By Sarah P.
Polyamorists claim open marriages are a good solution for the continued happiness of long-term happy marriages. But do open marriages work?
We have heard a lot from them recently—those people who practice polyamory. The movement, which was made popular in the 1970’s, is now rearing its ugly, leering head and wandering eyes again.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who actually subscribe to this lifestyle. Believe it or not, I have a younger female cousin who has always practiced it and I have heard a lot about it from her.
Let me state up front that I am biased against open marriages. Personally, I do not believe a polyamorous lifestyle is emotionally healthy, physically healthy, or something in which I would ever be interested. Still, I wanted to explore the concept and consider whether such relationships are viable.
So, first and foremost, let me present what I believe is a good enough definition of polyamory from the Polyamory Society:
Polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible, and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamory emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to be involved with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time. Polyamory is an umbrella term which integrates traditional multi-partner relationship terms with more evolved egalitarian terms. Polyamory embraces sexual equality and all sexual orientations toward an expanded circle of spousal intimacy and love.” (1)
What motivates people in relationships or actual marriages to practice polyamory or open marriages?
I have read on several sites promoting polyamory that monogamy is just not a viable concept and never has been. But, they are not the only ones who say it. This has also been the mantra of (mainly male) evolutionary psychologists for a number of years.
Polyamorists and evolutionary psychologists have cited boredom, the need for variety, a ‘better’ gene pool, and the feelings of ‘suffocation’ that are caused by long-term monogamous relationships. They also generally believe polyamory is a win-win for everyone involved since it involves following agreed upon rules, egalitarianism, and openness in communication.
They believe no one needs to have affairs since affairs are based on lying, sneaking around, and breach of trust. They believe polyamory is the perfect solution because a type of controlled and equal infidelity is now permitted. They also believe polyamorists are highly moral and evolved because they are open about their infidelity. Finally, they generally strengthen their argument by citing infidelity and divorce statistics to demonstrate that monogamy is not a viable system.
The Faces of Polyamory: Who knew your friendly, neighborhood children’s book author practiced an open marriage? Amanda Palmer and her husband Neil Gaiman. Neil is famous for children’s books and a film called Coraline. He is also the author of the Sandman series. Neil, if you want to continue to write children’s books, I would stop giving interviews to the likes of The Guardian discussing your polyamory.
Polyamory/Open Marriage for the Benefit of Men
As a woman, the first thing I suspect about polyamory is that it is a big, old excuse by some men so that they can have sexual relationships with as many women as possible while feeling morally superior about their behavior. Obviously, these men believe that the little incident of gender between their legs is so incredibly special that it must be shared with all!
Ahh… but let’s look at what polyamorists say for themselves. Apparently, in polyamory, each couple has strict rules they abide by, or at least they pretend to abide by them. If polyamory principles were followed to a T, then it truly could be egalitarian if a woman were allowed to get hers. However, because jealousy occurs and is part of human nature for a very good reason, polyamory can be very lopsided.
I will provide the example of a relative. She claims she is bi-sexual and says she has known that all of her life. (Huh?) Most of her relationships involve one man and two women.
This relative who is actually attractive enough and incredibly book smart, believes polyamory is the perfect situation. I might be inclined to take her words for it, but I have also noticed that as soon as she started living this way, she started using illicit substances. (I would like to state that said illicit substances are practically legal in her state now, but that does not matter.) One wonders if a lifestyle were so perfect, why does one have to deaden one’s brain in the process. Me thinks it might be about trying to silence the conscience.
I found an interesting blog by a woman where she talked openly about some of the challenges of polyamory. The first thing that caught my eye was her description of an argument that she had with the husband of another woman. (Apparently, she was one of the people who participated in their relationship—I wonder if she was the Wednesday or the Friday girl…).
The arrangement this married couple had was this: their marriage was open and they could sleep with whomever they wanted. However, the man had the additional rule that his wife could only sleep with women, even though the wife was not apparently bi-sexual. So, it turned out the wife ended up in the middle of threesomes or possibly with other women (trying hard to be bisexual) while her husband was off having sex with another woman or women. (2)
The female author of the blog argued with him extensively for several reasons. Here is my takeaway from what I read:
A) The blog author rightly believed the husband’s viewpoint and rules for his wife were inherently sexist. It created a situation where he could have his cake and eat it too.
