Category Archives: Uncategorized

More Than Two: The Review

“Polyamory is not the next wave in human evolution.  Nor is is more enlightened, more spiritual, more progressive or more advanced than monogamy.  Polyamorous people are not less jealous, more compassionate or better at communicating than monogamists.” – More Than Two

I’ve spent the last few weeks reading More Than Two by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux, and then making less than helpful cryptic comments about the book.

I hope that my faithful Facebook followers have gathered from my incredibly subtle comments that I approve of the book.  Yes, I do like More Than Two.  While the body of polyamory literature tends to be good, I think the message and presentation of More Than Two is my favorite.

Why?

Well, that’s exactly it. The authors take the time to explain the whys and wherefores of polyamory very well.  They’re grounded in the real and the proveable. They explain the principles behind their thoughts.  Then they do a great thing. At the end of each chapter are several questions to ask yourself and think about.   I love this part the best.  Sure, sure, you can read the book and get a great deal out of it without these questions, but if you really want to examine yourself, your relationships and truly understand what you’re about and what you want in relationships, this is an amazing guide to do so.

This book explains what polyamory is, helps you think about whether or not polyamory is for you, breaks down the skills necessary for a poly relationship (and in reality, they’re pretty similar to the skills required for any successful relationship), then discusses some of the problems encountered in polyamory, what to expect and gives some suggestions for coping.

Polyamory tends to value honesty, and I’m pleased to say that like any really great polyamory book, the authors don’t spare themselves.  They talk about their screwups, what they learned from them and discuss their struggles as well as their triumphs.  

And while I did read this book to support a friend, I also want to point out that More Than Two is on my re-read and annotate the heck out of list.   I already have about twenty-odd notes and thoughts about the text that I’m still in the process of analyzing.  Friends, this one makes you think.  Any any book that encourages you to think clearly about emotionally charged subjects like romantic relationships can only be a positive.

More Than Two is available for pre-order here. Go ahead.  You will be glad you did.

Marriage: Not a Legal Sanction of Romance

I’m reading a review copy of More Than Two* by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, and being a book about polyamory, of course it discusses non-conventional marriage. I know you’re thinking, “Of course it discusses non-conventional marriage. It’s about people humping lots of other people like bunnies, and marriage is about monogamy!”

Not quite.

One of the amazing things it discusses is the nature of marriage, partnership, and romance – about how and when they’re intertwined in our mental landscape, and the nature of partnerships.

Humans form partnerships. It’s at the very core of our nature and how we evolved. I think, however, that we’re tripping up badly in our more recent view of marriage. There seems to be this idea, and I’m sorry to say at least in part it comes from some of the rhetoric behind legalizing gay marriage, that marriage is about the legal sanction of a romantic/sexual relationship.

Maybe it’s evolving that way, but it wasn’t historically the point. More to the point, the idea of legally sanctioning feelings and personal relationships makes me twitch, so I kinda hope that’s not where things are going.

Historically, marriage was about property – its preservation, its maintenance and its growth. It was about producing another generation to give that property to. If this looks like marriage was really more for the upper classes, in many ways it was. However, even in stratified societies, social mobility through marriage was usually the best option for a workaround.

If you’re squinting at this and asking about love, I don’t blame you. While yes, humans are humans, and goodness me yes, we fall in love, that wasn’t part of the contract. All that courtly love, stuff? It wasn’t supposed to be sexual and it sure as shit wasn’t part of being married! (The Duchess of Aquitaine was one of its strongest proponents, and if you want a strife-filled political marriage, look no further than Henry II and Eleanor) Oh sure, it got sexual, humans being humans and all. Moreover, they even had a special descriptive for the relationship – adulterous. You were putting grave doubts on successions, baby, when you did something like that. It could and did cause actual, no-kidding wars.

One of the huge problems with marriage, and it’s only changed legally in the last century, is that the entire paradigm revolves around women as livestock to produce heirs. Oh, it gets prettied up, and many humans love the humans they live with as well as their children, but the law wasn’t that way.

If you think I have profound issues with the legal precedents and concepts around marriage, you’re right. I do. Yes, I’m married, and like being married. That’s where we run into problems. Forming deep, intimate partnerships is the way humans are built. We’re social creatures and we form partnerships – not necessarily romantic or sexual (though often so), but we do best in our intimate networks of various sorts.

