An Intro to Openness

In case folks have not yet caught on, I am in an open relationship. Way back in January, I announced on my blog that I was interested in learning more about polyamory and was overwhelmed with responses in the comments, over email, gchat, twitter, etc. I had no idea where to even start and months later, I’m still trying to sort through all of the thoughts and feelings I have about this. It’s taken me eight months and dozens of discarded drafts to finally pull something together.

Let me back up a bit to explain how I got to this point in the first place…

I suppose I’ve always known that my approach to relationships is a bit unorthodox. From the moment I starting having boyfriends and crushes and such, I’ve always wanted a bit more of everything. I’ve cheated on boyfriends, hooked up with guys I was sexually attracted to while emotionally attached to other guys, messed around with multiple guys at the same time, etc.

I explained to people that I don’t really have a jealous personality in the same way most people do, but they never believed me or said I was in denial. I openly checked out men and women when I was with the guys I was dating or trying to hook up with, and encouraged them to do the same. My definition of cheating at one point was something like “if what you do with somebody else does not exceed what you’ve done as a couple, it’s not cheating” — so if we have intercourse and I get oral sex from somebody, it can’t possibly be cheating! I got more than a few raised eyebrows for that one… but really, I can’t possibly be the only person who thinks this! Or, am I? (Please tell me I’m not… shoot…)

People around me have always questioned my habits, either telling me I’m “such a guy” or saying I had no heart or shame.

When I met my current guy, something told me to be patient with my weird relationship quirks. I was always completely honest, but I didn’t push anything on him that I knew he wasn’t ready for. Fortunately for me, he finally got to a point where he was comfortable talking about the possibility of an open relationship. Not only that, but he actually wanted to test it out and see what would work for us. HOORAY!

But I suddenly realized that I had no idea what it was like to actually be in an open relationship. I started conversations with some blogging buddies, went through the polyamory and compersion entries on Wikipedia, and realized that there was a whole world out there of people who thought and felt like me!

Now that I’ve gotten a chance to really delve deep into the links and resources people recommended to me, contemplated on the intimate details folks have shared with me about their open relationships, finally finished reading Opening Up and just started The Ethical Slut, I am ready to write about it.

So now you’ve got some background to refer to when I write my next two posts about polyamory. The first will be about open relationships as an appealing alternative for feminists. I honestly think open relationships are very feminist and have a lot in common with feminist goals and ideals, and I’ll explain exactly why in my post. I am also going to write a post that’s more about my own feelings about and experiences with polyamory so far. I might end up writing shitloads more (seriously, my thoughts on this are endless), but that’s the plan so far.

Anyway, I wanted to write this intro post not only to give you all some background, but really to open up this thread for any questions folks might have. People often tell me they’re curious about my opinion on this and contact me with some questions, but always tell me they have more. I am by no means an expert on open relationships, but I’m sure some of the readers out there are. I will try to answer any question, no matter how personal it is, completely openly and honestly. The only exception is if I plan to cover a specific question more fully in a post, in which case I’ll let you know. (But really, my outlines are so long, I think I’ll be glad to unload some of it before I start writing.)

I am really an open book (oops, no pun intended), so… ask away!

ETA: I forgot to mention that if you have questions you’d rather not ask in such a public space, you can always email me — frausally (at) gmail (dot) com


Similar Posts (automatically generated):

101 comments for “An Intro to Openness

  1. August 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I’m glad you decided to write this. :)

  2. August 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Aww, thanks Chally!

    For folks who don’t know, I’ve been whining about my polyamory posts for months now on twitter! With the nudging of many people, I finally got my ass into shape and have really pushed myself to put thoughts to paper (or keyboard I guess).

  3. Calamity Jenn
    August 12, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    I’m excited to see a poly post on my fave feminist blog! I’m a poly feminist currently living with my primary, seeing a secondary for almost a year now, and just met another awesome guy. I love the poly life and love to see it represented outside of poly-specific forums. I’m looking forward to your future posts!

  4. August 12, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Yay! I’m glad that you’ve finally decided to write about this, too. I may in fact be as monogamous as they come, but the stigma around poly and/or open relationships is a big problem, and it’s got to end. Enforced monogamy can be as damaging, restrictive and unhealthy as any other enforced societal or relationship role, so I’m glad to see it here, and can’t wait to read more!

  5. August 13, 2009 at 1:08 am

    The solution to the mono/poly crisis would be, for these two sets of people to ethically divide the world between themselves, and then stay out of each other’s autonomous cultural zones.

    So, for example, IF you agree up front to play by MONO rules, then you should scrupulously honor that social contract. Any breech of contract would be deemed a moral transgression, and grounds for immediate termination of the relationship.

    On the other hand, if you agree to play the POLY game, then disregard everything in the foregoing paragraph, since you are perfectly free to screw around all you wish!

    Monos and Polys should not pair up. Full stop. They are like incompatible blood types, and should stay the hell away from each other for the good of all concerned.

    Word to the wise: a patronizing cultural attitude by Polys, toward Monos, is not advisable.

  6. QuietStorm
    August 13, 2009 at 1:28 am

    FidelBogen:

    For someone who thinks feminism is a “female-supremacist hate movement” to comment on this blog is certainly running the risk of coming across as arguing in bad faith with an intent to stir up trouble.

    Particularly when a complex, nuanced and personal discussion subject like polyamory comes up, gross oversimplification of the topic like “all polys are free to screw around all they wish” and assuming bad faith (patronizing) on the part of anybody who practices polyamory is not the way to a fruitful and edifying conversation.

    I’m looking forward to reading what Frau Sally has to say, precisely because as a straight monogamous male I know that polyamory is an area I know very little about. I am aware, however, that even more so than monogamous relationships, poly ones are about coming to a workable compromise, negotiating rules and boundaries, and discovering what works for the parties involved. So blanket moral rules aren’t going to work.

    TL;DR – read, learn, don’t lecture, and please try to appreciate and respect other perspectives.

  7. QuietStorm
    August 13, 2009 at 1:33 am

    Ugh, forget it. I just read the comments @ FB’s blog. Anti-feminism and race-hate blogs share so much nomenclature it scares me.

  8. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Hi Sally,

    mostly a lurker these days round these parts.

    I look forward to reading this, too. I’m glad you read Opening Up and not just Ethical Slut, which is a book I find gets too much hype for its actual value. Hopefully this means you will be talking about open relationships and not defaulting “poly” to equal “nonmonogamy”, or worse “nonmonogamy done properly” – which is a personal pet peeve.

    I also get you are all enthused at finding out and exploring open relationships in your new situation, so I will take any excess gushing with the grain of salt it deserves. (Everything is shinier when its new. :-) )

    I would love to hear some more on your view of open relationships as feminist and am looking forward to that post.

  9. August 13, 2009 at 2:53 am

    QuietStorm:

    Your reasoning is, to my way of thinking, arcane.

    “Bad Faith”? What on earth is that?

    I spoke my mind candidly – albeit bluntly, I admit.

    And candor is antipodal to “bad faith ” by any measure.

    Furthermore, opinions I may have stated elsewhere are not relevant HERE, unless I state them here.

    Finally, I find hothouse intellectual preciosity to be a less-than-illuminating mode of engagement. Not only stifling as hell, but all too frequently a way of avoiding certain things.

    I agree entirely about negotiating rules, boundaries, usw.. That was the point to which I spoke: the most fruitful and edifying way for these two groups to negotiate their (let’s face it) Irreconcilable Difference.

    Because the problem is real, you know. . .

    And sometimes, just sometimes, blanket moral rules ARE the ticket! ;)

    As I have undertaken to demonstrate . . .

  10. Dana
    August 13, 2009 at 2:55 am

    Looking forward to it!

    I too have been told I’ve just “never been in love” etc etc because of my feelings about monogamy. I wish more people were more open to polyamory, though it does require confidence and communication enough to break a lot of relationships. And means choosing monogamy, if you do, in good faith.

    I sort of define myself as emotionally monogamous. I would share my partner’s affection but I would really want to be the primary emotional partner. Sexually I feel I would be most secure and happiest in a relationship which is entirely open to interpretation – both partners may sleep with anyone they’re attracted to but there must be a discussion before any occasion whatsoever and if one person isn’t comfortable that’s that.

    I have never understood jealousy at all, but forcing myself into the mould of monogamy (plus the fact I have depression) has sure taught me! My partner’s ex of 8 years, who split up with him 15 years ago, then wasn’t allowed to get in contact with him when she was married, is now single and has been talking to him. Sweet as.

    But then she was coming to NZ (she lives in the US) and wanted to meet up for a drink. Cool, I wanted to meet her! She refused to meet me. Are you kidding? They have had no contact since they were in a relationship, and she wants to meet him alone for a drink? (Yeah, that didn’t happen since strangely my partner respects my feelings.)

    So yeah, the person who actually cannot comprehend feeling upset by my partner touching someone else (but of course can understand being upset by being ignored) has learnt how absolutely soul destroying that kind of anger can be!

    It’s not natural for me to be monogamous, but I am learning. I love my partner, he is more monogamous than I actually thought possible… I never really believed people desired monogamy, thought it was more fear and jealousy rather than genuine desire. But I chose this lifestyle and after 6 years I’m finally adjusting. Haha!

    I cannot imagine ever trusting anyone but him though…

    OK that was a long and self absorbed rant. But looking forward to your posts!

