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While there are different types of relationships, monogamy is one type that is more familiar than others. Beyond that, other types of relationships are often misidentified or confused with one another.
Two of these different types of relationships are polyamory and polygamy. While they do have some similarities in meaning, there are just as many distinct differences to note. So let's take a closer look at the difference between polygamy and polyamory.
What is Polygamy?
Marrying more than one person is referred to as polygamy. So it basically means having more than one wife or husband at the same time. This is the opposite of monogamy which is more common, and you have one spouse at any given point in time.
At one point, polygamy was widespread across parts of the world and is still practiced by some to this day.
What is Polyamory?
Polyamory, on the other hand, is when a person has multiple, intimate relationships simultaneously. Therefore polyamory is a non-monogamous relationship and basically refers to people who have multiple romantic partners at the same time.
However, simply because a polyamorous person can be involved in multiple relationships at the same time does not mean that they can simply have casual sexual partners. In fact, each partner is aware of the other ones in a polyamorous relationship.
The Difference between Polygamy and Polyamory
The reality is that both polyamory and polygamy are faced with various degrees of prejudice, depending on the region you’re living in. While polyamory is quite a laid-back choice made by liberals based in locations like Paris, London, Seattle, and Stockholm, polygamy is unremarkable in places such as Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
However, both are viewed as confusing and perhaps even dangerous in other parts of the world. For instance, in the US, bigamy is illegal. And when we say bigamy, we mean being married to two or more people at the same time.
However, polyamory is not illegal; technically, but some people in polyamorous relationships are threatened by law enforcement officials. In fact, polyamorous individuals are often intimidated with prosecution for adultery even though these relationships are completely consensual.
Another reality is that people in polyamorous and polygynous relationships live in suburban and urban areas across the United States. They also blend in seamlessly with the rest of the neighborhood. Because of having ex-spouses, new partners, kids from previous marriages, and blended families, polyamory and polygamy are not even noticeable in this day and age.
Additionally, lots of people involved in these relationship types live in shared housing that includes other family members, friends, roommates, and their partners and/or children. So polyamorous relationships tend to blend in when it comes to scenarios like these.
However, some polyamorous families or polygamist families with multiple parents and children are quite large. Another interesting fact is that some polyamorous individuals choose to live alone. And these are the ones who identify themselves as solo polyamorous people.
One of the main differences between polyamory and polygamy is gender. When it comes to polyamory, anyone of any sex can have more than one partner. So the sex of the person or their partners doesn't necessarily matter.
On the other hand, polygamy is more of a heterosexual type of relationship. So one person has many spouses of the opposite sex. And one of the most common forms of polygamy is polygyny, when a man has many female partners or, more specifically, wives. However, another form of polygamy is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man.
Traditionally, and throughout human history, having more than one partner presented a scenario where one man has many women or wives. So the concept of partners of different genders having multiple partners of any gender is a fairly new practice, and this now due to the fact that that many forms of gender expression have become more visible.
Therefore more people are getting together with gender-diverse people. It's also not very common for one woman to have more than one male partner. In fact, in many religions, it is considered taboo.
However, nowadays, one woman can have multiple male lovers when practicing polyamory. This is more prevalent around the globe in the Western and Northern parts of the world.
In certain parts of the world, such as Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, women are not allowed to have multiple male partners. However, men are allowed to have multiple wives. However, the same countries prevent women from driving and accessing certain public spaces.
Therefore women in these parts of the world don't have the freedom and control of their lives as women in other parts of the world. In most cases, women's marriages are arranged for them by family members who negotiate with the future husband and his family, especially in cases where the potential husband is still quite young.
So the women in other parts of the world who are allowed the freedom to access education and independence are also allowed to practice polyamory. Polyamory is quite popular in Canada, Australia, Western Europe as well as the United States. These regions allow equality between men and women, and female literacy is quite high in these places.
Polygyny is a big part of certain religions and cultures that allow wealthy men to marry multiple women. However, men who hail from poor backgrounds are not allowed the same privilege. In the USA alone, there are two main religious sub-cultures that practice polygamy.
The first subculture is Muslims. Most Muslims in the United States are mainly African-Americans or non-natives from Muslim cultures; however, there are white individuals that have converted to Islam.
The second subculture is fundamentalist Mormons and the latter-day saints, and they are almost exclusively white. There are a few Christian factions in the United States that have allowed men to marry multiple women.
Polyamory, however, is not closely related to religion. In fact, most people who prefer to practice polyamorous relationships do not consider themselves religious people, and some are even atheists or rationalists.
How do you know if Polygamy or Polyamory is Right for you?
When it comes to non-monogamous relationships, there isn't a test or specific criteria to determine whether this can work for you. However, there are a few questions that you can ask yourself to determine whether it's even a possibility. Some of the questions to consider include:
- Are you capable of committing to multiple people?
- Are you capable of being attracted to more than one person?
- Are you a jealous person? This is quite an important question to consider because if you are jealous and you cannot process it or communicate this effectively with your partners, then polyamory may not be the best choice for you.
- Can you organize your time well? Here again, juggling work and still being able to make time for your relationship is already quite a commitment; however, will you be able to make time for multiple partners?
- Would you feel comfortable loving someone who has one or more other partners? This is obviously an equally important question and will ultimately determine whether you're a one-woman man one-man woman.
Common Misconceptions of Non-Monogamous Relationships
It's no secret that both polyamory and polygamy have stigmas attached to them, and it's largely due to misrepresentation by the media. So let's take a closer look at some of these myths:
Polyamory and polygamy are disorders
It is not a disorder to want to or be able to love more than one person at a time.
Cheating is when your partner isn't aware of or hasn't given their consent for you to date other people. With polyamory, it is completely consensual.
Polyamorous relationships often lead to disaster
Every type of relationship comes with challenges, even monogamous ones. Lots of people believe that polyamorous people are scared of commitment, so they choose to be involved with multiple people yet never commit to a single one. On the contrary, polyamorous people can commit to multiple partners.
Polyamory is an open relationship
Polyamory is different from open relationships because there are dedicated people who have given their consent to be intimate with one another, but no one outside that group is allowed to be intimate with any member of the polyamorous group.
The Verdict: Proceed with Caution
If you're considering embarking on one of these non-monogamous relationships, do your research. There's plenty of info out here to help you determine whether it's right for you.
You'll need to understand the different forms of non-monogamy and also find a suitable relationship structure for you and your partners. Talking to your current partner is another major step to finding out how open they are to the idea.
Navigating jealousy, being open about it with family and friends, and managing your time are things you'll need to consider before taking the first step to become polyamorous or polygamous.
For more information about polyamory or polygamy, reach out to us!