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"There is a kind of idealism around these folks," he says.

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Her female partner, she says, is also her best friend and gives her a lot of emotional support.

When she goes to a romantic comedy with Jemma, for instance, Block says there's no eye rolling, as there usually is when she goes with Christopher.

On one point all agree: a "poly" relationship isn't going to work unless all partners are in favor of the arrangement. adults have some sort of open arrangement, estimates Franklin Veaux, 41, an Atlanta-based computer programmer and web site developer who also runs a polyamory web site.

The number of adults with open relationships -- be they formal marriages or more informal arrangements -- is small. Others, including Steve Brody, Ph D, a psychologist based in Cambria, Calif., put the number much lower. He has counseled thousands of couples in the past 30 years and has encountered very few instances of open relationships among his patients.

"Everybody adds value to my life." Those who pursue an "open" or polyamorous relationship are obviously not conventional types, says William Doherty, Ph D, director of the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Minnesota, St. "There are always some people who want to push the limits of their experiences -- their joy, their ecstasy in life," he says. Those who pursue multiple relationships simultaneously, Doherty says, say they are capable of many loves and passion and that "artificial cultural constraints" tell them they should restrict their love and passion to just one person.

Polyamorists, to their credit, are often open about it, Doherty says.

It all sounds very Middle America, until you know the rest of the story. So Block, who says she is bisexual, broached the topic of open marriage with her husband. He isn't pursuing another relationship himself at this time, although he knows he is free to.

Although Block and her husband, Christopher (not his real name), have been married for nearly 11 years, Jemma (not her real name) is Block's other love. "All that's going on here is feeling open to loving other people," says Block, 37, whose book, Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, is due out in June 2008.

Polys are not apt to be bored in other areas of life, either. Some say they learn something about relationship skills from their other partner or partners, something that can be applied with the primary partner, she says. "When I'm actively exploring multiple relationships, balancing my time and energy is usually the most difficult part,'' says Cherie." It can also be particularly draining if more than one of my partners has a crisis in their lives that they ask my assistance with, such as supporting them through a career change, family illness, problems in other relationships, or other challenging times." But if the other person has multiple partners, she says, they also have the benefit of getting multiple sources of help.

Handling the "fear response" in partners can be an issue, says Chris.

When the O'Neills, trained as anthropologists, wrote their book, Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples, they weren't just talking about the freedom to explore sexual relationships outside the marriage, although that idea got the most attention.

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