The Polyamorists Next Door

Exploring the world of consensual non-monogamy

Why I Am Not Polyamorous, But You Might Want to Be, Part 3

This post explains monogamish and polyaffective relationships. The last of three posts explaining why I am not polyamorous but think it can good for others. My partner Kira and I allow each other some flexibility to make out with other people, placing us in the monogamish category. Rick, my ex partner, is still my friend and co-parent but no longer romantic partner. Read More

Why does this website encourage non-monogamous relationships?

This website seems to push for some type of non-monogamous relationships in one way or another a lot of the time. Why?

I Agree with You

Yes, I have noticed the same. It is often conveyed as if the non-monogamous relationship is morally superior. Yet the arguments that are "pro" come across as trite and sound like they are written by "adults" stuck in the eternally-confused, teenaged mode, IMHO.

Second post by me

My first post 'Why not?' was addressed to Anonymous.
This one is addressed to Anonymous Too.
Your judgements 'morally superior', '"adults" stuck in the eternally-confused, teenaged mode' are merely your judgements and projections. Other people may experienced the posts quite differently.
And in particular, I wonder where your '"adults" stuck in the eternally-confused, teenaged mode' comes from.
I guess it is the "adult" you who, as a keen psychologist, makes prescient observations about the 'eternally-confused, teenaged mode' people who hold the views you find strange. And, of course, this clearly is especially a judgement around Elisabeth Sheff. She and her ilk are immoral and disgusting perverts who are a danger to pubic morality (see, I can't even spell).

All Shook Up

Ah, Mike, and you're not judging and projecting, too...?

Why not?

Why not?

Most websites push monogamy. Why?

So if a few didn't, you HAVE to ask? It's clear what you must be pushing given the asymmetry of you position.

Poly is not for everyone

I have no investment in people becoming polyamorous and have repeatedly said in several posts that polyamory is not for everyone. Why do you feel pressured to become polyamorous simply because other people are talking about it as an option for them?

perhaps it's just envy

I think some people protest on fake moral grounds because they're secretly envious. As a man with a life-long high libido married to a wife whose libido has diminished more than I care to think about, I have often fantasized about such relationships, and watched some of the polygamy shows in TV with fascination. With enough wives, it's a fun fantasy to imagine that there would always be at least one who would be interested in sex. Though I understand that that's often not the way it works in reality!

Poly Expert? But I've Never Heard Of You

I've been poly since the 80's, before the word existed, there are as many types of poly relationships as there are poly people.

Everyone makes rookie mistakes on their early forays into poly, just as everyone makes rookie relationship mistakes when they are teenagers. We need to stop having unrealistic expectations of freshman poly. I would much rather date someone who's been burned than a newb because it takes getting burned to learn to steer clear of the many drama llamas chasing the NRE high.

I'm weary of nearly every poly discussion being about sex and jealousy, because for the majority of poly families I know, it's not an issue. That kind of possessive thinking is the purview of the monogamous or the poly freshmen. In experienced ethical poly, you own up to your sh@@ and you deal with it. You communicate, go to therapy, do whatever it takes. Transparency all around. What is far more interesting to polys I know: parenting, time management, planning for retirement, how to find a vehicle that everyone can fit into....

When I was part of a relationship that spanned 3 houses, you know what my biggest concern was....trying to keep all 3 adequately stocked with toilet paper. Smartphones are the best thing that ever happened to poly. You want to see a bunch of polys light up? Ask us about our online calendar/task mgt apps...

Read Her Book

If you took time to read Dr. Sheff's book, then you would know that she agrees with you and actually spends quite a bit of time saying the exact same things you just did.

There are millions and millions...

I don't really understand why poly should be a controversial topic in the USA. There are millions and millions of married people in the USA right now who are juggling multiple sexual partners. The vast majority of them are secretly cheating on their spouses, while only a small number of them, including swingers and polys, are doing it openly and honestly with the goal of ensuring that everyone is happy and enjoying themselves.

Given these two groups of people, I know who I'd prefer as friends, and which ones are the hypocrites.

