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Is polyamory the new polygamy?

Polygamy is entirely normal in the African context. But what about polyamory? Could it replace the concept of polygamy in the near future?


Polygamy, more often than not, meant that a man could afford to take care of many women. It meant that he was wealthy. Ironically, this never swung the other way – women were never allowed to have more than one husband; except in a few countries.

Today, bigamy is illegal by law – bigamy meaning performing a marriage ceremony when you’re already married to someone else. In Kenya, it’s illegal if you get married in a civil wedding; with the acknowledgement of state (and church, if you want).
However, if you get married the customary way, according to Kenyan traditions, it isn’t illegal at all. And if you are Muslim, you can have up to four wives, according to our Constitution.

Preferably, of course, all the parties in the polygamous relationship know about the other partners – when a man marries another woman, ideally, the first women should at least have been informed as a common courtesy.

What is polyamory?

But what if it isn’t marriage? What if you’re in a polyamorous relationship – where partners can see other people, or have other partners? This may seem like many men’s (and women’s) biggest dream come true. But beware: polyamory comes with its own set of rules, and even though it might seem easy, it’s actually quite complicated.

There are probably as many reasons for decide to try being in a polyamorous relationship as there are polyamorous couples.

But why do some people go for it?

Sometimes a partner can feel like they are not getting all of their emotional or physical needs fulfilled by the relationship.

Which of course begs the question – can someone give you everything you need in a relationship?

No, of course not. It’s a bit like the 80/20 rule – the people you are with can give you maybe 80 per cent of what you need, but there’s always going to be a 20 per cent that is missing. Some people choose to live with it.

Others choose to forge their own realities – and that’s where polyamory may come in for some. Whether this other relationship – your partner’s metamours (other partners), are physical or emotional, is a discussion you and your partner should be having.

Yet others accept that monogamy isn’t for everyone, and they would rather be open and have loving relationships than destroying them through lies.

And it’s good to keep in mind that your relationship needs to be stable in order for polyamory to work; it’s not a quick fix for a broken partnership.

Navigating polyamory

So why consider this? Some people are not naturally monogamous; not everyone wants to commit to just one person. That’s okay, as long as you are honest about it, especially with your partner(s).

And some people have higher libidos than others. Others still need a little bit more emotional support or attention that their partners can give.

There are many different reasons why people choose to be polyamorous.

What you need to figure out is who you are in the relationship. If you are both able to agree on what the rules of your relationship are, everything is fine.

It all comes down to good communication. If you’re monogamous and your partner isn’t, figure out if you’re willing to deal with that. But be honest; it’s called ‘cheating‘ if not all people in the relationships know, and agree to, what’s going on.

And if you’re both polyamorous, work out your parameters as well.

Just be honest – people generally tend to know whether or not they would feel bad if their partner was involved, physically or emotionally, with someone else.

But also keep an open mind.

The most important thing is to be honest with your partner, and communicate your needs fully – which really is something you should be doing in all your relationships, regardless.

What are your thoughts on polyamory? Leave a comment below, join the discussion on Facebook, or ask our Let’s Talk moderators any burning questions you may have.

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