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

October 16, 2019

Poly & Christian -- a huge and diverse field

My last post ("Polyamory, The Next Sexual Frontier" – in Christianity Today?!) was about a prominent evangelical pastor urging his fellows, in America's leading evangelical magazine, to understand and respect their poly congregants who are in group relationships.

So we've gone from being the swamp monsters at the bottom of the gay-marriage Slippery Slope to being decent people to be heard, understood, and treated well, even if we're not properly "biblical"? That was quick.

Of course the article stood out because it was unusual. But Christianity is a vast and varied thing, even within evangelicalism. (And no, I'm not a Christian.[1] )

Here's my promised data dump of about 20 more items that I've been saving up for a "Poly and Christian" post. That's so many that I'll be brief about most of them.

● This was prompted by the person who posted on reddit/r/polyamory last month, "Recently came out to some fellow Christian friends and had an interaction that was fine, but a little discouraging. ... Are there any other Christian Poly people out there? What helps you? What encourages you? What is your perspective? I’m dying to know." Several folks chimed in.

● In Splinter News ("The Truth Hurts"), a progressive millennial online magazine: Even Christians Are Rethinking Monogamy (Aug. 23, 2017).

Soul Searching is our series about how the most secular generation in history is changing the face of religion.

Jim Cooke/GMG
By Jennifer C. Martin

I sat quietly in the wooden pew, discreetly toward the back. I try to attend church every week: It’s important to me to support small, progressive churches near my home in Virginia and to feed my spirituality. To my right sat my husband of nine years and our two children. To my left sat my atheist boyfriend, looking deeply uncomfortable. I looked around and thought: Even at my liberal, female-pastored parish, a part of the United Church of Christ, the first denomination to openly welcome LGBTQ members and clergy, am I the only polyamorous person here?

A few weeks prior, I had been sitting on the grass in a park with people in their twenties and early thirties at a polyamorous support group. One by one they told their stories. ... They seemed so much more worldly than me, with their fetish clubs, their devotion to the classic polyamory guidebook The Ethical Slut, their accepting families, and their open lifestyles. I looked around and wondered, Am I the only Christian here?

...But I’ve learned that I’m far from the only one. We tend to have gotten married young, felt trapped by the conservative bounds of purity culture, and wanted to explore the sexuality we never really got a chance to have. But it can be daunting to leap from the repressed Christianity we were raised with to the sexually open world of non-monogamy. ...

I found one of my first polyamorous Christian friends almost by accident. ... I’ll call her Sabrina, and she is 29 years old, like me. I’ve known her for about a decade. We grew up right outside of Chattanooga, with conservative, white, Southern values. We are both Christians raised in a Christian home. And, also like me, she married someone she’d been with from a young age.

About a year ago, I saw her secondary Facebook profile pop up in my “suggested friends” list, and out of curiosity, I clicked on the profile. It was full of photos of her and some guy in Europe. It wasn’t her husband. Desperate to connect with someone who might be like me, I messaged her and asked, “Are you polyamorous? Because I am, too.” It turns out she was, and had been for awhile....

● An important stop for anyone involved in such questions is the Incarnation Institute for Sex and Faith, founded and run by Rev. Beverly Dale, the crackerjack "Rev. Bev" — for 21 years campus minister and de facto sex educator for tens of thousands of students at the University of Pennsylvania. From the Incarnation Institute's front page:

People will love their sexual bodies and those of others as God does.

To teach an inclusive, science-friendly, sex-positive Christianity.

Sexual Diversity is a natural trait to be celebrated.
Sexual Pleasure is a sacred gift to be treasured.
Sexual Freedom is a human right to be personally discerned & morally exercised.

● By Fr. Shannon Kearns on the Queer Theology site: What I’ve Learned From My Polyamorous Friends (undated).

I am not polyamorous ... the thought makes me feel exhausted. So when Brian proposed creating some resources for polyamorous Christians my first thought was “Sure. Won’t be much help to me, but go for it.” But as I’ve been privy to the resources he’s been creating and watched the conversation happen I realized something....

The Brian in question, also on Queer Theology, has posted a collection of resources, Polyamory and Christianity:

We’re developing resources, courses, coaching, and community to support Christians who are in open or polyamorous relationships — or who are interested in exploring them.

● The up-and-coming young evangelical minister Brandan Robertson, speaker and author on the religious left who identifies as bi and queer, kicked up a huge stir in 2018 when he declared to his congregation,

"For those who are in an open or polyamorous relationship here this morning who might be squirming, because this is an uncomfortable question to hear in church sometimes — I want you to hear me loud and clear as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your relationships are holy. They are beautiful and they are welcomed and celebrated in this space."

Here's a critical article with background on Robertson and the story: Polyamory “Holy” “Beautiful” says Progressive Christian Minister (on the site of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, in Washington DC, founded "for Christian orthodoxy").

● In their excellent, long-running Multiamory podcast, Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack devoted their Episode 176 to Christianity and Polyamory (June 19, 2018). They interviewed Rev. Austin Adkinson and theologian J.D. Mechelke for an hour-and-nine-minutes show. You can watch here:

Too long? Skim the transcript.

Just yesterday (Oct. 15, 2019) the Multiamory crew put up Episode 242, Queer Theology with Brian G. Murphy of QueerTheology.com. "Brian G. Murphy is an activist, educator, certified relationship coach, and was raised as an evangelical Christian. Now he practices faith-based activism and social justice work, co-founding Legalize Trans, creating QueerTheology.com in partnership with Father Shannon Kearns, and speaking at countless colleges and conferences, and even [— insert blare of trumpets here —] teaching a course on the intersection of polyamory and Christianity."

The Multiamory podcasters call themselves "a recovering evangelical, a former seminarian, and a born-and-raised atheist." Less known is their rambling, alcoholic podcast Drunk Bible Study. They're working through every word of the Bible from the beginning, line by line, doing a lubricated and irreverent exigesis. As of Episode 72 they're up to Deuteronomy 8-10.

● Patheos is a huge blogsite for all things religious and spiritual. One of its blogs is Chuck McKnight's The Hippie Heretic in the Progressive Christianity section. Among his many articles there:

     – It’s Time for the Church to Talk About Polyamory
     – Southern Baptist Preacher Affirms Polyamory (Interview with Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood)
     – Is God Polyamorous?

At the end of that last one are links to all 10 of his articles having to do with poly and Christianity.

● We can hardly skip Rev. Rachelle Brown. In Chicago's gay paper Windy City Times: MCC elder talks Cajun roots, faith and lesbian polyamorous relationship (Dec. 13, 2017). MCC is the Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 by and for gays when others would not have them.

...When [Rev. Elder Rachelle] Brown met married lesbian couple Michelle Jestes and Dama Elkins-Jestes about seven years ago, she found her soulmates in the two women. They embarked on a relationship together (which includes raising their child, Ayden) that they call "a couple of three," and currently reside in a Chicago suburb.

"As our family considered how to refer to each other, the language of polyamory is always forming, so we decided a 'couple of three' best described the closed nature of our covenant and commitments. We have all learned so much each year together. It is not simple to be out, or even engage in conversations with traditional couples. I learned recently that when I say 'family,' some assume we are blood relatives.

"Back in the early 2000s when I was coming out as a lesbian, I did not know anyone that would be considered polyamorous. It has been a journey—one that MCC allowed space for me to discover and live in. ..."

Brown was the interim moderator of the whole MCC denomination from 2016 to July 2019. Accordingly, The Advocate published a much longer, deeper profile of her and her situation: What Happens When a Pastor Goes Poly? (July 13, 2017)

MCC Elder Rachelle Brown and family

The church leadership hasn’t wavered in supporting Brown. “I’ve found incredible support in the MCC leadership,” she says. “All of the elders, everyone that I went to. ...”

