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

Poly Weekly #173: Jenny Block is “Open”

This week Poly Weekly #173: an interview with Jenny Block, author of “Open: Love and Sex in an Open Marriage,” who shares her own story and struggles of being “normal” and polyamorous..

Download the episode directly!

0:00 Introduction and host chat
Intro, under-18 warning and re-direction to www.scarleteen.com; friend me on Twitter and answer questions about what you want on the show, call 206-202-POLY with comments or discuss your own topics at the forums at http://forum.polyweekly.com.

1:40 Minx gives us a brief introduction for Jenny

3:15 Minx asks how Jenny has been received in her book tour.  Jenny talks about how surprised she has been how positive the response has been.

4:10 Jenny talks about some negative comments she received after being on a television show.

5:15 Jenny talks about how strange it is that society accepts cheating a lot more than honest, open relationships.

7:55 Minx asks if we are used to cheating but maybe not so used to open marriages.

10:20 Minx asks Jenny “what is normal?” in reference to Jenny considering herself normal in her book.

11:20 Jenny says maybe “average” is a better word.  That you wouldn’t be able to tell her her lifestyle at the PTA meeting.

12:10 Jenny talks about the difference in poly/open people.  Not everybody looks the same.

13:00 Jenny and Minx talk about people who feel the need to watch and respond to things they don’t agree with or support.

15:45 Minx asks Jenny about gaining weight and how it affected her relationship.  Jenny talks about how losing the weight did not have the result she was expecting.

17:30 Jenny talks about differing libidoes in commited relationships.

18:54 Minx asks if we are blaming the wrong things for our relationsihip failures.  Jenny talks about how much harder fixing what is wrong than blaming the wrong thing can be.

19:45 Jenny and Minx talk about people’s expecations of relationsihps and how unreasonable they are.

21:50 Minx asks for Jenny’s comment to straight open marriages (i.e. not bisexual).  Jenny talks about how monogamy doesn’t really fit us as a species.

24:30 Jenny talks about expectations and her own opening up experiences with her husband.

25:09 Minx asks Jenny how the conversation went when she wanted to open the marriage.  Jenny talks about her original cheating on her husband and how the lying is what affected him.

Jenny Block’s Open

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email cunningminx@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at polyweekly.libsyn.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

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Our intro and outro music is courtesy of Pacemaker Jane, “Good Suspicions”

Poly Weekly book club RAWKED! Next: October 1st

Hey, all.

Just have to give a shout out to everyone who came out to talk about If the Buddha Dated, a book that has sparked, I believe, more discussion than any other we’ve read! Heated debates broke out over such controversial topics as “hi, how are you?” (no, I’m NOT kidding!), what it means to be authentic and honestly you versus “fake it ’til you make it,” and we also had some quantum physics and philosophy in there.

Thanks to the 10 folks who came out and contributed to the discussion on Buddhism, taking risks and living in the moment. It was a blast, and our new location suited us well–we have the entire back room, and the gelato there is to die for (try the hazelnut!)

So, for next month:

Book: Open by Jenny Block

Date: Wednesday, October 1st, 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Place: Lido’s Caffe, 122 N. Marion St., Oak Park, IL 60301, 708-660-0060

See y’all there!

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