Christina's Take on My First Weekend in Polyamory

My post on polyamory got linked by Andrew Sullivan, apparently.  Cool.

Christina, the impetus for that post, has penned a guest blog (that has been cross-posted to her own blog) about polyamory and coaxing me into it.  She’s quite the siren.

She has also managed to pick about the most unflattering picture of me.  She has indulged me in a couple of photo shoots in which she’s taken some pretty decent ones of me, so I forgive her.  :P

Some of you may have heard recently that my good friend JT Eberhardand I have a certain, interesting kind of relationship – The kind of relationship most people might not want to make public. You see, I’m married.  JT and I share a close bond and friendship, and we have extended said friendship to include physical intimacy. JT and I are not normal people, something you’ve probably noticed and so, in the interest of making the abnormal normal, we’ve decided that talking openly and honestly about our abnormality can benefit ourselves and those around us.

JT and I know each other from Skeptics in the Pub, Skepticon III and around the blogosphere, but mutual craziness really cemented our bond. Also, cuddling*. I have depersonalization/derealization disorder and depression, something I wrote about here.  JT has anorexia/depression. Sometimes, when you put two nutbags like us together, we repel each other and our respective mental fuckery prevents us from even staying in the same room together. At other times, we stick like glue. That’s pretty much what happened here.

I’m one of those people who openly and honestly talks about sex, ever since my mid-twenties when some experiences led me to shed a lot of notions about how I wanted relationships to work. So of course, along with conversations about How To Understand Effect Size or Why This Argument Won’t Be Persuasive To Christians, topics such as How To Understand The Dynamics of Dominance and Submission or How Pain Can Be Fun In Bed are pretty normal for me.

I’m also a seeker of experiences. I’m not sure if the seeking aspect of my personality is a function of depersonalization or what, but I always want to try something new and different. I especially enjoy trying something new or different I can take from an experience a sense of control over my body or emotions.  My body is my temple of science, and I like to experiment. Along with taking up such mundane hobbies as yo-yoing, blogging, fixing wheelchairs and cooking delicious things, I’m also into play piercing, implanting myself with RFID chips, and hook suspension. I also engage in sex to experience new and interesting things. I’ve experimented with lots.

When I casually asked JT whether he was Dominant, Submissive or a Switch in bed one day, I expected him to know exactly what I was talking about. I also expected that he would enjoy talking about sex with ease as if we were discussing the latest atheist billboard campaign. At first, he seemed uncomfortable – being able to talk openly about sex with another human being was something he hadn’t really experienced before. After a lengthy (and fun!) discussion over several days, I got this:

JT: “This feels liberating.  I have not spoken about sex like this before….”

Me: “The doors in your brain. I walked in there, unlocked them, and flung them open.”

Of course, I loved it. I loved sharing something with someone I cared so much about. I remember when I discovered that I could talk openly about sex. It was pretty awesome, freeing, sexy and exiting. I love the people who helped me fling open my own doors.

To me, polyamory is about being able to have multiple, loving relationships. I don’t treat love as a commodity that can be spent. Rather, I think of love as an abstraction that you get more of the more you give away.

If you’re in a monogamous relationship, or your brain is wired for monogamy, then that’s fine. If you ultimately feel you should give 100% of your love to only one other person at a time, then I’ll never fault you. I’m not saying that either monogamy or polyamory win the prize for superiority. Perhaps for you, if you give your love to two people, you’re splitting your love and giving each person less than 100%. If that works for you, then fine. However, if you take home one message from this post, know that this is not the only way to treat love.

To me, I don’t spend love like a commodity. I don’t give it out sparingly to a tiny fraction of really deserving people, only one at a time. Love is not like a bathtub, where one person must get out before another gets in. Love is more like an ocean. Most people treat love like a bathtub. That’s okay if it works for you, but it does not work for me.

People have enough love to give if they choose to give it. Example: let’s say you have a baby. You love that baby with all of your heart and mind. Then, you have a second baby. Do you now split your love evenly, so each gets 50% of your love? No. You love baby #2 as much as baby #1. You do not diminish your love for baby #1 by the existence of and love for baby #2.

