Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

August 28, 2020

Friday Polynews Roundup: The instructive Jerry Falwell implosion, poly role models for school podding, unicorn problems analyzed, and more

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for August 28, 2020.

The hottest non-monogamy topic in the news this week has to be the spectacular implosion of Jerry Falwell, Jr. — possibly America's most powerful evangelical leader, and the boss of Liberty University (training "champions for Christ," with 85,000 students including online). He was a key early backer of Trump in 2016 and a major factor in bringing conservative evangelicals into Trumpland.

You've seen the headlines and pictures. Maybe heard that drunken, slurred radio interview. Maybe you've seen the many accounts of ripoffs, corruption, and intimidation.

Tame by comparison: unzipped on a yacht with a
woman not his wife. He expels students for less.

But the grand finale came early this week when a young former hotel pool boy went public, describing the cuckolding-kink relationship that Falwell and his wife drew him into in 2012. It continued for seven years. The young hunk would ball Mrs. Falwell while Jerry "watched from a corner," sometimes taking photos and/or videos. And now other, unrelated allegations of supposedly forbidden sex are coming out of the woodwork.

Under Falwell's leadership, Liberty University — widely described as run by a culture of fear — punishes or expels students and faculty who attempt, or just speak up for, even ordinary, respectful lovemaking anywhere outside of marriage.

A debate sprang up on the Polyamory Leadership Network over whether there's a teachable moment here for our issues. The general sense was "Hell no!" If nothing else, the ugly power differential overwhelms everything. A 20-year-old hotel worker versus a man who commands millions of loyal followers and is now buddies with the President? And, Falwell seems to consider Liberty's $1.6 billion endowment fund to be the next closest thing to his personal spending money. Yet according to the pool boy, the last straw was that Falwell stiffed him on a business deal and thought he could get away with it. Because power.

While the PLN debated, however, Lux Alptraum took the opportunity. NBC News published her piece Tuesday in the "Think" opinion section of its website. She cuts to the heart of it. Excerpts:

The Falwell affair shows non-monogamy isn't rare — but it does challenge social norms

Monogamous marriage is still considered a bedrock of modern society, whether you're liberal or conservative. Maybe it's time to rethink that.

By Lux Alptraum

On Monday, long-circulated rumors about evangelical leader and now former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. burst into public view, which may end up costing Falwell both his job and, perhaps, his political reputation.

According to what a former business associate, Giancarlo Granda, told Reuters, Falwell and his wife, Becki — who met Granda while he was working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel — had spent years engaging in a sexual practice known as cuckoldry, with Granda serving as the “bull” with Becki as Jerry allegedly looked on. While Jerry Falwell ultimately acknowledged a sexual relationship between his wife and Granda, he contested Granda’s version of the events and said in a statement Sunday that he hadn’t been a consenting participant but a beleaguered husband who’d been cheated on by his beloved wife.

The Falwells are hardly the first prominent political couple to possibly have a sex life that strains the boundaries of monogamy. ...

Yet even as non-monogamy runs rampant in Washington, D.C., it’s difficult to imagine it ever being openly accepted. ...

It feels worth asking why.

...A 2018 peer-reviewed study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior, based on a 2012 study of partnered Americans, suggests that, at any given point, 89 percent are actively monogamous, while 4 percent are consensually non-monogamous and 8 percent are actively non-consensually non-monogamous. ... [I'm amazed that cheaters supposedly outnumber CNM people by a mere 2 to 1. Can that possibly be right? People notoriously shade the truth when speaking to pollsters about their personal lives. –Ed.]

...The story that Jerry Falwell tells about the affair is one where the couple retains their fealty to the idea, if not the actual practice, of monogamous marriage — and to Falwell's stereotypically masculine role in that marriage.

That is very, very different from Granda’s tale of happy rejection of monogamous norms — which is a significant distinction, particularly for an evangelical leader like Falwell. Because whatever else it might be, monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a bedrock of the patriarchy. And a political establishment that’s willing to put a public commitment to monogamy aside is one that’s willing to truly challenge men’s power and dominion over women, their bodies and their sexuality ... which is something American society doesn’t seem quite yet ready to do.

This is not to say that all monogamous marriages are inherently patriarchal, or that casting off the shackles of monogamy suddenly renders your relationship egalitarian.... But monogamous heterosexual marriage as an institution has long been used to police the sexual behavior of women, with tools ranging from virginity pledges to slut-shaming employed to keep the ladies in line.

And, as a concept, monogamy is supposedly gender blind but, in practice, its social enforcement tends to favor men....

What would it have meant for Jerry Falwell Jr. to openly admit that he enjoys watching his wife in the arms of another man? It would mean, certainly, a major challenge to the rigid sexual norms he's publicly supported for decades. But it would also mean challenging his own status as the patriarch within his family and society at large, acknowledging that the family structure and sexual roles on which men have based society for millennia just don’t really work for him and, likely, for many other people.

...We’ll continue to have “sex scandals” in which ostensibly monogamous political figures sheepishly admit their monogamy has been more aspirational than actual. And we’ll continue to uphold monogamous, heterosexual marriage as a goal and even a requirement for everyone's supposed happiness, rather than reject it as the ill-fitting, repressive and punitive institution that it has been since its beginning.

Lux Alptraum is a writer and producer who served as development producer for Fusion’s Peabody-nominated show "Sex.Right.Now.” Her first book, "Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex — And the Truths They Reveal,” explores our cultural obsession with feminine deceit.

Read her whole article (Aug. 25). 

Incidentally, this thing keeps getting bigger. What happened to those years of photos/videos that Falwell supposedly took of Granda doing his wife? Apparently a Miami lawyer was holding some of them. And guess what: Donald Trump knows the story of what happened to these compromising materials from there, according to Trump's longtime lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen. Because Cohen says that he was dispatched on a mission to fix the problem. He was supposed to make the items go away, and he says he did; he says he got their owner to destroy them. One wonders how he performed this persuasion; right afterward, the lawyer went to the extreme of changing his name. The Miami Herald says the lawyer "said he opted to switch identities after Cohen got involved over the photos." 

After that, Jerry Falwell, who had been preparing to back Ted Cruz for president, switched allegiance to Trump. Rod Dreher, writing this week in The American Conservative, is one of many people across the political spectrum to connect the dots:

It raises an important question too about whether or not the Trump campaign used knowledge of the Falwells’ affair to pressure Jerry Jr. to endorse Trump. Former Trump legal fixer Michael Cohen told Tom Arnold that he handled a situation down in Florida in which somebody had some compromising boudoir shots of Becki Falwell that he (Cohen) had to obtain. Funnily enough, right after that, Jerry Jr., who was lined up to endorse Ted Cruz for president, flip-flopped to Trump. Amazing, eh?

And now Cohen is in the news confirming again that yes indeed, he was sent to get those pix. The link is to a Miami Herald story about this ongoing development.

Also from Dreher,

Here’s a video on the Trump YouTube channel, of Becki Falwell, Giancarlo Granda’s former mistress and a board member of Women For Trump, joining Lara Trump in 2019 to talk about strengthening families. Wonder how much longer that's going to stay there?


Phew. Moving on to healthier topics,

●  A new genre of poly-in-the-media seems to be developing: parenting magazines and parenting websites talking about how poly ideals can model useful practices not just for mono couples who want to better their relationship skills, but also for managing podded households with kids. Last week we saw Here’s How Being Polyamorous Prepared Me For Parenting, from HuffPost Personal. Now comes, in Romper, What Can Polyamorous Families Teach Us About Pod Schools? (Aug. 24).

