Blog now dormant

This blog is no longer being actively updated. It is now not possible to register, comment on posts or subscribe to new posts, but do feel free to browse the pages and posts and visit the related links if you’re interested.

Polyday in London 13-14 September

I’m coming out of blog-exile because there is a very important event happening next Saturday: London’s annual Polyday. It is described on the website as:

A two-day event for everyone who knows that happy and honest relationships don’t have to be monogamous, Polyday combines a day of discussions and an evening of dancing to give you a chance to meet like-minded people, to build our community and to celebrate its diversity

The theme this year is “How do you do it?”. There will be workshops all Saturday, including one run by me called ‘Introduction to polyamory’, and then a pub quiz and disco in the evening. On the Sunday there will be a special workshop all afternoon with Dossie Easton, author of The Ethical Slut, on jealousy in poly relationships. Other Saturday workshops include speed dating, agony aunt, poly activism, time management and poly households.

Hope to see lots of you there! Keep an eye on the website because the venue for the Sunday workshop may change for accessibility reasons.

A Creative Commons licence for blog and book

I have decided to change the way this blog is licensed and to start using a Creative Commons licence instead of simple copyright. At the same time, I am giving away the pdf version of Open Fidelity – an A-Z Guide free under the same Creative Commons licence: it is now here.

This is part of a broader rethink of the purpose of the book and blog that I’ve been doing in the last few weeks. I’ve realised that the attempt to make this project into a business has been working against my aims. I would like the world to know more about Open Fidelity, and charging people to read about it hasn’t helped with this.

I’ve been influenced by the open source software movement and also the open access publishing movement. I think the time has come for me to make my work available to all, without unreasonable restrictions, for reuse and distribution, so that as many people can learn about these ideas as possible. I have made a new version of the book for this purpose, which is unchanged in the A-Z pages but has some changes in the copyright page and a couple of pages about future projects have been removed from the end. This version is an unrestricted pdf file, so you can print it and copy text from it.

The terms of the licence I have chosen for both the book and this blog are available here. Briefly, they say that you are free to copy, distribute and display the work under the following conditions: you must give the original author (me) credit; you may not use it for commercial purposes; and you may not alter, transform, or build upon it. For any reuse or distribution, you must make the licence terms clear to others. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get my permission, however. If you would like to translate it into another language, for example, I’d like you to contact me to arrange permission, though I’m very likely to give it.

So if you haven’t yet read Open Fidelity – an A-Z Guide, download a copy now.

I may not be posting very often from now on, but will post occasional announcements when something interesting comes up. Oh, and in case you’re wondering from my previous post, the TV appearance I mentioned was cancelled. The series it was going to be part of isn’t yet out but should still be interesting.

A TV appearance: suggestions? volunteers?

I have been asked to appear in a TV programme, and this time I’ve actually said yes!

It’s part of a series called ‘Sex – How To Do Everything’, which will be filmed next week. I will be in a studio discussion with the presenters, Em and Lo, focusing on how to have an open relationship. It is produced by TalkbackTHAMES, which is a company well known to UK TV viewers, having produced shows such as Grand Designs and QI (oh yes, and X Factor :-( ). It will be on Channel Five at 11pm, on a Thursday some time in June or July (yes, I’ll let you know exactly when as soon as I find out) – the first episode is on 5th June. The presenters talk about it on their blog here. I’ve been promised a DVD and I will post a clip here when it’s been broadcast.

What advice would you give?

As it is a ‘how to’ show, it looks like they will be asking me questions like how a couple start to open up their relationship, how to suggest an open relationship to your partner, what problems to look out for and how to avoid them. Obviously I have lots of ideas on how to answer these questions, but there is so much that needs to be said that prioritising it is difficult.

So I’d like your help. What are the top three bits of advice you would give someone who is thinking about having an open relationship and doesn’t know where to start? Answers in a comment box please!

I’d like to think about couples who are currently monogamous (or where there has been cheating, or single people – take your pick which you focus on.

Would you like to join me on TV?

The producers are also looking for someone who is in an open/polyamorous relationship who could talk about their personal experiences: how they got into the relationship, why they wanted such a relationship and how they make it work for them. I won’t be talking about my personal experiences myself – I’m there to give general thoughts based on my research.

If anyone is interested, and can get to London next Friday, please contact me by email as soon as possible, preferably by Monday morning. I think they would be happy with one person,a couple or a group, and they haven’t mentioned any age or other restrictions. I would support you as much as I can in the process.

For email subscribers: new post

Those of you who subscribe by email won’t have received my last post because of a technical error. It is online now at http://openfidelity.info/2008/05/28/open-fidelity-and-quakerism/ . Apologies for this.

Open Fidelity and Quakerism

I was at Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) last weekend, so it seems a good time to write something about how my being a Quaker relates to Open Fidelity.

Firstly, if you don’t know much about Quakers, there is a great website about it here and another here. Everything I say about Quakers applies only to Quakers in Britain, and possibly in other areas with a liberal tradition – beliefs and attitudes vary a lot around the world.

