The History Of Polyamory: Pandora


Pandora is
The first woman
Giver of ALL
Initiator to new experience
Patron Saint of those
Who explore living fully
And knowing truth


Pandora is a group of healers and teachers
Formed to promote community among
Those who seek to explore
The pathway of erotic spirituality
And spiritual eroticism

Pandora celebrates the notion
That sexuality and laughter
Are powerful spiritual pathways

Pandora is expressed in the creation
Of environments dedicated
To nurturance and pleasure

Pandora is clothing optional
And openly erotic
Where situation permits

Pandora values being in experience
Rather than belief in ideology

Pandora is a community who know how
To play together and who
Help others learn to play too


In June 1993 a group of people came together in response to the following invitation:

“This is an invitation to join a select group of adult women and men in exploring sexuality as a pathway to enlightenment.

We are looking for a few people to join with us in exploring the mysteries of sexually-based ritual experience…*as we encounter ourselves…*as we encounter each other…*as we encounter forces beyond all that…*as we play at the edge of bliss, risking both pleasure and pain, while witnessing life.”

Included in this invitation was a rendering of the ASSUMPTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS you will find if you read on.

To a smaller group a more demanding invitation was directed; the invitation to become leaders in the community.

The response to both was greater than and lesser than we hoped.

More people who wanted to play, but fewer who were strong in their commitment and ability to take leadership. So we have learned to grow slowly. But, when all was said and done, enough real people came on line to launch our exploration and begin to learn from our experiences.

We are now at the next phase of our development. Our community has grown large enough to spawn new communities who also call themselves Pandora. And we know there are others out their who would like to benefit from what we have learned. What we will ask of you in return is to help us learn more.

This web page is the hub of a larger and more diverse experiment in building erotic spiritual community. If you try out our ideas please communicate your results to our e-mail address. If you don’t agree with us please send us respectful criticism and we will review it.

There is more to our history than that, but let’s hold that for another time.


By creating a container in which it is safe to depart from the expectations of the dominant culture.

This “new” culture also has bounderies; they are simply different ones from the dominant culture. This paradigm change allows many people to have a “new” experience.

While some new experiences are pleasureable, others are painful. The task of building authentic relationships is fraught with both. To build erotic spiritual community this level of integrity is required.




It seems likely that you have already explored radical views of life/sexuality and that you can extend reciprocal respect to others who have also done so regardless of differences in ideas, personal experience, sexual self-expression and temperament.


You can get beyond victimhood/exploitation and are able to bring your personal safety with you so you are able to experience intimacy, whether pleasurable or painful, without precipitously abandoning your agreements.


You welcome responsibility for yourself and others in order to remain present in current experience.


Your approach to this particular experience will be characterized by openness, honesty, and a willingness to risk in the face of uncertainty.


Welcome the opportunity to participate in ritual play.


These guidelinge were derived after a number of group experiences and dialogue among the leadership group. They continue in place today in all groups that call themselves Pandora.

All cultures function more smoothly when there is consensus concerning socially appropriate behavior. If you choose to participate in a Pandora sponsored activity please assume the following manners will be expected unless otherwise stated.


Ask before going outside the area we are inhabiting, or before picking up anything that is not yours. Stay fully conscious of your own and other’s bounderies and ask clearly before using something. Please accept full responsibility for refusing any request that is not appropriate for you at this time.


Practice safe sex when in our space, with everyone, at all times. Sit on a towel when naked, use latex, soap, and other protections freely. Report to the group if you have any condition that may be contagious.


Do not engage in any practice or consume anything until you understand fully the choice you are making.


If you are open to conversation many difficulties can be resolved.


Help out with donations of money, time, skills, or supplies. Look for ways to be supportive.



How To Come Out As Polyamorous: What You Need To Know

Coming out Poly

Well, OK, you’re polyamorous. It feels right, you’ve accepted it. Maybe you’re even in a polyamorous situation, brave soul. At some point you ask yourself if you should tell the people who are important in your life, and how. Various scenarios come to mind, the worst of which might look something like this: your good friend, Betty, is taking a big, satisfying sip from a glass of ice-cold milk. Right in the middle of it, you say “I woke up in bed this morning with 3 other people!!!”. Picture Betty’s eyes widen, the huge, beautiful, fountaining spit-take, the milk streaming out Betty’s nose. Next time, don’t stand quite so close to Betty.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where you could just talk to people about these things and not cause a stroke? Imagine what your life would be like in a world where having several lovers was nothing to raise an eyebrow about.

