Polyamory in the News
. . . by Alan M.

February 13, 2024

Warmth of queer polyfamily. A trashing in The Atlantic. Monogamy? In this economy? And much more. The wave of poly in the news rolls on.

Lots to cover! The 2024 flood of polyamory in the news continues. 

●  First we gotta deal with this. The Peacock Network's new reality show Couple to Throuple dropped its first three episodes on Thursday, and, well, to summarize I've chosen this from the Daily Beast: ‘Couple to Throuple’ Is Addictive, Diabolical Trash About Polyamory (Feb. 8)

Is Peacock’s raunchy new reality series an accurate, grounded depiction of polyamory? Absolutely not! But if you love classic reality-TV mess, then look no further.

Three glamorous-looking young people in beachwear extend a hand to a fourth.

By Laura Bradley

...Couple to Throuple follows four longtime romantic pairs as they toy with the idea of polyamory. Every few days, the couples have the opportunity to invite one of 14 “open-minded singles” into their suite at a tropical resort, or to stick with the one they’ve already chosen. ...Sex and relationship expert Shamyra Howard is on board to help the couples navigate their desires, boundaries, and inevitable jealousy. At the end of the month, the couples will each decide whether they want to stick with the polyamorous lifestyle—and each other.

In other words, this show is about to be a big, huge, bikini-clad mess. ...From our first three episodes alone, I can safely say that each of these pairs are in for a wild ride.

Couple to Throuple knows exactly what it’s doing. From the jump, the show puts sex front and center, teasing us with some extremely steamy night vision clips and throwing in some moaning audio for good measure. Butt, boob, and crotch shots abound, and at one point, we even catch a glimpse of some exposed nipples. Series previews also dangle the prospect of some very dramatic break-ups in front of our faces, solidifying the idea that polyamory is not for the faint of heart.

It’s no surprise that even just the trailer for this show has left non-monogamous Reddit less than thrilled. As users there have pointed out, Couple to Throuple centers a certain kind of polyamory—a version that the community itself often derides, at that. These couples are all dating together, rather than forging new connections individually, a practice that can lead to unbalanced relationship dynamics with the new partner. It’s also fascinating to observe that most of these couples are composed of a man and a woman who are seeking out a bisexual woman specifically. (There’s a term in the community for that, as well—“unicorn hunting.”)

Multiple times during this season, you can see the effects of this specific approach. When one of the singles, Sanu, tells her chosen couple, Sean and Brittne, that she feels their approach to this experiment feels “dehumanizing” to the singles, Brittne immediately clams up. Another couple, Lauren and Dylan, start to feel friction with one of their chosen singles, Becca, when her relationship with Lauren progresses faster than her connection with Dylan. And then, there’s Ashmal and Rehman, whose three-year relationship turns rocky almost immediately due to jealousy.

In other words, Couple to Throuple is provocative in pretty much the same way that almost all reality dating shows are. Like, is it really a good idea for Corey and Wilder to participate in this show, given that she’s clearly still hurt from the time they tried polyamory and she found him making out with their chosen “third” behind her back? Probably not! And yet, here we all are, hanging out on the beach and watching Corey wince at the idea of Wilder kissing another woman in front of her. I wish that I could claim to be above it all, but there I was, sitting on my couch, gobbling down cinnamon hearts with my eyes glued to the screen.

What can we say? This show knows how to hit all the right buttons. The resident relationship expert, Howard, might challenge the couples with communications exercises designed to help them navigate their jealousy, but as with many raunchy dating shows, these scenes are also designed to tweak their nerves.

During one session, for instance, each couple selects one person to interact with their chosen single in front of the other, gradually progressing from flirting to touching to kissing, while the other watches and debates whether or not to use the “safe word” and shut it all down. ... In fairness, other challenges—like a fireside emotional confessional—feel a little more straightforwardly practical.

...Based on what we’ve seen so far, they all have a tough road ahead. ...

