Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Six Reasons to Try Polyamory

Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s post comes from Coleen, who maintains a personal blog at Reverse Retrograde.

Polyamory, the practice of having a relationship with more than one person, is enjoying a bit of a coming-out party. Though there’s some debate about how polyamory should be practiced, it’s generally seen in multiple partnerships, group relationships, and occasionally even group marriage. If you’ve been toying with the idea of trying polyamory, check out these six reasons for taking the plunge and see if you’re ready to jump in and test the waters!


1. You could find an incredibly supportive community.
Many cities have poly meetup groups that meet on a regular basis for discussion and support. Newbies and people who are simply curious about how these relationships work (How does one decide how to split the groceries? Do poly people all shower together to save water?) are usually welcomed with open arms. This is a great place to get started and dispel some of the mystique that polyamory holds for many people. You might even run into your neighbors somewhere other than the PTA!

2. You want to push yourself to find new limits.
How far is too far for you in a relationship? What really bothers you? What do you really like? Where do you see your relationships going? Polyamory is a pressure cooker for relationship exploration. Situations that might not come up in a monogamous relationship are daily occurrences in the poly world, and they will force you and your partners to confront boundaries and limits. You will have to think about why some things are OK for you and why others cross the line, and you might find that your boundaries move around and settle into different patterns as you and your partners evolve. While exploration can always happen in a monogamous relationship, it’s happens harder, faster, and stronger in a polyamorous one.

3. You want to learn how to communicate really really REALLY well.
Like any relationship, polyamory can’t work without open honest communication from all parties involved. Being open and willing to be vulnerable is really scary, because the potential to get hurt or rejected is high. Those with backgrounds in nonviolent communication thrive in polyamorous relationships, and those without it improve their skills drastically.

4. You question the wisdom of “traditional” coupledom.
Throughout history, humans have struggled to maintain monogamous relationships for a variety of reasons. Some people find a monogamous mentality can be unhealthy (this is The One and s/he have to be everything for me forever!). If you find yourself chafing under the expectations or regulations of monogamous relationships, maybe it’s time to try another way of relating. You might find that monogamy is right for you, but wouldn’t you rather know what else is possible?

5. You’re bisexual.
This is a controversial one. Some people categorically dismiss bisexuals as incapable of fidelity, or indecisive wafflers who are too afraid to admit what they really want in a partner. Maybe you are truly attracted to both men and women. Maybe your sexuality doesn’t fit into a sterile little label. Being able to have more than one partner automatically opens the door to triads, quads, and groups that allow a bisexual person the opportunity to love all genders at the same time and live a life that fulfills all parts of them.

6. You’re into BDSM.
If you’re serious about exploring kink, you might run into problems in a strictly monogamous relationship. Everyone has different strengths and limitations, and a big part of BDSM comes from learning from those with more experience how to be safe, sane, and consensual (as all kink must be). Being able to explore sexuality with more than one person is somewhat kinky already, and polyamory or other kinds of non-monogamy can open up situations that are otherwise impossible.

Despite all these fantastic reasons to try polyamory, it may not be the right lifestyle choice for you. Don’t try polyamory (right now) if:

1. You think it will fix your infidelity problems.
Surprise! Cheating exists within polyamorous relationships, too. Most of the time it involves breaking a rule that all involved have established for themselves. People in polyamorous relationships put a high value on consenting to sharing a partner, and going behind your lovers’ backs takes away their ability to give that consent.

2. Your partner is pressuring you.
This is a huge transition for some people, and it has to come from inside. No one should be making the decisions for you, and pleasing your partner is not a good reason to make such a change. Would you change your favorite food from Italian eggplant parmesan to Thai eggplant curry just because your partner liked it better? If your answer is yes, you need to take a time out and consider how your relationship is affecting your own identity. It’s one thing to talk about it and make a decision together and it’s fantastic to support each other through the potential confusion, but don’t give up control to another person because you’re afraid of losing them.

3. You just want to sleep around.
Sleeping around can destroy a poly relationship as fast as it would a monogamous one, putting all of your lovers at risk for STDs, pregnancies, and other complications that come from irresponsible sex. Besides that, polyamory is often more about the emotional connections with each partner than it is about sex. Some polyamorous relationships have no physical component and are solely emotional.

Remember that polyamory is just like any other form of relationship, but multiplied! You need to be aware of and respectful to partners’ feelings, and know that you will make mistakes. A big part of learning to love others is learning to love yourself, just as you are. So try it! Or don’t. Hate it. Love it. Just make sure that you’ve truly considered your true thoughts and feelings on the subject and aren’t jumping to conclusions from a position of fear. And have fun!

* Coleen grew up in Colorado and spends her life seeking wide open spaces, excellent food, and the next adventure. Her constant wandering has granted her superhuman adaptive powers, and whet her appetite for throwing herself into the unknown. She maintains a personal blog at Reverse Retrograde.

74 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ReginaRey November 18, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I’ve been kind of following the “coming out” of polyamory, and it fascinates me. I try to keep an open mind about it, as I’m sure it’s definitely a good option for some people, but for me, I’m confident it would never work. The green monster of jealousy would make me crazy, and sick, I think.

    That said, I’m always curious about the motivations some people have for becoming polyamorous. I read a particularly interesting article written by a poly girl who, without ever saying it, seemed to be extremely unhappy. It sounded almost like the only reason she was polyamorous was because she was afraid that no one would ever truly commit to her monogamously. Not saying this about all poly people, but it led me to wonder if some people have the wrong motivations for trying it. Whatever suits people in their romantic lives, I hope it does positive things for their mental health.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray November 18, 2011, 3:30 pm

      I’m just anxious for a Polyamory realty show – someone make one, please – so I can watch it along with Sister Wives and 20 Kids and Counting. Somehow they’re all connected.

