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?

  • Heather

    Even though I agree that people have the right to by polyamorous, I would never be able to have that kind of lifestyle myself. The other side to that coin is: if your partner is wanting to sleep with other people and have other romantic relationships, then why even bother being in a relationship? To me it feels more like polyamory is just a step up from having lots of friends with benefits with one person just being your main f-buddy.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      Angel at #3 sums it up pretty well. It’s true, you can have a sexually open relationship, and that works well for some people. Polyamory is usually meant to be something a bit more, though.

      It’s simple, my wife and I are married (durr), live together, own a house together, want to spend our lives together, want to build a family together, and want to work on all our life goals together. That’s, um … not being fuck buddies. I would have thought that that’s obvious.

      • Heather

        I suppose that everyone is going to have different views on relationships that others may not understand. Just as you’re confused on why people would want to be with just one person because you’ve been attracted to multiple people, I’ve never understood the idea of having a relationship with multiple people because I’ve only been attracted to one person. I’ve only kissed and had sex with one person in my entire life and to me that just feels right because I’ve felt no need to do it with others.
        I wasn’t trying to imply that your marriage means nothing, though I’m now aware that I made it sound like that was my intent. I honestly just can’t wrap my head around the fact that two people can commit themselves to living their lives and having a family together while playing around on the side with others that they are also romantically attracted to.

        • dfl42

          Try this for an analogy: Two tennis players play doubles matches professionally, and as such practice together regularly, and intensely, for months and years in order to be able to compete. Is their training, partnership, regimen, etc, *really* affected in even the slightest degree if they each sometimes enjoy playing tennis with other people as well? Are their accomplishments any less special? Their teamwork damaged? Their interpersonal resonance impugned?

          I would argue no.

          Furthermore, I would think their tennis playing might actually be *better* than it would be if they didn’t play with other people as well. It’s a good way to learn things.

          • Heather

            Quite honestly, if I choose someone for the long run and they need to “practice” with other people to “improve,” then I probably would rather not be in a relationship at all. I’m not that desperate for a partner. If other people prefer that method to their relationships, then all power to them. Just not my style. Call me selfish, I guess, but if I choose to put all of my romantic commitment into one person, I would prefer that they return the favor. Whatever makes people happy is the way they should go as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others.

      • Heather

        I dislike not having edit options, so apologies for the second post.
        I also never said that fuck buddies can’t be committed. I’m actually in a friends with benefits relationship with the guy I mentioned. Would I prefer to be in a relationship where both sides are committed? Yes. Is that likely to happen soon? No. I’m resigned to it because I don’t have any interest in anyone else.

        • dfl42

          “Quite honestly, if I choose someone for the long run and they need to “practice” with other people to “improve,” then I probably would rather not be in a relationship at all.”

          I didn’t mean that they *needed* to practice with other people. Just that it isn’t necessarily a destructive thing to do, and that there can be upsides.

          “I’m not that desperate for a partner.”

          I’m not desperate either. Poly =/= desperate. If I were really desperate to find a partner, I’d be monogamous, simply by virtue of the fact that monogamous people are easier to find. Letting your partner have relationships with other people doesn’t make you desperate–it’s often a sign of self-confidence–you have to believe that you’re valuable and that your partners recognize that value to be comfortable with this sort of thing.

          “Call me selfish, I guess, but if I choose to put all of my romantic commitment into one person, I would prefer that they return the favor.”

          No one is saying that only one partner should be poly and the other should be monogamous. That WOULD be selfish.

          “Whatever makes people happy is the way they should go as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others.”

          Agreed.

  • http://www.pandagon.net Amanda Marcotte

    My boyfriend and I also have an agreement not to watch certain TV shows without each other, because watching them together is how we bond. That’s not weird, so monogamy isn’t either.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      Ah ha! That’s putting it in terms that I can relate to. I’d still call that weird, but it’s a weird that I can wrap my brain around.

