A: "The three of us are married."
B: "You can't live like that!"
Where does the opposition to polyamory come from? To me, it seems as natural as breathing. I love both my wives deeply and the love of both of them is more intense than it would be with just one. Our commitment to one another is actually stronger than it was with just one, and there is no sense of being "trapped" in a relationship. So why the anger?
Recently, one of my wives talked to her parents about our life together and got back the reply, "it isn't right for you to sleep together." She wouldn't even hear that we rarely did that, and when we did, it was more the nature of a slumber party than an orgy.
A man we know has had numerous affairs and thinks nothing of them. A man, he feels, can have sex with as many women as he can and, so long as the relationship is a cheating one, there is nothing wrong with it. Being honest, however, is so alien and disgusting to him that he cannot handle it.
I've talked with several people who were solidly monogamist and think I have a few answers. The first is envy. They feel that they would lose their lover or spouse if they were ever to admit to having sexual feelings about another person, let alone be caught having a sexual affair. They feel trapped by their feelings about what they believe their significant other (SO) feels and by their own insecurity.
When the envious person looks at what we are doing, they resent the fact that we can be so open and honest, yet remain in love and committed to one another, while they cannot. It is as if they were small children and one has been given a gift while they've been told they can't have any or were too late to take one. They resent that the other person has something they can't have.
These are the kinds of people who say, "Well, you are sleeping with two (men or women), just why in the hell won't you sleep with me?" It is a personal insult to these people that you are a slut, but reject them.
Another reason has to do with social obsession with an anti-sex cultural bias. If you have a sore tooth, you spend a lot of time thinking about it and your tongue seems automatically to go to it constantly. If your attitudes about sex run contrary to your natural desires and drives, it is a sore that you focus on and pay attention to even at the most peculiar times.
The sex-obsessed focus on the physical sex act and automatically assume it's repulsive, especially if there are more than two people involved. For these people, even if you have sex no more often than once a week, if you live with more than one person or have a lover that your spouse knows and accepts, you are sleazy, repellent and disgusting.
Such people automatically focus on whatever they imagine is going on, and, like the sore tooth example, can't seem to get their minds off the sexual play. These are the people who imagine that your life is nothing but one orgy after another. They are unable to focus on the fact that you go to work, you come home, do chores, pay bills, talk, watch television, enjoy your hobbies and, if you're not too tired, maybe go to bed with one of your lovers and actually have sex with him or her. They cannot see that, other than being so open and honest and loving, your life is not that different from other people's.
These are the people who, like my wife's mom, cannot see that the main reason we want to be married and not just lovers is that we want the caring, support and intimacy of a married life with those we love so much. The strange thing about such an attitude is that nothing you can say will take their minds off of dicks in pussies, plus imagined psychic slime all over them.
A third reason for opposition to polyamory is guilt. People who have had or are having affairs often feel guilt. They are lying and deceiving their mates and, if they have any sense of moral obligation to them, feel guilty for acting on their natural impulses. For them, we are doing openly and honestly what they are doing by deception. We are rubbing their faces in their own sins and they resent it strongly.
A fourth reason is cultural blindness. These people cannot see or understand a form of behavior that is different from their own. They see people who eat with a fork in their right hand as wrong -- not just having a different custom.
These are the kinds of people who feel (perhaps -- depending on the subculture) that it is alright for a man to have an affair, but not for a woman. These are the kinds of people who simply don't understand what you mean when you tell them that they have just been disrespectful to a woman by cutting in front of them, although they would understand had it been a man. They are so rigid and set in their culture that any change is degrading. They see the youth of their own culture as misguided and corrupt, since they don't do things the "right" way.
A fifth reason, related to the last one, is misogyny and it's close relative, male chauvinism. For these people, a truly polyamorous relationship gives too much power and independence to women. A man should rule the roost, and, if he has more than one wife, should rule them with an iron hand. When such a person (could even be a woman) sees a poly family, the feeling is that the male(s) in the family has stepped on the toes of the rightful owners of the wife.
You may think that I am mistaken about this attitude, but I just ran into it with my wife's father. The woman belongs to the father, and, when married, belongs to the husband. For an outside male (which is the way it will be seen when the daughter becomes the second wife), to "take over," is an act of theft. All the other attitudes now step in to justify the reaction if the man is not able to clearly state his opposition to the new "owner."
I left religion to last, because it is often nothing more than a cover for the other reasons for opposition to polyamory. In some people's minds, God came down off his high mountain and ordered monogamy. They find justification in the Bible, and ignore contradictions in their arguments. The millenialists even see this as proof of the degradation of the "last days."
By living polyamorously, we are truly living in sin. These people talk a lot about Sodom and Gomorrah (although why God hasn't destroyed us all isn't made clear). "In for a penny, in for a pound," seems to be their motto. If we would do one evil, we must surely be guilty of all. If we have more than one lover, we must surely be fucking everyone we meet. It is obvious that we don't care about disease. It is obvious that we cannot have any spiritual life. They fear that we are not only hell-bound, but are dragging others in with us.
Most people who oppose polyamory jump from one reason to another, showing that they are not sure why they don't like it, but certain that they don't like it. Some opposition is just based on unfamiliarity, and, after exhausting their arguments, they go home and think about it. And most opposition is a jumbled mixture of several of the above sources.
If the monogamist will permit it, many of the above reasons for opposition to polyamory can be defeated by getting to know a poly family over a period of time. Others will require a growing cultural acceptance. A few can be rationally argued against. But some opposition will never be overcome without psychological counselling.
