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Are Polyamory And Open Relationships Really Progressive?

Change is inevitable. This is as well true for human relationships which have been highly dynamic since the beginning of time. Traditions are flourishing and perishing, so are the ideas associated with marriage and relationships.

Today, we have many options of non-monogamous relationships to choose from that are flexible unlike earlier times. But before jumping into how these trends of relationships came into existence let us know why relationships till date were monogamous in the first place.

Are Humans Meant To be Monogamous?

There is no definite answer to whether humans are meant to be monogamous or not but they are definitely not of monogamous origin. It is a social concept that later came into being and evolved over time so much so that it is now considered as the only form of legal marriage in most countries and cultures.

Hence the idea that two people must be exclusively together in a large part is a socially constructed concept.

So How Did Monogamy Come into Existence? 

 It is interesting to note that polyandry ceased to be in practice much prior to that of polygyny. The reason behind this difference is partly biological and mostly socio-cultural. 

Biologically, there are various factors such as parental-care, resource access, partner choice and sexual dimorphism that favor monogamy over polygamy.

Speaking in terms of the cultural context, it all started when humans started acquiring land and practicing agriculture. This led to the sexual division of labor and distribution of property among men. Societies became highly patrilineal.

In order to ensure that the property is inherited by the legitimate male successor, polyandry had to be stopped. It was further discouraged as the concept of religion evolved that labelled certain acts such as women being involved with multiple partners, immoral. 

Indian societies witnessed widespread inequality by means of polygyny throughout centuries until the British banned polygamy entirely. 

The Concept Of Polyamory And Open Relationships 

In the 21st century however we are coming across various practices of polyamory, open relationships and other non-monogamous relationships popularized by the west(quite ironically). The phrase “open relationships” was first coined in 1972 and popularized with the publication of ‘Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples’ by the late George and Nena O’Neil.

Canada-based therapist Susan Wenzel in her book, “A Happy Life in an Open Relationship” defines an open relationship as such: “An open relationship is an arrangement wherein a couple decides to include experiences with other people often for sexual pleasure.

Open relationships do not encourage emotional attachment with external partners. Some people in open relationships prefer onetime sexual experiences or several dates, but ensure they do not become romantically involved with these additional sexual partners. A couple in an open relationship always prioritizes their primary relationship.”


Also Read: Why Are Casual Relationships One Of The Biggest Scams Of The 21st Century?


An open relationship is thus ironically to polyamory as in the latter the concept of multiple “love” exists with no single lover being prioritized. 

Modern couples are shifting from the made-for-each-other mindset to the more-the-merrier mindset. But is this mindset really as modern as it seems?

Are Open Relationships The Comeback Of Old Traditions?

All the forms of non-monogamous relationships seen today are by large a comeback of the age-old system of polygamy practiced in early societies with a few exceptions. 

Unlike ancient times, when polygamy was a natural impulse, today such practices manifest the freedom of not binding one’s love life as per certain criteria of the society, which is a progressive move. It further challenges patriarchy and the concept that women should be chaste and exclusive.

It thereby creates a space for gender equality which was absent in earlier Indian societies where a married woman was considered the sole property of the husband (but not vice-versa).

The liberal side of such relationships is progressive. However, at the same time monogamy shouldn’t be labelled as outdated and there should be room for choice. 

However, what is not so progressive is its self-centered nature. As individual beings, we have learnt to prioritize ourselves over the well being of the people around us. We tend to overlook the structure of kinship and ignore the emotions of our other halves. It is important to note that an open relationship simply allows affairs outside the primary relationship. 

It does not necessitate the willingness of both the partners to entangle into such affairs at the same time with the same intensity. This creates an imbalance and jealousy so much so that the true essence of a conjugal life is lost.

This is largely true as human relationships are more than just physical intimacy. Such non-monogamous relationships are thus not a means to challenge social traditions but to bring back the old traditions that were abolished for the sake of bringing order in society and peace in individual minds.

What are your views on this? Let us know in the comments down below!


