Update: 344 of your fellow adventurers are now enrolled in Stature, our new character sculpting deep dive. How would you like to grow your character for 2020 and beyond? Join us for this epic journey!
Lately I’ve been getting many requests to share my favorite resources (books, websites, etc) for learning about polyamory. This list may be a little premature because I haven’t had time to explore all of these resources myself, but I trust the people that recommended them, especially when certain resources were suggested repeatedly by different people.
If you’re curious to learn more about polyamory, here are some helpful resources to get you started.
These are the most popular books that experienced polyamorists suggested, roughly listed in order of how often they were recommended. I’ve purchased all of these books except the last two, and I’ve read three of them so far (Opening Up, Spiritual Polyamory, and When Good People Have Affairs).
Most public evangelists of polyamory are women, not men. Most of the top-rated books on polyamory are authored by women as well.
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino – This is a excellent book to begin with if you want to get up to speed quickly and open your mind to new possibilities. It’s very thorough, practical, and fun to read. I especially enjoyed Tristan’s breakdown on the six types of open relationships and the many case studies of real-world relationships. The book also includes a thorough chapter on safer sex practices. (When people ask me about safer sex, I simply refer them to Tristan’s book.)
The Ethical Slut: A Roadmap for Relationship Pioneers by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy – The original version of The Ethical Slut was published in 1997 and became very popular in the poly community, encouraging people to explore alternative relationship styles. Many people credit this book with getting them started on the path of polyamory. A new edition is due for release on March 3, 2009. I decided to wait for it instead of reading the original version, so I pre-ordered a copy on Amazon.com.
Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block – This is the story of one woman’s journey from monogamy to an open marriage. I recently ordered a copy but haven’t received it yet.
Spiritual Polyamory by Mystic Life – This short book (about 70 pages) covers polyamory as a spiritual expression of unconditional love. This book is a great summation of my own feelings toward polyamory as well as my reasons for exploring this path. This book could also serve as an excellent first read on polyamory, especially if you’re a very spiritual person.
Swinging for Beginners: An Introduction to the Lifestyle by Kaye Bellemeade – This book covers just about everything you’d want to know about swinging, including swing clubs, swing parties, soft swinging, full swaps, threesomes, group sex, etiquette, precautions, and more. Swinging is a bit different than polyamory because swinging focuses on recreational sex, while polyamory is about intimate relationships (which may include sex). Swinging is an option for people who want to spice up their relationships by enjoying sex with other partners without serious emotional attachments. If your interest in polyamory is more sexual than emotional or spiritual, this book would be a good place to start.
When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts and Minds of People in Two Relationships by Mira Kirshenbaum – Why do so many people in committed relationships end up having secret affairs? This book addresses the realities of affairs and cheating. The downside is that this book is based on a more traditional view of relationships, so you’re forced into a rigid two-option mindset: stay and recommit to your primary partner, or leave to be with someone else. I recommend this book with reservations. Mira is extremely insightful and has an amazing understanding of human relationships; however, I strongly disagree with some of her advice because it falls out of alignment with truth, such as her admonition to never reveal “accidental” affairs to your primary partner. Nevertheless, this book can be very eye-opening if you read it with an understanding that open relationships can serve as a viable third option. Opening your relationship would eliminate the need for guilt-ridden affairs, secrets, deception, stress, resentment, and the inevitable blow-up when your partner learns the truth. FWIW I’ve never had an affair; I read this book mainly to understand why so many people go that route. If you or your partner have ever had an affair, I highly recommend that you read this book (and at least a few of the others on this list) before you make any decisions you may later regret.
Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits: Secrets of Sustainable Intimate Relationships by Deborah Anapol – This is a guide to creating and sustaining responsible, ethical polyamorous relationships. Several people told me this is one of the top poly Bibles.
The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David Barash and Judith Eve Lipton – An M.D. and a Ph.D share thought-provoking insights on the rarity of monogamy in nature, biological differences between the sexes, and why this is relevant to modern human relationships.
You can find many more books on this subject by searching on Polyamory at Amazon.com. I suggest you favor those books with 4-star ratings or higher.
Online Resources / Websites
OKCupid – OKCupid is a very popular free online dating site that happens to be very poly-friendly. Consequently, it boosts a huge poly community. One reason is that OKCupid lets you list your status as available, instead of forcing you into rigid labels like married or single. Several poly people have given me glowing reports of this service, telling me they found some great matches that turned into fulfilling relationships. In addition to screening for poly-friendly people, OKCupid also makes it easy to screen for other areas of compatibility (such as interests and hobbies). Lots of poly people told me they have a profile with OKCupid. This could be a viable option if you live in a large metropolitan area. It seems like this would be far more efficient than trying to find poly-friendly people among the general population. Most people I asked told me the latter approach isn’t worth the effort, although it definitely works for some people.
PolyMatchMaker – This is an online dating site specfically for polyamorous people. It requires free registration and has a significantly smaller membership than OKCupid, but at least you can expect the members to be poly-aware. Several people told me they found good matches there. Some people also said that PMM members were usually more reliable than people they met on OKCupid (fewer problems with flakes, liars, etc). I haven’t looked into this site myself but may check it out later. Someone did a quick check on my behalf and said there were only 37 listings for Las Vegas, which isn’t a lot for a city of nearly 2 million people.
