Polyamory Appears to Be a New Form of Love

There is some evidence that polyamory appears to be a novel alternative to traditional monogamous romantic love. Polyamory is on the rise in many modern societies. Why so?

Let’s consider what Americans think about polyamory and polygamy.

What Is Polyamory and Why?

Polyamory refers to the practice of willingly and openly engaging in relationships with more than one romantic partner at the same time, with the full awareness and consent of all parties involved.

Approximately 55% of Americans express a preference for exclusive monogamy in their relationships, while a significant number of adults are inclined towards various forms of non-monogamy.

Nevertheless, according to a YouGov survey from February 2023, among American adults, 34% say they would prefer some type of relationship other than complete monogamy if given the choice. It is especially evident among people under the age of 45.

A significant number of Americans have already engaged in various forms of non-monogamy, either with the explicit agreement of their main partner or without it.

Monogamy, Polyamory, or Polygamy? Any Alternatives?

Many Americans have already engaged in some type of alternative to monogamy, whether that took place with the consent of their primary partner or not.

Among those respondents, 12% of Americans said that they have been involved in sexual activity with someone other than their primary partner with their primary partner’s consent, while 20% of adults did so without the consent of their main partner. In both cases, men are more likely than women to have had sexual encounters outside of their relationship.

About 67% of Americans indicated that they would not consent if their partner expressed a desire to participate in sexual activities with another person. However, approximately 20% of Americans indicate that their level of comfort is contingent upon the circumstances, while a mere 5% express acceptance of such a polyamory scenario.

Shall We Accept Polygamy?

Polygamy refers to the practice of having more than one spouse simultaneously. It seems similar to polyamory, yet polygamy is more legal than a relational term. According to the YouGov survey from February 2023, Americans consider polygamy to be the least acceptable. A majority of Americans, specifically 68%, are against the legalization of polygamy. However, individuals between the ages of 18 and 29, with a percentage of 52%, are comparatively less inclined to oppose it.

While the majority of Americans oppose the legalization of polygamy, approximately half of them either believe that it will be legalized within the next 50 years (18%) or are unsure about its future (30%). Approximately 52% of respondents believe that it will not be legalized within the next five decades.

Mobility of Intimate Relationships in Online Dating Apps

Online dating applications facilitate interpersonal connections between individuals, enabling them to pursue various motivations, such as seeking sexual encounters, romantic relationships, emotional intimacy, or other forms of interpersonal connections.

Many women and men feel ambiguity regarding the opportunities associated with online dating apps. They frequently do not know exactly what they hope to gain from using a dating app. They might anticipate a connection that develops into a committed monogamous relationship, but these relationships can change over time and are flexible. Users can meet for sex, become friends, or friends with benefits, and possibly form a couple before deciding to become friends again without engaging in sexual activity with one another.

Andrea Newerla, a researcher from Paris Lodron University Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria, and Jenny van Hooff, a researcher from Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom, analyzed the dating app user experience in Germany and the United Kingdom.

They conducted an in-depth analysis of interviews with online app users in the United Kingdom (van Hooff, 2020) and Germany (Newerla, 2021), and their findings were quite intriguing. Researchers performed a thematic analysis on the data collected from both cultural samples.

In a previous article, I described the summary of their research findings about the ambiguities and opportunities men and women experience using dating apps.

In this article, we’ll look into the users’ perceptions of the mobility of intimate relationships.

Experiences of Mobility in Intimate Relationships

For many users, dating practices are marked by ambivalence as the potentialities and possibilities afforded by dating apps emerge as spaces for new forms of intimacy. Normativities are challenged, and spaces are opened up for forms of love and desire that cannot be subsumed under the ideal of the romantic or partnership model in their pursuit and realization of these potentials.

Friendships formed through dating apps, as previously stated, are an important experience for some of our participants. And the descriptions clearly show that these relationships, which were initially defined by sexual attraction, are malleable and can evolve into new forms of intimacy.

Matteo, a 34-year-old man, for example, began using dating apps in 2015. His main goal was to find a romantic partner:

‘I was not as sex-positive as I am now, and society was not at the point we are now. So the main goal was to find a partner’.

