Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

September 25, 2018

"All you need is loves: the truth about polyamory"

The Guardian —a major progressive daily paper based in the UK but circulated worldwide — has run feature stories on polyamory for many years, and today it's out with another. I presume this means the topic is a click bringer. The story bobbles a couple of definitions (can you spot them?) but it's basically on-target and quite positive. It gets my Show Your Parents tag.

Following the main article, four people tell of their personal experiences.

‘There’s so much joy in being poly’: (l-r) Laura, Alex and Mike, who are in a ‘polycule’ along with William (not pictured). Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

More and more young people are abandoning monogamy in favour of open relationships. But is it really that easy to turn your back on jealousy? And what about all the admin?

By Sirin Kale

Alex Sanson is nervous. She is hosting a dinner party this Friday, and wants it to go well, because her lovers are coming – all of them. “Cooking for one person you fancy is hard enough, but three of them is even more stressful!” says Sanson, who has brown hair, an open, friendly face and a bookish air.

...Dinner-party jitters aside, things are going swimmingly for Sanson, who works in marketing. “There’s so much joy in being poly,” she says. “It’s lovely not to burden one person with all your stuff. You just spread it all out.”

Polyamory, also known as consensual non-monogamy, seems to be growing in popularity among young people, though with no definitive figures it’s hard to know how much of this is a matter of increased visibility. It comes in many shapes and forms, from open relationships (where in layperson’s terms you “cheat” on your partner, but they are aware and do not mind, and do the same to you), to solo polyamory, where you identify as polyamorous, but are not currently in multiple relationships. But all those involved reject monogamy as stifling, or oppressive, or simply not to their taste.

“It’s not as complicated as people make it sound,” Sanson insists. If you are unsure whether polyamory might suit you, try this simple thought experiment: does the thought of your partner in the first flushes of romantic ardour with another person fill you with contentment, lust, indifference, or murderous rage? If it’s the last one, best to swerve polyamory. (There’s a term for the warm feeling polyamorous people experience when seeing their partners with someone else: compersion.)

...“The thing I’ve always disliked about monogamy and marriage,” Sanson adds, “is the idea of owning another person and them being your other half or somehow completing you, like you weren’t complete before you met them. What I love about polyamory is that I’m my own person and no one owns me. I don’t own any of you, either. We’re all free.”

Polyamory is having a cultural moment right now, with celebrities such as Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith speaking about being non-monogamous, and the BBC drama Wanderlust depicting a middle-class couple as they open up their relationship.

...“Things are changing rapidly,” says Janet Hardy, the co-author of the polyamory handbook The Ethical Slut. “More people are getting the idea that it’s possible to be happy and healthy without being monogamous. What I’m seeing among young people is that they don’t have the same need to self-define by what they like to do in bed, or in relationships, like my generation did. Everything’s out on a big buffet, and they try a little of everything.”

Polyamorous people reject the end game of romantic monogamy, and disdain so-called “relationship escalators”.... Still, being polyamorous isn’t just a carefree romp. It requires you to unpick the messy yarn of human emotion, and that most familiar knot of all: jealousy. Perhaps the biggest myth of all about polyamorous people is that they don’t feel jealousy. “Jealousy is a part of human nature,” says 27-year-old William Jeffrey, a member of Sanson’s polycule. “You still feel it. But I’ve found with every jealousy I’ve ever had while being polyamorous, I’ve been able to trace the jealousy back to an insecurity about myself. When I figure out what the insecurity is, I can overcome it.”

...Is jealousy only ever the result of insecurity? “I’d say that’s too simplistic a view,” says Hardy. “I don’t think there’s one emotion you can call jealousy. I think jealousy is an umbrella we put over all of the emotions we find difficult that we want to quell by changing someone else’s behaviour.” In her introduction-to-polyamory workshops, Hardy asks participants to write a thank-you note to their jealousy. “It exists for a reason. Jealousy tries to protect you from something.”

...The polyamorous people I interview effortlessly manage packed schedules. Jeffrey, for instance, will meet once a week to play a Buffy the Vampire Slayer role-playing game with Scoins and the fourth member of their polycule, Laura Nevo. He also has a weekly date night with his live-in partner, as well as seeing Sanson and Nevo once a week.

While shows such as Wanderlust depict polyamory as a tumescent bonk-fest, in reality polyamorous people spend most of their time doing the deeply unsexy business of talking about their feelings. Sanson credits polyamory with giving her more emotional self-awareness. “Polyamory has allowed me to be more introspective, think about the motives behind what I’m doing, identify emotions more accurately and be explicit about how I’m feeling about things.”

...And monogamous people can learn from polyamory. Twenty-three-year-old Aliyah, who uses they/them pronouns, was polyamorous, but is currently in a monogamous relationship. They credit polyamory with giving them a healthier outlook on monogamy. “The way I was taught monogamy wasn’t healthy,” Aliyah says. “I’d have this constant paranoia of being cheated on.”

Polyamory made them better at monogamy. “I learned that monogamy doesn’t have to be as strict as we conceptualise it growing up,” they explain. “Before I felt that deep love should only be reserved for romantic connections. But being polyamorous taught me I have so much love for my friends, and that doesn’t have to be explored in a sexual context.”

As polyamory becomes more visible, it won’t be seen as such a tear in our social fabric, but as an ordinary and unremarkable thing. ...