"Stock photo for illustrative purposes only. Posed by model. Getty Images"

By Jamie Kenney

One set of parents, in a committed relationship with their school — that is just one possible arrangement among many, in a year that has seen the rise of learning pods; multiple families banding together to hire a tutor to teach their children at home.

...How can multiple families juggle the mix of egos, group dynamics, and communication styles? For insight, I spoke to polyamorous moms — couples in relationships with other couples or individuals. Both pods and polyamory involve an unorthodox arrangement of interconnected adults coming together in a way that fulfills their needs. Both can complicate existing relationships and, if not approached mindfully, become a minefield of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They can also be very rewarding.

Pod learning isn’t intimate to the same extent as polyamory, but it’s still a meaningful relationship that requires a lot of mindfulness, communication, and trust, as these three poly moms explain. They offered advice on what “pod families” might expect, and how to avoid common pitfalls of sharing your life with multiple people.

Assume Nothing (And Get It In Writing)....

“Being poly is about 5% fun sex and 95% insane communication and negotiation,” says Erin S. ... “You need to be heard, consent, discuss, be honest, and feel comfortable and confident with what you want and your goals..

...If even well-meaning enthusiasm gets ahead of planning and logistics, it’s not going to work out. She recommends would-be pods take a page from the Polyamory Playbook and write out actual contracts — complete with rules, plans, schedules, and even mission statements — before classes get started. Though not legally binding, they nevertheless outline clear boundaries, expectations, and goals upfront.

 ...To set yourself up for success, she recommends parents “do the hard work in the beginning so that you don’t get stuck questioning things later on.”

Conversations About Health Don’t Have To Be Awkward....

...Cait says anyone in a learning pod should take note and not shy from questions that might seem invasive. “You have to ask how many other people have you been seeing? When is the last time you got tested? Have you been tested for antibodies?”

Contact tracing is a de facto part of the poly community even under normal circumstances....

Lean On One Another’s Strengths....

...“In polyamory and study pods, it’s about finding people who are all complementary to each other, who you can work with in close quarters and also gain something new or needed.”

Perri is currently discussing podding with some members of her friend group, where all the adults will pitch in and teach different subjects. She thinks her poly lifestyle lends itself well to this kind of communalism. The dynamic is familiar: she and her partners are used to, knowing when to step up or step back when working as a group. ...

She advises people keep an open mind. “Even if you disagree, make sure to point out any valid parts of other stances before you state your own case. It makes it easier to find a compromise when everyone knows what they agree on.”

●  An overlapping genre is non-monogamy during Covid-19. Here's from Vice this week: How to Safely Practice Non-Monogamy During the Pandemic (Aug. 28). The writer uses the term "polyamory" a lot, but in fact she is talking mostly about the more individualistic phone-hookup and swing cultures. Which the graphic suggests:

Cathryn Virginia

If you're polyamorous, social distancing probably means fewer in-person hookups – but, as with anything else in an open relationship, communication will keep things sexy.

By Penda N'diaye

...The way people are relating to and adjusting their boundaries with their partners, as is necessary for a more socially distanced version of polyamory, may be taking some extra thought right now. ... If it’s time to renegotiate previous boundaries and get a little more creative about when and how often you spend time with multiple partners, here's how to think about respecting everyone involved.

Figure out what kind of safety measures everyone can agree on before anything else.

Your poly lifestyle is not worth other people getting COVID. If you do intend to see multiple partners in any way, shape, or form—which is hella risky, and which you probably shouldn't—make sure everyone's on the same page, and take meticulous safety measures.

...Unless your alternative partners are willing to move in and commit to an exclusive relationship within your polyamory bubble or polycule, body-to-body sexual contact with them is probably not doable, and everyone needs to have a straightforward discussion about that. ...

Ask questions of all of your partners if you go forward with continuing to be with them physically. You'll need to know:

“Who else are you sleeping with?”

“How many partners have you had in the last month?”

“What safety precautions are you taking?”

When each additional person opens you up to the risks of their own network, the space for error can compound very quickly....

Communicate with all your partners about how emotionally involved you want to be with each respective person, and vice versa. 

If you and your partners decide to abstain from sexual and physical contact for health reasons, it doesn’t mean your relationships have to be placed on hold. ...

...“We’re not having much human connection at the moment, [so] sometimes the lines between physical and emotional intimacy get blurred because we’re craving human touch and human interaction,” Hall said. ...

Create a schedule—or, at least, discuss timing—with your partners.

...Smith shares her personal Google Calendar with her partner, and he and his wife share theirs with her. “We have to be very candid, to the point that if I spend time with any friend, or partner, I put it into the calendar, as well as any social engagements. Even before quarantining, we relied on this system to organize our schedules and designate when we would spend time together.”

“By looking at the calendar, my partner and his wife can make a judgment call like, 'Hey, maybe you’ve been seeing too many people. Can you get tested before we meet up again?'”

...Above all... be patient with yourself and others as everyone adapts. It’s an opportunity to take stock of what feels good about being with—and how to be respectful toward—each person in your life that you're into having sex with (even if that's just in your iMessage inbox or voice notes). 

●  On a more perennial topic, Abby Moss reports to HuffPost UK readers why unicorn fantasies so often end poorly: Why Being The 'Unicorn' In A Threesome Isn't Always A Magical Experience (Aug. 26)

...According to one study, 95% of men and 87% of women have fantasised about sex with multiple partners. Dating app Feeld (which has been called “Tinder for threesomes”) has more than 200,000 weekly users, 3Fun encourages users to browse and “meet open-minded hot couples and singles nearby”. Meanwhile, hookup and swingers’ site Adult Friend Finder has a staggering 80 million users worldwide. [Again, we're talking mostly hookup culture, not polyamory.]

...Cath*, 30, used to meet couples through dating apps. But after a series of unpleasant experiences she now steers clear of “unicorn hunters”.

“I’ve had situations where the male part of a couple has pushed my boundaries too far, even when I’ve been asking him to stop,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“It can be alienating being that third party. I slept with one couple who did try hard to include me. In the morning the woman went out and bought us all breakfast, but the night before I’d really felt like I was just there to fulfil their fantasy and in the morning I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”

This feeling is echoed by Kate*, 27, who has also stopped meeting couples after one too many bad experiences. “I’ve been made to feel like an unpaid sex worker at best, and a human sex toy at worst,” she says. “Too many couples don’t understand how to treat a third person with respect.”

Dr Ryan Scoats, a lecturer in sociology at Coventry University who holds the world’s first PhD in threesomes, has interviewed hundreds of threesome participants, from those in existing relationships to people who’ve had more casual hookups, as well as studying more than 200 qualitative surveys of people’s sex lives.

The fact that many threesome horror stories are told by women could be partly down to the types of threesomes people are having in the first place, he says.

...“Historically, certainly for 50 or more years, we’ve seen a tying together of masculinity and homophobia”, says Dr Scoats, who suggests that while women have not been constrained in the same way, “women’s sexuality is encouraged from the perspective of the male gaze”.

This can be connected to perceptions of emotional security and threat, he adds. “Women’s bisexuality is often not taken seriously, so it’s not seen as a threat to [a] relationship. This can be problematic when it leads to the man involved in the threesome feeling that the threesome is all for him.”

