5 Reasons Why Should Consider Non Monogamy


There are as many answers to this question as there are non-monogamous people. In general, non-monogamy means having the freedom to be sexually and/or emotionally involved with more than one person. When we say “ethical” non-monogamy, we mean any type of non-monogamous relationship practiced HONESTLY, with the mutual consent of all parties — where no one is deceived and everyone CHOOSES to enter this type of relationship.

Some non-monogamous people are married or live with a “primary” lover or spouse, but occasionally have casual sexual relationships outside their marriages. Other people oppose marriage and have more than one committed long-term relationship concurrently. Still others are in “group marriages,” living with several adults who share sexual and spousal relationships. Other people are inclined toward many relationships of a less committed nature, and are not seeking marriage or long-term relationships.

Many other people embrace the theory of non-monogamy and enjoy having the option of having more than one lover or spouse if they should desire, but may not have the time or energy for more than one relationship, or may not have met the right person or people to enter into such an arrangement. So even though they consider themselves non-monogamous, they may not “practice” non-monogamy, but they like having the option and having an agreement with their lover that this would be acceptable if it does happen. For many people, having the FREEDOM TO CHOOSE additional relationships is just as important and fulfilling as actually acting on this option and having other lovers.


Non-monogamy is nothing new–people have been non-monogamous since the beginning of humankind. However, until recently, it was considered immoral, deviant behavior in most cultures, was identified as a major taboo in most religions, and it was generally done secretly–“cheating” on one’s wife or husband and lying about it, while pretending to be the “faithful” spouse.

Due to sexism and women’s economic dependence on men throughout most of history, men could usually “get away with” extra-marital affairs, mistresses, sexual relationships with prostitutes, and even having several wives because womenís powerless economic and political position forced them to accept any and all behavior from their husbands. Women were much less at liberty to stray outside of marriage and have other relationships. This was partly because their primary responsibility for home and children seriously restricted their mobility, partly due to lack of effective birth control methods, and partly because the “adulteress” was usually severely punished by society for her transgression.

However, the philandering husband generally was tolerated with a “boys will be boys” attitude.

Unfortunately, this situation continues in most of the world. However, in Western industrialized nations, we have benefited from the so-called “sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s. New freedoms were fueled by the advent of effective birth control methods like “the pill” and by women entering the paid labor force and demanding equality with men. This transformation of sexual mores allowed both men and women the opportunity to experiment with many new types of relationships and made it possible to reject the rigid sex roles and limitations of monogamous relationships, particularly marriage.


No one knows the answer to this question, just as no one knows exactly why some people are gay and others are straight or bisexual. Some people are very happy with monogamous relationships, and argue that a monogamous relationship promises security, stability, and protection from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Others feel more fully loved and feel they can experience deeper intimacy in an exclusive relationship with one person. Others feel that monogamy is just simpler and more feasible to fit into their busy lives than non-monogamous relationships.

On the other hand, many people try to live a monogamous lifestyle and find it just does not meet their needs. They come to believe that it is unrealistic to expect any one person to fulfill all their needs for intimacy, companionship, love, and sex, for the rest of their lives. Most people practice “serial monogamy”–having one monogamous relationship after another, each one ending due to some area of incompatibility or dissatisfaction. Many people spend their whole life searching for the perfect mate only to find themselves dissatisfied time after time. They cannot maintain a monogamous relationship over the long haul, because one partner or the other “cheats” and has secret affairs, or one partner loses interest in the other, or one or both partners discover conflicts or incompatible needs. Many people become non-monogamous as a way of avoiding some of the problems they have experienced in monogamous relationships.


Many monogamous relationships suffer from excessive dependency. Couples usually live together and spend their free time together, sometimes to the exclusion of all other intimate friendships. Each partner depends heavily on the other for emotional support, socializing, “family”, and community. Many people give up friends, social activities, even sports and hobbies if their partner doesn’t share an interest in these activities, and this creates resentment and dissatisfaction.
Monogamous couples are completely dependent on each other for affection and sex; and many become dissatisfied due to sexual incompatibilities, differences in level or frequency of sex, boredom with their sexual patterns. When they feel strong sexual attractions towards others they must repress these feelings or end their current relationship in order to have sex with someone else. Many complain bitterly that although they love their spouse and feel strongly attracted to him or her, the spouse doesn’t want sex frequently enough or does not enjoy the same sexual activities. This leaves one partner always wanting more sex or more variety in sexual practices, and the other always feeling pressured for sex, often resulting in one partner having secret affairs with other lovers to fulfill their sexual needs.

Ethical non-monogamy can alleviate some of these problems. Non-monogamous people are usually independent, and have many friends and many sources of emotional support rather than depending on spouse for everything. Non-monogamous people must be assertive and able to articulate their own needs clearly and honestly. Being in non-monogamous relationships offers the opportunity to meet all your needs rather than repress and resent whichever needs do not conveniently fit into your initial relationship. It allows each partner to have as much sex, or as little sex, as he or she wants; because the partner who wants more sex is free to have other sexual relationships. Many basically good relationships end because of sexual incompatibilities or because of excess dependency, and non-monogamy can offer a way to continue a good relationship while solving some of these problems. Ethical non-monogamy can strengthen relationships by encouraging each partner to be honest with themselves and each other, and to communicate clearly about feelings, needs, anxieties, and insecurities, including jealousy.


Ideally, non-monogamy can enrich the lives of all parties involved and lead to deeper intimacy, love, and satisfaction. However, in real life, making a transition from traditional relationships to a non-monogamous lifestyle can be stressful and involve “growing pains”, because living in a new way requires learning new skills and overcoming a lifetime of socialization. What sounds idyllic and reasonable in theory is much more complicated and difficult to work out, logistically as well as emotionally. People with the best of intentions often discover that they have many intense insecurities and fears based on outdated core beliefs about themselves, about their partner(s), and about relationships and family in general.

Most people find that they experience jealousy, to a lesser or greater extent, especially when first embarking on this lifestyle. It usually takes time, thought, talking it out, and reassurance from partner(s) to let go of jealous feelings. Some people find that while they continue to feel jealous at times and to have feelings of conflict and ambivalence about their lifestyle and relationships, these feelings are greatly outweighed by a much more positive experience of the benefits and joys of non-monogamy.


After the initial fear of change and the anxiety of charting unknown territory subsides, many people feel comfortable with non-monogamy as long as they feel secure that they are loved and will not be abandoned. One strategy that has worked well to minimize fears and jealousy is to decide on rules and parameters which feel safe and supportive, and negotiate with your partner(s) to reach agreement on what type of non-monogamous lifestyle best fits your needs. For instance, Is it okay to have casual affairs? Do you want advance notice if your partner meets someone and wants to initiate a sexual relationship? Does your spouse or partner(s) have veto power over your choice of potential partners? Do you have an agreement on safe-sex guidelines to prevent being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and AIDS? Do you want to participate in sexual relationships with more than one partner, or be involved with your partner(s) lovers? Do you feel you will have enough love and attention from your partner(s) if they have other relationships? How much time will you allow your partner(s) to spend with other lovers? Who will spend holidays and vacations together? What about children and other family members- do you want to have children, and who will have parental responsibilities? Will all partners live with you? Is one partner a primary spouse or are all partners equally important in terms of time and commitment? Will you pool your financial resources or do you want financial autonomy? Are you going to “come out” about your lifestyle to family, friends, and co-workers, or would you prefer to remain closeted? While many of these questions need to be addressed in ANY relationship, they are even more crucial to discuss in non-monogamous relationships, and can go a long way toward preventing misunderstandings, anger, and jealousy. Most people experience less of the anxiety and insecurities and more of the satisfaction and rewards of non-monogamy if they know what to expect, and feel secure that their partners will abide by rules that are mutually agreed upon.

