Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 29, 2016

"How polyamorous couples use Google Calendar to schedule their love lives"

The Week online picked up this article from The Daily Dot ("original reporting on Internet culture and life online"):

How polyamorous couples use Google Calendar to schedule their love lives

By Marianne Kirby

All relationships have significant milestones. The first kiss. Meeting the parents....

For Amanda*, Amanda's husband, and Amanda's girlfriend, it was sharing their Google Calendars.

Amanda and her husband of five years began exploring polyamory about one year into their marriage. There are roughly two million non-monogamous couples in the United States, according to Psychology Today, which cited Kelly Cookson, an independent academic, placing the number somewhere between 1.2 and 2.4 million. Including "satellite lovers," as Cookson called them, in that figure bumps it up to 9.8 million non-monogamous folks. And all those people — boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, playmates — need to keep organized.

..."Starting a shared calendar with my last girlfriend felt like a major relationship milestone," Amanda told the Daily Dot. "We hugged excitedly and felt giddy when we reached that decision because it felt like an organic next step in the relationship. We were 'calendar-sharing committed.'"

When it comes to grand relationship gestures, becoming 'calendar-sharing committed' might seem insignificant. However, sharing an online calendar is meaningful to poly folks in that it reflects a desire to sync up lives and express commitment. "It felt very romantic and loving, and I'm so glad we made that call," Amanda said of her decision to share calendars with her ex....

...Formality might sound dry — unsexy even — but it can be something else entirely: considerate. Take Margaret Corvid, for example, who has two partners: her husband Bob and her secondary partner Bunny. She thinks the detail-oriented focus of a shared calendar is a great way to express her love for both of them because, in the plainest of terms, she is being reliable with her time commitments....

...There is also the reality that non-monogamous relationships sometimes have struggles with jealousy. While most shared calendars allow users to fine tune who gets to see what, Corvid chooses transparency with both her partners because she believes that, in any relationship but especially in a relationship that tends to be more complicated, openness is a good basis for communication. This complete transparency with each other, Corvid explained, builds trust....

Read the whole article (February 26, 2016). Here's the original in the Daily Dot (Feb. 11).

Yes, I see the "polyamorous couples" bit in the headline. When faced with new ideas, people start from what they know.



February 27, 2016

Polyamory on campus, new roundup

The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan)
The Uniter (University of Winnipeg)
The Appalachian (Appalachian State University)
The Odyssey (Tarleton State College)
Columbia Chronicle (Columbia College, Chicago)
The UW Daily (University of Washington)
The Journal (Western Oregon University)
The Daily Californian (UC Berkeley)
Columbia Daily Spectator (Columbia University)
The Reflector (Mississippi State University)
The Peak (Simon Fraser University)
Her Campus (Hofstra)
The Lawrentian (Lawrence University)
The Argus (Lakehead University)

Yuuuge backlog of poly in college newspapers — 15 since my last collection. This list is probably incomplete.


The Michigan Daily (University of Michigan) ran a feature with sections on polyamory and asexuality: Love Beyond the Binary (Feb. 11, 2016). Excerpts:

...University of Michigan freshman Allie Hodge, who identifies as asexual and biromantic, believes that love simply means being intimate with someone, but “in the way where you feel really comfortable with talking to them, where you can share yourself fully and not worry about judgment.... I don’t feel the desire to have sex, but I can understand people who do find it appealing. At the same time, I do feel really strong romantic attraction to people, as well as platonic.”

...University graduate student Kelly* also feels a certain stigma against her romantic and sexual orientations. Kelly identifies as a lesbian in a non-sexual open relationship with a man.... “Even if I don’t want to have sex with anyone, that doesn’t change who I’m attracted to,” Kelly said. “My sexual orientation isn't about who I sleep with; it's about who I love.”


...For people who identify as polyamorous — being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time — relationships are much more fluid. Hodge talked about the beneficial aspects of polyamorous relationships, since they involve a lot of honesty and rely on a lot of trust.

“Polyamory is often looked at as cheating or being unfaithful,” Hodge said. “But it can also be super healthy, where all these people have this genuine love for each other.”

If you’re not convinced, try watching the 15-minute video made by Elite Daily, titled “A Polyamorous Couple’s Guide To Sleeping With Multiple Partners.” The clip follows Brooklyn partners Caleb and Tran, who both identify as polyamorous. They describe their journeys of having both sexual and romantic relationships with other people, while still retaining their own special relationship as “primary partners.” Throughout the video, Caleb and Tran emphasize the key elements to maintaining a healthy polyamorous relationship, which are openness, honesty and communication....

● Also in the Michigan Daily: Back-to-back events discuss non-traditional sexual practices (Feb. 12):

By Emily Millers

About 50 people attended back-to-back interactive lectures on sexual health Wednesday evening as part of the annual Sexpertise conference on sexual health, hosted by the University Health Service....

Amy Jacobs, a clinical social worker at the University of Michigan Health System, presented “Seeing Other People: Open Relationships, Polyamory and More.” She discussed different types of consensually non-monogamous relationships and discussed her own experiences with open relationships.

Jacobs emphasized that consensual non-monogamy is not cheating because these relationships are based on communication and honesty.

“You’re negotiating those kinds of things with your partner to find out what’s important to you,” Jacobs said. “What do you need out of our relationship so that I make sure that I’m respecting that relationship when I’m with other people?”...

...Jacobs also said being honest about her relationships is a positive for her daughter, in that she gets to experience alternative family styles and know she has options for future relationships.

The Uniter, the student newspaper of the University of Winnipeg and "Winnipeg's weekly urban journal," profiled polyactivist Anlina Sheng and others: Etching out guidelines for polyamory (Feb. 18).

Photo by Robert Ashworth

By Talula Schlegel

As the exploration of relationships and their dynamics become increasingly open and intricate, we see more conversations about polyamory, a form of non-monogamy.

Anlina Sheng, founding organizer of PolyWinnipeg, says polyamory negates the necessity to restrict relationships based on gender or structure.

“Historically, polyamory has been an egalitarian movement,” Sheng says. “There is huge diversity of polyamorous relationship structures and dynamics.”

...Jaz’s learning curve began in high school.... “polyamory was like a moment of clarity.”...

...“I love the community that we've built in Winnipeg. It's one of the more diverse polyamorous communities that I'm aware of,” Sheng says.... “Rather than focusing on dating and hookups, it focused on networking and sharing experiences and info, and I think that's helped to establish an environment that's safe and welcoming.”

● At Appalachian State University, The Appalachian ran ‘Safe spaces’ for diverse relationships (Feb. 12):

...A far smaller but growing community of people who identify as polyamorous offer another perspective on relationships in the Appalachian community. Polyamorous people are individuals interested in being in a loving, caring and respectful relationship with more than one consenting adult, Beth Fox, Appalachian alumna with a bachelor’s in sociology, said.

Fox said in a polyamorous relationship there is not a finite amount of love designated for a single individual.

A big misconception about these kinds of relationships is that they are purely sexual and non-committal, when in fact they involve a high level of commitment and communication, Fox added.

“Polyamorous people feel that one person cannot be everything, and that loving one person does not take away any love from another person,” she said.

What makes these relationships so strong is the effort put into honest, respectful communication between all parties. They allow individuals to express themselves in many ways with more than one person, Fox said....

● A Christian student at Tarleton State College asks (on a millennials' platform site) her fellow religionists to accept polyfolks for who they are: Polyamory: The New Norm?
What will we do about it?
(Feb. 9).

