UPDATE: This review was quoted and linked from the “More Than Two” blog HERE. Yay!
The short version is that I am 100% in love with this book and highly recommend PURCHASING IT HERE.
I began reading the book expecting it to be good. I expected to read a lot of things that I already knew, though perhaps articulated better than I had read before. I have read a lot of Veaux’s writing and I know that he knows the subject as well as anyone. I planned to highlight a few passages to quote in the review and say some nice things about it.
But I was wrong.
Yes, at first, much of what I read was familiar to me. But the amazing thing about this book, and why I am ready to buy a couple dozen copies to hand out to my friends, is that it truly does break new ground. There were ideas that I had never considered before, approaches that were new and interesting.
In 1997, when The Ethical Slut first broached the subject of non-monogamy and brought the concept into mainstream America, there wasn’t really a poly community to speak of. Most people were trying to find their own way. The authors of The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, used the book to describe their philosophy and approach to the lifestyle. They admitted that their view was limited, and while the book has been a treasure to many ever since (I proudly own a signed copy), it is also widely viewed as incomplete.
Since then, many new books have been released about polyamory and consensual non-monogamy in all of its various forms. One notable example is Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which attempted to capture the wide variety of approaches to non-monogamy and give people an overview of each to help them figure out which was the right path for them. This is another book that I often recommend to people just stating out or thinking about trying it out. However, it has still always felt incomplete to me. Because while it did cover a wide range of “flavors” of non-monogamy, it didn’t sufficiently address how to be successful in them.
And that is where this book, More Than Two really hits it out of the park. While I have long been a fan of Veaux’s work, this was the first time I had read anything by Rickert. Her mark on the book is unmistakable, if you are familiar with Veaux’s writing style, but for the average reader, there is no real distinction or clear imbalance between the two voices. It reads as a single author.
The book could be accurately described as a tool box. Unlike previous books on the subject which focus very heavily on establishing the shape and structure of your open relationship, this book begins and ends with two very important tenants: “1. The people in the relationship are more important than the relationship, and 2. Don’t Treat People as Things.” These two axioms are repeated throughout, and the authors give special attention to all of the individuals involved. With these things in mind, they provide a wealth of tools, techniques and strategies for successfully navigating the (still) largely uncharted waters of polyamory.
The book revolves around five central themes: Trust, Courage, Abundance, Ethics, and Empowerment. These themes provide the heartbeat for the book, and while they aren’t discussed individually or explicitly, in detail, it is clear that the authors reviewed the book with each of these in mind to make sure that everything they wrote reflected them.
The book touches on BDSM a few times, usually simply to clarify. For instance, the authors take a strong stance against creating “rules” for your poly dynamic, such as limiting the sexual positions or activities that can be done with a ‘secondary’ partner. But they are careful to clarify that if you are in a power exchange relationship, many rules become acceptable within that context. They are also careful to differentiate the type of hierarchy that they talk about frequently in the book (meaning simply that some relationships are more important than others) from power-based hierarchy that exists in D/s relationships. This is a nice touch, and is a good way of bringing the author’s (specifically, Veaux’s) experience with BDSM into play without taking the book off-topic and making non-BDSM readers uncomfortable.
One other way that BDSM is invoked is in a section discussing how to find partners and/or a poly community. In this section, he mentions at one point that many areas do not have an active poly community that one can tap into to find potential partners, but that most areas, by this point, have some sort of BDSM gatherings and that there is significant overlap between BDSM people and poly people, so the BDSM community might be a place to look, even if you aren’t into kink yourself. I don’t know how I feel about that idea, but it’s hard for me to judge since I am not in that position or in an area that has that problem.
One of the wonderful techniques they employ in their writing is to tell a lot of stories. Instead of just telling you why something is potentially dangerous, they give you stories from their own lives and loves to illustrate it. The authors give raw accounts of their own failures over their decades of shared experience so that it is clear they are not just dictating right and wrong, but instead sharing what they have learned in real life. It doesn’t feel like an academic study of the subject, but rather like an elder sharing their life and the lessons they learned from it.
I cheered when they took on the sometimes sacred notion of “The Veto” and explained in detail how destructive and harmful it can be to everyone involved. I cried when they talked about how every single partner that you add to your life is going to change it, usually drastically. I felt relieved when they explained that there never really is a good time for a new relationship and that the best relationships will often defy your ability to plan and design your network of people.
This book did so much more just add words to my existing knowledge and experience, as I had expected. This book taught me things. This book changed the way that I think about relationships. All relationships, not just poly. I have spent the last two days lost in thought, re-evaluating a lot of my own choices and beliefs. And that’s good. That’s what a great book like this should do.
To anyone, in any stage of non-monogamy, whether you are considering it for the first time or whether you have been living it for years like me, I highly recommend this book. Even if you hate it and disagree with it on every level, it will give you something to think about. I had originally planned to include a lot of excerpts from the book, but instead, there will be just one, from the last chapter.
Be flexible. Be compassionate. Rules can never cure insecurity. Integrity matters. Never try to script what your relationships will look like. Love is abundant. Compatibility matters. You cannot sacrifice your happiness for that of another. Own your own shit. Admit when you fuck up. Forgive when others fuck up. Don’t try to find people to stuff into the empty spaces in your life; instead, make spaces for the people in your life. If you need a relationship to complete you, get a dog. Trust that your partners want to be with you, and that if given the freedom to do anything they please, they will choose to cherish and support you. Most relationship problems can be avoided with good partner selection. Nobody can give you security or self-esteem; you have to build that yourself.
And if you remember nothing else from this book, remember this: Love more and be awesome.
“More Than Two” by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert will be released to the public on September 2, 2014. It can be pre-purchased through Amazon.com here.