Maybe, just maybe, we do live in such a world. Yes, some people do have a strong aversion to non-monogamy. To them, polyamory has the ring of Sodom and Gomorra and diseased ethics and Hillary Clinton. I believe they are in the minority, especially if you live near an urban area of any size. Their discomfort is usually nowhere as visceral or phobic as is common with, say, homosexuality. Or in my case, country music.

I am not saying that coming out poly is easy. Some people will always disapprove of any type of non-traditional relationship or lifestyle. But, so what? Some people buy paintings of Elvis on black velvet and collect porcelain figurines and tape Geraldo. It’s helped me develop a slightly thicker skin and a lot more self-confidence.

My experience is that the average person is fairly tolerant of polyamory, if it is made clear to them that polyamory is ethical, consensual non-monogamy and not cheating or swinging. Most of our fears about people’s reactions are based on our projections and are much worse than their actual reactions.

Case in point: while my partner and I lived in a rural community on the east coast, we were afraid to tell even our closest friends that we were bisexual and wanted to open up our marriage. Would they be afraid to let us near their kids? That dishonesty and fear really built a wall between us and them. When we moved to Hawaii a few years ago, we made a clean break with our past dishonesty. All our new friends know who and what we are. And it feels great.

On our annual pilgrimage to the mainland this year, we came out to many of our old friends on the east coast. One or two didn’t take it too well initially but came around, several were poly themselves but didn’t have a word for it. Most said something like: “Very interesting. If it works for you, terrific.” Most had questions. Most were much more surprised to hear that we were bisexual that that we were poly. And not one person sneezed any milk.

What I learned from this is: don’t assume the worst. Don’t project.


What is your worst fear about coming out? That the local newspaper would run a picture of you and your lovers on the front-page with the headline “These people are polyamorous”? This very thing happened to me, my partner and the couple we were dating. A member of our local poly discussion group wrote an honest and slightly sympathetic article on polyamory as part of a journalism class. On a whim, she submitted it to a widely-read, local paper which agreed to publish it. They said wanted a few pictures of the group for the article but that these would not be close-ups and would not be used on the cover.

It turns out they did use a picture for the cover, a nice close up too. The paper has a distribution of 100,000 on an island with 850,000. And it’s free. You can find a copy on every street corner in downtown. 3 of the 4 of us on the cover work downtown and had distribution boxes nearby, even right in front of our work-places. Our faces were very identifiable and co-workers were certain to recognize us. And with gossip being what it is, …

So it turned out that, quite to our surprise, every one of our co-workers found out that we were poly, all at once. We braced for the worst, … and do you know what happened to us? Nothing. No one was fired or harassed or ostracized, nothing. I’m sure there was some gossip, but people didn’t treat us any differently. A few co-workers came up to me and said: “I read the article and it’s very interesting” or “who is in the picture with you” or even “I’d like to ask you a few questions some time”, but that was it. It was almost a let-down. After much anticipation, Pandora’s box opened up and nothing crawled out.


While puzzling about how, you might wonder again about why anyone should come out poly. Try this. You have a right to love who you choose to love. You have a right to build the kind of families you choose. Without shame or guilt. You have a right to tell the people care about who you really are. You have a right to honesty. You have these rights as soon as you choose to take them.

Secrets and lies are a lot of work and could also be bad for your health where STDs are concerned. I’ve learned to tell doctors (with a casual voice and great composure), “Yes. My partner and I are not monogamous. We have other sweeties.” They don’t react, they’ve heard it all before. Certainly no milk out the nose.

Many polys are very much in the closet. They feel that they are minorities living in a monogamous world, (or a world that at least pretends to be monogamous.) Some folks may never be comfortable being out. Very few of us get to choose our conditioning. Some may have a lot to lose by coming out, like their church, their friends or the love of their families. It makes losing a job look pretty small. But. The more people come out, the safer it is for everyone.


