Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

April 29, 2012

Poly podcasts and online radio

I'm not much of an audio guy. I've missed way too much of Cunning Minx's excellent and hugely successful Polyamory Weekly podcast, now starting its eighth year. Same with the newer Pedestrian Polyamory podcast at Life on the Swingset, a significant spot in the growing swing/poly rapprochment. Any other recommendations?

Meanwhile, on the Progressive Radio Network on the internet, Sexxx Talk Radio recently presented...

An in-depth discussion about non-monogamy with Dr. David Roth!

Since television’s Big Love and Sister Wives made the scene, many people who never before considered non-monogamy a legitimate possibility are questioning whether one-man/one-woman relationships, or even two-person gay ones, are the only legitimate choice....

Listen here (approx. 1 hour):

or download (12 MB; April 11, 2012).

One notable bit, from Seattle culture: "In monogamy, sex is a bargaining chip. In polyamory, time and attention are the bargaining chips." Ouch, true.

For lots more for your poly listening pleasure, from NPR to the BBC, here are my posts tagged radio.


April 28, 2012

Gay poly documentary stirs heated reactions

The sight of an all-male poly relationship sometimes upsets gays more than straights. Stirring this pot is a new 6-minute documentary film, Polyamorous Relationships in New York City, by producers Nilo Tabrizy and Suvro Banerji. It follows a closed, polyfi triad of three men in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. Watch here:

An article about it is up on Gay.net:

Polyamorous Relationship in New York

By Joe Thompson

With all the discussion about marriage equality right now, and an intense desire by the mainstream gay community to be seen as equal to straight couples, two types of gay relationships have been quietly moved into the shadows: open and polyamorous relationships.

Open relationships are the ones most gay men speak about. The types vary.... On the other side, polyamorous couples are made of three or more committed partners. You often hear about that kind of thing among heterosexual Mormons living outside of the mainstream Latter Day Saints Mormon Church, but not as much among gay men. That, however, could change.

...Some gays are simply uncomfortable with this notion — much like many heterosexuals — and either don't understand the concept or simply reject it. Others in the LGBT community get angered when they hear about these relationships, thinking it's politically bad for gay people and reinforces stereotypes that we're a deviant subculture. Still other gay men have a "live and let live" philosophy towards polyamory, or feel that because we're already considered outsiders and sexual outlaws in mainstream society that we have the right and responsibility to not play by society's rules....

Read the whole story (April 26, 2012) and the comments.

The filmmakers themselves have an article in Out Magazine. Much of it is a transcript from the video:

How To Make a Male Polyamorous Relationship Work

By Nilo Tabrizy and Suvro Banerji

"I could never do that," is usually the first thing a bystander will state when he finds out someone is in a three-person or more relationship. But why do some people seem to thrive in such an arrangement?

Franco DiLuzio and Mark Lander met while working at G-Lounge, a club in the in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood. Five years later, they were married. But two months after their wedding, everything changed for the happily married couple.

After a few chats online via a male dating site, Franco met Vinny Vega, a 24-year-old fashion photography student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. What went from a casual hook up turned into a serious, closed polyamorous relationship. Franco, Mark, and Vinny have been together for two years.

“I talk about my boyfriends proudly," Vega explains. "I know it’s hard for people to accept. I don’t really care if people accept me or not."...

While this relationship works for the three of them, there have been critics along the way. Lander admits that most people have a negative opinion about them.

“I find that gay men have the most problem with it. Whereas my straight friends look at it and say, ‘oh, there’s three of you now!’ And the gay friends were more wanting to have that traditional guideline,” DiLuzio says, explaining that their gay friends often looked up to his relationship with Lander as an example of a strong, monogamous relationship....

Read the whole article (April 26, 2012).

In both places, the reader comments are revealing. Some gays do have problems with queers being queer.


Similarly, this appeared at So So Gay in England:

Be My Valentines

Today, I had a nightmare in Tesco trying to buy Valentine Day cards. I had to face a pink and red wall screaming ‘Be Mine!’ at me. In the end, I went for blank cards, to be able to convey my own message and represent myself and my relationships on my own terms.

...Once the preserve of hessian-wearing hippies, polyamory today is a growing movement of sexual liberty. Arguably one of the last remaining societal taboos, Western culture largely doesn’t seem to mind if two consenting adults of any gender hook up, but if outside of that relationship there are others? Unthinkable!

Greg, a 24 year old working in retail has been with his two male partners for 2 years and 18 months respectively. The first of his partners, although not polyamorous is ‘Open-minded’ about the situation. and they both feel ‘equally valued, but most importantly, separate.’

...The myth of there being ‘The One’ who is going to sweep you off your feet can be demoralising for people who feel fulfilled in some ways within a relationship, but not in others. For those who it works for, polyamory is simply a way of getting the most out of life with those who are right for you.

TBird, a 26-year-old arts employee explains ‘For me, my polyamory starts with a relationship with myself, and everyone else I get involved with is joining in with that. The only way poly works is if you talk about it, communication is constant; you don’t play games or rely on body language. I love being in a polyamorous relationship as it relies on proper communication, and I can negotiate a relationship, rather than be under the pressure of slotting into one...."

...The rights of those willing and able to juggle equally committed partnerships simultaneously may well become a major civil rights issue during our lifetime....

The whole article (February 17, 2012).


Next magazine picks up the subject and quotes Justen Michael Bennett-Maccubbin, founder of Polyamorous NYC, a one-of-a-kind gay poly organization that puts on the Poly Pride Picnic & Rally in Central Park each fall:

In defense of polyamorous men

By Justin Lockwood

For some gay men the term “polyamory” calls up a host of negative images.... For every Dan Savage — the sex columnist who has long championed “monogamish” relationships for gays and straights alike — there’s a bitter Betty waiting to pooh-pooh unconventional gay relationships.

Sanjay, a 29-year-old with a fiancé who’s been involved with triad relationships and even a quad with another couple, has encountered a lot of hostility. “We’ve been accused of damaging the gay rights movement,” he says. “I thought the original point of any civil rights movement was to make sure the group [involved] can make their own choices without having to stand up to other people’s standards.’”

Matt, who’s been with his partner for 15 years (the bulk of which have been polyamorous), likens revealing his relationship status to a second coming out. “I had to come out already, but now there’s this new thing that’s not really socially acceptable”....

Even potential partners are sometimes resistant to the idea of a polyamorous love affair. Sanjay says he’s had interest from guys who would be down for “a typical cheating situation without knowledge to [my fiancé] Colin, but not if I was being honest and above board....