Read the whole article (Sept. 15, 2018). It's also in today's print edition, under the title "The Rise and Rise of Polyamory," with a promo box at the top of the front page:

● Here are three previous articles that appeared in the Guardian this year:

'What were her knickers like?': the truth about trying an open relationship (September 8).

My son is trans and polyamorous – here's what I learned from him (February 9).

Discovering my true sexual self’: why I embraced polyamory (January 20).


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September 23, 2018

"Untrue": New pop-anthro book reclaims women's non-monogamous desires

Wednesday Martin's new book Untrue got a lot of media notice this past week. The title has two meanings. It's about female infidelity, yes; Martin assembles evidence that women have always cheated and engaged in other forms of non-monogamy — or wanted to — just as much as men. And, she denounces as untrue the whole patriarchy-inspired mythology of women's weak, demure, second-tier sexuality. The book is subtitled "Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free."

Martin is a pop-anthropology writer with previous books about stepmothers and rich mothers. Now she seems to be picking up where Sex at Dawn (2010) left off: focusing on modern women rather than the ancient multipartnering roots of the human race as a whole.

● First, Bustle published an early summary of what the book is all about: 'Untrue' By Wednesday Martin Will Challenge What You Think About Women & Sex (April 16, 2018):

...When it comes to women and sexuality, stereotypes are presented as truth more often than the actual truth. Women are confronted with a combination of poor sex education and the societal effects of slut shaming, and all of that has a real impact on the way individual women experience sex and lust and love. ...Martin deconstructs many of the false beliefs that have negatively affected the way women's sexuality is viewed — including the deeply entrenched notions that women are the more naturally monogamous sex or that women's sex drives are shrinking violets compared to men's.

...This book turns everything we think we know about women and sex completely on its head, essentially undressing the falsehoods of female sexuality to reveal what lies beneath the layers of distortion women operate under. ...

● Early this month Martin published a 4,000-word excerpt from the book in Psychology Today: A Natural History of Female Infidelity  It appears in the print issue (September 2018 issue) and online (September 4):

"Untrue" women threaten modern notions of coupledom and propriety. But new research suggests that polyandry is far from novel or unnatural in human history, and may even suggest a path into the future.

By Wednesday Martin Ph.D.

Wednesday Martin
"So here's something kind of interesting. My wife has two husbands."

Tim is a good friend and trusted confidante whom I see whenever he is in town. He is several years older than I am, dark-haired and fit, calm and positive, generous and centered. ... They had great chemistry, and one date led to another and another. Lily was direct and honest, more than any woman he'd ever been with, but she was also a great compartmentalizer. Tim was smitten.

A few weeks before their wedding, Lily told Tim, in effect, that whatever his dreams were, he should follow them, and that he had freedom to do as he wished. "She said to me then and has always said, 'Whatever it is that is a dream for you, you will be able to pursue your dreams if you're married to me. ..." It never occurred to Tim to offer anything less, once she opened the discussion. In their marriage vows, they removed "forsake all others."

Their understanding, Tim explained, was explicit, and its bedrock was the agreement that their relationship had priority. "If she ever asked me to stop seeing someone, I would, in a second," he said. Lily never asked. Tim never asked Lily, either.

So, hierarchical with a veto provision (despite Lily's grand statement above) and bordering on a don't-ask-don't tell. But after 10 years it became clear to Rick that Lily was getting really serious with someone else.

...Over time, Tim learned that Rick was everything Tim was not—big and strapping, a physical laborer who also loved to cook. After several months, the two men met. Tim was relieved that he did not dislike Rick. Many years later, when Tim was back at work and his career was booming, Rick moved into Lily and Tim's second home, where he became caretaker, chef, and a kind of "uncle" to their kids.

Tim has long had relationships with other women but says that what has kept his marriage going is a sense that he and Lily are allies. And he says the most important thing is that in their first conversation when things got difficult, "there was no feinting, no dodging, no machismo on my part. There wasn't room for it." There had been a learning curve to their open relationship, he says, but "she's my friend, and she's a protector of me and of our marriage."

While Lily occasionally fools around with other men—she particularly enjoys being pursued by younger guys—she has remained committed to her marriage for more than 25 years, and to her boyfriend for a decade and a half. ...

Illustration by Eddie Guy
Their arrangement may strike others as unnatural, a departure from traditional values, or even a corruption of how things are supposed to be between men and women. But we would be wrong to think of Tim and Lily as aberrant. Their strategy is informed by and consistent with the flexible social and sexual strategies that helped Homo sapiens flourish. In the words of the late anthropologist Marjorie Shostak, who famously studied the !Kung, hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari Desert, gender inequality is an aberration in the long calendar of human history. So is dyadic monogamy for life, and many of our gendered assumptions about sex.

...This momentous change was put into motion 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Jordan Valley, where hunter-gatherers began to domesticate plants, increasingly depending on food they grew rather than food they foraged. This was a watershed moment—the rise of agriculture. ...

...And the shift changed everything between the sexes. Multiple mating had established and continually reinforced social bonds, so there were low levels of conflict. Enhanced cooperation meant all were more likely to look after one another and their young, thus improving each individual's reproductive fitness—the odds that their offspring would go on to produce offspring. There's ample supporting evidence of this theory in historical documents about aboriginal peoples everywhere from North America to the South Pacific, as well as among present-day hunter-gatherers and foragers, many of whom raise their young cooperatively and whose mating patterns are less strictly monogamous than our own.

