If you are reading this and have a clue what polyamory is about then you likely know communication is regularly touted as an important component. Often however, I believe focusing on communication is the easy way out and does nothing to solve the underlying issues.
For example, I ran across this gem of a question…
If you and your primary have an agreed boundary, should that be communicated to the (your) other partner(s) if it involves them even slightly? Example: a boundary which prohibits a specific sexual act from being performed with another partner. Should that other partner be made aware of the boundary? Where do you draw the communication line with your partners? (For context, this appears to be coming from the non-primary partner and is due to their breaking a rule/boundary/agreement the couple never communicated).
The resulting discussion, in a group which presents itself as educational but often looks more elitist, focused completely on communication as the issue. Included were a plethora of comments that; the boundary/rule should have been communicated and the couple failed. The non-primary partner was not at fault, it wasn't their rule. The rule/boundary should be negotiated by all parties. And my favorite; although the rule/boundary should be communicated, the reasons behind creating it in the first place need not be shared with anyone outside the couple creating the rule/boundary.
Is communication of the couples rules/boundaries really the issue? I don't think so. But, if we insist on framing this as a communication issue; everyone in this mess is at fault. The couple should have clearly communicated to the non-primary partner, and the non-primary partner should have asked up front what boundaries/rules the couple have in place.
Of course, that completely ignores the underlying issues and likely only delays the problems this relationship configuration will experience eventually.
Control. Limiting activities your partner can have with their other partners is nothing more than an attempt at controlling the relationship. Both yours with your partner, and with their other partner. That's shitty relationship management.
Autonomy. Rules like this remove your autonomy. You are not able to explore and enjoy your relationship(s) without the approval of existing partners. You are an adult with control over your own body, right? Extending this further to the idea the couple does not need to explain their reasons for the rule to the non-primary; this prevents the non-primary from understanding the WHY of the rule making it exponentially difficult to respect its intent. Instead it creates a trap where eventually the non-primary will violate the rule simply because we can't imagine every scenario, people and relationships change over time, and the intent of the rule is not understood.
Lack of personal growth. "You can't have oral sex with other people. Only me." Why? There is no good reason for this kind of rule. It usually springs from insecurities such as fear of loss, inadequacy, and others. The person asking for the rule is essentially refusing personal growth, instead choosing control to protect their fragile emotional state.
Those are just a few things that point to everything except communication being the problem. I'll add some links below to help you find more information if you so desire.
The question shouldn't be when to communicate rules/boundaries. The real questions are; Why as the non-primary would you agree to a relationship with these rules? And, why as the Primary would you agree to give up control of your body and relationships to someone else? And for the person requesting the rule; why do you feel the need to control those around you?
What this really shows me is a lack of understanding about the philosophy of polyamory which focuses much more on open communication, honesty, autonomy, freedom as an individual, and respect as opposed to rules, boundaries, and protecting emotional immaturity.
The poly landscape is changing. Or, more appropriately… has
Years ago it seemed identifying as polyamorous was enough.
It was alternative enough, unique enough, shocking enough, and different
enough. Being poly was enough of an expression of individuality. But things
have changed and now, it isn’t enough.The poly vocabulary changes daily, if not more frequently. And the umbrella
term Polyamory just isn’t enough. Now we can’t just be Poly. We have to be
poly-fi, solo-poly, Relationship Anarchists, Unicorn Hunters and so on. It isn’t
enough that we are Poly; we have to be even more unique within our Poly
Activism has latched onto this trend. It used to be enough
to just spread the word about Polyamory. Correcting perceptions and explaining
it isn’t just about the sex, no swinging is somewhat different, yes I’m able to
commit in a relationship… was enough. Not anymore. Now poly-activism is more
about proving differences than finding common ground. It is more about
insisting on unique labels. Never mind that we aren’t going to explain what the
label means or why it is different than some other label we used last week;
That is your problem, not mine! The apocalypse must be just around the corner
if you don’t automatically know and use the label I want you to use. That or you
are suffering the affliction of white privilege, male privilege, couple
privilege, or caught in social traps like ableism, racism, sexism, gender ignorance,
and so on. The bottom line, no matter what… it’s your fault.
I appreciate these efforts and attempts at correcting
perceptions, spreading the word, even correct labeling. They help spread
awareness not only of polyamory, but of the multitude of sexual and personal
identities possible in the world. We learn new terms or words and are able to
better describe and define ourselves or others.
