Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poly, part 1

As I'm reading more about polyamory, I have to admit the whole concept is fascinating. I have little experience with it myself. Before I moved to Seattle, I'd never even heard of it. When I first came up here, I was staying with some folks on their couch. They took me to a Halloween party at someone's house, telling me two couples lived there. Okay, I thought, the cost of living is pretty high here, so maybe that's a regular thing.

We arrive, and I'm introduced to one of the married couples. Not long after, I spotted the husband across the room, holding hands with another woman who had just arrived... and the wife was definitely flirting with me. I was baffled and surprised.

Turns out, the two couples lived together because 3 of the 4 were dating each other, and the 4th dated "outside the home." My small-town, Southern mind = blown.

Since then I've become friends with people who are active and successful with the poly lifestyle. One woman I knew for at least a year, along with her boyfriend, before learning that he was not her husband. That, in fact, both of them were married to other people. I also went on a date with a man who told me about his "primary" relationship with a married woman. At the time, I declined to continue dating him. I was still new to this area, and to the idea of polyamory.

Most of my current group of friends frown on the concept. Laugh at it, even. I think this is because in this particular group, we know of two people who have attempted this lifestyle, and both failed or are currently failing. I'm learning more about what I think is the ... true? form of polyamory, which is to say, open and honest communication, not having a partner and then using other people on the side for free meals under the guise of "dates." It also doesn't help when someone who is polyamorous touts this as The Lifestyle, spouting that "people are not MEANT to be monogamous," etc. Anyone who beats others with their own beliefs as being universal will have trouble actually being accepted. Some people are monogamous by nature, others are not, just like anything else.

This is all to say: I'm still sorting this all out in my mind, but I definitely want information, from all sides. Are you anti-poly? That's okay. Pro-poly, but not for yourself? Awesome. Actively poly? Fascinating. I'd like to hear from all of you! Why you feel the way you do, what your experiences are, etc. Either in the comments, or feel free to email me. If you choose to comment, though, please be respectful. Haters gonna hate - but if you can't be open-minded about different relationships and sex, you're on the wrong blog.


  1. i know one couple who does this. it caused a serious strain in their relationship when their daughter was born with some serious health issues and the husband coped by taking none of the responsibilities-- and actually moving another woman into their apartment for "sexy times" while the wife had to deal with their sick child without his help.
    honestly, that could have happened because the husband was a jerk instead of poly.

    poly isn't for me. but as long as something is between consenting adults i don't get my panties in a wad.

  2. My experience with polyamory, both personally and as an observer has been varied, but in most cases, I've found that there was a high inequity. That is, one side was poly, and the other side was not. When the side that was traditionally not engaging in poly behavior begin to engage in it, the side that had been enjoying the poly side suddenly freaked out and the relationship exploded. That's definitely what happened in my relationship. I have seen exactly one healthy poly relationship, but it was the joining of two people who were perfectly happy being single joining together.
    I think poly relationships work when you're feeling good about yourself, but there comes a day when you feel bad about yourself, and you just want some comfort from your lover....and he's busy elsewhere.
    I have always felt healthy relationships are built on equality, but as I get older, I'm starting to realize that long term relationships are actually built on the correct assembly of a dominant person and a submissive.

    I have always liked the concept, because I love to love people....but I fear that when my insecurities ramp up, I'll spend time worrying that I'm at the short end of the stick.


  3. I'm one of the Pro-Poly But Not For Me camp. I've definitely met some people who make polyamory sound like the worst sort of self-delusion -- but then, I've met some people who make heterosexual Christian monogamy sound like the worst kind of self-delusion, too. As long as it makes you happy and you're treating your partner(s) responsibly, I'm all for it.

    Of course, I'm coming at this from the romance genre's perspective. Menage romances are hot right now. :)

  4. Some misc. observations.

    Poly is often lop-sided in who desires it more. That can be OK, especially if recognized and acknowledged. But as others have pointed out, it can also be the cause of the relationship exploding.

    Poly is definitely not for everyone, or even most from what I have seen.

    Most situations that I have seen seem to be a couple who lets others in to some degree. From that angle, I think the couple has to be solidly committed to their relationship and wanting to make it work. I believe any long term relationship is a result of repeatedly choosing to stick with it. Poly tends to make those choices become a little more obvious and literal instead of just quietly unspoken.

    Poly requires a level of honesty and openness most people can't or don't want to handle (and I say that with absolutely no judgment).

    Soul mate does not necessarily equal optimal sex partner. This was a large motivating factor for us.

    I found on the west coast more people disapproving of the idea than in my current location. Whether its regional or a result of the cultural differences between the two countries I don't know.

    There's a book called "The Ethical Slut" by Dossie Easton that we both read at the beginning of going poly. It talks about some of the feelings people go through and how to work with them (i.e. jealousy). I highly recommend it for anyone thinking of opening their relationship or those curious about how one person experiences this lifestyle while minimizing the potential for hurting people. Her experiences cover both brief encounters and extended relationships with others outside her primary relationship.

    -papa smurf