  11. August 13, 2009 at 7:33 am

    I wish more people were more open to polyamory, though it does require confidence and communication enough to break a lot of relationships.

    I dunno. I think monogamy/polyamory are as much a sexual orientation continuum as hetero- or homosexuality. It’s not as cut-and-dried at first glance (which I why I’m looking forward to Frau Sally Benz’s posts!). Like Cara, I think the healthy way to approach the issue isn’t to create One Special True Feminist Sexuality, but to acknowledge the sexualities we already possess.

    I also think it’s worth mentioning that the “traditional” practice of heterosexuality has been predominantly polyamory for males, monogamy for females. This is generally recognized in polyamorous or “alternative” circles, but seldom frankly acknowledged in “straight” circles—the myth of “monogamy” rules.

  12. MRM
    August 13, 2009 at 7:49 am

    My partner and I have a relationship that’s open to either of us getting involved with other people, but we’ve spent a lot more time talking about hypothetical situations than actually being with anyone else.

    The worst situation I had was dating a guy for a few months who turned out to really be unhappy with the fact that I had a primary partner. He knew about my partner up front and accepted it then, but as time went on he seemed increasingly unhappy with the situation. I really wanted the three of us to be able to spend time together but he was not comfortable with the idea and only admitted it after we’d been seeing each other for a little while.

    The relationship eventually ended because we turned out to have fairly incompatible relationship styles (he is a phone-call-every-day sort of guy and I like to communicate by email, he was sexually aggressive in a way that made me uncomfortable, etc.), but that experience taught me that I need to be very clear about what kind of a relationship I’m in and what I’m looking for when I get involved with anyone new. I thought that I was clear with this guy but I may not have been, or he may have just changed his mind and waited a while to tell me.

    What my partner and I have decided since then is that any potential secondary partner for either of us has to be comfortable spending time with both of us. Seeing the same person might be ideal but we need to at least be able to get together for dinner. I know some nonmonogamous couples like to follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” procedure or at least don’t want to meet their partner’s other partners, but it’s something that’s really important to me.

    Even though neither of us are actively looking at the time, the best thing about our poly-in-theory relationship is that both of us feel comfortable talking about attraction to other people and being friendly/flirty to other folks without worrying about jealousy. My partner famously encourages me to flirt with folks all the time – I am a bit shy and I don’t follow up that often, but I really like being able to be open in my relationship about not just things but people who turn me on without worrying about upsetting my partner. It’s very freeing and it allows us to learn a lot about each other.

    I’m very excited to read what you have to post here!

  13. Aviva
    August 13, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I am really looking forward to these posts! Hooray for bringing it all to light at Feministe. I’ve been thinking, discussing and researching open relationships and polyamory a lot lately, and I’m interested to see the spectrum of experiences and theories many of us have.

  14. Geek
    August 13, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Very nice. I’m open to poly but my man is not, so I don’t breach our contract. I look forward to hearing more about relationship contracts, spoken and unspoken.

  15. Zoe
    August 13, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Looking forward to reading these posts. I know I personally don’t have the emotional capacity to be in an open relationship so I’m curious for some insight.

  16. August 13, 2009 at 9:49 am

    If I haven’t spoken to you during your research phase, I’d be happy to do so now. I’m a female polyamorist, although I don’t use the identity label “feminist”, even though I am a very strong, independent type person. I actually just interviewed with a documentaryist from the UK about the female perspective and female empowerment of polyamory.

    You’re not alone, I’ve always had “weird” ideas about relationships too, never really been the “jealous type”, been told I was in denial, etc. etc.

    I have tons more to say on the subject at my website at http://www.theinnbetween.net/poly1.html and also, for a more personal reaction, at my LJ at http://joreth.livejournal.com if you’re interested in reading more about my views on the subject.

    Oh, and you might want to check out Miss Poly Manners for a somewhat lighthearted look at a female perspective of polyamory (http://sites.google.com/site/misspolymanners)

    ~Joreth

  17. August 13, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Oh wow, so much to comment on!

    Fidelbogen, I have no idea whether you have ill-will or not, so I’ll just take your comments at face value because I’d like to respond to the mono with mono, poly with poly comment. While I understand why people might say that, I don’t think it should be a rule. 1) It can be problematic if the expectations are not made clear from the start, but it’s definitely doable. 2) Sometimes people are only exposed to nonmonogamy through an experience with somebody who practices it. 3) Creating a hard line b/w mono and poly almost defeats the very nature of that openness people like me crave.

    LC, please do have patience with me =) And, yes, I try to look at nonmonogamy as one huge spectrum. I tend to use the term poly/polyamory more often than not b/c it’s easiest, shortest, and the term I learned first. But I realize that there’s more out there than just that, and that everyone’s experience is different.

    Dana, MRM, and others out there, please do share your experiences here! I know sometimes for privacy/safety reasons, people stay out of public dialogues about this sort of thing, so you could also email me if you’d like. But really, I would love to hear what other people’s experiences are! Keep it comin’!

  18. August 13, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Ooh! thanks for the links Joreth! I’ll definitely check them out and get in touch if I have questions.

    Yaaaay this is so exciting!

  19. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

    I see someone has already brought up the “poly is a sexual orientation” trope.
    I’ll be curious to see what you make of that. I’ve always been somewhat dubious of using that as an analogue. I see the appeal, but it doesn’t quite seem to fit well in my view.

    I do know there are many (as have already shown up here) who think there is some fundamental poly/mono divide – they just want completely different things and never the twain shall meet. I personally think what divide there is has more to do with poly trying so hard to define itself as an identity. Like Tristan, I prefer thinking of nonmonogamy as a wide spectrum, not limited to the two 800-pound identity gorillas: Poly and Swinger.

    Joreth: I’ll have to check out Miss Poly Manners. Pepomint is also usually worth a read for a serious, intellectual take on Poly and what it means.

  20. August 13, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I see someone has already brought up the “poly is a sexual orientation” trope. I’ll be curious to see what you make of that. I’ve always been somewhat dubious of using that as an analogue. I see the appeal, but it doesn’t quite seem to fit well in my view.

    I’m with you there. As a (mostly) gay person who is also involved in a poly relationship, this just feels…dishonest, as if poly folks are trying to appropriate all the work done for LGBTIQ rights/acceptance (some folks are even trying to add “P” to the LGBTIQ alphabet soup, which I am definitely not ok with). Neither I nor my partners experience poly as a “sexuality,” but a “relationship style.”

    if you agree to play the POLY game, then disregard everything in the foregoing paragraph, since you are perfectly free to screw around all you wish

    I think Fidelbogan is a troll, so I’m not going to bother to respond to hir, but for anyone else reading who may be uneducated on poly: this is generally NOT how it works and not at all a good definition of a poly relationship. Polyamory is, like the word says, based on the concept of many loves, multiple relationships, not a sexual free-for-all. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — it’s just not generally called poly.

  21. Wilma Wonky
    August 13, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I was in a poly relationship with another woman and my husband for almost a year. We lived together. It was shocking how much easier life was divided between three working adults. The biggest problem I had was convincing my friends that I was not being abused or taken advantage of. No matter how many times I said I was happy with the arrangement! Eventually it ended. I think for the reason a lot of “first” relationships end; we didn’t know what we were doing and we made a lot of mistakes.

    Since then, my husband and I (we’re still together) have both had short, individual relationships but nothing’s really taken.

  22. lindsey
    August 13, 2009 at 11:10 am

    i stumbledupon this site this morning for the first time…its like the little button KNEW what ive been thinking about lately. i, too, had always cheated, and had the idea that cheating wasnt cheating if i hadnt dont more with the person than my significant other. i, also, am in a relationship at the moment where ive put my obscure feelings on relationships aside to make sure i didnt freak out the SO…still completely honest, and he was a very close friend before we got together, so he KNEW i was weird when he signed on for it :) im just not to the part where we have talked about the openness…

    long story short: you are NOT alone, im totally going through this too. ive thought EXACTLY like you have and i cant wait to read more of your writing on this. feministe is bookmarked :)

  23. Sheelzebub
    August 13, 2009 at 11:15 am

    FSB:

    Creating a hard line b/w mono and poly almost defeats the very nature of that openness people like me crave.

    Can you clarify this? It almost seems as if you think that someone not wanting to be with a poly person is diminishing openness. If I’m wrong in my interpretation, then I apologize.

    I have nothing against polyamory, but it’s not for me. I don’t want to be with someone who will also be with other people. It’s not okay with me if my partner was to do that, it would hurt me deeply, and I don’t think being with someone who wouldn’t be happy with being monogamous would be a good idea.

  24. Jasmine
    August 13, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Open relationships can indeed promote feminist goals and ideals. This concept is a real shocker for a lot of people, who automatically assume the exact opposite based on incorrect assumptions about gender roles within these relationship. They think they are helping. They honestly believe they are protecting innocent women. They don’t want a husband/partner to coerce a woman into an open relationship when she wants it to be exclusive.

    Now, we all agree with this part of it. No one should be coerced into something they don’t want.

    However, the folks making these assumptions overlook a hugely important point that is crystal clear to women who sincerely agree to open relationships:

    We equally reject society/neighbors’ coercion of a woman into an exclusive relationship when she WANTS it to be open. It doesn’t matter that they think they are protecting her. The coercion is still unacceptable.