They are also doing a great job of creating divisions in the
poly community. Where we used to see more common ground under the umbrella of
Polyamory, the landscape is once again changing. Though with a common link in
polyamory, specialized groups are popping up. Poly-BDSM, Poly-swingers,
Poly-tantrists, as so on are becoming much more common. Poly-fi, relationship
anarchy, and poly-feminism are easily found these days. Literally at the community
level, groups and clubs are forming based on differences in approach to
polyamory and even sexual safety. Instead of coming together on common ground,
we are dividing ourselves based on minor differences. Even at the personal
level people are excluding those from their circle of friends or community
based on personal labeling. What I would call progressive polyamorists are
excluding traditional polyamorists from their friends circles.
Now before you scream at me “Hey PP… what is wrong with
different interests within the community?”… Not a damn thing. Unless they
become exclusionary, elitist, and hostile in their expression creating
divisions, this is what I’m seeing.
I hear people blasting one another for not using the correct
labels. I’ll admit I’m one of those being blasted from time to time. I’m
accused of a monogamous mindset (despite never having really identified as
monogamous), of exercising couple/white/male privilege, ableism, and so forth.
It is a long, never ending list of terms many of which I’ve never heard that
changes daily. And those insisting I use them refuse to define or explain them because;
that’s my problem not theirs.
But the honest truth which those insisting on correct
labeling with absolutely no possibility of ignorance or error don’t want to
hear… I don’t care. While you are insisting I somehow automatically know what
does and doesn’t offend you, and that you are labeled correctly absolutely all
of the time, you aren’t hearing what I’m saying… I don’t care.
It isn’t that I don’t care how you identify and who you are,
or that I don’t care to respect you, I simply don’t care to know before I
I don’t care if you are poly-fi, poly-bdsm, poly-swinger,
poly-bananas. I. Just. Don’t. Care. If you identify as poly at all, you are
good in my book. I don’t need to know your specific sub-set, sub-label, kink, approach,
or whatever you want to call it to make a judgment call whether you are poly
enough or the right poly for me to respect you. I don’t need that
categorization and detail to accept the fact you identify, at a high level, as
Now if you are butt-hurt because I didn’t call you a
poly-fi-gender-queer-furry instead of a committed-poly-non-binary-kinkster,
honestly, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I couldn’t somehow, using my mind-reading
super-power, know what label you prefer. And I certainly didn’t intend to
malign, offend, judge, or degrade you in any way. That is YOUR interpretation
of what I said, not my intent. While I will own my shit and admit I may not
have used the right label, gentle correction is all that is needed. Not a
lecture, debate, or hostile driving attempt at proving you are right and I’m
wrong. You had me at “I’m polyamorous…”. At that point, I accepted you,
regardless of your specifics. If you aren’t going to hear what I’m saying, and
want judge me based on appropriate use of some mystery label, that is your
choice and not mine. Because, once again… I don’t care. In my book if you
identify as poly we share some common ground. I don’t care about how we are
different. I care about how we are the same. That’s where our power resides
rather than with our differences.
Instead of excluding others from our lives because they aren't the same as we are, or because they struggle with learning and remembering what label is preferred, let's come together simply as polyamorists. As much as polyamory can send a message that sharing love is a wonderful thing, uniting (rather than dividing) on common ground may send just as strong a message that polyamory is not a fad or a niche lifestyle, but one that is coming of age and ready to be broadly recognized. Personally, I would rather present a united front than one that is divided.
Women... and Sometimes Men is an interesting looking project from Lesley Demetriades that follows the story of Sara, a woman who realizes there are more options, and possibly satisfaction, to love. The story engages the concept of creating relationships that are fulfilling rather than conforming to social norms, with exploration along the way into the psychology and circumstance that drive Sara to re-examine the love in her life.
After a brief reading of the script Women... and Sometimes Men is more than intriguing. The characters feel well developed and the story doesn't cringe from the realities that come with alternative relationships and lifestyles. Nor does it feel there is judgment involved in any aspect. The result is a well-rounded storyline challenging societal norms from a personal perspective but with one foot firmly planted in reality.
Written by Matthew Holtzclaw, a featured writer for the NYC Fringe, Lesley has taken the approach of crowd-funding the project via HatchFund.org, an online community for artists to present their projects and secure funding via contributions for specific works.
For more information about the project check out the Hatchfund page at:
While I'm not posting this for the purpose of fundraising, but rather simply supporting awareness of choice when it comes to relationship and sexuality, I do hope those of you who see the benefit to this type of project will consider contributing to Women... and Sometimes Men.
