editor's article

Right now in Australia the term polyamory seems to be becoming more mainstream, through newspaper and media coverage, along with general conversation between friends. So for those still unsure of the term, what does it actually mean and who are these polyamorous folk down under?

If you’re steadfastly poly, you may already have an idea. However, if this is one of the first stops on your poly journey, let us serenade you with some facts.

Poly is from the Greek polus, meaning ‘much’ or ‘many’. Amory is from the latin amor, meaning love. So polyamory, also referred to as ethical non-monogamy, means, many loves.

There are many variances on the definition of polyamory, however here is one that resonates with us: ‘polyamory is the non-possessive, honest, responsible & ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously’.

Okay, but how does it work? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to polyamory, and it can take on a wide variety of forms - from open relationships, to occasional swinging to long-term live-in relationships between several people and much more. (Watch this space in the future for profiles on local poly people discussing their lifestyles)

So who practises poly?  Well happy, smart people! But don’t just take our word for it. Academic studies show that polyamorous people are happier than the general population, as well as being better educated, with more PHDs and Master’s degrees. Some claim that these smarts provide the “intellectual sophistication to understand that sexual monogamy is neither natural or common” and that “polyamory is the sweet result of modernity”. Hmm, fighting words.

Research also shows that poly people are more open to new experiences (that’s an obvious one, right?), very rarely religious, but not typically wealthy (dammit) - possibly because we place more emphasis on those new experiences rather than on material possessions.

While we are on a roll here, poly people are all ages statistically, however more women than men, and more lesbian, gay and bisexual people than heterosexuals identify as poly.

Poly people are typically chatty, as psychologist Bjarne Holmes states “they communicate to death”. Polyamorous people generally have good relational skills and tend to consistently discuss and reassess boundaries. They’re also typically less jealous than the general population, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience jealousy. It can be noted that due to their higher levels of communication, they may seek better coping mechanisms to deal with such difficult emotions.  This has led some academics to argue that polyamory—rather than being the death of marriage - could in fact save it.

Finally, people who practise polyamory are typically emotionally aware, and “bring their feelings to the table”, writes Holmes.

It’s true. We’re empathic talkers. And you know what that means? Better sex. What’s not to love?

Luckily, there are a lot of us to love. There’s no numbers for Australia (as yet) but in the US, academic studies estimate that 5% of people are in sexually non-monogamous relationships. If we apply that to Australia, we could have 1.2 million polyamorous people living in this sunburned country.

The number of people identifying as poly are growing, too. Online dating behemoth OKCupid just added a polyamorous option after their research showed that a whopping 42% of their users would consider dating someone already involved in an open or polyamorous relationship.  At the same time, the number of people identifying as monogamous on OKCupid has decreased significantly from 56% in 2010 to only 44% in 2015.

But it’s not all good news. While awareness of polyamory is growing, it’s still a way off being mainstream. 25.8% of poly people have experienced discrimination, and most of us aren’t publicly open about our lifestyles, with some people declining to use their surnames, or to use pseudonyms, when discussing polyamory in the media.

Collectively, this is why we have created a safe space and community in Australia for anyone who is open to or already engaging in polyamorous relationships. While it is slowly becoming less stigmatised and more accepted, we have nation-wide online dating as well as Melbourne bar events, workshops and private parties, with the goal of expanding across multiple cities. So if you think polyamory may be for you, stick around and meet some smart, happy people who share in the same values.

Should we be gossiping about celebrity open marriages?

Every year, celebrity rags and blogs trot out a new version of Celebrities Who Have Open Marriages! According to these articles, Angelina Jolie doubts that “fidelity is absolutely essential for a relationship,” pre-divorce Demi and Ashton invited other women into their marital bed, Jada Pinkett-Smith gives Will Smith “all the freedom in the world” as long as he can “look himself in the mirror and be okay” and Dolly Parton has a don’t ask, don’t tell policy with her husband, Carl.

But, should we be gossiping about celebrity open marriages? Most polyamorous Australians believe that relationships are no ones goddam business but the people who are in them. However we also like anything that gets people talking and thinking about healthy alternatives to monogamy, so…we’ll allow it J.

Firstly, what is an open marriage? Well, it is not cheating. Open marriage is a marriage in which one or both of the members involved have other sexual relationships, romantic relationships, or both, with the open agreement of all parties.

“The biggest misconception about poly/open marriages,” writes Jenny Block, author of ‘Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage’ “is that they are a free for all, and that no one cares about anyone else and that those of us involved are promiscuous whores. This is all about caring for your partner enough to see them as a whole human being who has needs that deserve to be filled.”

Openly polyamorous Oscar winner, Mo’Nique, agrees. "Because [another lover] may give you something that I'm simply not willing to do. And if that's the case, how can I be mad? Because I'm not gon' do it. Should I deprive you of not having it? That's when the relationship is real real."