...Feeld’s user guidelines encourage inclusivity and openness to other people and minds, but also stipulate: “no one owes you anything” and “consent is key”.

...Certified sexologist and feminist writer Gigi Engle says that planning, as well as clear communication, is one of the most important parts of any threesome. ...

...Boundary crossing in threesomes can be emotional as much as sexual. For Gemma*, 29, a recent encounter with a couple went wrong when they expected more from her than she was comfortable with. What began as a casual sex arrangement became more serious when the couple asked her to join them on holiday.

“I wasn’t comfortable with that and didn’t want anything more than a casual relationship, which I’d explained to them from the start. They got quite upset and couldn’t understand why I wanted to have that boundary,” she says.

...The terms “unicorn” and “unicorn hunters” may seen harmless, but Engle argues they are symptomatic of the way society often views sexually-empowered women. “The problem is we don’t have adequate language to talk about sex and sexuality in the first place. So, we fill the space with language that’s fun and cutesy,” says Engle.

“It’s really important to question the terms we use. Using a term like ‘unicorn’ really shows where people think the power lies. In this case, it’s all with the couple, and it implies that they don’t need to treat that third individual like a person… or even that to do so would threaten their relationship.”...

That's it for this week's Friday Polynews Roundup. Stay healthy. Mens sana in corpore sano. And to that, add spiritus sanus. Healthy mind, body, and soul. You deserve nothing less, dear people.


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August 21, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup – Poly as training for parenting, best polyam dating apps, Kimchi and Vajra reconcile, when 2+2 = 3+1, and more.

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for August 21, 2020.

●  We start off with a two-fer. This one hits the categories of "what the poly community can teach anyone" and poly parenting. Here’s How Being Polyamorous Prepared Me For Parenting, from HuffPost Personal (Aug. 15). It was immediately written about on the new-mom site BabyGaga and was reprinted elsewhere.

“I’ve had lots of different kinds of relationships with lots of different people and all of those experiences taught me how to be the best mom I can be.”

By Marea Goodman

The author (left) and her family in Oakland, California, in March.

In my early 20s, I was passionate about polyamory.... There were times I had one “primary” partner and other more casual, “secondary” relationships. I was in a triad relationship where the three of us went on dates together and slept in the same bed. There was a year during which I maintained three serious relationships at once, where all people involved knew about each other, and two of them were also dating each other. It was like a self-studied master’s course in human dynamics.

At the time, it was the most liberating lifestyle I could imagine. But five years later, after navigating my fair share of dramatic break ups and having a time-intensive, full-time job, I found monogamy to be the approach to my romantic, sexual and family life that worked and felt best for me.

Even though I am no longer practicing polyamory, I look back happily at that part of my life, and, what’s more, I’ve come to realize that being polyamorous actually prepared me to successfully be a parent.

Here’s what it taught me.

1. How to balance (and schedule) multiple people’s needs at a time.

...In my family now, I have conversations with my partner and 10-year-old daughter that are similar to those I had with my romantic partners a decade ago. We’ve learned that my daughter needs a daily routine to feel calm and grounded, so we write her a list beginning with “brush your teeth” and ending with “get in bed.” My partner, the free spirit, appreciates having one full day per week when we don’t have anything scheduled so that we can do whatever we want as a family (and, ironically, we plan when that day will be). Our toddler needs to play outside every day or else it’s impossible to put him to sleep. And I need regular alone time to maintain my sanity.

The process of distilling our needs into practical, schedule-able pieces helps each person get what they need, and overall increases our family harmony.

2. How to be in touch with my own feelings and prioritize them

...I’ve learned that my primary relationship is with myself ― when I am taken care of, I can take care of others, and everyone in my family benefits.

3. It’s OK to have different feelings for different people ...

4. How to communicate effectively

Knowing how you feel is not always enough. During my years of polyamory, I practiced the art of communication with studious rigor. Healthy communication is not monolithic. Each of us carries traumas and stories from our past, and we often filter our experience through our baggage. For some, saying “I need a little space” feels like a clearly stated need. For others, it feels like a heartbreaking rejection.

...The same skills apply to my relationships with my partner and children. They are all different people with varied ways of taking in information. ...

5. Jealousy is an onion

Understanding jealousy as a [multilayered] onion is enormously helpful in navigating sibling dynamics. I recognize that when my daughter gets jealous of the attention we give to our toddler, that it’s not about him or about us as parents. I try to help her peel off the layers of the onion so we can get to the core of her pain and work to heal what’s motivating her feelings of jealousy in the first place.

6. The need to understand oppression dynamics 

7. How to navigate different love languages

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The 5 Love Languages” which describes five fundamental ways that people in Western societies give and receive love. These love languages include: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. While there are many variations and nuances to how we love, I’ve found this framework profoundly helpful in both polyamory and parenting.

...I used to think polyamory was the greatest adventure in intimacy. Now I understand that it was, for me, a training ground for the 24-7, full-contact sport of parenting. 

We speak to our 10-year-old about different relationship dynamics including polyamory. With two moms and a sperm donor, she already knows that families look all kinds of ways. When my kids are ready, I will encourage them to explore whatever kinds of relationships they are called to. ...

●  From Cosmopolitan, The Best Dating Apps for Those Who Identify as Non-Monogamous, by Gabrielle Smith (Aug. 17). Smith also wrote that nice article at Self  magazine last week, 9 Ways Non-Monogamous People Are Dealing With the Pandemic.

By Gabrielle Smith

...For starters, there are so! many! ways! to identify under the umbrella term of non-monogamy. But the one thing everyone has in common if they do: no expectation of exclusivity. ...

Now as an ethically non-monogamous person, I’ve always used dating apps—from my first open relationship at 19 to my solo-polyamory today. Through Tinder, I’ve found two of my long-term partners. Via Hinge, I had my first relationship with another woman. And while on Feeld, I’ve met all sorts of wonderful ethically non-monogamous folks.

In general, it's been a pretty positive experience. Dating apps help people like me represent ourselves properly. We can usually state directly in our profiles "I am ethically non-monogamous" [and describe your variety of it.]

Despite meeting my first romantic female partner on Hinge, this app is one of the least amenable for ethical non-monogamy. It is, after all, coined as “designed to be deleted,” which perpetuates monogamy, so it’s not surprising that I found it difficult to be ENM on this app. ...

Tinder and Bumble, while not perfect, are pretty decent options for ENM folks. Their benefits have to do with numbers and simplicity. In the United States, Tinder and Bumble are the dating apps with the largest user base. ...

The winners for non-monogamous dating, though: Feeld and OkCupid. ... I mean, Feeld was made for ENM, and OkCupid has survived due to its willingness to adapt. ...

I [also] spoke with seven other folks who identify as non-monogamous about their favorites and definitely-not-favorites. ...

●  The online women's magazine SheKnows presents a long, solid ENM 101 that, in my opinion, covers the basic bases without fumbles or errors: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ethical Non-Monogamy  (Aug. 20). And it quotes people I've never heard of before. It was reprinted the same day by Yahoo News/ Life. Pieces:

Good Studio / AdobeStock
By Gina Escandon

...While a key tenet is freedom to explore and have affection with different people, there’s a lot behind the scenes that make these relationships successful. So, let’s chart the waters for everything you always wanted to know about ENM, including how to open your relationship while making everyone involved feel safe and loved. 

...“Ethically non-monogamous relationships are ones in which all people involved have negotiated the terms of and enthusiastically consented to non-monogamy, without feeling coerced into it,” explains Dr. Dulcinea Pitagora, NYC-based psychotherapist and sex therapist.

