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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Wisdom of Crowds

Posted by on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 9:41 AM

Newsweek profiles a local polyamorous "cluster"...

Terisa, 41, is at the center of this particular polyamorous cluster. A filmmaker and actress, she is well-spoken, slender and attractive, with dark, shoulder-length hair, porcelain skin—and a powerful need for attention. Twelve years ago, she started datingScott, a writer and classical-album merchant. A couple years later, Scott introduced her to Larry, a software developer at Microsoft, and the two quickly fell in love, with Scott's assent. The three have been living together for a decade now, but continue to date others casually on the side. Recently, Terisa decided to add Matt, a London transplant to Seattle, to the mix. Matt's wife, Vera, was OK with that; soon, she was dating Terisa's husband, Larry. If Scott starts feeling neglected, he can call the woman he's been dating casually on the side. Everyone in this group is heterosexual, and they insist they never sleep with more than one person at a time.

It's enough to make any monogamist's head spin. But the traditionalists had better get used to it.

I'm no fan of monogamy, as everyone knows, and I'm only a "traditionalist" when it comes to crème brûlée (stick with vanilla, please—all those lavender, ginger, anise, and rose brûlées taste like your grandma's soap), but the arrangement detailed above makes my head spin. I don't think that anyone in this cluster is doing anything wrong, of course, and I believe that people should be free to make whatever romantic arrangements they care to—even when children are present. Children need stability and structure; constancy is the one parental virtue that doesn't get the attention it deserves. A stable poly triad can provide that. And if religious nuts have an absolute right to teach their kids that the earth is 6000 years old and that Jesus rode a dinosaur and that God wants them to wear magic underpants—and teach their gay kids to hate themselves—then Terisa's crew can raise their kid(s) to believe that it's possible to be in love with, and to be loved by, more than one person at a time.

A polyamorous relationship that doesn't involve a massive conspiracy to enslave, brainwash, and rape young girls—looking at you, FLDSers—should be able to provide the stability that a kid or kids require. And before traditionalists explode at Terisa, et. al, they might want to look at the divorce rate among religious "traditionalists," and pause to consider kids with one mom and one dad whose lives are turned upside down when their "traditionalists" parents divorce. If honest non-monogamy and a secular, enlightened, egalitarian polyamory can keep a kid's parents from sabotaging their bond out of sheer boredom or a frustrated desire for some sexual and emotional variety, that may be to a kid's ultimate benefit.

But I wouldn't be capable of living in a polyamorous triad or quad or quint. There are just too many moving parts, too many personalities involved. My boyfriend and I prefer a traditional family structure—one couple, married, living under the same roof, raising a kid—and we have very traditional views when it comes to adultery, i.e., it's okay when husbands do it. And since neither of us is the wife...


Comments (54) RSS

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Uriel-238 54
Thank you, Frau Blucher!

I can see how polyamory can be threatening to those who've felt forced to accept a monogamous lifestyle. My best friend's beau was completely content in what was a hot, hot, hot relationship (they could never finish watching a movie or make it back home from a party before they were naked and all over each other) until he learned about my two flings at the time that were perfectly aware of each other. It never occurred to him that he could have two girlfriends at the same time with everyone okay with it.

Ironically, he was the one to insist originally that their relationship be exclusive.
Posted by Uriel-238 on August 4, 2009 at 2:35 PM · Report this
That paragraph makes heads spin because it's *trying* to. You could just as easily write

"Terisa, 41, has been with two partners for over a decade, falling in love first with Scott (a writer) and soon afterward Larry (a Microsoft programmer). Though the three of them are a dedicated household, they all have outside lovers as well-- including a married couple, Matt and Vera, who date Terisa and Larry, respectively."

It's still a lot of names to throw at the reader in a lede, but... I dunno, what does the amount of information I can absorb in a single paragraph have to do with who I fuck?
Posted by Cavity Lee on August 3, 2009 at 8:46 PM · Report this
Poly isn't for everyone but is a viable option for an alternative lifestyle. It takes hard work, communication, and commitment by the parties. Its evident that this family has all of those things. I applaud their lifestyle choice.
Posted by Lizzy on August 3, 2009 at 4:49 PM · Report this
Frau Blucher 51
Uriel-238 @ 44 - I always enjoy reading your posts. You're articulate, intelligent and always a good read. Just as I do Kim in Portland, and others.