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      • avatar

        ReginaRey November 18, 2011, 3:53 pm

        Brilliant! I’m sure this will happen on TLC sooner rather than later.

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        scattol November 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

        There was an episode of TLC Strange Sex that had a polyamourous group (a trio actually).

        So consider it done!

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      • avatar

        Anna November 19, 2011, 2:23 pm

        MTV’s True Life did a show about polyamory. It was pretty interesting but it’s not for me. I would have jealousy issues if my man were also in a relationship with someone else. And I have no interest in maintaining relationships with more than one man at a time…one man is plenty of stress already!

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    • avatar

      Alan M November 19, 2011, 7:53 am

      > I’ve been kind of following the “coming out” of polyamory, and it fascinates me.

      Hey, me too. To the point that for the last six years I’ve been running a website, Polyamory in the News:

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  • mandalee

    mandalee November 18, 2011, 2:17 pm

    I also find the topic fantastically, even though I know it wouldn’t work out for me personally. I can really only get into sex with someone that has potential to be long-term. I even stopped a hook-up before it led to sex once with a perfectly cute guy in college, because I just wasn’t into it. He was nice and he was doing all the right things but I was like sorry, I don’t want to go any further. It just doesn’t do it for me. Commitment and sex go hand and hand with me. So, while I love reading about it and fantasize what it would be like, I know I’d never go through with it. Thankfully, my husband is on the same page as well.

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    • avatar

      Faydra November 22, 2011, 9:40 am

      Please do not confuse polyamory and swinging. Polyamory is also about long term relationships. It is about emotional connection, not just sex with multiple partners. I have never been a one night stand kind of girl. My partners have always been long term. I need to know a person and have an emotional connection in order to trust enough to allow them into my bed. My current polyamorous relationship is stable and strong and we all work daily to keep it that way. We all communicate our needs on a regular basis. When someone is hurting there are two others to give loves and ease the hurt. When someone is sick, there are two people to pick up the slack around the house, make soup and tea, and take temperatures. And when everyone is happy, there is so much laughter and fun spread all around. Each of us brings something different to the relationship. Two of us like horseplay, one doesn’t. I don’t care for watching sports, but that is something the other two can share. Instead of expecting that one person can really fulfill all of our needs for the rest of our lives we have discovered that we get so much more love, support and joy by opening up ourselves to an additional person. We are in what is called a closed triad, meaning that the three of us are faithful to each other and we are not considering additional partnerships. That is what works for us. Others allow for more relationships and that works for them. Polyamory simply allows that a person can have an emotional connection with more than one person without taking anything away from anyone. In its ideal application everyone is happier, healthier and stronger.
      But, it is not something that will make everyone happy. It is not something anyone should feel pressured to try. I am very, very happy with my poly family though and hope to make it last indefinitely.

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  • avatar

    AKchic November 18, 2011, 2:31 pm

    I have always told people that polyamory isn’t for everyone (just like a threesome). If you are the jealous or possessive type, then it’s not for you. Period.

    I wouldn’t mind opening up to adding another partner to my relationship, but right now, it’s not the right time. My SO still needs to learn “boundaries” with his mother first.

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  • avatar

    *HmC* November 18, 2011, 2:53 pm

    A few random thoughts on this article…

    1) “Some people find a monogamous mentality can be unhealthy (this is The One and s/he have to be everything for me forever!”

    Thinking that someone is supposed to be your everything is, in my opinion, unhealthy regardless of your stance on monogamy. Unhealthy people can just as easily practice polyamory in an unhealthy way as they can practice monogamy in an unhealthy way. Unhealthy mentalities towards love and relationships is hardly confined to monogamous people.

    2) Reasons 1 – 3 are desires that could be explored and fulfilled by any number of things other than polyamory.

    3) I like to think that I’m pretty non-judgmental when it comes to what other consenting adults choose to do with their bodies and personal lives. And of course I know that not all monogamous-minded people want marriage/babies. But an honest question- what is the end game with polyamorous people? Do they mostly not want children? Do they plan on becoming monogamous when they decide to have children? Or do polyamorous people have kids with one partner and continue relationships with others at the same time? I’m sorry I know this is judgmental, but I can’t imagine that raising kids and actively practicing polyamory would be very good for the children. Being a single parent or divorced and dating is one thing, but if you’re still in a relationship with your co-parent, you date others with the kids running around?

    4) People often cite jealousy as a reason for not practicing polyamory themselves, or as a reason for others not to do it. Personally, I’m a pretty uber un-jealous person. Maybe to a fault. But I’m 100% certain that polyamory is not for me. Not because I would be jealous, but because I would be unhappy. Monogamy with one person brings me something different than what I experience when I’m dating multiple people.

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    • rainbow

      rainbow November 18, 2011, 3:06 pm

      “I’m sorry I know this is judgmental, but I can’t imagine that raising kids and actively practicing polyamory would be very good for the children.”
      Why? I’m not bashing, I’m curious. What exactly could it do to them?

      Personally, I think that if you and your coparent are happy people that love and respect eachother you can get away with all sorts of non-traditional arrangements and it won’t hurt the kids. That’s if you even decide to tell them. I guess it’s like BDSM for example, some people like to tell their kids what they’re into and why, and some keep it quiet. And kids raised in non-traditional households usually rebel by being vanilla when their time comes anyway, so you sort of alternate generations.

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      • avatar

        *HmC* November 18, 2011, 3:18 pm

        Well, assuming it was practiced openly, you don’t think it would be confusing for each parent to have multiple partners around the children? Like, “this is daddy’s other girlfriend, this is mommy’s other boyfriend”? Do you not think there is any benefit to having two stable parents that are consistently in their children’s lives, without other romantic partners also in the picture? I know that life happens and people do the best they can and perfectly happy, adjusted kids come from all sorts of backgrounds. But engaging in polyamory around kids strikes me as odd.

