So, a few weeks ago, one of my primary partners stated he no longer identified as poly and did not want to maintain a relationship with myself while I had other partners. I do believe this is only a small part of a much larger narrative, but it matters not, and now we are in resolution phase of breaking our ties. This includes the traditional concerns of ended combined lives, including finances, child visitations, and other related issues. But it also brings into the forefront how I personally identify as poly and my place with my other partner. Am I still polyarmorous even though a partner has left me and I know have what looks like a traditional relationship? Yes, I still identify as poly and that aspect of my life hasn't change. My current partner and I have begun to reflect on what does this mean for our future relationship arrangements. Both of us are very hesitant to combine another individual into our lives. My ex-partner seemed to mix in nearly perfectly, so the chances of finding such again are a significant challenge. Will I pursue other relationships? Most likely, though I have interests in engaging as a "unicorn" to other, established relationships looking to explore without integrating another person into their lives. Will my other partner pursue other relationships? He has and is currently doing so and I have no expectations that he will end his explorations. He give me that freedom, and I do the same for him. For now, I pause, reflect, cry, scream, and all the things associated with the ending of relationship....and then...I move on...
Polyamorist Next Door by Elisabeth Sheff
This book is one of my favorite books on polyamory for those who have experience. This work is a collection of research conducted by Sheff as she pursued a PhD. The combination of personal experience and research data does much of my science-minded self. This is one of the few books which address the family aspect of polyamory, including data addressing children in polyamory. Those who tend to be more well-read and enjoy data to match conclusions will enjoy how this book introduces basic polyamory concepts within the context of the family environment.
The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
This book is the standard “go to” for introduction to polyamory. This book does an excellent job covering some of the general concepts those who are interested in polyamory should consider during their negotiation process. There are some elements about their perspectives that I do not personally share, but the regular activities in the text geared towards encouraging conversation, and the personal experiences of the authors provide a great place to start that “opening up” discussion between individuals.
So, you raise your kids around this? What are you thinking! This is a question that comes up more often than not in regards to how my own family works as well as some dear friends. How can you raise children around an alternative relationship setting? I can only speak of my own experiences and perspectives, but much thought and reflection go into every person we introduce to our family. Our approach is similar to how divorcee’s approach dating and bring new people into their children’s lives. If the relationship is a fun, once in a while thing, this person is treated as a family friend and may come to barbeques or other casual events. Affection is kept at a minimum to prevent any misunderstandings or concerns from children. If a relationship progresses, displays of affection are modified to match the seriousness of the relationship. Outside of my own household (3 core adults), we do not use nick names for parent figures. This may change if the right individual comes along, but at this time, this is how it works. Our children are growing up in this setting, so it will always be normal to them. Future challenges we are taking into considerations, and welcome positive perspectives on, include addressing our children’s friends families (such as a party or sleep over) and legal considerations (guardianship, medical power of attorney, etc). We are lucky to have a quality school experience where no one asks questions, and in my experience, caring adults are always a plus in any child’s life. I do wonder about the day my children realize they are in a non-traditional family, but at this time, we continue to live, laugh, and love as any other family does.
When I've conducted seminars on polyamory, I've use a basic outline of some of the topics I cover during my lectures and support groups. An excellent place to start a conversation...
This skeleton may help bring into a discussion some of the needs of your relationship setting. Any other ideas of what might be beneficial for a converation in polyamory?
In my years associated with various leadership positions in the alternative lifestyle community, I have had the honor of being able to engage in education with various local organizations. This is a list in process of various classes, demos, and discussions I have led. I am always interested in engaging in intellectual discourse within the world of alternative relationships.
So what, like two girlfriends...this class is an introduction to what polyamory is and what it can be. We will cover different relationship dynamics, configurations, as well as negations, communication, and time management skills, dating and addressing challenges such as jealous, and the successes and challenges of engaging in this type of relationship structure.
Polyamory and BDSM
Polyamory, or engaging in multiple relationships, can be a unique experience within the context of BDSM. Consideration of various BDSM relationships, such as D/s or other arrangements can take the negotiation process of BDSM into a whole new level. We will cover possible joys and pitfalls of integrating polyamory into BDSM settings as well as how configurations can experience unique issues due to presence of BDSM elements.
Swinging, Relationship Anarchy, Polyamory...oh my! In the world of alternative sexuality, the possibilities are endless. We will discuss considerations of physical and emotional health while engaging in alternative relationship structures as well as personal skills necessary for happy and healthy sexual exploration. Skills such as negotiation, communication, personal boundaries, and finding the unique and fun experience will be discusses as well as stories and triumph and challenge engaging in alternative relationship structures.
Communication Strategies in Alternative Relationships
Communication is considered the most important skills when engaging in non-traditional, alternative relationships such as swinging, relationship anarchy, and polyamory. We will discuss how to constructively discuss important issues, how to address personal challenges and develop boundaries to be able to communicate clearly, and other related skills for communication success!
