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

February 1, 2022

Why so many triads?! And other polyamory in the news.

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This week brought a spate of polyfamilies in various media, all five of them triads.

I can see the comments already: Why do the media think poly is only "throuples"? Especially, pre-existing couples who get a "third"?

Some people in the online polyam world these days go dissing on all triads, especially FMFs, sight unseen. For this we can blame the damage by stereotyped unicorn hunters: self-centered (or clueless) couples who feel entitled to take lopsided advantage of a new person — to make that person's rules, order them around or gaslight them around.

But dissing every relationship between three people as a result is prejudice (literally, "pre-judging") just as ignorant and crappy as instant-judging a member of a racial or immigrant group regardless of who they are.

As to why we see so many coupley triads in media representations, five reasons:

1.  Most adults are in couples living together, per census data (58% of US adults in 2021). So no surprise that's where a majority of people interested in CNM start from.

2.  Very rarely will three people, all unknown to each other, all run into each other at once and fall in love at once. Triads (and larger polycules) almost always assemble stepwise, one at a time. (Just like molecules in chemistry, and for the same reason: It's very rare for the correct three reactive atoms or molecules to all bang into each other at the same instant.)

3.  Three is simplest number after two, so it will be the commonest polyfamily after two. You see this in poly enclaves all over. So that's what the media are likeliest to find when they go looking.

4.  The smaller the group, the more likely they'll all agree to expose themselves in the media. Read carefully, and a lot of the trios in media profiles have additional links, even additional polyfamily members it would seem, who stayed out of the group photo.

5. "Because triad stories are the easiest to sell to an audience who see relationships as closed bubbles," writes reddit/r/polyamory user ilumassamuli. When people meet any new concept, they usually frame it as, "It's just like that thing I already know, but with a twist." (Marketers know this fallacy and use it.) So, writers and editors new to the subject may immediately think, "Monogamy plus one!" And off they go.

Okay, two years of covid have gotten everybody down, but come on. Educate people about unicorn abuses and keep your own eyes open, but please don't make hostile prejudice-judgments on people you don't know, just like you get mad at your Trumpy relatives for doing.

●  For instance, there's no reason to judge the people in this article as being anything other than the careful, considerate persons they appear: What’s It Like to Be in a Throuple? A Real-Life Triad Shares Their Experience (Jan. 18, AskMen)

How These Three People Make Being in a Throuple Seem Like a Piece of Cake

Celeste, Emily, Jacob

By Rebecca Strong

Relationships with three people — otherwise known as a throuple — are just one iteration of polyamory that has become increasingly common. Not only has media representation of these romantic arrangements been rapidly growing (see: You Me Her, Genera+ion, and Trigonometry), but there are even dating apps geared toward couples seeking to be a part of a triad. 

...To be clear, a throuple can be monogamous or non-monogamous. Some are exclusive (referred to as a “closed triad”), while others may have an open relationship that allows all three partners more sexual and romantic freedom. Jacob, Celeste, and Emily are an example of the former.

“The triad structure is what works best for us, but it may not work for everyone,” they tell AskMen. 


...Flash forward to early 2019, the year Emily met Celeste through a roller derby league. 

...We started running together and developed a friendship over the course of a couple of years,” explains Celeste. “We really grew close while training for a relay race and a marathon together.”

...Soon after, Emily and Celeste went out dancing with a group of friends and shared their mutual feelings for each other. Once they began to pursue that connection further and saw the potential, Celeste opted to end her marriage, which she deemed “unfulfilling” at that point.

Celeste then started having conversations with Jacob to make sure they were on the same page about how to best support Emily as a partner. Initially, Emily was the “vee” or hinge.... When Jacob and Celeste eventually started developing feelings for each other, they had to take a step back and reassess their understanding.

“I was very worried about even telling Emily this because I felt like I was imposing on their secure and long-standing relationship, and infringing on their marriage,” says Celeste. “I also had anxiety about it minimizing our relationship as bisexual women experiencing their first lesbian relationship together.”

But it turned out to be a relief for Emily, who had been anxious about being able to fulfill both Jacob and Celeste’s needs on her own.

“This wasn’t anything any of us were looking for,” Jacob tells AskMen. “It just kind of fell into our laps and it made a lot of sense.” ...

