Advice columns, continued
As promised, here are more advice columnists fielding poly questions that I didn't get to a couple days ago.
Here's a really good one for a change — from dating and relationship coach Colette Kenney in Canada:
I've been married for 22 years to a wonderful man that loves and cherishes me. I care for him deeply but over the last five years I have noticed myself having a strong interest in other men. Recently, I met a man in an online forum on polyamorous relationships. I had heard about these kinds of relationships and I wanted to learn more. I have to admit I'm having very intense feelings for him. He is also married but is looking for a polyamorous girlfriend. He has no intentions of leaving his wife and family despite wanting another companion and lover. I would really like to get involved with him, but I have so many questions. I wonder: How do you make these kinds of relationships work, without anyone feeling left out or jealous? Is it possible?...
I will admit that because my readership is not necessarily the polyamorous type I was torn about whether or not I should answer your question. But when I reflected on how I would answer it, I realized there are actually some really great points that are good for all kinds of relationships -- poly or otherwise.
So let's begin.
Communication Is Key
For a polyamorous lifestyle to function well, you have to be able to voice your wants, needs and desires effectively to your husband -- about partners you would like to date -- and any future partners he might start dating. The only way for polyamorous partners to survive happily together is to have wide-open lines of communication. And to do this well, you will require an absolute, total, and complete understanding of yourself and why you want to engage in this kind of relationship. If this is news to your husband, he is not likely to be very receptive to the idea at first.
The onus will be on you to remain calm in the face of any possible attacks on you, your character, and your desires. You will need to be patient and understanding with him as he comes to terms with your request. You will need to check your ego at the door any time you enter into a discussion with him about this subject. And hopefully, for you he will come around and see the value that you see in entering into this kind of relationship. But, (and this is a big but) be prepared that he might not go along with it. Because if this happens, you'll have a very important decision to make.
Polyamorous or Otherwise -- Communication is Key
Checking your ego at the door when discussing tough topics is mandatory. Opening your heart and mind to having compassion about your partner's point of view is imperative... Affect labeling (the professional term for one of the MOST important skills two partners could ever have) is the quickest way to help your partner feel heard, understood, respected, and cared for....
Honesty Is Key
As I said above, knowing yourself incredibly well is key, not only in discussions that you have with your husband, but also in discussions with any future partners. With polyamorous relationships there are certain to be a number of rules that you and your partners will have about how to engage with each other, when, where, in the presence of whom, and how often. To avoid hurt feelings, bruised egos and the like, you will want to be sure that you think of all the possible scenarios that might come up, and what you will do to handle them.
For polyamory to work well it's best if you can get an emotional buy in (not just lip service) from all parties to all rules. And rules should be explicit, clear and well understood by everyone.
Polyamorous or Otherwise -- Honesty is Key
And to be 100 per cent honest, you have to be once again 100 per cent clear about yourself and your inner world....
Forgiveness is Key
Relationships are work when you have only one partner. Add additional partners to the mix and this work is multiplied. There is more chance for buttons to be pushed, triggers to be set off, and yes, egos to be bruised. To engage in this lifestyle happily, and to do it well, it will take a tremendous amount of forgiveness of yourself and every single one of your partners -- because it is as likely that you will do and say things you're not proud of -- as it is that one of your partners does and says something he or she is not proud of....
Polyamorous or Otherwise -- Forgiveness is Key....
I commend anyone who successfully navigates these kinds of relationships....
Here's the whole article, from Huffington Post/ Living/ Canada (July 17, 2012).
Ask Amy advises a soon-to-be daughter-in-law to butt out of saving her future in-laws' collapsing poly-mono marriage:
DEAR AMY: My fiancee’s parents announced this weekend that they are separating. Or, as my fiancee puts it, her mother is leaving and breaking her father’s heart.
The husband’s philosophy is that he can’t limit himself to being with one person. He enjoys a polyamorous lifestyle where he has a steady wife and various girlfriends.
The husband talked the wife into accepting the poly lifestyle, and because she is a people-pleaser, she gave it a good-faith effort for several years.
The wife found the husband’s lifestyle increasingly difficult to cope with. She would like to return to a monogamous lifestyle where she doesn’t need to compete with other women or feel jealous of his time.... However, I don’t think she communicates this clearly to him....
DEAR CONCERNED: This couple’s “poly” lifestyle apparently has extended to you, and now me. Because here we are, sharing their private sexual history, interpreting their actions and contemplating choices that only this couple can make on their own behalf. Simply put: It is not your business to fix your future in-laws’ marriage.
