If you don’t know the difference between polyamory and polygamy, it’s time you did. Poor polys; they are constantly having to explain the two to friends, families, and outsiders – fending off judgements from the monogamist crowd. Is the problem just because the two words sound the same? It probably doesn’t help.
Polygamists have garnered more of the spotlight when it comes to tv shows and the news, perhaps because polyamorists tend to live a quieter lifestyle that isn’t as recognizable. Some people say many loves, many spouses, what’s the difference. Let me explain:
Polyamory means many loves. Some of these loves marry and some do not. How polys engage with their various loves can vary: living together, dating only, long-distance relationships, co-parenting, triads, quads, and on and on… Marriage may involve primary partners with thirds and fourth partners, but the ideal of marriage is not a goal for many polys.
Polygamy means many marriages. This lifestyle could even be seen as a form of polyamory. The focus is on commitment to and marriages with multiple partners. This may also include a hierarchy of partners and various living arrangements.
Polyamory is not based in religion and does not aim for any religious or spiritual goals. Wanting to give and receive love with many others is usually the top reason for practicing polyamory, but as with any lifestyle choice there are always many personal reasons for following this path. Unfortunately, many religious groups don’t condone or understand polyamorists’ point of view.
Polygamy, although not connected by definition to religion, has (in the United States) become tied to fundamental Mormonism. Beliefs include that men who are married to many women will gain spiritual gain in the afterlife.
Polyamory functions with both men and women in egalitarian relationships. There can (like polygamy) be a one man with multiple female loves, but it’s all based on choice not because of expectation. And these poly groups can often shift over time. Some polys may be involved with a group of only their own gender. Any domination (male or female) comes from adding bdsm to the mix, not because of a predestined gender role.
Polygamy is dominated by men. Although the term “many spouses” is not gender specific, it does refer to many wives who are most often submissive, and not in the bdsm way. These women usually don’t get to choose or approve their partners (sister wives) or make big decisions like how many children they will be raising. And unlike polyamory, the women are not allowed to take on other partners.
Polys: Do you find yourself having to explain these differences to others?