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  1. XtinaS
    XtinaS August 10, 2007 at 12:53 pm |

    [H]ow do you negotiate boundaries between and amongst your partners?

    What sorts of boundaries?  Talking about private information?  Safer sex?  Life infiltration?

    One thing I can think of is, talking about problems with partner 1 to partner 2 can be problematic.  I don’t hold to the “Never do that!” guideline, because that just makes a huge part of my relationship off-limits to talk about, which rankles.  However, I do make sure that it’s a really needful thing (as in, I’m not just bitching about the dishes or something), that I have put as much solo effort into addressing the problem as I can (so I’m trying for problem-solving, not just venting), and that partner 2 knows that I don’t do this casually, I think.  (Hard to phrase.)  I also talk up the good points, to provide balance.

    The result is that when I do talk about problems with one to the other (I’ve two partners, natch), it doesn’t turn into the “I think you suck because all I’ve heard is suck!” thing.

    How do you define terms like “primary” and “secondary,” for instance?

    I don’t use the terms, m’self.  I generally say “This is B, my boyfriend who I live with; this is R, my girlfriend in New York; this is [S or J or b], who I date”.  Not so much that I am against the terms, so much as I tend to think way too much, and the last thing I need is another thing to think about (that being, what does “primary” mean?) (heh).

    How do you find people who share your beliefs about communication?

    I find them to be very flavourful!

    *koff*  Same as anything else, through social networks and the like.

    How do you handle jealousy, or lack of jealousy?

    The last time I had a spurt of jealousy was when B was telling me about this woman he’s been dating.  I correctly labeled it “insecurity”, and I asked that B and I spend an evening together so that I could get reassurance of things.

    It’s taken me ages to get to that point (where I realise it’s insecurity, where I feel like I can ask for reassurance and not feel silly), but it’s been worth it.  I’m still a paranoid motherfucker, but that’s less about poly and more about my brain.

    I think I’m neither organized nor gregarious enough to sustain polyamory.

    This is me absolutely not arguing with you in order to try to get you to be poly, but I’m neither of those things, too.  *grins*

  2. XtinaS
    XtinaS August 10, 2007 at 12:55 pm |

    (If this posts twice, my apologies.)

    [H]ow do you negotiate boundaries between and amongst your partners?

    What sorts of boundaries?  Talking about private information?  Safer sex?  Life infiltration?

    One thing I can think of is, talking about problems with partner 1 to partner 2 can be problematic.  I don’t hold to the “Never do that!” guideline, because that just makes a huge part of my relationship off-limits to talk about, which rankles.  However, I do make sure that it’s a really needful thing (as in, I’m not just bitching about the dishes or something), that I have put as much solo effort into addressing the problem as I can (so I’m trying for problem-solving, not just venting), and that partner 2 knows that I don’t do this casually, I think.  (Hard to phrase.)  I also talk up the good points, to provide balance.

    The result is that when I do talk about problems with one to the other (I’ve two partners, natch), it doesn’t turn into the “I think you suck because all I’ve heard is suck!” thing.

    How do you define terms like “primary” and “secondary,” for instance?

    I don’t use the terms, m’self.  I generally say “This is B, my boyfriend who I live with; this is R, my girlfriend in New York; this is [S or J or b], who I date”.  Not so much that I am against the terms, so much as I tend to think way too much, and the last thing I need is another thing to think about (that being, what does “primary” mean?) (heh).

    How do you find people who share your beliefs about communication?

    I find them to be very flavourful!

    *koff*  Same as anything else, through social networks and the like.

    How do you handle jealousy, or lack of jealousy?

    The last time I had a spurt of jealousy was when B was telling me about this woman he’s been dating.  I correctly labeled it “insecurity”, and I asked that B and I spend an evening together so that I could get reassurance of things.

    It’s taken me ages to get to that point (where I realise it’s insecurity, where I feel like I can ask for reassurance and not feel silly), but it’s been worth it.  I’m still a paranoid motherfucker, but that’s less about poly and more about my brain.

    I think I’m neither organized nor gregarious enough to sustain polyamory.

    This is me absolutely not arguing with you in order to try to get you to be poly, but I’m neither of those things, too.  *grins*  It helps that my partners and datingfolk all get along fairly well.

  3. Lady
    Lady August 10, 2007 at 1:08 pm |

    Polyamory makes a lot of sense to me. I see the appeal. I think the expectation that one person can be everything to another (which is much too prevalent in too many monogamous relationships) is silly. Most people love more than one person. The relationship dynamics are different, of course, but if I can love many people as friends or family, it seems strange that romantic love should be restricted to one person.

    Like you, though, Piny, I’m just not organized enough. Handling schedules — when to see multiple people, balanced with my life and theirs and whatever other partners they had — would be enough to make my head spin. I think I might be able to date a poly person, but multiple partners would stress me out, and since being with just one person isn’t an idea that bothers me, I’m more likely to go with the option that wouldn’t cause me to die of scheduling. Time is enough of a problem between friends and family that there is just not room for multiple lovers.

    Right now I’m not really interested in an exclusive relationship, but it’s more a “dating around” thing than a poly thing, since I don’t feel like being in a serious relationship with anyone in the near future. Scheduling is less of an issue because when you’re only seeing someone very casually it doesn’t matter so much if you can’t see them as often. Out of sheer laziness, if I were to get serious with one person I’d probably stop seeing others.

    So, poly-friendly mostly-mono type here.

  4. Myca
    Myca August 10, 2007 at 1:32 pm |

    For me, a big part of polyamory has always been about consciously creating relationship rules and guidelines (deciding what your relationship will be, IOW) based on negotiation and discussion with your partner rather than an assumed set of one-size-fits-all rules.

    So within that framework, there’s certainly nothing wrong with you and your partner choosing not to see anyone else, as long as you’re open to the idea that that’s a viable relationship framework that you would consider or try under certain circumstances.

    —Myca

  5. ks
    ks August 10, 2007 at 1:39 pm |

    I tend to be curious about poly relationships, and don’t have a problem with others being in them. In fact, I’m sort of fascinated by the whole thing, in that ‘completely foreign to my experience’ way.

    But I don’t think I’d be cut out for it. In addition to the logistics sounding like a nightmare, I don’t think I’m secure enough in myself to be able to deal maturely with that sort of thing. And while my husband doesn’t have to be everything for me (or I for him), and we have plenty of interests outside of each other and the kids, after 10 years together, we know each other really well and are very comfortable with each other. I’m perfectly happy with monogamy for myself.

  6. ellefromtheeast
    ellefromtheeast August 10, 2007 at 1:46 pm |

    For me, defining my primary relationship is easy: we’re married. Full on married, big white dress and state recognition and everything. That makes it really clear to us and to any other potential partners the relative priority of the relationships.

    In my experience, everyone who’s spoken so far is absolutely correct that sustained, intense, meaningful polyamory take an enormous amount of time and organization. I’ve seen either two scenarios work: 1) either the romantic relationships are the most important thing in the participants’ lives, meaning they work to live, not live to work, they don’t burn themselves up in creative artistic projects, etc. or 2) the primary partners live together and the secondary partners are out of town, occasional visitors. In the second case, these are meaningful, ongoing relationships, sustained betweeen visits by lots of phone/IM/email, but you can see how that’s not the same kind of time drain.

