Category Archives: Polyamory
It’s been a super busy week for me finishing up my work and transitioning my career. I will be staying with work that allows me to serve those living in poverty by helping to navigate complex systems, but I will also be moving into more a supervisory role, which has good ol’ imposter syndrome in overdrive. My intention was to go on a brief hiatus while I get my shit together, but I can’t stay completely silent about a deliciously ignorant piece of nonsense posted by Mayim Bialik a couple of weeks ago that was titled “What I don’t get about open relationships“.
It’s not worth the effort for me to counter each point she makes because it’s just such a common set of misconceptions. I appreciate how others have already addressed these. I filled three pages with notes of all the ways in which she not just undermines LGBTQIA+ awareness, but is deliberate in her use of assumptions about both gender and sexuality. But in the end, it is her opinion. She doesn’t research polyamory, open relationships or consensual non-monogamy either as a neuroscientist, psychologist or sociologist. In the end, the video is a giant “here’s why I’m not into non-monogamy” explanation.
Awesome! We need more people who recognize when something isn’t for them. We want people to be self-aware and get out of the corners of the default. But of course, it’s not really awareness she’s creating or sharing; her interests is in projecting her seemingly self-aware conclusion both as a testament of her scientific knowledge and a snide judgment of those of us who have concluded differently about our lives. And it’s that projection that is harmful–declaring that because you can’t figure it out, that all the rest of us must be wrong. My issue is less with her and more with the thousands of people who will parrot her opinions as their own.
Everyone comes at polyamory from their own background and series of choices. For some, it’s their “cure” to cheating. For others, it’s a slow slide away from swinging and into more romantic partnerships with others. Others start it out as an experiment with fantasies until suddenly you can’t imagine what your life would look like without sharing it openly with others. And whether I’m talking about my personal origin — how I, personally, knew I was poly–or how my Husband and I came to open up our marriage, these are the fundamentals of what led us to where we are now.
While ultimately the decision was made on a Wednesday in July 2004, right before a Sarah McLaughlan concert, there were a series of events and conditions that led us to that decision. Here’s a look back at the major components that led to our polyamory story.
We are individuals who choose to share our lives together
I’ve known Husband-Writer since 1996 when we went on a musical tour of Europe together. He was a musician and writer with a generous soul and a sharp wit. We got to know each other very well on that tour and he quickly endeared himself to me by being in my life. Our love is based on the friendship we developed at the time, the rapport that was built on a shared sense of humor and a passionate love of expression.
It’s 9:45 pm here on October 11th. I got home late and am making an ambitious (for me) dinner of shepherd’s pie. So as I wait, I think back on another marginally bad day. It wasn’t horrible, it just was angsty. And most of the angst was mine. I was impatient, unorganized, forgetful and foggy all day. And it wasn’t until later in the workday, when I was beyond the point of salvaging it that I finally realized why I was so on edge.
Today was National Coming Out Day
For the past 10 years I’ve been flirting with various forms of outness, to varying degrees. And to the point where I’m essentially out to everyone except extended family. Even professionally to some degree it’s been know how I identify. Especially over the past year or so I’ve become far more comfortable with being out.
But today it was scary and triggery. It brought back memories of a workday interrupted by a call from a friend telling me that a website had posted my online journal and that it was circulating among my colleagues and the press. It brought me back to the pacing through the hallways going mad from the ringing of the phone. It brought me back to 8 months of unemployment and 10 years of trying to scrape my way back to believing that I deserved to make an earning even close to what I was making before. It brought me back to the rumors, the panic attacks during the evening news, the fear, the cowardice, the ignorance, the victimhood, and especially the punishment. It brought me back to a night where I was as close to suicide as I’ll ever get and breaking down as a last-ditch effort to ask for help before I could finish the act.
I didn’t come out on Facebook today like I had wanted to. I have family who, as well-intentioned and loving as they are, tend to call my parents over every minor quip I post. As much as I love my parents, my coming out isn’t worth them having to field phone calls from worried family members and clueless friends. The choice to come out is mine and not theirs.
So, instead, I came out on Twitter, reminding all 686 followers of who I am.
Those things are some of the easiest things to identify things about me. It’s what most people care about when they talk about coming out. But identity is such a rich and powerful blend of concepts, stories, and aspirations that simply saying I’m bisexual, polyamorous, kinky, queer, Chicana, femme, Mother, wife, lover, educator, lawyer, spiritual, and geek is just a superficial part of the story. Some of it is the sensational part of the story because ooooh—bi, poly and kinky–that’s out there. But it’s just scratching the surface.
