N > 2

Hmmm. If you “come out of the broom clos­et” when you pub­licly iden­ti­fy your­self as a pagan, what do you come out of when you pub­licly iden­ti­fy your­self as being polyamorous? At one point I ran across some­one advo­cat­ing say­ing that we’ve come out of the par­rot cage, but that image is high­ly unap­peal­ing to me. In fact, it gives me a men­tal image of some­one with guano on his feet.1Par­rots are tra­di­tion­al­ly called Pol­ly, so par­rots are often used to iden­ti­fy poly people.

In any case, here I am. I think of rela­tion­ship ori­en­ta­tion as being sim­i­lar to sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion. Some peo­ple are wired for monoamory. (I delib­er­ate­ly use monoamory rather than monogamy, because I am not just talk­ing about mar­riages.) Some peo­ple are wired for polyamory and some of us are bi-relational—we can go either way. I’ve been hap­pi­ly monoamorous at times. I’ve also been hap­pi­ly and eth­i­cal­ly polyamorous. I’m bi-relational.

When I refer to polyamory, I’m not talk­ing about swing­ing, promis­cu­ity, or pur­su­ing recre­ation­al sex. I don’t con­demn peo­ple who are into those things, but I’m not and I nev­er have been. I am talk­ing about hav­ing sig­nif­i­cant lov­ing rela­tion­ships with more than one per­son at a time in an hon­est and open fash­ion. I am talk­ing about mak­ing con­scious, express com­mit­ments that do or do not include exclu­siv­i­ty, and liv­ing up to those commitments.

Polyamory is not, for me, pri­mar­i­ly about sex. It is about con­nec­tions, about com­mu­ni­ty, about achiev­ing inti­ma­cy on much more than a phys­i­cal lev­el. Sex is good, nice, love­ly, and can be one kind of inti­ma­cy. It isn’t the most impor­tant part of a rela­tion­ship for me. To be blunt, it’s easy to just get laid, but build­ing rela­tion­ships takes more work and is more reward­ing in the long run as far as I’m concerned.

Sam and I were both polyamorous and involved with oth­er peo­ple when we met each oth­er, but were monoamorous in prac­tice for a few years as we built our rela­tion­ship. We sim­ply did­n’t have the time or ener­gy to have rela­tion­ships of any real depth with oth­er peo­ple while we were ini­tial­ly blend­ing our fam­i­lies. Then we opened our rela­tion­ship up to oth­er peo­ple, with a very spe­cif­ic writ­ten agree­ment in place to pro­tect our pri­ma­ry rela­tion­ship and our family.

I believe that hav­ing more than two adults in a fam­i­ly can be a very healthy way of liv­ing for both adults and chil­dren. There are fam­i­lies in which three or more adults are rais­ing chil­dren togeth­er, and those chil­dren are very well-adjust­ed and secure in hav­ing more than two parents.

I’m hap­pi­est when all of my Sig­nif­i­cant Oth­ers (SOs) are at least friend­ly with each oth­er and I’m friend­ly with their SOs. (This style of prac­tic­ing polyamory is often called kitchen table poly.) There have been times when some of my SOs were also in rela­tion­ship with each oth­er so that we were actu­al­ly in what Dr. Deb­o­rah Anapol calls an inti­mate net­work. Of course, find­ing part­ners who are not only com­pat­i­ble with you but also get along well with any oth­er part­ner you already have adds a sig­nif­i­cant amount of com­plex­i­ty to start­ing new rela­tion­ships in this kind of par­a­digm. Some peo­ple don’t have any con­tact with their part­ner’s OSOs, so I sup­pose that isn’t much of an issue for them.

I am very cau­tious about bring­ing a new per­son into my life, although things are sim­pler now that I no longer have a minor child. When Sam and I were togeth­er with our three chil­dren, though, there were many fac­tors to be con­sid­ered: where each of us was emo­tion­al­ly at any giv­en moment, how our fam­i­ly as a whole was doing, how we were doing as a cou­ple, how each of our chil­dren was doing, who the poten­tial new SO was, etc. Yes, we did occa­sion­al­ly bring new peo­ple into our lives, very care­ful­ly, but there was no revolv­ing door into our fam­i­ly life. There isn’t one in my per­son­al life now, either, nor will there ever be.

I am involved in var­i­ous poly groups because while I am not active­ly look­ing for addi­tion­al part­ners I do enjoy the com­pa­ny of like-mind­ed folks. While there’s a lot of diver­si­ty with­in the poly com­mu­ni­ty, I’ve found that it’s gen­er­al­ly full of peo­ple who respect, accept, and even cel­e­brate that diver­si­ty. Polyamorous folks tend to be fair­ly intel­li­gent and cre­ative, and obvi­ous­ly would­n’t be polyamorous if they weren’t will­ing and able to ques­tion soci­ety’s default assump­tions on some sub­jects. They’re often extra­or­di­nary in many ways.

This lit­tle piece of my web­site actu­al­ly exists in hopes of lead­ing more peo­ple to ques­tion assump­tions. The fact that Sam and I were a cou­ple, that we were a man and a woman in a com­mit­ted rela­tion­ship, did not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that we were het­ero­sex­u­al and monoamorous. That isn’t the only way to be in rela­tion­ship. There are oth­er options. Also, the fact that we were polyamorous did­n’t mean that we were promis­cu­ous (in fact, we were far more con­ser­v­a­tive about such things than many of our monoamorous acquaintances).

One of the dis­turb­ing assump­tions I’ve observed among poly folk is that if you are polyamorous, you have to have more than one SO or you some­how lose your poly card. Nope. If a bisex­u­al per­son cur­rent­ly has one lover, that does­n’t mean they’re sud­den­ly het­ero­sex­u­al or homo­sex­u­al. They are still bisex­u­al. The fact that some­one is cur­rent­ly involved with one or even no SOs does­n’t mean that they aren’t polyamorous any­more, just as the fact that some­one is poly does­n’t mean that they have to have oth­er lovers, either.

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