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Gwen
02 Dec 2011, 01:41
Anyone here involved in committed polyamory? (not just casually dating multiple people)

My spouse and I had a year-long relationship with our mutual best friend, who's been in love with both of us for about 7 yrs now. Due to a number of stressors--including my culturally-trained discomfort with polyamory--we broke up about 6 mo ago. Now some of those stressors have lessened, and we've had a taste of being apart and not liked it.

...so I find myself needing to do a lot of thinking and decide whether or not I can commit to an out-of-the-closet polyamorous marriage. (We all love one another and want to remain close above all, and aren't sure we can do that after a second breakup. So it's either agree to put it past us and work on becoming just good friends again, or commit to making it work.) I have no ethical issues with all-parties-aware-and-consenting poly, but I do have a lot of social baggage to get past if it's to be possible for me. Also a lot of personal fears: I love her deeply, and certainly not the same way I love my friends, but not the same way I love my spouse either--so how in love with her am I? Who in my family might actually disown me? Am I prepared for the incredible amount of sh*t my mother would give me? Would I be totally sabotaging my career? Can we actually make it with all the complexity of our existing relationships? Can a third person be equally added to an existing marriage, even a third person who has been close to the couple for years?

...help?

perzephone
02 Dec 2011, 07:55
I'm one of the 'bad' polyamorists, but... being a closeted poly is a lot like being a closeted gay. Someone's going to eventually feel slighted and like an unworthy person.

What you may want to ask yourself is, if you decide to enter into a committed poly relationship and you're uncomfortable with being out of the closet about it, how comfortable is your other partner with potentially being referred to as a 'room-mate' for the duration of the relationship? Do they want to be included with your family? Have they even met your family? Do they want to have an active social role with your co-workers or unknowing friends?

If your other partner does want all that a true marriage entails, being relegated to 'just a close friend' may not be enough for them, and their dissatisfaction and unhappiness will drive them away or cause friction within the relationship.

My husband's sister is married to a black man, but because her parents are racists, she hasn't told them the two of them are married. As far as her parents know, Jay is a room-mate and bodyguard. Jay is a kind, loving and warm-hearted man who would like to be allowed to help take care of his father-in-law, help around the family houses, and feel truly welcome at family gatherings. In other words, he wants to be a son-in-law, not a room-mate. Instead, while the 'family' gathers in the kitchen during pot-lucks, Jay sits out in the living room watching t.v. When we go to restaurants, there is lively conversation in the middle of the table, and Jay is left in silence at the end. My husband's sister has to pay for Jay's meals because her mother will only pay for 'family' to eat. He's left out of major financial and housing decisions because he's just a 'room-mate'.

It's completely effed up. It's a hurtful situation for his sister & Jay to be in - and an uncomfortable situation for everyone around them to have to constantly watch everything they say so no one lets the big nasty secret slip out. While you're probably not as under-the-thumb of your mother as my husband & his sister are (due to money, it's always money...), you can probably still understand the parallels to your own circumstances.

Ljubezen
02 Dec 2011, 10:36
You've already answered many of your own questions and given yourself the tools you need to resolve the issue. You need to take some time out to think things over thoroughly.

Although I'm not into poly-relationships, emotions are universal and I understand how hard this is for all of you. You all need to take some time out, re-evaluate your definitions of relationship v. family v. friendship (etc...) and decide what works best for you all. These situations rarely work out perfectly, so don't be disheartened if the fragments down fall perfectly.

The only one who can make this decision is you, and you should make it after all things have been considered. Write yourself up a list of questions and take some time to yourself to answer each of them. You should have each of your partners do the same. Collaborate later as to what each of you has decided for him/herself and the solution should come much easier.

Gwen
02 Dec 2011, 12:02
Thanks you two! Ljubezen, we've set up a sort of decision tree: first I decide whether I can be in an open poly marriage, and whether I want to be in this one; then if I decide yes, the third party decides whether she believes the three of us can work; and then my spouse says yea or nay (and he really wants this). At that point it becomes something like your lists, with lots of conversation about not how to solve the issues we had during our year together (that's the work of a long-term relationship), but whether or not we all believe we can find liveable solutions to each.

