Monogamous People Should Read This, Too: Polysecure by Jessica Fern (Review)

If you are anywhere near polyamorous community, relationship psychology, or even just new and interesting books, you have probably heard about the book Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy by Jessica Fern.

It was published about a year ago, in October 2020. I zipped through it over the winter and honestly, I was probably too depressed for any of it to really sink in. I read it and thought, meh. Whatever. Between the election, the ongoing pandemic, and the winter darkness and SAD in Alaska, my own depression was pretty debilitating. I suppose it wasn’t very realistic to read relationship theory and think that I would learn something, but wow — I really didn’t.

When I re-read it in July this year, it was like I had never read it before. And, to be honest, it blew open my mind. It was exactly what I needed to read at the time, and it really helped me wrap my mind around some of the issues I’d had in polyamory in the past, and what I wanted for myself in the future.

Here’s the description of the book

Just in case you haven’t read much about it.

Attachment theory has entered the mainstream, but most discussions focus on how we can cultivate secure monogamous relationships. What if, like many people, you’re striving for secure, happy attachments with more than one partner? Polyamorous psychotherapist Jessica Fern breaks new ground by extending attachment theory into the realm of consensual nonmonogamy. Using her nested model of attachment and trauma, she expands our understanding of how emotional experiences can influence our relationships. Then, she sets out six specific strategies to help you move toward secure attachments in your multiple relationships. Polysecure is both a trailblazing theoretical treatise and a practical guide.

The book is broken into three parts: part one is the basics of attachment theory, why it’s important, and how the different kinds of attachment manifest in relationships. Part two is the basics of polyamory, with charts and graphs, definitions, and concepts. Part three is the combination of the two, and Jessica Fern’s theory she calls HEARTS, which answers the central question: how can I be more secure in my polyamorous relationships?

I could detail the HEARTS theory, and go over some of the charts — but honestly, you should just read the book and draw your own conclusions.

One of my biggest a-ha moments when reading the book was the section in part two about identifying the “why” for yourself in polyamory — looking at the motivations and reasons behind why you are (or want to be) nonmonogamous. She also calls them the needs that are being fulfilled by polyamory. She listed three common reasons from a study that came out, and then added three more reasons of her own from her experiences working with polyamorous clients in therapy and from her own life. These might not be your particular reasons, but I thought they covered pretty good ground.

The reasons were:

  • Greater need fulfillment
  • Greater self expression
  • Personal growth
  • Sexual diversity
  • Philosophical views
  • Authentic expression

… And these really hit home for me. I ended up ranking them in order for myself, writing about what I thought they meant and how they particularly applied to my life. I wrote about what I needed and what ways dating, having sex with other people, and having other relationships were fulfilling to those needs.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but this last year and a half has been huge for my own self-reflection, and I had to face up to where some of my needs weren’t getting met, not just in my relationship but in my life in general. I’ve been trying to figure those out.

The HEARTS Theory

Go listen to an interview with Jessica Fern if you want to know about the HEARTS theory and don’t want to read the book — I found it profoundly useful. It’s an acronym that stands for things needed to have secure attachment in a relationship. They are:

H: Here (being here and present)
E: Expressed Delight
A: Attunement
R: Rituals & Routines
T: Turning Towards after Conflict
S: Secure Attachment With Self

More importantly than the ideas and definitions of HEARTS, perhaps, are the questions she offers for reflection and the exercises she suggests when you notice that you and your partner are lacking in one of these areas. I want to go through each one and go through the questions and exercises with rife. We’ve started doing some of that, though we’re going slowly and it will take some time.

I’m really excited to have this as a tool to use and dive into to support my relationships.

So who should read this book?

Pretty much everyone.

If you are someone who puts thought and effort into your relationships, this will be useful. If you are curious about attachment, this book has some of the best descriptions of attachment that I’ve read. If you are monogamous or monogamish, I still highly recommend reading it, as it helps to break open some of the conventions about attachment and monogamy, too.

Also, if you have read other books or listened to podcasts about attachment in the past and still feel like you don’t really get it — which is how I was feeling, going in to reading this book — I think the author does a fantastic job of breaking down attachment styles. You could even skip the section on polyamory, if that doesn’t so much apply to you, and just read the attachment part and the part three about applying secure attachment. Applying it to one partner instead of multiple partners will still be very useful.

If you aren’t much of a book reader, the audio book of Polysecure is fantastic, and read by the author. Also, Jessica Fern has made many appearances on podcasts, including places like Multiamory, and explains her theories really well in some of these interviews. Highly recommend if you’re curious about the concepts but don’t want or don’t have time to read a book.

What do you think, y’all? Have you read this book?

Or are you going to? Looking forward to hearing more about what you think of it in the comments.

Buy it on Bookshop and independent bookstores will get a kickback from your purchase, or buy it on Amazon. These are affiliate links and I will also get a small percentage of the sale if you use my links. Thanks for supporting me!

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

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