Thoughts on polyamory/marriage at Skepticon 5.

The marriage panel is kind of just pluggin along with the ideas that marriages and relationships are not all governed by standard societal rules (they’re not all monogamous *gasp*).  I’m really wishing they would talk about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of those rules from a rational perspective.  Matt Dillahunty, as usual, is killing it.

So here’s something I want to throw out there:  I don’t care if Michaelyn dates or sleeps with other people.  Yet, we are monogamous.

How does that happen?  Well, she ha the green light to do those things, but she doesn’t.  One day she might.  But what I want is to know that she is with me because she wants to be.  If Michaelyn is with me exclusively because she wants to be, we don’t need rules binding her to me in that way.  If she doesn’t want to be with me in that way, why would I demand she do so?  Love, to me, means wanting someone else to be happy, not just happy in a way that caters to me.

And if I’m to know that she’s with me by choice, I have to allow her other choices.  Knowing that she can date others, but still decideds to be with me, that’s beautiful. It’s honest.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • shaunphilly

    Similarly, knowing that my wife also has that option, chooses to act on it sometimes, and still keeps coming back to me means much the same thing. I know she wants to be with me, because even while having other lovers, she still wants me.

    I’m of the opinion that default monogamy is silly, and that monogamy should be reached accidentally, as in it is just what the people involved want. Congratulations on your engagement, whether you are monogamous or not!

  • emma robertson

    Totally agree with the above – as long as all parties are completely honest and genuinely and freely consenting to the terms of the relationship it’s no one else’s business!

  • Rebecca Hensler

    That’s lovely and romantic. “Love, to me, means wanting someone else to be happy, not just happy in a way that caters to me.”

    And I like what shaunphilly says too, particularly since it describes my own marriage. Being the one my wife always always always comes home to is one of the great joys of my life.

    Funny, I know of a marriage, a Christian marriage, that fulfills none of my definitions of marriage: Husband and wife are in no way a team. Neither one puts their spouse first, ahead of all others. And they don’t have fun together. How is this marriage? Calling something marriage doesn’t make it so. Marriage is not a ritual you went through many years ago, marriage is how you live today.

    Wishing you both a lifetime of happy marriage, JT and Michaelyn.

  • Lana Hope

    I agree we cannot try to control others. But I can say for myself, I would never cheat on my husband as I feel it is wrong. And yes I believe it would be wrong for me to do so.

    • Azkyroth

      It’s only cheating if it’s against the rules in context.

    • Amyc

      Sleeping with somebody else is not default “cheating.” Cheating is breaking the rules of the relationship–any of the rules. It really bothers me when people make sex with another person out as the single worst thing your partner could do. Sorry, it’s not. The only reason it might be cheating is if you have both agreed to the rules of the relationship and those rules include: don’t sleep with other people.

  • Volzi

    It’s only cheating if you both disagree with it and you are hiding it.

  • scott

    Interesting how the examples given are always of the other partner leaving and coming back. Agreed that love should be selfless and other-motivated, and that examples of ‘faithful,’ yet unloving monogamous marriages abound.. but doesn’t if follow if both people truly are committed to the others good then neither partner would choose to sleep with someone else, because they understand the damage it does to their partner? It’s obvious the devastation adultery causes to families.
    To think a partner has the ‘freedom’ to sleep with someone else is a mockery of love, because that implies the person can choose their own selfish desires by the very means of abusing the selfless love of another. That is no way mutual love.
    There’s a kernel of truth here, but coming back to the same person multiple times after sleeping around is the ultimate definition of abusing of love, not love.

    • Rebecca Hensler

      “doesn’t if follow if both people truly are committed to the others good then neither partner would choose to sleep with someone else, because they understand the damage it does to their partner?”

      This statement is based on an assumption with no evidence to back it up, that sex outside the relationship is always damaging to the other partner. If you are going to base your argument on this assumption, please provide some evidence that is is true.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Why is everything about sex? I enjoy great conversation with my wife, but I don’t forbid her from talking with other humans in case she likes it so much she leaves me.

    • Amyc

      A person seriously using the term “sleeping around” is the ultimate definition of a person with some very deeply flawed presumptions about sex.

  • Wes

    doesn’t if follow if both people truly are committed to the others good then neither partner would choose to sleep with someone else, because they understand the damage it does to their partner? It’s obvious the devastation adultery causes to families.

