joreth: (polyamory)

I had a match available to answer someone's genuine-seeming question on why some of the less-offensive unicorn hunting posts were also picked on. The thread is a good thread, with thoughtful yet passionate responses. My comments aren't that great, because I just typed quickly, trying to answer before I leave my house to the mercy of the coming hurricane. But there are some nuggets in there that I'd like to be able to find again, to write a more comprehensive post on the subject later. It is my opinion that couples-seeking-thirds is *always* coercive and disempowering and cannot be anything else. But it's really hard to explain why. Here are some of my comments touching on why:


Polyamory isn't an add-on to a relationship. Polyamory isn't something that COUPLES do, it's something that PEOPLE do. It's when a "couple" is seeking, as if that couple-relationship is a sentient being of its own. It's when the *relationship* is prioritized above the individual needs of the people.

When the relationship is prioritized over the needs of the individual people in it, and when any relationship requires any one person to have a relationship with someone else, those relationships are fundamentally, inherently coercive in nature.

People get all hung up on the configuration, as if we're complaining about triads, instead of recognizing the *nature* of the relationship itself. Unicorn hunting is coercive and disempowering. It just so happens to most often take the form of a MF couple seeking a bi woman for a triad.

It's not the triad that's the problem, it's the hunting that's the problem.

If you read any material on emotional domestic abuse, stuff that is a clear red flag for mono het relationships are things that the poly community just nods its collective head at, like, "well, sure, that makes sense, you totally need to organize your multi-person relationships that way in order to stay safe! What? It's just our preference! There are no wrong ways to do poly! Stop oppressing me for wanting to oppress others!"

Seriously, read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, and see how many couples-seeking-thirds do these kinds of things to their thirds.

For some reason, poly people like to reinvent wheels. Just because some of us are seeking to dismantle the monogamous paradigm, it doesn't mean that everything we've learned about monogamy needs to also get thrown out. We've learned a lot about what NOT to do, but the larger poly community seems to want to start over completely from scratch.

So now we have to re-learn what coercive relationships look like, because it's somehow "different when we do it". As if having 2 people in positions of power exerting coercive control over a third is less wrong than when one person does it.

Why Does He Do That is a book written by an abuse specialist who specializes in men-on-women abuse. He includes some nods to other demographics, but this is his specialty. It's tempting to write this book off because of that, but I think it's really important not to.

The reason is because men-on-women abuse has an added layer of culturally supported misogyny protecting it, and this book acknowledges that. How intersectional social issues affect abuse in relationships differs among demographics. White cis het men in particular are at the top of the privilege food chain, so it's important to see how all those privileged positions affect their ability to abuse and their type of abuse.

Even though we are polyamorous, we are still living in a monogamous culture. So we have couples privilege on top of all the other layers of privilege. Granted, couples privilege is not even in the same class as race or gender when it comes to oppression, but it is *one more layer* of a privileged class that affects abuse.

This is why I think we can take the lessons we learn from Why Does He Do That and apply it to unicorn hunting. In the microcosm that is polyamory, couples have the cultural support that white cis het men do, so we can draw parallels.

In addition to that, many of those unicorn hunters have white cis het men at the helm, having been steeped in the same culture that protects and excuses the abusers in the book. Throw in some internalized misogyny, and their women partners turn into enablers, funneling and directing the abuse out towards a third even while they are subjected to the very same coercion by their men partners. Like when child abusers turn their victims into accomplices later in life, only less dramatic.

So, as touched on in a comment above, because of the nature of most unicorn hunters just happening to be cis-MF couples (usually white but not always), it's bigger than just individuals being coercive and it's bigger than just "couples privilege".

Unicorn Hunters exist because we live in a culture that, through several axis of privilege and oppression, have spawned this one, little demographic of cis-MF couples seeking thirds that is a culmination of all kinds of intersectional privilege.

Which means that they are *inherently*, definitionally, fundamentally, harmful to the individuals they hunt and to the community as a whole. And this book is relevant for that point.

Related reading:

 

joreth: (polyamory)

www.quora.com/My-wife-is-interested-in-and-Im-open-to-polyamory-with-a-second-man-How-do-you-bring-a-healthy-third-person-into-an-existing-marriage

My wife is interested in and I'm open to polyamory with a second man. How do you bring a healthy third person into an existing marriage? We are not having children and are not close to our biological families, but all of our friends have or are moving away. We miss having “family” and there are times that two just doesnt feel like enough. We both have attraction to men but have no desire to replace the other.

I’m answering this because I see this sort of thing all the time, where someone asks “how do I?” about polyamory, and a bunch of people say “you’re going about it the wrong way, do it this way instead” and the person asking the question gets upset that no one is validating their approach.

Which is ridiculous because the person asking the question is asking that question precisely because they don’t know the answer. Listen to the collective wisdom of those who have been there, done that.

The word polyamory has been around for 27 years. We’re now onto multi-generational poly people. That’s a LOT of accumulated wisdom. Don’t dismiss it just because you don’t like what it says, the way so many others have.

I’m answering this to add one more voice, so that it’s harder to say “these are all just opinions and I don’t have to listen to them”. It’s not *just* opinion. It’s *experience*. And it’s experience earned the hard way.

  1. Don’t try to “bring someone into our marriage”. You can’t. It’s impossible. You do not “add a third” to an existing relationship, you create all new relationships. Even your existing marriage will be recreated as a totally new relationship that’s now “open”. Treat each dyadic relationship (of which there will be 3) as their own entity that requires nourishment and care, and then treat the relationship among the 3 of you (whether it’s a triad or a Vee arrangement) as *it’s* own entity that needs nourishment and care.

    Yes, you read that right, when 3 people get into a relationship, you have 4 whole new relationships to care for. You do not “add a third” like simply pouring in a new liquid into an existing drink and it all blends together into one drink.

  2. The phrase “healthy third person” reveals a pretty sex-negative, abled bias. That’s going to come across pretty poorly when you start engaging with poly communities. Go do a LOT more research on sexual stigma, body positivity, and ableism.

  3. Join poly communities - as many as you can make time for (at least one being in-person). Regular discussion group attendance is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you really need to know other poly people to develop good poly skills. You need to see how others are succeeding (or failing) and you need to know people who understand and accept polyamory as a choice (because even compassionate mono people just don’t have that mindset or that experience to really empathize and see the joys and problems of what you’re about to experience).

    Being isolated is one of the tools of abuse. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying you’re being abusive. It means that abusers understand how important it is to have a support network and to have more objective sets of eyes looking in on a relationship to see things that the people in the relationship are too close to the situation to see. Abusers understand how important these things are, and that’s why they try to remove these things from their victims.

    You don’t want to unintentionally put yourself in the same sort of dangerous situation that abusers try to create intentionally. You need a support network that extends beyond your romantic relationship and you need people who can see your relationship from other angles outside of the relationship. That’s a tool for mental health and relationship health. Join communities to meet other poly people and build a support network. If you don’t like structured discussion group meetings, go long enough to make friends and build up a social network through the group.

  4. Don’t join groups for the purpose of meeting your potential partner. Sure, if you want to meet someone who is open to polyamory, you’ll have more luck if you’re in spaces where poly people gather. But going to these groups in order to *use* the group as a dating service is usually both poor etiquette and off-putting (unless the group is specifically labeled as some kind of poly dating service).

    In general, going out for the purpose of finding someone is less successful than just being yourself and doing things socially. People don’t generally like being interviewed and then hired for the job of Your Next Partner, and that’s what it feels like when you go out “looking”. But people *do* generally like meeting people who share their interests and values and are interesting people doing interesting things. So go out and be interesting and meet people. Dating partners will *eventually* follow from that. And if you just go out and be interesting, you might be surprised at all the different places you will end up meeting partners.

  5. Speaking of job positions, don’t treat people as things. Again, people are generally attracted to those they find interesting. They are not here for you to use. They do not exist to fulfill your desires. They are not supporting characters in your story. They are whole and complete humans and deserve to be treated as such. They are the main characters in their own stories. A lot of newbies go out and say “we’re looking for someone who can do these things and be this way and likes this stuff”. Try shifting your perspective away from what the other person can do for you, to what *you* can offer in a relationship to another person. That’s not the end, that’s just the start, but do that first before you get to the next part of that equation.

  6. Don’t decide ahead of time what the relationship ought to look like and then try to find people to fit into that idea. Again with the “the people you date are real people” thing. The happiest, most successful relationships are those that built organically, over time, based on what *all* the people in the relationships want and need and negotiated. Just meet people and listen to what the *relationship* is telling you that it wants to be. Most people find themselves surprised to be happy in configurations that they didn’t anticipate, mainly because people really suck at predicting what will make them happy. It’s not the configuration that brings happiness, it’s the people. The “correct” configuration develops from the people, not the other way around.

  7. Don’t try to “protect our marriage”. You can’t. Even if you remain monogamous, you can’t. Shit happens and Game Changers exist. All the promises you make to each other don’t mean anything to the #10 bus with broken brakes that comes careening around the corner and into your car. All the rules in the world won’t save you from cancer. All the agreements you agree to won’t stop one of you from leaving if you change who you are or what you want over time. Ask anyone now sitting in divorce court how well that “promise to love and honor until death do we part” really lasts when someone decides it’s not what they want to do anymore.

    Your marriage will work, or not work, because of the two of you in it, not because of some other person. If you try to “protect” your marriage against your third person, first of all it won’t work because it has nothing to do with them, and second of all, you can’t ever fully engage in a romantic relationship with another person if you are simultaneously viewing them as a “threat”. That is a barrier to intimacy and a Sword of Damocles hanging over their head. Most people will not want to take that role anyway, and those who do will be in a fundamentally disempowered relationship.

    If you want someone to give you their heart, you have to be just as vulnerable and just as intimate as you expect them to be. They can’t open up and fully trust you with their heart if you think of them as a threat and put up barriers to them in the interests of “protecting our marriage”. Their relationship with you deserves all the same potential to develop as your marriage did when you first met your now-spouse.

    Which also means that once you decide to “open up”, if you leave yourself a back door by agreeing to dump partners if one of you thinks it’s not working out, or if you think you need to “work on our marriage”, you’re treating other human beings as disposable, which is not giving them the same potential, not treating them as whole human beings deserving of intimacy and vulnerability, etc. Don’t do this.

    If you decide to “open up”, then you’re open. If you’re not involved with anyone else and you want to go back to monogamy, that’s one thing, but dumping existing partners for the sake of your marriage is doing all of these things here that we are all saying are bad ideas. Frankly, your other partners deserve better than what you’re offering if you’re willing to do this.

  8. And related to the previous one, don’t do “rules”. Don’t even make “agreements” when the “agreement” is something about what you can or can’t do with another person, especially if that other person isn’t yet present to give their input. Talk to *each person* (your spouse, your future partner, etc.) about how *they want to be treated*, and then treat them that way. “I want you to not have sex with that person” is not a statement on how I want to be treated, just FYI. Discuss what things you can and can’t do *to that person directly* - that’s what getting consent looks like and that’s what boundaries are. But don’t make decisions (whatever word you use to label them) with one person about what you will or won’t do *with another person*. That’s treating people as things, which we’ve already discussed in several comments and at length in this own comment.

    Nobody should have less power to negotiate what you can and can’t do to or with them than someone who isn’t you or them.

Remember, when you go to a community and say that you want to do something, and a bunch of people in that community try to tell you that it’s not a great idea, don’t dismiss it just because it was "too long; didn’t read", or because they had an attitude and you didn’t like their tone, or because everyone is being “too negative” towards you, or because you’ve thought about it a lot and you’re pretty sure this is what you want to do in spite of their objections.

If the people in the community are telling you that an idea you have isn’t a great idea, listen to them. They’re probably telling you that for a reason. And being new to the community, no matter how smart you might be or how much you’ve thought about the idea, the collective experienced community is probably in a better position to be able to predict how well your idea will work in practice. Lots of things sound good on paper, but when the rubber meets the road, we already know how it plays out because we’ve done it and seen it a million times before.

Don’t “add someone to our marriage”. Start a whole new set of relationships with your spouse and your future partner.

Also, read More Than Two (www.morethantwo.com)

joreth: (polyamory)

Someone posted a question in a forum that I've seen a bunch of times before. It triggered in me some old feelings of resentment so I wrote a VERY long response. Between the time that I saw the question, started writing the answer, and finished the answer, the post and all its comments had been deleted. So I'm posting the comment here because, really, it's long enough for its own blog post anyway.

Here's the setup: Since I'm copying and pasting the whole comment, I'm going to leave the pronouns and labels and even specific situational details intact, but I want to make it clear now that you can remove the specific details such as who is living with whom or co-parenting with whom or whatever, and it's still a common occurrence whose general advice can be applied.

There's a guy, let's call him Joe. Joe is monogamous and met GF (his girlfriend) who is poly. Joe decided to give poly a try. Joe has lots of loving relationships already, so it's not such a big leap. In fact, Joe has a very close but non-sexual relationship with Joe's ex, BM (baby mama). So close that he's still living with her, although sleeping on the couch, because he has had some "setbacks" and BM is helping him through them, and co-parenting with her. But there's no sex!

So Joe meets GF, they start dating, and now a few months later GF is having problems. She gets upset when Joe posts pictures of himself with BM on social media and she's complaining that Joe and BM have an "intimate" relationship when they don't. They're just friends! But Joe doesn't want to burn any bridges with BM and needs GF to understand that BM is a part of his life.  

Plus, in later comments after people have probed his situation because they felt something was off about his portrayal of himself as a victim of a bait-and-switch and oppressive girlfriend, Joe revealed that he thinks that a girlfriend still has to "earn" his trust, and therefore really *isn't* on the same level as BM, with whom he has an established history with.  He sees "girlfriend" as not yet an equal "partner", so she shouldn't have any say in his other relationships anyway.

Joe thinks that GF sold him on this whole poly thing and now isn't acting very poly. So, what to do?
 


OK, there's a lot going on here. I'm going to talk about the times when I have been in similar situations to try to help make some sense of these things.

Normally, I'd be all right up there in the gf's face about not being possessive and giving you some freedom, but your description is ringing some bells for me. You asked for advice, and all the experienced people here are telling you things that you don't want to hear, so you're now behaving defensively. I, like everyone else here, am seeing red flags in your own behaviour. And if we can see this when *you* are the one telling the story, I imagine it must sound a whole lot worse from your gf's perspective.

First of all, feeling jealous, insecure, or disliking a partner's other relationship is not mutually exclusive to being polyamorous. The first thing you need to do is stop challenging her poly identity just because she's having a hard time with your relationship.

The struggle to be the Perfect Poly Person, especially when in a relationship with a newbie, is a very real struggle and only makes things worse. You're not helping. In addition to whatever else she's feeling, she also has to deal with feelings of guilt (and the shame that you're contributing to) for not being "perfect", and worse, of not being "perfect" according to a n00b's standards who is displaying, at least in this thread, that he doesn't even fully understand polyamory to begin with.

Which leads to the next point, which is that she is likely feeling a lot of conflicting, confusing, and complex emotions. This makes people act out in ways that seem contrary to who they are or to their ideals because the complexity is rarely understood, when, in fact, they aren't contrary at all - they are entirely consistent with someone who is dealing with a great deal of complexity.  Being unable to understand it means that you're not seeing all the contributing threads, not that they're being inconsistent.

I once introduced a newbie to polyamory (OK, more than once, but I'm using this single story as an illustration here). He really was poly and he continued to have poly relationships even after we broke up, so this is not a case of me trying to force him into something he didn't want, which is often the accusation.

Anyway, I introduced him to polyamory. He was in a particular life situation and relying on a lot of assistance from his ex-wife. He was living on her couch as a temporary situation, although the end of that situation was not yet in sight. He felt genuine fondness for her and wanted to remain friends in addition to needing her assistance. She was not poly.

As a fairly young poly myself, I didn't see any problem with this setup. They weren't having sex, and he was clear that they were not in a *romantic* relationship together, so there shouldn't be any problems, right? Wrong. She was totally cowboying the whole thing and he couldn't see it at first, but then was unable to do anything about it when he finally did see because he relied on her assistance and because he was unwilling to "burn bridges" with someone he considered a friend.

Coercion comes in very small, subtle flavors most of the time. The best, most effective forms of coercion make us willingly agree to them because we don't recognize them as coercion. And when people feel the effects of coercion happening, they often don't really understand where the real problem is because they don't recognize the coercion in the first place, and so they act out in ways that seem "irrational" to people standing on the outside, and even to the person acting out sometimes.

Their emotional self is flailing around, trying desperately to figure out how and where they lost control of their lives, and how they can get it back. For instance, I once knew someone who was as poly as they could be. She also had spent a lot of time being a secondary who was constantly restricted by her metamour (who was the mutual partner's primary), so she was very sensitive to the sorts of rules that restricted other people and about infringing on privacy and autonomy.

A few years later, she got into a relationship with another person and it turned out that she was being emotionally abused by this other partner. But, as is the nature of abuse, nobody saw it, including her, until much later. So her mind was being messed with and reality started to crumble and she really didn't understand which direction was up anymore. So her emotional brain, in a desperate attempt to make sense of things, started acting out. She felt like she was losing control, so she started trying to take back control in whatever ways she could.

Of course, none of this was this easily understood at the time. I can summarize things succinctly now, after the fact, but if you had asked me back then what was happening, I wouldn't have been able to put it in these words so that other people would understand. That's important to remember - just because I can explain it now, it doesn't mean that anyone could explain it back then, so responding with "but I'm not abusing my partner!" isn't looking at this the right way. I'm not accusing anyone of abusing their partners (other than this guy in my story), I'm saying that situations can be really complex and the mind can't always make sense of things while they're in those situations so people often act weird when they're trying to figure shit out.

Anyway, so this experienced poly woman who was opposed to couples privilege starting doing things like insisting on going along on his other dates and then starting arguments with him during the dates, and insisting that anyone having sex while she was in the house had to leave the door open so that she could feel "included". These all seemed very couple-privilege-y and infringing-y to everyone else in the polycule and she seemed contrary and not-really-poly.

Everyone saw her acting out and thought that *she* was the problem, even their therapist. But the reality was that her acting out was a *symptom* of a much deeper problem that was really caused by his behaviour.

With my own story above about the guy I was dating who was living on his ex-wife's couch, I started feeling and behaving just like any "jealous" girlfriend who wasn't comfortable with polyamory. I wanted him to "prioritize" me, I wanted him to restrict his activities with her, I wanted "proof" that I was important to him, stuff like that.  And this wasn't the only relationship where I did that, which I'll get to in a minute.

The reason I started wanting these things is because she really was trying to undermine our relationship. It turned out that she actually wanted to get back with him. Well, that's not entirely true, because she only wanted him back once he started dating someone other than her. She didn't really want him back, she was just comfortable in her mono position as his "primary" and didn't want to give that up.

But, because I kept pushing, her tactics couldn't stay very subtle. Other poly people would keep thinking that the problem was with them not being "poly enough", and would keep turning inward to solve the problem. Not me. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew *something* wasn't right and it wasn't me. So I pushed and pushed until it finally became obvious to him that the ex-wife was using her power over him to control his relationship with me - that power that he willingly gave her because she was helping him out financially, giving him a place to sleep for free, and he wanted to stay friends with her.

To be honest, I think the only reason why I was able to push hard enough for him to stay with me long enough that she finally had to step over the line is because he had another girlfriend who saw the same things that I did. I introduced him to a friend of mine, they hit it off and started dating. There were absolutely no dominance displays, no conflict of any sort between me and her. So it was pretty clear that I *was* really capable of walking the walk, not just talking the talk. So when both of us complained about the same things regarding his ex-wife, and both of us were totally fine with him dating each other, he had no choice but to consider that it wasn't the polyamory that was the problem, it was the person.

Before anyone gets bogged down in the details ("yeah, but we have kids so it's different!", "yeah, but she doesn't do this specific thing that you didn't like!"), the point is not the specifics of this one relationship. I'm using this as an *illustration*, because I've seen this same thing play over and over again with a lot of different specifics. It's the patterns that are important.

I had another partner who started dating me first. Then started dating someone else who was new to poly. She set off all kinds of red flags in my head, but she *said* all the "right" things so he kept dating her.   I started asking for things like to be prioritized and to restrict his activities and "proof" that I was important, again.  He and I both held me up to some Perfect Poly Person standard and when I failed to live up to this unspoken expectation, he started blaming me for the fact that she and I weren't getting along and blamed all my issues with her on me being "jealous" and not being "poly".

