Marginalized Polya People

Updated version of an article first published on Postmodern Woman.

What does polyamory look like when you’re poor or disabled? How do you maintain autonomy and independence when you require specific care or assistance? How do you have safe, kinky, enjoyable sex when you’re allergic to latex or have a condition that leaves your body racked in pain?

Other than being in the minority categories for my aromanticism, relationship anarchy, kinkiness, genderqueerness, pansexuality, noetisexuality, and being Black, there are other specific ways in which my polyamory does not fit into the norm. There are other considerations to make and reinterpretations of many actions and freedoms that many polya people take for granted.

The average polya person in the limelight (with the exception of Kevin Patterson’s Poly Role Models) is well-off, white or white-adjacent, and normally healthy. Solo polyamorists constantly talk about autonomy, lack of enmeshment, and independence and other polyamorists set up visits with ease. Yet there are huge and gaping holes in the polya and non-monogamous relationship conversation. Very few people know what life is like for those that fall through the cracks. There aren’t many stories of the poor, the marginalized, and the mentally or physically ill and how they navigate healthy, fulfilling multiple relationships. I’ve seen a lot of polya people say that they wouldn’t date someone with a mental disorder.

There are many people that I know who are polya and have less than perfect health. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed as autistic and has been experiencing close-mindedness and ignorance in the poly and kink communities. A blogger I follow has borderline personality disorder and writes deeply moving posts about his experiences in relationships from his unique perspective. I’ve been writing stories (and “living the life”) for nearly 20 years about the people you never hear about in the media, the situations that rarely get discussed elsewhere, and the ways that these unique people handle their circumstances.
Being poor or disabled can present their own obstacles for expressing one’s polyamorous leanings. There aren’t as many resources for people like me. But as the more visible polyamorous communities create new resources and expand the social narrative, so it is my hope that more people of color, people allergic to weird things, and those who aren’t the epitome of health can share and create resources to generate understanding, education, and community as well.
Nearly every relationship you have when you’re poor is like a long-distance relationship, or at least that’s been my experience. Unless you live in the same neighborhood regular travel and conferences and outings can become prohibitively expensive. Technology helps if you can afford it or have access to it.

You learn to treasure the moments you can be together all the more. You learn to be okay with being alone most of the time. You definitely learn to appreciate the little things. And you know with absolute certainty that you may not have all of your needs met. It takes a special kind of patience and maturity to deal with the cancelled dates, limits on time, and isolation that come so much more often when you’re poor and/or spoonie. I liken being poor to being in emergency mode more often than not.

Where the executive with a harried day has the opportunity and money to relax and unwind, the poor and disabled person has no access to the typical means with which to relieve their stress. When you don’t have the money or the means you have to get creative. When you’re not healthy you have to accept that there are times when you have to put down your superman cape and allow someone to help you and accept some entwinement, even if others label it enmeshment or dependency. Poor health and the higher possibility of an emergency can make the poor, Black, and unwell seem like high risk partners for other polya people.
Try to imagine the looks you’d get when you say you can’t use the condom your partner has brought because you’re allergic to latex. You either rush around in an effort to find the much less effective (and harder to find) non-latex condoms, call it off, or go through with it without a condom and hope that the STI test results are still accurate. I also have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which leave me subfertile — and less worried about accidental pregnancy — yet simultaneously leave me in pain more often than not.

There are times when, even if I want rougher sex, my partners have to be gentle. There’s nothing wrong with pain when you want it but the pain caused by those conditions is not the fun kind – and I’m not that kind of masochist. My PCOS and PMDD cause anxiety, which can lead to more stress, which can lead to a worsening of my conditions. These kinds of illnesses have no cure and anyone with a long-term illness knows that we have to find alternative and healthy ways to deal with them and lessen their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, the majority of people know nothing about it and when they can’t physically see what’s wrong with you it can breed resentment, disbelief, and dismissal.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. You find out fairly quickly who is dependable and who is not, who is simply there for fun and who’d like to be around for a while, who is actively dedicated to anti-racism, who can healthily deal with stress and who cracks under the slightest pressure. You find support you never expected from the strangest places, you learn not to take anything for given or granted, and it makes effective communication all the more important.
Some people will see these things as obstacles or reasons not to be polya. They don’t exactly fit the “perfect polya” narrative (unless you realize that aros tend to have jealousy and compersion down pat!). But no matter who you are, life is usually only as difficult as you make it.

