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

February 11, 2016

Washington Post: "To be young and polyamorous in the age of OkCupid"

The Washington Post put up a feature article this morning that will be printed in the Love issue of the paper's Sunday Magazine. Sunday is Valentine's day.

The story profiles a local polyweb of young twenties. They seem remarkably wise, emotionally intelligent, and poly-intelligent. Thank you for representing us extraordinarily well.

To be young and polyamorous in the age of OkCupid

Clockwise, from top left: Rachel Ruvinsky, 22; Sam Brehm, 21; Bennett Marschner, 26; and Hannah Schott, 22. The group of friends carry on multiple relationships simultaneously. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

By Lisa Bonos

...Ruvinsky didn’t want anything super-casual, so she figured that would be it. But Marschner persuaded her to keep seeing him, reassuring her that it wouldn’t be a booty-call thing. They could both see other people. “I was like, ‘Okay, I like hanging out with you,’ ” she remembers saying.

The next time they discussed their relationship status was a few months later. Marschner told her his other relationships, with two other women, weren’t so casual; there was an emotional attachment. He’d been reading about polyamory, he said, and he thought it applied to their situation.

Ruvinsky did, too: “We knew it was more than casual, but we didn’t have a word for it.” Since then, the two go out with other people separately or hang in a group. “A lot of times,” Marschner says, “if you get more than one of us together, we’re going to sit on a couch and cuddle and make out.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines polyamory as: “The fact of having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners involved.”

Polyamory in the United States has roots in the 19th-century Oneida Community in Upstate New York, where all members were considered married to one other, according to Deborah Anapol, author of “Polyamory in the 21st Century.” Modern versions came out of the free-love movement of the 1960s, but the term “polyamorous,” combining the Greek and Latin words for “many” and “love,” wasn’t coined until 1990 and was added to the OED in 2006. It draws adults of all ages, and online dating has made it easier for the polyamorous and poly-curious to find one another.

...Ruvinsky and Marschner keep each other in the loop on their other dates and relationships. Sometimes Marschner will screen OkCupid messages for Ruvinsky, deleting anything unwelcomingly vulgar, prompting her to jokingly call him her “sexcretary.”

...If one of them feels jealous, they try to pinpoint what insecurity or self-esteem issue might be to blame. “It’s important to realize that it’s valid” to be jealous or envious of another partner, Ruvinsky says, “but not necessarily true.”

More than jealousy, though, the emotion they talk about is “compersion,” a feeling of joy when one’s partner finds happiness with another. Ruvinsky says she feels it when Marschner texts her after a good date with someone else. He says he feels it when he meets women he thinks Ruvinsky might like and those instincts turn out to be right.

Marschner has a couple of primary partners, including Ruvinsky, and several secondary ones. He sometimes introduces his partners to one another and is happy for them to date each other as well. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Over a year ago, Marschner introduced Ruvinsky and Hannah Schott. They gathered for a night of figure-drawing, each taking a turn as a nude model. Schott now lives in New Zealand, but Ruvinsky still has the picture Schott drew hanging in her bedroom.

Within the “web” of partners, one-on-ones, threesomes and orgies have been known to happen. (They test for sexually transmitted diseases every three months or when a new person joins the mix.) But Marschner says “polyamory isn’t necessarily about sex. Polyamory is about being in love with multiple people.”

Marschner and Ruvinsky say they are thrilled to be free of the constraints that can come with monogamy: They don’t have to be everything, sexually or emotionally, to each other; they can be open about their attraction to others. It might be fueled by youthful idealism that will crash and burn as she and Marschner get older, but for now they seem happy.

Ruvinsky’s eyes light up as she describes having so much love to give, and receiving it, too. “Even the love you feel, feels different,” she says, “not in terms of quantity or quality, just in how it feels.”


Asked to map it out for a reporter, Marschner drew a diagram of dozens of people. Straight lines connected people with ongoing relationships; long dotted lines for former relationships; short dotted lines for people who have “sexy times,” as Marschner put it, but aren’t in a relationship.

The connections are fluid, too. An ex of one of Marschner’s former partners is now housemates with one of his current partners.

When members of the web get together, it’s as if a group of high school or college friends is reuniting. Primary, secondary and past partners piled into a booth at Bar Louie in Rockville Town Square in late December.