    If anyone is interested in further reading, the bible among the people I know who manage polyamory successfully is _The Ethical Slut_ by Dossie Easton. It’s a fun read, and very practical, and it will give you a very clear sense of whether or not polyamory is for you.

  7. ellefromtheeast
    ellefromtheeast August 10, 2007 at 2:04 pm |

    For me, defining my primary relationship is easy: we’re married. Full on married, big white dress and state recognition and everything. That makes it really clear to us and to any other potential partners the relative priority of the relationships.

    In my experience, everyone who’s spoken so far is absolutely correct that sustained, intense, meaningful polyamory take an enormous amount of time and organization. I’ve seen either two scenarios work: 1) either the romantic relationships are the most important thing in the participants’ lives, meaning they work to live, not live to work, they don’t burn themselves up in creative artistic projects, etc. or 2) the primary partners live together and the secondary partners are out of town, occasional visitors. In the second case, these are meaningful, ongoing relationships, sustained betweeen visits by lots of phone/IM/email, but you can see how that’s not the same kind of time drain.

    If anyone is interested in further reading, the bible among the people I know who manage polyamory successfully is _The Ethical Slut_ by Dossie Easton. It’s a fun read, and very practical, and it will give you a very clear sense of whether or not polyamory is for you.

  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer August 10, 2007 at 2:09 pm |

    As a general rule, you go on what people are comfortable with, combined with the “It takes two yeses to make a yes, but one no means no” rule. I can’t really say anything more than that because these things play out differently with each relationship.

    (I should probably say before I begin that I don’t consider myself poly OR mono, have tried both and would do either again, depending on what the other person wanted, and didn’t drastically think poly vs. mono was all that different.)

    When I was in a poly relationship, the one major rule was that the fellow my friend and I were dating could only date us. Mainly this was out of practicality because she and I lived in different towns (he lived in the same town as me) and the time juggling really would have gone all to hell with a third in the mix. I wasn’t seeing anyone else, she was, but it was someone she saw once in a while for a weekend. (Secondary = seeing someone casually or on a not-majorly-committed-sharing-life-path level, btw.)

    I was fine being one of two girlfriends. I will say that I would NOT want to be the one juggling two people, though. As has been seen on Big Love, even when y’all live right next to each other, juggling is a pain in the ass. I’m more comfortable with not being one guy’s “one and only” for EVERYTHING with regards to poly. When I was in a mono relationship, there were aspects of “Everything has to boil down to you and only you fulfilling me” when I didn’t want to that I just hated dealing with. With poly- “Hey, go try the other girlfriend!” Yay!

    I don’t have jealousy issues. Honestly, I rarely feel it. With regards to poly, well, she’s not getting anything that I’m not getting, so what’s there to be jealous about?

  9. Kaitey
    Kaitey August 10, 2007 at 2:22 pm |

    My Partner and I have been poly/non-monogamous for a little while now, and while I have done it before this is the first time I have done it while living with someone.

    So far the biggest problem has been not what we communicate, but more how we communicate. The first time I was poly any weird feelings (weird feelings included but were not limited to jealousy, anger, and generally “i-don’t-know-what-I-am-feeling-but-I-don’t-like-itI had were strictly repressed, and my partner and I ended up with negative baggage left and right. This time I might be sharing a bit too much, and a small jealous blip is magified into a big jealous mess. Somewhere there is a happy medium, and I will find it someday.

    Additionally, my partner’s girlfriend and I are both part of the same circle of friends and that circle is not all that poly-friendly. So we are rather closety which is irritating.

    Otherwise, it isn’t bad. I like the fact that my partner and I don’t have the pressure of trying to be everything to each other.

  10. Caja
    Caja August 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm |

    I apologize for the length here.

    I realized I was polyamorous about 7 years ago. It was a pretty horrible shock: I was married, I always thought I was monogamous, and my husband was completely uncomfortable with the idea of me being involved with another man (we had in the previous year opened our relationship such that he was seeing other women, but at that time I hadn’t figured out that -I- was also not really monogamously inclined). It took a lot of talking, and getting to know some people locally who were poly, before the talking moved on to me dating other men.

    My relationships since then (esp. since the husband and I divorced, though not over poly issues) have been much easier, because mostly I’ve dated men who already were experienced with polyamory and don’t have major issues. I don’t click with a lot of people, and those that I do are generally enough on the same wavelength that there aren’t major issues with figuring out how to communicate with each other. Relationships that have ended have usually ended in part due to those issues, or with major disparities in needs within the relationship. Er, I guess your question was more about “Do we tell each other about our other SO’s, and in how much detail” – I’m farily flexible on that wrt amount of detail, though I would not stay involved long with someone who wanted to hear nothing about my other SO’s, or someone who didn’t want to talk about their other SO’s.

    I don’t personally classify relationships as “primary” or “secondary” or whathaveyou, although it was perfectly clear that, when I was married, my relationship with my husband took priority over my relationship with my boyfriend. And when I dated a man who was married, it was likewise clear that his relationship with his wife was of highest importance.

    Some relationships have worked easier with a regular schedule (“We will see each other twice a week, generally Wednesday and Friday”) and some on a more casual, “So, when do you wanna get together again? I’m free tomorrow and then again in a week” kind of basis. I tend to prefer a more flexible, less scheduled type of relationship, but I can work with someone who wants a more scheduled kind of thing. Boundaries have just kinda come up in the early stages of each relationship, or as needed, although the safer sex stuff comes up pretty early on.

    I’m not a very gregarious person. I’m an introvert, as are a lot of other poly folk I know (but I keep dating extraverts! AGH! they do not understand my need to be alone); I like my alone-time; I don’t need to be around lots of people on a frequent basis. In 7 years of polyamory, I’ve been seriously involved with only 4 people, and for the last year+ I have been in an effectively monogamous relationship (neither of us dating anyone other than each other), though that is subject to change at any time.

    For me, it is more important to have the freedom to pursue another relationship than it is to be in multiple relationships. It just doesn’t make sense to me that being in a relationship should preclude being in another one – or two, or twenty – because my feelings for my current SO don’t prevent me from feeling lust or love or anything for another person, and my feelings of lust or love for other people do not impact how I feel about my SO. I don’t have any sort of grievance or wish to convert monogamous people, and it annoys the hell out of me that some poly people just don’t get that monogamy is a perfectly good solution for many people.

    I’ve got some insecurity issues, but I have them completely independently of whether my lover(s) have other lovers. I’ve only had one major bout of jealousy, and fortunately, only one SO (now ex) who had major jealousy and insecurity issues. If I’m feeling seriously threatened by an SO’s relationship with another, I try to first figure out why I feel that way, and then I bring it up. Sometimes, it’s really just my hangup; sometimes I need to ask, “Please give me a little more time, or verbal reassurance.” Likewise, if a partner expresses some insecurity to me, I listen and do my best to understand where the communication problem is (i.e. different people have different notions about how one expresses affection), or otherwise explain that yes, I still want to sustain the relationship (if that’s true).

  11. Matthew
    Matthew August 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm |

    I’m pretty strictly monogamous, mostly because I’m also pretty strictly lazy. Married, one child. Hard enough to get time for a sex life with one person, let alone more.