The fundamental concepts behind marriage have not really caught up well with several recent concepts:

  • Women as humans – meaning that the commodity of sex and its packaging and ownership within a marriage is going away.
  • Birth Control – separating our mental concepts of sex from procreative activities. Did this help down the idea of gay marriage because sex /= procreation in a large majority of the population’s mental landscape? You bet!
  • Being able to simultaneously earn a living and rear a child. That’s very new, indeed, for anyone but the moneyed and educated few to be able to pull off with anywhere near the success we with our dishwashers, washing machines, and ready-made clothing could do.

Why do I bring this up?

People are arguing for poly marriage. For those that want the legal protections? I get it. I don’t get the same tax breaks saving for my daughter’s college that I do for my son’s. And yeah, talk about a mild and privileged example. Hospitals can and do bar people without legal relationships from seeing relatives or making decisions about care. Living wills and care directives help, but in the heat of the moment, you’re at the mercy of understanding medical professionals that one hopes are truly understanding and not power-hungry sociopaths who found a socially acceptable channel for their tendencies.

But do not ever make the mistake of calling it a legal recognition of one’s passion. A) It’s never what the legalities of marriage were about and B) even the most loving marriage is totally a business relationship as well. I suspect the successful ones are the ones smart enough not to forget it.

____

* If you have the cash, Mama Java wants you to go ahead and click on the link to pre-order the book. This is sound, practical, and thoughtful relationship advice. In fact, like any truly good poly advice, the relationship and personal advice works well for monogamy and even non-romantic relationships. Oh, and it’s an entertaining read. Knowing the tendency to copious verbiage on the part of one of the authors, I’m guessing it took at least a whip and chair on the part of the other author to get it so clearly and fluidly on topic. J Well, it amuses me to visualize the whip and chair, anyway.

Mawwaige

So, legal poly marriage is something that many people in the community are pushing for. 

I get it.   You want all the rights and protections for all your partners that you could have with a single, legal spouse.

I’m not actually in favor of it.  At least not yet.  There are issues that we need to address first before it gets Mama Java’s seal of approval.  You could argue that I’m saying it because I had a group marriage fail.

Damn right that’s why I am saying it.  Any sort of monogamy+ one size fits all marriage for OLQ would have been a gut-wrenching nightmare when we broke up.  Our legal system hasn’t even caught up with the realities of modern marriage among the monogamous, so I’ll never be in favor of group marriage without a serious revamp.

I’d like to see the health care system ironed out so it doesn’t revolve around the Paterfamilias being a Company Man with benefits for his household. (Yes, women get benefits, but that’s what the paradigm revolved around and it’s not working well)

I’d like to see how they’re going to handle issues of parenting and responsibility, group ownership of property, and most especially how divorce will be handled.  I see a lot of theory thrown out about these matters should be with almost zero references to people who have lived through these issues and what they wish the legal system could or couldn’t have done.

So, I need to know.  If you want poly marriage, why do you want it, how do you think it will benefit you and your family and what do you expect it should do for you that has nothing to do with the very real and human need for party and ceremony for big life events? (Yes, of course that’s a real emotional need, but that doesn’t need a law passed)

Extra points for people who have lived through group marriages for five years or more — still going or breaking up.

What it Means to Be Polyamorous

I haven’t written for awhile.  Being a victim of brute force attacks on my blog, as well as a huge paying gig for my business has left me little time either to write or fix my site.

Relationships?  That’s hard right now.   I’ve been joking that I don’t have a life, I have a work. There’s more truth to that than I like to admit.

You could say it is a sad thing, but it’s not.  I’m excited about the professional challenge.  It’s important to me.  And there’s where polyamory is really important.

My family gets this.  My loves are supportive.  Why?  They love me.  Me, not some idealized version of me who is always sweet and available.  No, they love, cranky, workaholic, easily peopled-out me as I really am.

I don’t care if you’re poly, monogamous or whatever.  That is what you look for in partners.

(Though if you think that doesn’t mean that I am not yearning to visit FWB and his menage, I have news. I love my people at home and I miss every one of the ones I cannot see as often desperately.)

Don't Treat People as Things

I reposted Secondary Clarity on Tumblr yesterday, and got a very interesting response. I thought it was actually worth a column. The original post was mostly the following graphic written by a couple of buddies of mine who have been poly a looonnnngg time and have Learned Stuff.

