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Anyone up for a poly thread?

(38 Posts)
WinchestersInATardis Sun 10-Dec-17 11:13:56

Poly has come up on a few threads but I thought it might be nice for us polyfolk (or the poly curious) to have a thread to discuss the ins and outs.

I'm in the middle of some relationship changes and have been thinking a lot about it recently.

I'm also reading 'Off the relationship escalator: uncommon love and life' by Amy Gahran which is really interesting and has made me realise how 'poly' is a small word that covers so many different relationship options.

I guess I'm wondering how you define poly for you, how many of you are 'out' to family, friends or even at work (no, yes, no for me there), how everyone structures or identifies their relationships (I identify as solo poly mostly) and handles the scheduling (tricky)!

(For those who don't know what poly is, this set of FAQs sets it out nicely:

AFistfulOfDolores Sun 10-Dec-17 11:54:49

I'm in a non-monogamous relationship, though I am monogamous. It works for me right now, and I've always been interested in pushing the edges of what is generally accepted - but not always questioned - as "normal" or "the way to do things."

I don't believe I'm built psychologically or emotionally to have more than one sexual partner, but I have been in arrangements where my partner has had other partners, and I've found times when it has worked, and times when it hasn't. I think the difference is openness and honesty - and understanding and working with the knowledge that we are generally conditioned by our birth families to choose a particular relationship dynamic.

So it's worth also understanding that our wounds will often drive us to choose one model over another. That's not inherently wrong - but I do believe it is critical to know that.

WinchestersInATardis Sun 10-Dec-17 12:07:12

Oh, that's interesting Delores. Most of the poly people I know generally are all non-monogamous.
This is why I find it so interesting. I think a lot of people are in certain types of relationship by default (I was one!) as like you say, it's what we're conditioned into following.

There seem to be a lot more people now working out which bits of conventional relationships work for them and then tailoring it that way. Custom-fitted to each person. I guess the problem comes in when your custom fit doesn't fit someone else's.
But that's where the openness and honesty comes in. I agree completely. Communication is key.

4173bg Sun 10-Dec-17 12:11:16

Hello! Marking my place here.

I have been some form of non mono for about 3 years and keen to get more conversations going. There is no rule book and not a huge amount of discourse so I think the more conversations the better.

I am currently also identifying as solo poly and it works. I have great communication with my partners and their partners but it takes work!

AFistfulOfDolores Sun 10-Dec-17 12:15:48

There seem to be a lot more people now working out which bits of conventional relationships work for them and then tailoring it that way.

Yes, I see this too in more relationships than ever. But the model of ownership set down by the church is so clearly and deeply present in our customs and our psychology, I also see a lot of people, myself included, who just don't have the language for non-monogamous relating. Learning a new language seems to affect everything, from beliefs, to behaviours, to emotions - the whole thing, really.

And finding that fit as you say is really hard - particularly when it's not just about how two or more people fit, but how each individual fits with themselves, if you see what I mean!

It's not for everyone. I can see why. It might not always be for me; it hasn't been for me for the largest part of my life. But when something comes my way, I get to choose, and sometimes I say, "Well, why not?!" Of course, it never turns out the way I'd planned or intended - so now I tend not to be attached to outcome ... or if I do need to attach, what I attach to is a sense of "anything can happen." Can still be heart-breaking. But then you don't get spared that anytime, with anyone smile

rememberthetime Sun 10-Dec-17 12:49:28

I am in a long distance poly relationship. My primary partner doesn't see other people right now - but I do. The men I see understand that they are secondary and many have other relationships themselves. There's really only one for whom that works well. Jealousy comes up with the others.

Do anyone you find yourself feeling jealous despite knowing its not helpful? I still struggle sometimes - it makes me wonder if this is for me.

4173bg Sun 10-Dec-17 13:00:45

I get jealous. As do most of my poly friends. It is natural and normal and comes up in mono relationships too. I think it is quite damaging when people have the viewpoint that "poly people don't get jealous" because it can make you think that you are doing it wrong.

When I am jealous I spend time trying to get to the bottom of why - and it is usually a fear of loss and often related to my own insecurities. About ME rather than my partners. I then tend to be really open about the jealousy I feel and tell my partner about it. That tends to take the power out of it.

I do also love to see my partners having a nice time, so I get compersion too.

