Author Archives: Jessica

Explaining Polyamory: Preparation

Minor edits for grammar and readability. Not much has changed here. 7/13/2017

Sorry for the late update. Last week I introduced the Culture Gap, which has a huge influence on how people react to polyamory. This week I’m going to get into some of the how-tos for explaining polyamory. And if anyone has any suggestions or thoughts that I miss, please leave them in the comments.

How to Explain Polyamory

Almost every person in an alternative relationship faces the question eventually – do I tell X about my lifestyle, and if I do, how? Telling someone you love about a non-mainstream lifestyle is scary, because like it or not, people are judgemental, and telling the truth doesn’t always bring acceptance – sometimes it destroys a relationship.

But polyamory is built on openness and honesty, and damn it how can we say we are living openly and honestly when we are hiding from the people who are most important to us? So we bite the bullet, sit down . . . and have really awkward conversations.

There is no way to make these conversations easy, but there are ways to make them a little less awkward and maybe a little less scary.

The first ’rule’ of explaining polyamory is one of the hardest: don’t have expectations. It’s as predictable as Murphy’s law – every time I or someone I know has gone into a discussion explaining polyamory expecting it to go well, it’s been difficult and painful and horrendous. Everytime I or someone I know has expected a difficult or painful discussion, it went well. Our expectation may have influenced the outcome – that by going in overconfident for an easy discussion we created problems or going in prepared for a difficult discussion we made it easier that it would otherwise have been.

Regardless, expectations make the whole thing harder on you. Expectations reinforce and strengthen the rollercoaster of emotions – hope and fear and love and need and anger and . . . yeah. Just don’t go there. Try and keep an open mind and not expect any specific outcome or reaction.

Next, go in prepared. Is there information do you want your loved one to have? What questions can you answer? Overall, what you need to tell your loved one is that ’This lifestyle makes me happy. I am aware of potential problems and am prepared to deal with them.’ Which means before you have this discussion, you’d better make sure you have thought through the problems.

Obviously, if you’ve been in polyamorous relationships for ten years, you’ve probably already dealt with all the problems, but remember your loved one is coming in flat footed. Stuff that is old hat to you will be a big deal to them. So maybe take some time to think about how you can address the common problems and concerns—even if you know they aren’t real problems.

Don’t be afraid to back yourself up with some research. If you know your loved one listens to facts, dig up some of the studies done on polyamory. Psychologists have been investigating non-monogamy for long enough to say that it is indeed a healthy and viable lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the hardest problems to prepare for are religious and moral objections. Beliefs just don’t respond to facts. Hell even when a person’s moral objections contradict the teachings of their own religion they aren’t likely to listen. All you can do is be prepared to emphasize that your beliefs are not those of the person you are talking to and you have a right to your own faith and morality.

(Originally posted May 2012)

This post is part of the Explaining Polyamory blog series

Downgrading Polyamory on Purpose to “Hobby”

Hey folks, for the last two years I tried to treat Polyamory on Purpose as a part time job. I put in ~10 hours a week between blog, books, and Patreon, set deadlines, expanded and added, and last fall pushed myself into burn out. At the time I blamed the burn out on new baby and did my best to keep plugging away.

But I’ve decided it’s time to stop and go back to letting Polyamory on Purpose be a hobby. I’m not getting books out fast enough for them to be a significant income source, and while the Patreon is bringing in money, it’s not bringing in enough to cover the time I put in. And I’m still not fully recovered from the burn out.

What this means for you:

I’m going to keep posting twice a week, but I’m not going push myself back to three posts a week, and Michon will be posting when zi has the time and energy, but not every Tuesday. Updates to “How NOT to Save the World” will also continue every other Friday, though I may need to skip some weeks depending on life and shit.

I’m going to go back to trying for one book a year, so Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous will be out in November, just like The Polyamorous Home was. I’ll start the next book, probably still Polyamory and Kink, in November instead of overlapping them.

I won’t be adding additional content to the Resource Library and I’ll probably be letting the newsletter officially lapse (it’s been unofficially dead for a while anyway).

