Polyamory and Money Stuff: How Being Polyam Affects Money

Last week, I spent some time riffing on polyamory and finance and I ended with the idea that both polyamory and money stuff require us to set priorities, and which priorities we set affects the decisions we make. For polyamory, I mentioned three choices we make:

  • to prioritize our need or desire for multiple relationships over society’s push for monogamy
  • to prioritize the individual or the group in our relationships
  • to prioritize entwinement or autonomy

Today we’re going to take a look at the first of those choices.

How choosing to be in polyamorous relationships impacts our money stuff.

Really, this is the simplest of the three. Being polyamorous in and of itself doesn’t impact your finances or the decisions you need to make about finances. Some approaches to polyamory can have big impacts on how you handle money. Some approaches won’t.

The main impact that being in any polyamorous relationship has on finances is you can’t entirely trust conventional money advice. All the “usual” advice on budgeting and handling money, etc, etc is written with monogamous people in mind. It’s actually pretty rare to find money advice written for single people instead of couples.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use conventional money advice–most of the time you can! But you do need to read it with a bit of side-eye, always asking “how well does this advice apply, given my polyamory.” It may apply perfectly well as is. It may need some adjustments but still be useable for you. It may be utterly useless because of inherent assumptions about the ability to get joint bank accounts for everyone involved.

The further away you move from advice on basic household budgeting, the more likely you are to run into assumptions about you being monogamous that can trip you up.

That’s it for this week.

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Explaining Polyamory: The Wrap Up

Not much to fix here. Added a few links and fixed some typos/grammar. Updated 9/28/17

So far, we’ve covered an introduction to the Culture Gap, preparations, discussion, and possible reactions. Hopefully, hitting the high points of stuff you should know before explaining your relationship choose to friends or family.

The good news is, the more people you tell the easier it gets. But the first time can still be terrifying.

Whatever your approach, and whoever you open up to, make sure you take care of yourself. Whether it is your polyam partners, folks in the local polyam munch, a good friend or someone else, have support you can lean on when you start opening up to people. You’ll be putting yourself through an emotional roller coaster, and having a shoulder to cry on, friend to come over with chocolate ice cream, or folks to celebrate good news with, having other people you can trust can help a lot.

On that note, you will probably do best opening up to close friends before family. It is a sad truth that friends are often more accepting and supportive than family – possibly because family feel your choices reflect on them, while friends know that your choices are your choices, and aren’t about them.

Explaining Polyamory Blog Posts:

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Riffing on Polyamory and Finance

Don’t have anything specific I want to talk about today, or the spoons to put together a nice orderly post about this or that idea.

So I’m just going to take some time to riff on polyamory, finance, and shit and see what we get. Not quite going to be stream of conscious, but something close to that.

“Finance” isn’t a word most people use to talk about personal money matters. My upbringing is showing there, upper-middle class family with a rich grandpa who gave out stock certificates for Christmas. After over 10 years of struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over my family’s heads, that upbringing has combined with life experience to give me a not-unique-but-certainly-not-common view of money, life, and keeping the bills paid.

But “finance” really just means “money matters”. Whether those money matters are keeping a personal budget, managing the bills for a large polycule, or getting into esoteric things like stocks and bonds and hedge funds it’s all finance.

Similarly, polyamory is really just a way of describing our relationships Whether you are single and polyam, part of a closed triad, building a constellation of relationships stretching across a dozen states and three countries, it’s all polyamory.

What they both have in common, I think, is priorities.

In polyamory, we have chosen to prioritize our need or desire for multiple relationships over societies push for monogamy. We choose whether to prioritize the individual or the group in our relationships. We choose whether to prioritize entwinement or autonomy.

With finance, you are choosing to prioritize risk or safety. To prioritize now or the future. To prioritize short term goals or long term goals.

Making polyamory and finance work together is, in the end, about knowing your* priorities and making sure your priorities for polyamory and your priorities for finance are supporting each other, not in conflict with each other.

I think I’m going to be exploring this idea of polyamory and finance priorities and how they work (or don’t work) together over the next few weeks. For now, I need to go make breakfast. Catch you later!

