Ask Amy returns: "Three's no longer a crowd: Polyamory hires a press agent"
Advice columnist Ask Amy had a bit of a tiff with the poly world last month (see We Get a Rise out of Ask Amy), during which she sent me a note saying, "You need a proofreader for your little newsletter [there was a typo] but otherwise I am tickled to have pissed-off the pollies."
Give her credit, though — she may be snippy to us, but in her column out this morning, her advice to a concerned reader is thoughtful and sound. Her central doubt in this case is one that we might express in the language of couple privilege:
Dear Amy: I recently learned that a relative, a young woman in her 20s, is involved in a polyamorous relationship — a menage a trois consisting of two women and one man.
I understand how the 20s can be a time of sexual experimentation. Of concern to me is that the man and woman she is involved with are married to each other. Given that my relative is involved with a married couple, what good can come of it for her? When I asked her mother about it, her response was that her daughter will have to figure it out for herself and that she can’t tell her daughter how to live.
When I expressed concern about her daughter getting hurt, she reminded me that no one is exempt from experiencing hurt in relationships. Both of these statements are true. Still, as an elder, I feel that there must be something between casting judgment and doing nothing.
I can only imagine how confusing the situation must be — as being involved with one person can be a challenge in and of itself. I have told her directly that I love her dearly, want the best for her and that my door is always open should she ever wish my support or advice on this or any matter.
Is there anything else you’d recommend? — Concerned Relative
Dear Concerned: Polyamory has stepped out of the shadows and is a relationship choice being made more often. Either that or it has a new press agent. Whichever it is, the sort of group comingling, partner sharing and swapping upends our notion of what romantic attachment is “supposed” to be like. This relationship model certainly makes us question what marriage is all about.
You sound very wise. We live in an era where expressing any opinion on someone else’s behavior smacks of “judgment,” and yet why are we here, if not to make choices and judgments and to gently guide our younger loved ones? I understand your instinct and double down on your concern.
However, my basic point of view is that consenting adults will do what consenting adults will do, and they have a right to their choices, unless they harm children or scare the horses. In the case you outline, all three are mutually consenting adults. Your young relative is not (apparently) having a secret affair with one of the spouses. Rather, the married couple has invited in the new partner, which makes her not an interloper but a guest — or perhaps a temporary amusement.
Yes, someone is going to get hurt. But hurt happens in most relationships. Your harshest judgment would be reserved for the married couple who are presumably older and who (I assume) hold the power....
Read on in the Tulsa World, one of the first papers to run the column (December 22, 2015). The headline about press agents also appears in the Chicago Tribune online, her home paper (behind a paywall). It's also in many other papers running the column today.
P.S., later in the day: Regarding polyamory hiring a press agent, on reddit/r/polyamory someone tossed off the comment, "I'll kick in for one if anyone wants to join me."
To which I replied,
"Okay. What we have that fills that role is the Loving More nonprofit, www.lovemore.com. They're in a fund drive right now and are struggling with it. I've donated to them for years, most recently a couple weeks ago. This is tax-deductible; they're a 501(c)3. They've had a lot to do with getting polyamory known to the world, including to many of us, directly or indirectly through their conferences and their excellent media representation over the years."
His bluff called, he said he will send them something. Maybe you can to.
Labels: advice columns