Polyamorous Wife Swap: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
I recently watched the latest episode of Wife Swap* (which, admittedly, I wouldn’t usually watch if you strapped me into a dildo machine and gave me Godiva chocolate). It was a train wreck of epic proportions. To sum it up: The matriarch of a triadic polyamorous family (the Envys) swaps with the matriarch of a conservative Christian family (the Loudans). Tears are shed, bible verses read and judgments fly left and right. In the end, the conservative Christian mom bails, being the first person to ever quit the show early in the history of Wife Swap.
Anyone who has ever seen reality television knows that these shows are systematically edited for drama, and boy did it ensue in spades. Even so, the Envys seemed to be persecuted for being polyamorous in ways that no editing could fake. The Loudan family voiced their distaste for the Envys’ immoral ways and tried desperately to correct them through the teachings of their Bible, and the Bill of Rights. Research on political affiliation shows that people who are sensitive to experiencing disgust tend to lean more toward conservative political ideology.1 I am not trying to say that the Loudans were disgusted by polyamory per se (I’ll let you draw this conclusion on your own), but their willingness to discuss the incredulity of polyamory may be tied to their passion for conservative social and political affiliation.
One of the most interesting things about this episode was the Loudans’ refusal to listen to, let alone tolerate, polyamory being a source of happiness for the Envys. At one point in the show Mrs. Loudan attempts to boot the Envys’ live-in girlfriend out of the house by telling her, “I want you to go find your dreams and not be trapped here; so you can pack your bags because you have a whole life to find”. How thoughtful of her to so selflessly help this young woman by freeing her from her miserable cage of love. Later in the show Mrs. Loudan breaks the rules by calling her husband in a panic, to which he responds by encouraging her to get out as soon as possible.
Such commitment to ones ideals is often shared with the people we are partnered with. Most people tend to commit to (or marry) others who are like them; this is especially true when it comes to things like personality characteristics, hobbies, values, religious beliefs, and political leanings2. In fact, the more similar people are, the happier they tend to be in their relationships with each other3. With this in mind, research has also shown that relationships with people who share the same political ideologies end up lasting longer than relationships with people who don’t share political ideologies4.
Were the Loudans ganging up on the polyamorous family for the sake of their own solidarity? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, they certainly didn’t play very nice, nor were they setting a very good example for their gaggle of children. Then again, that’s reality television for you.
* Link to Wife Swap episode: http://abc.go.com/watch/wife-swap/SH5539547/VDKA0_n6m6q44a/envy–loudon
1 Inbar, Y., Pizarro, D., Iyer, R., & Haidt, J. (2011).Disgust sensitivity, political conservatism, and voting. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 0(0), 1-8.
2 Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press.
3 Morry, M. M., Kito, M., & Ortiz, L. (2011). The attraction–similarity model and dating couples: Projection, perceived similarity, and psychological benefits. Personal Relationships, 18(1), 125-143.
4 Bleske-Rechek, A., Remiker, M. W., & Baker, J. P. (2009). Similar from the start: Assortment in young adult dating couples and its link to relationship stability over time. Individual Differences Research, 7(3), 142-158.