And I’m not going to be linking to Patreon at the bottom of blog posts any more, though I will probably leave the Tip Jar and Patreon link in the side bar in case folks to buy me a cuppa.

So, that’s it, that’s where I’m at. Many thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me the past two years and I hope you’ll all continue to read and value my thoughts here.

Explaining Polyamory: The Culture Gap

Mostly some typo and grammar fixes here, but I also clarified the importance and right to self care when dealing with people who don’t believe that polyamory can be a viable relationship. June 29, 2017
Had some kind of tech glitch that kept this from posting last Thursday, so It’s going live today instead. Sorry folks!

A while back, a question came up in the Yahoo! PolyResearch group about explaining polyamory to a loved one. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the question come up, and it stuck in the back of my mind as an idea worth exploring. (And these days, an idea that manages to stick in my mind has to be pretty impressive given everything competing with it for attention). I don’t expect this to become a huge series, but to keep it from being a wall o’ text, I’m gonna break it into two or three parts.
Before we talk about explaining polyamory, I want to discuss something that is critical to the way people react to polyam — the Culture Gap.

The Gap is a major issue when explaining the idea of polyamory to many people, but it’s biggest danger is that it is often invisible. We, the folks who believe or know that polyamory can be a functional relationship style (gonna emphasize this — we aren’t talking religious issues, ethics, morality or anything like that, just whether or not polyam can work) are on one side of the Gap. On our side of the Gap are many people who do not like or approve of polyamory, but accept that it can work. The people believe that polyam is flat out impossible are on the other side of the Gap.

Alright, my run-ins with the Gap have been with Baby Boomers, but I’ve met some monogamous people from the Baby Boomer generation who were very easy to talk polyam with. Conversely, I know people who have run into the Gap with people close to my age. 20 and 30 somethings who were old enough and culturally aware enough to be horrified when Ellen Degeneres went public on an airport PA system.

 

There is no easy way to reach across the Polyam Culture Cap.

The Gap, plain and simple, is the division between folks who grew up in a world of relationships where there was one (and only one) True Way. Not in the sense that heterosexual monogamy was necessarily morally right, but in a much more fundamental way. For people on the other side of the Gap, heterosexual monogamy (or in some cases just monogamy or just heterosexual) is a Law of Nature. Anything else is simply impossible to make work because it violates the fundamental nature of relationships. Non-monogamy is as doomed to failure as attempting to make mothers stop loving their children and gravity turn off. When you tell these people you are polyamorous (or any other variety of non-monogamy) they hear the equivalent of “Guess what? Gravity got turned off, and I’m gonna jump off this cliff.” They KNOW, flat out KNOW, fact of life, law of reality, that when you jump off that cliff you are going to fall far and land hard (after all, their feet are still stuck to the ground, ergo gravity still works). Your relationship is doomed to failure because it is IMPOSSIBLE, and you are going to end up heartbroken.In my experience, most younger people in the US are on our side of the Gap — folks under [35], hell most anyone who came of age during or after the Summer of Love. Alternative relationships and alternative lifestyles may not have been approved of. They may have been considered sinful and immoral and wrong. But they clearly happened and were possible. This is also why the Gap isn’t purely a generation gap. There are folks who fought in World War II who were exposed to alternative relationships and know it is possible to have a healthy and happy life while not being heterosexually monogamous. It’s not a blanket thing. But with people who grew up in a culture where they were not exposed to alternative relationships, and know, Law of Nature, that monogamy is the only thing which can possibly work, the Gap is very real and very dangerous.

Explaining polyamory to on this side of the Gap is easier. Many people on this side of the Gap still won’t approve. Whether they have too many ideas based on religious polygamy, moral objections or anything else that makes polyam stick in their craw sideways; there are a number of people who won’t like you being polyam on both sides of the Gap. But people on this side of the Gap are easier to discuss and explain polyam to because you aren’t turning their worldview upside down. Stretching the limits of people’s tolerance isn’t easy, but it’s a lot easier than convincing them you are suddenly immune to gravity.

