Personally, I'm in favor of marriage. The public declaration of fealty steers the focus of any marital problems onto resolution rather than dissolution. However, I don't think the question should be, "Should gay couples be allowed to marry?". It should be, "Why is the government involved, AT ALL, in how people wish to structure their households?".

We should be relying on government for assistance in enforcing contracts. But how these contracts are structured should be entirely up to the people involved. This, of course, includes people who wish to structure their households around participation by more than two individuals.

I guess there needs to be a set of default contracts (to protect children and establish ownership of chattels, etc.) which are deemed to be in effect when people share a household; but, other than that, the government should have no role. 

I know that polygamy facilitates some injustices that never occur in "traditional" marriages <joke>, but is polygamy sufficiently evil by its nature to require the government to ban it?

Tags: marriage, polygamy

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I have to say, I'm completely in agreement with the apple pie portion of this conjecture.

@Jewelz - if you want to hear stories of happy, long-term, secular polyamorous families, all you have to do is visit any poly group. There are thousands of us, perhaps tens of thousands, in the US alone. I have been openly poly for 12 years now, one of my boyfriends has been poly his entire life (he's now in his mid-40s), one of my other boyfriends has been poly for his entire relationship with his wife, which is going on 20 years, and a friend of mine has been "married" (one legal, one in spirit) to her husbands for 30 and 29 years respectively.  That friend has lived in a multi-adult household (6, I think), for decades and they have raised children and are now onto grandchildren.


Poly success stories are everywhere.  But, what you'll notice is that the successful ones are one of two types: 1) egalitarian, multi-adult households where the women have as much decision power as the men, where family duties are drawn along ability & interest, not gender lines, and where partners can be added or subtracted according to individual interest, not gender prescriptions; and 2) heterosexual primary dyads with satellite (i.e. not live-in, not financially entwined, often shorter-term) partners.


The ones that tend to be short-term are the ones that are not egalitarian, that prescript roles for each member, that are patriarchal ... much like those destructive polygynous cults without the insulation and fear to keep them together.  The other type of multi-partner relationship that tends to be short-term are those that break up due to personal incompatibilities of the participants ... much like monogamous pairings.  


Sometimes people are attracted to each other who are just not compatible with each other, and sometimes they were compatible but one, or both, grew in a different direction.  That happens just as often with monogamy as with polyamory.  Poly people actually do not have any *more* partners than the average serial monogamist - we just like them to overlap instead of doing it one at a time.  I, personally, know more polyamorists with fewer than 10 sexual partners in their entire history, than I do monogamists.


Part of the problem with people thinking that polyamory is more unstable than monogamy is that people are comparing ALL poly relationships with monogamous MARRIED relationships.  That is not a fair comparison.  People like to throw up the 50% divorce rate as a better longevity rate than poly relationships (which you can't do, since we don't have any statistics on poly marriages), but they're not counting the 100% failure rate of all the mono relationships that never made it to marriage.


In other words, we look at a couple who has been married for 30 years and say "they're happy and long-term, it's a success!"  Then we look at a poly triad that lasted 5 years before one of the partners left, and we say "poly doesn't last as long as monogamy".  But no one bothered to ask that 30-year married couple how many boyfriends or girlfriends, or even people they "dated", before they found each other, or how long those pre-marriage relationships lasted.


Polyamorous relationships are held up to the standard of monogamous marriages, when monogamy is not held up to any standard *until* the couple gets married.  Not all relationships are supposed to become marriages, but they do have a value in their own right.

- Very interesting. I had a brief go at a three-way relationship (which only ended because of geography). I would love to have experienced a stable poly relationship. (Maybe in the next life, eh?) I believe it only suits a small percentage of people and I've never found my partners. (I am, however, very happy in my mono relationship.)

- Very well written - except I don't understand "not counting the 100% failure rate of all the mono relationships that never made it to marriage". It seems to say that my relationship is a failure because it "never made it to marriage". I must be reading that wrong.

