Lucky, Lucky Poly People

A man I thought I once knew, while discussing the nature of my polyamorous marriage, said to me, “You lucky, lucky poly people.”

News flash: Luck has nothing to do with it.

All too often when someone hears the word polyamory or open relationship, they conjure up images of a sexual free-for-all. Or they think that I’m just “lucky” my husband agreed, or perhaps my husband is “lucky” that I’m open to him having sex with someone else.

Luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.

My husband and I took well over a year to get from the suggestion of opening up to actually opening up, and that was starting with a very close, very emotionally intimate relationship to begin with. We talk pretty much daily: checking in with each other, expressing our love and gratitude for one another, openly discussing any issues or conflicts that arise, etc. That year consisted of many very deep, sometimes painful, discussions about who we are as individuals and who we are as a couple.

Once we finally did open up and establish our rules, it was further work. Just think how much work one relationship is…now add another. And maybe a third.

Any relationship worth having is not easy. It’s work. It’s effort towards understanding yourself and your partner better. It’s selfless acts. It’s compromise. It’s hours of talking and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It’s building true intimacy.

As I’ve said countless times, polyamory is generally not about casual sex. It’s about building relationships, loving relationships. Although sex can be casual, that is negotiated and agreed upon beforehand. No assumptions.

Recently I entered into a new relationship with a potential secondary, and I was everso excited. A secondary, for those who don’t know the term, is a satellite relationship second only to your primary. In my case, my primary is my husband. I met this new guy through the poly-friendly dating site called OKCupid, and he seemed pretty awesome all around. We met briefly and really clicked. Things moved quickly, probably too quickly, and our second date was so very awesome. He said he had found a secondary in me, and I thought I had found one in him, too. It was really great…until, a few days later, it wasn’t.

And the reason it got so very un-great so very soon, is that he’s not truly poly. He thinks he is, but he doesn’t have the openness or communication skills to be truly polyamorous. He’s very new to the lifestyle, so he’s likely still learning. At least I hope he’s learning. He seems to be confusing polyamory with swinging, which is definitely about casual sex. This man said all the right words, talking about openness and honesty, respect and communication, intimacy and safety; but he was unable to actually do any of those things.

As there so often is with communication via text and email, there was a seeming misunderstanding between us. Misunderstandings happen even in verbal communication which is why good communications skills are so important. Another thing that is essential in polyamorous relationships: taking time to ensure understanding with your SO(s). This man did not take that time with me. It seems that he was setting up a recurring casual sex friend. That’s not what a secondary is, and it’s most certainly not what I do. Perhaps that was a misunderstanding too, and I truly do hope I get the chance to talk with him and clear these things up. But as the days pass, I know that’s pretty unlikely.

A secondary is a loving relationship, and that term should not be thrown around lightly. Loving relationships take time and effort to build, to get to know each other, to understand each other, to support each other, and yes, there is also sex, but it is just a part of a larger relationship. Without open and honest communication, without time spent talking out of bed and reciprocity of affection, it is not a loving, poly relationship.

Things between us ended without him even showing me the respect of a face-to-face meeting and a discussion of what could be worked out. It was so new, he couldn’t even begin to understand my needs, nor I his, without some serious communication. He did not seem willing. That does not at all fit with the polyamorous philosophy or lifestyle.

Funny thing, I would still be willing to talk it out. That’s what I do. I communicate.

One of the problems I’ve seen in both myself and in potential secondaries are the expectations of immediate comfort and understanding. Since we already have a great primary relationship, we think that with a secondary, things will be great and comfortable and understood from the beginning. But starting a second relationship is starting a second relationship. It takes time and effort to know each other, our quirks, our triggers, our needs, etc. All relationships worth having take time and effort.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’ve had two heart-shattering break-ups this year. Just imagine, as I struggled so much through those breakups that I could not help but to write about them in public because the pain was all-consuming, what it must’ve been like at home. My husband, for the better part of the last year, has been unwaveringly supportive and loving. He has listened to my repetitive, unending questions about what went wrong, if it was my fault, how could I have been so stupid, etc. He’s had to hold me for hours while I cried over another man. He’s had to take up the slack at home, with both finances and housework, when I was suffering from crippling panic attacks from the betrayal of a lover. And then another.

Lucky?

Luck has fucking nothing to do with it.

~ by omgrey on October 26, 2011.

29 Responses to “Lucky, Lucky Poly People”

  1. You are so SO right on! Big love O.M.. Xoxox

  2. In a way, I suppose some might say I’m lucky, but it really has nothing to do with our interest in poly, and it isn’t just luck. It’s the product of years of hard work, trust, and openness. Yes, my wife and I are probably lucky that we’re on the same page with our interests, but it’s taken a lot of time to work together to where we were willing to admit those interests to ourselves, let alone each other and evenings of my wife dealing with her husband being heartbroken over another woman. Yes, I’m lucky that I’ve found a lovely woman who’s interested in being my secondary and isn’t put off by how many of my conversations talk about my wife, but it’s been a delicate and long process that’s taken a lot of long conversations with both of them to make sure everyone’s comfortable with the process, and still, nothing is certain.