When the paradigms by which we live are threatened, it takes time for form new ones that incorporate something unexpected. Some of us go through that when we discover that we will never be close to our parents, again. We have to shift our expectations and our emotions to accommodate the new information and form a new comfort zone. It's not easy, and I don't think it can be done by getting "in your face" and demanding attention and acceptance.
I'm not saying that aggressive activism does not work with some people. Recent history with homosexuals shows that it does. However, with many, and especially if it is shoved down their throats, it actually increases opposition and resentment, even if it is quiet for the time being.
Most of our contacts are not going to be in a public forum. They will be with parents, relatives, friends, co-workers and others in small groups or one-on-one. It is nice to hear a monogamist who finally understands tell another, "Do you hear what you're saying? They don't have sex all the time. In fact, they hardly have sex any more than you do. Why are you so obsessed with sex? Are you afraid of it?"
It's nice to find unexpected friends and supporters, and that comes in small steps, one at a time, until the change is automatic and most people no longer have any problem with it.
My life with my wives is wonderful. Never have I felt so much love, so much intimacy and so much commitment. Other than the fact that I have two wives (and we all have outside lovers), our lives are pretty normal. And it's our normal, everyday life, that convinces others that we are not a threat -- slowly, one step at a time. And that seems the only long-term answer to the opposition.
Gays and lesbians gained because straight people discovered that many of the "normal" people they knew around them were homosexual, and otherwise normal, and they became more tolerant as a result. We can learn from that.
I have also encountered one other variation of resistance to the notion
of Polyamory. Some people think that we are a "cult". I don't claim to
understand exactly what they mean by that, so they may be correct. But,
they consider our beliefs to be so different from theirs, that they
apply the label. They seem to think that I hold some bizarre influence
over my spice, that they would be willing to tolerate each other to be
with me. Interestingly, TerriLynn has had her boyfriend at our place of
community for several years. Nobody seems to notice or comment upon
that, probably because they figure it is innocent or I would not
tolerate it. I'm not sure, though.
I should add that we have rarely performed any public displays of affection, so these folks could only arrive at these conclusions by observing that which is none of their business.
Generally, I attribute their attitude to the notion that most must interpret their observations based upon what they know. In other words, they know what they know, and are unable to see beyond that. For them, it's a cult, a kinky-sex group. I don't bother to address their mistaken beliefs unless I am asked directly. I wish to appear proud and non-defensive. And I allow them to use whatever means they require to accept us as part of their community.
Another opposition I've encountered to Polyamory is the idea that one can develop, become deeper, more intimate with only ONE other person. That to have more than one relationship, especially if it is of sexual nature, leads to shallowness or spreading oneself thinly across many relationships.
A common idea related to this is that if you engage in multiple relationships you are transgressing issues of loyalty and commitment that you are normally giving to one other person.
What irks me is that even though we are all engaged in multiple relationships of one form or another, it almost always becomes a question of sexuality i.e. it is ok to have an intimate loving relationship with someone else other than your SO (Significant Other) but you cannot have a sexual relationship with them. But sex to me is just another form that intimacy takes, admittedly a very intimate form but a form nevertheless. I have spent a non-sexual hour with someone and felt more intimate than some sexual encounters I've had and I'd hazard to guess that many people have experienced this. Basically it comes down to that old bogey man, SEX!!! IMO (In My Opinion)
FEAR. When I first started talking to my confidantes about my new Poly
relationship, they were accepting of the idea. Partially, I think, this
is because they tend not to judge what I do, because they know it doesn't
do any good and only makes me angry ("you wouldn't like me... when I'm
angry"). But they all asked lots of questions, like, "how do you not get
jealous?", and they all finished by saying, "Well, that's just fine for
you, but I couldn't handle it."
Most people can't conceive of an alternative to Monogamy on their own. When they are exposed to the existance of an alternative, I think they will weigh the choice they have made. Could *I* be poly? They ask. The ramifications must seem huge to them! I say so because of the frequency with which I hear, "I couldn't handle it".
I don't know many cheaters, so I'm not talking about people who would seem to be naturally inclined towards polyamory. I'm talking about the people who really don't have a lot of trouble staying monogamous and satisfied.
However, I have to say, many of those same people have come back to me in the intervening years to say, "hey, I just had a something with someone else, let's talk some more about Polyamory"! They haven't, as yet, adopted it, even on a trial basis, but just knowing the alternative exists proves to be a mind-changing experience.
That fear, I think, comes from the undermining of some of the basic but unspoken assumptions behind monogamy, such as, "thou shalt desire no other than thy mate" and "to sin in the mind is as dire as sinning in body". The house of cards crumbles, if those assumptions are admitted to be false.
I don't get a great deal of actual opposition to polyamory from my own
circle, so much as I get rude behavior from horny net geeks looking for
cybersex. (You know the theory, if you have sex with more than one man,
*surely* you're eager to have sex with *any* man). I have friends who
behave with mostly baffled acceptance. ("Well, if it works for *you*. But
I don't think *I* would be happy doing it.").
I only encountered hostility to polyamory once. I have had a friendship with a man online for some years. We're not interested in each other for anything but conversation. But his wife, upon learning I was poly, felt upset and threatened. She made comments both about me letting myself be "used" and wondering at my husband for "lending me out to be used" by another man. It made me feel sad for what she must think of sex in general.