With all my best,
From the Women... and Sometimes Men press release:
OCTOBER 15, 2014 – Lesley Demetriades is launching her first directorial film project Women… and Sometimes Men on Hatchfund.
The story of Women… and Sometimes Men follows Sara – a woman in crisis. Engaged for one day, she decides to call off her marriage. Quirky, beautiful, and tender, she is working on being honest and answering some big questions. Having had a short relationship with a woman in college, Sara seeks that feeling again… or at least to understand it. How can she have a woman’s touch without giving up men entirely? This question launches Sara on a bittersweet journey filled with self-discovery, sexual awakening, beautiful women… and sometimes men. The film will be shot in New York City on a micro budget of $13,000. The production team will be utilizing locations in the Brooklyn area.
From The Production Team: We live in a world very much affected by people's perceptions. Ask a person what he or she believes is right and wrong in our world and each person will provide a different answer. So what is the "right" way to live and love? The quest to answer what is "wrong or right" becomes even more intriguing when it comes to human sexuality. We are excited to offer up this quirky, offbeat and thoughtful film. "Women... and Sometimes Men" is a conversation about creating your own contract of marriage, your own kind of relationship. It celebrates the shades of gray in our world. It allows a place and space for everyone to love how and whom they wish. It pays homage to the complex female awareness. It explores some of the places people look when on a journey to find themselves, especially the journey within. To make a tax-deductible donation to Lesley’s campaign, please click here: http://www.hatchfund.org/project/women_and_sometimes_men_an_indie_feature_film
Today we have a letter from a reader looking for advice...
I never labelled myself a
polyamorist. I have read something about it and I were always fascinated by the
idea of an open idea of love, the idea of accepting and welcoming the love in
any form it manifests to us, but never definitely concluded that was the right
way for a couple, or at least for mine. I never completely agreed there was no
values, no important things concerning my idea of love that polyamory could
have gone against. At the same time, my boyfriend (now my husband) and I have
had an open approach to our relationship for the biggest part of the time spent
together so far.
My boyfriend and I have been
together for more than 12 years (married for almost 3). We met when we were 20 in
our home town in the south of Europe. Before meeting each other we had a normal
childhood, a couple of girlfriends then a relatively smooth process of coming
out, some homosexual relationships before finding and falling in love with each
other. Our love was strong and profound from the beginning, our sexual
compatibility very intense, we committed to each other starting to deeply
interconnect our lives. Our relationship grew symbiotically and exclusively for
more than 4 years, sharing everything, living together abroad for a while
during our studies. Then we had to part for few months in the last part of our
academic path. My boyfriend had to spend some time abroad, while I was still
studying at home. During his stay he met a guy he started to feel strongly
attracted to. He got confused as it was the first time we was feeling something
for another person from the moment we got together. He was honest about that
with me at the telephone and they started to see each other for a while. This
was a step he had to take knowing it could destroy “us”, according the
exclusivity we had chosen for our relationship. He said he was lost that he
thought he still loved me, but that he could not help it and that he couldn’t
put aside what he felt for this other guy and that he needed a time to clear up
his mind. I was destroyed, everything was broken for me, I was angry, hurt, but
also incapable of letting him go. After few weeks while I was in desperation,
he made the decision and managed to start the process of coming back to me, he
decided that despite his fall, I was the one he wanted to stay with, he left
the other guy, came back to our home town and wanted me back. I was relieved,
but too hurt to accept a reconstruction of our relationship. In the meantime I
had the occasion to access his mailbox (not respectful, but I was young and
desperate), I read exchanges with this guy. Through those mails I knew “their”
love, the connection between us, how much my boyfriend was still missing him
despite his decision of coming back to me, the deep pain he was causing to
another person desperately in love with somebody that finally was leaving him
to come back to me. I ran away abroad, again for my studies, I could not and
did not want to cut off my boyfriend from my life, but I couldn’t be back
with him either, after the pain I had experienced, after the sadness for our
perfect picture that got broken, I was thinking, forever. We started a long
period, in which we were in contact and visiting each other, but not officially
together and still seeing (mostly without openly telling each other) other
people. He was running after me, but I was keeping him away, like he had to pay
a price, like I had to feel re-assured in my hurt pride. Then I started to work
in the north of Europe. At a certain moment, still both there with our love for
each other, we finally agreed to put aside anything that went wrong and give
ourselves a second chance. He moved to live with me a looked for a job in the
city I was living too. It was a new beginning, things started to be wonderful
again. We had grown up, make peace with the past and ready to go on with our
relationship and look at the future. I felt at the moment that a new beginning
was to be built on new basis, making the best of what happened. To me it
