Gay and straight: parallel poly worlds
In the gay world, poly exists in a rather different social context than among heteros. Not only is having multiple partners more normal and understood, it also tends to be seen as just one version of being gay not as a person's defining relationship identity (at least among men).
However, the relationship issues that arise sound exactly the same as for vanilla hetero polys. A gay therapist discusses some of these issues in the San Diego-based Gay & Lesbian Times:
Body Mind Soul: Triple play
by John R. Ballew
Joe and Ralph are two professional guys in their late 20s. They had been lovers for five years when they met Brian. “At first we were just friends,” Ralph says. “Then we started getting naked together. The sex was what attracted us at first.” Then feelings developed between the three of them that none of them had anticipated. Brian moved in a year ago. After some initial adjustment, the three of them are now very happy.
When straight people have a relationship involving more than the customary two partners, they call it “polyamory.” We don’t use that term much as gay men, but we are at least as adventurous in trying out all the possible combinations and permutations of relationships. If two is good, then is three better?
...Relationships are complicated and plenty of work even when there are only two people in them. What’s it like when a third enters the calculations?
Richard fell in love with a couple who had been together for eight years when he met them. He was attracted to their stability and wide circle of friends. They also made him feel like the center of attention when the three of them were in bed together. They invited him to move in first as a roommate, then as the third party in their relationship.
“I was in love with both of them,” he told me. “What I didn’t realize was that one of the two guys wasn’t so enthusiastic about the situation.... Eventually the less eager guy announced he was moving out. I was a mess! I felt abandoned and blindsided. I also felt like I was responsible for breaking up the relationship they had before they met me. I was fucked up for months after that.” Richard and the remaining partner have stayed together, but their relationship is very different from what they expected.
If you’re thinking of getting into a three-person relationship, there are certain issues to think about first:
• Not to be too cute about it, but how are you at sharing? If you had trouble sharing your toys as a young boy, you may have real trouble with not having someone’s undivided attention. (Of course, an optimist would point out you have the attention of two people, not merely one. But not all the time trust me on this.)
• You had better not be the jealous type. How would it feel if the other two decided to do something at a time when you have to work late? Not a problem… or a source of anxiety for you?
• Remember your high school geometry. There are many types of triangles some with equal sides, some very unequal....
• Don’t look at adding a third person as the cure-all for a two-person relationship that needs work.... Don’t even think about it.
• Make certain you and your partner both talk thoroughly and openly about your feelings. This is no time to sweep feelings under the rug. Keep the conversation going as long as necessary.
...Understand that all relationships take work, and unconventional ones often take more work to stay healthy. Some people find that having family meetings is a good ways to make sure that everyone participates in making decisions and keeping communication clear....
Read the whole article (July 23, 2009).
I recently posted more gay therapists' poly advice here.