Quakers believe there is something of God in everyone (though our definitions of God may vary). This means that every person is valuable and has something unique and precious to offer the world. It follows that we are generally against killing people for any reason, and Quakers have a long history of peace work.

We also have ‘testimonies’, which are principles that we try to live by (though they are not set down in any form of words). The main traditional testimonies are peace, truth/integrity, equality and simplicity, and sustainability/the environment is now becoming established too.

Open Fidelity follows naturally, for me, from the testimony to truth. One aspect of this is that being truthful means accepting the facts even when they are hard to face, and it is a fact (as I’ve said before) that monogamous relationships are difficult for many people, however one might wish they were easy. And a second, more obvious aspect is that we should be honest with our partners.

Another link between Quaker views and Open Fidelity is to take the idea of each person being unique and precious and applying it to sexuality. If we are precious, and we are sexual, then our sexuality is something to be valued and celebrated. I believe strongly that sexuality is part of being human and is thus sacred. And by sacred I don’t mean something to keep for marriage! Note that Quakers don’t often talk in these terms about sexuality in my experience, but I and many of my Quaker friends feel this way of thinking is compatible with Quakerism.

Jesus said we should love our neighbour as ourselves. I’ve heard this interpreted, including in Quaker circles, as meaning we should love ourselves so as better to be able to love others. You may or may not follow everything Jesus is reported to have said, but some of it is great stuff, including this bit. Loving yourself, truly rather than narcissistically, is the basis for being a whole human being. And if you don’t love your sexuality, it will be hard to really love yourself.

But if you value yourself and your sexuality, why should you restrict how you express this by promising to be sexual with only one person? And if you want to live honestly but don’t want to be restricted by monogamy, won’t a promise of monogamy be dishonest?

The principle of equality applies strongly to Open Fidelity. It means that if I want something (such as freedom to have other partners), I have to consider that my partner might also want that, and accept that they have as much right to it as I do. Similarly, if I think I would be hurt to think my partner had cheated on me, I must assume that they would be hurt if I did the same to them. It’s just the basic do-as-you-would-be-done-by principle, otherwise known as the Golden Rule, applied to relationships.

Equality between people of all genders and sexualities is also central to my way of thinking, and it is accepted by most British Quakers, though equality of sexuality isn’t accepted by Quakers in some parts of the world. I believe same-sex relationships to be as valuable as opposite-sex relationships. Of course you can use some of the suggestions I make if you aren’t as convinced of this as I am, but I think you’ll be missing out!

Simplicity and peace aren’t so directly linked to Open Fidelity. Simplicity includes valuing the important things in life, such as love, community, time, the earth, more than things like money, possessions, status and reputation. Open Fidelity fits with this for me – valuing people for themselves rather than their possessions or status. And if more people were sexually fulfilled and stopped fighting each other over sexual jealousy, we might have fewer wars!

Commenting now easier

Following my post asking people to comment more, I’ve had several people saying it is really difficult to do so. I’ve now changed the settings so that you don’t have to be registered and logged in to comment, but if you aren’t you will have to type the word shown in a simple image to prove you’re human.

For those interested in WordPress technicalities, I’ve activated the Akismet and Peter’s Custom Anti-Spam plugins as well as changing the options on the blog.

Any comments on commenting?!

PS. Using the new way of commenting, your email address will remain in the input box after you’ve posted your comment. Don’t panic – it isn’t visible to anyone except you. If you don’t like it staying there for others on your computer to see, try deleting cookies that come from this website (Firefox: Tools, Options, Privacy, Show cookies, search – other browsers probably similar).

Some relevant things from elsewhere

A few things have come to my attention recently that might be of interest to you.

New Open relationships website and book

A new website has been launched, Opening up, by the US author, columnist, editor, and sex educator Tristan Taormino to accompany her book of the same title that was published on 1st May. It includes message boards, an excerpt from the book and a list of resources. It looks incredibly useful, especially for those in the USA. I hope to get hold of a copy of the book and review it here in due course.

Review of Open Fidelity – an A-Z Guide

A review of my book has been posted on Magic Penny’s polyamory blog. At the moment it is just in Norwegian, but Capricorny and Inni, authors of the blog, promise that an English version will be posted soon.

A poly novel – old but still good

I have just finished reading The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. Although it was published back in 1993 it is still the best description I have read of what a society could look like if bisexuality and polyamory were the norm. Not to mention pacifism, non-violent resistance, earth-centred spirituality and environmentalism, of course.

I resisted it for a while because it sounded like it might be a tract advocating a pagan way of life, but it isn’t a tract at all, it’s a gripping novel that imagines in great detail what life could be like in 2048. Starhawk says on her website of the San Francisco of 2048 she describes:

In general the city is an open and tolerant place, where every sexual orientation feels welcomed. Respect for diversity characterizes the approach to sexuality and family life-and no one way of being is considered the ideal or the norm. Gay, straight, queer, bi, and transgendered people are valued. Coercion and force are considered deep illnesses and crimes.

