So, let me get this out there right from the start. Some "polyamorous" people are cruisers, looking for someone to "play," not interested in even the possibility of longer-term relationship, and possibly not even very nice people. As I've said before, everyone defines it a little differently, which leads to all sorts of outcomes and ways of being poly, some of which may not reflect kindly on those of us who are poly and good people.
I recently told a friend (who knows I'm poly but isn't necessarily supportive of the idea) that I was interested in someone that I may or may not end up dating. My friend asked me what I thought about it. I said I thought it might be great. She then said, "Well, I wonder what she thinks about it." She wasn't unkind, but her tone clearly indicated that the only way a potential partner to a previously partnered poly person could feel (holy alliteration, batman!) is somehow deprived or mistreated.
This take on poly offends me a bit, and leaves me shaking my head. It's like people assume that because you're poly, it's just like cheating, but with permission. There's an assumption that the additional partner's needs could never be met, that they would always not matter enough to you, that it wouldn't be like "real" love. There's the assumption that the primary partner is the "real" partner, and that any other partners would just be an accessory, deprived, not treated fairly, or whatever.
The truth is, as much as my husband and I have an idea in our mind of how polyamory might play out, there's a lot of flexibility in that vision based on the specific needs of any people that either of us might date. If one of us ends up dating someone who isn't looking for a long-term, live-in thing, that's going to shape how it turns out. If one of us ends up dating someone who dreams of one day having that, THAT will shape out it all turns out and what we're open to. If one of us dates someone who has no interest in dating the other, that changes the game, just as it does if one of us dates someone who eventually wants to date the other. It's fluid, see? It's open to possibility, as all good potentials are.
So, to give you some kind of idea what goes on in the minds of a poly couple (who talk about everything, by the way) with regard to how anyone we end up dating would be treated, read on...
WOULD WE DATE SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO DATE US BOTH?
Yes. However, that seems like an awfully complicated setup to start out with out of the gate. We would be open to the possibility, of course, but it seems more likely that someone would have an initial attraction to one of us, and that we'd allow that relationship to progress on it's on, with any additional attractions to the other one of us being allowed to grow organically, if at all. Besides, having a metamour can be fun, in and of itself.
WOULD ONE DATE SOMEONE WHO HAD NO INTEREST IN DATING THE OTHER?
Yes. If someone's orientation (gay or straight, for example) or just plain ol' compatibility or attraction led to only being interested in one of us, forever, no exceptions, that would be fine as well, PROVIDED the potential partner honored and respected the pre-existing relationship and pre-existing partner. I can't imagine a scenario in which we'd want to date someone who wasn't already decent friends with our primary partner. Ideally, for me anyway, I'd want whoever was dating my husband to feel at least a little bit of a connection with me, even if it is more of a close friend or sister-like connection. At a minimum, I want to know I can trust them to not go all cowboy and try to destroy my marriage. (I just read that paragraph out loud to my husband, and he agrees.) If you want to date one of us, a good first step as you are becoming or after becoming friends with the one you're interested in would be to become good friends with the other. If you find my partner completely uninteresting or not your friendship-type, our relationship probably wouldn't work out anyway.
That last fact out of the way, I'm going to just assume it's clear in any future questions that we're open to either one or both of us dating someone, even if the wording says "we."
WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHO HAD NO INTEREST IN LIVING IN A THREE- (OR MORE) ADULT HOUSEHOLD, EVER?
Yes. Living together is not a requirement for dating, friendship, love, or more. It all just depends on the person. But yes, we can envision a scenario in which we could have long-term relationships with someone we knew would never live with us.
WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE YOU KNEW WOULD, DOWN THE LINE, ONLY BE HAPPY LIVING TOGETHER?
Yes. If someone becomes a true, loving, soul-mate kind of partner to one or both of us, we are open to the idea of living together in a multi-adult household. Yes, we have kids. And yes, if we truly loved someone and it was the right time, we'd take on the challenge of explaining poly to our children and working through the challenges of a multi-adult household, as well as facing any social stuff that came up because of it.
DO YOU TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS AND DATING?
Yes. You have to keep in mind that we are each others' confidantes. Thus far, we talk to each other about how we feel about people we may or may not be attracted to, things that happen and are said with those people, and more. It isn't so much in a gossip-y way or to violate trust, but because we are in the habit of being completely honest with each other. That said, I'm having to get myself comfortable with the fact that if my husband ends up in a relationship with someone else, he will probably eventually end up with another confidante, who will know the kinds of private things about my life I only share with him. It's a leap of trust, you know? I have to trust that my partner has chosen someone to be in relationship with who is trustworthy in every way, and then I have to let it go. So yeah, I know how it might be a little weird to know that someone else has access to your love's intimate thoughts, in large part because it's an idea I'm also working on for myself.
DO YOU GET JEALOUS OF YOUR PARTNER HAVING OTHER ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS/INTERACTIONS?
Yes. Sometimes, it's really more of envy, if I'm being honest. If one of us has a potential romantic attraction coming over the horizon and the other doesn't at the moment, it's more likely that we might be experiencing envy ("How come HE has someone into him and I don't?") than jealousy ("I don't like him having someone other than me."). But we do sometimes experience jealousy. And it isn't that we ignore it, but rather that it's a feeling we work through until we have some sense of resolution. We talk about it, love each other through it, and keep reminding each other of how special our relationship is.
Also, we have both, at least a few times, experienced what they call "compersion." That just means that seeing your partner enjoy someone else's company, happy and finding joy in a second (or third) relationship, brings YOU joy because you love them so much and want happiness for them. I have experienced what I could truly call compersion more than a couple of times so far, and we aren't even that far into our poly journey yet. I've also experienced envy. I find that I feel a bit of jealousy when I think of my husband with some other unknown person, but have not yet felt jealousy when it has been a case of "[name], who I know and is safe to me, is into my husband" or "my husband has a thing for [name], who I know and trust." If one of us has ever called you a "safe" person or said we trust you, you're golden, if you're ever interested in asking the other out on a date.
I guess the most obvious thing to say is that if someone who is poly expresses an interest in you, or you think that you might be interested in someone who is poly, but you aren't sure if they would be open to X, Y, or Z that would meet your needs now or at some point in the future, just ask! There's nothing wrong with saying, "I don't know that I want to feel like I'm always second place. How would you deal with that?" Or, "How do you and your partner deal with jealousy? I'm scared of being thrown out on my ass at his/her whim." Be upfront. Don't assume you know what the answer is. And if you might be interested but need some time to process this whole poly idea, say that, too. One of the coolest things I've discovered thus far about the poly people I know is how receptive to open communication they are. Boundaries are negotiated, respected, and revised as needed. Goals are discussed. Attractions are openly expressed, but not necessarily assumed to be forever lovefests, and are still allowed to progress on their own, in their own time. Discussing a potential future does not secure you into having one, but can help put minds at ease in the mean time. Be honest. Be upfront. And be ready for what could turn out to be a whole lot of love, joy, and fulfillment.
Honestly, I am curious about hearing from those poly folk who have been in a relationship with one or both of an already-established couple, and what that was like for you. I'm not particularly interested in those who felt they were in a "unicorn" setup, or had someone who was unfair to them. But if you were in a relationship with one or both people who were either married, or already in a committed relationship, how did it work? What was that like for you? How did you and the others make sure your needs were met? What tips would you offer someone who was interested in someone who is poly and in a committed relationship, but not sure how they felt about the idea? Feel free to send me a message via facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/omnipoly (Please note that I do not post via that account, ever. It's just a nice way to reach me if you want to). Maybe a guest post is in order! :-)