Matteo found himself in new cities more frequently as a result of geographical changes, and apps assisted him in meeting new people. He was open to casual sex at this point, but not to the possibility of a romantic relationship if the person was ‘right for him’. As he describes in his relationship with Beate, he developed a variety of ways to be intimate with people in Berlin, blurring the boundaries of friendship and couplehood:

‘It was only sexual, but there was a connection with Beate. She was a person that I was liking. When we started to play [sexually], I realized that I really enjoy this, the motion of playfulness and connection when it’s in consent. It’s clear what we are there for. (…) and from this moment on me and Beate started to have a sex relationship which also developed something more complex. I also developed feelings for Beate that were not immediately mutual (…) Beate was not interested in a relationship that was more romantic, but I was. But we found a common ground and we have been experimental quite a lot.’

(Matteo, M 34, German study).

Beate eventually fell in love with someone else, and Matteo became friends with her. ‘We are still in a good connection,’ Matteo says of this development. It was unclear at the time of the interview whether Beate’s new relationship is open to additional sex partners. Matteo describes the possibility of him and Beate sharing this level of sexual intimacy again. However, Matteo says in the interview that it could remain a platonic friendship without sexual physicality. It’s clear that he sees this intimate relationship as a process, that he’s open to its evolution because he likes Beate and wants to see how their relationship develops in the future.

Here Is How Rob Describes his Relationships on Dating Apps

Rob, who has used dating apps on and off since Tinder debuted in 2012, explained how the connections made on apps evolve and develop based on the circumstances:

‘Being on Tinder you can have a few girls that you’re messaging or seeing or whatever, and it’s actually good because you know you’re not going to get married, because you live in different cities, or you’re too different, but you still have this connection, when you’re bored you can chat, or sext, and there’s no expectation. I don’t know how you’d define it, but I’ve had a few of those kind of relationships, and they’re good because you’re both on the same page’.

(Rob, M 34, UK study).

Rob describes a liminal relationship that maintains an emotional and sexual connection but will not develop into a committed couple relationship. These relationships defy traditional heteronormative conventions, but they are meaningful to participants and are not time-limited. While these types of relationships are often portrayed negatively in popular culture as ‘breadcrumbing’ (sporadic contact with no follow-through), for Rob, they are meaningful ties that do not fit into normative understandings of relationships.

Here Is How Mona Experiences her Relationships on Dating Apps

Mona can easily organize various dates based on her immediate needs thanks to the variety of relationship forms available on dating apps. This is sometimes casual sex, but she prefers it when a relationship develops. Some dates have become friendships. There was no sexual contact in these cases, but they enjoyed each other’s company. However, these friendships are also physical: one friend, for example, comes over on a regular basis to cuddle and watch Netflix. She does not prioritize romantic relationships and emphasizes the importance of friendships throughout the interview:

‘It doesn’t have to be the romantic partner you wake up next to, it has to be a person you just get along with. (…) This realisation that I don’t have to expect a partner to fulfil all my needs, but that friendships are also a relationship that also fulfils needs like a romantic relationship, that was then for me like: bam. I communicate much more openly about this with my friends and also with the partners I am currently seeing.’

(Mona, F 33, German study)

Mona was dating four people at the time, all of whom she met through dating apps. Here, the apps have assisted her in finding people who think and live similarly to her, as they are all interested in multiple relationships, identify as polyamorous, and have openly communicated their relationship status through the apps. Their experiences have allowed them to communicate more openly about their own needs.

Here Is How Alex Explains her Relationships on Dating Apps

People came up with creative ways to use dating apps. Sexual relationships turned into friendships or, in Alex’s case, a professional network. Even though he hasn’t found the long-term relationship he was looking for through dating apps, his experiences show how relationships can change:

‘A long period on Tinder would be six plus dates, usually it doesn’t go anywhere. Usually relationships are sexual. I’d always chat to multiple people at once and occasionally see multiple partners at once. Most encounters have been enjoyable and interesting, some I’m still friends with, one is now our company solicitor, but most I don’t speak to.’

(Alex, M 29, UK study)

Alex is a marketer, and his professional and personal networks frequently cross and overlap. He describes it positively, saying that sexual encounters evolve as dates take on new roles in his life. The normative categorization of romantic and sexual relationships does not apply to Alex’s experience with dating apps, and the normative hierarchy of intimacy does not currently apply to his personal relationships. Alex also emphasizes the importance of transitioning into and out of different relationship forms as key moments of communication and connection in and of themselves.

