More Than Two Book Blog

Companion for the More Than Two polyamory book

Early reviews of More Than Two


We just wanted to share with you some of the great coverage we’ve gotten for the book over the last few weeks:

Aggie Sez, Solopoly: “If you’ve never read any books on polyamory, this one should be your first. And even if you’ve read every book on polyamory, read this one now.”

Noel Figart, The Polyamorous Misanthrope: “Friends, this one makes you think.  Any any book that encourages you to think clearly about emotionally charged subjects like romantic relationships can only be a positive.”

Louisa Leontiades, Multiple Match: “As the unchartered map of open relationships takes another bound forward in its clarity with the new book More Than Two by Franklin Veaux & Eve Rickert, many worthy ideas and concepts are brought to the fore.”

Wes Fenza, Living Within Reason: “This book is fantastic, and has the potential to be revolutionary. I have been waiting for a book that I could confidently tell people contains the collective wisdom of the poly community. This is that book.”

Amy, Red Thread Farm: “I think this is a great resource for people who are new to poly, or frustrated with their poly relationships.  It has some grounded suggestions for why some relationship strategies work and others don’t.  It answers the most common questions that poly folk have about how to manage their relationships.”

XCBDSM: “This book taught me things. This book changed the way that I think about relationships. All relationships, not just poly. I have spent the last two days lost in thought, re-evaluating a lot of my own choices and beliefs. And that’s good. That’s what a great book like this should do.”

Niko Bell, Xtra! Vancouver: “Agreements need to be more than just freely chosen, Veaux and Rickert argue. They need to be ethical.”

Ginny, Polyskeptic: “I strongly recommend the book to anybody practicing or considering polyamory — and I think the first several chapters are great for relationships of any kind.

David S. Hall, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality: “It is a pleasure to read and is full of ideas helpful to anyone in, or considering, multiple consensual open loving relationships.”

Know of a review we missed? Post it in the comments!

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Relationship Assumptions: The Good, the Bad, and the WTF?


Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about the assumptions we make in our relationships, and how those assumptions can influence our relationship outcomes, for good or for ill.

I’ve been meaning to revisit that idea for quite some time, specifically with an eye toward the assumptions we make in polyamorous relationships. While those of us in polyamorous relationships might think we have thrown off the shackles of conventional monogamy, the ideas we’ve grown up with can insinuate themselves quite deeply into our worldview. Like dandelions, which have evolved resistance to the hoe and the spade by developing very deep roots, those ideas are not so easily plucked.

In talking with poly folks all over the place, I’ve observed correlation between some of the assumptions we carry into our relationships and the way those relationships look.

One of the relationship assumptions that can creep into polyamory is the Highlander: the idea that, at the end of the day, “there can be only one.” One relationship that’s “best,” one relationship that’s the “main” or “most real,” one relationship that matters more than the others. This relationship is, unsurprisingly, usually the one that’s been there for the longest time and has had the most opportunity to develop mutual commitments, obligations, perhaps even children.

It’s surprisingly easy to confuse relationship commitment with financial or practical entanglement, and to believe that losing those practical entanglements must mean a loss of commitment. There’s also, I think, a bit of holdover from our Puritan ancestry: we measure value by work and investment, but work and investment are unpleasant things we do only as long as we believe we have to. Given a choice, we’d discard them in a heartbeat, to go dancing through fields of daisies without a care in the world.

What does this assumption reveal? It reveals a deep idea that monogamy is actually right. There really is only one commitment that matters, when you get down to brass tacks. Sure, we can have other dalliances, up to a point; but really, you can’t fully commit to and fully love more than one person–at least not romantically. (You can, apparently, fully commit to two children, but that, we are solemnly told, is different.)

This assumption often speaks to our fears: “If I’m not on top of the heap, someone else will be, and I’ll lose what I have; my partner, in committing to someone else, will withdraw commitment from me.”

An assumption that is sometimes proposed as an antidote to this is the Archie Bunker: the notion that everyone involved with a common partner is “all in the family.” It’s often coupled with assumptions about sex and sexual availability (“If you’re sleeping with her, I get to sleep with her too!”) or about interpersonal relationships (“You don’t have to worry, honey, she will be your sister-wife!”). If the Highlander seeks to contain fear through systems of rank, the Archie Bunker tries to control it by enforcing mandatory connection. These may seem like opposite ideas, this king-of-the-hill approach vs. the all-for-one-and-one-for-all family, but ultimately, they are both two sides of the same coin: We manage fear by controlling the form our relationships take.

