The Polyamorists Next Door

Exploring the world of consensual non-monogamy

The Future of (Non and Serial) Monogamy

Monogamy is not what it used to be. No longer the unquestioned social norm, monogamy takes a range of forms from dating and more serious serial monogamy to cheating, polyamory, swinging, and monogamish relationships. What are the long-term social implications of this trend? Read More

I'm not sure it was ever the norm...

Classic monogamy -- when people married as (at least in theory) virginal teenagers and remained sexually exclusive through their entire lives until one died and the other became celibate -- is no longer the norm in many industrialized nations

I don't think it was ever the norm, it was the accepted facade. I think the switch is that its now become more acceptable for women to be living a lifestyle more like a man in terms of sex. This is a good change, it of course took women to play with the men on the side but the social sigma and shame was far worse for the woman than the man. I think the availability of pornography online and in print for women has opened up a lot of eyes to the possibilities out there beyond traditional marriage roles.

My wife and I have been swingers for 10+ years, so I have more than a passing familiarity with this sort of thing, and have come into contact with pretty much all of its variations even if we choose to express our non-monogamy in only one way. The saying in swinging is that its controlled by the women, which isn't exactly true, but women are often the lead in finding new couples, in large part because its less threatening than a man doing it. This sort of sexual freedom for women many find liberating as there is a joke that men have to drag their wives to the swinger party and then have to drag them away from it.

I don't buy this. I think Dr.

I don't buy this. I think Dr. Sue Johnson (Emotionally Focused Therapy)has got this right. Check this out.

watched the video, don't see a conflict

I watched the video, don't see a conflict. Swingers, for example, can have all the benefits discussed in the video and still more fun on the side.

Emotional Intimacy in Good Marriages

Hi TeresainColorado,

I am not sure why you "are not buying this" or exactly what you mean by that? If you mean that polyamory is not emotionally intimate, then I would say that my research directly contradicts that and you can find more information on that in my post at

Also, the woman in the video repeatedly said that happy marriages provided people with emotional support and proved protective for positive health outcomes. For some people, a happy marriage includes sex with new partners or multiple partners over time. Polyamory and swinging can make some people very happy.

At the end of the video the woman says that she thinks polyamory is hard and makes some people feel insecure -- something I agree with completely. For others, monogamy is hard and makes them feel stifled or trapped, and does not necessarily make insecurity go away because monogamous people cheat on each other and get divorced too. Monogamy is no guarantee that the relationship will remain together.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Elisabeth Sheff


As an instructor and activist in the non monogamy community for over 15 years I have found it impossible to define just exactly what a non monogamous relationship looks like. They are different for everyone and each is unique. What works for one can be a disaster for others. And so I have gradually come around to the term DESIGNER RELATIONSHIPS. What seems to be happening is that each relationship of two or more, same or different genders, must have the "talk" and explore what the relationship must look like. And this involves a very serious discussion about sexual and emotional monogamy and non monogamy with NO prior assumptions. Each participant must know their own sexual and emotional needs and be comfortable talking about them. NO SECRETS. FULL AND HONEST COMMUNICATION. ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. This is very hard to do! It seems that just hoping for the best doesn't work and all too often ends in relationship dissolution. And so when you are considering building any relationship, no matter how complex, keep in the forefront that you and your partner(s) must DESIGN the kind of relationship that works for all of you.

If monogamy isn't working (I

If monogamy isn't working (I dispute this claim somewhat), it is because people have become too self-involved, way too worried about their own "needs" etc. to commit their lives to someone else. Positing poly relations as a a cure seems like putting out a fire with alcohol. If you're too self-involved to get along with one person, how much worse will the fighting etc. be when you have to do it with more than one?
Any adult knows that the reality of a relationship happens when the honeymoon ends; until that point it's just silly (albeit awesome) kids stuff. Put another way, sex is 90% of a bad relationship, 20% of a good one. Love is what happens when you're broke, the kids are screaming, diapers need to be changed, you haven't slept in 2 nights and sex (or dinner out) seems as distant as pluto. If you can't deal with this, mono or poly won't make a bit of difference.

the author didn't say monogamy isn't working

The author didn't say monogamy isn't working. For many people, true, it works, but only for a while. In the context of a modern very long lifetime (by any historical standards), monogamy is a clearly a failure based on the simple statistic that most marriages fail by the 13th year -- a very small fraction of our adult lives! How would you dispute that claim?

So after your first divorce, monogamy in the strict sense (of not counting serial) is no longer possible by definition.

And, by the way, for many people, swinging or poly is an enhancement to their marriage, not a way to solve a problem.

And to follow the logic of your last sentence, if you can deal with diapers and kids screaming, a weekend night of fun swinging isn't going to make a difference either, so why not? I don't see how your argument is making a point.

And, by the way, for many

And, by the way, for many people, swinging or poly is an enhancement to their marriage, not a way to solve a problem.

See thats the part most don't get. If you are doing it because you have a problem in your relationship its going to end badly. My wife and I as swingers would be fine without it too, swinging is just a hell of a lot of fun, makes our genes happy, and brings us closer together.