So, jealousy sucks but I think most of us experience it.

AFistfulOfDolores Sun 10-Dec-17 13:29:26

I don't feel jealousy in the traditional sense - in fact, my ex tells me I'm unusual in that I really don't get jealous much at all.

But apparently I do, in that I have felt a sense of creeping dread - or annihilation - which is a form of jealousy. I used to feel it a lot, but don't feel it much at all now; either that or it has shape-shifted, which is entirely possible.

This is a good article, where I learned there were many ways to feel jealousy:

"Jealousy and the Abyss" by William Pennell Rock

rememberthetime Sun 10-Dec-17 15:37:07

Thank you for that. My partner claims to not feel jealousy at all. He thinks that previous relationships that were open "cured" him of it. If anything he feels a sexual connection to jealousy - he's turned it into something else.

I get that dread feeling too. Like I will be usurped or he will discover someone who offers him everything he needs and I will be surplus to requirements. Jealousy for me is absolutely fear. But that feeling does pass when I realise that nothing has changed.

So far he has not had relationships with anyone else, just minor and fleeting "moments". I actually found I didn't mind so much. I don't want to be the owner of anyone. I still don't like to think about it too much.

Recognising that all relationships suffer with jealousy makes it seem less of an issue somehow.

AFistfulOfDolores Sun 10-Dec-17 19:19:23

rememberthetime - I think what your partner is talking about is the idea of "compersion" - which is great in theory and so much harder in practice. I've seen some people do it; I've seen others who say they're doing it succumb to jealousy and the manipulations that go along with it.

I hear you re: the other person being usurped. However, I've chosen so many relationships where I have experienced the other person leaving for someone else - or never choosing me fully but choosing someone else - that I've probably had it beaten out of my system smile In other words, the worst has already happened, and I survived.

WinchestersInATardis Mon 11-Dec-17 08:01:25

I think the word 'usurped' when it comes to jealousy really covers it.
I don't really feel jealousy as long as I feel secure that the relationship is an 'and' not an 'or' one.
If I know that my relationship with my partner isn't under threat then I'm more than happy for him to be in a relationship and in love with someone else (And do feel compersion). I take pleasure in seeing someone I care for happy and in love.
However, as has happened recently, a lover's girlfriend has said she doesn't want him to see me anymore (just me apparently. Other women are fine hmm), then that's when the jealousy comes out.
It's when a partner is expected to make a choice between me and someone else, then it's kind of hard not to feel a little resentful and start comparing.
Jealousy has different roots for different people (and in different situations).
I think its also so easy neglect an older relationship while you're in the throes of excitement of a new one. It's kind of hard not to be hurt if the person you love forgets to pay attention to you because they're focusing on someone else.
It all keeps coming back to honesty and communication, I think. If you can talk to your partner about how you're feeling and they respect that, then makes a world of difference.

WinchestersInATardis Mon 11-Dec-17 08:14:58

I also think some people also use the 'we're poly so jealousy is your problem' as a stick when called out on poor behaviour in a poly relationship.

My first open relationship ended because he seemed to think it meant a free-for-all and seemed to forget that he still needed to behave respectfully. For example, he slept with his best friend's ex whom said friend was still desperately in love with.
That kind of thing has to be carefully negotiated even when everyone involved is traditionally single and there are a few people who take poly as an excuse to ignore consequences and other people's feelings and then blame their partners for not doing poly right when they get upset.

rememberthetime Mon 11-Dec-17 12:53:21

Compersion is exactly it - thank you! However for him there is definitely a sexual element. It makes him happy when I'm happy, but it also strengthens our sexual relationship. I have no concerns about that.

I'd like to feel that myself. I have been in situations where I've encouraged him to have "dalliances" and found that despite my initial feelings of happiness for him, I ended up feeling scared of the consequences.

He's extremely sensitive to this and takes no risks with my feelings. Together we are making progress at my pace. I've only been living this way for a few months and I'm getting used to it. He's been like this for years and is more than willing for me to go as far as I personally want to or to say I don't want it.

On a feminist level and as a woman who wants her independence I am in favour of the whole idea. I just am having trouble with getting past the expectations of society and the way things are "supposed" to be.

Respect is something I feel all the time from my partner - more so than in any other relationship I've been in. That surprised me.

