#WLAMF no. 12: The flip side of couple privilege

In our book More Than Two, one of the dangers Eve and I talk about with existing couples opening their relationship to polyamory is the problem of “couple privilege.”

“Couple privilege” is a set of assumptions and expectations, some external and some internal, that we make about relationships. No mater how hard we try to be egalitarian or treat new partners as “equal,” we can assert privileges–sometimes without intending to–in our existing relationships, and end up disempowering anyone we may start a new relationship with.

I have written a lengthy blog post about couple privilege, which includes a long (but by no means complete!) list of examples.

But what we don’t talk about as often is the way that insidious ideas about what “real” relationships look like can seep into people who aren’t part of an established couple. Social ideas about what relationships “should” look like are pervasive, and can affect everyone, not just folks who are already partnered.

One of the clearest examples of this “reverse privilege” I’ve seen is something I’ve heard many people say when they start dating someone who already has one or more partners, or more commonly when they start dating both members of an existing couple:

Well, this is good for now, but eventually I’m going to want a partner of my own.

Did you feel it? That strange ripple on the surface of the water, hinting at turbulence lurking way down deep?

It can be very, very hard to let go of the idea that a relationship that involves more than one other person is every much as valid, legitimate, and “real” as a relationship with only one partner. The subtext of the “partner of my own” idea is that a partnership with someone who has other lovers is less satisfying, or perhaps less legitimate, than a partnership with someone you don’t “share.”

It’s a notion rooted in centuries of tradition and many a bad Disney cartoon and romantic comedy, so it’s not too surprising that it can be so difficult to let go of. Yet we must. I submit that as long as we believe a plural relationship is less real than a relationship with only one person who doesn’t have other partners, poly relationships won’t be as satisfying to us as monogamous relationships. We’ll always feel that our lives are inferior to what they could be.

Worse, when we feel this way, we don’t necessarily treat our partners well. When we see our relationships as less—less real, less authentic, less satisfying—we more easily treat our partners as expendable things, rather than as people. It’s not just couples who treat people as disposable commodities!

Another way this can happen is when a person says, “You know, it’s not really that important how I treat my partners, because they have each other. It’s not a big deal if I break commitments, or fail to show up for dates. Hey, it can’t be that bad! They still have each other, right?”

Love does not play numbers games. The heart does not see its connections as interchangeable. We all know it would be almost unspeakably cruel to tell a parent who has lost a child, “Hey, it’s not that bad! You still have another kid, right?” Why, then, would we think it would be any different for romance?

It is on all of us, no matter our relationship status, to treat our lovers preciously. When someone offers us their love, they’re offering a gift of incalculable value. Let us, each of us, recognize that, and strive to take care of one another.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign at midnight tonight, December 15, 2014. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015!

Like what you’re reading on the More Than Two blog? Buy the book now.

#WLAMF no. 4: Observations on community

While Eve and I were on our book tour, we stopped for a time in Salt Lake City. Our host was a poly organizer and community leader who also had a degree in mathematics (which is, like, one of the hottest things ever, but I digress).

She introduced us to Salt Late City’s poly scene, which is amazingly rich, dynamic, and cohesive. We’d expected to see strong, thriving poly communities in places like San Francisco and smaller, more fractured communities in conservative places like Salt Lake City, but what we saw was exactly the opposite…in places where there’s a lot of negative pressure on the poly scene, it seems the communities form strong bonds and deep roots. Places like Portland and San Francisco, where it’s almost impossible to swing a cat without hitting six or seven poly folks (not that I recommend swinging cats, mind you), there’s less need for support, so the communities tend to be more splintered and less cohesive.

I was extremely impressed with the Salt Lake City scene. So I was amused when, in a conversation online about polyamory, someone who’s clearly not all that keen on the idea said “You’re sick! Go move to Utah!” I wanted to tell her that the Utah poly scene is in fact pretty amazing, though all in all I would much rather live in a place like Portland, where the general culture outside the poly community is more egalitarian. The mainstream LDS church may have distanced itself officially from polygyny, but in those corners where it’s still practiced, it’s very much an all-you-can-eat buffet for men, while women are expected to remain faithful to their one and only.

If I were of a more cynical nature, I might suggest Joseph Smith personally benefitted from that particular arrangement, and might, were I of such a bent, even go so far as to say that when the pronouncements of God benefit the prophets, it’s reasonable to ask whether we’re hearing the voice of God or the prophets. But that’s a blog post for another day.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign at midnight tonight, December 15, 2014. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015!

Like what you’re reading on the More Than Two blog? Buy the book now.

#WLAMF no. 3: Being the best version of yourself

A little while ago, someone asked me the question “How can I be the best version of myself? What skills and attitudes does it take?”

