"Accept niece's 3-way love life," says Ask Amy. And other poly advice columns.
Mainstream advice columnist Amy Dickinson this week tells upset relatives to get over it:
Dear Amy: My 30-year-old niece has lived with her boyfriend for three years.... My niece recently revealed that she defines herself (and relationship) as polyamorous — or open to additional sexual relationships outside the primary relationship.
According to my niece, she recently met and fell in love with another woman and now the three of them are all in a relationship together.
I explained to my niece that her choice to be polyamorous is personal and should remain private, as should any other sexual proclivity. Now I am accused of trivializing the love of her life and sexualizing her most sacred personal relationships.
My niece feels she must be open and honest about this situation. My bottom line is you get to bring one significant other (not two) to Christmas dinner. My niece does not understand this and is deeply hurt and feels rejected. The uncles and aunts and her parent (my brother) are up in arms about the whole thing and say they will not have their children around this depraved situation. Any thoughts?
— What is the World Coming To
Dear WWCT: The world, apparently, is coming to this.
You have the right to lay down whatever rules you want when you are entertaining in your own home. Your niece is being open and honest and so you should be open and honest, as well as respectful.
You should not tell this adult how to live. She does not need instructions from you on what to keep private. Her life is her own business; where it intersects with your life is where you can make it your own business.
It might help if you see things this way: Your niece has formed a family with two other people. You can reject one or both of her family members, or you can choose to be inclusive, without really caring one way or the other how they work out their sex lives.
Her sex life should not be a topic of discussion at the holiday table, any more than you and your husband — or other family members — would be inclined to discuss their sex lives at the table....
Here's the whole column in one of its many newspapers (October 17, 2015).
Meanwhile, in the Alaska Dispatch News, a sympathetic pair of columnists treat a poly/mono incompatibility question well:
Wayne and Wanda: My boyfriend wants to be polyamorous
Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My boyfriend of more than a year recently told me we should see other people. But he doesn't want to break up. In fact he said he's more in love with me than ever. But he said, fundamentally, after a lot of soul-searching and reading various books and talking to others in online forums, he has decided at heart he is a polyamorous person. As he explained it, this means we have a primary relationship but can choose to be involved with others, sexually, either individually or as a couple.
From my viewpoint, this came out of nowhere. I thought he was happy. He says he is but he believes living a "poly" lifestyle will allow him to reach a level of happiness he has never been able to experience. He said his strict religious upbringing prevented him from feeling free to explore this lifestyle but he has always felt deep down that monogamy is unnatural. He has asked me to try the "poly" lifestyle with him and said he felt like he could be honest with me about his needs and desires because I've proven to be so adventurous and open-minded.
The thing is, I am an open person and I consider myself pretty sexually liberated.... But this feels different and I don't know if I can share the man I love with others. He's framing it as a lifestyle and spiritual choice but I can't get past the fact that it looks like pre-approved infidelity. What should I do?
These days, there is an evolving spectrum of normalcy when it comes to relationships. It's true that monogamous twosomes still rule the roost, but more couples are leaning toward "monogamish" arrangements where some form of sexual activity beyond the primary couple is acceptable. This ranges from duos who have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on down to couples who have mutually agreed to take other loves either on their own, or together....
These arrangements, as you can imagine, are rife with potential for hurt feelings and jealousy. Polyamory cannot succeed without open communication and total alignment between partners....
But I would bet that no amount of pondering, reading and studying will make you emotionally OK with something that far outside your comfort zone. And that's OK. Your boyfriend says he's being true to himself and you need to do the same....
Well, I’ll give him this: At least he isn’t cheating on you.... He’s asking you to take his hand — and perhaps the hand of another man and/or woman — and go on a sexual journey with him. And it sounds like this is going to be one heck of a ride.
He’s told you how he feels and what he wants. That’s actually admirable and refreshing in this day of Ashley Madison, Tiger Woods and other icons of unapproved infidelity. It shows he truly cares about you and wants you in his life. But it also reveals his deepest beliefs and I don’t think he’s going to change his mind or let you redirect his sexual views.
So, the decision comes down to how much you can handle. You could try to revive your adventurous past and give it a run with him. Who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy it and maybe he’s right and all this sex with other people will make your relationship stronger. Or maybe the whole thing will make you sad, anxious and jealous. That would be heartbreaking. So would wishing him the best of luck in life and love, then moving on. But at least you’ll be true to your beliefs, as well.
Gracie X, author of Wide Open: My Adventures in Polyamory, Open Marriage & Loving on My Own Terms (2015), gives advice on Huffington Post and elsewhere.
Is it Possible to Cheat in a Polyamorous Relationship or Open Marriage?
It happened to a good friend of mine. She called me up one night very upset. She and her husband had been polyamorous for over 10 years and she found out that he was "cheating" on her.... She told me that she and her husband had an agreement that they would not date within a 10 mile radius of their home. They also had an agreement that they would fully describe their marriage to anyone that they were considering dating.
My girlfriend found her husband corresponding with a woman less than 1 mile away. Furthermore, when she read his new profile page, on the website where he'd met the new woman — there was no description of their marriage or their agreements. She was rightfully pissed off. But what was interesting was when I started coaching her about her predicament, she was reluctant to call her husband out.
There is potential hazard when doing poly to become wary of appearing uptight. Polyamorous communities can have a culture of permissiveness, which can creep up on a person and you can feel like a jerk if you get upset about possible sexual transgressions. It's important at these times to use simple "I" statements to express your disappointment. Try not to shame the other person but ask direct questions about what happened.
What is interesting is that it took me 30 minutes on the phone to get my girlfriend to even admit how hurt and upset she was. She felt like a poly defector for feeling angry and betrayed.... When I arrived at their home her husband was contrite and embarrassed....
Read on (June 18, 2015). Here's more of Gracie's open and poly advice. "To send a question to Gracie X and receive her advice column, go to GracieX.com"
Labels: advice, advice columns
The 10-mile rule sounds a lot like the "you can date but don't fall in love" rule. Of ALL the things to be worried about, geographical proximity is a pretty arbitrary way to distinguish potential lovers. What is the underlying fear here? That seeing someone too frequently will threaten the relationship? That the neighbors will find out? What geographical location counts, anyway? A dating profile won't necessary have a precise location - especially apps that update the location in real-time. Is merely chatting with someone "cheating," when a close conversation could reveal that they DO in fact live farther away but work close by? I wish Gracie X had questioned the underlying premise, rather than just accepting at face-value that someone broke a rule.
And then, of course, there's the same "he said / she said" approach offered by Wanda and Wayne, but for poly questions!
...two new columns coming this month :)
The "Ask Amy" comment seems to follow the same pattern of prejudice directed towards most poly folks and their relationship/family structures: oversexualization.
Note that there's no indication that the niece ever talked about sex. She said she's in love with a woman while still in love with her boyfriend, and that they are happy together. Much like how gay and lesbian relationships were viewed (and in some cases still are) "the sex thing" trumps every other aspect of a loving relationship, so the mere mention of having two partners is automatically deemed "too much information."
So, while I see some progress in Amy's response, I'll wait for the day when she finds a way to point that out before I consider polyamory to have become "mainstream."
Thrilled to see Ask Amy's wry comment (or at least, I'm reading it as wry), "This is, apparently, what the world has come to." This is easy to read as, "Yes, you need to tolerate this, too." Good for her for standing up for autonomy, tolerance and pointing out once again that it's not all about the sex.
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