At last week’s Rocky Mountain Poly Living conference in Denver, Leanna Wolfe — a poly anthropologist and sexologist active in the movement almost since its birth in the 1980s — spoke on what she called the three historical stages of polyamory in Western culture.
Her Stage 1 was mostly male-centric (my paraphrase). She described it as running through the Oneida Colony and other utopian communities of the 19th century through the free-love beliefs and attitudes that exploded in the 1960s.
Stage 2 has been what we call the modern poly movement: strongly feminist in its origins and growth, born in the mid-1980s and running until more or less now. Its founders, organizers, media spokespeople, bloggers, podcasters, book authors and opinion leaders have been mostly women (the ratio by my count is about 3 to 1). Its ideology has been gender-egalitarian, communication-centric, and consent-based since before consent culture was a thing. Like Stage 1, Stage 2 has been something of a counterculture that sees itself apart from mainstream society.
The current Stage 3 is the mainstreaming of consensual non-monogamy (CNM) in its many forms, including polyamory, into the general culture. This shift is well under way and bodes to take over the conversation in coming years — for better and for worse, as I’ve been speechifying about since 2008.
Does this make those of us who’ve been doing polyamory for ages “poly hipsters”?
The “polyromantic comedy” series You Me Her opens its fourth season tonight (Tuesday April 9) at 10 on AT&T’s Audience Network. There is no other show like it on television.
Season 1 was about a troubled couple who, independently, fell for the same third person by way of comic flukes: a novelty gimmick. But creator/producer John Scott Shepherd soon realized that the show was onto something bigger. Season 2 began straight off with the three together in a serious, all-around polyamorous relationship, and things have grown from there.
Life, of course, hasn’t been easy for them. Tonight’s opening of Season 4 is titled “Triangular Peg, Meet Round World.” Season 5 is already scheduled for 2020.
Joy! I loved the first three seasons of You Me Her, admittedly while – during the first couple of seasons at least – simultaneously bemoaning how long it took the characters to learn lessons that my polycule(s) solved in far shorter order. I was originally watching it with Ruth and JTA but they lagged and I ran ahead, and I really enjoyed this first episode of season 4 too.
“The three parents share incubation responsibilities for the eggs — three this year — as they have in previous years,” according to Out There With the Birds, the blog of Bird Watcher’s Digest. “Like their relationship, their history is complicated.”
So… two eagles, Valor I (male) and Hope (female) raised some chicks in a nest. Then Valor II (another male) came along and tried to displace Valor I, but he wouldn’t go, so the pair of them both ultimately cooperated in raising Hope’s chicks, even after Hope was driven away by some other eagles. Later, another female, Starr, turned up and Valor I and Valor II are collectively incubating three eggs of hers in the nest.
I’ve known (human) polyamorous networks with origin stories less-complicated than this.
Apparently the NCSF (US) are typing to make 28 February into Metamour Day: a celebration of one’s lover’s lovers. While I’m not convinced that’ll ever get Hallmark’s interest, I thought it provided a good opportunity to sing the praises of my metamour, JTA.
I first met JTA 15 years ago at Troma Night XX, when his girlfriend Ruth – an attendee of Troma Night since its earliest days the previous year – brought him along and we all mocked his three-letter initialism. Contrary to our previous experience, thanks to Liz, of people bringing boyfriends once but never again (we always assumed that we scared them off), JTA became a regular, even getting to relive some of the early nights that he’d missed in our nostalgic 50th event. Before long, I felt glad to count him among my friends.
You have a fantastic temper which you keep carefully bottled away and of which you draw out only a little at a time and only where it is genuinely justly deserved. Conversely, your devotion to the things you love and care about is equally inspiring.
Hello, friendly insurance salesman I spoke to earlier today! I’ve been expecting you. Also: sorry.
I’ve been expecting you because you seemed so keen to finish your shift and search for me and, with my name, I’m pretty easy to find. I knew that you planned to search for me because after I caused so much trouble for your computer systems then, well, I probably deserved it.
