Coming Out Poly + A Change of Life Venue

Two big items of news in my personal life. Which both entail a very public change to my relationship status.

After twenty years of marriage Jen and I have decided to get a divorce. Breakups are always painful, but we still love each other and remain friends, and there are few contentions between us. We wish each other all happiness. But we are no longer a good fit for each other.

Everyone always asks why, and the answer is important to my life development, so I want to relate at least the core of it, and a caveat.

Several years ago, after about seventeen years of marriage, I had a few brief affairs, because I found myself unequipped to handle certain unusual circumstances in our marriage, which I won’t discuss here because they intrude on my wife’s privacy. In the process of that I also came to realize I can’t do monogamy and be happy. Since this was going to come to light eventually, about two years ago I confessed all of this to Jen and told her I still love her but I would certainly understand if she wanted a divorce. Despite all the ways we work together and were happy together, this one piece didn’t fit anymore.

Had I known several years ago that polyamory was an actual option that works for people, I might have realized this sooner, and dealt with it better. But I labored instead to meet the cultural expectation that you are supposed to make monogamy work, and it wasn’t working. Discovering that other ways of life are possible helped me understand I shouldn’t be doing this.

Rather than divorce right away, Jen offered to try an alternative for a while to see if that would work for us. So we agreed on some rules and have had an open marriage for almost two years now, and it’s helped us work through a lot of things, and has helped us both in very different ways. But one of those things is the mutual understanding that we aren’t compatible with each other. So we have decided to amicably divorce–using a facilitator rather than lawyers, since we’re in agreement about all the material things, and have no interest in hurting each other.

The part about being open hasn’t been entirely a secret these last years (quite a few people were informed or aware, just not the general public), but Jen hadn’t come out to her family, so out of respect for her privacy I hadn’t blogged about it or discussed it publicly. But she has informed everyone close to her now, and we are no longer together. So I can make it official:

I am polyamorous.

I have, and will continue to have, multiple girlfriends who are likewise poly or aware of my being so, and that will be the way of my life from now on. And I am going to strive from here on out to live that way as ethically and honestly as I should, working to grow and improve as a human being.

I am a very public person, and I’m comfortable talking publicly about my private life and my experiences, thoughts, and feelings. So you may see more on that from me here, on the subject of my polyamory, and my successes and failures and lessons learned from it. But Jen has always been and remains a very private person. Out of continuing respect for her privacy, I will not speak publicly about her sex life or private life. Questions about me I’ll answer. But anything that touches too closely on her private affairs, those details are off limits.

That may also hold true, in varying degrees, for my other lovers. Unless they give me permission otherwise. However, I here give a general permission to all my lovers, past, present, and future, to allow you to talk about our relationship as much or as publicly as you want, for good or ill. As long as you aren’t saying anything false, of course. But other than that rule of common decency, you do not have to keep my role in your life secret for my sake. Just please respect the privacy of any others involved (whether Jen or anyone) who have not given you that permission to talk about them. But about me you can speak freely.

The ability to be more transparent, public, and open about my sexual orientation is a major part of what I’ve needed in my life. That, and to have to keep fewer of other people’s secrets–though I will remain bound by many, but that’s their business anyway, and not the public’s; I am choosing to be out and open about my life–and this is a matter of my own personal comfort level and consent.

-:-

Comments on this entry (satisfying my comments policy) will be cleared and post within three days of submission. I am still working to find time to clear past queues (a backlog of nearly 300 comments on dozens of past entries), but for this entry I will make time.

81 comments

  1. Oliver Eldridge February 18, 2015, 8:13 pm

    By saying you’re polyamorous, do you mean to imply that you feel as though you are able to be in love with multiple people at once or are you referring to polyamorous in the strictly sexual sense?

    Reply
    1. Both.

      I definitely can be in love with multiple people, and they with multiple people as well (and I already see that as happening in my life, with full delight). I also enjoy the sexual freedom to explore relationships of many different levels. Although I only sleep with people I would be happy to explore as friends or ongoing lovers, i.e. I don’t like a “hit it and quit it” lifestyle. I like personal relationships. Of all kinds.

      Reply
  2. MyNameIs February 19, 2015, 7:12 am

    No offense, Richard, but your defense of cheating in implicitly monogamous relationships in a previous post (it was in the comments section on the subject of certain accusations against someone, I believe) appears to be a bit self-serving under this new information! Obviously it doesn’t change the argument’s strength, though I personally disagreed with it at the time too, and it’s pretty ballsy of you to be so open about your own missteps (if you’ll allow me the term).

    I’m glad to hear you had such an amicable divorce and good luck in the long term with this change overall.

    But one of those things is the mutual understanding that we aren’t compatible with each other

    May I ask (with the understanding that this might go unanswered for various reasons you mentioned in the OP) what you found out re: your incompatibility that you weren’t able to in the previous years? You hear this sort of thing from various couples that end up divorcing after years of (seemingly) pretty decent relationships and it’s always a bit scary. Were there issues that the sort of inertia that sets in didn’t allow you to explore before?

    Reply
    1. (1) On what I’ve said in the past: I wouldn’t base a generalization on just my own experience. I would qualify if I were. And I outright said I wasn’t.

      In reality, because people have had a strange tendency to open up to me or let me see things they wouldn’t for most other folk, over the last ten years I have been able to know a lot of people who cheat (men and women) and how and why and with whom. So my views of cheating were (and are) based on a broad exposure to the unexpected diversity of reasons and complexity of circumstances people actually find themselves in, none of which tracked the cultural narrative we are all told. That experience in fact was part of what led me to cheat myself. I became the same statistic. And even in hindsight I’m not entirely sure what the option is. What people say the options are, won’t play out in practice like they think they will–whatever you do, it presents nearly the same dilemmas, and the consequences end up being substantially identical, which poses a conundrum for anyone who is a consequentialist in ethics. I’m still working this out. And I hope to blog about it in future. It’s far more complicated than I ever imagined.

