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Polyphonic Polyamory

polyphonic polyamory

The word polyphonic describes the blending of many voices or sounds.  The term polyamory is derived from the Greek word for ‘many’ and the Latin word for ‘love’. From a sociological perspective, it is also described as ‘conscious non monogamy’. There are many flavors of this lifestyle choice; ranging from individuals with primary partners and others with whom they interact romantically, to those who create families of choice with whom they live and share household and parenting responsibilities. There is no singular way to ‘be poly’.
Although I can’t definitively declare my poly status, I can say that when looking back through journals from my college years and exploring my relational history since being widowed in 1998, I have absolutely dipped my toes in the poly waters, as I had overlapping relationships, with serial monogamy interspersed throughout my 20’s until I married at age 28. I remained monogamously engaged with my husband until he died when  I was 40 and he was 48.
Pivotal books on the topic from way back when that opened the door to this way of living and loving were Stranger in A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy and the series by Robert Rimmer, including The Harrad Experiment, The Premar Experiment, The Rebellion of Yale Marratt and Thursday, My Love. Each of them had me pondering the various ways people choose to interact with each other, emotionally, spiritually and sexually. 
It is a lifestyle that both appeals to me and stretches my comfort zones. I have room for many in my heart, but not always time in my schedule and I marvel at how friends with multiple partners in all parts of the world, are able to balance those relationships. I also move through feelings of jealousy and compersion, see-sawing back and forth between them.  A scarcity mentality pervades when I consider wanting more time and attention from certain people in my life, that is being offered to others. It takes a lot of courage to engage full out in polyamorous relating. I admire those who embrace it.
Yesterday, I attended a conference called Poly Living. The first reason I went was to see friends who are part of my tribe/family of choice who I have been missing and the other was to learn more about myself and the path I am finding myself traversing. Putting fear aside, I had been reluctant over the years to publicly acknowledge having attended. Somehow, I thought it would label me and place my love-choices in a box that would limit my options, as well as having my more mainstream family and friends think of me as being too much on the fringes. The exact opposite is true.  I have discovered that the more love I put out into the world, the more stretches I take emotionally, the more comes ricocheting back at me.
Entering the hotel where it was held, I breathed a sigh and let go of my fears. I was welcomed with hugs from dear ones that had me feeling like I was Home. One such is my friend Ben Silver who is music incarnate. He describes his offerings as “ecstatic, spontaneous choral music.”  Based in New York City, Ben facilitates gatherings called CircleSinging, which is “a form of facilitated Vocal Improvisation which could be described as “a drum circle for singers” or “improvised choral music.” During the course of the ever-changing chant, the leader develops and gives parts to a circle of singers, which in turn supports individual solos.”  The artist Bobby McFerrin’s music and teachings are a strong influence on my friend.
Ben’s class was called Harmonious Relationships: A Vocal Polyamory Workshop. As the group of us gathered in a circle, he asked us to consider the ways in which musical themes and patterns mirrored relational styles. One of the exercises in which I engage enthusiastically was chanting three words over and over in the same cadence and tune. Spontaneously, the question, “Who are you?” came through  me and for the next ten minutes I repeated them. The person standing next to me was asked to offer counterpoint and then the one next to him and and her shared their input. What I noticed were the ways in which the mergings were not always seamless and got off to some false starts. We laughed our way through those and began again. I felt a responsibility to maintain my position as the one who began the process, which is a familiar experience for this one who holds space in my relationships for others to feel at ease. Although it is a position of power, it is also a huge and not always desired task. There are times when I would much rather allow others to step up as I step back. When I was able to carry my part without conscious awareness, I could listen to the beautiful music the other three were making and we were creating together. In my day to day world, I am getting better at that dynamic. An orchestra is not made up of one person.
Another exercise had two people telling a story simultaneously. Each one needed to speak and listen to the other one, doing their best to recall what their partner was saying. Not an easy task. Then Ben requested that they create another story, but this time, sing it, wondering if it was easier to remember. It was AND it is still challenging to hear someone else when over-talking them.
A final experience had us breathing with a partner, beginning with a simple inhale and exhale and then adding a rhythmic element to it, with one person leading and the other following and then spontaneously switching. That one was a bit more challenging, since in my enthusiasm, I found myself hyper-ventilating.
One of the things that so delighted me about the workshop was that it stirred in me something I feel often. I have many talented friends; Ben among them. As I sat back, I felt such a sense of love and pride wash over me. He is so good at what he does and is of such amazing service. When someone I am close to shines, I experience what in Yiddish is called ‘kvelling’.
I welcome people into my own circles with whom I can enjoy a polyphonic life.

People in a circle photo available from Shutterstock

Polyphonic Polyamory

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

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APA Reference
Weinstein, E. (2016). Polyphonic Polyamory. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Feb 2016
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