Is it morbid that I had the urge to reread this one?
Quite possibly. But it still holds up as one of my favourite books. I wouldn’t argue that it’s the greatest book of all time, but there’s just something about it that always grabs me.
Is it morbid that I had the urge to reread this one?
Quite possibly. But it still holds up as one of my favourite books. I wouldn’t argue that it’s the greatest book of all time, but there’s just something about it that always grabs me.
*SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THIS AND EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES*
With The Shadow Rising the series has really hit its stride. Now we’re through the initial “trilogy”, as I discussed in my last post, we’re able to get into the story proper.
Let’s start with my highlight: the history of Rhuidean and the Aiel. This is, in my opinion, a contender for the best moment in the whole series.
We were introduced to the Aiel in the previous book, and now we see their culture in full. This is the third culture we’re introduced to – after the “main” world and the Seanchan – and its differences. The way Rand learns their history is amazing not just because it fills in a large portion of the world’s history but for how it does it.
As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve also now established my favourite characters in the series; Perrin and Faile. It seems silly in a way, but I really connected with these two when I first read the series. Out of Rand, Matt, and Perrin, Perrin was always the one who seemed to me to just get one with things. He did what needed to be done, and with far less sulking than the other two. Not that there isn’t some, but less than the others.
And he meets Faile, a fiery, passionate woman from a different culture who challenges him and forced him to connect with him own passion, while at the same time let him ground her. To an English boy who met and married and Argentinean girl, this spoke to me.
And I still love them. More than any other couple in the series, they compliment each other. They’re always looking out for each other and striving for the best for the other, even when they don’t agree with what that might be.
The other thing that can’t be avoided now we’re well into the series is an issue that’s been raised a lot: the gender divide.
There has been a lot of discussion about the gender politics of The Wheel of Time. Some of it is valid, some of it less so. I’ll probably go into this in more detail in later posts, but let’s start here.
The Wheel of Time has a definite gender divide. The characters are always talking or thinking about how the other gender is impossible to understand. Women will talk about how men are impossible to control and never understand anything, and the men will do the same about women. It’s a theme that runs through the books, and a lot of people have focused on this as a problem.
But there are two sides to this.
The first is that we have to face the fact this series has the same problem all fantasy of its time has, especially when written by someone of Jordan’s generation: outdated gender politics are written into the world in a way that wouldn’t stand today. These books may only be thirty years old but that’s enough to have noticeably dated in some ways.
But the second point is a gender spilt is an intrinsic part of the world. This a civilisation whose founding incident was all male magic users going mad and literally the world. From that point on only woman could use magic without going mad. This would naturally leave a culture with a stark gender awareness.
So while we do have the problem of traditional gender roles being entrenched in fantasy literature, I believe The Wheel of Time gets away with it due to its design. A modern writer might have better addressed this – Brandon Sanderson, for example, would have handled this much better – but I think Jordan just didn’t see it as a problem.
Also, as much as the female characters can be somewhat problematic at time, they have full agency and control. They are in most cases doing their own thing. And while a lot of this revolves around a man – Rand being the prophesied Chosen One will do that – that’s simply an inevitable part of the story.
And now on to The Fires of Heaven. The characters are on the move, the established havens made unsafe, and everything uncertain.
Emily, a talented street grifter, is pulled off the street and placed in a school that teaches its students the true power of human language. Struggling against the strict discipline of this new life, she discovers her talents for persuasion are more powerful than she ever realised.
Will has no memory of the things the men who abducted him insist he was part of. The only survivor of an impossible to survive event, he finds himself on the run from an organisation that wants to pull a word out of his head anyway it can.
I got this book as my Secret Santa gift at work last year. It was a successful purchase.
I got pulled into the story straight away, with both Will and Emily’s stories are equally engaging. At no point was I annoyed when it swapped between one and the other, which can happen when there are two viewpoints at once.
It’s hard to go into some of the details without spoilers, but I’ll just say I loved how the two POVs came to interact. There were surprises, and while I managed to work some out in advance these were enough to make me fee smart rather than making the story feel predictable.
This book was fascinating. As I got into it I actually started to worry, as the concept got very close to one of my WIPs. Luckily Barry took it in the other direction to where I’m looking to go. I might still take some inspiration from here though.
I’m definitely putting Max Barry on my watch list. It looks like he’s got a few books out, so those are on my To-Read list once I get my current reading pile down a bit.
Book Three done.