It really does seem silly that many people have multiple sexual partners, even simultaneously while in college, then get married and cheat on their spouses. And with most marriages not even lasting 12 years, they then marry another person -- and yet these people actually call themselves "monogamous"! And some of these people have step kids shuffling between households just as much as any poly family I've ever heard of. And the biggest irony is that in some cases, these "monogamous" people have actually had far more sexual partners than poly people! But, oh, the monogamous people are still morally superior. Hilarious!

And having seen serial monogamy up close among friends' parents and in my own family and in-law parents (divorce, 2nd marriages), the specter of parents who are still amicably involved together to coordinate kids, while sporting new sexual partners who are also involved with yet another set of ex's, is very similar to any description of poly relationships I've heard of, especially to kids who really couldn't care less about what all these parents actually do behind closed doors.

Sheff sounds defensive in

Sheff sounds defensive in this last post. As if people have already been accusing her or other poly researchers of not being credible or producing biased material because they have experience with being poly. I kinda see her point. But I think it's too soon to claim a poly or past poly researcher researching polyamory would be just the same as a married woman researching married women. Marriage or mainstream topics generally don't come with the same baggage, or set of cultural criticisms that polyamory does. The poly community are on the defensive right now, they're looking to legitimize their lifestyle choice so that they can be accepted. That puts them in a slightly more precarious situation when conducting research on polyamory, leading to a greater possibility of them loosing their objectivity in favor of producing results that support their interests. This would be true for any new wave or movement in counter-culture, it always has been. In the end, credibility probably won't come until there is a balance of non-poly researchers researching polyamory and poly researchers doing the same. Scholarship is an ongoing, endless conversation. Right now, this wave of conversation has only barely started. It seems to be gaining some momentum in mainstream culture, but I honestly think it will be poly people themselves who will kill that momentum with their self-serving, ethical superiority. That's what turns me off of it. It's not so much the lifestyle. It's the people who partake in it. I'm sure not all of them are the same, but the one's who make themselves heard online and in the movement in general are a huge turnaway. A bit like the fellow Mike commenting in our thread here. I realize Anonymous Too didn't share a lot of "nice" in their post either, but if you want anyone to take you seriously, start combating irrational judgement with a more calm, sound, strong rebuttal. Otherwise, you do just sound like a cranky defensive teenager.

Owning up to defensive posture

Hey Anonymous,

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I appreciate Mike’s response when he said that poly researchers are no more biased than other researchers and that bias is a feature of human consciousness -- great point and well said Mike.

I also agree with you, Anon, that I could come across as defensive, because I have learned to anticipate attack through direct experience. The concept of polyamory makes some people very upset, and some of them vehemently attack on professional and even personal levels. Rooted in what scholars call "sex negativity," there is a sense of disdain for sex researchers in professional academic associations, and it come across as discriminatory treatment -- greater difficulties in publishing, added challenges in the research process (such as IRB research protocol approval), enduring colleagues' speculative stares and sometimes outright hostility or even inappropriate questions and behavior -- it is not easy to be a sex researcher in the Puritanical United States. Such stigma and discrimination famously hounded Kinsey to death -- lucky for me it has been nothing near what he endured. As Kinsey's intellectual great-grand-daughter, I have had some degree of organizational and institutional support precisely because he and his colleagues paved the way for me to do this kind of research. Even with that support, I have been attacked in so many settings and by so many different people, that I can be defensive about studying polyamory. With good reason.

You said that polyamory "seems to be gaining some momentum in mainstream culture, but I honestly think it will be poly people themselves who will kill that momentum with their self-serving, ethical superiority. That's what turns me off of it. It's not so much the lifestyle. It's the people who partake in it. I'm sure not all of them are the same, but the one's who make themselves heard online and in the movement in general are a huge turnaway." I have heard that critique before, and think it has some merit. Others have also mentioned a kind of snooty or self-satisfied attitude some polys have, as if they are so personally evolved as to release jealousy and exist at a higher vibration of love, or something equally nauseating.

Where specifically do you see that in my post? Is it the word "allow," as in my partner and I allow each other to have other partners? I intend no snootiness and attempt to write without it, but would be interested in seeing a specific turn of phrase that comes across as superior.