There's lots more — from USA Today (Polyamory has hit reality TV with 'Couple to Throuple.' Expect to challenge your misconceptions; "...Pokes and prods at its viewers' preconceived notions about polyamory... catnip to anyone questioning what they want out of a relationship")

— to the BBC (Couple to Throuple: How polyamory is becoming a 'new normal'; "A sensitive and nuanced exploration of non-monogamous relationships this is not. It's played for drama from the start.")

— to this recap at lesbian/queer Autostraddle: Peacock’s New Polyamorous Reality Show... Forgets That Thirds Are People Too. And on and on. 

●  Let's have a change of pace. Coming out this week is a warm new book, Entwined: Essays on Polyamory and Creating Home by Alex Alberto. That's them below. Their voice was a welcome respite from some of the harshness and superficiality happening out on the web. (I have no financial interest in the book.)

Alberto is a queer poly Quebecois who landed in New York City, then upstate. Here's their own description:

In these essays, Alex attempts to build two committed relationships at once when no one involved has done it before; develops a powerful bond with the woman their partner loves; sits through a tense Thanksgiving Dinner with religious in-laws; questions the need for rules and hierarchy in their relationships; experiences the intensity of a triad; wrestles with the fragility baked into the nuclear family after their father's stroke; and explores their queerness and gender identity in English, in New York, while struggling to reconcile their newfound self in their native French-Canadian language and culture.

Entwined explores the fuzzy lines between friendship, romance, and family with various essay forms, including a play, an advice column, and a love letter. Rather than wallowing in the throes of jealousy, this collection celebrates the hard work of creating a love life that resists conventional narratives.

Alberto projects insight, vulnerability, and kindness, and offers an intimate look into good queer-community life. They strike me as a person you would praise the gods to get as a metamour.

My partner entered the hospital room in a blue gown, his clothes stuffed in a clear plastic bag.

"You left the back untied!" I said, with a forced chuckle.

"Oh, they see hairy butts all day long," Don replied. "Plus, most of their patients aren't as sexy as me…"

Standing in the doorway, he pulled his gown up and lifted his thigh, toes seductively pointed on the floor. I rose from the chair, smiled, and snapped a picture of him. I knew he was trying to set a mood that meant this wasn't a big deal. ...

I've always been worried that something would happen to Don. I'd always imagined it would be around his 51st birthday, the age my father was when he had a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. I'd had intrusive thoughts about all my loved ones suddenly dying or getting sick ever since. Every time I'd voice my fears, Don patiently held me and said he'd live healthily for a very, very long time. But here he was, at 40, about to undergo heart surgery.

..."The procedure can take anywhere between three and 10 hours," a nurse had told us, shaking her head. ...

I thought of calling Bridget, Don's ex. Don met Bridget a year into our relationship; they'd dated for three years. Bridget broke up with him the summer before. He was over her, but I still missed her. ...

Before Bridget, I'd never felt the power of a metamour bond — the bond with my partner's partner. Don had a few girlfriends who were around for a few months, but we never clicked. ... But Bridget was present in conversation, and, like me, initiated her journey into polyamory while single. "Monogamy was a coat that never fit quite right," she'd told me. She was a kindred spirit. I felt seen.

The success rate of Don's procedure was high, so my rational brain trusted everything would be fine, and that his arrhythmia would disappear. But I also imagined sitting in a waiting room alone 10, 20 years down the road, a doctor telling me they couldn't save him. That anticipated grief cinched my insides.

I then imagined that Bridget was part of that hypothetical future. I pictured us holding each other while crying, reminiscing about Don's quirks: his bedside table full of protein bar wrappers that he ate in the middle of the night, how he mindlessly wiggled his thumb above his phone when he was reading the news, the way he kissed us both on the back of the neck.

...Polyamory has shown me a way to expand my family and make it more resilient. My life experience has made me acutely aware and sensitive to the vulnerability of the nuclear family. My half-sister's father drowned when she was 11. My uncle was a trucker and died in an accident when he was in his early 30s. ... When I think of a resilient future, it necessitates having multiple life partners. I need to know my stool won't get knocked over if one leg breaks.

The book is one of the first from the new Quilted Press, a queer writers' publishing collective. 