There are 2 different issues you bring up here, and it will be difficult for me to unpack them, but I will try.

First, whether a relationship that does not result in marriage is a "failure" or not. Second, the "failure" rate of relationships. A confusing element is whether the term "monogamy" is applied to single-partner *marriages* or single-partner relationships. The term is used interchangeably, for the most part, to refer to both types of relationships, in spite of the literal translation being reserved for marriages. I did that myself, because I try to limit my use of subculture terminology when not speaking within that subculture. Within the poly community, many often use the term "monoamory" to distinguish between mono marriages & mono relationships, and to more accurately compare the two styles of relationship.

There are several things with the first question. One is that I was talking about the divorce statistics. That's a clear word that means "the ending of a marriage". I could have substituted "failure rate" with "breakup rate", but I didn't think of that at the time, but that's what I was implying. When we start trotting out divorce rates, it's usually in a comparison of which form of relationship is more "successful", in a "my relationship is better than yours" kind of debate. My point was that the use of these numbers to shore up this kind of position is flawed because it is not an accurate comparison (see below).

Second, as someone who is constantly being thrown those numbers to "prove" how much better monogamy is than polyamory, I have to say that it seems to be the greater cultural opinion that any relationship that does not make it to marriage is a "failure" and any marriage that ends in divorce is a "failure". These are not judgments that I agree with. But it does seem to be a common opinion.

Third, if you take out any personal, subjective feelings of being called a "failure", a relationship that does not culminate in marriage has, in fact, failed to become a marriage. That doesn't have to mean that the relationship, or the participants, were failures, with the heavy negative judgment implied - at least, I don't mean it that way. My relationships have all failed to end up with anyone in jail for murdering their lovers. I consider that kind of failure to be a good thing.

Now, to the second issue of the ending rate of relationships:

1) Statistics used to show "success" of monogamy are taken from marriage & divorce stats. These statistics do not reflect the "success" or "failure" of any relationship that does not culminate in marriage, i.e. how many monogamous (monoamorous) relationships end that are not logged by the state under the marriage laws.

2) There are no stats on poly relationships. However, anecdotes used to illustrate the apparent "success" of polyamory include all relationships anyone has ever entered into, regardless of marriage status.

This is not a fair comparison. To make it fair, you would have to add in all the relationships that the monogamous people had prior to their current marriage. By definition, those relationships would have had 100% ending rate because if they continued past the marriage, that marriage would not be monogamous. If you feel better to substitute "ending" or 'breakup" for the word "failure", you can do so.

Perhaps I was a bit unclear in my previous comment. I don't believe all monogamous relationships are "supposed" to become monogamous marriages (legal or common law), and not all poly relationships are "supposed" to become polygamous (legal or illegal). Poly dating is similar to monogamous dating in that most relationships don't last long. But the question was "what's wrong with polygamy?" or having more than one spouse. Polyamory and polygamy are different subjects, just as monogamy and marriage are different subjects. It seems many people here are using the terms interchangeably.


You say successful poly arrangements fall into two categories. Both involved partners being added and subtracted. I have numerous poly friends in primary dyad arrangements with temporary partners who come and go. The primary dyads last as long as monogamous marriages, and the temp partners last as long as monogamous couples dating but not yet living together or financially intertwined. Most of the poly couples I know who tried transitioning to polygamous arrangements found they caused tension and arguments and failed rather quickly time and time again. In fact, (polygynous religious cults aside) I've never known any long-term live-in polygamous families where partners were NOT constantly added or subtracted which makes me suspect the ability for 3 or more people to remain in committed polygamous live-in arrangements for 20+ years is extremely rare. If there's no financial entanglement, children, legal contracts, or unhappiness in these situations, the coming and going of extra live-in partners seems perfectly fine to me. However, I don't think it's healthy for children to develop attachments to temporary parent/family figures rotating in and out of their homes and lives (I feel the same way about single parents bringing home multiple partners in front of their kids) and I see no reason to legally recognize temporary partners as husband/wife #2, 3, etc.