By Caitlyn Oxford

...When I first heard about polyamory, I was appalled! "How could this not be considered cheating?" "This isn't biblically correct!" and "This isn't morally correct!" were thoughts that went through my mind.... Then, I realized what I was doing. I was shaming people just as whites shamed the blacks, straights shamed the homosexuals, and intelligent humans shamed the mentally ill. So how do we face this? Do we shove our religion in their faces? Do we bring them down to a lower level? This time should be different. We should face something new without the need for parades and religious rallies that won't change a thing.

...Many of us stand in a place where we are constantly torn between our incredibly deep love for Christ and our NEED to accept people for who they are, despite their beliefs in things that we don't agree with.... Some of us are young enough, or maybe stupid enough, to believe that not everybody has to believe in what we believe.... The point is that when polyamory blows up in our faces, instead of making them feel as if they are unwanted in our society, let them be what they are. They are in no way hurting us. They believe differently then we do, why is this a problem?

For once in the history of time, can we let people be who they are?

● At Chicago's Columbia College, in the Columbia Chronicle, Three is the new two: How to menage a trois (Feb. 9). I'll refrain from comment, but you can guess what I'm thinking.

By Selena Cotte

Threesomes, once considered a shocking and perverted act, are becoming mainstream as more people decide to add a third partner into their beds.

...Threesomes are different from polyamory — a relationship between multiple people, like Karen’s relationship on the television show “Mistresses” — but if you find yourself wanting another person in your relationship, starting with threesomes can be an easy way to bring up the idea without fully committing....

Whether you are in a relationship and looking for a third or are single and looking to experiment, here’s how you can have your very own threesome.

1. Communicate: Think it through and communicate your thoughts, fears, questions with others — everything you’re thinking about threesomes should be spoken and worked through. Talk about threesomes until the idea nearly loses its appeal....

2. Start looking: The best option will be in person....

The Daily at the University of Washington: Pillow talk: Polyphobia (Jan. 13).

By Taylor McAvoy

Marisa Iliakis illustration
There is a lot of taboo surrounding polyamorous relationships when there really shouldn’t be. In case you were unaware of the terminology, polyamorous, in the context of a relationship, means having three or more people involved in any combination of gender, sexual identity, or marital status.

...Polyamory can be a wonderful and loving relationship model like all others, but it’s not for everyone. While monogamy is nothing to be ashamed of, it is the social norm and we can always benefit by exploring our options more openly. It’s important to actually get to know something about polyamory and poly people before you decide what works for you personally....

Monogamy actually isn’t all that different from polyamory. In both models, the people involved can be committed or cheat, the relationships can be open or closed, and they are both subject to jealousy under the right circumstances. However, they are not as binary as they seem. There are people who prefer monogamous relationships but would find happiness in a polyamorous relationship with the right people. There is a spectrum here....

...Sadly, loving more than one person romantically is a skill many have failed to even recognize....

The basic guidelines for a polyamorous relationship are the same for any other model. Don’t coerce your partners, define the level of intimacy, consent, tell the truth, be open minded to differing points of view, communicate emotional and sexual needs, set limits on obligations, balance give and take, work as a team to problem solve, grow and change together, treat each other with respect, work through mistakes, and most importantly, have the relationship with the people, not the idea of a relationship.

The book “More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory,” by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, is a great place to start if you’re interested in learning more about polyamorous relationships and offers some wonderful guidelines and advice for the polyamorous model.

● In The Journal of Western Oregon University, Share the love (Dec. 3, 2015):

By Megan Clark
Campus Life Editor

...Polyamory simply means “many loves,” and involves entering into a relationship with more than one person. People remark on the morality, or lack thereof, of those involved in a polyamorous relationships, saying that it shows lack of commitment and desire for fidelity, which, of course, is untrue.

Possibly due to these misconceptions, polyamory is not overly common, though polyamorous relationships are increasing in popularity.

Some studies, like one done by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, an educational consultant and the foremost academic expert on polyamory in the United States according to Psychology Today, have shown that polyamorous relationships have few negative impacts on children raised in polyamorous households.

...In addition to the normal issues encountered with monogamous relationships, polyamorous relationships feature many of the same ideals, such as consent, dedication, and, of course, love.

Since polyamory is not based on the perceived ownership of another, it alleviates feelings of jealousy; it is understood that love is shared between multiple people.

Polyamorous relationships allow for varied and greater emotional support....

...According to Tracy Giuliano, a psychologist at Southwestern University in Texas, “the more aware people were of polyamory, the more positive their attitudes were.”

With increased familiarity and awareness comes understanding and the acceptance of healthy lifestyle choices, such as polyamory, that go against the grain.

● In UC Berkeley's Daily Californian, in the Sex On Tuesday column: A love note from one slut to another (Oct. 20, 2015):

By Taylor Romine

When I met Zed, he was wearing a pirate costume, restraining my friend with his faded red rope while slyly smiling at her but also with her. The smiles exchanged were heartwarming — playful yet stern.

I fell in love with him in a way I like to have sex: fast and hard.

...I had a couple of partners when I met him, but none of them were serious. Zed was different. At the beginning of our courtship, we discussed what we each would want from a relationship while affirming that we were both polyamorous — in multiple, consensual relationships simultaneously. We had no intention of being emotionally committed, but it quickly happened anyway.

When some explain what polyamory is about, they tell those who are unfamiliar with it that it is “legalized cheating.” The issue with this approach is that it situates the negative repercussions of cheating within what could potentially be healthy relationship dynamics. Previous boyfriends have cheated on me, and my issue wasn’t the physical component but that they didn’t communicate their needs with me. Of all those times of lying and sneaking around behind my back, what hurt the most was that none of it was necessary. The pain of betrayal could have been prevented by a conversation.

Throughout my dating life, I have always lacked the jealousy that seems to be normal in other monogamous relationships.... One of my favorite parts of being polyamorous is that I don’t participate in that jealousy. Although we are dedicated to each other, we are also very relaxed about our affection toward others. He swipes through Tinder frequently, and I encourage him to openly discuss his experiences. I would rather know specifically what is happening than be in the dark....

My relationship with Zed forces us both to be completely open, continually analyze our relationship and redefine what is important to us over time. Emotional connections with others have proven to be more difficult than any sexual relationship. At the end of July, I briefly dated a guy with whom I had a lot in common...

And although my relationship with Zed is one demonstration of how polyamory can work, it should be based in whatever is comfortable for both partners. The effort we put into our relationship proves to me the dedication we have and that regardless of the ending, our time was well worth it.

● In Columbia University's Columbia Daily Spectator in New York: All You Need Is Loves (Nov. 18, 2015).

By Aidan Goltra

To manage her multiple relationships, School of Engineering and Applied Science junior Arya Popescu uses Google Calendar.

Like any other busy student, Popescu has work to manage, homework to do, and assignments to complete. But despite her busy schedule, Popescu found a polyamorous niche embedded within an apparently vibrant kink and bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism community at Columbia. Sitting with me at a table outside Hartley Hall, Popescu speaks rapidly and with verve about the community, making frequent use of hand gestures.

“I found out Columbia had a kink community and was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so awesome. In that context poly is normal.”

A standard definition of polyamory, often shortened to “poly,” is non-monogamy. However, according to Popescu, this definition is too broad. She explains that while non-monogamy could be used to label every incident of infidelity or random group sex, none of these acts fall under polyamory’s umbrella. In ethical polyamory, what often looks like and is judged like deceit in fact follows consensual, pre-determined rules.

