My Patient the Polygamist

She was a polygamist but she didn’t know it. When she arrived at the office she was asked to confirm her demographic information. Under the section for marital status the box for "polygamist" was clearly checked. The patient, who is in a same sex relationship, laughed loudly, “I couldn’t get married at all until two years ago, now I’m married to more than one person!”

We continued to laugh about it when I came into the exam room. I said, only half-jokingly, “That may be legal before too long!” She got a slightly puzzled look on her face and said, “You think so?”

The conversation that followed surprised me. I was fearful that a discussion between a Christian doctor and a lesbian patient on the nature of marriage might not end well. We live in a world where people on opposite sides of the issue have used terms such as “hateful” and “immoral” to describe those with opposing viewpoints. I chose my words carefully, and proceeded with caution.

I shared with her that the definition of marriage in our society was evolving, and since it was evolving there was no way of knowing for certain what the endpoint would be. I added that the reasoning used by the Supreme Court in its decision affirming same sex marriage could potentially be applied in a way that supported polygamy as well. I said this in a matter of fact way, avoiding any tone that might imply anger, fear or emotion. She agreed with my thoughts, that things had changed and the endpoint was unknown.

I went on to add that it was the evolving nature of things that was the actual source of the debate. Rather than the debate being specifically about marriage, I expressed my thought that there are two viewpoints involved. One part of society believes that values come from outside of society and should endure and not change over time. Another group believes that values should evolve along with society.

Those who believe that values should endure are naturally concerned with the changes that have happened in our country and wonder where we are going. They are naturally opposed to changes in the value system. Her response was perfect in its understanding, “Of course they are!”

I went on to say that those who believe that values evolve over time would naturally tell others, “Who are you to tell me that I cannot live my life the way that I choose? Why should you be able to impose your values on me?” We both agreed on this statement as well.

And that was the end of it, the best possible outcome. Two people with different perspectives and values, two people who did not even agree on the correct way to define values, agreed with one another that reasonable, thoughtful people could reach different conclusions without calling one another names or thinking ill of one another.

How about that?

-          Bar

Thanks for reading. If you want to receive future posts in your email, subscribe to the blog by clicking on the subscribe button on the page. You can also follow me on twitter @bartbarrettmd. Questions and nice comments are always welcome.