      I want to think there is a better option. Surely there must be. But I have yet to honestly verify one. Beyond simply advising that no one even start a monogamous relationship, so as to avoid this problem to begin with (advice rarely of much use); just as you would advise someone never to promise to give up their love of eating meat just to be with someone either, knowing full well how that’s going to actually turn out. Cheating at that promise is, in objective reality, not relevantly different. Yet culturally we treat it entirely differently. Which may be a clue to the real problem. I’m not sure. Possibly I’m missing something. I might put out a general call for people to make their best cases for there being a difference, to see if any hold up; and for their alternatives, asking them to simultaneously imagine (honestly) what will really happen if those alternatives are taken. Most people haven’t actually thought this through–much less struggled with it for years. They just repeat what, culturally, they think is supposed to be true. And that’s not helpful.

      So what I said before remains the case: I have a great deal more sympathy for people who cheat on their spouses than our culture would expect me to, and not merely because I’ve been there, but the more so because I’ve been intimately familiar with many other people who have as well. I am starting to think expecting monogamy is the actual problem, just as expecting people to be straight has been.

      (2) On incompatibities: That’s one of those questions that treads too much into Jen’s privacy to answer specifically, beyond the generic “I wanted my life to go in directions she didn’t.” I can cryptically say “there [were] issues that the sort of inertia that sets in didn’t allow us to explore before” fits (that’s well stated), if one takes that in a very broad sense.

      But also, people change. They discover and learn things about themselves, are shaped by their experiences and studies and relationships. It actually doesn’t make a lot of sense to expect a monogamous relationship to last, given that it assumes the contra-factual that people never change. If we never changed, we would never be learning, never growing or improving as a person. Which is not a commendable goal. And as both members of a couple change, as unavoidably they will, and even if each changes for the better, statistically, just on a basic bell curve reasoning (and thus simply as a matter of mathematical necessity), half are still going to change divergently rather than convergently, so we could predict on that basis alone that half of all monogamies will become non-viable. Which oddly matches observation.

      We might want to learn something from that.

      Reply
    2. EnlightenmentLiberal February 20, 2015, 1:59 am

      I think there is some confusion to what it means to “cheat” in a relationship.

      When one agrees to form a monogamous relationship, and then later unilaterally declares that the agreement is broken – this is not cheating. Later activities with other people do not constitute cheating, because the former partner has been made aware that the agreement has been broken. (Perhaps other moral ills have been committed in this scenario depending upon particulars, such as earlier lying about being serious about commitment. However, this is not cheating.)

      When one agrees to form a monogamous relationship, and then later engages in sexual activity with another person, this is cheating. Ideally, one should have declared a termination to the monogamous relationship before engaging in sexual activity with another person. However, I think this is not the major source of moral wrong which most people identify with the word “cheating”.

      When one agrees to form a monogamous relationship, and then later cheats, and then continues on for a long period of time hiding this cheating from the “monogamous” partner – that is IMHO the actual huge moral wrong. It is not the cheating itself which is the huge moral wrong. Rather, the huge moral wrong is the lying that happens after the cheating (including merely withholding knowledge of it). At least, IMHO.

      I wouldn’t be angry with a “monogamous” partner who cheated on me, but told me. I would be sad, distraught, upset. However, if a “monogamous” partner cheated on me, and lied about it (including merely withholding knowledge of it), then I would be especially mad. If the partner cheated but immediately confessed, it is not good, but I might still have some degree of trust and respect left for the partner. However, if the partner also lies about it for an extended period of time (a day, a week, something) (including merely withholding knowledge of it), then all trust is lost.

      Reply
      1. I disagree that “cheating” is a “huge” moral wrong (that seems to make light of the vast quantity of far greater evils in the world–including those involving sexual relationships).

        But whether and when it is wrong (and how wrong) depends on the calculus of actual consequences. Declaring you want out (even assuming somehow you can magically come to realize that’s the problem without any actual experience to work from or any failure to contemplate) causes just as much injury in reality as cheating (you mistakenly think it wouldn’t; which tells me you’ve never actually been there, because you are wrong about that). Yet that does its harm with 100% certainty, whereas cheating has a lower risk, because it is not a definite outcome. That might be uncomfortable for people to realize, that there are circumstances in which cheating is actually the lesser of two evils and the nicer thing to do, but alas, it may actually be the case. Magical self-knowledge doesn’t exist. Whereas complex circumstances do. It would be nice to know of a better option to recommend, but I have too much experience with other people’s infidelity as well as my own to be that naive anymore. I have yet to find it; I certainly couldn’t find it at the time. Torpedoing an otherwise excellent marriage because of something you are unsure about because your relationship dynamic doesn’t allow you to experiment: not it. We generally don’t know why we are unhappy, when we’ve been told not to consider what the actual reasons are.

        And yes, that complexity can create moral failure. Sometimes the best one can hope to do is be as conscientious about it as your circumstances allow and contemplate the alternatives along the way. Even if you figure out there were better options after the fact, then the best you can hope to do is apologize and rectify. That’s pretty much how everyone has to live their life.

        But over-hyping a harm is not useful. It just perpetuates the very cultural assumptions causing the problem in the first place.

        This is more obvious when we compare surreptitious promise breaking in any context other than safe sex–or significant financial fraud, or creating enormous risks of physical harm, and other things that are actually “huge moral wrongs.”

        Why we think safe sex is somehow worse (or as bad as those other actually bad things) appears to have more to do with our attitudes about sex than with objective reality. And we really ought to confront that. Because our culture will not be fixed if we don’t.

        Reply
  3. Thank you for sharing this. We need more people who are not “conventionally” monogamous to share their experiences, in the hopes of moving society toward being more accepting of many different lifestyles.

    Reply
  4. Now that you’ve come out as polyamorous, which is pretty brave since so many people will not understand or even believe you when you can say you can love multiple people at the same time, and will revert to judging you for “cheating”, I would encourage you to explore all those tastes that society, culture, your youth in your time may have repressed in you.

