Poly musings: on her others


I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about about polyamory, partners with other relationships, and what it means to be okay with that. What we’re supposed to be feeling about all of this.

One of the biggest things, you see, about being in a Non-Traditional Relationship(TM) is that it can be difficult to work out what you’re supposed to feel at a given point in time. This is, by the way, as much of a feature as it is a bug- working without a script leaves immense freedom to make things up as you go along and to shape what you’re doing to the needs and preferences of the actual people involved. It’s awesome enough that I’d advise throwing the script away to the rest of you as well. Write your own damn scripts. They’ll probably fit you better.

But having no script also makes life difficult at times, especially when you’re in situations that are generally considered to be Bad News. Like, say, being in a relationship with a person who is also involved with a couple of other people. There’s only two social scripts for how to deal with that- jealousy and denial- and neither of them really fit a situation where everyone involved not only know about each other, but really like each other. Ladyfriend’s other partners are awesome, by the way.

But y’know what? I don’t generally think much about the details of Ladyfriend’s other relationships. I’m most invested in her relationship with BFF, but that’s mainly because BFF being in happy relationships is the kind of thing that, well, a BFF makes it her business to take note of. The thing is, though, that I see Ladyfriend’s other relationships in much the same way.

I know they’re there. I’ve met everyone and I like them all a lot. I try to be considerate and facilitate them as much as I can- making sure that if visits overlap, say, everyone gets to spend time together one-on-one as well as hanging out as a group. And if Ladyfriend has a new crush or a date with someone new or even a new relationship, I do care a lot about meeting them, getting to know them, keeping up to date on how she feels about them and the new thing she has going on, working out what our agreements are going to be and if anything needs to change.

Once relationships are established, though? I don’t think a huge amount about what they entail. It doesn’t seem to be much of my business or to affect me any more than, say, Ladyfriend’s relationship with her close platonic friends, or her music or artwork. Ladyfriend’s other relationships get categorised in my head as “stuff that’s important to Ladyfriend that I should take into account”, and I pretty much toddle on about my business.

I don’t dwell on her other relationships. I don’t have any problem with them. I don’t collapse into Feels Of Adorable whenever I think about her and her others- although I have been known to have an “awwwww” moment or three when we’re hanging out. I do ship them all, after all. But generally I’m just stupendously okay and- here’s a thing- I don’t give her other relationships a massive amount of thought.

This isn’t saying, by the way, that I ignore them. Like I said, they’re all lovely people who I am really happy have great relationships with Ladyfriend. It also, by the way, helps that she really does seem to have exceptionally good taste in people. Bit of an ego-boost for Yours Truly, that one is.

I don’t ignore them, but I don’t really think about the relationships themselves either. And sometimes I wonder if I put myself under too much pressure in this to be some other kind of ‘okay’. As if by not being particularly bothered either way by her other relationships I’m somehow in denial about it all? Maybe I should be thinking more about them? Maybe I’m deeply not-okay with the situation but I don’t want to admit it to myself?

Or maybe, of course, we live in a deeply monocentric society that assumes that poly situations must be ones that need to be dwelled on and overanalysed. That my partner’s other partners are somehow people who should take a greater amount of my mental processing than her close friends or her family. And that if they don’t, there must be something up. That I must be harbouring some secret jealousy eating away at me, or living in some kind of denial so deeply-rooted that even I can’t see it.

But y’know something? I’m pretty sure it’s just fine. We’re just fine.

 

Polyamory: slicin’ and dicin’?


Although I don’t practice it myself, I’m all for monogamy. Forgive me for this, I can’t help myself: some of my best friends are monogamous. Monogamy is, to me, one of those things like being an accountant or a dentist that’s perfectly useful, makes some people I love very happy, and holds about as much appeal for myself as, well, pulling teeth. Tis cool. We’re all different, we all get to decide what kinds of relationships make us feel happy, secure and fulfilled and to pursue that with people who feel similarly.

As someone who lives in a great big world full of mono people and who’s been in my share of mono relationships with very lovely people myself (I always, by the way, behaved myself) I have a fair insight into why people choose monogamy, why it works for them and what it’s like.

I have a feeling that some of my mono friends don’t have quite the same insight into the way I do relationships. I think it’s time to start setting right a misconception or two. In particular, well, one. This one.

Slicin’ and dicin’?

I have a friend- an old, dear friend I love to pieces, which is lucky for him- who keeps on referring to poly people like myself as having fractions of partners. According to him, I have 1/3 of a girlfriend, and the wives of the man who someone once met going to St Ives have 1/7 of a husband. Let’s look into this idea, shall we?