It's wonderful to hear that you do know some successful polygamous families in long term live-in arrangements. In particular, I find the F/M/M arrangement with poly marriages lasting 29 and 30 years with children and grandchildren fascinating. I would look at these situations as the examples to make a case for eventually legalizing polygamy, but at this time my biggest concern is the implications for the much more common theistic polygamy. I can't say I'd feel comfortable or be willing to travel to visit a secular polygamous community simply to observe these types of families you mentioned, but if you know of any particularly good websites or active forums with stories and discussions of long-term secular polygamous relationships (particularly with children), I would really enjoy reading them.

Once again, you're confusing the results of insular, patriarchal, abuses with the structure.  Monogamy *also* has problems with "rotating" adults, tension, arguments, relationships lasting only a few years, and worse, the incest, pedophilia, and subjugation of women.  Monogamy was not criminalized to deal with these issues.  Those issues themselves were criminalized and monogamy has changed over time to be a much more healthy version of relating.  When those things happen in a monogamous relationship, monogamy is not held responsible for creating that environment, the perpetrators of the abuse are penalized while those who do not perpetrate abuse get to continue enjoying their monogamous marriages.


When the law is written clearly to penalize actual abuse, the structure of the household is irrelevant.  We do not currently criminalize even those monogamous people who have "tension" in their home, or "temporary rotating partners", we have laws to prevent that tension from turning into abuse and against neglecting children.  Until monogamy is also banned under the rationalization that some people do it poorly, banning polygamy under that rationalization is hypocritical at best, discriminatory at worst.


That MFM arrangement I mentioned was not limited to 3 people.  I said I knew someone who had two "husbands", but that they also lived in a 6-adult household, as the non-legal husband also has his own legal-wife, and there are a couple of other people whose exact relationship is unknown to me (I don't inquire about people's sex lives if they don't volunteer it).  The 29-year marriage is the newest of the marriages in that household.  So, technically, someone was "added" later than the others, but it has still remained stable with 6 people for more than 30 years.  Even when other partners have come and gone, 1) it should not be assumed that "come and gone" means in a short span of time, 2) monogamy doesn't prevent that either and it's actually an important life lesson for children to learn, 3) the children in these households do not suffer emotionally from either the more-than-two parents or from adults being "added and subtracted" (as I'll explain later).  Their environment is no less stable than anyone else's, and a far bit more stable than many.  


When it comes to the legalization or criminalization of polygamy, polyamory and polygamy are not actually different subjects.  There has been a rather lengthy court battle going on in Canada precisely because the law does not see the difference.  Also, the only reason a large portion of polyamorists use the word "polyamory" is *because* polygamy is illegal - but if it were legalized, many polyamorists would *also* be polygamists (not all, though, since some do not choose marriage even when legal).  


Where they cannot be used interchangeably, is when someone is using the word "polygamy" to refer to the Fundamentalist Mormon's version of polygyny or some other specific version, and then using that to infer that all multi-adult relationships are therefore inherently abusive.


So, in this thread, what's wrong with polygamy is that there is *nothing* wrong with "polygamy", because polygamy means only multiple marriages.  There is plenty wrong with isolated, insular religious cults who force young teenage girls to marry old men to satisfy their demented creator-god, who do not allow individual choice in marriage selection.  That is not polygamy, that's certain branches of the FLDS church who express those abuses through polygynous relationships ... but that's also certain other religious cults who enforce monogamy, including most of our own Western civilization's history of monogamy.


When you start talking about generic multiple-adult, loving households, that's polyamory whether there is a marriage license present or not.  And without the evidence that anyone, including children, is being harmed by having multiple adults in the house, or even relationships that last less than 30 years, you cannot make any claims about the health of those involved.  If you *are* going to claim the longevity of an adult relationship as legitimate reason to legally ban that entire relationship structure, then you ought to start by banning monogamists from having children before they've been married for 30 years.  Since you can't possibly know how long a relationship is going to last before it has ended, you cannot reasonably penalize an entire relationship structure on the basis that some people who practice it do not stay in relationships long enough to suit your preference.


