The one thing you don’t expect to see in any of the Bible Belt states (where most have amended their constitutions to define marriage between one man and one woman) is an organization promoting polyamory.
At the recent Atlanta Pride Parade, however, the group Atlanta Polyamory Inc. did just that—and in the wide-open light of day. The result was the shock, awe and disgust of those in attendance.
Atlanta Polyamory Inc.’s purple-lettered banner read:”Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals.”
While many religious conservatives might argue that the legalization of same-gender marriage and shows like HBO’s “Big Love”—about a fictional polygamist Mormon family—plant seeds to destroy the conventional family unit, we have to ask ourselves is monogamy a natural instinct or is it a social construct which was obviously devised to protect and to regulate the institution of heterosexual marriage?
To be non-monogamous in this culture carries pejorative and judgmental connotations for both heterosexual and GLBT people. It assumes sexual promiscuity, a sex and love addiction as well as the inability to achieve emotional and sexual intimacy. But it also ignores the reality that some people really are polyamorous, and their ability to love more than one person at a time is not about a lust-fest for them.
Deepak Chopra, a renown spiritual master and director for educational programs at the Chopra Center for Well Being in California states, ”As far as monogamy is concerned, I honestly believe that human beings are not monogamous biologically; they were not created that way. However, it is certainly helpful in society and social structure…because of the family structure…with gay and lesbian relationships…you’re going to see families. You’re going to see children. So in the interest of family structure, we’ve evolved biologically to the point where we are social creatures.”
But the purported evolutionary benefits of monogamy have not panned out as expected. And the biggest benefit touted out in support of monogamy is that it’s the best social and psychological arrangement for children. However, evidence has proven over and over again if couples are in a monogamous relationship solely for the kids, the children, too, suffer because they witness no love, compassion and sometimes respect between the parents.
Contrary to popular belief, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff in her forthcoming book, The Polyamorists Next Door, reveals that polyamory is a “legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children.”
“I’m more involved in their lives [referring to children] and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I’m more involved in their long-term happiness,” said one man, Mark, to a CNN reporter. Mark is a computer programmer, his wife’s an electrical engineer, and they have been married for over a decade. They have no children; however, and are actively engaged with the children from the two couples they have been sexually involved with for six years.
Societal condemnation of not being monogamous, however, has halted many from taking the walk down the aisle, knowing the wedding vow to stay married until death cannot faithfully be upheld.
Many social scientists are recognizing that sexual fidelity to one person is a doomed aspiration. This notion will soon evolve into an antiquated belief because as our human clocks tick longer than previous generations, our appetite and yearning to experience sexual variety—with people of same and opposite genders—will also expand.
Our polyamorous nature, which many dispute is evident in our acts of serial monogamy, speaks to our need to fulfill the impulse for variety. Once marriage shifted from its historical moorings of being solely economic and political arrangements to now romantic and consensual unions, sexual fidelity became the barometer of a successful relationship, marriage or true love for a person.
While sexual jealousy and possessiveness would appear unavoidable in polyamorous relationships, there is also data revealing how having open relationships keeps these couples intact, and the love very much alive.
The practice of polyamory was once thought to be an absurd issue to explore as a relationship choice. But times have changed. More and more organizations like Atlanta Polyamory Inc. are popping up across the country. And whether someone is monogamous or polyamorous is solely a personal decision. Perhaps this will be the new civil rights battle before us.