Q & A with A Life Less Monogamous author Cooper Beckett

life less monogamous coverCooper S. Beckett is the founder of Life on the Swingset &  host of its swinging & polyamory podcast. He speaks and teaches classes on pegging, swinging, polyamory, play parties, and non-monogamy. He is a graphic and web designer, photographer and voice over artist; has been a guest expert on Dan Savage’s Savage Lovecast and is the announcer of Tristan Taormino’s radio show Sex Out Loud. He has written two books, My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory and A Life Less Monogamous and is working on two more, The Big Book of Swinging, and Approaching The Swingularity.

Why did you decide to write A Life Less Monogamous

Procrastination. I was supposed to be writing The Big Book of Swinging, a how-to manual, and I came across the opening chapter of an unfinished novel about swinging, based on a screenplay I’d written before I started Life on the Swingset. I decided to give the NaNoWriMo method a try and see what came of it. A month later I had a pretty solid draft, containing what I think is some of my best writing on the subject of non-monogamy.

Whom do you want to read this book?

I think I have the makings of a book with enormous crossover appeal, outside our non-monogamy communities, into the world at large. Like 50 Shades, but well written and understanding the community it’s about.

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

I believe it contains many universal truths about relationships, jealousy, desire, and exploration, and doesn’t just go the sex route with swinging, instead it recognizes the very real bonds we create with our partners and playmates in this style.

What did you learn from writing this book?

Some mistakes are made by our newbie couple over the course of their journey, and in the original screenplay, I went hard in one direction as to “fault” but as I wrote this, I realized that the opposite was actually true, and I came to a much deeper understanding of culpability and the gray area that surrounds almost all conflict. Seems deep, I know, but it was a pretty wonderful bit of catharsis.

What’s next?

I’m prepping production on an audiobook version, though the My Life on the Swingset audiobook nearly killed me. As for next projects, though, I’m going to try and knock out a quick and short non-fiction book about sexy vacations, before returning to this novel’s characters for a semi sequel that takes place on a sexy vacation in Mexico.

About A Life Less Monogamous

We all come to a point in our lives where we finally ask the ever-looming question, “Is this all there is?” And most of us coast along afterwards, just accepting that the answer to that question is probably, “Yes, this is it.” Sometimes, though, we’re lucky. Sometimes we run into the right people at the right time.

Ryan and Jennifer are at that point in their marriage, asking that question. Luckily, tonight at a friend’s holiday party, they’re about to run into those very right people at exactly the right time. Bruce and Paige have successfully crossed the Rubicon into the realm of “what else there is.” They’ve discovered delights and a way of living that Ryan and Jennifer have only ever dreamed about.

Their secret? Bruce and Paige are swingers. And very soon now, thanks to a chance meeting and a new friendship, Ryan and Jennifer will close their eyes, clasp hands, and jump into the deep end of life, exploring the untold wonders of sexuality. Hedonistic pleasures that they can’t even fathom yet, threesomes and sex parties and a deep connection with friends and with each other. The swinging lifestyle.

Today is the day they proclaim: “There is more.” Today is the day they change their lives. 

To find out more and pre-order the book, visit http://alifelessmonogamous.com

PW 414: Meeting L!

lolcatpodcastA rare chance to hear L, LustyGuy’s wife and my metamour, speak on her brand of non-monogamy, jealousy and relationship longevity

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1:00 Announcements and Host Chat

2:35 Poly in the News

5:10 Topic: Meeting L

LustyGuy’s wife and my metamour L is persuaded to take the microphone to talk about her brand of non-monogamy, jealousy and her secrets for non-monogamous relationship longevity.

24:50 Feedback

  • Lillian calls in a caveat to the Discuss, Distract, Do model of dealing with jealousy in episode 398
  • Steve calls in an asterisk to handling freaking out

29:30 Happy Poly Moment

  • Sarah calls in to give advice on how to name two Sarahs that you are dating
  • KR gives an update on a crowded house living situation that is chaotic but still happy

32:45 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!

Everyone is doing poly wrong and needs to die in a fire

Why we all need to do a self-check for tolerance and acceptance

There is a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many of the poly communities I’ve visited, and it’s time I brought it into the light so we can all take a good, hard look at how we’re treating each other.

cat_weidLet’s start from the basic premise: those of us participating in online forums, posting opinions on blogs or Facebook and attending conferences with poly tracks are all either practicing or interested in practicing polyamory. Or non-monogamy. Or swinging. Or open marriage. Some of us are into BDSM; some of us are into science fiction; some of us are pagan. Some of us have unusual fetishes. Some of us are disabled. Some of us are white; some are African American; some are mixed race. Some of us are wildly creative and spend our lives making beautiful art, music or film and living in humble abodes. Some of us have well-paying, 9-to-5 jobs and enjoy a traditional-looking, middle- or upper-class lifestyle.

