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



May 11, 2021

"The Nonmonoga-Moms Next Door," and other polyamory news


Let's start with the parenting magazine Romper, which has just put up a 4,000-word feature with the arresting title The Nonmonoga-Moms Next Door (May 9). It's full of interesting bits.


Not everyone has their needs met in a single relationship, and the only avenue for satisfying those needs within monogamy is cheating. What if there’s a much better way?

Kid-quad: Adam, Mike, Kelly, and Max are raising two young children.

By Margaret Wheeler Johnson

...This time the comments filled with women, often mothers, often married, admitting — before God, their employers, and brands that pay influencers — that they, too, were nonmonogamous. Some of them had been for years. “My ex and I started exploring poly in the last few years of our marriage. I realized how much I had overlooked my needs and wants to keep things calm. I realized that ‘good enough’ wasn’t good enough,” wrote one woman. [Wrote another,] “The thing is, it's not really my husband that's super non-monogamous — it's me. It always comes from me.”

...Between 4% and 5% practice [consensual non-monogamy], which is way less than you might think if you live in Massachusetts or Northern California, where it can seem as if at least one kid in every class hails from a polycule [I'm in Massachusetts, and yes, that's an exaggeration –Ed.]. ... There is no published data on how many parents are openly nonmonogamous.

...For consenting adults, [CNM] makes a lot of sense. When you have children, some mothers are discovering, it makes even more sense. While the risks are considerable — researchers have found that stigma against nonmonogamy is “robust,” not all forms of nonmonogamy are equally satisfying, and all seem to require NASA-level organization and communication — for the women who have embraced it, the upside is higher. [Many] say it makes them better primary partners and better mothers.

Polyamory (being in more than one committed, romantic relationship simultaneously), in particular, offers a pressure valve for the untenable two-earner family structure that finally broke during the pandemic. According to the women I spoke with, nonmonogamy works — even better than advertised. It works so well, you might find yourself asking: Why don’t more of us try this? Why haven’t we all along?


The story profiles polycules and CNM couples and gives an early report on some upcoming research news:


...In another paper, soon to be published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, [Terri] Conley looks at the ways that different types of ethical nonmonogamy yield different levels of happiness.

Polyamorists, those who are in love with more than one person at a time, have the greatest overall relationship satisfaction. The next happiest are swingers — couples who together seek out sex with others. People in open relationships, who seek outside partners independently with the expectation that these extracurricular liaisons will not interfere with the primary couple, come in last.

The study doesn’t ultimately draw conclusions about this hierarchy of contentment, but Conley has theories. Open relationships ironically involve the least openness, which can turn them into minefields of blurry parameters and perceived betrayals. Also, such relationships often open not out of a desire to expand or enhance an already good thing, but as an attempt to fill a void. "I think sometimes they would actually prefer to be monogamous, but circumstances dictate that they're adopting this approach,” says Conley. “They're in a long-distance relationship, or their partner is in some way physically not able to do the type of sex they want to do.”

Swingers are happier because their extracurricular encounters are not just known to their partners, but they constitute a shared hobby that couples do together. (Golf isn’t for everyone.) Plus, swinging is associated with the highest sexual satisfaction — the entire activity is organized around seeking excellent sex — and couples who find sexual satisfaction together are generally happier. Polyamorists win because the near-constant open communication and honesty that polyamory requires is associated with better relationships of any kind. ...


As for the photo above,


Another of Woolf’s commenters was Kelly Knight, a 39-year-old marketing executive who lives in a house in the Bay Area with her spouse, Mike, a software engineering manager; her other partner, Adam; and Mike’s other partner, Max. Mike and Knight are legal parents to a daughter Knight gave birth to in 2016. In September, Knight had her second child, conceived with Adam, who is on the baby’s birth certificate. All four partners are raising the two kids.

Romper

If this sounds complex, it is. ... Parenting by committee can be especially challenging — all resentments must be talked out at a weekly meeting, "otherwise the passive aggression can kind of get out of control” — but Knight has noticed distinct benefits.
Kelly Knight and her partners.

In her household, not only are responsibilities divided between four trusted adults, but because they are coordinating four work schedules and eight date nights even before factoring in household chores and child care, tasks are allocated only according to who is free. “Nobody can just assume, 'Oh, the moms [Max is non-binary but was assigned female at birth] are doing this or the dads are doing this.’ It has allowed my male partners, who have always been really feminist, to view my work as just as important as theirs and view their involvement in parenting as just as important, too.”

In the pandemic, when many professional women have seen their careers vanish as child care options evaporated, this has been even more valuable to Knight. ...

...Last but definitely not least, Max and Mike (Knight’s partners who aren’t her younger daughter’s biological parents) take the baby for three nights a week, giving Knight uninterrupted sleep those nights. How sexy is that?



Margaret Johnson says she was inspired to write this piece by the huge popular response to longtime mom-blogger Rebecca Woolf — who posted on Instagram about how, after her husband died, she embarked on a life of abundant solo non-monogamy (insulated from her kids) and realized that this was the life she was meant for. The mail flooded in. Woolf wrote, "After speaking candidly to many [readers] via DM, I have come to realize how … women are often assumed to desire monogamy in our relationships when that isn’t necessarily the case. At all."

Yesterday Woolf published an article explaining her new life: I Married Young. I Was Widowed Young. I Never Want A Long-Term Partner Again (May 10, at Refinery29).


