Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan

April 23, 2015

Good poly-mono crossover values, continued


Here's another fine article on what mono and poly people may learn from each other. It's been getting good notices in the polysphere since it went up yesterday.

RoleReboot ("Life, off script") is an online magazine with often radical perspectives on building your own way of life. "We prize the personal narrative and believe that honest storytelling is the most powerful form of consciousness-raising. We believe that storytelling can subvert the idea that things have to be the way they are."

What I Learned About Polyamory From My Happily Monogamous Parents

They taught me that the more you love people, the more love you have to give.

By Leah Henderson

My parents (to my knowledge at least) are about as monogamous as you can get. They met on the playground — 11 years old, my mom turned to her friend and said “I’m going to marry him.” She did. And to this day my parents are best friends, lovers, companions, co-parents, who are socially, economically, spiritually, and politically tethered to each other.

Though they’re left-leaning, and accepting of their anarchist, queer daughter — who’s thrown a lot of shit in their direction in the last 30 years — there’s still one place that we just can’t seem to come to an understanding about: my choice to be in polyamorous relationship structures.

They are kind enough to mostly stay silent about it.... In the conversations we’ve had about polyamory, what I take away from my parents is that their relationship has been a source of nourishment, protection, and is a loving container — and they want me to have those things — and can’t imagine a different structure doing that. Which, while I don’t agree with, I can understand — lived experience is powerful and not something to negate.

...Often, people tell me that I am “good at poly.” I’m always curious about this. I fight. I’m jealous. I ask unreasonable things of my dates. I’m insecure, and when my relationships shift or grow, there is a time of adjustment that often includes tears, tantrums, and lots and lots of processing. Through these moments my dates and I find each other.

When I think about the two practices that I fall back on most often in my polyamorous relationships, all the credit goes to my monogamous superstar mom and dad:

The first practice: love multiplies love.

Going to sleep as a small child, when mom and dad would say to me “love you,” I’d respond with “love you more.” They would always reply “not possible” while kissing me on the head.

One night, I asked why it wasn’t possible. They told me that it was because with age comes more life experience — they had been able to love more people than I had in my six years. They said the more you love people, the more love you have to give. It was a simple love ritual between us every night. But it left a deep imprint in how I approach and view the world....

The second practice: different kids, different rules.

My youngest sister and I couldn’t have been more different as kids.... While we were not a rule-heavy house, I do remember that regularly when one of us would complain that it wasn’t fair that one of us was getting something the other one wasn’t, my parents would respond “different kids, different rules.”... They knew we were different....

I carry this with me. What I need to feel cared for and safe, to stretch and to grow, is usually pretty different than what my date needs (that whole, different people different experiences thing). Instead of creating a set of rules that we both follow, I work with my sweeties to learn what care and love and safety feels like for them and together we come up with ways to have those things met. We find each other....

Leah Henderson is a community activist living in Toronto, Canada. A trainer, facilitator and mediator, she works with Queer and Trans communities committed to anti-racism, and decolonization work.

Here's the whole article (April 22, 2015).


And on the subject of good relationshipping, Brian Frederick's classic from 1998 has gotten rediscovered and is going around again. It's as good as ever: Polyamory Self-Improvement Program. Here's an alternative link. And another.

Brian Frederick ("a proud member of the surfcow quad") originally titled it "Tools for Healthy Relationships" and posted it on the alt.polyamory Usenet group for comments and edits in March 1998. Alt.polyamory (now accessible through Google Groups) was the first poly discussion list on the internet; it started in May 1992. The Oxford English Dictionary credits its founding, by Jennifer L. Wesp, as the origin of the word polyamory — though the word also seems to have been coined independently by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart two years earlier.



April 17, 2015

"Seven Reasons Non-Monogamy May Be The Best Thing For You," and Ask Amy says never never.

