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Polyamour or multiple relationships: Towards another new form of family?

Dadomo, Christian



Neither swingers nor libertines, “polyamoureux” or people sharing more than one partner, claim the right to be in love with more than one person, openly and honestly. How do they love each other? Is multi-loving the future of relationships?
In his book “Le Nouveau Monde amoureux” (Stock 1999), the French philosopher Charles Fourier (1816) professed that marriage was a source of monotony and restricted love, and supported polygamy as a remedy to jealousy and as a means of liberating women from marital ties.
Some early experiments
- Oneida Community in 1848 (john Humphrey Noyes): complex marriage (all men and women in community were considered married to each other) designed to eliminate jealousy and possessiveness
- Brook farm in the 1840s (Unitarian minister George Ripley) influenced by Fourier’s ideas
- Kerista commune based in San Francisco in last quarter of 20th C (disbanded in 1991)

For a polyamoureux, one love does not push another but adds itself to it. In a way this is nothing different from Fournier’s ideal or the free partnership of the ‘70s. Multiple relationships seem to be no more than “the same attempt to reconcile the love one feels for one single person with the ever and naturally changing desire”, observes psychoanalyst Pauline Prost. “With several partners, multi-lovers attempt to reach this unattainable ideal of a modern couple”.
Yet, there seems to be a fundamental difference: polyamour is not presented by its advocates as a claim against marital alienation. As Guilain, 29 and founder of the Amour pluriels website, explains: in a multiple relationship, “the base framework is honesty and consent. Nothing’s hidden and one makes sure that everyone is comfortable with it”. The rest depends on the desires and the limits of each individual.
Even though, as Eric Smadja, a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, and a relationship counsellor suggests, by multiplying partners, the “multis” maybe seek to protect themselves from the subconscient guilt linked to sexuality, or to push away the so-desired parental or the sibling image, the question remains as to whether multiple relationships should be given any consideration by society and the law and maybe be recognised and given a proper status or simply be regarded as an epiphenomenon of a growing individualism in Western societies.
This paper does not aim to give answers but rather to ask questions and help explore the issue of multiple relationships in a multi-disciplinary way.


Dadomo, C. (2017, July). Polyamour or multiple relationships: Towards another new form of family?. Paper presented at 26th International Society of Family Law (ISFL) World Conference

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 26th International Society of Family Law (ISFL) World Conference
Start Date Jul 25, 2017
End Date Jul 29, 2017
Acceptance Date Jul 27, 2017
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords polyamour, multiple relationships, family, recognition
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Family Law and Family Realities