Christian Polyamory?

11nogopolyThe other day I got in this email, with the subject line Christian Polyamory?

Hi John,

I’ve been trained doctrinally as a teacher for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and am an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. About eight years ago I was introduced to the concept of polyamory, but the concept didn’t make complete sense to me until this past December.

Is it possible to love more than one woman fully at the same time? This concept keeps showing up in numerous news articles, and I’m just feeling like I’m crazy, as my wife and I have a common friend whom we both “love.” I’ve approached my wife with the possibility that polyamory exists, and I’ve also done a lot of research and digging into this concept, especially into scripture. My finding is that it is perfectly possible to love more than one woman at the same time, but culturally it is unacceptable.

My wife sees no positives in this situation, as we would lose our Christian witness. And I’m partial to agree with her that even though I know I am capable of loving more than one person completely and intimately, I should restrain myself out of my respect to fellow believers, so that they don’t stumble.

I care so deeply for this friend that it almost feels like it’s my first true case of feeling agape towards another person that is not a specific member of my family. I’m just so torn about this, knowing that living in a polyamorous relationship is possible but not likely to ever happen in my lifetime. Just wondering what insight you have on it. Thanks.

So … okay. Let me re-run the above, with what went through my head as I was reading it inserted in bracketed blue.

I’ve been trained doctrinally as a teacher for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod [oh no: the scary Lutherans!], and am an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America [yay! the good Lutherans!]. About eight years ago I was introduced to the concept of polyamory, but the concept didn’t make complete sense to me until this past December. [I’m now so totally wondering what you got for Christmas.]

Is it possible to love more than one woman fully at the same time? [annnnd my alarm bell just went off.] This concept keeps showing up in numerous news articles [perhaps he’s read my 1 Man, 2 Women in a Polyamorous Relationship, or My Sister is in a Three-Person Relationship; What Should I Do?], and I’m just feeling like I’m crazy, as my wife and I have a common friend whom we both “love.” [Why is “love” in quote marks? Unclear on basic punctuation, or Actually Ironic? Money’s on the former. But let’s see.]

I’ve approached my wife with the possibility that polyamory exists [now there’s a conversation I’d like to have overheard. “Say, honey, I’m not sure—and I’m certainly not saying this for any particular reason at all—but I think it’s just possible that something called “polyamory” exists. My goodness but you look pretty this evening.”], and I’ve also done a lot of research and digging into this concept, especially into scripture. [The back of my neck is starting to itch.] My finding is that it is perfectly possible to love more than one woman at the same time [gee, I’m so surprised to hear that’s what you found], but culturally it is unacceptable [it’s just exhausting to think of all the research this guy must have done].

My wife sees no positives in this situation [what situation? did I miss something?], as we would lose our Christian witness. [Have you looked in the basement? Maybe you left him or her down there. I once lost a Christian witness. Turned out I’d left him at a 7-11.] And I’m partial to agree with her that even though I know I am capable of loving more than one person completely and intimately, I should restrain myself out of my respect to fellow believers, so that they don’t stumble. [My dislike of you has now become almost epic.]

I care so deeply for this friend that it almost feels like it’s my first true case of feeling agape towards another person that is not a specific member of my family. [A: if it’s agape love you feel for this other woman, then you don’t have a problem; and B: what’s this about how you love this other woman the way you do members of your family? You know what? I’m just gonna go with English not being your first language. God, I hope that’s it.]

I’m just so torn about this, knowing that living in a polyamorous relationship is possible but not likely to ever happen in my lifetime. Just wondering what insight you have on it. Thanks. [My insight is that you should (children: avert your eyes) stop fondling your dick through your pants pocket. You’ve got a wife. Put your attention there. I think you’re really just looking for a way to have an affair. Stop doing that.]

"You have the floor Pastor he said it as we all faced that product of ..."

The fundamentally toxic Christianity
"Save souls, nourish them as the devil roars for opportunity to steal, kill and destroy. ..."

My mom died late last night; ..."
"Sorry for your loss."

My mom died late last night; ..."
"We will see our loved ones but only those who had a relationship with jesus ..."

My mom died late last night; ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Brena Easterday

    WIN! Great job, John. Lust and relationship are not the same thing. One may be a component of the other but not necessarily. The reputation and the desire are the objects of focus on this new relationship? That’s an affair trying to start. He did not start his relationship with his wife (or should not have) based on reputation and desire alone. Why would desire pulling and reputation pushing against it be the primary factors of another real relationship? Relationships are far more than that.

  • david carlson

    so awesome

  • Barbara Rice

    This guy is either (a) looking for justification for a 3-way or affair or (b) trying to undermine your support of same-sex relationships in a roundabout way (“Hey, if it’s okay for gays, why not polyamory? John Shore said it was okay!”).

    Personally, I am fine with polyamory, but this guy is a weasel.

  • Mary Withers

    “Gimme that old time religion / Gimme that old time religon / If it was good enough for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Solomon, and DAAAviid / It’s good enough for me!”

  • Ray Shawn McKinnon

    I agree with your final assumption. Love your one wife, dude… SN: John Shore! Miss talking with you, brother!

  • Barbara Vaughan

    Oh, dear. Such confusion and such hoop-jumping just to justify “an affair”. Patriarchy – thy name is Dick Fondle.

  • Michael

    The comments are priceless.

  • Jennifer Edwards

    If his wife says “NO,” then NO means NO! If he keeps trying to coerce her into it, that’s abusive!

  • Elizabeth

    “I’m just gonna go with English not being your first language. God, I hope that’s it,” made me laugh so hard, I almost fell out of my chair. Which is in a LOFT, aka a hard landing. Well done.

  • Melanie D.

    I would add: If your current wife means so little to you that you’d jeopardize your relationship with her just to have sex with another woman, then you should get a divorce and save her some time and heartache. It’s likely that the only reason she’s on board with the idea (if she says she is) is that she knows you’ve got one foot out the door and thinks that she can keep you if she’s enthusiastic about adding another woman to your relationship. Don’t. Just stop it. Polyamorous relationships only have a chance at working if they begin with the understanding that polyamory is on the table. You can’t just add a person to a monogamous relationship and expect things to work out. If you’re so desperate to try a threesome that you’re willing to break up your family, get your divorce and try it with two women who aren’t in love with you. Don’t add complicity to your wife’s regrets.

  • Kailia Wray

    That’s awfully black and white of a response.

  • Joni Martin

    Hahaha! I love the sarcastic comments.

  • Nathan Merrells

    Great article. Spot on — and most amusing.

  • Jennifer Spangler Wood

    What if the person wasn’t looking for an affair? What if he truly was poly-curious? Would we be this flippant with a bi-or gay-questioning person? I would like to see us discuss the spectrum of sexuality without judgment or ascribing the question to pure lust. More conversation, please.

  • You might want to read the previous posts of mine on this subject–the ones embedded in this post (one of which is below). No fair complaining about a lack of conversation when you’re not even listening to the conversation that is happening.

  • David S

    Yours truly chortled out loud at work when I got to the lost Christian witness bit. Yes, there was even a little bit of a snort involved.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks, John. I have read that article and I am listening to the conversation. I’m just curious as to the vehemence of your reaction. It doesn’t seem consistent with your usual open-minded and compassionate responses. Thanks!

  • I really do think you’re too dismissive of this, John.

    People are struggling to reconcile their innate nature with the demands of a civilization, and to maintain a balance between what’s best for “me” and what’s best for others.

    I think this is, or at least well could be, an honest question.

    I don’t honestly know if an intimate relationship between > 1 consenting adults would be a positive thing, or what sort of problems might be encountered. I suspect that jealousy may be an issue. There are, of course, legal problems.

    I think you’re assumption is that this guy is a tool and looking to shag some other lady. That’s easy, just have an affair. He’s asking more than that. How would your response differ if a woman were asking this, and the 3rd person were a man, so there were 2 men and one woman?

    We have to stand up for women, and not tolerate their exploitation or being made property. But, there’s an honest question to be considered, here.

    I think the real insight needs to be a discussion of the ideals of such a relationship versus the realities that are likely to be encountered.

  • Nicole

    I wonder why he thinks his wife is in love with this other woman.

  • Barbara Rice

    The author of that email skipped so fast from evangelical to wannabe polyamorist that I’m surprised he doesn’t have whiplash.

    In my (admittedly limited) exchanges with poly families, there is a truly immense amount of time and stress agonizing over the effect this will have on their bio families (i.e. parents, siblings), as well as fearfulness of losing their jobs, their friends, etc. if they were to go public. This guy had some revelation in December and now suddenly is only concerned about his witness? Bah. I call BS.

  • Jennifer: the way I am compassionate—the way I think that works best—is to simply say the truth as I understand it. I never think or feel beforehand how I’ll answer these letters; I’m never trying to be open-minded, or compassionate, or … anything at all but honest. I just … sink into the letter, feel the writer’s heart, and speak directly to that alone. That’s a long, long way from flippant. And I don’t consider how my answer will sound to others. Because I don’t care. I’m answering that person; I’m not addressing anyone else. And I figure if that person didn’t want my honest answer to their question, then … then they shouldn’t have written me.

    Anyway, if you’ve got anything further you’d care to say to this guy, by all means do. That’s … kind of the idea, basically. I say what I think, and then … other people say what they think. That’s how we end up with a … full response.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks, Barbara that perspective helps. I appreciate the conversation!

  • Jennifer

    Fair enough. Thanks for your perspective on…your perspective. 😉

  • Valerie

    The thing about polyamorous relationships is that EVERYONE involved have to willing and agree to it. If I or MY hubby were to suggest one we might go with it as we are both open to that. If your wife isn’t open to it then STOP even thinking about it, it ain’t gonna happen.

    John, I do think you were a little harsh with your last response but I loved the Christian witness comment.

  • Nicole

    If he and his wife were both asking about this, it would be different. He’s under some assumption that his wife loves this other woman as well. But then he says she is not the least bit interested in polyamory. Doesn’t sound like a polyamorous relationship at all to me. Especially…we don’t even know if the other woman has any interest in polyamory. If this guy is genuine, then he’s WAAAY jumping the gun. That’s why it sounds like he’s really just looking for affair justification.

  • Valerie

    That is a great question.

  • Rachel G.

    Does the other woman know she has TWO stalkers? Does she know that a married couple is talking about her behind her back? Should she be scared? Should she keep her doors locked? Should she find another church? Should she leave town?

  • Todd Rogers

    I can’t believe anyone would question John’s reaction to this subject.

    This subject is known in gay circles, and let me tell you, it’s nothing more than an excuse to play around or to not commit to a single person monogamously, and that is WRONG.

    I can imagine the ways of old 2000 years ago where one man had 10 wives of varying ages. Back then, the world had so few people that beggars couldn’t be choosers really.

    If you were a woman, you had to find yourself a man because the man was the provider, the man was the businessman, the authoritarian, the shepherd, the master of the flock, and the women were the child bearers, and without that, the human population would not grow and thrive.

    This polyamory subject is ludicrous. If you’re actually thinking of poly as a means to an end because you feel you have so much more love to give that you can’t possibly give it all to one person, you’re deluding yourself, and you shouldn’t be in a relationship because you’re too immature, and you don’t know what you want.

    You want the trappings of a relationship. The benefits, but you don’t want the serious side of it, the commitment to a single person, the forsaking of all others for the sake of your love.

    The idea of polyamory goes against the very institution of marriage as we know it today.

    You cannot tell me that this is a good thing or that it is something worth exploring because there has not been a single polyamourous relationship that I have ever witnessed that lasted.

    SOMEONE always got greedy. SOMEONE always got into a fight with the primary partner and so the “third” is always caught in the middle because he/she feels they have to be there for BOTH partners even when they’re fighting, and certainly the partner on the winning end of the argument is going to seek comfort in the third as will the loser for consolation.

    I am gay.

    I am also a one man man. I do not believe in polyamory because I personally think it is disgusting. I think its an excuse to cheat.

    Nothing more.

  • Connie O

    I’ve been wondering when you were going to start hearing from people on this subject. I can almost hear the whining now “But if gays get to marry then I should be able to have more than one wiiiiiffffffffffeeeee.”