Two hot-button open-relationship items are out and abroad in the media this morning, promoting opposite views. The mass-market women's site Bustle offers "7 Reasons Non-Monogamy May Be The Best Thing For You", and newspaper advice columnist Amy Dickinson is all over the place saying these things never work.

● From the Bustle article:

How Does An Open Relationship Work? 7 Reasons Non-Monogamy May Be The Best Thing For You

By Olivia Gatwood

When I tell people I’m in an open relationship, the most common response I get is, “But don’t you get jealous?” Well, if you must know, the answer is yes. Of course I do. Everyone does. My partner once said to me, “The problem isn’t the fact that we feel jealous, the problem is how we react to it.” The thing is, you create your open relationship rules. You have to mold your relationship so that it fits you best....

But the open relationship is made up of a lot more than just the question of jealousy. There are many reasons you might want to consider being in one, or maybe just reconfiguring the boundaries of the relationship you’re currently in.... The reality is, it’s a huge task to unlearn all of the things we are taught about love, but a vital one nonetheless....

1. It’s not just about sex.

...Sometimes having an “open” relationship just means a relationship free of the pressure that often arises when a person feels bound by monogamy. Sometimes, simply feeling like you can do whatever you want is enough.

2. But at the same time, you can discover other sides of yourself....

3. It can bring more honesty into the relationship.

Once the feeling that you need to hide something is lifted, you might feel more comfortable communicating with your partner about the way you feel in general. Maybe you can finally tell them that their eggplant parmesan isn’t even that good and they’ll just laugh and be like, “Yeah, well you fart in your sleep.”

4. Believe it or not, it can soothe your jealousy....

5. It will help you maintain your own identity.

Sometimes, when you fall in love, it’s easy to lose yourself to another person.... When I say “lose yourself” I mean it in the “hermit-in-love” kind of way versus the controlling, suffocating relationship kind of way. If you identify with the former, consider the fact that an open relationship might help you maintain a sense of autonomy, whether that’s going out and flirting at the club, or simply feeling like you don’t owe someone every part of yourself.

6. It can bring you and your partner closer together.

Once you’ve created an open-relationship that both you and your partner are comfortable with, the two of you might actually become more intimate than before. If honesty, autonomy, and support are all large components of your relationship, you are most likely going to feel happy, healthy and in love more often than not.

7. You can make your own rules.

Every open relationship is different.... Think about your own boundaries before setting rules. Challenge yourself, but also keep in mind what will be healthiest for you and your partner as emotional individuals. Listen to your partner, ask questions, try things out and if they’re not working, speak up! This is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of story.

Read the whole piece, with bouncy graphics (April 16, 2015).

"Ask Amy"
● Also just out, newspaper advice columnist "Ask Amy" (Amy Dickinson) responds to a reader that open marriages don't work, because

What are the odds that both partners will find other fulfilling sexual partners at the same time, have relationships of the same duration and intensity, and not damage their marriage? The prospects are not good. Open marriages don’t work because the “openness” more or less negates the “marriage.”

Maybe that's true if you're unwilling to examine and remake some of your cultural assumptions. Or to even see them.

Amy and her readers need education — starting with advice to google up your local polyamory support group and meet some of the people making it work well.

So, find a bunch of newspapers running this week's column and post to the comments. Email a copy of your post to letters@[newspaper's domain name].com, and copy Amy directly (once) at askamy@tribpub.com.


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April 16, 2015

In France, a new movie about a triad:
*À trois on y va*

Slate France

Eve Rickert found this movie review and personal story in France "because we [were] getting tons of site traffic from it" to MoreThanTwo.com.

The movie, À trois on y va, was released in France on March 25th and is getting a lot of attention. The title means "We go as three," but the official English title is All About Them. The trailer:

Excerpts from the Slate France article, with help from Google Translate:

Trouple: we must stop thinking of the couple as the only possible form of love

In «À trois on y va», director Jérôme Bonnell outlines the possibility of a three-way love. I've experienced this this love, and it is viable.

