The Polyamorists Next Door by Elisabeth Sheff
What I believe to be the first book of its kind, The Polyamorists Next Door looks at a growing relationship style, the benefits and risks associated with it, and what it means to a world at large.
Sheff starts with an explanation of what polyamory is at the very basic level, giving a snap shot of many of the forms it might take, explaining the communities that are created because of it, and what understanding and accepting this relationship could mean in terms of a more peaceful society at large. No where does she make the claim that everyone should be polyamorous (in fact, she is quite clear that it is NOT the choice for everyone – herself included), nor that it is a relationship structure without trouble. What she does do is explain it in plain terms, focusing on many of the people she has studied over the years to give vivid examples of starts, middles and endings of polyamorous relationships.
Taking it step further, which I was ecstatic to see, Sheff discusses the effects of parental polyamorous relationships on children. What does it mean to a young child to see Mom have two husbands, to see a family comprised of Mom, Dad, Othermother and Otherfather, to see some other mix of multiple adults in a family? What does it mean in terms of their mental and social growth? The short answer: benefits can be great; risks exist; plan accordingly.
In the end, Sheff concludes that relationship structures change over time, and in order to survive the changing course of relationships, taking the successes and skills that can be learned from polyamorists is a beneficial way to go. Learning to focus on” honesty, compassion, freedom, self-responsibility, forming an ethical framework to guide interactions and decision making. These foundational ideas provide stability for the children and adults. Unconventional and frequently shifting, reliant on ethics rather than conventional or religious morality, poly families provide members with significant stability while they flex to adapt to changing life circumstances. This flexibility and willingness to explore alternatives makes some poly families uniquely resilient.”