...Emily adds that there’s no right or wrong way to handle this in a three-way relationship, as long as everyone is aware, communicating, and consenting. ...

Read on. It's long.

The man behind Something Inside So Strong and It Must Be Love talks about his half-century in music, coming out in the 70s – and his menage a trois on a Welsh mountain.

Labi Siffre (left) with his partners Rudolf van Baardwijk and Peter Lloyd

By Tim Jonze

...Many people I speak to have never heard of him. Some remember his 80s anthem Something Inside So Strong. Others are dimly aware of a solo career before that....

And then there are those whose eyes light up – those who, like me, regard him as one of the key figures in British pop history, and wonder why he’s not celebrated as such. “Labi Siffre’s fingerprints have been on popular music for many decades now,” wrote the electronic musician Matthew Herbert in 2012. “But his actual voice is rarely heard.”

Labi Siffre today
...“The most important thing in your life is what happens at home,” says Siffre. “Many people don’t understand this. It is head and shoulders above everything else. And from the moment Peter and I met, I never took [that love] for granted.”

...Perhaps one reason Siffre seems content with his standing is that music always came second to the great love of his life, which is love itself: not just Peter but also a “third husband”, Rudolf “Ruud” Cornelis Arnoldus van Baardwijk, who joined the pair in the mid-90s. The three of them shared an idyllic-sounding life – for some time – in a house halfway up a mountain in south Wales.

“I went looking for love,” he says. “But it was only when I met Ruud and we became three that I stopped looking entirely. For nearly 16 years the three of us lived together in a menage a trois. And I realised I’d made the family that I’d been trying to make for the whole of my life.”

And another kind. Polyamory is usually sexual but not necessarily. Nor even "romantic." When does it grade off into being an especially intimate friendship? Doesn't matter. The real world overflows with variety, often poorly classifiable. (Hey, I'm married to a biologist!) But three is the simplest number after two.

For example, here is UK psychotherapist Lucy Fry's tale of her current triad group: After years of a tricky polyamorous romance, I’ve discovered a friendship ‘throuple’ that feels just right (in the UK's iNews, Jan. 26).

Stock photo by Jordan Siemens/ Getty

I used to think about friendships as straight lines – a reciprocal exchange where one listens as another talks; one shoulders whilst the other leans, or one jokes whilst the other laughs.

...In the last 12 months, however, I’ve had a friendship epiphany. Something I never expected possible has happened. I have become a crucial part of a three-way friendship that is 100 per cent triangular in nature: where the primary unit is the triad.

Put more simply, I have realised that “throuples” really can work and need not involve the kind of gossip, envy or conflict that I have experienced in the triads of my past. Granted my current favourite throuple is not sexual nor romantic in nature, which probably makes things simpler.

Yet still, I’m astonished it works, since my history with threes has not been pretty. 

I was born the youngest of three children. ... Then I was, for many excruciating years, third wheel in my parents’ volatile marriage. ... I then recreated this destructive dynamic later in my mid thirties, when I became one third of a polyamorous relationship. Ouch. This one was romantic, full of love and jealousy too. It really ripped open those old wounds. In a way that felt hauntingly familiar, I found myself either stuck between warring factions, besieged with my co-dependency and unable to advocate for my own needs, or torn apart, pulled too hard in different directions. ... 

But, as I know from interviews done for my new book [Love and Choice: a radical approach to sex and relationships], there are throuples that make it work. What is less commonly understood is the potential in a triangle, whether platonic or romantic, for beauty and strength.

We met on a professional training course as three females (thirty- and forty-somethings) who knew each other a little before choosing, one night, to have dinner a trois. ...  Something magical happened over that Thai meal as we laughed and cried our way through an incredible bonding evening. Next day, we each admitted that there was something about our (platonic) chemistry, the mix of our viewpoints, stories and senses of humour, something that wasn’t the same with just two members.

Soon our triangular dinners became an essential part of the monthly calendar, held to consolidate a near-daily Whatsapp chat where we shared voice notes and texts including everything from deep anxieties to in-jokes and everyday frustrations. Gradually, the centre of the triangle coagulated as a unique, shared language developed, an understanding and trust between the three of us.