I guess- and I am just guessing here, so correct me if I’m wrong- that if exclusivity is something you value strongly in a relationship it could seem that sharing a partner with someone else means, well, sharing. And that for some reason all of us poly folks are happy to have a fraction of a relationship here and another fraction there.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of sewing together a Frankenstein’s monster of partners seems as unappealing to me as it does to the average mono person. Let’s- if you’ll pardon the phrase- deconstruct this a bit, shall we?

All the people in our lives

One of the things that poly people love to talk about when explaining how we can go around having multiple relationships at once is the fact that having more than one relationship is something that everybody does all the time. Think about the people who are important to you in your life. Sure, there’s something special and distinct about what you have with your partner(s). But isn’t there also something special and distinct about what you have with all of the other people in your close circle? The big example that poly folks like to bring up here is kids. In terms of devotion, committment, time, energy and love, there isn’t really anything that can rival the parent/child relationship. And yet if I were to mention someone having a second child nobody would assume that the love of the parents for their first child would be in any way diminished. Sure, they’re going to be a lot more busy and will have to work to balance their attention between their kids. And sure, there’ll be an adjustment for the older kid. But love and the parent/child relationship itself? It’s not divided.

Our romantic partnerships and relationships are, of course, very different. But it’s a qualitative difference, not a quantitive one. I love the Ladyfriend, my family, and my closest friends in different ways, but I love them all. My love for Ladyfriend isn’t in any way diminished by my having a wonderful circle of friends and family. In fact, I’d say that having a healthy life of my own outside my relationship enhances what we have. I’m a happier and more interesting person because of the people in my life. Aren’t we all?

It’s not just people, though. When I think of the things that take up Ladyfriend’s time and attention, her work comes far higher than any other person. I’m sure that anyone who’s dated someone with an overwhelming devotion to a job, hobby or project can empathise with that. We’ve all met (or been) PhD widows.

What are relationships made of?

The other day, as I was having the fateful fractions conversation with my old friend, Ladyfriend was off on a date with a new person of whom I approve immensely (she’s a sweetiepie!). That next day when I phoned her up to ask how it had went, did I suddenly have less of a girlfriend than I had had the day before?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I absolutely respect monogamy. I see why people choose it. We all have things we’re comfortable with, things that are hard limits, and great big grey areas in between to play around in. One relationship can be overwhelming enough. With two or three, things can get complicated. And yep, we all get to have feelings and boundaries about what we’re okay with our partners getting up to with others. It’s one of the best things about creating cultures of active consent.

I do think that there’s a limit to the amount of commitments one person can make. That limit varies from person to person and at different times in our lives. The person with the demanding job, young kids and evening course is barely going to have time for sleep, never mind dating. But within that limit- which, by the way, the poly people of my acquaintance tend to be extremely aware of- adding new things and people to our lives doesn’t diminish what we already have. My taking up roller derby and spending hours and hours a week training doesn’t subtract from my relationship with Ladyfriend. And similarly, if during those hours she’s spending time with other partners, I haven’t lost anything at all.

I understand that thinking about your partner being involved with others can make a lot of mono people uncomfortable. Trust me, I get that- I’m no more immune to jealousy than anyone on the planet! But relationships- all relationships- are made of a lot more than the time not spent with others. They’re made of more than what you get up to when your partner’s not there- although honesty about that is one hell of a big deal. I don’t measure my relationships in minutes spent with me versus with other people, or in feelings for me versus for other people. The most important thing, to me, is what me and another person share together. 

When I Can’t Argue Inequality: Homophobia and Vulnerability


I’m an activist. I’m outspoken about my opinions and willing to argue them. I put my views out here on the internet on a regular basis, knowing that at any point anyone could see what I have to say and respond. I do it because I love to discuss, share and persuade. I love to communicate and write and find common ground amidst all of our differences. It’s interesting. It keeps me on my toes and learning every day.

I discovered something today, though.

Geoff’s Shorts posted the other day about about his support for marriage equality. He’s been getting a lot of comments and, as us bloggers are wont to do, popped a message around a few of us asking us to take a look and contribute to the conversation. Since I’m a great big badass queer activist, I figured I’d take a look.

I couldn’t.

That doesn’t happen very often. You can’t hang out around social justice bits of the internet very long without developing a thick skin. And I’d thought that when it came to homophobia, I’d calloused up a long time ago.