  • Angel

    In answer to the previous poster, we choose to be in relationships for the same reason you choose to be in a relationship, you love the person. Or, at least, I hope you do. The difference is that we love more than one person or are open to the idea of loving more than one person. As a monogamous person, why have a relationship? Why not a fuck buddy? Are you not just basically a fuck buddy to your mate? Our feelings are equitable to your own in relationships, we just might have two or three. My boyfriend is married. He loves his wife and is committed to working at their relationship in the long term. He also loves me and is committed to working at OUR relationship in the long term. They both have another partner, but that doesn’t diminish how much they care for each other. They are not fuck buddies. Nor are they fuck buddies with their other partners. Not any more than you would be a fuck buddy with your long term monogamous partner if you have one. I guess what I am trying to say is that there being more than one partner doesn’t mean that it’s all about sex. This isn’t some giant threesome. Our relationships are not any less serious and based in love than that of a monogamous couple.

  • Angel

    Also, in response to Chris’s post, I have similar attitudes to polyamory. I don’t get off on my partner’s conquests or need a ton of details, but I do like to be informed. I like to know if he is dating someone and how serious it is because that does affect me and us. It’s a part of the honesty needed in polyamory. I want to know, but I don’t need tons of details. I’m kind of in the middle, too.

    I think one of the reasons polyamory makes sense to me is because it allots me and my partner(s) freedoms I appreciate. In the past, I was cheated on many times. My friends would often say that I was too trusting. It would hurt that my partners would lie to me, and it would hurt that they would be leaving me for another. I always felt most hurt by the fact that they had chosen another over me and less by the fact that they had been with another. Furthermore, I was always attracted to other people. Always. I have never been in a relationship with someone and been solely attracted to them. I never strayed and cheated solely because it is paramount in my ethical system to not hurt others. My partners’ feelings were the only thing that kept me out of the sack, many a time. The thing about polyamory is that my partner can explore without having to choose to leave me behind. In fact, I can be a part of it. I can be friends with his wife, can encourage his attractions and happiness. And I can explore without worrying about hurting him.

    I won’t pretend that it’s always easy. I won’t pretend that everyone is compatible with each other. Has there been misunderstandings? Yes. Have there been times that boundaries were crossed and people hurt? Yes. But have we always worked through any miscommunication or hurt? Yes. Polyamory takes a lot of reflection from everyone. It takes a lot of communication which people have to constantly strive to be better at. But it is so very much worth it, at least for me. If it weren’t for the concept of polyamory and the option for us to participate, I would have never met the man who is very much my life partner. I would have been existing on this earth without him, without his love and support, without the family I cherish, without my complement. I would be lost.

  • julian

    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!

    I know the feeling. Before my first deployment I tried explaining to my wife I would be comfortable with her exploring outside relationships and even going so far as to find physical intimacy with others while I was away.

    I thought I was being considerate to a woman who really does need lots of affection and has a voracious appetite for sex. (no really. I could definitely outlast her. By several weeks, if not months.)

    As it turns out I was ‘done with her,’ ‘desperate to find another woman,’ ‘trying to get out of our marriage’ and a lot of other things that left me with the distinct impression I had not only fucked up, I had fucked up to the point of no return. To say I was freaking out would not be an exaggeration.

    I’ve avoided the topic entirely since then.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      1. Aw, yeah, that sucks.

      2. I just found a more confident, self-aware woman who wanted what I was offering. Okay, yeah, they’re pretty rare. I got lucky, I know …

      • julian

        For the record I’m still happy with my marriage. I love my wife and wouldn’t trade her for anything. My suggestion to open up the relationship was more for her than because I was feeling unfulfilled emotionally or sexually or because I was developing feelings for someone else. Really I just want her to be happy even if it isn’t me doing the happy-making.

