Short Hiatus

Hey folks.

I’m sorry for disappearing recently.

A few weeks ago, my sister was at the location of an terrorist attack in Tel-Aviv (she’s okay). A few days later came the attack on Pulse in Orlando. And my mental health crashed. I’m largely recovered now, but it was a rough couple weeks

Normally what I’d do right now is scramble to get a bunch of blog posts together and catch up on my posting. This time I’m doing something different. I’m going to take the next week or so to come up with a list of blog topics for July and (again) build up a buffer. Depending on my time and sanity levels, I may also take the chance to do some much-needed redesign work on the website. Look for posting to resume July 3rd.

In the meantime, if you haven’t see it yet, enjoy EnchantTV’s new poly drama:

Financial Entwinement

Before we get deep into poly finances, I want to take a minute to discuss entwinement and specifically financial entwinement.

Polyamorous relationships exist on at least three spectrums: emotional, sexual, and entwinement.

Emotional: ranging from affection to love
Sexual: ranging from “none” to…well, whatever you can imagine
Entwinement: ranging from keeping separate lives to joint everything (mortgage, kids, bank account, will…)

Entwinement is tying your life to some else’s. We twine our lives together, or become entwined, when we move in together, budget together, commit to supporting each other emotionally/socially/financially, and in many other ways. Everything from sharing meals regularly to having a family Netflix account can be a form of entwinement.

You can be barely entwined with someone and still love them. You can love them and not have sex. You can be fully entwined, have only occasional sex, and feel strong affection.

The monogamous ideal is the extreme of all three spectrums: fully entwined, deeply in love and all the sex you’d ever want, with one other person. Some poly folk want the same thing with multiple people. This trifecta gets more challenging to both find and keep functioning the more people you add, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or doesn’t happen.

Other people prefer relationships to develop naturally into the level of emotional, sexual and entwinement that suits the people involved.

Okay, so that’s entwinement and how it fits in with polyamory. Couples and groups who live together are pretty high on the entwinement scale. So are people raising children together whether or not they live together. Most solo poly folk I’ve spoken with prefer to keep their relationships low entwinement, but that’s not a universal.

financial entwinement is entwinement that specifically involves money:

  • joint bank accounts
  • shared budget
  • shared bills
  • joint lease or mortgage
  • shared retirement plan
  • shared financial assets
  • etc

For some poly folk, moving in together means complete financial entwinement. All income and all bills go into a family pot and (at least in theory) are handled jointly. How this works in the real world varies. For other poly folk, moving in together can be more like being roommates-with-benefits. Everyone has their share of the rent and utilities, buys their own food, and has their own individual expenses. Of course, there’s every option in between.

You can also have entwined finances when you don’t live together. You can budget together, share bank accounts, pitch in to pay for major expenses and more, from across town or across the world.

Throughout this series, we’ll be looking at a different options for how poly folk can manage their finance. Some will be pretty high entwinement options, others will be low entwinement options, with more options in the middle. Always go with what works for your and your poly partners.

Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: Avoid the Drama Triangle

Standard poly advice: The drama triangle is bad.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the drama triangle goes like this:

Ashely, Brenda and Charlene are part of the same polycule. Charlene does something that upsets Brenda.

Brenda to Ashley: Charlene did x and I’m so upset!
Ashley to Charlene: Brenda is really upset because you did xy. I think that was inappropriate and…
Charlene to Ashley: WTf! I didn’t to y!
Charlene to Brenda: Why did you tell Ashley I did y! I didn’t do y and now Ashley is mad at me because of something you said!
Brenda to Ashley: Why did you Charlene I’m upset about y? Charlene did x. Why do you have to go causing trouble?

And round and round it goes.

This is an extreme example. The drama triangle may not seem very drama-filled at first. And it is rarely intentional. Brenda wanted a shoulder to cry on, she didn’t want Ashley to fix things. Ashley wasn’t trying to make problems, she was trying to help. If miscommunication hadn’t happened, Ashley may have helped, right?

