Katherine Doggrell is a financial journalist specialising in the global hotel investment community and has worked for publications including the Financial Times, The Guardian, Q, Mojo and Business 2.0. Her debut novel, Dog With A Bone, is available now
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One e-book supplement (how to handle judgemental people)
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Plus one 50-minute online session with CBT therapist Daniel Fryer
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An Exploration of Modern Relationships
Praising polyamory: An innovative and entertaining book using psychology, essays and interviews to show that it’s okay to pursue the love life you really want.Share Tweet LinkedIn Embed pszr.co/SbUdC 1964 views
|Lifestyle Relationships and Sex|
|Bristol, United Kingdom|
|2 publishers interested|
Move Over Monogamy: What is it about?
Utilising the call-and-response method, Move Over Monogamy is a discussion of alternatives to traditional, monogamous relationships. It features a series of candid interviews with people taking non-traditional relationship routes, featuring analysis from an experienced psychotherapist. It also casts an eye over the changing role and picture of relationships throughout history and culture. Not every path will be for you, but even those happy in their conventional model will find this informative, interesting and inspiring.
Both Daniel and Katherine are in unconventional relationships and are advocates of polyamory. Daniel describes himself as steadfastly single and prefers to have friends-with-benefits style relationships, whilst Katherine is committed to happiness in its many forms.
Move Over Monogamy: Why Now?
The media has had plenty to say on the subject this past year, if this selection of headlines is anything to go by:
We live in a world of choice, we're bombarded by it. So much choice do we have that websites exist to filter things out (money, flights, hotels) and make our choices easier. Except when it comes to relationships.
Human beings are not biologically monogamous. Nature did not design us that way. Monogamy is a social construct.
But, the world over, societies are in flux, 2018 sees globalisation met with the raising of barriers and an urge to turn inwards. Religion is falling from favour.
Divorce rates are rising, marriage rates are falling and research shows an increasing acceptance of non-traditional relationships.
According to the most-recent ONS statistics, there are 26.7 million households, of which 28% contained only one person.
Much was made of these poor single people, lonely, making up for in cats what they lacked in companionship.
What if those single people were single by choice?
The rise in wealth and education following the Second World War has seen aspirations move away from two up, two down and 2.4 children.
The rise of the Millennials sees a generation focused away from ownership and towards experience.
With more people than ever financially and psychologically independent, marriage is becoming a choice, not a necessity to survive.
If you're monogamous, this book will help you understand polyamory a little more clearly; if you're questioning the type of relationship that's right for you, this book will contain the answers you seek; if you've already figured out you're polyamorous, this book will help you understand yourself a little better.
The world is becoming ever more nuanced, as is how we find our happiness within it.
When it came to relationships, if you knew you had a choice, what choice would you make?
Move Over Monogamy is the first in a planned trilogy of books. Follow-ups include Flying Solo (how to be single and happy) and 'Together Forever" (how to maintain a successful long term relationship). Like their predecessor, both books will feature interviews and essays as well as psychological tips and insights.
Who are the subjects?
Those interviewed in the books are the doctors, lawyers and the taxpayers you share the Tube with, people who have taken the non-standard route romantic and sexual happiness.
We talk to:
Friends with benefits
Why bother with the complexities of a relationship when you can have no-strings fun?
Meet your flexible friends
The new monogamy
Monogamists that accept things can become polyamorous in the future
No to casual sex
Eager to commit, sleeping around is so 1960s
The happily married
The search for a soul mate is complete
The generation game
Sex through the ages
On again/off again
Horses for courses - different people, different moods
A little bit of padding
It’s OK to flirt
The long distance relationship
The couple who live apart permanently (and may fill in the gaps)
One love online, one in real life - why it’s not cheating
A happy threesome who live together, sleep together and do the ironing together
I’m enough for me
The happily living alone
I love you, but I love my fort
Indulging wherever and whenever in a consensual pick-n-mix
The new Victorianism
The 1950s are a positive choice
It’s not cheating if the other party has only electric dreams
The happy abstainers
Sex? Just messes up the sheets. We’d rather make jam.
The gay couple who found happiness by eschewing monogamy and supporting each other’s love lives and turning their lovers into an ever-growing circle of friends
Making a political point with a whip Gender fluid
The mix and match relationship
I’m sleeping with your partner, by contract
The porn barons
Two men who have turned their relationship into an ever growing online porn brand; not only filming each other for their successful website, but bringing others in, sometimes at the request of their users.
The woman who has incorporated her happy polyamorous relationship into her comedy routine
“I find it much more relaxing to know that I can go to a bar and I can flirt with someone else, or take them back to my fort if I want to, without feeling that I am hurting anyone else or breaking any promises. And obviously, it’s fun. I don’t feel any less love for my boyfriend if I’m with someone else, but, I guess, it comes back to choice. I like making choices, I like looking ahead in my life and wondering what book I’m going to read, what film I’m going to see, who I might fuck.”
“I love my work, but in my own romantic relationships men are definitely intimidated by it, not necessarily because I’m a dominatrix, but because I have more success than men my age. I don’t want to come across as egotistical, but that’s a real problem being a woman. I’m 26, I teach a masters course at one of the most prestigious universities in the world and most of the men my age are doing a masters and still having their rent paid by their parents. Why would I get involved with them?
“We definitely weren’t looking for a third person. If anything we’d gone away that summer and come back in a great place - how many years had it been, 12? We were thinking we’d cracked this. We’d been through the seven-year itch, we’d been through lots of stuff together, loads of opportunities to break up. We were always friends with each other, we always fancied each other. We got to a point where we were in a really good place. James was really unexpected.”
Our audience is anyone questioning their relationship status; anyone who thinks monogamy is not for them; anyone who wants something other than "one man and one woman, together for ever, until death do they part"
A recent study found that both men and women naturally fall into one of two groups: those that value faithfulness to one person and those that don't. (Wlodarski, Manning, et al, 2015) whilst a recent British YouGov survey found that whilst 41% of people think human beings are naturally monogamous, 39% do not.
This book is for all those who are or wish to be in latter group: people who want intimate relationships with more than one person, people who want lovers rather than spouses, friends with benefits rather than partners.
In the past year (July 2017 to July 2018), thought-provoking articles on the subject of polyamory have appeared in The Guardian, Grazia, The Independent, Vogue and, even, The Financial Times. It is time for a relationship rethink:
Daniel Fryer is former journalist and writer, with an MSc in rational-emotive and cognitive behaviour therapy, a diploma in clinical hypnosis and another in cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy.
He works in private practice and for The Priory hospital. As a journalist, he has written for various publications including Time Out, Lighter Life and Gala Buzz, the magazine for members of Gala Bingo. He has been interviewed for Diva, Body Matters, The Daily Mail and the Metro.
Daniel is the author of two books: The Gola Years (a celebration of the centenary of the famous British sportswear brand) and The Ultimate Stag Night Kit (which came with a free inflatable sheep).
A gay man, Daniel is currently single, and plans to stay that way. He has had relationships both open and monogamous, was once in a three-way relationship and currently has a lover in Spain.
Katherine Doggrell is a financial journalist specialising in the global hotel investment community and has worked for publications including the Financial Times, The Guardian, Q, Mojo, Ministry, Virgin and Business 2.0, meeting such luminaries as Steve Jobs, the Queen and a group of reclusive cowboys who pretend it’s 1850 in a field in Essex.
She is a founding member of Rattle Tales, the award-winning, short-story night and her debut novel, Dog With A Bone, is available now. She has been married but found that it wasn’t for her and is now in a long-term loving relationship with just the right spice of freedom. She is a mother of one.
Both authors are well established in their respective fields, with Daniel a respected psychotherapist and public face of therapy and Katherine a leader in her sector.
Writing for publications in both Europe and the US. Katherine is connected to the publishing world both through her debut novel, Dog With A Bone and as a founder member of Rattle Tales, the award-winning Brighton-based short story night, which launched The Brighton Prize, the nationally-recognised short story prize.
Both of them have the social platforms to support the promotion of this book, across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
While Daniel and Katherine’s approach to the subject is unique, the topic has been addressed before, most notably in The Ethical Slut, which is enjoying its second revision. This rising interest gives the book a readymade base of thousands of prospective readers and with whom to engage ahead of publication. In Facebook alone, groups such as Polyamory, Polyamory: married & dating and Polyamory & Ethical Monogamy command over 50,000 members which fit the audience of this book.
Katherine has worked for over 20 years in the national media, for publications including The Guardian and the Financial Times, giving her a network of contacts which can be harnessed to promote the book. The authors are also creating a group of book ambassadors, early readers and adopters, who are influencers and will also help to promote the book through their platforms.
Both Daniel and Katherine are very active on social media. They intend to market across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. (for instance, Daniel has 1,862 Twitter followers, Katherine has 668; both have over 500 LinkedIn connections).
Daniel has both a social Facebook page and a business page that he can market to.
Daniel blogs regularly on all aspect of mental health on his website and will factor in marketing and advertising in all future blogs. He is also a contributor to online magazine Travelling Peach. He can not only market to the magazine's readership, but also to his fellow contributors (of which their are many, including doctors, sportsmen and women, celebrity chefs and more).
Both Daniel and Katherine will approach local and national media to engage with this campaign.
