Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

November 29, 2015

No, Mo'Nique objects, her open marriage is not "a pass to cheat."

Remember Mo'Nique? The Oscar-winning actress and comedian has enthused about her happy open marriage to Sidney Hicks for at least eight years, most recently in the last couple weeks.

It started with an interview at TrueExclusives.com November 17 that had a catchy subject line. From the transcript:

...On the secret to having a long-lasting marriage:

“Honesty. That’s it. When I hear men say ‘I don’t tell my wife everything, you crazy?’ and I hear women say ‘I ain’t telling my husband that, you crazy?’ So you mean you trust somebody else other than the person you lay with every night, you slept with, you cried with, you make love to. So I think those long lasting things is simply honesty and communication. It’s gotta be your best friend.”

On having a “free pass to cheat” in a relationship:

“The person that you stood up and you said ‘for better, for worse, sickness and in health, richer or poorer,’ you took those vows in front of the universe. If you don’t live by them, then maybe you shouldn’t have taken them. And when you say ‘a pass to cheat’… see when you’re with your best friend and you say to your best friend ‘I’m having these feelings about this person, sexually and I wanna share it with you’.. when you’re best friends, you can have those open and honest conversations.

Often times people cheat because of something they’re not getting. But when you have open and honest dialogue and you say we’re just human beings and all these people on the face of the earth, do you think my eyes won’t ever say ‘he’s fine’ or ‘she’s attractive’. Now if you wanna go further with it, let’s be honest enough to have those conversations. What is it about that person that you find that you wanna sleep with? Because they may give you something that I’m simply not willing to do. And if that’s the case, how can I be mad? Because I’m not gon’ do it. Should I deprive you of not having it? That’s when the relationship is real real.

See how she knocks down that "cheat" language?

Husband and wife. (HelloBeautiful / Rodrogo Vaz / Getty)

Nevertheless, when TheGrio.com picked up the story the next day, it titled its piece Mo’Nique defends giving husband ‘free passes’ to cheat.

That same day the New York Daily News headlined an article Mo'Nique doesn't mind giving her husband 'a pass to cheat', which again makes it look like her quote.

She did a followup interview with Periscope to clarify. As presented in Us magazine:

Mo’Nique Clarifies Open Marriage to Sidney Hicks: “It Was My Idea”

The Oscar-winning actress, 47, said her words about her nine-year marriage to husband Sidney Hicks had been misconstrued, and gave fans her side of the story.

...“Originally it was my idea because at the time when Sid and I got together 10 years ago — now keep in mind this was my best friend since I was 14 — but when we first got together I was still stuck in being famous and a celebrity and being a star, and I felt like I could have whatever I want. So I was still in an insecure place of, ‘I can have that, I can have that, I can have that.’ And because I was dealing with my best friend, my best friend said, ‘If that’s what you think you need, as your best friend, I don’t want to stand in the way of it.’”

Mo’Nique took offense to critics claiming her husband was forcing her to make these rules so he could cheat.

“It makes me laugh when people put it all off on my husband as if it was something he was doing,” she said.

...She went on to further clarify her comments about a “pass” to cheat, saying, “We don’t give each other passes to cheat, because when you cheat, you lie, when you lie, you steal.”

The stand-up comic also revealed that she and her husband have a radio show called Mo’Nique and Sidney’s Open Relationship premiering on New Year’s Day, where they can talk about the secrets to the success of their marriage.

“Open means we’re open-minded to the world,” she clarified. “That’s what we’re open to. We are open to being honest to each other all the way through.”

The whole article (Nov. 20).

Lots more recent coverage in the entertainment press.

The entertainment world's fixation on cheating prompted polyactivist and alt-relationship therapist Jay Blevins to dissect this misuse of language with an article at The Good Men Project:

Men, Mo’Nique and Polyamory vs. Cheating: The Times They are a Changin’

When Mo’Nique discussed the need communicate openly with her husband, her words were publicly twisted. Consent, compassion and communication are traits the media are unable to grasp.

Jay Blevins
...What she actually talked about was the importance of being able to have the trust and connection to be completely honest with your partner. To be able to admit when you have an attraction for another person.

She not only talked about being able to acknowledge those feelings, but also, as the person hearing them, being compassionate enough to treat them gently and to learn from them.

She not only talked about being able to acknowledge those feelings, but also, as the person hearing them, being compassionate enough to treat them gently and to learn from them. To find out what it is that makes your partner attracted to someone else. Is there something they aren’t getting out of your relationship that is important to them?

