Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

December 9, 2006

"Unfaithful? No, I just have too much love for one man"

Daily Mail (London)

My wife, who lived in England for eight years, calls the Daily Mail "a newspaper for small-c conservative poor-me housewives." Two days ago (December 7, 2006), it served them up a depressing poly-mono tale. The lady in the story, after much misery, and marriage and kids, realized that she was hardwired poly and always had been. Her thunderstruck husband is mono. He gave her freedom — and though it worked for a while, he ended up moving out. The picture is blurred by buckets of the reporter's editorializing to cover spots where her facts are thin or contradictory.

By Alison Smith-Squire

Sarah Wheeler's three-year-old son turned to his parents at the breakfast table and flashed them a smile of sweet innocence. 'I love you Mummy, and I love you Daddy.' As his parents smiled fondly back, Oscar turned to the second man sitting at the table and said: 'And I love you too, Jeff.'

His mother Sarah is quick to recount this tender little scene. 'I felt so proud of my son,' she enthuses. 'It was a wonderful moment, because I realised that, like me, Oscar could feel deep emotions for someone other than his immediate family.'

Little Oscar is, of course, far too young to understand that the smiling man sitting between his parents is his mother's lover. Or that her belief in free love and multiple relationships has come at a very high price indeed.

Since this touching little breakfast scene six months ago, Sarah's husband Ben has moved out of the family home. Jeff — a legal secretary, her current 'love' and her junior by more than ten years — remains. But he, too, believes in free love and regularly has sex with other women.

It's hardly the sort of stable or moral environment one might wish for Oscar and his younger brother Archie. But even more shocking is that this whole sordid arrangement is being dressed-up as an 'acceptable' middle-class practice, known as polyamory.

...'One night, I told Ben how trapped I was feeling and how I had fallen for someone else. I remember saying: "I love you but I have feelings of love for this man as well."

'Ben was totally shocked and very upset. He was devastated at the thought that I no longer loved him, and as we both cried I reassured him over and over again that I still loved him as much as ever.

...One morning, as her baby played at her feet, Sarah was surfing the net when she 'accidentally' clicked onto a website which explained the 'principles' behind polyamory.

'I didn't even know the right way to pronounce the word, let alone what it meant, but I read that the polyamorist movement, which originates from America, believes that love is unlimited. Just like a mother can love several children equally, they believe women and men can love several partners at the same time.

...Without a hint of irony, she recalls: 'Ben looked absolutely horrified. He didn't like the idea at all. He wanted us to work through our problems together. He wanted me to be happy — but he also wanted me all to himself.

...Incredibly, both Sarah and Ben agree that their marriage briefly became stronger as she enjoyed an open sexual relationship with Jeff.

Ben, 31, says: 'I was jealous when Sarah began seeing other men, but, strangely enough, because she was honest and we discussed my feelings, it was easier to cope with.

'For a while, I even think that polyamory made our relationship stronger. Sarah was so much happier and there was far less stress between us.

'Also, I felt confident that no matter what happened she did keep coming back to me. It made me feel more loved, if anything.'

Sarah now had the casual sex — or rather the 'shared love' — that she craved. But the price was high. Within months her sex life with her husband had ceased, and in May this year Ben moved out of the marital home.

Sarah insists: 'Our marriage had just reached a natural end. It had nothing to do with the polyamory or the fact that my lover was staying with us. It would have ended anyway.

'Ben still comes around for dinner and at present we have no plans for a divorce. Meanwhile, both Jeff and I have had brief relationships with other people. I cannot ever imagine having a monogamous relationship again.

...But what of Oscar and Archie, the two innocent victims of this extraordinary arrangement? Sarah insists: 'My sons are growing up confident and happy little boys. They still see Ben and they enjoy Jeff's company, too.'...

...Only time will tell what effect this whole unhappy saga will have on Sarah's young sons....

Read the whole article. You can also leave a comment on the newspaper's site at the end of the article. If the article disappears, you can read the text here.

Skip over the reporter's editorializing; here's some of my own. The lady did her husband dirt. In her reading about polyamory, she apparently never read the common guideline, "Move at the pace of the slowest person." Or about how to recognize the effects of NRE on yourself and to treat your old partner extra well accordingly. My wife says the lady's attitude reminds her of the big-C Conservatives: "I'm alright, Jack; I got what I want. You've got a problem, it's your job to deal with it."

Not a good advertisement for poly. Doesn't it seem to go better when it's embedded in alternative culture, rather than in such normalcy? Opinions?

Update December 13: The husband in the story has written in to post a whole new viewpoint; see "comments" below. Summary: he's actually oriented poly, the Daily Mail failed to report this fact despite being told, and our opinions about him and his wife have been badly misled by "that dreadful rag."



Blogger Marti said...

One of the worst poly examples... ever.

December 09, 2006 12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, though this isn't really an example of poly. It's an example of someone using poly to legitimize their own destructive behavior. Of course, the article tone doesn't help to call out that distinction either. Still, for good or ill, it seems for once both the polyamorists and the monogamists are in agreement -- this woman isn't doing anyone any favors with her bone-headed attempt at poly. For all her Internet reading about it, it seems she skipped over the articles that talk about it being responsible non-monogamy, because what she's done is quite irresponsible indeed.

December 10, 2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger Tom Paine said...

Ah, why DO the heathen rage?

December 11, 2006 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I'm not mono.

I was, obviously, but as I told the writer of the article (and either she or the Mail chose not to report), right now, poly makes more sense to me than mono. This is not just a reaction to having been hurt and therefore being scared of commitment. After all, poly is not about non-commitment, is it. It's a reaction to having discovered, the hard way, that my old relationship pattern wasn't good for *me*. It's the one I inherited from my parents, and it didn't/doesn't really work for them either, certainly doesn't seem to produce the kind of relationship I now want. So I need a new pattern. Poly, in some form, seems to fit the bill -- though until I've actually tried it, I'm keeping an open mind (for now I'm zerogamous as I need to rebuild my relationship with myself first and foremost)

Some of the criticism of the way in which my wife went about bringing poly into our lives is undoubtedly justified, but a lot of it is the result of commentators consciously or unconsciously absorbing the editorial and/or outright fictional components of the story and then regurgitating them as if they believe them. I have found it interesting to watch people's reactions, from the privileged position of knowing the truth, and therefore being able to see exactly how a story can be spun into an opinion: an opinion which is then adopted osmotically by its readers and becomes their own. I have been fascinated, and somewhat perturbed, by how easily people can be manipulated. Including my wife, who by a combination of optimism, ignorance and naivety, really believed she would get a fair hearing in that dreadful rag. I guess I suffered the same lack of reality check if I believed that my genuine acceptance of poly was going to make it into the article.


December 13, 2006 10:11 AM  

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