Polyamorous Relationships Don’t Make Sense on a Moral, Fulfillment, or Species Level
Polyamory doesn't have advantages over monogamy and it comes with costs.
Your status is based on what you have or are that others don't have or are. If you are the wealthiest person in a room, your financial status is high. But if your wealth is lower than 99% of the population's, your status is low.
This more than principle applies to other areas. You can be broke but be in the top 1% of physical beauty. Here, your financial status is low but your beauty status is high. In some fields, like modeling, this can be enough to make your overall status high.
Years ago, I asked myself why some people want to be polyamorous. If you want to be with someone, I thought, be with that person and them only. But I had a low status at the time: broke, skinny, and unconfident in many social settings. So I concluded my opinion was biased because I didn't have opportunities to be with multiple women I liked at the same time.
Today, I have a relatively high status in some circles and countries. Yet, I still don't understand polyamory. It has costs and the advantages it seems to have over monogamy don't exist.
Polyamory can't heal past trauma, nor prevent new trauma
Members of the Institute for Research in Social Communication of the Slovak Academy of Sciences studied what motivated people to pursue a polyamorous relationship. Their literature review found many do it to avoid feeling negative emotions fueled by events from the past.
For example, they found how many people who practice polyamory have experienced difficult breakups or infidelity in monogamous relationships. So they retract from monogamous relationships because they link them to these events. Other people seek polyamory for self-esteem. Each partner allows different forms of exploring love, reducing feelings of inadequacy, boosting confidence, and giving a sense of physiological stability.
"This attempt to expose the "deeper’" motivations for engaging in polyamory," say the authors, "may help guide therapeutic practice when working with polyamorous individuals."
In all cases, polyamory doesn't fix any problems related or unrelated to monogamy. For example, it doesn't substitute shadow work, cognitive behavioral therapy, or micro-dosing to overcome trauma. It instead gives temporary relief, just like alcohol, drugs, and suppression do.
Sometimes, while exposing both biological genders to more pain.
In most animals, females choose who to mate with. The same is true among female humans of most religions, cultures, and countries. They have the final vote of who of her potential suitors she has children with. Either because they "gate" sex or because they are on birth control.
The number of suitors women could choose from would decrease in a polyamorous society. Because women would still be selective to avoid the costs of pregnancy or choosing the wrong partner.
“I mostly don't enjoy casual sex cause, as is ingrained in my genes, it just ‘feels kinda bad,’ like this is not an optimal sexy arrangement, my primal brain believes this will not result in good offspring…And this part is maybe more unique to me, but the unsexy part kicks in when my brain starts doing cycling about ‘What does it mean about my worth as a woman, that I'm allowing *this* guy into my pants?’ or "Are you *sure* this guy is good enough for your pants?’.” Aella, a polyamorous female who’s aso escorted.
Men would not be selective. They still wouldn't face the costs of childbirth. Plus, since it's acceptable to be with many women, as it were for most of our human existence, they would have fewer incentives and less fear of leaving a female partner at any time to date someone else.
Evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Brett Weinstein also think having short-term sex with men might reduce their likelihood of sticking around.
“We predict that vasopressin [a hormone that influences men to stick with one partner] will not be released, or will be released in far lower amounts, in men who are having sex with women they just met. If true, what this would mean for women is that sleeping with a guy you’re really into on the first or second date will decrease the likelihood that he will fall in love with you.”
It might seem like men benefit from polyamorous relationships because they can sleep with more women and hold less responsibility. But this is not the case.
Men often make choices based on how much the decision will enhance their position in the social hierarchy. They will endure the pain of ant bites that are more excruciating than bullet wounds to demonstrate strength, leap from cliffs to display bravery, and purchase costly watches to appear wealthy. If an action improves their attractiveness to a potential partner, they will take it into account.
Under normal circumstances, being able to partner with many women improves men's social status. Men will envy you because you can date those they can't, and women will see that other women have "validated" your status as a worthy partner. But these aren't normal circumstances. The person you are dating is dating many other men. You are not the man but a man. It feels funny and bro-sky to write this, but that's what would happen. Just like most men and women would not consider a club hookup as meaningful as fully committing to one person, being with someone who other people are with wouldn't be seen as meaningful.
Having sex with each partner would make things worse. Men will release vasopressin whether they are with one partner or ten. So they can "catch" feelings and experience grief when their partner leaves them for someone else.
Women also have a bonding hormone called oxytocin, which can lead to emotional attachment with their sexual partners. This process happens regardless of how long they plan to stay with each partner. So, if a woman spends more time with a partner, it can make it even harder to move on if that partner ends the relationship to focus on other partners.
One theoretical solution to avoid emotional attachment is to only sleep with each partner once or a few times. However, based on what I have heard from polyamorous friends, this is challenging. They want to focus on one person after a while.