        Not sure about the scientific basis for your statement about kids from non-traditional households rebelling by being vanilla… of course I’m sure that’s happened, but I don’t think it’s a rational argument for encouraging non-traditional households. Anyway, I do believe that setting up as stable of a family unit as possible is in the best interest of children and ultimately, society. I don’t know how stable that unit could be with multiple partners… maybe it could. I don’t know much about how polyamory is practiced, which is why I’m asking about it in the context of parenting.

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        GatorGirl November 18, 2011, 3:25 pm

        “Not sure about the scientific basis for your statement about kids from non-traditional households rebelling by being vanilla… of course I’m sure that’s happened, but I don’t think it’s a rational argument for encouraging non-traditional households.”

        I totally agree with this. I’m all for single parents, same sex parents, and situation that creates stability, but I just don’t see how having these “dating” relationships while raising children is good for the kids. For some reason it would be different for me if they were getting married/civil unions.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow November 18, 2011, 4:23 pm

        “Not sure about the scientific basis for your statement about kids from non-traditional households rebelling by being vanilla… of course I’m sure that’s happened, but I don’t think it’s a rational argument for encouraging non-traditional households.”

        I’m not using it as an argument for encouraging non-traditional households. (I’m actually not encouraging non-traditional households, just your-cup-of-tea households be it traditional or non or whatever). I’m mentioning it because when people disapprove of something the first concern aired is usually “but what about the kids!”. It happened with moms working outside the house. It’s still happening with gay parents. And most of the times the kids grow up to be just fine, normal people. It’s only the people saying “this can’t be good for them omg” who end up having a bad time about it, or even thinking about it more than everyone directly involved.

        Also, no scientific basis for saying they usually end up vanilla. It’s just what I’ve found looking around at my friends. What’s your scientific basis for saying this will fuck them up?

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      • rainbow

        rainbow November 18, 2011, 4:27 pm

        Also, the last line I wrote sounds rude now that I read it again. I was asking because we were all giving our opinions and then suddenly it became a matter of not doing it unless you can back it with wikipedia, and I didn’t like it much.

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      • avatar

        *HmC* November 18, 2011, 4:40 pm

        I have no scientific basis for stating that this will fuck them up, which is why I never stated that I know it does. I am admittedly ignorant about polyamorous lifestyles and was posing a logistical question, and a fear I have about the possibility of it causing harm.

        You made the statement that “kids raised in non-traditional households usually rebel by being vanilla when their time” as what sounded to me like fact. I haven’t found that to be true, in my personal experience. In fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true- I work with “non-traditional” families daily and constantly deal with the repercussions of parents who put their own needs far above the children’s. To be fair, the families I see are unstable, in addition to being non-traditional, so I don’t know for sure how much just being non-traditional could negatively impact children.

        Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but you stated something as fact and I disagree with you that it is indeed fact.

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      • avatar

        *HmC* November 18, 2011, 4:47 pm

        p.s.

        And what’s so wrong with asking “what about the kids?!” If it’s a veil for misogyny or homophobia, that’s crappy. But honestly, I think many people could stand to think MORE about their kids and consider how their actions will affect them instead of behaving extremely selfishly all the time like Western culture so often seems to encourage us to do.

        Sorry I’m ranting! I think I am jaded from seeing too much of the worst-case-scenarios!

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 4:59 pm

        Awesome point. If only more people questioned What About the Kids…

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      • avatar

        Cali November 21, 2011, 10:10 am

        I for one am glad people are saying “but what about the kids?!” Society would be better if people spent more time thinking about kids, and listening to what they have to say. What I disagree with is that poly is bad for kids. I have seen several poly families raise healthy, happy, stable kids who are thoughtful and frequently good communicators as well, because their parents put so much emphasis on honesty, commitment (yes, really! Of a non-traditional, but still committed kind) and talking things through. Some of the older (12ish) kids I know have even told me that they are glad they live with so many “parents”, because there is always someone around to help them, to talk with them if they need it, and they have a built in support system with different people showing how to work together.

        It is true that there are poly families who are not stable, but there are also traditional families that are not stable. Just as there are happy and stable traditional families, so too (I can attest!) there are happy and stable poly families. Families with kids should be judged on how they treat and support their children: not on the configuration of the relationships of the adults involved.

        Thanks for caring about the kids, though, and for being willing to discuss.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow November 18, 2011, 5:58 pm

        “Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but you stated something as fact and I disagree with you that it is indeed fact.”

        I tend to think any statement not followed by a link to a reliable source is a personal opinion. Specially in the internet of all places. You should try it sometime.

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      • rainbow

        rainbow November 18, 2011, 5:59 pm

        (In my opinion)

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      • avatar

        *HmC* November 20, 2011, 2:29 pm

        The sky is purple.

        I didn’t post a link to Wikipedia after that, thus you are to assume it is my opinion and therefore irrefutable.

        There are opinions that are subjective, and there are “opinions” about objective things that actually are either true or not true. When you said “kids raised in non-traditional households usually rebel by being vanilla when their time comes “, that implied to me that you believe that most, or many, kids of non-traditional unions turn out vanilla. Maybe I mis-read what you intended to say. But to me your statement was an “opinion” about something that is actually provable, which makes it not just an opinion, but a mistaken belief about an objective occurrence. And while I agree that some non-traditional parents must produce vanilla offspring, in my experience it has not “usually” been the case, so I disagreed with the implication (that I perceived from what you wrote) that it was. Maybe I am being a stickler for logic/grammar here. Simply put, I vehemently disagreed with something you stated as if it were 100% true. Maybe it is true, but I don’t think either of us know whether it is and thus that statement bugged me. Perhaps irrationally.

        Neither of us know for sure what the exact numbers are on this, nor do we know if practicing non-traditional sexual lifestyles around children could negatively impact them. I worry that it *could*, depending on how it’s actually practiced, and was very interested in the generous responses of the people who actually practice polyamory. Polyamory is a new concept to me, so I was interested in learning more about it.

        I admit that my work experiences expose me to many families that are unstable in addition to being non-traditional, and I see my fair share of very messed up kids. So my views are colored by this. And I’m sure my judgmental nature comes across on issues concerning kids who have no option to opt in or out of what their parents choose for them. I trust that those secure in their choices would not be overly offended by my questions.

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      • avatar

        Sandy November 22, 2011, 3:55 pm

        I would like to point out that these parents are no more choosing for them than a gay/lesbian couple are choosing homosexuality for their children! This may be true in extreme religious cases, but not the standard. Im sorry that it sounds like you havent had good representations of this, but they are out there!

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 4:41 pm

        like, like, like.

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      • avatar

        GatorGirl November 18, 2011, 5:20 pm

        I think as usual, I’m unable to convey what I really mean with my words. I’m open to people having what ever kind of relationship they want, so long as 1- they don’t force me to practice my relationship the same way and 2- if there are children involved they are brought up in stable, secure, non-abusive home. I’m actually really for “non traditional” relationships, people should do what makes them happy (so long as they aren’t hurting anyone else). That being said I believe once you have children their health, happiness and sanity should become the parents main priority.

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      • avatar

        silver_dragon_girl November 18, 2011, 3:44 pm

        What if it is a stable unit, though, just with 3+ people instead of 1-2 parents? That’s what I’m curious about…not so much the coming and going of other people, which could be confusing to children, but how would it work if it was a stable unit? I’m assuming there wouldn’t be any problems with that (except from the kids’ perspective, what with more adults around to catch them misbehaving).

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 4:28 pm

        I know nothing about polyamory, but always assumed that it was a couple and would invite others in through, for lack of a better phrase, a revolving door. Like the third (or fourth…) person will change somewhat often and that the third person is not committed in the way the other 2 are. I would say that would be the reason (if my assumption is correct) why it would not be good for children.

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      • avatar

        GingerLaine November 18, 2011, 4:57 pm

        That is not always correct. Many people find a “third” and “settle down” with that person. They are a permanent fixture & do the same things in a relationship that a married spouse might… pay the bills, cook, clean, etc.

        Not all poly relationships are like going to a swingers club every weekend.

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      • avatar

        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 5:04 pm

        But you can’t marry more than one person and while I understand there can be a high level of committment without marriage, and of course people who have kids together and never get married, I still have trouble thinking that the commitment between more than 2 people could be level with that of just 2 people. Certainly not saying its impossible and I’m sure there are some people who could make it work, but just hard for me to wrap my head around I guess.

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      • avatar

        GingerLaine November 18, 2011, 5:15 pm

        I get it. 🙂 I guess in a way, I look at it as more love to share. You can’t marry more than one person, but you can have romantic love for more than one person. I almost see poly relationships as coming with “more of everything.” More love, more companionship, but also more drama, more communication, more introspection, so on & so forth.

        And I think it’s really cool of you to ask questions & be open about what you don’t understand and why it does not compute. I really expected that the comments would be full of nastiness & judging (and some are, obviously), but you are being so respectful here. I just wanted to compliment you. 🙂 We all bring our pre-conceived notions to the table here that of course colors our exchanges & it’s nice that you didn’t throw those out there first & then (figuratively) say, “Tell me why I’m wrong.” Hooray for LBH! 🙂

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 5:26 pm

        Well thanks very much! I consider myself a pretty conservative person with most things, but I don’t see how you can judge without even understanding it first. That’s ignorance for you I guess. Plus, these are really things that affect no one but the people in it. Really. Same goes for homosexual relationships, gay parents, the list goes on.
        One thing that has always gotten me really angry are people who are against gay parents. I am (let’s not even go there again commenters 😉 pro-life or whatever you want to call it. How can someone who is anti-abortion also be anti-gay parents?! I want to shake people like that. Would they rather a child live in an orphanage? Do two people who love a child so much that they will raise them really seem like they could be harmful to a child? Just don’t get it. /end rant

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      • katie

        katie November 18, 2011, 9:43 pm

        about the marriage part, i saw a show about a poly relationship, it was 3 guys, and the way that they were “married” to each other was that they had legally tied themselves to the other two to the extent that they said it would be harder to get out of their situation then to get a divorce… so i guess that is one of the ways they do it. there are a lot of different ways to legally bind yourself to someone, marriage is just the one that our society knows.

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        silver_dragon_girl November 18, 2011, 5:01 pm

        Now, see (and I know nothing, because I’ve only ever done monogamous relationships), I always thought that when there’s a “revolving door” it’s more of an open relationship, or a swinging relationship. Polyamory, to me, would be more of a long relationship among 3 or more people. Am I wrong?? I guess maybe the term “polyamory” encompasses all those things?

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 5:05 pm

        Oh, maybe you’re right. That makes sense.

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 4:54 pm

        I do think it would be difficult for children. Right or wrong, it just would be because it is not the norm. (emphasis on right or wrong)
        -who acts as the parent?
        -things even as simple as teacher conferences (just had one this morning so that’s why it comes to mind), who goes?
        -friends over the house? Realistically, kids are resilient, but also can be mean. You can’t just explain to some bully kid that its ok and expect them to accept that.

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        GingerLaine November 18, 2011, 5:00 pm

        Who acts as the parent: The biological parents.
        Who goes to PTA: The biological parents.
        Friends over: Since most children don’t know about their parents’ or their friends’ parents sex lives, that’s a non-issue.

        FWIW, I’m not in, nor interested in, a poly relationship, just know lots of people with them and am very open-minded when it comes to the practice.

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 5:07 pm

        I don’t mean to come across as not open-minded, just clueless 🙂
        Do you only have children with the 1 person, and not the others?
        I agree that kids don’t know what goes on in the bedroom so to speak, but if this were a really committed situation between 3 or 4 people, I don’t think the kids would say they are just the parents’ friends. What do they call them to their friends? What about (this will sound dumb) things like family portraits?