Each situation is as unique as the particular individuals involved, and only trial and error will tell what will work for each relationship or family. A lifestyle may look great on paper but may feel completely different “on the ground,” and living the lifestyle- with an open mind and some rules that feel comfortable- is the only way to develop a long-term situation that works for everyone involved.


If you feel that some type of non-monogamous lifestyle may be right for you, there are many resources available to help you think through issues and find support..
Books on non-monogamy:

Polyfidelity Primer, Ryam Nearing,
Love Without Limits, D. Anapol, Intinet Resource Center
Lovestyles, Tina Tessina
The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton & Catherine Liszt
Breaking the Barriers to Desire, Kevin Lano & Claire Parry
Lesbian Polyfidelity, Celeste West

How To Manage Jealousy in Your Poly Relationship With These 3 Tips

In my counseling practice, I work with many people who have chosen to have open relationships–to have more than one intimate sexual relationship. The biggest obstacle to creating successful and satisfying open relationships is jealousy. Despite how enlightened we think we are, most of us experience jealousy if our spouse or lover has a sexual relationship with someone else. A few rare individuals never experience jealousy. They are either more highly evolved than the rest of us mortals, or else they are pathologically out of touch with their feelings. I advise clients to treat jealousy as a given: assume that it will occur, and be prepared with strategies to successfully address it and minimize the damage.



We tend to think of jealousy as a single emotion, but actually it is a whole bundle of feelings that tend to get lumped together. Jealousy can manifest as anger, fear, hurt, betrayal, anxiety, agitation, sadness, paranoia, depression, loneliness, envy, coveting, feeling powerless, feeling inadequate, feeling excluded. It often helps to identify what is the exact mix of feelings you experience when you feel jealous. What is the primary emotion you feel when you are jealous? Demystifying the exact components of your jealousy can be a giant step towards getting a grip on things and resolving the problem. Is it always the same for you or does the mix change from time to time depending on circumstances? For instance, one woman figured out that her jealousy was about 50% fear, 20% anger, 20% feeling powerless and 10% feeling betrayed. However, when she asked her partner for reassurance and affection, and he provided it, the anger and betrayal disappeared. Then her jealousy was much more manageable, because most of what was left was fear and she could express those feelings more easily to her partner and resolve them.


It is crucial to understand what jealousy is and what it is about. Jealousy is about fear–fear of the unknown and of change, fear of losing power or control in a relationship, fear of scarcity and of loss, and fear of abandonment. It is a reflection of our own insecurity about our worthiness, anxiety about being adequate as a lover, and doubts about our desirability.

For every jealous feeling there is an emotion behind the jealousy that is much more significant than the jealousy itself. Behind jealousy there is an unmet need or a deep fear that our needs will not be met. Recognizing those fears and unmet needs is the key to unmasking jealousy and taking away its power. Jealousy is just the finger pointing at the fears and needs we are afraid to face. When jealousy kicks in, it is the ancient reptilian part of our brain going into a “fight or flight” response because we feel that our very survival is threatened. When you feel jealous, ask yourself, “What is it that I am really afraid of? What do I need to make this situation safe for me?” “What is the worst thing that could happen and how likely is that to happen?”


Jessica believed in open marriage but she became insanely jealous when her husband John initiated a sexual relationship with Carol. In counseling, it became clear that Jessica had already felt lonely and neglected for years because John was obsessed with his work and didn’t give her enough time and enough sex. Behind her jealousy we as feeling of scarcity and deprivation, and an unmet need for love. As soon as John started spending more quality time with her, their intimacy was greatly enhanced, and her jealousy virtually disappeared.


Kate and Peggy are two bisexual women involved in a long-term relationship. Peggy got very jealous when her lover started a relationship with a man. In counseling, Peggy realized that she felt insecure about Kate’s commitment to her. Behind her jealousy was an overwhelming fear of loss and abandonment, and she feared that Kate would leave her for this new man. Kate reassured her that she was fully committed to their relationship, and Peggy was able to move beyond jealousy to full acceptance of her partner’s new lover.

Greg had many affairs outside his marriage, but when his wife got involved with a hunky, much younger man that she met at the gym, he became very jealous and threatened divorce. In counseling, he admitted that he was feeling old and unattractive and felt very threatened by his wife’s new lover. She reassured Greg that she loved him and that she was still very sexually attracted to him. Behind Greg’s jealousy was the fear that his wife would reject him sexually, as well as his own insecurities about aging and loss of sexual prowess.

George and Marsha lived together many years, but were on the verge of breaking up because George got involved with Barbara. After a few counseling sessions, Marsha realized that she only got jealous when George saw Barbara on weekends. Marsha demanded that George reserve weekends for her and see Barbara only on weeknights. The new relationship upset her schedule and shook up her sense of security. As soon as she was guaranteed every weekend with George, her jealousy subsided. After several months, she felt secure enough that she told George he could see Barbara one weekend night each week, and they negotiated a schedule that seemed equitable for everyone.

Bob and Peter are two Gay men in a committed relationship. Bob wanted sex much more often, so Peter told him to go to the baths and have casual sexual relationships with other men. However, he became angry and withdrawn when Bob actually went out, and was even less inclined to want sex. In counseling he revealed that he was worried that Bob might have unsafe sex with other men and be exposed to HIV/AIDS. They agreed to both be re-tested for HIV, and negotiated a clear agreement that they would have only 100% safer sex outside of their relationship. After that, Peter’s jealousy subsided so much that he began asking Bob to tell him all about his sexual adventures. This sharing sexually aroused him and as a result they began having sex much more frequently.

Sara, a bisexual woman, was involved with Dave, a straight man. Dave got involved with Helen. Helen was very jealous of Sara, and demanded that Dave leave Sara. Sara understood Helen’s feelings, so she encouraged Dave to spend more time with Helen to help her feel more secure. Sara also called Helen to reassure her that she welcomed her and wanted to cooperate to make this work out for all three of them. After a few months Helen gradually became less jealous and stopped making such extreme demands for Dave’s time and attention.

Beth and Mark had agreed to an open relationship, but Beth was very jealous when Mark told her that he wanted to start a relationship with Janet. Beth asked Mark and Janet to give her a month to get used to the idea before becoming sexually involved, and they agreed to wait. As Beth got to know Janet she decided that Mark had excellent taste in women, and she gave them the green light to have a sexual relationship. The first few nights Mark spent with Janet were very hard for Beth; she couldnít sleep and was very frightened about the future, but she waited it out and her jealousy faded. Because she felt she had some control over the situation and had a voice in how it unfolded, her jealousy was minimized.


Our society is addicted to three core beliefs about relationships that are almost guaranteed to create jealousy even in the most well-adjusted people. Most of us have absorbed these beliefs without even realizing it. Identifying and dismantling these beliefs in our “heart of hearts” is the single most effective way to short-circuit jealousy. Ask yourself how much of you believes each of these three statements. Is it 90% of yourself that believes them? 50%? Notice which belief is most entrenched in your subconscious mind and which one youíve made the most progress on:

Core Belief #1

If my partner really loved me, (s)he wouldnít have any desire for a sexual relationship with anyone else.

This belief sees any interest your partner has in anyone else as a direct reflection of how much (s)he loves you. Itís a quantitative view of love which equates the amount of love with the ability to be interested in having another partner. When you break it down, this is as absurd as saying that a couple that gives birth to a second child must not love their first child or they couldnít possibly have any interest in having a second one.

