Category Archives: Living Together

The Polyamorous Home, now in paperback!

Okay, it took me way longer than it should have, but I finally fought my way through the formatting. The Polyamorous Home is now available in paperback on Amazon.

Here, for the first time, is a guide to how polyam folk can create 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
-Holidays
-And more…

The Polyamorous Home by Jess Mahler

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.

Two Things a Poly Group Home Needs to Save For

Every poly home will handle saving for the future differently. For my money, here are two things every poly group home needs to save for.

(excerpted from the draft of The Polyamorous Home)

Moving Cushion

One critical fact of life is that nothing is static–including relationships. Many poly households eventually face the need for someone to move out. This might be a practical move–someone got their dream job offer in another city. It might be a relationship move–living together just isn’t working, or maybe a relationship is ending entirely. These things happen. They are rarely enjoyable, and the challenges associated with moving out and starting over can make the whole situation even more painful for everyone involved.

The moving cushion is a savings fund for when members of the polycule need to move out. Depending on your polycule’s local support network, financial situation, and alternative living options, you might:

Save up enough to make a security deposit and first month’s rent on a small apartment and cover basic expenses for a couple of months while a former housemate gets their feet under them.

Or you might have $100 set aside to cover the cost of a u-Haul truck rental and pizza for all the friends that will help with the move.

It’s whatever A) you can manage to set aside without hurting your day-to-day finances and B) you feel is necessary to make the move as financially painless as possible.

Having a moving cushion doesn’t just benefit the person moving, but the people staying. Being stuck living together when you really don’t want isn’t good for anyone. And you never know who will need that cushion. Sure, you may think that since your name is on the lease you’ll be staying put, but anything from a job offer to a long distance relationship that’s ready to become local as soon as you can move might lead you to leave your group home.

The larger the moving cushion you can gather, the easier it will be for someone to move out and the less tension and drama a move can create. My suggestion is to initially set a savings goal that your polycule can reach within six months. Whether that’s enough to buy a house or rent a u-Haul, it’s a place to start. Then discuss whether you want to keep saving, or whether what you have is enough for everyone to be comfortable if they need to move out.

Emergency Funds

Shit happens. This is the first rule of life. The second rule is: being prepared reduces the shit. Part of being prepared is having a pile of money somewhere that you can use when shit gets expensive.

Being poly doesn’t reduce the amount of shit life throws at us. It does, in theory, give us more resources for dealing with the shit. Unfortunately, many polycules who choose to handle their finances separately never think ahead to the shit that can impact all of them.

Say you and your quad have an apartment together. You’ve each agreed to pay ¼ of all rent and utilities and otherwise keep personal expenses separate. As long as everything with the apartment is good, you’re good.

But one day your landlord drops by and says he is really sorry, but he is kicking you out. His house burned down and his family will be moving into your apartment[This happene to my famiy once at a time when had no savings. Scary as shit. We ended up in a room at a boarding house.]. See, there is this little-known law in some places that the landlord can kick you out with next-to-no notice and without an eviction if he intends to take up residence in your apartment. So now you need to find a new place to live by the end of the week. How are you going to cover moving expenses, security deposit and first months rent on no notice? Sure, your landlord should be refunding your security deposit and rent for your interrupted month. But in my experience landlords tend to mail you a check two weeks after you move out. That doesn’t help you right now.

If you don’t have an emergency savings fund for your polycule (or possibly a large enough moving fund), you will likely end up frantically getting in touch with friends and family for a place to crash. Anyone with individual savings is going to need to dip into that. Anyone without individual savings is either relying on the rest of the polycule (which may be against financial independence boundaries for some people) or out of luck. If things get really bad, someone may end up in a homeless shelter. The chances of all of you getting a new place together in that short a time period is not going to be good unless you are all very well off financially.

On a less extreme level: it’s the middle of summer. Your window air conditioner breaks and your home is quickly approaching triple digit temperatures. If members of your polycule are financially well off, replacing it won’t be a problem. For a lot of families, coming up with several hundred dollars on short notice isn’t easy–or even possible.

