Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

September 4, 2022

Polyam dream home. Poly attachment theory, metamours, managing finances, the BBC on one of our top podcasters, and more.

●  Dream home? A mom in an MFM vee triad with kids, living in a house they all moved into together, writes of having it all. I'm polyamorous and live with my partners and our children. Here's how we make it work. The story appeared in the home/ health /parenting section of Insider (Aug. 30) and is getting reprinted elsewhere. 

Normal is as normal does.

Ty, Jennifer, and Daniel

By Jennifer Martin

...I've got two kids: D, who's 11, and H, who's 9. I also have two live-in partners. There's Daniel, my legal spouse and the biological father of D and H, and Ty, my unofficial spouse and co-parent. But we are not a throuple; Daniel and Ty do not date each other, and I switch beds between the two. 

Daniel and I opened our marriage in 2016. Our kids were 6 and 3 at the time. We opted to join a local polyamory group that was family-friendly, and we brought our kids to many events to be educated about it and meet other polyamorous families, which helped normalize it for my kids at a young age. We didn't think we'd ever actually live with another partner, though. ... 

That changed with Ty, who was single when we met. We started dating in 2018, and in 2020 — right before the pandemic — the five of us moved into a new house together. ... As we all bunkered down at home together during the pandemic, we bonded in a really special way and spent so much time together. Soon, my kids began to think of Ty as a parent, too.

Parenting while polyamorous might seem complicated, but having multiple adults in the house while raising children is actually a dream come true. Someone is always around to watch the kids, and there are plenty of people to do chores, especially since my kids are older. We each have our "specialties" — I like to create meal plans and cook, Ty manages laundry. Daniel does the dishes, D takes out the trash, and H feeds the pets. Oh, and another benefit to multiple adults under one roof? Three incomes. ...

...Though Ty is not a biological parent of my children, he will legally get guardianship and all my assets in the unlikely event that something happens to me and Daniel. He has also sworn to be there for my kids even if we break up, but so far, that seems unlikely; we are really happy, and what we're doing works for us. I love being a polyamorous parent and I never want to go back — and my kids love having multiple parents around, too. ...

The BBC chose Dedeker Winston of the Multiamory podcast to lead off a long and engaging article for a global audience: The rising curiosity behind open relationships (Aug. 5).

Dedeker Winston has been in non-monogamous relationships for more than a decade, yet she has never seen such keen interest in open relationships.

...In 2014, when she started the Multiamory podcast, she and her co-producers had to decide whether to use their real names on the ethical non-monogamy show. “At that point, there was pretty much only one or two other podcasts actually broaching this subject,” says the dating coach. “And the people who were producing and hosting those podcasts used pseudonyms.” 

(The BBC used a ho-hum stock photo
instead of, say, Dedeker and her team.)

But things have changed. Around 2016, Winston noticed a real “explosion of interest around non-monogamy”, about a year after she started work as a dating coach specialising in those types of relationships. “That was when I feel like I saw the biggest turning point, of all of a sudden so many people online being willing to talk about being non-monogamous,” she says, “and to express the fact that they have an interest in these sorts of things.”

Sarah Levinson, a counsellor at Creative Relating Psychology Psychotherapy in New York City, who specialises in sexuality and relationship dynamics, has also noticed an increasing interest in open relationships within the past decade. “It was much more obscure 10 years ago, and now it's incredibly common,” she says. 

...Open relationships fall under the non-monogamy umbrella, but many tend to differentiate between those types of arrangements and other types of non-monogamy, like polyamory. Polyamory often means participating in multiple intimate partnerships, while open relationships are more often associated with people engaging in primarily sexual relationships outside of their prioritised, two-person partnership. In other words, open relationships are less focused on emotional connections with people outside a primary relationship, and more on sexual ones.

...Among Winston’s client base, podcast listeners and website visitors, she’s found many who are interested or participating in open relationships tend to skew relatively young – between the ages of 25 and 45. And many identify as queer, bisexual and/or pansexual. ...


...“Among more than 1 million UK-based OkCupid users who responded to the question ‘Would you consider having an open relationship?’ in the app, 31% percent said yes in 2022, compared to 29% in 2021 and 26% in 2020.”