I suspect most polys are neither way out nor deep in the closet, but fall somewhere in the middle. We want to tell some people, but not others. Choices, always choices. Tell the folks at work? Which ones? What if they talk? How about family members? What about the kids you know? Probably not your 92 year old granny with the heart condition. Maybe your brother. Probably not your lover’s father with the drinking problem and the gun collection. Friends? Well yes, most friends, but a few you just know will lose their milk. Or at least you think so. Oh, the crying, the explanations, the paper towels. Choices. If you want fewer choices in your life, polyamory may not be for you.

Gays have been facing these decisions for a long time and we are in the same boat with them in that we’re sexual and social deviants. If enough of us come out, we will not be outcasts and we will have communities.

I’ve told many people I’m poly at this point and quite a few were totally blasé including a few that surprised me. Again, it was almost disappointing. Several considered themselves poly but didn’t have a word for it. As we all know, there are more polys out there than is usually acknowledged.


The truth might be a shock to some, especially those who don’t know you as well as they think they do. Put yourself in Betty’s place. How might you feel to discover that your good friend – with whom you have shared trust and personal facts and many intimate moments – is not who you thought they were, maybe never was, and has been keeping secrets from you, big ones and for a long time? Things you might not want to be true? If you can’t trust your friends to be who you think they are, what can you trust? Why, you might feel astonished, angry, hurt and betrayed. And milk might well come out your nose.

How you tell people is more important that what you tell them. So, how do you tell Betty without shocking her? It doesn’t have to be blatant, you could just drop an interesting hint and let her ‘tease’ the truth out of you, if she chooses. Timing, place and mood is important. Mentioning it at the alter is usually considered poor sportsmanship.

The more people I tell, the easier it gets for me and the better I get at telling them with that “it’s no big deal” tone in my voice. Many of the people you tell may be (or once have been) poly themselves and not have had a word for it. You can be the first to welcome them to the club.

Now go back to your worst fears of telling people. Picture this instead: your good friend, Betty, is taking a big, satisfying sip from a glass of ice-cold milk. Right in the middle of it, you say “My love-life have been really interesting lately.” Picture Betty downing the whole glass, heaving a deep sigh, wiping her mouth on her arm and saying: “Yeah, how?”

Models Of Open Relationships: Multiple Non-Primary Relationships


While the first two models stress commitment and primary relationships, some people prefer to remain essentially single but participate in more than one relationship. They are not looking for a committed relationship. For them, non-monogamy offers the intimacy, love, and sexual satisfaction of involvement in relationships without the constraints of a primary relationship.


This model works best for people who have a serious, all-consuming commitment to something other than relationships; people who are very busy with their work, their art, raising children alone, or political involvements. Usually they prefer relationships with people who, like themselves, want less commitment, or people who already have a primary relationship and are looking for a “secondary” relationship. People involved in this model usually don’t make a lot of rules about their relationships, and retain a very high degree of personal freedom and autonomy. They usually live alone and make relationships a relatively low priority in their lives.

Some examples are:

Juan is an artist who needs lots of time alone to paint. He has three lovers–Maria, Janice and Keiko. He sees each of them regularly, usually making a date with each one every one to two weeks. Keiko and Janice are both married and see Juan when their husbands are at work. Maria is working on her Ph.D. dissertation. All three are too busy to seek a primary relationship with Juan.Jessica is a single mother with three kids and a full time job. She doesn’t have time for a primary relationship, and has two long-term but casual sexual relationships with Jacob and Anthony. Jacob is a business executive who travels a lot for his job, so he is only free to see Jessica about once a week. Anthony is married to a nurse, but sees Jessica one evening a week when his wife works till 11:00 PM at the hospital.

Pros and Cons on Non-Primary Model

For this model to be successful, it is crucial to carefully choose partners who will be satisfied with a less committed relationship, and to communicate that clearly to potential partners. This model often works great as long as all parties are too busy or too committed elsewhere to want a primary relationship. However, conflict can arise when circumstances change and one person has more time or develop a desire for a primary relationship. For instance, when Maria finishes her Ph.D., or when Jacob gets a promotion and no longer has to travel for his job, or a married lover gets divorced–they may suddenly demand more time and commitment or even demand a monogamous relationship. Such a change often proves fatal to the existing relationship. However, sometimes people see such a challenge as an opportunity for growth and are able to change their relationship to accommodate everyone’s needs.