Perzephone, the third lady is only willing to do this if we're out of the closet to all friends and family, including the family members who are going to have a problem. (And some of my family would really have problems. I might lose some people, and would definitely launch into several years of fights with my mum like I haven't had since I told her I was Pagan.) We were closeted during our year and it was really, really hard for her. She wants us to be out to her coworkers (come to holiday parties etc), but doesn't need to be out to mine and my spouses--which is good, because I'm going into chaplaincy and he's going into parish ministry. People have certain images of what a religious leader is like, and polyamory pretty much only cuts it if you're from a culture where it's normal or if you're Pagan or the right kind of Mormon. We wouldn't be able to work in our chosen fields. Even being assured that she doesn't need my coworkers to know, I fear what would happen if they found out. She's got a good enough job to support my freelance priestessing if that's what happens, but I do really want to do chaplaincy.

What kind of poly are you in? Have you ever been in a long-term poly relationship? What issues came up that you didn't expect (if you're ok sharing) and how did y'all resolve them? Did y'all ever deal with taxes, child custody, etc? How much basic prejudice did you run across (and where)?

perzephone
02 Dec 2011, 18:26
I'll answer this half first:


What kind of poly are you in? Have you ever been in a long-term poly relationship? What issues came up that you didn't expect (if you're ok sharing) and how did y'all resolve them? Did y'all ever deal with taxes, child custody, etc? How much basic prejudice did you run across (and where)?

I say I'm the 'bad kind of poly' because it's been more of a series of relationships instead of one long committed one, or a few long committed ones. Before I met my husband I was in a four-way relationship with two other women and a man - it was fine for me, fine for him, but the two other women started to have issues between them (mainly, one always felt like we spent more time w/the other, or loved the other more, or didn't appreciate them enough or... typical relationship/self-esteem/worth things) that made us all decide to go our separate ways. Another problem was financial - I couldn't seem to get a job, one of the other girls was a trust fund baby, and the guy & other girl had 'real' jobs. She & the trust-fund baby felt as though all money should be communal, but he wasn't as into that. I found that I felt like a charity case, and had a hard time accepting anything above & beyond the most basic necessities from anyone, which was frustrating for the other three. Everyone filed their taxes separately, lol. I've also gone out of my way to avoid entanglements with anyone who had kids, and a couple of relationships that my husband & I have been in were ended because the other woman decided she wanted a baby (like, five of our previous relationships) - and my husband & I are both firmly child-free by choice.

Most of the time I tell people my husband and I have an 'open marriage', which seems to be ok more here in Vegas than it was in Oregon or Louisiana. I'm not really beholden to anyone. My parents are long dead, I don't feel obligated to play nice around my surviving family - they know I'm Pagan, bi and in their eyes, a sexual freak. Many of my co-workers know, too - but they aren't my friends, they're my coworkers, and I work for a huge corporation where I am a 6-digit employee number more than I am an individual. My husband's family will never know - which is fine for us, but the financial involvement they have with us would cause problems in any relationship, and has even in our regular ol' marriage.

Men who are privy to my marriage's little secrets all seem to think my husband is extremely lucky in that he gets to have sex on the side, or have the two-girls-one-guy encounters, but say they wouldn't want their wife or girlfriend to 'screw around'. They have a hard time understanding that you can love more than one person enough to have a multi-person-relationship. Most women who know about me stop asking me for relationship advice or having those, "so, how is your marriage/relationship" type conversations with me :) They act like I have some kind of mental or emotional deficiency or something because I'm not jealous and possessive of my husband - and I'm not truly committed.

Right now, and for a while now, we haven't been with anyone else except casually, mainly because my husband's decided he's ok with me being bi, ok with me having sex with other women, but he gets jealous & possessive of me in longer-term relationships - and can't handle relationships with other men. We keep trying different things, but the older he gets the less flexible he is. Things change. I've found out that I can't handle long-term relationships with most other women because of the emotional needs. I'm emotionally distant and unavailable (and recently found out that I have a personality disorder, which explains oh-so-many problems I've had all these years) and tend to withdraw into myself when someone around me gets really upset - and I don't 'share my feelings' (mainly because I don't really have any worth mentioning)


