Welcome Michon Neal to Polyamory on Purpose!

Hey Folks, for the first time Polaymory on Purpose is going to be a team venture.

Please join me in welcoming Michon Neal to PoP.

For the next three months Michon Neal, of PostModern Woman and The Body Is Not an Apology, will be helping me with the blog. (Michon also writes some awesome fic set in hir original Cuilverse.)

Michon is also spoony so no guarantee we’ll get fully back on schedule. Our hope is that with Michon helping out on the blog I’ll be able to focus on the next book and still keep the blog going for all you awesome folks.

Michon brings a very unique perspective as a black, disabled, intersex, trans individual who has spent years practicing ethical non-monogamy in several different forms.

If the next three months go well, Michon and I may make this a permanent arrangement. So watch for hir posts and updates!

Polyamory Sleeping Arrangements

Some fairly major changes here. Revised to include separate sections for solo, couple, and group living, and get away from the previous focus on group living. Actually, most of this is excepted from an early draft of The Polyamorous Home. Updated 11/25/16

On the surface, this is more for the polycules who live together. However, solo polyam folk and couples who live together and have other partners who visit also sometimes need to worry about who sleeps where. Michael and I live as a couple. Almost every time one of my metamours visits they ask if I mind them sleeping with Michael and insist they’ll be ok on the couch. (Usually, I end up taking the couch.) We’ve tried all of us sleeping together with some metamours, but we don’t have a big enough bed (especially for when I was pregnant!). So, yeah, unless you never sleep over, chances are you’ll need to work out sleeping arrangements.

Here are the pros and cons of a few possible sleeping arrangements for polyamorous relationships. If you have experience with possibilities that I miss or some pros and cons of your own you’d like to add, please leave a comment.

polyamory sleeping arrangements

Plenty of room for any size polycule to have individual rooms!

Solo Living

One Bedroom Shared with Guests
If you and your partners are comfortable with it, you can have one bed that visiting partners share with you. Depending on your comfort levels and needs for personal space, you can have partners spend the night. Alternatively, you can use the bed for cuddles and/or sex with your partners going home at the end of the night.
Having just one bedroom is cheaper than paying for a home with two bedrooms, but may not be comfortable for everyone.

One bedroom, with a couch or blow up mattress
You might be comfortable sharing your bed for sex and/or cuddles, but want space when you sleep. Or you might prefer not to share your bed at all. You have options for a partner spending the night, even if your home only has one bedroom. Your partners can sleep on a pullout couch, blow up mattress, or other temporary sleep spot.

Guest Bedroom
If you can afford it, a second bedroom is another option. You might use your bed for cuddles and/or sex. At night, your partners can sleep in the guest room. Or your bedroom might be just for you and physical intimacy stays in the guest room.
Having a second bedroom is more expensive, which means it won’t work for everyone.

Couple Living

Shared bed and bedroom with family
Unless there are laws against it (and some places there are) you and any other family members (kids, your sister-in-law, your mother…) who live with you can share a bedroom, even the same bed. The general reaction from my US readers is going to be “OMG, what!” However, it was pretty common in Europe and the US a few hundred years ago. It is still normal in some parts of the world. Partly because not everyone can afford separate bedrooms (or beds) for everyone, partly because it is easier to keep warm in the winter when you were sharing body heat. The modern Western obsession with privacy is just that—modern and Western.

Shared bed and bedroom
The couple to share a bed and bedroom. Other family members (if any) have their own room(s). This is the default in most parts of the US

Shared bedroom, separate beds
Why not? It isn’t common, and it sounds like something out of “I Love Lucy,” but the for some couples separate beds just make sense. No one can steal the covers and a restless sleeper isn’t keeping their partner awake. Maybe someone has medical equipment they need to sleep with. Separate beds aren’t as physically intimate as a shared bed, but you can still fall asleep listening to each other breathe. Bonus: having a visiting polyam partner spend the night in your bed won’t mean kicking your partner out of their bed.

Separate bedrooms
Not an option for everyone if only because of the increased the cost. However, some couples have found it suits them to keep separate bedrooms and only sleep together occasionally. This is actually increasingly common among some monogamous couples. Polyam folk who advocate for this arrangement say your sleep is healthier and less disrupted, and the times you cherished the times you sleep together because they are intentional.

Group Living

Individual Bedrooms
Just what it says—everyone has their own bedroom.
Pros: No worries about how to rearrange things if a metamour comes over. Privacy. Extra space. Flexibility.
Cons: Increased cost of living. Less communal space. For large group marriages, it will be hard to find a place with enough bedrooms.