There are many different types of open relationships. Some models will fit your needs much better than others. To identify your preferred model, ask yourself some tough questions: How much security do you need to feel safe in a relationship? Do you need to feel that you’re “Number One”, or can you share that priority with other lovers? How much privacy and personal freedom do you need to feel comfortable? Have you been happiest living alone, living with one person, or with a group? What pushes your buttons? How much time and energy do you have to devote to relationships? What are your expectations of love relationships?

For you to be happy in open relationships of any kind, you must first know what you want and which model will be most likely to work for you. Secondly, you must be able to articulately communicate what you want to potential partners in an honest and clear way. And last, but certainly not least, it is crucial to pick partners who want the same type of relationship and are comfortable with your chosen model. Excellent interpersonal and communications skills go a long way towards achieving these goals, along with a willingness to negotiate to satisfy everyone’s needs. Following these steps will maximize your chances of developing satisfying and successful open relationships.

Models Of Open Relationships: The Multiple Primary Partners model


While there are many variations on this theme, the key factor is that all primary partner models include three or more people in a primary relationship in which all members are equal partners. Instead of a couple having priority and control in the relationship, all relationships are considered primary, or have the potential of becoming primary. Each partner has equal power to negotiate for what they want in the relationship, in terms of time, commitment, living situation, financial arrangements, sex, and other issues.


Some examples of variations on this model:

a) Polyfidelity Model–closed multi-adult families

This is a “group marriage” model, essentially the same as being married–except you’re married to more than one person. Usually consisting of three to six adults, all partners live together, share finances, children, and household responsibilities. Depending on the sexual orientation of the members, all adults in the family are sexual partners. For instance, if all members are heterosexual, all the women have sexual relationships with all the men. If the women are bisexual, they may have sexual relationships with the women as well as the men. And so on. However, this is a closed system, and sex is only allowed between family members–no outside sexual relationships are allowed. Some families are open to taking on new partners, but only if all members of the family agree to accept the new person as a partner. The new person then moves into the household and becomes an equal member of the family. The polyfidelity model was made famous during the 1970’s and 80’s by the Kerista commune in San Francisco, which had several households living this model for many years. Currently, the most common form of this model is a triad of two women and one man, or two men and one woman. However, recently there have been a number of polyfidelitous families formed by two heterosexual couples who become a four-some and live together as a family.

For example,
Jane and Tom and Mary and Bill all live together as a polyfidelitous family, and they have three children. They pool their incomes and make house payments, buy food, and provide for the children collectively, sharing child rearing and household responsibilities. They are heterosexual, so each of the women has sexual relations with both men; Jane falls in love with Joaquin, an outside friend. After much consideration, all partners agree that Joaquin can move into the household and join the family. He becomes an equal partner in the household and has sexual relations with Jane and Mary.Andre, Rachel and Nathan live together as a family; all three are bisexual. Rachel has sexual relationships with both Andre and Nathan. Andre and Nathan also have a sexual relationship. They have a “sleeping schedule” so that each relationship receives equal time, each spending two nights each week with each partner. They are seeking another bisexual woman to join their family.

Pros and Cons of Polyfidelity

Polyfidelity can be a richly rewarding experience, creating an extended family and intentional community. Pooling resources is economical and ecological, and can reduce the stress of child rearing by spreading the work and the responsibility among several adults rather than just one or two parents. However, polyfidelity requires a very high level of compatibility and affinity between all partners. Everyone must agree on where to live, what to cook for dinner, how clean the house should be, how much money to spend and on what, whether to have children and how to raise them. Most people find it difficult enough to locate one partner they can successfully live with for the “long haul”, much less two, three, four or more. And living together as a group decreases privacy and autonomy, often leading to interpersonal conflicts and stress. Living in a group requires excellent interpersonal skills, clear communication, assertiveness, co-operation, and flexibility in order to accommodate everyone’s needs. Picking compatible partners and being accommodating are both key to successful polyfidelity.

b) Multiple Primary Partners–Open Model

This model is very different from polyfidelity in that all partners are given much more autonomy and flexibility in developing any relationships they choose and defining those relationships on their own terms. In the Primary/Secondary model the couple is the center of power, and in the polyfidelity model the entire family group is makes decisions together and all must agree. In the Multiple Primary Partners Open Model, the individual is the basic unit of the family and is empowered to make his or her own rules and decisions. Partners may choose to live together , or they may choose to live with one or more partners, or live alone if that better suits their needs. This model is open, in that each partner has the right to choose other lovers at any time without the approval of any other partner. Each relationship evolves independently of partners’ other relationships, with rules and level of commitment to be negotiated by each individual. No one can veto a potential partner or “pull rank” and insist on being the number one priority.