    You only live once, and now that you are letting your freak flag fly, you may as well sample the oysters and the snails, not to mention that I think within 20 years we will all realize how bigoted and sexist the socially constructed strict heterosexual or even bisexual preference is.

    Reply
  5. Hi Richard,

    I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time, though I have known little of your personal life. I tend not to be very interested in those kinds of details. I’m sorry to hear that your connection to your wife was unsustainable as I’m sure that relationship was edifying in many ways. I too have been through marriage and divorce, and this has to do with my sexuality as well. I consider myself gay (queer is fine with me too) and would say I’m a 4.5 to a 5.0 on the Kinsey scale. Some few women I find sexually appealing, but I am uninterested in women as relationship partners. As it happens, sexual play with women is also exceedingly rare for me. So gay is something I am quite comfortable with as a label.

    I say all of this so that you know where I’m coming from when I ask you why it is you call the desire for a polyamorous relationship style a “sexual orientation”? That term doesn’t seem to fit in my mind. You’re straight, that’s your sexual orientation, but you also recognize that you are better suited to a more open approach to love and sex. That’s just fine, but in my mind those are different things. Is that not how you see things?

    Reply
    1. I used words to describe how it feels from a first person perspective.

      Like most words it depends on what one means, since no words have the same meaning across all contexts. In some uses, this is an orientation (Tweedy, Reisenwitz).

      Whereas I find those who insist it can’t be, don’t correctly describe it, and therefore aren’t reasoning soundly, e.g. WFenza says “polyamory is not sexual” (false: nonsexual polyamory is just called friendship, and thus describes all human beings, apart from literal misanthropes), “polyamory is not a physical desire or a feeling” (false: it very much is, which is why people like me feel inexplicably dissatisfied and unfulfilled and wrong when conforming to the alternative, and so much better and more like our authentic selves when not), and “describing polyamory as a sexual orientation suggests a false equivalence between [polyamorists and the GLBT community], and seems like an attempt to coopt the sympathy that the GLBT community has built up” (which is a fallacy of appeal to consequences–it’s the same argument anti-trans feminists use to attack trans-inclusive feminism–and it’s not how words work: that anti-Semitism is different than anti-Muslim bigotry, and has a very different history, does not mean both aren’t forms of racism or that both groups aren’t being subject to the same general phenomenon of racialized bigotry–those differences do not make that a false equivalence, and one cannot honestly try to deny Muslim claims of being the targets of racism by asserting that such claims are co-opting “real” racism–that anti-Muslim bigots don’t know Islam is not a race is even irrelevant to that conclusion, because they still conceptualize it racially, and target their victims racially; and analogously, to try the same tactic to deny that polyamory is not an orientation sounds almost as silly as that–yes, they aren’t the same; but no, that doesn’t mean they don’t fall under that same umbrella).

      There are specific legal and scientific contexts in which the term “orientation” has a much narrower meaning. And that’s fine. Although there are advocates who think that maybe that shouldn’t be the case.

      Ultimately, it feels like an orientation: you can feel unhappy when denying it, you discover it about yourself, and you feel more relieved and authentic when you can live it.

      So perhaps one way to conceptualize it is as a second axis of orientation (open or closed–and there is indeed a continuum of variants in between). In the same way asexuality (vs. perhaps hypersexuality?) belongs somewhere as another axis of orientation.

      Reply
  6. Interesting choice of the reference to “sexual orientation” as opposed to “lifestyle preference” or some other term that doesn’t bring up gender attractions. As a polyamorous woman, I’ve struggled with the term to explain my identity.

    Reply
  7. Congrats on coming out and finding a way to live happily as yourself. Ive been out for several years now. It isn’t always easy, but I’d rather live as myself than live a lie. A good friend once said, ” The more secrets you have, the more they can hurt you with them.” Eve Rickert- @Atlanta Book signing event before Atlanta Poly Weekend 2014.

    On Coming out and Being out, “You don’t have to wave a banner to carry it.” Melissa Holder. Meaning we can each do little things in our daily life that are simple to us, but a huge statement about polyamory.

    Best wishes and I hope you continue to stay happy.

    Billy Holder
    Co-FOunder Atlanta Poly Weekend
    Vice President Relationship Equality Foundation

    Reply
  8. Steve Watson February 19, 2015, 1:14 pm

    I was thinking the long silence presaged a big disruption. Glad to hear it wasn’t catastrophic; and all the best to and for the both of you.

    I wouldn’t ask you to write a book but if you did so it would be a useful contribution. You bring a rare clarity, charity and balance of thought to most topics you address. Where do a great many of our cultural expectations come from anyway? A reflex of Christian delusion. Remind us who one of our principal go-to guys for that might be. That strange tendency that people have for opening up to you? That’s that clarity, charity and balance I referred to earlier.

    Chin, chin.

    Reply
  9. theonandonlymike February 19, 2015, 1:38 pm

    I’ve been cheated on and lied to by a person I structured my life around. In addition to the betrayal that person’s efforts to pretend they were not cheating eventually cost me 100s of thousands of dollars, my career, and a decade+ I could have spent any number of better ways. I thought this article summed up the experience pretty well http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/opinion/sunday/great-betrayals.html

    I’m glad you’ve discovered something about yourself and moved on, but as that is generally easier for the person who cheated, I hope your ex-wife is as happy about the situation as you are.

    I would hope that anyone else thinking of cheating instead sucks it up and honestly communicates with their partner first.

    Reply
    1. What you are describing is wildly fucked up.

      I hope you don’t think that’s what cheating or divorce normally results in. It’s certainly not.

      I don’t think how easy it is has anything to do with who cheated, but with how capable each is of being financially independent, and whether they are nice and honest people in every substantive respect. In my case, Jen is capable of earning far better than I (and right now chooses to earn only about twice what I do so she can go to school as well), has a sterling credit rating, no kids, no debt (other than a super low interest mortgage whose monthly is half what rent would be in the same area), and I didn’t do anything to fuck her over, nor vice versa, but we saw to it that we’d both land safely.