...As sociologist Rae Blumberg has pointed out, it is only for less than 3 percent of Homo sapiens history that women have been transformed from competent, relatively autonomous primary producers into secondary producers who are, in some circumstances, fundamentally dependent. ...

...Couples like Tim and Lily go against the grain of modern coupling, but they are also paving a way forward. Their open relationship has kept them together over the long term, and provided practical benefits—another pair of hands to help in the home, another set of watchful eyes to keep the kids safe, another driver. Their arrangement also provides Lily variety and novelty, which experts increasingly tell us are necessary not just for a man's sexual satisfaction but for a woman's too. ...

Read the whole article.

● A long and not very flattering profile of the author appeared in the New York Times: Wednesday Martin Dares to Call Her New Book ‘Untrue’ (online Sept. 15).

An Rong Xu / New York Times

After a scoffed-at but successful pop ethnography of Park Avenue, she turns to the topic of infidelity.

By Ruth La Ferla

Looking improbably dainty in a white summer frock, Wednesday Martin stepped to the front of a glass-enclosed room in Sag Harbor, N.Y., wielding a mandrake-like piece of pink plastic. “This is your clitoris,” she told her mostly female listeners.

In a childlike singsong, she went on to inform them that the seat of female pleasure is not the size of a button, as has long been supposed, but closer to a full-grown zucchini.

...Legs crossed, arms self-protectively pressed to their chests, they were rapt as Ms. Martin, chirpily reassuring, sought to address that eternal, and eternally vexing, question: Just what is it women want?

It’s not intimacy, she suggested. Wasn’t it time, after all, to ditch that hoary, male-perpetuated chestnut about women deriving sexual pleasure from gazing moistly into their partners’ eyes? Is not the female libido equal to, if not more robust, than the male’s?

...Aware that her scholarly reputation is in question, Ms. Martin, 52, this time around carefully cites a roster of prominent social anthropologists and female primatologists to bolster her argument that women are not and never have been naturally monogamous. ...

Ms. Martin conducted more than 30 interviews with eminent social scientists, psychologists and primatologists. She cites, among others, the primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who studied female langurs mating sequentially with as many males as possible to ensure the safety of their offspring.

The sociologist Alicia Walker also makes an appearance, arguing that many women deliberately pursue extramarital affairs; so does Lisa Diamond, who has written about female sexual fluidity; and Amy Parish, known for her studies of bonobos, a hypersexual, female-dominant species closely related to chimpanzees.

Even buttressed by such academic bona fides, Ms. Martin allowed a flicker of uncertainty about how “Untrue” will be received when it is released on Sept. 18.

“People assume that if you’re writing about female infidelity, that there’s something wrong,” she said. “They hang on to this idea that women who write about sex are doing it for attention. That they are exhibitionists, that they’re pathological, that they must have questionable motives.”

Newsweek: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Female Sexuality, From Wednesday Martin’s ‘Untrue’ (Sept. 14). The article's five headings are,

1. The gender gap is closing between husbands and wives who cheat.
2. Young women are just as sexually adventurous as young men—maybe more.
3. Long-term relationships may negatively affect female desire more than male.
4. More men are on affair-finding websites, but more women use them to meet up for sex.
5. Women, like men, get erections.

Time magazine's website presents another excerpt from the book, about the time she attended a seminar on ethical nonmonogamy for marriage counselors: Here's How a Therapist Coaches Couples Who Decide to Have Sex With Other People (Sept. 17)

“Working with Non-Monogamous Couples” was held at a nondescript family services center in a nowhere neighborhood in Manhattan. ...I knew I would be surrounded by therapists who were there for certification credits and to learn from an expert in their field about the best approaches to issues that were likely to come up in their work. I also knew a little bit about consensual non-monogamy: I knew that it was for people who didn’t want to be monogamous, and who didn’t want to lie about it.

As I checked in with Michael Moran, one of the program’s organizers, he described a recent uptick in his practice and in general of heterosexual couples seeking solutions to their monogamy quandaries. “It’s pretty incredible that people commit for life, that they get married, without even discussing the issue of sexual exclusivity,” I offered by way of chitchat, realizing as I said it that my husband and I had committed for life, and that we got married, without even discussing the issue of sexual exclusivity. Monogamy and marriage, for straight people in much of the U.S., go together like a horse and carriage. Or they used to. Or maybe not. ...

Featured speaker Mark Kaupp, a licensed marital and family therapist, defined consensual non-monogamy for us.... Kaupp instructed us to break into groups of three or four [and] put a slide up on the projector. There were four bullet points, each ending in a question mark.

What would it be like to watch your partner/spouse have sex with someone else . . . and see them really enjoying it?
What feelings would come up?
What meanings would you make from their enjoying the sex?
What if they fell in love?

I turned back toward my group. We stared at one another in silence. ...

One of my group members and I decided that if we watched our partner having sex with someone else and really enjoying it, we might feel jealous, turned on, hurt, angry, curious, excited, gutted and more. We might derive meanings from it, including: I am not good enough; he/she is bored with me; something is wrong with me or our relationship; being with someone new is exciting and that’s no reflection on me. If our partner fell in love with this other person, we might feel confused, sad, threatened and devastated. I added that I might also feel homicidal.

...Kaupp quickly got to work puncturing our sense of what, exactly, might help us feel in charge of the imaginary situation we were confronting....

