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

April 24, 2022

Are people *really* swarming into CNM post-lockdown? Also: polybombing, YA fiction, and other polyamory in the news

Are scads of new people suddenly exploring consensual non-monogamy as Covid stagnation eases? Dating sites report skyrocketing statistics for multiple-partner interest. Relationship counselors describe an upsurge in questions about polyamory and other forms of CNM as people re-engage with the world. But I'm skeptical of "trends" where rumors amplify rumors. Does anyone have trustworthy data?

The latest example: In Metro UK, a free public-transit paper with a vast circulation, More people are opening up their marriages thanks to the strain of lockdowns (April 12)

By Ellen Scott

...The number of Brits considering open marriages has soared by 45%, according to sex therapist Dr Tammy Nelson, who reports a dramatic rise in calls, emails, and appointment bookings from bored married couples looking for guidance on open relationships.

Dr Tammy said: ‘People are emerging from the pandemic feeling the need to start picking out who the important people are in their lives and whether that’s sexually, emotionally, or romantically.

‘And many of them have started to outsource their needs in the shape of affairs or by discussing open relationships.’ ...

Dr Tammy, whose book Open Monogamy: A Guide to Co-Creating Your Ideal Relationship Agreement came out in January, added: ‘Couples are now keener than ever to spice things up a bit.’

...Dr Tammy says the majority of the conversations are started by men, but it’s women who tend to find more fulfilment in non-monogamy. ...

The article includes "How to start the open relationship conversation." It's totally geared to primary couples, who are Nelson's counseling clients and book audience, but to be fair, primary couples living together are more than half of the adult population (58% in the US).

The article's section heads:

Make sure you’re sure.
Think about why you want an open relationship.
Choose your moment wisely. 
Make it private.
Express your desires honestly – but with kindness.
Give your partner time to process.
Have a chat about your ‘rules’

●  Metro UK has been fascinated with polyamory for several years, as regulars here know. The same day as the above it published this tabloidy profile: Married woman gives up monogamy for four-person polycule relationship (April 12)

Spencer, Jake, Anna, and Ellie make up their polycule relationship (Spencer K / Mercury Press)

...Based in Chicago, US, costume designer Anna has three separate romantic relationships: with Jake, Spencer, and most recently, her girlfriend Ellie.

[She and husband Jake] ‘are still very much in love, but I have a whole lot of love to spare for other people as well.’

 ...Not everyone in the group is in a relationship with each other, but Anna describes theirs as a ‘kitchen table style polycule’ where everybody gets along and hangs out.

Anna added: ‘I live with Jake full time, but Ellie and Spencer live in different states, and everyone has full time jobs so it’s always quite hard to schedule separate time for each individual.

‘I would love for us all to be able to live together at some point, but that’s not really a viable option right now as everyone is on their own path in life.’

Date nights between Anna and her individual partners are usually scheduled months in advance, and when it comes to staying in the same bed, that’s really up to everyone involved.

‘When Spencer comes over, Jake tends to go and sleep on the couch,’ explained Anna.

Spencer said: ‘Jake also snores! But he’s a big cuddler as well, so it’s nice to chill with him as a friend and get a hug from him every now and then.’

Jake says he and Anna’s love is ‘pretty grounded’, and argues that polyamory ‘doesn’t work unless you make a point to understand your partner’s feelings and help them love who, and how, they want to.’

It’s this attitude that’s meant, according to Anna, ‘there’s never any jealousy in the relationship.’

She continued: ‘Polyamory really makes you look into your own feelings and where those feelings come from, it definitely puts a focus on dealing with things in a healthy way.’...

●  Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey is the therapist front-and-center in that new reality show Open House: The Great Sex Experiment now airing on the UK's Channel 4. She's there to counsel the couples who come to the show's swing-party venue, where they explore opening their relationships and maybe try threesomes on camera (in indistinct night vision). In particular, she talks directly to the viewing audience about consensual non-monogamy. The viewers may have come for the titillation, but they leave a little more educated. 

Now, in Newsweek, Bisbey tells more about herself, her work, and her take on how to open a couple relationship with a good chance of success: 'I'm a Non-Monogamous Therapist, Here Are My 4 Tips For Open Relationships'.

The section heads with the four tips are

– Know exactly what you're asking for
– Don't go for a threesome as your first non-monogamous experience
– Keep talking
– Do your own work

...but the value of the piece is her depth in discussing each point.

I have known since adolescence that I am polyamorous; I love more than one person at a time. ... My non-monogamy is what is known as "kitchen table polyamory." Everybody knows each other and we are all close. ...

...Couples who want to open up their relationship come to a retreat in the show; I meet with them, find out what they want to do and then come up with activities to help that along. ... Overall, I've worked with about 1,000 couples opening up their relationship over more than three decades of work as a therapist.

