Here's a CNN story on polyamory relationships which are groups of individuals of both sexes having sexual relationships with one another.
Revelers in the rainbow-washed crowd smiled and cheered this month as the little blond girl in the parade float pageant-waved to the B-52's "Love Shack."
Next to the float, the girl's father, Billy Holder, handed out fliers to the Atlanta Pride Parade crowd. His wife, Melissa, carried a banner along with Jeremy Mullins, the couple's partner."Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals," read their purple-lettered banner, embellished with an infinity heart.The "awws" and waves from the crowd gave way to some puzzled looks and snickers."What's poly?" a woman asked, looking toward a handwritten sign on the float that read "Atlanta Poly Paradise.""Multiple partners?" the man next to her guessed.Sort of. As the concept of open relationships rises in pop culture and political debates, some polyamorous families like the Holders and Mullins see an opportunity to go public and fight stereotypes that polyamory is just swinging, cheating or kinky sex.It's not just a fling or a phase for them. It's an identity. They want to show that polyamory can be a viable alternative to monogamy, even for middle-class, suburban families with children, jobs and house notes.
Another example of trying to satisfy adult desires, whatever they may be, rather than lining our lives up with the created order, God's design for intimate relationships.
"We're not trying to say that monogamy is bad," said Billy Holder, a 36-year-old carpenter who works at a university in Atlanta. "We're trying to promote the fact that everyone has a right to develop a relationship structure that works for them."
For the Holder-Mullins triad, polyamory is three adults living in the same home about 20 miles south of Atlanta. They share bills, housework and childcare for their 9-year-old daughter. They work at the same place, sharing carpooling duties so someone can see their daughter off to school each day.
Surrounded at the parade by drag queens from El Gato Negro nightclub, singers from a gospel choir and supporters of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, Billy Holder didn't stand out in his jeans, T-shirt and wide-brimmed, sun-shielding hat. That's sort of the point, he said: to demonstrate that polyamorists, or polys, are just like anybody else.But, he's quick to add, "It takes a lot of work and it's not for everybody."It's a common refrain from long-practicing polys. Jealousy among partners is one thing, but they also face or fear disapproval from neighbors, relatives and coworkers. The Holders and Mullins dealt with rejection from parents and one of Melissa Holder's sons when they revealed their relationship.They've also been the subject of a child welfare probe that ended in no charges being laid."We've been through it all," said 35-year-old Jeremy Mullins, a computer programmer.
The latest form of coming out.
That's why they're coming out, he said -- to change the status quo. And yet, their willingness to speak with CNN over the past 18 months came with conditions, such as the request to not name their employers.Marching in the parade for the fourth year is just one way they're trying to promote public acceptance of polyamory. Someday, they want to challenge laws that criminalize adultery and cohabitation, Mullins said."We want to promote the idea that any relationship is valid as long as it is a choice made by consenting adults," he said. "In this regard, and as in most things, promoting public acceptance is the first step."It's an uphill battle. Many traditional marriage counselors and relationship therapists discourage non-monogamy, and in the absence of more research on the long-term effects of polyamory, modern science and academia hasn't reached a consensus on whether it's a healthy relationship structure.
Even among a crowd as colorful as the Pride Parade, the giggles and questions suggest polyamory is still a way of life that's on the fringes.
How they're defining polyamory.
According to the flier Billy Holder handed out at the Pride Parade, which borrowed from The Polyamory Society and More than Two, there are many ways to define polyamory."Polyamory is the nonpossessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously," it said."Polyamory is not a swing club or group.""Polyamory is not about recreational or promiscuous sex."Otherwise, there are no universal rules for "how it works," one of the most common question polys say they hear, Holder said. The most common dynamic tends to start with a couple, married or unmarried, who might identify as straight, gay or bisexual. Guidelines are set within each relationship -- ideally, a negotiated framework of communication based on trust and honesty, he said.
For each of the 12 people walking with the Holders-Mullins triad in the Atlanta Pride Parade, polyamory works differently. For example, Mark, a tall, bespectacled computer programmer, has been happily married to his wife, an electrical engineer, for more than a decade. They live alone and have no children, but they've been involved with two other couples with children for the past six years. Mark and his wife spend time with the adults and their children doing family-friendly activities but the adults also go out on dates, cuddle and more.It's not cheating or swinging, he said, because everyone knows about other partners, whom Mark calls his girlfriends. There is a level of intimacy and emotional attachment that makes them more than friends with benefits or one-night stands, he said."I'm more involved in their lives and more aware of their inner thoughts or aspirations; I'm more involved in their long-term happiness," said Mark, who asked not to use his last name out of concern that he and his wife might face backlash from employers."It's like having a regular, monogamous relationship but having more than one of them."It's unclear how many people identify as polyamorous because, like Mark and his wife, the majority aren't open about their relationships. Because of the varied forms these non-monogamous relationships take, it's difficult even to know who to include in such a count, demographer Gary Gates said."It's not completely clear how you would measure this group, since I'm not sure there's a common terminology around how individuals in polyamorous families identify their relationships to each other and their children," said Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, which conducts research and policy analysis regarding legal issues that affect LGBT populations.Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy, sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in her forthcoming book "The Polyamorists Next Door."Sheff based her findings on 15 years of research that began with a partner's request to explore alternatives to monogamy. She continued her research even after her relationship ended, and does not consider herself a polyamorist. But her research led her to believe that polyamory is a "legitimate relationship style that can be tremendously rewarding for adults and provide excellent nurturing for children."Making it work, she acknowledges, is "time-consuming, and potentially fraught with emotional booby traps," she writes. It can be rewarding for some "and a complete disaster for others."While some scientists say monogamy is probably not humans' natural state, and is instead likely a social construct, many therapists say learning to control sexual impulses toward multiple people is a hallmark of emotional maturity.
Observers are already raising questions about it.
More often than not, non-monogamy leads to the demise of relationships, said Karen Ruskin, a Boston-area psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in couples counseling. Instead of focusing on the primary relationship, partners are turning to others for fulfillment."Even if non-monogamy is consensual, it's still a distraction from dealing with each other," said Ruskin, author of "Dr. Karen's Marriage Manual.""It all goes back to choice. Non-monogamy is choosing to be with someone else instead of being attentive to your spouse when the relationship is troubled."Couples can establish rules and parameters to limit jealousy, she said. But in her experience working with couples, "those rules never end up working out for everyone," she said."It has shown to be damaging and destructive to a person as an individual, to the couple's relationship and the family unit as a whole."Indeed, while many associate polyamory with swingers or kinksters, "there are much easier ways to get laid," said Anita Wagner Illig, founder of online polyamory resource, Practical Polyamory.
Wagner Illig, a self-appointed "poly educator" who gives talks at adult conventions about polyamory, began to identify as poly after her second divorce in the late 1990s. She decided there must be a better way than cheating to have multiple relationships.
They want their cake and being able to eat it too. Have multiple relationships without "cheating". I believe time will quickly point out this latest effort to redefine family and marriage won't work either. The result will be more pain and broken lives, especially among the most vulnerable among us - children.