Mind, Body, Health & Politics

Thursday, June 6, 2024
Facebook Live Video from 2024/06/06-Jessica Fern Building Secure Attachments in Polyamorous Relationships

Facebook Live Video from 2024/06/06-Jessica Fern Building Secure Attachments in Polyamorous Relationships


2024/06/06-Jessica Fern Building Secure Attachments in Polyamorous Relationships

[NEW EPISODE] Jessica Fern Building Secure Attachments in Polyamorous Relationships

“The mission of Mind Body Health & Politics is to expand consciousness, stimulate thought, enhance mental and physical health, and encourage community.” — Dr. Richard L. Miller

This week I bring you my interview with Jessica Fern, a Psychotherapist, Coach, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Jessica's work focuses on helping individuals, couples, and people in multiple-partner relationships break free from reactive patterns, cultural conditioning, insecure attachment styles, and past traumas to embrace new possibilities in life and love.

In our conversation, Jessica shared her personal journey of discovering her bisexuality as a teenager in New York City and coming out while in college. She discussed the complexities of non-monogamous relationships and the misconceptions surrounding them. Jessica emphasized that consensual non-monogamy is not solely about sex, but rather about building multiple emotional connections and exploring personal growth opportunities.

Tune in for this healthy conversation at

Show Notes

Segment 1

In this episode of Mind, Body, Health, & Politics, Dr. Miller is joined by Jessica Fern, a Psychotherapist, Coach, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. They will be discussing, not only her work but also Jessica’s journey of being a bisexual and the complexities of non-monogamous relationships. To start their conversation, they talk about what drew Jessica to learn about the world of polygamy and start to share her journey along with explaining the difference between polygamy and monogamy relationships. 

Segment 2

Moving along to the next topic, Dr. Miller and Jessica continue their discussion. They talk about stereotypes and different research studies on relationships, like cheating for example. Then they move on to talk more about the numerous challenges of leaving a relationship open and Jessica debunks a few stereotypes that multiple relationships may face. 

Segment 3

After a quick commercial break, we return to Dr. Miller asking Jessica to describe her current relationship and how they have grown as a couple, which was polygamous while married, having a child together, eventually divorced, and getting back together. She explains the dynamic she has with her partner and their open relationship. From there, Dr. Miller asks Jessica to share her tips and procedures on how to deal with jealousy since it may occur in these types of relationships. 

Segment 4

As the episode comes to an end, Dr. Miller and Jessica wrap up their conversation by discussing the transition of openness of polygamous relationships and how it has changed over time. They also discuss the need for a new language or terms for people participating in polygamy relationships because of the harshness of sociopolitical terminology. To finish the show, Jessica explains her acronym, “HEART,” and how she would walk a potential client through the process. 


Welcome to Mind Body Health and Politics. I'm your host, Dr. Richard L. Miller. The mission of Mind Body Health and Politics is to enhance your physical and emotional well-being and encourage community. I emphasize encourage community because I believe that we humans are tribal animals and we do better

We are healthier and we are happier when we live in relatively small tribes. Tribes could be a ten or a hundred, perhaps even as many as a thousand. But when we know everyone by name or at least by face, we get along very well. Crime levels are very low. Cooperation and collaboration are very high.

Human beings love doing things together, whether it's a sewing circle or a poker game or watching a football game or going for a bike ride. All kinds of inventing things together, creating things together. We are really cooperative, collaborative animals. We love eating together, getting together in circles and sharing food. That's who we are.

However, we also must be cognizant of the fact that a very small percentage of us, much less than 5%, are not the same. They are very different. They are predators. They would have us be their subjects rather than have us be citizens.

And throughout all of history, we have had to deal with these predator types who have gotten people to follow them and have then directed mostly young people to go out and kill others.

This has been true through all of recorded history, going back to the Egyptians, fast forward to the Greeks, to the Romans, who also experimented with democracy and republic, When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, ended the Roman Republic, and formed an empire with a dictator. Go through, fast forward anywhere you want in history.

Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, the wannabe dictator Trump. These are all people who would have a different way of life. And those of us who are in the great majority, the over 95% who are cooperative and collaborative, we must stay awake and aware and vote and ensure that we maintain our democracy and our republic.

Even in hard times such as these, when my heart goes out to 60% of the American public who are living paycheck to paycheck, being concerned for food on the table and paying rent.

Even those of us suffering in that regard must stay awake, must stay awake as citizens and must vote and ensure that we maintain our democracy and our republic. In the words of one of my great heroes, Thomas Jefferson, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Today on Mind Body Health and Politics, we have the privilege of having with us Jessica Fern, who is a pioneer in experimenting with alternative forms of human relationships, alternative to what has been considered The Traditional Heterosexual Monogamous Way of Relating I say considered traditional because it isn't traditional throughout all of history.

