Polyamory – Too Much Love?

Real Relationship Advice

Too much of anything is usually not good for you but, what about if it is love? What about if you were to be loved by more than just your spouse/ partner? Relationships take many forms and now one of the trendiest forms is polyamory. Polyamory is the lifestyle where you can have several loves and, usually, these loves are all aware of the other. In some cases, polyamorous couples flock together and form unique families. Polyamory is based on the principles that there is enough love, intimacy and sex to go around.  It is considered a mature, consensual relationship among multiple adults. Now, you know how CoupleDumb feels about too many men/women on the field. However, in the case of polyamory you have less of a focus on sex and more on a loving relationship with more than one person.

We don’t want to step on any toes or invalidate the lifestyle of anyone. Polyamory is a lifestyle choice. Unlike homosexuality, polyamory is chosen by people who feel that they can ‘love big’ and they have more than enough to spread around. This is the major contention we have with this. Why? If you feel that you can commit to one persona and love them ‘big’ why not love the hell out of one person?  Why can’t you create one amazing relationship instead of several nice relationships?

We have not as a society mastered the art of relationship so the idea that there are some individuals with ability to masterly love multiple people is kind of hard to believe. One of the arguments that is given against polyamory is the notion that a person in multiple love relationships will spread themselves out too thin. Or, in easier terms, there is a limited amount of love. Polyamorists counter that that argument is one of scarcity and that love is boundless. They often bring up the example of having more than one child. Can you love each child with all your heart or will one of them receive less love because there is a finite amount?

We applaud their arguments and agree that love is limitless. We agree that living in scarcity is a pandemic and we should all work to change that mentality. We will not argue the limit of love but we will argue the definition of what it entails to maintain a relationship. Love is not enough. As evidenced by long distance relationships, one can love another with the same intensity as the sun however that is not enough to maintain a relationship. And we would argue that the idea that love is all you need in a relationship is immature and shows signs that polyamorous relationships are stuck in an adolescent fantasy. A relationship requires friendship, loyalty, fidelity, love and presence. It is very easy to say that you will be there but being present with multiple people is not. This is where you will spread yourself thin. You cannot be there for everyone all the time. That’s just science.

One of the biggest problems with polyamory is the concept of possessiveness. Individuals in the lifestyle become possessive of one of their lovers and this causes the entire system to go into dysfunction. They argue that people are not possessions to be owned and that possessiveness shows immaturity. We would argue that possessiveness is a sign of not feeling safe in the relationship. When we feel that we are losing someone we tend to hold tighter. This does not work in a polyamourous relationship.

We would argue that polyamorous people know the limitations of a polyamourous society. They know that regardless of their philosophy, they do have favorites and form hierarchies. We argue that too many loves make you tired and you can’t be present with all of them when they need it. This is not a sexual critique but merely a comment as to the real meaning of a relationship.

38 comments

  • Aamanda

    Interesting. I completely disagree but I’d be really interested to know where your evidence for your arguments comes from 🙂 Would you mind sharing? The studies I have seen don’t support this at all and I’d like to make sure I have a balanced body of evidence.

    • LeeReyesFournier

       @Aamanda This area of relationship has limited research. It is interesting that the majority of research you find are conducted by people living the lifestyle thus the idea of balanced body of evidence is not available. While I do not condemn any lifestyle entered into by consenting adults, I do question how an individual fairs in such a community. Communal living, egalitarian societies and group marriages tend to surrender the ideal of individuality. For some people, that is great. For others, depending on their level of individuation and  development may forego that for this lifestyle. Is the lifestyle right for you? Only you can decide. 

      • MoreThanNuclear

         @LeeReyesFournier  @Aamanda ” the majority of research you find are conducted by people living the lifestyle…”  Again, do you have evidence for this?  Generally, published academic research doesn’t detail the “lifestyle” of the researchers, so I can’t imagine how you would know this.Even if there was a lack of a balanced body of evidence, would that make it okay to ignore all of it, and just make a bunch of stuff up based on your own preconceptions and prejudices, as you have done here?