We all have opinions, some of them quite strong. And those opinions are not all the same.

But every one of us has something in common: an interest in polyamory. And because of that, we’re weird. We are not 100% mainstream. Even those of us who have traditional jobs, traditional homes and traditional hairstyles are alternative by virtue of the fact that we are interested in, are enjoying or are openly practicing some type of ethical non-monogamy.

So why are so many of us so vehement in our desire to demean, judge and exclude others?

You’re not really poly

It’s alarmingly common during any given poly discussion group or meeting for someone to come out with a definition of polyamory that condemns, criticizes or excludes some other type of practicing polyamorist. We hear, “you’re not really poly if you don’t all live together” or “you’re not really poly if you practice don’t ask/don’t tell” or “you’re not really poly if your husband isn’t also dating as many people as you are.”

To be fair, I understand why we do this. Since polyamory is an alternative relationship structure, most of us have worked very hard at defining what polyamory is for us. We try poly once and make a mess of it. We try again, and it works better, so we decide that what we did the first time was wrong. We try again, and it works better for us, so we decide that we need to advise everyone coming after us that the way we are doing it now is the right way to do polyamory, and every other way is wrong.

But please, I beg of you, let’s stop judging others so harshly, even after we’ve discovered a brand of polyamory that works for us. Before critiquing others based on your personal definitions of what poly is or isn’t, first perform a quick self-check: would you like it if someone told you you weren’t really poly? Would you want someone telling you that your marriage wasn’t real? Would you like for someone else to define what love or commitment means for you? So let’s not impose our definitions and experiences on others.

Everyone gets to choose her own label

Having the right to self-identify is empowering to the individual. It is neither appropriate nor helpful to try to take that right away from others. We let people choose their own labels for their gender identity and for their kink identity. We don’t argue if a man who has never had sex with another man chooses to identify himself as bisexual. We don’t argue if a person who appears female asks us to use the gendered pronoun “he” for address. We offer people the freedom of gender and relationship identity; let’s please extend that same courtesy to relationship orientation as well. whhha

As individuals, it is our job to find the right relationship structure that works for us. I often say that there are as many types of polyamory (and monogamy) as there are people involved in those relationships. Everyone practices monogamy a bit differently; no two relationships look exactly the same when you delve under the surface.

The same is true for polyamory, for non-monogamy, swinging and open relationships. While there are some commonalities to those definitions, every person or group defines his own polyamory in a slightly different way. We each find a brand of non-monogamy that works for us, and we customize it to our specific situation.

So let’s please stop spending our time looking at other people’s relationships and telling them that they aren’t “really” polyamorous. Let’s give people the courtesy of self-exploration and let’s empower each individual to self-label however she sees fit.

In the BDSM world, there is a philosophy that folks are encouraged to embrace. Since BDSM involves exposure to a plethora of fetishes and kinks that we may only not share but may actively dislike, folks are encouraged to be accepting. Even when exposed to a kink that incites disgust, we are encouraged to embrace the notion of “your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is OK.” Let’s please do that with polyamory as well. Let’s stop spending our time judging others and telling them they are doing poly wrong and simply agree to say:

Your polyamory is not my polyamory, but your polyamory is OK.

Two powerful tools

When someone is kind enough to share with you his poly situation, it is our job to listen, to ask questions and to offer support if asked for it. Labels are the beginning of a discussion and an invitation to ask more questions, not the be-all and end-all. So when someone says, “I’m polyamorous,” my favorite tool to whip out is:

Tool #1: “Cool! So what does that mean to you?”

I believe it’s not anyone’s job (including mine!) to judge and tell someone she is doing poly wrong. Criticism like that only serves to puff up the speaker with a sense of power and to disempower the person sharing his story. If you truly believe that someone you’re speaking with is doing something horribly wrong, a good way to offer an option without judging is, “My experience has been… ” and share your story. See? No judgment necessary.

Tool #2: “My experience has been… “

One caveat, since I know someone will ask: yes, I do have a personal belief about a “wrong” way to do polyamory based on the dictionary definition involving the “full knowledge and consent of all parties involved.” So if, for example, a person self-identifies as poly and has an additional partner that his wife is unaware of, I personally am more inclined to label that “cheating” rather than polyamory due to the fact that his wife doesn’t have knowledge and therefore can’t consent. However, my response is not “you’re not really poly” but rather, “In my experience, poly tends to work best when everyone involved is honest, open and consenting. Have you tried talking with your wife about that?” to open up a conversation rather than impose a judgment.