By Thomas Messias

The word sounds like a joke. Trouple. An awkward portmanteau of a word, not very engaging, hardly inspiring confidence. Yet in the language of polyamory (a generic term covering different kinds of multiple love), the trouple is a real word. Also used in English, it means a triangular love in which each person maintains a relationship with the other two. A loves B, who loves C, who likes A, and vice versa. It's a device that Bonnell develops in a part of his film À trois on y va, a little treatise on love and desire, and betrayal, that stands out from the traditional couple scenarios by examining the relationships between Charlotte (Sophie Verbeeck), Micha (Félix Moati), and Melody (Anaïs Demoustier).

The plurality of polyamory

The trouple is not the only form of relationship among three.

On his website MoreThanTwo.com, dedicated to polyamory, writer Franklin Veaux, who lives in Portland and has several partners, provides a detailed and fairly comprehensive glossary....

I personally experienced a vee for several months, not as the pivot. Last summer, L., wife, met E., another woman, who she fell in love with. We ended up all three meeting to better understand what was happening: the slow building of a triangular relationship.

Very quickly, because trust and respect were present, E. and I started to develop a true friendship.... it worked like clockwork for half a year....

Read on, in French (March 25, 2015). He gets back to the movie later.

Here are the movie's IMDB page in English and its AlloCiné page in French. It's had lots of reviews in the French press: in Le Monde, Libération, Le Nouvel Observateur, and many others.


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April 15, 2015

Long TV report on polyfolks in Israel

A 42-minute report on polyamory recently appeared on Israel's mainstream Channel 10 TV. It's mostly in Hebrew. Ofek at tvuna.org tells us, "Brave families, even with children, went out of the closet in a fairly positive TV [report]. It emphasized that polyamory is the future and that people who choose this path want acceptance. The highlight of the show is the 12 year old daughter who tells the annoying interviewer that she is happy her parents found a way to be happy."


If javascript version above fails to display, watch here (March 10, 2015).

The show's blurb, via Google Translate:

The true face of open relationships

How would you feel if your wife tells you she was in love with another man? Would you accept that your husband slept the night with a lover? How do you live with several mates? And how do the children feel? A glimpse into the lives of families who decided to kick all normative conventions.

The comments on the show's Facebook page are brutal, according to a thread that got going on reddit/r/polyamory. Some commented that we're seeing the difference between secular, liberal Tel Aviv and conservative, religious Jerusalem.


P.S.: About his group tvuna.org, Ofek writes,

TVUNA means "raw wisdom" — we started by going out on [raw food] foraging trips for several days at a time — and re-discovered eden. Magic happens when a group of people willingly choose to take care of their economy in most simple and direct way — and collectively. From this we realized the need for a tribe, questioned ownership of land and food, and from this ownership in general — naturally progressed to a more tribal view of relationships and wider view of intimacy.


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April 13, 2015

U.K. tabs spotlight triad with kids

The Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail, two of the papers that give the British press its trashy reputation, have decided apparently that poly sells. This morning they both present essentially the same splashy, photo-laden feature story about an MFF triad, treating it as the tale of a nerdy guy who made good. The story isn't so bad, considering.

Jane, Adam, Brooke and kids.

This comes a month after both papers picked up on the Looks Like Love To Me triad's story.

Short version of this new one: Adam was a lonely nerd, took pickup artist lessons, got so good at it that he set up shop as a dating coach, married "Alexandra," they moved to Texas, the marriage hit the rocks, they tried going poly to save the marriage, that worked until it didn't, and they broke up. Adam paired up with Brooke, they went on a unicorn hunt — and found one. Adam, Brooke and Jane have been happy ever after (we're given to believe) and are raising two kids in L.A.

