Thursday, February 20, 2014

Polyamory: Curse or Cure

Diana Adams runs a Brooklyn-based legal firm oriented toward providing traditional marriage rights to non-traditional families. She is presently in a sexual relationship with “several men and women.” In an interview in The Atlantic, she tried to justify her lifestyle:
  •  We put so much emphasis on a partner being everything—that this person completes you—and when that doesn’t happen it creates a lot of pressure. I don't think that open relationships are for everyone but it's something that you should no longer feel ashamed to talk about at a time when so many marriages are failing.

Evidently, Adams feels that she has what it takes to make polyamory work. Nevertheless, Adams is right! So many marriages are failing, but this failure seems to be a modern phenomenon. Perhaps it’s the result of having inflated expectations/desires similar to those of polyamorists. While Adams correctly reflects that one person can’t fulfill all of our needs and desires, she then assumes that many can:
  •  Well, for example, with my female partners, I feel a different kind of power dynamic. I feel a protective impulse toward women I’m involved with. It's a different kind of love feeling. My partner Ed is a wonderful feminist man, though sometimes I’d really like to be out on a date with the kind of man who wants to open car doors for me and treat me like a princess. I don't want that all the time, but I might want that once a month.

“I feel…I feel…I want…I want!” I’m left wondering – How long with this infatuation last, even with many partners? When does it begin to feel old, superficial and even oppressive? Does polyamory represent progress or a descent into a juvenile, “I want this now” mentality? This raises the question, “What are mature relationships about – commitment or maximizing the ‘I want’?” It would seem that a commitment to a troupe of men and women would translate into a commitment to none.

Polyamorists seem to have a hidden assumption – that monogamous couples become sexually bored because of a problem inherent to monogamy. However, that problem might be inherent in us instead. After all, why would we pursue other partners? The body-parts are basically the same. What then produces the excitement in a new relationship and boredom with the old humdrum? Perhaps we have a pathological need to be adored. If this is so, perhaps we should learn how to find excitement in the one to whom we have committed ourselves!

Polyamory seems to provide a green light to jump ship and find a few new partners when things get a bit sticky and the “I want” is no longer being satisfied. Isn’t marriage supposed to be a workshop where we discover one another and work through the issues that are caused by this encounter?

And what about those hard-feeling-buttons that polyamory is certain to push? Adams explains:
  • We talk a lot. We check in with each other, “Is this okay with you?” and the answer can be, “I don't know.” For instance maybe Ed and I are going to a party together and this guy that I've been dating is at the party too. “Will it feel okay with you if I go over and kiss him?” Polyamory will find your buttons and it will push them. If you don't want to have that kind of challenge, it's not the right lifestyle for you. But, if you're up for it, polyamory can be the catalyst for powerful personal growth.

“Powerful personal growth?” What would this growth look like? Coping with jealous, murderous lovers? Knowing when to say “goodbye” or just flee? If polyamory is really a viable lifestyle, why doesn’t Adams simply “date” all of her lovers at one time – one big happy family, or is it?

One therapy group leader had confessed that he used his group to line-up new sexual partners. However, he and his wife had to keep their conquests secret. He had once seen his wife escorting her latest into their home, and he flew into a mad rage that sent him to the psych ward for two weeks. For them, the ““powerful personal growth” was a matter of learning to practice total avoidance.

Of course, Adams expresses a high concern for the (un-aborted) children resulting from such unions. After all, it takes a village to raise a child, doesn’t it. While I think that there is truth in this adage, these polyamorous relationships seem to more closely approximate a roving series of predator babysitters than a village. If a series of men and women are fair game for our sexual appetites, why not also the children?

Ultimately, it is time that will tell, but time has already passed its verdict. If these forms of sexual groupings had been viable, we would find long-standing polyamorous communities throughout the world. However, we don’t. Evidently, they have either been decimated by STDs or consumed by jealous, angry impulses from within.

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