Scientific American recently published and article on their website “New Sexual Revolution: Polyamory May Be Good for You” on Valentine’s Day this year.
On Valentine’s Day, images of couples are everywhere. They’re buying each other diamond rings, making eyes over expensive restaurant meals and canoodling over chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. But two-by-two isn’t the only way to go through life. In fact, an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex — with their partner’s full permission.
These consensually nonmonogamous relationships, as they’re called, don’t conform to the cultural norm of a handholding couple in love for life. They come in a dizzying array of forms, from occasional “swinging” and open relationships to long-term commitments among multiple people. Now, social scientists embarking on brand-new research into these types of relationships are finding that they may challenge the ways we think of jealousy, commitment and love. They may even change monogamy for the better.
It is no secret that communication is essential to any thriving relationship. It is also no secret that the majority of successful couples in the lifestyle are excellent communicators. An article recently posted in Scientific American pointed out that many monogamous couples could learn a lot from those practicing polyamory and swinging. It focused mainly on the clear communication skills and the lack of jealously often found in consensually non monogamous relationships.
The idea of compersion was a point that I found especially interesting. I had never heard the word used, and I always enjoy adding to my vocabulary. Compersion is described as the opposite of jealously. It is usually used to define the joy one feels for a partner when they find happiness with someone else. This concept is commonly practiced by those in the lifestyle as well as those in polyamorous relationships, however it is rarely exhibited in monogamous partnerships. In fact in place of compersion, individuals in monogamous relationships would likely react with negative emotions. “Basic emotions work very differently in polyamorous relationships,” the Scientific American article explains.
While I imagine it might be difficult for monogamous couples to practice compersion, most could still stand to strengthen their communication and negotiating skills. “One thing that seems to unite the polyamorous community is a real enthusiasm for digging into emotions,” the article states. This enthusiasm is something that could have a very positive effect on any type of relationship. Keeping your partner aware of your feelings and desires are key factors in a successful partnership.
The article also pointed out that those in consensually non monogamous relationships tend to be diligent when it comes to practicing safe sex, especially when compared to individuals who are “cheating” on their significant others. I found this unsurprising but still unsettling nonetheless.
A study referenced in the article also found that polyamorous individuals are smarter than the population as a whole. This is based on the fact that they hold more doctoral and master’s degrees than the general population. Still, despite their schooling, the sample group was not particularly more wealthy than the general population. This led researchers to believe that the majority of polyamorous individuals were more concerned with life experiences than wealth.
I suppose the moral is, even if you don’t agree with the idea of a non monogamous relationship, there are still some very positive things that can be learned from those that do. If you haven’t already, I definitely recommend reading the full Scientific American article for some more interesting information about polyamory.
Wikipedia definition of compersion