A Brief Primer on Polyamory and Ethical Nonmonogamy

So, as you read, Ariel and I both identify as polyamorous or ethically non-monogamous. Non-monogamy, at its most basic, is a relationship that involves more than two people. “Ethical” non-monogamy implies that all parties are being treated respectfully, and that enthusiastic consent to the arrangement has been given by everyone involved.

Why am I telling you this? There are four reasons: The first is that we’d like to be open about the way in which our family works, rather than being in the closet about it. The second is that Ariel and I will likely have other partners visit at some point and we wouldn’t want you to see either of us with other partners and think that there was anything dishonest going on. Transparency and honest communications is a necessity in our relationship. Third is that there may be folks in the congregation who might come to know this about our family from other contexts, and we didn’t want them feeling like they were obligated to keep a ‘secret’ about us. Lastly, I think there is value in a leader coming out affirming those individuals and families already in our congregation who also practice or identify as ethically non-monogamous.

One thing you should know is that this doesn’t in any way affect my commitment to the professional guidelines affirmed by members of the UU Ministers Association. Like every other member of the UUMA, I commit not to enter into romantic or sexual relationships with congregants. Having seen the lasting damage that these issues can cause in congregations, I have been clear all along about this boundary.

If you’re uncertain what ethical non-monogamy or polyamory are, or find yourself with questions, or finding yourself having a strong reaction, I really encourage you to talk to me about it. My experience from my internship was that many folks have experiences of non-consensual non-monogamy (cheating), or of practices of ‘free love’ or swapping, that were unhealthy and damaging. It helps to talk about it, and it might help to know how the way I live my life is different from the experiences you might have had or stories you may have heard.

Having discussed this with the ministerial search team, I’m always happy to talk about what the identity means to me and how open and honest communications form the basis of good relationships. If you would prefer to investigate on your own, I’ve provided some resources below that provide good primers to polyamory.

The work we’ve done in our Welcoming Congregations program and as an affirming denomination for LGBTQIA+ folks – from simple things like recognizing that our forms and our programs presumed father and mother, to the larger work of hospitality that invites the whole of someone’s identity into our community – is an exercise in practicing our much-beloved first principle of honouring inherent worth and dignity. This practice of compassion and welcome is a large piece of what has called me to ministry. Doing that work together, being with you, that is my prayer.

Resource List

Web Links

What is Polyamory? Franklin Veaux

Polyamory, what it is and what it isn’t Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

Polyamory looks a lot like ordinary family life. Toronto Star

Why I’m Honest With My Kids About My Open Relationship – Margaret E Jacobsen

Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness – A poorly constructed website, but good content and context

The Feeling is Multiplied – A webcomic about a gender non-comforming family with a baby


More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory
Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert

Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships
Tristan Taormino

Stories from the Polycule: Real Life in Polyamorous Families
Dr. Elisabeth Sheff