So to be clear: no matter how well you explain polyam to folks on the other side of the Gap, no matter how many studies you offer or how persuasive your logic is, the only thing that will convince them that polyamory is safe and won’t lead to inevitable harm and hardship is for them to see you jump off that cliff, and not get hurt. Only experience can change this kind of instinctive knowledge of the way the world is.

Dealing with loved ones who are on the other side of Gap can be very difficult. They will not accept your choice, and they will probably try, repeatedly, to convince you that you are making a mistake. Some may get angry with you, lash out, refuse to speak with you until you come to your senses. Some will assure you, with love and sympathy, that when it all falls apart they will always be there for you to help pick up the pieces of your life. Sometimes the sympathetic ones are the most frustrating.

It can help to keep this in mind: as difficult as dealing with folks on the other side of the Gap can be, they are acting the way they are because they care for you and are afraid for you. They don’t want to see you hurt, so they will do everything they can to pull you away from that cliff. They are, in a really frustrating way, desperately trying to protect you.

That said, also remember that you don’t owe them a place in your life and if you need to step away to take care of yourself, that’s okay.

Image Copyright 1994 João Paulo Lucena used under GNU 1.2 and CC 3.0

(Originally posted April 2012)

Next Polyamory on Purpose Guide: Polyamory and Kink

After a lot of thought I’ve decided to make the next Polyamorous on Purpose Guide about mixing polyamory and kink.

Why Polyamory and Kink?

I’d originally planned to make the next book about raising kids in polyam families, but then my custody case blew up. Since polyamory was a reason the kids were taken from me, this topic is currently hitting a bit to close to home.

Polyamory and kink has been on my to-do list for a while. Not only is it near and dear to my heart, but, as both kink and polyamory have become increasingly popular, it’s a topic I see a lot of questions about in polyam groups and discussions. Still, I know that Raven Kaldera had a book out on polyamory and D/s relationships. So I thought I’d focus on topics that hadn’t already been covered.

On a whim this spring I picked up Kaldera’s Power Circuits. And well, the truth it isn’t really written for polyamorous people. The whole focus of the book is on helping people in M/s relationships figure out how to do polyamory. Which, don’t get me wrong, is a book that was needed. But it’s actually very different from what I think of when I think of writing about polyamory and kink.

So since I was shelving writing about children for another time, I decided to dust off polyamory and kink as my next topic.

What Will Polyamory and Kink Cover?

Since my main audience is already familiar with polyamory, I’ll start by introducing kink. We’ll look at kink as an activity vs kinky as an identity, the jargon of the kink community, and some of the common kinky activities.

From I don’t have a clear outline yet, but topics will include:

  • how to find polyam & kinky partners
  • navigating kinky/vanilla relationships
  • introducing a vanilla partner to kink
  • safe ways to explore new kinks
  • making D/s and polyam relationships work outside the bedroom
  • advice for a vanilla polyam person who has a partner in an outside-the-bedroom D/s relationship
  • probably other stuff too

Will You Share Your Experience?

I actually have more years in kink than in polyamory, which is saying something. But no one person will experience everything.

  • What would you like to see in a book about polyamory and kink?
  • What do you think polyam folks who are new to kink or are trying to understand a kinky partner should know about kink?
  • Would you be interested in contributing an essay or personal story to the book? ($10 for each accepted contribution, paid on publication)

Since I’m not a sub and have no experience with Big/little dynamics, I’m especially interested in input from folks who are subs and/or littles.

Fiction Friday: Give It to the Engineer

First entry          Previous entry

Ma’evoto strode through the clean room doors. He hadn’t felt so off balance since he started training as fighter, but the only sign of his discomfort was the off-beat rhythm his thumb tapped against the tips of his fingers.

Waiting for him was a woman who might have been the ultimate geek. Short cropped kinky hair paired with a long skirt of… indifferent style, and a sleeveless vest that gave full access to the sub-cutaneous circutry that crawled up her deep brown arms like tattoos. She had the far-off look of someone watching a retinal display. Probably display contacts. He knew she was a woman because her file said so—if it hadn’t he’d never have guessed. She didn’t wear a single triangle or star. Given geek culture that might be intentional or might be an oversight when she picked out her clothes.