      • Aamanda

         @LeeReyesFournier  Actually, no. There is a great deal of research on this subject across many cultures and going back 5 decades and what is ‘interesting’ (as @MoreThanNuclear says below) is how you answer my request for evidence with more sweeping claims you can’t evidence.
        I challenge your assertion that you “question how an individual fairs in such a community”  You don’t. (Maybe you should, as there are plenty of people who would be happy to answer that for you – for good and for bad). You do everything *but* question, you assume, presume and speculate. You say communal living and group marriages  “surrender the ideal of individuality”? In what possible way is this distinct from any communal family living? Where are you getting this information from? Has it honestly not occurred to you that telling a vast population of people that their life and loves are invalid adolescent fantasies for the emotionally insecure *might* be something you ought to have damn good evidence for?Your reasoning is deeply flawed and biased and the prejudices you reveal under the guise of ‘advice’ should earn you no respect as a blogger let alone a psychotherapy professional. Frankly I find it all deeply concerning.

        • LeeReyesFournier

           @Aamanda  @MoreThanNuclear Amanda, I’m sorry. What you call research is anecdotal with a very limited sample. Most actual research notes the limited amount of research as to the “health” of the lifestyle and merely relates the tenants. This is understandable with the amount of prejudice out there. My remarks are tame next to the others but if you felt that I judged your lifestyle, then I apologize. However, my opinion is not just based on speculation but after 20+ years working with clients of various sexualities. 
          As for putting a link in a comment, you have a blog and know that that is not how professional bloggers do things. I would love to let you rebut our post, however, with respect and not with name-calling. 
          When I say “I question” it is because I would like to see quantitative research as to this very thing! I see some studies as to polyamory. Social Anthropologists like Dr. Wolfe have done a lot of work on researching the history of the lifestyle and yet also explains some of the problems some participants have with it (namely jealousy/possessiveness). I would like to see studies on individuality within poly societies! I would like to see the effects of a “responsible practice of non-monogamy” (Klesse)  in a longitudinal study.
          Before you make blanket statements as to our writings, you may want to know who we are. Our statements/posts are opinions. Once again we apologize if you felt offended but some of your comments are offensive, as well.  
           

        • Aamanda

           @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear1) I am not and have never claimed to be a professional blogger.2) My statements wrt your writings are evidenced and explained in the link you took exception to me sharing. I see no benefit in reposting it at length here.3) What “name calling” do you refer to?4) Your prejudice being ‘tamer’ than others is not an excuse worth discussing.5) Your experience working with clients of various sexualities is nowhere close to a scientifically valid sample and should not be generalised from. You’re a psychotherapist – did it not occur to you that your opinions might be based on a disproportionately troubled sample?6) What blanket statements do you refer to? I read your introduction/about page, I already know what you want me to know about you. If your readers need more information than you provide to respond to your ‘advice’ I suggest you revise your copy.7) Your blog reads accurately as a psychotherapist referring to themselves as a “relationship expert” giving “relationship advice” – you *do not* make clear these are your opinions. The sub heading of the piece in question is “Real Relationship Advice” for Heaven’s sake! You portray these prejudices as science and advice and it is to this and your invalid extrapolations from a clinically troubled sample that I take such objection to.Please just consider for a moment the fact that there are emotionally mature adults who put a lot of work into maintaining fulfilling and supporting relationships with more than one person. Adults who aren’t adolescent in their world view, who are not blind to the difficulties of polyamory or think that love alone is enough but rather think that love is precious and worth the extra practical effort to nurture it wherever it is found, who see these additional complexities as simple compared to the restriction to total sexual and emotional fidelity in monogamous relationship. For many, it isn’t necessarily immature co-dependent or possessive. It can be, of course, as any relationship can be! Yet it can also inspire trust, personal confidence and, yes, multiple genuine, deep and full loves. For someone in your profession to have the opinion and speak so authoritatively to say that this defies belief is surprising and, to me, concerning.You are married, with 3 children. I hope for their sake that you didn’t really mean what you wrote in earlier comments about hierarchies being an unavoidable fact of the human condition, and all co-living environments leading to loss of the individual. You decided to love and nurture a second child, and then a third, alongside your love for each other. Why? Why not just be amazing parents for the one child?If it hurts for me to suggest that we all know you really love your first child most,  and that by having other children your ability to support and be there for each of them was compromised, you might begin to see the offence you’ve caused. 