    The solution is access to education, resources, spiritual community (UUs for Polyamory Awareness — http://www.uupa.org), and people who’ve actually lived open relationships and are willing to share their experiences. Frau Sally’s blog is a wonderful resource. Allow all people (even women!) to make their own INFORMED decisions outside of closets. Uninformed decisions have a higher chance of leading to poor outcomes. Choices made in closets have a higher chance of leading to poor outcomes.

    Informed decisions have a better chance of leading to healthy outcomes.

  25. August 13, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Just a heads up, Fidelbogen is officially on mod.

  26. Sheelzebub
    August 13, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Fidelbogen:

    The solution to the mono/poly crisis would be, for these two sets of people to ethically divide the world between themselves, and then stay out of each other’s autonomous cultural zones.

    What is this crisis of which you speak?

  27. August 13, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I see someone has already brought up the “poly is a sexual orientation” trope.
    I’ll be curious to see what you make of that.

    I think that the basic idea is the same — there is a wide spectrum of experiences and identities, and sure they’re both somewhat related to sex. But I don’t agree that they’re the same thing. I’m actually surprised at this from julian’s comment: “some folks are even trying to add “P” to the LGBTIQ alphabet soup” because that doesn’t even make sense to me.

    lindsey, I’m glad you were able to find this post! You should take a look at the comment thread on my call for resources so you can check some of them out yourself!

  28. August 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Sheelzebub, that is not at all what I meant actually, sorry for not being clearer.

    What I meant was that there are people out there who shift back and forth a lot between what we traditionally consider monogamy and what we consider nonmonogamy. Not even getting into the people who are forced to be in a type of relationship they don’t like — but people who willingly move from monogamous relationships to nonmonogamous ones and back again. Does that make more sense? If not, please let me know so I can figure out how to reword it.

  29. Psyche
    August 13, 2009 at 11:47 am

    I don’t buy the “mono/poly as sexual orientations” thing, exactly. My experience is that it tends to be a pretty smooth continuum from, on the one end, an absolute requirement for monogamy to an absolute requirement for openness. For instance, some people I know are in monogamous relationships, but within that relationship recognize that infidelity may happen and can be forgiven. Some people I know are in monogamous relationships but don’t think that, for instance, heavy petting, counts as infidelity. Some people are in relationships that are open, but in extremely circumscribed circumstances. And so on.

    Personally, I would never be with someone who saw infidelity as an unforgivable offense. Being in a relationship that could be destroyed in a single night where I got a bit too drunk and took things a bit too far with someone else would just make me feel too insecure. But beyond that, there are lots of circumstances where I could imagine agreeing to long-term monogamy, as well as a range of more open relationships. I feel like it depends a great deal on where I am with my relationship and with my life more generally.

  30. August 13, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Dana, I meant to respond to you earlier — have you read Opening Up? There’s a chapter that discusses partnered nonmonogamy that I think describes what you’re referring to. You should definitely check it out.

  31. Sheelzebub
    August 13, 2009 at 11:56 am

    What I meant was that there are people out there who shift back and forth a lot between what we traditionally consider monogamy and what we consider nonmonogamy. Not even getting into the people who are forced to be in a type of relationship they don’t like — but people who willingly move from monogamous relationships to nonmonogamous ones and back again. Does that make more sense? If not, please let me know so I can figure out how to reword it.

    Ah! Thank you! It’s crystal clear.

    Thanks for posting about this, BTW.

  32. Psyche
    August 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Also, I feel like it’s worth sharing, when I started dating my current partner, I knew that I was poly, but he had never considered a non-monogamous relationship before and wasn’t comfortable with the idea.

    I told him that I didn’t want to be with anybody but him at that time, and suggested that if that changed in the future, we deal with the problem then. He was fine with that, and about a year later he brought up the idea of a more open relationship and we agreed to explore.

    There were a few difficult initial conversations about ground rules, but beyond that, it’s simply not been a source of drama or conflict in our relationship.

  33. August 13, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Hooray, poly blogging. I’m looking forward to your coming posts. :)

  34. jussayin
    August 13, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    #5 — I agree with you, but can see the result of that quite clearly.

    The mono culture would be 99% women, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are the men?”

    The poly culture would be 99% men, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are all the women?”

    I think we are going through huge transitions in dating in the US, especially in urban centers. I wonder what the fallout will be and if it isn’t a very subliminal response to the Earth’s vanishing resources. Who wants to have 20 babies when all you can afford is a tiny 1-br apartment?

  35. August 13, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    The poly/mono dichotomy is a false dichotomy, but it *is* simpler to say and type. It is an orientation, but many of us prefer the phrase “relationship orientation”. That, however, does not make it any less “real” or “natural” than a sexual orientation.

    A spectrum is closer to the reality than the dichotomy is, but even the word “spectrum” has its limitations. There are people who are completely and totally monogamous, and there are people who are completely and totally polyamorous, and there are people in between.

    The reason why a spectrum isn’t even the most accurate word is because, even among “monogamous” and “polyamorous”, there are different kinds and ways of being. There are as many variations of polyamory as there are people who practice it. And the more experience one has with polyamory, the more one will find that the relationship style that works best, is not a hard and fast rule, but rather changes depending upon the other people in the relationship.

    So a quad might work best for Joe, Susan, Anne and Bob, but if Bob and Anne ever leave, Joe and Susan might find that a triad works best for them when Julie comes along.

    There are indeed people who can go from a mono to a poly relationship depending upon what any given relationship needs, much like there are bisexual people who can remain indefinitely with a partner of one gender so long as that relationship is working. Some people are bisexual because they want *both* genders, yet some people are bisexual because they can love people of *either* gender – and it’s a significant difference.

    I am one of those people who was “born polyamorous” and I cannot be happy any other way. My best friend, however, was my metamour in a V relationship and she was quite content in that relationship. When it ended, she found herself dating a monogamous man and she is quite content that way because the relationship is *working*.

    That’s one of the biggest problems in both monogamy and polyamory – people keep wanting to force their relationships into a structure that doesn’t quite fit. They have predetermined ideas of what they think will make them happy (and humans are notoriously bad at knowing what will make them happy before the fact) and then try to find people to fit into that slot like hiring someone for a job position.

    Personally, I don’t look for people to fit the spaces in my life, I find spaces to fit the people in my life, so where I fit on the “spectrum” changes too … but it’s always within the poly side.

  36. August 13, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    “My definition of cheating at one point was something like “if what you do with somebody else does not exceed what you’ve done as a couple, it’s not cheating” — so if we have intercourse and I get oral sex from somebody, it can’t possibly be cheating! I got more than a few raised eyebrows for that one… but really, I can’t possibly be the only person who thinks this! Or, am I? (Please tell me I’m not… shoot…)”

    I can’t agree with this definition of cheating at all. I have no objections to poly/open relationships. I largely identify as poly. But my idea of cheating is doing anything sexual or “romantic” without having the blessing of all other partners. I believe in complete openness and honesty. I don’t see how poly relationships can possible succeed without complete openness and honesty, personally. I also actually consider cheating to be a form of emotional abuse with the possibility of it becoming physical abuse should the cheating partner contract an STD and transmit to his/her partner/s.

  37. August 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    The mono culture would be 99% women, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are the men?”

    The poly culture would be 99% men, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are all the women?”

    I let this comment through because I keep hearing people say things like this and it confuses me — if men and women knew about the benefits and pitfalls of all types of monogamous and nonmonogamous relationships, why would 99% of women choose monogamy and 99% of men choose poly? It just doesn’t make sense. Like, at all.

    The only thing I see standing in the way are societal expectations for women to be faithful to one and only one man, and men to run around having sex with everything that breathes. That is so far from reality, I don’t even know what to say when people say this to me (which so many people have).

  38. August 13, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Faith, I actually agree with you, even though it didn’t come off that way.

    I started the sentence with “My definition of cheating at one point…” because I wanted to explain how I was developing my notions of relationships. In practice, I always used (and continue to use) whatever definition my partner had for cheating, because it’s always been a stricter definition than mine. If I ever met somebody who had the same definition as me, then that’s what we would use. That never happened though, and that’s fine.

    Cheating, to me, is deceiving your partner while you take part in and/or pursue a sexual or romantic relationship. The key is the deception — the lying. You can cheat when you’re in an open relationship if you are deceptive and go against the rules you and your partner(s) set up. You can cheat in monogamy the same way.

    So, going back to my example — if I am with a partner who defines cheating as kissing another person but I define cheating as I describe above, then in that relationship, cheating is kissing another person. If I am with a partner who defines cheating as having intercourse but I define cheating as I describe above, then in that relationship, cheating is intercourse, but we can do anything tamer than that. Does that make sense?

  39. August 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    The mono culture would be 99% women, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are the men?”

    The poly culture would be 99% men, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are all the women?”

    Blink blink.

    Wha?

    Did you not notice how many women are choosing polyamory (including myself)? Did you not notice that the VAST MAJORITY of the books on the subject are written by women? Did you not notice that almost all of the outspoken public figures are WOMEN?

    This isn’t meant to downplay the role men have had in polyamory, but dude, seriously? You think women aren’t into this?!? Do you live under a rock?

    Hell, even my own sweetie, Tacit, is just DRIPPING with women! He doesn’t have the time or energy to possibly devote to all the women just begging to be involved with him! And his relationship skills that he’s developed through poly relationships make him one HELL of an attractive partner to just about every woman who gets to know him.

