01 April, 2012

Why I Identify as Polyamorous

Like many members of minority communities, I often get challenged on my minority self-identification. Common retorts I hear upon my coming out as polyamorous are "sounds like you're pretty childish", "are you afraid of commitment?", "so you just enjoy cheating", or even the particularly hurtful "that's so unethical". Of course, not all people are like this; most people I meet are actually fairly understanding and accepting of it.

Yet I think it's time for me to write a blog post for those online readers who fall into the former category. Perhaps, as a reader who stumbled across this blog randomly, you might find yourself wondering what I mean by putting my polyamorous status up on the sidebar under my name. Maybe you think I am unethical, or possibly misguided. If you're thinking anything along that line, then this blog entry is for you.

Although the term polyamory sounds weird to anyone trained in Greek or Latin, the concept itself is really quite simple. It is a philosophy of multiple loves, and is usually associated with people whose romantic partners are not limited to a single person. There are several types of polyamorist groupings, including polyfidelity (such as closed triads), group marriages (as depicted in Stranger in a Strange Land), polygamy (as exemplified by LDS' "plural" marriage), and open relationships (indicating openness to new relationships at any time), among others. The reason there are so many types is because polyamory really refers to all forms of consensual non-monogamy.

Philosophically, I self-identify as polyamorous because I can make very little sense out of the premise that love can only occur once for each person. If you are a physicalist, then you must admit that love, spectacular though it might be, arises from physical phenomena. To think, then, that these phenomena cannot recur with a different person seems quite ludicrous on the face of it. Truly, polyamory should be the default position for anyone thinking clearly about the origins of the feelings of love itself.

Perhaps surprisingly, I think that it actually is the default position. For example, most people are easily willing to admit that widows can fall in love again. But if you honestly believe love can recur with a different person after your first love dies, then why could it not have occurred while your first love was still living? Time is not a relevant factor here; surely whether love occurs or not cannot be dependent upon time. So even though most people do not themselves recognize it, I think the vast majority of people are already philosophically dedicated to a polyamorist viewpoint, though only including multiple partners in time, not space.

I should also point out that polyamory is not cheating; cheating involves deception and the violation of an agreement. Honesty and openness is required in order for polyamory to work. (Of course, there's nothing preventing cheating from occurring even in polyamorous relationships, but, predictably, it seems that less cheating occurs than in monogamous relationships.)

In fact, it is monogamy, not polyamory, which seems more ripe for unethical behavior. Lying and cheating are not uncommon among people who want a relationship to continue on one level, but have already started looking elsewhere for other levels. Serial monogamy, for example, is extremely common in today's culture. Yet it is hypocritical to pretend one is ethical merely by being against polyamory, and yet having no problem with dating multiple people in succession. Separating people out into chunks of time and ensuring none of the times overlap is not monogamy. It is only polyamory of a different sort. Plus, it involves lying, as serial monogamists tend to never indicate to their current partner that they fully intend to move on to another later on.

To top it all off, polyamorous individuals are far more capable of being honest with one another on relationship issues. Relationships can move from stages of lust to commitment without internal worry that the relationship is dying from a change in sexual activity. Commitment fears are eliminated since the institution of a relationship does not prevent further ones from starting. Asexual individuals can participate in romance without preventing their partner from experiencing sex. Sexually-needy people can satiate their needs without overwhelming a single partner. Best of all, polyamory reinforces the idea Bertrand Russell proposed in his Marriage and Morals, that laws and ideas about sex must be re-evaluated along with the times to better reflect only those moral judgments which have validity in society.

For more information about polyamory, I suggest looking into The Ethical Slut, r/polyamory, alt.polyamory, Polyamory in the News, & Polyamory on Facebook. Or, if you want to talk to someone in person, try googling your city along with the word "polyamory". You'll find that there are more of us around than you may have earlier realized. (c:


  1. Philosophically, I self-identify as polyamorous because I can make very little sense out of the premise that love can only occur once for each person.

    I'm confused by this. This isn't a principle of monogamy at all. Monogamy doesn't suggest that you can't love more than one person, it only says that you commit to only be with one person as a partner.

    The suggestion that polyamory is the solution to loving more than one person implies that we're slaves to the love impulse, which you identify as a physical phenomenon. By that reasoning, if we're hungry, we should eat whatever is in front of us, because a physical urge exists.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging you or your choices. I'm just pointing out that I think your view of monogamy is somewhat skewed. It's not "monoamory." It's defined as having one sexual partner or spouse. That's a choice, a commitment. That people fail to take the commitment seriously, or abandon it for something 'better' is not a reflection of a problem with the system, it's a problem with the person.

    I've been married for 21 years. I do love my husband better than anyone in the world, but that's almost irrelevant. Ours is a partnership. We're there as companions and friends, support for one another in times of hardship, a team for parenting, and to care for one another's needs. The wonderful thing about monogamy (when one takes the commitment to be for a lifetime, and treats problems as if there is no choice but to iron them out), is that you have confidence that support and love will always be there for you.

    I'm not trying to sway you to monogamy. I'm just saying, I don't think your representation of it is correct.

    1. Your confusion on the quoted statement is understandable, because I was referring to a type of monogamy which would be considered as mono-amory. Maybe this was a bit of a straw man, but I argued against it anyway since I have often encountered people who honestly believe it.

      But I think that you commit a bit of a straw man in return in your final three paragraphs. You argue for commitment, and, I think, rightly so. I, too, am a strong believer in commitment, as are many in the poly community.

      Remember that polyamory is much more of a catch-all term than anything else, and it encompasses a wide variety of world views. My particular world view has a strong respect and admiration for commitment, and being with the same partner for the rest of my life is definitely something that I aspire to.

      When you point out the partnership you have between your husband and yourself -- the parenting team you make, the dedication to each others' needs, the security that the relationship is lifelong -- it exactly describes what I consider a good relationship to be. The only significant difference, I think, between your view and the poly viewpoint is that whereas you have a partnership between two individuals, the poly view is that three might be equally appropriate.

  2. Amy EndressApril 03, 2012

    Well spoken and well defined. Of course I understand and agree that monogamy is more of a foreign concept and is contrary to basic human nature.

  3. Kyle SuttonApril 03, 2012

    I'm no evo psych/bio expert by any means, but I think monogamy is a cultural construct driven into us from birth with the whole idea of marriage and the Disney-fied view of relationships. I'm really curious to see what would happen if you raised a group of modern humans like early humans, devoid of any outside media influences and how their relationships would form and develop. Too bad that would no doubt be unethical.