Friday Polynews Roundup — The dam bursts for poly on TV, what we offer everyone, when to stay away, and planted seeds are sprouting
It's Friday Polynews Roundup — for February 14, 2020.
Happy Val's Day. So many poly-in-the-media items poured in this week that I can't keep up. Therefore I'm holding everything that even contains the word "Valentine" for later. Even so, settle in for a long read (or a long skim).
● The dam bursts for poly on TV. Way back in 2006, Reid Mihalko came within an inch, he said, of selling HBO on a dramedy series to be called "Polly and Marie" (say it fast). A short pilot was made, but HBO backed off for fear of advertisers' fears. "There's a lot of interest in getting this [topic] on TV," Reid told an audience at the 2009 Poly Living conference, "but nobody is quite biting, because nobody knows if the advertisers will want it. It's kind of happening, but you don't see it yet, because it's not on the air yet."
And so it went for several more years. The TV industry was well aware of the dramatic potential of modern, egalitarian polyamorous bonding, and its ability to grab viewers' attention, but they didn't quite dare. The first forays were carefully distanced from mainstream America by setting them in Mormon polygamy: first fictionally ("Big Love," starting in 2006), then in real life ("Sister Wives," 2010).
Now the dam is finally bursting, as regular readers here know; see my recent posts tagged TV (they include this post; scroll down).
The latest example aired night before last (Feb. 12), and within hours People magazine was on top of it: HGTV Features Its First-Ever Throuple on House Hunters: 'Representation Matters' (Feb. 13):
Geli, Lori and Bryan
By Gabrielle Chung
With 17 seasons under its belt, House Hunters made HGTV history on Wednesday when it featured its first throuple — three people in a polyamorous romantic relationship — on one of its episodes.
Titled “Three’s Not a Crowd in Colorado Springs,” the episode followed Brian, Lori and Geli on a quest to find their dream house in Colorado.
The trio wanted to find a new home that will accommodate their unique dynamic as well as provide space for Brian and Lori’s two children.
As with any episode of House Hunters, the family came armed with a list of must-haves for their new residence, including a three-car garage and a master bathroom that will accommodate three people.
At one point in the episode, Lori remarked about the lack of space in one house they were touring, saying, “This is a couple’s kitchen, not a throuple’s kitchen.”
...The episode ended with the family choosing a house above their budget as they all loved its view of the surrounding mountain.
However, viewers had a lot more to say about their relationship than their new home. Many House Hunter fans praised HGTV on social media for being so “progressive” and “educational” about the relationship dynamics of a throuple.
“Oh my god. A throuple on House Hunters,” Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay tweeted. “Great episode!!!! Educational.”
“HGTV really might be the most progressive show on TV. About to watch a polyamory couple fight over a house!” one Twitter user wrote. “Honestly I feel like I learned a lot #HouseHunters”
“literally perfect television,” a third tweeted, while another user applauded HGTV for “STORMING into 2020.”
Fans also came to Brian, Lori and Geli’s defense following the broadcast.
“Wow, shocked that this house hunters episode not only showed a poly relationship, but they called them a throuple the whole episode and outright said the women were bisexual. Guess we gotta stan!” one wrote on Twitter.
“This throuple on house hunters… good for them 🙂” another tweeted. “representation matters.”
Update: Stories remarking on the episode — positively! — have also just appeared on USA Today, Newsweek, the queer Out Front magazine, and The Daily Wire.
● An important upcoming TV series. "Trigonometry" is an 8-episode series about a poly triad that will air on HBO Max and BBC TV later this year. The production company has just put out a 1-minute trailer. The Hollywood news site Deadline has this to say (Feb. 10):
The "Trigonometry" triad at home
‘Trigonometry’: First Trailer For Berlin-Bound Series From House Productions, BBC & HBO Max
...Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg) and Stella Corradi (On The Edge), the show will air on BBC in the UK and HBO Max in the US. Writers are Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods. BBC Studios is handling international distribution.
Set in crowded, expensive London, the series follows a cash-strapped couple who open their small apartment to a third person, discovering a new way to live – and love – in the process.
...House Productions’ joint CEO’s Tessa Ross and Juliette Howell told us, “We are absolutely thrilled that the first five episodes of Trigonometry will be premiering in the Berlinale Series this year. Trigonometry is a warm, funny and emotionally truthful drama about modern relationships that has been brought to life in such a beautiful way by our cast Ariane Labed, Gary Carr and Thalissa Teixeira.
“The trio take us on a modern day journey of the different faces of modern love. Duncan Macmillan and Effie Woods’ exquisite scripts have been beautifully realised by our two hugely talented and award-winning directors, Athina Rachel Tsangari (who directed episodes 1 – 5) and Stella Corradi (who directed episodes 6 – 8), to give a truly special show....”
