Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chain of love

It's interesting how going from having just two partners to having three or more can create complicated networks of romantic relationships. My own network already has quite a few people in it. In our case, it turns out to be a line, which has a certain aesthetic elegance to it:

    M - G - W - Galen - Karma - C - M - C
This particular line of lovers has also fostered something of a family feel among us. It's not uncommon that we all end up together to watch Doctor Who or share a meal. I imagine as the connections grow, so will our sense of family.

Recent events remind me of the added STI risks of polyamory. Someone down the line added a partner for a short while, which brought at least another 4 people into our network. It turned out one of them has herpes. Thanks to communication, that has halted some things as people take stock and prepare for testing.

The fragile health of some in our line in some ways constrains our choices and limits the growth of our network. This isn't entirely a bad thing. It increases our communication, curbs our impulses, and helps to filter out some poor choices.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

At peace

One of the things my new relationship with Wendy brings to my life is a certain peace that's hard to explain. Part of it is that she's a refreshingly low-drama lady. I was searching for that in secondary partners, but didn't take for granted that I'd be fortunate enough to find it. The poly community seems to be rife with people who thrive on creating and consuming drama.

Another peaceful aspect of my relationship with Wendy is how we are when we're together. Yes, we talk when we're having dinner or out for a walk or the like. We talk about all sorts of things. But for some reason, when we're in each other's arms, we tend not to talk much beyond goofy-cutesy stuff. We like to joke that her bed has a certain gravity that makes it difficult to leave, and that relaxed peace we share there is no doubt one source.

No doubt some of this peace simply a result of having found a secondary partner that's clearly good for me. My first experience with polyamory (outside cyberspace) was a failure and lent to my sense that I was doomed by circumstances and my own failings. I was surrounded by potential partners, yet none seemed appropriate. Success with Wendy validated the sense that I'm not entirely a tragic freak. That's a good feeling that certainly brings me peace.

I intend to keep Wendy as a friend and partner for life. Will this sense of peace last forever? I don't know, but I'm content to enjoy and inculcate for as long as I can.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My polyamory today

It has been a long time since I posted and much has happened since we became poly. I want to post some updates in hopes some others might benefit from my experiences.

Here's the thumbnail sketch of my poly experience to date:
  • Began by experimenting with poly in Second Life.
  • Joined a local poly support / social group.
  • Joined another local couple in a quad that lasted a short while.
  • Made some friends on OkCupid, but no partners.
  • Partnered with a refreshingly low-drama woman who is already part of a triad.
I want to flesh out this story, because it leaves a lot out. But this is a start.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Metamour Connection Levels

In polyamory, we refer to our partner's other partners as "metamours". We know that polyamorous relationships can get quite complicated to manage and characterize. One question that seems often asked is: do you let your partners talk to each other? The polyamorous credo of open honesty would suggest that the answer is obvious, but the truth doesn't always shape up that way.

It occurs to me that it could be helpful to have a handy set of terms to describe how close two metamours are to one another:

Level 1: Acceptance. You are at least aware of the other person. You know his/her name. You have at least some sense of what your partner sees in this other person. You might have met once or twice.

Level 2: Acquaintance. You hang out now and then (maybe once a month) and have talked somewhat with your metamour. You have certain things in common. You have a general trust and you understand what your partner sees in this person.

Level 3: Friendship. You hang out a lot (a few times a week) and have talked extensively. In some ways, you consider yourself to be just about as close to your metamour as your partner is.

Level 4: Integration. Your metamour is also your own lover. You are part of a triad or other tight intimate network. You share almost everything with this 3rd person. Technically, s/he's no longer a metamour, but part of the family.

To be sure, the connections between any two metamours is complex and certainly not "digital" like this. Still, I think these terms can help.

Also, I would stress that this is not meant to suggest that any level is somehow more moral or better than any other. For example, if you have a good friendship with a metamour but have no romantic interest in him/her, it doesn't make sense to think this is somehow a failing. On the other hand, it's my own opinion that only reaching the "acceptance" level can be dangerous. It could be hard to trust a metamour's intentions or otherwise be sympathetic to his/her perspective.

I welcome feedback on this concept and these terms.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Polyamory Position Statement

This is my view of the essential ethics of polyamory. I hope it can help others know what we are and are not about. I also hope this helps other polyamorous people know how polyamory does and should fit into the rest of the world.


Polyamory is the belief that having multiple loving, romantic partners at one time is morally acceptable and healthy, as long as all parties are aware of and explicitly accept it.

Some people assume that polyamory means having 3 or more partners living as a family-style unit, just like a 2-person marriage. This is one form, but polyamory can just as easily involve a married couple, with a third person involved with one or both partners, yet not living in the same house, sharing expenses, etc. That "secondary" person could, in turn, have other partners outside this relationship. They, in turn can have still more partners. The end result can be an amorphous "network" involving potentially hundreds of people, most of whom only know a few in the network.

Polyamory is often confused with "swinging". Swinging tends to be explicitly about short-term sexual relationships that tend to avoid "emotional" connections. Swingers often don't know anything about the people they have sex with and may not know whether their partners' spouses or other partners even know about their swinging. Thus, swinging often involves an accepted measure of cheating and dishonesty. This is anathema to polyamory, which demands honesty and full disclosure among partners. What's more, polyamory tends to focus on longer-term, emotional connections.

