Social Question

barumonkey's avatar

What are your thoughts on polyamory?

Asked by barumonkey (1069 points ) July 29th, 2009

Polyamory is the practice of having more than one loving, intimate, stable relationship at a time with the full knowledge and free consent of everyone involved, sometimes described as consensual, ethical, or responsible non-monogamy.

Polyamory (as opposed to polygamy) is a more modern outlook, grounded in such concepts as gender equality, self-determination, free choice for all involved, mutual trust, equal respect among partners, the value of love, the ideal of compersion, and other mostly secular ideals.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory)

If you’re interested in reading more, Newsweek just published an article about it (http://www.newsweek.com/id/209164).

I, for one, am in a committed relationship with someone (2 years now and going strong!). that person is married, and their spouse is also dating someone else. While there are difficulties, there aren’t really more than in traditional relationships, and we are all very happy with the arrangement.
What’s your take on this?

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64 Answers

Quagmire's avatar

It sounds like it’s the same as having sex buddies and I think, assuming all parties have the same mindset, that it’s great for those who like it (like ME!!!)

barumonkey's avatar

@Quagmire: That’s a common misconception; if you read the description more closely, you would see that it’s about stable, loving relationships that are just like traditional relationships except for the fact that they happen to overlap.

casheroo's avatar

I have strong views on it for my own personal life, but think it’s fine for others to participate in.

Likeradar's avatar

It’s fine by me if it works for the adults involved.

I have some interesting second-hand knowledge about the subject… it’s gonna be interesting to see what people say about this.

Jenniehowell's avatar

Well first if someone disagrees with it they should not hinder the freedoms of those who do in any way legally via voting etc. Inequality is offensive.
Second, the only issues I could foresee with it is if either of the parties involved behaved within the ‘sex buddy’ misperception & therefore did not afford respect for all parties involved on the same level they would in a ‘traditional’ primary relationship. Everyone is in a relationship not just screwing. Also, another potential issue is economic. I personally do not believe in bringing another partner into my relationship unless I can afford the courting process, gifting &/or to support the new partner if needed without reducing the amenities I currently enjoy. For me as long as the respect & economic conditions are met I don’t see an issue.

Facade's avatar

I don’t agree with it

Likeradar's avatar

@Facade You mean it’s not something you would do, or not something that should be done in general?

aprilsimnel's avatar

I have no feelings about it one way or the other with regards to people who are in such relationships, but I have no interest in being in that kind of relationship myself.

girlofscience's avatar

I think it is OK to date and sleep with multiple people at once if none of the relationships are committed.

I think it is NOT OK to date and sleep with multiple people if in a relationship that has been deemed monogamous.

I think it is OK to date and sleep with multiple people if both partners of a relationship would prefer it that way and are completely honest with each other.

Facade's avatar

@Likeradar I don’t think it should be done in general

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

It’s not for me. I feel that it creates inequities in the relationships.

Likeradar's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic How so?

My parents are polyamorous. My mom has a boyfriend, and my dad has a girlfriend who has a husband, and the husband as a girlfriend… I’m not sure how far the chain goes. :) My mom and dad are each others primary relationship, and have zero intention of separating.
My folks have been married for over 30 years, and according to my mom they’ve never been happier.
At this point in my life I don’t see it as something I would want as a part of my marriage, but who knows what I’ll want in the future.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

If it works for the people involved, great. Personally, I don’t see how it could work long-term, but hey, whatever floats your boat. Just because I don’t see how it would work over a long period of time doesn’t mean I am against it.

The one thing about it is that if it does work for certain folks, other people shouldn’t try to impose their strict morals upon the relationship. Especially the government, which should get out of the regulating morality bidness all together. As for the religious folks, well, most of those people are hypocrites, if the preachers and politicians lately are any indication.

The dynamic of a loving relationship will always be evolving; those people that espouse “marriage is between one man and one woman” should just mind their own fucking business. If they don’t perhaps we should remove their tax excempt status.

I’m tired of people with special rights trying to tell everyone else how to live, and more importantly, who to love.

cwilbur's avatar

I know people who are in polyamorous relationships. For some of them, it works really well; for others, it’s one continuous trainwreck.

I don’t have any objections to it on principle, but the people involved in it need to be stable, self-aware, and good at communication for a polyamorous relationship to work. Usually the trainwrecks start when someone isn’t happy with the status quo and decides to fix it by adding more people to the relationship. This never works, but it usually changes the status quo enough to keep the relationship lurching along.

