If you don’t subscribe to traditional ideas about relationships, then you’re going to find this interview extremely insightful and relevant. Today we have with us Franklin Veaux, co-author of one of the absolute BEST books on alternative relationship arrangements: More Than Two: A Practical Guide To Ethical Polyamory.
In this interview, Franklin shares his views on why it’s so common for many people to have so much resistance regarding alternative relationship arrangements, what some of the most important factors that contribute to that resistance are, what factors might be influencing whether or not you and your partner can successfully explore alternative relationship arrangements, and more.
Whether you’re into hotwifing, cuckolding, polyamory, etc., you’ll enjoy Franklin’s views.
So without further ado, let’s get into it!
Q: What would you say are 3 to 5 of the biggest influences contributing to society’s overall judgmental views regarding polyamorous relationships?
A: Oh, man. Polyamory undermines some of the most closely-held ideas about sex, love, and romance people are taught from the time they’re old enough to watch Disney movies on TV.
People like to believe in The One, the perfect partner who will be delivered to their doorstep by the hand of fate. When you meet The One, everything will be perfect and awesome forever, amen—no need to be afraid of loss, no need to keep investing in the relationship, no need to learn good conflict-resolution skills or expectation management.
Even people who don’t have a Disney idea of love and relationships can feel threatened by polyamory. Some people think “hey, that’s not fair, that guy has three girlfriends and I don’t have any,” but don’t stop to think those three women have multiple boyfriends as well, and for someone who prefers monogamy, none of those three women are a good fit anyway.
There’s also what sociologist Dr. Elisabeth Sheff calls ‘fear of the polyamorous possibility.’ A person who understands that polyamory is a choice people make may fear that if polyamory is socially accepted, then their partner or husband or wife may want it. If you want monogamy, the idea that your partner might be seduced by polyamory can be terrifying.
And of course there’s the religious objection, the “think of the family” objection (despite the fact that Dr. Sheff’s research has demonstrated ethical, consensual non-monogamy is not, in fact, harmful to children), and even confusion between polyamory and religious polygyny—women being forced into plural marriages with men but not being allowed to have more than one partner themselves.
Q: In your opinion, why do so many people subscribe to what you’ve called the “scarcity model” of love?
A: It’s a model most of us are taught from birth. The idea of The One implies scarcity—there is exactly one soulmate, out of all the seven billion people we share this planet with. We have one and only one person who is truly made for us, and if we screw it up, miss our chance, or don’t meet that person, game over.
Of course, you don’t have to believe in One True Soulmate to believe that opportunities for love are scarce. And honestly, the notion that opportunities are scarce is valuable. People make money from promoting the scarcity model of love, and I don’t mean just people who run dating sites.
Think about all the advertising messages we’re bombarded with every day. Are you lonely? Do you want a companion? You need to be pretty, thin, rich, handsome, accomplished, and sexy to do it. Buy our deodorant. Buy a Rolex watch. Go on this diet. Buy this eyeliner. Wear this dress.
I’m not saying that advertising executives meet in a smoke-filled room and conspire to push this message, of course. Instead, they make ads that play on our insecurities—our fear that we’re not worthy enough, not thin enough, not rich enough to deserve love. And those messages work. We buy the products to try to be more worthy of love. And because those advertisements work, the ad agencies use more of them. And the number of messages increases. And we hear them more, so we believe them more. So we become more insecure, and buy the products. And the advertisers see that we’re buying the products, so they use more of those ads. And ‘round and ‘round it goes, until we’re living in a constant blizzard of these messages telling us that love is hard to find and we need to have the right body, own the right products, be the right person in order to have love.
Q: What advice or guidance would you give to someone who has an inner desire or affinity for an alternative relationship arrangement such as polyamory, yet they’re held back and conflicted by religious beliefs?
A: That’s a tough one. The first thing I’d recommend is finding a good counselor or therapist with experience in helping people work through religious sexual shame. It’s difficult to undo deeply indoctrinated beliefs, but there are sex-positive therapists who’ve been there.