      Your situation and mine were evidently miles apart.

      Reply
  10. Diana MacPherson February 19, 2015, 2:59 pm

    Hi Richard, I’m glad you have found out that you don’t suit monogamy and that there is an option for you. One question I have is people often marry, whether they are conscious of it or not, for economic reasons. In fact, our benefits are set up for that, asking us who our spouse is.

    Do you see poly as an option only for those that accept that they may be without or those who are very privileged?

    Reply
    1. Not really. Except in the sense that defying cultural norms is more difficult for the underprivileged, but that’s true for everything, not just this. For example, being an atheist, or a minority religion, or gay, or trans, or even a Dr. Who fan (that’s not even a joke), can be really difficult for some people in underprivileged positions. So that’s not a poly thing. That’s a universal social justice thing.

      That aside…

      Lots of people cohabit without marrying, so there is nothing weird about that anymore. And indeed poly relationships could actually benefit the poor (e.g. three single parents under one roof sharing income and responsibilities is better than two). You can also be married and poly (some of my girlfriends are; and I was the last two years). So the economics thing isn’t that much of an issue. If anything, once you can get past cultural and social opposition, polyamory can be better–it can be more financially stable, or ensure the economic independence of all involved, even make it easier for individuals to achieve it.

      So, economics a problem, no. Culture, yes.

      Reply
    1. I can’t make general recommendations for people. What I can say is that there is an intense enculturation that greatly distorts what people are capable of imagining and doing, and we should be aware of that. I am certain far more people would be better off poly than now realize it. But that does not mean everyone would be.

      Masculinity, for example, is a cultural construct that can be quite toxic, yet extremely difficult to escape if that’s how you were raised, worse if it remains the environment pressuring you to conform. Our views and assumptions about monogamy are similarly culturally constructed, and can be similarly bad. After all, they were evolved for treating women as property and controlling men’s access to wombs; we’ve only struggled the last century or so to try and redefine it, but that has been re-purposing a backwards institution, an end that might be better than what it was created for, but still not the best thing for everyone.

      But there is what works best for you given what culture has done to you, and there is what would work best for you if you can escape what culture has done to you, and those might be the same thing in the end, or they might be different, even radically so. This is the case for most everything (including even atheism vs. the simple comforts of belief).

      Only you can do the work to figure out for yourself which is so for you.

      But two things I can convey:

      Monogamy is way oversold in our culture, so any given person is at great risk of having self-defeating views of it that they are sure are good but really aren’t (but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone, only that it’s bad for more people than realize or admit it); and I would highly recommend one seriously work on themselves as they need in order to try the alternative first.

      Because once you are in a monogamous relationship, there is no good way out. But once you are in a polyamorous relationship, it’s super easy to switch to monogamy if you decide that’s best for you. So as a matter of basic utility function, it makes sense for everyone to try poly first and only do monogamy later (if by then they even want to). And we should promote a culture that is accepting and encouraging of that.

      Secondly, all the things it takes to be comfortable as a polyamorous person are actually of considerable value to your self development entirely apart from that and thus are valuable pursuits in and of themselves, which actually everyone should work on anyway, monogamous or not. For example, if you are a jealous person. Why? Odds are jealousy isn’t really a thing in itself, but just the nexus of envy, selfishness, and insecurity. Once you recognize that, and that becoming a less envious, less selfish, and less insecure person is a considerable self-improvement of value to every department of your life, you’ll see why those ends are worth pursuing for themselves. It just so happens that that end result will also make you far more comfortable in polyamory as well, and possibly far happier (since you can realize forms of happiness in it that aren’t available to monogamous couples, e.g. enjoying someone you love’s enjoyment of someone else they love).

      But as with atheism, this comes with the caveats of geography: some places won’t let you be happy living as an atheist, and similarly some places won’t be happy ones to try being poly. So you can either move, acquiesce, or fight the power. No matter what it is (atheism, feminism, anti-racism, liberalism, democracy, homosexuality, bisexuality, polyamory) those options have never changed in ten thousand years.

      Reply
  11. Gabriel Atheos February 19, 2015, 9:13 pm

    Your blog has gotten me talking with someone else. And we were both wondering, now that your marriage is not your primary relationship, what archetype of polyamorous relationship do you find that you gravitate toward? My friend is wondering how to avoid comparing your relationship to one person to another of their relationships and feeling like their is inequality between them.

    Reply
    1. In don’t quite follow your question.

      I’m open to a variety of possible future arrangements. So I don’t really have a gravitational center on that. What happens will more be a function of what can fit with my life elsewise (e.g. I travel a lot, and work a lot) than with what I’d choose if I were, say, a trust fund billionaire.

      Reply
  12. Justadude February 19, 2015, 11:48 pm

    Freethoughtblogs seems to have become a place for sexual deviants and those who like to rant about oppression and privilege as well as any moral imposition that is not an instance of thin morality.

    I liked you better when you posted on infidels.org, Richard.

    When I hear you talk about not being “happy” within your marriage, that you need to sleep with more people, all I hear is the voice of a middle-aged man who is a slave to his passions, one who rationalizes his moral failures to be circumstances out of his control, and hence not really a failure at all.

    Best of luck in your crisis

    Reply
    1. Funny how weirdos who say sexist reactionary Christianized 19th century stuff like this won’t even admit who they are or use a real email account.

      The rest of us are putting our names to it, and moving into the 21st century. We are abandoning the last vestiges of the damage Christianity did to our society. It’s time to stop clinging to the dysfunctional things Christianity saddled our culture with, and to negotiate and reason out what to replace them with.

      Old fashioned sexist bullshit like yours is just one more example of what we need to put in the bin of the history of bad ideas.

