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The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory: Everything You Need to Know About Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, and Alternative Love

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No one likes a know-it-all, but everyone loves a girl with brains and heart. The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory is an intelligent and comprehensive guide to polyamory, open relationships, and other forms of alternative love, offering relationship advice radically different from anything you'll find on the magazine rack.

This practical guidebook will help women break out of the mold of traditional monogamy, without the constraints of jealousy, possessiveness, insecurity, and competition. The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory incorporates interviews and real-world advice from women of all ages in nontraditional relationships, as well as exercises for building self-awareness, confidence in communication, and strategies for managing and eliminating jealousy. If you're curious about opening up your current monogamous relationship, exploring group sex, or ready to "come out" as polyamorous, this book covers it all!

Whether you're a seasoned graduate, a timid freshman, or somewhere in between, you'll learn how to craft unique relationships that are healthy, happy, sexy, and tailor-made for you . Because when it comes to your love life, being a know-it-all is actually a great thing to be.

280 pages, Paperback

Published February 7, 2017

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Dedeker Winston

3 books59 followers

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5 stars
300 (41%)
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296 (40%)
3 stars
98 (13%)
2 stars
29 (3%)
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6 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 83 reviews
Profile Image for Andy.
36 reviews5 followers
February 5, 2017
As a frequent listener of the Multiamory podcast, of which the author is a co-host, much of the content in the book was familiar ground to me. I say that not as a complaint but as a compliment: the podcast as a whole has consistently delivered at providing practical, even-handed, and thoughtful commentary on topics relating to polyamory and non-monogamy. This translates well into the written form as well.

Other mainstream books on polyamory are often criticized as being either too rah-rah (The Ethical Slut) or too gloom-and-doom (More Than Two). I don't know that I would necessarily agree on that point myself, but The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory does take a nicely realistic and balanced view of the positives and negatives, the benefits and the pitfalls.

Dedeker Winston's writing is friendly and approachable, commonly drawing from her own personal experiences and those of her close circles; the text avoids being too heavily bogged down by jargon while still being informative to newbies at describing the ever-growing lexicon unique to the non-monogamy community.

While I'm neither a girl nor particularly smart, I am happy to say that The Smart Girl's Guide to Polyamory was well worth the read, and I'd very much recommend it to anyone who is just beginning to get their feet wet in the often confusing waters of non-monogamy as well as to experienced practitioners who might want to use the book (and its useful homework assignments) as a refresher.
Profile Image for Jai.
417 reviews24 followers
March 9, 2020

I initially was very excited to start this book even though I heard about it on Polyamory Weekly when it was set to be released. I was happy to find it for free at my library both as an eBook and audio book, I started the book but found that it was easier to listen to it. I normally like the voice of the person reading it but I don't know how I felt about the person who read it.
She read it like she was reading a steamy sex novel and not a nonfiction book about non monogamy and alternative lifestyles.

My main pet peeves about this book are I feel like the title is a misnomer. The title seems that this book is geared towards women looking to get into polyamory when in fact that's not it. I was highly disappointed when I found that out. The book is a book for newbies and those looking to open their relationship up. Also a passage in the book seemed more "tone policing"
The "Just Be Nice" campaign basically was be nice no matter how you're feeling in your relationship for 90 days. That seriously irritated me! Just ignore your feelings and put on a fake smile and be nice?

All in all I was pretty disappointed in the book. Would I recommend it, hmmm not really.

Profile Image for Ruxandra Grrr.
426 reviews44 followers
July 22, 2023
Read this for a project I'm working on right now. This is... okay, for beginners, but it feels dated six years after it came out. For one, in talking about More Than Two and the advice within (if you know, you know!), then in its understanding of gender and bisexuality (as far as I know the author identifies as bi), very in the binary of the two genders, and there does seem to be a focus on primary partners.

Still, I enjoyed the historical part discussing non-monogamy and previous models. I didn't know those things! And I do think it would be good for people who are just starting to think about non-monogamy. It has all the basic info, it's plenty sex positive and it does try to tackle some issues within the community, but in a very superficial way.
Profile Image for Faux.
5 reviews4 followers
February 5, 2017
I wish this book had existed 15 years ago when I was first introduced to non-monogamy but was too terrified to try it!