Meet the polyamorous Brit who lives with two women in the US, raising their children as 'a throuple'

By Pesala Bandara

Dating coach Adam Lyons lives with Brooke Shedd and Jane Shalakhova in a polyamorous relationship — but when he was at school he was voted 'the least likely to ever get a girlfriend'

...The trio — who share a super-kingsize bed and take it in turns to have romantic date nights together — insist that they can provide a loving family environment for their newborn.

Adam, from East London, says: "We're just like any other family. Except in ours, there'll be one dad and two mums who live under the same roof — and there'll be nothing but love for our children.

Brooke, who already has a five-year-old son, Oliver, from a previous relationship who lives with the trio, adds: "With two partners, I'll never have to leave my kids with someone I don't trust."


Says Adam, "After trying marriage out with Alexandra, I didn't want to limit myself to being with just one person ever again.

"I loved the polyamorous lifestyle because it's okay to date someone else if one partner can't provide exactly what you need at that time."

Brooke, from Texas, says: "Equally although I loved Adam, I didn't want to stop seeing other women.

"I really pushed for us to have an open relationship too. So Adam and I decided to work as a team and pick up girls to have sex with together."

Adam and Brooke continued having casual threesomes together but were also looking for a third woman to permanently join their relationship.

Then in April 2013, the twosome met photographer, Jane, in a nightclub in Texas and immediately hit it off with her.

...Jane — who is bisexual but who had only been in a monogamous relationship before — says: "I loved how there was no pressure to do anything when I first met Adam and Brooke.

"We just hung out, spoke and flirted at their house. I had never experimented with polyamorous relationships but with Adam and Brooke, it felt so natural. They were two awesome people.

"It's like imagine you meet your soul mate. Now multiply that by two. It's twice the love."

...In early 2014, Brooke, Adam and her son moved to Los Angeles to be nearer to Jane. A few months later, they all bought a house that they could all live in together.

After a year of living as a trio, Adam and Brooke just gave birth to a baby boy, Dante in February and they hope to raise him together with Jane. Adam and Brooke strongly believe that three parents are better than two.... Jane says: "I will have kids in a few years too. Caring for Dante has been good practice. And I know Brooke will be there for me when I'm pregnant."

...Brooke says: "We are committed to each other. But we would be open to adding another person if we met another girl who we liked and fitted into our lifestyle.

..."In the same way that it's hard to find one person to commit your life to — there's three of us who have to agree to the next person."

Good luck, folks. Read the whole article (April 13, 2015) in the Mirror. It comes with a 2-minute video. Here's the version in the Daily Mail, almost identical but with a few sexier bits.

BTW, Adam is still in the dating-coach business, and he lists a bunch of his official PUA championship awards. (Yes official PUA championships exist, shudder.)

Update same day: The British celebrity-and-fashion mag Closer published the same story on its website the same day. All this simultaneous publicity is due to an outfit called News Dog Media, which the triad, or just Adam, may have hired.

A bit later: And now the New York Daily News. It's a conspiracy of tabloids.


April 10, 2015

"Poly Philly: What's that like?"

Philadelphia City Paper

Yesterday's post was on the first of the two long articles that appeared this week about the Philadelphia poly scene: the one in the upscale Philadelphia magazine. Here's the other, in the alternative weekly the Philadelphia City Paper.

It begins with a long account of February's Poly Living conference put on every year by Loving More. (Here's my own quite different report from that event.)

Poly Philly: People all over the city are practicing ethical non-monogamy. What's that like?

Maria Pouchnikova

By Mikala Jamison

From the front of the buzzing-with-energy events room of the airport Embassy Suites hotel, Robyn Trask instructs everyone to rise from their chairs and turn to their right.

It’s late February, freezing outside, and Trask, executive director of the Loving More nonprofit, tells the 200-plus polyamorous (or poly-interested, or poly-ally) people to get cozy.

Take the shoulders of the person in front of you, Trask instructs. The woman who is now behind me, Tori Sidenstricker, tells me I’ve got to play along, too. Prompted by Trask, she starts to massage me. Sidenstricker is simultaneously having her shoulders rubbed from behind by John Michael Neal, then one of her two male partners.