Christopher and I have an open marriage and we are polyamorous. We feel very strongly that we should not base our limits on how, when and where we share ourselves with other people on anything other than ethics and what works for us. We’re not perfect and have made mistakes, but nothing irreconcilable. We regard communication as the most important aspect of a poly relationship. Secondary to that: things like trust, honesty, introspection, and the ever popular ability-to-admit-when-you’re-wrong.

Like any other marriage, ours has rules: No one else can live with us. No one else can have children with us. We must tell each other about our experiences with our other partners. We must make more time for dates and sex with each other than with our other partners. We must treat each other as primary partners, and so on. We actually have an extensive list of rules as far as rules go, probably more than your average married couple. However, our marriage lacks a rule that says we’re not allowed to love or have physical intimacy with other people. It lacks a rule that says we’re not allowed to romantically love other people.

No relationship/marriage has a complete claim to exclusivity. No matter who you are, your partner probably has friends with whom ze has a close emotional bond. You share your partner in some way, I guarantee it (unless you’ve locked hir in a cage in your basement…) We choose to share each other more than most people.

I absolutely love to share myself with other people and vice-versa. I have a pathological desire to hear people’s stories, to really peel apart their exterior and discover the amazing, beautiful and beautifully fucked up bizarro world underneath.  As part of knowing somebody, I am free to extend the bonds of friendship and mental intimacy to physical intimacy.

JT and I decided to visit for a weekend in St. Louis. We both agreed that we should obviously cuddle the living crap out of each other, mind-meld, and take lots of pictures. As the days ticked closer and closer to our weekend, we moved closer and closer to the idea of having sex. We talked about it at length, so to me it seemed like a natural progression from talking about it to actually doing it.

First, we both decided that we’d both be okay if our weekend just happened to lead to some fooling around.  Then, we moved to talking about things we might enjoy doing with each other. Then, we started talking about exactly what we wanted.  We planted a seed. It grew into a tree.

When I picked JT up from the airport, I was ecstatic. We held hands and drank each other up. I could tell he was nervous, so I made a mental plan to pounce on him once he entered my car. I storyboarded it in my head: scene #1 – The kiss. Scene #2 – figuring out how much chest hair he had. Scene #3 – find that spot on his neck he told me about that makes him swoon when nibbled…  My plan worked.

Earlier in the day I asked Chris what he wanted to do while I was hanging out with JT. Usually if I go on a date with someone else, Chris takes time to go on a date with Ashley (his girlfriend). However, he wanted to hang out with JT so they could talk about working out and video games. While I made sushi and Chris made fried rice, the three of us chatted. I touched them both, first hugging and kissing Chris and then smooching JT. I know what Chris accepts, and I wanted to signal that what I had told JT online about how my life worked was actually true and not just some spectacular fantasy I had thought up while hiding in some corner of my own head.

I could almost hear the two of them thinking: “That’s the man my wife is going to do sexy things with tonight.” “That’s the woman I want to do sexy things with tonight but goddamn, for real?” So I just pointed right at JT and said it.

“I’m going to have sex with this man”. I said this as if I were announcing I had just found the guy who secretly left flowers at my front door.  Soon, Chris went upstairs. JT and I explored brains and bodies until we slept, and slept all night ensnuggled.

The next morning, I could tell something had changed in JT. I woke up to him alternating between munching on handfuls of leftover fried rice from our fridge and working out. He seemed comfortable. Happy. I smiled and I couldn’t stop, a rarity for me. I relish in seeing people that way – seeing boundaries become unnecessary, only to slipp away. We spent much of the day taking pictures. JT seemed nervous about having my camera trained on him, but I honestly had no idea he was so nervous he felt like vomiting.

I hated to see him leave so soon, but we immediately made plans to see each other again.

I feel incredibly free in my ability to engage in multiple loving, consensual relationships. I do not hide my feelings or keep my distance lest I get “too close” to another human. I need not fear falling in love with someone else. I feel secure in my marriage knowing that Christopher and I continue our relationship because the relationship has great value and not out of some obligation or signed piece of paper. Our marriage vows reflect our ability and freedom to love other people.