Heather McPherson, licensed supervisor of couples and sex therapy, owner of Respark Therapy, and owner of Sexual Health Alliance, which provides certification programs for therapists, coaches and healthcare providers, emphasizes that if participants aren’t feeling 100 percent on board, or they see it as a way to repair a broken relationship, it can put the arrangement in jeopardy. “It should be noted that if one partner has consented under coercion,” she says, “or because they are afraid they will lose the relationship, the agreement may be compromised.”

What are the different kinds of ethical non-monogamy?

...Think of it an umbrella term for all the ways you can, with consent, explore love and sex with multiple people. If someone says they’re non-monogamous, don’t assume you know what that means; instead respectfully ask them for more information.

...Says Hannah, who’s polyamorous and shares an apartment in Brooklyn with their primary and secondary partners, “ENM means you’re ‘opening up’ your relationship in some way. I think the only distinction is that people who identify as poly tend to have more romantic connections and significant others, where ENM can be casual, or just about sexual connections, depending on who’s defining it.” 

Common misconceptions 

To chip away at the taboos, let’s talk about what ENM is not. ...

Does consensual non-monogamy work for everyone? 

[The tl;dr: No.  To continue,] People in ENM relationships tend to have heightened communication skills, a sophisticated understanding of boundaries, and tons of empathy — because you have to do so much talking to make sure everyone involved feels safe, special, and loved. McPherson says to expect to work on your relationship and communicate twice as much as you once did, “at least for the first few years.” 

Keep in mind that you’re not going to figure it out overnight. ... [Nevertheless] a 2020 study conducted by Western University, York University and the University of Utah actually found that people with consensually non-monogamous connections had increased life satisfaction, relationship quality, and sexual contentment. 

Communication is the key to a successful ENM 

...Communication is hard and terrifying, but it’s super important to get on the same page about boundaries and limitations early on....

[Says Dr. Pitagora,] “Especially for people who are new to ethical and consensual non-monogamy, it can feel awkward to have conversations about new partners, so I always advise having conversations about conversations.” 

[And,] “Whenever there are new partners/romantic interests/sexual partners, I suggest that each dyad/triad/etc. has a conversation about what level of detail they want from their partners about who they’re seeing and what they’ll be doing with whom, and also when they would like to have that information... g. Figuring out and agreeing on how to have conversations makes it easier to have those conversations.” 

Having the courage to say what you feel takes a lot of practice! But boundaries are there to keep you safe — that’s why it’s better to set your tenets in the beginning....

●  Some Covid closure? In the poly-comics gossip department, remember those sad Kimchi Cuddles strips a couple weeks ago about a covid-boundary crisis between real-life Kim and real-life Vajra, and their little kid being fed covid-denialist crap by her friend's knucklehead mom?

"Kimchi" and "Vajra" have apparently worked it out using those, you know, communication skills. He's moving back to a nearby apartment and things are looking good, and of course she cartooned about it, to the cheers and likes of thousands of fans.

Fact is, I gather that she has not been entirely pristine in the boundary-agreement department herself, and real-life Vajra handled the kerfuffle pretty well, so no villains here please except for the kid's friend's knucklehead mom.

What's more, real-life Rajeev may finally, after all these years, be moving in next door too. The middle panel is a reference to Brokeback Mountain.

●  Not-quite-so-happy poly in the tabloids. The Daily Mail and others published the tale (Aug. 19) of two couples in Perth, Australia, who fell in love and "formed an almost-quadruple, where everyone dated each other except Rob and Simon." It was wonderful all around until it wasn't, and following a disagreement between the two women, they broke up as a quad late last year. Three continue as a triad, and their kids call the extra guy their "sparent." (Get it?) The other woman has dropped the other two and maintains a relationship with only her original guy.

I am reminded of Deborah Anapol's observation in the poly movement's early days that often, 2+2 = 3+1, as in this case. Or worse, 2+2 = 3–1. Some say that quads are the easiest polyfamily configuration, others say they're the hardest. At least everyone here seems amicable and settled... if you can believe anything in the tabloids.

That's it for Friday Polynews Roundup. Stay well, dear people, don't be a knucklehead, and don't breathe their aerosols.

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August 14, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup – Finding community during covid, healthy kids of poly, resources for therapists, and a triad triumph

Tetra Images / Getty

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for August 14, 2020.

● After last week's tales of poly pandemic hell choices, let's start with this nice, bright, rational and enlightened piece that appeared in Self magazine: 9 Ways Non-Monogamous People Are Dealing With the Pandemic (Aug. 7).  Self, from publishing giant Condé Nast, bills itself as "wellness you can trust."

Here are excerpts, but really, go read the whole thing.

Communication, communication, communication.

By Gabrielle Smith

So. This pandemic thing sucks. ...
I’m polyamorous, falling under the incredibly wide umbrella of ethical non-monogamy (ENM). ... So how are non-monogamous folks dealing in these unprecedented times? Here's how various people in the ENM community are dealing with some of the many challenges COVID-19 has created.

1. We’re now discussing COVID-19 concerns as part of our normal safety precautions.

Discussion about safety and risk, especially around transmittable diseases, isn’t new to the ENM community. Research has found that compared to monogamous folk, ethically non-monogamous people tend to be more likely to be responsible concerning condom usage and STI screening. And we talk about it with each other. ...

Admittedly, it can feel more intrusive than usual, but it’s worth it. ... Sharon R., 26, from Long Island, tells SELF, “I’d rather be safe than sorry. ... The way someone responds tells me a lot about them.”...

2. Some folks are forming poly-bubbles.

Those who already practiced “kitchen table” polyamory—where partners and metamours are all friendly and spend time together—are particularly well-suited for this.

I ended up forming a poly-bubble of sorts with my polycule, simply because it made sense for us logistically. With a collective understanding of each individual’s boundaries, we make sure to address what we jokingly call “the committee” before making moves that may put others at risk. Our rules are mostly to lower exposure: wearing masks when we are in public, riding in car shares with the windows open, and requiring new partners to get COVID-19 tested before swapping spit, just to name a few examples.

3. Many are feeling the emotional toll of supporting multiple partners.

...“For someone who already plays a compassionate role, there’s a lot of compassion fatigue,” Alex V., a 34-year-old, from New York, tells SELF. “The way I cope is to remind myself and others that this is only temporary.”...

4. We’ve had to recalibrate our relationships in response to COVID-19.

...Incompatible lifestyles, at-risk activity, and different levels of vulnerability to the disease are keeping partners apart. ...

That said, one of the nice things about non-monogamy is that relationships can be fluid more easily. It’s not uncommon for relationships to transition from serious to casual, or from romantic to platonic. ...

5. Folks are getting creative due to long-term separation. ...

6. Many are putting emotional connection in the front seat. ...

7. We’re asking new questions while cohabitating for pandemic purposes. ...

8. More of us are connecting in online polyam communities.

Not only is this great for social distancing needs, but it’s also helping people find polyam communities who otherwise might have had a harder time [especially if far from big cities.] ... 

9. Unsurprisingly, communication is still paramount....

...“If we want our relationships to survive, proactive communication is a must,” [Morgan] says. “We have to tell the people we love how we feel, what we're scared about, and what we need. This is not the time to shrink, to make assumptions, or to hope they can read our minds. When radical honesty is part of our daily lives, it helps us stay solution-oriented. It offers relief and healing.” ...