    The most stable married couple we’re friends with are decidedly polyamorous. They’ve been married about 10 years or so, and are in no immediate danger of splitting up (near as I can tell, anyway). If my wife and I were to decide to open up our relationship, these are the people we’d be asking for advice on how to make it work as they clearly are making it work.

    They definitely changed my ideas on poly, ’tis true. I was under the impression from knowing a few other people in similar relationships that it wouldn’t last, and I’m a long-term kind of person. But it works for some people. Don’t think it would for me though, still.

  12. Thomas
    Thomas August 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm |

    Before I met my spouse I never promised anyone exclusivity. My primary relationship, and I had a long-term one almost all the time from high school through marriage, was a romantic one. My other sex partners ranged from one-time things with casual acquaintances to irregular repeating things with friends, but I was really clear with them that my heart was somewhere else. What they could expect from me was decency, consideration, respect and my best effort to meet their sexual needs, but not the kind of emotional commitment that a relationship entails.

    There were periods where my primary was far away. I was honest even with casual hookups that I had another relationship going, but sometimes circumstances intervened. Lots of potential partners waved off over a burger when they heard the scoop, but every single one was nice about it. Then, one time, I had a date with an acquaintance, where we planned to see a movie and get a bite. A mutual acquaintance told her I had a relationship, and I think she didn’t believe I intended to tell her. I was pretty fucking annoyed, since the mutual acquaintance should have known I was polyamorous, but imposed her own assumptions instead and seemed to leave the impression that I was not honest when I always have been.

    When I met my spouse, I told her that I had a long-distance primary relationship, said I was in love, and that she shouldn’t expect that that would change. But I liked her right away, and that was my only true “secondary relationship.” My primary had a life-changing experience and took a look at the relationship we had and called it quits — she had abandonment issues and I would have never left her, so it had to be her call. When she said goodbye, my secondary became my primary, and asked that I be exclusive. I really didn’t want to do that, but it was a deal-breaker.

    So we sat down and talked it out. She didn’t mind me flirting with or being attracted to others, but it would bother her is I was sexually intimate with someone away from her. She liked the idea of playing with others together, though. So we agreed: no sex unless we were both involved. And that has been the rule. The others have been friends, usually mutual friends, and not many of them. One guy she met made her go starry-eyed, and she told him the scoop, and we hung out a bit. But he disappeared: he apparently believed she was looking for a way out with me, and when he realized that wasn’t the case, he was not interested.

    Only two people in my life trouble my spouse. One was the woman I was with when we met. She and I stayed friends for a while, but it bothered my spouse, so I stopped returning calls and didn’t attend my ex’s wedding. The other … well, I had a friend that I shared an enormously erotically charged but unconsumated relationship with. I was her sounding board when as a young woman she first came out as bi, then as a BDSMer, and in some ways she represents for me the road not taken. My spouse admits that woman makes her feel threatened; that she’s the only person she can imagine me leaving for. And while that’s not going to happen, I can understand the feeling. The issue stays in the background because my friend has become distant and contacts me only at odd and long intervals. But if she were closer that would produce some friction.

    I don’t get jealous. As long as my relationship with my spouse is good, her having sex with or feelings for someone else is not going to put a dent in what we have. We share our lives and raise children together, and each of us is the best sex partner the other has had. She gets jealous, so we have the situation we have. Right now, of course, the idea of others is theoretical. I have babies in the house and they have low-grade medical issues and we can barely find the time to have a minimally adequate sex life with each other: that has been improving as the hospital visits have receded into the past and the nights without a wake-up have become more common. But it will be a while before we can think about fucking other people.

  13. alphabitch
    alphabitch August 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm |

    I have been monogamous, but usually only by accident (only once on request). I like it (mono) ok — and I’ll do it again someday, if asked, as I’m a bit of a homebody and also way too disorganized to be all poly — in the organized, self-identified sense of it, with hierarchically organized partners & alla that. But I prefer sort of a loose “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy with most partners (with the understanding of course that diseases are not to be passed around if at all possible). Seems to work out OK.

  14. Caja
    Caja August 10, 2007 at 2:39 pm |

    While my first comment is in the mod queue, I will add that one of the most useful books for me (and my then-husband) early on was _Open Marriage_. It is a little dated in some respects, and when I first read it, it seemed like good advice for any relationship. I’ve reread it a couple times since then, and it’s quite the poly primer, though I think much of the advice is very good for any serious relationsip, since its major point is that really, your partner cannot be Everything for you, and vice versa, so you should have other interests and friends. (We also read _The Ethical Slut_ and that one other poly book I can’t remember the title of, but which really annoys me now for the Poly is The One True Path sentiment of the author.)

  15. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne August 10, 2007 at 3:22 pm |

    I’m not a very gregarious person. I’m an introvert, as are a lot of other poly folk I know (but I keep dating extraverts! AGH! they do not understand my need to be alone).

    That’s interesting, because I think one of the reasons I prefer monogamy is that I’m very introverted. I hate going out and meeting people, so trying to be poly sounds like it would be my own personal hell of constantly having to chitchat with strangers. Because I’m monogamous (and married), I don’t have to worry about it. Plus, as I said to my husband when we first started dating, “I can barely keep up with all the other stuff I have to do — when would I have time for another boyfriend?”

    Of course, it helps that we’re both introverts and make a point of giving the other person space as needed, or giving closeness as needed. We’ve always discussed what we need pretty openly, and neither one of us thinks that our partner should be our “one and only.”

  16. XtinaS
    XtinaS August 10, 2007 at 3:23 pm |

    While my comment languishes in the mod queue, I recommend this excellent site for poly resources and Q&A:

    What, like, two girlfriends?

  17. ApeLynn
    ApeLynn August 10, 2007 at 3:24 pm |

    Hmm. I identify as monogamous, by inclination. The closest I’ve come to poly is casually dating a few people at a time (they all knew that they were not the only person I was dating, and they were often dating others as well). That in itself proved to be pretty difficult, at least for me, because I am just not that organized; and personally, I don’t really like to be sexually involved with more than one person at a time (I’d use protection, of course, but in thinking about who the other person might be sexually active with, and whether or not they were safe, it just worried me… I’m paranoid about STDs), and often I would while casually dating more than one person, so the worry it caused me was not making me feel too great.

    So. When I met my current fiance, I was dating 4 other men. He wasn’t completely comfortable with it, and after about one week of dating him, I didn’t want to be with anybody else, anyway, so I broke it off with the other people.

    Since then, we’ve discussed the possibility of sexual activity with other people, but only when both of us are involved. I don’t like the idea of him sleeping with other women, or men, when I’m not involved, or around. I don’t generally consider myself to be a jealous person at all, but perhaps this shows I am a little? Either way, he feels the same, so it all works out.

    I never had any feelings about polyamory before; I was just sort of “whatever floats your boat” about it. I’m generally of the mindset that if a couple agrees on something, they are both comfortable with it, etc., then great, do what makes you happy. I am in no position to judge.

    I met a couple at my old job that were married and have an open relationship. Their reason is mainly due to the fact that wife does not really like sex, and the husband is a very sexual person. They are both perfectly happy with their situation, and the wife is not at all jealous about her husband sleeping with other men and women (he is bi). They have one of the happiest marriages I have seen, as a third party.