“Now say, ‘I appreciate you,’” Trask says. I’m at the end of my row; I have no shoulders to rub. I feel a degree of relief, and also very much like the outsider I am.

“I appreciate you,” the assembly echoes twice more. Once re-seated, three women sitting in front of me blissfully exchange kisses.

Soon, renowned polyamory writer, activist and educator Franklin Veaux will deliver the keynote address while wearing bunny ears.

“For those of us who can tell our stories, we are normalizing this,” Veaux says. “We are not monsters for doing this.”

Veaux implores, “We have to keep telling our stories.”

A few minutes prior, the group had been instructed to keep the PDA to a respectful minimum — no making out on the hotel lobby’s couches; please be fully clothed in the lobby — and some will soon change into fancier dress for the “Bohemian Nights”-themed Polyamory Dance Party. When I popped into the dance later on, the first song playing was “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” One guy had on shimmery harem pants. [That was me! –Ed.]

So began the 10th annual Poly Living 2015 Philadelphia conference....

Maria Pouchnikova

...But beyond the touchy-feely workshops, the conference serves a distinct purpose — to help educate and connect a growing community. Poly Living conferences usually attract 130 to 180 people; last year brought in 175 and this year, 210 people from all over the country attended. Poly Living was actually founded in 2005 right here in Philly.

“Whether you’re monogamous or poly, we’re really not taught these skills to have really healthy relationships,” Trask says. “That’s why we do these conferences; we help people learn how to do this.”

From Friday to Sunday, there are workshops on the basics of poly (emotional issues, safe sex, common concerns); coming out; jealousy; poly parenting; ditching the “rules” of poly; abuse in poly; gender in poly, even a faith-based workshop taught by a minister.

...Some poly relationships can evolve into [the Relationship] Anarchy model, says Phillip Weber, 30, one of the creators of the invite-only Facebook group, Polydelphia, which has 230 members, both poly people and allies.

Weber has six female partners in addition to Tiffany Adams, the partner he lives with in Bensalem. Adams has one female partner and three male partners. They each spend time with their other partners frequently — some once a week, some once a month. Weber might have three to five date nights in a week, but it’s flexible — he uses Google Docs and a Google calendar to keep everything straight. That’s common in poly, he says.

“It’s definitely like, ‘All right, this relationship is final because we’re sharing Google calendars,’” he says with a laugh.

Some of Adams’ partners date some of Weber’s partners. Adams doesn’t date any of the people Weber dates — but that’s not a “rule,” just how it is — that’s kind of what relationship anarchy is about.

Weber says his group of partners is “more free than a lot of people,” but for him, relationship anarchy is the closest definition of what they do:

“Everything is negotiable; relationships themselves aren’t more important than the people involved, and all relationships are one-to-one,” Weber explains. “If I start a relationship with Tiff’s boyfriend or girlfriend, that doesn’t give her [Tiff] any particular control over that relationship. … Third parties don’t control relationships.

...“People had to be a lot more entrenched and careful about who knew [about their poly relationship] 15 or 20 years ago,” he says. “So those [older] relationships are a lot more tight-knit and cellular.”


Four [local] online groups I found for poly people had popped up in 2014 alone — Weber’s 230-strong Polydelphia group, along with three groups on Meetup.com: Greater Philly Alt. Lifestyle and Relationship Social Tribe (304 members), NY/NJ/PA Solo Poly & Relationships Anarchy (RA) Network (104 members), and Black & Poly Philadelphia (52 members).

Another Meetup that started in 2007, Philadelphia Mindful Polyamory Meetup Group, has 931 members, and the Phila. Polyamory and “Open” Relationships Discussion Group, started in 2010, has 390.


I asked Weber if he thought polyamorous people are happier than monogamous people.