    • Dhorvath, OM

      Julian,
      My wife and I started dating in grade ten, stayed together easily through high school and selected different universities in relatively remote cities to attend for further education. I misread her level of comfort with the ideas at the time and suggested that we keep an open mind about other partners during our time apart. This did not go well. I know now that for her, this was the precisely wrong time to bring the idea up, not because she was categorically unreceptive to the idea, but because there was too much change at that juncture and she wanted stability in her personal relationships to back that up. A lot changed over the next four years and shortly after she graduated, (I may not have finished!) we found ourselves adding extra partners to our playtime comfortably, both when we were together and when we were apart.

      I am not saying that this indicates how things should play out for any given relationship and I don’t know if it would reflect the case for you and your partner, but I do think that conditions are a huge part of who people are and how they react to suggestions of change.

      In any event, I am glad it wasn’t so calamitous that you lost what has turned out to be a rewarding relationship, I think most people would prefer to have something similar even if their specifics differ.

  • Jay

    Monogamy is not creepy or controlling. Human psychology is kind of like a cake – once all the components have been baked in, it’s difficult to impossible to untangle it or morph it into a different kind of cake. So some people are wired for monogamy or they do have insecurity or they do get jealous for any number of explainable reasons that don’t have to be labeled unhealthy.

    I mean, monogamy can be executed in ways that are creepy or controlling, but I don’t think that’s an inherent feature.

    • dfl42

      “I mean, monogamy can be executed in ways that are creepy or controlling, but I don’t think that’s an inherent feature.”

      I agree. However, I do think that monogamy as a way of managing jealousy is inherently dangerous. Monogamy in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but monogamy as a way of dealing with insecurities by sweeping them under the rug is something I think is a bad way of doing relationships.

  • Sparrow

    No condemnation from me, but I see two problems with polyamory. (1)Sex can be anything from brutal to a profoundly intimate melding. I’ll take the latter or none at all. Polyamory reduces it to rutting, which I don’t need or want. (2) Been there, done that, it doesn’t work. People get hurt.

    • Angel

      I have to disagree on both of your premises because I, too, prefer profoundly intimate meldings and achieve that with my boyfriend. No rutting involved. And been there done that as far as monogamy goes…and I always got hurt way more with it, too. It’s for some, not for others, same with polyamory. But, to say that polyamory reduces sex to simple rutting and that a poly couple doesn’t experience a profound melding with their partner or partners is, I’m sorry, simply disingenuous.

    • julian

      Polyamory reduces it to rutting, which I don’t need or want.

      Have you read or listened to the accounts given here by poly couples? It seems (to this married, mostly vanilla guy) that they’re relationships aren’t ‘reduced to rutting.’ There is definitely a very strong emotional connection between them and their partners. Sex is still (often at least) an act of love and intimacy between people who care for each other.

      Been there, done that, it doesn’t work. People get hurt.

      People get hurt in any kind of relationship, sexual or otherwise. Feelings of betrayal, cheating, jealousy ect are all present in any kind of very intimate relationship. Should we forgo friendships because some friends talk about us behind our backs without our knowledge? Should we abandon monogamous relationships because the majority of them we have don’t end the way we want them to?

      I understand you are likely sharing your experience and your experience only but sounds like you’re extending it to everyone else’s and almost dictating why, despite how they feel and the reality of their connection, that their feelings and intimacy isn’t really there.

      • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

        1. You mix in a subjective, personal opinion (that you prefer an intimate sexual connection to something less personal) with a statement (that polyamory reduces sex to “rutting”). Your opinion is exactly that; irrelevant to the relationships that other people want to have. Your statement is just wrong. It’s both incredibly condescending to anyone who doesn’t have sex exactly the way you do (seriously, that “rutting” line could have been lifted right out of “natural law” anti-gay rhetoric) and it’s just flatly wrong, polyamory frequently involves partners that have more than just a sexual relationship.

        2. “Been there, done that, it doesn’t work. People get hurt.” This can be said just as accurately about monogamy as polyamory. My monogamous relationships have all happened to have failed. I’m not using that as an example of a “problem” with monogamy … that would be stupid.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      Oh, and incidentally, if you think that a “profoundly intimate melding” and “brutal rutting” are never contained in the same sex act … Well, if it works for you and all, but that sounds like a pretty dull sex life to a lot of people.

