This series of interviews with Pagan folks who have experience with polyamory (poly), will inform you of the diversity within poly and the challenges and benefits to this life style orientation.
Poly discussion and experience came early to the Neo-Pagan movement in part because of the article entitled “A Bouquet of Lovers,” written by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart and first published in Green Egg Magazine (Spring 1990) . Poly relationships are as different as people and as difficult to define as polyamory.
The term “polyamory” commonly means open to, or engaging in, multiple loving relationships (of whatever form or configuration) wherein all parties are informed and consenting to the arrangement . Polyamory has many interpretations and no firm definition. The two essential ingredients of the concept of “polyamory” are “more than one” and “loving.”
Broadly interpreted, relationships that are called; Non-monogamous, ‘swinging’, polyfidelic (exclusive within multiples) and even casual ‘sex buddy’ arrangements can all be included, or alternatively, definitely not be included as a polyamorous relationship. Poly practice has developed its own language and terms to be more specific. Compersion, “the opposite of jealousy” , is a state of empathetic happiness and joy experienced when an individual’s current or former romantic partner experiences happiness and joy through an outside source, including, but not limited to, another romantic interest.
Tegan is in a poly triad with her best friend and their shared partner.
How long have you been involved with polyamory?
I have been in my current poly relationship for about three years . I have been poly on and off since I was nineteen.
How is your relationship structured?
We have no legal commitments for the three of us. I started seeing my partner about ten days before his other partner, who was not quite a partner yet had moved up from another city. We were pretty much a triad from the start. Originally we all lived in separate apartments and about two years ago we all moved into an apartment together, and have been since then. We all knew that a poly relationship was a requirement from the start. He had known her for a number of years, and knew he wanted to be poly. We had met through friends but I didn’t really get to know him until we talked on OK Cupid, an on-line dating site. We were pretty clear that poly was one of our agreements, even though we were both single when we started dating.
Are you exclusive within your poly triad?
Our primary focus tends to be on our triad, though everyone is free to have relationships outside of that. He has a sometimes partner that he sees. Neither she nor I are currently seeing anyone else, but if either found someone then that would be okay as well and we’ve had setups where that was the case at times.
Do you use some kind of scheduling?
We make sure our scheduling is all set up so the kinds of commitments we have for our primary relationship are still being honored. The way we have our schedule set up, works around that our male partner in our triad has two female partners. The female in our triad is also one of my best friends. We all have separate rooms in our apartment. He is with me three nights out of the week, and with her three nights of the week. On the ‘odd night out’ we schedule, well we enforce, that he has time alone. Hey a guy needs rest, and sometimes in the midst of that he may see his other girl friend. We specifically schedule on alternating weeks a ‘date night’, meaning one week I have a special ‘date night’ alone on one of my nights with him, and the next week she has one, so we also make sure each of our ‘couples’ has time to maintain that type of relationship.
What kind of challenges does the relationship face?
Jealousy is some thing that always comes up. As much as you don’t want to compare yourself to other people, it always happens. The way we work around that is a lot of communication. Scheduling, sometimes they get very convoluted. We may trade nights because I have to work one night, or she can only see her boyfriend on another night, so it affects my schedule. We make sure things are balanced when things like trips away come up.
Acceptance from our families is difficult. I am very strong and I don’t want to be someones ‘dirty little secret’ or something like that. It is important for me for our families to know what is going on. That doesn’t mean we talk about details with family members, but it is important. If you are building your life around it, it is as important as being ‘out’ with your sexuality with them as gay or whatever. Some of our families are more open than others. We work though those differences. We don’t intentionally force disclosure of our unconventional relationship on them. The common question of well, “who is the ‘real’ partner, gets to be very wearing. We would rather have more communication up front than trying to negotiate what you can and can not say with each family.
My relationship with my co-partner is as important as my relationship with my partner. Even platonic relationships take work. I have to make sure that I spend time with my co-partner alone so we maintain our communication. We can negotiate household things that we might not remember to cover separately as couples.
What benefits do you have being poly?
I have been in both poly and monogamous relationships and this has been by far the most stable relationship I have ever been in. That in itself is rewarding enough to want to make it work. All three of us think the world of each other. I can’t imagine a better situation were I could feel more supported in everything that I have to do, and I am able to support them as well. The communication is a lot of work, but it is not that different from monogamous relationships I have been in. The topics might be slightly different, but it is just as much work. Not more work, just different. That is something I didn’t understand when I was monogamous. I needed to put that kind of care into relationships, only with that one person. With poly you can get needs met by multiple people. So my partner may be into going to the zoo, and my co-partner is into that kind of activity so it works out. I may be interested in rambling about world politics and she has no interest in that. Since he has both of those interests he can get those needs fulfilled by experiencing both of us. She can sometime emotionally understand me better that he can, and then she can help explain it to him. It puts a check and balance in things, and you get more opportunities to do a lot more things that you like.
Are your other partners Pagan, and any outside partners?
I think Pagans fit a little easier in the poly lifestyle. When you have the possibility of a plurality of gods, well the plurality of partners is not far off. There is more of an acceptance of those type of things. For our friends it was more of a , “Oh, OK.“ kind of acceptance. It wasn’t a big deal, they didn’t feel threatened.
Are you a Pagan first, or polyamorous first?
Poly first by far. I don’t think our triad would be so strong except for the fact that we all happen to be in the same Pagan tradition. Anyone outside of this triad, or if I was looking again for a relationship it would be poly first. When I sought out this relationship it was looking for someone poly, and then Pagan or Pagan friendly. Poly is pretty critical to me. We talk about the twenty year plan, so this is pretty serious in the long-term.
Poly is more like an orientation. Anyone could do it if they were inclined in that direction. The people in poly who are best functioning are the people who are honest with what it is that they want with their partners. Honesty is really the most key portion in all of that. If you can’t be honest with yourself, then you can’t be honest with your partners. If honesty isn’t there, then the communication never works. You can’t do this without communication. Not to say people don’t mess up doing this, but you can work though that if you are honest and willing to struggle with your understandings.
Next in this series of interviews with poly Pagans and their families, dealing with triplets! Two of the early resources for polyamory information are the alt.polyamory newsgroup website, and the Loving More website.