        • LeeReyesFournier

          @Aamanda @LeeReyesFournier @MoreThanNuclear The example of the children was used as an argument on ‘loving big’ in a polyamory article I read.
          Did you notice the apology? Besides this article, when else have you felt judged/offended?

        • MoreThanNuclear

           @LeeReyesFournier  @Aamanda  @MoreThanNuclear “What you call research is anecdotal with a very limited sample.” Again, could you give an example of the sort of research that you have dismissed as anecdotal.  Every time Amanda or I ask you to consider the actual published research out there, you come up with a reason why the research isn’t good enough.  Even if the published research was all anecdotal, based on limited sample sizes and tainted by the “lifestyle” of the researchers, is that a good enough reason to ignore *all* of it, and just give your own subjective, completely unevidenced views? 

        • Aamanda

           @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear I noticed that you failed to answer *a single one* of my questions. Please now do so. Particularly 3. 6. and 7.Please don’t patronise me. I don’t require you to apologise for my feelings. I require you to apologise for publishing unevidenced prejudice under the heading of  ‘relationship advice’ from a professional psychotherapist.  

        • ChrisLittlesunHubley

           @LeeReyesFournier  @Aamanda  @MoreThanNuclear  Has it not occured to you that the poly people you’ve met in your psychotherapy sessions are there specifically because they have issues with being poly? How many poly people who have no need for therapy have you actually met?

        •  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear 3) There has been both name calling and tone. We have removed name calling from the threads. We have also been called names on the associated Twitter feed. As far as tone of the comments, most of our commenters have been respectful in their disagreement. The tone of your comments are aggressive, argumentative and dismissive. The apology was not to be patronizing but to say sorry for bringing you to this passionate state.
          As far as 6) and 7) we will not be answering these because they would simply devolve into personal attacks. Your statements are already questioning our integrity through your perception of truth. This is outside the scope of this comment thread.
           
          Please look at the response to PolyKink above for information on the evidence discussion. 

        • Aamanda

           @CoupleDumb  @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear I have not engaged in name calling and resent your bizarre insinuation that I have and that you have subsequently edited it out of my comments. In light of this additional accusation I repeat my request that you please let me know what name calling you believe I have engaged in either here or on Twitter?
           
          Similarly I also fail to understand why you are unable to tell me what blanket statements you believe I have made, or to or answer my question regarding whether you still believe you made clear this was an opinion piece (not an advice piece) without devolving into a personal attack?I can’t help but think it says a lot about you that you are a) unable to substantiate your accusations against me with examples when everything is written here for you to choose from and b) you suggest answering my questions is impossible for you without lowering yourself to a personal attack! 
           

        •  @Aamanda  @CoupleDumb  @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear First, this is not a comment thread between two people. There have been name calling. Not necessarily from you. Secondly, we are not saying that we would lower ourselves to personal attacks. We are saying that specifically Aamanda is attacking our veracity, integrity and professionalism which is a personal attack. Review your use of punctuation in your comments and see if you recognize an inference that we might perceive as aggressive and personal.

        • MoreThanNuclear

           @CoupleDumb  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier It is HILARIOUS that you are nitpicking over whether Amanda’s use of punctuation might be perceived as aggressive, when all this is in response to an article where you claimed that we are “stuck in an adolescent fantasy”.  If you can’t handle a bit of criticism of your veracity, integrity and professionalism, don’t make incorrect, insulting and unprofessional claims.