But not all of her parishioners are happy to learn she’s involved in a throuple. “We lost a lot of friends,” Brown muses. “A lot of friends. The most pushback I get are from lesbians who are in a coupled or a married situation. In a couple instances, it’s either jealousy or fear. They’re either jealous because they want that for their relationship or they’re afraid that their spouse or partner will want that for their relationship.”

● A triad family finally found an accepting Christian church in Baltimore, as described in the UK's tabloid Daily Mail: Christian THROUPLE who are raising a child together speak out to defend the relationship - insisting it is NOT a sin, despite their families and their church saying it is 'an abomination to God' (Aug. 2, 2019).

● Of course there are Christian & Poly T-shirts. This one's from Teespring. I dunno, I think it would strike most people as a plain Christian thing (the Catholic sacred heart?) even if they knew the infinity heart in a poly context. Ditto the more subdued one at the top of this page.

● There's the Bible-Believing Polyamory Facebook group, "for all Bible believing Jewish and Christian people who also believe in Polyamory as a viable moral and even biblical way of life." It currently has 275 members.

● Article by a self-identified Christian on the (big, friendly, useful) Polyamory.com forum: Poly-friendly Churches (Sept. 25, 2017). He describes several denominations to check out.

● And finally — the first glimmer of my own poly beliefs came when I was a little boy. I had a blessedly kind, loving mom who held general Christian beliefs of a non-dogmatic sort. I must have been about 5 or 6 when a neighbor, whose wife had died and gone to Heaven, remarried. My mom told me how happy she was for him. But I wondered: When they all finally meet up in Heaven, which one will be the wife and which will be left cruelly, tragically abandoned? The only answer, logical little me concluded, was that they would all love each other together, because this was in Heaven.

It was some years before I discovered that not just angels, but we poor humans, can sometimes do so right here.

Page Turner (see above) tells how she traveled with a partner to her grandfather's Catholic funeral. The priest who officiated seemed to be thinking like little-boy me, and Page wonders why the religious are scared to think the next logical thought.

A Polyamorous Heaven: Funerals Don’t Come With Trigger Warnings

By Page Turner

I’m sitting up as straight as I can on the pew while my mother sobs on my left. Skyspook is on my right, his hands folded in his lap.

We’re sitting in the front row. My grandmother sits on the other side of my mother. All 5′ 10″ of her in a gray pantsuit. My grandmother doesn’t cry. Not that I can see anyway. Skyspook later tells me that he can see it in smaller expressions on her face. ...

Clyde Robinson / CC BY
...The priest delivers a sermon about Christ and eternal life, inviting us to pray for my grandfather’s soul so that he may be reunited with all his loved ones in heaven and that we, too, may join him and all others we love in the afterlife.

All others? I wonder suddenly.

Because, you see, this is my grandmother’s second time being widowed. ... Any heaven that they’re part of will be filled with multiple loves.

The pastor knows all of this. ... In that moment, it occurs to me that the heaven the pastor describes is rather polyamorous.

And thinking back on conversations I’ve had with others — some of them very religious — few to none have had a problem with widowed folks remarrying (provided at least a short grieving period had passed). They don’t think of this eventual reunion in heaven as awkward for all involved.

Meanwhile, nonmonogamy on Earth — especially the consensual, honest kind — is regarded by those same folks as the work of Satan.

...As the pastor blesses the sacramental bread and wine, I wonder why we consider what is standard in heaven to be so far beneath us here on Earth.

Read her whole post (Oct. 23, 2017).

P.S.:  If I ever go to a big football game that'll be on TV, I'm going to write on my forehead


to troll the biblical fundies. And what's that? God's instructions for multi-marriages:

"If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights." That last bit means sex. (In the original Hebrew:  וְעֹנָתָ֖הּ (wə·‘ō·nā·ṯāh), sexual.)

If any fundie there gives me grief, I'll try to keep a straight face as I tell them "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it."


1. Nope. I'm an atheist, materialist Unitarian Universalist humanist, although with, thanks to psychedelics, a lifelong soft spot for emergent panpsychism. Sparkle Moose and I are pillars of our local UU church, literally — our names are on one of the lally columns in the basement that were installed to shore up the building. I'm on the church's governing board, and Moose is its past president.


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October 9, 2019

"Polyamory, The Next Sexual Frontier" -- in Christianity Today?!

Barcroft Media / Getty

Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham in 1956, has been called "evangelicalism's flagship magazine" (Washington Post). Its website now features a surprisingly kind and understanding article with the title and lead photo above.

My thanks to another Alan, the author of the long-running The Ordinary Extraordinary poly blog with his partner Anna, for bringing this to my attention. As he notes,

“Polyamory: The Next Sexual Frontier” is by Preston Sprinkle (biblical scholar and president of The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender) and Branson Parler (professor of theological studies at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and director of faith formation at Fourth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids) — though the article appears to be entirely from Mr. Sprinkle’s perspective. The article is somewhat amazing.

It's paywalled, but here are excerpts:

Polyamory: The Next Sexual Frontier

These once-taboo relationships are showing up in churches across the US.

By Preston Sprinkle and Branson Parler

A pastor recently told me (Preston) about Tyler and Amanda (names changed), high-school sweethearts raised in Christian homes, living in the Bible belt. After getting married, they seemed to be living the American dream with a house, good jobs, and two kids. Then Jon, a friend of Tyler’s, began living with their family. Amanda developed a close relationship with him, but their flirtation soon developed into something more, and Jon and Amanda proposed to Tyler that they begin exploring polyamory, with Amanda adding Jon as a significant other. They also encouraged Tyler to develop a relationship with another woman he’d met at the gym. He agreed.

When Tyler and Amanda came out as polyamorous, their parents were shocked. What seemed like a fringe practice of the sexual revolution had settled into the heartland of Middle America.

Making the situation even more complex, Tyler and Amanda sought counseling from a Christian counselor who advocated polyamory. Tyler’s parents were disturbed by what their son and daughter-in-law heard there: “It’s only adultery or cheating if someone is kept in the dark. If you are open and honest, this is a God-honoring relationship. And this is good for the kids! It takes a village to raise a child, so a polyamorous relationship actually brings more support and ‘family’ into your kids’ lives, much like the extended families in the past.”

Tyler’s parents wanted to know how to respond to their children but also wanted to know how the church should respond. Should Jon be welcomed into the church as an addition to Tyler and Amanda’s family? In a world where many sexual choices and identities are accepted, polyamory is often still stigmatized, so Tyler’s parents didn’t know who to talk to or where to turn.


For many Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. But it is much more common than some people think, and it’s growing in popularity. ... [A survey] showed that nearly 70 percent of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24 and 35 believe that polyamory is okay, even if it’s not their cup of tea. And perhaps most shocking of all, according to sociologist Mark Regnerus in Cheap Sex, roughly 24 percent of church-going people believe that consensual polyamorous relationships are morally permissible.

Over the last several years, my (Preston’s) full-time job at The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender has been helping leaders and pastors engage questions about sexuality and gender with theological faithfulness and courageous love. Naturally, I often get asked, “What’s the next discussion Christians need to have about these issues?” My answer is always the same: “Polyamory.”

...Unlike polygamy, polyamory does not always involve a marriage commitment, and it is much more egalitarian. Polyamory is also different from swinging or open relationships, though they do overlap. ... Sex and relationship therapist Renee Divine says, “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people.” Notice again that polyamory is not just about sex. It includes love, romance, and emotional commitment among three or more people.

Preparing a Pastoral Response:

How can pastors and leaders prepare to address questions related to polyamory? Several pastors tell us it’s becoming more common for people who identify as poly to ask about their church’s view on the matter. Will they be accepted and affirmed? The discussion is still young enough that most pastors have some time to construct a robust, compassionate, thoughtful response to the question, “Is your church inclusive of people who are poly?”

