Why polyamory?


Psychology Today is a source of some truly great articles on polyamory. Understanding why some people prefer this lifestyle while others are hurt by the very thought of its existence is, perhaps, the key to its greater acceptance.

My explorations in polyamory started in University, when I volunteered as a Sexual Education and Relationship counselor and found out about this lifestyle. I then attended a polyamory group but was not very excited about it – it seemed that the others had a history and knew each other previously and felt like an intruder. I then read “The Ethical Slut” (link to new edition below) and that helped me shed my guilt and inconsistencies and find a better compromise between my beliefs and my sexual urges.

Romantic Relationship ChartFrom this perspective, looking at Deborah Taj Anapol’s article in Psychology Today is both refreshing and instructive. She analyses motivations to choose this lifestyle, noting that often the reasons that form the basis of our actions are not necessarily the reasons we consciously acknowledge. Here are the reasons she is listing:

  1. avoid dealing with problematic personal issues or that it will solve problems in an existing relationship
  2. win the affections of the other [partner], secretly hoping that this unwelcome twist will magically vanish once they are committed to each other
  3. consciously or unconsciously creating a situation in which they can heal childhood wounds or replicate the large extended family they grew up in
  4. want a stable and nurturing environment in which to raise their children
  5. mask or excuse addictions to sex, work, or drama while others seek utopian or spiritual rewards or want to take a stand for cultural change
  6. simply doing what's fun and what comes naturally for them or are rebelling against religious prohibitions or family expectations
  7. weapon in a power struggle or to punish a controlling partner
  8. keep their erotic life alive and vital while in long term committed relationships or to fulfill sexual or emotional desires they can't meet with only one person or with their existing partner
  9. trying to make up for developmental gaps or to balance unequal sex drives

A few quotes:

  • I don't think I've ever engaged in anything that has prompted more self-reflection and intense personal growth than has polyamory. (Kate)
  • The presence of the third is a fact of life; how we deal with it is up to us. We can approach it with fear, avoidance, and moral outrage; or we can bring to it a robust curiosity and a sense of intrigue ... Acknowledging the third has to do with validating the erotic separateness of your partner. It follows that our partner's sexuality does not belong to us. It isn't just for and about us, and we should not assume that it rightfully falls within our jurisdiction. It doesn't. (..) we view monogamy not as a given but as a choice. As such it becomes a negotiated decision. More to the point, if we're planning to spend fifty years with one soul - and we want a happy jubilee - it may be wise to review our contract at various junctures. Just how accommodating each couple may be to the third varies. But at least a nod is more apt to sustain desire with our one and only over the long haul - perhaps even to create a new ‘art of loving' for the twenty-first century couple. (Ester Perel)
  • If we were to put monogamy up against polyamory, with regard to depth, awakening potential, and capacity for real intimacy, which would come out on top? Monogamy, by a landslide, so long as we're talking about mature monogamy, as opposed to conventional (or growth-stunting and passion-dulling) monogamy, referred to from now on as immature monogamy. Immature monogamy is, especially in men, frequently infected with promiscuous desire and fantasy, however much that might be repressed or camouflaged with upstanding virtues. Airbrush this, infuse it with talk of integrity and unconditional love and jealousy-transcending ethics, consider bringing in another partner or two, and you're closer than near to polyamorous or multiple-partnering territory. (Robert Masters)

Ms Anapol has recently published a book, and so did a few of the other people quoted above:

Sources / More info: polyamory @ Amazon, wiki-polyamory, pt-y, pt-w, pt-social-monogamy, flickr, yt-polyamory

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