Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

What does monogamy add to your relationships?

Asked by nikipedia (27497points) May 26th, 2011

I have been interested in non-monogamous relationships for a while. In Western culture, these are an aberration.

I’m interested in hearing what you feel monogamy adds to your relationships. Please think about what monogamy actually means, though. I think most people assume that exclusivity and commitment are synonymous, and they are not. I am NOT asking about a situation that involves many casual relationships: I am interested in comparing a serious, loving, committed polyamorous relationship (or several of them) with a serious, loving, committed, monogamous relationship.

Do you think that monogamy creates a bond that polyamory jeopardizes? Do you think monogamous relationships are more meaningful, and if so, why? Or do you think monogamy is just a byproduct of jealousy, and it doesn’t add anything positive to your relationships?

In practical terms, monogamy reduces the risk of STDs and issues of paternity, but these are manageable risks (that are also risks of serial monogamy).

And, ok, I know I already said this, but let me reiterate: if you think that polyamorous relationships cannot be serious, cannot be meaningful, cannot be committed, then you are misunderstanding the question. Please think carefully before you answer, or send me a message and I’ll try to clarify more.

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72 Answers

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I don’t believe monogamy creates or adds anything between a couple they don’t already feel or possess, it’s about sharing with just one other. It’s a conscious choice of where to spend your time and who with. For me, I don’t believe emotionally I could spread myself out in such an intimate way to having a full on relationship with more than one other human. For me, it would be exhausting and I know I’d be shortchanging someone, myself too because I wouldn’t be accepting all just one person wanted to share with me- I wouldn’t have the time and/or attention available for them.

thorninmud's avatar

I’m about as monogamous as they come. I’ve never had a relationship with anyone other than my wife of 29 years. Maybe I shouldn’t even be answering this question because it’s difficult for me to imagine polyamory. It’s not that I don’t understand how one could develop feelings for someone outside one’s committed relationship; I’ve seen how it begins, but I’ve always understood that it would inevitably lead to the end of my relationship and the beginning of loads of pain for many people I care deeply about. So I scrupulously avoid it.

Maybe polyamory could work for certain people. I don’t really have any principled objections to it. But here’s why I think monogamy has been indispensable for us, and probably many others: A long-term relationship has loads of rough patches. There are times when it’s really hard to make it work. In those rough patches, my wife has always known that I don’t have a plan “B” that I might be thinking about implementing. And I know the same about her. There’s a degree of confidence that comes with that. She knows, and rightly so, that I’m invested exclusively in making this particular relationship work.

For the particular person I married, I know that it couldn’t be any other way. I understood that from the beginning, and I’m happy to live by those terms.

Seelix's avatar

Time, I suppose.

I can’t see myself being involved in a polyamorous relationship, and I’m likely affected by our Western norms in that. I don’t know anyone who’s in a polyamorous relationship, but I can imagine, similar to what @Neizvestnaya says, that not everyone involved would be satisfied with the amount of time available to spend with one’s partners. But then, that’s influenced by our norms as well. I suppose that if one had only been in polyamorous relationships, what we consider to be a reasonable amount of time to spend with one’s partner might seem like overkill.

Personally, I think monogamy allows for a stronger bond between two people than polyamory would.

cazzie's avatar

Well, he travels the world and I can only hope he’s not screwing anything that is presented, but I have no idea really. So… for me… I hope he isn’t doing that and he is monogamous, so that I don’t end up with some damn stupid mother…... disease. We are meant to be monogamous, like I said… so I’m hoping. It’s a disease thing. Emotionally…. well screw that… long gone.

tinyfaery's avatar


Monogamy never even comes up in our relationship. Our vows didn’t even include being monogamous. However, non-monogamy never comes up either.

We choose to be with each other and deny each other nothing. Maybe one day it will come up. We’ll deal with that when it comes, together.

Monogamy, to me, is about possession, as if someone belongs to you and you have exclusive rights to their body. I want nothing to do with that.

In the age of DNA testing it’s just ridiculous to use knowing paternity to support a culture of monogamy.

Aethelwine's avatar

Monogamy adds comfort, security, and a strong bond to our relationship. It also includes one babydaddy to my children.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think it’s about depth really.