“A lot of happiness is prevalent in the poly community, and in the monogamous relationships that exercise the same skills, like consideration and thoughtfulness,” he says. “On average, I see a lot of happier poly people, but I think it’s just a matter of skills, it’s not necessarily built into the relationship structure.”

A challenge of monogamy, he says, is that there are just assumed rules and agreements, “the cookie-cutter, romantic-comedy version” of relationships, that couples implicitly agree to without talking about. That doesn’t happen in poly.

“The worst feeling is the idea that someone will hit you with, ‘’If you’re dating two people you can’t love them equally or the same amount you could love one person,’” Weber says. “That’s basically the challenge that I find, this idea of scarcity. The healthiest way for poly people to look at it is the only truly scarce resource you have is time.”...

Read the whole article, nearly 4,000 words (April 9, 2015).


IN OTHER NEWS, The Looks Like Love To Me triad had their ABC Nightline appearance bumped forward from last night, possibly to next Thursday night. They write, "Some other news out there in the world took the spot. Gives us more time to keep shining up our website! Have you noticed some spiffin' up in the past day or so?"



April 9, 2015

"Welcome to Polydelphia!"

Philadelphia magazine

The Philadelphia public just got two long feature articles, each nearly 4,000 words, about the local poly scene. Coincidence, I presume! This first one appeared in glossy, upscale Philadelphia magazine. Next up will be the one in the more street-level Philadelphia City Paper. The author of this first story is occasionally snarky but mostly is amazed and impressed by the people.

Welcome to Polydelphia!

Everything about these Philadelphians is completely normal. Well, except that Tiffany lives with Phillip, but also has sex with Jon and Josh. Meanwhile, Josh also sleeps with Heather and Mae, who both hook up with Phillip (who, you’ll remember, lives with Tiffany.) Isn’t millennial love fun?

FAMILY DINNER: From left to right: Jon, Josh, Tiffany, Phillip and Mae cooking up dinner at Phillip and Tiffany’s house in Bensalem. (Photo by Gene Smirnov)

By Chelsea Edgar

...Tiffany and most of her boyfriends are polyamorous, meaning that they’re free to pursue multiple romantic relationships at once.... All of her partners and her partners’ partners have complicated networks of their own. As if managing these relationships isn’t enough, Tiffany runs a 200-plus-member secret [Facebook] group called Polydelphia, an online community for Philly’s young poly cohort. When she’s not being polyamory-extraordinaire-about-town, she works a full-time job as a nurse. Oh, and she’s in a band.

...But here’s the thing about Tiffany: When she’s with you, she’s 100 percent with you, and you’ll forget that she was late in the first place. She makes direct eye contact. She barely looks at her phone. We talk in the coffee shop until the barista shuts off the lights in the pastry case, and she ends up missing part of band practice.

This is how she manages to juggle so many commitments: She doesn’t try to be everywhere at the same time. But it hasn’t always come this easy. As she sips her coffee, she explains that she’s a recovered serial monogamist.... Being polyamorous, she says, without a hint of irony, has helped her figure out how to get her needs met without losing herself in the process.

...Lately, the concept of fluidity in relationships has been inching its way into the zeitgeist... This increased visibility is partly a function of the Internet and social media, where everything that was once considered niche now lives at our fingertips. But polyamory also seems to be gaining currency as we search for a relationship model that can withstand the complexity of modern life. The numbers prove there’s growing interest: As many as 12 million Americans practice some form of consensual non-monogamy today. There are poly meet-up groups in major cities on both coasts [sic], including the notoriously in-the-box Philadelphia — which, incidentally, has hosted an annual polyamory conference since 1995 [Loving More's Poly Living East]. And now, thanks in part to Tiffany’s organizing efforts, polyamory is having something of a moment among Philly’s under-40 set.