After posting it, I was asked:

As a person in a monogamous marriage that may at some point move to being poly but isn’t sure if poly will work for the relationship, do you have any advice for approaching things without falling afoul of douchebaggery?

This is a good and valid question, but buddy, it opens up one heck of a bag o’ noodly appendages, let me tell you what!

Understand this discussion is not coming from a person who went from monogamy to polyamory. No, this isn’t about pride in Gold Star Polyamory or any of that idiotic nonsense. It’s an admission that I genuinely do not know what happily opening up a relationship looks like. I’ve never observed such a thing close hand and haven’t the faintest idea what it looks like.

What I do know, is what a good relationship looks like. What I do know is how to treat human beings.

Most of the problems illustrated on this card revolve around treating people as things. It revolves around treating them as objects for gratification. That’s not what love looks like, but I’m sure you know that. So let’s analyze all of these points and the mindset they come from, and see if doing so will come up with strategies on how to avoid them. I could just as easily invoke the Wheaton Rule1 for all of them, but that’d make for a short column.

  • I will be dumped if I become inconvenient

    Sweet mother of mercy, people, relationships are inconvenient.

    While there is a significant difference between genuine needs and being a damned vampire, the reality is that you have the right to relationships that are mutually supportive. Hellfire, I have friends I could call at two in the morning for help if I had to. It would really bother me to think I didn’t have the right to do so with a partner!

    So, if you’re not comfortable with giving the person the same concern you’d give a friend, possibly poly, though certainly the relationship, isn’t right for you.

  • I will be dumped if I ask to be treated with the same respect as your other partner.

    Respect and ass-kissing are not the same thing. Respect is pretty simple. Are you giving them human dignity? Are you willing to have an actual conversation where you listen to what is said as well as express your own thoughts? Courtesy is a great place to start, of course, but human feelings are human feelings.

  • I will be dumped if I become pregnant

    I’m just gonna refer you to Jurassic Park Secondary. But… Safer sex and maybe some surgery on the part of guys who don’t want to sire more children is a wise move.

    Before you do the deed, certainly this is worth a conversation.

  • I will be dumped if I say the word “love” in a romantic context

    This one really blew me away. If you’re not okay with someone else loving your partner, you are soooo not into polyamory. Just wow.

  • I will be dumped if another partner requests it, regardless of the reason

    I have certainly been in a situation where someone’s behavior in the relationship circles has been problematic to the point where it was extremely serious. In the face of that, I’m uncomfortable with asking a partner to dump another partner.

    If there’s a problem, address it. For instance, “Honey, while I’m cool with your boyfriend coming over and having dinner, he’s bringing his daughter, her three sons and their wives, and then they’re all sleeping in the living room about three times a week. While I don’t want to be ungracious, we’re getting to the point that they’re almost living here. I do not want all of them to move in, so I need to know what you want so we can talk about it and come to an agreement.”

  • I will be dumped if I am seen as a threat by anyone else

    Have I ever had someone try to break up a partner and I? Sorta… But I can say in all honesty, that if someone else can “take away” a partner, buy ‘em flowers. They’ve done you a favor.

    The problem with this one is that it seems to be the secondary’s job to make up for someone else’s insecurity. I mean, really? That’s obnoxious when you think about it. “Hey, we’re going have all this great sex, but my partner feels insecure about it, so you have to pretend you’re not into me.”

    *Snerk* Though if someone said that to me… It would kind of solve the problem, because I wouldn’t feel very valued and would make some choices on my own.

  • I will not be invited to family vacations or holiday events

    No one in any relationship worth the name should ever feel the need to stay in their room, making no noise and pretending they don’t exist. If they’re worth having as partners, they’re worth being involved in your life.

  • I will be dumped if I get a boyfriend or girlfriend of my own

    It’s a bit rich to require someone to stay in their room, making no noise, and pretending they don’t exist and then punish them for having a life outside of you, ya know. Poly’s at least in part about people being able to form relationships as they wish, yes?

  • I will be required to keep the relationship secret from your family, friends, or others

    No-one likes to be a dirty little secret. If you have a job that would be in danger from being poly, well… You’ve got some priority decisions to make. But make ‘em before you start playing with people’s hearts.

Most of this boils down to not treating HUMAN BEINGS as disposable experiments. You’d think this would be obvious, but apparently there’s a lot of people in this world who really treat other as commodities.

Don’t be that person.

