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

March 18, 2010

Mo'Nique prompts lots of open-marriage news

Actress Mo'Nique Imes-Hicks won an academy award a couple weeks ago, bringing new attention to her proclaimed open marriage. The award was anticipated in advance. Accordingly, we saw a flurry of open-marriage items in the media:

• The Frisky ("Love. Life. Stars. Style.") did a story about her and seven other celebrity couples who are public about being in some sort of open relationship (March 4, 2010). Most of these seem pretty one-sided in favor of the guy, except for Tilda Swinton's household and Will & Jada Pinkett Smith. A poly blogger discusses and categorizes them.

• The day after the Academy Awards, KDAF-TV 33 in Dallas/Fort Worth did a 2½-minute report on open marriage centering on local writer Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. See transcript and video (March 8, 2010).

• Your Tango ("smart talk about love") presented "Five Open Marriage Myths: What you may not know about polyamory and open relationships". Their five myths:

1. Open marriages are all about sex....
2. Both partners [necessarily] have multiple lovers....
3. People in open marriages consider monogamy old-fashioned....
4. Non-monogamous relationships are less challenging than monogamous ones....
5. Polyamory is harmful to kids....

• Belisa Vranich had a "Fox on Sex" article on the Fox News website:

"Big Love:" The Different Kinds of Polyamory

By Belisa Vranich | March 11, 2010

“Swinging saves you from cheating — there’s no lies and deception. It’s letting people have the variety they crave, but their partners get to have power and choice in the matter.”
— Danielle, 31

“If done right, it can keep relationships together, rather than add to the statistics of divorce or miserable deceptive marriages.”
— Jonathan, 46

...How does polyamory (having multiple intimate relationships simultaneously, with full consent) differ from swinging? Are swingers nudists? (Not necessarily, though I am sure some nudists might swing). Are bondage and S&M essential parts of swinging? (Nope, not essential). And then there are the numerous e-mails I get that about “cuckolding” (men who like watching their wives having sex, which might have an undercurrent of psychological humiliation to it).

...The topic that reoccurs is the amount of communication that is needed. Couples in “alternative” or “open” relationships have to express themselves very precisely about their comfort levels, boundaries and desires....

Read the whole article.

• A dumber article came out around the same time on the Psychology Today site:

The Truth About Open Marriage

By Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.

Some couples want their sexual freedom, but don't want their relationship freighted with the lies, secrets and ongoing deceptions that affairs require. In some cases, a contract for an open marriage is negotiated and agreed upon.

For example, one couple I saw in therapy had a "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy. They promised each other that they would only have sex one time with outside parties to avoid emotional entanglements — a promise that struck me as easy to break, given the agreed-upon silence....

...I've worked with several couples who experimented with open marriages, quickly terminated the experiment when one or both partners started feeling badly, and moved forward from there. I have actually met one (only one) couple in my four decades of professional experience who claim to thrive over the years — as parents and partners — with an open marriage.

They are by far the very rare exception, not the rule. Usually, at least one person becomes an emotional casualty....

Read the whole article (March 6, 2010). Many of her warnings are sensible, so why is this dumb? Because she never seems to have considered that her clients are all in troubled marriages; that's why they come to her. She doesn't see the happy couples. They teach about sampling bias in high-school statistics, duhh.

• On the other hand, a long, excellent feature article appeared in the Sunday Times of London:

Making an open relationship work

By Kate Spicer | Feb. 28, 2010

“We protect monogamy like some sacred cow, but for me it has always felt like a dictatorship.” Alexandra Salafranca, 27, and her husband had a year of “theoretical discussions” about the rights and wrongs of monogamy. She brought it up first. “I have never understood why you can have lots of friends but only one lover. When I was younger, I was always cheating on my boyfriends, either emotionally or physically,” she says.

...Life’s statistics make a mockery of our cultural dedication to monogamous relationships. Monogamy is expected by 95% of couples, yet a survey, by the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University, of sexually active Seattle residents aged 18-39 found 27% of men and 18% of women reported that during their most recent sexual relationship, they had had sex with at least one other partner. Is this shocking? If you’re a regular tabloid reader, probably not.