    I’m out about this at work, and I work in a male-dominated industry. By a sheer, staggering majority, the reactions I get when people learn about my polyamory are as follows:

    Men: No way, I could never do that. I have enough trouble with one girl, let alone 2! And I’m not gonna share her with any other dudes either!

    Women: Psst! How can I talk my boyfriend into this?

  40. August 13, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    My definition of cheating at one point was something like “if what you do with somebody else does not exceed what you’ve done as a couple, it’s not cheating” — so if we have intercourse and I get oral sex from somebody, it can’t possibly be cheating! I got more than a few raised eyebrows for that one… but really, I can’t possibly be the only person who thinks this! Or, am I? (Please tell me I’m not… shoot…)

    I think cheating is violating whatever agreement has been established for the relationship in question. This will vary from relationship to relationship.

    I’m disturbed and annoyed by the hierarchy of sex acts you’re creating here. Intercourse “exceeds” oral sex? Why and how? For many women, oral is the only way they can get off with a partner — does intercourse “exceed” oral for them too? What about couples (i.e., lesbians who don’t use strap-ons) who don’t have intercourse at all — is their sex somehow less? They haven’t “gone all the way”? Maybe they can’t go all the way?

    Any sexual hierarchy should be based on what’s most satisfying to the individual concerned. Positioning intercourse as inherently “more” or “farther” than other acts (not for you personally but for sex in general) is extremely phallocentric and heterosexist.

  41. August 13, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    if men and women knew about the benefits and pitfalls of all types of monogamous and nonmonogamous relationships, why would 99% of women choose monogamy and 99% of men choose poly?

    Because men are endlessly-horny aggressive sexual conqueror types, and women seek one male to take care of their home & children! IT’S BIOLOGY, DON’TCHA KNOW!

  42. Sheelzebub
    August 13, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Justssayin:

    The mono culture would be 99% women, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are the men?”

    The poly culture would be 99% men, all staring at each other saying, “Where the f* are all the women?”

    Seriously, that’s the most mothballed piece of evo-psych BS I’ve heard in a long time.

    Look–I’d HAPPILY have multiple partners. Truly, I would. BUT I wouldn’t be okay with it if my partner did. So, since I’m not a fan of living a double-standard, I don’t engage. If it’s not okay with me for my partner to do it, I shouldn’t do it, either.

    But please, oh, PLEASE, just drop the trope about how women are supposedly hard-wired for monogamy and men are hard-wired for fucking around. If that were the case, we would NOT have the rampant slut-shaming and sexual double-standard out there. You would NOT see all of the chest-clutching when women try to be sexual on their own terms. You would NOT hear the moralistic advice (to women) to hold out. You would not see and hear about the virginity fetish (girls should be virgins, guys, nah, that’s okay if they fuck the entire country) that afflicts so many. FFS.

  43. August 13, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I’m disturbed and annoyed by the hierarchy of sex acts you’re creating here. Intercourse “exceeds” oral sex? Why and how? For many women, oral is the only way they can get off with a partner — does intercourse “exceed” oral for them too?

    No, that’s my whole point, that this was contingent upon my own relationship at the time, and that it varies in each relationship and with each partner. So if I’m dating Joe, and he thinks that any sexual contact with anybody but him is cheating, then that’s how the two of us will define cheating. But if I’m dating Jill, and she defines cheating as an “emotional affair” as they’re so called, then that’s cheating within the context of our relationship.

    Now if I go and have sex with Bob while I’m with Joe, I have just cheated on Joe because I’ve broken that boundary. But if I’m with Jill and have sex with Mary on a one-night-stand sort of thing, then I haven’t cheated on her.

  44. August 13, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Seriously folks, I get comments like jussayin’s A LOT! People automatically assume that my guy must have forced me into this evil open relationship thing because he wants to have sex with everyone while I sit at home crying.

  45. bertie
    August 13, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    This sounds so interesting, and honestly a little bit over my head. I always thought men and women were essentially sexual beings and that monogomy/polyamory weren’t inherent orientations but just choices (based often on tradition, religion, emotional state, disposition, desires, tolerance, etc.)

    My emotional/physical attraction to other women hasn’t stopped because I am married, and I know my wife’s physical and emotional attraction to other men hasn’t ceased just because I put a ring on her finger. But relationships are hard work, and we’re lazy, so monogomy works for us. As someone who has in the past openly and notoriously dated more than one woman at a time—I know polyamory is not for me. I can cater to my own emotional needs ok, barely cater to my needs and my wife’s, and would fail miserably if I added another. Others may be more ambitious and hardworking, but I don’t really see a fundamental/inherent difference between me and someone choosing a poly life.

  46. August 13, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    FSB: that makes perfect sense, but I don’t see how that’s what you said in the paragraph I quoted. You didn’t say “My definition of cheating was something like ‘if what you do with somebody else violates the specific agreement you habe with your partner.'” You said “My definition of cheating at one point was something like ‘if what you do with somebody else does not exceed what you’ve done as a couple, it’s not cheating’ — so if we have intercourse and I get oral sex from somebody, it can’t possibly be cheating!”

    You mean a general statement about oral sex “not exceeding” intercourse. How does that not create a hierarchy of sex in which intercourse is somehow more real than oral and other acts?

  47. August 13, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I meant to add the following emphasis:

    You said “My definition of cheating at one point was something like ‘if what you do with somebody else does not exceed what you’ve done as a couple, it’s not cheating’ — so if we have intercourse and I get oral sex from somebody, it can’t possibly be cheating!”

  48. August 13, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Yes, Frau Sally Benz, I get that all the time too. That’s why I always open with the fact that *I* have multiple male partners! It then gives me a chance to distinguish between polyamory and mysogynistic, patriarchal, religion-based polgyny (and to clear up the mixup between the words “polygamy” and “polygyny” and “polyandry”).

  49. August 13, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Whoa Daisy Bond, I totally misunderstood what you were saying. I thought you were making a point similar to Faith’s before and one that others have made to me in the past.

    But yes, you’re right, that’s not what I was saying in the original post and I was in fact setting up a heirarchy. The response to that, though, is actually much simpler: 1) I was in hetero relationships, so it was heterocentric and 2) I was 16-18 around that time so everything was more or less defined in a hierarchy by everyone around me at the time. You kiss, you feel each other up, you move on to fingering/handjob, you try oral sex, and then TA DA you have PIV intercourse!

    Very clearly ignorant of any other types of sex, or sexualities, or notions that what you prefer might be more important than this weird set of rules everyone has to follow. For example, I used to HATE performing oral sex, but loved a good make-out session. So even in my own definition of cheating at that time, I would have actually been enjoying myself quite a bit more with these outside hook-ups than with my own partner. Which, let’s face it, is really shitty.

  50. bertie
    August 13, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Joreth:”the reactions I get when people learn about my polyamory are as follows: Men: No way, I could never do that. I have enough trouble with one girl, let alone 2! And I’m not gonna share her with any other dudes either!
    Women: Psst! How can I talk my boyfriend into this?
    —–
    This made me think about how men are programmed traditionally to think about relationships. A lot of men are taught to think that in relationships we are providers/protectors and women are our responsibility. So if the question is of having multiple relationships …its a no brainer that a lot of traditionally minded guys would say no thanks…..Who f’ wants more responsibilty.

  51. JessSnark
    August 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I had the same reaction as Daisy Bond re: hierarchy of sex acts. If that’s not what you believe anymore, FrauSally, then awesome. I’m resistant to the idea of ranking sex acts in the way you described, mainly for the reasons Daisy Bond gives (e.g. as a bisexual I don’t think PIV intercourse should “count” as more than oral sex, since that means that sex between 2 women is somehow not as real as hetero sex, and because many women like oral better anyway.)

  52. August 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I think it’s simpler just to say that anything that constitutes a breach of agreement is cheating, which I think is what Frau Sally Benz was trying to say. Many people *do* place a hierarchical value on various sex acts, and it is beneficial to point that out, especially when it is an unintentional slip of the tongue, as it were, because that shows just how deeply ingrained this kind of thinking can go.

    A common issue I see in poly relationships, particularly poly newbie relationships, is a couple who approves of outside same-sex partners only because they have jealousy issues about their partner having another partner of the same gender as themselves.

    This is an implicit assumption that “same-gender sex doesn’t count” because opposite gender sex is “threatening” when same gender sex isn’t.

    The thinking goes “if he has the same equipment as me, then why would she stick around with me? But if the other girl has different equipment, then she can’t directly compete with me because I HAVE THE COCK” (and if you don’t believe me, watch Sex And Breakfast – one of the characters actually says this and I’ve heard it myself firsthand.

    Greta Christina writes a wonderful essay about how we can all take a lesson from the pages of Lesbian sex, even if we’re not, because, by its very nature, it CANNOT rank sex acts with penetration and male orgasm being the pinnacle of sex (http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2008/04/lesbian-sex-w-1.html)

    So we can take this as an opportunity to consciously correct any unintentional hierarchical, patriarchical, or ranking language and use the “anything that breaks an agreement is cheating” rule of thumb because that covers all the monogamy-based rules and assumptions too.

  53. August 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    I wrote my own reaction to that article at my LJ regarding ranking the sex acts ( http://joreth.livejournal.com/63875.html ) but I forgot to link to it in my post above.