    One other reason I don’t thin I’d be so great at polyamory… Wenever I’d date more than one person, I’d always like one person more than the others, so I would rather spend time with the one I had stronger feelings for, so it never really had the desired effect for me, anyway.

  18. ANewGuy
    ANewGuy August 10, 2007 at 3:48 pm |

    My spouse and I have an open marriage. We have our marriage and children and those take up the majority of our time. However, we do involve others on the sexual side.

    To be truely poly would be difficult for us. It’s difficult to keep one relationship healthy let alone multiple relationships. So we have a group of friends like us that we share time with. We also share time with others when one of us travels on business. We just choose to restrict that time spend with others to sex.

  19. everstar
    everstar August 10, 2007 at 3:56 pm |

    I feel a little sheepish about this, but I’m monogamous. My first serious relationship ever was with a guy who was interested in polyamory. When I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that, he told me that I should consider it, since monogamy was a relic of a patriarchal structure that made people each other’s property, and human beings aren’t naturally monogamous anyway. He also made it clear that I should do some inner searching to find out if I truly were heterosexual, since that was probably just habit talking; according to Kinsey, the odds were pretty good that I was bisexual and hadn’t realized it. Besides, guys are ugly.

    What it came down to was that he wanted me to discover I was bisexual and poly so he could have other girls on the side and threesomes with me when he wanted them. Sadly, at eighteen I wasn’t self-confident enough to tell him he needed to explore his sexuality to discover his own latent attraction to men. Nine years after breaking up with him, I still feel ridiculously guilty for never having been able to break my monogamous mindset. But given that I cried for three years because I couldn’t change for him, I’m pretty sure I’m stuck this way.

  20. Jane (no, really)
    Jane (no, really) August 10, 2007 at 4:03 pm |

    I manage it by being part of a polyfidelitous triad. My boyfriend and I had been together monogamously, off and on, for a total of five years, and then we met a wonderful woman. We talked about it and decided that it had to be all-or-nothing to work at all, and she agreed… Now, nearly a year later, it’s him and her and me all together. No primaries, no secondaries. It’s true of all three of us that if we had to prioritize any two of us over a third, we’d fall apart.

  21. Thomas
    Thomas August 10, 2007 at 4:11 pm |

    About the “how much to share” thing: I only shared details with a primary once, and it was a two-way street. However, we learned the hard way that being a little too psyched about sex with another could inject an element of annoyance. Also, during the middle of the relationship, she realized that I might have sex with someone she detested, and we agreed to offer the other the right to blacklist someone. Though rarely used, it was good to have that.

  22. Christina
    Christina August 10, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

    Lots of poly folks answered your question to them, so I guess it’s time for a mono person to answer your question to us…

    I am White Bread Middle America–I don’t think I know any poly folk in real life and if I do, they aren’t open about it.

    Therefore, the only experiences I have with “polyamory” aren’t really poly at all–they’re actually infidelity among supposedly monogamous folks. And in that category reside lots of “we have an open relationship” assertions that one finds out was news to his/her spouse. So, I guess the answer is ‘cynical’ because I wouldn’t believe someone who said they had an open relationship unless I heard them say it in front of the SO and the SO agreed.

    As for how I feel about them, I’m fine–unless and until it gets close to home (as in a family member or in my marriage.) I would be very uncomfortable with a family member in this type of relationship although I probably wouldn’t say anything and it simply Would Not Happen in my marriage.

    I can’t answer the ‘why’ for family. I really don’t know. I’ve tried to examine the reasons for that discomfort and I can’t find them.

    As for my marriage, I do not have my self-esteem tied up in where my husband gets his willy wet but I am absolutely not at all keen on STDs–terrified, in fact. So much so that I can see that being the end of our sex life entirely and what relationship can sustain that?

  23. other orange
    other orange August 10, 2007 at 5:03 pm |

    By nature I’m a pretty flirtatious person, but it’s never gone further than just flirting outside my actual relationship, which is with my husband. It’s clearly more social for me than sexual, and he’s okay with that.

    But honestly I’m very, very monogamous (I honestly never thought I’d marry anyone before I met him- I like people, but not enough. I probably don’t even count as entirely heterosexual: I’m really “Mr. Orange”-sexual.) I ask the same of him- I realize that I’m needy, being a classic only child, and I’m always trying to do better and be more flexible, more giving and sharing. But I need to be the only person that he commits to, sexually or romantically; and in my defense I’ve never played games- I was upfront from the beginning about what kind of person I am and what kind of relationships I have, and he discovered that he felt the same about me, and it worked out.

    I do have both a polyamorous (married) friend and another who dates (but not exclusively.) It’s fun to see them discover new people and have positive experiences; less pleasant experiences, of course, do come along. My friends are very different from me in the way they relate to others, and we learn a lot from each other, so I have a fairly positive view of polyamory. It’s just not for me.

  24. Ancrene Wiseass
    Ancrene Wiseass August 10, 2007 at 5:23 pm |

    I’ve always been mono and until very recently was frankly (though quietly) disapproving of poly relationships. I think, though, that my disapproval was based on what I’d seen of poly relationships up until that point:

    1) relationships in which a man has multiple lovers/wives and that is clearly meant as a reinforcement of his male authority/superiority
    2) just what Christina describes above, where “poly” or “open marriage” is a euphemism for infidelity.

    Although I don’t know any actively poly people IRL, I do have online acquaintances who’re poly, and I’ve become convinced, from reading about their relationships, that it is fully possible to have a committed, loving, kind, and honest poly configuration that doesn’t replicate the patriarchy. Which, really, just makes sense to me: God knows there are plenty of oppressive, nasty, fraught mono relationships: they’re not all wonderful. And, after all, it’s the quality of relationship, rather than the type of relationship, that’s important.

    I still don’t really think poly is for me: I think I’m a bit too insecure to feel comfortable with it in my own life and also find the difficulties of practical arrangements daunting. I’d say it’s highly unlikely–though not impossible–that I’ll ever be poly.

  25. Bunny Mazonas
    Bunny Mazonas August 10, 2007 at 5:50 pm |

    Hmmm…

    I’m in a monogamous relationship right now, but if my best friend were single I can see the three of us being a very happy little group. I guess the important thing is having that trust; I’d get jealous or paranoid if there was a third partner most of the time, but certain people I could do it with.

    I think a fully equal and loving polyamorous relationship could be quite nice, though, once those trust issues were dealt with.

  26. taijiya
    taijiya August 10, 2007 at 6:21 pm |

    I’m mono myself–I find it taxing enough to maintain one relationship, let alone juggle multiple partners. That said, I’m also pagan, which has put me in frequent contact with polyfolk. Much of that contact has been of the negative variety–i.e. skeezy men sidling up and bringing their poly-ness into every conversation about fifty times, no matter what the subject matter, as if they think repetition might cause a sudden and absolute shift in my personality or something. Ehn. Being non-polyamorous in a polytheistic subculture brings its own unique challenges these days.

  27. ks
    ks August 10, 2007 at 6:22 pm |

    As for how I feel about them, I’m fine–unless and until it gets close to home (as in a family member or in my marriage.) I would be very uncomfortable with a family member in this type of relationship although I probably wouldn’t say anything and it simply Would Not Happen in my marriage.