I put a lot of time and effort into my relationship, into our space and assorted stuff, into our combined plans. I don’t think I have enough left to do that again with someone else. She’s there when I wake up and there when I go to bed. I love and care for other people in my life, but she probably gets 70–80% of my time and affection.

Could I have 2–3 shallower relationships? Maybe. But I wouldn’t trade the one I have for those.

I think there’s a theoretical relationship that would involve more people all together living the same collective life with the same goals. With perfect people it may be possible, but I think relationships are probably the one thing that makes us the least logical (or the craziest, however you want to look at it). The more people that are involved, the more likely someone is going to get hurt, angry, tired, bored, or any of the other things that break people up. I don’t know that you can maintain that level of commitment to multiple people without at some point comparing them.

I’ve met some folks that are very successful having a “primary” relationship and then having others that come and go. They get the one person that’s central to their life without feeling limited in their options. If you can keep everyone happy, this seems like the best of both worlds. You have to find people that can handle that level of honesty.

So is it possible to have multiple people that you love and have a good relationship with? absolutely. Does every monogamous relationship have more depth than every polyamorous relationship? No way.

But I think if you found a way to do both right, you’d find more depth and connection possible in the monogamous relationship just because you have everything to give rather than starting with a smaller slice.

JLeslie's avatar

I think there are probably positives and negatives of both polygamy and monogamy. For this question I am assuming we are not talking about just sex with some outside person, but someone who is brought in and loved by both the husband and existing wife or wives (I am going to assume multiple wives, not husbands. I am using wife and husbands for shorthand I understand it could be SO’s unmarried). If everyone is equal and loved, I can see how women might like to help each other with responsibilities, or be able to pursue a career while one of the other wives stays home with the children if they prefer. Another adult means more freedom for each adult in some ways.

But, with each person added, it is time away from someone. If one of the women is having some sexual problems, what is the incentive to get things back on track and work through things if he can just have sex with the other one? Or, not even sex, just tension in the couple, spend more time with another spouse and avoid instead of fix. I think when everyone is young it might seem ok, but then as someone gets sick or just older, they might be cared for by the sister wives, but ignored by the husband. At least, that is how I think it might go.

My experience is men suck at seeing two women, forget more. They are distracted and emotionally unavailable.

Most cultures that have poligamy are very macho cultures, women are expendable. They are fun at first, then they become mothers, and then they are mothers, and onto the next for more fun. In monogamy I think there is more chance the people feel very bonded. Bonded in a way like no other relationship in their lives. It is not just the sex, it is the experience over time that only you two know as a couple.

Cruiser's avatar

Monogamy allows for focus on the relationship. Attention to another would only take away that dynamic of trust between you and your S/O and show a huge lack of respect to your promise and commitment to them. Plus why take the risk of getting cooties or a rash?? ;)

josie's avatar

I will take this opportunity to confess that for a lot of my adult life, I did not think much of monogamy and so I did not practice it.
Some of this has to do with age of course. Once upon a time I though blowing stuff up and shooting devastating weapons at the enemies of the civilized world was a cool thing too. Now, not so much.
Being married to the a woman who could have won the American Moron Idol contest did not help.
But I am older now, and have been involved with an amazing woman and my attitude has completely changed.

And here is the difference and here is what monogamy has done for me and for this inspiring relationship. The difference is respect, and the selfish difference is self respect. I can not help but respect a woman who leaves one of the female-oppressing countries in the Middle East and comes to the US for at least a chance at self improvement. Becomes educated and is now a doctor.

That whole evolution commands so much respect from me that I could not imagine betraying her confidence in me, and her affection for me. It is not unlike military leadership. A good leader commands (not demands) respect, and men will follow that simply to avoid the shame of betraying that respect.

And regarding self respect…. What kind of guy would I be if, knowing her confidence in my respect and affection, I betrayed that? I would be unable to look at myself at that point. And without self respect, I don’t have much left. Again, a military analogy…What kind of leader betrays the men who follow him into a fight, people who trust that he will make decent decisions so at least their chances of survival go up instead of down. The answer is, only a supreme asshole would betray that confidence and hope.

