Trends in polyamory: "Living a trusting, multi-partner relationship in the City of Brotherly Love"
Living a trusting, multi-partner relationship in the City of Brotherly Love
By Dr. Timaree Schmit
When asked about the uptick in reporting on polyamory, Kari Collins of West Philly tells me that she is “ambivalent.”
It’s exciting to not have to explain what polyamory means over and over again, but the representations are really limited.
“A lot of times it still seems like, ‘This couple is poly,’ or ‘These three people are poly’ and it doesn’t go beyond that,” she says. “It’s as close to a monogamous family as we can get... presented like [it's only] this wild thing they do on Saturday nights. But there are so many forms that poly is taking.”
Kari (who is genderqueer and identifies alternately using “he” and “she”), for instance, currently only has one partner, but his partner currently has four other relationships, and several more people with whom they share an undefined friendship-romance. Those folks, in turn, have their own network of significant others.
The web forms a polyamorous community of metamours, and nearly all of them hang out together, often playing board games. “It’s like the #1 poly hobby… It’s an easy group activity.”
Mae Esposito and Phil Weber (Photo: Timaree Schmit / Philly.com)
For Phil Weber of Bensalem and Mae Esposito of Fishtown, board games were a major activity at a recent poly network camping trip.
This group took up four cabins — a crew of about 14 metamours and friends, hiking, making meals, and playing games. A month prior, Phil had seven partners, but one moved away and two “stepped back” — a much healthier way to describe amicable separation than “broke up” or “dumped."
...“I don’t really do casual,” he says, mentioning that one of his most informal experiences was a “two-week stand.”...
For some, open relationships are something into which they stumble. For others, relationship anarchy is a conscious choice to reject a system that has proven to be untenable. And for many, polyamory is as intrinsic to their sexual orientation as their preference for men or women.
...One thing that isn’t always helpful to negotiating non-monogamy is a strict set of rules. While having hard-and-fast parameters used to be a common feature of polyamory discourse, it’s falling out of favor in the community.
“Rules are really limiting in a lot of ways, says Kari. They "prevent people from being open to what they are feeling now and what is important to them. Those things tend to feel like they’re coming out of a place of fear and usually it’s better to say, ‘This kind of thing hurts me, what can we do to avoid this?’ Rather than saying, ‘You can never hold someone’s hand on a Tuesday,’ or whatever.”
Another facet of language that has shifted in recent years is the idea of hierarchy, having a lover who might be “primary” while others are “secondary” or “tertiary.” Phil explains that those ideas were more important when polyamorous relationships “had to be on the down low.” If a person’s job or child custody was in jeopardy, it may be prudent to maintain one public partner and the rest had to be “friends of the family.”...
For Kari, who just finished seminary, it’s important to free everyone, monogamous or otherwise, from the constraints of the Relationship Escalator (the notion that dating requires a series of milestones at a specific pace), or shopping for a checklist of desired traits in a mate....
Read the whole article (Sept. 14, 2015). "Dr. Timaree Schmit earned her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality from Widener University, where she now trains future sexologists and clinicians. Her passion is bringing rational, empirically-based, sex-positive information to the world, empowering others to celebrate their bodies, build intimacy and experience pleasure."