On one point all agree: a "poly" relationship isn't going to work unless all partners are in favor of the arrangement. adults have some sort of open arrangement, estimates Franklin Veaux, 41, an Atlanta-based computer programmer and web site developer who also runs a polyamory web site.
The number of adults with open relationships -- be they formal marriages or more informal arrangements -- is small. Others, including Steve Brody, Ph D, a psychologist based in Cambria, Calif., put the number much lower. He has counseled thousands of couples in the past 30 years and has encountered very few instances of open relationships among his patients.
He sometimes has had to assure partners that his interest in others does not mean his interest in them has changed or waned. Because of that, it means my partners can never be replaced." Things can also get dicey when a partner considered "secondary" wants to become a primary, Veaux says.
"I've also had my own feelings of envy and jealousy," he says, "particularly when I feel that a partner is giving more time and energy to another than they are to me." "Where it becomes threatening is when [partners] think love implies exclusivity," says Veaux. That is, if you love two, each gets half of the love. Sometimes Veaux invites most of his partners -- and their partners -- to go out socially.
"In the '70s, there was the playing loose around the edges idea," she says.
"Poly is trying to come across as thoughtful and considerate." An obvious benefit, Weston says, is that sexual monotony seldom sets in.
It all sounds very Middle America, until you know the rest of the story. So Block, who says she is bisexual, broached the topic of open marriage with her husband. He isn't pursuing another relationship himself at this time, although he knows he is free to.
Although Block and her husband, Christopher (not his real name), have been married for nearly 11 years, Jemma (not her real name) is Block's other love. "All that's going on here is feeling open to loving other people," says Block, 37, whose book, Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, is due out in June 2008.
At one time, I even co-purchased a house with three other partners." Her partner, Chris, says that his heart is "wired" for multiple relationships.
Jenny Block often invites her best friend, Jemma, to join her, her husband, and their 8-year-old daughter for dinner.
"We might order Chinese and then play Scrabble after dinner," Block says. She simply couldn't get everything she needed -- sexually, physically, or emotionally -- from just her husband.
Polys are not apt to be bored in other areas of life, either. Some say they learn something about relationship skills from their other partner or partners, something that can be applied with the primary partner, she says. "When I'm actively exploring multiple relationships, balancing my time and energy is usually the most difficult part,'' says Cherie." It can also be particularly draining if more than one of my partners has a crisis in their lives that they ask my assistance with, such as supporting them through a career change, family illness, problems in other relationships, or other challenging times." But if the other person has multiple partners, she says, they also have the benefit of getting multiple sources of help.
Handling the "fear response" in partners can be an issue, says Chris.