In this day and age, we live in a society where every person is expected to live up to a mainstream standards of how to dress, how to act, and even who to love. These expectations are of foremost importance to our culture and for the majority, people follow these expectations. But when you look into society there are groups that chose to live by their own set of values and norms, sometimes very similar to mainstream society, and these groups are termed subcultures. They live in harmony with mainstream society but they choose to follow their own standards, but do not stray too far from mainstream society. When values and standards vary even more from the mainstream we find groups called countercultures, which are subcultures that deliberately go against certain aspects of the larger “mainstream” culture.
An example, that encompasses both of the terms sub and counterculture, would be a relationship group called polyamory, poly meaning “many” or “several”, and amory meaning love. Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved, and this aspect is what makes its practice a counter to the mainstream culture. The social norm of mainstream culture is to have a monogamist relationship based on truth and trust. Even though polyamory does go against social norms of love between a closed pair of people it still has the same values of trust and honesty, which gives the culture a more vague, but arguable, trait of being a sub to mainstream culture.
I recently learned about this term/culture from a dear friend of mine who has been living in a polyamorous relationship with their spouse for more then six months now. They kept this a secret initially because of fear of how I would react to this information, and in all honestly, my first reaction was shock. I was shocked to find out this even existed in society. I didn’t understand how this could work or even be accepted by people, let alone an entire society. When my friend explained this life style choice to me, she stated clearly and rigidly that, “polyamory is not about sex, it is not at all like swinging. Polyamory is about having an open relationship with your spouse where you both are allowed to have a relationship with another person, and everyone involved knows one another and we’re understanding of the situation. It is about love and the overwhelming amount there is capable for people.” My next question was to ask how far this relationship would, or could go, because legally you can only marry one person. From here my friend informed me the farthest it would go is to have all persons involved move into a house together, and live life loving each other. After I heard all the information I could, and doing my own research on polyamory as a lifestyle, I had a few more questions. I asked my friend why they chose this life style, and they remarked, “ I feel this is what I was cut out for. It feels right to me, I have more love to share with someone other then my spouse. It also gives me a greater opportunity to be loved and love. I have known people who live this life style and when I finally understood its values and terms I realized this was the life I would like to live.”
When you relate this type of subculture/counterculture to society you find that many people are not informed about this lifestyle. U.S.-based relationship values relating to intimate relationships are trust and loyalty, and to mainstream culture we view this lifestyle as deviant. When my friends got married they signed a marriage license, which in most states means you are forever bonded to this person, and to commit adultery is illegal. Adultery is extremely frowned upon in our culture, it not only shows that you are disloyal to your spouse but it is also viewed as being dishonest to your fellow man. I emphasize adultery because my friend who lives this life style chose a career that has strict rules concerning adultery. These rules never state what a punishment for adultery could be, but that you will be punished. As a result, my friend could potentially lose her entire career because of this. Thus, one of my final questions to them was how could you live this life style knowing that one day your entire life career could come crashing to the ground, all because you and your spouse choose to live this way. My friend simply stated, “ I am willing to take the chance to live what I would consider a normal life, I am happy and strongly believe this is the right way to live. If I lose my career over this I will be hurt. But I don’t feel I should have to change my lifestyle to abide by what is expected of society.”
When I think about relationships in society today there are so many different types of love. Our society has not come to terms yet with these new lifestyles, and at the same time new and vastly different relationships are popping up everywhere. As a society Americans are still working on accepting a homosexual lifestyles, let alone group relationships. I feel that after learning of my friends’ new way of love that society will most certainly shame them. It angers me to feel this way but that is how our society, and most any society works. We shame what we don’t understand and what is seen as counter to our mainstream. I think the solution to this situation is to be tolerant of things that are different. When we look back in history, stories just like this can be found in many different areas. This story is not about love, it is about acceptance that difference is inevitable. Society use to shame anyone with non-white skin. But with time and awareness society overcame and did more than accept these differences; they began to celebrate them. It is not to say that there are not those who are jaded by the ideas of change to this day, but as a whole society, we can progress to be inclusive rather than exclusive. With saying this, I feel the only way this type of life style will be accepted is with time, and when society is informed and to an extent almost forced to witness these new values we can begin to embrace our differences.
Wikipedia contributors. “Polyamory.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.
Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. N. pag. Print.