...And for those who are curious, there are more resources than ever. Along with the “explosion of interest” in open relationships, adds Winston, there’s an “explosion in content creators and people writing about it in media… in apps, in community meetups”. This means information about non-monogamy is widely accessible – not in “old, dusty LiveJournals [personal online journals] in the corners of the internet”, which is where Winston says she needed to look for information more than a decade ago. 

...“Research and public opinion polls suggest that attitudes toward consensual non-monogamy are mostly negative overall, although they appear to have trended more positive in recent years,” says Dr Justin Lehmiller, Kinsey Institute research fellow and host of the Sex and Psychology Podcast. 

...While Levinson agrees there will be a continued increase in “creative relationship structures” for similar reasons, she doesn’t think it will become a global phenomenon. Too many cultures around the world present challenges to people hoping to open their relationships, and the taboo remains globally prevalent. ...

But that's only partly true. British journalist Jonathan Kent, in his recent book A World Beyond Monogamy, interviews at length more than 40 people in various cultures around the world living in consensually non-monogamous relationships of an egalitarian nature. 

●  CNBC, a business news channel, has put up a solid 9-minute video on how a quad family of two couples manage their household finances (Aug. 25). The four of them took a pretty radical step.

Rachel, Kyle, Ashley and Yair are two married couples in a non-monogamous relationship. They share a house, car, dog, cat, partners and finances. They also have plans to have children together. Obstacles they've faced having to do with rights and benefits as four partners have prompted them to meet with a lawyer to get divorced from one another and create a co-habitation agreement. Watch this video to learn how they manage finances in their non-traditional relationship.  

The group goes into greater depth in a 1 hour 19 minute episode of Rachel's own podcast The Wright Conversations, made a few days after the CNBC video went up: Ep 9: A Conversation About My Polyamorous Fam: A Sit Down Conversation with my Primary Partners (Aug. 31) 

●  In other business media, the Australian Financial Review reviews Polysecure, the hit book by U.S. therapist Jessica Fern (2020): How to navigate polyamorous relationships (Aug. 26).

The reviewer is clearly skeptical of the whole concept but is partially won over.

Multiple partners should be seen as less of a novelty and more of a valid romance model, says the author of a new book.

By Tanveer Ahmed

In the various niches of psychological counselling, a polyamorous therapist who focuses on clients practising ethical non-monogamy is not a well-established subspecialty.

But that is the world of Jessica Fern, an American counsellor, whose book Polysecure adds to the literature questioning monogamy and what she calls “couple privilege”.

...[A] study by British scientist Dr Anne-Laure Le Cunff from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College unexpectedly discovered that women were more comfortable with the idea of non-monogamy than men.

...[Fern] attacks her subject matter by extensively examining attachment theory, the model of human bonding [currently enjoying a renaissance] espoused by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby. The vast bulk of her polyamorous clients have some kind of disruption in their early life bonding, she observes, whether through neglect, trauma or familial chaos. [Which is probably why they sought her out in particular.]

This then manifests in complications in their ability to form secure attachments....

She helps her clients navigate the complex terrain of non-monogamous relationships, which are inherently insecure. They vary from open marriages and swinging to what she refers to as hierarchical and non-hierarchical variations of polyamory. 

There is a whole new vocabulary in the subculture. I learnt the term metamour ....

As Fern observes in detail in one of the chapters, fidelity, security and boundaries all need constant negotiation when occurring outside the traditional structures.

Polysecure is ready to help with an exhaustive list of questions and activities to help partners realise their relationship goals.

Such complexity took the racy edge out of the practice for this reader, but her outline highlights the Westminster-level sexual politics that require eternal vigilance.

...In a compelling observation, Fern says Western society places too much emphasis on romantic love in couplets. This, she argues, is ultimately destabilising. Other cultures still steeped in family, clan and tradition allow for wider varieties of strong attachments in adulthood, be it with siblings, relatives or close friends.

...For all my initial perceptions of debauchery, Polysecure’s power is ultimately in being a unique contribution towards understanding the most fundamental of human tasks, in how to give and receive love.

