Everyone is doing poly wrong and needs to die in a fire

Why we all need to do a self-check for tolerance and acceptance

There is a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many of the poly communities I’ve visited, and it’s time I brought it into the light so we can all take a good, hard look at how we’re treating each other.

cat_weidLet’s start from the basic premise: those of us participating in online forums, posting opinions on blogs or Facebook and attending conferences with poly tracks are all either practicing or interested in practicing polyamory. Or non-monogamy. Or swinging. Or open marriage. Some of us are into BDSM; some of us are into science fiction; some of us are pagan. Some of us have unusual fetishes. Some of us are disabled. Some of us are white; some are African American; some are mixed race. Some of us are wildly creative and spend our lives making beautiful art, music or film and living in humble abodes. Some of us have well-paying, 9-to-5 jobs and enjoy a traditional-looking, middle- or upper-class lifestyle.

We all have opinions, some of them quite strong. And those opinions are not all the same.

But every one of us has something in common: an interest in polyamory. And because of that, we’re weird. We are not 100% mainstream. Even those of us who have traditional jobs, traditional homes and traditional hairstyles are alternative by virtue of the fact that we are interested in, are enjoying or are openly practicing some type of ethical non-monogamy.

So why are so many of us so vehement in our desire to demean, judge and exclude others?

You’re not really poly

It’s alarmingly common during any given poly discussion group or meeting for someone to come out with a definition of polyamory that condemns, criticizes or excludes some other type of practicing polyamorist. We hear, “you’re not really poly if you don’t all live together” or “you’re not really poly if you practice don’t ask/don’t tell” or “you’re not really poly if your husband isn’t also dating as many people as you are.”

To be fair, I understand why we do this. Since polyamory is an alternative relationship structure, most of us have worked very hard at defining what polyamory is for us. We try poly once and make a mess of it. We try again, and it works better, so we decide that what we did the first time was wrong. We try again, and it works better for us, so we decide that we need to advise everyone coming after us that the way we are doing it now is the right way to do polyamory, and every other way is wrong.

But please, I beg of you, let’s stop judging others so harshly, even after we’ve discovered a brand of polyamory that works for us. Before critiquing others based on your personal definitions of what poly is or isn’t, first perform a quick self-check: would you like it if someone told you you weren’t really poly? Would you want someone telling you that your marriage wasn’t real? Would you like for someone else to define what love or commitment means for you? So let’s not impose our definitions and experiences on others.

Everyone gets to choose her own label

Having the right to self-identify is empowering to the individual. It is neither appropriate nor helpful to try to take that right away from others. We let people choose their own labels for their gender identity and for their kink identity. We don’t argue if a man who has never had sex with another man chooses to identify himself as bisexual. We don’t argue if a person who appears female asks us to use the gendered pronoun “he” for address. We offer people the freedom of gender and relationship identity; let’s please extend that same courtesy to relationship orientation as well. whhha

As individuals, it is our job to find the right relationship structure that works for us. I often say that there are as many types of polyamory (and monogamy) as there are people involved in those relationships. Everyone practices monogamy a bit differently; no two relationships look exactly the same when you delve under the surface.

The same is true for polyamory, for non-monogamy, swinging and open relationships. While there are some commonalities to those definitions, every person or group defines his own polyamory in a slightly different way. We each find a brand of non-monogamy that works for us, and we customize it to our specific situation.

So let’s please stop spending our time looking at other people’s relationships and telling them that they aren’t “really” polyamorous. Let’s give people the courtesy of self-exploration and let’s empower each individual to self-label however she sees fit.

In the BDSM world, there is a philosophy that folks are encouraged to embrace. Since BDSM involves exposure to a plethora of fetishes and kinks that we may only not share but may actively dislike, folks are encouraged to be accepting. Even when exposed to a kink that incites disgust, we are encouraged to embrace the notion of “your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is OK.” Let’s please do that with polyamory as well. Let’s stop spending our time judging others and telling them they are doing poly wrong and simply agree to say:

Your polyamory is not my polyamory, but your polyamory is OK.

Two powerful tools

When someone is kind enough to share with you his poly situation, it is our job to listen, to ask questions and to offer support if asked for it. Labels are the beginning of a discussion and an invitation to ask more questions, not the be-all and end-all. So when someone says, “I’m polyamorous,” my favorite tool to whip out is:

Tool #1: “Cool! So what does that mean to you?”

I believe it’s not anyone’s job (including mine!) to judge and tell someone she is doing poly wrong. Criticism like that only serves to puff up the speaker with a sense of power and to disempower the person sharing his story. If you truly believe that someone you’re speaking with is doing something horribly wrong, a good way to offer an option without judging is, “My experience has been… ” and share your story. See? No judgment necessary.

