As Ken Haslam put it in the foreward, Designer Relationships is “a book that can be purchased in an airport terminal in Boston and be finished before landing in Los Angeles.” It is a great, concise read that can be consumed in an evening, an afternoon at the park, or broken up into a few bite-sized pieces. You can watch Sarah Arlen’s Polyamorous People episode that includes the authors of this book, Mark and Patricia, to get a good feel for what Designer Relationships is all about. The affection and respect they have for each other is apparent when you watch them interact and speak on the topic.
Mark and Patrica have now written five books together. That speaks volumes to the kind of personal and professional relationship they have. They have almost 17 years of living their own co-created relationship under their belts, so they speak and write from experience. I met the two of them about three years ago and was very taken with their energy and style. I appreciate that they don’t advocate one style of relationship over any others. We have much of the same outlook on relationships, hoping that people enter into their partnerships mindfully and respectfully. As they say, designer relationships are founded on transparency, mutuality, and respect. It is these traits that will carry you through and be the bedrock of a healthy relationship. These are skills that can be worked on and nurtured.
Discover the loving style that works for you. “What works” is what’s optimal for you, not what society tells you is optimal for you. As Mark expresses in the Polyamorous People episode:
There’s so much pressure to conform in our society, and so many expectations about how we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to value, that it really takes an enormous amount of courage to really look inside and say, “This is me right now. This is what I want. Maybe these are two conflicting and contradictory things about myself, but that’s who I am and I’m going to try and reconcile these opposites.”
The fear is we will say, “I want to explore this part of myself” and the response we may get back is, “You should be ashamed.” There are many deeply entrenched “should”s in our society. It’s not easy to dissect and unlearn them. We can tell when something doesn’t resonate for us, though, and that’s where this book comes in. The full title is Designer Relationships: A Guide to Happy Monogamy, Positive Polyamory, and Optimistic Open Relationships. It is a great tool to help you create your own relationship – a relationship DIY guide, if you will.
Why is this all so important? As Sarah, host of Polyamorous People states in the video (paraphrased):
If I’m not allowing myself to be my full self, I go into a deep depression. It manifests with people in different ways – anger, sadness, self-destruction, and destruction of others.
We have some deeply rooted mononormative myths and consensual nonmonogamy misconceptions in our society. Mark and Patricia take a couple chapters in this book to tackle those topics. Even just opening our eyes to the misconceptions and erroneous beliefs we hold does wonders to shift our perspectives and expand our scope of understanding.
This book is part of the gift I give to those entering into a marriage or partnership. It is such a helpful handbook. When is the last time you thought about, let alone discussed, what monogamy actually means to you? What does it mean to your partner? These are questions a couple embarking on a monogamous relationship would benefit from asking. I hope people really ask themselves if monogamy is what they truly want. If so, fabulous! Go forth mindfully monogamous. If not, also fabulous! Go forth mindfully nonmonogamous. This book will help you figure all that out.
Designer relationships are about honest, respectful, and on-going communication. No matter what relationship style you strive for, this book will be a valuable tool in your toolbox.