More Personal Stuff (and some resources)

As with last Thursday’s post, I’m mostly re-posting this one for the resources. CARAS and NCSF aren’t often able to assist polyam folk directly, but they have some good stuff for educating doctors, psychs, and other professionals you may be dealing with. Looking Through Us is sill up, it’s been on hiatus in recent months but I hope to see it become active again soon.  Obviously, I’m still a bit off schedule from March insanity. Hopefully I’ll be back on track by the end of the week. Updated April 2, 2017.

Hey all, sorry for disappearing like that. I got very caught up dealing with the custody case, which is now finished, even if the judge hasn’t given us a decision yet. (I hate waiting.)

I want to thank CARAS and NCSF for all the work they have done educating people about polyamory and alternate sexualities. My children have been seeing a therapist for the stress the custody mess has been causing them, and I had told her about my involvement in polyamory shortly before this mess went to court. She had no issue with the lifestyle, told me that my private choices were just that, and when she was subpoenaed  as a witness she told the judge and court that my ‘multiple relationships’ as the lawyer called it, were not in any way bad for my children.

I don’t know if the therapist learned of polyamory through CARAS or NCFS or not, but having the benefit of a medical professional working with my children who is accepting of polyamory has made me that much more aware of how important the work they do is.

I also want to give a shout out to Poly Anna of Looking Through.Us. I was very flattered by the review of this blog that she posted a few weeks ago (one of your favorites? Really?! – I don’t squee, but if I did, I would have). Poly Anna has an ‘Ask PolyAnna’ column on Looking Through.Us, a kind of ‘Dear Abby’ for poly and non-monogamy. She doesn’t get questions often, but when she does she tends to have good advice, and takes the time to go in depth in her answers.

I should be back (mostly) to my regular posting schedule starting on Thursday. I’m afraid the webcomic needs to go on hiatus for a while, because I lost the pen from the drawing tablet, and as bad as my artwork is with the tablet, it is absolutely atrocious using a mouse. As I am in the middle of a massive cleaning spree, I’m hopeful of finding the pen in the next few weeks and getting the comic going again.

(Originally posted December 2011)

Yay Life Insanity! (And Canadian Court Cases)

Most of this “not posting this week” posts I’ll end up deleting rather than editing and updating, because, well, a post saying “I won’t be posting today” 5+ years ago isn’t exactly relevant now, ya know? But this one also contains my immediate reaction to the big court case in Canada that challenged Canada’s anti-polygamy laws. At the time I wrote this I hadn’t yet dug into the details of the court’s decision. It was unfortunately the same tired, old reasoning that “we need laws against polygamy so we can stop child abusers” which has been trotted out time and again. As if we didn’t already have laws on the books against child abusers or something, ya know?

Also, fuck Thanksgiving. Seriously. I’m embarrassed how long it took me to realize how shitty that holiday is, and if you haven’t realized it yet, stop and think about what it means to Native Americans to celebrate the arrival of Europeans on this continent. Or to black folks to celebrate the origin of a colonial empire that kidnapped, raped, and murdered their ancestors by the millions. Lovely thing to have a party about. Not.

The webcomic I referenced here is sadly (thankfully) defunct. I love webcomics and was really frustrated with the lack of polyam-related webcomics. So I decided to create my own. But I can’t draw for shit… Reposted with commentary March 30, 2017.

PS. Comments about how “I celebrate thanksgiving as a time to be with family” yada yada will be deleted. You want to celebrate family togetherness, great, how about creating a new holiday that isn’t steeped in colonialism and genocide?

So life really got away from me this week, sorry all. I’ll be posting a late update to the webcomic sometime today or tomorrow. Hope to be fully back on track next week.

I will be skipping the normal Polyamory and Children post today because of the holiday, and I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving/Turkey Day. (Even if you don’t celebrate, you can still have a good day, right?)

On the subject of things to be thankful for, the Canadian Anti-Polygamy case ruling was released yesterday. I know there is a huge mixed reaction to the ruling (the short version for anyone who hasn’t heard is that having multiple marriages remains illegal, but the judge clarified that multiple relationships, including living together/common law relationships are not illegal as long as there is no ceremony to formalize the relationships). While it is not the outcome many polyam folk and polyam-supporters were hoping for, it is indeed a step in the right direction. So let’s be thankful for small steps, even as we keep working for more progress.

(originally posted November 2011)

What About That Lovely Compersion? It’s Not Just for Polya People

Note: This is an updated version of the article first appearing on Postmodern Woman.

