Gay Marriage vs Polyamory

I like to think of myself as a rational person.

I’m open to new ideas and can discuss just about anything, but I expect people to remain civil. Arguing your side using logic is a bit like the scientific method: it may be imperfect, but it’s the best tool we have.

We can’t just work off  the premise that everyone’s opinion is equally valid, or that the truth is always somewhere in between… feelings don’t count as reasonable arguments because the world can’t cater to everyone’s feelings. Otherwise, Nazi ideology would be as valid as any other.

And being offended or having your feelings hurt doesn’t automatically make you right. Not without a rational argument to back it up.

So… when the issue of gay marriage comes up, I have little patience for religious arguments. If you think gay marriage is wrong, I think, then don’t get married to someone of the same sex. But don’t force your ideology on everybody else.

There are a lot of arguments about whether homosexuals are born or made, but I’ve never understood the point in these discussions. Conversion therapy doesn’t work and why would we need it to? Whatever two consenting adults do in their own time should be nobody’s business. I’d much rather gay people pair off into stable, committed relationships than be involved in the bathhouse culture anyway.

It frustrates me when people want to make things illegal just because the idea makes them uncomfortable. You can’t force your individual tastes or ethics on other people.

I mean, some people actually fetishize having pies thrown in their face. I don’t get the allure, but don’t think it should be illegal. No one’s getting hurt here.

So… considering myself the kind of person who is above knee-jerk emotional reactions, I’m having lots of trouble reconciling my attitudes toward polyamory.

This polyamory argument is being made: if a group of people want to make a commitment to each other and marry multiple people, why should it be illegal?

Wow, that’s a tough one.

The idea really tests my self-perception of tolerance, because the same logical reasons I believe we should allow gay marriage also apply to polyamory:

  1. Everyone involved is an adult
  2. Everyone consents
  3. No one is getting hurt, and
  4. Even though I wouldn’t do it, it may work for someone else

Except I really, really don’t want polyamory to go mainstream.

But why?

I think it’s an unstable situation that’s gross. I think it creates a weird psychological environment for kids and confusion about family roles.

And yet, these are the same reasons I object to when they’re used against gay marriage.

Am I a hypocrite?

I don’t know.

I just know the very idea makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Maybe because polyamory usually involves multiple wives with one husband, so it feels like women would get the short end of the stick. Would kids get enough attention from their fathers if the father had a ton of kids? Would the “favored” wife’s kids get most of the attention?

And how should you feel about staying faithful to a man who isn’t faithful to you? I couldn’t stand it.

If there are multiple husbands, then how do we know which one is the father? What happens to children who bond with caregivers who could suddenly disappear?

As much as I want to believe I’m open and tolerant to other perspectives, I’m having a really hard time reconciling how differently I feel about gay marriage and polyamory. Maybe we all have these limits.

What do you think?

 

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24 thoughts on “Gay Marriage vs Polyamory

  1. Polamory in my opinion is clearly different from what I understand. I am not a fan of religion because it is freated by humans who set their own agenda. Some will agree that gay marriage is wrong and some will say it us right because it suits them. I think you either believe in a religion whole heartedly or not at all. I think in many cases Polyamory is one man and many wives and all involved are not equal. It is human nature for there to be tension if even it is not obvious from an outsiders point of view. Is it just one person getting what they want? like in some open relationships. It also comes down to what you think of sex and if you believe it can be physical rather than emotional.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? I don’t like mixing religion into our legal system either, so I’m not sure what to make of my problem with polyamory.

      I mean, I’m not worried about what consenting adults do in private, but I have issues with polyamory becoming “accepted” in the mainstream. I think it does have something to do with how it’s usually a many women with one guy scenario, and I would have such a problem with that arrangement that I can’t help thinking the women who agree to it have been brainwashed.

      But even if it’s multiple men with one woman… how does it affect the kids? It just seems wrong to me.

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  2. I think you’re conflating polygamy with polyamory. The term polygamy has a history of a religious based mentality in which a man marries multiple wives, and has the connotation of a strange cult-like atmosphere that absolutely devalues women and may include brainwashing strategies. To be fair, I don’t know that many polygamists, so my preconceived notions may be wrong, but it makes me uncomfortable too!