One-on-one monogamy, heterosexual monogamy has not always been the traditional form. That's somewhat recent. And she has looked at this. She has experimented with this in her own life. And she's written some wonderful books about this. And we're going to learn today from Jessica Fern. Welcome to Mind Body Health and Politics, Jessica.

Thank you, Richard.

Jessica, I was reading your books. I realized that we were both project kids from New York.

Are you kidding? Where did you grow up?

I, well, I started out, I actually grew up partly in the swamps of Florida because my father was stationed at an Air Force base down there. It was a secret Air Force proving ground for jet propulsion. And I had the good fortune to go along with him.

But then afterwards, we came back to New York City and I lived in Stuyvesant Town, which was a project, a metropolitan life insurance project.

That's amazing, yeah.

You lived in one in Brooklyn.

Yeah, in the Sheepshed Project, in Sheepshed Bay.

New York kids.

New York Project kids, yeah.

And we both made it to California. Are you living in California these days? I see you're in North Carolina.

I'm in North Carolina, yeah, but a lot of my heart is in California.

What drew you to North Carolina, Jessica?

There was, we're outside of Asheville now and so we had been moving around a bit and for family reasons we wanted to be back on the east coast. There's a specific school here that really fits well for my son. So there's a few different things that led us here.

And what size city or town do you live in?

Um, Asheville is pretty small-ish. I'm going to say maybe 80,000, but I need to look that up.

Oh, are you near Ashland or in Ashland?

Asheville. Asheville, North Carolina.


We're just outside. Yeah.

I see. I live in a very small town of about 7,500 in Mendocino County.

I think that's ideal.

This program is an opportunity for the people that I curate to express what's most important to them about what they're working on, either in their lives or in their science or in their writings. And this whole arena of alternative forms to heterosexual monogamy is your arena.


It has been it has been so let's take it from the top How did you start entering what drew you into this arena? originally and Then tell us what the landscape looks like What are these words that we hear such as polyamory? such as consensual non-monogamy But first tell us what drew you in

and then the development of what it is, what it stands for. Take it from the top.

Great. I think part of what drew me in was just being an adolescent in New York and realizing around 14 years old that I wasn't straight, that I was bisexual and the experiences that led from that. And so as someone who's bisexual, assuming monogamy is just an interesting thing.

Oh, does that mean I'm committing to one gender or sex for the rest of my life and this other desire in me or attraction doesn't happen? So it was something that on my own I was thinking about and deconstructing, but it really wasn't until

You found this out as a teenager.

I did. Yeah, yeah.

And what was it like as a teenager in New York realizing that you're attracted to both men and women? That's a lot for a teenager to take on.

Yeah, in some ways it was Um, fine, right, there was sort of this culture in the high school that I went to have a few girls who were very similar. And so we really accepted each other. And we're able to explore what that meant. But it was all behind the scenes. No one was really public about it.

We weren't out dating as girlfriends, but maybe behind the scenes, people would kiss each other make out and just experiment. So I felt really, that was a positive experience. But it wasn't until I went to college and actually really fell in love and was dating a woman that I had the experience of coming out as not straight.

And I went to an alternative college in Westchester. And so there was a lot of people, there was a big queer community there already. So it was a safe place to be. And thankfully, I have a pretty progressive family. So my family supported it. They were fine with it.

And growing up in New York City, of course, I mean, I did grow up with a lot of homophobia as well around me, but also it's one of the, you know, queer capitals of the world. So I was very fortunate in that regards.

And even with all of those benefits of a family that was supportive of, you know, these cultures I was in that it was sort of allowed and accepted and around me, it still wasn't necessarily easy. I still had to explore the internalized homophobia that had been within.

and when you say explore internalized homophobia did you have a can you recall having a feeling like maybe there's something wrong with me or maybe i shouldn't be this way or there's some you know there's some shaming and so on

Yeah, I think it was more like being affectionate in public, right? Just walking down the street and holding my girlfriend's hand and feeling uncomfortable, right? In a way that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable if I was walking down the street holding the hand of a man, right?

So that the fear of being judged by others is really the way I initially was like, oh, I'm surprised by this. I didn't realize this was in me.


Yeah, I did tell them. They knew about it. I think that was a time in the 90s and 2000s where it was kind of hot, you know, and there's some Okay, so take us along the next step in your path

Yeah, so then fast forward some years later, and I was in a monogamous marriage with a man and I'm working as a therapist and I have couples coming to me and all the couples I had in one week come to me to try to figure out if they want to do non monogamy.