There are other aspects of identity that go beyond the census items of nationality (American), race/ethnicity or income. There are the aspects of self that evolve over time but create the refinements of self that truly identify us closer to our core. Those aspects of ourselves are just as precious and vulnerable, worthy of being spoken as personal truths.
So tonight, I define more of who I am. Coming out as the woman I truly am at heart:
I am a public servant. I have always been drawn to government, politics, and the business of policymaking. But moire than anything I have been drawn to a life of being in service to the public in some capacity or another. Right now I provide direct services through a nonprofit,. but in the past, I’ve served in capacities that were more about the public good than my own advancement.
I am half white and half Mexican but identify as Chicana. This is very important for me to distinguish. I love both of my families, but the Mexican half of my family was the most influential in my upbringing. My dad’s family valued education but watching my Mexican grandparents’ pride when my mom earned her master’s struck a chord with me. It told me the legacy that was going to be passed to me to build upon. It is a responsibility that I take seriously. My father’s family is full of intelligence, accomplishment, and distinction–my role with them is less to carry on their legacy and more to just not fuck it up. But what I accomplish for the Mexican side of my family, like a law degree, creates a path for others to follow. I’ve already helped one family member with his law school application and LSAT prep. We rise together.
That said, I am also very privileged. Because my last name is white, my skin is light and freckled and my hair turning gray faster than my more indigenous parts of the family, I’m a dead ringer for your standard, run-of-the-mill white girl. That’s not what I feel inside and so I get somewhat defensive during conversations about race. I am so eager to relate to people that I end up ignoring my privilege, the same privilege that makes it easier for me to be heard. It has been an uphill battle for me to remember that my story isn’t more important than anyone else’s, particularly those who don’t get the benefits that come with passing for white, cis, het and able bodied.
I am bisexual and married to a man. So another privilege I carry is that I at least am always perceived as heterosexual. I’m not, of course, and that’s where some mental health issues come into play for many of us–being misidentified, ignored and rebuked within the LGBTQ community (mostly getting derision from the Ls and Gs) creates an insidious amount of hardship as we try to navigate our way through the world.
I am bisexual and I have known it since I was 12. But to the outside world, I had a fairy tale wedding and lived happily ever after. And while I love my husband dearly, part of why I love him is that he’s never had an issue with me living my life as fully as I am able. He’s always given me support and encouragement, to pursue what makes me happy–including exploring my attraction to women and non-binary/gender nonconforming folk. Ultimately this is aided immensely by being polyamorous–we negotiate the terms of our marriage and it decidedly doesn’t look at all like the heteronormative ideal. And I am happier for it.
Finally, I’m coming out as a visionary within the Catholic meaning of the term. Again, from the age of 12, I believe I was called to something powerful. This calling initially spoke to me through the images and rituals of the Catholic faith–I was strong in my devotion to the Church at the time (see, I still capitalize it). But as I grew into the woman I am, I recognized that Catholicism at its core no longer fit with the calling that I was given. It was just too large for such a narrowly-defined faith structure. So, I departed from the Church. I still miss it sometimes–going to Mass and adoration, praying the rosary, the cleansing I’d feel after confession. It is like my hometown. I’ll always have a connection to it. It’s part of my story. But it’s not where I choose to live now–I have moved on. My calling is what matters most to me, not ascribing to any one issue of faith.
With all of that said, I have an update on the shepherd’s pie: I burned myself making it last night which is why this is posted late. i’m doing better today–but I guess I also need to add clumsy to the list of identities that I have.
Ever have a crush on someone so bad that you keep imagining the details of a relationship with them? Going through the way you’ll meet and discover the mutuality of your attraction with little electric bursts of twitterpation? And how the first kiss will just lock your souls together? But then reality intrudes and reminds you that either they don’t even know you exist or there is just no possible way to be together?
Yeah, I’ve got it bad. Not just one person either. I’ve got crushes on several unattainable people. People that I know well and others who I have barely met or spoken to. But despite the lack of mutuality, I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope, careful not to let it grow to expectation.
As that emotion smolders, it feels almost almost like NRE, new relationship energy. Not quite the same but still that excitement of newness, the infatuation stage where you see all possibility and no downside. You feel all the passionate kisses instead of the awkwardness of first touch. You want to act on all the primal desires instead of the slow building of trust.
I had always been hyper vigilant about NRE, even from my first poly relationships. When I feel the first twinges of it, I’d shut it down, always acting like the grown-up, dousing what energy we were creating together in an effort to tame and control it. The only time I ever truly got carried away was when I first knew Warrior; that relationship completely swept me away (and 8 years later it still does). But getting carried away in that relationship caused me to neglect the partners I already had, creating a lot of hurt and distrust among us. And while I know it wasn’t all NRE, i do blame myself for getting so wrapped up in it without stopping to find balance or to check in with my partners.
