Big Love, different love: is it possible?

February 17, 2011

I’m not sure anyone could’ve known that the HBO series, Big Love, would be the hit it was.

It’s about polygamists trying to live their religious principles in the greater world and is one of the best-acted TV shows around. Bill Paxton, Jean Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and other respected actors star. {In its fifth and final season, I’m sad to say.}

The Big Love family comes from the kind of abusive polygamist compound that we’ve seen raided by authorities in real life.

But they’ve broken away from that abusive atmosphere and are trying to live more or less normally in a world where their beliefs are considered fringe–or worse.

Some people probably tune in hoping to see a bigtime sex fest on the small screen. But that’s not what it’s about. Big Love is about a family, different from most but with all the same problems, trying to make their way in a world that doesn’t believe the same way they do.

That brings me to my post a few days ago on the nature of relationships. Even though the nature of relationships has changed and expanded over the last few decades, the basic structure remains the same: two people in a monogamous thing. Which is why, I think, we are so fascinated by this glimpse into a world of sharing spouses.

I’m waiting, though, for the show about polyamory, the practice of having multiple loving relationships. Consensually.

It’s not religious. It’s not marriage. It’s different from “swinging” as it may not even involve sex.It’s simply non-monogamy, but with the consent and good will of everyone involved.

Oh, there are all sorts of nuanced structures that can define polyamory. But the bottom line is that it involves people openly in multiple loving relationships. So polygamy is one form of polyamory. But there are others.

Is this even possible? you might ask. Cheating is one thing. It’s another to openly love more than one person. Is it possible to reject jealousy and cultural standards enough to openly share relationships to that degree?

We’ve been fascinated as we watched the fictional Big Love family work through their jealousy issues. No doubt, it’s probably easier for them because they believe in a religious principle behind polygamy.

Polyamorous people have no such guiding light. And because our cultural and religious norms are oriented toward monogamy, we’re suspicious of polyamorists. Do they just want to have their cake and eat it too?

As we prepare to say goodbye to Big Love, I ask, could you live in a polygamous relationship? Or a polyamorous one? Do you think relationships will evolve in that direction?

4 comments on “Big Love, different love: is it possible?
  1. Anonymous says:

    i know this is an old post, but i was looking for Big Love info and ran across it. your question at the end caught my attention, because, yes, i do live in a polyamorous relationship. there is me, my husband, our 4 children, and my boyfriend (for lack of a better term). my boyfriend and i are also planning an addition to our family next year, with my husbands’ full acceptance. we’ve been a partnership for 3 years, now, and my husband and i have been married for 12 years.

    the guys are not involved with each other, it’s a “vee” relationship with me as the point of the vee. they are really good friends, though, and hang out together a lot.

    i doubt we’ll add another guy to our family, but it’s entirely possible that one or both of the guys (or even I/we!) may have a girlfriend in the future.

    we have lived in polyamorous groupings of various sorts for most of our marriage, and even before (we’ve been together a total of 16 years). i admit that it can be hard for me when there is another woman involved, unless i am also involved with her. i do tend towards jealousy and an overactive imagination at times.

    overall, though, i really enjoy our life together. it’s nice that they work opposing schedules much of the time, so that each couple (myself and husband, myself and boyfriend) gets alone time, and of course, it’s always great to have an extra pair of hands with the kids lol. it’s definitely a balancing act at times, to make sure that no one feels left out, but i firmly believe that with love, all things are possible.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful response. It’s something I’ve wondered about for a long time. Best of luck to you.

  3. lunarsmist says:

    I too, live in a polyamorous relationship. It is My husband, another woman and myself. It is a completely heterosexual relationship. We, my husband and I, have been married for almost years and we have had our addition for five months now. It is different. It is not our first experience separately, but together it is. I had a previous husband that was allowed intimate time with another woman, this did not fair well for me. My husband had his share of mutual girlfriends with his ex-wife. I have always wanted a plural marriage and I love my new “sister wife”. Even with all of the jealousies and adjustments, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  4. Thanks, Lunarsmist. The idea just fascinates me. Sometimes I think I’d be good with it, other times I don’t.

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