Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

What do you think of these two advice columns regarding non-monogamous relationships?

Asked by nikipedia (27300 points ) February 6th, 2012

I recently came across two advice columns that addressed non-monogamous relationships in a way I found surprising.

The first column involved a couple who were friends with another couple. The latter decided to (apparently) include a third person in the relationship, and the former thought this was disgusting and didn’t want to spend time with them anymore. The advice columnist, Carolyn Hax, wasn’t sure how to advise them and turned the question over to the readers.

In the second column, a man’s ex-wife was remarrying, and it turned out the man she was marrying was a polygamist with multiple wives and children with all of them. The writer was deeply concerned about his children living in a polygamous household, and the advice columnist suggested he contact the courts to try to get full custody, and went on to say that “bringing your kids to live in a polygamist community is wrong. Totally, utterly wrong.”

What do you think about these two situations?

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19 Answers

marinelife's avatar

In the case of the first situation, if the couple is grossed out by the addition of a third member to the relationship, then it is probably the end of the friendship. They owe it to their former friends to tell them how they feel. It would perhaps be possible for them to see the original friends on an individual basis if they were willing, but I would assume that it was the end of the friendship. As to how I feel about it, I feel that it is a personal decision for the couple that added the third party, but they can’t expect all of their friends to accept it.

The second situation is different. I would have some real concerns about the children. A lot of the purpose of polygamy is to father lots of children. It is not at all clear that a polygamist would want to house and feed the children of another man. In fact, there are instances of young males being driven out of polygamist communities to avoid their competing for females. I would really fear for these children.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know about prudes, but the first couple sounds like they leap to conclusions as if leaping off a sinking lily pad. I think they need more information before they make any judgments.

In the second case, I’d like to know why the advice columnist thinks that living in a community where the female heads of household are all related to one man via a sexual relationship bad for the kids. Again, I don’t know what the community is like. I’m not leaping to conclusions. I don’t even know if they are doing anything illegal. Is he married to more than one woman?

Coloma's avatar

It’s all about individual preference, and while it is true we often fear what we do not understand/ goes against our conditioning, I do have a bit of trouble with involving children who are unable to make their own choices. I dated a guy once that involved his kids in a naturist community and then complained that some pervy older guy was attempting to “get to know” his 12 yr. old daughter better. Gag!
I was fine with him playing naked volleyball, but, when he told me this little tidbit it crossed a BIG line for me. Really? You let your little pubescent daughter run around naked in a nudist community and you are SURPRISED that a pedophile comes out of the woodwork?

I believe that naturist communities are fine, HOWEVER, I also believe they are a perfect ruse for perverts and pedophiles. Strip at your own risk.

Children do not have a voice in their parents shennanigans and lifestyle choices and this can pose a lot of potential problems IMO.

zenvelo's avatar

In the second situation, the children will be taught that women are secondary to the primacy of the man in a polygamous arrangement, and that this is the paradigm. Just for their own growth I believe children shouldn’t be introduced to such a situation.

In the first, the one couple has made a choice, and if it offends their friends, that is their choice. And the person who doesn’t like it should cut the relationship. But that is about the extent of the issue, and really isn’t anyone’s business beyond that point.

jca's avatar

I think what couples do amongst themselves is their business. As long as both of them are happy with the arrangement(s), then all’s well. If their friends don’t accept it, then those friend are apparently not for them (and vice versa).

In the second scenario, I thought of my daughter. I thought of polygamist communities that we read about and hear about in the news: older men taking brides that are still adolescents, and I thought that I would not want her exposed to that or being at risk of that. Call me ignorant, call me paranoid, but when it comes to my child’s safety, that’s number one.

6rant6's avatar

This is all social context stuff. If it were accepted and widely practiced, it would seem natural. Sometimes it would work out well for the participants and sometimes it wouldn’t, depending on implementation, etc.

The polygamy in particular draws fire because the way it tends to be implemented is so male-centric that feminists respond on that level. I can’t see social implications beyond the obvious – that more males have trouble getting a date if there’s a lot of it going on.

We all tend to think it’s bad for our children to be raised in environments with social structures hugely different than those we were raised in. Mixed marriages, homosexual parents, stay at home dads have all taken more than a generation to become provisionally acceptable. If these kinds of arrangements became common place (and public) I imagine in a generation they would seem… well… commonplace.

jca's avatar

@6rant6: Agreed, but I think mixed marriages, homosexual parents and stay at home dads are a bit different than marriages where 50 year old men marry 13 year old girls.

6rant6's avatar

@jca In this culture yes, but not everywhere in the world. These things are culturally defined. No amount of revulsion on your part, or the part of the people you live among is proof that they are hurtful or immoral.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not a proponent of this kind of age disparity. But it has worked in other parts of the world for a long time.