This odd dichotomy could be attributed to the rise of gay marriage and its accompanying push for a more socially acceptable gay face. Justen Michael Bennett-Maccubbin, founder of Polyamorous NYC, declares that “There’s this assimilationist movement, but the truth is there’s a huge portion of the gay community that isn’t just like everyone else.” These men have to deal with shame and suspicion from their fellow gays, as with the triads Justen has met since starting the organization, the only one of its kind in the nation. “I’ve known some that have lasted over a decade,” he reveals. “One has been together for fifteen years. Most triads have to keep a very low profile, though. A lot of people are very close minded; it’s hard to find support for their kind of relationship.”

Matt and Sanjay both attend Polyamorous NYC meetings, and the group provides a welcome respite from all the negativity. “Being gay and being poly, it’s so valuable to go someplace where those things are accepted and even celebrated,” Sanjay states. Matt is similarly inspired: “It can be really affirming to know you’re not the only one out there looking for this kind of love.”...

Read the whole article (March 20, 2012). (Ads are NSFW.)

As a counterpoint to all this, I've helped run a literature booth under a "Polyamory!" poster at the Boston Pride Festival for the past several years, and we've never had anything but positive reactions from the crowd.



April 25, 2012

More on raising children in a poly home

The most powerful part of last Friday's ABC "20/20" profile of an extended polyfamily network was, for me, the parents describing the benefits that their intimate community has for parenting and for the kids, and the 7-year-old saying her piece.

Explaining your multi-loving life to your children, and representing yourself as a good parent to the world if you're out — or fearing discovery by way of your kids if you're closeted — is surely one of the most challenging aspects of being poly in these early years of the movement.

As a followup, here's a roundup of more on poly parenting:

1. Tara Shakti-Ma, a polyactivist who runs the Expansive Loving discussion group, recently described her own story of coming out to her children, and why she did it the way she did:

I have 5 children, all adults now except for my 15-year-old daughter who lives with my nesting partner and I.

What worked for me was to introduce my children gradually to how I was growing, transforming and expanding my life experience in *other* ways. This included that I'd been attending sacred fire, drum and dance circles (and had taken up learning hand-drumming), was learning to belly dance, was attending Earth-based spirituality events/festivals/rituals, and a few other things that I was "growing into." Most people moving into their free-adult years experience similar shifts due to ongoing personal growth, so this shouldn't be too much of a surprise. The details may be different for you, and those are what you might consider sharing.

From there I branched into talking about sexuality from a positive perspective, and my thoughts on the usefulness and realities of monogamous relationships. I expressed that in my life I have loved many people, and that I now feel that it is perfectly possible and viable to love more than one person at the same time. I also said that at this point in my life I don't want to confine myself to monogamy. In a sense this was easy, since I was essentially "single" at the time, though I had been dating my also-actively-polyamorous and now nesting partner for over a year at that point.

All my kids now know I am non-monogamous. They know that I am not only "okay" with, but actually supportive of my partner having other loves/lovers in his life, and that I do as well. In this context they see me/us living a very happy, alive and richly woven life, and they are happy for me, though my choices might not be theirs. We openly discuss our other lovers and dates — including scheduling logistics and negotiations — in front of my daughter, as a way of "normalizing" our chosen relationship style. I/we feel this offers a healthy model of loving, co-supportive, ethical non-monogamy.

...[If you're married,] no doubt your kids will be most concerned that neither of you are opening up your marriage simply to go along with the other, or that either of you do so under duress. They will also very likely be concerned that this does not mean you love each other less, but rather that the two of you feel that your love is so strong, so deeply rooted and so stable, that you both feel you have something to offer and share with others out of your overflow, and you are exploring that. Mentioning that the two of you have no intention of leaving each other, but that this is a shared exploration that you both feel could profoundly enrich — and even deepen further — your existing relationship.

Being absolutely truthful and direct is very freeing. When your kids see this, hopefully their greatest concern will be that you are doing what brings you both expanded happiness and fulfillment. [For adult children] you might also want to suggest they read a book, such as Dr. Deborah Anapol's Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits. As a poly educator and activist, I highly recommend it for its focus on love, healthy relationship with self, the concepts on "non-ownership" of another, and personal accountability. I also highly recommend the articles at www.morethantwo.com, as well as www.lovemore.com/faq.php (by the way, there are several article on polyamory and children at the Loving More site).

Ultimately you may have to take some heat, some expressions of distress and/or worry, but living your truth is important to living a happy life, and the bottom line [should be] that you are both free-thinking, considerate, aware, responsible, self-guiding adults, who have made a very careful and conscious choice, in a spirit of shared love and trust. Stand firm on that platform, and simply continue showing that you are working together toward creating the life and loves that you want and deserve.

2. At the opposite end of the child-age spectrum, a poly parenting support group may be developing on the new-parent site "What to Expect" ("Pregnancy and parenting, every step of the way").

3. Just this morning Noel Figart put up another of her Polyamorous Misanthrope columns on parenting: Can Having Children and Polyamory Mix? She's spent years mixing them. She offers thoughts on what to tell the kids about yourselves and what to tell them about handling the outside world.

You’ve heard the term “age appropriate,” yes? Certainly it applies here. It’s unnecessary and foolish to batter our children’s ears with too much information, but on the other hand, some context is useful in relationships.

For a very small child, there’s always the analogy of the parental relationship, presuming it is still intact, of course. “Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, and Mommy also loves Mr. Adam, and we’re all happy together.”

You’ll find you don’t have to ramp this up too much with older children....

Answer questions if your children have them. The older they are, the more likely they are to have them. They might be concerned about what it will mean to their own lives, and rightfully so! Think about this and answer carefully. Be especially careful to follow through on any promises you make. I hope you’ll be able to reassure them that they’ll get the same love, care and attention as ever.

Depending on where you live... a very conservative area might have some problems with polyamory and might use your children as a control technique. I wish it were otherwise, but that’s the simple truth. You want to know how you’re going to handle it before you come out to your child.

While not into secrets, necessarily, I am strongly in favor of considering need to know fairly carefully. What you don’t want to do is indoctrinate your kid that your household and what goes on in is secret. Laying that kind of burden on a kid is not only mean, it makes them vulnerable to people who might want them keeping less benevolent secrets than who their parents are dating. That’s not to say that kids can’t volunteer the damnedest information at the most embarrassing times, but I consider the “secrets” bit dangerous to future boundaries, which is why I come down on it....

And read the comments there, where other poly parents tell how they handled these things.

From another of Figart's columns, "Poly Parenting 101":

One of the sad facts of being an alternative lifestyler of any sort is in this political climate, you’re liable to be labeled a dangerous pervert....

[If you're a parent] should this worry you?

It depends on a lot of things. Where do you live?... Do people have a live and let live policy, or are they all up in your bidness? What about your relatives? Are there control issues going on? Are you accepting significant financial support from them?

But more than that, I want to point out one more thing, which is the big subject of my rant.

Are you a good parent?

Seriously, dewd. Don’t get on your damn high horse until you’ve evaluated your parenting....

Another: "Will a baby change my poly relationship?" (Answer: Damn straight, whether you're one of the bio parents or not.)