Whenever we hear about compersion it’s in a romantic polya context. It’s a feeling of joy that one partner gets when one of their partners is happy, usually because they’ve met someone new. To romantic polya folks compersion is held up as the opposite of jealousy. It’s something to strive for. It’s proof that you’ve beaten the green-eyed monster (even if you still feel it from time to time).

But what about those of us who have no jealousy with which to compare the feeling? Or, hell, what about instances where we feel joy over someone else’s success, even in nonromantic contexts? What about when we cheer for our favorite sports teams and celebrate them winning?

I think we naturally feel compersion in a variety of situations. But people are only applauded for it and only notice it when they feel it in a romantic or polyamorous context.

But what if American Ninja Warrior was the standard for how we treated one another?

If you’re not familiar with American Ninja Warrior, it’s the only competition I’ve seen where literally everyone-competitors, announces, and audience-support every single person going out there and doing their best. That is true competition right there. It’s never about the other players; it’s all about you doing your ultimate.

We naturally want our children, our teams, our companies, and our friends to do well. We’re supportive of them, we cheer them on, and we celebrate with them when they get what they want, when they meet their goals, or when they win. We even do this with fictional characters.

Yet when it comes to romantic relationships and transitional polyamory from the dominant culture, for some reason all of that goes flying out the window. Romantic people are even encouraged to be jealous of one another. It becomes a competition in the destructive sense of the word and everyone is set apart from day one.

People view their partners with suspicion and newcomers with envy. They’ve learned in many ways to view their partners (or their time or love) as their property to some extent. And naturally when that’s taken away they despise it. They want to do all they can to prevent it. Jealousy tells them they’re losing something that’s rightfully theirs.

So polya people work at it. Over and over. Some people give up and return to a monogamous life. Some polya people learn to work around it. Jealousy becomes this ugly never-healing sore that just kind of weeps in the background sometimes. Polya people work on stripping it of its power. When they think they’ve succeeded, when they can feel somewhat joyful about a new love or something, they get excited about feeling compersion.

But it seems like it’s mostly a case of them unlearning the typical cultural messages surrounding how our relationships should look. Why is it easier for friends and parents to feel compersion rather than romantic lovers?

A huge part of it is simply amatonormativity – the pressure and belief that long-term romantic pair-bonding with accompanying trips up that relationship escalator are the norm and are appropriate and desirable for everyone. Not even non-monogamy gets much of a pass from the effects of amatonormativity; often ideas from the underlying culture spill over.

That’s why those who seem to overcome this programming get so excited about compersion.

Even still, the feeling isn’t exclusive to polyamory and for aromantic people or long-term multilinkers it’s not some elusive goal. It comes more easily or organically in nonfamilial intimate linkings because it’s an extension of what we already feel in our other relationships. For some multilinkers or people who value friendships over romance it might be easier for us to tap into our sense of compersion and extend it to all areas 0f our lives.

Compersion isn’t something exceptional. It’s not the sole invention or experience of polyamorous people. Instead I think it’s that those romantic polya people from the dominant culture might find it more difficult to express it in polyamorous relationships. All of us have certain contexts we develop for our relationships. Built into that context are a host of expectations and norms.

It’s considered normal to feel great when your husband gets a raise but not when he gets a new girlfriend.

Maybe the key to compersion isn’t so much defeating or conquering jealousy. I don’t even believe it is the opposite of jealousy. Maybe it’s simply a matter of learning to be more friendly. Of looking at your partner with those lenses you’re able to extend to everyone else. Maybe it’s simply a matter of unlearning those divisive competitive lessons. Why is it easier for you to be happy for your friend or your child but not your lover? Is the root something you simply acquired from culture that triggers your jealousy instead of your compersion?

Either way, however you arrive at it just remember: you’ve felt compersion before!

It’s more familiar than you think it is. It simply hasn’t gone by that name outside of a romantic polya context because people tend to take it for granted.

I recommend you take it from American Ninja Warrior. It is possible and it’s not as hard as people might make it seem. They’re definitely on to something.

Remember, I’m cheering you on!

Telling Your Children about Polyamory

Not much changed here on the main topic, but original version was pretty heterocentric. I’ve tried to correct that and be more inclusive of single-parent families. Revised 3/26/17

Children who are born into a polyamorous relationship do not need anyone to explain their parents’ relationships, any more than children born into a monogamous relationship. Because they grow up with it, they understand it. It’s normal to them.

Children whose parent(s) become polyamorous after the children are born may have difficulty understanding change in their parents’ relationships. If you choose to be open about your lifestyle choices, it’s important to present them in a way that leaves your children secure in knowing that their family will not be hurt by the changes you are making.

