Polyamory on Rise Among Divorce-Disgusted Americans

PHOTO: Left to right; Ian Ferguson, Eamon, Jaiya Ma and Jon Hanauer pictured at home, Nov. 22, 2011 in Topanga, California.
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Jaiya Ma has a rich life -- a successful career as a sexologist, a healthy 2-year-old and two men who have sex with her. And soon, there may be another woman who will become part of this unconventional, but loving, polyamorous family.

For the last 10 years, Ma, 34, has lived with Jon Hanauer. But five years ago, she met Ian Ferguson at a dance class and fell in love.

Now, all three live together with Eamon, her son with Ferguson, at their home in Topanga, Calif.

Hanauer, 49, urged Ma to find a new lover after their relationship stalled and she fell hard for furniture designer Ferguson, who is 44. A year later, she was pregnant with his child.

Both men helped deliver Eamon in a birthing tub -- an experience Ma described as "orgasmic."

The triad lives with open communication and an even more open marriage. Both men have had affairs with other women and Ferguson has now asked to bring another woman into the family.

"Jealousy comes up," Ma admits. "But we are all fairly harmonious. We are lucky that we are all have the tools and mechanisms to deal with jealousy and communication and never play the blame game."

Polyamory -- or "many loves" -- is not common, but the practice is growing, say advocates, especially among younger Americans who have grown up with a high divorce rate.

Polyamorists believe that people have the right to form their own complex relationships with multiple partners. The most vocal want the right to marry -- as a cluster.

One of the largest advocacy groups Loving More, based in Loveland, Colo., publishes a magazine and holds conventions and retreats for the like-minded. Founded in 1985, the organization has more than 45,000 in its active database.

"We're getting ready to do a survey," said Executive Director Robyn Trask. "It's hard to gauge the number -- it's not on the census. But in the last two years, the movement has quite exploded."

Just recently, Mo'Nique, an Oscar-winning American actress, discussed her open marriage with ABC's Barbara Walters.

She said polyamory is not just an excuse to have "hook up and have casual sex."

"From my standpoint as a political activist, polyamory has become a blanket for things it is not," said Trask, who has a primary partner living with her in Colorado and two other men she is in love with -- one from New York City and another abroad.

Trask said Jaiya Ma and her lovers are unusual in that they live together. "A lot of people would love to have what she has, but finding three people to commit and get along is not easy."

Ma and Hanauer met in 2000 during tantric yoga classes in Cincinatti, Ohio, and fell in love taking a teacher training course.

They had had open marriage, but after one hurtful relationship, Hanauer retreated emotionally, but encouraged Ma to find another lover. In 2007, she met Ferguson at a dance class and the attraction was immediate.

Divorced, Ferguson had just discovered polyamory, and after a year he showed an interest in a sexual relationship with Ma. While still discussing having children -- Hanauer was not sure he was ready -- Ma got pregnant with Ferguson's baby.

All three moved to a larger home, which Ferguson helped pay for, and together they took birth classes for a home delivery. All three sat in the birthing pool during labor.

Today, Hanauer stays home with the baby and handles the business side of Ma's work as a sexologist. Ferguson is the breadwinner.

Polyamorist Family Are 'Pretty Much Straight

As a somatic sexologist, Ma works with other couples to heal their physical problems with sex when talk therapy has failed.

She has DVDs and two websites, Sex Is You, and How To Love Openly about polyamory. With Hanauer, she wrote a book, "Red Hot Touch."

Ma said all three partners are "pretty much straight."

"Not all three of us have sex together, for sure," she said. "But if you look at the Kinsey scale, there is no black or white. I work with women and do very somatic work. It's [about] people, that's more who I am, not necessarily gender."

Both Ferguson and Hanauer date other women, but that doesn't mean their family is free of friction.

"Ian just called me this afternoon and he has another lover and partner," said Ma. "He wants me to be more inclusive and meet her. We will have a conversation."

They have an agreement that each is not allowed to see someone else unless that person is interested in polyamory.

"Ian loves to do things that trigger me," she said. "He loves to date monogamous women and that drive me nuts -- because it sets them up for a lot of pain… he's always creating drama."

Ma also has other important rules about their relationships. "The biggest for me is safe sex," she said. "I am a total germ-a-phobe. I want to know who they are having sex with. Being a sexologist, I am hyper aware of that."

The second rule is to "check-in" with the others when another relationship arises. "It's not like we can go have sex with someone," said Ma. "There is definitely a conversation. I don't give permission -- I am not his Mom -- but let's honor and care about each other and how we feel."

Meanwhile, Ma's son Eamon is doing well with this unconventional setting.

"Within our family it's great," she said about three parents raising a child. "Oh, my god, it works well. It's amazing to watch."

So far, there isn't much research on how the children of polyamorous families fare, but Elisabeth Sheff, a sociologist at Georgia State University, is conducting the first large study of these children. Her work reveals that they can thrive, if their families are stable and loving.

Ma said that she does worry about society will judge her son as he gets old enough to start school. "We live in a culture that doesn't support that," she said. "And we are not anti-monogamy."

"It's a concern," said Ma. "I think often that there are so many different families today. The modern family has stepdad and gay dads and two mommies. What is family and how do we explain that to children?"

Luckily, she said, their family lives in the Los Angeles area where "there are many different kinds of families."

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