Another relationship assumption that we can carry into polyamory is the Parts Is Parts Hypothesis: the idea that there’s nothing really special or compelling about us, so we need to be wary of anyone with the same parts. Parts are interchangeable, after all. If you find an alternator for your car that works better than the one that’s already there, you wouldn’t need the old one any more. Ergo, if I’m an alternator, I can let my partner have spark plugs or fuel injectors, but I best keep her away from other alternators! If I’m a dude, I can let my gal have other women, but if she’s with another man, I’ll be as obsolete as an old alternator.

It can be surprisingly hard to see the value we bring to our relationships. We don’t live in a society that teaches us to be secure, confident individuals; after all, secure, confident individuals can’t be easily persuaded to buy stuff to prove their value. Polyamory challenges us to see our own worth, and that’s no easy thing to do.

What assumptions help make for healthy polyamorous relationships? Unsurprisingly, the same ones that help to make healthy monogamous relationships: Our partners love and cherish us. Our partners want to be with us, and to build loving, happy relationships with us. We are, each of us, unique and irreplaceable; we are more than the sum of our parts. We are wanted. We are loved.

Believing we are loved is hard; it can seem seductively easy to accept, on an almost unconscious level, the idea that our partners perpetually have one foot out the door, that we must force, cajole, bribe, or police them into staying with us. And, should a partner choose to leave, we can tend to double down…it happened because we didn’t force, cajole, bribe, or police them enough. If only we’d enforced the rules more strictly, they would have stayed.

I would like to propose the radical idea that believing we are loved and cherished is the assumption that underlies nearly all successful relationships. I would also like to challenge everyone who reads these words to put this idea to the test. I am, after all, an empiricist. Let’s build relationships predicated on the notion that we don’t have to make our partners stay with us; we merely need to accept that we are cherished, and cherish those around us in return, and our partners will want to stay with us.

Who’s with me?

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Get a free hardcover


Yep, you heard that right. We’re giving away one of our 200 signed and numbered special-edition hardcovers. All you have to do is go to our Goodreads giveaway and click “enter.” (You have to be signed in on Goodreads, of course.)

While you’re there, you could rate the book and vote for it in their list of “best books for polyamory.” No obligation, though–you can enter either way.

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More Than Two and bookstores


Pub date is in two weeks, and first of all, we have some good news! More Than Two is now available for pre-order at Powell’s, a ginormous independent bookstore in Portland. If you’ve been holding out for an online alternative to Amazon, Powell’s is an excellent choice. Hopefully they’ll have us on their shelves, too. (Note: That’s an affiliate link. We get an extra $2 per book when you use it, along with a percentage of anything else you buy on the same visit.)

Oh, and Kindle pre-orders are open.

Now for the less-good news: We are having a harder time getting into bookstores than we’d hoped. Our Amazon sales ranks have been great–we actually surpassed Opening Up for a couple of days there!–but orders through the wholesalers have been disappointing. We really, really want to be in bookstores. That’s why we delayed our pub date, after all!

The problem is that even having an incredibly popular book won’t necessarily get you into brick-and-mortar stores. Here’s what our publicist has to say about it:

Bookstores get books through through their distribution networks who send catalogs then have salespeople hand sell their own catalog lists. You are unlikely to get multiple bookstore orders outside of individually ordered books from customers. Exceptions to this are independent bookstores who can be contacted individually.

She says that for us to contact individual stores all around the country would be a lot of work for a relatively small return, given that we don’t make a whole lot per book. But… you can help us!

Do you have a local indie bookstore? Then make sure they know about–and are planning to carry–More Than Two! The best strategy is to drop by with your advance copy in hand and show it to them, so they can see the production quality. If there’s a local poly community, make sure you mention that to them, along with some idea of numbers. They’ll be much more likely to want to carry it if they know there’s a market in your town. If you can’t make it in person, a call or email will help, too.

Be sure to mention that the book is distributed through the major wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and they are returnable. Our distributor is Itasca Books.

If you need help, you can use the IndieBound store finder to find your local indie bookshop.

Oh! And if you do see a copy of More Than Two on sale, snap a photo of it and email it to eve@morethantwo.com, or post it to our Facebook page, along with the location.

Thank you for your help! (And don’t forget your library request.)

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More Than Two book tour


Well folks, this is it! Pub date is just three weeks (eeeek!) away, and that means the More Than Two BOOK TOUR starts in less than a month! September 9, to be exact. If you live in the western United States or Canada, we might be visiting your town!

We’ve had diligent helpers slaving away at setting up bookings, and this is the route we have set up so far. All the events, with details and links, are listed at our events page.

