In their most recent edition, Greater Good Magazine published my new article that details seven things people in monogamous (and especially blended or divorced) relationships can learn from polyamorous folks.
In a new interview with HER Radio, Dr. Pamela Peeke interviews Dr. Eli Sheff on polyamorous families, legal issues facing polyamorists, age differences among polyamorous folks, and a preview of Dr. Sheff’s new findings from her fourth wave of data collection.
Susannah Summer’s guest post muses about polyamory as a sexual orientation and/or a lifestyle.
Born this way- Polyamorous as an orientation vs. life-style choice
About a year ago, after months of anguish and fighting every time my partner brought up the prospect of another female, I came to the realization that I needed to ask him to close our relationship. I have been under a tremendous amount of stress for about 3 years now. Last year around this time, a particularly bad crisis hit my business that required I muscle every ounce of my emotional, spiritual and physical strength to fight it. I began working 12 hour days– every day. I went 7 months this past year without a day off. It was hard.
Lucky for me, my wonderful partner understood and could perceive that I was correct in my assessment that I currently do not have the emotional depth and fortitude to actively practice polyamory and he agreed to the closure. For how long? Good question. We do not know. YIKES! DOES THIS MEAN WE ARE NOT REALLY POLY??
We have had several discussions lately about why being poly is harder for me– I’m much older and lived in a monogamous marriage for 18 years, whereas he’s been practicing polyamory since the age of 14 and has NEVER been monogamous; I grew up in a very strict, conservative home where I was told that sex is a sin outside of marriage whereas he was handed pornographic novels at age 13 by his liberal thinking mother–” Here son, read this!” A number of factors have led us to very different places on the poly spectrum.
I recently had an epiphany moment when having a conversation with a transgender friend about whether or not being trans is a “choice” or if transgender people are just born that way. We were discussing my friend’s daughter, who has been exhibiting signs of being trans since she was only 2 years old. Now as a 9 year-old, she looks, acts and dresses like a boy. She/he has been my most convincing piece of evidence that being transgender IS NOT A CHOICE for some people. It is who they are. I realize I may be stepping on the line of not being PC here, folks….please have mercy on me if I’m using words that are offensive to you. This conversation about my friend’s daughter led me to say, “Oh, my God….J was born this way!”.
My friend laughed at the way my face lit up as the thought of polyamory being an orientation struck me. It made me consider my own ideas about poly? Is this my orientation or is this more of a lifestyle choice for me following the stifling experience I had in a long-term marriage?
I know that I was NOT born poly. I had never heard that word before I was 41. I knew as a college student that I liked men– a lot– and I often had more than one partner, all of whom knew of one another and a couple were even friends. But, I thought I was a slut. I thought this because I had been told that this is what girls who slept around were. When I left my marriage about 4 years ago, I told my first partner (who happened to be J) that I would not be monogamous with him. But, it was a lifestyle choice for me. J could never be happy in a long-term monogamous marriage like the one I had for so long. However, that is not true for me, even now. I could just as easily be happy in a monogamous marriage/long-term relationship if that situation were presented to me and I decided to go for it.
So, where does this leave us?
I think with more questions than answers at this point:
*If one member of a poly couple/triad or more has a poly orientation but the other(s) do not, what will this mean for their relationship? What challenges will they face? How will they deal with them? Is their relationship destined to fail?
*How can the orientation poly person help the life-style poly person better navigate the poly world? Is the orientation poly person inherently more capable of higher functioning in a poly relationship- i.e. less jealousy, more open to the benefits of being polyamorous?
For now, J has agreed to our closure. But, I feel guilty about it. I struggle with my feelings around this almost every day. I want to be okay with him experiencing meaningful relationships with others. I want to trust him enough to let him make his own decisions and not have them be hindered by what I feel I can or cannot handle emotionally. I want to be happy for him when he expresses interest in someone else he’s met.
So, what do I do? For myself? For my own understanding and growth?
What does he do? Just wait? Help me find ways to de-stress and find more balance in my life so I can become more emotionally stable?
DOES THIS MEAN WE ARE NOT POLY?
I believe the answer to that is no.
We want this for our lives and we hope that someday soon we can re-open our relationship. But, for now, we need to keep each of us healthy and that requires this sacrifice. For this time. For this place. And that’s just how it is.
This fall I had the great fortune to visit with the publishers at Fantastic Fiction Publishing. When I mentioned to the primary editor that I had just finished the book I had been reading and was looking for something new to read, she recommended Elizabeth Schechter’s Counsel of the Wicked . “I don’t like erotica” I said, thinking back on the sappy romance novels I had started occasionally and always left unfinished. “Trust me, you’ll like this one” she said. Knowing her to be a woman of integrity and good taste, I took her at her word and purchased a copy.
Turns out, it’s not that I don’t like erotica, it’s that I don’t like badly written drivel with thin plot lines padded by pages of awkward sex. Even the sex scenes in Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake vampire hunter series left me cold, and I quickly found myself skimming over the sex scenes that seemed initially steamy and quickly became repetitive (and used the word spill far too often) to get back to the much more interesting vampire hunting and shape shifting.
Far from needing to blur past self-conscious or redundant sex scenes, Schechter’s gem is so well written that the sex scenes are not only interesting to read, but integral to the plot. Mercifully devoid of the kind of florid Harlequin romance language that hobbles so many other erotic novels, Counsel of the Wicked has complex and well-developed characters who do all sorts of interesting things, one of which happens to be interesting sex as well. Each sex scene flows perfectly with the twists of the plot, always fitting in quite realistically with the characters’ other actions. One of the main characters appears to be asexual, a true novelty for romance novels.
Luckily for me and other readers of smart and sexy fiction, this is just book one in the Rebel Mage series. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, Haven’s Fall, to find out what happens to the band of intrepid travelers.
In my most recent blog on Psychology Today, I explore four types of commitment in polyamorous relationships. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-polyamorists-next-door/201610/four-types-commitment-in-polyamorous-relationships?#_=_