From this point on in this series of posts I’m going to have to say *mild spoilers*. We’re getting to the point where discussing the plot of each book with reveal points from previous ones. It’s unavoidable. So if you’ve not yet read The Wheel of Time, or plan to watch the Amazon Prime show when it comes out without knowing anything in advance, then I recommend doing so before reading any more of these posts.
*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EARLIER BOOKS IN THE SERIES*
I think The Dragon Reborn is where The Wheel of Time really starts to get good. The premise is set, we know the main characters, and have a grasp of the world as a whole. The foundation is in place and we’re ready to open things up and run.
In my last post I discussed how The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt mirrored each other; in the first the characters are running from something and in the next running to something. The Dragon Reborn concludes the introduction ‘trilogy’, if you will, by having them run for something. The characters are now becoming proactive.
Where we might start to get bored with the formula a little, the introduction of the world of dreams – both with Tel’aran’rhiod and the Wolf Dream – gives us a nice helping of foreshadowing. The first time you read these they open up possibilities and could easily mean very little. But on following read-throughs you know what they are hinting at. You get to see exactly how far ahead Jordan had planned the story. Elements we’re not going to see for several books are already hinted or at play. It’s masterful.
The only series to come close to The Wheel of Time when it comes to foreshadowing is the television show Babylon 5. If you know of any others, let me know as I’d love to have more examples.
And, critically, we have new antagonists: The Forsaken.
Two of the Forsaken turned up in The Eye of the World, but in that case simply appeared during the climax to act as a Boss Battle. By the end of The Dragon Reborn we know they are all free. Until now there were a distant threat, trapped but as risk of escaping. Now they are in play. And also they are all doing something far more terrifying than simply attacking the protagonists outright; establishing themselves and making plans. They are setting themselves as rulers, insinuating themselves into positions of power.
By the end of The Dragon Reborn we know where three of them are and that two of them are dead, but the others are all out there somewhere. And so now the series has a credible, real world threat. Until now we’ve had the Trollocs. Terrifying, but essentially mindless monsters. The Forsaken, on the other hand, are active, intelligent forces working against the protagonists. Each one different, yet equally dangerous.
Also this is the book that introduces Faile, and Faile and Perrin are my favourite two characters in the series. I’ll talk more about them in my post for the next book in the series.
The last thing is want to mention here is how annoying some of the characters are. And I mean that in the best possible way.
Take Nynaeve. I hate Nynaeve as a person, but love her character. She’s arrogant, stuck up, bullies people into getting her way, refuses to admit anyone else can ever be right, and her entire arch through the first few books of the series is based about seeking spiteful revenge against Morraine.
One of the things I love about this series are the flaws these characters have, and the reasons behind them. There are reasons Nynaeve is the way she is, and there will be ways she grows and tempers her personality without changing who she is.
And that’s fine. Better than fine. She’s not the only one, just the main example. I also feel Matt needs a good sulk to stop him sulking all the time. It’s easy to forget how young the main characters are sometimes. If they sound like they are being sulky and childish, they’re mostly teenagers still. And acting like any teenage with authority they’re not certain how to handle.
It’s important to be able to dislike a character. To be able to look at a protagonist and see how their thoughts and opinions are valid, but if you were in a room with them you’d just want to slap them for being so irritating.
But that’s what makes them interesting. It’s why no particular section feels boring. As the series progresses there are going to be so many new characters to keep in our heads, and it’s these character traits that stops them becoming interchangeable.
If I have a criticism for The Dragon Reborn, it’s that there’s a little too much exposition in the first third of the book. It suffers from the fact it was an early book in an epic fantasy series and needed to refresh the reader on the world and the story. When you re-read them in quick succession it’s jarring when the characters keep explaining everything to us. I don’t remember this problem from previous read-throughs, so hopefully it will stop being a problem in the next books.
And so on to The Shadow Rising. Rand has declared himself the Dragon Reborn, fulfilling the prophesies that make it impossible for the world to deny him. It’s time for our main party to split, and the Forsaken to start tearing the world up under their feet. And, happily, the this will be the last book in my collection is the terrible original cover art.
It’s the last day of Polyamory Week 2020. So where are things headed for me going forward?
One of the things that has become ingraining in my philosophies in the last few years is things change, and you can’t possibly foretell where your journey will take you. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have considered my life to be what it is. Who knows where I’ll be in another decade.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t think about where the person I am now will take me.