“I very rarely see that rules create security in these situations. How can we possibly anticipate all the possibilities? It’s an attempt to control, but it might make people feel more out of control,” he said. He told us that in his work with couples practicing CNM, he kept the focus on their attachment bond and let them come up with the rules without getting too involved in that himself. In his experience, he said, the rules might change or even fade out in time if the relationship security is sufficiently strong. “My job is to help people who have decided not to be monogamous keep turning back to each other if they feel insecure or flooded with fear. That way a negative becomes a positive. What might weaken or sink a relationship strengthens it.”

Kaupp then told us there are three primary types of [consensual] non-monogamy, and while they might overlap, their practitioners belonged to quite different tribes. There are people in “open relationships,” arrangements in which the couple agrees to see others but might not want to talk about it, or even know.

Meanwhile, swingers are committed to having sex with others, both individually and as a couple. They talk with each other about what they are doing, they do things with others together and sometimes separately, and they might go to conventions, cruises or sex clubs...,

Then there are the polyamorous, or poly, people. Polyamory is the practice of having multiple romantic, sexual and/or intimate partners with all the partners’ full consent, Kaupp explained. Those who practice polyamory believe they can love more than one person and be in more than one relationship simultaneously. Sometimes those who practice it have verbal or written contracts — drawn up by lawyers and therapists who specialize in such matters — to keep things clear and fair. And polyamory requires conversation, ground rules and plenty of disclosing and “checking in.”

To state the obvious, non-monogamy is exercising a pull on us because monogamy isn’t working for everyone. ... In fact, it turns out that when it comes to our sexual selves, women have been sold a bill of goods. In matters of sex, women are not the tamer, more demure or reticent sex. We are not the sex that longs for or is more easily resigned to partnership, to sameness, to familiarity. Nor are we goody-goodies relative to men when it comes to fidelity, after all.

● She also wrote a guest column for Hollywood Reporter: Time's Up for the Great Sexual Awakening in Hollywood (Sept. 15)

There is something big happening right now, an earthquake of sorts, that will shake up our world and our beliefs about men, women and sex. I... call it The Great Correction.

...Arguably, The Great Correction is just getting going. Much of it is happening in Hollywood, which has recently been convulsed by the reversals of power by both #MeToo and the undoing of the film-TV hierarchy, which undergirded all the town's cultural logic until yesterday, when prestige streaming kicked it to the curb. On the tails of those two massive shake-ups, there's more to come. The establishment is officially on notice. ...

● Another excerpt from the book, on Flavorwire: ‘Untrue’ Challenges Dated Thinking on Female Sexuality (Sept. 19)

...But perhaps most surprisingly, the majority of women in [researcher Alicia] Walker’s sample reported that they were otherwise happily partnered or married, and that these affairs were a way for them to remain in their primary relationships. They were not looking for an exit strategy or a new husband. They did not seek emotional connection or companionship. They wanted a solution to a dilemma: they felt unable or were unwilling to end their sexless or sexually unsatisfying partnerships or marriages, but they also wanted great sex. ...



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September 12, 2018

Cosmo's "Polyamory Diaries:" an update

Remember the trainwreck that was the couple at the start of Cosmopolitan UK's "Polyamory Diaries" series? As I wrote last January from Winter Poly Wonderland in West Virginia,

"Jack" chronicles the true story of him and his wife "Lucy" opening their marriage after she demanded it. This is supposed to save the marriage. She demanded that he date also, against his wishes, because it's "enlightened." Ugly dynamics are moving in the background, room elephants loom unspoken, and the crazy grows. Those poor people!

I expected the series to end real quick. Well they stuck it out, the series is now in Month 9, and they've settled into their open marriage thing well enough now that "Jack" (now using the byline Paisley Gilmore) is writing more about their common problems with the outside world than with each other:

Polyamory Diaries 9: “I’m finding that sometimes poly really is best kept secret”

By Paisley Gilmour

Following my wife Lucy’s* brief foray into S&M with a guy called James* (now, mercifully, not on the scene), the news that she’s found someone else comes as something of a relief.

It’s not that I don’t feel jealous when my wife tells me she’s going on a date – I do. But it’s not quite the gnawing green-eyed monster of old. It’s more of a fleeting feeling that is quite easy to dismiss as useless and destructive. On the plus side, I have a girlfriend and there’s nothing (apart from time and money) to stop me going on other dates. My life feels more exciting, fuller, and my marriage less pressurised, less strained… and, yes, happier.

For all polyamory’s unconventionality, it’s starting to become a way of life. And by virtue of that, sometimes it just feels normal. Having spent a lifetime listening to pop songs that tell stories of monogamous love and heartbreak, now when one particularly lovelorn singer comes on the radio, I just can’t relate to them any more.

Can it really be healthy to pin so much of one’s happiness on just one other person? Is monogamy really just an outdated social construct? A con? The fact that I have a happy wife, children and girlfriend doesn’t feel like it should be a crime, when everything is mutual, honest and agreed in advance.

But just as I start to feel comfortable, my bubble is burst, and I’m reminded that polyamory is most definitely not an accepted, mainstream way of life.

It happened when I attempted to introduce an old friend to my girlfriend, Nell,* who I’ve been seeing for nearly eight months. He knows about mine and Lucy’s set-up, and has previously been keen to meet Nell, but he lives out of town and, when the subject of [us visiting him and] sleeping arrangements come up, he says he’ll have to check with his wife. There’s an ominous silence for a few days, before I’m told there is a complete ban on me bringing any of my girlfriends to stay the night at their place.

