Tag Archives: poly Q&A

Q & A: Is Adding a Third Life-Partner a Realistic Goal?

Disclaimer: all answers given here are the opinions of one person. There is no one correct way to “do” poly, nor is there one correct way to conceptualize it.

Q: For the last year we have just been out to have fun with other people outside our relationship but we recently agreed that we would like to find someone to add to us in the next five years. Ideally this would be someone both of us would love and they would live with us, sleep in the same bed, everything. Five years isn’t a deadline its just a guideline, like we want to be moving towards having something like that.  The question is, how do we do that? Its hard to meet people and even harder once they know you’re poly so is it naive to think we could ever meet someone who could fall in love with both of us and actually desire and be happy in a three (or more) person relationship?

A: If you’ve spent any time around polyamorous discussion groups, you’re probably aware that a lot of couples are looking for what you’re looking for. And actually finding it is so rare that there’s a term for what you’re seeking in poly circles—a unicorn.

Happy, successful triad relationships do exist. But the vast majority of lasting ones I’m aware of did not begin with two people dating as a couple, and expecting someone to fall in love with both of them equally and at the same pace. Instead, most of the long-term triads I know of began as a romantic/intimate connection between one member of an existing couple and a new partner and eventually evolved to include the other member of the couple as well, or they arose from a situation where both members of a couple already had a deep, shared friendship with someone, and that friendship developed into something romantic.

I don’t think that it’s impossible to find what you’re looking for. But I do think you’ll have better chances if you’re open to dating separately and allowing things to evolve naturally, rather than dating only as a couple and expecting someone to have exactly the same level of attraction and interest in both of you at once.

If you do attempt dating as a couple, it’s important to be conscious of the feelings of your prospective partners. Many people don’t feel comfortable dating couples because it feels like they’re being viewed as a fun “accessory” to the existing relationship, rather than an individual of equal importance. The pressure to develop feelings for both members of a couple at exactly the same pace can feel very inauthentic to many people. And many are put-off by what feels like a very “couple-centric” approach, ie., the existing couple will always be central and will always come first. To at least a fair amount of people, the expectations attached to dating a couple feel a lot less like a true openness to develop loving relationships on one’s own terms and a lot more like applying for a job. There can also be something that feels very objectifying about the way couples go about looking for a “hot bi babe” to join them; I’ve seen folks describe what they’re looking for in a “third” in terms that sound more like a “M/bi-curious F looking for a hot lady to share fun sexy times with” personal ad than an attempt to find a true partner to fully share in a couple’s life. That’s not to say that you’re approaching this in a way that’s at all objectifying, but I think it’s important to know where some of the inherent apprehensions and misgivings might come from if you encounter potential partners who feel uncomfortable or who make negative assumptions about the scenario.

I think you can date as a couple in a way that’s fully respectful of your potential partners, but it requires consciousness of the pitfalls. Ideally, you should be comfortable with the possibility that someone won’t connect with both of you to exactly the same degree and at exactly the same pace, and make it clear to anyone you’re dating that this is totally acceptable. It might even happen sometimes that you begin dating someone as a couple and only one of you really hits it off romantically with that person, and I would encourage you to be open to situations where one of you continues romantic involvement with that person while the other develops a friendship instead. And throughout this process, I think you’ll find a lot more satisfaction if you also remain free to date as individuals as well.

Finally, while there’s certainly nothing wrong with being hopeful about bringing a shared partner into your lives and your home one day, you might also want to give serious consideration to other forms that an expanded poly family can take. I share a home and a life with my two partners, but they are not romantically involved with one another. And many other happy poly households are made up of more “zig-zag” type configurations rather than fully-shared relationships. Don’t close yourself off to the possibility that long-term happiness could take a very different form than what you’re envisioning right now.

Q & A: How to Explain the Choice to Identify as a Non-Monogamous Couple

Disclaimer: all answers given here are the opinions of one person. There is no one correct way to “do” poly, nor is there one correct way to conceptualize it.