  54. August 13, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    FSB: ah, okay — I didn’t realize you were describing views you held as a teenager that you no longer hold. I understood that the definition of cheating was a bygone one, but didn’t realize the underlying framework was too. Those ideas are so common and so frustrating I jump whenever I see them. : )

  55. August 13, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    #38 “Does that make sense?”

    Yes, that makes more sense. That’s just totally different from what you said in the post. And rather than continue…just ditto what Daisy Bond has said.

    “So if the question is of having multiple relationships …its a no brainer that a lot of traditionally minded guys would say no thanks…..Who f’ wants more responsibilty.”

    Relationships -are- about responsibility (amongst other things). Gender has nothing to do with it. What men tend to want is relationships -without- the responsibility. Meaning essentially that they want to be able to do whatever the hell they want to do without any regard for the consideration or feelings of anyone else involved while often treating their primary partner as little more than a possession who is to remain monogamous while they screw whoever they want.

  56. Tiktaalik
    August 13, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    “People automatically assume that my guy must have forced me into this evil open relationship thing because he wants to have sex with everyone while I sit at home crying.”
    Although it seems like the reverse tends to be true fairly often…

  57. August 13, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    To Faith from F.N., Daisy Bond, JessSnark and others who were unclear — I tried to purposely set everything in past tense to convey that this was how my ideas about relationships developed as I was growing up. I did screw up and make that last sentence in the present tense, which I think might be the biggest source of confusion, and it’s totally my bad.

    But, no, I don’t still define cheating that way, and I don’t still define sex in hierarchies like that. I also haven’t cheated since around those years either (18 or so). Really, since I’ve been in my current relationship, I haven’t done any of the things I used to feel the need to do because I put openness and honesty at the forefront. As somebody else mentioned above, I figured if it ever became an issue and I felt too constricted, I’d bring it up and we’d deal with it.

    Ahhh, maturity — isn’t it beautiful? Why didn’t I just think to be this way all along?

  58. August 13, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Oh, and thanks for the links Joreth. My nonmonogamy link file has been growing quickly today.

  59. August 13, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    If another link helps, here’s one to our website, which is for our book, which is about our life of polyamory. The blog entries are half on polyamory and half on other social interests. There are also excerpts from the book on the site. If anyone wants to read more, drop us a line through the site.

    http://www.theordinaryextraordinary.com

    Cheers to your post! — getting people talking and thinking is always a great thing. Be well.

  60. bertie
    August 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks FaithFN for setting me straight on what men really want in relationships. Good to know there aren’t alot of gender stereotypes around here. I can only speak for the men I know, but most in committed relationships want to be responsible for the physical and emotional needs of their mates. I, realizing my own limitations, know that I can only be successful at this goal if focused on one person–polyamory is setting myself up for failure. I speculated that a lot of men feel the same way and thus would not be enthused about multiple relationships. I focused on men–not to make a gender based argument–but b/c I am one. Not being a woman, I don’t presume to speak for them.

  61. August 13, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    “I can only speak for the men I know, but most in committed relationships want to be responsible for the physical and emotional needs of their mates.”

    I can only speak for my experience with men, as well. Along with what I know from listening to the voices of other women. My overall experience with men – as well as the experience of most of the women that I have encountered – has not been one of nurturing or consideration. I also don’t believe that anyone is responsible for anyone else’s physical or emotional needs. I believe that people are responsible for their own physical and emotional needs. The argument that men are responsible for my needs – or any other woman’s needs – is infantalizing and actually tends to lead to abuse in hetero. relationships.

    When you state that most of the men you know feel that they are responsible for being providers/protectors of women, I don’t hear something positive. I hear something that reeks of oppression and patriarchal influence.

  62. August 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    “To Faith from F.N., Daisy Bond, JessSnark and others who were unclear — I tried to purposely set everything in past tense to convey that this was how my ideas about relationships developed as I was growing up. I did screw up and make that last sentence in the present tense, which I think might be the biggest source of confusion, and it’s totally my bad.”

    Yea, it was the question in the present tense that is tacked onto the end that threw me off…

  63. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Oh, I’ll have patience. I’m mostly just a harmless curmudgeon. :-)

    I understand the appeal of shortcutting to poly as the easiest term. Over time, I’ve grown less fond of doing that, but I still do it myself sometimes. I’ll often cheat and use the capital P “Poly” when referring to the philosophy/identity aspect and “poly” with no capital as shorthand for non-monogamy.

  64. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Dana: I second that recommendation for Opening Up. It’s a good book, and tries to show there are lots of different approaches.

    Wilma: I view it more a relationship style as well. In fact, those pushing it too hard as an identity are among the ones who make me most twitchy about Poly.

    (Short summation: May main issue with Poly people stems from a few too many encounters with people who are more invested in Poly as Identity than the health of the relationships they are actually in.)

    Psyche: I view sexual orientation as a continuum, too. (What can I say, I knew a few too many people who worked at the Kinsey Institute. *grin*) I just think it’s one people more easily section off into simple straight/bi/gay labels.

  65. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Joreth: It’s funny, I disagree about it being an orientation, but absolutely agree with where your thinking takes you. :)

    The biggest problem I have with relationships in general is the tendency people have to try and force others to relationship styles they don’t want. My priority is the health of the relationship/s – are they working? Good, you’re doing it right.
    Whether that’s monogamous or non-monogamous, Swinger or Poly, whatever. Are you and the people you’re with good? Yes? OK then, I’m backing you. :-)

  66. August 13, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    Just figured I’d say hiya, from another poly feminist.  :)

    Also, I define cheating with regards to relationships to be the same as elsewhere – breaking the established rules.  Just so happens that the rules in a poly relationship are a bit different from those in a mono relationship.

    Also also, I never really cottoned to The Ethical Slut.  I’m not sure why, off-hand – I’d have to reread it to pick up on it.  My usual poly-101 resource thing is “Polyamory? What, like, two girlfriends?“.  A fantastic FAQ, in my opinion.

  67. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Frau Sally: I like the “person with narrower definition defines cheating.” Actually, one guideline I’ve used is, “If you have to think about whether or not your partner would think it is cheating, it probably is.” Basically, the moment you start needing to use rationalization how it “really isn’t in this case,” you already know you did wrong.

  68. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    XtinaS: I was never too fond of Ethical Slut, either. Xeromag’s stuff is pretty good as a primer, although some things on that site bug me.

    Joreth: While I am sure you have heard the “I have the magic cock” argument for why same sex is ok while alternate sex is not, there are lots of people who have that rule for other reasons. The threatening aspect isn’t because the other relationship “doesn’t count as sex” but just because one is closer to you and the other further. Other people just have irrational issues about some things. The boundaries people set come from all sorts of things, it’s rarely a simple, obvious answer in my experience.

  69. August 13, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    @Jill: Yeah, that’s fine, you’re the boss around here; whatever ya say! ;)

    @FsallyBenz:

    “Fidelbogen, I have no idea whether you have ill-will or not, so I’ll just take your comments at face value because I’d like to respond to the mono with mono, poly with poly comment. While I understand why people might say that, I don’t think it should be a rule. 1) It can be problematic if the expectations are not made clear from the start, but it’s definitely doable. 2) Sometimes people are only exposed to nonmonogamy through an experience with somebody who practices it. 3) Creating a hard line b/w mono and poly almost defeats the very nature of that openness people like me crave.”

    I’d rather not make this unduly complicated. Honestly, I’m not much of a person for “nuance”, unless I think it is genuinely needed. So, in this case I will paint my picture with a broad brush, because I’d rather not obscure the essential workings of the matter with “too much information”.

    Okay, here’s the deal. The only “rule” I refer to is, that the CONTRACT must be scrupulously honored. And yes, it goes without saying that expectations must be clear from the start. That is imperative; that is de rigueur; that is “elementary, Watson!”

    So, if being ‘faithful’ to the man or woman in one’s life is a matter of passionate conviction (as it is for a LOT of people, and that will never change!), then clearly, a “poly” (i.e. non-monogamous) relationship ain’t gonna fly. Monos should only pair with other monos, and they should settle on their contract EARLY to avoid nasty surprises later! :(

    Indeed, sometimes people are only exposed to nonmonogamy through an experience with someone who practices it. In fact, I ‘m not sure how else they could be exposed to it: by an experience with someone who doesn’t practice it? ;) But yes, for the duped mono in such a scenario, it can be a very bitter experience. :(

    The green-eyed monster is real, is here for the duration, and is NOT to be trifled with. No amount of hip attitudes or social engineering will alter one single grain of this.

    So again, mono with mono. One’s craving for openness is of no consequence here, and in no sense mars the the elegant simplicity of the solution. Whoso harbors such “cravings” is a poly, and appropriately pairs with another poly, and agrees to a poly contract.

    @Julian: Julian, meine guten freund :) !!! Wassup with “HIR”? Sadly, I do not speak that language! :(

  70. Kyra
    August 13, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Ooooh, thanks for this!

    I’m bisexual and will almost undoubtedly be poly when I get around to having relationships (at present, I’m still working on discovering/creating/repairing myself, and my sexual relationships are with my vibrator and a large amount of fanfiction), and I love reading about it any chance I get.

    I’ve only recently gotten my head around polyamory being a legitimate real-world option for me; throwing off the constraints of traditional mainstream society sometimes takes awhile for me—this, incidentally, is why the “divide society between mono & poly” idea is NOT a good one; there should be flow, not to match poorly-suited people together or to pressure people into putting up with something they’re not comfortable with, but to expose to them the possibility. Being aware that a community of like-minded people exist is often very helpful to someone who is stifled in one of society’s default modes but isn’t sure how to fix it otherwise.