More astonishingly, in the 1990s, Robin Baker, then an evolutionary biologist at Manchester University, discovered that 8% of children are conceived when a woman has recently slept with another man. Another statistic reveals that 10% of children in Britain don’t belong to the men they’re supposed to. This, says Baker, “is normal behaviour for a mammal”....

...“There are far more open relationships than you might think,” says Tristan Taormino, the author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. While half the couples she interviewed for the book were, indeed, committed to being “alternative”, the other half were “just living their lives, and didn’t consider themselves anything out of the ordinary”.

Graham Nicholls has always had open relationships, and they generally have been successful. “My first advice to anyone considering one would be to do the ‘opening process’ together,” he says....

...By all accounts, an open marriage is hard work. Yet the sort of people who go about an open relationship in a sensible manner will devote themselves to unpicking possessive and jealous instincts as much as they can. “Our automatic response is ‘You’re mine and nobody else is gonna have you’, even if your higher motives are: I want freedom and I want you to have freedom,” says Taormino. “I have been in a committed relationship for nine years, and it’s open because I do not want to restrict the freedom of someone I love. Personally, though, I’ve struggled with jealousy — everyone does.”

She devotes a whole chapter of Opening Up to jealousy; and the whole of the following chapter to “compersion”. Compersion is what you feel when you have reprogrammed your brain not to feel jealousy any more. “Jealousy is learnt behaviour,” says Taormino, “reinforced by everything from complex German opera to advertising.” Compersion aims to work with the heat and passion of jealousy and turn it into pleasure at seeing or knowing your other half is enjoying pleasure. It’s the sort of sympathetic joy that most people can only identify with from watching their kids have a great time.

Nicholls thinks it is “an almost spiritual state of being. There is a real power to being able to empathise with your other half’s feelings for their other lover. It is powerful because it is hard, but once you experience it, you find an emotional freedom that changes the way you view relationships”.

Noble indeed. Unimaginable to most. All the people I spoke to for this story had experienced fierce jealousy, yes, but were able to intellectually redraw those feelings. If they could not, then they sat down with their spouse, talked about it and redrew the boundaries....

...“It is not for the faint-hearted; it is a process that will take communication, devotion and energy. If you are busy, do not attempt an open relationship.”

And perhaps it is this, more than anything else, that puts an awful lot of people off. Cheating is simply easier.

Read the whole article (Feb. 28, 2010).

While we're on the topic, here are a couple of older open-marriage items that I hadn't posted yet:

Details, a piggy men's fashion magazine, did a story on agreements between couples to have adventures:

I'm in a taxi late at night, drunkenly putting the moves — rusty but surprisingly effective — on a friendly young publicist, when I'm struck by several buzz-killing realizations: My son has swimming tomorrow and his bathing suit has gone AWOL. I have to reschedule a conference at my 4-year-old daughter's school. There are only two chicken nuggets left in the freezer. And my wife's birthday is next week.

The last one is really important — the woman deserves something nice; without her, I wouldn't be getting it on....

Read the whole article.

• Your Tango has reprinted Jenny Block's "Four Steps to Opening a Marriage", from her book:

...Being in a successful open marriage is about four things: 1) finding the support you need, both within your marriage and from the people around you; 2) accepting that jealousy is a manufactured emotion that, with enough conscious effort, you can learn to let go of; 3) treating an open marriage as you would a traditional one — that is, normalizing it as a choice for everyone; and 4) overcoming people's fears and misunderstanding of open marriage and its supposed consequences on society at large.

...Number one is support from your spouse. Open marriage is productive only if both partners are onboard. And because the rules can morph and change, it requires ongoing attention and communication....

...You have to be strong enough to deal with all of the new feelings, problems, and experiences that it might throw at you. You have to know that jealousy is bound to rear its ugly head....

...Making an open marriage effective means being prepared to work through any rough spots with your friends, surrounding yourself with as many enlightened people as you can, and setting an example for people of just how normal and reasonable an open marriage can be....

...The final stage in figuring out how to be in a successful open marriage is overcoming our own worries and other people's misunderstandings about how we define our relationships....

Read the whole article.

Whew! Eight items in one post! They seem to be coming faster these days.


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