●  Regarding a very different book: The Atlantic, one of America's top big-think mags, rushed this piece onto its website in reaction to the current poly wave: Polyamory, the Ruling Class’s Latest Fad (Feb. 1). "Americans who most reap the benefits of marriage are the same class who get to declare monogamy passé and boring."

It's a reaction to Molly Roden Winter's bestseller recently out, More, a Memoir of Open Marriage. Which is the tale of a conventional, self-centered open marriage isolated from community,  on the part of a couple who, though not ruling class, are better off than most. What seems missing here is polyamory's ethic of interrelatedness, of community good: the sense that everyone else matters too. As Jennifer Wilson recently wrote in her New Yorker piece How Did Polyamory Become So Popular?, "I want more for polyamory than More. As ethical non-monogamy becomes the stuff of Park Slope marriages and luxury perfume ads, it’s worth remembering that revolutions don’t fail; they get co-opted. ... Ultimately, Roden Winter’s memoir represents a very specific, arguably very American version... the extension of abundance culture to all corners of the bedroom, but nowhere beyond."

But in his Atlantic takedown, Tyler Austin Harper condemns not just Roden Winter but the entire ethical nonmonogamy movement, in all its variety, as self-centered narcissism running on psychobabble. Only at the end does he acknowledge this is not the whole story.  

Ben Hickey

By Tyler Austin Harper

The chattering class has a new fixation: polyamory. What began as a trickle of discourse a few years ago—as shows including Succession and Scenes From a Marriage streamed open relationships into our living rooms—has become a veritable flood. ...

At the center of the recent discussions is More: A Memoir of an Open Marriage, by Molly Roden Winter, an unsparing account of a polyamorous life—at least, a polyamorous life as lived by a white, wealthy, heterosexual Brooklynite.

More—and the present interest in polyamory more broadly—is the result of a long-gestating obsession with authenticity and individual self-fulfillment. That obsession is evident today in Instagram affirmations, Goop, and the (often toxic) sex positivity of an app-dominated dating scene, but its roots go back decades. As the historian Christopher Lasch wrote in 1977, this worldview “assumes that psychic health and personal liberation are synonymous with an absence of inner restraints, inhibitions, and ‘hangups.’” And what could offer more liberation than throwing off the constraints of one of humanity’s oldest institutions, monogamous marriage? Indeed, the desire to discover her true self is Molly’s stated reason for engaging in “ethical non-monogamy.” When she prepares to go on one of her first extramarital dates, she thinks, “Who is my ‘self’ if not a mother and a wife? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it’s time to find out.”

...More is a near-perfect time capsule of the banal pleasure-seeking of wealthy, elite culture in the 2020s, and a neat encapsulation of its flaws. This culture would have us believe that interminable self-improvement projects, navel-gazing, and sexual peccadilloes are the new face of progress. The climate warms, wars rage, and our country lurches toward a perilous election—all problems that require real action, real progress. And somehow “you do you” has become the American ruling class’s three-word bible. ...

...We might call this turbocharged version of authenticity culture “therapeutic libertarianism”...

...My issue with the new open-marriage discourse is not ethical but political, and my criticism is aimed not at polyamorists in general or Molly Roden Winter’s book in particular, but at anyone eager to valorize the latest lifestyle fad that is little more than yet another way for the ruling class to have their cake and eat it too. The Marxist philosopher Daniel Tutt has pointed out that a “new intimacy” has come to govern modern relationships: an intimacy that “has fused with market terms” and is “centered on protecting one’s self-worth, self-esteem and dignity.” But Tutt notes that even as modern relationship etiquette is dressed up in progressive pieties, its goods are primarily reserved for the elites.

When it comes to CNM, that's false. From a pair of 2016 studies published the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy

Using two separate U.S. Census based quota samples of single adults in the United States (Study 1: n = 3,905; Study 2: n = 4,813), the present studies show that more than one in five (21.9% in Study 1; 21.2% in Study 2) participants report engaging in CNM at some point in their lifetime. This proportion remained constant across age, education level, income, religion, region, political affiliation, and race, but varied with gender and sexual orientation. ...