Instead of being about fear, anxiety and insecurity she describes a relationship that is based in love, trust, commitment, honesty, compassion and consent. As part of that she acknowledges that if she loves her partner and there is something important to her partner that they aren’t getting from her, then she wouldn’t want to deny her partner.

That was in response to the interviewer’s use of the term “free pass to cheat.”... Because frankly, she isn’t talking about cheating. Cheating is about breaking rules, breaking vows, breaking trust.... Apparently The Grio isn’t paying much attention to the world around them. Because more and more people are exploring and embracing the concept of ethical non-monogamy....

Blevins goes on to expound the precepts of ethical non-monogamy and lists misconceptions about it. Read his whole article (Nov. 23). For the record, he objected to the stock patriarchal polygamy illustration that The Good Men Project stuck on top.


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November 27, 2015

Poly families portrayed on CBS's prime-time "Elementary"

"Elementary," CBS's hit detective show, has a modern Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson working the crimes of New York. Last night's episode starred two group marriages. They were presented in a respectful and informative manner, sympathetic even, although it is a murder mystery....

Family photo in happier times.

You can watch the whole episode here. It's titled "All My Exes Live in Essex" (43 minutes plus ads; season 4 episode 4, first aired November 26, 2015.)

Warning, spoilers ahead....






In the end, the murder had nothing to do with poly drama or moral comeuppance. The unusual families were an attention-holding plot twist and a misdirection from the eventual solution.

The polyamory theme begins at 15:30. Long before then, we have the corpse: Abby Campbell, a fertility researcher at a hospital. Holmes quickly discovers that she was having an affair with a doctor. Holmes and Watson show up at the home of her bereaved husband, also a doctor — and find the affair partner grieving right there with him. They were a triad living together, as Holmes instantly deduces from things like the different-size mens' shoes by the front door and the identical wedding rings the two men are wearing. He uses the term "throuple." They confirm it. BTW, they're bi.

The bereaved being questioned.

It turns out that their poly marriage was Abby's idea. She had been in a group marriage before, but she left it seven years ago after a fight.

The husbands explain to Holmes and Watson,

"Arrangements like ours happen more often than people think. For some people, it just works."

But in Abby's first marriage, "It ended badly. She had a falling-out with one of her fellow wives."

"There was a dispute. Over money. Community property. And she was still fighting it, years after."

That had been a household of six adults, two men and four women. The remaining five are still married, living in a big house with their six kids.

Holmes enlightens the incredulous Captain Gregson of the NYPD, as follows:

"Americans have experimented with every possible variation of matrimony, from the adelphic polygyny of the Omaha tribe, to the patriarchal polygamy of the early Mormons, to the free-love hippie communes of the 1970s. And while some of those experiments were abject failures, many were remarkably long-lived."

Abby's five exes are hauled in and interrogated.

The rest of the former six.

From them we learn that Abby had worked hard, earned a lot, and wanted to keep all of her income — but, they say,

"Denise insisted we all pool our money."

"It got a little ugly. Especially when it came time to buy the house."

"The house thing. That was when it all went bad. Abby had this inheritance. And Denise pressured her to use it as a down payment. Abby agreed, but she was never really happy about it."

The division was compounded by an imbalance in the two women's attractiveness to the men. After the arguments got bad, "She just left."

"She'd been trying to get that down payment back ever since. But giving it to her would have meant selling the house."

Which would have meant displacing their six kids. And, one of the two men looks pretty suspicious.

But then a new thread curls in from the edge of the picture. The all-too-sudden windup turns on an unsuspected twist that no viewer will have guessed. One of the characters is indeed the baddie, but not for anything to do with the family structures.

Verdict: The episode writer (Robert Hewitt Wolfe) was at least a bit sympathetic to the poly ideal, used it to hold the viewers and misdirect them into following their prejudices, and to do a bit of public-service educating about alternative family structures.

This reminds me of ABC's sympathetic subplot on "Private Practice" almost four years ago (Season 5 episode 10; January 5, 2012). I bet we can expect more.

● A scene-be-scene recap of the whole episode, at Celeb Dirty Laundry (scroll down).

● A thoughtful review by an expert on the series, at A.V. Club.

● Another review by a serious fan, at io9.



November 26, 2015

From Minx, "What are you grateful for?"

"Count your blessings while you have them" is a family saying of ours. We took it on in a bigger way after my first wife died of cancer. You always have things to appreciate — and cultivating a sense of gratitude is now proven to boost happiness and mental health (says science!).