The best way to prevent problems like this is to create a household emergency fund. Like the rent and utilities, everyone in the polycule will contribute to the emergency fund each month. Set a savings goal. You probably don’t need the “three months expenses” that a lot of US economists like to recommend. And you probably wouldn’t be able to save up that much in a reasonable amount of time anyway. As with the moving cushion, set a reasonable savings goal, and a reasonable time limit to meet that goal in. What is reasonable will depend on typical expenses in your area, your polycule’s financial situation, and other factors. Once you reach your goal, you can discuss if you want to keep saving more, or stop saving until you need to spend from the fund.

Budgeting with a House Spouse

For many families, having a “house spouse” can make keeping up with the housework (and, if you have them, children!) easier. Everyone in your home can juggle schedules do manage child care and scramble to do laundry and cleaning on your days off. Or one person can take responsibility for laundry, cleaning, cooking, childcare, and other household needs.

Having a house spouse can help a family in many ways. The one way it definitely hurts is finances. In fact, having a house spouse creates several financial challenges:

  • Reduces household income
  • Restricts options for budgeting
  • House spouse is dependent on other family members for their financial needs

The first challenge is the simplest. Either the other adults in the family are bringing in enough money for one person to stay home as a house spouse or they aren’t. There are ways around this, including have a part-time house spouse. More on that later.

Now, as for budgeting, the big issue is the house spouse doesn’t have a salary, so they can’t help pay the bills. Any budgeting plan based on everyone in the family pitching in immediately has a problem. Assuming the house spouse doesn’t have any income, as is traditional, you need a budget that doesn’t require everyone to pay part of it. This means things like “even split” don’t work, but “all-in” and “percentage split” can. Before your polycule decides to have a house spouse, make sure everyone is on board with the necessary budget and shared expense plan.

The house spouse being dependent on everyone else is the most overlooked problem. It’s also the biggest one. A house spouse takes a major hit financially, especially if they aren’t legally married to someone who works. They don’t have money to pay for their own phone, their own car, their own dates, or even their own clothes. They can’t get health insurance or a retirement plan through an employer (though the latter is becoming rare in the US anyway). Perhaps most importantly, they have no funds to move out if the relationship becomes unhealthy. I’ve spoken with more than one secondary who moved in with a primary couple, leaving their job to do so, and found themselves trapped. It’s a bad situation to be in.

Part-Time House Spouse

With modern cleaning appliances, housework no longer needs to be a full-time job. If you have things like a good vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher, you can keep many homes clean in 2-3 hours work a day. Cooking, laundry, and paperwork add to that, but for many people being a house spouse can be a part-time job. Which means it is possible for a house spouse to have another part-time job outside the house.

This allows the house spouse to have their own income for their own needs (if you’re budget isn’t “All-in”). The house spouse can also put money towards the household, increasing the total household budget and making it easier to afford a house spouse.

Being a part-time house spouse can be a good option for something who wants to start a home business. They can split their time between the home and their business, and adjust the balance as needed. If the business takes off, they may need to give up being house spouse.

If your family decides a part-time house spouse is the way to go, keep an eye on the time. A part-time job is just that—part-time. If housework ends up taking more than 25 hours a week or so, the rest of the family should pitch in.

The House Spouse Salary

If you have kids, being a house spouse can become a full-time job. Prepping for school, helping with homework, getting kids to and from afterschool activities all take time. Pre-school aged kids take more time.

For some house spouses, the extra time those modern appliances provide means more time for other household needs. In some families, a house spouse makes soap, clothes, tomato sauce, and other necessities that most of us buy at the store. These tasks may save the family money, better suit a family’s values, add to the personal feel of the home, and much more. This type of house spouse work can easily be a full-time job.

And not everyone has those modern appliances. My family doesn’t have a dishwasher. We don’t have a washer and dryer at home. I can’t pop a load in and work while it runs. Doing the weekly laundry take 3 hours out of my day. If you don’t have a car, food shopping, picking up medication at the pharmacy, or getting to the school for a parent-teacher conference all take a lot longer. Again, making housework a full-time job.

