Tag: PMM

Coming Out

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

Time to fess up. For the longest time I didn’t really give the concept of ‘coming out’ all that much thought as I didn’t think I had anything to come out about. I considered myself straight, monogamous (and I’ll throw in white, male, middle-class as well). I was the ‘norm’, my world view was very narrow.

A close friend came out to me during this time and I remember thinking, so what? He’s my mate, as long as he’s happy, what’s all the fuss about? Of course my reaction wasn’t what mattered at all and today, as part of a minority that isn’t understood, I am starting to better understand why coming out is so important.

For me coming out about my poly lifestyle is about my own freedom, about living honestly and not living a lie, maintaining my own integrity. It is not about seeking approval, just as it’s not about raising awareness. The latter is a by-product, for sure, but that’s not the end goal.

For me it wasn’t a big surprise that coming out garnered no negative reactions with my friends and family. I’m not a big fan of drama and tend to be careful about who I let into my life, so my nearest and dearest are level headed, open minded, supportive and understanding, which is pretty much as I expected.

But that’s not to say telling them was a walk in the park, it was a lot more nerve-wracking than I had imagined.

My biggest concern was my parents, not that I thought they wouldn’t understand, but that they would think it wasn’t right for me and that I wouldn’t be happy. Coming off the back of a long marriage, despite the divorce being amicable, I knew they’d wonder if I was diving into something new without proper consideration (to be fair, I’ve a tendency to make quick decisions and they haven’t always worked out).

That said, they were as supportive and understanding as I hoped they’d be. They’d already met Kirsty, could see she makes me happy, and were aware that we were both open to see other people (I think I used the term open relationship the first time I told them) but it was a couple of months into realising my relationship with Clare was becoming more than just ‘dates’ that I realised I needed to make sure my parents realised the difference between an open relationship and polyamory.

I’m still not sure they fully understand it but they are happy that I’m happy, and were very welcoming when they first met Clare last year. My sister was the same and although she is a little bemused by it, and has stated a few times she definitely couldn’t do it herself, like my parents she just wants me to be happy.

Like I said I’m very lucky; my friends and family have listened when I asked them and life has continued pretty much as normal. Only the occasional ‘should I invite both your partners?’ type enquiry reminds me that whilst I’m comfortable within our poly setup, it’s still a bit of a minefield for others.

Outside of my friends and family the reaction has been mixed. It’s not something I’ve announced at work, but a few people are aware that I have two partners. There have been a few odd comments but those most stem from misunderstanding the way our setup works*. I’ve found myself talking about poly in general terms a couple of times, but it’s not been something that many have asked about.

What’s important to me is that I don’t ever shy away from being honest about my situation. The most frequent conversational gambit that brings this to the fore is the Monday morning “How was your weekend?” question. The more I’m asked, the more comfortable I feel replying honestly.

“It was great, I spent Friday night with Clare, had some lunch and did some shopping with her on Saturday, then met up with Kirsty for dinner and a movie on Saturday night. Then me, Mark, Clare and Kirsty got together for Sunday lunch… anyway, how was your weekend?”

* This is understandable as there is no ‘right’ way to do be poly. Some people have clear primary/secondary style relationships, rules around who can do what and so on. Our poly doesn’t have that structure, and is based on trust, communication and love.

Our Poly Setup

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

Kirsty and I had talked for a while about what a poly relationship may look like for us; we knew we didn’t have a definite idea in mind but we talked through a lot of ‘what ifs’ to see if there was anything we did or didn’t want, or anything that just didn’t fit with our idea of what a poly relationship constitutes. It’s hard to foresee the future of course, but we had a general idea of what we hoped we would get from embracing polyamory.

We’d tried seeing other people, briefly, before. Kirsty had seen someone else for a few weeks, and I had been on a couple of dates. The timing wasn’t quite right though so we paused things at that point and discussed things a little more before we decided to try again.

At that point, I was lucky enough that the woman I’d dated a couple of times and gotten on well with, Clare, was open to going on another date, and in that funny way that life can sometimes work, at a similar time Kirsty met Mark. Clare and I went on a few more dates, the attraction grew, and it became evident that we were falling for each other. Mark and Kirsty were headed the same way.

The timing of all four of us coming together was down to lady luck, but the fundamental philosophy (for want of a better word) that we all share is what has made what we have today possible.

Considering Love

One thing that is important to us all is that we decided not to have the notion of Primary and Secondary partners. Yes, Kirsty and I have a longer history but for us it was important to acknowledge the fact that we believe that it is possible to love more than one person and so the idea of one partner having more influence or sway over the set of relationships than another seemed wrong.