How would you respond to Tyler, Amanda, and Jon? How would you counsel Tyler’s parents to respond? Tyler’s parents’ pastor advised them to first listen to their son rather than trying to preach at him, so after Tyler came out to them, they set up a time to simply connect and listen. ... When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships, affirming both grace and truth is a difficult but necessary balance for parents to maintain.

Another important pastoral step is to distinguish elements of polyamory that are in violation of God’s will from elements that are simply culturally unfamiliar to us. ... For example, the notion of kinship in polyamory is a secular echo of the way Scripture calls the church to function as a new family. In cultures that idolize individualism (but actually isolate individuals), polyamory’s focus on relationship, care, and affection can have a powerful pull. And in churches that idolize marriage and the nuclear family, polyamory’s focus on hospitality and community can be an attractive alternative. We can acknowledge that many of the elements that draw people to polyamory — deep relationships, care for others, hospitality, and community — are good things.

But Scripture does clearly connect sex, marriage, and monogamy in ways that are violated in polyamorous relationships. ...

Finally, a healthy pastoral response will involve clear, proactive teaching. ... It’s not uncommon for leaders to frantically scramble around scanning resources and shipping in speakers to address a raw situation that just flared up at their church. But instead of educating in “reaction mode,” we can construct a positive vision for what God intends. ... People are much more eager to follow a positive vision for marriage and sex than to adhere to a list of “don’ts.” ...

The whole article (online Sept. 25, 2019. It's in the print magazine's twice-a-year "Pastors" section, Fall 2019 edition.) Here's a link preserving the article's full text for research and historical purposes.

Other Alan remarks about it,

Of course there are problems, especially near the end: “When children choose less than God’s best for their relationships...” and “...need to be called to repentance for the way they have committed adultery,” etc.  But... he’s telling those he counsels to not overreact, to see how the wider world views these issues, and to maintain an open avenue of communication with the individuals within those lifestyles. ...

In the article, the authors provide solid facts concerning what polyamory is and what it isn’t, quote reputable polls (even though the results presumably don’t make the authors glad), and even get the terminology correct. They’re fully informed to the facts of what exists, maintain the humanity of the polyamorous, and counsel the faithful to keep their hearts open to the polyamorous. This is a phenomenal step toward further understanding and acceptance in the wider world. Thirty or forty years ago, when Mom and Dad actually starting listening to their homosexual son or daughter — that’s when gay rights was fully on its way, and wider acceptance was just around the corner.

As the pastor wrote, “I often get asked: what’s the next discussion Christians need to have about these issues?” My answer is always the same: ‘Polyamory.’ ” Here we go.

● The same author, Preston Sprinkle, posted a similar, longer article last year on the site of his Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender: Why Christians Need to Think about Polyamory (June 7, 2018)

...Several of my pastor friends tell me that it’s becoming more common to have people who identify as poly asking about the church’s view on the matter and if they will be accepted and affirmed. These are not abstract questions.... Put more positively, we have time to construct a truly Christian vision for monogamy, if indeed that is the only truly Christian vision.

My purpose of this blog is to put this topic on your radar, not to answer all the questions that you might have. With that in view, here are a few more questions that Christian leaders should wrestle with....

Among the nine of these he offers are:

     – If God’s love for us is plural, and our love for (a Triune) God is plural, then why can’t human love for each other be plural?

     – Since the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn plural marriages that are polygamous... could we say that monogamy is the ideal while still allowing for polyamorous relationships as less than ideal but still accepted in the church? Why, or why not?

     – If sexual expression is only permitted if it is faithful, consensual, and marital (which is what most Christians would say), then why can’t it be plural? That is, what is the moral logic that drives your view that monogamy is the only way? Is it just “God says so"? Or is there some rationale why plural love is immoral?


● On the same topic, this went out from Religion News Service a few months ago: Reinventing religion, millennials rewrite the rules of relationships (May 2, 2019):

Creative Commons

By Tara Isabella Burton

(RNS) — Those who consider themselves on a spiritual path can all get on board when Tristan Taormino invites us to enter “a sacred space where we feel safe enough to try new things, push our boundaries, flirt with edges and conquer fears …”

Even the most traditional of us might follow the popular speaker, columnist and author when she says she’s seeking a place that “has the potential to heal old wounds and generate spiritual renewal … a crucible for creativity, vulnerability, perseverance, control, catharsis and connection.”

Taormino could be discussing meditation, or prayer, chanting, even therapy. Instead, Taormino is writing about kink.

...While kink and poly are far from synonymous — there are “vanilla” triads and monogamous kinky couples — central to practitioners of both is the idea of “rewriting the script.” Heterosexual, patriarchal, monogamous culture — the narrative goes — has forced too many people into relationship styles that don’t reflect their authentic selves. Authors Dossie Eaton and Janet Hardy put it best in their 1998 handbook “The Ethical Slut,” the Ur-text of polyamory:[1] “We are paving new roads across new territory. We have no culturally approved scripts for open sexual lifestyles; we need to write our own.”

● And this just popped up from the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ — a breakaway Mormon sect (it claims 23,000 members) with relatively liberal social beliefs, based in Pennsylvania: Poly Problems (July 2, 2019). This piece defines polyamory as existing under a broad tent of "polygamy"[2] that is not restricted by gender or roles.

By Kristine, Elect Lady

...[Poly-g and poly-am] aren’t for everyone and not every person that identifies as “poly” is in a polygamous or polyamorous relationship. And that’s okay. There is a misguided idea floating around that choosing to make another person’s feelings and desires a priority in any way somehow makes that other person selfish. This is an extremely pessimistic and self-serving point of view.

One example is a couple, we’ll call Ken and Barbara. Ken and Barbara started off monogamous, and Barbara is still monogamous. Ken has discovered he is polyamorous. ... Let’s say this example couple brings this to the Lord and Ken feels the Lord saying “yes,” while Barbara is hearing “no.” What does this tell us? That God isn’t going to ask us to do anything that we’re not comfortable with. And now, together, Ken and Barbara must make a decision. ...

...The point is that self and selflessness are not exclusively dichotomous. Both can, do, and must coexist for any relationship to work. ...

...There seems to be a dangerous idea out there that one has to be fulfilled by partners, whether by one or ten or more. A relationship is created and exists by people RELATING, not filling some hole or need the other person has. If someone is not whole, they shouldn’t expect anyone or any number of “someones” to fulfill them.

It may be that this is why some in polygamous or polyamorous relationships can’t seem to understand why monogamous folk desire to be in a mutually exclusive relationship. Maybe they don’t grasp that the mono person isn’t at all on any level expecting their partner to fulfill all their needs (or any for that matter) and isn’t trying to fulfill their partner’s needs. I believe that no one should ever be expected to meet any needs of anyone. That’s not a relationship. It’s codependence and it’s toxic. ...

I've been saving up a boatload of surprisingly nuanced Christian-and-poly articles, and the pile is now so big that the boat is about to roll over. Expect a data dump soon.


1. Well, no. The origin texts of the modern polyamory movement would be Ryam Nearing's The Polyfidelity Primer (first edition 1984) and Deborah Anapol's Love Without Limits (first edition 1992). The Ethical Slut was, however, widely recommended as the go-to book for a number of years after its first edition appeared in 1997.

2. To hopefully de-confuse: The mainsteam Mormon church officially renounced its doctrine of polygamy — at least here on Earth — more than a century ago so that Utah could enter the Union. It is officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), but last year it announced that it's encouraging "Church of Jesus Christ" and "Restored Church of Jesus Christ" as alternative names, though these clearly infringe on the Church of Jesus Christ quoted here.