It is perhaps these loose associations, along with a traditional allegiance to monogamy, that keep polyamory from gaining popular acceptance....

Throughout our interview, Popescu repeatedly said that she didn’t view one relationship model as superior, just different from one another. Still, she believes most people take a perspective on polyamory that is too informed by monogamy.

“Really the practice of ethical polyamory involves a lot of openness and mutual communication. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, give me all the gory details.’ Other times, not so much. There’s this mindfulness and openness and active consent regarding relationship practices in the polyamorous community.”...

...On one hand, Popescu says her most intimate relationship is with someone who identifies as asexual. While she and Popescu have “played” together, Popescu says that for the most part, their relationship is platonic.

On the other hand, Popescu is president of Conversio Virium, Columbia’s BDSM and kink club....

Interested in observing the polyamorous scene of New York City at large, I visited Bluestockings on the Lower East Side, a bookstore and cafe where every few weeks the polyamorous club Open Love NY meets. “We try to create a nonjudgmental group that just so happens to love the same way,” Open Love NY Vice President Puck Malamud, whose pronoun is they, says. The group also aims to educate about polyamory through speakers and group discussion.

It was a casual night for Open Love when I visited....

Talking with me to the side, Malamud hesitates to answer when I ask them where the polyamorous movement is headed. Though they concede that polyamorous individuals do not experience the same level of discrimination that minorities or homosexuals do, they recite a long list of legal privileges that do not apply to unmarried or nonmonogamous partnerships, including attorney and health care proxies, custody, health care packages, and defense against discrimination in the workplace, among other benefits.

Malamud believes these exclusions exist to incentivize marriage, preventing polyamorous parents from raising children according to their philosophy. These restrictions prevent, for example, many polyamorous parents from following the idea that “it takes a village to raise a child.” More than a quaint aphorism, according to Malamud, the “village” is a poly ideal, a legal and familial structure many are striving to legitimize, though they are not sure how much progress has been made....

● In The Reflector of Mississippi State University (Ole Miss): Polyamory understanding is needed (Sept. 17, 2015).

By Bek Yake

...I am in a polyamorous relationship with an agender person and a girl. This is different from cheating as all parties are fully aware and in approval of all members of the relationship. I did, in fact, have a rather emotional talk with both of them 2 a.m. one time to ask for permission to date my boyfriend and my established girlfriend, as I had fallen deeply in love again but would not pursue a relationship if she was not in approval. After a lot of panicking for no reason, my girlfriend accepted my then soon-to-be boyfriend with open arms, and everyone cried happy tears. They’re in a very close platonic relationship and ever call each other boyfriend and girlfriend.

I have to say my triangle, as we call it, is probably better than your average couple. Why, you might ask? All relationships, romantic or not, are going to have arguements and misunderstandings. A triangle pretty much guarantees a mediator. If two parties are in disagreement, the third party can talk to the other parties separately to determine the real cause of negative feelings and then coax the two to reconcile and work to be better people. In this setup, no one person can have undue control over another. There are emotional protections from mistreatment and it is a lot easier to have the emotional support you need....

If you are thinking about starting a polyamorous relationship, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.... Communication is key....

● In The Peak at Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada: Guess Again, Grandpa: Polyamory isn’t for me (Feb. 22, 2016).

By Rachel Wong

I always thought that the ‘swinging Sixties’ was in relation to swing dancing. As it turns out, I was pretty far off....

In today’s society, the term ‘polyamory’ is used to describe the relationship that many people share, sometimes two people in a ‘primary’ unit. In this case, both of these people may disclose to their primaries any dates and sexual relations with other partners, setting mutually agreed upon terms and boundaries so as to prevent jealousy and infidelity. People in this type of polyamorous relationship, then, can take part in meaningful relations outside of their primary without having to break up with their primary partner with whom they have built a solid relationship.

Upon sharing this newfound knowledge with my grandpa, he just laughed and said to me, “Well, we didn’t call it the Swinging Sixties for nothing.”...

● A breathless, superficial article-for-hire (I assume) appeared in Her Campus, a commercial mag for female students distributed at colleges. It's positive and happy but seems to assume that poly is all a couples thing: What The Bachelor Doesn't Tell You: All About Polyamory (Feb. 21, 2016).

● In The Lawrentian of Wisconsin's Lawrence University:
Consider the Impact of Amatonormativity (Feb. 19, 2016).

Amatonormativity is the normalization of romantic love. It is the culturally engrained idea that every person wants a romantic partner, is searching for one and will not benefit from any decision that implies otherwise.

Like most other terms of its ilk, amatonormativity is never expressed directly, but is always present.... This type of stigma is especially potent on polyamorous people, for which any sort of monogamous system is unhealthy. Poly people are told that they do not love their partners enough or that they have poor integrity. Many never learn to fully appreciate their body’s capacity for love or the pleasure of not defining their relationship in terms of how marriage-bound it is....

However, none of this compares to how oppressive amatonormativity is towards aromantic people....

● In The Argus of Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario: The Rise Of The Monogam“Ish” (Sept. 15, 2015).

Canadian Polyamory Advocacy
Association (CPAA) logo
Polyamory is shaping a ‘new normal’ for modern relationships.

By Leah Ching

If you know the name Chris Messina, it’s most likely as the inventor of the twitter hashtag, but lately he’s been making new waves, calling for the reinvention of human sexuality on a grand scale. Speaking with CNN, he said, “Personally, I’m in a monogamish relationship. We’re committed to each other, but have a porous boundary around our relationship, meaning we’ve agreed that it’s OK for either of us to express romantic feelings toward other people or to be physically intimate with other people, so long as we’re honest and transparent about our intentions with one another.”

...Many no longer believe monogamy is the only way, and are looking for recognition and understanding of the merits of a polyamorous relationship.

There are many forms of “non-monogamous” relationships, with polyamory (meaning many loves) being one of them. So is polyamory actually on the rise?

...To many, a non-monogamous relationship may seem like an alternative form of thinking and loving that is more flexible and malleable than the rigidity of monogamy. To a growing number, polyamory is a radical new improvement to how we approach modern relationships.

An anonymous Lakehead couple (heterosexual, 25-30) spoke with the Argus about their polyamorous relationship. One partner began by telling the Argus, “Polyamory is not an excuse to hook up and have casual sex. There’s a lot of misconceptions about why people do this.” In reply, her partner offered; “I think we have a deep relationship. Neither of us distrust each other or would ever try to control or shape the other.”...

...As tips for those considering polyamory she suggested, “Base any kind of relationship you enter in honesty, mutual respect for the other person.”



February 22, 2016

The "Exquisite Polyamorous Love Letters" of Edna St. Vincent Millay

As societal attentions change, historical people we knew in one context may re-emerge in another. For instance, once gay history became a thing, the computing pioneer and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing gained new attention for an aspect of his life that had mostly been swept under the rug. And the poetry of Walt Whitman gained a new audience.

Maybe something like this will happen now with the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. You probably read her in high school, where things were swept under the rug. Today, February 22nd, is her birthday.

From the website Brain Pickings:

Happy Birthday, Edna St. Vincent Millay: The Celebrated Poet’s Exquisite Polyamorous Love Letters

Portrait by Carl Van Vechten, 1933
“Surely, one must be either undiscerning, or frightened, to love only one person, when the world is so full of gracious and noble spirits.”