●  Listen to Roden Winter's own voice, which is better than you might imagine from the Atlantic piece, in a podcast interview with the UK's Financial Times: Why everyone is talking about polyamory. (The transcript is paywalled.)

●  More mainstream media examine polyfamily finances. The Boston Globe, New England's leading newspaper, presents a long feature on how various area poly households handle their money matters. For polyamorous people, there is no romance without finance (Feb. 8, in print and online). The Globe originally planned the article for the paper's business section but then front-paged it. The online version includes a first-rate video interview with the reporter (4:38). 

Unidentified household from the Globe video

By Dana Gerber

When people find out that Scott Legault and Petra Jackl, who are married, also live with Legault’s girlfriend, the questions the three field tend to be focused on the bedroom.

But just as important to the Warwick, R.I., trio when they embarked on the new living arrangement in 2019 was a far more banal reality, confronted by lovers of all stripes: money.

There was a mortgage to refinance to include all three of their names. There was Legault’s pension and annuity, to which his girlfriend had to be added as a beneficiary. There was the divvying up of household expenses relative to each of their incomes.

“I’m fairly open at work about telling people that I have two partners, and guys being guys, they’re like, ‘Oh,’ but I try to say, ‘It’s not really like that,’” said Legault, 58. “But the nice thing about it — and the guys immediately understand — is when you say, ‘Three incomes.’”

...Just as each configuration, often dubbed a “polycule,” is custom-made, these relationships also require custom-made financial considerations.

And, when money is already among the most difficult things for couples to discuss, what does a conversation about it look like outside of the framework of a duo?

...The cost of dating

Single people spend $117 billion a year on dating, according to a 2022 survey by Match. And for polyamorous people, tending to the many tendrils of their love lives can come with a particularly hefty bill. ...

Haley Slavick, a 27-year-old nanny, started dating her boyfriend in August 2022. When that relationship began, she “definitely started overspending” on dates, she recalled — a habit that negatively affected her relationship with her wife, who she’s been with for nine years.

To better regulate her spending, Haley Slavick started earmarking funds in her personal checking account, specifically for expenses related to her relationship with her boyfriend. She also has monthly meetings with each of them individually, and money is one of the things they discuss.

Sparrow Alden, a 59-year-old professor who lives in New Hampshire, devised a more makeshift budgeting method. She and her wife of 33 years each put all of their income into shared bank accounts. From that, she takes a monthly personal allowance of about $100. A portion of that goes into a physical envelope, which she has used to pay for dates with out-of-state boyfriends, who put an equal amount into the envelope.

“It was just total transparency,” she said.

For long-distance polyamorous relationships, travel can prove the largest line item. ...

...“Love is infinite, but ...” Burdick said, starting a well-worn saying within the polyamorous community.

“Time and finances are not,” Carrazzo concluded. “You have to just decide what your priorities are.”

Somerville's Willie Burnley, Jr. (Steven Senne / AP)
...“The meme is that ... the only way to afford rent nowadays, is to be polyamorous,” said Willie Burnley Jr., a polyamorous person and Somerville city councilor at-large who sponsored the city’s new [family-structure nondiscrimination] ordinances.

Just ask Kaden McPherson. This April, the rent for the three-bedroom apartment in Fall River she shares with her husband will climb from $1,200 to $1,800 a month — a stretch for the couple, who already lives “paycheck-to-paycheck,” said McPherson, who works in a bank’s fraud department.

So the pair is in talks with their other other half — another married couple, who currently live in Maine — about the four of them buying property and moving in together somewhere less expensive, like Rhode Island.

“My mother, she was like, ‘I barely can handle your father sometimes, how do you handle three people?’” said McPherson, 30. “I said, ‘It gets kind of interesting, but from a financial standpoint, it works out very, very well.’”

Other savings can arise merely from the reshuffling of household labor. ...

Communicating with multiple partners

“The way our culture treats having different attitudes about money as a moral- or virtue-laden thing, is just as true in polyamory as it is in monogamy,” said Laura Boyle, a Connecticut-based relationship coach who wrote an economic guide to polyamory. “Having to figure that out with three or more people gets really complicated really fast.”

