Rethinking Relationships: Monogamy & Polyamory

The modern Western culture is grounded on identity dualities: man/woman, heterosexual/homosexual, white/black, virgin/whore, to name a few.

These dualisms encourage a hierarchial structure between the former and the latter, which then enforces a sense of cultural, political and social inequality in our society. This sense of inequality is obvious when one looks into the structure of human relationships. Except for heterosexual monogamy, other forms of relationships are often marginalized and marked as abnormal by mainstream society. However, this kind of thinking is wrong because all forms of relationships are equal; as long as the parties involved in the relationships are healthy and happy, there should be no problem with the relationship style.

So, how does monogamy gain its power? As Mint (2004) suggests, besides jealousy, monogamy is enforced by the cultural ideas of cheating. In general, we are taught that the act of cheating is bad. As we can often see in dramas or movies, those who cheat often end up being dumped, divorced or punished because they are regarded as morally corrupt. Also, through mass media, we are taught that any triangular relationship is going to be unstable, short-term and competitive. This conception leads us to think that in order to have a healthy relationship, monogamy is the best (and perhaps the only) option that we can have. Furthermore, it is suggested that the myth of one true love upholds the ideology of monogamy. Under the myth of one true love, monogamy comes to mean not only that one person can only have an intimate relationship with one person at a time but also the concept that a particular person is really only attracted to one other person during the course of their entire lives.

However, in reality, numerous surveys have confirmed that the number of people who cheat counts for almost one-third of the population (see Women are now cheating as much as men and Infidelity rates in UK). From these infidelity statistics, one comes to understand that the myth of one true love is a sociocultural (romance) constructed idea, that not everyone is suitable to this kind of relationship style. From this aspect, those who cheated in the monogamous relationship are not only cheating their partner but also the system itself. Among these cheaters, some would choose to cheat again while some would choose to uphold what they view as the truth about what would bring the most benefit to everyone involved. For instance, the polygamous community is facing off against the system of monogamy and the myth of one true love.

In the practice of polyamorous relationships, one needs not to give up one partner in order to be intimate with another because it is not morally or ethically wrong to have sexual and/or romantic relationships with more than one person at a time. Also, bisexual and polygamous communities have come to reclaim the stigmatized three-person situation as cooperative, long-term, and positive for everyone involved. More specifically, polyamorists strike to expand the definition of monogamy through promoting an alternative perspective towards jealousy and the act of cheating. Regarding jealousy, many polyamorous individuals are happy to see their partner meet and enjoy the company, passion or whatever of someone else (Moosa, “Why You Should [and Shouldn’t Be] Monogamous”). This reaction is grounded on the conception that one can attempt to meet the desires of others but one does not rule over their desires.

Moosa further explains, for polygamist, a relationship that expects “complete sexual or emotional linking might be not only impossible but immoral: why can’t we have multiple individuals meeting us in our multiple desires?” As to the system of “cheating,” it serves a different meaning in polyamorous relationships. According to Kakdera, “If there is a concept of ‘cheating’ or ‘infidelity’ in polyamory, it is usually lying or being deceptive about one’s activities [with any other partner].” In other words, not the act of having sex with the others but the act of hiding it from the others is ethically wrong in polyamorous relationships.

Whether it is monogamy or polyamory, the most important thing is to stay happy and healthy in that relationship style that one has chosen. It is also important to note that there is no hierarchy between monogamy and polyamory, as each form is created and applied in order to suit the needs and desires of human beings. So, mono or poly: your choice.

Whether it is monogamy or polyamory, the most important thing is to stay happy and healthy in that relationship style that one has chosen. It is also important to note that there is no hierarchy between monogamy and polyamory, as each form is created and applied in order to suit the needs and desires of human beings. So, mono or poly: your choice.

References:

Freaksexual. “Jealousy, Monogamy, and Power.” 11 August 2010. Retrived from https://freaksexual.com/2010/08/11/jealousy-monogamy-and-power/.

Kakdera, Raven. Pagan Polyamory: Becoming a Tribe of Hearts. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2005. Print.

Moosa, Tauriq. “Why You Should (and Shouldn’t Be) Monogamous.” Bigthink. 2016. Web. 19 July 2017.

Pepper Mint. “The Power Dynamics of Cheating: Effects on Polyamory and Bisexuality.” The Journal of Bisexuality 4.3/4 (2004): 55-76. Plurals Loves: Designs for Bi and Poly Living, ed. Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, Haworth Press, 2004, pp.55-76.

 

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