By Maria Popova

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was only thirty-one when she became the third woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She remains one of the most influential and timelessly bewitching poets in the English language. Today, Millay might be described as openly bisexual and polyamorous. But beneath such constricting labels lies the simple truth that her extraordinary poetic potency sprang from her boundless capacity for love and beauty — a capacity so boundless that she fell in love frequently and intensely, with both men and women, often with multiple people at the same time.

Read on (Feb. 22, 2016).


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February 20, 2016

"How polyamory boosts joy and self-discovery (when you do it right)"

Northern Virginia magazine

I’m at Loving More’s Poly Living convention in Philadelphia, about to go off to a room party where I have a date for a foot massage among brilliant people. Life is good.

At the convention’s opening last night, Loving More director Robyn Trask told the crowd (about 200 are registered) that Loving More is at a crossroads. Eleven years ago when Robyn took leadership of Loving More (then a print magazine, now an educational nonprofit), she made it a central mission to spread polyamory awareness: the realization that good, ethical multi-relationships are even possible, and that people are living this way successfully right now. In 2005 the idea was mind-bending; now it’s getting to be common knowledge.

What will be Loving More’s role in this new era? The public-awareness job still has a ways to go, but increasingly, Robyn said, Loving More will shift emphasis to supporting the poly community. This may mean legal and publicity responses to discrimination; helping to build networks of local poly groups run according to high ethical standards; generally making it easier to be out — or whatever the poly world says it needs. Watch for a community survey about this in coming months.

Nevertheless, when a video crew asks random people on the street, many still have never heard of the word or what it means. That’s gradually being whittled away by stories like this one, which appears in a glossy magazine for the well-off western suburbs of Washington, DC:

adobestock / kavafolio

How polyamory boosts joy and self-discovery (when you do it right)

By Jenny Cutler Lopez

...Swinging is a fresh-cut bouquet: a source of short-lived pleasure whose name doesn’t matter.

Polyamory is an orchid: something that is cultivated for long-term enjoyment.

Former NoVA residents Rebecca Rose Vassy, 42, and Sean Butler, 45, her partner of 21 years, moved to Maryland last year. They now live five minutes from Lydia, Sean’s other partner of 10 years. Lydia* is a married mother. Lydia’s husband, David*, has an extramarital partner.

Rebecca refers to her network of partners as a polycule (think molecule: a unit made of atoms held together by chemical bonds.) “When you first get into a polyamorous lifestyle, you’re like a kid in a candy shop, but now the benefits are more mundane,” Rebecca laughs. Lydia helps with errands; Rebecca and Sean babysit Lydia and David’s daughter.

Sean and Rebecca are primary partners, meaning they are each other’s relationship nucleus, and they work out issues around their other partners together. “If a person in a monogamous relationship is attracted to another person, they often think ‘there must be something wrong with me,’” says Rebecca, but her relationship with Sean is based on open communication. And Rebecca has dedicated years to understanding herself; if she and Sean were monogamous, “we would have lasted for a while, but I would have been dissatisfied in the long term.”

Counselor Leif Tine and clinical psychologist Florie Elmore are happy new parents. In May, they’ll reach five years together as a polyamorous couple.

Leif says about half his patients discuss secretive infidelity because of unmet needs or because they accidentally fell in love with someone else. Although many people express interest in open marriages, it can be a horrendous experience for couples trying to save their marriage. However, if a relationship is in a good place with a robust foundation, there is “such tremendous spiritual and emotional health for the people who do [polyamory] well,” says Leif.

A pattern emerges as you speak to polyamorous couples. Primary partners trust each other not inherently but because of concentrated levels of communication. Each person tends to undergo an independent metamorphosis by examining their feelings: “What happened to make me feel so insecure/scared/lonely with the person I love?”

Fairfax resident Celia Park*, 56, and her husband, Peter, 45, married in 2012. “A poly-lifestyle is transformative as a way to learn more about yourself. As a way to work through your anxieties, it is invaluable,” Celia says. “The qualities of people that make [polyamory] succeed are a high level of emotional intelligence and communication. There are conflicts, but they are addressed by everyone.”...

Read the whole article (online February 19, 2016).

P.S.: The next Loving More conference is Rocky Mountain Poly Living, April 15–17 in Denver.


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February 17, 2016

More Valentine's Week poly coverage

A scattering of recent Valentine's Week stories not already noted. No claim of completeness.

● Starting off with a great one, the Philadelphia Weekly presents Plus 2: Being Poly (Feb. 10, 2016), by Timaree Schmit. (You may remember her from this fine piece last September.)

Polyamory, mean­ing “many loves,” is a type of eth­ic­al non-mono­gamy: you can have mul­tiple re­la­tion­ships sim­ul­tan­eously and every­one in­volved knows and con­sents to it.

...Our cur­rent, lim­ited defin­i­tion of sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion doesn’t de­scribe much about de­sires or be­ha­vi­or. It says little about which male or fe­male people you find at­tract­ive, what you want to do with them, the value you put on emo­tion­al con­nec­tion, or how you con­duct sexu­al re­la­tion­ships.

...For me, someone who iden­ti­fies as bi­sexu­al, gender is the least of my con­cerns in po­ten­tial part­ners.... So sum­mar­iz­ing my sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion as “just” bi­sexu­al is wildly in­ad­equate.

...Not every­one who prac­tices polyamory con­siders it to be an ori­ent­a­tion, some folks just end up in com­plex situ­ations or grow in­to the prac­tice. But for some of us, be­ing poly is as in­trins­ic as at­trac­tion to men or wo­men.

...Lynne, a mem­ber of the Philly based group Poly­delphia, says “Poly was my re­la­tion­ship ori­ent­a­tion be­fore I was aware of it.”...

An­oth­er Poly­delphia mem­ber, Kate, had just broken up with two boy­friends she’d been dat­ing sim­ul­tan­eously when she found a pas­sage in the book Polyamory: An­oth­er Life­style that res­on­ated with her [I've never heard of this book and can't find it on Amazon or elsewhere. –Ed.] . “Sud­denly, in a flash, noth­ing was wrong! Everything made sense. And it was so simple: I had been a poly­gam­ous wo­man all my life, try­ing to fit my­self in­to a mold that neither fit me nor my per­cep­tion of the times I was liv­ing in.”

...Is there a ge­net­ic basis for poly ori­ent­a­tion? No one has spe­cific­ally stud­ied that.... Per­haps the ques­tion is ir­rel­ev­ant: crushes de­vel­op from ex­pos­ure as much as wir­ing. All de­sires are de­term­ined by ge­net­ic pro­cliv­ity com­bined with lived ex­per­i­ence.... For me, it’s the ac­know­ledg­ment that I can fully be in­to mul­tiple people sim­ul­tan­eously and that sexu­al ex­clus­iv­ity is not re­quired for a re­la­tion­ship to be vi­tally im­port­ant....

Polyamory is having a moment

Main­stream me­dia are cov­er­ing it with gusto, some with a “loo­kee here” vant­age, oth­ers con­tem­plat­ing what there might be to learn from a life­style so con­tin­gent on hon­est com­mu­nic­a­tion. I don’t con­sider it a trend so much as a game changer. One day we’ll look back on the emer­gence of poly the same way we looked at be­ing gay in the 90s. The real ques­tion is what part of sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion will be next.

