Exploring the Polyamorous Myths
‘People are people. You can be wise or you can be a jerk, regardless of your relationship model. Being polyamorous does not automatically mean you’re in possession of some secret wisdom or some special enlightenment.’ – Veaux (2009)
Myth 1: Human beings are hardwired to be monogamous.
Barash and Lipton (2002) argue that monogamy, far from being innate within the human species, is in fact the exact opposite of ‘some of the most deep-seated evolutionary inclinations with which biology has endowed most creatures, Homo Sapiens included.’ This is backed up by a large number of anthropological, biological, psychological and sociological studies; indeed out of 4000 species studied, only a few dozen choose one mate, have sex with only that mate, and stay with that mate until one or both die(s) (Taormino, 2008).
Myth 2: Polyamorous people are promiscuous.
A polyamorous person may indeed have many lovers as Taormino (2008) points out, however; this does not mean that ‘polyamory is all about sex’. Sex is good, and embraced by all polyamorous people, but it is not the be-all and end-all of a polyamorous relationship (Veaux, 2009). A polyamorous relationship may encompass ‘friendship, companionship, support, camaraderie, love, intimacy, connection [and] commitment’ as well as sex (Taormino, 2008).
Myth 3: Polyamory is amoral, unnatural and sinful.
This myth is based upon the notion that ‘monogamy is natural, normal and moral, and any other relationship style that isn’t monogamous is wrong’ (Taormino, 2008). It also implies that sexual practices that fall outside of monogamy are ‘inherently evil’, and those that practice them are ‘somehow seeking to steal something [from another individual] – virtue, money, self esteem’ (Easton and Hardy, 2009).
This myth is of course, a matter of opinion. If you firmly believe that those who engage in sexual practices without being married, or whilst being married have a sexual relationship with someone other than their spouse, are sinful individuals, then that is your choice. It is the opinion of those who practice polyamory, however, that this is not the case – as they do engage in both of these practices (Taormino, 2008)
Myth 4: People in polyamorous relationships have psychological problems.
Incorrect. Taormino (2008) points out that:
‘Research based on standard psychological testing has shown that people in non-monogamous relationships are no more or less dysfunctional, narcissistic, neurotic, pathological, psychotic or generally fucked up than people in monogamous relationships.’ Taormino,. 2008. p15.
She goes on to point out that this does not mean that everyone in a polyamorous relationship is psychologically healthy, only that the proportions of psychologically healthy individuals vs. psychologically unhealthy individuals are the same, regardless of the nature of the sexual relationship they are in. Easton and Hardy (2009) echo this and go on to discuss the idea of sexual addiction. They cite the use of terms such as sex addicts, commitment-phobic’s and people who have ‘attachment disorders’ as labels that get applied to people who practice non-monogamous sexual behaviors. They argue that whilst these labels may well apply to some individuals within the polyamorous community, they in no way apply to everyone. Just as they are in no way representative of all the individuals within the monogamous community either.
Myth 5: Romantic love is the only real love.
Easton and Hardy (2009) discuss what we (in the West) call romantic love and posit the idea that it is not only impossible to sustain this kind of love, but also abnormal to do so. They quote George Bernard Shaw in his description of romantic love and marriage:
“When tow people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.” George Bernard Shaw, no date given, cited by Easton and Hardy,. 2009. p16.
This highlights beautifully the distinction that is made within the polyamorous community between what is termed NRE or New Relationship Energy (the state of romantic love described above) and that of “every-day love” the act of loving and cherishing an individual without the added adrenaline associated with NRE. This in no way diminishes the “every-day love”; in fact Block (2009) argues that it is this love that helps sustain long term relationships. No one, she argues, can remain in a state of NRE forever. Taormino (2008) points out that the state of NRE usually lasts between one and three years, and that after that the adrenaline and lust of the initial phase of a relationship gradually fades away and what you are left with (hopefully) is a deep bond of emotional and physical intimacy, that is simply called love.
Myth 6: ‘Loving someone makes it okay to control his or her behavior.’
This is a myth that has been taken directly from Easton and Hardy (2009). It posits the idea echoed by Veaux (2009) that no one individual who is “in love” with another individual has the right to control the behavior of the person they are in love with. Easton and Hardy (2009) suggest that the reasoning behind this myth is territorial and may be designed to make people feel secure in their relationships. However, they argue, this kind of behavior can become restrictive, oppressive and at the very worse abusive. It can also insight anger in those who do not feel that jealousy or territoriality (seeing the individual you are in love with as belonging to yourself) is a constructive way in which to express ones feelings of love. They argue that:
‘the scene in which the girl falls in love with the boy when he punches out a rival suitor [is] symptomatic of a very disturbed set of personal boundaries that can lead to a great deal of unhappiness.’ Easton and Hardy,. 2008. p17.
The phrase ‘disturbed set of personal boundaries’ is built upon the notion of being responsible for ‘ourselves and no one else’. Each one of us, Easton and Hardy (2009) argue is and can only be responsible for determining, and meeting our own needs. No one, they say can ever ‘own another person’. Matik (2002) argues something similar when she discusses the affects that your own personal choices have upon your partner(s). She points out that you are free to make your own choices, and only you can ultimately decide whether these choices are right for you; however, you must also be aware of the effect that these choices may have upon those around you, as your choices will affect your partner(s), your friend(s), your family and your lover(s).
Myth 7: Polyamorous people do not get jealous.
This is a myth born of the assumption that since an individual is capable of sustaining a relationship that is not monogamous, they must feel no jealousy (Introduction to Polyamory, (anon, 2010)). It also presumes that jealousy is inevitable when two or more individuals are sexually involved with one another (Veaux, 2009, Taormino, 2008, Benson, 2008, Easton and Hardy, 2009).
Jealousy is indeed a common and strong emotion that is felt by everyone at some point in their lives, be they in a monogamous or polyamorous relationship (Easton and Hardy, 2009). This does not, however, mean that a relationship is doomed to fail, or has irreversible problems (Taormino, 2008). Jealousy is an issue that is discussed at length amongst those within the polyamorous community, and will be further discussed in the following chapter.
 Introduction to Polyamory: polyamory.org.uk