couldn’t be concluded that my boyfriend simply did a mistake, that the way to
not risk going there again into the big pain we experienced, was simply to
protect more our world, to be stronger in the effort to renounce to inputs,
desires, attractions from the outside. I was obviously curious of exploring a
path where I could have lived more openly and in harmony pleasures and emotions
outside our couple, but I was also going back with my mind to those mails I had
the chance reading. Knowing all those love and pain, that was actually being
experienced without my involvement gave me a lot of pain and hurt badly my
feelings back then, but somehow and weirdly I was also feeling attraction for
those emotions lived outside me and empathy for their (both of my boyfriend and
the other guy) pain and loss of their stopped love. I started gently to
advocate a more open approach for our couple. Very slowly and respectfully,
despite an initial resistance of my boyfriend cause to jealousy, we started to
open up to sexual experiences outside the couple. For few years we developed a
strong complicity in pursuing “flings” with other people. Our usual way was
more often threesomes, even if sometimes, away for respective business trips,
we allowed each other occasional sexual encounters. The nature of this opening
was mainly sexual, even if, also for our healthy, “clean” and respectful
approach to sexuality we usually tended to develop bonds of affection and
friendship with the people we used to date together. Complicity was a big
element of this, in a very symbiotic alignment and sharing of emotions, desires
and sexual fantasies that used to have a very positive impact on our couple
dimension. We were very flexible and open to the steps we took, but it was
always clear that we were for each other the centre of our world and the rest
was turning around us. We had our rules and way of indicating each other
limits, but this came natural and it never happened that any of us challenged
this centrality. 3 years ago we married and then started to even develop
discussions on if and how becoming parents.
Then we met somebody who changed
things. Through common friends we got friends with Eric and we found us both
very attracted to him. Eric did not initially know we were actually together and
at few parties he had the occasion to talk and receives discreet attention from
both of us. The point was also that Eric was not a type of guy that used to be
open to unconventional relationships. Despite this, he started feel attracted
and interested by both of us. After a relatively long phase of flirting and
approaching during which Eric became aware, with initial disorientation, of the
fact we were a couple one night we slept together and started to date
regularly. From the very initial moment it was clear to me and my boyfriend
that we were taking a different way this time. We were opening ourselves in a
qualitatively different way. We were staring to date a third person
romantically and believe it could develop and go somewhere. Eric is a great and
special guy, somebody very sensitive, with dramatic family history that made
him feeling alone and vulnerable for his whole life, but despite all this also
capable of embracing love by giving everything. We started to date every day,
sleeping together for most part of the week (even if Eric had his own
apartment). We all agree in making “us 3” exclusive and neither of us dated
anybody else. We had wonderful months, we invested a lot in our relationship,
in taking care of each other lives, but then some elements started to be
critical. First of all, there was our long history and interconnection between
me and my husband, in front of Eric‘s insecurity and needs of confirmation. The
fact of having an apartment together, a common language, common friends and families
knowing each other back home and a whole social recognition of our couple
dimension, was from the beginning a burden. Eric had the need of quickly
reducing this gap by feeling less and less the “third”. From the beginning
I recognized this as a normal need to be addressed. We started,
slowly, a process of coming out with closest friends and part of the family.
On the other hand I recently realized that in the beginning
both me and my husband felt an inner contradiction between the need of opening
up and offer in perspective the steady reduction of that “gap” and the
resistance of giving up that “centrality” of us, that “sanctuary” of our
exclusiveness that, even while experiencing contacts with the outside world was
never touched. Maybe one mistake was not to openly put light on this inner
contradiction we were fighting with, inside us, but certainly we both wanted to
give the relationship with Eric a chance. A role was played probably also by
differences between me and my husband. My husband is a very caring a sensitive
person, but he also has the tendency to close up in his doubts and fears with a
consequence of resulting sometime close to other needs for re-assurance and
step forwards. I am maybe more extrovert and flexible. We both had our moments of
doubts on the possibility of going forward and on the possibility and
opportunity of tearing down the last barriers of our exclusiveness, we both
happened to be jealous and threatened by the connection and bonds the other was
building up with Eric, but generally I was always more able to understand and
address Eric’s needs and keeping an acceptable speed in the reduction of that
gap that was making Eric continuously insecure. I was usually the most keen in
making difficult steps in coming up (I told my mum about Eric). My husband, on
the contrary, got under pressure. On the choices on the table like moving to
live together or spending the entire part of our summer holiday together or
coming out with friends and family he found himself always few steps late in
comparison to Eric’s expectations and my readiness to meet those expectations.