● On the website of SBS, Australia's public broadcasting service, How the polyamorous celebrate Valentine's Day (Feb. 13):

By Shami Sivasubramanian

...People who choose the polyamorous lifestyle vary from dating a few people in exclusion, to being in a group of people who date each other collectively. Sometimes it's a combination of the two.

...In terms of sex, pop culture has helped us understand all the nitty-gritty logistics. But when it comes to romantic love in polyamory, the concept still eludes us.

...To better understand the romantic logistics of this less conventional form of dating, we spoke to three people about their experiences, especially when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day.

[That's Tina Belcher on the Fox series "Bob's Burgers"]

James* entered the world of polyamory at age 18, and finds the key to it being open communication, even with parents.

"It's much like any other relationship I'd assume, except with arguably more communication. This includes communication with parents — they know. Google calendar helps keep things organised, and again, communication."

...When it came to Valentine's Day, he said he and the partners he's had during the romantic holiday were not ones to celebrate it. However celebrating other romantic holidays, like Christmas, was something they did do....

● On the website of New Jersey's Asbury Park Press, Multiple Valentines? 3 facts about a Polyamorous Valentine's Day (Feb. 14). Mute your speakers; a brief video starts autoplaying (a few on-the-street interviews with bemused people who've never heard of the subject).

...Polyamorous Valentine's Day may be unfamiliar to some, but with hundreds of Facebook groups devoted to the subject, it appears to be a lifestyle picking up steam.

Here are three things to know about Polyamory and Valentine's Day.

1. First, let's start with the word itself....

2. Unsure what to get for your polyamorous Valentines? Cafe Press has you covered. There you can download multiple polyamorous themed greeting and Valentine's cards.

3. Polyamory may be more natural than you think....

Be sure to spend the holiday with the one, or ones, you love!

● Farther afield, in Nigeria's The Sun News: Polyamory: Strange world of couples who openly share lovers (undated but recent):

We are a devoted couple… with 100 lovers in 3 years

By Diana Appleyard

MEET loving couple John and Claudia, who have been together for seven years — though during the past three, he has bedded more than 40 other women.

But she does not mind a bit, having had flings with more than 60 men herself in that time.

The pair are part of a growing movement called polyamory, in which couples allow each other full sexual freedom, while main­taining their love and respect for each other.

Polyamorous dating website openminded. com has 36,002 UK members out of 180,000 worldwide....

John and Claudia credit polyamory with keeping their relationship alive and are now planning to get married and have children.

They even say they would invite previous partners to the wedding....

It includes a list of "polyamory terms" that defines "cowboy" backward. The article was reprinted from the U.K.'s Sun, one of that country's trashiest tabloids, where it appeared last November 12th.



February 16, 2016

"To Unicorn Hunters, From an Ex-Unicorn"

...Not that there's anything inherently problematic about a couple looking for a hot bi third, to follow up yesterday's post. But you need to discuss and negotiate the relationships thoroughly, respect that things may change, and value the autonomy and agency of everyone. Especially yourself.

In the lesbian online mag Autostraddle, Chelsey Dagger offers a friendly, sympathetic guide to navigating these waters. She runs the poly-education site PolyFor.Us, where this pair of articles first appeared, and co-moderates reddit's polyamory subreddit, now 32,000 strong.

Here are bits to give the idea; click the titles to read.

Part 1: To Unicorn Hunters, From an Ex-Unicorn

Dear Newly Poly Couple,

Welcome to exploring the world of non-monogamy! It’s exciting, scary, exhilarating, tense, thrilling, and any other word you can think of in the rollercoaster of emotions. You’ve already talked about what you want, laid down groundwork, and set rules to make sure that each of you are comfortable. You may have even had a threesome or two already! Now, you’re all set to find a bisexual woman to join your relationship, love both of you, and be just what you both need. Right?

Not really.

...The main difference between people looking for a triad and Unicorn Hunters is that Unicorn Hunters tend to look at the third partner as an addition to their relationship, instead of realizing that you’re creating a brand new relationship, with three people instead of two.

Interrelated Relationships...

Triads are complex.... When you’re in a relationship with three or more people, it doesn’t just mean you have one more person, you have two more relationships, and your relationship with everyone else’s relationship. Sound confusing? It is.

...The point is, everyone gets to decide for themselves, [including as time goes on and things change], and they don’t get placed in a role they didn’t have a part of creating.

Rules, Boundaries, Agreements

There is one big difference between rules, boundaries, and agreements: Rules are set beforehand, without involving the person that has to follow the rules, whereas agreements are negotiated to make sure things are fair for everyone involved....

How To Protect Your Existing Relationship

You don’t.

Be Fair

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: Fair does not mean equal.

Date Separately

Yes, this is exactly what you don’t expect to do. But it is important to build relationships with individuals, as individuals....

Part 2: To Unicorns, From an Ex-Unicorn

Hello, this article is for other bisexual women who are interested in dating a couple! You may be brand new to the idea of a relationship with multiple people, or you may have been polyamorous for years now. Maybe one particular couple has approached you, or you might have your eye on a couple yourself. Or maybe you just like the idea of a triad in the first place. Congratulations, in any case! Triads can be happy, healthy, caring relationships. However, there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for on your way....

...Many times these [mistakes] are not malicious, and if you start a discussion with a couple that displays one or two of these, it can be fixed before it becomes a problem. However, if these are not addressed, they are extremely likely to cause a problem, sooner rather than later.

1) “We want to add a woman to our relationship”...

The problem with this phrase is that it assumes that a woman would be grafted on to the existing relationship. What actually happens when a healthy triad is formed is that a brand new relationship is created between three people. The third person is not just added as an afterthought, but rather each person in the relationship evaluates where they are and where they want to be in the relationship. Everyone has to have an equal say in how the relationship is formed [and stays formed]...

2) “Primary” and “Secondary,” and “Protecting the Relationship”

I deliberately used quotes around the terms “primary” and “secondary”...

3) “If she doesn’t like the rules, she can leave!”...

4) You’re supposed to love them both equally...

5) You can’t have sex with only one of them (but they can have sex without you)...

Go read the whole articles.

She also suggests this long advice piece by David Noble: So somebody called you a unicorn hunter?

That page has further links, including Franklin's So What Is Couple Privilege, Anyway?

A foundational document underlying all of this is Eve and Franklin's Relationship Bill of Rights. It grew out of Franklin's much older A Proposed Secondary's Bill of Rights, which was bitterly controversial at the time (2003); now it's the standard wisdom.


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February 15, 2016

Calling out OkCupid's poly couple centrism

As poly ideas percolate from our community out into the wider culture, they can combine poorly with the culture's unexamined relationship assumptions.

That's why couple centrism has become a big topic on the polywebs, and why More Than Two (published in 2014) deconstructs couple privilege at such length compared to the earlier so-called poly bibles, The Ethical Slut (1997) and Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits (1997, 1992).

Last month OkCupid tweaked its dating app slightly to make it easier for someone in an open couple to display their partner when seeking dates. The resulting explosion of media attention continues. But only within the poly community is the couple centrism of the feature being called out, as far as I've seen.

For instance,

● Eve Rickert, co-author of More Than Two, commented at the outset,

What's interesting is that OKCupid itself — where, as I understand it, many of the developers are poly — is not advertising the new feature as being for poly people. The words "polyamory" and "polyamorous" don't appear in any of OKC's own announcements or descriptions of the feature, which seems obviously targeted to unicorn hunters & swingers. They describe the feature only as "couples linking." Most poly people I know have rejected this feature outright, since it forces you to choose one "real" relationship.

