Monomaniacal Monogamy

A new generation of couples dare to redefine commitment -- again

| March / April 2006

Whatever new name comes knocking (scratch 'swinging' and insert 'managed monogamy'), it's roughly the same: monogamous relationships that aren't, well, monogamous. We've been reading about these arrangements for some time, but lately, alternative takes on monogamy are garnering renewed attention.

A married Dutch couple became a triple when they got hitched, via notarized cohabitation contract, to another woman last fall. The contract created the country's first recognized polyamorous union -- after a ceremony, honeymoon, and European media buzz. The union made waves on this side of the Atlantic as 'an unmistakable step down the road to legalized group marriage,' as conservative critic and Hudson Institute fellow Stanley Kurtz writes in The Weekly Standard (Dec. 26, 2005).

Another kind of nontraditional monogamy also is heading toward commonplace, according to Pistil (Fall 2005). Couples who practice this 'open' or 'managed' monogamy save their hearts for one, but share the sex -- negotiating private terms for relations with multiple partners. As in any other relationship, having the agreement preserves the trust.

Of course, true polyamorists, who share committed emotional bonds within a group, would pale to be mentioned in the same breath as managed monogamists, but the two takes on monogamy do speak to the same trend. In a period of heated debate about the sanctity of marriage and the relevance of long-term monogamy, people aren't waiting for social sanction to infuse old terms -- and old contracts -- with new meaning.

New language is bound to follow. In Kitchen Sink (Vol. 3, #3), 'after years of searching for a satisfying descriptor,' Jessica Hoffman describes the acronym she picked for her mate: PINN, or partner in non-normativity. The PINN is the person with whom she shares her sex life and an apartment, but not a bedroom. Her PINN 'is not nearly as pleased with this solution as I am,' she writes, 'but it's my favorite so far.'