Tonight is one of those nights that many who are new to non-monogamy dread: my partner is out playing with someone else. And by playing, I mean having lots, and I mean lots of sex.
How am I feeling about this? Fantastic. No, seriously–I absolutely love it.
We have been non-monogamous, and more specifically polyamorous, for more than a year now. Early on, we went through all of the typical stages of opening up that included many serious conversations, very real concerns of jealousy, and ultimately a shake-down and testing out of just how strong our relationship was. Thankfully, that stage is now past; not only did we discover our relationship was on solid ground, but in process of opening up we reinforced it exponentially through increased honesty, connection, and love.
As counterintuitive as it seems, sharing ourselves with others–mind, body and heart–has taken an already solid, well-functioning relationship to new heights. And so, on nights like tonight, when I can only imagine the passion and pleasure taking place a few short miles away, I feel a special sense of joy, combined with a little giddiness, against a backdrop of arousal. Now is a moment when polyamory is as real as it gets; emotions, feelings and not to mention screaming-from-the-rooftop sex is happening, now, as I sit here in a quiet house, typing away. And there is no joy quite like it.
Of course, I understand why others don’t have the same reaction to their significant others going wild into the wee hours with someone else. Without enough trust, security, honesty and faith, negative feelings can easily crop up, rational or not. And in a polyamorous arrangement, negative feelings can quickly spiral out of control, given the complexity of the relationship dynamic. My sincere hope is that more people out there can experience the elation of polyamory, in all of its aspects, both long-term and in those special moments like this one.
As was widely reported today, a ruling by the Supreme Court of BC’s chief judge upheld the anti-polygamy law today, while also narrowing its scope to apply only to cases where formal marriage has taken place. This ruling was characterized as a huge relief by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, given that the new scope does not apply to the majority of those in polyamorous relationships–those who have not formalized them. This characterization seems overly positive, but
In my experience, most people who come to the realization that they are polyamorous do not consider the legal implications of their new lifestyle. Rightly so, they focus on their feelings, the feelings of their existing partner, and the potential new connections they may form. In fact, it may come as quite a shock to some polyamorous people that they may actually be breaking the law. Thankfully, even if that is the case, very few are ever impacted by the legal implications; those going through custody battles are an unfortunate exception.
Ultimately, the benefit of this decision to the polyamorous community is not the scope of the ruling itself, but the exposure to the general public of the concept of polyamory. While many will not take the time or attention to actually grasp what polyamory is, it will at least plant the seed of understanding.
Language is a funny thing: while definitions seem to be precise and specific, words are often interpreted differently by different people. Such is the case when it comes to defining “open relationship”, “polyamorous” and “swinger”. There are many places to read up on what these mean in more detail, but it isn’t difficult to find conflicting definitions.
I consider “open relationship” to be a broader, umbrella term, that refers to any variation of non-monogamous relationship. Polyamory and swinging are more specific types of open relationships, the former focuses on emotional connection that allows for falling in love, the latter on sexual play between couples that tend to only play together.
But as explored on a recent Swingset post, it’s far less important to worry about the definition of these terms, and what you consider yourself, as it is to ensure you and your significant other(s) are on the same page about your rules and standards. And of course, even if someone or a couple labels themselves as one thing, it is common for that not to remain static over time. Allowing yourself the freedom to explore what feels right, regardless of what it’s called, is one of the joys of open relationships.
A great post on the Free Thought Blog about what it’s like for someone who isn’t familiar (or comfortable) with polyamory to end up in a relationship with one half of a polyamorous couple. It’s fascinating to hear the perceptions of an open-minded, thoughtful person as he is introduced to the concept, and then the reality of polyamory, and what it means to live a polyamorous life.
The journey from monogamy to polyamory is often a turbulent one. For couples who have lived monogamously for many years, it seems common for one of the two to come to the realization that they can no longer be monogamous; then comes the challenge of how to communicate this to their partner.
Scanning the polyamory-related mailing lists, there are often desperate pleas for help from individuals who are stuck in a situation where their significant other will not accept polyamory, and yet they desperately want to love not only that significant other, but someone else too. The logical resolution would be to drop the pursuit of polyamory, and focus on keeping the status quo of their life stable. But love and logic do not always go so well together, and so this solution is not easily accepted, and rarely implemented.