Discussing Polyamory with Young Children

Young children are still learning the societal norms. They need things simple, and in terms they can understand, with a focus on how it affects them. They certainly don’t need a long explanation of what polyamory is, why it is ethically ok, etc.

For some children, and some relationships, you won’t need to discuss anything. Just say at dinner ‘Mommy’s going out on a date, so I’m putting you to bed tonight.’ If you’d like, make it something of a treat for them ‘Mommy’s going out on a date, so you kids and I will be having a special movie night.’ Handling it this way tells them 1) that their Mom is dating someone, 2) that their other parent is cool with this, and 3) that this is something that is normal and they don’t need to worry about it. This goes equally for single parents with several polyam relationships and families with a parent and step parent. ‘Boyfriend will be baby-sitting while Mommy goes on a date with Girlfriend’ works just as well as ‘Daddy/Mommy/Step-Parent is putting you kids to bed tonight’.

If the kids ask questions, answer them without long explanations. Best advice I ever got about explaining things to little kids – answer the exact question they ask in the simplest terms possible, and then shut up. If they want more information, they’ll keep asking.

Some children will need more explanation, or reassurance, than others. If their friend’s parents just divorced because ‘Linda’s mommy was going on dates with another man, and her daddy left them,’ you will definitely need to do some reassuring. In general, treat your relationships as normal, answer questions, and make it clear with how you behave and act that there is nothing for the children to worry about, their world won’t be changing because their parents are in several relationships.

Discussing Polyamory with Older Children/Teenagers

Older children and teenagers will definitely be fully aware of the social norms against polyamory. They may or may not have heard of open relationships and polyam from their friends and acquaintances (if they haven’t yet, they will eventually). They are also probably old enough and enough on their dignity to need and deserve a more formal approach to your decision to enter into polyamory.

I would suggest sitting down with your child or teenager (together!) and explain that you have decided you are going to start dating again, that you still love each other and have no intention of splitting up, and that you are telling them this so that they know what is going on, and don’t get surprised later.

Depending on the child the reaction can range from ‘You’re talking about polyamory? That’s cool,’ to ‘ok, whatever,’ to ‘OMG HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME!!!!’ (Yes, at this age it is all about them. Expect it and accept it. I honestly don’t see much difference between this and the way many adults act, but people seem to think it’s a big deal that teenagers do this. Meh.)

Listen to them (communication is just as important with children as it is with adult relationships). Give them a chance to flip out, ask questions, shrug it off or whatever their deal is. Answer any questions, be clear that it is your lives and your choice, but that you respect them enough to tell them yourselves about this decision. If they don’t see anything to talk about, let it be.

The most important thing about discussing it this way is it lets them know the floor is open. Whatever their reaction, they know that you are okay with them knowing about your relationships, and are willing to discuss it with them. Near equal in importance if you are married is they know that you are both in agreement on this, and no one is sneaking around or cheating.

In general, as long as they see that their lives and their relationships with you aren’t changing in a massive way, older children and teenagers will move on to something else to be worked up and angry about eventually, no matter how badly they react.

Not Discussing Polyamory with your Children

There is, always, the option to keep your lifestyle hidden from your children. Pros and cons of this one can be argued all over the map. I’m not going to get into it here. If you choose not to discuss and inform your children of your lifestyle, be prepared for them to know about it eventually. As self-centered as they are, kids are very attuned to anything that threatens their lives and families. You having other relationships will be seen as a threat, simply because they have been taught that this is a betrayal of their other parent, and may lead to divorce.

Hopefully if they become aware of your relationships without you saying anything, they will come to you to ask about it. In that case it is simple enough to say ‘yes, your other parent knows and approves, beyond that it is private.’ I suggest getting the other parent in the room so they know you are telling the truth.

This post is part of the Raising Children in a Polyamorous Family blog series.

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Fiction Fridays: That’s Some Retirement Plan…

First Entry          Previous Entry

Trevor watched the crowds hundreds of feet below. Folks on the fringes were trickling away, but most weren’t going anywhere.

Give it a couple hours of (hopefully) nothing happening, and anyone not completely dedicated to whatever had brought them here would start to move along. His supporters, at least, had mostly set their signs and amplifiers to automatic and were plugging into the ‘net, to get some real work done. Wu came up to stand beside him.

“General Winehurst wants to speak with you.”

Trevor sighed. “Might as well get it over with. Send him in.”

