Having laid out how I got on my polyamorous journey, I enjoyed and agreed with many of the concepts laid out in Chapter One. My biggest concern with Chapter One was how everything was laid out in terms of either romantic connection or sexual connection – that is the main thing that I would love to see change in future editions of More Than Two. This could be because what I call “polyamory” Eve and Franklin call “relationship anarchy” – The Thinking Asexual has an interesting post about the two – according to the article, I would be a relationship anarchist, not a polyamorist. But according to Tristan Taormino in Opening Up – polyamory does include non-romantic and non-sexual relationships. Chapter seven devotes some time to talking about non-sexual poly relationships, as well as non-romantic sexual relationships. Among other types of relationships, she cites the example of a lesbian couple asking a close male gay friend to donate sperm so they can have a child. In this situation, all partners consider each other extremely important (whether or not they’d be considered “primary” depends on if the individuals use hierarchical terms to describe their relationships), despite having no sexual or romantic attraction whatsoever.
This polyamory/relationship anarchy quandary reminds me of the bisexual/queer argument that also floats round these days. Different individuals may use queer or bisexual to describe the same sexuality – that of being attracted to more than one/multiple sexes (not two, mind you!). I identify as bisexual. Queer didn’t come to my attention as a term until a few years ago, and for whatever reason, it’s not the word for me. I don’t think it’s bad, by any means. It’s just not the word that I use to identify myself – mainly because queer can have many definitions, whereas people usually understand what bisexual means (or at least, they think it means dating both men and women, which is incorrect, but kind of in the ballpark). I have queer friends who use the word queer to describe what I use bisexual for. I also have friends who use the word queer because they reject the idea of being a fixed binary gender, so the word queer better encompasses the fluidity of gender and sexuality that ebbs and flows within them.
To get back into polyamory vs relationship anarchy, I much prefer to call myself polyamorous rather than a relationship anarchist. The first reason being -again- I found that word first, and, in Tristan Taormino’s book, I found that word to mean “loving relationships with multiple people”. She ends her discussion of non-sexual polyamory with the following words:
Nonsexual polyamory shows how polyamorous people have rejected another aspect of the prevailing view of relationships: that in order to have a significant other, one must have a sexual relationship. They have chosen instead to take a broader view of how partnerships and relationships can be defined based on their own beliefs, values, and experiences. As a result, people in poly relationships may be more likely to stay together: even when the sexual component of a relationship changes or ends, the relationship does not have to end. By redefining what constitutes an intimate relationship, partners can honor all the elements of their connection with each other.
Though this does again focus on sexual relationships as a beginning, the most important part for me is how she discusses building partnerships based on beliefs, values, and experiences. My beliefs, values, and experiences with friends have shows me that friendships comprised of mutual respect, love, and support are as important to me as relationships that contain those these elements and also contain romance and sexuality. As the word we’re using here to describe these relationships is polyamory (poly=many, amory=loves), I see no reason for those many loves to not include love born purely of friendship.
It would be interesting to learn what Eve and Franklin think about polyamory vs relationship anarchy and how they define the two. It wouldn’t change my mind about how I define myself, but it would be helpful to know, in part because it would make it clearer what sort of viewpoint I would find in their books in regards to these two issues.
Beyond that, I agree that the subjects that were labeled as “downsides” (or at least in the “downsides” area of the chapter) are definitely the major points about polyamory – though maybe they don’t need to all be called downsides? Not all of them have felt like downsides to me, at least. In particular, two other items stuck out to me as important: change and liking your partner’s other relationships.
My experience of change within a framework of being polyamorous vs monogamous is that change definitely comes more frequently in polyamory. As polyamory for me means closer bonds with close friends and lovers (and close friends who are my lovers), I have a fairly wide range of people who I juggle seeing – and as they also have a wide range of people that they juggle seeing, all that juggling interacts. And if any of those people have a major relationship (or really any kind of) change (positive or negative) that change can have repercussions and create change down the line.
For me, being seriously chronically ill the past year has really slowed down some of my relationships. I see even my closest friends once a month at most. I haven’t had sex with any of my sexual-including relationships other than Jon in about eight months. My other relationships exist more through email and (very) rare dates for snuggling together. I don’t have the energy to go out, a lot of days I feel pretty anti-seeing people (even people I love), and my sex drive has gone down, probably from depression caused by my limited physical abilities. This has opened up more time for some of my other loves. Now, whether that time is filled with new lovers, more time for old lovers, or more time for non-relationship-related projects is totally up to them (obviously). Likewise, when I’m feeling better (I assume someday the docs will figure this out and I’ll be better), there will be more changes, as I pick up the threads of those relationships and see if we want to resume being lovers and make more time for each other in our lives.