Not many celebrities speak out openly about polyamorous relationships, so, unfortunately, most of the gossipy articles rely predominately on conjecture. Hopefully, this will change soon. For, “if a well-loved celebrity was out and modelling good open relationship behaviour,” writes sex writer and author, Rachel Kramer Bussel. “It might help to give open relationships the kind of visibility boost they need.”

Mo’Nique agrees and is speaking publicly because “we’re so closed off and we're so used to doing things the way people think we should do things, and we wanted to put it out there so that people understood it.”

Got any gossip on celebrity polyamory? Let us know your experiences or questions in the Forum section for members.

As polyamory grows in popularity, more polyamorous people will seek therapy to assist them in managing their lives and relationships. But is modern therapy keeping up with our changing sexuality?


Sally Henderson* is a 40-year-old professional woman who identifies as monogamous but has been in a polyamorous relationship for three years. She saw a polyamory-experienced therapist with Greg*, her 47-year-old partner, at the beginning of their relationship. “I was trying to get my head around polyamory, and while I was trying to, we had a situation where boundaries were broken and I found that quite devastating. We had to figure out whether the relationship could continue.” In therapy, the couple decided they could maintain their relationship “but we had to figure out how we could do that without compromising our own identities.” Henderson thinks it was vital for the success of their therapy—and ultimately their relationship—that their therapist was educated in polyamory, and saw that Greg’s “identity” was a “legitimate” choice. “I don’t think we could have got this from anyone. We needed to know from the outset that that was the base where the therapist came from.” She urges other polyamorous people to see informed therapists. “Polyamory means that you have to really face your vulnerabilities. It’s quite a scary thing. The therapist that we saw really helped guide us through that process.”


Liz Scarfe, psychotherapist at Melbourne clinic, Cultivating Confidence, is a diversity-friendly therapist, experienced in therapy for polyamorous people. “There are many aspects of polyamory that are important for therapists to understand,” she said., “including the different kinds of reasons people come to polyamory, the values and beliefs that underpin it, the complexities of consent and boundaries, power dynamics, and the struggles people have with their other relationships—i.e. family—employment and social contexts.”


Bruce Alexander, director of polyamorous dating app, Polyfinda, believes that polyamorous people could “strike it lucky” and get benefit from seeing a regular therapist, but they would see “better odds” if they saw a “poly-therapist”—someone who identifies as polyamorous, or has experience counselling those who do—as you would get someone “who is able to help you negotiate through the very complex world of polyamory.”


Finding experienced therapists is not always easy, however. In 2006, research found that there was very little education about polyamory in graduate psychology departments, and that “very few health professionals are truly equipped to work with poly clientele”. Further research in 2014 showed that that the majority of therapists—rather than supporting the polyamorous individual or relationship—advocate for the end of the non-monogamy. “The self-reports of polyamorous clients regarding therapeutic experiences,” writes the American Counseling Association, “raise concerns for the counseling field.”


What can happen when therapists do not understand polyamory and encounter a polyamorous client? “Most often the therapist will just lose the client quickly because they feel either judged or misunderstood,” saidScarfe.“Some clients might stay and can end up feeling shamed by the therapist. The worst thing of course, is that the therapist convinces the client to follow what they think the client should do in their life, instead of supporting the client to follow their own unique path.”Scarfe believes it is important that therapists understand that polyamory is “about diversity, not about disorder.” She continued, “Mainstream mental health has a tendency to label anything that is not mainstream as problematic or defective when in most cases, it’s just an example of human diversity. Polyamory is just the same, it’s about diversity, not about disorder.”


Uninformed therapists can interpret any  relationshipproblemas coming solely from the practise of polyamory and fail to clearly see the actual issue the client is presenting with. The American Counseling Association tells it’s members that they may find that their “automatic responses and reactions” to see polyamory as “unhealthy” are based more on society’s adoption of “traditional family forms” than on a careful exploration of the client’s individual lifestyle, and warns that such mindsets can “blind the counselor.”


Relationships Australia, the national provider of relationship support services says, that they “support all individual choices in the types of relationships they engage in. This can be heterosexual, homosexual, open and polyamorous relationships.”


Scarfe urges other therapists to learn about polyamory.“Google is a great start. There are also a range of books and even some training programs.”Alexander agrees that therapists could benefit greatly from educating themselves on polyamory and polyamorous relationships. “There’s research and study,” he says, but states that he is not aware of any course or education program that exists that allows therapists to specialise in polyamory and prefers therapists who personally identify as polyamorous. “I don’t think anything would beat living the lifestyle.”


*subjects known to the writer but names changed for privacy.


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