Polyamory Series: Introduction

p7P_SRKs

Polyamory  is typically the practice of, or desire for, sexual relationships where individuals may have more than one partner, with the knowledge and consent of all partners.  It has been described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.

So first, let’s talk about monogamy. This is a relationship between two people that is sexually exclusive. A lesbian couple, a gay couple, or a heterosexual couple; may fall in love and decide that their relationship should be exclusive and not include anyone else.

Hallmarks of this kind of behavior are jealousy, restrictions and rules for spending time with people outside the relationship, and an idea that the other person is “all you will ever need.”

Does this mean that Poly couples don’t ever get jealous? Of course not! You can have three boyfriends and a girlfriend and still be jealous if your husband wants to spend Valentine’s Day with someone else. And yes, the relationship webs that can develop in a poly community are often very complicated. I will get into that later in the series. For now, I just want to explain some hallmarks of Polyamory.

Consent

First: Consent.

This is the most important part and so I can’t possibly stress this enough. In a poly relationship it is extremely important to be up-front about everything, be aware of your feelings and ready to discuss them, and never lie to your partners or knowingly date someone who has a partner that they are lying to.

Make sure all relationships are always with the consent of everyone involved!

201f4c6455f62594b33083fde2fe48c9

Second: STDs.

You can’t “just trust” a new boyfriend when you have other people whom you are in love with who can be hurt by your bad decisions. This means that trading STD tests becomes very important before sexual contact. I know the vanilla monogamous folks just hook up in bathrooms and parking lots and sometimes that can sound hot. However, that’s not how a responsible person behaves. Well, not unless they want to wait six weeks before any play with any other partner and then get an STD test to show that they didn’t pick up any parasites.

Remember: Condoms are not 100% effective so use them, but also be responsible and get tested!

relationship-problems

Third: Talking.

I am not saying you have to talk all the time. You can play scenes and hook up and go on dates and not think about things a lot. However, you do need to make sure to check in periodically with each person you are dating. You need to make sure that the people in your lives are not holding any resentments inside that could explode and cause drama for the rest of the community. It is the responsibility of every person in the community to head off problems before they happen by making sure that everyone they care about is okay.

Remember: No one likes the guy or girl in the community who is always surrounded by yelling and drama.

43871122-social-network-concept

Forth: Tertiary Relationships.

There are going to people in your life that are not there by your choice. For example, I am sort of a wild card because I don’t have a type. I am pan-sexual and I am known for appreciating whatever someone is unique for. I have dated guys who were dumb as a post because I liked the way they deferred to me. I have dated both a rocket scientist and an experimental particle physicist. And, I dated a girl who is a professional translator and is out-of-this-world smart. None of these people have anything in common. They have different genders, intelligence levels, sexual orientation, kink orientation, and disposition. As you can probably tell, I want to try all the things! So anyone I date seriously has to be willing to handle the parade of random humans that marches through my life.

Let me be clear: You don’t have to be friends with everyone that your partners date. You can be, and often that will happen naturally. However, it’s fine if you’re not. You just have to be alright with them being in your life, because if they are dating your partner, then they are in your life. You will hear about them and see them around, and that is just how it is.

 

Perspective-boat-land

Fifth: Perspective.

When you are in a poly-amorous community, you have to remember to keep things in perceptive. Your opinion matters, but you can’t be self-centered. Everyone has a different perspective, and it’s important to respect all of them.

I am always really grossed out by people that only make statements about what they want and what they thing and how they feel. Unless you live alone on a deserted island and never have any friends, you should probably grow up enough to lead with questions and express interest in others.

poly-people-of-color-image

In conclusion

These are just a few key points that highlight some things you should know about polyamory and the people who practice it. Over the next few weeks I want to talk about issues that come up a lot in e-mails I get and interactions I have which relate to the topic of polyamory. So, I felt an initial introduction would be a good place to start. 

Negotiating Rules in Poly Relationships

r123rf.-elationship-management.-22869326_s-31

 

A friend of mine who is in a ploy marriage recently posted on a social networking site to tell people how he handles his relationship, because so many people had asked.

Meanwhile, I am currently working on negotiating a play relationship with another married person who is also poly, and they have very different rules than my husband and I do.

This made me think that a discussion of common rules in poly relationships was called for.

The-Rules-Screen

First, here are some common rules:

1. No spending the night with anyone but the emotional primary.

2. No interaction between the secondary partner and any children.

3. All information on relationships outside the primary should be shared upon request.

4. STD tests must be traded with any potential partners before any sexual activity.

5. Emotional primary must meet and approve secondary partners.

Now as I said, these are common rules. It just so happens that my husband and I don’t follow most of these, since we’re not terribly concerned about things like spending nights away from each other now and then.

We do strictly follow the STD testing rule, but that is because we are both STD-free and trying to keep it that way as long as we live.

We don’t have children together, and I know that for me personally, I am more comfortable not interacting with a secondary’s children. My play partner in Oregon had three children that I never met, because I requested not to. The person I am currently in negotiations with also has a child, and I have been uncomfortable when he has brought his child along to meet-ups. I have nothing against children, and I love my son (though he is grown up and on his own now.) However, it feels unfair (to me!) to interact with someone else’s children in case they get attached (as children often do.) My secondary relationships are contingent on where we live, and as my husband is military, we move a lot. I don’t want to form a bond with a child that I won’t know for very long.