    I loved your answer. I smelled BS in his letter too. His wife isn’t interested and we don’t know what the other woman thinks but its obvious he wants more for himself. Gosh, could it be its all about himmmm?

  • Connie O

    Excellent answer! Thank you!

  • I suppose I must quit saying this, but, Joe, you might want to read the two OTHER posts I’ve done on this subject, since they directly discuss what you’ve said you’d like to see directly discussed.

    Also, I don’t think this letter writer was being truly honest and/or forthright. That’s what I didn’t like about his letter. I know honesty in writing. This ain’t it.

  • This. It’s my understanding that true polyamory requires enthusiastic consent from all parties involved. I’m definitely not sensing enthusiasm from his wife, and consent appears to be lacking as well.

  • Melanie D.

    He’s asking to have an affair, with his wife’s permission and society’s approval, the lack of the latter being his excuse for the lack of the former.

  • Isn’t enthusiastic consent from all parties the difference between polyamory and cheating? I don’t think his wife’s response could even qualify as consent, and if it does, I’m still sensing a distinct lack of enthusiasm.

  • How can you tell he is being dishonest? Do you think there is a chance that due to his feelings of guilt he may be lying to himself?

  • Jill Lillis

    Here’s my comment and heartfelt response to this:



  • Don Rappe

    I have to admire John’s straight up “dear Abby” approach to this question. However, since I personally share quite a bit of background with the question asker, I won’t resist throwing in a little of my humorless missouri advice. Many, but not all readers here will know, as John does, that three greek words: agape, eros and philia all get translated as love at times, although they have different but overlapping significance. (my shift button doesn’t work well, so i’m thinking we can all live with it, rather than me constantly redoing every capital letter.) philia; familial or brotherly love, eros: erotic love which draws us toward intimacy and agape: the love which seeks the fulfillment of the other. While agape mixes well with the other two, mixing eros and philia tends toward incest. the Bible surely endorses polygamy, the erotic love and marriage between man and women. It doesn’t really address whether or not erotic love between women should be included (polyamory).

    It is understandable that Christian witness is important to Christian teachers. I had several fine Missouri grade school teachers and one violent, arrogant, anti-semitic young fool.

    One might assume that what happened in december was polyamorous foreplay. If so, that would account for his obsession, more so than playing with his dick. Human motivation is often more complex than appears at the surface level of our consciousness. That is why “free will” is so seldom a useful explanation of anything.

    But, he and his wife really would need to consider more than just simple Christian witness, if they are teachers. They would also need to consider the effect the reaction of others would have on the careers of all three. The perilous complexity of all this accounts for a good reason for polyamory to be an almost freakishly exceptional kind of relationship. I see i’ve made this all very clear now, so i may as well stop.

  • n.

    yeah, i think that the answer to this would tell us whether consent is present.

  • I wondered if this was going to come up with all of the talk about defining marriage. I’m actually surprised (pleasantly) that with all of the heartfelt debate on my FB page as I shared my support for gay marriage that this topic was not brought up by my Fundamentalist friends! Whew! If it does, I may have some more thinking to do on the subject… but for now I am just most relieved this letter came to you and not me! Love how you speak straight from your heart with honesty and (thankfully) humor. Thank you!

  • Jennifer Edwards

    That was exactly what my ex-husband was doing, which is why he’s my EX! I was harangued for years with “If you loved me, you’d do this.” That’s complete BS. The wife should get out while she still has her self respect.

  • My answer would be the same either way. If he knows he’s not being completely honest with me, then … then this is my answer. If he’s not consciously aware that he’s not being honest with himself, then this is also my answer, because by it I’m hoping to … wake him up, if you will.

  • i love you john shore.

    that does not mean that i want to have a 4 way with you, cat, my hub and moi.

    i DO think that this is spot on.

  • Carolyn

    Oh good grief – I am a Lutheran (ELCA) – I hope this guy is not a Pastor. He says he is a “trained teacher”. Wonder what he is teaching?? Seems to me it is a stretch to justify being unfaithful to your spouse through the Bible. He is indeed “scary”. Good answer John, but cringed a little bit toward the end.

  • I suspect that the “love” this guy and his wife experience towards this friend are about as similar as my pinky and a freight train. I agree with John, something doesn’t seem right, and that there is something not exactly honest.

    He approaches his wife about such a relationship and, if she’s like most of us wives, she saw problems in such a relationship based on thousands of years of human history where women didn’t exactly fair well. So she shot him down, at just the conversation of “Hey hun, what do you think about such relationships? Good or bad?” I doubt it went any further.

    And lose our Christian witness? I didn’t get that either. Unless people “witness” via webcam from their bedroom, but I don’t think “witness” would the correct term there.

  • WAIT.

    that reads weird.

    i am on day 11 of spring break.

    with 3 kids.

    forgive me.

  • Bethulia

    Two things.

    One. Re: “My wife sees no positives in this situation, as we would lose our Christian witness.”

    Two. Re: “And I’m partial to agree with her that even though I know I am capable of loving more than one person completely and intimately, I should restrain myself out of my respect to fellow believers, so that they don’t stumble.”

    Dude, If the first things that come to mind when pondering this despite your wife saying “no thanks” is that it might harm your Christian witness and you should restrain yourself for the sake of other believers…I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s some bigger issues here.

  • Lauren

    but john what about the interview you did with the poly-amorous couple? how can you have that interview but not look at this letter seriously? whats the difference?

  • W. Lotus

    This is the way I understand polyamory, as well. I know people who have healthy, poly relationships with multiple partners. All partners are in the know and are in agreement. If one has to hide their relationship from their partner or has to ignore their partner’s desire to remain monogamous, that is not polyamory: that is CHEATING.

    It sounds like this man wants an excuse to cheat on his wife, since he is still considering it even though his wife is not in agreement. John is right; he needs to stop right now.

  • PS

    Best. Blog post. Ever. I’m always a sucker for well-applied snark and sarcasm and this one’s a winner 🙂

  • I think the difference is that all parties were in full agreement with the relationship, and in this one, the guy is trying to figure out how to have his cake, plus another, niether of which is really aware that this guy REALLY likes variety in his cake.

  • Andrea

    Thank you, Melanie. Amen.

  • Lymis

    I agree that the letter writer is mixed up and has mixed motives. I’m not sure he’s as deliberately disingenuous as he’s being painted, but sometimes naivety needs a similar smack upside the head.

    I think for me is that the problem is that he’s mixed several quite independent questions together, and trying to hold onto all of them as they are pulling in different directions is creating a huge amount of confusion. The horny part isn’t helping, either, I’m sure.

    I’ll go ahead and address it the way he asks it – as one man and multiple women – though as far as I am concerned, similar reasoning would apply to two men and a woman or three or more of each.

    Of course it’s possible to be in love with more than one woman. As deeply as feelings allow. Can one parent love more than one child? Does loving one take away from the love and commitment to any of the others? Is there a theoretical maximum for love? Bah.

    Is it possible to have sexual relationships with more than one person at a time? Of course. People do that all the time, with varying degrees of success.

    The letter writer doesn’t say whether either or both of these women are bisexual, or what he envisions their relationship to each other would be if he went forward with this. It’s possible, though rarer, for two people who are not in a sexual relationship with each other to be okay with sharing a partner.

    However, it sounds like he somehow wants to pursue all this, not just in a practical and intimate sense, but in terms of somehow doing this openly and publicly without being summarily pitched out of his religious community. He’s better off building a stable for unicorns. It ain’t going to happen. Chances are that the three of them would likely end up needing an entirely new set of friends and acquaintances.

    There’s plenty of Old Testament support for male-led polygamy. It doesn’t translate into the New Testament in any particularly meaningful way, and certainly not into modern social rules among most Christians.

    If the three of them were truly in love and committed to making it work, could they reconcile it with each other? Quite possibly. Could they reconcile it with God? I’d say very possibly. Could they reconcile it with the Lutherans? Um…. no.

    I don’t think it’s fair to automatically denounce all polyamorous relationships as nothing but lust or an affair (more a comment to the commenters than to John, yes, I’ve read the other threads.) I think it’s naive in the extreme to assume any organized Christian community is going to accept it.

    I agree that it’s far more likely that the letter writer has discovered that marriage and commitment don’t turn off our sex drives or our abilities to be attracted (physically, spiritually, and romantically) to someone else, and it seems to have come as a shock. I think we as a society put far too much stress on the One True Love and Happily Ever After theories, and not enough stress on Making Adult Choices and Living Up to Our Promises – and the Letter Writer has probably fallen into the If It’s Love, It Must Be Real (and Therefore Destined) trap rather than into a meaningful polyamory.

    I will grant him this – many people in this situation knee jerk to the idea that the new love trumps the old one and divorce is inevitable. Good for him for realizing that that doesn’t have to be true. If society were different, it might well work out. But society isn’t different. And it sounds like his wife isn’t interested in this new idea, and she shouldn’t be pressured into it.

  • Done. But call me.


    But seriously. Text me.

    (Har! I still got it!)

  • Lymis

    It may be poor writing on the letter writer’s part, but my guess is that John is picking on the “I am in love with two women” rather than what might have been written as “the three of us are deeply in love with each other” vibe of the thing.

    The “I approached my wife with the idea that polyamory exists” part dings a bit of a bell, too.

    The fact that at no point does the writer mention that the friend is even aware of the interest pretty much puts all the responsibility squarely in his pants, with his head trying frantically to keep up.

  • Barbara Rice

    And the only reason this guy is concerned is because he thinks he will lose his Christian witness. The wife already indicated she is not in favor, but he wants to pursue it.

    In polyamory, everyone involved needs to be on the same page. He’s trying to find a way to get someone to say, “Sure, it’s fine, even if your wife doesn’t agree!”

  • Lymis

    Not all polyamorous folks are just greedy and unwilling to commit, gay or straight.

    All the considerations you raise are real. None of them are absolutes. Stable poly groups exist.

  • Annie

    Agreed! Brilliant answer! Thank you Todd.

  • Yeah, I agree Lymis. It is unorthodox in our society for such relationships to exist, and it to me adds a level of complexity that most people just wouldn’t handle well. I know I wouldn’t. But, some manage just fine.

    I think that the letter writer hasn’t truly approached these women individually or together with this proposal. He’s discovered a supposed biblical loophole to the accepted Christian norm, and is exploring a way to exploit it maybe.

  • Tim

    Unfortunately you sir sound just like a fundamentalist. Why deny rights to others which you yourself are currently fighting for? Many fundamentalist describe your lifestyle as “disgusting”. Your disparage their rejecti0n of monogamy, fundamentalist disparage your rejection of heterosexuality.

    I am personally a traditional heterosexual. Thus I personally have no vested interest in this topic beyond my disgust at the hypocrisy of the situation. It is reminiscent of interracial marriage debate, how the image comparing the current fight over marriage to it . You now are the one who was allowed interracial marriage but denies another marriage equality.

    I am not angry, but being blunt to show the contradiction in your stance.

  • 🙂

  • Am I the only one who is thinking “HUH?”

  • Kristi


    You write the best comments!!!!

    As a “good” Lutheran, I’m not sure what the author is experiencing is anything other than a Biblical free-pass to have sex with this other woman. His wife doesn’t like the idea, so why is he even pursuing the topic?

    I have watched Sister Wives. Maybe he could convert and move to Utah or Nevada. BUT – his wife would have to buy into the whole thing to start….

  • Mal

    Thoughtful reply, Lymis. I must say I was disappointed with John’s put down.

    For this relationship to work, all three would have to be committed to it. Since two people find it hard enough, three (or more) is very much less likely. That does not mean it is impossible.

    Yes, they would have to find a new community of people who aren’t as uptight and intolerant as their Christian friends. That, too, will place stresses on the relationship.

  • Inacat

    as someone who was evangelically polyamorous ( adultery is a full-contact sport in some places, but I get looked down on for being faithful and honest to more than one person at a time? really?) I would say that he did look at this letter seriously, and answered it far more gently than I would have.

    if you’re not picking up on why? I wonder if you’re familiar with the ‘no secrets, no surprises’ clause that’s a foundation in responsible relationships…bringing up the subject of polyamory is not the same as telling your spouse that you’re having an emotional, physical, or spiritual response to someone, so as far as I’m concerned? Mr. Thanks for Listening has already lied to his wife.