Cunning Minx of the Polyamory Weekly podcast posts for Thanksgiving day,

We asked on Facebook last week what y’all were grateful for, and you answered with a big dose of poly gratitude.

For me, I’m grateful for people like you: who seek every day to live in love, to understand others and to accept the changes life brings.

Minx with Lusty Guy

She put up a word cloud of your replies, and solicits more in the comments. Here you go.

Me, among other things I'm grateful for all the extraordinary hearts and souls I have met in the movement for polyamory awareness. What a blessing to the world you are!


November 22, 2015

"Ethical cheating" using OpenMinded.com, on Kansas City TV news


"Ethical Cheating"? I hate that phrase. Cheating is unethical by definition. What's ethical isn't cheating by definition. But we're going to see more of this kind of talk, as more mainstream people try swimming the poly waters while loaded down with unexamined cultural-assumption baggage.

In this case, a well-meaning mid-America TV news program profiles an apparently nice, well-meaning local couple who are hunting for their (female) third using the Las Vegas-based dating site Open Minded. Watch the segment here (3:45).

The text story on the station's website matches the video pretty closely:

Ethical cheating: Inside look at the polyamorous lifestyle

By Ellen McNamara, Anchor

Liz and Garrett have been... married for more than seven years. They say their relationship is strong but something is missing. That something, they say, is another woman.

...Liz and Garrett’s polyamorous lifestyle is in the minority but not as much as you may think. New York University estimates five percent of American relationships practice some form of “consensual non-monogamy.”

“It wasn’t like we went out looking for this. It kind of fell into our lap,” Garrett explains.

A few years ago Liz and Garrett had a friend. She spent a lot of time with them and soon the three found themselves in a romantic relationship. When that part of the relationship ended, the couple realized they missed her and wanted a similar relationship with someone else.

“We’re not looking for somebody to have threesomes with and one night stands. Yes, sex would be a part of the relationship, the way it is for a marriage, but that’s not the primary thing,” Liz explains.

Liz and Garrett are on the dating site Open Minded. The site launched in April and promotes polyamory, which means being romantically involved with more than one person at the same time. It does not promote polygamy.

“We like to call it, ethical cheating,” said Brook Urick, a spokesperson for the Las Vegas-based site. “There are so many people who are in relationships who are unhappy. They’re cheating and being adulterous. It would be lot easier if they were just in an open relationship and be honest about what they want with their partner.”

About 40 couples in the Kansas City area have signed up along with 70 single men and 60 single women.

Urick adds, “I think the public doesn’t understand polyamory. People are very vanilla. Very modest.”

Dr. Doug Greenens, a psychiatrist in Johnson County, said there is no evidence that supports monogamy as a healthier way to maintain an adult relationship....

Just don't call it ethical cheating! Read the whole article (November 17, 2015).


Vice magazine ran an interview in June with Open Minded's founder, Brandon Wade:

Having Sex with a Bunch of People Might Save the Institution of Marriage

[Originally titled, "The Man Behind the Original Sugar-Daddy Site Is Investing in Polyamory"]

By Toby McCasker

Brandon Wade is a 44-year-old MIT grad with a receding hairline and glasses.... In recent years the former software engineer has founded WhatsYourPrice.com (where men bid on first dates), CarrotDating.com (where men offer "incentives" in return for a rendezvous), and the original sugar daddy hub SeekingArrangement.com. Now, he's taking advantage of a growing public interest in polyamory with his latest venture, OpenMinded.com.

Brandon Wade and his wife.

Polyamory is when a relationship involves several people and couples. It's not cheating because everyone is in on it, nor is it a basic open relationship, as all those involved are emotionally invested. Brandon noticed and capitalized on this cultural shift by creating a site to match couples who want to keep it tight while playing fast and loose, and not let their network of open relationships interfere with their marriage. Although guilt-free open relationships sound like a pretty sweet deal, he's quick to point out that getting everything you want actually takes more work and communication than just sticking with one person....

He does say some good things:

"Open relationships are really not simple. People think, Wow, these are hippies sleeping around like nobody's business. There's a lot of communication, and a lot of emotional consideration, as well as mental processes before people can successfully engage in open relationships. You go back to the basics of brutal honesty: communication, communication, communication...."

