Favorable notice in small-town Oregon
I just got back from Loving More's annual polyamory retreat at Easton Mountain in upstate New York. This is the smaller and more intimate of Loving More's two annual East Coast events, the other being the Poly Living conference every February in Philadelphia. About 30 of us, nearly half newbies, explored poly topics and intimate community (including hot-tub poaching and sauna baking) in the woodsy wilds while a howling storm passed through, complete with tornado warning.
And then I get home to find our little conclave mentioned, favorably, in a small-town newspaper 3,000 miles away:
Couples dating others
Ashland polyamory practitioners break silence about their open relationships.
By Janet Eastman
You might not meet a more straightforward couple than Stefani Skidmore and Jeff Altemus. She checks with him first before she dates another man and he asks her directly if he can have sex with another woman.
The unmarried couple, who live together in Ashland, say being happy for your partner's bliss is an outcome of practicing polyamory, a hybrid word that joins the Greek word "poly" — meaning "many" — with the Latin word "amor" or "love." It describes a nonmonogamous, committed relationship that involves more than two people.
(I wish reporters would stop using "committed" in a way that implies that poly relationships are all primary-secondary. Many are, but for many others commitment to honesty, transparency, and the terms of an agreement is enough.)
Although quiet in Ashland and most other communities, polyamory is now in the news. A Brazilian trio was recently granted civil union status. Some practitioners gathered over the past weekend in New York for the 26th Annual Polyamory National Retreat....
...Since the word "polyamory" was created in the 1990s, other terms have popped up to explain open-marriage situations: A trio is called a "triad," a foursome a "quad." There are "primary" and "secondary" partners to describe hierarchy, "poly fidelity" means being faithful to the group and "compersion" is feeling empathetic happiness for a partner instead of jealousy.
The ultimate betrayal in polyamory is lying, practitioners say.
"If a partner has permission to sleep with someone else and there is still secrecy, that hurt is at a deeper level," says Skidmore, a Southern Oregon University student who is working toward a master's degree in clinical psychology. "If someone has all of this freedom and still has the need to do something hurtful, that's a bigger issue than sexual freedom."
...People in the poly community believe that nonexclusivity in sexual and family relations improves their psychological wellbeing, says Echo E. Fields, an associate professor in SOU's sociology department.
"They argue that monogamy is inconsistent with humans' needs for free expression of personal identity," says Fields. "They aspire to relationships in which all members have equal power. They hope that by developing insight into each member's sexual and psychological needs and honestly communicating them, members can overcome jealousy and possessiveness."
...In Ashland, people look for partners by posting on dating websites. One 30-something Ashland couple, who are married and have a child, say their lifestyle is misunderstood and is more closeted than the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. They asked that their names not be published.
"People think it's weird and wonder, 'How can you possibly do that?' " she says.
When neighbors or co-workers see one of them being romantic with another person in public, "people immediately jump to the conclusion that we're not being forthright," says the husband, adding that they have lost friends by explaining it. "It's sad that something that doesn't involve them at all ends a friendship."
He says they spent a lot of time first talking about polyamory before they acted on it....
...Skidmore says it's "freeing" to be more transparent about her private life.
"All the poly people I know have a need to be authentic and honest about what is going on in their life. When I communicate about what I need, even when it's terrifying, I am being honest."
Read the whole article (Sept. 10, 2012). Little things like this are gradually building us a future of understanding and acceptance.