If the housework is a full-time job for your family, you might give your house spouse a salary. This gives the house spouse some financial independence and makes it possible for them to contribute to the budget. I first heard this idea from a woman I did a joint presentation with at Atlanta Poly Weekend, and I thought it was genius. (I’m embarrassed to say I no longer remember their name.) It does make having a house spouse more expensive, but it solves all the other problems.

Simply, the family agrees on what is a reasonable salary for the house spouse. Other adult family members pitch in to pay the house spouse as part of paying the other household bills. The house spouse then has money to put towards their needs and to put toward the rest of the household bills like rent, utilities, etc.

“All-in” budgeting

Finally, you can have full joint finances. Everyone puts all their money in a big pot. The pot covers household needs and individual needs. Everyone, including the house spouse, has their needs covered from the joint funds. Household bills get paid the same regardless of whether or not the house spouse has any money to put in. Having someone stay home as a house spouse is not an extra expense on the budget (as paying a house spouse salary would be). However, the budget still needs to cover all expenses with one less paycheck coming in.

Polyamory Budgeting

Today’s post is for poly folk who share expenses. I wrote it assuming a joint household, but the same basic ideas apply to folks who live separately and share expenses.

For some poly folk, all household income and all bills go into a family pot and (at least in theory) are handled jointly. How this works out 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 as well.

When deciding how entwined you want your finances to be, I recommend going at the pace of the person who wants the least entwinement. If two of you are comfortable going all in, and one wants to function as roommates-with-benefits, then start out at the roommates level of entwinement. It is easier to increase entwinement later than to decrease it. Especially in financial matters.

Once you decide how entwined you want your finances to be, it’s time to decide how to divide up your joint bills. There are many ways to approach this, and one day someone with more economic background than I have will probably tackle household finances for a group home. For now, here are some options to get your conversation started.

As always in poly matters, strike the word “fair” from your vocabulary when discussing budgets. Whether or not a given budgeting option is “fair” is entirely a matter of perspective. Instead, look for options that work for your family.

Even Split

Total up the household bills, divide by the number of people in the household, and that’s what everyone pays each month. The traditional option for roommates.

Easy to implement and taken at face value extremely “fair”.

May cause resentment/envy/jealousy when income varies widely within polycule and one member is constantly scraping by with no disposable income while others have lots of extra each month.

Does not allow for a house-spouse in the polycule–everyone needs to have an income.

Is likely to be especially hard in polycules where one or more members have an established career and others are in school/trying to find work

Percentage Split

Determine what percentage of household income each member brings in. Each member of the polycule pays that percentage of the bills each month. For example, if my family has $1000 coming in each month, $400 from me, $300 from partner A and $300 from partner B, then I would pay 40% of the household bills, and each of my partners would pay 30%.

This type of arrangement is harder to set up than an equal split. However, once set up it can run just as seamlessly. A polycule member with a higher income will still have more disposable income at the end of the month than a polycule member with low income, but everyone with an income should have some disposable income after the household bills are paid (unless the entire household is just scraping by.)

This set up can be difficult to make work when one or more members of the polycule has a variable income.

May cause resentment if polycule members with higher income feel like they are supporting polycule members with lower income.

Can work with a house-spouse. A house-spouse brings in 0% of the household income and pays 0% of the bills. However, the house-spouse has no income to pay their personal bills and expenses.

All-In

Everyone puts all their money in a communal pot, all household and personal expenses are paid out of that communal pot. This can be both the easiest and most difficult option. It requires the highest level of entwinement and a great deal of trust. Trust that everyone is doing their best to get all the bills paid and trust that when personal bills need to be prioritized, it will be done in a way that not only works best for the household but won’t harm any individual in the polycule.

All-in requires a budget for the household. Other options rely on everyone keeping a personal budget and paying their part of the household bills.

Allows the most flexibility for changing circumstances (someone loses a job, goes back to school, gets a promotion, etc).

As with percentage split, may cause resentment if one or more members of the polycule feel other members are “riding” on their hard work.

If you choose to split household expenses, however you split them, you probably don’t need to worry about a household budget. Everyone pays their share, and everyone keeps an individual budget to manage the rest of their personal finances. Some polycules may choose to create a household budget anyway

For polycules that choose to go all-in, a household budget becomes necessary.

