In the poly world there is polyamory, polyfidelity, polyandry, polygyny and polygamy. Yesterday I talked about the last three. Mostly I talked about polygamy and its use in religion, or under that guise for older men to take women like chattels and often to abuse young girls.
Because of this, there are laws against polygamy. At one time there was probably as much if not more behind the morality of it than the fact that women were were being abused. And maybe in some areas, and some religions and in some economies it was necessary and worked well and everyone preferred it that way. I’m sure if you asked most FLDS members they would say they prefer it the way it is. And if there really were a surplus of women it means that they would have the security of a home and a protector. If a woman was not desirable for certain reasons in our society, there is a guarantee that she’d still find a mate in this polygamous setting. Most extreme religions or fundamental sects seem to hide a more sinister side and keeping women dressed in old fashions, at home, constantly pregnant, well…that’s close to my idea of hell.
But there is another side to polygamy. It’s more commonly called polyamory, loving more than one person, or polyfidelity, being faithful, or committed to more than one person. It’s common enough in North American society but still under the covers, so to speak.
Because of marriage laws, there is no multiple marriage and in many cases three or four people may all live together but none be married. In other scenarios there may be a married couple where one or both have another partner, girlfriend or boyfriend who doesn’t live with them, but in some cases may. It may be that several people date, but all live in their own places. The permutations are endless.
I have known a man who lived with two women. When they left him to form their own relationship, he ended up with two more women. I’ve known a married woman whose boyfriend moved in with them. I know three married couples, where the man from couple A is dating the woman from couple B and the man from couple B is dating the woman from couple C, and the man from couple C is dating the woman from couple A. The woman from couple C is now pregnant by the man from couple A plus has her own children with the man from couple A.
All three couples live separately in different cities. They maintain fairly good healthy relationships with their spouses as well as their other lover. It’s complex but everyone has a choice in all of the above mentioned relationships. No one is coerced and it’s much more honest and up front than cheating.
How successful are poly relationships? As successful as monogamous marriages. Which means, some work and some don’t. I don’t know if any stats have been done on such relationships because many people keep them secret, fearing reprisals from friends, families or jobs. There is still a strong conservative, Christian element to North American society and disapproval and misunderstanding keep most poly people quiet.
As far as I’m concerned, you can love whoever you want and as many as you want. As long as no one is hurt (no rape, abuse, coercion, etc.), and full knowledge and communication is used, then it’s no one else’s business. This is the other side of the coin to the widely used “polygamy.” Since polygamy means more than one marriage partner and in most cases there are laws against that, then trying to outlaw how many people a person can love and live with gets more nebulous. In the case of polyamorous relationships, religion is most often not a factor though a person’s spiritual or religious beliefs may include or not be against such relationships.
There is already legal discussion that to charge someone for polygamy would not work because they could claim it as part of their religious freedom or rigths. Charging someone for sexual or physical abuse is much more straightforward in the courts. Like I said, the poly world is complex but not all of it is injurious.
For another look, Donald Kingsbury once wrote an award winning, science fiction novel titled Courtship Rite. It’s now out of print but can still be found. It looks at a different world where the society practices ritual scarification and the ultimate perfect relationship is seven people. This ideal is rarely attained and everyone must date anyone being brought into the group marriage. A fascinating read.