Benefits of polyamory

Domina Jen,

I’m dating a single polyamorous woman.  She was up front about being poly from the beginning and I was cool with it.  We’ve been dating for a few months and now she’s looking at this guy as a potential partner.

It feels weird. I’m not a jealous guy so on one hand I’m cool with it but on the other… I don’t know I guess it feels weird because I feel like I’m supposed to not be cool with it maybe?

And the idea of telling my friends and family about it really messes with me. They’ve all met her and think she’s cool. But I know she won’t be cool with keeping her other relationship a secret.

She knows something’s up and she keeps asking me about it. I just don’t really know how to answer. Because I’m mostly cool with it but then there’s like “what if she likes the other guy more than me” and “what if she spends more time with him than me” and “what if I don’t like the guy” and all these “what if” things that just bug me.

And then of course there’s “what if she leaves me for him” and “what if she gets a disease from him that she gives to me.”

But then again she’s also cool with me going out and getting another girlfriend if I want so do I really have the right to not be cool with her if I have the same opportunity?

How do I handle this?  And can you list some of the benefits of poly relationships that can outweigh the negatives?  It’s all just kind of overwhelming.

Thanks in advance.

Hi, and thanks for writing.  These are actually very good and valid questions that a lot of people experience when they first get into polyamory.

It’s a lot to take in, and it goes against everything we were taught a relationship was supposed to be.

You being a man makes it even harder, because of cultural expectations placed the way men are supposed to behave within a relationship.  So we’ll start at the top and go down your list of questions/concerns.

First, I’m going to go through the list of terms, because that will make things so much easier through the rest of the post.

Polyamory: multiple loves

Polygamy: multiple spouses

There are two separate kinds of polygamy.  There is polygyny, which is by far the most common, in which a husband has multiple wives.  But there is a second kind, less common throughout history, called polyandry, in which a wife has multiple husbands.

In the vast majority of the world, all polygamy is illegal and criminalized.  So the terms “polygyny” and “polyandry” refer not to marriages, but to certain dynamics within polyamorous relationships.

Of course these are not the only kinds of polyamorous relationships, but polyandrous relationships consisting of one woman and two men are actually the most common type of poly relationship throughout the US and Canada.  This dynamic just seems to work.

It certainly works in my experience.

And the idea of telling my friends and family about it really messes with me.  They’ve all met her and think she’s cool.  But I know she won’t be cool with keeping her other relationship a secret.

Alright, so first of all, I absolutely don’t agree with trying to force your partner to keep something like that a secret.  The only way to get rid of the harmful misinformation and stereotypes that go with poly relationships is for people to see what a healthy poly relationship looks like.

But while you may know that intellectually, putting it into practice is something else entirely, and I get that.  It would be easier if you had a second girlfriend, but her having a second boyfriend makes things tough.

First, you have to understand that there are those who can just never accept it.  No matter what you say, no matter what you do, they’ll just cling to their ignorance with everything they have.  They’ll attack her, they’ll insult you, they’ll call her a manipulative whore, they’ll say that she’s taking advantage of you, or that she’s brainwashing you, or that she’s forcing you into a life you don’t want.

She’s likely no stranger to this kind of thing.  I don’t know a single polyandrous woman who hasn’t experienced this.  Monogamous men tend to get really upset at the idea of polyandrous relationships.  They, more often than not, are downright hostile to the women in these relationships.  Like it’s a personal attack on their masculinity or something.  The only way they can accept it is to assume she’s evil and you’re weak.

So if she’s experienced with polyandrous relationships, she’s been dealing with this for awhile.  She’s used to it.  But it’s all completely new to you, and it’ll be tough.  You’re going to have to decide how much you’re going to let the opinions of others influence you.

Which sounds like an easy thing to do, but in practice, it’s really not.  Ask any submissive guy.  It’s pretty damn tough.

Add to that the cultural expectations of men in relationships, that they’re supposed to “possess their woman.”  There’s this idea that a man can’t be a “real man” if he doesn’t claim some sort of ownership of his partner.  Which is why so many monogamous men get outright hostile about it.

And while, in my experience, the vast majority of the hostility will be directed at her, not at you, you’ll still get your fair share of it.

You’ll have to do some real soul-searching and decide how secure you are in your masculinity, because it will be attacked.  You have to decide whether you’re going to let those attacks affect you.

You’ve got to be prepared for that.  But, while that will undoubtedly happen, it actually won’t be the majority.