*this ‘your’ is both singular or plural, because both your individual priorities and the priorities of the people you are in relationships with are important here.

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AMaP Seeking Volunteers, Presenter’s List, and other random stuff

Hey folks,

Not doing too well today, so just gonna kinda babble a bit about where AMaP is at.

We’re still looking for volunteers to help with the con. Our initial volunteers post is still available on the AMaP site, and we’ve realized a few more things we can use help with since then as well.

Presenter applications closed in July and acceptance letters went out. We now have our full list of presenters and are working on getting a schedule set up. As a small, first year con we’re going to have a single track of events running Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday. As an online con where people don’t need to worry about travel, we’ll have events and activities running through Sunday afternoon.

Tickets will be going on sale in the next two weeks. Unlike more in-person cons we will not be offering day passes, but because we don’t need to pay hotel fees, we’ll be able to keep tickets much more affordable than most cons. Early-bird pricing is $20 per person for the whole weekend.

Explaining Polyamory: Negative Reactions

Mostly grammar and typo fixes here, but I also updated info on how things turned out for me when I got some of these reactions and removed some of emphasis on being polite to people who are being assholes. While I still believe that being polite to people you love who are reacting badly can sometimes keep bad from from becoming “burnt to the ground and sown with salt,” it’s ultimately up to you and we certainly don’t owe politeness to people who are treating us badly. 8/23/17

It would be great if we could be sure of getting acceptance and support from friends and family. The reality is, pure ’nilla monogamous relationships often don’t get the support of family and friends, so it isn’t surprising that non-traditional relationship styles can cause less-than-stellar-reactions from the people we care about.

Thankfully, people who love us are more likely to go for a neutral reaction, and at least try and understand. But negative reactions are way more common than any of us likes. I hope you never need to deal with any of these, but here are a few of the bad reactions you might run into – and a few suggestions that may help you get through it.

I don’t know what to think about this, please don’t tell anyone else, I’m afraid of how X will react (runs and tells the whole family about your horrid choice and how awful it is)

Dishonest, manipulative, and mean, this is worse than someone who rejects. This is someone who rejects, lies to you about it, and then sabotages your chance to discuss your life with who you want, when you want, plus spreading gossip behind your back.

On the surface, this looks like one of the neutral reactions. They may really just need time to deal with their own reaction before dealing with other people’s reactions. You just can’t know if this is an honest, neutral reaction or a dishonest, bad reaction until the gossip gets back to you, possibly months later.

Ultimately, the people who care will ask you about it directly about gossip they hear or will listen to your side with an open mind when you approach them yourself. The people who believe the gossip without at least listening to your perspective are people who probably wouldn’t have accepted your lifestyle anyway. Which sucks beyond belief. IMO, the best you can do in this situation is treat it like an honest request for time, possibly make it clear that you want to be the one to tell others in your own time, but you will wait while this person has time to think for a few weeks (or however long).

I don’t want to hear this.

As negative reactions go, this one… isn’t the worst. This person is utterly refusing to listen and rejecting your relationships. But they aren’t being dishonest about it, aren’t rejecting you, aren’t going into a moral rant. They are basically saying ’I recognize this is your decision, but I don’t like it and I don’t want to know about it.’ It’s their right to feel this way. Let it go, and don’t bring it up again. Don’t try and introduce your OSOs, and just let it be. If you don’t want to go to family or holiday parties where all your partners aren’t welcome, decline any invitations, and explain why when you are asked. How much of a relationship you maintain with them is up to you. In the past, I’ve tried to include people like this in my life as much as possible. We usually end up drifting apart over time.

