Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

July 29, 2013

The Washingtonian magazine:
"Married But Not Exclusive"

The glossy, trendy city magazine of Washington, DC, is just out with its August issue, which contains a much-awaited feature on area couples in open and poly marriages. One of the few people identified by her real name is Anita Wagner Illig, a DC polyactivist who recruited three couples for the writer. "I gave it a fast read standing in CVS and what I see thus far looks good," she writes. "I think Brooke treated the subject fairly."


Married, But Not Exclusive

For some couples, one relationship is not enough

By Brooke Lea Foster

Kyle didn’t like the idea of watching his wife have sex with another man. While he wasn’t the jealous type — he could watch his wife flirt with another guy and not feel a thing — voyeurism didn’t turn him on.

But the rules of marriage were forever changed for Kyle, a stay-at-home dad, and his wife, Hope, a psychotherapist, when they decided to open their marriage to other romantic and sexual partners. It was Hope’s idea.

...That’s how Kyle found himself in the bedroom of another man two years ago; he’d insisted on tagging along on Hope’s date. Kyle, 42, prides himself on being a loving husband, and he wanted to make sure another man would treat his wife respectfully, tenderly even, during sex. “He’s very protective of me,” says Hope, 36.

This is the point at which most people start looking for holes in Kyle and Hope’s marriage, reasons why having multiple partners doesn’t make sense — or, for the less open-minded, why this suburban couple is off their rocker: Are they unhappy? Their sex life must be bad. They’ve got to be into some kinky stuff, right? But the answer — they swear — is no, no, and no.

Kyle and Hope have been married ten years. They have two little boys, a nice home in Alexandria, and a close relationship. They have sex no more than any other couple chasing around two kids does, but they are in love....

“We saw it all as a big experiment,” Kyle says. “We wanted to try it out and see what it was like.”

He struggled in the beginning. While Hope seemed to meet new boyfriends easily, Kyle hadn’t been confident dating in his twenties. Suddenly he was back to standing awkwardly at parties trying to make conversation with women. He scrolled through the “polyamorous” listings on Craigslist and OkCupid, looking for women open to dating multiple people at once. He tried to remember how to flirt....

Then he met Jane — a five-foot-ten, curvy woman with dirty-blond hair — at a party for polyamorous people. “We just clicked,” he says.... Hope encouraged Kyle; she really liked Jane....

...This is how he puts it: “If you look at the relationship Hope and I have, sex was the main connector. If I wanted sex, I had to get it from her. But when we could sleep with anyone, sex was no longer a reason to stay together.... Suddenly, we were asking ourselves: Why am I with this person now, if not for sex? That’s why this experience has made our relationship so much stronger. I’m still with Hope because I love her. She’s wonderful. We have children together. We built a life together. Sex is just one aspect of why we stay together.”

And sex is only one reason why couples practice polyamory. The word means “many loves,”...


Polyamorists don’t think monogamy is wrong; they simply believe it’s not for everyone. But hearing “poly” couples speak of monogamy is like listening to an ex-con reflect on his years in prison....

Surprisingly, [sociologist Elisabeth] Sheff says, it’s often the women who flourish most in polyamory. Females tend to enjoy developing emotional connections with other partners more than men do, and they like the leverage it gives them in their marriage.

“A husband can’t do what he likes day to day and get away with it,” Sheff says. “Suddenly a wife has the power to vote with her feet.” For example, while a monogamous wife isn’t going to file for divorce because her husband didn’t load the dishwasher, a poly woman might feel annoyed and head to her boyfriend’s house to vent. Child care tends to be shared more equally because both partners are suddenly scheduling dates on a social calendar. Plus, women have the pick of the litter because there are fewer polyamorous women than men....

...“If you can derive joy from other people’s joy, even when you’re not the cause, then you can be poly,” [Kyle] says. “If not, you’re going to be at odds with it. It would have been very selfish of me to be upset at that moment. But I wouldn’t have known that unless I tried it.”

The long, 3,000-word article is not on the magazine's website. UPDATE: Now it is (July 30, 2013).

A comment from me. All of the people we see in the article are married couples embedded in conventional society. The article might have acknowledged that this is just one branch of poly, and that many other people treat it more radically — life-hacking new ways of community and tribal living for themselves and their intimates, farther outside of mainstream ways and assumptions.

I say this after coming back from 10 days at the Network for a New Culture's annual Summer Camp East not too far from DC. Summer Camp is an experiment in creating radically new ways of social relating based on transparency, curiosity, intimacy, compassionate sharing, self-examination, self-responsibility, and directness — helped along by busy sharing of work and play, daily ZEGG Forum, workshop presenters coming through to offer their stuff, and a pretty open sexuality among some of those mutually inclined. If I have seen the future, this version of it is damn impressive and I want to live there. Many of us found it sad and disorienting to drive away afterward back into the Dark Ages.

Kamala Devi and her partner Michael gave a workshop on polyamory at Summer Camp. She said that if there's one piece of advice she would offer for making poly succeed, it's this: "You need a tribe." You need a close community providing wisdom and support. That is quite missing from the worldview of the Washingtonian article.


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Blogger Dr. Dog said...

"Many of us found it sad and disorienting to drive away afterward back into the Dark Ages." What a great line!

July 29, 2013 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Raven said...

"Polyamorists don’t think monogamy is wrong; they simply believe it’s not for everyone"

Isn't this hypocrisy to call for something like polyamory and at the same time vilify polygamy which at least is still an organized social practice in the societies that accept it and provides rights both social and legal to partners in such relationship.

Actually, I'm wondering now, How to define "Family" and "Marriage" in this Polyamory scheme?

July 30, 2013 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Raven, I think we define it for ourselves, mostly.

July 30, 2013 9:45 PM  
Blogger lovewithoutfear said...

@Raven, I don't hear polyamorists vilifying polygamy (though some might). What I hear being vilified, and rightly so, is institutionalized misogyny, which is not the same thing but SOMEtimes tends to occur in SOME of the same societies.

August 01, 2013 5:42 PM  
Blogger Anita Wagner Illig said...

The article is now available on the Washingtonian website at http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/married-but-not-exclusive/

I have to respectfully disagree that being an integrated member of a poly tribe is imperative. It is a great option for some, but that is all. A lot of poly people I know today find happiness with a more mainstream approach for themselves and their loves. Some find that being connected to other polyamorists as social friends and socializing together on occasion while being open to new love if they find it is tribe enough. It is entirely possible to live a wonderful poly life while maintaining a desired amount of privacy, something even some extroverts like me value.

August 07, 2013 8:09 PM  
Blogger Michael Rios said...

Hi, Anita--
I think that what we mean by a poly "tribe" is what you and I are already a part of. We have lots of mutual poly friends, we go to workshops and events together and bunk in the same cabin, we've cried on each other's shoulders, supported each other's projects, cooked for each other, and much more. If you desperately needed a place to spend the night, I suspect there are a dozen or more folks that would welcome you. Mainstream America isn't like that. To me, "tribe" doesn't imply sexual connection--it is much more like a chosen extended family. And that is something that I think almost everyone needs, poly or mono or solo.

May 20, 2014 10:55 AM  

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