Research into Polyamory and Monogamy

Recently, I came upon a paper written for Personality and Social Psychology Review.  In short, it examined monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.  It can be found here:

A Critical Examination of Popular Assumptions About the Benefits and Outcomes of Monogamous Relationships

The writers made some interesting points.  One of the first things they did was dispel thePolyamory research myth that several animals in nature are monogamous.  Though some animals (like swans and prairie voles) may have life partners, it has been proven that they are not sexually exclusive to that partner.  Bottom line, they stay “married” to one partner but had sex and fathered children with numerous other partners.  Why is this important?  The writers questioned whether researchers who are part of a culture that esteemed monogamy were influenced in how they interpreted animal behavior.  A researcher, D. P. Schmitt, “performed a cross-cultural study (from “Argentina to Zimbabwe”) and concluded that women and men have not evolved solely for long-term mating.”  He discovered that most cultures were not completely monogamous. 

In America, the researchers found that 4%-5% of Americans practiced polyamory (which is referred to as consensual non-monogamy or CNM).  That is about 12.5 million polyamorous people in the US today.  That’s the entire metro population of Los Angeles.  If you thought you were the only one considering polyamory, you’re not.

The writers state that their research showed some preconceived notions about monogamy.  They found that people thought monogamy improved sexuality, prevents the spread of S.T.D.’s, improved the quality of the relationship (increase trust, reduce jealousy) and provided family benefits (especially concerning raising children).  Let’s look at each of these.

There isn’t enough research to compare sex in monogamy and polyamory.  What research does show is that people in monogamous relationships can have “lower levels of satisfying sexual relationships.”  Polyamory isn’t about sex but with more sexual partners, there is the possibility of more sex and varied types of sex.

Concerning STD’s.  Again, little research has been done but what they were able to see polyamory and safe sexwas that monogamy didn’t ensure a lower rate of STD’s in comparison to polyamory.  Condoms were considered a better defense against STD’s than monogamy.  They did note that with more sexual partners you did have a higher chance at STD’s but that did not guarantee it.  In short…use protection and be safe.

People were both equally satisfied in monogamous and polyamorous relationships.  Jealousy is where it got interesting.  Polyamorous people tended to have less jealousy.  Some people argue that monogamy would help ensure no jealousy but research doesn’t support this. 

Some people argue that polyamory is bad for children.  The researchers did not support this idea.  They state: “It appears that monogamy and consensual non-monogamy provide similar outcomes for children in these types of families.  Monogamy and polyamory both rated fairly equal regarding children.” 

The article is worth a read.  I’ve summarized some of the main ideas but you may want to take a look at the article.

Polyamory Myths


Poly Myth1.  Myth: Polyamory will always be easy when you find the right person or persons.

A poly relationship is like any relationship.  Regardless of who you are with, it will always take time, effort and commitment.  The more individuals in a polycule the more effort and commitment it will take to maintain it.  If you think maintaining a monogamous relationship takes a little effort, a poly one takes even more.

2.  Myth: Poly people are sex fiends or addicts, which means they are extremely promiscuous and unsafe.

Polyamorous means by definition many loves.  It does not mean much sex.  Now, if you love more than one person, does this mean you will have more sex?  Yes, it could mean this, but it is not always true.  Polyamorous people love more than one person.  Poly is about love, and sex is a fringe benefit of love.  If anything, poly people are love fiends or love addicts.  Robert Heinlein wrote it eloquently:  “The more you love, the more you can love–and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.”

Polyamory does not mean promiscuous or unsafe.  There are plenty of promiscuous and unsafe monogamous people, who’ve spread diseases to others.  In fact, many poly people today practice safe sex.  Being promiscuous or practicing unsafe sex isn’t a aspect of poly but an aspect of the individual, whether they are poly or monogamous.

3.  Myth: People become poly because they are damaged and/or have low self-esteem.

In order to be successful at poly, you must have a healthy self-esteem.  Most poly people see their own value and love themselves before they seek partners.  We’ve all heard the statement, “We must love ourselves before someone else can love us.” When we love our self first, we find inner fulfillment, and we also know what we need or want from others.  Many polyamorous and monogamous people have an extremely healthy sense of self-esteem.  Conversely, many polyamorous and monogamous people have a low sense of self esteem.  Contradiction?  Not at all when you realize that emotional or self esteem issues are not an aspect of polyamory or monogamy but, again, a reflection of the individual.  People’s motivation, whether good or bad, for entering any type of relationship, whether monogamous or poly, is completely dependent upon them.

4. Myth: We will improve or fix the problems in our relationship by adding another Poly Mythsperson to help enhance or fix it. 