It's the media that have been linking this idea to polyamory — and we've been failing to effectively challenge it. To me, more than anything, it's a sign of how badly stereotyped & misunderstood we are, and how much work we have left to do.

● Miri Mogilevsky writes on Brute Reason, hosted at Freethought Blogs: Who Benefits From OkCupid’s New Polyamory Feature? (Jan. 18, 2016):

...When are non-poly people going to understand that polyamory is not about “your partner,” “the couple,” or “the relationship,” but rather about “your partners” and “your relationships” and the people in those relationships? This sort of couple-centric language may seem like an innocent holdover from everyone’s monogamous days, but it can have serious implications for how we treat partners who are more short-term, casual, or recent than others.

Sure, some people are totally fine with “joining the relationship.” I’m not writing about those people. I’m writing about those of us who dislike being solicited to become some straight couple’s fun queer sex toy, and those of us who are not interested in relationships where we are treated as intrinsically lesser because someone else got there first.

...OkCupid already lets people list their relationship style preference, and it lets you link to other users’ profiles in the text of your own profile....

...Certainly not all “unicorn hunters” (as they’re called in the poly community) are as objectifying, entitled, and heterosexist as the prototypical example, but in my experience, even the nicest and most consent-oriented ones are operating under a lot of flawed assumptions about queer women and what constitutes an equitable, mutually satisfying relationship....

Calling unicorn hunting “polyamory” feels to me a bit like calling same-sex marriage “LGBTQ equality”....

...Even in an arrangement like that, the woman is not being “added.” She is forming two new relationships, one with each person in the preexisting couple, and each person in the preexisting couple is forming a new relationship with her. This is an important distinction.

...One very small and easy thing OkCupid could do (as could Facebook) would be to allow people to list multiple partners rather than just one.

● By Ozymandias: OKCupid’s New Feature Does Not Help The Polyamorous (Jan. 10):

...That’s right. OKCupid does not seem to understand that poly people date multiple people.

OKCupid’s new system works great for people with partnerships like mine: a single, committed primary relationship, where both partners sleep with and casually date other people. But what about the triad or quad who have merged finances, married each other as much as they legally can, and are planning on buying a house together? What about the woman who considers herself to be equally committed to two people: her spouse that she lives with and is raising children with, and her cowriter whom she’s written several books with? What about the relationship anarchist, who doesn’t distinguish between friendship and romance, primary and secondary relationships?...

It’s not like this is impossible to implement. Fetlife, for years, has allowed someone to be in a relationship with multiple people....

● By Neil Wehneman of Poly Columbus: OkCupid Remains Couples-Centric:

...One of my many goals as a poly organizer is I want to build a poly culture that remains sensitive to the needs of folks that are GLBT. One of the current problems we face — and I say this after talking with many many bi / pan / queer women — is that the potential thirds in these situations often feel dehumanized and hunted. We even have a term for this: unicorn hunting.

...I think that actually carrying this out in a way that is respectful of all involved is very, very difficult for newbies. Our broader monogamy-centric culture just doesn’t teach us how to deal with jealousy, autonomy, and similar issues in a manner conducive to polyamory. We have to relearn a lot if we’re going to do poly successfully and in a way that respects all involved...

● By Zachary Zane at Pride: What This Means for the Poly Community (Jan. 11)

...Polyamory doesn’t typically exist in isolation, with one couple being polyamorous; it typically exists in the larger context of a group of like-minded individuals. A community. [OkC's] linkage doesn’t facilitate that community — again, just men and women looking for threesomes.

● By Sarah Sloat, on Inverse: OkCupid's Polyamory Push Is About Threesomes and 'Unicorns,' but Mostly Data (Jan. 12):

The polyamorous are concerned that their arrangements are being de- or re-contextualized. And, yes, that's what is happening.

...Traditionally, polyamory isn’t predominantly a sexual arrangement, which is why the option of only linking to one partner is problematic and the implication that polyamorous relationships tend toward the threesome is — at least rhetorically — dangerous.

The debate of whether OkCupid is depicting what it really means to be polyamorous probably resonates very little with OkCupid itself. OkCupid’s business are these unicorns because unicorns are what the people, or at least, the data, says the people want. Studies show that about 4 to 5 percent of the United States population identifies as polyamorous. What OkCupid’s data says, according to The Atlantic, is that 24 percent of its users are ‘seriously interested’ in group sex and 42 percent of them would date someone in an open or polyamorous relationship.

These numbers, eight percentage points up from five years ago, don’t necessarily mean OkCupid is opening its big data-driven arms to polyamory — it means the company knows that there’s a rapid increase in users who want non-monogamous relationships.

...Data is in part what has made OkCupid so successful.... OkCupid programmers take their user’s raw data — not including their identifying information — and comb through it to identify behavioral trends....

But it’s this very data that could potentially bury, not benefit, the polyamorous community’s efforts for respect and recognition....

It will take more numbers — like the increased visibility of polyamorous people — to convince the company to provide further polyamorous-friendly services.



February 12, 2016

The Washington Post follows up: "A therapist, a lawyer and a sex educator answer our questions about polyamory"

That nice Washington Post story yesterday? Maybe it did well (thanks, all of you who helped spread it on Facebook etc.!) — because this afternoon the writer followed it up with another. She used the same lede photo.

She chose the therapist, lawyer, and sex educator in the title well. They're Tamara Pincus, Diana Adams, and Franklin Veaux.

Clockwise, from top left: Rachel Ruvinsky, 22; Sam Brehm, 21; Bennett Marschner, 26; and Hannah Schott, 22. The group of friends carry on multiple relationships simultaneously. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

By Lisa Bonos

Polyamory: No, it’s not cheating. Or similar to polygamy. Or even having a few “side pieces.”

...I spent some time in December with four 20-somethings in the Washington area to learn what it’s like to be young and polyamorous. (You can read about them here.)

In the course of my reporting, I spoke to several experts on polyamory. Here are some of their views on who’s drawn to consensual non-monogamy and what types of challenges arise when it comes to raising a family or creating a life with multiple partners.

1. What types of people are drawn to polyamory?

Franklin Veaux, a sex educator and co-author of “More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory,” has five partners — and all of his partners have other partners. He notes that he knows people in their 20s up through their 80s who are in polyamorous relationships.

“In my experience,” Veaux said in a phone interview, “there’s a huge range of people drawn to polyamory. The only thing they have in common is that they don’t want monogamy.”

And they often have non-traditional ideas about relationships, he added. “There’s a lot overlap with polyamory and BDSM, polyamory and swinging.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that polyamorists are always casual about relationships; they take them very seriously. “It’s not for people who are afraid of relationships,” Veaux said, noting that that’s a common misconception about polyamory. “That would be like saying mountain-climbing is for people who are afraid of heights. If you’re scared of relationships, you’re certainly not going to do multiple relationships.”

2. Why is polyamory becoming more popular with young people?

Increasingly, sexuality is being understood as more of a spectrum than a gay-straight binary. In a 2015 YouGov survey, for example, more than half of millennials agreed that sexuality is a continuous scale. I asked Veaux whether this understanding of sexual fluidity could also mean that young people are more apt to view relationships as fluid and therefore be less focused on monogamy. “Absolutely,” he replied. “Millennials are growing up in a world where polyamory is a choice among many [types of relationships].”