Perzephone, the third lady is only willing to do this if we're out of the closet to all friends and family, including the family members who are going to have a problem. (And some of my family would really have problems. I might lose some people, and would definitely launch into several years of fights with my mum like I haven't had since I told her I was Pagan.) We were closeted during our year and it was really, really hard for her. She wants us to be out to her coworkers (come to holiday parties etc), but doesn't need to be out to mine and my spouses--which is good, because I'm going into chaplaincy and he's going into parish ministry. People have certain images of what a religious leader is like, and polyamory pretty much only cuts it if you're from a culture where it's normal or if you're Pagan or the right kind of Mormon. We wouldn't be able to work in our chosen fields. Even being assured that she doesn't need my coworkers to know, I fear what would happen if they found out. She's got a good enough job to support my freelance priestessing if that's what happens, but I do really want to do chaplaincy.

All I can really say on this is... well, you love who you love, but you can't always live with your choices.

Personally, if I was going to try for a position that required me to behave a certain way, or live a certain way, and it's what I wanted to do more than anything, if it was my 'calling'... I'd eliminate anything in my life standing in its way. But I'm a workaholic. Some people think the same way about love. If they've fallen for someone, and wanted to be with that person more than anything or anyone else, they'd eliminate anything in their life standing in the way of that relationship.

Ljubezen
03 Dec 2011, 19:52
I'm glad to hear you've set up a plan to get things sorted out. :) That's usually the hardest part of every conflict.

Dez
08 Dec 2011, 12:51
I haven't had anything useful to add to this, but I've been following with interest, and really hope you get everything sorted out, Gwen, good luck!

KashakuTatsu
11 Dec 2011, 01:49
I'm in a confusing polyamory set up but it works for multiple reasons.... I grew really close with a friend of mine. Her and her husband agreed that I was a second wife in the mix after a few years. The children even call me mom half the time. Due to her having a husband, we have a set up that I can have a male but she's the only woman I can have. It's been nearing two years of this set up and so far it's the most stable and less stressful relationship I've ever been in. Everyone knows, everyone's ok, there is no straying from it, it works... even the kids don't question it.

Yazichestvo
12 Dec 2011, 14:23
In my experience, there's often someone who's less comfortable with it. I have a friend who suffered for some time in an open relationship, but she just went along with it anyway. I know my current girl friend well enough to know it would be very inconsiderate of me to press the matter- and yet I often see relationships will some people will *push* someone else into a position they are uncomfortable with.

Of course, some people can handle it very well. With the first girl I was ever with, I was young and actually liked the idea of her sleeping with others as much I liked the idea of freedom for myself. Not so much with this one. There's something very nice about the possessiveness of monogamy- the freedom to be possessive and jealous is kind of liberating too. Dynamics can change on you a lot, depending on when or who it is.

Gwen
26 Dec 2011, 15:51
Thanks, all, for insight and solidarity! Solstice week I was able to spend a ton of time hanging out with our lady (let's call her Sita) and as an experiment intentionally related to her not as Sita-who-muddles-all-my-norms-of-types-of-love, but as Sita-possible-wife-and-lover. And it worked. Not just worked--it felt really really good, natural even. Crazy! but natural.

Kashaku, it's actually a really big relief to know that it's possible for long-term poly to function in a non-stressful way. I mostly hear stories to the contrary, and I know there are often stresses unique to multipartner families, but it's nice to have a concrete example of things going smooth. (A third example, actually. Ran across a lovely lady some time ago who was in a five-person arrangement that had been going well for years. Also was introduced to a UU minister who's open about having two long-term partners.)

Yazichestvo, I actually had some concerns about being pushed. I'm definitely the one among the three who's least comfortable with the situation, and that was one of the primary reasons we broke up 6 mo ago. It's just that I've since decided that I kinda want this, myself. Yeah, I don't know that I'd even be considering it if the other two didn't want it. But they had both been working on moving on when I realized this fall that I was no longer sure the challenges carried more weight than my love for Sita. Still a little insecure about the pressure but I'm feeling more confident about my own decisions here. Which is nice.

