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Thursday, September 30, 2010

What did I do now?


For this post I want to do something a bit different. I want to hear from you about anything poly related you would like to discuss, share, or complain about. What I'm looking for are ideas or advice on things to avoid or focus on. What mistakes have you made on your poly path? What are your regrets?

Usually I write an article on a topic and ask for your input. This time, I would like for you to pick a topic and get things started. To give you some ideas I'll start off with a few things.

Like anyone I've made a few mistakes in my life. Probably the biggest mistake I've made on my path with polyamory was trying to be monogamously married. I think I did a fair job at it but a lot of the time I felt something in my life was missing. I felt like I was being caged even though I knew I was trying to live up to a commitment I had made. Of course I wouldn't trade my kids for the world so not everything about it was bad. And I also learned that to make myself happy I can't deny who I am. At least at this point in my life I can't imagine being monogamously married again.

If I were limited to one piece of advice to give someone about polyamory it would be to communicate. Talk about anything and everything with your potential loves. And once they become your partner continue to talk. I have experienced many times how honest, open communication has either avoided or solved problems that could have easily grown to destroy a relationship. Over and over I have seen how a small misunderstanding can become a huge explosion but is avoided by communication early and often when a problem is first noticed. There are plenty of jokes about poly folks being so busy talking they never get to the relationship (or the sex) and therein lies some truth. But what you don't hear about often is the people who talk and talk having a huge relationship explosion over a simple communication problem.

So there are a couple of topics you could talk about but feel free to bring up anything you like. Ask for advice if you choose, or say you don't want advice, either way is fine. Or maybe just give some advice. Quote an article you found interesting, post your favorite poly joke, or tell us about a happy poly moment.

We are all here reading for some reason and by being poly, part of a community, so share with us!

Monday, September 27, 2010

My network is disconnected.


The job hunting landscape has changed if you hadn't noticed. Gone are the days of looking through the Wanted section in the local paper. Even looking for Help Wanted signs probably isn't going to do you much good. Of course, you can walk up to the receptionist at the big corporation where you want to work but your resume will likely end up in a pile with a thousand or so others.

The key these days is networking. Leveraging who you know to find what you need. It is depending on people you might not normally depend on to help you do something you really don't want to do. Fun huh?

While helping some friends recently it occurred to me that the idea of networking could, and probably should, be applied to polyamory as well.

When relationship problems appear it is often easy to overlook them as temporary, stress induced, or caused by other outside influences. The idea that in time things will return to normal can be a dangerous trap leading us to not realize how serious a problem is until it is too late. Other times when we do realize there is a problem we try to solve it on our own, almost as if we are ashamed for others to know of our relationship issues. Funny how most of us are happy to complain to anyone and everyone who will listen once the relationship has ended though isn't it?

I propose that dealing with relationship problems is much like job hunting these days. Instead of sitting behind a computer or TV screen we need to get ourselves and our problems out in the open. Lean on your network of friends for advice, understanding, or simply for distraction.

If your SO is going out on dates while you sit home alone thinking about how lonely you are, call some friends. Go see a movie or just get together to talk. Grab lunch or a drink. Do something with your friends to take your mind off being home alone.

If you are having problems with your SO and can't seem to find common ground find a friend to talk with. Sometimes other people can provide a fresh set of eyes on a problem or provide a different perspective. If I do this I caution whomever I'm confiding in that I don't want them taking sides, they are only getting my side of the story, and I may not agree with or follow their advice. I truly want their best, most unbiased thoughts.

And your network doesn't just include your friends. With Polyamory you have a community and lifestyle that is small enough and new enough a lot of people are looking for advice. Remember there are message boards and forums around where there are many folks happy to give advice. You can be as anonymous as you like. Of course you will get some ridiculous advice from trolls but that is the beauty of the online world; you can ignore whomever you want. Being open to advice and new ideas doesn't mean you have to be naïve, use your judgement.