    It’s obvious? It’s obvious to me that cheating often causes large problems in relationships, adultery (sex outside of the marriage) less so. Your comment presupposes that a person is damaged by a partner’s outside sexual contact, and that’s up to each individual. I’m certainly not damaged when my wife has sex outside of our relationship. Why should I be? Likewise, she is not damaged when I do. Why should she be?

  • Stumble


    Both my wife and I have permission to sleep with others, and to form relationships with others. Over the years we both have. Often the other becomes a close friend, or at least a valued acquaintance. I have never felt that her doing so is in any way cheating on me, and without being graphic, I quite enjoy watching and participating in her enjoying others.

    Cheating isn’t defined by what you do, it is defined by what you hide, and by the rules of the relationship. I know that no matter what she may choose to do for pleasure, our bond is so much stronger than that I have never worried about our relationship.

  • scott

    I don’t think JT was recommending an ‘open marriage’, I think he was getting at mutual love being unconditional without restrictions which actually will result in a healthier monogamy, i.e. not pursuing desires outside of the one you have committed to love.
    I don’t think open marriage creates ideal marriages because it opens up all kinds of emotional ties, preferences, and dependence on people who are NOT your spouse. Sex is more than physical, unfortunately most people learn this at a great cost of being badly hurt in the area. Also, those people who engage in relationships with married people often think they are truly loved because sex is emotional, which can create confusion on their end. So, sex with a third party is even dangerous to the third party. People can pretend it’s merely physical, but that is lessening, not deepening the value of sex.
    I hope the best for your marriages in that you and your spouse deepen your relationship and love for one another, which I truly believe will be most found in meeting needs exclusively with each other. The only alternative is to deny monogamy, which I think open marriage functionally denies anyway.

    • JT Eberhard

      I was recommending an open marriage, in fact. What I was saying is that having an open marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that the other party dates or sleeps with other people, only that they are permitted to.

      Michaelyn is allowed to be physical with other people. She doesn’t utilize it right now, but she is perfectly allowed.

      • anti-ignominious

        Then what’s the point of marriage? Scott is correct IMO. Someone always gets hurt (emotionally) It’s human nature. I wish you well but was sad to see you have that stance. Best to keep separate bank accounts if that is the route you’re taking. You’ll understand if your fiance falls in love with hell’s angels or seduced by the nefarious intended romeo. To be an ideal marriage may mean you would need to have a measure of self discipline, but that’s just too difficult for you? I doubt you’d post it if it came to that end but it does make a mockery of trust and fidelity which is paramount in many successful marriages. But that’s just me, I was never a fan of hedonism.

        • Rebecca Hensler

          “Someone always gets hurt (emotionally)”

          What evidence do you have of this statement?

          • anti-ignominious

            No evidence, just experiences, strike the word always. In fact I’ll retract that particular statement. Some people would not be emotionally hurt. How’s that?

          • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

            Then what’s your point?

            If some people would be emotionally hurt, then they are free to be monogamous.

            You’re acting like JT is trying to destroy the concept of monogamy, when all he’s doing is pointing out that it is optional.

        • Wes

          Damned Hells Angels! Always stealing all of the available women….

          • anti-ignominious

            @zinc. The point is, that initially I saw JT as a role model for the atheist community. I want kids to have role models in the atheist community, but certainly not this. The movement was doing just fine until this came to light. Polyamorous marriages is an open invitation to hedonism and swingers, a life of danger and low life bottom feeders….that’s not an assertion, it just my opinion. It’s also my opinion that Polyamorous marriages misses one of the greatest attributes life has to offer. Someone who stands by you, each putting their petty desires aside for a cohesive harmonious family. If this is part of the movement, it’s a selfish model for kids. I’m glad I now see the dark side of this movement. It’s back to square one, Carl Sagan, Dennett, Dawkins, etc.
            I wouldn’t advocate to deny you, JT or anyone else’s choices. It just not a path I would advocate for kids or adolesence.

          • Azkyroth

            It’s a path I’d happily support my daughter on when she’s old enough, if it’s what’s right for her.

            I’m sorry that you don’t love your children as much as I love mine.

        • Amyc

          What’s the point of marriage? Is sex with one person for the rest of your life the epitome of marriage? That is what you imply by saying that being allowed to sleep with other people destroys the point of marriage.

