Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

July 23, 2014

A poly home, just without the sex

The Atlantic

Not the street with the home described,
but a similar one nearby. (NCinDC / Flickr)
My post yesterday about the big poly article at The Atlantic led me to an Atlantic piece published ten days earlier. It's an example of how groups of friends are building tight-knit households that are the next thing to polyamorous, in order to beat the isolation and resource overstretch that increasingly bedevil harried nuclear families.

In fact, the "normal" household of Mom and Dad with no other adults is a recent historical aberration. Humans have lived in larger extended families and tribes for almost always. We're born to it. This is why a nuclear family can instinctively feel so diminished, lonely, and incomplete without you knowing why.

Setups like the one below qualify, to me, as the generalization of polyfamilies: they're based on friendship rather than romantic interconnections, but otherwise quite similar. Think "intentional community."

Two Couples, One Mortgage

Why my partner and I decided to buy a house with our friends, share our space and our lives, and all make a family together.

By Ari Weisbard

Last December, my partner Rebecca and I bought a rowhouse with another couple. Our wedding was this May. Next month, we’re expecting a baby — the other couple’s baby.

For most of our adult lives, Rebecca and I lived in houses full of roommates and loved it. Before our most recent move, we rented a rambling five-bedroom house with four friends. When we started talking about getting married, we realized our biggest fear was that we’d leave these important kinds of friendships behind and end up living in what she jokingly called a “love/torture cave of nuclear family loneliness.” Neither of us wanted that.

It turned out two of our closest friends... felt similarly, and we decided to do something different and move in all together....

Yes, all four of us are on the deed and, yes, we share the 30-year mortgage and food and maintenance expenses. No, there’s no division of the house into separate sections. And no, all four of us are not all having sex with each other. (Why do many people assume that if adults are willing to share a kitchen, they probably also want to share a bed?) We are just two couples who plan to live together and raise children in one household, hopefully for decades....

Many nights, when one of us stumbles home from work exhausted from a hard day, someone else has already done the shopping and cooked a great homemade dinner. When a pipe burst this February, we all took turns bailing out the basement. Once the baby arrives, we look forward to being crucial reinforcements for each other during those first several nearly sleepless months and trading off so each couple can have date nights. Living together with another couple also has made it easier to identify and counteract some of the sexist patterns that emerge in many households. Because we discuss chores as a group and work consciously together to establish our household norms and individual responsibilities, there’s less opportunity for traditional gender roles to establish themselves surreptitiously.

Living together seems to be a great financial move so far. With four adults splitting the mortgage and other costs, it is easier for each of us to save more of our income, which will give us the financial freedom to pay for childcare or reduce our work hours later, when we need more time and money for our families....

For many people, their romantic partner is the one person with whom they feel comfortable showing their struggles or weaknesses. While Rebecca and I certainly support each other in that way, it has actually been great for our relationship that we don’t try to be each other’s only source of support and amateur therapy....

Sounds poly to me. Read the whole article (July 11, 2014).

Here's a similar story about another platonic-quad household. Here's one about six adults, several of them divorced from one another and remarried to others, who all moved in together along with their kids and find it great.

I'll be posting more here about such all-but-poly households. The media are spotting a trend toward them "not seen since the 1970s," driven in part by the changing economy.

As I've written before, we can expect this way of life to increase in the coming century as resources become scarcer and more poorly distributed. People with good poly housemate skills will have an early advantage.


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July 22, 2014

The Atlantic: "Multiple Lovers, Without Jealousy"

A Summer Camp drum circle.
I just arrived home, bedazzled and in community love, from the Center For a New Culture's annual Summer Camp East. It's put on in the West Virginia mountains every July by poly activists Sarah Taub, Michael Rios, and other New Culture folks in and around the Chrysalis household near DC. I only wish I could go back four weeks from now, when they'll be putting on Endless Poly Summer: a new, five-day tribe-building intensive at the same site. (Schedule). They are damn good at this.

Then back home I turn on the computer and what do I see but Sarah, Michael, and Jonica, another Summer Camp organizer and a member of their intimate network, leading off a major feature article in The Atlantic online — one of the country's most prestigious news and public affairs outlets. The article is long, 5600 words. It has stayed #1 on the site's most-read list for two days now.