The only thing that didn’t fit was the rabbit ears poking up out of her hair.

“Ms Malka.” He offered his hand

It took a moment, but her eyes slowly refocused. “Oh. Sorry.” She took his hand in both of hers. “Mr. Frederickson.”

“It’s Littlesun. Ma’evoto Littlesun” He tried to smile but it felt like more of a grimace. “I’m reclaiming my old name.”

“Oh. Sorry. Mr. Littlesun.” Her eyes darted around the room, and finally settled on something behind his left shoulder. “Um… I’m a bit confused. About why I’m here, I mean. And why this is here. I mean, top level clean room in government headquarters. That’s… like out of a thriller novel. And I’m kinda bottom tier over at ISA so really shouldn’t you be meeting with one of the…” she trailed off. Probably had been about to use a nickname the political appointees at the space administration wouldn’t like. Ma’evoto grinned.

“Please, don’t stop on my account. I have some less than flattering names for your superiors myself.”

Her mouth snapped shut. Opened. Closed. “Ah… well I don’t mean to suggest they are bad people you understand.” She was babbling now. “Not the best engineers maybe, but they know their jobs and they really are… I mean you don’t need to… that is…”

“Relax, Ms Malka. I’m not going after your colleagues. Some of them will moving to new jobs soon, but I’m not looking to make any more examples. One should be enough, don’t you think?”

“Ah. Yes.” She swallowed.

“Good.” He started the room’s standalone comp and inserted a filechip. “As for why there’s a top tier clean room in government headquarters—mainly to be sure there is one place in the damn building where people can’t be spied on.

“Take a look at this.”

A hologram sprang to life, a spherical space station with one large door and a number of smaller ports. Specs and calculations surrounded the main image.

Malka leaned in. “Nickle iron? An asteroid base? But what about… Oh, I see. Interesting.

“I didn’t take you for a fan Mr. Littlesun. But this looks like something out of Troy Rising. And if you are going to be that ambitious, why not the Death Star?”

“Because we have a chance—barely—of finishing this in two years. And both the old NASA engineers who dreamed this up and the author who wrote Troy Rising understood the importance of little things like having blast doors across your exhaust ports.”

By the time he finished speaking, Malka’s eyes were glazed again. “Two years. The engineering challenges alone…”

“You don’t need to worry about anything else. Funding, bureaucrats, politics—forget about it. Handle the engineering. I’ll see that everything else is taken care of. That’s not a license to spend money. But first priority is making it work, second priority is making it safe. Money is third.”

“It’s doable. Maybe. With the right team.” She hesitated. Refocused. “How will the team be chosen?”

Ma’evoto leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. The movement hid his sigh of relief. She was onboard. “Anyone at ISA that you want is yours. If there are outside people you need, put a list together and I’ll see what can be done. They’ll need to get security clearance same as everyone else at ISA. Don’t waste my time suggesting people you know won’t pass.”

There was a knock at the door. Right on time. He opened the door to let Deborah in. “One last thing. This is Deborah Wirth. She’s been in charge of my magical security, but she’ll be transferring to work on the battlestation as soon as your team is up and running. She’ll have her own team for integrating mystic defenses and other mumbo jumbo into the station.”

This time Malka’s mouth flopped open. “But… but… no one has ever made magic and technology work together.”

“That,” he smiled, “is an engineering problem.”

Deborah muttered something—he couldn’t hear what. A moment later, Malka’s bunny-ears started twitching.

Coming Out Polyamorous Blog Series

When I first wrote the Explaining Polyamory blog series I didn’t write an intro post but instead dove right into The Culture Gap. I’m fixing my oversight by adding an intro post 😉

So, that said, obviously this is the intro to a blog series on coming out as polyamorous. Specifically, coming out as polyamorous to family and friends. When I originally wrote this series I didn’t think about polyamory in terms of being “in the closet” so the idea of “coming out” as polyamorous just didn’t occur to me. But these days folks often do talk about coming out as polyamorous (and let me say here that I very much agree with the phrasing and the idea that someone can be closeted about being polyamorous.)

