Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 28, 2024

Today is Metamour Day! Why February 28? It's Valentine's Day times two!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 29:  Missed it?  Put Metamour Day on your calendar for next year!

"Happy Metamour Day" card with cartoon of four hugging people making faces

Today, February 28, is Metamour Day"Honoring Polyamory's Most Distinctive Relationships."

Metamour Day arose five years ago out of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. NCSF is a nonprofit advancing the rights and legal safety of kinksters, polys, and sex-positive people generally. The idea was originally hatched two years earlier, posts cartoonist Anna D. Hirsch, a.k.a. PositivelyPolyAnna. She writes, 

"In 2017, I dreamed about a holiday to celebrate metamours. I bought the URLs MetamourDay.com and WorldMetamourDay.com. ... I was stoked to learn in 2019 that Keira Harbison, having the same important idea, along with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom launched a Metamour Day initiative, ​declaring February 28 as the day. Later, I shared some of my art with NCSF for their 2020 greeting card contestI am so happy that this idea is growing. I am grateful that NCSF picked a day and has done a ton of work to get the word out, so that we can all celebrate metamours even more.​"


So why is this a big deal?

Because look at that slogan: Honoring polyamory's most distinctive relationships.

Which is precisely on target.

Your metamour is your lover's other lover. The defining aspect of polyamory – the thing that distinguishes it from other forms of consensual non-monogamy such as open relationships and swinging – is the sense that your metas are significant full persons in regard to you, who require, at minimum, your consideration, respect, and basic good will. 

Even if you hardly know them and/or don't much like them, and even if ordinary politeness is as far as you go. A lot like extended family. Because polyamory carries an implicit ethic that for better or worse, "We're all in this together."

And of course, there's no limit to how close you and your metas may become. 

No other model of romantic love 
– that magical thing that has enraptured and tormented and driven humanity since humanity began – generalizes its magic into something broader, beyond the private couple-box where most societies have fearfully and rigorously packed it away.

Consider, for instance, that the basic human emotion of compersion did not even have a word until roughly 1980.

● From Elisabeth Sheff's Metamour Day article a while back, Delighting in Your Beloveds’ Other Lovers:

For more than 20 years I have been studying polyamorous families with kids, and I have seen them face the usual difficulties that come with life – illness, economic challenges, divorce, disability, and the like. What has stood out to me about these families who remain together in long-term polycules – some of them for 60 or more years – is that 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 can’t stand each other and are never able to establish comfort (much less delight) in each others’ presence are not going to happily coexist over the long term. Metamours who add value to each others’ lives, however, 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.

...By promoting Metamour Day, NCSF hopes “to foster positive relationships between you and your metamours, whatever that might look like. It is not about forced compersion. It’s about communal appreciation within our family structures."

If you are lucky enough to have a metamour with whom you share compersion, celebrate them on February 28!

● That bit about "the metamour relationships make or break the family over the long term"? That's not just Sheff's observation of the families in her own long-term study. Joanna Iwanowska of the University of Warsaw has published a paper titled Metamour Connections as the Underpinning of the Fabric of Polyamory.

"These bonds are significant and constitutive of polyamory," she writes;

...Polyamory stresses not so much the openness to having multiple romantic relationships, but the openness to having metamour relationships with other people. It is this second kind of openness – the openness to metamour contact and communication – that singles out a polyamorous person among other people who might be open to a multiplicity of romantic and/or sexual relationships, e.g. from such a monogamist who leads a double life.

...In a paper that appeared in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Luke Brunning (2016) writes that “the presence of a third party is a constitutive feature of polyamory” (p. 9), and the third party is typically one’s metamour or a potential metamour. ... In addition to that, I argue that accepting the prospect of one’s partner dating another person entails agreeing to be in a relationship with this person, even if this relationship might remain indirect....  Metamour connections are the underpinning of the fabric of polyamory, and they deserve as much academic attention and research as the polyamorous romantic connections. ...

The paper then gets way more academical that I can follow (you need to know your Seneca and the Aristotelian tree model of reality), but those are the basic ideas.

● Cartoonist Tikva Wolf writes, "When things are good, bask in the joy!"

Courtesy KimchiCuddles.com, used by permission. Here are lots more
Kimchi Cuddles comics involving metamours (40 of them!)

●  A reading: What I Learned From Dinner With My Husband's Girlfriend (SheKnows, Aug. 25, 2023)

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 [after 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.

● From Kiki C.'s The Benefits of Metamours:

1. Backup, with benefits. ...like when (I've actually heard this one) "I don't like anal sex but my partner does, so when he finds a partner who likes it, I cheer and feel compersive!" Can also be applied to more mundane but equally subjective activities like skiing, movie-going, an affinity for jazz or love of dogs. ...

2. The Emergency Contact. ...

3. The Distraction. Someone who you know loves your partner who will go on a date with them while you're on a date with a Very Hot New Person.

4. The FWB for a threesome weekend, etc. Why not? ...

5. The sister/brother/wife/husband you always dreamed of. Share the pain, the joys, the chores and burping the baby. We. Are. Family. (If you can't hear funky music by now, you're younger than I am, but that's okay, sister)!

6. This is the biggest one, and the one I'm not at all inclined to make fun of. It's more than family. It is, in fact, true intimacy -- with someone your intimate partner is intimate with. With someone who loves your partner so much -- as you love them so much -- that the love just carries on over to everyone who is doing the loving.

● Best-case scenario, by Tikva:

● Here are NCSF's Metamour Day Things To Do suggestions (right-hand side). Browse PolyAnna's Metamour Day cards and print one out for your meta(s). Browse other swag.

