I am polyamorous. That is, I can and do have multiple romantic and sexual relationships at a time. This isn't a theoretical thing but rather something I have been doing for some time and am just now being fully open about. Polyamory is not cheating; they are very different things. I am in a marriage that started out monogamous but now is not because we decided together that we would be happier this way. Gladly, we were right. Wendy is also polyamorous but she prefers much more privacy than I do. Things most people keep quiet I tend to shout from the rooftops. Negotiating these different desires for privacy has actually been the biggest issue we've had to deal with. As such, the details I will share about her are few though I will certainly discuss my own thoughts and feelings on the matter at great length.
Surely some readers will think that this is an obvious thing because I already write about polyamory and other non mainstream relationship styles more than chance would indicate. Others will no doubt be worried, shocked, or concerned and still more will shrug and not care very much. Most of what I am going to write today will be addressed towards those who are worried and the interesting stuff will come in the posts I write over the next few weeks and months. There are plenty of questions that get asked on a regular basis so I felt that I should write up a small FAQ to cover some of them.
Q: Is your marriage falling apart?
No. Really not. There are plenty of people out there who try to salvage a relationship that is ending by trying an open relationship and that usually fails but this is not what is going on. Polyamory has made my marriage stronger and been an incredible learning experience. There are plenty of successful, happy open relationships out there but few people are willing to talk about them because of the judgement they face for doing so.
Q: Aren't you going to find somebody new and sparkly and want to leave your spouse?
The opposite, really. It is easy when you can't get into the meat of a relationship to fantasize about how wonderful it would be. I have found that being involved with other people has led me to see that the world is full of wonderful people who I want to spent time with and I married the best of them. It is far easier to gain perspective on the challenges of a long term domestic partnership when you are reminded that everyone else has their own set of challenges.
Q: But isn't one partner enough for you?
Isn't one child enough for you? Isn't one friend enough for you? Isn't one pair of shoes good enough for you? This question is obviously absurd when asked in nearly any other context, and the same goes for this one. It isn't about enough, it is about people being different and providing different experiences. Just like I have some friends I roleplay with, some I drink with, and some I watch movies with I have different romantic partners because we do different things together and that is fun. The idea that one partner must be your all and everything is incredibly damaging regardless of how many partners you have.
Q: How does it work, anyway? Is it like on TV: Big Love or Polyamory: Married and Dating?
It isn't like TV. (Surprise!) It is like I have friends, and some of those friends I kiss, and some I fall in love with, and some I don't. How much I see them is based on our schedules, random events, and desire. I meet them through online dating, randomly at parties, or just having current friendships grow and change. Sometimes there is drama, but mostly not. The thing that would shock you most if you watched my life is just how normal it is once you accept the basic premise. They have to make TV poly dramas ridiculous to keep you interested, just like a soap opera.
Q: Why do you have to *tell* people, can't you keep it a secret?
I am not ashamed to love people or to seek pleasure. Keeping it a secret reinforces the idea that it is wrong and I refuse to support that. I will not hide it any more than I would expect you to hide the fact that you are married, or that you would expect me to hide that I am married. Unless you would be happy to tell everyone that your spouse is just your friend and never reveal your relationship to anyone then expecting me to do a similar thing is incredibly hypocritical.
Q: Does this mean you want to convert everybody to polyamory?
Hell no. I do want people to feel that they have a free choice in relationship style and won't be discriminated against or hated for it. I want them to understand those choices and make them in an informed way. What they choose for themselves is irrelevant to me as long as they make an informed choice that people accept. You can be single, a swinger, monogamous, monogamish, polyamorous, whatever you like, as long as you choose it and choose it freely.
Q: But what if people don't want to hear about your sex life?
While I could drive a ton of traffic to my blog by talking about who put what in who else's whatever I am not going to do that. No more than before, at any rate. However, if you don't mind people talking about having children, being in a relationship, or getting married then you obviously don't mind hearing about their sex lives. This is no different except that it is a sex life that is not the same as what you expected.
Q: What about diseases?
For starters, poly people take more precautions in terms of barriers, discussions, and testing than monogamous people do on average and as such have similar rates of STIs. In addition, phrasing a moral objection as a health concern is completely ridiculous. Unless you chastise people for going downhill skiing or driving to the cottage (both of which are drastically more dangerous than being poly) this objection is not a reasonable one.
Q: Don't you get jealous?
I totally got jealous in a serious way, once. Which was funny because I had absolutely no reason to do so, it was just me being insecure about nothing. Jealousy is a signal that you are irrationally controlling of your partners and do not trust them or a signal that you aren't getting something that you need. The first problem is you being a jerk and you need to stop. The second requires a discussion and working out how you can feel better and get your needs met. Neither has anything to do with relationship style. Monogamous relationships have plenty of jealousy, as we all know.
Q: Aren't rules a big problem?
Polyamory has a million forms. Some people go in for complex rulesets and I find those mind boggling. Honestly most of the time the poly people with byzantine rules for their relationships are new to poly and they rapidly relax into a more unstructured style. I have the same sort of rulesets for lovers that I do for friends - take care of domestic responsibilities first, have fun second. Whether the 'have fun' part is board games with my gaming buddies or a date is completely irrelevant.
Q: What if people won't accept you?
I want to be loved and appreciated for who I am. If people are only willing to love a guy who is kinda similar to me but not the same, what good does that do me? If people shun me because I want to have more love and joy in my life in a way that hurts nobody, then they can officially
Q: But isn't coming out like this scary?
Yeah, it is. Not so much for me, really. You can see my attitude above. However, I do worry that people will take this opportunity to try to hurt Wendy or Elli or try some manipulative bullshit to change my life into something they approve of. I hope they don't but I can't spend my life hiding from those who will not accept what I am. If nothing else I want to set the example for Elli of someone who will not be intimidated by fear of irrational disapproval.
Q: I am still freaking out, what do I do?
Keep calm and carry on.
Q: What do I do if I have more questions?
It depends what you need. I am always happy to answer questions, whether they be in the comments on my blog or at my email address (on the sidebar). No question will be turned away. If you want reassurance that my life is not going to blow up you can always message my brother - he knows the score. Here is a really good resource that talks all about a variety of poly topics if you want to do more reading.