Maybe in the short term. In the long term, the drama triangle undermines honest communication. It also sets up an unhealthy dynamic of Ashley ’rescuing’ Brenda from Charlene. Sooner or later the whole polycule blows up.

Which is why standard poly advice is, just don’t fucking do this.

Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: When Mental Illness prevents one of your partners from communicating, it is sometimes okay to step in.

Last night, my partner Michael hit a mental infinite loop. Something C did upset him, and he needed time to process. But he and C has plans to spend time together. Ever see a computer given circular directions that it cannot complete? That’s what Michael’s brain did.

Need time before I talk with C about this.
Supposed to spend time with C tonight.
If I tell C I need space, I will be cancelling our date night.
I cannot cancel our date night without telling her why.
Need time before I talk with C about this.

Eventually, he managed to break the loop and talk with C. If he hadn’t, he would have stood her up because his brain broke.

If he hadn’t broken out, there was a simple solution. I could step in and let C know what is going on. In fact, when Michael hit that mental loop, I tagged C on Skype and had just started explaining when he managed to break out of it. As soon as I realized he’d broken out of the loop and was talking with C, I stepped back and let them hash it out.

I was telling C about Michael needing to cancel their date because he was upset with her. The drama potential in that just kind of screams at you, doesn’t it?

But when Michael literally can’t tell C what’s going on? Better C hears from me “Michael needs to reschedule your date night (additional details as necessary).” Going silent and leaving someone in the dark is (almost) always the worse option.

As a routine thing the drama triangle is a recipe for disaster. But sometimes it is that dreaded lesser of two evils. Use it only when necessary and cut the cycle as soon as possible.

As a side note, I just want to say that C is seriously awesome for putting up with both of our shit.

Telling a Date You Are Polyamorous

One of the major hassles of being poly is finding other poly folk to date. Some of us only date through local poly groups or online, where we can be sure our date is poly friendly. Some of us can be more comfortable diving into the local dating pool. But when you are dating someone you don’t already know is poly, or poly friendly, sooner or later you’re telling a date you are polyamorous and seeing how they react.

Bringing It Up Immediately

Ideally, honesty and respect require telling a potential date immediately. If they ask you:

Them: Hey, would you like to go out for dinner tomorrow?
You: Sure, I’d love to go out with you. Um…I should let you know, I’m polyamorous, I don’t do exclusive relationships.

They’ll either be cool with that or not. I suggest always adding some explanation of what polyamorous means. At this point, you don’t want to get bogged down in long explanations.

  • I don’t do exclusive relationships.
  • I have an SO, and we have an open relationship.
  • I’m dating two other people.
  • etc.

What you don’t want is to have them asking “Polyamorous, what’s that?” You can explain the details over dinner.

If you ask them, same deal.

You: Hey, would you like to go out for dinner tomorrow?
Them: Sure I’d love to go out with you.
You: Great! I should let you know, I’m polyamorous, I don’t do exclusive relationships.

Bringing It Up on the Date

Sometimes, you don’t want to or can’t say something immediately. Maybe you are still in the closet and they asked you at a company party. Or somewhere else in public. In that case, bring it up on the first date.

You: While we’re getting to know each other, I should tell you that I’m polyamorous. I’m (currently in/currently not in) other relationships, but I believe in being able to have multiple relationships and won’t be exclusive.

Waiting Until You Feel Safe

Some people live in areas where just up and saying “I’m poly” is not a good idea. If this is you, wait until you feel safe saying something, but do make sure you aren’t starting the relationship with dishonesty.

You: So we’re clear, I’m not ready to have an exclusive relationship after one date.

You: I like you, and I’d like to see you again, but I’m not ready to be in a committed relationship right now. Are you cool with that?*

When you are ready to say something, start with what you said on the first day: You know how I said that I wasn’t ready to be exclusive? Well, I need to tell you that I actually don’t do exclusive relationships. I’m polyamorous.

*I know, I know. But to monogamous folks “commitment” means exclusivity. Sometimes you gotta speak the other person’s language.

This post is part of the Polyamory Etiquette blog series.

Want more great articles? Support Polyamory on Purpose on Patreon.

