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



July 10, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup: Poly epiphanies, warning tales, and after Somerville, is Cambridge next?


Not so big a batch this week.

●  Minor aftershocks continue around the world from the news that Somerville, Massachusetts, has become the first city in the US to recognize domestic partnerships of more than two people. Many of the continuing follow-ons are in small religious publications expecting the end of days. More interesting was one in a local conservative outlet, the New Boston Post, whose reporter quizzed city councilors in Somerville's neighbor Cambridge — another poly-rich city — about whether they intend to follow suit. Where’s Cambridge on Recognizing Threesomes? City Councilors Address Polyamory (July 7)


By Tom Joyce

...Cambridge already has a domestic partner ordinance, but it only applies to two people living together.

However, two of the nine members of the Cambridge City Council tell New Boston Post they would like to change that.

That includes Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, who cited making it easier for people who consider themselves loved ones to visit a partner in the hospital.

“Somerville recently removed barriers to recognition for polyamorous relationships by passing a domestic partnership ordinance that doesn’t limit the definition of partnership to two people,” he told New Boston Post in an email message. “I’d be happy to see Cambridge remove those barriers as well so that all our residents can have the same benefit of visiting their partner in the hospital regardless of their relationship status. As one of the Somerville City Councilors noted, government has historically gotten things wrong when it’s tried to define what a family is.”

...Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan also sees Somerville’s change as a step in the right direction.

“I am excited about the change in Somerville and I’m very supportive of updating Cambridge’s Domestic Partnership ordinance accordingly,” Zondervan said... “Cambridge should build on this pioneering ordinance by joining Somerville in legally recognizing polyamorous relationships, which are valid family arrangements deserving of equal recognition and protection.

“People in polyamorous relationships should be able to access the legal benefits that come with domestic partnership, including the right to confer health insurance benefits or make hospital visits,” he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and the community to update this law as soon as possible.”

Conversely, Councilor Denise Simmons told New Boston Post that it’s not an issue that’s on her mind. ...

Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui could not be reached for comment on Monday.



●  A long Poly 101, well-meaning but scattered, appeared in the UK edition of the posh women's magazine Elle: A Definition of Polyamory, How It Works And Why It's Not All About Sex (July 6). The author, obviously new to the subject, bumbled a number of things but did better when she just quoted more knowledgeable people. Starting with the definition.


Nick Dolding / Getty

By Becky Burgum

...As explained by Dr Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door, to Psychology Today in 2018, 'Polyamory is a form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) with emotionally intimate relationships among multiple people that can also be sexual and/or romantic partners.'

...The term 'polyamory' is believed to have been officially coined and popularised by US poet Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart in 1990, in an article entitled A Bouquet of Lovers. In 1999, she was asked by the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary to provide a definition, reports the Dictionary. [She] defined polyamory as: 'The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.'

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...Charyn Pfeuffer, 47, from Seattle and author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating, has dated both monogamously and non-monogamously over the years. ... The author explains that given her huge capacity to love and care for others, non-monogamy (specifically polyamory) allows her to tear down the social constructs we’ve been taught, and allows her to love multiple partners with total transparency.

'Polyamory isn’t for everyone; ditto for monogamy,' Pfeuffer continues.... 'Like any relationship, it’s a commitment (but with multiple partners) and requires constant work.'

Philip Lee Harvey / Getty

...'Free love' or non-monogamy has been practised for millions of years, with anthropologists arguing that polyamory was common among hunter-gather societies.

As psychologist and author Christopher Ryan previously stated: 'These overlapping, intersecting sexual relationships strengthened group cohesion and could offer a measure of security in an uncertain world.'

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...The boundaries of all polyamorous relationships can be different, like they are in other types of unions.

Dedeker Winston, co-host of the Multiamory podcast and author of The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory, currently has two partners who she's been in relationship with for seven and four years, respectively.

'I haven't had any kind of "rule setting" conversation with either of my partners,' says Winston. 'But we have, over the course of the relationship, figured out mutual best practices that make sense.'

Practices include communicating honestly, being proactive in talking about sexual health and having regular relationship check-ins to make sure everyone is feeling fulfilled.

'I like to turn more towards figuring out my personal boundaries and coming up with best practices with each partner,' Winston, who is also a relationship coach, continues. 'In my work with clients, I see restrictive rules often fail miserably as many people find themselves agreeing to rules that they can't abide by once they are actually exploring multiple relationships.' She argues that this often leads to rules-lawyering or finding loopholes....

...'I can say hands down that I've experienced more joy, trust, compassion, growth, and moments of tenderness than I ever did in monogamous relationships in my past,' she notes.

...Dedeker explains that people often make the assumption that polyamory is something that couples do, rather than something that individuals do. ... Our monogamy-dominant cultural narratives lead many people to believe that you can only really care about one person romantically.'

Mangostar_Studio / Getty

Is polyamory the same as an open relationship?

Not necessarily, although both are considered non-monogamous.

According to the Handbook of the Sociology of Sexualities, an open relationship is typically defined as having sexual intercourse with others (other than one's partner/spouse) but that those sexual encounters don't develop into relationships. Meanwhile, polyamory involves having multiple relationships. Love and emotional connections are the driving forces in the latter.