  • Barbara Rice

    *Troll sighting*

  • Lymis

    I’m a bit more iffy with the “uptight and intolerant.”

    It would matter to me whether they responded with “You can’t be a good Lutheran and be in this relationship, choose between polyamory and membership in our denomination” or “You can’t be a good *person* and be in this relationship. You’re out on your butt either way, but choose between polyamory and your eternal salvation.”

  • Love it! Now, my answer would be: No polyamour, I can barely handle the one I have!!!! (:-)

  • n.

    i am SO curious if the guy writes back and clarifies anything.

    (*my* shift key works great, i just usually write this way online.)

  • Jill

    I haven’t even gotten through all the comments yet, and I am busting a gut laughing! I scared my cat laughing at this one.

    Erika, I’m following your blog. Just because. 😉

  • Jill

    Exactly, I dearly love my closest female friends, but the guy I’m with can’t assume I’d be open to sleeping with them, nor am I interested in doing so. That seems pretty presumptuous to me.

  • You lost a Christian Witness at the 7-11? I’m gonna check our corner Arab store (read 7-11 alternative for inner city dwellers in the Midwest) to see if I can find the one I lost.

    You were NOT too harsh John. He wants a side dish to go with his main course. I try not to judge people and their freak flags, but it seems to me his freak flag is flying solo without his wife’s permission. How is it this is his first case of agape? So what’s his wife… Just plain old conditional love.

    You want to have three way then do so without trying to justify it through God. And don’t surprised if your wife leaves you… I mean really outside of the FLDS folks who does that?

  • Dave Bowling

    Jill: you just cracked me up on your comment… don’t know if it is just my funny bone, but think you are also seeing the superficial nature of the writer’s quest … (my cats are frightened as well at my laughing.)

  • Dave Bowling

    John: I agree – honesty was missing in the letter writer’s message. It appears he is trying to justify an obsession rather than understand a feeling that all the parties involved have about this. I think your responses were spot-on … but to try to wake him up might be a stretch for someone trying to justify their feelings in spite of the others involved. Often our desires blind us from the reality that is in front of us. I don’t think he wants to be awakened or aware – just to find justification for his feelings of desire. (But that is only my opinion.)

  • Lymis

    Could someone who speaks Lutheran help me out? What’s a Christian Witness and how do you lose one? For that matter, what do you do with it while you still have it?

    I was raised Catholic, and this is not a term I’m familiar with.

  • Diane U.

    This phrase jumped out at me: “I should restrain myself out of my respect to fellow believers”….How about out of respect to YOUR WIFE??? The person you promised to remain faithful to???

    The concept of polyamory is in no way connected to homosexuality…if fundies say gay marriage is a slippery slope to polygamy, bestiality, etc…they’re nuts. If you want to be in a 3-way or multiple-way relationship (gay or straight), fine, but don’t get married. The entire concept of marriage is DEVOTION to ONE PERSON.

  • Matt

    Word up to you, my Lutheran brother. How’s about that Missouri Synod? Scary stuff, huh? Luther would have removed his 95 theses pronto if he thought his idea would eventually lead to that.

  • Kristi

    Maybe it’s a Missouri synod thing. I haven’t ever heard of the witness as an ELCA member.

  • Carolyn

    Amen to that Brother Matt -my fellow Lutheran.

  • Matt

    I’m ELCA, and we’re not familiar with it either. But it appears that what he means by “losing witness” is losing his standing in the eyes of the church. By not being a real Christian, or a real Lutheran, or something like that. A little bit of reading reveals that “witness” to them is equal to “martyr,” with Jesus being the greatest witness of all.

    Geesh, no wonder our Lutheran summit meetings make my pastor so cranky.

  • True. I personally know of two- one of about 25 years duration, the other about 15. It takes a LOT more work than ordinary couple relationships, and a very high level of commitment. And they are happy.

    I also know too many people who’ve tried it and had it fail in big and ugly ways. Including a struggle over real estate. It’s just bad bad bad.

    I wouldn’t recommend it.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Jennifer! I’m not against polyamory, per se. I went to an arts school when I was young, and we definitely tried… stuff. It turns out, I’m not wired that way. That’s not God; it’s me. Relationships are hard and complex. What works for one family doesn’t work for another. I haven’t seen this work.

    The problem is this particular letter. He’s clearly invested a lot of time justifying it while his wife is clearly against it. Crediting his “restraint” to respect for his fellow believers and confusing agape with romantic and/or sexual love is just icing on the cake.

  • My family was Baptist when I was little, and then went pentecostal (I got out safely, thank you). The ‘Christian witness’ thing is very familiar. It’s basically your public reputation as a Christian- and your actions directly reflect on God, as you are representing Him. It is a really harsh thing to live under, knowing that you’ll make God look bad if you fall down on the job.

  • Ok, reading this, the first thing I thought was that this was a fairly elaborate troll. Nothing in that letter rang as genuine to me. I’m wondering if this was a put-up job, if someone wants John to go out on a limb so they can get out their saws and cut it off.

  • Elizabeth

    Seconded. Communication is the key. His wife seems to have communicated her boundaries.

  • S.J. Tee

    John Shore, I love you! But not in a polyamorous way, of course. If this is real and not some elaborate hoax, the man is obviously just looking for a way to justify sex with this woman – and he should just “stop doing that” as you so eloquently put it.

  • Nicole

    I get what he’s saying. Basically, you have a gay man saying polyamory is “disgusting” and therefore is unacceptable and should not be allowed. Which is the same stance as a straight man who says that homosexuality is “disgusting” and therefore is unacceptable and should not be allowed. He’s just pointing out the hypocrisy.

  • Nicole


  • Anonymous Dude

    So, dude who wrote John who he was so kind not to name, you are not alone. Allow me to speak honestly, and slightly sympathetically, to you. Lots of dudes think, “Gee, it’d be sweet to be with two women.” I’m a dude. I’ve thought this. I’ve also opened up a lot to the idea of polyamory. But, and here’s the deal: you, like me, got married to one woman. You committed to forsake all others for that one woman. You’re the man. By cultural practices and standards, you have the majority of power in the relationship. If she never approaches you and asks you about your thoughts on it out of her own curiosity, shut your pie hole and keep your word. You pledged to love her and her alone for your whole life. Do that. Don’t be “that guy.”

    Still curious? Hard to accept. Of course, but keeping your word to the one you brought to the lifelong dance is so much more important than satisfying your own curiosity or dealing with the acceptance of something you find disappointing. My wife nixed us volunteering for the Mars mission to launch in 2018, but I won’t be writing John a letter about it asking for his thoughts. I just deal. It’s part of the price I pay for being with the woman I considered special enough to commit my whole life to. Polyamory is out for me unless she ever brings it up to me. I can take that. And I’m not counting on her ever bringing it up to me.

  • Jill

    Exactly. This was just the entertainment I needed today.

    I think our cats can see through this whole thing as well. Fairly transparent.

  • I think the guy should just go ahead and divorce his wife and move on to the new women like he thinks he wants to. The complete disrespect he’s showing towards his wife sickens me. What the people at church think are more important than her feelings?

  • Chris B

    Having read all the comments I was glad that things got clearer, that this wasn’t “poly-bashing”. Some years ago my wife suffered some abuse at the hands of a nasty religious group and ended up with uncontrolled epilepsy as a result. For years I have cared for her and remained faithful to her, despite the fact that one aspect of her illness is that her libido is now almost non-existant. These days the fits are controlled but the other side effects of medication and brain damage still exist. Both of us were very frustrated sexually by this situation and we looked for help. The “Christian advice” we usually got was to “suffer for Jesus” or “get a divorse”. Neither option was acceptable. We’ve had counselling and considered therapy, but there are no easy answers. Along the way I discovered a website – Liberated Christians – which promoted polyfidelity. My wife and I explored the ideas together and I began a dialogue with Bill, one of the founders of the group. We could see that polyfidelity was a valid choice and we are both very loving people who love to build deep caring relationships with others, and we were thankfully learning lots of new things about sexuality, and becoming “unfundamentalist”. Of course we were also terrified of how this might impact others, not just that we would be attacked by people but also we wanted to be ethical – this was not about me getting my rocks off, not just about sex, but about building supportive love relationships. It is certainly true that within churchianity that polyfidelity as well as any “deviant sexuality” is seen as unacceptable, and so far this has meant keeping our ideas to ourselves, except for only a few trusted people. We have even discussed these ideas, along with other issues such as gay marriage etc. with our children, and we as a family support a progressive approach to sexuality. But in the meantime I’m suffering terribly. Years of sexual frustration and just coping has driven me into treatment for depression. I still desperately love my wife and we have a wonderful family together, and yet, we know that we need help. Few people in the churches have shown any kind of compassion for our situation. It has helped that we have a number of wonderful women friends – adopted family – whose love and understanding support has been there for both of us, but inevitably I have sometimes “fallen in love” and while polyfaithful sexuality has never happened, deep caring friendships have grown. In one case, things went terribly pear-shaped and a relationship was torn apart. I am still grieving from that and I can tell it truthfully, that it is fully possible to love more than one person at the same time. Unlike this fellow here, I’m not trying to lie to myself, have an affair, or make excuses, but I can empathise with his pain and confusion. Who knows, maybe we can help him rather than just make fun of him. Polyfidelity isn’t simple and discression is the better part of valour, but I’m here trying my best to painfully deal with things and do so in the most loving and importantly, most ethical way I can. In the meantime it is hard, and I have few understanding ears. At least here, I don’t feel so alone as I share this. Thanks.

  • Amen to every one of John’s words in response to this disingenuous piece of LC-MS garbage (yes, yes, I know… it’s redundant). I do wish he hadn’t sullied the name of ELCA, though.

    Truth is, though, I don’t believe a word of it (the LC-MS Lutheran numbskull’s words, I mean, not John’s). Every word of numby’s correspondence felt contrived. Every one.

    Truth is, I think John has attracted some new ultra-conservative (and so, therefore, completely disconnected from reality) enemies with his recent work around here; and they’re so clueless as to what he’s really about (and, especially, what could be passed-off for reality) that they actually thought they could pretend to be what numby pretended he was as a way of setting him (John) up; and that they actually thought John would give the guy the polyamory (and maybe even polyamorous, too, ’cause ya’ never know with these guys) green light…

    …and, with that, then, they planned on being able to point at it and write about it as a means of discrediting him. Mark my words: it’s a ruse. I’d bet the farm on it.

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • That’s rather what I think too. They may be thinking to boost their anti-gay marriage argument With the ‘slippery slope’ thing, saying “Look! Here’s proof that gay marriage is just a step towards polyamory! Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to marry their German shepherd!”

    Doesn’t pass the sniff test.

  • Lymis

    Hang in there. Not everyone gets dealt the same hand, and we all have to find our own path with what we find ourselves holding. One thing I learned a long time ago is that just because something is the absolute right answer for one person, it doesn’t always follow that it is the right answer for the next, and each person doing what it most truly right for them doesn’t invalidate the truth of what’s right for someone else.

  • Lymis

    I don’t think that’s really a fair assessment of what he said, Gina. Whether he’s correct or not, he seems to have convinced himself that the arrangement he is considering would work for his wife as well – he says that he sees both of them loving this other woman.

    I’m not going to disagree with the people who say that it looks like he’s wrong on that, whether she’s being less than assertive about it, or he’s being deliberately dense, but it looks like one of the cards he’s built the foundation of this house of cards on is that it will work for both his wife and the friend.

    With that assumption in place, he looks outward and finds that the opinions of the people at church are a real consideration, and likely to be a universal negative.

    I don’t see that as making their opinion “more important” than that of his wife so much as that he may not be really doing his homework with his wife and is making assumptions about her consent in this (or his ability to get her consent.) While I got the impression he may be assuming more than is warranted, I didn’t get the impression he intended to push forward without her consent.

  • As someone who grew up fundy Pentecostal, I’ve had the “Christian witness” thing invoked to explain why I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike or shoot hoops on a Sunday. I kid you not. As if those outside the church would go, “Look at that so called Christian kid shooting hoops in her backyard on a Sunday, I’d rather burn in hell for eternity than be like that hypocrite!”