●  As I've said for years, to thrive in polyamory you need community. In The Bold Italic ("celebrating the character and free-wheeling spirit of the Bay Area") comes How Porn Helped Me Find My Community (Aug. 11)

Finding a supportive polyamorous network has been life-changing.

By Krista Varela Posell

As I got ready to go watch porn in public with my husband and a dozen other people, I felt electrified — a combination of anticipation and eagerness. New to polyamory, this was a big step for us.

Dan Savage’s 15th annual Hump! Film Festival, which showcases amateur porn videos under five minutes, took place at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre [last fall]. ... I was surprised at just how natural it felt to be going with such a large group that included several people my husband and I were dating.

As the videos rolled, the way we all ooh-ed and ahh-ed and laughed at the same moments was a bonding unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It turned out that this group porn-watching experience was just what my husband and I needed to shepherd us into finding a polyamorous community we felt loved by and connected to.

Sex drew us in, but in the end, love and affection have been the most important ingredients in creating a supportive network.

Tetra Images / Getty
...I started to date a man who was already part of a well-established polycule.... He told me about how they did things as a group — movie nights, birthday celebrations, vacations. ... He invited Brendan and me to a barbecue with his polycule, and we watched their dynamic in admiration — the friendly and playful banter between metamours, the ease with which they all enjoyed each other’s company without awkwardness.

“This is amazing,” I thought. “I want that.” But how?

The idea behind a polycule comes down to “kitchen table poly” — the concept that everyone can sit around the kitchen table comfortably together regardless of whether the people are sexually or romantically involved with one another. This felt like the elusive model that Brendan and I wanted from the beginning of opening our relationship. ... Being inexperienced, we didn’t have the language to communicate exactly what we wanted to our outside partners, and they didn’t share the same investment in a kitchen table poly model. 

...Our first taste of success at kitchen table poly came when we took a couple of our partners to the Folsom Street Fair. The four of us spent the afternoon wandering the streets, intrigued by all the different forms of kink on display, watching people get spit on from second-story windows, and seeing others sneak off into alleyways to have sex. Then we all went to dinner and ended the evening at a Bawdy Storytelling show, a sex and storytelling series that’s often described as “the Moth for perverts.”

It was titillating to see Brendan put his arm around his partner while I was holding our girlfriend’s hand. It also felt organic, being able to share affection with multiple people in public in a space that is welcoming of people from all kinds of alternative lifestyles. ...

...After the festival, we all walked a couple of blocks to Gestalt for beers. On the way to the bar, one of our partners who we’d been seeing for a few months turned to me and said, “I can see why you like this. It’s like we all have this big secret.” ...

...At the bar, we claimed a table for all of us, and after a round of official introductions, people broke off into smaller groups. These folks who had been total strangers just a few hours before were already laughing and talking like old friends. As the evening went on, Brendan and I were buzzing with energy seeing that there truly was something special about the chemistry of this crowd. I found myself bouncing from one conversation to the next.... We’ve maintained an active group chat over the last eight months....

Since the pandemic started... it’s been 135 days since I have touched anyone but my husband.... Most of our relationships have shifted into a more companionate place while we try to figure out what’s next. ...

While porn may have brought us together, what has kept us all together isn’t the sex — it’s genuine love and devotion for one another, even if that has to take on a different shape right now. Eight of us still get together on Zoom every Saturday night, and these weekly meetups for the past three months have resulted in the creation of Poly in Place, a space to share our experiences as a polycule living through a pandemic and invite other people to share theirs. We want to provide a sense of community for others the same way that our polycule has for us.... It’s what’s getting us through until the next time we can all gather to watch porn in person again.

You need community. Good community. Keep working at it until you find, or create, yours.

●  Eli Sheff has published a new guide for getting therapists properly trained up in poly and other forms of consensual non-monogamy (CNM): Where Therapists and Counselors Can Learn About Polyamory (Aug. 11).

...Interest in CNM has grown rapidly in the last decade, and far more people are considering or attempting CNM relationships than in the past. This means that more therapists are seeing clients with issues related to CNM, and these therapists might not have had any training in CNM-related issues at all. ...

This post provides therapists and counselors with resources to build their knowledge base about CNM relationships and more effectively serve their clients.

...A brief note before we examine the organizations, books, podcasts, and training programs where counselors and therapists can gain information and skills to serve CNM clients. Because therapeutic bias against any form of nonmonogamy (which is commonly equated with cheating) is foundational to many marriage and family counseling training programs, most counselors will have been indoctrinated with prejudice against CNM in graduate school. ...

●  On a parenting site, Moms.com: How Does A Polyamorous Relationship Affect Children? (Aug. 13)

The most commonly asked question when it comes to polyamorous relationships is how children are affected, so we investigated.

By Renee Barrett

Polyamory is often mistakenly considered the same as an open relationship — which is not always the case, although it is defined as loving more than one person. ...

The rules of polyamory differ from the construct of mainstream relationships, which often cause confusion for outsiders who don't understand how these unions can work.  Boundaries, which are necessary for any relationship to survive, must be negotiated among partners.  While boundaries in polyamorous relationships may differ from those in monogamous relationships, they do exist, and for a reason. ...

How Does A Polyamorous Relationship Affect The Children?

...Geography plays a role in the extent to which children of polyamorous families might suffer prejudice. ... Children of polyamorous unions may experience confusion if they don't understand why they are being discriminated against, which can happen when parents aren't honest about the nature of their relationship. If children aren't exposed to the fact that love can be expressed in a multitude of ways, they'll become confused. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to explaining relationships to children, especially since the adults in their lives have been entrusted to protect them from harm.

...Being raised by multiple parents, or parents with multiple partners can be enriching not only for the child but also for the parents. Children benefit from having multiple interests, experiences and energy levels to support various stages of the child's growth and development while a child's endless needs can be met by multiple adults without the risk of burn-out. Multiple partners can pick up where another parent or caregiver left off, whether it's providing emotional, financial, or physical support.

...While traditional, nuclear families are considered normal, poly families believe that arrangement is limiting because children aren't exposed to the multi-faceted adult personalities they will soon face (and have to challenge) in the real world. Studies have shown that children in polyamorous families tend to be more mature, self-confident, and better equipped to relate to people from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

While break-ups are a reality within any relationship, in polyamorous ones, kids tend to part with beloved caregivers more frequently than in traditional, monogamous relationships. As one parent put it, "the challenge is an opportunity to model good break-up behavior. In the poly community, break-ups are seen as transitions." Poly relationships tend to be fluid and flexible, with exes helping out in various capacities as partners or friends to maintain a sense of normalcy.

The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is the mantra of polyamorous families.

...In the words of one polyamorous parent: "Once he's old enough to understand, I’ll tell him my relationship with his mother has strengthened since we allowed each other to be attracted to, or fall in love with, other people."

Honesty is key in any relationship whether it's between parent and child or the adults in the relationship.  Commitment will always be the determining factor of a successful relationship, regardless of the number of parents in the relationship. What matters most is the love the child grows up with.

That's certainly a sunny picture representative of healthy, responsible poly families. But remember, not-so-healthy households with multiple adults, especially when there is significant turnover, can shade into what child-welfare advocates call "chaotic" households, which are terrible for kids. Children thrive on order and predictability.

And, care must be taken to make sure that an adult who might endanger the kids never gets in. Of course this also applies in traditional families to the traditional "Uncle Ernie" (as sung by The Who), who is likely to be much harder to see, or to exclude, due to traditional family bonds and loyalties. Remember, the great thing about chosen family is that it's chosen.

