By E.J. Gordon
Whenever the subject of polygamy comes up, my husband always jokes about how nice it would be to have an additional wife. I inevitably end up responding with: “Hell yes! I’d love to have another wife around here. She can help me with the laundry and deal with the kids while I’m cooking. She can take our son to hockey while I pick up the girls at theater practice!”
We do this back and forth and I always conclude, “What do you want another wife for? So you can have one more mouth to feed, one more person asking you for money and clothes, one more person bothering you about your parenting or how much you help? That’s just what you need.” But the reality is that all he’s really thinking about is three ways or having sex with someone other than me.
“You’d get sick of banging her too,” I tell him.
Polygamy has been a hot topic these past few years. First there was “Big Love” — one of my favorite shows ever. They did a remarkable job of casting a negative light on some of the twisted relationships in the fundamentalist sect, which highlighted pedophilia, slavery, in-breeding and over all fucked-up, oppressive ideology. But in “Big Love” — the primary relationship between Bill and his three wives was neither offensive nor dysfunctional. In fact, the four of them had the same challenges and pleasures of many traditionally married people and had the added benefit of built in child-care and entertainment.
But let’s put aside polygamy, bigamy, and the laws. Let’s put aside fundamentalist religion and cultures that are overall oppressive to women, and let’s focus on the concept of the couple that is no longer a couple, but a multi-person unit: Polyamory. It is a new word for an old idea — it’s such a new word that my spellcheck doesn’t even recognize it.
POLYAMORY means loving more than one. Apparently, right now, it’s the new thing.
By some estimates (i.e. Wikipedia) there are over a half million polyamorous “couples”. This isn’t swinging or swapping or cheating: that’s all about sex. It’s about a couple that’s more than just two. Maybe there’s a “triad” — this could be two men, one woman, or it could be the reverse. Or polyamory could be two couples that have joined together to become a different kind of family.
Is it possible to have a functional relationship with more than just two people?
Most people’s initial response, even very open-minded people, is to say that it’s not normal or functional. Most people who are in a committed two-person relationship can’t imagine sharing their spouse with another person. The first problem in sharing is the sex. For the sake of argument, let’s look at this with a hetero mindset: If you are a straight woman, like a 1 on the Kinsey scale, adding in another woman to the sexual equation might be quite off putting. And there’s the whole issue of not wanting to watch or be comfortable with your husband being with another woman.
The second issue is jealousy. In a female-female-male triad, conditions are ripe for this. If the man wants to spend more time with or seems to enjoy one of the woman more than the other, things are bound to get sticky.
Another issue is that adding another person into a relationship means adding another set of needs, issues, emotions, and over all shtick into the mix.
If you get annoyed when your husband leaves his wet towel and all his clothes on the ground, will you get more annoyed when your extra partner does too? Not to mention, there will be another whole set of “in-laws” to contend with.
So the question is, what’s the upside? Why do people enter into polyamorous relationships?
There is more and more talk about how humans are programmed to fall in love for three to five years in an evolutionary ruse to encourage procreation. This notion certainly explains why that lusty feeling fades after a few years. And yet our society promotes long-term marriages. We see the benefit of them: someone to help raise the kids; someone with whom to grow old; someone to provide you cheap medical insurance. That said, now that our life span is much longer than it was even a hundred years ago when marriage between just two people became more typical, we still think our spouses will be our one and only life-long companions. Back in the early 1900’s, women were still dying from childbirth regularly. Men keeled over in their 40’s from heart disease caused by untreated gum disease. Hell, Penicillin wasn’t even invented yet — people died from strep! When people walked down the aisle, they really weren’t expecting 40-year marriages.
And now we expect EVERYTHING from our spouses. We expect them to be our best friend, our caretaker, our patient, our co-parent, our lover, and our family. And then we’re shocked when the attraction dies down. We’re offended if our partner looks at others. We’re hurt if they’re just not in the mood to have sex with us.
“Polys” — as some call themselves, don’t really believe in the sacred monogamous relationship. Their ethical stance includes strong boundaries, rising above jealousy and possessiveness, and eschewing cultural mores.
They believe they’ve cracked the code of how we stay with a life-long partner when that passion starts to fade.
To be clear: I’m not advocating for Polyamory. I’m merely wondering if Polyamory might be somebody’s acceptable, healthy solution to a problem that if we’re all really honest with ourselves, most marriages will eventually have.
In the World of Polyamory, consent, love and responsibility are pillars.
And for those of us who stand in judgment of this lifestyle, just consider how rampant adultery is in our culture. And consider how nice it would be to have an extra set of hands around the house. And if I were to bring in another person or two into my couplehood, I’d hope that he or she would at least be a plumber or a carpenter or a gardener, because that’s what I could really use around here.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.