Some examples of this model are:

Jennifer and Andrea are a Lesbian couple who live together. Andrea also has another primary partner, Julia, who does not live with them, but receives equal time and priority. Andrea spends one-half of the week with each woman.Ricardo and Maria are a bisexual married couple; they spend Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights together. Tom also live with them, and has his own bedroom. Ricardo spends a few nights each week with Tom. Maria has two lovers, Erica and Jessica, who she sees frequently.

Rita lives alone and she prefers having her own apartment. She has two committed, long-term relationships, with Bob and Jason, who also live alone. Bob and Jason each come to visit her at her apartment a few nights a week.

Linda has two male spouses, Cliff and Bruce. She co-owns a house with each spouse, and she lives half-time with each one, changing houses each night. Cliff and Bruce are free to pursue relationships with other women if they choose to do so.

Pros and Cons of the Open Model

There is much more fluidity in this approach as relationships are allowed to evolve over time with very few rules to direct or restrict their direction or level of commitment. However, it is also much less predictable and may cause anxiety for people who like more structure and prefer a clear hierarchy.

Because all partners are considered equal, each partner can negotiate for what they want. However, all this “processing” requires time, effort, and excellent communication skills. And some people find the potential for conflicting loyalties to be too threatening. For instance, which partner will spend holidays or vacations with you? Will they both go, will they alternate each year, will you spend part of each holiday or vacation with each one? If one partner is going through a crisis, can they demand more of your time and commitment? If you are experiencing problems in one relationship or feel more drawn toward another partner, what behavior is appropriate? Weighing your own needs and the desires of each partner can be very stressful and confusing. Some people find this model requires too much thinking, problem-solving and “going with the flow”, and prefer a more rigid structure such as the primary-secondary model or the polyfidelity model.

Models of Open Relationships: The Primary/Secondary Model

The model of heterosexual, monogamous marriage is sanctioned by society, religion, and the law as the only acceptable type of sexual relationship. As a result, most people have not been exposed to other ways of life. In fact, we are so heavily socialized to believe in the ideals of monogamy and marriage, that many people cannot even imagine any other option. Frequent responses to the idea of open relationships are: “But I’ve never seen one”; “No one I know has ever tried that”; and “There’s no way it could possibly work out”. People always ask, “But how does it work? What’s it like?”


In fact, many successful models do exist. This pamphlet will give you an overview of the three main types of non-monogamous relationships which currently exist and the numerous variations on those models. To begin thinking about new ways of living, it can help to see some examples and to understand the advantages and drawbacks of each model. By examining each model, you may be able to discern whether an open relationship is right for you and, if so, which model may best fit your individual lifestyle. The possibilities are limitless and you can “customize” any of these models to accommodate your needs.


This is by far the most commonly practiced form of open relationship and it is the most similar to monogamous marriage. In this model, the” couple relationship” is considered primary, and any other relationships revolve around the couple. It is most frequently practiced by married people or other couples in long-term relationships. The couple decides that their relationship will have precedence over any outside relationships. The couple lives together and forms the primary family unit, while other relationships receive less time and priority. No outside relationship is allowed to become equal in importance to the primary relationship. The couple makes the rules; secondary lovers have little power over decisions and are not allowed to negotiate for what they want.

There are several distinct variations of this mode, including:

a) Heterosexual couples who are “swingers.” They attend sex parties or meet sexual partners through personals ads or through various activities and networks. Some couples only have sex with other couples, others engage in three-way sex by locating another man for the woman or another woman for the man, and only have sexual adventures with their spouse present. Other straight couples allow either spouse to have recreational sex with other partners without the spouse present, but this is strictly sex and no emotional involvement or commitment is allowed.