But a similar thing happened with him - he started dating a third person and she and I had absolutely no problems whatsoever. Before she and I ever met, she came to the same conclusions I had about the 2nd girl - that the 2nd girl was trying to cuckoo him (which is a term we coined *because* of her - it's different from being a cowboy, which is someone who dates a poly person and tries to make them monogamous, i.e. "rope the poly filly out of the poly herd". A cuckoo is someone who insists that they are poly but who sabotages all the other relationships so that they just fail and they end up mono by default. In the end, the outcome is the same and it's not really that important to tell if someone is a cuckoo vs. a cowboy, but the tactics are different.)

So, the 3rd girl and I kept pushing because *something* was wrong, but the 2nd girl said all the right words so she looked good on paper. So the 3rd girl (who had also had experience with poly) and I were accused of being "jealous" and not really poly. He insisted on his "right" to date whoever he wanted, so we agreed that he had a "right" but that he was choosing poorly and we both left him. 12 years later, he is still with that 2nd girl *and no one else*. She has managed to sabotage literally every single other chance he's had at finding other partners and to make him think that it's all "his choice".

On top of all that, when he started dating the 2nd girl, he insisted that it was "casual" and that they were "just friends who like to hang out" and that he could "dump her at any time if she poses a problem". Yeah, no. You don't take "casual" "just friends" on week-long couples cruises or to romantic candlelight dinners for Valentine's Day (totally blowing off the date you had already made with your preexisting partner).  One of the criticisms I gave him was that if he wanted to keep her as a casual partner, he needed to *treat* her like a casual partner (and by extension, treat *me* like his "girlfriend" but not her).

If you treat someone like a romantic partner, "romantic" are the expectations that people start to build up, whether there is sex there or not.  If you're RA and don't like to rank your partners, or don't think that platonic partners are "less than" romantic partners, this still applies.  If you treat someone in a particular way, they start to develop expectations.  If you apply a label to someone, they start to develop expectations consistent with their definition of that label.  If you label them one way and treat them another, they will start to experience cognitive dissonance and begin to have negative emotions and probably start to act out.  So if you want someone to be a particular label, then you need to treat them consistently according to that label.  It's not a guarantee that they won't develop feelings outside of that label, but it will help to manage the *expectations* of the sort of relationship that they are in so that they can better work on their own boundaries within that relationship.

So this guy who was so adamant that he was poly that he was willing to throw away two other relationships to women he felt weren't "poly enough", has been effectively monogamous for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the 3rd girl and I are best friends to this day and have had other mutual partners since.  And, of course, I have maintained poly relationships consistently in the same interim.

I had to say the same thing to the other guy - that he kept treating his ex-wife like a partner while insisting that she wasn't one just because they weren't having sex. But she got possessive just like a mono partner and his behaviour with her didn't match his words to me so I kept feeling like he was lying even though he really wasn't having sex with her.

Back to the original point. Your gf is sensing something that you're unable or unwilling to see but that almost everyone else here in this thread can sense too. It's so subtle that everyone is having a hard time revealing it to you, including me. This comment is so long and wordy because I have to resort to analogies and illustrations to impart a connection since I don't have all the right words to make it obvious. Your gf is not necessarily being contrary, she's feeling something that she can't identify and she's acting out on that feeling.

You're not helping by digging in your heels and you're not helping by challenging her poly identity. All that does is make the cognitive dissonance greater, which makes the feelings stronger and harder to identify the source of, which makes the acting out worse.

You have a power imbalance in your relationship with your bm. The fact that you're not sleeping together is totally irrelevant - as others have pointed out, you do have an intimate relationship with her. She is a major part of your life, so treat it like a relationship and don't dismiss it just because you're not having sex.

But because you co-parent and because she is helping you financially and is your source of habitation, she is in a position of power over you. By continuing to dismiss things as "thinks there is more to it than I'm leading on. I assure her that its nothing intimate going on", you are setting up impractical expectations, which is causing your gf to experience this cognitive dissonance. She is right - there IS something intimate going on, it's just not sex. But people get all hung up on this whole sex thing as if that's the only intimate thing that could happen.

Often, sex is a smokescreen. When people are afraid of something emotionally, they often fall back on "sex". Some people use sexual restrictions to mask emotional fears like insisting on their partners not doing certain things with other partners and using "safe sex" & std concerns as the excuse when they're really just afraid of losing a partner to someone "better". Other people, like me with my exes and probably your gf, might feel that someone's description of their relationships isn't matching the reality of those relationships and latch onto whether or not someone is having sex as a relationship marker, either by accusing them of lying about having sex or by making whether or not someone is having sex the defining line about whether a relationship is a "real relationship" or "intimate" or not.

This power imbalance that you have in your relationship with your bm is being felt by your gf and she's chafing at the reality of dating someone who is in a relationship with someone who has power over him and his life but who insists that he's not. It doesn't even matter if the bm isn't taking advantage of that. When reality doesn't line up with the words, but especially when it's really hard to point out why, people have emotional reactions.

Your gf has expectations for what "girlfriend" and "not-girlfriend" mean. Right or wrong, she has expectations around those words. You are not matching those expectations. Your relationship with your bm more closely resembles what she thinks of as "wife" or "gf", and you are treating your gf more like her definition of "just dating" or "casual partner" or "satellite partner". She is feeling this mismatched set of expectations and trying to explain it to you, but all you're doing is dismissing her feelings of neglect and cognitive dissonance and adding to the baggage by telling her that she's not being a Perfect Poly Person, leaving her to deal with all of this shit on her own.

Personally, I have a hard time with partners who don't accept my non-sexual relationships as equal in importance to my sexual ones. I do not rank my relationships by whether or not I'm having sex. So I'm not at all saying that you need to kick your bm to the curb and cater to the gf. But I am saying that you're dismissing the gf's feelings too easily and that the reason she's having this feelings is because of the things that you're doing and saying to her.

Own up to the fact that you're in a relationship with your bm, and that it's even hierarchical because of the power imbalance involved. As most of us here ought to understand, "power" comes in a lot of subtle ways and is often systemic even when the individuals who participate in the system don't think that they, personally, are wielding such power. The very nature of finances and economics means that there is a power imbalance embedded in this relationship, regardless of what the two of you, personally, do with that power. And that needs to be acknowledged. Right now, your gf is feeling that power structure but having her perception dismissed.   That's gaslighting.  

A lot of us get really pissed off when people with privilege and power refuse to acknowledge their position, even if that person is basically a good person who doesn't *want* to abuse anyone with their power.  Plenty of people with power and privilege think of themselves as "good people" and try very hard not to oppress or abuse or otherwise harm others.  But living in systems with power dynamics inherently built in means that we are participating in these systems whether we, personally, individually, do oppressive things.  I am privileged in many ways even when I am underprivileged or disprivileged in other ways, and even when I actively do things to dismantle systems that I benefit from.  That's important to acknowledge that the power structure exists, even if I attempt to compensate for it.

Also own up to the fact that your gf isn't really your gf, she's a temporary intern who has to "prove" herself "worthy" of being given priority in your life, and only after her probationary period will she be judged good enough for a permanent position with the company. Maybe then enough of her cognitive dissonance will evaporate for her to really find the root of her own feelings and she can decide if that's the life she wants to live or not.

joreth: (polyamory)
Hey! You are not "entering an existing relationship" or finding someone to "enter / join your existing relationship". You are creating a WHOLE NEW SUITE OF RELATIONSHIPS!

Please just fucking stop saying that phrase.

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

While we're at it:

You cannot protect your existing relationship from upheaval.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from changing.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from ending.

You cannot convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced that polyamory will be good for them.

You cannot guarantee that you will all make it out of this intact.

You cannot "go back" if it doesn't work out.

When you change the fundamental nature of your relationship, in any way - be it polyamory, having a baby, separation, moving in, closing it up, whatever - you CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP. It is no longer your existing relationship, it is a brand new one.  But that's never more true than when that change includes the number of people with an active participation in your relationship, such as having kids or getting new partners.

As a matter of fact, when you start adding people, you don't get a brand new relationship, you get 4 new relationships when there are 3 of you, and 11 new relationships when there are 4 of you, and the number goes up geometrically (if I recall correctly the math increase term) from there.

Maybe everything will all work out for the better. Maybe your relationship will change for the better. But it is no longer the same relationship.

If you have a baby, then your relationship *used* to be "child-free couple", but now it's "family". You are no longer a child-free couple and you never will be that same couple again. You might some day be "couple who lost a child", or "couple with grown children who no longer live at home". But you will never again be the same "never had kids together couple" that you were before the baby.

And you did not "add" that baby to your couple. You created a whole new family with a whole new person.

When you "add a third" or "open up", you are, just by virtue of even having the discussion, changing your relationship. You have changed it, and you can never go back to the time before you brought it up.  You can go back to being a couple again, but now you're "a couple who discussed / tried opening up". You will never be that pre-open couple ever again.

You cannot protect your relationship.

You cannot preserve your relationship.

All you can do is hope and work with intention so that your relationship continues to grow in ways that nourish everyone in the relationship. EVERYONE, not just the two of you.

But it might not. It might not grow and nourish everyone, or anyone. That is a possibility, no matter what you do, but it's pretty probable if you keep keep trying to "protect" things.

It's not the same relationship anymore. You are not "adding someone to an existing relationship". Just strike that phrase from your vocabulary and never utter it again.

In fact, don't just strike it, replace it with the repeated phrase above. Constantly remind yourself that you ARE NOT and CAN NOT do that.

If your relationship has any chance of continuing to grow in ways that nourish everyone in it, I promise you that it is through this reminder.
joreth: (polyamory)
"But WWWHHHYYYYY are you all so mean to unicorn hunters?!? We just want to be loved, like everyone else!"

Maybe because we've seen more than one post where a couple wants to "add a third", except the sex doll, er, I mean new hire, er, that is the "lucky lady" is trying to leave an abusive relationship, and the couple starts asking advice on whether they should risk their hearts with her because it looks like she's flaky and may "back out" of their relationship?

Like, the concern here, folks, isn't that someone you know and presumably care about is IS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP THAT SHE CAN'T LEAVE, but that she might break *your* hearts by going back to her abuser. Because you getting "played" or "dumped" by someone WHO IS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP is the real issue here. 0.o

"Yeah, but we're people too! Our feelings matter!"

Uh, no, not so much, not in this case. Your feelings really don't matter here because ABUSE. This is *exactly* what we're talking about when we complain about treating people like things, disrespecting agency, couple-centrism, etc.

This is why unicorn hunting is a bad thing.

"But we're part of a couple looking for a third, and we don't do THAT!"

