What Some Women Want: A Qualitative Study on Women and Polyamory

A. Steffler

In Western society, monogamy has been the dominant romantic relationship form, with little social deviation until recently. A notable increase in the interest and practice of polyamory in North America has academic scholars seeking answers and media reporters publishing columns on this trend. This exploratory research study with five participants examines why cisgendered women, who were raised in a monogamous household, have chosen to practice polyamory and how they made that decision. Utilizing a qualitative methodology of semi-structured interviews lasting approximately two hours, this research was undertaken to better understand how and why polyamorous identities are cultivated.

The results of this study indicate that there were a number of common stages through which each of these women transitioned in a non-linear way. These stages included: non-monogamous beliefs and tendencies early in life, dissatisfaction with monogamy, absence of poly language, self-resistance to alternatives, unintentional polyamorous practice, self-acceptance, and disclosure. Their actions, directed by their beliefs and a need to be authentic, led them to uncover their polyamorous identity. This identity process is comparable to that experienced by gay and lesbian individuals; those belonging to the polyamorous community are members of a stigmatized group and the lack of legal recognition, due to the criminalization of polygamy, has directly impacted their freedom to fully engage with multiple partners (e.g. marriage, custody rights, employer benefits, etc.). This research examines how women develop polyamorous identities and the social maneuvering that is required in a predominately monogamous society.

This presentation will: provide insight into some of the common narratives and trajectories associated with a polyamorous self-identity, examine how contemporary society makes it difficult to engage in polyamory and develop a polyamorous identity, and focus on the diversity of people within polyamorous communities.