I’m sorry that what should have been a click-click-done exercise came down to a live chat session and then a phone call. I don’t mean to be more work for people.
But thank you for being friendly. And useful. And generally awesome. I expected a painful process, perhaps because that’s what I’d had from my last insurer. You, on the other hand (and your Live Chat colleague who I spoke to beforehand) were fantastic. Somehow you were more-pleasant, more-competent, and represent better value than the insurer we’re coming from, so thank you. And that’s the real reason that I hope you’ll follow through on the suggestion that you search for me by name: because you deserve a pat on the back.
Our eldest, 4, started school this year and this week saw her first parents’ evening. This provided an opportunity for we, her parents, to “come out” to her teacher about our slightly-unconventional relationship structure. And everything was fine, which is nice.
I’m sure the first few months of every child’s school life are a time that’s interesting and full of change, but it’s been particularly fascinating to see the ways in which our young academic’s language has adapted to fit in with and be understood by her peers.
I first became aware of these changes, I think, when I overheard her describing me to one of her school friends as her “dad”: previously she’d always referred to me as her “Uncle Dan”. I asked her about it afterwards and she explained that I was like a dad, and that her friend didn’t have an “Uncle Dan” so she used words that her friend would know. I’m not sure whether I was prouder about the fact that she’d independently come to think of me as being like a bonus father figure, or the fact that she demonstrated such astute audience management.
I don’t object to being assigned this (on-again, off-again, since then) nickname. My moniker of Uncle Dan came about as a combination of an effort to limit ambiguity (“wait… which dad?”) and an attempt not to tread on the toes of actual-father JTA: the kids themselves are welcome to call me pretty-much whatever they’re comfortable with. Indeed, they’d be carrying on a family tradition if they chose-for-themselves what to call me: Ruth and her brothers Robin and Owen address their father not by a paternal noun but by his first name, Tom, and this kids have followed suit by adopting “Grand-Tom” as their identifier for him.
Knowing that we were unusual, though, we’d taken the time to do some groundwork before our eldest started school. For example we shared a book about and spent a while talking about how families differ from one another: we figure that an understanding that families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes is a useful concept in general from a perspective of diversity and and acceptance. In fact, you can hear how this teaching pays-off in the language she uses to describe other aspects of the differences she sees in her friends and their families, too.
Still, it was a little bit of a surprise to find myself referred to as a “dad” after four years of “Uncle Dan”.
Nonetheless: in light of the fact that she’d clearly been talking about her family at school and might have caused her teacher some confusion, when all three of us “parents” turned up to parents’ evening we opted to introduce ourselves and our relationship. Which was all fine (as you’d hope: as I mentioned the other day, our unusual relationship structure is pretty boring, really), and the only awkwardness was in having to find an additional chair than the teacher had been expecting to use with which to sit at the table.
There’s sometimes a shortage of happy “we did a thing, and it went basically the same as it would for a family with monogamous parents” poly-family stories online, so I thought this one was worth sharing.
And better yet: apparently she’s doing admirably at school. So we all celebrated with an after-school trip to one of our favourite local soft play centres.
Sometimes Stephanie Weisner doesn’t know how two-parent families do it all, without a Mike in tow.
Weisner, 38, has been in a polyamorous relationship with her husband, Ian Hubbard, and her work colleague, Mike Wissink, for eight years. The three adults all live together in one home in Moncton, alongside Weisner and Hubbard’s two children, who are seven and nine years old.
The family keeps a joint e-mail account to sort out their household logistics. While Weisner and Wissink, 49, work shifts at their airline industry jobs, Hubbard, 47, home-schools the children. Wissink often cooks and cleans while Weisner does the groceries. All three pitch in with bedtimes and shuttling the kids to their various activities. This winter, the whole family’s going to Disney World.
“We’re very boring and normal,” said Weisner. “We’re not swinging from chandeliers.”