    Polyamory is a more modern term which refers to people who has or are seeking more than more romantic and/or sexual relationships. In my experience, partners tend to be equal, everyone has agency, and gender is more or less irrelevant other than how it is influenced by the practitioners’ sexual orientation. Many women [and men, and transpeople] are polyamorous and have multiple partners. It has little or nothing to do with religion and everything to do with preference.

    I absolutely think that *consenting* adults should be able to form any contractual agreements they want including marriage. My problem with polygamy (and perhaps what bothers you as well) is the questionable nature of consent in the practice.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! I am a poly woman with a girlfriend and boyfriend who do not date each other. My boyfriend is monogamous with me and we agreed I can have my girlfriend still. No one is controlling anyone. It is consensual and safe sex is practiced. If the law allowed me to I would marry them both. There are cases where poly does not mirror the practice of patriarchal religion and has really nothing to do with it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sounds like a nice situation for you, lol. It makes makes me happy to hear about it, though, because it seems like the great majority of poly relationships I’ve heard about involve multiple women with one man.

        I think that’s the root my of my discomfort with it: the idea that it could so easily be used against women, since that’s how it traditionally happens. I picture men fathering children they can’t support with multiple women, who end up shouldering most of the burdens while the children don’t receive enough attention from their dad.

        Which obviously isn’t the case in your situation, though I’m wondering how we would protect against this generally happening. I’m typically of the live-and-let-live persuasion when it comes to sexual matters (as long as everyone is a consenting adult), so polyamory doesn’t bother me when children aren’t involved.

        When they are, I have fears about how it would work out. Though again, I think I’m mostly concerned about women ending up with the short end of that stick.

        Either way, it’s an interesting subject to explore 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In my culture joint families are very common, and in many cases the elders who could be the cousins or brothers of my father all play the role of a father. (That doesn’t mean they share the women, it just means they share the responsibilities) The younger generation usually does not feel neglected because if one of the elders is always busy and does not give much attention to the younger ones, then there is always someone else who does. Usually those who mingle more with the younger ones influences them in many ways. It teaches the importance of maintaining a good relationship with family members. I believe a polyamorous family could work in a similar way.

        I believe that if an individual is an arse, whether they are in a polyamorous relationship or in a mono relationship, they wouldn’t care about the children; and if an individual is not like that then no matter what relationship they are in, children will be taken good care of. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You point about arses being arses, regardless of social norms is well taken. Truly, a lot will depend on temperament, I’m sure.

        It’s also interesting to hear from someone who lives where poly families are common. I wonder, however, if they are more stable where you live because your culture has had a long time to work out the arrangement?

        Here, I worry about them becoming an excuse for people to disappear from their children’s lives. Maybe they would work if our laws accounted for this possibility.

        I’ve also heard from children who grew up in poly cultures that they suffer when their mother isn’t the favored wife. I suppose this could again be a case of arses just being arses, though.

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  3. Yes, I think you’re right. Technically, I know the difference between polyamory and polygamy, but I think that my fear regarding making polyamory mainstream is that it would end up legitimizing polygamy more than anything else… simply because some cultures and religions already have longstanding traditions of polygamy, whereas equitable polyamory hasn’t been as clearly defined.

    I guess I’m saying that if polyamory becomes legally recognized (it becomes legal to marry multiple people), it would also legalize polygamy and be used that way more often, which scares me. Yes, I do think it’s a consent issue at heart…

    But maybe part of the distinction for me is also that I don’t think legalizing gay marriage affects straight couples because i don’t think our sexual preferences change (unless we were hiding them in the first place). So, straight people wouldn’t stop being straight just because gay people are allowed to marry–but I don’t know that there wouldn’t be more open relationships if polyamory were recognized. That probably makes it seem more threatening… as though it could change negotiations and lead to more unstable situations for families.

    Eh, this is a tough one for me. Part of me thinks consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want, while another part worries about the implications.

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    1. I think the “unstable situation for families” objection is easily comparable to when that objection is made about gay families, adoptive families, interracial families, or divorced/blended families. The poly family topic hasn’t been well researched but my inclination is that children come from many different types of homes and do fine so long as they are loved and cared for and can have their needs attended to. There may actually be certain advantages to having more adults to care for children than a conventional two parent family.

      Also consider that whether marriage is legal or not, these dynamics already exist in households across America and the world. If three or more people love each other, the fact that they can’t get married isn’t going to stop them from cohabiting and raising kids.

