Tag Archives: polyamory

Violent Agreement

When Robin and I were in Australia I met up with this great guy that I just couldn’t stop agreeing with. Ever have those conversations where half of the time you’re going “exactly!”? Yeah, it was like that. He called it violently agreeing and, obviously, I couldn’t agree more.

I get that when I watch Esther Perel and Dan Savage. Violent agreement.

Sometimes I just get so happy knowing the world is inhabited by numerous great people who are doing and saying amazing things, and although I know I won’t get to meet most of them, it just feels so rich. I could go anywhere and there’s people there, amazing people, everywhere. Connections to be made, things to be learned, experiences to be shared, violent agreements to be had. It’s like knowing your fridge is stocked when you’re not hungry. My friends are amazing and so many other people are too. Violently loving <3.

Cheating Is Bad, Ok?

Dan Savage probably became my hero when he got the president of the United States to tell gay kids that things get better. I mean honestly the whole It Gets Better project was amazing, but that was a whole other kind of amazing. We’re certainly not where we have to be regarding LGBTQ rights, but that was such a powerful thing to happen.

I agree with Dan Savage a lot. Like, a lot.

(Fuck first! GGG!)

But not always.

It took me a little while to understand his position on cheating. I tend to be a bit too black-and-white when it comes to morality, and since lying and deception fall in my ‘bad’ category I’m a little bit unforgiving when it comes to cheating. I think consent is very important in intimate relationships, and having sex with other people without your partner knowing is just so disrespectful. Either let them know you intend to be non-monogamous, allowing them to break up with you if non-monogamy is not for them, or don’t sleep around. I really don’t think lying so you get to keep your relationship is an acceptable thing to do.

But Dan Savage has argued that sometimes, in some situations, cheating might be the lesser of two evils. If you and your partner are financially dependent on each other, or your partner is very ill and breaking up with them would mean they lose health insurance or housing, if there are extreme circumstances, sometimes maybe you need to do what you need to do to stay sane. I guess. I can see that sometimes cheating might be the best option in a collection of sucky options, so it’d still suck, but other options would suck more. I suppose. I’ve become a little bit more open-minded about that, sometimes the world is just not fair and there are no right choices.

And I also agree that, as a society, we’ve placed too much importance on sexual monogamy. Given the fact that a very, very large group of people cheat sometime in their life, perhaps we should take a bit more of a pragmatic attitude towards monogamy. It seems we’re not really good at it, generally. Many of us try, because we desire a monogamous relationship, but many of us fail. Dan Savage thinks we should look at monogamy the way we look at sobriety – it’s hard, sometimes you fall off the wagon, you get back on the wagon. If you only fall off once or twice in you life, you’re good at monogamy, not bad at it.

I guess.


I need this on my wall. So Much.

I don’t know. I’m not monogamous myself, but if I found out my partner had lied to me about such an intimate, personal aspect of our life, I would be devastated. Not because I care much about who he has sex with, but because honesty and respect are fundamental to our relationship. By violating that he would violate something that our whole relationship is based on, it would violate my trust.

When weighing different options, we should take the harm cheating causes into account. People who have been cheated on often feel traumatised, not because they feel sex is so important, but because their trust has been broken and one of the closest relationships in their life was affected. Our connections to others are so important, our attachments so central to our well-being, harming that harms a person in their core.

Losing a loving relationship hurts too, obviously. Being open about wanting to have sex with other people and finding out your partner does not want to be with you if that’s what you’re going to do, that hurts. But the harm you cause when you cheat and they find out is huge. We should not be too nonchalant about cheating in situations where the other options (not cheating, or being honest about wanting sex with others) are actual possible options.

So in this case? I completely disagree with San Savage. Instead, bring the subject up with your husband. Treat him like an adult you can talk to, an adult you can trust, an adult who has the right to make his own decisions about his life. Tell him “hey remember that fetish I have? I’d like to explore that, how do you feel about that?”. And he’ll tell you if he wants to know about it, if he’s okay with it, you can discuss a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell agreement, or perhaps he’d like to set some boundaries on sexual acts. And if he simply rejects the whole idea and tells you no, well, then you’ll have to decide if cheating is the best of all options. But I think we owe it to each other to respect the trusting, loving relationships we have, and respect each other as adult human beings who get to decide, given all the facts, if they want to be in a relationship with you. Deceiving others into staying is not okay…

Getting your polyamory needs met!

Mitchell, M.E., Bartholomew, K., Cobb, R.J. (2013): Need Fulfillment in Polyamorous Relationships. Journal of Sex Research (10).

SplitShire_IMG_5279Polyamory is interesting because it violates very strong norms in Western culture that romantic relationships should be exclusive. There’s a (probably unrealistic) expectation that our one romantic partner should fulfill all of our interpersonal needs, from companionship to intellectual involvement to sex. When people decide to become ethically non-monogamous, or even when a partner cheat, some assume it’s because something is lacking in the relationship. “Isn’t your partner enough for you? What do you miss that you need to look outside of your relationship?”.

