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Some Ways to Poly

Last week I said I would blog this week about some of the different configurations of polyamory. This is far from being an exhaustive list, but I’ve encountered a number of people who believe there’s only one way to do polyamory, and that’s definitely not the case.

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The configuration most people seem familiar with is a triad. This is a relationship in which three people are all involved with each other, and often, at least as most often portrayed, aren’t involved with anyone else. Many of the people I’ve encountered online who are new to polyamory, or aren’t polyamorous but are reading about it, assume that all poly relationships are triads that started when a married heterosexual couple decided to “add a female” to their marriage. (I use that phrasing because of the sheer number of times I’ve seen people using it in posts online.)

The “female” becomes a girlfriend to both the husband and wife. Unfortunately, in the real world, that sometimes, if not often, leads to the husband and wife prioritizing each other and the marriage, and having one-on-one time, while the other woman is left a distant second in the priorities and is only “allowed to” interact with the couple together, not with either individual.

That isn’t to say triads can’t work. They absolutely can, if everyone makes and sticks to agreements, communicates fully, and treats each other like human beings instead of marital aids. In online forums, one tends to see the relationships that are struggling, so what I’ve seen about triads that are failing or aren’t even getting off the ground isn’t necessarily representative of every triad in existence. But what I’ve stated above is the overwhelming majority of what I’ve seen in those forums.

Another poly configuration is often known as a “V”. This is a situation in which one person, the point of the V, has two partners who are *not* involved with one another. Each of those partners might also have other partners, or they might not. In my novel Shiny Objects, published in 2011 and out of print since 2014, the heroine, Elena, is in a V with her boyfriends Corin and Niko. In the novel, Elena and Corin had an existing relationship, and Corin consented to Elena beginning a relationship with Niko. Sometimes that’s how V’s start; an existing couple agrees to open up to seeing other people.

Other times, there is no existing couple. Some people are “solo poly”; that is, they aren’t living with or legally entangled with any partner, but have more than one person they date. This might still take the form of a V configuration or even a triad, if the solo person is dating people who are involved with one another in some way. Or it might take other forms.

Some people are part of poly networks, in which they might be dating two or more people who are dating two or more people, etc., but there’s overlap within who’s dating whom. For example, Sally might be dating Ed, Sheila, and Dave, while Ed is also dating Sheila and Elaine, and Elaine is also dating Dave, Marcus, Mary, and Nathan, and Mary and Nathan are married and don’t date anyone other than Elaine, and so on.

If that sounds confusing…well, yeah. It can be. And as I said, those are definitely not the only possible configurations in polyamory. Polyamory can be a lot of work, because within any grouping there are several relationships going on. For example, a triad isn’t only a relationship among three people; it’s actually four relationships: the three people together, person A and B, person B and C, and person C and A. Any relationship takes work, and the work can increase exponentially.

But the work is worth it for those who are polyamorous, just as the work that goes into any relationship is worth it.

If you want to learn more, leave your questions in the comments; if I can’t answer them myself, I’ll link to resources and sites where you can find more information.

Friends With the Ex?

Last week, I posed the question on Facebook of whether it’s possible to become friends with an ex. A couple of people responded that it hadn’t worked for them, but for the most part, the consensus seemed to be that if both parties are adult about it, and the relationship didn’t end on a hugely negative note, it is possible. Especially with time.

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In my life, for the most part, it hasn’t worked out that way. I’m only in contact with two of my exes, and one of those is only because he and I have kids together. We definitely aren’t friends. Just co-parents.

But the other one, surprisingly, has become a good friend, and I think that’s probably because he and I were more friends than anything to begin with. It was a long-distance relationship, so for the most part we just talked on the phone or texted. The relationship actually ended because he was in my area on business for a few weeks…and seeing each other didn’t work as well as talking and texting.

Because of the way things crashed between us, he chose to sever all contact with me, and it took six months before I was comfortable enough to reach out to him. But as soon as I did, we spent part of a conversation hashing out what had happened, and then picked up the friendship right where we’d left off. He’s now one of my key support people, just like he was before, and he’s the one I trust with the most about my life because he’s the one I know won’t judge anything I say.

If you’ve been in a relationship with someone, the ending isn’t easy. Even if it’s completely amicable and you’ve already agreed you’re better as friends, sometimes you need space for a little while to decide whether the friendship can work and how to go about it. And if there were hurt feelings on either side, the healing process might take longer.

But to my mind, if someone was worth having in your life in the first place, and assuming there weren’t strongly damaging reasons (like abuse) for relationship to end, they’re worth trying to keep as a friend as well. It might require time and patience, but there’s no reason not to try.

Honesty

In a relationship, honesty is one of the most important components. If you aren’t honest with your partner, you’re betraying their trust, even if they don’t find out about it. Relationships need a foundation of trust and respect, and being dishonest erodes that foundation.

