Dec 8, 2006

The Problem with Polyamory

I suspect that most people, in their heart of hearts, are "polyamoralists." That is, they are capable of loving more than one person at a time.

If your curious, here are some sites that explain "polyamory" in detail:

But, what's interesting to me is that while most people cringe at the idea of polyamory, myself included, many people secretly practice key elements of it.

In fact, if the figures on sexual and emotional infidelity are correct, then it seems that many people unknowingly participate in a critical aspect of polyamory. A "pseudo" polyamory, in the sense, that they experience love for more than one person, but they attempt to hide it. A true polyamoralist is honest and open about his/her feelings and desires.

Why do so many people only practice the more scandalous part of polyamory; that is, the sexual and emotional aspect of loving more than one person?

Because love and sex are full of double standards due to competing interests. What's good for me when it comes to dating, is not necessarily good for me to date. So, while everyone may have some polyamoralist tendencies, few people want to be involved with someone like that.

11 comments:

Marti Abernathey said...

"I suspect that most people, in their heart of hearts, are polyamoralists."

What love are you speaking of? Are you speaking of storge, philia, eros, or agape love?


"Because love and sex are full of double standards due to competing interests."

By default, or by societal pressures?

I find it odd how parents can find can love more than one child, and a child can love more than one parent, but loving more than one partner is so odd?

Sexual and emotional infidelity have nothing in commmon with polyamory. If you have sex with someone that isn't your partner and your partner is unaware of that encounter, that is cheating, not polyamory.

"-Amory" means love, and there is no love in dishonesty, only fear.

Tad said...

Thanks for the comments and questions... I was referring to "eros" or romantic, passionate love. And I do think that double standards exist by default because relationships, or "life" for that matter, inherently involves interdependence leading to both cooperation and competition. And it's the competitive aspect of life which leads to double standards. For me, double standards are so interesting because they reveal attempts to gain at the expense of others. More often than not, I think that society emphasizes certain aspects of our inherently cooperative and competitive nature, rather than being the engine which drives our behavior. I know that many people think society is the driving force behind things, I used to see things that way too, but for many reasons, my thinking has changed over the years.

Marni said...

I think it's so interesting that you are calling polyamorists "polyamoralists" - i have never heard that formulation before, i've always heard them called "polyamorists". You've somehow added "amoral" into the word, either consciously or unconsciously - fascinating.

AJ Abrams said...

That is a topic that I've spoken of often with people in affairs, yet they never seem to get it.

I own a house with two women and live in a polyamorous relationship with both of them in a triad relationship. It never seems to astound me how many people will condemn the way I live, yet at the same time admit to an affair.

Poly relationships can and do work long term. I'm living prof of that.

Anonymous said...

I think most people lie about everything, not just the loving of more than one person. I recently had a two year encounter with a compulsive liar. I stayed in the relationship that long because I couldn't get it through my head that a person could lie so much and to such a high degree. "Polyamoralist" seems to be a fancy term for people that are compulsive liars. Compulsivity may have many origins, but I tend to think it is mostly a product of up-bringing and family values.

Anita Wagner said...

In a strange way, I have to agree with Anonymous's statement, "'Polyamoralist' seems to be a fancy term for people that are compulsive liars", because that's certainly NOT the definition of a POLYAMORIST.

A polyamorist is just the opposite, a person who is committed to honesty and openness in their multiple relationships and to not involving themselves in anything that doesn't have the full consent and knowledge of all involved or concerned.

As a polyamorist (and polyamory educator and advocate) I am insulted by the term Tad created. It proves just how little he knows (or knew at the time) about polyamorous relationships.

If we bloggers want credibility, we simply must do our homework instead of relying on false assumptions. What I'm really wondering is whether Tad has the credibility to approve this comment and apologize for his offensive statements here. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

So many people lie & cheat. I refuse to do that. I have had people that I love (still to this day) walk out of my life because I told them I am polyamorous. Those same people would later ruin their relationships by cheating. I would never cheat. Cheating is going behind your partners back, lying, concealing your true desires. So many people look at us as Amoral, but they're hypocrites. My morals don't allow me to lie and go behind my husband's back. My husband and our partner love each other completely, openly, and honestly so people can cringe all they want & preach about "family values" but the truth is they're jealous & shallow. They go out & have affairs rather than being honest because they WANT to be with other people while staying up on their high horse & they don't want their partner to be with anyone else.