    My two cents on cheating: you all make your preferences, concerns, discomforts and dealbreakers known at the beginning of the relationship, and come up with a workable set of expectations. For me, I’m very firmly of the belief that one’s body and heart are one’s own; I can’t see myself forbidding anything—the only things I’ll insist on are full disclosure to me and them—pretending to someone else that I don’t exist is cheating on them, and I find it important that I know, so I can make informed consent on what STI-related risks I’m willing to take (i.e. they’re different with a monogamous partner than somebody who’s having even protected sex with somebody else).

    I prefer to share emotional bonds with all my lovers, and to at least know their lovers; I like the idea of a stable group, both a close-knit small one and a more loosely-knit supportive larger group—my ideal would be a small network of primary, secondary, and tertiary lovers. And one thing I really, really love about all this stuff that goes against the grain of traditional relationships, is that there aren’t predetermined cookie-cutter molds to step into; the default for a poly relationship is to build it as you go, suiting it to what works for you—so that I am not penalized for having preferences that are not mirrored exactly by the dominant culture.

  71. August 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    woot! hooray for more poly feminists like me (and the two lovely feminist gents that share life with me!)

  72. LC
    August 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    the default for a poly relationship is to build it as you go, suiting it to what works for you

    Ideally.
    It often doesn’t work that way. You get lots of pressure to do it the way your local group thinks it should be done, all the time denying that’s happening so it is harder to argue against.

  73. Dana
    August 14, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Hopefully I don’t double-post but I’m replying before I read all the others so maybe!

    I wish more people were more open to polyamory, though it does require confidence and communication enough to break a lot of relationships.

    I dunno. I think monogamy/polyamory are as much a sexual orientation continuum as hetero- or homosexuality. It’s not as cut-and-dried at first glance (which I why I’m looking forward to Frau Sally Benz’s posts!). Like Cara, I think the healthy way to approach the issue isn’t to create One Special True Feminist Sexuality, but to acknowledge the sexualities we already possess.

    Oh no, we agree there. I can now understand why people are so confused by poly tendencies, as it took getting into a relationship with someone completely monogamously-orientated to see it as real.

    I still think a lot of people are monogamous by default, but plenty of them certainly are orientated that way.

    It amuses me mildly that my partner and I are such opposite gender stereotypes in matters of sexualities. He has always fallen in love quickly and stayed in love, and if he doesn’t feel that within 3-6 months he knows it won’t work out. He likes vanilla, loving sex and likes giving oral more than PIV.

    I do not associate sex with love at all, though I of course love to feel close to my partner, it’s just separate, find poly (in theory, as my only experience is fuckbuddies) much more natural and am also kinky. This is an issue for us but I will be monogamous for him, and I feel living this life is more important than seeking out what’s more natural to me and not. Either choice would be legitimate but that is my feeling at present.

    I also think it’s worth mentioning that the “traditional” practice of heterosexuality has been predominantly polyamory for males, monogamy for females. This is generally recognized in polyamorous or “alternative” circles, but seldom frankly acknowledged in “straight” circles—the myth of “monogamy” rules.

    Well I wouldn’t say that. Polyamory as a word for me is defined as an actual honest relationship, not cheating. And if a woman is in a position of having no choice in their husband’s dalliances it still counts as being unfaithful in my mind.

    As far as I’m concerned if you live in a culture where you are married and agree to monogamy, but men are encouraged to not be faithful to that contract, they are just unfaithful, not poly in any sense.

  74. Dana
    August 14, 2009 at 12:11 am

    I see someone has already brought up the “poly is a sexual orientation” trope.
    I’ll be curious to see what you make of that. I’ve always been somewhat dubious of using that as an analogue. I see the appeal, but it doesn’t quite seem to fit well in my view.

    I do know there are many (as have already shown up here) who think there is some fundamental poly/mono divide – they just want completely different things and never the twain shall meet. I personally think what divide there is has more to do with poly trying so hard to define itself as an identity. Like Tristan, I prefer thinking of nonmonogamy as a wide spectrum, not limited to the two 800-pound identity gorillas: Poly and Swinger.

    Well, I see it as an orientation… but the fact this word is the same one would use for attraction to a given gender is just the unwieldiness of language IMO.

    I believe people are naturally inclined one way or another, to one degree or another. I think it’s partially socialised, partially inbuilt, and very vague.

    Sexuality also has a spectrum, as I am constantly confused (due to my compulsive analysis) by my own sexuality… I am attracted to women. But not as much as I’m attracted to men. And sometimes I think I have socialised myself this way, but the attraction to women was a sudden and surprising event in my youth.

    But ultimately, if you are attracted to the gender you’re attracted to and no amount of thinking wishes that away (hopefully one does not want to!) whereas one can compromise on poly vs mono.

    What my partner and I have decided since then is that any potential secondary partner for either of us has to be comfortable spending time with both of us. Seeing the same person might be ideal but we need to at least be able to get together for dinner. I know some nonmonogamous couples like to follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” procedure or at least don’t want to meet their partner’s other partners, but it’s something that’s really important to me.

    This! This is exactly how I feel. I cannot imagine a “don’t ask, don’t tell” procedure, even thinking about it makes me feel sick. My partner having a lover who preferably is my lover too or just a good friend we can go out with and watch movies with sounds amazing.

  75. Dana
    August 14, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I am so sorry to be such a dick but just one more I promise!

    Dana: I second that recommendation for Opening Up. It’s a good book, and tries to show there are lots of different approaches.

    Thank you! I should really. To an extent I try and avoid researching it too much as I get too enthusiastic and I just can’t with my current partner. I may be able to bring him round to threesomes, but possibly not. Basically he’s totally OK with however anyone wants to live so long as no one is hurt but knows what he can handle in a relationship.

    the default for a poly relationship is to build it as you go, suiting it to what works for you

    Ideally.
    It often doesn’t work that way. You get lots of pressure to do it the way your local group thinks it should be done, all the time denying that’s happening so it is harder to argue against.

    Personally I feel all relationships should be this way, no matter how open or not it is. It’s about communication and discovering the other person, not taking anything for granted. Sure, more people than not don’t work that way but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying in your own life!

  76. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Basically he’s totally OK with however anyone wants to live so long as no one is hurt but knows what he can handle in a relationship.

    Then I think he’s ahead of the game. :)

    Sure, more people than not don’t work that way but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying in your own life!

    Oh, I agree. Ideals are good to strive for.

  77. August 14, 2009 at 1:06 am

    The threatening aspect isn’t because the other relationship “doesn’t count as sex” but just because one is closer to you and the other further.

    I’m sorry, could you clarify what you mean by this? This reads to me as the same as what I just said … that because one person has the same equipment as I do, that person is more of a threat than someone who has different equipment than I do (being closer to me and further from me).

    Since I, personally, view everyone as an individual, completely unique and irreplaceable, what genitals a person has is the least “threatening” or even the least important part of the equation. Someone with the same genitals as me still has different techniques, and I’m not even getting into the whole “she’s a totally different *person*” aspect.

    And, just to throw in my 2 cents, I don’t like the Ethical Slut either and I never recommend it. Tacit’s website, which has been mentioned several times so far (xeromag / What Like Two Girlfriends) is where I start out referring people, and the next step is over to the Poly Book Club, which is on a hiatus at the moment but you can still access all the previous discussions (http://www.shelfari.com/groups/12041/about) and I’m sure any new contributions to the discussion would be welcome.

  78. seriously
    August 14, 2009 at 1:34 am

    To quote QuietStorm:

    “poly ones are about coming to a workable compromise, negotiating rules and boundaries, and discovering what works for the parties involved.”

    Why do polys have a corner on the market of compromise and rules? Why can’t healthy monos do the same? Why do (some) polys think they’re more emotionally evolved than monos who are honest about their desires and needs?

  79. August 14, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Joreth wrote:

    The poly/mono dichotomy is a false dichotomy, but it *is* simpler to say and type. It is an orientation, but many of us prefer the phrase “relationship orientation”. That, however, does not make it any less “real” or “natural” than a sexual orientation.

    This. I remember having conversations 30 years ago when I was a teenager about what I did not know at the time could be called responsible non-monogamy, much less polyamory, and I remember the utter non-comprehension with which my ideas were met. The closest I came at the time to being in the kind of relationship that felt “natural” to me was the three or four year long-distance part of a seven year relationship I had with a woman in my 20s. While we were “long-distance,” we agreed that when we were together, we were together, but that when we were apart, what we each did was our own business, more because my girlfriend didn’t want to know about what I did than anything else. (Even back then I don’t think it would have bothered me to know she’d been with other men.) Once the “long-distance” ended, and we were together and monogamous, I tried talking to my girlfriend about the two women I’d been with occasionally when we were living so far apart. I don’t remember exactly why I brought it up, though I think it had to do, simply, with being honest. Anyway, my girlfriend was furious with me, not because I’d cheated–being with those women violated nothing in terms of what we’d agreed upon–but because she hadn’t been able to tell that I’d been with other women. (So I guess it’s perhaps more accurate to say she was furious with herself.) She did not accept it when I said that perhaps one reason this was so was that when I was with her, I was, totally, really, sincerely, with her. We didn’t break up over this, but I do wonder how much this contributed to her sense–which did contribute to our eventual break-up–that she could not trust me. (That story, of course, is more complicated, and I am certainly not innocent within it, but it’s not the focus of my comment here.)

