General Sound Bites on Polyamory
Theirs: Polyamory is the desire for and conduct of responsible, non-monogamous, consensual, romantic relationships with more than one partner. Polyamory is different from cheating because of the honest communication between partners and lovers about their relationships.
Mine: Polyamory is the responsible and ethical practice and belief of non-monogamous, consensual, romantic relationships with more than one partner. Polyamory is not cheating because cheating is the violation of an agreement and polyamory requires consent of all involved.
Theirs: Polys say theirs is a relationship orientation and an aspect of personal identity just as monogamy is a relationship orientation and an aspect of personal identity for others, whether they are involved with anyone at a particular time or not.
Mine: Being poly is not a choice for me, just as being gay is not always a choice for someone who identifies as gay. I can choose my actions and behaviours but it is not natural for me to confine my love to just one person and I am happier when I have that freedom and when I can give that freedom to my partners. Polyamory is my orientation and I am polyamorous whether I am dating multiple people, one person, or no one.
Theirs: Poly relationships take many forms. They may be open relationships where a two primary partners agree to have relationships outside their committed primary relationship, or they may be group relationships consisting of three or more people. Some group relationships are cohabitating relationships, others are not.
Mine: There is no One Right Way to have poly relationships. As long as everyone involved agrees, a poly relationship can take whatever form works best for those involved. Sometimes that means a closed group of 3 or more people, sometimes it's a more extensive network. Not everyone has to live together, but they do all have to consent.
Theirs: Poly relationships are formed between adults of all ages, races, genders and sexual orientations.
Mine: There are all different types of adults who are polyamorous. It spans age, race, gender and sexual orientation.
Theirs: Polys focus on love, commitment and family just as monogamous people do.
Mine: You will find the same percentage of poly people who focus on love, commitment and family as monogamous people, possibly more.
Theirs: Millions of Americans are looking for ways to spice up their sexual and emotional lives and get more of their needs met than is possible for them through traditional monogamy. The polyamorous lovestyle can be a consensual, safe, and gratifying way to strengthen healthy, caring, committed relationships and realize a greater abundance of love and companionship for all concerned.
Mine: Humans are social animals. Throughout history, we have acknowledged that we need more than one person to meet our emotional needs and we have also historically allowed many different ways to meet our various sexual desires. The American so-called "Traditional Family" seeks to isolate adults from their support network of extended family and friends and requires adults to get all their emotional and sexual needs met by one person. Polyamory is merely one possible relationship style that seeks to accomodate our varying needs for contact.
Theirs: Poly families often have more assets to support their families. More adults in the family means more income, less housing cost, and more help with child care and household chores. If a partner is ill or elderly, there are more adults available to help care for them.
Mine: One possible benefit to polyamory includes multiple incomes with fewer living and housing costs while simultaneously providing multiple sources of support for children, household chores, and those who are elderly or ill, kind of like having extended family members sharing the chores or contributing to the household income.
Theirs: Poly people are your friends, neighbors and co-workers--doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, and teachers--and there is no scientific evidence that polyamory is unhealthy for relationships or affects parenting skills. Polys are committed to their partners and consider the partners of their partners to be extended family.
Mine: Poly people cross all demographics and can be in any profession and live in any region. Studies have shown there is no scientific evidence that polyamory is inherently unhealthy for relationships or children. It's not the relationship style, but the people involved that determine if the relationship is healthy or not.
Theirs: Many Americans, even those who are married, structure their sex lives differently today than 50 years ago. Most adults are not married, and many families don't include two married heterosexual parents anymore.
Mine: Relationship styles and marriage has always been fluid and has changed over time to accomodate the society's needs. Many poly and non-poly adults currently do not get married, or stay unmarried after a divorce, and many families are comprised of arrangements other than two married straight parents.
Theirs: The fact is that millions of Americans practice polyamory, and it is the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom's mission to make sure that they can do so without fear of harassment, violence, or discrimination.
Mine: Although it's impossible to give an exact number, because many poly people are still in the proverbial closet, there are millions of Americans who are "out" and practice polyamory. It is my goal to make sure that adults of any safe and consensual romantic or sexual relationship can enjoy them without fear of persecution or discrimination.
Latest research on Polyamory
Blumstein and Schwartz (1983, cited in Rubin & Adams, 1986) noted that of 3,574 married couples in their sample, 15-28% had "an understanding that allows nonmonogamy under some circumstances. The percentages are higher among cohabitating couples (28%), lesbian couples (29%) and gay male couples (65%)" (p. 312).