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        GingerLaine November 18, 2011, 5:25 pm

        Hahahaha! I think I snorted at the family portraits. 🙂 Only because you specifically qualified it with “this will sound dumb.” I’ve been there.

        Well… polyamory is a big fish to fry. Let’s see if I can break this down.

        There are swingers.
        There are cuckolds.
        There are polygamists.
        There are married couples with live-in boyfriend/girlfriends.
        There are probably lots of other descriptions.

        None of those groups necessarily do ANY of the same things or treat their polyamory the same. That’s why polyamory MUST include extensive communication. When I say the word polyamory, that may mean something to you that is entirely different from what I have in mind. In most polyamorous relationships, there are PRIMARY partners and secondary partners. The primary is the one with whom you are most connected: married, have children, beneficiary of their will, etc. The secondary might be a live-in, just somebody at the swingers club, or someone your primary doesn’t even know & doesn’t want to know. Some may have a secondary to whom they are VERY committed that no one in their family has even met or knows anything about.

        So I know it’ll sound like a cop-out, but I can’t really answer that question. Everybody will do things differently & there is no necessarily “right” way to be a poly, just like there’s no “right” monogamous relationship. 🙂

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 5:28 pm

        Well consider me educated. Thanks for your patience in answering all my questions!

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        Faydra November 22, 2011, 10:07 am

        I am part of a polyamorous closed triad with children in the home. Like most adults, we keep our bedroom life separate from the child raising. So, we have a home with three loving adults to care for, teach and nurture the children. Historically people did not live in mom, dad and kid only homes. Entire families lived together, with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. The more adults to love and caretake the better. I don’t like living alone. I want people and noise and interaction all the time. This lifestyle feels more natural to me than living within societies currently accepted atomic family structure.
        A home with multiple loving members seems infinitely better to me than one with one stressed out parent fighting with his or her ex and struggling to make ends meet. Or scheduling weekends and holidays with separated parents. What about the confusion of step parents, especially if one of the parents does not like the other’s new spouse. Monogamy has its flaws, especially when it falls apart. I am not knocking a loving two parent home. Or the single parents that make it work. Children are resilient and single, married, remarried, widowed (etc.) parents love and raise great kids. I am simply stating that playing by the rules doesn’t always turn out better. So why are so many people so very dead set on that being the only way?
        But I think the thing most people can’t get past is the intimacy aspect of a polyamorous relationship. Really though, how many monogamous partners share their intimate relationship details with their children? Both parents and kids like to pretend that no one knows Mom and Dad “do it.” I think that if they are loved and secure, children in a polyamorous relationship will remain as pointedly ignorant of the adults bedroom dealings as they would any monogamous one. We all three can offer different things in knowledge, problem solving methods, aesthetics and so on. Three adults give more oppurituity for time and attention.
        The children know we love each other and them, we help each other through the tough times, we work together, and we make the fun times even more joyful because we are all together. Their needs come first. How is that selfish or bad for the children?
        We talk frequently about how much to explain to the children when they ask. We want to remain honest, but also age appropriate. And each child processes things differently, so we keep in mind how to explain best to each one. We worry more about how others will tell them they should react by telling them that we are weird or wrong for our relationship. Outside influences are more likely to have a negative impact on their wellness than the loving family life they are experiencing. That is why they are taught to have open minds, ask questions and make decisions based not on what people tell them to think, but on what they believe is good and right. They may grow up to want monogamy, and that will be encouraged. They may grow up to be gay. And they will be loved for it.
        So in conclusion to my ridiculously long response. (Sorry about that). The children are tops on our priority list. They should be considered in any relationship, poly or monogamous. In ours they most certainly are.

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        Sandy November 22, 2011, 3:49 pm

        I cant like this enough! Thank you for sharing.

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        Christy November 18, 2011, 4:02 pm

        I think the stable relationships is the important part. It’s probably easy for kids if you just introduce them as “aunt so-and-so” or “daddy’s friend.” They don’t have to know all about the sexual part. In that sense, it’s just like having multiple friends of the family.

        I think advice to single parents applies here, too, that you don’t want to bring partners around kids until the relationship is established and seems to be long-term. I think the damage would come from a parade of people through the home.

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      • Jess

        Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com November 18, 2011, 3:44 pm

        Yeah, I would imagine raising children in this setting as being like a village model where there is one biological mother and father but lots of co-parents and “cousins.” Of course I’ve watched a lot of “Big Love” on HBO so that’s really my only source!

        P.S. I am not at all open to polyamory for myself but I can understand, to an extent, its merits.

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      AKchic November 18, 2011, 3:51 pm

      You bring up a good point on raising kids within a polyamorous relationship.

      Each relationship is different. Whether or not a 3rd (or 4th) is living with a married pair (or triad). In a way, yes, it’s like having “sister wives”, or uncles/aunts, or grandparents in the home that help discipline and raise the kids. Help with the chores, the homework questions, the illnesses, etc.

      Kids are one of the biggest reasons why communication is so vital to a polyamourous relationship. You need to be clear on the rules, on whether you want them or not, on WHO you want them with, when you want them, etc.

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      zombeyonce November 18, 2011, 4:27 pm

      As an answer to your #3 question about being open with kids about your polyamory:

      I think that kids understand a lot more than people give them credit for. I don’t think that two parents having different partners that are involved with their children is any harder for a child to understand than two parents that are divorced and remarried, giving the child stepparents. Kids understand what we explain to them. They are exposed to all different types of parental relationships from two married parents to two sets of stepparents to two mom or two dad types of relationships. With a little age-appropriate explanation, they can understand just fine.

      I’m not saying that poly people should go around introducing the people they are dating to their kids right away, just like I don’t think single parents should introduce their kids to new partners until they are serious.