Anonymous said...

@ Marti Abernathey - "I find it odd how parents can love more than one child, and a child can love more than one parent, but loving more than one partner is so odd?"

The common western pattern (or story) for romantic monogamous love goes: philia -> eros -> agape -> storge

This is basically me saying that: in a common western relationship we start off as friends, develop intimacy, become romantically and deeply in adoration and eventually (after the honeymoon) we have to put up with each others crap until we die (if we last that long).
I'm also saying that this is a story - a socially constructed archetypal idea of typical love processes. I'm not saying that its a pattern everybody follows, just that it is a pattern which is common knowledge to the psyche.

By contrast the common western family story is one of agape -> storge -> agape -> storge -> agape and so on.
This is me saying that in biological kinship we basically assume that love is necessary and we understand that it goes in cycles where sometimes your happy sometimes your not but your always a family.

Now, here is the reason why i responded to your quote. If we break up with a wife or husband it is, in most cases, different from if the typical child 'breaks up' with the parent. The romantic couple who break up are no longer considered 'in love.' They are no longer socially obligated to look after each other and care deeply for one another. IN FACT, the whole idea of a break up rests on the idea that in romantic love we CHOOSE who we wish to be OBLIGATED towards. In family, on the other hand, we are all familiar with the idea that you CANNOT choose your kin. We also know that 'blood is thicker than water.' Romantic lovers are not blood related.

Note that I am not arguing for biological determinism here - I am just saying that we often consider, by virtue of blood relation, that family is something unavoidable in obligation.

So, usually romantic love is a choice that is constantly re-evaluated, and family love is not. Furthermore, we do not practice eros in family love. In the west, a big part of this love choice in romance is 1) the presence of strong eros, and 2) the abundance of agape over storge.

I would argue that the difference between Storge and Agape is more important to us in romantic love than monogamy and polyamory. I think that, often, when we are polyamorous it is a fear of storge, and when we are monogamous it is a fear of storge being the end of a relationship.

The key element is choice, and you do not choose your family members. This is why family love, (or even arranged love) is different to romantic love.

Anonymous said...

"...people can cringe all they want & preach about "family values" but the truth is they're jealous & shallow. They go out & have affairs rather than being honest because they WANT to be with other people while staying up on their high horse & they don't want their partner to be with anyone else."

This is not true for all or even most monogamous relationships. Not everyone in happy monogamous relationships cheats, has affairs, or wants someone other than their loved ONE. We're not all hypocrites. Some of us actually enjoy giving our full selves to one person, loving them, learning how please them intimately, and having them do the same for us. My opinion is that having to spread your love out over multiple partners waters it down, seeking sexual satisfaction from multiple people simply points to commitment issues, and by taking on other partners you're saying "you alone are not good enough for me." You seem like you're doing the same thing you accuse us of by seeing your way of life as so much better, so maybe you're the one who needs to get down off your high horse.

santanisme said...

I don't really get all this commotion. It's like a game here who is best and who is right, lets think for ones there is no absolute wrong or right. Just the opinion of you and 'the society'. You have your opinion, others have their opinion. If no one is doing harmful things too someone else (without consent) then why would you care so much? Trying to force your opinion and standards to someone is better than respect and accept not everyone is like you? Monogamous is not better or worse than polyamory, it's just different that's all. Just like we all are, embrace the fact that we are different and live how you please, rather than others think how you should live. Wouldn't the world be deadly boring if we were all just the same?

Unknown said...

I agree wholeheartedly and appreciate your perspective on this complicated topic. I think it depends in where you're at in your life, relationship(s), and emotional development. Personally, I was in a monogamous relationship with the same husband for over 20 years. We are still together (happily) but have "opened" things up a bit. It's working well right now, is honest & open, and we're closer than we've ever been. If we go back to monogamy one day remains to be seen. Thank you for sharing everyone.