Being unemployed and job hunting is considered by many to be a time of crisis in a persons life. I think relationship problems can also be a time of crisis for a lot of people. There are phases of acceptance, depression, and inactivity with both so it seems to me the advice of leaning on your network is also good for both.

Try your poly network, however you see it configured, the next time you feel like you are alone with a relationship problem. You just might be surprised by what you find.

How do you deal with relationship issues when you feel you are at a loss? Do you close down and try to solve them yourself? Do you rely on a particular confidant for help? Have you tried using your poly network to help? If so, did you find help in your poly network?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Busted!


I heard an interesting question the other day and although I have plenty of opinions on a variety of topics, I wasn't quite sure how to respond. In this article I'm going to try and explore the question and see if I can come up with an answer.

Here is the situation. . . Lucy who is married to Rickie was out on a lunch date with her SO, Fred, when a co-worker who doesn't know about her poly lifestyle saw them together. Now seeing Lucy and Fred together wouldn't have been hard to explain except the two did a bit of hand-holding at lunch.

The question is; What do you do when you are caught out on a date with your SO by someone who knows your primary partner (spouse)?

Initially I can see this going a couple of different ways:
1. The person could approach Lucy and Fred to say hello and try to figure out what is going on.
2. The person could let it go and approach Lucy later privately.
3. The person could go running to Rickie and tattle on Lucy and Fred.
4. The person could do nothing at all and ignore it.

Number 4 wouldn't make for interesting contemplation so I'm going to ignore that one completely.

Number 1, in my mind, is probably the most difficult to deal with. The person will likely approach with a fishing expedition in mind and ask who Fred might be. For Lucy, trying to explain Fred away with him sitting there could hurt his feelings. And since Lucy probably wasn't expecting to come out of the closet on her lunch date with Fred she may not give good answers leading to more probing questions.
My initial reaction would probably be to steer the co-worker away. I would likely cut them off rather quickly and introduce Fred as a friend while in the same breath stating that were we having a somewhat important private conversation. I would then nicely let the person know I would catch up with them later. This would give me some time to formulate the answers I would be comfortable giving to the person in a later conversation.

My reaction to Number 2 would be much like number 1. Being surprised I would probably say that I'm not prepared at the moment to talk, maybe making an excuse about another appointment or deadline, and promise to talk to the person later. Again, it would give me some time to decide how much information I was willing to share.

Number 3 wouldn't be much of a problem for Lucy or Fred but it would be for Rickie. In this case Rickie would be the one who is surprised. My first impulse, as Rickie, would be to put the person off until I could decide how to respond. The problem with that however is that putting them off could cause problems down the road. If Rickie acts surprised when first approached how could he come back to the person later saying he knew all about the relationship? It would make him look a bit silly to say the least. On the other hand, saying he knows all about Lucy and Fred when first approached will open a huge can of worms and probably end up with Lucy, Rickie, and Fred all coming out of the closet. What effect will that have for Lucy who works with the person who is tattling? Is it Rickie's decision at that point?

I think this has helped me understand how I would deal with the situation. The first thing I would try is putting the tattler off and having a conversation with them later. More importantly though I have realized this is a conversation I should be having in my relationships before it happens.

Are we out? Does that include co-workers as well as friends? Family? What is the comfort level of everyone involved regarding being open? If we aren't going to be open then what are the predetermined and appropriate answers when questioned?

Interestingly enough maybe the best answer is one I heard from someone and mentioned in another article; "It is none of your business" is their response. And I have to agree. If you aren't comfortable then maybe that is the best answer. Fortunately I haven't run into this problem much which is probably why I don't have a good answer to the situation.

Have you had to deal with being "caught" on a date before? How did you react? What were the consequences of your reaction? Would you do it differently next time and if so, how?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Splat.