    • http://queerlady.livejournal.com VJ

      1. What about poly relationships that do not involve sex at all but are far beyond friendships? Do they reduce sex to “rutting” as well?

      2. They do, and can work. My date (for lack of a better term) and his girlfriend recently celebrated their six year anniversary. This year she is celebrating her five year wedding anniversary with her husband (and they’d been together for years before that). For people in their mid 20s to early 30s, that’s a long time to be together.

  • CC

    This is interesting stuff.

    After JT’s first post about polyamory, I discussed it with my husband. We both agreed that it seemed like too much work. Both of us hated dating. When we found each other and decided to spend our lives together we were very happy to stop looking. I guess we’re not cut out for polyamory.

    We do have friends who are(?) were(?) polyamorous though. In their case, the primary relationship broke apart because one of them got involved with someone who was not on board with him having another relationship. He decided to abandon the 7-year primary relationship to be with the second girlfriend. It was devastating for his partner. I was disappointed to see their relationship go the way of so many more conventional relationships.

    What I gathered from their experience is that, to avoid hurting people, you’ve got to be very clear about your expectations whenever you enter a relationship. And you’ve got to be just as (more?) committed to making your marriage work as monogamous couples are. In other words, you’re not going into polyamory simply because you don’t want to commit.

    It sounds like you’ve got it going on and the commitment you and your wife have to each other is what is going to make your lifestyle work.

    • Angel

      I’m very much in agreement with you. It can be very hard on all partners if someone enters the situation who does not have similar expectations or interests in that regard. But, you hit the nail on the head when you said that people who are poly are not in it because they don’t want to commit, as it takes a strong commitment. I cannot imagine how hard it is to look at two partners you love who want entirely contrasting things and figure out which course is best, but it’s something I’ve seen done and very much respect the people involved.
      The biggest concern and issue I’ve witnessed is when a person says or thinks they have compatible expectations and desires and then ends up not really being compatible. Like being okay with poly when they enter it and then deciding they are not. But, trying to change yourself for another’s sake hurts both, especially when you were being honest with what you wanted from the start. I would have to wonder if the newly monogamous person would be happy in that relationship in the long term if they had felt poly was for them before.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      Yup, you’re right, there are a few people who view open relationships like polyamorous relationships as a license to not commit. In my experience, those people get scared away and/or kicked out of the club pretty quick. Being poly requires greater relationship communication, if anything, so I find that people who try and coast by on manipulation get found out pretty quick.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Chris wrote:

    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…

    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?

    I have absolutely no problem with polyamory as long as everyone is being honest. It’s not something I participate in myself, but I really do understand why many people do and I applaud them for it. But I think you’re being disingenuous here, claiming that you don’t think polyamorous relationships are better than monogamous ones while simultaneously condescending to those who make a different choice than you by claiming that they’re just captive to their terrible insecurities. It’s the kind of condescension that I suspect you would react strongly against if aimed at you in the same context. If someone said, “I don’t think monogamous relationships are better than polyamorous ones, but I do think that those who engage in polyamory are terrified of commitment and that’s why they feel the need to sleep with other people,” I suspect you would feel that’s a really shitty thing to presume about you. And you’d be right. I think the much better attitude is simply to accept that there is a vast range of approaches to human relationships and sexuality. It has nothing to do with one being better than another, it only has to do with being honest and finding someone — or someones — whose approach is in synch with your own. You and your wife have done that, and I think that’s great. But there’s no need to condescend to those whose preferences don’t match up with yours.

    • Angel

      I agree that a person must find the lifestyle that works for them and that some are wired for one way, some another, some either. I don’t necessarily think Chris was intentionally being condescending, though.
      Some people are monogamous because of insecurity or not realizing there are other options. Some poly people cannot commit. There are people who glaringly reinforce negative stereotypes on both sides. I think Chris was perhaps discussing how he felt when he was monogamous. But, it probably should be noted that the vast majority of monogamous people do not choose it out of insecurity but because of it working for them as poly works for others.

      • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

        Angel, it’s probably not intentional, and not even conscious. We all have a difficult time seeing our own contradictions at times. As JT likes to say, I take Chris seriously enough to make a civil criticism. He’s clearly a very thoughtful person and I’ve really liked these posts on polyamory by JT, Chris and Christina. I would not dispute their preference for polyamory because it obviously works for them and that’s all that matters. I really do applaud the fact that they’ve found another person — people — who share their view and have a healthy, honest, open life built around those views. And I would certainly defend them, as I did below, against those who project their false assumptions on them because they make different choices. But the part I quoted really does feel condescending to me as someone who doesn’t practice polyamory. It feels like he is doing the very thing others often do to those who are polyamorous, dismissing someone else’s different choices as being the result of a character flaw. This is not to say that there aren’t people who are monogamous solely out of insecurity, just as there are undoubtedly people out there being polyamorous for unhealthy reasons. That clearly isn’t the case here and I think that’s great; I just think the same should be said for all choices of this kind.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Flimsyman

      Hm, I think I understand your criticism.

      “I do think that those who engage in polyamory are terrified of commitment”

      Interestingly enough, that’s a very common reaction to any discussion of polyamory, a reaction that we’ve seen already in this comment thread. And you know what? There are some people who consider polyamory because they don’t want to commit to one person for their whole life. Those people just aren’t nearly as common as monogamous people seem to think, is all.

      Another extremely common reaction, though?

      “I could never do that, I’m way too jealous.”

      “I’m not nearly secure enough in my relationship to even consider something like that.”

      “Aren’t you terrified that they’ll run away with someone else? That’s what I would worry about.”

      Etc., etc., etc. People tell me that they are too insecure for a poly relationship all the time.

      I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all monogamous people are monogamous due to insecurity, (and if that is the impression that I gave, I apologize) only that many are.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Let me also say that I disagree with those who say polyamory is always a bad idea and hurts people. If a couple is polyamorous because one of them wants it to be and the other one goes along with it to avoid losing them, it’s going to be a disaster. If they don’t both share this preference, one of them is absolutely going to get hurt. But that clearly isn’t the case with this couple or with many others. When both partners are being honest and want the same thing, and can be genuinely happy that their partners are getting what they want and need from others, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It can work out just fine. Human sexuality is very complex and far more diverse than most would acknowledge. We just have a tendency to think that whatever we prefer or desire should be what everyone prefers or desires. But that just isn’t true.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/ Greta Christina

    No condemnation from me, but I see two problems with polyamory. (1)Sex can be anything from brutal to a profoundly intimate melding. I’ll take the latter or none at all. Polyamory reduces it to rutting, which I don’t need or want. (2) Been there, done that, it doesn’t work. People get hurt.

    Sparrow @ #7: I don’t even know where to begin with the incorrect assumptions you’re making.

    1: You start by saying sex can be “anything from brutal to a profoundly intimate melding” — implying there’s a continuum. You then say “Polyamory reduces it to rutting” — implying that it’s an either/or, black and white distinction. It’s not. It is a continuum. “Continuum” is actually a gross oversimplification. Sex can be profoundly intimate melding; a close connection between people who deeply care about each other; a friendly good time shared by people who like each other; a mutually beneficial exchange of pleasure by people who get along reasonably well; etc. If you only want the profoundly intimate melding kind, that’s fine — but don’t treat people who also like other kinds as if they’re settling for “rutting.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with rutting…)

    2: How, exactly, does polyamory reduce sex to rutting? Are you reading the things polyamorous and non-monogamous people say about their relationships? For many of them, it *is* a profoundly intimate melding, with all their partners, or with more than one of them. Some people only want that profoundly intimate melding with one person — but some are capable of having it with more than one. And many who don’t do that still have strong feelings of affection and connection with the people they have sex with.