        • Michaelyn

          Just because *you’d* be hurt if your partner slept with another person doesn’t mean that it hurts everyone that way. Throughout our relationship, both JT and I have been with other people, and no one was emotionally damaged in the process. We’re happy with what we’re doing, and sometimes it works for other people. Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s okay too. If it’s consensual; if everyone is honest about their emotions and if everyone is happy, what’s wrong with that?
          I’d like to recommend the Ethical Slut. It’s a great read, and it might help you at least see things from our perspective even if this lifestyle isn’t for you.

          • anti-ignominious

            @Azkyroth..well of course, you’re far superior to me, who doesn’t know that?
            @Michaelyn, I wish you happiness kiddo! and for JT as well, he has special qualities. Not all fully developed, but his potential is endless. I hope to address him as Dr. Eberhard someday and that could happen.

        • Aoife

          “Someone always gets hurt (emotionally)”

          Really? I’m currently sitting at a table with my partner and her other two partners. She’s sketching and drinking rooibos. Me, I just got some earl grey and am eating chips and chatting with the other two. Oh look! Now they’re hugging! Wait, they just kissed!

          I’m trying to find a sense of hurt here. I mainly think that they’re adorable. Also, Girlfriend just sketched a really cute picture of us. That is nice.

          I mean, Girlfriend’s Other Girlfriend did just eat some of my pad thai earlier… is that what you mean by hurt? Was that it? Or am I supposed to somehow be sad when a person I love dearly is being lovely and adorable with someone she loves dearly?

          You’ve made one hell of an extraordinary claim there.

      • Smiles

        “…having an open marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that the other party dates or sleeps with other people, only that they are permitted to.”

        They are also “permitted” to breaking-up or getting a divorce… You admit that you enjoy knowing “she only need you”, so if/when that changes would you not feel less awesome?

        I really only desire monogamous relationships, but at no point is either party “required” to be in that relationship. Go date someone else, but let me know so I can move on…

        The question to me is, “Which is more selfish? The person who wants to date others while in a committed relationship, or the person who only wants that exclusive-high you mentioned?” Follow up, “Is it wrong to be selfish in the first place?”

    • Wes

      Scott –

      Again, you’re making a ton of assumptions. First of all, not all sex is emotional. Sex “means” whatever the two (or more) people having sex agree that it means. If people want to have so-called “meaningless” sex, there is no problem with that. But more than that, you seem to be assuming that sex outside of a marriage is supposed to be “just sex.” This is not the case in the majority of polyamorous relationships. I’m in love with two women. My wife is in love with two men. We all live in the same house.

      If you’re going to make the argument that it’s a problem if you have “emotional ties, preferences, and dependence on people who are NOT your spouse,” you’re going to have to explain why that’s a problem. Are you saying that a person should not have any emotional connections outside of a marriage? What’s your justification for that?

  • Laurence

    The only problem I have with this is that it seems to demonize (this is too strong a word but I cannot think of another) people who cannot emotional handle the idea of their partners being with other people. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking your partner to not sleep with other people because you do not think you have the emotional capacity to deal with it. Not everyone is not emotionally built the same way, and I don’t think it is fair to try to infer that people with closed relations are not as good as people that do not have open relationships. Now, that may not have been your intent, but that’s what it seems like to me.

    • Wes

      Well, the only “problem” there is that you’re asking your partner to limit their well-being for your own selfish desires. All other things being equal, that’s less ideal than wanting your partner to do whatever makes them happy. But there are practicalities to consider, and almost every relationship involves both parties acting selfishly in at least some aspect. Insisting upon monogamy is only one example of that.

    • MaudeLL

      I don’t think either way is superior, the message I get from this is “even if we are used to one model of marriage, others are possible if it makes you happy”. I think monogamy gets plenty of support socially, and I have nothing against other couples wanting to pursue a strictly monogamous relationship if it makes them happy. In that sense, I’m not sure I get Wes’ point.

      • shaunphilly

        Wes’ point is that our selfish desires, based in in insecurities, jealousies, etc, may be causing your loved ones to miss our on things they want and that there is no reason why they cannot have. In my opinion, people should try and work on finding other ways to deal with those insecurities besides making rules about not challenging them.

        As I said above, monogamy is great if it’s actually what both people want, but if one or more of them is enforcing it due to fears and so forth, that is not healthy.

