Another country heard from: Poly in New Zealand
Okay, we've heard from New Zealand before (and before and before and before), but not for a while. More recently,
● A TV news broadcast last week, on Three Now: Polyamory: How does dating multiple partners work? With video. (April 18, 2018)
To watch, click here (5½ minutes)
By Newshub staff
...At least 1000 people in New Zealand are in polyamorous relationships where the relationship could have three or more people involved.
There needs to be communication though; secretly sleeping with someone on the sly isn't polyamory - that's just straight up cheating.
Jeremy Corbett from Three's The Project took off his 'prude shoes' to talk to some polyamorous people about how it works.
"Most of polyamory is scheduling," said Adrian Renor, who is part of a triad relationship.
"It's a lot of self-reflection and work," added Gabbi Macclure who is also part of the relationship.
The pair are in a relationship with each other and there is a third person in the relationship too, Bernie. ...
Arelle Hugg currently has three partners in different cities and she says communication is a large part of keeping the relationships going.
"If they're starting to see another girl if they go on a date with another girl or even if they meet someone and they're attracted to them they let me know," she said.
Jealousy can be part of it like in a monogamous pairing, but Ms Hugg says it hasn't reared its head in her relationships. "I've done a lot of research and I do hear that jealousy comes up and I've had jealousy in the past, but I honestly haven't felt jealousy in a long time." ...
Alternative site to watch the segment.
● A long newspaper feature in NZ last September: Polyamory and the complicated lives of those with multiple lovers (Sept. 17, 2017)
By Lawrence Smith / STUFF
When polyamorous people tell you their way of life is not for the faint-hearted, they're not flipping kidding.
"Yes, we're all a bit nuts," *Samantha, 35, says of her own complicated but contented domestic life with a girlfriend who also has a boyfriend.
"We have some basic tenets that we live by. Don't be a dick is one of them. This means that if any of us chooses to engage in physical activity with a person outside the group, or decides to pursue a relationship outside the current structure, we do so with the greatest possible respect for everyone else and their feelings."
In New Zealand there are anywhere from 1000 active polyamorists to, well, who really knows? Attempts to define polyamory (literally "many loves", or consensual non-monogamy) as a social movement are laughed off by some polyamorists, but there is no question that the lifestyle is gaining prominence as people learn the name for their feelings.
Regular meet-ups take place in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, and will re-start in Christchurch once a new co-ordinator is found. Poly hookups happen on Tinder and OkCupid while Kiwiburn, our version of the Burning Man festival, is known for being a poly hangout.
"The Kiwiburn festival is known as a popular gathering spot for those with polyamorous interests." (Andy Flint / Stuff)
Aucklander Bee River set up a closed Facebook page for Kiwi polyamorists three years ago that has 500 members and 250 people on the waiting list. She knows of another "secret" Facebook page for those who don't want to risk being identified.
"It's about cultivating meaningful connection, rather than being primarily sexual," she says of the lifestyle she discovered with relief four years ago after struggling to make monogamy work for her. "There are as many ways of being polyamorous as there are polyamorous people."
Consider Samantha's situation. From the Waikato, her circle includes her gender-fluid girlfriend *Ana, who also loves a muscular, bearded straight man named *Caleb, and his girlfriend *Sue.
Ana, a soil scientist, and Samantha, a teacher, live together with their two children. Two nights a week Caleb stays over. Samantha remains in the main house while the other two use the sleep-out.
The next day, Caleb returns to the home he shares with Sue, who used to live with Ana and Caleb in a love triad, but can no longer abide Ana's company. They had a stand-up argument at a cafe and haven't spoken since.
Now Sue insists on a strict schedule for Caleb's visits to Ana, and permission has to be sought for extra date nights. Meanwhile, although Samantha considers Caleb to be a good person, she can not bear to be physically near him, which is the way she feels about all adult males. ...
A cornerstone of polyamorous relationships, unsurprisingly, is communication. With so many people to consider, this lifestyle is not about lots of sex so much as lots of scheduling. It is important that each member of a relationship group is clear about expectations and gets as much time with their lovers as they want. And if someone else comes along, all parties need to know about it as soon as feelings have developed. ...
"If I meet someone I think is attractive, I can appreciate that openly and even share it without the guilt and negativity one might experience in a monogamous relationship," explains Samantha, who was once married to a man.