Tiffany and Phillip first came up with the idea for Polydelphia about a year and a half ago, after attending a series of unsatisfying meet-ups. Tiffany doesn’t mince words in explaining what the problem was: “We were the youngest people in the room by, like, 30 years. And the most attractive. So we were this novelty, and everyone just wanted to talk to us.”... Tiffany and Phillip were looking for an active, engaged community, not a self-help circle.... Instead they would focus on issues relevant to them: how to manage packed Google calendars, how to navigate sticky situations at work, how to introduce significant others to their families. And, you know, have fun. By January 2014, an invite-only Facebook group had been created, and Polydelphia was born.

To preach the gospel of anything-goes while leading an exhaustively scheduled life might seem contradictory, but that’s the biggest surprise — or perhaps the biggest letdown — of polyamory: What appears to be romantic and sexual spontaneity is often a minutely choreographed balancing act, revised as needed to ensure that no one feels forgotten. Tiffany is at home in this particular world, and she says she’s never felt less constrained. Her goal, she says, is to experience real emotional freedom. She gets to be selfish at times, to focus on meeting her own needs instead of obsessing over someone else’s. She gets to date both men and women whenever she wants. She gets to use her unsurpassed gift for making new friends (“I used to have resting bitch face,” she confesses, though you’d never know it), and she can let those friendships seek their own level without imposing limits. She doesn’t do “me” time. Instead, she recharges by surrounding herself with people.

But it’s not just about being social; Tiffany says poly has given her an opportunity to “bash away at her insecurities.” “Initially it was hard for me to open up about my feelings when I was feeling jealousy or discomfort with a new situation,” she says. “Now, vulnerability is my baseline.”

...I can’t help but feel a stab of envy. What would it be like to have two or three or even four people who might be available to deliver an organic chocolate bar in times of need? What potentially could be an unreasonable request of one person — a last-minute ride to the airport, a late-night pep talk — is light work for a vast network of romantic partners — a network that becomes, in effect, a family. As Easton and Hardy write in The Ethical Slut, “When you are part of such a circle, new lovers of any member are potential friends and family members of your own, so the focus changes from competition and exclusivity to a sense of inclusion and welcome, often very warm indeed.”...

Read on, and on (May 2015 print issue; online April 5, 2015).


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April 8, 2015

Poly and Aging

You're older than you'd ever been
and now you're even older
and now you're even older
and now you're even older....
And now you're older still.
                        —They Might Be Giants

But that doesn't mean no sex, not always even less sex, as you age. People do tend to slow down, and many quit, by their 50s or 60s. However, the 2012 Loving More survey of more than 4,000 self-identified poly people found that they have substantially more sex in their later years than the average American, and that they are both happier and healthier than average in old age possibly because of this.

At 80, longtime polyactivist and benefactor Ken Haslam leads classes on how aging affects sexuality and poly relationships, and how people can adapt to these changes. This week he talks about things that we're all going to want to know about someday, on Cunning Minx's Polyamory Weekly podcast Episode 427: Is There Poly Over 70?

From her condensed transcript of the first minutes:

Ken Haslam with Liana Zhou, Special Collections
Librarian at the Kinsey Institute Library in Indiana.
Ken, tell us who you are.

I’m an 80-year-old failing polyamorist settling down into a more conventional lifestyle in a retirement community. I was a poly activist for about 15 years and ran about the country lecturing and ultimately set up the Kenneth R. Haslam Polyamory Collection at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University about six or eight years ago.

Didn’t you run the Poly Geezers list?

I am a founding member, along with another fellow, who is now dead. That’s one of the problems of getting old — sometimes you die. The Poly Geezers list died a natural death. [Not quite –Ed.] Old polys get it [about how to manage poly relationships]; they don’t have much drama, so they don’t have much to talk about!

What do you do if one partner gets dementia or is unable to have sex?

The first thing you do is to have that conversation when you’re both younger, and your brains are working well. You have these conversations before you get sick — before the age of 50. It’s important that you sit down with your partners and talk about this kind of thing. What happens when one of us gets Alzheimer's? And you take it from there. You do what you always do in a poly community: you talk. You extract the information you can from each other about what you would want.

