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?

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Matt,

Think of it this way... in every relationship you are exchanging something with your partner that you are either unable or uninterested in providing for yourself with something they want. Could be money, sex, affection, a good tennis partner or someone to watch movies with...

 

In monogamous relationships people tend to wager on their partner being a "perfect match" who will be interested and capable in providing their every need. This tends to put a lot of pressure on your partner to try to be some things that they're not or for you to compromise your own happiness by settling for not having all of your wants and needs met. Hence the high divorce rate when people decide that their needs are not being met by their partner.

 

Imagine if instead of this, you and your partner simply come to terms with the fact that having other people in your lives will mean having more of your needs met while at the same time meaning that you have an overall happier partner which means everybody wins. The trick is to stop thinking of relationships as competitions for attention and start looking at them as a cooperative effort to get everybody's needs met.
interesting, thanks for the reply.

matt

 

In polygamous relationships, how is it decided when(or if) to have children? how is it decided who should be the biological parents?

As an extension of the above questions: How are important decisions regarding the group resolved? and how are any conflicts resolved?

in societies that are polygamous, children tend to be raised by the community, not a set of parents per se. our concept of man, woman kids needs to be dealt with as we see this as the natural construct of history, which it isn't. it is a construct of a misogynist society, yet the belief that monogamy is the correct way still permeates our thought processes. our closest relatives in the primate structure are not monogamous nor were we as a species until the church decided that sex was not good.

 

as for conflict resolution, it is just like any other form, communication is crucial to make it work. that is true for all relationships...

read "Sex at Dawn" if you want a better understanding of our history regarding how we developed sexually.

 

 

Another interesting reply, thanks.

 

I definitely think the challenging of existing (arbitrary?) social constructs is a good thing. Thats why I am interested in polygamy: it is different to what I have experienced and observed.

 

I agree that communication is crucial in any relationship.

 

Thanks for the book suggestion, definitely sounds like something I would like to read.

Pretty much anything by Stephanie Coontz is also good for the "evolution" of the family structure in Western society (www.stephaniecoontz.com)

There are some groups who are exactly like a monogamous couple, only with 3 instead of two, where all 3 are romantically involved with each other just as if there were only 2.  But that's not the only way to do it.  There are also people who have groups of 4 or 5 where everyone is romantically involved with everyone else.  Then there are people who, because of sexual orientation or compatibility, are in a group of, say, 5, who all consider each other family, but who are not necessarily romantically involved with everyone else.

 

For example.  My "family" has about 50 people in it.  I am not romantically connected to all 49 other people.  Our family has, sort of what we call, "houses", which are primarily designated by proximity.  So, for my "house", there are 6 of us who all live within 100 miles of each other (I'm the furthest away from the other 5, but not by choice, only because of work).

 

In my group of 6, there are me, Datan0de, Zensidhe, Jessie, Kim, Shelly.  Datan0de and Kim are legally married.  They live together.  Zensidhe and Jessie are legally married and live together.  I am dating both Datan0de and Zensidhe but not Jessie or Kim.  Datan0de is also dating Jessie (Zensidhe's wife) but not Zensidhe.  Kim is also dating Jessie.  Kim is dating Zensidhe too.  Shelly is actually the former partner of another one of my boyfriends that I have not listed here.  Shelly is just beginning a relationship with both Kim and Datan0de (but not me, Zensidhe, or Jessie), but because of her previous connection to the group (via my other boyfriend), even though her relationship with Kim and Datan0de is just beginning, she has actually been a part of the family for many years.

 

So, picture a square.  Each point on that square is Datan0de, Kim, Zensidhe, and Jessie.  Put the two men (Datan0de and Zensidhe) at the top two points of the square. and erase that line, so that it's really more like a square-shaped U.  Now, put a dot for me above the U so that when you draw a line from me to each of the top points of the U, it looks like a child's drawing of a house with a pointed roof.

 

Now, within the box of the house, draw an X connecting the four corners of the box, so we have a child's house with a peaked roof and an X in the middle.  Finally, draw a point for Shelly off to the side so that she makes another triangle on the side of Datan0de and Kim, sort of like someone started drawing a 4-pointed star but only got 2 points done.

 

Those are the romantic connections, but all 6 of us consider each other to be family, as important as spouses, whether we are romantically connected to any given person in the family or not.