...“If you’re planning a vacation, there are people that are not going on that vacation that have some relevant input,” she said.

...After all, money is just one of the many daunting topics — from jealousy to sexually transmitted infections — that having multiple partners forces to the forefront.

“It’s still a tough conversation,” said Melanie Carrazzo, the Warwick resident, “but part of polyamory is facing the tough conversations and actually having them.

●  More newspapers spotlight poly household financial agreements, this time the New York Post:  I live with my husband and my boyfriend — polyamory is the only way we can afford a home (Feb.1. A similar version is in the UK's Daily Mail.) Here again we see Jennifer Martin and her partners Ty and Daniel, saying much what they did in Business Insider last month. Martin is one of our best public spokespeople and is currently writing a book on polyamory and Christianity. She's in the liberal United Church of Christ.

Ty, Jennifer, and Daniel (l. to r.) with kids

...In December last year, the trio snapped up a four-bed, three-bath home for $325,000.

“I definitely don’t think we would have been able to buy a house without Ty,” Jennifer told The Post. “I don’t know almost anyone my own age in Richmond who owns a home, and of those that did, they were in their mid or late 30s before they did. The financial situation seems sad and desperate for a lot of the millennials I know, especially since student loan payments came back.”

“I know other polyamorous people who believe each poly person should have their own bedroom but since we have kids, that extra space is a luxury,” Jennifer stated. “Instead, I switch beds between Ty’s room and Daniel’s room every two nights, and I have a basket that I carry from room to room with my nighttime essentials like my face wash, night cream, night guard and the book I’m reading … I try to make it as fair as possible for sleeping arrangements between Ty and Daniel.

“Daniel has a serious nonbinary partner he sees once a week, while Ty has a long-distance partner in Pittsburgh and occasionally hooks up and dates other people locally,” Jennifer said. “I have two more casual relationships as well, with a woman and a man who both also date each other.”

●  In Wired ("where tomorrow is realized"): Polyamory Has Entered the Chat (Feb. 6)

Jacqui Vanliew / Getty

Ryan and Randy met at a sex party in 2019 and started dating shortly after. By month four, they made the relationship official, eventually moved into a two-story house in Los Angeles together, and did all the things happy couples do: date nights, vacation with friends, support one another’s ambitions.

Then, in 2022, they decided to open the relationship.

...Ryan and Randy identify as consensually nonmonogamous, a term you’ve likely heard a lot in the past year, as discourse around modern relationships has taken hold of the zeitgeist. For reasons obvious and unforeseen, consensual or ethical nonmonogamy is seemingly more popular than it’s ever been. The label works like an umbrella, incorporating the many relationship structures under it, including the one currently flooding every social media feed—polyamory.

Across pop culture, on dating apps, and likely in your friend groups, there is a thickening curiosity around the variations unconventional romance can assume. ...

“Today [polyamory] just another form of self-expression,” says Noa Elan, CEO of Bloom Community, a queer-friendly app that caters to poly-identifying individuals.

Noa Elan

...What used to be thought of as counterculture is now par for the course.  ... “The realities of today’s world—where people can’t afford a home—will require us to be more flexible in how we think about relating. It’s about meeting the relationship where it is, instead of Hollywood telling you where it should be.”

In the past six months, as visibility and dialog around poly relationships permeated pop discourse, “we’re seeing an increase in all of our metrics,” Elan says. There was a significant spike in RSVPs to events on the app. On top of that, the types of offerings expanded. “Back in the day, a poly event would be sex-positive—play parties, dungeons, bondage workshops. Now it’s more—hiking, alternative parenting happy hour, movement classes.”

...Along with Bloom Community, there are Taimi, 3Fun, and #Open, all of which provide unique interpretations of what people are seeking in and from a poly life. Hinge introduced nonmonogamous as a filter in its search function, and Feeld, one of the most in-demand apps for polyamorists, encourages members to bond over shared kinks and sexual expressions.