Sometimes relationships fail. People grow apart, their goals shift, they realize a mistake was made, or they simply change their minds. My philosophy regarding relationships is that they are transient. I accept that relationships may end for any number of reasons. That doesn't mean relationships aren't valuable to me, they are. I don't enter into them lightly, nor do I give them up easily. Entering into a relationship for me involves a psychological as well as an emotional commitment. When I agree to a relationship I am committing to do everything I can to work through problems. I'm agreeing to try and compromise, to communicate, to understand, respect, and meet my partners needs as best I can.

Prior to entering into a relationship I like to have a lot of conversations with a potential partner. Just a few are things like how important communication is to me, that I am willing to try to work out any and every problem we may encounter, that we will do our best to support each other. Essentially I want to ensure we both understand the commitment we are making. This way of approaching relationships has worked fairly well for me. Rarely do I lose the friendship when a relationship ends or changes. There usually aren't hard feelings afterwards nor are there huge emotional explosions. Most of the time my relationships morph into a good friendship with both myself and my partner agreeing it is the healthiest thing for us both. Other times my relationships will naturally change to a friendship without the need for conversation.

Recently I had a romantic relationship dissolve that threw me for a bit of a spin. Being a fairly new relationship I wasn't completely surprised it happened. We had only been dating a couple of months and though we had what I thought was a good connection we were still learning about each other. What surprised me was how the relationship ended.

Prior to entering into the relationship we had the requisite talks. My existing partner was present for many of the conversations since she was also entering into a relationship, though separately, with the new person. We were all in agreement about things and the relationships moved forward. My relationship with the new partner quickly became romantic and we began depending upon each other. Soon after, my new partner went out of town for a couple of weeks on a trip where communication wouldn't be possible. Upon their return I expected some communication but didn't get any. I reached out a couple of times but each time my new partner was busy or unable to talk at the moment, so I let it go figuring they would contact me when there was some free time. After some time with no communication I finally got a hold of my new partner and ask them what was going on and why they weren't communicating with me.

The answer, "I changed my mind".

Further conversation basically revealed my new partner didn't feel we had the connection originally felt and had decided that our relationship should be a friendship rather than romantic. And they were very persistent about my agreeing to maintain a friendship. There was no allowance for compromise or working out what they felt were differences. There was no room to consider that since our relationship was new we were still adjusting to each other. They had made up their mind, with no input from me, and were essentially telling me how things would be. It was stated by the person that we would be good friends now.

Now, I'm a realist and I know that sometimes you can try to work with someone in every way possible and still come to an impasse. When you have put in your best effort, invested time and energy, and still can't resolve things then of course it is time to make a decision for yourself which may include ending the relationship despite the other persons desires. But we never got to that point since they had never even told me their feelings were in question or changing.

Much to their dissatisfaction I refused to agree to a friendship at this time. I wasn't happy about that decision but feel I had no other choice. You see, with all the conversations we had together this person had agreed to commitment within our relationship. They had agreed to communication, resolving problems, respect, and other things I mentioned above. In general, they had agreed to partnering with me to make a relationship. Instead they had made a decision for us both. I felt they had disregarded our agreements about communication and partnering to build our relationship. In my mind a friendship is still a relationship though the expectations are largely unspoken. You expect a certain amount of respect and for your friend to keep their word. This person hadn't kept their word when it came to our agreements and in doing so showed a lack of respect. If they couldn't keep specific agreements we had made about a romantic relationship how could I expect them to keep the unspoken agreements of a friendship? How could I agree to a friendship knowing they might suddenly change their mind again?

So what I'm asking for today is a reality check. What do you think about my decision? Do you agree or disagree? And why? Would you have handled things differently, and if so how? Have you been in this situation before?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

O Canada!


You have been following the legal battle shaping up in Canada regarding Polyamory, Polygamy, and Section 293 of the Criminal Code of Canada right?

No? Maybe you should be.

Section 293 says:
293.

