Columns May 18, 2011 at 4:00 am

(Don't) Like


If you have to get a partner's blessing to date another person, you're not in a truly open relationship. So-called "poly" people who need approval or need to approve before dating others are not fucking poly, they just want to enjoy the label without having to face the reality of what it means to be independent. Needing to control and possibly limit your parnter's activities is simply "monogamy lite" or some form of swinging.

Otherwise, a fine column.
Well, thanks, shameless, for telling us the One and Only Only Correct Way to do poly! I'm sure that your vast experience and insight has fully qualified you to decide what's best for everybody else, no matter what foolish ideas we might have ourselves. I'll get right on modifying my life and relationships accordingly (silly me, I thought they've been working fine for all these years!)
@2, you can do whatever you want, you just have to check with shameless first before you can call it poly.
shameless, care to explain the discrepancy between your comment here and your comment of Jan 12 (on a Savage Love column) saying:

"...there aren't strict "poly rules", the rules depend on the individuals involved, like any relationship."
@1. Does it matter what label people give their relationships, as long as everybody involved is happy? And why do you give a crap about what labels are given to relationships you are not in?
@5: it matters in the same way that it would matter if someone who ate meat called himself a Vegan, or if someone who dated multiple people simultaneously called herself monogamous. And I'm *sure* all the people here who have a problem with my original post would *vigorously defend* the right of a person with multiple partners to call himself monogamous. After all, who gives a crap about labels? People get to describe their relationships however they want!

@4: see above. There's a difference between the rules individuals agree to within a relationship, and using words that accurately describe the nature of the relationship. If someone told me they were poly but then needed permission to date me, I consider that deception. A lie. It would be more honest and accurate if they said they were swingers, or partially monogamous, or whatever other description that doesn't imply the actual ability to be independent.
@shameless . . . well, golly, that sort of thing is exactly why I hate the term "poly"! For all intents and purposes I am, and it's easier to use the word because it's what the kids are calling it these days.

That said, whatever my husband and I have been doing for the past 25 years (which basically involves being respectful to each other, and to each others' partners, and checking in to make sure everybody's okay) may not be proper poly according to Hoyle, but it works for us. It's worked for a number of secondary partners on both sides over the years.

I had no idea that calling to find out if it's okay for me to spend the night away or if he'd like me to reschedule means my poly card has to be revoked. Oh well, I guess I'll just go back to calling myself a "free-range pervert" and hope I don't break the rules for that as well.
Polyamory - multiple romantic partners. It's right there in that bastard Latin-Greek chimera of a word. The type of contracts involved - explicit or implicit - don't change that. I think shameless is trolling.
"It would be more honest and accurate if they said they were swingers, or partially monogamous, or whatever other description that doesn't imply the actual ability to be independent."

Your definition of independent, your definition of polyamory... maybe it's not the labels that nobody gives a crap about.
@6 - Wait - So dating multiple people and calling yourself mono is lying to yourself, but asking your partner's permission/blessing/consent/input before you date someone new is "mono-lite"?

LOL forever.
Hey Shameless, where is this definition of 'poly' you are so vigorously defending? Can you cite a source that your definition is the one correct one?

And I don't think you fully answered @4; is that quote from you accurate? In it, you state quite clearly that there *aren't* hard and fast poly rules. Why the change of heart?

You seem a little hung up on 'independence'. I don't know your relationship status, but most of us willingly concede some independence and autonomy when entering into a serious relationship.
@shameless. Wait, what the heck are you trying to say? You keep contradicting yourself. You don't care about labels, but god forbid someone who has multiple partners try to call themselves poly if they have a setup that you object to. Or how dare someone call themselves vegan if occasionally they eat meat. For shame, those hypocrites! Basically, it seems like you are saying labels don't matter, unless someone uses them in a way you think is inappropriate (or wants to use them at all). Maybe you just aren't clearly articulating what want to get across.

As for me, I don't care what other people do in their relationships, or what they call them. I also don't care what other people eat. I am going to worry about my own relationships and my own diet, thank you very much. You should do the same.
Getting back to the article at hand, since there are usually a high number of geeks in any community of atypical individuals (non-monogamous, non-vanilla, etc), I usually see a higher occurrence of the geek social fallacies (… ). Particularly #4
Shameless is pulling the (forgive me here folks) Feminist Card. By pulling the card, which has other names I'm sure, he/she is declaring that their definition of The Word is the only right definition of the word and others who use The Word in a way that they disagree with are blasphemers against The Word.

