Are young people more open to polyamory or are we just sluts?
Maybe monogamy is dead.
It seems the modern generation is abandoning the age-old definitions of romance. Some say we’re polyamorous, following a philosophy of being in love, or at least sexually involved, with multiple people at the same time. Some say we’re just sluts.
To those who preach polyamory, the practice offers a sense of freedom. It’s like returning to our true nature, before society suckered us into its ideals of soulmates and the sanctity of marriage.
But to traditionalists, it’s the invention of a generation too gung-ho on fucking on the first date. They say polyamory is just a euphemism for promiscuity; that it condones a common character flaw of unfaithfulness.
Indigo Stray Conger, a licensed marriage and family therapist based out of Denver, works almost exclusively with couples in alternative relationships — partners who practice polyamory, swinging, or open relationships. She argues that the polyamorous aren’t more promiscuous, because poly isn’t just about sex. It’s the ability to love more than one person at a time.
Among those who practice polyamory, some say it’s an orientation. It’s a predetermined set of characteristics that they cannot change. The same way someone can identify as gay, they identify as poly. Others believe polyamory is a choice. Polyamory makes sense to them logically, so they choose to expand their horizons.
The logic, as Indigo explains it, is that polyamory is practical in an era where we’re living until we turn into wrinkly old raisins.
“If you get married in your twenties, you’re making a much larger commitment than ever before,” Indigo says. “You’re looking at about 60 years with one person. And it’s only recently that love became a primary reason to get married. So this whole idea is relatively new — that you’re supposed to fall in love and stay in love, until you die.”
Polyamory, she says, is for people who remain open to the idea that you can develop different emotions for different people over time.
This idea is gaining traction, especially among the young and lustful. By some estimates, there are now roughly half a million polyamorous relationships in the US, with thriving communities in nearly every major city. “Poly bibles” like The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Opening Up by sex columnist Tristan Taormino have helped spread the poly gospel like wildfire. There are a growing number of poly blogs and podcasts, local get-togethers, and an online polyamory magazine based out of Colorado called Loving More, which boasts tens of thousands of readers.
Poly’s proliferation is now making many Millennials question conventional courtship. This modern generation grew up in the midst of their parents’ sexual revolution to enjoy sex outside the confines of marriage. The youngsters were also reared in an era when divorce rates reached an all-time high. Essentially, they were raised with the concept of sexual freedom and without solid guidelines for how to make monogamy work.
This may explain why a recent study by the researchers at YouGov found that only half of people under 30 are content with a strictly monogamous relationship. Oftentimes, they’re seeking something monogamy cannot consistently provide; something the poly community lovingly calls “new relationship energy.”
New relationship energy is that electric excitement which comes when two compatible people are getting to know one another and want to spend every waking minute together.
The polyamorous philosophy holds that someone shouldn’t push themselves away from this euphoric feeling just because they’re already in an established relationship. Quite the contrary, members of established poly relationships should celebrate their partner’s newfound excitement. The polyamorous call this sensation “compersion.”
To monogamist culture, compersion is completely counter-intuitive. The English dictionary doesn’t have an official word for feeling pleased with a partner’s other love, because the only reaction we associate with this is jealousy.
Jealousy is essentially intertwined in monogamy. It’s part of what compels us to commit to our one and only. But it’s certainly not unique to monogamists. Jealousy is part of our evolutionary make-up. It’s a universal emotion that transcends sociosexuality.
“There’s a common misconception that poly people aren’t jealous,” Indigo tells us. “But there’s no evidence that poly people are able to turn off their jealousy. They’re just better at dealing with those emotions,” she says.
In order to overcome the envious instinct of a hot-blooded outburst, polyamorous partners have to be able to acknowledge their feelings before they build up and become overwhelming. Once they’re aware of those emotions, they need to be honest with their partner. Only with open communication of what makes one another uncomfortable can any relationship, polyamorous or monogamous, truly thrive.
Indigo admits that because polyamorous partners practice this communication, they tend to be higher-functioning couples. Perhaps eliminating cheating as a major concern allows for a healthy relationship, as well. But polyamory isn’t a partnership cure-all. And it’s certainly not for everyone.
If you’re sure you’ll never have feelings for anyone other than your only one, polyamory isn’t for you. If your partner’s loving other people can only ever equate to betrayal, polyamory isn’t for you. And if you aim for the sappy soulmate happily ever after exclusive to a Nicholas Sparks novel, polyamory isn’t for you.
Polyamory is for those who believe that sexual exclusivity is not the key to intimacy. Monogamists need not agree with the philosophy. But they should no longer mistake polyamory with promiscuity. Sex isn’t the only impetus behind this unique variation of love. When it comes to reasons to go poly, (contrary to monogamist belief) there’s more than only one.