1.Every one who
a.practices or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
i.any form of polygamy, or
ii.any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or

b.celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii)
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Evidence in case of polygamy

2.Where an accused is charged with an offence under this section, no averment or proof of the method by which the alleged relationship was entered into, agreed to or consented to is necessary in the indictment or on the trial of the accused, nor is it necessary on the trial to prove that the persons who are alleged to have entered into the relationship had or intended to have sexual intercourse.

Originally the intent and enforcement of the law was an apparent attempt to force First Nations Mormons away from polygamy which had questionable results at best. In the late 1800's there was one conviction under the law which hasn't been enforced since the 1940's. Recently however the Crown attempted to prosecute two men from Bountiful, B.C. in a case that was eventually dismissed. Prosecution was attempted by a third prosecutor after two others refused to bring charges due to constitutional problems with Section 293 and the court ruled the third prosecutor couldn't override the first two. Essentially the Crown had gone prosecutor shopping and the move backfired. The government then initiated the current reference case to clarify Section 293 and any constitutional issues it may contain.

The CPAA has intervened over concerns that if the law is upheld constitutionally it is broad enough to be used against polyamorists. Although the law is currently understood to exclude polyamory that could change at any time. The CPAA hopes to have the law better defined to the point it specifically excludes polyamory or specifically includes defined behavior or polygamy. Included is the concern that because the law could be interpreted to criminalize polyamory that polyamorists as a group have been unfairly stigmatized by the law unintentionally.

Why should you care? Because the case will likely put Canada further down the unexplored road of defining marriage than the U.S. Often Canadian and U.S. law are tied closely, or are even used as precedents.

Not to mention as Section 293 is currently written. . .
-it is possible any conjugal relationship could be punishable under the law.
-the law could be applied to someone dating, and having sex with, multiple partners but not in any formal relationship with any of them. Conjugal is typically understood to mean "sex".
-anyone attending a ritual, ceremony, or handfasting, regardless of legal recognition of the event could be prosecuted under the law.
-anyone who knows of a couple or group existing in a committed, but not legally sanctioned, relationship who doesn't report the relationship to authorities could be charged under the law.
-swinging could be illegal.
-threesomes could be illegal.
-Cheat on your girlfriend, she finds out, she calls the cops. 5 yrs in prison.

By the way, lack of sexual intercourse or abuse don't excuse guilt under the law. Furthermore, how you got into the relationship doesn't matter either.

Are you interested in the case yet? What are your thoughts? Does it matter, not matter, or have I been speaking a new alien language?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The new gay?




I've been seeing a lot of articles lately that theorize Polyamory is the "new gay". That is to say, Polyamory is trending upward at a fast rate, discrimination is becoming more widespread, and more poly people are demanding rights.

A fair amount of the buzz seems tied to a new book, "Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. I haven't read their book personally but understand it examines human sexuality and postulates that humans have needed and sought sexual variety since their beginnings. An interesting idea since many arguments against modern sexuality proclaim that it is evolution which has led to such behavior. An argument which would seem to also disprove that human disposition toward sexual variety is rooted in our origins. Either evolution has been stagnant with respect to sexuality and things like polyamory have been around forever, or they were never part of humans originally but rather a result of evolution. I don’t think it can be both. But again, I haven't read the book so I'm really not trying to start a debate about it. I do however find it amusing some think a single book will be the catalyst for a sexual revolution. Does that mean "The Ethical Slut", commonly believed to be the "Poly Bible", is about to be burned at the stake?
This article takes a deeper look at the book if you are interested:
New Zealand Listener (http://www.listener.co.nz/issue/3665/features/15907/sex_at_dawn.html)