Master Bedroom
Every adult in the family shares one bedroom and (possibly) one bed. With standard-sized bedrooms in the US, this can work comfortably for a triad and be a squeeze for a quad. I’ve seen bedrooms (and beds) that would fit larger groups comfortably, but that aren’t easy to find or in most peoples’ budgets.
Pros: Shared bedroom=relationship bonding. Lower cost of living than other options.
Cons: Lack of closet/dresser space, crowded bed, NO privacy, lots of people on the couch/floor/recliner if a non-resident poly partner comes over.

Master Bedroom and Guest Bedroom
Of course, if you have more than one bedroom in your home, you can always make one the master bedroom and one the guest room. This way, there is a place for people to go if they need a night on their own once in a while. As well as a place for non-resident polyam partners and resident polyam partners to hook up without displacing the rest of the family.
Pros: No worries about how to rearrange things if a metamour comes over. Extra storage/closet space.
Cons: Increased cost of living.

Couple Bedrooms
Whether or not your family group is made up of distinct couples, you can set up your bedrooms to be shared by two people in your family. In the US, most bedrooms are built with the expectation that one or two people will use them. So this works better space-wise that everyone sharing one room. It’s also less expensive than getting a place big enough for everyone to have their own room.
Pros: Enough closet/dresser space for everyone. Reasonable cost of living. Some privacy. Only one person on the couch if a non-resident polyam partner comes over.
Cons: Need to rearrange everyone if want to swap partners for a night. Possible jealousies or perception of favorites. Lack of flexibility.

Two Bedrooms, “Hinge” Moving Back and Forth
This arrangement is difficult to make work. It takes a lot of communication and one or more family members who are comfortable not having their “own” bedroom space.
Pros: Plenty of room. Some privacy. Flexibility. Less likely someone needs to find a couch if a non-resident poly partner spends the night.
Cons: Higher cost of living then sharing a room. Possibility of jealousy/tension/perception of favorites.

Sleeping Bedroom and Stuff Bedroom
This idea comes from my friend Lauren. When she first suggested I didn’t know anyone who had tried it. Since then I’ve heard from a few people who say it has worked really well for their polycule.
Two bedrooms — one is a pure sleeping room, with king size bed, piles of futons on the floor, whatever sleeping set up you need to fit everyone comfortably. And nothing in it but the bed. In the other put everyone’s dressers, most of the hanging clothes, and any other furniture you’d normally put in a bedroom. If you have a third bedroom, set it up as an office, with everyone’s computer/desk setup.
Pros: Lots of cuddle time, room enough for everyone (at least up to 4 or 5 spice, anyway), reasonable cost of living.
Cons: No privacy, there might not be a big enough (and affordable) bed.

Mix and Match
Maybe one member of your family just needs to sleep alone for whatever reason, but everyone else is cuddle bugs. Well, that one person can have their own room while the rest of you have a big shared room. Maybe you like the idea of Sleeping and Stuff bedrooms, but also want a guest room for when people visit. Pick and choose what works for you a la carte as it were.

There are other options out there, but this covers the basic sleeping arrangements for polyam folk.

Looking for more ideas and info on polyam living arrangements? Check out The Polyamorous Home.

Polyamory Holidays

Some minor changes and updates here. Mostly edited for readability and to remove an old bias towards group relationships. This post originally went up in July just before the US Independence Day, but with US Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and a host of other holidays in the next month+ it’s even more relevant now.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, also known in the US as ‘Independence Day’. For my international readers, Fourth of July is traditionally a family-focused holiday. Family cookouts and bar-b-ques are as ubiquitous as illegal backyard fireworks displays. (Yes, Americans have issues with following laws we don’t like, probably why we have an Independence Day to celebrate in the first place. Though some in states you can legally risk setting their homes on fire with exploding rockets)


Subtract the tuba and this could be 90% of the 4th of July celebrations ever. Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Subtract the tuba and this could be 90% of the 4th of July celebrations ever.
Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

But, like many holidays, the focus on family causes problems for polyam folk. How do you handle family holidays when your family refuses to accept your partner? When you have invitations to spend the holiday with four different families, whose do you choose?

Like pretty much everything polyam, there is no easy answer or even easy set of answers. But here’s a few thoughts that can work, for Fourth of July or any holiday. For simplicity, I’m assuming everyone is out to their families of origin and lives close enough to visit. Having everyone’s families of origin halfway the country away does have the advantage of simplifying things.