Often people I work with haven't really talked about what they want. I frequently see couples when they have attempted non-monogamy and it's gone really badly.

...I advise my clients to figure out exactly what it is they want. Do they want to do things together or separately? Are they talking about opening up for life or for the short term? Are they talking just sex or do they want to be friends with people they're having sex with. After that, there still needs to be discussion about boundaries and what comes up for people.

I worked with one couple, Mary* and John*.... Mary thought they were going to go and find someone for a threesome. Meanwhile, John wanted Mary to go off and have her dates while he had his separately. They had a completely different idea of what they were going to do.... So, they ended up in a fight.... I began by suggesting that they start with talking through why they wanted.... Then they were able to agree on what would work for both of them.

Pretty darn elementary ("communicate, communicate, communicate"), but new people constantly need to hear it anew.

This couple had also never talked about sex and they had been together for about 10 years. That's not unusual, I'm afraid.

Dear God.

Don't go for a threesome as your first non-monogamous experience

Three is an awkward number. I can't tell you the number of couples who want a threesome and are really excited about it, and then it doesn't go well because one person feels left out. ... They came and saw me and we talked about why they didn't communicate during the situation. Having sex doesn't mean you don't talk. ... The second time this couple and a third woman talked about what they wanted beforehand and during, and everybody had a wonderful time.

...One of the mistakes I see people make is having an agreement with each other about the rules they're going to have and not [regularly] reviewing that. They then go out and have other relationships but they don't continue to look at what they have agreed to. Humans are not static!

...Non-monogamy and polyamory require self development. ... I gently reminded [Jessie] that she had agreed to non-monogamy, so we looked at what her negative feelings were about. For Jessie, it felt like her husband was dating a younger version of her. She felt that all of her perceived flaws were being magnified, and that her husband was going to eventually run off with this other woman.

I call this "Monogamy hangover." Monogamy is "either/or" whereas non-monogamy is "both/and". ...

Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey is a GSRD (gender, sex, relationship diversity) therapist, sex and intimacy coach and psychologist. You can find out more at drloribethbisbey.com or follow her on Instagram @drbisbey.

●  But let's remember, a movement can succeed too much. Throughout history, you see good movements brought to ruin by poorly handling their success. Because hubris, because humans. I see the following as a distant early warning coming over our horizon: The Monogamous People Who Live in Fear of ‘Polybombing’ (Mel magazine, April 21)

Traditionalists worry that any closed relationship is at risk of being pried open against their will.

The polybomb

By Miles Klee

Reddit’s r/monogamy, in theory a small community to discuss the benefits and challenges of sharing your life with one committed long-term partner, more often devolves into angst over polyamorous arrangements. Formerly poly members share horror stories of open relationships that ended in heartbreak, while strident monogamists condemn the poly scene as a pit of selfishness, hedonism and false superiority. While it’s true that non-monogamous individuals can be a little smug or self-aggrandizing in their abandonment of traditional romantic mores, there is a tacit understanding throughout the subreddit that such a lifestyle can never be healthy or sustainable. They’re united in the corollary belief that only an asshole would want to try it. 

A newcomer lamented in a recent post that the group, instead of being “a place that supports monogamy as a normal okay thing, without shaming polyamory,” was focused on “over-generalizing and straw-manning” the practice. An established user replied that such venting was necessary, “since so many people here have been polybombed and manipulated, and so many poly people like to manipulate.”

...Someone who proposes marriage isn’t “matrimony-bombing.” These are decisions made between two adults with equal say in the matter [or ought to be. –Ed.]  But r/monogamy operates from the assumption that the “polybomb” is a concerted attack, unforgivable in its own right. 

No doubt this is partly the result of both sides’ unfortunate tendency to value their chosen paradigm by disparaging the opposite — that is, endorsements of either monogamy or polyamory may proceed from a case for why the other model is unrealistic or “wrong.” ...

Once again: Monogamy is the right choice for many people, probably most. They need to find each other. Their decisions and lives are not to be culturally dissed.

Because, courtesy aside, there is nothing so dangerous as a dominant majority who come to feel they are an aggrieved minority. Distant early warning.

● Charming new play ‘Fiveplay’ depicts housemates with benefits (DC Metro Theater Arts, April 17). It's about a rollicking queer household.

By John Stoltenberg

...Erica Smith’s charming new play Fiveplay is set in the shared household of an assortment of idiosyncratic personalities in their twenties. ...The housemates of Fiveplay are all polyamorous, which one of them helpfully explains early on, in an amusing teach-the-audience scene:

AVERY: Polyamory is being involved in multiple committed relationships at once with — and this is the most important part — the full consent of everyone involved. Also referred to as a form of ethical nonmonogamy. I’m gonna repeat that: ETHICAL nonmonogamy.

