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Here is why…

I hold my hands in the air, in the classic placating and yet defensive posture of those about to be robbed all across the land.

“Honestly I didn’t do anything to it…it just sort of died,” I mumble, whilst simultaneously trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

“But that’s the third one you’ve had in as many years,” my friend groaned at me.  “In the same amount of time I’ve managed to keep mine alive whilst it’s crossed continents.”  He takes an exasperated breath, and I look at the floor in mock shame.  “And didn’t you manage to blow up the power supply in one of your computers too?”

I look around nervously.  “That was the house, not me!”  I plead.  “The fuse went and then we sort of smelled smoke…why are you looking at me like that?”

He looks some more at me like that.  “I give up.  You want to Google 500gb hard drives, and this time try not to make it commit suicide.”

“Thanks!” I say, and head to Google the hell out of hard drives on my mother’s old dell.

“And don’t even think about killing your mother’s computer, you can’t afford to buy her another!”  He yells as I head up the stairs.

“Ha, ha!” I yell in reply.  But I do tip toe into the room, so as not to scare the old thing, and press the power button gently…well, you never know, it’s so old it might have evolved a consciousness.   Don’t look at me like that, it might.

So yeah, I have lost all access to anything technological.  My mother’s computer can just about manage to run Firefox, so long as you don’t do anything else with it at the same time.  Hopefully I will be able to get a new hard drive soon, fingers crossed!

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Polyamory: ‘Infidelity Without Betrayal’?

Literature Review

26/7/2010

Sophie Clark

Introduction

From BBC Radio Four to The American Spectator, Polyamory – a word that was coined (arguably) a mere 20 years ago (Taormino, 2008, UK Polyamory, 2010) to describe a lifestyle that has been around for as long as humanity (Veaux, 2009) – has hit the news.  Polyamory has been described as ‘infidelity without betrayal’ (Leith, 2006); a lifestyle that means the individual is ‘unable to give up one crucial relationship in the past’ (Leader, 2005); and something that should spark a ‘culture war’ (Mehan III, 2010).  But who is right?  Are any of these notions of polyamory correct?

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My personal interest in the notion of polyamory came about through a culmination of various life events.  I have never been inclined towards exclusivity within any form of relationship, whether that relationship was with a friend or a lover.  However, due to the fact that my then-partner did not feel comfortable with the idea of non-exclusivity and coupled with my lack of awareness that anyone else felt like me, I chose to live a monogamous lifestyle.  After eight years, a lot of tears, frustration, and guilt on my part for feeling something that was “wrong”, my partner and I split up.

It was at this time that I ran across the concept of polyamory.  I was watching the TV program Sexcetera and found myself almost sagging with relief.  I wasn’t alone!  From that point forward I made it my mission to find out about this new way of living, and quickly came to realize that it was as old as the hills – indeed, it had just never had one concrete name (Veaux, 2009).  Non-monogamous life, or ‘polyamorous’ living (a term coined by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart in her 1990 article ‘A Bouquet of Lovers: Strategies for Responsible Open Relationships’) would two years later become ‘polyamory’.  This joining of the two Latin and Greek terms to produce a new English word – its literal translation being ‘many loves’ – was first used by the creator of the Usenet group alt.polyamory, Jennifer Wesp (Taormino, 2008, UK Polyamory, 2010).  This was what I had been looking for all along.  There was nothing wrong with me after all and not only that but I was not alone.

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The focus of this literature review is to investigate both what polyamory is and what it is about this lifestyle that can spark such widely differing opinions.  In order to achieve this it intends to look at what the current literature that is available to the public today says, sets polyamory apart from other lifestyle choices and asks what about polyamory could be seen as a threat by some, and a comfort to others.