If this husband comes to you, saying, “What can I do to get my wife back?” you should definitely tell him what you think. If your fiancee (or her mother) asks you to join them in a family meeting to discuss this situation, as a future family member, you should do so.
Otherwise, unless you are a trained marriage counselor and want to take them on as clients, you should let this family work it out. Offer emotional support to each family member, and do your best not to take sides.
Whole column (Dec. 14, 2012)
This may be the post where Salon's advice columnist Cary Tennis finally got onboard about poly relationships:
I am very happily married and I love my husband with every fiber of my being. He is the most loving, brilliant, courageous man I’ve ever known. We love to do things together and we always make our decisions with one another’s best interest at heart. When I am with him, I am always happy.
I don’t live with my husband. I live with my boyfriend.
My boyfriend is also incredibly wonderful.... We three have been happy living like this for quite a long time now, and we have a comfortable dynamic with lots of respect for one another. In fact, I can’t believe my luck, that I have such a good life surrounded by kind and wonderful people. However, this is going to end soon, and I’m really upset about it.
My boyfriend has a fiancée to whom he has been betrothed for nearly seven years. She lives in another country, and yet she manages to make my boyfriend’s life very difficult. She hacks his emails and changes all the passwords, she calls up his supervisors at work and complains about him, she is rude to his parents, and she is intensely jealous of other women spending time with him. She does not know that I live with him. She is also expecting to marry him later this year. My boyfriend is too afraid to break things off with her... and [he says] that he will probably divorce her. I am afraid that if he is too scared not to marry her, he will also be too scared to divorce her.
This is the real truth: If my boyfriend were going to get married to somebody who really loved him and treated him with kindness and respect, I would not be upset. However, I know that the minute he marries his fiancée, I will probably never be able to see him again, not even socially, and it is killing me inside.... He might be a coward, but he’s my coward. Not everyone can be a paragon of masculine bravery like my husband (who is constantly ranting that my boyfriend needs to “grow a pair” and get rid of his fiancée).
What should I do?....
—A Poly with a Big Heart
What I see is a group in which one person has a destructive attachment outside the group.
The simple, obvious solution to preserve the group is for him to sever that attachment. But he is unwilling to do that.... You are the only one of the three who only loses and does not gain anything.... It seems all the sadder because you seem to have waltzed into this perfect, uncanny balance. Plus, frankly, it seems like a stupid move for your boyfriend.
So perhaps there is more to it. Perhaps he is not telling you everything. Is it possible that he actually wants a monogamous relationship but has been afraid to say so, or has felt that his longing for a more traditional relationship represents a failure of his own vision or nerve?.... Perhaps his apparent passivity is not only spinelessness but also calculation....
...I suggest that you reach out to the polyamory community for support and guidance.... And also find a therapist experienced in relationships such as yours who can help you clarify your options as a group.
Read the whole column (Jan. 24, 2012).
And in the militantly hostile department, remember Dr. Karen Ruskin?
No, the answer is NO – DO NOT, I repeat in capital letters: DO NOT have any additional partner/person in your marriage.
Threesomes, swinging, polyamory, any inclusion of any one in addition to your spouse as a sexual partner in your marriage–the answer is no, do not do it! Through my 18 years of providing couples counseling, with consistency couples who report they decided to have some form of open relationship rather than a monogamous relationship have ended up in an awful mental place and have destroyed their marriage.
Whole article (Oct. 7, 2011). Of course a couples counselor only sees couples in trouble. Duhh. Another dumb therapist who was gazing out the window in statistics class when they taught about sampling basis.
Goddess of Java, the decade-plus goddess of the Polyfamilies Yahoo Group, responded to her article,
Gosh, in my nearly 22 years of marriage we had some trouble, honest no kidding. We even considered breaking up.
Stopping the poly didn’t cure it. GROWING THE FUCK UP AND LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE sure as shit did.
We’re still poly, we’re happy, and we have a relationship that works and makes us happy. Sorry if that doesn’t work for you, but hey, we’re not dating you.
(Remember y’all — Be a credit to your kink if you’re gonna reply directly. You’re the Face of Poly.)
My third and last post in this series will be on actual poly advice columns, by people who live the lives they're talking about. Stay tuned.
"Can't Relate," from the always adorable Kimchi Cuddles (used by permission).