Q & A with Designer Relationships authors Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson

Mark Michaels Patricia JohnsonMark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson are a devoted married couple of 16 years who are active in the pleasure-positive community. Their new book, Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory and Optimistic Open Relationships is a cutting-edge, accessible, and comprehensive guide to the emerging landscape of relationship options––from asexual to single by choice to polyfidelity to swinging. If you want to challenge the belief that there’s a single ideal relationship style and instead want to craft your relationships in a way that works, read on!

Who do you want to read this book?

Anyone who is interested in creating fulfilling, dynamic, and authentic relationships, those who are seeking to reinvent or recharge an existing relationship, and those who are disillusioned with the cultural hetero-mono-mandate. It’s written as a very accessible introduction to the spectrum of options that exist, while emphasizing to some of the relationship skills we think are important. People who choose to be in monogamous relationships have something to learn from poly people, so open-minded monogamists should find something valuable in it; we also hope that people who have more experience with poly will find something new and different in our perspective. 

Why would the Poly Weekly audience want to read your book?

Poly folks are avid readers, and we hope that we’ve added some new perspectives to the existing body of literature. We’re long-term nonmonogamous couple, together for nearly 17 years, so the perspective is informed by our lived experience as well as by years of exposure to poly thinking. But the book also relies on very recent research, some of which is likely to be new to listeners. The material on relationship skills, which is informed by our background in Tantra, should be of value to many. Some of our perspectives on communication might seem novel to some in the community. We like to say that “while communication is important, talking is overrated.” 

Designer Relationships monogamy polyamory openWhat did you learn from writing this book?

We were pleasantly surprised to discover that the culture is shifting more rapidly than we could have imagined. At the same time, this shift is creating certain kinds of backlash and defensiveness that are surprising. The AlterNet piece attracted the attention of some from the man-o-sphere who suggested that acceptance of polyamory will lead to all the alpha males getting all of the women. That way of thinking was entirely alien to us. It’s still hard to fathom, but it’s important to know it’s out there. 

Having to write a book that was limited to 40,000 words was a departure, especially after Partners in Passion which was so encyclopedic at 450 pages. It was a great discipline because it forced us to be specific, concrete, and distill our message. It’s only 150 pages, including endnotes, so as Ken Haslam said, it’s a book that can be read on a plane. While it’s short, it’s deep.

How do you describe your relationship and why?

We were inspired by Ken Haslam’s concepts of “swolly” (straddling the border between swinger and poly) and the concept of designing one’s own relationship rather than accepting a one-size-fits-all label. Currently, we’ve landed on calling ourselves “pair-bonded and non-exclusive.” We are expecting that this will continue to change over the duration of our partnership. We have been involved with polyamory since the late 1990s, and also have explored swinging. Like Ken Haslam, we feel affinities for both.

Time Magazine recently ran a cover story asking “Is Monogamy Over?” How would you have answered that question?

Monogamy isn’t over; it’s evolving to become one option among many, and people are becoming more actively engaged in choosing what works for them. We expect that the majority will still prefer to be in pair-bonded relationships, whether they are monogamous or not. At the same time, the stigma attached to other forms of relatedness will likely continue to subside. There is still a very, very long way to go because the culture remains deeply mononormative. We don’t think American courts will recognize plural marriage or expand legal protections for poly families any time soon, and unfortunately, it seems likely that things like zoning laws will continue to be used against multiple partner households. That’s probably going to be a very long-term struggle. On the bright side, the proliferation of options and the growing acceptance of alternative approaches will ultimately benefit those who opt for monogamy too, since their monogamy will be chosen instead of being a default, as it is for so many people today.

Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson, co-authors of Designer Relationships, are a devoted married couple. They have been creative collaborators since 1999, and their critically acclaimed titles have garnered numerous awards. Michaels and Johnson are the authors of Partners in PassionGreat Sex Made Simple, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment, and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality. They are also the creators of the meditation CD set Ananda Nidra: Blissful Sleepwww.MichaelsandJohnson.com

PW 420: Self-identity with poly and disabilities

Hannah Pittman offers insights on self-identity on poly and disabilities fixedlolcat

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1:00 Host chat and announcements

5:00 Poly in the News

7:00 Topic: A new voice on poly and disabilities

New poly and disabilities activist Hannah Pittman shares her thoughts on the convergence and mutual benefits of being a person with disabilities and of being polyamorous. We can learn from self-identity and support models for both.