...We assume that one great love story is more powerful than a dozen shorter ones ... But, forming emotional attachment with short-term partners is actually an incredibly expansive feeling. In fact, I’ve arguably grown more from the relatively short relationships I have been in since my husband died than I did in my 13 years of marriage, because now I can be honest with myself. I can live shamelessly within the boundaries of my own construction while destroying the societal boundaries I have always felt uneasy within. 



● In other recent poly in the news — 1 in 6 Single Americans Report a Desire to Try Polyamory, comments consensual non-monogamy (CNM) researcher Justin Lehmiller on his Sex and Psychology blog (May 5).

He's writing about a new study titled Desire, Familiarity, and Engagement in Polyamory: Results From a National Sample of Single Adults in the United States by Amy C. Moors, Amanda N. Gesselman, and Justin R. Garcia, published in Frontiers in Psychology (online March 23). The study also includes new information on the prevalence of polyamory as loosely defined, and finds the interesting statistic that only 1 in 3 who have tried it wish to do so again. It includes a handy review of previous research on consensual non-monogamy numbers. 

But the study comes with two limitations. It surveyed only single Americans, omitting those partnered or married, because of the availability of a demographically representative data pool of 3,438 single American adults to work from. In this pool, the number with a lifetime history of CNM was only about half that reported elsewhere for Americans generally. That makes sense: After people leave the singles pool to marry or otherwise partner long-term, some will go on to have their first CNM experience as the years pass, adding to the lifetime incidence of CNM overall.

Secondly, the researchers defined "polyamory" in their questionnaire as merely being "in a committed, sexual and romantic relationship with multiple people at the same time," leaving out a crucial part of the standard definition: "with the knowledge and consent of all involved" — even though the authors include that in their definition of polyamory in the paper's introductory parts. Thus, the questionnaire also swept up secret cheaters and informal bigamists: people having two partners with neither aware that the other exists.

That includes quite a bit of what goes on in the world and contaminates the data in the survey about polyamory as commonly defined — even by the authors of the paper. It's surprising to see such seasoned researchers in this field making such a basic mistake, which is bound to result in confusion over the results and popular misreporting.


● Next: A gorgeous polyam wedding, and other poly wedding resources.  Group-marriage ceremonies have no legal standing in the US and you can get in serious trouble if you pretend they do. But that doesn't stop triads, quads and more from holding their own commitment ceremonies with all the trappings but the certificate. Offbeat Bride has published another in its long series of these events, with lots of gushing and lavish photography, just in time for the wedding season: How to have a romantic polyamorous triad wedding (April 30).


Creatrix Photography



















David, Jolene, and Stephani had their polyamorous triad wedding in Austin, TX. The three partners have been together for six years, functioning as an open triad. This means they have other partners, and they practice what's known as kitchen table polyamory — the philosophy that all partners communicate openly, and that everyone could sit around a kitchen table and get along.

"We always have our other partners and other metamours together," Stephani explained.

The triad's wedding was a celebration of these ideals, with a very special first look and a carefully designed ceremony…. 

How was it planning a polyamorous triad wedding? Stephani explains:


It was hard. You can't just Google how to plan a polyamorous wedding. [Sure you can! –Ed.] After I got past the 'Oh shit, how do I do it," it got better… I realized I could still plan a 'regular' wedding by just adding a person!


...The triad's photographer, Jenna Avery from Creatrix Photography, explains how she coordinated the first look photos:


In order to capture the magic of each separate relationship, each pairing had their own moments first. Stephanie with David, Stephanie and Jolene, and then Jolene with David. Finally, all three of them came together! The same was done for the “couples” portraits and how they planned the actual ceremony and first dances. As the photographer, I was very careful to honor each dynamic and shoot each pairing as uniquely as possible. As a wedding photographer with a strong polyamorous background, I knew that regardless of their own chosen dynamic, my job was to make sure I treated every relationship as equally as possible. It’s tricky, but it all worked out!!


Stephanie:  "How do you stand with three people and the person who is officiating? How can everyone see all of us while sitting? Where does the wedding party stand? Who walks down first? So many questions."


We decided to have three sections for the guests. My husband walked down first, then me, and finally our wife. We stood in a triangle with the officiate off to the side. The bridal party was mixed up and standing off to the sides. Little details like that stressed me out! Of course, by the end of the day, it didn't matter.


When we asked Stephani if she had any advice to share with other polyamorous folks, here were thoughts on how to have a polyamorous triad wedding:


I would say, be open to all ideas. Focus on what you want and just make it happen. This doesn't happen every day, people won't know the difference. If you want a traditional feel, you can still have that. If you want the full wedding experience, hire the DJ, the photographer, the photo booth, and Bar. Just because it's more than two people doesn't make it less of a wedding.


...We have a deep archive of poly wedding planning posts, but here are a few you might enjoy….



And some more readings from elsewhere:


When Your Partner Is Getting Married to Somebody Who Isn't You, by Andre Shakti. "Helping my boyfriend and his fiancé plan their wedding has been one of the more bizarre aspects of polyamorous living." (Mel, a men's magazine, 2017)  

– Polyamorous Wedding Ceremony: The Ties That Bind, by Page Turner (Poly.Land, Oct. 24, 2016)

Polyamorous wedding rings, including ads for them. 



That's all for this time! Next up: the United Church of Christ opens to polyamory on its national website.

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