Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

September 30, 2014

"5 Lessons Monogamous Families can Learn from Polyamorists"

Psychology Today blogs

Here's a new article by Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door and the forthcoming Stories from the Polycule:

5 Lessons Monogamous Families can Learn from Polyamorists

Because polyamorous relationships can be intense and complicated, the people who engage in them over the long term put a lot of time, effort, and thought into developing strategies to help their relationships last and survive hardship. While polyamory itself is certainly not for everyone, these strategies can be useful for people in all sorts of relationships. Divorced parents and others in blended families will find them especially relevant.

1. Communicate Honestly

...Even when communicating about difficult things that feel less positive, polys use the strategies of telling the truth and being willing to tolerate the conflict in order to work through the problem as tools to sustain their relationships over time.

2. Don’t Leave Too Soon....

3. Don’t Stay Too Long....

...People can choose to view their relationships as good for what worked for whatever period of time that was, and then [it was] time to move on when they no longer met the needs of the people involved. In other words, the end can just be an end, or even transition to a new kind of relationship.

4. Be Flexible, Allow for Change....

...If the ways in which the relationship has been going so far are not working, then trying something else can be quite effective. This can mean shifting expectations and letting go of former patterns, which can be both invigorating and frightening....

5. De-Emphasize Sexuality

...The end of sex does not have to mean end of relationship. Remaining friends is a real choice, and especially important when people have had children together....

Read the whole article (Sept. 29, 2014).

P. S.: Sheff and her new publishers (the Thorntree Press folks) are still seeking your polyfamily's true stories — long or short, text or art — for Stories from the Polycule. The deadline for submissions is October 15. More info.

Her previous article at the Psychology Today site was Seven Forms of Non-Monogamy.


September 26, 2014

Define your own marriage, says book The New 'I Do'

The growth of poly is just a small piece of a larger, longer trend toward determining one's own life and relationships, Barry Smiler has argued. That in turn is part of the centuries-long trend toward increased personal agency that defined the growth of the modern Western world. People who picked up the free mass-transit newspaper Metro yesterday on their way to work saw an example.

The paper (distributed in many cities) had an item about a book just out, The New "I Do": Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, by Vicki Larson and Susan Pease Gadoua. They urge couples to discuss and choose how to structure their marriages, rather than accept the standard assumptions about what marriage is.

This is exactly the mindset that upsets marriage traditionalists, even though the authors discuss a hyper-traditionalist contract as one option.

What if there was an alternative to the way most Americans define the way couples behave within a marriage?

After all, throughout history, the word “marriage” has been filled with implied meanings, while many couples never discuss what being married means to them before tying the knot....

The Partnership Marriage

...The authors liken a partnership marriage to two old friends who decide to get married because they enjoy each other’s company and because they simply want to be married.

Covenant Marriage

Legal in three states, covenant marriages require couples to undergo premarital counseling before tying the knot and usually only allow divorce under limited circumstances (like domestic violence and abandonment) or after a long separation. Both say the chapter was hard to write. “I get very upset at this trend to make divorce harder,” says Larson. “But the people who chose [covenant marriages] went into it with open eyes.”

Open Marriage

“When we think of nonmonogamy, we think of cheating,” says Larson. “But that’s not necessarily true.” She points out that one of the couples profiled in the book has a very successful open marriage. “Here is this couple and they have this happy, healthy relationship — and they are non-monogamous.”...

Read the whole (short) article (Sept. 25, 2014). The other four marriage models the book discusses are the "starter marriage," living separately, marrying in order to parent, and for financial security.

Larson has put up an article of her own at Huffington Post Divorce:

The Conversation All Would-Be Cheaters Should Have

...Married women looking to get some action from others are forgetting, or perhaps just ignoring, an important reality about infidelity -- it often ends marriages, painfully. Which is sad because, according to one study, 56 percent of cheating men and 34 percent of cheating women considered their marriage "happy" or "very happy."

So why risk it? ...when all you have to do is sit your husband down and say, "Honey, I think we are both aware that neither of us is enjoying sex all that much lately. Actually, we haven't enjoyed it for a long time. What do you think about opening up our marriage?"