Thanks for contributing to SLOG.
Posted by Frau Blucher on August 2, 2009 at 6:30 PM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 50
By which I mean:

Most of the relationship disasters that I've seen, related specifically to being monogamous or poly or whatever, have been based on lack of flexibility. A refusal to adapt to the reality of the people and situation in front of you. The need to cram people into predetermined boxes. Casting people for roles that don't end up suiting them, and then holding on to the role rather than to the person.

Doesn't work.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder on August 1, 2009 at 8:10 AM · Report this
Violet_DaGrinder 49
Polyamory and monogamy suck pretty much equally, in my experience.

Don't choose the structure, choose the right person/people.
Posted by Violet_DaGrinder on August 1, 2009 at 8:05 AM · Report this
More power to them, if they can be out and proud of it. I got suckered into a poly relationship with a married couple, and instead of being an equal part of a triad was the dirty little secret. Never introduced as a girlfriend, only as a "housemate". Fucking bogus.
Posted by Third Wheel on a Bike on August 1, 2009 at 7:10 AM · Report this
@46: welcome to Seattle!

I wish more people were this out, public and proud about polyamory years ago. Some people are perfectly happy to find one true love to settle down with for the rest of their life. That's great! Not everyone is happy doing this. I really spent many years and a lot of misery to find this out myself the hard way. I would have taken a different path and possibly saved myself a lot of unhappiness if I had known there were options beyond monogamy.

Not all of us are perfectly happy having to be closeted or discrete about significant people in our lives, nor do we need the fear, shame or guilt imposed on us by those who think their way is the only legitimate way. As for what is healthy or not, I am quite fulfilled to be free to love and live in a way that makes me and my partners happy. I don't need anyone's permission to be happy, thank you.

To those who react so strongly against the out and proud poly's, I can only wonder why this threatens you so much. If you need to be so bitterly judgmental against people who do not affect you to prop yourself up, I am truly sad for you.
Posted by Paul F on July 31, 2009 at 7:15 PM · Report this
Oh, Dan, I do love a good rant!

Terisa and her crew are actually great examples of polyamory. They're loving, stable, well-spoken, and not any crazier than the rest of us. No one in that household will try to convert the unwilling to poly, but they'll also tell you honestly how they love it if you ask.

I just moved to Seattle, myself, and I'm loving the sex-positive vibe here.

Cunning Minx
Posted by Cunning Minx on July 31, 2009 at 2:37 PM · Report this
It takes maturity (not typing irrelevant and pointless trash about a perfectly cute 41-year old lady), strong communication skills (as disproved by a trash-typist's typos), open-mindedness (as opposed to championing the purism of vanilla - really, people? You call that a flavor?) and above all, outside-the-cultural-box intelligence to carry out a successful poly relationship.
Posted by Gandhi Jones on July 31, 2009 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Uriel-238 44
Parker Todd @41, you're right! It's true! Extended families and communal groups of multiple nuclear families can work together as a tribal village to raise kids, raise barns and field interpersonal issues. Aay-mazing!

Even more astounding is how rarely it happens. My (granted, purely anecdotal) experience is that families often like to keep private family matters from, say, everyone not part of the internal family structure. This is probably due to the typical mainstream priority of keeping up appearances rather than creating the environment of unconditional regard necessary to actually address problems. Frankly, it'd give me more confidence in our species if we could change these priorities in the majority (or even in a strong minority) of US families. But for now, much of US culture is disinclined to air out proverbial dirty laundry to their platonic friends, or, heck, invite them to lunch unless they make an occasion out of it.

Even if such a cultural paradigm shift were to happen, it wouldn't invalidate polyamorous or polyfidelous complex family structures.

And even if platonic relationships did with frequency serve as you implied Mr. Todd, it wouldn't make you any less an intolerant jerk, considering your posts so far on this thread.

Incidentally, The Rev. has it right. Polyamorists aren't the same as swingers, and polyamory isn't the same as casual sex or, a sexually open marriage. The common connection point of each relationship is emotional intimacy, not just sex. It usually involves lasting love relationships, not just summer flings.
Posted by Uriel-238 on July 31, 2009 at 12:37 AM · Report this
Christampa 43
I would think having platonic friends would actually undercut your theory that one person fulfills your desires. Whether sex is involved at all seems like a moot point.