        • Aamanda

           @CoupleDumb  @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear Ok, so when you referred to *my blog post* as containing name-calling, you meant *other people* had engaged in name calling during *this comment thread*?…Well at least that’s cleared that up. 
          Wrt your second point, I have not an inference but an outright criticism that you have not made clear your piece is personal opinion and not professional advice, yes. That criticism is becoming increasingly frustrated as you continue to avoid addressing it therefore I see why you may perceive it as aggressive.

        • MoreThanNuclear

           @CoupleDumb  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier “Please look at the response to PolyKink above for information on the evidence discussion. ”
           
          Your reply to PolyKink was in response to evidence that THEY offered to you.  Amanda and I were asking you which evidence you considered BEFORE writing this article.  You know, the evidence you tell us is unreliable because there isn’t enough of it, it is produced by people in the lifestyle, uses small sample sizes.  Which evidence, specifically, are you referring to?  Because if you weren’t aware of Meg Barker’s research, I find it hard to believe that you’ve done enough reading to make this claim.  And certainly not enough to write this article.

        •  @MoreThanNuclear  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier Thank you, MoreThanNuclear. We do not want to nitpick. We do not want to answer claims that we feel are personal. Please respect that. 
           
          We do want to respond to your issues with the article. The whole sentence that you quoted is “And we would argue that the idea that love is all you need in a relationship is immature and shows signs that polyamorous relationships are stuck in an adolescent fantasy.” We are not saying that anyone in a polyamorous relationship is in an adolescent fantasy. We are saying that anyone (monogamous or polyamorous) that believes that love is enough for a relationship is in an adolescent fantasy. Do you disagree with that statement?

        •  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier  @MoreThanNuclear It is advice. If you cannot master a relationship with an individual then do not try it with several.

        • Aamanda

           @CoupleDumb  @MoreThanNuclear  @LeeReyesFournier “We do want to respond to your issues with the article”Says it all really. I can’t add to that. Thank-you for an interesting discussion and thank you for some excellent points, MoreThanNuclear. 

        •  @MoreThanNuclear  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier From Meg Barker’s Open University site:  “I have used various qualitative methods (interviews, discussions, on-line questionnaires, analysis of web materials, and creative methods) to investigate the ways in which people in these communities negotiate their identities and relationships.” Qualitative is what we are talking about as anecdotal. 
           
          When we put polyamory into the APA database, it delivered no journal articles. Thus one reason for our assertion that there is limited research. 
           
          We have a question for you. We are frankly surprised at the reaction that this piece has gotten. What in the article are you reading that you feel is incorrect or need substantiating?

        • MoreThanNuclear

           @CoupleDumb  @Aamanda  @LeeReyesFournier I do agree with that statement, but you didn’t just say that people who believe love is all you need are “stuck in an adolescent fantasy”.  Your sentence presupposes the fact that *polyamorous* people are stuck in an adolescent fantasy.  If you meant “anyone (monogamous or polyamorous)” as you say, why only mention the polyamorous?  A quick rewrite is advisable if your intended meaning is so far from the entailed one, and would go some way to appeasing those you have offended.Similarly, it would be good to remove the claim in the article that this is “science” as you don’t seem to be aware of the research that is out there, let alone to have read it. 
           
          I’d be very interested to hear your responses to the other criticisms of this article, for example my comparison to parenting and friendship above, which have so far gone unanswered.
           

        • Aamanda

           @MoreThanNuclear  @CoupleDumb  @LeeReyesFournier Forgive me if you have any understanding of formal logic and this is preaching to the choir as it were. But your argument is thus:- It’s scientifically impossible to be there for more than one person.- Anyone who thinks they can be there for more than one person is ignoring the science/(reality) in favour of the love.-  Ignoring the science/(reality) in favour of love is immature.- the polyamourous think they can be there for more than one person (tautology – implied)Conclusion: Therefore the polyamourous are immature /( “stuck in an adolescent fantasy”)Valid, but not sound. 