After 10 months of our relationship between very good moments and some tensed
moments, partially under the pressure of Eric always looking for a confirmation
of the commitment of my husband, my husband finally concluded he was not ready,
not 100% there. He got and still is profoundly attached to Eric, he even said
Eric was able to open part of his-self that nobody was able to open, but
also realized that he was probably not enough in love to give what he
was suppose to give and keep investing on the relationship. That meant the end
of everything for Eric; he always said that if between us three could have
worked it should have been on a balanced basis between us three. He gave back
his keys of our apartment to my husband. From that moment has began the hardest
part for me. The two people I was deeply loving got somehow apart. My husband
never stopped deeply caring about Eric, wanting somehow to be part of his life
and support to it, nevertheless he concluded he could not give 100% to him, and
be ready to share with him everything. Every time they see each other, Eric
looks for more and my husband feels inappropriate and guilty. Eric, in every
attempt to keep a relationship with my husband, felt the gap between what he
wanted from my husband and what he could be given, as a painful and confronting
issue. In the last weeks/months, I have been trying to suggest a path in which
we could save our relationship, even if not anymore in the form of a perfect
triad. I am the first one in seeing difficulties, in seeing how hard it could
be to make it work in practice, but I love them both, I feel to commit to them
both and I have been hoping that a way forward in harmony could be there for us
three. I have been advocating for an open approach (inspired by polyamorous
philosophy), suggesting to look together for an arrangement in which I could
keep loving and giving things to them both and in which they could have
developed a closeness a complicity among them two. The problem is that Eric
does not see a future in which he could be happy as my boyfriend while I am
still married to my husband. He feels that he would always be jealous, missing
the time and space I do not dedicate to him and the fact of not having an equal
connection to my husband. He also sees enormous difficulties in being able to
see a clear “place” for him in my life in relation to family, friends and
society. He feels, also in reason of a difficult path in his family of origin,
that he now deserves somebody that chooses him, that is there for him 100%, to
build a future with. We have just passed a phase in which I was seeing him
occasionally, because we both wanted, but at the same time, every time that it
happened, besides it was great, he turned depressed, making him proposing to
stop to see each other. One extra element was also that he knew my husband was
feeling insecure when i was seeing him and did not want to hurt him. Now
we do not speak, because he wants to manage to pull his self together alone and
seeing each other destroys him every time. My husband from his side, he
would be open to pursue different solutions, but he remains sceptic on the
possibilities of having a future in which I have to divide myself between Eric
and him, he wonders how practically the life would be, how would he feel when I
am not there at night, what would be of our projects and dreams. He believes in
an open approach for our relationship, but I also know that he is hurt by
realising I do not put anymore at the centre, unconditionally as he still does
for me. Also in the phase in which I was occasionally seeing Eric, he
felt very insecure, I imagine also in relation to Eric’s negative position,
fearing I could choose to leave him for Eric. On the other hand my husband
admitted he was feeling sad by me and Eric stopping to see each other at all as
one part of him was happy for me and happy I could take care of Eric even if in
a way he could not involved. My sex life with my husband (that used to be great
even if evolving and changing along our relationship) has been recently
unbalanced, by fears (from me and from him), by a lack of energy and now we are
kind of blocked on that side, both terrified rationally or irrationally by
I am now consuming myself day after
day. I cannot recover, because I do not know what I have to recover from, I do
not know what to do. I am passing day and days trying to imagine a solution and
I am like a crazy pendulum. One moment I imagine to try to forget Eric and go
back to put energy in my marriage, but only thinking of it makes me sick and
lost. One minute after I consider to leave my husband and I realize I
do not want to, I do not want to throw away what we have and our future together,
I love him too much. I am now thinking of leaving for a while, cause I feel I
cannot stay next to my husband while I am tore apart by the pain, I am afraid
it could mess us more. I am wondering what I have to do. Should I wait till it
is clearer to me whether I have the force to leave one of them? Should I keep
proposing a way that at the moment does not seem to make them happy? Hoping
that little by little we all could remove our fears, uncertainties, transform
jealousy in “compersion”, turn the situation positively and live our life
happily according the existing flows of love, friendship and companionship? I
really welcome any type of advice, from any point of view.
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