Unless you are under a rock lately you have probably also heard about the court case in B.C. over Sec. 293 of the Criminal Code which many think could be a catalyst for change. Essentially Sec. 293 is the anti-polygamy section of the law that was recently tested by the attempted prosecution of two men from the Bountiful B.C. FLDS group. The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) has joined the suit over concerns that the current law could be applied to polyamorists despite current understanding that it applies to polygamists. Several articles have been written that conclude polyamorists are looking to have polyamory legalized or feel they are above the law. In reality all that has happened so far is the CPAA attorney has asked the B.C. court to clarify if Sec. 293 applies to polyamorists or not. They have not asked for changes to B.C. law specifically legitimizing polyamory or even specifically excluding it, though it does appear they will ask for exclusion. Those misunderstandings and bloating of the facts seem to have led many others to conclude polyamorists are poised and pushing for a sexual revolution.
Here are a couple of interesting related articles:
The Vancouver Sun (http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Polyamorists+want+court+declare+group+love+legal/3499029/story.html )

Edge (http://www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2=news&sc3=&id=110153)

And then there is Mr. Patrick Fagan who purports that Polyamory has come much further than is commonly believed. According to Fagan the Polyamory "movement" is so well defined, organized, connected, and powerful, that they are actually guiding public school policy and controlling childhood education, sex education, and youth health programs in an effort to ensure sustained polyamory in the future. Were it not inappropriate to repeat "LOL" or "::laughing::" to the nth power in a written article I would be doing so right now. Instead, here is a link to the article so you can go read it and have a chuckle yourself:
Touchstone (http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=23-01-042-c)

Is polyamory "The New Gay"? Being someone who wasn't (and isn't) strongly involved in the gay rights movement I have a hard time knowing if Polyamory is following the same path or not. What I do know is that most of the poly folk I talk to don't seem to be activists. Some have strong political opinions and will even stand up for their rights when it comes to sexuality, preserving nature, abortion and such but that is no different than monogamous folks. But most feel their right to practice polyamory isn't being directly impeded nor do they have any interest in converting other folks. Most have a "Live and let live" type attitude.

What do you think? Is Polyamory "The New Gay"? Is it the next sexual revolution?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What happened?


Every once in a while I am reminded that Polyamory is just as delicate a situation as Monogamy or any number of other relationship types.

A couple I have known for a while recently experienced a major shift in their Poly lifestyle. In the past we have talked extensively about Polyamory. They both seemed to have a good understanding of what they wanted and of the agreements in place in their relationship. I particularly enjoyed talking with this couple because our beliefs seemed to mesh very well. We all agreed new partners, though we all would want them incorporated in our poly families eventually, would need to spend time first becoming part of our families. We all agreed that preservation of any existing relationships were of a higher priority than new relationships. And we all avoid the use of terms like Primary and Secondary other than for ease of conversation. We all believed that safe sex extended beyond the use of condoms and barriers to behavior of new potential partners.

Where the rubber met the road was when the male half of the couple I mention found a new love. After searching for an extended period of time (years) he found someone with whom he clicked very well. Initially we were all very happy for him. Then the red flags started to appear. He was spending a disproportionate amount of time focused on his new partner rather than his wife. Time with his wife was often interrupted by calls and texts from his new partner. And the new partner seemed to be rushing to incorporation with their family by suggesting cohabitation soon, a disregard for the wife's personal space, and talks of fluid bonding. There were also other concerns such as this being her first poly relationship, her almost immediate professed love of the man, and promiscuity that challenged the rules of the husband and wife.

I know what you are thinking because the wife and I were thinking the same thing; NRE. And though NRE can be overlooked for a while there comes a point where things need to calm down a bit. Reaching that point the wife began to initiate conversations with the husband. That is also where things began to implode.

The husband felt that all the rules they had in place were based on theoretical situations and conversations and after entering an actual relationship he had found they just didn't apply anymore. To complicate matters he was now in NRE with the new partner and finding that he didn't enjoy spending time with his wife because she was unhappy with the situation.