We still have some openings, and some spots we’re having trouble booking. Those days are listed as TBD below. So if you have a poly group you’d like us to talk to on an available date, or want to help us book an event at a bookstore or cafe, get in touch with us at bookings@thorntreepress.com

August

8/31. Olympia, WA. Polycamp Pacific Northwest (Franklin only)

September

9/9. Camas Books, Victoria, BC
9/10. Village Books, Bellingham, WA
9/11 or 12. TBD, Seattle, WA
9/13. Orca Books, Olympia, WA
9/14. She Bop, Portland, OR
9/17. Tsunami Books, Eugene, OR
9/18 or 19. TBD, southern OR or northern CA
9/21. Bondcon, Kink.com Armory, San Francisco, CA
9/24, 25 or 26. TBD, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
9/27. Citadel Club, San Francisco, CA
9/28. Avid Reader, Sacramento, CA
9/30. TBD, southern CA

October

10/1 or 10/2. TBD, southern CA
10/4. Erotic Heritage Museum, Las Vegas, NV
10/10. Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM
10/11. Opcit, Santa Fe, NM
10/16. Mutiny Info Cafe, Denver, CO

Second half of October, dates and locations TBD

Paonia, CO
Salt Lake City, UT
Missoula or Helena, MT
Calgary, AB
Nelson, BC
Kelowna, BC

We’re especially interested in events in bookstores, so we can promote the book to the wider public. If you have a poly group that can turn out to pack the store, so much the better!

Even if we’re not making it through your town, you can ask your local indie bookstore to stock us through their regular distributor.

And make sure to like our Facebook page to keep up-to-date on the latest events and book tour news.

We’re so much looking forward to September 2!

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Learning that it’s Not About Me


It is a fact often unacknowledged that we are all born, and in many ways predisposed to remain, egocentric little monsters.

That’s not a criticism, mind; just a statement. If you want to see unadulterated egocentrism in its purest form, before the crucible of life alloys it with empathy and concern for others, just look at a two-year-old. We ship with egocentrism as our core framework; most things beyond that are installed separately.

The reflections of this basic tenet of human nature are everywhere. For tens of thousands of years, we believed ourselves to be at the center of creation; this dogma became so integrated in the political traditions of Western Europe that challenging it would lead one to a rather gruesome end at the hands of one’s more ideologically pure fellows. And it messes us up in so very many ways.

Especially in polyamory, where seeing our partner’s choice through the lens of egocentrism leads to heartache of all sorts. When we make “but what about me? the go-to question for evaluating our partners’ decisions, we tend toward the impulse of taking away their agency and treating us as need fulfillment machines. (One trivial example: “I’m a guy, and I’ll let my girlfriend sleep with other women, but she can’t sleep with other men because I know that other women can do things for her I can’t do but I’m afraid if she has another man she won’t need me any more.”)

It’s a tough thing to get past, this tendency to think the world’s orbit centers on us. I came nose-to-nose with this habit in myself back in 1992, when I was involved with the woman I’ve identified in the book More Than Two as “Ruby.”

Ruby was amazing–beautiful, smart, outgoing, kind–and I fell hard for her. My relationship with Ruby was my first brush with jealousy, and it was also the first time I’d ever really come nose to claw with the monster of egocentrism.

She started dating a friend of mine. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that the relationship between Ruby and I was chafing under the weight of restrictions placed on it by the terms of my relationship with my ex-wife, who feared losing me to Ruby. I knew that her new partner could give her more than what I could offer, because their relationship was not encumbered by these restraints, and that made me feel threatened by him. Naturally, as you might expect, I felt very jealous.

Egocentrism became the flashpoint of that jealousy. Ruby would tell me things she had done with her new partner, and my first, reflexive reaction would be “but what about me?” When she told me about going somewhere with him, I would instantly flash to “why didn’t you go there with me?” As their relationship grew, the only thing I could see is “but what does that mean for me?”

When I saw the relationship between the two of them only in how it affected me, I lost the ability to be happy for them, or even to think about Ruby’s needs at all. But it took the destruction of that relationship to see just how deeply that habitual egocentrism ran.

In the ashes of that relationship, I spent a lot of time looking at myself, searching my intellectual closets and emotional beds for the monsters that lurked there. And one of the things I saw was that, by looking at my partners through the lens of “but what about me?” I was denying them an essential part of who they were. I was reducing them to accessories for my own ego, considering only what they brought me instead of what they needed.

It was a humbling experience. It’s not easy or obvious to realize that other people are actually human beings, just as fully as we are, with the same crazy human patchwork of needs and desires, weaknesses and fears, longings and hopes as we have. Ruby got things from her other partner she didn’t get from me, and that was okay. It didn’t have to be a competition, a winner-take-all gladiatorial cage match with her as the prize. The relationship she had with him wasn’t about me–something I might have seen had I been able to step away from myself long enough to see that she did value and love me, and her other relationship didn’t change that.