      Reply
  13. Alexia Gabor February 20, 2015, 3:42 pm

    Richard Carrier:
    ” Had I known several years ago that polyamory was an actual option that works for people, I might have realized this sooner, and dealt with it better.”

    Like the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20″

    ” But I labored instead to meet the cultural expectation that you are supposed to make monogamy work, and it wasn’t working. Discovering that other ways of life are possible helped me understand I shouldn’t be doing this.”

    I’m assuming that when you got married you exchanged vows/pledge/promise to be faithful to one another. This was/is not a “cultural expectation” it’s a personal agreement between two consenting individuals.

    This statement comes across to me as being self-serving and an attempt at not fully taking responsibility for your actions.

    Reply
    1. You sound like a Catholic. “Even if he beats you, you promised…”

      That’s not how the world works. We back out of contracts all the time. The terms of those contracts even provide for that. That’s why divorce exists as a thing.

      And why we may need to back out of them is quite the point here. We assume we are not only supposed to do and promise certain things, but that that’s achievable and the best thing for everyone. And therein lies the flaw in the system. Because those assumptions, though enforced on us by our culture (a fact of where they come from and why we believe them that we don’t realize at the time), are false. When you come to realize that, you have some hard choices to make. None work out as well as people like you must be thinking. So you try to figure out which one is least bad. And sometimes the answer to that question is also not what people like you think.

      That’s the pernicious thing about cultural assumptions. Those who don’t know they are repeating them are the people we identify as self-righteous, because they assume they can’t be wrong, but haven’t actually thought it through, nor have sufficient experience with what actually happens. The result is comments like yours.

      Reply
  14. johngreg February 21, 2015, 10:32 am

    This is fun.

    FTB/SJW person says: I can’t do monogamy and be happy, so I am going to have multiple girlfriends.

    FTB/SJW people response: Yay! Way-to-go brave omnisexual! Stand up for social justice and the freedom to be free! No more oppression from the patriarchy!

    Non-FTB/SJW person says: I can’t do monogamy and be happy, so I am going to have multiple girlfriends.

    FTB/SJW people response: Boo! Not the way-to-go cowardly serial womanizer! CHUD and killer of social justice; muli-oppressor freedom killer! Patriarchy oppresses us all yet again!

    Wheeee!

    Reply
    1. johngreg February 23, 2015, 9:28 am

      HAHAHA!

      Doc, your hypocrisy (and mendacity) is nothing short of monumental, spellbinding, and pathological. To wit: _https://theyetisroar.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/dr-richard-carrier-phd-a-creepy-dishonest-hypocrite/

      Reply
      1. There is no evidence of hypocrisy in that article. Or of what you claimed here before.

        You just seem to be annoyed by things you don’t like or understand.

        Like that I can make a living and support myself on so little money, and doing so by seeking patrons for sustaining my work as an independent scholar and writer.

        And you seem to be fond of making shit up. For example, contrary to your claims, I did indeed turn down sex parties when I said I did, and my wife did indeed open our marriage almost immediately after I wrote that (necessitating, for honesty, a bracketed update). And I did not kick my wife to the curb. She kicked me to the curb. And politely and with full respect for each other and with mutual recognition of it being the best for both of us. You don’t seem to be able to handle that for some reason. Likewise, I’ve repaid my wife’s financial support from past years. In fact an equitable financial separation was precisely what we both wanted and worked together, without lawyers, to produce. So we did.

        You are also a sexist. Because you fail to account for homemaking as a job and as part of the financial equity in a relationship. I took care of all domestic responsibilities at home for Jen for ten plus years, including cooking for her when she got home from work, laundry, dishes, trash, cleaning, litter, shopping, everything (she had no responsibilities at home in fact). She, not being a sexist like you, counts that.

        Another example of your sexism is when you ask why someone who is fine with “orgies and BDSM parties … would be all that concerned about women being made uncomfortable by sexual advances or behavior.” Evidently you don’t know what consent means. Being into BDSM or being promiscuous does not grant anyone license to harass you or make you uncomfortable or assume you are always down for sex. If you don’t know that, then you have a huge ethical failure in your character that you need to address.

        Although in accord with disturbing things you said like that, you are also a prude with weird hang ups about sex. You can’t handle any healthy talk about sex, sex work, gangbangs, swinging, the phenomena of porn. You declared all such discussion of sex to be creepy and bizarre. That makes you the one with a problem.

        You also suck at reading comprehension. In an article in which I clearly explained the fact that women who get awful harassment for appearing in erotic art while I (a man) do not is evidence of a disturbing sexism in our culture that must be fought against, you somehow read that as me “lamenting” not getting harassed for appearing in erotic art. Comprehension fail. Of the huge variety.

        Likewise, you say “if Carrier was condemning others like Michael Shermer for “skirt-chasing” at conferences…” evidently unaware that in every instance I have discussed this, I consistently defended that behavior, even explicitly of Shermer. And then made very clear that that is not what he has done that is unethical, and then I explained what he may have done that was (which you don’t seem to know). I have also stated this as general policy. For example, when I discussed what harassment policies should contain, I very publicly joined with Stiefel and others in condemning prohibitions on speakers having sex at events. I have never been inconsistent in this.

        Although that might not be a comprehension fail.

        The evidence is pretty clear in fact that you are a liar. For you used the same tactics as creationists do, by quote mining, and omitting the very next sentence of the quote. For example, you quote my description of Shermer’s general behavior as if I disapproved of it (and even wax on with speculations about why). Yet in the very post you quote, the very next sentences read:

        “If that were all there were to this story, I would not be troubled by it. Consensual sex, even cheating, is not anyone’s doom. What one does sexually does not (contrary to pop politico psychology) indicate a general dishonesty or unreliability in other matters, or entail you’re a bad person, or make you unlikable or untrustworthy. Or dangerous. Or disgusting. Or any negative stereotype attached to expressions of human sexuality, even the sneaky kind. (This has nothing to do with opposing sex.) What troubles me (and ought to trouble you) are the elements of victimization, exploitation, and insensitivity that are bubbling to the surface in some of the accounts of Shermer’s behavior.”