● From The Establishment, a women's site on Medium.com, Why You Should Meet Your Partner’s Lovers

By Kit O'Connell

Two months ago, my lovers met over tacos.

...I was confident they’d get along. Besides the obvious, they have several things in common: They both love cats, feminism, and, of course, Tex-Mex food. This would give us at least three topics to talk about, even if things got awkward.

Why Meeting Metamours Matters

...In my experience and for many polyamorous folk I know, meeting other lovers can alleviate jealousy and reduce relationship drama. Until you meet, “the other” is a scary unknown; if we let our imaginations run away, we can inflate them into something perfect and unattainable, and most importantly, better than me. But when you do meet, you find out they’re just another human.

“Keeping them at arm’s length, never experiencing their actual humanity as a person, limits the potential of that relationship,” said Kiki Christie, a polyamorous and sex positive relationship educator from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

“One of my early relationships was with a couple that was married,” Kiki told me. “I got to know my partner’s wife really well. They were living in a different city, so every time I went to visit him I would spend time with her, because it was at their home.”

Because they shared each other’s company so often, she felt safe bringing up problems and dealing with difficult emotions.

“Being in a familiar relationship with my partner’s partner, with her, meant that I felt more open about talking about my feelings to both of them. I didn’t feel like my communication had to be mitigated at all,” Kiki said. “If I had an issue I could speak directly.”

Anna Hirsch
Genuine affection and connection blossomed between Kiki and her partner’s wife. They became such close friends that “we spent some holiday time together without my partner around. We just became very comfortable with each other. In fact he and I broke up, and she and I are still very good friends.”
Like Kiki, I shared a partner with a metamour for years. Our relationship remained platonic, but the intimacy we formed was genuine. We even had pet names for each other. The friendship outlasted our mutual relationship too, and we even got matching tattoos.

As Kiki said of her friendship, “It was its own relationship and it ultimately enhanced the poly relationship.”

Challenges And Fears

...“There’s going to be metamours that you don’t really click with, that you don’t want to be friends with, or that you might not even like all that much,” [Kiki] cautioned. “So how do you manage to still have a sustainable relationship through that? Focusing on people as individuals can help.”

...Even when I’ve felt jealous of one of my metamours, witnessing their small gestures of kindness and affection together during a meeting helps me open my heart to a better understanding of what my partner sees in them. When I’m challenged by difficult emotions, I focus on my partner’s happiness and often find I can share in it a little.

As Kiki explained, mutual respect is key when metamour relationships are challenging:

“If you’re constantly thinking of this person as someone who’s attached to my partner, or someone you’re not relating to one-on-one as an individual, even if you don’t particularly get along with them or see eye-to-eye with them, you’re not giving them or the relationship the respect it deserves. It’s like a relationship with a coworker you don’t get along with — you still have to see them as a person.”

Especially when there’s tension or distrust, we both believe metamour meetings can be crucial. ...

Small bumpersticker from Cafepress

●  And lastly, a warning: Metamour relations cannot be forced. You need to allow them to find their natural level.

Many metas have little or no interest in each other's company, and that's okay. No matter how much you may wish they did. Overbearing pressure for closeness between unwilling metas is a Known Creepy Thing. Open the door, yes. Invite them in, yes. But don't try to drag someone through that door. There is something more important than love, and that is respect.  

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February 19, 2024

This week: in the Washington Post, "Is Polyamory the Future?" NPR, the NYT... Happy metamour frubbliness, how-tos, criticism. The wave continues.

●  Let's start with Is polyamory the future? in the Washington Post (online Feb. 14). A member of the Post's editorial board argues that the current flood of media attention we're getting is a case of self-inflating positive feedback among the media. 

He's not wrong. But he misses the steady rise of poly in the culture for the last 15 years or so, especially among the upcoming generation, leading up to this winter's media takeoff. The subject was overdue for a breakout moment.

Sulfiati Magnuson / Getty 

By Shadi Hamid

Everyone seems to be talking about polyamory. But are they practicing it? Journalists have lately devoted considerable attention to the topic, including a New Yorker feature suggestively titled “How did polyamory become so popular?”

Is it really popular? Or are people only saying it is? A self-fulfilling prophecy might be at work: Polyamory becomes more widespread because we think it’s already widespread. ...

Strictly speaking, the practice is not terribly popular, even though Americans say they are growing more open to it. In one of the few surveys that asked about polyamory specifically, only 10.7 percent of respondents said they had engaged in polyamory at some point in their lives; 16.8 percent said they would like to try. About 4 to 5 percent reported currently being in a consensually non-monogamous relationship, suggesting that the number engaging specifically in polyamory is even less than that.

Yet interest in polyamory has increased significantly since 2021. The dating site Tinder reports that, in 2023, 41 percent of Gen Z users were open to or seeking non-monogamous relationships, and 26 percent were open to “hierarchical polyamory” — an arrangement with one primary partner taking priority over secondary or tertiary metamours.

This data raises the question of how social trends get started in the first place. If enough people think something is popular, influencers in film, television, media and the arts will reflect and then further normalize it. 

With polyamory today, there appears to be a social contagion effect in which the prevalence of a behavior becomes artificially inflated. As lived experience, polyamory is difficult and often unsustainable for most mere mortals. Having one partner requires planning. Having multiple partners requires even more, which is why accounts of “polycules” always seem to involve a lot of work, making shared Google calendars an essential tool in the arsenal of love. As scholars of polyamory have noted, both men and women — but particularly men — must be willing to “unlearn monogamy.”

