The Discussion on Polyamory / People With More Than One Romantic Partner

So there appears to be quite the discussion in the UU Blogosphere on polyamory – that is, people who are not so much into monogamy (one partner) but feel okay with or pulled toward having more than one romantic partner or loves – poly (many) amory (loves). I posted on this a little while back, but not in the context of the independent affiliates discussion, which you can read about here and here.

The Lively Tradition has been the main poster (here too), with Boy in the Bands, Chalice Chick, Never Say Never to Your Traveling Self, Liberal Faith Development chiming in, and Philocrites referring us some of his older posts.

A lot has been said. I guess I just want to highlight the need for a parsing of two separate issues. One is if Unitarian Universalists should, as a movement, support legal rights for polyamorous folks, and/or should we spend our time and energy thinking and talking about the importance of this as a legal question.

The other issue is if it is possible for consenting adults to love and/or relate intimately to more than one other person at a time with honesty and integrity, and without causing harm to children involved in that relationship, and without somehow threatening the minimal social framework that keeps the universe as stable as it is (which is not very, but it could be worse). You get the idea – is polyamory just weird and bad and something to be avoided, or at the very least kept quiet, or can it be a reasonably normal, okay thing that is certainly not going to become the norm, but isn’t scary or weird or messing up kids.

As you can see, I am trying to move away from an ultra-careful phrasing of this, as so many people have taken a lot of time to do in the comments sections on some of the other postings. I’m trying to de-dramatize this a little bit, I suppose, but also I’ve never been one for treatises arguing super-logically, and rationally on every point because I don’t think this is how most people think.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to say is that I think folks on all sides of this need to be clearer about what they are talking about. The UUPA (Unitarian Universalist for Polyamorous Awareness) claims that their thing is about just that – awareness. The recognition that there are people in partnerships with more than one other person in our congregations, so we need to figure out a way to minister to these folks with love and care. I, naively, often take people at their word, it seems that there is actually a bit of a bigger agenda at least in parts of the UUPA. I am not all that familiar with how this bigger agenda has been communicated, but it seems like a lot of people are aware of it, and it has something to do with sort of taking the marriage/legal rights thing on in a similar way that the UUs did with same-sex marriage. That said, it seems like some who are not so pro-polyamory are conflating the moral/ethical questions related to polyamory automatically with whether or not this should result in legal recognition of marriage and/or whether or not UUs should take this on as a project.

So, in sum, all I am saying at this point is that this is a sticky issue, and it makes a lot of sense for everyone to be clearer about what they are talking about:

1) legal-rights/marriage/UUA-as-a-lobbying-organization/UUism-as-a-platform-for-political causes OR

2) the potential/reality of polyamory/multiple-partner-relationships to be ethical and just (and how, if at all, this relates to theological questions).

To me, these are separate issues because even if you think that poly relationships can be just lovely for all involved, it is another question whether you think that should be a legally recognized entity, and another one whether you think it is wise for our movement to somehow take this on as one of our “things”.

I have opinions on all of this, but I don’t feel like I have the patience to articulate it in a way that would suit anyone. Maybe another time.

I just hope everyone can be respectful and nice about this whole thing. I hate it when people get mean about things like this.

Much peace, Elizabeth

4 Responses to The Discussion on Polyamory / People With More Than One Romantic Partner

  1. the Lively Traditionalist says:

    I call the distinction you make between how we treat folks in multi-partnered relationships in our congregation and whether we should think those relationships should be legalized etc. as the difference between the pastoral and public ministry. It’s an important distinction, but the two spheres overlap at some point. Do you say that 3-person relationships are as “socially beneficial”, or “morally equivalent”, or “just as good as” 2-person relationships, even if all you doing is talking within the congregation? Once your pastoral support for people in 3-person relationships includes general statements validating those relationships, you have moved into another kind of ministry, one that I very reluctant to do.

  2. mskitty says:

    My stance on this so far has been that if I were asked, as a minister, to sanctify a polyamorous relationship, I would not do so. My reason for this stance is that I simply do not know of poly relationships which are longtime and successful. I have no personal acquaintance with poly families (at least as far as I know now), though I know one couple with children which calls itself a poly family and is looking for another mate.

    What I have seen is nonmonogamous men/women who want their mates to sanction their extramarital sexual relationship(s).

    I am dubious about the success rate of poly relationships. I would not be in favor of a public statement championing the legalization of poly marriages. I don’t think it’s the same thing as same-sex marriage. There is a lot of evidence that same sex marriages are successful and longterm and good for children. There is not that same body of evidence, as far as I can tell, for poly marriage.

  3. […] positive attitude seems to be replicated in most left-wing discussions of polyamory, for example among Unitarians, in Pagan circles, and in queer communities (though BDSM is also generally accepted in the LGBT […]

  4. […] and I don’t want to reignite some sort of dramatic blogosphere discussion (as happenend in July). But I did want to point out Susie Bright’s recent posting on polyamory, “Peppermint, […]

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