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When did you choose to be monogamous? November 29, 2011

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
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I have been asked by a number of people over the years why I am polyamorous.  It can be in the form of when I chose to be polyamorous, how long I have actively become polyamorous, how does that work given jealousy, and so forth.  But I think that such questions might be misisng the larger question.

When do people choose to be monogamous?

Have most monogamous couples had a discussion about exclusivity when they reached a certain point in their relationship? I highly doubt that many couples have had the mono/poly discussion at all, actually.  I would love to hear anecdotes to the contrary, as real statistical data is likely to be severely lacking.

Even those couples who might dabble in swinging, swapping with other couples, or even eventually became polyamorous probably never had such a conversation. Most people are ignorant, rather than intimated or uninterested in non-monogamy, especially polyamory

But in a strict sense monogamous people are choosing to live that lifestyle, even if it is an uninformed choice.  The authenticity of the choice is not overwhelming because in most cases alternative options are not realistically considered even if they are understood to be actual options. It’s hard to make an informed decision when you know almost nothing about it; even most of my friends and family know next to nothing about how polyamory works.

The fact is that monogamy is the cultural default, and is rarely realistically questioned.  This is why the polyamorous community is so small, the swinger community is often anonymous and often secretive, and even affairs are kept quiet; they are a blemish on the fantastical ideal of monogamy.

Having been monogamous in my life, I have a perspective where my choice to try and maintain a polyamorous lifestyle is informed.  And for the few monogamous people who are well aware of polyamory and have discussed the issue with their partner, their choice is authentic and informed as well as mine is, but they are rare.

The vast majority of our culture seems to be monogamous by default, rather than by authentic choice.  Until the idea gains more mainstream attention and understanding starts to spread (if this ever happens), this ignorance shall be the norm.

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Comments»

1. alphasiren - November 30, 2011

Great post~ I have asked many of the same questions~
xox
A/s

2. Staks Rosch (@DangerousTalk) - November 30, 2011

I think there is a false equivalency here. Obviously both choices here are choices. This isn’t about gender identity or beliefs. Couples make the choice to be couples. This happens mainly because society has conditioned people (mainly women, but not always) to be monogamous. Still in both of the relationships I had, there was a point in which the question of exclusivity (i.e. monogamy) came up.

Jealousy is a real issue. I thought that I would be one of those people who would have no problem with multiple partners, but for a long time I was jealous over Jenny’s friendship with her ex-boyfriend. I had nothing to be jealous about aside from the fact that he is much better looking than I am. But it was there anyway. I can’t imagine how jealous I would have been had we been open to multiple partners.

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone has the same feelings of jealousy as I did and some people can get over those feelings more quickly than I did as well. But jealousy is a real issue in polyamorous situations. Humans are naturally selfish in this way. So when people ask how you deal with that issue, don’t take offense. It is a legitimate concern.

3. Cory Brunson - December 10, 2011

I agree with Staks Rosch but i think they miss Shaun’s main point: These are legitimate questions for everyone, and the extent to which they are asked more of polyamorous people serves as a rough metric of the privileged status of monogamy. As they say, being in a monogamous relationship can inspire a variety of problems, including jealousy, yet people generally don’t need to ask how a person in a monogamous relationship can possibly handle their partner being close friends with an ex-partner. They are expected to deal. (That doesn’t necessarily make it easy, of course.) (Also, while there are big differences between sexual and relationship orientation, i think pretty much the same may be said for such questions as “What are you attracted to?” and “How does that (sex) work?” that are asked disproportionately of gay and trans people.) We may be culturally aware enough to understand why people ask, but our frustration at having to keep answering ad nauseum is as legitimate as others’ curiosity.

4. caelesti - November 3, 2014

I actually did choose monogamy, after being in several different poly relationships. I’ve learned a lot about relationships (like the importance of communication & honesty) from the poly community and I definitely feel much more confident in my relationship (and less paranoid about things like jealousy!) I am certainly a poly ally as a result. I think that if more people moved away from the Default Path of Adulthood (monogamous heterosexual marriage with trad. gender roles, children et al) and figured out for themselves whether each part of the “package” was right for them, people would be a lot happier. My generation (Millennials) is definitely challenging a lot of those assumptions, but I think monogamy is still pretty unquestioned.


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