Polyamory and Money Stuff: Entwinement or Autonomy

A few weeks ago, 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:

Today we’re looking at the third of those choices: entwinement or autonomy.

To be or not to be (entwined)

Entwinement is a term for combining your stuff with your polyam partner’s stuff so that your lives are twined together.

Living together is one way to be entwined. So it having kids together, sharing vehicles, and going on vacations together. Entwinement can range from minimal (We have agreed to have dinner together every Tuesday.) to intense (The classic mortgage/kids/retirement plans common to monogamous relationships.)

The more entwined you are, the less you are able to do what you want, when you want. If you have a standing dinner with one of your polyam partner’s on Tuesdays, then you can’t last minute decide you want to go to a concert Tuesday night.

Or, you know, you can, but that’s a hit thing to do to your partner who may have turned down other invites and is sitting at the restuarant staring at your last-minute-cancel text going “WTF?!”

Similarly, if you live with someone (no matter what your relationship), you can’t just decide to blow the rent money on a new suit.

Not if you want to have a place to live next month.

The flip side is, entwinement merges your resources with another person’s. Whether those resources are as simple as “time spent together” (for Tuesday night dinner’s) or as big as “money for a rent deposit so we can get a bigger place”, the more entwined you are, the more you have to draw on.

The opposite of entwinement is autonomy.

The more entwined you are, the less you are able to make decisions without consulting others. The more autonomous you are, the less resources you have outside your own.

How can you twine you money?

There are several ways you and your polyam partners can put your money together. You can have joint bills. You can have a joint budget. You can have joint bank accounts. You can have joint retirement plans. Lots of options here.

And these options can be independent of each other. You can have a shared car bill but not a joint budget or bank account. You can have a joint bank account but separate car bills. You can have a joint budget and not live together. You can have a joint retirement plan and no other money entwinement.

As with most things, it’s up to you how entwined you want to be.

Building on Past Decisions

Logically, folks who prioritize the individual will be in favor of more autonomy and less entwinement. Folks who priotize the group will be in favor of more entwinement and less autonomy. But it doesn’t need to work that way. If you think that you as an individual will benefit more from entwined finances, and your polyam partner(s) agree with you, twine away! If your group would do better with separate finances, then autonomy it is!

Prior decisions should inform each other–if you are prioritizing the individual then you should keep what is best for you as the individual in mind when deciding if entwinement or autonomy are best. But prior decisions don’t dictate future decisions.

And it should go without saying, but even if you want entwinement, if your partners don’t agree, it isn’t happening.

2 responses to “Polyamory and Money Stuff: Entwinement or Autonomy

  1. Hey Jessica! I love your website and the support for poly couples. I’m looking for more info and advice with legal things and whatnot, as well as more support and community from those who are poly. Do you have contact info you could give your readers or a Facebook group or anything? I have so many questions and definitely feel alone and discouraged. Thanks!

    • There are many Facebook groups, MeetUps, and other places to meet community and get support. The two Facebook Groups I’m most active in are Black & Poly and Polydelphia.

      For legal things, you really are best talking with a polyam-friendly lawyer, but if you ask in group there may be a few people who’ve dealt with similar issues and can tell you what worked for them.

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