In all this talk about revolving-door partners and adding and subtracting, you seem to imply that children are being exposed to a horde of adults who are introduced as primary caregivers, then taken away from the children on a whim just when they've gotten emotionally attached.  In neither of the cases of stable multi-adult relationships that I presented is this the case.  Just like with monogamous people, adults being "added" to the family is a serious endeavor and not taken lightly.  Those who are actually considered caregivers are not the ones who Dad takes out on a few dates and then decides isn't compatible after a couple of months.  


It is not the government's (or your) job to regulate how long a relationship should last.  If consenting adults choose to get into a relationship that does not last past a specified period of time, that should be their choice, even when they have children.  It also has nothing to do with protecting the children.  Just like in monogamy, children are not generally introduced to their parents' casual dating partners as caregivers.  


You also confuse "legally recognize" with "decriminalize".  It is currently illegal to have multiple spouses.  That is without any evidence that any given multiple-relationship is temporary, abusive, or harmful.  The original laws criminalizing polygamy were done out of religious intolerance, not based on evidence of harm.  To legally recognize a "temporary partner" would require that even monogamous relationships that are "temporary" (although how you can predetermine this fact seems dodgy) should get some kind of recognition, and no one is suggesting that a "temporary" relationship should get some kind of legal recognition.  


You accuse this thread of interchanging polyamory and polygamy, yet you are interchanging stable, committed relationships with all other kinds of relationships, which was my exact point about the problem with comparing statistics.  You are taking the stance that it is reasonable to continue to criminalize polygamy based on some multi-adult relationships not lasting some arbitrary time limit, when you are not holding monogamy to the same standard.  You disapprove of single monogamous parents "bringing home partners in front of their kids", but that is not currently *illegal* whereas polygamy - the act of creating multi-adult *marriages* (not dating partners) is.


Since your own anecdotes about poly families is good enough for you to judge all others, my own experience with poly families is that children *are not harmed* by multi-adult families.  Families with more than 2 adults are, in fact, possible to be stable and long-term, and relationships that are formed between adults who have children and other adults that do not make it to the marriage-like stage are no more harmful on the children than monogamous parents who have lots of friends.  These short-term or satellite partners are not caregivers and, consequently, not people whom the children have any sort of attachment to. 


I repeat - we have laws preventing and penalizing abuse and we have a system for removing children from harmful environments.  These should be based in evidence and rigorously enforced.  When that happens, how many people are involved becomes irrelevant.  Just banning all *marriages* - i.e. long-term commitments between consenting adults - based solely on the number of participants without regard to the actual health and wellbeing of the participants not only does not solve the problem, but it is discriminatory and irrational and ignores those same problems that happen in all relationships that have participants within the arbitrary number requirement.

It seems you are in defensive mode and misunderstood or twisted everything I said, but I don't feel like responding to every incorrect assumption you made about my comments. The bottom line is that I have my anecdotal stories of secular poly relationships, and you have yours. No one I've ever known in poly relationships has been interested in legal recognition for polygamy, and my experience and knowledge of polygamy raises some concerns about the implications of its legalizatoin. I am curious and open to learning more about secular polygamous households (particularly with children) as google searches only tend to give me links to poly groups run by religious cults or websites mainly of stories describing polyamorous relationships, not polygamous. If you have some links, book recommendations, or perhaps video clips to share, please do so and perhaps it will put some of my concerns to rest.

Just like most monogamous people, most poly people do not post video clips of their children online to show the "success" of their relationship style. Dr. Elisabeth Sheff is currently doing a study on poly families, so her data has not been posted yet either, but since I happen to know her, I've been told some of the preliminary outcomes.