  • Martin Luther on polyamory (from “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church”):

    6.23 Now let us discuss the matter of impotence.

    6.24 Take the following case. A woman, wed to an impotent man, is unable to prove her husband’s impotence before court, or perhaps she is unwilling to do so with the mass of evidence and all the notoriety which the law demands; yet she is desirous of having children or is unable to remain continent. Now suppose I had counseled her to demand a divorce from her husband in order to marry another, satisfied that her own and her husband’s conscience and their experience were ample testimony of his impotence; but the husband refused his consent to this. Then suppose I should further counsel her, with the consent of the man (who is not really her husband, but merely a dweller under the same roof with her), to give herself to another, say her husband’s brother, but to keep this marriage secret and to ascribe the children to the so-called putative father. The question is: Is such a woman in a saved state? I answer, Certainly. Because in this case the error and ignorance of the man’s impotence are a hindrance to the marriage; the tyranny of the laws permits no divorce; the woman is free through the divine law, and cannot be compelled to remain, continent. Therefore the man ought to yield her this right, and let another man have her as wife whom he has only in outward appearance.

    6.25 Moreover, if the man will not give his consent, or agree to this division – rather than allow the woman to burn or to commit adultery, I should counsel her to contract a marriage with another and flee to distant parts unknown. What other counsel could be given to one constantly in danger from lust? Now I know that some are troubled by the fact that then the children of this secret marriage are not the rightful heirs of their putative father. But if it was done with the consent of the husband, then the children will be the rightful heirs. If, however, it was done without his knowledge or against his will, then let unbiased Christian reason, no, let Christian charity, decide which of the two has done the greater injury to the other. The wife alienates the inheritance, but the husband has deceived his wife and is completely defrauding her of her body and her life. Is not the sin of the man who wastes his wife’s body and life a greater sin than that of the woman who merely alienates the temporal goods of her husband? Let him, therefore, agree to a divorce, or else be satisfied with strange heirs; for by his own fault he deceived the innocence of a maiden and defrauded her of the proper use of her body, besides giving her a wellnigh irresistible opportunity to commit adultery. Let both be weighed in the same scales. Certainly, by every right, deceit should fall back on the deceiver, and whoever has done an injury must make it good. What is the difference between such a husband and the man who holds another’s wife captive together with her husband? Is not such a tyrant compelled to support wife and children and husband, or else to set them free? Why should not the same hold here? Therefore I maintain that the man should be compelled either to submit to a divorce or to support the other man’s child as his heir. Doubtless this would be the judgment of charity. In that case, the impotent man, who is not really the husband, should support the heirs of his wife in the same spirit in which he would at great cost wait on his wife if she fell sick or suffered some other ill; for it is by his fault and not by his wife’s that she suffers this ill. This have I set forth to the best of my ability, for the strengthening of anxious consciences, being desirous to bring my afflicted brethren in this captivity what little comfort I can.

    The entire piece is an extended critique of/diatribe against the Catholic sacramental system, and this passage isn’t 100% serious, but his statement that “since marriage existed from the beginning of the world and is still found among unbelievers, it cannot possibly be called a sacrament of the New Law and the exclusive possession of the Church ” (6.3) is refreshingly modern.

  • Lymis

    It’s really a non-sequitur in this discussion for a number of reasons. First, there’s no indication (quite the reverse, actually) that the letter writer is impotent, and impotence is no longer considered an impediment to valid marriage in the first place.

    This piece you quote isn’t about polyamory in any meaningful sense, it’s about the author’s view of the grounds for a valid marriage and the marital duty to create children (apparently, by any means necessary.)

    Unless, of course, it’s your intention to blame the letter writer’s wife for this situation.

  • Exactly, @Liutgard. Thank you! That’s precisely how they argue: “Same-sex marriage?” they incredulously ask, continuing, “Next thing you’ll want to legalize is sibling sex, polygamy, pedophilia and beastiality.”

    That they could even see such parallels is a clue to the tenuousness of their collective grip on reality; and, moreover, the convolutedness of their thinking which, in turn, helps to make more understandable how they could reason that baiting John into condoning polyamory by any means, but especially by this lame one.

    Nice gravatar photo, by the way. That’s quite some fancy dancy get-up you’re wearin’, there. (Intended as a serious compliment, by the way, not making fun or anything like that.) Lots o’ dangly, jingly things! Assuming your nickname wasn’t just plucked, randomly from the air, I’m guessing ol’ numby’s (entirely contrived, in my opinion) Lutheran references made you none too happy, either. No?

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Gordon Schneider

    I think Warren Jeff’s is more qualified to answer this e-mail. 🙂

  • Muir Halleron

    I’m in a polyamorous relationship of 3 years and counting. Boyfriend A and Boyfriend B are in a civil partnership together and they’ve opened up their relationship to equally include me. The decision wasn’t made spuriously and there was a lot of open communication, honesty, questions, answers and love laid out on the table in several different meetings. (these meetings being between them on their own, each of them with me and finally all three of us together) It can, and does, work. However, this email that John got raises quite a few alarms of my own. The quotes around love being one of them. You either love someone (in a romantic, partnership way) or you don’t. Love should never be put in quote marks.

  • Keri Pool Hawkins

    Not trying to be insensitive, but this post made me chortle. I’m not sure what was better, the article or the comments. Thanks for calling a spade a spade. Nothing wrong with that!

  • Cheryl Ingro

    Excellent response (though I did a true spit-take at “Have you looked in the basement?”).

  • Laura C. Minnick

    Just occurred to me, as he claims to be a ‘teacher’ (whatever that means. Paul is pretty explicit in telling Timothy that deacons (and I am thinking that extending this to all church leadership) are to be the husband of *one* wife. Does the Missouri Synod skip that part?

  • Paul Hormick

    Plural marriage has been a subtext of the campaign for gay marriage. A lot of the $$$ that went into fighting prop 8 came from the fundamentalist LDS churches, who reasoned, rightly, that once gay marriage became lawful and culturally acceptable, plural marriage would be the logical next step.

  • James Walker

    I don’t think there’d be anything wrong with plural marriage IF (and that’s a huge if) it’s kept strictly between consenting adults and there are clear guidelines for financial support, child support and division of assets in the legal and tax codes to account for this type of arrangement. it shouldn’t be a matter where person #3 (or #4, etc.) and/or their children can easily be tossed aside, homeless and penniless just because they suddenly become inconvenient.

  • I loved your response.

  • Mike Barnhart

    A test level would be to limit the polygamist marriage to 5 people maximum – to see how it works.

  • Allie

    Luther’s response is interesting, especially if you consider that more than likely one of the most common causes of “impotence,” in his era, was a gay man forced by society into a straight marriage. If you read it with that understanding, it becomes pretty compassionate advice: “Fake it in public, and what you do in private is your own business.”

    However, this has nothing to do with a perfectly potent man who wants two women.

  • Allie

    The whole thing can be summed up in one sentence: “My wife sees no positives in this situation.”

    I think it’s at least potentially possible to be both faithful to a wife and in bed with another woman, IF THE WIFE AGREES. “Faithful” means what two married people agree it means. It is never possible to be sleeping with someone your wife doesn’t want you to sleep with, and faithful.

  • Nicole

    Nail on the head.

  • Nicole

    That’s because we don’t make laws based on religion in this country. We, as a country, decide what morals we will allow (such as, you don’t get to kill someone else). However, what consenting adults do or how they want to live should not be limited just because it offends religious codes. Although government practicality could be a limitation…do we really want to begin adding more than one spouse to the complexity of our tax codes? As a society, we may decide no on that.

  • Perhaps I worded it incorrectly, but you pointed out exactly what I was trying to get at: he makes *assumptions* about his wife instead of being open with her.

    Since he didn’t come right out and say to her what he wanted, now he’s trying to rationalize slipping around the boundaries that she placed when he did his feeling around.

    How some marriages go on without honesty boggles my mind.

  • Nicole

    Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

  • usingmyvoicewell

    If the situation is 1 man/2 women, what is the difference between polyamorous-ity and polygamy? Somehow I don’t think this is a new thing. I also think the writer might want to question his definition of marriage… and perhaps rethink “agape love”…

  • Scott Amundsen

    Perfect response, John. And this “doctrinally-trained [sic] as a teacher for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod” fool jackass doesn’t even know enough to use the right word. He isn’t talking agape here; he’s talking eros.

    “My wife sees no positives in this situation…”

    Full stop; as far as I am concerned that should have ended the conversation. I make no moral judgment but I can say with a degree of certainty that unless ALL parties are equally on board with the idea, that thing will sink faster than the Lusitania.

    I am personally acquainted with at least half a dozen couples in “open marriages;” only one is a Straight couple, but whether that means it is more common in Gay men or whether Straight people are simply more inclined to hide it, I have no way of knowing. I do know that it isn’t a concept I understand. I certainly could not live in such an arrangement. When I am single I can be the biggest slut in town but monogamy is my default setting, you might say.

    In fact one of the guys in one of the couples is the guy who introduced John and me. Bill’s a major player in the worst sense of the word and both he and his husband Devon have given me the line about men not being “naturally monogamous;” however I know them both better than they think and I would bet a year’s Disability payments that if Bill decided they should be monogamous it would be just fine with Devon; the only reason he goes along is so as not to lose Bill. My heart aches for him because I know when I talk to him that he is not happy, and as for his “husband,” Bill is getting close to sixty and has already had two heart attacks; settling down might be something to consider even if only for health reasons.

  • Rhys

    So Anonymous Dude, way to reinforce and support societal gender stereotypes! You say that men have the power in relationships so he should just shut up unless the woman comes to him. The problem with this is that if we want to create equal partnerships, we have to stop telling men that they have to “be men and suck it up.” All that does is reinforce stereotypes and expected gender roles. Men have desires and feelings just like women do, and both parties should be able to express themselves within a partnership.

    On another note, I’m glad I’m not the only person who immediately thought that this was bait from an ultra-conservative “spy”.

  • Lymis

    Polygamy is a legal term for multiple recognized spouses. Polyamory is about the existence of the relationship independent of any state or religious recognition.

    One would hope that people in a polygamous relationship would love each other, making it both polygamous and polyamorous, but they aren’t quite the same, any more than “love” and “marriage” are quite the same, even if they should go together.

  • Diane U.

    I read John’s post (re-read, actually) with the interview with the woman who was in a threesome. John thinks that it’s all good as long as no one is hurt. How about the children? I think this arrangement hurts their concept of a committed relationship. And how will those parents feel when/if the teens in the blended family fall in love with each other, and some of them become a threesome, or a foursome, or maybe even engage in full-out orgies? This could present a whole slew of problems. Fundamentalists said the same things about gay marriage, and bi-racial marriage before that (the slippery slope). But they are not the same thing at all, because marriage is a commitment between two people. But, the married couple in the threesome has already broken their marriage vows. The bond of trust has been broken. Allowing a third (or more) people into the marriage bed means that the members may always be wondering when the next shoe will drop. The sense of commitment and security has been destroyed.

    Before you label me a fundy or a prude, I have never been either. But I know what it’s like to be a betrayed spouse; I HAVE been that.

  • Lymis

    I’d want to see documentation on that “a lot” – it’s documented that the LDS spent millions to support prop 8. If the fundamentalist mormons pumped any money into the other side, it was certainly not any significant percentage of the money raised – or that would definitely have been far bigger in the headlines.

  • No, it wasn’t a spy-troll; those have a different feel–those are actually quite solid in a way this letter isn’t. There’s just a real … consistency to the tone of a faker/troll that isn’t here. But I know what you mean; because this feels like it lacks a center, it feels essentially disingenuous. And in some very important ways I think that it is–although there may also be something going on here that’s as much about what amounts to an organic dysfunction as it is anything else. There’s a real … addled feel here. And I can’t of course know the cause of that. I was only half joking when I suggested English might not even be the guy’s first language. I don’t think that’s it, but it could be. Could be anything. For the sake of the my response, I had to pick a lane, and I went with … Muddled From Too Many Conflicted Desires.

  • @Allie wrote: …more than likely one of the most common causes of “impotence,” in [Luther’s] era, was a gay man forced by society into a straight marriage.

