Once again I find my Sunday full of joy and happiness at being able to juxtapose two posts each addressing this blog’s favourite subjects. We’ve had the one on carrier bags and now, via William of Ockham who lacks the expertise to address the topic, we have one on polyamory in my old stomping ground of Melbourne:
Married couple Peter*, 46, and Liz*, 50, are sitting in their Melbourne home cuddling up with their long-term partners and laughing over a board game with their children and partners’ children on a Sunday morning.
Ah yes, polyamory and children. They go together about as well as alcohol and firearms.
“He came to me and said, ‘Darling, I still love you and still want to have sex with you, but I have this overwhelming urge to have sex with other people and I’d like you to do it, too,” Liz says.
As I’m fond of pointing out, men – and probably women too – always have a desire to sleep with someone else. What stops them acting on it is the damage it will do to their relationship which, for most people, is worth preserving if only for the sake of any children.
“I was devastated. I felt really hurt. I had been taking care of him and it had changed our relationship dynamic. I was very angry. He was suggesting something crazy and mad and it would end badly.”
Well yes, and this is entirely predictable. You therefore have to question the degree of concern this man had for his wife.
Peter spent months seeing a psychiatrist…
Do you think we’re ever going to find an article featuring a polyamorist who doesn’t have mental problems?
…and Liz did a lot of internal questioning.
Such as “Why the fuck am I with this asshole?”
Several months later, Peter decided to take action and booked them into a course with Curious Creatures, which runs workshops in sex, communication and opening up relationships.
This woman must have self-esteem lower than Anna Soubry’s chances of re-election.
Liz says she was surprised to find the majority of people in polyamorous relationships were couples in their 40s. Once they’d completed the workshop, they went to the Curiosity party.
“It was like, whoa,” recalls Liz. “There was lots of S&M and people having sex all around us.”
And once again, the narrative that polyamory is about more than sex falls apart completely. If polyamory was really just about quietly sharing love, it wouldn’t involve S&M orgies, would it?
Peter says he learnt things about Liz he hadn’t known in the 16 years they’d been together because “I hadn’t asked the questions”.
Liz was hooked and the couple became regular attendees at the monthly parties. By the third, they were playing with other people.
So he’s managed to get his wife into sleeping with random strangers at orgies. This is presented as progress.
It was at a polyamorous meet-up 3½ years ago that Liz met her boyfriend. At about the same time, Peter met the woman he also shares his life with and her child.
Because having an uncommitted sexual partner drifting in and out of a mother’s life does wonders for a child’s development.
Both Liz and Peter say they feel no jealousy towards each other, but rather a genuine pleasure that each has found someone else they deeply love.
It’s often said that couples turn to polyamory because they lack the courage to get divorced. It seems that way, doesn’t it?
They have also been open with their three children, aged 15, 13 and 10. “We came out to our kids early because we didn’t want to feel like we were sleeping around,” says Liz. “The eldest said, ‘Thank god! I thought you guys were cheating.’ ”
Well yes, kids in these articles are always fully supportive of their parents’ polyamory just as cats always seem happy with their vegan diets. But can we hear from them in ten year’s time, do you think?
Liz likens polyamory to parents loving more than one child. “I love and adore Peter,” she says. “Loving someone else doesn’t mean I don’t love him. You don’t have a finite amount of love to share.”
Only an idiot thinks you can only love one person. But there is an abundance of evidence to show that having sex with only one person in a committed relationship brings advantages, particularly in the context of providing a stable environment in which to raise children. Once again, it’s really all about sex with these people.
Having multiple relationships as well as three children makes life very busy and requires them to maintain schedules and diaries.
Which miraculously never seems to impose an additional mental burden on polyamorists, despite their being rather fragile to begin with.
They have all even taken a holiday together.
Which was only slightly less detrimental to the kids than the McCanns’ trip to Portugal.
Peter feels his relationship with Liz has significantly improved since opening up their lives to other people.