        • AJ

          “but if one or more of them is enforcing it due to fears and so forth, that is not healthy.”

          Uh, yeah, if someone has to “enforce” it, then that relationship is wrong for those people.

  • scott

    I think the biggest underlying assumption here is a utilitarian approach to marriage and sex by defining it in whatever way you would like as long as your cool with it and it makes you happy. Obviously, people have the ABILITY to participate in whatever types of relationships they deem appropriate. But just because they can doesn’t mean they should, and it definitely doesn’t mean it should be defined as marriage. The extreme of such situations would be to argue that a person can marry their pet dog because the dog makes them happy and doesn’t seem to object. All of us probably have a line somewhere that says, “no, that’s not marriage.” And if we cannot admit that lines must be drawn, then I would argue marriage has ultimately lost all of its meaning.
    You might argue, “it still means something to ME” – but if the principles you live by cannot be (or worse, should not be) applied to everyone else then the meaning you give it is simply illusory, a creation of your own imagination based on your own desires.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      You might argue, “it still means something to ME” – but if the principles you live by cannot be (or worse, should not be) applied to everyone else then the meaning you give it is simply illusory, a creation of your own imagination based on your own desires.

      So because not everybody is a Christian, Christianity is illusory?

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      Furthermore, your principle of monogamy is clearly not applied to JT here. Does that make monogamy illusory?

      Saying “Everyone must do it or it’s not real!” is self-defeating when talking to someone who doesn’t “do it”.

      Although I do see your point – if it isn’t mandatory, then it might just go away. And you’re convinced this is a bad thing.

      • scott

        I think you’re missing the point. What i’m saying is people cannot define things however they choose. If we could, it would actually be our own imagination coming up with our definitions.
        For instance, I can’t simply say, “to me, loving my own child means ignoring my child and showing more parental care for other children than my own from time to time because occasionally I get tired of him/her.” Disclaimer, i’m not trying to make a 1 to 1 comparison here with open marriage. The point is this: I can’t define what loving my child is in my own mind based on what I want, live by it, and expect it to fly as loving my child.
        On that point, if everyone claims marriage is whatever works for them, then marriage doesn’t mean anything anymore. If 4 could be understood as 3, 8, or 7, or whatever you wanted it to be.. then 4 no longer means 4. Relativism simply doesn’t work.
        The debate can continue about what marriage actually means, but once the debate stops and we accept everything, then we’ve done away with it altogether.

        • scott

          Would you consider someone marrying a horse a legitimate marriage? If not, why not, and what allows you to impose that on a person who desires to marry a horse? (btw, the horse shows no signs of objection).

          • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

            And once upon a time, voting was “what white male landowners do”. Give women and minorities the vote? Why not let a horse vote? (btw, the horse shows no signs of objection).

          • Azkyroth

            How is this hypothetical even remotely relevant to a marriage arrangement between two humans?

        • Aoife

          Why do you assume that polyamory or other forms of nonmonogamy mean ignoring your spouse and not giving them as much care and attention as you give other people? Seriously, what? Evidence please. Just a shred would be nice. But I’d really want an extraordinary level.

    • Azkyroth

      So, basically, if you don’t get to define for everyone else what relationships mean, you want to throw the whole concept away.

      What are you, six?

    • Azkyroth

      but if the principles you live by cannot be (or worse, should not be) applied to everyone else then the meaning you give it is simply illusory

      Also, how the fuck is “people should form relationships according to the rules and dynamics that work best for the people involved in the relationship” not a principle that can be applied to everyone?

      Actually, this seems to be a far more valid criticism of your own idiotic MY SIZE FITS ALL approach.

    • Brad1990

      “You might argue, “it still means something to ME” – but if the principles you live by cannot be (or worse, should not be) applied to everyone else ”

      Who get’s to say what standards should apply to everyone else? No one has that right. If you’re not hurting anyone else then you have the right to do whatever you damn well please.

      JT’s approach certainly wouldn’t work for me, but it works for him and his fiancee, and that’s all that matters. It’s none of your damn business.

      Also you seem to have missed the fact that while Michaelyn has the right to do those things, she has not taken advantage of them; so JT and Michaelyn are still fulfilling your narrow definition of a relationship. Not that it matters, seeing as it’s still none of your damn business.