So I think that the people with the self-awareness and communication skills to make it work are few and far between, but I don’t see any reason to stand in the way of people trying. People should be allowed to make their own mistakes, because sometimes they aren’t mistakes.

nikipedia's avatar

I’m curious about it. I don’t see anything really special or great about monogamy. And cheating is so prevalent that I’m not convinced people, as a group, are capable of monogamy. Polyamory seems like a good alternative, but I worry that it’s a lot like communism—only good in theory.

I discussed this as a possibility with an ex-boyfriend. He wanted to get back together and I didn’t feel like I could really commit to him. He said it might be okay with him if he was my primary person and I saw other people. I don’t know if I could make a similar offer. Jealousy seems like a tricky thing to get rid of.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@nikipedia a wise man once said that the idea of multiple partners sounds like a good one, until you have penetration; as there is something about having one person’s body part inside of another person that gets the jealousy monster to raise its ugly green head. Might be a long-winded way of saying sex complicates otherwise normal relationships.

Life is about choices, your results may vary.

PupnTaco's avatar

I have no issue with this as long as no one is hurt, especially kids. Sexual identity and feelings are mysterious beasts; we can’t always control or explain them – they are what they are. Acceptance and self-honesty trump societal conventions any day of the week.

Lightlyseared's avatar

It sounds like fun but it’s probably hard work.

augustlan's avatar

I think it’s perfectly fine if all the adults involved are happy with the arrangement. If one is in a primary relationship, the additions should be seen as the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

barumonkey's avatar

@augustlan: What if all the adults involved are happy with an arrangement of multiple cakes per person?

augustlan's avatar

@barumonkey That’s fine too, if all relationships are equal. I just meant if you have one that is your primary concern, the others are the icing. :)

wundayatta's avatar

How do you get over jealousy? I guess if it’s a fear of losing someone—you can get over that with good communication and trust. However, if the jealousy is a visceral, instinctive thing, having to do with a sense of ownership of your partner, I don’t see how you can get past that. Anyone have any ideas?

barumonkey's avatar

@daloon: I have been blessed with an underdeveloped sense of jealousy, which I imagine is true for many of the people for whom poly is a viable lifestyle. It’s definitely there, though, and even people who get jealous easily can still make it work.

One way is through rules. If the person experiencing the jealousy figures out exactly what is causing it, and asks their partner to avoid bringing that up, it can be avoided. For example, someone might only get upset if they are able to hear intimate sounds, or if the act is done in their same bed, or if their partner’s partner is someone of their own gender. Every relationship is different, and they need to be treated that way.

For more tips, I suggest picking up a book on the subject, such as The Ethical Slut.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s just hard for my mind to wrap itself around the idea that someone else would be fucking my wife. I think we both have a sense of ownership or belonging to each other, but that has it’s limits. I know I love her and am loyal to her, but if I sleep with someone else, she doesn’t believe that. It’s hard for her to trust me if I do that. I have no idea how I would feel if she did something similar. I know in the past I’ve seen it as a sign of disloyalty if my primary partner does it.

I think it’s that I have no idea what kind of relationship she would be having. Could she come to love him more? Would she gradually prefer to make love to him more? Would she have enough time for me? I don’t know. I think these are mostly “what does it mean” questions, and I think these kinds of questions are not really answerable—at least, not for more than a minute or two.

tinyfaery's avatar

I see no problem with it. My wife and I often joke that we should get a husband to take care of us so we can spend more time together. So far we’ve decided on George Clooney. Anyone got his number?

barumonkey's avatar

@tinyfaery: 555–867-5309

Likeradar's avatar

@daloon “I think it’s that I have no idea what kind of relationship she would be having. ”

From what I know of polyamory second-handed, it’s all about communication, communication, communication. There are polyamory support groups, where people can talk about their concerns and feelings. In my parents’ situation, my dad and my mom’s guy were decent friends. They used to hike together and I assume, talk and talk and talk.

RachelZ's avatar

No! Absolutely NOT!..

My body is for my husband only vice versa… what happened to everyones morals?

PupnTaco's avatar

They may not match yours exactly is what happened to them.

RachelZ's avatar

they have nothing to match… they have nothing… they have a lack!

Likeradar's avatar

edited by me because people who make those kinds of statements don’t need much help being unlikable

barumonkey's avatar

@RachelZ: There are many cultures in which this is perfectly morally acceptable. It just so happens that yours is not one of them.

Values learned in one’s childhood can sometimes be very difficult, if not impossible, to change, so I understand your lack of acknowledgment of polyamory as having a chance of being morally acceptable.

But imagine, for example, that you had never heard of the Catholic Christian practice of Holy Communion, in which a wafer of bread literally becomes the body of Jesus Christ, to be consumed by everyone in attendance. To an outsider, this might look like ritualized human sacrifice and cannibalism! But to those who believe and practice it, it is a deeply spiritual, completely moral event.