Creating a family budget can easily become a nightmare. The general options are to pick one person to be responsible for the budget or to manage the budget by committee. Having one person manage all the money requires a great deal of trust and ongoing communication. The word “committee” tells you everything you need to know about how easy that option is!

A middle ground is for one person to create the budget, but then review it together to discuss and make changes as needed.

Deciding how to manage the budget will be based largely on personal preference, skill and knowledge of budgeting, family communication levels, and need for simplicity.
If your polycule needs a simple option and has the necessary comfort levels, pick one person who knows how to handle a budget, and let them handle it.

If your polycule is good at negotiating and working things out together, and needs transparency more than simplicity, managing the budget by committee may work for you. Plan a budget together and use a shared GoogleSheets spreadsheet to keep track of and record all expenses and income. Just make sure you remember to record everything you need to!

Living with an Abusive Metamour (Guest Post by Liz Gentry)

This week Liz Gentry of Learning Many Loves has chosen to share her experiences of living with a mentally ill and abusive metamour. Many thanks to Liz for opening up about this difficult experience.

Don’t forget to stop back next week, when we’ll be taking a close look at the intersection of abuse and mental illness.

First, a little background: I met my partner Jon a couple of years ago. Jon was dating another woman, Lora for about nine months before Jon and I started dating. A few months into Jon and I dating, Lora moved in with Jon. After dating Jon for a bit over a year, the three of us moved in together. We lived together for about fourteen months before Jon broke up with Lora. His reason for breaking up with her was (as he has told me) the abusive cycle that their relationship followed.

In writing about a day in the life of my experience living with someone who is verbally abusive and emotionally, the first thing I need to say is that what I expect from the day varies greatly with where we are in the cycle. The beginning of the cycle has no abuse. Lora and Jon would get along fine. Then small instances of verbal abuse and control would begin to creep in. Those instances would escalate over a several month period. Then there would be a huge screaming fight where Lora was repeatedly verbally and abusive towards Jon. The week after the fight, there’s a period of constant low-level fighting with a lot of controlling behavior and attempts to impose control through badgering, gaslighting, black and white thinking, and threats. Eventually, a resolution was reached, and there would be a honeymoon period again, with no abuse for some days to a few weeks before slowly beginning to escalate again.

The hardest thing for me (being a metamour living in and observing this abusive dynamic) was watching someone I love be abused, ridiculed, mocked, screamed at, and badgered. I am definitely someone who would rather be hurt myself than see someone I love being hurt. For all that experiencing this second-hand hurt, as I was not the one being abused, there was a deep sense of powerlessness about this. I couldn’t control my partner’s boundaries about what behavior he would accept. But I did need to figure out where it was appropriate for me to draw my boundaries, without becoming controlling or coercive myself. Although I viewed Lora’s behavior as abusive, Jon didn’t always agree at that time (later, he painfully came to the conclusion on his own that her behavior was really abusive many of the times when he said that it wasn’t). This put me in a very uncomfortable spot – if he doesn’t believe the behavior is abusive, is pushing him to understand that it is gaslighting? Even if I’m doing it out of pure concern (we could say “for his own good”), do I have a right to push until he agrees with me?

I think the answer to that is no. Even if I’m doing it out of concern, forcing Jon to agree with me about Lora abusing him is still forcing Jon to do something, and that is abusive. He had to come to his own conclusions, and live his life accordingly.

But trying to let him live his life, and live with him and his abusive partner was incredibly hard. It was scary. It was enormously stressful. When Lora was gaslighting Jon, I doubted my own ability to evaluate situations for harm. I repeatedly went to my friends and asked “Is this normal? Is this healthy? Jon doesn’t seem too upset about it, so maybe I’m just causing problems by being upset by it. Maybe I’m not really poly. Maybe this is a way that jealousy is manifesting itself and I’m really just trying to get rid of Lora so that I can have Jon all to myself. What is wrong with me?”

Admitting to myself that Lora behaved abusively took a long time, because I didn’t want to have an abusive metamour. I didn’t want to believe that my partner was willingly being in a relationship with someone who was abusive. Complicating matters were Lora’s diagnosed mental illnesses of PTSD and anxiety disorder. Was a behavior really abusive if it was fueled by those mental illnesses? Having gone through several hard times with depression myself, not cutting Lora slack with her mental illnesses felt hypocritical, shitty, and like I was being a bad metamour and a bad person.

