I talked with Iacchus and Delta about their long-term polyamorous experience and relationship. They are former members of the Church of All Worlds, and Iacchus is an ordained Priest in that tradition. Delta is an ordained Priestess of SweetWood Temenos.
How long have you been poly?
Delta (D) : That is complicated. About 1990, we realized before our marriage, that we were poly. Both of us had considered polyamory before we even had met each other.
Iacchus (I): I was into the Horned God at that point.
D: We were both into open relationships, so we did it consciously.
Are you legally married?
D: We are married.
I : We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on new years eve.
What has your poly experience been like?
D: I wouldn’t say we have had a large number of relationships. We now have a circle of five, three others besides us two, as active lovers.
I: We have a ‘condom compact’ with those three as active lovers.
D: We have had everything from short-term relationships to a few flings once in a while. We have ground rules within our relationship, so we ask each other first. We make sure we let each other know what is going on all the time.
I: Early on we spent a lot of time ‘cocooning’ with each other. We are really into our relationship, and still are. We talk about what we are comfortable with. In most of the cases, when we bring someone in, we have spent a lot of time talking.
D: We were functionally monogamous for about three years, not that it was a conscious choice, that is just how it was.
Is your married relationship your primary one?
D: We have set it up so it is our primary relationship.
I: Yes, we like it that way, that is what works for us. We think human beings in general are poly. They are in different stages with different needs, and different conditions that create a variation in that theme. People have this idea about limiting love to monogamy. We don’t think that is necessary, it is something we learn. We have decided to accept ourselves as human beings, and be honest and really try to strengthen our love relationship.
Do you make agreements with your poly partners?
D: We don’t have that much control over other people. We do have some rules. For example unless someone is in our condom compact, we require the use of condoms with that other person. We don’t require them to be poly. We do have a standing rule that we don’t become involved with people who married and monogamous, and are cheating on their spouse. We don’t want to create problems for other couples.
I: It becomes emotionally complex. Besides the ethical issues it is too easy for it to become dirty and ugly.
D: We make sure we communicate with the partners of anyone we become involved with. We keep it all above-board. Honesty and communication is key, otherwise it won’t work and it blows up eventually.
I: Honesty and communication are essential to any kind of marriage. Having a poly relationship requires an emotional adjustment. We are not emotionally taught to be that way so it takes courage to say what you are feeling, thinking, what turns you on, and all the things of intimacy.
D: If anything, in a poly relationship these things become more important.
Are all your partners informed about each other?
D: They all know about each other, in fact they are all friends. That is the way we have done it. We try not to compartmentalize our relationships. We try to keep them all together and friendly if possible. Unless we have a short-term fling, that is a little different. Anything long-term we strive for that shared knowledge, and so far have been successful.
I: I attended a poly conference alone a few years back, and met a woman there. I called up Delta and, with the woman right there, had the conversation so we all knew we were all on board with it. Realistically, I was not going to be back to that area, so we all knew and accepted that.
D: It is not something that happens very often. I wouldn’t consider us anywhere near what is considered promiscuous. That was ten years ago.
Are your poly partners committed to the relationship or as friends?
I: Usually you are involved with someone who you really like as a friend. What I found as a man early on was that a lot of women that were friends also were attractive to me. I wouldn’t necessarily become in love with them. I found that treating them as a friend, and also being a man and woman together enjoying sex, could create a positive feedback loop that expanded the relationship. I was once dating a woman nineteen years my senior and I was trying to justify my being sexual with her by falling in love with her. She finally just said, “Knock it off” . It was nice to hang out with her and the sex was really nice, and that is all she was asking for. We tend to bring people in as friends, and if that friendship deepens and becomes a love relationship, that is fine. We don’t try to make things happen.
D: I would agree with that.
What are some of the challenges of being poly?
D: Sometimes things don’t go the way you planned. People, for whatever reason, aren’t honest and then you find out later that they weren’t. It causes heart ache.
I: Making the emotional adjustment is difficult and time-consuming at first There is time and effort needed to do it well, to establish a relationship. Dealing with our culture is a tricky business. It is not that the idea of poly doesn’t have validity, it is that making the emotional adjustment and to think about it takes an effort. You don’t have any role models, or paths, to tell you this is how you do it.
D: Trust is very important. People break the trust and then there are choices. You talk it out and try again, or you can decide it isn’t going to work and break it off. Also, there is always your biological family understanding you. It is sort of like being gay, your alternative sexual lifestyle is something that relatives and friends may have some issues with. I have ‘come out’ to my parents and my family, they haven’t disowned me. They still love and accept me. They find it alien and strange but it has been positive and I am happy I am out with them. It feels good.