    My sister has a more or less open relationship with her boyfriend. They live together, have a child together, and seem pretty content with each other. And they both openly sleep with other people. It doesn’t bother either of them, so long as it’s open. The only time the sister gets mad about it is when he starts sneaking around–then they have a ‘discussion’ and things go back to being open and honest (I think the sneaking is part of the thrill for him).

    I personally don’t have a problem with it. I don’t entirely understand it and probably couldn’t handle it myself, but so long as she’s happy and careful about STDs, it isn’t my business and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But our mother is entirely disapproving. She sees the whole thing as cheating, on both their parts. And since Mom is really sensitive to that sort of thing (Dad cheated on her repeatedly after 25 years of marriage, leading to divorce–the mid life crisis wasn’t good for either of them), she doesn’t get B’s life situation at all. And she isn’t so good at keeping her disapproval to herself, although she doesn’t really say much directly to B. Mom has more the passive aggressive thing going and will make snide comments and complain about it to V (other sister) and myself. Dad, on the other hand, hilariously gets all outraged on B’s behalf and constantly offers to kick S’s ass for her, like he isn’t much more of a dog than S could even dream of being. At least B and S have an agreement and there isn’t any sneaking around involved. It all makes for a fairly interesting family dynamic when we all get together. Thanksgiving and the like are always highly entertaining.

  28. redhorse
    redhorse August 10, 2007 at 7:52 pm |

    My husband and I met when I was eighteen, but our relationship was poly before we knew that was what you called it. Through this, that, and the other, we’ve both fundamentally agreed we are neither of us wired for monogamy.

    We’re each other’s best friend and primary partner in so many ways that though we’d like to find a third or a couple to join us as equals, I just don’t think we’re going to find that “fit”.

    Our polyamory primarily expresses in both of us having friends we are allowed to be intimate with if we choose. Both of us meet the person in advance, and we generally try to limit the circle to people we both like. But yes, a lot of the time it’s he and I looking pretty monogamous from the outside due to schedules and such.

    I’ve got a large enough heart, but time, alas, is not infinite.

  29. lizriz
    lizriz August 10, 2007 at 8:12 pm |

    I am monogamous, and since I live in L.A. I have poly friends and acquaintances.

    I wanted to jump on that as a fully monogamous person, I don’t consider my partner as needing to “be everything.” We both have outside interests and goals and certainly do many things apart. However, romantically and marriage-wise (when it comes to that), I can love only one and I want to spend my life with one partner. I ask that in return, and for me, it’s very meaningful and wonderful.

    Living in L.A., I’ve learned to be quite clear about that from moment one.

    My position towards polyamory is slightly cynical. I have friends who it works for and has for a long time, and I respect them, and I believe what they say. I’m not cynical towards them.

    But I also see people who get pulled into polyamory when it’s clearly making them unhappy and isn’t what they truly want. But they’re in love, so they acquiesque, and that makes me sad for them. I wish they would stand up for their needs and leave the polyamorous partner, but sometimes in L.A., in certain communities, it can feel like noone’s monogamous, and you should just get with the program.

    I’ve also encountered holier-than-thou mentalities in polyamorous people, which is tiring. Sometimes they’re just plain mean and really judgemental about monogamy. (Again, just certain people I’ve met.)

    So it’s hard, because ideally I’m very live and let live, and I’ve seen first hand that it can work, but I’ve also seen people hurt by it, and been hurt by how I’ve been treated for being monogamous.

  30. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp August 10, 2007 at 8:59 pm |

    I tell my partners up front what’s not negotiable: Honesty, certain safer-sex practices, and open communication. Other than that, we don’t have “boundaries.” The whole reason I disliked monogamy was the restrictiveness — so why would I get into a poly situation where I have to get someone’s approval before I can make out with that new hottie? I know some people do that, and it works for them, but for me — ugh.

    I don’t do hierarchy, so I don’t define someone as my “primary” and someone else as my “secondary.”

    I never thought I could handle open relationhips. I knew I sucked at remaining emotionally and sexually exclusive, because I was always drawn to new connections and experiences, but I considered myself an insecure and possessive person who would rather dump than share. Then I fell for a married, poly guy, and figured, what the hell, I’ll give this a try. I’m never jealous of my boyfriend’s wife. I sometimes have twinges of fear or envy when he sees other women, but I get past them easily enough because I am absolutely sure that he loves me and is committed to our relationship.

  31. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp August 10, 2007 at 9:08 pm |

    Funnily enough, the problem had nothing to do with competition over my time or affection, and everything to do with my partners’ fastidious dislike of each other. It made me feel…elided, I guess you could say. I have a lower opinion of both of them than I did beforehand.

    Also, wanted to add: I know exactly what you mean on this count. I don’t mind if my lovers don’t get along, but I absolutely cannot stand being subjected to negativity from both sides. Boyfriend R was downright petty and childish when it came to Boyfriend J last year, and I am now terrified of how he and Boyfriend B will get along when they spend some time together next month. I really don’t want to have to play peacemaker or soothe singed egos …

  32. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused August 10, 2007 at 9:14 pm |

    I’m in an open marriage. It very specifically is not polyamorous. That is, we choose to be one another’s only seriously romantic interest, while being open to sexual relationships (often also close friendships) with other people. We were both in open relationships when we met and have been open since the beginning. We have (written!) rules about “play partners.” They include honesty with everyone involved, some to provide reassurance to one another that our marriage is not threatened, and some to resolve scheduling/location issues.

    That said, although we are theoretically open, I’ve been monogamous for almost a year, and my husband has also been monogamous for that time with one one-night exception. This is partly because we were trying to conceive (and you can never be sure a condom didn’t break) and then because I’m pregnant and being a little weird about body image, at least until I definitively show.

  33. First & Last « Opopanox
    First & Last « Opopanox August 10, 2007 at 11:12 pm |

    […] I’ve got a question for anyone who’d like to share. For those of you in open relationships or polyamorous relationships, or who are generally polyamorous: how do you negotiate boundaries between and amongst your partners? How do you define terms like “primary” and “secondary,” for instance? How do you find people who share your beliefs about communication? How do you handle jealousy, or lack of jealousy? For those of you who are monogamous, either by inclination, philosophy, or accident: how do you feel about polyamory and open relationships? Are you curious or cynical? For all of you: have your feelings about polyamory changed over time or as a result of particular experiences? Link located here […]

  34. Ms. Güerita
    Ms. Güerita August 10, 2007 at 11:38 pm |

    I believe really strongly in being able to define your own relationships, on your own terms, with everyone involved consenting. I am in an open relationship where I have a primary partner. Neither of us have a problem with jealousy (thusfar, at least). We don’t have any deep emotional ties to any other partners at this point, but if it happens, it happens.

  35. ellefromtheeast
    ellefromtheeast August 11, 2007 at 12:23 am |

    lizriz, I know what you’re saying about polyamorous people being evangelical about how they arrange their romantic lives. And I especially am familiar with the guys taijiya descibes, who can’t seem to talk about anything else. For these people, I think it often connects to the point about how much committment some types of polyamory take to make work. If you have two or three major, intense relationships, that’s a huge amount of time and energy, so it becomes most of your life and a lot of your identity. It doesn’t excuse being obnoxious or sleezy or just plain boring, but I think it’s frequently why it’s a major topic of conversation (not that you have to like them any better for it).

