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Negotiating Pairbonding and Romantic Love in Polyamorous Relationships
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Negotiating Pairbonding and Romantic Love in Polyamorous Relationships

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  • 1. Negotiating Pairbonding, Romantic Love and Jealousy in Polyamorous Relationships Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D.
  • 2. Definitions
    • Polygamy - More Than One Spouse
      • Polygyny - More Than One Wife
      • Polyandry - More Than One Husband
    • Monogamy - One Spouse
      • Does not preclude sexual fidelity
    • Serial Monogamy - One Spouse at a Time
    • Swinging - One Spouse; Multiple Playmates
    • Polyamory - Consensual Multiple Committed Loving Relationships
  • 3. Poly Speak: The Language of Polyamory
    • Compersion
      • loving empathy for one’s partner being loved/engaged by others
    • New Relationship Energy (NRE)
      • Limerence
    • Other Significant Other (OSO)
    • Primary, Secondary, Tertiary
      • maintain social family hierarchy
    • Polyfidelity
      • sexually faithful to one’s family
  • 4. Poly Configurations
    • Open Couple
    • Independent Single
    • Primary and Secondary Partners
    • Multiple Primary Partners
    • Triad -- V or
    • Quad
    • Intimate Network
  • 5. Poly Players
    • 94.3% White
    • Highly Educated
    • Science Fiction Aficionados
      • Heinlein and Rimmer (1960s)
    • Utopian Swingers
    • Frustrated by Monogamy
    • Independent Idealists
  • 6. Poly Cultural Practices
    • New partners incorporated for novelty NOT to displace/replace long term ones
    • Disinterest in Western culture’s celebration of “the one.”
    • NRE viewed as a temporary state, not a reason to disrupt one’s home life.
      • Avoidance of romantic love roller coasters
  • 7. Human Reproductive Strategies
    • Sexy Son Hypothesis (Buss, 1994)
    • Partible Paternity (Hrdy, 1999)
    • Serial Monogamy (Fisher, 1994)
      • Adultery-Divorce-Remarriage Cycle
      • Lover in the Wings
      • 2-4 year Divorce Cycle
    • Polygamy
      • Polygyny
      • Polyandry
  • 8. Stages of Romantic Love
    • Lust
      • sexual interest -- love at first sight
      • testosterone
    • Attraction
      • love sick, exhilaration, infatuation, NRE
      • dopamine, norepinephrine
    • Attachment
      • stability, tranquility, peace
      • oxytocin, vasopressin
    • Detachment
      • withdrawal, boredom
  • 9. Brain Chemistry
    • Romantic Love raises dopamine and norepinephrine levels
      • favoritism (unwavering focus on “the one”)
      • obsession with details
      • possessiveness/mate guarding
    • High Serotonin levels can function to inoculate individuals from romantic love roller coasters.
      • little need to be validated from the confirmation of mutual love
  • 10. Incidence of Romantic Love
    • A Human Universal
      • found in nearly all non-Western societies
      • Not a Western cultural artifact!
    • Considered different from Sexual Lust
      • Can be suicidal when advances are not reciprocated
    • Subject to high levels of Jealousy
  • 11. Pair Bonding
    • Banned by Oneida and Kerista
      • Focused on group love
        • Starling brothers and sisters
        • Discouraged investment in NRE
  • 12. Is it possible to be in love with more than one sweetie?
    • Its very possible to be in lust with many partners
    • Its possible to be in the attachment phase with multiple partners
    • The attraction phase may be largely a mono-experience
      • Rare instances of falling in love with a couple
  • 13. Sex-Love Jealousy
    • Biological Roots
      • males fear being deceived into raising a child that is not biologically theirs.
    • Cultural Roots
      • may be largely a product of cultural learning, being barely present amongst the Inuit, Marquesans and Keristans
    • Economic Roots
      • females fear that their partner’s time, energy and resources will be directed outside of their home and their children.