Challenges to Being Open in Online Dating Apps

Online dating apps assist people to connect with each other, and individuals pursue their own motivations, whether for sex, love, intimacy, or any other kind of interpersonal motivation.

Do people use dating apps for love or for sex? Many men and women experience the ambivalences and possibilities of being involved in dating with online apps. They often do not have a clear idea of what they expect from using a dating app. They might expect a connection leading to a committed monogamous relationship, but these processes are mobile and flexible over time. Users can meet for sex, become friends, then friends with benefits, possibly form a couple, and later they decide to be friends again who do not have sex with each other, and so on.

These processes of communication in online apps are not clearly dichotomous, either for love or for sex. Contemporary intimate relationships are mobile and flexible and cannot be simply categorized as for love or for sex.

Andrea Newerla, the researcher from Paris Lodron University Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria, and Jenny van Hooff, the researcher from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK, completed an analysis of the users’ experience with dating apps in Germany and the UK.

They conducted an in-depth analysis of interviews they administered among online app users in the UK (van Hooff, 2020), and Germany (Newerla, 2021), which showed quite interesting findings. Researchers did a thematic analysis of their data in both cultural samples.

Ambiguities and Opportunities in Dating App Practices

 Researchers revealed that using dating apps presents participants with both ambiguities and opportunities, particularly in “being open.”

The study reveals a tension between participants’ romantic love ideas and the more fluid, undefined relationships found on dating apps. Alternative relationship practices, such as monogamous romantic models, have become available to users who initially didn’t consider them. Participants often struggle to articulate what they perceive as an important intimate encounter.

In interviews, ambiguities and mobility in intimate relationship development are not seen negatively. For example, 26-year-old Thorsten, who uses dating apps to meet women, describes dating as a process rather than a rigid one. He enters a polyamorous constellation with a woman, meeting other people and not limiting themselves. Despite feeling insecure, Thorsten sees potential in insecure experiences:

“I also find insecurity an exciting thing. I know so many people who are security people. […] I don’t want to be so obsessed with everything always being safe. I just find it much more interesting to live with such openness, to live with such contingency. Of course it’s not always nice, it can also be very difficult, but that’s precisely why I think it’s good to learn to endure it, to be able to live with it, to be able to deal with it. And not to let it limit or dominate you, but to recognise it, to articulate it, to be able to talk about it and to live with it.“

(Thorsten, M 26, German study)

As one can see, Thorsten enjoys mobile dating’s openness, allowing for experimentation, intimacy development, and personal growth, while others find it ambiguous and uncertain, offering opportunities for self-reflection.

Mark, after a relationship breakdown, has used dating apps for four years, navigating casual and committed relationships and highlighting the app’s potential for offline connections:

‘It opens up possibilities. So first of all I’m thinking if I want a long-term relationship with this person, and if not I think if there are other possibilities. but that’s not a bad thing I think, we live in a world that’s too po faced about sex. There’s something about Tinder that suggests that people are more open to whatever might happen. If you’re on Tinder you’re in a contract with each other, sex is a possibility, in a way that doesn’t happen outside of online dating. I’d never heard of polyamory before I went on Tinder, but now you can be open about seeing multiple people, rather than lying. That can only be a good thing.’

(Mark, M 32, UK study)

As we can see, Mark embraces the potential for diverse relationships through apps, including polyamory, as he adjusts his expectations to nonnormative forms, fostering positive connections.

Susanne, a 35-year-old polyamorous woman, shares her experiences of recognizing the romantic ideal and embracing multiple relationships, primarily using dating apps for sex but also expressing openness.

‘I think it’s always a question of how you use it yourself and I usually go in there with the feeling of ok I’m open for what’s coming now. There are phases where I say ok now I only want it for sex. And I always find this ’only’ difficult. So I used it for sex. (…) I always call them ’regular sex partners’, because I don’t find one night stands so desirable myself, but they happen and that’s okay. But I would tend to be more interested in meeting more often and building up something sexually. So I’m actually open to that, but I always waver back and forth. For example, when I don’t have the emotional capacity to get involved with someone. If I’m processing a break-up or something and honestly want to leave myself the space for it.’

(Susanne, F 34, German study)

Susanne’s intimacy practices are broader, fluid, and mobile, embracing openness and the uncertainty of relationships beyond sexual experience. She welcomes this openness and views it as an opportunity to engage in diverse forms of relationships.

Irfan uses dating apps to meet potential partners outside his circle, experiencing freedom and short-term relationships while being relieved of long-term commitment pressure. Success comes from short-term connections:

‘Successful encounters have been girls that I’ve continued to date for several months after meeting. Really nice, genuine people that I enjoy spending time with. Removing the expectations that you’re going to get married or stay together means you can actually enjoy being with them.’

(Irfan, M 28, UK study)

Dating apps have broadened relationships beyond normative coupling, valuing connection over external expectations and transforming the way relationships are valued.

Mona discusses the development of intimate relationships through mobile dating, particularly through dating apps, as highlighted by a 33-year-old woman in an interview:

‘I know a lot more of my friends here in Berlin through Tinder, and it never developed into something amorous, but more like: ‘hey, we get along really well, we text all the time, we want to meet up, that’s really cool, but there’s just nothing.’ (…) Really good friendships have developed on Tinder and also good conversations. (…) In general, I don’t have any expectations, except to somehow get to know someone who is somehow quite nice. Someone who seems nice, okay, just a good evening, whatever it turns out to be. Whether it turns into friendship, as it does with some people because they understand each other well, but there’s nothing interpersonal about it, or a one-night stand or something longer-term. That is absolutely open to me. (…) Everything can happen, nothing has to.’

(Mona, F 33, German study)

Mona, like other participants, does not view openness as threatening in mobile dating. She sees it as a way for relationships to develop, varying depending on the person and time. This mobility in relationships is discussed in the next section.

A Study Shows How Modern Single People Can Be Happy

Traditional cultural stereotypes have taught us for decades that marriage is the ultimate destiny for young men and women. They should find the right partner (as in love marriages), or someone should find them the right partner (as in arranged marriages) for a marital relationship.

Due to these cultural stereotypes, people told men and women they should marry to be happy. It appeared, however, that fewer and fewer young men and women believed in this myth. Many preferred to stay single rather than marry. Even though they stayed in a relationship, they started to postpone their marriage until later. Sometimes, they never married, preferring to live in a relationship without marital registration.

The overall decline in marriages was an alarming trend in the late twentieth century. In the late 1970s, divorce rates were high, and the number of people remarrying after divorce was decreasing. It became commonplace for couples to cohabit without registering their union. Between 1970 and 1999, the number of unmarried couples living together in the United States increased seven times.

I wrote about these tendencies in another article, What Happened with Marriage in the Late 20th Century and How Marriage Evolved Into Singlehood in recent several decades.

Does it mean that modern single men and women are less happy because they are not married?

Is it okay to be single? Another reasonable question researchers ask is whether marriage brings us happiness or whether we ourselves bring our happiness to make the relationship happy.

Singlehood in the 21st Century

In the 21st century, the number of people who are single continues to go up. While in 1990, 29% of adults in the U.S. did not have a partner, in 2019, the percentage increased to 38%.

The traditional cultural stereotypes, however, tell us that something is wrong with those single men and women. Many people believe that unmarried men and women are immature, self-centered, insecure, and unhappy. They believe that married people are more mature, kind, stable, and happy.

According to some research, people who are married or in a committed relationship tend to be happier overall than those who are single. But averages don’t tell the full truth because people are individuals.

Single People Differ from Each Other in How Happy They Feel

The findings of a recent study by Lisa Walsh, Victor Kaufman, and their colleagues from the University of California have demonstrated that single people have many individual differences in how they live and feel.

Researchers surveyed 4,835 single adults ranging in age from 18 to 65 who were single at the time of the survey. The results of the survey identified 10 distinct groups of single people, some of whom were happier than others.

The findings showed that 14% of single adults said that they were extremely happy. In fact, they felt just as happy as the happiest couples reported in other studies. Another 40% of singles were moderately satisfied, 36% were somewhat dissatisfied, and only 10% were extremely dissatisfied.

In contrast to popular stereotypes, the majority of singles (54%) were happy and satisfied with their lives. As a result, singles can experience happiness on par with couples, challenging the misguided stigmas often associated with singlehood.

What Makes Single People Happy

By focusing on typological groups of single people, researchers were able to learn more about what makes them happy.

The single people who were the happiest had strong relationships with their friends and family, a high sense of self-worth, and good personality traits. Besides, the happiest singles had a high level of extraversion, which means they were friendly and outgoing, and a low level of neuroticism, which is a tendency toward negative emotional instability.

On the other hand, the singles who were least happy had poor relationships with family and friends, low self-esteem, low extraversion, and high neuroticism.

Who Are Moderately Happy Singles?

We found interesting variations among moderately happy singles between these two extremes. They frequently keep an emotional balance between the good and bad sides of their lives. The happiest singles were those who had wonderful friends and family, but they did not have to have both to be content. Strong friendships but strained family ties characterized one happy group, while the other happy group displayed the opposite trend.

Another happy singles group had high neuroticism, but they overcame this challenge with high extraversion. To put it another way, there are numerous ways for single people to be content. One general stereotype cannot be used to describe all single people. There are several different kinds of single people, each with their own distinctive characteristics.

So, Living Single Is Not Necessarily Bad for You

What are the main conclusions the researchers came to?

We are not doomed to a life of misery if we remain single. In fact, a lot of single people are as content with their lives as their married counterparts. Additionally, there are numerous options for single people to live their own unique version of the good life. Some singles are lucky to have low neurotic traits, while others have a high sense of self. Some singles treasure their friendships. Others find comfort in their families.

So, it appears that the traditional gap between happy couples and unhappy singles is not as straight as previously believed. Currently, that gap may be narrowing as singlehood gains greater acceptance and prominence in modern societies.

We shall acknowledge that happiness doesn’t hinge on romantic or marital relationships. We shall cherish the diverse ways that we can find happiness in life, whether being married, in partnerships, or now.

“Friends with Benefits”: Single Men and Women in Relationships

Throughout the last couple of centuries, traditional ideals of romantic love have suggested people find their soul mate, marry the loved one, have children, and live happily ever after. The cultural beliefs in love marriages have long shaped people’s dreams of a happy married life and kids.

However, many modern single men and women can also experience joy and be apparently happy in their lives. It turns out that for many, being single doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Marriage may appear to be desirable, but it is not always a necessary condition of well-being and happiness. 

Kim Mills, in her recent interview with Geoff MacDonald, a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada, asked:

Now when you’re studying people who are single, does that mean that they can’t have relationships, that they can’t have intimacy with other people?”

Speaking of Psychology: Living a happy single life,” Episode 215

In his answer to the question, Geoff MacDonald explained that single men and women have lots of opportunity for relationships and intimacies with their friends and family relationships.

Being single, they still have romantic and sexual connections. Culturally, over the last few decades, social norms of relationships have shifted toward more variety and flexibility. Currently, social norms allow more opportunities for casual relationships and sexual encounters. The line between dating and not dating is blurry. For instance, people can be some kind of “friends with benefits.”

What Is a “Friend with Benefits” Relationship?

What kind of relationship does a “friend with benefits” have?

As Geoff MacDonald comments,

“We know that there are a number of single people who tell us that they’re sexually active. And what we do know is that single people who are higher in sexual satisfaction tend to be happier with singlehood.”

The data, on the other hand, suggests that

“Singles who are happier with their sex lives are also more likely to end up in relationships down the road.”

As Geoff MacDonald further explains, it is possible that

“…being with people in sexual and romantic relationships, it’s not shopping for a product where if you don’t like it you take it back. The human heart works such that relationships are kind of sticky. And even when you are in casual sexual relationships, for example, next thing you know you’re leaving a toothbrush, and next thing you’re leaving a set of pajamas, and next thing you know it’s easier to just move in because you’re already spending three nights a week there.”

So, it is likely that

“even though sexual satisfaction is definitely something that’s associated with happiness in singlehood, that might also indicate somebody who’s on the road to being in a committed romantic relationship.”