    Your claim that polyamory = rutting flies directly in the face of the actual facts in front of you. You’re assuming the very thing that you’re trying to prove — and to do so, you’re ignoring evidence. If you identify as a skeptic, you’re not doing a very good job of it here.

    3: “It didn’t work for me” and “I got hurt” does not automatically translate to “It doesn’t work for anybody” and “People get hurt.” Again — are you reading what people in poly relationships say about their experiences? For some, it works really well, and adds great joy and little pain. For others, it causes some pain, but less pain and more joy than monogamy would. And yes, sometimes polyamory doesn’t work and hurts people. Sometimes monogamy doesn’t work and hurts people, too. Does that mean the arrangement is automatically a doomed failure?

    Oh, and one more thing: You began your diatribe with “No condemnation from me.” But when you say that polyamory inherently hurts people and reduces sex to rutting? That’s condemnation. The fact that you began your diatribe with “No condemnation from me” doesn’t change that.

  • DaveQ

    No, you’re not the only one. But at least I had the advantage that my GF introduced me to poly, so she doesn’t expect me to be possessive either.

    While I’m happy when she has a good time and like to hear about things that make her happy, I’m not aroused by voyeurism. But I’m not living in denial, either.

    It came up in conversation once that one of her other boyfriends is blessed with the ability to orgasm multiple times without the usual refractory period, which turns her on a lot.

    I’ll never be able to do that, but she still loves me, has shown it over the many years we’ve been together, and continues to show it.

    As far as I’ve been bale to see, jealousy is just a socially acceptable way to express insecurity. “I’m afraid that if you try the competition, you’ll figure out how bad I am.”

    Well fuck that. If I’m suffering for want of anything in our relationship, I’ll figure out what it is and ask for that. Too many people want more of a particular type of affection, but can’t seem to ask for it, and instead get resentful about any type of affection being directed anywhere else. This isn’t romantic, it’s dysfunctional.

    That’s how I’ve explained it to other people I’ve met: don’t try to balance everything equally. I love different people precisely because they are different, and that means that their wants are different. Give each person more of what they want most, and everyone gets to feel like they have more than their fair share.

    I don’t think polyamory is morally superior, but I do think being less controlling and possessive is morally superior.

    “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were” (Author unclear, commonly but unreliably attributed to Richard Bach)

  • Mark

    So, it seems the only difference between this and the Mormon belief in polygamy is commitment.

    • Angel

      I feel as though you may not have read the repeated instances where we discuss commitment in this comment section and in Chris’s post or as if you may be throwing the Mormon faith in as a sort of fire stoker.
      Polygamy is simply being married to more than one person, at its core. A polyamorous person may or may not support the idea of polygamy, but the idea of multiple loves is present in polygamy and polyamory.
      However, the fundamentalist Mormon idea of polygamy is different than polyamory in many ways with the most important being the presence of misogyny and inequality in one and not the other. Men may have many wives. Women may have one husband whom they must share. They are also not given a choice, and they are told it is G-d’s will.
      In polyamory, everyone is given a choice, everyone is given the freedom to have more than one partner, should they choose, and no one is being told it’s G-d’s will.

  • DaveQ

    Mark: You might have noticed that Mormon practice is strictly polygyny, with a heavy dose of patriarchy, while the example before us shows a woman with a husband (who she is remaining faithful to, according to *their* promises) choosing a boyfriend.

    And that boyfriend is not being pressured into it by political power; it’s a meeting of equals.

    And he gets to meet her existing family before deciding to marry and move in with them

    And it’s not necessary for entry into heaven, or anything else.

    The egalitarianism makes a huge difference.

  • phoenix_860

    First I want to say thank you to JT, Chris and Christina for these posts about polyamory. It is something my boyfriend and I have discussed, and are open to, but we just haven’t had the opportunity.