I hadn’t. I haven’t.

I started reading comments detailing calm, friendly arguments against marriage equality. Everyone on both sides discussing things nice and rationally. That is, as rationally as you can get when one of the arguments is inherently irrational. I made it about three or four comments in. Then I had to stop.

Maybe callouses come and go. Maybe you need to get them periodically toughened-up. Maybe it’s just that I’m a few days out of a wonderful week with Ladyfriend, feeling a bubbling kind of besotted and missing her badly. Maybe it’s hard because homophobia doesn’t just attack our selves. It attacks our deepest and most intimate relationships. It hits us right where our hearts are, right down where we make ourselves the most vulnerable. Right there in the giddy longing of crushes and sweet joy of love, where we can’t help but feel every damn thing because that’s what love is like. It’s where we are at our most tender. And that’s a wonderful thing.

It’s funny, though. When I hear yet another bishop yammering on about openness to life and fundamental disorderedness, I roll my eyes and continue on. This week or so as they’ve been claiming that people can’t marry someone of the same gender because we can’t consummate our relationships? I giggle. And then I offer to send them some handy diagrams. The WBC picketing yet again? Eh, whatever. But ordinary, thoughtful, well-spoken people detailing why they think that the love I have for some people is inherently inferior than the love I have for others? That one hits me where I live. Y’know how words can sometimes feel like a real punch? How they can stop you in your tracks, leave you dizzy and disoriented and vaguely ill? Yeah. That.

It’s funny, because feminist issues rarely hit me in the same way, although they have a similar potential to mess up my life. I can talk about reproductive rights and workplace inequality and abuse and all of it. Not always calmly, but the worst I’ll get is angry.

I guess that attacking our relationships has always been a way to get to people. Not just queers, of course. All of us. Isn’t jealousy often just a response to feeling like our relationships are threatened? And jealousy can feel overwhelming physical. Primal. Like the deep desire we often have to protect our families and the people in them. You mess with my family, you mess with me. It’s the same thing, I think.

It worries me. I want to talk about the things that are important to me. Love matters to me. I have so many conversations I’d like to have here, not just about queerness or polyness but about everything around those things- how we make relationships, what they mean to us, how we create and live them and what it means to be purposeful and considered in the kinds of relationships we have. And I know that in having those conversations I’m opening up one hell of a vulnerable place.

What do you think? Do you know what I’m getting at here? Do you feel the same, or is there an issue that gets to you in a similar way, to the extent that you have to be careful when and how you can engage with people on it? If it’s something that is close to your activist heart, how do you protect yourself?

The Introverted Polyamorist


As with any fairly smallish group, when it comes to polyamory bizarre stereotypes abound. While I could (and probably will, with with BloggyWriMo/NaBloPoMo) expound on many of them, today I’m gonna stick with one: the idea that poly people are all massively extroverted social butterflies. I can see where this one came from. After all, the whole idea of polyamory is that you’re up for having more than one partner. It’s not a vast jump from “likes to have more partners than I do” to “likes spending a whole lot of time with lots of different people”. And while plenty poly people are like that, there’s also a lot of us for whom that isn’t true. So from one somewhat-introverted poly person to you lot, here’s why it works for me.

Smaller, closer groups

….the rest is at the Tea Cosy’s new home. Pop over!

Making it look easy: Poly


“Wow. You guys are so casual. I wish I could do that!”

Said to me and my Main Bromiga, after I told her to go visit my girlfriend and give her a giant smoooooch right on the lips for me. Because my girlfriend is her girlfriend, who lives in a different city and who the Bromiga’ll be seeing in a couple of days.

Right now, we make it look easy. We tease each other constantly. We rhapsodise about Mutual Girlfriend’s many wonderful qualities. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

It wasn’t always this easy. We worked to get here. We worked hard. In the beginning, there were weeks of long, difficult conversations. Saying things that were hard to say and hearing things that were harder. There were times when I wondered what the hell I was doing. I wondered if all of this would be worth it in the end. I was scared of hurting myself or either of these people I loved. And we talked more. There were tears, more than once. We spent weeks blindly talking, communicating, trying to figure out where we could all be happy in this unmapped terrain.

People assume that poly people have some kind of magic. That we’re miraculously free of jealousy and insecurities. We’re not, you know. I get jealous at times. I get insecure. So do the people I love. We’re only human, you know? I just talk to the people I love, love them as hard as I can, and trust them as well as I’m able.

And it seems to me that if you do that long enough, things mainly turn out okay.