...The polyamorous among us tend to brush off such concerns, since they do not see intimacy as a scarce resource. If love and sex are satisfying, why not have more of it? The authors of “The Ethical Slut” note that “sluts share their sexuality the way philanthropists share their money: because they have a lot of it to share, because it makes them happy to share it, because sharing makes the world a better place.”

But even if love were infinite, time isn’t. ... It is no accident, then, that those who try polyamory often come away disillusioned. Only about 30 percent say they would do it again, with many citing as obstacles possessiveness and “difficult to navigate” emotional aspects. 

...Polyamory might never reach genuine popularity, but it doesn’t need to be popular to challenge who we are and what we believe about love. Unfortunately, such challenges aren’t necessarily good.

But the challenge posed by knowing the polyamorous possibility is, in my decades of observation and experience, solidly on the good side of the balance. Nevertheless, I've always believed that even in the totally poly-aware and accepting world we hope will come, something like 80 or 90 percent of people at any given time will be choosing monogamy — deliberately, intentionally — if only because it's simpler.

By the way, remember that any upward trending positive-feedback cycle, anywhere, that continues long enough will reverse and drive itself back down again. The reason is that in the real world, no exponential can continue to infinity. Hey, in electronics that's how you design an oscillator! Remember that the next time you hear feedback from a sound system. You're hearing continuous positive-feedback reversals, back and forth, hundreds of times per second.

●  Sure, you want to know. Couple to Throuple now has put half of its scheduled reality episodes on the Peacock network. Is it as bad as we've assumed? In large part, yeah. Of the reviews I've seen (you can google up heaps), one of the most intelligent is on Primetimer, written by someone who actually knows and gets the poly world: Polyamorous Dating Show Couple to Throuple Can't Overcome Its Conservative Format (Feb. 8).

Reality? Pool deck scene with Dylan, Becca, and Lauren

By Claire Spellberg Lustig

What qualifies as "good" representation? Where is the line between normalizing nontraditional lifestyles and exploiting them for commercial gain? Is it even possible to examine the progressive experiences of polyamory and nonmonogamy through a conventional format of entertainment?

These are the questions that come to mind when watching Peacock's Couple to Throuple, a new dating show that aims to destigmatize polyamory. Throughout the 10-episode season, four established couples mingle with a group of singles in hopes of finding a third partner to invite into their relationship. ...

Though Couple to Throuple will no doubt draw its fair share of rubbernecking viewers, the show approaches its subject matter without judgment. ... Peacock's dating show also boasts a diverse cast, both in terms of identity and experience with polyamory. Some participants, like Dylan and Lauren (the only married couple in the villa), have opened up their relationships in the past, while others, including Ashmal and Rehman and Brittne and Sean, are new to nonmonogamy and hope it will add a different dimension to their bond. The distinct goals and sexual fluidity among the group — many cast members are bisexual or pansexual, broadening the possible array of connections — reflect the diversity and intersectionality of the poly community, something that's been lost in the recent string of articles about white, wealthy polycules.

But despite the show's pure intentions, it often feels like Couple to Throuple is attempting to fit a square, polyamorous peg in a round, The Bachelor-shaped hole. In addition to Evans, expert Shamyra Howard is on hand to guide the couples through their journey, but the "relationship sessions" she leads are designed to incite made-for-TV conflict, not engender trust among the throuples.

Howard's exercise in the second episode, "Boundaries," is particularly problematic. In order to "test [their] threshold" for watching their partner get intimate with someone else, one person sits by as the other is straddled, licked, sucked, and kissed by their newly chosen third. Though anyone can stop the proceedings by saying a "safe word" when they become uncomfortable, the challenge is still incredibly manipulative, as it's intended to reopen old wounds — Corey explains that her boyfriend Wilder has "crossed a boundary" with someone in the past — and stir up jealousies, as becomes the case with Rehman, who shuts down after watching Ashmal make out with new partner Jonathan.

Making matters worse, Couple to Throuple's regimented structure runs counter to its progressive themes and the open-mindedness of its cast. During the first Matching Ceremony, the couples must select a single to invite into their room, and with a finite number of people to choose from, a sense of competition takes hold as the couples fight for time with their new love interests. The only agency the singles, who don't stay in the villa unless they're chosen as a third, are given is the ability to say no to a match; otherwise, producers are invested in their experience only as it relates to that of the couples. 

And when that experience is negative, as we see with two of the throuples (Dylan, Lauren, and new partner Becca, and Brittne, Sean, and Sanu), they must stick it out until the next Stay-or-Swap Ceremony. ...

...While there are some positives to be found in Couple to Throuple — including its concerted effort to reduce the shame around sexual pleasure and female desire — producers' adherence to the rules of dating competition shows trumps all. TV can and should celebrate nontraditional relationships, but three episodes in, doing so in such a standardized, conservative format is looking like a failed experiment.

Read the whole thing

Also, NPR did a read-worthy review: Two's company, three's allowed in the dating show 'Couple to Throuple' (Feb. 17)

By Linda Holmes

The only reasons people watch dating shows, really, are sex and mess. ... Not just mess, but messy messy mess. As I was telling a friend this week, Peacock's Couple to Throuple is really just more mess (and it's on the high end for the amount of sex you'll see), and in that sense it's very conventional. But at least it's a different kind of mess....

...There is nothing inherently salacious about polyamory. There are plenty of people who make it work. So when I say the show is joyfully trashy, that's because of the show, not the relationship structure. ... There's also nothing particularly new about the throuple life if you happen to know people who do it or have tried it, which an increasing number of us do. But at least it's new mess. Different mess. Mess that makes you go, "Oh, yikes, that's tricky."

