About More Than Two
“The tongue of man is a twisty thing. There are plenty of words there of every kind.” — Homer
Monday was the five-year anniversary of the publication of More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, and it seemed an appropriate occasion to attempt to address a question we keep getting: Is it a good book? Should we still use it? Or should we throw it away?
Our role as the survivor pod is to support survivors, one of whom is the female co-author of More Than Two. Our role is also to elevate their voices, and More Than Two is, in part, her voice. So we’re not in a good position to make any kind of formal recommendation on the book. We’ll need to leave that up to communities, individuals, and people with the skills and qualifications to properly evaluate the advice therein. But we have our own, personal thoughts on the matter, and we’re happy to share them here.
Below are individual statements from pod members and survivors on the book. We encourage others to share their thoughts and critiques of the book, and we urge everyone to read this analysis by Kali Tal. The female co-author has made her own post here.
At this point we are, however, making a direct ask of community members: If you ever reviewed or promoted the The Game Changer or More Than Two, or had an interview with the Author where you discussed his past relationships, please add a link to the women’s stories at the top of your post. We’re asking for this in lieu of taking these posts down, as doing the latter would just ensure that only commentary that supports the Author’s narrative remains.
It’s been a long time since I’ve read More Than Two. For a time it was one of my go-to recommendations to clients considering polyamory. Then I started hearing some complaints from clients. During a couple’s session, one client reported feeling othered and invalidated by the book’s handling of jealousy. This client also reported that the book felt dismissive and shaming of monogamy in its framing of relationships.
I admit that this caused major cognitive dissonance for me. I had a lot of respect for the two authors. I’d occasionally chatted with the female co-author over Facebook chat, and what I knew of her, and her and the Author, did not match what I was hearing in session.
Now that I have more context about the dynamic, this dissonance makes a lot more sense. I can see why some clients had such a strong aversion to parts of the book.
That said, some of my favorite people found More Than Two to be profoundly helpful and revelatory. It normalized and validated their experience, and it helped them change for the better. And I would never want to take that away from anyone.
I don’t think that More Than Two should be tossed aside or completely written off. There is some genuinely solid information to be found. I do think it should be recommended with caveats. I also hope people read a range of books about nonmonogamy, so they can take what works and leave the rest.
If you are one of the many people with whom More Than Two resonated, you are not doomed to a life of unhealthy polyamory.
Just remember that, no matter what your relationship configuration, you must accept influence to have influence. While it is important to maintain some independence, we still have to be accountable to our partners, and open to accepting bids for connection.
See this blog post from the Gottman institute on how to compromise without sacrificing your core needs
I spent a few years recommending More Than Two as an introductory book on polyamory, particularly in the U.K. — so since the survivor stories started to come out, I’ve been asked a lot if I’d still recommend it. And the answer is complex.
It’s a book with more than one author. It has some real gems of advice, but some really problematic advice too. In particular, I like the “people are more important than the relationship” theme, and in particular I dislike the subtext that being upset by things is entirely the responsibility of the upset person to process. If you’ve read the survivor stories, you’ll probably understand why.
The specific short advice I give to people who still want to use the book as a reference is:
- Treat the Author’s stories about former partners as fiction, or better: go read the survivor stories about the same things.
- Treat conclusions drawn from the Author’s stories as suspect. Really question them.
- Don’t use ANY book as your polyamory manual. Read more than one book. Use them to generate questions for yourselves about what you want.
- Discuss things you aren’t sure about with other poly people. You’ll get wide ranging advice — but the collective group is wiser than any one voice on things it has experience with.
(originally published on Black & Poly)
While I still believe this book is valuable for new polyamorists, read this book with the understanding that it was written in the context of an emotionally abusive relationship.