Yeah, it's not this very specific situation that's the problem, this is just an especially egregious example that 1) is totally obvious to most people that the unicorn hunters are the fucked up ones, and 2) the unicorn hunters STILL can't tell what's wrong with them because they're the ones who described the situation in the first place, so they obviously don't think they're being problematic here.

There is an underlying mentality that is the problem, and it's a problem because that mentality manifests in a million different, often unanticipated ways. We can't always predict in what way the unicorn hunters will mistreat their "third", but we can predict that they will, and that all reasonable people will recognize it when they do but they will continue to feel that they are the ones being victimized by the circumstances.

Today, with this hypothetical couple, it's a girl who is trapped in an abusive relationship so badly that even though she's in the process of trying to escape, she may not make it but the couple's biggest concern is how bad their feelz will hurt if she gets sucked back in, with maybe some afterthought to how much "drama" she's bringing to the triad because of her abuser's actions with regard to her leaving him and/or dating them.

Tomorrow it might be someone being gaslighted to believe that the triad fell apart because she was too "needy" or because she "changed" when she "knew the rules when she signed up", and what a "drama queen" she is for having wants/needs beyond what everyone agreed in the beginning.

The next day, it might be some poor guy who dared to fall in love with some girl who isn't allowed to feel her feelings because she signed a contract, maybe even literally, giving all her future feelings away to the couple, thereby introducing "drama" by developing feelings that she promised she would never have.

A woman tries to escape abuse, and signs point to a high chance of failure. But the issue on everyone's mind is ... what about the couple she promised to date once she escaped? What about their feelings about her flaking out on them? And what about the drama she'll cause if she does leave and he makes trouble for everyone and she flip-flops and possibly goes back to him later anyway? What about the couple?!

#UnicornHuntingIsProhibitedHere #CouplePrivilege #dehumanizing #NeedFulfillmentMachines #ThePeopleInTheRelationshipNeedToBeMoreImportantThanTheRelationship #EmbeddedCoersion #OutOfTheFryingPanIntoTheFryer
joreth: (polyamory)
I came down, not "hard", exactly, but firm on someone asking some advice. At least, compared to some of my other responses, I don't think it was "hard". But I didn't shy away from the main point. I didn't ease him into it, I just didn't pick him up screaming and throw him into deep, choppy waters.

And he *listened*. I find that to be admirable and impressive and I think there is a lot of good potential for his future in unlearning all the shit that society has instilled in him.

I think the advice is good, so I'm gonna re-post a modified version of it here as a general post not aimed at a specific person but at a situation that I see play over and over again in the poly community.  I've left the gendered pronouns that applied to the OP, because I so often see this playing out with these pronouns and I often speak from my own experience, but the stories and the advice could be found with any mix of pronouns.

So, you're trying this poly thing out for the first time with your partner.  You love each other, so naturally you don't want to lose what you already have together, but you also want to explore something new.  So you discuss it a lot, and you make some agreements as to how to go about it that you think shows your commitment to and compassion for each other.

Then she comes to you and says that this agreement y'all had?  She wants to change the agreement.  Right now, because the thing you agreed not to do is about to happen.  Or maybe already happened.  Or maybe isn't about to happen right this instance, but it's now inevitable and it's *going* to happen and you can't stop it.

And you're afraid.  And hurt.  You agreed!  Now she wants to change the rules!  She can't just do that, can she?  Well, I'm going to tell you something that you're going to like even less than hearing that.  She's allowed to do change things.  What she does with herself and with other people who are not you is none of your business.  She can change the "rules" (whether you use that term or not) regarding what she does with herself whenever she wants to, and she's not "the bad guy" for doing so, even if you feel bad feels about it.

First of all, don't confuse "it's not your business, she's her own person and can do what she wants" with "don't have any emotional investment in your partner".  A lot of mono people and recently-mono people make that mistake.

When your partner goes to work, or hangs out with her friends, is it your "business" to negotiate ahead of time what she does or doesn't do at work?  I mean, you're sharing her with her job, right?  You're sharing her with her boss.  Shouldn't you get a say in what she does?  Of course not, that would be ridiculous.  You're not "sharing" her with her boss!  Even though, technically, she does spend more time with him, the majority of her waking hours, actually.  You don't get a say in it, you don't get to "negotiate" about it, and it's none of your business.  What she does on her boss's time is between her and her boss.  What she does with her best friend when they're out together is between her and her best friend.  How she spends her time with her mother is between her and her mother.

But as a loving partner, you might be *interested* in how her day at work goes.  You might want to hear all about it, or maybe what she does isn't of interest to you so you don't really want to hear all the details but you care how her job affects her.  Her happiness or lack of happiness at work matters to you, so you're "invested" in her well-being at work.  But it's not your "business" to know anything about her work, especially ahead of time when shit happens and things come up.

She doesn't have to report to you or notify you or tell you anything to soothe your own feelings.  But she might want to share with you because sharing who we are and what we do when we're apart with our partners is part of intimacy and connecting with each other.  And she ought to tell you things that could affect your own ability to consent to a relationship (or certain activities in that relationship) with her.  But that's about your relationship with her and how *she* affects *you*, not her relationship with other people.

No one is saying that you shouldn't be "invested" in her and even in her other relationships, but this "need" to know that you're expressing *is* a form of control, whether you see it or not.  It's scary to not know what's happening, and wanting to be kept in the loop isn't, by itself, a bad thing, but expecting to know, with the (probably subconscious) belief that by knowing you can then affect the outcome, is a drive to control.

If you think that she can't just announce it, and that a conversation or a dialog has to happen before rules or agreements can change, then you're likely believing that you can influence things.  Conversation *should* happen so that you can both explore your feelings together, but usually when the person in your position feels *affronted* at the idea that he isn't granted the "right" to this conversation and feels that an announcement is insufficient, if you dig down deep enough, it's based on the assumption that he can control or influence the outcome.

And often, I see people being affronted even when their partner *does* ask for a conversation first.  The very fact of "asking permission" is seen as offensive, because you "already agreed!"  You had an agreement!  Well, now she wants to renegotiate that agreement, and if that bothers you, then you have some issues with control right now.

Maybe you don't realize that's what you're doing, but right now you're not just expressing a desire to know because change is hard to deal with and you want time to adjust.  You're also expressing a desire to influence the potential situation, to influence *her* decision-making process.  That's control.  You might not understand that your underlying, sometimes hidden, assumptions are being expressed, but they are and that's why people in forums jump down your throat when you ask for advice on certain kinds of situations.

The problem is that only people who have made it through to the other side can see what the difference is between control vs. interest, or between "not your business" and "don't get invested".  Much like privilege, most of us can't see it when we're in it, but we can damn well see it when we're on the outside of it.

Because most of us, when we're on your side of the fence, can't tell what the difference is between "not your business" and "don't be invested", it probably sounds like I'm suggesting that you shouldn't *care*, because your side of the fence has all these different definitions of "caring" mixed up with each other.  I've written before about the story of a friend who voluntarily gave up polyamory on the basis that he couldn't deal with his partner "not caring" about what he did away from her.  He couldn't tell the difference between "not your business" and "don't be invested" either.

There are very subtle, but significant, things going on that make "none of your business" and "don't be invested" two very different things, but much like trying to point out to someone their own privilege, it can be very difficult to see what that difference is, until one day you just *do* see the difference.

Second of all, another common rookie mistake is that we often make it unsafe for our partners to be honest with us.  Without doing anything intentionally, and without even going so far as "abuse" or "control", when our partners are afraid of how we will react to something, our partners often skirt things because it doesn't feel safe to be totally up front and honest, and they do that *without intending* to be dishonest.

There is a reluctance to admit to themselves what they're really feeling, which becomes a hesitation to admit to us.  They try to "ease us in" to situations, they downplay this thing or gloss over that thing.  Because they don't feel completely safe in really examining themselves out of fear of how the revelations will affect us.  This happens to newbies all. the. time.  It's basically the transitional step - if you come from a mono world, you have certain habits and assumptions and expectations built in and getting past them into trusting oneself and one's partner is extremely difficult.

The example of someone who is upset that his partner originally agreed not to have sex with her new partner on a date but then calls to ask permission to change that rule while on that date is a *classic* example and the forums are filled with posts asking for advice on what to do now.  He obviously had a problem with her having sex with her partner.  She obviously picked up on that, whether he said anything explicitly or not.  If he really didn't have any problem with it, even being surprised by a change in plans wouldn't have elicited the all-to-common plea for validation that the poly forums would see the next day, as he plaintively asks "that was wrong of her to change our agreement, right?"

She didn't feel completely safe advocating for her own interest in sex with her partner or in advocating on behalf of her partner's interests, so she hedged and cushioned and tried to ease him into it, until sex was right there, in her face, and she couldn't hide from the possibility anymore without being blatantly dishonest.  She had to wait until the cognitive dissonance from the reality of potential sex was greater than her fear of hurting you before she could admit to herself, and then to you, that sex was an option.

This means that *you* have your own share of the responsibility here in setting up the situation you now find yourself in where agreements are changed or broken and you feel "betrayed" because her emotions and desires didn't conveniently followed the path that y'all somehow thought it was possible to map out ahead of time.

She needs to feel that her actions with another aren't going to hurt you, because she cares about you and doesn't *want* to hurt you, and she needs to see that enough times to really trust that it's true, before she'll learn how to let go of this habit of hiding her wants from herself, of downplaying herself, of diminishing herself, of making herself smaller for your comfort. She likely has a *lot* of programming from a multitude of sources over her life instructing her to make herself smaller for the comfort of others, particularly if your partner is female, femme, or socialized as a woman and has male or masculine or socialized-as-men romantic partners.

I've been there.  Yes, me, the Internet Flame Warrior, Le Online Bitch, who demands my agency and takes no prisoners in these battles for autonomy and respect.  I know the complicated, swirling morass of unnamed and unrecognized feelings, the justifications, the compassion tinged with darker fears, that murky soup inside the head that makes me believe, if only on the surface, that no, I really am not as interested in this guy, no, I really don't want sex this soon, no, I'm totally happy not dating anyone else for a while, so please, honey, take your time and get used to things first.

I know how to shrink myself so slowly that even I won't notice it until the box I'm trying to fit in bursts from the pressure.  I know how to put myself on the back burner, how to dismiss myself so that someone else feels better.

