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Polyamory

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I am polyamorous.  Polyamory means "loving more than one".  What it boils down to, is, I'm open to dating/loving/being sexual/etc with more than one person at a time.  I'm not here to explain what polyamory is, just what it means to me.  To learn more about polyamory, see the links at the bottom.

When I first began dating, I was what you'd call a "serial monogamist".  I felt three weeks was the ideal length for a relationship.  Any longer than that and I started feeling trapped and overwhelmed.  I never cheated on anyone and was always honest about my intentions, but I still don't think my version of serial monogamy, going into a relationship planning for the end, is particularly healthy. 

The type of polyamory I currently practice involves one primary relationship and x other relationships.  I've been with my primary partner for 9 years, he and I live together, put each other first in all things, work together, and share our economy.

Ever since I learned what polyamory is and started researching it, it has appealed to me.  I've always had a few close, intense friendships.   Having romantic relationships with these people is an appealing idea.  The ideas behind polyamory - honesty, responsibility, ethical behavior, and trust, are what I already based my life on.   I don't believe love is finite.  I remember an episode of Sesame Street from when I was a kid, and some people are explaining to Big Bird how love is not like birdseed - you don't run out when you share.  The more people you share it with, the more you get it back. 

I love that my primary and I can discuss people we are interested in/attracted to.  When we were trying to be monogamous, I was intensely jealous.  Every girl he met felt like a threat to our relationship.  If he was interested in another woman, loved another woman, it meant the end of our relationship.  Now, any girl he is interested in can strengthen our relationship!  I still get an occasional twinge of jealousy, but much, much less than before.   I love being able to cheer him on when he's interested in someone, being able to experience joy in his happiness with another person.  This joy is called compersion and, as far as I'm concerned, it's one of the biggest benefits of polyamory.   I love being able to talk to him about other people I'm interested in.  Before, if I was attracted to someone else, it felt like a huge betrayal of him.  Now, it's something he can also enjoy.

I don't feel polyamory is for everyone.  It works well for me and my primary SO, but some people are just built for monogamy.  Polyamorous people aren't better or more evolved than monogamous people.  Polyamory isn't a cure for cheating, and it isn't for people who have trouble committing to monogamous relationships.  Polyamory is about committing to multiple people, it's not about committing to no one.  I'm not polyamorous because I'm bisexual.  Many, if not most, bisexuals are happy in monogamous relationships.  I'm not a sexual addict.  In fact, polyamory isn't related to sex, for me, although sex is great and an important part of life, if I just wanted sex, it'd be a lot easier to swing or just pick up people in bars for a one-night stand.   (Which some poly people do, but the main point of poly is multiple LOVES.)  I doubt I have more sex than an average monogamous person.  I just feel I have more love :)

My partners and I have a set of agreed upon rules.  Violating these rules would be violating the trust in our relationship, just as having sex with another person would violate the relationship of a monogamous couple.

Rules between me and my primary:
*Practice safe sex with everyone
*We don't call anyone except each other by a certain pet name (bunny)
*We tell each other about our other partners, and potential partners
*We will tell each other the status of each of our other relationships and potential relationships, their direction, intensity, etc.
*If we have a date or sexual relations with another partner in our home, we remove any signs of relations before the other comes home
*honesty at all times, about everything (not omitting anything is very important)
*must check in with each other to confirm safety when with a new partner
*We spend one day a week (currently Wednesday) together, just the two of us
*We don't kick each other out of our apartment/bedroom (w/ out advanced notice and planning)
*He doesn't use my sex toys when I'm not involved, I can use them for whatever I want
*We don't interferer or try to prevent each others' other relationships.  If we are uncomfortable with a partner or potential partner, we discuss it and come to a resolution (no "veto" power).

Rules between me and my other significant others:
*We will tell  each other before or as soon as  reasonable after adding partners
* No veto power
*We will tell each of our partner's that we're involved with other people (everyone either of us are involved with must know we are poly) (one-night stands, prostitutes where legal, etc. are exempt from this clause)
*We will tell each other the status of each of our other relationships, their direction, intensity, etc.  - Anything disclosed under this clause will be considered private, and the information should be able to given with out fear of repercussions.
*We will tell each other about any relationship rules/guidelines we have with other partners that may affect  us.  By that, I mean, if we have a rule with a partner that together we will always do "x", we don't need to tell our other partners that.  But if we have a rule that with other partners you will never do "y" (even if "y" is discuss the relationship or the relationship rules), then we definitely need to tell each other that.  We are not obligated to tell other partners our rules, but we are permitted to disclose them as necessary.
*All partners practice safe sex with all other partners

My personal dating rules:
(these don't apply to my partners, just my personal sexual/dating ethics)
* I don't date/sleep with any ex-partners
* I won't date someone who has a partner who is not ok w/ them being poly.  If their partner is "looking the other way" or "doesn't want to know" (or worst of all, sitting at home crying) then I'm not ok dating them.  All people involved must be actually accepting of poly, if not poly themselves.
*  I will not date someone with a primary who treats me badly, or acts as though I'm the cause of all problems in their relationship.  (I will most likely not date someone with a non-primary primary who feels this/treats me this way)
* It's not necessarily a deal breaker, but I want to meet all the partners of all my partners.  If this isn't possible because of geography or something like that, fine.  But I'd ideally at least meet them and hopefully be able to talk to them sometimes.
* I try really damn hard to avoid relationships that will cause tension in my friendships -  friendship is just too valuable.  (I used to not ever date the ex of any friend.  But since becoming poly, everyone I meet is the ex (or current) of a friend :)  But there are still people I wouldn't date out of respect for a friendship)
* I won't be involved with anyone who is cheating
* I pay 50% (or more) of the cost of dates, etc. (this generally means who pays is alternated)
* I will be clear about where relationship can go, what I want, and what I'm willing/able to commit
* I won't date people who aren't smart, funny, and compassionate
* I don't date women who are "experimenting" with having sex with women. 
* I don't date people who are in the closet.  (i just can't stand keeping my relationships secret, sneaking around and worrying about "getting caught")
* I won't date people who are not ok with my being polyamorous (which also means no relationships with someone who is seeking a monogamous relationship in the end.  I can date someone monogamous, but not if they have any hope I will be monogamous with them someday)
* I don't date people who have never read a book for pleasure.
* I don't date smokers
* I don't want to date anyone with the slightest screwed-up idea about women (but I've yet to find a man without one)
* I won't date anyone I can't respect, who's values I can't respect, who isn't a good person
* I won't date anyone who doesn't respect me, or who ever shows me the slightest hint of violence.

My safe sex rules:
*condoms for anal and PIV intercourse
*condoms used every time
*being tested regularly (every 6 months, June and December) as well as partners if possible
*be alert to std warning signs
*condoms can be discontinued if both people have been monogamous for more than a year, and have had clean blood work (though I've never done this, I will not "fluid bond" with anyone since I'm not monogamous)
*assume everyone is infected

polyamory.org, the official homepage of the alt.polyamory newsgroup
The Ethical Slut - a "must read" for anyone interested in polyamory
Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful  - another book on poly I'd highly recommend, it deals more with problems in the poly lifestyle and how to deal with them
Polyamory? What, like, two girlfriends?

A polyamory IRC channel - a great place to discuss polyamory, or anything else - irc.freenode.net, #polyamory
( if you don't feel like firing up an IRC client, you can use http://baerana.com/irc/freenode-polyamory.html)