And professionally, even though personally I had some experience with it, I had no experience with it professionally. And so it kind of felt like it came to me and I needed to figure it out fast because I really wanted to.

In other words, a coincidence that a certain number of couples were all interested and they came to you. Where were you practicing at the time?

I was practicing in Boulder, Colorado at the time. Okay. Yeah, and and three different couples in the same week brought up the topic of we're reading this or one of us wants to explore non monogamy and we want help.



Wow. Okay, what next?

So it felt like a sink or swim moment professionally for me. And I did my homework, I started doing research, I didn't find much out there to support me professionally of how to support non monogamous clients. So I really had to figure it out.

And that's sort of the body of work of my books is what I have figured out along the way to help people navigate this lifestyle, this orientation of being non monogamous.

And tell us some about what non-monogamous means.

Yeah, it's an umbrella.

For the persons who are listening to this for the first time, or maybe it's just some fantasy they've heard about in the movies, but what does it really mean to be non-monogamous?

Yeah, so consensual non-monogamy or ethical non-monogamy, that's an umbrella term, for people who are practicing being in love, romantic or sexual with more than one person, and everybody knows about it. Everyone's agreeing that this is the structure they're doing.

Whereas non monogamy, that's cheating would be someone is having more than one lover, or emotional connection, and it's not everyone knows about it.

which is pretty much been the standard in this country, the cheating model, right?

Right, so people espouse monogamy, but in practice they're often doing non-monogamy, at least statistically, where they're cheating, they're having emotional affairs, sexual affairs, yeah.

Do you happen to have any data on how many people, what percentage of couples in this country are, quote, cheating, unquote?

Yeah, so the data varies depending on who did this study, but they find that some men as many as 50% of men admit to having cheated. And depending on this study, 20 to 40% of women have admitted to cheating in what was considered a monogamous relationship.

And does the research go any deeper than the word cheating in terms of what percentage are actually having relationships with other people? Because cheating could be a one night stand, you meet somebody in the bar, or somebody who's a consecutive cheater, who continuously does, but they're not necessarily... Who's that? Who are?

Sorry about that. Is that your doggy? I'm watching my mom's dog. So whenever something drives by, they just bark.

Okay. I live with three dogs, so I'm quite used to it. So do we know more about the difference between what we might call consecutive cheaters and those who are actually having relationships?

Yeah, I don't know those numbers, but I think studies have looked at the type of cheating that goes on.

Yes. Okay. Dr. Heath Schlesinger, who I work with at the Modern Family Institute, and I hear you're joining us as a matter of fact. Heath tells me that 5% of the United States identify as non-monogamous.


And similarly, meaning real relationships. They're not just a quote, you know, right, right.

It's not just occasional sex on the side, but actually relationships. And some studies break that down into age. So they're saying to millennials, sometimes it's as many as 30% are identifying as being non-monogamous.

You know, we have something here that needs to be pulled apart a bit. And that is, Those who are having relationships outside of their primary relationship that include sex and those that are having relationships outside of their primary relationship but that does not include sex. And I think it's an important differentiation because

When I've been talking to people about my research, and you know I'm writing a book on this topic and the work with the Modern Family Institute, amongst people who are educated people but are uneducated about this particular topic, The first thing that comes up is, well, it's about sex. That's right.

What's going on is they just want to fuck other people. And so they're making up a whole construct about it.


Right. So let's please talk to us about that, about those two groups.

Yeah, well, it's actually Heath's research that shows that when you ask people, you know, what are the benefits or why are they being non monogamous? Sex doesn't come up as the top three answers that they give.

What comes up more is the experience of more support and love in their life, more non sexual activities that they get to do with people, and sort of the opportunity for personal growth that having multiple relationship offers.

Yeah, so it's sort of the stereotype is that people are just doing it for sex, but that's not actually the case for a lot of people. And I also want to allow if it is the case, right? Why do we have to pathologize wanting multiple sexual partners?

That is an important question. I'd like you to say that again.

Yeah, right. What's wrong with wanting to have sex with more than one person? Okay. Yeah.

Well, we better dive right into that. But instead of framing it as what's wrong with wanting to have sex with more than one person, I'm going to frame it as tell us about the complications, the complexities that come with having sex with more than one person.

Yeah. The complexities can be having to manage STIs in a way that if you're with one person, you don't have to have those conversations or think about it or worry about it or do testing to the same degree as you're sharing fluids with multiple people and have potential.

Okay, so one is physical safety.

Physical safety and health can be a complication. Okay.

Managing time.

Right, so the resource of time and how much time do we have to offer multiple people and the reality of our schedule and our busyness.

