Amanda Palmer on her open marriage with Neil Gaiman, now.
|Photo by Kyle Cassidy|
I've fantasized about Amanda Palmer showing up at one of the national poly conventions, such as Poly Living or Atlanta Poly Weekend or Beyond the Love. Widely known as Amanda Fucking Palmer, she's an outspoken performer and singer (The Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn) and has been upfront about her open marriage with her husband, science-fantasy author/screenwriter Neil Gaiman. They are geek royalty and, whether they like it or not, have been a poster couple for open marriages.
Five years ago Palmer told Out.com,
I've never been comfortable in a monogamous relationship in my life. I feel like I was built for open relationships just because of the way I function. It's not a reactive decision like, 'Hey I'm on the road, you're on the road, let's just find other people.' It was a fundamental building block of our relationship. We both like things this way.
...The open-ness is grounded in total honesty with one another. We're very communicative with each other and we share everything. I think that's the way you gotta do it. I can't speak for anyone but myself, and there are a million ways to love and be in a relationship. But fundamentally, I think if you're going to have a really, truly loving partnership, you have to be completely transparent, communicating and sharing everything. Neil and I fall more and more in love with each other every day, and I think part of that is because we encourage each other to say more, share more, to peel ourselves open to each other in the middle of the night when the day is done and the real talking happens. It's not always easy, the peeling sometimes hurts, but the deep love it fosters is clear to see.
In 2013 during a Reddit Ask Me Anything (now on her website), she wrote,
"i actually know quite a few people (artists and otherwise) who are in open relationships, but don’t go around broadcasting it. neither do we. i don’t really hang with the poly community or go on “open marriage” pride marches. that being said, there aren’t a lot of people trying to oppress our way of doing things, not actively, at least. if people showed up with pitchforks on my lawn (and my friends’ lawns) regularly, doing some parades might start to look more tasty.
Last year she recommended The Ethical Slut and More Than Two to a questioner on Twitter, but if she ever talked much more about the subject, it's not very findable on the web. So, naturally, the poly world has been curious.
A few days ago she did talk more about it, on the celebrity-chat podcast Talk The Line. And my fantasy balloon kind of went pssshshhhh. Listen here:
The original site (July 28, 2017). Update: The interview (audio) has been taken down, but see my transcript of its poly-related part below.
Palmer talks about their very primary open marriage from 31:30 to 36:45. I see no sign of anyone else but she and Neil being considered, like, an actual person, with, you know, agency and feelings.
Maybe she's just been about getting it on with casuals with nobody's heart on the line, and that would be fine, but is that really all there is here?
...It was a condition of our relationship. ...The relationship that I came out of before Neil, [former guy] was a strict monogamist. And I was enough in love that I thought ya know, I'm in my early 30s, I have done a lot of slutting around. I'm really in love, I can do this. I can be done with sleeping with everyone I want to, that's fine. But the conversation came up pretty fast, 'cause when Neil and I met and started dating we talked about everything. And he was like, "I'm totally game to let you sleep with whoever you want," and I was like "Great! I'm game for that too. Let's definitely do that."
And to be fair, or to be totally honest, we agreed to shut down the openness of our relationship until further notice at least when I got pregnant, because it was too complicated. And it's been complicated. Being in an open marriage, or a polygamous relationship [sic], you might think it would make the relationship easier, simpler. It actually means you need to maintain a stronger relationship, a more communicative relationship. It needs to be so grounded, to weather the energy of other sexual partners, that if you're not really ready to do that work, I wouldn't recommend it.
And do you talk about it? Like "Hey darling, what did you do last night?" "I just went and fucked some guy."--?
Yeah, except that doesn't happen very often. Especially as we've gotten older and we've experimented with what works and doesn't work and what drives the other one into a jealous rage, we've had to impose sort of more boundaries and rules and understandings, because, fundamentally, we love each other and we are a primary relationship. And so anything that is going to threaten our marriage has to go. And, plenty of those things have happened. And any time something comes in to threaten our marriage, whether it's a breaking of trust, or a person who's slightly too crazy, or this that or the other thing. It's difficult but we have to sit there and talk about it, sort it and deal with it. And we deal with that — the same way people in "more normal" monogamous marriages, deal with all the shit they have to deal with. ... So a lot of it is the same set of issues, you just stick a different frame around it.
... A lot of it now is now like, Neil's in his fifties, I'm in my forties, neither of us are all that into super-casual sex. And neither of us are into sleeping with random crazy people. So, a lot of this happens in a more boring adult way.... Things like that do come up in conversation, and since it's been a number of years now since I've slept with anyone but Neil, I can't even remember. I'm so focused on my child right now instead....
UPDATE December 20, 2017: An article about Neil Gaiman in the UK Times today says,
His marriage to Palmer was, initially, “a very open relationship”. They have a two-year-old son. So while it is “a theoretically open relationship, it’s kind of closed in practice. Because neither of us is going to sleep with other people when we’ve got a two-year-old with us; and neither of us is going to sleep with other people when the other can’t because they’ve got a two-year-old with them.
“There is a fairness to relationships. At some point maybe it will open up again. Right now it’s kind of moot,” he says, given that they are “sharing a bedroom with a two-year-old who’s just figured out how to get out of his crib.”
UPDATE Sept. 6, 2019: They're open again, Palmer says in an interview in the Irish Mirror today on the occasion of her upcoming European tour:
Neil and Amanda, May 2019 (David M. Benett/WireImage)
...Amanda will probably have one precondition for her husband if she does decide to have another child – that he doesn’t sleep around during the pregnancy!
“We have a pretty progressive open marriage based on really clear communication and a lot of compassion and the rules, and the boundaries change around all the time,” she explained.
“For instance, when I was pregnant I respectfully asked Neil to close the marriage down for a while because it didn’t feel emotionally safe to go fooling around with anyone else. So, we closed the marriage down for a while.
“I think there’s a lot of options out there for a lot of relationships and, once again, as a society we’ve got a long way to go just in terms of how we relate to each other and do relationships and do them compassionately.
“But Neil and I have been on a 10-year learning curve about how to be in the most liberated and yet compassionate relationships were we ain’t ever stomping on one another’s feelings.”
She admitted jealousy can “absolutely” at times come into play as a result of an open marriage.
“And negotiating that can be really difficult,” she concluded. “But voluntarily negotiating it together, the awareness and the self awareness of all of that stuff can strengthen your relationship instead of tearing it apart…”
Whole article: Former Dresden Dolls singer not afraid to share her opinions on social issues (Sept. 6, 2019).