Redefining love

Health, Sex & Relationships, Spotlight — By

About five years ago, Ashe and Boone Dryden decided they wanted more out of their relationship. The love life that once propelled the two to marry had become virtually nonexistent. Monogamy just wasn’t working, so the couple searched the Milwaukee area for discussion groups about open relationships.

But instead of finding a community for discussion and support, the mid-20s couple ended up at swingers’ parties, filled with 45-year-olds cruising for sex. “It made us really uncomfortable,” Boone says. “I wanted to have a place to educate folks about how to [enjoy] more open, trusting, communicative relationship[s].”

Boone and Ashe didn’t want to sleep around — they wanted to be polyamorous. Polyamory — not to be confused with polygamy — essentially means having more than one steady, romantic relationship at any given time. A polyamorous individual might have a primary partner, as well as secondary and tertiary partners. According to a study conducted in September 2009 and cited in Newsweek, there are 500,000 polyamorous households in the U.S.

Boone and Ashe abandoned the swingers’ parties, and soon Boone began seeing Lyndzi Miller, a writer and call center worker. Shortly thereafter, Ashe found a boyfriend. But Ashe, Boone and Miller were still frustrated by what they perceived as a lack of resources for polyamorous people in Wisconsin. They wanted to find a group where they felt safe expressing their feelings about open relationships and experiences dating multiple people. “We wanted something that would be relevant to us and people our age; we wanted a community for discussions and support, not for finding partners,” Boone says.

So, in January 2008, Ashe, Boone and Miller started their own group, Coming Out Poly, which is geared toward their own demographic but open to anyone who is interested in or currently living a polyamorous lifestyle. “We wanted to start a group specifically for younger individuals and couples that were going through the really hard parts of being polyamorous that usually go along with being new to it,” Miller says. “If people are honest with themselves, they probably have an inkling of an interest in the community.”

The group, which began as discussion group, has transformed into a full-fledged support resource with weekly meetings, mailing lists, social events and additional support online that enables ongoing discussions. Coming Out Poly attracts polyamorists who have been in the community for years as well as people who have never been in a non-monogamous relationship before. Miller believes the group allows those who have little experience in the poly community to connect with and ask questions of people who can offer them guidance. “It’s a safe, open space for people to bring up issues and get advice from others that have gone through the same situation,” she says.

For people like Julie Richardson, a 33-year-old sex educator from Milwaukee, being a part of the poly community allows her to be more honest with her husband, as well as herself. Before joining the group, Richardson struggled to find happiness in her marriage.

“I felt like I could possibly cheat to find some happiness,” she says. “I told him that something wasn’t right, and in discussions we realized that monogamy might just not be for us.”


Like many in the poly community, Richardson also struggled to find the right support group for her husband and herself. She, too, experimented with swinging, which she described as “a bad fit.” It wasn’t until she had an actual relationship with another man that she really felt a sense of fulfillment in her love life. Ironically, Richardson believes having the opportunity to have a relationship with another person helped save her relationship with her husband, who is also actively dating in the poly community.

“I think my husband feels less pressure,” she says, explaining that whatever she finds lacking in their marriage — be it emotional or sexual — she can find with her second partner. “It takes some stress off our relationship in general,” she says.

Every path to non-monogamy is different, explains Dr. Meg Barker, a polyamory expert based in the U.K. and co-editor of “Understanding Non-monogamies,” a collection of essays on polyamory. In her research conducted in 2005 on 20 polyamorous women and 10 polyamorous men living in the U.K., she concluded that about half of polyamorous people between ages 20 and 60 thought they were born that way. Others use polyamory as a means to invigorate their love lives or retain personal freedoms within committed relationships.

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