●  This week in the British tabloids. These three people in Oregon break several "rules" for bringing in what might be called a unicorn. (It's not to fix the marriage. It's not for help with child care.) But remember, there is no Conventional Poly Wisdom that some group, somewhere, is not breaking and thriving. People are different.

"Eli (right) and Mikey (center) soon realised that Alida (left)  would be the perfect fit to join their relationship and may be the 'something' they needed to change to be happy."

A couple who were married for 17 years formed a throuple with a woman they met on a camping trip to help get through a 'rough patch'.

Technician Eli Titus, 36, and health services coordinator Mikey Titus, 37, from Beaverton, Oregon, met Alida Gibson, 31, in July 2018, forming a triad in the hope of rekindling their rocky marriage.

The insurance rep, who they met through a mutual friend,  had also been going through a hard time and was recently divorced.  

Eli and Mikey had three children — Linkoln, 12, Maddox, 7, and Lennox, 5, — before they met Alida, but they now consider her another parent to their brood. 

The group met a camping festival and began chatting and instantly bonded with each other, sharing their love of the outdoors, crafting and music. 

Eli and Mikey soon realized that Alida would be the perfect fit to join their relationship.

But while the triad have openly spoken to the children about what makes polyamory different, other people aren't so understanding. ... 'Sometimes, it feels that looks could kill,' Mikey said.

...'We live in the Pacific Northwest so "weird" is a regular occurrence here, but even still, people say, "I couldn't do that," or "it's just a phase."

...Mikey and Eli were aware of polyamory but never thought it would be something they would explore themselves, until they met Alida. 

All of them say they have never felt as complete in a previous relationships as they do now. 

[Says Mikey,] 'The children are aware that our family is special. As the eldest, Linkoln was aware of "normal" relationships but we talked with him openly and honestly. We encourage our kids to be themselves no matter what others think.

'Linkoln has had a friend ask if it was a good or bad thing to have three parents. He said it's only bad if he's in trouble.


'We recognise that there are four relationships within our triad — those with each and also as a whole. We do everything we can to avoid couples' privilege,' Mikey added.

'We check in with each other on a regular basis. It's a constant learning experience. We're constantly improving our communication — learning how to be engaged and present with each partner in the hard times as well as the good.'

The throuple feel that being together has made each of them a better person — particularly when it comes to being in a relationship.

'Me and Eli had been married for fifteen years before we met Alida.

'Being in a relationship since we were basically kids meant that we'd done things we weren't proud of,' Mikey said.

'We'd do dumb things young kids do when they're trying to figure out how to be adults — argue, break up, and spending money we didn't have.

'When we met Alida, something felt different. We felt this need to be better. We've been able to work through some things and create a stronger connection between us all.

'Alida has brought a different perspective and understanding.

'We weren't actually looking for a poly relationship but we just knew that as a group, we wanted to be together.'


...'Our families are amazingly supportive. We don't think our mums truly understand but as long as we're happy, they are,' Alida said.

'We're just like everyone else. We all want to grow old together — raise our kids, buy a home, travel, retire, and drive Eli crazy until the end.

...'Our relationship requires a lot of communication, dedication, self-reflection, and compromise. It isn't always easy, but it is always worth it.

'We are a team and we believe that each of us are equally important.. One day, we'd like being in a polyamorous triad to be more widely accepted.'

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. See you next week! 

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August 7, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup: Great NY Times feature on poly parenting. Pandemic hell choices. RA for 2020. And Covid knuckleheads turn real-life Kimchi Cuddles' daughter against her.

Welcome to Friday Polynews Roundup for August 7, 2020.

●  The week's big poly-in-the-media item was this stellar piece in the New York Times: The Challenges of Polyamorous Parenting, in the Parenting section (online Aug. 4; not in a print edition.) Excerpts:

Starting a family with more than two parents can present legal and social pitfalls. Here’s how some parents are making it work.

Avary Kent, her husband, Zeke Hausfather (seated), and her partner, David Jay, drafted a co-parenting agreement that outlines their rights and preferences for raising their daughter. (Photo: Aubrey Trinnaman / New York Times)

By Cynthia McKelvey

...Though nonmonogamy seems to be on the rise — or at least society is more open about it than ever before — families consisting of three or more parents can face challenges that are in some ways different from, and similar to, those faced by divorced parents, single parents and L.G.B.T.Q. parents.

There’s very little research on families consisting of more than two romantically involved parents, according to Heath Schechinger, Ph.D., a co-chair of the Consensual Non-monogamy Task Force, Division 44 of the American Psychological Association. ...

To understand how new and prospective nonmonogamous families can take on challenges like child custody, adoption and just day-to-day life, I spoke with a sociologist, two psychologists, a lawyer and members of two nonmonogamous families.

“I would say the biggest problems that polyamorous parents face is you can only have two legal parents in most places,” said Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., a sociologist and author of “The Polyamorists Next Door,” a 15-year ethnographic study of the polyamory community. “If you have another parent that wants to take on parental rights, then one of the existing parents has to terminate parental rights prior to adding a new parent.”

...California is one of at least 12 states that has recognized families with three or more parents in some capacity, making it easier for nonmonogamous families to gain legal parenting protections.

For parents who don’t live in one of those states, or who just don’t want to go through the legal rigmarole of multiparent adoption, writing out a co-parenting agreement can help. These delineate what is expected of each parent in terms of child care, financial assistance and other day-to-day logistics. They also can create contingency plans in case a parent leaves the relationship, becomes ill or dies.

That’s what Avary Kent, her husband, Zeke Hausfather, and their co-parent, David Jay, did before Kent became pregnant with their daughter. Their co-parenting agreement outlines how they will deal with conflict, discipline, health care and what constitutes a loss of parenting status.

Polyamorous parents who are raising children as a unit must decide how open to be with family and community members. (Photo: Aubrey Trinnaman / New York Times)

These agreements are not legally binding, but they can help in situations like custody battles or if family members like grandparents object to the co-parenting agreement, according to Jonathan Lane, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in family law. ...

Coming out

Research on the effect of growing up in a nonmonogamous family on children also remains sparse, Dr. Schechinger said.

“From what we do have, there’s nothing to suggest that children in these situations are faring any better or any worse,” Dr. Schechinger said. However, research does show that families who experience prejudice — because of their sexual orientation, race, religion or other factors — do experience more stress, anxiety and depression.

That leads to the question of whether or not to come out as a nonmonogamous family. ... “I want to encourage parents to know that there’s not clear evidence that they should or should not be out. It’s situation-specific, and it’s OK for them to use their intuition about whether or not to be out,” Dr. Schechinger said. “Because in some spaces it may not be safe and then they have to remain closeted.”

Day-to-day challenges

...Amy Moors, Ph.D., a co-chair of the nonmonogamy task force with Dr. Schechinger, also said that concerns over the children are often ways to enforce prejudice over minority groups. ... She and other experts suggested that nonmonogamous families look to how gay families have fielded these sorts of objections to them parenting. This can include how to handle prejudice from family, schools and the judgment their children may face from classmates.

Selke said that she and her family made a conscious choice to surround themselves with other untraditional and L.B.G.T.Q. families, so that their twins can grow up seeing the many forms family can take.