The first thing that experienced polyamorous people will tell you, I have learned, is that it requires a lot of work and communication. ... Even on dating shows, I have rarely seen this much talking about the relationship. ...

...There are also some intriguing power shifts where at first, the thirds seem to be trying to put their best feet forward to be "chosen" by the couples, and then trying to impress them, but then before you know it, some of the thirds are sort of looking around saying, "Uh, it was nice knowing you guys." Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug. ...

It's a mess. I will watch it all.

●  New York Times picks up on the concept of solo poly: You’re ‘Solo Poly’? So… You’re Single? (Feb. 8) 

Not quite, according to practitioners, who want people to understand that the lifestyle is more than a dressed-up “friends with benefits.”

After James Nicholson went through a breakup in October, he realized that he was at a point in his life when he wanted to focus more on himself than on someone else, but without losing the perks of romantic intimacy.

He was juggling work and grief from losing a family member, all while parenting a 14-year-old with his ex-wife. So Mr. Nicholson, a 46-year-old Bronx resident, decided to embark on a journey of solo polyamory. To Mr. Nicholson, that meant dating several people at once with no intention to ride the relationship escalator to the top.

“I'm open to connecting with others, but it may not be just one other person,” he said in a phone interview. “It is really based on how schedules line up.”

It’s hard to miss the growing interest these days in polyamory and ethical non-monogamy.... But among all the throuples, polycules and nesting partners, there exists another category of polyamory that still throws many for a loop: solo polyamory, or having concurrent intimate relationships while maintaining independence. For the solo poly, the end goal is not an exclusive partnership, marriage, shared finances or cohabitation.

...In interviews with people who identify as solo poly, many described facing misconceptions about their lifestyle. Two of the chief distinctions that separate them from other singles who are dating is that solo poly relationships rely heavily on communication and transparency, and they aren’t defined by the end goal of finding a soul mate. And unlike other polyamorous relationships, their partners don’t interact [not necessarily –Ed.].

...One thing to be aware of when it comes to being solo poly, according to Mr. Nicholson, is that if you are putting yourself first, then you should expect the same treatment: “No one is going to specifically prioritize you.” ...

...For Ms. Morgan, being solo poly means there’s no expectation for her to live with any of her partners and she’s at the center of all her relationships, which include a long-distance relationship, a few more meaningful partnerships and some casual connections. She said she didn’t love any one of her partners more or less than another.

“I experience so much freedom and happiness in being solo and just prioritizing myself first,” she said. “As somebody who’s a recovering codependent and people pleaser, it feels good to center myself in relationships and not feel like I have this hard obligation to necessarily be with a particular group of people.”

The hardest part of being solo poly, in Ms. Morgan’s experience, has been maintaining healthy emotional regulation and staying aware of her own needs in the midst of it all.

So is “solo poly” a helpful label, a way to be more transparent with romantic and sexual partners? Or is it just another unnecessary term to describe behaviors that have long existed? For Mr. Nicholson, the label helps him clearly define exactly the type of single he is for the time being.

The label sets a tone that he hopes can encourage “healthy, open, transparent connection and communication,” he said, “for whoever I’m dealing with on an ongoing basis.”

Aïda Amer / Axios

By Carly Mallenbaum and Mimi Montgomery

...By the numbers: Data is limited on the prevalence of polyamory — and surveys differ in how they ask about relationship preferences — but there seems to be an uptick in openness to polyamory.
...Yes, but: There's harmful stigma that can be associated with consensual nonmonogamy and also limited laws protecting and supporting people in these relationships.

Mary Anne Mohanraj, a clinical associate professor and writer who identifies as poly, says she considered getting married — and also divorced — primarily to use benefits reserved for monogamous married couples.

Mohanraj says she and her primary partner were in a "threesome" with an Australian woman for years, and thought that, were they married, they might need to divorce for visa reasons: for the third partner to be brought into the country, Mohanraj or her primary partner would have to marry her. Later, more than 20 years into their relationship, Mohanraj's primary partner did become her husband for health reasons: She had breast cancer and wanted him to be able to legally make decisions regarding her care. ...

As care communities have gotten smaller and marriages have evolved from being primarily an economic contract to a relationship more about love and even the pursuit of self-actualization, more people are recognizing that one spouse can't meet all of their needs, says Heath Schechinger, co-founder of Modern Family Institute and the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition. Some of those people are turning to polyamory.

And this week, California cities Berkeley and Oakland are introducing family and relationship structure nondiscrimination bills, representatives from PLAC tell Axios. [Read more.]

What they're saying: "As a millennial living in Oakland … I know plenty of people who are polyamorous but wouldn't say that out loud," says Oakland councilmember Janani Ramachandran, who says she's the first LGBTQ woman of color to serve on the council.

●  Kevin Patterson is a well-known explicator of polyamory in the Black community, especially in his home town of Philadelphia, and he has energetically brought its perspectives to mostly-white poly spaces. The Philadelphia Inquirer just interviewed him: We asked a Philly polyamory coach all our burning questions (Feb. 14)

“Not everybody is a married couple looking for the hypothetical hot bi babe,” said Kevin Patterson. 

Charles Fox / Philadelphia Inquirer
By Zoe Greenberg

...Polyamory was once relegated to the fringes of romantic life; now little more than 10% of all U.S. single adults reported a personal experience in 2021, according to the Kinsey Institute.