Long lecture about immorality/shameful behavior/sin/disappointed in you/etc etc

This person is either a parent or someone who thinks they have a right to act like your parent. You can listen to the end or cut them off, which ever suits you best, and tell them that you are sorry they feel this way, but you will live your life the way you choose. It is up to them if they wish to be a part of your life in spite of their beliefs, and you hope they will eventually understand and accept.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything else you can do in this circumstance unless you are ready to just cut them off and never talk with them again. These people aren’t going to listen to anything you have to say, feel they have some authority over you and are likely to continue to pull this crap. Personally, I’ll politely listen through the first lecture, explain that it is my life and they have no say in it, and that I want to continue our relationship but will not allow them to dictate my life. After that, if I see them at a family gathering or whatever and they start another lecture, I will walk away without saying anything.

Angry/yelling/denouncing/etc etc – Angry reactions can take a lot of forms, but all basically tell you the same thing. For whatever reason, this person is hurt by and rejecting your choice and is turning that hurt into anger. Their anger will usually be directed at you or possibly the person they believe ’lured you into it’. Get up and leave. As much as it may hurt, do not stay to be abused this way. Tell them you love them, you are sorry that your choice has hurt them, and when they calm down, you can try talking again. Then leave.

Once they calm down, they may take any other imaginable reaction, including coming to you and saying ’I’m sorry, I love you and support you, and I’m going to try and understand.’ A different one of the negative reactions is more likely than a positive reaction, but positive reactions after calming down and thinking can happen. You’ll just need to deal with whatever other reaction they have as it comes.

Shut down/ice

This person will not go into a rage, lecture, or really say anything at all. They just shut you or your choice out. In the ’better’ form of this, they will still welcome you in their life but will turn icy and shut out any attempt at discussing your lifestyle. They are, then, basically trying to pretend that you never told them anything. It is up to you whether you let them pretend, or choose not to be a part of your life.

The more extreme version of this is when they choose to shut you out. They may or may not say anything immediately, but after this conversation, they will not speak with you again, not return your phone calls, and ignore you at family gatherings where you bump into each other.

There is a third form this can take, which is also very hurtful and can be confusing until you figure out what is going on. The person is friendly and polite, gives a neutral reaction to your explanation, and you part on good terms. They will invite you to holiday and other events the rest of the family is invited to because it is expected. They will be socially polite and say how much they’ve missed you since they last saw you. But if you try to call them, they will not answer, if you invite them somewhere, they will decline, basically they will put on a mask of good feeling at any event they feel they must, for politeness sake, include you in, but otherwise shut you out. If this is someone you were never very close to, this probably won’t make any difference in your interactions – if you only saw them on holidays and weddings and funerals, you may not even notice any difference. If you were very close to them, getting together regularly, talking on the phone, whatever, this can be extremely hurtful.

Unfortunately, I have not found any productive or useful responses to these reactions. The best you can do is cut them out of their life if it gets too hurtful to deal with.

Disown you

This is the reaction many polyam folk and people in other alternative lifestyles live in terror of. Thankfully, it actually is fairly rare. Most people who love us will at least try to either bring us to our senses or understand why we have made the choice to be polyamorous. This person tries to do neither. They will simply tell you that you are no longer their relative/friend, and they never want to see you again.

All you can do is walk away and grieve. In time, they may change their mind, especially if other family members still welcome you in their lives. But right now, that is little comfort.

“Beat the devil out of ’im”/Abusive ’intervention’

Okay, I had a serious debate with myself about including this one, but it IS a possible reaction to someone learning about polyamory, and unlike the other possible reactions, it is DANGEROUS. Reality is that it is (thank god) rare. But it does happen. And even something that only happens one time in a million is one time too many if you are that one. If you think anyone you know could react like this, make sure they have no power or authority over you. Get out of their house if you live with them, get a job or other income if you depend on them financially, get help from friends or other family, get the hell out. Do NOT talk with these people about polyamory. If you absolutely must tell them for some reason, send a letter when you are someplace where they cannot influence you. If you cannot get out and away from these people, make sure that some one you trusts knows about your fears and will be prepared to help if things go wrong and they find out about your lifestyle from another source. Thankfully, most of us will never need to deal with this kind of horror, but if you know someone who is like this, protect yourself.

Wrapping Up

I wish none of you would ever need to deal with any negative reactions. Unfortunately, chances are that if you choose to live openly as a polyamorous person, you will run into at least one, and likely several negative reactions from people you care about. I wish there was more advice or help that I could offer. Keep your head up, and hold onto the positive reactions you get. Good luck.

