You might not meet a more straightforward couple than Stefani Skidmore and Jeff Altemus. She checks with him first before she dates another man and he asks her directly if he can have sex with another woman. The unmarried couple, who live together in Ashland, say being happy for your partner's bliss is an outcome of practicing polyamory, a hybrid word that joins the Greek word "poly" — meaning "many" — with the Latin word "amor" or "love. Although quiet in Ashland and most other communities, polyamory is now in the news.
A Brazilian trio was recently granted civil union status. Some practitioners gathered over the past weekend in New York for the 26th Annual Polyamory National Retreat, and Showtime just completed airing episodes of its half-hour documentary reality series "Polyamory: A trio is called a "triad," a foursome a "quad. The ultimate betrayal in polyamory is lying, practitioners say. Nor is it "swinging," recreational sex outside of marriage.
Practitioners consider themselves committed to their partners and don't have outside sexual relations before discussing it with their partners and ensuring that everyone is comfortable with it. People in the poly community believe that nonexclusivity in sexual and family relations improves their psychological wellbeing, says Echo E.
Fields, an associate professor in SOU's sociology department. They hope that by developing insight into each member's sexual and psychological needs and honestly communicating them, members can overcome jealousy and possessiveness. In Ashland, people look for partners by posting on dating websites. One something Ashland couple, who are married and have a child, say their lifestyle is misunderstood and is more closeted than the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
They asked that their names not be published. When neighbors or co-workers see one of them being romantic with another person in public, "people immediately jump to the conclusion that we're not being forthright," says the husband, adding that they have lost friends by explaining it. Legal issues also make these relationships challenging, from child custody to property division if a member leaves the group.
But, say practitioners, that could all be agreed upon in advance. Later, he acknowledges, "It's so on the edge of accepted cultural norms it can be difficult at times. Altemus describes a past monogamous breakup "as a death of a shared dream, a shared life" and says there are no guarantees in any relationship. Skidmore says it's "freeing" to be more transparent about her private life. When I communicate about what I need, even when it's terrifying, I am being honest.