Polyamory Weekly Podcast – This is a popular podcast about polyamory with 189 episodes and counting. The website also includes links to a number of other poly resources.
Franklin’s Polyamory FAQ – A good overview of polyamory dos and don’ts, poly myths, how-to, communication tips, dealing with jealousy, a poly glossary, and more.
Loving More Magazine – A magazine dedicated to polyamory since 1991. There are some free resources on their websites as well, including a FAQ.
Poly Living Conference – I’ve never been to this conference, but past attendees have told me it was very worthwhile. The next one is in Philadelphia, Feb 27 – Mar 1, 2009. I’m not planning to attend that one, mainly because I have too many other leads to follow that don’t require cross-country travel. If you want to immerse yourself in poly culture and don’t mind the travel expense, this seems like a great conference to attend.
Meetup.com – Use meetup.com to search for local polyamory groups in your city.
Swing Clubs – If you’re into swinging, you can search for swing clubs in your city to meet other swingers. Las Vegas has at least four high-profile swing clubs that I know of. I’ve never been to any of them, but I’ve been told it’s perfectly fine to go to watch, meet people, and learn more about it if you’re curious.
I quickly learned that the poly community overlaps heavily with other interest-based communities. If you can’t find a dedicated poly group nearby, you may be able to meet poly-friendly people through one or more of these other interest groups.
Seduction community – This is a natural fit because many people in the seduction (or pick-up artist) community are involved in multiple relationships. I already have some good friends in this community, so it was an easy place for me to start. I’m not interested in learning how to pick up women in bars or clubs (wrong fit for my lifestyle), but I’ve met some great poly people in this community who are very intelligent, open, and honest. Several people I’ve met are in committed relationships where both partners are polyamorous, and their primary relationships seem very solid to me. I expect I’ll continue to make many new friends who are involved in the seduction community. These are good win-win friendships because many people in that community want to learn how to enjoy deeper emotional intimacy with their partners (something I’m very good at), and I want to learn how to cultivate and manage multiple relationships (something they’re very good at).
Sci-fi geeks – People who are into sci-fi (especially sci-fi convention attendees) are often poly-friendly. This may be because sci-fi can push the boundaries of social relationships. To a lesser extent, I’ve also heard poly-friendly reports with respect to gamer and role-playing communities.
Gay / lesbian / bisexual – I’ve been told that people involved in alternative relationship communities tend to be more poly-friendly than most. I’d imagine that bisexual people would be the most open to it… for obvious reasons.
Pagan / New Age – People with pagan or New Age belief systems and interests are often poly-friendly. Many approach polyamory from a spiritual perspective. Polyamory is one way to explore spiritual values like unconditional love, and it can also help you work through blocks like attachment and jealousy. I’ve always had an affinity for women in this community because they tend to be very open, compassionate, and non-judgmental. There’s also some overlap with the vegetarian and vegan communities due to their shared interest in compassion for all creatures.
BDSM / Kink – If you’re into kinky sex, bondage & discipline, domination & submission, or sadism & masochism, you may be able to meet poly-friendly people through your local BDSM community. Try a Google search on BDSM and the name of your city to find such groups.
Porn – For obvious reasons the porn business community is very poly-friendly. Since there was a major adult convention in Las Vegas earlier this month, I had the opportunity to hang out with a few porn stars. I found them very easy-going and friendly, and I enjoyed some great conversations about relationships, polyamory, sex, and more. I was surprised to discover how much we had in common, including a shared allergy to highly judgmental, close-minded people.
Raw foodists – I discovered this connection accidentally. When I came out as poly earlier this year, I received a surprising level of support and encouragement from people in the raw foods community. Sharing an alternative lifestyle may be one reason. Another reason may be that raw foodists tend to be very in-tune with their emotions, meaning that it’s harder for them to suppress their true feelings (the raw diet helps correct hormonal imbalances for starters). I suspect many raw foodists are either poly-friendly, poly-curious, or at least open-minded about it. I also know of a few raw foodists that are actively poly but aren’t public about it, mainly because they don’t want to deal with any judgmental backlash. Raw foodists exude such amazing energy that I find it hard not to be attracted to them. I’m not sure about the sex part, but I find it fairly easy to cultivate deep emotional connections with other raw foodists, so at the very least, this seems like a great group for exploring emotional polyamory if you have a keen interest in raw foods.
Your local community – Depending on where you live, you may have good luck meeting poly people in your local community. San Francisco, which I just visited this past weekend, is known to be very poly-friendly. New York City is another huge poly hub. Las Vegas is fairly accepting of alterative lifestyles as well. If you live in the Bible Belt and are seriously interested in polyamory, you may want to consider moving to a more progressive city; otherwise your options may be fairly limited. Several people have told me of their frustrations trying to explore polyamory in poly-hostile communities.
I’m sure there are other groups with varying degrees of poly overlap as well.
My preferred learning method is to communicate directly with happy, successful, experienced polyamorists. That’s where I’ve invested the bulk of my poly exploration time this month– about half in online communication and the other half in face-to-face conversation. Books and websites are a good place to learn the basics, but the best way to get the right mindset is to spend time with people who are already living it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources, but it should serve as a good starting point for learning more about polyamory.