After the shock -- or maybe relief -- you might actually be able to have the first honest discussion about monogamy you've ever had as a couple.

...Somewhere between 4.3 percent to 10.5 percent of all relationships identify as open, which can be anything from couples "in the lifestyle," to the occasional threesome to poly arrangements.

All the couples that decided to experiment with non-monogamy told us they were happy they did it, even though, yes, they sometimes struggled with jealousy, managing schedules and setting boundaries. Not only did it bring them closer, but they also were proud that they broke from the norm and forged a new path. It was "a badge of courage" they said....

The whole article (Aug. 22, 2014). This is the flip side to my last post, about a case of poly that made a poor marriage worse.

Gadoua posted an article of her own at HuffPost Weddings: Why It Might Be Good That Those Who Marry Are Getting More 'Self' Centered:

Putting the task of finding yourself before finding a mate generally makes you a happier and more balanced person. When you are happier and more balanced, you make a better partner. That's healthy.

...It's good news that the culture is trending toward questioning whether marriage is worth it and trying other lifestyle options on for size. That means there's a new consciousness about marriage that has been sorely lacking for several generations now.

The book's Facebook page. An interview with the authors.


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September 24, 2014

"Polyamory Was Just a Distraction From My Failing Marriage"


It's a poly cliche: "Marriage in trouble? Add more people," followed by eyeroll. Here's a story that helps the cliche along, just up this afternoon in xoJane, a peppy online women's magazine.

Polyamory Was Just a Distraction From My Failing Marriage

It is much easier to ignore the hard work to be done in a marriage when you have someone else who can make you feel good.

By Kate S.

I have spent just over a year living and loving as someone who identified as polyamorous. After 14 years with the same man and nine years of marriage, I asked my partner if we could open up our relationship and I could date my best friend.

"It’ll strengthen us," I said. "It’ll fulfill desires we don’t meet for each other," I pleaded. "I love you and I love him, the human heart can experience boundless love and dedication to more than one person," I persisted.

I was full of crap.

At the time, and for months afterward, I truly felt that being poly would strengthen our communication, make us more honest and adventurous, and teach our children that love knows no bounds. What being poly really did was highlight how far apart we had grown, and how different our needs were.

...My husband and I did not just go wrong at practicing polyamory. We went wrong at being married; at identifying what we wanted as people and integrating that into a strong partnership. And how could we possibly work on healthy interdependence when we both had other new and exciting things to turn to?

Other poly people will tell you they keep the health of their relationship a primary goal, but I still contend that it is much easier to ignore the hard work to be done in a marriage when you have someone else who can make you feel good. I have come to realize that sustaining a long-term relationship with just one person is so time-and-energy-consuming that it's difficult to divide your attention from it. And if you want to turn your attention away from your initial relationship, maybe you don’t want to be there in the first place.

For me, this realization came about when my boyfriend started dating outside of his marriage and our relationship. I begged him not to, telling him me and the wife were plenty and why did he need more? I was jealous of women he was interested in and the first time he did physically interact with someone, I did not take it well.

...“Mom, why did you call him ‘sweetie,’ don’t you love Daddy?” Knife to the heart there, kiddo.

I had already run into so much prejudice and judgment as a polyamorous person that it was difficult to picture putting my children through that as they got older. I lost friends when they found out we were poly. I alienated family members. Most people view monogamy as the "right way" to stay connected and committed to someone. Would my children have to tell a schoolmate that is wrong? That what Mom and Dad do instead is perfectly acceptable and right? I don’t think the world is ready for that. Since poly is a choice, not an orientation like sexuality, I choose to protect my children from the judgment of society.

So now, I’m a monogamous woman and mother who’s about to get divorced and is sort of dating someone who is also about to get divorced after a trip to poly land. We still struggle with our relationship style and our future. It’s not ideal, but it’s a hell of a lot better than being poly.

Read the whole article (Sept. 24, 2014).