For example,
Jane and Jim are a straight, married couple. They answer personals ads and have sex only with other couples, together as a foursome.Rose and Bill live together. Rose goes to sex parties and has anonymous sex with other men. Bill likes to pick up women in bars.

b) Gay male couples who go to the baths, the bars, sex clubs, or adult bookstores for recreational and/or anonymous sex. Many gay couples engage in this activity together, or have only “three-ways”, but many couples have an agreement that either partner can go out alone and have sex with other men, but the goal is sex rather than relationships.

For example,
Joe and Jim are a Gay male couple who enjoy going to the baths together and meeting younger guys for three-way sex. Joe also likes to go to the park and have anonymous sex with other men, and occasionally answers personals ads to meet casual sex partners.

c) Couples of any and all sexual orientations who allow each spouse to have outside sexual relationships, either casual or long-term. These outside relationships are still considered secondary , and if any conflict develops, the primary couple relationship will take precedence. Usually the couple lives together, shares finances, spends weekends, holidays, and vacations together. The outside lovers usually do not live with them, spend much less time together, have very little voice in decisions and rule-making, and must arrange scheduling around the demands of the primary relationship. Some couples have rules that each spouse has veto power over any new lovers that his or her spouse may choose. In other words, if a woman is interested in a relationship with a new man, her husband has the power to veto that relationship before it starts, for any reason. Other couples allow each person to sleep with whomever they choose, but make rules about how much time they can spend with their other lovers, whether they can spend the night away from home, whether they can spend any weekend time with them, and other restrictions on these relationships.

For example,

Clare and Tom live together. Clare has a long-term sexual relationship with her neighbor, Melissa, who spends afternoons with Clare while Tom is at work. Tom has a series of short-term relationships with women he meets “on line” through polyamorous chat rooms. However, Tom falls in love with one of his outside lovers, so Clare insists that he break off the relationship because it threatens the primary couple relationship.Alan and Damon are a Gay couple who live together. Alan has two “fuck-buddies”, friends he regularly has sex with. Damon has a long-term boyfriend in L.A. whom he sees for a few days each month when he is there on business.

David and Lucy are a bisexual couple who are married and have two children. David has a long-term male lover whom he sees frequently, but he considers his marriage and children his first priority and devotes more time and commitment to them. Lucy has had several female lovers but each one has left her because she insists that her husband comes first. So currently she has no outside relationship.

Maria and Jorge are both nurses who work opposite shifts in a hospital. They are a married couple, and both are bisexual. Maria has a long-term sexual relationship with Rosa, a doctor on her shift, who comes home with Maria after work for sex and companionship while Jorge is working his shift at the hospital. Jorge has numerous affairs with other male nurses at night, while Maria and Rosa are at work.

Pros and Cons of the Primary/Secondary Model

This model is popular because it is the model most similar to traditional marriage and does not threaten the primacy of the couple. For most married or co-habiting couples, it is not such a stretch to have a few outside relationships as long as they know that the primary commitment is to the marriage. They can still be married, have children, live together, be socially acceptable, and “live a normal life”, keeping their outside relationships secret from friends and family. It doesn’t require making any radical changes in your lifestyle or your world view. One major benefit for many couples is that they feel secure that they won’t be abandoned, because their spouse has agreed that outside relationships will be secondary. This is simpler and easier to organize logistically than other forms of open relationships. If there is any conflict over time, loyalty or commitment, the spouse always gets priority.

However, a major drawback of this model is that outside relationships are not so simple or easy to predict or control. Having a sexual relationship with someone else often leads to becoming emotionally involved and even falling in love, frequently causing a crisis in the primary relationship and even divorce. Initiating a sexual relationship is opening a door to many possibilities, and often secondary relationships grow into something else which does not fit neatly into the confines of this model. Many people who become “secondary” lovers become angry at being subjugated to the couple, and demand equality or end the relationship. For this model to be successful, couples must be very convinced that their relationship is strong enough to weather these ups and downs. Conversely, some couples who start with this model decide eventually to shift to some form of the Multiple Primary Partners model to allow secondary relationships to become equal to the primary couple relationship.<

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.