As it turns out, most reasonable people will actually be pretty accepting of it, even if they don’t understand it.  Chances are your friends will be curious at first; they won’t understand it, they’ll have this idea of it, but they’ll actually talk and keep open minds about it.

And with friends, it’s easy.  Even if they don’t understand you “letting” her have a second boyfriend.  There’s just one thing you have to say:

That girl at the bar is hot.  I think I’m going to go talk to her.  Flirt with her a bit, maybe if she’s willing, go back to her place.  Oh, and you know what?  I’ve got to get some pictures of us doing it.  My girlfriend loves that.

I mean, there’s just nothing your friends can say about that.  There’s nothing they can say when random drunken blowjobs and one-night stands are legitimate possibilities.

Nah bro, your argument is invalid.

Family is harder.  And I stay out of family issues, unless it starts negatively affecting me.  For example, living so close to Kazander’s family, and him keeping everything a secret from them, has started to negatively affect me.  So as soon as we get his health issues figured out, we’re moving.

The way you deal with your family is up to you, I’m not going to tell you how to handle that.  But as always, I recommend honesty.  People tend to forget that being in your life is a privilege.  It is not a right that anyone is entitle to, regardless of whether you share DNA.

If you are honest, and any member of your family gives you problems, then do you really want that family member in your life?  Why put up with it when you don’t have to?  You don’t have to let toxic people remain in your life.

Now to go through the “what-if” questions:

What if she likes the other guy more than me?  What if she leaves me for him?

This is a very common and justifiable concern with those who are new to polyamory.  But there is one thing you’re forgetting:

What’s stopping that from happening in a monogamous relationship?

Imagine I’m in a monogamous relationship with Kazander.  What’s stopping me from finding a guy that I like better than him?  A single dad at the park, a cute guy at the bar, anyone, anywhere.  There’s absolutely nothing stopping that from happening.

The difference is in a poly relationship, the forbidden appeal is gone.  And having to make a choice is gone.

I don’t have to decide whether I like one person more than the other, because I don’t have to choose between them.  I don’t have to leave one person for the other, because I don’t have to choose.  That’s literally not a line of thinking present in poly relationships.

Poly relationships have problems just as monogamous relationships do, and poly relationships end just as monogamous ones do.  But poly relationships don’t end because someone likes one partner more than the other.  Because no one is worried about that, because it’s not something you have to think about.

And that also goes for the concern about getting a disease.  In my personal experience, poly people I know tend to be extremely careful about this.  More so than monogamous people.

Because I know that it’s not just my health on the line.  Anything that one partner has could potentially be passed to me, which I could then pass on to my other partners.  I’ve taken risks with my health before, but I won’t do that with other people’s health.

And again, there’s nothing stopping that from happening in a monogamous relationship.  Anyone can go out and cheat on their partner* and get a disease, which can then be passed to their partner.  Monogamous relationships don’t protect anyone from that.

What if she spends more time with him than me?

A completely understandable question, and something that must be discussed.  Time management is important in any relationship, but especially so in poly ones.

Because a partner can feel neglected for a number of reasons in both poly and mono relationships that have nothing to do with other partners.  Your partner may spend too much time out with friends.  Too much time working.  Too much time focusing on the kids or other responsibilities, and not effectively managing time.

Poly relationships are just as vulnerable to this as mono relationships are, because now you have the added strain of other partners who need your time, as well.

It’s something that simply requires practice, and mindful time management skills, which can be learned.  It also requires open and honest communication** so that your partner can be made aware of a problem before it becomes a significant problem.

What if I don’t like the guy?

This completely depends on the situation.  If you’re all living together, this can be a significant issue.  Usually it can be fixed, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of emotional maturity on the part of everyone involved.

If you’re not living together, it’s much easier.  For me personally, if I don’t have to live with the person, it doesn’t matter at all.

I didn’t like Kazander’s girlfriend in the slightest.  Not even remotely.

But I didn’t have to deal with her, so I didn’t care.  He’d go on dates with her and I wouldn’t have to see her.  She’d come over, I’d do the polite greeting thing, then they’d go into the bedroom while I watched TV.  I didn’t have to socialize with her, I didn’t have to spend time with her, I didn’t have to do anything.

Now, if I was in a situation where I had to spend time with her, that would be a problem, and quite honestly, I would not have allowed that relationship to begin in the first place.