...As nonmonogamy is normalized, so too are the difficulties that come along with it. “I did eventually see a decline,” Ryan says of his relationship with Randy. “Calling it open allows for the lines to be blurred a little bit. Dates with other men or spending the night over at someone’s house started occurring. We talked about what could and couldn’t happen. These were things we defined.”

The couple split in 2023. “There are risks involved,” he says now.

Increased awareness of polyamory can at times lead to harmful fetishizing by those interested in nonmonogamy. Unicorn hunting, for example. ... It is why several people in the community use their platforms to inform outsiders and debunk myths about having multiple partners. Teasia Shine, 28, first started posting on TikTok for fun. Then, one day, she decided to divulge something she never had: details about the poly relationship she was in. “It had been my life for six years, so it was normal to me,” she says, not anticipating what would happen next. “But [the video] blew up. I got supporters out of nowhere.”

In the year since, the Chicago-based entrepreneur has shared dozens of videos to her 19,000 followers, intent on using her platform to educate people about what it’s actually like to be in a closed triad (meaning no outside partners). In one video, from December of that same year, Shine ranks the best apps for poly couples, with Hinge in the top spot.

...As pop discourse again reaches a tipping point, stigmas abound. Chief among them: polyamory is about, and will always be about, nothing more than sex. And though that may be the case for some people—after all, the body wants what the body wants—there are others focused on creating bonds beyond mere physical trysts.

That’s what it comes down to for Elan, and what she hopes apps like Bloom can continue to foster. “There’s so much more that nonmonogamy will bring [into society],” she says about its future. “Maybe I parent with you. Or maybe I cohabitate with you, but it’s platonic. The realities of today’s world—where people can’t afford a home—will require us to be more flexible in how we think about relating. It’s about meeting the relationship where it is, instead of Hollywood telling you where it should be.”

●  The Week, a news summary magazine that claims a million readers, offers Polyamory is having a moment(s) (Feb. 1). It summarizes some of what other media have recently said. Nothing new, but it did include a graphic I haven't seen before. Look twice.

...It has burbled up consistently over the last 30 or so years. It has wrapped its arms around multiple people and their partners during those decades. Polyamory is the lifestyle people love to love and love to hate. Yet, if the last few months are an indication, the more-love groundswell is currently appreciating in a whole new way. 

...In January 2024, peak polyamory exposure occurred. ...

●  The New York Times hosts the The Ezra Klein Show podcast. Just up is a discussion of radically reimagining friendship: What Relationships Would You Want, if You Believed They Were Possible? (Feb. 6.). From the intro:

Around 40 percent of people who marry eventually get a divorce. Almost half of children are born to unmarried women. The number of close friends Americans report having has been on a steep decline since the 1990s, especially among men. Millions of us are growing old alone. We are living out a radical experiment in how we live, love, parent and age — and for many, it’s failing.

That’s partial context, I think, for the recent burst of interest and media coverage of polyamory. People want more love in their lives, and opening their relationships is one way to find it. ...

But polyamory, for all its possibilities, isn’t right for many, and it doesn’t have that much to say about parenting or aging or friendship [oh yes it does. Ed.].  As radical as it may sound, it’s not nearly radical enough. It’s not just romance that could be imagined more expansively. It’s everything.

“If this is such a significant relationship in my life, why is there no term for it?” wonders NPR’s Rhaina Cohen about a relationship that transcends the language we have available for friendship. Her forthcoming book, “The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life With Friendship at the Center,” is a window into a world of relational possibilities most of us never even imagined existed. ...

The podcast (with transcript) is an interview with the author. One bit:

Klein: I have a friend who lives in what I would describe as a commune. I think that the modern term that gets used is “intentional co-living community.” And she also helps set them up. And I was asking her about this once, about these trade-offs, and she said something that has always stuck with me: that she’s decided to choose the default in her life being the problems of community as opposed to the problems of not having community. That she wants the problems of connection rather than the problems of how to find that connection. And it seems so obvious when she said it that way, but I’d never thought of it.

And remember, platonic polyamory is a thing. Because romantic friendship is a thing. The Victorians made an art of it.