Kevin Patterson, of Chester, is a 20-plus-year veteran of a non-monogamous life who works as a polyamory coach in Philly. (He also has a day job as a technical writer.) He is the author of the 2018 book Love’s Not Colorblind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities. He guides and advises people who are facing unexpected challenges or who are new to consensual non-monogamy (he uses the term interchangeably with polyamory).

Patterson, 45, is married with two children, and is deeply involved with three other partners in the city. He also has a variety of other casual relationships.

We asked him about what people misunderstand about polyamory, how to come out to friends and family, and what to tell kids.

What does a polyamory coach do?

...For me, it’s all about autonomy, respect, and communication. That sounds really simple, but that’s something that a lot of us don’t have. As a coach, it’s helping people put out their best selves.

How has the non-monogamous community changed since you first joined?

It’s a lot more colorful. When I started in the local area, I felt like my wife and I were some of the only Black people involved. That ended up changing.

If you’re looking at an activity or a community and it looks all white, it becomes really easy to write yourself out.

Are the biggest hurdles to successful polyamory different than what people in the mainstream might think?

Yeah. People think that the biggest hurdle is going to be jealousy, when really, it is communication. ... The resolution is making your needs known, or getting the reassurance you need, or scheduling intentional time to spend together. ...

Why do you think people are talking about polyamory more now?

I think the representation is changing a bit. I think it’s also younger people ―they’re figuring out exactly what it is that they want to do and examining all their options. ...

What do you think the media gets wrong about polyamory?

I mean, short of everything?

They make it so much more salacious than it really is. ... Maybe 10% of my life is as wild as the media would portray. But the other 90% is just regular family stuff. I’m a married man. I’m actually driving over to my kid’s school to pick her up right now. I work an eight-hour day. It’s just that sometimes there are more people involved. ...

What advice do you have for people thinking about coming out as polyamorous to friends and family?

Go in knowing who you are and what you want. Because we’re doing something unconventional, there’s always going to be people who think that by bringing it up, you’re looking to be talked out of it, or that you’re having a problem they can solve.

That’s what happened with my parents. ...

How do you advise people who want to talk to their kids about it?

I was lucky. My kids were young. So all of our conversations were just like, “Hey, our family’s a little bit different. And this is why and this is why it’s OK.”

For parents talking to older kids, you’re not asking for permission. You’re giving them information. I had a pair of friends who, when they told their 16-year-old daughter that they were polyamorous, the daughter had spotted the extra humans around and thought they were just cheating on each other. She didn’t have the context to process it.

You can give your kids that context.

● Canada's National Post, a generally conservative newspaper, presents an excellent, very long, even-handed report on the whole scene, with its possibilities and problems: The new polyamory movement: Even longtime marrieds are doing it (Feb. 8)

Seven hands, male and female, white, stacked atop each other seemingly in solidarity

At first, the whole poly concept sounded flaky. Married, happily, for 26 years to a guy she met when she was 19, “Cherise” always had “this niggling thing,” a curiosity about women that she’d never had the opportunity to explore. But she felt conflicted, “because I was deeply attracted to, and in love with, my husband.”

Then an opportunity with a close friend suddenly arose, and so she began listening to audiobooks on polyamory, a branch of the consensual non-monogamy tree that seems all very in vogue at the moment.

...Doing poly sounded complicated and emotionally exhausting, said Cherise.... “I was a little tentative: where does all their time and energy come from?” 

She’s now eight months into a triad. Cherise and her husband, “Rubin” (also a pseudonym), have opened their marriage to another woman; all three are romantically and sexually exclusive to one another. All three live in a small community in central Ontario and wished to remain anonymous. Cherise and Rubin, who have three grown children, have come out to just a few close friends.

“It’s easier than I thought it would be,” Cherise, 46, said of managing the poly relationship. Maybe easier isn’t the right word, she quickly added. More fluid, perhaps. More natural. “Yeah, that’s it, it’s how natural it feels to be loving more than one person in like a conscious way.

“Part of me wishes everybody could be loved by multiple people.”


...Whether it’s a moment or a movement is hard to nail down, but the surge in interest and pushback against “mononormativity,” the assumption monogamy is the only moral, healthy and legitimate way to do intimate relationships, is rattling social and religious conservatives who see the wider embrace of poly as the latest nosedive in sexual morals, “the next frontier in the war on the nuclear family.”

“The normalization of non-monogamy would change what people think they are getting into when they get married, and how they go about it,” Daniel Frost, of Brigham Young University and Princeton’s Robert P. George write in First Things, an Institute on Religion and Public Life publication. “The expectation of marital fidelity could come to be seen as clingy or possessive — the sort of thing that someone should go to therapy for.”

(Scattered through the article are five
of these poly valentine graphics
for five relationship configurations.)
“Amy” (we’ll call her) was introduced to polyamory 10 years ago, through a former partner. What intrigued her “was the concept of challenging the idea of love having to be kind of centred or focused on one person, or having to have a partner who has to be everything for you,” the 30-something Toronto woman said. “It just felt realistic in the way of just acknowledging how relationships can change, how you can love multiple people and it doesn’t necessarily diminish the love you have for somebody.”

...Her partners know of one another but aren’t involved with each other. Amy said she appreciates how poly attempts to take “the possessiveness out of romantic relationships,” though it can be tricky to navigate at times, like sometimes primary isn’t thrilled she’s seeing secondary. The poly approach is to be as thoughtful, communicative, caring and transparent as possible. That means heavy conversations when conflicts surface. Lots and lots of conversations. 

Indeed, polyamory can form in dizzying configurations. ... A 2020 Canadian Unitarian Council task force report on polyamorous relationships that affirmed [recognition of] the validity of poly “as both a justice issue and religious duty,” described how there are as many ways of being “polyam” as there are polyam people. ...

