Tuesday conversation…on Wednesday.

So I forgot to do the Tuesday conversation yesterday.  Sue me, it was a hyperbusy day for me.  So today we’re going to talk about polyamory!

Are you poly?  Were you always that way or did you change?  If you’re not poly, have you ever wanted to be?

Have you become poly in the middle of a relationship?  How did it go?

If you are poly, what are the perks?  What are the cons?

If you want to know about my first foray into polyamory, click here:)

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.

  • Mandagator

    I’ve been in a wonderful relationship for 2 years. My partner wanted to go Poly, and after a while and several long discussions I agreed. At the moment it’s tough for me because he’s found his first play partner, and my emotions aren’t matching with my logical decision to have this as a part of our relationship. It’s been hard, but we’re working on ways to help me be more comfortable with the idea.

    Has anyone else experienced trouble accepting Poly when you first started? What did you do to make yourself or your partner more comfortable with the idea?

  • sillybit

    my husband and i have been together for something like 13-14 years; since high school, and we were each other’s firsts. we made an agreement early on that nothing was off the table; meaning that we would always be open to talking about anything and trying new things. we made this agreement because we both understand that getting together and getting married so young could mean missing out on things that we might have tried had we been single during our formative adult years.

    when i discovered poly as a thing that existed, i became really fascinated by it, and my husband and i opened up our relationship, in theory, anyway. in practice, he’s not interested in being intimate with anyone else, and we are both such homebodies that for the most part we remain monogamous. we’ve been involved with kink groups where i would play with other people, and i have issues sometimes feeling guilty or overly cautious of his feelings, even when he says explicitly he doesn’t have an issue.

    my husband i think is monogamous by nature, or rather, really, he considers sex and physical intimacy and the vulnerability that goes along with it to be something he does not share with anyone but me. but he really doesn’t want to be emotionally intimate with almost anyone else either; he’s just a very private and reserved person.

    i’m more naturally slutty, in the positive sense of that word. i’m much more open to sharing myself, emotionally and physically, with a wider variety of people that i’m close to in varying ways. but i like staying at home and i’m not socially active, so that limits my chances for engaging in other sexual relationships. and honestly, i don’t have that high of a libido to begin with, so it’s not something i’m highly motivated to go looking for.

    so in conclusion, poly in theory, monogamish in practice. this whole comment is probably mostly useless to the conversation but i shall post it anyway.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I actually loved your comment, particularly the part about guilt. That has been my biggest struggle in polyamory.

      It makes me wonder how much this guilt is the product of our partners and how much is the product of society, which was formed by more prudish generations before, telling us that guilt is the proper response.

      • sillybit

        I think in my case, the guilt is partially because my husband and I haven’t always had the greatest sex life in our own relationship, particularly when it comes to kink, so there’s a bit of worry on my part that he will feel inadequate, like he can’t meet my needs, so that’s a factor. I also know, intellectually at least, that it’s perfectly healthy to not have all your needs met by your partner (and in fact it’s probably unhealthy to try to have them all met by one partner), but we’ve been together a long time and we’re very “joined at the hip” in a lot of ways, and it’s kinda hard sometimes to break out of that.

        Also, as Heather mentions below, I have a little bit of an issue with getting a “crush” on a person, and somewhat neglecting my husband in favor of the new crush. This isn’t a huge issue, because he’s really tolerant of my crushes, and he knows that’s just my personality, and he’s pretty comfortable telling me when I’m becoming obnoxious (either ignoring him or talking incessantly about the crush), but also because I don’t go out and meet people enough to have tons of crushes all the time…well, crushes on real people. I have *tons* of crushes on fictional characters and also on ideas (although I call those “bees in my bonnet” rather than crushes).

    • Amyc

      My boyfriend and I are pretty much in that same situation. Only, I’m not interested in dating other men, so really the agreement is that I can date other women and so can he.

      • Aegis

        My girlfriend and I have the same thing going on; in her own words, though, she “likes boobs too much” to look for a second male partner. I’m in a second relationship, and she has no poly tendencies of her own but doesn’t have a problem with me being in two relationships given that I love them both.

  • invivoMark

    I’ve been single long enough that asking me whether I’d be comfortable with a poly relationship would be akin to offering a man crawling for days across the Sahara a canteen of water and asking him if it’s okay if someone else drinks out of the same bottle.

    • Amyc

      Actually, I would think it would be like offering a man crawling for days across the Sahara a canteen of water, and then telling him, hey there are more canteens over there and it’s ok if you drink from those also.

      Upon further reflection, this whole metaphor makes me uneasy. It feels like one of those “object lessons” done in abstinence only class: ok kids, here’s your water, now take a drink, now pass the water to the next person. Drink out of the glass that’s in front of you now. You don’t want to? You say that’s gross and unhealthy? Well that’s exactly like promiscuous sex.

