"What Is Polyamory?" on a Canadian TV network does a pretty solid job
The Global News TV network in Canada just put up a long, well-ballyhooed online story about polyamory. It's the second in an five-part series called State of the Union, "a new Global News series that will examine alternative relationships in Canada and show that no matter what, love is love."
It isn't broadcast on TV, but it does come with short videos. Here's one (3 minutes):
The video is couple centered, yes. But the majority of North Americans are married or otherwise coupled, so they're always going to be the biggest audience for anything on relationships. However, treatments that make poly look all about open couples do a disservice for two reasons:
1) Plenty of people are solo poly, in a triad or more, RA (relationship anarchist), in their own unique structure, and other forms that viewers should know about beyond couple-plus.
2) More importantly, when a couple tries to go couple-plus, they're often blindsided when their own relationship inevitably changes to something different. For the better, they may hope, but don't go into this with the illusion that you're just adding a new hobby to your mono partnership. If that's what you want, you should look into swinging instead.
Most of us were brought up steeped in the monogamy paradigm, with its massive cultural baggage and unseen assumptions — and you'd better be prepared to look at them through the eyes of the social radical you've just become. That means putting the baggage down, examining it together and individually, and deciding what to keep and what to junk. Poly is not for everyone.
For instance: When tough stuff happens, will a new partner be treated as a disposable thing or as a fully realized person with feelings and equal rights to good treatment? As Granny Weatherwax said, and as More Than Two repeats as a bedrock principle: "Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things."
Failure to understand the social radicalism you have embarked on is, IMO, the number one cause of newly opened marriages not working. Not to mention the damage they can inflict on others.
Overall the Global News piece is pretty great. It's a long (2,100-word) article with infographics and videos that gets a lot right. Excerpts:
Polyamory is a world of ‘infinite’ love. But how do the relationships work?
By Marilisa Racco
...At the moment, [Darren] Ruckle has a new girlfriend, Laura, who’s going through a divorce, and she has a boyfriend who’s married. Harrington is also in the early stages of a new relationship with a woman who, coincidentally, Ruckle has known since they were six. She’s also married and has a boyfriend.
No one could be faulted for needing to draw a family tree of sorts to understand the intricate web of relationships, but make no mistake, they are all connected in their own way.
Brandie Weikle, founder of The New Family, a website and podcast about family diversity, says that polyamory is negotiated respectfully and with openness, “which means there’s no sneaking around or cheating.”
Ruckle has met and befriended Harrington’s past partners, and although he has yet to meet Laura’s boyfriend, Don, he will in time. For their part, Laura and Don often hang out with his other partner and spouse.
Monogamy isn’t always realistic
It sounds awfully complicated and like a lot of extra responsibility — after all, relationships require work. Surely, the more people you add to the mix, the more effort needs to be poured into maintaining each relationship.
But some would argue that the one-person model of monogamy is as outdated as the idea that we only have the capacity or willingness to make one relationship in our lives a priority. [Ed. note: You'll never hear that from me. For many people monogamy is best and will never be "outdated."]
...What the poly community strives to get across is that they’re not swingers who are trying to satisfy some insatiable sexual need or sow their proverbial oats. Rather, they’re people seeking out multiple romantic, meaningful connections with different people who can meet different needs.
...Statistics Canada doesn’t track polyamorous families, but a few bodies have tried to get a handle on how many exist in the country. The (a href="http://polyadvocacy.ca/majority/" target="_blank"> Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) conservatively estimates that there are 1,100 polyamorous families in Canada....
An Ipsos poll exclusively commissioned by Global News surveyed 1,501 Canadians and found polyamory to be gaining steam in certain relationship models. One in 25 respondents (four per cent) who are in a relationship described it as polyamorous. The marriage scenarios in which couples were most likely to be polyamorous were arranged marriages (27 per cent) and mixed orientation relationships, where one spouse is straight and the other is gay or bisexual (23 per cent).
“Once same-sex marriage was legalized, we started hearing more about polyamory — it allowed people to feel freer to experiment and to try out non-traditional relationships,” Mitchell says. “We’re seeing more studies in the area and anecdotally, we’re starting to see more people freely say that they’ve been in a polyamorous relationship. They feel greater acceptability.”
...Perhaps the greatest show of acceptance occurred in April, when Newfoundland and Labrador issued a landmark ruling that allowed three adults in a polyamorous relationship to be recognized as the legal parents of a child born to that union. ...
