1. Why do you believe what you believe? What would change your mind?
The funny thing is that I actually wish that more people being poly was great. Monogamous relationships have so many problems and it would be great if being poly was the magical solution. Unfortunately, in my experience, watching friends/acquaintances, and reading relevant (admittedly sparse) research as well as more anecdotal accounts, I become more and confident that polyamory is actively damaging in the (vast) majority of cases. On the individual level, the main problem is that polyamory relies on a hugely idealistic view of people’s capacity for communication and growth. I’m sure pro-poly people would say things like “Yes poly is hard and takes work, but it’s work that you can do, and being monogamous takes work too.” or “Poly’s not for everyone, but it works great for a lot of people.” However I simply don’t see this being vindicated in reality, and additionally I think that poly demands more from people than these dismissive remarks acknowledge. Humans are imperfect, and almost every relationship will have a partner who is more invested and/or anxiously attached than the other(s). This person will experience their partner having other partners as loss and abandonment. They can learn to hide that, or learn to share these feelings in a ‘healthy’ way, or learn to distract themselves, or any one of a number of other coping mechanisms, but at the end of the day they are gong to be less happy than they would be if they could genuinely know that they are their partner’s only romantic priority. I’ve personally seen this happen at least twelve times, including in my own life when I was still trying to ‘be’ poly.
To change my mind I guess I’d want to see very rigorous large sample size longitudinal studies to convince me that everything I’ve just described is some kind of weird anomaly or something.
2. A polyamorous person has a date scheduled with their primary partner, but their secondary partner is in the hospital with an emergency and needs support. what typically happens next?
Most likely, the poly person has rigid ideas about the importance of ‘boundaries’ and ‘not taking responsibility for other people’s issues’, and so goes to the date with the primary, while telling the secondary that they care for them very much and are always there for them. The secondary partner feels abandoned and does not have the support they need, but they stop themselves from speaking up about this because they are a ‘secondary’ partner, and they ‘knew this was the deal going in.’. Probably over the next few months this turns into a fermenting resentment which eventually leads to a blowup and the end of that relationship with the secondary, and possibly with the primary as well, as a knock-on effect, though for some couples they’ve been through this multiple times before with secondaries and will simply brush it off as another person not respecting their boundaries.
3. What would happen if 90% of people in a society were polyamorous? (You may assume they all practice one style of polyamory, or different styles.)
Well if we talk about styles of polyamory common today in Western countries, we don’t really have good data on what would happen so we have to take our best guess. I think this is actually a very important point: We have not tried this and don’t know what would happen, which makes it hugely risk to attempt and thus a bad idea. Obviously most poly people will say explicitly, when pressed, that they’re ‘not trying to make other people poly’, and that ‘polyamory works for some people, monogamy works for others, people are just different’, but this is a motte-and-bailey situation where most of the actual dialogue in poly communities does implicitly assume that polyamory is superior and that the world would be better of everyone was poly. So I think we need to be concerned about this as the popularity of the movement grows. The potential upside to 90% of people being poly is small, even if you take a very optimistic view when comparing poly relationships to monogamous relationships I don’t think any reasonable poly advocates would claim a more than say 10% increase in happiness for poly people, even just going by the prior that single changes in personal circumstances don’t affect people’s happiness very much. On the other hand, the downside is potentially huge, as it could destabilise the underlying structures of Western society in unpredictable ways, and an even partial collapse of Western society could easily decrease people’s quality of life far more than ten percent.
If 90% of people were poly I think it would likely lead to, in brief, chaos. It’s ridiculous to assume that we can create an entirely new social order just by thinking one up, when the current one we have took hundreds of thousands of years of trial-and-error. In addition, going by the (implicit) attitudes of poly people towards monogamy, the 10% monogamous people in this scenario would likely be persecuted in the precise ways poly people feel they are persecuted today. (I agree that there is persecution of poly people as I think people should have leeway in how they live their lives even if it’s worse for them, but a lot of what poly people describe as ‘persecution’ is not that, e.g. when it comes to raising children.)