    MY RESPONSE: Really. Hmm. So then… what… no one was, back then, suffering from any of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction such as circulatory issues like cardiovascular disease or diabetes; or hormonal insufficiencies like hypogonadism; or things that could damage the voltage-gated potassium channel such as arsenic contamination of their drinking water, or simply potassium deficiency, itself?

    We should try not to torture our politics in order to shoehorn what we’d like to be cause into our effects arguments.

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Scott Amundsen

    In point of fact, while I am rambling on about this topic (I have always been an inveterate rambler, and now that I am well into middle-age I rarely bother to keep it in check anymore), I have to say that cheating has always been somewhat of a mystery unless the primary relationship is already on the rocks.

    My first marriage was a total disaster; fifteen years in a relationship with a man who was constitutionally unable to say “I’m sorry” (I never once heard him utter the words) and was passive-aggressive to the point that he would push every one of my buttons he could lay his grubby paws on and often our fights got physical. Of course I was equally to blame for that aspect, but he was quite a bit bigger and stronger than I was so I never actually hurt him or vice versa. Why we hung in so long I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that to me divorce is a terrible failure and that’s why it took me so long to realize that nothing was ever going to change.

    In those days I was a grudge cheater: whenever we had a particularly bad fight I would go out and pick someone up just out of spite. I am not proud of that but it is what it is.

    I have now been married for going on eleven years and I never thought I would find my true soul mate at thirty-nine, but I did. And the thought of doing anything to hurt him is like imagining doing harm to myself. Also, despite all protestations to the contrary, I am not convinced that “open marriages” don’t hurt anyone. In my opinion, human nature being what it is, someone is ALWAYS hurt in these arrangements.

  • Kristie

    I am not one to try and interpret for anyone else what the Bible says on this or any other moral issue. What screams out to me as plainly wrong under any reasonable moral code in this situation revolves around the issue of consent. Let me explain.

    I have been a relational therapist for many years. During my time as a therapist, I’ve come to develop an expertise in working with certain kinds of “alternative” couples–gay, lesbian, transgendered, kinky and polyamorous. I’ve decided that the most important issue in how any couple regulates its sexuality revolves around consent, the complete, informed, uncoerced agreement of all parties that the chosen activity is desirable and beneficial for all parties involved. This stance supports clarity in that certain morally offensive activities such as sex with children, bestiality, and exhibitionism are automatically ruled out because someone (or an animal) is either incapable of or unable to give consent to participation in the activity.

    In the case of polyamory, I have experienced several polyamorous relationship units that were healthy and functional in every way. In every case, the participants had identified themselves as polyamorous from before the beginning of the relationship. All participants were in full consent of the polyamorous relationship from its inception, and continued to participate fully in protracted discussion about the roles, expectations and boundaries of the relationship. Some of these relational units have been in existence for decades and have produced healthy well-adjusted children.

    In my professional work, the couples I’ve encountered where one partner decided after the establishment of the relationship that adding another sexual partner to the mix might be a good idea almost always experienced severe, potentially relationship-ending stress. This was because the other partner was experiencing great distress at the thought of being a part of a polyamorous relationship. In every one of these cases, the polyamory-desiring partner was covertly or overtly manipulating his/her partner into accepting a change that he/she really did not want. I came to see this pressure as a violation of that partner’s right to consent.

    I believe that we are born with the capacity for monogamy, or some degree of polyamory. I tend to think this human quality is normally distributed in the population, somewhat like sexual orientation. There are strictly monogamous types, potentially poly types, and those who are only capable of experiencing relationship satisfaction with more than one committed partner at a time. What I believe is critical is for a person to know him or herself well enough prior to making a relationship commitment to be able to give his or her partner a fully informed choice from day one in the relationship.

    So, for example, I am wired to be one hundred percent monogamous, I know this not because the Bible tells me so but because I’ve spent enough time in my adult life exploring and thinking about my experiences that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am a monogamous person. When I went out to seek a life partner, I told prospective mates this important fact about me from our first contact. I also screened my potential mates to be sure I was getting a person who had come to the same definitive conclusion about himself. I rejected right off anyone who wasn’t totally sure of his own monogamy and completely comfortable with mine. Twenty some years later, the confidence that comes with two honest people consenting to the exact same position on monogamy has protected my heart from the kind of damage I experience professionally with come-to-it-lately poly or wannabe poly couples where one wants it more than the other.

    In the couple described in the above letter (assuming it is real and not some sort of set-up morality trap), the woman clearly is monogamous and does not want the couple’s friendship with the other woman to become sexual. The man is trying to coerce her into giving in to his wishes, thus violating her right to consent. Either he should have known before getting involved with his wife that he had the desire/capacity for polyamoury and told her, allowing her to make a fully informed choice, or he didn’t know this about himself until after the marriage/commitment, in which case the onus of consent is on him. If he’s discovered he is a polyamorous person late in the game, it is incumbent on him to either end the marriage and seek other poly partners from here on out, or be willing to honor his loving commitment and marital vows to his wife and respect her monogamy without any negative emotional consequences to her.

    I believe we have such cultural and religious biases against polyamorous relationships that many of those who may be hard wired to be polyamorous have not been given the knowledge or opportunity to know that this is a valid, maybe even necessary choice for some people. These people go into committed relationships and marriages hoping that one person will be enough. Their partners, expecting monogamy, are devastated when it is revealed later that their partner can’t be happy without a third, or fourth, or fifth participant in the relationship. Better that we acknowledge that there are people hard wired for polyamory and permit them a place within the realm of culturally approved relationship units. Hopefully then, sad cases like the one being discussed here will not happen anymore.

  • Jill

    ‘Pick a lane’ is one of my favorite Shore-isms. I really should be keeping a list… there are so many others…

  • Scott Amundsen

    Personally I don’t believe that God cares nearly as much about what we do with what’s below the belt in private than we are often led to believe: most of the stuff in the Bible was more about politics, property (remember, back then women were the property of their husbands), and idolatry as opposed to cheating as we know it today. In fact if you take the Bible as a whole and resist the urge to proof-text every one of your opinions, you get a clear message that, to quote Micah, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with your God?” In other words, treat each other right and don’t hurt anyone. And as I said previously, despite what some of my friends have claimed I don’t believe that no one gets hurt in these multiple situations. However that is not my call.

  • This guy definitely has some more soul-searching and conversation to do before moving forward, but I’m really interested in the “Christian witness” point he raises… I’m polyamorous, I’m pursuing my MDiv right now, and one of the primary reasons I’m not pursuing ordination is because I can’t figure out a way to stand in front of a committee and justify the structure of my family. There is nothing immoral or unethical about what I do with my partners and lovers, and yet there’s still that gross bit in Romans 14 where Paul is all “yup, you can eat all the bacon you want, but not if it causes your fellow Christians to stumble.” It seems to me the writer of this letter is looking for some more perspective on that- is it okay to do something that other people might misinterpret because we know that God thinks it’s okay? Or do we need to hold ourselves to some unnecessarily high standard of purity (created by the world, not God) just so other people know we are “good Christians”?

  • Jill

    A stellar, balanced response. You might have to advertize your counseling practice, link to your website, something…

  • Gregg, I’m a member of a medieval reenactment group, and Liutgard is a Frank, from the late 8th century. I’m a member of an award order, for prowess in the arts, that is of equal rank to the Knights. In that photo I was wearing my formal regalia because I was speaking in front of about 300 people, in a ceremony that was inducting a new member of the order. Essentially I am dressed as I would be were I in a formal audience with Charlemagne. (The name Liutgard is Frankish, probably Austrasian, and I share the name with two Queens and a saint. I figure I am in good company.)

    Oh- and I am not Lutheran, though I know quite a few, in and out of the medieval group- I’m Episcopalian. But anyone flinging around denominational affiliations the way this guy did? Uncool. And if he was ‘trained’ as a ‘teacher’, he must have barely passed, because it seems that he didn’t learn much.

    (If you have questions about the medieval stiff I do, feel free to drop me a line at LCM at jeffnet dot org )

  • Hannah Grace

    It’s really very simple. Polyamoury is ok if it’s totally consensual and both partners want it. If one partner wants it and the other doesn’t, its obviously wrong and betrayal. If one partner isn’t sure and the other is pressuring them, it’s also totally wrong.

    I’ve talked about being poly with my girlfriend. That doesn’t mean I want to cheat. And if she doesn’t want it, we won’t do it. The end. Surely that doesn’t mean I am just looking for an excuse to cheat?

  • Hannah Grace

    Yeah, I was also interested in the “witness” thing. If one person does something that works in their relationship, do they have to hide it because they might be encouraging someone else to cheat?

    It’s just so complicated!

  • Kristie

    Thank you, Jill. I have done some advertising. I used to be listed on the Kink Aware Professionals site. I’ve since taken that down for personal reasons but still have all the information about my services on my professional website.

  • Elizabeth

    List-keeping! I designate you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rifled through my files (because I am old and I print out.) This should totally happen.

  • Lymis

    “It seems to me the writer of this letter is looking for some more perspective on that- is it okay to do something that other people might misinterpret because we know that God thinks it’s okay?”

    I think that’s an important and interesting question, but I don’t really see it as the one that the letter writer is asking.

    It sounds to me like the flip side of the coin – not, “I know this is right for me, but I want to avoid causing a scandal among those who see me as an example” but rather, “How do I get away with this without it causing a fuss among the neighbors?” That isn’t exactly the right way to phrase it, but it’s in the ballpark.

    In other words, I know you see resonances with his situation, but I really think you’re coming at it from entirely separate angles.

  • Lymis

    I’m not sure how that would apply to polyamory, but I’m quite clear how it applies to another current issue.

    Gay people are most definitely not morally obligated to stay in the closet and pretend we don’t have relationships because it might scandalize other Christians.

    Whether a given community or denomination retains us as members or in its hierarchy or clergy is a separate (if overlapping) question.

    So, as a sweeping principle, it doesn’t work. In specific issues, it likely does. That would mean there would need to be a separate standard on when it does and doesn’t apply. I’m not sure I can come up with one.

  • Lymis

    Beautifully written!

  • Lymis

    I’m not sure how or why that is in any way unique to a polyamorous family. What prevents the children raised as siblings in any household from having orgies? How is that different if it’s a blended family with two parents and children from different previous relationships, or any or all of the kids are adopted?

    I don’t see the point of heaping this issue specifically onto polyamory, or why the answers to it in two-person households wouldn’t apply to a poly one. Not that the question isn’t valid, but I don’t see it as uniquely or even particularly one about polyamory.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to make the sweeping statement that “the married couple in the threesome has already broken their marriage vows” unless you know exactly what those vows may have been. Not everyone agrees to monogamy. That fact that most people do doesn’t mean everyone does.

  • Kristie

    Thank you, Lymis.

  • Allie

    No one said that. Only you said that. That it is one cause does not mean there are no other causes.

    Also, the whole quotation, while interesting, is still not relevant to this discussion in any way. And your comment about “torturing politics” is even less relevant, since I have no agenda and no idea what the hell you think you mean.

  • Allie

    Plenty of children manage to live with stepsiblings they have n0 blood kinship to without having orgies. For that matter, plenty of children in traditional families molest their siblings. There’s no reason that a polyamorous family would have more troubles with this issue than any other family.

  • Allie

    I dunno… I think you’re giving the would-be polygamous too much credit when you say they can’t be happy with only one person. I say that because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I myself could be perfectly happy loving three men at one time. Yep, about three sounds right. But I married ONE man who is monogamous by nature, and so I am now married to one man. And that’s the one man I get to sleep with. If I slept with others, it would definitely make him miserable and that would be wrong. Could I possibly have even more, even better sex, if I had not just my husband as a potential partner but also several other guys? Who cares? That’s not even a valid question.

    Just because some people would prefer to eat ice cream, then pie, then cake, after every meal doesn’t mean ANY people should do that. They might enjoy it in more the short term, but in the long term they would end up in the hospital with diabetes. There are people who feel like they’re on a diet with only one piece of pie, and people who don’t feel a craving for any pie at all, but the people who want lots of pie need to suck it up.

  • Jill

    Elizabeth, you should know better than to feed quarters into me! This could become a new, fun hobby (read: obsession). I’m nothing if not thorough.

    How about this? If someone seconds your motion, I will do it. If our ever-patient blog host nixes it, well… I guess I’ll do what I’m told once a decade.