Here's her whole collection of no-nonsense poly-parenting experience and advice.

4. By Angi Becker Stevens, in her article "Polyamory: Rebooting Our Definitions of Love and Family" in the online magazine Role Reboot ("Make Sense of Men & Women"):

...Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people raise concerns about the well-being of children in polyamorous families. Some seem concerned that the kids in these situations are growing up with inappropriate ethics, which is a lot like warning same-sex couples that their children will grown up thinking it’s OK to be gay. I’m thrilled that my daughter, and any future children I might have, will grow up knowing that there is more than one way to form a loving relationship.

Other people seem convinced that the children are somehow being exposed to sexuality in an unhealthy way, just one of many sentiments that betrays a fixation on the sexual aspect of any alternative relationships. My daughter sees the same kinds of affection between my boyfriend and I that she sees between her father and I; in other words, the kind of affection that’s completely appropriate for 8-year-old eyes.

And still others worry about a lack of stability for children in polyamorous homes, a concern which strikes me as particularly ironic in our 21st century world of oft-divorcing parents and blended families. If we find it acceptable for single parents to date, to bring new love interests into their children’s homes and lives, is it such a stretch to imagine that non-single parents might conceivably be able to do the same thing, without any greater or less risk of instability?

From my perspective, being in a polyamorous family has a lot to offer both children and parents. Children benefit from having additional trusted adults who care for them, parents benefit from sharing the burdens of parenting among more than just two people. And while I would make no claims that polyamory is inherently and necessarily revolutionary with regard to gender roles, there is something to be said for the possibilities it opens up in that respect.

Read the whole article (Feb. 8, 2012).

5. Matt Bullen and Terisa Greenan did an audio interview about raising a kid in their poly situation on Minx's Polyamory Weekly Podcast, Episode #249 (Sept. 7, 2010). Listen here (mp3). From the program notes:

Interview: Poly parenting. Matt Bullen and Terisa Greenan share their experiences on being poly with children and thoughts on explaining poly to kids.

* How their relationship and living situation is structured
* Dealing with the tough questions
* On calling partners “auntie” or “uncle”
* On the “it’s confusing” argument
* On deceiving your children as to the nature of your relationships
* Dealing with the kid asking, “who do you love more?”
* Online privacy for Matt and Vera’s child

Polyamory Weekly Episode #250 continues with a Q&A about poly parenting:

* ...pick up on your hesitancy and fear.

Is there an age for kids that’s easiest to move a new partner in or an age that’s more difficult for kids to handle the change? It’s case-by case and situation-specific. Communication, negotiation, honesty. Your kids will pick up their attitudes from you; they learn how to react to things from you.

6. From Kamala Devi's site:

"How do you plan to tell Devin when he's old enough to understand?"

People often assume that someday I'll have to explain what polyamory is to my curious son. I think he knows exactly what it is, because he lives it. We may not co-habitate with any other lovers (yet) but we have no secrets in this house and he sees a healthy dose of afection between us and his "aunties" and "uncles." At some point he will see that the rest of the world is not like us, and I may need to explain monogamy to him, but he is a bright sensitive boy so I trust he'll adjust easily to a mono-dominant society. My dream is that there will be movies, TV programs and/or cartoons that represent a healthy poly family, so that poly children around the world will see that they are not alone....

Read more and watch these folks; we're going to see a lot more of them in a few months. Update: Also see Kamala's article Poly Parenting Philosophy: How I'm Raising My Son.

7. Curve magazine presents tips on coming out to your kids, whether you're LGBT or poly:

...“When building unconventional families, we must remember that our children will have to negotiate these relationships with peers, school systems, and extended family members,” reminds Lev. “You will also need to remain open to continuous dialogue with your [child].” Lev says as they age, they may have many different feelings about their ‘unusual’ family at different stages of their life....

8. "Not Half the Parent You Used To Be" by Millie Jackson at sexgenderbody:

A common argument against polyamory is that it is not a healthy lifestyle for the children involved. I have never found this argument to hold up. Although I do not have children, I have been involved with people who do. What I have witnessed are very content children getting a lot of positive attention. They are being raised in a diverse and accepting environment while witnessing communication, negotiation, and a team mentality. Often times, they are completely unaware that their “extended family” includes partners of their mommy and/or daddy....

9. Another article, by Alex Vitti:

Polyamory and Parenting

...The choice of structures is affected by timing: an adult who has been present throughout a child's life is likely to have a more parental relationship with that child than one who enters a relationship with people who already have a teenage child. (The issues involved often parallel those of step-parenting.)

The degree of logistical and emotional involvement between the members of the relationship is also important: a close-knit triad already living under one roof with shared finances is far more likely to take a collective approach to parenting than would a larger, loose-knit group with separate living arrangements:

“Some poly families are structured so that one parent can be home to care for the children while two or more other adults work outside the home and earn an income, thus providing a better standard of living for all concerned.

More adult caretakers means more people available for child care, help with homework, and daily issues such as transportation to extracurricular activities. Children thrive on love. The more adults they have to love them who are part of the family, the happier and more well-adjusted they are.

There is no evidence that growing up in a poly family is detrimental to the physical, psychological or moral well being of children. If parents are happy in their intimate relationships, it helps the family. Happy families are good for children.”

10. A long article in Natural History magazine argues that children are best and most naturally raised by a group, not by the isolated modern nuclear family, which is a historically recent aberration. The article is by anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of the important book on this topic Mothers and Others (2009). Here's a Scientific American interview with Hrdy.

11. The actual quality of poly households for childraising "is a critical area and there's not yet a lot of good, recent research," notes Jim Fleckenstein, chair of the Institute for 21st-Century Relationships (ITCR). "One dated, but still very solid published piece is:

Constantine, Larry L. and Joan M. Constantine. Treasures of the
Island: Children in Alternative Families.
Beverly Hills, CA: Sage
Publications, 1976."

12. Claire Q. recently listed and described much of the available research on children of poly parents (for Laird Harrison's website for his new novel Fallen Lake, a story about kids growing up with parents in a quad in the 1970s).

Also, here is a lengthy bibliography on the subject compiled by Dawn Davidson and others.

13. There's a chapter on children of polyamory in Deborah Anapol's book Polyamory in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield), reprinted on Anapol's Psychology Today blog as Polyamory and Children. She says, "I've probably observed more modern polyamorous childrearing than anyone on the planet."

14. Some poly parents are paranoid about their state Child Protective Services barging in like morality-police storm troopers. That's not what happens (assuming there's no actual abuse or neglect going on). Instead, the real danger to keeping your children, experience shows, are the people closest to you: a bitter ex, or the ex's parents, in a divorce or custody battle. Being poly can then be used as a weapon against you in court, in an attempt to sway the judge's assessment of what is "in the best interests of the child." I heard of a lawyer who said candidly, to a poly family drawing up legal paperwork, "Forget the state, your real danger is each other." Just like ordinary husbands and wives.