    Here’s the thing. I’m bisexual, but I’ve never had a long-term girlfriend (mostly because back in the day I was super religious, and the only way for me to justify sex with girls in my head was to convince myself that we were “just friends”) I am interested in pursuing a relationship with a girl, but I love my boyfriend, and don’t want to lose him. He has told me that if he is included in the relationship then he would be happy with it. In other words: we would be his girlfriends; he would be my boyfriend and she my girlfriend; and he would be her boyfriend and I would be her girlfriend. As long as everybody is honest and equal in the relationship, we would be happy. Does this arrangement make sense?

    If anyone has had experience with this and can offer advice, it would be much appreciated.

    • Toasted Rye

      What you are reffering to in the poly community is called a unicorn. Otherwise known as the hot bi babe willing to be in a triad with an established couple. They are so named as they are though not to really exist but in the fantisies of those wishing to explore poly. The thing is that they do exist. Just rare and to go out looking for one is like is snipe hunt. You probably wont find one. Unicorns typically fall randomly into a couples lap. You find that all of you happen to get along long before romance is an aspect of the relationship but it seems like a natural progression. Or you have your secondary and years down the road she finally feels romantic feelings for your primary. However you do have resources in your hunt for a unicorn. I recommend visiting polyamory.com forum and doing a tag search on unicorns. If none of the threads help start a new one with your specific question. They are some helpful people there.

      • phoenix_860

        Thanks Toasted Rye. That seems to be the problem we are experiencing, but we will keep searching.

    • embertine

      Phoenix, as a unicorn (not necessarily hot, sadly!) looking for a poly couple, I’m interested to hear your side of things because I don’t know how to look for a relationship. I would be more interested in being the secondary rather than having a truly three-way relationship. I’ve never done poly before but am pretty sure I don’t want to be in a monogamous situation. I will also look at the link to see if I can find anyone! Good luck with your search.

  • http://www.sinned34.com sinned34

    Stirring another man’s porridge? No thanks. If that thought doesn’t bother you, however, have at it. I’m happy in my boring monogamous relationship, and as far as she informs me, my wife is also satisfied.

    • julian

      Stirring another man’s porridge? No thanks.

      You know, I don’t exactly think sloppy seconds is a requirement for people involved in polyamorous relationships. But, then again, maybe I’m just not exactly that caught up on them.

    • http://Www.ziztur.com Ziztur

      Hmm… What would be the opposite equivalent to “stirring a man’s porridge”?

      Using the same knife for both the peanut butter and the jelly?

      • Dhorvath, OM

        Curse you, I am now going to giggle the next time I make a PB&J.

    • Dhorvath, OM

      Stirring another man’s porridge?

      I find the ownership tied up in this statement pretty harsh and based on pronouns pretty patriarchal too. I don’t do anything intimate with another man’s things, but I do share time with women who have other men in their lives.

      • http://www.ziztur.com ziztur

        Thanks Dhorvath. You said exactly what I wanted to say about this porridge business.

      • http://www.sinned34.com sinned34

        Sorry, I didn’t mean for my comment to look like a drive-by trolling, but I’ve been too busy to come back and reply.

        You know, I don’t exactly think sloppy seconds is a requirement for people involved in polyamorous relationships.

        You’re probably right, but the idea of being in there within a relatively short period after another guy is kind of squicky to me. That said, I couldn’t really care who’s doing what sexually with other people, so long as it’s consensual and I don’t have to hear details. I just really wanted to make that comment because my British friend said it a while ago and I thought it was amusing. Maybe his funny accent helped, because reading my comment afterwards I see how it could be taken as insulting instead of humorous.

        Hmm… What would be the opposite equivalent to “stirring a man’s porridge”? Using the same knife for both the peanut butter and the jelly?

        See, now that was funny.

        I find the ownership tied up in this statement pretty harsh and based on pronouns pretty patriarchal too.

