Domestic violence is an epidemic in the world we live in. In the U.S., statistics vary from one in three women to one in four women that will experience violence in her own home, usually from a spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend. (The statistic for men is one in seven). I am questioning whether monogamy, while not being the cause of this abuse, could provide an ideal environment for such abuse to occur. On the other hand, does polyamory promote those qualities which would make it almost impossible for domestic abuse to take place?
Let’s go through each factor…
Sense of ownership – Monogamy’s roots were laid during the agricultural revolution when the idea of owning land became popular. Along with that came the idea to own slaves and women. The contract for women was called “marriage.” In a truly polyamorous relationship, the sense of “owning” each other is abandoned or is just not a part of the relationship from the beginning.
Isolation – The abuser will often isolate his/her victim from family and friends. Monogamy not only allows for this but is often seen as a positive quality. “They just love being together.” Also, there is so much shame about being abused that sometimes the victim doesn’t want people to know what she/he is experiencing. In Polyamorous relationships, one is having other emotionally and physically intimate relationships in which it would be difficult to hide any abuse going on.
Fear – To be alone with one’s abuser is extremely frightening. The victim often doesn’t know if they are going to be emotionally battered, physically damaged or even murdered. This sense of fear can keep one paralyzed and prevent any action that might bring about change. Most victims realize that the most dangerous time for them is in attempting to leave the abusive situation. One can see how isolation and fear are essential elements of abuse.
Low Self-Esteem – This is necessary to allow mistreatment from one’s partner and stay in the relationship. The victim is usually in a state of shock and disbelief. Often what happens is the victim puts the abusers needs before her (or his) own and makes excuses for the behavior. ”He (She) is a wounded child”. After a time of emotional and physical abuse, the victim often feels “I don’t deserve better” or “this is the best I can do.” People in polyamorous relationships have many people loving and adoring them and high self-esteem is generally well in place.
No other choices – “what else would I do?” ”where would I go?” This is it. This is all I have. What am I going to do if I leave this situation? He abuses me but he also cares about me and sometimes we have good times together. ”It’s better than nothing.” In polyamorous relationships, we do have other choices and we know we don’t have to accept “unloving” behavior in our life.
Loneliness – “I will be all alone if I leave.” Often, because of the isolation, the victim feels they no longer have family or friends to turn to. Obviously, in poly relationships, one has others from whom they can seek friendship and support.
Finances – “I can’t support myself and my children.” Often the abuser won’t allow the victim to work as they would have contact and relationships with people at work. Having the victim dependent financially and every other way gives the abuser total control. Most poly relationships have a more egalitarian basis and finances are either shared or each has their own means of support.
Amazing Sex – Often, sex in an abusive relationship is described as “amazing.” ”I’ve never experienced orgasms like I do with this person. I will never find another lover like this.” The truth is that so much tension is built up in the victim after “walking on eggshells” all day, that the release from sex is explosive and finally both the victim and the abuser experience a few seconds of peace and relaxation.
Addiction – Often the abuser is addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and the victim is addicted to the “cycle of abuse”. This is a repetitive pattern found in many abusive relationships where there is a tension-building phase, an acting-out phase of abuse, a reconciliatory phase or “honeymoon” phase where apologies and promises for a better future are forthcoming. Finally, a calm phase where the victim believes that everything is okay now. ”He (she), the abuser, has seen the light.” Then the tension-building phase starts again and the cycle repeats itself. The body’s chemical factory is working overtime pouring adrenalin, endorphins and oxytocin into the victim’s body and the victim can get addicted to the feelings of anxiety, fear and relief that these chemicals produce. A so-called “normal” or relatively peaceful relationship would seem very boring compared to what the victim is experiencing.
In poly relationships, the excitement, I would like to think, is from things like NRE (new relationship energy), wonderful lovemaking, and fulfilling relationships. Am I living in a polyamorous bubble? Can there be abuse and addiction problems in poly relationships? Definitely. The poly situation where I have seen abuse taking place is where one or more of the partners do not have more than one lover as in the case of polygamy and the sense of ownership is still in place. This to me is not polyamory. However, a truly polyamorous relationship promotes love, well-being, honest and open communication and a feeling of fulfillment of our very human needs.
What is your experience? I welcome your stories and opinions.