"...So polyamory is unique because it's more about building a sort of community, rather than just each person having a series of relationships. But I feel that connectivity would bring so many issues. Well, you'll be interested to know I'm working with my legal team on a pre-dating agreement. It's like a prenuptial agreement that we'll be making public, hopefully by the end of the year, so that people who are about to start dating each other can negotiate the conditions and terms and put them on a piece of paper. That way, when they do break up, things can be done in a cordial and organized manner."

The whole interview (June 30, 2015).


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Reports from the Beyond The Love convention

Last weekend I went to the second-newest poly hotel conference that's sprung up, Beyond The Love in Columbus, Ohio, now in its third year. It sold out three weeks in advance; a lively crowd of 240 showed up all told. Like last year, I was impressed by how well Dan, Dawn and Karen — the triad who created it — run the convention together along with their big and dedicated volunteer staff, including much of Poly Columbus.

Karen, Dan, and Dawn

First here's my report, then one by Kitty Chambliss of Loving Without Boundaries.


Ostensibly, the centerpiece of the convention was the four simultaneous tracks of classes/workshops, 30 in all, running during the daytime. Many of the presenters (partial list) that I saw were excellent. Of course I had to miss 3/4 of the sessions, but I was especially impressed by Neil Wehneman's superb Poly 101 for newcomers at the very beginning (slides), Michael Rios on Poly as a Spiritual Path/ Tool for Personal Growth, and Kathy Slaughter's presentation of John and Julie Gottman's famous research results on the simple things that create lasting, happy long-term relationships.

But like last year, I was particularly impressed by the effort that went into the social aspects of the weekend. Set up in the center of the conference space was an always-buzzing social area with big round tables, display tables, and snacks nearly around the clock. (Some of the more substantial, healthy snacks were provided by sponsors, such as other Midwest poly groups, in exchange for time with a display table. This helped keep people fed.)

Each evening offered a solid schedule of organized activities with effective leaders. Friday began with ice-breakers: a people scavenger hunt (“Find someone who’s been to the top of the Empire State Building. Find someone who's been poly more than 20 years”), and then the big welcoming gathering with introductions and announcements enlivened by giveaways. And a thoughtful and moving keynote address by Ferrett Steinmetz, science fiction writer and poly blogger, which he kept to 12 minutes.

Next came a mixer run by Boi Kris, including a PolyAthlon — including, for instance, teams of strangers assembling for a race to complete a list of silly tasks. A game room off to the side was always in use (Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity) and quieter spaces were available for those who preferred.

On the Flirt Board. (Photo by Kitty Chambliss.)
Saturday featured an impressively designed Roaring Twenties Ball. All weekend a Flirt Board was out. And you could put Flirt Dot signals on your nametag: red, yellow, or green.

At one point Neil Wehneman gave a class titled "You Are Cleared For Take-Off: Formalizing Your Poly Group for a Larger Scale." A notable point on one of his slides was this:

People value social events more than organizers do.

People value speaker/ educational events less than organizers do.

Big cheers for the BTL organizers, staff, and volunteers. The core triad have produced other events besides Beyond The Love and seem to have this thing nailed.

And they want to teach you how! Want to start a poly convention in your city? Dan says they'd be delighted to share all their knowledge and resources — including their project-management timeline that lists everything to do starting many months out, materials lists, advice on negotiating with hotels, the works.

Not only did BTL sell out, some of the wait-listed people showed up and ended up with a gathering of their own in the hotel lobby. The event was proof that you can gather a jumping poly convention even in a seemingly forlorn place like central Ohio — if you've been networking the local alt-relationship community vigorously, working social media, building a reputation, and if you involve a lot of local volunteers starting far in advance. Hey Seattle… Boston… St. Louis… Minneapolis… Austin… NYC… Tampa… Chicago… Here's your chance for a jumpstart.


And now, from Kitty Chambliss, who had a press pass as a relationship writer for her website Loving Without Boundaries:

The “Press Is In” and the Beyond The Love Conference was AMAZING!

...It exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way imaginable. Not only was the content and the quality of the various presentations excellent, but the overall loving, happy and accepting vibe of the entire event was just a breath of fresh air. Add to that I was meeting for the first time many friends that I have been chatting with and getting to know for years, and it’s just an explosion of AWESOME! The producers Dan, Dawn and Karen really have come up with an excellent formula. They managed to marry great and useful information via workshops with varied activities for every personality type, as well as fun socializing opportunities fostering a sense of connection with your tribe.