Air dates have not been announced.
● Moving on, one subgenre of poly in the media is bubbly articles about the lessons our movement and our values offer monogamous couples. A new one of these appeared this week in Business Insider: 5 lessons on jealousy and romance that couples can learn from their friends in non-monogamous relationships (Feb. 8).
By Jessica Stillman
About one in five Americans have engaged in some sort of consensual non-monogamy, or CNM, in their lifetimes — it's about as common as owning a cat, researchers say.
The ways that CNM emphasizes communication can be instructive for singles as well as people in other kinds of relationships. The process of differentiation — or knowing who you are and how you're different from your partner — is another big factor in CNM that can help just about everyone.
...The umbrella term of "consensual non-monogamy" covers everything from the casual sex of swingers to the loving, long-term relationships of polyamorists. If it involves more than two people, sex or love, and everyone has consented, then it's CNM.
...[Says] Heath Schechinger, a UC Berkeley psychologist and co-chair of the American Psychological Association's task force on CNM. "You likely have friends and colleagues who are doing this, but you just don't know about it."
"Comparison studies looking at all of the gold standards for measuring relationship quality — relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, duration of the relationship, communication, etc. — show that consensually non-monogamous relationships perform equal or better than monogamous relationships," Schechinger said.
...CNM relationships tend to have unique habits that many folks involved in traditional monogamous pairings could benefit from.
1. They favor direct communication over standard scripts
Every expert agrees that non-monogamy is a communication-heavy lifestyle. ... The key lesson for others... is the fact that everything is on the table. Rather than blindly following traditional expectations for relationships, which experts refer to as relationship "scripts," non-monogamous couples tend to explicitly hash out and agree on how to run all aspects of their lives.
"Non-monogamy forces you to learn how to communicate openly and honestly with your partner(s) about awkward things, because otherwise it just doesn't work. There is no default script to fall back on. You have to define what you are doing for yourself," said Carrie Jenkins, a philosopher at the University of British Columbia and author of What Love Is and What It Could Be. "But the thing is, everyone should be defining what they're doing for themselves."
2. Fire needs oxygen to burn
...Constant closeness suffocates attraction, as well as your sense of individuality and freedom. Because of the variety built into their arrangements, non-monogamous couples often find it easier to "oxygenate" their relationships.
"Successful non-monogamous couples become good at having separate individual lives and interests, true to their own nature," explained psychotherapist Wayne Scott, who is himself in an open marriage. "People need to have independent interests and passions and experiences — it gives them richer lives and can even make them more interesting to their spouses." The term therapists use for this process is "differentiation."...
3. It takes a village
..."Non-monogamous relationships tend to challenge a little bit more the notion that we necessarily have to meet all of our partner's needs," Schechinger said. "Expecting one person to be our best friend, our lover, companion, our co-parent, can put a significant amount of pressure on the relationship."...
Whether or not you're up for opening your relationship, this principle holds. It's healthy to look to a broader base of friends, relatives, and community members rather than just your spouse.
4. Jealousy is a prompt for self-examination
According to a 2017 study, polyamorists actually experience less jealousy than the conventionally paired. Partly that may be because those who are less inclined to jealousy are drawn towards CNM, but the non-monogamous also tend to conceive of and process jealousy differently. ...
For many traditional couples jealousy is a problem out there. It stems from bad behavior on the part of one partner.... Those who practice non-monogamy more often speak of jealousy as an internal issue, something in here. They see jealousy as a symptom of insecurity or anxiety that should be handled by introspection to identify the cause and identify better ways to cope.
5. Thoughtful transitions beat messy breakups
With the messiness of infidelity largely off the table thanks to rules and communication, non-monogamous relationships often evolve rather than explode. The sexual spark might fizzle, for instance, but a couple will agree to move on to being co-parents and friends without recrimination or over-the-top drama.
...This process of self-discovery and negotiation isn't just for polyamorists, it's something that truly any relationship can benefit from.
● Another in the genre, from Insider: Polyamorous people are often experts at coping with relationship jealousy — here are some of their tips, by Julia Naftulin and Canela López (Feb. 6). The tips in brief:
Jason Boyd, 33, said acknowledging jealous feelings rather than ignoring them helps. ...
Audria O'Neill, a woman who used to be in a monogamous marriage, suggested talking about boundaries as early as possible....
O'Neill also suggested looking inwards to understand the root of your jealousy....
Kayla Lords said journaling helps her get in touch with her emotions and process them in a healthy way....
Lords also said active listening and a willingness to be vulnerable can help make jealousy-related conversations productive learning experiences....
Tara Skubella said getting to know her primary partner's other partner made her feel more secure and empathetic....
Lola Phoenix, a London-based writer, said it's important to set boundaries in your relationship to minimize jealousy. Set boundaries based on your needs, not societal expectations....