Dedeker is thoughtful, honest, funny, and intelligent, and she brings these qualities- as well as her years of experience- into this gem of a book.
Profile Image for Marki.
145 reviews2 followers
July 12, 2021
A great summary for anybody who either wants to pursue polyamory or is just interested what's up. Some parts can be useful to people who just want to have better relationships in general, for example a part about jealousy. The book includes these cool questions and little homeworks such as "What does romantic love mean to you? What does it physically feel like?" that get you thinking about what you really want out of relationships. There's a little history, examples of the common relationship structure, things people are most afraid of, or people might ask about the most often. It's this very extended FAQ about polyamory but very useful and fluent read ❤️
Profile Image for Jessica Kiefer.
30 reviews4 followers
December 5, 2018
This is the book everyone who's considering a non monogamous life should read before entering a relationship, read while they ate in one and read if it ends.
Profile Image for Amy Bergeron.
5 reviews3 followers
January 1, 2019
It's decent! Written for beginners in an accessible tone. Doesn't offer much to people who've already read core poly books and have been living the poly life for awhile.
Profile Image for Jenn.
14 reviews3 followers
October 2, 2021
I'm happy to read another book on polyamory. For me, this book missed the mark a bit. While I was reading it, I often thought Almost. Close, but not quite. A few places I thought the writing was off:

Bisexuality - the way this book defines it is in terms of the gender binary, but the bisexual community has never excluded other genders.

Solo Poly - the book says that solo poly people don't want relationships, but that's not true. Solo poly is about not entangling finances or living arrangements with relationships.

Non-hierarchical relationships - the author still talks about primary partners and giving multiple people primary status. While some poly people may do this, not everyone does.
Profile Image for David Emery.
69 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2023
This one's phenomenal. I love Winston's Multiamory podcast, and her voice in print is no less intelligent, funny, and helpful, with just enough personal experience mixed in with fundamentals and thoroughly explored ideas and questions to make the whole thing fresh. It's a guide that does more than point the way - you can lean on it when you need to.
Profile Image for Brooke.
336 reviews4 followers
March 8, 2023
There’s actually quite a lot in here (particularly in the first third) for anyone who wants to be reflective on how to fully and honestly engage in relationships that are in alignment with one’s needs and desires. I appreciated the book’s personal growth and mindfulness lens. It was interesting to learn more about polyamory through what felt like a clear-eyed, balanced perspective. Plus, I enjoyed the author’s writing style.
Profile Image for Marissa.
422 reviews2 followers
March 5, 2020
Finally, a book I can actually recommend to people on this subject! Don't be fooled by the marketing to "girls": this is a book that people of all genders can enjoy and learn something from on the topic of romantic relationships generally and nonmonogamous relationships specifically.

There were a lot of gems of wisdom in this book -- I've thought so many times about "keeping my side of the street clean" that that bit (on page 71) was worth the price of admission alone -- and it's a better fit for a primer than More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory, given that book's extreme diceyness (there's a whole narrative I won't get into here, but let's just say, the book is fraught). I've found that no matter what your sexual/relationship orientation, whether you're queer or straight, polyamorous or monogamous or monogamish, that books written from a polyamorous perspective have some of the best advice about communication and honesty within a relationship. This quote (p. 92) might contain the best summary of the ethos of the book:

Letting go of control, accepting that you cannot own another person, and realizing that the future will always be uncertain is not the precursor to depression, but a step on the path to emotional liberation. When you are no longer plagued with worry over the future of your relationships, you are able to enjoy them as they are right in this very moment. Make plans, act with intention, and take care of other people’s hearts, but let your partners be free, let the future unfold on its own, and keep your love in the present.

Those are words to live by even if you're in a really quite traditional relationship.

My one disappointment with the book is its refusal to engage with parenting in any real way. Something like 85-90% of women become mothers at some point in their lives. How can you write a book that's supposed to be a "girl's" guide to a particular romantic lifestyle without going in depth into what it will mean for the vast majority of "girls" who have children? I think Winston (who as far as I know is not a mother) could have turned the book over to a polyamorous parenting expert (Libby Sinback, perhaps?) for a relevant chapter.
Profile Image for Katy.
23 reviews
June 20, 2021
I (28, F, self-declared smart person) read the book because I am dating a poly boy and I am trying to figure out whether that works for me. Unfortunately, I couldn't take anything valuable from it.