Wu bowed and left. Trevor turned away from the window to survey what would become his official office. Three cream-colored walls, bare of decoration, and one wall of windows rose 15 ft a ceiling that had been painted with a mural of the world and its peoples. Or at least, it’s human peoples. The floor…

Winehurst burst in before he had finished the survey.

“We did it! I told you my men were the ones for the job.” Winehursts milk-pale face glowed with excitement and the disgusting gender-erasing phrase slipped naturally between his lips.

Trevor smiled and took the general’s hand in both of his. “You did, and they did. Your people have done us all proud.

“So when do we start cleaning up?”

“Why, now, actually.” He tightened his grip, making the general wince. “I am delighted to accept your resignation general, dated immediately. You assassination and leg-breaking teams were invaluable in creating this new world, and I know you want to rest from your labors.”

Winehurst tried to pull away, but he had trained with weapons 30 years ago. Trevor trained in hand-to-hand twice weekly with Wu. He couldn’t beat a real fighter—he hadn’t kept in real training for over ten years himself. But the general wasn’t escaping him by main strength.

“What! No. Damnit we talked about this. You promised me a chance to rebuild the military make it a real fighting force again! Let go, damn it!”

Trevor timed his release so the general lost his balance, stumbling backward and nearly tripping over Wu and Deborah. Deborah wore the distant look Trevor was used to seeing when she called on her God. Wu was focused on Winehurst.

“I have every intention of keeping my promise, general. But I’m afraid you and I have very different ideas of what a “real” fighting force will look like. My idea does not look like the murders, bullies, and abusers you’ve gathered around you to abuse and extort civilian populations. It looks like a military force. With discipline and a purpose.

“So I suggest you take your retirement bonus and go. You won’t get a better offer.”

Winehurst strode towards Trevor, getting in his face and trying to loom over him. “I’m the only military office you’ve got. Without me, you can’t hold the troops. And without the troops, your brown ass will be dead before the week is out. You may be the one with the big chair, but you don’t scare me.”

“I see. Well, I admit I was warned that even if you took retirement you’d be likely to try to… meddle. Better to have everything out in the open, then.”

“Darn right I would. Now let’s talk salary.”

“Of course.” Trevor stepped back, giving way to the general. A hand behind the general’s elbow turned him toward one of the conference tables. Then the grip shifted, and the elbow lock forced Winehurst to keep moving until he walked with into—and through—the glowing 30-story window that should have held up to a shoulder-fired SAM. And had before Deborah’s cast her spell.

Winehurst screamed all the way down, of course. Trevor sighed. “Goodbye general. I told you you wouldn’t get a better offer.”

One of the security gryphons winged down to hover before the window. “Sir?”

“I’m fine. However, we need to up our weapon search procedures.” Trevor shook his head. “I don’t know what he thought he was doing, attacking me with Wu and Deborah right here. And please order a cleanup crew for the sidewalk.”

Deborah came to stand beside him and looked down at the splattered remains of the general.

“Thank you, Deborah. That was quick thinking.” Trevor shook his head. But was it necessary?

Gevurah,” she said. “It was justice.”

“Was it?” Trevor heard himself ask.

Wu put a hand on his shoulder, “Honored friend, not all the deaths on our hands will be just ones. But your servant has seen his work first hand. Even if he had accepted your offer, he would have continued doing harm to many. This death was indeed just.

“And having it known that you can defend yourself against attack at need? Your honored servant will sleep much better at night knowing that your enemies will know you are no easy target.”

With the window gone, the noise of the crowds, now punctuated by screams and shouts, came to him clearly. He looked down at them and waved, doing his best to show them that he was alive and unharmed. Camdrones zoomed towards him. “Wu, deal with those please.” He turned his back on the broken window and sat at the desk he had done so much to claim.

“I have work to do.”

Next Entry

“Talking to Kids about Polyamory” is Now Live!

Hey folks,

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I was invited to take part in the Talking to Kids about Sex interview series hosted by Anya Mayes. Unsurprisingly, Anya wanted me for my experience writing about polyamory. We had a fun time talking about how you can explain polyamory to kids, how to handle it if someone in your kid’s social circle is polyamorous, and a few other important things.

Well, that interview is live today, and you can get it free if you sign up here.

(Anya tells me the her interview with Dr. Eli Sheff is going up tomorrow. I don’t know what they talked about, but I’m looking forward to finding out!)