Ideas for Polyamory Holidays

Host the Party Yourself

First heard this idea from a friend on a polyamory forum and couldn’t believe it never occurred to me. As long as you have the room, invite everyone’s family to your place for the holiday. No worries over who to spend the holiday with, you can spend it with everyone. And you don’t need to worry about how to deal with family who doesn’t accept your partners. Instead, unaccepting family gets to decide whether spending the holiday with you is important enough to be polite for a few hours.

Rotate Holidays

Traditional in some monogamous families, spend Christmas with one side of the family and Thanksgiving with the other. Having extra families to visit complicates things. Works well when all families are accepting of your relationship. Works really well when they celebrate different holidays.

Each Visit Your Own Family

You hit your parent’s place, partner 1 hits his parent’s place, partner 2 checks out her family’s yearly bash, etc.

Create Your Own Thing

Sometimes, it’s best just to move on. Family holidays are wonderful fun, and it hurts not to participate with them anymore, but maybe it’s time to start your own traditions. What if, instead of heading over to the family of origin bar-b-que, your polyam family has a picnic at the local parade? There are lots of options, so why not have a family chat about what works for you.

I hope some of these ideas can get you thinking, and that you can enjoy your holiday (tomorrow and all the future ones) happy and healthy.

The Polyamorous Home out in ebook!

The Polyamorous Home by Jess MahlerHey folks, it’s official. The Polyamorous Home is now available in ebook at Amazon and other online retailers.

Some technical glitches have delayed the paperback, but expect it later this week.

Polyamorous relationships challenge the way mainstream society expects people to live. Mainstream assumptions about who sleeps where, how a family manages their money, and even who lives together, fail before the sheer variety of ways polyam folks build our relationships.

The Polyamorous Home is practical a guide for polyam folk on creating homes and living situations that suit our lives and our relationships. Whether you live alone or with a dozen of your partners, friends, and family, you can create a home life that works for you.

Alternative living arrangements
Budgeting for dates
Moving in together
Sleeping arrangements
Prioritizing the individual or the community
And more…

Going Forward

I know the posting and everything kind of went to hell the last few months as I finalized getting The Polyamorous Home together. I expect to be more on the ball going forward, with regular posts Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. Thanks for your patience while I dealt with both this book and release and various personal upheavals.

I’ve also managed to get a start on the next book in the Polyamory on Purpose Guide series. I’m currently about 13,000 words into the first draft of Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous. Check out my Patreon campaign for irregular updates and early access.

The Polyamorous Home First Review

The Polyamorous Home is now up for preorder as an ebook. I’m working on getting the paperback up. In the meantime, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff just shared her review with me. Check it out:

Review of The Polyamorous Home by Jess Mahler

With a great discussion of individual versus group needs and lots of helpful examples, Mahler’s new book The Polyamorous Home is a thoughtful and informative look at how polys can structure their living arrangements. From negotiating boundaries, sharing a kitchen or bathroom, working out finances, managing holidays, and dealing with changes like the onset of a disability, to personal/relational space, sleeping arrangements. legal hassles, solo poly homes, sharing housework, and exit plans, The Polyamorous Home is chock full of useful tips for new and long-time polyamorists.

Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door (2014), Stories from the Polycule (2015), and When Someone you Love is Polyamorous (2016).


The Polyamorous Home by Jess Mahler

Polyamory and Pregnancy: Planning for the Unexpected

Revised 11/6/16. Minor updates here, fixed some typos and that kind of thing.

I ran across a discussion on a polyamory forum once where a woman said she absolutely could not deal with the possibility of her husband getting someone else pregnant. A bunch of people were trying to reassure her of how unlikely it was, how with birth control, yadda yadda yadda.

They were right, but they were also wrong. There is no 100% foolproof method of birth control. Would be great if there was, and maybe one day we’ll get one. IUDs and implants seem to be heading in the right direction, but we aren’t there yet. There is no perfect birth control. Accepting that is part of accepting a polyamorous relationship.

Because pregnancy can be so life changing, it is important to discuss what you and your partners will do in the event of an unexpected pregnancy.


polyamory unexpected pregnancy

It can happen to just about anyone.

Each relationship will have to work out for themselves what options and possibilities they need to discuss. A lot of things will be specific to different polyamory relationship styles (a polyfi family that lives together, doesn’t need to worry about a secondary who lives across the country getting pregnant after a visit) and it would take several dozen blog posts to cover all the possibilities. But here are a few considerations to start you off:

Obviously, abortion is the mother’s decision. Knowing if they might want an abortion gives a starting point for the rest of the discussion. All the following assumes that the mother does not wish to abort.