In 1976, Knapp administered a battery of standardized psychological assessment measures to a sample of polyamorous couples (Peabody, 1982). No significant differences were found between the couples in her sample and the general population norms. "That is, neither group was particularly neurotic, immature, promiscuous, maladjusted, pathological, or sexually inadequate." (p. 429).
Rubin & Adams (1986) found that after several years, there was no significant difference in marital stability (i.e. breaking up vs. staying together) between those couples who had been polyamorous versus those whose marriages had been exclusive. Similar proportions of each group reported happiness versus unhappiness, compared to the earlier sample. Additionally, "the reasons given for breakup were almost never related to extramarital sex" (p. 318).
In many cultures, polyamory is the norm, and many benefits of this lifestyle have been reported. For instance, in Nigeria it is said that "the sharing of responsibilities among members may greatly dilute the burden, financial or otherwise, of care for members with problems" (Makanjuola, 1987, p. 366). Venezuelan Yanomamo women who choose a poly lifestyle may not need to work as long on household and child-care tasks as their monogamous sisters do, due to co-operation between co-wives (Hames, 1996).
Is polyamory immoral?
Theirs: Polyamory is the complete opposite of irresponsible promiscuity. Polyamory involves couples or groups consensually sharing playful loving life experiences--sexual and otherwise.
Mine: Polyamory requires ethical behaviour, the care and consideration of how my actions affect others and the desire to not intentionally cause harm to anyone else.
Theirs: Research shows that most Americans support privacy rights for consenting adults to choose and practice safe, sane and consensual sexual loving relationships, regardless of marital status.
Mine: The latest research seems to indicate that most Americans support privacy rights for consenting adults, regardless of marital status, for safe and consensual relationships.
Theirs: Of course many people prefer monogamy and aren't interested in developing intimate relationships with more than one person. Poly people aren't trying to convert anyone. We are adults living our lives how we choose, and no one has the right to dictate our personal choices.
Mine: Poly people aren't interested in converting people, but we will help guide those individuals who wish to follow this path. Polyamory is not intended as a replacement for monogamy, just as an alternative option for those who do not wish monogamy.
What is the affect on Children?
Theirs: If parents are happy in their intimate relationships, it helps the family. Happy families are good for children.
Mine: Children are affected by their parents' emotional state. If the parents are happy, the children benefit from that.
Theirs: Some poly families are structured so that one parent can be home to care for the children while two or more other adults work outside the home and earn an income, thus providing a better standard of living for all concerned.
Mine: Many people would like the benefit of 2 or more incomes AND at least one primary caregiver. Some poly familes have that option. Multiple incomes make for a better standard of living and multiple adults increase the amount of parental supervision in a child's life.
Theirs: More adult caretakers means more people available for child care, help with homework, and rides to soccer practice.
Mine: Many non-poly families wish for an extra hand to drive the carpool and do the chores and help with the kids' homework. Stable poly familes allow that option.
Theirs: Children thrive on love. The more adults they have to love them who are part of the family, the happier and more well-adjusted they are.
Mine: Poly encourages loving relationships and children respond better to loving environments. More parents means more loving adults to care for the children.
Theirs: There is no evidence that growing up in a poly family is detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well being of children.
Mine: Historically, it was common knowledge that several adults were required to raise children. There is no evidence that a poly family is inherently detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well-being of children.
Theirs: Recently a legal case was heard in which a young child was removed from a polyamorous household after her grandparents petitioned for custody, on the grounds that the home environment was immoral according to the Bible. No evidence of child abuse or neglect was found, and mental health professionals found that the child was well-adjusted; but the child's family still had to fight a court battle in order to have her returned; and even then, the child was only returned on the grounds that one of the three parents move out (Cloud, 1999).
Mine: Not too long ago, a young child was removed from a polyamorous household when her grandparents petitioned for custody, using the Bible as grounds. There was no evidence of child abuse or neglect, and mental health professionals found that the child was well-adjusted. The child was only returned after one of her three parents promised to move out. The child was forced to be separated from an adult that loved and provided for her and the grandparents called *that* family immoral.
Benefits of Polyamory
Theirs: People involved in polyamory in general, are better educated about safe sex and sexual responsibility. Often polyamorous social events offer educational programs about consent, communication, as well as safe sex education.
Mine: Polyamorous people are, in general, well educated about safe sex and sexual responsibility and we offer social groups and events that sponser educational programs about consent, communication, and safe sex education. There is often higher awareness and better adherence to safer sex practices within the poly community because of the education and focus on responsibility.