Q: Do you think the way someone communicates their desires, wants, and needs to their partner about wanting to possibly explore an alternative relationship arrangement plays a role in whether or not their partner would be willing to explore an alternative arrangement with them? If so, what general advice/guidelines would you recommend people follow when broaching the subject with their significant others?
A: Oh, yes. Most definitely. If you walk up to your wife of seven years and say “Honey, I’m done with monogamy, let’s go shag other people,” odds are pretty good that idea is not going to go over well.
In a perfect world, you’re open with your interests and kinks all the time, from the very start, and you don’t date anyone who doesn’t share them. It’s amazing how many relationship problems can be solved simply by good partner selection.
But given that this is an imperfect world, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes we’re too insecure or too frightened to reveal the truth about our interests from the beginning. Sometimes we don’t discover them until we’re in a relationship for a long time.
In that case, I think the best approach is to approach the issue with open-ended questions. “I’m curious, how do you feel about non-monogamy?” “What’s the kinkiest thing you’ve ever tried?” “What’s your favorite fantasy?” Show a genuine interest in your partner’s ideas and experience, and—I can’t stress this enough—make it safe for them to be honest. If you want to be able to be able to be open with your partner, you need to make it safe for them to be open with you, which means, for example, not freaking out or judging them even if they say something that frightens you, makes you feel threatened or jealous, or weirds you out.
Q: Do you think there are differences regarding what’s appealing to men vs what’s appealing to women when it comes to having a polyamorous relationship? If so, what are they, and if not, why?
A: I think there’s a difference the way people first respond to it, that’s informed by confusion between polyamory and the common perception of polygamy as one man with a harem of women. I’ve had conversations with people who are all like “Oh, you’re polyamorous? You have five partners? Wow! You’re the man! I wish I was you! You’re so lucky! And your partners all know about each other and they’re okay with that? Dude, you’ve got it going on! What? Your partners also have other boyfriends? Oh. I could never do that.”
Once you get into the poly community, though, I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between men and women (or nonbinary or genderqueer or whatever). It’s all about having multiple romantic relationships at the same time.
Q: In your opinion, is compersion more of a selfish feeling, a selfless feeling, or is the question a loaded one because it assumes a dichotomy that is actually false? And how big of a role does it play in polyamory?
A: Not everyone feels compersion. It’s wonderful when you do, but if you don’t, there’s no need to beat yourself up. It doesn’t mean you’re bad at poly or anything like that.
I wouldn’t call it selfish or selfless. It is what it is. Some people take joy from a lover’s joy with other partners; some don’t. All part of the normal variability of the human condition.
It’s wonderful when you feel it, of course. And it’s a lovely addition to a poly relationship, for sure. So in that sense I think it’s a selfless emotion.
Q: Where do you feel the overlap is regarding consensual cuckolding/hotwifing and polyamory?
A: That’s a complicated question. The two defining qualities of polyamory are “more than one” and “loving.” If you’re in a situation where you have multiple consensual romantic relationships, that’s polyamory.
Polyamory can overlap with all sorts of other non-monogamy—swinging, hotwifing, cuckolding, whatever—but it’s not the same thing. Some people who practice cuckoldry, for instance, have multiple loving romantic relationships; some don’t.
A few years back, I tried to make a Venn diagram showing the overlap of various different styles and flavors of non-monogamy. It got a bit complicated, as you might imagine. You can see it on my Web site at https://www.xeromag.com/nonmonogamy.html
The principles within Franklin Veaux’s book (click on the picture above) don’t just apply to polyamorous relationships. For those of you who are just starting to consider whether or not an alternative relationship arrangement like hotwifing, cuckolding, swinging, etc. is right for you, or if you’re already far down the path, it’s a fantastic resource that will help you navigate the lifestyle you choose.
I’d like to thank Franklin for taking the time to participate in this interview with us. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below!