Caught Between Monogamy & Polyamory: A Case of One-itis.

Via on Aug 1, 2013

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A Further Analysis of Monogamy and Polyamory

I woke up in a sweat. “Oh, my goddess! I have a case of One-itis,” I thought as I jumped out of bed in a state of confusion and excitement. “What does it mean?!”

In the Pick-Up-Artist culture One-itis is a disease. It happens when one plays the game and falls hard for a specific person, so much to the point that they cannot or do not even care to continue playing.

I am not a PUA. But if I claimed to never play the game, I’d be lying.

I am the woman still debating which is better: monogamy or polyamory. I’m not trying to figure it out for the world, just for myself.

I began this journey three years ago; some of you may be familiar with my article “More Sex with More People: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Open Relationships” and the follow-up, “How More Sex with More People was Good, Then Bad, Then Ugly,” that came later.

To save time here’s what happened:

I was in a five+ year long relationship and we together decided to open it from monogamy to polyamory. What that did was expose underlying issues such as bad communication and lack of sexual desire causing the relationship to end permanently.

Since then I’ve been in a state of perplexity.

Technically, I’m in some sort of polyamorous arrangement right now. He’s seeing someone else and I’m at least making out with someone(s) else. This is where it starts to get complicated. I haven’t cared that he has another girlfriend because I keep my knowledge of her and their relationship to a minimum. Will there become a time when I need to learn more? Perhaps. But right now I live by the “not my problem” motto.

Why do I live by the NMP? Because it’s the first time in nearly two years where I like a guy enough to want to see him on a regular basis, but it’s new enough that I have yet to determine how much I want to invest in the “regular basis.”

I know that within the next few months these “one-itis” feelings will fade and I will want to get back in the game, though that doesn’t mean I will have necessarily stopped caring for him.

That’s the problem with the monogamy/polyamory split.

I don’t know if I can ever go back into a monogamous relationship; yet, at the same time, when (whether with this guy or someone else) things start getting more serious, will I be able to handle the alternative?

So, how do I figure out what I want? How do I figure out what works?

When I was in high school my best friend and I would often make lists about why we should or should not go out with a guy. So, that’s what I’m going to do today; though, this time my list isn’t going to be about a specific guy, but about the relationship structures surrounding the guys (and/or gals) I meet in the future.

A Pro/Con List of Monogamy vs. Polyamory

Monogamy

  • ProLoyalty—you know at least one person has your back.
  • ConCan’t bang other people. Have you seen other people? There are a lot of hotties out in the world.
  • ProCommitment–someone is always there for you (at least in theory).
  • ConConfining: monogamy typically sets up unreasonable expectations of behavior that stifle and restrict many people from reaching their true potentials.
  • ProSocially acceptable with an easy-to-follow-script. We’ve been taught since day one the value of heterosexual monogamous relationships, the media alone has helped shape this illusion of love, but we also cannot discount the power of religion and governmental law, particularly in regards to monogamous marriage.
  • ConUnnatural yet socially prescribed. This is based off of scientific and sociological studies such as the one in the book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan, Ph.D and Cacilda Jethá, MD.

 

Polyamory

  • Pro: Loyalty and commitment—you know at least one but possibly more people have your back.
  • Con: Jealousy—it’s real and it has to be worked at to overcome. But as a friend pointed out, working on understanding and dealing with this feeling has the potential to help tremendously with one’s personal evolution.
  • Pro: Having different experiences (sexually and otherwise) with more than one person. And yes, you can have friendships and activity partners, but deeper intimacy can be reached with more people if there is an overall openness to said intimacies.
  • Con: Not having enough time for everyone you like.
  • Pro: Being able to write your own script.
  • Con: Money. Unless you’re like mega-rich, finances have to be dealt with in a way that is respectful to you and your partners. Who pays for what on dates, vacations, housing situations etc.
  • Pro: More opportunities to learn and grow from a multitude of people without being “afraid” of being attracted to them and upsetting your one and only.

So, obviously there are mega pros and cons in each.

What it comes down to is understanding what I am capable of accepting. It seems like polyamory is an identity, whereas monogamy is a default behavior that people fall into without much critical thinking. I’ve spent quite some time considering what would be best for me.

I know I need a lot of attention and I don’t think it’s fair to put that sort of burden solely on one other person. I think intimacy and romantic love can be developed and shared in multiple relationships if that’s how individuals function best, but it’s up to the individuals to figure that out—whether that’s through list making or actually throwing themselves into these dynamics. I have done both, the list-making and the throwing.

What I find most challenging is that the concepts of polyamory feel right but I have been socially constructed to think and react in the monogamous default. Perhaps the first step is to unlearn everything I’ve been taught regarding how relationships are supposed to function and relearn/re-write the script as I go along.

