“I have a tremendous amount of love and support in my life”
December 26, 2012 7:20 AM   Subscribe

A remarkably non-sensational report on polyamorous families. Bookended by 50 Shades of Grey and Gigolos, this 20/20 "special report" on Sierra, Martin, Molly, David, Aaron, Romy, Mark, and J provides a lovely counterpoint to the usual moralizing hand-wringing one finds in media coverage of open relationships.
posted by smammy (14 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

Okay, that was actually awesome. It had plenty of judgement going on, but it wasn't out-and-out attack, and took the answers given at face value rather than arguing against them.

I'm surprised and pleased to see something like this. Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 9:18 AM on December 26, 2012

Not my cup of tea. That said, I had known couples like that many many years ago. It worked for them and so good for them. If it works for you, god bless. Why judge others?
posted by Postroad at 10:10 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Really nice little report, thanks for posting it. The reactions of the kids were especially interesting, and reassuring. But they didn't raise two questions which, for me at least, help to understand much better how polyamorous relationships work: 1. Does your partner have to be aware of the liaisons you have with others? 2. Do you sometimes start up relationships with people who are not polyamorous themselves?

I think for most polyamorous couples the answers are yes, and no, respectively. And when I understood that from my polyamorous friends, I got it.
posted by creeky at 10:23 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Once upon a time, I was in a poly relationship. My gf and I had started out monogamous, and I was happy with that, but she had done the poly thing before and preferred it... and after about a year of us being together, she voiced a desire to have an open relationship. I was not interested and held my ground against it for a long time, but after about a year I decided she wasn't going to leave me for anyone else (and if she did... well, I rationalized a lot). I relented. She started seeing someone else. There were many bumps, but it was fine for several years. It was several years before I started seeing someone else, too. When we split... well, we wanted very different things out of life well apart from the open relationship issue, and I'd rate polyamory very low on the list of reasons why we broke up.

The thing you have to consider, going into an open relationship, is that sooner or later events will turn so that both partners really, genuinely need you and you cannot be in two places at once. It sucks. It really does.

Open relationships work out until they don't. Just like monogamous relationships. I have no interest at all in going back to the "open" status--I'm very happy with the monogamous relationship I have now, thank you--but it does indeed work out for some.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:42 AM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

And when I understood that from my polyamorous friends, I got it.

not sure why those particular answers helped you get it. while many couples feel on some level that their relationship has to fit in to some broader definition to be considered legitimate, once a couple is open to polyamory they're more likely to realize that the terms of the relationship are entirely customizable for those involved. so the particular answers seem less relevant than the point that the couples get to negotiate them entirely at their own discretion.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 10:45 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

From my experience in and around open relationships, the ONLY factor that I would consider essential for any relationship, polyamorous or otherwise to be "legitimate" is that the partners communicate clearly to each other what their expectations are. Sadly, I see so many relationships, open or otherwise, where I hear one partner say, "Well, I ASSUME that this is okay. We haven't really talked about it at all. I don't want to rock the boat by bringing it up."
posted by WaylandSmith at 11:27 AM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Well, I ASSUME that this is okay. We haven't really talked about it at all. I don't want to rock the boat by bringing it up."

Also known as, "I was afraid he/she would say no if I asked, so I did it anyway."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:49 PM on December 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

This is a comment on the ethics of the interview itself, not on polyamoury:

As a child, I was a very private person. I would've hated to have my family life made the subject of media attention, no matter what the context. Inviting a journalist and camera crew into the family kitchen, to ask me sensitive questions about my family? Yuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

It raises some interesting questions of what constitutes consent on the part of kids when their parents expose them to this sort of public scrutiny. Generally speaking, kids want to please their parents, so if Mommy and Daddy ask the child if s/he is OK with talking about their "special friends" and such to the (kinda scary, IMO) Lady from TV, the kid will probably sense that the correct answer is "yes," and go along.

And that child's "yes" is given without the child having the scope of life experience to understand that this information is "on record" and doesn't go away. Future repercussions are unknown.

This holds true no matter what the focus of the interview is, but I would suggest there is an extra layer of delicacy and consideration for the kids' privacy that should come into play when the subject is (in part) Mommy and Daddy's sex life.

Dunno. Rubs my fur the wrong way.
posted by nacho fries at 6:09 PM on December 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've always liked the disclaimer built into Islam concerning how many wives you can marry.
Essentially it's three - as long as you can give equal attention to them all the time.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:37 PM on December 26, 2012

Related: Showtime had a reality show last summer, "Polyamory: Married and Dating", which was pretty good. Some clips are available on showtime's youtube here.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:52 PM on December 26, 2012

At the end of the day, it's the people in the relationship that should decide whether the relationship is a good idea. I hope this sort of thing becomes seen as normal.

I get the impression that the people in this interview are far more comfortable and open about their attitudes to sex and love than most people.
posted by absolutelynot at 2:29 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it might also be helpful to differentiate between the terms "open relationship" and "polyamory".

There are plenty of open relationship couples who are NOT polyamorous. That is, they are not seeking to develop long lasting love relationships with others outside their primary couple bond. They may play around on the side, but often the line is drawn at "those other things are never allowed to get serious".

Polyamorous people do seek to form multiple couple-bonds for themselves, sometimes private and separate from their main pair-bond, sometimes forming tangles of bond-pairs like the ones featured in this video.

I don't really have a point other than saying that while all actively polyamorous couples have open relationships, not all open relationships involve polyamory.
posted by hippybear at 6:30 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, hippybear, I would disagree: not all polyamorous relationships are a kind of open relationship.

A lot of people have nonmonogamous relationships that are closed. For example, a triad where there is no going to anyone anyone outside that group of three people. 'Open relationship' is generally understood to not include this type of arrangement, which is closed, just closed at a number greater than two. "Poly-fiedelitous" or "poly-fi" are sometimes used to describe this sort of situation.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:26 PM on December 27, 2012

That is an excellent and true point, and thanks for clarifying that for the thread!
posted by hippybear at 8:09 AM on December 28, 2012

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