Two Is Company, Three Is More Fun: a Study of Polyamory Essay

A typical suburban house nestled on a cul-de-sac, a green lawn and a well maintained garden, obviously taken care of but not obsessively so. Three cars in the driveway, and two children playing in the sprinkler set up in the front yard. Sitting on the deck enjoying a glass of wine is the owner of the house and grandmother to one of the girls. Her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend are arguing over the order of meat on the grill, his wife is scolding the soaking girls for running into the house without towels before she walks over to the grill to mediate the argument and help the two to kiss and make up.

Confused? Trust me when I say that you wouldn’t be the first. No this is not the intro to some strange horror movie, nor is it the newest shock drama on television. This is “Real Life”, and actual people. They subscribe to a lifestyle called Responsible/Ethical Non-monogamy also called Polyamory. Polyamory is the philosophy and practice of maintaining more than one intimate relationship simultaneously, with the full knowledge and consent of all involved. What is Polyamory? Derived from both the Greek word for many and the Latin word for love, there is some contention to how the word came into being.

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One theory is that it was coined by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, a pagan priestess, in the late 1980s (McCullough & David S. Hall, 2003). However, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, who added the term in 2006, the first appearance of the word was with the formation of the alt. polyamory newsgroup in May 1992 (Matthesen). Polyamorists say that their lifestyle’s foundation is built on the theory that love is infinite. An example of this, which can be understood by most, would be how a person feels when his or her second child is born.

They do not love that child any less than the first, there always seems to be enough love in a parents’ heart for all the children they have. Taking this theory further Polyamorists believe that they do not need to stop loving one person to add another love into their lives. Anais Nin wrote in her diaries, “I have the right to love many people at once and to change my prince often. ” (Anais Nin Quotes, 2010) As with any relationship making polyamory work in the real world takes work and no two relationships as with people are ever alike.

However one thing all polyamorists can agree on is communication. Only with complete open communication jealousy and negative emotions will wreck a relationship faster than an ice cube melts on asphalt in the summer time. History of Polyamory Throughout history the list of those who have maintained a non-monogamous lifestyle is as myriad as the types of life in the ocean. From Egypt, to the Americas Non-monogamy was practiced by many cultures over the course of time. Polygamy or the practice of possessing more than one wife at a time was clearly stated in the bible as an accepted practice.

In Genesis chapter 16 verse 4 Abraham’s wife Sarah gives her maid Hagar to her husband as a wife, so as to relieve their childlessness. (The Bible ) In Judeo-Christian history there are many incidences of multiple person relationships among the major figures, David and Solomon just to name a two of them. In fact although David was chastised for his infidelity with Bathsheba; it was his betrayal of Saul, and not the desire for another woman that God was chastising him for, as shown in 2 Samuel 12:8 “I (God) gave you his (Saul’s) house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more” (The Bible ). According to Anthropologists 83. 5% of all human cultures sanction polygyny (one husband with multiple wives), 16% permit only monogamy and . 5% allow polyandry (one wife with multiple husbands. )” (Pasternak, B. , Ember, C. & Ember, M. , 1997) Forms of Polyamory Polygamy is having more than one spouse at one time. This encompasses polygyny and polyandry as well as group marriages. An example of Complex marriage can be seen in the Oneida Community, founded in Oneida, New York by John Humphrey Noyes.

This community had a long-lived group marriage that lasted from 1848 to around 1881 (Herndon). In a group marriage essentially all the members of the group are married to each other, although sexual congress would occur only in accordance to each person’s sexual preference. The Kerista Commune was founded in San Francisco California in 1971 by John Peltz Presmont and Eve Furchgott. The Commune was a moderately successful urban commune based in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Membership varied but at its height there were nearly 30 members. The community disbanded in 1991. Winnegar) Keristan was the first to coin several terms common in poly circles today. Compersion is essentially the opposite of jealousy. It is feeling happiness in the happiness of your partners, especially when they are finding that happiness with each other. The Loving More website describes Compersion as taking joy in the knowledge that your beloveds are expressing their love for one another. Polyfidelity is a group in which all partners are primary to all other partners and sexual fidelity is to the group. It takes the fidelity of a monogamous marriage, but each member is bound not to a couple, but the group as a whole.

More primary partners can be added with everyone’s consent, however no liaisons outside the group are considered. (Loving More, 2005-2009 ). Polyfidelity is often used in the geometric relationship model as well. The geometric relationship model includes triads and quads, though some will include the more linear Vs and N’s as well. A Quad is well just that, four people who consider the group to be equal in their importance to all the others. There is no specific gender ratio to be a quad although it is most often seen with two males and two females and is usually the result of two previous couples combining together.

Triads are obviously the same dynamic with only three people. A V is a term used when there is a relationship between three people but only two of them are romantically involved at a time. V’s and N’s are essentially Triads and quads whose sides do not touch. An example of this would be Eric is dating both Tiffany and Jill but the two women do not date each other. Eric is the pivot of the V. If Jill were to date Sam we would then have an N with both Eric and Jill at pivot points. The form of Polyamory most often seen outside of intentional communities is the sub-relationship type. This includes open-relationships/marriages, as ell as the primary/secondary model. Open-relationships are the most likely way that most people will ever venture into Non-monogamy. Usually open-relationships are built around sex, and not actual dating, or relationships although they often evolve into the primary/secondary model. The primary/secondary/tertiary model of polyamory is simply a way of assigning a label to ones partners that shows where they rank in one’s life. A primary partner is someone that one would live with; there would be some kind of tie that binds them, either children or joint bank accounts or whatever constitutes their equivalent of permanence.