      • scott

        So no one has a right to impose what standards should be applied to everyone else? Is that a standard you would like to impose on everyone? Because if not, i don’t understand why you’re so upset with the standards i proposed. But, if you actually are proposing a standard that I’m supposed to live by, then.. well I understand why you’re upset. But who gave you the right to impose your standards of no standards? You said yourself, no one has a right to do that.

        So are you imposing your standards on me or not?

        • Azkyroth

          This is a false dichotomy, and an especially dishonest one. Not all “standards” are equivalent, nor are all “attempts at imposing.” Criticizing you for refusing to allow other people to live their lives in ways that work for them and demonstrably harm no one, free of harassment and degrading comments, is not equivalent to your attempts to pressure others into making only choices that you approve of for reasons that have nothing to do with demonstrable harm.

          Note that I use the term “demonstrable” for a reason. “I have no evidence but it seems to me like it’d always be hurtful” doesn’t count.

          • scott

            It’s always interesting when I, the minority on this website, propose my position people liken me to a racist, a six year old, an idiot, frequently use vulgar language, yet I am the one ‘pressuring people’ to adhere to my views (by what standards is this pressuring? by expressing them??).
            I do not have a evidence on open marriage, but I have seen, and most people have witnessed in their own lives, the guilt/pain of loving someone who loves another, whether it be physically or emotionally. So, my demonstrable evidence is first witnessing broken marriages over relationships outside of that marriage in my own family and of friends very close to me. That damage is clear enough. There are studies, however, on the effects of non-traditional families on children. Here’s a link to a sociologist from university of Texas, who has been under pressure because people don’t like the evidence, not because of his method, which is actually notably better than other studies on the topic.
            And the false dichotomy simply isn’t present. It’s always present when those who promote ‘tolerance’ are the very ones who are intolerant of ideas they don’t agree with.

          • Azkyroth

            Whining about tolerance, and…

            There are studies, however, on the effects of non-traditional families on children.


    • Amyc

      Wow, this is the same argument used to limit mixed race marriages and today same-sex marriages. It just goes to show that irrational arguments can be used to justify all sorts of bullshit.

  • scott


    On one level you might think, “how loving of you to allow such a thing.” But what if she actually decided to sleep with someone else, and liked it more than sleeping with you. And what if eventually she decided, “You know what, I actually like this guy more.” I know, impossible scenario because you’re the bomb, but let’s pretend for the sake of argument. Now in this scenario, you are left on the back burners physically and emotionally. Of course you might argue, “well it’s because I love her I let her do that.” Got it. Here’s the rub (no pun intended) for mutual love, how is what she doing characteristic of her unconditional love for you?
    Flip the tables around, how in the world would you be showing unconditional love for Michaelyn by falling in love with someone else and potentially losing affection for Michaelyn? That is illogical.

    If you want to show her unconditional love, I argue you should guard your affections for her with everything you have, even intentionally avoiding scenarios that might steal your affections from her for another person. If you do decide to act on a sexual relationship with someone else, you are opening the door to less love for her, not more.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      So what you’re saying is “trust her less, so she won’t have any choice but to love you more”?

    • baal

      You do know Scott that leaving your spouse for a new one is actually somewhat common? Let’s re-imagine those circumstances as if one or both folks in the marriage could have an additional on-going relationship w/o the divorce of the first one. It’s less disruptive overall.

    • Michaelyn

      Uh, if I like sleeping with that other person, then I date them. JT just said, “why would I force you to stay with me if you’d be happier elsewhere?”
      I could also choose to date the other person while staying with JT. The options are all on the table. JT and I will be with each other as long as we both are happy. If we find something better, cool. If we stay together forever because we’re still happy after 80 years, that’s cool too.
      Right not I can’t imagine being happier with anyone else, and that’s what matters to us.

      • Michaelyn


        • scott


          First of all, congratulations to you and JT. Second, thanks for taking the time to respond. Third, out of genuine concern for your marriage and for the institution of marriage in general, I respectfully disagree. I hope my disagreeing doesn’t in itself cause ill-feelings, but hear me out.

