You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom

Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen


I think you hit on the important point, although obliquely. Marriage isn't about love. You can have all the love you want, without it.

Marriage is about property, about survivor's benefits, parental rights, taxation and a whole bunch of other stuff that's completely complicated with just two partners. If it was just about love, it'd be a cinch. But once you get down to issues about spousal pension benefits, income tax exemptions, and estate distributions, it would be impossible to write a single set of fair rules to apply to everyone, that could be uniformly interpreted by courts and such.

Setting aside all the moral claptrap from the yammering fools, the real problem is that of practical implementation.

Thank you! So well put. I'm sorry about your break up. It's hard enough to have to go through that with out also having had your relationship viewed as some sort of Gold Standard by others.
I know a big poly household and the never ending battle for hot water in the morning alone is enough to make me shudder. My little Polycule works best with us all having our own spaces.
Biggest obstacle to reich-wing pearl-clutchers' fantasy about gay marriage leading to plural marriage? The courts. Any judge can see that gar marriage has little effect on anything.

But if you can marry MULTIPLE people? Kaboom! Fer example: insurance companies then have no way of knowing how many additional people will become associated with one insured's policy. Not acceptable. And as we learned from Obamacare, in the USA, what insurance companies want, they get.
And this is why I'm a fan of Limited Liability Partnerships. LLPs are a legal entity through which property ownership can be shared, health insurance and funds established, tax shelters utilized, and distribution of benefits realized. It even provides certain asset protections you can't get with a marriage license. Poly folks who are really committed to long-term relationship should look more into this.


If you think Eric`s story is impossible,, 3 weeks ago my uncle basically brought home $4448 putting in eighteen hours a week an their house and their best friend's half-sister`s neighbour has done this for 6 months and actually earned over $4448 parttime on line. apply the guidelines available here...
My slippery slope went the other way. I actually got interested in gay marriage by being in favor of poly marriage first. I was in college, dating a guy who was also dating another person, and I thought about the fact that we couldn't all get married. It didn't seem fair. And then I thought about other people who couldn't get married, including gay folks, and gay marriage seemed like a pretty good idea

I was monogamously married for about seven years in the interim, but I'm back to being actively polyamorous. And I'm completely uninterested in ever being married again. Not to one person, not to three people, not at all. But I do wish that poly people who wanted to be married could be married. It's not the kind of polyamory I'm interested in, but is is the kind of polyamory a lot of people at least idealize (including Mistress Matisse's ex, it seems).

Personally, I want to live with a lot of people who I get along very well with. It's OK with me if some of them are lovers or important emotional partners live with me. If I live alone, or only with roommates who aren't that important to me, that's OK, too. What isn't OK for me is to have one person who is my emotional, sexual, and economic touchstone, who I live with and love and am strongly interdependent with. I dislike not just marriage and monogamy, but both the assumption and the system that you should find a person to share your life with.

What I want to do about marriage is weaken it. Make fewer and fewer laws and benefits depend upon it, make society not expect it, make it one strange choice some weirdos make. And I think those weirdos should be able to be polyamorous in addition to being monogamous.

So chalk me up as one more polyamormous person who isn't going to do any fundraising or activism for polyamorous marriage. It's for different reasons than Mistress Matisse (polyamory is quite a broad category), but I agree with essential conclusion.
Time for some Biblical truths amid the post-modern, amoral confusion: Marriage is between one man and one woman. It's Biblical. Now, I know Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, but that was before he came to Jesus and repented and wrote the Song of Solomon: a guidebook for sanctified, Christian, Godly sex. I posted on this issue the other day. Read the Truth about Homosexuality here:…
Very well said! I always get such great perspective after reading something you wrote. How I've missed your writing and insights!
Yay, a new Mistress Matisse article! I'm used to hearing polyamorous people argue in favour of poly marriage, so it was especially interesting to hear someone say 'meh' to marriage.
With the proper legal instruments (LLPs are a good idea) and custody arrangements, polyamorous legal unions could work. If you solve the practical problems, I have no moral objection. So long as the gender ratios don't get too skewed as to cause social upheaval, go for it.
@1: Actually, marriage is about love AND all that you mention. To me, this is one big reason why modern marriage is flawed. It just doesn't work for the majority of people. If you didn't love somebody, why would you want to be so legally and financially intertwined? And when you no longer love somebody, now you are legally pitted against your former partner to undo all that, making the entire process a nightmare.

Now, for those crazy enough to still want to do it, I think the state should have some mechanism available for any number of consenting adults (regardless of gender, of course) to enter into some legal benefits parallel to what we currently have with marriage, and otherwise be out of the marriage business altogether.
Poly marriage will not happen because of the federal tax code, Social Security . . . but the printing industry and the lawyers would love it.

Or maybe the state should issue boyfriend/girlfriend licenses. The names on the license could select a six month, year or five year expiration date. Any number of people or combo could be on the license.

Reserve "marriage" for an open ended contract.
you cant just put "professional" on the front of anything
The biggest reason I can see for poly marriage to not ever happen is that the (same sex) marriage equality movement very vocally distanced itself from polyamory in its efforts to get the conservative christian right on side.

Many marriage equality activists threw the poly people under the bus in order to achieve its rights.