Another review of Polysecure just appeared in Australia's The Saturday Paper (Sept. 3, print and online):

...Practical advice makes up a smaller portion of the book than I expected. Parts 1 and 2 respectively introduce the existing canon of work on attachment theory and non-monogamy, so it’s really only the final third of the book that delivers strategies for navigating love and commitment in the context of trauma. Fern’s nested model of trauma – which considers global and societal factors such as environmental anxiety and capitalism alongside the domestic and familial – is useful, intuitive and a welcome shift away from paradigms that focus too narrowly on an individual’s childhood and home life. But it’s not exactly groundbreaking, either. I often found myself thinking, “Yes, and…?” Like, of course we’re all deeply heartbroken by this world!

So I found myself a sometimes frustrated reader, especially when Fern speaks more to the transition into CNM rather than CNM alone. But that’s a common feature of the genre, shaped by the bigger market share of curious monogamists compared with readers who are already practising polyamory. I did appreciate that Fern is careful not to assume a hierarchy of primary versus secondary partners, or that all relationships must escalate towards committed, secure attachment. ...

BTW, Fern has a companion workbook coming out, The Polysecure Workbook: Healing Your Attachment and Creating Security in Loving Relationships. Its publication date is November 25 but you can preorder.

●  About your metamours, those crucial but adjustable-involvement adjuncts to your polyam relationship: What I Learned From Dinner With My Husband’s Girlfriend (SheKnows, Aug. 10)

Ekaterina Popova/ Getty

By Trish Fancher

She was terrifying. A tall, blonde vegan who was seven years younger than me — and she never wore a bra. She was my husband’s girlfriend.

...After they were dating for a few weeks, all three of us met for a drink at a run-down bar on the harbor. I wore a flowing yellow dress that showed off at least four inches of cleavage. I put on new lipstick and clenched my jaw. She arrived wearing a colorful flowing dress as well. She was certainly tall, blonde, and beautiful. I felt she was different from me in every way. ...

Over popcorn and wine, I remembered she was just a person, not a threat. Later, she’d become a friend. Now, dinner with my metamours—the polyam term for the partner of my partner—is an enriching part of my life.

...Until we sat down and shared a meal together, Per’s girlfriend was a threat — but in reality that threat was a figment of my imagination. Meeting her dispelled a fantasy. She wasn’t trying to take anything from me. She was a smart woman with her own life, needs, and desires. She could relate to Per about emotional experiences I didn’t understand. They added to each other’s happiness.

Now, these kinds of dinners are the norm and a source of joy. I practice “kitchen table polyamory,” which means that I hope all of my partners can, at the least, enjoy a nice meal together from time to time as friends. We have a group chat titled “In Pod We Trust”, a hold-over from when we were podded together earlier in the pandemic.

...Now, polyamory is an important and enriching part of my life. I still make mistakes: I hurt people and I get hurt. Deeply vulnerable relationships often include both joy and broken hearts. And it was often my metamours who helped me feel safe and cared for through the process. ...

My connections with my metamours are uniquely vulnerable and loving. My polyam community is my chosen family. We keep choosing each other and these complicated connections—with life-long loves, deep seated insecurities, heart breaks, and frequent tough conversations. We don’t choose each other because it’s easy. We choose each other because, through our complicated relationships, we can be deeply vulnerable and cared for.

This week, my entire polyam family was out of quarantine [following covid cases] for the first time in weeks. My ex-boyfriend’s wife texted our In Pod We Trust text thread to plan a picnic. Together with Per, his girlfriend, her husband and boyfriend, my ex and his wife, we feasted on a dinner of chips, hummus, figs, and pastries. We celebrated our recovery with the people with whom we can be the most vulnerable — and the people who know best how to care for me.

Polyfamily researcher Elisabeth Sheff has concluded from her 20-year study,

...The metamour relationships make or break the family over the long term. These emotionally intimate, non-sexual chosen family relationships are so important in polyamorous families that I made up the word polyaffective to describe them.

Positive polyaffective relationships among metamours who become chosen family over time are the backbone of the poly family. ... Metamours who add value to each others’ lives... can not only support each other when life inevitably throws them a curve ball, but also support the polyamorous relationship with their mutual partner if it falls on hard times. ...

