Let’s Really Talk about What Non-Monogamy Means

Woooo, it’s been a minute, ya’ll. Life got super busy but I missed writing so I’m back here on my favourite little blogging project.

I was thinking this week about how much we all have grown since I started this blog. We’ve all learned a lot, shared a lot and I think it’s safe to say we love where the journey has taken us so far.

One thing I can say for sure is that I see polyamory and non-monogamy popping up in all kinds of articles and conversations. Maybe it’s just true what they say, that when you’re thinking about it suddenly you see it everywhere even if it was always there and you just didn’t notice. Then again, maybe the conversation around different relationship structures is really gaining traction in more and more mainstream spaces.

One thing my mama said when we started this journey and first came out was that the big difference between us and other generations isn’t what we do. We certainly aren’t the first bunch of married people to bend the rules or rewrite relationship boundaries. But as a generation that grew up with a developing social media landscape we have different ideas about privacy than previous generations. We don’t want to keep something private for the sake of other people.

What I mean when I say that is that, of course, some parts of our our lives are kept to ourselves but that’s mainly because we like to have things that feel like “just ours”.

Nothing is kept private for the sake of not offending others or because we fear the reactions of others. For us, keeping something private that doesn’t feel like it needs to be a secret becomes more inconvenient and frustrating than the consequences of sharing are.

Even in the early days of my polyamorous relationship we struggled with how starkly different life at home became from life outside the home. Life at home included cuddles and affectionate conversations. Life outside the home meant pretending we were all just friends, carrying on as usual.

It got ridiculous when Tom and I would arrive at a derby first and then Ben and Maggie would show up and the four of us would be trying to explain why we arrived in separate cars with each others spouses.

(Yeah, we’re bad at secrets. People weren’t sure exactly what was happening but they knew something was up)

I blame social media. We all like to share and instead of being super picky about what we share we’re actually just picky about what we don’t share.

Anyway… It’s awesome to see different relationship structures being talked about in mainstream spaces. It truly is. Every *positive mainstream conversation helps others like us feel more welcome to come out and makes the process easier because there’s less to explain. So I’m here today to humbly suggest a sort of “next step” for how this conversation develops.

Let’s break it right down. Instead of saying polyamory and non-monogamy or some generalization like that, let’s be specific about what we want to talk about. While there are some places where those generalizations really do fit the conversation, in most cases we would be better off getting specific.

Right now a lot of conversations are set up as a conversation about monogamy and then all the relationships that are not monogamy.

Is it really fair to have this gigantic pillar of monogamy standing alone against everything that isn’t it?

And is it honest to lump everything that isn’t monogamy in together?

Doing so makes it so hard to appreciate the widely varying mindsets and relationship philosophies of everyone outside monogamy.

I think that’s a problem because most non-monogamous people I’ve talked to just want one simple thing: for other people to say “oh, okay, I can understand how that works.” It isn’t a need for others to sign up to live that lifestyle – I know it’s a shock but the non-monogamous masses aren’t on a recruitment campaign. We just want to be understood. Kind of like how we all understand how monogamy makes sense for some people.

When we lump all of non-monogamy together we make it harder to understand how each different relationship structure functions. While everyone under the umbrella of “non-monogamy” might agree that monogamy isn’t the only way, how exactly we interact with others outside the bounds of monogamy varies from person to person and relationship to relationship.

So I am super excited to see mainstream publications like cosmo, vice and more sharing stories about polyamorous relationships and dishing out details so that non-monogamy and all the relationships that go with it become a more common vocabulary. With that excitement, though, I’m eager to see us dive a little deeper from umbrella terms to sub-cultures and specific relationship terminology.

If there’s interest, I may even model this next step here on the blog with a series of posts exploring what all is under this non-monogamy umbrella with us.

What do you think? What kind of conversations are you seeing, liking and not liking about relationships “these days”?
Do you have certain questions or things you want to see talked about to dive a little deeper here on the blog? =) Drop a comment or email me at ohmymermaidblog@gamil.com

Polyamory: You have to have Humour

People tell us all the time they just couldn’t do what we do because they’d be jealous. We definitely understand that! Don’t think we never feel a little green. The secret is we handle it differently (or try to handle it differently) than we would if we were monogamous.

My best advice: Try replacing jealousy with humour. As long as you trust your partner or partners and know, all emotions aside, that you trust them completely you can start to break down jealousy and embrace other reactions.

I emphasize trust here because ultimately I believe it is the cure to jealousy. Jealousy usually emerges with thoughts about someone breaking the relationship rules or putting some other aspect of their life over you. It happens when we think either we have been wronged (broken rules and boundaries) or we’ve been denied something we deserve (like priority or time, etc).

If you don’t trust your partner, if you truly believe they would break that boundary or that they would make choices that hurt you knowingly, it will be impossible to turn off that feeling of jealousy and mistrust.

If you do trust your partner, though, if when it comes down to it you don’t really believe they could do those things then it becomes possible to answer jealousy and replace it with other emotions.

My recommendation? Humour.

Particularly with polyamory or any open relationship structure you’re going to find yourself in situations you never imagined. You’ll have conversations about the moments you share with other partners, and if you habitate you may even walk in on those moments. It’s the reality of making the relationship choices we have.

Living this lifestyle is going to be a lot more challenging in the long term if each time these unexpected situations occur you react with anger and jealousy.

Instead, laugh at it, a little. Laugh with each other about the surprise of it all and support each other through the unexpected encounters.

Remember that you define your relationship boundaries and part of deciding to involve more people in your life should be a mutual mental preparation for all the consequences of overlapping relationships.

On a final note – don’t feel like you have to deny the existence of jealousy. It’s a totally normal, human emotion and it should be acknowledged. However, when you feel jealous you have some choices about what to do with that jealousy. I recommend humour instead of anger so that the role of jealousy can be reduced and you can prevent it from defining your relationships and the relationships of those around you.

Does Attraction to Someone Else mean Doom for your Relationship?

We set a lot of relationship boundaries based on policing our own and our partners’ attraction to others. Regardless of our relationship structure – polyamorous, monogamous, swingers – both in terms of limiting and encouraging it, we have rules about attraction outside the relationship.

It’s a difficult topic and I think the boundaries we ask our partners to agree to and how those conversations go tell us a lot about ourselves and what attraction means to us.

The reason I say it’s difficult is that I believe attraction is a natural feeling that we can’t really promise we will or won’t feel for someone other than our partner.  For me, the more important discussion is how attraction should be handled when you’re in a relationship.  I don’t believe we can ask our partners to deny ever feeling attracted to another person but we can set up rules, guidelines, and boundaries for what to do with those feelings.

From the beginning of my relationship with Ben onward the rule, I suppose, was to just ignore any attraction we felt for others.  Come to think of it, it really wasn’t a big discussion. In trying to think of what the rules and boundaries were in order to guide how I write this I realize they were implied more than spoken.  Perhaps the key was that we never denied the possibility of attraction to another person.  We accepted attraction itself as a normal part of the human experience and, if it ever came to it, emphasized our trust in each others loyalty and commitment.

The rule was that we were exclusive. Period.  Whatever feelings you might feel were normal and we weren’t policing each other.  Instead, we were placing importance on actions and trusting each other to maintain those boundaries.

The attraction was normalized at a very casual level like commenting on the attractiveness of tv or movie characters. It wasn’t a secret endeavor when I went to watch “Magic Mike” in theatres, and of course, it couldn’t be a secret what the selling point of the movie was. Even less so when I went off to watch “Magic Mike: XXL”. Ben never got upset or offended that I’d be interested in these movies.

Likewise, as we came to the time when friends were getting married and bachelor parties are happening I always supported the idea that one party or another may see him and friends going to a strip club or at least a Hooters where the selling point of the trip is no more a secret than the point of a movie called “Magic Mike”.

Was it unreasonable to expect, when we were so open about attraction in an abstract way, that it could also apply closer to home with the people we see on a regular basis?

Actually at about this point in writing this piece curiosity got the better of me and I messaged Ben (because we’re the kind of people that text when we’re in the same house) to ask if he had random crushes or felt attracted to anyone when we were supposed to be entirely consumed with loving each other in the tradition of monogamy.  He admits that there were people he found attractive and, being a man, he wouldn’t call it a crush but none the less.

I realize that feeling anything crush like when you’re in a relationship with someone is this big taboo. We’re supposed to deny that we can be so in love with one person and also kind of hoping some other person thinks we’re cute.  But it’s our nature and there’s nothing really wrong with it.

The trick is knowing what you can or should do with those feelings. For us the answer was to do nothing. Random attractions or crushes always faded but our love never has. Clearly, our love for and commitment too each other wasn’t damaged by knowing there were other attractive people out there.

It wasn’t until the spark between Maggie and I became more than a passing crush that Ben and I had to discuss what taking action might look like instead of quietly ignoring and moving on from a feeling of attraction.

Even in that moment, in those conversations, one truth guided us: Feeling attracted to someone else didn’t really mean anything about the feelings we had for each other.  Admitting that I had feelings for Maggie and an interest in pursuing those feelings never turned in to a statement about my relationship with Ben.

This is the common confusion I think people have for what multiple relationships mean.  People often imagine that developing feelings for and pursuing a relationship with someone outside of your existing relationship means that you’re choosing something instead of that relationship.  There’s a lot of implications that come with it – if my partner wants another relationship have I left them unsatisfied? What are they seeking that I don’t provide? Have I failed them in some way?

These are normal questions but they also reveal a fatal flaw in our thinking about relationships.  They reveal that we expect ourselves to be everything to our partners (and probably expect them to be everything to us in return).  Even with amazing compatibility, this expectation might be a bit much.

Most couples find whatever it is they don’t get in their relationship, whatever it is their partner doesn’t provide, in hobbies and friendships.  Hobbies allow them to connect with others that have similar interests. Their friends can provide different support than their partner. These things alleviate the pressure for our spouses to be all things at all times for us.