Once upon a time there was a cave. There was a man and a woman and a baby and a sabre-toothed tiger. There was a fire and there was firewood. There were berries and there were poisoned berries.
Now there are supermarkets and animal control. The women have made it out of the cave and the men can put down their spears. For some, the loss of the fairy tale is mourned and they seek that traditional dynamic. For others, that first glimpse of the light away from the hearth has tempted them to greater exploration, to seek a home where they live as they want.
According to the ONS in the UK, in 2014 there were 26.7 million households, of which 28% contained only one person. Much was made of these poor single people, lonely, making up for in cats what they lacked in companionship.
What if those cats are just keeping the bed warm while their owners visited their lovers? Their sex clubs? Their S&M dungeons?
What if those single people were single by choice? The rise in wealth and education following the second world war has seen aspirations move away from two up, two down and 2.4 children. The rise of the Millennials sees a generation focused away from ownership and towards experience.
With more people than ever financially and psychologically independent, marriage is becoming a choice, not a necessity to survive.
Like kids in a candy shop, there are fingers wagged at over-indulgence. Too much will ruin your appetite. There will be cavities. Weight gain. Fear of change, fear of the unknown drives many to attack those who would choose to eschew the traditional family unit and brand them as shallow, as seeking to claw apart society.
But what is the traditional monogamy we have be told to look up to? A quick flick through history reveals that relationships were way more diverse than traditionalists and churches would have you believe. Just like the war on drugs, current policy on relationships and how to have them just doesn’t work. It doesn’t fit in with modern thinking or our modern way of living. The proof is in the pudding . . . marriage is on the decline and modern lives are littered with a succession of broken
For those single people who find themselves apparently habitually rubbish at relationships, feeling doomed to tread the same old path; doomed to date and fall apart, date and fall apart again and again, ad infinitum, until their very souls have withered on the vine, there is the temptation to believe
that something is fundamentally wrong with them, that they are at fault.
This book explores how male or female, gay or straight, married, single or just plain shacking up, there is more to life than just one person plus one person, together forever, no matter what.
Why can’t you treat your romantic relationships like business relationships: something to be reviewed, renegotiated and, even, broken, if you feel your partner is not fulfilling their side of the contract? Why can’t you run a romance the way you run a friendship? Does losing your heart have to mean losing your independence?
As you work your way through this book, feel free to look back on your failed romances and broken marriages, not as evidence that you are intrinsically wrong, or that you are a complete screw up when it comes to running them, but more as experiments. When an experiment goes wrong, it’s not looked on as a failure. It’s viewed as a lesson to be learned. The parameters and variables of the experiment are changed, again and again, until the scientist gets the desired outcome.
In a quote, incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, someone once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
We live in a world of choice: what to watch and what to watch it on; what to eat and where to eat it; where to holiday and what kind of holiday to have and on and on. So much choice on so many things, that we often feel burdened by choice, so much so, that Walkers Crisps have over 15 different flavours in its basic range alone. Why oh why is it then that we have so little choice over what kind of relationship to have?
Time then, to make a stand; time to work out who you are, what you want and then choose the kind of relationship you want; free to state, clearly for the record, exactly how you see your relationship working and free to attract the sort of person that compliments your choice accordingly.
From now on, your romantic relationships can be as much of a lifestyle choice as the friends you have, the clothes you wear, the places you hang out, or any other choice you care to make.
It’s time for sex, not socks.
Monogamy, equality and relationship quality: where have we been and where can we go?
Since the day Darwin put pen to paper and turned evolution on its head, we’ve been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Except that it doesn’t. Very few
mammals on this planet are monogamous. And, throughout human history, very few human societies have been monogamous.
Today’s mainstream views on monogamy are an eclectic blend: part historical, part Darwinian evolution, part anthropological observation, part marital convention and part social construction.
Social monogamy, however, is a completely different beast and an artificial one at that.
“In humans monogamy is relatively new on the scene,” says experimental psychologist Rafael Wlodarski. “We’re talking hundreds of thousands of years. It’s a winning strategy
because it’s so novel and seems to work in the culture we’ve created.”
Our idea of the monogamous relationship has been shaped by science, by religion and by cultural expectation – to the point where we haven’t really questioned it for decades.
Family life, however, looked quite different even as little as 50 years ago. It’s our cultural conventions that maintain men and women should evolve in families in which a man’s possessions and protection are exchanged for a woman’s fertility and fidelity. But it wasn’t always like that.
Not if you listen to the anthropologists and authors of Sex at Dawn Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, who hark back thousands of years, to the days where human beings roamed the earth in tribes of hunter-gatherers. Ryan and Jethá point to us evolving in highly cooperative and egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, group defence and just about everything else, including sexual partners.
Sexual interaction of any description then, was a shared resource; just like any other.
So, way back when: men and women were equal, multiple sexual partners were common, sex was fairly promiscuous and the paternity of your children was not a concern.
It makes sense. Biologically speaking, we are not designed for monogamy. A human male’s testicles are far larger than a monogamous primate would ever need them to be.
Having them hang externally also speaks volumes. It makes them vulnerable, which is bad; but, it also keeps them cooler (great for preserving stand-by sperm and ensuring
you’re ready to go again ASAP), which is good for non-monogamy. And why would a monogamous female need the ability to orgasm multiple times? Female chimpanzees
(our closest living relative) can and do have sex umpteen times a day with any and all available males. Darwin was, quite frankly, baffled. If all we need to do is pair bond, why were human beings’ bits and bobs so goddam big?
Given that they are, why would early man live in a society that went against its biology?
“Forget what you’ve heard about human beings having descended from the apes,” the Sex at Dawn authors argue. “We didn’t descend from the apes – we are apes. Metaphorically
and factually, Homo sapiens is one of the five surviving species of great apes, along with chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orang-utans. We shared a common ancestor with two of these apes – chimpanzees and bonobos – just five million years ago.” 2
And, like the bonobos and the chimps, we are the randy descendants of hypersexual ancestors. All that monogamy and till-death-us-do-part marriage is simply a socially constructed
narrative; one that sits a long way from the truth.
As anthropologist and feminist Kathleen Gough says, “In general in hunting societies, women are less subordinated in certain crucial respects than they are in most, if not all,
of the archaic states, or even in some capitalist nations. These respects include men's ability to deny women sexuality or to force it upon them; to command or exploit their labour to control their produce; to control or rob them of their children; to confine them physically and prevent their movement; to use them as objects in male transactions; to cramp their creativeness; spring will just be accepted by everybody, regardless of paternity, and raised by your friends and family?
Okay, so it does sound like the dullest episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show that you could possible imagine. (My Partner Sleeps With Everyone Else in our Village and So Do I; We
Don’t Know Whose Children are Whose and We Are Happy). It also goes against the standard narrative of human sexual evolution, which goes something like this:
Boy meets girl: boy and girl assess one another’s mate value from perspectives based upon their different reproductive agendas and capacities. He looks for youth, fertility,
health, absence of previous sexual experience, and likelihood of future sexual infidelity.
Basically, he’s looking for a fit, young, fertile mate with many childbearing years ahead of her and no previous children to drain his resources. Meanwhile, she looks for signs of
wealth (or prospects of future wealth), social status, physical health, and likelihood that he will stick around to protect and provide for her and their children. Boy gets girls (assuming
they’ve met each other’s criteria) and they hook up (or pair bond as anthropologists like to call it).
Once the pair bond is formed, she will be sensitive to indications that he is considering leaving (i.e., vigilant towards signs of infidelity involving intimacy with other women that would threaten her access to his resources and protection (while keeping an eye out herself for a quick fling with a man genetically superior to her husband).
He, meanwhile, will be sensitive to signs of her sexual infidelities (which would reduce his all-important paternity certainty) while taking advantage of short-term sexual opportunities with other women.
As author Matt Miller says, “Animals and plants evolved sex to fend off parasitic infection. Now look where it has got us. Men want BMWs, power and money in order to pairbond
with women who are blonde, youthful and narrow-waisted.” 4
Researchers claim to have confirmed these basic patterns in studies conducted around the world over several decades. The standard narrative also explains every single episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show, ever.
But, what if a woman’s seemingly consistent preference for a man with access to wealth is not a result of innate evolutionary programming, as the standard model assert, but
simply a behavioural adaptation to a world in which men control a disproportionate share of the world’s resources?
What if, as the Sex at Dawn authors assert, our natural state of being, for both men and women, is a state of shag-who-you-want equality?
It’s a view backed up by research into modern hunter-gatherer tribes, which do display the sexual egalitarianism the authors propose. 5
Of course, this egalitarian viewpoint is not the only anthropological point of view.
In her book, The Sex Contract, Helen Fisher argues that, although we can’t know what the sexual norms for ancient people were, we can theorise about them, based upon primate
She says, “It's considered that many primate females used sex as a bargaining tool for protection and resources. Sex possibly didn't mean the same thing as it does to us now but was likely used as a tool between people within the same group. The ‘alpha’ male would get sex when he wanted it, but the ‘beta male’ often created bonds with the female group members and also received sex, but not with as many females. It's good to note that not all primates had similar sexual behaviours. We can only assume that monogamy was a result of many factors that came along with religion, property ownership, rules of
inheritance and such.”
