What does marriage mean for polyamorous people

Polyamore relationships are different

We are familiar with the subject of polyamory and offer a protected space for questions from couples and individuals. It does not matter whether the people who visit our practice are already living the model or want to prepare for the first time to open up the relationship. Not everyone who comes to us has profound problems. Some just want to reflect or negotiate solutions. Because there is actually a lot to negotiate in a relationship network. Sometimes a look from the outside helps. Often people use counseling, especially at the beginning of a polyrelation, because they are unsure whether this concept suits them.

Monogamy is one option among many

Today the next adventure is just a click away. How do you deal with these permanent seductions? Opportunity creates love or sex or both. Today, when couples choose a monogamous relationship, it is voluntary. There are few social or economic constraints and the blended family has long since become socially acceptable. More and more people do not want to make a decision and wonder whether they can no longer be with their partner and still feel the joys and excitement of being in contact with new people.

There are many questions when thinking about polyamorous relationships

Would you like to have the freedom to get to know someone, to experience something, to have sex or even to be emotionally connected? Behind this lies the longing to grow personally and the realization that it is impossible for one person to cover all of your needs. So far that sounds reasonable and understandable. But why is it so difficult in practice? What does it take for polyamory to work?

Here are some examples of questions that clients come to us with

  • Is polyamory right for me?
  • How can I live polyamory?
  • I want children one day, how will that work in a polyamorous relationship?
  • In the last few years, almost everything in my life has revolved around the subject of polyrelations. Will that ever change?
  • We want to open up our relationship, but we are afraid of losing ourselves as a couple.
  • What rules can we set up so that polyamory can be lived emotionally, but also practically?
  • I would like to live a polyamorous life, but my jealousy is holding me back. How can I deal productively with jealousy?
  • Legal questions are also asked, e.g. B. after property and marriage
  • Many people are also concerned with what polyamory will be like in old age.
There is no one model that fits all couples.

Every couple has to find out for themselves how to deal with the issue of loyalty / monogamy or openness. There is no one model that fits everyone. There are also violations in consensual, non-monogamous relationships. Often people want to control their partner by making rules, which is impossible when it comes to feelings. Even within a functioning partnership, it can happen that people fall in love again. Emotions cannot be captured and forbidden. But you can learn to talk about it without breaking your relationship and without having to break up.

Definition: Different polyamorous forms of relationships

Polyamory is a collective term. There are innumerable forms of life and relationships apart from monogamy, which are subsumed under the umbrella term “poly”. What they all have in common, however, is that open and honest communication must take place in the relationship. The most common forms of polyamory relationships are briefly outlined below.

  • Primary relationship
    Your primary relationship is the partner who, ideally, you would like to spend the rest of your life with. Perhaps you already have a family together, are married or live together. If there is anyone you introduce to your parents, it is that person.
  • Secondary relationship
    This, too, is a long-term and important partnership for you that can last for many years to a whole life. You may go on vacation together every now and then, but this relationship is not the scope of the primary relationship. The latter will always be number one in your life.
  • open marriages and open relationships
    In these types of relationships there is the consent that everyone can have sexual partners independently of one another. Sexuality is not exclusively limited to partnership.
  • Relationship networks
    There is no primary relationship, rather there is a loose network of relationships between people who often also know each other.

Each of these forms of relationship requires a multitude of rules and framework conditions that the couple has to negotiate. Polyamore relationships are characterized by the fact that they involve a high level of communication effort. You are complex. Professional advice helps to address uncertainties and worries in the relationship and to find solutions.

Monogamy is not a law of nature

If you ask around among friends and acquaintances, you will find that society is divided when it comes to relationships and partnerships. There are couples who have been in a monogamous relationship for years and others who have an open relationship and can officially enjoy intimacy with other people. But what is the right way to live in a happy and sexually fulfilling partnership in the long term?

More and more people are consciously choosing open forms of relationships. What seems like a trend phenomenon is by no means new. In the old days it was quite normal to practice free sexuality. The concept of monogamy is not a law of nature, but has developed out of religious and social norms.