Lets put it this way, if the binding force of your relationship is sexual, you don't have a good relationship.

not healthy for societies

I am living in a transforming society, we do borrow everything from developed societies, hegemonic intelligence and lifestyle whether it be in industrialization or business, third world are outsourcing. The Polyamorists next door is very materialist in nature, from sharing love, sex to living a luxury life. I feel human are moving away from monogamous for unlimited utilities and pleasures. All they want more and more. These habits and culture are dangerous can only lead to conflicts and stress in the couples and lot of skepticism because we possess the sense of ownership and private property mentality (purely material base not related to women) in the capitalist nature . it is more for dependence and sharing instinct emotional and lust and unhealthy relationships to societies.

Lets not try to turn

Lets not try to turn something into a political struggle. Its a genetic one here. Sexual jealousy is a very natural thing for what should be obvious reasons evolutionarily. Some will have more then others. When we started non-monogamy I had a couple of weeks where it was hard to reconcile, but I did and since then we haven't had any real issues with it. It was perhaps the best part of the deal, getting rid of jealousy, which is really based on fear.

Now on the other hand I'm as big a capitalist as you can find, and a libertarian to boot. I believe in absolute private property. You will find, at least in swinging, this is not a uncommon philosophy, and most studies have shown more Republicans to be swingers (and this has been our experience). Never get a group of swingers talking about gun rights or Obama, its going to 7-2 against.

So honestly you don't really know anything about these groups or what makes them work.

Re: not healthy for societies

"The Polyamorists next door is very materialist in nature, from sharing love, sex to living a luxury life."

Ah, so you personally know some polyamorists next door to your house, and you have observed that they are materialistic? Or are you just making that up?

"I feel human are moving away from monogamous for unlimited utilities and pleasures. All they want more and more. These habits and culture are dangerous..."

And you think this is happening now, for the first time in the roughly 100,000 years of human existence. Suddenly, in the time you happen to be alive, mankind is for the first time moving away from monogamy, and it's dangerous? I have some advice for you: go to the library and study some history books.

Face facts reply to "lets not try to turn"

hey hi,to all whoa are not willing to agree on my perspective, some have rightly said that I barely know about these groups and existing practices that referred in this context. my opinions are purely based on observation of a particular society and practices of living. A large number of communities (third world) does not understand polyamory, they think men/women cheat in prior to existing conditions, agreements or vows taken and this leads to violence and conflicts in a monogamy relationships, it's not easy to hook up with someone after marriage and not accepted by spouses (no consensual agreement) it's termed as taboo and consider it as cheating. In collages and higher institutions if a girl is seen having relationship with more than one person, she stamped as slut in a pubic sphere. In many cases religion is obligation. Even the Industrialization, urbanization and trade a symbol of development could not free from the clutches or stigma in this society. most of people have affairs but are illegitimate once according to society.
I have question on groups you were referring, why don't you differentiate base on class, communities who practice polyamory not cheating? I hope this will largely answer my materialistic view.
History (what ancient, medieval, modern) text will not have answer for the post modern quest?
why capitalist are working on middle classes?
Thank you for allowing me to share opinions.

I sincerely respect you

I sincerely respect you opinion and your right to have one, and I am writing in response to challenge it. Your opinion does not accurately represent my lived experience, nor my own observations (which are far from limited) of polyamorous individuals with whom I have crossed paths. I have been in a poly relationship for nearly 8 years, and have chosen it as a preferred relationship style for much longer. Furthermore, I am a mental health practitioner, albeit a very green one, with polyamory as a growing specialization. First of all, I would like to point out that your point of view depicts polyamory through the lens of monogamy. In other words, you are using the implicit rules of monogamy to explain polyamory. For someone who practices monogamy, I imagine that the big thing that stands out about poly relationships is the option of multiple sexual partners. When I think about my own relationship, I don't think in these terms. I want my partner (especially my primary - some poly people don't roll that way which is also fine) to fully experience life without feeling controlled or like he has to sacrifice essential aspects of himself for me. Humans have the ability to love multiple people at once. Why are romantic partners an exception? As far as commitment goes, that transcends sex and is a whole other discussion.
I felt the need to reply to what you said because it was inaccurate and made polyamorous people seem overindulgent and poly relationships seem cheap and morally inferior. I would be lying if I said I was not slightly offended. I did not "move away from monogamy" because I wanted "unlimited utilities and pleasures". I chose it because it better fit my love style, because I wanted the best for my partner, because I wanted to overcome sexual jealousy (something, to this day, I believe I learned from society), and - most importantly - because this may be the only life I have, no one is getting hurt and why not? Much of the behavior you mentioned is the result of oppressive social rules. You imply that this lascivious behavior will degrade the moral order - I disagree. On the other hand, I am also not about to say everyone should be poly. I am advocating for - if anything - the ability for individuals to do what works for them.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., is an expert on polyamory and sexual-minority families with children.


Subscribe to The Polyamorists Next Door

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.