It will critically examine a wide number of texts written on the subject of polyamory, sourced from varying arenas within both the culture of polyamory itself and outside of this lifestyle.  As the term polyamory has only been around for the past 20 years (Taormino, 2008, UK Polyamory), there has been relatively few academic textbooks printed about the subject; however, there are a few key texts that this author plans to examine in detail.  Indeed many of the texts that have been written explicitly state that the reason the authors had for writing their books in the first place was the lack of open discussion or information on the topic of polyamory and/or non-monogamous/open relationships (Matik, 2002, Easton, 2009, Benson, 2009).  There have been a number of articles written in varying journals, websites and personal blogs that cover a wide range of issues to do with not only the practice of polyamory itself, but the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of this chosen lifestyle.  These websites in particular have formed a base resource for many individuals who seek to not only gather more information about polyamory, but who also wish to write about the subject (Bennett, 2009).  Notably alt.polyamory, xeromag.com/fvpoly, polyamory.org, polyamorysociety.org, polyamoryonline.org and polyamory.org.uk have been cited as major resource websites by Benson (2008), Easton and Hardy (2009), Taormino (2008) and Block (2009).  Websites such as these have helped form a base network of resources for polyamorous individuals throughout the world and have helped shape the polyamorous community because of this (Bennett, 2009).  The websites listed above will be used as a resource throughout this literature review, although this author does acknowledge that they have not been recognized as academic texts, they are constantly peer reviewed; and as such form both primary and secondary sources with which this author can explore the subject through its grassroots organizations.

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Chapter One


What is Polyamory?

‘Alternative relationships can be filled with playful excitement, but it is not a game and people are not toys.’ – Morning Glory Zell.

Polyamory has been described in many different ways by many different individuals and the one thing that all the texts agree upon is that there is no one ‘true’ definition of the term (Easton and Hardy, 2009); that there is no one true way to be ‘a polyamorist’ (Benson, 2008).  However, there are similarities amongst the definitions given.  The simplest definition being that of ‘loving more than one’ (Matthesen, 2010), which, giving its lack of any restrictive terminology with regards to gender, race, sexuality, age or even species makes this the most inclusive and at the same time vague definition this author has found for the term polyamory.  Matthesen (2010) does, however, go on to clarify this definition by saying ‘this love may be sexual, emotional, spiritual, or any combination thereof, according to the desires and agreements of the individuals involved’.  This clarification does not put in place any of the above restrictions with regards to gender, race or creed; it does, however, place the limitation of being able to agree to the relationship.  This, therefore, rules out anyone or any being that cannot give their consent to take part in a polyamorous relationship; effectively preventing any ‘underage’ individual (this term is being used strictly in the sense of the specific definition given by the country of residence of the individuals involved), and any non-human individual from being able to participate in a polyamorous relationship.

Other definitions of polyamory include ‘ethical non-monogamy’ (Bennett, 2009), ‘consensual, responsible non-monogamy’ (Taormino, 2008), ‘the practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the consent of all the people involved’ (Soanes and Stevenson, eds., 2005) ‘the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously’ (What is Polyamory? (Anon., 2010))[1] and the highly specific and eloquent description given by Benson (2008):

‘The practice or theory of having emotionally intimate relationships with more than one person simultaneously, with sex as a permissible expression of the caring feelings, openly and honestly keeping one’s primary partner or partners (or dating partners) informed of the existence of the other intimate involvements’ (Benson,. 2008. p1.)

These varying definitions do have common themes running throughout them.  The inclusion of term/s such as ‘ethical’, ‘consensual, responsible’ and ‘openly and honestly’ suggest that there is a philosophical aspect to polyamorous life.  The inclusion of the word ‘consent’ or any derivation upon that theme – ‘ethical’, ‘open’, ‘honest’ and ‘informed’ – also implies that the individuals involved are actively choosing to take part in this lifestyle; that they have consciously thought about the implications of living in a polyamorous way, and have knowingly chosen to live like that.  And finally, the idea of love is present, if not explicitly then implicitly in nearly all the definitions above.  The use of the terms ‘non-monogamy’ and ‘relationship’ implies that there is a bond between the individuals that is alike, but not the same as a monogamous relationship.  Often, but not always, two individuals engage in a monogamous relationship when they are in love with each other (Taormino, 2008).  This then, suggests that the individuals who are choosing to engage in a non-monogamous relationship love those other individuals involved in some way (Easton and Hardy, 2009).  This is not a necessity, as it is not a necessity within a monogamous relationship for the individuals to love each other, but it does suggest a bond of some form has evolved between those participating in the relationship.  These ideas will be explored further during later chapters of this literature review.

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[1] The Polyamory Society: http://www.polyamorysociety.org

Chapter Two


What Polyamory is NOT.

‘If you walk up to a randomly selected individual and propose that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you, you will probably hear a lot of spluttering, argument, and “yahbuts” – STDs, unwanted pregnancies, rape, the commodification of sexual desire, and so on.  None of which changes the core idea.’ – Easton and Hardy (2009)

Polyamory has been confused with many sexual practices since the word was introduced to the English language in 1992 (Veaux, 2009), and so for the purposes of this literature review this author intends to define some of these sexual practices that polyamory is often mistaken for.  This author also acknowledges that whilst actively practicing polyamory many individuals can also participate in some of the activities that will be described below.

Swinging.

Swinging is most commonly mistaken for polyamory, and indeed there is an overlap between the two practices (Benson, 2008.  Easton and Hardy, 2009).  It is a broad term that often gets used to describe a variety of sexual practices (Easton and Hardy, 2009). Fernandes (2008) describes it as being ‘a behavior that involves consensual extra-marital sexual relationships’ and in this way it can be likened to polyamory. Taormino (2008) too describes it as a practice ‘where people [have] sex with one another’ [in the context of couples engaging in sexual activities with other individuals or couples] whilst (most commonly) being in an already established relationship and/or marriage.  She goes on to say that the practice is mainly dominated by heterosexual males and females, and female bisexual sexual interaction; this is corroborated by Fernandes (2008) and Benson (2008).   Easton and Hardy (2009) describe it as a sexual practice that ranges from ‘long term two-couple sexual parings through [to] the wildest of Saturday-night-puppy-pile orgies’.

So what is the difference between swinging and polyamory?  Polyamory and swinging differ in a fundamental way; broadly a swinger, whether single or partnered enjoys sex for its own sake and places a lesser emphasis upon forming a lasting emotional bond with another person outside of an already established relationship (What is Swinging? (anon[1], 2004)) than a polyamorous individual might. (Benson, 2008).  Both swinging and polyamory acknowledge that ‘committed partners can enjoy multiple sexual involvements’ and can span ‘the entire adult age range’ (Benson, 2008).  However, where swinging differs from polyamory is in its emphasis upon recreational sex (Benson, 2008. Taormino, 2008, Fernandes, 2008)

Polygamy, polygyny and polyandry.

These terms are often confused (Benson, 2008).

  • Polygamy is the practice of having more than one legally registered wife or husband at a time (Soanes and Stevenson, eds., 2005).
  • Polygyny is the practice of a man having more than one legally registered wife (Soanes and Stevenson, eds., 2005).
  • Polyandry is the practice of a woman having more than one legally registered husband (Soanes and Stevenson, eds., 2005).

Relationship Anarchy.

Relationship Anarchy or RA is:

[A] non-monogamous philosophy originating in Sweden with many ideas in common with polyamory. However, a relationship anarchist does not make a special distinction between friends, lovers and other forms of relationship. RA also draws from many aspects of third wave, queer and sex positive feminism.’ – Polyamory Glossary, anon[2], (2009)

Free Love.

A term used to describe someone who lives without commitment or restrictions such as marriage and also participates in unrestricted sexual relations (Polyamory Glossary, anon[3], 2009)).

Open Relationship.

‘A relationship, normally a dyad [a two person relationship], which permits multiple sexual partners, but usually without the emotional commitment found in polyamorous relationships.’ (Polyamory Glossary, (anon[4], 2009)).

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[1] What is Swinging: http://www.about-swinging.co.uk

[2] Polyamory Glossary: Polyamory.org.uk

[3] Polyamory Glossary: Polyamory.org.uk

[4] Polyamory Glossary: Polyamory.org.uk

Chapter Three


What Sort of Person is Polyamorous?

‘If you dream of freedom, if you dream of intimacy both hot and profound, if you dream of an abundance of friends and flirtation and affection, of following your desires and seeing where they take you, you’ve already taken the first step’ – Easton and Hardy (2009)

Who practices polyamory?  What sort of person would want to be polyamorous?  Isn’t polyamory just cheating?  Do you have to be bisexual to be polyamorous?  What’s wrong with monogamy? These are all questions found on the Frequently Asked Questions sections of many websites dedicated to polyamory, specifically polyamory.org.uk, polyamory.org, lovemore.com and xeromag.com/fvpoly.  These will also be the questions answered within this chapter as the author feels that they are some of the central blocks upon which to answer why some people are drawn to polyamory and others are not.

Who practices polyamory and why would they do so?

The quick answers to these questions are anyone and because they choose to (Matthesen, 2010).  However, for the purposes of this literature review this author will look deeper into these queries.

The choice to participate in a polyamorous relationship is not one that is going to be embraced by everyone (Taj Anapol, 2010) nor is it going to be right for everyone (Veaux, 2009).  Indeed even just the mention of opening up an existing relationship to the possibility of polyamory can ignite strong emotions in one or more of those involved within the existing relationship (Taj Anapol, 2010).