Core Belief #2

If my partner were happy with me, and if I were a good partner/spouse/lover/etc., my partner would be so satisfied that (s)he wouldnít want to get involved with anyone else.

This belief is even more insidious. With the first belief you can at least blame it on your partner for not loving you enough. This belief says that if your partner is interested in someone else, itís your fault for not being the perfect lover or spouse and your relationship must be a failure. If you truly believe that your lover could only be interested in another partner because youíre inadequate, you can see how that will generate jealousy big time!

Core Belief #3

Itís just not possible to love more than one person at the same time.

This belief is built on the “scarcity economy of love”, the belief that love is a finite resource, there is only so much to go around, and there is never enough. Therefore, if my partner gives any of her or his love to anyone else, that necessarily means that thereís less for me. Because most people already feel there are some areas in their relationship where they are not getting enough of something (time, love, affection, sex, support, commitment) they are fearful that they will receive even less if their partner gets involved with additional partners.

Because each of these beliefs is connected to a very primal fear, they take time and effort to overcome. The first belief expresses a deep fear that you are not loved and will be abandoned. The second taps into our insecurities and the fear that we are not adequate or deserving of love, and the third is a fear of deprivation and being starved for love and attention. So have compassion for yourself and your partner(s) as you work with these beliefs and gradually replace them with beliefs that support your desire to embrace open relationships. Try on these new beliefs instead and see how they feel to you..

New Core Belief #1

My partner loves me so much that (s)he trusts our relationship to expand and be enriched by experiencing even more love from others.

New Core Belief #2

My relationship is so solid and trusting that we can experience other relationships freely. My partner is so satisfied with me and our relationship that having other partners will not threaten the bond we enjoy.

New Core Belief #3

There is an abundance of love in the world and there is plenty for everyone. Loving more than one person is a choice that can exponentially expand my potential for giving and receiving love.

The fact that these new beliefs sound so strange and almost laughable to us at first shows just how deeply the old paradigm beliefs about love and relationships are ingrained in our consciousness. It also underscores the importance of dissolving these old beliefs if we ever hope to enjoy multiple relationships free of jealousy.



Jealousy is almost always most intense right when one partner starts a new relationship, and usually subsides over time. A new romance shakes up everything in your life, including your existing relationship. I use the analogy that adding a new relationship is very similar to having a baby: while it can bring great joy and excitement to your lives, you are adding a new person to your family, and this creates a whole new dynamic in your relationship. Just like a new baby, a new relationship will change your schedule, your lifestyle, and take a lot of your time and energy, as well as adding a major source of stress to your life. And, like a new baby, it is an unknown quantity, and it is impossible to predict how it will change your life experience and what kind of intense feelings it will trigger. As with a new baby, flexibility and willingness to open yourself up to a completely new experience are crucial in adjusting to a new relationship.

At the beginning of a new relationship, fear of loss and abandonment are at their peak. Fear of the unknown and fear of change can be extremely uncomfortable as well, because, as one woman put it, “There’s just no telling where this thing will go from here.” As the drama of a new romance gradually settles into a more manageable relationship with clear parameters, most people relax and realize that this is not going to be fatal to the initial relationship. If you are the partner initiating a new relationship, you can significantly reduce your partner’s initial jealousy through clear communication and reassurance that you are fully committed to staying with him or her.


A new relationship can dramatically alter power dynamics in a relationship. Particularly in a triad or triangle situation, where one person has two lovers and the other two only have one, an unfortunate dynamic of competition and a struggle for control can arise. This can be minimized by encouraging all parties to communicate their needs openly and by negotiating reasonable agreements that are fair to everyone. The person with two lovers should bend over backwards to avoid a power struggle and make sure both of his or her partners get enough time, attention, affection, commitment, and sex. If someone in this position abuses power, they should be called on it immediately. Both lovers should become allies to demand a change in their partner’s behavior, rather than allowing themselves to be manipulated against each other. Unless everyone cooperates and is careful of each other’s feelings and needs, it is easy for one person to feel like the “odd person out.” No one should feel powerless in a relationship– there is enough love for everyone to be satisfied.


Learn to accept jealousy as a normal but exaggerated response to a stressful, emotionally charged change in your life. I often use the phobia model to help clients manage jealous feelings. For instance, if someone is afraid of heights, a therapist would pinpoint exactly what situations frighten that person, and then gradually try to make those situations safe enough to tolerate. By exposing someone with a fear of heights first to a few steps and then to a ladder, and then going up an escalator, and eventually even going to the top of a hill or mountain. By gradually experiencing the situation that triggers the phobia, and by incrementally escalating that exposure, a person can slowly overcome their fears.

To treat jealousy, I ask clients to pinpoint as specifically as possible exactly what is triggering jealousy for them. For instance, Susan identified that what upset her most about her husband Bill’s affair was that he spent the night with Rachel, and Susan felt lonely sleeping alone. Bill agreed to come home every night, as long as he could spend a few evenings with Rachel. After a month, Susan realized that she was no longer jealous, and she agreed to let him spend one night a week with Rachel, with the caveat that if she got really jealous she could call and ask him to come home. After a few more months she decided that it was okay for Bill to spend two or three nights a week with Rachel, and she only got jealous when Bill forgot her birthday and made a date with Rachel for that night. Throughout this process, Rachel was willing to be very flexible to accommodate Susan’s demands, as she understood that securing Susan’s cooperation was essential to making this relationship work for everyone. And for Susan, what worked was an incremental approach of exposing herself to exactly the situations she feared the most, and gradually learning to tolerate and even embrace this new situation.

Jim and Joan are a married couple. Joan became involved with Ruth. Because Joan had never been involved with a woman before, Ruth feared that Joan would drop her and go back to her comfortable married life. Ruth demanded more time and commitment from Joan, but Jim got very jealous when Joan started spending more time with Ruth. Faced with two jealous lovers, Joan came for counseling, and eventually negotiated an agreement with them both: Jean would spend a few nights a week with Ruth, but each night she would call home to check in with Jim, and would go home if he was feeling too lonely and jealous. Jim agreed that if this worked out, after six months Ruth could move in to their home and Joan would divide her time between them. After six months, Jim was not ready to let Ruth move in, and he asked to extend this for another three months, and by then his jealousy had subsided to the point where he welcomed her into the household. While it’s great to negotiate a plan so everyone has the same understanding and expectations, it is crucial to be flexible and willing to wait for all partners to be ready to take the next step. If any partner feels coerced into moving faster than feels comfortable, the old phobic “fight or flight” mentality will kick in, and the relationship will be sabotaged.


Using visualization and guided imagery often helps get down to the “nitty gritty” of what is causing jealousy. close your eyes and visualize your partner initiating a new relationship with someone else, either someone they are currently interested in our involved with or with an imaginary “hypothetical lover”. Watch the entire scenario unfold as if you were watching a video of the entire process.

Begin with when they first meet, the initial spark of interest, going on a date, having dinner or going out, going home with the new person, getting undressed, having sex, sleeping together, waking up in the morning, your lover coming back to you and telling you about the relationship, how your lover treats you, what itís like being with your partner again, etc.

As if you had a remote control, press the pause button for a few moments at any point along the way where you feel discomfort or jealousy. Try to identify exactly what mix of emotions you are actually feeling at different points as the scenario unfolds.

