Poly Week Extended

Status

I began this blog unsure about whether or not a week was enough time to adequately cover certain topics.  Last week our focus was on domestic violence and at the end of the week I was hesitant about moving on.  This week I’m certain that I’m not ready.  I still haven’t gotten around to the politics of poly, resources for those involved in the lifestyle, and a lot of other specifics.  So … POLY WEEK HAS BEEN EXTENDED!

This Poly Thing (An Interview)

Standard

Sorry this is late everyone, but better late than never right? I was very fortunate to connect with Jasmine Peterson, who has been very open about her journey to polyamory.  Here’s the interview.

ME: I read your article and it’s great! I felt the same way 🙂  You didn’t mention your family/friends and I know you said that you hadn’t gotten around to really having the poly conversation with them.  I was wondering if that’s still the case.  I’ve been lucky to find a poly community here in Chicago so I have friends who are poly or at least poly friendly, lol.  But they are all new additions to my life.  Everyone who knew me before has trouble accepting that I’m poly.  So, I was wondering how long time friends/family have reacted to you. 

JASMINE: I have since divulged to my family and friends that I am polyamorous. I actually told my closest friends as I was making the discovery about myself. I have wonderful friends, and they’ve been incredibly supportive and positive. It wasn’t much of a shock to them, as they’ve sort of seen this inclination in me for years. Telling my family was a different story, however. My father doesn’t understand it; he thinks it was a situational thing and was only because my ex and I were pretty incompatible. He thinks polyamory to be immoral or wrong (‘disgusting’ is a word he’s tossed around), and doesn’t at all understand why I would identify thus, or how someone could want to carry on multiple relationships. He’s got some pretty antiquated ideas about love, relationships, and marriage. But, in spite of that, he accepts that this is just who I am. I’m not sure how that would work in the future were I ever to have multiple partners, though. I can’t really imagine bringing more than one partner home to meet my father. I’m sure that’d be an uncomfortable situation. Bringing one man home to him is uncomfortable enough. 🙂

ME: I’m 9 mos pregnant and I have this vision of a family/community that I’d like to make happen for my daughter.  I was wondering if you had a specific idea of what kind of family life or structure you’re looking for or if you have already found it. 

JASMINE: Congratulations on your pregnancy and impending birth! I think that community is a wonderful thing, and I think raising a child communally is simply a beautiful way to raise a child. My daughter is eight, and when I realized that I was polyamorous, I told her almost immediately. She’s used to being the daughter of an activist, so she took the news in stride. I asked her how she would feel if I ever dated more than one person at a time, and she was rather nonchalant about the prospects.  I would absolutely love to raise my daughter within the context of a healthy, loving poly relationship.

ME: And what would you say to the nay-sayers that think being poly would be detrimental to your daughter?

JASMINE: I think it’s difficult to really combat these embedded ideas of what constitutes a ‘healthy’, ‘happy’ family. So many people have difficulty seeing the beauty in a child being so loved by several adults, the community surrounding that child, and the wonderful way in which that can function for each of the parents in the situation. But I would tell them that there are innumerable ways to raise healthy children and that a cisgender, heterosexual context isn’t the only, or even necessarily the best, way to do so.

ME: Which brings me to the issue of legitimacy … legal rights (marriage, custody).  This is a huge source of indignation for me.  I’d love to see a mass movement toward poly equal rights.  What do you think?

JASMINE: I am extremely concerned with legitimacy. I think that we really need to push for the same rights as monogamous couples (or any couples, really). I think this is directly related to cultural ideals about monogamy being ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ and everything else being marginal. It is a huge source of contention for me that those who seem to be afforded legal rights are cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous couples, and everyone else has to fight to have their own relationships legitimized and recognized. As if it’s not difficult enough to be part of a marginal group as it is, but to lack legal recognition and rights just maintains that sense of ‘otherness’.

ME: Have you seen the new series on Showtime? Polyamory: Married and Dating? If so, what did you think of it?