Balance

I’ve mentioned balance before and it’s something we all try and find. It means being honest when you want to see more of someone than you have, or when you need some ‘me’ time. It’s been 8 months now and, for the most part, we’ve got things figured out.

One key part of our dynamic that is more circumstantial than planned, is that we all live alone, so a lot of the time we need to consider who is going to stay where on a given night. It also means it’s easier to have a quite evening to yourself.

Changes will happen

We still have things to learn and experiences to go through. We’ve yet to go away on holidays with each other, nor have we really been in any situations that demand a choice be made of one partner over another (you know, those +1 things that you just know would be easier if you didn’t have to ask for a +3), and for now none of us are looking to date anyone else.

Regardless, we will talk and figure these things out as we move forward. Changes will happen, some may mean hard decisions have to be made but we are all aware of this and will continue to be honest with each other, talk to each other and do our best to make the most of something that is making us all very happy.

What being Poly has taught me

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

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Looking back over the past few years, I forget just how much I’ve learned about myself in that time. Leaving a long-term relationship determined to be better, finding a partner who wanted the same and who was patient and understanding, knowing we were both on a similar journey has been a revelation.

So a lot of what I’ve learned since we decided to embrace polyamory is an extension, or at the very least a focusing, of things I’ve already been aware of, and working on.

For example:

  • Balance is more important to me than I ever realised
  • I have capacity to love more than one person
  • Communicating expectations is important
  • The more you make hard decisions, the easier it gets (although it’s never “easy” but that’s ok too)
  • It’s ok to be happy

And that’s just what has popped into my head whilst writing this post, there is much more.

Finding the Balance

For me, the most important thing I’ve learned is that I need to remember to include myself when looking at plans. The upside of being poly is that I have two amazing people in my life and, naturally, I want to spend as much time as possible with both and it would be easy to spend every night with one partner or another. But that means there isn’t enough time for me.

There is also the realisation that sometimes the balance between partners might not be quite right but that it should (and I think it has) level itself out.

Capacity to love

When we started down the ‘poly road’, we didn’t set out looking for love. It wasn’t something we’d ruled out either, we discussed the possibilities and I knew I felt comfortable with the premise of being in love with more than one partner but when the reality came chugging along the tracks (choo choo!) it was a little, wonderfully, surprising.

I guess part of me figured the first relationship or so would be more casual, or clearly defined against a specific dynamic that Kirsty and I don’t perhaps have (and the discovery of a new dynamic is one of the possibilities of polyamory). Of course that didn’t take into account finding, and falling for, Clare.

Setting Expectations

This is the simplest but hardest thing that I still struggle with at times.

It can boil down to the smallest thing, a misconstrued text message, or a presumption left unspoken. It’s tripped me up in the past and whilst I’m much more aware, it’s still something I need to keep an eye on.

It works both ways of course, and remains one of the things which, quietly and subtly can be quite damaging. Although that is partly tied in to the next topic.

Making hard decisions

The simplest way I can state this would be to slightly reverse that statement. It’s easy to make emotionless decisions based on fact and practicality.

But as we all know, people are not without emotion and practicality doesn’t allow for desire.

So, deciding who to spend time with, who to take to the cinema to see a new movie, who to try that new restaurant with… all these decisions have an extra layer of difficulty. We all know that our decisions are made with best intentions and thoughtfulness, but that doesn’t make it any less easy to choose between two people that, I think I’ve mentioned, I love.

It’s ok to be happy

Reading through this post, it might be easy to presume that polyamory is a lot of hard work with not a lot of upside. So let me clarify something.

Being able to realise you are happy, loved and in love, is an amazing thing. That’s not the sole remit of the polyamorous I know, but sometimes, among all the other things that we need to balance out across all of our relationships, it’s good to take a step back and realise that, yes, I am happy.

Yes, I love Kirsty. Yes, I love Clare.

And it’s this that should be focused on. Yes, it takes more work than monogamy, but not that much more and given that I’ve learned so much about myself (and I’m still learning) I wouldn’t change a thing.

Polyamory: Decisions and balance

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.

There is a word I use a lot when describing how I try and approach life in general and when it comes to polyamory and my relationships it’s definitely something I focus on.

Polyamory as Balanced Stones

Balance

With multiple relationships at play, when it comes to making decisions things need to try and be fair and reasonable to everyone concerned. That’s not to say that every decision is always what everyone wants, but hopefully we are all having our needs met as best can be expected. In short, you can’t make everyone happy all the time (but I’ll be damned if I don’t try!).

