Polyamorous Marriage

You might be surprised to learn that today monogamy is not the dominant form of relationships on our planet. And in Western society there are a significant number of those who prefer to be in love relationships with several people at the same time. The BBC Future columnist tried to find out more about their lifestyle and values.

Franklin Waugh recalls how, as a child, in a lesson at school, he heard a fairy tale about a princess who was tormented by a dilemma. Two admirers sought her hand, but she could choose only one of them.

Little Franklin could not understand why she could not marry both.

And this, as it is now clear, was not just idle curiosity. Until today, he has never been in a relationship with a single partner.

“I've never had a monogamous relationship,” he says. “I went to prom with two girls and lost my virginity during threesomes.”

Now he lives in the same house with his permanent partner and her other boyfriend. Sometimes their lover's teenage daughter is visiting.

In addition, he maintains long-distance relationships with four other girls. With some of them he is seen more often, with others less often.

Franklin and his girls are polyamorous. Their associates prefer to call themselves simply "poly".

To be "poly" means to allow multiple love relationships to exist with the consent and approval of all those involved.

Polyamory is not mentioned in any census questionnaire, but, according to official figures, this phenomenon is becoming more widespread.

Some even call for the legal recognition of the rights of polyamores - following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the UK and the US.

It is possible that in the future we may begin to look completely differently at love relationships and abandon our current ideas about them.

But love has always developed according to the same scenario, hasn't it? A man falls in love with a woman, they get married, they have children, and they maintain a harmonious monogamous relationship for the rest of their lives.

Sorry romantics, but such a picture of love has never been and still is not widespread. For many hunter-gatherers in the distant past, polygamy - that is, a form of marriage in which more than one spouse is allowed - was the norm.

Monogamy flourished when our ancestors began to be sedentary. Probably, the need for it has, among others, economic reasons.

Thanks to her, it was easier for fathers to divide valuable property - for example, land - between their children.

In the idealistic Victorian society of the 19th century, the concept of "monogamy" was replaced by the concept of "romantic love."

"The idea that there should be one sexual partner is not that long ago," says law professor Khadar Aviram of the Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, USA.

Even today, monogamy is not the dominant form of relationships on our planet. According to cultural studies, polygamy is allowed in 83% of the world's societies.

True love?

And now a relatively new model of relations appears. At least the public has only recently paid attention to it.

Over the past two decades, sociologists, legal scholars and the public have begun to take a strong interest in polyamory. This made them take a fresh look at the very nature of romantic relationships.

The term "polyamory" was invented in the 1960s. and literally translated from Latin means "multiple love".

This is so, but after talking with people who practice polyamory, it becomes obvious that this is a very complex phenomenon. There are no strict rules.

Some, like Franklin, live under the same roof with their partners and have relationships on the side. Others combine long-term relationships with fleeting connections.

Some live in large groups that include their partners and the partners of their partners. This is called "family type polyamory."

These are just a few examples. The main thing that unites all these people is openness, understanding, trust and consent of all participants in the relationship.

One can imagine the effort it takes for them to maintain such a relationship.

This is why polyamory is far from the path of least resistance. First of all, they have to solve many organizational issues and communicate a lot.

"Our relationship is much more complicated," says Yves Rickert, one of the girls Franklin has long-distance relationships with and co-author of their shared book, More than Two.

Several decades passed before the first scientific work on this topic was published. "She questioned people's core values," says Terry Conley of the University of Michigan.

To get her research published, Terry had to contend with monogamy bias. She believes polyamory has clear advantages.

In a 2014 paper, Conley argues that polyamorous partners have more friends because their social circle is wider. Moreover, they are more likely to maintain friendly relations with former partners.

Monogamous couples, on the other hand, tend to distance themselves from their friends, especially in the early, more passionate stages of the relationship.

Conley concludes that polyamorous partners understand each other better and are less jealous.

In a new research paper that has not yet been published, she claims that polyamorous partners have higher levels of relationship satisfaction than monogamous couples.

This contradicts the findings of an earlier 2015 study, which found that levels of satisfaction in monogamous and “consensual non-monogamous” relationships were about the same.

Finally, polyamorous relationships do not seem to contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases at all. Quite the opposite.

For example, an anonymous online survey found that people who are openly in non-monogamous relationships are more likely to practice safe sex than those who cheat on their partner, ostensibly in a monogamous relationship.

Summarizing all his findings, Conley says that monogamous couples have a lot to learn from those who prefer polyamorous relationships. For example, ways of communication and conflict resolution.

"We attach too much importance to marriage, but if spouses give each other more freedom, they will have more resources," she said. "The strategies used in polyamorous relationships can help you improve your marriage."

Social rejection

Public attitudes towards polyamory are not always positive. There are many prejudices about polyamorous relationships, and one of the most common is that it is sex-based.