A person’s secondary partner would usually be someone they communicated with everyday, but they don’t live together and they don’t have a sense of the long term. A tertiary partner would be someone with whom one shares a love of Greek food, and bad romantic comedy, or more exactly just someone whose company is enjoyed for its own sake. (Loving More, 2005-2009 ) Which style of Polyamory one chooses to follow has a deep impact on their lifestyle, and each present their own problems when it comes to domestic and child raising issues. One of the most difficult things to decide is what the living arrangements are going to be.

For relationships like a Triad or Quad, and even some Vs discussions of communal housing usually eventually arise. However while the benefits of communal living include more income, more help around the house and any children involved it also means more drama. As anyone who has ever seen a reality television show can attest, anytime you put a group of different people in a house and ask them to live together there are going to be problems. It is important that rather than focusing on the problems one is committed to making solutions.

In the 1910s and ’20s, it was fashionable in certain circles, mostly the artistic ones, to experiment with open relationships. Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Wolfe, lived on an English country estate with her lover, Duncan Grant. His lover as well as her husband and children would visit for weeks at a time. She believed that living fully was far more important that security, comfort, or convention. Art critic Roger Fry, a frequent guest at her home, called her unorthodox household “a triumph of reasonableness over the conventions. ” (Roiphe, 2010) Current Events

According to Psychology Today half of all men and one-third of all women in a committed relationship will commit some form of infidelity. (Psychology Today, 1993) They also go on to say that, “Without the expectation of fidelity, intimacy becomes awkward and marriage adversarial. ” According to Polyamorists that is a fallacy. With open and honest communication one can put to rest any awkward feelings and intimacy, at least in my experience, has never depended on fidelity. Lately a flood of media attention has been given to Open Relationships due to several Celebrity figures “coming out” if you will excuse the borrowing of the term.

First there was Tilda Swinton, and then more recently, Mo’Nique spoke about her own open relationship in an interview with Barbara Walters. This has given Polyamorists a feeling that there might just be a change around the corner. It is obvious from their many detractors that the lifestyle is not for everyone, and Polyamorists will tell you quite simply that it isn’t an easy lifestyle to maintain, however it is the one that works for them. Yet with over 500,000 people living polyamorous lifestyles in the United States can society really ignore them forever? (Bennet, 2009) Bibliography Leanna Wolfe PhD. (2008, October 12).

On Kittens and the Very Invented Culture of Polyamory. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality , http://www. ejhs. org/volume11/Wolfe. htm. Anais Nin Quotes. (2010). Retrieved April 1, 2010, from Goodreads: http://www. goodreads. com/author/quotes/7190? page=4 Bennet, J. (2009, June). “Polyamory—relationships with multiple, mutually consenting partners—has a coming-out party. “. Newsweek , pp. “Editor’s note in TOC: “Polyamory is a thriving phenomenon in the United States, with over half a million families openly living in relationships that are between multiple consenting partners. “”. Bernhardt, C. (2009, September 13).

Meet the polyamorists– a growing band of people who believe that more lovers equals more love. The Independent , pp. http://www. independent. co. uk/life-style/love-sex/taboo-tolerance/meet-the-polyamorists-ndash-a-growing-band-of-people-who-believe-that-more-lovers-equals-more-love-1785263. html. Dr. Joy Davidson PhD. (2002, April 16). WORKING WITH POLYAMOROUS CLIENTS IN THE CLINICAL SETTING. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality , http://www. ejhs. org/volume5/polyoutline. html. Harper, D. (2001-2010). Romance. Retrieved from Online Etymology: http://www. etymonline. com/index. php? term=romance Herndon, P. (n. d. ).

Utopian Communities, 1800-1890. Retrieved from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute: http://www. cis. yale. edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1989/1/89. 01. 04. x. html#a Lewis, C. (1960). The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt Brace. Loving More. (2005-2009 ). Polyamory Terms. Retrieved from Loving More: http://www. lovemore. com/terms. php Lynn, R. (1998, Feb 29). Internet Pushes Polyamory to Its ‘Tipping Point’. Retrieved from Wired News: http://www. wired. com/culture/lifestyle/commentary/sexdrive/2008/02/sexdrive_0229 Mandy Van Deven. (2009, March/April). Polyamory in practice: An open discussion with Tristan Taormino and Jenny Block.

Briarpatch Magazine , pp. http://briarpatchmagazine. com/polyamory-in-practice/. Matthesen, E. (n. d. ). alt. polyamory faqa. Retrieved from Internet Faq Archive: http://www. faqs. org/faqs/polyamory/faq/section-1. html McCullough, D. , & David S. Hall, P. (2003). Polyamory – What it is and what it isn’t. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality , 6, http://www. ejhs. org/volume6/polyamory. htm. Pasternak, B. , Ember, C. & Ember, M. (1997). Sex, Gender and Kinship: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Upper Saddle River, N. J. : Prentice Hall. Psychology Today. (1993, May 1). Myths of Infidelity. Retrieved from Psychology Today: http://www. sychologytoday. com/articles/199305/myths-infidelity Richard Coon, PhD. (2006). Theorizing Sex in Heterodox Society: Postmodernity, Late Capitalism and Non-monogamous Sexual Behavior. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality , 9, http://www. ejhs. org/volume9/coon. htm. Roiphe, K. (2010). Liberated in Love: Can Open Marriage Work? . Harpers Bazaar , pp. http://www. harpersbazaar. com/magazine/feature-articles/open-marriages-0809. The Bible . (n. d. ). Bible Study. Retrieved 2010, from biblos. com: http://bible. cc Winnegar, T. (n. d. ). Kerista Overview. Retrieved from Kerista: http://www. kerista. com/kerista. html