What Monogamists Can Learn from Polyamorists

Polyamory | the philosophy or state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time.

Courtney Prather recently discussed her first person account of 21st century monogamy here at The Fullest. For Prather, monogamy equaled security, devotion, commitment and love.

Prather questioned what she and her then boyfriend were actually committing to if it was anything but a monogamous relationship (her boyfriend at the time didn’t want to commit to a one-on-one relationship).

It made me wonder, what is it about the way our society assigns value to “serious commitment?” Why are we so insistent that we must cling to only one person for life and that all other emotional connections must be “lesser” or fall under some other non-romantic category?

Why can’t multiple people commit to one another and what can monogamists learn from polyamorists about love? Could polyamory be more about transcending jealousy and fear, and less about having multiple sex partners?

Is it possible that defining the be-all for relationship goals — monogamy — is keeping us too divided from a fuller understanding and experience of love? Of how to truly self-love, love thy neighbor, and the greater global community in general?

If true love, free from fear and insecurity, is in all of us and comes from within, then what do we have to be afraid of? I asked some friends who identify as monogamists why they are in monogamous relationships:

“It’s traditional and much easier to be accepted in society, and if you have kids it’s easier to uphold traditional roles.”

“There’s not enough time to be poly, and monogamy could reduce diseases by only having sex with one other person.”

“I’ve toyed with the idea many times of not being monogamous because I relate to the idea of more love, but my girlfriend would never go for it.”

When I asked if they had anything against polyamorous relationships, only one said yes, but all claimed they’d be too afraid at this point in their lives (everyone was 30-45) to pursue this type of relationship for fear of what other family members or their current partners would think.

In my private practice, many people share with me that monogamy isn’t working for them — and what’s so surprising is that it’s not always about the sex, but rather the need for emotional communication and the desire to get rid of jealousy and acceptance, free from fear.

Somatic sex coach, Victoria Smith thinks polyamory could be a remedy to fear. She says it is a state of abundance. “When we no longer meet each other from a place of fear, we allow connections to take whatever form they are supposed to have. For me, allowing my connections to flow through platonic, sexual and child-like states has been one of the most healing journeys I’ve ever endured. There is no denying that polyamory takes work and a lot of discussion, but if we’re to move into our highest potential as human beings on this planet, then unity is the clearest road to evolving.”

So what does science have to say about polyamory, and could it actually be good for us? The primary data is still limited and primarily survey-based, but there’s interesting traits to learn from polyamorists. Researchers from Champlain College found that those polyamorists they surveyed:

Were well-educated and tended to hold more masters and doctoral degrees than the general population, but were less wealthy — suggesting that money is not as important as experiences.

Had a real enthusiasm for understanding and getting into emotions, and were open to negotiating boundaries and concerns with others.

Tended to experience far less jealousy and instead, compersion (the feeling of happiness or joy when a partner discovers love beyond you). Researchers love compersion because it challenges long-held theories about jealousy and fear and allows social scientists to study jealousy-free loving experiences. Researchers said that there were also less gender differences among jealousy and, if it did arise, was surely communicated and discussed — a cue monogamous couples could learn from.

I’m not at all suggesting a need to step out of our monogamous relationships, but rather examine if our monogamous way of thinking is somehow self-limiting. How can we exist and thrive in a one-on-one relationship, while also thinking and loving in a more open, inclusive way?

To learn more about alternative relationships, visit the International Academic Polyamory Conference.

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