Tag Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post: How Separate Bank Accounts Helped Make Our Open Marriage Work

When my wife Jane and I got married, two years after we met, we chose to combine all of our money together. This worked for us because we were (relatively) young, we had no previous marriages or kids or significant assets, and we knew we wanted to entwine our lives in a way that would emphasize joint-decision making about the big questions in life. And almost all big questions ultimately involve financial decisions at some point.

Over time, we realized that we each wanted more financial freedom. Our one-account-fits-all plan required us to authorize every purchase with the other person. We were never quite sure when it was “OK” to spend money on ourselves – and how much money was OK to spend. Neither of us wanted to police the other’s expenditures. At the same time, we were just starting a family and had recently moved into a new house, and we were operating on a tight budget. We knew that joint decision making around money would be essential to making sure our lives worked.

Our solution was to create separate small bank accounts for each of us, into which a fixed allowance was directly deposited each month. These were our non-accountability accounts. They allowed us to spend money on whatever we wished, no matter how impetuous or frivolous, without having to answer to the other person. I used mine to buy a weekend trip with friends; Jane used hers to join a martial arts gym.

We settled on a monthly transfer that equaled about 5% of our take-home pay for each of us – enough to have a little fun, but not so much as to jeopardize our family’s finances. Our accounts provided a concrete figure about what was reasonable to spend personally. Dipping into the main account was forbidden; that was for family business. We could spend everything we had in our own accounts, but if they ran out of money, there would be no more nights out with friends or Vegas benders until we saved up.

What Happened When We Opened Our Marriage

Seven years into our marriage, we opened our relationship and began seeing other people. Our financial system hadn’t been designed with polyamory in mind, but it fit perfectly into our new adventure. I was the first to draw on my account, using it to splurge on a fancy hotel room with a new lover. Jane used hers to take a boyfriend out to dinner. All the while, our financial life together remained well protected even as we made small splurges on other partners.

Our system had another benefit: it meant that the gifts we gave to each other were more meaningful, because they were coming from us personally rather than from an abstract family bank account. When I took Jane out on a date, I was drawing from a limited supply of money I could have chosen to spend on something else.

We still use our financial system, and it’s an important part of the foundation for our open marriage. Even though we designed it while we were still monogamous, it incorporated the same values that drew us to polyamory. It provided a shared understanding with clear rules, but also gave us each freedom to create our own “space” within our shared life together. And to us, that’s what poly is all about.

About Zev Stone

Zev StoneZev Stone is a writer and researcher and the founder of OpenMarriageProject.com. His writing has been read aloud on NPR’s “This I Believe” and published in the Denver Post and other academic and popular publications. He loves hiking, running, uncomfortable travel experiences, and raising his two adorable daughters with his wife, Jane. He holds a Ph.D. in social science research methods from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

This guest post is part of the Polyamory Finances blog series.

Polyamory and Mental Illness

Hey folks. This week we’re starting a new posting series about the intersection of mental illness and polyamory. We’ll be covering everything from facts about mental illness, to disclosing mental illness, to the impact of mental illness on jealousy, and a great deal more.

I asked Clementine Morrigan, who inspired this series, to kick us off. Here they are:

polyamory and mental illnessI am in a serious, long term relationship with a person who was my best friend even before we started dating. This person is my anchor partner.

We decided from the beginning of our romantic relationship that we wanted to be poly. I had some experience with it in the past, being solo poly and in one case seriously dating two people at the same time. In my current relationship, I was surprised by the intensity and unmanageability of my jealousy. I read book after book, article after article. I had long talks with my anchor partner about our feelings and our boundaries. I started dating someone else and talked with her about our feelings and boundaries. My jealousy with regards to my anchor partner being with other people continued to be unmanageable. It inspired terror, hyper-vigilance, depression, nightmares, deep feelings of unworthiness and constant anxiety. I didn’t know what to do. All the reading I was doing was telling me to sit with my feelings, own them, observe them. But my feelings were completely out of control.

I have complex PTSD. I am a survivor of child abuse, sexual violence and intimate partner violence. I have done lots of therapy but my C-PTSD is ongoing. I realized that my reaction regarding my anchor partner being with others was not simply jealousy. What I was experiencing was the heightened symptoms of C-PTSD triggered by an experience that brought up trauma stuff for me. My trauma is all about being hurt and betrayed by the people I love. My trauma is all about not being good enough or worthy of love. My trauma is about sexual, physical, emotional and psychological violence that I have experienced in my intimate relationships. It is not easy to simply observe it and let it go.

What I realized is that all of the resources I had been reading on polyamory assumed as a starting point that no one involved had mental health issues. Therefore, the suggestions and advice that they shared were not helpful to me as someone with C-PTSD. I was blaming myself for not being able to simply observe and let go of my emotions. I was feeling like a failure at poly because my jealousy was so unmanageable. When I realized that the way I was feeling was due to my C-PTSD it took some of the pressure off. It gave me a way to understand and talk about what I was experiencing.

In reality, lots of people who practice poly have mental health issues. Since mental health issues are all different, the way that they impact our experience of poly will be different. What we have in common is that our relationship to emotions is probably different from people who don’t have mental health issues. Poly requires that we face our emotions so we cannot afford to pretend that mental health issues don’t matter.

I believe that poly has the potential to provide a wonderfully supportive environment for people with mental health issues. Ideally, it would be an expanded support network, more people to turn to and encouragement to sort through feelings and communicate needs. In order for poly to be beneficial to people with mental health issues, we need to be brought into the conversation. We need more than a one-size-fits-all response to jealousy. We need to not shame people for our differing experiences of emotions. We need to start talking about how our mental health experiences impact our experience of poly.

These conversations are just beginning. Poly relationships and community can only be enriched by them.

 

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

 

Clementine MorriganClementine Morrigan is a multidisciplinary writer and artist. Their work spans genres and mediums, including essays, poetry, creative non-fiction, zines, illustration, short film, self-portraiture and sculpture. Their first book, Rupture, was published in 2012. They produced a short film entitled Resurrection in 2013. They write a zine called seawitch and work on other zine projects. A second book of poetry is currently in the works. More of their work can be found at clementinemorrigan.com

 

Guest Posts Welcome

Hey folks, life got crazy so no new post this week. I’ll be back next week with your regularly scheduled blathering.

In the mean time, I’m throwing out an invitation for guest posts. If you have something you would like to share about your experiences in poly relationship, advice on managing the daily-life stuff, or basically anything that would fit this blogs usual topics, I’d love to hear from you.