How Not to Plan a Polyamorous Vacation. "Polylogues" play reviewed in NY Times. And more poly in the media.
It’s tough enough to plan a vacation with another couple. Here’s what happened when we did with our boyfriend and girlfriend—and how we’ll (maybe) do it better in the future.
By Mariah Douglas...We’re polyamorous and they’d been our primary relationship for about six months. I was bleary and exhausted from the drama when I abruptly awoke. Something was in our house. “Paul, wake up!” I hissed. “Paul! There’s something in the house.” We were both leaning over the balcony of the upstairs loft bedroom, squinting into the dark, when The Something flew at my head. It seemed a fitting conclusion to a truly implosive vacation: dive-bombed by a vengeful bat in the middle of the COVID panic.The bat — which met an untimely demise at the business end of a badminton racket — symbolized a trip beset by group travel pitfalls. I don’t know if poly travel routinely includes these complications. ... But I do know that, if we do try it again, we’re much better prepared for the potential hazards.Initially, this trip was planned as a beach frolic to Portugal. The other couple, let’s call them John and Cathy, told us they were so excited to go. ... [But when covid hit] we had to scale way, way back. This is how we shifted from Portuguese beach to West Virginian off-season ski cabin.But we could still do a week together! And it would be so much fun! We found a place and sent it to them for approval. But then they weren’t sure about kenneling their dogs.... So we found a [different] dog-friendly place. Surely now all would be smooth sailing. Except, wait – right before the trip, Cathy couldn’t get a whole week off from work. So John and Cathy would come for four days. Um, okay. No, the four days wouldn’t be possible either. It would be three, they announced. No, two. They’d come for a weekend, arriving late Saturday and leaving early Monday.Paul and I were confused, to put it mildly. ... Gaslighting is real, friends. Keep easily accessible documentation of your trip, including who’s paying for what (more on that in a bit). If you’re traveling with someone and they start blowing up the plans without regard, it’s probably time to rethink the trip.[Lesson:] No Matter How Much You Like Someone, Everyone Needs a Financial StakeThis trip was our idea, so we did the legwork and we put down the money. ... Paul and I had brought a bunch of alcohol, groceries, citronella candles for the deck, sunscreen – you get the idea. John and Cathy brought a bottle of wine because, as they put it, they weren’t staying very long. ...[Lesson:] Everyone Also Needs to Have (and Perform) House Tasks...In the future, I’m not traveling without a clear expectation (and maybe a chore chart) delineating who is doing what and when it’s getting done. ...[Lesson:] Set Reasonable Expectations—Including RespectThis last one? Totally on us. We didn’t see warning signs for what they were and clung to our belief that this trip would be a romantic escape, just as we envisioned it. We needed to recognize that our partners had trouble committing to plans and often failed to communicate. ...Should we do this again, we’ll do it differently: putting everything in writing, checking in frequently, setting up a damn Venmo schedule. But we’ll also go into it with fewer puffy pink clouds in our eyes about both people and places. ...
By Laura Collins-Hughes...Written and performed by [Xandra Nur] Clark, and presented by the company Colt Coeur at Here [off-off-Broadway in Manhattan], “Polylogues” is a collection of monologues taken from Clark’s interviews with a wide range of people — some queer, some straight — who have practiced polyamory or, in a couple of cases, have parents who do.Like Trudy, who recalls for Clark the time she casually mentioned her father’s girlfriend in front of a friend’s dad, then had to correct his assumption that her parents had split up.“And I’m like: ‘No, no, no! They’re polyamorous!’” she says. “And then he looked at me funny. And I’m like, “Polyamorous, as in ‘more than one love.’”There is plenty of talk of sex in “Polylogues,” but love is the tender element that flows through these often self-scrutinizing monologues. A thoughtful, layered, smirk-free show about people constructing their intimate lives outside socially accepted bounds, it makes a humanizing, live-and-let-live case for consensual, ethical non-monogamy.“Non-monogamy interacting with male privilege, or interacting with capitalism, can, like produce some really, like, frightening dynamics,” says K, an interviewee full of regret for having once pushed an open relationship on a girlfriend, but endearingly happy with a new girlfriend and a series of other, overlapping partners....Clark performs the show wearing earbuds, listening to recordings of her interviewees as she speaks their words. A note in the script describes her as being “more like a medium than an actor, channeling real people into the room.” ... Without projections of the characters’ pseudonymous names...we would not be able to distinguish between them, or recognize individuals when they reappear. ...“Polylogues” is a curious, compassionate portal into a topic we most often see treated with prurience.