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October 3, 2019

New York Times wedding story: "Happily, Ever Open"

Oh my. You know it's Properly Accepted if it's featured in the high-society Weddings section of the Sunday New York Times. This lavish, 1,700-word article went online yesterday in advance, starting with the grand lead photo below:

"Daley South and Logan South, who have been in an open and polyamorous relationship since they met seven years ago, were married in 2016 in Austin, Tex. Mr. South’s girlfriend, Ilona Westenra (third from bride), served as one of Ms. South’s six bridesmaids. (Creatrix Photography)"


Happily, Ever Open

What’s the wedding like when the couple is in an open or polyamorous relationship?

By Maggie Parker

Daley South had six bridesmaids in her 2016 wedding to Logan South; one of them was her husband’s girlfriend.

The Souths are in an open and polyamorous relationship and have been since they started dating seven years ago. “We were actually all dating at first,” Ms. South said of her bridesmaid, Ilona Westenra. “I really enjoyed having her be a part of our big day.”

...All of their guests knew about their relationship status (although their parents weren’t completely on board) and Ms. South was perfectly fine with them spending time together during the event, which was at the TFWC Mansion in Austin, Tex.

...Within their circle, everyone was extremely excited about the Souths’ union.

The groom’s girlfriend, Ms. Westenra, said through an email: “Being in a relationship with the groom obviously offered some awkwardness but the love far outweighed any uncomfortability. Seeing my boyfriend marry the love of his life was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever felt. The love in that room was so overwhelming I couldn’t feel anything but pure love and happiness for the two of them and in extension, myself, because I get to be a part of this wonderful family.”

People who choose to be in non-monogamous relationships are often perceived as anti-commitment, said Cathy Keen, 39, the community manager of alternative dating app Feeld and who is one-third of her relationship. [Remember them?]

But that’s just wrong, said Ms. Keen, who was also asked “what the point was” when she married her non-monogamous partner. “The thing I think a lot of people presume about a relationship that’s not traditional, monogamous or heteronormative is that commitment is not valued. It’s based upon sex and being able to move quickly, and that’s just wrong,” she said.

...On the big day, it seems common for open couples to invite or include their other partners. Anastasia Stevenson, a wedding planner in Los Angeles and Boothbay Harbor, Me., has planned hundreds of events, including two polyamorous ceremonies. One took place at a spa in Malibu, Calif., where a heterosexual couple was having a legal ceremony, with their additional partners incorporated into various parts of the event. ...

...Ms. Keen believes it takes a certain person to make an open relationship work, and “not a neurotic person or a paranoid person.”

“All three of us are very, very comfortable in our own skin,” [Keen] said of herself, her husband and their girlfriend. “That makes you a much better participant in this kind of relationship. Because you’re not relying on anyone else to give you stability. You’re relying on yourself, you’re making your own rules and you have your own boundaries.” ...

See the whole article (online October 2, 2019; in the Sunday print edition Oct. 6 under the title "Happily Ever After, and Open to Others"). It also goes on to discuss the alt-wedding of Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers.

P.S. later: After reading the NYT story a bemused columnist in the Marietta, Georgia, Daily Journal wrote, The world's gone off and left us.


● Also, two weeks ago in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, How to Propose an Open Relationship (online Sept. 19; in print Sept. 22):

Illustration by Radio
By Malia Wollan

“Don’t bring it up during an argument,” says Terri D. Conley, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who studies sexuality. If you’re in a monogamous relationship and want to explore making it nonmonogamous, raise the topic gradually. ...

[And yet,] To make what sex researchers call consensual “extradyadic involvement” work, you need to be willing to communicate often and with empathy. Monogamous couples move into nonmonogamy for all kinds of reasons — unmet sexual desire, boredom, illness, curiosity. ...

[And, as an actual poly person might add, falling in love! –Ed.]



September 19, 2019

Nico Tortorella is developing a TV show around polyfolks

Bethany Meyers (left) and Nico Tortorella camp it up at Love Ball III in June. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty)

Actor Nico Tortorella and partner Bethany Meyers are vocal exemplars of gender fluidity, bi acceptance, and polyamory, as described here in 2017 and when they got unconventionally married in 2018.

Now Nico is out with a memoir: Space Between: Explorations of Love, Sex, and Fluidity. The book occasioned an interview yesterday in Nico's hometown Chicago Tribune. Toward the end comes this:

Q: You point out that there’s not a lot of storytelling about polyamorous relationships in TV and film.

A: I think we’re still sex obsessed as a culture. And I think we’re all pretty confused on what sex means and why we do the things we do. And we’re not at polyamory yet in terms of mainstream conversation and culture. But I think it’s coming. It’s the next wave, for sure.

Q: It seems like being able to see what that is, through a TV show or movie, would be invaluable for people who have a hard time conceiving what it looks like.

A: Which is why it was so important for me to the write the book.

And I’m in early stages of development for the TV show right now.

Q: A show about polyamorous relationships?

A: Yeah, it’s going to be roughly based off the book and the characters, but not me and Bethany.

The whole article (September 18, 2019).

We're staying tuned.


● Also up today: A nice little Poly 101 explanation What is Polyamory? in Happiful, "the magazine devoted to mental health," a print magazine in the UK as well as online (Sept. 19)

Not sure if there’s one person out there for you? Got a lot of love to give? We take a closer look at the non-monogamous approach to relationships

...Mental health blogger Lindsay Hughes tells us about her own experience: “I became aware of polyamory via someone on social media. The set-up she has with her partner seemed to work well for them, and it was refreshing to see a non-conventional relationship where both partners were supported, and seemed to flourish with each other as well as others.”

Lindsay and her partner of five years started discussing polyamory at the start of this year. “It’s working for us at the moment. It would be difficult to disengage from it now we’ve started, but if, in the future, it no longer suits us, then we would transition back to monogamy, or inactive polyamory.” ...

What are the downsides?

Taking an approach that’s outside of social norms doesn’t come without its challenges. According to counsellor Alex Sanderson-Shortt, dealing with other people’s opinions can be tricky to negotiate.

“Decisions need to be made about who knows what about your relationship. Living with these kinds of secrets can be stressful for people, and affect relationships.”

Jealousy is another issue that can come up. ...

What are the benefits of polyamory?

...Lindsay notes: “It’s not that my partner and I don’t meet each others’ needs, but you don’t necessarily share everything with one person. I think that relying on one person to meet all your needs may not always be the best idea.”

She also says her confidence has been boosted by meeting others. “My partner and I are both quite anxious, so it hasn’t always been easy, but there’s something lovely about meeting someone completely new and developing a relationship.”

For Lindsay, it’s this meeting new people, and the self-awareness polyamory facilitates, that helped her tackle her social anxieties, and made her more resilient.

If you’re thinking of trying polyamory…

Counsellor Alex reiterates that communication is key. “Managing any form of consensual non-monogamy needs communication. There needs to be resilience and a support network, as it is still considered odd by many. It can be a really positive experience, and should be celebrated as such when everyone feels they have a fully-consensual experience within the relationship.”

...Stepping outside of societal norms can feel daunting, but for many it’s also liberating. Our advice? Educate yourself on your options, keep communicating, and find a way of loving others that feels good to all involved.


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September 11, 2019

"Polyamory in the Pacific Northwest"

Seattle has long been known as Poly Capital of the World, but Portland now holds the title according to locals quoted in a 5,000-word article that just appeared in Cascadia magazine (a non-profit "dedicated to telling the diverse stories found in the Pacific Northwest through quality journalism"). Others, however, would hold out for the San Francisco Bay Area.

(The lead photo. Talk about couple-centric?)

The Pacific Northwest offers rich material on the history and growth of the modern poly movement, back to Stranger in a Strange Land days and a founding nucleus in Seattle that that book inspired. But the Cascadia article, despite its length, doesn't pick up on this opportunity. It's mostly a Poly 101 for people new to the subject, centering on profiles of current practitioners. These tend to be couples and daters, not the kitchen-table communitarians from whom the scene arose. Still, it's an informative and well-done read.