      Perhaps legalization would make polyamory more popular, but I don’t think so. Nor would it make polygamy more or less rampant. And if it did, so what? Why shouldn’t people get to love whoever they want, so long as everyone is consenting and it works for them? If you don’t want to be polyamorous, you don’t have to.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes–the clear comparisons to children raised by gay couples are exactly why I’m baffled by my own reaction. It doesn’t seem internally consistent.

        Maybe part of the problem is that while homosexuality has been more or less accepted by the mainstream, polyamory is such an unknown to most people.

        We have gay friends, see gay characters on TV, read article after article about homosexuality and it seems generally accepted these day, apart from in traditional religious communities.

        On the other hand, I can only think of a few broad categories of polyamory that I’ve seen: 1) polygamy (as in the show “Big Love,” etc), 2) swinging, which comes across as an anything-goes, consequence-free lifestyle, and 3) tell-all articles by married people who pursue polyamory.

        The third category usually involves a member of a long-married couple talking about how they reached this understanding with their spouse, then brought in new members… a new girlfriend or boyfriend… and it usually ends with the breakup of the marriage, or the couple declaring it a failed experiment.

        I’m thinking that we outsiders get most of our impressions from tales like these… anecdotal accounts of the devastation of relationships after polyamory was explored.

        Perhaps those stories are too biased–maybe there hasn’t been enough research conducted on the topic or polyamorous families stay too hidden to offer different narratives.

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      2. I definitely think polyamory hasn’t gotten much exposure, and what is out there is mostly negative. People are still very in the closet about their poly relationships and families. And people have a lot of pre-conceived notions about it.

        Anecdotally I am in the 3rd category (married to open marriage) and we’ve been open for the last 4.5 years. So far so good. I’m so happy I started a blog about it 🙂

        Also, if we’re going to judge a relationship style by how often breakups occur, I have to think monogamy is also a miserable failure. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

      3. This is true, and I think people rely a lot on stories and images when dealing with unfamiliar things. The polyamorists who write articles about it have often left the lifestyle, so it creates the impression of a failed experiment.

        I’ll have to check out your blog. While I don’t think that the imperfections of monogamy necessarily mean that polyamory is the right way to go, I’d be interested in hearing what it’s like to maintain a relationship with such different rules. I’m sure many monogamous people would be fascinated.

        Either way, I’m not here to poke into other people’s business and have no interest in shutting down lifestyles different than mine. The point of my post was examining why I feel so differently about making polyamorous marriages vs gay marriage legal, given that the arguments for both are much the same. There’s a recognition of hypocrisy occurring in my psyche that I’m trying to figure out.

        I really think, at some level, that I’m afraid of legitimizing polygamy in particular. Because if polyamory becomes legal and receives the benefits of monogamous marriage, then what’s to stop polygamy from official recognition?

        I don’t know, but I’ll check out your blog, at any rate.

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      4. Personally, I will stay in the closet if I should decide to be poly. Most I have met have multiple partners and unfortunately, cons outweigh pros in my experience. Also, there are many different families to each their own however, I would never exposed my kid to live-in triad or more.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That makes more sense to me, maybe because the (limited) poly experiences I’ve heard about seem to involve a couple that stays together and boyfriends/girlfriends that don’t last… a concern would be whether children would attached to another parent figure that ends up disappearing.

        Seems safer to have a mutual understanding with the other parent while keeping it from the kids. But I don’t know… all speculation for me.

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  4. LOL well I am fairly certain that issue would work itself out after thousand of households are massacred due to the wives/husbands not getting along. In the end there probably would be many more than already exist. LOL 🙂

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    1. Ha, are you saying people would start killing each other in jealous rages until the whole polyamory fad died down?

      I don’t know about that, lol. I figure anyone murderously jealous wouldn’t agree to the arrangement in the first place, and one half of the partnership exploring other options is usually called “infidelity.”

      Though I have to wonder if anyone has ever tried that excuse: “Honey, I wasn’t *cheating* on you, just questioning whether monogamy is humanity’s natural state by exploring polyamorous relationships… GEEZ.”

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  5. This is polygamy not polyamory. Though polygamy is part of that culture.

    Let me clear up some of your questions?

