We’re getting into our 20s — that time society deems suitable for graduating college, getting a good job and settling down with a partner. Just one, and preferably of the opposite sex. Just one partner to meet your social, sexual and emotional needs until the day you leave this earth.
Is it just me, or is that a little daunting?
Monogamy is sold to us everywhere we go — in the media, in the Bible and in our own households. The pairing of man and woman is, to some, the glue that holds our nation together.
But with the United States marriage rate at an all-time low of 51 percent (compared to 72 percent in 1960), it seems our generation is reconsidering its commitment to monogamy. In its place, a few alternative lifestyles have come to light — everything from cohabitation to civil unions to eternal spinsterdom. I’d like to introduce a relationship structure I find particularly intriguing and under-reported — polyamory.
Polyamory, according to Polyamorous NYC, means participation in long-term, romantically committed, multiple-partner relationships. For example, two women and two men all date one another. Each group member involved carries on romantic and sexual endeavors with whichever other group member he or she chooses, provided the person has the full consent of the group before the act is committed. They aren’t swingers or polygamists — just little clusters of folks all around the country for whom one partner is not enough.
A 2009 Newsweek article speculates there are more than half a million polyamorists living in the U.S., and they’ll be rising to the mainstream in the near future. There are now blogs, non-fiction books, Showtime specials and match-up networks dedicated to polyamory.
Dr. Kenneth Haslam, poly-activist and author of “The Twelve Pillars of Polyamory,” attributes the emergence of polyamory to a human need for variance. Take, for example, a long-term couple in which only one party is interested in bondage. Does the interested party repress that desire in an effort to preserve the sanctity of their monogamous relationship? Or does the person work with his or her partner to find a solution that’s acceptable to everyone? Perhaps a solution involves the consensual incorporation of an outside party.
You might think embracing this idea means sacrificing the unconditional love and trust one builds from sharing a life with another human. And maybe it does. But there are a large number of people out there, including former French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who have declared monogamy doesn’t work for them. And if you’re one of those people, it might be time to look into something a little further from the beaten path.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not discrediting monogamous relationships. I, too, have apron-donning, childbearing, husband-loving fantasies about my future self. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t inform ourselves about the alternatives. Doing so on a wide scale will foster the eventual acceptance of polyamory — and similar lifestyles — into the mainstream. Experts say that after the battle for gay marriage is won, the battle for multiple partner marriage could be next. So suit up and keep your mind and eyes open as we ride into 2013.
By TONYA STARR in The Daily Midwestern