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

April 5, 2007

Advice Column Roundup

Advice columnists see so much anguished mail from the betrayed and cheated-upon that, well, you can guess where their brains jump on parsing out the word "polyamory." (For instance.) But some of them are learning — in no small part because of the letters you have been sending them.

In Toronto's arts-and-entertainment Eye Weekly (published by the mainstream Toronto Star), "Love Bites" columnist Sasha is very poly-friendly, as when answering this recent request:

"We're looking for a therapist that has a positive disposition towards open relationships and polyamory and we're wondering if you could provide some names or places to look because we're clueless."

She responds with contacts for two local therapists, one of whom writes,

Working with folks communicating about poly really isn't any different from working with folks who are communicating badly about whether to have a baby, or figure out what to do about conflicting emotional needs — or it shouldn't be. The longer I work with these issues, the more commonality I find between them and other issues. I also find that that is a very helpful framework for clients, the idea that they can discuss sexual issues like other issues, drawing on their strengths and skills and experience in other areas and making use of them here.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian, one of the oldest alternative newspapers, recently re-ran a column by its alt-sex columnist Andrea Nemerson, who grasps poly but is well known as a skeptic about it:

When last we visited Polyland, I was congratulating myself for doing a necessary public service: warning would-be polyamorists they would fail unless they happened to belong to that select group born with not only the desire but the ability to share. If I gave short shrift to the fact that polyamory takes hard work on top of natural inclination, plus the luck to find similarly inclined partners, I apologize.

She got a lot of mail from polys telling how it works fine for them even if they had a rocky start, and she prints some of it. One correspondent in particular has thought-provoking points:

I come down somewhere between your position and that of Happypoly on the question of who is well-suited to a poly life. I agree that the majority of poly people experience significant challenges in their relationships, especially at first. Of course, this doesn't mean that their relationships ultimately fail. In my experience and observation, the following factors most positively influence the odds for success:

1. General attitude of goodwill and a generosity of spirit

2. Willingness to be honest, especially when the news is likely to hurt

3. Independent spirit

4. Strong personal desire for a poly life

5. Reasonably good emotional intelligence and self-esteem

6. Reading poly literature and discussing it with partners

Likely the poly relationships that you've seen crash and burn were insufficiently supplied with one or more of these components.

—Poly Out East

So what do you think? In your experience, which of the above is the most important? The least? What would you add?

(P.S.: "Poly Out East" is actually Anita Wagner; she gave the paper permission to print her name, but they told her it's their policy not to.)

Labels: ,


Blogger Honey said...

What counts as a "successful" relationship? Is it a success after six months, a year, five years, ten, thirty? Most monogamous relationships don't last, either.

With that being said, I think that some of things that are most important for making poly relationships work are diplomatic skills (not just communicating honestly but also gently, conflict resolutions, etc) and determination. It helps if you're not a jealous person by nature, too.

April 05, 2007 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Radical Honesty" is a technique that some poly people swear by, I hear. I haven't met any. I *have* met people who say the Radical Honesty practitionars they've met come off as tactless and offensive and sometimes can't even take what they dish out. So I agree with honey that "diplomatic skills" are an important part of managing an honest life.

Has anyone seen Radical Honesty work? I bow in awe to any household that can live this way.

April 05, 2007 1:25 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I've not had extensive experience with poly relationships (my current one is my first), but I know it has really helped to be part of a group that is not easily swept away by heavily charged emotional energy. When Life deals out drama, we all kinda "brace for impact" and then deal with it together. Communication stays open and honest (and tactful!), we are all able to give each other the support we each need, and we can focus on resolving the issue instead of retreating inward (as I am typically wont to do) or lashing outward. I've been in (non-poly) relationships where external drama was a rare occurrence, but when it did occur the personal drama that was piled on top of it hung around long afterwards, always increasing exponentially as time passed. Needless to say, those relationships were maddening to live through and, until my current poly arrangement, it was the main reason why I actively avoided relationships beyond mere acquaintance.

So, I think another positive component of any poly relationship is the willingness/ability to regulate one's own emotions, or at least be self-aware enough to understand one's immediate reaction and deal accordingly. I tend to think this ability alone is what really differentiates a "naturally jealous" person from one who isn't.

April 05, 2007 2:20 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

I keep getting drawn back to a quote from Mistress Matisse: "There is a key trait in people who do polyamory well, and it's this: They are good at regulating their strong emotions. By that I mean, when something emotionally intense is happening to you, either good or bad, you're able to see it as part of a larger whole and keep it in perspective."

April 05, 2007 2:46 PM  
Blogger David Bellamy said...

is a wonderful article for psychology professionals about polyamory. I wish it were more widely advertised.

April 06, 2007 1:12 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home