    No, I take it back. I’m not lucky. I’m loved, and I’m working hard to put that love back into the world. That’s even better.

    • Loved is a great way to put it!

    • I am lucky to have found a man who is honest and has deep integrity. My experiences over the past year has reminded me just how rare that is.

      Our lifestyle choice is because of the work we put into our relationships, of course. Perhaps we can put in such work because of the honesty and trust between us, and perhaps we’re able to have that because of the people we are. Perhaps there is some luck in that. But it is mostly effort, commitment, and communication.

      I’m so pleased to hear you found a secondary. How very lovely for all of you. It’s something I long for, and I really thought I may have found one this time, even though it was rather quick of me to hope. It’s been a rough year, so any glimmer of hope perhaps shines too brightly. It wasn’t meant to be, and that saddens me. I hope to be lucky enough to find that secondary one day.

      And you’re right, you’re loved. I’m loved. And we both will continue to work hard to continue to love. And that is so much better.

  3. I have a question from the “devil’s advocate” position; It seems that you understand quite well that every relationship is a whole and complete relationship. Why, then, do you want more than your primary relationship? What is missing from your first relationship that makes you want more than one relationship?

    • There is absolutely nothing missing from my primary relationship. It’s awesome and loving and supportive. It’s so awesome that I want more.

      This is a common question from people who don’t understand the polyamory mindset, and it’s not one that can be easily answered without a long discussion. Every relationship is unique and whole and complete, but there is not a finite amount of love, nor desire. I have a great capacity to give and receive love, and I enjoy doing just that.

      And, as was the case this past year, you meet someone with whom you connect and love develops. I wasn’t looking for it. It just happened.

      Now I’m looking because I’m hoping to find someone who understands the poly mindset and lifestyle so that I can build a healthy, rather than abusive, relationship.

  4. So is it fair to say that you have so much love to give that you can have more than one loving relationship without any relationship being incomplete?

  5. I understand a little better now. I have 2 more questions. 1. Do you feel more secure if you have more than one loving/intimate relationship? 2. Do you think it is important for both members of a primary relationship to have other relationships? That is, if one’s primary has a secondary, do you think that one should try to have a secondary as well?

    • I feel quite secure in my primary relationship, and I can’t really answer the first question from experience as I’ve never had a true secondary. I think a second healthy, loving relationship would add more security, but that’s just in theory for me at the moment. I have yet to find a man who, even as a secondary, can handle the level of intensity with which I love.

      I think it’s important for both members of the primary relationship to have very in-depth discussions about what will work for them and what will help fulfill their needs. Every couple is as unique as every individual. It always depends on their needs. If one member of the primary has a greater sexual appetite, for example, s/he might be better fulfilled with another partner, but the second member of that primary relationship might be perfectly fulfilled with just the primary relationship. Same goes for emotional needs, some people are needier than others, so it would depend on the couple in question and whether or not both needs are being fulfilled. If one doesn’t have that amount of attention to give fully to two separate relationships, then I would advise against it because one or the other wouldn’t be fulfilled. It all depends on the individuals in questions and their personal emotional and sexual needs balanced with the amount of time, love, and attention they are able to give.

  6. I see. I kind of feel the same (about question 2) but my experience is too limited. My primary wanted an other relationship, mainly for more sex. I have been OK with that and didn’t want a second lover myself. However, I now see that if my primary takes on a second lover, I feel a lack of emotional interaction and it is for this reason that I am interested in a second relationship; not as much for a second lover as a second love. This is mostly because my primary and I do not have a total and complete loving relationship when she has a second lover. She doesn’t give enough emotional support to me when she has an other. Do you think that this is normal for a poly couple? Or do you think that this is indicative of a root problem that should be addressed before i think about having a second relationship?

    • I think you most definitely need to communicate to her that you don’t feel emotionally fulfilled. You, as her primary, should always come first. Have you just started feeling the lack of emotional connection since she’s taken on a secondary? Is the secondary a loving relationship or just a sexual one? Answer these questions to me or just to yourself before going further. Discover the root cause of this, because it sounds like your needs aren’t being met.

      Then think about specific ways you can feel more emotionally fulfilled by your primary and use these things as suggestions when you have that discussion with your primary. Invite her to make suggestions as well. I don’t think you should seek out a secondary to fill an emotional gap left by your primary, as it will eventually serve to drive you and your primary further apart. Deal with the primary relationship first. The primary should have an unshakable foundation. Ask her to meet your needs, and then see if you still want a secondary.