Polyamory Finances Blog Series

Thanks to my awesome Patrons, Polyamory on Purpose will now be posting three Tuesdays a month. So today we’re starting a new blog series: polyamory finances.

This blog series will be mostly for poly folk living in entwined couples and entwined groups. Most solo and single poly folk will generally find their finances no different from any other single person. For the RAs, whether or not this blog series will be helpful will depend on your specific relationships and whether or not you are financially entwined with anyone.

Topics will include: multi-partner budgeting, budgeting for dates, emergency funds, houses pouse salaries, retirement planning, and more.

Polyamory Finances Posts

What’s Your GOTH Plan?
Laws Impacting Our Finances

Your Polycule Isn’t Your Relationship Counselor

There is a reason marriage counseling is a thing. Sometimes you and your partner(s) need help understanding each other and working through problems. Mental illness can increase the (actual or perceived) lack of understanding as well as clashes of personality and/or communications styles.

Many people will turn to friends or family to help them sort through these things. I’ve ended up helping out this way fairly often, and I call it being a translator. It’s (usually) less sorting out problems and more
Me:What X is saying is 123. Is that something you can work with them on, Y?
Y: Why didn’t X just SAY that?!
X: I did, but you never listen!
Me: And this is why you need a translator. Getting back to the point, Y, can you work with X on this?

In poly relationships, it can be tempting to go to another member of your polycule to help you and one of your partners sort out these kinds of things. After all, if someone is going to help you, it needs to be someone you both trust, who you are comfortable talking with about very personal and private issues, and aren’t afraid to say potentially embarrassing things in front of. If you are trying come up with someone who both of you will be comfortable talking with, a member of your polycule will probably fit the bill better than most.

Bluntly: don’t do this to your poly partners. If they volunteer to step in, well…that’s on them. But don’t put it one them. In most cases, and especially when dealing with the irrationalities of mental illness, having a member of your polycule try to mediate is juggling a live bomb.

Assuming it is a situation where neither of you are in the wrong and really do just need a translator, the two of you in the disagreement may still feel that your loved one who is trying to mediate is, in fact, being biased or taking the said of one person over the other.

If it’s a situation where one of you is in the wrong, then your loved one actually needs to take sides on this issue, or it won’t get resolved. Especially when mental illness involved, this can lead to feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and a great deal more.

Finally, your loved one may not feel able to speak their mind freely because they don’t want to be perceived as taking sides or choosing one of you over the other.

It’s a shitty situation to stick someone you love in, and may make the whole mess worse instead of better. Just don’t do it. If you can’t afford a relationship counselor, consider reaching out to a community leader, peer counseling group, respected elder, or hell, this is one place where the anonymity of online can seriously work for you. Sometimes going on a forum together and saying, “Help, we’re having problems, is anyone willing to be a sounding board/suggest solutions,” can help.

This post is (sort of) part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

Help Support Polyamory on Purpose.

Polyamory Etiquette: Informal Invitations

Last week we looked as best practices for addressing formal invitations to poly folk. This week we’re going to take a look at informal invitations.

There are lots of types of informal invites. Everything from calling someone up “Hey, you want to come over?” to sending an email to inviting someone to an event on Facebook. The big challenge of informal invitations is they tend to be vague. “Would you guys like to join us for dinner tonight?” is a very friendly invite, but it isn’t exactly specific.

For informal invites, we’re going to break this down into direct and indirect invitations.

Direct Invitations

A direct invitation is anytime you are saying to someone directly “I want you to join us.” This includes phone calls, emails, letters, and in-person invites. The most important thing to do with a direct invite is to make it clear who you are inviting.

Instead of “you guys” you can use:

  • “you and your household”
  • “you and your partners”
  • “you and [SO] and your kids”
  • “you”
  • “you three”

Which one you use will depend on who you are inviting. “You and your partners” is the most open-ended–you may not know all your friend’s partners or even how many partners they have. “You and your household” is very clearly “everyone who lives with you”. “You and [so]” is the best way if you want to define exactly who is invited. You can invite just the person you are speaking with and one other person, or “You and [so] and [so] and [so]” etc. But you are naming the specific people you want to come.