...Our keynote speaker Ferrett took the stage of the ballroom. He explained how he’s been married for 25 years and identified as polyamorous for half of that time. Then he went on to explain very beautifully that polyamory is most certainly not just about the sex. He spoke of “polyamorous friendship” — which he explained as deep, loving, connected friendships with special people that he considers every bit one of his loves.

...Polyamory as a Spiritual Path, by Michael Rios — What would relationships with others be like if we really were our own best friend? The more we do our own spiritual work, which is really about learning to fall in love with ourselves, the more available and loving we become.

...Relaxing Relationship Containment, by Kelly Cookson — Couples often have a lot to lose if their relationships deteriorate or break up. Consequently, couples protect their relationships by engaging in something called relationship containment. A possible alternative: Couples can learn to relax relationship containment, giving everyone involved greater freedom to develop close relationships.

...Solo Poly, by Master So’N’So — This lecture discussed the joys and pitfalls of being your own primary partner.

...Building Relationships That Last, by Kathy G. Slaughter, LCSW – This workshop explained the day-to-day habits that help strengthen long-term relationships, as well as the four habits that will destroy a relationship.

...Stay tuned for many of the above speakers to appear on my podcast!

...Don’t dream it, be it! “Showing up” is half of what life is about.  :)

Read her whole article (November 19, 2015).


● What's coming up next? Here's the schedule of poly conventions, retreats, gatherings in 2016: Alan's List of Polyamory Events, with descriptions. Pass it on.

If you missed Beyond The Love, the next similar hotel con is Poly Living East, February 19–21 in Philadelphia. And I'm interested in what the brand new Infinity Con in Atlanta will be like, February 4–7....


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November 17, 2015

We get a rise out of Ask Amy

Many newspapers

Three weeks ago in one of her columns, Amy Dickinson ridiculed the idea that a husband might ask his wife for permission to have an affair. New Culture activist Sarah Taub sent around a note asking polyfolks to write her, and some of you did. Now Amy prints one of your letters (way condensed) and a reply:

Dear Amy: “Affair Bound” asked if he could get his wife’s “permission” to have an affair. You should have taken the opportunity to educate him about polyamory. This is a lifestyle that can work for many people.   — Poly

Dear Poly:
I do not advocate for polyamory and thus don’t feel compelled to educate people about it.


Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

At least the letter writer did a bit of education right there.

Amy has dismissed poly in the past fairly consistently, though not always.



November 11, 2015

Abuse in polyamorous relationships: A judgment tool, and a new roundup

At last February's Poly Living convention, you may remember, Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert spoke and led workshops on abuse in poly relationships — and especially, how poly communities should address it. The subject was hot; the Polyamory Leadership Network had just expelled a popular figure following several complaints of abuse and harassment from his local community.

Hint: If people around you have come to feel that you harass, threaten, or abuse, it's really unwise to apply to the PLN. We urge communities to make space for complainants to be heard safely, to listen to what they say, and to act decisively to ensure safe spaces.

"There was a time, long ago," Franklin said in his keynote at Poly Living, "when I had this naive idea that polyamorous relationships were less likely to be abusive than monogamous relationships. Isolating a person is one of the hallmarks of abuse. So if you’ve got more people in the relationship, it’s harder to isolate someone, right? You have more eyes on a potential problem, right?"

However, said Franklin, he came to realize that because abusers are often influential and charismatic — and because groupthink is such a known bug in human nature — an abuser can sway an entire group against a person he or she is mistreating, belittling, controlling, or gaslighting. (Gaslighting: undermining a person's confidence in their own perceptions and memories.)

Emotional abusers or harassers often turn an accusation of abuse back on the victim and say that they themselves are the victims. Often they believe it! Whole communities sometimes tear apart bitterly over who to believe.

So, how can you and your community discern the truth?

pattern of accusers is pretty damning; think Bill Cosby. But in a recent PLN discussion, Franklin described a tool for seeing through the awful fogs when matters are not so clear or so physical. I'll call his tool The Arrow of Control. He cites Emma Fett's influential formulation and its key sentence:

“I was victimized by acts of control” is not the same as “I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.”

Franklin writes,

Something I would like to see more of in these conversations is a realization that the axis of control often points in the direction from abuser to victim.

It is incredibly common for abusers to assume the mantle of victim. And in every case I’ve seen, looking at the direction in which power and control flows is an incredible tool for helping to figure out what’s going on.

Who is attempting to assert control over the other person? Not control as in “you will not interact with me in this way” [that's boundary setting, which is about oneself  –Ed.], but control as in “I want to tell you what you may or may not do with your body/ your decisions/ your life.”