    This esssay by a feminist man really gets to Ancrene Wiseass’s point about how some types of polyamory are patriarchal, and how, given cultural assumptions, polyamorists need to be on their guard to actively construct feminist relationships.

  36. Josh Jasper
    Josh Jasper August 11, 2007 at 2:02 am |

    How do you negotiate boundaries between and amongst your partners?

    On a case by case basis, with the assumption that people will be rational for the most part. without that, there’s no negotiation.

    How do you define terms like “primary” and “secondary,” for instance?

    Again, case by case. Each relationship gets it’s own set of negotiations.

    How do you find people who share your beliefs about communication?

    Online, mostly.

    How do you handle jealousy, or lack of jealousy?

    Mostly by feeling like an alien. I understand that people get jealous, and have empathy, but I do not feel it myself.

    For all of you: have your feelings about polyamory changed over time or as a result of particular experiences?

    Both. Mostly, I have fewer formal rules now than I used to.

  37. Joy
    Joy August 11, 2007 at 1:48 pm |

    I’m suspicious of serious polyamorous relationships simply because (as mentioned in this thread) in many cases they are practiced and endorsed by patriarchal fundamentalist religious groups. I don’t know anyone close who’s involved in a poly relationship, but I don’t see why it can’t work well when everyone involved understands and wants it. To each his/her own.

  38. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp August 11, 2007 at 4:32 pm |

    What it came down to was that he wanted me to discover I was bisexual and poly so he could have other girls on the side and threesomes with me when he wanted them. Sadly, at eighteen I wasn’t self-confident enough to tell him he needed to explore his sexuality to discover his own latent attraction to men.

    You’ll come across that from time to time, everstar. I feel very fortunate to have found a poly community that does NOT tolerate that kind of shit. We don’t believe that being poly is more “enlightened” or “feminist” than being mono, or that monogamous people are befuddled, confused, and conformist. And we do our best to straighten out people who don’t get that. Or we show them the door.

    And yeah, my response to guys who insist that all women are really bi is always, “Oh, so you’re into guys, too?! Awesome! I read this one story where Harry Potter and Professor Snape …” The reactions are priceless.

    Sorry to hear you dated a jerk. :(

  39. Deborah
    Deborah August 11, 2007 at 7:05 pm |

    I was in a polyamorous relationship for twelve years (ten of them married). In that period of time, both my husband and I had other significant others (OSOs—in fact, I am credited with coining the term “OSO” on polyamory.org). One of my “other” relationships continued on and off for several years after my marriage ended.

    I’ve done a lot of writing about poly, even had a column on it at one point, and somewhere on the ‘net, my review of Ethical Slut is still floating about.

    Currently, I’m not in a relationship, and I’m not committed to my next relationship being either poly or mono. That doesn’t seem like a decision I want to make by myself.

    My general sense is that many of your questions are answered in the same awkward ways in both monogamous and poly relationships. How do you handle jealousy? for example.

    Most monogamous couples bump up against jealousy even when both partners are behaving within agreed upon boundaries. “You looked at a woman at that party” kind of thing. And dealing with jealousy is problematic; are you supportive of your partner while s/he endures difficult, irrational feelings? Are you angry at your partner for manipulating you emotionally? How well do you communicate? How well do you own your own feelings, staying in “I” statements (I felt, I reacted) rather than “you made me” statements? When do you decide you’ve talked it out enough and how does that feel? These experiences are actually not terribly different whether it’s triggered by looking at someone, flirting with someone, or fucking someone.

    I think the bottom line with boundaries is, if you’re in a committed relationship, you put that relationship first, without sacrificing yourself. That’s the tightrope every couple walks.

    Look, if biting your nails makes your partner CRAZY, you have to decide where your need to bite nails ends and his/her need to not be crazy begins. I know that’s a stupid example, but every boundary negotiation is more or less the same in that regard. Everyone kind of wants their own behavior to be without limits and their partner’s behavior to be limited whenever they feel uncomfortable, and every couple is some way negotiating that.

    For myself, when I first entered into a poly relationship, it was by making a conscious choice to push past my own perceived limits and see how it felt. And it felt okay. But when I hit hard limits, I communicated clearly.

    The shit gets stirred. I’ve been “cheated on” polyamorously (and monogamously). There are no guarantees that your boundaries won’t get violated or that your partner won’t act like a jerk. A lot of people enter into poly thinking it will cure all the problems of monogamy. It won’t. Contrarily, a lot of monogamous people look askance at poly, citing all the problems it can cause, but every one of those problems exists in monogamous relationships as well. No one has ever created a relationship scenario that prevents adultery from ever happening.

    I ended up disappointed by polyamory, mostly by how I was perceived by others. I was not entering into relationships cleanly, because people made huge assumptions about what it meant being with a poly woman, and those assumptions damaged relationships before they even began. I still find that, if I tell someone I was in a poly marriage, they start treating me like a slut (in the negative sense of the word); like my boundaries don’t matter or don’t exist. And that has been painful.

    I was, at one point, in three significant relationships. That was stressful and exhausting. I definitely have a limit of two.

  40. Deborah
    Deborah August 11, 2007 at 7:11 pm |

    Oh, and I definitely recommend making a conscious effort to get a lot of support. Because we get lots of social cues about monogamy from the day we’re born, but no social information about how to handle multiple relationships kindly and responsibly. Read books like Ethical Slut and Loving More, go to sites like polyamory.org or Polyamory Society or Loving More, join mailing lists and forums. Because those are the ways to hear voices and learn from others’ mistakes. :)

  41. Deborah
    Deborah August 11, 2007 at 7:21 pm |

    Okay, last comment. I had a guy that didn’t get along with my then-husband. They just didn’t click. It made me feel crazy, like handling two kids with sibling rivalry issues. I hated it. But the next relationship I was in, the guys got along, and maybe nothing in the world feels better. Watching the two of them hanging out drinking beer and knowing they both love you. Plus, you’ll never have a better friend than you’re partner’s partner. They buy gifts.

