This is a fantastic book that could change the way you think about intimate relationships. Whether or not it does that, it will teach you to improve your communication skills, avoid unnecessary conflict, and to treat your loved ones with extra care and respect. Along with my belief that finding a loving community, whether it’s a “normal family” or not, is essential to long term human happiness are the reasons I recommend the book More Than Two to anyone with an open mind.
My thoughts after completing the book:
I just turned 29 years old. I have and likely always will identify as a heterosexual male. For most of my adult life I have viewed intimate, meaningful, and loving relationships with females very narrow mindedly compared to many people I was not aware of until recently. This is honestly my first time analyzing it to the point of actually writing it down for clarity. My previous potential to establish an intimate, meaningful, and loving relationship with a female can be broken down into three categories:
A strictly platonic relationship. Both members are either not sexually attracted to one another or very clear and OK with a verbal or nonverbal agreement that sex is not a possibility.
2. “Having fun”
A sexual relationship where sex is the main focus. Intimacy, meaning, and love are not nurtured because I did not see potential in the other member as a monogamous wife for myself, which is the only end game option I have ever truly considered. Looking back at life and thinking about my relationships, this category makes me the most sad because I missed many opportunities to nurture relationships that could have bought both people happiness, excitement, support, and love.
3. “Wife material”
A “try out” to be my future monogamous wife. Because I have never considered myself “ready” for a monogamous marriage, this category has never technically existed in my life. It’s just notion that all people flip a switch at some point in their life and suddenly desire a life long monogamous commitment. I just assumed, like most of my peers, that someday I will “mature” or be ready to “settle down,” which means monogamous marriage in our heads.
*Remember that all relationships have more than one person. Occasionally category 1, 2, and 3 crossed paths or different people in the relationship thought of the other member in a different way or put them in a conflicting category. When there is not sufficient communication, more often than not feelings get hurt. If you let someone get hurt without at least trying to prevent it, you don’t know how or don’t want to respect people.*
After reading this book and processing the information, my mind keeps coming back to one place: that I’ve missed out on and squandered countless relationships with extraordinary people who had great potential to bring long term love, fun, and enjoyment to my life. Part of that thought is reasonable, but some is just my FOMO (Fear of missing out). Particularly with women in my life, the circles I have decided to spend most of my adult life with would not be very open to me exploring a poly life structure. Then again, I shouldn’t really assume that, because I’ve never had a serious conversation about it due to the fact that it was never considered as an option for in life.
Whether or not I decide to pursue Polyamory in my life, this books is an excellent tool for relationship development and communication skills. In any loving relationship I make a decision to commit to and nurture, I will insist that my partner read this book and discuss it with me. Below are some examples of lessons it taught me about communication and specifically how proactive discussion helps strengthen relationships.
Principles of Polyamory:
Two axioms/principles, which together are a lens through which any relationship choice should be viewed:
- The people in a relationship are more important than the relationship.
- Don’t treat people as things.
Five Themes of Polyamory:
- Trust: The first idea is trust. Many problems in any relationship, but especially in poly relationships, come down to “How much do I trust my partner?” Having such trust is often more difficult than it sounds, because internal emotions such as insecurity or low self-esteem can affect how much confidence we place in a partner’s love for us.
- Courage: The second theme is courage. We suggest many approaches to relationships that require confronting socially imposed norms and our own fears, and that takes courage. When many people think of “courage,” they think of a firefighter charging into a burning building or a person facing down a hungry leopard—extraordinary acts of bravery in the face of danger. The kind of courage we mean is a more personal, ordinary thing: talking about our feelings even when we’re afraid; giving a partner the freedom to explore new relationships even when we fear being abandoned; challenging ourselves to step outside our comfort zones even when we aren’t sure there will be someone there to catch us.
- The courage it takes to say, “Yes, I am going to open my heart to this person, even though I don’t know what the outcome will be.” The courage to love a partner who loves another person even though you do not have the trappings of security that monogamy promises. The courage to sleep alone. The courage to begin a relationship with someone who’s already partnered.
- Abundance: The second theme is courage. We suggest many approaches to relationships that require confronting socially imposed norms and our own fears, and that takes courage. When many people think of “courage,” they think of a firefighter charging into a burning building or a person facing down a hungry leopard—extraordinary acts of bravery in the face of danger. The kind of courage we mean is a more personal, ordinary thing: talking about our feelings even when we’re afraid; giving a partner the freedom to explore new relationships even when we fear being abandoned; challenging ourselves to step outside our comfort zones even when we aren’t sure there will be someone there to catch us.
- The abundance model says that relationship opportunities are all around us. Sure, only a small percentage of the population might meet our criteria, but in a world of more than seven billion people, opportunities abound. Even if we exclude everyone who isn’t open to polyamory, and everyone of the “wrong” sex or orientation, and everyone who doesn’t have whatever other traits we want, we’re still left with tens of thousands of potential partners, which is surely enough to keep even the most ambitious person busy.
- Ethics:The fourth idea is ethics. We strongly believe there are ethical and unethical ways to treat other people, and we talk about them throughout this book. Treating people with compassion, integrity and respect, no matter what role they play in our lives, is something we believe to be of paramount importance in happy, healthy relationships.
- Empowerment:The last theme we will often return to is empowerment. We believe that relationships work best when all the people involved feel empowered to help shape and guide their relationships, to advocate for their needs, and to feel that they have a hand in the outcomes.