Two weeks later, the same thing happens to Lucy. A different friend who lives in London and, over the years, has repeatedly offered his spare room to us flatly refuses to let Lucy stay with her new boyfriend, Max.* “I don’t know if I’m ready for that,” he tells her, ending the conversation.

...Before we were married, neither Lucy nor I were ever told we couldn’t bring a new lover to a friends’ house to spend the night, no matter how passionate and sex-filled that relationship might have been.

Instead, it seems it’s polyamory our friends don’t like. Whether they feel their own monogamous relationships are threatened by it; they disapprove of the “breakdown” of our marriage; or if it’s for other reasons we don’t understand, it’s impossible to say. But it does seem like a pattern is emerging, and both Lucy and I feel the sting of rejection from our mutual friends keenly.

...I’m finding that sometimes poly really is best kept secret.

How about finding better friends?! What he's not finding, and still seems too blockheaded to know he needs to find, is poly community. You need community.

Read the original (September 2018).



September 10, 2018

When opening a marriage to save it actually works

It's a standard poly snark: "Marriage in trouble? Add more people!" But there's no piece of conventional poly wisdom that some people somewhere aren't successfully breaking.

Opening a marriage to save it can actually work fairly often when the issue is sexual incompatibility — if the rest of the relationship is good. But here's a different case, published in the online mothers' magazine Scary Mommy.

How An Open Marriage Improved Our Relationship When Therapy Couldn’t

A white duvet for two this time. (Santypan/Getty)
By "Leah Asher"

Every marriage counselor and relationship “expert” claims that the key to solving any relationship problem is communication. I’m now convinced that while this is true, the ways they tell couples to go about it are designed to land a couple right back in therapy when it all inevitably goes wrong.

My husband and I had done marriage counseling and I had read every relationship article out there. We did the “I feel” statements and the mirroring of what the other person is saying. The result was a lot of letter writing, “I feel” statements, and repeating back what we said while the other person said “that’s not what I said/feel/think” and then it would go around in circles.

...Therapy is bloody expensive and that’s without the cost of the babysitter.... We almost gave up, but then something happened that saved our marriage, our sex life, and also gave us the push we needed to really communicate.

About a month ago, I caught my husband on Tinder. ... We were [already] in separate bedrooms and to borrow an expression from a very popular ’90s sitcom, “we were on a break.” I would be lying if I said it hadn’t occurred to me to get my own account, but I had held off.... Well, we ended up working things out in a rather unexpected and unconventional way.

In that time our relationship has been transformed.... The sex alone has become Fifty Shades of Fantastic (my inner goddess is doing salsa moves as we speak), but everything else has started to change too.

It kind of had to; you don’t just say “hey, let’s have a threesome… or foursome” without sitting down and figuring stuff out. We figured out a lot about our sexual fantasies, but we also figured out why the relationship had started to fall apart — and then we fixed those things that had been broken for too long.

We learned we really can’t read each other’s minds.

The longer a relationship lasts, the more you tend to assume you know what your partner is thinking. I certainly thought I had figured him out, [but] he was right when he said I really “didn’t get it.” Likewise, he would assume I knew exactly what he wanted or exactly what he was thinking. ...

In the context of our sex life, I also realized that what I thought I knew about this man I’ve spent a decade of my life with wasn’t the whole story. ...

In an open relationship, or something similar to it, you have to be on the same page. My husband and I aren’t stupid or naïve; we knew that if we were going to do this... we had to sit down and figure out what we were comfortable with, what we might need to think about, and what was an absolute hard pass. ...

We learned how to be honest.

...If I was mad at him for something I would freeze him out. If we said something to a friend or family member that the other of us had taken the wrong way, we would just sulk. ... It wasn’t that we were intentionally trying to hurt each other or embarrass each other, but people all have things they’re insecure about. ...

...My husband and I found ourselves in a situation a week after our new arrangement that tested our ability to be upfront and honest about our wishes and intentions. ... A younger guy across the bar was checking me out, and for the first time I actually noticed the attention. I smiled, I looked back at him, I winked, and I put my arm around my husband and gave him a deep kiss. I wanted to make it clear that I knew I was hot and could have any man in the bar, and I was with him, but my husband took it a different way than I had intended.

Instead of sulking or freezing me out and telling me “you should just know why I’m upset” as he did in the past on less complicated issues, he turned to me and said....

Read on. The article is undated but recent. About a month ago she told the first part about catching her husband on Tinder: Why My Husband And I Have An Open Relationship.



September 7, 2018

Media enthuse over what poly can offer everyone else

Eleven years ago when the polyamory movement was beginning to get serious mainstream attention, Pepper Mint posted a widely noted essay, "The Strange Credibility of Polyamory." Compared to other non-mainstream sex and relationship practices, why was poly going un-demonized?

Pepper offered several ideas (and so did I): polyfolks' obsession with ethics, our often privileged social and educational backgrounds, our gender equality, the focus on love and relationships more than sex, and as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "All the world loves a lover."

The trend continues. In the last four years I've posted dozens of articles that bubble about how useful the poly community's messages are for anyone, the wisdom that monogamous couples can draw from us, and how poly values transformed someone's life for the better. See my roundups number 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, in reverse chronological order (with no claim of completeness).

Last week I wrote about the new Time magazine article online What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships and promised a new roundup.