...Are they happier with all this freedom and fluidity and choice? “On the whole, the evidence is mixed,” Eric Killeen writes in a paper published by the Canadian Journal of Family and Youth. While there’s strong evidence that they’re “no less happy” than monogamous people, at least some studies suggest people in non-traditional relationship structures “are indeed happier.”

Cherise said opening her marriage has made her relationship with Rubin deeper. “It’s definitely brought us closer. I feel like it’s opened up a different level of communication between us.” Rubin, who had a boyfriend and two girlfriends when he met Cherise when he was 25, said he felt comfortable opening things up, “given that we set up some safe boundaries.”

Sheff sees consensual non-monogamy as a permanent addition to the “buffet” of relationship choices. “And that’s where I think the religious folks fall down — they’re having a hard time losing their temporary position of supremacy.” People with more conservative religious or political belief tend to look unfavourably at poly individuals than do people who hold more liberal beliefs.

Levels of infidelity are just as high among religious folks as they are among everyone else, Sheff said. “Religion is not a protective factor for monogamy. It’s a predictive factor of endorsing or claiming monogamy,” but not necessarily adhering to it.

...But poly groupings aren’t all shiny and rosy, Amy said, despite the poly positivity on TikTok. “It sometimes feels like the kind of values-driven principles of polyamory can make you look at it with rose-coloured glasses.”

Others have pushed back against its warm and fuzzy portrayals. “I’m just gonna say it — the culture of toxic positivity within the polyamorous community isolates actual polyamorist people who are struggling and does more harm than good,” Leanne Yau, founder of the Polyphilia Blog, said in Instagram posts reported by Vice’s i-D magazine. “It sets unrealistic expectations of what polyamorous living is like, and leaves newbies woefully unprepared.”

Some are using “I’m poly” as cover for egotistical, self-centred, self-serving behaviour. Tensions can flare over the pecking order: why is she primary and I’m secondary? 

“It’s still a very mononormative world,” [Carrie] Jenkins said. Only it’s not really. “It just wants to believe itself to be.” Data show 42 per cent of people on Tinder are married or in “committed” relationships. ...

For now, “we’re still kind of building and figuring it out,” Cherise said. “To be honest, I feel like we are just making it up as we go along.”

It's very long (4,600 words) and worth it. I don't think you could ask for better straight-up journalism from the mainstream press. Starry-eyed pieces make my heart go pitty-pat, but I believe our long-term interests are best served by solid reporting that also probes our weak spots. Go read.

●  In contrast The Standard, a conservative paper in the UK, climbs aboard the train in a dismissive way with a story by a woman who had a yucky experience being unicorn-hunted by a couple. The paper uses that to represent polyamory as a whole. Polyamory: could it cure my loneliness this Valentine's Day?  (Feb. 14)

...The pair I recognise from Feeld walk in five minutes late (which feels like five hours late because this is a different kind of tension completely). “Lucy?” they ask and I stand, wondering who I should hug hello to first. I decide on the woman. Chrissy, 31, is brunette and looks plainer than her pictures but has a huge smile. She is dressed casually, in a way that seems slightly non-committal. I know from talking to her slim, hipster partner, Billy, 34, on the app that she works abroad and that they are looking to “broaden their relationship”.

What do I want? I don’t know exactly, which puts everything on the cards. Part of me likes the idea of being friends with a couple, with perhaps a physical side coming into play after a few drinks. Something which wouldn’t lead to much commitment because they already have it and I don’t want it. A relaxed and regular threesome, I suppose.

I don’t like the idea of being an experiment and, if they’re just after a one-off threesome, ditched after that. 

In other words, she didn't like the idea of others regarding her the way she regards them.

...An hour and a bottle of wine into the “date”, the conversation has been friendly and fine, but it’s a lot less flirty both online and IRL than I’ve experienced with single people. According to their profile, he’s straight and she’s bisexual — which is usually the drill. ...

...ENM I didn’t love. You just felt like a one-night stand on the side of someone’s proper life. ...

Like I said.

By John Pucay [in the Philippines]

...The biggest lesson I learned from handling multiple relationships is, strangely, how to understand a partner’s “Personal Vocabulary.”

Words have a dictionary meaning. But people also attach their own interpretation, bias, and connotation to different words. This forms their Personal Vocabulary. 

(Okay, somebody didn't want their bristles touching)
When people get together without understanding each other’s Personal Vocabulary — that’s when relationship problems arise.

Or so I’ve learned the hard way.

For example, when Rane says, “It’s okay,” I often have to probe deeper because that phrase can be synonymous with, “I don’t really like it. But I don’t dislike it enough to reject it outright.” 

Dee, meanwhile, has no problem expressing her dislike through groans and facial cues. ...

Then, there’s money. ...

"Lelia Gowland and her metamour, Pippy, are celebrating their
friendship this Valentine's Day." Credit: Bryan Barnett 

Last year, a mysterious box arrived in the mail that said, "Don't open 'til February 14." My husband Cole shrugged, "It's not from me."

When I finally opened the package, I was delighted. It was from Pippy, Cole's girlfriend. In poly circles, Pippy and I are what's known as metamours — we're not partnered to each other, but we share a partner in common. Nine months into her relationship with Cole, Pippy and I had just started to become good friends. She had sent me a Valentine, which included an elaborate card that said, "World's Best Metamour," and, "Let's overthrow social norms together."