"People in monogamous relationships tend to feel entitled to their partner's time, body and feelings. Just because you're boinking someone, you don't own them."
About 18 months ago Wellingtonian *Kim, 31, had a crisis. She loved her husband of eight years, she didn't want to leave him, but she was no longer fulfilled in their marriage. They were having "parent sex" and she was bored. She also felt guilty: they had two delightful children, a dog, and a house with an actual white picket fence. They were living the suburban dream, so what was her problem?
"When I started reading about polyamory I wondered if it might be the solution, so I brought it up with my husband. It wasn't something we jumped into, we talked about it for six months."
Nervously, they attended their first poly meet-up and were "blown away" when they were faced with a room full of perfectly ordinary people. Thus far the dating has been fairly ordinary too, for Kim at least.
"I have gone on so many dates and had so many duds, it's just ridiculous," she says. "It sucks, of course it does. But that's the good thing about poly, I can come home and we can laugh about it together."
Her husband has met "two fabulous ladies" and one has become his girlfriend. He spends five nights a week at home with Kim and the kids and two nights with his girlfriend. After kissing a string of damp cold frogs, Kim has just started seeing a poly man who is also married. ...
She says she is open to whatever the future may hold. "The thing with poly is there are no straight answers for anything. If [my husband] met someone he wanted to see more seriously than his girlfriend, what's to say we couldn't get a bigger house and all live together?
*Mia, 34, worked as a counsellor before deciding to stay home with children. She lives with her husband *Joe, their two children and her partner *Karl on Auckland's North Shore. Both men are heterosexual and relations between all parties are harmonious and happy, like a tiny commune.
"They hang out and catch up for beers as mates sometimes," says Mia of the two men in her life. "In terms of time, I spend my time where I want to spend my time but I tend to try to be fair to their needs."
She describes a number of distinct relationships within their partnership, each with its own dynamic. There's her and Joe; her and Karl; Karl and Joe; and her, Karl and Joe. "We hang out at home together, sometimes we'll go out for dinner. The supermarket shopping is left up to Joe, Karl tends to help with the housework and we all look after the kids."
Each partner fulfills different needs for Mia, a feature of polyamory that is often cited as an advantage.
"Joe is very introverted but has the heart and soul of a philosopher. He is intelligent and the conversations we have are out of this world. He is my chosen life partner, the one I love so deeply that life without him just would not be the same.
"Karl is a musician and very extroverted. He and I go out and explore festivals and have very similar taste in comedy and music. He is a soul mate."
WHAT WILL YOUR MOTHER THINK?
Unfortunately, you can't live in your polyamorous love bubble. There are people outside the relationship who must be told, and they don't always like it. ...
QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS AND QUANDARIES
Things polyamorists get tired of hearing: When are you going to settle down? Oh, you just haven't met the right person yet. This is a phase. I don't know how you do it – I struggle to keep one partner happy! What do you tell the children?
That last one is especially problematic. Polyamorists say their young children don't notice or care that there is anything unusual about their family makeup, which is arguably healthier than a blended family attempting to rebuild itself after an acrimonious divorce. But outsiders do care about the morality of polyamory and its perceived impact.
"People are pretty judgy," Samantha acknowledges. "I think I manage okay because I'm not a very peopley person. For a whole bunch of reasons, I don't really fit in with the mums at the school gate, so I don't really have the challenge of talking to them…
"No-one has ever been rude about my life to my face but I can't speak for what goes on once I've left, of course. When I do talk about it, people tend to be incredulous."...
'POLYAMORY SAVED MY MARRIAGE'
*Ken has been polyamorous for the past three years, since *Jane, his wife of 20 years, came out as bisexual and told him she wanted to date other women. He says his adult children are aware of their parents' lifestyle and are okay with it.
"We answer their questions, as a result they are better informed than most," says the semi-retired Wellingtonian, who is in his early 50s. "The young these days have more open minds. The eldest was very pleased we stuck together instead of splitting up.
"It was a messy time in our marriage, we both had affairs, it all came out," he says. "I just about had a nervous breakdown. I was afraid of losing Jane to another woman. I believed incorrectly that she had become a lesbian and what could I possibly do about that?
"We both loved each other and wanted to remain together. So we just clung on and worked through it together."