●  Lexi Inks returned to monogamy after bad experiences, and brought back good lessons: I Used To Be In A Polyamorous Relationship — 3 Things Dating Multiple People Taught Me (YourTango, Aug. 2; reprinted from PopSugar.) 

I'm all too familiar with the perils of modern dating. It's exhausting, frustrating, and at times, a little excruciating. ... Each of these situations taught me some important learning lessons, but none more than my entrance into the world of polyamory.

...Speaking from experience, I can confirm that plenty of poly relationships are committed partnerships founded on love and deep connection.

My partner and I are monogamous now, although we can still be considered "closed" poly, because he has another long-distance partner.... My metamour is incredible and I could not be more thankful to have him in our lives.

Not sure about how words are used there, but...

Now that everything feels more stable in my love life, it's much easier to consider all the lessons polyamory taught me — both the good and the difficult.

1. Communication is everything. 
In monogamous relationships, there are a variety of ways in which a partner could "cheat." In polyamory, I believe the most prevalent way to cheat would be to lie or keep secrets. ...

Omitting and lying are dangerous in any relationship because those secrets are probably going to come out at some point and it almost always ends in disaster. Just talk to each other!

2. You don't need to be their everything. ...
Seriously, you should not be the only important person in your partner's life. ...

...In polyamory, if you allow that insecurity to fester without processing and talking to your partner about it, you won't be able to function when they're dating other people.

Honestly, this was one of the most difficult aspects of being poly that I experienced, but it made me a more self-assured person once I started the inner work to fight it and it also helps that my partner is phenomenal in working those issues out with me.

3. Your partner's happiness should be your happiness.

...Compersion, simply, is the poly term for being happy when and because your partner is happy. Their happiness is your happiness because you love them and want to see them thrive — in polyamory, that can sometimes be influenced by their connections with multiple people.

...Although ultimately I did end up discovering that polyamory didn't work for me, I have taken a lot of different qualities of the lifestyle with me into monogamy. ... While the lifestyle isn't for everyone, anyone can take these lessons and make their relationships deeper, more loving, and more fulfilling.

●  Speaking of compersion, Marie Thouin posts: "Finally published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior! New #compersion research co-authored by Sharon Flicker, Michelle Vaughan, and myself." Factors that Facilitate and Hinder the Experience of Compersion Among Individuals in Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships (online July 25). "Findings overlapped with results from prior research on the topic, and added new and important nuance to this emerging field of inquiry."

From the abstract:

The factors most commonly named by [the 44] participants as facilitating compersion included: feelings of self-worth, feeling secure and that one's needs were being met in the relationship with the partner, communication with one's partner, and positive regard for one's metamour. ... The study's results suggest multiple hypotheses ripe for future testing.

(The paper is paywalled except through an academic library; the link above is to the abstract and first page.)

●  They keep on coming: another British tabloid happy-polyfamily piece, this time an FFM vee. The story re-ran in the US edition of The Sun: Threesy Does It. We called off our engagement to be a throuple – now we swap partners every night but our sex contract has a golden rule (Aug. 16). 

Tom, Irie, Alex

 ...And they've even called off their engagement because they couldn't imagine getting married without Alex.

Law student Irie, from Oklahoma, says: “I feel lucky to have not one, but two people to love and cherish. “I didn’t think it’d be possible to love more than one person at a time, but with Tom and Alex, it’s so natural.”

...Although Alex is a lesbian, she went on ‘dates’ with Tom so they could build their connection.

Irie says: “Tom, Alex and I started sharing a bed together and eventually all became intimate as a trio and it was magical.

“Everything happened so naturally....”

●  The annual round of polyamory conferences, retreats, and other events continues to reassemble as people hope covid will be less of a thing. See Alan's List of Polyamory Events for what's scheduled for the next 12 months.   

Infection-control measures for these events range from strong to apparently lax. In July I went to the Center for a New Culture's poly-friendly Summer Camp East in the mountains of West Virginia and stayed on for several days afterward. The organizers, some of whom live onsite, had set out to turn the event into a giant safe pod, considering the expected closeness among the group. To get in you needed to send proof of full vaccination with boost and a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival. We were also asked to take extra precautions in the week leading up. On arriving onsite we got a rapid antigen test including tonsils as well as nose (to better catch the current variants), then rapid tests again daily for two more days, then every other day for the next four days.