I also know that it's a false sense of security.  I know that this usually just makes things worse in the long run because my partner starts to get used to this unobtrusive, inconspicuous little package, so when the box suddenly explodes and sends shards and debris everywhere, he feels like a bomb has gone off.  Either way he's going to feel uncomfortable with me taking up my full size.  I know this.

And yet, I know what it's like to do this anyway, even knowing it.  Because I'm trained to do this.  Everything in my culture and upbringing says that this is the proper way to behave.  To be a "compassionate" person, a "nice" person, a "caring" person, you have to "compromise".  You have to "move at the pace of the slowest person".  You have to "give and take" and right now you have to "give" first.

She feels that she has to be smaller than she is.  She has made herself so small that even she can't see who she really is and what she wants, and she did that because she's afraid of how you will feel if she doesn't.  It doesn't even have to be a fear of punishment or retribution or abuse.  She could feel afraid because she genuinely doesn't want to hurt you because she loves you. 

But she feels that way because she believes that being herself and wanting what she wants *will hurt you*.

You have to set the tone, and you have to do the work before she will feel safe.  That may take some time and she will probably stumble over her own bad habits for a while before she learns to trust you and to trust herself.

But it starts with you.
joreth: (polyamory)
Honey, I'd like to talk with you.   Since you brought it up a few weeks ago, I've been doing some thinking.  You're right, I think it's time that we open things up a bit.  I understand that you have needs, and that this is not a reflection on me as a partner.  But I still have some insecurities.  I love you and I don't want to lose what we have.  So maybe if we lay down some ground rules, it'll help me to work on those insecurities, y'know, just until I get comfortable with things.

[deep breath] OK, so when you start going out for job interviews, I want to make sure that you don't choose an employer who is going to come between us or mess up our routine.  So I think I should be present on your job interviews.  You haven't always made the best decisions in the past. I mean, look at some of your former jobs before we got married!  I think you could use an objective opinion.  And, after all, I'm also a manager, so I know what these people will be thinking.  I think that I ought to meet your potential employers so that you don't get caught up in the excitement of having a new job and miss some of the fine print in the job description.

We should also discuss what kinds of things you can and can't do at work.  I know you haven't even started looking for a new job yet, but that makes this the perfect time to decide these things!  That way your future employer doesn't get his hopes up.  I don't want your new boss to have more time with you than I do, so you should tell him right up front that you have to be off work in time to get home before I do.  After all, before your new job, you always made dinner.  That shouldn't have to change just because you have a new job in your life.  That would disrupt *our* relationship.  So, you have to be home in time to have dinner ready for me when I get home like always.

And you can't be in to work until after I've left for the day.  I mean, who is going to get the kids ready for school and have my stuff all organized for me if you're gone early?  That's not fair of him to cut into your time with the children!  They should come first!

Also, the job needs to be far enough away that our friends and neighbors won't notice that you're working for someone, but not so far that it costs too much in gas money.  In fact, I think your future employer ought to pay for your gas to get there.  If he wants you to be there badly enough, he'll see the benefit in paying for your gas.  I would suggest that he pick you up, but then our neighbors might start asking questions.

It's OK to put in a few hours in the evening while I'm out bowling with the gang every week.  You should do something for *you*, y'know, when I'm not around to be affected by it.  Hey, I care that you're getting your needs met, I'm just that considerate of you.  But absolutely no weekends.  That's *our family* time together.  Remember, the kids come first.  And definitely no over-night stuff either.  I would feel lonely without you in our bed, and I don't think I can handle that.  Our marriage was here first, before your job, so it should take priority.

Speaking of priority, if you're with your new boss and I need you for something, I think you should be able to leave him to help me.  Remember, our marriage came first and if your new boss can't respect that, then I don't think you should be working for him.  Your new boss can't be calling you after-hours for anything.  If he needs someone that badly for more than what we agreed to right now, between us without him present, then he should get more people to do the job.

Also, he needs to offer you a decent salary because you're worth a lot, but it can't be more money than I bring home.  I would feel inadequate as a partner if he gives you more money than I make.  But he still has to value you!

Now, while you're with him, I think it's OK to answer phones and greet people at the door, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you filing things or handling the accounting just yet.  You'll have to just work for him for a while until I adjust before you can work up to that.  I don't know for how long, I'll decide that when I'm ready.

What do you mean, what if the job isn't for a receptionist position?  What if the new employer is looking for a server or a construction worker?  Oh hell no!  There's no way I'm going to let MY SPOUSE do something as dangerous as construction work!  What if you get injured on the job?!  You'll bring that injury back home and everything will have to change!  No, that's a hard limit for me.  I can't handle my spouse working in a dangerous field.  That's a boundary for us.

What?  Of course this isn't unreasonable.  Any employer who wouldn't agree to all this isn't right for us anyway.  He wouldn't be a good match, so it's OK to reject him.  We need to find someone who is right *for us*.  We're supposed to be doing this together, right?  That's what you said.  So we need to find you a job that will make our relationship better.  If the job strains our relationship, it's got to go.  I shouldn't have to accommodate something that's coming into our lives after we've been together this long.  The job is the new guy here, so anyone wanting to be your employer is just going to have to take us or leave us.

And while I'm thinking of "new guy", maybe you ought to just work for female employers.  They tend to be more understanding of relationship obligations, whereas dudes are more territorial.  I don't want to get into pissing matches with your new boss all the time, so maybe just stick to women.

But somewhere, out there, is our perfect new employer. She'll be kind and understanding and considerate and respectful of our relationship and our family and your obligations.  She'll pay decent wages and have excellent benefits even for part-timers, because of course you can't be with her 40 hours a week if you expect to be home when I need you.  She'll never make any demands of us, and if things change, she'll let you go gracefully with a comfortable compensation package because she knew the conditions of hiring you when she interviewed you.  Don't worry, I'll write it all down for her and give it to her when we go to your interview.

Oh, honey, it'll be so great having two incomes and more health insurance!  We'll have so much more money, and you'll have that sense of purpose you've been looking for since the youngest was born!  It'll revitalize our marriage!  We'll go on more vacations together, and I can't wait to come home from work and see you there, waiting for me as usual with a candlelight dinner, and you'll tell me all about your day - every detail!

No, really, I mean every detail - a full play-by-play.  I need to hear *everything* so that I don't feel insecure by not knowing what you did while you were away.  Well, no, I never needed to know every detail while we were apart when you were home and I was at work, but this is different.  In fact, just to make sure, why don't you just text me throughout the day every time you do a new task, that way we'll be sure, and then you can recap it all at night when you get home.  Your boss is just going to have to deal with you making personal phone calls and text while you're on the clock.  That's another boundary for us.

And I promise that hearing all the details of how much fun you're having at your new job won't make me feel left out.  And I promise that I won't make you responsible for my feelings.  I'm totally responsible for my feelings and you're totally responsible for your actions that cause those feelings.  So if I start to feel jealous when I hear *too many* details, you'll just have to quit your job and focus on us for a while.  But since you're *agreeing* to it, it's totally egalitarian.  Because I love you and I respect that you can agree to these boundaries.

I know it's taken me a while to get on board with your idea here, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I think our marriage will be stronger than ever for the adventure we're about to take together.  Just as long as we can quit this little experiment if it gets too hard.  But it'll be great!
joreth: (Bad Computer!)

#Irony: #Polyamory is explicitly supposed to be about "more than two", and yet every resource we have, every discussion, every fear, every relationship rule, everything centers around couples. We have to "protect the primary couple"; we have to "respect the original or preexisting couple"; we have to develop communication so that we can improve our relationships (implied to be between couples); we assuage fears by talking about how the new relationship can improve the old *couple*'s relationship; singles and solo polys wonder how to get into couples "of their own"; and dog forbid we neglect to discuss how to "open up" an existing couple! ...

"The Couple" takes on a life of its own and soon it's a battle between The Couple and everyone who is not part of The Couple. That goes for the single interloper who is a threat to The Couple and yet is also the same person they want to "include in their relationship" and that goes for everyone who has seen this story play out a million times before and tries to warn The Couple that we already know the ending to this story.

Y'know what? Fuck "The Couple". I don't give a rat's ass about your relationships anymore. I certainly don't "respect" your coercive, destructive, exclusionary relationship. I care about the people in the relationships, and that includes everyone that the people in The Couple are about to sacrifice on the alter to The Couple. I have partners of my own. I have life partners. I have entangled partners. I have partners I care deeply about and who share significant portions of my life with me. Fuck those "couples" too.

I want to focus on building *partnerships* with my lovers and metamours and friends and family. A partnership isn't *inherently* limited to a "couple" and no one dyad gets to take precedence over anyone else and certainly no *relationship* gets to take precedence over any *person*. The partnership must always exist to serve the people in the partnership and never the other way around. Sometimes my partnerships do include just two of us, and that's fine, but fuck The Couple as its own entity. I care about the people, even the two who make up The Couple, but I do not care about The Couple as if it were a living, breathing person in its own right. I do not grant The Couple personhood status. People are more important than The Couple.

And fuck those cousins of The Couple who elevate The Triad or The Quad or The Tribe or whatever fucking group name you have to the same status as The Couple. You won't have as much social support as The Couple, so you might think that your little relationship unit deserves to be in a protected class, but a bully is still a bully even among minority groups so fuck your application of The Couple filter over your technically-more-than-two relationship too.

And if you try to argue semantics with me over what you think makes a "couple" and whether that's different from a "partnership" or not, fuck you too, you're missing the point.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"It can be easy to forget that the other people that your partner loves and cherishes are not problems to be worked around. They're human beings who add value to your partner's life." ~ Franklin Veaux

This is most clearly illustrated in poly relationships when pre-existing partners want to set up hierarchy and rules dictating "outside" partnerships, but this is actually an example of couple privilege because it's true in all kinds of relationships.

Think of the mono-hetero couple whose spouse doesn't get along with one's friends, or the stereotype of the wife and mother-in-law not getting along. Because our culture is set up to privilege the romantic dyad, we are told to take it as a given that a romantic dyad takes precedence over all other relationships. When that happens, some people view their partner's loved ones as problems to work around (or in some cases, like parents and siblings, they view their loved one's PARTNERS as problems to work around, still because of this assumption that romantic dyads come first so it's assumed that they will "lose" the loved one to the new partner and therefore the new partner is a "problem" to work around), rather than remembering that they are human beings who add value to their partner's life.

When you don't like your husband's buddies, it's hard to remember that they add value to his life, because the value system you need to judge by is *his* value system, not yours. The buddy is friends with him for a reason. He doesn't have to be *your* friend, he is still a human being who adds value to your husband's life.