      Not to say that’s what you’re implying, it’s just what jumped to my mind after I read it.

      • invivoMark

        Ha, that is totally not what I meant to imply! I think your version shows the reciprocity implicit in polyamory, although as a man crawling across the Sahara for several years, I’d be rather surprised to happen upon more than one canteen of water.

        I think the point of my analogy (if there was one) is how bizarrely foreign and irrelevant this topic seems to me. If I was standing in the bottled water aisle in a grocery store, I might be a bit more picky about the etiquette of sharing (or I might not). But as a guy in a desert, this question is something of an enigma.

  • Heather

    I’m very much monogamous, though my partner has a more poly leaning. It’s really hard dealing with jealousy since I’ve noticed that interest in other women generally equates to leaving me in the dust until the new infatuation dies down. I don’t think my want of monogamy is a societal thing, simply because I have rarely ever been attracted to more than one guy at a time (I don’t count infatuations with fictional characters since it’s obvious nothing can happen there). I suppose I feel that if I’m completely committed to someone, I prefer if they return the commitment.
    I guess in a roundabout way I’ve answered your question of “if you aren’t poly, have you considered it?”

    • Baal

      “equates to leaving me in the dust until the new infatuation dies down”
      The topic of poly has recently come up with me and my wife. She’s suggested I might be happier if I had another person to have sex / a relationship with. I’m not slowing down with getting older but she is. Regardless, if (when) I do, I’m going to be really careful about the ‘new infatuation’ problem. It seems really unfair to the mono(ish) partner.

  • http://csdphumor.com Steven Olsen

    I was for about three years. I am not now, but the relationship skills I learned in that time were crucial to making my current nonpoly marriage work.

  • Alexander Cherry

    I consider myself poly, though I can be mono (it’s like a bisexual can date one person rather than multiple people).

    I honestly believe I’ve “always” been poly. I have a distinct memory of history class when I was a kid, when we learned that people in ancient times had multiple wives. Everyone else in the class was suitably aghast, while I asked the question, “What’s the big deal?” I was maybe nine at that point.

    Because I’m broken socially, I rarely have multiple people interested in me at the same time (or if that happens, I’m unaware of it, and am therefore not in any position to take advantage of it). But I’ve been in poly relationships, at least insofar as my partners have had other partners. I was okay with this. However, these partners had very strong negative reactions to any idea of MY having other partners, so I’ve yet to experience the complication of having multiple partners myself.

    I’m convinced what we call ‘poly’ is really a combination of two different phenomena:

    (1) A willingness to be shared
    (2) A willingness to share one’s partner.

    I’ve certainly experienced (2) with people who have (1) but are NOT (2) at all…
    I wonder, currently, if I’m simply (2) and not (1), as I’ve never experienced (1) at all.

    But I digress.

  • tehlise

    I’m a Poly.
    My primary and I decided it might be for us after reading “Opening Up” and meeting some awesome polyamorus people last year :-).
    Neither of us are very jealous people but we’ve agreed to return to monogamy if things don’t work out.
    My primary, Juby and I have found it has really forced us to open up and be totally honest worth one another.
    We set rules and boundaries to work with, though on more than one occasion we’ve re-evaluated and changed them.
    My “other boyfriend”/secondary lives almost 5 hours away, which sometimes makes things interesting.
    So far, things seem to be going..pretty great.
    I’ve honestly never felt more secure in a relationship as I have in this one and I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone might have about it.

    • http://jubydoo.wordpress.com/ Juby!

      Not to say that there haven’t been difficulties. Jealousy has reared its ugly head once or twice, and our families haven’t been exactly thrilled with our decision. But as Ellise said, we have sat down and had many hours of discussions about this and are okay with closing the relationship again if that’s what we need. Most important is our first rule, the one we agreed on long ago and the one that will always form the bedrock of our relationship: all rules are bilateral. There are no rules that apply only to the one or the other. If I want to be able to do something, I have to be willing to let her do the same. I think as long as we honor that rule, everything else will fall into place.

      • http://www.ziztur.com Christopher Stephens

        Nailed it! That was always my first rule in relationships in general, and any sexual issue in particular; I wouldn’t even consider whether I’d like something in the first place, like having multiple partners, unless I was absolutely okay with my partner having the same.

  • Jessica

    Been with my boyfriend a little over 4 years. About 7 months ago we decided to try non-monogamy, and it’s certainly been an adventure. I have a steady, but not super serious, secondary partner I see about once every two weeks, while my boyfriend has yet to find an outside partner.
    That’s currently our biggest struggle- he gets jealous of my outside dates and I think it mostly boils down to frustration that he can’t find other willing partners. In our part of the country, it seems most women just aren’t interested in dating (our even just fooling around with) man who is already dating someone else.

