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Monday, May 22, 2017

Reader 'alarmed' by partners sharing emails

Hi,

I am extremely new to the poly scene and am still learning community 'norms.'  In relation to that, I recently read the post on this blog from October 6, 2013 entitled, "Should I let my partner read my emails?"

It was alarming.

If a partner of mine asked to be allowed to read my emails (or whatever communications) and I said "yes," I would be guilty of betraying the confidences of everyone who ever had sent and everyone who ever does send me email (or whatever communications).

My family sends me deeply personal messages. Friends send me deeply personal messages. It is *MY* responsibility to protect those confidences. They send those messages to ME, not to me-and-whatever-suspicious-partners-I-might-ever-have.

I know there is no "general policy," but is this something of a community norm? To be expected to demonstrate trustworthiness by fundamentally betraying the communications of everyone I've ever known?

Is the notion that one should "always act as if everyone you'd ever met and cared about was watching" interpreted to mean that I should actually ENABLE everyone to watch? Should I put a video camera in my bedroom and distribute the live feed and recordings to anyone I care about - present or future - who wants it?

I feel like that would be betrayal on a grand scale. Furthermore, if I have a friend who behaves that way, I would certainly want to be made aware in advance that anything I send that friend might also be seen by any of his/her partners.

Please help me understand how poly people deal with this in real life. Do people actually give their partners this kind of access? If they do, do they make any effort to inform everyone else they communicate with that their communications are NOT private? How do people handle 'crazy ex' issues with this?

Thank you,
Loyal For Real

Dear L4R:

Since I practice open email communication with my partner, and wrote much of what likely surprised you about that post, I'll explain my personal perspective.


First off, there is no workable universal policy for openness within a relationship, whether poly, traditional, or otherwise.  The best policy is the one you and your partner/s decide works best for you, and that may change from time to time. What I recommend is the optimal scenario from my perspective: open and honest communication to an extreme, the logical conclusion to the underpinning of ethical nonmonogamy.

Put into practice, however, total transparency isn't realistic in all situations.  
I see a difference between SECRETS with which you've been entrusted, and COMMUNICATIONS.  

Let me pose it this way: if you received a message involving an interesting/problematic/curious/emotionally charged topic, would you feel comfortable discussing that topic with your best friend?  I don't see any real difference between discussing the contents of a conversation with my partner, and actually sharing that conversation with my partner. If there's an expectation of secrecy within a specific message or conversation (whether implicit or explicit), then I would tell my partner there was something personal or private that wouldn't be appropriate to share, explain why, and ask that partner to avoid that particular area; perhaps I'd even delete it after reading, with my partner's knowledge I was doing so and why.  But barring extenuating circumstances, I think it reasonable to expect that anything you tell, write, or message another person these days is likely to be shared, especially to a significant other if they have one.  The only question is where any of us draw the line between what we consider private, and what we consider fair game for sharing.


While I understand my position might not meet your particular needs or beliefs, I explained why I do it that way and why I consider it ideal, even if untenable for some. So is this a betrayal at all, let alone one of epic proportions?  I don't think so at all, although your mileage may (and likely does) vary.


Dear Loyal,

As Leon pointed out, if the topic of the message is so secretive that you can't talk about it with your partner, then you probably can't have the kind of open relationships that Leon and I do - and that's totally okay! FBI, CIA and NSA people can be poly too, as long as they are up-front about their reasons, lol


Personally, my partners have access to my calendar from theirs, and my messages (their fingerprints unlock my phone) and I have the same access. Do we pick up each other's phones and scroll through texts and emails? Absolutely not, because we respect each other's privacy. Giving each other access is one way we show that we have nothing to hide from each other.


For example, to think about it another way: If people expect me to hide something from my partners, I feel that's a big "ask" and it's incumbent upon them to tell me that expectation so I can arrange a phone call or a meeting, or tell them I'm not comfortable with keeping something from the people closest to me. 


That's a 180-degree flip from your belief that people expect you to keep all their communications confidential. But the problem with that assumption is that you won't know for sure what you can share with your partner(s) and what you can't because EVERYTHING is assumed to be confidential. If your relationships never intersect then I guess you're fine, but what happens if your partners and friends meet? How will you know what you can share so they don't remain strangers?


