This is thirteenth in a series of interviews with 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 thirteenth interview is with 25 year old Aaron Miller from Portland, Oregon. Professionally he’s a flight attendant for a major west coast carrier and has identified as polyamorous for over two years now. He has enjoyed growing up in the “weird and liberal” city of Portland where alternative lifestyles are quite prevalent and accepted (Jealous!)
A: Essentially, becoming more self aware. I had done monogamy because that was what you did, and growing up I was only interested in one person at a time. But it was a symptom of lack of exposure, not because that’s what would make me happy. So later in life as I realized I wasn’t happy with what I was doing, I decided to try out other things. General non-monogamy first, then more exclusive ethical non-monogamy, and then polyamory.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise to you about it?
A: To be perfectly honest, that the pool of available partners would be so small. I come from a very liberal area, and many people know of this way of life. I just didn’t understand that so many still would not partake or give it a try. Or that there would be divisions within that small pool.
Also, the journey it’s taken me on. It’s widened my mental horizons, my emotional ones, and bolstered my stamina in those areas as well. It’s also lead me to some amazing people that have added to myself and the journey. I could have never guessed this is where my life would have went, and I am so pleasantly surprised.
Q: What’s the most challenging thing in your relationship(s)?
A: Boundaries and balance. With local partners, dividing my limited time fairly and then sticking to that was tough. It’s easy to get wrapped up in someone when they are right in front of you or nearby and asking for attention. But you have to remember to be fair to yourself and all of your partners. So setting boundaries and balancing time was, and still is, essential. It also became even more critical as I realized that I lean more to solo-polyamory, in that I value my independence, freedom, and personal time and that I needed to space out my time with partners and continue to promote variety in my emotional palate, rather than just focusing on one or two partners.
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: Solo-polyamorus for myself. So my relationships are open for myself and my partners. We like to live life as it comes and embrace it without reservation. That includes connections with anyone we feel it with and to whatever depth that develops as long as we stay true to ourselves and our desires. So we date, enjoy the company of others, and even experiment where we wish. Visually, I’d call my structure a V with myself at the lower point and my two partners on the upper. They are partnered with me, but not with each other. In the future, there will just be another spoke from the lower point, eventually forming a wheel as partners are added.
Q: Have you “come out” to your family and friends and if so, how did that go? Do you recommend it?
A: I have come out to my mother and her husband, but that is it for family. The polyamory part went well. One of my partners was with me, and they accepted it because they could tell she was also on board for it. They’re also of the opinion that “you’re young, don’t tie yourself down.” While I have have qualms with that ideal, I appreciate the understanding it’s got me from my mother. I have not come out to my father or his wife, or any of my other family. Though I’m sure they’ve got wind of it by now.
Most of my friends know about my poly lifestyle. Although I recently came out on Facebook on “coming out day” with a post about it, basic details, and explanations. One of my partners doesn’t agree with the idea that we should have to explain ourselves. But I like to be courteous and open with my friends, so I offer information freely.
As for recommending it, I think it’s truly up to the individual to read their audience and decide the best course of action. I know for me, coming out right away probably wouldn’t have been the best choice. I’m glad I waited a bit, became settled in how I would do things, and had a clear idea of how I would be coming out. It also helped tremendously to have a partner there to support me when coming out to my family.
Q: If polyamorous, do you find it is more like a relationship choice, or more a statement about who you are inside? (like being gay for example)
A: I think it’s both. I would say it is a conscious decision based on internal desires. I choose polyamory because I know myself. I know I desire variety and uniqueness in people and in my connections with them. Not just in friendship, as most would relegate that to, but also in romantic interests. I also morally believe in personal freedom and independence, and that love shouldn’t be bound or restricted, and that we should be free to feel it and express it as part of that freedom and independence.
Q: What one thing (or things) did you learn along your ethical non-monogamy journey that really helped you?
A: You will meet resistance for anything that goes against the basic path society promotes. Plenty of people are open minded enough to understand it, but there is still passive resistance to it in varying degrees, while monogamy on the other hand is encouraged, promoted, and subsidized by society. The dating community may shun you in your area, individuals will ignore you, and some will even take the time to berate you for your choices. Be ready to know how to calmly and clearly defend yourself if you choose to, and get familiar with blocking features and don’t hesitate to use them. You’ve got to know how to let it roll past and not let it eat at you.
Q: How do you handle when jealousy or insecurity issues come up (either with yourself or your partners)?