Time is the most obvious factor but when you start to include events it can start to get a little more interesting. [1] Take the following scenario, you’ve been invited to an Engagement Party with a “plus one”. How do you decide who to take? Well, availability is obviously part of the decision-making process but if both your partners are available how do you choose? (and yes, I’m aware of the monogamy versus polyamory paradox here).

These decisions are emotional. They come loaded with shades of FOMO and possible jealousy, or may trigger thoughts of ‘second best’ (depending on your dynamic). Do you keep track of such things with a view to evening things out? Perhaps not as that then brings in hints of ‘scores’.

Decisions and Polyamory

With all that in mind, within the various dynamics of polyamory, how do you make decisions?

Communication is key I think and, if possible for it can be very hard to remove emotion from such things, a level of pragmatism and logic can help. There also have to be some tacit understandings that come with being part of a polyamorous relationship, namely that at times decisions need to be made but they are never, ever, made with malice.

There may also need to be agreement that decisions (and plans) can change. Nothing is absolute no matter how hard we try.

When it comes to making decisions, it’s not something I struggle with day-to-day. I’m fairly decision focused and will make them quickly and, at times, wrongly, but in my mind a decision has been made. However, I’m aware that my partners can be decision averse so I try and tread lightly, making sure I explain my thoughts and reassuring them that I’m only making a decision because one needs made. On the whole though, we try and make decisions on things which will impact everyone as one unit and, so far, we seem to be muddling through, with our interpretation of how polyamory works, pretty well.


  1. [1] For interesting, read “challenging, emotionally draining but part and parcel of being in a poly relationship”.

I’m dreaming of…

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com.

A Poly Christmas (ho ho ho!)

The festive season is upon us once more! Yuletide approaches, mince pies are being warmed, trees decorated and everywhere across the land talk turns to Christmas Day and the bounties that await on the dinner table. Families rejoice and gleefully wear lurid jumpers, novelty socks and all quietly enjoy the Queen’s speech.

Or so the TV adverts would have you believe. Ohhh yes, and we all drink Coke.

Putting my cynicism aside, it is true that for many, whether you celebrate it or not, the holidays are a time for family, loved ones and friends. It’s an excuse to indulge, or over-indulge, and enjoy the people in your life. For others, Christmas is wrought with reminders, decisions that don’t want to be made, and the sooner it’s all over the better.

But what about these poly people, how does Christmas work for them?

I have no idea as, dear reader, this is our first poly Christmas! However, we have been giving it some thought…

Christmas Nights out are already filling the (shared) calendars, and the not so trivial matter of ‘who will be where and when’ is being discussed. The holidays seem to bring an additional amplification to the normal concerns around being able to see your loved ones as we also have to factor in the expectations of family and close friends.

Planning is required but until hard decisions and discussions have been had, we are in limbo. Sometimes I wonder if we should just organise a conference call and get my partners, their partners, families, and friends all into one discussion… impossible of course, I know. Regardless, I’ve no doubt that, as supportive as our families have been, someone will feel they are losing out.

There are only so many hours in the day though.

Next up, nights out. Does a “+1” really mean just 1, or can I bring both of my partners? If not, who should accompany me? To add some spice to this quandary, I work with one of my partners so, for a company night out, she could be there with one of her other partners, and I could be there with mine? All four of us out together? (and my two partners also see each other…). How many tongues would that get wagging? (and do I give a shit?!).

We are still ‘new’ though, so visiting families is still happening. Reactions will need to be gauged and I’ve no doubt there are unknown questions still to be answered and, as the alcohol starts to flow, tongues loosen and curiosities are piqued, I’m sure they will be asked.

I’ve decided not to worry though. I will answer any questions honestly, safe in the knowledge that both my partners trust me and know that I love them and know that I wouldn’t do anything to put them in an awkward position.

Mind you, I am already very thankful we’ve already thought past Christmas and we will all be spending Hogmanay together! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Remember yourself

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com

Let me start with a simple premise: Relationships are a compromise, and those compromises are made to find balance to make sure everyone is as happy as they can be. Compromises are made on all sides and over time they even out.

Of course, in poly relationships there is more than one person to consider when it comes to compromise and that can mean there is a risk that you, with the best intentions, start over-compromising in favour of your partners. Whilst this may be driven by the simple motivation of how much you care about them and want them to be happy, it can mean you are in danger of forgetting about your own needs.

