Or why poly marriage is so tough.
Monogamists and polyamorists agree that home cooking is marvelous but polyamorists also like to dine out with close friends.
“At least 95 percent of married and cohabitating Americans expect sexual exclusivity,” said Judy Treas, professor of sociology at UC-Irvine, told ABC News .
“If only we could all free ourselves from the cultural brainwashing — almost put cultural brainwishing, and now I think, yeah that too!” correspondent Becky Sue wrote.
Last week, I changed our correspondents’ names to protect their Internet anonymity. Many polyamorists do not publicize their relationship status and many monogamous folks do not want to publicize their comments online.
Also last week, Anne told us she has not accepted my relationship with Nancy although she, Anne, originally gave it her blessing. We all hoped that she, Anne, would see this as an opportunity for growth, a way deepen our marriage and our friendship and not simply a way to “go screw [somebody] and get her out of your system.”
1. But what if you’re not married? How can you have any stake in the outcome?
Anne certainly has a stake in the outcome.
“When we became friends,” correspondent Jamie wrote, “we were both at points in our lives where we were on the precipice of major decisions.” Those choices included “whether to do marriage, kids, conventional careers.
“I think we both were doing something at the time that was completely counter to any of that,” she continued. “The research project was something just for us, something that fed us. The draw for both of us was that neither one of us would be directly affected no matter what we decided to do with our lives, so it was safe to dither about them to each other. It allowed us to relax, I think. It allowed us to let that part of our brains develop in a safe place.”
But there was no stake.
“For me, later, it also gave me a place internally to go when I feel like all that creativity and spark is gone and remind myself that it’s always there. That’s a powerful thing. And the fact that there’s a person out there who kind of has a stake in that, or had a part in helping me develop that, is helpful.”
That’s a stake in the creation but no ownership in the outcome.
That isn’t enough.
A stakeholder /n/ is a person who affects or can be affected by changes in a relationship.
2. Why should poly people marry?
I can answer that question only for a civil marriage, not the religious ceremony. If God expects you to marry to sanctify your relationship, do so. It will make you, your spouse, and God, happier. The fact is that marriage in and of itself has little or nothing to do with love.
Perhaps you want personal or spiritual growth, to stabilize a relationship, to conform to your religious or political beliefs, a sexual guarantee, or you simply fall in love. Those are pretty much the same reasons people offer to explain any marriage.
Readers might expect age-related answers. People of child-bearing/child-rearing years have certain needs. People our post-child age have some different needs but I was surprised by the similarity of their lists:
Commitment: This state of being obligated or emotionally impelled or pledged to a partner raises the stakes that each spouse will celebrate the bad times as well as the good with you and whatever family you create.
Continuity: Discontinuity is the Victorian standard (grow up, break away from your family, marry, have kids, divorce, marry again, perhaps divorce again, die alone). Most people crave continuity (stay connected to family, school friends, political systems, jobs, and lovers). A marriage contract offers the appearance of continuity. And the expectation of growing old together.
Financial Security: Two cannot live a cheaply as one but they can come close. My parents grew up “making do” in the Great Depression; I moved to a state, Vermont, where making do is the warp of the fabric of life. Sharing expenses is as natural as fixing a tractor here. The economy of scale, even a scale of two, ranges in everything from a single roof over two heads to buying better cuts of meat to sharing health insurance.
HIPAA: The Privacy Rule under the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulates the disclosure of medical info held by health care clearinghouses and providers, health insurers, and the like. Protected Health Information (PHI) is interpreted very broadly and generally excludes non-family members from receiving any information about a critically ill loved one. Not to mention the fact that (“unrelated”) loved ones generally never get to see or help an ill partner.
Mandated sex: In marital law in some states, constructive desertion defines spousal misconduct so extensive that it makes marital relations impossible. The essential definition is one spouse leaving the marital relationship without leaving the marital home. The willful refusal of sex is often cited. Nagging is usually not legitimate misconduct.
If withholding of sex is grounds for divorce, the opposite argument must be true: the state mandates that sex must be part of a legal marriage.
Sharing: The marriage(s) in this example need not be group marriages where three or more adult partners live together in one household with more than one or two incomes going into keeping the home (the typical American struggle is a husband and wife fighting to pay the mortgage with one or two incomes, or with zero or one in this recession). The partnership adds playmates or supervisors for the kids and someone else to hold the ladder during home maintenance projects.
“In marriage you just have to learn the rules,” Jeff Foxworthy says. “Rule number one is, If she ain’t happy, you ain’t happy!”
Get married to be happy, not to be in love.
3. Why should poly people NOT marry?
“The other question I have [is] if you desire this lifestyle, why be married?” correspondent Charlie asked some time ago.
“You shouldn’t unless you want to,” Nancy said.
Some, like me, probably do want to. That and my innate desire to share the things that bring us great joy, to shout from the rooftops, “I love this person!”
Some, like Nancy, may not want to. That doesn’t negate her innate desire to share the things that bring us great joy, to shout from the rooftops, “I love this person!”
Economics may put the kibosh on marriage today.
The economics of retirement can force our elders away from marriage and the marital advantages. Matrimony can screw up retirement benefits, inheritances or wealth preservation, and interactions with adult children. And, while I approve of pre-nups and particularly Nancy’s proposal of a specific contract of financial and end-of-contract obligations, I suspect a marriage that needs the responsibilities for who pops the popcorn spelled out in triplicate is doomed.
The economics of state and Federal taxes means some couples actually send more money to their various governments when “married filing jointly” than as “single” filers.
Government policy drives living in sin. Imagine that.
4. Commitment issues: Should poly people have ‘civil unions’ or ‘domestic partnerships’ instead?
A civil partnership, civil union, or domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two individuals who live together and share a common domestic life but are joined by neither marriage nor a civil union. In California a Domestic Partnership possesses all of the rights and privileges of a Marriage.
Neither chicken dance nor birdseed required.
The advantage to a legal partnership is that it offers the commitment, continuity, financial security and medical benefits, and sharing of a legal marriage without some of the baggage. The disadvantage to a legal partnership is that not many states have it for heterosexual couples and no state allows “group partnerships.”
There is another, personal, reason for making a marriage or other partnership. While I don’t feel a sense of ownership in marriage, I do like the sense of belonging.
[Editors Note: gekko and I shared a four-part polylocution plus these Afterglow posts. Please visit her companion piece, In Jealousy There Is Self-Love, and use The Poly Posts index for the entire series and for other resources.]