It worked. Of the 300-plus rapid tests done onsite, the positivity rate was zero point zero. Nor did anyone of the 65 of us show symptoms, or report a case in the week-plus after leaving. When thoroughly screened with 100% compliance, a big group event like this in an isolated location seems pretty safe — even with lots of close contact for many days.


Looking wider, the struggle deepens.

Why, some of you ask, have I been ending most posts to this polyamory news site with the Ukraine war? Including links like this one?

Because in my life, I've seen many progressive movements become irrelevant and die out by failing to scan the wider world correctly and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Some influential people say we're a threat to society — because by living successfully outside of their worldview, we expose its incompleteness. Our freedom to choose our relationship structures, and to speak up for ourselves about the truth of ourselves, is just one 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.

The Russian family-cartoon series Masyanya
turned dissident. Watch. The cartoonist has fled.
Such a society is only possible where people have power to govern themselves, combined with legal structures that are at least supposed to guarantee the rights of all.

People, communities, and societies that 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 choose their lives — by intimidation, repressive laws, inflammatory disinformation 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 Ukraine relief through this list of organizations vetted by the Washington Post, or many others. We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, a project of an old friend of my wife Sparkle Moose.


But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetimes.

(See also, among others, Tom Friedman's I Thought Putin Invaded Only Ukraine. I Was Wrong.)

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

Need a little help bucking up? Play this. Loud.

More, you want? Just some guys near Kharkiv (our Pizza for Ukraine town) helping to hold onto a free and open society, a shrinking thing in the world. The tossed grenade seems to have saved them. Maybe your granddad did this across a trench from Hitler's troops — for you, and for us,  because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 2oth century. Although the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years there.

Remember, these people say they're doing it for us too. They are correct.  The global struggle between a free, open future and a fearful revival of the dark past that's shaping up, including in our own country, is still in its early stages. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. The outcome is again uncertain, and it will determine the 21st century and the handling of all its other problems.

We'll have a better idea after the election. Whatever else you do, vote.


PS: Ukraine should not be idealized as the paragon of an open democratic society. For instance, see If Ukraine Wants To Stand for Liberty and Democracy, It Should Rethink Some of Its Wartime Policies (Reason, July 19). And the country had a history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — until the Maidan Uprising of 2013, the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and Zelensky's overwhelming election in 2019 as the anti-corruption candidate. So they're working on that.

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic (Sept. 7),   

Here was a country with a tragic history that had at last begun to build, with great effort, a better society. What made Ukraine different from any other country I had ever seen—certainly from my own—was its spirit of constant self-improvement, which included frank self-criticism. For example, there’s no cult of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine—a number of Ukrainians told me that he had made mistakes, that they’d vote against him after the war was won. Maxim Prykupenko, a hospital director in Lviv, called Ukraine “a free country aspiring to be better all the time.” The Russians, he added, “are destroying a beautiful country for no logical reason to do it. Maybe they are destroying us just because we have a better life.”

They have a word there, with a deep history, for the horizontal, self-organizing mutual aid that arises from community social trust: hromada. Learn that word. It's getting them through.

Social attitudes in Ukraine are generally traditional, but not bitterly so like in the US; the ideal of modern European civil society is widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. Some 40,000 women reportedly volunteer in combat roles, and LGBT folx in the armed forces openly wear symbols of LGBT pride. (Whereas in Russia, it's a criminal offense even to wear a tiny rainbow pin.) Writes kos in the big lefty news site Daily Kos (July 29),

I find [this] particularly salient given American conservative hostility toward women serving in our military. People like Ted Cruz praising the supposed manliness of the Russian army, while claiming ours is weak because of “woke culture.” Ukraine puts that bullshit to bed, not just with the women serving in its ranks, but with gay soldiers very publicly sewing unicorn patches on their uniforms to denote their pride.

He retweets a meme from a military blogger commenting on the plight of the abused gay Russian draftee:

To hell with any conservatives who impugn anyone’s service as somehow less effective or honorable than white straight men. 

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