When you can't stand her mother, it's hard to remember that she adds value to her life just because *you* find her annoying and she doesn't like *you* so she makes *you* uncomfortable. Doesn't matter, she's her mother and your partner wants her mother in her life for a reason. You don't have to have the same value system. She thinks her mother adds value, and her mother is a human being.

These people are not *problems to be worked around*. Not getting along with them might *cause* some problems, but they themselves are not problems, they are human beings who add value to your partner's life. The ethical way to deal is to not treat them like an interference that you have to manage. The ethical way to deal is to accept that they are human beings who add value to your partner's life, and that your partner is a human being who is capable of deciding for themselves what and whom brings value to their own lives.

‪#‎MetamoursMakePolyamoryWorthDoing‬ ‪#‎IHeartMyMetamours‬ ‪#‎MetamoursAreHalfTheReasonToDoPoly‬ ‪#‎InternationalPolyJusticeLeague‬ ‪#‎YouAllBringValueToMyLifeToo‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control

"But in giving Gilles an ultimatum, was [Elena] prepared for the possibility that he might say no—thus leaving her in the position of having to make good on her promise to end her relationship with him? Or was she working from an expectation that he would say yes—thus making the ultimatum dangerous for only Louisa, and not for Elena? What would her response be if Gilles said no? Would she be angry? Consider his choice a betrayal? Use shame and guilt to try to get him to do what she wanted? Or would she accept his decision—and leave the relationship?"

Eve Rickert follows up with part 2 on the question "are hierarchies ethical?" I pulled this quote out because of my own experience with "accidental hierarchy".

I was not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. Hell, I'm *still* not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. But my security has grown over time, as have my skills in handling my insecurities. In the past, I have taken advantage of Couple Privilege (without realizing it) and I have been in sort of de facto hierarchical relationships, even though I have never approved of hierarchy.

One common tactic I have actually participated in was the pre-approval veto - where any new partner must be pre-approved by the existing partner before any moves are made towards a partnership. This is often seen as an exception to the no-veto rule because the new potential partner often isn't even aware that they are being considered as a potential partner at this point - they might not even be interested, or at least they might not have expressed any interest yet. And if the veto is played, they may never know. I could go on a whole blog post about how that isn't really any different or better from a regular veto, but that's not the point of this piece now.

A long time ago, I dated someone who sought to reassure me about a new partner he was interested in. She wasn't poly. She had never heard of it before. She hadn't even had very many romantic partners at all. I was concerned about how "advanced" her relationship skills were and how this would negatively impact my relatively new relationship with our mutual partner. But I was here first.  So my partner volunteered that, because he was committed to *polyamory*, not just me, if this new interest of his started making "enough" trouble, he would break up with her and not just for me, but because he also didn't want any mono-poly drama.

So, fast forward something like a year and a half, and I decided we had reached "enough trouble". So I pulled out my defacto veto. I reminded him of his promise and told him to break up with her.  This has always bothered me. In hindsight, I see where I went wrong and I am now opposed to even the pre-approval veto. But it bothers me that I could have been opposed to veto and hierarchy for the whole power imbalance thing and I still pulled rank when I had it.

So that's where this quote comes in. Before I called his hand, I thought long and hard about doing so. I thought of every possible outcome to challenging him to break up with her. And I didn't do it until I had decided what the worst possible outcome was and accepted it. I waited until I was fairly certain that he would *not* break up with her, and that my challenge to him would result in our own break up.

When that's exactly what happened, I wasn't angry. I was sad and disappointed, but not angry. I did not feel betrayed. I felt let down because I felt as though he hadn't lived up to his commitments, but that's actually part of a pattern - he had broken several commitments to me over the course of the relationship and those commitments were *to me*, not about her, but that's what led me to the decision to issue the challenge in the first place. So I felt let down, but not betrayed.

However, many years later, I dated someone who believed that I had violated some agreement that I still do not believe I ever made, and he felt *betrayed*. Based on this partner's reaction, my emotions to that earlier partner choosing not to break up with his other partner were nothing like, and not even in the same family as, the emotions that this later ex seemed to feel towards me and my choices of partners.

I did not shame or guilt my then-partner into breaking up with her and staying with me. I accepted his decision immediately, and I left the relationship. We hugged, and got to work on building a new foundation for a friendship. I'm not saying it wasn't painful, and that I didn't have feelings of resentment, but there was no coercion and no entitlement there.

Later, when the shoe appeared to be on the other foot with that other partner, I worried about consistency. When *I* had a partner who took a new partner that I wasn't happy with, I told him about my unhappiness and I broke up with him when he didn't "do what I want". But then when this later partner was unhappy with my new relationship and this time *I* refused to either curtail or end this new relationship in favor of my existing partner's feelings, how was I any different from this later partner?

I *felt*, deep down, that there was a difference. But of course I did. I am the hero of my own story, after all, as is everyone. Of course it's "different when I do it"! But, was it really?

I think it was. As this article explains, it can be really difficult tell from the outside because often the end result is the same. "An outside observer who did not know Elena would in fact not be in a position to say whether her actions were a veto or not. Why? Because the difference comes down to expectation and intent."

This later partner felt *entitled* to have me choose him. He felt *entitled* to make demands on who I chose as another partner and how that new relationship could progress. He attempted to shame me for not allowing him to dictate the constraints of my other relationship, still trying to shame me even after he broke up with me. He felt betrayed. In fact, that's the exact word he used. He felt it was OK to override the agency of his partners, and not just me. Part of the reason why I refused to be flexible with respect to how difficult this situation was on him was because I saw him override other people.

See, I'm one of those annoying people who, when you back me into a corner, I'll just dig in my heels, bare my claws, and fight back out of spite. I'm working on that, but it's something I do. When I see someone having a hard time with something, and I don't see a good faith effort to own their shit and deal with it, I tend to throw people in the deep end.

Which means, in practice, that when I first start dating someone, I'll be extra considerate to make sure that they're comfortable with all the new poly stuff. I am not a beginner relationship. Even other poly people need a little adjusting when they start dating me. But if I start to notice that they are not making an equal effort to move past the discomfort and grow, if they are instead taking advantage of my consideration, I'll stop coddling them all at once, kind of like throwing ice water on someone. It may not be my best self, but I'm at least self-aware about it and I do warn people up front.

I had witnessed him being unreasonable towards his other partners. I saw him attempting to control their bodies. I saw him even trying to control their minds. He was startlingly successful at it. So I got pissed off. Then I started talking to someone new. This was the first time I had added my own new partner since he and I had started dating, and he was *not* prepared.

Incidentally, this is why I do not subscribe anymore to the principle that you should let your newbie partner start dating first. I mean, if it happens that way, then it happens that way. But I do not believe it is actually doing them any favors to "ease them into" polyamory and I no longer believe that all people need is to experience how it's possible to love more than one and they will magically not be afraid when their partner starts loving someone else.

Personal experience and observation of hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships in the poly community over the last two decades that I've been participating in it have taught me that putting off one's own entry into the dating world, or "easing them in" only makes one's partner comfortable in a fiction. They start to get accustomed to life as it is - with you not dating anyone - and then it's a shock to the system when you finally do start dating someone, because it's a *change* that they never really accepted. How often do we see people have no problem at all dating someone who is already partnered, only to freak out when that someone gets an even newer partner? The existing partner was part of the calculation, but a new partner is a *change*. The kindest thing you can do to someone like that is to show them up front what sort of relationship they can expect from you - and that includes how actively you date others.

Anyway, this partner had become accustomed to me not having any other partners for several years, because I made him a priority. But he added several new partners of his own and his time became more scarce. So eventually I had more time and emotional resources to devote to meeting new people as he dealt with the distraction of trying to control too many women at once. With his time being taken up by all the fires he had to put out with his mismanagement of his other relationships, and his attention definitely not on me or us, I felt alone and was open to considering other partners for the first time in several years.

But I wasn't *just* open to considering new partners, I was also pissed off at him for how he was treating his other partners. So I took off the kid gloves and I just did my other relationships however it felt natural between myself and the new partners and I expected the existing partner to just deal without any coddling from me.

Let me be clear and say that I don't believe I was *cruel*. I don't believe I was *anything*. My other relationships were between me and my other partners. They had nothing to do with him. He and the other partners didn't even live in the same city (or state). What I did was refuse to limit or restrain or shape these other relationships according to *his* wishes even a little bit. Not even the pre-approval veto that I previously believed didn't "count" as hierarchy or infringing on agency. But I'm quite sure that he disagrees with me on whether or not I was "cruel".

So when he confronted me about my new relationships, he was *angry*. He was mad that I wouldn't get pre-approval. He was mad that they progressed at a speed he didn't condone. He was especially pissed that I disagreed that we ever made some sort of "agreement" where he *could* have a say in those things. He called me names. He called me unethical - a sure stab right into my very sense of self. He accused me of betraying him. He accused me of being *unsafe* and putting him and all his other partners in danger, even though A) I had done nothing to put them in "danger" and B) I gave him all the information he needed to make his own safety decisions before we were even in the same city together again.

These are things meant to control. These are things meant to disempower. These are things meant to overrule agency. These are the tower - safety, ethics, consideration for existing partners' feelings. But I saw the village behind them - control, entitlement, fear, disempowerment. And these are not the things that I did with my prior partner, even though the outcome looks superficially similar.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But what if two of your partners have an emergency at the same time?! Polyamory can't work! You have to have a hierarchy or else anarchy reigns and everyone loses!"

A few days ago, my great aunt, who has leukemia, slipped and broke her hip. My dad, who is retired and spent 2 months last year out of town to care for her when the cancer got really bad and she was hospitalized, went down again to care for her with this latest emergency.

Today, my mom tripped and broke her ankle while my dad was out of town.

My parents are not poly. Yet they also have to answer tough questions like what happens when two loved ones have emergencies at the same time. Who should my dad choose - his wife or his ailing aunt with whom he has previously set a precedent for being her caretaker?

This is a rhetorical question, of course, because the answer isn't anyone else's business. The answer is between these three people, their specific needs, and the agreements that they all come to after all relevant parties discuss it because no one could have anticipated this exact set of circumstances.

Kinda like polyamory.

We already have these scripts. We already have these skills. We already have to face these kinds of challenges. Ethical and compassionate relating doesn't change just because there is sex involved.