So I thought about it. During the times I feel I’ve reached for the best version of me, what qualities have I strived for? What kinds of attributes have I had? I came up with, in no particular order:

– Compassion. It might sound obvious, but compassion is the cornerstone for treating others with dignity and respect.

– Courage. When you’re in a situation where you don’t know the right thing to do, moving in the direction of greatest courage will generally steer you right. It’s hard to be the best version of yourself. Doing many of the things on this list means having the courage to act with integrity when it’s uncomfortable to do so. And speaking of which:

– Integrity. Everyone says integrity is good, but few people have it, because integrity means accepting responsibility for your actions (including your screwups and mistakes!) and being honest with those around you even when being honest means you don’t get what you want.

– Resilience. The world doesn’t always go your way, and that’s okay. Wake up every day believing that even if things don’t go the way you want them to, you can still find a way to be happy.

– Empathy. Other people are real. Like you, they are trying to muddle through this world as best they can. Being human is fundamentally baffling and terrifying, and we’re all trying in the face of uncertainty to get our needs met. Other people’s needs and experiences are just as valid as ours.

– Forgiveness. We are all born of frailty and error. It is incumbent in all of us to forgive reciprocally one another’s follies.

– Confidence. This life is ours to live. It is nearly impossible to be compassionate when we are frightened or insecure. The more we build confidence and self-esteem within ourselves, the more we become proof against life’s slings and arrows, and the easier it becomes to treat others with compassion.

– Kindness, both toward ourselves and others. The more we give other people the benefit of the doubt, the more we assume good intent unless proven otherwise, the easier everything else on this list becomes.

And finally:

– Compassion. Being the best version of yourself begins and ends with compassion.

What do you think? What traits, skills, or qualities make you the best possible version of yourself?

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign at midnight tonight, December 15, 2014. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015!

Like what you’re reading on the More Than Two blog? Buy the book now.

#WLAMF no. 1: Dance, my puppet! Dance!

We have twelve hours to go on the crowdfunding for the 2015 polyamory book lineup from Thorntree Press. And so, I’m doing something insane. For the next twelve hours, every time someone contributes $15 or more, I’m going to write a blog post, either here or on the More Than Two blog.

Yep, that’s right. I’m going to be glued to my computer for twelve hours. I have my tea in my “Write Like a Motherfucker” mug, I have my cat, and I am ready! If we get 30 contributions, I’ll write 30 blog posts today. If we get 40, I’ll write 40. You get the idea.

Louisa Leontiades, who also has two books in the campaign, will be joining me for the next few hours (she’s in Sweden, nine hours ahead of me, and a 12-hour all-nighter is a bit much to ask. Also, she is less insane than I am.)

I’ll be Tweeting links to the posts with the hashtag #WLAMF. So if you want to make me dance, just contribute! You’ll be supporting indie publishing of quality polyamory books and making me perform at the same time!

UPDATE: Here’s Louisa ready to go. Also with tea, I have no doubt:


Like what you’re reading on the More Than Two blog? Buy the book now.

Coming full circle to a memoir

There is something we don’t talk about much in polyamory. Those of us who are educators and activists tend to focus only on the positive aspects of polyamory. We’re so busy playing cheerleader (see, polyamory is healthy! It’s fun! You can have your Kate and Edith too! There’s no need to be afraid your partner will leave you from someone else, when they can have both of you!) that we don’t talk about the bits that are scary and disruptive. We don’t talk about the fact that, yes, even in polyamory, sometimes you do choose one person over another.

A game changer is a relationship that’s so amazing, so spectacular, so absolutely mindblowing (or sometimes, so terrible and destructive) that it changes your life. It changes your sense of what’s possible. It changes you, in a thousand different ways. Game-changers change things. It’s in the name. They’re disruptive.

A lot of the rules and structures and hierarchies we see in polyamorous relationships are tacit admissions that game-changers can happen. They’re scary. A game-changing relationship can make you aware that things you thought were not possible, actually are possible after all. It can change your priorities. It can change what you want your life to look like. It can change your entire life.

I was married when I met Shelly, my first game-changer. Shelly, whose guest posts about consent and family you will find right here on this blog, is one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met in my life.

I really believed I had a pretty good handle on things when I met her. I truly believed I had it all figured out…what I wanted my life to look like, who I was as a person, what my priorities were. Shelly changed all that. She showed me a world I did not, in a very literal sense, believe was possible.

My marriage did not survive that relationship. There were a lot of reasons for that, but ultimately, what it came down to was Shelly showed me that the compromises I had made weren’t always necessary–and worse, were actively harmful to people who got close to me. My wife and I had not built a relationship resilient enough to accommodate change, and our relationship ended.

When it did, I was subjected to a lot of blowback from the other poly people I knew. The end of my marriage was interpreted by many people (not all, to be fair, but many) as a betrayal of the proper poly ideals. I had, people said, chosen one person over another, the one unforgivable cardinal sin of polyamory. I had renounced all that polyamory stood for.