  42. fish
    fish August 11, 2007 at 8:24 pm |

    Okay, last comment. I had a guy that didn’t get along with my then-husband. They just didn’t click. It made me feel crazy, like handling two kids with sibling rivalry issues. I hated it.

    hear, hear.

    my husband and my boyfriend aren’t close (more out of wariness of each other than anything else), and that can be a bitch. some days are worse than others, and i’m hopeful that one day we can all have a beer together without anyone feeling awkward or weird about it. one day…

    i’m poly (and constitutionally incapable of handling more than 2 sexual-emotional relationships at a time, it seems). have been since, oh, end of highschool, when my then-bf went off to college on the west coast and i went east two years later. we were an LDR and i was also usually in a relationship with someone geographically proximate.

    my husband, otoh, is something of a manslut. more into the sex than the relationships (the age-old contrast between poly and swing). we met when we were both in relationships with other people, so we both knew from the beginning each other’s proclivities. at least to general non-monogamy, if not the particulars.

    how do you negotiate boundaries between and amongst your partners?

    boundaries – not necessarily amongst my partners, but my own personal boundaries – have been a huge issue for me & my husband. i don’t have many, often don’t understand them, and generally disregarded them. which has been a Very Bad Thing. when we first “officially” decided to open our marriage, the Big Boundary was No Emotional Entanglements. (this is where the poly-swing dichotomy can be a problem in a relationship). it didn’t work so well for me, and i fell in love with one of my lovers. i have to give my husband huge props here for being willing to work through it with me, as it was a pretty severe violation of an agreed-upon boundary. it’s also the reason my husband and boyfriend aren’t close.

    in the time since i fell in love with my bf, i’ve tried to work on my issues with boundaries. i’ve learned they are necessary for some relationships (my marriage, for example, which is extremely important to me), if not all. and i think (my husband may disagree) i’ve become better at respecting them, even if i don’t fully understand why they’re so important to the other person. a body could spend a lifetime in therapy to answer that question.

    and you’ll see this in any poly discussion group: communication. in our case, communication about boundaries. constant, repetitive, communication. it maintains and strengthens trust, at least in our case.

    How do you define terms like “primary” and “secondary,” for instance?

    husband is primary, ‘cuz, well, he’s my husband. and since my boyfriend is also married, his wife is his primary (and they have kids, and the wife has a kid with her boyfriend). i don’t use the terms “primary” or “secondary,” though. there’s my husband and then there’s my boyfriend. and for my husband, in his words, “there’s my wife and then there’s every other person in the world.”

    How do you handle jealousy, or lack of jealousy?

    i’m not a jealous person, at least when it comes to sex or love. i’ve never been bothered if my partner had other relationships (and in some cases, i welcomed the other relationship, as it took some pressure off me). for me, i think it comes down to security in the relationship: if i know where i stand with the other person, jealousy isn’t an issue.

    the one longish-term relationship i had where i wasn’t sure where i stood drove me batshit. and that’s 20-20 hindsight. at the time i was too young and inexperienced to know why i felt confused and yanked around and threatened by his other girlfriend.

    …and that’s enough for one comment, which most people probably won’t bother to read all the way through anyway. muah.

  43. Ebony Sphynx
    Ebony Sphynx August 11, 2007 at 9:50 pm |

    This is a fascinating line of conversation. I really enjoy reading what other people think regarding polyamory/monogomy. Ever since I was a child growing up in various locales abroad, I suppose I have been both bi and poly. I never really understood the concept of monogomy (or any single system of thought or behaviour or faith) being the best solution for everyone. So, when people tried to convince me that people who were actually poly were “cheating” on each other and were therefore “bad” people, I really didn’t understand.

    Cheating is something else altogether. I don’t like it when poly is confused with that sort of poor behaviour and lack of respect.

    The same goes for my lack of truly grasping why so many people are upset in their own personal ways by same sex relationships or people (like me) who date both genders with equal joy. it simply makes no real sense when you remember that there are billions of us on this orb so why not have billions of solutions to life’s stresses?

    A lot of people mention that they can’t imagine how poly relationship members can cope with the scheduling. In my situation that is not really an issue. There are three of us. I am dating two men, they are friends, but they do not date each other…in a sense we are a “V”. They both work a lot and I work very little in comparison (I have a 40 hour work week). So, usually one of them is busy when the other has time. When their off-time coincides we frequently have “family-time” when we all spend an evening or afternoon together. If I want to stay over with the one who does not live in this apartment, I simply tell my live-in my plan and he respects that. I take into consideration plans they both have and do my best to be sensitive to their needs and desires. We come to a good compromise without pulling out schedules or having set “date-nights” like so many poly families I know. The free-form system we have is probably partly to blame for things working for so long.

    I have been in a commited relationship with my live-in for nearly 4 years. I have been commited to my other partner for nearly 3 years. We are all quite happy with things.

    That’s more than most would care to know, but I figure it might be nice to see that not all poly families require set-in-stone planning and organization. We just relax and let life happen.

  44. Deborah
    Deborah August 12, 2007 at 12:57 am |

    I happen to think the “no emotional involvement” boundary, which is a fairly typical one, is one of the ones that is guaranteed to fail. It’s just a bad idea. You just can’t allow sex without allowing for the possibility of love.

    You can have rules about what you’ll do IF you fall in love, but you can’t say “don’t fall in love” anymore than you can say “don’t have rain on Saturday.”

  45. Isabel
    Isabel August 12, 2007 at 4:49 am |

    I am mono, but in theory open to the possibility of an open relationship (totally single now, hence the theory). I dunno if I could do really poly, and I literally have never met someone in real life who was into it or thought it could work (I have much more confidence in its potential for people, even if it’s a very few people, than all my friends) so the issue seems likely to remain a moot point for quite a while.

    I have seen friends ask SOs for an open relationship because they weren’t in love anymore but didn’t want to admit it, which always ended up incredibly badly, but I doubt that’s the usual. Also, both of my friends who have done this now swear up and down they think open relationship can’t work, so it seems they are naturally mono and their desire for openness had more to do with those particular relationships (with each other as it turns out. Oh, small high schools).

    I used to think they could never work, but reading Bitch PhD sort of changed my mind. I do think it’s a rare person that they’re right for, but hey so what.

    Personally, I think I could handle open because I’m not sexually jealous–I’ve talked with boyfriends about various people we found attractive (usually celebrities–doing it with people you know seems more uncomfortable somehow)–I figure, if someone is sleeping with me he is attracted to me and if he meets a girl who’s better at sex well maybe he can pass on the skills!

    But, I am somewhat emotionally needy in relationships, and having to share someone’s romantic love would probably freak me out. (With my last boyfriend, I never got jealous over girls he thought were hot, but I did sometimes get jealous of his close friends of both genders. Weird, I know).

    The only open relationship I’ve seen work in real life is pair who decied to open up for college. They talk about it a lot, and one of their “rules” is that they’re monogamous when they’re on vacation (i.e., now, when they’re living at home in the same town, they’re exclusive, but when they pack up for college in three weeks they’ll be sleeping around again). When they started out, they decided to share information, but after trying that, they both found it uncomfortable and decided not to. I find them pretty impressive as I don’t think most 19-year-olds have the emotional maturity to talk about something like why they’re mad at each other, much less why although they’re okay with each other having sex with other people they don’t want to hear about it.

    I’m sort of curious, honestly, and if I got into a relationship now I’d want to wait a while, at least, to go exclusive. But it’s incredibly rare for me to find a guy I find attractive (I don’t even have especial standards–I’ve been attracted to all sorts of different looking guys, most of whom did not look like models, but it still comes up to just a handful) so I doubt I’d ever really act on it.

  46. A.J. Luxton
    A.J. Luxton August 12, 2007 at 5:45 am |

    I’m polyamorous by orientation, as are my two primary partners. We’re in a non-legal triad marriage, and we all occasionally have flings with other people, but there doesn’t seem to be time for any serious dating. Most of our boundaries with regards to sex and love are alike and don’t require any negotiation (the only time a serious boundary issue ever came up over sex, it was a fear of pregnancy issue.)