Now you too have this tool.

The Arrow of Control points to the truth in messy emotional-abuse disputes more clearly than anything I know.


Since my last roundup on this subject, much has been published. Here's a selection.

● At September's CatalystCon West, Eve, Cunning Minx, Tamara Pincus and William Winters (grouped at right) ran a panel on how to recognize and respond to emotional abuse in relationships. Here's Minx's Storify of their presentation. Here it is as a slide show. Here's the session's handout.

● Jessica Burde, who is working on her second book The Polyamory Home, is posting a series about the topic on her Polyamory On Purpose website. So far:
    – Abuse in Polyamory
    – What Is Abuse?
    – Is Polyamory Abusive?
    – Types of Abuse
    – Vectors of Control in Abusive Relationships
    – “There’s no right way to do polyamory!” (But, there’re lots of wrong ways)
    – “Abuse, Boundaries, and Incompatibilities in Mono/Poly Relationships

Her Patreon page.

● By Ginny Brown, at Everyday Feminism: Yes, Abuse Can Show Up in Polyamorous Relationships – Here Are 7 Red Flags to Watch Out For (May 29, 2015). Excerpts:

...For many people, their first mentors in polyamory are also their first partners. And while often this works out fine, as more experienced people help their less-experienced partners navigate the difficult waters, the power imbalance creates the potential for control and manipulation.

And we need to be talking about it.

Here are a few toxic dynamics that seem to come up often when poly people share stories of abuse.

1. “You’re Here to Serve Our Relationship”

A lot of people come to polyamory as part of a monogamous couple opening up.... A Secondary’s Bill of Rights is a good read for anybody involved in hierarchical poly relationships.

2. “I’m Watching for Your Mistakes”

...The key dynamic is that, instead of healthily expressing their hurt and frustration [at something], the abusive partner uses every mistake or perceived mistake as an excuse to shame and control their partner.

3. “You Are Responsible for My Emotions”

...A lot of us carry some “poly guilt” — feeling that by being poly, we’re getting away with something.... Poly guilt can make it easy for a partner to pressure, punish, and coerce us into dancing on eggshells around their negative feelings, even if we haven’t actually done anything wrong.

4. “I Don’t Have to Care About Your Emotions”

The flip side of the above point: Because boundaries and taking responsibility for your emotions are so essential for healthy polyamory, some people will use these principles to justify being indifferent or hostile in response to their partner’s feelings....  In healthy polyamorous (or monogamous!) relationships, all parties are given space to have their feelings heard and considered.

5. “My Way Is Best for You”

You might think that poly people, having broken away from mainstream expectations about relationships, would be immune to the belief that there’s only one right way to do relationships. Alas, it’s not the case....

6. “You Can’t Talk to My Other Partners” (Or, “Everything You Say Will Be Shared with My Other Partners”)

...While the shared partner certainly has a stake in how metamours get along, they shouldn’t be controlling the interactions.

7. “Your Other Relationships Are Inferior”

Regardless of how metamours get along, a baseline of respect and understanding toward the other people our partner loves is fundamental to healthy polyamory. Abusive partners, on the other hand, will sometimes work hard to undercut their partner’s other relationships....

Trust Yourself

...It’s okay to trust your instincts and seek help if you’re unhappy – or if you feel unsafe or controlled. Looking at general resources on abuse in relationships can be very helpful.

...No rationale gives someone the right to control your actions, disregard your feelings and needs, or treat you as disposable in a supposedly loving relationship.

Mo Daviau
● By novelist Mo Daviau: The Polypath! Red flags to watch for if you’re dating a polyamorous narcissist. This was published in November 2014. Recently she updated it with the note, "I’m astonished at how popular this essay has gotten. If you’re struggling with recovery from a relationship with someone with NPD [narcissistic personality disorder], please see my list of resources."

In the interest of protecting the guilty, the innocent, and the integrity of the DSM-5, I have coined the word polypath. (Portmanteau: polyamorous sociopath).

Sociopaths, especially of the narcissist variety (the personality-disordered ones, not just the flagrantly self-absorbed) are usually charming and highly sexual, charismatic, attractive, and fun. They are also [literally] incapable of feeling empathy or compassion for another human being. Yet, because they are charmers, they are very talented at pretending they can. And they are also very talented at sniffing out easy targets. Solid, decent people who are talented and smart, and who are also at a point in their lives where they are vulnerable, such as having recently gone through a break-up, divorce, job loss, sexual assault, or other trauma, are easy targets. I was an easy target....