My friend Valerie White is a family lawyer who runs the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, a small nonprofit that can help in such crises. Read her checklist for prospective poly parents, and advice for avoiding custody disputes.

15. More discussion forums: There's the Children of Poly section of the Polyamorous Percolations forums.

16. One resource for families is the Loving More PolyParent Yahoo Group. Incidentally, a much larger body of online resources exists for step-parents; sometimes the issues are quite parallel.

17. At Mothering.com, a huge poly parenting discussion thread began in 2006, collected 1,035 enties and 125,774 views by 2010, then restarted in a second thread that continues today, now with 241 posts and 31,091 reads. Don't say there's nowhere to turn for poly parenting advice.

18. And here are my own articles here tagged "kids" going back about five years (including this one; scroll down).

19. (Added June 3:) New Facebook page, PolyFamilySupport.


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April 21, 2012

On ABC's 20/20, a network of polyfamilies shows how it's done.


They pulled it off. On ABC's "20/20" last night, a group of eight adults and three kids faced down an incredulous anchor and, for 7½ minutes, displayed to perhaps 5–7 million viewers what a happy poly network of families can look like. Watch it here:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Here's ABC's lovely text article paralleling the segment. It follows the video fairly closely.

I wonder, however, why the word "polyamory" never once appeared in the article or on air. It's not like ABC has been afraid of the word in the past.

The segment was part of a one-hour show titled “The New Sex: Strange Arrangements.” The other parts were an interview with 50 Shades of Grey author E. L. James, stuff about celebrity sex, and gigolos. (You can watch the whole thing.)

A leading spokesperson for the poly group was Sierra Black, who has recently written about her open marriage and raising her children in it for Salon and the parenting sites Strollerderby and Babble.com. Here's her blog Childwild, in which she's been talking about the 20/20 experience. Excerpt:

I did this because I wanted to give mainstream America a peek at a healthy, happy, thriving circle of poly families. It’s my hope that we’ve done just that, and that this is a step toward a future where news shows won’t want to do segments on how “kooky” polyamory is, because it’s just a thing some people do. I am fairly confident positive portrayals on TV can make a difference, and I’m grateful to ABC for their approach in this one.

My great thanks go out to ABC, 20/20 and in particular anchor Elizabeth Vargas and our producers Marc and Michael. I felt they gave a respectful, balanced portrayal of our family life and relationships.

I’m also grateful beyond words to the family, friends and loved ones who appeared in the segment: thank you for your courage and wisdom. To those who counseled me off-screen, practiced interviews, loaned me pretty things to wear (thanks mom!), hosted the viewing party, recorded the show and were there when I needed a hand to hold or a kind word: thank you from the bottom and the top and every in between part of my heart. This couldn’t have happened without each of you.

Another Strollerderby regular posts,

...Watching Sierra’s relationship profile on TV just now, I realized how incredibly stable her unusual family is.

The best part, I thought, was listening to Sierra’s elder daughter Rio describe her parents’ open marriage. From ABC News:

You might think Sierra and Martin’s daughters think their parents’ arrangement is unusual, but when “20/20″ anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked their daughter, Rio, if she thought her family was different from other families, she replied, “Not really.”

Rio’s definition of an open marriage was fairly precise, for a 7-year-old: “Your parent or one of your parents is dating a different person that’s not part of your family,” she said.

Vargas proved herself a bit conventional during the interview process, asking questions like, “Aren’t you just committing adultery?” The obvious answer is, of course not, though Sierra and her husband Martin gave an even better retort. “As Martin put it, ‘There’s no cheating.’ Sierra added, ‘We are committed to being an open book with each other, and it’s all based on a really high degree of love and trust.’”

Precisely.... There’s communication, dialogue, even bargaining amongst those involved about the types of behaviors that are acceptable to all parties and those that are off limits. I don’t doubt that more marriages could benefit from that kind of honesty.

In a tweet, anchor Elizabeth Vargas commented to a viewer right afterward, "i will admit, i really dont get it. But they all seem to really care about each other. Just cant imagine it myself..."

Update: Sierra writes us, "I'm trying to encourage positive feedback about the 20/20 piece to ABC. If you liked ABC's take on #polyamory, let them know @ABC2020 [twitter] or leave a supportive comment on this article: http://abcn.ws/IvnyTS .

"PS -- I saw you mentioned that the word polyamory wasn't used in the piece. The producers were confused about what polyamory means. They thought it was always and only households with three or more adults living together as equal partners; what you probably think of as polyfidelity or plural marriage. We tried to set them right about it and I think mostly succeeded, but they seem to have wound up thinking any term of art was confusing and just going with 'open marriage.' Meh."


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April 20, 2012

"Honey, I'm Home From My Date: Mass. Families Open Up About Open Marriage"

ABC News

Update: The show aired and yup, darn good. The host struck an incredulous tone (this is normal), but whole extended group got to explain their community of loving relationships and the benefits to the marriages within the group, to the group as a whole, and to their kids. Who had their say too. For 7½ minutes altogether. You can watch it here; click "Two Marriages, Many Lovers."

The article below includes a fair amount of what was said. Good job, people.


Just ahead of tonight's "20/20" segment on polyfamilies (as part of the show airing Friday April 20th), ABC News has put up a wonderful companion article on the web.

Honey, I'm Home From My Date: Mass. Families Open Up About Open Marriage


To most people, the idea of their loved one dating and having passionate sex with other people is repellent. But for two married couples -- with children -- in Somerville, Mass., and thousands more across the country, this is the happy, stable norm.

Sierra Black, 33, is a writer for a popular parenting website. She's been married to Martin, 47, for almost nine years. Martin is a research scientist at a nearby university. (Martin and others in this article will be identified only by first names.)

Though most nights they're home together to put their two young daughters, ages 7 and 4, to bed, on other nights Sierra might be found canoodling with her lover, Aaron, and Martin might go on a sleepover date with his tall, blond girlfriend, whom we'll call J.

..."I make [dates with J] the least disruptive as possible," said Martin. "Sometimes, we just go out and have dinner ... and other times I have a sleepover. And I let [my kids] know that I'm having one, so if they wake up at night ... [and] need to go to bathroom, they know that I'm not there, but I'll be back in the morning."

You might think Sierra and Martin's daughters think their parents' arrangement is unusual, but when "20/20" anchor Elizabeth Vargas asked their daughter, Rio, if she thought her family was different from other families, she replied, "Not really."

Rio's definition of an open marriage was fairly precise, for a 7-year-old: "Your parent or one of your parents is dating a different person that's not part of your family," she said.

Sierra and Martin are very close friends with another local couple: Molly, 35, and David, 43. They have an open marriage, too, and are parents of a 6-year-old daughter. Those aren't the only things the two couples share.

