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Why do polyamorous people get married?

Just a bit ago, I posted a P.A.N. cast and answered this question: Why do polyamorous people get married?

One of the incredibly smart people on the P.A.N. forums had this to say in response, and I wanted to make sure that she got heard by a wider audience, because, well, because she's lovely.

Here are her thoughts, lifted with her permission from the forums to LJ:

I thought this was a great question and a very thoughtful answer. I know there is a good sized segment of the population (at least in the States - I don't know about worldwide) that is opposed to the "traditional institution of marriage" for various reasons ranging from feeling that relationships shouldn't be managed by the state to the idea that marriage is institutionalized misogyny, and with the perception that polyamorists would primarily be non-mainstream folks with non-mainstream ideas, it seems logical to jump to the question of "but why would they engage in this archaic/barbaric/sexist/paternalistic/etc/etc/ practice?"

I think you put it in really good context with regard to recognizing that marriage isn't only about religious or legal issues - it's a cultural tradition that clearly states "I am committed to the mental, physical and financial health and wellbeing of this person and will stay committed to the end of our days".

I also think there are some other reasons that polyamorists get married...just off the top of my head:

- they might have been married before they entered into a poly relationship (I know a few couples who opened up after they were wed)
- They might want to make a clear distinction between their relationship to their primary from their secondary relationships
- they might deeply believe in the socioreligious aspects of a marital relationship and feel that a marriage tie with one (or more) other people is important for non political or legal reasons
- they might want the legal benefits that come with marriage that you just can't mimic through contractual arrangements

Personally, by the time I actually Got Married(tm), I'd already been with my primary partner for about 7.5 years. We'd not been poly when we started dating and had talked about marriage in the completely monogamous sense. We were poly by the time we got married, and I think both of use recognized that we'd been committed to each other so deeply for so long that the ceremony itself (and the associated legal registrations) really accomplished two things:

1) It made our families happy. They'd been expecting a wedding for 3 years at that point and we didn't have an overwhelming reason to disappoint them.
2) It ensured that, without having to do a lot of paperwork, my primary was automatically protected if anything happened to me - he would get my income, would be on my medical insurance and we'd have the ability to control each other's medical treatment if necessary. As the sole income in our household, I felt this was very important. No matter how many documents you put in place and how many agreements you have, it's very tricky to fully emulate all the rights and privileges associated with the legal side of marriage.

Another thing with polyamorists and marriage - they may not be married to just one person. Chances are good they're not _legally_ bound to more than one spouse through marriage (contractual relationships are another issue), but many group configurations feel that it is desirable to have a non-binding wedding and to consider themselves married. There's even a poly term for multiple spouses - "spice" - that is used in the internet communities.

Those marriages may encompass what Betty went into about formally committing to another person - and they may also be backed up by contractual arrangements to attempt to provide for your spouses as fully as legally possible without a state-sanctioned wedding license.


So there's that. What do you think?

Teh sig: polyadvicenurse.com / polyadvicenurse.maxforum.org


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
I'd actually be really interested to hear from a range of both poly and mono folks in long-term relationships on why they chose to get married or not get married. (Bonus points if they do it in the forums!)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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