So, monogamy is the result of commanding respect, in the abstract, and self respect, in the selfish concrete.

And there you go.

nikipedia's avatar

Great answers so far. These are really interesting.

@josie and @Cruiser, I want to emphasize, I’m not talking about cheating or betraying trust. I’m talking about an open and honest relationship in which each partner is free to have multiple partners, and they share this information with each other.

josie's avatar

@nikipedia I guess my point is, what good comes from that? How could you respect someone who said “For the sake of honesty, I admit that I may or may not look out for your confidence in and your affection for, me”. And if you do not give a shit about that, what are you all about?
Unless you are all about the same thing.
In which case, what kind of relationship is this?
Who is enriched by that?
What is the concrete basis for self respect (a high value) at that point?

nikipedia's avatar

@josie, to be honest I don’t understand what you’re saying. What does the phrase “look out for you confidence in and your affection for, me” mean?

josie's avatar

@nikipedia A typo. Read it again and get back to me.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Instead of searching for a mate/date, strictly speaking, monogamy saves a whole lot of time and effort.

I can’t imagine having to “be out there” worrying about dating rules: “Should I call?” “Shouldn’t I?” “What if she said no but really meant yes?” “What should I wear?” “Does she like pets?” “Is she religious?” “Where shall we go for dinner?” “Are there any diseases I should know about?” Yuk!
Monogamy gives me time to spend on productive things like fixing the house, cutting the grass, finishing a contract, doing an experiment, making love.

With so many choices out there it is such an unnatural state. The fact that ~40% stay monogamous means there must be something to it.

marinelife's avatar

I have not been able to fathom polyamory except on a sexual level. I don’t think that partners in polyamorous relationships share the same depth of feeling that those in monogamous relationships have.

How could you?

You are having multiple relationships, which are different, with multiple partners, You are naturally going to only bond in some facets with each person.

Also, I am not convinced that perfect polyamorous relationships exist except possibly transitorally. I don’t count the Mormon or Mormon offshoot ones where one man has many female partners. In those relationships, the power level is not equal. They are patriarchal. He decides who he is going to sleep with and in what frequency and what order. Blech!

My monogamous relationship gives me stability, friendship (an intimate friendship the likes of which I have never known), good sex (practice makes perfect), tons of shared laughter and shared experience. It has a depth and richness that is unmatched by other relationships in my life.

nikipedia's avatar

@marinelife, I take your point, but again want to point out that a polyamorous relationship can include stability, friendship, good sex, and tons of shared laughter and shared experience.

Blondesjon's avatar

A marked lack of STDs.

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Ajulutsikael's avatar

I don’t really think it adds anything that can’t be experienced in a polygamous relationship. Monogamy and polygamy aren’t for everyone and I’m surprised it isn’t legalized because it would totally boost the economy. Imagine all the money for weddings and even divorces. Either way, I’m interested in a polygamous relationship myself and would love to have a nice community feel to a relationship where everyone knows how to mediate problems and even help around the house. Economically, it can be more sound as well. Better odds of having someone be able to stay home with kids while the others work.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I 2nd @Blondesjon: A marked lact of STDs is very valuable to me in a person I’m going to be intimate with.

nikipedia's avatar

@Neizvestnaya, I addressed that issue in the details section of my question. Let me elaborate though:

(1) Serial monogamists still need to worry about STDs.
(2) Reasonable precautions can be taken to prevent STDs.
(3) A polyamorous lifestyle does not prohibit you from making good choices, and ensuring that your partners are STD-free and trustworthy before engaging in intercourse. To the extent that this is a risk, it is still a risk if you engage in a monogamous sexual experience as well.

Aethelwine's avatar

@nikipedia Serial monogamists still need to worry about STDs.

Are you talking public toilet seats or what? I’m confused by that statement. My husband and I only have sex with each other. What STD’s do we need to worry about?

nikipedia's avatar

@jonsblond: Serial monogamy refers to dating one person after another. If you have a new sexual partner, even if that is the only person you’re having sex with at the time, you are still risking an STD if that person has had sexual partners before you.

