Monday, October 27, 2008

Poly advice column

Last week in my routine media monitoring activity, I picked up an item from the Guardian, one of the major daily newspapers in the UK, about a woman seeking advice from a cheating spouse who claimed he was "polyamorous" to explain his relationships to two other women. Unfortunately, he was also being deceitful and disrespectful of his spouse of 15 years. Guardian readers were invited to offer advice to the reader for the following week's column, and several wrote in explaining the concept of responsible non-monogamy, and how this was not it. I also helped my Polyamorous NYC group draft a response from the president, but unfortunately it was not used in the column, which you can read here:

Private Lives: Is his 'polyamory' just an excuse?

And here's the response that I wrote for the president to submit:

Your partner is giving polyamory a bad name by deceiving, dishonoring, and disrespecting you. Polyamory is consensual and responsible non-monogamy, and as president of Polyamorous NYC (, one of the largest such organizations in the world, I can say it is possible to have multiple relationships successfully. My advice is to find some polyamory support groups in your area or research the term online so that you can better express what you want and need from the relationship. Once you and your partner realize there is a better way to pursue a polyamorous lifestyle, you can make an educated decision on what's best for both of you.

It's unfortunate that no one gave the advice we advocated, which is to learn more about polyamory so she could explain why her spouse is doing it wrong and better express what she wants out of the relationship. But at least the columnist gave the advice that is one of my cornerstone tenets, that we are each responsible for our own happiness. I particularly liked the way she phrases it:

In order to be happy, it's not necessary to have a partner or to have any particular person or thing at all. It is, however, necessary to assume responsibility for your own happiness, and to establish principles for the kind of life that will make you feel proud of yourself.

The upshot to this is how polyamory is becoming, if not acceptable, at least understandable to a larger audience than ever before, and there is at least some balance to stories like this. In the past, I wouldn't have expected a single respondent to offer anything other than "your spouse is cheating on you - leave him." While in this case it was a pretty clear case the husband was being abusive to the reader, at least there was some acknowledgement that polyamory can be done a "right" way and a "wrong" way. That's progress, methinks.