Please tell us something about managing time because when I read your book, your books actually, the time issue is overwhelming. I can't, I can almost not imagine, I mean, I actually came away thinking

The only people who are going to be able to pull this off and create a new model of the way we are with each other are the very wealthy. Because I'm looking, I'm thinking about a couple. They both go to work.

You come home from work, you get home at about five or six, and then you first decide whether you're going to stay with each other or you're going to go with one of the other people that you're connected with.

and then I mean it's already seven o'clock I mean how do you and and then and then the next night and and how do you create some form of stability and how do you arrange the schedule and how many different partners can you do that with and then when do you get to spend time

with your primary right with you with yourself good point right tell us tell us about some of these things you have both personal and professional experience but i am a you know i live a somewhat complicated life with various occupations and so on but managing for three of two or three or four relationships. It's it seems daunting.

So tell us how that works out in practice and with your patients, please.

Right. Yeah. Well, some people do it really well. And I'm amazed at them, too. Right. Because that's what this is. What I feel has been my biggest struggle is time management. But some people, they've got calendars, monthly calendars. Everyone gives input. They have certain nights a week where they're with these partners and those partners are all together.

They've got childcare figured out and it's pretty incredible. What happens though is it needs to be a well-oiled system, right? And then when something falls off, you know, it can be challenging, right? So, but I see people who are able to do it. I see people living together in community.

So they're not necessarily wealthy, but they're living more in a communal way and that seems to really make it a lot easier.

Tell us a little bit about the communal living experiment.

Yeah, so it could be multiple people living in the same house. It could be that maybe people live in different homes, but they like regularly come together and spend time in an extended way with each other.

And then of course, there are communities that you know, are explore something like Tamara in Portugal, I think that are exploring, actually living really in a community community, and how the impacts of, of love and relationships and what that looks like.

I've heard some about Tamara. Tell me a little bit about Tamara.

Yeah, I haven't been there. I've just, you know, been following them for a while. Oh, you have also.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. But my sense is, you know, they're looking at this, right, that we can't just live in a regenerative community and not look at how we relate to sexuality and romance and love.

How many people are living together there? Do you know?

Sure. I think it's a few hundred. Yeah, but someone else listening probably knows the exact number.

Okay, well for those listening who are interested, you might want to just go a little deeper and check out the Tamara community in Portugal. Let's get back to what we know and have direct experience with.

Yeah, so people do manage their time well and then for a lot of people it's difficult and what the consequence of that could be having multiple relationships that just feel like they're not getting enough time and it's hard to establish a bond and meet those attachment needs of a relationship when we're not getting the time that we need or the sense of consistency.

But a lot of people also, I would say that's when we're wanting an attachment-based relationship. And many people are non-monogamous, and that might not be what they want. They're okay seeing someone occasionally, once a month, while they travel, and that works for them.

And when they're seeing that someone, is it necessarily sexual, or is it just, is it not necessarily, it could be either?

It could be either, exactly.

Then how is it different from what we call friendship?

Right. I think in my book, I use a term that others have used too called polyintimates, where there can be people that we're not necessarily sexual with, but there might be, friends doesn't cut it as the right phrase to use. It doesn't feel platonic.

It might feel like there's more of a romantic element to it or a sense of partnership, right? Like platonic partnership. TITLE YET

Are you comfortable talking about your own personal situation? I am. Yeah, happily. Okay. So tell us about your situation. I think with David. Yeah. Right. And, by the way,

You know, I got to the section at the very end of the book where he talks about himself, and you can pass on to him that had I seen that earlier, I would have invited him to be part of this interview as well.

Yeah, I'm sure he'd love to be on, yeah.

No offense meant, but I think he would add a lot. Maybe we'll do another interview with him or with you and him at another time. Absolutely. So tell us about your relationship, you know, how it has How it began and how it has progressed over the years.

Yeah, so we've been together in each other's lives for 21 years. We actually met in Northern California. 21? 21 years, yeah. We met in 2002 in Northern California at a massage school. And we had an initial spark of a romance.

And being in community and at massage school, it just wasn't something that was gonna work for us then. So we were very close friends. We were friends for several years. And then we got together, we got married, we had a son, we were polyamorous and married. And then you were what? polyamorous and married.

You, you, well how did the polyamory come about? Give us a little, you know, fill in the dots.

Yeah, yeah, it was actually through, well something we had talked about before we got married because I'm bisexual and yet it was always on the back burner and then this week I talk about that my clients came to me with their non-monogamy

It really awoken in me like, oh, wait, I've done this before and I want to do it now. And so we took walks for a few weeks and talked about what it would be like what we imagine. And we felt like, yeah, we want to do this. This feels right for us. And we did.

Up until then, you'd been a heterosexual, I mean, you'd been a monogamous couple.