Most people are surprised to find that visualizing their partner having another relationship like this is generally painless except at certain key moments and those “triggers” are different for each person. For instance, one woman discovered that going through the entire sequence was actually pleasurable and sexually arousing except that she freaked out at visualizing her husband getting into “their” bed with another woman. She then made an agreement with him that he would only sleep with other women outside their home, either at the womanís house or at a hotel, and this made her feel safe. Another man found he was comfortable visualizing his partner having intercourse with another man, but became enraged when he visualized her giving head to the man. He considered fellatio as extremely intimate experience and asked her not to do that with any other man and she agreed to that condition.

Another woman found the entire visualization extremely comfortable, much to her surprise, until she got to the part where after having sex, he husband talked to the new woman about his feelings and emotions. She realized that she didnít mind her partner having sex with another woman, but felt extremely threatened by him having an intimate conversation with her!

When you discover exactly what triggers your jealousy, it puts things in perspective. Realizing that you are only jealous of a small piece of the overall picture makes it much more manageable. After identifying you jealousy triggers, you have two basic choices. You can “engineer the problem away” by making agreements with your partner to avoid that particular behavior or situation, as shown in several previous examples. Or you can use the “phobia model”, taking the risk of gradually exposing yourself to situations which trigger your jealousy in the hopes that you will learn to tolerate and eventually feel comfortable with it.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no simple and easy solution to jealousy. It usually requires trial and error to discover what works for your individual situation. And jealousy can bring up many powerful feelings and unpredictable emotions. So be gentle with yourself and your partners, and donít expect instant changes. Try to be understanding of each personís needs and feelings. Make every effort to create a “win-win” situation for everyone by giving each person as much voice as possible in decisions and rule-making. And be willing to compromise to make sure everyone’s needs are met.


Being involved in non-monogamous relationships requires being willing to stretch ourselves and to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort, risk-taking, and uncertainty, especially at the beginning. While jealousy can be literally paralyzing at the outset, usually the balance of pain to pleasure will gradually shift until the enhanced satisfaction and joy will far outweigh the anxieties and insecurities. If you find that you and your partner(s) are unable to resolve jealous feelings on your own, get some outside help. Having a long talk with supportive friends can give you a fresh perspective and some honest feedback. Joining a support group can also be helpful, as other people who have been in similar situations may have good ideas for creative problem solving. Individual counseling or couple’s counseling can also create a safe environment for each person to express painful feelings and identify possible solutions.

Despite their best efforts, some people find that the fear and pain evoked by a non-monogamous relationship are too overwhelming. They may decide that it’s just not worth the trouble, and may opt to return to a monogamous lifestyle. The first six months of exploring this new lifestyle are usually the hardest, so if you survive that, most of the hard work is behind you, and you can relax and enjoy the wonderful relationships you have successfully created.

How To Live A Polyamorous Relationship? This Report Shows It.

This is an older article from a poly Group In Hawaii. Enjoy!


“Steve” clears his throat, bringing conversation to a quick halt. Long, wavy gray hair grazes the pillow he holds in his lap as he looks around the room. Since there are a few newcomers in attendance this evening, he starts the Pali Paths meeting with more background than usual.


He smiles at the various people wedged tightly into the available space in this small room, the minister’s library of a local church off the Pali Highway. “Hello everyone,” he says, nodding his head. “My name is Steve. I initiated Pali Paths three-and-a-half years ago after a lifelong experience of not being able to imagine wrapping all of my love into one person. … There’s been nights since I started these meetings where there’s been no one else here but me, but happily that’s not the case tonight.”

He throws the pillow across the room to “Mary” (all the names used in this story have been changed), who giggles elfishly and brushes the straight blonde hair from her face.
“Well, I’m Mary, and I am polyamorous,” she begins. “I’ve been coming to these meetings since they started. Right now I’m living with James, who doesn’t care to come to our meetings, but I’m involved in a nonsexual relationship with Frank,” she says, smiling across the room at Frank, who nods his head in acknowledgment.

Mary looks around the room and hoists the pillow at John, who is sitting on the floor rubbing Patty’s feet.

He gives a warm, bearded smile, eyes twinkling, and launches into a typically analytical introduction:

“A lot of the things society accepts as the law of nature bewilder me, such as: You can only have one person to love. Or, if you like cats then you can’t like dogs. This black and white, platonic or lovers, view is implicit in so much of how society sees the world!” With that, John tosses the pillow across the room to Zack.
“You forgot to say your name!” Patty chides John.
“My name is John,” he says, addressing the new people.
Zack, blond hair mottled with sweat, finishes chewing a bite from the dinner he grabbed after rushing from his running group to the meeting.
“My name is Zack,” he offers. “I’ve been coming to these meetings for almost six months now.
“Jane and I,” he says, motioning toward a petite woman with long, wavy dark hair sitting beside him, “have been married for over six years. Until recently, our relationship was monogamous. But now we’re interested in having more love in our lives.”
He hands the pillow to Jane. She is similarly clad in running clothes and sneakers, and is also damp from jogging. Her voice is quiet, but clear. “Zack and I moved here recently from the East Coast. We’ve been lucky to make some great friends here in Pali Paths, and our goal in coming here is to find other people we can add to our family.” She smiles shyly, and girlishly throws the pillow over to Patty, who looks as if she is enjoying John’s foot massage.

As usual, Patty starts by voicing her misgivings about polyamory.

“I’m Patty, and I’ve been coming to these meetings for over a year. Although I’ve been dating this guy,” she says, giving John a kick, “who is married, for about nine months now, I’m still not sure if polyamory is for me. There are times when I think it’s really crazy, but I’m still coming.”
With a laugh, she flings the pillow at Frank, who is taken by surprise when the pillow bounces off the Harley-Davidson T-shirt stretched across his ample stomach. But Frank only laughs his deep laugh, a smile spreading across his bearded face.
“OK …. well, I’m Frank. I am polyamorous, but my wife is not, which is why she’s not here. I’ve been involved in a relationship with Mary for several years, but in the interests of keeping my marriage together, I am currently monogamous.” He squints around the room. “Is there anyone who hasn’t gone yet?” he asks.

We are all polyamorous, or poly, if you define the word literally: poly, meaning “many,” and amorous, relating to love. Though everyone is capable of loving more than one person in their lifetime, polyamory as a social movement focuses upon having more than one intimate partner at one time.
It is certainly not a new concept: Forms of polyamory were practiced within ancient Hawaiian culture. The Mormon Church ritualized one form — polygamy — allowing men to marry multiple wives, until the 1890s. Its most recent incarnation in American society arose in the shadow of the free-love movement of the ’60s, with the “swingers” of the ’70s — couples who swapped sex partners with other couples.
Only during this last decade of the 20th century has “polyamory” begun to emerge as a social movement, with its own magazine, Loving More, an annual poly convention and a growing body of literature and home pages on the World Wide Web.
Most polyamorists argue that the capacity to have intimate relations with more than one person is an intrinsic part of their character, though many people lack a framework with which to conceptualize that.
“I think I identified the qualities within myself a long time before I knew the word [polyamory],” says Steve. Janine, another group regular, agrees. “I’ve been married two times and divorced two times. I finally realized that I’m just not a monogamous person. I used to think there was something wrong with me, like I was lacking a crucial gene. I tried to be monogamous through willpower, but it never worked.”
But even Steve, who cannot recall any point in his life when he identified himself as monogamous, only stumbled upon polyamory for the first time four years ago through computer networks.
“I found the news group alt.polyamory, and I looked at that and thought, well, I’ve never heard of that word before, but I think I know what it means,” he says. “I spent some time at alt.polyamory and discovered that it was indeed about intentionally nonmonogamous relationships.”
If the Pali Paths group in Hawai‘i is at all representative of polyamorists nationwide, they are predominantly baby boomers in their 40s and 50s, primed for polyamorous relationships by the change in social mores brought about by the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some stumbled upon the concept while reading, notably Robert Rimmer’s 1965 fiction work The Harrod Experiment and Robert Heinlein’s 1961 science fiction classic Stranger In A Strange Land.