As their conversations progressed they finally agreed to in effect end their current relationship and define a new relationship. As of the writing of this article the redefining of their relationship seems to be working. Both have a better understanding of what they each want out of polyamory, what their goals are as a couple, and how they will progress with new relationships. A byproduct is that they have recommitted to their relationship, something the wife needed quite badly.

It has not only been an honor to help them work through things, but has been a learning experience for me as well. I was reminded that we human beings are not static programming on a circuit board. We are dynamic and change our minds almost as often as the wind blows. We are constantly growing and maturing and as such our needs and desires change. Their ability to recognize each others needs as well as those of their relationship, and that they had changed and would require their relationship to change, impressed me greatly. I believe strongly in renegotiating relationships to ensure their survival but rarely see it put into practice. To often it is disguised as one partner surrendering to the other rather than true negotiation.

The couple still has a lot to work out and, with the husband still involved with the new relationship, there are probably still a lot of bumps. There are a lot of things I didn't even mention here since the detail would easily take many pages. Some of those things I will write about in future articles, some I won't since I have no desire to chronicle their relationship or make this blog all about them. What I will do though is remember that people change and so must their relationships. And that is something I will be happy to explore in my writings and with all of you, dear readers.

Today I will let you off the hook and not ask any questions. Instead I simply wish you success and happiness as you follow your poly heart. It is my sincerest hope that your road has very few bumps and those you do encounter are negotiated well.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Step up!


Being poly can be a lot of fun. It is nice to have the variety of multiple partners. Both those with which you may have a physical relationship, and those you don't. Being able to love without inhibition is very freeing. The knowledge that someone is with you because they want to be with you is comforting and reassuring.

There is also a physical aspect to polyamory that can be incredibly fulfilling. Although I don't think it should ever be the primary reason for being poly, I don't think it should be ignored either. It is wonderful to have the variety of different sexual partners. Let's be blunt; some people do things that other people won't. And sometimes, they just do things in a different yet exciting way. For men, who often have a bit of ego surrounding sexual prowess, having multiple partners can be fulfilling for different reasons. Since I can't speak well to the female perspective I'm not going to try. This one is for the boys.

But, I'm sorry guys, the sex talk is over. Yes, you're a stud. Yes, you are special because unlike monogamous men you can please multiple women. You are suave and silky smooth and all the other guys want to be you. Are we done with that part of things now? (P.S. for those serious folks among you, that was a joke so don't start flaming me, okay?).

Now that your ego is fully stroked we'll get to business. Step up guys. Being good in bed is only part of things. So you have slept with a woman but, do you want to keep her happy? Then get your mind out from between the sheets.

While you are at it, change the sheets.
Yep, you heard me right, change the sheets stud.

Something a lot of guys don't understand is that most women aren't interested in sleeping on the same sheets you last slept on with another partner. It is okay to not understand why women feel that way but it doesn't mean you don't have to respect the feeling. Change the sheets!!

I'm talking about taking responsibility. I'm talking about maintaining your life in a way that makes each of your partners feel valuable and special. So let's run through a quick, not comprehensive or perfect, list of things you can do to respect each of your partners:

-Change the sheets!! Did I mention that one already?
-While you are changing the sheets, change the towels too. You aren't interested in using some other guys towel are you?
-Did you remember the washcloths while you were changing the towels?
-Does one of your partners have a brush, toothbrush, makeup, etc. sitting around on the counter? Think about putting those things in the cabinet under the sink when your other partner is over.
-What about barrettes, hair ties, or hair clips laying around? Find a drawer.
-While we are at it, are there a pair of panties or a bra in an interesting location? Add them to the drawer.
-Though it may sound silly; what about a cup? Keys? Day planner or phone? Explaining one of those things casually at the wrong time could potentially ruin a moment.

By now you should be getting the idea. Look around objectively and tidy up anything that might make your date or partner feel uncomfortable or that could cause the wrong conversation at the right moment.