    What about the kids? Well kids of poly households have multiple people there for them. They have multiple people to help them, they have multiple people looking out for them and multiple people to love them. This is not a bad thing. Also if someone was to get divorced and then they got a new partner, society would expect that all three people in the child’s life should get along, help raise the child, and work together for the child’s benefit. This is the same concept except that there is no divorce.

    I also want to note that polygamy has a bad rep of being cult like. This isn’t the case for everyone. I know many polygamists that love their lives and their chosen families.

    What you see in the media is exactly what the media wants you to see. Drama increases views so showing the negative will get more views so that’s what is shown.

    I’m. It trying to convert anyone into being poly. I’m just giving you some answers to your questions 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah yes–I can see that polyamory doesn’t have to mean polygamy, but I think I’m afraid it would mostly end up being polygamy because that seems to be the most common arrangement (historically). Think I’d feel less threatened if I knew it was more equitable.

      I can kind of see what you’re saying about multiple caregivers for children. I imagine that in the days before nuclear families, there was more of a village mentality when it came to the kids of the “tribe,” and that this offered its own security.

      I think my specific fear in this case is that kids would become attached to a string of caregiving adults who would suddenly disappear from their lives–assuming there were revolving partners.

      I also think about how threatened kids feel by divorce and worry about them being in an unstable situation–what if dad gets a new girlfriend and suddenly stops caring about mom? Does this scare the kids?

      I’m not saying it has to… I just don’t know. These are the kinds of hypothetical problems I’m envisioning when trying to make sense of a practice that’s so beyond what I’m used to… if that makes sense.

      I can see what you’re saying about poly families being depicted with much drama. Since we outsiders aren’t familiar with any examples of stable, “normal” poly families, we’re probably inclined to picture lots of chaos.

      I appreciate you trying to answer my questions, though! It’s a very fascinating idea and I think understanding unconventional situations can help us be more open-minded about them. 🙂

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  6. I agree with kristenpolyamory, children in poly families would simply have more resources since they have more parental figures available. There would be more resources for the parents too, for assistance with care, since the care is divvied out amongst more parties. Just because someone is poly does not mean they can not practice the normal discretion parents practice in regards to the bedroom. Poly does not always mean one man multiple women, or that one person is the focal point of all the attention (though that can be the case of some arrangements). Polyamory is about consent, negotiation, and respect.

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    1. I can see that, depending on the arrangement.

      I think if it’s for all intents and purposes a poly marriage, where everyone involved does their best to work out problems and stay together as long as possible, it may be fine.

      What scares me, in particular, is the idea of parenting figures who shuffle in and out of a kid’s life. I’m imagining the kids getting attached to someone they end up never seeing again, which could teach them not to get attached over time.

      But if it’s a stable arrangement, that would be different,.

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  7. I really appreciate this post as a polyamorous person, because rather than openly declaring that we are wrong, you are opening up an intelligent discourse. Thank you for that.

    I am in an arrangement that consists of three women: myself, my wife, and my wife’s second partner. We all live together and function as a family. It works for us. It works really, really well.

    The concern I would like to address first off is the perception that polyamorous relationships are inherently less stable than monogamous ones. There are plenty of two-person relationships that are unstable, and the same goes for three-or-four-person relationships. If a unit is unstable, it’s usually not because of the number of people involved, but because of another much more complex emotional issue, like trust or integrity. Generally speaking, poly relationships are built on a foundation of honesty. It works because everyone involved is clear about their needs, and concerned with the well being of their partners. If I have feelings for someone, my wife knows about it. We talk about it. We trust each other. We have family meetings to discuss issues that affect all of us. In fact, because there are more of us, it’s like we have a system of checks and balances for unfair behavior. Issues come up sooner and are easier to address.

    My wife and I want to have kids someday. When we do, her partner will probably be referred to as their godmother or aunt. Because she’s not going anywhere.

    There are tons of kids who are raised by more than two people: parents and grandparents, older siblings, aunts ad uncles. Just because we are romantically involved doesn’t make that situation more complicated. Community parenting has been a concept for thousands of years. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

    Regarding legality of plural marriages, I agree that could be complicated to orchestrate policies for. However, I also think it’s crucially important. I want our third partner to be able to pick our children up from school in case of an emergency. If my wife or I passes away I want our third partner to be able to raise our children. If my wife is in the hospital, both of us should be able to see her, and make decisions about her health. These are the same basic rights that my wife and I fought for as a same-gender couple.

