Polyamory, gay marriage, polygamy…Americans struggle with the definition of marriage. Embrace tradition or embrace changing sexual norms? Is the former backwards and is the latter progressive? What is marriage and what’s love got to do with it?
While Newsweek’s summer feature on polyamory claimed that half a million Americans live in polyamorous families, living with multiple sexual partners still instinctively repels American society. Polyamorous activists for social acceptance strategized by hopping on the gay marriage train. Gay marriage activists cringe at being grouped with this new contingent, and they have reason to stay clear of the affiliation. Jonathan Yarbrough, part of the first couple to get a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts made it clear that
I think it’s possible to love more than one person and have more than one partner. . . . In our case, it is. We have an open marriage.
Some conservatives predict that polyamorous partners feel emboldened by the gay marriage train. The Newsweek article quotes Glenn Stanton, the director of family studies for Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian group:
And while there’s part of me that says, ‘Oh, my goodness, I don’t think I could see them make grounds,’ there’s another part of me that says, ‘Well, just watch them.’
Whether they make strides or not, the place of self-proclaimed love in society is becoming ever more confusing. The gay marriage movement eschews the historical notion of traditional marriage and paradoxically claims that it won’t fundamentally change society but it will fundamentally change the way people view love – thus changing social norms. When asked why it can interfere with same-sex love, the National Organization for Marriage writes,
Love is a great thing. But marriage isn’t just any kind of love; it’s the special love of husband and wife for each other and their children.
So what’s wrong with Jonathan Yarbrough’s open marriage? Why did he get married if there’s a sleeping around provision? Why not just stay single?
If marriage is about strengthening community, protecting women, commitment, raising children in (statistically proven) the most beneficial homes, and economic stability (on the personal and societal level), how can other types of relationships fill the marriage definition? Gay marriage activists often reduce the argument to love, but throughout world history, marriage isn’t just about love. And, posing the question to polyamorous sympathizers, can you truly love more than one person?