  • Jackie Weiss

    Jeepers John, you’re brave – I’d have been tempted to just dump that one in the (looney) bin. Maybe he was serious…I too have heard a lot about polyamory over the last year, am totally befuddled by the concept and appreciate your humor.

  • Kim Camacho

    I cracked up thru that whole thing! Loved it!!

  • Jennifer Winters

    I had to wonder if he was goofing on John. He had to know that John was going to tear him a new one.

  • Al Zylstra

    I laughed till I peed…..

  • Leslie Marbach

    I have to wonder if the writer was a fundie in disguise expecting John to say sure, go for it if you’re all consenting.

  • pete zimmerman

    here is my sexual justice thing:

    just finished watching a documentary about mostly good people and so many of them had marriages with kids and got divorced. it is REALLY hard to keep a two person relationship stable and equal. there is NO WAY a three person relationship can stay that way, read systems theory by Bowen. family and relationships are complex. my stance on polyamory is that functionally it leads to too much permeability of what constitutes committed relationships in a given sociological group. if small groups of people want to do it, it will not harm the “norm” of the system but it should not be “normed” as behavior. people are too selfish, to shitty, and too stupid to handle it on the average. if you are the “pure, for whom all thing are pure” fine, I am not going to say on a case by case basis it is always wrong. so, not universally wrong, but usually a nightmare sociologically/power dynamics wise.

  • Chelsea McCarty Allen

    This is not directly relevant to the article, but I’d just like to say thanks for allowing (CIVIL) discussion rather than just deleting every comment, here or on the blog, that disagrees with your assessment of the situation. I know that you could and I appreciate that you don’t.

  • Daniel Kostakis

    Oy! John, I loved your response. The question (if you can call it that) got exactly what it deserved.

  • Allison Merkle

    Right on, John. I hate when people use “polyamory” as an excuse to cheat, as this guy does seem to be trying to do.

  • Kelly Withee

    John, I agree with you, and I think your reply was great.

  • Kristie Meyer

    A fabulous discussion, truly. Thanks for having the guts to start it.

  • Tara St Valentine

    I was laughing so hard. You can love others but not be in love. There is being in lust. The wife is not in love obviously due to the immediate shut down.

  • Kristie

    You are able to make that choice, Allie. I’m able to make that choice and am glad I can. However, I’ve encountered some who are intrinsically polyamorous and cannot be fulfilled within a monogamous relationship. Better that he or she acknowledge this truth to him or herself and to his or her potential partner/s before a commitment is made. It’s tragic to see the suffering on both sides when a monogamous person and a polyamorous person end up in a committed relationship together.

  • Rachel G.

    Jill, I totally agree. Have bestest friends forever, but don’t want to have sex with them. And I don’t want my partner to do that, either.

  • charles

    John, I had to check the date on your posting to verify it not being an April Fools thingy….

    seeing it was dated April 2nd, you have now achieved a manner of status as a truly outstanding sage in my eyes…. (sorry if thats fawning….)


  • Ginger

    LOVE your response John!

  • ***********I’ve been trained doctrinally as a teacher for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod [oh no: the scary Lutherans!], and am an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America [yay! the good Lutherans!].***********

    Missouri Synod isn’t the worst. I was raised in Wisconsin Synod and they are positively ridiculous. Example: Still a member, I left home for military service. While there I kept getting the church bulletins, etc. I finally wrote to them suggesting they save their money and resigning my membership because I would not likely ever attend there again. So that was accomplished. Then along came my sister’s wedding in that same church where all us 4 siblings had been raised and confirmed. She wanted me to sing at the wedding. The church said no because I was no longer a member and therefore could not “partake of a Holy Ceremony” . We were all like HUH?!!!! I wanted my family to rise up in indignation but they didn’t. They obeyed. I was angry. It threatened to tear us apart so we all just shut up and I accepted a position as usher. I guess that isn’t “partaking”!! I had even called the pastor to discuss with him the possibility of my reinstating my membership. He asked if it was just for the wedding and I said, “Well, yes, because I wouldn’t be attending the church otherwise.” He then suggested, “Isn’t that splitting hairs?” (Apparently the irony went right over his head) I responded that,”I think that’s what’s happening anyway.” There was dead silence on the other end and I hung up. The wedding was nice but, except for family funerals, I never set foot in that church again.

    As for polyamory; I think successful polyamorous relationships are possible but certainly rare. We humans have a character trait called jealousy that tends to make such relationships impossible for most people to negotiate. We tend to have a sense of “ownership” of each other whether we want to admit it or not. But can we actually LOVE more than one person at a time? I find it difficult to think we cannot!

  • @Allie wrote: No one said that. Only you said that. That it is one cause does not mean there are no other causes. That it is one cause does not mean there are no other causes.

    MY RESPONSE: No, actually, YOU kinda’ said that. Please… take responsibility for what you wrote; and don’t insult the intelligence of those who (increasingly stupidly, it’s beginning to seem) read it.

    You didn’t write that a gay man’s being forced into a straight marriage in Luther’s era was merely ONE of the causes of impotence, with unnecessary quotes around it. I don’t know how YOU think the average person would interpret language like “one of the most common causes was,” but even an elementary-school-level analysis of the simple English of it would yield that you positively and unambiguously proffered that a gay man’s being forced into a straight marriage was one of the most common (your words, not mine; and because you’re now conveniently ignoring that — and stupidly denying it, too — I’ll repeat them: most common) causes of impotence (more commonly known, now, as “erectile dysfunction”) during Luther’s era. You — why oh you — wrote that. I did not. Take, now, at long last, responsibility for it, lest you further reveal to all who read, here, your both sloppiness of thought and lack of maturity.

    The causes that I listed were not merely “other” causes. Au contraire! They are THE causes — at least the organic ones — and, trust me, they accounted for, back then, and they account for, now, the vast majority of erectile dysfunction cases. Note, though — and this was the salient part of my point — that a gay man being forced into a straight marriage isn’t among them. Nowhere to be found, in fact. That was my point which not only so clearly eludes you, but which also now moves you to the making of humiliating denials and the employment of embarrassingly sub-standard debate tactics.

    Granted, there are two other erectile dysfunction causation categories, besides organic, to wit: physiological (as the result of injury, surgery or birth defect); and psychological. Of course, your posit of the gay man being forced into a straight marriage would likely best fall into the latter. But such a reason, getting back to my point, accounts for such a statistically small percentagee of all reasons — be they organic, physiological or psychological — that it would, in any case, not qualify as “one of the most common” of them. Not by a long shot.

    Only someone who had trouble, in elementary school, with such as groups, categories and arranging things in ascending and descending order by various criteria — and who is troubled by it, still — would not understand that, just intuitively.

    @Allie wrote: …the whole quotation, while interesting, is still not relevant to this discussion in any way.

    MY RESPONSE: Ah, yes… the clarion call of pretty much anyone who gets nailed on his/her sloppy thinking. Republicans use that lame tactic all the time.

    @Allie wrote: …your comment about “torturing politics” is even less relevant, since I have no agenda…

    MY RESPONSE: At the risk of seeming to be a Republican, myself (from which I could not be further), I’ll deign to write, here, that as Ronald Reagan used to say, “there you go again” with your, first, deciding for others what is and isn’t relevant; and, second, your unilaterally — and inaccurately, too, it’s worthy of note — declaring irrelevant others nailing you, cold, on your sloppy thinking…

    … because, after all, if it were relevant, then that wouldn’t be very good at all for your side of this debate, would it. But (and this part, coming-up, is sarcasm, just in case you need stage notes), you’re right. No one espousing LGBT rights — an inherently socio-political issue — ever laments how society, for so many generations, forced their kind to be closeted. What was I thinking.

    @Allie wrote: I have … no idea what the hell you think you mean.

    MY RESPONSE: Clearly. Or what YOU mean, either, it would seem.

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Chris B

    Thanks heaps Lymis. I certainly am hanging in there!

  • @Liutgard wrote: I’m a member of a medieval reenactment group … an award order, for prowess in the arts, that is of equal rank to the Knights. In that photo I was wearing my formal regalia because I was speaking in front of about 300 people, in a ceremony … [e]ssentially I am dressed as I would be were I in a formal audience with Charlemagne.

    MY RESPONSE: Yes, I assumed it was something like that.

    @Liutgard wrote: The name Liutgard is Frankish, probably Austrasian, and I share the name with two Queens and a saint. I figure I am in good company.

    MY RESPONSE: Indeed. I was thinking, because you spell it with the “i” before the “u”, that it was the 9th century Liutgard of Saxony, wife and queen of Louis the Younger… hence my posit that the Lutheran references might have offended you… you know… what with Saxony being — albeit 5 centuries later — Luther’s old stomping grounds and all.

    @Liutgard wrote: I am not Lutheran, though I know quite a few, in and out of the medieval group- I’m Episcopalian.

    MY RESPONSE: Yes… well… I see that, now. Hopefully, what I just wrote about Saxony, etc., helps to explain why I thought there might be a Lutheranesque offense on your part. As a, first, LCA Lutheran (the original liberal ones; heck, we even allowed gay clergy as far back as the sixties) before the ’87 merger which created the ELCA, and then an ELCA Lutheran (plagued by conservative ALC Lutherans in our midst) thereafter, I certainly had a Lutheranesque offense.

    And I barely self-identify as Lutheran anymore, anyway. Instead, now, I’m more of a Roman-extrinsic, intentionally-lower-case-“c” catholic Christian… more along the lines of what Luther had originally hoped he could reform the Roman Catholic Church into becoming. I’m sort of a progressive, ecumenical, missionary, liturgical evangelical catholic who thinks Luther — cranky old nutjob that he could be — was theologically right about the means of grace, but doesn’t like what the pietists ultimately did to his church. I’m a Lutheran Roman Catholic, I suppose one could say, though of the type more in league with Max Lackmann’s, “We want to say yes to tradition but no to traditionalism, yes to the office of the Pope but no to papism, yes to the right of the church but no to legalism, yes to the praised mother of the Lord but no to Marianism, yes to the spiritual center of Rome but no to centralism and Romanism.”

    But now I digress. Sorry.

    @Liutgard wrote: If you have questions about the medieval st[u]ff I do, feel free to drop me a line at LCM at jeffnet dot org

    MY RESPONSE: That’s exactly what I have questions about. When I think of reenactors, I think Civil War, not medieval prowess in arts award orders — especially ones whose members wear such fancy, dancy, jingly, dangly things — and so now I want to understand what it’s about. I’m just curious that way about stuff. Sometimes I get so distracted…


    …that I can barely get anything done in life. So, yes, watch for my email.

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Holy cow, Greg. React much? (And Allie: if you say stuff like, “I have no idea what the hell you think you mean,” you’re going to get … well, this kind of reaction.)

    I mean, come on, you guys. You’re talking about … well, medieval boners.

  • Who would EVER tell anyone NOT to … collect quotes from them? I’m pretty much uniformly in favor of anyone collecting quotes of stuff I write–while at the same time naturally feeling great pity for anyone I imagine rifling through my mountains of content looking for Actual Wisdom Nuggets. Yet, I know that I would make that very effort myself, were I not, alas, burdened with the very slightest modicum of shame.

  • Nah. Good thought! But this is no troll.

  • Luther wasn’t entirely serious with his discussion of marriage in this portion, and neither was I when describing it as “polyamory.” But I have always found it fascinating that Luther was able, even somewhat tongue-in-cheek, to conceive of scenarios where a multiple-person relationship wouldn’t be at all sinful. This is a guy who was in other regards utterly Medieval in his thinking on most other situations. It was reading this piece by him that changed my mind a lot on the whole “one man-one woman is the only way” line.

    Marriage is something we socially construct for different reasons. Back in Luther’s day, it was primarily to produce heirs, and yes, impotency was a grounds for divorce. But only men could approve a divorce, so a woman who wanted one she was SOL. And since, as he notes later in the chapter, the Bible says nothing against bigamy except for bishops, why not let her be with a second man as well?

    I definitely don’t think this is the solution nowadays, not with impotency drugs and not with a radically difference construction of marriage. But I think the idea that there are situations where multiple-person relationships are perfectly morally acceptable still applies.

