Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert
This book has changed the entire way that I look at and talk about relationships, and I honestly believe that the philosophy behind it has the power to radically transform societal relationship narratives. It is a long, thorough, and complex book to be considered carefully, while simultaneously being engaging and fun to read — quite an amazing feat!
Although ostensibly about polyamory, the ideas and lived experiences that went into this book are applicable to anyone who’s in a relationship. Any kind of relationship. In fact, it applies to everyone who cares about another human being. The focus of the second section of More Than Two is self-care, nurturing relationships, communication strategies and pitfalls, and jealousy. Chapter nine, regarding boundaries, is also beneficial for anyone in a relationship. Even though the rest of the book focuses on polyamorous frameworks, structures, transitions, and community, the threads of section two are woven throughout the book, and the authors continuously come back to them, which makes the entire book a beneficial read for all people, regardless of their chosen relationship model.
As this book is largely about building and maintaining ethical relationships within a polyamorous framework, Veaux and Rickert present two axiomatic ethical principles that underlie the content of More Than Two: First, don’t treat people as things. Second, the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship. Within these axioms are the ideas that all relationships should be consensual (which requires a lot of honesty; you can’t give consent without being informed), that we shouldn’t sacrifice the self for the relationship or expect others to do so, that seeing partners as need-meeting machines dehumanizes them, that one partner’s needs are not more important than the other’s (the needs and desires of everyone involved should be recognized), and that we are not entitled to anyone’s time or love — that being in a relationship and giving our love and time is a choice. The Relationship Bill of Rights included in chapter three is invaluable as a conversational springboard.
Some things that I absolutely love about this book:
- It doesn’t present polyamory in a Utopian or ideal way; in fact, the introduction lays out that polyamory is hard fucking work, that it’s not inherently safe, that growth often includes pain, that it means being vulnerable and giving things up, and that we can’t control and shouldn’t try to prescribe how relationships will grow and change.
- It presents monogamy as a legitimate relationship model and specifically claims that polyamory is not more advanced, enlightened, or progressive than monogamy. There are people on polyamory discussion boards who disagree with this interpretation because Veaux and Rickert criticize the relationship escalator and the socialization of Oneitis that stems from fairy tales and romantic comedies; however, I don’t see a critique of the way we’re socialized to believe that we have one true soul mate and that if we don’t find that person we’ve failed as synonymous with a critique of choosing to be in a mindful and ethical monogamous relationship.
- At the end of each chapter are self-reflection questions to guide the reader through applications of the theories and themes of that chapter to his or her (or hir) life. I’m bringing a bunch of these questions with me on vacation and am planning to actually write out answers. It’s like therapy, but for the cost of a book.
- More Than Two espouses compassion and non-judgment in all of our interactions with people we care about; it advocates the use of active listening; and it encourages readers to own their choices (and feelings) and acknowledge that our choices have real-life consequences. It tells us to assume good intention on the part of our partners, which is an incredibly valuable relationship skill.
- It presents the idea that self-worth cannot come from another person; it has to be built from within. That it’s very difficult to have agency within a relationship unless you feel secure, and security is something that has to be practiced. That you must have compassion for yourself in addition to being aware of your needs, value, limitations, and boundaries.
- The authors write about their own experiences and how they’ve learned from them. They don’t present themselves as perfect experts; they present themselves as people who have fucked up, have learned from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, and are in the process of continuing to learn from their relationships and the relationships of others in their communities and networks.
I consider myself ethically non-monogamous; before reading More Than Two, I never would have considered myself a polyamorous person, even though I’ve had the experience of being in love with more than one person at the same time. In fact, I often joke that I’m barely amorous, so how can I be polyamorous? As an intensely introverted person, the idea of committing the kind of time it takes to make a romantic relationship work with more than one person while still maintaining close ties with friends and family and working and having hobbies scares me a bit. Or at least it did. I didn’t realize until reading More Than Two that a lot of poly people have long-distance relationships in which they only see their LDR partner(s) once or twice a year. Or that relationships can be what you choose to make them, which although it seems fairly obvious, is kind of a radical idea. So maybe I am poly. Still figuring that out… and very glad to have Franklin and Eve supporting me along the way.