Aethelwine's avatar

@nikipedia lol. gotcha-. been a long time since I’ve dated.

Blondesjon's avatar

@nikipedia . . . A practitioner of the monogamous arts still has a far lesser chance of incurring the wrath of Herpes than those that worship at the alter of the polyamorous.

it’s a numbers thing

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia If it is just people in a long term rekationship being free to screw around with others, and not a poligamous marriage let’s say, then I think the risk is one of the partners like the fling person more.

marinelife's avatar

@nikipedia Where is the data on that? Length of the relationships? Stability of the partners?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Wow, people continue to baffle me with the many misconceptions they have about polyamorous relationships but that’s to be expected. These misconceptions perpetuate the machinery which is monogamy in this society and it’s a machinery that seems to be well-oiled but has cracks all throughout. @Seelix You know me, :)

Aethelwine's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir and the many misconceptions about monogamy baffle me

obvek's avatar

I don’t know much about polyamory but know enough to know that I am personally not naturally wired for it (though not necessarily for lack of trying). I would not presuppose that it is unnatural for all people.

I would first tend to think that monogamy is mainly about creating an intense bond. If you think about most couples who are new to each other, many of them put other close relationships on the back burner while they habitually form their own. There is constant effort and activity devoted to discovering, communicating, negotiating, and fine tuning preferences and the like. I think it would be a rare case that someone could negotiate the demand for that kind of attentiveness across multiple partners, unless perhaps there is a baseline understanding of milder expectations along those lines (which probably leads to less intensity).

To say that monogamy is a byproduct of jealousy maybe only speaks to a surface level of why it is prevalent. I think it more likely that it is a byproduct of “civilization” as opposed to something like a primitivist ethic. Much like birth rates being tied to perceptions of how much a child costs to raise, I would suspect that monogamy is more prevalent where “costs” to maintain relationships are perceived to be high.

That kind of leads me to more of a bottom line which is whether we are in any way deceived in our beliefs about the necessity of monogamy. Monogamy is predicated on finding someone who is compatible, which implies that the standard starts with our own requirements (insofar as we have anything to do with consciously choosing a mate). There is no monogamous relationship without first satisfying our own needs or desires. How much of a monogamous relationship then is really about some kind of selflessness in caring for the other person? I would expect that those who have ridden that far down the road will know the answer to that, but for me it is difficult to honestly say (or know) that I’m in it primarily for the other person.

So if there is room to stake a claim for the primacy of one’s own experience in the process of maintaining a monogamous relationship, then I would think a polyamorous set of relationships shares the same foundation, and that it’s perhaps a matter of honesty about who the relationships are for and under what terms they will continue.

For better or worse, I tend to enter relationships when I feel a connection, but also when I see potential to learn something from sharing experiences with the other person. I don’t see how this would necessarily exclude polyamory either.

I would also question whether pure monogamy exists except without some degree of fear or expectation involved. I suppose some people are wired with the need for that kind of restriction on their behavior, but I don’t know enough to say whether that is enlightened or superstitious. Is it akin to staying in a hetero marriage out of expectation even though you are gay?

Hmmm… I think I mostly believe in multiplicity of experience. That if your path is polyamorous, then it doesn’t matter even if monogamy is inherently better, because it’s not your path in the first place. Or maybe it isn’t until you’re satisfied that polyamory isn’t where it’s at.

Try to run. Try to hide. Break on through to the other side.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jonsblond Perhaps. Some of us, however, know what both are like before we judge. Do you?

nikipedia's avatar

@marinelife, I am saying that this situation (stable, long-term, loving polyamorous relationship) is a reasonable possibility…are you saying you won’t believe it’s possible until you see data?

Aethelwine's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Did I judge? I just don’t like when others judge those in monogamous relationships. If it doesn’t work for you, fine, but please don’t say it is wrong for me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@jonsblond Did I? So far, mostly we’ve seen paternalistic, uninformed and condescending attitudes towards polyamory that reek of desperate validation of one’s choices. I just wanted to make clear that when people make comments about something they’ve never tried in a meaningful way, those comments are kind of pointless. So basically, I say the same to you because I may be in a polyamorous relationship, but I know who my childrens’ daddy is and I have no more STDs than you.