Like elephant journal gets sexy on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photos: via PinterestMichela CastiglioneNick P, & Diaz}

About Krystal Baugher

Krystal Baugher lives in Denver. She earned her MA in Writing and Publishing and her MA in Women and Gender Studies from DePaul University/Chicago. She is the creator of Mile High Mating, a website dedicated to helping people "do it" in Denver and beyond. You can find her on facebook and twitter (as long as you aren’t a stalker).

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21 Responses to “Caught Between Monogamy & Polyamory: A Case of One-itis.”

  1. Andre says:

    I've been poly for about a decade and am obviously biased, so take my opinion with an appropriate grain of salt. You correctly put loyalty and commitment in both "Pro" columns canceling each other out leaving – to boil things down 1) Monogamy is easier – less jealousy, having a script to follow 2) Poly is more enriching and fulfilling, but requires skills you don't have yet.

    Poly definitely is harder, but my view is you get out what you put in to life.

    • I haven't found polyamory to be harder; quite the opposite, in fact. Monogamy feels profoundly weird and doesn't come naturally to me. There's never been a time when I've been monogamous.

      I don't actually think either one is harder or easier across the board than the other. I do think monogamy comes more easily to most people because we live in a culture that expects it of us, and folks like me (for whom monogamy absolutely doesn't fit) are fairly uncommon. I also suspect that there are some people who are just monogamous (by nature or nurture or wiring or whatever) and can't be happy being polyamorous; some folks who are polyamorous and can't be monogamous; and a whole lot of people who, under the right circumstances and with the right partner(s), could be happy either way.

      The people for whom monogamy is the right fit will obviously find monogamy easier. The people who could go either way may often find monogamy easier, just because it's the social default. The folks for whom polyamory is the best fit will find polyamory easier.

  2. Kathy says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this. This very question has been on my mind CONSTANTLY for the past 5 months. I am in love with a Man who loves both me and another woman. I adore him and he's wonderful to me. It has been a crazy ride to say the least!

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Kathy, How's that working out? I'm in the exact same situation and looking for some guidance. It's easy to feel lost at the beginning, no?

  3. O.M.G. – EXACT DILEMMA I’M HAVING WITH POLYAMORY!!! This piece hit the nail on the head of my frustrations – the only added factor I have in my camp is the race card – but EVERY other frustration was RIGHT ON! I thought I was the ONLY going through this because Poly people come off like monogamy is juvenile and once you claim poly you can have mature relationships. The trurh is that the choice between monogamy and poly is damn near impossible when you feel loyalty to both causes. Thank God for this piece.

  4. Allison says:

    I think it is unfair to characterize monogamy as conducive to causing unreasonable expectations of behavior and limiting growth. I think that is a characteristic of a bad relationship, not necessarily a monogamous one. Good monogamous relationships allow partners to grow and evolve.

  5. renaisscientist says:

    Nowhere in this essay, in the comments/opinions that follow it, nor in any discussion of polyamory that I've found to date is any mention of how polyfolk raise their children. Might it be safe to assume that successful practitioners of polyamory are permanently infertile?

    • David says:

      Some do, some don't. Check this out:
      http://www.westword.com/2013-02-14/news/polyamoro

    • Brooke says:

      I have a poly friend who has children. Well, he was poly…they left him. When he was, he was married to one and the other lived with them and they all raised the children together. It seemed to be fine, the poly bit was not why the relationship ended. They were all very happy with it.

      • amy says:

        that doesn't sound great for the kids if they left him — children bond to parental figures, it's not a matter of "well, it was great that at least they had those people for a while". (Responses to skip: "Kids are resilient" and "kids just want you to be happy", because neither is necessarily true.)

    • paige says:

      As child that grew up in a polyamorous household…that would be a no. Sometimes I think it's awesome that I was shown an alternative lifestyle at such a young age, and other times I feel like it was really difficult to wrap my head around when everyone else in our small town was kept out of our "secret". That doesn't equal a child growing up into a confident, self-loving, adult. I instead often question what type of relationships I should be having, what kind of secrets I need to be keeping from my peers, and how to manipulate and control situations to keep from being so vulnerable. As I am aware that I do this, I can often by conscious/rational enough to let those fears go…but they are always there waiting to be let back in if I allow.

    • amy says:

      There's this recurring poly fantasy about how, with theoretical children involved, everyone would hop in and share the childrearing and etc. My guess is that unless a couple in the poly arrangement has the children, it works like this: the woman is the mom and the others not only fail to pitch in adequately but bitch behind her back about how she claims special mom privileges and the kids don't behave like adults. Or, if the kids belong to a couple, one parent does the work while the other's kind of around as backup and kinda still believes s/he's in college and unburdened. I'd also guess that when a poly marriage breaks up, the various "parents" do not feel obliged to go on supporting other people's children, nor do they come around for regular visits.