What other issues could an aging poly run up against?

Divorce. There are people who just bail out, because caring for someone old and demented is a problem, and it’s very burdensome for the healthy partner.... I think that polyamory is a way of approaching this problem, of being there for a failing partner but still getting your own needs met.

What about people who weren’t poly to begin with, like someone who at 50 just doesn’t want sex any more?

I can think of one example of a couple in Illinois, where he went off on his own and went to swing clubs as a single man and went to parties by himself. And his wife stayed home and felt sorry for herself. And after a year or two, she ultimately joined him, and they now have a very happy, adventuresome poly/swing lifestyle. And they go to swinger conventions all the time, and they’re in their 70s!

What about people who discover bisexuality in their 60s?

Sometimes people don’t really discover their homosexuality or bisexuality until they’re older, when all of those programmings we have when we are young tend to go away. And you say “Gee, I’m really attracted to same sex!” Well, you need to sit down with your partner or partners and tell ’em. And that’s one of the beauties of polyamory, that your partners would be supportive of your needs.

What if you were monogamous until you discover your bisexuality?

That’s what lawyers thrive on.... [But] that’s one of the beauties of polyamory: if you can work these things out you don't have to get divorced. There are lots of options open to you if you keep an open mind and are flexible....

Listen here (April 8, 2015).

This show was a followup to Minx's Senior Sex show in January (Episode 417), which featured an interview with Joan Price. She's the author of the landmark book Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex (2011). As it happens, Ken Haslam contributed material about poly to that book. He commented at the time, "to my knowledge this is the first description of Polyamory in a book directed at Golden Years sexuality."

Perhaps surprisingly, old people tend to be less hung up than others about monogamy in their relationships, according to a study published in The Irish Psychiatrist titled "From closet to reality: Optimal sexuality among the elderly" (2009). It found that "about half of the participants who had been married 25 years and were over age 60 were not monogamous," Ken noted at the time. "There is even a mention of the word 'poly' by one of the subjects." I can't find a free link, but the reference is Kleinplatz, P.J., Ménard, A.D., Paradis, N., Campbell, M., Dalgleish, T., Segovia, A., & Davis, K. (2009). From closet to reality: Optimal sexuality among the elderly, The Irish Psychiatrist, 10(1), 15-18.

Ken continues, "This phenomenon of greater acceptance of non-monmogamous behavior in older people was also observed by [Alfred] Kinsey; see the section 'Relation to Age' in the chapter on extramarital sex in his 'Female' volume (page 416)."


Elderly polyfolks are not high on the media's interest list, but sometimes we see exceptions.

● Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor made news when she supported her declining husband's love affair with a fellow patient in his nursing home (2007).

● Robert H. Melton, a leading writer and editor at the Washington Post, suffered brain damage in 2003 and he ended up living happily with the devotion and support of his wife and her other, newer husband (2012).

Breast Cancer and Polyamory: A Story of Non-monogamy, Love and Commitment While Going Through Chemo — an interview with Allena Gabosch, the aging founder of Seattle’s Center for Sex Positivity and "a polyamorous, sex-scene goddess" (Oct. 25, 2011).

● Two articles at Loving More's site: Grief and Loss Among the Polys by John Ullman (with photo at right), and Sex at Sunset by Valerie White.

● While we're at it, there's a recently started Facebook group, Poly Over 50.

● And in closing, Time magazine has a photo essay and story on its website about Jeanie, Will and Adina, ages 82, 84 and 90, who formed a vee very late in life. They don't say they're poly, and one of the women opines that simple couple relationships are best, but "The trio’s relationship clearly challenges cultural norms. Will, describing the trio’s bond, said, “We live above the law. Not outside the law, but above the law. We are not outlaws.”

Jeanie, Will and Adina.