Pretty much all the parents in the Poly Tampa group, the Poly central group, the Orlando Poly group, the Atlanta Poly group, the various San Francisco poly groups, the 3 New York poly groups, the Seattle poly groups, and the Portland poly groups all have parents with children who have stable, happy households that are no more dysfunctional than monogamous households, and quite a bit more stable than some.

Also, don't assume my emotional state. You can add that to the long list of things you are wrong about.

I will look into the poly groups you mentioned, but once again, my concern is not with polyamory or open relationships. I have numerous friends in these situations with stable happy households. My concern is with the implications of legalized polygamy particularly in a country which is still so religious. You're basically saying "well there's no data out there and no one in the secular polygamous community is going to discuss their lifestyle publicly (I didn't ask for video clips of children), but it should be legal because I believe it should be legal." That's no way to educate people if you're pushing for legal changes.


You clearly feel passionately about this subject, and that's not a bad thing, but I've been incredibly polite in my responses and made no blanket statements about what's "wrong" with the poly community so comments like "add that to the long list of things you're wrong about seem uncalled for. Responses like this and calling other people "unapologetic assholes" does say much about your emotional state. It's also not tolerated on this site.

And once again my point is that if we remove the religious patriarchy from the equation, the way we have mostly-done with monogamy, you don't have any of those implications as a systemic problem.  Monogamy suffered from all the same problems as those handful of religious cults that make the news, but over time, we gradually gave women more and more power and freedom, and now people can choose to enter into monogamous relationships for love without the misogyny.  Monogamy was not banned, the actual abuses were banned, and the same tactic should be taken with polygamy.


There *is* data out there.  I just pointed out one researcher specifically doing research on families with children.  There is an entire section of the Kinsey Institute dedicated to polyamory, and CARAS is another organization doing research into alternative sexualities.  Data is hard to come by, but the data *so far* show that it's the authoritative, patriarichal families that are harmful, not the structure itself.  You can also see this in the research on gay & lesbian families - when there is no clear division of labor based on gender (because they're the same gender, you can't do that), you get much more egalitarian households, and the children end up better adjusted.  Poly people do discuss their families publicly, but only about as much as monogamous people do.  There are blogs and we certainly talk about it at the meetings, but you are asking for a discriminated minority to post intimate details of how their families work online for your own curiosity.  We tend to talk about it amongst ourselves, where someone from Family Services won't stumble upon the discussion and take the kids away from otherwise functioning homes, the way that atheists occasionally lose kids for their atheist beliefs.


Frankly, I don't care what you "tolerate" on this site.  He is an unapologetic asshole, he admitted it by clearly stating that he would continue to do what had been pointed out to him was offensive.  That makes him both unapologetic and an asshole.  This whole tone argument is incredibly tiresome, and usually the reason why people like me end up losing our tempers in the first place.

Polygamy is legal in a number of countries and it is strongly interrelated with the general gender roles in the MENA region - especially the male misogyny. (France is an example of the antonym - male philogyny.)

If banning polygamy is an attack on basic human rights and deprive countless people of a harmless part of their human nature, I would advise them to seek political asylum in Saudi Arabia (but only if you are a man). They have a number of, both factual and ironically meant, lovely family values such as that.

Yet I don't see polygamists emigrating in droves, which makes me doubt it's particularly important to them as they seem to prefer complaining on the internet instead of actually solving their dilemma.  

Because most people believe in marriage between two people. The genders involved is up for debate. But allowing polygamy opens up doors for (particularly men) to live dual lives without any fear of prosecution, with many wives (which I've heard quite a few stories about people doing). I do not believe, whatsoever, in multiple marriage partners. Monogamy is a trait I believe that has arose out of evolutionary process; a stable set of parents in the household is better for the offspring. I think if you want to be poly-amorous, that's your choice, but I don't believe it should be demonstrated in front of children, nor should poly-amorous couples reap the benefits of a traditional marriage. Although I believe that marriage is between two people, I don't believe there is a limit on the gender identification of those two persons.



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