Text: The Talking to Kids About Sex interview series With your host, Anya Manes FREE VIDEO SERIES Keeping kids safe and whole as they learn who they are. Image: White woman with long dark brown hair, pink t-shirt, smiling, against a white background with blue-and-purple paint-spatter pattern behind series title and colored bars with remaining text on the bottom of the image.

The Triangular Theory of Love Isn’t Consummate

Updated version of article originally appearing here.

Aromantic and asexual-spectrum people often get left of out of the popular theories and convenient graphs about love, lust, and romance. The Triangular Theory of Love is no exception. Theories evolve over time as new information is uncovered. It would be nice one day to have more widespread knowledge out there about all of the possibilities and not merely those open to the chosen few. Aromantics and asexuals tend to get swept under the rug. Experiences that fall outside the romantic norm aren’t well understood and I doubt they’re well-documented. And the largest problem starts with the conflation of passion with limerance/infatuation, or what people most often refer to as New Relationship Energy.

The idea that someone can love someone intensely without feeling romantic or sexual, that someone can remain unbelievably excited about someone for longer than a few months, or that the passion can even grow over time is pretty much unheard of. So many people, whether mono or poly, talk about passion as something that’s like an addiction, that wears off with time, and that can only be felt at the beginning of a relationship. What does passionate nonromantic love look like? How is it different from both romantic passion and companionship? What would you even call it? And is it actually possible?

There has been a steady reintroduction of and recognition that there are more types of attraction than previously thought. Many people are familiar with romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction but may not be familiar with sensual attraction, aesthetic attraction (as opposed to mere aesthetic appreciation), and “intellectual” attraction. The Thinking Asexual has a lovely long list of terms and definitions for all sorts of experiences and identities if you need any explanations. Though they cover many types of attraction and relationship forms, there isn’t much out there to accurately describe enduring connections throughout the relationship, at least without using terms normally related to the most common understandings of commitment, intimacy, and passion.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m both demisexual and aromantic. I’m also noetisexual, which adds its own unique dimension to the ways I experience attraction, love, and passion. I don’t experience NRE and never have. Perhaps some of my long-lasting sexual and and sensual attraction is bound up with my extremely high sex drive and my highly sensual nature. I can only be affectionate, sensual, and sexual with people that I trust, with people that I have emotional intimacy with. There is also this absolutely wonderful comment by Joreth Innkeeper applicable to my experiences of attraction vs action; a summation of the fact that one doesn’t follow the other:

Just as action doesn’t follow from attraction, neither does one sort of love, emotion, or attraction automatically follow from any other. There are as many ways to connect and feel desire as there are people on the planet.

But today, I simply want to go over three types of love aromantic or asexual people (and some romantic and sexual people) may experience but that they may never have had a name for. The point is to expand our understanding about love, attraction, boundaries, and desire so that truly informed consent becomes the norm and not the assumption.

Many asexuals tend to avoid relationships with sexual people and many aromantics avoid hanging around romantic people because of these overly simplified explanations of love, lust, and the built-in assumptions of an end goal along the touch and relationship escalators. Until our experiences are made visible, romantic and sexual people will have problems creating consensual relationships (of any form) with aromantic and asexual people. I also hope that many aromantics and asexuals feel empowered and informed enough to make conscious decisions about how they want their relationships (of any form) to look and what they involve.

As I’ve written before, there are no defaults!

While these new terms are intended to be living terms, and others’ experiences may be different, I’d like to share the sorts of passion I experience and what that’s like.

  • The first is what I’d like to call ecstatic love. It’s like the opposite of existential terror. It’s like a deep, permeating existential joy that this person(s) exists. It’s deeper than friendship yet it’s not romantic and not sexual. It feels like being tickled by the notion of this person being alive right then and there. It may or may not fade with time. Often, there’s no accompanying outward sign. It’s just a feeling that underlies all of your interactions with others. It’s like the fierce love you feel for your child but it can be felt for those who aren’t (and without the protective or instinctive elements accompanying it).

 

  • The second I’d refer to as rapturous love. It’s like a slow-building wave. Where infatuation is often accompanied by extreme highs and lows and dissipates after a while, rapturous love grows and grows and grows. The more time passes, the more overwhelmed you feel. It’s a joy that keeps building on itself with time, a fullness and excitement that only increases as time passes. For me it makes me want to touch and/or fuck the person more and more, not less and less. The more time we spend together and the more I know you, the more I want you and enjoy you physically and emotionally.

