Strict monogamy states that a person has one "true love" in his lifetime. This belief is commonly held but rarely practiced. This belief is a direct derivative of the common imagery of the "one true love", and the fairy tales of the prince and the princess meeting and falling in love and living happily ever after. In this belief, there are two scenarios that can happen. The idealistic vision is that a person will experience attraction and love only once in their life, and this would be their one true love. In more pragmatic visions, a person is perceived to experience love several times in their life, but only one of their experiences in love is "true" love.
The pragmatic vision of strict monogamy is usually characterized by the concept of a "soul mate". So basically, the vision is that people live their lives, fall in and out of loves multiple of times, but those relationships that failed, failed because they were not with their soul mate, their one true love. So the people would be entering relationships in the hope of stumbling upon their soul mate, and having an everlasting relationship! In this vision, previous lovers are pictured as being somewhat inferior to the person that one ended up having an everlasting relationship with. That's to say, they were not instances of "true love", your true love is that love you finally got to after successive failures.
Serial monogamy states that a person can have only one "true love" at any point of time. There is strong similarity between the pragmatic vision of strict monogamy and serial monogamy. So, just like in strict monogamy, a person falls in and out of love several times in their life. Serial monogamy is also a commonly held belief, and is much more practiced in real life. The idea here is that a person gets a lover (usually with the title boyfriend or girlfriend), their relationship is maintained for some time, then they break up, and then enter into a new relationship. The difference from the pragmatic vision of strict monogamy that their is no belief that the love of a given person should be superior to all previous lovers. So in this belief system, you can claim that you had more than one experience of "true love". One does not have to denounce previous relationships as inferior to their current relationship in order to claim that their current relationship is sincere.
After this brief introduction to the various beliefs held for monogamous love, let's look at the implications of those beliefs.
Most people (I guess) would identify with serial monogamy. It is after all how most people conduct their relationships, although for some people their inner thoughts and feelings resonate more with the vision of the pragmatic strict monogamy. Pragmatic strict monogamy in my opinion is very insulting to the concept of love.
When I was first introduced to the concept of strict monogamy I was completely abhorred!! And yes, like most people I was introduced to this concept at a very young age. To see why strict monogamy is abhorrent, let's look at a very simple scenario:
Say that you met someone who you find to be absolutely charming, and that you find yourself in love with that person. You would characterize your love for that person as honest and sincere. In other words, it's love in it's most noble form. But then, you foresee that this person may not be in your life forever. That you may have to part with this person at some future point of time. And then you find yourself in a pickle. If you ever met someone else and felt those same noble feelings of honest and sincere love, then you have to denounce your love for the person you are currently with as "not true love"! This is because in that belief system you can only have one true love, so you either have to admit that your current lover is not the real deal, or that it is impossible that any future love that you experience is also sincere because you already consumed your one shot at true love!!
Such scenario is truly disturbing in my opinion. That if you sincerely love a person now, all your future relationships are a "fraud". Or that if you were going to have a future sincere relationship, then your current relationship is a "fraud"!! It is a very disturbing and counter-intuitive idea, and I find it truly immature to hold such belief!
Needless to say, labeling your relationships as insincere or frauds is insulting to the people that you love. So in this setup, you are being forced to insult either your current partner, or all of you future and past partners. You are being forced to value your relationships in a post-facto (after the fact) manner. Such setup obviously does not make the concept of love noble in any way, but rather one has to hold a belief of inferiority of all your relationships that did not turn out exactly the way a person envisions them.
The obvious solution to this dangerous belief is that a person can indeed have sincere feelings of love towards more than one person in his or her lifetime. To me, this instantly made me believe in polyamory. However, the concept of serial monogamy solves the same problem but with an additional condition. So, in serial monogamy it is believed that a person can have sincere feelings of love towards more than one person in his or her lifetime, BUT you can only sincerely love one person at any given point of time!
That's a really big BUT there in serial monogamy. And I believe this additional condition is misinformed. Once we understand why strict monogamy is problematic, we can easily see why serial monogamy is also problematic. I have already addressed this in a previous post, but let's get over it once more. As we have seen with the problem of strict monogamy, we are being forced to denounce certain love experiences as insincere because we perceive it as impossible to experience true love more than once in a lifetime. However, in serial monogamy we are being forced to make that same denouncement of the sincerity of love if our experiences of love happened to overlap in time.
So, for a serial monogamist, if they find that they are developing feelings and emotional connections with someone, they are instantly being forced to decide that one of their love experiences as being insincere. So, you either love this new person in your life sincerely which means that you should terminate your relationship with the person you are currently involved with, or you see the new person as a threat to your current relationship, and must destroy any emotional connection that is developing between you and that new person.
However, this notion is ludicrous in my opinion. The notion that the sincerity of one's love has to be questioned if they find themselves being emotionally connected to more than one person. In my mind, this problem at it's core is not in any way different from the problem that is raised in the context of strict monogamy. And for this reason, I think that anyone who has a problem with the implications of strict monogamy should be equally disturbed by the implications of serial monogamy!!
Again, the limitation of loving one person at a time is nothing more than a misinformed, not properly thought out, externally imposed limitation. There is nothing in our nature (at least for most people) that prevents us from wholeheartedly loving more than one person at any given point of time. And the introduction of this limitation does not make the concept of love more noble. Quite the contrary, it is debasing and insulting to the concept of love, and to the people we love!!
Polyamory, which is the belief that we can love more than one person (even at the same time), is the obvious and natural response to the problems that are being introduced by the concept of monogamy...
There are some challenges to practicing polyamory in system that idolizes serial monogamy. The problem is highlighted with the concept of cheating. In most relationship paradigms that are practiced today, having more than one relationship is indeed insulting to your lover. This is because for a person to love someone other than the one they are currently in a relationship with would involve cheating. And cheating in my opinion does challenge the sincerity of love one has for another. However, this is a problem of design and construction. In other words, when people design their relationships with the principles of serial monogamy embedded in their construction, they create a system where loving more than one person comes at direct contradiction with sincerity.
So our initial problem is persistent in such a design. If, by design, the only way a person can practice polyamory they need to cheat, then it is an obvious flaw in the design. The very purpose of polyamory (in my personal view) is that we do not undermine the integrity and sincerity of our relationships either past, current, or future. For this reason, the open-relationships design is crucial to practicing polyamory while adhering to the principles that compelled a person to hold a belief in polyamory. For a person to be able to truly love a person without compromising their integrity and sincerity with respect to their already established relationships there needs to be an understanding between partners and lovers about the principles of polyamory. So open-relationships is a paradigm design of relationships such that practicing polyamory does not undermine the concept of love, and maintains its integrity...