      My fiance and I are in a partially-open relationship (we can date other people with express consent given by each other). Every new person we see is vetted and approved before anything happens. We plan to have kids in the future and haven’t decided yet what we will tell them about our dates with other people, but probably nothing about how they are dates unless things move beyond a casual relationship. We currently aren’t looking for any serious outside relationships (just casual dating), but that could change in the future.

      The article is right when it says that communication really is incredibly important. We talk about everyone we consider seeing before and after and jealousy hasn’t been a problem. We have both agreed that we are each other’s primary partner now and for the rest of our lives if everything goes according to plan. I consider it a rewarding experience for both of us.

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 4:32 pm

        Fascinating. I really cannot wrap my head around this concept at all, but to be honest, never have tried or watched any of the shows out there about things like this. Does it seem natural to you? What about minor things like holidays? Do you bring more than your fiance to your family’s house for Thanksgiving? Things like that is where I just can’t understand how it works, other than very casual dating. I say all this with my ignorance flag raised, so please don’t take any offense.

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        zombeyonce November 18, 2011, 5:03 pm

        No offense taken at all. My friends know about it and really love asking questions, but all say they can’t imagine doing what we’re doing because of jealousy. I haven’t watched any shows about this type of relationship but I wish that something existed like that; I’d love to see how other people do it. This is the only relationship where I’ve ever tried this, and it feels more natural than monogamy ever did.

        The jealousy only factors in for me (same goes for my fiancé) when we’re talking about emotional connections to other people, not sexual. I’m a very sexually open person and, honestly, being able to sleep with other people makes my already amazing relationship that much better. But I’m not looking for another boyfriend, which makes it different from regular polyamory. It’s certainly possible that we will have boyfriends and girlfriends in the future, and at the point where we introduced them to our (future) children as more than just friends is probably the point at which we would introduce them to our families, neither of which know about our open relationship. But it’d have to be a pretty serious thing for us to want to include them in holiday celebrations, probably at the point where we all wanted to live together.

        For me, the reason this kind of relationship works with my fiancé (beyond huge amounts of very honest communication) is that we would both still be with each other happily if the sex-with-other-people thing was taken off the table.

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        lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 5:10 pm

        Thank you for sharing! What happens when emotions become really strong though? Maybe you haven’t gotten there. I guess I don’t see how you can from one side of the bridge (being the sex with extra partners side) to the other side (being in an actual relationship with more than one person).

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        zombeyonce November 18, 2011, 6:17 pm

        We haven’t gotten to the point where either of us has had strong feelings for anyone we’ve been involved with, but we have talked about the possibility. We decided that we would be completely open about it and let each other know if those feelings were developing and decide how to proceed at that point. Just like any kind of relationship, we’re figuring this out as we go and trying different approaches to see what works best for the both of us, but honesty about these matters is imperative, as is listening without judging or deciding before the other is finished explaining their feelings. Willing to be vulnerable with each other is hard, but a significant reason why this works for us.

        To be perfectly honest, the fact that neither of us is looking for a long-term partner really cuts down on the amount of people we can date; a lot of people our age (30s) that are single are looking for a serious relationship and not willing to date someone that isn’t looking for the same. And the people that aren’t looking for something serious are relieved to date someone not looking for a person to settle down with.

        Another thing about an open relationship I have found that I like is that being able to see other people takes away the taboo of it and a bit of the excitement that you get when you’re crushing on someone and know you can’t be with them because you’re already in a relationship. It gets rid of that terrible and illogical “Am I willing to cheat to see if my crush is my soulmate?” wondering that makes everything seem so urgent and important.

        Also, people seem to forget that being in an open relationship doesn’t mean that you can sleep with anyone you want. I still get crushes on people that are married and in monogamous relationships that I can’t hit on. I have had to learn to be an ethical slut (to borrow the phrase from a book).

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        *HmC* November 18, 2011, 4:43 pm

        Really interesting, thanks for sharing that!

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      lets_be_honest November 18, 2011, 4:39 pm

      Agreed with all your points, especially #2 which is what I was thinking reading it.

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      Meredith November 21, 2011, 5:31 pm

      Some very close friends of mind are in a poly relationship with another married couple and they have 3 kids that grew up with it. These kids are some of the smartest, most well-adjusted, down to earth kids that I’ve ever met. They understand that mom and dad love each other and they love their boyfriend and girlfriend and that ALL of the adults love and support the kids. They say it takes a village to raise a kid – I see it as this is a version of that. Everyone parents the kids and even though it’s a non-traditional household, it’s a stable one as they have been together for almost 10 years.

      I think that kids are much more versatile and resilient than people give them credit for. The only way that they would think that something is wrong or not normal is because people like you tell them so.

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        Sandy November 22, 2011, 3:41 pm

        “I think that kids are much more versatile and resilient than people give them credit for. The only way that they would think that something is wrong or not normal is because people like you tell them so.”

        Hear, Hear! It almost seems sometimes that people equate this sort of lifestyle as something so harmful to children, along the same lines as drug addiction or abuse going on in front of them. I think this kind of scenario offers nothing more than additional support, which will only benefit them! I think someone pointed out that there would always be someone available for plays or soccer games and I think in the long run kids will remember that more than anything else.
        That said, of course there are situations where it can be harmful, just like anything else. I hate to say it, but when its for religious reasons it seems to just about always end up abusive in one way or another, either because its pushed on the children since “its the right path” in the opinion of the adults, or because they become so isolated from the outside world that things become convoluted and incest or rape could become factors. I know this because I lived this. I rejected religion and anything even resembling the way these people lived for a large part of my life. I couldn’t look at children in poly situations and not think they were definitely being abused, as I was. It took a lot of strength and insight to separate my experiences from the loving poly families that I know today.
        FYI I am not a practicing poly in any form, not that there’s anything wrong with it, I just happen to know a lot about it. I learned that when it comes to abuse or abusing any kind of institution whether its religion or marriage or relationships, that sick people are sick people and they take many forms. There are perfectly rational healthy poly people out there who arent just going to orgies and bringing their kids with them.