Martin's girlfriend, J, is also David's girlfriend.

...Said Molly, "I get a lot back from this. I have a tremendous amount of love and support in my life, and that is because I have all these strong relationships."

These extracurricular relationships are not fleeting affairs and the couples aren't "swingers." Though Molly and David have been married for 12 years, Molly has been seeing Mark for five years, and David has been seeing J for three. Molly and Sierra have also been intimate for three years. And friendships were often cultivated years before things got intimate.

Honest, continuous communication is key, say many couples with open marriages.

As Martin put it, "There's no cheating."

Sierra added, "We are committed to being an open book with each other, and it's all based on a really high degree of love and trust."

"They have a very specialized ethical code," according to Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, a former sociology professor at Georgia State University who has studied people in open relationships for 15 years. "There's a real ethical basis by which they manage their relationships. In the end they may even be more egalitarian and kinder than those in monogamous relationships...which are often on auto-pilot."

...Molly and David have a daughter. But what kids of open marriages see, Molly said, "is lots of stable relationships with people who chose them consciously and happily."

Clinical psychologist Esther Perel, who wrote about open marriages in her book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and Domestic, said "...You're giving the message to your children that this is an important dimension of life and that you take it seriously and that you negotiate it with care, with responsibility, and with respect."

Indeed, when "20/20" caught up one night with Sierra, Martin, David, Molly, Mark, Aaron, Romy and J, they were having a tame evening, with the three children joyfully playing around.

To those who might criticize such a family life, Molly said, "We all put so much love and effort into this life that we've created for our children, and saying, 'Oh, you're a bad parent' because you've chosen to structure your relationships in such and such a way -- I find that hurtful."

...Could open marriage join premarital sex, interracial marriage, gay rights and easy access to contraception on the list of former taboos now widely accepted in mainstream society?

"I don't think that open marriage will become a dominant model," said Esther Perel. "But it will become one of the many models for relationships. ... [T]here isn't one-size-fits-all."

Read the whole article (April 20, 2012). And add a comment.

The show's permanent online home should eventually be here.


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April 17, 2012

"Coming Soon To A TV Near You: My Family on 20/20"

Remember Sierra Black? The poly mom who did such bright, clear articles about her life and family a few months ago on Salon, Strollerderby, and Babble.com?

This Friday night (April 20) she and hers will go before perhaps 5 million people on ABC's "20/20".

She posts (reprinted with permission):

Coming Soon To A TV Near You: My Family on 20/20

My household, along with several of my friends and loved ones, are being profiled by 20/20 about our ethical nonmonogamy, a.k.a. polyamory, a.k.a. open marriage. The part where Martin and I are happily married and also happily dating other people, whatever you want to call that.

The episode is scheduled to air this Friday, April 20, at 10 p.m. EDT [9 p.m. CDT] on ABC.

Here’s what I hope you will do with this information:

1. Spread the word. I’d love for there to be a large contingent of engaged, progressive viewers for this show. 20/20 has a typical audience of 7 million people. Most of my friends (probably most of your friends) are not their target demo. Let’s represent!

2. Watch the show. It’s bound to be interesting. The whole piece is on the “evolution of marriage”, and will feature my family, some of my friends and lovers, and another poly community in Seattle. They’ve talked to some interesting authors and researchers as well.

3. Record it and send me a copy. I’ve figured out how I’m going to watch the episode when it airs, due to the graciousness of one of my dear friends who has a TV and knows how to use it. I have not figured out how I’m going to keep a recording of this madness for future reference. If you can easily record it, please do!

4. Thank ABC for their work. Remember that audience I was talking about? This is a controversial topic. I’m sure they’ll get plenty of criticism for covering it at all. It’d be great to know they’re also getting positive feedback. So even if they fuck it up, let’s say thank you and offer constructive critique.

5. Give me some lovin’. I’m exposing myself and my family to a huge amount of public scrutiny and criticism. Throughout this process I’ve worried about everything from how my relationships will be portrayed to what middle America will think of my housekeeping. I can’t overstate how much support from readers means to me. Your kind words keep me going. Please offer me constructive feedback and support if you can. This goes double for everyone else who was involved, if you’re lucky enough to know the other cast members.

Here's her original post.

The title of the episode is "Strange Arrangements: The New Sex." ABC has put up a video promo. It's pretty sensationalized, but that's what promos tend to do.

The show's written description sounds much better. The open-marriage segment seems to be the third of four in the one-hour show:

Wives with boyfriends and husbands with girlfriends… female celebrities breaking the taboo and talking about sex in ways they never have before… women paying cute guys to date them… open marriages… what’s going on with sexual arrangements in America today? Anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and including the first primetime interview with 50 Shades of Grey author E.L. James, “20/20″ goes inside this new world of strange arrangements....

Reports include:

50 Shades of Grey:....

Celebrity Sex:....

Open Marriage with Kids: With one in two marriages ending in divorce, some couples, instead of blowing up relationships, are quietly expanding them. “20/20″ profiles two couples who are living the open marriage lifestyle while raising kids and growing old together and they say it has made their relationships better. Having other paramours not only spices up their love life but the romantic intimacy builds a kind of extended family that actually helps with childrearing.


While we're here, by the way, a reminder. Don't walk into media things unprepared. Look into what the volunteer Polyamory Media Association offers by way of research and discovery before you agree to a TV appearance. And get their advice on how to control the conditions and how you will come across, and be ready to walk away.

After the 20/20 episode airs, it should eventually appear online here.


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April 16, 2012

Colorado photographer displays her polyfamily self-portraits


Elsewhere in graphic arts exhibits, this time in Denver...

A day in the life of an alternative relationship in Let's Get It Straight, at Ice Cube Gallery

By Tiffany Fitzgerald

Julie Puma had a month to put together her new show, Let's Get it Straight, and she diverted from painting, her usual medium, into snapshot aesthetic photography. The biggest challenge for Puma wasn't the medium, however. Rather, it was spotlighting her own personal life.

Let's Get it Straight offers a look into the ordinary lives of people in three unorthodox relationships — two homosexual partners, one transgender woman's marriage, and Puma's own polyamorous relationship. She... notes that she struggled with the idea that her relationship would be on display.

"I used to be really scared about people finding out about my relationship," she says. "But, if we're going to take a stand about marriage, then it's about the right for everyone to have a family the way they want to have a family. I went back and forth on whether to call the piece about me "Julie, Charlie, and John," or "Untitled." I chickened out at the last minute. That was kind of wussy."

..."I think we need to redefine what it means to be married," she says. "I see more and more couples, or families, who either split-up or cheat and lie. But for some reason, when people are honest about their relationships and still have wonderful family values, all the things Americans want out of a family, the general public has a hard time moving away from how we originally define marriage."

For more information, visit Puma's web page, or Ice Cube's web page. The show runs through April 21.