Actually, adding another person to a currently damaged or hurting relationship will only complicate matters more.  Your relationship must be in a healthy state before you even begin thinking about adding another partner. This is not much different than monogamous couple with damaged relationships believing that having a baby will fix their relationship.  Adding other partners will confound issues by adding jealousy, envy, and other issues that come with this new person.  Additionally, the partner you are adding is a tool, a commodity, that you are using.  If you were honest with them, do you think they would be happy because you only wanted to be with them to fix problems in your relationship?  It is not fair to them or you.

5. Myth: Polyamory is easier than monogamy because in poly, more partners mean you have more help.

Although a benefit of polyamory is that you have more partners to help you and share all of the burdens, it also means you have more partners to create more burdens.  Some things can be easier.  Some things can be harder.

Partners not only bring in their love, but they bring their lives with them.  Familial issues, debt and personal or emotional issues also come with your new partners.  For people we love, their problems become your problems.  Plus a new relationship creates new things to deal or cope with all by itself.

6. Myth: Finding a poly partner will be easy for us.

The fact remains that many people who desire to be poly never find a poly partner.  Some people have an issue finding a monogamous mate and monogamy is actually considered the norm.  Many people do not wish to be poly because they realize that many of their family and friends will have issue with it and may reject them.  They also have issues with poly due to intense jealousy, religious belief, or their societal norm.

7. Myth: Since we’ve been poly and successful for many years, we can add another partner and be just as successful.

Being successful in your current poly relationship does NOT guarantee that you will remain successful in a new poly relationship when you add a new person to your current polycule. Your current polycule has a certain set dynamic, but once you add another partner, you change the current dynamic.  This new person brings in new ideas, beliefs, wants, and desires, so they will change the current dynamic.  It will take work and effort to make a new addition as successful as your current relationship.

8. Myth: We can always try poly out for a while and see if we like it. If not, we can always just end it.

The problem with trying poly out for a while and then ending it if we do not like it is thatPoly Myth people are involved.  No one should go into any relationship, whether mono or poly, acting so nonchalant towards other people as if they are disposable.  People are not disposable, and we must remember everyone has feelings.  It is one thing for all parties in a poly relationship to agree to a trial period, but it is quite different and wrong for two people to agree to try it on for size without the other party being in agreement.  People are not commodities to be used and discarded if you don’t like them.

9. Myth: If I let my partner have another partner, he/she will love me more.

Why would this even be true?  Does this partner love their partner based upon what they allow them to do or what they give them?  Love should be based upon the emotion you feel for that one individual person, and not based upon what that one individual allows or does not allow.  This thought process indicates a relationship that already has issues and people that think polyamory will fix it. 

10. Myth: Poly only works if everyone lives together.

This is definitely not true. Some poly families all live in the same house, while others live in separate houses.  Some prefer their own living space, while others need to be altogether.  We’ve known poly families who have lived together and ones who have not, and both forms have worked.  Some families start with living apart, and then, they decide they want to live together. Sometimes, they begin by living together, and later, decide they’d rather living in separate homes.  Some people find they are happier having their own space, while others prefer not feeling alone.

11. Myth: Poly only works if everyone has their own home.

This is definitely not true. Some poly families all live in the same house, while others live in separate houses.  Some prefer their own living space, while others need to be altogether.  We’ve known poly families who have lived together and ones who have not, and both forms have worked.  Some families start with living apart, and then, they decide they want to live together. Sometimes, they begin by living together, and later, decide they’d rather living in separate homes.  Some people find they are happier having their own space, while others prefer not feeling alone.

12. There is only one true form of poly.

This is nonsense.  A variety of forms exist: polyamory, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry, “V”, triad, quad, line, group marriage, open marriage, swingers, etc… 

13. Myth: Anyone can be poly.

No, not anyone can be poly, just like not everyone can be monogamous or married.  Many people are extremely jealous and cannot share their partner with another person.  Some people cannot give an equal amount time, energy, love and commitment to more than one relationship. 

14. Myth: Poly means no jealousy, or if you do feel jealous, it means you are not meant to Poly Myth Jealousybe poly.

Poly doesn’t mean NO jealousy. It means you learn to live with it. It could also mean you learn to communicate with your partners your jealous feelings, and hopefully, they help you discover why you are feeling jealous.  Once you learn why, hopefully, they can help you find ways to overcome this particular incident of jealousy. 

If you are poly and you experience jealousy, this does not mean you are not meant to be poly or that you are bad at poly, it just means you are normal; you are human.  Your jealousy could be an indicator that your partners are not meeting your needs, or you actually need some more time with one or all of them. See our article on Jealousy.

15. Myth: For a woman, adding another female partner means you’ll never feel lonely and you’ll always have companionship. 

This can be true, but it is not always the truth.  If both women work, you may have opposing work schedules.  She may not even like the same things as you, or the two of you may not get along.  When your other partner spends alone time with her, then you will be alone during that time.  If you are in a “V” relationship, you and the other non-romantic partner may only be friends.  Even if you are in a triad and the two of you do share an intimate relationship, there will still be times where you may feel lonely.   