Is non-monogamy becoming the new normal across Cascadia?

By Karin Jones

Brittany and Scott live in a cookie-cutter development on a hill above a small city north of Seattle. It’s the kind of suburban neighborhood that triggers both repulsion and envy in me. ...

I feel out of place here. ... This suburban neighborhood feels as though I ought to conform. Brittany and Scott appear to fit right in. On the surface at least.

...But one evening, over a quiet dinner, Scott mustered the courage to ask Brittany, “Does it ever make you sad that you’ve had your last first kiss?” Her reaction wasn’t anger or horror. Her reply was, “Yes.” ...

When people ask you about the prevalence of polyamory, keep this next paragraph from the story on hand to give them:

It’s estimated that over 21 percent of the US population has engaged in some form of Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM), defined as having two or more intimate partners at the same time with the knowledge and consent of all parties. Furthermore, around 5 percent of the population identify primarily as non-monogamous, cited in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, and is quite possibly an underestimation. CNM is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of relationships styles: including polyamory, swinging, and other non-exclusive intimacy (depending upon the degree to which those involved are seeking a sexual encounter or an emotional connection). It’s become a nationwide talking point, covered now in even the most mainstream publications like TIME magazine.

And there's this:

The most comprehensive list of CNM groups [This is debatable –Ed.] can be found on Facebook, where local chapters are listed by state and province, as well as countries outside the United States (US) and Canada. Though most US states now have CNM Facebook groups, there are a few, like Alabama, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, whose citizens have yet to create any. Meetup is also a good resource, listing 406 CNM groups worldwide. California far exceeds every other state in the number of groups organized around CNM. But when you look at Cascadia as a region, we’re not far behind.

And then we get into the profiles:

Charyn Pfeuffer, who writes extensively on all matters related to sex, dating, and relationships, is a self-proclaimed drum-beater for owning your own pleasure. ... In Seattle, Pfeuffer socializes with a wide variety of people who are consensually non-monogamous. She feels it’s an easy city in which to be honest about being open; Seattle’s sizable art and Burning Man communities often go hand in hand with CNM. ...

Pfeuffer is active on the PNW Polyamory Facebook group where she participates in a wide variety of discussions. ... Administrators approve participation and oversee strict codes of conduct regarding posts and comments. “It’s a safe place to explore love and sex and consent. Conversations that are pretty much mainstream, now. And I’m seeing more families who are coming out and raising children while being openly poly.”

...Another woman I corresponded with, who chose to remain anonymous because she runs a business in a small town between Seattle and Tacoma, is active in a Seattle group that has grown to over a thousand members through connections made on OKCupid. They started out as a game night gathering of self-proclaimed “nerds” and have since morphed into multiple subgroups, such as poly parents or movie lovers. She writes, “It’s not like we’re recruiting new members, they just come in as they’re invited by existing members. ...Once they’re invited, they’re required to attend at least one in-person event. This ensures everyone has at least a little skin in the game, and because our focus is on actual real-life events [rather than just online discussions] we hope that this will discourage contentious online interactions. It’s harder to be rude to someone online when you think you might see them at the barbecue, right?”

...“I never felt I had my own tribe,” this woman tells me when we speak by phone. “This is the first time in my life I’ve had this kind of community. If I broke down on the side of the road, there’s at least a dozen people I know [through this group] who would come to my rescue.” ...


Though Portland is the smallest of Cascadia’s big cities, most of the people I spoke with agree that the City of Roses has a reputation as the most nonmonogamy-friendly place in the Pacific Northwest.

A quick discussion search on Reddit uncovered these gems:

A friend who lives in Portland says you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting part of a triad there. As someone that lives in Portland, we frown on swinging dead cats because that’s not very vegan-friendly, but otherwise the statement is true.

...The 2018 Sex Survey by the Portland Mercury reports 13 percent of respondents identify as non-monogamous whereas 38 percent say they consider themselves “monogam-ish”.

“Portland, more than Seattle or Vancouver, has more active non-monogamous communities per capita,” says John Sickler, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) psychotherapist living in Portland since 2004. “In Oregon you have deeply held beliefs in the politics of personal freedom, personal expression, sexuality, and libertarianism.” ...

A pullquote in big print, which I second:

It’s easier to learn from other’s mistakes. We’re finally getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t. A lot of mistakes will be made along the way if you don’t engage with a community.

The whole article (September 2, 2019).


● Speaking of Poly 101s, this nice one just appeared in Women's Health, a mainstream magazine that's been doing good public poly education for a while: 8 Rules You Should Be Following If You're In A Polyamorous Relationship, by assistant editor Aryelle Siclait (Sept. 7).

The title says Rules. Does the author grasp rules versus agreements and boundaries? She's getting there; right at the top she writes,

I put "rules" in quotes because, let's be real, no one wants to be held to strict expectations or standards in matters of love. These rules are more like guidelines for you and your partners to go over at the start of and throughout your relationship, and they ensure that you’ll have the necessary measures in place to set and stick to boundaries across all parties.

Here are her 8 section titles. And yes, they're couple-centric.

1. Establish how much you want to share with each other.
2. Make time for just the two of you.
3. Set boundaries.
4. Respect your partner’s partners.
5. Keep your expectations realistic.
6. Maintain constant and open communication.
7. Make the most of your me-time.
8. Consider your motivations and your partner’s.


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September 9, 2019

Poly parenting and poly kids in the news: big roundup

My last post was about Vice's supportive, factual article last week on polyfamilies raising kids. Here are many more stories and resources on the topic — which is gradually becoming less contentions as the years go by, as kids turn out fine and polyfamilies become better known and understood.

● A long, well-researched piece in Canada's mainstream Today's Parent: Polyamorous parenting: The surprising benefits of the ultimate modern family (June 11, 2019)

Having multiple partners may seem weird, confusing or even scandalous to some. But experts, parents and even kids say it offers some surprising benefits.

By Briony Smith

"Polyamorous parents Sue (with baby Fionn), Ryan, Liane and Sean (with baby Parker) may look chic and glam, but that's all stylists and art directors. In real life, they're just a normal — albeit untraditional — family." (Carmen Cheung)

...And that was it: The doctors had to do a C-section. When they pulled out her son, Fionn, he didn’t make a sound. “Why isn’t he crying?” Sue wept, as they bundled him off to the resuscitation room. “Go with him! Go with him!” she wailed at Sean. And so he left.

But Sue wasn’t left alone. Grasping her hand was Liane Daiter, another partner in Sue’s “quadrupod” relationship, who happened to be eight months pregnant herself. “I was a mess,” Sue says. “It was invaluable having Liane there with me.”

“We didn’t have to choose between someone going with the baby or staying with Sue,” adds Sean. “We got to do both.” As they sewed Sue up, Liane never let go of her hand.

Once Sue was wheeled to the recovery room, Liane headed out into the hallway to check in with her husband, Ryan Ram, the fourth member of the relationship. Ninety minutes later, Sean finally returned to Sue’s side, baby Fionn happy and healthy in his arms. The foursome spent the next few hours cradling the newborn, the whole family together at last. Later, Fionn would receive his birth certificate, printed with each of his parents’ names — all four of them.

...According to sexuality educator Jacki Yovanoff’s 2015 report on poly parenting studies, called What About the Children?! Children in Polyamorous Families: Stigma, Myths, and Realities, four to five percent of Canadians identify as poly — and half of them are parents.

...The available research suggests that being raised by multiple parents or parents with multiple partners can, in fact, enrich the lives of these children. “[They] can benefit from having multiple loving parents who can offer not only more quality time, but a greater range of interests and energy levels to match the child’s own unique and growing personality,” says a 2013 study, Children of Polyamorous Families: A First Empirical Look. And parents benefit, too. ...