Sometimes somebody will ask me about my polyamorous relationships and they often have a preconception that Ruth, JTA and I’s lives are incredibly interesting and exciting (usually with the assumption on the side that we’re particularly sexually-adventurous). But like virtually any other decade-plus long relationship and especially with children in tow, we’re really quite ordinary and domestic. That there’s an additional adult around is basically the only thing that stands out, and we’re each individually far more-interesting and diverse than we are by the product of our romantic lifestyle.
This article pleased me somewhat because of the symmetries between us and the family depicted by it, but especially because they too seem to have to spend time reassuring other that they’re just regular folks, beneath it all. There’s a tendency to assume that if somebody’s a little different from you then everything else must be different too, and articles like this help to remind us that we’re all a lot more-alike than we are different. Even we weird polyamorous people.
Polyamory — having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once — has in recent years emerged on television, mainstream dating sites like OkCupid and even in research. And experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships, say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.
Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.
Really interesting to see quite how-widespread the media appeal is growing of looking at polyamory as more than just a curiosity or something titillating. I’ve long argued that the things that one must learn for a successful polyamorous relationship are lessons that have great value even for people who prefer monogamous ones (I’ve even recommended some of my favourite “how-to” polyamory books to folks seeking to improve their monogamous relationships!), so it pleases me to see a major publication like Time take the same slant.
A letter I got recently and a question I was asked in another forum really got me to thinking. The question was: How did you come to realize that poly-amorous relationships were right for you? Now …
A letter I got recently and a question I was asked in another forum really got me to thinking. The question was: How did you come to realize that poly-amorous relationships were right for you? Now that you live this lifestyle, do you think that it’s for everyone, or more “natural” than monogamy? I answered:…
I was pleased to see that one of my favourite poly bloggers came out and said what I’ve always argued: that polyamory might well not be for everyone! I’m a big fan of the idea that everybody can learn some useful relationship-negotiation and communication skills from studying the practice of polyamory, but I’m certainly not suggesting that my lifestyle ought to be everybody else’s!
Erika and I did a long weekend in the woods as part of a victory lap/recovery from the Kickstarter. SO GOOD, and SO NEEDED. It's with great thanks that I share this wonderful comic from Natalie on her non-monogamous life. I hope you all like this slice of autobio and honest comic. Drop her a word of
Erika and I did a long weekend in the woods as part of a victory lap/recovery from the Kickstarter. SO GOOD, and SO NEEDED. It’s with great thanks that I share this wonderful comic from Natalie on her non-monogamous life. I hope you all like this slice of autobio and honest comic. Drop her a…
Oh Joy Sex Toy is a fabulous webcomic anyway, but it was especially pleasing to see some poly-representation in a guest comic on the site recently. Especially when that guest comic mirrors a broad part of my own experience of polyamory: that it may look exciting, sexy, scandalous or crazy to other people, but – for the most part – to us it’s pretty everyday, domestic, and mundane.
We seem to be finally, actually doing it: making the whole world aware of the polyamorous possibility. That’s Elisabeth Sheff’s term for discovering that happy, ethical multi-loving relationships are even possible, that people are successfully doing them right now, and that maybe you can too.
Every December, Google announces the year’s top trending search terms compared to the year before. In the Relationships category, Google just announced that polyamory became one of the top four topics. CNN Moneyreported this morning,
You’ve had hundreds of hours of discussions on what your open relationship will look like? Check!
You’ve written down a list of limits, boundaries, rules, and expectations? Check!
You’ve created dating profiles that honestly detail what you are looking for and the honesty with your existing relationship? Check!
You’ve read at least 3 books together on the topic of nonmonogamy? Check?
You and your partner subscribe and listen to at least 3 nonmonogamous friendly podcasts? Check!
You’re all set! You open up the relationship and go off on your first dates… WHAM, arguing, suspicion, jealousy, withholding information, yelling, crying, breaking down… and a month later, you believe you don’t know each other anymore and you’re ready to call a marriage counsellor, divorce, forget you ever opened up your relationship, or all of the above.