  • n.

    is there such a word as polyfidelity, or did i imagine it?

    i think it would be if the 3 or 4 people are faithful to each other within that arrangement.

    if i imagined it, sorry. especially because it sounds like insurance.

  • n.

    but i thought they only got rid of their own plural marriages in order for Utah to join the US. or is that another “fabulous fact” (the kind where the person saying it *thought* it was true)

  • n.

    oh crap, i read your comment wrong. sorry.

  • Lymis

    Whether the dictionary would admit to it or not, it’s a word I’ve seen used, and it expresses the concept pretty admirably.

  • Anonymous Dude

    I’m stating a reality. To me, his relationship with his spouse isn’t coming off as egalitarian. Add the context of his stated profession to all this, and there’s a pretty complete picture. He’s in no place to push or negotiate this with her, if that is the case. And, quite frankly, if he made a promise to forsake all others for her, it doesn’t matter how egalitarian the relationship. One should keep the promise. Especially when the motivation is really just to find a new place to stick his wang (I’m with John on that).

    My wife and I strive for an egalitarian relationship. We have a daughter, and, should she mature to like dudes, we want her to have the same in whatever relationship she chooses to have. Stating a reality doesn’t equal support for or enforcement of said reality. It just is. How many women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies? Does saying, “497 are men and it’s tough to break into that world if you are a woman.” mean I’m reinforcing the stereotype?

    I didn’t troll. I offered an honest and heartfelt personal response. Why troll me by opening up with a statement worded in such an affrontive manner?

  • Lymis

    “There’s a real … addled feel here. And I can’t of course know the cause of that.”

    Perhaps a shortage of blood to the brain for some as yet unexplained reason?

  • 90%+ of all men’s problems can be solved with: “Don’t let little head think for big head.”

  • Diane U.

    What he said.

  • Kristie

    Interestingly, many of the polyamorous people I’ve known have been women.

  • Diane U.

    Because the three parents have set the example that makes it appear that more than two lovers can make a healthy relationship.

  • Jill

    Well then, look the other way whilst I dig through the archives of Precious Forgotten Gems and Overlooked Hilarity.

    I promise to be gentle. You won’t even know I’ve been.

  • Jill

    And I can’t forget the podcasts!

  • I promise: after … 20 of them you’ll give up. I would–and it’s ME. But I’d be grateful for those twenty! Thank you!

  • Elizabeth

    Don, you’re the best.

  • Elizabeth

    Props for “medieval boners.” Jill is keeping track of your quotes now, right? xo

  • Elizabeth

    7 Reasons alone = plethora of Actual Wisdom Nuggets.

  • Jill

    On the list. Already up to six. I’ve only just begun.

  • John, John, John… they’re hardly talking about medieval boners. Renaissance, or the more common term, ‘Early Modern’, yes. But Luther is a bit late to be called medieval.

    (It’s my bag. I’m a medievalist, with an official degree and everything.)

  • Elizabeth

    I agape love you and (unfortunately, probably) I know a little Greek.

  • I have no idea how you’ll now sleep at night, knowing someone else has taken over the monumental task of trying to make me sound Yoda-like. But I guess that’ll just now be your burden.

  • Tonks

    Oddly enough, when I was considering poly myself, I had three different friends tell me about family members/friends who have poly families, (at least three loving adults in a relationship). I think the longest standing one was 40+ years, and all three had been existing since these people were children, so minimum of 20ish years. Thats better than many marriages manage now days, so I don’t think they can be discounted out of hand. Is it easy? Oh hell no. Is it for everyone? Again, hell no. But for people who aren’t afraid to communicate, communicate, communicate, and to work to look past what our culture says is “normal”, it can be done, and it can be solid, and children can thrive knowing that they have loving parents, even if they don’t come in the typical package.

  • Liutgard, Liutgard, Liutgard … I do know my history. But you know what they say about history: It already happened. (Did you get, Jill? Good one, right?)

  • Depending on what you mean by successful, there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of successful polyamorous relationships. I probably know close to 500 myself. There are plenty of 20, 30, and 40 year long poly relationships.

    (If you want to define successful poly relationships, start by defining what a successful monogamous relationship would be.)

    Because polyamory comes in many forms, it can be hard to give a simple definition of “successful”.

    Jealousy is not a character trait, any more than racism is; the mainstream society carefully trains this into people from an early age. For some of us, that training never took. Others learn to overcome that training. Polyfolk have a word, “compersion”, that refers to the *joy* of seeing your lover with another lover, and it is something that I experience often. So while jealousy is a major issue for some people, it is a minor one for others, and entirely absent for yet others. If you want a good starting point to learn about polyamory, go to

  • I can’t stand it when people use polyamory as an excuse for cheating as well. But that doesn’t discredit the hundreds of thousands of polyfolk who do engage in “honest, responsible non-monogamy” with the full awareness of all concerned.

  • “The great tragedy of science: a beautiful theory murdered by an ugly fact.” Theories like Bowen’s are nice, but I know *many* stable three-person (or more) relationships. And the funny thing is, for raising kids, it is a *lot * easier on the adults, and the kids like it better because they get more attention and have parents who aren’t as stressed out.

    It is only in recent history that a family was defined as two adults plus children–and this arrangement has *not* been a resounding success. Throughout recorded history, families were an extended reality, with multiple generations living together and raising children as a team, tribe, or village.

    Some researchers are finding that polyamory is, among other things, a way of creating extended family. The multiple sexual relationships create strong bonds that build a strong extended network that helps all the participants to deal with the unavoidable life stresses.

  • It is interesting that people assume that because it is so hard for two people to work out a relationship, that it must be much harder for three. It could be more accurate to say that it is much more difficult for *only* two people to work out a relationship, because when there is a loss of communication, they have no other intimate resources to reconnect. When two of the people in a relationship are having challenges, a third intimate partner can often provide unique insights, stabilizing energy, and on-the-spot mediation. I’ve seen it work this way many times.

  • There’s no biblical loophole to look for. Monogamy did not become associated with Christianity until three centuries after Jesus’ death. The only suggestion of monogamy in the entire bible was Paul’s admonition to bishops to have only one wife– just because their ecclesiastical responsibilities would keep them too busy to take care of two!

  • Well, apparently the software here doesn’t do carats. I said ‘BEEEEEG grin!’

  • Lymis

    “Just because some people would prefer to eat ice cream, then pie, then cake, after every meal doesn’t mean ANY people should do that.”

    But your metaphor seems to include the assumption that all love and relationship is essentially a gooey treat that isn’t important in someone’s life, and that love and marriage can validly be treated as “dessert.”

    That may be a metaphor that works for you. But I can easily see someone else saying something more along the lines of “Just because some people would only like to eat chicken for every single meal, it doesn’t mean that it’s nutritionally unsound or unhealthy for someone else to want to include some variety in their diet.

    I doubt that anyone would try to make an honest claim that they think someone should expect their spouse to be the only person they ever interact with, and should be their only friend, only confidante, and only source of conversation, companionship, or even love – people are more complicated than that.

    I doubt you would say that someone who has a circle of close friends and a wide circle of fun acquaintances is like someone who only wants to eat eat ice cream, then pie, then cake, after every meal” – because those relationships aren’t just about frivolous pleasure.

    Some people have chosen to include a sexual and romantic component in more than one relationship. Yes, some people do it for selfish or frivolous or manipulative reasons, but it’s not fair to dismiss all of them, because it’s simply not true in every case.

    If your choice works for you, that’s wonderful. If you find someone who asks for advice when you can honestly say you think it’s a bad idea for them or their motives are questionable (and I’d suspect the letter writer is one of them), them by all means, say so.

    But dismissing other people’s strongly held beliefs and their intimate relationships out of hand with comparisons to the dessert tray seems wrong to me. You certainly don’t have to champion polyamory, but that doesn’t have to extend to condemning it out of hand for the people who choose it, any more than you have to condemn someone else’s religious tradition just because yours works for you.

    If you believe the Bible, God founded the nation of Israel out of the families of people in multiple-person marriages. Whatever else that means, it’s hardly a rousing condemnation of the concept.

  • nailed it.

  • Lymis

    Of course it models that more than two lovers can make a healthy relationship, assuming that they have one, just as having two parents models that two lovers can make a healthy relationship – and we know how often that breaks down in practice, too.

    But if two parents who have a loving sexual relationship doesn’t usually cause siblings to think about having sex with one of their siblings, I fail to see why three parents doing so would automatically lead to orgies within the household.

    It might make growing up to be in a multi-person relationship of their own seem like more of an option to the kids, but I don’t see why it should be more likely to have them misbehave with each other. And, there are more adults in the household watching out for such things, which would be that much more of a counter to it. I hope you’re not assuming that just because someone is polyamorous, they’d have no issues with their children committing incest.

  • Lymis

    Amen to that last point.

  • How is that you know 500 polyamorous relationships? Do you … own that website, maybe?

  • Paul didn’t give that instruction to deacons– he gave it to bishops, who had extensive ecclesiastical responsibilities.

  • Hi, John–

    I do happen to own that website (which is clearly disclosed on the homepage). but it came about as a *result* of knowing and counseling so many polyamorous people. I’ve been actively polyamorous for nearly 50 years, I’ve helped start several poly support groups, I organize personal growth workshops that explore relationship options and dynamics among many other topics, and I have been one of the more active people on internet poly discussion lists since the early 1990’s. I started the website so I wouldn’t have to keep writing the same basic reference information over and over; the website is specifically aimed at folks who are new to polyamory. The website, which is entirely non-commercial, includes some of my thinking on the issue, but mostly is a collection of the best resources on various aspects of polyamory that I have been able to find.

  • Jill

    This is gonna be fun.

  • Oh, wow. Cool. I mean, that’s what I figured. Cuz how else could anyone possibly know 500 such couples? I’m not sure I’ve known 500 people my whole LIFE. So. Good deal. Thank you.

  • You’re right, Michael. I was going from memory, when I should have looked it up.

  • Diane U.

    Yeah, there’s always a third wheel.

  • Diane U.

    There’s also a disadvantage to the one guy in the trio with two women, the arrangement of which is kept in the closet: he can’t brag about it to anybody.

  • melanie

    [comment deleted]

  • charles

    I think the point that John was interested in was that any of these relationship arrangements do require the agreement of all the parties- the original point was that his partner didnt agree with the idea of a broader relationship- In the end, he needs to make the choice of honoring that original commitment or walking away from it- there are consequences of both paths and we need understand that all of lifes choices are like that.

  • Scott Amundsen

    Unless I misunderstood the marriage vows (and I have been married twice so I doubt it), there’s something in there about “forsaking all others.” Meaning that the marriage is the primary relationship in the life of both parties. As soon as the couple is pronounced married, each partner becomes next of kin to the other and the first one notified in event of emergencies, etc.

    While the exact wording does tend to vary depending on one’s traditions and whether the couple chooses a religious or civil ceremony, the exclusivity of the marital relationship, if not stated outright, is at the very least strongly implied. And again, that holds true whether the couple marries in a church, a synagogue, a banquet hall, or the office of the City Clerk.

    “My insight is that you should (children: avert your eyes) stop fondling your dick through your pants pocket. You’ve got a wife. Put your attention there. I think you’re really just looking for a way to have an affair. Stop doing that.”

    I do not think John was being a bully here because looking for an excuse to cheat is EXACTLY what this guy was up to (assuming as has been said that the letter was genuine in the first place). “My wife sees no positives in this situation” should have ended the conversation right there.

    I am trying very hard (though it may not look it) not to be judgmental here, but honestly, I have to ask: if you want the freedom to have as much sex as you want with as many partners as you want why in GOD’S name get married in the first place?

  • Marriage vows do not always include “forsaking all others”. Mine didn’t, for one, and I know lots of other people who also forsook forsaking. There are lots of reasons for getting married other than recording your deed of exclusive ownership of the other person. In my case, since we had decided to have kids, we thought it was the most practical method available for dealing with the myriad issues that come up when raising children.

    Your point that his wife’s reluctance should have pretty much ended that line of investigation, however, is legitimate. He has an existing relationship and commitments related to that. He either needs to bring that to a conclusion, or live with her choices and perspective until and unless they change.