Side note: It’s not just the body that gets shared, it’s the heart, mind, and soul too.

barumonkey's avatar

@Likeradar: Not necessarily—if a decision I make puts myself or others at risk (physically, emotionally, or otherwise), it is certainly open to criticism.

Constructive criticism is better than outright contradiction without explanation, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.

Likeradar's avatar

@barumonkey Questioning why someone would chose this lifestyle and saying it’s not for them is one thing. Declaring that people who partake in a victimless activity have no morals is another thing all together. A lame, judgmental, shameful, laughable thing, imho.

PupnTaco's avatar

edit: eh never mind

casheroo's avatar

I had a question about this, and figured this would be a good place to ask…so polyamory is not when you just are dating multiple people, right? Dating to me means casually sleeping with them, not serious yet. Or is it when a married couple includes others in their marriage? And it’s only polygamy when a married person marries another? So it starts out as polyamory?

PupnTaco's avatar

Polygamy = more than one wife. From what I’ve read, “Polyamory” is defined as open and agreed-to inclusion of more than one in an intimate loving relationship. It can take a hundred different forms. In the US, there is no inclusion in a marriage – illegal.

cwilbur's avatar

@casheroo: It depends on how seriously you take things. If you’re in a serious relationship with two different people at the same time, it’s polyamory. If you’re just casually dating or friends with benefits, not so much.

Generally marriage is a sign of a serious relationship, but not universally; and the lack of a marriage does not mean the relationship is not serious.

“Polyamory” is an umbrella term that covers a lot of relationship structures. Underneath it you also have “polyfidelity,” which is when you have a group of people who are mutually faithful, a closed group. If the legal system of the society supports it, you also have polygamy—multiple legal wives—or polyandry—multiple legal husbands.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’ve seen it attempted several times in my life but never seen it succeed.

casheroo's avatar

@cwilbur Thank you :) I wasn’t sure if it was a blanket term for having multiple partners. I understand better now.

filmfann's avatar

I have several friends who do this. They will talk about a friend who is in their mucas group, and my stomach turns. They all also have trouble with long term relationships.
It’s not for me.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Another thing I thought I’d add since I’ve known people like this since childhood, it’s often a cover lifestyle for sex addicts in denial who are afraid to admit they’re incapable of an exclusive monogamous relationship- they work pretty hard to find others.

wundayatta's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence Your last comment is filled with value judgments that seem based on societal norms, but that I have to question. Is an exclusive monogamous relationship the only thing that brings someone happiness? What is a sex addiction?

It seems to me that it is just as easy to say that people who only have monogamous relationships are in denial because they can’t handle multiple relationships. They are sexually frigid. It’s a cover lifestyle for people who are unable to form strong bonds with more than one person.

I’d hate to make such judgments, one way or the other. I think there are problems with both models. My psychiatrist, who is pretty eminent in the field, says he has no idea what a “sex addiction” is. It’s a popular term, but it may well be meaningless, and even if it means something, it seems impossible to put boundaries where a normal behavior turns into a pathology.

People may be seeking complexity instead of running away from exlusivity. People may seek out sexual variety, instead of letting things get tired with one person, as they so often do. They may be seeking a way out of their lives of quiet desperation. People might use a sexual connection as a way to cement a friendship (while not everyone I’ve had sex with has remained a friend, everyone who has remained a friend for a long time is someone I’ve made love to). But hey, I’m crazy, and I certainly don’t seem to fit in with societal norms, so I’m probably wrong and misguided—at least as far as most people are concerned.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@daloon: I just stated an actual observation from my own experiences. I myself am a serial monogamist, I haven’t yet pulled off a relationship with one person for more than a 7yr stretch but it’s my own preference. Don’t believe the current societal “norm” is but 3–5yrs, everyone’s on their own to make what works for them. I’m not really judging here just saying what I’ve known and seen, I don’t know you or what you’re about so don’t take this to your particular heart, okay.

wundayatta's avatar

@hungryhungryhortence I’m not taking it to heart. I’m not in a situation where I have to think about polyamory. I’m just suggesting that we should question accepted norms. They aren’t always based on a good analysis of the situation. They are often the detritus left by a history that has long been irrelevant.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@daloon: Sorry, I’m pretty played out on questioning societal norms having been raised by and around some pretty radical folks. A lot of this stuff is redundant and tiresome to me.

wundayatta's avatar

No problem.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

if everyone’s okay with it, why not? besides, it isn’t harming anyone (unless, of course, someone’s not as happy with the idea as they claim…).
whatever works for them.