JASMINE: I don’t watch television, so I’ve not seen that show. It sounds interesting, though. I may Google it later on. 🙂

ME: Do you think it mirrors your experiences or other people who you know? And I’ve noticed that there are some great benefits to poly relationships as well as some challenges.  What would you say they are?

JASMINE: The polyamory thing is still fresh for me, so I’ve not had the opportunity to really experience a truly poly relationship. But, knowing what I want out of life and my relationships, I know that the benefits that I admire about such a manner of relating. For me, it’s like my friendships – I have different friends who meet different needs in my life. I love them all, but we converse and interact differently, and they all do so in unique ways that fulfill my life. To me, that’s the benefit of a poly relationship. In terms of challenges, I see poly relationships the same way I see monogamous ones – the challenges are congruent. It’s really about maintaining honesty, balance, love, and respect. As long as those things are present, I think that when any bump in the road arises (as it is bound to do in any relationship) those involved are equipped to deal with them. Of course, people often mention the jealousy thing, but I am someone who experiences very little jealousy, and I don’t think that jealousy is inherently a part of polyamorous relationships (or at least not any more than it would be in a monogamous relationship). The thing about jealousy is that it’s about insecurity, and fear of loss. If one doesn’t feel threatened in their relationship and its structure, then jealousy doesn’t need to rear its ugly head. A big challenge that I’m actually facing right now as a polyamorous individual is dating – I am new to this whole dating thing as well as the poly thing so it’s interesting trying to date while being honest about my proclivity for polyamory. It’s difficult because I haven’t yet met another individual who identifies as poly… so it’s interesting. Dating is complex enough; the addition of being polyamorous definitely makes it more so.

ME: Have you ever experienced compersion?

JASMINE: I’ve not had the opportunity to experience compersion, but I have had the opportunity to experience forgiveness because of my orientation. When my ex finally divulged to me that he’d been cheating on me, I was able to forgive him because of the irony of monogamy – that many monogamous people are monogamous mainly because they feel it to be compulsory, and in doing so it is difficult to maintain. We were going to reconcile, but in the end I had to extricate myself and he is now with his ‘mistress’. But that’s as close as I’ve ever come to compersion. 🙂

For anyone who doesn’t know – compersion is the phenomena that occurs when partners feel the opposite of jealousy.  I’ve experienced it each time I was in a poly situation.  I’ve gone on dates with triads, couples, and poly individuals and always felt … contentment at the sight or mention of their affection toward their other partner(s).  Actually, if I don’t see this then I’m generally uncomfortable being with them.
~~~
To read more about Jasmine and her experience, click here.  You can also find her on twitter (@JasminePeterso6) and Facebook.
~~~

A Cultural Niche Within Polyamory

Video

How and why brothers share one wife.

Poly

Video

Tips on how to make it work.

5 Most Annoying Things About Being Poly

Standard

Poly

  1. Spell check.  In Word, the squiggly little green lines that appear when I type husbands.  Never happens when I type wives, though.  Hmm …
  2. We need a separate dictionary.  Triads, Quads, Open, Closed, Fluid-bonded – we’ve given new meaning to these words.  Not to mention, I was shocked to find compersion in Wikipedia but as I type it here – those damn red lines appear again.
  3. The assumption that all poly women are either idiots or pawns or both.  Seriously? As if monogamous women weren’t traded and bought like a piece of property? I mean who coined the terms “trophy wife” and “Stepford wives?”
  4. Couple-size.  From restaurant tables to walking down the street.  Who stands/sits next to whom? Should there be a system of rotation?
  5. The off-handed, “good luck with that” monogamous types dish out while chuckling.  Do I laugh at your engagement? Say, “good luck with that whole rising divorce rate?” Nope.

Coming Out Poly

Standard
Coming Out Poly

“Yes, I’m poly.  No, I am not a slut,” automatically runs through my mind every time I have to broach the subject of my relationship status.  It’s an automatic trigger.  Like, “yes I’m black but no I don’t listen to rap music.”

The evolution of my poly self has been a long time in the making.  I suffered through monogamy for many years, thinking I was the same as everyone else.  I mentally embraced the notion of choosing one boyfriend and having that one boyfriend choose me.  I felt completely betrayed when a high school boyfriend of mine refused to “choose me” and only me.  I just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t/wouldn’t end his previous relationship.  How could he love us both in the same way? Obviously, he had to love one of us more than the other.  Obviously, one of us had to be better for him than the other.  And obviously that person was me! A girl friend of mine at the time listened to me go on and on about this.  She listened calmly and without much of a facial expression.  Then she said, “I think it’s totally possible for someone to love two people at the same time.”  It rocked my world.  She was not my boyfriend’s biggest fan.  In fact, she couldn’t stand him.  So, it didn’t make sense for her to be saying these things to me.  But her words stuck.  I didn’t believe them or agree with them at the time but they managed to stick with me anyway.

Years later in college, I did end up being monogamous with that boyfriend.  We were in love.  We talked of kids and marriage and all that jazz.  We were also long distance but still succeeded in being monogamous.  By sheer will power, I suspect.  I can’t honestly speak for him but that was my experience.  No matter how much I loved him I wanted other people.  I desired them, daydreamed about a future with them, flirted with them, felt little tingles anytime I was alone with one of them, and never mentioned a word of this to him.  Well, technically nothing really happened.  All the feelings in the world don’t amount to action, so I was safe.  I was monogamous.

After college, he began medical school and I went to work.  We were no longer long distance but our relationship faced other problems.  Medical school demanded most of his time, energy, and had even begun to change his personality. In a last-ditch effort to fix said problems, we considered moving in together.  We were visiting a mortgage broker when it happened.  My poly self.  I honestly don’t know where she came from but there she was – smiling and giggling and complimenting this tall, dark, handsome banker that was just my type.  In the moment, I told myself I was just being charming.  I wanted to get a good interest rate after all.  And I’d always loved men with accents … so what if I told him that.  It wasn’t really that big of a deal … right? My boyfriend and I often talked about our “types” and what we were attracted to.  We even teased each other about checking out strangers from time to time.  So, was it the worst thing in the world to compliment a man on his accent?

Well, my boyfriend didn’t exactly see it that way.  He was pissed.  And jealous.  The first time I’d ever seen him jealous in the five years we were together.  And considering how we started you might think it was a bit hypocritical of him and you would be right.  But as he stormed out of the bank with me hurrying along behind him, that was the farthest thing from his mind or mine for that matter.  He muttered angrily to himself about how he couldn’t believe I’d do that right in front of him and momentarily refused to unlock the car door for me.  All of which just made me want to laugh harder.  I was convinced that I’d done nothing wrong.  I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed.  I was tickled by his reaction and a bit aroused by the encounter with the banker.  It was in that moment, standing outside the car waiting for him to change his mind and let me in, that I realized when we were inside the bank I’d completely forgotten he was there.  Now that I felt bad about.  If there was something I would’ve undone it would’ve been that.  I would’ve tried harder to include my boyfriend in the playful, if flirtatious, conversation between myself and the banker.  A little voice in the back of my head said, “that’s not normal.”

But once he unlocked the door I tuned that voice out and went about making light of the situation.  I don’t remember exactly what was said but I basically grinned and batted my eyes, making a joke out of the whole thing.  He proceeded to drive shaking his head at me, muttering “unbelievable.”  Then I said something like “well if you’re going to be working 12 hour shifts, I’m going to need some company don’t you think? It’s only fair.”  His mouth dropped open.  He asked me if I was serious.  I was.  It made perfect sense.  We’d been arguing constantly about how demanding a doctor’s life is – long shifts, being on-call, not being able to come to our fictional kids’ events, cutting vacations/dates short, … all those inconveniences that he felt the money made up for.  I disagreed.  Obviously, this was the solution.  He could have the career he was determined to have and I wouldn’t be lonely.  I could see him thinking it over but when he vetoed my suggestion without much thought I gave it up just as quickly, retreating into silence and shrinking in the passenger seat.