But this overreliance on partners to fulfill all our needs can actually cause relationship problems, because a lot of partners can’t live up to those high ideals. Some poly people argue that polyamory solves that problem, because that way we can get our needs met by different people.

And it’s true that it wasn’t untill the 1920’s that marriage became so strongly linked to romantic love. For most of our history marriage was a business transaction between two men: the one selling a daughter, the other buying a wife. But marriage quite recently became redefined as a romantic bond, and women became redefined as you know, actual people who make their own decisions instead of men’s possessions. So that was good. But it came with certain ideals around love, that you just need one person, and if you really love them you won’t want anyone else. Polyamory violates those ideals, and polyamorous people report they experience prejudice against polyamory. Those antipolyamory attitudes might have an effect on social policies and laws. So it’s important we get a better understanding of polyamory.

We’re not sure how need fulfillment with two partners is related to relationship satisfaction an commitment to both partners, and this study aimed to examine three different theories on that. The additive model predicts that need fulfillment ‘adds up’, so more fulfillment in the one relationship would enhance satisfaction with the other partner. The contrast model predicts that need fulfillment in the one relationship makes the other relationship look bleaker, resulting in less relationship satisfaction. And the compensation model predicts that need fulfillment in one relationship may compensate for the lack of need fulfillment in the other relationship, leading to more relationship satisfaction.

To study these theories they got a big group of poly people to fill out questionnaires for them. Some interesting findings about the characteristics of these poly people:

  • sample of 1093 (which is a very big group – awesome!)
  • 57% identified as female, 37.7% identified as male, 5.3% identified as something else (genderqueer, transgender, other, no gender)
  • 94.5% completed some college
  • 90% identified as caucasian
  • 44% had kids
  • of women, 67.6% identified as bisexual or pansexual
  • of men, 61.4% identified as heterosexual
  • 65.4% identified one of their partners as primary

So on to the measures! They used the Need Fulfillment in Relationship Scale to measure need fulfillment, which is still a bit of a new test. For relationship satisfaction they used the reliable and valid Relationship Assessment Scale. To measure commitment they used four items of the Commitment/Dedication scale. And they wanted to correct the findings for neurotisism, because that’s linked to outcomes about relationships, so they used the neuroticism subscale of the Big Five Inventory.

Some descriptives:
Most subjects lived with their Significant Other (SO), but about one in six lived with their Other Significant Other (OSO). When subjects had kids their SO usually took on a parenting role, and one in four reported their OSO took on a parenting role. Most women had two male partners or identified their male partner as SO and female partner as OSO, but 8% had a female SO and male OSO, and 4% had two female partners. The large majority of men had two female partners, 4.6% had two male partners and 1.2% had a male SO and female OSO.


Need fulfillment was consistently high with both partners across all needs studied. They didn’t find any strong evidence for any of the theories, I mean there were some very small statistically significant differences on some measures that maybe predicted a percentage of the variance but in all honesty, it was all so small it’s not really interesting.

“It is unlikely that need fulfillment with one partner has a meaningful effect on satisfaction with another partner”
“Need fulfillment with one partner was unrelated to commitment to another partner”

There were some findings that suggest that happy relationships enhance each other, so if you’re happy with your husband and then your boyfriend meets your needs as well you’re even happier with your husband. And some findings suggest that unhappy relationships are hurt by happy other relationships, if you’re unhappy with your husband and then your boyfriends meets some of your needs you feel even more unhappy with your husband. But, as the researchers say “these effects are too small to be of practical significance”. The effects were so tiny they were barely even there.

“Overall, these results suggest that polyamorous individuals’ relationships with one partner tend to operate relatively independantly of their relationship with another partner. Thus, having multiple partners in itself does not appear to have a strong positive or negative effect on dyadic relationships”

The findings show that people can have good, committed relationships with multiple partners. It also shows that people do not become poly because of low need fulfillment in their relationship. Instead, people actually scored highest for their SO, although truly their need fulfillment was remarkably high for both partners.

The researchers also mention these findings should have an effect on the clinical treatment of poly people, because some therapists want to treat the poly as the problem when a poly relationship is in trouble. The researchers recommend focussing on the problematic interactions within that relationship and only including other partners in the treatment if their specific problem asks for that.

“This study confirms that individuals can have simultaneous fulfilling, committed attachments to multiple romantic partners”.

Aww <3.

A Lovely Triad

TRIADRemember when Dan Savage pissed off the entire poly community by saying he had never been to a poly 3-year anniversary? There’s lots I would like to say about that, including how polyamory actually accommodates relationships of different durations and how that is a good thing, but I just wanted to share with you the following video by a triad couple I’ve known for.. what, I think about 5 years now. They were together before I met them. They recently got engaged and I think it’s a tragedy they cannot marry yet. I love the song, their commitment to each other and how they are trying to change the world for the better simply by visibly being who they are. In love :).