Anyway, from the first post in the series:

A while back, a question came up in the Yahoo! PolyResearch group about explaining polyamory to a loved one. It’s not the first time I’ve seen the question come up, and it stuck in the back of my mind as an idea worth exploring. (And these days, an idea that manages to stick in my mind has to be pretty impressive given everything competing with it for attention). I don’t expect this to become a huge series, but to keep it from being a wall o’ text, I’m gonna break it into two or three parts.

It is, in fact, a short series. About 6 posts which for this blog is positively tiny. But it says what it needs to say.

So yeah, we’re starting a new series. Check back next week for an updated review of the Culture Gap before we get into the nuts and bolts.

What Do You Owe Yourself?

This post is going to be a lot more personal and a lot less practical than most here, but I hope folks will find it meaningful.

There is a strong push towards individualism in the polyam community today. And long time readers may have noticed that this push doesn’t always sit well with me. I am a very communal person, especially for a white-privileged American.  Helping and supporting my community is important to me. Which is one of the reasons my nesting partner and I practice tzedakah.

Tzedakah is the Jewish mitzvah or duty to give back to our community. It’s usually translated as charity, but the implications and connotations of charity are all wrong. Yes tzedakah usually involved giving money. That’s all it has in common with what most people mean when they say charity. We give tzedakah not because other people need it (though they do) but because we owe it to ourselves to take care of our community and the people in our community.

So what does this have to do with polyamory?

Last week I wrote about the power of cash and the impact of money privilege on relationships. And I said that we don’t owe our partners money. And I stand by that.

But I also believe we owe it to ourselves to take care of our communities. Which is why a percentage of our household income each month goes to friends and polyam partners in need, to non-profit organizations that make the world a better place, to random calls for help on the internet.

Obviously, not everyone shares this philosophy. But if you haven’t yet–maybe ask yourself sometime what you owe yourself in terms of taking care of the people you love and the community you belong to. Whether you come up with a similar answer to mine or a very different one, it’s worth thinking about.

 

(I couldn’t manage a Father’s Day post this year, but wishing the best to all the dad’s out there.)

Friday Fiction Schedule Change

Hey folks, small change. From now on How Not to Save the World, the webserial I’ve been posting Fridays, will be updating every other week instead of the every week I was originally aiming for.

So you’ll see Ma’evoto/Trevor and his friends again next week, when we introduce a new character and get a look at some of Ma’evoto’s long term plans.

Polyamory and Children Guest Blog: Marmoset, Metamour and Ice Cream

Sadly, The Poly Man Whore stopped updating his blog a couple years ago, but you can still check out his old posts. Reposted: June 15, 2017

A few months ago, The Poly Man Whore put up a blog post about the night he and his daughter (the Marmoset) met his wife’s boyfriend (Mister Alvin). He’s been good enough to let me share some of his post, for an inside look on  how one poly family handles the first meet between kids and metamours.

My daughter, The Maromset, just met my wife’s boyfriend, Alvin. She shared the story at circle time at school. She saw Miss Jeanette all the time, but it was the first time that she met Mister Alvin. Even to a five year old, that is a Big Deal. The grown-up version of the double date was just as entertaining, so now is the time for me to share during circle time.

Mrs. Manwhore went over to Mister Alvin’s house, and then the two of them drove to Allyoucaneat-iban Sushi. Miss Jeanette came over to my house, so we met them there. Marmoset and her now-adult brother stayed home, with the promise of going to Tastee-Tastee Yogurt after dinner.

I’ve chatted with Alvin before when my wife and he would Facetime or Skype or talk on the speakerphone and I knew he was a decent enough guy, clearly caring deeply for Mrs. Manwhore, good sense of humor… Still, I got the feeling he was very willing to not like me at all. He is very new to the whole poly thing and I am sure he was concerned with how I would react to meeting the “man who is having sex with my wife.”

