An argument for polyamory (from someone who’s never tried it)
Can we create loving relationships without the dogmatic confines of monogamy following in tow? The big question sweeping the current dating scene permeates through layers of societal constructs, shocking and readjusting the conceptions of boomers and social structures alike. The infamous statistic that half of all marriages (in the USA) end in divorce is one of the most pronounced reasons why people chose to pursue polyamorous relationships. Join me in finding out why.
Text Kyriaki Mallioglou
Image Evita Belegri
Consensual non-monogamy is a concept that derives from an alternative understanding of what it means to romantically love someone. It relies on agreements made by consensual adults, and refers to the idea that having multiple partners can help you fulfil your needs in many different sections of your life. This notion can also be referred to as polyamory (not to be confused with polygamy, as that refers to marriage with multiple people). The definition of monoamory, more widely referred to as monogamy, supposes that intimate love is always localised within the confines of one other individual. Here is where some polyamorous people suggest that this strict worldview sets people up for failure. It can be intensely demotivating to constantly be chasing the idea of ‘the one’, and in the long term, chasing after the societally approved and sterilised step of marriage. Monogamy works well for many people, yet others find that it poses a very real threat to a happy and fulfilled life.
Sharing is Caring
Whereas finite resources like time, effort, money and social battery can dry up, love is unlimited. Polyamorous ideals are built on sharing the most beautiful and pure part of yourself with more than one person. This is something we already do, every day, when we invest the same amount of love into our relationships with family, and at times friends. However, splitting time and effort between partners can be a huge step when still learning what you value and search for in relationships. To combat these difficulties, especially within this community, communication is non-negotiable. The configuration of some polyamorous/non-monogamous relationships is a base with a primary partner taking the forefront, and secondary partners that are included in this sphere. Primary partners co-exist with secondary ones, oftentimes creating beautiful friendships based on trust and communication. Here, it is necessary I emphasise that not all poly relationships look like this, and that is part of the appeal. There is also contestation on ordering partners in the primary/secondary way, due to the simple fact that even this organisation stems from monogamous worldviews.
Whatever the constellation of partners, polyamorous people have found a way to create a safe space in order to re-learn what love and relationships look like. A fundamental factor of the polyamorous existence is the reconceptualisation of expecting one person to have all the qualities that you love. The qualities you are looking for can be spread across partners, dissolving pressure on people to be something they are not. Another important distinction to make is that every consensual non-monogamous relationship is built in a unique way that features different sets of boundaries and communication styles. They cannot be equated in the normative way that we equate exclusive monogamous relationships. Polyamory is basically creating your own conceptual manifestation of what you want a relationship to look like. Organically, this is what all relationships between humans should look like, regardless of the romantic aspects that I question on these pages. Mono-normativity should be questioned. We have ascribed a certain ‘traditionality’ and ‘naturality’ to something that is not necessarily that. Cultures around the world have existed within societies based on polyamorous love structures and it is important to not forget this when criticising the normative approaches we hold so dear.
You, Me and the History of Polyamory
Critical thinking on normative approaches can sound easier said than done though. There are some assumptions that need to happen before we can dissect them. Let's take the biological component first: the idea that humans are biologically monogamous is actually false. What is true is that some animals do have a monogamous drive in life, where they mate with their partners for life, think of swans or wolves or seahorses. Our closest link to the animal kingdom, the ape family, does not abide by monogamous rules, and neither do we. The traceability of paternal lineages was not always possible. Therefore, I make the case that historically, relationships were much more unstructured. The way I see it, monogamy is quite a new concept deriving from conservative narratives and the laws created by our social construction of the ‘good life’. Find someone, get married, have kids, die?
This morbid statement of societal expectations begs the point of who it really benefits. Like I mentioned in the beginning, many people can find happiness in lifelong relationships with one person, yet creating a mould that everyone is expected to fit into, should be questioned. The activist in me also kind of wants to blame it on the perverted capitalist mindset of “hustle must be the priority”. Creating a simpler relationship system that leaves many people unhappy, in turn, produces the perfect docile workforce that sucks the joy out of being alive. Hardly asking for what they want and always settling for less. However, upon further reflection, it might actually be deeper than that. I needn't squint to see the socio-political influence on the way we ascribe success to modern relationships, but I maintain that what actually gets hidden is our increasing complacency with romantic dissatisfaction.
In a world of endless Tinder-swiping and quite recently the world population turning to eight billion, I would probably call someone out if they still thought they could find their one true soulmate. No offence. In my experience, people have stopped asking for what they want, especially when it comes to love. Certainly, there are roots of jealousy and possession that plant the idea of mono-normativity firmly in our minds and societies. Yet, I sympathise with souls who want to remove this fantastical fetishism from their lives and return to a more natural state of matters. A state where a sexual and romantic connection is not formulaic, but original.