Zoe Duff knows a lot about love.
She has to — she has six children, two stepchildren, four grandkids and two ex-husbands.
But it doesn’t stop there — the Victoria woman lives in a triad with her current partners, Jayson Hawksworth and Danny Weeds.
“Polyamory is hard work, but I think any type of relationship is hard work,” Duff says. “It’s wonderful, but it’s definitely not for everybody. It works for those who are willing to work at it.”
This weekend, Duff is running a Vancouver convention organized by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association. The three-day “Polycon — Claiming our Right to Love,” which includes workshops and social events, wraps ups today.
Duff wasn’t involved in poly-amory when her kids were young, but says as they’ve grown they have gained added insight from her two partners.
“They were there for them as step-parents,” the 53-year-old said. “It’s good for them to get different perspectives.”
Duff says monitoring jealousy, keeping communications lines open and honesty are three keys.
“My experience with monog-amy and polyamory are completely different,” she says. “We’re forced to communicate, or it’s not going to work. The honesty has to be two-way.”
Samantha Fraser calls polyamory — an emerging trend of multi-partner relationships — “ethical non-monogamy.”
She agrees with Duff that it’s not an easy lifestyle choice.
When asked if there are issues with jealousy, the 33-year-old doesn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely!” she says. “Being non-monogamous requires a lot of work. There are people who want to try it out without doing the work, and people end up getting hurt.”
The Torontonian — originally from England and raised in Nova Scotia — isn’t naive or dogmatic about her choice, and freely dishes on the positives and pitfalls of having more than one partner.
“I know families of three, and families of six, and families of 10,” says Fraser, who says she and her husband are free to entertain other partners.
“Sometimes we have serious relationships; sometimes we have casual relationships.”
“We live in a very non-monogamous culture, but most people won’t admit it,” says Fraser, who calls herself a “life coach, poly advocate, consultant, author and producer.”
“There’s no one way that it happens — some people might read a book, or see a movie, and decide they want to give it a try.”
The polyamory association has incorporated a “whatever works” philosophy — as long as the participants aren’t getting hurt, anything goes.
“We believe every adult should create their own relationships,” reads the group’s website, polyadvocacy.ca. “No loving, life-enhancing possibility is out of bounds. That means women or men can have more than one partner … if everybody involved agrees it’s best for them.
“Our relationships are custom-made by those in them, without preset roles.”
Fraser is happy to talk about the philosophy of polyamory, but not the legality of such relationships.
The group’s website basically says go ahead, but don’t flaunt it.
“For the moment at least, our relationships are legal. As long as we don’t make our promises too public, or treat our commitments as too binding.”
For Fraser, what matters most is honesty, no matter how many people are involved in a relationship.
“The key is to be honest with yourself and with your partners,” she says.
Dr. David McKenzie, a couples and sex therapist with offices in Vancouver and Langley, says it’s important to keep polyamory partners informed of your intentions.
“It’s not about the sex — it’s about the deception,” said McKenzie. “I worked with a woman who lived with her husband four days a week, and with her lover the other three days.
“It went on for years — everyone was fine with it.”
McKenzie believes such agreements are more common than most people realize. It’s just that they’re generally kept quiet because of societal norms.
“There’s nothing illegal about polyamory — you can sleep with people who aren’t your [spouse].”
Conventional partnerships have issues with jealousy, and McKenzie said polyamorists are no different.
Of course, playing around with other partners — even if both partners agree in principle — can end up sabotaging the original relationship.
“There’s always the possibility of an asteroid hitting a marriage.”
Like Fraser, McKenzie believes you must speak before you sleep around. “Relationships evolve, and you get what you negotiate,” he says. “I call it being ethical with integrity.”