Do you have any "rules" that you live by to protect your relationships?

Zoomaa Mon 11-Dec-17 12:54:42

Oh these always end well


WinchestersInATardis Mon 11-Dec-17 13:27:40

I personally don't have a lot of rules. I think they can cover underlying problems sometimes (As in 'you're not allowed to...')
I only have two absolutes:
1.Safe sex.
2. Honesty and openness with any other partners aware and comfortable with the situation . I'm not willing to be a secret from anyone. (Far too many men who are in 'poly' relationships and haven't bothered to inform their wives hmm)

WinchestersInATardis Mon 11-Dec-17 13:33:12

Thanks for that Zooma. I hope us discussing our personal relationships on a dedicated thread for poly people is entertaining enough for you.

AFistfulOfDolores Mon 11-Dec-17 13:43:21

Enjoy that popcorn, Zoomaa.

AFistfulOfDolores Mon 11-Dec-17 13:49:02

If I'm in relationship with someone where they are not involved with someone else, I'll tend to be monogamous. That's my psychological and emotional make-up. It's complex enough with two people.

As a single woman who has no particular desire to be part of a couple right now, though, then my rules of engagement are that there are no walls - between me and my partner, and between my partner and their partner. Also, I won't stay involved if their relationship isn't strong, nor if one of them is less willing to be in this kind of situation.

From the outside, I can see how this might look to someone who's an out and out monogamist, but the reality of it isn't always that way - no matter how certain outsiders are in their judgements of it. I have learned that my own judgements about others have been far, far off, even while I've been so damn sure I'm right.

4173bg Mon 11-Dec-17 13:49:16

On a feminist level and as a woman who wants her independence I am in favour of the whole idea. I just am having trouble with getting past the expectations of society and the way things are "supposed" to be*

This is exactly the trouble I have. I am not openly poly around my family and old friends so I appear like a single woman in her 30s surrounded by marriages and babies and get a lot of direct pressure.

On a personal level I am happy with my choices and it works for me.

The relationships I have now are the most honest and respectful I have ever experienced, yet I do still feel odd for not fitting into the societal mould.

rememberthetime Mon 11-Dec-17 13:57:18

Thank you for the link to Gracie - lots of interesting reading...

I guess if I had to define some rules it would be the two you have already mentioned - but I would add that I want to be informed in advance so we can discuss if this is a person/situation I am comfortable with.

This is what I do for my partner. We discuss in great detail what my dates are like, when they are happening and what we are doing. I make sure that he is absolutely OK with it from every perspective. I would immediately stop if I sensed anything that might affect our relationship.

In that way - other men are always secondary. I am yet to meet anyone I care about even half as much as my primary partner. I'm not sure what might happen if that occurs.

I always inform everyone involved about everyone else. It gets complicated, but they need to know and then make informed choices.

Pianobumseat Mon 11-Dec-17 14:13:29

I’m somewhat interested in poly.

Childfree by choice and like my independence, want to go into a career that will need lots of travelling/relocation, and agree that often the nuclear family set up doesn’t work for work for women.

Solidgoldbrass makes a load of sense. I’m not really a jealous person and don’t struggle being on my own (I found the rhythms of being a military officers girlfriend long distance, very pleasant)

How do you actually meet people who aren’t weird and oversexualised ?

As a reasonably attractive 30 something, I’ve had the usual advances from attractivish married men (if they WERE actually poly I’d be quids in - but obviously that’s not poly, just some dude thinking I’m stupid, trying to lie to his wife and create the very gender power dynamics I’m not interested in playing)

When younger, I used to socialise with a couple of people into that scene, and just looking, I really didn’t find any of the people there attractive - don’t need the male version of a Ken doll, but I’m not attracted to people with a very “alternative” look

(it’s like I’m not going to want to be with person A who I’m not physically attracted to just because they technically have the same “orientation” as me?)

Also seem a bit “sex obsessed” and creepy - it’s like “poly” = “fetish scene” (think Brian from Hull in the flesh hmm)?

It wasn’t that they were some wonderful free spirits who had chosen not to have monogamous relationships, a lot of them looked like they wouldn’t even have the option of one in the first place?

So where are the “nice normal
types” who want a poly relationship, but with the tone and texture of a normal one?