Theirs: Polyamorists consider the practice of safer sex to be essential to the practice of responsible non-monogamy.
Mine: Safer sex is included in the "responsible" part of "responsible non-monogamy". As a group, polyamorists consider safer sex responsibility to be top priority in our relationships. If you are not respectful and safe, your reputation will proceed you and you will have difficulty finding other poly partners.
Theirs: People involved in polyamory tend to get a lot of experience with communicating their desires, feelings, and boundaries. It's well-established that good communication builds healthy relationships.
Mine: Polyamory requires good communication skills about our feelings and boundaries in order to function. All relationships benefit from good communication skills, not just romantic multi-partnered ones, but whereas other forms of relationships might be able to last for a time without communicating, polyamorous relationships cannot. You either develop those skills or you do not have lasting poly relationships.
Theirs: Polyamory can meet more of one's emotional, intellectual, and sexual needs through accepting that one person cannot provide everything.
Mine: In the past, we understood that we required multiple sources to meet our needs, through church and family and friends and sometimes lovers or extra spouses. Polyamory is one method for meeting all those social, emotional, intellectual and sexual needs and desires for happiness.
Theirs: Positive elements to polyamory: increased personal freedom; greater depth to social relationships; the potential for sexual exploration in a non-judgmental setting; a strengthening of spousal bonds; a sense of being desired; a feeling of belongingness; added companionship; a greater abundance of love; increased self-awareness; intellectual variety; and the chance for new aspects of personality to emerge through relating to more people.
Mine: I get several things out of being polyamorous. I get personal freedom while simultaneously I get great depth from my intimate connections. I get a built-in social network and supportive friends through my partners' other partners. I get to explore my sexuality in a safe, loving environment. I get a great abundance of love. I get increased self-awareness because I cannot hide any of myself from several pairs of eyes. I get a variety of interests and chances to share my hobbies and activities and explore new ones with people in a meaningful setting.
Challenges of Polyamory
Theirs: People who decide to open their relationship to include others must be secure in the strength of their partnership bond, and comfortable in developing relationships with new people.
Mine: I have to be very secure in myself and in my relationship with my partners in order to include other people. Becoming self-secure can be a very challenging task for some people.
Theirs: Jealousy is a natural emotion and is a signal that additional communication and negotiation must occur in order to keep the relationship healthy.
Mine: Jealousy is a symptom that something is wrong and it can be used as a tool to foster communication, negotiation, self-awareness and growth. Developing the skills to use jealousy as a tool can be difficult but necessary to keep the relationship functioning and healthy.
Theirs: Polyamorous unions are not typically recognized by church or state, and spousal health benefits are not available for one's non-married partner(s). Many of the discriminations that the gay community faces are concerns for the polyamorous community as well.
Mine: Many of the discriminations faced by the gay community are similar for polyamorists. It is a very cumbersome and time-consuming process to acquire even a partial list of all the rights and responsibilities for multi-partnered families that are granted as a package deal to heterosexual married couples and yet we are not yet able to compile individually ALL of those rights and responsibilities.
Theirs: Poly people often remain "closeted" about their relationships because of the social stigma involved, as well as fear of threats to job security and child custody. Poly people fear discrimination and persecution, so having to keep such a secret can cause stress in their lives.
Mine: Because of remaining social stigma and discrimination, some poly people feel they must remain "closeted" to avoid threats to job and child custody. Keeping such life-affecting secrets can cause stress and unhappiness in life, and being forced to keep secrets only gives others ammunition to hurt you.
Attacks on Polyamory
Theirs: You really have to wonder what motivates people who would go to such extraordinary lengths to sensationalize someone else's private life. It's obvious that sex makes some people uncomfortable, and we think that these people should deal with their own issues instead of interfering in our lives.
Mine: Some people go to extraordinary lengths to get involved in someone else's private life. I think this says more about the person doing the discrimination than the people being discriminated against. I think these people should deal with their own issues about sexuality and family and not worry about mine.
Theirs: This is not about sex, this is about a threat to our most basic constitutional rights - freedom of assembly and the right to privacy. The Supreme Court recently abolished Sodomy Laws because they violate Americans' fundamental right to privacy.
Mine: My fight is not about sex. It's about my very basic constitutional rights being threatened. I have the right to freedom of assembly and the right to privacy. The Sodomy Laws were abolished because the Supreme Court recognized that what I do in my own bedroom should not be the concern of public policy.
What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory
by Geri D. Weitzman
Working With Polyamorous Clients In The Clinical Setting
by Joy Davidson, Ph.D.
Journal of Human Sexuality