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  • rainbow

    rainbow November 18, 2011, 2:55 pm

    This article was really interesting, though I’m also in the “not for me” team. Not because of jealousy, I’m into open relationships and involving third parties for sex, but you need some serious high-level ninja skills to make it work on a love level, and I don’t have them. Keeping the appropriate level of communication with more than one person must be exhausting!
    It must be quite a journey, though, if you’re into it.

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    GatorGirl November 18, 2011, 3:15 pm

    I wonder how people who support/believe in/practise polyamory feel about poligamy (not Warren Jeff’s poligamy, more like Sister Wives pligamy). The concept of loving and having relations with more than one person at once is fascinating.

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      AKchic November 18, 2011, 4:58 pm

      Polygamy is more a religious belief/tenant that benefits the male portion of the relationship. Yes, they couch things to make it seem like the whole thing benefits the females involved, but honestly, it doesn’t.

      Polyamory is meant to be equal for ALL. Males, females, everyone. Equal voices.

      I believe that so long as your poligamous relationship does no harm to anyone involved, then live and let live, so long as you do not preach to me. Just as I will not preach to you. Warren Jeff-style polygamy needs to be stamped out and those that perpetrate such injustices should be tortured before a slow and agonizingly painful death.

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        GatorGirl November 18, 2011, 5:29 pm

        The word polygamy really means a marriage with more than two partners, which is what I was referring too. I understand in popular culture it refers to multiple wives, but if it was legal I wonder if marriages with one woman and two men (for example) would really be feasible.

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        AKchic November 18, 2011, 5:55 pm

        Unfortunately, society has co-opted “polygamy” to mean one husband with multiple wives, so that’s where I’m going with it. Otherwise, I figure a woman with multiple male commitments to be in a committed polyamorous relationship. Legally, she cannot marry both men, and it isn’t for religious purposes. I can’t think of any religious tenant where a woman would take more than one husband at a time. *shudder* Not if they were all sexually virile and young. Now, if they were older, mature, etc – I could be tempted.

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        SpyGlassez November 18, 2011, 8:29 pm

        If I remember correctly, the opposite of polygamy is polyandry, meaning having multiple husbands. Polygamy does refer to multiple wives.

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        GatorGirl November 18, 2011, 10:07 pm

        No to split hairs- polygyny is one man multiple wives, polyandry is one wife multiple husbands. From what I understand polygamy is a blanket term.

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  • Public Pearl

    Public Pearl November 18, 2011, 3:26 pm

    Yeah, no.

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    silver_dragon_girl November 18, 2011, 3:29 pm

    This is interesting. I’m in the “not for me” camp, mostly due to jealousy issues (I wouldn’t even feel comfortable having a threesome). I think I’m just one of those people who prefer, and thrive on, monogamy.

    However, I always like to learn about other types of relationships and how they work. I’ve never known anyone in a poly amorous relationship…my inner anthropologist would love to observe those relationship dynamics at work!

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  • Jess

    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com November 18, 2011, 3:46 pm

    I have to commend Coleen for a really balanced article on a subject that is super touchy for many people. I read the headline and felt an uncomfortable pit in my stomach (i.e. total resistence to the mere mention of endorsing polyamory) but I read the article and was left feeling very comfortable with the points made.

    Coleen isn’t trying to SELL it to us, only explain it. And in that, I think she did a great job.

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    Christy November 18, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Great list! I would also add don’t try polyamory if your current relationship isn’t stable. If there are any major issues you haven’t dealt with, you’re just going to drag other people into your mess!

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    • rainbow

      rainbow November 18, 2011, 4:24 pm

      this, exactly!

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    Emma November 18, 2011, 4:38 pm

    My brother is polyamorous, actually. He sort of explained the whole idea to me when he ‘came out’. I think that his main reason is his bisexuality. Granted, you can be in a monogamous relationship and be bisexual, but my brother is a very sexual person, and I don’t think he could see only one person. He was married for a bit, but that ended (for several reasons, which were probably expedited by status of the relationship), and now he’s living with another girl, and both of them are seeing other people. He’s one of the people I know who has the most healthy appreciation for sex and love. (And he probably is way too open about it with me, given I’m his sister.)

    I, myself, wouldn’t have the energy to have several relationships. Having one is hard enough work. However, my fiance and I are definitely open, in that we fool around with different people, but usually only when we are together. I’m bisexual, and he’s definitely not totally straight, so it gives us room to explore that, without the pressure more relationships would have. Jealousy has only been an issue once in this situation, and after talking it out, it dissipated completely.

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    SimonTheGrey November 18, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Let’s turn this on its head a little. Do you think polyamorous relationships have to be about the sex? I have a male partner with whom I am very much in love and who I want to marry some day. I also have a close female friend who lives with us, who I love, and who will continue to live with us. My partner is not at all interested in my female friend, nor she in him. However, I cannot imagine life without both. I’m not and never have been sexually involved with my female friend, but I have an intense relationship with her. My boyfriend’s mom has even said that she thinks of the three of us as a “triad” and my dad has commented that he sometimes thinks of my female friend as my “life partner.”

    My female friend is asexual (part of how I know so much about the subject, per a previous post!) and for a long time I identified as asexual as well (though maybe not as far on the scale as her).

    I don’t even know if the world has a word for what we are.

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    Chilosa161 November 18, 2011, 9:35 pm

    Author here. Thanks for the great discussion, everyone!

    Just a tiny observation: Isn’t it funny that a lot of you feel the need to say, “I’m not ever never never interested in polyamory?” Be interested or don’t. But don’t worry about what everyone thinks of you. We’re a pretty non-judgmental community. Be yourself, and don’t overkill on the negation.

