What Is Polyamory?
f you’re in a relationship, do you expect monogamy from your partner? Most of us would answer this question with a resounding "YES"! We live in a society that expects monogamy from our sexual partners. Serial monogamy, a form of monogamy in which partners have only one sexual partner at any one time, is common on college campuses today. The majority of men and women have more than one sexual partner in their lifetime, but they are monogamous while in these relationships.
A "polyamorous" man or woman has intimate, loving relationships with more than one person at a time, but he or she also has a consensual and agreed-on context to these affairs (Weitzman, 1999). Polyamorous couples are gay and straight, and they are honest with each other about their relationships. These types of relationships are very different from a monogamous couple that cheats while
claiming to maintain his or her faithfulness.
Polyamorous individuals are not swingers because the
emphasis is on a relationship rather than on recreational sex.
Polyamorous relationship could take many forms, including:
1. Primary-Plus: One couple in a primary relationship agrees to pursue outside relationships. New lovers are "secondary lovers," and the primary relationship remains the most important relationship.
2. Triad: Three people involved in a committed intimate relationship. All three relationships are equal and there is no primary relationship.
3. Individual with Multiple Primaries: This relationship resembles a "V," with one partner at the pivot point with two additional partners who may not relate to each other.
Source: Davidson, 2002.
open marriage, in which couples engage in comarital sex (the consenting of married couples to sexually exchange partners), and the partners are often referred to as swingers or polyamorists (pah-lee-AM-more-rists). It is estimated that there are about 3 million married, middle-aged swingers in the United States today. Years ago, these swingers found each other in swingers’ magazines, but today many support groups exist, and the Internet is the main source of contact (Rubin, 2001). Overall, the majority of swingers are white, middle class, middle aged, and church going (Bergstrand & Williams, 2000).
In 1972, George & Nena O’Neill published a book entitled Open Marriage (O’Neill & O’Neill, 1972). In this book, they explained that “sexual adventuring” was fine, as long as both spouses knew about it. In open marriages, each partner is free to seek out sexual partners outside of the marriage. Many swingers engage in “safe-sex circles” in which they have sex only with people who have tested negative for STIs.
Most couples who allow this, however, have strict rules meant to protect the marriage; sex in those cases is seen as separate from the loving relations of marriage. The marriage is always viewed as the primary relationship, and sex outside this relationship is thought only to strengthen the marriage (Rubin, 2001). In fact, swingers have been found to report happier marriages and a higher life satisfaction than nonswingers (Bergstrand & Williams, 2000). However, many couples also find that maintaining that kind of openness is more difficult than they anticipated.
Marriages in Other Cultures
Dating, cohabitation, and marriage are often viewed differently outside the United States. Let’s now take a look at courtship, arranged marriages, extramarital sex, and various customs and practices common outside the United States.
Courtship and Arranged Marriages
In most industrialized countries, partner selection through dating is the norm. However, in some countries there are no dating systems. For example, in Sweden, there is no Swedish term for what Americans call “dating”—couples meet at dance clubs, bars, schools, or through friends (Trost, 2004).
Human Sexuality in a Diverse World