We had been a monogamous couple, but we were non-traditional where I had male friends and female friends. He had female friends. Sometimes we would have trips or overnights with those friends. So there was a sense of really emotional intimacy that was deep with other people.

And there was a lot of space in our relationship for that, where other people would probably feel afraid that that was too close, you know, to be with somebody else in a more traditional relationship. So we already had that, but then we opened it up more to actually, you know, romantic sexual relationships.

And we can come back to that experience. But just, you know, him and I, several years after that got divorced, and we lived apart for about a year, year and a half. And now we have come back together. We've been living together. How?

Wait a second.


was was the the polyamory if we'll use that term for now um i have concerns with the terminology that we're all using by the way i i really don't like uh consensual non-monogamy because i i don't care for it at all because it defines the people who are in experimenting with this way in terms of what they're not

We're not, and I don't like, I think it's somewhat insulting to in any way describe people in terms of what they're not instead of what they really are. But that said, we're using right now these words temporarily.

Yes, but polyamory is the right word for what we were practicing.

Okay, which means more than one friend and more than one lover, more than one intimate association than the primary.

Yes, that we're actually in a relationship with other people, in love with those people, forming attachments and bonds with those people, and even challenging the hierarchy of our own marriage.

Now, to what extent did this experimentation lead to the divorce?

Yeah, I wouldn't want to.

Were you, were you suffering from what some friends of mine in the profession have called polyagony?

Polyagony. There was polyagony for sure. Um, but I, I wouldn't say that that was the cause of the divorce. I think the opening up process exposed things in our dynamic that we didn't have to address in monogamy, but then we had, we couldn't not address as polyamorous.

Could you think of examples?

I can, yeah. So there was a dynamic in our relationship that was codependent that we didn't even see really in the monogamous context where there's certain ways I would over function and certain ways he would under function.

And in non-monogamy and polyamory, you realize, oh, I can't really be codependent with this partner and have space in my life for somebody else. I have to stop participating in these codependent behaviors over here. Right. But his pacing and my pacing of addressing that was different.

You know, in some of those dynamics, we really felt like we needed to have that separation in order to reestablish ourselves in a more interdependent way, which we have. We feel like we have now.

So you literally got divorced.

We literally got divorced. Yeah.

And then how long were you divorced for before you got back together?

We were divorced about a year and a half and then we moved in together again and we're not sexual and romantic but we are family, we consider each other life partners, we're co-parents. We run a home together and we have written a book together as well. We're creative partners. So it's, it's a very intimate relationship.

Would you say, would you, is it fair to say that you and he are in what might be called a primary relationship?

To a degree? Yeah. Yeah.

It's a primary relationship and we each have, you have, and what is the nature of the commitment that you have to each other?

Yeah, so we, when we got divorced, we actually did a ceremony where we released our vows, our wedding vows, and then we recommitted. And so we've recommitted as parents, and we've recommitted as like life humans, life partners, that are here to support each other in life, in our growth in the hard times.

I think our technical words were like, I've got your back in this life. That's what we've committed to.

Uh-huh. Yeah. Now, what about the legalities? Aren't you losing out or are you gaining from the legality? When I say losing out or gaining, I'm thinking of things like social security, the tax benefits, life insurance, various things that people have to deal with.

Yeah, we technically, right, probably are losing out on some of those. But we each have other partners as well. And yeah, the enmeshment that being legally married created does not feel like something that either of us wants to return back to.

Is your son living with the two of you or is he already old enough to have left the nest?

he's nine so he's still at home oh he's nine okay yeah so the three of you are living together now when you just said we each have other partners i noticed that you used the word partners plural yes well currently he has one other partner and currently i have one other partner

and tell us about what that having that other partner for each of you literally looks like in terms of functioning in the real world yeah so each of our partners also have children of a few years older than our son and they have their own households and so usually like my partner will usually spend the night two or three nights a week he has shared custody with his ex

Right. So or me and my son might go and spend the night at his place with his kids.

So in your case, your other partner is a male, not a female.

That's right. Yeah.

But it could be just as well a female.

It could be. Yes, it could be.

It just happens in this case. It's a male moment.


Yeah. OK, now tell us something about the effect of this. on your son. He's nine years old. Mom's leaving the house with me. I'm going with my mom and I'm going to some other guy's house.


Who is this other guy?

And what am I doing here with him? Right. So, you know, that's not something we didn't start from that place. Right.

There was probably a good six months of me dating this partner before I even introduced him to my son, because I tend to be I tend to wait and to feel like, OK, is this really going to be something

that's continuing and once it felt like that he met my son and he would be around the house or we would go over there but we wouldn't spend nights and my son adores him and he loves his kids as well and so then when it's the night to go sleep at his house my son's excited because it's you know a positive experience for him.