Calling out when you think your own needs aren’t being met isn’t easy though. Fears that there could be the perception that you are being selfish or, at worst, thoughtless for the needs of others are likely to be in your mind, but with the right comms (and loving partners who trust that you are being honest) there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to tackle these moments.

For me the biggest struggle I have in this area is that, whilst I know there are times when I need to be alone, I really don’t like the fact that it means that one or other of my partners may be alone of an evening. Hey, I didn’t say any of this was rational!

Wanting to spend time with the ones you love is natural, after all why wouldn’t you want to spend time with people who make you happy just by being around them, but there are times when I need to be able to step away for a moment to catch breath and let my brain process my thoughts and emotions.

I don’t think that’s unique to me though, I think this is important for anyone in a relationship, but especially so for those in polyamorous circumstances. The additional layer of complexity that having multiple loving partners brings does require that you are all taking time to think things over, and taking care of yourselves.

Of course it’s not easy to call out that you need some ‘me’ time when you are already time challenged to see the ones you love as often as you’d like but, as my Mother says, “Sometimes needs must”.

FOMO

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them.  Links to all posts can be found at polymeansmany.com

What is happening with them? Are they having fun?

Why am I home alone? What’s the point of having more than one partner if I’m still alone?

Are they having a better time than we do? Is he more fun? Is she more entertaining?

A lot of the thoughts and emotions I have around polyamory are still being filed under ‘new stuff’. I do spend a fair amount of my free time wondering: What are this?

However, this area seems to have caught me out a little bit. It’s definitely new for me, as I’m typically quite happy with my own company, to feel a little lonely at times. I guess I just hadn’t really considered how different it was to be alone when none of your partners are free.

It’s an odd thing, and not something I experienced in any of my monogamous relationships. Back then, if I wasn’t with my partner, then I knew where they were and roughly what they were doing. The sense of being alone wasn’t really the same as I knew it wasn’t because my partner was choosing NOT to be with me. It’s a subtle point I think, but an important distinction.

In polyamorous relationships choices have to be made. I can’t be in two places at once and neither can my partners so there is an element of having to choose who not to be with on a given night. Of course the aim is to find a balance and make sure everyone is happy with the amount of time they spend with each of their partners but it’s easy to see how, sometimes, someone might feel like they are second best (I realise this is very much down to your own dynamics and what agreements you may have between partners, I can only speak for myself and that I’m very keen to make sure both of my partners know they have the same voice and value in our relationships).

Regardless, there are nights when I know both my partners are choosing not to be with me. It’s not done negatively, it’s a fact of life, but it still happens and even though I understand why, logically, there is still something there that feeds the irrational brain.

Once you get past that, and I’m never convinced those thoughts fully dissipate, I’ve found I start to wonder what they are doing and, ultimately, whilst I am sat home alone, what am I missing?

The fear of missing out is not unique to poly/open relationships but if anything, for those in our set of relationships, it does seem to be heightened as the fear is built upon knowledge of the choice your partners have made.

The wondering, the comparisons start. Curiosity follows, and you wonder how much you think you want to know versus how much you actually should know about what they may, or may not, be doing.

I’m lucky that, for me, it doesn’t seem to strike me too hard or too often. I know for my partners it’s had an effect on them in the past, and may well again in the future. Thankfully we are all fundamentally happy and committed to making things work, we’ve all been honest and that should keep these fears at bay.

The thing is whilst you may be missing out on one night, or one event, if you are in more than one relationship, the inverse can also be true. Having two partners means I’m experiencing things differently than I would with one partner, enjoying a different point of view of a shared experience or the opportunity to attend events with someone who shares a passion.

The hope is that the time spent together at those times helps keep any irrational thoughts or fears at bay should they arrive during those nights when you are alone.

Over Communicating

Written in response to the monthly theme on Poly Means Many: Communication

Many articles around open/poly relationships discuss communication and rightly so as it’s the key foundation for all good relationships, regardless of type. However, it’s not something I’ve always been the best at; add my own shortcomings to a poly relationship, and those flaws get amplified.

Obviously there are differences between the communication between two people and the communication required between four as we all have different personalities and naturally differing ways of communicating.

My own style of listening, the phrases I use, the presumptions I have in my head, all suit me, but for others in the relationship they won’t be quite right. I’m aware of this, as are others and so, to try and counter any confusion we spend a lot of time, for wont of a better word, over-communicating.

