I haven’t been polyamorous for long -- a little less than a year now. I consider myself quite the baby in the arts of compersion and scheduling jiu jitsu. But it’s been a really fun ride so far. I like to see my relationships as opportunities for personal growth, and I can honestly say I’ve never grown so much so fast. While I’m quite to-each-her-own about monogamy, I do think the more you understand your options, the better.
So, here are some of the best, most common questions I’ve gotten about the poly life -- with my answers, which of course only speak about my personal experience, not everyone else's.
Q: Don’t you get jealous?
A: YES! ALL THE TIME! Jealousy is something I’ve always struggled with.
Honestly, part of the appeal of polyamory for me is that it forces me to confront, and then get over, my feelings of jealousy. In the dark days, when I felt my partner was spending too much time with a woman I perceived as a threat, I’d feel scared and angry and ask/demand that they stop spending time with her. But doing that sucked! My partners felt controlled, and embarrassed to have to back away from friends. It must have lowered my esteem in their eyes; it certainly embarrassed me. But worst of all, because I refused to confront my own feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, I didn’t leave myself any opportunity to grow.
Keep in mind, I didn’t start down the polyamory path in order to get over my feelings of jealousy. But the progress I’ve made and the promise of a life mostly unburdened by it has helped motivate me to continue on, even when it’s been hard.
Q: Do you get any pushback?
A: Not to my face. I mean, people must talk. I hope so anyway. To quote Oscar Wilde: “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.” But I live in a big city (Washington, D.C.) and hang out pretty exclusively with libertarians.
Most of the meanness has been online, and centered around my talking too much about sex and not enough about marginal tax rates (my blog is called Sex and the State) and trying to dismiss my political views on the basis that I’m an immoral libertine. Whatevs. It either matters (and is therefore worth talking about) or doesn’t (and isn’t a valid basis on which to dismiss someone).
Q: Do your parents know?
A: My mom does. I’ve always pretty much told her everything. My dad may or may not. I’m out on the internet, but he mostly uses it to read Drudge Report.
Q: Do you have rules?
A: Oh yes. We have two kinds of rules: physical, and emotional.
The physical rule is no unprotected contact. That generally rules out oral, unless the condom isn’t terrible tasting. This is for purely practical reasons. Protected sex is very safe. Nothing is 100%, but we’re both comfortable with that level of risk.
Emotionally, the rule is complete and total voluntary transparency. If I’m thinking about seeing, or really even flirting with, someone, I proactively approach Igor (my primary) to tell him what I’m thinking. He does the same. If the person I’m flirting with wants to see me, I tell him. Our goal is to try to balance minimizing surprises with enjoying spontaneity.
We also both have veto power on anyone and anything. We trust each other not to abuse it. And frankly, if I knew a date or flirting made Igor uncomfortable, I couldn’t enjoy it anyway.
Also, things shut down when we’re in a fight. We never see other people if one of us is mad at the other. This helps avoid turning to others instead of working on our problems, and motivates us to get over things quickly.
But lots of people have lots of different rules. Some practice don’t ask, don’t tell. I’ve met poly people who only allowed oral. It varies quite a bit.
Q: Are you afraid someone will steal him away?
A: Igor is a catch. I have no doubt that if he’s not very selective in who he dates, someone will try. Who knows, this person may be better than me in every way. At that point it will be up to him to decide whether everything we built is less valuable to him than the promise of a future with someone better.
Him choosing to leave me is not my preference. I have no desire to trade him in. I highly value what we have. But if he doesn’t, tying him down so he can never figure out that he could do better isn’t a win. It’s sad. If he decides to leave, the way I try to see it, we’ve really both won. I don’t want to be with someone who wants to trade up more than they want to continue our growth as a couple.
That’s not to say I don’t get scared and freak out and get jealous. But so far, every time I’ve eventually remembered to recognize those feelings for what they are: destructive and not reality-based.
Q: Where do you find the time?
A: From a management perspective, Igor and I have shared our Gcals with each other. So with no extra work we know where the other is at all times. We actually enabled GPS tracking on each other, because it’s cool and for safety purposes. But we have no need to spy or check up on each other because of the whole transparency thing.
But from a volume perspective, I’ve had to put other things aside to make time to date. Most books take me a LONG time to finish. The biggest sacrifice for me is that I have very few girlfriends. I make it up in quality, but I do feel conflicted. I think it’s a good thing, and a good signal, to have friends you’re not fucking.
It’s not like I don’t go out and talk to people. I have a very large network. But I don’t spend a lot of time getting brunch with the girls or painting toenails, things that, all else being equal, I’d like to do and which would be good for me. And it represents an area where I’m not really growing. It’s always been easier to find guys than girlfriends. Women intimidate me. It took months for me to work with my bestie before we really talked, despite her being extremely friendly. I need to woman up and get over that.
Q: Where do we hook up?
A: His or her place. Igor and I live together, and we don’t use our space for sex we’re not both having right now.
Q: Is Polyamory an orientation?
A: I wrote a long and detailed answer on my blog, but I’ll excerpt the summary here:
I believe “non-monogamous” is an orientation, based mostly on three of its similarities with gender-preference orientations. Like gender-preference orientations, non-monogamy 1. has biological bases, 2. exists on a sliding scale and 3. faces some of the same barriers to widespread acceptance. All this leads me to the conclusion that the more comfortable we can get with people living out their own variations on strict monogamy the happier, healthier and more honest we’ll all be.
Alrighty! So, do we have any follow-up questions, burning questions not addressed or examples of poly people doing it differently? Let me know in the comments!