Ken's girlfriend is married to a man who also sees other people. Ken meets her once a week and every couple of months they go away for the weekend. His wife, meanwhile, is struggling to find a woman who wants to date a married woman.
"In poly the stars have to line up," Ken says. "Being poly is rare. Being a practicing bisexual person is also sort of rare. Jane enjoys swinging, so she gets her girl fix doing that."
HEARTS STILL GET BROKEN
For all its elastic inclusiveness, its ability to stretch to meet the needs of multiple people with diverse backgrounds and expectations, polyamory can't protect you from a broken heart.
"Sometimes two people being in love is not enough," notes Bee River, 35, who lives with the man she calls her "anchor partner" and their 11-month-old baby. Six months ago another lover walked out on her, which was a shattering experience.
"Breakups still hurt, even though there are other people in the relationship," she says. "There's still an ending, they have gone, there's stuff that still needs to be acknowledged."
River's partner also has an older male partner, who has taken on the role of "fairy wise father" to the baby, and can be called on for support. His involvement in her life is an example of how polyamory works at its best, says River.
"The care we have for each other, it's rare and incredibly beautiful. It's so heartening, the incredible amount of support."
● And earlier, on Shorthand Social ("stories that are meant to be shared"): Polyamory: The Art of Loving More, also with video (Oct. 25, 2016):
The polyamory community have been without a voice for too long – these are their stories
By Rhianna Osborne
...In order to understand the intricacies of polyamorous relationships, this piece focuses on a range of people both from the polyamory community, as well as those with an outsider's perspective, to gain a more in-depth understanding of what life is like being in a polyamorous relationship. ...
Allistair Smith, 27: "I became introduced to the idea of dating multiple people through some of my friends posting things up on Facebook; two of them are in a polyamorous relationship that I know from high school and one of them was just a friend who is really interested in different kinds of relationships. So if it wasn't for the internet or social media, I probably wouldn’t have found out about it." James recently came out of quite an intense monogamous relationship and once that was over he decided he would only be interested in open relationships from then on. “I became involved with it before the word polyamory came about so I was reading up about it and I found myself experimenting more with this different kind of relationship." ...
There is a website called NZ Poly Dating that is helping New Zealanders become part of a community, and to try and make the practice of polyamory more normalised:
...Mandy and Michael Taylor have practiced polyamory for over three years now; they are married and have three kids between them. They said it all started with both of them becoming interested in swinging. "We weren't really thinking too much about polyamory in those early stages, but the whole swinging thing lasted about a month before we ended up in a polyamorous situation. We went to a party and met another couple and it happened without us really realising it." ...
Michael and Mandy were in a quad relationship with the other couple for six months until they moved house and found that it made sense financially to try out a living arrangement with them. “Overall, it worked out well but the fundamental problem with that situation and why it didn’t continue was the fact that the connection that Michael and the other women had was quite strong, but the connection that I had with the other man was not very strong at all.” The Taylors found that they really enjoyed the community feel of the arrangement and said it really worked well with having kids in the house, “it’s one thing to have two adults and kids in a house, but it’s a totally different scenario when you have another adult there or another two adults. It changed the whole dynamic of the household and it had a nice vibe to it. It was like having friends that live with you and it works.”
Since their initial encounter with polyamory, they have become much more open about it and comfortable with it, and are now each dating multiple people. ...
... They initially struggled because they had no connection at all with the polyamory community in Auckland and had no idea it even existed; "We didn't really know where to look for reading material and that kind of thing, but there isn’t a huge amount of information about it in New Zealand." They eventually came across the Polyamory NZ group on Facebook, which provided support and information from like-minded individuals that made them feel comforted and accepted. The group has over 300 members [now 750] and provides a safe haven for all kinds of people to join and to discuss and engage in polyamorous activities.
The administrator of the group, Harrison Fraser, 26, said he feels very passionate about the polyamory community. “For me, I’ve known about polyamory longer than I’ve practiced it; I’ve known about it for at least five or six years through dating books and things like that.” ... At present Harrison has two partners, but also other casual partners that he sees every now and then. ... “Sophie I would identify as my primary and that’s because we have been together for so long and our connection stems so far from the past, and we have been through a lot, but the definition of ‘primary’ is different for everyone,” Harrison said.
...Although it is small and largely unheard of at present, the polyamory community is growing and they are determined to have a voice.