Read the whole article (April 12, 2012).


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April 14, 2012

R. Crumb and Aline on their open marriage

New York Times

R. Crumb practically invented underground comix in the 1960s. Now he and his wife Aline (a real-life R. Crumb hippie chick) are living in France. They've always been as frank about their open marriage as everything else, as I've noted here before.

Yesterday a grand art museum in Paris opened a major exhibit on Crumb's life work. Bemused, he and Aline spoke at the museum's dinner and press conference, covered in today's New York Times. From the article:

...The Crumbs have always been open about their open marriage, in which they have allowed each other to pursue other intimate relationships. Asked how it has worked out, he replied, “It’s the only reason we’ve stayed together all these years.”

Ms. Crumb said: “It’s a mess, though! It’s just too time-consuming. One husband is a lot of work. And having another one is even more work.”

Mr. Crumb observed, “And also you have children and all that, oh boy.”

Ms. Crumb said: “You have grandchildren and chicken pox, and you’re off with that other person, and you feel guilty. It might or might not be worth it.”

Read the whole article (April 13, 2012; print edition April 14).


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April 10, 2012

Atlanta Poly Weekend 2012: On the Way Up

I went to Atlanta Poly Weekend March 8-10, and here's a report. APW is a regional hotel con that's now in its second year, growing fast, and promising a big future.

"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined two years ago that we would be able to do this," an emotional Billy Holder told the crowd at the conference-closing meeting on Sunday afternoon. He and his triad partners Pocket and Jeremy ("PB&J") first got the gleam in their eye about creating a Southern poly conference while lying in the sun one October afternoon in 2009. They proceeded to grow the Atlanta Polyamory Meetup group into a large and vibrant social happening. Then, drawing on experience working for science-fiction cons, they took the plunge, fronted a scary amount of money, and in March 2011 put on the South's first poly conference, aided by local volunteers. I was there; see my writeup.

Although that first Atlanta Poly Weekend was a success on many levels, drawing 113 people all told, it lost money. But not much, and only because of one hotel-contract glitch. PB&J were announcing the dates for APW 2012 even before the 2011 event was over.

Now — after a whirlwind three days of seminars, workshops, evening dancing and socializing among friends old and new — we were gathered for the goodbye meeting, suggestions and feedback. "We had 151 total attendance," announced Billy. "We had a 27% increase in paid attendance over last year. And we already have 41 pre-registered for 2013."

Poly Theory and Practice

This year APW had nicer hotel space on Atlanta's northern perimeter. Friday began with an introduction by PB&J and the volunteer staff from Atlanta Polyamory Inc. (created as a 501(c)7 nonprofit after last year's con). I arrived in the middle of Joreth Innkeeper's seminar on Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages and took a seat. As Joreth explained, Chapman's concepts have taken hold in the poly community (despite his Christian perspective) as useful tools for uncovering the different relationship expectations and needs that you and your partners hold unconsciously. I've found Chapman's ideas to be unexpectedly revealing about myself.

Next I stepped into a room where Vrimj, polyactivist and legal eagle, was giving a rundown of the Kody Brown polygamy case in Utah — which promises, or threatens, to have a direct effect on us. The Kody Brown family are the stars of the "Sister Wives" reality show. The five of them are bringing a federal case to overturn state bigamy laws against multiple people living as if married. Legally speaking, the Brown family (originalist Mormons) are identical to a secular poly household. They assert only one legal marriage within the group; the other wives don't claim to be more than single girlfriends of Kody's under the law. But they're illegal anyway, by living together and also by "purporting to be married" spiritually. For better or worse, said Vrimj, "this case is the most exciting thing that's happened on a polyamory legal front in the U.S. in quite a long time." Living with partners and/or calling them spouses (spice) will either be legalized in the states that now outlaw it, or will be affirmed as criminal-izable. "Either way it's going to affect us."

Dinner that evening (in the reasonably priced dining room next to the conference area) brought a chance to join in with tables of strangers getting to know each other and hear each other's stories. After dinner, Maymay delivered the evening's keynote address — a theory-heavy brain-bender. He challenged the poly world's careless use of relationship terms based on role-positions ("metamour," for instance) and couple privilege ("dyadism") rather than framing things around the meta-relationships between relationships themselves. "Language is a superpower, and invisible, so it goes unexplored," Maymay said; "relationships are roles one acts, not positions." From there he went into metaphors from fractal geometry that were beyond my abilities. One challenging bit stood out: He asked for shows of hands for various positions that people consider themselves in. "Within the polyamorous world," he said, "the most marginalized people are those who consider themselves only- or mostly-secondaries. That is why [after no hands went up for that category] none are here. The non-privileged do not show up at conferences organized by the systems that oppress them."

Here's his whole talk, not a light read. Is he deep or just scattered, or both?

After that, Billy's down-home welcome to the crowd and introduction to the evening dance floor (with excellent professional DJ-ing) was a needed decompression. People kicked loose till late.

Much to Choose

For most of the weekend, three simultaneous tracks of talks and panels gave a range of choices that meant you had to miss 2/3 of them. I gravitated toward the sessions around activism and theory more than the relationship-help workshops and hands-on exercises. Barry Smiler spoke on his theme that poly is just the latest aspect of the centuries-long trend toward personal self-determination — the long, gradual shift away from your life decisions being mostly made for you by your culture, to the modern paradigm of building your life yourself. He predicted that poly and other forms of relationship choice will be normalized a lot faster than we think, in maybe just 10 or 15 years.

Terisa Greenan of Seattle, renowned in the poly world for her media presence and her 2008–09 web-TV series "Family," led a lively discussion on coming out: why people do it or don't, for reasons good or bad. She revealed that she herself still struggles with people viewing her as slutty or weird; "I find it hard to swim upstream" against constant social currents "saying I'm wrong." Despite being a public poly spokesperson, in personal life "I struggle with coming out to new people," she said. "People's reactions are highly unpredictable." She recommended practicing delivering The Talk for friends and family facing a mirror; "it really works." Professional actress that she is, she suggested that projecting ease, spontaneity, and lightness about yourself takes studied work and rehearsal beforehand.

Some members of the audience recommended a different approach: letting information about your poly relationships slip informally in bits and steps, "and let people pick up as much as they're comfortable with." The less of a big thing you make it, someone pointed out, the less your listeners will. Especially your kids. Whatever else, project pride and confidence, not unease or embarrassment; people take their cues from you. And consider carefully who really needs to know, and why.

Elsewhere, Barry and Cathy Smiler discussed how they grew the meetup announcement group BmorePoly in the Baltimore region, creating cross-fertilizations between poly, kink, swing, and related alt-cultures that were isolated from each other in the same areas, "silo-ized."

