20% of all couples in the United States admit to cheating while studies from the UK put it somewhere between 14% and 70%! Those numbers, no matter which one you’re looking at are staggeringly high. But is there perhaps a solution to the problem right in front of our faces? Would polyamory fix cheating?
Well no, of course not. Human sexuality is complex and full of rules, written and unwritten. What one person might consider cheating, another might consider foreplay. But, it might just be an answer to some of the problem. The “I love my wife, I love my life but this new girl in work is giving me fuck me eyes and I really want to oblige,” type of cheating. The kind of cheating that happens to supermodels when you read about it you just have to ask yourself, “what the hell was he thinking?” Make no mistake, this isn’t just about men cheating on women. It can be women cheating on men, women cheating on women, men cheating on enbys…cheating isn’t gender-specific and in fact, it seems to happen about equally across all genders.
So am I saying that Tim should bend the new accountant over her desk after work without consulting his wife because “there is no cheating in polyamory”?
There absolutely is cheating in polyamory and if Tim did that he would be a cheating asshole. But if Tim went home and told his wife about the hot new accountant and was honest about his feelings, in an open and honest polyamorous relationship they could talk about it. They could even possibly turn the discussion into a bit of foreplay.
“What is your favorite part of her body?”
“Where would you like to cum on her?”
“What kind of moaner do you think she is?”
“Show me how you’d like to fuck her.”
What’s missing from that conversation? Jealousy.
Despite what it might seem like, romantic jealousy is not a universal across all humans. In fact, there are some groups, like the Himba people of northern Namibia who have quite happy marriages despite both sides often having extramarital relationships.
Tibet is one of the few places in the world where polyandry (women having multiple husbands) is common practice. A survey in 1988 found that 13% of all families in Tibet were polyandric. Even more interesting is the fact that the men in the relationship are always brothers. This polyandry seems to have a basis not in love or desire, but an interest in keeping land from being divided and lost over time. But, that isn’t to say the people in those relationships are unhappy. I saw a wonderful documentary on one such family once and if I could find it I would link it. But the brothers were happy and the wife was happy. That’s just how life is for them, it is as normal as monogamy is for us in the Western world.
These are just two examples where polyamory works without jealousy. If you’re interested in reading more about the topic I recommend starting with this article from UCLA Health. Meanwhile, in the United States you can see with shows like Sister Wives or documentaries on polyamory that just because you’re in a poly relationship, it doesn’t magically make jealousy go away.
All of this seems to suggest that jealousy is a cultural problem, not biological. But that it goes so far back in our history we don’t even realize this is true. It’s a bit like those grammar rules we don’t even realize we follow, an example of which you can find in the image below which comes from the book Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth.
Obviously, we can’t all just flip a switch and turn off our jealousy. It’s something we would have to work on collectively and it might not even be something that we can fix in ourselves. It is something that could take several generations to solve. Rome wasn’t built in a day and jealousy’s roots run deep inside us. But, the 5% of the population of the United States who practice polyamory and consensual non-monogamy show us that the change is possible, that we can have multiple lovers, even in a society where jealousy exists. By the way, that number is higher than the number of people who are LGBTQ+, in case you were curious.
Curing jealousy won’t magically fix cheating. But it will make conversations about desire a whole lot easier which could, in turn, open up the door for polyamory to be more common. A snowball effect that would mean cheating happens less. So to answer the question, would polyamory fix cheating? The answer is no, but also yes. It will require a lot of introspection and experimentation, hearts will be broken. But, in the end, I think it might just be worth it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go consider what makes me jealous and why. Keep an eye out for that article later in the week.
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