Three’s not a crowd? Researcher argues polyamorous relationships just as beneficial as monogamy

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Should singles focus on finding “the one,” or is it alright to have more than one romantic partner? A new study argues that being in a polyamorous relationship can bring the same physical and emotional benefits of monogamy. While there’s still a stigma surrounding people who have multiple lovers at the same time in many cultures, estimates show roughly one in 20 Americans say they’re currently in a consensually non-monogamous relationship.

Justin Clardy, a professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University, says that modern society often views monogamy as the “ideal” form of romantic love. This starts in childhood, as many books and films portray true happiness as finding your one true soulmate for life. At the same time, Clardy notes that governments offer financial, legal, and even social incentives to married couples — such as tax breaks.

Meanwhile, the researcher says people who engage in romantic relationships which stray from the norm are often on the receiving end of public shaming or criticism.

So, is there really an ‘ideal relationship’ in modern society?

Clardy explains that many legal and political scholars are now debating whether societies should reform their policies regarding familial law. This would recognize a wider variety of relationships, other than the traditional husband-wife relationship. Moreover, Clardy says his studies show people in non-monogamous relationships thrive just as much as those who choose to stay with one person.

“Polyamorists face the risk of being fired, denied housing or citizenship, or having their children taken away from them because of their polyamorous identities and lifestyles,” Clardy claims in a media release.

“However, in many cases poly relationships are more durable than monogamous ones, because their flexibility allows them to meet shifting needs over time in a way that monogamous relationships don’t.”

In his book, “Why It’s OK To Not Be Monogamous,” the researcher explains that there is a theory suggesting that humans evolved to be monogamous because of the extra care their newborn babies need — since children emerge at a younger gestational age than other mammals.

Monogamy is therefore seen as the ‘natural’ order of things. However, many homosexual and heterosexual monogamous couples either do not want, or cannot have children, yet this doesn’t exclude them from being able to marry, and enjoy the rights and privileges that come with marriage,” Clardy continues.

“Others may see monogamy as a moral command given by God, however does this mean that atheists and agnostics are disqualified from romantic love, even if they find themselves in happy, healthy, and satisfying monogamous romantic relationships?”

Bride and groom figures on a wedding cake
(Photo courtesy

Why do people argue against polyamory?

In the researcher’s book, which attempts to debunk these theories, Clardy notes that one of the most common arguments against polyamory is that (eventually) someone is going to get jealous and unwilling to share their lover’s affection. However, the author says many monogamous couples experience this as well. In fact, vulnerability, possessiveness, and a sense of entitlement to another person’s love are often key problems in monogamous relationships.

Conversely, Clardy contends that polyamorists are able to refocus their attention on how their partner is doing in their other intimate relationships.

“When governed by mutual consent and understanding, polyamorous relationships can allow people to share more fully in the happiness of others,” Clardy adds. “This can be achieved by confronting and managing one’s vulnerability, by softening our propensity to be jealous, and by learning to pay attention to the flourishing of others.”

Another argument against polyamorists is that non-monogamy damages the “family unit.” This may lead to divorce and families fracturing. Clardy, however, says his research finds that polyamorous families do exist in modern society, and they can actually benefit children.

“It may not take an entire village to raise a child, but it stands to reason that all things being equal, having more than one ‘father’ or ‘mother’ as a caregiver may be even more conducive to meeting children’s needs, as children may be loved and nurtured in unconventional families,” Clardy explains.

“Indeed, it may turn out that on average, the existence of more than two caregivers is the superior parenting arrangement.”

“Polyamorous relationships need support and protection that the state is uniquely able to provide and is best placed to carry out,” Clardy concludes. “Just because a way of relating might deviate from well-established social norms like monogamy, this does not mean that they don’t have considerable value— morally, socially, or politically.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. A majority of “couples” only want another woman. OPP is more important then the love from the potential partner.

    1. Well, unicorn hunting as you describe is a very patriarchal and limited form of polyamory. Hopefully it’s less about “couple seeks a third” and more about “individuals acknowledge that one person may not necessarily meet 100% of their needs”

  2. So basically no hard proof. Just opinion. And the argument of raising children is easier with more than one father or mother. Please! That’s straight up bs. Yes, a child needs more than one caregiver: 2 grandpas, 2 grandmas, aunts, uncles, close family friends, well paid respected teachers. But since we are in a society that values individualism and underfunded its school system while replacing community with a “meet my needs now” attitude: we want to replace the intergenerational family unit with our selfish needs partners. Please. And use the kids as an excuse for the bs…. come on. Give me a break.

    1. Humans evolved in tribes. These tribes consisted of many families working together. Each child had many mothers and many fathers. These tribal units still exist in many places around the world today. The question, “are humans monogamous,” can’t be answered definitively, but the evidence suggests we are not. This is supported by the fact that most cultures have polygamist roots, if you go back far enough. However, polygamy is harmful to society and most cultures have pushed to remove it, for that reason. Polyamory, on the other hand, is beneficial to society. Instead of creating an imbalance in society, it brings it together, which is closer to our tribal origins.

  3. Polyamorous relationships don’t seem any worse
    than serial monogamous relationships.

    Back in the bad old days,
    monogamy was almost the only defense
    against dreadful, incurable venereal diseases.
    Monogamy also provided assurance of paternity
    in the days before effective birth control was available
    and paternity could be proven.
    Modern medicine has changed the playing field.

    Also, if the argument for gay marriage
    is that a person should be able to marry
    the person they love
    wouldn’t it stand to reason
    that a person should be able to marry
    the people they love.

    Personally, I have no desire
    to disappoint two women.

    1. I’m all for a polamorous realitionship. I have enough love in my heart for 2 women.

  4. I have been in a polyamorous relationship with 3 men for 5+ years and my children are grown. Monogamous couples have their thing and i have mine. I don’t damn them and they should not damn mine. No one person can ever fulfill everything you want or need in life and anyone who says they can or do, is lying. The men in my life are incredibly busy powerful businessmen. Each, on their own, would have no time to have a complete relationship. But they have time to have a beautiful, wonderful polyamorous relationship. They are wonderful souls who would do anything for me but their time is limited due to work. Does this mean they are unworthy of love and a fulfilling relationship? Of course not. This works perfect for us. Every relationship is different and no one should care why anyone has a different type of one than their own. So call it BS or nay say it. But i simply call it love.

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