B) The husband admitted that he believed if two women had sex it wasn’t really sex because sex involved ‘thing A being inserted into slot B’. So, the author noted that he doubly illustrated that what he was really doing was cheating in the guise of calling it polyamory and therefore labeling infidelity as an OK thing to do.
C) He took none of his wife’s needs into account because he was too focused on having sex with other women.
D) Even though his wife was heterosexual, he told her male appendages were strictly off limits.
E) He did not want to own up to all of this because he was having too much fun, even though it meant harming his wife.
I am getting the eerie feeling like I have heard all this before. Could polyamory be the cheater’s new get out of jail free card?
This author also had a gripe about another polyamorous relationship in which she was engaged. She liked the man with whom a new budding relationship was growing. But, unfortunately, her new man wanted to control her and she was feeling it.
Her answer to her new controlling lover was this:
Things that I do with my body, mind, or emotions are not things that I do TO YOU. They can affect you (which is why I’m so adamant about building friendly, or at least civil, metamour relations), but they are not done TO YOU. They are not about you. They are things that are happening to me. And you have no right to control those things or cry victimization when you don’t like what happens to me. Manipulation, intimidation, and control are, in fact, the wrong ways to do polyamory.”(2)
Translation: she is calling out yet another man who wants to sleep with whomever he wants, but she is supposed to be with him alone.
The author of the blog is pointing out the reality of how polyamory works. Even though true polyamory is egalitarian, men do not really want egalitarian polyamory. Most men are drawn to it to have their cake and eat it too. Thus they refuse to follow the egalitarian rules of true polyamory where a woman also sleeps with as many men as she chooses.
How ironic is it that a philosophy that is supposed to have feminist leanings actually ends up being a patriarchal tool where a man gets his harem and a woman gets to wait in line?
The idea that this is a viable solution to the ‘issues’ of monogamy becomes ludicrous because it is taking us backwards. It ends up benefitting men while sexually suppressing and harming the woman. (And this doesn’t even take into account the HARM such an arrangement is doing to children).
This is the point where I will judge open marriages—when children are involved. Any way you slice it, there is no way keeping these things from children. Children are far too smart for that and such arrangements cause emotional trauma. Anyway you cut it or try to wrap it up in philosophy to confuse people, polyamory is harmful.
What Is the Success Rate of Open Marriages?
Steve Brody, Ph.D., a psychologist in Cambria, California, explains that less than 1 percent of married people are in open marriages. Some research suggests that open marriage has a 92 percent failure rate.” (3) So not only do very few people engage in open/polyamorous marriages, 92% of those marriages fail. That’s double the current divorce rate for monogamous, heterosexual marriages.
So, the very alternative to monogamy actually creates a guaranteed failure. After all, if someone came up to you and said: “Hey, I just found this awesome stock and I believe it will make you a millionaire overnight. But, the only downside is, there is a 92% chance of failure based on past performance. And you could lose all your money. But, don’t worry about that – Are you in?” Anyone who has two brain cells to rub together is going to walk the other way and realize such a proposal is crazy, that is if they want to secure their financial future. These are odds anyone in their right mind will not take. To that end, how can polyamory be a solution to the failure of marriages when polyamory pretty much guarantees a fail? Where is the success in that?
The Really Bad
The thing that is most alarming element to me is the potential for STDs. Many people believe condoms make everything safe. But, even condoms do not prevent the HPV virus and genital warts.
What is scarier is that the most dangerous HPV virus is the one that never manifests itself as a physical wart, but rather as fast growing and invasive cervical cancer. Cheaters: if you are reading this, know this—wrapping that rascal does not prevent one of the most dangerous diseases to women. So, don’t fool yourself. There is no such thing as harmless infidelity.
Last month, I read about Joey Feek passing away from cervical cancer. I took an interest in this story for a couple of reasons. The first was because she was from a small town near where I lived in the Midwest. She was younger than me but we probably knew people in common. But, the main reason was because she died a full 8 months after her diagnosis of cervical cancer. Joey was married and she is her husband had a beautiful, little girl.