Many people, like Madrone and Bird, are comfortable with open, multiple relationships, others are monogamous, or become so as they grow older and settle down.

Sexuality is seen as a positive, creative, healing force, and the city’s art and architecture reflect that view in sculptures and spaces conducive to romance, in education about sexuality and safe sex.

Two of the main characters are Madrone (female) and Bird (male), who are lovers, and they each have other loving relationships that include sex with men and women. At one point they have a reunion with their three housemates, friends and lovers that involves all of them in a sacred sex ritual. At another point, when Madrone is travelling, she spends an enjoyable day teaching a man (Hijohn) some sexual techniques, and expresses the hope that this will help with his relationship with Katy, who is pregnant with his child. He wasn’t planning to tell Katy and assumes she will be hurt when she finds out, but Madrone says she cannot promise to lie to Katy. Katy does turn out to feel hurt, but later forgives Madrone and says she plans to get back together with Hijohn.

This is just a taste of this wonderful book, which also gives hope that nonviolent resistance to oppression and war can succeed.

Creating an Open Fidelity community

I’ve been away for a while, and I’ve been thinking about why I am writing this blog. It is partly because I hope that what I write here will be helpful to people struggling with monogamy and/or infidelity. But is this blog actually helping you, dear readers? And will you help me make it even  better?

My vision for this site was, and still is, of a place where people concerned with these issues could talk to each other, share their stories, and form a community. It hasn’t yet happened, but I hope it can start  happening now.

If you have found any posts useful, please comment on them and say so. If you think something I have said is mistaken, or unclear, or over-simplified, please comment. If you have a story that relates to something I’ve written, please add it. If you think the whole concept is rubbish, I’d love to hear why – and then other readers can comment on what you say.

You can do all this without revealing your identity to other readers, and if you wish you don’t even have to give me any idea of your identity either. To comment you need to register (I insist on this to avoid spam comments), and that requires only an email address, which only I will see, and a username, which others will see. If you wish you can set up a new webmail address using a service like GMail, Yahoo or Hotmail, which can make you completely anonymous.

In time, the amount of discussion this blog generates will show how useful it is being. If it isn’t useful, maybe I’ll eventually call it a day though I fully intend to keep posting for a good while yet!

Kinds of Open Fidelity

The relationship structures of the people I have interviewed can be fitted into four models. They illustrate four different ways in which you can go about honest nonmonogamy. Different models work best for different people, and there is some overlap between them. It is possible to change from one model to another over time.

The first model is a committed couple who allow each other just sex outside their relationship. For a couple like this, the primary relationship is solid and the relationships with other lovers are of much lesser importance. The ‘flings’ or one-night stands outside the primary relationship give a buzz, a bit of fun, some relief of potential boredom, or just a change.

This first model includes couples who go together to sex parties and swinger’s clubs. Or it might be that one or other of them goes to such events, while the other isn’t interested (but knows about their partner going).

A second model is a couple who are committed primary partners but also have secondary partners. The secondary relationships are romantic and loving and ongoing, but the secondary partners do not share the everyday things in life to the same extent that primary partners do. Everyone knows that the primary relationship always comes first. Sometimes, two people who both have primary partners can be secondary partners to each other.

A third model is a triad or a larger group, in which three or more people form a committed, loving relationship. In these groups, no one couple-relationship is more important than the other couple-relationships. The group usually live together, share their everyday lives and feel committed to stay together as a group.

And the fourth model is an individual who doesn’t have a primary partner but instead has a network of partners with whom they share parts of their lives. This can be like conventional dating, with new lovers coming and going, one-night stands or flings lasting weeks or months, and perhaps some ongoing long-distance lovers. The difference from conventional singles is that the person openly has more than one lover and tells all their lovers this (though they don’t necessarily give details of each lover to the others).

There are many possible variations and combinations of these models. I have come across examples of:

  • two committed primary partners who are generally monogamous but to open up their relationship just once and a specific circumstances
  • two primary opposite-sex couples where each man is also a secondary partner with each woman from the other couple
  • a polyamorous network of partners and lovers where some people have two equal primary partners as well as several secondaries and where friendship and romantic relationships blend into one another
  • a committed triad who allow each other casual lovers (as in the first model) or secondary partners (as in their second model)
  • a married couple who are searching for a woman to form a triad with (this seems to be very common, though stable triads that form in this way are much rarer)
  • a quad in which all members were primary partners to all other members.

Sometimes one kind of set-up will evolve into another: for instance if a secondary partner of one of a couple turns into an equal partner in a triad with both of them. Or a relationship starts off monogamous, then the couple explore opening it up but with strict rules to ensure that any ‘outside sex’ is only casual, and after a while they relax the rules and perhaps meet someone who becomes a secondary partner or form a triad.

Following on from my post on promises, it is important when making promises to work out between you which model of open relationship you would find acceptable and which you are sure you want to rule out. Remember that you and your relationship will evolve and your promises might need to reflect that possibility.