Geoff MacDonald,Speaking of Psychology: Living a happy single life,” Episode 215

How “Progression Bias” Works

“Progression bias” is the tendency of people to make decisions that sustain relationships rather than dissolve them. For example, Samantha Joel and Geoff MacDonald (2021), in their recent study, showed emerging evidence of a progression bias in romantic relationships.

People are biased to make pro-relationship decisions over the course of relationship progression, according to the authors. In other words, they feel predisposed to making choices that favor the initiation, advancement, and maintenance of their romantic relationships.

Progression bias takes place in the contexts of relationship initiation, investment, and breakup decisions.

“getting into a relationship is often easier than getting out of one, and why being in a less desirable relationship is often preferred over being in no relationship at all.”

(Joel & MacDonald, 2021, p. 317).

“Progression bias” occurs in a situation:  

“when you get into a casual sexual relationship, and then it’s all of a sudden you find yourself more and more committed.”

Geoff MacDonald provides a couple of reasons why this “progression bias” can occur in the course of relationships. One of these is the evolutionary explanation.

In the cases of such relationship development, the mere exposure effect can be another psychological mechanism at work, supporting the progression bias.

Happy People, Happy Relationships

Long-standing cultural ideologies of love have encouraged men and women to fall in love, get married, and spend their lives happily with their spouses.

In recent decades, the modern culture of relationships has evolved and transformed into new forms. Traditional marriage evolved into the varieties of singlehood, not necessarily making men and women unhappy. And the old-fashioned stereotypes of singlehood may no longer be variable.

It turns out, however, that many single men and women can also be happy. And being single is not always a negative circumstance. Single women and men can be just as happy as those who are married.

So, do love and marriage bring us happiness? Or do we ourselves bring happiness to a relationship?

What Makes a Single Person Happy?

People who have never been in a romantic relationship or have never been married are more likely to be happier as singles compared to those who have ever been in a romantic relationship or have ever been married.

Researchers don’t really know so far why that’s the case because they don’t have direct evidence from their studies. An expert in relationship research, Professor Geoff MacDonald, proposes the following explanation. He thinks that most people intuitively know what is good for themselves and follow their own path.

Are You Happy to Be Single? Really?

The traditional beliefs of cultural love ideology are that romantic relationships and marriages are good for people. These centuries-old myths can create cultural and personal biases against being single. The cognitive dissonance between holding this cultural belief and the reality of being single can cause personal unhappiness.

Other people, however, can feel themselves free from the cultural pressure of such a love ideology. They just intuitively know and recognize that romantic relationships are not for them and that marital relationships will not make them happy. So, they decide to stay single.

When Divorce Is Bad and When It Isn’t So Bad

One of the challenges that can make people unhappy is a divorce. People who have been through a divorce tend to feel worse about being single and struggle with lovelessness. Some evidence suggests that divorce can be psychologically fairly damaging to at least some individuals, even though we as a society may not have thought this way.

Happy People Bring Happiness into Their Relationships

People who do well in life in general usually feel well in their lives as singles. Those who feel securely attached in their relationship don’t worry much about getting rejected by others. They do well in romantic relationships and feel comfortable in their close relationships with others. But they do well in singlehood too.

As Professor Geoff MacDonald said about this,

“Maybe one of the reasons for that is that people who are happier in singlehood are also people who have good relationships with their friends and good relationships with their families. And that skill set that comes with attachment security, the ability to be comfortably close to people, to take emotional risks that allow you to get close to people, that’s not just limited to romantic relationships. Those people are going to bring those kinds of skills to their friendships and their family relationships.”

Some people believe in the old-fashioned wisdom that if they get into a romantic relationship, they will become a happier person. People who are happy as singles are also happy in relationships. As Geoff MacDonald noted in this regard,

“it suggests that maybe the best idea is to get right with yourself first and go towards a romantic relationship when you’ve done whatever that work is.”

In conclusion, people of this kind bring their attachment security, comfort, and happiness into relationships if they decide to be involved. In other words, not romantic or marital relationships bring them happiness in life. But rather they themselves bring their well-being in those relationships (Karandashev, 2019; 2022).

Recent studies have shown that modern single men and women can be happy or unhappy in a variety of ways that are not necessarily related to their marriages.

What Is Romantic in Nicaraguan Love?

