Recently, shows like “Big Love” and “Sister Wives,” and news stories on religious splinter groups have brought some attention to polygamy in the U.S. These shows and stories paint the picture of a sub-culture of polygyny(multiple wives), and, despite however well or poor they handle it, they still focus on the stereotypes. You know what that means, right? Time to attempt to pull back the veil on this subject!
Polygamy is, contrary to what many would have us believe, the predominant accepted form of marriage in the majority of cultures world-wide. We have some rather obvious ones, such the the Islamic allowance(with its restriction that the husband must be able to provide for all his wives), historical instances in China and Japan, as well as the polyandry (multiple husbands) seen in some groups in Tibet and Nepal. Why in the Euopean dominated cultures this is different is not important, but the perspective is.
In the US, the culture has developed a bit more. While there are the polygynous groups, and, likely, some polyandrous groups, as well, there has been a shift that has lead to a newer philosophy called polyamory. This philosophy, it self, is still going through growing pains. However, the basic approach to it is something like this: Each person in a relationship is free to have relationships with others. Where this gets complex, of course, is that these are, first, not necessarily bound by the genders of the other partners. You see, the first key concept in polyamory is that one can have deep, intimate relationships with those other then the person many would consider their spouse. Each grouping, though, develops their own ways of keeping things balanced. That is another key concept in polyamory: everyone respects each other and tries to keep the relationships as fair as possible.
Of course, things cannot always be perfectly fair. People are involved, and, so, of course, frictions will develop. The people in a polyamorous grouping may not necessarily all be in relationships with each other, for example. Let me try and give an example of how a grouping could work. You start with Sue and Bill. For whatever reasons, they have realized they are, while still a couple, not right for monogamy. Somewhere along the line, Bill and Sue meet Beth. Beth has her partner Jim. Beth forms a relationship with both Sue and Bill, though Jim brings his second partner, Bob. This is just a small group of five, they all respect each other, and, frankly, they need to. You see, this is an uneven grouping, where one person can end up left out, and so emotional friction can arise if they don’t respect and understand each other. Even though, for instance, Sue is not in a romantic relationship with Jim, she needs to be able to talk to him to help support her relationship with Beth.
You see, some people think Polyamory is about the sex. It is not. Well, OK, not purely about the sex(though, some groupings, is might be a very significant aspect of it). Someone in a polyandrous grouping is forming as deep, meaningful relationships with the others as one would form with their spouse. Ultimately, while sex is part of polyamory, it is only a part, just as sex is only a part of marriage.
Ultimately, of course, it does not matter what anyone tells you. You will live your life, find your love or loves, and it is just you who is responsible. So, find the path that is right for you, and live it with all your being.