        There is no way you can not know these sentences immediately followed the ones you quoted. So your concealing them, and what they said, from your readers makes you a liar.

        So, good luck finding this hypocrisy you speak of. You haven’t presented any yet. Just made up facts, sexist thoughts and remarks, a disturbing discomfort with sex, a problem with independent artists making a living, and your own propensity to lie about what I’ve said.

        Reply
    2. johngreg February 24, 2015, 12:48 pm

      C’mon Doc. Show us you can stand up to your convictions, and post the link.

      You’ve got those ol’ polyamorous multiplex cojones, don’t you?

      🙂

      Reply
    3. P.S. I have also cross posted my detailed response comment on that blog you plugged, John Gregg. It now awaits moderation there. Let’s see where you stand on censorship and concealing the truth.

      Reply
  15. Dear Dr Carrier,

    You have both my condolences and congratulations. Louis CK teaches that divorce is always good news, and everyone knows that comedians are the wisest of us all 🙂

    I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a couple of days, trying to figure out what bothers me about it. I appreciate your candour, of course. And yet, I find myself disappointed.

    It was apparent to me that you being poly has nothing to do with my uneasy feelings. I’m pleased, in fact, that you’ve figured out what makes you happy, and I respect and laud your intended approach to your love life. I wish you well.

    That you had affairs, however, disappointed me. But everyone makes mistakes, right? You told your wife, and that is commendable. Although, your cited reason for confession (that it was going to come to light eventually) taints the morality of that decision somewhat. At least, you’re being honest and that’s something. Also, you were under no obligation to disclose the details of your private life to the public, but you did, and that’s again commendable and brave. This could likewise be a tactical decision, but I can appreciate that.

    In the end, I think what bothers me is that you’ve explained why you had the affairs, but you did not admit to fucking up and offered no apology. Considering that you are, among other things, a moral role model for the atheist community (and to me personally), should you not clarify that these affairs were mistakes that you regret and that you’re sorry for being a poor example? Without this clarification (obvious as it may be), can I not conclude that you believe that your reasons (for having the affairs) justify cheating on your wife? Your thoughts, please.

    Jaco, a fan of your work.

    Reply
    1. Those things are between my wife and myself. This post is just an announcement to the public. Not a letter to Jen.

      There isn’t any way to answer your question without violating her privacy, which I intend to respect.

      Reply
  16. We are delighted you have found a sexual identity that works for you rather than forcing yourself to conform to societal and cultural constructs such as marriage and monogamy. Also, we second Steve Watson’s suggestion about a book on this topic, or perhaps even a full blown lecture series. Our community needs the academic and intellectual heavyweights like yourself to step up and tackle topics like this from a secular and skeptical point of view.

    There is no reason to feel ashamed about being polyamorous but there are those who seek to impose a stigma on this way of being. For example there are some who would call a polyamorous man a womanizer or a creep, but that reveals more about those who level such insults than it does about their targets. A book or some other detailed treatment of this topic might help to raise some consciousnesses.

    Reply
  17. As Ricardo Montalban, the original most interesting man in the world, put it, “A great lover is someone who can satisfy one woman her entire lifetime and be satisfied with one woman his entire lifetime. It is not someone who goes from woman to woman; any dog can do that.’”

    Reply
    1. Because sex with women is like fucking a dog.

      Sometimes you won’t realize how sexist remarks like this are.

      But then maybe we shouldn’t be quoting a Catholic for life wisdom. Or opinions about women.

      Reply
    2. Jonah Glou February 27, 2015, 4:53 pm

      Richard, unless there’s some other reason to dislike Ricardo Montalban (I don’t know much about him), I think that was wildly unfair.

      First, he wasn’t comparing women to dogs. The men were acting like dogs in his analogy. If I understand your new poly perspective correctly, I think there would even be some common ground here, as I imagine you’d distinguish between someone who can love multiple partners vs. a man doing whatever it takes to have sex with as many women as possible without regard to anybody’s feelings. The latter is the dog-like behavior. Obviously you wouldn’t agree about the inherent value of staying with one woman, but there’s nothing particularly sexist about that distinction.

      Second, the blanket statement that “maybe we shouldn’t be quoting a Catholic for life wisdom” seems unnecessarily harsh. I’m sure many Catholics have said many wise, quotable things.

      (Again, I only know Ricardo Montalban from Star Trek, occasionally seeing Fantasy Island, and the “rich, Corinthian leather” commercials. If he’s know to be a horrible person who’s done awful things, then perhaps your criticism was shorthand for what everyone but me knows.)

      Reply
  18. Robert Garza February 24, 2015, 9:37 am

    Richard, it’s good you shared this. I’m guessing it feels good to be open and talk about it. I just wanted to point out the obvious and remind everyone that you didn’t have share any of this. It takes guts to open up knowing people are waiting to pounce and dump all over you. The only reason any of us is here in the first place is because we are all fans and know the importance of your work. You have a very new future ahead of yourself, it’s a really a whole new life. I wish it to be a very happy one.

    Reply
  19. mr fielder February 27, 2015, 12:02 pm

    I don’t think the polyamorous lifestyle is for most people. It’s exclusively limited to people without young kids at home or for people who do not desire a family. How would it work with kids? And come to think of it, isn’t that what many young people do anyway without having to label themselves “polyamorous”? But most people eventually do want to settle down; it’s usually a phase. And how does the polyamorous relationship address the deep sense of loneliness? You may find someone you really love but they have 4-5 partners who they like slightly more. When you’re dreaming about the future, plans, vacations, and retirement, who are you envisioning by your side? When you’re 72 and your bones are weak who will stand with you?

    Reply
    1. That’s all false. And weird to say.

      Lots of polyamorous people have kids and raise kids. Google polyamory and parenting.