 

  • That overlaps a bit with resonant love. This one is extremely intimate. It goes down to the core. It is the full recognition of another person as they truly are, with no assumptions, judgments, or deceptions. It is the Holy Moment: it can last for a glance or a lifetime. You are both deeply aware of one another; it’s as if your souls are naked and revealed, when two or more points of the same universal soul meet. I know that might sound a bit religious or spiritual but that’s not what I’m talking about. It can also simply be a meeting of minds: that special rhythm you get into when you both or all understand an idea or each other completely and entirely. If this were Doctor Who, it would be one of the fixed points in time, an absolute. The term brain orgasms also work for shorter holy moments, though it can last much longer.

Many people might only feel it for a moment here or there but it can actually be felt and experienced quite often, if not all of the time. But as the two men in that conversation say, it is not considered polite to have Holy Moments, and especially not with people who aren’t our romantic or sexual partners. We tend to shy away from them because they’re too raw, too honest, too revealing.

There is so much more to love, life, and connection than we’ve been led to believe. There are so many wonderful experiences without name or without recognition that haven’t been discussed. If we are to build our own lives and our own loves, if we are to choose freely what works best for us and our capabilities then we must make sure to actively engage with the evolving landscape. Passion doesn’t have to be limited to infatuation. It doesn’t have to fade with time. It doesn’t have to be romantic to be fulfilling. We are not all the same so why should our love be? We won’t gain a greater understanding unless we release our ideas from the concretes society would have us accept.


 

Polyamory and Children: Should I tell my kids about polyamory?

Several additional years of experience has only strengthened my original opinion–so no major changes here. I haven’t gotten around to updating it yet, but for those interested here is a post on how to tell your kids about polyamory. Revised 3/19/17. Sorry for the late post.

Probably one of the hardest choices polyam parents face is whether or not to tell their children about their relationships and lifestyle.

When it comes to older children, I firmly believe they should know age-appropriate information about their parents’ relationship choices. They are exploring relationships for themselves and figuring out how they want to live their lives. Your kids (and if they know you, your partners’ kids) will see you as an example of how to live. Not being honest about your experiences and relationships is like sending them out in a rowboat with only one oar. They may decide to take a different path from you, but they deserve your help, support, and advice. And kids are smart – they will know if you are hiding something, and they are not going to be honest with you if you are not honest with them.

Following up on ’kids are damn smart,’ if you are in a relationship with your kid’s other parent, you do not want your kid to think you are cheating. (And they likely will if they discover you are hiding other relationships.) I can’t begin to list all the reasons that would be a BAD THING, but let’s just mention them feeling forced to choice between keeping “your secret” (and lying to their other parent) or telling their other parent (and possibly destroying your relationship and their home). That is a 100% fucked up place to put your kids.

That said, and with the best of intentions, the world doesn’t always work the way we want, and there may be situations where telling your children of any age is a bad idea. For instance, it is generally recommended that polyam folk in a custody agreement with a monogamous co-parent stay in the closet. Being polyamorous can get your custody taken away. Laws on this one vary (and let’s take a minute out here to root for the overturning of Canada’s anti-polygamy laws, judge’s decision coming up the end of this month [note: judge’s decision on that case was a mixed victory but definitely a step forward]), but in general if you think of the situation gay and lesbian parents were in 20-30 years ago, you have the right idea. (More on polyamory and custody)

With younger kids, it gets a bit more complicated. Basically, if you are out to the world there is no real reason to hide from little kids, as long as you keep it at their level. ’Mommy has a boyfriend/Daddy has a different boyfriend.’ However, if you aren’t out about your relationships, at least to close friends and family, telling a young child is a recipe to be outed – ’Granma guess what! Daddy and I had special time last night while Mommy went out with her boyfriend!’ More than one polyam family has been outed that way.

It definitely is not fair to ask little children to keep your relationships a secret. The hypocrisy of teaching them to have open and honest relationships, and lie about them with not be lost on them, and will seriously confuse their world view. Nevermind the fact that asking kids to keep grownup’s secrets just isn’t fair and is placing way too much on the kid’s shoulders. If you don’t want your little kids talking about your relationships, don’t tell them.

That said, this can be a place to teach kids about privacy. Little kids are always taught there are some things we don’t talk about. We don’t announce to the world at large that Aunt Salma had a miscarriage—that’s up to Aunt Salma to share if she wants to.You can treat your polyam relationships the same way. “Our relationships are private and it is up to us who we tell about them.” This approach MAY allow you to thread the path of being in the closet, being out to your kids, and not modeling being ashamed or secretive about your relationships.

Of course, you kids may still out you by accident, so that’s still a problem.