I suggest avoiding “family.” At first is sounds specific, but different people have different ideas of family. Are you inviting the nuclear family that lives together? Everyone that they consider part of their family whether they live together or not? Some other configuration? Avoid this.

Indirect Invitations

Indirect invitations are things like inviting someone to a Facebook event or saying to a group of people “Please join me/us for…” You can’t be very specific here because you aren’t talking to just one person.

In this case, you can add invitation details to the event description. Anything from “and bring all your friends!” to “children welcome” to “this is a private event–please don’t bring anyone with you unless they were specifically invited.” All of the phrasing from direct invitations can work here too: “you and your household are invited.”

This post is part of the Polyamory Etiquette blog series.

Want more great articles? Support Polyamory on Purpose on Patreon.

Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: You Need Talk about Problems

Standard Poly Advice:
You need to talk about problems

I have no objection to this very important advice. The problem comes in when people hear this advice as meaning “You need to talk about problems RIGHT AWAY.” Someone in the middle of a mental health crisis is probably going to be behaving or speaking in ways that are upsetting, that cause problems, and that people are going to want to address. This is like having a discussion about the damage caused by a fire, while the fire is still burning.

Yes, you need to see what damage the fire does and figure out how to fix it. Or even if it can be fixed. But for god sakes let the firefighters put the fire out first. Let the fire marshall take a walk through and certify that it’s safe to enter the building. Then you can check the damage and worry about repairs.

Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill:
You need to talk about problems when everyone is ready.

This actually isn’t just a mental illness thing, but it is even more important when mental illness is involved. Sometimes we need to say “I can’t talk about this right now. I’m not thinking clearly, and any conversation we have now isn’t going to be productive.”

Of course, when mental illness or strong emotions are involved, that thought is more likely to be expressed as “I can’t deal with this right now!”

It’s okay to come back ad talk later. Really. It is. If you need to, pick a day each month to have your “later” discussions, make a note each time someone needs to say “Not now.” and when that day comes, sit down with the notes and discuss them.

Alternatively, if something has upset you and you need to say something now, but your partner can’t listen, try writing. Write an email and wait to send it. Or write a note, fold it in up and pin it to the refrigerator. “When you are ready, here’s what I need you to hear.”

But What if They are Never “Ready”

Sometimes you can wait weeks, or even months, for your partner to be ready to discuss something and they never are. Two things usually cause this. First, they may have so much other shit they are dealing with that they literally don’t have the spoons. Second, they might be playing you.

If your partner is constantly battling suicidal thoughts and you want to talk about how they never do their share of the dishes, stop. Is it fair that you are doing most of the dishes? No. But they are literally fighting for their life and asking them to take energy away from that battle to hash out a schedule for the dishes isn’t fair to them either.

Being in a relationship with someone who is severally mentally ill (or physically ill, or sometimes just dealing with life shitting on them) means prioritizing. Yes, it is annoying as fuck that you are doing all the dishes. But who does the dishes is not as important as keeping everyone alive and healthy. Before you can fix the dishes problem, your partner needs to heal. That, as I have said elsewhere, takes time.

You have three workable options.

1)Accept that your partner simply isn’t able to do as much as you are and deal with it as best you can.

2) Try to find another approach–“Hey, I know you can’t do the dishes. Can you put them away after I wash them?” “Okay, I don’t want to push you when you’re already struggling, but I can’t do all this on my own. How about you tell me what you can do, and I’ll do the stuff you can’t?”

3) Decide that being in a relationship with this person is more than you can deal with and leave.

The other reason someone may never be ready to discuss something is they are playing you. The shitty part about this is you can never know for sure are they just putting you on or are they really not able to deal with whatever it is.

Try looking at how they are handling whatever is keeping them from being able to discuss it. Are they trying to get help? Are they working on getting better? If you bring up dishes do they say “I can’t talk about this,” but a few days later try to do a few dishes to help out? Then they are trying, they are making the effort, go back up a few paragraphs and work from there.