Multiple Lovers, Without Jealousy

Polyamorous people still face plenty of stigmas, but some studies suggest they handle certain relationship challenges better than monogamous people do.

Graphic: poly triad on bicycle built for 3
Jackie Lay

By Olga Khazan

When I met Jonica Hunter, Sarah Taub, and Michael Rios on a typical weekday afternoon in their tidy duplex in Northern Virginia, a very small part of me worried they might try to convert me.

All three live there together, but they aren’t roommates — they’re lovers.

Or rather, Jonica and Michael are. And Sarah and Michael are. And so are Sarah and whomever she happens to bring home some weekends. And Michael and whomever he might be courting. They’re polyamorous.

Michael is 65, and he has a chinstrap beard that makes him look like he just walked off an Amish homestead. Jonica is 27, with close-cropped hair, a pointed chin, and a quiet air. Sarah is 46 and has an Earth Motherly demeanor that put me at relative ease.

Together, they form a polyamorous “triad” — one of the many formations that’s possible in this jellyfish of a sexual preference. “There’s no one way to do polyamory” is a common refrain in “the community.” Polyamory — which literally means “many loves” — can involve any number of people, either cohabiting or not, sometimes all having sex with each other, and sometimes just in couples within the larger group.

What this misses is their particular relationship: it's a form of Relationship Anarchy, in that they proudly tell the world they have no terms or agreements, not even for safe sex; each is responsible for handling their own precautions and everything else in life.

Sarah and Michael met 15 years ago when they were both folk singers and active in the polyamorous community. Both of them say they knew from a young age that there was something different about their sexuality. “Growing up, I never understood why loving someone meant putting restrictions on relationships,” Michael said.

“What I love about polyamory is that everything is up for modification,” Sarah says. “There are no ‘shoulds.’ You don’t have to draw a line between who is a lover and who is a friend. It’s about what is the path of my heart in this moment.”

They’ve been “nesting partners” for 12 years, but they’ve both had other relationships throughout that time. Jonica moved in three years ago after meeting Michael on OkCupid. She describes the arrangement’s appeal as “more intimacy, less rules. I don’t have to limit my relationship with other partners.”

The house is, as they describe, an “intentional community” — a type of resource-sharing collectivist household. They each have their own room and own bed. Sarah is a night owl, so she and Michael spend time together alone late at night. Jonica sees him alone in the early morning. They all hang out together throughout the day. The house occasionally plays host to a rotating cast of outside characters, as well — be they friends of the triad or potential love interests.

The triad works together, too, running a consulting nonprofit that puts on events “that teach skills for living together peacefully, such as clear communication, boundaries, what to do when you get upset,” Sarah said [think New Culture]. An added bonus of the living arrangement is that it cuts down on commuting time.

I initially expected the polyamorous people I met to tell me that there were times their relationships made them sick with envy. After all, how could someone listen to his significant other’s stories of tragedy and conquest in the dating world, as Michael regularly does for Sarah, and not feel possessive? But it became clear to me that for “polys,” as they’re sometimes known, jealousy is more of an internal, negligible feeling than a partner-induced, important one. To them, it’s more like a passing head cold than a tumor spreading through the relationship....


...Increasingly, polyamorous people — not to be confused with the prairie-dress-clad fundamentalist polygamists — are all around us. By some estimates, there are now roughly a half-million polyamorous relationships in the U.S., though underreporting is common. Some sex researchers put the number even higher, at 4 to 5 percent of all adults, or 10 to 12 million people. More often than not, they’re just office workers who find standard picket-fence partnerships dull. Or, like Sarah, they’re bisexuals trying to fulfill both halves of their sexual identities.

Says Sarah: "The one thing in the article I really wish I could correct is being portrayed as wanting to be poly because like many bisexuals, I'm 'trying to fulfill both halves of my sexual identity.' It’s such an old tired stereotype that bisexuals need 'one of each,' or have 'halves' of our identities, and it’s so unrelated to my reasons for being poly!"