Is all of this something you have to do? Of course not. And do you have to do everything I've mentioned every time one of your partners comes over? Nope. And maybe your partners will notice and tell you they don't care if they see the other persons stuff. But what it does do is show some respect. It lets them know that you are focused on them and on making them comfortable. It also helps keep the focus on the two of you rather than on your other partner who isn't even present at the time.

Now it is time for the disclaimer. You are openly poly, right? The person coming over knows about your lifestyle and other potential partners, right? So really none of the things I mentioned above really should be any surprise to them if they are seen or found, right? You could just leave those things out, not worry about it, and deal with any conversations that come up. No big deal. I'm not saying you have to hide things to hide your other partners. I'm not talking about being secretive or trying to conceal your other relationships. I'm simply saying that there are some women out there who will appreciate the effort guys. Maybe this concept even applies to the girls. And of course if you are openly living with a partner a lot of this probably doesn't matter much anyway.

What do you think? Is what I suggest going to far? Is it unnecessary? Would you appreciate the effort or does it not matter to you? And, does this apply to the ladies or mainly to the guys?
And what about things I've missed? Are you already doing this and if so, what things do you do to make your date or partner feel comfortable?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Veto!


I like to talk about polyamory. Anyone who reads my articles will figure that out pretty quick. I like to learn new concepts and terms. I like to understand how people deal with problems and what about polyamory makes them happy.

Regular readers will also know that I hear and talk a lot about rules. Being a logical person I enjoy the definition rules provide. I also like to think I know when the use of rules should be avoided. And there are a lot of different rules out there to say the least!

Something I ran across recently wasn't exactly a rule but I'm going to lump it into that category since I don't know where else it fits. In a casual conversation someone made the statement, "Oh, that wouldn't be allowed." when talking about their partner. Incredulously I ask them to elaborate to which they replied, "I wouldn't let them do that." I expressed my confusion around how they would prevent their partner, obviously a human being possessing free will, from doing anything.

After some more conversation what I learned was that their relationship included "Veto" power over one another. Further definition revealed they have agreed that either of them may exercise a veto without providing cause for the veto.

For example; One partner wants to attend a "play party" and enjoy the ability to be intimate with someone if they so desire. The other partner can veto that desire without cause. The first partner will then not become intimate with the person. They will accept the veto as absolute.

Although having veto powers seems to work for the couple mentioned I would have serious concerns about such a thing. I would think it would be quite easy to exercise veto power to avoid dealing with things like jealousy, being lonely, ownership issues, and more. It could easily become a tool someone would use to avoid dealing with their personal, or even their relationship, issues. It would also concern me in an "absolute veto" situation that the other person might not have consideration for my needs or desires in mind when they exercised their veto power.

But as always, I like to try and be fair and understand both sides of something. In thinking about this some more I realized I couldn't completely comprehend the situation because I've never existed in a relationship with veto power. The closest I could come was to relate it to a disagreement between two partners.

Let's put two people without veto power into the situation I mentioned above. One partner wants to attend a "play party" and enjoy the ability to be intimate with someone if they so desire. The other partner voices concerns, saying yes they can go to the party but would rather they didn't become intimate with someone.

They now have a disagreement over the actions of the first partner.

Now this is a rough example and the person hasn't actually been told, "No. You can't do that." But they know they now have a choice to make; respect the wishes of their partner or go against those wishes.

Has the person voicing their disagreement exercised what is in effect a veto? In other words, is refusing to agree with something your partner has proposed the equivalent of exercising veto power?

I don't think it is. A veto implies a final ruling, with no exceptions or explanations, has been made. A disagreement on the other hand is a negotiable situation. The two parties can talk to try and understand their positions and even compromise if they find mutual ground.

My own beliefs are actually different than those already mentioned. I personally believe in choices. If I don't agree with my partner I am happy to engage in a conversation and explain why I don't agree. I won't try to change their opinion or control their actions in that conversation. What I will do however is have a "What if?" conversation and let them know what effect their choices may have, and what actions I may take as a result.