Mary recalls reading The Harrod Experiment when she was 13 and thinking,

“This is what I expected relationships to be like.” Harrod chronicles the experiences of four students at a fictional East Coast college with a radical approach to male-female relationships: Female and male students share rooms and are expected to become sexual partners. The students in the novel form a tight-knit group that eventually evolves into a model of polyamorous living.

Steve found his inspiration in Stranger: “I was a science fiction fan from the time I started reading, and when I was 12 or 13, Heinlein published Stranger, and I read it. At the time, I was just picking up the newest book by one of my favorite authors, but I was delighted by its visions about relationships and sexuality.

Stranger in a Strange Land tells the story of Michael Valentine Smith, an Earthling born on Mars. After returning and acclimating to life on Earth, Smith eventually constructs a communal, polyamorous living situation he calls “the nest,” where members communicate and connect though sexual communion as well as mental telepathy.

“I went through my teen years,” explains Steve, “reading those books and thinking, ‘This makes a heck of a lot of sense to me.’ And so it was a rude shock when I got to be a young adult and discovered the world was not really prepared to move in that direction.”
Despite his initial disappointment, Steve held on to his polyamorous attachments. “Through college and grad school, I continued to have a philosophical, psychological attachment to the idea of nonmonogamous relationships and spent some time in the late ’70s trying to organize a nonmonogamous spiritual community, and I advertised some, but didn’t find anybody who wanted to pursue something like that.”

Steve is the most devoted to a vision of creating a tribe of polyamorists. He was inspired to action after attending his first polyamory conference a few years ago.
“I went [to northern California] and spent the weekend with over 200 other polyamorists, and it was like a revelation!” he explains. “You could actually spend time with large numbers of other people who were supportive of your point of view. It was certainly a tremendous sense of release and validation to discover there was a subculture that shared the ideas that I had all of my life.”
After that experience, he took matters into his own hands by creating Pali Paths in Honolulu. He posted ads in Honolulu Weekly as well as at the Unitarian Church, where he is a member. And the phone began to ring.
“In some ways,” he says, “it’s more than I ever expected. When I first put that ad in the newspaper, who knew? Pali Paths has become, slowly over time, something of a community, a social circle which I enjoy tremendously.”

Steve may be interested in building a tribe, but others only wish to expand their intimate circle by a person or two. Jane and Zack have been living in Hawai‘i for over six months, after migrating from the Northeast. At 29 and 33, they are among the youngest members attending Pali Paths. Both are college-educated professionals. Their move to Honolulu gave them the opportunity to reinvent themselves after six years of marriage: They have new jobs, new friends and are now open about both their polyamorous and bisexual predilections.

Zack and Jane are seeking an extended family, something they both lacked while growing up. This has motivated them to search outside their biological kin for a support network. They also decided recently not to have any children.

“We need a surrogate family,” says Zack. “And we tend to find that in the people
around us.”
The couple wasn’t aware that Pali Paths existed when they decided to move to Honolulu. They stumbled upon an ad in the Weekly during their first few weeks on O‘ahu, and, after a few weeks of hesitation, are now regulars at Pali Paths, attending many of the poly social gatherings as well.

In their newfound enthusiasm for polyamory, they also rushed headlong into a group relationship with another couple who attend the meetings.

The relationship ended with some acrimony after only three weeks.
“I think we both learned an awful lot with our experiment, and we had to get something out of our systems,” says Zack. “We’ve been able to more clearly define what our goals are with poly. “
“One of the things we’ve been going back and forth on,” says Jane, “is whether we want to be involved with just one person, or more than one. We decided we weren’t interested in having a relationship with a single guy, and for me I wanted to experience having a relationship with a woman. It didn’t even have to be sexual, although that would be nice. We’d rather it be a couple who was stable with one another.”
They have yet to find that couple. Zack has posted the following notice on their Web page:
We are interested in polyfidelity ( a committed, multi-adult relationship — we want to widen our family, to create an intentional and intimate family. We would like to share a bond of friendship with one or two soul mates, equal partners in every way, perhaps someday as spouses.
We are NOT interested in swinging, one-night stands or sex buddies. We are not promiscuous. We insist on real friendship first, then perhaps love and intimacy — this is not an experiment or a passing interest. This is the direction in which we have chosen to take our lives and our love. Making a family is tricky. Some assembly is required!

Though more a discussion group than a singles scene, Pali Paths has been a source for new poly relationships. Patty and John met at the meetings and have had a steady relationship for over a year. Both in their 40s, they share a joy and enthusiasm for life that makes them seem like teenagers in love. Patty is recently divorced from her husband of 25 years.
Despite growing up in the shadow of conformity that characterized the 1950s and early 1960s, John claims he “had an intrinsically polyamorous nature since ever I can remember. [Growing up,] I realized that there’s so many ways of living … and so many of them are far more sophisticated than ours.
“This whole notion that there’s only the one true way and that’s the American way, as it was in the ’50s and ’60s or ’70s … it’s ludicrous, and it made a real impression on me as a child — that a lot of this stuff I was told was being told to me by people who just didn’t know any better.”
John entered into marriage with his wife, Liz, with an explicit agreement to be open to the possibility of having other lovers.
“We loved each other and were sufficiently confident in our relationship that we could allow this to occur and we weren’t always fearful that our mate would leave us,” John continues. “It sort of reinforced our commitment to each other, in a paradoxical way. We didn’t have other lovers for years and years, but just the fact that it was permissible and explicitly acceptable for both of us was wonderful and continues to be.”
John and Patty agree that John’s relationship with his wife is not a threat; in fact, all three of them occasionally spend a weekend together.
“My housemate once asked, ‘What about the jealousy?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think there is any, in either one of us,’” Patty says. “I enjoy the relationship with John immensely and feel very protective of Liz — not at all jealous. And I don’t think she feels the least bit jealous of me; I think she knows that my intentions are certainly not to take John’s love away from her.”
Patty is a newcomer to polyamory. Her first exposure to the concept was at a talk given by Steve. Then she received an invitation to attend a seminar that discussed polyamory.
“I brought the flyer home, and my housemate picked it up and said, ‘Patty, do you know what you’re going to?’ And I said, ‘No, what?’ She read at the bottom: ‘Nonmonogamy!’ And I thought, hmm — so what? Sounds interesting, sounds a little weird, but so what?
“So I went to the seminar, and I thought it was weird. … I thought the whole idea of polyamory was weird. I thought the people were nuts to think it, actually — I really did. It’s such a change in the paradigm. You’re so accepting that monogamy is the only way that anybody who thinks about the possibility of nonmonogamy … it’s like: ‘What are you? Off your rocker? You people have got it wrong!’”
Despite her initial skepticism, Patty continued to visit the Thursday night meetings. “I love small groups. I enjoyed the conversation, I liked the openness. … It was for that reason that I kept going,” she said. “And then at some point, I went out with John … and I didn’t even think that through. ‘Patty, this is a married man you’re going out with!’
“I don’t know what I was thinking! But after I actually became intimate with him, I started realizing I had to think about what I was doing. So then I had to start figuring out, ‘Gosh, is this even a possibility?’”
As Patty finally concluded, “It’s not a black and white thing. It’s not a horrible thing … whether it’s for me, I’m still not convinced 100 percent. I like the stimulation; I don’t like the isolation of marriage. Whether I need to be sexual with two or three people at one time … I’m just not sure.
“Steve in particular seems to embrace the idea that polyamory needs to include sexual relationships,” Patty continues. “I don’t know where I stand on that issue, but obviously I’m sexually sharing a man with another woman and not finding that difficult
“ I think it was initially more difficult for Liz, because she’s always been there, and then to have that new-relationship energy that was going on between John and I … that must have been somewhat difficult for her.”