If there is something to be discussed by more than two people then we will talk it through together with each person rewording into their own ‘language’ if required. Clarifications are needed to make sure there is no misunderstandings and, so far, it’s all been delivered without any hint of negativity. Sometimes there are things which are hard to discuss, sometimes there are things which just need to be said out loud, it’s not always easy but it seems to be working.

I’ll admit that the level of detail needed to make sure all the people in the dynamic are clear and happy is something I struggle with even though I know it’s absolutely necessary (and I know it helps me too). The trouble is that it doesn’t suit my natural style of communicating. I tend to be very high-level, detail-phobic almost, so I have to be sure to adapt my communications appropriately.

That means paying attention to detail, and the words I choose, and putting myself in my partner’s place (or my partner’s partners place). It means being honest even when it’s things that aren’t easy to say. It means letting go of the past, of my own insecurities and owning up to things as I truly see them, not saying what I think someone else wants to hear.

At the beginning of this journey, I struggled with the honesty required to be ethically non-monogamous. It wasn’t that I wanted to not be open and honest but more that I was well practised in being guarded and closed. It’s not always been easy but I’m far more comfortable with it now to the point of it being just part of who I am.

My nonmonogamy

Written in response to the monthly theme on Poly Means Many: Types of Nonmonogamy

I’m not big on definitions and labels, and as I’m still new to the concept of non-monogamy itself (he said, neatly avoiding having to label my own relationship type for the moment) all of the terminology around this lifestyle is something that I’m still getting my head around.

However, whilst my preference is to try and avoid applying labels I understand that they help communicate the construct, status, or hierarchy of a relationship to other people. Mind you that presumes that anyone that I’m discussing my relationships with knows what each specific label means and, for the most part, that isn’t the case. So I find myself trying to come up with a workable, easily understood, description.

I’m trying to take a wider (higher level?) view which allows me not to have to define specifics nor worry about which box I fit in, or which label applies.

The facts of my current relationships are thus; I have two girlfriends, both of with I have amorous feelings towards. They have their own (non-romantic) relationship with each other, and one of them has another boyfriend.

The boundaries of each individual relationship are understood but as yet are not completely rigid. We all understand that these things may change over time, that life is not static and the emotions may change over time. I am steering away from such terms as primary and secondary, as I’m not sure they apply (other than in terms of time spent with one partner or another) and may cause more harm than good.

Of course, at present we still have the benefit of all of this being ‘new’ to us all. That fact drives a lot of the discussions, revelations and agreements, so it’s safe to say that our relationships are still evolving.

Fundamentally, I believe I am capable of loving more than one person at a time, and that my feelings for one partner don’t diminish my feelings for another (oddly it seems to enhance them instead, still trying to figure that out).

When my initial partner and I originally discussed trying an open relationship, we realised we were definitely aware of the idea of polyamory, of loving two (or more) people and if that’s where the new relationships ended up then we would figure things out when the time came. If the relationships didn’t pan out that way then we’d simply be in a different situation emotionally, but still have to talk, understand and agree boundaries with respect to that form of non-monogamy.

In short: I am an ethical non-monogamist and at present I have two loving relationships.

Simple enough.

Assumptions

Written in response to the monthly theme on Poly Means Many: Assumptions

I am not ‘one of the lads’, I can play the role when needed but recently I’ve been less inclined to do so. It’s taken me a while to figure out why but I think it’s because I’m getting fed up with the assumptions made about me and my life choices.

I have two girlfriends. I talk of going on dates. Most of my peers (professionally at least) are married with children. I’m the same age as them but living the, perceived, life of a 20-something, out most weekends, partying and indulging in what they presume to be “debauchery” (they probably think I’m a swinger).

As I’ve started to understand the assumption is that, because I believe in polyamory, I’m now ‘the man’ living the life they think they want. If I’m being honest, a few years ago it’s likely I would’ve had a similar view; A rather average looking guy that has two gorgeous ladies as girlfriends? Wow, there must be something special about him!

But I am not special. At most I am considerate and kind to those I care about but beyond that I try and be decent, honest and fair. I don’t boast or brag about my lifestyle, but equally I’ve become less concerned with hiding it. That, of course, prompts questions which is inevitable I guess as the polyamorous lifestyle isn’t one that many people are familiar with.

So I answer the questions as best I can, but then the ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ begins, the presumptions about what my life must be like, and I shudder. I realise that it’s not really about me explaining my lifestyle as much as it is that I seem to be challenging their world view.

And if that is the case, so be it. I’m happy, and whilst I don’t expect everyone to agree with my life choices, I am starting to understand that I want to challenge their assumptions as best I can. Not just for me, but for the people in my life I care about.