      Indeed, it’s often easier to parent when poly: either you have more caregivers in the family, or you have better ways to get away from the pressures of parenting from time to time, or both. The challenges are the same (balancing having a life and not accumulating stress, with raising good kids and enjoying the experience of that).

      I don’t know how you get the non sequitur that poly people are lonelier than monogamous people. It has consistently appeared to be the reverse in my experience with numerous polyamorists of my own acquaintance and all that countless others have written about. We age and die together–more of us, means lower risk of dying alone, not higher. More of us, means more will stand by our side, not less.

      And retirement is just life without a job. Nothing changes. Except now you have more time for your partners rather than less.

      And vacations I go on with everyone: different vacations with different people, sometimes multiple people. Again, this is a substantial improvement in life, when now I don’t have to coordinate all things around one single person’s schedule, but can always find time in someone’s schedule, just as they then can in someone else’s.

      Monogamy actually rates worse on all these measures.

      Reply
  20. In islam, there is no minimum age for marriage; upto four wives are halal plus unlimited number of concubines (in She’ism, temporary marriage is also permitted) and Sunnes – not to be outdone now have ‘al-zawaj al-misyar’ = ‘marriage on the go.’

    what are the best objective sexual mores for human flourishing?

    Reply
    1. That’s like asking what are the best ethical norms for business.

      The answer entails an entire textbook. This isn’t something that can be answered in a comments section.

      So I’ll just respond to the two things you specifically mentioned: sound morals would give women the same rights as men (so if men can have four wives, women can have four husbands, and have the same freedom to choose who they will or will not be as the men have, and likewise concubines and temporary marriages; anything else is immoral, sexist, and contrary to basic human rights); and sound morals would respect the principle of informed consent in sexual relations (so minimum age is then a function of mental competency and freedom from coercive circumstances, e.g. when you agree to respect a child’s right to divorce their own parents, entirely of their own accord and pro se, then maybe you might have to respect their sexual autonomy as well, but beyond that, consent is not possible for the incompetent or coerced, and generally that means, of sufficient cognitive age and free of state or parental control).

      Reply
  21. börndi March 1, 2015, 8:27 am

    Hi Richard,

    thanks for sharing this info with us. It is quite impressive that divorce rates seem to depend on occupation.
    This was the outcome of a study done at Radford university. Scientists have an about 9% chance of getting divorced, military people have an even lower divorce rate. Entertainers have a three times higher chance of getting divorced, the highest chance have when I remeber that right dancers and choreographers. Celebrities and people of the puplic like you seem to have higher divorce rates that the average person. So it seems that you are perfect in line with the statistics.
    Thank you again for your post …

    Reply
    1. I can’t speak to the accuracy of any such data. Nor its relevance. I don’t think you know how statistics works. Or the need to control for confounding factors. Since over one in three of all marriages end in divorce, and I’ve only been divorced once, you could just as easily have said I’m perfectly average.

      Reply
  22. Asa March 1, 2015, 9:06 am

    Dr. Carrier,

    Would you mind sharing how you will be supporting yourself financially without being married to Jen? Before when you were married you did all of the domestic work and that made sense, but now that you are on your own and you make around $15k/year (I remember something like that from a previous post) my first thought was how you will be able to pay your bills and living expenses. Normally I would not ask this, but because of your comments about being a public person I thought it would be okay to ask.

    Reply
    1. The self-sustaining poor.

      “You’re amazed that they exist!” — “Common People,” Pulp

      Yes, there are people, millions of them, in the United States even, who pay monthly rents under $500, have almost no utility bills, and cook their own meals with bargain grocery staples. Imagine that.

      But besides being a frugal person who’s entirely self-sustaining expenses are less than $10k a year, and being smart with money, with my freedom (I’m no longer a homemaker) I also now can work more, and have begun to do so, taking more contracts and getting more speaking engagements. This has the cumulative result as well of increasing the general sales of my books. As a result I expect to do better than $15k this year (and that’s net, not gross). The surplus I invest in experiences rather than things.

      By the end of this year I might even be able to contribute to my paltry IRA.

      Reply
  23. Justadude March 1, 2015, 3:36 pm

    It is weird to hear richard accuse me of sexism. I didn’t say anything about the sexes. I merely criticized him for being a slave to his passions, so much, in fact, that he broke his vow to his wife, betrayed her trust and tarnished an admirable institution of society.

    The basis from which he is able to infer that I am Christian, or working under Christian reasoning, remains elusive. Perhaps he thinks that anyone who believes that he needs to keep his penis under control is likely a Christian–who knows?

    Reply
    1. I did not infer you were a Christian. I inferred you were clearly enslaved to a Christian-created attitude about sex and sexuality. That does not require being a Christian. It merely requires living in a Western culture without much self-reflection or a self-critical eye.

      Indeed, that a man “needs to keep his penis under control” (any more than a woman “needs to keep her vagina under control”) is an anti-sex attitude that is entirely a product of Judeo-Christian prudery. It has no objective validity or basis. It’s just anti-sexual bigotry.

      To declare polyamorists “sexual deviants,” likewise.

      And to denigrate human sexual desire, like you did, all the more so.

      Reply
  24. For a second there I thought you were going to announce that you are polysexual. Whatever the hell that would mean.

    Anyway, IMO many people are polyamorous. Not that they do anything about it, necessarily. But they occasionally wish to.

    I mean, what English king did not have a mistress? Okay maybe a few. Now, kings are in no way different to normal people. They just don’t have the Middle class morals to restrict them – for better or for worse.

    In any case, I am starting to wonder if Jesus actually forbade divorce outside of adultery. I don’t think that’s what he really meant.

    Oh and I love how you totally dismissed that person above who tried to guilt-trip you about your vows. Only someone who hated themselves would stick with a relationship that was not a happy one.

    All the best!

