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The Truth About Open Marriage

Couples who practice ''polyamory'' say it's good for their relationships. Some therapists disagree.
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The Drawbacks of Open Marriage

Scheduling can be a hassle, polyamorists say. "When I'm actively exploring multiple relationships, balancing my time and energy is usually the most difficult part,'' says Cherie." It can also be particularly draining if more than one of my partners has a crisis in their lives that they ask my assistance with, such as supporting them through a career change, family illness, problems in other relationships, or other challenging times." But if the other person has multiple partners, she says, they also have the benefit of getting multiple sources of help.

Handling the "fear response" in partners can be an issue, says Chris. He sometimes has had to assure partners that his interest in others does not mean his interest in them has changed or waned.

"I've also had my own feelings of envy and jealousy," he says, "particularly when I feel that a partner is giving more time and energy to another than they are to me."

"Where it becomes threatening is when [partners] think love implies exclusivity," says Veaux. "It's the starvation model of love. That is, if you love two, each gets half of the love. That's not true. Every single person is absolutely unique. Because of that, it means my partners can never be replaced."

Things can also get dicey when a partner considered "secondary" wants to become a primary, Veaux says.

Sometimes Veaux invites most of his partners -- and their partners -- to go out socially. Recently, he and such a group went to a science fiction convention together.

Ground rules are essential before starting a poly relationship, Veaux and others say. Some Internet poly sites offer sample contracts for multiple relationships.

"You have to figure out what the rules are," Weston says. "Otherwise so much could be hurtful."

But Steve and Cathy Brody think it's next to impossible to lay ground rules. "It's like laying ground rules for an earthquake," says Steve Brody, who with Cathy Brody wrote Renew Your Marriage at Midlife. They question how people can predict their feelings with so many people involved. "You can set up guidelines in a rational and intellectual way, but you can't anticipate the depth of the emotional reaction you are going to have," Steve Brody says.

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