I: I am out to one brother, but I only bring it out in context or else it feels strange. Early on one of the things we did, because of an interest in Tantra, we developed an initiation that included a dinner and a lot of talk and a ritual. We have seen poly couples, who would say yes, go ahead be with that other person. They allow it to be if it is out of sight and mind, but they are not really emotionally accepting it. We usually first have a threesome or foursome, and work to make it a positive experience. Everyone then knows what is going on and can work to accept it. Once we are more comfortable, one of us may then have dates with that person.
Do you function as a poly family?
D: Because of distance it isn’t practical to live together, so we don’t function as a family. We know others that do that, but we aren’t functioning in that way.
I: … and that is okay, we like our pair bond.
D: Everyone has different ways of doing it. We like our own time together, and we like to sometimes open it up and share ourselves with other people.
What are the benefits of being poly?
D: I like the idea that love shared is love grown. Love becomes a flower that grows and embraces. It feels good to share love. The more the merrier. When it is working, it is [delete :like the root of an] an emotional high because you realize that the restrictions that our society has put on love relationships is all smoke. You step over the wall and you realize there is another world out there. People are open-hearted. It feels good to be open. It is a happy, joyous feeling.
I: When you are all in bed together naked and playing with each other and having a good time there is a joy that you can’t get anywhere else.
D: It is a little piece of paradise. You can’t buy it.
I: When you just hang out as a friend there is this deepness, you can flirt and stay connected in a long-term way. Even if you see each other just a few times a year, there is this deeper connection.
D: There is also a body-mind acceptance. People have friends, talk on the internet, go out together, but when you have this body-mind acceptance of your physical body, your soul and heart, all together in one package, it is more whole. It feels good to have that wholeness shared.
I: Being honest with myself, I found out early on that I really liked both sexual variety, and familiarity. If you have familiarity with someone, it allows you to feel comfortable being with them, and being who you really are. This is a real turn on, and I like it. Add a third or a foursome and you can have both. We are primates like the bonobo chimpanzees, and this is our human nature. My spouse is a great partner and she recognizes that within me, and herself.
Is it easier to be Pagan and poly?
D: Paganism is open to many deities, rather than a monotheistic god. That mindset is conducive to taking the next step and being polyamorous. You can love more than one person at the same time, just like you can love more than one god or goddess at the same time. It fits together really well. We have friends who are Atheist and poly, so being Pagan isn’t necessary.
I: Paganism has the Horned God and the Goddess. As a counselor and trained Jungian, I’ve seen the archetypes as really powerful. The Goddess Aine has multiple lovers and a husband. The Horned God has multiple aspects: a devoted husband, sometimes bisexual or bi-friendly, and as a lover of women. For me He is a great example of a committed husband and lover that also honored my sexuality. Relationships require equality.
What are the qualities you look for to be successful in a poly relationship?
D: It is always a feeling out process. We are always friends first before poly is considered. The ability to be trustworthy is key. If we see someone as honest in their dealings with other people, it can be considered. You need a certain amount of emotional independence, a sense of your own self and autonomy to be successful in poly relationships. It takes one who can be emotionally independent and at times let their partner go and still have themselves to come back to.
I: They have themselves and also enjoy a certain bond. They enjoy the experience, but are not expecting to be more than a real friend. I am not looking for a second marriage partner. I want to connect with people in relationships, but not with a lot of emotional baggage brought in. We don’t want our lives more complicated than it already is! If they are not compatible as friends we can’t bring them into a deeper relationship. When someone comes along we become friends and poly might happen in a month, a year or several years, or never.
D: We follow where the other person is at, and they become more involved in a natural way. However, say another woman is very interested in Iacchus, and may want to split us up. People may bring along their monogamous mind-set, so we are careful to be certain that the person is open and friendly to both of us, not just one or the other. Otherwise it becomes the ‘cutting the filly from the herd” syndrome, and something to watch out for.
I : I am really in love with my wife. I don’t want someone to do what she does within our relationship. I am not seeking another partner because I am not happy with my partner or sexually unfulfilled with my partner. I want to do it within the concept of friends, or ‘dear ones’. I love when a woman become sisters with Delta. It is not competitive. We need sisterhood and brotherhood; it is uplifting and a turn on.
D: Two men sharing me is a wonderful, sparkly, joyous feeling. It is seeing the war of the sexes being lifted for that time. It is a very deep experience. Go slow and talk a lot. Be friends.
Later this week an interview with a married poly couple breaking up.