    To clarify: Polyamory typically is separate from swinging and other forms of nonmonogamy. Poly groups often call themselves thus specifically because of an emotional connection, hence “many loves” and not “many sexytimes.” Polyamory is consensual emotional and physical nonmonogamy, and takes many forms. Other types of nonmonogamy exist and even range down to your nonconsensual (in that the other partner knows nothing of the liaison and therefore cannot give consent) nonmonogamy–also known as cheating. I define serial monogamy as a kind of nonmonogamous relationship.

    Every person is different, and every relationship is different. I’ve been nonmonogamous in the past and tried to have a polyamorous relationship. It didn’t work out. But really, the problems were the same old incompatibilities that doom “normal” relationships. Exploring relationship radicalism has been freeing to me. It feels right. But like I said, polyamory is not for everyone. Not even all relationship radicals.

    For more information about open relationships, polyamory, and nonmonogamy I suggest visiting your local poly meetup. There are many groups on Meetup.com and questions are almost always welcomed with open arms. Read “The Ethical Slut” and “Opening Up,” two books that have helped me immensely.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie November 19, 2011, 7:28 am

    I dated two women long ago and it was good, but frustrating. They had different qualities that I loved and couldn’t reconcile my feeling that I wasn’t being committed to one or the other yet wanting parts of each. In the end I lost both with loads of regret.

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    Nadine November 19, 2011, 7:45 am

    I just read this article, which is interesting. It also has a child involved, which is good to read about

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    Sandy November 19, 2011, 11:34 am

    I just wanted to throw something out there. It seems that when it comes to relationships or religion or marriages or any number of things in our society, that there is, at times, an undercurrent among those ignorant of a different way of being that the ‘other’ threatens their own way of being. Im not saying that I have seen that from anyone here on this thread, but Its out there and I just wanted to start a discussion about it. For instance, there are those, gay and straight, that think that gay marriage and the overall acceptance of homosexuals will herald a new age where every male realizes that hes either gay or bi but never knew it/accepted it until it became more socially acceptable. In this context I would like people to understand that different ways of being dont threaten your own. Your boyfriend seeing a poly relationship will not make him “realize’ that its right for him, unless it actually IS right for him, in which case, feel blessed that he figured it out sooner rather than later! It seems that there is a lack of confidence in people who get so upset by the inclusion of groups different than their own. If what you are doing in your own life is right for you, then there is NOTHING that can threaten that merely by being different. Something being different doesnt negate your choices or ways of being, but some seem to think it does. I think overall if people were more confident about the choices they were making in life, they wouldnt question someone elses needs so much. Im really glad to see a discussion like this popping up here, and I can clearly see by the silence of the regular commenters that this topic is uncomfortable to talk about. I hope that the more we know about different lifestyles the less we will try to qualify them as being right or wrong.

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    Sue Jones November 19, 2011, 4:47 pm

    I have been with my husband for 17 years. Monogamous and exclusive since the first date. At different times during my marriage I have been attracted emotionally or physically to other men so this has come up for us. While my husband has been incredibly open to the possibility of me exploring a relationship with those men, I have never crossed the line with any of them, because…. it’s complicated and we are talking about real human emotions here… We met some poly people just to see if starting with people who already were into that would work, but sorry, the chemistry just wasn’t there. It seems I really like specific men and not just a member of a group who has the same views… I also do not think I could handle the emotional complications that could come up since I am a very busy active person, and we have kids now, which makes me even busier. I barely sometimes have enough time for my husband and have to make time for that, so making time for a third party…. pretty impossible. So while I am not ruling out the possibility of a “monogamish” or poly arrangement at some point in my life, because it is true, we can’t get all we need from one person all the time, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen anytime soon. So I applaud this article here and would love to continue this interesting dialogue.

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    Silenus November 20, 2011, 11:08 am

    The essential reason to become polyamorous is when one realizes that it is possible to have loving, sexual relationships with more than one person at a time and desires to do so in an ethical way that is nurturing to all parties. The six reasons in this column are secondary reasons, and not necessarily good ones.

    In particular, the idea that being bisexual leads to poly is not true. Whether one desires one gender or several, poly issues are the same. Saying “I have to have a male and female partner to feel complete” makes no more sense than saying “I have to have a blonde and a brunette to feel complete”. My opinion is that loving someone is about who they are as whole individuals, not whatever superficial characteristics one may have eroticised.

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    sarah November 20, 2011, 2:42 pm

    In response to all the questions about kids…I went to summer camp with a girl, Anna, who had three moms and two dads. They all lived together and she called them Mom, Mama, Melly (Melanie, who was also one of the camp counselors) Pop and Dad. Her bio-dad and his girlfriend worked, bio-mom and her husband worked from home (they had a small organic farm and went to farmer’s markets all the time) and Melly, bio-dad’s wife, did a lot of the child-rearing, although obviously everybody lent a hand in that. Anna was really smart (it was a camp for gifted kids) and well-adjusted and happy, but she complained that she never got away with anything–she had five committed parents who communicate (The old “But Mom says I’m allowed!” trick doesn’t work.) and who share responsbility so that somebody’s always home (or at dance recitals, school plays, etc.)
    That being said, I think they were a closed poly-group; I’m not sure how having parents “casually date” others would affect kids…but I’d guess it’d be similar to having a single-parent dating, only with more adult supervision. (my mom didn’t date for YEARS after my parents divorced, because she didn’t have time–she was busy raising kids and going to work. But I imagine if there are enough adults taking care of worklife and homelife, there may be more time for dating?)
    Not only that–but I don’t think polyaorous dating in that situation could even be CALLED casual. “Hi! Here’s my wife, her boyfriend, his wife and her girlfriend, the mother of my child,” probably screens out a lot of non-serious dates.

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