Dear Poly Chick: Polyamorous Love vs Monogamous Love

Dear Poly Chick/Poly Dude is a collection of anonymous queries that have been submitted by people through the Site, our Facebook page or Email. The answers provided are our opinions, formed through years of being immersed in polyamory. Take our advice with a grain of salt (or pepper). We have no boundaries, so ask us anything! If you want a Chick-specific or Dude-specific answer, let us know; otherwise, we’ll surprise you!

 

Dear Poly Chick,

Do polyamorous people love the same as monogamous people?

 

At first glance this might seem like a strange question to some, but it’s not. From a very young age we’re taught to believe that all of our love and devotion is supposed to go to one person, one partner. Theoretically this person eventually becomes our husband or wife (hence ideas like soul mate, life partner, one true love, the “one”, etc). In a sense, we’re taught that love is a zero-sum experience (meaning that if we love a “new” partner, this takes away from the love we have for our “original” partner). This simply is not the case; people are capable of loving infinitely, as polyamorous people demonstrate regularly. Seriously. Human beings are fully capable of spreading their love among many people. A common analogy used to illustrate this is children; parents can have 3, 4, 5 or more (yow) children and love them all equally, even if they have completely different personalities. Just because you have a second child, you don’t love your first child any less. Similarly, we’re capable of loving 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or more people without subtracting love from any of them. Every partner is unique in some way and our relationship to them is unique, therefore our love is also unique to that partner/relationship.

 

So, to answer your question: Yes. Love is love; regardless of how many people you love. Even though it might seem to some people that loving multiple people somehow makes that love more superficial, it simply isn’t. Which begs the question: Are polyamorists inherently capable of loving more than monogamous people? Not necessarily. Polyamory is a philosophy certain people live by because it fits their needs and/or desires. The love we feel is the same love we felt when we were monogamous; the difference is quantity, not quality. It’s not like we’re wired to love better than anyone else, we just simply choose to employ a life that allows us to do so freely, openly and honestly. Loving one person works very well for some, and not so well for others. Polyamory allows those who want the chance to do so more in an ethical way.

 

This is something that baffles me when I’m faced with discriminatory comments about polyamory. I can totally understand why people might not choose to be polyamorous, for a variety of reasons. But to say that it’s somehow bad, devious or selfish is just silly. Love is the most beautiful and positive experience that the human race has access to; it’s arguably the purest universal element we all have in common that binds humans together. Who the hell wouldn’t support such a thing?

 

Now please excuse me while I go bear hug a tree.

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8 Comments

  1. Red Panda
    Apr 16, 2013

    I agree, but one study that might be great for the future would be to show what parts of the brain are activated by a polyamorist expressing love and a monagamist expressing love. I expect they’d be the same, but you never know till you do the science.

    • admin
      Apr 16, 2013

      I agree completely. Some of us researchers have already talked about doing something like this in the future, when polyamory research is a little more rooted. It takes a lot of funds to study anything in an fMRI machine and it’s not realistic to apply for that level of funding until we have some solid foundational data. But we will certainly get there someday. :-)

  2. ARI
    Apr 16, 2013

    Good post only small niggling thing

    The love we feel is the same love we felt when we were monogamous; the difference is quantity, not quality.

    Not everyone was always monogamous and this gives the impression that poly is something that happens to mono people which can have the wrong connotations.

    • admin
      Apr 16, 2013

      You’re right, that is a completely valid and very good point. I’m glad you brought that up; thank you!

  3. Skyhooks
    Apr 16, 2013

    Economically speaking, polyamorists see love as a “public good” – non-excludable and non-rivalrous – whereas monogamists tend to see it as a “private good” – something you only have a limited quantity of, or limited access to, and which must be acquired and protected.
    I believe this comes from a root difference in cultural paradigms such as individualistic universalism, liberalization, and feminization.

    Just my two cents, though.

    • admin
      Apr 16, 2013

      Very well said! The behavioral economical perspective is nothing short of interesting!

  4. tosii2
    Apr 16, 2013

    ” Similarly, we’re capable of loving 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or more people ” which kind of begs the question: Are there some people who are not capable of loving anyone?
    and
    “people are capable of loving infinitely, as polyamorous people demonstrate regularly” This seems a bit exaggerated to me; first, it is a generalization to the (implied) whole population; second, that I doubt that many are capable of loving a multitude of people in anything other than an abstract sense. Which ends up diluting the question originally asked, since, when you push the “love the same” into the realm of abstract love (say, of a group of people that you have no personal contact with) you are basically side stepping the question, I think.
    Personally, to answer such a question, I would want to ask the questioner to define what they think of as ‘love’ and how it is manifested or expressed. THEN we can talk about if it is “the same” or not. The way the question was phrased ‘does A love the same as B’ seems to me to be more addressing the expression of love than the emotion of love. If we focus on the expression of love, then we have something concrete that we can actually compare in different situations (such as the areas of the brain that are brought into play as mentioned above, or more tangible aspects).
    Perhaps a bit more than 2cents! But it is a good one to tackle!

    • Name
      Apr 26, 2013

      Commenting on the previous comment – I agree that this is a tough question because I don’t think we all experience or express love in the same ways, in fact it may be unique for each and every person. Also that love comes in lots of different forms and I think that in many ways, each time I’ve been in love has been different in subtle ways, so it’s hard to quantify “same” and “different” in the context of this question. I think what the post is getting at is that however you feel it and express it yourself, it’s not going to somehow feel “different” because you are allowing yourself to experience it with more than one person at a time. Also, I think there probably are those who never do fall in love at all. Perhaps they are capable of it and are victims of circumstance, perhaps they just don’t have emotions that extreme. I think this is one of the reasons we want people to understand the logic of our philosophy. We are so lucky to even experience love with one person…if you can have that in mutiplicity…why deny that to yourself or anyone that you are close to?

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