        Well, you’re reading something into it that isn’t there. At least, not on purpose. I’ve worked hard to break the patriarchial manner in which I used to treat women, and, although I still have work to do, I hope you believe me when I say there was no misogyny meant in that comment. It was supposed to be a colorful metaphor for saying “the idea of having sex with a woman shortly after she has had intercourse with another man is not appealing to me.”

        Thankfully, I don’t make the rules for how other people express their sexuality, and I’m pleased to say that nobody can dictate how I express mine.

        Whatever your preference, have fun out there.

  • http://podcats.in Alastair McGowan-Douglas

    I always turned to bisexuality whenever I was having trouble explaining the concept of polyamory to people who had never even considered non-monogamy before. When you consider that a monogamous relationship necessarily requires the bisexual person to essentially truncate half of their personality for the benefit of their relationship with the other person, it becomes a little clearer that a certain amount of unfairness creeps in. People can concede that if someone is bisexual then that person would still be bisexual despite an arbitrary strong connection with another person that they discovered along the way. Hence people may concede that sexual freedom in this situation would be passable; the partner can keep their bisexuality but be “exclusive” on the side they’ve already attached to.

    It is not a big step from allowing this sexual freedom to allowing general sexual freedom; and it is not a big step from sexual freedom to romantic freedom. The big step is taking all three steps at once; people can’t really do that.

    • Vicki

      Does that really get the idea across to people, or does it just leave them thinking that bisexuals aren’t capable of monogamy? (I’ve discussed this with a monogamous bi friend of mine: she doesn’t mind that some of us are poly, but she wishes that people didn’t assume she was lying or deluded when she explains that she’s monogamous.)

      • Dhorvath, OM

        Thanks for that, it was bothering me but I couldn’t quite piece it all out.

        Many monogamous people end up wanting some things sexually that they don’t get out of their relationship. And I would wager that most of them would say that is small potatoes compared to all the other things they do get out of their relationships. Using something that seems like a simple binary attraction mode to explain that is attractively simple, but it does so at the cost of an association that bisexuals often encounter which is unfair.

        For myself, the set of those I would want to play with is always going to exceed the set of those who I can explore with. Yet, I would never characterize my relationships now as truncating a substantial fraction of my personality, let alone my sexuality.

    • Dhorvath, OM

      Alastair,

      When you consider that a monogamous relationship necessarily requires the bisexual person to essentially truncate half of their personality for the benefit of their relationship with the other person

      Would you consider that it is sexuality not personality and that it is not half for the vast majority of people? Say instead: “A monogamous relationship often requires a person to truncate the parts of their sexuality that are not reflected in their partner.” A monogamous bisexual is still very likely to have things that they would explore sexually but that their current partner can’t or won’t satisfy as one gender, let alone the things they can’t manage to explore due to not being with the other.

  • Celeste

    I’m sad that I didn’t see this post earlier, but I want to give my and my husband’s reasons for choosing monogamy. Please understand that I fully support polyamory for people that find it is right for them and I greatly love my polyamorous friends that have found happiness in multiple relationships.

    In both of our previous marriages, my husband and I did try non-monogamous relationships. Mine was, for a short time, simply an open-marriage where sex with others was allowed as long as there were no emotional relationships going on. My current husband tried poly-amory with his wife. Both of us ended up getting very badly hurt by these experiences.

    In my marriage, my husband started hiding things from me. Instead of having an open relationship, he had begun cheating on me by hiding what he was doing, lying to me about who he was with, and going so far as to tell other women that he wasn’t married.

    When my current husband and his ex-wife tried poly-amory, she ended up emotionally abandoning him for another man.

    We were both devastated by how and why our marriages ended, and because of this, the thought of polyamory, or even just multiple sexual partners, has become a turn-off for both of us. It’s not just the thought of him being with another woman; I can’t stand the thought of being with another man.

    The type of relationship people choose for themselves is always going to be a deeply personal choice, and my experience is just one of many possible experiences. My reasons are not ones I would ever push on to another person. I was just lucky to find a partner in life that feels the same way I do, and we make each other extremely happy.


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