So, enjoy! What do you think these pieces get right, and where might they overstep? Remember, poly isn't for everyone. But relationship choice is.

Could Open Marriages Save Monogamy? This came out a few days ago in the online parenting magazine Fatherly (September 2, 2018)

A group of cutting edge researchers, advocates, and writers believes that consensual non-monogamy should be a more considered option for couples.

By Adam Bulger

...As Beth and her husband’s sex lives grew to involve more people, a funny thing happened to the two of them: Free of any fear or worry about potential cheating, they treated each other with newfound trust and openness. Beth even helped her metamour, the term for her husband’s girlfriend, get a job at her company. Beyond having to explain to co-workers why her husband kissed two women when he visited the workplace, the stress drained out of their relationship.

“It saved our marriage,” Beth said. “But that’s probably only because there was something to save.”

An open marriage isn’t for everybody, but as Beth’s story shows, it can work very well for certain people. A growing number of Americans are reconsidering whether monogamy is a necessary part of a relationship, and consensual non-monogamy (CNM), has become more accepted and widespread. ... A group of cutting edge researchers, advocates, and writers believes CNM should be a more considered option and might even define the future of American marriage.

...In 2017, influential social psychologist Eli Finkel urged members of book clubs across America to question their preconceptions about CNM. ... In his best-selling book The All or Nothing Marriage, Finkel explored the historical evolution of marriage and found that today’s most successful marriages are far more fulfilling than those that came before. ...

...“We see relationship-structure diversity as the next wave of where we hope [psychology] goes in terms of raising our collective consciousness about the way this population is being stigmatized,” says [Heath] Schechinger [behavioral health psychologist at UC Berkeley]. ...

For their recent study “Harmful and Helpful Therapy Practices with Consensually Non-monogamous Clients,” published in the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, [Amy] Moors and Schechinger asked hundreds of CNM couples about their experiences with therapy. ...

Currently, Moors and Schechinger are looking for volunteers to join the Task Force for Consensual Non-Monogamy they’re organizing for the American Psychological Association’s Division 44, which specializes in the psychology of sexual orientation and gender. With the Task Force, they hope to create new research and resources and advocate to include CNM relationships in psychological research and education. In addition, they’ve persuaded the American Psychological Association to include searchable term of consensual non-monogamy in the APA’s therapist locator system in hopes of connecting CNM couples with therapists attuned to their needs. ...

“So if you want to find a therapist who specialized, or at least had working knowledge [of CNM], you can go into that space without worrying about being belittled having to do a lot of explaining to a therapist,” Moors said. “Instead you can find a therapist with working knowledge.” ...

12 Principles Of Polyamory That Can Totally Benefit Monogamous Marriages Too, in Your Tango (May 4, 2017)

By Dr. Jeana Jorgensen

A friend recently shared "The 12 Pillars of Polyamory" (by Kenneth R. Haslam, MD) with me, and I thought, gosh, these ideas are just too good to keep to myself. No matter what kind of relationship(s) you’re in, you will benefit from pondering these principles and figuring out how they apply to your life.

1. Authenticity. ... Knowing who you are and what your needs and desires are. ... If you can’t be honest with yourself, how can you be honest with anyone else?

2. Choice. ...If you approach your relationships with choice in mind (“I choose to be here” rather than “I have to be here”), how might that change your outlook?

3. Transparency. ...
4. Trust. ...
5. Gender Equality. ...
6. Honesty. ...
7. Open Communication. ...
8. Non-Possessiveness. ...
9. Consensual. ...
10. Accepting of Self-Determination. ...
11. Sex Positive. ...
12. Compersion. ...

13 Ways Non-Monogamy Has Made Me a Better Partner (and Person), in The Greatist (Sept. 26, 2016)

By Maya M

...The problem with the concept of “the one” is that it undermines each and every human’s capacity to love many different people in many different ways.

After I decided to try out non-monogamy with a former girlfriend, I realized how the standard concept of monogamy erases the complexities of sexuality, passion, and romance. Though I still loved her as deeply as ever after opening up the relationship, I also learned to love another person on a completely different level. With my girlfriend, the love was deep, full of history, and adventurous; with my second partner, the love was fiery and playful.

... What I've been most grateful for is how non-monogamy has made me a much better partner and person. Here's what I mean.

1. I’m not as jealous. When someone hits on my girlfriend or when I see her express interest in someone else, I actually get excited for all the potential thrill and adventure that relationship could bring. ... And when I do feel jealous, I handle it better than I used to. ... If you’re someone trying out an open or non-monogamous relationship for the first time, know that it’s totally normal and OK to get a little envious. I like to sit down with my partner the moment I start feeling this way and ask some questions: Where is this coming from? Is it a little irrational? How can we work together to fix the problem now and avoid it in the future?

2. I see partners as humans — not people I can control. People in monogamous relationships often say things like “that’s my girl” or “you can’t talk to my man.” This reduces your partner to property....

3. I’ve completely stopped slut-shaming. As I've come to understand that my partner’s body does not belong to me, I’ve become opposed to policing others' bodies. ...

4. I find joy in others' happiness. ...Compersion can cause an immediate surge of endorphins and arousal in sexual situations, but I’ve learned to translate the feeling into non-romantic and non-sexual situations as well. By embracing other people’s joy, I’m able to feel genuine excitement for their accomplishments (instead of jealousy) and happiness for their successes (instead of bitterness).

