Thursday, September 3, 2009

Apparently I'm Some Kind of Polyamory Expert

A weird thing has been happening for the last week or so. I'm a member of an online dating site where I have a profile that says I'm polyamorous. I've never been remotely successful at using this site, by the way. Luckily I'm slightly better at meeting people in real life.

Suddenly, in the last little while, people have been contacting me and asking me questions about polyamory. Which I have been happily answering because I think it's great that people are considering polyamory and I want to help them along. Friends have accused me of believing that everyone would be happier if they were polyamorous and that just isn't true. However I do believe that many people are conditioned to believe nonmonogamy can't work in serious relationships and so, while they might be kind of turned on by the idea, they never give it a chance. I live in hope that I'll answer a question someday that will make a difference to one of those people because I used to be one. So, even though I'm no Dan Savage, feel free to write me if you have a question. You can reach me at

In case anyone was wondering about the same thing these people asked, here are the questions I've answered so far.

So I went to a womyn's retreat last weekend where we talked a lot about polyamory, and I also have a friend who is also polyamorous ... this concept intrigues me. What is the difference between open relationships and polyamorous? I'd like to learn more. I'm def open to open relationsips but can't get into this hierarchical ranking of "primary" etc partners. Any advice in exploreing this arena would be appreciated...
There isn't really a big difference between polyamory and open relationships. Polyamory is a semi-organized movement these days, so people who call themselves polyamorous are more likely to be following a set of very strict ethical rules, while people who say they have an open relationship may be flying blind a little bit more. But not always. Not even close to always, in fact.

There are a whole lot of books about polyamory these days. I would recommend The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, which has been the poly "bible" for more than a decade; or Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino, which talks about all sorts of nonmonogamous relationships other than polyamory (swinging, for instance). If you're more in the mood for a testimonial/memoir then Open, by Jenny Block, isn't bad. You can get these books at an independent bookstore like Bluestockings or frequently at Babeland. There are also a few poly groups in the New York area -- Polyamorous NYC and Tri-State Poly (a Yahoo! group). I don't attend those very much myself -- I'm more of a Christmas and Easter type, so I show up for Poly Pride, which is Friday 10/9 and Saturday 10/10 this year. Finally, I'd recommend the Polyamory Weekly podcast, by Cunning Minx.

I'm interested in knowing who was proselytizing for polyamory at the womyn's retreat you went to. I'm not surprise to learn that polyamory is being talked about there -- it is a movement that's definitely being run by women (for instance, all of the authors and the podcaster I mentioned are female). Anyway, I'd love to know exactly how you got interested, and why it appeals to you.

In theory I'm poly, but at the moment I'm still sorting it out. I just met someone for whom my feelings are so passionate and strong that it's making me question polyamory. Scary stuff. Have you been able to make multiple serious relationships work? I thought I could, but now I don't know.
Unlike mono relationships, which have some set rules, poly relationships are kind of anything goes (as long as everyone agrees). It's difficult to say when one is successful except that you're happy with it at the moment. I am right now, but that doesn't really make me an expert. Multiple serious relationships CAN work -- I've seen it happen and I've been a part of it. But it definitely doesn't always work for everybody.

As someone who considers herself poly "in theory," I don't think it's wrong for you to get into a monogamous relationship. It will give you a chance to really commit to each other. Then, if you want to open the relationship down the road, you'll do it with a really strong foundation to build from. Or maybe you'll stay happily monogamous forever. That's cool too. So if I were in your position -- in love and drawn towards monogamy (congratulations, by the way!) -- and didn't have a number of other relationships at that moment, I would definitely go with my gut and begin a mono relationship. But the first thing I would do is check with my partner to make sure it really is monogamous because a lot of people take that for granted at the beginning of a serious relationship and sometimes there's a misunderstanding. And while I was having that conversation I would say something like, "I'm asking 'cause I don't think a relationship necessarily needs to be monogamous to be serious. I want to commit to a monogamous relationship with you but if somewhere down the road you ever think you want to try an open relationship I'd be open to discussing that."

polyamory is stupid. stupid stupid stupid and its just a reason to put your dick in as much vagina as possible. just stay oh i dont know single?
Ok, thanks for your opinion. You have a nice day now.


  1. That last questioner should consider opening up to a wider range of punctuation.

    Snark aside, thank you for your thoughtful, interesting posts. It's good to have you back!