There is little else more fun than being the author of your own life and whilst I adore Tolkien, he reserved his authorship for elves, hobbits and wizards. As much of a stupendous achievement Lord of the Rings is, I’ve gotta admit; I want to live that magical life… not just write about it.
The buzz around The Law of Attraction proves that people have a deep desire to truly design their own lives. And last week riding gracefully on the back of this popular concept and into my delighted hands, Mark Michael’s and Patricia Johnson’s new book with foreword by Ken Haslam, arrived in Sweden: ‘Designer Relationships – A guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory and Optimistic Open Relationships.‘
I applaud the authors’ ambition to write such on such vast topic matter; yet depending on your point of view, it either serves as a good introductory text, or has not the length to adequately cover such a broad subject. I’m going to go with the first perception and authors’ own aim to have an ‘airport read’ and reduce it to my favourite quote.
Designer relationships allow people to consider a broad spectrum of possible relationship styles and craft an approach that suits their circumstances. What works–not what’s supposed to be divinely ordained, natural or normal–is optimal.
– Designer Relationships, Michaels & Johnson
Designer Relationships is a gentle, compassionate read which presents the subject in a most decorous and acceptable light, yet this also means it is not dramatic or compelling enough to encourage a dubious reader to finish it. This is not a book which will persuade those without an already open and curious mind. However if you are interested in the subject matter – as I am – you can devour it in one sitting. The particular strength of this book is its supporting research, albeit it from an America-centric perspective. Footnotes, data and references pepper the text and specifically quote from much of the excellent polyamorous literature and more open-minded relationship blogs out there, debunking many unconscious monogamous myths.
On the downside, I feel that this book is derived a little too much from the authors’ own experience (accumulated during their glorious partnership of 17 years) and is therefore necessarily skewed with their own beliefs and interpretations. For example, in the one descriptive paragraph covering fluid bonding, the authors state,
There is an important emotional and symbolic component to the decision to stop using barriers and become fluid bonded.
Not necessarily. Just as with anything else, the importance of such a decision will depend on your own narrative. Such a decision could perhaps be neither emotional nor symbolic. It could be simply a logical step (hopefully after testing) because you both hate condoms. Attributing such importance as a default, only supports the narrative that fluid bonding is reserved for special deeply intimate relationships. Designer relationships, by definition, should be built on a neutral foundation.
Finally, before writing this review, I watched them both talk about their book in Sarah Arlen’s new series Polyamorous People (episode 2). It is clear that these two people have co-created a beautiful long lasting relationship where they express their non-exclusive inclination – in their own words – via erotic friendships whilst emotionally, they choose to be monogamous… This alone makes their book worth reading in my opinion. Whether I agree with it or not, for many longevity in their relationship is an ultimate goal for many. Patricia and Michael have accomplished this with their own designer relationship and that means their book brings a lot of ‘walk the talk’ value to open-minded, but emotionally monogamous people who are desperately searching for better alternatives to the Hollywood scripts we are fed on an interminable basis.