Finally, at the age of 40, the symbolism of triangles make sense to me. It is a shape regarded throughout centuries to represent enlightenment, revelation, and a higher perspective. Our friendship triptych is like this too. ...

●  Canada's nationwide CityNews TV network just ran a 43-minute special titled "Thoroughly Modern Families." One of its segments featured this Ontario triad living in a remade former church: Life, love and struggle in a polyamorous relationship (Jan. 27):

Article on the segment's webpage.

Speaking from a very different place on the same show was social activist Alicia Bunyan-Sampson of the Polyamorous Black Girl blog and author of No Filter, her memoir. 'Polyamorous Black Girl' battles for acceptance with online blog (Jan. 30):

Article on the segment's webpage. 

The whole 43-minute show aired last Sunday, January 30.

●  The Washington Post just put up Meet Janie and Maggie and Cody, a throuple surviving the pandemic together (Jan. 31). These are the @3.mountains TikTok stars that I posted about last November. (This story also ran the same day in The Seattle Times and maybe elsewhere.)

Maggie Odell, left, Cody Coppola and Janie Frank at their home under
renovation in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Michael A. Schwarz/ Washington Post)

By Karen Heller

Couples traditionally vow to stay together for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Rarely do they mention for 24 hours a day, for seven days a week, for every single meal, for so much streaming, for two blasted, interminable years.

So imagine what the pandemic has been like for a throuple, three individuals in a loving, committed relationship. Also one that’s moved seven times since early 2020, including driving nearly 1,300 miles from Denver to Chattanooga in one car with three cats.

Cody Coppola, 31, and Maggie Odell, 28, have been together for six years, and married for four. Janie Frank, 26, is Cody’s girlfriend of more than than five years. She is also Maggie’s. They all work in construction and design.

...Within their partnership, “there are four separate relationships,” Janie says in a phone interview. “The three of us together. Me and Maggie. Me and Cody. Cody and Maggie. All of those relationships need to be cared for and nourished.”

Janie, Cody and Maggie dwell in a couple-centric world. They understand that people are intrigued by their otherness. Few of their friends are throuples, though they recently became acquainted with a foursome, or quad. They hope to enlighten people about their relationship and convey that, rather than some orgiastic outtake from “Fellini Satyricon,” it involves laundry and utility bills. As Maggie says, “it’s actually kind of boring.”

Cody cites two primary advantages to being a throuple, a word he dislikes, though they use it regularly. “When I am completely overwhelmed and need a partner to be supportive and loving, I now have two. It doesn’t fall on one person,” he says. Conversely, “when I’m not in a good place, and I don’t want to be around anyone, I’m not the everything for one person. They get a night to themselves, and there’s no guilt on my end about basically abandoning someone.”

...In the past two years while living through the pandemic, Maggie says, they have “experienced every single stressor that you can put on a relationship”: loss of employment, money issues, change of jobs, moving, home renovation, moving and moving again.

They nursed big dreams to relocate to Prague and, in preparation, shed most of their belongings. But this was the spring of 2020. The coronavirus had other plans. ...

...Their TikTok account @3.mountains, documenting “just your average throuple in the south,” with more than 263,000 followers, tends toward goofiness, hugs, cats and “Newlywed Game” videos, plus Maggie-designed merch and sponsorship from an invisible teeth aligner.


● A new book is in the news this week: Rachel Krantz's Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy. The most interesting and informative review I've seen so far is on NPR: 'Open' explores polyamorous relationships through personal experience (Jan. 29)

By Ilana Masad

...On their second date, he told her that, should they continue seeing each other, "[she] could still date and sleep with other people, even fall in love again. I don't want to restrict my partners' experiences."
...She was fascinated by and powerfully drawn to him, so she decided to give it a shot.

Her first book documents what happened next, using extensive research, interviews with experts, and her own meticulous record-keeping to flesh out and interpret her personal experiences.

I'll admit that I was trepidatious when I first approached this memoir. I've never really hidden the fact that I am polyamorous, nor that my partner of seven years and I have always had, to one extent or another, a non-monogamous relationship. Though anyone who is poly (or polyam, the short form Krantz uses in the book) or non-monog knows when to share this information and when to silo it away in order to avoid the judging eyes and skeptical questions of the monogamous overculture. Knowing the memoir was about Krantz's introduction to non-monogamy — and not only that, but that she was introduced to it by a straight cis man, who are often assumed to abuse this this relational preference — made me brace myself for a traditional happy ending about how it was a valid life choice but simply not for her.

