A therapist for polyfolks speaks out
For its Valentine's-week issue, a long-established alternative paper in northern California profiles a local marriage and family therapist who specializes in poly relationships.
Polyamory: Love, multiplied
Counseling people who have more than one partner
By Christine G.K. LaPado
On a list of specialties that includes life coaching, relationship issues, sex therapy and spirituality, local marriage and family therapist Adrienne Parker-Morano also includes polyamory.
...Polyamory, explained Parker-Morano, means “having more than one love.” Marriage to one of those lovers may or may not have anything to do with it.
“I think that we’re all polyamorous,” said the statuesque 56-year-old, seated in her office on the fourth floor of the Waterland-Breslauer building in downtown Chico. Parker-Morano is married to widely known local musician Jerry Morano (see “Keeping Chico’s beat,” CN&R, Jan. 13, 2011), and is the proud grandmother of “a passel” of grandkids.
“We all love more than one person,” she offered. “It’s the possibility, the potential, the option to have more than one relationship that distinguishes polyamory.
...“It’s important to understand,” she added, “that the focus is on the intimate love relationship, not on the sex. It’s really all about love, although sex is an option.”
Parker-Morano said that approximately three-fourths of her clients “are dealing with polyamory [issues].” Clients often “come out of the woodwork,” she said, and from as far away as Sacramento and towns north of Chico. Parker-Morano said she receives “a lot of referrals” from other therapists who do not have the expertise in the field of polyamory that she does.
Most of her clients, she said, “are married, but most are not monogamous, or if they are, they are contemplating opening up their relationship. Maybe they’re trying to be monogamous, or are having affairs, cheating, sick of lying, and are saying, ‘How can we open up our marriage without deceit, lying or hiding?’ ”
...She spoke of the frequency in the poly world of people who have a “primary” partner — often a legal spouse with whom they raise children and share finances — and a “secondary” relationship. In such an arrangement, a person’s “first and foremost responsibility is to the primary relationship,” said Parker-Morano, adding that’s it’s “not a hierarchy of love, but rather a hierarchy of time and energy.”
She recommends that married polyamorous couples “make a conscious effort to renew their vows yearly, and have their vows reflect their evolved views” of the relationship, so that things remain open and honest.
Parker-Morano said she first became aware of polyamory in the early 1980s when she was attending a conference and met a “quad” — two women and two men living together as a “polyfidelitous” — or “polyexclusive” — entity....
“I was intrigued from that point on,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow — people can actually be in more than one loving relationship at a time, and they tell the truth.’ ” Parker-Morano said she was impressed by the “openheartedness and the inclusiveness” of polyamory.
...“Polyamory offers people another choice,” she said. “Polyamory is a lot about maintaining relationships. As a therapist, that is one of my personal biases. Not that I am opposed to divorce — sometimes it’s the right thing. But I definitely do have a bias to sustaining the relationship. Sometimes they just need to switch things up a bit. Or a lot.”
...“Whether you’re monogamous or nonmonogamous, you have to keep to your agreement,” Parker-Morano summed up. “If your agreement is you’re going to be monogamous, you better darn well be monogamous. But if your agreement is you’re going to have more than one sexual partner, you’re not cheating.”
“I freely admit — it’s complicated. There’s no blueprint,” she said. “If you’re a person who likes things simple, polyamory probably isn’t for you. Polyamory takes a lot of emotional maturity, and it’s not for everyone.”
Read the whole article, with photo (Feb. 10, 2011).