Some are meeting for the first time. “Are you a hugger?” Zia Frazier asks, and waits for the go-ahead before embracing Sam Brehm, a 21-year-old model and fire performer who met Marschner at a medieval camping trip. (The poly community is big on consent, starting with something as simple as a hug.) At different times throughout the night, Marschner keeps a hand on Brehm’s leg while deep in conversation with Ruvinsky.

...Marschner asks Frazier, who is 23 and just finished her first semester of grad school in San Francisco, about a new guy she is dating who’s poly and straight.

“Is he pretty?” he asks.

“He’s tall as s---,” she says.

...They order extra cocktails before happy hour ends, eat off each other’s plates and offer one another sips and cherries out of their drinks.

When Frazier complains about having to write so many papers and the long lines at the DMV, Marschner says: “That’s what you get for going to California and leaving us all behind.”...

Lisa Bonos is the lead writer and editor for Solo-ish, a Washington Post blog about unmarried life. You can reach her at lisa.bonos@washpost.com.

Read the whole article (online February 11, 2015).

Update: It's been reprinted on the websites, at least, of the Chicago Tribune, the Calgary Herald, the daily Santa Fe New Mexican, South Africa's Independent online and The Star ("South Africa's Most Influential Daily Newspaper"), the Watertown Daily Times in upstate New York, and probably elsewhere.


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Blogger Meretricious Consideration said...

I so wish I was young and polyamorous rather than old and polyamorous. This sounds like fun. -- Anais

February 11, 2016 11:56 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

It does, but someone has an assumption this is,for the young. It can change, but still continue into elderhood.

The article seems to end abruptly.

February 11, 2016 11:29 PM  
Blogger Bennett Marschner said...

Hi! I'm the Bennett in the article. Thank you for saying such nice things, I was unnervingly aware that we were representing not just ourselves in those interviews. We definitely weren't poly wise at the start, but Rachel and I are coming up on three years now!

Ms. Bonos had a very tight deadline to meet and I'm sure editing for space in the magazine cut it down a bit. Before researching for the article, I believe she said she didn't really know anything about poly. Considering that, I think she did a great job on the article and a fantastic job approaching the subject respectfully and with an open mind!

The bit about youthful optimism that may crash and burn later was one part of the article we found puzzling, as when asked about the future we all replied that poly was definitely going to be a part of our lives and identities going forward. I personally know more than a few older, more settled poly people - couples, triads, and at least one ... uh, quartet?

There were a few turns of phrase I wasn't thrilled about and there's a lot more to ALL of it than could be included in the article. It's been already been a long, amazing, and often difficult adventure and it's only just getting started and I'm actually still nervous about it even existing as a thing on the internet with my name attached to it and oh crap, am I still talking?...

February 12, 2016 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my poly communities in the bay area, 4 people dating each other (usually 2 couples getting together and all dating) is referred to as a "quad".

February 15, 2016 6:20 PM  
Blogger zenmom said...

Hey, Bennett, lovely article! I sort of tripped over the "youthful optimism" sentence too. However, I'd like to reassure you that not everyone thinks it's a phase you'll grow out of. My then-husband and I started exploring [that thing that is now called "polyamory" but at the time only had the overly-vague and not terribly descriptive label "alternative lifestyles"] when we were in our 20's. We loved, lived with, traveled with, and worked with several others over the course of the next ~10 years. Things changed, eventually we got divorced when our kid was about 2 years old. However, neither of us ever said (nor thought, as far as I know) that it was a bad part of our lives. Those others are life-long friends even though we moved apart geographically and haven't been lovers for a long time. My former spouse has been happily, monogamously married for quite some time to a great lady. I wound up getting involved with a poly guy. It only took him a couple decades for him to convince me to move in with him! The others in his poly household weren't the issue, geography and raising a kid were the determining factors. I'm over 60 now. To misquote Paul Simon, "still poly after all these years". Poly suits me (and the others in our house) just fine. At this point I don't think I'm going to grow out of it. Of the several people that were part of my /our poly network who are now no longer living the poly lifestyle, in a couple of cases it seems to me that it was because they married someone who was NOT poly, and they valued that relationship highly, enough to promise to be monogamous with them. I can respect that. And one was because she had come into the poly relationship secretly hoping that the person she loved would turn out to be monogamous after all and leave the other one for her. That didn't turn out so well. Follow your heart. Be kind to each other. And enjoy this amazing life! Sounds like you're doing a fine job of all of that so far.

March 15, 2016 10:29 PM  

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