Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 25, 2020

Friday Polyamory News Roundup: Tales of "how poly remade me for the better," and a student's radical broadening of that. The Oneidas, Brides mag, and more.

●  Psychologist and poly relationship therapist Jessica Fern, who specializes in attachment theory, has a significant new book out: Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy. Fern has been an excellent and effective presenter at many poly conventions back when they were happening in person.

Across the Atlantic, her new book just became a jumping-off point for a long feature article in The Irish Times: Building bridges: How polyamory made me a better friend, lover and person (Sept. 19). The article is another in the "how polyamory remade me for the better" category. I posted about some others last week.  

When singer Jess Kavanagh discovered polyamory, she didn’t expect it to improve every facet of her life

Singer Jess Kavanagh: ‘Having multiple romantic partners has forced me to investigate elements of my emotional coping mechanisms that were unsustainable and hidden among the nooks and crannies of monogamous comforts.’ (Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaills) 

By Jess Kavanagh
My relationship with my partner has come a long way from me sobbing into a gin and tonic two years ago, clumsily asking for an open relationship. At that point, I had a very little idea of what I was asking for or what I was getting myself into.

...Although I am still extremely new to these experiences of sharing my partner and dating in a scene which is overwhelmingly catering to monogamy, some lessons I have learned from my dating journey have been very unexpected.

Jessica Fern, psychologist and author of Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy, describes consensual non-monogamy as “the practice of having multiple sexual and/or romantic partners at the same time, where all people involved are aware of this relationship arrangement and consent to it” and polyamory as a “part of consensual monogamy . . . looking for multiple people to be in love with”.

On a Saturday afternoon I sat down for a discussion with Fern about how polyamory is becoming not only a realistic relationship choice, but also a distinct way for us to employ emotional work and express a collective love at a time where there is a global lack.

...Having multiple romantic partners has forced me to investigate elements of my emotional coping mechanisms that were unsustainable and hidden among the nooks and crannies of monogamous comforts. There is a narrative held dear in our society that once we are our loved one’s only sexual and romantic partner, that allows us to feel secure in that relationship.

Fern says: “In such cases, our self-esteem and sense of worth are contingent on our partner being monogamously committed to us instead of anchored in our own internal sense of self-worth, self-love and self-esteem.” In polyamory, when that narrative isn’t available as relationship-scaffolding, it is crucial to find other ways to make our partner(s) feel special and to re-establish a sense of inner-security. The freedom and innovation in these explorations can be transformative.

As I began to date other people, I started to experience my first bumps in the road. I was developing big crushes and chasing those butterflies to my detriment. In polyamory terms, this high is called NRE or “new relationship energy”. I was overextending myself to keep certain people interested.

...It was crucial for me to manage my insecurities and I started to take my emotional health very seriously. I started meditating more, researching attachment theory, trauma, and seeking therapy. Although all rejections and break-ups warrant varying levels of processing, the emotional maintenance I was doing reduced wallowing and self-destructive behaviour across all aspects of my life. A byproduct of polyamory I never expected.

...In the past, I found single, monogamous culture internalising what Fern calls a “hyper-independence”: a lack of accountability to casual partners' emotions, a type of frenzied everyone out for themselves behaviour. This always made me feel uncomfortable, having to extract love from sex if the outcome wasn’t monogamy. ...

Then there is friendship. Polyamory has given me the ability to see the nuance of romance, and moments of platonic intimacy with friends as much as with partners. I have found myself waking up energised and loved-up from a night out with pals in the way I would feel after a good date. I have more friend crushes. The boundaries of connection have not blurred, but shifted, where I can feel varied shades of love along the spectrum of the romantic to the platonic.

...There is something we all can take from an orientation that embraces the imperfect, heralds respectful communication, and acknowledges the many embodiments of love.

Fern says: “Non-monogamy can offer a bigger sense of love that we all need, [it] breaks down the nuclear-ness, the Us vs Them mentality and provides bridges of love to different people.” ...

Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy is published by Thorntree Press in October.

●  And another such testimonial, in MamaMia!  'At 21, I was in a relationship with an older married man – and his wife' (Sept. 18)

By Anonymous

...At 21 I found myself dating an older, married, polyamorous man, and the way I love has never been the same since.

...It began from a simple Bumble date... on which he wore his wedding ring.

At first, I was very sceptical as to how open his relationship with his wife was, but he was incredibly honest about his previous relationships and dating patterns.

We easily clicked, and he was the most interesting person I had ever met. The way he explained his approach to love was fascinating, and I was hooked. 

..In this particular situation, he and his wife were each other’s primary partners, while she also had a long-term boyfriend and continued to date other people as well. However, as their relationship with each other changed, they dropped the hierarchical measure of relationships.