Q: With our open relationship status we are free to date, sleep with, fall in love with whoever we want but we both work full time and its hard to find time to meet new people, especially ones who would be open to a poly relationship. We’ve tried swing parties and online dating to no avail. We have kind of realized that we have to let things happen naturally and it may take a long time to find someone who would be a perfect fit for an additional partner for either of us or for a third in our relationship, which, although is frustrating sometimes, it’s ok because we don’t want to rush anything and we want it to feel right when it happens but my question is: When we tell friends, family, acquaintances that we are in an open relationship but they see we have been going strong for a year but we don’t do that much dating and we don’t have a third person in our relationship, they often say “Well why don’t you just be monogamous then?” Which either leads to me trying to explain Third wave feminism, patriarchy, the messed up-ness of “Ownership” of a person and all sorts of other complicated ideals that I may not be in the mood to explain and a lot of the time I end up getting tongue tied but I still want them to understand all of those things. So, like, is there a nice, easy reply to that question?

A: First of all, I can relate a lot to your situation. My husband and I spent around 7 months as “just us” in-between the time I dated my ex-boyfriend and began dating my boyfriend, and we still absolutely considered our relationship polyamorous in that time. I wasn’t one for actively seeking another partner myself, and was content to wait for it to happen naturally. But it was still extremely important to us to identify as poly, and would have remained important even if it had been years before someone new came along.

I think perhaps the easiest way to explain it to others is to remind them that monogamy means a commitment to only be romantically and/or sexually involved with one person. If a couple enters a relationship and decides to be monogamous, they don’t just mean “until one of us meets someone else.” To people who desire monogamy, that commitment is a huge deal. And it carries with it a whole big set of well-known expectations about what is and is not appropriate to do with others outside of the relationship.

You, on the other hand, are in a relationship where you have chosen not to commit to monogamy. It doesn’t matter if it’s just the two of you for a long time to come; you still value your freedom to potentially connect with others romantically. Monogamy is incredibly meaningful to those who prefer it, and it shouldn’t be viewed as something to enter into lightly, and I doubt most defenders of monogamy would want to see the word being used by folks who would not mean it as “we are committed to the institution of monogamy” but rather as “we’re monogamous until we meet someone else.” To me, the notion that a relationship can be “monogamous by default” makes about as much sense as saying that someone should identify as asexual while they’re temporarily single. These labels are far more about the potentials we see in the long-term than they are mere descriptors of a relationship’s current form.

If you happen to be having a conversation where it feels like it makes sense to elaborate on your deeper polyamorous ideology–to talk about your ideas about feminism and “ownership” and how this all relates to your relationship philosophy–it can be great to open up dialogues about those things. But you shouldn’t feel that you have to go on at length about why you’re non-monogamous in order to assert the fact that you are non-monogamous. In situations where it feels more comfortable to keep it brief, I think it’s pretty concise and clear to simply say “Being monogamous means being committed to only being with one partner. We’re polyamorous (or open, if you prefer), because we’re committed to having the freedom to be with other partners.”

There might always be some small number of people who think that you’re just trying to identify in some “edgy” way, even after you offer an explanation. But you can’t always control others’ perceptions of you–especially in non-traditional relationships!–and trying to do so will often lead to more frustration than its worth. Explain yourselves the best you can, but don’t feel pressured to bend over backward trying to make it clear to people who still don’t understand. The two of you are on the same page about what kind of relationship you have, and that’s ultimately the most important thing.

Send me your polyamory questions!

I’m still seeking questions for the Q&A I’d like to do somewhat regularly around here, so if anyone out there has any questions for me, I’d love to hear them!

I’d especially like to answer any questions folks might have about poly in a sociopolitical context, but anything goes! And I’d love to receive questions from both folks who are poly and folks who are not.

Questions can be sent via email to angi.becker.stevens@gmail.com, and I promise you’ll remain anonymous!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Q & A: Advice for Singles Seeking Poly Relationships

Disclaimer: all answers given here are the opinions of one person. There is no one correct way to “do” poly, nor is there one correct way to conceptualize it.

Q: “I was wondering what advice or information you might be able to share for someone single looking to step into the Poly lifestyle (in the true sense of being Poly, versus just the sexual aspects).”

 

A: First of all, congratulations! You’re fortunate to already know you want a polyamorous relationship while single—in many ways, this is a much simpler starting point than the process of “converting” a pre-existing relationship from monogamous to polyamorous. But of course, there are still specific concerns that come along with dating and seeking poly relationships, and envisioning the poly life ahead of you. I’m sure this advice is by no means complete, but I hope it’s useful to you on your journey.