Because in poly relationships, your current partner(s) must always take priority over potential ones.  Whenever I begin a new relationship, or am even considering beginning a new relationship, I ask my current partners what they think.  And their opinions and thoughts carry quite a bit of weight.

If you don’t get along with the guy, you need to say something ASAP, so the three of you can figure out what to do about it.  Again, a lot of times, it can be fixed.  But you have to be very open and honest about your feelings and what’s going through your head.  And you have to say something immediately.  Don’t wait until it’s a big problem.

How do I handle this?

Honesty.

It’s so important.  You have to tell your girlfriend what you’re feeling.  If you struggle with it, then you’ve just got to find a way to make it work.  A lot of guys struggle with this, because men culturally aren’t allowed to have feelings, much less talk about them, but you’ve got to do it anyway.

If you struggle with a conversation, try writing her a letter, instead.  I had an ex who really struggled with this, so what we ended up doing was going into separate rooms with our laptops, and literally IM each other.

Yeah, I felt stupid at first.  But you know what?  It worked.  It was a lot easier for him to talk about our problems when I wasn’t sitting there in front of him.  It was easier for him to tell me what was going through his head.  Writing it was easier, it helped him organize his thoughts, it helped him open up in a way that he just couldn’t when we were sitting in the same room, talking to each other face to face.

It’s not ideal, but it worked.  Whatever you need to do to talk to her, do it.  It’s the single most important thing, it’s the single most important responsibility you will have, and if you can’t do it, the relationship will fail.

And that’ll be on your shoulders.

And can you list some of the benefits of poly relationships that can outweigh the negatives?

With pleasure.

First, I’ll use Kazander’s ex as an example.

I’ve got a pretty high libido.  But even I have days when I’m just not feeling it.  I also have days where I just want to be left the fuck alone.  Not because I’m angry or in a bad mood or anything, it’s just one of my quirks.  I need to be left the fuck alone occasionally.

And sometimes, the times I want to be left the fuck alone coincide with the times Kazander wants to get all up on me.

Any other time, I’d be totally into it.  But more than a few times, when I’ve been in my leave-me-the-fuck-alone moods, it’s caused tension.

When he had his girlfriend, he could spend time with her.  It was a relief for me, actually, because I could get time to myself.  Or maybe I didn’t specifically want time to myself, but maybe I just wasn’t horny that day.  Maybe I wasn’t feeling well.  Maybe I was stressed or annoyed or whatever, and didn’t want sex.

Enter his girlfriend.  It took the pressure off of me, because I wasn’t the only source of sexual/intimate companionship he had available to him.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but all I can say is that you won’t understand how much of a relief it is until you live it.  It’s one of those little things people take for granted in mono relationships.  It’s one of those little annoyances you don’t even really register.

But the first time you’re not feeling it, and she is, and she can get it somewhere else, and leave you alone, you’ll feel it.  You’ll feel that relief, and you’ll be able to just sit back and watch TV or surf the web or play video games or read or whatever you want to do.  It’ll be a big relief, and it’ll be surprising, because you’ll realize just how much that has annoyed you in the past.

Other women I’ve spoken to, who were in polygynous relationships, expressed a similar sentiment.  For example, one of the girls in a polygynous D/s relationship, had been nervous when they’d first opened their relationship and her Master collared another girl.

But as it turns out, the original girl hated giving blowjobs.  She would do it, of course, because that’s what she was told to do, but she never liked it, and her Master knew that, so he didn’t make her do it all that often.

The new girl, however, enjoyed giving blowjobs.  So all of a sudden, the original girl didn’t have to anymore.  And she told me that she didn’t realize how much tension there was and how much pressure she felt because of it.  Her exact words were, “Nothing prepares you for the relief you feel.  It’s like a weight off your shoulders that you never knew you had.”

So I know it doesn’t seem like much now, but once it happens, you’ll be surprised at what a relief that is.

And there’s another thing.  I’ll use Kazander and Sounder as examples.

As I’ve said before, Kazander sucks at listening when I’m upset.  Venting to him ends up with me being even more annoyed or angry than I was in the beginning.  It’s not because he’s trying to be disrespectful, and his heart is in the right place, but it’s something he’s just never been good at, and he likely won’t change now.  It caused a lot of tension in the relationship.

Sounder, on the other hand, is eerily good at that.  He’s very good at being sympathetic and supportive, and he knows exactly what to say to calm me down.  Like, the first time or two it happened, I was actually taken aback at how effective it was, and how fast I went from full-on outraged psycho bitch to just moderate irritation at the situation I was venting about.