Basically, it comes down to consent. Your worldview is that nothing can be shared without consent, but I'm guessing that people end up sharing some of it anyway and violating that non-consent. Our worldview is that everything is shared unless WE consent to keep it secret from our partners. This ensures that whatever needs to be kept private is handled appropriately and leaves us free to share everything else without violating anyone's privacy 
expectations.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Cheating wife wants more from marriage

Hello there,

In the last three months, I've been cheating on my husband (more consistently) with an old flame from over a decade ago. The old flame is in an open marriage and so it was always safe for me because there were no expectations and I didn't have to commit. The problem is NOW I want to commit to the old flame and my current husband. I can love both (a once proclaimed serial monogamous person) -- and I think I am coming out. By the way, sadly I have never been monogamous in a relationship. I am for a while but then I get out because I need something more or else. I love to flirt and I love sex.

Here's the issue -- my husband is NOT interested in open anything and he wouldn't even want to meet an old boyfriend as a "friend." So that's that. Then my married old flame loves me (he really does) but is very conflicted (because he thinks it's amoral to love two people at the same time) -- even though we are extremely close in every way. He revealed that he doesn't love his wife anymore but staying out of loyalty (she doesn't work) and for his kid. He has been retreating and advancing for years but came on really strong this time -- so much that I have opened up completely. Now as I am expanding my heart and mind, he's in conflict and turning me off with his lack of communication (and uncharacteristically giving me as little as possible). In my mind, I'm like Jesus Christ, gimme a break! I don't know what to do...I've got two relationships where I'm not fulfilled. In the perfect world, I want them both.

So first question -- How do I tell my husband that I need more without having him divorce me? (I have a small child.) Are there resources for tools? He's a beautiful soul, great friend and father! I couldn't ask for a better partner.

Second -- How do I tell my old flame that he needs to love me for real or else I am not hanging around? I love him a lot but I'm not a doormat. I've loved him from the first time I met him over a decade ago. (He was married then and I was his first open partner.) I really hate to end things with either because I can think of this arrangement only now with them. Only my old flame could get me to open up from my monogamous marriage (as far as I know).

Third -- am I crazy ? Meaning...am I asking too much from these folks, the universe? I love the companionship and friendship of one but I crave the sensuality and powerfulness of the other.

Sincerely,
Crazy in Love

Dear Crazy in Love,

You certainly have gotten yourself in a pickle, relationship-wise. I'm guessing that the main reason you got married is that, like many people, you didn't think polyamory was a legitimate choice, even though it seems you know that lifelong monogamy isn't for you. What I can tell you is that polyamory can work, but it's hard when you've made choices that entrench you in a monogamous situation. So let's take this one step at a time. 

First, you can start by explaining to your husband that, for whatever reason, you weren't completely honest with him when you married him because you knew even then that lifelong monogamy wasn't for you. But perhaps you loved him enough to think that you could change for him and you now realize that you can't change who you are. But instead of a divorce, you want to work through this together, and he should listen to you at least for the sake of your child.

Ideal marriages are those where both parties can continue to grow, rather than holding each other back. Explain that this is the kind of marriage that you want. There are several books on polyamory, but I personally think it's best to talk with other people in similar situations, so find a poly group near you to get support for yourself and your husband. You might also seek out a poly-friendly therapist for couples counseling.

Second, tell your old flame that there's nothing amoral about loving two or more people, just like you can love both a mother and a father, or any number of siblings. Love is love, period. But even so, he says he doesn't love his wife anymore, so what's his problem with loving you now?

What IS immoral (in my opinion) is the act of lying to the people you claim to love. That takes away their ability to consent to a relationship by failing to disclose pertinent facts about said relationship. When a relationship is non-consensual, it cannot be moral.

Polyamory is often described as ethical non-monogamy, emphasis on ethical. So you're not "crazy" for wanting more love in your life but sneaking around and deceiving the people you love isn't the answer. You have the right to live without someone else controlling you, but you also have responsibilities to your husband and to your child, based on the promises you've made to them. Finding that balance between your freedom to love and your responsibilities to others is what relationshipping is all about. It's hard work, but there's nothing more rewarding when you can get it right.

Leon, over to you!

Dear C-Lo:

Congratulations on identifying your needs, and finding people to meet them! Those are two very important keys to healthy relationship building. Unfortunately, the next prerequisite is going to prove to be more challenging: making sure that your partners' needs are being met as well.  