5. My sex life is way richer because I'm more open-minded. ...

6. I can connect with diverse groups of people. As a queer, non-monogamous woman of color, it’s sometimes hard to stumble upon communities who share all my identities and can intimately relate to my trials and triumphs. But when I do, the feeling is magical. ...

7. I don't take my relationship for granted. ... When I opened up my relationship, I treated all the time we spent together like a gift and not necessarily an expectation. Despite what people may think, we didn’t spend significantly less time together. But on the nights she would be on a date with another person, I would have time to reflect on how much I loved her (and missed her!), so I was better able to cherish the time we spent together.

8. I’m a lot better at talking about my relationship. ...

9. I’m not quick to judge others. ...

10. I understand my own sexuality (and others') better. ... When I was 17, I came out as a lesbian and understood my sexuality to be strictly one that aggressively favored women. But as I opened up my relationships and started sleeping with men, I found that though I still prefered women over men in every way, there was definitely room for men (both cis and gender non-conforming) and people who don’t identify within the binary. I started identifying as queer and learned that my own sexuality can be very fluid. Understanding my own sexuality helps me talk to my partners about theirs and ultimately helps me create safe spaces for friends and family to discuss the issue with me as well.

11. I take better care of my physical and reproductive health. ...

12. Saying “no” — without hurting someone's feelings — has become much easier. Since I go on a lot more dates, I’ve become much better at sensing when I’m not compatible with someone. Because of this, it’s easier for me to tell people that things won't work out, which spares a lot of hurt feelings.

13. I’ve become more loving and open-minded overall. ...People who are non-monogamous often seek to better their relationships with their primary partner and lead more understanding, open lives.

● Out last Tuesday: Is The Poly Life More Honest? on IntoMore.com by Jamie Windust, nonbinary activist and editor of Fruitcake magazine. Although, what they describe is more precisely called Relationship Anarchy.

...After meeting a fellow non-binary person who, in an incredibly millennial manner, slid into my DMs on Instagram, I opened my eyes, brain, and emotions to the concept of romantic and sexual polyamory, and I’m never looking back.

At its core, the concept means not putting romantic and/or sexual relationships on a pedestal or giving them a hierarchy, and seeing them all on an even playing field. It’s being honest with yourself, and with the people around you, and realizing that though you may have different levels of relations with certain people, each relationship you have with each person doesn’t negate the other, no matter how intimate, sexual or emotional it is. The pressure to know what’s happening between two people in terms of labels is eradicated, and the actual significant connection between the two people is what matters. ...

What You Can Learn from Polyamory, in Greater Good, the online magazine of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (Feb. 13, 2017. Reprinted in Mindfulness magazine the next day.)

juainproject/Adobe Stock

A 20-year study of consensually non-monogamous adults reveals seven lessons for anyone who wants to keep love alive.

By Elisabeth Sheff

...I studied polyamorous families with children for a period of 20 years, and I discovered their relationships can be intense, complicated — and fulfilling.

I also found that polyamorists have developed a set of relationship practices that can serve as lessons to people in monogamous relationships. Divorced parents and others in blended families may find them especially relevant, because they offer insights into dealing with challenging family communication among multiple adults and co-parents. ...

1. Spread needs around. Expecting one person to meet all of your needs — companionship, support, co-parent, best friend, lover, therapist, housekeeper, paycheck, whatever — puts a tremendous amount of pressure on that relationship. ...

2. Don’t leave too soon. In serious relationships, giving up without trying hard to work things out can mean prematurely ending a good relationship that is simply having a difficult period. ... Polyamorous relationship require even more of this kind of work, because of their complexity. My participants report developing the skill to stay with a difficult conversation, even if it is uncomfortable. ... People in polyamorous relationships are also more likely to seek support from others, something that could benefit and sustain serial monogamous relationships as well. When things get rocky, we’re prone to hide the trouble from friends and family. Polyamorists suggest an alternative: reach out to friends and community members for sympathy, support, and advice. ...

3. Don’t stay too long. In what can be a delicate balancing act, polyamorous people find that it is important not to drag things out until the bitter end. ... From this perspective, gracefully ending or transitioning to a different kind of relationship can be a celebration of a new phase instead of a catastrophe.

4. Be flexible and allow for change. Polyamorous people sustain their relationships through these changes in part by being willing to try new things. ... This can mean shifting expectations and letting go of former patterns, which can be both invigorating and frightening. ...

5. Support personal growth. Polyamory is emotionally challenging, no question. Jealousy, insecurity, and other negative emotions are all a part of any romantic relationship. Instead of trying to avoid painful emotions, however, polyamorists try to face them head on. ...

6. De-emphasize sexuality. ...Emotional attachment is the glue that holds families together anyway, and while sex is good and helps people feel connected, it is not enough by itself to sustain a long-term relationship. Polyamory emphasizes that the end of sex does not have to mean end of relationship.

7. Communicate honestly and often. ...Gentle honesty may break well-established monogamous rules about hiding things from a spouse, but the outcomes of greater trust and intimacy can be well worth it!

Polyamory could revolutionize the way we look at relationships, in ThePlaidZebra.com (May 5, 2017)

By Elijah Bassett

...The fact that polyamory has become this much more visible probably says something about how we’re currently relating to mainstream notions of how romance and intimacy ought to look. While monogamy tends to come with an implicit set of restrictions that don’t need to be explained because of how culturally ingrained they are, polyamory and its growing acceptance may speak to an interest in more individually determined relationship models rather than one that carries historical and ideological baggage.

