Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com from tomorrow. This month, our topic is “My Poly Set-up”.
I’ve interpreted “My Poly Set-up” to mean the constellation of relationships in my life and how they are conducted and connected. I’ll discuss how I came to be in my current constellation and how it works as well as it does.
I have a domestic partner whom I’ve been with for the past 3+ years, and who gets most of my time (mostly as a function of us both being introverted homebodies). I use domestic partner as a label, because we have always resisted the label of “primary vs secondary”. I don’t find that hierarchy helpful or useful in describing how either of us do things. It’s restrictive and, I feel, a potential snag that could cause us to be lazy in terms of communicating and defining our expectations of one another.
Beyond my domestic partner, at present I have a few amorphous connections – currently tangential but with potential to become less so in future – with people who live an ocean away from me (where I lived until recently). I would not usually feel comfortable with such an undefined connection, but distance at least partially requires me to be, until I spend enough time with those connections that we can choose to define them in a particular way or not. I generally prefer my connections to be fairly well-defined; or, at least, I like to have 2-3 connections fairly well defined. I would not describe anyone as a “girlfriend” or “partner” until we have a conversation explicitly agreeing such labels. So here I am: many important people in my life, varying types and levels of connection, and distance keeping most of those connections undefined until such point that the distance is closed or, until we have The Conversation from this distance.
Relationship Orientation and Sexuality
I think a great deal of how I do things as a polyamorous person is impacted by being demisexual (follow this link to read more about demisexuality). Sex is important to me, but casual sex (outside of an established relationship) isn’t, particularly. That doesn’t mean I don’t have sex outside relationships, just that I don’t go out of my way for it anymore (e.g. I rarely attend sex parties these days – this is subject to change). Being demisexual means that I tend to enter into romantic/sexual relationships incredibly slowly. On average I know someone for a minimum of 6 months (and sometimes much longer) before being comfortable enough to express or even feel an interest in or attraction to them. I tend to prioritise connections that seem romantically substantial and potentially long-term. Any long-term partner is likely to spend considerable time in my home and often with my other partner(s) around.
Defining and codifying ‘considerate behaviour’
I commented to my domestic partner the other day that “we don’t really have a lot of rules”, and they said to me “WHAT. We have more than a pageful saved in google drive!” How embarrassing! I looked at the document and remembered it right away; I suspect the reason I had forgotten is that our agreement with each other (made long ago) is mainly defined by what we both agree is considerate behaviour toward the other person, not by what I think of as hard-and-fast rules per se. This agreement has been so ingrained in the way we do things that I’d forgotten we had a whole document defining precisely what we considered to be considerate behaviour. It includes things like:
- We agree to update each other on the status of other relationships and our feelings for others.
- Other dates/partners should not come to the flat unless we both agree to it in advance.
- We will only get involved with people who the other person respects and is likely to be able to spend some time with.
- We agree to be positive, constructive and enable other relationships as much as possible; to take responsibility for working through our issues. The other person will recognise that this may take some time.
I know other people (couples, triads, etc) who don’t stick by the above (or any) guidelines and it works for them, but both of us know – due to previous experience – that having well defined, codified guidelines ensuring we’re on the same page is a great tool to prevent misunderstandings and heartache. We can re-visit them from time to time to make sure they’re up to date. It’s how both of us have been able to maintain a relatively pretty peaceful poly set-up for the past little while. If/when I enter into another long-term partnership, I’d likely want to come to another agreement with that person defining what we believe to be considerate behaviour in the context of our particular relationship. It’s the set up that works best for me, and although it can take a considerable amount of time to get there, it’s worth it.