But I'm sure if Matisse were to weigh in on the subject she's quite possibly just link to this:

@14 I find your singling out of feminists puzzling for that type of know-it-all behavior. Particularly when your description seems to describe religious zealots a lot more than the occasional impassioned feminist.
@15 Not because I think feminists are any more guilty of this than others. Religion, as you pointed out, is very often guilty of the same sin. Feminism came to mind because of the alt-sex nature of the subject matter and also because I had a vivid recollection of the blog post that I linked above that Matisse wrote. I was also reliably sure that most readers would have a ready frame of reference...many of us have known "that person" who has played this game.

That said I've dated feminists who played The Word game and I've spoken with a lot of sex-positive feminists who hate The Word game. If I'm guilty of anything it's that I know too many women who get pissed being told they shouldn't use The Word. Just like every poly person I know would think #1 is an arrogant *$! for laying claim to their word.
Shameless, the getting permission thing is part of the respect and communication that is essential in poly.
@7: You must post salacious details of your sex life, before we can judge whether or not you are sufficiently kinky to call yourself a "free-range pervert".

Sorry, but that's how it works. :-p
If you have multiple partners, you are poly. End of story. If you want to invent more specific terms for more specific characteristics that a poly relationship might have, shameless, then have at it, but poly is going to encompass those pesky "monogamy lite" folks.

Besides, being invested in who is worthy of the poly label; in who does it the "real" way, is a pretty good sign that YOU are only interested in the label, since you're clearly missing the actual point of being poly. The point isn't to do the poly thing "better" or more purely than those monogamy lite folks so that you can feel superior. The point is to have something that is enjoyable. If people find it more enjoyable to have no rules, great. If people find it more enjoyable to have some caveats so that they can feel more secure, also great.

There's not a universal way to be better at polyamory. There's a difference between "I dislike doing it {that} way" vs "{that} way is inherently inferior and only wannabe plebes would choose it."

If you're looking for something to be "better at than thou" so that you can feel superior to the amateurs, play a sport (it's competitive, and you get some exercise to boot). With relationships, you just gotta accept the fact that a broad term like "poly" is going to have a lot of variety within.

Are you also one of these people who gets obsessed over who's a bigger fan of {Band X} rather than just enjoying their goddamn music?
Reading some of these comments is kind of disturbing. I'd like to welcome a couple of you to the English language. If you need help with it, pick up a dictionary and use it as a "guide" to your understanding of said language- not a bible to the language. Without getting into the meaning of word poly that you've been discussing, with some passion- let's just find a way to get along. :)
@16 I see where you are coming from there. One thing which saddens me about some current discussions among feminist thinkers is how many sex negative folks there can be. Just goes to show how there's no such thing as feminist dogma, which makes the "don't say The Word" ones extra annoying.
I didn't get the sense from her article that she was saying that the partner HAS to get permission to have another partner. She talks about giving her blessing and about how she might say something about the partner's choice, but that's not the same as needing permission. Seems to me that just because there's an expectation of open communication does not mean there's permission required. Just seems conscientious to me so that each partner can make informed choices.
Up front, I'm monogamous and there is no way I could be poly or be involved with someone who was. I know my own emotional limitations, but my general attitude is whatever floats your boat as long as it has no impact on me. Selfish perhaps, but it is also a matter of self preservation. The world is a dangerous place, which would be a better place if a lot of people were six feet under. Judgmental I know, but true none the less. I have limited control over my own life and too a lesser degree control over the people I let into my life. People do stupid things and can be attracted to really nasty people. In a truly open poly relationship, your input into who is part of your core relationship is diminished unless every potential candidate is thoroughly vetted and you have veto power over every candidate. I gather most poly people would find that offensive and controlling. However, I contend that everyone has the right and responsibility to ensure their own safety. Just because I make a commitment to someone does not give that person the right to extend that commitment to someone else without my consent. I'm just not willing to give that level of control over my life to anyone. Others may be able to, but that is their choice and exercise of free will. If my life and happiness are put at risk, I want it to be by my choice.
@23 I hate to break it to you, but your life & happiness are always at risk. You don't actually control who your partners care about, even if the rules of your relationship say you do. And being monogamous is no defense against your partner loving someone else and potentially leaving you.

