And on the Seventh Day He Created… Monogamy?
By Maeve Topliff
While most of us grew up with fairytales and happily ever afters that ended with man finding woman and living out their days together, as gender roles and sexuality becomes more fluid, should our ideas about love and marriage follow suit?
For many this monogamous lifestyle isn’t in the cards. Polyamory has been practised since humans started to explore love and relationships. It suggests that love does not have to be restricted to one partner and we can in fact form healthy and loving relationships with multiple partners. While this may prick the ears of those who are not very good at remaining faithful in their monogamous relationships, this is not a vessel for that. Often because polyamory does not fit the mould that we expect from relationships it is branded as a scapegoat for those who want to cheat on their partner. However, not only is polyamory based in trust and a mutual understanding between partners, but this misconception simply comes from a place of ignorance. It’s understandable! All many of us have ever known is the idea of dedicating oneself to one person, theoretically for the rest of our lives. But to understand and respect polyamory we must grasp onto our ideas surrounding traditional relationships with less grip and embrace that for many that is simply not the goal. The concept sounds like something that in today's world we would want to embrace, the idea that our love is not limited and can be shared? It seems like we could all use a bit of that.
Polyamory comes in many forms, some date in a triad or a quad with couples searching for a third person or second couple to form a relationship with. Some engage in ‘vee’ style relationships in which one person dates multiple people separately (and consensually!) Honestly the list goes on as I’m sure a list of types of monogamy would if there were such a thing. I should also note that polyamory and polygamy are different terms. Polygamy indicates when those in a polyamorous relationship are married and while few countries criminalise sexualities, in many countries including the UK and United States polygamy is illegal. This apparently in an effort to protect women from relationships and groups that have multiple wives as historically that has not been a brilliant thing for women. However, in this writers humble and vaguely irrelevant opinion while this is an important factor, it wasn’t so long ago people were rationalising gay marriage being illegal and to exclude anyone from what many see as a fundamental human activity seems like a slippery slope to me. This is the danger when people come across something that they don’t understand, small groups can create a misconception for very large groups of people and because they are afraid of things they do not know, people attempt to erase it from their ideas of love and relationships.
This may seem all rather daunting, and if you’re a die hard monogamist it may seem completely foreign and while I have no interest in convincing people into polyamory I think there are a lot of values that polyamorists display that perhaps we should centre more in our own relationships. The practicalities of polyamory mean that these relationships are often more open and honest as they require a great deal of communication to function healthily. (although you could argue all relationships do) It encourages independence, often avoiding situations in which a couple become codependent on each other and as far as I have seen polyamorous relationships seem to have healthy, confidence building, and deeply intimate sex lives just as much as monogamous people do. Navigating these dynamics takes a huge amount of communication which seems to result in long lasting and fruitful relationships. Monogamous relationships on average last about two years and the average polyamorous relationship lasts eight and while if you are a commitment person this won’t be for you, the suggestion that perhaps we are not coded to commit ourselves to one person forever seems to be collecting persuasive evidence.
With the rise of social media and streaming services we are now getting the opportunity to learn from polyamorists how their world works. Channel 4 has a docu series called ‘Open House: The Great Sex Experiment’ which follows monogamous couples attempting to open up their relationships. While it is rather R rated and doesn’t really dive into long term polyamorous relationships, it does show us all the highs and lows of engaging in this lifestyle. Some couples come away feeling that their experience has brought them closer than ever, some decide it isn’t for them, but all of them seem to come out understanding themselves and their partners much better. What we see on this program is couples sitting down and having honest conversations about their boundaries, opening up about their insecurities, and displaying love and care to their partners, how could you object to that! It also gives us great insight into why many people think monogamy is not for them, the ways in which polyamory or consensual non-monogamy makes them feel confident, loved, supported by a community, and the terrible unknown that so many people don’t understand quickly becomes understandable.
My personal favourite resource for those who are interested in polyamory, whether in practice or theory, is ‘The Poly Couple’ on TikTok. This is a couple who post skits about manoeuvring a Vee style polyamorous relationship in which they both date other people. This is excellent for understanding the emotional aspects of long term polyamorous relationships. These two have been together for sixteen years and while their page is filled with content that will make you laugh, it is also really informative! They give us insight into their own relationship as well as how they support each other getting into new ones! Now it may just be because our attention spans are slowly dwindling and their videos are in convenient minute long clips, however I love these guys and can watch them for longer than I would care to admit. Part of this is because this non-monogamous relationship seems to be more healthy than any monogamous relationships I know (but then again that’s the magic of cinema…)
Generally we tend to know what and who we like. So if you’ve come to the end of this article and haven’t had some revelation about monogamy or have no compulsion to go on a polyamorous TV show I won’t take it personally. But I would encourage everyone to take a magnifying glass to how they practise their own sexuality and I would further suggest that that that we do not know is not to be feared, you never know you could get a new favourite TikTok page just from being a bit more open to what the world has to offer.