Krystal Baugher, a Colorado-based writer, said it's important to take care of yourself first before engaging with a partner....
Hailey Gill, 26, has practiced polyamory since high school and said communication about new partners is key between them and their husband....
In the last five years, I've spotlighted several dozen such articles on what we offer mono folks. Start with this latest roundup, which contains links to the previous five batches. And a pile more await my working up.
● Yahoo Lifestyle this week ran a fine little intro to the commonest poly structure. They picked it up from PureWow ("beauty, food, wellness, family"): What Is a Triad Relationship? (And What Are the Rules of Engagement?) (Feb. 8). It's a one-source quickie, with its quality coming from marriage and family therapist Rachel D. Miller in Chicago.
...Think of it as a subset of polyamory. But not all triads are the same. Miller tells us that triads can take various forms....
So why would people form this relationship?
1. A couple felt like their union was overflowing with love, and they wanted to share that with another person.
2. Polyamory felt like an orientation rather than a choice, so a dyad was never part of their vision for a relationship.
3. A person fell in love with two different people and wanted to maintain relationships with both, and everyone involved was in agreement about the arrangement.
4. A friend of a couple became more than a friend for one or both partners, and they decided as a unit to expand the relationship to include all of them.
5. A couple wanted to add some spice to their sex life and, in doing so, discovered another person they connected with on a multitude of levels.
What are the dynamics of a triad relationship?
...Some common denominators of a healthy triad include genuine love and caring for all involved, large support systems (this can be emotional, financial, etc.) and a desire to remain open to all the types of love that present in their lives. Miller elaborates that within any poly or consensually non-monogamous relationship, the things that need to be present are ongoing consent and the power and ability to renegotiate the terms in order for all members to get what they need from the relationship.
What challenges do people in nontraditional relationships face?
...Per Miller, “Society is set up to support traditional ideas around marriage — e.g., only two people in the relationship can be protected by legal marital status.” The implications of this can can leave one member of a triad feeling less secure or that they have less power within the relationship. The fix? Like any relationship: good communication and open dialogue.
● Does mediocre, flawed media coverage ever do us any good?
Well, remember that much-criticized New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story, Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage? Its answer was "Often yes," but let's not even get into its poor representation and other stuff.
Nevertheless, on the opposite side of the continent, a student noticed it lying on a library table. It changed her life. Three years later comes her story in The Martlet, the student newspaper of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, A venture into non-monogamy (Feb. 10):
By Darian Lee
...[The NY Times Magazine lying on the table] was the first time I had heard of anything besides monogamy, and after reading the article I decided that I wanted to open up my relationship.
The whole situation of asking my partner was nerve wracking. I’ve never been good with words, so I came up with a genius plan to avoid rejection and actually communicating. I’d just point out the magazine, opened to the feature, and said, “Hey, this is kinda interesting, right,” to gauge his response. He glanced at it, shrugged, and started talking about something else.
Plan A failed, so ... I just blurted out “I want to open our relationship!” and waited anxiously for a response. He said that we shouldn’t, and the disappointment crushed me. He explained it was because we weren’t good at communicating. After that, we didn’t talk much for a bit....
...I started following the “UVic Confessions & Crushes” Facebook page. A common theme in the posts was being torn between partners, and many users commented messages along the lines of “monogamy is flawed.” I decided to give it another go and propose non-monogamy to my partner again. We had grown up so much together since then and could finally communicate openly and honestly, and I actually had the words to clearly express what I wanted and why. This time, my proposal was met with enthusiasm, and I was overjoyed!
The first step was to define the terms of our relationship. We did some research and found that the idea of an “open relationship” didn’t actually line up with what I wanted. An open relationship generally refers to a relationship where you have a main partner, and are sexually non-monogamous. As a hopeless romantic, I wanted to experience all the lovey-dovey fun stuff of dating and share intimate bonds with other people. In this case, “polyamory” seemed to be the better label for our situation.
Now came the hard part: actually meeting other people. ...
I’ve learned to combat jealousy (something I’ve always struggled with) and express how I feel in a way that I’ve never been challenged to do in the past. My partner has also grown emotionally and so far this experience has had a positive impact on our relationship, contrary to the doubt conveyed by friends. My biggest takeaway from this experience so far is that with a lot of communication and honesty, as well as getting to know oneself better, non-monogamy can really work and not damage your pre-existing relationships.
My advice is to make sure you have very open communication in the first place, and to do plenty of research regarding what you want so you can be clear-cut with how you’re feeling. I’ve met plenty of people here in Victoria who are in a variety of non-traditional relationships, so it’s not as unusual as I would have thought, and it really helped to know this to feel comfortable telling others. Hopefully, sharing my experience can have the same effect on anyone considering this.
Pass it forward.