Moral Basis

Polyamory explicitly rejects the assertion that only monogamous relationships have moral standing as having no factual or other meaningful basis. The moral basis for any legitimate relationship must always be informed consent. This applies to marriage, business partnerships, etc.

Polyamorists tend to reject the notion of people as property. Most human cultures today have rejected slavery, but still define marriage in terms of property. Polyamory does not reject the legitimacy of private property (e.g., cars and houses), but it does reject the idea that getting married entitles partners to "own" one another's lives. We see relationships as always conditional and based on mutual value and respect.

Not for Everyone

Polyamory grants monogamy equal moral status. Polyamory is not appropriate for everyone, just like monogamy is not appropriate for everyone.

A polyamorous person may wish to change the minds of monogamous people about the legitimacy of polyamory. But we should never try to "convert" monogamous people who genuinely can't be poly. Nor should we assume that monogamy, per se, is bad.

Someone who is insecure about his or her own position in a relationship will probably not be willing to accept the changes that come with letting their partners seek out other relationships. Jealousy is very natural, but also anathema to polyamory. Then again, jealousy is also anathema to monogamous relationships. Trying to protect a partner as exclusive property is not a measure of a relationship's strength, but of a person's desperation to artificially maintain an unhealthy hold on someone else.

Everyone I know who is polyamorous agrees that polyamory does not make life simpler; it makes life harder. Polyamory requires enormous effort, primarily in the form of communication. People unwilling to share their desires, comfort levels, issues, and so on will find polyamory difficult at best and more likely impossible.


Polyamory advocates seek tolerance in a world where monogamy is ubiquitous and polyamory is nearly unknown.

Polyamory is compatible with monogamy. Our goal should be to see our communities, countries, and world come to reflexively accept polyamory not as a substitute for traditional, natural forms of relationships, but as one of them.

As more people become aware of polyamory, more will become tolerant. But many will lash back in a bitter and ultimately futile attempt to discredit this lifestyle. We should be prepared to be defensive, but not bitter in return. It will not serve us to dismiss monogamy as a bad thing. Better to, by example and rhetoric, to highlight polyamory as good.


Polyamorous people would like for polyamory to have equal legal standing with monogamy.

It would be tempting to seek government recognition of polyamory. Homosexuals have fought long and hard to be able to legally marry. They have won the right in some narrow contexts, but they have also managed to galvanize opposition to gay marriage.

Homosexuals probably have a better chance of gaining legal marriage status than polyamorous people will for a long time to come, which doesn't bode well for poly families seeking it.

It makes more sense to question the legitimacy of legal marriage, writ large. People who get married gain certain legal protections. Moreover, being branded an "adulterer" can bring legal jeopardy, especially with regards to custody battles for children. I think we should be seeking to eliminate or diminish all government licensure of marriage. In its place should be a branch of traditional contracting law related to marriage. Partners entering into marriage contracts should declare their assets and responsibilities and pre-negotiate arbitration mechanisms to deal with the things that typically get hammered out in bitter divorce proceedings. If no marriages are licensed, we take away the power of the majority to suppress and punish minorities.


Polyamorous people may promote polyamory, but have no moral obligation to.

Polyamorous people often choose to keep their nontraditional relationships hidden from public view. This is totally acceptable. We should applaud those who chose to promote and defend polyamory, but we should never pressure others to do the same. We don't have a moral obligation to sacrifice our own lives to promote our livestyle.

Polyamorous people are slowly becoming more visible. Just giving a name to this lifestyle lends legitimacy and makes it easier for others to quickly grasp the concept. For many, it is risky to publicly acknowledge our polyamory. We can face serious repercussions from employers, family, friends, and our communities.

For those, like me, who are not yet in a position to publicly advocate polyamory, there is the Internet and other venues where we can anonymously promote it with less fear.

In this regard, polyamorous people have only one moral obligation: to not misrepresent polyamory, whether to promote, to smear, or to dishonestly profit from it. For example, getting caught cheating on your monogamous partner does not entitle you to declare you did it because you are polyamorous and so it's OK. You can't be polyamorous and cheating. If you are cheating, you are a cheater, not polyamorous.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What is Polyamory?

I know there are plenty of great resources out there on polyamory, like Wikipedia ( But I wanted to give a brief summary of what polyamory is to me.

Polyamory is the belief that it is morally and practically acceptable to have more than one romantic partner, so long as all parties to the relationship are honest with all their partners about it. This is not the same thing as swinging, though. Polyamorous people tend to seek out lasting emotional connections, not one night stands.

Polyamory sometimes takes the form of "closed" families of three or more partners ("polyfidelity") who do not form bonds outside the family. But it seems more common that someone who is actively polyamorous becomes part of a larger network. One of John's two girlfriends, Mary, could have another partner, Christine, who in turn has two other boyfriends, and so on. This is why one of the cardinal "rules" of polyamory is use of condoms to prevent the spread of STDs.

My own current situation is that my wife, Karma, is my only partner. We decided about a year and a half ago to be polyamorous. We're still exploring it and don't know what the future is.

About Me

I'm polyamorous. Galen is the pseudonym I use to shield my real identity to protect myself from the stigma regrettably associated with polyamory. This is my free place; my comfortable space. A request. If you have me friended on FaceBook or in other "real life" venues, please don't talk about poly related stuff. Thank you.

Other Resources