    And while conflict about what it means to be monogamous was not the primary reason why I asked my wife for a divorce last year, the tension that arose from our very different understandings of that kind of relationship definitely contributed to my decision to do so. I was perfectly happy not having sex with other women, but I have always needed in my life a rich network of friends (including my primary partner), both male and female, some more emotionally intimate than others of course, but without that network I feel isolated and barren. My wife did not really have a problem with my male friends, but she did have a problem with some of my female friends and found my relationships with those women threatening. For her, they violated, emotionally and psychologically, the monogamous commitment of our marriage. The entire story, which I will perhaps write one day, is too long to go into here, so I will say this: We are still married (this is the 16th year of our marriage), and our relationship is stronger and getting stronger, largely because she proposed to me–in a complete 180-degree reversal of everything she had ever said on the topic when we had discussed it previously–that we try an open marriage.

    Like I said, I don’t want to tell the entire story, but this was not something she was suggesting in a desperate ploy to keep me. She said she’d been thinking about it herself, largely because of the isolation our marital problems had led her to feel, and then somehow the realization hit her that–and these were not her words, but this was her meaning–poly, that it was, simply, who I am, not something she could or should try to change about me, and that if she was going to accept me, she needed to accept that as well. (Again, I do not want to make this sound like nothing I did contributed to our marital problems, but this is the part of the story that is germane to the discussion in this thread.)

    It was remarkable. When she made that suggestion, and once I was assured this was not, as I said, just a desperate ploy to keep me around, so much of the tension between us dissipated that I said I was willing to give it a try. I felt, in many ways for the first time, like she was seeing me fully, and while this did not resolve the primary reasons I’d wanted a divorce, I felt like our relationship was finally an environment, or at least had the potential to be an environment, where we could really work on those issues. (I know that might make it sound like the monogamy issue was the central reason for our marital discord, but the fact is that if we’d been able to resolve the other issues, which were more immediately and explicitly hurtful and damaging to me, then I think I would have seen the possibility of being able to work through the monogamy issue.) Anyway, we decided to give it a try, and my wife was shocked to discover just how good it felt, how affirmed she felt in all kinds of ways. She is now involved with one other man; I, with two other women; and, to return to the quote I pulled from Joreth’s comment, it’s not primarily about the sex, though the sex is good too. It just feels natural to me–it’s the way I am oriented–to seek out these relationships, to allow them to take whatever form they are going to take, all the while weaving them into my life–and I guess that metaphor of a rich tapestry or carpet or robe or whatever is where I will end.

  80. jussayin
    August 14, 2009 at 8:51 am

    In the circle of women that I know, poly is not the preferred choice. Maybe I just hang out with different sort of people. I’m not saying that poly is a bad choice for anyone on this board or for women in general. Nor am I saying that women are biologically hardwired to be monagamous. Even if it were true, modern humans should not be slaves to the limiting features of their genetics/biology/psychology anyway. Poly means more than sex. It means that you’re sharing your partner in all of life’s ins and outs, and that is just not a realistic choice I see the women in my life – and maybe it is because I live in a new immigrant culture.

  81. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Dana Said

    Well, I see it as an orientation… but the fact this word is the same one would use for attraction to a given gender is just the unwieldiness of language IMO.

    Yeah, I’ll go along with that to some degree. :)

    This! This is exactly how I feel. I cannot imagine a “don’t ask, don’t tell” procedure, even thinking about it makes me feel sick.

    I can tell you from personal experience that I’m not fond of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. I also am of a piece with the, “you should like the other person”. But then, it all depends on the nature of the non-monogamous relationship. I know people who think all lovers must be friends or dating each other. (That’s more something I find in Poly circles.) Others think if their relationship is casual, they don’t need to know too much about the other lovers. Some think that anyone their partner is dating should be friends, but casual sex it doesn’t matter.

    It really depends a lot on the nature of the relationships in question. Most people when they discuss this assume they are talking about a primary-esque pair bond, which is often not the case.

    I also want to weigh in against this obsession with “Ironing out the contract in advance”. Most people’s relationships don’t suddenly start with “well, now we are going to have a relationship, let’s draft a contract”. They evolve over time and organically. That means while discussing expectations and intent is a good thing, lots of times stuff comes up because you didn’t know it was going to trip something until after its been tripped.

  82. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Ack.
    I keep messing up the blockquotes. *sigh*

  83. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Joreth: I think we’re actually more or less on the same page and tripping each other by different language choices. To me, there is a difference between saying, “I am less threatened by him wanting something different from me than something close to me” than saying “oh, when he fucks another guy, it doesn’t count as *sex*, unlike if he fucks another woman”.

    That’s how I was interpreting your “doesn’t count” thing. I suspect now, that you were putting the emphasis differently than how I first read.

    Since jealousy is often irrational, although very real, I find I am not too put off by people having triggers as simple as “not the same sex as me” or “no redheads” or “much younger” or what have you.

    I mean, there are a number of relationships I know of which are open but due to a combination of particular rules that the main participants put into place because they know their triggers, I will not be involved with people in those relationships.

  84. August 14, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Someone on a feminist website has never heard of ungendered/gender-neutral pronouns? Read this, Fidelbogen.

  85. August 14, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    LC: I agree, I tend not to get involved with people who have a complicated set of rules designed to protect the participants from ever feeling an emotional trigger.

    My personal method is to push those triggers and figure out what the underlying reason for them are. If the underlying reason is irrational and not actually a real threat to my physical or emotional safety (being afraid he’ll leave me for someone “better” when he doesn’t think that way vs. being afraid of STDs when he indescriminately sleeps around), then I work to fix the underlying reason itself.

    That way, there *is* no more trigger and the rules protecting the trigger become irrelevant.

    So it concerns me when I see people who seek to protect their insecurities by never exploring their triggers and what that means. If other people want to live that way, that’s their choice, but it seems to me to take an extraordinary amount of time and energy building up those protections for their triggers. I don’t like to be involved with people like that because, issues have a tendency to pop up unexpected, and if they’re ignored, instead of dealt with, then eventually it’ll pop up to bite me in the nose.

    “Your true self can be known only by systematic experimentation, and controlled only by being known.” ~Francis Bacon

  86. Athenia
    August 14, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on open relationships!

    However, as I read these comments, it makes me wonder how so many people can be hooking up when I have enough trouble enough as it is trying to find one person worth hooking up with. :(

  87. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Why do polys have a corner on the market of compromise and rules? Why can’t healthy monos do the same? Why do (some) polys think they’re more emotionally evolved than monos who are honest about their desires and needs?

    Because, like in every group on the planet, some poly people are arrogant pricks. :-)

    Not saying the person you were quoting was actually going for the “we are so much more enlightened” bullshit, but some people do. Just as some defenders of patriarchal monogamy go for the “we have true respect and love”.

    Some people suck and are pretty full of themselves. Happens everywhere. :)

  88. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    My personal method is to push those triggers and figure out what the underlying reason for them are. If the underlying reason is irrational and not actually a real threat to my physical or emotional safety (being afraid he’ll leave me for someone “better” when he doesn’t think that way vs. being afraid of STDs when he indescriminately sleeps around), then I work to fix the underlying reason itself.

    That way, there *is* no more trigger and the rules protecting the trigger become irrelevant.

    And this is where we are likely to disagree. The “I don’t think your trigger is valid so I am going to help you get over it” is one of the more pernicious things some poly people do.

    I am not saying what you are doing is necessarily that. In fact, it sounds like you actually are trying to explore what is and isn’t something that can be addressed, which I am all for. But lots of poly people use the “jealousy is a sign of some other problem you have, so if you would just be more evolved, I can do whatever I want” as a way to manipulate and pressure people. Claiming their triggers are invalid is another good way to dismiss their experience.

    I see it a lot.

    And huge, complex systems usually warn me away, too. “No boys” isn’t a complex system. It’s a very simple one. And it doesn’t have to be an unexamined one. You can examine something, accept it is irrational, but true, and move on.

    So sure, explore the triggers, and see if some change over time, etc. But the all-too-common decision that “your trigger prevents me doing what I want so it is invalid and I will work to fix it – or at least to shut up about it enough that I can do what I want anyway” is not something I tend to support.

  89. peanutbutter
    August 14, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    “I can only speak for the men I know, but most in committed relationships want to be responsible for the physical and emotional needs of their mates.”

    To me, that’s all too often code for “I want to control you, bitch.”

    Poly’s always been kind of interesting to me. On the one hand, I’ve known for a long time I simply don’t have the whole jealous/possessive instinct like I see a lot of people do. Because of that, I do think there’s an orientation of some kind involved, although I’ll be the first to say that I have no idea if it’s based in nature or nurture.

    On the other hand the various times I’ve looked to meet poly folk, the ones I did meet were fairly fucked up people. I’m not saying all poly are, by a long shot. But I do think that there’s a certain percentage of people who use the notion of poly to sweep under the real problems and issues they have in their current relationships. I mean, poly people aren’t inherently any better or worse than anyone else (I’ve run into that poly/superior, mono/inferior thing as well, and *that* causes me to turn tail and run from those ppl) so it shouldn’t be surprising.

    I’ve learned to be very wary of poly couples as a result of the ones I’ve met, although fundamentally I do think I am by nature geared toward open relationships.