So I do.

TL:DR – I am polyamorous. JT and I share in a close friendship that includes physical intimacy, and we’re both better off for it.

* You see, when JT claims in his profile that in 2008 he brought the gold medal in cuddling back to the United States and is presently training for 2012, he neglects to mention that I took home the gold in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. I didn’t compete in 2008 because I had been bitten by a tiger two months prior to the 2008 competition.

PERSONAL: Mid day lab pics from the wife.
PERSONAL: Happy birthday, Hitch.
Update and pics from #AACon15. MST3K cast members were at my talk.
PERSONAL: Sorry to disappoint you, Julian.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Laurence

    Polyamory is one of those things I can understand on a intellectual level, but I have a hard time understanding it at an emotional level. I have friends that are polyamorous. And while I don’t understand it, I’ve seen how happy they are together. Like one big family. I cannot think of any good reason why something that makes a group of people happy and doesn’t harm anyone else should be thought of as wrong.

  • john

    I have some friends who are members of the FLDS. They seem to get along pretty well in Polyamorous relationships. Unfortunately for them they are not allowed to practice in the open. Best of luck to all of you.

  • Michaelyn

    I really enjoyed reading this from Christina’s perspective! I love the both of you :]

  • Dhorvath, OM

    Great post. Speaking as someone whose wedding included zero vows, just expressions of trust and interest, and who has also trod a number of paths both with and separately from my spouse you have put a lot of things in words that I appreciate greatly. My long term partner and I have two rules: Ask first. Accept the answer. Everything else stems from knowing that an option is interesting and that talking it over doesn’t mean that a yes needs to be provided.

    • ziztur
      • Dhorvath, OM

        And they are lovely vows, well thought out, and I should think a true reflection of your relationship. I wish more people both wanted to do such a thing and had the courage to follow through with it. I love weddings that reflect the relationship that is rather than attempt to define the relationship that will ensue. Once again, thanks for sharing this.

  • Lana C

    Great story. It’s pretty awesome when you can get both sides of this sort of thing. It’s also great to hear people who can be open about it. Good Job to both of you.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, JT likes to fuck around. Christina and her husband like to fuck around. Big fucking deal. Calling it polyamory and blogging about it doesn’t change the fact that it is still just fucking around. People have been doing it for as long as there have been people.

    • sandiseattle

      well not quite. POLYAMORY is somewhat more positive than that. Its hard sometimes, but it has better rewards than ‘fucking around.”

      • Joseph Folkemer

        Truly, this just semantics. It’s difficult to describe polyamory as objectively ‘more positive’ than ‘fucking around.’

        While many of us might echo the ‘Big fucking deal’ sentiment in our heads, this blog isn’t for any one particular individual; there are likely those out there who will find this quite interesting. They may even (hopefully) evolve their attitudes about something after witnessing someone, who they otherwise identify with, describe an aspect of their lives that is novel to the reader. Isn’t that part of the implied objective of a blog?

    • Ziztur

      I’m actually rather offended that you’d characterize my relationship with JT as NOT polyamory and just fucking around. Why do you think you know what our relationship is better than we do? You are wrong. I guess you’d feel comfortable declaring that my husband and I don’t have a real marriage either – we are just convenient roommates/fuck buddies.


      • Aliasalpha

        Well it IS on the internet where the opinion of random idiots (who don’t even want to use a real username) are obviously way more informed and relevant than anyone else, up to and including the people who are actually involved…

    • Tex

      You sir seem to have a wide definition of what “fucking around” means. From your comment Id take it that youd think me and my wife were just fucking around for the several years before we got engaged, then married despite the fact we never slept with anyone else and knew we were going to get married.

      Let me point out the difference between what is generally accepted as fucking around and this situation. Fucking around you do not have any real emotional attachments to the other person, or your significant other doesn’t know about it and probably wouldn’t approve, or both. In this situation it seems they had a friendly relationship before hand, they decided to add a physical component to that relationship, and everything was on the level with her husband. That is most definitely one version of polyamory.


      “I cant sleep, SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET!!!!”