“In long relationships there is often a lot of taking each other for granted or assuming,” he says. “That simply doesn’t happen any more with us.
I expect this is because you don’t give a damn any more.
“It has helped us become less co-dependent, to be our own sovereign people, loving ourselves and being comfortable with our own company
Get a divorce already!
The couple, both 32, have been married for nine years. They are deeply in love with each other as well as other people. “I’m definitely in love with my partner,” says Claire. “We’ve been together since August last year, but were best friends for two years before that.”
If you started sleeping with your best friend while you were still married, he wasn’t your best friend. Can you imagine how the husband felt when his wife announced she was now shagging the thirsty weirdo who’d been sniffing around her the past two years? No wonder men don’t like their partners having male friends.
She says she experiences everything anyone would want in a relationship from her other partner: “Joy and fulfilment and someone to share your life with. It’s definitely a long-term.”
When asked why she stays with her husband, Claire explains: “Because I’m in love with my husband as well. I can’t imagine life without him and the home we have built together.
Translation: my rich husband has bought us a nice flat in a swanky part of Melbourne, whereas my jobless boyfriend lives in a squat out near the airport.
John says he initially instigated the idea of an open marriage several years earlier, however, at the time their marriage was in trouble and they were both looking to escape through seeing other people.
Did they not consider daytime drinking?
After two years of therapy…
Normal people folks, normal people.
…and focusing on each other their marriage was back on track and Claire brought up the idea of exploring different styles again.
Now our marriage is back on track, how about I sleep with my “friend”?
“I wanted the freedom to explore without the feeling of guilt or telling John he wasn’t good enough. I wanted to stretch my wings and see what that felt like.”
What I like most about polyamorists is their inimitable unselfishness.
John says he saw it as a growth opportunity. “I had been quite controlling in our relationship and demanding of her time and attention.”
Yeah, this guy’s definitely been to marriage therapy. I bet the poor sap paid for the sessions, too.
Now Claire sees her partner twice a week, often spending the weekend at his house. John’s partner is also married and seeing another man.
I bet John is deeply unhappy.
“We care for each other very much,” John explains. “It’s no different from any other boyfriend and girlfriend relationship. I feel very happy and excited for Claire that she has found someone that she loves and is able to express that love. Love is not a finite resource, but we treat it as though it is.”
I’ve got to hand it to whoever is handing out the hymn sheets, they’re consistent.
Adds Claire, “There is a lot of stigma about having sex with more than one person.”
Now why might that be?
Roger Butler is principal facilitator at Curious Creatures. Its workshop, Opening Up to Opening Up, sold out within a couple of days.
He warns opening up a bad relationship is not the answer to solving it and generally makes it worse.
I’m thinking I should open up a workshop on polyamory in which I get paid to state the obvious. I could call it Fucking Out, Fucking Up. It would be a fine use of my MBA.
Sarah*, 34, and Patrick*, 30, from Sydney, have been together for seven years and married for three. About seven months ago they decided to dabble in non-monogamy.
Hmmm. This is the second couple in this article in which the woman is older than the man. I think I need a research grant to explore this phenomenon. It sounds easier than engineering.
Sarah is particularly excited because Patrick’s girlfriend, Veronica*, has just joined them in bed for a cuddle before the three got up to enjoy Sunday brunch.
I think Patrick’s time in this relationship is limited.
Patrick now has a relationship with Veronica that is extremely close without them being in love.
Sarah is dating men and trying to find a boyfriend.
Well, no: she has Veronica.
They are not polyamorous but have recently been spending a lot of time as a threesome with Veronica.
She says Patrick loves the fun and excitement but feels he is not capable of giving emotional support to more than one woman, which would be required in a polyamorous relationship.
You’re at a rugby match and you’ve just turned up in cricket gear, pal.
She hopes that when she finds a boyfriend he will join her and Patrick as a threesome too. “He finds me dating other men a real turn-on.”
Odd that he never thought to mention it, then. Well, that’s the end of the article. Remember folks: polyamorists are all perfectly normal.