I worked hard over the next few years to understand where I’d gone wrong, and to learn new habits–habits of looking at my relationships in terms of the idea that every person who has ever walked the earth is unique, and brings something to the table nobody else could bring. (It is common, I think, to do what I did before–to understand that I could have multiple partners without it meaning I loved them any less, without applying the same thing to them and understanding they could love multiple partners without valuing me any less.)

The process took a lot of introspection, and a deliberate, scary stepping away from old reactions. When I felt threatened by someone new in a partner’s life, I would take a deep breath, look in the mirror, and say “this isn’t about me. Even if I don’t understand what she sees in him, it isn’t about me.”

It took courage. It also took being willing to confront my own egocentrism openly, by talking to my partners when I felt threatened. It’s remarkable how difficult it can be to ask someone “so, I see you’re investing in this new relationship; you still love and value me, right?” Acknowledging the things we’re afraid of makes us vulnerable, and when we’re already feeling triggered, the last thing we want is vulnerability.

But it’s necessary. If we are to be involve din healthy plural relationships, we need to understand when things aren’t about us. When we make them about us, we invite ugliness into our relationships. We become like those early political and religious leaders, burning folks at the stake for challenging our position as the center of all the universe.

It took me years to really internalize that my partners’ other loves are Not About Me. For a long time, it was a struggle, and it required daily, deliberate reminders to myself that not everything my partners say or do is a reflection of me.

But I got there, and it’s been a powerful boon to my life ever since.

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How to get a special-edition hardcover


We’re so excited! The special edition hardcovers are at the bindery! In just a few days, they’ll finally be on their way to us. We’ll be shipping them out on August 22 to backers who contributed $100 or more.

They’re individually signed by both of us, hand numbered, cloth-bound and foil-stamped, jacketed, individually shrink-wrapped, with a special “Love More, Be Awesome” insert. There will be only 200 copies in existence–and we have a few left! So if you didn’t manage to order one during the crowdfunding campaign, we’re giving you another chance at them.

If you want a hardcover of your very own–or if you’re already signed up for one and want another–send US$50 by Paypal to franklin@thorntreepress.com with “Hardcover” in the subject line, and include your mailing address in the message body. Please add $10 for shipping outside the US.

We must receive your payment by midnight on August 20. After that, the only way to get the hardcovers will be to catch us on our book tour! (That is, if we have any left by then.)

Yikes, pub date is so close! We hope everyone’s enjoying their advance copies!

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Rules: Why we make them, where they can go wrong


Folks already familiar with my writings over the years won’t be shocked to hear me say I’m deeply skeptical of rule-based romantic relationships. It’s a theme throughout most of my writings on polyamory, and in the book More Than Two, Eve and I argue that rules-based systems rarely seem to create structures that work (at least for everyone, including all the people who are not present when the rules are made), and often create harmful structures. When they do work, it’s quite common to credit the rules for the success of a relationship even in situations where the relationship likely would still have succeeded without them.

Wesley Fenza has just written an interesting essay with a different take on rules. In it, he says,

Without a rule, a person would do their own analysis regarding whether to take an action, weighing the pros and cons, factoring in the effects on other people, and making a decision. A rule puts a thumb on the scale, weighing the analysis in favor of the prior commitment.

For some people, this is fine. Some people don’t trust their in-the-moment decision making, so they feel the need to commit to a course of action ahead of time. This is especially effective with safer sex rules. It’s common for a person to feel that, in the moment, they may be tempted to forego safer sex practices, and so they (and their partner(s)) make a rule in order to give them some extra motivation in the moment.

I think he might be onto something here. The idea of rules as tools to help compensate for deficiencies in in-the-moment decision-making is interesting, and I can see value in it.

In fact, many years ago, I did something similar myself. I was extremely attracted to a woman who reciprocated the attraction, but who was, for various reasons that are unimportant to my tale, a terrible match for me. I knew that I was attracted to her strongly enough that I would, if I found myself in a sexual situation with her, probably toss those incompatibilities aside…so I resolved to avoid those kinds of situations with her, nipping the problem in the bud. At the time, my ability to make good partner-selection assessments in the face of overwhelming throbbing biological urges was a bit rubbish, so setting a rule for myself was an effective way to prevent the future me from doing something that would make the even-more-future me unhappy.