...Parenting was once much more of a community effort, with neighbours, elders and extended family all pitching in on child rearing. Now this system has eroded. ...

Additional partners aid parents in everything from child care to emotional support — or even being able to have a family in the first place. Liane, Ryan, Sean and Sue all live together in a big, cozy house, filled with books and musical instruments. It’s 9 p.m., and the babies — Fionn, and Sue’s daughter, Parker — have finally gone down for the night. The four parents are seated around the dining room table; Sean fidgets with a houseplant, playfully trailing the tendrils along the arm of Liane, who occasionally rubs Sue’s shoulders. Liane is involved, on and off, with Sean and Sue, and is dating someone, Dave Loewen, on the side. Ryan isn’t seeing anyone else at the moment. But having so many parents under one roof, he says, was what gave him the green light to become a father. “I feel very fortunate that [poly parenting] works so well for us,” says Ryan. “It’s almost impossible to imagine how hard it would be without it.” ...

...Toronto's Jenny Yuen, author of Polyamorous: Living and Loving More, also found her recovery sped along because she had more hands around the house. She gave birth to her daughter, Louise*, four months ago; her husband, Charlie*, is the father. She’s also in a relationship with Adam*, whom she describes as her life partner. “When it came time to give birth, Charlie and I each had a leg: I had the left and he had the right,” remembers Adam. ...


Kids can also learn valuable communication and relationship skills from poly parents and their partners, says the What About the Children?! report. “The priority put on openness, honesty and emotional literacy can foster an environment where children develop a tendency for higher emotional intelligence,” reads the report. “Other benefits for children in polyamorous families [include] a higher degree of maturity, self-confidence and self-reliance, as well as great interpersonal skills.” ...

With additional partners, however, comes more of everything — including clashes over parenting styles. ...

...Then there are the breakups. A 2009 study found that one of the most commonly cited disadvantages of poly family life is the kids’ pain in having to say more goodbyes to beloved partners more frequently. Michelle prefers to see this challenge as an opportunity to model good breakup behaviour for her boys and, as is common in the poly community, position the split as more of a transition than a break. ...

Elisabeth Sheff
● The work of sociologist Elisabeth Sheff comes up in any poly-and-kids discussion. Not poly herself, she is the only researcher who has followed a cohort of polyfamilies with children over a span of many years, to see how they change and develop. In the social and clinical sciences this is called a "longitudinal" study. Such long-term tracking studies are difficult to carry out, require much patience, and are highly prized for revealing things that snapshots in time do not.

Sheff has been following a set of polyfamilies for over 20 years. She warns that the sample of families was self-selected and, like the organized poly community overall, they are generally better educated and more socioeconomically secure than the US population average; these things themselves correlate with better outcomes for children.

Sheff is preparing a new formal analysis of the families and their offspring at the 20-year mark. On her Psychology Today blog The Polyamorists Next Door (named for her first book), she posted a 5-part summary of where her findings stand:

    – Part 1, Age dependent experiences and why these kids seem to be doing great.
    – Part 2, Advantages and disadvantages in polyamorous family life.
    – Part 3, Four strategies children use for dealing with challenges of poly family life.
    – Part 4, Young adults explain the impacts of being raised in polyamorous families.
    – Part 5, Child Custody in Polyamorous Families: New legal moves make the case for poly families fitting best interest of kids.

Her blogsite is rich with other material. For instance Having a Baby in a Polyamorous Relationship, "six suggestions to answer a concerned reader's question." And, Do Kids from Polyamorous Families Become Poly Themselves?.

● By poly educator Sarah Neal, on YourTango: What Really Happens To Children Of Polyamorous Parents (July 5, 2019):

...We realized that it was getting harder to keep our oldest two children in the dark. We weighed our options and did our research.

...To put it briefly, the research has shown that children who grow up in polyamorous families do not struggle any more than children with monogamous parents.

...The real struggles for children in poly families seem to be more from the outside than the inside. There are the "concerned" citizens and relatives who seem to think that these parents are having a parade of lovers traipsing through their homes and having orgies in the living room in front of the children.

Unfortunately, instead of having a conversation with these parents, they go straight to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

I have heard numerous horror stories about the State taking children out of their homes and placing them in the care of these "concerned" relatives and the parents than having to go through rigorous investigations to make sure the parents are not having orgies in the living room. Some of these "concerned" relatives are ex-spouses/partners and their families.

...Another source of problems for children of polyamorous parents is that while their friends may be completely cool with the idea of polyamorous parents, the parents of said friends may not be.

...What I will say from here on out is based on my experience.

"It takes a village…", as the saying goes. It's common parenting advice but it applies a little differently in polyamorous families. ...

My children are learning first hand that any relationship that is consensual and respectful is healthy.

They are learning that they can love how they want to love and that as long as it speaks true to their hearts, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Period.

My children are learning that love is not scarce. They are learning that love is Infinite, and that our choices aren’t about John and I not being enough for each other but that it is because we have a great deal of love to give. ...

My children are learning that it is perfectly natural, healthy and okay to establish platonic friendships with members of the opposite gender as well as those of the same gender who are gay, lesbian, or bi. ...

My children are learning that relationships take a lot of communication. Sometimes that communication is heated. ...

Heated discussions aside, they hear us have conversations about what is going on in the lives of our Others, they hear us make plans to spend time with our Others. They hear us communicate as we navigate through our relationships and try to find a good balance. ...

As I said, these are based on my experiences. The articles and books I have read concerning children and polyamory have been positive. The children turn out just fine.

● The website Knowable put up a collection of 19 stories from kids who grew up in poly households and a couple of approximations of poly households: These Stories Reveal What It's Like For Children With Polyamorous Parents (approx. June 28, 2017).

Here's the AskReddit thread that she collected them from: To the children of polyamorous relationships, what was your childhood like?. The question got 425 replies including comments and long discussion strings. (Comments are now closed.) Thanks to the Knowable writer for sorting out the actual people answering the question.

These are very encouraging. It's not like her selections showed a pro-poly bias; I worked through the entire thread and found that yes, these 19 are the complete set of genuine responders to the question.

● In the same vein, posted to reddit/r/polyamory: My Mom's Polycule (approx. Aug. 16, 2019):

● Kenna Cook, relationship columnist in Sacramento's Voices: River City: Parenting while polyamorous (April 23, 2018)

I’m a parent of two elementary school age kiddos, and I’m currently navigating custody battles, co-parenting struggles and finding my identity as ethically non-monogamous. I feel you deeply on the total lack of advice and real-life experiences in the media for adults who are juggling parenting and polyamory.

...I’ve searched high and low, and have thankfully found some amazing resources for balancing life as a polyamorous parent.

...Kevin Patterson, founder of Poly Role Models and author of Love’s Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and other Alternative Communities, is raising two smart and spunky daughters while married and actively polyamorous. He is a great resource for how to talk to your kids about relationships, consent and race.

Koe Creation, a Bay Area sex educator and writer, is second-generation polyamorous and helps families navigate gender, sexuality and relationship styles. [She recently published her memoir This Heart Holds Many: My Life as the Nonbinary Millennial Child of a Polyamorous Family.]

Lanae St. John, aka The Mamasutra, is an educator and coach focusing on helping parents talk to their kids about sex and relationships.

...Dr. Elisabeth “Eli” Scheff has been researching non-monogamous families for the last 20 years. Her research focuses on how both the parents and the kids view their lives, struggles and successes being influenced by non-monogamy. ... My biggest takeaways from Dr. Scheff’s research:

    – Kids didn’t feel pressured to become polyamorous. Kids were open to all types of relationship orientations for their personal relationships.
    – Kids report more personal resilience and have a better time establishing emotional relationships, self regulation and personal autonomy.
    – Kids have more ethical guides for behavior and boundaries from seeing multiple ethical relationships.
    – Kids retain an honest and open relationship with their parents into adulthood. ...

