My Poly Is Not Your Poly, And That’s OK

I go through phases where I love listening to podcasts as I work.  Sometimes I cannot listen to enough – gorging myself on as many of them as I can while I’m at my desk working on things.  Other times, I just want music – my head already feeling full of ideas and information – I just want to have a soundtrack while I work.

Over the years, the mix of podcast topics has changed.  In the early days of podcasts, I would listen to This American Life, Harry Potter speculation podcasts, G’s podcast about comics, swinging podcasts – and whatever else caught my fancy that day.  Today when I listen – it’s one of three – This American Life, Poly Weekly, or Dan Savage’s Savage Love.  Anyone who has ever listened to This American Life will understand the allure there.  And Dan Savage – it’s just all good stuff there as he points out the obvious in his sharp witted way – and goes on political tirades in ways that force me to stifle my giggles.

Poly Weekly came into the mix out of curiosity.  Minx, the show’s host, was someone I followed on Twitter and enjoyed reading what she was writing or reading the things she was finding from others.  I enjoyed her approach to “ethical non-monogamy” – and I truly have enjoyed how she shares her own poly lessons as she dispenses advice to listeners.

It had been a while since I had listened to that podcast, so I downloaded a couple of shows I found interesting.  One was titled Poly-Mono Mix – a topic I have personal interest in given I am loving a man who is monogamous.  And the other was an interview with a local couple (Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert) who recently wrote a book called More Than Two.  Franklin is another person I follow on Twitter and whose opinion on poly I have appreciated.  So I downloaded them and listened.

I’m so very glad I did.

Franklin, Eve and Mix talked through one of my favorite poly topics and debates which is rules.  I have expressed my own feelings about not only rules but also poly hierarchy before.  Both topics have caused me some great debate with my poly friends because most do not understand or believe that what G and I are doing is right.  I really don’t care because it works.   (Go read both posts for further info – I won’t go into it here.)  I have only heard two other people in my circle of poly connections say these same things.  I can add into it 3 more people now.

Franklin and Eve’s look at rules is a different bend that also made me go “YES! This too!!”  They spoke about how rules can basically shut down a new partner’s ability to communicate what they need from a relationship too.  That if, for example, the rule is ‘no overnight dates’ but it is important that the new partner has that time on occasion, then they are not able to get their needs met or negotiate that need in an open way.  They also talk about how that rule can lead to a partner lying.

Example: Dick and Jane have been together for ten years.  Sally comes into the picture and is informed of the no-sleepover rule.  Sally needs that block of physical connection that comes through sharing a bed.  She is unable to even negotiate that since it is a solid rule she must follow.  Jane goes out of town.  Dick decides, you know, Sally could sleep over and Jane wouldn’t know.  So that happens.  Now, you just took an ethical non-monogamous situation and made in unethical because you lied to your partner.  All because the communication of needs and ability to negotiate what everyone needs to be whole has been taken off the table.

I had made several of those connections before but not in that clear and succinct way.

One thing they made very clear is that poly isn’t what you see on TV either – a couple and all of their partners living under one roof as a big giant poly family where everyone participates in everything.  It can happen, but normally poly is a couple where one or both people have other partners.  The goal is to communicate and make sure everyone has their needs met or at least have an ability to express what they need in an open, non-judgmental manner.  It doesn’t mean everyone has equal say about everything.

For example, the couple with the mortgage will always make decisions about the mortgage because it is their mortgage. An outside partner isn’t going to have a say in that decision making.  That’s just common sense.  Just like if kids are involved.  Not everything can be equal across all partners.  Like the phrase goes – fair is not always equal, and equal is not always fair.

The entire conversation – about 45 minutes worth – left me feeling validated about how poly works for me and mine. It’s not perfect – but we aren’t gas lighting people (go listen to the podcast) – nor are we wanting other partners to be mired down in our rules.  We genuinely want people to be whole – to feel listened to – to not feel like they are kept on a shelf.  Life has a way of making this into a game of poly tetris sometimes as we make work, parenting, relationships and other life stuff fit together.  But I can genuinely say – I am happy – I am loved – I feel like everyone wants what is best for everyone so even when sacrifices must occur for the sake of, for example, the kids.  We all know it sucks but feel it is right.  Go listen to it.  I know I will also be going to get the book now because it is the first one that I feel I won’t throw across the room.

The other podcast about Mono-Poly Mix was interesting and also affirming.  Basically it wasn’t what I was hoping for but about a husband-wife couple who decide to try poly because it makes sense to both. During the course of things, she discovers she really is mono – but is encouraging him to go forth and be poly.  They give her some advice about things she should do so she doesn’t fall down a negative hole with her thoughts.  Discuss, distract and do.  Discuss with him her feelings instead of holding them to herself and shaming herself for not being better at this.  Distract yourself when he is out on dates so you aren’t home alone getting weighed down by the negative feelings that may creep into the brain.  Do – when the partner returns – do something to reconnect.  G and I early on in our non-monogamy journey did those three things without necessarily calling them that.  Great and important advice.

I’m glad I downloaded this podcast again.  I often shy away from poly groups and all because I don’t always agree with what they are saying and advising people.  It was great to listen to a very common sense approach to poly that firmly takes the stance that my poly is not your poly and that’s ok.  There truly needs to be more of that – and less of the judgement often found.

What do you think?