Now, the oddball here is children born into a polyam relationship. A child born into a quad or triad that is living together, or born when a pregnancy occurs in a relationship that is not cohabiting will know about it. When the family is living together, this is pretty obvious. When the parents don’t live together and are involved with other people you get ‘Mommy and Daddy are my parents but Daddy is married to Auntie and he and Mommy go out together sometimes.’ In this situation definitely be honest, don’t try and hide anything, and answer questions in an age appropriate way.

Children view whatever they experience as normal, and adults who were raised in polyam families have mentioned feeling sorry for other kids who only had two parents. So the younger a child is when they learn about your relationships, the easier, and more normal it will be for them. Older children, who already have a clear idea of societal norms and how things ’should’ be, may have more difficulty adjusting – especially if the see outside relationships as a betrayal of your marriage.

This post is part of a series on raising children in polyamorous families.

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Fiction Friday: Gu– Dragon!

First entry

The hundred-person security team hit the steel doors and spread through the first floor of the 50 story building. It looked like it had been choreographed because it had. Hundreds of hours drilling in a virtual mock-up. Behind and above them came the dragons and gryphons who secured the airspace before and delivered additional security personnel on the World Government Building roof in a well-coordinated relay.

As he stepped out of his armored and shielded air car, Trevor wondered again why no had come up with a more original name for it.

Wu, in late 20th Century grunge, flanked him, scanning the gathering crowds. Dissatisfaction with the former world government was high, but it only took one person willing to become a martyr. Behind him, hidden by her sheer tininess, he heard Deborah’s quiet chanting as she evoked the NAMES of her God to bring peace and safety. A half dozen strides and the security team called the first floor clear as he stepped through the door.

Gunshot!

Trevor dropped to the ground. Forty feet of golden dragon suddenly surrounded him. Just outside the coils, words of fire hung in the air, trapping the bullet. Deborah said something and the words faded, taking the bullet with them.

“Hold here,” Wu hissed. Trevor wasn’t going to argue. Going further into the building for cover meant walking into a possible ambush. Going back to the street would be foolish.

He, Wu, and Deborah held position while security scrambled. Within minutes, the shooter was found and quarantined. More time passed, long enough that crowd came out of their shock and started getting loud. Security called an all-clear.

Wu shimmered, his golden scales fading and reforming into the human-seeming Trevor was familiar with. Wearing the ancient garments Wu called “hanfu.” Why always hanfu when he transformed? And what happened to the grunge gear?

Pushing aside the inanities, Trevor examined the groups of people gathered around him.

Outside the building were citizens and magical beings, most local, a few from other parts of the world. Protesters, mostly ‘human’ citizens, on one side. Supporters, mostly magical beings, on the other. Both groups increasingly agitated.

Inside the building, he saw humans and perhaps a few in human-seeming. Uncertainty, fear, resentment, and a surprising amount of relief.

His own people were split, Some remained outside to help with crowd control. Some followed him prepared to spread out and start the worked they’d spent a decade preparing for. And the security teams were everywhere—or trying to be.

Hovering camdrones waited just outside the legal privacy limit. It was as good a moment as any. He waved the drones forward and signaled Deborah. She stepped back, blending in with the surrounding government bureaucrats and staff.

“Not how I wanted to start my first day on the job, but first days tend to be shit anyway.

“All of you,” he took in the bureaucrats, “are probably wondering what to expect. There are going to be a lot of changes, and you aren’t going to like some of them. But I hope some of them you will like. For now, keep doing your jobs and focus on making sure food and energy keep moving to the people who need them. You’ll have plenty of time to gawk at me later. Promise.”

He refocused on the cams. ”To my supporters outside: thank you and go home. We have a lot of work to do, so don’t wear yourself out here. The real fight hasn’t begun yet.

“To the protesters, I’m not going to silence you. I’m not going to arrest you. I’m not going to attack you. As long as you stick to making noise in the street, you can knock yourselves out.” He paused. Then deliberately pulled his hair back into the style still sometimes called a “warrior’s braid”—as if warriors only had one hairstyle. When he finished, he relaxed into a loose fighting stance, letting the lines of his pants emphasize his readiness for action.

“Any of you thinking that rebellion or armed resistance might be a good idea—back down now. Or you’ll join your friend with the gun.”

As he finished speaking security called in to report the upper levels clear.

“For real this time?”

“Ah… yes, sir. For real this time.”

“Good.”

He signed forward and he, Wu, and the rest of the team that had gathered behind them moved for the lifts.

It was going to be a long day.

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