● A poly man writing at The Good Men Project: Raising a Child (and Being Poly) (Dec. 17, 2016):

My wife and I are of two completely different minds regarding our sojourn into the world of polyamory. On one hand, we believe in total transparency with the world around us. On the other hand, she has a deep-seated fear of how the outside world treats those who view that world differently.

...[We] live (for the moment) in a rather screwed up area of Western Pennsylvania....

Which would be fine except for one aspect of our lives; our child....

● A child of poly parents reflects, at McGill University: What my parents’ polyamory taught me (Nov. 27, 2018)

...As far as I can tell, every child goes through a frustratingly drawn-out period in which they have developed an understanding of other people’s emotions but aren’t quite empathetic enough to understand how to navigate them. I found out about my parents’ polyamory precisely during that period. I knew that I could hurt my mother by fighting her, by withholding my love, and by making her feel as if she didn’t matter to me. On the other hand, my father’s openness meant that I saw him as a human being for the first time. We had many more stove-lit conversations throughout my teenage years. In that time, he became a person in my eyes, navigating love and life, while my mother became the spectre of instability that I would unfairly reject for years. ...

● Polyamory Weekly podcast number 538: Coming out to kids. "Casey Blake is a South African sex educator who helps parents to break the silent taboo of speaking about our lives in ways that can make a difference for our children."

Also on Polyamory Weekly, a two-parter on poly parenting with Terisa Greenan and Matt Bullen: episodes 249 and 250.

Hey, Siri, Should I Have a Baby With My Boyfriend & His Wife? in the Parenting section of the women's mag SheKnows (Jan. 5, 2018)

Ashley Britton/SheKnows

By A. M. O'Connor

...“Do you want to have kids?” one woman asked me.

“How would that… work?” asked another.

TL;DR: I’m dating a person who is married to another person. We all date other people. We also all love each other and are committed to each other and our poly fam, whatever shape it takes.

...In some ways, having kids is a thing that scratches at the limits of the architecture of non-monogamy (perhaps unsurprisingly since having kids can also serve as the ultimate benchmark of any “real” heterosexual relationship).

So, for the time being, I suggested the only reasonable response. “Ask Siri.”

My friend in the front seat produced her phone and held the microphone to her mouth. “Hey Siri, should Acacia have a baby with her boyfriend and his wife?”

The car erupted with laughter and then hushed as we waited for the phone’s proclamation.

“I’m sorry. Only Acacia can answer that question.”


Parenting had come up early in my relationship in hypothetical terms. My boyfriend and I were plotting our “relationship map,” prodding its probable expansions into uncharted territory. ...

My boyfriend’s wife and I also freely fantasized about being pregnant at the same time. ...

My boyfriend and I joked too, but the question of co-parenting also felt weighty, with real implications. One day, a theoretical conversation about public schools became concrete. “I can never give you a stigma-free kid,” he said, and we talked about what that would mean. The choose-your-own-adventure quality of our relationship emboldened me to ask questions I might not have had the courage to ask a monogamous partner. It also built a rock-solid foundation of communication and trust that has made everything else in our relationship possible.

We established early that it would be hypothetically possible for us all to co-parent happily and successfully. But questions hung in the air: questions of whether we would authentically choose to go down that path together — the two of us and the three of us — and when and on what terms. ...

● Let's toss in a Kimchi Cuddles here. Orange-haired Pumpkin is the artist's daughter.

Used by permission. Here are Tikva Wolf's many other strips tagged poly parent or poly kids (click "previous").

● At Offbeat Home, part of the Offbeat Empire: Parents going poly: how to begin a polyamorous relationship when you already have kids (April 24, 2013)

...The truth is, it's probably not as complicated as you think. For a young child (under eight or so), social conventions are not as understood and accepted as they are for us adults. If you raise a child in a polyamorous home, they will probably never really find it odd.

I recently went to a panel by Dr. Sheff on poly families. One of the points she made that really stuck with me is that young children are very self-centered. They define everyone in terms of how they relate to themselves. Your new partner will not be "Mommy's Boyfriend" or "Daddy's Girlfriend", they will be "The one who gives back rides" or (in a less positive possibility) "The one who takes Mommy's time." If your new partner is already an established part of your lives, chances are they already have an established relationship with your child. Make a conscious effort to build on that. ... Age-appropriate questions will come up organically and should simply be given age appropriate answers as they happen.

Of course, you still need to consider all the usual step-parent questions. Who has the right to discipline your child? What are acceptable methods of disciplining? ... A lot of parents have an "Always back each other up" policy that prevents them from contradicting each other in front of the kid, but poly families are time sinks, and you don't always have a chance to talk later about why you think sitting on the counter doesn't deserve time-out.

There are also non-discipline questions to consider. Who is expected to make it to soccer games and school plays? Do you need a Writ of In Loco Parentis so your partner can make medical decisions if your child is hospitalized and you aren't available? Will your will grant your partner custody if something should happen to you and your husband? A lot of these are more long-term questions, but they should definitely be simmering in your mind.

● Also on Offbeat Home by the same author: It truly does take a village: polyamorous parenting and creating space for children:

So why did I suddenly find myself building a nursery for a 4 year old and a 2 year old? I mean, children normally come into your life in predictable stages. ... But I never saw these kids as infants. They sprang fully formed into my life. After knowing them for a little less than a year, I figured it was time they had their own room in my house.

...At this point, in addition to liking [other partner] as a person, I was also beginning to suspect that she and my husband were falling for each other and I really wanted to give that situation the time and space it needed to develop. Plus, I really liked those kids, and wanted to hang out with them almost as much as their parents. So when my roommate said he was moving out, I told him we'd miss him and all, but then immediately started planning how to redecorate his room. The results were everything I could have hoped for!

The boys were super enthusiastic about the bed they could bounce on, the rocket ship they could play in (and dismantle) and the box of toys which were brought to permanently live at our house (which means that they now only get to be played with when they're here). They now have their own beds to sleep in, a room to watch movies in, and a variety of options for entertainment.

All in all, I'd say it was a win-win for everyone. Daddy doesn't have to feel bad about leaving his wife in rural Georgia while he goes to the city to play. Mommy has a place to come have a social life of her own. My husband has an awesome new girlfriend. The boys have yet another place to feel like they are included and loved. And me? I get a kid's room in my house – screw what the budget says.

● On Mic.com: What It's Really Like to Live In a Polyamorous Household (July 5, 2016)

...Polyamory might seem like a new and cutting-edge parenting method, but some poly parents feel their families actually represent a return to the past. As Ben pointed out, it's common in other cultures for people other than parents — such as members of extended families — to help raise children, and multi-generational households have made a resurgence in the United States.

"We're returning back to our roots," he said. "It's great for the child because they get so much exposure to so many different gifts people have that they can share with them." ...

● On the popular parenting site Romper ("for millennial moms"): Why I'm Honest With My Kids About My Open Relationship (March 28, 2016)

By Margaret e Jacobsen

The first thing people always ask when I tell them about my open/polyamorous relationship is ""but what will you tell your children?!" The question always catches me off guard when I hear the panic in their voice, but my response is always the same: "I'll tell them the truth." What else would you tell a child?

...I've chosen to talk about my open relationship with my kids, who are 6 and 7, so that they understand what love and relationships look like for me, for some of my friends, and for other people around the world. My hope is that their ideas about love and relationships are formed without judgment, without boundaries, and that they're both open to possibilities, whatever they might be.

I tell them a story about when my daughter was 4 or 5. I was doing her hair, and she asked me, "Mama, when are you going to get a boyfriend?" At the time I did have a boyfriend, but my husband and I hadn't told the kids. I asked her why she thought this, and she responded, "I just want more adults to love me, and I want you to have more people to love you. I want a large family."