      It seems to me a recipe for "be a parent when you feel like it", which unfortunately is not what children need, because the reality is that parenting is hard, timeconsuming, sometimes expensive work, and most people will not feel like it much of the time if not obliged. A better arrangement for kids, if you want lots of people around who actually feel consistent, lifelong responsibility toward them, is a multigenerational one-family household, like the old triple-deckers used to encourage.

    • Possibly pertinent:
      http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-polyamori

      Also see the book "The Polyamorists Next Door" by the same writer, which goes into some detail on this exact question.

  6. Brooke says:

    I am a monogamist and it has nothing to do with social acceptance or my being "programmed." To make a claim that all monogamists are "programmed" to be that way or choose it because the alternative is harder is ignorant, in my perspective. I was a poly many years ago, for many years, while in a long relationship. The relationship did not end because of this either. That is what I needed then, but it is not what I need or want now. I did not know how to share myself intimately any other way, and I desired to share myself. I have learned other ways of intimacy, and I still share myself intimately with others, spiritually and mentally, but not physically.. because I don't want to. My body is my temple, it is very sacred to me, so is my sexuality, and I have come to a place in my life where it is just for one other person. This is not programmed thinking that has anything to do with socially accepted norms, this is what I have chosen for myself because it is what I want and need in my life.

  7. Mdear says:

    Ugh, I hate it when people say monogamy isn't "natural." Here's the truth: Monogamy and polyamory are preferences. Some people like monogamy. Others like polyamory. Whether it's natural or not is really beside the point; some people just aren't comfortable in certain types of relationships. Let's not fall into a naturalistic fallacy, here.

  8. Erika says:

    Hello, I'm 18 and I've recently been pondering this subject. I've actually known about different relationship styles. I came across thinking about this stuff again because I was reading about married supposed monogamous people, having emotional affairs.

    For starters, I am accepting of both poly and mono relationships. I believe people should be presented the idea of monogamy and POLYAMORY more, because then people will have the chance to determine which one they're suited more for. That way, hopefully, it will prevent people who are actually polyamorous from getting into a monogamous relationships and hurting the other person, because they're not really suited for that relationship style. It's just not fair to a person who is more suited for monogamy and is expecting the same.

    Personally, I think I'm more monogamous. I mean, anything can happen since I'm 18 but I don't know. When it comes down to it, I believe it's a personal thing that people should decide and it just depends on what they want and what feels right to them. At the moment, monogamy feels like the right thing for me. But I respect someone else who doesn't feel the same way! Totally okay!

  9. quentinwatson says:

    It's interesting to see people try to work all this out. For myself, I am in a monogamous marital relationship and in the past would perhaps have best been characterized as a "serial monogamist". People on the poly side often like to claim universals like "monogamy is unnatural" or "monogamy is confining", whereas I find polyamory to feel unnatural, and to lack the depth and resilience of long-term monogamous relationships. It would be best for all to truly get real and stop attempting to characterize in some essentialist fashion how human relationships, particularly emotional relationships, work.

    I might also add observations from personal experience that I know quite a lot of off-the-beaten path people, many or most of whom pursue the polyamorous lifestyle. I keep an open mind, but thus far, after a dozen years, I have seen no evidence that polyamory is necessarily "superior" to the alternative. The majority of the children I have seen grow up in these circumstances seem damaged by the experience, and quite a lot of the adults seem caught in a perpetual game of Leisure Suit Larry, with quite a lot of ensuing emotional wreckage, and very little maturity to show for their efforts.

    All in all, though we have discussed the matter, my wife and I decided it was not worth the risk nor the chaos. I don't think that makes us, as one commenter seems to imply, lazy or uncourageous, but perhaps that we have differing priorities than living life as if we were always on the pull. It is easy to make the opposite case, that polyamory provides an easy out for those who do not have the endurance or stability for long-term relationship building and maintenance. If one wishes to talk of courage and hard work, those virtues are not absent among those who choose to stay faithful to one person in the context of a traditional family setting.

  10. Sabrina (alias) says:

    "What it comes down to is understanding what I am capable of accepting. It seems like polyamory is an identity, whereas monogamy is a default behavior that people fall into without much critical thinking."

    I like your exploration of the pros and cons, but I rather strongly disagree with this above quoted comment. I have explored both in my life and found monogamy to be much more fulfilling and rewarding. That said, there have been times in my life when poly was what was happening. Poly happened accidentally more often than monogamy, though both came naturally at the time(s) when they occurred, rather than me seeking them out, per se. And, thankfully, each choice at that time did not lead to conflict with my partner(s). Honesty and tact probably was the trick…The older I get though, the more that monogamy consistently wins out…

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