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Nonmonogamy and Happiness

A More Than Two Essentials Guide
Publication Date: November 10, 2023

The love story we’re all familiar with ends with “ … and they lived happily ever after.” But how often do we hear a nonmonogamous love story with that ending? In all kinds of contexts, nonmonogamous happiness is erased. From the ubiquitous “friend who tried it once and it didn’t end well” to Dan Savage’s long-term jokes about never being invited to a polyamorous third wedding anniversary, we are repeatedly assured that nonmonogamy leads to misery.

In “real” love, we are taught to expect the opposite: to expect happiness. When we want to ask if someone’s relationship is going well, we ask if they are “happy with” their partner. We might even ask whether their partner makes them happy. But what does love have to do with happiness? Doesn’t love have space to accommodate the full range of emotional experience?

Carrie Jenkins thinks it does, or at least it can. She draws connections between the expectation that love will make us happy and the undue focus on positive emotions to the exclusion of “negative” ones. She argues that love—monogamous or otherwise—might better aim at being eudaimonic than at being happy, and that we have a better chance of achieving this if we are able to make relationship choices free from the prejudices and distortions that lead to an unduly rosy view of monogamy and an unduly miserable picture of the alternatives.

More Than Two Essentials is a series of books by Canadian authors on focused topics in nonmonogamy. It is curated by Eve Rickert, author of the books More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory and the forthcoming Nonmonogamy and Jealousy. Learn more and find all forthcoming titles at morethantwo.ca.

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