I couldn't have been more wrong. It's no spoiler to say that Krantz still identifies as polyam, at least according to social media, and while Open is about non-monogamy, of course, it's neither a manifesto of polyamorous ideals nor an argument against it. Instead, more than anything else, it's Krantz's sincere and curious reckoning with the cultural messaging we all receive about gendered expectations and power dynamics in romantic and sexual relationships in general. How do we untangle those from our own desires? ... The highs and lows of a first non-monogamous relationship prove the perfect canvas on which to explore these fundamental questions. ...

Readers should take the word "uncensored" in the memoir's title seriously... "I put myself forward for naked examination because I'm morally opposed to being told to cover up in shame." Sex parties, swingers' meetups, and drug use are unapologetically rendered, but Krantz is no less forthcoming with her anxieties, fears, and attempts to understand what is going on in her primary relationship with Adam. Her vulnerability — along with the 20/20 hindsight... — is precisely why the memoir works so well. ...

-- The women's mag Marie Claire interviews Krantz: Diary of a Non-Monogamist (Jan. 24)

...What do you hope people take away from all of this?

RK: I hope to foster more love and openness and less shame, and also a greater empathy for people who are living different lifestyles. And maybe if people see themselves in these stories, they’ll have a greater compassion for themselves and also maybe for the people who hurt them. I hope it opens up conversations in relationships of potentially more expansive possibilities, because I think there’s a lot in between total monogamy and total relationship anarchy that might benefit a lot of couples. ... Maybe there are some options that would actually be quite fun that wouldn’t challenge jealousy that much. You see in the book a lot of different options, a lot of different outcomes, the pitfalls and the pros and cons.

-- Yahoo Lifestyle reprinted the book's first chapter. It does draw one in.

-- The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Michigan/ Ann Arbor, has an interesting take. “The most vulnerable person in the room”: In conversation with Rachel Krantz, author of ‘Open’  (Jan. 31)

By Elizabeth Yoon

...While readers are busy putting together the warning signs of abuse, Krantz flashes her own insecurities about her queerness and positionality in the peripheral. It’s a brilliantly employed and aggressively engrossing tactic. By the midpoint of the book, the readers find themselves at a mental table opposite of Krantz, questioning the binaries they subscribe to and what liberation looks like for them. 

The novel frames ideas and anecdotes through critical feminist frameworks, making reading a treasure hunt for theory and its application in the real world. Krantz is a product of elite institutions (though she does not name or reference her alma mater, NYU, in the novel). ... Perhaps because of Krantz’s past in journalism, scenes featuring Krantz’s queer friends and cosmopolitan lifestyle feel like more than incidental visits; through Krantz and her connections, the reader receives an insight into inclusive queer spaces, guided by a wonderfully expansive accepting network. In sum, the vignettes transform the novel into a conversation that branches out and touches on a great many things other than just non-normative sex and relationships. 

Update: A radio interview with her on WNYC in New York (March 15).


● The polycons stir from hibernation. As hopes grow that the pandemic will diminish, the annual round of polyamory conventions, retreats, and similar events is beginning to open back up a little. See the signs of life returning on Alan's List of Polyamory Events.

Most will require onsite measures against spreading covid, and admission will usually require proof of vaccination. Ask about their refund policy if either you or they change plans due to pandemic developments, and I wouldn't book expensive travel without a refund provision. Some events — such as Southwest Love Fest in Tucson coming up in April — will limit in-person attendance and have an online option.

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Blogger mea1top said...

Thanks for the article. As a former broadcaster with the BBC, reporter and current video maker with the UN I also have this perspective - which is in some ways very basic and simple. You often have a limited timeframe to tall a story - and, if you're covering polyamory, it's just much more feasible to cover a minimum number of characters - ie 3 - to illustrate your story. Covering more than that is hard to make work in, say, a five minute piece. You have more time to bring out the individual identities of each character. I think the same considerations apply to journalism in any format - character-driven stories tend to work better when focused on a minimal number of characters. Thanks again - an interesting insight into the overall coverage.

February 02, 2022 9:23 AM  

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