...Polys differentiate themselves from swingers because they are emotionally, not just sexually, involved with the other partners they date. And polyamorous arrangements are not quite the same as “open relationships” because in polyamory, the third or fourth or fifth partner is just as integral to the relationship as the first two are.

Jackie Lay
...Despite lingering disapproval, there’s some evidence that Americans are growing increasingly accepting of open relationships. To be sure, the sanctity of two-person marriage still looms large: For decades now, most Americans — 90 percent, give or take — have told Gallup that having an affair is unacceptable.... However, an April study asked 1,280 heterosexuals how willing they would be, on a scale from one to seven, to commit various non-monogamous acts, such as swinging or adding a third party to the relationship. Depending on the scenario, up to 16 percent of women and up to 31 percent of men chose a four or higher on the scale when asked whether they’d willing, while still with their partners, to do things like have a third person join the relationship, or have “casual sex with whomever, no questions asked.”


...Bill and Erin don’t hide their outside relationships from Erin’s 17-year-old daughter. One day, the couple was watching the television show Sister Wives, which documents a polygamous family in Utah, when the daughter remarked that it was an interesting system.

Jackie Lay
“She was talking about Sister Wives, and I said, ‘What about brother husbands?’” Bill asked her. “I said, ‘Your mom and I date a guy.’ And she was like, ‘Cool.’”

...Cassie and Josh said their son, who is now 10, has grown up around his parents’ girlfriends, so he doesn’t find it unusual. He calls the women the couple dates “Ms. ‘Anne,’” and refers to them as “my dad’s [or sometimes mom’s] girlfriend” to others.

“We have friends who are poly, mono, gay, and lesbian,” Cassie said. “He doesn’t understand why people have a problem with people caring for and loving each other.”


...There’s a paucity of any sort of research on consensual, Western non-monogamy.... The nascent research that does exist suggests these modern polyamorous relationships can be just as functional — and sometimes even more so — than traditional monogamous pairings.

...Terri Conley, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan who studies polyamory, has analyzed a sample of 1,700 monogamous individuals, 150 swingers, 170 people in open relationships, and 300 polyamorous individuals for a forthcoming study. She said that while people in “open relationships” tend to have lower sexual satisfaction than their monogamous peers, people who described themselves as “polyamorous” tended to have equal or higher levels of sexual satisfaction.

What’s more, polyamorous people don’t seem to be plagued by monogamous-style romantic envy. Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont has found that polyamorous people tend to experience less overall jealousy, even in situations that would drive monogamous couples to Othello-levels of suspicion. "It turns out that, hey, people are not reacting with jealousy when their partner is flirting with someone else," Holmes told LiveScience.

Conley found that jealousy is “much higher” among monogamous pairs than non-monogamous ones. Polyamorous people also seemed to trust each other more. “For a long time I’ve been interested in whether monogamous relationships are all they’re cracked up to be,” Conley said.

Her findings, like Holmes’ and Sheff’s, are preliminary and limited. But if they hold up, it could mean that at least in some ways, polyamory is a more humane way to love....

Olga Khazan is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

Read the whole, much longer article (July 21, 2014).

It's getting a lot of public notice. Sarah in the story says, "This is my first time having so much about myself shared online, and I'm feeling exposed.... some of the comments are pretty fierce, and if folks are willing to comment, I would be grateful. The biggest bugaboo seems to be the age spread among Michael, Jonica, and me, and what it must certainly mean about why we are in this relationships configuration."

In fact, as I noticed during those ten days with them and 80 others, their age differences mean little when each is a free agent with their own life goals, other interests, and no strings. But many readers only know the polygamy stereotype.

Diana Adams, the lead character in The Atlantic's last big feature on poly, remarks that this one is "written in a bit of a scattered way, with a tone that poly people are 'the other' and seeming mystified by motivations of poly people." I'd agree.

More from Sarah: "Although there were some factual errors about our lives (apparently we live in a 'tidy duplex'), I'm reasonably OK with how I was portrayed and quoted, especially on working with jealousy."