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Sometimes people are dishonest with their partners so they won’t hurt the partner’s feelings. I don’t mean things like “Sure, that dress looks great” when it doesn’t. I mean saying things about your relationship or your feelings that are untrue, or making promises you don’t intend to or know you won’t be able to keep. When you love someone, you don’t want to hurt them, but finding out that one’s partner has been dishonest can hurt far more than the truth would have.

Of course, sometimes dishonesty is intentional. You’re trying to cover up something you don’t want your partner to know about because they’ll get angry, or they might leave, or you don’t respect them enough to admit what you’ve done wrong. Sometimes you just don’t care about their feelings; it’s more important to hide the truth than it is to face the consequences.

Regardless of the intention behind dishonesty, when someone learns that their partner has been dishonest, it hurts. And it can destroy a relationship. If someone has lied to you, you can’t know for sure whether other things they say are true or not. If they’ve lied once, they might lie again. Worse, if the dishonesty was about the relationship itself, you’re left wondering whether the entire thing has been based on lies. Whether you ever mattered to your partner in the first place.

There are times when being dishonest is a matter of safety, particularly in an abusive relationship. If you believe you’re in danger, then yeah, do what you need to do in order to keep yourself from being hurt or killed.

But this post is about the dishonesty that serves no real purpose. If you’re in a relationship with someone you say you love, part of that love, in my opinion, should be respecting them enough to be honest no matter what. We all hide some things, but when you know the other person would be hurt if they learned the truth, how do you think they’d feel if they not only found out the truth but also found out you’d lied?

Keep your partner’s trust. Keep their respect. Be honest.

Thoughts About Love

Just some random observations…

“Being in love” the way most people mean is like a firework. It’s bright as hell. Lights everything around it. And it’s beautiful. But fireworks fall apart and burn out, leaving only darkness. Love is more like a campfire. Sometimes it burns so brightly it hurts; other times you can barely find an ember. But either way, there’s warmth and at least a speck of light, and it doesn’t completely go out unless someone puts it out.

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Love is when you feel more like yourself when you’re with that person than at any other time in your life. As if they see the you that you wish you could be and reflect it back at you so you realize you’re already there.

Love is when you feel their arms around you and know that no matter what, you’ll always be safe there.

Love is when you want to spend time with the other person, even when you aren’t really doing anything together, even when you’ve had a stressful, crappy day or week and don’t want to deal with the rest of the world.

Love is when the other person looks at you as if you’re the most valuable, incredible treasure they’ve ever seen, and they’re the most valuable treasure you’ve ever had.

Love is letting the other person see your needs and vulnerabilities because you know they won’t judge you for them, and it’s realizing that showing the other person those parts of yourself makes you stronger.

Love is trying to remember your life before them and not being able to, because it feels like they’ve always been there. And it’s wondering what your life would be like without them and hoping you never find out.

Love is recognizing the other person the first time you meet, even if you’ve never seen them before. Not recognizing their face; recognizing THEM.

Love isn’t about labels or names. It’s knowing that the person is there for you, and wanting to be there for them no matter what’s going on in your life. It’s smiling when you see their name on your friends list, and cheering up even on your worst days when you remember time you spent with them or a silly joke they told. It’s accepting them at their worst and knowing they’ll accept you at yours.

Love is realizing the other person knows you better and more deeply than anyone else—and that they accept and want you not in spite of it all, but because all of those things, all the flaws and scars and fucked-upness, are part of you, and you are valuable to them. And it’s accepting and wanting them fully and completely as they are, because even the things about them that make you nuts are part of them, and they’re valuable to you.

Love Is Love…

My opinion of love doesn’t always match other people’s. I’m talking about romantic love here; obviously there are other types, such as familial love, the love you might feel for a really good friend, love for a pet, and so on.

But I’m talking about romantic love, or being “in love”. Having a relationship with someone.

In the news almost every day, we hear that someone’s ranting against two people of the same sex being in love or allowed to marry. Why? What difference does it make to anyone what someone else does in their personal life? Witness the recent backlash against Michael Sam for–GASP!–kissing his boyfriend on TV when informed he’d been drafted into the NFL! How dare he! They’re two men! What do I tell my children!

BULL…okay. I won’t swear, even though this topic really pisses me off. Because why the hell should it matter if Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend? If he’d jammed his tongue down a *woman’s* throat on TV, no one would have batted an eye or wondered what to tell their children, but because he kissed a man, it’s all of a sudden some horrible huge deal that will traumatize the next generation?

Ugh.

I know people who are in polyamorous relationships or open relationships, where they have relationships (or at least sex) with more than one person or with someone other than their primary partner. Hell, I”M ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE! And, oh my gosh, I must be cheating on my husband! My children must be protected! I’m an evil whore!

Why is it anyone else’s business? (And for the record, my children are teens and no one aside from hubby and me is allowed in our home. Because I know someone out there is wondering.)

Love between or among consenting adults is love. Period. End of story. And it shouldn’t be anyone’s business or concern, other than the people directly involved, what sex or gender people are or how many people are involved in the relationship.

Because yeah. Love is love.