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How on earth can *marriage* fit in with polyamory?! - There's something about Mary... — LiveJournal

Jun. 4th, 2011 02:54 pm How on earth can *marriage* fit in with polyamory?!

Something that various family and friends have asked me about, since I got engaged to timpootle,  is how the concept of marriage can possibly be compatible with polyamory.  

I paraphrase below (not a direct quote, but it gives an idea) an example of how the question is phrased: 

The idea of you getting married puzzles me.
I take marriage vows very seriously.
A marriage is about making a commitment to one person for the rest of your life. 
It seems odd to enter into it with no intentions to stick to the core values of what makes a marriage.

So, below I have tried to explain how it works in my head, in case this is something that any of you have wondered about too.  As with my last live-journal entry, I would be happy to answer any questions you have via comments to this LJ post.

I understand people wondering why I am marrying Tim.

I guess it depends what one regards as the 'core values' of marriage. The English/Christian tradition is monogamy. In some other parts of the world one can have multiple marriages and multiple wives/husbands.

I take the vows seriously, and I do see it as a very important life-time commitment.
But I don't see it as, necessarily, needing to be an exclusive commitment, just with one person - Tim and I won't be promising to love each other 'foresaking all others'.

If, in the future, another partner and I were to feel that we wanted to make a lifetime commitment to one another as well, then I think we could.
Of course, in English law I can only have one marriage certificate, but one can draw up equivalent legal documentation to confer rights on (and financial links with) another partner, and of course one could have some kind of commitment ceremony to go with it.

Considering my relationship with my fiancé, Tim:

Tim and I have been romantically involved for 7 and a half years, and living together for 7 of those years. We have reached the point where we want to commit to our mutual love, for our life-times; and to give one another legal/financial rights too.

So the point of marrying Tim, as far as I am concerned, is for he and I to declare our commitment in front of family and friends, and to strengthen the ties between us in law as well.
By far the best way to accomplish this, in the UK, is to have a non-religious marriage ceremony.

So, where would other partners fit in to this?

There is an inevitable imbalance between my different polyamorous relationships, and I believe that imbalance would exist even if I didn't marry Tim, because my relationships are each very different.

My relationships are at different stages/phases, and/or are conducted differently from one another, in various ways, due to a number of factors:
e.g. - How long the relationship has existed - one is in a very different 'emotional place' with a partner of 30 years then one is perhaps with a partner of 8 years, or with a partner of 2 months.
e.g. - Geography - a long-distance relationship will have a different dynamic from a relationship with a local partner, which is different again from that with a cohabiting partner.
e.g. - My partner's other commitments - is that partner monogamous to me? Or do they have other partners/family to consider as well?

So I don't think of marriage as creating an imbalance; partly because there are plenty of differences between one's relationships already; but also because, as I have suggested above, I think my partners and I could take steps to equalise differences, if I found myself at some time in the future wanting to commit (for life) to another partner as well as Tim.

As I see it, with any new polyamorous relationship, there are several possible outcomes for the future:

- One possibility is that the pair of us come to realise that we don't 'click' romantically, and revert to simply being friends.
- Another possibility is that we continue to be involved romantically long-term, though remain separate financially/geographically and are happy for the relationship to exist pretty much like that forever.
- And a third possibility is that we find ourselves wanting to make a more formal commitment further down the line, and live together, etc. In that event, we might consider having a 'commitment ceremony' akin to a wedding ceremony, and we could draw up some legal paperwork, similar to marriage rights, to link us financially etc - the paperwork gets complex here, but I know of other polyamorous triads/quads/etc who have made it work for them, in the UK.

So, in my head, the point of a marriage within a polyamorous set-up is almost the same as the point of a 'normal' monogamous marriage - it is still a life-time commitment to one I love - for me the only difference is the exclusivity bit, in that I have more than one love.
And for me, that isn't an issue: - further down the line, should another partner and I end up feeling we want to be married, we could construct a similar (though in British law it can't, currently, be identical) ceremony and legal framework for our 'marriage'. 
And that partner, myself, and Tim, could live happily ever after :-)
I know of several other poly people who have a wife/husband and make a marriage work alongside other relationships very well.  I would be interested to read their thoughts on how they make it work; how it fits for them, within the polyamorous mind-set.

7 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry


Date:June 4th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)
I didn't find it odd when you anounced your engagement to Tim. I just thought you would marry him and carry on your other relationships as before. Seems kinda normal to me.

Date:June 4th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I think people quite often behave like complete prats when they're trying to impose on other people their opinions of what a marriage should be. Especially where poly is concerned...
Date:June 5th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
This :)
Date:June 4th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm monogamously (is that a word?!) married, but see no reason why you shouldn't choose to marry your primary partner. I look forward to congratulation you both in person at some point :)
Date:June 4th, 2011 06:40 pm (UTC)
My personal opinion is that if all parties are aware of each other and consenting to the arrangement then its all good, as I do not approve of infidelity in any way shape or form especially when married, and if everyone is aware and consenting then its not cheating. Polyamory is all about the knowing and consenting so I applaud you for finding wonderful people to share your life with. I hope you are eternally happy with your chosen partners, married or not x
Date:June 5th, 2011 12:08 pm (UTC)
You're want to make a deeper commitment to someone you love, and they want to make a deeper commitment to you. All I have to say on that is 'congratulations' for finding yourself in a relationship that is growing stronger over many years.

(On my flist are a married poly-person with kids & external web [about which I know no details], a member of a long-term living-together triad, and a person in a four-person, two formal marriages [?, one at least] household with one kid. Poly has passed well into the realm of normal for me.)
From:martin yates
Date:July 1st, 2011 05:26 am (UTC)


Hi Mary
I'm just starting to learn about Poly. A few weeks ago, my wife admitted she had feelings for a guy. I felt no threat whatsoever, and I told her to just go for it.

I thought it was weird for me to have that attitude, but now I'm learning all I can about Polyamory. My wife doesnt want to progress in that direction, but at least Ive planted the seed for her, and I wait with interest! I said to her that seeing as I agree with it, if we can get his wife to agree, then thats all fine !

I admire you being so public about this, and soon, lets hope it will be accepted the same way that gay is.