We walked into Allyoucaneat-iban and finally, he and I met. He had a good handshake and a nice smile. The Mrs. was very obviously nerve-wracked. The two of them sat across from Jeanette and me. The stress seemed to melt away pretty quickly, to me, anyway. My wife later told me that she was sweaty and stomach-clenchy all night long, but I thought it went really well…

After dinner, Jeanette and I went home to collect the Marmoset and had to Tastee-Tastee Yogurt. She was squeaking with excitement on our way over there, and when we got out of the car she went straight up to him and said, “Hi, Mister Alvin! I’m Marmoset!” She put her hand out, gave him a real handshake, and then went skipping off to the door of the yogurt store. I could not possibly be prouder of her.

Meanwhile, I took my wife aside and we had a little pep talk check-in moment. She was still very nervous. Hug, kiss, high-five, off we go! Inside for yogurt. Naturally, Marmoset’s concoction was of a singular magnitude, containing bits of stardust and faerie wings and cookie dough. We did some more talking, but mostly let the Marmoset steal the show. She and Mister Alvin played hide and seek in the yogurt store. Mister Alvin brought her a book from her favorite series and we read it. She did some dancing, she did some singing, she looked at the baby at the table behind us… Again, a really nice time.

The Poly Man Whore balances his family and several partners and is openly out as polyamorous in all areas of his life. He is not finding it at all difficult to date as a poly man and has a unique perspective that contributes to his poly success and offers up his distinct blend of bullshit free wisdom and advice to poly folk everywhere. He specializes in helping despairing and dateless poly men learn to stop their whining and start having relationships.

This post is part of the <a href=”http://polyamoryonpurpose.com/popular-blog-series/#ChildrenRaisedinPolyamorousRelationships”> Raising Children in Polyamorous Families</a> blog series.

<h2 style=”text-align: center;”>Want more great articles? Support Polyamory on Purpose on Patreon.
(Originally posted May 2012)

The Power of Cash

I mentioned last week that for some people, entwining finances is less a matter of choice than of necessity. That necessity comes at a cost—the cost of autonomy and the risk someone having power over you.

The Power of Cash

A few days ago, I saw someone comment that they were solo poly because they’d rather struggle to raise their kids on their own with barely enough money to get by, then move in with any partner(s) knowing they could be homeless in an instant if they get kicked out. That this happens, often, is not addressed in general polyam discourse or discussions about money and relationships.

I’ve talked before about social hierarchy in relationships. Well, money can be a huge factor in that hierarchy. (Again, I am not talking about primary/secondary type hierarchy. I’m talking about the social status hierarchy that humans have because we are social animals. It’s a thing.)

In relationships with a large financial disparity—particularly situations where one or more people are financially dependent on their relationship partners, money gives power.

Many people would never use their income to take advantage of others. But in the US (with its almost complete lack of social safety net), you don’t need to take advantage of it. You get the advantage. And social safety nets are not perfect—even in places with a good social safety net, you can have an advantage.

Last year, my girlfriend and Michael and I were talking about her moving out here and all of us moving in together. It’s still an option, though I believe C prefers to move out of the country entirely. But one thing that came up was the huge difference in our incomes. Michael and I together make barely $10,000 a year. C makes multiples of that. In order for us to get a place large enough to live all together, the rent and most utilities and other “costs of living” would be firmly on C.

Now, Michael and I have two kids under 10 years old. Think about this: what do you think we would do to keep C happy if the alternative was being homeless again? Do you think we would let her have her way in a disagreement about how the apartment is set up? That we would avoid talking about things that upset her? That we would change our behavior in ways we didn’t like?

power of cash

You bet your ass we would.

C would never hold it over our heads, “do it my way or else.” She’s not that kind of person. But if Michael or I started seeing signs that she was unhappy with the living situation or our relationships, we would bend over backward to keep her happy.

And if we felt C wasn’t willing to listen and understand why her having money gave her this advantage, C would never know it. (Since C is someone we can talk about this kind of thing, we DID discuss it, explicitly, even while the idea of moving in together was only a hypothetical.)

