But you love more than one child...


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In poly/mono discussion threads I have seen this argument a lot: You can love more than one child/parent/friend/sibling so why not more than one partner?

I've used it myself and always got the answer: "It's not the same [type of love]."

I was reading Wikipedia (I know, great source of unbiased and professional information that a free encyclopaedia is) and I came across this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_of_Monogamy

Being that Monogamy is interesting to me in that I don't understand how it works I decided to have a read and I noticed this paragraph (under Attachment Theory, if you want to read straight from the source):

Wikipedia said:
Recent studies have looked at which areas of the human brain play a role in attachment.[40][41] These studies asked people to look at pictures of their romantic partners or pictures of their children. Some areas of the brain were activated by both pictures of romantic partners and pictures of children. These areas of the brain were involved in both romantic and parental attachment. But other areas of the brain were activated only by pictures of romantic partners or only by pictures of children. These areas of the brain appeared to be involved in either romantic attachment or parental attachment, but not both. These findings have opened the door to future studies clarifying how different areas of the brain function in attachment.

I've emboldened the part which I found most interesting.

I haven't looked very deeply but it doesn't mention if the people studied identified as monogamous or poly-amorous or otherwise.

I'm interested in people's views on this! From your own perspective, whether you ID as poly, mono or other, what do you think of the research and how it fits with your own feelings?


I think they are different kinds of love, for sure, but I think it is societal conditioning that says you can have one type of love for more than one person and another type of love for only one person.


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So you think the brain activity is a case of nurture rather than nature? That we've been socialised to feel that way so we've physically adapted to it?

That's an interesting idea I hadn't really thought of before, thanks.


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The nature of love within the brain is discussed here as well.

It's a very interesting point of view made by anthropologist Helen Fisher


At 1730 she does state that you can be in love with more than one person. She attributes this to the three brain systems, Lust, Romantic Love and Attachment. She points out that they are not always in sync but that they can be too. She says you can have Attachment for one while having Romantic Love for another. She doesn’t say you can have Attachment for more than one though..what message does this really imply? Does this mean she doesn’t think you can have all three for more than one person?

Her talk was about adult bonding relationships..not sibling or parental love just to clarify. I would think the Romantic and Lust sections would not be engaged for children within a normal adult.

I've e-mailed her directly for some clarification and hopefully will get a response.

I used to use the "you can love more than one child" argument at one time too. I dropped it once I conceded that the kind of love people were talking about was the kind that made you want to fuck the object of that love. That kind of blatantly pointed out a different type of love which I was personally not comfortable directing towards any child.


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I haven't looked very deeply but it doesn't mention if the people studied identified as monogamous or poly-amorous or otherwise.

It would be interesting to compare self-identified monogamous and poly people looking at romantic pictures of their partner(s), other people who resemble them physically, close friends, etc. to see the comparison.


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I have to say that there are some parts that are the same from romantic to children and me loving them. Which is why I've used the example before.

OBVIOUSLY I don't want to have sex with my kids.
BUT I don't always want to have sex with my husband or GG either and I DO always love them.

I love them both-I'm emotionally tied to them both in MUCH the same way I am with my children.

SEX can be with love OR NOT.

But when we're talking about LOVING more than one SO-to me it is comparable.
IF we were talking (which has happened before too) about whether you can want to fuck more than one person-that's a WHOLE other topic and the answer is yes-I do often want to fuck more than one person-even at one time, but THAT I would NEVER EVER compare to the way I love my SO's or my children.


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So many of these discussions get cloudy because of language usage and definition. "Love" of course maybe be the one term we throw around carelessly but have no true agreed upon definition.


We started from a basic foundation of "intense caring about another individual".

From such a simplistic definition we might say there is little or no difference. I tend to view the term this way - as starting from a root and developing branches.
1> One branch might be for close family. A sprout off that branch for children.

2> Another branch might be for random individuals that we discover some "connection" with. Sprouting from this branch MAY be a limb including sexual desire. But not always.

3> Another branch would be for those in which we do develop a sexual desire AND a vision of our own family together. Although similar to # 2 it has the family component missing from the previous.

4> And there seem to be those that are focused primarily on a strong sexual connection as the main branch from which sometimes sprouts a deeper layer of caring.

More on this later -..............out of time at the moment.



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So you think the brain activity is a case of nurture rather than nature? That we've been socialised to feel that way so we've physically adapted to it?

That's an interesting idea I hadn't really thought of before, thanks.

That research doesn't indicate anything about number of attachments using either of the identified systems. It just shows that one system activates when dealing with romantic partners and a different system activates when dealing with offspring. That's entirely unsurprising...and offers no information about multiple attachments of either sort.

Is there some limit to how many attachments can be supported using the "offspring circuit" of the brain? The research doesn't say. It also doesn't offer anything about any limits in using the "romantic circuit" of that very same brain.