 

Think about what kind of relationship you want. Read books and websites and message boards where people are discussing their relationship configurations, and think about what sounds like the best fit for you. Do you want to become involved with someone in an already-existing web of relationships? Do you want to be the third member in a closed triad with a married couple? Do you want to focus on building a relationship with one person with the knowledge that you’re both open to additional relationships in the future? Do you envision yourself building a life and a home and a family with two or more long-term committed partners? Having at least some idea of what your ideal relationships look like can help you to know if a potential partner is a good fit for you. At the same time, however…

Remain flexible. There might be some things you’re certain you would never want, and it’s cool to know your own boundaries. But remain open to the idea that what you end up wanting might look different than what you thought you wanted in the beginning. Back when I was still monogamous, I used to think my ideal was to have only fairly casual romantic relationships outside of my marriage. But in practice, I quickly learned that I wanted something much more serious than that with an additional partner.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you start dating someone, be upfront about the kind of relationship you’re looking for. Even if this person is already identifying as poly, that can mean a lot of different things to different people, and different poly folks are looking for different things out of particular relationships. It’s difficult, but talk about your hopes and desires for the relationship as early on as possible. Of course, you can never know precisely what the future holds. But a simple clarification of whether you’re seeking a deeply romantic partnership, a friend to have fun with with few expectations attached, or anything in-between, can go along way in ensuring that you’re both on the same page.

Don’t limit yourself to only dating already-poly-identified people. Some poly folks disagree strongly with this, and swear that the best way to avoid drama is to stick to relationships only with others who are already living polyamorously. While I understand their reasoning, I also recognize that poly is something many, many people are entirely unfamiliar with, and there is always a possibility that you could introduce the concept to someone who thinks it sounds like a wonderful idea. Be willing to have conversations with others about poly, and to share sources of information that you’ve found useful (I always recommend Franklin Veaux’s website to poly newcomers). If you do date non-poly folks, though, be sure to disclose your poly desires right away. You don’t want to hurt anyone by being dishonest, and you also don’t want to spend time getting invested in a relationship if someone is going to be absolutely unreceptive to non-monogamy.

Remember that you have a right to express your feelings and needs. This particularly applies in a situation where you start dating someone who’s already partnered, particularly if they’re looking for more of a “secondary” relationship, though it can be relevant in a variety of situations. Of course, you should always be respectful of the relationship that existed before you came into the picture, and treat your partners’ other partners well. But that doesn’t mean that you are no longer a human being with needs and desires of your own. You’re still entitled to talk about what you want and how you feel, and you should never be made to feel like you don’t have a right to express those things.

And finally, the number one biggest piece of advice I would give all people about to embark on poly relationships…

Expect challenges. Even though you know this is what you want and you’re totally committed to it, chances are there will be times you struggle with it. I can almost guarantee that at some point in the future, you will feel jealous or insecure, and you will need to work through that. This isn’t a matter of how truly poly you are or how ideologically committed you are to the idea of being in poly relationships; emotions don’t always answer so neatly to ideology. If you think the fact that you’re enthusiastically choosing to partner this way means you will never struggle with the realities of living polyamorously, you will be completely blindsided by these feelings when and if they do occur. It’s also easy to fall into a trap of silencing and dismissing your own feelings because they seem irrational or don’t fit with your concept of yourself as a poly person. It’s far better to be prepared for these feelings in advance, and to realize that it won’t always be easy. When challenges do arise, acknowledging them and dealing with them head on will be far more productive in the long run than trying to repress and deny any negative feelings you have.

Good luck, and I hope your process of finding poly relationships is a fulfilling one!

Have questions you’d like to see answered here? E-mail them to angi.becker.stevens@gmail.com, with “Poly Q & A” in the subject line.

Q&A time!

Since my stats tell me I have a healthy number of readers (thank you!!), I’m going to give this a shot.

If you have a question about polyamory–especially (but not limited to) one that’s related to the sort of stuff this blog has focused on–that you’d like to see answered/discussed here, either leave it in a comment here, or drop me an email at angi.becker.stevens@gmail.com and put “Poly Q&A” in the subject line. Hopefully, I’ll have enough of a response to choose a question or two to answer in the coming days.

Thanks in advance for participating, and feel free to spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested.