Book Review: Polyamory in the 21st Century

  Have you ever deliberated before clicking the "It's Complicated" relationship status on your Facebook profile? A twinge of guilt masked with exhilaration swirls through that impending keyboard click. Depending upon your reasons for hesitation, you might unconsciously subscribe to a polyamorous lovestyle.


What is Polyamory? Author Deborah Anapol defines polyamory as “having an intimate relationship with more than one person at a time” in her book, Polyamory in the 21st Century. As opposed to swinging, which is consensual exchange of partners for recreational sex, polyamory seeks to cultivate multiple relationships beyond that of erotic escapades. For those with extraordinary emotional capacity to nurture numerous relationships simultaneously (or serially), Anapol presents polyamory as an admirable option to traditional monogamy.


Controversial as this subject may be, polyamory does not define itself as a grassroots replication of the adamant 60s era free love promiscuity. Polite company eschews talk of religion, politics, and sex – especially the misperceptions surrounding polyamorous living. News media has erroneously portrayed this lifestyle as a deviant sexual preference attacking the foundation of the nuclear family. Polyamorists would defend their consensual choice by all parties involved to live and love freely.


Anapol, a clinical psychologist and decades-long polyamorist, guides the apprehensive poly* and monogamous reader through an eleven-chapter topical exploration of modern polyamory. In Chapter One, she defines polyamory for the sexually sheltered and mildly curious. Chapter Two discloses the types of people who choose polyamory and why. This is a deciding chapter for the reader whether to continue exploration or drop the probing altogether. Chapter Three is an in-depth history of polyamory, exploring polygamy and polyandry across various cultures. Chapter Four delineates the ethical system necessary to maintaining happiness and nurturing openness amidst sundry lovers. Do you wonder if you are polyamorous by nature (or choice)? Read Chapter Five for her psychologist’s description of the Polyamorous Personality. Jealousy - - the audacious opponent for poly living - - is addressed in Chapter Six. I personally would have liked to more practical application for managing jealousy than Anapol provides. If you are seeking to have children, read Chapter Seven about the various tactics of poly child rearing in a monogamous culture. Coming-out about your lovestyle has the entire Chapter Eight dedicated to it, surprisingly enough. Chapters Nine and Ten involve the reader in an examination of cross-cultural perspectives and through human evolution’s relationship practices. The last chapter explains the costs and benefits of polyamory. This chapter would have fared better near the beginning of the book, so the reader could weigh the options before delving into historicity, myth, and cultural adaptations.


After reading this book, I frantically sprinted back to the safety of my blissful monogamy. Instead of defaulting into socially accepted monogamy, I now purposefully chose to limit my potential life partners to one man. My emotional circuitry would go into overload with the managing of multiple relationships and corresponding drama. Keeping it simple is my motto. For the poly lover, I wish for you the more the merrier.