Eric Ruby spent the summer photographing the dyads, triads, and more that surround him, focusing on all the ways COVID-19 has changed poly life.
Eric Ruby photosBy River BlackI’m always hungry to glimpse the inner workings of love and to see real-life examples of people living in line with their hearts and values, especially in polyamory, where there are few established road maps. I was surprised when one of my most “out” polyamorous friends didn’t want to be photographed by my partner Eric Ruby with her long-term or more recent partners. With one, they were drifting apart as lovers, even though they were still “family”; with the other, she was on the cusp of transitioning the relationship toward something less romantic. ...Another person I regarded as solidly poly, seeing them out at parties with their multiple lovers also in attendance, said they were reevaluating in light of reconnecting with a longtime friend across the country, and realizing there was more there. ... And yet, not reconsidering entirely—even as this friendship-turned-romance evolves in intimacy, they are planning to read Polysecure together, Jessica Fern’s 2020 book about how to create securely attached poly relationships. Surprising me yet again is the elasticity of how people continually redefine their relationship to being polyamorous and what that looks like for them.The people most excited to be photographed were the larger groups; they really wanted to be represented and had found comfort and stability within their configurations. “We have matching All Love tattoos. It was really nice during the pandemic to live with multiple people—otherwise, I think I would have gone crazy,” said a member of a four-person polycule who have lived together for 10 years, with three relationships between them. The largest group excitedly showed us a visualization of their polycule, totaling 14 people, with lines representing marriages, divorces, lovers, platonic friendships, and “friendship plus.” Their relationship map was an explanatory tool for friends, new lovers, and, occasionally, even themselves.A dyad texted later: “Relationships are a creative process in which, every day, people get to imagine how they want to be together. We enjoy that there are no givens or rules to ‘us.’ Because of this we are adaptable and we grow.” ...Ultimately, it’s hard to tell which changes in people’s polyamorous love lives can be attributed to the pandemic and its pressures and which to the normal shifting of already-fluid relationships. For some, these past 18 months have clarified priorities, resulting in new flowerings and endings both painful and peaceful; for others, they’ve had a wide net to catch and hold them and a community in which to weather the storm.
By Kristen Thomas...Were polycules—that is, a group of people connected through a consensually non-monogamous relationship—stable or fragile because of all the time together during quarantine? Had they adjusted and found their footing? Are they dating safely or causing the virus to spread? I had conversations with some poly individuals to find answers.Turns out, the pandemic has given many folks a chance to explore poly relationships while being surprisingly safe. ...
By Kesiena Boom..."An unavoidable aspect of nonmonogamy is that people are engaging in a system of relationships that all impact one another," says Anna Dow, LCSW, a therapist who specializes in consensual nonmonogamy and practices it herself. "Having shared language for that system can add to some people's senses of security and belonging while also offering practical information about how their own relationship dynamics may impact other people."...Navigating intimate relationships with more than one person means that it is especially important to be a thoughtful and active listener. Take the time to really understand and respect not just your own boundaries but everyone else's in the polycule."You may have heard that the golden rule is to treat others as you want to be treated, but somebody got that all wrong. To build healthy relationships what we really must do is treat others as they want to be treated," says Dow. ...