I also hear ya about the "possessiveness of monogamy." I remember shortly after the breakup, my home life suddenly seemed so private. There were only the two of us, no third party, no growing pains involved in being more frank and public about my love life than I wanted to be. I'm a little nervous about what will happen to those feelings if we do this thing for real. I suspect, though, that part of the reason I lost that sense of intimacy/privacy during the triad year was that I was holding Sita a little at arm's length while I figured out what the hell to do with polyamory. I think there's a very real chance that I'll develop the same sense of intimacy if I truly let her in. I certainly hope so!


you love who you love, but you can't always live with your choices.
Thanks, Perz--this has been knocking around (constructively) in my head since you posted it. It scared me for a good week or two as I contemplated the possible family and career ramifications. But since then... I've been thinking about which I'd regret more: going for it and having it fall apart, or holding back and always wondering what I was missing. I'm not ready to be totally decided yet but I'm pretty sure it's the second. I know people often regret most the things they were afraid to try. And I know that even right after the breakup when I was SO relieved to not be in a closet full of pressure anymore, I wasn't happy because I try to live my life being motivated by hope and love over fear, as often as possible. There's a song I love by Terry Hinley:

"Well I looked at your hair, it was tattered and astray. And I wanted to hold back the wind.
But a circus of anger swirled into your eyes, and I knew I was looking at the end.
And the beach was red with the setting of the sun. And the star of the evening was risin'...
Well I walked back alone to the crest of the dune, and I looked back to the sea.
And I saw your face for the very last time, and the tears on your cheeks were real...
Well today it is later, and many years have passed--the swiftness of time is amazing.
And I read in the night, and I pay out the rent, and each day is just like the rest.
So where in the night,
so where in this night,
so where in the night...
are you?"

And I know I don't want to be that person.

Ohgodohgod folks, I think we're going to do this thing. I think I'm about to make a decision I never ever dreamt I'd be seriously considering, even just four years ago. If I decide yes, we'll move straightaway to the "can we deal with all our issues?" conversation--the other two have both made clear now that they've decided they want to go forward.

Keep us in your prayers! It may be a pretty crazy ride ahead.

Dez
26 Dec 2011, 20:17
You got it, and good luck! I really hope it works out. :)

perzephone
26 Dec 2011, 22:47
Thanks, all, for insight and solidarity! Solstice week I was able to spend a ton of time hanging out with our lady (let's call her Sita) and as an experiment intentionally related to her not as Sita-who-muddles-all-my-norms-of-types-of-love, but as Sita-possible-wife-and-lover. And it worked. Not just worked--it felt really really good, natural even. Crazy! but natural.

...

Ohgodohgod folks, I think we're going to do this thing. I think I'm about to make a decision I never ever dreamt I'd be seriously considering, even just four years ago. If I decide yes, we'll move straightaway to the "can we deal with all our issues?" conversation--the other two have both made clear now that they've decided they want to go forward.

Keep us in your prayers! It may be a pretty crazy ride ahead.

Congratulations! May you & yours have the best of luck in your new voyage!

And you know you can always come here & find support :)

Gwen
27 Dec 2011, 02:03
Thanks, y'all!


And you know you can always come here & find support :)
Oh, I will be! ^^; I've got a steep learning curve ahead about dealing with periodic jealousy, untangling the complexities of three-way fights, bracing for the possibility of losing some of my relatives when we come out (which we'd do within a couple years)-- nevermind raising healthy and confident kids in a world that will sometimes tell them that there's something wrong with their family. I'm gonna need all the help I can get, and I'm grateful to know I've got y'all at my back.

Gwen
17 Jan 2012, 00:36
Update: the Thursday after my last post (a little over a week ago) we had the "can we deal with our issues?" talk and decided yes, we can. The next day we brought her to our local witch shop and bought her a promise ring (peridot with triquetras on the band--seemed appropriate). This past weekend we rented a truck and swapped beds--so our double is now in her apartment (she has a roommate, so we won't be staying over much) and her queen is at our place (where she'll be staying over lots).

Everything feels surreal! but good. It's gonna take time to really sink in for all of us. I'm feeling better gradually about openness as we've so far been well-received by friends, her co-workers, and my coven. She's slowly beginning to wrap her head around her first really committed relationship ever. (My husband's bracing for the point when he has to do more housework than he likes because his 50% vote about what needs doing when, just became a 33% one.)

So yeah. Good! Surreal! but good!

volcaniclastic
19 Jan 2012, 11:06
I'm a bit late in the conversation, but I'm happy for you, Gwen. I've been trying to make the poly thing work for as long as I've been dating, and always with disastrous results. Right now, I think I'm finally in a relationship where I'm at least allowed to love other people, which is new for me.