And in true Janet fashion, I shut down everything. Baby out with the bath water mentality. I stopped dating, stopped even showing interest in others. I stopped flirting. I stopped even imagining being with others. I couldn’t even bring myself to fantasize.
The past 2-3 months changed that. Like an awakening. And someday I will write much more about that awakening, but it started essentially the same way that poly did for us. I finally got bold enough to start flirting back. And as I kept doing it, I kept finding my voice. Kept thinking that these people might not all be blind or crazy when they call me gorgeous. Even allowing the still dubious and inaccurate “milf” or “cougar” title helped me accept that maybe I didn’t have to limit myself so much.
Oh the attention was so welcome, so needed. I started flirting with some people online and even started a fun experience taking the dominant in me out for a test drive. Embracing the simple matter that:
a) it doesn’t matter what people think of me; but
b) if someone takes the effort to call me beautiful or intelligent, I need to honor that there is truth, even a sliver of honesty, in their words
With that and a LOT of meditation, I have started growing into myself again, regaining my confidence and my voice. I have adopted the new archetypes and roles that are fulfilling to me: Queen, writer, teacher, friend, healer, mother. And as I grow into myself I start to gain more insight into my life and the direction I want to be in. As I adopt these new titles and roles in life I become better aligned with the patterns and energies around me, which is just an increase in my empathy.
And the more I see of people without my protections and projections, the more I want to know them and for them to know me. The more I look into the world with my heart, the more I trust my intuition. The more I proclaim my space in this world, the more possibilities I see being poured into my life. The more people I meet and understand, the more I see the worthy qualities in myself.
So even though I have these strong feelings for people I never have a chance with, I think that maybe perhaps NRE is more about seeing the best, happiest, more joyful qualities reflected back to us in the moments of passionate possibility. We start falling back in love with ourselves just a little bit more than we could before.
The most unattainable relationship we’ve ever known is the love we can and should have for ourselves. NRE brings out the joyful light, the lovable, sexy, imaginative and witty parts of ourselves that we need to see and embrace fully. And NRE allows us to feel desirable, wanted and lovable.
And if these “unattainable” crushes (hey! A girl can still hope) can bring me that growing acceptance of myself and my desires then maybe NRE is healthy after all.
For the past few weeks I’ve been having conversations with people about polyamory and its potential to offer a fix or at least an alternative to common relationship issues. I believe in polyamory in part because it encourages each individual to honor their own authentic self, to directly address issues as they arise in the relationship and to participate in collaborative problem solving. Monogamy has this potential as well, but with its status as a the default relationship structure it creates a host of automated issues that tend to disintegrate the autonomy available to each partner in the relationship. By choosing polyamory people exercise that autonomy in a very real and tangible way.
But often the discussion devolves when I get this question: “so no one cheats/lies when you’re poly?”
Poly doesn’t prevent lying. Or cheating. Or betrayal. Or deceit.
Poly brings these behaviors to light much more swiftly and often more dramatically than we might see otherwise. It’s hardly assuring to someone new to poly. But because of the priority placed on the inherent values of honesty, trust, transparency and direct communication, the tolerance for deceitful behaviors is simply far lower than its monogamous counterparts.
I know, you don’t believe me. Because somewhere in the back of your head, you have this vision of a distraught wife finding out that her husband is cheating. She tears through the house in sobs, tossing him and his belongings out the door. Yes, that’s the common reaction. Because there was an expectation of sexual confinement, of fidelity and this, the dishonesty is understandable and even excuseable in today’s culture. Never mind that the cheating could not have happened without the deceitful undercurrent to the choices and actions. We’ve grown to accept, as a culture, that human beings will stray, will lie, will cheat. And while there is a sense of betrayal, there is also a sense of reluctant acceptance for the sneaking around and the lies. All while we cling to this sense of sexual and romantic confinement (or is it entitlement?) within the bounds of the relationship.
When you’re poly, the reaction isn’t much different, but the reasons are. When you are poly, you are more likely to have made a mutual agreement to be honest with one another, to not hide your attractions to other people, to remove the barriers to loving more than one person. So when a poly person is lied to, cheated on, the anger isn’t with the fidelity, it is with the deceptive practice itself…where it should have been all along. Cheating hurts more because it didn’t have to happen, because there was an underlying value for honesty. Lying is more insidious because there was no reason to cover up the truths of an attraction. The crime isn’t in the act of having sex with someone else, it’s in breaking trust with your partner(s) by choosing to lie or withhold the truth (omissions are still lies).
