people who practice monogamy are not actively inviting jealousy provoking situations into their lives as a matter of course. Such mainstream norms, as they are called by polys, certainly do find themselves in jealous situations. There is the overly flirtatious store clerk hitting on your wife. There is the suggestive co-worker getting just a bit too close to your husband. And that doesn’t even include the husband or wife or partner who initiates flirtation or more.
But again, these situations are the exceptions, or at least they are intended to be. They are not (hopefully) pursued vigorously, openly, and frequently.
In the End
Polyamory is not the hot ‘n’ steamy “sexy time” that some monogamists intent on polyamory may envision. Take a look at any photo of a poly gathering or convention and you will not see legions of damn fine movie star-quality men and sizzling women with hard bodies. Rather, you see real people, a cross-section of body types, with plenty of lumps, curves, wrinkles, and sags. And just like real life, you do see a few hot people, too.
Polyamory, too, is not a leveling of the caste system of attraction. In other words, entering “the lifestyle” doesn’t mean you’re going to get laid more easily and frequently. Sexual market value still does apply. For example, unicorns--single women who enter into a couples’ relationship—are bestowed with the highest value. The younger and hotter the unicorn, the greater her value.
Some (not all) polys view monogamy as an arbitrary set of moralistic shackles imposed on human relationships, and that they as rebels against this. Perhaps they are firebrands. But it’s worth examining why the practice of monogamy is so widespread and has been for centuries. Just an accident? A freak occurrence? Religious edict?
Or is there actually a good reason for it after all?
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