Narcissists are also, generally, non-monogamous.... The narcs who openly identify as polyamorous are able to adopt the earnest vocabulary, ethics, and norms of the community. However, when you hand these tools to a narcissist they quickly become weapons.... In many instances, the rhetoric of polyamory, while positive and respectful... easily shifts blame to the victim, who is often found beating herself up for being insecure, jealous, or for asking for boundaries....

Here's a handy little list of red flags.

Healthy poly folks do not use poly as an excuse to “trade up.” If you find yourself involved with someone who has never successfully managed multiple relationships, or who overlaps relationships and drops the old one when the new bright ‘n shiny comes around, that’s classic narcissist behavior.

Check the intensity of the relationship early on! If you are being courted, charmed, complimented, and told you are so special after only knowing each other for a short time, this is what the experts call “love-bombing.” We all want to feel loved and special, but too much too soon, with a shocking intensity that only grows hotter after you begin having sex, is Phase One of the classic narcissist Idealize-Devalue-Discard relationship cycle....

Any poly person who cannot come up with at least one ex with whom he maintains friendly relations. [And, I'll add, who you can meet. –Ed.]

If he uses the occasion of introducing his two partners to play one against the other [perhaps behind each others' backs].

If you are being accused of hurting his other partner by asking for boundaries, with no visible concern for your feelings: narcissist! Skilled poly folks know how to make sure everyone feels heard....

Be extremely wary of anyone who says that he hates making compromises. Compromises are necessary in any relationship....

Someone who treats polyamory like an affliction that can’t be helped.

...My narcissist accused me of going on dates with other men to “get back at him for being poly.” He even told me I was “using other men as a weapon against him.” What kind of projection horseshit was that?

A note from me: It's easy to throw around clinical diagnoses like "sociopath," but some of the people who do some of the things above have just bought into bad culture.

● On WikiHow is an excellent, compact resource in outline form with categories and bullet points: How to Address Abuse in Polyamory. It's editable; that's how WikiHow works. It includes many useful links. Here are the top-level categories as of November 11, 2015:

...Polyamory can be especially tricky to navigate. So what happens when abuse comes into play?... Below are examples of issues specific to polyamory, and methods for reducing harm or avoiding it altogether.


1. Understand the various manifestations of abuse. Become informed about common (and not so common) ways that abuse can manifest in polyamory....

2. Look for warning signs. Be on the lookout for red flags, such as the ones below....

3. Learn as much as you can. Read articles, books, zines, blogs, etc. that speak specifically about abuse in polyamory and open relationships....

4. Find help....

5. Call a hotline if you are in a crisis situation, or even just to talk with someone....

6. Be kind to yourself. Remember these key points....

7. Advocate for abuse survivors. If you feel comfortable, nip dangerous attitudes in the bud....

● From Kai Cheng Thom, a Chinese trans woman writer, poet, and performance artist: 5 Common Ways Our Communities Fail to Address Intimate Partner Violence (September 10).

1. Not Talking About Abuse...
2. Defining Abuse Too Narrowly...
3. Thinking About Abuse as an Individual (Rather Than Collective) Problem...
4. Blaming Everything on a Caricature of ‘Abuser’...
5. Centering the ‘Abuser’ or the ‘Rescuer,’ Rather than the Survivor...

So Let’s Start Talking.... I believe in the courage of our communities to speak.

Her related articles.

● From a black perspective: The Poison Hidden in the Heart of Non-Monogamy (July 28).

...And despite the remarks written in More Than Two about those who’ve been abused, [the experience] in no way diminishes our ability to recognize healthy boundaries. If anything, it makes us all the more sensitive to boundary violations.... Not all survivors of abuse are the same. Those who don’t have healthy boundaries to begin with are more likely to put up with the abuse for a longer period of time, to not recognize certain actions as abusive, and to believe they deserve the abuse. The rest of us develop more awareness of what we can and cannot handle, of who is likely to be an abuser, and are quicker to notice red flags and get the hell out of there. You don’t survive long by putting yourself in danger when you know better.

Additionally, abusers can only take advantage of weaknesses that already exist. But for black women it is not any individual failing that makes us more prone to being the victims of abuse. No, our weakness is tied into our blood, woven there by history itself....

● And at Black Girl Dangerous, 9 Strategies For Non-Oppressive Polyamory by Janani Balasubramanian (October 4, 2013).