● One benefit that's rarely spoken aloud, offered by Poly.Land blogger and book author Page Turner: The Scariest Thing About Polyamory Is Also One of the Best (Feb. 8, 2018)

...“It’s about something I’ve never really heard anybody talk about in relation to polyamory,” she says.

I wait for her to finish.

“Polyamory has a way of demonstrating who you should really be with,” she says. “And it’s not always who you think you should be with, going in.”

I nod. “We’ve both been in poly circles for a long time. Seen so many relationships open up to new partners. And you never know, for sure, whether any one couple will make it. ... We all have this big fear of the game changer relationship. The partner who comes into our life and turns everything upside down. But it’s funny. When it happens, it’s usually for the better.”

“It is,” she says. “At least in the long run. ... Maybe you should write about that. How the scariest thing about polyamory is also the best: It has a way of shedding light on compatibility.”

“Or incompatibility.”

What Monogamists Can Learn From Polyamorists, by the founder of the online couples' magazine Together (February 2018)

By Erik Newton

...I tried polyamory once and made a complete hash of it. It’s just not for me, but I do have great respect for the polyamorous. ... The polyamorous are on the cutting edge of [sexual] self-expression, and of relationship development.

...We monogamists have a lot to learn from the polyamorous. They have exponentially more relationship dynamics to deal with than we do, as they are responsible not only to their own partners, but to the partners of their partners, and so on. The quality of communication necessary to keep this structure operating is extraordinary.

...So when they talk about relationships, I listen. Here’s what I’ve learned:

– Tell the truth. ...
– Don’t sacrifice your individuality. ...
– Experiment. ...
– Admit that our partner is already free and that you are ultimately alone. ...
– Take part in community. ...
– Get a little friendlier with jealousy. ...
– Remember that love is an infinite resource, but time is finite. ...

● Also in Together: How [a mono can] Love a Polyamorist (undated).

By Ghia Vitals

... As a polyamorous person, I’ve seen up close how a monogamist handles such a situation. I dated someone who had a monogamous wife. She was easily one of the best metamours I’ve ever had.

A monogamist in a relationship with a poly person must come to terms with the following realities....

– Polyamory is about your partner’s individuality, not you. ...
– Don’t bother investing any effort in trying to fix something that isn’t broken. ...
– You will never be their one and only, and that’s okay. ...
– Your poly partner’s love for someone else doesn’t negate their love for you.

Together, mostly for monogamous couples and run by "a reformed divorce lawyer," has many other articles touching on poly.

● A long first-person story in Good Housekeeping, the magazine your grandmother always read: "Polyamory has made me a better woman." (Jan. 20, 2017).

By Audra Williams

I'm in a Relationship With 3 Men — And It Makes Me Feel Healthier

...I initially felt worried that my partners' other relationships would lead to my being alone, but eventually I realized that I feel more secure in knowing that we're all collaborating in a community of relationships. ... It makes sense that each relationship helps me heal from different parts of the trauma I've carried around for decades. We are different parts of ourselves with different people, and each new relationship has the potential to shake something to the surface.

What [The] Polyamorous Can Teach You About Your Own Love, in Entity magazine (for "Woman That Do". Undated.)

...As you can probably imagine, polyamory can get increasingly complex. This is why transparency plays an important role in such complicated relationships. In the same way that monogamous relationships have certain expectations and agreements, poly folk talk to their partners about what they can and can’t do. Who is everyone allowed to have sex with? Is one of your partners a regular sex partner while another one is someone you live with? And most importantly: What is everyone comfortable with?

In polyamorous relationships, the traditional rules and boundaries of monogamous intimacy get thrown out of the window. Because of this, each set of relationships need to establish separate expectations.

In an article on Bustle, Emma McGowan interviews 36 polyamorous people for relationship advice for their poly friends, as well as things that “monogamous people could learn from polyamorous people in order to make relationshipping just a little bit easier.”

Here are some things people have said:

J: Sacrifice brings you all towards the lowest common denominator. Honest communication and negotiation bring you all closer to optimal happiness.

Mogli: Work to find the solution where everybody wins.

Judah: ... A more acute awareness of managing finite resources (time, attention) versus non-finite resources (love). More focus on the notion of no individual having to be the end all/be all with their partner, avoiding the trope of the “one true love that completes me.”

Nicole: Communication skills especially regarding what you both feel and want. How to love a person without feeling the need to be possessive of that person.

Maxwell: Jealousy is a natural human emotion regardless if you are poly or not. It’s what you do with those feelings and how you communicate them that defines your experience in the relationship.

4 Things Polyamory Taught Me About Love I Wish I Had Known When I Was Monogamous, on Kinkly (Nov. 29, 2016). She then talks about 6 things:

By Anabelle Bernard Fournier

...There are many things that being polyamorous forced me to face that I wouldn't have faced in a typical monogamous relationship; and those things have challenged me to rethink a lot of my assumptions about how to relate to others....

– Friendship Is the Best Foundation. ...
– Healthy Relationships Don't Just Happen. ...
– Love Is Just One Part of a Functioning Relationship. ...
– Your Partner Isn't a Mind Reader. ...
– Sex Is Just Another Form of Intimacy. ...
– Love Is Work. ...

8 Ways Polyamory Helped Shape My Monogamous Relationship, also on Kinkly (Sept. 20, 2016).

Okay, that's thirteen, enough for one post. More to come.


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