My name is Erez Benari, and this is my story about ethical non-monogamy (ENM), also known as Polyamory. Like most people, I was raised with the notion that monogamy is the only way to love. One man, one woman. However, as a kid, I read a lot of science fiction, especially stories by famed author Robert A. Heinlein. Much of Heinlein’s literature included elements of “free love”, which were popular before him, but particularly common in the 1960s with the advent of Hippie culture. As a child, I was strongly influenced by Heinlein’s notions of sharing love, open-relationships and loving without restrictions or jealousy. Over the years, I developed a strong belief in non-monogamy as a value, but living in a monogamous society, most of my relationships were monogamous. When I met the girl who would be my future-wife, and later-on in our marriage, we often discussed these topics and seemed to agree that jealousy was a ridiculous notion and that we, as a couple, have no reason to be jealous. However, we lived as a married couple for many years and never had much opportunity to engage in any extra-marital activity (neither romantic nor sexual). We also had a child, a beautiful baby boy.
A few years ago, I discovered that my area had a large community of open-minded individuals. I found the people in that community to be wonderful and amazing in so many ways, and they have become a big part of my life. As it turns out, the majority of the community practice ethical non-monogamy (although not all, and it is not the main focus of that community). My open-mindedness and adventurous spirit drew a lot of attention in the community, which caused my wife a great deal of anxiety, stress and anger. As it turned out, despite having presented herself as accepting of open-relationships and non-monogamy, she was, in fact, highly monogamous. People’s interest in me caused her a great deal of jealousy, and she developed a crippling fear that I would leave her for someone else. I had no intention of doing so, and elected to not pursue any romantic relationship with anyone else, but she was unable to let go of her fear and anxiety, and became more and more angry. I was also unwilling to give up on the community and felt that being forced to choose between my friends and my wife was an unreasonable situation, and so we tried going to couple’s therapy for many months. As time went by, our fighting intensified until I couldn’t take it anymore, and I gave up and ended our marriage.
As part of our divorce, my wife demanded we include a clause in our divorce decree which stated that if I were to practice non-monogamy, I would hide it from our child, and do everything I can to prevent him from knowing about it. I objected to the clause, but at the time, was under a significant amount of stress, as I was about to lose my job at the tech company I worked-for, and was also pressured by my family to sign the contract. An attorney I consulted with told me that clause was ridiculous, unconstitutional, and unenforceable, so I ended up caving to the pressure and reluctantly signing it.
For about 2 years, things were rough. My ex-wife was extremely angry at me for leaving her (which is understandable, of course) and did several nasty and unethical things. For example, she sent messages to all my friends falsely accusing me of spreading sexually-transmitted diseases. She also threatened me that I would never see my son again, though thankfully, she had no way of making that happen.
Approximately two years later, my ex-wife felt I “exposed” our child to my romantic life, and filed a law-suit against me in family court, claiming I violated the divorce decree. However, despite inflating her claims with a multitude of preposterous (and false) accusations, the judge realized who he was dealing with (her filings were extremely nasty) and didn’t convict me. Instead, the judge decided to defer his decision by a few months, but then, due to the global pandemic, that matter was dropped. As part of this, I was forced to spend a significant amount of money on legal representation, and that was quite harsh as my post-divorce finances were extremely strained, forcing me to withdraw from my retirement fund to cover the costs. My ex-wife also told some friends of hers lies about me, angering one of them enough to cause him to threaten my life, forcing me to spend a lot of money on security systems. However, her loss in court gave me some peace of mind.
About 1.5 years later, my ex-wife was able to convince my son’s therapist to write an opinion condemning me as a parent due to being polyamorous. My ex-wife thought that with this, she would be able to “finish” me, and she re-filed her case to court. When I read the therapist’s notes, I was shocked. While I knew that I never discussed polyamory with my son, and he was not aware of my romantic life (at least as far as I knew), I became worried that I might have, somehow, inadvertently hurt my son. My community and family assured me that I was an exceptional parent, but I’m a self-critical person and couldn’t just blindly ignore the accusations, even though there was a lot about it that felt extremely biased (I also spotted several distinct lies in her notes). I tried contacting the therapist to learn more, but she ignored my calls and messages.
As a parent and a person, I’ve always held a very strong belief that parenting is something where there’s not much room for error. There’s no place for “a few bad apples”, and “doing your best” isn’t going to cut it, because it deals with the life of a defenseless child. Reading the therapist’s notes, I felt that even if just a small part of it is true, then to protect my son, I should stop seeing him. My ex-wife whole-heartedly agreed with this notion in her court filing, as it was her intention all along, and so I voluntarily stopped seeing him. I knew, of course, that a child unable to see his father is by no means OK, but if I had indeed hurt him, as the therapist claimed, then this was the lesser of two evils, and was in his best interest. Ultimately, the only one who really knows is my son, and so I hoped and believed that as he grows older and becomes more independent, he would know best. If the therapist’s accusations are false, I’m sure he knows how much I love him, and hopefully, he himself would initiate contact and we can resume our relationship.
Despite this, my ex-wife still continued her legal battle, hoping to get the court to sanction me (in addition to prevent us seeing each other, she was also hoping to get about $30,000 out of this). As part of this, her unscrupulous attorney inflated the bills significantly by filing over 1400 pages into the case. I initially consulted a lawyer for this, but after a while felt he was disparaging and causing more harm than good. I ended up firing the lawyer, and representing myself. I wasn’t very optimistic about the trial, but I knew that the court system is just, and hoped the court will listen and understand my situation. I’m also a believer in Karma, and as a person who does a lot of good in life, I felt Karma would be on my side. In court, things went swimmingly! The judge pointed out that the therapists letter was, in fact, hearsay (as in, not legal evidence) and since my ex-wife’s case was solely based on that, the judge strongly berated her and her attorney, putting them “on notice”, and fully acquitted me. My wife didn’t give up and filed an appeal, against which I once again represented myself, and won once again. By then, my ex-wife has lost over $20,000 on legal fees and costs and after suffering 3 defeats, I am hopeful that she has learned her lesson.
That lesson is that in this country, civil rights are a prime value, and the court system is here to protect us. I am sharing this story here because I believe my case would serve as an example to those facing oppression of their love, and a legal precedence for those facing legal opposition or risk. Even though polyamory has been growing very fast over the past few decades, and has received legal support all over the country, and all over the world, there are still many people who think they have the right to control who we love. Many people who practice ethical non-monogamy keep it a secret not just at work, but from their friends and family, out of fear of being criticized or even ostracized. Hopefully, hearing this story will remind them that in 21st century America (and other places in the world), suppression of romantic and sexual freedoms is no longer acceptable. People like me have the same rights as monogamous individuals, and even our own president, in his Executive Order 13988 issued January 20th 2021 said “Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to…”
If you or a loved one practice consensual non-monogamy and have been attacked, fired, or hurt in any way, or under threat of being so, please reach out to me to learn more. We are one of the largest communities in the world, and together, we can make sure love prevails. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in learning more about the history and practice of ENM, visit this post