  • Scott Amundsen

    As I said, even without the exact wording, the exclusivity of the marital relationship is strongly implied even if it is not stated outright.

  • LN

    Yes, and that’s why we had to wear culottes instead of pants. Ever try skiing in those things? When the wind blows, everyone can see your “Christian witness.”

  • LN

    Yeah, and if John gave him the go-ahead, can you see him approaching his wife saying, “But Honey, John Shore says it’s ok!”

  • LN

    Dear Wife of Letter Writer:

    Ditch this guy. Take the Other Woman and run.

  • Hannah Grace

    John, did you delete the part of the comment where I said that your response to the guy had been unnecessarily harsh? Am I not allowed to think that or say it?

  • Hannah Grace

    Great point!

  • Sara

    But that’s socially constructed. It doesn’t have to be that way. Exclusivity is intrinsic to marriage by social expectation (sort of – many people historically have gone into marriage acknowledging the likelihood that husbands would stray) but couples can choose to jettison it.

    If Mrs. Letter Writer is concerned only about losing her Christian witness, that’s a legit concern, but not necessarily the same as saying she hates the idea and he needs to drop it. Their marriage is exclusive until and unless she votes to open it up. But it’s entirely possible to be accepting or desirous of polyamory but still uncomfortable with the social consequences.

  • Joe Henderson

    John, I’ve long looked at your blogs as very useful in knowing how to look at homosexuality as a Christian. It has made me more loving and understanding toward my many gay friends and family members. When I opened this blog entry, I was expecting to find your usual clear, biblical discussion of a minority sexuality. Instead, I saw you berating a man who came to you with a serious, if misguided question. You judged him and mocked him. Not up to your usual standards, in my opinion. If you felt he was being disingenuous, there were better ways to say so. Perhaps you’d care to write on polyamory sometime without trashing someone in the process.

  • Elizabeth

    You could check the comments. Or try me on polyamory. Your search terms are Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon.

  • bert

    Yes but the wife’s reluctance was for the stupidest reasons; basically, what would the neighbors think?

    Assuming that the man (and this is a stretch) has any type of grasp on how his wife feels, she is connected to this other woman in a close way as well. That does not mean that she is physically attracted to her but it certainly does not mean that she is not.

    Having said that, we do not know for sure if the wife would engage in including this other woman in their marriage if it were not for what she sees as the prying eyes of the church or the neighbors. Hell, for that matter, we do not even know if the wife is really straight. In today’s Christian culture, it is not hard to assume that at least some of the members of the church are actually gay but trying very hard (including marrying members of the opposite sex) to ‘appear righteous’ to other humans (‘saved’ or otherwise)

    And maybe the people who are assuming that the letter writer just wants to get his dick wet with some strange are right. BUT maybe he does actually truly love this other person AND he truly loves his wife.

    Polyamory must be possible. I refuse to believe that EVERY instance of a man having more than one wife in the bible is JUST a case of men allowed to be horny (although, sex and physical affection are a natural part of the presence of love so I would hope that they were attracted to their wives).

    In the end, it is easy for anyone who wants to see to acknowledge that our morality ebbs and flows with society and what society thinks is acceptable. Then we must go back and ignore the verses, chapters and books that no longer fit our current ‘agreed upon’ morality (or blame them on ‘cultural’ relevance) while we find other verses that support our current morality. The irony is that we think this ‘God’ of ours ebbs and flows with us.

  • bert

    The wife shut it down based on what she thought others would think (according to the words in the letter), not necessarily what she wanted. You may be right, but you may be wrong. So, it may not be so obvious.

    Besides that, the wife may be in love with the other woman and still chose not to pursue a physical relationship regardless of the view (or rather her perceived view of the view) of others. There are far more factors to consider in relationships that go way beyond what we want or ‘love’.

  • bert

    I agree with Mikey.

    All these people quick to jump on the ‘cheat’ label are pretty narrow minded. They may be right but I do not think that there is enough in the letter to make a decision either way.

    Maybe this man has a capacity to love that is beyond the grasp of some of us here.

  • Me

    Is telling somebody to stop fondling their dick a normal Christian response?

  • Elizabeth

    Yep. And then ignoring it while he does it anyway. Now women fondling themselves is problematic.

  • Depends on the question, I would think.

  • Michael Rios

    Is this supposed to be ironic? Why is anyone fondling themselves a problem? At least it is sure to be consensual!

  • Elizabeth

    The devil made me do it.

  • Michael Rios

    Ah! That explains why it showed up on a Christian website…

  • Jill H

    A little more than your share of Sin City, perhaps? 😉

  • Anakin McFly

    But those people were polygamous, not in polyamorous relationships.

  • Elizabeth

    Marriage was more of an ownership contract. That doesn’t negate love. Jacob’s devotion to Rachel and Leah is one of the all-time great love stories. Polyamory just wasn’t a concept. Polygamy is as close as we can get.

  • glareproof

    This is the result of what making the move from the ‘scary Lutherans” (Missouri Synod) as John Shore calls them, to the “good Lutherans” (ECLA).

    The man let go of biblical teaching on sexuality when he made the switch and now is finding a way by twist scripture to give him permission to indulge his sexual desires towards the family friend. When you crack open the door to saying certain sexual practices prohibited by scripture are in fact ok (homosexual acts) that just encourages people to find a way to justify whatever lust driven desires pops into their minds, using some biblical slight of hand to pave the way and give them the ok

  • Matt

    If you’re going to be like that, do it right. The phrase is “sleight of hand.”

  • Michael Rios

    I’m always fascinated by people who think they know what the “biblical teaching on sexuality” is. I wonder if glareproof knows that monogamy is not prescribed anywhere in the bible, except that Paul wanted bishops to be monogamous, so they would have time for their ecclesiastical duties. And all those passages about “fornication”? The term referred to having sex with the Pagan temple prostitutes, to make the crops grow. That’s why nearly every reference to fornication is just before or just after “idolatry”– fornication referred to a form of Pagan worship.

    For the record, monogamy did not become a teaching of the Christian church until hundreds of years after Jesus’ death. Polygamy was entirely acceptable according to the Jewish law during Jesus’ time on Earth, and there is nothing in the Bible against it. For that matter, God ordered Abraham to take a second wife, and Solomon, who had 300 wives, was considered favored by God.

    Monogamy was established as the only legal form of marriage first by some of the emperors, and the Church followed along shortly thereafter.

  • Ginni

    Is it technically forsaking if you don’t ever quit loving the one. forsaking is defined as “To give up (something formerly held dear)” If you never stopped holding them dear you just started holding someone else dear as well. I am not currently in polyamory but I have been doing research on this situation. Sure some people could use polyamory as an excuse to get their rocks off somewhere other than your marriage. It isn’t always that simple. It is possible to love more then one person at a time. It not something someone wakes up and says oh I think I will screw someone other then my husband/wife today.

  • Servant of God

    In reply to Michael Rios,

    God did NOT order Abraham to take a second wife. Abraham and his wife Sarah

    were old in age and they both wanted a child. God had already promised that

    he Abraham would be a father of many nations. Being childlessness in that culture was very difficult especially for women. Sarah being impatient actually

    told Abraham to take her handmaid to have a child. She was essentially trying to

    help God out. Big mistake! Hagar, the handmaid did have a child with Abraham

    and Sarah regretted it. Sarah and Abraham eventually did receive the child of promise and a few years later as the Lord promised them. Sarah told Abraham to get rid of Hagar and that child of hers some time later. Abraham was hurt

    because he had grown to love the son of the handmaid but God told him to do as

    his wife said as in get rid of them. God in His graciousness blessed Abraham and

    Sarah DESPITE their unbelief in God’s promise to them. God even told

    Abraham that He bless Ishmael the handmaid’s son because of His love for

    Abraham. Read Genesis 15 forward. God NEVER said get another wife EVER to anyone in the bible. Just because polygamy was described does not mean it was

    acceptable. If anything if you really read the bible instead of looking for bits and

    taking it out of context to suit your sinful desires, polygamy was horrible and it’s

    hard to say who it was worse for the women or the guy having multiple women

    bickering. That was never God’s ideal.

    As for Solomon, God did not favor him when he had 300 wives. God favored him

    in the beginning. Deuteronomy 17:17, “He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away”. If you were to actually read Kings, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes you would see how he failed miserably. Was all that vagina

    worth it? It wasn’t to him and it is a wonder if he ever really repented or is

    spending eternity separated from God.

    If you are going to quote from the bible please make sure to have READ the bible and quote within the context of the situation of how things occurred. I know someone who quotes from the bible to legitimize her prostitution business. Wow!

    If God is not willing to take away your free will then who am I to take it away from you. That said, don’t misquote the bible or twist scripture to feel good about your pet sin. God is kind, loving and longsuffering not wanting ANYONE of us to perish. He can and will forgive those who call onto His Son Jesus’ name

    and guide us into a life so abundant that in our wildest dreams we could not have chosen ourselves.

  • Elizabeth

    Alternative reading: Hagar began to resent Sarah when she found out she was pregnant, and Isaac resented Ishmael. That’s what led to her dismissal. Then there’s Lot offering his daughters to be raped by strangers, in lieu of angels, before sleeping with them himself.

    Geez. Families. They weren’t simple then, and they aren’t simple now. The best Biblical case for ancient polyamory is Jacob working seven years to marry Leah. When her father tricks him into marrying Rachel instead, he works ANOTHER seven years to have them both.

    So. Unless you’re the father of Israel, don’t accuse anyone else of misquoting the Bible. Polyamory’s no worse a sin than pride. It goeth before the fall.


  • Yikes. Obnoxious much?

  • Graytigeress

    Hi, I am a bi-sexual female. Me and my husband are considering becoming open in our relationship. We are considering a real triangle, not an angle and not a polygamous marriage where one women is less than the other. I believe polyamory is only possible if there is full consent of all parties. Your comments are hurtful, and with the tone that we are being horny and inconsiderate of each other in our desire to share our sexuality with others. Maybe you should do real research on a topic before making an opinion.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Graytigeress. Awesome pseudonym, btw. I’m the dominatrix around here. So much so, I get email notifications when someone comments on “Christian Polyamory?” I believe you’re missing the point. It’s not that polyamory is, in and of itself, wrong. Hey: it worked for Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Technically, that was polygamy and women were more like possessions, but close enough.

    In this post, John is responding to a specific question from a specific letter-writer. Once he says, “My wife sees no positives in this situation,” and then credits his ‘restraint’ to “respect to fellow believers,” that’s it. That’s not a real triangle. That’s not openness. That’s not consent.

    Best of luck to you. Look up Lymis’s comments on polyamory, too. He knows his stuff. Personally, I’ve never seen it work out. Someone is always ‘the main wife.’ That doesn’t mean it never can.

    Real research and opinion: granted.

  • Graytigeress

    Thank you. I love that you replied and addressed my comment, I will look around more on his blog.

  • Jack

    Pretty silly for you to question this guy’s opinion on polyamory when one of your most popular blogs is talking about how you lost your virginity to your high school teacher, you silly ‘Christian’.

  • Tracie Holladay

    I agree with you, Michael. And I can only hope that someday, we will look back on our belittlement of polyamory with the same dismay that we now engage when we look back on our belittlement of gay people and the love they share.

  • Tracie Holladay

    You are correct. Either it’s heterosexual married monogamy until death do we part, with no premarital sex ever, for absolutely every human being – OR people start recognizing that successful loving adult relationships can take many forms.

    It’s either one size fits all, or not.

  • Tracie Holladay

    Not even close. More like “hypocrite sighting.”

  • Tracie Holladay

    Yes, this is why the word “polyfidelity” is often used. You have a limited number of partners that you are faithful to.

  • Actually it’s your overly restrictive view of Sexual Morality that is
    twisting Scripture by interpreting many very specific commands far
    broader then they were intended.

  • Katherine Ross

    So…I am bisexual and polyamorous. Is this incompatible with Christian spirituality? Please, no games. Just yes or no. I cry every day and feel like I have no place at God’s table because of this. I hate myself and just…feel like I am falling apart. I am married with a girlfriend and she has her own husband. Our husbands have no problem with this but my husband is not Christian. What is the deal??

  • Matt

    There is nothing at all wrong with Christians being in a polyamorous relationship, so long as people are not being hurt.