In the long term, of course, this would be a disaster. Either we’d be emotionally wounded by constantly denying ourselves our needs, or Michael and/or I would start getting more money and start standing up for ourselves more—which would leave C feeling turned-on bc she would have had no idea there was a problem in the first place, or Michael and I would start looking for an escape route and get out, with C never knowing how exactly things got so bad between us.

Of course, it is possible (and desirable) that the relationship would evolve to where it would cease being “Michael and I” and C. But if it did, that wouldn’t change the power balance of ’C can survive without either or both Michael and Jess. Neither Michael nor Jess can survive on their own and they could barely stay afloat together.’

Now, if everyone living together is in a situation where they can barely support themselves, you get a different situation which isn’t as bad but is still not exactly healthy. At “best” you have a mutually assured destruction situation which means everyone is working to keep everyone else happy and looking over their shoulders worrying about “what happens if we fall apart.”

However, other aspects of social dynamics also come into play. If everyone is in the same boat financially, but two of them always support each other, they have an advantage over the other people in the home.

It’s Not All Extreme

I’ve been focusing on the extreme situations both because it happens a lot more often than people with enough money to survive comfortably think and because it’s easier to see the power imbalance when we are talking about the possibility of becoming homeless. But it plays out in other ways too.

Let’s say I start dating someone who lives nearby. We’re not interested in moving in together, just enjoy each other’s company. If I can afford transportation and they can’t, then I (because I have money) have more control over the relationship than they do. I can decide to stop visiting, can decide how often I visit, can decide if I pick them up or pay for a taxi so they can come to my place. If they want to go someplace and I don’t feel like driving that far, we aren’t going.

So, if I want to go someplace that’s a distance we can, if they want to go someplace that’s a distance, they need to get me to do the driving before we can go. Power imbalance.

And just like with the living situation, they are likely to agree to things they might not agree to otherwise to keep me happy—because if I decide that instead of coming over every week I’m only coming 2x a month bc it’s not worth the gas money, they can’t say, “Okay, well how about if you come here 2x a month and I go there 2x a month?” They have no room to negotiate or offer a compromise.

It’s About Consideration and Respect

So what do you do if you have more money than your connections? If you have this power over the relationship that they don’t?

First off, it should be obvious that you don’t owe anyone your money, your time, or a relationship. I’m not saying that you owe it to a broke partner to spend money on them. You don’t.

But like Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In this case, the responsibility to make sure that you aren’t inadvertently hurting other people with your power.

What does that mean?

It means talking with your connections, acknowledging the power imbalance, and making sure that they feel safe talking with you about concerns and problems.

It means not getting resentful when you are the one doing all the driving or paying for the expensive restaurant that you wanted to go to.

It means not pressuring your connection to do expensive activities or making them feel ashamed because they can’t pay for a local Poly Cocktails event.

Perhaps most importantly it means making an effort to be sure that your connections are getting what they want and need in the relationship. They have an incentive to keep you happy that you don’t have—so you need to make an extra effort to be sure that you aren’t coasting.

This Isn’t Universal

Social dynamics are funny things. In my first triad, for several years almost our entire income came from one partner who actually had the least status and power in our relationship. He just got (unintentionally on my part) bowled over by my other partner and myself and didn’t know how to or feel safe asserting himself to us. It never occurred to me that he might take his income and move out (since we had a joint lease he couldn’t kick us out). If he had, my other partner and I would have been screwed. But because I didn’t think of it as a possibility, his power remained potential and not actual.

So there are times when the person with the most money ends up having the least power in a relationship. This isn’t a set-in-stone thing. But by-and-large, more money means more social status and more real-world power over a relationship. Especially when the people in a relationship aren’t married and things like alimony and fair division of assets will never come into play.

Remember: Power and Privilege Stack

If you are in a relationship where you benefit from couple privilege AND you have more money than your single or single-presenting partner, that gives more you more power than either money or couples privilege would give you alone. And people who are already getting shit from society—people who are trans, gay, people of color, disabled, mentally ill, etc (and especially multiple of these)—are more likely to be poor. So please, be aware of your power in a relationship. Don’t run roughshod over your partners without realizing it because you have money and they don’t.
This post is part of the Polyamory Finances blog series.

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