Barry Smiler of BmorePoly (in whose home most of the interviews took place) says of the story, "While the writer definitely got some things wrong, from a big-picture perspective I think she did an okay job. It's great to see mainstream reporting on polyamory that's fact-based and not sensationalistic. As Pete Seeger used to sing, 'inch by inch, row by row...' "


A writer for the Time magazine website takes brief note:

The Atlantic argues that polyamorous people handle certain relationship struggles better than monogamous people do. “Bill says watching his wife have sex with another man induces compersion — basking in the joy of a partner’s success.” (I’m pretty happy when my wife gets retweeted.)



July 21, 2014

Ozy: "The Rise of Polyamory"

Ozy magazine, which calls itself "the go-to daily news and culture site for the Change Generation" (164,000 daily subscribers), presents a Poly 101 article and 6-minute video.

The article seems kinda thrown together, but it gets the concept out. I'm amazed at how many people still haven't heard of it.

The Rise of Polyamory

By Melissa Pandika

Why you should care: Because polyamory’s growth in popularity could shake up the dating world.

Jen Day and her boyfriend of 11 years, Pepper Mint (yes, that’s his real name), live together with their cat in a whitewashed house on a narrow, leafy street in Berkeley, Calif. They kiss and nuzzle and have date nights, like any other couple.

Just not always with each other.

...Large-scale studies tracking the number of polyamorous (aka “poly”) individuals don’t exist, but evidence from polyamory groups, relationship therapists and dating websites suggests that figure is rising fast. University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley estimates that 5 percent of Americans are involved in consensual non-monogamous relationships....

“There’s a shaken belief [in monogamy]” leading to “more openness to seeing what works rather than believing in some tradition,” says San Francisco clinical psychologist Deborah Anapol. And, in general, people have grown more open to alternative lifestyles.

Poly triad graphicOf course, it’s also possible that interest in polyamory has remained stable — but people just have more opportunity to take part. Thanks, Internet!

Still, the poly-curious should think hard before making the leap. Polyamory might sound like free love, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Maintaining multiple healthy relationships takes McKinseyian time-management skills and grace dealing with jealousy. Skeptics worry about the welfare of children in polyamorous families. The stigma hasn’t quite worn off, either.

“A lot of people get into this relationship style and don’t really have the tools to do it ethically, so people get hurt,” says Michael (last name not given), who organizes polyamory events in the San Francisco Peninsula and South Bay Area, Calif. “People are like, ‘I dated this guy who was poly and was a sleazebag.’ It gives the lifestyle a bad name.”

...“If you ask one person what their definition of polyamory is, it will be totally different from somebody else’s,” says Maryland-based sex and kink educator Cassie Fuller.

To wit: Fuller and her husband practice polyfidelity, in which all members are considered equal partners who remain faithful to one another. Mint and Day form intimate networks, labeling their lovers as “primary,” “secondary” and “tertiary” depending on the level of commitment. Michael and Yi-Ling (last name not given) practice relationship anarchy, participating in open relationships without ranking partners....

...Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests an upswing. Local poly organizations have experienced a surge in membership, while sex and relationship therapists have noticed a rise in poly clients.

“All signs point to an upward trend,” says Niko Antallfy, a sociology lecturer at Macquarie University.

The real trend is toward more tolerance and acceptance of diversity....

Oh but the critics! There are many. Some, predictably, consider polyamory amoral. Others blame a shift toward a “me-me” culture....

Read the whole article (July 17, 2014).


July 15, 2014

"Jealous of what? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem"


Quite an interesting societal perspective here. A social-science researcher living in a long-term MFM triad describes her situation. She contends that poly that breaks away from the individualism of mainstream culture tends to be more secure and jealousy-free.

Jealous of what? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem

Everyone asks my polyamorous family how we handle the jealousy. It's easy, because that's not how it works.

By Elizabeth Stern [Pseudonym]

The first question people ask my polyamorous family is “How do you handle the jealousy?” Befuddled, we answer, “What jealousy?”

I am lucky; I live with the two loves of my life. I am smitten with my husband of 16 years, and adore my partner of four. The three of us depend upon and nurture each other; we are a family. When my partner and I hadn’t had a date in a while, my husband encouraged us to take a holiday at the art museum, knowing how the visual connects us. When my husband and I hit an emotional snag in discussing our issues, my partner helped us to sort it out and come together. And when I was picking out Christmas presents, I gave the foodies in my life some bonding time over a Japanese small-plates cooking class.