The reaction, yes, can be just as extreme as our monogamous example, but there is less acceptance that “oh well, this is just how everyone lives.” In a poly household, there might be a family meeting to confront the deceitful partner. Maybe there is a public shaming in other poly or kinky circles. Maybe there is just a stern, “fuck off” as someone is shoved out the door without a second chance. Regardless of how partners react, tolerance for the underlying dishonesty is rarely given in my experience.
Today I was reminded of a loved one’s deceit, a series of lies and cover-ups that have haunted me since before we broke up. I gave him more chances than my fellow polyamorists might. I recognized the conditioning that a staunchly monogamous past had left on him and that was my excuse to continuing to give him a chance. But the more I stayed, the more I saw the troubling behavior and the more it seemed to spiral out of control. The stories that later were contradicted by others. The convenient excuses that over time became harder to swallow. And when confronted he would gaslight me, shift blame and ultimately escape accountability for the choices that he made.
After almost 10 years of polyamory, I don’t regret staying with him and giving him chances. I learned a lot about my own value for honesty and a hard lesson about my own sense of self-worth. By accepting and tolerating someone else’s dishonesty, I was creating a large space to hide my own truth. A space that became a large closet of broken skeletons. A space where I convinced myself it wasn’t proper for me to be out as poly, kinky or queer. And as worried as I might be about how others might react to my truth, as a poly woman I have committed myself to living a life of authenticity, transparency and above all honesty. At some point, I needed to stop excusing my own dishonesty and I needed to trust myself to weather whatever storm might follow my disclosures.
And because my personal integrity matters more to me than enabling others’ escapist dramas bred into them by a societal expectation of secrets, I have been slowly emerging into the light again. And, for example, by being honest with my partners over the past few weeks about my fears, my wishes and my struggles, I’ve been able to get the support I need and the help I deserve. By allowing others to hide the truth, I was really allowing myself to hide my own. And now hiding has become…unbearable.
So, no polyamory doesn’t prevent cheating or lying. It will happen. But by aligning yourself with the core values of honesty and integrity, instead of surface satisfaction of singular sexual attachment, when you encounter such deception, it is much easier to recognize it, call it out and address it than it might have been otherwise. And simply put, when you choose honesty for yourself, deception will inevitably start becoming intolerable and dissatisfying, making it easier to exclude it from your life the more practice you get.
So, it is says anything about the gravity of this topic, this subject line has been sitting here since October of 2011.
Hello. My name is Bella. I’m polyamorous and I’m afraid to date.
Is there a support group for people like me? I have been polyamorous for almost 9 years now and for the past 4 years I have been afraid to date. I have been avoiding discussing why for a very long time, but like most things if I don’t just delve in and say it publicly, it will never get parsed out and thus never truly change.
This is more of a stream of consciousness. I’m on my way home from a trip to Philly where I presented at PolyLiving 2013. It was a wonderful time, with many people who inspired me with their commitment to one another. It was difficult being at the conference without a partner to share that energy with. I felt a bit off the whole time. I thought at first it was because I was tired from all the over-thinking preparations I put into the event, but realized through the course of things that I really wanted a partner there to pour that energy into and share with.
The energy at a poly event is distinctly different from the energy at a kink event, which is the majority of events that I’ve done so far.
For the past few days I’ve been reading posts about polyamory. For full disclosure, I do describe myself as polyamorous (poly). And I suppose I identify sooo much that people have accused me of being a poly advocate. I would actually describe myself more as an advocate for healthy relationships. No matter what form they take. I don’t necessarily advocate poly for everyone, but instead I use it as an example of a relationship structure that not only works for me but works fucking well for me.
And here is a quick summary of my relationships: I am legally married to one man, let’s call him Husband and we have two marvelous children. I am spiritually married to another man for the past 3 years, let’s call him Warrior, who is legally married to another woman (and she has another partner as well). I date both women and men and those that identify in between. So does Warrior. Husband is only now starting to consider getting involved in other relationships. Husband and I have been poly for 7 years this July, which is more years we’ve been poly than not (we’ve been together for 12 years). So, yeah, poly is working quite well for me.
Over the past few weeks, I found myself getting hyper defensive of what I’ve been hearing about poly lately. Maybe this is how the rest of the world feels when their relationship dynamic is under attack. Except, you know…they’re the majority and still have power, control, rights and shit. Most of the people making complaints about poly have been either those who are new to it or had a terrible experience with it. Anyway, I thought this might be a good place to start a blog about relationships, sexuality, culture and where they all intersect in my life.
This is by no means a coherent or even competent defense of poly. It’s just a reaction. A knee-jerk reaction that wasn’t at all appropriate for the person who originally inspired this…but was something I needed to say after redefining over the past year the way in which I practice poly. Again, I don’t advocate poly for everyone…but I do advocate conscious relationship building. Read the rest of this entry