‪#‎ThereIsNotMuchAboutPolyamoryThatIsSpecificToPolyamory‬ ‪#‎PolyLessonsILearnFromMyMonogamousFamily‬ ‪#‎PolyPeopleTryToReinventTheWheel‬
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/04/04/one-penis-policies/

I had a partner once who, when I found out that their pattern of both he and his wife only dating women was partially instigated by his discomfort with having his wife date a man and not fully because she was really more into women than men, I got really upset with him and pointed out the inherent sexism. I went through the usual objections, including the idea of ownership over his wife's body, etc., but right now I want to focus on his reaction to the proposal that the reason why he wasn't bothered by his wife having female lovers but was regarding male lovers is because he, fundamentally, believed that "lesbian sex / women's relationships don't count".

It basically boiled down to "I can't compete with other women and they can't compete with me because we have different parts, so I'm not threatened by them because they offer her something she can't get from a relationship with me, but another man can give her the same thing that I can, therefore she might leave me if she has access to another man" with the further assumption that said other man would necessarily be "better" in some way to facilitate the threat that she would leave if she only had the chance to know some other man.

This idea equates people with their genitals. A) No one can "give her the same thing [you] can" because NO ONE ELSE IS YOU. B) Since your relationship is not purely sexual, a woman can also give her the "same" things that you do, which are good sex, companionship, understanding, support, love, fun times, arguments, and everything else that makes up your relationship in addition to inserting your penis into her vagina. C) Women can also insert penises into vaginas - either the ones that are part of their own bodies or the ones bought in the store.

Since this argument is literally condensing all of human romantic / sexual interaction to which body parts people can mash together, it requires an unspoken assumption that mashing two particular set of body parts together is more important than mashing any other set of body parts together because mashing those other body parts together (or, y'know, any other part about relating to each other) couldn't possibly compare to or threaten the act of mashing that one set of body parts together.

BY DEFINITION, being afraid that someone else's vagina coming into contact with someone else's penis might make that vagina-haver discard everything about your relationship that makes it special and break up with you, but not being afraid of someone else's vagina coming into contact with literally any other body part from some other person will do the same thing is erasing the validity and legitimacy of relationships between women (going with the position of those who defend this policy of equating vagina-having with "women").

I also want to address the idea of using rules with what's called "sunset clauses" - a specific time limit for when the rule will end. This is a legitimate use of rules to work through specific issues and I have used them myself. However, I remain suspicious of them as "rules" - limitations that one person imposes on (or asks nicely of) another person(s) with regards to how they interact with other people to mitigate one's own issues, again, primarily because of this same former partner.

He and his wife also used the excuse of sunset clauses to justify rules, and they used these as "evidence" that they were both "getting better" and experiencing "personal growth". What would happen is that he would have a bad reaction to the idea of his wife doing a thing with a guy, the wife would hold off on doing that thing until the husband felt better, then when he could deal, he allowed her to do the thing. Their position was that, since the wife was building an ever-growing list of specific activities that she could do with men, clearly the husband was "getting better". I thought that sounded like it too.

I was wrong.

Yes, the wife was able to check off additional specific sexual activities over time that she was able to engage in, but neither of them ever got out of the mindset that *he* had a right to control access to *her* body or that sexual relationships with other men was somehow inherently more "threatening" than sexual relationships with women. There was never any actual personal growth happening, just a desensitization of specific sexual activities and positions. That is not "working on it" and it is not "getting better". It's basically just moving the goalposts while defending the same basic premise.

There is a time for when people have such a strong emotional reaction to something that the first thing they can focus on is just desensitization. I've used this tactic myself. But the point of desensitizing myself to an idea is to "numb" the emotional reaction enough that I can see through it to the root issue, and then actually do work on the root issue itself, so that I won't *need* to continuously desensitize myself to something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with me in the first place (i.e. my partner's other relationships).

But too many people stop at the desensitization process and think that, now that they're "numb" to this one thing, problem solved! Then that exact same issue gets triggered by a totally different thing, and they think "well, last time this desensitization made it more bearable, let's do that again!" It's the emotional equivalent, to borrow the pill analogy from the article, of taking shit loads of ibuprofen for my endometriosis. Every month, I'm wracked with pain and forced to spend a day or two in the fetal position, so I take ibuprofen to numb the pain enough to barely function. That is not a solution! A solution would be to attack the endo at the root cause so that I don't have to rely on copious amounts of drugs that may ultimately damage my liver from chronic use ever again!

Unfortunately, our medical industry is also misogynistic and has not put any effort into solving the root cause of endo, so millions of women are stuck desensitizing ourselves just to make it to work every month or ripping out a part of our internal organs which may or may not fix the problem anyway.

So don't let your cultural misogynistic programming work like our cultural misogynistic medical industry - we should not accept as sufficient the mere desensitization of emotional issues or hacking out deep parts of ourselves just to function. Focus on solving the actual problem of not seeing queer relationships as equally legitimate to hetero ones so that you don't need that mental ibuprofen anymore.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
#‎UnicornHunters‬ talk about adding a new girlfriend to their relationship like they're adding on a new room to their house. The house is already built, already has the foundation, the electrical, the plumbing, the layout already designed. All they get is this new room, but the house essentially stays the same up to the doorway where the new room has been added.

The reality is that building a triad is more like building a new house from scratch, or perhaps even simply buying a new one. A married couple decides that their current house isn't meeting their relationship needs anymore - they want something a little bigger, a little different, a little less conventional.

Their old house has a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, and two bedrooms. It's nice, but they'd like something more. The new house also has a kitchen and a living room, but it has 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms and a smaller room billed as an "office". There are lots of similarities between the old house and the new house - lots of the rooms serve the same function, both are made of a wood frame with drywall and plaster and siding and roof tiles and double-pane windows and both have electrical wiring and plumbing. But it's still a totally different house in addition to just having more rooms to accommodate the growing family.

The house is in a different neighborhood, so you have to drive around a bit to learn where the grocery store is and the nearby restaurants and the best path now to get to work and the movie theater. The neighbors, while still human beings, are different people and you have to get to know them and develop new connections that might look different than the ones you had with the old neighbors. You might be a little more inconvenienced in this new house because you have to drive past a school during school hours and traffic backs up making you late for work if you don't start leaving earlier.

It's an adjustment, moving into a new house. Ultimately, it might be the best decision you ever made, and your life will get better for it in the long run. But in the beginning, you might have to make some adjustments, like finding new paths and doing some internal remodeling or redecorating when your old house was already furnished exactly the way you liked it. Or, it might be a mistake and you might find yourself moving again in just a short time.

But if you really wanted the exact same house, only with one more room, I'd recommend you don't make that new room out of a human being. Take up a hobby or a pet. But a person is going to be disruptive. A person is going to change things far more than adding a door at the end of the hall where there used to be a wall - something that makes your house look mostly exactly the same and that you can only tell the difference if you go into that space, but that you can ignore if you just close the door.

Don't think of it as "adding a new girlfriend to our relationship" like she's a rumpus room tacked onto the back end of the house. Think of it more like getting a whole new house that, while it has many similar elements, is still a totally different building that will contain your family.

And wait to build that house until everyone who is going to live in it is present to offer their preferences for what they want in a house that they're going to live in too. Maybe you and the new person all agree that they should live in a separate mother-in-law suite in the backyard, rather than being attached to the main house, but they should still be there to help design that mother-in-law suite themselves, since they're the ones who have to live in it. But if they really are going to be part of the main house, then they really ought to have an equal say in what color the walls are and what kind of layout they want, not just to move into a house that already exists and doesn't reflect their own personality or preferences.

Remember, people are not accessories to your existing marriage, nor are they extra rooms you tack on to your existing house. They are the architects of their own lives, and if you want them to share your life with you, then they need to be collaborators.

‪#‎UnicornHunting‬ ‪#‎polyamory‬ ‪#‎poly‬ ‪#‎polyamorous‬ ‪#‎OpenRelationships‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Social Media Site: List your relationship status! Even though we've had "open relationship" as an option for years, now you can link to one partner only!

Poly Person: Oh good, now people can tell that I'm poly because they couldn't tell before when I had "in an open relationship" selected, I named everyone I'm dating in the "about me" section, and said the word "poly" in the description. Linking to only one partner in the sidebar will totally clear up all the confusion!

OKCupid's new "poly" feature is, IMO, a step backwards because we could *always* link to our partners' profiles (or anyone's, for that matter) in the open text boxes of our own profiles (which begin, BTW, right under the picture & stats header). This actually reduces the poly visibility and accessibility that OKC had previously given us.  One person argued that people don't read the profiles and therefore missed the part where she identified as poly in her profile.  To that, I submit that anyone not willing to read her profile won't see "open relationship" and her partner's name in the profile either because *they're not reading the profile*.  They also likely won't know specifically what *kind* of "open relationship" they're in (as there are many types, some of which are not compatible), again, because they're not reading the profile.  There's nothing to be done about people who don't read the profile short of either changing the culture to make that practice an aberration or back-end coding on OKC's part to prevent people from contacting anyone without some kind of "proof" that they read it, like passing a quiz or checking an "I have read this profile" box like a Terms of Service agreement with the ability to report people who turn out to have lied on that checkbox which penalizes the account holder, perhaps by removing their ability to contact people at all after a certain number of reports.  Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea.

But I digress.  Point is, OKC already recognized poly folks exist. It already had "open relationship" as an option. Yes, I know that "poly" and "open relationship" are not interchangeable, but it was always friendly to the subset of "open relationship" that is "polyamory".  It already allowed us to link to multiple partners.  It even had forums (don't know if it still does because I haven't been there in a while, but I was quite active on them for a time) and some of those forums were poly-specific where you could go chat about polyamory to poly people.  It already had hundreds of questions to answer that would weed out non-poly folk.  When you answer questions, you rate how important those questions and their answers are to you.  Those answers and those ratings contribute to your match score.  There are tons of poly and open relationship questions to answer, so how you answer those questions affects how well you match with other people on those specific topics.  If you answer enough questions and rate them important enough, eventually you will reach a point where any match above a certain percentage is almost guaranteed to be poly too.  On top of that, you can set a filter to hide any match *below* a certain percentage, so you could use OKC to see and be visible to only people open to non-monogamy.  This has been How This Works for many, many years.

I'm actually quite disappointed in the poly community in general for heralding this new feature as some kind of pro-poly feature.  It's not.  It reinforces couple privilege, it reinforces the trope that poly or open relationships are something that couples do when we ought to be promoting the fact that it's something that *people* do, and it erases every version of open relationships that don't prioritize one partner above all others or that even don't prioritize romantic relationships above all other types.