    That has been a big surprise for me- considering how often people are willing to cheat in relationships, it’s amazing how honest non-monogamy is so shocking to some.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

    Just a quick thanks to everybody. It’s very interesting reading all your stories and seeing the different ways people have approached poly.

  • Randomfactor

    Not poly, I’m serially monogamous and have always been faithful to the current one even if married to someone else. Always thought I could be poly, but having enough trouble finding one at a time.

  • http://www.atlantapolyamory.org/ Jeremy

    I’ve been identifying as poly for almost 5 years now, and been in the same triad for almost 4 years of it. We live together, share finances, child-care duties, chores…the works. We have a broader skill set in the house to the point we very rarely have to pay anyone from the outside to do any kind of work.

    It’s hard at this point for me to say any downsides to it because I don’t personally see or experience them anymore, though it is the case when first opening up that you will struggle with feelings of jealousy and doubt, but those can be dealt with as long as poly is something you are cut out for.

    I’m an organizer and community leader in the poly community in Atlanta. We have a large meetup, a non-profit (linked in my name), and an annual regional educational conference. We have access to lots of people, information, and resources so if anyone has any questions or need any deeper help or resources, look us up. We exist solely to serve the needs poly community.

    • Amyc

      That’s cool. My boyfriend and I are kind of poly. I’m bisexual so we decided to open the relationship up to other women. The boy isn’t really interested in dating other people though, so it’s really just me. He said if we ever found a woman who was interested in both of us though, that he would like a triad.

  • http://www.extraordinaryinsignificance.com Dave Churvis

    I’m poly. My partner and I started off closed; a few years into our relationship, we started having threesomes and quickly it turned into a fully open relationship. We dealt with some minor jealousy issues at first, but we communicate with one another constantly and everything has worked out well.

    For the past few months, I’ve been dating a second guy. It’s gotten pretty serious, and luckily he gets along with my primary partner very well. The three of us spend a lot of time together, and so far nobody has felt jealous or left out or anything. Polyamory, and more specifically the honesty about our desires that it fosters, has made our relationship(s) much stronger.

  • Anon

    This is a very apt time for this topic because my girlfriend just said yesterday that she wants our relation to be poly because of her nature. I’m way more mono by nature and prone to severe bouts of unconfidence (if that’s even a word). I love her very much, want her to be happy, and don’t want to lose her, but I don’t know how well I’ll be able to handle her being with someone. I feel like I’m in a lose-lose situation. I’m going to give my blessing and deal with it the best I can. We’ll see what happens. Any advice is helpful.

    • http://mid-west-atheist.blogspot.com/ Volizden

      the only thing I can say about the jealousy is you have to face it. I experienced it ONCE in high school I absolutely HATED how it made me feel and just basically said never again, Since then I adopted a point of view that we are together or we aren’t when I talked to my poly partners I made sure NOT to hide any feelings I had, if I did not like the partner she chose we talked about it and generally it would lead to her breaking off with the secondary. But only if your reasons for dislike are valid, DON’T make up reasons but cause of fear.

      Remember jealousy is based in fear, try to face that fear and talk to your partner. If it is going to work only talking about it will ensure it.

    • http://polyskeptic.com Wes


      A lot of people in your position provisionally agree to try opening up, and try to make certain rules and agreements with their partner in order to increase their comfort level with the whole thing. I’m in favor of rules in a situation like yours, as a temporary stopgap. Rules can be dangerous, but they’re far less dangerous if they are viewed as a temporary measure to allow someone to adjust. Franklin Veaux talks about it here.

      On jealousy, my advice is to NOT hide it. If the jealousy exists, it exists, and denying it won’t help. Just be smart and considerate about when and where you express it, and make sure your partner understands that when you express your jealousy, you’re not asking her to do anything other than listen and understand. Talk through it often.

    • http://www.ziztur.com Christopher Stephens

      I think I understand exactly how you feel. Not necessarily jealousy, per se, … it’s a worry that your partner will decide to be with other people instead of you, right? I definitely second the suggestion to, when appropriate and necessary, tell your partner when you’re feeling that way. My poly relationship with my wife got much better when I was more open about when I felt this way (always a good rule in any relationship, really).

      There were two main realizations that helped me get over that worry. One selfless, and one selfish.

      The first was consideration for my partner’s happiness. IF she does want to be with other people instead of me (as opposed to being with other people in addition to me), and IF I can get her to shut down her feelings for other people, I might be able to get her to stay with me for a little while longer, but that wouldn’t be fair to either of us. If I truly prioritize her happiness over mine, then I have to come to terms with the fact that she might seek happiness with other people.

      The second thing I realized is that you’re never more secure in a relationship than when your partner wants to have romantic and sexual relationships with other people … and that it’s vitally important to them to maintain their relationship with you, too! If she wanted to be with other people INSTEAD of you, she would want to end the relationship, not open it to other partners. I’ve only ever known people to put that effort into a poly relationship when their primary relationship was still very important to them.