The Church was very powerful in ancient times and made sex a sin. This hostile attitude towards sex resulted in adulterers being punished with death. Sexuality was only tolerated if it had to do with conception and reproduction. Even in the 21st century, the Christian Church does not tolerate artificial contraception. Today a large part of society has freed itself from ecclesiastical constraints.

Monogamy is defined by society

Our self-imposed monogamy is often a sham. We live monogamous for a certain period of time, but then become tired of the relationship or we are abandoned in order to enter into the next longer or shorter loyal relationship some time later. The question here is why so many people hold onto the concept of monogamy when it doesn't seem to work in reality.

Loyalty and jealousy

There should be a decoupling of fidelity. Loyalty does not have to automatically mean that the partner “belongs” to you sexually exclusively. Loyalty could also take on a new meaning and be seen as a promise to be there for the partner - and not just for a short moment, but for a long period of time. If loyalty no longer means possession, but instead stands for a loyal and cooperative relationship with the partner, then it is a worthwhile ideal for any form of relationship - whether it is polyamory or other concepts.

Children and marriage

In the past, a marriage alliance was above all expedient and was in most cases made to father children together. By nature, the reproductive potential of men is greater than that of women. When a woman has a child, she can be sure that it is from her. However, the man only has this certainty when he knows that his wife is loyal to him.
Just a few decades ago, women fell into deep social contempt when they conceived an illegitimate child. It was perfectly normal for the woman to be a housewife while the man made the money. This financial dependence on men made it unthinkable for many women to even think about a divorce.

Sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s

The first sexual revolution began in the 1960s and 1970s. This is understood to be a historical change in public sexual morality. The taboos of previous generations were slowly broken and the population became more tolerant of sexual needs and orientations. One example of this is the emergence of hippie communities in which free love was propagated and lived. An important factor was the launch of the pill, which finally allowed self-determined sexual freedom.

Self-determination in the choice of the form of relationship

The sex researcher Volkmar Sigusch describes in his book “Neosexualitäten” (2005) the change in the meaning of sexuality in our society in the last three decades. It states a changed socio-cultural situation in which people in the western world organize their relationships and their sexuality today. In contrast to earlier times, equality and self-determination determine one's own understanding. Taboos and norms have given way to pluralistic sexual forms of life and couple models and enable individual freedoms.

Since sexuality no longer exclusively has a binding reference system (e.g. sex only in marriage or sex exclusively as an expression of attachment and love), individuals can now choose what is best suited to personal happiness. Problems arise less from compulsion than from having to choose from the abundance of options and negotiating with the respective sexual partner what works for both of them.

Monogamy only for the moment

For many people, monogamy is an ideal. However, the ideas of it have become more realistic, and instead of assuming an infinite period of love, many people choose to celebrate love in the here and now. As a result, monogamy is divided into smaller, strung together parts over the course of a lifetime. Many people go from one committed relationship to the next until one partner becomes unfaithful or someone else appears.

Even the desire to have children can now be handled flexibly into old age. While it used to be normal to have a joint account with one's partner, most people now live financially independently of one another. Today men and women can freely decide how they want to live out their sexuality, which form of relationship they choose and which people they get involved with. In our culture, the term monogamy means that a man lives together with a woman in a committed relationship.

In the animal kingdom we can observe completely opposite behavior, namely less than 10 percent attach themselves to a steady partner. Author Christopher Ryan explains in his book “Sex: The True Story” that humans are not monogamous, have never been monogamous and are not suited to monogamy at all. Rather, “overlapping sexual relationships in groups are advantageous because sex creates an important and lasting network of affection, belonging and mutual obligation”.

Conclusion

Has the model of monogamy failed? From our point of view not. It is a suitable partnership format for many couples. Many people also practice serial monogamy. Of course, we also often encounter double standards in the form of secret affairs, infidelities and lies, which is highly devastating for the couple and especially for those who have been betrayed.
If people decide to live out their needs for more (sexual) freedom, they should discuss this openly and honestly with their partner. We would be happy to support you in this process.

Continue reading:
Part 2: How can you open a relationship?
Part 3: jealousy
Part 4: Rules and Communication