CNN on monogamy and the poly alternative
It's as mass-market an outlet as you can get. CNN published an article on its website this morning about the difficulty of monogamy (despite its alleged benefits) and its apparent unnaturalness (while stressing that it can be achieved). The article describes the polyamory alternative for eight paragraphs, and manages not to screw it up.
More and more, the mainstream is starting to grasp poly and recognize that it's a genuine, happily workable possibility for certain people one that's important and worth discussing. We're winning.
Mate debate: Is monogamy realistic?
By A. Pawlowski, CNN
..."It's realistic that some people can mate for life in the same sense that some people can play the Beethoven violin concerto or other people can ice-skate beautifully or learn a new language," said psychiatrist Judith Eve Lipton.
Added [her husband] evolutionary biologist David Barash, "It's within the realm of human potential, but it's not easy."...
Possibilities in polyamory?
...The 1970s introduced the concept of "open marriage" in which couples stayed married but were free to date other people.
More recently, polyamory -- the practice of having romantic relationships with multiple people at the same time with the full knowledge and consent of all involved -- has been getting a lot of attention.
"We found the expectation that one person should be our everything seemed unrealistic given our day and age.... It's oddly pressuring to set up that scenario," said Mark, who lives in Springfield, Missouri, and is in a polyamorous relationship. (He asked that his last name not be used for privacy reasons.)
Mark, 42, has been married for five years. He and his wife tried different things to spice up their marriage, including swinging, or having casual sex with other people, he said. But they found the experience unfulfilling and decided what they really wanted was to be able to fall in love with others while staying together.
Mark dates another woman, and his wife, who declined to be interviewed for this article, is dating another man. The four of them frequently get together to have dinner or watch movies.
"People describe polyamory as 'poly-agony' because of all the work you have to do to maintain things," Mark said. "It's just not normal to look over and see your wife with another man. I know a lot of people would have a real problem with that. I really don't."
The ultimate goal is for everyone in the group to live together, Mark said.
"This isn't about having affairs, it's really about being able to be open and loving," he added.
Researchers studying polyamory estimate there are more than half a million polyamorous families in the United States, according to Newsweek.
I just wish the subject had been treated more as a positive expansion of love in its own right, rather than as a workaround for monogamy's failures.
Also, I was glad to see the "poly-agony" warning for people who might get the notion that this is something you can just run out and do without a lot of conscious mutual relationship work. Some people seem naturally born to polyamory and swim in it as easily as fish in water. Most people aren't, and have to do more relearning and self-training than they may expect. (Of course you never have to; don't let anyone bullshit you into poly against your better judgment.)
The article goes on to quote an interesting extreme statement:
...Many people believe monogamy is completely on its way out. French author Jacques Attali in recent years wrote [in Foreign Policy magazine], "Monogamy, which is really no more than a useful social convention, will not survive. It has rarely been honored in practice; soon, it will vanish even as an ideal."
I doubt it. For one thing, consider some statistics of poly relationships. Although I don't know hard numbers, there certainly seem to be more vees than fully interlinked triads; more triads than quads; more quads than quints. The trend is clear: the more complex the setup, the less often it occurs in nature.
Extrapolate this trend backward, and the simplest arrangement is a couple (which has only 1 person-to-person relationship, compared to a vee's 2, a full triad's 3, a quad's 6, and a quint's 10). So for this reason alone, I think that some form of monogamy will always remain the most common relationship choice even in a completely poly-aware and poly-accepting future.
Read the whole article (Oct. 28, 2009). And join the comments. Remember, late comments are important, because in a most-recent-first ordering, they will stay on top for a long time if the fuss has died down.
A condensed version of the article appeared a day later on the website of a TV station local to the Missouri man quoted.