Jenniehowell's avatar

Morals when we include all cultures & religions instead of just one religion or group such as Christianity come down to one factor & that is how do we treat one another? With that in mind polyamory does not qualify as immoral unless people are not being treated with equal respect within their particular roles in the unit.
Jealousy in our hearts/minds has nothing to do with anyone other than our own self. If we are insecure & emotionally immature we are usually either jealous even in monogomy when our partner is behaving honorably or we are attracting/dating people who are cheaters consistently making our self worth become a reality. So if emotionally mature it shoul not be a factor with regards to poly relationships.
Religiously speaking (Christianity specifically) traditional marriage first includes an inequality where mo matter how respected or spectacularly treated the woman is she is still held in a lesser position than the man if biblical law is followed. In addition back in the days we commonly refer to as ‘biblical times’ almost every cultural group had ONE WIFE but legally had slaves & concubines with whom they bred & in some cases head of household men/authority figures in the community even had boy servants for the sole purpose of getting jiggy – too many people expect something called ‘traditional marriage’ without having researched history to see what that even means. It is always the least knowledgable & most uninformed whose fears take them over causing significant outward judgement toward others. Grown intelligent people understand that conrolling the worlds of others does not make your own better as much as it puts you in a sheltered prison.

filmfann's avatar

@Jenniehowell welcome to Fluther. Lurve.
And outstanding on your post!

RachelZ's avatar

I still SAY NO!! ... narrow is the road obviously… :)

Meribast's avatar

When you say “intimate” I’m assuming you’re using the connotative meaning rather than the denotative one.

In the context of a marriage, I believe it erodes (at the very minimum) what I see as the purpose of marriage, but I guess there can be various levels of commitment and most of them are not absolute.

Polyamory literally means many loves, whereas polygamy means many marriages.

I think in a general sense one can have many loves and each relationship can be of different kinds of love. I don’t believe that one should limit one’s self in loving only one person, but with having sex with many others, why not just be single and live together?

barumonkey's avatar

@Meribast: Because she was already married before I met her.

Likeradar's avatar

@Meribast “why not just be single and live together?”

I can’t speak from personal experience or for everyone, but this is what I understand from my parents: They were married for many years before deciding to open their relationship. They remain married because they are true partners in the adventure of life, they love each other, they are best friends, they have a family and financial life together. Their marriage is just like any other (although I know they’re all different) aside from the “forsaking all others” bit.

Zen's avatar

Nothing good could ever come of it. Sorry, that’s what I think. However, to each his own.

barumonkey's avatar

@Zen: “Nothing” and “ever” are probably stronger words than you wanted to use. There have already been very many completely successful, loving, multi-partner relationships.

Zen's avatar

@barumonkey It’s an expression. As such, the words aren’t stronger or weaker than any others. I object to the idea, I don’t think it’s a positive thing – therefore, I don’t think anything good could come of it. Liberal as I am, I guess I have a conservative streak when it comes to monogamy. I don’t know what you’d call that in the States: it’s just how I feel. Having said that: I don’t care if someone practices it, and I wouldn’t want to try to change them or persuade them otherwise. It’s not a religious thing: I just don’t like it.

Lorenita's avatar

I wouldn’t do it..

justme1's avatar

Sounds fine to me, I believe if everyone is ok with it then there is nothing wrong. It is what the individuals involved want, I have been told by my fiance that if I meet someone and they make me happy the same way he does and want to have a relationship with both that is fine as long as he doesn’t get less attention or is treated different by me, I feel the same thing for him. As long as we are completely honest with each other about what we want and feel and do then we don’t have too many issues, just the normal things.

filmfann's avatar

@justme1 Welcome to Fluther. Lurve.

Lorenita's avatar

@justme1 : WOW..I couldn’t do it.. I would be incredibly jaleous, no way .. what’s mine is mine only. =)

borderline_blonde's avatar

Been there, done that. Conclusion? Bad idea. While it sounds good in principle, jealousy is an all too human trait which eventually causes hearts to break. Furthermore, since (for most people) it’s an entirely new situation, it’s difficult to predict just how you’ll react to it when you’re in it – because again, it logically does sound so good. But alas… people are emotional beings. Best to stick to one-night threesomes ;)

MarcoNJ's avatar

When it’s good, it’s great. Of course you’ll experience jealousy and forced to deal with insecurities. Anyone involved a serious Polyamorous relationship and says they don’t is a friggin liar. And to those who assume it revolves around sex….wrong. There’s lots of easier ways to get sex outside of your relationship. Swinging? Cheating?

Polyamory can be every bit as passionate and fun as any Monogamous relationship but it definitely requires an open mind and willingness to resolve issues as they come. Like Monogamy…. the intent is love, devotion and happiness. It’s not for everybody, that’s for damn sure.

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