This post is part of the

Explaining Polyamory Blog Series.

 

(Originally posted June 2012)

Cuil Press: Creating Inclusive Fiction (and restarting the blog)

Hey folks, thanks for your patience the last few weeks. Another project of mine, Cuil Press, launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday, and I’ve spent most of the past few weeks nailed to my keyboard prepping for the campaign.


Cuil Press is a new publishing company offering diverse and inclusive sci-fi/fantasy and romance novels with a focus on #ownvoices books. For readers, we offer inclusive fiction that avoids the clichés and repetitive storylines of so much genre fiction. For authors, we offer a supportive and enthusiastic team who will get it to market without asking you to make it appeal to mainstream readers. This crowdfunding campaign is to cover our first year’s expenses so we can hit the ground running.


If that sounds like something you’d be interested in supporting, check us out!

Now that I’m down with all the prep work, I have time to start posting here again. So edited posts will resume Thursday. Next Sunday I’ll be sharing updates from AMaP and after that will resuming the Polyamory Finances blog series.

Explaining Polyamory: Positive Reactions

I updated the suggested resources here. And let me say it’s amazing and wonderful how many more resources for explaining and exploring polyamory there are in the just the five years since I wrote this post. Not much edits otherwise. Neither human nature nor culture have changed enough in the past five years to make much difference here. Updated Aug 2, 2017.

This is the fourth post in the Explaining Polyamory blog series. If you missed the earlier posts, start here.

However you handle the conversation, you will get one of the same basic set of reactions from loved ones you open up to about your lifestyle. They range from amazingly supportive to complete rejection. Most of the time, you’ll get something in the middle. Here a few of the positive (or at least neutral) reactions you might run into. Next week I’ll tackle the negative reactions you hopefully won’t need to deal with.

I need time to think about this: this is a relatively common reaction from parents and other close family members who feel (rightly or wrongly) that your life and theirs will have a major impact on each other. This reaction generally means that they can’t accept your relationship choices right away – maybe they have religious or moral reservations, maybe they’re on the other side of the culture gap and are trying to understand, maybe they just don’t know enough about polyamory to know how to react. Give them their time to think and ask if it might be okay to talk some more in a week or two.

You may also get this reaction from people who want to ignore the whole thing. If they can pretend to themselves that you aren’t polyam, then they can act as if nothing has changed, they don’t need to have a difficult and possibly painful conversation, don’t need to face the reaction of the rest of the family, etc. If someone who has asked for time to think just shuts down and refuses to talk further about it, even months later, then this is what they are doing.

Unfortunately I’ve never found a good way to deal with this approach. One option is to let them ignore it and just keep them out of the parts of your life that involve polyam. This may mean that they become a much smaller part of your life, which can hurt, but it is often better than losing them from your life entirely.

I don’t know what to think, I need more information: not a bad response overall, though unfortunately one of the less common ones. Humans do tend to rush to snap judgments. Get them a copy of When Someone You Love is Polyamorous. Direct them to a good intro-to-polyam blog, invite them to join a (not secret!) polyam forum or FB group. And of course, answer their questions as best you can.

Are you sure you want to do this? Your father and I tried and it really didn’t work, it nearly ruined our marriage/I used to do that/Really? me to!: Yes, non-monogamy has existed prior to this generation. In fact, chances are that if you tell all your friends and family about your relationship choices you will find at least one person who has ‘been there, done that’. Maybe it worked for them, maybe it didn’t. But you can be reasonably sure that they aren’t going to denounce your choice out of moral indignation. In fact, you can probably learn a lot from their experience if they are willing to talk about it.

Okay, it’s your life after all: acceptance without support. Best you can do here is thank them for recognizing that it is your choice and ask if they would like to meet any of your SOs. This person is not going to be wildly enthusiastic and might not think polyamory can work in the long run. But they aren’t going to try and tell you how to live your life. There is a strong chance that if they see you are happy they will become supportive in time.