Finally, I agree that this research needs to be further explored and explained by a wider range of people. It is still quite a young field, and right now it is mostly liberal white people studying liberal white people, which tends to produce a rather homogeneous view. Even so, my findings from studying poly families with kids in the US (which you can find in my book The Polyamorists Next Door,
already confirm some of Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli's findings in her 2010 book Border Sexualities, Border Families in Schools (
on polyamorous families’ interactions with public schools in Australia.

If you are really interested in research on polyamory, you can find an extensive bibliography on related works at the Kinsey Institute Archive at

Cheers, Elisabeth

I was touched by your response

Elisabeth G'day
I was touched by your response.
Your poignant description of the difficulties sex researchers experience in their field hit home for me and I guess I better appreciate how often people's discomfort with confronting ideas are transmogrified into projective assumptions and ad hominem attacks. Your research and the challenging ideas you (and other bloggers on PT) offer, have got to be buttressed by huge amounts of courage and integrity.
I was also touched by what I experienced as a sanguine and totally open response by you to anonymous above. I have never felt 'snootiness' or 'superiority' in any of your posts.
On another point entirely, here comes a little 'ouch' from a pedantic (and possibly snooty) place.
Your correction: "In part one of this series I explained how I came to study polyamory and why it did not work for me and my ex" doesn't cut it either. Convention requires that when referring to a third party and to yourself, the third party is always referenced first. Thus it isn't correct to say "I and John went to town". It is always "John and I went to town". This convention applies to all noun cases and therefore your correction, properly, should read "In part one of this series I explained how I came to study polyamory and why it did not work for my ex and me".
(I enjoy your posts and am becoming more reconciled to gay marriage).


Hi Mike,

Thanks for reading and commenting, and I appreciate both the support for my research and the grammatical correction.

Cheers, Eli

The fellow Mike

Hello Anonymous
Another anonymous! So many anonymice scurrying around and squeaking incessantly.
You wrote: "It's the people who partake in it. I'm sure not all of them are the same, but the one's who make themselves heard online and in the movement in general are a huge turnaway. A bit like the fellow Mike commenting in our thread here. "
Actually, I'm not poly at all. I'm in a happy monogamous 36 year-old marriage and feel quite blessed. So, no, I am not beating any drum here. I take the view that consenting adults should be free to live as they wish, mono, poly (gamous, gynous, androus), gay, bi, queer, lesbian, LGBT - ABCDEF... WXYZ in fact. My response to Anonymous Too had to do with his/her assumptions and projections which spoke more about him/her, rather than addressing the points raised in the original article.
Final point in Anonymous's point I would like to address. I read that you felt that poly researchers carry baggage and that therefore they 'loose' their objectivity. Apart from having loosed your dictionary, you have displayed your naïveté. Poly researches may be biased in their research, but no more so that any other researcher who has formed a judgement and then looks for the evidence. The main 'tell' in your post though, is your use of the word 'honestly' in your sentence about poly self-serving, ethical superiority.
Freud, the patriarchal 'discredited' old white male fart would have wondered where the 'self-serving, ethical superiority' really lay.

". . . my ex and me."

". . . my ex and me."

Dative case

Hello Ms Sheff
I have seen no response by you to the short post by Matt C.
He has correctly noted a fundamental grammatical error made by you in your post.
I did not read it since it appears as a headnote to the actual post by you and, having read your previous posts, I did not read your headnote - I went straight to the content of your post.
I have reread it in full (including the headnote) and here is what you wrote in your headnote:
"In part one of this series I explained how I came to study polyamory and why it did not work for my ex and I. Part two of this series provides details about why I do not choose to be polyamorous now. In this final installment, I explain what kinds of relationships I do have, and why."
Have the courtesy of responding to Matt C who picked up your use of the nominative 'I', in place of the dative 'me', in your first sentence. Your sentence should have ended " ... why it did not work for my wife and me".

While you have a point....

While you have a point, if I were to correct authors every time I saw "its" confused with "it's", I would be spending all my time in correspondence on just that topic.


Thanks Matt and Mike, grammatical error corrected.

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Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., is an expert on polyamory and sexual-minority families with children.


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