Cheers Sexy People!
I received a very strong and thought provoking comment on yesterday’s blog post, When Poly Rubber Hits the Bumpy Road. I always most certainly appreciate and welcome feedback on my blog posts, so thank you, dear reader! It’s so great to keep the conversation going and build this community. I thought it would be a disservice to only answer the comment briefly in the feedback section. I wanted to devote an entire blog post to it, because I think the response to this comment is important. Here is the comment:
It’s important to remember that the way each couple / person practices polyamory can be very different. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as the people involved are being ethical and honest and are happy with the situation. Also, each relationship can have its own set of agreements and boundaries that work for the two (or three or four) involved. The only way “cheating” happens in polyamorous relationships is when an agreement is broken, or when people are lying or cheating behind their partner’s back without knowledge or consent. Yes, poly people can cheat too. But the point of ethical non-monogamy is to NOT cheat, to be open, ethical and honest with our partners.
So, reader, to respond to your comment, I need to point out that my boyfriend actually did nothing wrong, based on how we agree to honor and love one another, how we set up our boundaries and agreements, and how we practice ethical non-monogamy. Does that mean it’s EASY for me to hear when he has sex with another woman, or starts a relationship with an unknown person? No, it is not easy. But my own feelings of jealousy and insecurity are what I need to work on, yes with his help because he cares about me and loves me. But ultimately, it is my job to work on my own emotional well-being, and my own happiness.
To more specifically explain how our relationship works for us, and how he did nothing wrong based on our agreements:
- We practice Open Awareness in our relationship, which entails being told by your partner shortly after a sexual event takes place. For us, that means the next time we see each other, or even before that, via a phone call or text if we are apart. Given today’s world, I admit that my beau and I do communicate alot over text. I do try to remember to save heavy, deep and real convos for in person vs. electronic media. But life isn’t perfect, and sometimes we as humans, our timing can suck sometimes. We’re all just doing the best that we can here. So according to our agreements, he followed them. I asked him directly over text if he had sex with his ex partly because for me in that moment, I preferred to know vs. wait to see him in person (…even though I was at work. I couldn’t concentrate on my job until I got that question answered was my logic at the time. That was on me). So since I asked directly, he told me. Boom. That falls within our agreements. Thus he did not cheat, do anything wrong there, and was honest with me. That’s what I want. Knowledge is power.
- If we practiced “Open Approval“, that means that he would need my permission before he is “allowed” to have sex with someone else. I don’t subscribe to that and neither does he. Also, he wouldn’t ever agree to it anyway. I respect that about him. I can choose to leave the relationship if I was not comfortable with this arrangement. But I am comfortable with it both in theory and in practice. I don’t own him. And he doesn’t own me. Same goes for my husband. I am not his property. I didn’t even take his name when we got married. That’s just how I roll. I value my freedom VERY much. Even from a physical standpoint, I am just a little claustrophobic. I guess emotionally I am too. I need my freedom to love and be affectionate as I see fit, as long as I’m being ethical about it. I afford the same courtesy to my partners. Fair is fair. As my one poly friend puts it, “Freedom makes me feel more loved than rules.”
- Our other agreement is that we practice safe sex, which he did. He is very careful that way. That makes ME feel loved and cared for. In my poly family, we each get tested about twice a year to make sure we are all happy and healthy and being responsible sexual partners. So check the box next to safe sex as well.
- We actually did talk very briefly about the possibility of him having sex with this particular ex at one point about two weeks ago. So I did know it was at least a possibility. Frankly, I knew it was a possibility even before we talked about it, just because I know my boyfriend very well, and know that at one point, he was very attracted to this person, both emotionally and physically. It stands to reason that some residual feelings on either front may still be there. And I know that they are friends now. But in the moment, it is still one thing to ponder the possibility of something, and can feel quite different or acute in the moment when it actually becomes a reality. That’s just human existence. We all have to learn to adapt and change with the ebb and flow of life. Change is the only thing we can count on, right? Learn to roll with it or cause your own suffering.
- On the possibility of me being “treated less than my worth”: I love and respect myself very much. If I have an issue or a problem with any of my relationships, it is my responsibility to bring it up and get it resolved, or to decide to leave the relationship if I am really that put off by something. My boyfriend treated me well in this scenario by a) giving me even a small heads up that this sexual encounter could happen, b) being honest with me shortly thereafter that it did take place, c) practicing safe sex, d) showing he cared about me by telling me he loved me and that our relationship was strong / stable and this did not affect it from his end, and this woman would never try to “steal” him away. That’s all I needed. He gave it to me. Crisis averted, and he treated me with the respect that I feel I deserve. So he and I are good. Actually, we even felt closer after we talked about it in person, and got on the same page, and understood each other a little better.