However, there is a species of primate that does not follow the norm. In fact, they are kind of unique. Bonobo monkeys don’t follow a similar sexual exchange practice as other primates. Sex is primarily used as a tension release: “I'm mad at you, let's shag and get over it,” or, “you look a little stressed, mate, fancy a blow job?”
Basically sex is a substitution for aggression. That's not a limiting factor though. They will have sex when they are upset. They will have sex when they are happy. They with have sex with relatives, of both genders, including adults and babies. Basically, they will have sex with everyone and they don't really need a single reason or excuse for doing.
Until agriculture, human beings evolved in societies organised around an insistence on sharing just about everything – not in some noble selfless way: cultural sharing was simply the most effective way to survive; it minimised risk and allowed the tribe to flourish.
Sharing and self-interest are not mutually exclusive, many anthropologists call it fierce egalitarianism and it was the predominant pattern of social organisation around the world for thousands of years before the advent of agriculture.
It’s highly likely, given evidence both biological, anthropological and, even, historical, that our prehistoric ancestors lived in groups where most mature individuals would have had several on-going relationships at any given time. Though often casual, these relationships were not random or meaningless. Quite the opposite: they reinforced crucial social ties holding these highly interdependent communities together. Just like modern-day bonobos.
But, back to agriculture: The upheaval in human societies resulting from the shift to settled living in agricultural communities, farming and raising domestic animals, brought
radical changes to women’s ability to survive.
People began organising themselves around hierarchical political structures, private property and densely populated areas. Suddenly, everything became about property and ownership, suddenly women lived in a world where they had to barter their reproductive capacity for access to the resources and protection they needed to survive. And these conditions were very different from the conditions in which our species had previously been evolving.
For many reasons, author Jared Diamond calls the shift to agriculture a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. 7
When viewed against the entirety of Homo sapiens existence, modern life is but a click of the fingers. Even if we ignore the roughly two million years since the emergence of
the Homo lineage (in which our direct ancestors lived in small foraging social groups) anatomically modern humans are estimated to have existed for as long as 200,000 years.
Agriculture dates back to about 8000 BCE. Historically speaking, until recently, most of the planet was still occupied by foragers.
Obviously, we did not stay stuck at an agricultural stage of development but, as we moved on into city life, a woman’s status changed very little.
As Kevin Reilly says, “We can summarize all of human history, then, in very rough terms. First, all humans were hunters of wild animals or gatherers of wild plants and insects. Then, gradually, after 8000 BC, humans began to grow their own food and tame
wild animals. A third stage of human history began around 3000 BC, when the first cities appeared, generally in areas that had begun the agricultural revolution five thousand years before. The urban revolution was based on improved agricultural practices, including the use of a plough drawn by animals. The efficiency of the plough allowed society to become more specialized. Not everyone had to farm to eat. A larger population was also possible. Cities were both larger and more specialized than agricultural villages. We might even add a recent fourth stage to this outline of history. In the last two hundred years the world has experienced an industrial revolution that has increased productivity and changed human life every bit as much as the agricultural revolution did ten thousand years ago and the urban revolution did five thousand years ago.” 8
As human beings moved from hunter-gatherer to farmer-property owner, organised religion played its part, but not as big a part as you might think. Author Lindsay Falvey, states that “religion and agriculture have been closely associated since Neolithic times.” 9
And, as researchers have noted, “The universality of marriage in human societies around the world suggests a deep evolutionary history of institutionalized pair-bonding that stems back at least to early modern humans. However, marriage practices vary considerably from culture to culture, ranging from strict prescriptions and arranged marriages in some societies to mostly unregulated courtship in others.” 10
Christianity, despite claims to the contrary, does not own the concept of marriage. However, even the organised, one-god religions had a very different view on relationships to the one held today. Basically, there was a lot more polyamory involved in the so-called Biblical marriages than modern Christianity cares to admit.
Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners. Think of it as consensual, ethical and responsible
People who identify as polyamorous reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships.
Polyamorous arrangements are varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved, but with recurring themes or values, such as love, intimacy, honesty, integrity, equality, communication and commitment.
There are two forms of polyamory: polygamy and polygyny.
Polygamy is the practice or custom of having more than one wife or husband at the same time. In zoology, it’s a pattern of mating in which an animal has more than one mate.
Polygyny is the most common and accepted form of polygamy, entailing the marriage of a man with several women or, where one male animal has more than one female mate.
However, we also have polyandry, in which a woman has more than one husband, or where a female animal has more than one male mate.
Polygamy is still practiced today although not always to desirous outcome. In July of 2017, two former leaders of an isolated community in Canada were found guilty of polygamy after a decades long legal battle.
One was married to 25 women and had 145 children, whilst the other was married to five women and had an unknown number of children.
Canadian law, which does not favour the practice, means that both are facing up to five years in prison. Both are members of a breakaway Mormon sect that believes in plural marriage.
The mainstream Mormon Church, meanwhile, renounced polygamy in the late 19th century.
That said, polygamy is still legal in 58 out of 200 countries around the world, including much of Africa and many Middle Eastern states. Sadly, we are talking more polygyny than polyandry but, still, it makes you think, doesn’t it?
There’s also group marriage – not explicitly illegal anywhere as such, just not permitted statutorily – where a family unit consists of multiple husbands and multiple wives.
Polyamory (of the non multiple marriage kind) is becoming more popular, more media friendly and more acceptable to modern life.
So much so, that the American magazine, Rolling Stone, ran an article on Polyamory following the release of the third edition of The Ethical Slut, a publishing phenomenon and practical guide for those that want a more liberal approach to sex and love.
The authors themselves note that, “in the eight years since the previous edition of The Ethical Slut was published, polyamory has become hugely more visible, which means that a very wide variety of people of all races, genders, orientations, and backgrounds are becoming interested in exploring the possibilities of relationships beyond culturally compelled monogamy.” 11
Polyamory even graced the pages of the glossy Grazia magazine in late 2017, when it ran an interview with several people involved in a polyamorous relationship.
“Maybe, back in the day, getting married and staying married your whole life seemed normal. But, now people don’t want to engage in such self denial,” said one of the female interviewees. 12
That depends on how far back in the day you want to go. When it comes to marriage, here in the Western world, we tend to think of the Christian claim that marriage is a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible.
But, as America’s Best Christian Betty Bowers famously satirised, a biblical marriage can involve a whole lot more, including marrying your sister, your maid, the women you’ve kidnapped and the women you’ve raped, and so on. 13
Go back, 2,500 years (to when much of the Bible was written) and family life was a whole lot different. Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife. Moses most likely had two wives and the famous biblical kings, such as David and Solomon, had entire palaces full of many, many wives and concubines.
In the bible then, polyamory was common.
And, as for the whole “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” argument. Well, pfft!
Firstly, the Bible does not condemn homosexual acts per se, only same-sex acts that involved rape, or were adulterous or that represented an imbalanced power dynamic, such as an elite male with a youth.
Meanwhile, in the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships (or marriage for that matter, except that people should not divorce).
Still on the subject of gay marriage, or ‘marriage’ as gay men and women like to call it: Historically, it appears that the church has been rather more flexible and accommodating than it is currently being.
The late John Boswell was an openly gay, Catholic historian and Yale University professor.
In his book, Same-sex Unions in Pre-modern Europe, he argues that the early Christian Church often conducted ceremonies joining two men together in ritualistic unions. 14
He references more than 60 texts, dating back to the 8th century, that describe ceremonies that were essentially same-sex unions.
Meanwhile, back to the women. Sadly, both the bible and society (from agriculture and on) has painted a picture of you as property (owned first by your parents and then by your husband). If you’re feeling a little dejected by this, may we offer you a couple of uplifting alternatives taken from actual history?
A recent study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology found that the body of a high-status Viking warrior, once assumed to be male was, in fact, a woman. 15
Originally unearthed (or dug up) in the 1880s, the individual concerned was buried in a warrior grave that dated back to the mid-10th century together with their sword, axe,
spear, arrows, battle knife, shield, horses and a board game to work out warfare tactics (indicating this was not just a warrior, but a war general, hence the assumption that it was male).
However, DNA testing revealed that the person carried two X chromosomes and no Y chromosome – proof positive that this battle boss was indeed female.
“This is the first formal and genetic confirmation of a female Viking warrior,” said one of the study’s authors.
The evidence rewrites what we thought we knew about social organisation, status and warfare in this ancient society.
What kind of a relationship (or relationships) she had, one can only wonder. Still staying with the subject of what science has to say about women and history; it turns out that ancient Stone Age women were just as independent, well travelled and important as the men.
A study in the journal PNAS, found evidence the women travelled vast distances in Western Europe around the turn of the Stone Age and the start of the Bronze Age. 16
The researchers used DNA and isotope testing to reveal that 84 skeletons, found in present day Lechtal in the south of Augsburg, Germany, contained a majority of women from far outside the area (the men, meanwhile, appeared to have remained in the region of their birth). The women’s origins also appeared to be from a diverse range of places as opposed to one particular partnered town.
So much for tending hearth and home, eh?
Moreover, because they were buried in the same way as the native population, it is believed that these women were both well respected and well integrated into the local
The researchers believe that by exploring new lands and searching new villages to start families with, the women would have exchanged objects and cultural ideas and played a
key role in the development of Early Bronze Age technology.
Both Girl Power and Gay Pride go back a lot further than we think.