The cultural practices of Nicaraguan love have many specifics related to the country’s patriarchal way of life and gender inequality in relationships and marriages. Gender inequalities are prevalent in traditional patriarchal societies. However, gender relations in Latin American countries and Nicaragua are culturally specific and different from those in many other societies.

The Latin American cultural norms of “machismo” and “marianismo,” which show the masculinity of men and the femininity of women, are the source of these different gender roles.

So, what do love and relationships look like in this Central American society? Let’s look at the case of a small coastal town, San Juan, located in the southwest rural area of Nicaragua.

The Hierarchy of Gender Roles in Nicaraguan Love

In Nicaraguan patriarchal culture, like in other Latin American societies, there is a social hierarchy of gender roles. Men have a higher social standing than women. They have more behavioral affordances than women. In a relationship, their culturally normative rights are unequal. According to cultural norms, men should be dominant, whereas women should be submissive.

The different gender roles come from the Latin American cultural norms of “machismo” and “marianismo,” which show that men are strong, and women are weak. In Nicaragua, though, machismo and patriarchy have a strange twist on family structure and relationships (Karandashev, 2017).

Latin American Machismo and Marianismo in Nicaraguan Love

Machismo is a part of the male culture in Nicaragua. They have a lot of free time, which they spend idling and chatting in their peer groups, drinking, gambling, and going on risky adventures. Men can do whatever they want. They are proud of being on their own among other men and bragging in front of others.

Many men spend little time taking care of their families. Yet they expect that the women will take care of them by cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. Men can do whatever they want. They are proud of being on their own. Social norms allow men a lot of freedom in their sexual conduct and extramarital affairs. Nicaraguan culture assumes men to be active sexual beings. They may be good at sexual love and reproduction but less good at pair-bonding because macho culture teaches them certain values and skills but not others.

On the other hand, Nicaraguan women should follow the “marianismo” ideal, just like many Latin American women in other countries. A woman’s typical roles in Nicaraguan marianismo are to be a “good woman,” a “good wife,” a “good mother,” and to be docile and caring for her husband and children. Women serve men and give them as much freedom as they want in what they do and how they behave. On the other hand, cultural norms limit women’s sexuality and strongly condemn their extramarital affairs. Women are thought to be passive, emotional beings. (Hagene, 2010).

Do Nicaraguans Know About Romantic Love?

Nicaraguan men and women are well familiar with what romantic love is. TV shows, Latin American romantic movies, and telenovelas are the main sources of their romantic images and scripts. People in San Juan habitually watch romantic movies and “telenovelas” on TV, which present charming and captivating love stories.

Passionate love, sexual affairs, intrigues, and deceptions are intricately linked in these romantic stories. Although true romantic love encourages commitment and sexual fidelity, infidelity turns out to be a cultural reality in Latin American love relationships.

The Romantic Beginnings of Nicaraguan Love

In romantic love, men and women play different culturally normative roles. They are unequal in several regards, which are advised by culturally normative Latin American stereotypes of machismo and marianismo. Machismo and marianismo are culturally prescribed roles that have a significant impact on men’s and women’s love and family interactions.

According to the stereotypes of machismo, men are supposed to be assertive and dominant. Men have lots of autonomy in their lives, behaviors, and social relations. Men are supposed to show masculine manners, superior status, powerful strength, pride in themselves, and benevolent dominance in relationships with women. The culturally normative Latino macho men take the initiative in romantic courting, dating, and sexual activity. Conquering a woman is very romantic for them. They romantically enjoy sexual affairs rather than pair-bonding. Their macho culture advises them first, but not second.

According to the stereotypes of marianismo, women are supposed to be dutiful and submissive. Women have limited autonomy in life, behavior, and social relations. Women are supposed to display feminine manners, weakness, humble status, shy character, and altruistic dependency in relationships with men. The culturally normative Latina woman accepts a man’s leadership and guidance in romantic encounters and dating. She is attentive to men’s needs, responsive, agreeable, and amiable. The expectations of prospective marriage, family, and children are very romantic for them. They romantically enjoy the man’s wooing her, his commitment, and his promise to marry, pair-bond, and have children together. Their marianismo culture tells them all these things more than sexual love (Karandashev, 2017).

However, the following relationships give them experience of bittersweet Nicaraguan love associated with the necessity to have divided love.