  • If you have more than one relationship (primary/secondary, DADT, polyamorous networks, etc), discuss options with each relationship separately.
  • Potential mothers – there is no guarantee you will even be able to guess who the father is. Think about that.
  • Other potential parents – if your primary gets pregnant it WILL affect your secondary. And vise versa. Discuss it with them individually. (This applies whether or not you have a hierarchy, whether or not you live together. Do not kid yourself, life will not go on as normal if there is a baby on the way, it will affect ALL your relationships.)
  • I shouldn’t need to say it, but potential mothers, if you get pregnant it will affect all of your relationships, regardless of who may or may not be the other bio parent.

There is a lot to think about, and you don’t need to hash over everything down to what hospital you’d want to give birth at. If all you say is ‘How would we handle it?’ ’I don’t know, but we’d find a way,’ you both (all) know that you are aware of the possibility, and no one is likely to utterly freak out if it happens. That’s enough.

It should go without saying that ‘How would we handle it?’ ‘I refuse to discuss it because you will not let it happen.’ is an indication that you have a lot more to talk about it, though not necessarily regarding pregnancy.

What do you think needs to be considered when discussing an unexpected pregnancy in a polyamorous relationship? Please leave a comment with your ideas.

Originally posted June 30, 2011


Polyamory Fics with Asian Characters

Honor Harrington series, by David Weber. Military sci-fi series set in the far future. Weber has created a series where no one talks about or cares about race as we think of it today. (The big “racial” divide in Weber’s universe is between “normal” people are and “genies” or people who have been genetically modified.) However Weber does detailed character descriptions for most of his characters, and based on those descriptions I (and other Weber’s I know) read Honor as mixed race with a significant percentage of Chinese ancestry. (This is actually more based on Honor’s mother’s description than Honor herself, but it’s also subjective until/unless Weber decides to make a big deal about it.) The polyamory in this series comes in fairly late. First we get introduced to Grayson, an entire world of patriarchal polygynists where we see that even though the patriarchy part is fucked up, yes, these relationships can be built on love. (Much) later, Honor takes what she learns from her friends on Grayson and applies it to her own life—though not without a lot of heartache along the way.

The Colds, by Michon Neal. Davis is half Mexican, half Chinese. Michon tends to write complicated polyam networks, do a good option if you want something other than the endless couple+1 and triads of most polyam fiction.

Grand Central Arena series, by Ryk Spoor. I’m cheating here. There is no polyam in GSA—yet. Ryk has been hinting as a polyam relationship since book one, book three is coming out soon and what started as a possible triad has…complicated itself as more characters are introduced and developed feelings for each other. Word of God is book four will finally bring the characters together in a polyam relationship. Ryk said “traid+” so it might be (hopefully will be) delightfully complicated. Sadly, unless sales pick up a LOT Ryk’s publisher won’t contract for book four. He’s considering self publishing. GSA is sci-fi a la the over-the-top insanity of the so-called Golden Age, but without most of the problems of Golden Age SF. One of the characters in the initial love triangle is half Japanese. (Also, major props for a series with a healthy love triangle. It’s possible, people!)

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein. Before falling in with Manny and his family, Wyo was in a triad with two Chinese men.

This post is part of the Minority Representation in Polyamory Fics & Pics blog series. If you know any other fic with Asian characters in polyam relationships, please leave a comment!

Polyamory Fics with Hispanic Characters

Double the Risk by Samantha Cato. Two cops–partners–fall for the new medical examiner. Nice bonus ATM–series is about a family of cops trying to expose corruption in the Boston PD. (CN for the rest of the series–the 3rd book has some heavy transphobia.)

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. Polyamory classic.

The Feeling Is Multiplied bio-fictional webcomic by Blue Crow, Marco Padilla, and Matt J. Rainwater. First strip. Awesome webcomic. I wish they’d update their navigation.

After You by Ophelia Bell. I’m iffy on this one. Short story, three-way sex, established couple has a three-way with someone they are both attracted to. Normally I wouldn’t tag it polyam, but reviewers say the story ends with all three in love with each other. And Bell has written at least on other polyam story (Dragon’s Melody).

The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. Post apocalyptic story with both utopian and dystopian societies. On the Goodreads Polyamory in Fiction list and has Hispanic characters.

Mother of Demons by Eric Flint. Polyam relationship is very much in the background, but it’s there.

The Allison Dutch Series by Michon Neal. And many of Michon’s other books.