Anyhow, good for you!

Gwen
30 Jan 2012, 00:47
Thanks! And good luck with your situation... sounds challenging. But I'm glad things are on the up.

I find myself in the weird situation this week of kind of wanting to be living with Sita now (we're not moving in prolly til summer for a number of reasons). I seem to have gone from "we're not dating because poly isn't something that I can do" to "...ok, we're not OFFICIALLY engaged but." since November, when I first started seriously reconsidering our situation. I've always only dated someone while I think there's a possibility of a long-term relationship for us (and broken up when that stops)--until Sita became a possibility. Last year was an experiment in casual dating for me, and it was the only way I could start wrapping my head around poly. But now that serious/not-serious switch has been thrown in my head and I find myself wanting to be further in... We won't be yet, for a number of reasons including but not limited to her needing to get used to her first really serious relationship. Also I need to get used to her 50 hr/wk-plus-commute work schedule and its implications for the amount of time she spends with ANYONE, my husband and me or otherwise.

...I'm rambling, a bit. Anyway. It feels pretty weird to go from "omigod we're doing this!" to "can we be doing this more intensely yet?" and I realized I hadn't bopped over to check on things for a bit, so here I am, rambling and all.

Dez
30 Jan 2012, 06:55
Good to hear an update!

I don't have advice from you're perspective, but I'd say just sit back and enjoy that awesome infatuation period...many people don't get to do that all over again, especially with a love that has already become sane, sensible and comfortable still thriving ;)

Madness
30 Jan 2012, 09:35
(My husband's bracing for the point when he has to do more housework than he likes because his 50% vote about what needs doing when, just became a 33% one.)

HAHAHA! Why does this make me laugh so much?!?! Seriously, I'm wiping tears from my eyes! I guess I just imagine my husband in a situation with two women just like me. Oh boy, he'd be in so much trouble!

I'm glad things are working out for you guys. Isn't it interesting getting over a social/sexual taboo ingrained from childhood? Sometimes it amazes me that people ever branch out from what their parents/relatives/neighbors did. Makes me wish for a world that was more open about possibilities so people could be comfortable with what was out there and make a choice based on personal preferences rather than cultural norms.

Shahaku
08 Feb 2012, 17:17
My fiance and I have been considering something like this. We'd like to add another female to the mix, but I'm not bisexual so it would be for him. But I'm not at all jealous over the idea. We even have a girl that we're considering. My fiance met her online in a game he plays and they started dating "in game"--it's SecondLife if anyone knows what that is and people date and get married in the game. So far it's been kind of working. Sometime we have difficulty finding things to talk about, but otherwise we all seem to get along.

I love my fiance, but I also believe that people can love more than one person. It's kinda nice to get on here and see we aren't the only people out there looking at a different relationship style. I hope it works out for you, Gwen.

Gwen
15 Feb 2012, 01:51
Thanks again y'all for support!

Madness, my boy is indeed in trouble when Sita actually moves in! I'm not looking forward to those renegotiations but I am SO looking forward to having a cleaner house. Also when we got married his priest warned us that we're 80% made up of our families of origin. I didn't believe him til I'd been married a couple of years and had many, many iterations of the "Oh! This bugs me so much because it relates to X thing my mom always did!" conversations. A common version has certainly been, "this is hard for me because my family taught me to expect Y and to be uncomfortable with Z." That one's come up even more around poly, as you might imagine!

Shahaku, good luck! I'm finding that now that I've made a commitment, people in similar situations are coming out of the woodwork in the most miraculous ways--old friends, classmates, friends-of-friends... it's encouraging. I hope that at least some of that happens for you too!

Aright folks who've tried this poly thing in some iteration or other: what the f*** do you do with that jealousy thing when it rears its ugly head? This weekend is gonna be the first since we got (back) together that I'll be away and they'll have lots of time together and quite probably some sex. This is a good thing! because they haven't had one-on-one time yet and we need to nurture all legs of our triangle--but I'm bracing for a host of my insecurities to come up, and trying to figure out for reals how I deal with sharing my husband when I'm not part of the interaction.