The existing polyamory advice literature pushes individualistic solutions to jealousy. Polyamory gurus such as Dossie Easton (“The Ethical Slut”), Deborah Anapol (“Love Without Limits”) and, more recently, Franklin Veaux (“More Than Two”) advocate personal responsibility as the solution to insecurity. You must “work through” your jealousy, making sure to not “control” your partner, all the while viewing the experience of jealousy through a lens of personal growth. My family has never needed to rely on these individualistic methods because jealousy is a social problem, not an individual one, and so are the solutions.

Prescribing of individualistic methods for management of jealousy is nothing new.... Polyamory advice on jealousy is not radical when held up to this light; it is simply part of the larger 20th century context....

I think back on my life of four years ago as we first formed our polyamorous family. My new boyfriend was surprised that he felt no jealousy of my 14-year relationship with my husband. He felt supported and welcomed into our lives, and longed to make a commitment to us, but the absence of jealousy was perplexing to him. Doesn’t jealousy naturally emerge from a partner having another partner, he wondered? He waited for over a year before he made a commitment, just in case jealousy would emerge. He was waiting for Godot.


Eric Widmer, a sociologist at the University of Geneva shows that trust in any dyadic (two-person) relationship is influenced by the density of the larger social configuration in which it is embedded. Research indicates that people feel more comfortable when those persons they are close to are also close to one another, which is termed transitivity. This leads over time to dense networks, where the number of actual connections between members comes close to or equals the number of potential connections.

In my polyamory family there were three potential dyadic relationships and all have been realized either through a love relationship (my partners and I) or a close friendship (between my partners). A dense, socially cohesive network allows for a greater degree of trust between any two members. [Emphasis mine –Ed.] My family’s wider social network of friends and family varies in its transitivity with us. But the cohesiveness within our immediate family alone begins to account for the seemingly surprising lack of jealousy....

Most of the polyamory advice literature does not advocate for dense interdependent networks over a lifetime anyway. Their brand of polyamory is individual freedom rooted in personal responsibility and self-actualization, which fits much better into our current neoliberal opportunity structure.... As one polyamory advice website states succinctly, “polyamory encourages, allows, and almost demands that you be an individual first and foremost.”

...My hypothesis is that the more shifts that occur within a polyamory network, the more jealousy that occurs, which then requires higher degrees of individualistic emotion management. In other words, individual freedom in relationships has an evil twin of individual constraint of emotion.


...The common denominator is social rather than personal responsibility. Seeing ourselves as part of a larger system (whether of three or 300 people) leads to taking social responsibility for the health of that system. Can we solve polyamory’s jealousy problem? Perhaps, perhaps not. But what we can do is stop pretending that we don’t know where jealousy comes from.

Elizabeth Stern is the pseudonym of a PhD social scientist and freelance writer living on the East Coast.

The whole article (July 13, 2014) is well worth a read.

As it happens, I am typing this in the lodge during the Network for a New Culture's annual Summer Camp East — which is all about creating an intimate, transitive-network culture in a modern context. We find it a better way to live.

And maybe Stern's article explains why, of the 80 people here, at least half are actively poly and yet there's practically no drama about it at all. Jealousy sometimes, hurt sometimes, but handled in a spirit of "empathetic conflict." The ethos here is an interesting blend of radical self-responsibility/ individualism, something utterly modern and Western, leading to radical tribal communitarianism.

Eve Rickert says that she and Franklin Veaux are preparing a rebuttal to the Salon piece. Expect a hum-dinger.


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July 10, 2014

*The Week*: "Why Facebook should embrace polyamory"

For years polyfolks have been agitating for Facebook to let users choose "polyamorous" as their relationship status, rather than having to pick from a list of statuses that are not really correct. Recently a Change.org petition got off the ground asking Facebook "to allow poly people to list who they love":

Facebook currently allows people to name one person they're in a relationship with despite the growing numbers of polyamorous and non-monogamous members. Some people identify as loving more than one person or as being "many loving." We appreciate and thank Facebook for their recent change in allowing all people to put their own gender identities. We ask that they have the same respect for people of all relationship types. They deserve the basic right to be honest about who they care about. Please sign this petition to allow those in open relationships to name their partners truthfully as everybody else does.