Pali Paths has seen its share of relationship wrecks. Frank and Mary were both married when they met over four years ago, via the Internet. After conducting an intimate on-line friendship for several months, Frank traveled to the East Coast to meet Mary in person.
After the first meeting, they agreed it would be a one-time event — and neither mentioned it to their spouses. But when another irresistible opportunity for them to meet presented itself the following year, they realized their feelings had become too serious to deny any longer. They decided to tell their spouses, with the ultimate hope of forming a polyamorous family.
Mary’s husband promptly demanded a divorce. With, as she puts it, “nowhere else to go,” Mary decided to move to Hawai‘i to be closer to Frank. “I had been living that Stepford Wife-like existence, living in suburbia, trying to be like everyone else. And I just got sick of it. Why not go to Hawai‘i?”
Mary’s arrival in Honolulu led to Frank and Elaine’s separation. Frank and Mary then tried unsuccessfully to live together. When Frank decided to try to repair his marriage, Mary chose to find a new polyamorous companion. While both continue to harbor strong feelings for one another, their relationship has become a “platonic friendship.”
Frank is still committed philosophically to polyamory. “I want an extended family: a number of men and women, all of whom are compatible and want the same thing. And yet I’m unwilling to leave my wife, who doesn’t accept that.
“So I’m kind of between the devil and the deep blue sea. It’s a nice dream, and I — I want to support the idea that polyamory is OK and that it should be a valid option. I think it has potential to improve the world we live in. So I support it as much as I can while keeping my marriage together, and realize that there’s just compromises — choices — that I have to make, and one of those choices is to not be with some of the people that I love.”

At 9 p.m., the meeting dissipates. People stand and stretch their legs. Hugs and smiles abound. No one seems to be in any hurry to leave this little nirvana: For some, it’s the only place their lifestyle is validated.
“I have no illusions about polyamory being a salvation for most people,” offers Steve. “For some people it is, and for some it is not. … For me, it’s really about freedom of choice, possibilities and alternatives: Some people are up to climbing mountains, and some aren’t.”
Living a polyamorous lifestyle is not an easy task. It takes the usual demands of a two-person relationship and makes the situation even more complex.
“To explore polyamory,” explains Steve, “you have to accept that relationship pain is actually a part of loving. There are some people who are willing to be absolutely miserable to avoid being a little uncomfortable. But, the possibility of being hurt doesn’t supersede the opportunity to be truly alive.”

Create Your Own Audio Tarot

By utilizing the concept of synchronicity you can create your own audio tarot cd!


1. Create your own tarot deck. You can use note cards or simply write out a variety of concepts such as love and fear that reflect the words you use to describe life. A tarot deck does not need be any given number of cards. It can be 20, 50, or over 100 cards if you so desire.

2. Record your voice digitally, reading tarot cards in a .wav or other audio format. Read one card for each track.

3. Locate a cd-burner (either your own or a friends).

4. Burn a cd that has a separate track for each “card.” For example, card one can be “Love” and card two can be “Fear.” You can include a description in addition to the “title” of the card. For example, “Love is the core of who we are.”

5. After the cd is created, put it in a cd player that has a “random” or “shuffle” feature, then press play to listen to random tracks. Let it run for as long as you like. For example, if you want a “3 card reading” play three tracks on random.

How To Read Tarot Cards For Yourself

. Use a deck that best fits with your own perceptions and philosophies. Over time, I decided to make my own deck because no deck I could find perfectly reflected my own values. My deck, Life Tarot, is available in audio form as Mystic Life Audio Tarot.

2. Define your question or the issue which you would like to clarify. It is best to take the time to reflect upon what is the “real issue.” Sometimes by simply reflecting upon what the issue really is, you gain greater clarity before the reading begins.

3. Decide what type of “spread” you would like to use. There are hundreds of spreads available, and you are free to design or customize a spread that works for you.

A “one card” reading is a “spread” that uses only one card. This approach is very popular, and a simple way of gaining more clarity.

A typical “three card” spread I like to use looks like this:

  1. 1st card = The Issue
  2. 2nd card = Your Attitude
  3. 3rd card = The Lesson

As a reader, your role is to see how the card relates to both the “position” in which it falls, as well as to the question at hand.

4. Reflect upon how the reading relates to your issue. For example, if the card that comes up relates to “Deception,” ask yourself if you are deceiving yourself on some issue. It is important to tune in to your body, listening to your intuition and your inner voice. It is
easy for your ego to interfere with your clarity, so try your best to be as honest possible.

The point of doing a reading is to better understand your life and where it is headed. This means that sometimes you will have to recognize that you have not been honest with yourself. This can create feelings of disillusionment. However, disillusionment means
that you are losing your illusions, and thus gaining a more accurate perception of reality.

Over time, you will find it easier to see how the cards that come up in the reading are related to the issue at hand.
Synchronicity is the guiding principle behind why tarot cards work. I don’t believe it has anything to do with “putting your energy into the cards” or anything like that.
If it helps you to lower lights, light a candle, or put on soft music, then you may want to thus alter your environment.
However, synchronicity will work regardless of these variables.
For more information on synchronicity, visit Synchronicity Times.

How To Get Extra Relationship Energy By Adding Sexual Diversity!

Earlier this month while my female lover was furiously riding my husband’s lingarn during a love-in, my body felt that old familiar pain in my gut and my heart once again. I silently collapsed in defeat. Jealousy!  When will I ever be done with that ‘ol green- eyed monster?

“I can’t ever possibly compete with that,” I thought as I watched them, peeking between my fingers. “They are so involved; so wild in their passion, they don’t even notice me and how miserable I feel!”

On top of it, what was that chemistry they had, that wildness, that connection, that joy? It looks like, but no, it couldn’t be could it? Could it be … NRE?


What a minute here. My husband had been involved with “Bill” and “Sue” for – about 15 years! This was not a new relationship by any means. I met him, moved in with him, got married, and then about a month later, was introduced to his lovers, Bill and Sue. So, if anything, Sasha and I are the ones who possibly still have NRE, not Sasha and Sue!

But here it is, obviously, an energy that is still there for the m after all these years.

I had been in two long-term monogamous relationships, 12 years each, spanning 24 years of MY adult life. I know how sexual excitement fades, how lovemaking becomes routine, stale, perhaps even boring..

In those monogamous days of my life, I contemplated that “swingers” probably maintained the excitement in their love life by bringing that new, novel energy back home to their beds.

And what of my observations of Sasha and Sue, long, long time lovers? Their energy “felt” to me like NRE. I was jealous like it was, or at least it seemed he has something different with her and not with me-his wife, his buddy, his companion, his lover, his confidant. Perhaps there is a “key” here. What do they have together that Sasha and I don’t have?

Could it be because they are not cohabitating? Could it have something to do with the frequency of their encounters? And if there is a different energy for those who are infrequent lovers, perhaps we need to coin yet another phrase?

How about ERE? External Relationship Energy? Extraneous Relationship Energy? Extramarital Relationship Energy? Perhaps OPE: Outside Primary Energy?