The next year when our relationship was finally over I began to truly date for the first time.  It never occurred to me to date one guy at a time.  And I didn’t find it hard at all to focus on whoever I was with at the time.  No guilt.  No shame.  No secrecy either, I might add.  But still, I’d never heard of the term poly or polyamory so I didn’t identify with it.  I did begin watching this series on HBO called Big Love.  And eventually, I grew curious about the roots of polygamy.  Did non-Mormons do this? Because to me, it looked like fun.  I love female energy and the thought of sister wives reminded me of a sorority without the hazing.  I considered converting to Mormonism but it just didn’t click with my agnostic perspective.

Then my ex contacted me wanting to be friends.  He’d begun dating one of his other friends in medical school but that didn’t surprise me.  I was well acquainted with his version of friends.  So, I brought it up again.  Explained to him what I’d learned about polyamory and how I felt drawn to it.  I opened the door for him and … he walked right through it.  He said, he could see the appeal.  Confessed that he had the same impulses that I did.  That he didn’t believe he could be happy with just one person for the rest of his life.  BUT his current girlfriend wasn’t like that and he wouldn’t dare bring it up to her.  And how practical was it to begin with? Where were these people that felt like we did? What would his colleagues think of him? His parents? He was much more comfortable with the idea of taking a string of mistresses.

So, I returned to my journey of self-discovery.  Probing my past and my beliefs and feelings trying to find out if I really had this in me.  Could I love more than one person equally? Would I be willing to share? And what I found is that it came down a set of beliefs, a philosophy about life and love.

  • In my heart, I don’t believe that everyone has one soul-mate.  I know that I’ve had several already.  People who came into my life for a time and gave me something or taught me something that I needed to learn.  And I don’t want to live a life smothered by the promise to someone that I will never find another soul-mate.  And I don’t want to do that to anyone that I love.
  • I believe that real love is unconditional.  It doesn’t dictate, demand, or possess.  It wants the best for its intended.  It is not about pride or ego.
  • I don’t believe in Mr. Right or Prince Charming or whatever name he’s going by nowadays.  In high school, I made an off-handed comment about how I fully expected I’d be one of those women to have 4 husbands.  I meant consecutively.  Because husband no.1 would hold a certain allure that I was sure I’d out grow and the same for husbands 2 and 3.  Then by the time I got around to husband no.4 I’d be old enough that it didn’t matter and I’d just settle.  This was just the first inkling of the idea that was to come.  I don’t expect to get everything I want and need from the same person.  Allowing different lovers into my life means I can accept and love people for who they actually are instead of hoping they’ll change into what I really want.
  • And unlike most women, I was never drawn to traditional marriage.  I’d always envisioned making my marriage my own.  I was not going to settle down.  I was going to explore – geographically, sexually, and any other way you can think of.  And my ideal marriage was going to expand to allow this.

This is my mindset.  This is why being poly isn’t so much a choice as it is a philosophy/orientation.  To me, at least.  I know people who consider themselves poly-flexible, meaning they can take it or leave it depending upon who they’re with.  That’s not the case for me.  Is it possible that I could fall head over heels for one person and be only with that person for some time? Sure.  But not forever. Does that mean I’m going to date 50-100 people? Not likely. Does that mean I’m going to trade in old lovers for new ones? Not likely. Does that mean I’m going to have a harem of men? Not necessarily.  Does that mean I’m going to join a harem of women? Not necessarily.  To be honest, it doesn’t mean anything for certain – other than, I will not be in love with only one person for the rest of my life.  I’m only certain of that.  The possibilities of what could happen are endless and that’s kinda the point.

Being poly is how I look at the world – what makes the world good and exciting and worthwhile.  It is definitely a significant part of my best, most authentic life.