This long-simmering discontent bubbled out into mainstream attention this morning, with an opinion piece in The Week — a prestigious newsmagazine with a print circulation of 560,000 and 1.3 million web visits per week. Its readers, it tells advertisers, are "affluent, powerful opinion leaders" with a median household income of $160,000. Its claimed mission: "By analyzing and curating thousands of media sources from around the globe, The Week distills a worldly and balanced, concise view of the issues that matter most."

With that buildup, read on:

Why Facebook should embrace polyamory

The social network can go further than its 49 gender identities

By Cathy Reisenwitz

Facebook relationship statuses

Facebook raised eyebrows earlier this year by unveiling 49 new gender options for users. Hopefully that's just the start of the ubiquitous social network's social boundary-pushing ways.

The next frontier? Unconventional relationship options. Instead of multiple options for relationships with just one other user, Facebook should allow users to be in relationships with multiple users. There's even a Change.org petition demanding as much....

Now let's face it: Facebook is unlikely to make this change anytime soon. But it should.

American social mores are changing. Support for gay marriage is rocketing upwards. Also increasing is our acceptance of trans-identified individuals.

But society's approval of multi-partner relationships is still low.... For the vast majority of Americans, there are two options: monogamy, or cheating.

But many people are living out a third option, such as polyamorous writer Lauren Rumpler: ethical non-monogamy. "People assume that to be faithful, you have to be monogamous," Rumpler explained in a recent interview with me. "To be faithful, you have to be honest....

...Polyamory, a subset of ethical non-monogamy, refers to multiple concurrent sexual relationships, and is generally differentiated from open relationships by long-term, emotionally involved, and/or committed "secondary" relationships. Some poly relationships involve hierarchy, with primary, secondary, (and so on) relationships. And some are non-hierarchical, with no partner being more important than the other. In some poly relationships, "metamours," as partners of partners call each other, have romantic relationships. In others, partners either don't know about each other (Don't Ask; Don't Tell) or remain friendly but not romantically involved.

And woohoo! I'm in it:

The site Polyamory in the News documents the growing coverage this "alternative lifestyle" has received in recent years....

...In the end, the main benefit of ethical non-monogamy is that it helps people who feel unsuited to monogamy enjoy their relationships. It also accepts that no one person is capable of meeting all of your needs. Acceptance of and education around ethical non-monogamy is important because too many people end up in monogamous relationships not because they enjoy monogamy, but because it's the default position, and they never consider other options.

This is where Facebook comes in. Of course, Facebook doesn't exactly grant rights or set policy. But can you imagine how many more people would consider and accept polyamory as a viable and ethical life choice if Facebook gave polyamory its imprimatur?

Cathy Reisenwitz is an editor at Young Voices and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She is editor-in-chief of Sex and the State, a columnist at Townhall.com, and a writer for Bitcoin Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, and The Daily Beast, and she has appeared on Fox News and Al Jazeera America. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for a Stateless Society.

Read the whole article (July 10, 2014). It's getting picked up and remarked upon by various other sites.



July 8, 2014

HuffPost Live video show this afternoon (July 8)

Update: Well so HuffPost Live ran a different poly segment in this time slot — featuring Leon Feingold, Robyn Trask, and Eli Sheff instead. They did an excellent job as spokespeople — watch how they do it — but I wonder what happened to the three who were supposed to be scheduled?

Answer: Franklin just posted, "Well, hmm. Apparently I won't be on HuffPo Live today after all. Received an email from the producer about a family crisis, and that's it."

But HuffPo Live rounded up three other people on short notice. Watch here:


Earlier: This in from Angi Becker Stevens:

"Just a heads up, I'm doing a segment on poly on HuffPost Live tomorrow [Tuesday July 8th] at 5:40 [eastern time], hope a lot of you can tune in!"

And from Franklin Veaux: "I've just been invited to participate, and I'm in a small town in Alaska where Internet access is a bit iffy. I'm trying to figure out how to make it happen."

And from Anita Wagner: "I'm in, too."