Group marriage

Group marriage is a form of polyamory in which more than one man and more than one woman form a family unit, with all the members of the group marriage being considered to be married to all the other members of the group marriage, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage.

Line marriage is a form of group marriage found in fiction in which the family unit continues to add new spouses of both sexes over time so that the marriage does not end.

Group marriage is sometimes falsely called polygamy or even polygynandry, from a combination of the words polygyny and polyandry. But polygynandry and polygamy can only be considered group marriage under certain circumstances.

In modern cultures

Group marriage occasionally occurred in communal societies founded in the 19th and 20th centuries. An exceptionally long-lived example was the Oneida Community founded by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848. Noyes taught that he and his followers had undergone sanctification; that is, it was impossible for them to sin, and that for the sanctified, marriage (along with private property) was abolished as an expression of jealousy and exclusiveness. The Oneida commune practiced sexual communalism and shared parental responsibilities, and in effect functioned as a large group marriage until sometime in the period 1879-1881.

The Kerista Commune practiced group marriage in San Francisco from 1971 to 1991.

It is difficult to estimate the number of people who actually practice group marriage in modern societies, as this form of marriage is not officially recognized or permitted in any jurisdiction, and illegal in many. It is also not always visible when people sharing a residence consider themselves privately to form (or self-identify as) a group marriage. With the legalization of Same-sex marriage in Canada and some parts of the United States, some members of the polyamory movement are talking about a reform movement to also allow group marriage.

In fiction

Interest in, and practice of nonmonogamy is well-known in modern science fiction fandom. Group marriage has been a theme in some works of science fiction - especially the later novels of Robert A. Heinlein, such as Stranger in a Strange Land, Friday, Time Enough For Love, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Stranger in a Strange Land describes a communal group much like the Oneida Society.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress describes line families in detail. The characters argue that the line family creates economic continuity and parental stability in an unpredictable, dangerous environment. Manuel's line marriage is said to be over 100 years old. The family is portrayed as economically comfortable because improvements and investments made by previous spouses compounded, rather than being lost between generations. Heinlein also makes it a point that this family is racially diverse. A passing reference to Heinlein's marriage forms is made in David Brin's ''Infinity's Shore'', where a sapient bottlenose dolphin crewmember is noted as belonging to a "line marriage, one of the Heinlein forms."

Group marriages of three partners (called triples) are described as commonplace in the 1966 award-winning novel Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany. The novel's protagonist, a female starship captain Rydra Wong, once lived in a triple, until one member died and another was put in stasis for an incurable illness. Other crew members, especially those who worked in close three-person teams, are noted for this type of relationship.

Line marriage is also commonly practiced in Joe Haldeman's 1981 novel Worlds. Haldeman describes how individual families joined forces, both in bed and on paper, in order to avoid inheritance taxes. Many of these consensual corporations were made up of three-mate marriages called triunes.

Group marriage is briefly addressed in the 1989 Star Trek novel '''', by J.M. Dillard (published by Pocket Books). A minor character, Lt. Nguyen, enters into a group marriage and is portrayed as a relatively normal occurrence within the society of the Star Trek world.


| Author: Dillard, J.M. | Year: 1989 (eBook, 2003). | ID: ISBN-10: 0-7434-5422-7 (see also ISBN-13: 978-0-7434-5422-3). | Pages: 440. | More on author - | More on this title -


  1. , Murdock, 1949, p. 24.
  2. :group marriage or a marital union embracing at once several men and several women.
  3. , Murdock, 1949, p. 24.

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