A: Internally, I rarely feel them, but when I do feel a twinge, I just check myself. I make sure I understand the why, and I remind myself of what I choose to believe and how more often than not, I don’t feel that way, and that it can, and is, just a passing feeling.
With partners, a calm and loving discussion. Open and honest communication is the foundation anyway, and jealousy will test that foundation. A gentle walk through their emotional environment, and asking why things are the way they are usually boils you down to the core issues pretty quick if they can self examine. Once there, usually asking what can be done to help assuage the feelings or promote better ones presents a decent solution or plan of action. Most often involving better scheduling, clearer boundaries, or more effort to maintaining the agreements and systems in place.
Q: What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of living an ethical non-monogamous lifestyle?
A: Having freedom and companionship. It’s a best of both worlds situation. In monogamy, most people give up a decent portion of their freedom to gain their companion and maintain their relationship. Many doors are closed in monogamy. With non-monogamy, you don’t have to give up anything you don’t want to, and all the doors can stay open. But you can still have love, companionship, and happiness with more than one partner. A close second rewarding aspect is the variety that is possible in companions.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone considering an alternative relationship?
A: Ease yourself into it. Some people can just jump in the deep end and learn to swim the hard way. But that’s not most people, despite how confident we may be in ourselves. So start slow and increase your pace as you become comfortable with your new decisions and choices. Otherwise you face growing pains, multiple challenges at once, and just the shock of something new and daunting in a short period of time.
Also develop resources, support, and allies for your lifestyle that aren’t your partner. People that have walked the path before you can be very valuable when you come up against something new or challenging, and the outside perspective is often clearer than one inside. Just make sure that they are also on the same path. There’s nothing wrong with supportive practitioners of monogamy, but they aren’t going to understand the nuances of non-monogamy and may subconsciously provide bad advice because they are still conditioned to prefer monogamy. You need allies and support that are going to provide the best support for your situation and desires.
Q: Have you ever tried to have a relationship with a monogamous person? If so, how did that go?
A: Not really since I started non-monogamy. I have a casual relationship with an ex of mine from my monogamy days, and she understands and respects my current choices, and is ok with being involved with me every so often. But she doesn’t invest herself emotionally, and keeps things just friendly, even when there is a sexual element. I totally understand that choice on her part, and it’s worked fine so far.
Overall, I am ok with having a relationship with a practitioner of monogamy, but they just have to know their own boundaries and how much detail they are ok with knowing. If it’s just going to be a casual relationship where personal details are light, then I think it would be fine. But I won’t have them putting all of their eggs in my basket so to speak. As long as they are ok with that, and the knowledge that I am not exclusive with them, then I think it’s fine. If they choose not to be with anyone else, that is within their personal prerogative and I will respect it, as I would require the same of them.
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: If it’s a problem that involves a partner, I go to them to sort it out together. If it’s not, I may talk to some other poly friends, or post an anonymous question in a poly friendly space. Every so often I do talk with a monogamous friend that I trust to respect my choices. But as I mentioned before, that comes with a grain of salt.
Q: Do you find much discrimination in your community or among your friend set regarding your lifestyle?
A: I do find some discrimination. Some people don’t invite me to things anymore, or they don’t consider me an option for dating any longer once they understand my lifestyle fully. But that’s mostly just with casual friendships and acquaintances. The people that are my close friends are always understanding and supportive.
Q: How has being in a poly relationship improved your communication skills?
A: It’s forced me to empathize more than I did, and that makes communicating easier and more productive by diffusing charged emotions through validation of feelings and making it easier to get to the solutions. Sometimes the solution is as simple as validation of a partner’s feelings and showing your love and care. It’s made the distinction between emotional support and practical support very clear. Especially between the sexes.
Q: Is there any other thoughts that you would like to share that I did not ask?
A: There is one other aspect of my relationship that does sometimes have an effect. One of my partners is transgender and very involved in the queer community, as well as socially and politically progressive – often to the point of radicalization. This adds a very unique aspect to our relationship as her non-monogamous journey has taken a very different path in close relation to her sexuality, transition, and upbringing. So she comes to the non-monogamous table with a very different perspective and set of values.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to write this interview for me. Conducting the interviews is so rewarding, and I think the poly community really enjoys hearing from different perspectives how this poly thing can work. If anyone in the community who is currently in a poly relationship of some sort would like to be interviewed by me for this blog, please hit me up the via the contact link here on “Loving Without Boundaries.”
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)