I suspect that some people would consider this lifestyle a phase. Something that you grow out of once you eventually find “The One” and settle down. When you’re younger it would get dismissed as sowing your wild oats, or just a fear of commitment. Luckily, as someone who’s come into this lifestyle after setting down, there’s less traction for those arguments.
There’s still the old mid-life crisis, I suppose. But we started down this path years ago, and I don’t consider myself quite at “mid” life just yet.
My being polyamorous is here to stay. As I mentioned earlier this week, if for whatever reason I ended up with only one partner, or even no partners at all, I would still consider myself polyamorous. It’s a belief and a lifestyle, not a situation.
How will this affect my future?
Well, children will be the big thing. Frankie and I have always planned on having children. We’d actually meant to have them by now, but life has taken us done roads and this plan has had to be postposed more than once due to health issues.
And when we do, it’s going to involve conversations with everyone we’re involved with. We may have decided we’re going to have children, but we can’t decide that other people have to be involved. It’s possible this may be a reason for someone to step away, and that would be hard. But it would something we’d have to face and deal with.
Personally, I love the idea of an extended poly family. I’ve nothing against the traditional two parent dynamic, but from a purely practical sense having more adults involved can only make things easier. And having a child grow up with multiple different adults in their life, each acting as a different type of role-model, be really speaks to me.
As with everything Poly, it will involve a lot of talking and making sure everyone is comfortable. Things might not end up the way I would like, but I know for certain there are ways to make it work. Nothing satisfying is easy.
I want to play a part in correcting how polyamory is portrayed in media. I have plans for a polyamorous romance novel. (I’d say ‘chick-lit’, but I hate that term.)
I was reading an article about books with positive depictions of non-monogamy, and every one on the list was science-fiction. Polyamory isn’t some futuristic idea only suited for high fantasy. I want to see it in a traditional romance story, just not as a gimmick or a fetish. And above all I want to avoid the trope of it being used to save a failing relationship. I want it to just be part of the protagonist’s life. Non-monogamy won’t be the cause of conflict or the pivot of the story. I want it to simply be there, as part of people’s lives.
I have rough ideas, but I’ve not put time into bringing it into shape. I have a couple other books higher up on the to-do list. But I’m not planning on leaving this one too long.
Above all, I want to keep learning. Engaging with this life has opened up whole new areas of culture and society I’ve not engaged with before. Sexuality, gender, politics, all of these are intertwined and fascinating.
There is so much in our perception of the world that’s been ingrained by society. Even if we think we’re more aware of these things, actually discovering something that you didn’t know that you didn’t know is enthralling.
Ethical non-monogamy has so many facets and styles and ways to live. I love meeting new people and discovering their journeys and lives, even if I discover things I have no wish to try myself. I want to keep meeting new people with interesting stories to tell. I want to learn more about what people feel and do. I want to be someone who immerses themselves in all those areas our culture has traditional avoiding talking about. Sex. Sexual health. Gender politics. Equality. Love and relationships. Different cultures and how they feed into each other.
And, hopefully, doing this will help me be a change for good in the world. Maybe I’ll be better able to advise people who need it. Maybe I’ll be able to open a door to a life someone didn’t know they wanted. Maybe I’ll be able to spread awareness so that people’s decisions may be a little more informed. To be someone who calls out these subconscious biases as well as I can, doing my bit to stop all these little inequalities that survived only because most of us don’t even see they exist.
My name is Tom, and I’m polyamorous.
I love Frankie. We’ve been together for fourteen years, and married for ten.
I love Aine. We’ve been together for almost a year.
I love my friends, both old and new, or everything they have brought into my life.
The future is uncertain, but above all I am determined to continue to learn and expand my mind.
We’ll see you there.
Okay, I’ve been told by those who read this before it was posted that it’s more of a rant that I meant it to be. So prepare yourself for a rant, and for me to pour scorn on a day dedicated to love and romance.
I don’t do Valentine’s Day.
Never have. Once, in a time long gone, I would have liked to. But that time passed, leaving me jaded and full of bile for the 14th of February. By the time I finally did have a girlfriend on this day I had already made the conscious decision to boycott it forever. And luckily, Frankie wasn’t bothered about it. We shared the ideal that if we wanted to do something to show our love it wasn’t because we were obliged to by the date. So for the next decade we happily ignored its existence.
But now my life involves other relationships, some of whom may well consider Valentine’s Day important. So I thought I should sit down and think about what it is I feel about this “holiday”.
