Skip to content On Failed Polyamory

Today, Salon’s twitter posted an article by Nicholas Garnett from 2012, and their polyamorous disaster.

I always like hearing about people’s experiences with poly. Successes and failures. It can give me some insight on something that might occur in my own relationships. However, after reading Nicholas’ article on his ‘poly’ experience’, I would argue that it was not a poly experience. While there might be more to their story that wasn’t included, I can only go off what was written.

In the article they pose this question when referencing their entrance to poly:

Rachael and I were curious. Everything else about this lifestyle seemed to be working for us. Could promiscuity?

Let’s talk about the dictionary definition of promiscuity and being promiscuous:

From The Free Dictionary:

1. Having casual sexual relations frequently with different partners; indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners.


a. Lacking standards of selection; acting without careful judgment; indiscriminate: criticized him for being promiscuous in his friendships.

b. Showing little forethought or critical judgment; casual:

Already, they have a skewed, arguably incorrect, view of what polyamory is. This is closer to swinging, but wouldn’t be respectfully accurate to swingers, either. Promiscuity typically holds a negative connotation. Not that poly and swinging don’t have overlap, but their understanding is incorrect.

According to Merriam-Webster, polyamory is:

the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time

Yes, polyamory does have the potential of sex with more than one person, but to say it revolves around that would be not only incorrect, but excluding asexual people. There is such a thing as polyromanticism. For those that don’t know (keep in mind, this is my interpretation as there isn’t a dictionary definition yet), polyromanticism is:

being attracted to and involved with multiple people romantically, but without a sexual element.

It differs from panromantic (again, my interpretation of a not widely known and defined term), where one is attracted to all genders without a sexual element. But I digress.

The only mention of negotiation, is when they reference a couple they befriended:

Christian and his male partner of nearly 15 years had avoided the emotional minefields of playing the field by employing a policy of full participation when they were together and discretion when they were not.

Despite this, there is no conversation between the two spouses (Nicholas and Rachael) about how they wanted to approach poly. They just decide to jump in to, from what I gather from the description, going to a swinger party (While under the guise of being poly). They both get high on unspecified scheduled substances (at one point, methamphetamine is mentioned), and Nicholas walks in on Rachael having sex with their friend. As one would expect when jumping into casual sex with new partners without negotiation, he gets jealous and feels resentful. This can happen in poly that is negotiated as well, but is definitely going to happen in a non-negotiated situation.

The other occurrence of sex the group is confronted with, is the person Nicholas had a crush on and had sex with (Mandy). None of the people involved negotiated with their partners about having sex with other partners, and it predictably goes badly with lots of hurt feelings.

Nicholas tries to call out his wife for ‘cavorting’, and she also responds:

“You’ve got nerve,” she said. “After that late-night stargazing session in the pool?”

“Why don’t you go and snort up a few more lines,” I said. “It brings out such a lovely side of you.”

Yikes. Despite his earlier assertion that their relationship was happy, this stories paints something completely opposite. Plus, add some peer pressure from your spouse to use methamphetamine:

Rachael said, “If this is the highway to hell, I’m not riding it alone.”

I tried to think of a reason not to. A good reason wouldn’t be good enough. Not here. Especially not here.

Predictably, Nicholas and Rachael’s marriage was going to be short-lived. Nicholas admits to cheating on his wife, which ended in divorce.

And so were Rachael and I. After Fire Island, a black shroud descended over us. We burrowed down into a grinding disillusionment and mutual resentment from which our relationship never really recovered. There was an affair — mine — followed by divorce.

I get the impression that Nicholas is trying to blame their experimentation into polyamory as the beginning of the end for his relationship. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth. What they tried was not polyamory. It was a group of people doing drugs, acting selfishly without communicating effectively.

Published inLGBTQIAPolyamoryRelationshipsSexuality

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