- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Her mother calls him “the man from Kentucky.”

But to Jacque Hanson of Lebanon, Ohio, Jason is more than the boyfriend her mom won’t accept.

He would be her second husband if she could get her way.

“I would marry him today if I could,” Hanson said, adding that she has no intention of leaving her husband, Jim.

Instead, she and Jim have agreed to an open relationship.

Hanson identifies as polyamorous, a brand of consensual non-monogamy - or ethical cheating - in which partners are in more than one committed relationship at once with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

It is difficult to determine the actual number of people in such relationships because of a lack of research, but they are becoming more visible because of the Internet and social media, according to psychologist Meg Manthos, whose clientele is about 30 percent poly groups.

“Poly relationships have been around for as long as we’ve had documentation,” Manthos said.

And according to a national Avvo.com study from June 2015, about 4 percent of the U.S. population admits to being in an open relationship, which amounts to about 12.8 million people, or roughly three times the population of Kentucky.

Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington and a relationship expert for PerfectMatch.com, said acceptance of open relationships is based on an “idealized viewpoint” that would be difficult to manage in real life.

“I think many Americans like to think of themselves as liberal and sexually adventurous,” Schwartz said in the 2015 Avvo study. “It might sound sexy to have an open relationship, especially to young people. But the fact is most human beings are territorial they don’t like sharing, and they especially don’t like sharing someone they are in love with.”

Elisabeth Sheff, author of the book “The Polyamorists Next Door,” said the key to making polyamory work is communication.

She wrote in a “Psychology Today” story that polyamorous people “put a lot of emphasis on communication as a way to build intimacy, explore boundaries, negotiate agreements, and share feelings.”

To deal with the problem of jealousy, poly couples talk about what might be causing the feeling, and work to reassure their partners, Sheff said.

“They tend to face jealousy more directly,” Sheff said. “The polyamorous tend to view it as a signal that something else is happening. … If you’re feeling insecure, it’s not beneficial to have your partner stop whatever they’re doing, but to become more secure in yourself.”

For Hanson, being polyamorous is a way to get everything she wants out of love, which is more than one person can offer. She identifies as bisexual, and she and her husband have previously lived with another woman forming a triad, one of many ways to make polyamory work.

She and Jason have been dating for four years, but she has known her husband, Jim, since they were in high school. She and her husband have a 5-year-old daughter.

One of the primary rules in their relationship is that any child she has will be raised between herself and her husband no matter who the father is - something that she has to explain to other partners.

Hanson, who works as a nurse at a nursing home, talks openly about her lifestyle with anyone who asks, so people often pepper her with questions.

“Some people think I do this because I have low self-esteem, but I think I’m awesome,” she said. “I don’t need help with that.”

One of the most common questions she gets: “Which partner do you love more?”

Hanson said the question is like asking someone which of their children they love more.

She and her husband are perfectly compatible, Hanson said, but “no one can be 100 percent of the things you need, no matter how compatible. I want him to be happy and he wants me to be happy.”

She said it’s a poly principle called “compersion” in which a person gains something emotionally when their significant other finds happiness in another relationship.

She said her relationships are “pretty normal,” the only difference is that she has more than one at a time.

Psychologist Manthos said most of the poly couples she counsels have problems similar to monogamous couples she works with, except poly couples tend to have more issues with how they are perceived. Unlike monogamous couples, people who identify as poly have to worry about judgment from their families, teachers and the public, Manthos said.

Hanson recently had a conversation with her husband about moving to Louisville to be closer to Jason.

“(My husband) supports me, and he wants to do that,” Hanson said. “Plus, poly folks are in a relatively small community, so if we move down there, he’ll be new and really popular.”


Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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