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

March 23, 2009

Psychology Today columnist lays an egg of dumb.

Psychology Today

In the March/April 2009 Psychology Today, longtime columnist Hara Estroff Marano displays some chip-on-the-shoulder un-informitude:

Q: Can an open relationship work?

My partner and I have been together 10 years.... we are eager to give it a try. We are both open-minded individuals in creative professions and don't believe in putting restrictions on each other. Do you think this can work?

A: The short answer is no. At least not for the long haul. Sooner or later someone will form an outside attachment.... I'm wondering what you two expect to get out of your escapades, whether you two are secretly hoping to find some Peter Pan escape.... If you are so creative, why don't put that energy into the existing relationship and use the trust between you as a springboard for endless inner and outer exploration and excitement? Of course, it takes guts; it's much easier to look outside for excitement than to find the source within.

It's not on the magazine's website (yet), but to read the whole thing, here's an image of the page; it's the second item. (Thanks to Michelle of the National Polyamory Leadership Summit for finding this.)

You can send a letter to "comment on the magazine," or snail-mail it to Letters, Psychology Today, 115 E. 23rd St. 9th floor, New York, NY 10010.

True, open relationships often don't work. Marano's stupidity is in saying they don't ever work. Telling that to us is about like telling a romping American Atheists convention that atheists do not exist (as I've seen some evangelicals claim). God help the poly couple who wastes their money on a therapist like this.

By the way, here's a list of poly-friendly professionals; here's another list; here's another. At the very least, sound out a therapist about his or her knowledge of, and openness about, matters that are important to you before you sign on.

And here are two articles to give therapists to read (on their own time, not yours):

What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory, by Geri D. Weitzmann.
Working with Polyamorous Clients in the Clinical Setting, by Joy Davidson.

However, Marano does say something in her column that is true: "Often, one partner wants an open relationship more than the other but presents it as something for the benefit of both." Note the qualifier "often." Of course, when discussing relationship changes you need to talk about it with your partner at length, showing genuine respect for his or her wants and needs, and with no hurry, and with no bullshit lines about what he or she should want.




Blogger Unknown said...

Re: the "often" comment--Ironically, I think something that happens more often than is usually recognized is what happened with us--the "reluctant" partner eventually becomes the one more invested in polyamory.

Be careful what you wish for...

March 23, 2009 1:49 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

> ...the "reluctant" partner
> eventually becomes the one
> more invested in polyamory.

The stereotype is that it's the guy who talks the woman into it, and then it's the woman who takes charge and makes it work when the clueless guy discovers he's in over his head.

There's a similar thing told in the swinging world.

March 23, 2009 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By Marano's reasoning, you shouldn't try monogamy either. It rarely works. My husband and his sweetie have been together over 15 years ... lots longer than most monogamous marriages I know.

March 23, 2009 2:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

@Alan--yes, sounds about right. :^) I think it has a lot to do with the fact that women are socialized to be givers. Once they recognize how helpful it can be to have multiple partners (childcare, housework, more income even if one person is staying home with the kids...), they tend to be all for it.

@Anonymous--I know! Taking the pressure of some relationships to be "the one" can allow them to persist far longer than most marriages. My secondary partner and I have been together for over 27 years now. I've "only" been married for 18.5!

March 23, 2009 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pointing out that judging whether someone should try a relationship style based on its societal track record would immediately rule out monogamy too. I think that's something that needs to be pointed out over and over again whenever anyone uses the argument "it doesn't work out every time, therefore it's bad".

You can see my first draft response (and eventually the final letter) on my LJ at http://joreth.livejournal.com/142845.html

March 23, 2009 4:11 PM  
Blogger Mischa said...

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes..."

Thanks for posting this Alan!

March 23, 2009 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, to put it simply…

Rarely do most monogamous relationships last.

Anyone with an active and functioning mind knows that relationships at a quickening pace are disintegrating into the abyss.

The reason being is that the demands two people place solely on each other are not only unreasonable, but completely unfair.

It takes more “guts” to think of creative ways to keep and nurture the relationship by opening it, rather than taking the easy road of ditching it (serial monogamy) because that one person cannot(understandably) provide you everything (come on) you need from another person.


March 23, 2009 8:50 PM  
Blogger Anita Wagner Illig said...

This is certainly not the first time an "expert" therapist has demonstrated a troubling lack of awareness of just how ill-informed they are when it comes to polyamory. See my blog posts here and here.

It occurs to me that there is something larger at foot than individual failings. I think what we are seeing is clear evidence of just how much needs to be done to educate even the most visible and respected therapists. We are also seeing just how hard it is for people to envision how a healthy open relationship might look. Thankfully, the Institute for 21st Century Relationships is about to release a 12 page informational document to be made available to therapists who need more indepth education about polyamorous relationships.

March 24, 2009 1:48 PM  
Blogger bucklawrence said...

Please recognize the true source of this article's appearance here: Michelle of the Polyamorous Leadership Network. She first brought it to my attention.

March 24, 2009 10:30 PM  

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