At first, I couldn’t really wrap my head around why you would actively go out and seek other people when you’re in a happy and healthy relationship to start with. ...

...I soon realised polyamory was instead about the joy of love. ...


..So what did I learn?

My whole perception of love and relationships changed within the short span of our relationship. 

I began this experience with a very short-sighted view of what a healthy dynamic is and found that a relationship doesn’t need to conform to the traditional norms that society has defined. 

In my previous relationships, I was quite defensive and often jealous. Through the experience of polyamory, I learnt to understand where my jealousy was stemming from and to critically analyse whether it was derived from my own insecurities or rooted deeper within the relationship itself, such as needing more quality time together. 

I came to terms with facing potential conflict such as possible trust issues and relying on communication to overcome these challenges. It was also striking to me how traditional monogamous relationships are often framed with very possessive language, creating an extremely toxic culture of jealousy and controlling behaviour. 

Polyamory invigorated my sense of self-worth and inner strength which I was unaware that I had. ...

...Polyamory felt like a boot camp for these skills which significantly developed my muscles in these areas. I now feel ready and prepared for the next relationship coming my way, and I’m excited for when it does.

●  The same day, a more radical generalization of those discoveries appeared in The Campus student newspaper of Allegheny College: Could polyamorous relationships mitigate the shortcomings of the nuclear family?  (Sept. 18)

By Peyton Britt, Opinion Editor

...In her book “What Love Is: And What It Could Be,” philosopher Carrie Jenkins notes that changes in society occur against a foundation of the pre-existing conventions. She considers monogamy a principal characteristic of romantic love’s social role, that role being to curtail love between grown adults and force it into the mold of the stable nuclear family.

...I imagine a society in which children whose two parents are fighting can go stay the night with a third parent until the home environment is peaceful again. I imagine women in abusive relationships finding solace, and eventually escape, with the support and assurance of their other husbands. I imagine teenagers with qualms about their rapidly developing identities having more than two parental figures whom they can consult and with whom they can relate. I imagine a man leaving for his third shift job as a partner returns from first shift, both equally comforted to know that their wife will not be alone in the burden of childcare. I see no issue with broadening what constitutes as a family in order to strengthen a sense of community. 

I also imagine that traditionally monogamous, heterosexual relationships will continue to create nuclear family units, a possibility by which I am unbothered. The society for which I yearn is simply one in which love is unfettered by the strains of convention, and people give and receive affection in whatever multifarious fashions they desire. ...

●  Sign of the times: Brides magazine, a juggernaut of the traditional wedding-industrial complex for 85 years, now presents How to Know if an Open Marriage Is Right for You (Sept. 24). The advice is decently good, granted that it's entirely couple-centric.

Navigating non-monogamy with your partner is no small feat but, if you’re both willing to put in the work, can ultimately bring you two closer than ever. It takes two to make a thing go right—right? That math might just have a little wiggle room.

...“When people come into my practice wanting non-monogamy, it’s usually because they had a pivotal moment,” explains [relationship therapist Gwen] Lotery, but need help clarifying and communicating it with their partner. “I realize this is coming from a therapist,” she laughs, “but counseling can really help with that!” 

O'Malley Photographers
For couples that do come to her wondering if an open marriage is the right path, she empowers them to ask each other exciting, sometimes uncomfortable, and very much crucial questions such as, “Is your idea purely sexual, or more of another relationship? Do you play [outside the marriage] together, or do you play separately? Both?” Then, based on those answers, the pair can decide if and how they want to move forward.

...“The biggest mistake a couple can do is jump in,” warns Lotery. She compares opening up a marriage successfully to training for a marathon, saying, “You wouldn’t buy tennis shoes on Friday and then run the marathon Sunday—you won’t make it!” What does work, in her professional opinion, is “a lot of talking, a lot of listening … and most importantly, only going as far and fast as the slowest partner is ready for.” Below, we’ve broken down her advice into three core components....

...Lotery does have one final (and might we add excellent!) piece of advice: “More important than learning how to communicate, hands down, is listening.” In her own practice, she regularly “really [teaches] people how to listen well because, if you understand what your partner is saying or wanting or desiring, there’s bound to be more compassion and a willingness to stay curious and connect.” ...

●  Erin K. Barnes writes us, "I wrote this article about my cute relationship with my metamour for Men's Health and wanted to spread the word!"

That’s right: the love of my life is dating another woman, and she’s awesome.

By Erin K. Barnes | Sept. 24

My husband has a girlfriend...and I love her. That’s right: the love of my life is dating another woman, and she’s awesome.