10 things I wished I'd known about gaslighting, by Emma Fett (July 15, 2015).


And, here are resources that I listed with my writeup of February's Poly Living conference:

● Franklin's Some Thoughts on Community and Abuse, reflecting his Poly Living talk. (Feb. 11, 2015).

● Here's the article that he references midstream: The Community Response to Abuse, by Emma Fett (Jan. 30, 2015). This continues to get a lot of buzz.

● That post was a followup to Fett's Abuse in Polyamorous Relationships, including Six Poly Traps (Nov. 22, 2014).

● Here are Eve and Franklin's Resources on abuse in polyamorous relationships that grew out of the weekend. See the interesting comment there, by Liz, that women and men may abuse in similar numbers, but that this is not visible because men are more able to inflict obvious injury, and are more ashamed to admit that they are being abused when they are the victims.

● Also helping to prompt this discussion was Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode 418, Emotional Abuse in Polyamorous Relationships (Jan. 23, 2015). Minx says it was a difficult episode to create, months in the making. In it Shannon Perez-Darby, Youth Services Program Manager for The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse, shares her advice on how to recognize abuse of all kinds and how to respond when you or someone you love might be surviving emotional abuse.

● There's a hashtag: #AbuseInPoly

● And here's relationship coach Dawn Davidson's collection of links, with commentary: Abuse in (poly) relationships: A link roundup.


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November 9, 2015

"Death Is Way More Complicated When You're Polyamorous"


A life with more loves will inevitably be a life with more grief. But you will not be alone when it happens, nor without intimate loving support. Nor will your loves, when your own time comes.

But get your legal papers in order beforehand, goddamn it.

Vice magazine takes a thoughtful (and practical) look at an aspect of poly life that I haven't seen discussed in the larger media before.

Death Is Way More Complicated When You're Polyamorous

(Screencap via Death Becomes Her)
By Simon Davis

In February, Robert McGarey's partner of 24 years died. It was the most devastating loss McGarey had ever encountered, and yet, there was a silver lining: "I had this profound sadness, but I don't feel lonely," McGarey told me. "I'm not without support, I'm not without companionship."

That's because he has other partners: Jane, who he's been with for 16 years, and Mary, who he's been with for eight. (Those are not their real names.) And while his grief for Pam, the girlfriend who died, was still immense, polyamory helped him deal with it.

There's not a lot of research into how poly families cope with death — probably because there's not a lot of research about how poly families choose to live.... And while polyamory can bring people tremendous benefits in life and in death, our social and legal systems weren't designed to deal with people with more than one romantic partner — so when one person dies, it can usher in a slew of complicating legal and emotional problems.

"Whether people realize it or not, the partner to whom they are married will have more benefits and rights once a death happens," explained Diana Adams, who runs a boutique law firm that practices "traditional and non-traditional family law with support for positive beginnings and endings of family relationships."

Since married partners rights' trump everyone else's, the non-married partners don't automatically have a say in end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements, or inheritance. That's true for non-married monogamous relationships, too, but the problem can be exacerbated in polyamorous relationships where partners are not disclosed or acknowledged by family members. In her work, Adams has seen poly partners get muscled out of hospital visits and hospice by family members who refused to recognize a poly partner as a legitimate partner.

McGarey and his girlfriend Pam weren't married, so the decision to take her off life support had to go through Pam's two sisters. The money Pam left behind — which McGarey would've inherited had they been married — went to her sisters too, who also organized Pam's funeral.

This kind of power struggle can also happen among multiple partners who have all been romantically involved with the deceased. The only real way to ensure that everything is doled out evenly is to draft up a detailed prenuptial agreement and estate plan. Adams works with clients to employ "creative estate planning" to ensure that other partners are each acknowledged and taken care of....

...In 2006, Melissa Hall's husband Paul died at the age of 52. Both were polyamorous, but Paul's death presented "no special problems," since they were legally married and Hall had all the rights of a spouse. Instead, she found unexpected benefits in dealing with her husband's death: In particular, she told me that "being poly made it easier to love again." Since they had both dated other people during their life together, Hall knew her husband's death wouldn't stop her from dating again.

In traditional relationships, it's not uncommon for people to impose dating restrictions on themselves to honor the desires of their dead spouses, or to feel guilty when they start dating again. Of course, you don't win if you don't date either, as people eventually get on your case to "move on with your life." All this goes out the window when you're polyamorous....

Read the whole article (November 9, 2015).


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