Flimsyman on Polyamory

Christina’s husband, Chris, has written a guest post on polyamory that makes me green with envy.  He says everything I want to say with greater brevity and clarity than I could.  He and his wife have helped open my eyes to something that changed my life though, so I’ll let it slide this time…

So!  Ziztur and I are polyamorous; our marriage is sexually and romantically open.  This has taken center-stage a bit lately.  JT Eberhard, atheist and skeptic firebrand extraordinaire, has had a relationship with my wife for a little while now, including but not limited to, cuddling with, conversing with, and boning her.  Scandal!

So how do I feel about all this?  I don’t feel strongly about it, really.  I’m extremely glad that my wife and JT, who I consider a friend, make each other happy.  Jealousy, though?  Of a sexual or romantic nature?  I just don’t seem to feel it.

Most people who are in open relationships in one way or another seem to fall into two categories.

The first category is the person whose partner desperately wants to explore other relationships, say, a woman with a desire for a casual partner in addition to her primary partner husband.  Sometimes the husband in question will want to allow his wife that freedom, but won’t want to hear about it and definitely won’t want to watch it, because it makes him uncomfortable in some way (obviously, this can go for both genders).

The other end of that spectrum is the person who is turned on by their partner being with other people.  This is the person who loves watching or hearing about their partner’s activities, and can be anything fromcuckholding, at the submissive end, to loaning out or even renting or selling a sexual slave to others at the dominant end (the more hard-core fetishes of this kind are overwhelmingly strictly gendered; an interesting topic in and of itself).

I seem to be somewhat unsual in that I don’t fit into either of these categories.  I’m not bothered at all by hearing about or watching Ziztur play with other people, but it doesn’t do anything for me either.  I once watched her give a blowjob to another boyfriend of hers next to me in bed.  It didn’t bother me at all, but it wasn’t a turn-on, either.  In all honesty, it was a little bit boring.  I would have reached for a video game, but I didn’t want to be rude, ha!

There was one moment years ago that illustrated very clearly that I didn’t feel jealous in relationships the way many people do.  I was nineteen, and my girlfriend at the time was my first long-term relationship.  She was about to go into college, and was pondering how to provide a base minimum of spending money for herself.  She mentioned stripping as a way to not only make money, but pretty good money at that, and she did already have good experience dancing, in ballet and jazz.

This went flashing across my brain:  ”Hm, aren’t I supposed to be jealous here?  I … don’t seem to be jealous at all, really.  I don’t want to be controlling.  It IS her decision, right?  Would I really have her make far less money just because I want her boobs all to myself?  DO I want her boobs all to myself?  Is that a priority that I have?  That doesn’t make any sense.”

So I just asked if she would be comfortable dancing topless.  She replied that yep, she would, and would even strip totally naked if they wanted her too.  I agreed, very nonchalantly, that she totally had the body and dance skills to make plenty of money stripping.

She said that she had never given a lap-dance before, and would probably have to practice.  I volunteered, of course, but she pointed out that she would have to get used to giving lap-dances to guys who aren’t her boyfriend, so she should probably practice on someone else, maybe my friends.  I laughed and said that, yup, she’d have no shortage of volunteers among my friends as well.

Finally she screamed, frustrated, “Fine!  I guess you just don’t give a shit about me at all!”  Yep, it had all been a facade, she never had any intention of stripping.  I thought I was being a decent boyfriend by not being a jealous, possessive ass over something that she wanted to do, but she was literally pissed at me for not reacting with angry jealousy!

It seemed obvious to me; the only reason I would want her to never explore other romantic or sexual relationships is if I were worried that she would end up wanting to be with another person rather than me.  Even if that were to happen … I want my partner to be happy, right?!  If I genuinely want my partner to be happy, part of me might be sad if they leave me for someone else, but another part of me would still want them to be as happy as they could be.

I completely understand that people are less than totally assured in their relationships.  Believe me, I’ve had some phenomenally low self-esteem at certain points in my life.  If your partner wanted to explore other relationships because they didn’t want you anymore, though, then the relationship is already over.  I, for one, don’t want a relationship, even (especially) a marriage, where my partner stays with me because her exposure to other people’s minds and bodies is being arbitrarily limited.  It’s exactly because my marriage is romantically and sexually open that I know that my wife genuinely wants to be with me.

Similarly, my wife and my girlfriend, Ashley, both know that they mean a great deal to me, because I choose to spend my time working for both of their happiness.

Now, I’ll throw in the usual disclaimer:  I reject notions that being polyamorous is intrinsically any better than being monogamous.  That seems to me, at base, to be a very ugly attitude.  I admit to having some questions, though, that I’m still working through.  While part of me says that of course there’s nothing wrong with someone choosing to consider monogamy to be a must in their relationships, …

Let me put it this way; a big part of my comfort with poly relationships is my conclusion that there’s no intrinsic reason that one’s partner having sex with someone else is any more immoral than one’s partner having a political discussion with someone else.  So, would I say that someone absolutely has a right to expect their partner to never discuss politics with someone else?  Yes, I’d say that people have that right.  Would I also say that, in all honestly, I find such a rule to be more than a little creepy and controlling?  Possibly indicative of deep insecurities, that almost certainly aren’t healthy and need to be dealt with?  Yup, I think I probably would say that about a person who insisted that their partner never talk about politics with anyone but them.

As I said, this is a complex issue, and definitely want to keep my own perspective and biases in check.  I’m totally still thinking this one through.  Thoughts?

Taking the day off.
A year ago today...
Sharing time: how are you celebrating the same-sex marriage ruling?
I got to watch the son of Fred Phelps officiate the wedding of two lesbians.
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.


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