It wasn’t true, of course. What I had actually done was far worse: I’d chosen one way of life over another: a way that favored trust over rules, communication over restriction, and love over structure. And it changed me. It changed the way I thought, and wrote, about polyamory.

Over the years, I’ve heard from many other people in the midst of game-changing relationships, and many of them are struggling with the same things. They’re perceived to be abandoning the ideals of both polyamory and monogamy, and they’re feeling shame over that. They feel like they’re doing it wrong. Like loving another person too much, or changing as a human being themselves, makes them bad poly people. And I’ve realized that’s not okay.

The person I am now was shaped more by Shelly than by any other person in my life, possibly including my parents. And I like who I am now. I don’t think we should be shamed for relationships that make our lives better.

That’s what The Game Changer is about. It’s a memoir, and it’s my next book.

It’s also the book the big publishers wanted me to write back when I first set off down this to writing More Than Two.

I first started thinking about writing a poly book back in around 2005 or so. I had been working on my poly website, which was hosted at xeromag.com back then, for about five years, and I kept getting email from people saying “Hey, Franklin, when are you going to write a book?”

I didn’t, back then, think of myself as a writer. My college roommate back in the day kept telling me I was a writer, but I still had an idea that when I grew up I was going to be a computer programmer. Or a linguist. Or a biologist. Or…anything but a writer.

The “Hey, Franklin, when are you going to write a book?” emails kept coming in, though, and eventually I decided, hey, I know! I’ll write a book!

I knew less than nothing about writing a book, so I bought a book on writing books. It was called How to Sell, Then Write Your Nonfiction Book. According to this book on writing books, there’s a process you’re supposed to follow. You put together a query letter and a proposal. You create an outline and a sample chapter or two. You make a list of publishers and agents who handle books in that field, and you send your proposal to all those people.

I did this, sending out almost 70 copies of the proposal. And then I waited.

Eventually, I started getting responses. A few of them were obviously form letters that just said “no.” One or two of them said, “Your project looks interesting, but we’re not signing new authors just now.” And a bunch of them… Well, a bunch of them–more than half of the replies I received, in fact–said, “We aren’t interested in a how-to book on relationships, but if you rewrite your proposal as a memoir, we’d love to have it!”

I didn’t want to write a memoir. What I wanted to write was the book I wish I could have read, back when I was screwing things up and hurting people. I didn’t want to titillate people. I wanted to help people be excellent to each other.

So I shelved the book. And then I met Eve, and she told me she wanted to write a book with me, and More Than Two was born. Thanks to her, it is a damn sight better than the book I would have written, so I’m glad the publishing companies turned me down. I am very proud of More Than Two, and it would not be the book it is if I had never met Eve.

It was over the course of writing More Than Two that we realized how powerful, and how scary, the archetype of the game changer really is. And that’s when we realized… I need to write that memoir.

Since I hadn’t been able find a publisher for More Than Two, Eve and I started a publishing company, Thorntree Press. It was a rocky road with a huge learning curve, and we learned quite a lot about the dark, seedy underbelly of the publishing industry. The industry is a sucker’s game, with authors and illustrators generally getting screwed at every turn. We resolved not to be like that.

We’re publishing The Game Changer next year. But a publishing company needs more than just one book a year, and we’re absolutely thrilled to be collaborating with two exceptional writers for next year’s lineup. We have three books next year, including The Game Changer. The second is an anthology of stories by poly people about their experiences, curated by sociologist and researcher Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door. And the third is the second edition of The Husband Swap, Louisa Leontiades’ own memoir about her life in a quad.

Like More Than Two, we’re financing these three new books a by a crowdfunding campaign. This new campaign is short, and offers a lot of awesome perks, including stuff we intend to ship out to our backers before Christmas, including More Than Two! I hope you’ll help support these new projects. I invite you to check it out and help us make these books happen.

I am absolutely gobsmacked by the support Eve and I have gotten for More Than Two. I hope you’ll be willing to stay with us on the next step of this journey.

Support Thorntree Press' 2015 crowdfunding campaign

Like what you’re reading on the More Than Two blog? Buy the book now.

Backer e-books are out!

In case you missed it… we’ve just sent all $15+ backers an email with links to download the Kindle and ePub files for More Than Two. If you backed us and didn’t get the email, check your spam and promotional folders. If you don’t find the email, send a message to orders@thorntreepress.com to get your e-books.

And if you didn’t back us… you can still pick up an advance softcover copy at one of the bookstores that are carrying us, ask your local bookstore to stock advance copies (they can email orders@thorntreepress.com to arrange copies), or wait until September 2 for the official launch!


Like what you’re reading on the More Than Two blog? Buy the book now at Amazon or Powell’s.