Inside myself, there was a cycle of anger, fear, guilt and doubt. Anger at the way Lora treated Jon. Fear at seeing how it impacted him and wore him down over months. Guilt for not cutting Lora some slack and being more understanding, given her mental illnesses. Doubt that I was really poly, doubt that I was overblowing things, as I seemed to be the most concerned of the three of us, when it came to Lora’s behavior and the impact it had on Jon. But then, that doubt would give way to anger the next time I heard Lora and Jon fighting and she told him that he was as abusive towards her as her drug addicted ex had been.

Lora’s ex used to do things like “punish” Lora by having unprotected sex with other women, and then telling Lora that he’d done so while he and Lora were having sex the next day. Knowing this about Lora was painful and evoked a lot of sorrow in me for what she went through, while simultaneously enraging me that she would compare our loving, supportive partner to such a dirtbag. Who wouldn’t get angry at that and think to him/herself “No matter what is going on with me, it is WRONG to say that to a loving partner in a fit of anger”?

Living with Lora was also hard because I didn’t know how to treat her. She seemed to like me. She claimed to want to have a closer relationship with me. She wanted us to be close friends. In theory, I wanted that too, but seeing how she treated Jon…did I really want to get closer to Lora? And as time went on, she slowly began to treating me in ways that concerned me deeply.. She didn’t hear that I said to her, and attributed behaviors to me that I’d never do, but she would. For example, one day, I was getting home from work as she was leaving to go to the store. She said to me “Jon is a little sick, and he’s sleeping. I wanted you to know so that you don’t get angry with him that he doesn’t come and greet you as soon as you get in”.I have never been angry at a partner for not coming up and greeting me as soon as I got home. But a long-standing fight between Jon and Lora was that if Jon didn’t drop whatever he was doing and greet Lora when she came home, it was a sign that he didn’t really love her. Because Lora felt that Jon should always be excited when she gets home, and eager to greet her immediately, if he really loves her.

There’s a lot in that paragraph, that describes the level of control and expectation of behavior that Lora had towards Jon. It’s also a good example of the kind of difficult situation I was in. We all have our quirks and vulnerabilities. Was Lora feeling strongly about Jon greeting her as soon as she gets home just a little quirk? If Jon agreed to do this, then did it mean it wasn’t controlling? Did I have any right to judge or have an opinion about these things?

I didn’t know the answers to those questions. I did know that if getting closer to Lora meant that she would expect the same of me, then I didn’t want to get closer to Lora. I’ve never expected such a thing from a partner, and I didn’t want to be close to someone who would have that kind of expectation of me.

Because of the number of things that Lora could take offense to, coming home slowly become stressful and unpleasant. I never knew what small thing would send Lora into an enraged tailspin. I never knew when a quiet night would turn into a stressful night, as Lora found fault with something that Jon said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. There were many instances where it seemed like Jon couldn’t win. When he wasn’t being berated for saying something Lora didn’t like, he was being berated for not talking to her enough.

While these fights fueled by Lora’s insecurity and masked as problems with Jon’s behavior raged on, I would think to myself “What does he see in this relationship? Do I have the right to judge it? What do I do about this? Can I do anything?”

This is a glimpse of what it was like, living with an abusive metamour. The self doubts, the anger, the hatred, the fear…it was all terrible. It took a toll on my health, my sleep, my ability to function at work, my ability to trust myself. I restarted therapy to work through these problems.

I’ve become passionate about having a dialogue and creating some form of action plan for other metamours who find themselves realizing that their hinge partner is being abused by another partner. I believe it’s very important to address controlling and coercive behaviors as soon as they begin and to push back against them immediately. I think that – had we all been willing to open our eyes and admit that Lora’s behavior was abusive earlier – it’s possible that our relationships could have been salvaged. By denying the reality of her abusive behavior for so long, I hit a point of no return, where I cannot have anything to do with her. Likewise, Jon (who is still in contact with Lora) isn’t certain if he’s able to have her in his life in any capacity. He’s trying to figure that out, but he’s said that it would have been easier to stay a part of her life had the abuse not escalated to the degree it reached while they were together.