Tool #2: “My experience has been… “

One caveat, since I know someone will ask: yes, I do have a personal belief about a “wrong” way to do polyamory based on the dictionary definition involving the “full knowledge and consent of all parties involved.” So if, for example, a person self-identifies as poly and has an additional partner that his wife is unaware of, I personally am more inclined to label that “cheating” rather than polyamory due to the fact that his wife doesn’t have knowledge and therefore can’t consent. However, my response is not “you’re not really poly” but rather, “In my experience, poly tends to work best when everyone involved is honest, open and consenting. Have you tried talking with your wife about that?” to open up a conversation rather than impose a judgment.

Share stories, not judgments

story-lolcatI’m a big believer that sharing stories makes us all stronger. Sharing experiences of love, hope and failure in both the poly and monogamous world help all of us to understand what we are going through better and to feel, if nothing else, that we are not alone in our struggles to understand ourselves and the lifestyles we have chosen. So I believe in the power of sharing stories and asking questions rather than offering judgments.

I’ve read a few assertions from intelligent poly folk of late that claim that anyone who defines poly or poly family as [fill in the blank] is wrong and needs to “die in a fire” because that doesn’t match the writer’s or speaker’s own experience.

I don’t know about you, but I dislike it when someone who isn’t in my shoes and who hasn’t lived my life tries to tell me what my poly experience should be. It brings to mind right-wing extremists who claim that they have the right to define what marriage is for everyone else. Or what “family” or “family values” are for everyone else.

If we don’t want others to define marriage or family for us, let’s not do that to each other. The person who gets to define your brand of polyamory is YOU. No one else. And the ONLY person for whom you get to define polyamory is you. Share your definition with your loves, your partners and anyone who asks for it, but please don’t impose it on others or judge others who have chosen to do poly a different way from you. Offer to listen; offer support; offer discussion,;offer your own anecdotes. But please do not offer judgments or critiques. We have the aforementioned right-wing extremists for that.

If you don’t like it when others judge your lifestyle, maybe you should stop judging theirs.

What is right for you?

If you are lucky enough to have found a brand of non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging or open relationships that works for you, GREAT! Many of us take months or years to figure out what we need in order to be happy and healthy in our relationships. And please do share that with others when asked: many of us are looking for models, ideas and roadmaps that might work for us.

So please, share rather than critique. Listen rather than judge. And communicate your definition as an option rather than imposing it as a rule.

And as a final word, absolutely no person or concept should “die in a fire” or “burn in hell.” Let’s just say “My experience has been… “

PW 383: Poly for Valentine’s Day

valentines day lolcatHow do you celebrate Valentine’s Day as a “secondary”?

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1:00 Announcements and Host Chat

13:45 Topic: Poly for Valentine’s Day

A from New Orleans wrote in to ask about how to celebrate this sexy and very couples-oriented holiday when you are in a poly relationship. Who gets the chocolate and flowers and who gets the shaft? How does a “secondary” celebrate this sexy holiday without feeling crappy!

Check out the solo poly blog

Check out these previous Poly for the Holidays segments; the same rules apply to sexy holidays as to family holidays:

Also, keep these basic guidelines in place:

  • Ask you partners for what they want: what makes a great Valentine’s Day for you? OK? Bare minimum?
  • Say what you want.
  • Coordinate with your partners to make sure everyone gets pretty close to what he/she wants.

21:30 Feedback

  • J wrote in that Episode 379 Owning your own shit was a good refresher course
  • Doug wrote in to say that episode 380 reminded him that all relationships—including with friends and exes, require nurturing and attention

24:20 Happy Poly Moment

J wrote in to share a great HPM of a partner offering to host a metamour in order to give J time alone!

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 381: Poly-rope-a-palooza with Lee Harrington

LeeHarringtonbyDarrelVictorLynn11-150x150How exactly do polyamory and rope play intersect?

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1:00 Announcements and HostChat

  • Kinkfest UK will be in Birmingham July 26-27 with workshops, demos, discussions, performances and more! IndieGoGo campaign here
  • Want to help out a friend of Poly Weekly who is collecting survey responses on computer mediated communication? If you’re 18 or older and have 30 minutes, you can help out by taking this survey. Thanks!

4:45 Interview: Lee Harrington on the intersection of poly and rope

s-020-Cover2What do polyamory and rope play have in common? Whether you’re kinky or not, Lee Harrington brings some excellent insights as to how rope play can influence sensuality and communication and help us to be our authentic selves.

