This is the fifth in a series of interviews of everyday people who are living a poly lifestyle (either polyamorous or polysexual), from their individual perspectives. They were each given a series of questions, and asked to pick several questions that they would like to answer from their personal experience.
This fifth interview is of a 38-year old male friend of mine from Chicago, IL. Master So’N’So is an accomplished artist, educator, rope bondage expert and lifelong non-monogamist. He currently organizes Bound To Learn, an open space meetup/self-education event in his area. And his sex-positive courses have been well received globally. He will be presenting at BeyondTheLove.org, a brand new yearly event supporting the polyamorous lifestyle. A link to his current work and blog is at the end of the interview for more information. I hope you enjoy it! Feel free to comment.
Q: What lead you to ethical non-monogamy?
A: So many answers! All of them only pieces of a bigger truth.
I was first introduced to the idea of non-monogamy in Hindu scripture at a very young age. The mythology of my religion contains many stories about kings with many wives, and the ways in which order was kept in those households, including morality plays about what happened when people didn’t follow those rules. So the idea of multiple relationships was never foreign to me, and was always implicitly tied to the idea of structure and ethics, but not to a specific set. “Cheating” was an idea only introduced to me when I was old enough to be allowed to watch grown-up TV shows.
The first girl I ever fell in love with (call her “Ann”), when I was 14, was a pedophilia survivor. Actually, I found out years later that Ann was still being assaulted by her uncle throughout high school. Because of the trauma she was experiencing, Ann didn’t feel like she had the capacity to return my feelings for her, and kept pushing me to pursue other women. So, naturally, I would walk up to girls and say, “So, I’m in love with this girl and she won’t date me unless I’m dating other girls too. Would you go out with me?”
I didn’t get a “yes” to that until about 2 years later, and shortly after “Betty” said yes, her best friend “Charlie” decided I was cute too. They discussed what to do, and decided to share. So my “first” relationship was with 3 different women, all of whom knew about each other, all of whom preferred sharing me over the other option. After that, I was always still with or Not With someone when I met the next love of my life.
I think I was about 28 before someone I was pursuing even could suggest monogamy.
Q: What’s the most challenging thing in your relationship(s)?
A: Unlearning couple privilege. All my emotionally significant, committed lovers are married right now, and we keep finding ways in which I am subtly discriminated against out of rote habit – usually within my own patterns. Learning to ask for what I want – and not assuming that just because she met the other guy first, I am automatically Less Than – has and continues to be the work of a lifetime.
Q: If you care to share, can you describe some of your relationship structures? (eg. do you consider yourself polyamorous? Polysexual? Open relationships or closed?)
A: I consider myself to follow a “protestant” form of polyamory, since these days it seems that Polyamory is something that is done by couples who wish to maintain safeguards to protect their existing relationship.
For those not interested in poly-politics, I just say that my goal is to accept whatever joy is offered into my life, as gracefully and fully as I can.
I’ve been with “Denise,” who lives in the suburbs, for over 7 years. She’s married and has a newborn son. She used to be my submissive, but our relationship has shifted to a more egalitarian structure that is focused on domestic tranquility, rather than power exchange.
I have a lover in Kentucky, about 6 hours from me. I’ve been with “Evelyn” for somewhere over 2 years. Married with two children, we call ourselves “lovers” because our relationship is focused on expressing and indulging in our feelings: Learning to communicate and overcome our fears; accepting our imperfections and truly letting ourselves feel Seen by the other person, without fearing judgement or rejection. Calling each other to admit a fantasy or fear we’re too scared to say aloud has the same ring of intimacy as when I slide myself into her physical embrace.
“Fiona” lives in Atlanta, about a 12 hour drive, and is also married. We’ve been together since two Easters ago. We engage in an intense power exchange dynamic, which some people would call M/s and others might call it D/s. We call it “quite fun,” and although Fiona is very far away and among the newest relationships that I have, we talk daily and expect ourselves to be together for a very long time.
I probably spend the most time with my ex-girlfriend, “Georgia,” whom I stopped dating about 2 years ago. She’s local, and I love her whole-heartedly, but we made mistakes that will always get in the way of anything but the deep, abiding friendship we now share. See my next answer for more thoughts about that.