...When Cole and I first opened our relationship, tears of jealousy and insecurity often seemed just a blink away, and I felt the physical sensation of terror when he went on dates with someone else. By the time they started seeing each other, Cole and I were over a decade into our polyamorous relationship, and his relationships outside our marriage had started to feel mostly uneventful for me. I was thrilled to have the house to myself occasionally and relieved his other partners would watch the foreign horror films that he loves and I despise.

...It may seem counterintuitive to those who are monogamous, but in polyamory, getting to know your metamours can actually reduce jealousy and discomfort. While my imagination might assume all of Cole's partners are radiant sex goddesses, in real life, they're usually lovely down-to-earth women whose company I enjoy. ...

At one point, after the three of us struggled to navigate their escalating relationship, Pippy suggested she and I go for a walk. ...

As we strolled, I told her I was grateful she'd initiated our time together — and also that we hadn't scheduled it any sooner. I told her candidly that I was just coming out of a season of depression, which had made their intensifying relationship harder for me to navigate.

"That's OK," she told me. "I was too scared of you to try to be friends." We laughed. This was her first poly relationship, and she told me that spending time with me had initially felt intimidating.

Neither of us had social scripts for relationship dynamics between metamours to follow, but the conversation felt sincere — like we were both trying to be warm and kind, like we were on the same team.

At the end of our walk, Pippy mentioned clothes she wanted to donate. "I think we're about the same size," she offered, "You should definitely go through them."

"I'd love to — unless that's weird…" I stopped myself, laughing. "Clothes are definitely not the weirdest thing we share." ...

This first walk initiated a lovely rapport with Pippy, one I hadn't realized I wanted. As I was eking my way out of depression, it was comforting to have a new relationship to focus on, a person I wanted to delight, who wanted to delight me too. Neither of us wanted our relationship to be sexual, nor did we spend much time together, but my blossoming friendship with Pippy had some of the same sweetness of early courtship that I'd longed for since I stopped dating.

And there's a particular pleasure and intimacy in sharing clothes. Every time I wear something that was once Pippy's, I feel a flurry of tenderness and excitement about how we, the three of us, are forging our own path to healthy relationships.

...As we celebrate romantic love today, I'm celebrating the platonic love I share with my metamour and the beautiful family we've created.

●  Here's a Poly 101 as described in them, an online queer-community magazine: The Do’s and Don’ts of Polyamorous Relationships (Feb. 7)

Sisi Yu

By Sara Youngblood Gregory

...Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that polyamory is having a cishet moment. Queer people have long normalized non-monogamy; some 75% of surveyed lesbian, gay, and bi people told Pew Research Center that they were accepting of open marriages last year, versus just 33% of all adults.

..If you’re new to non-monogamy, you might feel overwhelmed when you first dive in. ... This freedom to grow and create is exciting, but it can also be intimidating. It can take a lot of trial and error to know how to make non-monogamy work for you.

...Rather than thinking of these Do’s and Don’ts as prescriptive (or restrictive), think of each as an opportunity to clarify, consider, or challenge your core values around relationships, polyamory, and how you want to show up for love. Use each as a prompt for personal reflection and eventually as a conversation starter with loved ones.

Do Get Clear on Your “Why”
Getting clear on your “why” is one of the most foundational steps in your non-monogamous journey. ... Your “why” should be specific to you and wholly dependent on you. 
Don’t Rush In
Focus on the fundamental skills that make relationships work — communication, honesty, accountability, and reliability....

Do Consider Logistics...
There’s a running joke among polyamorous people: when you’re polyam, you’re mostly in a relationship with your calendar. ... Having a good handle on polyamory’s more practical skills — like creating a budget, maintaining a calendar, and creating space to take care of yourself — can help keep you organized and present. 

Don’t Focus On Rules...
...Instead, focus on shared values, realistic expectations, safety concerns, and commitments. Think about what you need, want, and can commit to. Then ask a loved one to do the same.

Do Set Up a Support System
Queer folks tend to have a little bit of a head start here — most of us are no stranger to chosen families, alternative relationship structures, and showing up for one another. But it is still a transition, which is why I recommend seeking support in a few different ways. ...

Don’t Forget About Impact...
...Don’t lose sight of the impact you have on others and your responsibility to lead with care, compassion, and consideration.

●  My previous post was the press release about legal protections for diverse family structures just introduced in the city councils of Berkeley and Oakland. Here's the first story in area news media that I've seen: Protection for nontraditional family structures could come to Berkeley, Oakland (Feb. 16). It's in The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley's independent newspaper, published by students.

By Jennie Wang, Emily Hamill

...Originating in 2017 from a Berkeley-based grassroots group PolyActive — which is dedicated to political action for extending housing and employment rights to people in consensually nonmonogamous relationships — [the bills seek] to prohibit discrimination against a “whole range of diverse family and relationship structure.”

“(It’s) everything from nonmonogamous relationships to multi-partner families with stepparents and stepchildren, multi-generational families and single parents by choice,” said Brett Chamberlin, executive director of the Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Non-monogamy. “The minority of American households look like what we consider the ‘traditional nuclear family’ with married parents with their biological children.”

The proposed bill specifically focuses on adding protections in areas such as housing, business establishments and city services, according to Janani Ramachandran, an Oakland City Council member who is sponsoring the bill.

She noted that without these protections at the city or state level, landlords and businesses would be able to discriminate on the basis of someone’s relationship status or family structure.

Ramachandran mentioned that although council members in Oakland and Berkeley want to start within city jurisdiction, there is more state-level protection needed in the future.

...Heath Schechinger and their colleagues at the Polyamory Legal Advocacy Coalition took a version of a similar nondiscrimination ordinance passed in two Massachusetts cities in 2023 and tweaked it for California law.