God forbid you ever have fantasies about someone beside your spouse. I hope you're not so unfulfilled as to have that problem.

Of course, maybe you do have fantasies about other people, and maybe you do need to get away from your spouse occasionally and hang out with some other friends, and maybe that doesn't stop you from being capable of monogamy. But what possible reasoning would you have for claiming that it's more incredible than being Poly?
Posted by Christampa on July 31, 2009 at 12:19 AM · Report this
I'm not a close personal friend of Terisa's, but I have chatted with her and Larry. They are friends with a couple who are friend's of my girlfriend. They are nice folks who managed to find a modocom of fame, I.E. the oft sought after "15 min". Hopefully they get more than that! Being poly myself I totally understand where they are coming from. They have no kids, but my wife and I have 4. Well closer to 6 as my wife's girlfriend has 2 of her own. Happier, healthy, well adjusted kids they are. And our 17 year old is hardly embarrased and even tells his close friends the skinny on our lifestyle. We have been married for 14 years and together for 18. My GF lives with her BF who has a GF who lives with them half the time and down in Portland the other half. Nither one of us have a string of lovers as we both are only interested in actual relationships and not shallow love affairs.
If that's all I wanted I'd just go to one of the local sex positive clubs and find a new friend every Thursday. Some folks, I.E. swinger types, like that I suppose, but I only desire something a bit deeper. And yeah, I know platonic friends can provide a lot and guess what...I have loads of platonic friends that I don't sleep with. But sometimes the friendship becomes something deeper and as long as everyone is consenting why stop it?
Poly is not all about who can die with the most bedpost notches. No offence to the swinging community, but that's sorta how I see swinging as. Even so, as long as everyone is consenting, more power to ya. Personally I find swinging to be far too complicated and troublesome, but many pull it off.
And if I want to love the people I should happen to fall in love with, why should I not just because I already love someone else? I don't believe in god and don't see the bible as something I should model my life after. Therefore I have no religious mores against loving more than 1. As long as my family is happy, who cares how we do it? I'm not gonna hit on your wife or husband or anything! I don't go around fishing or trying to convince people to hop into the lifestyle. I don't preach it either. I get asked a lot about it but the first thing I say is that it is not for everyone and if they try it the chance of failure is high and that they should not bother. And I would NEVER hook up with someone "trying it out".
Someone once said if we are not able to love everyone, then at least we should try to tolerate those who are different from us.
Sage words indeed.
Posted by The Rev. on July 30, 2009 at 8:21 PM · Report this
Parker Todd 41
Hey 38 -- did you know that platonic friends can offer all of the benefits that you enumerated? AMAZING, I know.
Posted by Parker Todd on July 30, 2009 at 6:21 PM · Report this
yucca flower 40
In future the world will be like this and conservatives fear being obsolete and "traditional marriage" viewed as archaic and perverse.
Posted by yucca flower on July 30, 2009 at 5:46 PM · Report this
McGee 39
Ooooh Dudd called me out. Hey genius answer me this; where in my comment does it say I am a poly?
Posted by McGee on July 30, 2009 at 5:39 PM · Report this
Uriel-238 38
Parker Todd while it's awesome to hear that you found a lifestyle that works for you, to then presume that it (consequently) works for everyone else is a bit out of touch, don't you think?

When I was in a poly group in the '90s while the sexual variety and openness was awesome, it was the big family feel that I really dug (and now miss). There was always someone with whom to make breakfast, or consult to resolve a mathematical problem, or take the dog for a walk, or play a card game. As someone who missed the whole sibling experience as a kid, it was like that, only better (given most of what I hear about siblings is that they're often spiteful rivals to each other).

Of course we had our grievances, our irresolvable differences, our problems, but not necessarily more than your typical nuclear family. Polyamorous or polyfidelous families are, after all, still human.

At the same time, it meant that one could be clingy or aloof when one needed, to hang out with the kids (yes there were kids) or take a break as needed. One wasn't so completely dependent on his or her one-and-only (as romantic as that might sound) that the whole thing shatter when one of the struts was over-pressured.
Posted by Uriel-238 on July 30, 2009 at 5:33 PM · Report this
We made bacon crème brûlée at Solstice. It didn't set up properly, but it was incredibly tasty.