So what would make someone want to be polyamorous?  This question in and of itself makes a presumption; and that presumption is that polyamory is not a “natural” choice, that it is not “normal” for a person to be polyamorous.  This presumption can be found in the negative wording of the question: What would make a person want to be polyamorous?  This presumption is not true at all.  For some people the practice of polyamory is as intrinsic to them as the practice of monogamy is to others (Veaux, 2009 Benson, 2008); the problem is that due to our natural social conditioning the idea of engaging in any form of relationship other than monogamy is viewed as alien, unnatural or immoral (Taormino, 2009, Veaux, 2009, Benson, 2008, Easton and Hardy, 2009).

An individual would choose to engage in a polyamorous relationship if they agreed and were comfortable with the philosophical, practical and emotional realities of that lifestyle, just as one might choose to be monogamous because they agree with the philosophical, practical and emotional realities of that lifestyle (Veaux, 2009, Matthesen, 2010).  It is unclear as to whether polyamory, (and indeed monogamy) is an ‘innate’ orientation (Benson, 2008).  Certainly it seems that some individuals appear ‘wired’ to live either a polyamorous or monogamous lifestyle, whilst others appear to happily move between these two extremes as they see fit (Benson, 2008, Veaux, 2009, Matthesen, 2010).  Benson (2008) posits that some may be (following the analogy of homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual) ‘biamorous’; that is to say ‘be happy either in a monogamous or polyamorous loving relationship’.  This analogy assumes that homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are innate properties of human sexuality.

If Benson (2008) is correct in his view that an individual can be polyamorous by their very nature and not simply choose to live that lifestyle (and he explicitly states that it is only his opinion and that he has only come across anecdotal evidence – formed from life experience and speaking with others in the polyamorous community – for this viewpoint) then where does the idea of choice and consent come into play?  Is there any room for ‘choice’ if polyamory/biamory/monogamy is innate?  These are questions that require further study, and cannot be adequately answered here; however, this author does believe that the idea of choice and the innate orientation of polyamory are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts, given what the literature has to say about the subject.

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Chapter Four


Choice and fidelity within a polyamorous relationship.

‘Non-monogamous relationships are built not on vows of exclusivity but on the agreements people make and honor; therefore, fidelity is an essential part of non-monogamy.’ – Taormino, (2008)

By building upon the foundation of ‘ethical choice’ laid down by Easton and Hardy (2009) in The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures, 2nd Eds. One can infer that there are two stages of “choice” an individual will go through when entering into a polyamorous relationship.  Firstly the choice to engage in that relationship – this is dealt with in extreme detail in chapter six of the aforementioned book: ‘Chapter Six, Infinite Possibilities’ in which all styles of human relations are discussed – and secondly the choice as to whether or not to be honest, ethical and open once you are an active participant within this relationship.  This is covered extensively in ‘Chapter Eight: Slut Skills’ and ‘Chapter Nine: Boundaries’.

It is upon the second half of the two stages of choice that this author would like to concentrate upon, as in the previous chapter the idea that polyamory is an innate “orientation” has been posited, and tentatively agreed upon as a valid possibility to explain some individuals draw towards polyamory.  It is with this assumption in place that the following argument – that choice does still play a significant role in a polyamorous relationship – will be made.

How you behave once you are in a polyamorous relationship can only ever be your own responsibility (Matik, 2002).  Indeed Matik (2002) very succinctly states that a polyamorous relationship cannot ‘function at all without all parties involved making a commitment to honesty, communication, patience and hard work.’  The idea that ‘all parties involved’ make this ‘commitment’ suggests that each individual chooses whether or not to agree to the terms of the relationship, and whether or not to be faithful to this agreement.  It is this freedom of choice then, that this author believes is the one that all individuals can make, whether or not they are monogamous, polyamorous or indeed asexual.  The choice to maintain honesty, trust and fidelity is crucial to maintaining any form of relationship (Easton and Hardy, 2009).

Benson (2008) argues that this choice is not merely a formality, but is a necessity due to the very character of a polyamorous relationship.  Whilst it is true that the only person you can be responsible for is yourself (Benson, 2008, Easton and Hardy, 2009), an individual in a polyamorous relationship is responsible to all the others within the relationship, however many individuals that may be (Easton and Hardy, 2009, Matik, 2002).  They must, Benson (2008) argues, be faithful to the agreements made and boundaries that have been put in place at the commencement of the relationship.  If any person feels that they can no longer agree to or feel comfortable with these arrangements then they must negotiate a change with all parties involved.  This is in order to keep the integrity of the relationship intact and open and honest communication in place (Benson, 2008, Taormino, 2008, Matik, 2002).