The other thing that resonated with me was that polyamory doesn’t meant liking all your partner’s other partners. As I realized last week, as long as Lora is a person who thinks it’s OK to have fights like this, to be verbally abusive and twist words and constantly threaten her and Jon’s relationship, I’m never going to be able to feel more than…tepidly accepting of her. Although things have been smoother, Lora and Jon do continue to fight. It’s much less often, and generally less contentious, but when Lora is stressed and feeling vulnerable, she still regularly lashes out at Jon. That behavior really kills off a lot of the good feelings that I have towards her. And while I do continue to get along with her, I have very ambivalent feelings about the place she has in my life. In particular, having seen how she treats the person who she is closest to in her life, I have no desire to become closer to her.
In my other most serious poly relationship (to date) with Rachel, I slowly found over time that I really did not like one of her partners (Jessica). It was less about a personality conflict and more that Jessica could be extremely manipulative, passive aggressive, and she regularly enjoyed making malicious fun of people who she felt were inferior to her. A personality conflict, I could handle. But those are three traits that I do my absolute best to keep out of my life – especially the trait of believing that some people are inferior to other people. So as I slowly learned that having Rachel as a major part of my life also meant having Jessica as a major part of my life, I eased away from Rachel. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but I think it is a truth of polyamory that how you feel about your metamours may affect how you feel about your lovers, as well as how much time you spend with them, and what kind of place they can have in your life.
Last we come to the questions at the end of the chapter:
Have I ever felt romantic love for more than one person at a time?
Do I feel like there can only be one “true” love or one “real” soulmate?
How important is my desire for multiple romantic relationships?
On a scale of 1-10? Probably a 5-6, but it would depend on my current romantic relationship.
What do I want from my romantic life? Am I open to multiple sexual relationships, romantic relationships, or both? If I want more than one lover, what degree of closeness and intimacy do I expect, and what do I offer?
I am open to multiple sexual relationships, romantic relationships, and friend relationships. The degree of closeness and intimacy I expect depends on the person, their needs and wants, and if there is a happy place we can meet in the middle.
How important is transparency to me? If I have more than one lover, am I happy with them knowing about each other? If they have other lovers, am I happy knowing them?
Transparency is extremely important. Although I don’t expect to know (or be friends with) all my lover’s lovers, I want to be sure that everybody is aware that we’re poly. No cheaters pretending to be poly while keeping a partner in the dark!
Beyond that, in an ideal world, I would (at the least) meet all of my lover’s lovers and make sure that we can all handle our relationships respectfully.
How do I define commitment? Is it possible for me to commit to more than one person at a time, and if so, what would those commitments look like?
To me, commitment is making a promise to someone to do certain things or offer a certain level of support. I can be committed to more than one person at a time, though the way those commitments look depend on the individual aspects of each separate relationship.
If I am already in a relationship, does my desire for others come from dissatisfaction or unhappiness with my current relationship? If I were in a relationship that met my needs, would I still want multiple partners?
If I were in a relationship that met all my needs (impossible), I would still want multiple partners, because doing different things with different people adds spice to life for me. Not just sexually speaking, but anything: rock-climbing, sketching, seeing music performances together – it’s about the people!
All good(ish) questions (except for the exclusive focus on romance and sex). And very useful for starting out, though as I noted in my answers, a lot of these questions really can’t be answered, until dealing with a specific relationship. One of the beauties of polyamory is that loves no longer have to fit into either the “lifetime partner” box or the “failed relationship” box. I’ve found relationships are more about whether or not both parties want near-enough to the same thing from each other; if one person wants to settle down and raise a family, but the other person is only interested in a casual once-a-week date, then those two people are probably going to have a hard time making a relationship work. But if both parties want, say, a “friends with romance” that involves a night together a couple times a month, chances are good that what they each offer can match up well and make a good match.
And that’s why most of those question have fairly open-ended answers for me. Let’s see what we each want to put on the table for each other, and then we can discover if what we offer and what we want to receive from each other will work well.
That about sums up my meandering thoughts on Chapter One – I look forward to seeing what information abounds in Chapter Two!