Religion and Your Poly Partners

(First posted in 2009)

A Christian, a Jew, a Wiccan and an atheist buy a home together.

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Nope, no way I can come up with a punchline for this one. (Also definitely not giving up my day job.)

Practically every polyamorous person I know has wrestled at one time or another with their religions prohibition on multiple marriage, multiple relationships, sex outside of marriage or some variation on this theme. For those who are interested, and because religion fascinates me, I will eventually do a write up on how different religions view polyamory, what the scriptures say vs what the current leaders say, and ways some polies have found to reconcile their needs and beliefs. (EDIT: Since I don’t have enough on my plate [yeah right!] I’ve decided to start putting up Saturday posts on religious views of ethical non-monogamy and polyamory. First one will be up this Saturday.)

But that’s another day. Because as fascinating as it is, if you are reading this blog, and are polyamorous, you have probably already dealt with this issue in one fashion or another (unless you belong to one of the religions that have no issue with poly relationships [and many don’t, they just aren’t common in the US] in which case, more power to you).

On the other hand, God/gods/Goddess/spirits/angels/WTF ever you believe in help you if you belong to the quad mentioned above. And the more devout you are the worse it will be.

As is becoming usual, I have a whole bunch of potential problems, and not many concrete solutions. For instance, proper Kosher requires there be no non-Kosher food in the house at all (which includes pork, shellfish, and a bunch of other things). It isn’t fair for everyone in the family to be forced to keep religious dietary restrictions of a diet they don’t believe in, but where does that leave the Jewish member of the family who is devout and has always kept strict Kosher?

What is even more difficult is when religions directly conflict with each other – like when a feast day and a fast day fall on the same day. (Islam, Judaism and Christianity all keep different calendars, and the dates move around relative to each other. With the month long Fast of Ramadan in there, any combination of Islam with the other two pretty much guarantees conflicts. I’m sure there are similar problems with any number of religious combinations)

Speaking of scheduling conflicts, Passover falling on Easter doesn’t make for easy holiday planning (though Passover on Holy Thursday actually works surprisingly well!) Thankfully, or regretfully, Christmas and Solistice will never meet, leading to a decision of celebrating 2 major holidays within days of each other, or shifting dates to celebrate them together. (Here, I always vote for shifting Christmas, since the day is fairly arbitrary anyway, and we can’t actually change when the shortest day of the year is, but that’s just me.)

I can’t see UUs having a problem with anyone they would end up with, because, hey, they’re UUs. Jehovah’s Witness with their rules against holidays and celebrations would really put a damper on things for everyone else, but . . . well it’s narrow minded of me, but I just can’t imagine a Jehovah’s Witness poly . . . they are often very good people, but flexibility just doesn’t seem to be their strong suit.

There are several ways religion can be handled in a polyamorous relationship, but the first, crucial, part is you have to be willing to respect and accept each other’s beliefs. Hopefully, I just wasted my time saying that.

Now, option 1 is to each do your own thing, and have no involvement in other’s religious practices. There are two problems with this, as I see it: Most people are used to religious holidays being family time, and the aforementioned issue of Kosher, and similar prohibitions. This option can work reasonably well for people who don’t live together, and are comfortable celebrating alone and/or have other people to celebrate with.

Next up would be bouncing to the other extreme – everyone do everything together. Right, my head hurts just thinking about it – if you can make it work more power to you. Moving on.

The most successful option seems to be a level of compromise. Celebrate a few major holidays together, don’t make meals for the whole family that violate a religious prohibition (plan dinner for an hour or two later during Ramadan, don’t have lobster dinner if someone keeps Kosher,etc), but don’t worry about a few pork rolls in the fridge.

Realistically, if you’ve gotten to the point of moving in together, religion probably won’t be much of an issue for you, but you can expect to get tripped up by minor miscommunications or non-communications. (“Cheryl and Dan said they’d be here next Thursday for the feast for holiday X” . . . “What? I have to fast that day!”) The biggest thing here (aside from the decision of general policy) is to try and keep in mind that the date that looms so large for you may not even register with your partners.

Personally, I found a holiday planning session every three months of so helped keep things from getting out of hand (OK, we have Hanukkah overlapping Christmas this year, Thanksgiving with Anne’s parents and Ben’s grove has invited all of us for Solstice. Everyone on the same page? Great!) Making sure everyone is aware of upcoming holidays and restrictions keeps everyone from being blindsided, and makes celebrating a lot smoother.

And of course, the benefits of keeping a calendar updated with important dates cannot be over emphasized.

2 responses to “Religion and Your Poly Partners

  1. Thanks for this series of religion and poly. How about poly as its OWN religion? There are beliefs inimical to the practice and just because there isn’t a central deity, doesn’t mean it isn’t a belief system.

    That said, as a foodie and atheist, someone whose religious practices dictated that they could not eat bacon or lobster would not be a person I would likely find enough commonality to develop a relationship. As a recovered Catholic, someone who was still actively practicing the faith would similarly not be an appealing match for me. Thus, while I can be respectful of individual’s rights to believe what they want, what a person believes will influence my attraction to that person. So while I don’t generally tend to have conflicts in my poly relationships over religion this is likely because I don’t allow myself to date or develop intimacy with those whose thinking is so converse to my own.

    • Hadn’t thought about poly as its own religion before. Certainly the “sacred sexuality” branch of poly-thought brings a lot of religious overtones to the lifestyle.

      When I wrote this five years ago I was largely ignorant of atheism. I know of it, but I still had the un-questioned assumption that the vast majority of people are religious, and religion impacts everyone’s life in one way or another. Even the non-practicing religious people I knew tended to get a bit tetchy about holidays and conflicts between their (usually ignored) beliefs and other people’s beliefs. If/when I can ever find time to really overhaul this blog, I’ll need to do a re-write on this to be more inclusive.

      I think it’s great that partner selection (intentional or otherwise) has worked to keep religious conflict from your relationships. Sounds like you know what you need/want and have some solid boundaries to help you get there.

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