By Natalie FullerGrowing up in the Mormon church, expressing your sexuality—having sexual feelings of any kind—is seen as taboo. ...I knew even in high school that I was polyamorous and bisexual, even though I didn’t have the words to describe those feelings at the time. I’d make promises I couldn’t keep, like telling my boyfriends I wouldn’t kiss girls. Those relationships never worked out because I couldn’t be honest with myself or them. ...In my experience, shame is like a sunburn: hot and tender to the touch, but eventually the dead skin starts to slough off. You end up rubbing and picking at it. It's a shedding process, of other people’s beliefs and judgements. It’s uncomfortable. But you shed and shed until your new skin comes through.I first started picking at my sunburn when my older sister, who had already left the church, started taking me to African dance classes. I felt simultaneously embarrassed and excited looking at myself in the mirror, thrusting my open hips and making wild expressions. As I got older and left the church myself, I started collecting experiences that made me feel more like myself.There was the freedom and childlike nature of my first skinny dip with friends; it felt like we’d never left the Garden of Eden. Then there was a trip to Maui, where I got my first taste of being with multiple partners at once. I moved to Oregon, and then Colorado, finding like-minded people along the way and building a community that accepted the real me. For the past year, I've been with two loving, long-term partners.Still, I wasn’t out to everyone, including my parents. ...
By Keyanah Nurse“I really like you, but my partner is struggling with us being lovers. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place,” his message read. “Is friendship still possible for us?”Although I was disappointed, I wasn’t surprised. The signs were there, even from the first time I met him two years ago... [when] as he talked about his long-distance partner and I discussed my two local partners, I realized that our different approaches within the umbrella of ethical non-monogamy were incompatible.My polyamory centered fully fledged relationships with multiple partners at the same time. I could introduce all my partners to my mom, go on vacation with any of them, post about them on my social media or have sleepovers. His open relationship, on the other hand, allowed only for short-term sexual and romantic connections that ended whenever his primary partner was in town. Not all ethical non-monogamy is created alike, I realized. The chasm between my polyamory and his open relationship felt too dangerous to traverse.
The author with her two partners
on New Year’s Eve 2020
...He admired my boldness as a Black polyamorous woman, often remarking how he wished for a similar freedom to build concurrent romantic relationships.-----------------------...When he asked to date again, I had doubts. But two years had passed. Within that time, his long-distance partner moved back to our city. They were also defining themselves as polyamorous, a change from the form of ethical non-monogamy he described when I first met him....Did our conversations about my polyamory sway him? As I explained to him over the years, the public visibility of both of my partnerships was central to my ethics and my politics. Having suffered in the past the indignity of being a “secondary” partner, I refused to reproduce an emotional hierarchy with my own partners.-----------------------...I beamed at his compliment as we sipped the whiskey I brought to his place. The heat radiating off our bodies pulsed in anticipation of answering a two-year question in the making. The next few hours were a mix of laughter, passion and indulgence. I always enjoyed our easy yet biting banter. As lovers, that banter gave way to a new intimacy. The answer to the question of us seemed to be: potential. What would happen next? Would there be an “us”?...When I invited him to spend the night at my place, he explained that it was not yet something he was ready for since his partner was now in the same city. I bristled at the restriction....His partner sent a series of long messages to a group chat we made a few weeks prior. She apologized for appearing finicky and controlling. But ultimately she was uncomfortable with my friend developing independent relationships while she was in the same city.“I really thought things had changed and that she would be OK with dating separately,” he explained a few days later. “I’m sorry if I wasted your time.”I had been “vetoed.” ...
...With more than half the book dedicated to important conversations to have at potential pain points in relationships to avoid strife and have smoother sailing in your polycules, we address STIs, fluid bonding, jealousy, compersion, communication styles, compatibility on multiple fronts, and more. The idea of building your relationships with intention and not just because “That’s what comes next” is at the center of all the theory woven into the practical information contained here.
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