Share stories, not judgments

story-lolcatI’m a big believer that sharing stories makes us all stronger. Sharing experiences of love, hope and failure in both the poly and monogamous world help all of us to understand what we are going through better and to feel, if nothing else, that we are not alone in our struggles to understand ourselves and the lifestyles we have chosen. So I believe in the power of sharing stories and asking questions rather than offering judgments.

I’ve read a few assertions from intelligent poly folk of late that claim that anyone who defines poly or poly family as [fill in the blank] is wrong and needs to “die in a fire” because that doesn’t match the writer’s or speaker’s own experience.

I don’t know about you, but I dislike it when someone who isn’t in my shoes and who hasn’t lived my life tries to tell me what my poly experience should be. It brings to mind right-wing extremists who claim that they have the right to define what marriage is for everyone else. Or what “family” or “family values” are for everyone else.

If we don’t want others to define marriage or family for us, let’s not do that to each other. The person who gets to define your brand of polyamory is YOU. No one else. And the ONLY person for whom you get to define polyamory is you. Share your definition with your loves, your partners and anyone who asks for it, but please don’t impose it on others or judge others who have chosen to do poly a different way from you. Offer to listen; offer support; offer discussion,;offer your own anecdotes. But please do not offer judgments or critiques. We have the aforementioned right-wing extremists for that.

If you don’t like it when others judge your lifestyle, maybe you should stop judging theirs.

What is right for you?

If you are lucky enough to have found a brand of non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging or open relationships that works for you, GREAT! Many of us take months or years to figure out what we need in order to be happy and healthy in our relationships. And please do share that with others when asked: many of us are looking for models, ideas and roadmaps that might work for us.

So please, share rather than critique. Listen rather than judge. And communicate your definition as an option rather than imposing it as a rule.

And as a final word, absolutely no person or concept should “die in a fire” or “burn in hell.” Let’s just say “My experience has been… “

PW 374: Four mistakes couples make when opening up


Marcia Baczynski and Minx at CatalystCon West 2013

Marcia Baczynski and Minx at CatalystCon West 2013

How to avoid the classic mistakes couples make when trying nonmonogamy

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1:00 Host chat

Nothing to see here; move along!

2:00 Interview: Four mistakes couples make when opening up with Marcia Baczynski

Thanks to Marcia for sharing with us these four tips! Where to find Marcia:

And here we go! The classic mistakes:

  1. Not knowing what you want. Poly may mean different things to different folks. Take the time to talk about what you want and direct the picture in your head; this also means you develop terminology for future discussions. It’s also useful to take stock of your current relationship.
  2. Going too fast. Many couples move way too fast, and a few move too slowly. Find your comfortable pace. This isn’t about restrictions; it’s about taking the time to enjoy experience, as with any romance. Enjoy the journey! Take the time to find your comfort zone rather than diving in headfirst.
  3. Avoiding jealousy. Don’t ignore the truth of negative emotions because you think it makes you a bad poly person. That only leads to uncomfortable situations. No one is too “good” to be jealous. Just admit and deal with your jealousy.
  4. Trying to be the perfect poly person. Feeling that you have to be perfect either for your partner or to prove that poly was a good choice for you are both self-destructive beliefs to hold. Nothing beats admitting your emotions. Practice some tough love on yourself! No one was perfect at poly the first (or even the last) time they tried it. Be willing to be vulnerable.

35:20 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!

PW 337: Successful non-monogamy

Marcia Baczynski of Successful Nonmonogamy

What four things do you need to evaluate before opening your relationship?

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1:00 News and host chat

8:00 Sex for your earbuds

Sex Nerd Sandra podcast

11:00 Successful Nonmonogamy

Marciz Baczynski is hosting a series of ongoing classes and coaching for those entering their first non-monogamous relationship. Because one book and a friend or two isn’t enough; we need ongoing support to keep drama to a minimum! Visit her site to get her free ebook and read her blog.

38:00 Happy Poly Moment

A great story of finding a good spiritual home that welcomes leather lesbian nonmonogamists.

42:00 Thanks

Thanks to Toma and Hayley for their donations!


Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY (our new number!). 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!


Giving poly a go: Top tips for poly newbies

Rose Crompton of Vibrations Direct asked about poly, podcasting and my favorite sex toys. It was a fun interview and ended with my best advice for those approaching nonmonogamy for the first time.

Read the full interview here

Giving poly a go? My top tips for poly newbies:

Be prepared to meet parts of yourself you didn’t know about. You will find insecurities you didn’t know were there, and you’ll experience joy in ways you never knew you could.

Be patient with yourself and your partner(s). Remember your first attempts at monogamy weren’t perfect, either.