It helps that most of the people involved are poly. (Not involved with each other, at least not these days.)
Posted by breklor on July 30, 2009 at 3:07 PM · Report this
Greg 36
@7: Beat me to it. I was thinking this group would be prime candidates for starting a line marriage.
Posted by Greg on July 30, 2009 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Parker Todd 35
Aww, poor 33: you've never been able to find someone amazing who fulfills your desires enough to stay monogamous with like some of us.

Yes, I actually feel sorry for you, because when and if you ever do, it is incredible.
Posted by Parker Todd on July 30, 2009 at 2:39 PM · Report this
TVDinner 34
@26: You wish women like that existed.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on July 30, 2009 at 2:08 PM · Report this
McGee 33
Oh noes! However will the polys survive with out Parker Dudd championing their relationships?
Posted by McGee on July 30, 2009 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Dan - would you please commit adultery with me? Call me - no strings attached.
Posted by Doh on July 30, 2009 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 31
@29 - they call that "French Vanilla" - which means cane sugar.

See, cane sugar is the critical part. Accept no imitations.
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 30, 2009 at 1:02 PM · Report this
kim in portland 30
I'm with you on the real vanilla creme brulee.
Posted by kim in portland on July 30, 2009 at 12:49 PM · Report this
The Amazing Jim 29
Real fucking vanilla, too. Not artificial vanilla extract or even "real" vanilla extract. Slice the bean lengthwise and scrape out the goodness!
Posted by The Amazing Jim on July 30, 2009 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Lissa 28
Mmmmm creme brulee. I don't know the people in the article personally, but we do share mutual friends. The poly people I know have all been in their relationships for 10 years or more and as such, would be considered I think as successful as any monogamous couple with the same track record. I mean really, if you've been married for 18 years, and had the same boyfriend for 15, and everybody is happy, how is that not a success? The people in the article have been living together as a triad for 10 years. How is that not a success? I know a lot of traditional marriages that didn't last that long.
Posted by Lissa on July 30, 2009 at 12:21 PM · Report this
So true about the creme brulee. I went to a fancy restaurant that was serving lavender creme brulee once--WTF? Vanilla, people.
Posted by MichelleZB on July 30, 2009 at 12:02 PM · Report this
They don't call them "cougars" for nothin'...she sounds more like a predator, "man-eating" type that wants to basically fuck the entire world than purely poly.
Posted by Go Cougs! on July 30, 2009 at 11:58 AM · Report this
john t 25
I dunno, when I don't understand other people, my first instict is to denigrate them and accuse them of being "fucked up" in an attempt to assert my know-it-all superiority.
Posted by john t on July 30, 2009 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 24
@16: nail on head. now that tower queene anne is gone, the only concievable place you could be a "classical-album merchant" in this city is silver platters. therefore, the poly guy works at silver platters.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 30, 2009 at 11:51 AM · Report this
Parker Todd 23
if you can't find somebody who is enough for you, I don't champion your relationship style, I pity it.

Posted by Parker Todd on July 30, 2009 at 11:50 AM · Report this
Womyn2me 22
Non manogamy works for people who really want it to work... the problem @ 17 describes are the folks who dabble or decide to take the poly tour... polyamory and non manogamy takes alot of work... dipping your toe in it will not work, you have to make a committment to all the work and communication involved.

I like that as a tshirt "It takes committment to be non manogamous"
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on July 30, 2009 at 11:44 AM · Report this
hartiepie 21
You know how annoying it is to hear how monogamy is supposed to be so great? .....Those blokes constantky putting in our faces like teenagers saying it over and over, as if that will make it true? Isn't that just lame-o?

Well, that what YOU sound like when YOU brag about NOT staying monogamous....