    It’s kind of tough.

  90. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    peanutbutter: Welcome to the real world. The expressed ideals and the lived experience rarely match up. I’ve met Poly circles that made me want to be monogamous and – of course – I have met non-monogamous, poly people who were lovely human beings I’m very happy to have encountered.

    I do think the danger for many Poly groups (like many minority/outside the mainstream folk) is they can develop a siege mentality combined with a “don’t rock the boat of or community” attitude. This can result in lots of overlooking of screwed up behaviour because certain people are “Of the Tribe”. Obviously, this doesn’t happen everywhere.

  91. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    peanutbutter: Also, I’d recommend reading Opening Up. She has a wide swath of non-monogamous examples that aren’t limited to just Poly, and you might find something in there that sounds like a better fit for you personally to explore, regardless of what the local Poly Community is like.

  92. peanutbutter
    August 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    LC: Yep, I agree. Self-idealization happens with many types of (often marginalised) groups, not just poly. Shouldn’t have taken me quite so aback, in hindsight. But damn, there’s not many poly people around in the first place (at least seemingly in my neck of woods) :)

  93. August 14, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Excuse me, but when did I ever say “your trigger is invalid and I will fix it for you”? I was talking about my own triggers and how I choose to find the underlying reason, evaluate if there is any practical justification for the trigger, then eliminate the underlying reason if not which removes the trigger by default.

    I also spoke of how I choose not get involved with people who have rules for themselves that are designed to prevent them from examining the underlying issue and perhaps becoming a more happy and secure person. I am certainly not going to waste my time trying to fix someone else when I have my own issues to deal with, let alone try to fix someone who doesn’t even want to be fixed. They can all go live miserably in their own relationships over there and I’ll sit over here with people who want to be happy and aren’t afraid of doing the work it takes to get there.

    Nor do I recall ever saying that polyamory, by itself, was more “enlightened”. I *do* think that poly relationships are more likely to force one to examine themselves, because one can exist indefinitely in a monogamous relationship and never experience any personal growth or challenge themselves emotionally. But that doesn’t mean that monogamous people *can’t* or that all poly people succeed at doing so.

    For the record, however, jealousy *is* a sign of some other problem. Jealousy is a composite emotion, made up of a collection of emotions. None of them are “invalid” in the sense that I don’t believe someone is feeling what they feel. But oftentimes they are “invalid” in the sense that the circumstances a person is afraid of aren’t based in reality.

    Jealousy is a warning signal – a sign that something is wrong. What’s wrong could be that your partner is actually not treating you the way you want to be treated, or what’s wrong could be all in your own head and due to an insecurity that isn’t based in reality. The trick is to figure out which it is and eliminate the *real* problem because building rules whose sole purpose is to prevent someone from feeling jealousy without ever addressing the actual cause of the jealousy doesn’t actually work. If you simply avoid the situation that makes you jealous without fixing the problem, the jealousy will only find another way to express itself.

    I recommend reading http://www.xeromag.com/fvpolyjealousy.html and http://www.xeromag.com/fvpolyrefrigerator.html and http://www.xeromag.com/fvpolypiano.html for a more complete discussion of jealousy and its dangers, since comments in someone else’s blog are not always the best forum for complex explanations of complex issues like jealousy.

  94. LC
    August 14, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Sorry Joreth, I took your comment and ran to the general form that bugs me. I tried to point out I’m not assuming that’s what you specifically are doing. I failed on that. And I did misread what you wrote as you suggesting you push past people’s triggers, not that you push past your own. (I have no objections to the latter.)

    I’ve read the poly fridge thing. It’s very nice. It also was never meant to imply that jealousy is invalid, even if it can be read that way, something the writer admitted later. I see the piano is a new one I didn’t see, though, I should look at that.

    Yes, jealousy is a sign of something else. Often, that something else is valid. The fact is lots of poly people feel they have no right to jealousy; or that if they were good at poly, they wouldn’t be jealous; or that, you know, if they just *tried harder*, they would stop being jealous. It gets used as a pressure tactic a lot, and usually in the form of “the person who is jealous has to fix themselves” rather than “the person triggering the jealousy should look at what boundaries they are crossing”, even though there is almost always an interplay of stuff going on.

    Again, my apologies for implying you specifically were like this.

  95. August 14, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I have to agree with Joreth as far as the jealousy thing. This pretty much sums it up:
    Jealousy is a warning signal – a sign that something is wrong. What’s wrong could be that your partner is actually not treating you the way you want to be treated, or what’s wrong could be all in your own head and due to an insecurity that isn’t based in reality.

    I would add that people sometimes worry too much about feeling jealous. They are scared that they’ll be jealous all the time or react in a way they will regret, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If you acknowledge that you will at some point in time be jealous, and deal with the root of the emotion once it happens, then there isn’t anything to be afraid of. Jealousy is an emotion just like any other. The actions you make from that emotion are up to you.

  96. August 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    “Jealousy is a warning signal – a sign that something is wrong.”

    Jealousy -can- be a warning signal. It can also be a signal that the person experiencing the jealousy is human. Jealousy is an emotion. We are all almost certainly going to experience every emotion in the human experience at some point in our lives (assuming no serious mental disability/ailment, I suppose). Behaving as if jealousy is always a warning sign instead of a sign of a -normal- human reaction in certain circumstances runs the risk of invalidating someone else’s entirely valid emotions.

  97. August 14, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Jealousy is humanity’s warning signal. All our emotions are signals of some sort, some of them to warn us about something, some of them for other reasons. I see no reason why “jealousy is a warning signal that something is wrong” follows to “invalidating someone else’s emotions” at all.

    On the contrary, it says the exact opposite – that we have a built in system designed to get our attention.

    “invalidating” the experience would be something like “pff, jealousy is just an excuse to act up”.

  98. n00b
    August 15, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m in somewhat of a strange place right now, and given this post’s relevance to my present predicament, I decided to write something in the hopes that you guys can guide me in an area with which I am very, very unfamiliar.

    Last night, my girlfriend and I broke up on account of differing sexual expectations.

    Some background: I was raised in a strict Christian household, where anything apart from monogamous relationships is deemed immoral, while she was raised in a much more liberal family. It came to light that she was unhappy with our sex life, because I seemed “hesitant” and “scared” of having sex each time we did, which (understandably) made her feel unattractive and unwanted.

    I confessed that I’m fighting a battle with the way I was raised, trying to find my own way and my own moral compass, and that right now – while I try to figure myself out – I feel that sex is not a “healthy” thing for me because it confuses me. Perhaps I will feel more comfortable with it some time down the line, but at the moment, I want to express my love for her in different ways, many of which she has told me she appreciates.

    The problem: sex is such a fundamental part of my girlfriend’s life, that my not engaging in a sexual relationship with her right now would be stifling an enormous part of what makes her tick.

    So, because I want her to be happy, and because she would not be happy with me while I try to figure out what I believe, we broke up. Before doing so, however, she talked about an open relationship… this would let her satisfy her sexual needs, she said, while still keeping me as her “primary” very much in the picture.

    My gut reaction was NO WAY. But now – reading everyone’s comments here, churning the issues over again in my mind – I’m having second thoughts. I can say without a doubt that we two are still in love, despite our differences, and if there is a way to salvage that then I want to do so. It just feels like such a waste to leave behind. Neither of us wanted to break up.

    Right now, I am wrestling with hypothetical jealousy – wouldn’t having multiple partners mean I am not as important to her? Wouldn’t it mean I am not enough to make her happy? Wouldn’t it somehow “subtract” from the love we have for each other? If not, how does one reconcile oneself to the truth? How does one escape jealousy’s shadow? Would I be “right” in feeling jealous? Does an open relationship allow room for loving more than one person? If so, how does loving person #2 not subtract from loving person #1? What would that kind of relationship look like?

    I know this blog is not a “relationship advice” column, but I truly have nowhere else to turn. I can’t consult my family; I’d be ostracized, so I submit my embarrassingly “n00b” questions to you. I’m sorry if I’ve said anything to offend anyone – I’m just honestly seeking answers, trying to make sense of something that’s completely new. Thanks for listening.

  99. August 15, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    n00b, I cannot recommend strongly enough for you to read Opening Up, which has already been mentioned a few times in this thread, and for good reason. I think it will help you out immensely.

    I can tell you my reaction aside from that is to worry just a bit less about the what ifs. Don’t put them out of your mind completely, because you need to be honest with yourself and your feelings. It is perfectly fine to feel jealous at times, and it is hard to adjust to nonmonogamy when in a position like yours.

    When it comes to the more love, less love thing, I use family as my example. I have two parents and two sisters. I might get along with one parent more than the other, or share a bond with a sibling I don’t share with anybody else. But I love ALL of them completely. And if my mother has another baby tomorrow, I will love that sibling just as much. Love isn’t a resource we run out of, it’s something that always grows.

    The logistics of introducing other people are tricker than the love factor, in my opinion. It is hard to find the time to keep up, but it’s certainly doable.

    I think you should take a look at some of the links folks have posted on this thread, find a copy of Opening Up, and have several discussions with your partner about it. Feel free to email me if you’d like.

  100. n00b
    August 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Thank you, Frau Sally. I’ve already looked at http://www.xeromag.com/fvpoly.html, and will continue to consult the resources here. A lot of new ideas, useful information, and good people.

Comments are closed.