30:00 Happy Poly Moment R shares a beautiful happy poly moment of meeting and opening up to another couple and being involved with their wedding planning

32:30 Thank you! Thanks to Erin for the donation and to David for joining the Friends With Benefits level of the Poly Weekly Playmates!

33:30 Wrap Up Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Poly mythbusters!

mythbuster lolcatThe top five poly myths you wanted to see busted!

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Introduction Under 18? Stop listening now and visit http://www.scarleteen.com

  • 1:00 Announcements and Host Chat

    5:30  Topic: Poly mythbusters

    • The original article that inspired this episode
    • My original list:
      • It’s all about the love
      • Only men want it
      • No one ever gets jealous
      • It’s more evolved than monogamy
      • But when I put it to you, the listeners, you voted in these top five myths:
    1. Poly = fear of commitment (aka “you’re just afraid to settle down” or “when you meet the Right One you’ll change”)
    2. 10:16 Poly = orgies (also general promiscuity and sex)
    3. Poly is bad and confusing for the children
    4. 16:04 Poly = cheating
    5. Poly doesn’t work or doesn’t last

    22:20 Feedback

    • Derek wrote in to share how he and his sweetie avoided a relationship land mind
    • Michael invites anyone interested in HSV and HPV groups on Facebook to send him a friend requests

    24:50 Thanks

    Welcom Savanni to the PW Playmates and to Doug for his $69 donation!

    25:30 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Lust & Marriage: a new play in Seattle

by Ron Richardson

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 8.03.20 PM“How many actors does it take to change a light bulb? Two. One to change the bulb and another to say, ‘I could have done it better.'”

It’s an old joke and one you’ve likely heard. But, in the off chance you haven’t, I thought I’d share it for context and to help you understand that when this actor says a show it good, it’s good. And that is just the case for Lust & Marriage, A solo show about monogamy, polyamory, and finding your soul (mates) by Eleanor O’Brien and running at Theatre Off Jackson through June 14th.

O’Brien tells the story of her developing sexuality starting with herself as a young child experimenting with sensations all the way through her as an experienced woman visiting Burning Man and finding a life partner among the one night stands. It just turns out that said life partner isn’t “wired for monogamy,” and so O’Brien’s development continues. She uses hypothetical letters written to, and answers from, Seattle’s own Dan Savage to frame the events of her sexual life and to serve both as her guiding light and mentor that she grows beyond as she finds herself among the dust, orgasms, and jealousy of her sexual/life journey.

The stories do involve adult situations and the very rare F-bomb is dropped but it is all done through the filter of honest exploration and character and is never bothersome to anyone who can talk about birth control without being embarrassed. And O’Brien manages to switch characters with skill and grace. Her vocal work impressively identifies exactly who is talking at any given moment. She takes on the persona of various boyfriends and lovers and the audience is never confused and always right there with her.

eleanorTechnically she uses music as a bridge between scenes, an effort that was slightly undermined by the overly high volume levels, in some cases. Aware of the issue as she performed O’Brien managed to project over the sound when she needed to but the effort was noticeable to folk with stage experience, even if I’d think most audience members didn’t mark those moments.

As the subtitle says O’Brien discussed non-monogamy with the knowledge of someone who has lived it and the humor of someone who hasn’t take it so seriously as to learn nothing while doing so. Poly folk in the audience will find any number of humorous lines just for them and wince at the common stories of mistakes most all of us have made. As O’Brien discovers, supports, and undermines her own limitations we are all taken along for the journey and it’s a very enjoyable ride.

Well written, well acted, and well meaning Lust & Marriage is a fine way to spend an evening with a very fine actress who’s willing to share the wisdom her life journey has given her. Get yourself down to Theatre Off Jackson and take advantage of it while you can. Monogamous, poly, or something in between there is something for everyone in this night of thoughtful, fun, sexy, theatre.

Ron Richardson is an actor, writer and director based in Seattle, Washington. His new web series pilot is Norm Owensen, Medieval Mercenary, tales of a modern-day SCA fighter who’s down on his luck.

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