May. 7th, 2008

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
There is often a debate in online venues about the Unicorn, the Holy Grail of polyamory.  Also known as the "mythical" HBB or Hot Bi Babe, this is the bisexual female that a married male-female couple is seeking to be their magical "third", the person who will "complete" them by developing equal emotional and sexual relationships with both members of the couple, who likes kids, is willing to help raise the couple's kids but not come with any of her own, willing to move out of her house (or city, or state) to move into the couple's house, and basically give up her entire life to fit herself into theirs. 

The couple's sacrifices include buying a bed big enough for all 3 of them (because there is no consideration that she might want her own bed or that any of them might want some "alone" time in the future) but otherwise the couple's life goes on as is with little change.  The reason for the "mythical" terms is not because bisexual women don't exist, but because this specific kind of bisexual woman is unlikely to exist and the quest for such is about as fruitful as seeking the Grail or unicorn is.

A derivative of this is all of the above except this girl will be a secondary only who will not be allowed to develop any emotional attachment to either of the couple, or at least it will not ever be "equal" to the bond between the original couple but the girl's interest will still be exactly the same for each half of the couple.  Her position is tenuous, she has no say in when or how her relationship with this couple will be terminated because it is the prerogative of the couple to decide, at any time, when she gets the boot. 

The rules are written by the couple before the HBB is even found, let alone consulted, and not up for negotiation, except members of the original couple can change the rules without warning and the girl, as the "secondary" is required to accept the decision without ever giving her input about it.  She is not allowed to have other partners, but she is also not treated as a full member of the family, often given the title of "housekeeper" or "roommate" because the couple can't be outed to neighbors, friends, family, or jobs.

This is NOT, I repeat NOT how all polyamorous couples go about being poly, even some of those who are interested in creating a triad that includes 2 women and 1 man.

Many of us have a problem with the above scenarios because the couple completely overlooks what this hypothetical third person might have or want for *her* life.  The person who might magically connect with the couple to create a family that meets everyone's needs might already have a partner or several, might have a bigger house or a high-paying, well-loved career she is unwilling to give up, or might even be male!  The new partner is not given any say in how her (or his) relationship should look like.  This person is treated as a job applicant, not as a human being with needs of her own and a right to get them met. 

This type of couple often uses the HBB to cover up some sort of insecurity and/or get their selfish rocks off with a live-in maid / love-slave.  This can be exhibited sometimes by rules created by the husband that forbid the wife from having male lovers, but allows female lovers for both because the male is afraid of the competition and often thinks that same-sex partners don't really "count" (forgetting that since he's engaging with an opposite-sex partner, it's therefore "cheating" by this same definition and totally discounting the validity of the same-sex relationship).  

And sometimes it can be revealed by rules that do not allow either half of the married couple from experiencing *anything* with the new partner when the other married partner isn't around out of the deluded belief that as long as everyone does exactly the same things, the relationship between the HBB and one half of the couple will be *exactly* the same as the relationship between the HBB and the other half of the couple.  We also dislike *these couples* because they all insist they are not this couple even when they are.

But, as I said above, this is NOT all married poly couples, even if they do want a triad.  Sometimes a m-f couple is interested in an HBB because the wife is actively bi-sexual and wants a female partner *of her own* and the male happens to be straight and wouldn't it be fun if both of their partners happened to be the same person?

As a friend recently reminded me, all married poly couples face distrust from the poly community because so many of us are so tired and frustrated from *that type* of married couple that we automatically look on married-couples-looking-for-triads with suspicion.  And that's really not fair.  Hell, I'd like a triad someday, but my preference would be for a MFM triad and my HBBs are male ;-)  

The difference is that I (and those couples who are not *that type* of couple) don't assume the triad is the magic configuration that will automatically be the perfect relationship.  I am willing to consider all sorts of permutations of relationships because I understand that it's the *person* and not the position that makes a relationship work or not work.  While a triad might be a nice thought in theory, in reality, the people I'm relating to right now or in the future might just not be suitable to that kind of configuration, but the V or the quad or the network we're in *does* work and *does* meet all of our needs, providing happiness, fulfillment, and joy.  The difference is that I consider each potential partner on an individual basis and I try to find the relationship configuration that works with those personalities involved, I do not build a slot and find or force someone to fit in it.

I think someone in the polyamory LJ community once said "you do not find people to fit the spaces in your life, you find spaces to fit the people in your life", and that's the big difference.

But, in order to discuss what's wrong with *that type* of couple, we might start out by prefacing that we're speaking of a particular kind of couple, but we always end up using some form of shorthand that might accidentally include *the other types* of couples just because it takes too long to qualify every sentence.  My method of dealing with this in the past has always been to write a disclaimer that says "I am speaking of *this type of couple* and if you happen to be in a relationship that superficially resembles this one but you don't do the things I'm complaining about, then *assume I'm not talking about you*".

Problem is that people on the internet don't always read the posts carefully and too many people take these things personally.  And, as newbies stumble on these posts and entries and web pages, people who haven't had the time to develop the kind of sensitivity to the nuances in terminology, the distrust persists even to couples who are not *that type*.

So, for my own part, I'm going to start referring to *that type* of couple as Percivalian Couples, maybe PCs or Percies for short?  The term comes from the tales of King Arthur seeking the Holy Grail and his knight, Percival, actually finding it at one point but being too immature and failing to ask the proper question, causing him to fail in attaining the Grail and he must grow spiritually and mentally before he can locate it again.  Percival is described in some places as "the least worldly and the least groomed of all the knights", having been raised in the woods away from society, and "extremely pious but somewhat naive". 

I think these can be applied quite seamlessly with *that type* of couple.  They are often new to polyamory and seem to lack the subtle social skills required to mix effortlessly with so many different (and volatile) poly personalities.  They are also often quite pious in their belief that theirs is the One True Way to be poly and quite a bit emotionally naive as they don't even recognize that their rules and structures are designed to protect insecurities (because they are quite insecure). 

Sometimes they will acknowledge that other types of poly are valid for other people, but they are dead set on the equilateral FMF triad being the One True Way for them and no other type could possibly bring them happiness because they cannot accept that happiness comes from the individuals involved and they insist there is some magic configuration that will make all other problems disappear.  They do not ask the proper questions, mainly because they're too busy making statements about what they want to ask what anyone else might want of them.

It is my small attempt to distinguish between people who just happen to like FMF triads, but are willing to consider other types of relationships, are not looking for this particular configuration to protect insecurities of the original couple, and who do not look for partners like job applicants with an eye out only for what the couple gets out of the arrangement - from the couples who are not all of those things.

It is *these couples* who are responsible for causing all the real HBBs to go into hiding, disappearing into the glen like the mythical unicorns we liken them to, who infuriate those of us who are not bisexual (and those who are) when they come on to us with their form emails asking us to join their commune as another sister-wife, who hurt the male HBB's feelings by refusing their very existence, let alone validity, and who dismiss all the partners (current and future) of the women they approach as being totally unworthy of consideration because the couple is somehow the more noble relationship that all of us women would desire to attain even at the sake of dropping all our current and future partners just for the chance at happiness with this shining couple.

Some other terms helpfully suggested by my sweetie, Franklin, include:
Insecure
Clueless
Trophy Hunters
Safari Goers

And, for once, I'm actually trying to not be inflammatory or incite a riot (because, even though there are couples who are not *that kind* of couple, all of *those couples* insist that they are not either), so I'm actually kind of counting on the obscurity of the reference for a little subtlety.

Of course, I've learned my lesson and will not be posting in the LJ community, but I hope to use some term regularly enough that it takes on a life of its own.

Banners