Sources: Bustle, New York Times, Opra Daily

Image Source: Google Images

Connect with the blogger: @ParomaDey

This post is tagged under monogamy, polygamy, polygyny, polyamory, non-monogamy, open relationships, open marriage, George O’Neil, Nina O’Neil, Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples, Susan Wenzel


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1 COMMENT

  1. This is a fantastic little article to touch on a very important concept and argument in favour of Polyamoury. I agree wholeheartedly that the rise of, or increased openness of polyamoury in current society is just an old and even ancient concept that is being reintroduced with modifications to suit today’s standards, morals and values. Poly lifestyles of the past have had both negative and positive reputations and the same potentials can and will exist today depending on the personality types and intentions of the relationship. This is not unique to Poly lifestyles though as we have seen the supposedly more “pure” concept of Monogamy also wield some very tumultuous, dangerous and violent behavior in society as well and it’s the root of those issues that modern Poly lifestyles are attempting to defeat. Monogamy was a construct which went entirely against the grain of our primitive being and instead of finding answers and solutions to the human emotional and physical state of being and the urges which drive it, it attempted to contain, suppress and control it. The bigger, stronger and happier each family unit is, the less dependence we would require from government and religion. As the male figure in my own personal polyamorous relationship, the first assumption most people make is that I must be manipulating two females to be with me, as if my intention is to build a harem and control these individuals in my life. This is just not the case at all. My personal being has always been one of polyamoury as I have never been able to accept that Love ends between two people or more just because you choose to no longer be together. I tried to be like the rest, but I felt more guilt for lying to myself than lying to others about the fact that I still felt a tremendous amount of love, respect and appreciation for every partner I’ve ever had. On the same hand, as I expressed my ongoing love for all the partners of my past, the immediate response from other’s was that I was wrong, that it was unhealthy, I was living in the past, I don’t know how to let go, etc… again, none of this was true. It was the fact that I had “let go”, I valued the lessons learned from those partners and our relationship and with each new relationship, I was better person for it and so I appreciated and love them all for what they had provided me and I would stand to protect them even still now if they so needed me to. I didn’t understand where the “rule” was written about having only “one” love. Well, it’s not really written anywhere except for religious text and interpretations and even those can be argued with as many concepts and values written for those who love many and have multiple partners. Ultimately, monogamy was written to be the “construct of one” for the purpose of control and order to keep society dependent on many fronts. We’ve seen many negatives arise from that construct such as Possessiveness, Obsession, Jealousy, Cheating, Divorce, Broken Families, Marital Expectation Propaganda and the fairy tales and media which teach people to behave certain ways in their relationships. Overall, the sense of society and community slowly began to erode. The overwhelming level of preaching to love one another, unconditionally, the want to end wars and bring peace and prosperity, to strengthen the value of the family unit, but then if a person wants to commit, love and be intimate with more than one person, it’s all of a sudden completely wrong? It just doesn’t make sense.

    As Polyamoury continues to grow in modern society, adjusted to the morals and values of our much higher educated people and in a world growing in individual freedoms and rights, I am certain we will see a major shift in how ALL relationships will be approached. Jealousy and envy often get confused for each other and although they come from a similar root reaction, how we approach each emotion and the result of that approach is different. Jealousy is about taking, sabotaging or destroying something that someone else might have or want or reacting to something you feel has been taken away from you. Envy is more about wishing you could have the same things or opportunities as someone else, or wishing you were a part of it with them but you’re more likely to join, ask or try to build your own version of what you see and want. There is a lot jealousy in monogamy, and I’m not suggesting it goes away in a Poly relationship, but what you do get is a greater likeliness, with the extra person involved, to make you step back and think about those differences with a support group you would never have in a monogamous relationship. As these little enlightenments express themselves, slowly we begin to reflect on ourselves, improve our approach, reassess our emotional expressions and slowly realize we’ve been acting in a very unnatural and scripted way our entire lives because of all the books, movies, magazines, fairy tales, education, religion and governments telling us it’s this way only, even if you know better. Soon, you realize that honestly, being candid, communicating and listening carefully can give you much greater results in building a long term healthy relationship without needing to fly off the hook and make baseless accusations or projections of self loathing at each other like the last movie you watched taught you is “normal”. No plates have to be thrown, no abusive words tossed around and there is never a reason to feel you need to control or be controlled to find a solution. There will be a future where “cheating” is no longer a thing because we will have taken the appropriate measures to understand that part of human emotion and desire and accept it from both ends. Jealousy and envy will see a greater level of definition and understanding to better resolve issues, if they’re even an issue at all. Ultimately, Love is Love and just as much as we cannot possibly define love itself, the relationships we choose to express and share love are just as undefinable, but we can all agree that humans were made to love and at the root of all that lacks love, is someone or something attempting to restrict it.

    I could speak a million more words, intertwined between all I have spoken in this attempt to summarize, but isn’t that the beauty in that we can talk about it at all, something the construct of one could and would never have done?

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