This interview was conducted before Deborah’s tragic death in 2015. In the short time I was blessed to know Deborah she was truly a light and an inspiration to me. I hope her words below will act as inspiration to future generations exploring polyamory, spirituality, and living with authenticity.
When did you first identify as non-monogamous/polyamorous and what led you to this point?
When my second marriage ended I began taking a look at this whole idea of monogamous marriage and the nuclear family. I was barely 30 years old at the time and I was interested in all kinds of alternatives. Why not alternatives to marriage? Somehow, I hadn’t really considered other possibilities, but once I started opening my mind to the idea I realized I’d been living it since I was a teenager. The word “polyamory” didn’t exist yet, but I knew I didn’t want to bounce from one exclusive relationship to another my whole life.
I understand that your latest book, Polyamory in the 21st Century, explores current attitudes to non-monogamy, how do you think attitudes have changed over the years?
While many people still feel non-monogamy is wrong, increasingly people are asking “is it really possible for it to work” or “how do you deal with jealousy”? In other words, they’re assuming it’s morally acceptable, they just want to know if it’s practical. Another big shift is the attitude of the media. In the 1990’s the print media didn’t want to do stories on non-monogamy at all and television and radio coverage was permissible only if it was harshly judgmental.
What led you to write your first book on polyamory?
My first book started out as a resource guide for people who were attending our support groups. I wanted to share all the information I’d integrated over the years, and to let polyamorous people know that there were others who were exploring the relationship frontier.
How do you see polyamory in the context of family?
Polyamory is a way to create post-modern extended families. Many people these days are separated from blood relatives, either geographically or emotionally. Sex establishes bonding that can lead to families of choice. Only children can acquire brothers and sisters, and childless lovers can become uncles and aunties.
What advice would you give someone who is considering exploring polyamory or opening an existing relationship?
Do your homework. In this case the homework is to do everything you can to maximize your own health – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and sexually – and that of any existing relationships. Open relationships require self-knowledge, good communication skills, and high self esteem. Heal any family of origin issues before you recreate them with your lovers. Non-monogamy is the acid test for relationships. If your relationship is solid, opening up will make it stronger. If it’s not, opening up could be the last straw.
What do you see the future of polyamory being, and how do you think it will effect the way monogamy and marriage are viewed today?
I see polyamory becoming one choice among many valid choices for how people relate with each other intimately. Polyamory itself encompasses many different lovestyles, so I think we’re going in a direction of greater diversity. Perhaps spiritual marriage will be reserved for people who choose to practice monogamy, or to have closed group marriages, but there can be other legal structures to protect the rights of people in other kinds of domestic partnerships.
I understand that like many others in the polyamorous community you have a spiritual outlook, what is your definition of spirituality, and how does polyamory fit into this understanding?
To me spirituality is about living from the awareness that we’re all One, and seeing through the illusion that Ego – me, my, mine – is separate from and superior to the rest of life. Polyamory challenges our sense of separation, ownership, and control. It takes our personal boundaries to the next level. Polyamory is a very powerful way to spotlight egoic agendas and show us where we are still attached. Not that any of this is wrong, but it’s a good reality check for inflated spiritual egos.
What is the relationship between sexuality and spirituality?
It is through deep or intense sexual experiences that people most often catch a glimpse of Source, Spirit, the Divine within themselves. Sex can also dissolve the sense of separateness and open the heart to a sense of connection with All That Is. Sexual energy is our life force, the creative impulse and the urge to merge.
What is your view of traditional marriage and monogamy? And what do you think of the ideas of the original ‘free love’ movement who saw marriage as oppressive to women etc?
See the last question. I think this repeats. I resonate with the writings of Emma Goldman and John Noyes who observed that marriage in their day was a way to enslave women. True, it offered some protection, but this is a poor excuse for taking away a human being’s freedom. Those who truly want to protect women would remove the circumstances from which they need protection. Marriage or monogamy which are freely chosen are an entirely different animal, but without other viable options, there is no choice possible.
What is your view of Tantra and is it an important aspect of your spirituality?
Tantra describes an embodied approach to spirituality, an attitude of passionately loving life itself. One goal of all authentic spiritual practices is to raise the vibration, or energy level, sometimes called kundalini, so that our awareness, and our identity, is not limited to the physical body, the emotions, or the mind. When the kundalini rises, it naturally wants to discharge, and one way this can happen is through orgasm which usually dissipates the energy at least temporarily. Some spiritual paths forbid sexual expression in order to conserve this precious energy, and also to avoid the distraction and drama of family life. Tantra embraces all of life, and teaches many ways to cultivate the life force so that it enhances whatever we find ourselves experiencing. As a woman and a mother, embodied spirituality is what feels natural. It’s also said that Tantra is for risk takers – the chance for enlightenment is greater, but so are the dangers..
What is your view of claims by some religious groups that polyamory is immoral?
Simply ridiculous! Every religion in the world is compatible with polyamory. It is only the cultural overlays which distort the original teachings to advocate sex negative beliefs and sexist practices. For example, in the Old Testament, the commandment against adultery, which is often cited as evidence that polyamory is immoral, is actually a prohibition against a man having sex with another man’s wife because the wife is seen as property. It was perfectly acceptable in those days for a married man to have sex with an unmarried woman (who might become his concubine), or even for an unmarried woman to have more than one lover. These so-called moral injunctions were all about property rights and inheritance.