I sometimes ponder what liberals of the future will be pushing for, assuming liberals today ever achieve anything. I’d like to think my kids will be fighting for improvements I never even thought of, but as slow as the US is to change, I sometimes question if my cryogenically frozen head will ever see every modern liberal goal achieved.
I already see certain issues on the horizon. Specifically, once gay couples are allowed to marry, there will still be a need for the definition of marriage to evolve. Even today, there are many people who live in polygamous family units, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an economic advantage –or necessity– in the future.
The benefits are manifold. A family consisting of five married adults, for example, could have four working adults and one that stays home to give hands-on parental childcare. As a matter of simple economics, household chores and duties would be more thinly spread out among more individuals, lessening the overall load on everyone within the family unit.
I haven’t written about polygamy since the show “Big Love” went off the air, but it has been on my mind because of a few strange events. For one, I watched a documentary with my wife about polygamous Mormon sects. I also saw a blog post that briefly mentioned polygamy. Then, to top it all off, the unthinkable happened…
My wife knows a lot of unusual/interesting people, and among them were two “triads,” as she calls them. Both are married couples who invited a third person into their relationship. One invited a woman, the other couple invited a man. Both had worked out for years, and then just recently, both triads fell apart. In both cases, the newly introduced member remained with the original member of the opposite sex from the original couple. In other words, in one case, the original husband stayed with the new woman, and in the other case, the original wife stayed together with the new man.
I’ve always supported the right of any adults to live their lives however they want. I don’t know these people at all (I may have met some of them once or twice, though I don’t remember them), but from what I gather from my wife, this isn’t some simple arrangement in any of the cases. For example, where the original wife was abandoned for the new woman, the original wife has attempted suicide several times recently and is basically impossible to live with. While this may explain what happened, and it paints a different picture than one of a husband just leaving his wife for a new woman, I still find the details to be disconcerting.
If my wife tried to kill herself multiple times, my first thought would be to help her, not ditch her. Still, I don’t know the specifics, and on some level I know that most people wouldn’t just turn and run at the first sign of difficulty in a multi-year marriage. I’m more inclined to believe that this has been a recurring problem for a long time, that steps had been taken to attempt to correct the problems, and I also know it wasn’t her husband’s idea to bring another woman into their home (who would say no to that, am I right?).
Obviously, there’s nothing currently stopping people from living this way. There is already no crime in fathering children with multiple women, or conceiving several children with different men. There is nothing illegal (and I would argue, nothing immoral) about living a polyamorous lifestyle where all parties are given equal input on decision making.
There’s just nothing inherently wrong with polygamy. Sure, these kind of relationships can fall apart and get complicated, but honestly… so can monogamous couplings. In fact, monogamous couples fail more often than they succeed, if you count non-married couples as well. Plus, a wrinkly octogenarian can marry a sheltered, naïve teen girl in a monogamous relationship, so allowing polygamy doesn’t somehow magically open the door to abusive situations.
Also, for the sake of clarification: polygyny is a marriage with multiple wives, polyandry is a relationship with multiple men, polyamory is simply “love for multiple people,” and polygamy means “multiple marriages.” Technically, Newt Gingrich is a polygamist, since he’s been married multiple times… just not concurrently (though he did boink a woman and left his wife while his wife had cancer). For the record, I support legalized polygamy, not institutionally restricted polygyny, which doesn’t allow women to have multiple husbands.
The question at hand is: should the state recognize such relationships? I honestly don’t see why not. There’s no reason not to. People in different sorts of relationships should be allowed all the same rights and privileges of people in any other type of relationship. There is no reason to avoid changing this error in relationship bias within our system.
“But Bret, where does it end? Wouldn’t someone be able to marry a goat or their iPhone?”
I dunno about a goat, but what’s wrong with marrying your iPhone? What harm is there in being married to an inanimate object? I was in a relationship with a WASP for three years, and that was basically the same thing. If you want your iPhone to be there with you at your deathbed, who’s to say it shouldn’t be allowed?
And maybe you should be allowed to marry a goat. Stranger things are already happening in the world. A cat just inherited $13 million in Italy. This has me thinking: maybe we have room in our house for one more feline. I’ll clean one more litter box a day for $13 million. Hell, I’ll do it for half that.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand the conservative mindset, this need to control and restrict everything. They seem to imagine themselves as valiantly defending a way of life that always was, as if our ancestors who thought the stars were gods and the world was flat had some sort of inside track on profound wisdom.
So long as there are societies, I imagine liberals will never run out of social problems to fix.
So get this... I talked to my wife, and it turns out that one of the triads (the one that introduced an extra man) is actually more complex than I described. So, the couple was originally composed of a gay man and a man who is female-to-male transgender. Though one of the men was born a woman, they legally changed their gender after sexual reassignment and then got married as a gay couple (so their marriage wouldn't be recognized in many states... even though it is between someone born a man and someone born a woman). Then, they introduced a bisexual man. That ended when the original couple broke up, and the man who is transgender stayed with the new guy.
I never cease to be amazed at how boringly normal my own life turns out to be compared to other people.