I knew from speaking with my husband that this type of cervical cancer that Joey had is always due to the kind of HPV that doesn’t show signs (i.e. genital warts). Seeing her in photos with her infant daughter made me want to scream out about the seeming unfairness in this world. (God rest this beautiful woman’s soul and I pray that her daughter feels her mom’s loving presence all around her).
Healthy Joey with her Husband Rory
Joey with her infant daughter weeks before her death
I asked for my husband to read the stories about Joey’s cancer and to tell me what he thought. He confirmed (from the stories) that he felt this was definitely the virulent form of HPV and he was shocked that it was not caught in time. (This was especially true because often high profile individuals have excellent healthcare. It’s not right, but it’s the way it is).
My husband said that this type of HPV generally doesn’t lay dormant in the body for many years as some other less dangerous strains do. He said that this type of HPV manifests itself soon after being contracted (not years later).
Since Joey was married, my husband scratched his head. He said that if a couple is monogamous for any length of time, this type of thing generally does not happen. But, he also said anything is possible and it could have just been one of those things. She or her husband could have contracted it from partners before they married. Therefore, I am not here to imply that there was infidelity in their marriage and I would never want to imply that. It’s just a terribly tragic story and I am so sorry for the family’s loss.
But, what it did bring home to me is that there is no such thing as harmless infidelity and that often women suffer from the sins of their husbands. As I said before, even if a cheating husband were to wear a condom, he could unknowingly bring a very silent cancer into his wife’s life. He could be signing his wife’s death certificate just because he was so selfish that he had to have an affair.
Thus, I wanted to bring up a painful topic, but I bring it up because I care about you. If you know your husband has had a physical affair, I want you to pay close attention to your health. I recommend getting a pap exam at least once a year. I also recommend having your physician run full STD panels from time to time, especially if you suspect your husband has gone back to the other woman or is seeing a new one.
This is the primary reason I hate affairs so much!! — it’s not just that the betrayed has to deal with the absolute nuclear devastation that affairs bring—but the betrayed also must now be concerned about STDs.
The betrayed will never be really sure if she will be the unlucky one who gets cervical cancer. After all, HPV is present in the entire sexually active population. (One exception is when 2 virgins marry each other and stay faithful. The other exception is when a husband and wife who were sexually active with others before marriage have been monogamous for at least seven years and the woman has had a clean pap exam for all seven of those years. The HPV virus usually sloughs off in these cases unless the wife has a compromised immune system).
So, please, please, please pay attention to your health both for yourself and for all of those wonderful people who love you! Even though you don’t know me, do it for me too because I do care what happens to you.
In summary, I believe the newfound interest in polyamory and open marriages is just another way to allow men to deposit sperm anywhere they want without a further thought about who they harm.
Under no circumstance do I believe open marriages and affairs are harmless, especially because of the STD component that occurs with both. In fact, the more open the marriage, the higher the chance someone gets a deadly STD.
But, affairs are the worse of the two because the spouse who was betrayed never gave their consent. Further, if the betrayed spouse is a woman, she could be the one who loses her life due to a husband’s affair.I have a no tolerance policy for infidelity and I do not believe it can be excused. Sure, there are always reasons and situations that made the affair possible, but that does not mean it was the right thing to do.
Do not ever allow your unfaithful partner make you believe it was something you did. There is always choice. Even in today’s modern society with medical advances, there are always harmful consequences when it comes to infidelity.
Does this article ring true for you? Have you ever had a STD scare due to a spouse’s affair?
Polyamorists are so open minded, it looks like their brains fell out! Here are some anonymous quotes from polyamorists:
“No one person can ever meet all of your needs – and this is ok.”
“Sleeping with multiple partners is awesome.”
“Most monogamous people will try to shield each other from the emotional challenges of life.”
“Deep friendships provide a space to talk through tools and plans for resolving conflict inside your romantic relationship. For me, these friendships also have a sexual component.”
“Love is not a finite resource. Physical intimacy is not the boundary of long term commitment.”
Author Unknown. (n.d.) What Is Polyamory? Retrieved April 5, 2016, from http://www.polyamorysociety.org/page6.html
Joreth. (009, February 4). Ranty Lessons By Joreth. Retrieved from http://joreth.livejournal.com/tag/polyamory
Salmansohn, K. (2010, March 23). Do Open Marriages Work? Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/personal/03/23/o.open.marriages.work/