“The fact that the gay and lesbian community has been so mainstream,” Veaux said, means that “people are more aware of the variety that’s out there, that there’s more than one way to have a relationship.”

When Veaux started getting into non-monogamy in the 1980s, “we didn’t have a language, we didn’t have a community, we didn’t have a way to find each other.”...

3. What about jealousy?

“If you’re an extremely jealous person, polyamory might not be for you,” says Tamara Pincus, a therapist in the Washington area who works with a lot of polyamorous clients and is poly herself.

It’s helpful for people to figure out what their jealousy is about, she advises, whether it’s stemming from a fear of being replaced or feelings of inadequacy; both responses can arise when multiple relationships are involved.

Pincus sometimes suggests coming up with “an after-care plan,” of what to do when someone comes back from a date, for how they might comfort a partner who’s jealous.

“People expect to be jealous,” Pincus adds. “I think people are more surprised when they’re not as jealous as they expect.”

Of course there are those who want to be polyamorous but the jealousy undermines the whole thing, Pincus says. “They’re not prepared for the amount of emotional work that’s it’s going to be.”...

4. How do you deal with co-parenting when more than two parents are involved?

Franklin Veaux doesn’t have children, but one of his partners has a daughter, who was 7 when they started dating and is 17 now. He doesn’t take a parenting role with the child. “I never wanted kids,” he says. All of his other partners are child-free.

When it comes to custody of kids, U.S. legal policy is structured around the two-person nuclear family and isn’t well-suited to protecting polyamorous families with three or four adults in children’s lives.

Still, Diana Adams, managing partner of Diana Adams Law & Mediation in New York, works with polyamorous individuals to come up with creative prenuptial, co-parenting and co-habitation agreements to give them “as much financial and legal stability as possible in a legal system that does not recognize their family form,” she says.

“I’ve seen many poly families create stable co-parenting relationships,” Adams notes. “It’s critical they don’t rush into that situation without professionals.”

The problems, she says, arise in such situations as when a couple with a child might have a girlfriend move in and it’s unclear: Is she a third parent or just a cohabiting friend? “Those kinds of muddled relationships are where the real problems lie,” Adams says, “both in co-parenting situations as well in sperm-donor agreements.”

Since polyamorous families don’t necessarily have legal rights, “you may be up against the proclivities of a specific judge” in a co-parenting or custody dispute, Adams notes. She tries to create contracts that a court would enforce, “but ultimately the judge would be looking at the best interest of the child as well as whatever agreement came before.”

5. Does the legalization of gay marriage open the door to plural marriage?

In Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts’s dissent in the court’s gay marriage decision, he posited that legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to next allowing polygamy. But none of the polyamorists I spoke to are rushing to advocate for it.

Plural marriage would be “helpful, but I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon,” Veaux says. “It’s not something most poly people are pushing for.”

Veaux currently wears two rings, signifying his deep commitment to multiple partners, but he’s legally single. With the law allowing only two partners in a marriage, he doesn’t want to marry one person and put any one partner over another, he says.

“Now that we’ve achieved same-sex marriage there’s an awkward shift,” Adams says, an acknowledgement that heterosexual marriage between two partners “is not the only valid family form.”

“At this point,” Adams says, multi-partner marriage “seems like a far-off potential because there’s already so much backlash continuing from same-sex marriage.”

Here's the complete story (February 12, 2016).


I praised the people featured in yesterday's Post article for representing us so well. One of them was Bennett Marschner. Today he posted a comment. In case you missed it,

Hi! I'm the Bennett in the article. Thank you for saying such nice things, I was unnervingly aware that we were representing not just ourselves in those interviews. We definitely weren't poly wise at the start, but Rachel and I are coming up on three years now!

Ms. Bonos had a very tight deadline to meet and I'm sure editing for space in the magazine cut it down a bit. Before researching for the article, I believe she said she didn't really know anything about poly. Considering that, I think she did a great job on the article and a fantastic job approaching the subject respectfully and with an open mind!

The bit about youthful optimism that may crash and burn later was one part of the article we found puzzling, as when asked about the future, we all replied that poly was definitely going to be a part of our lives and identities going forward. I personally know more than a few older, more settled poly people – couples, triads, and at least one ... uh, quartet?

There were a few turns of phrase I wasn't thrilled about and there's a lot more to ALL of it than could be included in the article. It's been already been a long, amazing, and often difficult adventure and it's only just getting started and I'm actually still nervous about it even existing as a thing on the internet with my name attached to it....


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February 11, 2016

Washington Post: "To be young and polyamorous in the age of OkCupid"

The Washington Post put up a feature article this morning that will be printed in the Love issue of the paper's Sunday Magazine. Sunday is Valentine's day.

The story profiles a local polyweb of young twenties. They seem remarkably wise, emotionally intelligent, and poly-intelligent. Thank you for representing us extraordinarily well.

To be young and polyamorous in the age of OkCupid

Clockwise, from top left: Rachel Ruvinsky, 22; Sam Brehm, 21; Bennett Marschner, 26; and Hannah Schott, 22. The group of friends carry on multiple relationships simultaneously. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

By Lisa Bonos

...Ruvinsky didn’t want anything super-casual, so she figured that would be it. But Marschner persuaded her to keep seeing him, reassuring her that it wouldn’t be a booty-call thing. They could both see other people. “I was like, ‘Okay, I like hanging out with you,’ ” she remembers saying.

The next time they discussed their relationship status was a few months later. Marschner told her his other relationships, with two other women, weren’t so casual; there was an emotional attachment. He’d been reading about polyamory, he said, and he thought it applied to their situation.

Ruvinsky did, too: “We knew it was more than casual, but we didn’t have a word for it.” Since then, the two go out with other people separately or hang in a group. “A lot of times,” Marschner says, “if you get more than one of us together, we’re going to sit on a couch and cuddle and make out.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines polyamory as: “The fact of having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals, viewed as an alternative to monogamy, esp. in regard to matters of sexual fidelity; the custom or practice of engaging in multiple sexual relationships with the knowledge and consent of all partners involved.”

Polyamory in the United States has roots in the 19th-century Oneida Community in Upstate New York, where all members were considered married to one other, according to Deborah Anapol, author of “Polyamory in the 21st Century.” Modern versions came out of the free-love movement of the 1960s, but the term “polyamorous,” combining the Greek and Latin words for “many” and “love,” wasn’t coined until 1990 and was added to the OED in 2006. It draws adults of all ages, and online dating has made it easier for the polyamorous and poly-curious to find one another.

...Ruvinsky and Marschner keep each other in the loop on their other dates and relationships. Sometimes Marschner will screen OkCupid messages for Ruvinsky, deleting anything unwelcomingly vulgar, prompting her to jokingly call him her “sexcretary.”

...If one of them feels jealous, they try to pinpoint what insecurity or self-esteem issue might be to blame. “It’s important to realize that it’s valid” to be jealous or envious of another partner, Ruvinsky says, “but not necessarily true.”

More than jealousy, though, the emotion they talk about is “compersion,” a feeling of joy when one’s partner finds happiness with another. Ruvinsky says she feels it when Marschner texts her after a good date with someone else. He says he feels it when he meets women he thinks Ruvinsky might like and those instincts turn out to be right.