  • 14. Kinds of Jealousy
    • Possessive Jealousy
    • Exclusion Jealousy
      • feeling left out, deprived of time/attention
    • Competition Jealousy
      • feeling inadequate comparing oneself
    • Ego Jealousy
      • feeling others will judge them as inadequate for sharing a lover
    • Fear Jealousy
      • anxiety that partner will leave permanently
  • 15. Jealousy and Monogamy
    • Jealousy is seen as a sign of intense or “true” love.
    • Financial penalties for divorce reflect economic and domestic possessiveness
    • Jealousy occurs when displacement or replacement is feared
  • 16. Jealousy and Polygyny
    • Occurs when resources can be divided unevenly
    • Can happen when visiting times are unequal
    • Can arise when favoritism is suspected
    • Can occur when it is not chosen by the wives
      • switching from monogamy to polygyny
      • co-wives that don’t get along
  • 17. Ways Swinging Limits Jealousy
    • Taste but Don’t Surrender
      • No elaborate Seduction
    • Limited Sharing
      • Preserve Social/Legal Monogamy
    • Safer Sex
      • Viral and Emotional
      • Avoid Engaging Highly Attractive Players
  • 18. Polyamory and Jealousy
    • It requires personal growth to transform into no longer being jealous (Nearing)
    • Polyamory is a more advanced form of relationship for those prepared to evolve beyond monogamy (Anapol)
    • You can change the way you experience jealousy (Easton & Liszt)
  • 19. Polyamory and Jealousy Study
    • 229 questionnaires received
    • 140 questionnaires evaluated
      • focussed on those that engaged in poly style dating
      • swingers who just engage others as a couple at sex parties were not included
      • created an11-point compersion index drawing from six compersion measures.
  • 20. Research Objectives
    • Gather information on how poly people construct their social, emotional and sexual lives
    • Explore ways poly people address/ resolve jealousy provoking situations
    • Evaluate social and behavioral factors that might predict compersiveness
  • 21. Data Limitations
    • Filling out a questionnaire over a 15-minute period of time offers only a brief emotional snap shot
    • Most participants were ideologically inclined towards the logic of polyamory (re: Compersion Index)
    • Questionnaire most coherent to those living as an “open couple.”
  • 22. Overview
    • 58 males
    • 82 females
    • Peak Baby Boomers
      • male median age -- 45
      • female median age -- 43
  • 23.  
  • 24. Compersion Measures
    • Watching a partner being sexual with someone else
    • Being Watched by One’s Partner…
    • Feelings about partner spending the night with other lovers
    • What happens when partner returns…
    • Impact of poly dating on home relationship
    • Change relationship agreements?
  • 25. Compersion Index
    • 11 point scale
    • Median 9.12
    • Only 7.9% less then 7.
    • Compersive thinking is largely the norm for the people who participated in this survey
  • 26. Survey Conclusions
    • Prior social, emotional and sexual independence did not preclude successful adaptation to polyamory
    • Over 70% reported that practicing polyamory had increased their self-esteem and their love for their home partner
    • Upwards of 90% contended that being poly had afforded them a better perspective both on themselves and on their partners.
  • 27. Statistically Significant Correlations
    • Males more compersive than females
      • greater number of partners per year--less attachment--sense of abundance
    • Those who report that they love each of their lovers equally
      • embrace poly ideology
    • Heterosexuals who masturbate frequently
      • more substantial inner life
  • 28. Actualizing Compersion / Negotiating Jealousy
    • Developed Inner Life
      • masturbation, spirituality, meditation
    • Full Plate Life
      • busy with work, family, lovers
      • Extended Family of Choice
    • Believe in Poly Ideology
      • Celebrate Starling Relationships
      • There is not just one “one”
    • High Serotonin Uptake
    • Fears of Loss not actualized.
      • New loves did not displace/replace partners
  • 29. The Polyamory Blur
    • Limit NRE elevating experiences
      • Reduces emotional spectrum
    • Embrace Compersive Thinking
      • Tolerate partners’ other loves
    • Serial Monogamy may be practiced in slow motion.
      • Averts dramatic breakups / divorce
    • Engage in “Polyarmory”
      • Control partners’ activities
      • Avoid non-poly romantic engagements