Schechinger also emphasized the importance of understanding these proposed bills through the context of how people respond to the increased isolation of today’s world.

“The question of who constitutes family and how we foster deep, sustaining relationships is more pressing than ever, and how these ordinances work to dive into the evolution of family dynamics and relationships,” Schechinger said.

...Ramachandran noted how Oakland and Berkeley are cities that have historically led efforts in civil rights to promote justice and inclusivity for diverse communities.

“Being the leader on the West Coast to implement these protections, it is an important first step to recognizing the rights to legitimize our large and growing polyamorous community and to make sure that our legal protections are expanding,” Ramachandran said. 


On another topic, not unrelated:

Look up their phone / email.

Here again is why I've been ending posts to this polyamory news site with Ukraine: I've seen many progressive movements die out because they failed to scan the wider world accurately and understand their position in it strategically.

We polyamorous people are a small, weird minority of social-rule breakers. Increasingly powerful people call us a threat to society — because by living successfully outside of their worldview, we expose its incompleteness.

Late night in Kiev on a piece of good news
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.

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

Innovative people, communities, and societies who create their own lives, and who insist on the democratic structures and legal rights 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. Now with direct mutual support.

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, weaponizing abuse by police, or eventually, artillery.

For what it's worth, Polyamory in the News received more pagereads from pre-invasion Ukraine over the years (56,400) than from any other country in eastern Europe.

You can donate to Ukraine relief through this updated list of vetted organizations (Nov. 2023) or elsewhere. We're giving to a big one, Razom, and to a little informal one, Pizza for Ukraine in Kharkiv, the project of an old friend of my wife.

But that is only the start. For those of us born since World War II, this is the most consequential war of our lifetime. Because we have entered another time when calculating fascism, at home and abroad, is rising and sees freedom and liberalism and social tolerance as weak, degenerate, delusional  inviting easy pushovers. As Russia thought it saw in Ukraine. The whole world is watching what we will do about it.

The coming times may require hard things of us. We don't get to choose the time and place in history we are born into. We do get to choose how we respond to it. 

Need a little help bucking up? Take perspective. Play thisAnother version. More? Some people on the eastern front helping to hold onto an open society, a shrinking thing in the world. Maybe your granddad did this across a trench from Hitler's troops — for you, and us, because a world fascist movement was successfully defeated that time, opening the way for the rest of the 20th century.

But the outcome didn't look good for a couple of years there, either. Popular history remembers the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the joyous homecoming. Less remembered are the defeats and grim outlook from 1941 through early 1943.

Remember, these people say they are 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. It's likely 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.


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. And it has quite the history of being run by corrupt oligarchs — leading to 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. And they're also stamping hard on the old culture of everyday, petty corruption.  More.  More; "Ukraine shows that real development happens when people believe they have an ownership stake in their own societies."

Now, writes US war correspondent George Packer in The Atlantic, 

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-organized, mutual get-it-done that grows from community social trusthromada. Learn that word. It's been getting them through  to the extent they've been able. We polyfolks often dream of creating something like that community spirit in miniature, in our polycules and networks. Occasionally we succeed.


Social attitudes in Ukraine tend traditional, rooted in a thousand years of the Orthodox Church. But not bitterly so like often in the US; in the last generation the ideal of modern European civil society has become widely treasured, and social progressivism has room to thrive. The status of women is fast advancing, especially post-invasion (pre-invasion article). More than 43,000 women volunteer in the armed forces, flooding traditionally male bastions — including as combat officers, artillery gunners, tankers, battlefield medics, and snipers. (Intimidating video: "Thus the Witch has Spoken".) Ukraine has more women in combat positions than any other armed force in the world.
Ukraine's LGBT military unicorn emblem
Ukraine's LGBT military unicorn.
The thorns and barbed wire
represent old restrictions
now being cut away. 
Some LGBT folx in the armed forces display symbols of LGBT pride on their uniforms, with official approval, whereas in Russia it's a prison-worthy crime for even a civilian to show a rainbow pin or "say gay." A report on Ukraine's LGBT+ and feminist acceptance revolutionsAnotherAnotherAnother. War changes things.

And in December 2022, Russia made it a crime not just to speak for LGBT recognition, but to speak for "non-traditional sexual relations." Pre-invasion, Russia had a visible polyamory education and awareness movement.

Polyfolks are like one ten-thousandth of what's at stake globally. Ukraine must have our full material backing for as long as it takes them to win their security, freedom, and future. Speak up for it. Your congressperson's email and phone.

A Russian writer grieves: "My country has fallen out of time."

Ukrainian women soldiers in dense undergrowth
Women defenders in a trench in the Donetsk region

PPS:  US authoritarians (such as Sen. Ted Cruz) are saying that allowing women in front-line roles is a woke plot to weaken America's armed forces. Ukraine puts that shit to bed. Do you have a relative who talks like that? Send them this video link to Vidma, who commands a mortar platoon, recounting the story of one of their battles near Bakhmut.

Update February 2024: More than a year later Vidma is still alive, still directing the mortar unit (now in muddy trenches), and posting TikToks. She flaunts her sense of humor after two years of this. A young girl who looks high-school age has joined themAnother. Their lives, and their promising society, depend on us. 

And so does maybe our own. Says Maine's independent Senator Angus King (Jan. 31, 2024),

Whenever people write to my office [asking why we are supporting Ukraine,] I answer, 'Google Sudetenland, 1938.' We could have stopped a murderous dictator who was bent on geographic expansion…at a relatively low cost. The result of not doing so was 55 million deaths.

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