Blackberry's avatar

I still think that some people want something that they can claim is theirs. I’m sure they do it for love and everything, but I see monogamy as just another person’s conquest to obtain something and make it exclusive to them, whether it’s love, the actual person for various reasons, their ability to provide etc.

Blondesjon's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir . . . Jeffery Dahamer’s Mother knew who fathered her children as well. What kind of point is that?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Blondesjon Don’t know. Your wife earlier made a point that a benefit of monogamy was knowing who the father is of her children. I was clarifying that I have no more trouble with that notion for being polyamorous. But just to be clear – what does it matter that someone knew she mothered a serial killer? Or are you comparing me to her? Because, I’ll have you know, I am raising the antichrists, not serial killers.

nikipedia's avatar

@Blondesjon, unless you have something else to say about what monogamy adds to your relationship, please stop posting on my thread. Thanks.

Aethelwine's avatar

yeah, the babydaddy was a joke. I guess I’ll just put that stick back up my ass and get all serious~

I thought this was in social anyway

Blondesjon's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir . . . As well as clarifying your paternalistic, uninformed and condescending attitude towards monogamy that reeks of desperate validation of your choices?

Personally I could care who anyone sleeps with or how many. It’s just that you are belittling the life choices of others in a way that would incense you. I find it hypocritical and a bit detrimental to your point.

The STD comment is still a statement of statistical fact. If I’m incorrect, please post a link so that I may learn from the error of my ways.

@nikipedia . . . Monogamy adds the need to only monogram two towels to my relationship. Silly? I don’t think so. Most couples argue a great deal over money and have you priced monogrammed towels lately?

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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Blondesjon I was responding to the belittling of our choices by the supposed norm, period. Why, what is my point supposed to be? Respectful of monogamy yet quiet on the point of having it be paraded as the holier than thou option? That makes no sense to me. In our lives, we never belittle what others are doing in terms of this but they always make comments to us about our private lives that are no one’s business. As far as STDs, I don’t care to provide stats since no one above has cared to provide stats about their own sexual status and healthfulness. I don’t find it necessary to have to prove my point when I find it kind of ridiculous that people think their relationships are forever actually monogamous when we actually know many aren’t, in reality. @nikipedia I would if I thought it’d work. @jonsblond it was? Weird, I didn’t read it that way. Did anyone else? And of course this is in social. Can’t you tell by the amazing conversation your husband and I are having? It’s how you can tell.

eden2eve's avatar

@nikipedia I think that it’s narrow minded to state that someone knows what someone else knows or doesn’t know. Also condescending. And I DO know what that means.
I wonder why you fail to apply your exclusionary comments and criticisms to those others who are not answering your question regarding monogamy. Is it because those individuals are more closely alligned with your POV than those you choose to slam? It seems to me that you don’t really want answers to your question if they don’t support your bias. I could be wrong, of course, but that’s the way it looks to me.

And to answer your question… I think that a monogamous relationship is more stable, more mature and deeper than one that is not. I don’t have to experience this other option in order to have, and to voice, an opinion on it’s relative desirability.

I respect anyone’s right to create their own ideal relationship, but in my experience, based upon some years of observation, some have a greater likelihood of survival and creating the ideal environment for the participants in that relationship, including any children who may exist within the environment of that relationship. I think that some relationships seem to be based upon selfishness and short-sightedness, and I feel that the most ideal relationships are group-centric rather than individual-centric.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@eden2eve It seems to me that you haven’t read the thread. Until @tinyfaery‘s or my comments, everyone was not agreeing with the OP’s POV and all she said was ‘interesting answers’ – show me how that is exclusionary when even in your own statement you continue to make gigantic leaps of faith for monogamy and judgments against polyamory that are based on what again? Ah yes, years of observation. It always amazes me how many polyamorous couples people seem to know when it comes to this conversation yet Alex and I know hardly any.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’ll completely bypass the excitment and say:

Has anyone else noticed that women in a monogamous relationship cut their hair shorter, guys cut back on Nair usage, and both spend a lot less time tanning? Think of the hours saved.
I’ll bet there’s a statistic for this somewhere.

