Polyamory Week 2020 – The Future

Day 1: Polyamory Week 2020
Day 2: What is Polyamory
Day 3: What Polyamory Means to Me
Day 4: My Polyamory
Day 5: Book Review: ‘More Than Two’
Day 6: I Don’t Do Valentine’s Day

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.

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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?

A Growing Family

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.

In My Writing

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.)

IMG_2440I 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.

Learning and Spreading the Word

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.

nonmonogamy3-largeEthical 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.

Here’s to the Future…

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.

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We’ll see you there.

Polyamory Week 2020 – Review: ‘More Than Two’ by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert

Day 1: Polyamory Week 2020
Day 2: What is Polyamory
Day 3: What Polyamory Means to Me
Day 4: My Polyamory

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.

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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.

Polyamory Week 2020 – What Polyamory means to me

Day 1: Polyamory Week 2020
Day 2: What is Polyamory

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.

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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 Week 2020 – What is Polyamory?

Day 1: Polyamory Week 2020

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.

Non-Monogamy

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.

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Polyamory

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.

Misconceptions about Non-Monogamy

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.

And more…

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.

Polyamory Week 2020

I was browsing Instagram last month and came across the following post from the account of @polyamoro.us:

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Polyamory week is February 9th-15th! Mark your calendars! In spirit of the new year, we thought to bring together the polyam community in a new way. Be sure to like, share, repost, and tag to spread the word (We didn’t add our watermark because this info is meant to be shared)! The hashtag will be #polyamoryweek 

Now, so far in my journey I’ve not made a big thing about my polyamory. When Frankie and I decided to go down this path, we decided we were going to keep this personal. It was new to us. We were seeing where things went. And then, as things grew, we decided it wasn’t something we wanted to make a big thing out of.

We weren’t ashamed. We just weren’t the sort to make a big statement about it. This was always about us. Not about what other people thought about us. If people asked, we would happily explain it. But other than family and very close friends we weren’t going to go out of our way to announce this was something we were doing.

But when I saw this post I thought, “Why not?” It seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about our new lifestyle and how it’s impacted us. I’m proud of my life, the choices I’ve made, and the people that those choices have led me to. I will never be a polyamory-evangelist, but I love the idea of spreading awareness of the lifestyle.

I also hope it might answer a few questions some of you might have about our personal journey that for whatever reasons you didn’t feel comfortable asking us directly.

So, through Polyamory Week – today to next Saturday – I will be posting about my experience with polyamory; the community, the lifestyle, my own personal experiences, and some wider thoughts on relationships and love in general.

Hopefully you’ll find it interesting. If you have any questions feel free to send them my way. I’m always happy to talk about all these things. I’m planning on summarising these posts, and any questions I get, and putting up a section on my website for the future.

A little disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert. I can only talk about my own experiences. I’m sure there are people to whom polyamory and non-monogamy mean something else. And those who’ve been doing this for far longer who have a much deeper understanding of all of this. Their lives are their own, and I will happily engage with those who see things differently.

Recommendation: “A World in Us” by Louisa Leontiades

The most relevant note from my read of this book is that it’s the first one I can remember since school where I’ve actually highlighted sections to refer back to later.

A World in Us is a memoir of two parts. The first is the actual story, depicting how the author and her husband came into polyamory and the soaring highs and crashing lows of their first relationship with another couple. The second is a commentary of sorts written several years later as a letter to the Leontiades’ younger self, going through each chapter in turn and commenting on what she has learned.

On the first level, this is simply a wonderfully written story about someone’s personal journey. What they went through to find who they were. These are four people discovering a new side to themselves, being willing to do something that doesn’t “fit” with societal norms because it’s what feels right for them, and learning things that a traditional, monogamous relationship would have never revealed. It’s honest, emotional, and at times brutal, but also beautiful and affirming.

The second level is as a guide for people newly exploring polyamory. Leontiades never shies away from the light or the dark of her experiences. There a moments both exciting and thrilling, and moments where she’s is emotionally crushed beneath the weight of everything. We are show the pure joy of discovering something that you didn’t know was missing in your life, but also the pain of trying to find your way in a lifestyle your upbringing never prepared you for.

The beauty of this story is its honesty. At no point does the Leontiades try to hide her own faults or issues and how they fed into the dynamic the four of them created. There are times that the others come off as the “bad guys” in situations, this is only because Louisa is our protagonist and so naturally the depictions of the other three are seen through her point of view. And this is effectively address by the author herself in the second half, where she reflects on the events of each chapter with the benefit of time, growth and reflection.

And this isn’t a piece of polyamory propaganda. We are simply presented with Louisa’s story, and are free to take away from it what we want. At no point does she argue polyamory is better or worse than monogamy. Only that both are valid options with their own benefits and pitfalls.

But through her honest depiction of her own experience, with all it’s failings and unaddressed issues, we are presented with the fact that this isn’t a gateway to a perfect life. It will be hard, and it my not be what we were expecting. But, if it fits your personality and you work on it, it can be a rewarding why to life your life.

Overall, if you are newly coming into polyamory I couldn’t recommend this book enough. Even if, like me, Leontiades’ situation doesn’t mirror your own there are so many universal learnings to take away from it.