      As to whether or not it’s common, again, depends on the couple. I’ve met a lot of “polyamorous” people lately who aren’t truly poly. They are having sex with other people, but they’re doing so in a dishonest way with the satellite encounters at times or doing so out of a lack in their primary. Again, the primary relationship needs to be on rock-solid foundation before opening up to others if you want to truly maintain that primary relationship. Then any secondary relationship, if a loving one rather than *just* for sex, needs to be started and maintained with the same level of openness and honesty. If it is just for sex, then that needs to be perfectly clear and agreed upon by both parties at the beginning.

      As with any relationship, primary and secondary alike, emotions and needs are fluid. They change. Frequent, open communication is necessary to ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times.

  7. Your suggestions give me a lot to think about. For that I thank you. I agree with your central point that the primary relationship needs to be solid first. I now realize that I have not pursued a secondary because I unconsciously know that it is wrong to do so if the primary relationship stands on shifting sand.

    Basically, neither of us have secondaries at this time. In the past, when she has started a secondary relationship she has failed to maintain a close emotional relationship with me. She sort of left me cold. I have made it abundantly clear that I will not go through that again. She has agreed to not be that way again. But (as I am sure you know) some people say they will change but never work on themselves to actually make the change. So i suppose my issue comes down to this; my primary wants to be open to a secondary relationship, but I have every reason to think that if she again takes on a secondary, she will again leave me cold. Therefor I feel insecure. Unfortunately it seems as if I can do nothing but wait for her to take a second relationship and see if she handles it in a healthy, balanced manner as opposed to how it has been in the past. f it turns out to be the same old story, the right thing for me to do would be to end our relationship to free myself up to be open to a healthier relationship. This seems to be my answer but of course I will think about it and sleep on it and live with it to be more sure about it.

    Anyway, thank you for the fertile food for thought!

    • Yes there is something you can do now. You can talk to her about your insecurities, how you’ve felt in the past, and your fears if she takes on a new lover. It’s better to talk about these things now than when she’s taken on a secondary and there is a third heart on the line. If after talking with her she does the same thing when she finds a secondary, then remind her of your insecurities and feelings. If she still does it, then you might need to consider closing or ending your relationship, but that’s the last resort after a lot of talking, negotiation, and sharing of fears. Build that intimacy between the two of you now.

  8. Yes, agreed. Thank you. Your blog is excellent and I am now an eager follower.

  9. […] not an easy place to get to. It’s not luck. It’s not luxury. It’s months and years of work, sometimes tears, and intense […]

  10. As they say in the NBA, “Swoosh! Nothing but net!” Spot on Grey.

  11. […] One person’s unconsciousness and lack of courage to face their fears, incapacity to know themselves or to be honest, inability to communicate or unwillingness to try, abject betrayal of a deep trust…causes a world of hurt in another family. And there is nothing we, the discarded, can do about it but move through the pain, work through the stages of grief, look forward to new joy when we’re again ready to open our hearts again enough to risk it. Still think we’re lucky poly people? […]

  12. […] Most important, as always. Communicate. For polyamorous relationships (actually, all relationships) to work, there needs to be a lot of deep, open and honest communication. Frequently. No one said this was easy. […]

  13. […] Original Blog Post […]

  14. Reblogged this on evolution of the chicken.

  15. For most people a polyamory relationship is a open marriage. At least those who I have had the opportunity to talk to. They are also under the illusion that it’s about sex, and getting laid whenever I want to with whoever I want. If your primary relationship is lacking then this is most likely not a choice you should make. Just my humble opinion, any relationship takes effort and that includes open honest communication. My relationship did not start as open although my lady was very honest about her being very bisexual. We spent several years discussing and still never open our hearts to others. Her collage room mate came to live with us after her marriage ended. Long story short she became my ladies girlfriend and eventual mine as well. We lived together happily. For just over five years until work and one of the ladies family decided because of our relationship she was a unfit mother and took her to court. We all took separate paths from then. Try heartbreak times too. So you see not all relationships are the same and their are issues like any other relationship. I hope you can all see its not about sex as a primary reason for a polyamory relationship. Sorry did not mean to high jack your post.

    • My point, exactly.

      So many think it’s about a lot of sex, far too many that practice “polyamory” are about a lot of unethical, irresponsible sex under the guise of ethical, responsible, sex-positive, rainbows and bunnies sex.

      Any relationship takes a lot of investment. Open & honest, indeed. Integrity, indeed.

      That’s what it’s about.

      • I very much agree any relationship can be tough at times a poly relationship is no different except multiplied. I always thought many see it as swinging lifestyle, I have no objections to those who are swingers but not the lifestyle I’m referring too.

      • Exactly. I feel the same way.

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