The benefits

The nonmonogamous families interviewed cited the many benefits of co-parenting. At the top of the list was resources, in every sense: More parents mean more time, more love, more experience, more finances and, best of all, more sleep, they said.

Selke said that nonmonogamous parenting has also enabled her desire to shed some traditional gendered parenting roles. With three parents, there’s no script for the division of labor. It becomes more about who does whatever task best, who is the most available or who hates it the least.

The children also report benefits, Dr. Sheff said. As kids from these nontraditional families begin to enter school and see their peers with two parents, rather than seeing themselves as unusual, they see their peers as bereft.

“The kids come home and they’re like, ‘Oh, my poor friend, they only have two parents. Can you believe that? How did they get anything done?’” Dr. Sheff said.

Jonathan Lane, the attorney quoted, says, "I am very excited this was finally published – I was interviewed for it over a year ago!"

●  Another non-monogamy researcher, Terri Conley, is profiled at length in Bustle: How One Psychologist Upended Everything We Know About Women, Sex, & Monogamy (Aug. 4) Go read the whole story; it's long and interesting. Excerpts: 

'We Need To Rethink Casual Sex': Terri Conley during her April 2016 TED talk

When she was still in grad school, social psychologist Terri Conley, Ph.D., collected some data indicating that single people practice safer sex than those in relationships. Her methodology wasn’t perfect, and the sample was small. There was every reason to forget it. Conley couldn’t stop thinking about it.

What would be the problem with relationships, she wondered, such that people with partners were at higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases? It occurred to her that it might have something to do with the monogamy agreement — the implicit understanding, often undiscussed, that the partners in a two-person couple will only have sex with each other. She designed a study comparing safe sex practice among consensually non-monogamous people to that between people who claimed to be monogamous but were cheating. She found "a whole host of better outcomes” among the people in open relationships — more effective and frequent condom use and lower likelihood of an encounter taking place under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She submitted the paper for publication in the late aughts.

“It was like I shot the reviewers’ dog,” Conley recalls. Their responses ranged from “this paper is irresponsible” to "Oh, this must be a master's thesis” — in other words, amateur.

Suspecting that the stigma surrounding open relationships was at work, Conley took a different tack. She had been positioning the paper as a study of a sexual minority group that turned out to have safer sex than people in traditional relationships. Now, "I took exactly the same table — I did not change one data point — [and] I changed the framing to say, ‘Oh my gosh, people who commit infidelity are the worst. They're even worse than this other group [consensually non-monogamous people] that you thought was so awful.’ ” The paper was accepted.

It was the first of many times Conley would encounter outsized resistance to the work that has made her one of the most influential sexuality researchers of her era. As head of the University of Michigan’s Stigmatized Sexualities Lab, Conley observes sexual dynamics that won’t shock anyone who is on Tinder in the year 2020 but that nonetheless upend decades of received wisdom in the social sciences. Through rigorously designed studies, Conley... has empirically undermined the idea that women are too “relationship-y” to enjoy sex for its own sake and that having sex exclusively with one chosen mate is the only stable, satisfactory relationship structure. Given that everything from Christian morality to the intergenerational transfer of wealth to the wedding industrial complex is heavily invested in monogamy — "sometimes you have ideologies that control everyone,” Conley reflects — the implications of this research are vast. Colleagues across multiple subfields of psychology describe her as brilliant, fearless, and most impressively, convincing them to change their minds. Conley claims she just provided the data to support what everyone already knew: Monogamy actually isn’t great for everyone, and that really freaks some people out. ...

In 2011, she published a paper that methodically dismantled a textbook social psychology experiment, one that had propped up our most guarded assumptions about sex for a generation. ...


...She found that women and men are equally satisfied in consensually non-monogamous relationships, undermining the notion that women are more naturally inclined toward monogamy. She even had data on how much we don’t want to see this data: In one experiment, she showed that people consider a researcher presenting findings favoring polyamory more biased than one presenting findings in favor of monogamy. The wording the researchers used was identical.

[Paul] Abramson [of UCLA], who spent a large swath of his career studying how to reduce HIV transmission rates, compares Conley’s work to research done in the late 1950s through the ‘60s that ultimately led psychology to stop treating homosexuality as a mental illness. “Terri was attempting to undermine the moral contempt for something other than normative marriage. [She] asked, ‘Well, what does the data say?’”


...Now Conley is after the sacred cow that has been the backdrop of her entire career. You can’t dismantle the idea that women invariably suffer in nontraditional relationships without disproving the notion that women biologically want sex less than men, so that is Conley’s focus now. Building on her work around casual sex, she has found that gender differences in who wants sex evaporate in the presence of orgasm. If you’ve orgasmed before and expect to again, you’re more likely to say yes to sex, regardless of your identity. The explanation could be biological — maybe female bodies aren’t capable of orgasming quickly or easily outside of partnered sex — but Conley doesn’t buy it. ... “We know that women and men orgasm in the same amount of time when they're masturbating.” ...

●  Am I mistaken, or have we been hearing less about Relationship Anarchy as poly spreads to the mainstream? If you don't know what RA is about, a time will come when you should. An excellent new primer is out this week from MindBodyGreen, A Beginner's Guide To Relationship Anarchy: Examples & How To Practice (Aug. 2). Save it to send to the curious. Excerpts and section titles:

By Kesiena Boom

Kesiena Boom
...Relationship anarchy is a way of approaching relationships that rejects any rules and expectations other than the ones the involved people agree on.

This approach "encourages people to let their core values guide how they choose and craft their relationship commitments rather than relying on social norms to dictate what is right for you," Dedeker Winston, relationship coach and co-host of the podcast Multiamory, tells mbg.

People who practice relationship anarchy, sometimes abbreviated as RA, are beholden to themselves and only themselves when it comes to choosing who they conduct sexual or romantic relationships with and how they do it. Relationship anarchists look to form relationships with people that are based entirely on needs, wants, and desires rather than on socially mandated labels and expectations. Some central tenets of relationship anarchy are freedom, communication, and nonhierarchy.

An RA mindset also seeks to dissolve the strict divides between platonic friendship and sexual or romantic love that exist in wider society. Practitioners of relationship anarchy see it as superfluous at best and harmful at worst to rank relationships in order of importance according to the presence of sex or romantic love, and they reject the prioritization of romance above friendship and the elevation of the monogamous couple above all else....

The relationship anarchy manifesto.

The term "relationship anarchy" was originally coined by Andie Nordgren, who published an instructional manifesto for relationship anarchy in a pamphlet in 2006. Nordgren outlines the following principles to guide you through a relationship anarchist life:

1. Love is abundant, and every relationship is unique. ...
2. Love and respect instead of entitlement. ...
3. Find your core set of relationship values. ...
4. Heterosexism is rampant and out there, but don't let fear lead you. ...
6. Fake it till you make it. ...
7. Trust is better. ...
8. Change through communication. ...
9. Customize your commitments. ...

Relationship anarchy versus polyamory versus monogamy.

A monogamous person chooses to eschew all sexual and romantic bonds with people other than their one chosen partner. ... Winston says relationship anarchists can also engage in monogamous relationships.

Relationship anarchy thus differs from polyamory, which it is sometimes confused with. Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It is sometimes known as ethical or consensual nonmonogamy. To be polyamorous means to acknowledge that people can love more than one person simultaneously. This is different from an open relationship, in which the couple goes outside of the relationship for sex, and not necessarily for lasting and committed emotional intimacy or love.

How relationship anarchy works in practice.

