Though polyamory's profile has risen in recent years, thanks to the Internet, it seems highly unlikely that the practice will ever become widespread. Some people simply can't fathom the lifestyle, and most governmental and legal systems around the world are set up to recognize the legal rights of a married man and woman heading a family (witness the difficulty gay couples have had trying to get another form of family recognized in many countries). Because polyamory seems so outside the norm, the stigma of this kind of lifestyle keeps many people "in the closet," so to speak. Polyamorous people may not tell their coworkers, friends or even their parents about the number of people they've chosen to love, out of fear of personal repercussions. Women, in particular, are known to keep quiet about polyamory, thanks to social stigmas about women who sleep around.
Women who have kids have a particular need to worry about keeping their lifestyle a secret. In 1999, polyamory made the news when a young child was removed from the custody of her mother, April Divilbiss. Divilbiss appeared on an MTV documentary about polyamory with her two boyfriends, neither of whom was the child's father. The child's paternal grandmother sued for custody and won; even though court counselors filed reports that the child's home was safe and happy, the judge ruled that Divilbiss' lifestyle was immoral and depraved [source: Cloud].
And of course, one drawback of polyamory is simply how complicated it can be to juggle so many relationships. While more partners might come with more pleasure, it can also come with more problems, and breaking up with one person can have ramifications beyond just the two people who have ended their relationship. Still, there's no evidence that polyamorous relationships break up any more or any less than monogamous relationships. In love, everyone takes the same chances.
For more on love and relationships, see the links below.
- Anapol, Deborah. "Love Without Limits Blog." Psychology Today. Aug. 23, 2010. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-without-limits
- Bennett, Jessica. "Only You. And You. And You." Newsweek. July 29, 2009. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.newsweek.com/2009/07/28/only-you-and-you-and-you.html
- Cloud, John. "Henry & Mary & Janet & …" Time. Nov. 15, 1999. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992556,00.html
- Doheny, Kathleen. "The Truth about Open Marriage." WebMD. Nov. 20, 2007. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/the-truth-about-open-marriage
- Echlin, Helena. "When two just won't do." The Guardian. Nov. 14, 2003. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/nov/14/gender.uk
- Emens, Elizabeth F. "Monogamy's Law: Compulsory Monogamy and Polyamorous Existence." New York University Review of Law and Social Change. 2004.
- Fox, Rose. "Poly 101." Polyamory Online. March 20, 2006. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.polyamoryonline.org/poly101.html
- Gerard, Jim. "Three's company: so is four or five." Salon. July 17, 1999. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.salon.com/health/sex/urge/1999/07/17/polyamory
- Hayes, Veronica. "Sex without rules." Salon. Jan. 23, 2002. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.salon.com/sex/feature/2002/01/23/poly
- Hesse, Monica. "Pairs with Spares." Washington Post. Feb. 13, 2008. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/12/AR2008021203072.html
- Lady Chimmerly. "Stranger in a super-friendly land." Salon. July 17, 1999. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.salon.com/health/sex/urge/1999/07/17/conference
- Langley, Liz. "Whole lotta love." Salon. June 14, 2007. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2007/06/14/polyamory
- Leith, William. "Welcome to the world of polyamory." The Observer. July 9, 2006. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2006/jul/09/familyandrelationships2
- Miller, Sandra A. "Love's new frontier." Boston Globe. Jan. 3, 2010. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2010/01/03/loves_new_frontier/
- Newitz, Annalee. "Love unlimited." New Scientist. July 8, 2006.
- PolyFamilies.com Web site. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://polyfamilies.com/
- Weitzman, Geri. "Therapy with Clients Who Are Bisexual and Polyamorous." Journal of Bisexuality. 2006. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.numenor.org/~gdw/psychologist/bipolycounseling.html
- Williams, Alex. "Hopelessly Devoted to You, You and You." New York Times. Oct. 5, 2008. (Feb. 28, 2011)http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/fashion/05polyamory.html