Let’s start with the simple answer…
I was single all through school. I spent every Valentine’s Day throughout my teenage years single. I had to watch as people around me experienced and explored the joy of first love and requited teenage infatuation, while all my infatuations were very much unrequited. While my hormones raged, I remained alone, forced to watch from the outside as everyone around me – it seemed to me at the time – revelled in something I desperately wanted but couldn’t have.
And as petty as this sounds, it was a big deal to teenage me. I was a romantic, and wanted all those things that Valentine’s Day celebrated. And it had a lasting affect. To me, Valentine’s Day became a day where I was made to feel bad for being single. A day for couples, when those of us still single were pushed aside to be happy for others. Fit only to watch, unwanted, from the sidelines.
Teenage me wasn’t dramatic at all.
You could try to avoid it, but that always seemed impossible. Society seemed desperate for this day to be celebrated. To rub it in my face. Alone again this year? You must have not spent enough on single roses and pink greetings cards. Oh well, at least you can stand there in the corner and enjoy how happy other people are today.
I never felt lonelier that I did on Valentine’s Day.
So, once I was finally in a relationship, the idea of engaging with Valentine’s Day disgusted me. It had made me feel so bad for so many years that being on the other side made no difference. The idea of being one of those people who’d made me so unhappy – however much that was my problem and not theirs – was something I could never accept. I had no desire to add to the suffering of anyone else feeling as lonely as I had.
Dramatic? Me? Not at all.
But why don’t I just get over it? Because there is more that make Valentine’s Day terrible than my adolescent angst.
I hate the way it commercialises love.
There’s this inherent idea that how much you love someone depends on how much you spend on them. Didn’t you buy your partner something nice? Why not? Don’t you love them enough?
I object to any part of love becoming an obligation.
And I also hated how this always seemed – at least for the most part – to be a pressure focused on men. I’ve heard so many conversations about how much a woman’s boyfriend or husband has done for them, or complaints about how little. Where woman talked about their partner failing at his obligations, while not having done anything themselves. As if his romance was the payment with her agreeing to stay with him the prize.
(Let’s not discuss the concept of “Steak and a Blowjob Day”. I’ll get angry.)
Love should never be an obligation. There should never be a time when you are required to show someone how much you lover them. And love should never be quantified by money or expectation. Even if you don’t spend money and just do something nice, I still feel uncomfortable with the obligation. I like to think I do that kind of thing anyway, not because I have to but because I want to.
If you want to do something nice for your partner, go ahead. But if you to need an allocated day to show your partner you love them, then that’s an issue with your relationship there, my friend.
But you can argue any holiday is tainted by commercialism. I won’t argue Christmas isn’t commercial, and I love Christmas with a passion.
But the my ultimate problem with Valentine’s Day is…
Valentine’s Day, to me, has come to represent everything wrong with the modern view of what love is. The monogamous, patriarchal, capitalist view of love.
Love is great. Relationships are great, in all their forms. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with the traditional two person relationship. But there is so much toxicity in modern media about love and about what love is.
No, not what love is. But what love should be.
There is no such thing as “The One”. There is no “Happy Ever After”. Love never falls into place and becomes easy just because you find the right person. Finding “True Love’s First Kiss” (TM) won’t solve all your problems. Falling in love never means you need to stop trying. There is no situation where you are able to do whatever you want with love as an excuse.
Love also isn’t two straight, cis people settling down together to the exclusion of all others and having children.
Yet all these things are so prevalent in modern culture. How many films have you watched where someone was unhappy because they hadn’t found “The One”? Or where the goal was finding and keeping love, no matter how creepy or abusive you’re being.
Disney have a lot to answer for for this. They’re not the only ones, but they most prevalent culprits. Frankie and I have had long discussions about which classic Disney movies our children will be allowed to watch, for various reasons. One of these is the way they have conditioned multiple generations of children into the fairytale view of love. But at least these movies have the excuse that they are from another time, and Disney do at least seem to be trying change, at least in some areas.
This genre has done. So. Much. Damage.
There are good Romantic Comedies. I don’t have a blanket anger at an entire genre. And I’m also not going to criticise a movie for having people finding love as its plot because it didn’t go out of its way to show all the possible permutations of modern relationships.
But so many of them just perpetuate terrible, toxic ideas of love and relationships. Single woman are incomplete. Men don’t look for love until “The One” walks into their life. Married couples are tired and fed up with each other. Ignoring someone’s clearly stated wishes because it’s “meant to be”. Wearing someone down until they accept you.
These are traditionally spoken of as “women’s movies”, but they drip with toxic masculinity. It’s no wonder so many people excuse men for being terrible people when the media has been normalising it for so long.
