I recently had an interesting conversation with a family friend who posed the question: what will be the next big social argument when gay marriage stops being such a big deal? After tossing out a few ideas, we landed on polygamy, a topic I admitted to being uncomfortable with.
The word polygamy brings to mind Utah communes and child brides, of geriatrics married to scads of pre-pubescent girls. This is the only exposure most people have to the idea of polygamy.
This differs from my mental image of polyamory, which is a romantic/sexual relationship between more than two consenting adults, usually with one primary relationship within the group. Granted, I had not heard much about polyamory either, but at least everyone involved was legal. After doing research, I found out that polyamory has a bit of a bad reputation too. The wider notion of polyamorous people is that they’re slutty, selfish, and inconsiderate. But I have also heard first-hand accounts of polyamory, and the communication and empathy necessary to maintain such a relationship are impressive. Polyamorous relationships can be quite functional as long as each person involved is honest, caring, and understanding.
My research of polyamory has not changed my opinion of polygamy per se, given that many of the examples of polygamy do include a skewed power structure and underage children. But I do feel more informed and confident about polyamory and in consenting adults’ ability to engage in their relationships as they see fit.