You're not asking too much of the universe to get your needs met, but you might be asking too much of your current partners. Statements like "loving two people at once is amoral" and "won't consider an open relationship" sound like pretty clear conflicts to your ideal. You'll have to change their understandings and convictions somehow, or you won't get your happy ending. 

It's quite likely these people are too ingrained in their lives and roles to be able - or want - to change to fit your ideal. Besides, you've been cheating on one for years and aren't on the same page with the other (btw, now that you're emotionally available he's backing off? Sounds like there are more issues there than you know or admit) - you'll need to do some behavior management on yourself, before you can realistically expect any from anyone else.

You're probably going to have to do some game theory analysis. How much of your current jerry-rigged situation are you willing to risk in order to get all your needs met? Honesty is the best policy and likely the only way to potentially get everyone on the same page - Mischa outlines some excellent suggestions - but either situation could blow up in your face and leave you with less than you have now. 

In a likely worst-case scenario, I imagine you'd probably be able to start honest relationships with new partners as a divorcee with an ex-husband with whom you share custody and who loves and cares for your child. You certainly wouldn't be the first to realize that divorce might actually be a desirable option, rather than the last resort for pariahs and "failures".

By the way, do you find it ironic that you are looking at your old flame's staying with his wife out of loyalty and family responsibilities despite them not being compatible, in much the same way that he is probably looking at you? 

Friday, March 3, 2017

How do I convince my girlfriend to be polyamorous?

Hi Mischa and Leon, 

I’m just looking for a bit of advice. Basically I’ve been with this girl for over a year now and I’m polyamorous. I haven’t made it apparent to anyone before because my past relationships weren’t exclusive so there was never a problem.

I’ve tried to tell her that I want an open relationship but she gets seriously upset when I bring it up so nothing comes of it. I love her and don’t want to lose such a great friend but I haven’t told her I’m polyamorous and I feel like I’m really sacrificing a lot of my needs. I just feel a bit restricted just now as she thinks I just want to sleep around with other girls when it’s more than that. 

How should I go about this? Specifically, how can I show or communicate to my monogamous lover why it isn’t a bad thing? I know she feels like she’s not special or that I’m dissatisfied with her when I bring it up but I need to make sure she knows that it’s not the case at all.

Thanks,
Stuck in the Closet

Dear R. Kelly:

People and relationships evolve over time - that's natural.  People grow apart, too - also part of life. 

But you've known all along you were polyamorous but never told her - that's a pretty big mark against you in my book. After all, if you knew you were never going to be monogamous with her (regardless of whether it would be from either staying casual forever, or being polyamorous), don't you think that's something she would want to know?  You've been hiding it for as long as you could, and you've been doing her a real disservice.  She may love you, but that's based on over a year of her assumption that you'll eventually climb the relationship ladder together.

It's very likely, based on her reactions, that she will never be OK with you in an open relationship.  Your only chance MIGHT be to sit down with her and address some of her misconceptions about polyamory via a book, a TED Talk, or some mentor-like scenario which can break down poly into bite-size pieces whereby she might see polyamory from your perspective, including the specialness of a primary and your underlying bond, while reducing the impact of her entire life living in a society which rejects anything other than traditional monogamy.

But even if she says she's willing to try, it will almost certainly be because she doesn't want to lose you and is willing to compromise her true beliefs in order to make the relationship work, rather than that she's "seen the light" as a true poly adherent.  My bet is you're ultimately setting yourself up for bilateral frustration and disappointment if you try to push further with this partner.  But you brought it on yourself.

Mischa?

I don't have much to add to Leon's take on your situation, only just to say that I hope this experience has convinced you that dating in the closet works about as well for poly people as it does for gay people. 

I don't understand when you say you've tried to tell her that you want an open relationship but you haven't told her you're polyamorous. Those two things are pretty much one and the same, so it sounds like you didn't get to explain what ethical non-monogamy means. I'd encourage you to give her books, or take her to poly events and meetings so she can see that this is a workable, ethical and joyful alternative to a monogamous lifestyle.

If it turns out that she's not into that lifestyle, then you have to let her find the relationship that she wants for herself and try to remain friends (if that's what you both want). And the next time you meet someone, you'll know that it's best to be up-front about the kind of relationship you want before getting involved to the point where someone could get hurt.