..."Typical is a myth. In reality, each of our lives is unique and one-of-a-kind, which is also true for people practicing relationship anarchy,” says Anna Dow, LMFT, therapist and founder of Vast Love, a coaching and counseling practice for people navigating nonmonogamy.

She continues, "A lot of people hear the word 'anarchy' and think of radical punk rockers with tattoos and mohawks. While that's sometimes on point, the lives of relationship anarchists are also as varied as they come. Relationship anarchy is the 'choose your own adventure' version of relationships. It's a belief in coloring outside the lines and going off-trail. ...

That being said, a common thread between all relationship anarchists is the time given over to communication. Dow says one characteristic that links together those who are well suited to RA is "strong communication skills, including the abilities to empathetically listen and to authentically express one's feelings/needs in a direct way. ...

Common misconceptions.

"...Relationship anarchy is not a justification for people to do whatever they want in relationships without consideration of other people's feelings, needs, desires, or boundaries," says Dow.

It's not for those who are looking for an easy way out. ..."It's not a magic spell for reducing the amount of work that you need to put into your relationships," cautions Winston. 

[Says Josie Kearns,] “To me it means that my partners and I don’t control our relationships with other people — we set boundaries, but we don’t ask to enforce rules on each other....”

Relationship anarchy may be unfortunately named for the current times. But taken literally, the word is precisely correct: Its Greek roots mean no ranking. 

●  Autostraddle, a leading online lesbian magazine, fields (at great length) a question about roommate pandemic hell choices: Can I Tell My Poly Roommate Not to See Her Partners Because of Coronavirus? (Aug. 4)

My roommate “Nora” and I (both women in our early thirties) have been in self-isolation since mid-March. ... After an initial two-week total quarantine, I resumed seeing my partner, “Casey,” who lives alone (they have various health problems that make coronavirus significantly more risky for them). Nora recently brought up how frustrated and sad she’s been feeling about her romantic prospects as a poly person when I am able to continue my monogamous relationship. She even mentioned that she resented the fact that I could continue to see Casey (who is a relatively new partner) when she can’t continue to see her longer-term partner(s), both of whom live with their own primary partners, who in turn have other partners, etc.

She said that she couldn’t bear the thought of going the summer without some kind of in-person intimacy and that she didn’t want to be made to feel “responsible” for following isolation just so I can see Casey.... But in the current moment, our personal lives are actually mutually exclusive....

...What can I do? Do I have any rights to safety after our state issues a possibly-misguided plan to reopen? ...

...While I think you may be feeling overwhelmed, I want to resist the idea that this question is impossible just because the solution is not simple and easy (or that there even is one correct solution). ... Something my best friend and I have been saying to each other recently feels true when I read this question: “There are no good choices.” How to make the best choice for everyone involved when there are no good choices? Let’s attempt. ...

...As each day passes, it becomes clear the United States does not have a handle on the pandemic. Shelter in place was not supposed to be a new way of life indefinitely; it was meant to buy us time, to flatten the curve. The government squandered that time. I do not know when the pandemic will end, when it will be “safe” to be around each other again. But I do know that it becomes increasingly difficult to ask individuals to make huge personal sacrifices, at great cost, when it is clear the government is doing almost nothing to move us toward a different world. ... Scientists have started to talk about how we can practice harm reduction when it comes to living our lives, because the alternative is not sustainable. ...

●  You want pandemic hell choices? What about when a denialist partner turns your child against you?

The following is one of the saddest things I've seen yet. Tikva Wolf's Kimchi Cuddles poly comics are often, she says, "partly autobiographical." Such as these two latest. The Kimchi character in them is Tikva, "Vajra" is Tikva's live-in co-parent (they ended their romantic partnership a while ago but stayed on friendly terms), and their daughter is getting toward her tweens.

They live in a hippie-ish town in the South, in a county with (I looked it up) a daily covid infection rate that is currently about the South's average.

The Facebook page for this episode of the strip, with many comments and observations. Tikva posted there,

I live in an area that already had a high concentration of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists so naturally there are huge crowds thinking that their organic elderberry syrup makes them immune (and don't care to wear masks for anyone else's sake). Even many folks who are trying to be safe are in large networks they are unable to trace.

Her followup strip:

The Facebook page for this one. She really did kick him out. She posts, 

I am close to a lot of medical professionals, and know people who have either died or are having ongoing health problems now, so I'm taking it seriously. I don't want anyone's blood on my hands, especially if I can prevent that through taking simple precautions. And only sharing living space with people who are on the same page with safety protocols is a personal boundary of mine.

She writes to me, "I threw a whole bunch of different events from 4 months into [those] 2 comics. But I did want to talk about 2 important issues: BOUNDARIES in times of covid, and showing how poly-parenting can be more difficult right now for a multitude of reasons."

In my own part of the country (Boston area), covid-denying knuckleheads all seem to be angry Trumpies. But in some places, nice, progressive people can be just as self-deluding, conspiracy-grabbing, and dismissive of all facts and evidence that don't make them feel good. The only difference is that they frame their nonsense ("masks do more harm than good") with flowers and elderberry syrup rather than AK-47s.


●  After the advice column in Slate regarding teen polys that I highlighted last week, this Dear Abby is in newspapers everywhere this week:

My 14-year-old daughter recently came out of the closet, and it has made my husband and me quite upset. She says she is "bicurious, pansexual and polyamorous." She now insists everyone call her by a gender-neutral name, gave herself a side shave and dyed her hair pink after we repeatedly told her not to. She wants us to refer to her as "they" and not "she."

Boys used to like her.... She is disrespecting us and ruining her image. ...She is now getting chubby, looks horrible and is depressed. Help!  — Dad Without Answers

Dear Dad: Your daughter may, indeed, be depressed. She's at an age where she is trying to figure out who she is, and because she has lost her friends and her parents are mad at her, I can understand why. ...

Look again. Did you notice the gender of the parents?

●  Upcoming TV, perhaps. Hollywood Reporter says "prolific writer/producer" Lena Waithe is developing series a series titled "Open" for Amazon Studios: Lena Waithe Developing Open-Marriage Drama (Aug. 3)

..."My mission is to provide a space for people to grow," says Waithe. "While making work that people can look at and say, 'That broke a barrier.' "... 

"Society has such a conservative way of looking at marriage. I do think that we as a nation need to reevaluate what marriage looks like for us as a country — because whatever we have right now, it ain’t working."

●  But here's an open-marriage couple who get a special award for classist couple privilege so shitty I thought it was a parody  except it actually seems to be real, as reported on the parenting site Kidspot.com (Aug. 4). A relative of theirs says, 

MIL explained that they have some rules and they can’t sleep with anyone who is an ‘equal.’ 

She said they only go outside the marriage with people in service-type minimum wage jobs like their maid, someone who works at their country club, or a bartender (examples she gave). She said they do that because people in those positions don’t count as “real people” so there is no danger in developing feelings.

●  This week in the British tabloids: A happy triad family in Denver got harassment mail from a stalker after their Instagram and YouTube channels became a thing, so they've gone more public than ever: Polyamorous throuple harassed for months after 'coming out' on social media (Daily Star, Aug. 3). An angry Christian, you may wonder? Nope. A letter to Janie "said that she is a fake member of the LGBTQIA community and that she didn't actually love Maggie."

Here they are. Three lovers, three cats:

MDWfeatures / @tri.adventures

That's Friday Polynews Roundup for now. Stay safe, dear people, as best you can.

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