Let’s just state this for the record: Pursuing someone who has made it clear they are not interested is stalking. Manipulating or tricking someone into loving you is abusive. Settling down with one person and having kids isn’t the single true goal on mankind.
And don’t get me started on Richard Curtis. That man has done more damage to people’s views of love than any single person I know. His films are literally filled with toxic men stalking, manipulating, and damaging woman in the name of “love”. This man has gaslit a generating into conflating abusive behaviour and romance.
This could turn into a much longer rant. (So long. Don’t get me started on Love Actually…).
But if you’re someone who enjoys Valentine’s Day, who can see through everything I’ve said above then wonderful. In the end, the important thing is…
I may not celebrate Valentine’s day, but I don’t begrudge those who do. If you and your partner(s) take it as an opportunity to do something together then more power to you. If you see it as a celebration of love as a whole, then dive right in. Revel in it.
But if you’re doing things today because you’re obliged to, because you’ll be called a failure if you don’t, or because you feel some big gesture on this specific date will somehow make up for something you did or convince someone who has no interest you’re worth giving a second chance, then please, please!, take a step back and reevaluate your relationship with this day.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Make of it what you will.
When coming into a new area of life, research is important. I may have all the necessary skills and tools for this life, but it’s possible that I don’t know how to use them. And it’s a simple fact that as much as I consider myself a modern, open minded person, I’ve had thirty-six years of conditioning that the romantic ideal is to find “The One”.
There are books out there designed to help people into the non-monogamy world. But we need to remember that just because someone has been living the lifestyle longer, and may even be seen as a leading figure in the scene, it doesn’t mean their advice is perfect.
More Then Two, by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert has been referred to in a number of circles as the “Polyamory Bible”; recommended as the go-to resource for discovering and working out the basics of polyamory.
More Than Two is comprehensive. There are sections aimed at those coming in to polyamory from different points of view – single to poly, couples opening up, families with children – and more general topics like communication. A lot of it seems simple, and I’m certain that everyone who reads it will find parts are just common sense. But I’m also certain each person will find a chapter that will really benefit them. There were parts I skimmed through, but there were parts that really made me think about what I was doing and how I was doing it.
There are also lots of real life examples, most often taken from Veaux or Rickert’s personal experiences. These are useful, as not every topic will be relevant to each reader and these examples show the real world application of what is being discussed.
However, Franklin Veaux has been revealed as a problematic source. And in the last few years he’s been called out by a number of women he’s had relationships, including co-author Eve Rickert, for being manipulative and emotionally abusive.
I’m not going to comment strongly on this area here. I don’t know a huge amount about about the situation. I would recommend visiting https://polyamory-metoo.com, created by Louisa Leontiades, and https://brighterthansunflowers.com/2019/09/02/thoughts-on-the-fifth-anniversary-of-more-than-two/ for the views of the co-author Eve Rickert.
I was lucky enough to have met Louisa Leontiades at a party. When I started reading More Than Two I recognised Veaux’s name from posts she’d made regarding the issues with him that had been raised. So I reached out to her and asked if it was still valid to read the book. Her advice was it still was a valid resource, as long as those reading it kept in mind that the book presented polyamory through a single viewpoint; and knowing how Veaux had misused it to manipulate his partners was vital as a background understanding.
Reviewing More Than Two is difficult. It’s a useful resource of foundational knowledge. But it also filters polyamory through the point of view of a straight, cis, white man who believed it was something that benefited him over his partners. It is a book that cannot be viewed on its own merits alone, but requires outside context.
So, should you read it? I think it’s best put into words by co-author Eve Rickert (from the post I linked above):
I’m glad that people are thinking critically about More Than Two. I’m glad people are pointing out its flaws. This consensual nonmonogamy thing we’re all working on is not static, and no one has all the answers figured out for everyone. More Than Two represents, at best, a snapshot of what was important and how certain communities were thinking at a certain point in time, just like The Ethical Slut was two decades prior. Ideas and practices will continue to evolve, and that’s a good thing. Some or all of what’s in More Than Two may eventually be thrown out—and I think that’s okay, too.
So I guess all I can say is: It’s flawed. Maybe it’ll help you. I hope it will. But be careful. Read other things. Take what works for you from each. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, listen to that feeling.
So would I recommend More Than Two?