To me, rules I place on myself because I know I have a deficiency in my decision-making skills are distinct from rules made by a partner, or rules mutually negotiated between my partners and me. (Solopoly blogger Aggie has a great essay about self-imposed behavioral guidelines.) For example, if I know that it’s hard to think about sexual health in the middle of a lust-crazed frenzy of sexual appetite, having my rational self place a restriction on my future, irrational self is a sensible, prudent thing to do.

But there’s a trap when it comes to partners making rules for each other to, ostensibly, compensate for poor decision-making or impulse control.

A couple months back, there was a Twitter hashtag about identifying abusive relationships. It wasn’t poly-related, but was about relationships generally. I scrolled through it, though I foolishly forgot to note exactly what the hashtag was.

One of the things that came up on that hashtag again and again, though, was the idea that abusers can gain power over their victims by making their victims doubt their own judgment. “You can’t be trusted.” “You don’t make good decisions.” “You mess things up.” “You have poor judgment.” “I have to make decisions for you or you’ll screw up.” “You’ll hurt me if I give you a chance.” I saw dozens of variations on this theme all through the hashtag. And it got me to thinking.

“I will limit my behavior in this way because I know my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap” can be a reasonable approach to healthy boundary-setting. But I see the potential for abuse when it becomes “I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can’t be trusted to keep your commitments.”

Can it still be healthy when it’s turned around that way? Maybe. But it’s hard to say.

Gaslighting can happen even in relationships that aren’t overtly abusive. We are, generally, the heroes of our own stories; we tend to assess other people’s choices based on how they affect us. Unless we are very careful to avoid it, it can be tempting to frame someone else’s decisions as poor simply because we don’t like or approve of them, and to do our best to create doubt about other people’s decision-making skills. We also want the approval of those we let close to us, so if they tell us our decisions are rubbish, we’re vulnerable to internalizing that idea.

What that means is we can easily persuade others, or be persuaded ourselves, that decisions are poor when it’s not necessarily true. I’ve seen this play out in a thousand ways, some of them very subtle, one or two of them as part of a destructively dysfunctional dynamic.

So I do agree that certain kinds of rules concerning in-the-moment decisions can be valuable. But when you start applying them to others, well… It’s a bit like using a chainsaw. Yes, when you need it, it’s a great tool to have, but you have to pay very close attention to how you use it. Mistakes can have serious consequences. It’s all fun and games ’til someone loses a limb.

 

Update: Wes Fenza has replied.

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Help us get More Than Two into libraries


We have some great news! More Than Two is now available for pre-order through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, two major book databases. That means that libraries and bookstores can start ordering the book–but first, they need to know about it! And for that, we need your help.

Nearly all libraries allow patrons to suggest a purchase. If you’d like to see our book in your local library, please take a moment to let them know. Here’s how:

  • Google your local library and go to their website.
  • Look for a link that says something like “Suggest a purchase.”
  • Sometimes it’s hard to find. If so, try looking in the contact section of the site, or searching the catalogue for “More Than Two”–if it doesn’t turn up, you may get the link to a suggestion form. You may also need to just email your library directly.
  • Fill in the data and submit!
  • If you’re a student or professor, don’t forget to put in a request to your university library.

Here’s some of the stuff they might ask for:

  • Title: More Than Two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory
  • Author: Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
  • Publication date: September 2, 2014
  • Publisher: Thorntree Press
  • Format: Print book/paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-9913997-0-3

They may ask you to tell them why they should buy it. Here are some key selling points:

  • Timeliness: With polyamory emerging all over the mainstream media, from shows like Showtime’s Polyamory: Married and Dating to high-profile celebrity open marriages, demand is high for practical information on polyamorous living.
  • Author recognition: Franklin Veaux has one of the oldest and highest-ranked polyamory sites on the Web, with over 10,000 hits per month and a #2 Google search ranking. The Indiegogo campaign to fund the book drew 455 supporters and over $22,000.
  • Practical and comprehensive: From managing jealousy to coming out to the kids, opening from a long-monogamous couple to dating as a free agent, this book provides concrete, real-life examples of a host of poly problems and a toolkit for dealing with them.
  • Controversial and groundbreaking: More Than Two is the first book to propose a coherent ethical framework for polyamory, flying in the face of many established practices and overturning long-held beliefs.

Feel free to add your own!

Thank you for your help. Let’s get this book out there!

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More Than Two eBook for free? Not quite.


Our attention was recently drawn to YouTube spam advertising a free download of the eBook version of More Than Two. As you might imagine, this concerned us greatly.

Armed with a Web link tracer and a considerable amount of wrath, I checked out the eBook piracy site. What I found wasn’t a copy of More Than Two, but rather a complex scheme to defraud Web advertisers by promising free eBooks but delivering…something else. There is a full writeup on my blog here. Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably Windows malware.

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