  • http://mid-west-atheist.blogspot.com/ Volizden

    I grew up in a poly household, I am Poly but my partner is not and Absolutely will not budge, when we have talked about it in the past it has generally led to her feeling seriously insecure, so I have adapted to suppressing my poly nature. It really sucks sometimes because I am caging part of myself, and I am still trying to deal with that. But at the same time I love my partner very much and am willing to do it for her. Overall we have a great relationship.

    In the past I hadn’t experienced any guilt but again I was raise within a poly household. So I have no ill or mixed feeling about it. I also had not experienced jealousy personally when I was in poly-relationships.

  • http://polyskeptic.com Wes

    I became poly in the middle of a relationship! We’d been together for five years at the time. We’d been having a lot of discussions about jealousy in a non-sexual context at the same time we were listening to Dan Savage talk about how monogamy isn’t for everyone, so we decided to give it a try. Before then, we’d been strictly monogamous, and had never really considered anything else.

    The main perks, to me, are (1) that it really improved my relationship with my wife, and (2) that it’s allowed me to form a lot of connections with people that I otherwise would not have made. I’m currently living in a house with my wife, my girlfriend, my wife’s boyfriend, and his wife. Every day is a party!

    Case in point: I started writing this comment hours ago, but took a break because I had a date come over. She’s an amazing woman, and someone who I’m really happy to have in my life, and I never would have met her if not for polyamory. We also only see each other about once a month (if that). It’s a type of relationship that we wouldn’t be able to have if we didn’t both have other people in our lives who meet most of our needs.

    The downsides are mostly related to the difficulty of transitioning from mono to poly. There was a lot of jealousy involved, a lot (A LOT) of discussions, a few miscommunications, and more than one dating disaster. Dating, in general, is tough, and it’s always kind of emotionally shredding to put yourself out there. One of the comforting things about monogamy is the relief of not having to play the dating game anymore. I know several couples who are open in theory, but choose not to date for that reason. Almost every poly person I know (myself and my partners included) gets burnt out at some point and takes a break from dating.

    Once we got through the transition, I found that while poly didn’t really create many new problems, it forced us to confront the problems that were already there in our relationship. All of our communications issues, insecurities, and hidden thoughts were laid out on the table and needed to be dealt with. I’m very thankful that our relationship survived it, and for the past few years our relationship has been stronger than ever.

  • http://polyskeptic.com shaun

    I first discovered polyamory when I was around 21. I was not seriously poly until I approached 30. I can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to be anything but polyamorous. I know why many people choose to be monogamous, but that is different from what they really want. You know, conflicting desires, fears, and logistics.

    You see, for me polyamory is more about not artificially limiting ourselves, whether due to social pressures, inseecurities, fears, etc than anything else. Polyamory is simply not making the decision to be exclusive with one other person. And I think there are rarely reasons to declare such exclusivity that don’t boil down to insecurity and fear. I think polyamory is more authentic, more honest and in line with our actual desires, and can still lead to two people being happy with just one-another (in the circumstance that neither person actually wants to be with more than their partner).

    Because is we didn’t actually want anyone else, rules against doing so would be unnecessary. The fact that we make those rules reveals the truth that we are capable of, and actually do, love and lust for more people. There’s nary a good reason to deny all of those desires for the sake of a mythological ideal of exclusivity being more special.

  • Azkyroth

    I find the idea really appealing but I don’t know whether or how well it would work for me in practice. I’m also chronically single anyway, so it’s kind of a moot point. x.x

  • Sarah

    When I tried to talk to my husband about seeing other people, he asked me if I needed therapy :( I mean, I DID need therapy, just not for that kind of thing.

  • hyrax

    I’m pretty sure that I’m more naturally a polyamorous person. In my teens and early twenties, I cheated a few times in relationships, and afterward I always felt horrible because I didn’t feel horrible, if that makes sense– to me there just didn’t seem to be any conflict between having a partner I loved, and hooking up with someone else when that partner wasn’t around. I’ve never had the opportunity to be in a truly poly relationship, though I’m fairly certain I’m capable of it. In my mid-twenties, I was in an open long-distance relationship, but that was more a situation of “When we’re together, we’re together”– when we were apart, we were free to see other people, but when we were in the same place at the same time we were functionally mono.

    Now, in my late 20s, I’m more comfortable with my sexuality than ever. I no longer feel guilty about experiencing attractions outside my committed relationship, and I’ve made the choice to be mono because my current partner isn’t capable of polyamory (at this point, at least.) I’d be happy to open the relationship up, but since he’s not ok with it, I’m also happy to be monogamous.

    I relate this because I don’t see many stories from people who are themselves naturally inclined to poly relationships but choose to stay in a mono one for the sake of their partner.