Poly Week on YouTube

Video
Poly Week on YouTube

See other videos on my playlist that are related to Poly Week.

Aside
Poly Literature

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern RelationshipsSex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book presents a thoughtful analysis of monogamy and polyamory. The author manages the very difficult task of informing in an entertaining fashion. The content is definitely based in anthropology as well as history, with a dash of philosophy thrown in for good measure so it is not a casual read. But it is perfect if you actually want to think about things, question assumptions, and challenge yourself.

View all my reviews

Poly Literature

Polyamory: Married and Dating (New Series on Showtime)

Standard
Polyamory: Married and Dating (New Series on Showtime)

Showtime‘s new series Polyamory: Married and Dating follows a group of poly people who are married and/or dating.  There is a triad (girl, boy, girl) and a foursome (girl, boy, girl, boy).  The triad is adjusting to one of the girls having a serious boyfriend outside of the group.  The foursome is adjusting to living together as a family.  Neither of these relationships are closed, both are open, meaning that everyone is allowed to date outside the group.

If you haven’t seen it yet click on this link:  Preview of Episode 1

After watching the first episode I’m conflicted about whether this show is a good idea or not.  There’s A LOT OF SEX which isn’t necessarily a bad thing … but there is a right and wrong way to do that.  It can be done in a way that is honest and tasteful or it can be like porn.  From what I’ve seen, it’s like porn.

Jane: Let’s go upstairs and have sex!

John: (smiles) Okay!

Jane 2: Yay! Sex!

The very next second everyone is naked and squirming around on the bed.  Seriously? Where’s the foreplay? Where’s the flirting? A friend of mine pointed out that Showtime’s producers probably made the decision to do it this way because sex sells.  Well, I’m a big fan of Showtime.  I loved The L Word (the first one, not “The Real L Word“) and there was so much sexual tension that you could cut it with a knife! Was there nudity? Sure.  Was it explicit sex? Yep.  But it was tasteful and hot and each sex scene meant something to the characters involved; it moved the story forward.  Another example would be The Tudors.

So, maybe you’d like to argue well this is reality TV, not scripted TV.  Fine.  Maybe my discontent comes from the fact that I don’t like reality TV but I also don’t like bad TV.  This show has a director.  It has producers, writers, directors of photography, scene artist, make-up and hair people, you get the gist.  It’s a professional endeavor.  And Showtime knows how to produce good shows.  It has a history of being edgy and provocative and it’s managed to do that without sacrificing character, plot, and content.  So, if this is the price of reality television then I wish it was entirely fictional because then it might be bearable.

On the flip side, the show does manage to do a few things successfully.  It puts a face on polyamory that has nothing to do with religion.  These people are not Mormon, like on Big Love (HBO) or Sister Wives (TLC).  It also introduces the LGBT influence.  A little known fact among monogamists is that women in this lifestyle are generally bisexual.  It is very rare to come across a straight woman who is poly.  So … kudos on that!

This Week’s Theme: Polyamory

Status

What is polyamory? Well, it’s simple.  Poly = many +  amory = loves

I’ve noticed that here are several clichés that come to mind when monogamous people are faced with this issue or phenomenon.  There’s the Mormon image – underage girls in long braids and prairie dresses.  There’s the “playboy” – the man with a harem of girls just waiting to satisfy his every sexual whim.  And then there’s, “Oh that’s just a hippie thing from the 60s and 70s.”

This happens to be a topic that I have some experience with so I’m going to do my best to present an honest picture of what contemporary polyamory is about – the good and the bad.

More specifically, the posts will attempt to answer/address these points:

  • What kind of person is attracted to this lifestyle?
  • Is it a legitimate lifestyle choice?
  • Are women being taken advantage of?
  • Cross-over with other lifestyles/communities: LGBT, BDSM, Paganism, etc.
  • Jealousy and other complications
  • The many relationship structures
  • Long term polyamory and the family
  • Acceptance in society