"Why Do People Choose Polyamory?"
Deborah Anapol, at her Psychology Today blog Love Without Limits, has posted an excerpt from her new book Polyamory in the 21st Century. She discusses the many reasons why, in actual practice, people find their way into today's polyamory scene. Anapol was one of the founders of the modern polyamory movement some 30 years ago and was a co-founder of Loving More, and she has observed the movement's development all along.
Do you recognize yourself in one of these categories?
Why Do People Choose Polyamory?
By Deborah Anapol, Ph.D.
Just as there are many different forms a polyamorous relationship can take, there are many different reasons people choose polyamory. We're not always conscious of the reasons we do things, and sometimes we even make up reasons which have little to do with our real motivations. I'm not saying that we intentionally lie to ourselves, and to others. Rather, we find ourselves doing something and then make up a story to explain it.... It's not always easy to discover the reasons people choose polyamory. However, if you watch them over time, as I have, you can often determine their motivations by observing the results of their choices. And of course you can listen to what they say and what they report in anonymous surveys. I've employed all these methods to compile a fairly comprehensive view of possible motivations for choosing polyamory. Some are predictable, others may surprise you.
Humans are natural problem solvers. We're always looking for ways to solve or avoid problems. So it's probably inevitable that some people will come to polyamory hoping that polyamory will allow them to avoid dealing with problematic personal issues or that it will solve problems in an existing relationship, but if this works at all it's usually a temporary fix. In a few cases, however, polyamory does allow people to create healthy and functional relationships they probably could not have managed otherwise.
More often, one partner reluctantly agrees to polyamory to win the affections of the other, secretly hoping that this unwelcome twist will magically vanish once they are committed to each other....
Some want a stable and nurturing environment in which to raise their children. Some use polyamory to mask or excuse addictions to sex, work, or drama, while others seek utopian or spiritual rewards or want to take a stand for cultural change. Others are simply doing what's fun and what comes naturally for them or are rebelling against religious prohibitions or family expectations. Some use polyamory as a weapon in a power struggle or to punish a controlling partner. Some want to keep their erotic life alive and vital while in long term committed relationships or to fulfill sexual or emotional desires they can't meet with only one person or with their existing partner. Some are trying to make up for developmental gaps or to balance unequal sex drives. Some people do not start out consciously choosing polyamory at all, but find that polyamory has chosen them.
Nancy and Darrell are a good example of a couple who deliberately chose polyamory for its opportunities for growth as well as to allow a broader sexual context within their marriage....
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the drama of co-dependency and sex addiction. For Thelma, the idea that she was attempting a polyamorous relationship that would involve a potentially painful confrontation with her own jealousy but would be well worth it in the end, allowed her to drawn into an abusive relationship....
Sex and love addiction can traumatize an addict's partners, and to the extent that partners fit the co-dependency profile, polyamory can effectively skirt the need to face an addiction and the painful feelings it covers. However, polyamory can also be utilized as a healthy means of coping with psychological difficulties, pre-existing trauma, differences in sexual desire, and the garden variety erotic boredom so common in long term monogamous marriages.
...While there is no data to support the common assumption that polyamory impairs attachment or is risky to the longevity of a pair bond, and, in fact, Perel and others acknowledge that it may be just the opposite, I suspect that whether polyamory or monogamy does more to stabilize a relationship depends upon the individuals involved and their life experience. When two or more people are well matched, opening their relationship usually makes it stronger. When they're not, opening up can be destabilizing....
...The blessing and the curse of polyamory is that love which includes more than one tends to illuminate those dark shadows many would prefer to ignore. While some people deliberately seek out polyamorous relationships for the purpose of freeing themselves and their children from the neuroses arising from typical nuclear family dynamics, most inadvertently discover that polyamory provides a very fertile environment for replicating any dysfunctional patterns carried over from the parental triangle experienced in their family of origin....
Read the whole article (Aug. 23, 2010).
Labels: Deborah Anapol