- Being ethical means that you’re willing to look at your actions and their effects on other people. If you’re presented with evidence that you’re causing harm, or that what you’re doing won’t achieve what you and your partner(s) want, you will look for ways to change this.
- Ethical decision-making is not always easy. That’s fitting, because the measure of a person’s ethics lies in what she does when things are difficult. We believe every decision that affects other people should be examined from an ethical perspective.
- Consent- Consent is about you: your body, your mind and your choices.
- Honesty- Tell the truth and do not withhold information.
- Agency- The people around you have agency: they do not need your consent to act, because you do not own their bodies, minds or choices.
Skills of Polyamory:
- Jealousy management.
- Honesty & transparency
** These are not easy to master. Relationship skills are emergent phenomena; they come from developing ways of thinking about relationships and about yourself. Once you’ve developed those ways of thinking, practicing these skills in your relationships starts to feel natural.**
Questions to ask yourself if you’re considering Polyamory:
What are my needs in relationships? Are they attached to specific people? That is, do I need these things generally, or do I need them just from certain people? What configurations am I open to? Am I looking for a particular configuration because I’m afraid that others might be more scary or more threatening? Am I flexible in what I’m looking for? If my relationship changes, is that okay? Can I accommodate change, even unexpected change or change I don’t like? When I visualize the kind of relationship I want, how much space does it leave for new partners to shape the relationship to their needs? Am I focusing on an idealized fantasy more than on making organic connections with real people? What happens if I connect with someone in a way that differs from how I want my poly relationship to look? What message does that send to someone who doesn’t fit neatly into my dreams?
My favorite quotes from the authors:
- Every person you become involved with stands a good chance of changing your life in a big or small way. If that weren’t the case, well, what would be the point?
- The truth is, commitment in polyamory doesn’t mean commitment to sexual exclusivity. Instead, it means commitment to a romantic relationship, with everything that goes along with that: commitment to being there when your partners need you, to investing in their happiness, to building a life with them, to creating happy and healthy relationships that meet everyone’s needs, and to supporting one another when life gets hard. Unfortunately, society has taught us to view commitment only through the lens of sexual exclusivity; this diminishes all the other important ways that we commit to one another. People who can’t commit to one person sure as hell can’t commit to more than one!
- Forget the fairy tale. “Happily ever after” is a myth because people, unlike characters in fairy tales, are not static. We live, we grow, we change. Happy, healthy romantic lives require not just continual reinvestment but constant awareness of the changes in our partners, our situations and ourselves. Our partners do not owe us a guarantee that they will never change, nor do we owe anyone such a guarantee. And as we change, so do the things that make us happy.
- Loving more than one person at the same time is not an escape from intimacy; it is an enthusiastic embrace of intimacy.
- Many poly people feel it’s an intrinsic part of who they are, like hair color or sexual orientation. A person who feels inherently non-monogamous can identify as poly even if she has only one relationship, or none. Others embrace polyamory because they see it as inherently more honest than monogamy, which often requires denying attractions to other people.
- We are nourished by the people who love and cherish us. Every partner we have had, all the relationships we have built, have made us stronger, taught us, supported us, made us better human beings.
- Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known. Understanding and programming your own mind is your responsibility; if you fail to do this, the world will program it for you, and you’ll end up in the relationship other people think you should have, not the relationship you want.
- Highlight: Understanding and programming your own mind is your responsibility; if you fail to do this, the world will program it for you,
- The effort to be perfect only drives us away from one another and damages our self-worth.
- Humans are social animals. We function best when we’re surrounded by people who care about us. The fear of being alone is part of being human.
- When we hold an abundance model of relationships, it’s easier to just go do the things that bring us joy, without worrying about searching for a partner. That tends to make us more attractive, because happy, confident people are desirable.
- Compassion is—again—not something you are, not something you feel, but something you practice. Compassion is putting ourselves in another’s shoes.
- If we spend too much time thinking about what can go wrong, we forget what can go right. Life is better when you lead with your hopes, not your fears.
- Jealousy is a feeling, not an identity. You may feel jealous, but that doesn’t make you a jealous person. It’s an important distinction. If you say “I am a jealous person,” you may find it hard to think about letting go of jealousy; it feels like letting go of something that makes you who you are.
- Rules tend to come from the idea that it’s acceptable, or even desirable, for you to control someone else’s behavior, or for someone else to control yours. Boundaries derive from the idea that the only person you really control is yourself.
- The key with boundaries is that you always set them around those things that are yours: your body, your mind, your emotions, your time, intimacy with you. You always have a right to regulate access to what is yours.
- I’ve worked really hard to eliminate the words “have to” from my vocabulary. Because the reality is, I’m choosing to. I’m choosing to show up and meet my commitments. lauren bacon
My favorites quotes from others:
- Eliezer Yudkowsky says, “You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.”
- The most vital right is the right to love and be loved. emma goldman
- To be a good person, you have to always want to be better than yourself right now. p. z. Myers
- As Canadian entrepreneur Lynn Robinson says, “Our beliefs about ourselves are all made up. So it’s a good idea to make up some good ones.”
- As the relationship coach Marcia Baczynski has put it, “If you’re afraid to say it, that means you need to say it.”
- May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. nelson mandela
Author’s book suggestions:
- The Dance of Intimacy and The Gifts of Imperfection.
- The Ethical Slut
- As of July 2009, it was estimated that more than 500,000 polyamorous relationships existed in the United States.
Here are some of the better videos I’ve found on Polyamory: