There’s a tendency to think of polyamory as something a few unusual people do. I’ve heard monogamous folk claim that they just couldn’t do it, as though being polyamorous was somehow completely different from the life they lead, but it occurs to me that actually that’s not really true at all.
As I write this I am at home alone. My husband is away for the weekend. Not for a romantic getaway with his girlfriend (although he does that too sometimes) but to pursue one of his hobbies. Not one that I want to pursue with him in this case, so off he’s gone without me.
You might think that I would be taking advantage of the space to have a night of kinky abandon with my Boy but in fact he’s out tonight also. No, still not a sexy outing, he’s merely out socialising with friends.
I’m perfectly happy with this situation (in fact it gives me a chance to do a bit of blogging) but it has led me to thinking about why I feel so happy.
This evening isn’t a surprise to me. Plans have been made and discussed. I know that both of them checked that I was happy with their being away this evening and I appreciate that care for my feelings. Neither of them have left me feeling that they don’t wish for my company, or that they are glad to get away from me. On the contrary I am confident that they both love me and will come home to me full of affection.
Now, neither of them are out with other partners, so you might claim that isn’t really polyamorous at all – and that’s my point. This is perfectly normal, everyday life; the people I love are simply somewhere else having fun. Yet I recognise my happiness when I kiss them goodbye and when I think of them while they are away as the same feelings that allowed me to be lucky enough to love both of them in the first place.
The result is that I’m happily alone on a Friday night loving that the people I love are out having a good time. Really, that’s all that polyamory is. It’s that simple.
Earlier this week I was scanning a news site when I saw the headline “Tom Daley in relationship with man”. I did a double take.
I know who Tom Daley is. He’s a lovely young lad who was one of our Olympic swimming heroes, but I couldn’t understand what the story was.
My brain tried again. Perhaps the ‘man’ was much older, some sort of sexual predator, that seemed a vaguely topical possibility, but the headline surely would have been clearer? Confused, I clicked on the link and read the story in question.
It turned out Tom Daley has posted a you tube video saying (and I paraphrase) “I have a boyfriend and I’m very happy”. That’s a story? Really? A young man has a happy relationship and that’s news? Would it be news if I said “I have a boyfriend and I’m very happy”?
Well actually of course, in some circles it would. Indeed, only the next day I found myself in conversation with someone (who knew I had a husband) saying pretty much exactly that.
In the circumstances it was the only thing to say. Anyone who has seen me with Mat can tell our relationship is a close one and rather than feel like the subject of speculation and, most likely, misunderstanding I wanted to be honest. I could have avoided explaining but such an evasion would have left exactly the sort of misunderstanding I wanted to avoid.
I was lucky, the news was received as I would have hoped with a level of humour and acceptance that allows me the freedom to be myself. It’s a pleasant relief that Tom Daley’s story appears to have been received likewise.
And that is a good feeling. So while relationship revelations shouldn’t have to be news, sometimes they really are.
I’ve been watching with interest the debate on ‘equal marriage’.
The discussion seems to have largely swung between rather hysterical arguments against, and the pro-camp calling everyone who disagrees with them a bigot. I can’t help but feel that the issue is largely a result of the blurring in this country of the line between religious marriage (whose definition belongs surely to the religion in question) and legal marriage which is sanctioned by the state and imposes legal responsibilities on the people involved.
The irony to me is that in many cases marriage imposes a cost on the parties involved because it enforces a financial dependence that means that marriage is no longer an economically sensible thing to do. Long gone are the days of the ‘married man’s tax allowance’! However, generously, the government is prepared to give those same disadvantages if you are civilly partnered or even just living together ‘as if you are married’!
Yet despite that, many people still choose to be married (myself included) and it is good to think that people will be able to marry whoever they please regardless of gender.
Still, as part of the debate, one of the against arguments proposed was that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy. The argument being that this redefinition would lead to others, and so on…
For a start, this isn’t the first change to the laws on marriage and it would be unreasonable to think it will be the last. But more importantly, if it did lead to polygamy, would that be such a bad thing? Would multiple, committed, consensual relationships (all mutually paying taxes) really be a bad thing?
Now that really would be equal marriage.
This is one of those times when I came across a post and thought “yes, that!”. This one is about what marriage means when you are polyamorous.
Marriage has been on my mind at the moment as Perrin and I recently celebrated another wedding anniversary.
When he and I got married we were expecting to be monogamous, so marriage was an uncomplicated commitment. However one of the advantages of having a civil wedding was that we had to choose our own vows. This meant we discussed whether we wanted sexual fidelity to be one of them. In the end we didn’t promise it, because the vows we chose expressed our desire to love and support each other in far less specific terms.
Having discussed and renegotiated, as all married couples do on many subjects (even if not always sexual ones), we now find ourselves polyamorous. However my love for Perrin and my commitment to our relationship remain. He is someone I want to be a part of my life until I am old and grey (a day sadly coming rapidly ever closer).
However this doesn’t necessarily preclude me being committed to someone else as well. While legal marriage is clearly not an option, bigamy being ever so slightly illegal in this country, marriage is about more than a legal status. It is about standing up to declare your feelings, promising commitment, about believing in forever. Promises made together do not need legal sanctity to be meaningful. I still remember the moment I realised I felt committed to Perrin and it was a moment well in advance of our wedding day.
Our recent wedding anniversary was very special in many ways. Over a long weekend Perrin and I shared many wonderful moments together, just the two of us, but our anniversary dinner was a different affair. Perrin, Mat and I shared a meal together; we toasted the anniversary, together, as a poly family of which our marriage is a part.
This is my life; married, polyamorous and very, very, happy.
As a child this time of year the conversation in the playground was always ‘what are you giving up for Lent?’. I went to a Roman Catholic school and so everybody invariably had an answer, usually the predictable ‘chocolate’ or ‘fighting with my siblings’.
This year I’m looking at it slightly differently. I know some polyamorists are also christian but they seem always to describe themselves as practicing a ‘liberal christianity’ in the U.S. For them, I think it’s wonderful that their faith can be supported in a community which allows them the freedom to be who they are.
I on the other hand, find myself feeling utterly alone. The church of my childhood is long gone and I no longer fit the definition of a ‘good Catholic girl’ in anyone’s book. My relationship choices do not fit with my official religion’s view of morality and I will not give them up nor can I see my love as sinful.
I cannot believe God made me to be unhappy but I know of nowhere I can share such faith as I do have without pretence.
To be honest, my issues with the Roman Catholic church run much deeper than merely my relationship choices and far from the church catching up with me, it is actively moving further away in a direction I find increasingly hard to defend or even accept.
I miss the mass though, the candles, the incense, the ritual, the beautiful words, the sense of sharing*, all so precious to me and now so distant.
The hardest part of this though is that I am a ‘cradle Catholic’ brought up that way by parents who still have faith and because of their faith I cannot explain my choices fully without hurting them badly. Still I am giving up Catholicism for Lent, with much sadness.
*and the kink of course. I mean, Catholicism is a religion designed for kinky people and there’s a whole post right there…
I saw the interview about polyamory on This Morning yesterday and felt fairly disquieted. Certainly the presenters seemed sympathetic enough even if obviously bemused. The ‘relationship expert’ on the other hand was frankly dismissive and disapproving.
She was dismissive partly because the people concerned were all in their twenties, unmarried and childless. One felt she was saying very much “You’ll grow out of this and then regret it”. Perhaps they will. On the other hand, even if they later decide to ‘settle down’ into a monogamous marriage why should that mean that the choices they are making are wrong for them now?
Perrin and I have come at this from the other direction. Starting with the monogamous marriage and then opening out to include others in our lives. I don’t feel that monogamy has failed us, I was happily monogamous for a long time. Why then should polyamory be a failure even if it is not permanent? Why, too, assume that it will fail simply because it fails for some people? A significant percentage of marriages fail, yet no one (hopefully) says to a bride “it’ll end in tears”.
Indeed the lady in question’s attitude seemed to be largely ‘you’re going to get your comeuppance when you get hurt’. Certainly they will get hurt. Every relationship carries with it a certain amount of pain; engaging in more than one at once inevitably increases the potential of getting hurt. But then it increases the potential for joy too, it provides additional support to get one through difficulties and is incredibly rewarding.
I’m sure it’s not for everyone but then there are people who choose to live celibate lives and that’s not for everyone either. It would be lovely if everyone was free to choose the relationships which they desired for themselves without censure.
I found this interview a sad reminder of how many people would fail to understand our own choices, and some of those are people I really don’t want to hurt. Nevertheless it will go some way to raising the issue in some people’s minds, letting them start to question the model of relationships and perhaps one day leading to a little more understanding.
That can only be a good thing.
All credit too to the three brave ladies who kept their cool and put their points across calmly on national television. I’m suitably impressed.
It’s something I should be used to, being away from my boy; but sometimes, just sometimes, it seems to bite more than others.
I’d like to be holding his hand, introducing him to people. Letting them see how much he means to me. Even when that is not possible, I’d like to include him in my conversation.
That is currently impossible, in so many circumstances.
The discussion seems to become distant. I become quiet. To each sentence I want to respond “Mat says…”, or “My boyfriend and I…”, or some other reference to someone who may be far away, but is so often in my thoughts. Instead those unsayable sentences echo around my head, and I nurse those thoughts and feelings inside myself.
It certainly makes me appreciate those people with whom I can share. The people who can accept my polyamorous side. Who can understand that Mat and Perrin are both dear to me, and share my life in their own ways. The people who won’t judge me harshly for loving more than once, and sharing honestly.
One day, I may find a way to share that more widely. For now though, it remains largely a secret. Just between you and I.