This is not a boon to the poly community.  This is not actually helpful at all.  It does not add *anything* to our profiles that we didn't already have, but it does take away from our profiles. I've linked to [livejournal.com profile] tacit since we started dating 11 years ago. The earliest other partner that I am confident I simultaneously linked to in the body (and isn't an unreliable memory that could just be wishful thinking) was 8 years ago. I have since edited my profile with each new partner and each new breakup, sometimes even including metamours who had OKC profiles.

Years. Now, suddenly, OKC is all "hey, look, you can link to your partner!" Whatever dude, you're not helping me out any. Not giving me anything I hadn't had before. And, while it's not *removing* the ability to link to multiple partners in the body text, going from "link to other profiles (multiple) in your body text" to "link to one partner in the sidebar" is still less poly-friendly than its other, preexisting features.

‪#‎OKCFail‬ ‪#‎UnicornHunting‬ ‪#‎OpenRelationshipsMeanMoreThanOneByDefinition‬ ‪#‎OneStepForwardTwoStepsBack‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Listening to people justify giving romantic partners full access* to each other's phones & emails in the aftermath of a broken trust in order to rebuild that trust. Saying that because someone did something related to texting that was "against their rules", it sucks, but it might be a necessary way to regain the trust of the person who was betrayed.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

If someone has broken an agreement or betrayed the trust of the other person, giving someone full access to things that DON'T BELONG TO ONLY THE PERSON IN THE COUPLE IN QUESTION is not acceptable. Texts and other communication owned by the "betrayer" are not their sole property. Those communiques (and, more importantly, the thoughts and intimacy they contain) also belong to the person who sent them. You are not sharing something that is private to the person who broke the rule, you are sharing something that is private of someone who is not in the relationship where the broken trust occurred.

By insisting on full access to the communications of a third party, you are pawning off the burden of repairing your broken trust onto that third party. The *third person* is the one who has to shoulder the responsibility for the "betrayer's" actions and for the "betrayed's" fear. And not just that person who participated in whatever action constitutes a "betrayal", but ALL third parties who might communicate with the "betrayer" in that manner - every single person has to give up their own privacy (and potentially hamper their own intimacy, even platonic and familial ones) to assuage the "betrayed" and fix this now "broken" relationship. All friends, all family, even all future partners (for those in open relationships) have to pay for what the "betrayer" and some other person did.

If your relationship is now "broken" and you are trying to rebuild trust between the two of you, it is your ethical responsibility to find a way to work through that pain and fear in a way that makes the two of YOU shoulder the entire burden for the work involved. It is not ethically right to violate the privacy and intimacy of people who are not in your relationship, who did not break any agreements (because they didn't make those agreements with you since they are not your partner), and who are not trying to rebuild any broken trust with you. New metamours may be trying to *build* trust with you, but they should not have added onto their load the responsibility of *REbuilding* the trust that someone else broke.

If you are choosing to put the work into this relationship so that you can eventually trust your partner again, that is your choice and you need to shoulder the burdens of your own fears regarding your partner's lack of trustworthiness. I'm not saying it doesn't suck. I'm saying it's YOUR burden to carry. All too often, poly people carry into polyamory with them bad habits from monogamy that go unchallenged in monogamous culture.

Until the industrial revolution, and really until WWI, marriage was not considered the One Relationship To Rule Them All.  In fact, just the opposite.  Philosophical treatises were written and sermons were preached condoning the act of making one's spouse the sole source of all types of support.  People were expected to find emotional, financial, labor, and sometimes even sexual support from all manner of relationships other than their spouse.  Placing one's spouse in a position of one's Everything was considered to be an affront to God himself because it was seen as replacing God with a human being.  Men and women were expected to have strong emotional ties to people of the same gender, and in some eras, those ties were expected to be stronger than the ties to one's spouse.  Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family in general were expected to live under the same roof, or at least nearby, to help with the labor of running a household and raising children.  One's pastor or preacher was expected to carry the burden of one's religious commitments and spiritual support.  And, in certain eras and locations, sex with one's spouse was considered a necessity for procreation but sex for pleasure was expected to be saved for one's lovers.  It was considered "unseemly" to be "too in love" or too infatuated or too attracted to one's own spouse.  That wasn't their role.

But then, somewhere along the line, mainly about the time that the industrial cities took over as holding the bulk of the population, all that changed.  With famine and war, people left the countryside in droves and flooded the urban centers, leaving behind extended family, generational churches, and best friends.  The nuclear family took over because single adults left their entire network behind to make a living in the big cities and started raising families alone, while existing families could often only pack up themselves (the spouses and kids) to search for a "better life" in the city, again leaving behind their support networks.  Suddenly, spouses HAD to become one's Everything because all they had was each other.

Although the U.S. has made attempts to build other sorts of networks from the wreckage the Urban Influx left on the old-style networks, the nuclear family and the myth of the One reigns supreme.  We have elevated the role of the spouse (and by extension, any singular romantic partner) to such a degree that people, even those of us conscientious objectors who ought to know better, can't even see the ethical dilemma with privileging one role above all others.  When faced with questions like "should your spouse have unrestricted access to your text messages", we don't even blink an eye when we shout "of course!"  That's not even a question for most people - it's taken for granted that spouses would share everything.  Even those things that don't belong to the other spouse to share.  It's written into marriage vows.  It's part of the cultural fabric.  And if some third party would dare to suggest that this thing here doesn't belong solely to the spouse in question to be giving permission to access, it's just flat out assumed that the romantic primary couple has "priority" so of course anything belonging even in part to the spouse belongs entirely to the spouse and simultaneously belongs to the other spouse.  Requests for privacy are seen as direct challenges to the primacy of the couple.

Personally, if my romantic relationship isn't strong enough to accommodate for individual privacy, I would say that the relationship isn't as "primary" as one would think.  The specialness and strength of my relationships and of my role within those relationships comes from the connection itself which is comprised of the individuals that make up the relationship, and nothing can take that away short of the individuals themselves.  Including the rights of the individual within the relationships.  Once the rights and integrity and very personhood of the individuals within the relationship are seen as less important than the relationship itself, the relationship is inherently doomed because the foundation of the relationship is the individuals in it.

So no one has "unrestricted access" or "full access" to those paths of intimacy, including communication, that involve anyone other than the two of us on that path together.  Some of my partners and metamours may have emergency access, but that is not "full access" or "unrestricted access".  Attempting to access the communications and therefore possible paths of intimacy of my other partners and loved ones is seen as a boundary violation, both my own boundaries and those of the other people, by the one doing the accessing.  It is understood that the wrongdoing here is in the accessing of data, not in the keeping of privacy.

When I was a teenager, my sister used to sneak into my room and steal my clothing and my cassette tapes.  No amount of shouting or sneaking into her room to steal them back would stop her.  I begged my parents for a lock on my door to keep her out.  They responded that a locked door would enable me to hide things from THEM, and as my parents, they had a right to access every space in the house, including my space.  I had no right to privacy as their daughter living on their property.  These are the kinds of assumptions that we bring with us into poly relationships - property and ownership of other people - their bodies and their minds.


As a child, I knew this was wrong.  As an adult, I know now why.  This is a violation of my very autonomy, the thing that makes me a person.  So, in my romantic relationships I can leave the metaphorical door unlocked because everyone knows that opening that door without an emergency-based reason would harm the relationship between myself and the person who opened that door.  My partners are not children or pets who can't be trusted to stay out of my room, nor are they overprotective parents who think that I am not entitled to my own autonomy.  Should I ever feel the need or the desire to lock my door, my partners understand that it's my room to lock and they didn't have a right to access that space anyway.  But, because they understand this, I can leave the door unlocked for safety purposes and everything that anyone gives me that I keep in that room is safe from anyone else getting to it.

I understand the desire to infringe on someone else's rights in order to make the bad feelings go away.  I understand how scary it is to shoulder my own burdens in a relationship where there is fear, insecurity, and broken trust.  I've been there, I've done that.  To this day, I may feel a strong enough fear to prompt me to ask to violate someone's boundaries for my own comfort.  But the key is that I do not assume it is my right to do so, and I must shoulder the burden myself to do the work on repairing the broken trust and calming that fear.  The allure of making someone else carry one's own burden is strong.  It will take everyone's effort to stand up to that allure and to create a culture that does not support the violation of other people's boundaries, privacy, and intimacy in service to our own fears and pain.



* By "full access", I do not mean that one *must* keep a lock on their phone and *never* show any texts to one's partner.  My phone doesn't even have a lock because it's a dumb flip phone, and I have a shared document online with passwords and other instructions for access to my files in the event of emergencies where someone else needs to run my life on my behalf.  But my partners have no interest in accessing my data short of an emergency, and everyone who communicates with me has a reasonable expectation that what they say to me will be held in confidence if they ask for it.  When they communicate with me, they know that they are communicating *with me*.  They do not have to communicate with me under the assumption that they are also communicating or sharing with someone else.  Assuming that all communications will be shared with someone else creates a built-in filter that hampers and infringes on the intimacy we can build together because they can only build as much intimacy with me as they are willing to build with this other person who will have access to that intimacy.

Partners who ask for "full access", in this context, are not asking for pragmatic, emergency-based access, nor do they technically have access but a lack of interest in accessing data.  Those are different situations and one that I am not addressing, so please don't derail the comments with "I can read my husband's texts because we trust each other but I don't because I don't care / we trust each other."  That's not what I'm talking about.  "Full access", in this context, is when one partner is suspected (or known) of possible relationship agreement violations and the other partner deliberately goes into their data (or wants the ability to do so) in order to check up on them.  They either want to police their activity like a child who can't be trusted to do their homework without the teacher sending home a homework sheet that the parents check off every night, or they want the threat of checking their activity to act as a deterrent to prevent their partner from misbehaving.

And these people will justify their actions or their request to violate privacy on the grounds that their partner has already proven that they can't be trusted, therefore punitive and corrective action is necessary.  That or if an infidelity of some kind hasn't actually happened, they will hand-wave away their violations with things like "if he's not hiding anything, then it shouldn't matter if I have access" and other hand-wavy justifications like the ones my parents used to deny me a lock on my door, which all have the underlying root of couple privilege and ownership.  It's not about "hiding" things, it's about treating partners as adults who have the right to make their own decisions (even bad ones), and about respecting the autonomy of both partners and third parties, AND about carrying one's own relationship burdens and responsibilities without pawning the work off onto someone else.

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