    As a follow up, just to leave you some things to think about, the majority of polyamorous arrangements are founded on equality, love, and mutual respect. It’s not a fetish. Practically speaking, it makes a lot of sense. the whole thing is based on the idea that just because we love each other doesn’t mean we own each other.

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    1. Thank you, and I was, in fact, genuinely trying to open up an intelligent discourse on the subject.

      I recognize that there are inconsistencies in my feelings about polyamory and was doing a bit of soul-searching with that in mind. I’m generally tolerant and have a live-and-let-live mindset, yet am also aware of my knee-jerk reaction against polyamory and was hoping to sort it out by laying it down on the page.

      I think, after reading many responses and pondering this, that I’m not mentally distinguishing polyamory from open marriages (or even swingers). This partly comes from reading articles written by pro-poly people who experimented with different partners while remaining married (with their spouse’s consent).

      It left me with the image of partners constantly flitting in and out of people’s lives, which seems like a very unstable situation for children who may grow attached to parental figures, only to suddenly never see them again.

      And of course, the other prominent examples of poly-marriage are within Mormon cults and throughout the Middle East, where women seem to have second-class citizenship, so I tend to associate the practice with lowering the right of women.

      And while I realize that’s not technically required (women could have multiple husbands too), I worry that it could gravitate that way… that men running around on women while the women patiently put up with it could become more prevalent. Or that women with low self-esteem could be drawn to relationships with promiscuous men who don’t treat them very well as having multiple partners becomes a more-accepted norm.

      So, if *I’m* reluctant for these reasons, then maybe that’s why many other people are resistant (if not on purely Christian grounds).

      The idea of a very committed few people, who will always be there to care for whatever children they have, and who aren’t always several women catering to one Alpha male seems less scary.

      Maybe making it legally-binding and limiting the number of people involved would help? I’m not sure, since I’m working through my own feelings on the subject. I think that safeguarding strict legal responsibilities for one’s children would seem far less threatening, however it’s done.

      And of course, it’s partly difficult because I’m such a jealous person that it’s tough for me to imagine being happy in an arrangement where I share my partner with someone else. That doesn’t make it wrong for other people, of course, but it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around someone being okay with it. It feels volatile, because it would be for me, which, again, doesn’t mean everyone else feels that way. But how does one feel okay having a partner who is intimate with someone else? Unless it’s shared amongst all three (which I still can’t identify with, but somehow seems more understandable).

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      1. For me personally, I love my wife and I want her to be happy, and I am genuinely delighted when she does things that are good for her. If someone who is not me makes her happy, that’s great! Because that is enriching for her. Her girlfriend encourages her and brings out the best in her, and why would I as someone who loves her want to keep her from that? That’s like if we went to a restaurant and she really enjoyed her meal and I said “No, you can’t enjoy that because I didn’t cook it for you.”

        As far as “limiting” polyamorous marriage, this unfortunately was a tactic used when legalizing same sex marriage was first proposed. People said things like “Well we can let them have civil unions, but they can’t really get married,” and “Well we can let them get married, but they can’t adopt children.” It’s a gentle bigotry.

        There are so many different kinds of polyamory, too.

        Sometimes it’s a “kitchen” table arrangement where three or more people, whether they are all involved or not,, live as a cohesive family.

        Sometimes it means someone is splitting their time between two partners, sleeping half the week at one place and half the week at another place.

        I am deeply in love with someone who lives really far away from me. I don’t get to see them but maybe twice a year. When we are together, we don’t have sex because that’s not a part of our relationship, but we do go on dates and hold each other and dance and…. maybe kiss. Sometimes. When I’m stressed and tired, my wife will say “Maybe you need to go see him.” That’s polyamory, too.

        It could also be a pretty “normal” marriage between two people in which one or both partners are permitted to have other sexual partners as long as they don’t make romantic attachments, or other romantic partners as long as they are sexually monogamous.

        We are not a monolith.

        The best way to become more comfortable and learn more about polyamorous people as a community is to talk to poly people. My blog Metamorsels is a pretty simple day by day account of what our version of poly looks like. You are welcome to check it out and ask me any questions you have. There are also lots of other poly blogs here that are worth following.

        Anything can be scary if it’s viewed as something that “normal people” just don’t do. But we are normal people. We’re just normal people who travel in larger groups. 😛

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