The unfortunate reality is that humans are not naturally monogamous, and yet we are conditioned at an early age to believe that we should be. Add to that religious and social constructs that enforce monogamy through the threat of all sorts of consequences, and it’s not surprising that those trying to break free of monogamy don’t often do so smoothly.
Because of the tricky situation monogamous partners face when they want to “open up” a relationship, timing is key. There is a big difference between having the “monogamy isn’t for me anymore” conversation before you have had a significant relationship with someone else versus afterwards. Afterwards, this declaration can seem like nothing more than rationalization, no matter how true it may be.
There are plenty of success stories when it comes to couples making this transition. But sadly, there are also many cases that just don’t work out. The common theme across these examples is that once someone realizes they believe in polyamory, they often cannot live any other way, regardless of the consequences.
There is something about the combination of being polyamorous and also having a family that seems like the best of both worlds. Having one or more other relationships, whether they be emotional, physical, or both, as well as having a loving relationships with a primary partner, perhaps with with whom you have children, seems to offer a unique and wonderful balance in life.
Of course, being polyamorous but without having a primary partner and/or children, or having that family but not being polyamorous, can both lead to fulfilling lives as well. These are the right choices for many people. For those who do have both simultaneously, the time management challenges are significant, and there are also more significant emotional investments.
For those that can make the combination of polyamory and having a family work, life seems to take on a special glow; an unprecedented cadence, where there is such an abundance of different kinds of love, support, conversation, and true connection.
Kit O’Connell is running a seven-part series on how to use OKCupid for polyamorous dating. The series covers everything you need to know, and has detailed, step-by-step guides. Highly recommended.
While OKCupid doesn’t specifically cater to those in open relationships, it is one of the most poly-friendly dating sites available. There are a significant number of polyamorous people on OKCupid, and its system of using match percentages based on users answering questions tends to be quite good at showing you potentially compatible people.
It would be great if OKCupid would add some functionality that would make it even easier for those in open relationships to find like-minded others. For example, it could allow you to exclude everyone who is looking for someone “single” from your search. Along the same lines, you should be able to search specifically for people who are listed as “available”. OKCupid’s stance on this is that if you answer enough match questions, these sorts of people will show up anyways. This is true, but it still takes a bunch of time to filter out the monogamous or not-poly-friendly types.
Overall, if you’re in an open relationship, OKCupid is one of your best options for finding people to date. Check out Kit’s series to get started.
The Toronto Polyamory and Open Relationships social group on Meetup.com just announced a Poly Potluck event, which will take place on November 26 at 6:30pm at Creative Image Studios in Toronto. If you are interested in attending, RSVP via the Meetup.com site.
It’s great to see more poly-focused social events taking place around the city. These events seem to be getting consistently strong turnouts, which demonstrates how much of a desire there is within the open relationship community to reach out and get to know others.
After being featured in an article in Details Magazine, a polyamorous family consisting of one woman (Jaiya) and two men (Jon and Ian), who are also raising a son together, appeared on Anderson Cooper today. If you didn’t catch it on TV, you can see some of the clips on the show’s website, which also has a long string of comments. As you might expect, the comments range from supportive to bewildered to intolerant.
It is rare to see polyamory featured on a big-time TV show; another sign that polyamory, and open relationships in general, are creeping further into the mainstream spotlight.
Cooper’s reactions as Jaiya, Jon and Ian reveal details of how their life works involve a lot of smirks and uncomfortable smiles, and there are frequent cuts to members of the audience nervously laughing. This may seem unfortunate to those who are already comfortable or living this sort of lifestyle, but it is really a typical way of people dealing with a situation that is sensitive and foreign to them, especially when on live TV. Overall, it is positive to have this sort of coverage–it would be unrealistic to expect the general public to be instantly at home with polyamory.
Bravo to Jaiya, Jon and Ian for having the courage to tell their story on such a big stage.
The first ever Playground sexuality conference is happening this weekend, Nov 4-6, at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Head over to the website to buy tickets. There is an impressive list of speakers lined up, and attendees are sure to do an incredible amount of learning, not to mention meet a whole bunch of new, like-minded people.
It is great to see conferences like this starting up in Toronto. Those in the open relationship community should do their best to support these initiatives, to encourage them to continue on.