Joreth gave a presentation on the volunteer Polyamory Media Association. It offers out-and-proud polys training in how to represent themselves well in public and to the media. There are tricks to this. Joreth explained how the PMA can help you pick your agenda, craft your media persona “using your best aspects to get your message across,” develop your message goal, and create the necessary sound bites to have on tap for this goal. She emphasized the need to decide the boundaries between your public and private spheres and enforce them. You need to choose to keep focus on communicating what you intend to (“you must look and seem like your target audience”) and not what you don’t (“de-emphasize those aspects [of yourself] that will distract your audience”).

The PMA also helps members of the poly community examine media inquiries for their agendas and possible warning flags. It can provides advice in negotiating with writers and TV producers. Joreth focused mainly on TV, since that's the medium where your details matter the most.

This is fairly standard stuff, but it usually comes in high-priced professional training and seminars. Amazingly, the PMA's training and resources are free. It runs by volunteers, Joreth primarily. The media demand for poly spokespeople exceeds the supply, so if you get on the PMA’s list of available people, your phone may start to ring. Want to be a public poly explainer? The way is open.

A Coming Flood of Poly Swingers?

Lawyer Stephen Cobb owns a swing club in Florida and represents swingers — or "lifestylers" as they prefer to be called — and their businesses in court. He told a roomful of people that the swing/lifestyle community is both huge (my guesstimate is it's at least 20 to 50 times larger than the self-identified poly world; some say 100 times) and changing rapidly. With many lifestylers moving toward poly living in all but name.

Traditionally, the swing world has had unwritten rules that swing sex is strictly no-strings-attached, couples remain sacrosanct, emotional monogamy is jealously guarded, and falling in love is bad news. But, said Cobb, today's swingers are the first generation with the internet, and it has exposed them to wider ranges of possibilities for different kinds of connections.

Last year Cobb came to APW and was blown away to see the relationship insights and practices that the poly community has to offer. "The Lifestyle has had a real fear of dealing with the emotional component," he told the crowd. But now "your next wave of people coming into polyamory is going to be from the Lifestyle. It's going to seem like they're coming in overnight. And they're going to flood it.

"The tipping point is going to happen quickly, and this community needs to be ready," he continued. "...We need your insights and level of authority on these subjects." He made a public pledge to work his connections to double APW's attendance to at least 310 people in 2013. All this echoed a theme that I've been hearing from various other directions: silos are breaking down; poly soon won't be just for polys anymore.

Dare to Examine, Dare to Challenge

As her Sunday keynote, Joreth gave a provocative PowerPoint on poly and skepticism.

A little background here. I've always noticed that spiritually speaking, the poly community tends to divide into two opposing camps: New Age/ pagan/ all-purpose-"spiritual" people on one side, and atheists/ rationalists/ skeptics on the other. Both sides are way over-represented compared to their numbers in society at large. (In a similar vein, the great poly political axis seems to be leftists/progressives/greens versus libertarians, with Democrats and Republicans being incidental third and fourth parties. I wish the rest of the country was like that.)

Joreth, an outspoken atheist/skeptic, gave a bang-up presentation on how this way of thought applies to choosing and negotiating successful relationships. She described some known bugs in human nature, in particular confirmation bias and especially the "entrenchment effect" — whereby a false belief or assumption becomes more entrenched, not less, when its holder is confronted with strong evidence against it.

The scientific/skeptic approach to life offers "excellent tools for evaluating poly situations and fears and assumptions," Joreth said. "Using the scientific method for relationships is not intended to remove emotions from a decision, but to test the factual basis of the emotions." What this means is, submit your "emotional theories" about a situation that you're getting into "to testing, and try to poke holes in those theories." As opposed to what most people do: look only for evidence that confirms what they believe.

(My example: "Suzie likes fried eggs! I like fried eggs! Suzie really is the greatest! The people telling me to be cautious are just full of negativity.") Instead, as an experimental scientist would do, seek evidence that challenges your emotional theories, to test how well they stand up. ("Are the people telling me rumors that Suzie has two restraining orders against her just full of negativity? I can test that theory, by doing a records check.")

One of the great things about poly intimate networking, Joreth pointed out, is that you may have several intimates and metamours who know you deeply and can provide informed second and third opinions — the equivalent of scientific "peer review."

People who approach life this way, said Joreth, fare better as they move through the world than people who blunder from error to error via confirmation bias and the entrenchment effect.

If these workshops and topics sound pretty intellectualized, it's because those were the ones I mostly went to. Happening on the other sides of the walls from the rooms I was in (and sometimes slightly audible through the walls) were "Clear and Confident Kissing," a learning-by-doing workshop from which I saw people emerge rather dazzled; poly household management from chores and schedules to finances; "How Not To Read Your Partner's Mind"; "Casual Intimacy" by Spicey Spice; and "Maintaining Identity in a Sea of Awesome" as you move out into the wide poly world. Anita Wagner Illig gave the Saturday keynote talk on her ever-popular Making Peace with Jealousy workshop, and also gave workshops on living in a poly/mono relationship and "Defining Your Relationships and Living Your Dream." And there were more. Here are the panel descriptions.

And as if these three days weren't exhausting enough, I stayed over for the all-day regional meeting of the Polyamory Leadership Network on Monday in the same hotel.

I'll be back in 2013. I'd better be. Billy has recruited me to be a keynote speaker!


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April 8, 2012

A lesbian triad comes out in print

Cherrie (Australia)
Lesbians are much less likely to be in open relationships than gay men, according to any number of surveys, possibly even less so than straights. But among those who are, it's my unscientific impression that lesbians are more likely to embrace the family-formation model of polyamory than polys in general. Does somebody have any data?

Cherrie, a glossy lesbian magazine in Australia, profiles one such group — and their opinions about why it works — in an article on varieties of lesbian relationships.

Modern Love

By Francesca Sciacca

...Tathra, 39, a sustainability consultant and Emma, 29, a teacher, have been together six and a half years. From the beginning Tathra was very clear with Emma that polyamory, the practice of being in ethical, open relationships, was part of who she is. However, it wasn’t until almost five years into their relationship that Jac, 32, a secondary teacher, came on the scene as Emma’s lover. [In the picture, from left: Tathra, Emma. Jac.]

...Having an ethical polyamorous relationship that works is based on agreements. For these women, it’s clear and simple. Don’t bitch about each other. If any of them have a disagreement it must get resolved before they sleep with someone else. Keep in open communication and even talk about it as a group. Schedule date nights. Don’t take each other for granted. Be present with whomever you’re with in the moment.

This is made all the more challenging when you all live under the one roof....

Jac adds: “Tathra is really great for me because she’s got so much experience in relationships, but also in her relationship with Emma… Tathra totally gets it because she knows my partner the way that I do! There’s that bond between Tathra and I that works really well.”

The bond between the three of them is palpable. [The author says she's] moved by their maturity and the depth to examine who they are in relationships. Jac says, “Even jealousy is not forbidden or taboo.”