I also have what can only be described as a Truly Unfair number of additional casual, ongoing, emotionally vulnerable relationships with men and women scattered across the country. I travel a lot for a living, and whenever I find myself near one of them, we pick back up where we left off, in whatever parameters our lives allow this time. These include:
- a lesbian undergrad who will cancel a date with a hot dyke to lie sexless and naked in my arms overnight
- a self-professed Corporate Ice Queen who is now a mother of three and will probably never kiss me again – which doesn’t affect our ability to cook dinner together one bit
- and a fetish model that’s been Not Dating Me for five years
…just to name a few. I am truly blessed with much joy in my life.
Q: What one thing (or things) did you learn along your ethical non-monogamy journey that really helped you?
A: Love is about what you give, not what you receive. It doesn’t matter if the person you love feels the same way about you, so long as you both respect each other the same amount within your differing forms of affection.
Also, compassion sits on my left. I don’t lean into a conflict, and I don’t pull back. I emotionally step to the side, out of the line of fire, and look at it from a stranger’s perspective, and BAM, there’s my compassion. I don’t know why it’s on my left rather than my right, but there it always sits, patiently waiting for me to get out of my own way.
Q: How do you handle when jealousy or insecurity issues come up (either with yourself or your partners)?
A: When s/he’s upset? Actions. Not words. I’ll say what you need me to say, but only after reminding you that I’ve said this before, that I’ve proven myself. The work of learning to trust me is only something you can do. I’ve already done my part by being consistent with my ethics, honest about my beliefs, transparent about my feelings, and receptive to your feedback.
How do I handle it when I’m the one getting jealous?
Um…..poorly? I try to make a point of talking about my feelings, rather than acting out on them. Then I go to my room and scream and rage and have all the fits that I need to before I’m suitable company again.
I have every right to feel jealous. I just don’t have the right to impede her joy because of it.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone considering an alternative relationship?
A: Think of it as a personal choice that YOU make, not something that you’re doing as a couple. Stop using words like “primary” and “secondary.” A human you love shouldn’t be second to anything.
It’s like what Mr. Rogers taught us: try to imagine that every person in the entire world is a person just like you.
Q: Have you ever tried to have a relationship with a monogamous person? If so, how did that go?
A: When I was 28, divorced and on the rebound, I had a monogamous relationship with a woman 9 years younger than me for about 18 months. Whenever I started to feel constrained (or whenever she would worry that I was feeling that way), “Helen” would bring over one of her hot female friends – occasionally for a threesome, sometimes the other girl would just watch, but most of the time, they wouldn’t be up for anything sexual at all. They’d just sit and have drinks with us, listen to music or whatever.
Afterward, though, Helen would encourage me to talk about how attractive the other girl was, and whether or not I thought I could date her, if I wasn’t committed to giving this relationship a shot. Sometimes, Helen would let me pretend I was with someone else – a specific someone else.
It was enough: the ability to be honest, the ability to admit that I was fantasizing about others. It gave me all the strength that I needed to give her what she needed.
I learned in that relationship that I don’t need to be non-monogamous. I need to feel free to honestly express myself. But once I have that freedom, I don’t care about sexual fidelity, and I’m usually attracted to women who feel the same way.
Q: When you have issues or problems with your lifestyle, where do you normally turn for answers, or what has helped you get past it?
A: The internet. Public forums filled with strangers who have no bias, no agenda for my relationships, no stake in whether or not they survive. Their answers are filled with personal bias, external perspective, and are completely constrained by my ability to communicate what is going on.
Of course, such answers are rarely applicable, but the external perspective shows me so many more angles to what I’m facing, that it makes it much easier for me to seek my partner’s particular perspective, and figure out what this conflict looks like from outside my selfish, ego-centric, totally human perspective.
All you really need to resolve any conflict is mutual compassion. All I need for the problems that are about my lifestyle but not my life partners, is a safe space to cry out and Be Heard. Give me that, and the rest is just work.
If you enjoyed reading the above, read and learn more at the following link:
Thank you so much, Master So’N’So for the thoughtful interview! If anyone reading my blog (that’s in a poly relationship) is ever open to being interviewed (anonymously or not) for the sake of the poly community, please feel free to contact me via my contact page here.
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)