So, free from pressure, guilt and social constraint, what would the ideal relationship look like to you?
You only have to look at history to understand that, by putting current cultural conventions aside (which change over time anyhow); it can be whatever you want it to be.
True, we are no longer living in the Stone Age, but nor are we living in the agricultural age. We are living in a new age: call it technological, call it global, call it what you will but, in a thoroughly modern world, is it not time to ditch old, outmoded notions of what constitutes a relationship? Can we not free ourselves up to define them how we want?
If you want a traditional marriage, then that’s absolutely fine but, if you want to be in a polyamourous relationship whilst married to umpteen different people well, then that’s
absolutely fine too.
In fact, evidence strongly suggests that human beings very definitely fall into either the monogamy camp or the polyamory camp. One study, that looked at the sexual attitudes
of 600 British and American men and women found that both sexes tended to split into two groups: one made up of people who valued faithfulness and another with people
seeking flings. 17
Not that we’re suggesting you can’t be both faithful and polyamorous.
In today’s modern world, you don’t have to be stuck in a relationship rut, you are free to get out there and find the love you want in the form that you want it to take.
Male or female, gay or straight, breadwinner or homemaker, it’s up to you. All you have to do is work out what you want. And when you do, just think what your online profile
could now say:
Faithful monogamist seeks faithful monogamist; Viking warrior queen seeks several conquests and a glorious death; committed philander seeks many, many wives and concubines with whom to make a happy home.
For many of us, the Sex At Dawn authors say “serial monogamy stretches before (and behind) many of us like an archipelago of failure; isolated islands of transitory happiness
in a cold, dark sea of disappointment.” 18
If you are one of them, then it’s high time you said a long-overdue goodbye to that sea of disappointment and a big, cheery hello to an ocean of possibility.
1. Ryan, C. & Jethá, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. New York, Harper.
3. Gough, K. (1971). The origin of the family. Journal of Marriage and the Family. Reprinted in Toward Anthropology of Women. New York: Monthly Review Press.
4. Ridley, M (1994) The Red Queen: sex and the evolution of human nature. New York, Macmillan Pub. Co.
5. Dyble, M. & Salali, G. et al (2015). Sex equality can explain the unique social structure of hunter-gatherer bands. Science Vol, 348, Issue 6236.
6. Fisher, H (1983) The sex contract: the evolution of human behaviour. William Morrow & Co.
7. Diamond, J. (1987). The worst mistake in the history of the human race. Discover (May).
8. Reilly, K. (1989). The West and the world: A history of civilization. Harper and Row.
9. Falvey, F (2005). Religion and agriculture: sustainability in Christianity and Buddhism. Institute for International Development.
10. Walker, RS., Hill, KR., et al (2011). Evolutionary history of hunter-gatherer marriage. PLoS One.
11. Hardy, JW. & Easton, D. (2017). The ethical slut. Ten Speed Press (third edition).
12. Glass, K. (2017) Polyamory – the future of love? Grazia magazine, 04 September.
13. Betty Bowers (2009). Betty Bowers explains traditional marriage to everyone else. Available at:
14. Boswell, J. (1994). Same-sex unions in premodern Europe. Villard Books.
15. Hedenstierna-Jonson, C. & Kjellström, A. et al (2017), A Female Viking Warrior Confirmed by Genomics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
17. Wlodarski, R., Manning, J., et al. (2015) Stay or stray? Evidence for alternative mating strategy phenotypes in both men and women. The Royal Society Publishing.
18. Ryan, C. & Jethá, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. New York, Harper.
Bob, Ben and Barnaby are a threesome.
Barnaby: “My relationships have been generally monogamous, so even though we’re in this kind of relationship, it’s still monogamous. I’m quite open-minded about open relationships, all of our friends are in open relationships, it’s the norm in the gay world. I tried it with Ben - we’ve been together for 15 years and Bob joined us three-and-a-half years ago and after seven years we thought with Ben that we would try it, we thought we were in a really strong place, why don’t we try it?
Ben: “The relationship wasn’t stale, but our social lives were stale.”
Barnaby: “We were held up on a pedetstal for being the ideal couple: two gay men, home, child, it was a heterosexual version of what a gay couple should be like. It seemed like our social circle hadn’t increased at all. In the gay world if you didn’t have sex with someone, they didn’t want to know. This is the problem we had sometimes now as well. When we’re trying to meet new people we have to establish that we’re going to be friends, just not involving sex.”
Ben : “You have to spell it out. The only way you can make friends is by sleeping with someone.To find friends without doing any of that is a lot harder. There’s a flirtation when you meet people, which is good, but a lot of the time those people want to take that flirtation a step further, whereas we don’t, and you could be regarded as a prick tease.”
Barnaby: “You end up getting that slight resentment which, if you can overcome, friendships can flourish. It’s not a problem for everyone, because some people are in open relationships and that’s the way they connect initially, they have sex and then they become friends. It’s generalising based on our experience.
“We opened up and we tried it a few times, but it created more problems for us, like thinking that they were more interested in either one of us, which was always an issue the day after. STDs was another one, we didn’t want to end up picking something up. We would probably do it once every three months, we would go through this excitement, it would happen, we wouldn’t be happy with it and then we would have amnesia and do it again.
“And then it closed.”
Bob: “We first started chatting in 2008, I was 21. I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, I was just entering a relationship. I was just chatting online, making friends. Then we were chatting not very often and bumping into each other at Brighton Pride or XXL in London.”
Ben: “We became friends over time, we became friends on Facebook and filled in a lot of our lives that way.”
Bob: “This is my second gay relationship, before that I had a couple of straight relationships in my teens, they weren’t really grown-up relationships. My first gay relationship was when I was 21, still at university, the guy was just over 20 years older than me and I was young, I didn’t really know, I was dragged into this relationship and it was just awful for five years. At the time I didn’t think it was that bad but looking back, it was awful. I was a trophy, it was like I was there just to be shown off, I wasn’t allowed to have any friends or go out, I wasn’t allowed to have any hobbies or interests, I was paying for everything. The sex life died after not very long at all and then we had a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ open relationship. Emotionally it was awful. I had that open relationship but I was unhappy. I would never do that ever again, it’s definitely changed by outlook on open relation- ships. If I was going to have another one it would definitely be everyone involved all the time, talking about everything. I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t do it ever again, but not like that.
“So now, we’re in a monogamous relationship and it’s much better, just having that connection.”
Barnaby : “One of the most telling things about his relationship was how he would say: “I wasn’t allowed to do this” or “I wasn’t allowed to do that”, which, for a 25-year-old, using that expression? You think of a child saying that. It was really apparent to us when we bumped into each other - his boyfriend stood in front of him and wouldn’t let us say hello to him.”
Bob : “During the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ relationship thing we got chatting. Usually, when I did the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ I would just go and do whatever and then go home. With Ben it was ‘come over for dinner and I’ll feed you and have a lovely evening’ and no-one else has ever done that be-fore. So immediately I was in love. I think we did that three times.”
Barnaby: “So we became, for want of a better term ‘fuck buddies’ and over a period of a year-and-a-half Bob came over three times and it would take ages to organise it. The other thing which is unusual about us is that it would take weeks to organise - busy lives and because we didn’t take it that seriously, we didn’t HAVE to have sex that night - so we would make dinner, they would come round, it would be a social thing. That was part of the experience. We were trying to be friends too - I don’t think we could ever just have sex with someone. We’d invite someone for a roast and then actually have a roast, there was no sex at the end.”
Bob: “So I’d had a trip to America for work for two weeks and at the end of it I was dreading going home, sitting in my hotel room, realising that I shouldn’t be feeling like that, dreading going home to my partner. And then it all happened very quickly.”
Barnaby: “I did quiz him about his relationship over dinner and he was very defensive. Then a few months later, there was no indication at all, he came up to me at Brighton Pride and said: “I think I’m leaving him”. We were both very fond of James and the only reason we saw him three times as opposed to anyone else was because we were both very fond of him. You couldn’t not be, he was just so sweet, so vulnerable. He was sweet in every way and I think it was a mixture of both being attracted to him, both felt very paternal towards him. There is another aspect to our relationship, which is the age difference. Bob is 30, Barnaby is 45, Ben is 48 - so there is that paternal side. When we found him coming out of that relationship we really wanted to protect him.”
Ben: “That’s what kicked it on for us. He was in a position where he didn’t have any friends, he didn’t live in London, no real access to the gay scene, so the idea of a relationship wasn’t in our minds, it was more an idea of getting him into London, getting him onto the scene, so he could make friends and start his life again. So the idea initially was that he would come and stay with us for the weekend, we could take him out, introduce him to people. And that’s what happened for a period of time.”
Barnaby: “That happened for a month.”
Bob: “When I told them I was breaking up with my boyfriend it was an informative thing, we’d discussed it. Barnaby is a very good counsellor and Ben is a very good listener and we had discussed the problems in the relationship and they’d given me advice.”
Barnaby: “I thought it was quite telling that we’d only met three times and you’d opened up to us. I thought that was because you were isolated. We’d had contact online, but not about relationships, it was mostly arranging to meet up.”
Bob: “So when I told them it was about how I’d taken their advice and I was going to do it, it definitely wasn’t with the intention of getting together with them.”