You don't need to tell everybody everything, thenk yew very much......
Posted by hartiepie on July 30, 2009 at 11:30 AM · Report this
I think we should make an exception when there's a little bit of high quality chocolate under the vanilla custard.
Posted by Westside forever on July 30, 2009 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Stupid White Man 19
All they need now is to add a little syphilis to the mix and things will really rock!
Posted by Stupid White Man on July 30, 2009 at 10:57 AM · Report this
that's all we hear about from dan's mail, @17. the same things happen to monogamous, heterosexual couples, monogamous gay couples, and polyamorous gay couples. fact is, relationships can and will die in any form. it's what you do to save it that matters, not the form it takes. and who says that people in polyamorous relationships are only in such a relationship for the sex? what about the people who need dates to wine tastings, when their primary partner is allergic to grapes? or a partner with whom you bike ride, because your other other has asthma? relationships are about companionship, as much as about sex. if anything, polyamorous individuals are MORE adept at asserting their "true needs" (whatever that means...) than monogamous ones. they can say to their partner(s) "hey, i want to do this, but i know you have no interest in it. so i'm going to do it with my other partner." and the other partners (ideally) will respond "of course, whatever makes you happy." at least, that's my understanding of healthy polyamorous relationships.
Posted by franky on July 30, 2009 at 10:57 AM · Report this
Dozen to Play 17
i dunno, I just consider people who are poly to be really fucked up individuals who can't assert their true needs (having multiple sexual partners is not the only true need) and those who are in temporary situations that will eventually dissolve.

We always hear from people who espouse how great it is, but what about the countless others who decide to try it then ruin their relationships?
Posted by Dozen to Play on July 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM · Report this
A "classical-album merchant?" Um, either you work at a record store, or maybe you sell Mozart records on eBay. But don't say, "classical-album merchant." Stop furthering my feeling that polyamorous people are pretentious.
Posted by Laura.Witkowski on July 30, 2009 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
@14 - one must always use a blowtorch, cane sugar, and real custard.

Nothing else will do.
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 30, 2009 at 10:46 AM · Report this
Tom Sackett 14
I'm so glad to hear someone in the media call bullshit on "alternative" crème brûlée. A chef who flavors crème brûlée with anything but vanilla just can't like crème brûlée very much, and shouldn't be making it.
Posted by Tom Sackett on July 30, 2009 at 10:37 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
oh, and @9, stop leaving those used condoms on my lawn.
Posted by Will in Seattle on July 30, 2009 at 10:30 AM · Report this
Badger 12
Although Poly wouldn't work for me, I know people for whom it does work. More power to them - however I don't really see being raised by a poly family as being very different than being raised by a large extended family, which is fairly common in native culture. The only difference is the sexual part, and that shouldn't really be an issue since most kids don't want to know too much about their parents sex lives anyway.
Posted by Badger on July 30, 2009 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
I have but one thing to say.

Posted by Will in Seattle on July 30, 2009 at 10:28 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 10
i'm 45 and i look like i could be her son.
Posted by Max Solomon on July 30, 2009 at 10:24 AM · Report this
This is a fairly common social structure in Seattle, at least among my peers.

Nonetheless, everybody knows that if a child does not have only a single hetero male and a single hetero female parent in their house then they will grow up to be a dogfucker and will cause other kids at school to catch the gay. That is what the talking box and a bunch of unregistered commenters told me.
Posted by Reg on July 30, 2009 at 10:23 AM · Report this
scary tyler moore 8
no way that woman is 41. so much for honesty in poly relationships.
Posted by scary tyler moore on July 30, 2009 at 10:18 AM · Report this
playswithknives 7
Heinlein anyone?
Posted by playswithknives on July 30, 2009 at 10:18 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
Don't worry, the religious fundies will catch up with the rest of the world in, say, five... six hundred years?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on July 30, 2009 at 10:15 AM · Report this
@2 There was certainly a lot of "poly" in the old test. but not a lot of "amour". We would have to call them "poly-sexual" to indicate the improvement.
Posted by FIRMLY on July 30, 2009 at 10:08 AM · Report this
Enigma 4
I was having a conversation with someone about gay marriage recently, and as an argument against allowing gays to marry they brought up the "slippery slope" of polyamory, expecting me to be against it and make arguments why that wouldn't happen. I flat out said, "I see nothing wrong with people committing their lives to another, whether it's one or 10." Blank stare.
The bigots seem to have such a hard time conceiving of the concept of consent.
Posted by Enigma on July 30, 2009 at 10:07 AM · Report this
SO with you on the crème brûlée.
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on July 30, 2009 at 9:58 AM · Report this
What's funny is that the so called "traditional" marriage is a fairly new invention. All those old testament sons of Abraham all grew up in poly households.
Posted by Westside forever on July 30, 2009 at 9:54 AM · Report this
Mud Baby 1
Sounds like the hipper, Seattle version of HBO's "Big Love."
Posted by Mud Baby on July 30, 2009 at 9:51 AM · Report this

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