Lee’s Links:

32:15 Minx at Winter Wickedness

Minx will be teaching two sessions at Winter Wickedness February 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio! Classes will include Kicking Poly Drama on Its Ass and Eight Things I Wish I’d Known about Poly (Before I Tried and Fucked It Up). Both are new classes and hopefully will fit into the kink venue!

37:00 Happy Poly Moment

Angel shares a fabulous poly moment. Angel’s metamour organized a skate night with the extended poly family for a wonderful evening of Family of Choice fun!

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 380: Advice from your secondary

42-lolcat-funny-images-of-cats-with-toy-roboA few things your secondary wants you to know

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1:00 Announcements and HostChat

Want better poly matches on OKCupid? Be sure to answer these poly-indicative questions!

4:30 Topic: Five things your poly secondary wants you to know

Blogger Ginger wrote up a short but sweet post on five things your secondary wants you to know: (paraphrased by Minx)

  • The time we spent together is limited, so please value it like we do
  • We sometimes need extra reassurance; this is normal
  • You still need to be reliable
  • It’s important that your primary partner be comfortable with us
  • The fact that we love and value you keeps us going

Listener GreedyPaul called in to ask what changed in terms of metamour relations between Minx’s last long-term poly relationship and this one? What did L do to welcome me into the relationship and/or how had I changed?

Amanda wrote in to share a story of metamour relations: while she’d always believed that it was the new partner’s job to reach out to her, she came to understand how scary that can be for a new partner, so she chose to step up and reach out, with wonderful results!

20:45 Feedback

E wrote in to thank us for covering Asperger’s and poly and how very valuable the clear and explicit communication required in poly is to those with Aspy’s.

23:30 Happy Poly Moment

Heath shared a professional happy poly moment about bringing up relationship structure inclusiveness for intake at his college counseling center in the Kansas City area. AND if you have examples of the language you use in your paperwork for assessing relationship orientation, email him at heath12@ku.edu Thanks!

26:00 Thanks!

Thanks to Steven, Kevin, Elizabeth, Ewen, Violet and Sturley for their generous donations this week!

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 379: Owning your own shit

ShitHappensWhat does it mean to “own your own emotional shit”?

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1:00 HostChat

Minx and LustyGuy talk briefly about the holidays with their new blended family

2:30 Topic: Owning your own shit

Guillaume wrote in to ask what “owning your own shit/emotions/baggage” means exactly and for specific examples.

  • Owning your emotions involves taking personal responsibility for understanding, diagnosing and stating your emotions
  • It also requires recognizing that your emotions are primarily created within you rather than caused by someone else (except in cases of abuse)
  • Owning your own emotions is empowering and usually very much appreciated by your partners. Once you can name an emotion, you can do something about it.
  • However you feel is OK, including negative emotions such as pettiness, jealousy, envy, resentment and anger. Avoid “shoulds” and just accept how you feel.
  • Also, it’s important to let others own their own emotions. The proper response to a friend or partner owning an emotional response is, “Good for you for knowing that” and or “thank you.” Don’t argue, agree or pile on. At most, disagree by saying, “You are the expert on you. However, I haven’t seen in you that negative emotion you just described.”

17:15 Happy Poly Moment

We are blessed with two happy poly moments this week!

  1. K wrote in to share her gratitude that, when her partner and that partner’s kids ended up moving into her and her husband’s home, that everyone was supportive, happy and shared very nicely.
  2. Leelee shared a story of one metamour offering to go out of his way so she could see another lover. Very sweet!

21:00 Feedback

Steve offered feedback on episode 376 and gave us lots of food for thought!

  • How to address listener questions Minx’s philosophy on being a podcast host and her goals of helping listeners while providing useful content to others
  • Avoiding judgment LustyGuy chimes in and vehemently disagrees with Steve’s assessment, saying that we have no right to judge if someone else is “really” poly. Also he posits we should avoid making assumptions and judgments about the health of other people’s relationships, especially based on minimal information.
  • 31:45 When to speak up Minx and LustyGuy address when you SHOULD say something about a good friend’s relationship—if you are a very good friend and really fear a friend is on an unhealthy path, you should absolutely express your concerns. ONCE. And then (barring extreme situations such as abuse), stand by them no matter where the path leads them.

34:45 Thanks!

Thanks to Steve, our newest Poly Weekly Playmate!

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 378: Poly dating on OKCupid

online-dating-lolcatTips for poly dating on OKCupid

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3:00 Topic: Poly dating on OKCupid

Q wrote in to ask if it was unrealistic to hope for a polifidelitous triad with two bisexual guys and to seek that on OKCupid.

  • It’s great to have an idea of what you want, but it shouldn’t impair your openness to great folks who might not fit into that exact box.
  • Remember that what’s most important in love and emotional intimacy is how you respond to the person and whether he meets your emotional needs, stated or unstated.
  • Rather than imagining what a future mate will look like, think instead about how you want to feel in a relationship. Do you want to feel like a valued partner, an adored princess, a wise leader, a sex toy, a best friend?

19:00 Feedback

R asks for advice about her poly situation. What do you do when your play partner takes on a new, young partner (your new metamour) who is prone to jealous fits and tantrums whenever you have a play date with him? My advice:

  1. You can choose to leave.
  2. You can open up communications with her (the new metamour) in a friendly, non-confrontational manner.
  3. You can bring it up with him—as the point of the vee, keeping the communication going between you and the new metamour is technically his responsibility.

27:45 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 376: When to bow out

 

The people in the relationship are the only ones who decide when it ends

The people in the relationship are the only ones who decide when it ends

Should you leave a relationship because others tell you to?

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1:30 Topic: When to bow out

K has been in a relationship for over two years for over 40 hours a week and feel completely committed. His wife refuses to see or communicate with K, and that wife has been diagnosed with stage three terminal cancer. Should K bow out of this relationship she’s put so much into?

Our response:

  • Resist the urge to value the original couple more highly than subsequent relationships. When a partner or metamour faces hard times, support rather than absence is generally a compassionate response.
  •  Rather than taking advice from others, ask the people involved what they want. Ask him and her what they want. No one else’s opinion matters.
  • Say what you want. You are in a valid relationship and have a voice.
  • Remember that you do also always have the power to leave if the situation becomes untenable or unhealthy for you.

10:45 Happy Poly Moment

K shares a fabulous happy poly moment of spending casual, pizza-and-pajamas time with a metamour and that metamour’s wife.

13:00 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 375: Minx’s big announcement

 

Our handfasting ceremony journal and ribbons

Our handfasting ceremony journal and ribbons

Minx and LustyGuy share a personal announcement

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1:00 Host chat

Welcome our sponsor, GetSTDTested. Use code polyweekly to save 10% at checkout!

4:30 Topic: Minx’s big announcement

Minx, LustyGuy and L are headed to Costa Rica for their commitment ceremony, with L officiating. Minx and LustyGuy share stories of how it came about and some of the mononormative pitfalls they ran across.

22:45 Happy Poly Moment

Kev shares stories of poly meetup groups in Sweden for fikas as well as a poly pub crawl, something we should implement in Seattle! Swedish Poly Organization

26:30 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 374: Four mistakes couples make when opening up

 

Marcia Baczynski and Minx at CatalystCon West 2013

Marcia Baczynski and Minx at CatalystCon West 2013

How to avoid the classic mistakes couples make when trying nonmonogamy

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1:00 Host chat

Nothing to see here; move along!

2:00 Interview: Four mistakes couples make when opening up with Marcia Baczynski

Thanks to Marcia for sharing with us these four tips! Where to find Marcia:

And here we go! The classic mistakes:

  1. Not knowing what you want. Poly may mean different things to different folks. Take the time to talk about what you want and direct the picture in your head; this also means you develop terminology for future discussions. It’s also useful to take stock of your current relationship.
  2. Going too fast. Many couples move way too fast, and a few move too slowly. Find your comfortable pace. This isn’t about restrictions; it’s about taking the time to enjoy experience, as with any romance. Enjoy the journey! Take the time to find your comfort zone rather than diving in headfirst.
  3. Avoiding jealousy. Don’t ignore the truth of negative emotions because you think it makes you a bad poly person. That only leads to uncomfortable situations. No one is too “good” to be jealous. Just admit and deal with your jealousy.
  4. Trying to be the perfect poly person. Feeling that you have to be perfect either for your partner or to prove that poly was a good choice for you are both self-destructive beliefs to hold. Nothing beats admitting your emotions. Practice some tough love on yourself! No one was perfect at poly the first (or even the last) time they tried it. Be willing to be vulnerable.

35:20 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 373: Sex positive blowout at CatalystCon West

Cunning Minx, Dr. Jocelyn Elders, Lynn Comella at #ccon

Cunning Minx, Dr. Jocelyn Elders, Lynn Comella at #ccon

What is going on in the sex positive world?

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1:00 Host chat

Welcome to our new affiliate sponsor, GetSTDTested.com Use code “polyweekly” at checkout for a discount! Or just click on the banner in the right sidebar. :-)

5:00 Topic: Sex positive mojo at CatalystCon West

 28:15 Feedback

  • Jason in Wisconsin shares how he and his wife came to get over the poly hump
  • Herbalwise comments on the legalities of marriage from episode 354
  • Vir asks about how to cope when a partner passes away

 36:30 Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

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