    • Richard


    • Dhorvath, OM

      Way to miss the target there. I fuck around a lot, it’s not polyamory, it’s just sex with people, fuck friends if you will, but nothing deeper emotionally than you likely have with your golfing friends or squash partner. These are people who are sharing much more than a fling on the couch and you do them injustice to put that down.

  • Karl Corwin

    It’s taken a long time for me to work on my own sexual and emotional repression. At the tender age of 40, I took a human sexuality class at my community college. While I figured that I was fairly accepting before the class, I was amazed/stunned/excited about all that I didn’t know or had never considered. While I know that I am not emotionally ready for much that is out there, I find great joy when I hear of others finding happiness, by whatever means. Thanks for sharing and I wish you all the best.

  • Robert B.

    Thanks for the post, Christina, that was good to read.

    Um, any advice for a monogamous person in a relationship with a polyamorous person? The spirit is willing, and the flesh is also willing, but the emotional practicalities get a bit tricky.

    • ziztur

      Hrmm… you might have to be more specific. Hit me up on Facebook or send me an email and I’d be glad to talk!

  • Richelle

    Fascinating read. I’ve been hearing more and more about polyamory lately and I find it really interesting. I’m not wired that way at all, I’m far too introverted to try and maintain multiple relationships, and far too attached to the one I have. It has given me opportunity to question my own norms though so I’m glad for that. Thanks for opening my mind.

    • Jessica

      Nitpicking here, but I am an introvert who is more comfortable in poly relationships than mono ones. If poly isn’t right for you or anyone else that’s fine, and good for you that you know yourself well enough to recognize it, but introverted and polyamorous are not mutually exclusive.

    • VJ

      I’m seconding the idea that introversion and polyamory are not mutually exclusive. It sometimes appears to play out better in action with extroverts, but better in theory and execution among introverts, at least in my experience. Poly does work better for me as an introvert than mono ever did.

  • raymoscow

    Hey, you were both honest about everything from the start. If it works for you both (and Christina’s SO), why not?

  • J.D.

    Thank you for bringing more awareness and making more realize how common this is!

  • H.D.Lynn

    Polyamory is one of those ideas that I understand intellectually, but I think gets really tricky in practice. I do know truly polyamorous people; they tend to be very extroverted and make friends easily and have a natural, flirtatious personality. My one friend (call her Susan) discovered, after some failed relationships, that she was actually polyamorous. She’s had to figure out how to negotiate things with her multiple boyfriends, and it almost ended her primary relationship when she came out as polyamorous. However, I think people usually justify a lot of bad relationship behaviors under the claim of being polyamorous. To save a relationship, I agreed to let my bf to see other people, even though polyamory has never been right for me. I’m not irrationally jealous, but being my main partner means that you can’t fuck other people (unless we’re doing it together…then it’s fine). There are also some guys (I call them ‘douche bags’) who justify cheating by claiming they are polyamorous. But Christina makes it very clear that you can’t be polyamorous unless you communicate to your partner.

    • Dhorvath, OM

      I think it pretty shitty for people to not care about the impact of their actions on their partners. I am so sorry that someone manipulated you that way and I can understand based on that why you said

      I think people usually justify a lot of bad relationship behaviors under the claim of being polyamorous.

      Can I ask you to consider using sometimes instead of usually in the future? I am uncertain, but I don’t think you hold that as an indication of how most poly people behave.

      I would also say that for me monogamy is something that I understand intellectually but I think gets really tricky in practice. To stretch the idea a bit: Relationships are tricky. There is no one right way. You really picked up on the heart of how we best navigate that problem though: Communicate.

      • sandiseattle

        lol dhorvath, you show up as an OM here too :-)

        • Dhorvath, OM

          It’s the same login. I need a second nick when offsite, but have been lazy about implementing.

  • Janis Mattox

    Back in the 60′s we called it free love . . . and it was good.

  • backin15

    I really like how Christina explained how Poly works. I tend to use the analogy of best friends, since most people have multiple best friends, I think I will start using the bathtub and babies analogy.

    Thank you both JT and Christina, Both of your stories hit my mental nibble spot. ;)