And there's things that he gets out of that other adult in his life from both ends, Dave's other partner as well, Dave's partnered with a woman. These are extra positive role models and adults in his life that care about him. And so he really loves having that extra attention. And yeah,

but we've never dismantled that we as his parents are his primary attachment figures and that you know that has stayed in place for him so he hasn't had the loss of either one of us our polyamory has felt more like an addition now can you see this other relationship

with this gentleman going on for years or do you see it as a temporary or how do you sort of view it in your life we see it as going on for years that's our intention and our hope and you know we don't have official plans but we're hoping that as time goes on there might be cohabitating together and figuring that out

and within this the series of relationships that you have with Dave who's your primary and with this other man you also mentioned in the book that you might in additionally be dating and that's that's part of when I got like where does where do you find time currently no currently I don't have the time yeah that's I'm completely at my saturation point yeah having

All the things that I do, I couldn't be able to date more people.

But you seem to imply in the book that some people might be able to handle that.

Oh, absolutely. Some people do. They have multiple partners. They might consider one or two people their primaries. They might not use that terminology at all and might have several partners that they see as more non-hierarchical.

But I do know people that are married and they're in a marriage and they still have two or three partners and I'm in like you I'm in awe that they have the time and space to do it Dave Your partner your former husband Talks in the book about how he felt when you first started having sexual relationships with other people

And it was very touching. That's why I said I sort of wish he was here. Maybe we'll get him here. This has to be an occurring event with many people, if not all couples who open up their relationship in some way. So talk to us now.

about tactics, procedures that you recommend, including possibly going into your heart program. Talk to us about how to deal with what we all call jealousy.

Exactly. And amazingly, not everyone experiences this. But yes, a lot of people struggle with jealousy, struggle with this sense of primal attachment panic, their partners off having sex with someone else, and they feel like they're literally going to die. That's the kind of intensity that their nervous system is going through. And so it's a multi pronged approach.

It's dealing with our own nervous system, learning how to regulate,

um learning how to do self-regulation figuring out our own trauma history is usually something we need to explore there and what healing is needed and then what are the attachment needs that need to get bolstered relationally so that we're not going into something that Dave describes you know in that story of his primal panic it sounds like uh couples

who are looking to engage in this form of social experimentation would do well with a guide. It's, it sounds similar to me, to what we're telling people with psychedelic. Exactly.

You better, if you're going to go on this plane ride, you better have a co-pilot who's known, who knows how to fly the plane, or you're going to crash.

For a lot, yes, obviously, I mean, that's the work that I'm doing in the world is helping people navigate this different way of relating and loving and having sexuality. And so of course, I'm biased, I would say I agree, I think people benefit from having a guide and having that support.

Yeah, just like, I can almost, it's hard to imagine going into this without having some kind of weekly commitment to hours processing. If you just try to fly and go, it's like going up in an airplane for the first time and having no co-pilot. I mean, how the hell, how do you fly the plane?

I would be, there'd be an awful lot of, a lot of crashing.

Yeah, and it does happen, right? People are excited to do it, or they want to try it, or they feel like it's what they're most drawn to within themselves. And still, there can be a lot of crashing that happens unintentionally, or in ways people didn't expect.

So yes, having the support of guides that can help you, professional guides, friendships, making new polyamorous friends, even looking at communities, listening to podcasts, you know, all of those things are ways to support living in a different paradigm.

During the times of my life, a hundred years ago, that I was engaged in polyamorous relationships, One of the biggest difficulties we had was there was no one to talk to about it. We were the only people we knew who, I mean, we heard about others, but you didn't bump into them anywhere.

And it wasn't a topic that you could talk to because you'd be seen as weird. And with myself, as a doctor of clinical psychology, I was concerned about my reputation.

And one of the, you know, one of the worst things you can do for your reputation in our culture, certainly at that time, was to be engaged in something unusual sexually. Right. Because, you know, the biggest no-no of all. Right.

To be seen as sexually deviant in some way.

exactly that word deviant right and so it was it was uh awkward and challenging from that perspective now it seems that there are in in hearth heath's research five percent of the population that's 15 million people that means you know there are people to talk to do you have a sense

of how this transition has has a transition come to came about or has this always been going on but more like myself it was more sort of undercover i mean we didn't really hide it we just weren't open about it yeah but

I think, yes, I think my understanding is this has always been going on. And as you started this whole conversation with, you know, that this actually isn't tradition, monogamy hasn't actually traditionally been what's happened. So we could go far back into history and people talk about other times, other cultures that non monogamy was more openly practiced.

But if we think of what we know of, you know, the last one or two hundred, three hundred years within this society, I think it actually has been happening, but people were not as open. It was more behind closed doors. But now it's, you know, since the sexual revolution, since the Internet, the world has changed.

So there's all these places now, social spaces, online spaces that people can connect with each other that they don't have to be in proximity. And so I think that's really changed the opportunity for these things to become more out in the open.

And I think we have a lot to credit to, you know, the gay rights movement that's come before, the gender movements, Even I think the trans movement has done just amazing work that set the stage for now monogamy to start to become deconstructed at a societal level.

And there's still a far way to go with all of these movements, but you know, they've paved the way.

You know, in your situation that you described, your other partner is evidently a married man who's in a relationship.

He's not married right now.

No, he's single.

Yes, well, he's with me and he was previously married.

But he lives alone or alone with his child part time. Yes. Okay. And maybe your Dave is with a woman. Yes. Part time. Is she with somebody or is she alone?

I don't know at this moment. I think it depends.

Okay. Yeah. Well, here's the example I'm thinking of and where I'm going with this line of thinking. You two are together, you have a lifelong commitment you've made. Dave connects with a woman who's single. And she's living alone has her own life. And they're going to have a long term relationship. This isn't just a quickie.


Okay. You and he are living together and you've got that living together bond whether you have the legal marriage or not but you're living together with a child. From a socio-political perspective until we have new language for what she is she is in a one down position socio-politically because she's going to be viewed as quote, the girlfriend.

You see, you have a better title. You're either the wife or the primary.

I mean, I think he would, but he would consider her his primary partner in terms of where his in love, romantic and sexual energy goes.

Well, he could consider that. Yeah. But until they're living together and they make that de facto, she isn't because the primary person is the person that you're under the roof with because that's the evidence. Yeah.

You can say it's something else, but when you're sharing the house and sharing the food and sharing the responsibility for the in-house child, it's hard to see someone else as being the primary Yeah, I think I think you see what I where I'm going. We need new. We need new language.

Yeah, I see where you're going because him and I don't experience it that way. Like we don't think, oh, we're each other's primaries and our partners are secondary. That's not how we're actually living at all. But we acknowledge are there certain areas that we have a primary ship like living together? Right.

But my other partner comes over and he does help in my house in ways that Dave doesn't. JESSICA FERN NO TITLE

She's married, as you know, to Alex, but Alex says to me he has, quote, a girlfriend. I hope he doesn't mind me outing him this way. Well, in my perspective, in the great sociopolitical viewpoint, the girlfriend is one down from the wife. And that's not, that's not fair. That's not fair to Alex.

It's not fair to the woman. It's not fair to Lily. There's no reason why this other quote strong relationship, whether it's primary or not, should be in a one down situation. You get my, where I'm going with that?

I do. I mean, I think you're getting potentially at the legalization of having multiple partners, right? Not just one. Right? And really looking at how we share can include resources, whether it's like insurance or inheritance, that it shouldn't, it's not fair that it's just with one person a lot of the time.

Yes. In fact, I interviewed an interesting man this week. I don't know if you know him, David Jay. And David got invited to be in a polyamorous relationship or poly relationship with a married couple.

so that they would have children together and David adopted the children at birth and he is now on the birth certificate of both of the children as a legally as a second father Yeah. And that's the kind of thing that I think is extremely important and strong. So he doesn't have a quote, a secondary role.

He is a partner on the birth certificate. He's a father and they live together. They share the, the expenses of the home and the food and everything else. You might refer to them as a triple instead of a couple.

Yeah. A triad. Yeah.

Or a triple or a triad. Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah, right. And that's a great example of people getting creative. I mean, people are also doing things where they're creating trusts so that multiple people own the house or have inheritance. You know, that it's not just legally the married couple has those benefits.

Jessica, we're perhaps inadvertently stressing the positives

of this experiment these experimentation but we know it comes as does all pioneering work with a lot of challenges and you have a little acronym called heart yeah that you put together that you recommend to the people you work with take us through the heart and the little time we have left so that our listeners can have a takeaway of some great good stuff please

Yeah, so the last the one last third of my book polysecure is really sort of a how to okay, you want to have multiple attachment relationships. Yeah. Or it could be just with one person that you want to enhance your attachment experience. And so I came up with HEARTS, which H stands for hear.

So for focusing on how you're in presence, right? The here-ness, being here together. E is express delight. How do we let our partner know that they're loved? It's not just the love language.

It's the way that we communicate in multiple ways, not just with our words, that we adore and admire and delight in the aliveness of our partner. H-E-N.

Give us some more examples. No, I want more examples of expressed delight.

Expressed delight, it could be the way you touch your partner as you're walking by. It could be, the classic thing is called the beam gleam, the way that we're just our eyes when we look at our loved one. JESSICA FERN NO TITLE YET

Okay, so the first one was H is for the here and now, to be present, to be fully present. When you're with the person and looking at the person, your mind isn't a million miles away. You're not thinking about work, about your cell phone, your computer, your dog, all that other stuff. You're giving that other person

quality time of being present. That's the H here and now. Okay.

The second one, right.

Is the way that value expressing, not just, not just appreciation, but delight. What, what you love about being with that other person to remind ourselves to express that to them. Right.

Right, not just, oh, I'm grateful for what you do for me, but I just take delight in who you are. I love who you are and the ways that we communicate that to someone.


The next is A, which is attunement, which is about the emotional connection, being emotionally attuned, tuning into our partner's interior experience, caring about our partner's feelings and needs and the interiority of what's going on for them behind the scenes. So that emotional intimacy piece would be... What would be examples of that verbally?

It could just be, how are you for real, right? Not that surface level, how are you? I'm fine. But like, how are you really doing? Or how is that landing with you that this thing just happened, right? Or what's going on in your heart? Right. How do you feel about this thing?

Or I know you've been, you know, have this thing at work that you've been going through. I want to hear more about it. Right. So just that sense of curiosity, leaning in towards I want to really know the inside of my partner, what goes on in their heart, their mind, even their body.

Okay, that's the H in H E A.

Yes, so R is for Rituals and Routines. This can be the mundane, everyday routines that we have with partners, the hellos, the goodbyes, the breakfast, the coffee, the messaging. You know, it's not about living together necessarily. When we're together, the little things that we do together that feel like they're ours are special things.

They can also be bigger.

You know, you make those sound easy, but they're really not. No, not necessarily. Yeah, really not. You know, my wife and I make up. We're going to kiss each other. Hello. We're going to kiss each other. Goodbye. And then all of a sudden we forget.

Yeah, right. Exactly. Exactly. So that's why it's something that, you know, in my book, there's questions about what are the routines that are meaningful, that support feeling secure together, that enhance your bond.

And what are the rituals that could be ceremonies that you have together or end of the year reflections that you like to do or that place you go to once a year, right? The different rituals of the relationship that sort of market in certain ways or acknowledge a loss or an escalation or a deepening of commitment.

Do you have a recommendation for an amount of time ideally let's go ideal an ideal amount of time for a couple to spend together each week just being together without reading a book without watching television i don't

Yeah, I don't have a recommended amount of time. I'm when I'm working with people, I'm more curious about the amount of time they need and negotiating that because I see people can have really different ideas of what that time need is for them. So figuring that out is what I would recommend.

But it does need to be at least weekly, doesn't it?

I think so. Yeah, I think so.

Yeah, I think so. I think so also.

I know that's what I need. And usually that's what my clients need is even more than once a week where there's sort of this dropping in time together.

Yes, yes, yes, indeed. Yeah. And I think that's one of the most important things.

that we can convey to our listeners Jessica yes is the importance of making a weekly time that is just time for the people without it being time for anything else in the world for the two people to be present with each other for that period of time exactly yes yes okay and

I need to jump off in a minute. But let's finish the hearts so that yes, let's finish the heart. Yeah. So the T is turning towards after conflict. It's all how we do conflict management, how we manage our own triggers.

And really when there's been a rupture, instead of turning away from each other, we really build our capacity and skill set to turn towards each other and repair.

Yes, and here you refer to the great John Gottman. Exactly. And I refer our listeners to John Gottman as well, because what John says is it's not the intensity or the frequency of your fighting, it's how quickly and deeply you repair. Yeah. It's about repairing. It's about solutions. And that's what we need to remember.

It's about repairing and solutions. Okay, you've got to go.

Yes, but last but not least is the S, which is your attachment with self. So it's how do we heart ourself? How are we present with ourself? How do we value ourself attuned to our own needs and feelings, our own rituals and routines to stay healthy and in our own wellness?

And as well as our own inner conflicts. How do we work with our inner critic? How do we work with our inner shame and the ways we might feel disappointed by ourselves? So that we really need that secure attachment with self as one of the parts of being in a secure relationship with somebody else. Nope.

Are you there?

We had a little technical glitch. So I'm going to let you go. I feel like we've just sort of scratched the surface. We've just begun. I hope you'll come back. We'll do another interview maybe with David as well. Jessica Fern, thank you so much for being with us today. Again, here's one of Jessica's books.

I'll hold one of the other ones up for you to see. So we'll get that in. Please take a look. You'll want to watch. Look out for Jessica Fern's work. Thank you for being with us today. And thank you all, our gentle listeners.

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