Less than two years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States changed the legal definition of marriage to allow for two people of the same sex to be considered married. Since then, people have continued to chip away at the true meaning of marriage. The argument is that “love is love” as long as it is between two consenting adults.
Lately, I have seen a disturbing rise in people promoting polyamory as a legitimate form of romantic relationships. Though I have seen the encouragement mostly focused towards just respect towards polyamorous relationships, I feel like it is important to remember that romantic relationships should ultimately lead to marriage. If we see distorted romantic relationships, we should be concerned about where they could lead.If we see distorted romantic relationships, we should be concerned about where they could lead. Click To Tweet
My intent with this post is to define poly relationships, explain why they are wrong, and address some popular internet arguments for poly relationships. Next week, I’ll describe why we should care, and provide ideas for how we should respond as Christians.
Polyamory is being in multiple romantic relationships.
Polygamy is having multiple spouses.
Polygyny is one man having multiple wives.
Polyandry is one woman having multiple husbands.
It is important to recognize that people in poly relationships emphasize open communication and consent. If there is deception involved, that is not a polyamorous relationship; it is cheating.
I want to make it clear that I am not denying that people can be happy in poly relationships. I believe that people can be immensely happy in poly relationships. However, that is not the point. The question is if those relationships are right, and the answer is a clear and resounding no.The question is if those relationships are right, and the answer is a clear and resounding no. Click To Tweet
Why it is Wrong
Definition of Love
The word “love” in the English language has a variety of meanings, but that is a whole other conversation. Instead, I want to focus on two of my favorite descriptions of love.
The first is “willing the good of the other.” This is applicable to any relationship. We want was is truly best for the other, and what is best for every person is to follow the will of God. I will explain shortly why poly relationships are contrary to the will of God.
The second is drawn from Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Marital love is a total gift of oneself. Obviously, you cannot give a total gift of self to multiple people. To claim otherwise is naive and ignores the sacrificial nature of love.To claim otherwise is naive and ignores the sacrificial nature of love. Click To Tweet
God has very clearly defined marriage throughout the Bible. From Genesis’s description of man and woman being created for each other to Jesus’s reaffirmation that marriage is one man and one woman becoming one flesh, there are a variety of images of marriage. Most beautifully, we see marriage compared to the relationship of Christ and His Church.
While polygamy is mentioned in the Bible, it is never presented as a valid form of marriage. We must recall that the Bible isn’t just a rulebook; we must look at it with all its different genres and meanings.
Though the Catechism recognizes that converts may have come from a culture and/or religion where polygamy is acceptable, it reaffirms that it is not a valid form of marriage.
2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law.” [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.”180 The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.
In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament and is a covenant with God. There is an abundance of resources describing what marriage is. You can start by reading the Catechism (free online). This is a good summary on how marriage is a gift of self. This is an interesting piece on a Catholic Psychology site.
If you are finding yourself struggling with what the Church teaches on marriage, that is ok. We are in a culture that is chipping away at the meaning of marriage, and it can be difficult to reconcile what we experience with what the Church tells us is the truth. There are ways to grapple with Church teaching without being disobedient to the Church.
Though Trent Horn is a Catholic apologist, he does a phenomenal job describing two different views of marriage (conjugal versus relational) without mentioning God or religion. This is a blog post he wrote on the topic. He also has a great talk on FORMED called “How to Talk ABout Marriage and Same-Sex Unions.”
Conor Friedersdorf wrote an article for The Atlantic (which is said to lean towards left-center) explaining why “civil marriage should not encompass group unions.” He provides arguments including how damaging polygamy can be for women and low-status men, the lower stability of said relationships, logistical problems, and the fact it is not a human right. Though I don’t agree with all his points, I appreciate his point (bold emphasis mine) “I agree that consenting adults who decide to enter contracts while free of coercion should be permitted to do so, but I disagree that the state is obligated to call these contracts “marriages,” to extend to the parties all benefits of civil marriage, and to rewrite those attributes of civil marriage that are inseparable from two-person unions.”
I won’t go into detail here, but simply put, children do best being raised by their biological parents in most cases. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but ultimately, we must also recognize that sex leads to children. Marriage involves sex, and we must look at what is best for the potential offspring.
I have seen a number of pro-poly posts come across my newsfeed. I wanted to take some time to address them.
“Toxic Monogamy Culture”
A Tumblr user named nankingdecade shared a post that called out “toxic monogamy culture.” Because the website name is incredibly questionable (and NSFW), I have included a screenshot of the original post below.
Most of the things on that list are signs of an unhealthy relationship in general. There are a few points of his that I would like to clarify or dismiss.
“the idea that a sufficiently intense love should cause you to cease to be attracted to anyone else”
We are imperfect beings. I would bet money that most married people have at some point in their marriage found another person attractive. The important thing is how we address it. Fleeting thoughts are not sinful, but dwelling on them is bad. Putting ourselves in a position where we develop an emotional attraction to someone is also a problem. I do believe that people of the opposite sex are able to have healthy friendships. At the same time, I think it is wise to be careful and avoid developing it into so intimate of a relationship that would cause emotional infidelity.
“the idea that commitment is synonymous with exclusivity”
This really depends on what kind of commitment we are talking about. In regards to romantic commitments, it must be exclusive. That is a fundamental aspect of a romantic relationship. However, we can be committed to our friends. We can be committed to our jobs. We can be committed to social causes. However, we are finite humans. We have limited time and energy. If we commit to one thing, there is going to be less attention to something else. We must properly prioritize these commitments.
“the idea that marriage and children are the only valid teleological justifications for being committed to a relationship”
I’m not going to lie, I had to look up teleological. It essentially means the purpose of something. New Advent, a Catholic Encyclopedia, explains it in much more detail. The purpose of romantic love should be marriage. You can be committed to a friendship, but that is a different kind of love than romantic love.The purpose of romantic love should be marriage. Click To Tweet
“What I am feels right to me.”
Kimchi Cuddles shared a comic about experiencing attraction to both sexes and not wanting to be in an exclusive relationship.
There are two problems with this comic.
- The idea that our attractions are who we are. Our identity is children of God. We should not hinge our identity, the fundamental idea of who we are, on something like our sexual attractions.
- Because we are a certain way (setting aside point 1), it is right. We live in a broken world. There are aspects of our lives that steer away from the perfection of Christ. Their existence in the world doesn’t validate them. We need to test those feelings against what God tells us is His plan for us.
“Monogamy shouldn’t be the default.”
Tumblr user kingdaume shared a post supportive of polyamory.
Though I agree that jealousy and possessiveness shouldn’t be considered healthy parts of a relationship, the rest of her short post should be questioned.
As Christians, we should oppose sin being normalized. As people in general who are concerned about society, we shouldn’t want damaging relationships normalized.
Monogamy shouldn’t just be the default; it should be the only valid romantic relationship.Monogamy shouldn’t just be the default; it should be the only valid romantic relationship. Click To Tweet