16. Myth: If I let my partner have another partner, it will ensure he/she will stay with me.

This is not true: allowing your partner the liberty of having another partner provides no insurance that he/she will stay with you and never leave you for the other person.  Just like in monogamy, people get divorced, separated or leave one another for other people. Being poly does not make a person more or less ethical or moral.

Polyamory and Emotional Dissonance


emotional dissonanceI was reading an interesting article by Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Haifa.  In it, he states how “humans are capable of having sex and loving more than one person at the same time.” People are capable of being polyamorous in theory but a question arises: how to deal with polyamory and emotional dissonance?

What is emotional dissonance?  It’s when something we feel conflicts with what we believe about our self or when we lie about our emotions.  An example:  We believe that it is wrong to love two people, but we fall in love with two people at the same time.  We “feel” conflicted.  We “know” it’s right to only love one person,  but it doesn’t change the fact we fell in love with two people, which” feels wrong”.  The conflicting emotions are emotional dissonance.

Ben-Zeév states that one way to cope with such dissonance is to change the way we think.  Change the way we think, we can change the way we feel.  Changing the way we feel can get rid of the emotional dissonance.

How do people feel about polyamory?

Honestly, in most modern societies, polyamory is frowned upon.  It is considered at thehappysad least immoral.  We are taught that it is wrong to love multiple people, and in some cases, we are ostracized when we do.  When we love two people, we can be called cheaters or adulterers and that hurts a lot.

But what if we change the way we think about things?  What if we could look at relationships in a new way?

What if we believed it is okay to love more than two people?

Remember, polyamory is not cheating or adultery.  It is a multiple partner relationship that has the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.  It’s people loving people and being happy that their partner is in a loving relationship with another person.  It is feeling secure in the knowledge that your partner doesn’t love you less and that both of you can love others without loving each other less. If you can wrap your mind around that, you are starting on a whole new way of thinking about love and relationships.

This is not an easy endeavor.  When society can look down on you, when your friends and family may shun you or when you feel like what you are feeling is wrong…it is not easy.  But if you do, it’s a different life.  Infinite LoveYou don’t have to live with emotional dissonance.

Better? Worse? No…just different.  Being single…being married…it all depends on you.  It doesn’t have to be better or worse…it just needs to make you happy and not harm others.

Be happy.

Ben-Zeév Article At Psychology Today

Yahoo Polyamory Groups


Yahoo Groups has been around for a long time.  Some of these groups have been active since 1999!  With the advent of Facebook and Google, some groups are not as active.  We hope this list will aide in finding like minded friends.

Alabama Polyamory Alabama

AZ-Poly Purpose Phoenix, AZ

Poly Tucson Tucson, Arizona

East Bay Poly Potluck East Bay, CA

North Bay Poly  North Bay, CA

Santa Cruz Polyamory Santa Cruz, California

South Cal-Poly Southern California

Connecticut Polys Connecticut

Poly People GA/FL Poly Group  Southern Georgia, Northern Florida

WNC-Poly Asheville, NC

Hawaiian Poly Pagans Hawaii

Inland NorthWest Poly  North Idaho, Eastern Washington

Bi-State PolyList  St. Louis, IL

Poly Chicago Chicago, IL

Fort Wayne Indiana Polyamory Fort Wayne, Indiana

Iowa Polyamory Iowa

Kansas Poly Kansas

KY Poly List Kentucky

Polyamory Maine Maine

Baltimore Maryland Polyamory Baltimore, ML

W-Mass PolyDiscuss W. Massachusetts

Western Mass. Poly Events

Michigan Polyamory Michigan

Poly People MN Minnesota

BiState Poly List St. Louis, MS

Inland NorthWest Poly  North Idaho and Eastern Washington

Pburg Poly Philipsburg, Montana

Polyamory Vegas  Las Vegas, Nevada

NE-Poly New Hanpshire

NJ  Polyamory Group New Jersey

New York City Polyamory New York City

Roch/NY Poly Rochester, NY

Polyamory Columbus Columbus, OH

OK-Poly Oklahoma

Polyamory Circle Portland Oregon

Three Rivers Polyamory Network Three  Rivers, PA

Susquehanna Valley Polyamory  Susquehanna, PA

TN-Poly Tennessee

Austin Polyamory Group Austin, TX

Utah Polyamory Society Utah

VT Poly Woodchucks Vermont

Harp Richmond Richmond, VA

Roanoke Poly Roanoke, VA

Seattle-Poly Seattle, WA.

Tacoma-Olympia Poly, Tacoma, WA

Madison Area Polyamory Society Madison, Wisconsin  

Polyamory in Wisconsin Wisconsin

Poly Out Madison, WI