You don't need polyamory to cover all your needs
Some people want multiple partners because one person can't meet all their needs.
"I feel like there is too much pressure on one person to be their partner’s "everything," says a 'mostly lesbian woman.' A Queer agender person adds, "it is not realistic to expect one partner to satisfy all your romantic, sexual, and family needs."
After reading these two and 538 other responses from people in a consensual non-monogamous relationship (CNM), Researchers from the University of Guelph note:
"CNM appeared to offer a relationship structure where participants’ ideas about need fulfillment could be enacted and realized. CNM allowed for needs to be met and dispersed among many partners, providing opportunities to enhance need fulfillment."
These answers remind me of the principles behind the division of labor. Each worker specializes in the task they excel at. As a result, they finish the sum of all the work faster. It's similar to polyamory. You don't look for one partner to do all the work of fulfilling your needs—your ex couldn't. Instead, you look for many partners, each covering one or a few needs. For example, one fulfills your need for company by living with you, the other makes your sexual fantasies true, and the other challenges you intellectually.
Many seek polyamory because it's against the status quo, not because it's "superior"
Jade Aguilar, Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Willamette University, conducted interviews with members of two communal communities that promote polyamory: Applewood and Red River. The conversations revealed members thought accepting polyamory was an expected behavior of any feminist, a social group they wanted to be linked to:
"Members viewed themselves as participants in a strain of socialist feminism that values shared resources and no private ownership and came to understand polyamory as a relationship model that embraced those ideals."
Aguilar's literary review shows feminist scholars oppose monogamy and marriage. They believe:
It implies men own women.
The perpetuation of the patriarchy at the household level.
It is the institutionalization of rape and domestic violence.
These are not arguments. They don't explain why monogamy is any of these things or why it's inferior to polyamory. Also, assuming these three claims were true, these scholars don't explain why these situations don't apply in a polyamorous system. For instance, how does allowing men to have multiple female partners make them less patriarchal? Or what will make patriarchal women not impose patriarchal beliefs on all partners?
The few feminist scholars who do mention the advantages of polyamory over monogamy often do it within a feminist context.
This undermines the validity of their thesis, as you can't argue "A is better than B" if a condition within the discussion is that B is better than anything. Think about it from the context of 15th-century witchcraft. People could call women witches if they discovered they knew about herbs. Women couldn't argue against this because the rules of the system stated that those who knew about herbs were likely witches. In the case of polyamory, you don't have to explain why monogamy is worse than polyamory if you set the rule that polyamory is superior.
Feminists aren't the only ones promoting polyamory because of the status benefits it confers. Those who want to seem woke, diverse, or modern do it because that's what woke, diverse, and modern people do. It signals you are open and empathetic, which the wealthier people of at least The Global North appreciate.
The problem is that polyamory is a luxury belief, "ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost while taking a toll on the lower class," as defined by psychology Ph.D. Rob Henderson.
Affluent people can be polyamorous. They have enough money and free time to date many partners. If they have a child with a partner who leaves them, they can support their child alone.
Poor people can't be polyamorous with that ease. Many work long hours and multiple jobs. If their child's dad or mom leaves them, their life goes upside down. And sometimes it remains like that. A polyamorous system would raise the odds that these people end up as single parents or enter more status competitions to fund many relationships at once.
Commit to one partner
All Great Apes, except for humans, are promiscuous. Bonobos, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans have brief relationships with multiple partners. Paternity cannot be determined since there are typically several males involved in mating with each female. They also don't have access to birth control or paternity tests as we do.
Humans, having a shared ancestry with these species had a tendency towards multiple partners in the past, as evidenced by our history before 10,000 BCE.
But we transitioned to a system of monogamy, which provides for longer child-rearing with two committed parents who love each other. To stray from this is something I can't understand in a moral, fulfillment, or species-level sense.
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I find this piece so fascinating and would love to have a more detailed conversation with you about this next time I see you!
I have been a monogamous person for my whole life and I am in a deeply monogamous long-term relationship. I've never had any intention of opening up my relationship, but I've been curious about polyamory recently. Not for any of the reasons mentioned in this piece, though. I've actually been curious about how polyamorous relationships open up possibilities for growth in so many different situations.
It's been said by many philosophical leaders as well as many professionals in modern day psychology that the most growth we can access as human beings is found in romantic relationships. I wonder what it would be like to explore different forms of romantic relationships with different people at the same time - what could that do for our emotional and cognitive evolution (which I believe are directly intertwined)?
Of course, for this to be done, it has to be done consciously. A partner can not simply be filling a need that another partner isn't. The "additional" relationships would have to be adding to what already is for this to even have a chance to propel growth for all individuals involved consciously, in my opinion.
Anyways, just something that gets me thinking these days ...🤔🧐 Great article! I find this topic so fascinating and love reading what others think of it.