In 2018, Renee Divine, L.M.F.T., a sex and relationships therapist in Minneapolis, clarified the difference to Women's Health, noting: 'An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexual relationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, loving relationships with multiple people.' ...



●  From a Medium author comes Did You Actually Think That Polyamorous Relationship Would Work? (July 10).  It's an object lesson about a quad of naive newbies that exploded because they failed to grasp, like so many people from mainstream culture, the foundational work they needed to do around boundary discussions, building serious non-mainstream relationship skills, and creating a culture among themselves of abundant fearless communicating.


Janet Sung

The more, the merrier’ doesn’t always apply — especially without the proper boundaries.

By Aliya S. King

A few years ago, a man and his wife wanted to inject a little excitement into their sex life. They decided to add a third party — a woman who was interested but was also married. They made arrangements for both couples to have a few meet-and-greets over drinks. Things clicked, and one night, that foursome met up at an area hotel, where they all had sex. A few weeks later, it all went down again.

There were never any conversations about the rules of engagement. It was simply two couples that were attracted to each other having some fun.

I heard about this arrangement for months. It was all about this spicy new sex, which made their challenging adult lives — soul-crushing jobs and raising young children — more bearable. My friend called it a polyamorous relationship, but I knew better. Polyamory is often about much more than just sex; it’s an actual relationship. I kept my thoughts to myself, though, mostly because I wasn’t asked.

Over time, the two couples’ relationship morphed from strictly sexual to something more. The women set up poker nights with friends on the weekends and met at Starbucks for the occasional post-yoga coffee. The two men went to sports bars and watched gaming events often. The four people enjoyed each other’s company in and out of the bedroom. Eventually, they all began to attend their children’s sporting events and school activities together.

...I watched this poly relationship grow over time, and I wondered to myself, did they ever set any boundaries? Turns out, they had not.

One day, the two dudes got into a minor tiff over a golf game. They stopped speaking and expected their wives to follow suit — but the wives had no intention of doing such. They lied to their husbands and began sneaking around to hang out. Eventually, the weekend sex continued… without their husbands.

In time, the shenanigans came to light. They all went into therapy to set boundaries, but it was too late. Both couples divorced.

Kicker: The two wives are now in a relationship together.

Yes, polyamory exists. And yes, with the right boundaries and communication, it can work. But most of the time, people fast forward past that part and jump straight into bed for the sex portion of the programming.

...After watching my friend’s life go left, I’ve learned that a polyamorous relationship takes planning and forethought because a poly relationship is only as strong as its weakest person-to-person bond. I truly believe that my friend’s poly relationship could’ve made it had both couples sat down, both separately and together, to discuss what they wanted and how they’d handle various scenarios (like, say, a conflict between the two couples).

...Are you built for it? Ask your partner the following:

    What do we do if one of us begins to feel uncomfortable or jealous?
    What do we do if we no longer want to participate in the sexual part of the relationship?
    What do we do if anyone at all feels anything off, ever, at any point in time?

If you can go in with those three questions answered, either between you or with the help of a professional, your relationship might be able to handle the risks. ...


Asking and answering such questions isn't enough, say I. You need to settle on realistic answers! For that, learning the poly-community wisdom will probably do you better than some therapist. To improve your odds, seek out good, experienced poly community.  


● A queer black solopoly woman writes in The Guardian, My pandemic epiphany: the best part of having eight partners is being alone (July 10)


On my 20th birthday, the first person I’d ever been in a long-term relationship with proposed to me. We’d been dating for almost three years. I said yes. Everyone we knew was shocked. ...

When my partner proposed, he knew the deal. We were both queer weirdos who were happy to explore. We had multiple discussions outlining our boundaries. We read books like Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up [written for couples – Ed.] and thought we had our open relationship figured out. ... As long as we were each other’s primaries, it didn’t matter. Sure, I thought most people who decided to get married at 20 were rushing into a mistake, but we were different. We had rules.

Of course, we were not different. Two years after the proposal, we would break up after a number of rules were broken. Our shared copy of Opening Up was left in a Goodwill donation bin, despite the personal inscription from Taormino herself wishing us luck.

...Freshly single, I started identifying as solo poly. Solo polyamorous people have no boyfriends, no wives or open marriages; no primary or secondary partners. Instead of using labels, the needs, rules and responsibilities of the relationship are agreed with each partner you have. [That actually sounds more like the Relationship Anarchy wing.]

To sum that up, basically, my relationship status is almost always: I’m seeing people, but I’m also single. The people I’m seeing know this. I’m also bisexual and date people across the gender spectrum.

...Over seven years, I’ve redefined my rules and expectations multiple times based on my needs as a queer black woman. At this point, it’s easy to spot the red flag [if] the second someone thinks I might save their marriage or spice up their life. I stick to my rules and I don’t have to waste my time. In solo polyamory, I am mostly able to embrace my isolation. It’s hard to explain, but my favorite part of having eight partners is being alone.

...When the world was forced to isolate, I realized my real motivation for being poly. It’s not my single-parent upbringing or some dark tragedy I survived. It’s not an insatiable need for drama or outsider status. It is an absolutely boring love of rules. 



That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. See you next week if not sooner. Be safe, don't be a knucklehead (or let them near you), and we will get through this. Somehow, eventually.

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