Marschner has a couple of primary partners, including Ruvinsky, and several secondary ones. He sometimes introduces his partners to one another and is happy for them to date each other as well. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Over a year ago, Marschner introduced Ruvinsky and Hannah Schott. They gathered for a night of figure-drawing, each taking a turn as a nude model. Schott now lives in New Zealand, but Ruvinsky still has the picture Schott drew hanging in her bedroom.

Within the “web” of partners, one-on-ones, threesomes and orgies have been known to happen. (They test for sexually transmitted diseases every three months or when a new person joins the mix.) But Marschner says “polyamory isn’t necessarily about sex. Polyamory is about being in love with multiple people.”

Marschner and Ruvinsky say they are thrilled to be free of the constraints that can come with monogamy: They don’t have to be everything, sexually or emotionally, to each other; they can be open about their attraction to others. It might be fueled by youthful idealism that will crash and burn as she and Marschner get older, but for now they seem happy.

Ruvinsky’s eyes light up as she describes having so much love to give, and receiving it, too. “Even the love you feel, feels different,” she says, “not in terms of quantity or quality, just in how it feels.”


Asked to map it out for a reporter, Marschner drew a diagram of dozens of people. Straight lines connected people with ongoing relationships; long dotted lines for former relationships; short dotted lines for people who have “sexy times,” as Marschner put it, but aren’t in a relationship.

The connections are fluid, too. An ex of one of Marschner’s former partners is now housemates with one of his current partners.

When members of the web get together, it’s as if a group of high school or college friends is reuniting. Primary, secondary and past partners piled into a booth at Bar Louie in Rockville Town Square in late December.

Some are meeting for the first time. “Are you a hugger?” Zia Frazier asks, and waits for the go-ahead before embracing Sam Brehm, a 21-year-old model and fire performer who met Marschner at a medieval camping trip. (The poly community is big on consent, starting with something as simple as a hug.) At different times throughout the night, Marschner keeps a hand on Brehm’s leg while deep in conversation with Ruvinsky.

...Marschner asks Frazier, who is 23 and just finished her first semester of grad school in San Francisco, about a new guy she is dating who’s poly and straight.

“Is he pretty?” he asks.

“He’s tall as s---,” she says.

...They order extra cocktails before happy hour ends, eat off each other’s plates and offer one another sips and cherries out of their drinks.

When Frazier complains about having to write so many papers and the long lines at the DMV, Marschner says: “That’s what you get for going to California and leaving us all behind.”...

Lisa Bonos is the lead writer and editor for Solo-ish, a Washington Post blog about unmarried life. You can reach her at lisa.bonos@washpost.com.

Read the whole article (online February 11, 2015).

Update: It's been reprinted on the websites, at least, of the Chicago Tribune, the Calgary Herald, the daily Santa Fe New Mexican, South Africa's Independent online and The Star ("South Africa's Most Influential Daily Newspaper"), the Watertown Daily Times in upstate New York, and probably elsewhere.


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February 9, 2016

Fusion: "Seriously, though: What’s so great about monogamy?"

Fusion is an online magazine from Univision and Disney/ABC designed to reach "today’s young and diverse audience," it tells advertisers. It claims 10 million visitors a month. This morning it published a long nonmonogamy thought piece (4,000 words), further evidence that we're considered trendy. Excerpts:

Seriously, though: What’s so great about monogamy?

Bill Rebholz
By Molly Osberg

...They got hitched at 18.

“I thought it was happily ever after,” she says. “I wanted to go with him anywhere he went.”

Fast-forward three years: their marriage is no longer, and Britt’s OkCupid profile acts as a one-two punch of invitation and warning. If you’re into hiking, Little Miss Sunshine, or The Bible, message her. If you’re into one-night stands or want to be monogamous, please don’t. ...Polyamory is making a cameo even in the conversations of otherwise straitlaced young people like Britt.

The old rules certainly felt applicable to Britt and John. Shortly after the wedding, going anywhere with him meant an army base in another Texan town. Britt happily followed her husband, only to find out what couples often do: that people change....

...According to Britt, the “swinger culture in the military is insane,” with vast numbers of people swapping partners for the night or the weekend. But the ideas about sex and relationships Britt talks about valuing—communication, honestly, fluidity, sexual freedom—don’t come from that tradition.

...Nowadays, Rob is in a committed relationship with a woman he loves; they’re moving in together soon, and he still goes on dates with other people occasionally. “It’s not really about the sex even,” he tells me, though making out is pretty great. “There’s a measure of independence” in non-monogamy, he says; he thinks abandoning the idea that he and his lady have to be responsible for each other’s’ every need ultimately makes their life together more sustainable. You can go off and do your own thing sometimes, says Rob, and “still come back to the person you love.”

...Night Nurse—red-haired and tattooed, working the graveyard shift at a hospital—is how Rob got the specter of monogamy out of his system. The two met through mutual friends at a ball game. When they started sleeping together, they kept it intentionally casual—just about the sex. But as any human who has ever attempted such a balancing act knows, intimacy has a way of developing between people who spend a lot of time pressing their naked bodies together, particularly if their fuck buddies are nice people to spend time with.

...Conventional poly talking points will tell you that every relationship is a unique snowflake, that love isn’t a zero-sum game. That doesn’t mean navigating a lover’s level of emotional commitment to another person can’t be absolutely brutal. So, I imagine, is 50 years spent wondering about every flirtation you could have acted on. So is being taken for granted. So is feeling trapped.


...Sit on that for a second: “Love is a decision.” If that sounds crazy, think about the fact that all committed relationships, monogamous or not, require all types of choices. Sometimes it’s whether you can accept your partner’s level of financial stability. Perhaps it’s whether helping them wrestle with their various neuroses feels like a worthwhile endeavor. For Night Nurse, it was whether she was into Rob enough to keep dating him, bar guy or no.

That all might come off as overly pragmatic, even a little harsh. But being ethically non-monogamous requires muting some of the most seductive ideas we have about romantic love.

Polyamorists have invented a language to describe ideas not often in currency in modern-day America. One is “compersion,” a feeling of satisfaction and empathy while seeing one’s partner happily fucking or enjoying someone else’s company. NRE—“new relationship energy”—is a topic that blazes across poly communities on the internet, where longstanding couples wrestle with the reality that what’s mysterious and new has a fundamentally different quality than the familiar. Which doesn’t make it better, they say, just different.

Concepts like these can appear hokey or cultish to outsiders. Rob wasn’t the only person I spoke to who felt alienated by the trappings of the “poly scene.” Britt, too, told me she sometimes had trouble finding so-called “normal” people who understood what she was going for. And when I ask 28-year-old Kaela about the poly meet-up she and her dude, Riley, went to recently in Kansas City, her voice drops to a mock whisper. “Oh my god,” she giggles. “It was weeeiiiirdddd.”

...When Kaela and Riley first met a few years ago, it was Riley who initiated what Kaela calls the “relationship conversation” after they’d only been dating a few weeks.

“It really freaked me out,” she says. “I was like, oh god, this guy is gonna try to tie me down.” Actually, though, Riley wanted to talk about them being in a relationship—but also seeing other people. “So I put on my research hat,” says Kaela. “I thought, ‘there has to be books on this.’”...

None of these ideas are particular to 2016. The fact that they’re becoming more legible to mainstream culture, among heterosexual people in liberal islands of conservative states like Kansas, might be.

Read the whole story (February 9, 2016).

Update: At the right-wing site Newsbusters, writer Mairead McArdle is upset: Depraved New World: Fusion Asks “What’s So Great About Monogamy?” (Feb. 10).