OMG! Like that show/book/movie/thing I saw the other day! That’s so neat! This reaction is a lot more common than it was when I first wrote this post, thanks to the increase in polyam relationships in the media. In my experience you mostly get this reaction from friends or acquaintances. Family tends to take our life choices seriously. Relax, have a laugh, share some good stories and find out what media thing they are talking about – it might be worth watching yourself!

This post is part of the Explaining Polyamory blog series

(originally published May 2012)

Explaining Polyamory: the Conversation

Mostly grammar and typo corrections here, but I also needed to clean up some ableist language. Some of the example discussions were tweaked so there is less focus on triads. The reference to Sister Wives really dates this post, but I decided against changing it. If you are having this conversation today there are many better examples you can go with. Updated July 16, 2017.

So, you are as prepared as you can be to have a conversation with someone you love and tell them that you are polyamorous/are in a polyamorous relationship/whatever your preferred identification. How do you handle the actual conversation?

You’ll want to try and have this chat in a place where both you and the person you are talking with are comfortable. Maybe this means a favorite restaurant, maybe their home, maybe just take a walk around the neighborhood. For what it is worth, I have found walking and talking defuses many (though definitely not ALL) potentially confrontational discussions – hard to get confrontational when you aren’t looking at each other and less feeling of being ’on the spot’ for all parties. Meh. Go with what you think will work best for you and your loved one.

Go ahead and tell them that you have something important that you want to talk about with them. Then you have three choices: lead in, oblique approach and straightforward bluntness.

Lead in

Leading in works by preparing the person you’re talking with a shock. It involves saying things like ’I know this may upset you, and I don’t want to hurt you. I want to tell you about something that is happening in my life, and I really need you to listen and try and understand.’ The person you are talking with will definitely tense up, they will be expecting you to tell them something horrible. And maybe for them, polyamory is something horrible. You want to walk a fine line between preparing them for a shock and not scaring them into shutting down and shutting you out.

At this point in the discussion, keep it personal. Don’t use the word ’polyamory’ don’t talk about alternative relationships, keep it relevant to you and your life.

  • “I’ve realized I’m not going to be happy spending my life with just one person.”
  • “Gary and I have decided that we want to be in relationships with other people. We’re not breaking up but we’ll both be in multiple relationships.”
  • “Alice and I have been dating other people for the past few years. We’ve fallen in love with Jill and she is going to be moving in with us.”

Just one or two sentences that explain your personal decision or situation.

Give your loved one time to absorb what you said and respond. If you needed to use a lead in approach, then you need to give them space to try to understand.

Use the lead in approach with people who tend to have over-the-top emotional reactions, are reactionary against alternative lifestyles, extremely religious people, and anyone else who can do better with a gradual approach.

Oblique approach

When you don’t want to barrel right in, but don’t need the kind of gradual ground laying of a lead in, you can come at the conversation sideways. This is a pretty simple approach but may fall flat if the person you are talking with is not culturally aware.

  • “Have you heard of polyamory?”
  • “Remember that show Sister Wives?”
  • “What did you think of the alternative lifestyles article in X magazine last week?”

Most people will know where you are going with the conversation, but this approach lets them a change respond to a general idea and you can both ease into the personal.

If the person you are talking with doesn’t know what you are talking about, you will need to give an explanation:

  • “It’s a type of non-monogamous relationship.”
  • “It’s a reality show about four women who are married to the same man, and they are all happy together.”
  • etc

Use an oblique approach when you don’t think the conversation will be a huge emotional shock for the person you are telling, but you or they wouldn’t be comfortable with straightforward bluntness.

Straightforward bluntness

Just what it sounds like. You don’t worry about preparing the ground or ’tip toeing around the issue’. You just say “I am polyamorous.” and explain what that means to you.

 

Explaining Polyamory: Preparation

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

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

How to Explain Polyamory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Originally posted May 2012)

This post is part of the Explaining Polyamory blog series

Downgrading Polyamory on Purpose to “Hobby”

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

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

What this means for you:

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

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

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

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

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