This article made me think of the slogan "not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you," which to me, captured the split between sexual freedom, (Queer), vs. the modest demand for same sex marriage equality.…

Gay and lesbian activists didn't throw poly people "under the bus" because there IS NO BUS! Same-sex marriage is not the same as poly-marriage. GLBT people have been working since Stonewall to achieve rights. Like Matisse said, poly marriage isn't even a defined thing. You can't legalize something when you can't even say what it is! If people want to figure out a way to do legal poly marriage, I have no problem with it, but don't act like non-poly gay and lesbian people owed them something.
I wouldn't bet against that type of matrimonial arrangement from becoming legal here.
Here's another reason why poly marriage won't easily follow same-sex marriage: The implementation of same-sex marriage is bureaucratically trivial: Change the text in some forms and laws, from "Husband / Wife" to "Spouse 1 / Spouse A" and Bob's yer uncle. But adjusting laws, tax codes, etc. to accommodate more than two spouses? A bureaucratic nightmare. It'll never happen. Better to stick with legal constructs that already exist -- like the LLP mentioned in previous comments.

In "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch") Robert Heinlein describes some interesting variations on multiple marriage. The main character, Mannie, is a junior member of an arrangement called "line marriage".

I find your stance on this issue surprisingly conservative, Mistress. I mean, just because polyamorous marriage would present legal and logistical difficulties doesn't mean it shouldn't happen, or you shouldn't fight for it. "Being in love doesn't have to include a ring or a big white cake" is a terrible argument against marriage equality, and I might add, can be used against same-sex marriage. Your anecdotal experiences and discussions with your friends about Polyamory does not prove there is no support out there for Poly Marriage. I'm sorry you had some bad experiences with cohabitation, but you need to realize that not all people are introverts and not all partners are like that property-obsessed ex of yours. You mentioned that you could count on one hand the number of happy poly households that have cohabitated for many years. Don't you think at least some of those people would enjoy things like hospital visitation rights, next of kin status, and adoption privileges? Sure, Polyamorous Marriage doesn't seem likely now, but neither did gay marriage before Stonewall, or even 20 years ago. So when Poly Marriage does happen, maybe don't stand in the way?
Aw, poor Matisse! I thought she and Max would be a permanent thing....
I have spent the last 14 years in a poly triad (actually a V) that is still going strong. The three of us have lived together since 2000. A few years ago the woman in the center married the other man, mostly so she could get on his work health insurance plan. And I simply don't care that she's married to him and not me, and don't care about having the right to marry her also. We're married already in every way that matters except the legal perks. Maybe the day will come when I will be denied some rights I ought to have as a spouse, and then I will give a shit. But I will NOT support marriage between more than two people until it is legally clarified that a corporation is not actually a human being after all. The nightmare visions that provokes ...
As a man in a stable triad with two lovely partners I found your article dismayingly convincing. Although I can envision a not-too-complicated tax structure for poly families who wish to file jointly (we could get around this hurdle; likewise we could write wills to ensure proper disposal of our estates), my wife and I would like to have the ability to list our “girlfriend” as a beneficiary of our health and life insurance policies, for example. Furthermore, and more vitally, we would like for her to be recognized as an equal, integral partner instead of an outsider. That being said, your argument regarding the lack of political interest in (read: fundraising for) universal marriage equality seems insurmountably dispositive.

Far from embracing poly love, the LGBT community (with its immensely powerful lobby) has done its darndest to distinguish itself from people like my partners and me (even though they are bisexual, and embracing any iteration of coupledom would leave them un-whole).
I am reminded of the contemporaneous struggle undergone by African and female Americans: although both groups strove for similar goals, they often found that speaking up for the “other” was disadvantageous, because doing so risked alienating their support base. Without the backing of proponents of marriage equality (and because of Mormon history, and the concomitant bias which prevails to this day), modern polygamists cannot expect to be taken seriously, or treated with equal respect.

All we can hope for is to be treated with disinterest. That is, the State should never intrude upon our home. You may have no personal desire to live in a ‘sister-wives’ situation, but we do. (I expect the pivotal difference is that my partners love each other too.) Should we choose to have children (which commitment is incalculably more permanent than marriage or buying a house), we will demand the right to be left alone. No nosy interference from child-welfare agencies or any b.s. like that. Ideally, our kids will even be able to play with their neighbors’ without getting called plygs.

We’re fortunate that we live in Seattle. For now, our friends actually think our thing is pretty cool.
I'm in a stable triad with my husband and my wife. Our biggest difficulty in not being able to recognize our wife legally is with insurance. I recently looked at what it would cost for me to get a single policy (not through an employer) and discovered that it would cost me more than it would cost her. If that had not been the case, I would have pushed for a legal divorce between me and our husband and then a legal marriage between the two of them. Between my health issues and hers, we're really struggling to figure out how to cover us all affordably, with access to quality care.

It seems that there are lots of people who idealize having a group relationship. It's not impossible for more than two people to realize they all want to be together, but the more people who are added, the more unlikely it is that everyone will genuinely like everyone else. So I feel like some people who are really keen on group relationships might be trying to force something together. It is much more complicated and I suspect that poly marriage would for the most part just mean a return to polygyny. By the time poly marriage is a viable issue, I'd rather see marriage de-institutionalized.
Excellent Comment!

Marriage is a tool for oppression not for liberation! Do Bonobos marry???
I live in a stable "W". I don't find this reasoning convincing at all…