Tathra explains, “There’s a term in the polyamorous community — compersion. It means finding pleasure in your lover having pleasure with another. In a Buddhist sense it’s more like, enjoying the joy of others. It’s basically the opposite to jealousy. Jealousy is completely natural, and in fact it’s important to acknowledge when you feel it, which allows it to pass much easier.”...

...Tathra says, “It’s not even that monogamy is unfulfilling. I just believe that one person can’t meet all the needs of another. Sometimes platonic relationships can fulfil those other needs when you’re in a relationship with someone. And sometimes they don’t.”

...Emma says, “Some people operate in, ‘I want what I can’t have.’ We don’t have things you can’t have. Because there is nothing forbidden, that’s not a driving factor for anything. We’ve had difficulties in our relationship, but it’s not so much the polyamory. It’s relationship stuff, trivial stuff like the housework.”

Emma continues: “Ours is a lot more about choosing to be with the person rather than feeling obliged to because of your commitment to someone. We’re together because we want to be together, not for any other reason.”

The article concludes:

...Maybe monogamy isn’t outdated, but rather what is outdated are the types of questions we’re asking in relationships. What if the question was, does this relationship serve me? Does this relationship serve them and ultimately does it serve the world?....

Read the whole article by flipping to page 18. (April 2012 issue; after this month look for it here). The text is also reprinted on Australian's Gay News Network.


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April 6, 2012

"Open relationships: The people making it work"

The Guardian

In its April 6th weekend edition, The Guardian — one of Britain's and the world's major liberal newspapers — just published a 2,500-word feature article on open relationships done intelligently. Maybe the paper decided a counterpiece was in order to all the sad celebrity breakups and lowlife crime drama that fill anyone's mailbox who has a Google News Alert set for "open marriage." The article is also on the Guardian's website, which gets 4 million visitors a day worldwide.

The article starts in the usual sort of way but then has some interesting twists.

Open relationships: The people making it work

By Arianne Cohen

...Like most open couples, we began with dozens of rules: who should call who when, what partners would be OK. But it quickly became clear that these attempts at control were aimed at avoiding jealousy, and that most negative feelings were not jealousy at all: they were my own fears – that he would leave me, or that I wasn't the epitome of sexuality in his eyes....

As I became more secure in the relationship, the rules faded away, leaving just one: no surprises, which means pre-scheduled dates and no sudden, "I just slept with Susie!" announcements....

...We rarely see each other's partners; some people do it differently. Claire, a small business owner and amateur musician, and Bill, a technology consultant from Oxford, frequently socialise together with their lovers. They are in their mid-40s and have been together for 24 years. She has a boyfriend, Chris, of seven years; Bill has a girlfriend, Julie, of eight years, who is in a long-term relationship with her partner George. "From an emotional point of view, it's been pretty straightforward for the last many, many years," Claire says. Bill and Chris sometimes attend Claire's performances: "People probably wonder why I keep turning up to my gigs with two blokes. They've never said anything, naturally."

The relationship works so well that Claire struggles to think of recent friction. "Two years ago, there was a moment when Bill ran up and said, 'Julie's pregnant.' And I said, 'By George, right?' And he said, 'Yes.' That was the right answer."...

Both George and Julie have other lovers, and an extra bedroom devoted to the purpose; as far as the child will be concerned, these are just Mum and Dad's good friends.

The assumption that Bill or Claire would be racked by jealousy is called mono-normative thinking – an assumption made by monogamists....

What is most intriguing, though, is that despite Claire's laid-back attitude, she keeps her relationship choices a secret. "My family – we're pretty private people in that regard. It's not their business. They have met our partners socially, but not had them introduced as such. I devoutly hope my parents know nothing at all."

This seems to be a particularly British take on non-monogamy: comfort with the act, mixed with a compulsive need for privacy....

...Non-monogamous relationships are surprisingly common and the numbers are increasing, according to Darren Langdridge, a clinical therapist, professor at the Open University and co-author with Meg Barker of Understanding Non-Monogamies.

...A large minority of non-monogamous adults are midlife divorcees who, after long-term monogamy, are keen to try something else.

..."I think," Max says, "that people look at us and see whatever they are afraid of. So they say, 'You must feel so jealous.'...

Lori Smith, 36, a university administrator [and partner Jon]... began a five-year habit of monthly [swinging] parties. By 2006, Lori found that the parties were "wearing thin, not quite as exciting. Jon was spending time with a woman he'd met on Facebook. And it was fine, just sex" – but very different from their swinging agreements. "We thought, well, what's the difference if we wanted to go further and have a romantic relationship instead? We had big long chats about how we'd feel. We wanted to have the discussion beforehand, not when one of us came home and said, 'I've fallen in love.'"

Lori decided to begin calling herself "polyamorous" – a term that means pursuing multiple consensual love/romantic relationships. It's a subset of non-monogamy, the blanket term for more than one sexual partner. The term polyamory is only 20 years old, and has entered the lexicon because it emphasises love: it's much more socially acceptable to talk publicly about multiple loving relationships than multiple fuckbuddies. The polyamory movement is driven by grass-roots activists – around 200 people appeared at London's PolyDay last August.

In the US, polyamory has a hip connotation, and suffers from an epidemic of promiscuous people hiding behind the word. In the UK, polyamorists tend to be more hidden. "What I see in the [UK] movement is it's the radical fringe – people with pink hair and tattoos," says Deborah Taj Anapol, a clinical psychologist and author of Polyamory In The 21st Century. "These are people who don't mind being judged or excluded from mainstream society – in fact, that's their intent. That's all fine, but I'd like to see a quicker normalisation." Which is why many non-monogamous Britons won't use the word. "It seems to be a loaded term," Lori says. "For a while we said non-monogamous, but now we just say 'poly'."

Once Jon and Lori decided to be polyamorous, Jon joined the free dating site OkCupid, known for its large non-monogamous contingent, and began enjoying weekend dates with a woman who lived just outside London. Lori dated a photography classmate, but struggled more than Jon with the situation. "Once a month Jon's girlfriend came around, or we'd all go out for dinner. And we got on fine, but I just felt really uneasy when they were spending time without me. I couldn't wrap my head around it, so I saw a therapist." Lori realised she suspected that the woman would hurt Jon. "I realised that I needed to let go, let him explore this for himself."

Jon now has a different girlfriend of a year, Amanda. Lori asked to meet her a few weeks in – and discovered that they got on well. "We meet for coffee or lunch a few times a week. At the start, we both thought it was a bit strange, but now not at all. We love each other, but not in a romantic or sexual way. We're best friends." Jon spends Wednesday nights at Amanda's house; she visits most weekends. They have all had sex together, but not often. "When all three of us sleep in the same bed, it's just sleeping. It's nice to spend time together and not have to have sex be part of it."

Read the whole article (April 6, 2012). And join the comments.


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