  • MoreThanNuclear

    “We would argue that parents of more than one child know the limitations of a multi-child family. They know that regardless of their philosophy, they do have favorites and form hierarchies. We argue that too many loves make you tired and you can’t be present with all of them when they need it. This is not a family critique but merely a comment as to the real meaning of parenting.”

    • MoreThanNuclear

      No response to this?  Okay, let me try another one:”We would argue that people with more than one friend know the limitations of a multi-person friendship group. They know that regardless of their philosophy, they do have favorites and form hierarchies. We argue that too many friends make you tired and you can’t be present with all of them when they need it. This is not a social critique but merely a comment as to the real meaning of friendship.”Why is spreading your time/love/attention between more than one child or more than one close friend (or more than one sibling or more than one parent) fine, but more than one romantic partner “spreading yourself thin”?   

  • PolyPractically

    It’s kind of funny to me, to read you listing out the problems I see in many monogamous relationships and citing them as what is wrong with polyamory.
     
    Building a relationship on love alone? Take a look around mono-culture: love is all you need, Disney movies, love conquers all. The idea is endemic. I’ll agree that the idea that love is the only thing needed for a relationship is false, but that is not a problem with polyamory alone. Hell look at 50 Shades of Abuse (sorry, I meant Grey – and for the record KINK is not abuse – what is in those books is). A man breaks into a womans apartment, rapes her, and they end up living happily ever after b/c love conquered all the differences between him and reformed his abuse. Gag. The idea that relationships are built on love alone evolved in mainstream monogamy. Poly-folks just get caught up in the idiocy.
     
    Possessive? Seriously, your issue with polyamory is possessiveness? When there are arguments among monogamous folks about whether or not it is okay for your partner to have FRIENDS of the opposite sex? Yes, possessiveness destroys relationships. Yes, possessiveness will kill a polysetup faster than just about anything. But possessiveness is not evidence that polyamory is unworkable. Possessiveness is a problem in all forms of relationships, polyamory just makes it impossible to hide that shit when it crops up. I’ll agree that possessiveness is often a sign of insecurity, but it is a universal problem, and one that many poly-folk have successfully addressed.
     
    As far as your final argument, I will say that those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it. There are today successful poly relationships that have lasted decades. Just because the idea is new to you doesn’t mean it hasn’t been around and functioning. And saying ‘it can’t work and you know it’ when people are making it work and have been for longer than you’ve been married just makes you look ill-informed.

    • LeeReyesFournier

       @PolyPractically The thing is we don’t profess love is enough. Never have. However, your motto of loving big is a problem with the future growth of your lifestyle. I appreciate any attempt at correcting the eons of misinformation and societal structuring of relationship. You misread what we are saying- you- poly peeps- say possessiveness kills relationships. We would agree. Possessiveness means you do not feel safe in a relationship. This is not a poly only issue. This pertains to every relationship. That you identify it as an issue is that you see that not everyone can handle this type of relationship. 
      You are waiting for an argument of how wrong you are and we aren’t giving it. We support any lifestyle chosen by healthy adults. We are pro-healthy relationships.

    • LeeReyesFournier

       @PolyPractically  ‘it can’t work and you know it’ – you said that. We didn’t.

      • PolyPractically

         @LeeReyesFournier  @PolyPractically “We would argue that polyamorous people know the limitations of a polyamourous society. They know that regardless of their philosophy, they do have favorites and form hierarchies. We argue that too many loves make you tired and you can’t be present with all of them when they need it. This is not a sexual critique but merely a comment as to the real meaning of a relationship.”
         
         
        This paragraph, to me, reads as ‘it can’t work and you know it’. The arguments you are stating basically say that polyamory does not fit within the ‘real meaning of a relationship’ because you ‘do have favorites and form hierarchies’ and ‘can’t be present with all of them when they need it’.
         