Polyamory and Pregnancy

Revised 10/18/16. Not much changed here, though I did update the description of how pregnancy affects me and add the note on terminology at the bottom. Unfortunately, I was not aware of trans issues when I first wrote this series, so I’ll be changing terms as we go. Also some grammar fixes. And I have four kids now. Ironically, these updated posts will be going up Tuesdays, not the Thursdays of the original pregnancy series.

As a mother of three, recently postpartum, I can safely say pregnancy is a major, life-altering, relationship changing, huge-as-the-Mariana Trench deal. Bookstores have entire sections about pregnancy, and magazines are written just for pregnant mothers. We have one entire industry devoted to preventing pregnancy and another to helping people get pregnant.

And I promise, when you are throwing up from morning sickness (or holding your partner’s hair while they throw up) is not the time to deal with relationships gone haywire because you’re not sure who the father is! (Every person is different, and I make no claims to speak for every pregnancy experience. In my case, pregnancies trigger massive depression with all the associated problems. I warn people when I get pregnant that I will be insane for the next 9 months. They never believe me. NOT a good time to try to sort out major life issues whether it’s a relationship problem or a big move.)

That said, pregnancy in polyamory is just too huge for me to discuss in one post or one dozen posts. So, I’m going to try to expand my posting a bit. In addition to Sunday posts, I’ll be posting every Thursday about pregnancy in polyam relationships.

Thursday topics will include:

  • Planning for pregnancy
  • Coping with unexpected pregnancies
  • Contraceptives
  • Prenatal care with multiple partners
  • Birth planning with multiple partners
  • Living arrangements during pregnancy
  • And anything else I can think of that might be relevant, useful, or interesting to a poly relationship dealing with, or preparing to deal with, pregnancy.

Note on terminology: throughout this series, I will refer to people who are pregnant as “mothers” and everyone else as “parents” or “potential parents” regardless of gender. I realize this isn’t a perfect approach, but it’s the best I have at the moment. When I need refer specifically to the people who create a pregnancy, I’ll say “bio parents.” Readers are welcome to suggest alternatives.

Click here for the full list of polyamory and pregnancy blog posts.

Polyamory Meal Planning

Revised and re-posted 10/11/16. My polycule has changed several times over the past few years, and the details of my meal lists have changed as people moved in and out of my life. But I still keep these three lists. Main changes here are fixing grammar and typos.

meal planning polyamory

Are family meals ever really this idealistic?

In a few weeks, my metamour will be coming to visit. She’s allergic to vitamin K. My partner is on a restricted diet due to heartburn. And I keep Kosher. My metamour’s husband is staying home this time, so we don’t need to eat vegetarian.

Yup, polyam meals can get complicated. If you live together, the process can become habit, but sometimes it will still be a hassle. Luckily, there are ways to make life easier.

Polyam Meal Lists

My favorite trick for putting together polyam meals is to keep these three lists. The first two I keep saved on my computer though if you live together it might be easier to post them in the kitchen. The last one I keep in my head.

  • Food restrictions – what doesn’t each person eat.
  • Food preferences – what does each person like to eat.
  • Emergency meals – what can you throw together on the fly that everyone can eat.

Here is an example of my food restrictions list. I combine this with food preferences, and I have a pretty good guideline for planning meals, depending on who is going to be there.

Restrictions list:

My partner –

  • tomato-based sauces
  • ‘hot’ foods
  • broccoli (he just can’t stand it)

My metamour –

  • Anything with vitamin K including
    • Dark leafy vegetables
    • Broccoli
    • Asparagus

Me –

  • Pork
  • Anything that mixes dairy and meat
  • Organ meats
  • Shellfish

My sister –

  • Oregano
  • Rosemary

Metamour’s Husband –

  • Meat (includes fish)

One time, when my metamour and her husband came down, the ‘vegetarian’ boxed meal I picked up, wasn’t. It was a massive scramble to find something everyone could eat. That’s when I came up with my emergency meals list. It’s 3 meals that everyone I might expect to be at my home can eat and that I can throw together quickly. This way, if a planned meal falls through, I have alternatives.
My emergency meals list is:

  • Pasta with light pesto sauce
  • Rice balls with corn or another veggie filling
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches

These are meals that I reliably have the ingredients for, and can cook practically in my sleep.

I hope somewhere there exists a polyamorous relationship that doesn’t need to jump through hoops to make a meal everyone can enjoy. So far, every polyam family I’ve been in has had multiple food restrictions, often contradictory ones! A bit of thought, planning ahead, and most of all keeping these lists, makes meal time a lot easier, and a lot more enjoyable.

What are you polyam meal tips? Share them in the comments!