That said, most of us find a way to muddle through, accepting the risks of loving people, and finding some happiness along the way.
Gee, so according to the advice in this article, if my husband would happen to fall in love with a cowgirl type too - who is deliberately trying destroy our relationship by going around telling lies about me, threatens me and then denies it all to my husbands’ face - I should keep my mouth shut because it’s MY problem? What crap!
@24 Yes, life is full of risks. Some that can be mitigated, most are beyond your control. It all comes down to your individual tolerance for risk. Relationships require many compromises and sacrifices. Dispassionately, cold bloodily, pragmatically; what I'm willing to do for someone depends on what they are willing to do for me. My level of commitment depends on their level of commitment. Relationships a zero sum games. People have a finite amount of time (in the day) and emotional resources. Everybody priotizes how they spend their resources. You decide what is important to you and act upon it. Your emotions are the least thing that you have any control over, that said you can establish clear boundaries and you can live within them or not. Your choice, as is the kind of person you are. Few people are brutallky honest with themselves or others. In a truly honest and open relationship, I tell you what my expectations are and you tell me what your expectations. Obviously those expectations may/will change over time. Whether those expectations are and continue to be reconcilable is a major factor in determining the success or failure of a relationship. I don't have the right to dictate to anyone how they live their lives and no one has the right to dictate to me. We can discuss, suggest, request. I and everyone else have the absolute right to make an informed decision about how they live their lives.
@26 you may have a "right" to be informed about your partner's choices, but that doesn't mean that you will be informed. I wasn't, initially.

@1 - You've just described fuck-buddies.
@27 For me that is a deal breaker.

Relationships require trust and more importantly credibility, which are related but distinct concepts. Most people grant provisional trust and credibilty. Only saints or blinds fools grant complete trust and credibility, that has to be earned. Cheating destroys trust, but the lies and deceit inherent in the cheating destroys credibility, which has to be rebuilt before trust can be reestablished.

I'm getting way too philosophical, but let me pose a hypothetical to those take an absolutist position towards freedom choice without consent or restraint. Would you take the same position if the POP was your worst enemy (it does happen) or more likely a close relative (parent, sibling, chid)?

I realize that choices are rarely that stark, but people should understand the logical consequences of what they believe or support. The greatest clarity can be achieved by looking at the extremes, improbable though they may be.

But we don't live at the extremes, most of us. Faced with a choice between forgiving my husband's lies and opening our marriage to prevent further lies, or leaving him, I made my choice. One always has a choice. But it may not be between appealing options.
Thank GOD I'm not the only poly person to be squicked by the term "poly families". Charles Manson-ish crossed with fundamentalist mormonism indeed.

And yep, it works for me because of BOUNDARIES. I don't need to like any POPs; I just need to know we operate in an environment of mutual respect. Liking them is an absolute bonus (but nice when it happens).
this one was actually quite helpful. keeping your mouth shut is usually a good idea.
25: Nope. According to the advice in the article, you'd need to keep your mouth shut if you thought your husband's other partner had no sense of humor, or was too nerdy, too loud, ditzy, cocky, etc etc etc.

If she's actively trying to do some kind of harm to you, your husband, or your relationship, that's an entirely different story.

This article is talking more about people that you dislike for somewhat benign reasons; it's not talking about people who have wronged you (or who give off red flags that they may wrong you). Sure you "dislike" both categories, but they are not the same, and this article is only talking about the former.
Who are you to judge your metamour? You don't get to pick them. You do have to unconditionally love and respect them (if they are a reasonable person) for the things they bring into your life. Whoever they pick is important and you should make room for them in you life and in your heart. I think of them as a co-worker. They're part of your day to day, they work with you to make all your lives happier. People who sit around judging their co-workers end up bringing everyone down, people who spend time getting to know and learning to appreciate their co-workers are a force of harmony. Poly is about sharing- it's not all about you and how you're feeling. If you're standoffish- your metamour will notice and jump to the logical conclusion that you're evaluating them for acceptance. Not cool- get over yourself and be nice- treat them like you would a cousin. They're a part of your life. A part of your family. Why be poly if you don't like having these relationships in your life?

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.