Another gonzo post, though I have been mulling this over for a few days following a coincidentally timed Facebook post by one the bestest Priestesses I know :)
So … of the top of me head …
Here I am not really making any comments on the idea of monogamy vs polyamory. I think this is a silly meme. How boring. Both can be wonderful. Both can be woeful. Which makes sense since both involve humans, and we are both wonderful and woeful. Often at the same time :)
I have no problems with folk in poly relationships. I have no problem with folk in monogamous relationships. I have no problems with folk outside relationships and practicing ‘free love’. I have no problems with folk in celibate relationships or people who practice celibacy outside relationships, consecrated or otherwise.
I am not interested in, and simply unable, to judge anyone for their sexual and intimate lifestyle.
I do however wish that all of these, and many other, relationship choices were simply, but profoundly that – CHOICES.
Now these choices may be made as a result of following our sexual orientation: that is some folk see monogamy, polyamory and wot all as sexual orientations. Personally, I am not completely sold on this model yet. If it is correct, it means that in today’s modern west folk have more options for fulfilling their orientations than ever before! And that’s a good thing, eh? :)
Sadly though, many folk simply slot into the societal mode of relating and do not make a choice (towards or away from their orientation?) at all – they simply follow how they have been raised or what is around them. And so of course, we need to examine the idea of choice, agency and informed consent as well in all this.
One thing I have noticed, personally, that the poly lifestyle (whether an orientation or not) has, since the 1980s, become more prevalent in the Pagan community. If it becomes a default mode of relating, that would be as unhelpful as default monogamy without conscious and careful reflection.
Advocates for the poly lifestyle often have many wonderful and valid critiques of unthinking and default choice monogamy. And so they should. However, some folk also say things like polyamory gives tools for expansion of consciousness and self-exploration.
Again, I am not sold on this idea. Polyamory gives no special tools. Nor does monogamy. Nor does celibacy. These sexual and intimate orientations are not tools for change. Tools for change are self-reflection processes, introspection techniques, methods of honesty, sharing with partner(s), meditation etc. All of these can and are worked with by monogamous and celibate folk as well as poly folk.
A poly life does not automatically bring about more tools for change – it is what we DO with the reality that our partner is bonking another person on Wednesdays and alternate Saturdays that makes the change. I have known plenty of poly people handle these things as badly as monogamous folk handle things. And boy do monogamous folk, on the whole, handle things badly! I remember one radio report that DNA testing showed that one in four children in the working class areas of Liverpool in the 1990s were not fathered by the man claimed as the father. :(
However, in a monogamous relationship we can learn to love the general by utter, conscious, deliberate focus on the specific. Through the love of the one, we love the many. Which is of course the aim of our spirituality. It is for this reason marriage became to be seen as a Sacrament within the Christian churches, and the only one that is administered daily by layperson to layperson – through the love of partner to partner. The importance of this sacrament is clearly shown by these words within the rite of Solemnization of Marriage from the Book of Common Prayer:
WITH MY BODY, I THEE WORSHIP.
A mighty and telling piece of liturgy :)
As (I hope) a somewhat conscious and focused monogamist, my partner IS the Most Beautiful Woman in The World (she really is!). My focus on her makes this so. I know this as much as I know the Body of Christ is present for me in the Eucharist. And so, privileged to be intimate, to love and adore the Most Beautiful Woman in The World, I am moved to acts of utmost humility and surrender. This beholding of her as the Most Beautiful creates that reality between us.
Conscious monogamy means we focus on a single person who, like everyone, is a reflection of divinity. In Hermetic terms they are the microcosm of the macrocosm and have reflected within them ALL the divine powers. In Christian terms they are created in imago dei, an image of the One. By conscious focus upon this single one, we access the One. By consecrating our focus, our sexual expression and our intimacy upon the centre of the circle, we receive the whole. Our partner, for us, becomes the gateway to the unlimited.
Through the love of a single one, we receive infinity; as they are unlimited. And we become unlimited by their love and sole focus. So there is no limitation inherent in monogamy – a common critique from a few polyamory folk.
In fact, my own experience is that it is the exclusive consecration of our sexual expression towards our Beloved that enables them to become more unlimited, provide more avenues towards spiritual communion and more unique ways of deeply relating than engaging with several partners in a poly relationship. But that is my own personal experience and in no way do I place it over others.