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Negotiating Pair Bonding,
Romantic Love and Jealousy
in Polyamorous Relationships
Leanna Wolfe, Ph.D.
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
Poly Speak: The Language of Polyamory
 Compersion
 loving empathy for a partner being
loved/engaged by others
 New Relationship Energy (NRE)
 Limerence
 Other Significant Other (OSO)
 Metamour (a partner’s partner)
 Primary, Secondary, Tertiary
 maintain social family hierarchy
 Polyfidelity
 sexually faithful to one’s poly family
The Hallmark of Polyamory
 Appetite for Disclosure
 Open to Hear
 Open to Share
 Safety in Knowing
 Compersion
 Positive Regard for Partners’ Extra-
Relationship Erotic/Emotional Connections
 Embrace Poly Culture
 Jealousy Management
 Compersion
 NRE Management
 Disclosure
 Transparency
 Consensuality
Poly Cultural Conventions
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
Poly Configurations
 Open Couple
 Poly Single
 Primary and Secondary Partners
 Multiple Primary Partners
 Triad -- V or
 Quad
 Intimate Network
How Being in a Poly
Relationship Feels
 High Demand for Honesty
 Primary vs. Secondary vs. Incidental
 The challenges of having multiple primaries
 Logistics, Communication, Respect
 The challenges of not feeling like anyone’s primary
 The possibility of having multiple statuses
 Being an NRE enhanced favorite and a public primary
 Consideration: Is it possible to be happy with
polyamory and to not feel like a favorite and/or
have a primary status?
Poly Players
 Largely Caucasian
 Highly Educated
 Science Fiction Aficionados
 Heinlein and Rimmer (1960s)
 Utopian Swingers
 Frustrated by Monogamy
 Independent Idealists
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
Pair Bonding
 Banned by Oneida and Kerista
 Focused on group love
 Starling brothers and sisters
 Discouraged investment in NRE
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
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 inoculate
against romantic love roller coasters.
 little need for confirmation of mutual love
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
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!
Sex-Love Jealousy
 Biological Roots
 males fear being deceived into raising a non-
biological child
 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.
Kinds of Jealousy
 Possessive Jealousy
 Typical in attraction phase (NRE)
 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
Jealousy and Monogamy
 Jealousy seen as a sign of “true” love.
 Financial penalties for divorce reflect
economic and domestic possessiveness
 Jealousy occurs when Displacement or
Replacement is feared
 Standard Outcome in Monogamous
Cultures
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
With my Luo Hosts in
Western Kenya
With my Huli Hosts in
Papua New Guinea
Residence Patterns
 Luo Circular Hut Compound
 Maasai Hut Compound
 Papua New Guinea (co-wives share residence,
husband sleeps in men’s house)
 U.S. Mormons (separate households, or main
house with adjacent trailers)
Husband
2nd Wife
4th Wife
3rd Wife
1st Wife
Grandmother &
Young Children
Main Entrance
Luo
Compound
Unmarried Sons
Private Entrance
Maasai Compound
Maasai Polygynous Triad
Huli Men’s House
Huli Co-Wives House
Sweet Potato Garden
Favoritism
 Whoever is New is Typically Favorite
 The Brain Chemistry of NRE
 High Dopamine
 High Norepinephrine
 How it’s Managed in Africa
 Every wife has a status
 How FLDS Mormons Manage It
 Wives will marry into a new marriage to
become the favorite
When Favoritism is Irrelevant
 When Resources are Shared Fairly
 Husbands Endeavor to Treat Their Wives
Equally
 Second Wives Not Displace First Wives
 Newest Wives are “Favorites” Only
until a Subsequent One is Added
 Wives Who Are Not “Favorites” Typically
Shrug it off
How 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
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)
Polyarmory
 Agreements to ensure one’s own status
and security in a relationship
 Partner Approval (e.g. someone who does
not have a monogamy agenda)
 Scheduled Visits (e.g. no secret
rendezvous)
 Approved Activities (e.g. safe sex)
 No Surprises
Polyamory and Jealousy Study*
 229 questionnaires received
 140 questionnaires evaluated
 focused 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.
*Towards PhD Dissertation, “Jealousy and Transformation in
Polyamorous Relationships” Wolfe, L. 2003
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
Data Limitations
 Completion of a questionnaire over a
15-minute time period offers only a brief
emotional snap shot
 Most participants ideologically inclined
towards the logic of polyamory (re:
Compersion Index)
 Questionnaire most coherent to those
living as an “open couple.”
Overview
 58 males
 82 females
 Peak Baby Boomers
 Born in mid-1950s
Compersion Measures
 Watching a Partner 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?
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
Survey Conclusions
 Prior Social, Emotional and Sexual
Independence did not preclude
Successful Adaptation to Polyamory
 Over 70% reported that polyamory had
increased their self-esteem and their
love for their home partner
 Nearly 90% reported that being poly
had afforded a better perspective both
on themselves and on their partners.
