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"It seemed like he would much rather be with ," she says. You can't give moment-to-moment reports on feelings you barely understand, can you? Even in regular relationships, you can't hit them with too much too soon." "Bullshit," John answers. Don't lovers in these situations usually say they're cool and modern and even seem attracted by your loyalty to your wife and then revert straight back to possessiveness as they develop more feelings? For all these reasons, Nan continues, she felt the need to "balance the equation." She got tired of sleeping alone, but mostly she was looking for a way to make things work.

They had good jobs, happy kids, a nice house, and a Volvo in the driveway.

I have been writing draft after draft of a story about a polyamorist tribe from New Jersey. There are too many voices, too many strange concepts, and no dominant voice of authority to explain it all for you. Nan was a sexy Jewish earth mother, welcoming and open-hearted.

John was tall and handsome, with an athlete's body and the serene intensity of a military officer.

called "Scenes From a (Group) Marriage." The main characters were John and Nan, a married pair of well-educated professionals living in the suburbs of New Jersey.

"I was making a series of bad decisions, and when you make bad decisions one after another after another, there comes a point where you embrace the possibility of making a bad decision about anything, which is really scary. We can choose the relationship styles we want." "I really like spending time with Nan," John offers.

You look at yourself and go, 'Wow, I'm that guy—I'm the guy that's capable of making really bad choices.' So I thought about ending my marriage, not by choice but by incompetence, by not paying it enough attention." Which raises the question: Are the prudes right? "If it were just me and her, I'd be absolutely superterrific and fine." "We would have worked stuff out in other ways," Nan agrees.

Because interviewing John and Nan is always a group experience, I've brought along my wife, Kathy, an artist and graphic designer with a very open mind. "That was fucking ." Moving their young lovers into the house, she means.

The night is balmy, the air is soft, the birds are singing, the bong is circulating. Nan is laughing about what a long, strange trip it's been. I actually helped move Jen, John's 32-year-old girlfriend, down from Boston in a driving snowstorm.

"Not being as completely honest and truthful as I should have been with Nan and the other one." And what specific truths did you withhold? Their dog comes by, distracts everyone for a moment. And I hurt Nan, I hurt the other one; I should have been more courageous.

I should have been a man." He's so vague about all this, I end up relying on Trish, a wised-up New Yorker who spent her career in the music business. She kept calling him on stuff, and he just kept lying." Given the premise of radical honesty and open relationships, all of this was doubly painful, doubly a shock. Maybe because I'm a man, painfully aware of the female gift for manipulating men with emotions, I'm a bit more sympathetic to John. I know right from wrong." But don't things change over time? "Because of my wide theoretical knowledge of the field," I answer.

Jen never actually moved in, just settled nearby, and moved on around the same time Tom did because she wanted John to herself—the first taste of the polyagony to come. After Jen, they say, John hooked up with another woman he doesn't want to name. Nan marked time with a guy named Steve and then a handsome party boy named Julio. Sometimes it hurt when I saw him taking his attention off me.… Oh, well." A moment later, another text arrives bearing what is, for Nan, perhaps the harshest judgment of all: "She was a monogamist." But these days, she'd really rather discuss all this on a scientific level.

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