The Good
The book is an easy read, lighthearted, and relatively short. It touches on a lot of subjects I wouldn't even have thought to look into, e.g. how to come out to your family. It also makes a point of being inclusive, for example, of different romantic and sexual orientations, which I, as an asexual woman, really liked.

The Bad
Even though the book is short, it is not necessarily concise. There are a lot of repetitions, unnecessary examples, and just weird and overly long metaphors. As a result it doesn't really cover a lot. Even the poly basics, which you find a lot of extremely well written resources on online, are explained very primitively (e.g. don't be a unicorn hunter, imagine you were the unicorn). Some paragraphs just come across as rambling, e.g. when she explains what location you should use to come out to a person and she basically says "it depends on the person". I, personally, also didn't care for the many jokes and "quirky" personal anecdotes in this book.

The Ugly
While the book tries to be inclusive, it gets some definitions wrong (e.g. gray romanticism) and even walks into the trap of assuming bisexuals do not date non-binary people while also suggesting that trans people are outside of the male-female gender binary. At the beginning of the book, the author also suggests that "all human beings want [...] sex", even though asexuality is explicitly discussed later on.

All in all, it doesn't seem to me as if a lot of work went into this book and potential readers would be a lot better off if they just let someone point them to the well-known online resources on polyamory.
Profile Image for Amanda Reynolds-Gregg.
79 reviews60 followers
October 5, 2017
Really loved this book. I've been slowly and steadily researching the world of nonmonogamy and this book was extremely informative. While it is very similar in style to the Ethical Slut, it did strive very early on to be inclusive and also didn't necessarily put the emphasis on poly hierarchy, fairly sharing the pros and cons. The author maintains a familiar but clearly informed tone throughout, sharing her own experiences as a way to teach at several points. I especially am interested in solo polyamory and was happy to see that form represented in the book.

Really have nothing negative to add!
Profile Image for axmed.
38 reviews11 followers
August 23, 2019
it is a pretty great book and i’d definitely recommend it to everyone who is interested in polyamory or any other form of non-monogomy and also to those with close friends who are polyamorous. it is quite focust on people who are already in a romantic relationship, but much less than in ‘the ethical slut’ for example and race is only discussed at the end in the context of intersectionality, but i’d still recommend listening to it / reading it. i’ve learned from it and i’m sure i’ll revist it soon.
37 reviews
October 30, 2019
A good overall look at the world of polyamory - probably the softest hand of any of the books I have read on the subject. Not as insistent in its author's views as More Than Two, I was able to sit with ideas different than what I believed more easily. I enjoyed reading this as a good exercise of mentally running through the major issues that come up in poly. Not earth shattering, but I enjoyed reading it. I recommend this in concert with Ethical Slut and More than Two for a balanced outlook on the subject.
Profile Image for N.
190 reviews23 followers
November 25, 2017
Good resource. A helpful and important book on poly relationships. Spends some time describing the basics, and also dives in deep — exploring the history, theory, philosophy and controversy around polyamory.

The use of inclusive language suffers a bit from trying too hard (e.g. saying "gender self-identity" instead of just plain "gender") and at times ends up accidentally excluding people in the process when the descriptions get overly narrow, but I appreciate the effort.
Profile Image for Brenna.
47 reviews1 follower
April 1, 2019
Great book written in clear, easy to understand language with real life scenarios for reference. Reading this made me realize that I'm not necessarily willing to be in a true poly relationship but really helped me with my own personal style regarding romantic relationships and communication within those.
Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Amaris.
138 reviews3 followers
January 5, 2021
I wish this book left room ideologically for monogamy to be healthy and non-jealous (this book poses polyamory as the only solution). Good book for anyone who is curious or wanting to understand people they know and love, but it's not the most fitting relationship guide for everybody. Then again, none of them are one size fits all!
Profile Image for Aline.
478 reviews
September 9, 2022
It was interesting to learn about a different relationship style. A very basic introduction. I already knew quite a lot of the information without ever having read a book about it before.

A lot of the book is about how to do relationships in general, which can be applied to monogamy or polyamory. I saw it recommended somewhere that the book is great for finding out what you even want out of a relationship in general. It has a lot of journaling prompts. This drew me to pick it up initially.