Yes, I think I would. It’s not perfect, but no book on relationships will ever be perfect. If you’re looking to learn more about coming into polyamory it’s a good starting point, as long as it isn’t taken on its own. Do some further reading on Veaux, read the testimonies of the woman he talks about in this book, and indulge in some critical thinking.
Above all, take from this that there is no clear and easy resource to tell you how to “do” ethical non-monogamy. And just because someone’s been involved in the scene longer doesn’t mean they know more than you, or are necessarily doing it “better”. In polyamory, as in monogamy, people have their own issues that they bring to the table. Be aware, and be educated.
Part of the reason for engaging with Polyamory Week was to fill people in about our situation. Frankie and I decided we weren’t going to make a big deal about what we’re doing. But it’s also something we want to celebrate.
We’ve told those closest to us, and some friends have noticed and asked us questions. And there have been plenty of posts online that have made it obvious what we’re doing. I know it’s everyone’s right to want to ask questions or not. Some of you might honestly not care. But I’m certain some of you have questions that – as I enjoy putting it – you’re far too English to ask us to our faces.
So I decided a good way to celebrate our lifestyle would be to fill people in on how Frankie and I got here, and what the deal with our relationships is.
But I’ll be refraining from going into too much detail. I’ll keep it general. If you’re interested in knowing more, let me know. The rest of you, hopefully there’s nothing below to make anyone uncomfortable.
We first discussed opening up our relationship not long after we were married. I think there were a few things that led to this, but one of the big points was our age. We got together at 21 and married at 25. Both of us had only had two partners before we met. There was a part of us that recognised that we didn’t want to look back on our lives and think that we had missed out on experiences with new people.
The outcome of the conversations we had was we were happy to open things up as long as each of us benefitted from the situation and we were honest with each other.
It wasn’t easy. Accepting that your spouse is leaving for the weekend knowing they’ll be sleeping with someone else is a hard thing to do the first time. But we were strong and supported each other. We talked through our feelings, and started learning how to break through the wall of monogamy.
We didn’t throw ourselves into this new world. In fact, we did very little. We were more into a “when the opportunity arises” mindset. And then when Frankie became ill the whole thing took a back seat while we focused on that. Once she recovered, we decided we wanted to reignite this side of our relationship. And I think the perspective we had gained from her illness made us keener to make the most out of our opportunities in life.
Just over a year ago, Frankie starting seeing someone who she ended up dating a few times. Until now, our encounters had mostly been one offs. But she liked him, and so we discussed exploring dating other people. Could we move on from this being purely sex, to sharing emotional connections?
We decided yes.
As it happened, the relationship that started the conversation then abruptly ended, but we decided the decision was still valid. We both then started looking for people in the poly scene to start dating. This, again, was hard. I went to a few social events and got on some dating apps. But I wasn’t having much luck.
Then one night we went to see a burlesque show in London. We were sat chatting with friends, but I couldn’t stop looking over at a woman stood at the bar. She had curly hair and an amazing smile, and our eyes kept catching. It turned out she was a friend of a friend, so we ended up chatting after the show. Before we left we exchanged numbers.
A month later we went on our first date. Five months after that we told each other we loved each other.
She’d never been polyamorous before. I’m so incredibly lucky she was interested in the idea and willing to take a risk on something so new and different. I’m also incredibly lucky that she and Frankie got on like a house on fire. They consider themselves Sister-Wives, a phrase I adore due to its use in the Wheel of Time novels.
That’s about it. Frankie’s had her own adventures during this time, but those are hers to share. There have been ups and downs, but all in all this has been one of the most satisfying and exciting years of my life.
So, what’s the situation with you guys now?
Frankie and I are still a couple. Our marriage is as strong as it ever was, and we’re still romantically and sexually connected. We just both also see other people as well.
For me, this has meant meeting, dating and falling in love with an amazing woman called Aine.
So you’re cheating?
Nope. Cheating means someone is breaking the rules. This is why what we are doing is so often referred to as ethical non-monogamy. Everyone involved is fully aware of the situation, comfortable of the situation, and engaged with the situation.
Is this all about you then?
Not at all. Frankie is also seeing someone great as well. I’ll not be putting too much about him in these posts as I simply don’t have the right to talk about his life without permission.
So, are you guys, what, a thruple or something now?
No. We don’t have a relationship with the same person. What we have is known as a “Vee”, with me as the “pivot”. I am in a relationship with Frankie, and another one with Aine. They are aware of each other – and in our case very good friends – but their relationship has no romantic or sexual connection.