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Yes, yes, you're completely right.

I'm not so much bringing up the "are we poly by nature or by nurture" argument or anything like that - this only really relates to poly as much as the name of the thread does in that I see that question used in poly/mono discussions quite frequently.

I'm interested in people's views on if they feel their love for children/nieces/nephews/etc is comparable to their love for their OS(s) or if they identify it as completely distinct, separate and not at all comparable.

Obviously the sexual part of the love is a distinct difference, which is a good point that I hadn't really considered before, but it's interesting to me on several levels for different reasons - not least of which was the parenting and childhood I experienced in my life.


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So by the time we become adults and have some mastery (or lack) of vocabulary to get into such discussions, we've already inherited a complete load of programming and conditioning on what is associated (or not) with certain terms.

But if we back up to early childhood - shortly after we have a small vocabulary including the word "love" I think we get a more pure view. How often have we heard kids say they "love" a friend, AND seen them exhibit all the classic behavior associated with a deep caring for someone ?
To me at least, this is the closest we have to the pure and natural flow of such a phenomenon as love/caring. If these children have been raised in a loving & nurturing environment where detection and expression of caring is encouraged, we get to observe the flow of connections in it's most natural form.

Unfortunately, from that point on, we start to become influenced by older people's definitions/boxes. This caring may no longer flow naturally, but now becomes dissected and filtered through whatever cultural moors we've been exposed to. The natural flow is now interrupted.

We find ourselves having this internal conversation............

"Hmmm....I have this attraction to this person ! I feel some connection ! Is this "love" ? NO ! Can't be ! I'm not allowed..........because <<pick your reason>>

But who are these two entities having this internal conversation ??????????

There's the conditioned one.........the speaker.
But who/what is the other - the detector-the 'feeler' ?
Which one has the more healthy connection to the natural flow of life as a human ? And the potential that comes with that ?

I don't know................
Somewhere there has to be a balance.............



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Analogy can be useful, but...

I've used it myself and always got the answer: "It's not the same [type of love]."

So... one of Franklin's essays uses the child/romantic partner analogy to explain why having a different romantic relationship doesn't make breakups less painful. I think the analogy works well there.

But I don't find it very helpful in explaining polyamory in general. The answer you got is... kind of complicated to address and also pretty common. On the one hand, of course it is a different kind of love! If it wasn't, it wouldn't be an analogy, it would be the thing itself. The response is sort of denying that analogies are ever useful.

On the other hand, the word "love" is doing a lot of work there, and the objection could be better phrased as "Because English uses the same word for both emotional dynamics, you're trying to sneak in an equivalence that I don't believe exists." I find that pretty reasonable.

Incidentally, I think that the whole neuropsych discussion is a blind alley. Unless we're positing some sort of Cartesian "ghost in the machine", it's all brain chemistry. I doubt that we want to give up on talking about lived experience entirely, so my brain chemistry is not your brain chemistry, and so on and so forth. Which is not to cast aspersions on the discipline, just on trying to draw conclusions about what is natural/normal and what is not in humans, or to draw conclusions about what we're capable of from what is natural/normal.


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Incidentally, I think that the whole neuropsych discussion is a blind alley. Unless we're positing some sort of Cartesian "ghost in the machine", it's all brain chemistry.

Mm, I'm not trying to uncover mysteries of science or human nature, just interested in people's opinions.

We might all be just products of our physiology but that is not my personal belief.

I like your point about the word love. Maybe non-platonic love should have a different word not related to relationship type (i.e. "The love you have for a husband/wife"). Anyone feel like coining a phrase? :D


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I feel that "friend love" and "romantic love" are different. And I don't have children, but the kind of "protective attachment" I have for other people's children or for my cats is also completely different.

I think you can have friendship + lust (fuckbuddies) or romantic love + lust (traditional relationships) or friendship without lust (regular friendship) or romantic love without lust (platonic love).

I think "protective attachment" is not usually associated with lust because it's too likely to cause harm and therefore conflicts too much. I mean, from a psychological point of view, I think that's why, because there is a hierarchy there, while the other two are with people on the same level. The protective one is about devoting yourself for another being who needs you to survive, and therefore you stay focused on that.

Having lust for more than one person doesn't seem to be a problem for most people. It seems that mono people simply aren't wired for romantic love towards more than one person at a time, while the other types aren't limited. Poly people don't have limits on either.

I would compare with loving more than one friend rather than compare with loving more than one child, partly because I don't have children on my own and don't feel comfortable using an example I can't completely relate to, and partly because people will be less freaked out by the implication of having sex with friends.

I think most people can tell the difference between a friend you have sex with and a partner you are in love with. They are different feelings for sure. Love isn't friendship + sex, there is something else there.
So I find it normal that they would stimulate the brain in different ways, yes.