A few months ago, the hip New York magazine had a piece on what it called “the new monogamy”–married couples that allow the partners extra partners, a way to make boring old monogamy more interesting and palatable to sophisticates.
The hipper Village Voice is late playing catch-up-but this week the Voice features a piece on its version of “the new monogamy”: “Pucker Up: Is Polyamory the New Monogamy?”
“A few weeks ago I was at a party with some friends,” recalls author Tristan Taormini, “and another friend, Jane (some of the subjects’ names have been changed at their request), introduced us to her cousin, who was in town visiting. “This is Kim and . . .” Jane’s voice trailed off, as she wasn’t quite sure how our friend Kim wanted to handle explaining the two guys on either side of her. Kim, a tall striking redhead in a sheer black shirt, turned to the man on her left and said, ‘This is my husband, Phil.’ Then, she subtly gestured to her right, ‘And this is my boyfriend, Dan.’
“Polyamorous people have sexual, emotional, loving, and/or committed relationships that are ongoing with more than one person. Relationships, in fact, are what set polyamory apart from other forms of non-monogamy like swinging or occasionally hooking up for sex with other people.”
But there are two things to note about the Village’s story: Polyamorous people may be engaged in more than one “non-primary” relationship (I told you the Voice was hipper!), and the trend is more widespread than a few kooks-at least in New York, where it seems to be embraced by so many kooks that there are actually classes on how to conduct a polyamorous lifestyle:
“A few months ago,” Taormino continues, “I attended ‘Polyamory for Non-Primary Partners,’ the only class I know of to address this issue. Sarah, a 36-year-old customer service representative from Virginia who taught it, spoke about how to manage secondary relationships and be a non-primary partner. Sarah is currently in four relationships with three men and one woman. She’s been with one of the men for three and half years; he’s a formerly primary/currently non-primary partner with whom she lives and spends one night a week; he also has a girlfriend. Next is a married man she has been with for almost three years; they see each other five to six hours a week. And Sarah has a girlfriend (who has a wife) whom she sees once or twice a month because they live in different cities. She also has Steve (she calls him “the emerging primary”) who she sees three to four nights a week. Feel like you need a flow chart? Well, that’s part of polyamory-it’s not for the disorganized.”
Brace yourself for the arguments that polyamory won’t affect traditional marriage, which is boring and down the tubes anyway. To me, however, it sounds like old-fashioned cheatin’.