By Susan K. Thomas
© 2013 Diversity Rules Magazine. All Rights Reserved.
Susan K. Thomas is a lecturer in English at the University of Kansas where she spreads the good gay word through LGBT literature and first year composition courses. She is currently researching the impact of HIV/AIDS on the LGBT community in Kansas. She has two cats, Hannah and Hamlet (Ham).
Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for just over 6 years. In the past year, we’ve become friends with one of my coworkers who is in a polyamorous relationship with two other men. This led to my boyfriend and me to casually discuss the possibility for our own relationship. We’ve become more serious in the discussion in the past couple of months. What are your thoughts on the subject? Todd
A. Well, Todd, I believe that polyamorous relationships can be just as successful as the traditional two-person relationship. They require the same hard work as any relationship. You haven’t mentioned what kind of poly relationship that you’re considering, so I will consider several options in my response.
When I’ve spoken with friends who are poly, they have mentioned that communication is probably the most important aspect of the relationship. Each member needs to be completely open and honest about feelings, and if one member begins to question or have issues regarding the relationship, that person needs to speak up. And, as in any relationship, there needs to be trust.
Now, as I’ve mentioned, there are a variety of poly relationships. One possiblity is the open poly relationship. This option does not mean that each partner is open to have one-night stands as s/he chooses. What this relationship means is that each partner might date outside of the initial relationship. Date. Not mess around with whomever. Date. So, some people who I have spoken with have the partner they live with and then have a boyfriend or girlfriend outside of that relationship who is not involved with the partner (and, of course this type of poly relationship can exist in a couple, triad, quad, etc.). A person and his or her partner should thoroughly discuss rules and guidelines for the open poly relationship (for example, if one of the members is going out of town for a couple of days, is the partner allowed to have his boyfriend/girlfriend sleep over?).
There is also the triad. Several men that I know have been in long-term relationships with one partner, and then the couple decided to open the relationship up to a third partner. Expanding the relationship can happen in any number of ways. Perhaps the person outside of the couple begins to date one of the partners and is then later introduced, and possibly accepted, into the relationship. Or, the couple together actively dates a person outside of the relationship. The third person may or may not move in after some point. As that third member becomes a member of the relationship, then the members can determine what the ground rules. For example, the members need to determine if the relationship will be open or closed, and what that means. They also need to determine what is sexually permissible (if one member of the relationship is out, are the other two allowed to play in bed together, or do all members of the relationship need to be present?). All of the issues that are approached when beginning a two-person relationship need to be covered in a poly relationship (you know, finances, household responsibilities, etc.). Once a triad is firmly established, the members might decide to add a fourth, fifth, or even sixth member.
Polyamory can exist in any number of scenarios in addition to what I’ve illustrated here. I would suggest sitting down with the friend who is poly to discuss what issues that person and his partners have faced, how they have set up rules, etc. Also ask them how they have dealt with others who oppose their relationship. One thing that you may not be prepared for is the reaction from the gay community regarding polyamory. Some people can be pretty ugly about things they don’t understand (which anyone who has experienced homophobia, racism, etc. can attest to). Be prepared to be labeled a slut or a whore. However, also know that there are people who support you in whatever you do. What matters most is that you and your partner are happy with the decision you make, whether staying a couple or expanding your family. Keep me posted on how things go, and good luck!
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