Oct 222011

JoelI’m aching for Joel. He found a woman he really likes, who really likes him. They’ve spent all week talking, chatting, texting, meeting, emailing, and Facebooking. Joel has called me up, the joy, fear of rejection, and anticipation all evident in his voice. He’s seemed more alive, pleased that someone saw him and wanted him. I’ve listened to him outline all of the details and I’ve been so happy for him. He is my best friend as well as my husband. I support him in all things. We are life partners.

Ultimately, I think it was the closeness that Joel and I share that may have frightened his potential girlfriend away. She has never been in a polyamorous relationship before. It’s difficult to explain poly to people whose life experience has not given them a context. So, for the record, let me clear up some myths. (I’m speaking specifically about my relationships here, but I think that my beliefs might be true for other poly people. It’s always good to ask people directly.)

  1. We’re cheating on each other. Actually, we talk to each other all of the time about our other relationships. Our marriage vows did not include any promises to be sexually faithful. We never agreed to be each other’s “one and only,” so it isn’t a betrayal to have relationships outside the marriage. For the record, we also never promised “forever.” We agreed to stay together for as log as we stayed in love. Now, if Joel started seeing someone and didn’t tell me about it, I would feel betrayed.
  2. We have unsafe sex with tons of people, indiscriminately. Define tons. No, seriously, I pretty much only have sex with myself, Joel, and Harold. I’d like to have more sex, but my life isn’t there right now. The problem is that Harold’s wife, Melanie also has a boyfriend, who sees other people. So of course safer sex practices are important! They are extra important for us. We have 5 children to raise. Safer sex and polyamory requires trust and more communication.
  3. I tricked Joel into this lifestyle. This makes me laugh. We talked and fantasized about being polyamorous for a few years before we got married. We had some relationships with other people but kept them low profile. We wanted another person to raise our family with because 2 people are not enough. We assumed that would be a woman, but it turned out to be Harold and Melanie. The four of us decided to have a baby together. Joel and I are partners in polyamory, as in everything else.
  4. We’re unethical. No one can be perfect all the time, but ethics are VERY important to me. Honesty and open communication are the cornerstones of my life. I consider other people’s emotions as much as possible in my decision making. We’re not going around trying to trick people into things. We don’t lie about being poly.
  5. If we’re married, there isn’t room for anyone else. This is obviously untrue. When Joel and Melanie pushed Harold and me into exploring our attraction, no one knew what it would end up looking like. Now Harold and I are also full partners, as well as Joel and I. Everyone is equally important. In any case, I only spend 3 days a week with Joel. He has room.
  6. If you’re serious about a relationship, you have to get married. This is my favorite myth and I think it’s based on our cultural norms. There are lots of serious relationships that don’t have anything to do with marriage. For me, marriage is a legal contract that has to do with agreeing to raise children together. I think that polyamory gives people the opportunity to break free of cultural norms and explore each relationship without pressure. Maybe fuck buddies is what the relationship is meant to be. Maybe you just share a hobby or interest. Maybe you spend every minute together or maybe you see each other once every six months. Every single relationship is valued for what it is.
  7. It will harm the children. How exactly? Our children have 4 parents to support them. That’s way more stability than 2. Children only care if it affects them. Our nearly 3-year-old daughter proudly says that she has two mommies and two daddies. She feels sad for people with only 2 parents. I take my parenting pretty fucking seriously. I would not do anything that would harm my children. They are growing up in an environment of love.
  8. Polyamorous people don’t feel jealousy. Ha! Of course we feel jealous sometimes. You know what? Jealousy is an opportunity. It gives me a chance to look at my stuff. If I feel jealous, it’s because some need of mine is not getting met, not because my partner is doing anything wrong. If I examine my feelings, I can communicate my needs and probably get what I want. Polyamory has been a fantastic therapy method for me.

Polyamory is not the same as the Lifestyle (Swinging) or polygamy. You can not gauge my life by watching Big Love, no matter how entertaining. We are not trying to push our choice onto others. The whole point is that everyone gets to love in a way that is right for them. Joel’s friend has every right to decide that she can’t love him because he’s married. It just makes me sad. From what Joel says, she’s lonely and needs love. I hate to see people reject a chance at happiness.

I’m sad for Joel. He deserves to be seen and loved. Things are not always easy for him, away from his family so much. I’m hoping that this is just a beginning for him, an opening of spirit that connects him with someone he can really give himself to. In addition to me.

  • Guest

    I’ve always felt that it’s selfish to ask to get everything you need from one person.  It seems like there’s no room to grow in love.

    A friend of mine once suggested that everyone has five soulmates (think of the shape of a pentagram with you being the center). And while not every soulmate is necessarily sexual or stays with you forever they are all equally important.  It’s very sad to me that if you’re attracted to someone you call it quits before even trying to learn anything about them.

  • Hardin Reddy

    From my experience, the one immutable limitation on poly relationships is time, particularly when not everyone in the chain of relationships lives in the same place.  The amount of time is finite, and which partners you choose to spend it with can be a source of friction.