The topic of my metamour—that’s my partner’s partner, in polyamorous terms—is controversial. It doesn’t matter that it was my idea to open our marriage. It doesn’t matter how my husband Cliff looks at me with heart eyes, or how many sizzling affairs I have. Most people feel sorry for me, or even disgusted, that I actually like the woman who—as they see it—threatens to replace me.

...A number of my girlfriends kept my non-monogamy a secret from their spouses for fear they wouldn’t be allowed around me. I wondered, would their husbands restrict them from associating with a single woman? Why was I so different? Cliff’s best friend pulled me aside tearfully after a night of drinking, telling me, “I don’t want to lose you.”

I didn’t blame them; despite the myriad polyamory explainers on the internet like this one, most people misunderstand our arrangement.

It wasn’t always this way. ...


One night, I lay awake with my pulse pounding, gripped with the sudden courage to tell my husband that I wanted to have sex with other people. I put his hand on my breast to cushion the blow...and woke him from a dead sleep.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about,” I whispered. ... I said I was grateful we were still in love after 17 years. That I felt like I was going through a change, and rather than rebel alone, I wanted him to be my partner in crime. And that it really turned me on to think of us in an open marriage.

My husband sat up in bed. “Wow,” he said. I had always been the vanilla one. “Yes,” he said, kissing me. “Yes!”

Cliff looked as giddy as I had when he had proposed; only this time, we were choosing us, and setting each other free. ...

With freedom, my pent-up sexual tension deflated. I could be around hot dads without losing my mind. I indulged in pastimes I never thought I’d relive, like lying in bed with a new man, tracing his tattoos with my fingertips and alternating between talking and rendering each other speechless. I also explored profound platonic friendships with men I’d have surely missed out on in monogamy.

Cliff wanted kitchen table polyamory, where both partners have serious secondary relationships. I wanted lust and extramarital fun. In a twist of irony, I fell in love with someone new and had my heart broken, organically extending my own boundaries. While my family didn’t need to know the details, I didn’t hide my feelings. “Children,” I began with puffy eyes, “I’d like to introduce you to the music of the Smiths. They tell people that it’s okay to feel sad sometimes.” Being a 37-year-old mom with a broken heart sucked, but knowing it was possible to love two people at once gave me stability for what was to come. ...


When the time came for Cliff to go to Allison’s house for an intimate date night, I texted her, saying, “I hope this isn’t weird, but I wanted to introduce myself so you know that I’m okay with this.”

We followed each other on Instagram and discovered we share the same absurd sense of humor. We gleefully bonded over memes. She entered our lives respectfully, without being pushy, but she also didn’t hide from me, nor I from her.

...Today, we have a happy little polycule. Allison and I hang out together, and when we do, Cliff sends us video chats that start with a grinning, “Hey ladies...” Cliff is notoriously late to everything, so Allison helps him get home on time. ...

Society wants me to hate this gem of a person -- the person who texted me after our dog died to send us “love beams,” only she accidentally wrote “love beans,” so now we often jokingly send each other “love beans.” People want to believe that I’m either a freak or uncommonly evolved to handle this unconventional arrangement. In truth, I’m not very remarkable at all; it’s simply not that hard. Concepts that once seemed terrifying are surprisingly easy when we meet the people involved...and they’re awesome.

●  The BBC just posted a 7-minute mini-documentary on the Oneida Colony, America's 19th-century attempt at a polyamorous religious utopia that seems to be getting ever more attention as the decades pass. If you've wondered what the Oneidas were actually about, it's a good quickie. Oneida: The 'free-love utopia' that chased immortality (video by Maria Badia, posted Sept. 24). It's part of the BBC's  "Hidden History" series, "delving into the mysteries of the past to shed light on the present."

I hadn't known, for one thing, that the Oneidas were preterists: Christians who believe that the Second Coming of Jesus already occurred in 70 AD (in the lifetime of his original followers as he promised), that the Kingdom of Heaven has existed on Earth ever since, and that we only need to understand this and act on it.


     – Loving More online group discussion, Tuesday October 6, 7:00 - 8:30 pm Mountain time; 9 to 10:30 Eastern. "Join Loving More for an online polyamory discussion. This is open to all Loving More meetup members and is hosted from our office in Loveland, Colorado. Topic: TBD. Discussion is always open to current issues people may be dealing with." Hosted by Robyn Trask. 

     – The Poly Dallas Millennium conference, which centers the Black experience (people of all colors welcome) will happen online this year, November 6-8. CEUs available for psychology professionals. Facebook.

     –  Polycon Canada, November 22-23. "24 hr livestream event from sundown Nov 22 to sundown Nov 23 (Pacific time). Honouring Intersectionality and Diversity in our Communities."

     – Have an announcement that ought to be here? Email me at alan7388 (at) gmail.com.

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