1. How long have you been polyamorous or been practicing polyamory?
I’m not exactly sure. I remember having ideas of MFF triads in my early 20s. I saw such a triad on an episode of HBO’s Taxicab Confessions and thought “That dude has the right idea!” But, I didn’t really believe that it was an option for regular guys like me, back then. I logically reasoned that the guy on that show was some sort of wizard or a Jedi pulling a mind trick on two impressionable ladies. I also reasoned that the idea of ethical nonmonogamy, in any form was just a juvenile fantasy for a young guy who was unhappy with his recent relationships. No way that could possibly work. Right?
In 2002, a few months after meeting the woman I would marry, we stumbled into a brief moment of non-monogamy. Believing in my own ignorance, I expected everything to turn awkward and unstable. Instead, it strengthened the bond. Soon after, we started having lengthy and repeated discussions about how important exclusivity was to our relationship. As it turns out…not very.
What started with just casual partners and friends with benefits eventually evolved into a desire for longer term and more committed relationships. While I don’t know exactly when the switch flipped, I do know that we discovered local and online polyamory groups in 2013 and began identifying as such around that time.
2. What does your relationship dynamic look like?
My polyamory most closely resembles relationship anarchy. Everyone in my life creates their own dynamic with me based on what works for us…romantically, sexually, socially and logistically. The relationships basically form themselves.
As of this writing, I’ve been blissfully married for almost ten years, I’m in one other loving committed partnership, and I currently entertain a few more casual or long distance or “friends with benefits” dating relationships that activate or deactivate with the needs of the participants. The benefits activate or deactivate…the friendships are a constant.
3. What aspect of polyamory do you excel at?
Minimizing! The phrases “keep it simple, stupid” and “don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s ALL small stuff” are pretty much where I live. A game-changing partner once described me as “annoyingly uncomplicated.” My wife called me “frustratingly chill.” My emotions rarely run too hot or too cold. I don’t take too many things personally. I don’t give or accept a lot of apologies or explanations. I’m pretty straight forward with my words and intentions. The result is that my relationships don’t usually contain a lot of yelling or crying or detrimental miscommunications.
Life is hard and relationships are complicated as a default setting. I’m good at not making them any more difficult through my words and actions.
4. What aspect of polyamory do you struggle with?
I fall in love pretty easily. In the past, before subscribing to a more relationship anarchy-based approach, I put too much stock in pushing interactions “to the next level” and expectations of returned feelings. When my partner’s intentions didn’t match my own, I stopped appreciating the moment. I wasn’t satisfied with the time I was spending with someone and started dwelling on the amount of time I wasn’t. It was frustrating to me and unfair to my partners.
5. How do you address and/or overcome those struggles?
I own my shit! I recognize that attachment to intentions and expectations is old-thinking from my monogamous days. I’m getting better at letting go of all of that stuff and living in the moment of each relationship. I’m better at accepting that my communication of wants and needs will not always end with all of those wants and needs being addressed…and that that is not necessarily an indication that my partner doesn’t care. It could just as easily mean that my partner is not suited to, willing to, or capable of meeting that need…which doesn’t have to be a reflection on me.
Also, I’m getting better at managing Kevin. Relational frustration, for me, is often a sign that I’m not taking care of myself. So, when I start feeling some sort of way, I try to sleep more or get more exercise or eat better or beat some video game or replace all of my socks and/or boxers. If self-care doesn’t improve my mood…only then do I start exploring the possibility that my relational needs may require adjustment.
6. In terms of risk-aware/safer sex, what do you and your partners do to protect one another?
I get screened for STIs every 3 – 6 months depending on the introduction of new partners. I also use barriers with partners… activity-dependent on everyone’s level of comfort. Most importantly, for me, is that I prompt a discussion of STI status and protection with new partners whenever it looks like there is a mutual interest in sexual activity. I say it’s most important, because it has changed the way I view my potential partners…in terms of health, awareness and mindset. As well, it changed the way my potential partners view me…in terms of safety, honesty and consent.
7. What is the worst mistake you’ve ever made in your polyamorous history and how did you rebound from that?
Fairly early in my polyamorous adventure, a long time, generally monogamous friend and I found ourselves available and willing to explore a mutual attraction for the first time ever. A platonic evening together turned into something more. It was an unplanned and unexpected turn of events. So, although she knew that I was non-monogamous, we never got a chance to discuss what that would mean for us. The morning after, as I got ready to travel back home to my wife (then fiancee), my friend felt guilty. She felt that she had destroyed our friendship and betrayed my wife…who was also a friend of hers.
I tried to explain that our friendship didn’t need to change and that my wife wouldn’t feel betrayed. My friend wouldn’t hear any of it. She cried and begged me to promise not to tell my wife about our hook up. Foolishly, I agreed…which was the REAL betrayal. Some time passed before I eventually broke down and confessed. To her credit, my wife did exactly what I told my friend she would do…she giggled and asked for details. My friend was hurt that I didn’t keep my promise, but it was unfair of her to have asked and stupid of me to have agreed. We all eventually got over it. We’re all still on great terms and, for a brief time after this event, we were active as friends-with-benefits.
The rebound is that I hold a lot more detailed discussions as to the nature of my relationship now. I don’t really date women who don’t identify as non-monogamous or polyamorous, but I do explain how my dynamic functions to anyone I’m interested in. Most importantly, though, I don’t break my integrity for anyone. Asking me to lie to any of my partners about anything that might affect them is a no-can-do…and I’m not shy about saying so.
8. What self-identities are important to you? How do you feel like being polyamorous intersects with or affects these identities?
Well…I’m black. That’s pretty easy to spot. It’s an important identity for me because it impacts how I view the world and informs how the world views me. In regards to my polyamory, I often find myself to be the only person or one of very few people of color at local events. I always have to remain wary of fetishization, othering, and tokenism. At the same time, I have to dodge commentary from monogamous people of color who might assume or insist that polyamory is “some white people shit.” I feel as if it’s partly my responsibility to change the representation while also being the representation.
To that end, another important identity for me is that of social justice warrior. Although, I’m really more of a social justice rogue! Devilishly handsome and as quick, sharp, and deadly with my wit as I am with my daggers. Either way, I’ve greatly improved the quality and well being of my social circle by respecting and standing for people who are different from me. I know how disappointing it feels to see good-hearted, well-meaning people casually ignore racism in their presence and among their friends. So, I work hard to not be that silent friend when others need me to offer support. As such, intersectionality and recognition of oppression, privilege, and entitlement have become hardline requirements for my dating circle.
(Bonus: Do you have any groups, projects, websites, blogs, etc. that you are involved with that you would like to promote?)
In my spare time, I run a tiny blog called Poly Role Models…
You’ve probably never heard of it…