Time Management Strategies in Alternative Relationships
Who knew that all the fun sexy experience of alternative relationships such as swinging, polyamory, and other non-traditional experiences would take up so much time. We will discuss how to manage the time demands of alternative relationships as well as how to address challenges constructively when time runs away with a schedule. We have unlimited love and interest in exploring, but there are only 24 hours in a day, so how can be make the best of that time in order to expand our sexual experience?
Pet Play 101
Come here, good boy! Pet play is a unique experience of play where each part of the experience encourages embracing a new, animal persona, either for an night or long term. This experience might include others in a caring, nurturing role or could become a primal, deep experience. We will discuss types of pet play, toy and safety consideration, and concepts for engaging in pet play.
What is BDSM? What is all this fetish stuff? What does this have to do with “50 Shades of Grey”? We will discuss the terms used in BDSM to describe our experience, some of the unspoken etiquette when it comes play and play parties, what to expect and what not to expect at BDSM, and how to build knowledge and experience. We will also have an open question and answer period to address specific topics from the audience.
Sweet nectar of life! Blood play take the experience of our very vitae of life and takes it into a whole new level. Perhaps your interests like with knives, needles, or just plain bruising, we will discuss types of blood play, physical health consideration, and safety concerns in order to engage in this tantalizing form of play.
Love is infinite. There are some many different ways to love and be loved, which enriches our life experience that it is my personal goal to experience as many as possible. What is not infinit is time. Time is by far the most complex aspect of polyamory that I have personally dealt with and managed. Time management is necessary part of our adult lives that is developed through practicing executive function skills throughout our lives. Some have excellent time managment skills, some need more practice and growth. In my current relationship arrangements, I am the master planner of various times and interactions. In my household, our lives revolve around products such as Google Calendar and Wunderlist. Another challenging aspect of time management is addressing "fair is not equal". For my household, we have children who take priority, which is completely fair (and expected). Because of this, our personal, individual time is not equal to the time each of spend with each individual child. It is the nature of our lives. In polyamory, it is necessary to reflect on what is fair and takes into consideration all aspects of each participant's lives. The time of one relationship should not impeed the time of another relationship nor should not be managed by the time of another relationship. There are, of course, some logistics that much be negotiated and managed, but when outside relationship becomes a part of the mix, time must be respected and considered. Time is a valuable resource, and the willingness of someone to share time with another can be a beautiful experience. Honor time, both within your personal life as well as that of others.
Insecurity is by far the most common topic of discussion during relationship coaching sessions for polyamorous settings. There have been a variety of observations I've made during my small sessions as well as the support groups I've lead. One observation is that insecurity is present whether the core relationship (the relationship expanding into polyamory) is a few weeks old or a few years old. One of constants I've observe in these relationships is the polyamory is rarely the "reason" for discontent, it merely amplifies challenges that are already present. Insecurity manifests when someone feels there is something that will be lost. Perhaps its is perceive that time will be lost or love itself. Insecurity has been associated with our primal responses of fight or flight, but sometimes it may not be a challenge in context. Insecurity requires active awareness of one's emotional state and trying to integrate rational thought when it is the most challenging to do so. A piece of advice that has worked for myself is accepting that life goes how it will. It always sounds easier to say than do. No amount of worry or stress will change if a partner is going to leave you or "replace" you. I've only seen situations where unchecked insecurity has lead to the end of a relationship, especially polyamorous settings, not a strengthening of it. If one finds themselves more worried about the status of a relationship than experiencing the joy of being in the relationship, some serious challenges will occur. Malice may be perceived when it is not intended and feelings of neglect even when present may be experienced. Identify what is causing the insecurity, develop a list of perception versus reality. Accept there are things in life that can not be changed and take control of your emotional state. Insecurity does not have to take a beautiful experience and turn it into a difficult one.
1. Security makes all the difference.
2. I don't know how traditional families do it with less than 3 parents.
3. Its nice that my partners can get kinky interests elsewhere sometimes, so I can sleep.
4. Train wrecks happen, non-monogamous or not.
5. I miss having the bed to myself sometimes.
6. Jealously is someone getting to play video games while I'm working.
7. Our pediatrician is confused but accepting of our family dynamic.
8. Finding parental nicknames everyone could agree on and keep society from bugging us was months of negotiations.
9. I run way too many Google calendars.
10. Two partners sounds hotter than the laundry pile implies.
11. The utter dedication my partners have to our children gets me all vah'klemped.
12. Having your families know the truth about poly makes holidays WAY easier.
13. Poly and being an introvert are extremely difficult.
14. Having friends who accept and/or are non-monogamous as well are a huge relief.
15. I don't need you to complete me, I'm complete already.
Dr. A began supporting and coaching relationship 5 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona. She had several years of experience servicing as a volunteer in the local alternative lifestyle communities addressing non-monogamy.