Joseph Horton on Is Polyamory Good for Women or Children?

Photo by Ana Francisconi on Unsplash

The Gottman Institute is one of the premiere organizations promoting evidence-based approaches to couple/marital relationships. The institute notes that it has “developed an approach that not only supports and repairs troubled marriages and committed relationships but strengthens happy ones.” The approach has been used with both opposite sex and same-sex couples, but the focus has always been on couples.

The institute has published a series of guest blog posts titled Real Relationships. The goal is to “understand and paint a more realistic, inclusive picture of relationships in the world today.” A recent post, titled, “I’m the Polyamorist Next Door,” presents the experiences of a woman, Ms. Winston, who longs for society to see polyamory in a new light: as “people caring for other people, people creating the family that they need, people being human, people being normal.”

There is the appropriate caveat that the guest blog posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gottman Institute. Still, the suggestion that polyamory be considered normal portends a seismic cultural shift.

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There is little debate in the social sciences about the existing data on married households. On average, marriage achieves better outcomes than alternative family arrangements. There are exceptions; not all marriages function well. Many people in less than ideal situations are doing heroic work, particularly single parents who have found themselves in difficult situations, sometimes with no fault of their own.

And yet, married households as the ideal is now being called into question. The latest debate is about whether it should be that marriage produces better outcomes. The argument is that with the right government policies, any conceivable family structure could be at least as good as marriage.

Some social scientists go so far as to argue that traditional marriage is immoral. Sociologist Judith Stacey has written that is impossible for women to have a role equal to men in marriage given the “present conditions of political, economic, social, and sexual inequality.” Government policy should support cultural change that eliminates oppressive marriage.

In that light, some would argue, polyamorous relationships empower women. Women are free to have several romantic relationships simultaneously, to terminate romantic relationships, and begin new ones as they see fit. But is polyamory likely to be empowering for women over the long haul? Would it be best for households with children?

Ms. Winston was initially insecure with polyamory: “More than once my insecurities ran the show . . . I spent several years clawing at different romantic partners, insisting that they tell me I was their number one, the primary, the queen bee.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Joseph Horton

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