Both of them date other people, and I’m free to do so as well. This is called a “polycule”; a group of polyamorous people connected through each other’s relationships. Kind of a more intimate version of six-degrees of separation.
It kind of sounds like you’re getting the best deal out of this, having two woman.
I won’t lie, my life is pretty awesome. But this isn’t all about me. A lot of media focuses on the idea of a man getting two women, but it’s so much more than a fetish. Both Frankie and Aine date other people. We’re all making the most out of this lifestyle.
Is this a sex thing?
No. A lot of ethical non-monogamy is about sex. What I’m celebrating in these posts is polyamory, which can potentially have nothing to do with sex.
There are many reasons a relationship can decide to do away with sexual monogamy. But polyamory is the romantic side of things. I love both these woman, and if sex wasn’t involved I would still love them.
So you guys sleep with anyone?
No. We have the freedom to sleep with other people, but it doesn’t mean we’re looking to do so.
Ethical non-monogamy isn’t a free for all. None of us want to sleep with anyone and everyone. We’re just as picky as we would be were we single and uncommitted.
Also you need to take into account being “poly-saturated”. That’s when you are seeing the maximum number of people you are mentally able to be involved with. Relationships take time and energy. I don’t mind committing that time and energy, as a good relationship will generate benefits equal to the effort you put into it. If this isn’t happening, you need to evaluate your current situation.
This sounds complicated.
It is. Very complicated. It involves a lot of communication, and a lot of reading, and processing feelings and information. Neither Frankie, Aine or I had considered polyamory until just over a year ago. It’s needed a lot of adjustment as we’ve worked around the social norms we’re used to.
Monogamy, and the idea that one person should automatically provide everything you need, is deeply ingrained in us from childhood. We’ve all had to work through this, alone and together.
If you have more questions please feel free to ask me, either in person or online. I’m more than happy to answer them. Or, if I’ll let you know if I don’t feel comfortable doing so.
Polyamory means different things to different people.
For me, polyamory is the freedom of possibility.
I found a description that I thought best fit my personal views. Unfortunately, I can’t recall exactly where I read it. But the general ideas was as follows:
Polyamory – and ethical non-monogamy in general – offers the freedom to know when you meet someone and make a connection, it has the space and freedom to develop to its natural conclusion.
I know if I make a connection with someone it could go anywhere from a one-night stand to a long-term romantic relationship. There’s no weirdness, I’m not hurting anyone. As long as I keep those I’m close to up to date, and take into account their feelings, I’m not constricted by having already reached a point where society dictates I can not longer explore that connection.
In short, it opens up new experiences to explore the world without traditional views becoming barriers.
I’m not saying people in monogamous relationships can’t make connections with new people. But they know, deep down, that those connections are restricted. Any sexual connection can’t be acted upon, for a start. And worse, we’re programmed with the idea that even feeling the desire for that connection is somehow wrong.
And even if you don’t take that into account, there’s that unfortunate notion that doing anything without your partner is somehow wrong. I remember one time I visited my parents on my own as Frankie had plans, and my Grandmother was convinced my marriage was failing. She couldn’t imagine any reason we wouldn’t go everywhere together without there being a serious problem.
Yes, these are old fashioned views. But they’re views that are still out there, to a greater or lesser degree. It’s called “toxic-monogamy”; the idea out there that once you find “The One” they will be all you will ever need, and wanting more is somehow a sign of a failing relationship.
How many people are there in the world who’ve fallen in love and thought that that was it? That this person was all they ever needed? I know I did. My first relationship was tainted by this idea that this was it. But what if your partner doesn’t share an interest with you? If “The One” is supposed to be everything you need, doesn’t the fact they don’t like something about you mean you’re not truly compatible?
This can be a little thing, easily addressed. Each person in a couple can have separate friends and do different things with them. But for so many people the doubt it there. I can recall having it myself, when I was younger. That nagging feeling that something it isn’t right that this disconnect is there.
And what if it’s something you can’t share with friends? A kink or sexual preference you and your partner don’t share? Should you have to give it up for the rest of your life? Or should they be forced to do it to keep you happy, despite not enjoying it?
I’ve always held the belief that sex and emotions are not necessarily directly connected. It’s fine to have casual sex, but once feelings developed, then you settled down. Then, as I’ve grown older, I’ve seen that it works the other way as well; if you’re in a committed relationship, having casual sex with someone else has no effect on that commitment if you don’t want it to.
And now I’ve realised that it goes even further. Developing feelings for someone doesn’t lessen the feelings you already have for someone else.