Also, you are taking one of the more unpleasant aspects of polygamy and painting all participants as if they were the same. It’s a bit like saying there are parents who beat their children so no one should be allowed to have children. In fact, what makes sense is to forbid parents beating children. And to conform to society, it may be necessary to prevent marriage between 50 year olds and 13 year olds, without regard to their being the only wife or the tenth.

jca's avatar

@6rant6: I think in this country, marriages between 13 year olds and 50 year olds are not allowed (I think, I could definitely be wrong. Anybody care to enlighten me?) but yet they do happen – as in the cases of recently prosecuted men like Warren Jeffs and some others that we learn have married young, terrified girls.

I don’t think it’s like saying some parents beat their children so nobody should be allowed to have children. I think it’s more like saying if if someone believes it’s ok for children to get married, their children just might end up married. I think it’s more like saying if there’s one teeny tiny chance that my child will be at risk of harm, it’s too much of a chance for me to take. I’m not sure if you’re a parent, but even if, like you say, no amount of revulsion on my part is proof that they are hurtful or immoral, I would not want my child at risk of marrying someone much older. Like I said in my original post, “call me ignorant, call me paranoid, but when it comes to my child’s safety, that’s number one.” Period. End of story. Just my opinion (and probably the opinion of many parents).

HungryGuy's avatar

I think it’s a matter of culture. If it’s treated as culturally normal, the kids wouldn’t think anything unusual at all about it. It’s only when everybody on the outside starts pointing fingers and shouting “Weirdos!” that the kids get an effed up perception of what’s happening.

Coloma's avatar

I was watching a Nat. Geo. Doc. the other night and this anthropologist was given a 10 yr. old girl as a wife in a remote tribe he was studying in the amazon. He eventually took this girl back stateside and they had 3 children, much to the disapproval of his colleagues. They returned to her tribe once, and she wanted to stay, missed her family. She eventually returned leaving her children behind because he refused to send them back to the forest.

So sad.
I think this guy was a 1st class ass. Talk about exploitation and capitalizing on a vulnerable human. Bah!

6rant6's avatar

@Jca, but polygamy is not the issue you are concerned about. It’s young girls marrying old men. Would you prevent gay marriage or interracial marriage to stop those marriages? No, you don’t need to. And you don’t need to attack polygamy either.

You’re talking about cases where they broke the law and went to jail. That’s the way it works. That’s how society keeps people in line.

The analogy you didn’t like I made for one purpose: to show you that you need to outlaw (and prosecute) the thing that’s wrong, not outlaw something that is sometimes related but is not necessarily.

6rant6's avatar

@coloma That is just so far out of my experience, I can’t even imagine what the hell was going on. Bizarre. Why did they give him the child?

Coloma's avatar

@6rant6 I don’t really know, they skimmed over the details, but, clearly, he was wielding some sort of power and given the fact this was a child/ then young women of little modern day savvy, well…?

6rant6's avatar

@Coloma I suppose it’s possible that they felt sorry for him, and didn’t see it as strange to provide someone for him who could cook and take care of his hammock or whatnot. I think we pretty quickly jump to the assumption that a wife is primarily a sexual partner. Maybe she didn’t start out that way. Man, someone gave me a ten year old, that’s the last thing I’d want! But if she knew how to cook monkey on a spit – that could be nice.

jca's avatar

@6rant6: Not sure if you’re a parent, but I am betting a lot of parents would agree. Whether or not you agree or they agree, it’s my opinion and that’s just how I feel. When it comes to my child, no ifs, ands or buts.

6rant6's avatar

@JCA I don’t think you’re hearing me. Sex between consenting adults is their business not society’s. Marriage between consenting adults I believe is the same. The sex, ages and number of participants is up to them.

Sex between adults and children is society’s business. Society has the responsibility to say no to things that harm the child. It does not matter if they are married. It’s irrational to blame polygamy. We know that under the guise of religious orthodoxy, old men sometimes make sexual advances on children. It’s wrong. But is has nothing to do with polygamy; if the parents allow sex to happen, they are culpable. And so is society if we let it happen.

jca's avatar

@6rant6: I don’t think you are understanding me. As a parent, it is my job to protect my child. Whether or not society does the task, I have to do it to the best of my ability. In the second scenario listed by the OP, the parent was not comfortable having her child live with polygamists. I would not be comfortable with that either. The parent is the first and sometimes only layer of protection between the child and the world. In my opinion, I would not be comfortable having my child live with polygamists. I don’t give a fuck about other societies, what’s ok in other places around the world, what has to do with polygamy and what does not. I would not be comfortable with it. Period. PERIOD.

6rant6's avatar

@jca Sorry, I did misunderstand. You’re right, it’s up to the parent to protect the kids. I can understand you being uncomfortable thinking about your kids being in any unfamiliar environment such as polygamy. I mean, we both know that there are parents who wouldn’t want their kids in a Catholic family, or a mixed race household, or a household where they smoke pot. Still, that’s not the main thing. That would be whether the environment is actually harmful to the child. And I think it’s rather knee jerk to say that an environment containing polygamy is harmful.

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