Blondesjon's avatar

@worriedguy . . . where do guys use nair? i’m thinking i might owe @jonsblond an apology.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Blondesjon When was the last time you saw chest or back hair in a porno film? Bald abs give you cut, fit look. And it makes other bits look longer.
Not that anyone needs it.

Blondesjon's avatar

@worriedguy . . . lol. what are “abs”?

Aethelwine's avatar

@worriedguy Time is saved by having your hair longer. Fewer hair cuts. Why do you think I’ve kept my hair halfway to my ass for the past 20 years. Well, for that reason, plus I like Jon to pull it now and then. ;)

eden2eve's avatar


I read the thread. I believe that I’m allowed to make judgments, just as you are. I choose certain values, and naturally I am most comfortable with those choices. And I certainly am entitled to state and support my opinions of those choices. If that makes you feel threatened, I’m sorry for you. You seem quite defensive. Perhaps you are not as confident of your life-choices as you would have people believe that you are.

Plucky's avatar

I think both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships can be meaningful and serious. I, personally, do not care if someone is non-monogamous. If that’s what makes you happy, and your partners happy, then it shouldn’t matter to anyone else. I don’t think it’s right for me to judge whether or not a non-monogamous relationship is meaningful/serious or not. I’m not in the relationship would I know? I can only know how meaningful and serious my relationship, with my partner(s), is.

A relationship is only as meaningful and serious as one believes it to be.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jonsblond You are a true gem. He’s a lucky guy – and knows it. Now get him a bottle of Nair. My treat!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@eden2eve Who on Fluther could possibly make me feel threatened, be serious. My choices aren’t what being overly defended in this thread, are they if you look above? In fact, it is my choice that are being looked down upon. I highly recommend polyamory to some pretty congested couples in this world. But we can do this ‘it’s not you it’s me’ bitchfest all day long, I suppose. I agree that we all make choices and align them with our values. I am thankful for my kinds of values.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jonsblond, @Blondesjon Here. Discuss. What’s more manly than a collection of Navy Seals?
I’m betting that place smells like sweat and Nair.

Blondesjon's avatar

great. now i have an erection . . .

deni's avatar

If I was a different person, maybe I would be in a polyamorous relationship. But I’m not. It’s not for everyone, and neither is monogamy. Maintaining one relationship is enough work for me. It’s not easy. But if someone ever comes along that I think I need to be with, even if I was already in a relationship, I would re-asses and give it a try. I’m not completely closed off to the idea. In the end I don’t think that a successful monogamous relationship has anything more than a successful polyamorous relationship does. It’s just two different mindsets going in….and yes, I’m sure jealousy and lack of confidence in many people are two of the reasons why they are way more rare.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Blondesjon Break out the coconut oil. Ya know? I think I might just do that tonight.
There’s another advantage, right there. No driving.

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Cruiser's avatar

@nikipedia Sorry it took so long to reply to your comment….You describe an open and honest relationship where you have implied approval to knock boots with whomever…all fine and dandy but that situation you describe peels away those layers of bonds that are part of a trusting, true committed loving relationship.

I cannot in my minds eye imagine sitting here as my wife walks in the front door disheveled from a free for all with her approved partner and our relationship having the same currency of love and respect that my monogamous relationship has. Allowing her or her allowing me to get laid for the sake of getting laid removes any element of trust and true love monogamous unions provide. No thanks…have fun and to each their own.

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wundayatta's avatar

What does monogamy add to my relationships?

The first thing that pops into my mind is security. I feel like she isn’t going to go away. It’s not really because she made a promise. It’s because that’s the way she lives. It means we can plan a future together. We can save money together. We can rely on each other presumptively. We know the other person will be there, no matter what.

And yet, many of those things could happen in polyamoury. I have commitments to many people, whether or not they are bed partners. I do my damnedest to keep those commitments. However, a commitment has two parties to it, and it seems inevitable that one or the other will break a commitment. Then you work to fix it. And it breaks again. And you try to fix it. And it breaks again.

