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The Truth About Open Marriage

Couples who practice ''polyamory'' say it's good for their relationships. Some therapists disagree.

The Drawbacks of Open Marriage continued...

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.

Even so, Cathy Brody says one rule is crucial: "If one [partner] wants to stop [the arrangement], they both do."

The increased risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease is another obvious drawback. Veaux says he is careful about monitoring his sexual health. "I get a general physical once a year, and I'm screened for STDs. Whenever my partnership status changes I am screened again." He asks his partners to do the same. He asks for written proof that his partners are infection-free and provides it to them as well.

Polyamorists say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. "The best part is that I feel like I am being true to myself," says Chris. "I always felt I was living a lie when I was trying to fit into a monogamous mold."

Reviewed on November 20, 2007

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