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Anita Wagner Illig is a thought leader, coach, writer, spokesperson and educator on polyamory, relationship… more »

Dec 4, 2012 anitawagnerillig updated the link to his or her website.
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Dec 4, 2012 anitawagnerillig commented on Savage Love.
What moving words in all of those letters. And pride. Those are excellent examples of the complexity that is identity to polyamorous people, and its further complicated for people who are LGBTQ *and* polyamorous and questioning it all. I know many polyamorists who cross multiple community lines, including sexual activities like BDSM and swinging, and spiritual practices like body modification, paganism, tantra, and liberal mainstream churches like the Unitarian Universalists and the UCC. It's a great joy to be free to find out who we are in that way, and to have that freedom to live a life that is authentic to who we are. But I know you know that. Thanks, Dan, for being classy with this.

(If this is a duplicate my apologies, what I thought I posted doesn't seem to be here.)
Dec 4, 2012 anitawagnerillig commented on Savage Love.
#17, teagan, I refer to it as a relationship orientation. When I speak publicly and use the term, No one blinks an eye, or at least they haven't yet. I like to think that's because they understand what sexual orientation means and can make the leap to getting what a relationship orientation might be, given that five years ago very few people had ever heard of polyamory, and everyone else had zero awareness of any other acceptable option. But the media in all its beautiful forms has propelled the polyamory movement forward faster than anyone really anticipated, and here we are, discussing relationship orientation with Dan Savage. Life is good.
Nov 28, 2012 anitawagnerillig commented on Savage Love.
On the poly thread, Dan, I think a key component of understanding this question is the context in which died-in-the-wool (if you will) polyamorists live out their poly lives while to at least some degree swimming against the larger mainstream cultural tide. You know, of course, what that's like. Trusting in ourselves and our own sense of who we are and what is right for us, without shame or apology, becomes an essential component in withstanding the blow-back we get from people whose esteem we care about and whose tolerance, if not acceptance, we value. That sense of identity becomes the bedrock upon which we can build a life that will withstand the external cultural challenges we sometimes encounter. As I am fond of saying, polyamory ain't for sissies. These challenges take the form of drama and rejection by one's family of origin, the loss of friends who don't approve, loss of a job because the boss starts to question our judgment, or loss of child custody due to false assumptions by family court judges.

As you point out and as Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha well demonstrate in Sex at Dawn, humans are naturally non-monogamous - of course! But over the centuries religious authorities' literal crusade to force people to conform to monogamy became a very effective barrier to patterns of relationship openness and non-monogamies of all kinds. Still today, living a life of integrity as a polyamorist requires a significant amount of swimming against the tide, and that's putting it mildly.

So with that perspective in mind, you asked:

" poly something anyone can do ...?"

Yes. Or at least, the majority can if they want it, but not quite everyone. In my experience, those who want it enough and who are committed to doing the work necessary to live comfortably outside the societal relationship box and make the transition from monogamy to polyamory absolutely can do it. The exceptions are those who have significant self-esteem and/or abandonment issues. Likewise as to those who lack self-awareness, live in denial, and don't own their own feelings. It's also essential that we learn good communication skills. Mental illnesses, anxiety disorders, depression, malignant narcissism, and oppositional personality disorders are generally prohibitive. Otherwise, anyone who is reasonably well adjusted, open to new experiences and personal growth, and those who are committed to the process can do it, whether by simple choice or as an aspect of identity.

Monogamy creates for many a desired sense of security. Becoming good at polyamory almost always requires giving that up in order to stretch, grow and challenge internalized cultural messaging. Failing to do this as to what is and is not ethically and morally acceptable is not an option if we are to reach a safe and secure comfort level with sharing with others our loved one's heart, time and attention. A fair number of people find that the transition is more difficult than they imagined and tend to be those for whom a poly life is a choice. They don't have that sense of identity that others find the need to fulfill. No problem!

"... or is it something some people are."

Yes. Or at least it is for many of us. You've heard from quite a few people who feel a strong sense that this is exactly who they are. It seems that like so many debates about complicated, emotionally charged subjects, the answers are not found in the black or the white but are instead found in the gray area. Some of us are doing it because we like it but could live without it in order to gain something else of value. Others can't imagine being any other way and make sure to choose partners who share their perspective.

Thanks for discussing this and for considering all the feedback.

Anita Wagner Illig
Nov 26, 2012 anitawagnerillig joined My Stranger Face
Nov 26, 2012 anitawagnerillig commented on Is Polyamory a Sexual Orientation?.
Dan, thanks for being open to all the feedback, including my own, and thanks for giving our community the opportunity to address this question in your next column.

I agree, as I did in my blog post, that polyamory is not per se sexual orientation. And you are quite right that PP uses the word poly incorrectly. Still, I don't want to be too hard on poor PP, he has enough to deal with without our taking him to task for misusing words. I created and moderated a very large yahoogroup for several years that serves people in PP's situation (LivingPolyMono). I have seen SO many people come into the polyamory community trying to work out this kind of conflict, and I know we will continue to see it happen as more and more people realize that monogamy isn't their only option.

As to the question of orientation, it's important to acknowledge that for a significant number of polyamorists, having more than one romantic partner with everyone's knowledge and consent truly is something they experience as a part of who they are. Like being gay, it doesn't go away if they happen not to have other partners at any given time, so it's not to them about what they do. It's still how they see themselves, the way they frame their lives, or at least the part of their lives that have to do with love and intimate romance. Yes, they can make a choice to not have other partners. Some do so more comfortably than others do. Some have happy monogamous relationships regardless - and some don't. The choice is definitely much more difficult for some than for others. And just as regardless of your sexual orientation you can choose not to partner with men, polyamorists can choose not to partner with more than one - but it doesn't change their orientation toward nonmonogamy.

I believe we need new language for this. Sexual relationship orientation or romantic relationship orientation is a mouth full, but it's all I've got. I've been using those terms to refer to myself for lack of anything better for a few years now.
Nov 26, 2012 anitawagnerillig joined My Stranger Face