Books on polyamory are a mixed bag. From classics like The Ethical Slut to last year’s psychology-driven Polysecure, there’s a lot of good stuff out there. There are also texts that encourage or enable harmful behaviours, as well as those that are fine but promote a very specific agenda or relationship style.
You might think that, as someone who has been doing various forms of consensual non-monogamy for about 13 years at this point, I’d be at the point where I no longer have need for the books. You’d be wrong, though. Sure, the 101-level texts aren’t really for me any more, but even then they often introduce me to a useful concept or framing I hadn’t previously considered. And the more advanced, specific, or in-depth works that are now available are incredibly valuable, no matter how long I do this.
All this to say that when Laura Boyle of the Ready for Polyamory blog asked me to read and review her new book of the same name, I was only too happy to agree.
Ready for Polyamory by Laura Boyle
Coming in at a hefty 231 pages, Ready for Polyamory is a guidebook to many of the different aspects that go into having happy, healthy, and functional consensually non-monogamous (CNM) relationships. It is divided into four sections:
- Basic Information is a kind of polyamory 101 – what it is, a very brief history of the term and the communities surrounding it, and the kinds of relationship agreements that tend to work well (and don’t).
- Find Your Flavor of Polyamory unpacks popular terms such as “Kitchen Table polyamory”, “parallel polyamory”, and “relationship anarchy”, discussing how each one works and exploring the pros and cons of the various models.
- Conversations to Have and Mistakes to Avoid delves deeply into some of the language that can help you, your partners, and prospective partners to talk about your relationships and your needs. It also explores some productive and destructive ways of behaving in relationships, as well as including a pretty comprehensive chapter on sexual health.
- The Big Feelings covers all those big, scary, overwhelming, and even wonderful emotions – jealousy, compersion, and cultivating chosen family through your polycule and intentional relationships.
Like many books in this genre, it’s very much a dip-in-and-out structure. If you’re brand new or looking for a comprehensive resource, I do recommend reading it cover to cover (which I did!) But if you’re looking for information on a specific area of CNM – for example, sexual health, setting boundaries, or cultivating compersion – you can easily just turn to the chapters that speak to you.
Ready for Polyamory is written in a chatty, conversational tone. Reading it feels a little like sitting in a room with the author, sharing a cup of coffee and listening to her talk. If you read the blog and enjoy the accessible language and friendly tone, you’ll probably enjoy the book, too.
Choose Your Own Adventure (With the Help of Some Hard-Won Wisdom)
While I don’t agree with absolutely everything Boyle says in this book (which would be hard, because there’s a lot of information here!), I often found myself nodding along to her insights and underlining key passages to come back to later.
Throughout the book, she uses a recurring metaphor that really stuck with me: polyamory as a choose-your-own-adventure story. Instead of prescribing a specific way of operating or insisting on One Twue Way, she offers an array of options and trusts the reader to use the information wisely to make the choices that are best for them and their partners. In a community that is becoming increasingly dogmatic in really concerning ways, this was deeply refreshing.
This is also why I particularly appreciated the inclusion of the Find Your Flavor of Polyamory section. Many people feel very strongly that their way of doing things is the best and right way (“parallel polyam is only for when you hate your metamours!” “Relationship Anarchy is the only ethical relationship structure!”) Boyle shares experiences and lessons from her own life and the lives of people she knows, and leaves you to make your own mind up.
As an experienced polyam person, I found myself wryly nodding along to a lot of the sections about common mistakes and pitfalls. Because society is so heavily set up for the cishetero monogamous default, there are virtually no cultural scripts for polyamory yet… and those that do exist tend to be pretty dysfunctional. As a result, most of us start our non-monogamy journey from a well-intentioned place, but end up hurting ourselves and others along the way, often with the same set of mistakes.
Boyle presents compassionate and experience-based arguments for why many of the most-made polyam mistakes – from the One Penis Policy to unicorn hunting – create problems, and she offers alternatives to help readers make better decisions.
A Pragmatic Guide
Ready for Polyamory‘s subtitle is “A Pragmatic Guide to Consensual Non-Monogamy”, and I think that’s a good summary. Boyle avoids making judgements, slapping down moral absolutes, or prioritising ideological purity. As a result, this book feels like – for want of a better description – a polyamory guide for the real world. A world in which feelings are messy, people mostly mean well but inevitably screw up, and sometimes pandemics throw a huge spanner in the works of your dating life.
Overall, Ready for Polyamory is smart, accessible, and practical. If you’re dipping a toe into CNM or just considering opening up, this book deserves a place on your reading list.
This review was sponsored, meaning I was paid to read the book and provide a fair and honest review. All words and views are, as always, mine. Affiliate links appear within this post but do not include the Amazon links to Ready for Polyamory.