Friday, May 30, 2008

Blind Devotion and Traditional Monogamous Marriage

On a poly/mono yahoogroup I manage, a subscriber wrote: " still amazes me that even among the most liberal, traditional marriage views tend to hold sway. This seems to be the last thing to change, and I wonder why?"

The idea of sharing one's partner with someone else scares the heck out of a lot of people, so much so that they dare not examine these issues too closely for fear that the monogamous marriage house of cards will come tumbling down. Many people would much rather choose denial and avoid picking at the scab of deeply-held beliefs around monogamy, even though there is considerable threat to their emotional health underneath. By this I am referring to:

-- Hypocracy in the form of cheating;

-- Reluctance to acknowledge that, especially in today's world, people and their needs can and do change, sometimes regardless of relationship situation;

-- The idea that monogamy gives right of ownership over one's partner's heart, body and soul;

-- A belief that despite the present state of monogamous marriage, it is still the only acceptable game in town and therefore the gold standard;

-- Questions around whether that fairy tale we often buy into that we'll find the perfect one for us and live happily ever after can really withstand the test of time.

For many people it feels much safer to rationalize to themselves that monogamy is the only legitimate option because choosing anything else challenges beliefs around possessiveness and that false sense of security that a marriage license often fosters. It may also open the door for their partner to express an interest on a polyamorous relationship, which is also frightening to many people.

At this time in history, traditional, unexamined, reflexive monogamy rises almost to the level of mass obsession and delusion. The European church leaders who several centuries ago set up the model of patriarchal monogamy as the only option and tied it to the soul's salvation were very crafty and understood human nature all too well. They set purity and virtue in women up as the only standard to which a woman could aspire and remain respectable. This was necessary in order to control women's sexuality, and thereby control paternity and inheritance rights. People were forbidden from thinking for themselves, and challenging church docrine was sacrilege. Any alternative relationship route was very effectively blocked with the belief that down any road besides lifelong monogamous marriage was nothing but destruction and ruin. These standards truly create the appearance of there being no way out of the monogamy trap and that monogamy is something people simply must accept regardless of its flaws. Like I said, very crafty.

Most people internalize those messages still today. They've been passed along, generation after generation, and today they are oft repeated on TV and other popular media. It feels a lot safer to go with what is considered acceptable so as to appear respectable and legitimate in one's community, and to one's family and friends. Primarily it's only those who are not especially invested in what other people think of them, who are willing to examine their own beliefs and societal messaging and stay independent in their thought processes, and who are able to step back and see what is real and what is illusion who escape the reflexive nature of committing to monogamous marriage.

DISCLAIMER: I realize that there are people who enter into monogamous marriages who are not blind to these issues and who have discussed them with their intendeds prior to marriage and chose a traditional monogamous marriage while aware that there are other legitimate options. I just wish there were more of them. These are NOT the people to whom I refer here.

As long as what's outside the walls of the house of monogamy looks like a dark forest with beasties hiding around every turn in the forest path, people are going to run screaming from it in anger and fright. It is my goal, as is that of other polyamory advocates, to shed light on those dark spots and help people understand that there is nothing to fear and that polyamory is merely another option.

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