 

To address your questions specifically:

 

If A starts dating C, does B have a choice?  That depends on the structure of the individual relationship grouping.  That's what sets it apart from religiously-mandated polygyny.  Each individual & each group can make their own rules for what works best for those involved.  In some families, B might have "veto" power, where he can say "no" to C and A has to abide by that decision.  In some families, A might consult B first and B's feelings on the matter will be very heavily weighted, but the decision will ultimately rest with A.  In some families, B has no say in the matter at all since B will not be relating to C and B can choose to remove *himself* from the equation if he is unhappy.

 

What type of contact?  That depends on those involved.  Within the poly community, it is generally assumed that a minimum of a direct line of communication should be established between B and C, for example.  We call that relationship the "metamour" relationship, which is two people who are connected by a mutual partner but who are not romantically involved with each other.  The general consensus is that the metamours should be ABLE to contact each other if they want to, but there is no doctrine or creed that dictates what kind of relationship they ought to have.  Some prefer it when the metamours (i.e. B and C) are also very good friends with each other and some prefer it when the metamours have no relationship at all, including a friendship.  The key to making it work, however, is to not force a relationship that doesn't want to be.  In other words, don't force B and C to be friends if they just don't have that chemistry, and don't force B and C to stay separate if they actually do get alone.

 

Children?  When and if to have children is decided exactly the same way monogamous parents decide.  They talk about it and reach a consensus and/or deal with accidents when they happen.  Not all polyamorous adults want to be parents, and not all polyamorous adults care if they are biologically related to their children.  Same as with monogamous people.  I am adopted.  My parents (the people who raised me) are heterosexual, monogamous Christians.  The fact that neither one shares parental genetics with me does not make them any less my parents.  

 

People get awfully territorial when the issue of kids comes up - and by people, I mean monogamous people who are questioning polyamory.  For some reason, it's a huge deal to them to know who contributed the genetic material and how could 3 people possibly decide who will do it?  Well, monogamous people have those same kinds of issues.  In this day and age, many people come to a marriage with kids from a prior relationship, so there are an awful lot of kids out there being raised by people who they are not genetically related to.  Why is this not confusing, but polyamorous families are?

 

Decision making?  Decisions are made exactly the same as monogamous relationships.  Some mono families have a "head of the household", some mono families have certain people "in charge" of certain areas and responsible for those kinds of decisions, and some mono families do everything by couple consensus.  Poly families are the same way.  Conflicts are also resolved the same way as mono people.  We talk.  If there is a serious enough conflict, we go to mediators and therapists.  Just like mono people.

 

Also, please note that I am talking about polyAMORY, not polygamy.  Polygamy is currently illegal, and is also just as varied.  There is no one-way to be polygamous, but most people hear the word "polygamy" and think "polygyny".  I am not talking about either.

 

There is no "typical" polyamorous relationship, just as there really is no "typical" monogamous relationship.  Every relationship will be unique, according to the individual people involved.  Even if you think back to your own relationships (or any person, if you haven't had any or more than one ever), even though hypothetical-you were a common factor in each relationship, the dynamic between you and each of your past partners made each relationship itself unique.

 

Now, even in the example that you give, of a "single multi-way relationship", it is still made up of multiple one-on-one relationships.  If you take 3 people who are all involved with each other, you do not have a single 3-way relationship.  You have a relationship between A and B, a relationship between B and C, and a relationship between C and A, and yet another relationship of all three together.  Every group relationship is built on a foundation of pairings, and the strength of each of those pairings (including the non-romantic ones, such as the metamour relationships) provides the strength for the entire group.

 

Just like a family with kids, or a family with 3 generations living together, or a monogamous family with the spinster aunt who lives with them.  Every group family is built on a collection of pairings, and the dynamic between each of those pairings will be completely unique, which will make the entire group have a completely unique group dynamic that will *not be the same* if any member leaves and/or anyone new is added.

 

Nothing stops coupling in polyamorous relationships.  In fact, it would be a mistake to try and stop it.  If you're asking what stops any two people from being unfair to someone else in terms of limited time or attention, communication stops that.  If B is feeling left out because A has been spending all her time with her new partner, C, then it is up to B to communicate to A that B would like more time with A.

 

Another thing that helps is not arranging the relationships to be zero-sum.  In other words, there are 24 hours in a day, but if A works 8 hours, then sleeps 8 hours, then she only has 8 hours left to divy up between B and C, so she spends 4 hours with each.  That's zero-sum and it's a stressful and, frankly, ridiculous way to arrange things.  If A can spend time with both B and C at the same time, then A ends up with more than 24 hours to be divided up into chunks.  A can go to the movies with both B and C and have all of those 8 hours with both of them.  If A can also then sleep in the same bed as B and C, then that's another 8 hours.