Barnaby: “We definitely weren’t looking for a third. If anything we’d gone away that summer and come back in a great place - how many years had it been, 12? We were thinking we’d cracked this.
We’d been through the seven-year itch, we’d been through lots of stuff together, loads of opportuni-ties to break up. We were always friends with each other, we always fancied each other. We got to a point where we were in a really good place. Bob was really unexpected.”
Bob: “So I did it that night and I told Barnaby online that I’d done it and immediately he said: “We’re going on holiday, do you want to come with us” and I felt that wing go over me.”
Ben: “We didn’t have to have much discussion where Bob was concerned, we were completely aligned, which was totally unusual.”
Bob: “I couldn’t go on holiday but a couple of weeks later I stayed for the weekend, so we did that three weekends over September.”
Barnaby: “It was the end of September, Ben’s birthday and that’s when we all started questioning what was happening.”
Bob :It was Ben’s birthday, they were having a party in the flat and I had to go to another birthday party, a long way away.”
Barnaby: “Meanwhile we’d kept our relationship quite discreet from our friends. They’d guessed that he was attached to us sexually, but nothing else. In some ways I was upset that Bob wasn’t go-ing to be there, in other ways it was easy for me because I didn’t have to explain who he was, be-cause I didn’t know who he was in relation to us. We’d moved into a grey area. That first month we were introducing him to people and I found that we were starting to get jealous and that’s when I and I started to have the conversation: ‘Why are we feeling like this?’ We found ourselves getting quite aggressive towards anyone who was overly friendly towards him. Ben lost it at one particular friend of ours and there was no reason, I said: ‘Why are you angry, what’s going on?’.”
Bob: “I had left the other party early so that I could come back and surprise them and everyone was: ‘Who’s that? Why has he come back? Why is that such a big deal? Why is he here every weekend?’”
Barnaby: “I just ended up saying: ‘I think we’re dating him’. I don’t know how to express these things because the conventional language to express this just doesn’t work. Valentine’s Day’s cards - it’s all ‘my one and only’. So I said we were dating him and by the end of the evening we went to a club, we were happy and we had other friends who were in a threeway very different to ours - open, very open, a lot of fetish elements to it”.
Ben: “Theirs was very paternal, they had a very father-son element.”
Barnaby: “I have a child. The very first weekend I said: “I’m not going to be your daddy”. Whereas that relationship it was very daddy-son. I’m not like that. I may be paternal to him, but it’s just an age difference, I’m not recreating a daddy-son thing. I think they asked Bob what the relationship was and they told him that he was in a threeway, we kind of found out my accident. I think what we then agreed was that this was going to be an experiment. Neither one of us knew what we were do-ing or knew what we had, we all knew that we wanted to be together.”
Bob: “At that time I was still staying for the weekends and I was staying one or two nights a week and the rest of the time I was staying with my parents, who are near my office. But now I am here five nights a week.”
Barnaby: “My life is based around my daughters’ schedule, so our time with each other is based around that. The first year [with her] was very difficult. Firstly she was worried that there was someone wrong with me and Ben, and secondly because she thought she might not be the centre of my affection, she thought she was going to have to share with Bob. She was also going through a difficult time with her mother, who was going through a divorce, so she felt unwanted there and it was an unstable situation. We had to make her feel safe and that took about a year. Once she got to see that he was a wonderful member of the family, she changed her mind. It was difficult. It was very, very difficult. It was the biggest threat to our relationship as the three of us, because I’m not sure, if she had continued feeling insecure that we could have continued the way that we were.”
Ben: “It was quite upsetting and the first year took us quite a while to get used to each other as well. It didn’t just happen.”
Barnaby: “Despite the fact that we were together and we were enjoying each other, we had our insecurities. Right from the beginning I said to everyone, that, however illogical you think your feel-ings are, we have to talk about them. Don’t think: ‘I’m being silly, I have to keep this to myself’ you have got to talk. You’ve got to deal with it. If you’re feeling jealous you have to talk about it. If you feel you’re being left out then you have to talk about it. It’s that British thing about not talking about your feelings. When we first met Ben couldn’t talk about his feelings at all, but I come from a family, very Mediterranean, talk about how we feel all the time. But we’d got to a good place where we did talk.”
Ben: “It wasn’t like therapy, but as a piece of advice, to talk, to open up especially because none of us had done anything like this before, emotions were all over the place and being open with each other made a difference. If we hadn’t I don’t think we would have been here now. All three of us going our separate ways”.
Bob: “I was very conscious at the very beginning that their relationship was the most important thing and if that broke down then nothing would work. So if ever there was a time when I could see any stress between the two I would have to make sure that they were happy and step back.”
Ben: “There were a few occasions that Barnaby and I would make sure that we were alone together, just to make sure that we were maintaining our relationship as well. To make sure that we were still strong. What’s important to note is that we weren’t sitting around thinking: ‘We want a third, we want someone to join us’ we weren’t searching for a threeway. It’s interesting when you come across other couples now who are actively looking. You have to ask why, what’s happening with their relationship that they have to have a third person? Whereas with us it developed organically.”
Barnaby: “Another aspect of it was that we were quite visible on Facebook and we became quite visible to other people. It’s almost like I was the spokesman for our relationship. I started getting messages from people, telling me they were disappointed, how could I do this to our relationship, what are you doing? Because you put your life, or bits of it, on Facebook, people seem to think that you are giving them licence to participate, to comment. I said: “We know exactly what we’re doing, we’re in a safe place, we understand your concerns, they would be the same concerns that I would have”. We were two gay men, with a child, in a relationship which works, there was the multicul-tural aspect to it. It was unusual. I think people looked up to us as the nuclear family. We were just living our lives.
“That’s another thing about our relationship right now. It’s conventional to us. For us it’s just a fam-ily.”
Ben: “For the first couple of months we had a number of remarks and people quizzed us, there was a bit of gossip - that was good friends, close friends.”
Bob: “I had a lot of questions, asking intimate details. No negative comments. My generation are a lot more open. I’ve never said to my mum and dad that I’m in a relationship with them, but they have met them loads of times, I don’t think it needs to be said. My parents love them, they love Sylvia, my 94-year-old grandmother loves them. They know how it was in my last relationship and they are happy that I am happy. I didn’t have any negative or judgemental comments.”
Barnaby: “We shut down our Facebook profiles for two years (Bob did not) we disappeared from the virtual world because I felt that we needed privacy, otherwise you’re a circus and it seems like you’re performing for the public eye because you’re doing something unusual and that I think was a very good decision. It allowed us to develop the relationship away from other people’s eyes. And then we reactivated it about a year ago and by then all those doubts, all those comments had disappeared.”
Ben: “Now they see us as a threesome. And all those people who were showing concern at the beginning remain very good friends and embrace the three of us. They see that my daughter is happy as well. It was managed by us, in a way. If we had stayed on Facebook - people publish their lives on Face-book - we couldn’t have controlled it and wouldn’t have had time to develop our relationship when there are constant comments.”
Bob: “You need to know what you’re doing. We were still defining the relationships. We didn’t really have any role models. We’ve had a couple of friends who have gone out searching, who have almost had an interview process, and that isn’t how we work. So we didn’t have anyone in film or media who was doing it - we had to work it out from scratch.
“Barnaby and Ben’s relationship is still important - if that doesn’t work then none of it works. I think as time goes on there isn’t a heirarchy, but it is always there in the back of my mind that I am away for a couple of nights a week so that they get some time on their own, which I think has been the most helpful thing that we’ve done.”
Barnaby: “We’ve got different habits to each other as well - you guys watch different television to me, I’m far more picky. It works in different combinations, it works in different ways.”
Bob: “I don’t want to say that we don’t have that much to talk about in terms of problems, but we don’t really. Nothing’s really been happening lately, there’s no drama. To start with there were a lot of things to talk about, there was ‘you’re spending more time with him than me, I feel like you’re more interested in him, I think you should so me some more affection’ and we all had these thoughts from time to time. The outcome from that was just learning to work together. I didn’t feel like I loved one more than the other, but the way I was acting made it look like that, so I changed the way I was acting.”
Barnaby: “You often felt left out of what we had historically, you didn’t used to like us going through old photos, you’d always get a bit upset.”
Bob: “That was right at the start. At the time, when you’re in a relationship and the other person is constantly talking about their life with their ex, how much fun they’d had and all the amazing things they’d done, you’re thinking: ‘Shut up!’ Obviously they weren’t an ex, but at first it was like that.”
Barnaby: “Our history is important, so it was difficult not referring to the past, particularly when you have a child as well, it forms your identity. So we had to manage that without upsetting Bob and we had lots of insecurities, which was difficult, but between the three of us there were a lot of arguments.”
Ben: “We all have different styles. I’m not very demonstrative and because I find it harder to do that, I wasn’t showing the emotions that maybe I should have been led to some queries. That was the first six months to a year, as you’re learning about one another and each other’s foibles.”
Barnaby: “There was also getting comfortable with someone sexually, which takes months or years. The way that you interact with someone. That takes time when there is one other person, then you double that. It was important to me that we all got on in that way, I think your sex life is a barometer for the health of a relationship and you immediately know if something is wrong. It took a while for it to settle, it took about a year for us to settle down, for us to become more comfortable with each other.”
Ben: “We did it because we liked each other. We don’t like failure, we were determined to make it work.”
Bob: “I didn’t feel unhappy at any time, I didn’t feel there were any issues I needed to work out.”
Barnaby: “We helped each other. It wasn’t because he was horrible or whatever.”
Ben: “There wasn’t any stage where we thought: ‘This isn’t going to work, let’s call it a day’. To maintain a 13-year relationship takes work. It is not straightforward and we’ve had to work at it. It’s not 13 years of peace and harmony and with three of us it was the same.”
Barnaby: “I remember the first time we had an argument Bob went to walk out and I said: ‘Why are you leaving? You don’t need to go, you stay and have the argument.”
Barnaby: “You have become much more paternal. You’ve shown, with Sarah, with Bob, a more paternal side. It’s really come out.”
Ben : “Other than that. I think we’ve just naturally gone into this relationship and it’s not hard work, it’s a natural thing, I think I’ve adapted quite easily to it after that first year.”
Bob: “I feel completely different, mainly because of how I was in a relationship and I thought that’s what they were meant to be that and I now I know differently and I can’t wait to get home. Mainly because I know I’ll get cooked a nice dinner when I get home, but I learned what a relationship shouldn’t be like, but now I know what it should be like.
“It’s very easy to be monogamous. I had those couple of weeks after I ended my relationship and before we were official and in those I let off some steam and then we became monogamous and I look back on all that as not what I was looking for.”
Ben: “For us that was never issued. For Bob, he came in and was very settled and there was never any thought of joining in. For us to suggest opening it up after six months or a year, it just wouldn’t have worked. We joke about it, we have a laugh about it, we say: ‘He’s cute’ and blah blah but we wouldn’t act.
“The other thing which has changed about Bob has been confidence. We would go out and he found it very hard to talk to other people. He’s able to start and lead a conversation with us before, so that’s developed a lot.”
Bob: “With the monogamy thing, when I was in that previous relationship, every single time I was with someone it wasn’t making me happy and then when I had this, a relationship which was mak-ing me happy, I didn’t need anything else. I realised that I had this amazing connection.”
Barnaby: “It’s not something I would totally discount for the future, if we wanted to explore that we would have to talk about it. At this stage in our relationship I don’t think any of us are interested in that.
“I learned quite a lot about myself in the first year. I learned to let go, it’s reinforced a lot of things I already believed in. In a way I reproduced what I had with Ian in a different format. I am also very, very fortunate in the way it has worked out with Sarah, we all get on so well, which is a very impor- tant part of our relationship together.”
Bob: “These guys there is an age difference but they are young 40-somethings, they are out on the dance floor until 5am. In my last relationship he was very old, a classic car collector, everyone who we associated with were very old, old-acting. I had no friends in that space, now I have good friends and for me it’s been a 100% improvement.”
Ben: “For us it was more of a strain, socially. Our close friends had difficulty with it. Coming off Facebook helped. Once people saw that we were OK, everyone was happy, people came on board, but for the first year it was very hard.”
Bob: “It did put a pressure on me a little bit, I had to prove that I wasn’t here to ruin their relationship, I wasn’t trying to steal one of them. I didn’t want people to think I was there for the money, I was very conscious of that all the time [Ben: “because there is none”]. I pay for a third of everything.”
Barnaby: “Financially it has to be that way. We have friends who are two older guys who look after the younger guy, but that’s not the way it is for us, it has to be, financially, emotional equality, so that everyone feels that they have a right.”
Bob: “I didn’t want anyone to think that’s why I was here. I was in love with them, it was an equal relationship, I was making them happy. Once people could see that and understand the relationship, they calmed down.”
Barnaby: “It takes time, socially, for people to get used to it. It worked for us from the beginning, but it took time for us to get used to it.
“I think there should be all kinds of relationships in the future. I think we should be accepting of all kinds of relationships in the future. I wouldn’t want to impose one over the other. I’d like to be accepted and I’d like other models to be accepted. I think people will always judge, which is due to upbringing and morals and values and that’s to do with ideologies. I don’t think polyamory is going to be the norm in the next 50 years, I think it’s going in the other direction. Because of what’s going on, how right wing things are going, I don’t think it’s the future.”
Ben: “What I have noticed is that we know more people in threesomes than we did, there are more examples around, and guys who are lasting a while.”
Bob: “People have told us that they are looking up to us, which is nice to hear people say. We have to say: ‘Don’t try to replicate us’.”
Barnaby: “People do come over and ask for advice, but what can you say apart from: ‘Be open, talk to each other, talk about your emotions’. Because it’s a unique combination, I don’t think I could even give advice to a couple. Each triad is going to be quite different. Just be open. Be honest. It’s difficult being honest with yourself sometimes - Ian and I didn’t come out until we were in our mid- 20s - that’s not due to lack of honesty, that’s due to lack of self-recognition. Just be as open as possible. The outcome will be different every time.”
When it comes to three-way relationships (or any kind of polyamourous relationship for that matter), “but how can you be in love with more than one person?” is the question most oft asked.
Well, we all love more than one person. If you have one, you love your significant other and, if you have them, you also love your parents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your friends and so on. Hell, you even love your dog. So much so that some of you have partners that accuse you of loving the mutt more than them. Which brings me to the second most common question. “Surely, you must love one more than the other?”
Maybe you do love the dog more than your other half. But, are you saying that (providing you have fine relationships with both) you love your mother more than your father; your brother more than your sister; your daughter more than your son?
Love, as both the hashtag and the movement state, is love. It does not operate according to the law of diminishing returns and it doesn’t get diluted down as you parcel it out.
You don’t even have to be polyamourous to be in love with two people at the same time as, “help, I’m in love with both person A and person B and don’t know which one to choose,” has been an advice column staple for yonks.
Okay, so the love you feel for your partner is different to the love you feel for your mum and dad which, in turn, is different to the love you feel for your doggie dog.
However, you can be in squishy, sexy, romantic love with more than one person at the same time because there is more than one “The One.”
If there was only one “The One”, then every single divorcee would either have to admit that their previous other half was not the one (when they often were) or admit that their current partner is not the one (when they often are).
Do you remember your first love? Is that person the person you are with now? No? Then, chances are, you have had at least two ones.
There are many, many potential ones out there. Some of us never get to meet any of them, while others only meet one or two. Some can go from relationship to relationship, in love with the next one before the light has faded on the last one and consider each and every one of them a soul mate.
Therefore, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that three single persons, A, B, and C can meet by chance and fall in love with one another. Or it may be that persons A and B are already in a committed relationship and then meet person C. A and B fall for C and C reciprocates that love for both person A and person B.
And, you can be in love with each person, equally, just in slightly different ways because, that’s how love works.
Yes, some three-way relationships are dysfunctional (but so are plenty of two-way relationships). For every three-way that hasn’t worked out (where the new guy or girl is either the prop in a flag-ging two-way relationship, or the manipulative cuckoo in the nest), there is a strong, stable loving three-way relationship, one where everyone is in it for all the right reasons.
There are always subtle intricacies to work out, such as how to handle the intensity of three-way jealousy and the insanity of three-way arguments but, studies have shown that people in poly relationships typically display better communication skills than monogamous couples; jealousy is often better managed because of it and that poly people in committed relationships tend to cheat less.
As a friend of mine in a long-time three-way relationship once said (when I asked what it was like being in one), “double the trouble; double the fun; double the love.”
Double the love.
Can you imagine what life would be with not one, but two soul mates; or how you would feel knowing that those two people would always have your back?
She started working as a dominatrix because: “I basically didn’t have any money. I went into work as a nanny after a graduated, but the economic downturn hit. Now I have a good career - I teach a masters and I write full time - but to help fund it I took up domming.
“I started doing it online - I didn’t have a boyfriend and I wanted to experience life and relationships and as much as I could. I’ve experienced lots of fetishes, including surreal fetishes and that doesn’t faze me.”
Reba has her doubts about how accepting men are about the work she does. “In the patriarchy, when you do sex work a man doesn’t want to give up control, not many straight men are that progressive. Or they pretend to be progressive, but actually they aren’t.
“I love my work, but in my own romantic relationships men are definitely intimidated by it, not necessarily because I’m a dominatrix, but because I have more success than men my age. I don’t want to come across as egotistical, but that’s a real problem being a woman. I’m 26, I teach a masters course at one of the most prestigious universities in the world and most of the men my age are doing a masters, still having their rent paid by their parents and would I get involved with them? There is a great deal of isolation in that reality.
“Very few men want to be challenged by a woman. I can say to a submissive ‘oh you’re pathetic, you’re ugly, you’re unsuccessful’, but if they think you’re being serious they don’t want to hear about it. I only dom white men, they’re the most powerful - I’m a political dominatrix.
“For me it’s about me being able to investigate men and masculinity and the politics of the modern patriarchy. The man who calls himself a female supremacist because that’s his fetish. But the reality of that it’s not how it really is, it’s a fetish that is really powerful, but it only exists when he speaks to dominatrixes.
“My friends love it. It’s amusing and satirical and political. It’s about how men work. I didn’t realise when I started that it was going to become that. I really got into this for the money, a lot of the time I am very bored by it, but it has fed a lot of what I do.