The symbol of polyamory is the Infinity Heart. It symbolises that love is infinite. Developing love for someone new doesn’t require taking it from somewhere else. In the same way a parent who has a second child doesn’t suddenly love their first any less, committing yourself emotionally to a second person doesn’t mean you love the first any less.
This is why I chose an Infinity Heart as my first tattoo. Even if, in the future, I was only in a relationship with one person, or even none, I’d still be polyamorous. It’s who I am, and the tattoo represents that. Love is infinite. We’re free to hold and give as much or as little as we need. If you want to love one person, two people, or more, you’re free to do so.
We make the amount of love we need for the people we need it for.
Polyamory is a form of ethical non-monogamy. It literally means “many loves”. It’s a lifestyle in which I and my partners agree we are all free to fall in love with multiple people.
I’m going to start with the assumption everyone reading this understands monogamy, being the standard default relationship in western culture. So default, in fact, that a lot of people never even consider there being alternatives.
Let’s start with non-monogamy as a whole.
The world of non-monogamy encompasses a large swath of different permutations. The most common ones in modern media are, usually, cheating, swinging, and unicorn hunting (a straight couple looking for a woman to join them).
Non-monogamy is not ideologically better than monogamy. It is not a world in which it’s impossible to hurt someone. In fact, it can be easier to do so. This is why you will often find people talking about ethical non-monogamy. This means that everyone involved is aware of and agrees to the rules or agreements that govern the situation.
This is why ethical non-monogamy isn’t cheating. Cheating implies someone is breaking a rule. If you change those rules so that you are fine with your partner having sex with other people, then sleeping with other people can’t be considered cheating.
But there are so many more different ways to live non-monogamy. From non-exclusive dating, to sexual commerce, to relationship anarchy; it’s far more varied and interesting than people sometimes realise.
Franklin Veaux* created a Venn diagram of non-monogamy, which is a very useful way to visualise all the differences.
Polyamorous people are open to loving more than one person.
This can involve a sexual element, or not. A lot of people come into non-monogamy from a sexual point of view, but decide they have no wish to have more than one romantic partner. But some of us are open to this happening.
As you might guess, once the traditional two-person pairing model goes out the window there are all sorts on configurations for polyamory. You can have “thruples”, where three people date each other. You can have “Vees”, where one person dates two people who have no romantic or sexual connection. And then, depending on everyone’s situation, people in those groups might date other people as well. So one part of a Vee might be part of a completely different thruple, while another member of that thruple dates other people outside the group.
For example, I am part of a Vee; I am married to Frankie and in a second relationship with Aine, and while the two of them are friends, they are not in a relationship themselves.
These groupings are called “Polycules”; a group of people who may not have a personal connection but are connected through this interlinking net of relationships. It’s 6-Degrees of Separation, but much more intimate. This is one of the reasons the Polyamory community is very open and friendly; it’s very possible you’ll be connected in some way.
The important thing about Polyamory is everyone involved is aware and everyone is comfortable. If I, for example, met someone new and was looking to potentially date them I would check in with my two partners first. While they don’t have a veto on my relationships, I would always take their feelings into consideration before doing anything new.
There are a lot of misconceptions about non-monogamy. This is because it’s almost always portrayed in the media as a sex thing or a way to fix a broken relationship.
There are a lot more films and TV shows about non-monogamy now. However, most them will follow – to at least some degree – the following plot: A couple will be in a loving relationship that’s gone stale. They want some excitement, so they decide to invite a girl to join them to “spice things up”. Then they will follow the ups and downs of learning to deal with the many problems of having a gorgeous, sexually adventurous, younger woman (in most cases) willing to sleep with both parts of the couple. There will be jealousy, confusion, excitement, and sexual titillation for the audience.
This then usually ends in one of two ways: The relationship will survive, imbued with life by the sexual excitement, or it will fall apart as the desire for non-monogamy was a sign the relationship was broken.
I’ve never seen a portrayal of non-monogamy as something someone – either single or a couple – sits down and makes a conscious effort to live. Not because they need excitement. Not because they need to jumpstart a failing marriage. But because the lifestyle makes sense to them.
There are many ways into non-monogamy. Don’t believe the only one is through desperation.
There is far more to non-monogamy and polyamory than what little I’ve put down here. I’m not an expert, and even I could take each of the sentences above and expand it to a full chapter. If you’re interested, I’ll try to link to a few good online resources on my website.
*There are issues with Franklin Veaux and his work, which I will address on Thursday’s post.