September 20, 2014

The New Yorker on Wonder Woman's utopian feminist poly roots

Made plastic. (New Yorker / Grant Cornett)
The New Yorker is known for deep journalism on out-of-the-way topics. Now that Wonder Women is about to make her first (and still only partial) debut into the movies, writer Jill Lepore digs into her real-life origins deeper than I've seen before.

You may know that Wonder Woman was created (in 1941) by William Moulton Marston, part of a lifelong FFM poly triad, to promote his vision that powerful, liberated women would save humanity. He modeled her partly on his two partners and also, it turns out, on the aunt of one of them: birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger. His grand ideas about open love and the liberating power of bondage were even more radical back in those days. They may be part of why Wonder Woman has had such an awkward and disjointed history, and conflicting character treatments, ever since Marston's death in 1947.

The Last Amazon

Wonder Woman returns.

By Jill Lepore

...A press release explained, “ ‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” — because “the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.” Marston put it this way: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

...To the consternation of Wonder Woman fans, there has never been a Wonder Woman film. This is about to change. Last December, Warner Bros. announced that Wonder Woman would have a role in an upcoming Superman-and-Batman film, and that, in a three-movie deal, Gal Gadot, a lithe Israeli model, had signed on to play the part. There followed a flurry of comments about her anatomical insufficiency for the role.... One critic tweeted this suggestion for a title: “BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN WITH ALSO SOME WONDER WOMAN IN THERE SO SIT DOWN LADIES WE’RE TREATING YOU FINE: THE MOVIE.” Warner Bros. has yet to dispel this impression....

The much cited difficulties regarding putting Wonder Woman on film... aren’t chiefly about Wonder Woman, or comic books, or superheroes, or movies. They’re about politics. Superman owes a debt to science fiction, Batman to the hardboiled detective. Wonder Woman’s debt is to feminism. She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman-suffrage campaigns of the nineteen-tens and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later. Wonder Woman is so hard to put on film because the fight for women’s rights has gone so badly....

Wonder Woman’s origin story comes straight out of feminist utopian fiction. In the nineteenth century, suffragists, following the work of anthropologists, believed that something like the Amazons of Greek myth had once existed, a matriarchy that predated the rise of patriarchy. “The period of woman’s supremacy lasted through many centuries,” Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in 1891. In the nineteen-tens, this idea became a staple of feminist thought. The word “feminism,” hardly ever used in the United States before 1910, was everywhere by 1913....

In 1917, when motion pictures were still a novelty and the United States had only just entered the First World War, Sanger starred in a silent film called “Birth Control”; it was banned. A century of warfare, feminism, and cinema later, superhero movies — adaptations and updates of mid-twentieth-century comic books whose plots revolve around anxieties about mad scientists, organized crime, tyrannical super-states, alien invaders, misunderstood mutants, and world-ending weapons — are the super-blockbusters of the last superpower left standing. No one knows how Wonder Woman will fare onscreen: there’s hardly ever been a big-budget superhero movie starring a female superhero. But more of the mystery lies in the fact that Wonder Woman’s origins have been, for so long, so unknown. It isn’t only that Wonder Woman’s backstory is taken from feminist utopian fiction. It’s that, in creating Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston was profoundly influenced by early-twentieth-century suffragists, feminists, and birth-control advocates and that, shockingly, Wonder Woman was inspired by Margaret Sanger, who, hidden from the world, was a member of Marston’s family.

Marston with Elizabeth Holloway (seated) and Olive Byrne.
...In 1926, Olive Byrne, then twenty-two, moved in with Marston and Holloway; they lived as a threesome, “with love making for all,” as Holloway later said. Olive Byrne is the mother of two of Marston’s four children; the children had three parents. “Both Mommies and poor old Dad” is how Marston put it.

Holloway said that Marston, Holloway, and Byrne’s living arrangements began as an idea: “A new way of living has to exist in the minds of men before it can be realized in actual form.” It had something to do with Sanger’s “Woman and the New Race.” Holloway tried to explain what she’d taken away from reading it: “The new race will have a far greater love capacity than the current one and I mean physical love as well as other forms.” And it had something to do with what Havelock Ellis, a British doctor who was one of Margaret Sanger’s lovers, called “the erotic rights of women.” Ellis argued that the evolution of marriage as an institution had resulted in the prohibiting of female sexual pleasure, which was derided as wanton and abnormal. Erotic equality, he insisted in 1918, was no less important than political equality, if more difficult to achieve. “The right to joy cannot be claimed in the same way as one claims the right to put a voting paper in a ballot box,” he wrote. “That is why the erotic rights of women have been the last of all to be attained.”