“I’m fascinated by the status quo of what people’s fantasies are and their day-to-day lives. It’s also about the work I make my submissives do. I’m very fascinated by the formation of male sexuality as they objectify women. I worked with one who had a giant fetish, he wanted a woman who was a giant, so I had him Photoshop himself sitting on my shoulder. Then I had another submissive who wanted to be a worm, who I made do drawings of himself as a worm. That fascinates me, the naivety of the work they do, it’s so honest.”
Reba isn’t looking for a long-term partner at this point. “I’m only 26, so I can’t imagine being married. I think everyone wants to have sex and have a partner and I can understand that it has its benefits, legally. I like the idea of marriage being something that can battle borders, but I can’t imagine being married for a long time.
What attracts her?: “Originality, creativity, leftwing liberal values, persistence, a high, high intellect, kind, good sense of humour. Intimacy. Intimacy is a compliment. It is very, very rare to find that in a man. For me, a successful relationship is where people are supportive of what each other wants to do.
“I usually go out with guys in punk bands, artists, writers, men who are quite eccentric and subversive. People who read the Telegraph and work in the media, who have just bought a new flat, those people are fascinating because they’re so boring - that’s what I’m fascinated by, I’m fascinated by the mainstream. I’m obviously a huge feminist but one of interesting aspect of that is not just men’s behaviour but women’s behaviour and if it’s going to go anywhere that behaviour has to change.
“A man who lives in Kings Cross and works in media and likes Coldplay is more powerful than the average feminist. Even if she’s read Germaine Greer or Judith Butler. That guy who likes Coldplay has more power in our world than she does. With my work I’m so vivid about the cultural signifiers with men. I could write you 1,000 words about shoes and what those shoes mean about them and masculinity. Loafers - their Mum’s bought them for them. A man who wears a suede loafer is a man who never has to think about how people see him. That is power.
“I research men and how they behave. Shame kills people. All these men experience this shame in secret. Women feel a huge amount of shame as well, to do with how they are treated and women do it do each other as well. More men have shame about being submissive than they have of watching rape videos, that’s what’s more acceptable, which is bizarre and terrifying. If there were more men who weren’t ashamed of being submissive them the world would be a better place.
“Dealing with shame is really, really hard. I’m out about being a dominatrix. I was a model as well and a lot of men put me on a pedestal as a character but then when it comes to reality it’s too much. They’re telling you you’re amazing and beautiful and a goddess and they don’t know you, so that compliment means absolutely nothing.
“There is an element of trust, but they see you as a character. They trust and believe in that. So how much can you ever really digest a compliment? They fall in love with a character and yes, there is a creative joy in that.
“Being a dominatrix is pure performance. It can really spill over and that’s why I don’t do it very much, because I don’t want to be like that. Why would anyone want to be excessively angry? Anger is a horrible emotion. You never know what’s going to happen in that situation, if you’re already emotional and you shout and shout and shout.
“It’s really draining. I was a nanny for a long time and in many ways being a dominatrix is very similar to being a nanny ‘Eat that, cut your toe nails’. There’s something very domestic about it. I’m not a stereotypical dominatrix, into whipping and wearing leather. It’s really similar to being a babysitter. I see domming as a project, each man is a project.
“I’m trying to expose a certain type of masculinity. I’m very particular about how I speak to them ‘you don’t realise you’re powerful, you’re a disgrace, your masculinity is a disgrace’ and they’re ‘yes, yes’ but they’ve got an erection, they’ll say yes to anything.”
When it comes to sex work (and dominatrix services are often classed as sex work, even though many of them do not engage in sexual acts, such as intercourse, per se), not much research exists. But, what little there is, tells a very interesting story.
One Swiss study into the psychology of sex workers (Rossler, Koch, Lauber et al, 2010) found that, very generally speaking, mental health issues were high. Over 50 per cent of the 193 sex workers involved reported at least one psychiatric disorder over the course of the previous year.
However, when broken down by demographics, two very different patterns emerged, with some sex workers more at risk than others. Factors included country of origin, earning potential, where they worked, how much social support they received, together with how much violence they experienced both within and without the industry.
Non-Europeans, working out of studios and brothels, with little by way of social support and experiencing regular violence reported high rates of mental health issues.
Sex workers of mixed European origin, meanwhile, working out of studios or as escorts, experiencing high levels of social support and little to no violence either within or outside of the industry were just as mentally fit as the rest of us.
The same study also found that 45 per cent of the sex workers involved in the study had no desire to quit their jobs, with 37 per cent saying that they like their jobs. Could the average UK office worker say the same?
So, if you have a yen for sex work, the evidence is clear: go high-class, keep up a good social life, and don’t take any shit from anyone.
As for Reba, she isn’t the first dominatrix to compare the job to that of a nanny. And no one worries over the lifestyle choices of a nanny now, do they?
When it comes to the clients she caters for, i.e., members of the bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism (BDSM) community, opinion is divided. Whilst that well- known father of modern psychology, Freud, just thought of them as sick and in need of therapy, modern research, thankfully, tells a much different story.
One study (Connolly 2006) compared BDSM practitioners to published norms on 10 psychological disorders. Compared to the normative samples, BDSM people had lower levels of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more.
Other studies also appear to show higher levels of self-esteem than the general population.
Kink and confidence, then, go hand in hand.
I’ve always been independent and have been since I was young. I had a challenging up-bringing that meant I had to be, but I also come from parents who were both independent themselves.
My parents never married (all very normal these days, but very unusual back then) and theirs was neither a successful nor happy relationship.
As a child, I was a loner, but I never felt lonely. As an adult, I have a few good friends and I can be sociable when I want to be, but I am also very good with my own company. I’m still the loner that doesn’t feel lonely.
Over the years, I’ve had five or six boyfriends (one of them as a three-way relationship with two other men), most of them end the same way, with the other person telling me that I am too independent for them and that I don’t make them feel needed or wanted enough. This conversation has often come after the person in question has cheated on me.
These conversations always confused me as, at the time, I thought we were doing everything that couples did: dating, sharing lives, sharing experiences, moving in together, shopping in supermarkets, going on holidays, dinners with other couples and friends and so on.
At several points along the way, I have thought there was something wrong with me, that I was clearly lacking a certain something in the relationship department and that, if I didn’t figure out what ‘it’ was, I would be forever doomed.
I often wondered if my upbringing had somehow scarred me and rendered me incapable of forging a successful relationship that, because I had never learned those skills at home via my parents, that those skills were clearly and lamentably deficient.
I even felt guilty because, when single, being in a relationship was never high on my list of priorities anyway (friends always joked that ‘get a boyfriend’ was never on my list of things to do, like it is for most other singletons) and I thought that somehow, I was subliminally broadcasting that lack of importance to my other half when I had one.
But after much soul searching (and, even, some therapy), I realised that, apart from questionable choices when it came to some of my relationships, there was actually nothing wrong with me. I realised that my upbringing, whilst it had definitely shaped me, it had most definitely not scarred me. Considering what happened, my baggage in that depart-ment is surprisingly light.
What I did realise is this: I’d tried my best, I’d done all the things that a loving partner does, and that those relationships simply hadn’t worked for a variety of reasons.
However, each time a relationship ended with me being told it was me, that I didn’t make my other half feel needed or wanted (especially if that conversation was après the cheating), it not only made me a little bit more independent that I was before, but it also made me value that independence a little more than I did before.
I’m in my late 40s now and, if you add up all the years I’ve been single and all the years I’ve been in relationships, then single wins by a clear majority. And, when I look back on it all, I’ve always been a lot happier, had way more fun, and felt so much more fulfilled in the single years than in the years spent being someone’s other half. If self-sufficiency were an Olympic sport, I’d probably get the gold.
Looking back, although there were things I valued in being a relationship with someone I loved, on the whole I felt pretty stifled. The idea of spending the rest of my life, day in day out, with the same person, sharing the same bed, going supermarket shopping and discussing what we wanted for dinner or what to watch on the TV for the rest of our nat-ural lives filled me with a low level but constant feeling of dread.
No matter how or why an particular relationship ended, once I’d gotten over the shock and hurt, I really only ever felt liberated and I found it really easy to get back into the single groove once again.
I have some friends who can’t last five minutes on their own; who happily flit from one relationship to the next, falling head over heals each and every time. That behaviour is so alien to me. I usually find it quite hard to fall in love. Historically, it’s usually years as opposed to months before I feel ready to embark on another relationship with someone and, before I do, I really have to think a lot of them before I’m ready to give up the single life I value so highly.
Similarly, I’ve have looked at my friends who are in happy long-term relationships and wondered ‘what if’ from time to time but, only in a curious, briefly passing way and not to any great depth.
The last relationship I had ended with me, once again, being cheated on. After that, I had a long hard think about who I was and what I wanted. And more importantly, what I didn’t want.
And what I didn’t want was to be in a relationship with anyone ever again. That was three years ago.
What I did want was a dog (I’d wanted one ever since I left home at the age of 20) and to move out of London, where I’d lived for the past 19 years.
Historically, I always thought that when I moved out of London, with a dog, and into the next stage of my life, it would be with my significant other. But, when I realised that, like most things in life, I’d be doing it on my own, I actually felt elated. It just felt right for ‘me,’ for who I am.
I’m not ruling out relationships completely as I’m not that black-and-white. Neither am I saying that if there was an ‘eyes met across a crowded bar’ scenario that I wouldn’t give dating another go, it’s just that I think it’s highly unlikely that will ever happen given my mind set and where I am.
