“Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic.” – Frida Kahlo
While growing up in Israel, Erez Benari preferred the company of the characters in the science fiction novels he immersed himself in over his classmates. Erez devoured anything written by “the dean of science fiction writers”, Robert Heinlein, feeling a deep connection with the ideals portrayed in his books, specifically the importance of self-reliance and individual liberty, the nature of one’s own sexual relationships, how organized religion influences culture and government, societal obligations, and the tendencies of repressing nonconformist thoughts.
In his early twenties, Erez met and married a woman who claimed to share the same libertarian ideals, especially in regards to the sharing of love and romantic partners with a lack of jealousy and monogamous relationships. They applied for a Visa and were selected to move to the United States, eventually settling in Washington State. There, they welcomed a son into the world and after she took their son on vacation to Israel, Erez discovered The Center for Sex Positive Culture. Excited to share this with his wife, he was shocked to discover that she didn’t actually believe in sharing love. After some time and numerous arguments, they separated and eventually divorced.
The years after their divorce were fraught with multiple legal battles. Erez brought his son to a lunch organized by one of his partners and when his ex-wife found out about it, she attempted to sue him for breaching the clause in their divorce decree which prohibited Erez from exposing their son to his polyamory. It was found that Erez did not expose his son intentionally or with malice, and the case was dismissed. After his ex-wife moved in with her boyfriend Erez filed for custody of their son because of the difficulties his son was facing in this new environment, and his wife responded to the court with a letter from their son’s therapist which detailed stress caused by Erez. Eventually, that case was dismissed and Erez and his son are working on rebuilding their relationship.
Through the anguish and pain that Erez endured in the later years of his marriage and the years after it ended, Erez has been able to find love again. Erez currently has three partners, and they all practice Relationship Anarchy. This means that neither he, nor his partners, are under any rules beyond basic human decency, honesty, and transparency. For example, he and his partners use contraceptives to protect themselves and each other from sexually transmitted infections and sexually transmitted diseases, but those are the only “hard and fast” rules. He and his partners openly share news of new partners and adventures that they have outside of their relationship.
Erez is also enjoying living alone after living with others for 44 years of his life. While he loves his son and always looks forward to his visits, Erez can’t see himself cohabitating with a partner again. When he’s not working on planning cuddle events, he’s regularly working on some new art project in his art room. From miniatures to repurposing things found at thrift stores into Steampunk items to pewter and silver jewelry, Erez prides himself in his ability to create. He also has a deep love of cooking, making and refining recipes from all over the world, but mostly Mediterranean food, as an homage to his homeland.
Although he’s enjoying this time alone, he still likes the idea behind marriage as a long-term commitment for love. However, Erez won’t be rushing off to the altar anytime soon. Since there are limits on only being able to legally be married to one person, he doesn’t want to support a system that’s designed to limit love, while also potentially hurting his partners with a hierarchical relationship – marrying one person would make all of his other partners “second class”.
Erez met Raina, one of his partners, on OkCupid, but during their initial messages, found out that their paths had crossed previously at a group-cuddle event. They wanted to get to know each other more off the app and after a few dates and cuddle sessions, they realized that their relationship had potential and have been together for almost two years.
Fiona, another one of Erez’s partners, is originally from Texas. She was in the area for work, and looking for events to do in her downtime while she was visiting the Pacific Northwest. Fiona ended up contacting Erez as he is an event organizer, and while there weren’t any events at the time due to the pandemic, he offered to meet her for coffee. Their coffee date turned into nine hours of conversation and quickly falling for each other.
Erez met Kayla at one of his events. She was hesitant to date Erez, even though she had a crush on him, because she had just gotten out of a long-term relationship with another community leader and was concerned about possible repercussions. Months into spending time together as friends and getting to know one another, they fell in love.
Erez considers himself lucky to find these three women, and is open to more relationships. He believes that love is not a finite resource – he has so much love to give and more love than one person can take. When asked what makes each of his partners special, he said, “Everything, really. They are all very different people, each with their own history, experience, and stories. While I’ve told my same stories over and over, hearing theirs is always new.”
The relationships that Erez has with each of his partners are centered on emotions, rather than on physical connections, and he finds that each of his partners are able to fulfill his love language needs. Kayla, for example, will write him long, detailed, affectionate letters about her love for him, and when Fiona visits from Texas every month or so, you can find them cuddling or embracing, whether they’re at Erez’s home making dinner together, or walking down the street, holding hands.
His partners fill his life with love and care, while also supporting him through the tough times, like the divorce and custody battles, as well as Covid-19 uncertainties. They are able to keep him grounded when he’s getting a bit of an ego, but are also there to remind him when he’s feeling low, who he is, what he means to them, and what he’s accomplished. At a convention in Las Vegas, Erez was ready to leave early due to insecurities, but after a phone call with his boyfriend, he was reminded that he’s the owner of a very successful club in Seattle, and was able to have his confidence and self-esteem renewed. Erez went back to the convention filled with pride, spending the rest of the day happy and radiating love.
In doing his part as a community leader, club owner, and overall sex-positive person, Erez is looked to for advice sometimes. It was only a few years ago that he found himself at the precipice of this new polyamorous world, and now works hard to make it as inclusive and understood as possible. He advises newcomers to not try polyamory or opening a relationship to other partners if they’re just looking for fun. Erez has said that if you’re delving into a non-monogamous relationship, you should try to forget any notion of rules, as difficult as it may be in this chaotic world to lose that sense of control. He believes that putting rules on your heart and on other people rarely works, and that if you attach yourself to smart and decent people, you won’t need rules. He advises that for newcomers, you shouldn’t form too-complex relationships too soon. Being in a polyamorous relationship requires you to have enough intelligence and maturity to manage it, and even moreso if you are in a triad, where you are all dating each other. While it can be exciting to jump into a polyamorous relationship, you can end up heartbroken if you’re not ready. A common analogy Erez likes to use is “If you see a person standing on two skateboards, do you hand them another one?”
The life of Erez Benari has definitely been an interesting one. From growing up in Israel with monogamist values instilled in him, to being the owner of the most successful club in Seattle, thriving in successful polyamorous relationships, and looked to as a leader of the polyamory community, Erez has always stayed true to himself. He’s never let the opinions of others affect the love that he has to give and works to break any stereotypes. While his life has been a series of ups and downs, he has landed on top. For more information on the life of Erez Benari, please visit erezbenari.com, or stop by one of his Hugz & Cuddlez events. Hugz & Cuddlez is a non-profit cuddle community, which has group-cuddle events on a weekly basis in 11 different locations throughout the Pacific Northwest and is in the process of expanding to other states. You can find more information on this non-profit by visiting hugzandcuddlez.com