The abuse of one partner by another will reverberate into the relationships with all other partners. I think we owe it to ourselves, as people committed to multiple loving relationships, to figure out different ways to handle this kind of situation. We need to work through finding the tools to do what we can to combat abuse, while respecting the agency and humanity of all those involved. Doing so would reap enormous benefits not just for the poly community, but potentially for our other friends and family members who may be dealing with abuse.

Liz Gentry is a pragmatist disguised as an optimist. In addition to her day job as a corporate desk-jockey, she specializes in hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Though of a poly-friendly mindset all her life, she didn’t start living polyamorously until about five years ago. She chronicles her polyamorous journey at https://learningmanyloves.wordpress.com/.

This post is part of the Abuse in Polyamory blog series. It is related to Polyamory and Mental Illness.

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Laws Preventing Polyamorous Families From Living Together

Standard disclaimer–I am not a lawyer, always speak with a professional. Non-standard disclaimer–This post will be a bit more US-centric than usual. I don’t know anything about this kind of municipal law in other countries. Please leave comments with any information you can add!

Depending on where you are, who you ask, and what your local history is, the laws we are going to be discussing today are the result of public health concerns, racist/classist attempts to restrict housing to “desirable groups”, or round able attempts at morality policing.

These laws take different forms from health codes to zone regulations to building codes to rental regulations. But the gist of the law is always the same: to limit the number of people who can live together.

I can respect the health rational–overcrowding does increase the spread of disease, and while I am lucky enough to live in a time and place where cholera outbreaks, diphtheria epidemics and typhoid fever outbreaks are all-but unheard of, I know part of the reason I am privileged to live in such a time and place is the institution of strong and enforceable health codes that prevent the streets from turning into open sewers and prevent the type of overcrowding.

When a health inspector tells me that my poly family may need to split into two apartments because of health codes, and explains that the code shouldn’t apply to us because it’s intended to prevent Hispanic families from crowding 20 people in an apartment, so he thinks we’ll squeak by but we should be prepared just in case…

Well, my “respect” quotient turns none existent.

Regardless of their intention, these laws can make it difficult or impossible for poly families to find a home together.

How many people are allowed to live together can vary from a particularly restrictive code outlawing 3 people who are part of a married family sharing an apartment (openly campaigned for as a way to prevent unmarried couples from having children and destroying the moral fabric of the city) to requiring that if more than 3 people live together they must be legally related in some fashion, to college towns were 5 or more people can rent an apartment only if the landlord applies for a student-rental exemption.

These laws are more likely to affect people who rent than people who own their homes. This is because legally restricting what a landlord does with their property doesn’t violate privacy laws, but in some cases restricting what someone who owns a property does with it can violate privacy laws. However, owning their own home didn’t protect this family in Hartford, Connecticut.

Not all municipalities have these laws. In my (admittedly limited) experience, they are damn-near universal in the North East, and common in many US cities. What I know of Europe leads me to suspect that similar anti-overcrowding health codes may be in effect in some regions. I have no idea Europe has any equivalent of the building and zoning codes driven by racists, classist, or moral motives I’ve seen in the US. After the rest of the world, I have no idea.

Laws like these are not the only things preventing poly folk from living together. In some places, the social stigma and backlash from a poly family living together is a much bigger concern than legal issues. And of course living together can in some regions can lead to common law marriages and/or leave you open to prosecution as bigamists.

 

Again, please leave a comment if you have additional information concerning these types of laws and regulations, especially outside the US.

 

Moving in Together: Wrap Up

I haven’t covered everything involved in moving in together, but over the past month+ we’ve covered a good range.

And one bonus “moving in together post” written as part of the Polyamory and pregnancy series way back the first year I was writing this blog:

Moving in Together

Next week I’ll be starting a new topic and Clementine, author of this awesome blog post, will be writing a guest blog to introduce our exploration of the intersection of mental health and polyamory.

