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"Polyamorous relationships may be the future of love"

on Tuesday, 09 August 2016. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Love doesn’t just come in pairs. Is it time that marriage laws come to recognise the fact?

BBC

By Melissa Hogenboom / Pictures by Olivia Howitt

As a child Franklin Veaux recalls hearing his school teacher read a story about a princess who had a tantalising dilemma. Two male suitors had been wooing her and she had to choose between them. Franklin wondered why she could not choose both.

This early insight was revealing. Franklin has to this day never stuck to one relationship at a time. “I have never been in a monogamous relationship in my life. When I was in high school I took two dates to my senior prom. I lost my virginity as a threesome.”

Today he lives with his long-term girlfriend in a home he shares with her other boyfriend. Occasionally his partner’s teenage daughter also stays over. He is also in four other long-distance relationships, people he sees with varying degrees of frequency.

Franklin and his girlfriends are what’s called polyamorous or “poly” as the community tends to call it. Being poly simply means you can be in more than one relationship, with the full support and trust of however many partners they choose to have.

Polyamory does not feature in any census tick box but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is on the rise. Some are even calling for it to be recognised by law following the legalisation of gay marriage in the UK and the US. All this raises of the question of whether the future of love may be very different from our current conceptions of romance.

But love has always been the same, right? A man falls for a woman, they get married, pop out a few children and stay together in a harmonious and monogamous relationship for life.

Sorry romantics. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, always the picture of love. Polygamy – where more than one spouse is allowed – was the norm for many of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Monogamy started flourishing when our ancestors began to settle down. A preference for it then appears to have arisen, among many other reasons, for economic purposes.

As many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy

It made it easier for fathers to divide and share valuable commodities such as land with their children. Monogamy later got hijacked by romantic love by idealistic 19th Century Victorians. “The idea of sexual exclusivity started emerging fairly late in the game,” says professor of law Hadar Aviram at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, US.

Even today monogamy is the minority relationship style around the world. Cultural estimates suggest that as many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy.

True romance

Now there is a fairly new player in the relationship game, at least as far as the public are concerned. In the last two decades, sociologists, legal scholars and the public have shown great interest towards polyamory and it’s making them reassess the very nature of romance.

The word polyamory was first coined in the 1960s and literally means “many loves” in Latin. That’s exactly what it is, but talking to poly individuals makes it quickly apparent that there is no one way to be poly. There are no immediate rules. Some people, like Franklin have live-in partners with additional liaisons outside the home. Others have a mixture of short and long-term relationships.

Some live in a big group with their partners and their partner’s other partner(s), so called “family style polyamory”. You get the idea. The one thing they all have in common is openness, understanding, trust and acceptance from all involved.

As you might imagine these kinds of relationships take a lot of work to maintain, so being poly is far from an easy option. For starters, to keep more than one relationship going, small logistical matters require a lot of communication. “Our relationships are a lot more challenging,” says Eve Rickert, one of Franklin’s long distance partners and co-author of their polyamory book More than Two. ...

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