Or am I deluded and is the fact that I’m interested in that scene meaning I’m putting myself in a minority and after something that doesn’t exist?

4173bg Mon 11-Dec-17 14:28:00

Pianobumseat I have a similar issue around meeting people. My theory is that people who are already in some way alternative are more likely to be open about being poly.

I am actually on the fetish scene myself but not very open about it. Those who are - who are also poly - tend to be pretty geeky and not attractive (to me at any rate).

That said, I was at a poly event in London recently and the types of people there had definitely broadened compared to other years at the same event.

ChiaraRimini Mon 11-Dec-17 15:44:23

I'm interested in poly but I'm an outwardly conventional about to be divorced 40 something Mum.
People on the poly "scene" do seem to be mostly quite alternative types. I do wonder though how many people who don't identify as poly but who are in effectively poly relationships.
I am seeing someone long distance, although we text or speak on the phone most days, for practical reasons we are unlikely to be able to see each other often and we are both free to see others. I'm not sure I could ever sign up for a monogamous relationship again. I felt suffocated by marriage. However I also wouldn't want to have to explain it to the kids, we live in a small town which is quite conservative.

Pianobumseat Mon 11-Dec-17 16:15:02

That’s the thing 4173 - I’m open to sexual experimentation, but within a private relationship with someone I feel is part of my tribe who is “normal” not just someone who has “ticked the same box as me”?

Eg, I got contacted on a mainstream OD site by someone who had more “alternative” tastes, he seemed to present himself in quite a “I’m just a normal guy in a mainstream job who doesn’t want to be outed” way.

So I wasn’t “anti” immediately and we exchanged a few more emails.

But soon he just ended up wanting to “exchange sexual fantasies and get me to agree to a sexual encounter before meeting” so I had to block him fangry

Of course I think that there is nothing to be ashamed about, consenting adults and all that, but am VERY wary of openly “identifying” as anything.

sexuality/relationships isn’t all there to someone, and my social experience is that connections primarily and solely based on this tend to be pretty emotionally dysfunctional?

At times in my life I simply haven’t had time to date (or meet) someone, so tried OD with a view to more “casual” interactions.

The men who approached me “based on sex first” tended to be very inexperienced/intense/clingy/ crap in bed themselves, with no social skills?

It was like they’d been weeded out of the “normal” dating pool so had gone weird and sexually desperate ?

Even though I didn’t want a traditional relationship, as a strategy I was better off dating presenting myself as fairly “traditional” (and getting lovers along the way)

outside of the crazy teenage world of twitter and the Internet, often asking people to identify as X is “setting people up” to be some oddball or “spokesperson” when they don’t want to be?

It’s like asking all gay people identify themselves as someone with no other interests but LGBT issues, or saying all BME people have to be wildly interested in immigration politics.

Or if a woman is (privately) into the BDSM/poly scene she’ll “do it with anyone and can’t deny consent and loves spending time discussing sex with complete strangers because she enjoys it so much”

I don’t see myself as some rebellious “poly counter cultural spokesperson” who is “against da world” just because I discretely want a private relationship set up that works for me?

There’s often a vicious layer of underlying misogyny?

Often “spare, visibly “single”, attractive female” is a strange social place to be ?

A lot of married men assume “up for it” and women assume “chasing their men” hmm. Adding “not monogamous” to the equation is probably adding to the unpleasant mix.

Ultimately I suppose it’s about finding the right “core people” to engage/socialise with?

maybe meeting/dating normally/ forming that bond THEN sort of moving towards the “relationship structure” chat is the way forward?

What actually goes on at poly conferences, by the way?

And is there an OD site that has worked for anyone? smile

rememberthetime Mon 11-Dec-17 16:56:55

When it comes to online dating, I simply put all my details about my relationship status on my profile and wait and see who contacts me. They have all been happy with the arrangement - but equally they are all quite sexual quite quickly.

I actually don't mind that - but I agree, if you want something a bit more conventional, but within an open set up, you might find it harder.

the interesting thing is that just one man I've met is already into poly type relationships and he's the only one with whom I have managed a regular friendship/relationship that isn't based just on sex. Mostly because he has other people he has relationships with - therefore he's not desperate to be in touch with me constantly.

I have also had men who have sex then disappear - but that's the case in any dating scenario.

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