My childhood does play a part. But, what I think that means is that my upbringing and my genetic makeup have made me highly suited to the single and independent lifestyle: no on else but me could enjoy my life the way I live it.
I have met other people like me and, more often than not, the only time we’ve ever felt bad about things, is when we’ve either been beating ourselves up for not being in or not being good at relationships or when we’ve let other people make us feel abnormal for being the way we are.
Once I realised that I am fine as I am and that I truly wanted to be this way, it was a very liberating experience.
On a social level, I wouldn’t mind a few more close friends, but that’s because I recently moved to a new area and am still finding me feet that way. A friend with benefits would be great too, as long as we were both clear on what that meant and understood where the boundaries were.
I’ve never felt incomplete as I am and have never felt I needed anyone to complete me. I used to joke that my ideal partner would be as self-sufficient as I am, own their own home and would be happy with us only spending time together when we felt like it.
However, these days, my ideal partner is my dog.
If you skim the surface of this story you see a person who has been hurt by life and the people in it. You see a person too scared to risk being in love and afraid of being in a relationship.
You could be forgiven for thinking that his parent’s dysfunctional relationship gave him a dim view of all relationships to start with. However, plenty of people with difficult family histories go on to build successful, happy, loving relationships.
It would also be safe to assume that having being hurt, not once by the people he loved, but several times over, has made him too scared to embark upon another relationship for fear of it happening again.
But, dig beneath the surface of this story and you find a person who is clearly at peace with himself. They’ve definitely had therapeutic support for their issues whilst ‘soul searching’ implies they’ve probably given everything a great deal of thought.
Not everyone wants to be in a relationship. Quite often, people make themselves and others unhappy by trying to be something they are not.
The best way to be happy is to be authentic and true to yourself, true to your values and strengths – whoever ‘you’ might be and whatever those values might be. This person seems to have worked this out before the age of 50. Some people never work it out at all.
“I like my freedom. We’re always being told that freedom’s a good thing, that we should fight for it, that slavery is a terrible stain on our history, and yet we’re encouraged to run towards relationships where the decisions we make for ourselves become fewer and fewer, until we have become a hive mind, each consumed by the other until originals selves are lost.
“I’m exaggerating. I love knowing someone so well that I know what they’re going to order on a menu. What I don’t enjoy is the weekly food shop, the planning what to eat for every single meal, the ‘I need more socks, shall I get them at the supermarket, shall I get them online, shall I get them at the farmers’ market’ aspect of relationships. I like sex, not socks. The domesticity claws at me, just thinking about it makes my flesh crawl. I spend as little time as possible dealing with it in my life, but I see couples falling into these cosy habits of spending hours discussing the minutiae of the household and I can hardly stay awake.
“What I’ve learned is that, when someone asks you to move in with them, it starts off as a way to fuck more and quickly turns into something much less fun. It’s fun to choose a sofa and where you’re going to put your photos, but once that’s done, it’s back to what you’re going to eat for breakfast every Tuesday morning for eternity. The reality of daily life is that sometimes you have to work late, sometimes you really do have a headache and sometimes you want to veg out on the sofa and watch shit TV without any judgement or any commentary. And that doesn’t always work well with someone else around.
“I’d rather just keep the fun. I can take care of where to put my photos. I can make sure there’s enough porridge in and I can do that all quickly and without consulting with anyone else. It’s not that I can’t live with other people - I lived in houseshares for years, there’s no other way to afford to live in London - and enjoyed them and managed not to piss everyone off, I think. But once I could afford not to, I started treasuring my fort.
“I can’t see myself ever sharing a property with another person, but I don’t think that should stop me from sharing my life. I can be deeply in love with someone and never know where they bought their socks, or, even exactly what they’re doing at that moment. The older I have got, the clearer it’s become that I have no interest in the domestic realm. The washing machine was meant to set us free, not be replaced with homemade bread. Get to the baker, support someone else’s career dream.
“The relationship I am in now is the most satisfying of my life. We don’t live together, I can’t imagine that we ever would - the thought makes my stomach lurch. But it’s not because I don’t want to be with him, I do. I feel him with me all the time. We’re in frequent contact, he’s never off my mind, I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about him and I would hope to always be with him. But I don’t choose his clothes, I don’t advise him on his hair. He’s a grown-up, why would I? I wanted to fuck him in what he was wearing when we met, why would I change him?
“I see it like I see my friends. I also don’t bore my friends with chat about the phone bill. When I see them, my time with them in precious. I would rather keep him special, focus on him when we’re together - even if that’s less time than if we lived together. Do we argue? Of course, and about all things. It’s a real relationship, I’m not looking to be a Stepford Wife, after all.
“This relationship is the first time I’ve dabbled in an open relationship, which is probably the closest definition which fits. I’ve been in monogamous relationships in the past - all of them started out that way, even if they haven’t all ended that way. Some have, I am aware that sleeping with someone outside your relationship is never an accident, it’s not possible to fall onto someone’s cock. But, when I have cheated, it’s been at a point in the relationship when, really, I should have got out instead. Sometimes that was because we lived together, sometimes not.
“I find it much more relaxing to know that I can go to a bar and I can flirt with someone else, or take them back to my fort if I want to, without feeling that I am hurting anyone else or breaking any promises. And obviously, it’s fun. I don’t feel any less love for my boyfriend if I’m with someone else, but, I guess, it comes back to choice. I like making choices, I like looking ahead in my life and wondering what book I’m going to read, what film I’m going to see, who I might fuck.
“My parents were largely happily married until death did them part. Although they were both work-ing when they met they decided that, once they had children, my mother would stop working and instead take the lead in the house. Despite this, myself and my siblings lived in a very equal household - my father cooked, did the ironing (he felt he did a better job than my mother, which was true) and we never saw him demand that his food be on the table at a certain time.
“Although our mother was around much of the time, we were taught to be independent, to make our own breakfast, tidy our rooms, make our beds. Our parents were very keen on us being a team, working together, rather than being waited on by them. It was the same at school - we were expected to do our best and that was expected to be well.
“Our parents gave us pocket money, but if we wanted anything expensive, the older we got the more they told us that we should consider working and our Dad found us paper rounds and holiday jobs if we wanted them. I did - my brother didn’t bother, but he spent his days reading in the garden rather than wanting to go our shopping or hanging around with his friends, so he didn’t need the cash anyway.
“It was always made clear to us that, once we’d left home (and that would be at 18, wherever we were planning on going) that we would be supporting ourselves. Of course, if we lost our jobs or got kicked out of college we could go back, our parents weren’t ogres. But they wouldn’t pay our rent, we could have our old rooms and live there while we found new work, until we were ready to move out again. And we did all come back at one point or another and our parents were pleased to see us, but it was never for long.
“I find it very hard to understand people who aren’t like that. I take a great satisfaction from looking after myself, paying my phone bill. Even working in jobs which maybe weren’t so much fun, the fact that I could pay my rent made everything worthwhile.
“I’m more independent than most, I realise that. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to work and afford to indulge it too. I’m freelance, which gives me freedom of movement - although it doesn’t mean I’m my own boss, it means I have even more bosses than the average worker.
“What I’ve learned about the kind of people I have tended to attract is that either they are drawn to my independence - but then they want to scale it back as they maybe don’t find the fact I’ll chat to anyone in the pub so appealing - or they see me as someone they can treat as a surrogate parent and then I’m back to buying their socks for them.
“Just get some flip-flops, people.”
It’s often said in psychotherapy that the most important relationship you can have is the one you have with yourself. When you learn to love yourself, to respect and value yourself, to accept yourself fully as you are - good points and bad points - then you are free. Free to be your own best friend, free to always count on yourself, free to understand yourself and free to find the love that’s right for you. After all, if you don’t love you the way you are, why should anyone else?
Not all people value independence. Not all those that value theirs do so through self-love and posi-tive self-regard. Some people are made independent by circumstances, they’ve become tough and self-reliant because they’ve had to be, and then they stubbornly refuse to let it go. They stay independent through fear of what they might lose if they do give it up.
Other people think they’re being independent when they’re just being difficult and uncompromising. What they claim as free-willed and independent, others see as self-centred and neurotic.
When it comes to the relationship you have, or the one you want to forge, always bear in mind, it’s not what you do, it’s why you’re doing it.
The woman in this case study is neither misguided, nor fearful. She has clearly been taught to value her independence from a young age and values herself because of it. This has freed her to make up her own mind when it comes to relationships and allowed her to find someone who shares the same vision.
As with independence, so too with an open relationship: it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. When some-one says, of a non-monogamous relationship, ‘I don’t understand how that could possibly work,” what they really mean is, ‘I don’t see how it could work for me’.
Monogamy is a societal concept not a biological trait. But, it has become so ingrained in our psyche that most consider it an attribute as opposed to an ideal. Agreed sex outside of a relationship is not without its risks. But, given the high percentages of cheating whilst in a relationship (for both sexes), dishonesty is rarely one of them.
Many couples in an open relationship set rules and guidelines for how that relationship will work. Following those guidelines is how such people show they still love and respect the other and still value the relationship they are in.
If you value your independence, find someone who also values it in you; if your morals don’t encompass the idea of monogamy, find someone whose moral values match your own.
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