          My professor’s wife suffered a tragic accident earlier this semester, suffering tremendous brain damage. No one knew how long it would take her to recover or if she would recover at all. My professor has exemplified what it means to be a selfless, loving husband in this event more than I have ever seen in my life, and obviously not because of what he gained from her.
          A beauty of marriage that is considerably under attack in our current culture is lasting selfless commitment and the security that comes with that for the couple and any family involved. Dianne, his wife, had a husband who was committed to her through thick or thin. Everyone involved has noted how beautiful this picture of selfless love is. Of course, other women could promise him much more on MANY levels, but he has done nothing but support her privately and publicly since the incident. She’s getting remarkably better, if you were curious.

          The union of marriage should be the same commitment involved with a brother or sister, child, or mother. It’s deciding to unite two families, two independent people, into a bonded union. Would a father disown a child because the child no longer benefits him? If that union could be broken by simply not being happy, then that is extreme pressure on the other person to perform at a certain level.. because if they no longer make you happy enough then you are moving on. That is self-CENTERED love, or loving as long as it makes me happy. The model of marriage is most beautiful (as with my professor) when someone commits to love even when the other person fails them. That is self-LESS.
          Agree with me or not, at least attempt to see my argument and hear my encouragement for selfless, others first, love.

      • Aoife

        Michaelyn, you sound so damn lovely. And, well, from all the way over here on the other side of the internet it sounds like you and JT have a wonderful attitude towards each other and your relationship.

  • Sindri K

    I was at that panel this weekend. It sucked. I felt like I needed to get up there and say “HOLD ON! Let me give you some insight from a woman in a long term poly relationship”

    • Amyc

      I felt much the same, but I think Matt did a decent job of getting the poly voice out there. I don’t know if he and Beth are poly, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • Brad1990

    Aw man, I wish I was mature enough to have the kind of attitude JT has. By normal standards I am not a possessive guy, but I know full well that if I’m with a girl I actually care about, as opposed to something more casual, setting eyes upon the bloke she’d slept with would almost certainly result in me punching his lights out. In a long-term relationship I think I could be OK with it, but it certainly would not be a good idea for me to know who she sleeps with when I’m not around. Kudos to you, JT.

    • Michaelyn

      And kudos to you for recognizing your limits. You do you.

  • Brad1990

    Sorry, re. my above post *in a long-term, long-distance…

  • Debbie

    Hi. My husband and I have been happily married for 12 years and practicing poly for over half that time. This whole concept becomes a lot easier to understand when you remember is that marriage doesn’t equal ownership. If you truly love someone, you want to facilitate their happiness, period. Not their happiness “as long as it is provided by me.” For the folks who think “well, what if s/he becomes intimate with someone else and ends up liking that other person better than me?” my answer is that s/he should then be free to go with that person. What would the alternative be? To stay with your current spouse because of emotional coercion? Think about that for a minute… does anyone really want a spouse yearning to be elsewhere, and only remaining in the marriage out of a sense of duty? I certainly wouldn’t be happy knowing my husband felt he was “stuck” with me and that was the only reason he was still around.

    That said, I’m not bashing monogamous people or even monogamy in principle. What I *am* criticizing is the idea that monogamy is the one-size-fits-all template for marriage and the ideal relationship model (including for the chillllldruuuuun). My goodness, what damages children isn’t divorce/breakups per se, it’s the behavior of the adults involved, along with whatever societal stigma still remains. Bottom line, treat everyone involved respectfully throughout the entire relationship process and don’t be a dick. *That* is what you want to model for your children. For the record, I have two adult sons. One is practicing poly, one is mono. They are both well-adjusted and happy.

    • Aoife

      This this this this this.

  • baal

    I missed the live stream so I’m hoping a youtube or something will be available later?

  • RuQu

    I’m generally surprised by the amount of overlap between atheist activism and poly-activism.

    I also vaguely disapprove of the combination, as the two are not the same and putting them together does neither any favors. Atheism is already constantly fighting the battle of amoral baby-eating monsters. Many people consider faithfulness in marriage to be a basic moral rule, right up there with “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Nevermind how many people break it, it is considered a moral cornerstone. Conflating atheism and polyamory opens us up to fighting a two-front war, trying to simultaneously argue that atheists are perfectly capable of being moral and that there is nothing inherently wrong or immoral with polyamory. While the former is true and the latter may well be, they are not the same argument and we should not conflate the two, especially if doing so alienates people who would otherwise support us in one fight or the other.

    • Azkyroth

      Being poly by prior agreement IS being faithful, stupid.

      • RuQu

        Congratulations on missing the point.