Draft of Poly Group Home is Finished

Thanks in part the generous contributions of the PolyonPurpose Patrons, I’ve been able to spend some solid time each week on the next Polyamory on Purpose guide, The Poly Home.

The current plan is for the book to be divided into five sections

  • General information for poly group homes all poly homes
  • Issues and ideas specific to poly group homes
  • Issues and ideas specific to poly couple homes
  • Issues and ideas specific to poly folk living apart from all their poly partners
  • Moving In Together

With the additional time I’ve been able to spend working on the book, last Wednesday I finally completed the section on group homes. If I can continue working at the current pace I anticipate finishing a section a month from now until the first draft is finished.

To wet your appetite, here is the introduction to Poly Group Homes as currently drafted:

 

I read recently that intimacy is really “in-to-me-see.” A reminder that being intimate isn’t just the things we do together, but mostly in seeing and connecting with each other.

The home is the most intimate part of our lives. It is where we let go of our public masks and be ourselves. Our disgusting habits, residual childishness, inner naivete, and everything else that is “us” can come out to play. Living together is an intimate experience. That’s true whether you are lovers, friends, roommates, or strangers stuck in the same dorm. For poly groups living together, sharing that intense intimacy can be a joy and a challenge. There is an old English saying about two women in a house never being in accord. Whether women, men, or non-binary, more people in the house definitely increases the chance of discord.

Nothing can prevent problems cropping up from time to time, but I hope within this section, you will find practical advice on living together that will help avoid some of those problems–as well as just make day-to-day life a little simpler.

And however much risk of discord there is in living together, the “in-to-me-see” of sharing the little day-to-day bits of your lives together is pretty damn awesome.

 

If I can continue working at the current pace, and if editing and formatting don’t give me too many headaches (they usually do) I’ll have the finished book published next January or February. Or if you can’t wait for more, sign up to become a PolyonPurpose Patron and read the drafts as I write them.

Moving in: Sleeping Together (or Apart)

A few years back I did a write up on all the various ways I knew of for polyfolk to arrange their bedrooms. At some point, I need to go back and expand it a bit to include sleeping arrangements for solo polies, but aside from that it is still a fairly comprehensive list.

If you’ve been dating a while, you probably have routines for overnight visits. These routines may translate well to living together or they may not. Maybe Erin is fine sharing a bed a few nights a month when Dave comes over, but usually prefers to sleep alone. Maybe Ian can take the couch once a week so Vivian and Carl can share a bed, but he’s not going to be willing to sleep on the couch every night–which means the three of them need to work out sleeping arrangements that will work every night, not just once in a while.

Beds: The one place where three sometimes is a crowd.

I suggest using that old blog about polyamory sleeping arrangements as a jumping off point for ideas about what your options are and what will work for you and your partners. Things to look at include how (and with whom) everyone prefers to sleep, how many bedrooms you have available, and how big your beds are.Beds sharing can be a huge jealousy trigger. If Ian and Carl both want to sleep with Vivian, but either don’t have a big enough bed or don’t want to all sleep together, than “who Vivian sleeps with” can become an even bigger issue that “who Vivian has sex with.” After all, everyone has different sex drives, and if Carl is only interested in sex once a week, he probably won’t be bothered by Vivian and Ian having sex twice a week—as long as he and Vivian still have sex once a week. But almost everyone sleeps every night. Carl is used to Vivian sleeping with him most nights, which may leave Ian feeling left out. If Vivian begins splitting her sleep schedule evenly between her partners, Carl will lose a great deal of his regular time with her. Which might cause him to feel abandoned or not cared for. This kind of thing will play out differently in every relationship. The dynamics will be different in quad than a triad, different when everyone can sleep together, or different when one or more people simply prefer to sleep alone. My first, big, suggestion is to simply talk about it before you move in together. Don’t assume that what had worked for visits will work for every night. Be prepared to be flexible. The first way you try to handle sleeping arrangements doesn’t have to be the only way. If it isn’t working, be prepared to try something else. Remember that sleeping together is a type of being together, but it does not equal spending time together. The emotional needs that are met by you and your partner(s) get some sleeping together are not the same as the emotional needs that are met by you and your partner spending time together while awake. You probably can’t trade a night spent sleeping together for another date night.