●  Grumpy Department. Headline writers so often overstate research findings, because words like "tentative," "preliminary," and "sometimes" aren't clickworthy. Your Tango declares The Unusual Relationship The Happiest Couples Have, According To Research (Feb. 5). You can guess the relationship style. But look deeper in the text:

By Nancy Webb, PhD

...More and more, those studying [poly and ENM relationships] find people who practice consensual non-monogamy to be as healthy and happy — if not healthier and happier — than those in traditionally monogamous marriages and relationships. The results of a 2021 survey conducted by University of Oklahoma anthropologists James R. Fleckenstein and Derrell W. Cox, published in Sexual and Relationship Therapy, suggest that if you want to be happier and healthier overall, being involved in open or polyamorous relationships might just be the trick, as they found "consensual non-exclusive relationship styles can be rewarding and contribute to personal health and happiness, as much as or more than monogamous marriages."

To those who are already in polyamorous relationships, the idea that having more than one partner could increase overall health and happiness likely doesn’t come as a surprise, as they typically make a conscious effort to fine-tune the skills that needed to communicate well with their partners and get their needs met.

Then comes a huge SEO-tailored subhead:

Here are 4 scientifically proven reasons men and women find more happiness in open or polyamorous relationships and marriages than those who are strictly monogamous.

The story says no such thing. It says "Consensual non-exclusive relationship styles can be rewarding and contribute to personal health and happiness...."

I'm betting that the writer, who puts a PhD after her name, was shafted by Your Tango's headline writers. Whose jobs depend on clicks, not honesty.

Writers rarely get to write their own headlines. But we should demand the right to check our headlines and grabquotes before they go to print — and if you can't reach agreement, be prepared to yank the article and sell it elsewhere. I've learned the hard way.

BTW, the "4 scientifically proven reasons" are indeed legit when not overstated:

1. [Poly couples] emphasize open communication [ideally, but there are shades].
2. They are less prone to both jealousy [sometimes] and STIs [when following effective precautions].
3. They raise emotionally intelligent children capable of forming their [own] healthy relationships [notably often, but not always].
4. They feel more secure in their romantic relationships [sometimes, definitely not always].

●  Forbes stumbles with 3 Questions To Expect When Going ‘Open’ With Your Relationship (Jan. 29). Like many pieces right now it's very basic. 

Conversations about consensual non-monogamy can bring up relationship fears. Here’s how to navigate.

Consensual non-monogamy refers to a relationship structure in which all parties involved agree to engage in romantic, sexual or otherwise intimate relationships with multiple partners with the complete knowledge and consent of everyone involved. [So far so good.] It encompasses various forms of non-monogamous arrangements, including but not limited to:

    Polyamory. Having multiple, concurrent romantic and/or sexual relationships. [Missing here is poly's defining characteristic: that everyone feels at least a bit invested in everyone else's well-being, even if they don't have much to do with them or even like them; a sense that "we're all in this together."]

    Open relationships. Sexual relationships with others outside of the primary partnership, while maintaining emotional commitment to each other. [So you mean polyamorous primary partners are NOT emotionally committed to each other?]

    Swinging. Romantically exclusive partners seek out shared sexual experiences with other individuals or couples. For instance, they may swap sexual partners with another couple. [In practice the dividing line is less clear. Some swinger couples become close long-term friends indistinguishable from a poly quad.]

...It is essential to remember that your relationship dynamic is completely up to the two of you and you can set the ground rules together. [But you'd better know the traps of couple privilege.]

An honest, open dialogue to address concerns, feelings and needs can help create the experience you both desire. [Necessary but not sufficient. You need the input of the others; you need community.]

●  KPCC-FM in Los Angeles, the public radio station "LAist 89.3," did a knowledgeable Poly 101 on its program AirTalk interviewing podcaster Dedeker WinstonCurious About Polyamory? A Few Things To Know If You're Considering Opening Up Your Relationship (Feb. 2)

Ronaldo Schemidt / Getty

By Lindsey Wright

...Something that excites a lot of people joining the polyamory community is this ability to customize the experience, Winston said. Couples negotiate and discuss what feels good to each person individually. She encourages people to continue the conversations and be open to updating the relationship agreements as you go.