Not only that but they alleviate the pressure without anyone having a conversation about it.  You just kind of go off to your hobby or with your friends and don’t identify that what makes them different than your spouse is something you need and that without them there providing it you’d have to seek it.  We kind of act like everything in our lives could be stripped away and if we just had our spouse on a desert island we’d never want anything more.

However, in polyamory we accept the idea that there can be romance just as there can be other satisfying elements to the connections we build beyond our relationship and one romance doesn’t inherently harm or detract from another any more than multiple hobbies or close friends do.

Polyamory has allowed me to explore an interest in cars that Ben doesn’t share, allowed me to build a different network of friends and attend different types of events with Maggie.  It’s given me a lot more dimension and depth to my life without any of my partners being forced to feel inadequate or think of themselves as a failure because they, too, are able to become more whole and explore different sides of what they need outside of the relationship they have with me.

Now I said earlier most people find needs their spouse doesn’t meet by engaging with hobbies, work, friends, and whatnot.  There’s nothing wrong with this at all! We don’t need polyamory but we do need to acknowledge that attraction to someone else or desires outside our monogamous relationships are normal.

 

Poly and Parenting

It’s kind of funny – as I write that title I’m like…  uhh I can’t write this, I’m not a parent yet, duh! But then again, not being a parent, let alone a parent in a poly relationship, has not stopped a single person from sharing their thoughts so hell, why don’t I give it a try.

We get a TON of questions about how our relationship affects our plans to be parents.  It’s not the questions I mind so much – actually we welcome more or less all questions because we’d rather people ask than assume.  The annoying part of these questions is the number of people who ask and then immediately tell us what they feel is the correct answer.

Can I just pause for a second here and tell ya’ll something? We’re not “trying”. We want kids to be a part of our future not our right now. So whatever we haven’t figured out, we’ve got time.

But I’ll be honest. When you get serious in a relationship you talk about the future. You talk about values, what kind of lifestyle you want, what your big life goals are, and what a family looks like or means to you.

If you want to be pessimistic you can imagine a different future for us than what we imagine for ourselves but ya’ll know it’s rude to root against someones love life and what makes them happy. And I know ya’ll aren’t rude.

So let me answer some questions:

Yes, we want children.

No, we don’t know how many but 2 is a good bet.

No, at this point we don’t plan to plan who the biological parents are. Oops – there’s a controversial one. Here’s the thing, we all plan to be the kiddos parents. I’m not going to parent a child any less because they are biologically Maggies or more because they are biologically mine. We all live under one roof and we operate as a family unit.  We plan to keep it that way as we think about bringing children in to our lives. They will be loved and looked after by all of us.  Like any other couple, when we’re ready, we’ll be throwing out the birth control methods and carrying on as usual. What happens from there happens.

I know people think it has to be pretty simple to just plan who you’re getting knocked up by, but it’s not.  I’ve tried to talk on this blog about how each of our relationships is unique and no one relationship gets to set the rules or boundaries for another. For me to say I wanted to have a baby with one man specifically would be allowing my relationship with that man to limit my relationship with the other man in order to ensure the biological parentage of the child. Given that we all expect to parent equally, setting those kind of boundaries doesn’t make sense for the relationships we’ve built.

On a related note, we won’t be announcing the biological parentage of babies born in our family. I mean, why would we need to? We’re assuming that our family and friends who will continue to be a part of our lives as our family grows will love our growing family for what it is: a family.

The world is a confusing place, we’re pretty sure that having 4 loving parents is not going to be a huge problem for our children. I mean, we had this conversation about same sex parents, right? There were a bunch of people who could barely fathom same sex relationships and so were completely unhinged at the idea that a child might not understand having two moms or two dads. But children understand love. Time and time again they’ve proven this to the world. Even the young children in our lives now – children of friends and family – handled us coming out better than most. It goes like this:

“Hey, you know how you have this Aunt and Uncle?”

“Yeah”

“And they love each other?”

“Yep.”

“Well, they also love this other man and woman.”

“Okay.”

“And basically the four of them just all love each other and they’re very happy together.”

“Does this mean I get extra gifts at Christmas?”

That is the most vital question a child has asked about our relationship. Does two more people coming into a relationship they’re familiar with mean that they get more Christmas gifts.  Whoa – so confused.

You can stop worrying about our childrens confusing home life now. They’ll be fine.

We have similar values about raising children. That’s a big part of how we know our children are safe from the concerns of others. We believe in raising children in a loving environment.  We believe in rules and routine.  We agree when it comes to dicipline. We believe in teaching them about the whole world, not just our world. We agree with each other on the important things.  They’ll be loved beyond belief.

These hypothetical children will be ours. No really, like any parents, parents to be or hypothetical eventual parents the bottom line and most important fact I can possibly provide you: who to have children with, what our household looks like and how to raise them is entirely up to us and absolutely doesn’t need your opinion about what’s best. You might feel that opinion passionately, you might even be a little bit not okay with the idea of us raising children as a polyamorous family. That’s fine. But if you think that your discomfort or opinions are a factor in our family plans I’m not super sorry to inform you, you’re mistaken.

Carmen