Monogamous: To Be or Not to Be?

young-polyamory-350The one thing you don’t expect to see in any of the Bible Belt states (where most have amended their constitutions to define marriage between one man and one woman) is an organization promoting polyamory.

Last month at Atlanta’s Pride Parade the group “Atlanta Polyamory Inc.” did just that—and in the wide open light of day. The result was the shock, awe, and disgust of a mixed group.

Atlanta Polyamory Inc.’s purple-lettered banner read:”Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals.”

While many religious conservatives might argue that the legalization of same-gender marriage and shows like HBO’s “Big Love” —about a fictional polygamist Mormon family plant seeds to destroy the conventional family unit,— we have to ask ourselves is monogamy a natural instinct in us or is it a social construct which was obviously devised to protect and to regulate the institution of heterosexual marriage?

To be non-monogamous in this culture carries pejorative and judgmental connotations for both heterosexuals and LGBTQs. It assumes sexual promiscuity, a sex and love addiction as well as the inability to achieve emotional and sexual intimacy. But it also ignores the reality that some people really are polyamorous, and their ability to love more than one person at a time is not about a lust-fest for them.

Deepak Chopra, a renown spiritual master and director for educational programs at the Chopra Center for Well Being in California states ”As far as monogamy is concerned, I honestly believe that human beings are not monogamous biologically; they were not created that way. However, it is certainly helpful in society and social structure…because of the family structure…. with gay and lesbian relationships…you’re going to see families. You’re going to see children. So in the interest of family structure, we’ve evolved biologically to the point where we are social creatures.”

But the purported evolutionary benefits of monogamy have not panned out as expected. And the biggest benefit touted out in support of monogamy is that it’s the best social and psychological arrangement for children. However, evidence has proven over and over again if couples are in a monogamous relationship solely for the kids, the children, too, suffer because they witness no love, compassion and sometimes respect between the parents.

Contrary to popular belief, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff forthcoming book “The Polyamorists Next Door” reveals that polyamory is a “legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children.”

“I’m more involved in their lives (referring to children) and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I’m more involved in their long-term happiness,” Mark told CNN reporters. Mark who’s a computer programmer, and his wife’s an electrical engineer have been married for over a decade. They have no children; however, they are actively engaged with the children from the two couples they have been sexually involved with for six years.

Societal condemnation of not being monogamous has halted many from taking the walk down the aisle, knowing the wedding vow to stay married until death cannot faithfully be upheld.

polyamory-350The evidence is the skyrocketing divorce rate among heterosexuals. Gay and lesbian couples are not immune, and as the number of states with marriage equality climbs, so will our divorce rate.

Many social scientists are recognizing that sexual fidelity to one person is a doom aspiration. This notion will soon evolve into an antiquated notion because as our human clock ticks longer than previous generations while our appetite and yearning to experience sexual variety—with people of same and opposite genders—will also expand.

Our polyamorous nature, many contests, is evident in our acts of serial monogamy, which speaks to our need to fulfill the impulse for variety. Once marriage shifted from its historical moorings of being solely economic and political arrangements to now romantic and consensual unions, sexual fidelity became the barometer of a successful relationship, marriage or true love for a person.

While sexual jealousy and possessiveness would appear unavoidable in polyamorous relationship there is also data revealing how having open relationships keeps these couples intact, and the love very much alive.

irene monroeThe practice of polyamory was once thought to be an absurd issue to explore as a relationship choice. But today’s it’s not. More and more organizations like “Atlanta Polyamory Inc.” are popping up across the country. Their members are coming out of the closet. Perhaps this will be the new civil rights battle before us.

Whether someone is monogamous or polyamorous is solely a personal decision.

And let’s remember same-sex marriage was once upon a time seemed as a preposterous proposition to argue as a civil right.

Rev. Irene Monroe

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on November 6, 2013
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About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”