After a brain injury, a non-traditional arrangement

Never is the word "polyamory" mentioned, but this extremely touching article from The Washington Post chronicles a unique situation that has echoes of non-monogamy. Page and Robert Melton had been married for eight years when, in 2003, Robert suffered from a heart attack and collapse that left him with a serious brain injury. Robert, who had previously worked as an editor and reporter for The Washington Post, suffered from profound cognitive loss.

Robert eventually came to understand who his family was, but he was moved into an assisted living facility. In the years that followed, Page busied herself with her full-time job as a government-affairs consultant and her work as an advocate for brain-injury and caregiver groups. Page had never considered entering a new relationship, but that changed in 2008 when she reconnected with an old classmate, Allan D. Ivie IV. From the start, this was not a traditional relationship.

[Allan] realized that the only way their relationship could develop was if it included Robert. As he started falling in love with Page, he said to her: "I see this responsibility that you have, and I want to help you with it. I understand this is a package deal."

"That's what triggered the relationship," Page says. "He understood that Robert was central to our lives, that we needed to take care of him."

Allan proposed to Page in June of 2010. When Page nervously brought the news to Robert, he replied, "You should marry him. He's a good guy." Allan and Page decided that they would move the family to Allan's home city of St. Louis -- and Robert would come with them.

Page formally divorced Robert while remaining his legal guardian. Then she married Allan in a heartfelt ceremony:

As Allan held Page's hands, he promised to always love her and her daughters. He turned to Hope and Nell, who were their mom's attendants, and smiled. Then he looked back at Page: "And I promise to always help you provide compassionate care for Robert."

Today, Robert is settled into an assisted living facility in St. Louis, where Page visits him several times a week. Allan writes him daily emails and takes him to breakfast every Wednesday.

"In a way, I feel married to Robert forever," [Page] said . . . "It's not a traditional marriage. It's not the marriage we signed up for. But I feel like there's a connection there that never ends."

. . . Robert has grasped the essence of their relationship better than any of them. He understands, she says, "that it's not the legal arrangement, it's the emotional arrangement, that emotional commitment."

Read the full story on The Washington Post.

Just a normal family… with more resources

Sierra Black is a woman in an open, poly marriage who blogs about parenting at her blog ChildWild. She has written several pieces online recently about her nontraditional relationships and how they intersect with her parenting. The first, entitled "Our successful open marriage," was published on Salon. In this piece, she discusses her home life and why she is drawn to partners outside her marriage.

Since we've always been poly, I often wonder how monogamous couples do it. I get so much support from my lovers. No one else, not my friends, not my parents, no one, is as willing to deal with the messes and mishaps of parenting as my sweeties. There’s something about romantic intimacy that builds a family-type closeness.

. . . To my kids, this is all normal. I've never had a big sit-down talk about how Mommy and Daddy's marriage is different. They were born into this. We're a big messy family. The kids know I go on grown-up sleepovers sometimes, and take it for granted.

Another piece from Black was published on parenting site Babble. This article is called "What It's Like To Be A Parent In An Open Marriage," and it's a pretty in-depth look at common questions that people have about poly relationships. Black stresses that her life is nothing to be gawked at.

I'm writing this essay because I think it's important to provide images of open marriage that counter the stereotypes. We're just a normal family... who happen to have more resources.

. . . poly families resemble monogamous families in a lot of ways. I just spent an hour talking to my girlfriend about a charter school we're both considering sending our kids to. Last night, my husband's girlfriend came over and sat with my second-grader doing homework while he did bath time with the little one. Our partners are folded into the fabric of our family life.

Black's articles are wonderful; be sure to read them both.

Valentine’s Day for non-monogamists

Valentine's Day seems to spark extra interest in the poly community, and this year is no exception. In an article in the DC Around Town branch of the Huffington Post, there is an interview with Tamara Pincus, a psychotherapist and sex podcast host who also runs a local discussion group for non-monogamous folks. Pincus has two children and lives with her husband and one of her husband's girlfriends. Both Pincus and her husband have other relationships as well.

Hilariously, most of the interview is spent with Pincus explaining how Valentine's Day just isn't a big deal to her, and that her only specific plans are to make breakfast for her children and record a new podcast.

In a similar vein, there's an article on CNN's website about how different couples spend Valentine's Day, with a short section on "nontraditional relationships."

"Each of my partners is like those in any monogamous relationships," said Joreth, a representative of the Polyamory Media Association, which provides members of the press with information and spokespeople on how polyamory works. "There's really no difference between how I feel about my current partners or how we relate to each other. The only difference is I didn't have to break up with one to start the other."

Joreth, her three male partners and their additional "metamors" are going out for dinner at a nice steakhouse in Tampa, Florida. All told, there will be six of them around the table.

"I don't personally observe Valentine's Day, but my partners' other partners do," she said. "The holiday's not important, but making my loved ones feel that I care about them is important."

The media’s renewed interest in open relationships continues

It began when the former wife of GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich told Nightline that Gingrich had once, on the heels of a 6-year affair, asked her for an "open marriage." More and more news stories about the controversy just keep popping up, many of them mentioning non-monogamy in some way.

The latest is a piece from the New York Times entitled "Open marriage's new 15 minutes." The article is a cursory look at the different permutations of non-monogamy, with some quotes from myself, Anita Wagner (organizer of the Polyamory Leadership Network), and others.

If nothing else, Marianne Gingrich’s allegation, which the candidate has denied, provided an unexpected publicity bounce for advocates of open relationships, who have long been trying to paw their way out of the cultural margins.

. . . In the first flush of open marriage in the '70s, there was hardly any way for the curious to find like-minded people. "Then the Internet came along and it was all just a keystroke away," [Janet W. Hardy] said, adding that there are dozens of online forums devoted to the practice today. "It turned from an oddity into a community."

Meanwhile, Modern Poly released a statement about the effect of big news stories like this one on the poly community. The statement is directed at Gingrich.

. . . with every backlash more and more people will come out, non-monogamy will become more and more normalized, more network television shows will be interested in exploring a non-monogamous plot arc, and then sitcoms, and eventually, things will change... And we owe a lot of that to you, Newt, for being the person in power to be scandalized by allegedly asking for a sexually non-exclusive relationship.

So thank you, Newt, for giving us the spotlight, so we can show people all the good ways to practice polyamory and non-monogamy... through honesty, compassion, responsibility, commitment, love, a sex-positive outlook, and a willingness to work through the hard things like boundaries and jealousy. Please--keep doing it wrong, so more people can find their way to us. Because the more you do, the more the movement is fed and ready to start making things better.