But there was more to it. For Holloway, the arrangement solved what, in the era of the New Woman, was known as the “woman’s dilemma”: hardly a magazine was sold, in those years, that didn’t feature an article that asked, “Can a Woman Run a Home and a Job, Too?”...

Read the whole fascinating article, nearly 8,000 words (issue date Sept. 22, 2014).

Past Wonder Woman post, with links to other articles and old WW comics.

Update Sept. 25: The October issue of The Smithsonian, a glossy history magazine published by the Smithsonian Institution, has an article by the same author, Jill Lepore: The Surprising Origin Story of Wonder Woman. The intro says Lepore is a Harvard history professor whose "new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, comes out this month." (Book cover at right.)

Lepore's Smithsonian article has such a superficial and sensational tone compared to her one in The New Yorker that I wonder whether editors had a very heavy hand in one of them or both.



September 18, 2014

Video: poly in Sydney, Australia

I'm noting this documentary video by a journalism student in Sydney, Australia, because at some point it took off, with 39,000 views so far. It's 28 minutes long and pretty good. By Simon Anderson. Enjoy.

Some more videos.


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September 17, 2014

Eve and Franklin's response to "Jealous of What?"

Salon / Peopleimages via iStock
Remember "Jealous of What? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem" in Salon a couple months ago? A social-science researcher in a successful, long-term MFM triad argued that we need to shed the "individualism" of mainstream culture for poly to be secure and jealousy-free. It was controversial — a lot of people criticized her for an attitude of superiority and the howler that jealousy came into the human condition only with capitalism. I noted that Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert were preparing a response article for Salon and we could "expect a humdinger." Individual autonomy is at the core of their book More Than Two.

Now Eve just wrote, "So, Salon sat on our response for two months before we finally pulled it from their consideration and ran it on our own blog. You can read it here.


Emotional outsourcing: Why structural approaches to jealousy management fail

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?
—Proverbs 27:4

Elizabeth Stern has hit the polyamory jackpot. She has two loving, secure partners who are highly compatible not just with her, but with each other. The two loves of her life like each other, share interests, and are actively supportive of each other’s relationship with her. And none of the trio has ever felt jealous.

...Like someone who’s never suffered depression giving advice to someone who has, or someone who’s never encountered economic hardship critiquing the moral shortcomings of the poor, Stern looks to her own happiness and tries to decide what she’s doing right and others are doing wrong — because obviously, if everyone else would just do what she’s doing, they’d be as happy as she is. Like many people with unchecked privilege, she scoffs at those who must actually work at the things that come to her naturally....

...Jealousy is often the fear of being replaced. It starts in us so young because it is, arguably, the first and purest expression of the ego. We cannot outsource the taming of our own egos; we cannot export the job of facing our own insecurity. Jealousy is not a one-size-fits-all problem, so a mass-produced, one-size-fits-all solution won’t succeed.

Stern’s conclusions about the roots of jealousy are naive, because she believes that since she and her partners have never experienced jealousy, it means they never will. They’re arrogant, because she believes that her single four-year polyfidelitous relationship with two men can serve as a model for all poly relationships.

But her assertions are also dangerous... because often people feel jealous when no one is doing anything wrong. Treating jealousy as a purely social issue (and we’ve seen it done) can lead to an endless circle of judgment, recrimination and accusation. It’s the ultimate in outsourcing: the outsourcing of emotional responsibility. True jealousy management involves listening to the jealousy to find out what it’s trying to tell you, and communicating with your partners (and metamours) to discover whether there is truth behind your fears — and if not, to get the reassurance you need....

But Stern’s conclusion is dangerous for another, more insidious reason....

Read their whole piece (Sept. 16, 2014).