Putting myself in the example above my response would be something like; "If you go to the party and have intimate relations with the people there, whom I don't think are safe, I wouldn't be comfortable having unprotected sex with you again until you had completed STD testing. If you go and aren't intimate with anyone our relationship can continue with fluid bonding intact."

Notice I don't say I would be mad or that I would end the relationship. I very simply state how I would expect to react to the possible choices I believe my partner has available. My partner then has all the information they should need to make a choice, knowing exactly what risks they would be taking, and what the result of their choice will be. As clarification, I try to be clear in my relationships that I will never be angry or end a relationship solely because of a choice someone has made, assuming the choice contained no malice or bad intent. I believe everyone has choices and a by-product of that concept is that being humans we sometimes make bad choices. Partnering with someone in a relationship to me means that we will work through bad choices without creating a permanent scar on our relationship.

Where I'm not clear on veto power is what will happen when a veto is ignored. It was a question I asked but the only answer I got was "That won't happen. They know if I veto something they can't do it." Which I believe is a completely unrealistic expectation. Sooner or later a veto will be broken.

Wrapping this up I would have to say that I don't think veto power is very healthy. I can respect that it might work for some folks but I don't see it ever being a part of my relationships. Of course everyone has deal-breakers, bottom lines, moral boundaries and such, but those things are often negotiable and sometimes misunderstood when in reality the partners are more in agreement than disagreement. As I understand veto power I don't see much, if any, flexibility.

Do you have veto powers in your relationship? Have you ever been in a relationship where you had veto power? Is veto power healthy or dangerous? What would have to happen in a relationship for you to allow someone to have veto power over your actions?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Accidental polyamory.


A while back I wrote an article about a concept I called "Accidental Monogamy". Basically it is the concept that a polyamorous couple in a long term relationship where neither has had another partner in a while can in effect become, or be seen as, monogamous.

Here I want to take a look at the other side of things. An opposing concept I will call "Accidental Polyamory".

This concept came to mind after hearing about a few swing quads who had closed their relationships. The result was a fidelitous quad. What interested me was that the members of these quads were now describing themselves as Polyamorous. In most of the examples I heard about there was physical interaction between all members of the opposite sex and often between the women. In a few examples there was also physical interaction between the men.

Now, the simple definition found on my Definitions page is as follows:
Polyamory:
1. Any of various practices involving relationships with multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all involved.
Source: Wiktionary.

Holding a fidelitous quad up against that definition seems to prove that the quad is indeed practicing Polyamory. The key in my mind is the fidelitous part of the relationships. Once you allow for one of the quad partners to continue swinging I find it hard to apply the term Polyamory to the relationships anymore. Of course there are plenty of arguments out there that someone can be Polyamorous and Swing at the same time.

My definition of Poly differs though and I have a hard time considering a swing quad that has become fidelitous as Polyamorous. For me, polyamory inherently includes the concept that loving others should not be limited by a number of partners or the design of a situation. In other words, polyamory is the freedom and ability to love others as your heart desires. Applying fidelity to a relationship, a quad in this example, as a means of limiting the partners involved in the relationship contradicts my definition of Polyamory because at that point the freedom to love outside the quad is prohibited.

Now, I'm not saying a fidelitous quad is a bad thing or even that it can't function. I think it is a great way to define a relationship and still provide some variety and freedom for the quad members. I believe it is a completely viable relationship design.

That leaves me with the question of the day; Do you believe that any relationship design which prohibits new partners doesn't qualify as Polyamorous? More to the point maybe; Do you believe that making a swing configuration fidelitous automatically qualifies as polyamorous?

And here is the definition I have added to my Definitions page:
Accidental Polyamory (This one is still a concept in progress).
1. Finding yourself in love with multiple people at the same time.
2. The closing of a previously open relationship with multiple partners by redefining the relationship as fidelitous.
Source: Me