Okay, so awesome.  I don’t vent to Kazander anymore.  I don’t pressure him to be something he’s not, I don’t pressure him to act or speak in a way that doesn’t come naturally to him.  I don’t need to make him be what I need him to be, because I can get what I need from Sounder.  I can talk to Sounder, I can get what I need, whether it’s advice or just a supportive ear, and I don’t have to try to make Kazander be someone he’s not.

And in this specific situation, it also eases some tension in my relationship with Kazander, because I used to get even more annoyed after venting to him, and that doesn’t happen anymore.  Plenty of arguments have been avoided because I go to Sounder instead of Kazander.

Conversely, Sounder is not a super cuddly person.  He’s very loyal and caring, he’s just not physically affectionate.  He shows his affection in other ways.

This works for me, because I’m often the same way.  But sometimes, I want more.

And Sounder is a very good, obedient sissy.  He cuddles with me on the couch because he knows I want it.  He hugs me because he knows I love hugging him.  He bends over backwards to give me everything I want, and of course that includes physical affection.  It’s just not something he necessarily wants, himself.

While Kazander is much more physically affectionate.  He actually says I could stand to be more physically affectionate, myself, that I don’t cuddle enough.  He enjoys lying in bed, just doing nothing but cuddling.  He enjoys lying on the couch, his head in my lap or leaning back against me, resting his head on my chest.

Okay, so awesome.  I can get the physical closeness from Kazander, and I don’t have to pressure Sounder to do something that doesn’t come naturally to him.  I don’t need to try and “change” him, because I can get what I need from Kazander.

Does that mean I don’t cuddle with Sounder?  Of course not.  He’s mine, I love being close to him, and I never pass up the opportunity to do it.  He also would not hesitate to cuddle with me if I told him to, and he hasn’t hesitated when I told him to.  But since I don’t have to rely on him exclusively for it, I don’t have to make him do something he doesn’t necessarily enjoy all the time.

And honestly, it frees me up to just enjoy both of them for who they are.  I can appreciate them for who they are as men and for who they are as my subs, because I don’t need to make either of them fit exactly what I need in any given relationship.  I feel like I appreciate them even more because I don’t have to try to change them.

It takes the pressure off of them, too.  Because they don’t have to be everything to me, every second of every day.

Because no one can ever be everything to someone else.  That’s not how human beings work.  And if I was in a monogamous relationship with Kazander, I’d just have to deal with my problems on my own, without support, or we’d get into arguments because he unintentionally belittles me when I’m already in a not-super-great mood.

If I was in a monogamous relationship with Sounder, he’d have to deal with more physical affection than he wants.  I have no doubt that he’d give it to me without hesitation, but he’s just not the type to enjoy lying in bed, cuddling, for an hour.  But he’d have to do it, whether he’s into it or not.

Poly relationships have their flaws, but this is a pretty glaring flaw in monogamous relationships.  Each partner has to be everything to the other.  They have to meet their partner’s needs all the time, 24/7.  Sometimes, it’s easy, sometimes, it takes a bit of work and compromise, and sometimes, it’s damn hard.

That pressure just doesn’t exist to the same level in poly relationships.

I want to live with Sounder and Kazander, and that has benefits, as well.  I’ve lived with more than one partner before, and both times I did were positive experiences.

First of all, another income coming into the house is never a bad thing.  The second time was when I lived in Alabama, when I was working 90 hours a week and netting less than $600 a paycheck.  I literally had weeks where I had to decide whether to put my last $3 in my gas tank so I could get to work for the next 4 days, or use it to buy ramen noodles so we could eat for the next 4 days.

My second sub moved in, and having another income was pretty damn awesome, and gave me some financial breathing room.

It also helps because now you have another pair of hands to help out around the house, run errands, etc.  If I was exhausted after a long shift and one partner was busy, I could ask the other to run and grab dinner, or fold a load of laundry, or pick up my dry-cleaning, or change the oil in my car, or whatever.

It helped me relax, because I didn’t have as many responsibilities around the house.

Some people worry about raising kids in an environment like that, and it’s absolute bullshit.  When is having yet another person to love and protect a child ever a bad thing?

I have a friend who has been married for 15 years, and has had a boyfriend for… 8, I think?  I don’t remember.  But they’ve all been living together the entire time.  She has an 11-year-old daughter, and she loves that her daughter has two strong, large, intimidating men who love her.

