Polygamy is not something that one would expect to come up in an everyday conversation, but if it does, some of the subsequent sub-topics often include the notorious Warren Jeffs, sexual abuse of minors and brainwashing on various levels Yet with other exposure of polygamists in the media — such as TLC’s Sister Wives or Lisa Ling’s Spotlight on a Young Polygamist Family recently on the O Network — lines become blurred and one must consider that the extreme stories seen on the news may be the exception instead of the experience of the majority of polygamists.
Many ancient cultures practiced polygamy to the extent where it was accepted as a regular part of society; can we as citizens of the modern world really be so conceited as to think we have come up with all the “right and wrong” norms for civilization? Should any of us even have a say in what a person believes is a meaningful romantic relationship as long as it abstains from the abuse of others? The overwhelming voice of today’s society cries out for equality and neutrality in opinions ranging from religion to politics to interpersonal relationships, and there’s no reason to exclude polygamous relationships from such consideration.
Nevertheless, a wise person once told me that everyone has a bias — even if that bias is to uphold the belief that they themselves are unbiased.
My bias towards polygamy is that, since many modern polygamists only practice polygyny —the practice of having more than one wife at one time — I immediately associate it with the oppression of women. If I take a step back from that opinion, however, I can see some of the benefits of not having to settle on finding one significant other, but being open to finding several.
In an alternate universe, we might be able to handpick all the specific qualities desired in a significant other, where we don’t have to settle for getting some of the good qualities we want along with all of the bad we had hoped to avoid. If this were the case, I would choose a man stretching above six feet, with kind eyes and an electric smile. He would give good advice, love spur of the moment adventures and always be respectful and generous to those around him (and if not that, something along the lines of Zac Efron would do).
But maybe it is impossible to find all the characteristics matching one’s ideal romantic partner in one single, flawed human being. It’s unlikely that we will all find that the tall, dark and handsome Prince Charming, or the sexy, smart and cool Cinderella somewhere in the massive abyss that is our unknown future. How many of us have settled (what a disappointing word) for the realistic versions of our fantasies?
Maybe there is something to the logic of a polygamist when they pick, say, wife No. 1 for her sense of humor and skill at WoW, wife No. 2 for her love of cats and her cherry pie recipe, wife No. 3 for her fun-loving nature and her — ahem — lovely lady lumps and so on. We all deserve to find the true love of our lives. So what if that true love is only found in packs of 12?
I suppose the deeper issue in all of this is that if and when we start introducing multiple partners into this private alcove called “commitment,” it would seem to devalue the worth of existing partners with each subsequent person added to the arrangement.
Unfortunately, we’re all flawed, often selfish and occasionally miserable human beings. The good news to go along with this sobering truth is that we are all still worthy of true love and respect — perhaps not from a “perfect person,” but from that incredible person who happens to be perfect for us. And while I could flippantly argue the benefits of multiple lovers in my life, I speak for myself when I say that, for the sake of simplicity if nothing else, I would rather deal with the shortcomings of only one person rather than those of several.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf