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The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1442222953
ISBN-10: 1442222956
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Editorial Reviews


Having worked with hundreds of people in the polyamorous lifestyle it is refreshing to see a book that so articulately captures the experiences and patterns that I see repeatedly in my clinical practice. The fact that the book is also based on fifteen years of study makes it particularly impressive. What I like best however is that The Polyamorists Next Door lays out the risks of a poly lifestyle along with approaches to avoid the land-mines. (Neil Cannon, Ph.D., LMFT, Certified Sex Therapist & Couples Counselor, Denver, Colorado)

The Polyamorists Next Door is an amazingly comprehensive book that is easy to read and relate to. Poly or Mono, you'll find successful ways to navigate relationships interspersed in this fascinating read. I particularly loved Elisabeth Sheff's personal story for its unabashed frankness. (Allena Gabosch, Executive Director of the Center and Foundation for Sex Positive Culture and poly activist, educator and coach)

Elisabeth Sheff's The Polyamorists Next Door is a clear and articulate treatise on American polyamory. Unlike the many How-To books out there now, The Polyamorists Next Door is more of a survey of polyfolk in America with a focus on the children growing up in these unconventional families. Sheff's writing is fluid and easily understood.

Sheff's new book is a must read for anyone with a curiosity about folks who are able to love more than one person at the same time. (Winston Wilde, DHS, LMFT, doctor of human sexuality, licensed marriage & family therapist, certified sex therapist)

Finally! A response to one of the most frequently asked questions about polyamory: Is polyamory harmful to children. Bravo to Dr. Sheff for persevering in her quest to investigate this important issue. (Deborah Anapol, Ph.D. author Polyamory in the 21st Century and The Seven Natural Laws of Love.)

Elisabeth Sheff has dared to go where few researchers and sociologists have gone before: into the diverse private lives of polyamorous families. This book is a rich resource packed with fascinating portraits of people living, loving, and learning in nontraditional relationships. It gives us a window into worlds previously hidden and unknown which is invaluable to both scholars and the general public. (Tristan Taormino, author of Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships)

A fascinating study of polyamory and its adherents, from both a clinical and personal perspective. A superb addition to the ever-expanding library of poly literature. (Vincent M. Wales, novelist and founder of the Polyamory Awareness & Acceptance Ribbon Campaign)

We should all be so lucky as to live next door to polyamorists. Their flexibility and willingness to explore alternatives offer clues as to how all families might become more resilient. Dr. Elisabeth Sheff has made a valuable contribution to our understanding of family life. (Ann Schranz, Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness)

The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families considers the phenomenon of polyamorist families, in which people hold emotional and sexual relationships with multiple people at the same time with the support of their partners, and is a fine discussion of how these relationships work. From managing daily family life and social challenges both at home and in the world to how such households actually function; this is an in-depth survey that provides useful details for those working with such couples, educators, and those involved themselves. There's relatively little written about polyamorists, much less filled with real-world experience, making this a top pick for any collection strong in relationships. (Midwest Book Review)

This book introduces polyamorous families and explains how they come to be, manage the ins and outs of daily family life, and cope with the challenges they face both within their families and from society at large. Using polyamorists’ own stories, Elisabeth Sheff investigates the polyamorous household and reveals its advantages, its disadvantages, and the daily lives of those living in them.

About the Author

Elisabeth Sheff, PhD, is an educational and legal consultant who specializes in the families of sexual and gender minorities. She is the CEO and Director of Legal Services at the Sheff Consulting Group in Atlanta, a think-tank of experts specializing in unconventional and underserved populations. One of the foremost experts on polyamory and polyamorous families with children, she has presented her work at national and international conferences and has lectured widely on the topic.Sheff's second book, Stories from the Polycule: Real Life in Polyamorous Families, is an anthology of work written by polyamorists, with cartoons by Tikva Wolf.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (November 26, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442222956
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442222953
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,060,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In writing The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, Elisabeth Sheff tackles a tough topic with objectivity, sensitivity, and grace. Sheff shows that polyamory is a positive family model. With personal experience and fifteen years of research, Sheff presents all aspects of polyamory through a deeply informed lens.

I like how Sheff addresses the more positive aspects as well as the less positive. It is incredibly important to understand fully any chosen way of life; whether that way of life is a religion, a diet, or a family model. Sheff discusses the difficulties of defining polyamory, and who practices polyamory. She writes about how adults view polyamory, how children within polyamorous families view polyamory, and how neighbors, schools, and Child Protective Services view polyamory.

I especially appreciate her insight into her own experiences with polyamory. It is not easy to transition into or out of a polyamorous relationship, and Sheff opens her life for the reader. This adds validity to her research. Without the personal stories, this would be little more than a long (well written) scholarly review journal article. The personal stories show me that this information is not just a theory rather, a true representation of the lifestyle.

While no book can be the definitive presentation (i.e.: the one to read while ignoring all others), I believe anyone researching polyamory should pick up this one. I find it true to life, authentic, and comprehensive.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book. This book isn't just for people who practice polyamory or are interested in polyamory, this book is just interesting for the sake of understanding alternative lifestyles. This book covers what seems like everything. From pros to cons, conflict resolution, even how it can effect the children involved in the household. I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds interest in alternative lifestyles. This is one of the most fascinating books I've read in quite some time.
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Format: Hardcover
There is a lot of fascinating information in The Polyamorists Next Door, and many polyamorists will enjoy reading it to see the results of Dr. Sheff’s studies of polyamory. Poly parents will find interesting (and useful!) information in the sections on children raised in poly families.

However at the end of the day, this book isn’t written for us. Instead, it is the book polyamory has needed for decades. A book written not for people who want to be polyamorous, but for monogamists who want to understand polyamory. You know the question that pops up in every poly forum eventually “What book can I get for my (parents/friends/siblings/friends) to help them understand polyamory?”

The answer is: this one

Brace for Science-Speak
This is not a coffee table book. This is not light reading. This is a book written by a professional researcher. And it shows. Books like this take me so long to read because academics and researchers are really good at writing for other academics and researchers. Unfortunately, the writing style used in academics and research is not what the rest of us are used to. Complex sentences are the norm in this book. Reading it, there were many times when I had to stop and re-read a seemly simple sentence. “I know every word in this sentence, it is perfectly grammatical. Why can I not understand what she is saying?!”

I did, eventually, figure it out.

Let me clear say: this is not a criticism of Dr. Sheff’s writing. This is the norm for popular sciences books (as well as philosophy, and several other fascinating subjects). Some professions just seem to lead to a very complicated writing style.
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Format: Hardcover
What I believe to be the first book of its kind, _The Polyamorists Next Door_ looks at a growing relationship style, the benefits and risks associated with it, and what it means to a world at large.

Sheff starts with an explanation of what polyamory is at the very basic level, giving a snap shot of many of the forms it might take, explaining the communities that are created because of it, and what understanding and accepting this relationship could mean in terms of a more peaceful society at large. No where does she make the claim that everyone should be polyamorous (in fact, she is quite clear that it is NOT the choice for everyone - herself included), nor that it is a relationship structure without trouble. What she does do is explain it in plain terms, focusing on many of the people she has studied over the years to give vivid examples of starts, middles and endings of polyamorous relationships.

Taking it step further, which I was ecstatic to see, Sheff discusses the effects of parental polyamorous relationships on children. What does it mean to a young child to see Mom have two husbands, to see a family comprised of Mom, Dad, Othermother and Otherfather, to see some other mix of multiple adults in a family? What does it mean in terms of their mental and social growth? The short answer: benefits can be great; risks exist; plan accordingly.

In the end, Sheff concludes that relationship structures change over time, and in order to survive the changing course of relationships, taking the successes and skills that can be learned from polyamorists is a beneficial way to go. Learning to focus on" honesty, compassion, freedom, self-responsibility, forming an ethical framework to guide interactions and decision making.
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