If they keep saying that this needs to change or that needs to change but not making any effort to change it. If they don’t do anything towards getting help or healing. If they not only aren’t able to talk about it but don’t seem to care that something is upsetting you… they are probably playing you.

Again you have some choices, but only two I think are workable.

1) Accept that whatever it is is something they are not willing/able to discuss or try to address, and deal with it as best you can.

2) Walk away.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

Help Support Polyamory on Purpose.

Formal Invitations for Poly Folk

The nice thing about formal invitations is you are expected to list everyone who is invited. If someone’s name isn’t on there, they aren’t invited. This solves a lot of this “who is included?” of informal invitations.

This post generally assumes you are issuing an invite to people who are out about being poly. If your guests are in the closet, respect that and address their invites to match the way they publicly present themselves.

So let’s look at some of the problems that do come up with formal invites.

How Do You Address an Invite to a Triad, Quad, etc?

If you can fit it on the paper, you could list everyone on one invite. Or you can send separate invites to each person. If you are paying to have the invites professionally printed that ups the cost, so take finances into consideration too.

I Don’t Know Everyone’s Names!

You want to invite your poly cousin to your wedding. You know they are living with tow other people, but you don’t know the names of their poly partners. The first choice would be to call up and ask. If for some reason this isn’t an option, you can do a variation on the old +1. [Name]+1 is traditionally used for single people to tell them they can bring a guest. But there is no reason you can’t address the invite to [Cousin]+2, so they know both their partners are welcome.

I Don’t Know How Big Their Family Is!

Poly families can be confusing. So you love your sister, you want her to have everyone special in her life at your big event, but you don’t really know exactly how many that is. The three people that live with her? The boyfriend that doesn’t live with her? the partners of the people that live with her? Who do you include?

I’d go with [Sister]+family, and drop a quiet word that “family” means whoever she wants it to mean.

They Have a Huge Network and I’m On a Budget

Not everyone can afford to invite an unknown number of people to a big shindig. And if it’s a choice between including your cousins and your brother’s boyfriend’s wife who you’ve never met, I gotta admit I’d go with the cousin too. Here the old +1 standby can again be a great tool.

Figure out how many people you can afford to include from each family. Maybe you are including kids, and none of your guests has more than three kids, so you go for a max family size of 5. Your brother’s invite can be [Brother]+4. This allows your brother and his family to decide among themselves who is going and who isn’t. If there is someone in your brother’s family that you have a separate relationship with–say your brother’s boyfriend and you hit it off over Superman and have been getting together weekly to watch old Smallville reruns, send boyfriend a separate invitation so he knows you want him there as your friend, and not “just” as your brother’s boyfriend.

If you need to do this with a group relationship as opposed to a poly network, again drop a quiet word: you can’t afford to include everyone, and you hope they understand.

Ideally, we want all of our poly families to be welcome and included in our lives and with our families. But reality is a thing, and reality includes by budget limits and (in many places at least) fire codes dictating how many people can be in the building. As long as your poly friends and relatives don’t feel like they are being deliberately excluded or forced to “pass” as monogamous, they’ll understand.

Polyamory Etiquette: Let’s Talk Invitations

Invitations can range from, “hey, wanna come over and catch Jessica Jones?” to engraved vellum cardstock begging the “pleasure of your company” at a wedding or other major event.

That’s formality. There’s another range for invitations: who’s invited. Usually, there is a set standard. You can invite one person. You can invite one person and a guest. You can invite a couple. Or you can invite a family (kids included).

Scaling this to poly can get…interesting. Who is included in a family invite? If a friend invites me to a casual movie night and mentions the evening is kid friendly, does that invite include just me and the kids? My nesting partner? All my partners? Not exactly clear. (Yes, if you are reading this, I AM talking about you :P)

So for the next few weeks, we are going to be taking a look at invitations, formal and informal. Please join me, and friends and family welcome.

This post is part of the Polyamory Etiquette blog series.

Want more great articles? Support Polyamory on Purpose on Patreon.