Statistically Significant Correlations
 Males more compersive than females
 greater number of partners
 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
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
The Polyamory Blur
 Limit NRE elevating experiences
 Reduces emotional spectrum
 Embrace Compersive Thinking
 Accept/Incorporate 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
The Real Poly Lessons
 Boundaries
 Respect partners’ needs to be connected
to others
 High intensity communication
 Dark Night of the Soul Journey
 Learning to be alone
 Self-nurturing
 Positive self identity independent from
presence/absence of lovers/partners
 Release the desire to control others

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Negotiating pairbonding, romantic love and jealousy 1

  • 1. Negotiating Pair Bonding, 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 a partner being loved/engaged by others  New Relationship Energy (NRE)  Limerence  Other Significant Other (OSO)  Metamour (a partner’s partner)  Primary, Secondary, Tertiary  maintain social family hierarchy  Polyfidelity  sexually faithful to one’s poly family
  • 4. The Hallmark of Polyamory  Appetite for Disclosure  Open to Hear  Open to Share  Safety in Knowing  Compersion  Positive Regard for Partners’ Extra- Relationship Erotic/Emotional Connections
  • 5.  Embrace Poly Culture  Jealousy Management  Compersion  NRE Management  Disclosure  Transparency  Consensuality Poly Cultural Conventions
  • 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. Poly Configurations  Open Couple  Poly Single  Primary and Secondary Partners  Multiple Primary Partners  Triad -- V or  Quad  Intimate Network
  • 8. How Being in a Poly Relationship Feels  High Demand for Honesty  Primary vs. Secondary vs. Incidental  The challenges of having multiple primaries  Logistics, Communication, Respect  The challenges of not feeling like anyone’s primary  The possibility of having multiple statuses  Being an NRE enhanced favorite and a public primary  Consideration: Is it possible to be happy with polyamory and to not feel like a favorite and/or have a primary status?
  • 9. Poly Players  Largely Caucasian  Highly Educated  Science Fiction Aficionados  Heinlein and Rimmer (1960s)  Utopian Swingers  Frustrated by Monogamy  Independent Idealists
  • 10. 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
  • 11. Pair Bonding  Banned by Oneida and Kerista  Focused on group love  Starling brothers and sisters  Discouraged investment in NRE
  • 12. 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
  • 13. 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 inoculate against romantic love roller coasters.  little need for confirmation of mutual love
  • 14. 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
  • 15. 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!
  • 16. Sex-Love Jealousy  Biological Roots  males fear being deceived into raising a non- biological child  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.
  • 17. Kinds of Jealousy  Possessive Jealousy  Typical in attraction phase (NRE)  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
  • 18. Jealousy and Monogamy  Jealousy seen as a sign of “true” love.  Financial penalties for divorce reflect economic and domestic possessiveness  Jealousy occurs when Displacement or Replacement is feared  Standard Outcome in Monogamous Cultures
  • 19. 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
  • 20. With my Luo Hosts in Western Kenya
  • 21. With my Huli Hosts in Papua New Guinea
  • 22. Residence Patterns  Luo Circular Hut Compound  Maasai Hut Compound  Papua New Guinea (co-wives share residence, husband sleeps in men’s house)  U.S. Mormons (separate households, or main house with adjacent trailers)
  • 23. Husband 2nd Wife 4th Wife 3rd Wife 1st Wife Grandmother & Young Children Main Entrance Luo Compound Unmarried Sons Private Entrance
  • 29. Favoritism  Whoever is New is Typically Favorite  The Brain Chemistry of NRE  High Dopamine  High Norepinephrine  How it’s Managed in Africa  Every wife has a status  How FLDS Mormons Manage It  Wives will marry into a new marriage to become the favorite
  • 30. When Favoritism is Irrelevant  When Resources are Shared Fairly  Husbands Endeavor to Treat Their Wives Equally  Second Wives Not Displace First Wives  Newest Wives are “Favorites” Only until a Subsequent One is Added  Wives Who Are Not “Favorites” Typically Shrug it off
  • 31. How 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
  • 32. 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)
  • 33. Polyarmory  Agreements to ensure one’s own status and security in a relationship  Partner Approval (e.g. someone who does not have a monogamy agenda)  Scheduled Visits (e.g. no secret rendezvous)  Approved Activities (e.g. safe sex)  No Surprises
  • 34. Polyamory and Jealousy Study*  229 questionnaires received  140 questionnaires evaluated  focused 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. *Towards PhD Dissertation, “Jealousy and Transformation in Polyamorous Relationships” Wolfe, L. 2003
  • 35. 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
  • 36. Data Limitations  Completion of a questionnaire over a 15-minute time period offers only a brief emotional snap shot  Most participants ideologically inclined towards the logic of polyamory (re: Compersion Index)  Questionnaire most coherent to those living as an “open couple.”
  • 37. Overview  58 males  82 females  Peak Baby Boomers  Born in mid-1950s
  • 38. Compersion Measures  Watching a Partner 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?
  • 39. 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
  • 40. Survey Conclusions  Prior Social, Emotional and Sexual Independence did not preclude Successful Adaptation to Polyamory  Over 70% reported that polyamory had increased their self-esteem and their love for their home partner  Nearly 90% reported that being poly had afforded a better perspective both on themselves and on their partners.
  • 41. Statistically Significant Correlations  Males more compersive than females  greater number of partners  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
  • 42. 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
  • 43. The Polyamory Blur  Limit NRE elevating experiences  Reduces emotional spectrum  Embrace Compersive Thinking  Accept/Incorporate 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
  • 44. The Real Poly Lessons  Boundaries  Respect partners’ needs to be connected to others  High intensity communication  Dark Night of the Soul Journey  Learning to be alone  Self-nurturing  Positive self identity independent from presence/absence of lovers/partners  Release the desire to control others