However, I leave it up to my husband if he wants to interact with potential play-partner’s children or not. I feel it is a personal choice and I don’t have much of a right to tell him what to do.

860072606dcbc239c240299f10775bf0

For us, we have a strict rule that we come first to each other, and that is the only rule besides the STD testing that I feel matters to me. Some poly couples are upset by the idea of their emotional primary developing feelings of love for another person, but I have never found that to be a concern for me. Loving another person is fine. However, because trust is so important to us, and because we are a team and are supposed to have each other’s backs, I would be hurt if my husband put someone before me when I needed him.

Again, these rules are different for everyone. And for my husband and I, it has depended on if we were in the same place or not. I might ignore a message from him when we live apart if I am on a date, which would seem to the casual observer to be putting someone else before him. But to us, when we live apart, it’s important to be where you are. And so, I would chat with him after my date instead, telling him as many or as few details as he wanted.

If you are not sure what you are comfortable with and what you want in a relationship, there are a lot of books that can help. My favorite is Opening Up, because it has worksheets and detailed explanations of common emotions people experience in various situations.

I think the most important part is to be honest with yourself. Emotions are tricky things that can sneak up and bite you when you aren’t looking. Take some time to really get to know yourself, because it will help you decide in what ways you are comfortable interacting with another person.

Then, remember to be honest with your partner. If you want to change a point that you have already negotiated, let them know how and why you want to change it, and have a discussion about comfort zones.

Remember to always be respectful of your partner’s feelings and your own. If they want to spend the night with someone and you are not okay with that, don’t sit at home and stew about how angry you are! Be honest with them, and talk about why this limit is important to you.

(For me, I am fine with him spending the night places, but not with girls spending the night at our house unless the three of us intend to play together.)

Take each other’s feelings into account in each step of the dating process, and try to always make sure that your partner isn’t just saying that they are okay when they really aren’t.

Of course you will have situations where you get really angry. Your emotional primary will not always see things the same way as you. You might even get angry enough to yell! But this is normal, and sometimes it can’t be helped. There are not standardized rules for these types of relationships, and there is no traditional script. A normal monogamous relationship is full of reinforced cultural bias that seems to lurk in every sitcom, book, or story of any kind. And these cultural stereotypes create a model for a relationship, so that you are rarely stepping outside of a paradigm that feels safe.

In a poly relationship, you are often stepping out of your comfort zone and into all kinds of territory that is strange and uncharted. So take it one day at a time and figure out what works for you. Be patient with yourself and with your partner. As long as you can always do that, you should be fine.

polyamory8

Key Parties

keys
A recent reader question prompted me to do a quick post on key parties.

It should be noted that this is not generally something that is associated with the kink scene. You may consider it to be “kinky,” and that is a matter of opinion. However, in the kink scene we tend to be very picky about our play partners because we have specific scene ideas and play preferences that are best complimented by a certain sort of person. A person who identifies as a “Little” will be best complimented by someone who enjoys playing the role of “Daddy,” for example. This means we are very unlikely to chose partners in any sort of random way.

keysbowlof
The idea behind a “key party” is that several couples get together at someone’s house and have dinner and drinks. At the start of the night, all the men put their keys in a bowl. At the end of the night, each women picks a set of keys from the bowl, and goes home with whomever they belong to.

This is typically popular among older married couples who are vanilla, because a marriage can get stale, and vanilla people all have pretty much the same kind of sex, so they can pretty much match up with any other vanilla person.

il_340x270.497726334_c8e9
Of course, I have been to a key party because they are sometimes organized within the BDSM community. But when that is the case, it is usually among couples who know one another. It will be something like all female Dommes and all male Submissives, and everyone will fill out consent forms and BDSM checklists first.

Obviously, as I have said many times before, spontaneous hookups are a bad idea. Remember that condoms do not protect against HSV-1 or HSV-2 and are not 100% for other STDs either. Anytime you “hook up” without first trading current STD tests, you put your life and the lives of your partners at risk. So before you go organizing your own kink key party, make sure to get the paperwork of everyone involved.

STD Testing

20140722_120950
Pictured is the numbers I got (because they do it by number, not by name) and the information they will give you to get your results.

No real post this week. Just this very important PSA:

A lot of people like to claim the moral high ground. They say things like: “My ex wife cheated but I was always faithful.”

And it’s all well and good to think that someone is a nice, principled individual and that they are probably telling the truth. Maybe they seem honest and trustworthy.

But I don’t care. Get tested anyway. Every time you find a new partner, trade STD tests.

In preparation to see my husband, I went off to the Multnomah Free Clinic for STD tests. It was sort of a pain since they don’t do Herpes and I had to go to a separate clinic down the block for that. It was $20 for the bulk of the tests, and another $39 for the Herpes test. Yes, that is expensive to someone who doesn’t make much and I understand when people make that argument. But as I have said before, condoms aren’t 100% effective (in fact they are far less effective against some diseases) and responsible people get tested.

Please be a responsible person.

If you Google “Free STD testing” you can usually find a clinic in your area. And while it can be kind of a pain, it is well worth it for the piece of mind.

Arlington-STD-Testing