  • RuQu

    One thing that bothers me about polyamory activism is that it almost always comes across as condescending. The most commonly seen (by me at least) arguments are along the lines of “I love them enough,” “I’m secure enough,” “I don’t own them,” etc. The obvious implication is that anyone who opposes polyamory is insecure, doesn’t trust their partner, doesn’t *really* love them or want them to be happy, and/or views marriage as a, possibly patriarchal, bond of ownership.

    There are lots of valid reasons to be monogamous. What if you don’t like your wife’s boyfriend, but she keeps bringing him around or even wants him to move in? You aren’t jealous, you liked previous boyfriends of hers, but this guy just annoys you. He doesn’t shower quite often enough, and when he does he always leaves his towel on your side of the bed so now your bed is damp. He never puts his dishes in the dishwasher. His feet stink. His taste in movies is terrible. Whatever. He annoys you, but she loves him. Now you are in a position of either suffering with this annoying roommate or declaring that your wife make some sort of choice: who she will live with, how much time she spends with each of you, etc.

    Pro-poly people frequently talk about, and you see this above, just how great their partner’s partners are, but we all know that that is not always the case. This is a complication that never happens in a monogamous marriage.

    There is also the health concern. You are exposed not just to who you are sleeping with, but everyone that they do. My wife and I do not use condoms. If our marriage was open, that no longer becomes a default assumption. Did we both use protection with our recent partners? If not, did they use protection with their recent partners? This is a concern that simply does not come up in a monogamous relationship.

    Then there are children. Obviously there are child-care advantages from a larger support network in a poly-relationship. However, there is also the concern for child support. If your wife conceived from one of her partners who lived with you, and then that partner leaves, can they file for paternity rights even though you are the legal husband? If so, is that fair to you? If not, is that fair to them? Either way, who pays for the child support? You can say “oh, these are things you agree to before hand,” but the very existence of divorce courts and their nasty nature is proof of how poorly that sort of discussion tends to work out after things fall apart. This is not a concern in a monogamous relationship, unless one of the partners broke their vow of monogamy in which case the situation is still generally more clear than in this poly-example.

    So monogamy greatly simplifies legal issues, health issues, paternity issues, and reduces personality conflicts and drama. It is also *not* just a matter of not loving the person enough to tolerate those extra complications. There are costs associated with almost every decision we make, and life is short. Picking one person and choosing to ignore the other options out there allows for a confidence in stability to enable long-term planning. When do you want kids? When will you retire? Where will you retire? How much do you need to retire on? Whose family do you visit for the holidays this year? These are questions that can require compromise even just between two people. For each person added, you have to add an additional set of balances and compromises. The “optimal” solution for the group can quickly become a solution that is nowhere near the “ideal” for any of the members, while in a monogamous relationship you likely aligned on a few key items in the first place or you wouldn’t have married, making the “optimal” solution a compromise that is still near the “ideal” for both of you.

    Finally, there is the issue of public policy. Society has certain interests that are maintained and enforced in policy and tax law. We want people to have kids, so we provide tax incentives and allow people to deduct part of their childcare costs. We want people to own homes, so we deduct that interest. However, each of these incentives and tax deductions carries a monetary cost, specifically the tax revenue not collected. Society has to choose what to subsidize, and do so based on things it considers worth that cost. Two-parent homes are deemed better than single parent homes, and most non-religious fundamentalist voters think a two-parent homosexual home is just as good as a two-parent heterosexual home, or at least better than a single-parent home. Before you can convince the masses to legalize polygamy and polyandry, you need to convince them that the benefit is worth the cost, and explain how to handle complications like survivor’s benefits from pensions and Social Security. Those are the sorts of things people have fought to get LGBT couples, but how do you address that for poly relationships? How do you justify the widow getting Social Security benefits when her husband dies if she has two other husbands and a wife all helping make ends meet?

    Marriage is not just between two people, it is also society’s endorsement of that relationship and financial subsidization.

    Monogamy has numerous advantages, none of which are related to patriarchy, tradition, control, or distrust. Polyamory faces enough enemies from tradition, religion, patriarchy, and the emotionally insecure that you can’t really afford to alienate anyone who might support you by being condescending about it.

    • Azkyroth


      One thing that bothers me about polyamory activism is that it almost always comes across as condescending.

      *skims the rest*


      • RuQu

        At least you are consistent. When it comes to virtues, better one than none, right?

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