She laments the fact that her husband (the father of her daughter) and her boyfriend often conspire together to think up new ways to freak out the daughter’s future boyfriends.  I wanna think her husband is 6’2″ and her boyfriend is 6’4″ or something like that.  They’re both tall, broad, big guys.

She says her poor daughter won’t get a boyfriend until she’s 30.  Of course, neither her husband nor her boyfriend see a single problem with that.

The only possible negatives as far as the daughter goes is the way some people react when they find out that her parents are poly.  There have been issues with some teachers in different schools when the daughter was younger, but now that she’s getting older, with a thicker skin, those problems have more or less disappeared.  And they call the boyfriend her step-dad.  It’s the easiest way to describe his relationship to her, it doesn’t require a lot of involved explanations (even if her dad and stepdad are together), and people just generally don’t pry.

Step-parents are common enough that no one cares.  Even those who might raise a brow at her dad and step-dad out together with her don’t say anything.  They usually just assume the two men are gay.

As far as assets or whatever, that could get tricky.  Say, if you decide to buy a house, whose name will the house be in?  If the three of you decide to buy a new car, how will the payments be handled.  How will the money be handled in general?  How will bills be divided?

So if you move in together, those are things you need to think about and talk about before you make the move, that’s a mistake I think a lot of less-experienced poly people make, but you’re obviously not at that point, yet.

Another benefit is just the level of support you get.  For example, when Steel and I broke up, I had Kazander and Sounder who were there for me.  Anything bad that happens, I have two men who care about me and will be there for me.

And that goes for Sounder and Kazander, too.  They haven’t spent much time together yet, but they’re both compassionate men, and they share a connection through me.  I have no doubt they’d support each other if needed.

Also, due to the nature of our relationship, there aren’t a whole lot of people either of them can talk to if they need to vent about the relationship, or if they’re feeling anxious, or if one of them got in an argument with me, or whatever.

Their situations are unique, and not a lot of people can relate to anything they might be feeling or problems they may have that pertain to the relationship specifically.  But they can certainly relate to each other.

I mean, the benefits are many, and they’re significant.

*Most monogamous people I’ve spoken to have assumed that we’re cheating on each other, it’s just that we know about it.

Yeah, no.

Polyamory is not the same as cheating, and you’ll likely find that you have to answer this question a lot.  I define cheating as breaking the rules of the relationship.  In monogamous relationships, having sex with someone else (or maybe even just flirting with someone else) breaks the rules of the relationship.

Poly relationships have different rules, but there are rules, and you’ll have to hash out exactly what those rules and boundaries are.  Maybe you’re cool with your girlfriend having another boyfriend, but you’re not cool with her doing one-night stands.  Or maybe you’re cool with it, as long as she tells you beforehand, even if it’s just a quick text.  I mean, the rules are whatever you want them to be.

If either of you break those rules, you’re cheating.

In my relationships, dishonesty and deceit are breaking the rules.  Kazander, for example, has had a girlfriend, and still sees her once in awhile.  If he were to suddenly stop telling me about when he sees her, or if he suddenly started going behind my back to see her, or anyone, that would be cheating.

** Honest, open communication is the single most important thing in poly relationships, and they cannot succeed without it.

But something you’ll very soon realize is that this kind of openness and honesty is hard.

You’ll realize how often you let minor annoyances go in monogamous relationships.  You’ll realize how often something will bother you, but you don’t speak up because you don’t want to start a fight, or you don’t want to be a burden to your partner, or whatever.  You’ll realize how often you do without, how often your needs go unmet, because you don’t want to make a big deal about it, or maybe you just don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

That can’t happen in poly relationships, and it will be tough to do.  It’s not something that comes naturally to us.  It’s not something we’re accustomed to doing.  It will be uncomfortable.  It will be unsettling and unnerving.  But you have to do it.  There’s just no alternative.  The relationship will fail if you don’t.

Do whatever it takes, but you’ve got to be open and honest with your partner, about everything.

It’s a challenging, fulfilling relationship.  It’s not for everybody, but it seems like most of your fears and concerns have more to do with societal norms and what you’ve been told you’re supposed to feel.

My advice is to trust your gut and trust your partner.  Be honest with her, expect her to be honest with you, and forget about what society says you should want.

2 thoughts on “Benefits of polyamory

  1. greg says:

    Fascinating post. I have long been curious about polyamory and your perspective is very helpful. Thanks for posting this!

    greg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s