‘Having an extra dad was really awesome’
Blended families are nothing new today (especially not with a national divorce rate of 48 per cent) and co-parenting is a reality for many, even in polyamorous households. Except unlike scenarios of divorce and remarriage, where the adjustment period can be fraught with power struggles, polyamorous families tend to take a more communal approach.
“It reminds me of the 1960s and 1970s when people were joining communes and raising kids in Utopian communities,” Mitchell says. “We know for a lot of those families it worked and the kids benefited from being surrounded by lots of adults who loved them, regardless of biological ties.”
Not only do children in these scenarios feel safer and more secure, she says, they’re also exposed to role modelling from adults who are less hierarchical in terms of traditional marriage expectations.
And for some kids, it also means that they can have all their problems fixed under one roof.
Zoe Duff, 59, is the spokesperson for the CPAA. She is in a relationship with two men, her nesting partner of 19 years and her other partner of nine years. When their families first came together, Duff and her nesting partner had eight children between them.
“The youngest was six years old when we first started dating, so the kids grew up in a poly household,” she says. “I ran a support group and there were always people in the house talking about it. They only have good things to say about it.”
And her kids, in particular, loved having two dads.
“Having an extra dad was really awesome, they’d say. They go to one for Mr. Fix It-type stuff and they go to the other when their computer dies. They have different relationships with each of them, but they view them both as their stepdads.”
Ruckle and Harrington also pitched in with their now-ex partner’s child, taking turns doing school runs and offering advice when it was required. In fact, he says, the child remains very attached to them both.
In a 20-year study examining children in polyamorous families, Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, a global academic expert on polyamory, found that although children raised in poly households experienced a range of advantages, including learning open communication strategies and gaining a deeper sense of trust in their parents, they also experience disadvantages.
These disadvantages are both practical — lack of privacy, an overcrowded home and increased supervision — and emotional, including social stigma, discrimination from others and the desire for a “normal” family.
‘It’s a designer relationship’
When it comes to arrangements and responsibilities, each polyamorous household has its own unique set of rules and agreements.
For example, in Duff’s house, each member of the triad has their own bedroom, whereas Ruckle and Harrington shared their king-size bed with their last partner.
...Every poly family has their own stipulations. For instance, some nesting partners may vow to only be fluid bonded to one another (meaning only they can exchange bodily fluids during sex and protection needs to be used when having sex with any other partner). In other cases, it could be saving one particular activity or behaviour (like holding hands) for your nesting partner. ...
When jealousy strikes
For people who are monogamous, perhaps the biggest and most insurmountable obstacle to a life of polyamory would be jealousy. But that doesn’t mean polyamorous people are immune to it.
“Jealousy happens, but it happens in all stages of our life,” Ruckle says. “We experience it with siblings and with coworkers, and it’s designed to push you forward.”
“In a polyamorous relationship, jealousy does the same thing. If I’m jealous that my partner’s partner is treating her better than I am, it pushes me to change and do better.”
Instead of focusing on feelings of jealousy, however, the polyamorous community upholds the concept of compersion. It’s the act of revelling in the joy that you see your partner experiencing at having a new partner in their life.
“At the beginning stages of a new relationship, most people are bouncing off the ceiling like a chihuahua in heat, and it can drive other people crazy,” Duff says. “But we practice compersion. It’s a true state of being and it’s achievable, but it’s based on being secure in yourself and being aware that your partner doesn’t love you any less just because they have a new partner.”
This kind of security comes from a constant flow of communication. Polyamory literature teaches people how to work through their feelings of jealousy, and it starts with communicating them to your partner. The willingness to discuss this openly and frankly, without judgment, is the cornerstone of preventing anyone in the relationship from feeling left out. ...
Read the whole thing (July 24, 2018). The other four "alternative relationship models" in the five-part series are sexless couples, mixed orientation marriages, arranged marriages, and couples living apart by choice.
● The article prompted a 6-minute segment on a morning news-radio show about polyamory ("yes, I know we all had to google it," says a host). The hosts talk to psychiatrist Marcia Sirota, who does a fine job of explaining what we're about. Listen here (CHQR radio, July 24).
● And in related news, now available is researcher John-Paul Boyd's 160-page report Perceptions of Polyamory in Canada from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. It's based on surveys returned by 480 poly people recruited through the community (PDF download; dated December 2017).