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Polyamory Part II of III – Relationships Evolved

New York City-based psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona
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Does your partnering style serve your happiness?

A photo of brown, red, green and yellow Cooking Spices in teaspoons on a black background
Cooking Spices – Photo Courtesy of Sarah Pflug

Family, religion and culture may have more of an impact on your romantic relationships than you think. But creating a relationship that is different from your parents’ might mean developing what some call a more evolved relationship.

The thought of creating romantic partnerships in a way that is different from most of society can seem like a frightening task. Most change is. But continuing to do what your recent ancestors have always done may not serve your present happiness.

Consider this allegory on change. “The Allegory of the Eid kabsa”.

In relationships the way we always have done

By contrast the question to answer is this: Are you creating relationships the way your family, culture, religion, friends or society has told you to?

To begin some relationship experts say your relationship style may need to evolve if you feel like:

  1. You are unlucky at love.
  2. Dissatisfied in your romantic relationships.
  3. Feel like you are in a romantic box.

If any of this feels familiar the way you have always done relationships might no longer serve your happiness.

The psychology of inauthentic relating

Licensed clinical psychologist, personal and executive coach, author, and psychology expert for media and television Dr. Joseph Cilona talks about the psychological impact on a person who has one set of romantic beliefs but finds love and forms romantic relationships in a way that fits within their familial or social culture.

Personal beliefs that are in stark contrast to their family and traditions.

A particular challenge for anyone choosing an alternative lifestyle is keeping within the cultural norms of one’s birth country or society while maintaining authentic, romantic self-expression. It becomes an even larger concern for the globally-mobile. Finding one’s self in-between romantic norms is multiplied when straddling cultures.

Photo of New York City-based clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona
New York City-based clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Cilona

“When it comes to romantic love and relationships, the sociocultural norms and expectations an individual was raised to believe in and internalize can have a huge impact on them”. — Dr. Joseph Cilona

“And in some cases become very troubling”.

Straddling romantic cultures

“For some individuals overt or implied pressure to conform to the norms they were raised with when it comes to their romantic relationships can result in them making choices that are aligned with the norms of their upbringing and expectations of their family and culture of origin.

But completely out of sync with their true values, beliefs and needs that may have developed in a direction very far from their origin”.

Dr. Cilona says this incongruous living can have far-reaching and devastating effects on all aspects of one’s life.

“From choice of an inappropriate spouse or partner to fulfillment in the relationship. And even an individual’s mental health or general satisfaction and fulfillment in life”.
Cilona went on to say that pressure to conform to familial and social norms can have far-reaching and high stakes for an individual.
  • The loss of valued and important family relationships.
  • Ongoing stresses and constant conflict with one’s family.
  • Dissatisfaction in close personal relationships.
“The potential impact of these kinds of dynamics cannot be overstated”. — Dr. Joseph Cilona
For some people straddling more than one romantic culture and others who feel like happy romantic love is out of reach, there are labels for what you are feeling. But understanding why you feel unfulfilled is the first step in your journey to happy relationships.

Our psychological machinery wired for polyamory

Scientist at work – Photo by Sarah Pflug

Let us unpack how most of the western-world became monogamous to understand why your love life might need revamping .

According to “Psychology Today” contributor Michael E. Price Ph.D.,

“The evidence suggests that human nature is adapted to an ancestral mating system that was polygynous”. — Michael E. Price Ph.D.

Polygynous— “One husband with multiple wives. Most ancestral men aspired to polygyny. Some ancestral women preferred to be the co-wife of a really impressive man than the sole wife of a second-rate one.

In other words the genetically encoded psychological machinery of human mating behavior was built by, and for a world in which striving for polygyny was often reproductively advantageous. People living in modern societies often seem inclined towards polygyny even in cultures that have attempted to abolish it”.

Consequently what that means to us today is this. Romantic relationships consisting of just two partners may run counter to our “genetically encoded psychological machinery”. Dr. Price said.

From multiple partners to monogamy

The National Institutes of Health quotes Gregory Clark’s book — “A farewell to alms: a brief economic history of the world” in its explanation of how much of the modern world became monogamous.

Photograph of an Antique Globe and Skeletal System
Antique Globe and Skeletal System – Photo Courtesy of Sarah Pflug

“While the roots of the package of norms and institutions that constitute modern marriage can be traced back to classical Greece and Rome. The global spread of this peculiar marriage system has occurred only in recent centuries. As other societies sought to imitate the West, with laws prohibiting polygyny arriving in 1880 in Japan, 1953 in China, 1955 in India and 1963 in Nepal”.

Why monogamy went viral

“We propose that the unusual package of norms and institutions that constitute modern monogamous marriage systems spread across Europe. And then the globe, because of the success of the polities, nations and religions that adopted this cultural package”. — Gregory Clark

“Reducing the pool of unmarried men and leveling the reproductive playing field would have decreased crime”, which would have spurred activities such as:

  1. Commerce.
  2. Travel.
  3. The free flow of ideas.
  4. Innovations.

“These expectations are broadly consistent with historical patterns in pre-modern England during the lead up to the industrial revolution”. Clark said.

Religion and the spread of monogamy

Rosary on a bible - Photo By: Leandro Almeida
Rosary on a bible – Photo Courtesy of Leandro Almeida

“Religion may also be important in the spread of normative monogamy”. — Jack Goody

In his book “The development of the family and marriage in Europe” Jack Goody talked about how religion helped to proliferate monogamy.

Although Michael J. Formica, MS, MA, EdM sometimes confuses polyamory with other forms of open relating he touches on an interesting concept.

“What if we were to characterize infidelity not as a moral transgression, but, rather, as an artifact prompted by the imposition of an unnatural stricture on a system that is unwilling to accept that stricture?” — Michael J. Formica

“In other words what if we weren’t meant to be monogamous and all of the variations of infidelity — whether they be actual, emotional or objective — are in fact the result of trying to put a square peg in a round hole”?

Primarily Formica suggests that polyamory might be a more evolved way of partnering. He goes on to say:

“Doesn’t it make sense that, at some point in our social evolution, polyamory would be re-introduced as the logical standard for perpetuating the species”? — Michael J. Formica

Polyamory & CNM may save your marriage

Photo of Colorado-based, Psychotherapist Jessica Fern Cooley
Colorado-based, Psychotherapist Jessica Fern Cooley Photo by Unknown Source

When asked if opening up the relationship to consensual non-monogamy (CNM) and or polyamory — romantic love between more than one person at the same time can fix a problematic marriage Psychotherapist Jessica Fern Cooley had this to say:

“I’d say there are pros and cons. There’s a lot of people in the poly-world that say do not open your marriage in order to fix it. There’s a lot of validity in that but I do see people who have certain specific issues in their monogamous marriage. And, it does get solved by opening up their relationship”. — Jessica Fern Cooley


Video Interview answering the question: How might you benefit from opening up your relationship? Watch this interview with Psychotherapist — Jessica Fern Cooley. Video Courtesy of Antoinette Lee Toscano.

We talk with Dr. Kim TallBear about polyamory, consensual non-monogamy and settler or colonial sexuality. And how the way we romantically partner is a product of colonization in Polyamory Part II – Colonial Sexuality .

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