Having multiple partners is very often associated with a dissolute lifestyle. Franklin and Eve are very upset about this.

"I've been able to stay in a relationship for several decades," explains Franklin. "For those who want sex, there are much easier ways to find a partner."

Eve agrees with him. "Polyamorous relationships are an ongoing job. Having casual sex doesn't take as much effort as it takes to maintain five long-term relationships at the same time."

Polyamorous partners don't need one night stand. They experience love and emotional attachment and are willing to be there for each other in joy and sorrow.

In the course of her research, Conley also found some subtle biases. "People tend to think monogamous couples have better relationships and are more committed to each other," she says.

Some people even think that monogamous individuals are better at performing completely trivial duties - for example, walking their dogs, paying taxes on time, and brushing their teeth.

Lonely people also face similar prejudices. From this, it can be concluded that there is an active "compulsion to pair formation" in society.

According to Conley, monogamy is surrounded by a halo of sanctity, and those who deviate from this norm are condemned.

"Even people in non-monogamous relationships find monogamous relationships to be of better quality. They have come to terms with the fact that their relationship model is not the best, and this is sad."

The problem is that these labels affect not only adults in polyamorous relationships, but also their children.

Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli of Deakin University, Australia, has conducted a large-scale study of the lives of children in polyamorous families. What worries her most is what she calls the "model of failure."

This means that outsiders are sure that such a lifestyle of parents has a negative effect on children, although this is far from the case.

"Scientific research shows that children growing up in families with many adults are really happy and they love it," says Pallotta-Chiarolli. The more adults care for them, the more support and attention they receive.

"These children are more discerning and intelligent, they are open to understanding the diversity and multiple forms of religion and culture."

“Children see their parents going to work, caring for someone who is sick, preparing food,” she continues. “They see all aspects of family life, but from the outside it seems to many that polyamory is just orgies, and children from this suffer. "

This does not mean that all polyamorous families are ideal - they face the same difficulties as any other family.

For example, Eve still lives with her husband, but no longer has romantic feelings for him. She dated another woman for four years.

Franklin divorced his first wife after 18 years of marriage. In any relationship, breakups can be painful, and things get even more difficult when partners have children.

Either way, any prejudice in society can backfire on polyamorous families.

Poor school performance is often attributed to the child being raised in a family that does not practice monogamy. Because of this, he tries to become the "exemplary poster child," explains Pallotta-Chiarolli.

These prejudices are unlikely to be eradicated, in part because these families lack legal support. They cannot formalize their relationship and custody of children.

However, Professor Khadar Aviram found that many polyamorous partners are very eager to do this. As part of her research work, she interviewed many polyamorous activists to find out if polyamorous marriage could be legalized.

A 2012 study of 4,000 polyamores showed that 76% of respondents would be interested in a formal marriage if it were allowed.

96% of the respondents said that "agreed multilateral marriages between adults" should have the same legal status as the marriage of two people. "

According to Aviram, such a high demand for legalizing polyamorous marriage could be a consequence of legal support for same-sex marriage, which is officially allowed in the UK and the United States.

"It inspired polyamorous activists." (Although such a comparison is not always welcomed by representatives of the LGBT community, who believe that it can compromise the idea of ​​equal marriage).

Many have asked the question: why are polyamorous families worse?

The truth is that legalizing polyamorous marriage will be difficult, in part because there are so many varieties of polyamorous relationships. "All polyamorous families are different," says Aviram.

On the other hand, she sees no obstacles to the official registration of polyamorous marriages in the event that all partners live under the same roof and do not have a relationship on the side.

She even thought about how this could be done. Parental responsibilities and property rights to real estate can be determined by law. In addition, the biological relationship between those who marry and the children they will be raising can be taken into account.

Of course, difficulties cannot be avoided, but they are in many ways similar to the obstacles that are encountered in the way of those who want to adopt a child. Outside relationships can complicate matters, but there are similar legal solutions for divorce and child custody.

However, Aviram said that in practice, the main problem for polyamors today is the lack of legal protection - for example, the lack of laws that prevent discrimination.

For example, under the US Army's code of war, treason is considered a crime, and those who are legally married cannot practice polyamory openly.

In order to legally protect polyamory, it must first be recognized as a sexual orientation, like homosexuality.

If the polyamory orientation law is passed, polyamorous partners will be protected by similar anti-discrimination laws.

Research lawyer Ann Tweedy of Hamline University recently made her case for thinking of polyamory as orientation.

She says sexual orientation is defined as attraction to members of the same sex, opposite sex, or both sexes.

However, this concept can include other sexual preferences that are an integral part of the personality of a particular person.

As Aviram found out, this echoes the opinion of many poly-activists. "They say it's in their nature. For them, it's a natural way of life."

If so, these groups should be protected by law from discrimination, she said.


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