    That’s not to say that we don’t have other boundary issues or jealousies, but most of the time they’re simple and practical: look, you’ve been spending all your time with xir lately, can you spend some with me please before I go insane? — not that spending time with me and with xir are in any way exclusive except that they can’t be accomplished at the same time and need to be balanced. That, and the nail-biting thing Deborah mentions. :-)

    A lot of the time we wind up effectively polyfi by principle #1 in ellefromtheeast’s comment: there’s simply not enough time to live and work and be good to each other AND go around dating seriously, that and two of us are introverts and one of us is extroverted but a total homebody. (The cooperation between me and him is lots of fun: I’m introverted but outgoing — when I’m in a social situation, I tend to take charge, but I tend to want to leave pretty quickly; he’s shy but extroverted — he loves spending time with people but hates introducing himself, getting the ball rolling. So we tag-team.)

    I’ve been antsy for friends-with-benefits type stuff lately, I think because I feel like I need some outside point of reference for my sexual ways-of-being. But there were a couple of times last year that I tried dating and in each case me and the person I was dating mutually realized that our chemistry required a serious relationship and I just didn’t have the emotional energy to create that relationship in the right way.

    In my terminology, the difference between primary and secondary — or marriage and dating — is not one of love. I tend to love people equally, if in different ways. But I’ve dated people I loved madly but would never household with. The whole point of marriage-type relationships is the householding, is being willing to deal with the litter box and that goddamn way you leave the kitchen sink and the problem of snoring and… I think you get the picture. I wouldn’t marry someone I didn’t love, but I’ve seen it work; and I love many people I wouldn’t marry.

  47. fish
    fish August 12, 2007 at 8:32 am |

    A lot of people mention that they can’t imagine how poly relationship members can cope with the scheduling. In my situation that is not really an issue. There are three of us.

    ah, i’d love it if that were the case. only three people. *grin*

    in my case, there are the schedules of five adults and three children (all under age 10) that need to coordinate. the only two i am involved with are my husband and bf, but bf has wife/kids/her bf. throw in some chronic medical issues, three non-standard schedules, one workaholic, and summer vacation, and you have a Severe Need for a dayplanner or, my preference, google calendars.

    The whole point of marriage-type relationships is the householding, is being willing to deal with the litter box and that goddamn way you leave the kitchen sink and the problem of snoring and… I think you get the picture.

    i think that’s the best description of why love != marriage (or vice-versa) i’ve come across yet. householding with my bf and his family would be a total nightmare. otoh, i wouldn’t mind living in closer proximity – a neighbor/shared back yard sort of thing would be nice.

  48. Subgrrl8
    Subgrrl8 August 13, 2007 at 11:09 am |

    i am monogamous myself, but know many poly people. i like the ideas of polyamory- loving more than one person, having open communication, clear boundaries and inclusive romantic realities- but it’s not for me personally. i, for one thing, have a pretty low libido, so one partner is pretty much all i need to stay satisfied. for another, i am not attracted to many people at all, usually only one at a time, and sex for me is a very intimate emotional thing. i have one primary partner, he happens to be a guy, and we live together. we’ve only been together for 1.5 yrs though, so who knows what will happen in our future? open relationships can be tough to navigate, from things that poly people i know have talked to me about, but can be very fulfilling, as well as freeing in an individual manner.
    but i kind of like belonging to a small group of 2, just me and my partner. i come from a very small family, so this structure works very well for me. i like being deeply interconnected with him and our lives being entwined. i also have a hard time maintaining relationships in general- but especially long distance. i’m the worst pen pal ever. :) but also, it’s just hard for me to keep in contact with a large variety of people with whom i rarely spend any alone time. this means i have a hard time making acquaintances- and a hard time social networking for career-type stuff, like i’m an artist but i don’t many other artists and no gallery people and shit i can’t even get a band together because i can’t keep track of how everyone knows everyone else.

    for me, an insular world is a safe and comforting one. i like one-on-one time with people, and generally feel pretty unnoticeable at parties. sometimes i’m gregarious, but day-to-day banal small talk bores and tires me. i have a hard time meeting new people, and generally feel pretty relieved to be out of the dating pool. it helps that my partner is so awesome, and fun, and pretty much understands me in ways i’ve never found from other people.

  49. Emily
    Emily August 15, 2007 at 5:52 pm |

    I’ve had three significant relationships in my 25 years. The first was monogamous in name, though when we got pissed at each other we’d sleep with someone else and use it in an argument. Yeah, yeah, I know. More than a little immature and bitchy. I got into therapy.

    My next relationship was with a woman who is now my best friend, and lover, and when we started dating she was very clear about the fact that she didn’t think that monogamy worked for her and that I wasn’t the only the only person she was interested in. I went along with it, because my head was so turned by this woman, but I was rampantly insecure and unable to communicate at that time in our relationship. We stopped dating about four months after we started and began the journey to becoming friends.

    About nine months after that relationship ended, I started dating a fantastic woman, who coincidentally had very breifly dated my ex (now, best friend). She had recently ended a long-term monogamous relationship and wasn’t interested in anything exclusive. By this point, I’d done a lot of my own work and was far more able to communicate with my current lover than I was when I had attempted polyamory in the past. I could identify my own boundaries and when I was getting triggered or jealous, I could identify what that was about and what I needed, and my current lover is very good about reassuring (but not coddling) me. We’ve worked through a lot of sticky situations, including the evolution of my relationship with my best friend, which, if I’m being honest, was never strictly platonic. We decided to reconnect as lovers.

    What I didn’t understand on a viscreal, emotional level up until this point was that my feelings for my sweetie would be in no way changed by reconnecting with my best friend, that I could love them both very much and that I didn’t necessarily have to choose one or the other. It’s complicated, especially when you throw in the element that my two lovers were once intimately involved with each other, though they have no romantic interest in one another now. It’s been tricky to navigate the hurt feelings on both sides about how they ended things with each other, and my feelings of being something of a prize to each of them. What I’ve found though, is that as tough as it may be, sitting down and having an honest, emotional, connected conversation helps tremendously. You can’t protect anyone; sometimes people are going to get hurt. When I told my sweetie that my best friend and I had actually slept together, though she knew it was something that was a possibility, even a probability, and had supported, and encouraged me to explore this ressurgance of romantic energy in my relationship with my friend, she had some strong reactions of jealously and of feeling insecure, and I hated that. Even though, logically, I knew I’d done nothing wrong. It was a great lesson on being able to just hang out with that, not have to fix it or appologize for it, getting to reassure her that I loved her in a way that is so specific and real.

    I don’t know what exactly this means for my identity and I don’t think that I necessarily have to label it. I do know that I really value the emphasis that this kind of relationship puts on communication and honesty. I love that I’m learning in practice, as opposed to understanding in theory, that it’s entirely possible to just be with your emotions and the emotions of your beloved without having to “fix” anything, that if everyone is abiding by the boundaries of the relationship, there is no blame, but that doesn’t remove the emotion from the situation.

    Long story short? In my experience, poly is MUCH HARDER than mono. But it’s so very worth the work.

  50. The Strange Credibility of Polyamory « freaksexual

    […] political left as well. Polyamory is mentioned positively on well-known feminist blogs, for example here, here, here, and here. Polyamory is generally met with curiosity and tolerance on these blogs, even […]

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