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Monday, September 5, 2011

Head Shake

If you are someone who knows me in real life you probably see me shaking my head once in a while. And if you know me really well, you can see me mentally shaking my head even when the outside remains neutral. Recently I found myself shaking my head constantly around a couple I know.

The couple I'm talking about is openly poly and has been for a bit over a year now. I say openly poly because they actually moved from their home state so, I believe, they wouldn't have to tell their families they were poly. Or if they did, it would be over the phone so any potential explosion could be avoided. (Yep, that was a head shake).

I talked with this couple a lot and the male particularly has spent some time educating himself about poly and they both have contemplated and at least theoretically resolved some of the more serious poly issues they could encounter. A good thing since the female already had another partner.

When I heard about the other partner things got a bit more interesting. The woman explained he was an older man, she knew he was likely getting his kicks from being with a younger woman (her), and it was unclear if his wife knew about their relationship. She was okay with that because the tangible things he provided her (nice paid 'vacations' away from her husband) were worth it. (uh huh, another head shake).

I bit my tongue and chalked some of the things I was hearing up to immaturity and a desire to 'fit in' with the new poly community. (The woman and her husband are quite young).

Spending more time with the couple was when things got much more interesting. The female, an attractive outgoing woman, was fairly openly looking for other relationships and willing to entertain the idea with any number of available males who were happy to oblige. The male of the couple, although also quite attractive, was not as adept at attracting females.

After seeing the woman flirt with a few different men I began to see a pattern emerge. When flirting or being affectionate with other men while her husband was around she treated him very poorly. Sometimes she would simply ignore him but more often than not she would talk down to him quite directly, belittle him openly, and physically push him away. (This got my head to shaking pretty good).

As I watched, her behavior became more pronounced until they were almost fighting at that uncomfortable level that makes you, as an observer, just want to run away. (Head was shaking even more). What I couldn't quite comprehend was why the husband would put up with this kind of behavior. After watching some more, and picking up on a few comments, it is quite possible the woman believes this type of behavior turns her husband on. The husband on the other hand appears to be using that belief as a convenient way to accept polyamory though in actuality, he has problems seeing his wife with another man. (Head is really shaking now).

Along with some other behavior, and persistent neck pain, I decided to walk away from this couple. I still see them from time to time, and I'm very social with hugs and kisses all around, but that is all. Generally when I see them, the head shaking returns along with the resulting neck pain.

To me what they are doing doesn't by itself qualify as polyamory. Yes they have multiple partners from time to time but the manner in which they acquire relationships is not just unusual in my opinion, but potentially very destructive to everyone involved. If being in more than one relationship at a time requires the destruction (even temporarily) of a partner that doesn't seem healthy. What is the point of being polyamorous if you have to psychologically justify your behavior by beating others down?

Another question that popped into my head was wondering why anyone would want to get involved in such a messy relationship style. The men with which this woman was flirting had to have seen how she treated her husband. Yet, even if they could somehow assume he enjoyed it how could they not realize she would likely treat them the same in the future?

I wrote this as a poly article but as I look at it I'm reminded of the old saying "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Maybe instead of a poly issue this one is a human issue?

What say you? What do you think of the relationship style I've outlined here? Is it something you practice and if so, can you explain it a bit? If not would you ever get involved with people practicing relationships in this manner?


  1. Since the couple is so young and so new to poly, it appears that they don't understand all of the practicalities just yet. They don't seem to have any guidelines in place for pursuing a new interest when the other is around- and they may not even realize they need any. But they will soon find out because the male compromising his feelings in this situation is eventually going to realize that he has a need that is not being met.

    I am fairly new to poly as well and fairly young (27). I am the first to admit that some lessons have to be learned the hard way. Either this couple will learn to confront issues as they arise or they won't.

    And for the record, the adage of "Do unto others..." is a load of bull. Not everyone enjoys what you like to have 'done unto you'. So I think everyone should subscribe to something more along the lines of "Do unto others as they would like to have done unto them."

  2. The Black Mamba,

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said, except for the last paragraph.

    The old saying "Do unto others. . ." (I think) was meant as a basis for treating others on a general level, such as when you don't know what they like. If you treat someone in an adult and fair manner from the start (what I think the adage suggests) and they explicitly let you know they would like to be treated differently then by all means, adjust your treatment of them.

    Regardless, as mentioned, the two were fighting so the woman obviously wasn't treating the man in any manner which he enjoyed for felt was adult or fair by her, either explicitly or by default. And that is what surprised me. That she would treat him that way, realize he wasn't happy about it, and continue anyway. All apparently in an attempt at landing a new partner and/or making her husband jealous. In my mind that is a dysfunctional relationship, whether they know it yet or not. I truly believe for them, a first step in overcoming that behavior may be to simply "Do unto others. . ."

    Thanks for another interesting comment!

  3. I don't think you have any right to judge their relationship any more than you would want your relationships judged. Do unto others... You are not a part of their relationship and came to your conclusions watching them in very limited circumstances. Keep your finger wagging to yourself just as you'd want a monogamist to keep her finger out of your business.