- As far as him sleeping over her house: he told me ahead of time that he planned to partly because he intended to drink that nite, and he didn’t want to drink and drive. I don’t want him to drink and drive either. And just by the nature of him staying over, I knew sex might happen. I don’t need to be a detective to figure that one out. Again, I don’t own him, I’m not his keeper. I am merely (one of) his girlfriends. He can do what he wants, sometimes without even checking in with me. As long as he tells me later anything that I need to know, we’re all good. Or at the very least, I get to decide what my next move is in either life or this relationship based on his actions and my reaction to them and feelings towards him. As adults, we both get to make choices and decisions every day about if we want to be together or not. Three and a half years later, we are still together and very happy.
So that is what I hope is a very thorough response to your comment. My husband and my boyfriend are two very different men. I love them both very much. They both satisfy me and meet my needs. I enjoy the variety of how different they are, as well as the ways that we are all similar (Hmmmmm, we’re all polyamorous for one). In order to truly love my boyfriend for all that he is, to love who he REALLY is, I look at him, take it all in, and I decide that I love ALL of him, even when he might handle something maybe differently than I would. I love him completely and I like growing with him, and watching our relationship grow and develop. We accept each other just as we are. We respect boundaries and honor agreements, because we WANT to. This is the kind of love that I enjoy. This is what feels like family to me… except in this case, I even hand-picked my family. I love their quirks, as well as the stuff that is easy to admire. I love all of it… including the adventure.
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)
If you would like to have an authentic, clarifying conversation with me so we can discuss ways to help you create loving, happy, secure, and exciting open relationships, feel free to learn more about my coaching services here. Then the button at the bottom of that page will offer you the opportunity to book a FREE Breakthrough Session with me – taking you directly into my calendar. I look forward to speaking with you!
This is a great post because it goes through your thought process of a tift you had with a poly partner which is interesting and illuminating, but there is still some part of me that is angry for the fact that you even had to defend and explain yourself so thoroughly. Monogamous people never have to explain such intimate details of their relationships, and would probably be insulted if you asked them too, yet people demand to know these things about our polyamourous ones. Also, I’m outraged that someone would try to tell you how much you are “worth” as if she knows everything about you and everything you value in yourself. This person obviously does not understand that self worth has nothing to do with a pecking order. Ok. Rant over.
Thanks so much for your feedback and thoughts here. They are much appreciated, and what you said really resonated with me. I will say that I did not mind explaining my reasoning here, mainly because the main point of this blog is to educate and inform. I do understand that most people are taught from an early age to be monogamous. And it is therefore quite difficult to let go of that thinking, even for me some days. To relearn and think outside of the box to be polyamorous and try to understand how those relationships are set up, including setting boundaries and agreements, is not intuitive in my opinion — it is learned. So I’m here to share my experience. The only way ignorance can be corrected is to educate and share information. That being said, I understand your anger as well. Some days, I feel angry too at discrimination or lack or empathy or understanding or respect for these type of relationships and our choices to have them. And yes, my “self-worth” is something that I have been working on ever since I was a child. I feel very comfortable in my skin, and I make choices that honor my self respect every day, including dealing with my own reactions when my non-monogamous boyfriend sleeps with his non-monogamous ex. These are not easy moments with quick answers, but if we pause to think logically, yet still with love in our heart, we can get through them. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and for reading my blog.
My boyfriend and I have had quite a number of problems with the “safety” part. Because he doesn’t consider it to be a big deal, he thinks I put too much emphasis on it. It has taken quite some time to explain to him that it _is_ a priority for me, and if for no other reason, _that_ should make it a priority to him. Anything less is a serious lack of respect.
Otherwise, my relationship with him sounds a lot like yours. I find out after-the-fact most of the time, but before we’re intimate again, we discuss whether he used protection, etc. And that’s really all I need from him. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own little freak outs from time to time, but we talk them out. That’s what a relationship is… emotionally supporting each other. It sounds like you’re doing fine. 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences here. It’s always nice to meet people in similar situations as you, so we feel we have a person who understands our situation. So thank you for that.
I really loved this:
“That doesn’t mean I don’t have my own little freak outs from time to time, but we talk them out. That’s what a relationship is… emotionally supporting each other. It sounds like you’re doing fine.”
Thanks for that, and I completely agree and know where you are coming from!
As far as safety goes, it just makes good sense, for our own health and the health of our loved ones. It only takes one STD scare to “shock the dumb out of you” so to speak. Better safe than sorry definitely comes into play here. And I hear you on the respect angle as well. It’s again a matter of respecting boundaries and limits as well as feelings of our loved ones.
If it helps, maybe your boyfriend might like to read this article that I wrote on STDs:
I liked your titles “open awareness” & “open approval”. did you coin them are they from somewhere else?
Thank you. No I did not coin the terms. As far as I know, my poly friend in LA did, as he believes he created the terms and wrote about it, and teaches it at his poly seminars. I think they help ease understanding and define how poly relationships can work and provide a structure.
Here’s the link to the article where I originally wrote about it, and a link to my previously mentioned friend is at the bottom of the article. I have also interviewed him for this blog (“male in LA” interviews):