After all, familiarity breeds contempt, does it not? I am a relationship counselor with my husband, so
I’ve heard all the stories in our practice. In addition, I’ve had hundreds of interactive conversations with people regarding their relationships on the Internet. “My spouse won’t make love with me anymore.” A common story. Traditionally, the neglected mate goes out and cheats and feels justified for their actions. “We started out so passionate, so in love. What happened?” Indeed, what has happened?

I believe we have pent up resentments that create distancing in our relationships. Resentments inevitably evolve with our primaries due to the negative bonding patterns that emerge from being imago mates. Imago mates are those to whom we are attracted and those whom we attract to us in relationships due to unresolved issues we have with our primary caretakers while we were growing up. Our imagos resemble these caretakers, not physically, but emotionally, psychologically and energetically. (Look for books by Harville Hendrix for more on  imago mates.—ed.)

Our imagos are also our mirrors, and our mates reflect back to us our disowned subpersonalities and the characteristics that we need to incorporate into ourselves in order to become centered and to eventually develop an aware ego.

Negative bonding patterns result when there is a disturbing event that happens, not necessarily within the relationship, that generates a fear or upset in one or both of the partners. They react by moving into one of  their defensive subpersonalities  which throws the other into one of their defensive subpersonalities.

For example, if Sasha’s ex wife is suing him for possession of the house and Sasha is afraid or upset by that, he may become impatient with me if I’m taking too long to get ready to go out, and turn into “irritable father.” His impatient behavior and words may throw me into “withdrawn daughter.”

If Sasha persists with his behavior, I may eventually turn into “yelling, angry mother,” which may in turn send Sasha into “bratty adolescent.” It is a parent/adult/parent/adult vicious cycle and difficult to get out of once begun.

Typically, partners may banter with their pattern for a while, hurting one another until one of them be- comes aware of the drama, returns to center, and apologizes. And as one holds the space in the center, the other usually returns and  responds. The initial destablization  was outside of themselves. Nevertheless, the resultwas a drama within the relationship.

This process of being in relationship, of “doing life” together is a double-edged sword. It is my theory that the imago process and the negative bonding patterns, even though we apologize and “forgive” one another, create the distancing and the deeply seated resentments that eventually”kill” the sexual energy. It is like an internal, invisible scoring system. No one knows when the “magic” number is hit that is “one too many” and the love game is over; breakup, divorce time. On the other hand, this imago process is the road to the deepest,most incredible intimacy possible, not only with our beloveds but with ourselves. Our partners are our mirrors, reflecting back to us characteristics that we react to, that we overly admire or despise and those are issues we need to work on within ourselves. There is an old saying, “if you notice it, it is yours.”

If we can overcome our difficulties and survive in our relationship, looking at our human mirrors with fewer and fewer reactions, we discover and incorporate those disowned characteristics into our being. With this evolutionary process, we learn and grow and appreciate our mates through time and go really deep with one another. So, my questions are, “How do we prevent resenting the heck out of one another over time? How do  we keep that passion of NRE or infrequent relationship alive in our primary pair bond?

After suffering many days with my jealousy bout and sufficiently torturing my poor Sasha with my rantings–including  writing a 7 page “hate” letter to Sue! (how dare she, that Bitch!)–I finally came to my senses, and perhaps a resolution, at least to question number two.

During our love-ins we had a tendency to begin and end with one another, branching out to our other partners in the height of the excitement. It had begun to feel like “swapping” to me. Our intention was to always stay linked with one another.  As time progressed, I noticed a sense of “politeness” had sort of set in. It was like, “oh, we don’t see the com- pany much, let’s focus a lot of attention on them.” Since they were the guests and we were focused on pleasing them and showing them a good time, we lost our focus with one another. The linkage was broken.

My idea was to consciously incorporate coming back to my beloved to connect every first or second natural break (like stopping for liquids, bathroom breaks). That way the full blown energy at the height of passion would be returned to the primary repeatedly, bringing that extreme sexual excitement back home and not just the beginning energy before things got hot and the ending energy when we were exhausted and wanting to go to sleep.

As for the internal resentments, plan on keeping the communication lines wide open with my beloved with loving, tactful, honesty. Finally, I figure if we stay orgasmic, follow our tantric practices and connect twice daily, incorporate variety into our lives by sexual diversity with our other lovers, bring home that NRE from other contacts, and consciously maintain linkage so we never feel left out and abandoned, we will feel passionately, lovingly connected and there will be never be room for resentments in our hearts.

How To And Why Create A Poly Family Of Lovers

Creating a family

What is family, anyway? Like motherhood and apple pie, we regard family as an absolute good, something we would literally die to protect. The is a universal symbol of pity. We would probably rather be homeless than family-less, for we know how to create a home, but how do we go about creating a family?


When we think of family, we usually think of our parents, children, relatives, spouses, and very close friends. When we say, “he’s family to me”, we mean it as a very special compliment. By family, we generally mean those people who are related to us by bloodline, marriage, or friendship, who have participated significantly in our development, and who give us unconditional social, psychological, spiritual, and financial support. In short, we love our family, and they love us.

Another way of saying this is that by we mean those people with whom we have a long-term relationship. The following relationships are generally considered to be long-term: mother, brother, aunt, daughter, husband, wife. The following relationships are generally not considered to be long-term: teacher, boss, partner, baby sitter, roommate, neighbor.

Within a long-term relationship, we can make long-range plans. One of the most important of these is , especially the propagation of a specific bloodline within a species, such as . Parents, children, and spouses all cooperate to perpetuate their blood line. Let’s call this the . Thus the basis for the biological family is genetic or sexual.

Long-term relationships can form the base for other long-range plans as well, such as building a house, changing careers, relocating, and saving up for old age. If we were to make a career move to another state, we would probably expect our children to move with us, but would probably not expect our neighbors to do so. Some of the following family expectations might seem familiar to you:

Who raises your children?

  • Who would raise your children if both parents died?
  • Where do you spend your important holidays?
  • Who would you call to post bail?
  • Where would you go if your life fell apart, leaving you helpless, homeless, or broke?
  • Who would you consider supporting financially?
  • Who would you consider taking care of in their old age?

In the past, these have been matters of the , that is, the biological family, plus neighbors, clergy, nannys, and anyone else participating in the family support network. In an old-fashioned extended family, you might ask your clergy for moral support, invite your neighbors to a holiday celebration, care for an aged nanny, or ask your local godfather to post bail. Those were the days of live-in uncles, too many relatives, and the front porch.

The Great Experiment

As our country grew, we expanded Westward in search of homesteads and new economic opportunites. At the end of World War II, we began a new experiment, called the . Parents and children left their extended family far behind, pursuing the American dream of a house with a white picket fence, far removed from any meddlesome neighbors. Disenchanted with organized religion, but attracted by the promise of the Partridge family and the Brady bunch, we attempted to go it alone, just you, me, and the kids.

In retrospect, the nuclear family has been an unmitigated disaster. We have a national divorce rate approaching 50%, and an abundance of broken families and absentee parents, not to mention higher crime rates, lowered educational standards, and increased drug abuse. Our philosophy of rugged individualism has led us to a national feeling of loneliness, distance, and alienation.

For many of us, our family may be distant, nonexistant, or otherwise unavailable. This is especially true for those of us who have no brothers or sisters, or who grew up in broken homes or dysfunctional families. Some of us may have chosen to have no children of our own. As we age, we will become empty-nesters, and begin losing our aunts and uncles, parents, and eventually our siblings and lifetime friends, through the attrition of disease and death. So for many of us who choose to share our lives with others, family will be something we build, rather than something we inherit.

Intentional communities

Intentional communities vary greatly in the degree to which they can function as a family. Some share income and expenses, and can offer most of the financial support of a family, assisting career changes, furthering education, and even providing retirement facilities. Others are centered on interpersonal growth, and can provide much needed psychological and moral support. However, the answer to the question “How do intentional communities rate as a family?” is probably “Not very well”.

Our intentional community, Sharingwood, is a cohousing community. Cohousing communities are made of individual households, and a household is most often a nuclear family or a single adult with children. Some households have renters, but they are generally not considered part of the householder’s family. While some resources, such as canoes, hot tubs, and video cameras, may be shared, significant expenses, such as houses, cars, and college educations, are generally not shared, and income is not shared at all, except within a household. Any household which suddenly finds itself without income would probably be forced to leave the community.  .

Ask yourself what happens to your community during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • Do people celebrate these holidays together?
  • Or do they have a pre-holiday celebration, and then scatter to join their families?
  • Is it difficult to hold common meals or general meetings during these times?
  • How about summer vacation? Does the community have one together, or do people scatter to take separate ?
  • When people leave the community, is it a shared decision, or do they just announce one day that they are going?


  • Who do they offer to take with them?
  • If both parents die, who takes care of their children?
  • Do most parents find godparents within the community?Very few intentional communities are real families. Most of them, however, work well as a , that is, a cooperative but heterogenous collection of families. When you hear the lament “I wish we had more community around here”, you may be hearing “I wish we were more of a family around here than a tribe.” This leads us to the question “How do we create a family an intentional community?”


Creating a family

One powerful shortcut to creating a family is to marry into an existing family. By attaching ourselves to a specific bloodline, we become de facto members of a new family. For example, If our son brings a total stranger home and announces “We’re going to have a baby!”, this stranger will likely become part of our family very quickly. A new lover is likely to make the transition to family more quickly than a new friend. In general, we recognize that the intimacy of a sexual relationship can lead quickly to family.What about friends? Like the word community, the word friendship covers a lot of diverse territory. Some friendships can outlast marriages, and we are usually careful to distinguish between just friends, good friends, and best friends. Like good lovers, good friends can also make the transition to family. Unlike lovers, however, few of them ever become live-in family. Before we look at live-in relationships, however, let’s take a brief look at intimacy and intention.





Intimacy and intention

Instead of looking at the depth of a relationship, let’s consider its volume, that is, its length, breadth, and depth. Relationships grow stronger as experiences are shared, and the strength of a relationship can be roughly measured by the length of time we have shared, the breadth of experiences we have shared, and how deeply we have shared them. A weekend seminar, the group equivalent of a one-night stand, has some breadth, and some depth, but not much length. Growing up in a small town can mean sharing a great many experiences with other residents, at some length, but generally without much depth.Living together with another person provides an opportunity for sharing a great many experiences. In addition to birthdays, personal crises, life transitions, and the rest, we can share breakfast dishes, daily newspapers, and spectacular sunsets. This breadth of experiences is generally not available to long- distance friends or lovers. However, just because we can share a great many experiences does not mean we will share them, or that these shared experiences will have any significant depth.


Many of us have had the experience of living with an absentee roommate. Roommates are generally not family, nor do they wish to be so, and a beautiful sunset may not be able to compete with a bowling night. What separates live- in friends or lovers from mere roommates or housemates is the intention to be family. Without this intention, experiences are not shared, and the co- habitants fail to become family.

From this point on, we will call a group of friends or lovers living together with the intention of forming a family an intentional family.

The intention to form a family requires the commitment to do so. Not all shared experiences will be pleasant. Washing the breakfast dishes is one experience; not washing them is another. Commitment means hanging in there through the unpleasant experiences so that we are available to share the pleasant ones. It is the commitment of friends and lovers within an intentional family that enables it to strengthen and grow, and thereby to support long-range plans.


Living together as an intentional family also makes good economic sense. Some of the same factors that reduce the cost of living in intentional community apply in miniature to intentional family. Friends and lovers living in an intentional family can share food, clothing, cars, magazines, the washing machine, the bathroom scale, and, quite literally, the kitchen sink. Because living together in the same house greatly increases opportunities for communication, it is probably easier to share some resources, such as cars, in an intentional family than in an intentional community.There is another economic reason for creating intentional family. At the end of World War II, one adult could afford the mortgage on a home. Typically, the father worked and the mother stayed at home and raised the children. Nowadays, it takes two working adults to afford a home, and in most nuclear families, both parents have jobs. Presently, it will take three working adults to afford a home. We are already seeing adult children returning home to live with their parents, and more households than ever are taking on renters.

While the relationship of adult children to their parents can vary, the relationship of landlord to tenant is seldom a pleasant one. There is no commitment to share experiences, and no intention to form a family. Problems arise whenever the landlord sets policies, telling the tenant what to do or not to do. The landlord is generally empowered to evict the tenant with only thirty days notice. This is hardly the basis for a long term relationship.

When landlords and tenants live together, the situation is even worst. Having no intention to share experiences, they live mostly separate lives, relating only through conflict and control issues.  As for owning a home, the shared income, talents, and resources of an intentional family can give it an economic edge over the nuclear family. Cohousing has often been criticized as being unavailable to low-income families and people who are living simply. Rather than looking for government subsidies, cohousing groups can encourage singles and couples to come together by designing and building group houses. Intentional family is an ideal way to share the ownership of and to live within these group houses.

Why lovers?

We have defined intentional family as friends and lovers living together with the intention of being family. Why lovers? We have already seen that a sexual relationship is a shortcut to intimacy. This, however, is not the primary reason why loving sexual relationships should exist within an intentional family.One of the more destructive forces in intentional community is the need for its members who have not found a loving sexual relationship inside the community to seek this relationship outside the community. A community may suddenly find itself with members whose time, attention, and energy are being spent primarily outside of the community. Or the community might find itself living with the lovers of its members, who may or may not participate in the community, and who do not necessarily share its values.

Some intentional communities may choose to confront members who are no longer actively contributing to the community, or who have taken live-in lovers whose values differ substantially from those held by the community. Unfortunately, the result of this confrontation is all too often that the community loses a valued member. And while a community of forty adults can probably survive the loss of a member, an intentional family of four would be severely disrupted.

Some of us may have had the experience of living platonically with a roommate who subsequently fell in love with someone else. Perhaps we didn’t see our roommate for weeks at a time, or perhaps we suddenly found ourselves sharing our non- smoking household with a smoker. In either case, we might have been tempted to find a new roommate or household to live in, if our roommate didn’t move out first.

To prevent an intentional family from being pulled apart by external relationships, it is preferable that loving sexual relationships be available within the family. Note that this is a preference, not a requirement. For example, two intimate couples could join together in friendship to create a very stable intentional family.

In Summary

We have seen that intentional families are formed by friends and lovers who are committed to living together with the intention of making long term plans and sharing a lifetime of experiences. There are many challenges to be met in forming an intentional family in a society which legally and socially recognizes only the two-adult nuclear family. How do we find others to create our family? How do we make decisions and handle conflicts? Where do we go for advice and support? How do we create houses that are especially comfortable for intentional families? What existing legal structures might we use for ownership? How do we become socially acceptable?Our next generation will probably live in households of three or more adults, many of whom will be renters. Instead, we have a chance to pioneer a new social order which emphasizes family above household. This will take courage, persistance, and a sincere desire to share our lives with others.