________________________________

1 Don’t be a dick

Polyamory on Purpose Guide to Polyamory and Pregnancy

 

Jessica Burde, polyamorous writer, has released a nice little book on polyamory and pregnancy.

This is a good, clearly-written guide to considering pregnancy, contraception and the baby talks within a polyamorous relationship. I especially like its practicality and the way that it does not encourage wishful thinking. Babies and parenting are a big deal and she does not gloss over it. The book, as you might guess by the title, does deal with pregnancy and childbirth more than contraception (as it should), dealing with sensitive sensibility to the unique challenges a polyamorous family might face when deciding to have a baby. Not only that, it has good suggestions about what to do with them!

If you’re of child-bearing age, whether you want kids or not, it’s a good read to get going discussing those things you need to before you do the deed. You can get the Polyamory on Purpose Guide to Polyamory and Pregnancy in either paperback or electronic format.

You Can’t Fuck Your Way to Good Self-Esteem

I’m new to polyamoury and I guess I’m into the “kid in a candy store” phase. I’ve been calling it “balls to the wall poly” and “punch drunk Poly”…

I’m worried about my attentions, how to split them respectfully, what kind of etiquette I should be following, whether or not I should be having lots of sex (I’m having lots of sex!) or looking to avoid having lots of sex.

I’m socially kind of awkward but unconventionally somewhat attractive and I’ve had a fair amount of attention, some of them have only wanted sex but some have seemed to want more. I’m having trouble finding ways to be clear that don’t turn people off… that aren’t awkward. I suppose I’ll get used to it. But I don’t really know what I should be doing. Whether or not I should be more attentive to some people, less attentive to others.

I’ve always felt I was wired right for poly, and that I would slip into it very well. But I don’t know really what to be doing with myself. I’m not too worried about jealousy on my part… I’m worried about my insecurity about my worth, which has caused me to think that I mean nothing to others and… inadvertently hurt them by thinking I’m worthless… withdrawing too soon, etc.

First off, the “how much sex should I be having” is easy. I’m presuming safer sex practices. After that? As much as you and your partners want to without hurting anyone. Could be none, could be your only interest outside of making a living. That’s up to you and your clearly consenting partners.

Don’t worry about awkward. As long as you’ve got kind and respectful sorted out, you’re golden. This will mean stating clearly, “I’m polyamorous. I have <foo> number of partners.” It will turn some people off, and you know what? That’s good. You don’t want partners that are uncomfortable with or are not into polyamory.

If there is unspoken etiquette surrounding polyamorous relationships, I know nothing about it. Being honest, being kind, having appropriate boundaries and all that smack seems to cover it pretty well. When I’ve done all those things, stuff worked out well. When I haven’t, hilarity usually ensued.

When we’re dealing with attentiveness to partners, this is so easy it’ll blow your mind. Ask your partner(s). If you want to give them that much attention and can, then you do it and it’s awesome. If you can’t or don’t want to give a particular partner that much attention, then maybe y’all aren’t a great match and should give the relationship some thought.

The insecurity about your own worth? That’s an issue and a serious one. That’s definitely a short-cut to making decisions that’ll bite you in the ass. Work on that. While I’m all for having as much of the kind of sex you want to have (Ya! Sex!), I will also point out that you cannot fuck your way to good self-esteem. Neither is polyamory a game of “collect the genitals.”1 Your worth is not based on how many people want to have sex with you.

If it looks like I’m saying that most of polyamory revolves around getting to know partners well, loving them and being able to respond to their wants and needs while they respond to yours, you’re right. It’s about the humans and the individuals involved. It’s not that there aren’t general principles that work well in relationships. There are. But most of those principles involve getting to know the human beings, the real individuals involved rather than making a procrustean attempt to follow a specific set of rules.

_____________________

1 I wish I’d come up with that expression. I got it on Tumblr from a post that has since been deleted. Dammit.

PSA: Please Vote

Mama Java wouldn’t dream of telling you how to vote, because that’s just not how she rolls.  However, she is asking you that if you are an American citizen to please, please, please vote tomorrow.

Smart Voter has a reasonably non-partisan breakdown of the issues you’ll be voting on and how the candidates stand on them.  Educate yourself and vote for what you think is best for not only yourself, but your nation.

Thank you.

Polyamory and Coming Out to Family

This podcast: http://www.thestranger.com/SavageLovePodcast/archives/2012/09/11/savage-love-episode-307

talks about coming out to your parents about being polyamorous. Dan, however, doesn’t have a lot of experience and requested those who do to write in. I suggested your blog as a great resource and I think it would be great if you directed your readers to share their insights with this more-than-couple.

 

Okay, I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast in question. I might get to it during my knitting tonight, but no promises).

However yes, yes, yes, I’d love for people to tell their poly coming out to parents stories if they want to share them.   Excellent idea, and thank you for suggesting it.

How did I get in THIS mess?

I sometimes talk about creeping concessions, but I sometimes wonder if I’m giving the impression that I don’t believe in negotiation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The only real trick is how to differentiate the two.

Creeping concessions, in my experience, are one-time concessions or favors that are then established as precedents from then on. Negotiation is different entirely and has to do with setting agreements on a global scale.

Ferinstance:

Joe: Will you pick me up at four in the morning tomorrow?
Maria: Sure.

(Three days later)

Joe: I need you to pick me up at four in the morning tomorrow.
Maria: Sorry, hon, I’ve got a long day and am not going to be able to do that.
Joe: What the hell? You did it last Monday! I thought we’d agreed that you’d pick me up when I asked!

That’s a creeping concession, though that one is so big and obvious that chances are most people would stop punch it unless the relationship had gotten so bad that their crazy had become your normal.  Chances are good that if someone has poor relationship skills, or worse, is deliberately trying to take advantage of you, you’ll see much smaller increments in the process.  But even so, the process is quite the same.

Healthy relationships where people have good communication skills will have negotiation. Negotiation would look like this:

Joe: There are going to be days that I’m not going to be able to predict in advance that I’ll need a ride very early in the morning. Would you be willing to do that?
Maria: I’m going to have to give a conditional yes on that. You see, some days I have to work from eight to eight. On those days, getting up really early is going to seriously interfere with my sleep.

Joe: Crap. I really need a ride those days and the bus doesn’t run that early. I know you like to do the cooking, but would it help if you knew that you’d be able to count on me having dinner on the table those nights?

Maria: I’m willing to try it on a provisional basis for a month or so. If it interferes with my work performance, we’ll need to find something else.

Joe: Okay. Tell you what, we’ll do it for a month, but during that month I’ll cast around for another solution.

(One month later)

Joe: How is getting up early going? I’ve talked to my boyfriend and he’s willing to pick me up on your twelve hour days.

Maria: Don’t sweat it. Since I’m not cooking those nights, it works out just fine.  Besides, I’m liking that curry you made last week and want to give you a chance to make it again *grin*

Notice in the negotiation stage, Joe really needs that ride. Maria needs her sleep. THEY BOTH SAY WHAT THEY NEED. In this instance, Joe and Maria are also being proactive and showing good will.  Notice Maria is willing to try it provisionally, but gives a time frame.  Being concrete helps with establishing boundaries and keeping the waters from getting muddy. Joe understands the time frame and FOLLOWS THROUGH on a possible alternate solution.  At the end of the trial in this case Maria decides she’s fine with the arrangement, and in this case is willing to see a small benefit to herself in the process.  I can’t emphasize enough how much mutual good will is required for negotiation to work well.  Joe and Maria have a good relationship because they see each other as on the same side.  The end of that check-in could just as easily have gone:

(One month later)

Joe: How is getting up early going? I’ve talked to my boyfriend and he’s willing to pick me up on your twelve hour days.

Maria:  Good, because I’m finding that I’m having a hard time concentrating those last three hours of my 12s.  I really need more sleep.

Joe: Thanks for giving me the time to find an alternative, hon *kiss*  I’ll text Michael and let him know I will be needing that ride.

Either way, the presumption of good will stands, both partners have been honest about what they can and cannot do, and they both are genuinely interested in each others’ needs and welfare.

So what happens if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been agreeing to more and more without realizing it or intending to?

If you find that you’ve gone in further than you’d intended, I think the best thing to remember is that you do have the right to change your mind about what YOU will do. (Not necessarily what the other person will do).  I think it would still be foolish to presume ill-will on the part of the person you’re doing the favors for, mind.  Mistakes happen, and since you’re responsible for the no, you’re responsible for communicating your own boundaries.  If you didn’t get busy and fix that by letting the interested parties know.    They might be disappointed in the change, and might even say so, but if you’re dating a grown up, what you won’t get is a tantrum.

If you get the tantrum, you have another problem to solve. :)