...When my kids talk about falling in love and having partners, it's not just limited to only one person, but to different possibilities with different people. Their beliefs surrounding love are beautiful because they understand that love looks different with different people, that it's not a one-size-fits-all experience. ... And no matter what they choose, I hope they know how happy all of their parents will be for them.

Also by the same author on Romper: Why I'm So Proud To Be A Mom In An Open Relationship (June 9, 2016).

● Also on Romper: Here's What It's Really Like To Parent When You're Polyamorous (Nov. 22, 2016)

Courtesy B R Sanders

By B R Sanders

My kid has three parents. There’s me, his dad Jon, and his mom Sam. We are polyamorous, meaning that the three of us are in a relationship and raise our child Arthur together.

...Sometimes, parenting with two other people is a godsend. Sometimes, it’s close to impossible, and occasionally it can be heartbreaking. But I do know one thing: If I didn’t have both of my partners around to co-parent with me, I don't know if I would feel like my own person.

The biggest advantage of having two co-parents is purely practical: we save a bundle on daycare, because there's always a parent around. So much of parenting consists of the mundane questions of child care: who is going to fix the kid a sandwich? Who can take him to the doctor? Who can take him to school?

With three people, the burden is a little lighter. ... Arthur always has a well-rested, engaged parent at his disposal — and sometimes two. If he’s lucky, he gets all three of us at once showering him with affection.

...With the three of us co-parenting, I can work and write and be a parent, while Jon can work and play music and Sam can be an activist. We get what we need from life and from each other, and we give everything we have to the family because we feel energized in all these spheres of our lives.

That said, poly parenting isn't all roses and sunshine. It’s hard enough navigating Important Parenting Decisions with one other person, so it's much harder navigating them with two. ...

Most polyamorous families grapple with not being treated as a legitimate family in one way or another, with some partners being turned away from a sick child's hospital bed and some even being fired from their jobs for being polyamorous. Because polyamorous families aren't yet recognized under the law, the best we can do for non-biological poly parents is form a non-binding co-parenting agreement. ... I have had to create files on files of legal documents to make sure my family stays intact without me in the event of my death, that Arthur stays with Sam, that what few assets I've managed to cobble together will go to all three of them. We are a square peg, and the legal system is a round hole.

Yet even though the law might not recognize us as a real family, we're a real family to the one person that truly matters: Arthur. ...

● And also on Romper, the parents of a 1-year-old plan for the future: Why We Are Going To Tell Our Son About Our Polyamorous Marriage (Jan. 25, 2016):

By David Clover

...In the simplest form, we plan to tell our son the truth. Secret keeping can be stressful for young children, so we want to do our very best to be open with him, and with others, without giving him information that he doesn’t need or that isn’t age appropriate. So he’ll probably know, for example, that his parents sometimes spend quality time with other adults, but I won't ever feel like I need to explain my sex life to him. Just like I don’t feel the need to tell him about the sex I have with his mom. ...

We’ll explain that our relationship is not about ownership, and that we allow each other (and ourselves!) the freedom to explore romantically out of love and respect. [That] I am in love with my wife. I think she’s one of the coolest people around, and I’m excited to get to share life with her. ...

We’ll explain that relationships are what you make them to be, and this is just one example. ... What a relationship is, and how it works, is up to the people in that relationship.

We’ll also explain how we got here. When my wife and I met, we both already identified as non-monogamous. It was something that brought us closer together, rather than a stumbling block for our relationship. Even so, we spent a lot of time talking it out, making sure that we were always respectful and aware of one and others feelings. ...

We’ll tell our baby boy that no matter what happens, he’s safe. ...

I think it's a very good thing for our son to grow up with a firm understanding of how his family is different from others, rather than us trying to put on a more “normal” face. My wife and I don't want to send the message to our son that we need to fit in, or that fitting in is the model of life to which he should subscribe to. ...

● In the parenting column of the mainstream Portland Mercury, Open Married with Children (online Feb. 9, 2016)

Tianhua Mao

By Heather Arndt Anderson

I’ll admit to having a few assumptions about people who engage in open relationships. ... But were any of these hunches correct?

Out of curiosity (and as a trained biologist with a fairly solid foundation in statistical analysis), I decided to collect data on the subject — which is to say I created a survey and shared it on social media. ...

“But... but... what about the children?”

That’s the second most common question poly folks are asked. With the growing prevalence and social acceptance of blended families, it’s not uncommon for children to grow up with multiple sets of parents; seeing kids with families that include adults other than their biological parents is not unusual, and so kids with non-monogamous parents are rarely outed. And growing up in open families doesn’t seem to have any of the negative impacts one might assume; studies from as early as the 1970s show that kids from households with multiple adults tend to have better self esteem, communication skills, and academic performance.

To gain a bit of perspective, I talked to my friend, “Esmeralda” about her experiences with polyamory. Unlike most poly families, Esmeralda has had the unique circumstance of having non-monogamous parents in addition to having an open marriage of her own. But more than having influenced her preference for sexual inclusivity, her parents instilled qualities that have carried on into relationships with all of her partners.

“I was raised in a very value-centric household — love and mutual support were primary,” she said, adding that she and her husband (who began dating in college) have always maintained an openness. “We were explicit in writing our marriage vows that we would commit to mutual support — not sexual or romantic fidelity.”

Like other poly parents (or most parents, for that matter), Esmeralda finds time and space management to be among her biggest challenges. This is especially true during the exciting beginnings of new relationships and during break-ups. Both situations can turn into a huge emotional sinkhole, running the risk of drawing too much energy away from her primary commitments — Esmeralda’s husband and kids.

Her kids, by the way, are fabulous, from what I’ve witnessed. Consistent with what studies of kids with poly parents have shown, they’re smart, imaginative, and kind, as well as being very articulate young people. With so many caring grown-ups around, it’s no surprise. Esmeralda says she and her husband don’t try to hide their lovers from their kids, and they talk to their children about everything — but they also exercise common sense regarding how much information to give them when they’re still so young.

“The kids are only starting to [understand the idea] there are different kinds of 'friends,’” Esmeralda said, “but they know and hang out with everyone I date. I feel the crucial thing is to not let it be a shameful thing, or a secret that they need to keep. So we’re open about it to the extent that makes sense.”...

● The LGBT world led the way on all matters of coming out, including to one's kids. This appeared in Curve magazine, covering both gay and poly households: 5 Tips for Coming Out to Your Kids, by Yana Tallon Hicks (Nov. 5, 2009). "Give your child the right tools for the job."

● Jessica Mahler's bibliography of research on the effects of ethical nonmonogamy on children, as of 2017. She writes, "We need a lot more research into children raised in polyamorous relationships before we can say anything definite." However,

What we know at the moment is that children raised in healthy polyamorous families are just as healthy, confident and well-adjusted as children raised in monogamous families. Children who have been raised in polyamorous families report that they having additional adults in their lives to spend time with, support their interests, etc. Contrary to many expectations, changes in a polyamorous relationships do not appear to affect kids the way divorce often does. Instead, the children manage to adjust to the transition fairly well. This may be because the children’s home and parental structure is rarely disrupted by the change, or because their parents (bio and poly) report making an effort to allow children to continue relationships with poly partners who are no longer part of the family.

Most studies have focused on families where the parents are “out” about being polyamorous. There is a common belief (one I share) that hiding a polyamorous relationships from children will harm them, as children are very good at finding out their parent’s secrets, and children are more likely to assume their parents are having an affair leading to fears about the break up of their family, in addition to loss of trust and anger with their parents.

Mahler also wrote the books Polyamory and Pregnancy (2013), The Polyamorous Home (2017), and Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous (2019).

● And finally, Kim and her daughter Pumpkin clear things up:


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