Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

December 8, 2006

"Three on a match can be dangerous"

Chicago Sun-Times

Couples therapist and newspaper columnist Laura Berman goes on a tear against more-than-twoness, and members of the poly community rally with letters in response. From the Chicago Sun-Times for Dec. 4, 2006:

The most common male fantasy is (drum roll)... a menage a trois. Though I was all for acting out the submission fantasy in women, I'm not on board with this one.

Threesomes, as they are less charmingly called, can be STD-riddled, jealousy-filled excursions that I don't recommend most couples take....

A 2004 Primetime Live survey found threesomes are the most popular fantasy among men, at 33 percent, but not so much among women, at 9 percent....

I think we can all see why the threesome fantasy would rarely work in reality.

First, there are the logistics. How are you going to find a cache of willing participants to keep the fantasy fires burning? It would be like a casting call for a Hollywood B-movie, or a full-time job.

In all seriousness, though, threesomes take a psychological toll.

What sounds like good fun sexually can be very different in the real world of relationships. Bringing a third person into your sex life is never simple. There is the risk of jealousy, feelings of inferiority by virtue of comparison, and losing the intimacy that, up to that point, only you and your partner have shared.

In my clinical practice, I've found that when people swing there is usually a problem. Sharing sex with multiple partners is seldom an offshoot of a healthy relationship.

...Polyamory, that pie-in-the-sky idea that you can love and bed more than one person at a time, ultimately doesn't work. Rather, it's a much better idea to find ways to spice up your sex life a deux....

(Laura Berman, Ph.D., is a couples therapist and director of Chicago's Berman Center. E-mail her at drberman@suntimes.com .)

Read the whole article. Letters to the editor are welcome; go to http://www.suntimes.com/aboutus/feedback/index.html and select "Letters to the Editor" from the dropdown box.

Polyamory Weekly podcast host cunning minx, who is also from Chicago, quickly replied thusly (reprinted with permission):

Dr Berman:

I believe that the beliefs that you present in your recent article, "Three on a Match Can Be Dangerous," are a bit biased and show a lack of full research that does your readers a disservice.

First, in answer to your question, "How are you going to find a cache of willing participants to keep the fantasy fires burning?", there are a variety of resources available for the non-monogamous among us, including www.polymatchmaker.com, www.okcupid.com, and a plethora of swinger and polyamorous sites, clubs, educational groups and more. A quick Google search would have revealed that -- did you do one before you came to this conclusion?

And while I agree that finding an emotionally and sexually compatible partner does take effort (as it does when one is monogamous), it is not "like a casting call for a Hollywood B-movie, or a full-time job."

I also agree that bringing a third, fourth or fifth person into your relationship isn't by any means simple, but most relationships aren't simple to begin with; even a monogamous relationship takes a great deal of work long-term to keep its participants connected, happy and fulfilled. And you're also correct in stating that jealousy and insecurity are issues to be dealt with. But aren't those issues in many monogamous relationships as well? I wonder if you advise all your monogamous readers to do away with their relationships because they are sometimes jealous or insecure. To me, your advice sounds akin to "Well, when you work downtown, you sometimes have to deal with traffic, so you should quit and be unemployed." Every relationship suffers from its participants' insecurities and jealousies at some point, but I doubt you advise that monogamy "doesn't work" because its practitioners sometimes get jealous.

And as for your statement that "Polyamory, that pie-in-the-sky idea that you can love and bed more than one person at a time, ultimately doesn't work. Rather, it's a much better idea to find ways to spice up your sex life a deux," I would also suggest that this characterization of polyamory does your readers a disservice. If you would like, I'd be happy to connect you with thousands of people for who polyamory is not "pie in the sky" but a satisfying relationship lifestyle of five, ten or even thirty years. And you didn't give any basis for your belief that polyamory "doesn't work" -- how exactly did you, as a doctor and journalist, come to this conclusion? While polyamory isn't for everyone and certainly shouldn't be used as a band-aid for an ailing monogamous relationship, for many of us, it is indeed a much more satisfying lifestyle than monogamy.

Dr. Berman, I applaud for bringing polyamory to the mainstream and undoubtedly sending people rushing to Wikipedia to look up the term, but I am disppointed that your research seems one-sided and incomplete.


She writes as well as she talks, say I. And this was sent off by Anita Wagner:

Dear Dr. Berman:

I am a polyamory activist and spokesperson who is writing to object to your recent statement about polyamory in your column in which you refer to it as a pie-in-the-sky idea that doesn't work. I recognize that you draw some of your opinions and points of view from your own experience, but I believe it does you no credit to speak solely from that point of view. The polyamory movement is growing fast, and it does so because for many couples monogamy just doesn't work over the long-term. Many people find that no amount of sexing it up a deux enhances monogamy enough to provide what is missing.

It is true that not everyone succeeds at polyamory, and that it requires significant levels of self-awareness and a willingness to grow. Polyamorous couples in steadily increasing numbers know how to manage jealousy, remain committed to all their relationships, and in so doing change their lives mutually for the better. This is already being demonstrated as more and more marriage and family therapists take the time to learn the truth about this life- and love-affirming relationship paradigm. There are also increasing numbers of researchers studying polyamory and writing about what they learn, whose work will ultimately verify what I am saying here. I imagine it will be in your professional best interest to recognize at minimum that the jury is still out on this one and withhold negative, publicly influential opinion until the truth is learned scientifically.

Best regards,
Anita Wagner
The Institute for 21st Century Relationships
Herndon, Virginia

Others have been writing too. There's also a discussion underway at the LiveJournal Polyamory Community. Good to see that we respond quickly and intelligently.