The idea of fidelity within a polyamorous relationship may sound strange (Taormino, 2008) as traditionally the concept of fidelity within a relationship is related to the notion of ‘spouses promising to be faithful to each other and to forsake all others’ (Taormino, 2008).  The origin of the word fidelity is cited in the Oxford English Dictionary of 2005 as being from the ‘Old French fidelite’ or the ‘Latin fidelitas, from fidelis’ which means faithful.  This definition of fidelity is echoed by Taormino (2008) when she describes fidelity, in the context of polyamory, as ‘believing strongly in your love and in your relationship, and keeping your promises’.

It seems that, as in a monogamous relationship, one of the greatest mistakes a person can make in a polyamorous relationship is to break a promise or to not be honest.  Indeed, in her article ‘How to F*** Up [in a polyamorous or open relationship]’ Matthesen (2010) writes:

‘1. Lie.  This is basic and effective.’

This demonstrates the weight and value that is placed upon truth within a polyamorous relationship.  Matthesen (2010) goes onto re-enforce this by saying in her list of 9 ways to F*** Up a polyamorous relationship:

‘9.  For the ultimate metaf***-up, remain technically faithful to your partner while breaking the spirit of whatever agreement you have whenever possible, keeping this knowledge bottled up to ensure maximum fear, shame and resentment.’ Matthesen,. 2010. http://www.faqs.org/faqs/polyamory/faq-supplement/

This rather tongue-in-cheek summary of how a person can break apart a polyamorous relationship places the emphasis of the argument around fidelity.  The notion of honesty to ones partner is stressed by pointing out that a person can break a deal in more ways than physical cheating.  In the example given above being ‘technically faithful’ is not enough to ensure complete fidelity and avoid feelings of guilt, anger, shame and resentment, as one can also ‘break the spirit of whatever arrangement you have’.

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A good question, and one that can be answered quite simply: no (Matthesen, 2010).  Just as Easton and Hardy (2009) point out that anyone, of any sexual orientation and inclination can be a slut (a term they use for an individual with a sex positive attitude); anyone, regardless of sexual orientation and who has the inclination, can be a polyamorist (Veaux, 2009, Benson, 2008).

A more common assumption is that in order to be bisexual a person must be polyamorous (Norrgard, 1991).  Indeed, the title of Norrgard’s (1991) article is ‘Can bisexuals be monogamous?’ suggests that there is an implicit assumption made by many people about bisexuals; that in order to be a “bisexual” one must be in a relationship with both a man and a woman and therefore can never ‘be monogamous’.  Norrgard (1991) agrees, as does Klesse (2007), that some individuals agree with this idea, and do not feel that they can fully embrace their sexual identity as a bisexual without being in a relationship with a member of both sexes at once.  However, they both go on to argue that this is not necessarily the case with all bisexuals.

This assumption that bisexuality is intrinsically linked with polyamory can also be seen in this quotation taken from Plummer’s (2003) Intimate Citizenship: Private Decisions and Public Dialogues:  ‘We are able to construct new sexual identities – from transgendered and queer to polyamorous and bisexual’ and again in Forman Sumpter’s (1991) Myths/realities of bisexuality, where she explicitly confronts the myth that ‘Bisexuals cannot be monogamous’.  She succinctly sums up the argument by stating that:


‘Bisexuality is a sexual orientation.  It is independent of a lifestyle of monogamy or non-monogamy.  Bisexuals are as capable as anyone of making a long-term commitment to a partner they love.  Bisexuals live a variety of lifestyles, as do gays and heterosexuals ‘Forman Sumpter,. 1991. p12.

What’s wrong with monogamy?

As Veaux (2009) put it, ‘nothing’.  Monogamy is a valid lifestyle choice; it is, however, not the only one.  There are a myriad of different ways of living and experiencing relationships of all kinds and there is nothing “wrong” with any of them, provided that the individuals involved are consenting adults (Benson, 2008, Taormino, 2009, Easton and Hardy, 2008, Matik, 2002).

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Chapter Five


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[1], 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.

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[1] Introduction to Polyamory: polyamory.org.uk