        If your intention was to say that polyamory is a difficult relationship style, or polyamory is not for every I would agree with you. Instead you said ‘the idea that there are some individuals with ability to masterly love multiple people is kind of hard to believe’ and ‘polyamorous relationships are stuck in an adolescent fantasy’.
         
        To me, when you say that it is hard to believe that people can handle multiple relationships and that polyamorous relationship are adolescent fantasies, you ARE saying that what we are doing is wrong and/or unhealthy. If that is not your intent, given that the comments so far all seem to be reading this the same way I am, you might want to go back, rephrase and work on your communication skills.

        • PolyPractically

           @LeeReyesFournier And I will apologize for my miscommunication – when I put the quotes in my initial comment, that was not meant to indicate I was quoting you, it was meant as what I was hearing you say. The quotation marks in my second comment are all taken directly from your post.

        • LeeReyesFournier

           @PolyPractically So, if I understand your argument, you would wish that we didn’t have an opinion on this. We do not agree with your lifestyle but support your right to have it.  I do not wish to argue what is better since it is a personal choice. However, labeling, creating hierarchy and generally having favorites is a human quality that even polys cannot ignore. 
          We promote a mature relationships based on love, honesty, respect, common values with attachment but not possessiveness. If you have that, congratulations! 

        • ChrisLittlesunHubley

           @LeeReyesFournier  @PolyPractically Many poly people *do* have faivorites and are very open about it – have you heard of the concept of primary/secondary partners? there is nothing you’re saying here that poly folk haven’t been working through themselves for many years. Also from reading this you would think that people in mono relationships never had relationship problems – monogomy and polyamoury are just as hard as each other, it’s just that the problems that come with monogomy are much more socially accepted!

  • ConnieFoggles

    The only “information” I have about polyamory is what I’ve seen on TV. I don’t judge others’ relationship choices, but as for me personally this isn’t for me. I couldn’t handle sharing my significant other with anyone else especially in a sexual relationship. I commend those who can and hope that their children do well.

    • MoreThanNuclear

       @ConnieFoggles Thank you for your support.  The children I know (including mine) are doing great, thanks!

  • polykink

    Perhaps I can help with the research, to save some bother. Here is a handy bibliography. http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/library/Pdf/Polyamory%20Bibliography.pdf and another, this one just from one scholar. http://www.open.ac.uk/socialsciences/staff/people-profile.php?name=Meg_Barker See, isn’t it easy to find actual information rather than spout personal opinions as scientific fact? To say there hasn’t been enough work done on polyamory is true. To say that there is none or hardly any is blatant nonsense. To say that it is less or invalid because of your assumptions about the authors is ignorant and hypocritical given your own use of your relationships as sources of information.

    •  @polykink Thank you for the bibliography. To refocus, we said that there is limited research. The list that you sent may seem large but from a research point of view, it is not. I will not go through every item. Generally for this discussion, remove the books from the list. Books are not scientific studies on there own. The comments about lifestyle refer to the books that can and often do have a bias. They make analysis of various sources, some sound and some not. Looking at the journal articles, they number is limited. There is a lot of research that could be done. We hope that it will. Looking at Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 115-126 , this is a good study in that it is scientifically based and statistically verified. It is not anecdotal. But even for this one, the criticism would be that the sample size (32) is small.  Thank you.

      • MoreThanNuclear

         @CoupleDumb  @polykink If the choice is between a small amount of solid research with a small sample size, and stuff that you’ve just pulled out of the air, I think the research is a safer bet, don’t you?

  • CiaoMom

    Clearly I am incredibly naive because I had no idea that this lifestyle had a formal name, philosophy, or even culture behind it.  Like you, I am not one to judge, and want people to be able to make their own choices, but I know myself well enough to know that I would never survive in such a relationship. 

  • MistressDTL

    Actually a lot of polyamorous people would argue it is or can be an innate sexual orientation, not a choice