 

But that was just to illustrate the concept of non-zero-sum.  When an actual family really starts counting up hours to see who gets more, that family is already doomed because there is a much larger issue going on than just counting hours.  We don't really count hours, and even if we did, not everyone requires the same amount of time.  I do much better being separated from my partners than Jessie does, for example.  Even if I lived with them, I would spend a great deal of my free time alone in my room working on projects and managing my businesses.  Jessie needs to be with her partners much more often than I do.  So when she spends 4 nights a week with our mutual partners and I only see them twice a week, that is a completely fair distribution because our needs are different.  Fair does not mean equal.  Equal is rarely "fair" in poly relationships.

 

However, if I felt that I wanted more time with my partners than I am currently getting, I just ask for it.  Many times, we all spend time together as a group, so two of those four days that Jessie is with her partners, are days that I am also with my partners, who are the same people.  Not always, of course, I'm trying to keep things simple for illustrative purposes.

 

I'm happy to answer any questions you have, even if you have more, but if you would like to do more reading on the subject, visit www.theinnbetween.net/poly1.html

Wow thanks for the long reply. Sounds a bit like the social network of a monogamous couple who have both mutual friends and separate friends, but with the allowance that those relationships can go beyond friendship.

 

Personally I don't think a poly lifestyle is for me (at the moment at least) I barely have the time for one relationship lol. Still a very interesting subject, I'll do some more reading when I get home tonight.

There are some number of seriously bad consequences of allowing it.

Firstly, it is a predominantly male activity. There is a roughly equal amount of men and women, and most who would be successful in building harems are male with excess resources (money). This would mean a lot of single men without satisfied relationship and reproductive desires floating around. Both of these are clearly markers of violent male criminal behavior. Polygamy would therefore increase violent crime.

Secondly, since much of the reproductive success is founded on resources, those who do not possess resources would be effectively eliminated from the gene pool due to human causes. It would imply that humans would leave sexual selection up to a fairly arbitrary human invention - wealth.

The current system of only one partner at a time (at least officially) is a much better system. Serial monogamy is socially acceptable already and having multiple sexual partners simultaneously is drifting into acceptability in many places.

Even though I rarely preach for morality through legislation, the optimal size for the family unit remains that of two parents in a monogamous relationship.

The male portion is likely a social construct, not an innate issue. There were matrilineal peoples where the women took multiple husbands. Decent was traced via the female lineage, so there was no stigma attached to not knowing which man was your father. Cheating also did not result in "bastards" in these societies.

I also would like to note that serial monogamy with the current male-oriented society produces the same legal and social issues as polygamy would, and thus is not a good reason to ban it (inheritance, "unclaimed" children, odd family dynamics). People can and do work around these issues; people can and would work around polygamy issues. One look at daytime talk shows will show you how bad any kind of relationship can get. That's just inherent to complex society.

Beyond that, wealth already plays a role in relationships. That means we need to address wealth distribution directly, not put odd restrictions on marriage. Women are now much more likely to have their own source of income, so as long as you're not looking at baseline poverty this is almost a non-issue in the U.S.

Any *stable* family is the optimal environment for raising children. It's instability that causes issues. Extreme poverty, moving too much, or having a violent home life are far more disrupting to children's development than polygamy ever could be.
I agree with a number of your statements, but I don't think allowing polygamy would solve any of them. Moreover, solving issues between two parties is enough - adding a third, fourth, fifth etc just serve to complicate issues in non-functioning families exponentially. The religion link is especially worrying as most religions condone child abuse.

well stated Kirsten!

we need to understand community as being those involved in our lives, not just those around us. kids need to feel a part of something.. i offer that today most traditional monogamous families don't really have time for their kids and that pressure compounds any communication issues in the relationship. with more people directly involved in the family, the kids learn they are part of a greater unit and grow from the impact that provides.

It doesn't have to be a predominantly male activity.  That's the historical bias, but that's mostly caused by a theistic patriarchal system.  I actually doubt you're supporting that.  Additionally, I don't think your violent male behavior idea is supported very well.  Polygamy isn't allowed and there seems to be plenty of violent behavior, shouldn't it be the opposite?  (to be fair, I doubt whether a single factor like legal family size would have an overwhelming effect on violence.  Other social factors would have a much greater impact.)  Anyway, if polygamy were legal, who's to say that powerful women wouldn't have several husbands?  Historically this hasn't even been possible due to the religious subjugation of women.

 

Reproduction success is founding on resources?  I don't know where you live, but plenty of poor people and teens reproduce where I'm from.  I wish reproduction would be only attempted by those with sufficient means.

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