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If you’ve ever tuned in to the TLC network’s reality show “Sister Wives” then you’ve witnessed the trials and tribulations that can occur when one person’s love and affection has to be equally distributed between four in a marriage. It’s hard enough to maintain a healthy relationship between two people, so you can only imagine the drama that can ensue when the complex emotions of three other people are added to the mix. On top of love and affection that have to be shared, there’s also the investment of time and energy that can be hard enough to set aside for one person, let alone four.  Kody Brown, the head of the “Sister Wives” polygamist household, finds time to make sure each of his four wives is satisfied, although sometimes jealousy and resentment try to get in the way. Although monogamy is a widely accepted relationship style across mankind, within the animal kingdom…not so much. While 90% of birds engage in social monogamy, only 7% of mammals are quick to mate for life. Is monogamy something that is as widely practiced as most would like to believe, or merely the ideal relationship we all hope to achieve? Some women dream of a life of settling down after a few years of random hookups free from the pressure of commitment and lessons learned from failed relationships. Other women were picking out wedding dresses, drapes, and diaper bags long before their first kiss. What ends up true for most of us though, is that we kiss a couple frogs before we get our prince and our dating behavior is more consistent with serial monogamy, than it is traditional monogamy. Traditional monogamy is a mutually consensual relationship where one’s primary partner is the only person with whom they engage in sexual activity with throughout their entire life. Serial monogamy is the belief that you should only have one lover at a given time. The confusion comes when partners aren’t on one accord about the relationship. When does monogamy start and end? Is monogamy limited to sexual activity or does infidelity include sharing mental and emotional relations as well? What is the difference between polyamory and an open- relationship? Who the hell would want to even be in a polyamorous relationship? The only experts that are qualified to give the answers to these questions are the partners within the relationship. They set and define the guidelines in the relationships by clear and effective communication. When most people think of polyamory, they picture a situation like “Sister Wives” or the popular show “Big Love” where the affection of one man is shared by several women in a living situation. In actuality, polyamory is best described as people who are in more than one relationship that are on-going, regardless of gender. By this definition, you could have several men sharing the love of one woman. Or several partners sharing eachother’s affection. This is different from polygamy which is when one has more than one spouse at a time. Polygyny is the practice of having more than one wife at a time and what most Americans are witnessing more and more through shows like “Sister Wives” . Less common is polyandry which is the practice of having more than one husband at a time. The difference between the lifestyles listed above and infidelity is the amount of knowledge held by the partners. Infidelity usually occurs when one partner has little or no knowledge that the other is sharing time, affection, emotion or participating in sexual relations with someone else. It’s when one person feels the relationship is exclusive and the other isn’t acting accordingly. It’s important that partners communicate about the boundaries of the relationship and are honest and realistic about it’s future, whether that includes the next year or only the next day. More and more Americans are choosing traditionally unconventional relationship styles and customizing them in a way that directly compliments and enhances their lifestyles. Many of them find themselves in a daily defense against labels and stereotypes that are often associated with any relationship style that doesn’t involve commitment to one person wrapped in a wedding bow. Here are a few myths and facts to help you look past the judging and focus on the loving:

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