    Reply
  25. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden March 3, 2015, 11:39 pm

    @Richard:

    Sorry you’ve had to put up with some jerkwater behavior in this thread. I appreciate you speaking up about doing things in a way you consider wrong and regretting it, and showing that you’re willing to change – to come to new conclusions given new information.

    It’s impossible to show your work in this circumstance without disrespecting Jen, and I’m glad that you seem to be respecting her (since I don’t know you two, I have to take your word, but it’s been good in other areas, I’ve found, so I’ll take it absent some evidence to the contrary). I’m sorry, of course, for the difficulty for Jen and for you which must have occurred over the last several years. It’s wonderful that you two are going to remain friends. I find that is actually fairly common (though not de rigueur) in queer women’s communities, and it’s an aspect of those communities I truly like.

    It can be an aspect of poly communities, and in good poly communities, it really seems essential. That seems like evidence that Jen is learning from this situation as much as you are, and I’m glad of that. If life gives you lemons, at least you have the raw ingredients for lemonade, and all that.

    Finally, I just want to say that openly poly people are people who often are forced to be more honest than the average person. “White lies” that are tolerable and workable in relationships often don’t work at all in poly relationships. Poly can create an enforced honesty that ends up being healthy for folks. The best of us were that honest before, and just put the honesty to use in poly relationships, but for the rest of us, it’s a good exercise. I don’t worry at all about you being held up as a model for the atheist community.

    Best to Jen. Best to you. I’m always around and reading, even if I don’t check your blog every day. So I’ll be thinking about you – thinking well of you.

    CD.

    Reply
    1. Thank you.

      And I concur with your assessment of honesty and how monogamy often forces it to break down (through the cycle of white lies and buffering). Indeed being able to be more completely honest is one of the great attractions polyamory has for me.

      Reply
  26. johngreg March 5, 2015, 10:11 am

    Doc, you really are funny, you know. All you are saying is, “It’s OK when I do it”, and setting forth myriad reasons why it’s OK for you to be a philandering, womanzing, PUA on the so-called Atheist/Skeptic/Feminist conference circuit.

    Doc, Hypocrites-R-Us is thy name.

    Or is it CHUD?

    Reply
  27. Dan March 7, 2015, 8:16 am

    Richard, you have no doubt cashed in on the best years of your wife’s beauty. How convenient that you make this ‘discovery’ about yourself now that your ex is no longer so youthful.

    Just one request, can you please stop acting like a pioneer? This is the oldest and commonest story in the world. You became successful and your sexual market value has no doubt grown with wealth and fame. Your wife’s declined with age. I challenge you to find a leading Hollywood man whose trajectory does not match yours to a T. But those guys don’t have a need to rationalize and explain.

    Thou doth protest waay too much, methinks! What are the odds of you ‘discovering’ this truth about yourself when you are young, poor and not-famous, and with a youthful partner? The marital agreement is temporally imbalanced. Always has been. Front-loaded in favor of the man and back-loaded in favor of the woman. Its hard to make a good case when your ‘personal discovery’ happens to occur at precisely the time it happens to occur for men everywhere since time immemorial.

    Reply
    1. Thank you for your sexist views of women, and your sexist assumptions about male attractiveness which are rooted in sexist assumptions about women, your insults to my wife’s actually quite evident beauty, your assumptions about her sexuality, your bigoted denigration of living ethically non-monogamously, and your false claim that I said anything about being a pioneer.

      Reply
  28. DrVanNostrand March 8, 2015, 11:02 pm

    I felt no need to comment on this until johngreg’s verbal diarrhea. Any comparison between general promiscuity and sexual assault is beyond ridiculous. I appreciate the honesty of your post and the very civil and respectful way you are conducting your divorce. To paraphrase Dan Savage (not an endorsement of him, he’s right when he’s right, he’s wrong when he’s wrong), the success of a long-term, monogamous, relationship isn’t solely determined by the fact that both parties refrained from fucking other people until death. When people love and respect each other, they still sometimes fail to live up to their committments, or they can evolve and begin to grow apart. As far as I’m concerned, closeted poly people cheating isn’t too far from closeted gay people cheating. It’s not right, but I get it, and a certain amount of blame has to belong to the zealots that want shun anything other than M-F monogamy.

    Reply
  29. Richard, great post.

    I was surprised, though, because I always thought you were a homosexual. After all, you kind of look and talk like one but I know you can’t really tell from appearances.

    But seriously, how does a pasty faced guy like you get so many girls? lol, just kidding around.

    At least you had the guts to admit you lied to Jen. Of course if a man will lie to his wife, he would certainly lie to others. Like maybe his motives for being such an anti theist, etc.

    Anyway, glad to hear you have not reproduced and will not be. Its fortunate that you have removed yourself from the gene pool.

    All the best!

    Reply
    1. So…

      Homophobia. Check.

      Sexist attempt to denigrate my manhood. Check.

      Irrational black-and-white belief that either no one ever lies about anything ever, or they lie about everything whatever. Check.

      Egotistical assumption that our genes are important, rather than what we produce and help create in the world. Check.

      Disingenuously sarcastic well-wishing evincing no compassion or empathy. Check.

      Reply
  30. Annelle March 30, 2015, 12:04 am

    I am poly and even I can see that you think your cheating has in some way prepared you for a life of ethical non monogamy. Eg. When you talked about confessing to your wife, it was not because you realised that you were abusing her consent and basically behaving unethical, it was because it would “come to light” ie you would get caught. That isn’t something that indicates that you have the skills one needs to navigate polyamory in a non destructive and healthy manner.

    Reply
    1. Except for the fact of having learned from that experience how not to have to ever do that again.

      I do reject the premise that no one ever has reason not to tell their spouse about their affairs. But I also know full well that those situations are only created by monogamy. Once you are outside of that false paradigm, honesty is vastly easier and vastly less destructive. It is a great comfort to me that I shall never have to be in a situation again where I shall have to weigh the consequences of lying against someone else’s unhappiness.

      And that’s why polyamory is better than monogamy.

      Reply

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