Someday some smart TV producer is going to notice the zeitgeist is ready for a sitcom based on this provocative premise — it’s only a matter of time.... Perhaps that polyamorous reimagining of Friends will be inspired by Fiveplay, who knows? ...

...Keeping track of who’s having relations with whom can get complicated. So you’ll thank me, when you see Fiveplay, for this handy color-coded diagram:

One of the most interesting things about Fiveplay is what it’s not. There’s a lot of situationally appropriate hugging, kissing, and other casual affection and a lot of banter about an upcoming special event (a house orgy they call Fucksgiving), but no clothes come off, there are no sex acts, and nobody objectifies or body-judges anyone else. The actors who very capably play the five polyamorous characters ... and the sole character not coupled lives in the moment in their interrelationships as if nothing at all out of the ordinary is going on. It’s simply their chosen everyday family, they are refreshingly at ease in it, and the eroticism between them can be sweetly funny....

When dramatic conflicts arise, it’s never about jealousy or betrayal or any stereotype one might have about these people’s multiple sex-partnering. Instead, it’s tensions and incursions from outside — an antique suspected of being haunted, the curtly texted news of a beloved grandfather’s death, the antipathy of offstage parents — all episodes that while not particularly earthmoving, illustrate how the premise of polyamorous housemates could well be deployed in a [TV] pilot. ...

Yup. I've long pictured the setup for that pilot: a big old Victorian house in a hip-ish neighborhood, full of clutter and cats and six adults embroiled in an ever-morphing constellation of relationships, with lots of kitchen-table angst and hilarity and oversharing metamours. Add a couple of super-precocious kids and a baby, weirded-out or over-eager friends and neighbors, older relatives visiting from Peoria in various states of cluelessness that requires impromptu closeting (but here come the kid-blurts) — make them quirky and mostly-lovable, and hey, you'd have the makings of "Big Bang Theory"-level success. 

●  Elsewhere in pop culture, last fall I posted about a Book Riot review, 8 Books With Love Triangles That End In Polyamory. These were all in the Young Adult (YA) genre. Now from Book Riot comes The State of Polyamory in YA Fiction (April 14).

By Tirzah Price

...The first instance of polyamory in YA that I remember reading was in Malinda Lo’s Adaptation and sequel Inheritance [where] Reese develops feelings for Amber and enters into a relationship with her even as David indicates he’d like to start a relationship with Reese. The love triangle is fraught, until it’s suggested that Reese date both Amber and David. The second book ends with an epilogue ... that informs readers that Reese has proceeded with polyamory and that while it’s not without its struggles, it’s been a happy solution. However, Lo gave little indication and details about said struggles, and I was left feeling a bit disappointed that after seeing the love triangle play out up close, we didn’t get to see the solution in action.

Also described are Rachel Hartman’s fantasy Seraphina duology and her Tess of the Road, Laura Nowlin's This Song is (Not) For You, Mary McCoy's Indestructible Object, the short-story anthology Fools in Love edited by Rebecca Podos and Ashley Herring Blake, and Xiran Jay Zhao's Iron Widow, "one of the biggest books of 2021 and an instant New York Times bestseller. Iron Widow is arguably one of the highest profile YA books with a polyamorous relationship at the center that actually plays out."

● More polycons stir from hibernation. In hopes that the pandemic will stay diminished, the annual round of polyamory conventions, retreats, campouts, and similar events is beginning to open back up. See the signs of life returning on Alan's List of Polyamory Events. Let me know if anything there is incomplete or out of date.

Most events say they will require some measures against spreading Covid including 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 yet without a refund provision. Some events are capping in-person attendance and will have an online option.


And on the grim new world-era we are entering... some perspective.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some people call us a threat to society, because we live outside their worldview and expose its incompleteness. Our freedom to build non-traditional relationships, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one small way we depend on a free and pluralistic society that respects people's dignity to create their own lives, to access facts, and to speak of what they know.

Such a society is only possible where people have the power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to protect the rights of all. 

People who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal protections that enable them to do so safely, infuriate and terrify the authoritarians who are growing in power around the world and in our own United States.

Such rulers and would-be rulers seek to stamp out other people's freedom to go their own way — whether by intimidation, laws, propaganda and public incitement, or, eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, this site has received more pagereads from Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in Eastern Europe.

For now, you can donate to Ukrainian relief through this list of organizations vetted by the Washington Post, or many others. (Avoid scams.)

But that's only the start. For those of us born after World War II, this is setting up as the most consequential war of our lifetimes.

The coming era is going to require tough things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we are born into. But we do get to choose how we respond to it. Buck up and be ready.

PS: Need a little help bucking up? Play this new release from Pink Floyd. Loud.
(Another version.)

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