● An open marriage sometimes manages to work in a much more traditional, old-school context. This week in the Brisbane Times and other Australian newspapers in its chain, Non-monogamy has been the real secret to our happy 37-year marriage (online Feb. 8, in the Sunday print edition Feb. 9)
...Whatever John was up to, or not up to, it was ruining my life and it hit me that I didn’t have to let it. I couldn’t change him, but I could change myself.
...In her new book, A Happy Life in an Open Relationship, sex and relationship therapist Susan Wenzel argues that it is possible to have a happy, open marriage, provided you develop trust and communication skills, set healthy boundaries and overcome jealousy.
...None of this was in my mind on my wedding morning in 1982. ...
● Confusion when different people may think the word means different things. The Dear Abby advice column appearing in newspapers this week fields a parent's question: Was teen daughter’s response to boy’s sexuality ‘shaming’? But did the boy, the girl, the mom, or Dear Abby know what each other were talking about?
DEAR ABBY: I’ve got a new one for you. My beautiful 16-year-old daughter was interested in a boy her age from school. He was interested in her, too. He told her he wanted to date her, but that he is “polyamorous” and would be dating many girls simultaneously. She told him he’s too young to know what he is yet, and he was just using it as an excuse to date multiple girls, and she wasn’t interested.
...He has been acting very hurt, pouty and angry. He told a mutual friend he is “deeply hurt” [that] he came out to my daughter and that she won’t accept him as he is. I’m worried this will escalate, and he will claim that she shamed him for this.
Abby, I am all about supporting how people self-identify, but this is absolutely ridiculous....
— NOT FUNNY IN COLORADO
DEAR NOT FUNNY: That boy is sulking because his pitch didn’t sell. Polyamory is the practice of openly engaging in multiple intimate relationships with the consent of ALL the people involved. What that boy may have meant was he enjoys “playing the field.” Your daughter didn’t discriminate; she showed good common sense. ...
● There's still no good dating app for non-monogamous people, says Mashable in substantial and useful detail (Feb. 6). If you're on the dating market, read this.
● Sometimes the obvious needs to be restated and explained in detail. Here's Elisabeth Sheff's When Consensual Non-Monogamy Won't Work for Monogamous Folks. "3 things that make CNM unrealistic or excruciating for monogamous people" (Feb. 11).
Because public awareness of CNM is expanding in the US and abroad, people who never considered it before are suddenly becoming aware of the polyamorous possibility. For some, this opens exciting new relational vistas of multiple partner bliss. But for others, especially deeply monogamous people, this boom in the practice and awareness of CNM is uncomfortable at best and tragic at worst.
Both my research findings and my relationship coaching practice have demonstrated repeatedly that non-monogamy is not a good fit for everyone. CNM is, however, the right thing for a significant minority of the population. Research indicates that at least 20% (estimates range from a low of 21.2% to a high of 32%) of people have some lifetime experience with consensual nonmonogamy, and 4 to 5% are currently in CNM relationships. That means CNM is far more widespread than previously thought, and people in the US are thinking and talking about it a lot more than they used to. This... can feel like pressure to the other approximately 80% who practice monogamy (usually serial monogamy), cheat, or remain single.
There are at least three factors that make CNM completely unworkable for some people....
Don’t Want CNM....
Don’t Like to Share....
Monogamous by Orientation....
...People have deep and unchanging sexual and relational characteristics. Everyone’s ability to express their innate sex/relationship characteristics is shaped by society with differing degrees of approval and stigma. Changing these deep personality structures is difficult to impossible, as the discrediting of gay conversion therapy demonstrates. ...
● At the University of Chicago, as reported in the Chicago Maroon, Visiting Professor Criticizes "Compulsory Monogamy" as a Creation of the "Settler-Colonial System" (Feb. 12).
By Chloe Brettmann
On Monday [Feb. 10], University of Alberta Associate Professor of Native Studies Kim TallBear spoke as part of an event organized by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory. Her lecture, “Settler Love Is Breaking My Heart,” explored the constructs and structures of “compulsory monogamy” as a tool for the colonization of indigenous peoples, and how “more than monogamous” relationships are a tool for decolonization and restitution of indigenous ways of life. ...
● #PolyBlackHistory Month continues. See what's going on at the hashtag, and maybe contribute!
● Emma Carnes at the University of North Texas is preparing a thesis on polyamory and the law. "I am examining the relationships between polyamorous people and their attorneys (CNM-friendly or otherwise), what legal barriers exist for poly people, what legal changes would enhance their lives, and how this differs based on lines of gender/class/race/ethnicity." She needs to interview more people about their experiences. "All data will be de-identified to protect the identity of participants. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions." Email EmmaCarnes@my.unt.edu .
Whew! All that in less than a week.
Till next time...