You don’t really want to break the marriage, but you’re dying for what you need. If you had a polyamorous relationship, perhaps you could get from another person what you can’t get from the first, and you could do it without killing the first relationship with a divorce.

Do you think that monogamy creates a bond that polyamory jeopardizes?
No. I think these bonds are possible with one person, but also with multiple people. We already make commitments to multiple people. This is not really any different except that you also share a bed occasionally.

Do you think monogamous relationships are more meaningful, and if so, why?
Again, no. Again because we all have multiple meaningful relationships. You can love more than one person, and it doesn’t have to be a logistical nightmare, if you truly do care for each other; you don’t play games; and you communicate well.

Or do you think monogamy is just a byproduct of jealousy, and it doesn’t add anything positive to your relationships?
I think there is a lot to this. It is really, really hard not to be jealous and not to be threatened when you grow up in a society where monogamy is the norm, and you have this idea of owning your partner. Then you see them loving someone else, and you feel this horrible jolt that you are going to lose them.

I say owning because it seems to me that monogamous relationships behave as ownership relationships even when both parties freely give themselves to each other. You gain the rights of ownership, or take them on yourself, because the way most people interpret that vow is, functionally speaking, as an ownership relationship.

I want love to be free. I don’t want to own anyone. I want to let them be free to come and go and to love others if that is what they want to do.

Is this easy? Hell no! It’s the hardest thing I ever had to deal with. Just so you know, I am currently in a monogamous relationship. I have sought the love of others in the past. I can’t guarantee anyone that I won’t do so in the future. And yet, I consider myself totally committed to my wife and children. I am sure I could live with them for the rest of my life, so long as my needs for physical affection and understanding are met. When they are not met, I go crazy. Literally.

Polyamoury might work for me. I don’t know. My wife would never want to try. I know it would be very hard. I know that jealousy issues would make me very anxious. But I also know that I have coping mechanisms to deal with the anxiety and that my self esteem is not where it once was (which is to say non-existent). I believe both that I am lovable and that my wife loves me and that there are other people who love me as well as other people I love.

Polyamoury seems really complicated to me. I don’t know if I could work it out. But I don’t see it as much different from monogamy. It’s really the same thing, except with more people. Everyone you choose to join your group is probably vetted the same way you found the first person. You trust them. You believe they don’t go outside the marriage unless they’ve discussed it first. You believe proper protection is always used and that the worry about STDs is as low as it is in a monogamous relationship.

So, in theory, even though I’ve spent almost half of my life in a monogamous relationship, I don’t see that it has any advantages over a polygamous relationship, except that it is less complicated. I didn’t discuss connection and spirituality above, but I have personally experienced (in a non-sexual way) an intimate soul connection with multiple people at once. I know it is possible. I would welcome a chance to try it. I’m pretty sure I’ll never have that chance.

JLeslie's avatar

There is an actress, or maybe she is a comedian, I think her name is Monique, who has an open marriage. Both spouses are allowed to date and sleep with other people. When I heard her talk about it, it seemed to me she and her husband were very united, like she knew they would be together forever and grow old together and always be there for each other. I think they had been together so long, that like any marriage, their history, triumphs, deep love for each other, and friendship seemed very strong. I tell this story to say, I think there are people happy in situations like this. But, I don’t think of this as poligamy, to me this an open marriage.

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andrew's avatar

I’ve never known anyone in a polyamorous relationship that worked for a long period of time. Polyamory works great when you’re in the center—but if the relationship power dynamic becomes unbalanced (as they almost always do), then you’re going to have one or more people with their feelings hurt. Especially in committed relationships, people start to want more. People are jealous creatures, and I think that drive is much stronger and less ‘unnatural’ than some say about monogamy.

What does monogamy add? Simplicity. It’s difficult enough communicating and being honest with yourself, much less a partner. Add more than one—yeesh.

Perhaps there are a select few who are wired differently, but I’m skeptical.

nikipedia's avatar

@andrew, what counts as “a long period of time”? I know someone who, in the course of a 12 year relationship, had a secondary four year (and multiple two year) relationships.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@andrew Yeah, I’m skeptical about people too. Especially about ones who think they know how everyone’s wired.

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