Polyamory is on the rise as younger generations abandon monogamy, regarding it as old fashioned and limiting. Many of us grew up seeing marriage as the thing that made our parents so unhappy, leaving us disillusioned with the idea of lifelong commitment. But is polyamory really the answer?
Monogamy can be hard; picking one person to be committed to and sticking to them, through thick and thin, is probably one of life’s biggest challenges. And with the rise of a no-strings-attached culture and dating apps touting thousands of options we can swipe through from the comfort of our crumb-ridden bed, limiting ourselves to just one person may feel restrictive. After all, it’s not like we cease to perceive attractiveness in others once we’re in a relationship - and with statistics showing that close to 50% of first marriages end in divorce, why would we bother attempting to make something work for us when it’s obviously not working for almost half of the population?
What Exactly Is Polyamory?
Not to be confused with polygamy, the practice of an individual having more than one husband or wife at a time, polyamory, simply put, is a type of open romantic relationship. It can take on many forms - a formerly-monogamous couple can agree to introduce a third person into their relationship, or even another couple. It’s estimated by researchers that 4-5% of Americans engage in “consensual non-monogamy,”or polyamory, and about 20% have given an open relationship the old college try. These numbers have grown over the past fifty years, following the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
What Advocates of Polyamory Say
Proponents of polyamory assert that human beings weren’t even meant for monogamous relationships. After all, only 3-5% of the 5,000 mammal species are known to mate for life - so it’s fair to say that outside of the human realm, monogamy is hardly common.
As much as we all crave to indulge in our own personal happiness, freedom, and excitement… should that always take precedence?
People who choose to participate in open relationships say it would be selfish to encroach on their partner’s deep need and desire to experience intimacy with another person; that we would be denying them their right to happiness, controlling what someone chooses to do with their body, and regulating their personal growth and freedom. They seek to break free from social constructs and pursue whatever makes them happy in the moment, using studies that cite higher sexual satisfaction in polyamorous relationships to prove their logic is sound.
But as much as we all crave to indulge in our own personal happiness, freedom, and excitement… should that always take precedence? What about all the risks included in polyamory?
Why Polyamory Isn't Worth It
Monogamous romantic relationships can already be messy - two imperfect people trying to love one another isn’t easy. Add another person or two to the mix, and things get even messier.
Perhaps the most obvious drawback with polyamorous relationships is the increased risk of STIs and STDs. Opening up a relationship to multiple people will only make us more vulnerable to incurable, devastating diseases. And no matter what precautions are taken, nothing is entirely effective in protecting us.
Polyamory speaks to the many voices in our head that tell us we’re not enough - that the person we’re with simply must look to others to continue to find fulfillment.
Furthermore, polyamory speaks to the many voices in our head that tell us we’re not enough - that the person we’re with simply must look to others to continue to find fulfillment because, ultimately, that’s all that matters. Indulging in our own happiness and pleasure is the main selling point when it comes to polyamorous relationships, but the idea that seeking out others to join our relationship will bring us joy is flawed.
Ultimately, the argument in favor of polyamory which claims the selfishness of a person who wants a monogamous relationship is ironically selfish in itself. In fact, their reasoning for choosing to be polyamorous is what we would call hedonism, a school of thought that encourages self-indulgence and gratification in pursuit of personal well-being… in short, being completely selfish.
The Case for Monogamy
I could sit here all day with studies and statistics, showing the benefits of monogamy. But I’d like to take this to a more personal, relational level - because, after all, we’re inherently emotional beings who seek out love, affirmation, and relationships.
What if one person could be enough for us, and we enough for one person? This is an idea that’s becoming increasingly unpopular among younger generations. We’re scared of committing our lives to someone only to find out how annoying they are to live with, we’re terrified that we’ll fall out of love, and we’re worried that we’ll become part of the depressingly high divorce rate statistic.
In forming an enduring commitment with another person who, every day, will choose to love us despite every imperfection, we inevitably find true happiness.
But ultimately, we find true, lifelong fulfillment in knowing that we’re unconditionally loved, and I speak from personal experience when I say this. I’ve long struggled with knowing my value, with feeling unworthy of committed love. But we’re reminded of our intrinsic value when someone looks us in the eye and says, “I do.” In forming an enduring commitment with another person who, every day, will choose to love us despite every imperfection, we inevitably find true happiness - something we all long for like nothing else. We are enough for one person to commit to forever.
We were created to seek love. And in a world overrun with infidelity, failed marriages, and a romanticization of casual sex, it’s no wonder why we’ve become disillusioned with the idea of commitment. We’ve turned to relationships with no boundaries in order to fill our need for connection. But perhaps, rather than needing more relationships to find love, we actually need fewer relationships to find a love that really means something - one that assures us of our value, that we’re worth picking and sticking with for life.