Even when this was the reason I initially wanted to read it it spoke too less about polyamory specifically and too much about how relationships work. I got a better understanding of polyamory or non-monogamy, but I wished there were longer examples to see how it works in every day life.
Profile Image for Syeda Jaisha.
9 reviews
July 28, 2022
My rating comes with some caveats:
This book is in no way extraordinary yet it's an easy read and achieves what it sets out to do — provide a brief introduction to polyamory —and more. It drew my attention towards a lot of practical aspects of practicising polyamory that are as important as the emotional aspects.
Dedeker sounds a little biased — I personally would've liked a more neutral tone — but I believe it's not gonna be an issue for most of the people who must already have some affinity towards non-monogamy by the time they pick up this book; she has preferences that are based on her personal experiences and may not echo the general sentiment within the poly community.

However, it is a great resource for anybody who's wanting to learn more about alternative relationships.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
113 reviews
August 5, 2020
Very nice overview and practical introduction into polyamory. I like the premise that just as monogamy, polyamory isn't good or bad, but it's good to figure out what works for you rather than simply doing what's expected of you.
It gives practical insight into how to deal with jealously, time management, sex, communication, how to tell people this is your preferred lifestyle etc. For someone who's interested to explore how people manage relationships, this is a balanced insight with pros and cons into the world of polyamory.
Profile Image for Amanda.
417 reviews
July 17, 2019
This book is great for anyone who is thinking about polyamory, but also contains many tips and advice for people in all sorts of relationship structures-including monogamy. Her chapter on jealousy was particularly informative and anyone looking for more in-depth information should check out the Multiamory podcast. I particularly liked the conclusion where Dedeker describes how polyamory isn't a revolution in the sense that it's not trying to replace existing paradigms, but is instead an evolution that is interested in coexisiting and moving beyond them. One small complaint I did have is that my hard copy had Section 3 printed twice and was missing chapter 8, but this doesn't seem to be a common issue so I think mine was just defective.
Profile Image for Maria.
235 reviews10 followers
September 13, 2019
20190912 ◊ I've got a love-hate relationship with this one. Some chapters are like nails on a chalkboard, while others have given me the most poignant and helpful insight on polyamory that I've ever read. I recommend this book for the "Pre-Reqs" section in particular, and advise reading the rest with a light touch. Maddeningly, there are nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout pages of overwrought, millennial self-consciousness. This book exemplifies the phrase "take what you like and leave the rest." Seriously grateful for what I liked; very happy to leave the rest.
Profile Image for olivia.
41 reviews
January 17, 2021
UGH. I was so annoyed the whole time. I think Winston is bisexual but it feels really binary and generally not queer-aware/friendly. It also reads like the annoying social justice 101 lecture that no one really wants to listen to? I guess it might be an ok intro to polyamory and social justice for someone who doesn’t know much about either topic, and there definitely were some useful things in here, but the good nuggets could have been condensed into a lovely double-sided one page handout.
Profile Image for Annie Frazier.
46 reviews9 followers
October 31, 2018
This might be my favorite polyamory book ever!! I didn't find it to only (or even mostly) applicable to 'girls'- I think it's applicable to anyone, and the occasional stories are centered on women's experiences. Part memoir, part guidebook, part analysis of polyamory's cultural context. LOVED. CAN'T RECOMMEND ENOUGH.
Profile Image for Rowland Hill.
147 reviews
May 1, 2020
Polyamory For The Uninitiated

Well thought out and presented information about polyamorous relationships. All aspects of initiating, developing and maintaining relationships are covered here. The challenges of nontraditional sex roles and connections are laid out along with precepts for managing the many questions such relationships provoke.
March 20, 2018
A wonderful, quick guide to polyamory.

Dont be fooled by the title. Whether you're just starting to explore polyamory or those who have been polyamorous for a long time can benefit from Dedeker Winston's contribution.
Profile Image for Loz.
736 reviews2 followers
November 7, 2020
3.5 rounded up. A worthwhile read, and definitely some useful stuff for any type of relationship, but there is a lot of opinion as well.
Profile Image for Rebe.
10 reviews
March 22, 2021
I appreciate the author’s personal perspective but I found her writing, analogies and metaphors to be heavy handed and clunky. I still enjoyed reading it, but it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 83 reviews

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