"I've definitely known some people who maybe started out more as swingers in the lifestyle,” Winston said. “And then they've developed deep friendships or started catching feelings, and then they've kind of blossomed into playing around more with polyamory.”...

The subheads in the transcript:

A quick vocab lesson
What relationship structure interests you?
Agreements are important, but keep an open mind
To start slow or dive in?
Jealousy and polyamory
Metamour relationships

Listen with the button at the bottom of the link (26 minutes).

●  Women's Health: Here’s how to tell if a throuple might be right for you (Feb. 5). It's by two therapists who specialize in CNM clients. "It’s not the same as an open relationship." Bits:

By Aryelle Siclait and Lydia Wang

...Not to be mistaken for an open relationship (where people in a relationship have sex with people who are not their partner) or a threesome (sex between three people), a throuple is a balanced, consensual, and committed relationship. And while the term might be new to you, there’s nothing new or unusual about the concept, says Ann Rosen Spector, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia. 'It’s totally possible to be in love with more than one person at one time,' she says.

...Like a couple, or a relationship between two people, the members of a throuple might have a 'closed' relationship, or an 'open' one. In some cases, 'one person could be open to dating others, but another person in the triad isn’t,' [therapist Carolanne] Marcantonio adds. 'It really just depends.'

...Different triads have different preferences, needs, and boundaries. Some examples of questions you'll want to discuss, according to Marcantonio: 'If everyone is open to all having other partners outside the triad, what does cheating look like? Do we all tell each other and have complete transparency when we’re talking to someone on the app, when we’re planning something, when we’ve had sex?'

People's needs can fluctuate over time. So, continued communication is important, says Marcantonio. Spector recommends setting regular check-in times with your partners—and also checking in on your own needs, too.

...One of the biggest issues a throuple might face is triangulation, says Marcantonio. 'Triangulation in a relationship is when there’s one person who avoids directly interacting, usually with the person they have a conflict with,' she explains. 'So instead, they use the third person to confide in, to talk to.'

●  And a new word from Dan Savage. America's leading sex-advice columnist has a knack for inventing new words that stick. Think monogamish, santorum, pegging, GGG, and saddlebacking. Each filled a precisely shaped gap in the language. Now he has a new one:

I soft-launched tolyamory on Episode 901 of the Lovecast before hard-launching the word in last week’s Struggle Session. ... I argued that tolyamorous relationships — where one person cheats and the other puts up with it [tolerates it] — may be the most common form of non-monogamy. Ankylosaurus disagrees…
I say the very commonest form of non-monogamy is secret, often-one-sided [cheating] when their partners don’t know they’re being cheated on and haven’t chosen to be tolyamorous.
You’re right, Ankylosaurus.... Cheating is probably the most common form of non-monogamy with tolyamory being a close second.

The poly world has long had the term "poly-mono relationship," but that implies (or should) free agreement. We also have the uglier PUP, "poly under pressure," a sick PUPpy indeed: "Put up with my running around or else."  Tolyamorous spans the range of ambiguous, real-life cases between those two. It also redirects attention from the pressurer to the pressured — who may feel fearful, cornered, or trapped.

●  Lastly, Metamour Day is coming up! It's February 28, Valentine's Day times two. The point? "Honoring Polyamory's Most Distinctive Relationship."

So order your Metamour Day cards now. Bloom Community is selling Metamour Day cards drawn by Anna Hirsch, the longtime "PolyAnna" cartoonist. Bloom will donate the profits to OPEN, the nonprofit Organization for Polyamory and Ethical Nonmonogamy.  


Okay, it's time to call or write your representative.

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'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 congresspeople's emails and phones.

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 from muddy trenches), and posting TikToks (this one's from scary minutes exposed in the open; sunrise caught four of them out of cover). She flaunts her sense of humor after nearly two years of this. A young girl who looks high-school age has joined them. Another. Their lives, and their promising society, depend on us. 

And 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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