Worry less about rules and more about what you have to offer. As with monogamous dating, people with lots of rules and criteria rarely find what they seek, and those who are open-minded and easygoing find unexpected pleasures.

Own your shit – by this I mean baggage. If you’re not strong enough to say, “I was wrong,” “I need to bring something up” or “my last STI test came up positive,” you aren’t ready for poly. Being confident enough to own your own baggage and brave enough to start tough conversations is essential.

Start from a healthy place. Get your existing relationships healthy first. The ‘relationship broken; add more people’ model almost never works. You will have to trust your partner to tell you when you’re love-goggling, when he’s feeling jealous and when you aren’t pulling your weight.

Get a support network. Seek out local communities of real people who have real-life experience with polyamory and its ups and downs; having trusted contacts who’ve been there and can provide advice and a sympathetic ear is invaluable.

Read the full interview here.

PW 281: Infidelity will keep us together

What do you think of Dan Savage’s NYT article on non-monogamy?

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

2:45 Book review

PW book reviewer Kurt review’s Kathy Labriola’s Love in Abudance, a Counselor’s Guide to Opening Relationships The book deals with poly effects on current relationships, including dealing with demotion, displacement and intrusion.

8:20 Poly movie review: La Belle Epoque

PW film reviewer Joreth reviews the 1992 Spanish poly-ish film, la Belle Epoque.

15:30 Topic: Dan Savage’s take on infidelity

Discussing the huge, seven-page article in the New York Times exploring Dan Savage’s take on infidelity and the role it plays in keeping monogamous relationships together.

32:45 Feedback

  • John from Lacy responds to 276, “Okay” is a four-letter word, claiming responsibility for communication falls on all parties
  • Emily calls in from a smallish Midwestern college town and asks about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in her relationship. If she isn’t comfortable with it, what should she do?

Josh calls in to muse on the question of why we get married to begin with. What is your reason?

45:15 Wrap-up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com and attach an audio comment or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. Friend us on Twitter or Facebook, leave a comment here or discuss your own topics at the forums. Check out PolyWeekly podcasts at polyweekly.libsyn.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review! Want Poly Weekly for your very own? Get the Best of Poly Weekly collection from PodDisc.com Our intro and outro music is courtesy of Pacemaker Jane, “Good Suspicions.”

From Tristan’s book tour

What a great pleasure to spend the better part of Friday with the lovely and whipsmart Tristan Taormino and Colten. (I want my own Colten–can I have one? Please, please, please?) Full photo set is posted to my Flickr, but a few choice shots here:

Lunch after the interview:
Tristan and Minx

The reading at Women and Children First:
Tristan reading from Opening Up

The crowd at Women and Children First:
Tristan reading from Opening Up

For more info and to discuss the book, visit her blog and forums at www.openingup.net

Just added “Opening Up” to the Poly Weekly store!

Hello, all! If you haven’t already had the chance to hear Tristan Taormino speak on her book tour, go ahead and get a copy for yourself to discuss with your partner(s) and friends. It’s unlike any other book on poly to date. Instead of sharing personal anecdotes and experiences, Tristan based the book on interviews with over 120 people of all orientations and relationship styles in order to easily lay out the non-monogamy options and choices available to you today.

The book reads more like a textbook than a self-help book, with tons of information on how and why you might choose each type of non-monogamy. Tristan also devotes time to subjects other books haven’t covered in detail, such as being a solo polyamorist and choosing a mono-poly combination for your relationship. I can’t wait to discuss this with the PW book club!

If you’d like to read and discuss this book, we’re going to try an online Poly Weekly book club discussion on Saturday, July 12th, 3:30 p.m. Central. Save the date; more details later. Click here to order your copy!

And girlfriend/boyfriend makes three: negotiating nonmonogamy

Hey, guys! I’m finally getting out and hosting some workshops on poly at A Woman’s Touch, an excellent sex-positive store in both Madison and Milwaukee. If you’re in the area, please come out and join in the discussion!

Date and Time: Saturday, Feb 23rd, 12:00 – 1:30 PM
Location: Madison
Cost: $35.00 per person

Open marriage, swinging, polyamory, oh, my! These days, more and more couples are choosing nonmonogamy for their own intimate relationships. But the path from monogamy to an open marriage, a swinger lifestyle or polyamory can be a tricky one if you’re not aware of the pitfalls you might hit along the way and the discussions that you and your partner need to have in order to avoid them. Plus, those Hot Bi Babes are just a myth, anyway–like unicorns. So forget the unicorns and join Minx for a fun and frank discussion of how to negotiate new boundaries–and discover the joy and intimacy nonmonogamy can bring to your existing relationship. Register here!

In Milwaukee?
Date and Time: Wednesday, March 19th, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Cost: $35.00 per person

Register here!

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