Thursday, January 5, 2012

Forms of Poly and Nonmonogamy

While I’m thinking of the topic, I think I am going to do something of a live review of Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino.  I'm about a third (ish) of the way through the book, but having just read about different forms of nonmonogamy, I would love to share them and not have to wait until I finish the book.

This is a book that I immediately connected with on a level which I did not connect with The Ethical Slut.  It is more of a how to guide than the other book and, most importantly to me, provides me with information on different forms of nonmonogamy.  The book has an entire section devoted to different styles of poly/nonmonogamy; six whole chapters detailing what they are and how they work.

I'm going to talk about the six different broad styles of nonmonogamy that Tristan talks about and then add some personal thoughts to them.

Partnered Nonmonogamy:
This is a situation where you already have a primary partner and are not looking to add a secondary partner or secondary relationship.  Instead a committed couple is looking for something exclusively sexually nonmonogamous.  For instance, a couple goes to a BDSM party and partners off with someone else while at that party.

This is a style which somehow never occurred to me.  Part of that is that I'm not sure I'd ever be able to have casual sex with someone and not let emotions enter into it.  My emotions are very tied into who I am and I suspect I would have a hard time separating sex purely for pleasure from my emotions.  Nevertheless, this seems like a great way to expand your sexual experiences, meet new people, but still not lose your partner by doing so.

Swinging is a style of nonmonogamy that is more known by the general public.  It's also a style of which I have never been able to grasp the appeal.  Swinging is similar to partnered nonmonogamy, but it carries with it a greater attachment to community and socialization.  It can be used to get to know other couples better and become more comfortable with each other.  There is a large swinging community, which is generally very welcoming.

However, swinging (particularly in the past) generally is not as friendly to lesbians or (particularly) bi/gay men.  The general dynamic is either two heterosexual couples or a heterosexual couple and a bi/lesbian woman.  And while their are situations where bi/gay men are beginning to be welcomed, it is still a fairly blocked off lifestyle for them.

This is the style of nonmonogamy that I practice and it is one of the more complex ones to understand because it is such a broad topic.

Hierarchical Polyamory- This style of polyamory seems to be more common than its sibling (nonhierarchical poly).  As the name implies, this style relies on a hierarchy.  People have primary and secondary or tertiary partners.  The primary partner is central and secondary (etc, etc) relationships are considered less of an importance.  A relationship might be primary for various reasons: you're cohabiting, your finances are mingled, you're raising children together, you've been with that partner longer, etc.  Also, Sue could be Jane's primary partner, but Jane considers Brad her primary partner.  There can be many different combinations.

This is an incredibly practical way to handle and prioritize relationships, but for me, it's far to clinical, unrealistic, and limiting.  I've never been particularly good with hierarchies in general.  When everyone else in elementary school was saying: "my best friend", I was saying: "one of my closest/best friends".  I really really dislike saying: "You are more important to my life" because both emotions and importance are not quantifiable.

Nonhierarchical Polyamory- I identify more as practicing nonhierarchical polyamory.  I have been with Boyfriend a great deal longer than Lana, that's true, but I also am not going to neglect her.  They both make me happy.  I enjoy being with both of them.  That's all I can really say.  (As for a description of this, the name of the style pretty much says it all).

Solo Polyamory:
This is another style of polyamory/nonmonogamy that I'm not sure that I would ever do, again because I'm not sure I could handle casual sex (/be able to keep casual sex casual).  In this style, a person does not have a primary partner but generally has many partners who they have sexual, casual, less serious relationships.  The word single can mean many things (anywhere from: not married to not in a relationship) so the author prefers the terms solo.  This is a great way to not immerse/submerge yourself in a relationship, but instead be able to keep track of who you are.

Polyfidelity is fascinating to me, so I read this chapter out of order (a couple weeks ago, so I had to go back an review it).  In essence, polyfidelity is where you are dating multiple people but your relationship is essentially closed and you are not actively looking to other people to be in a relationship with.  There are so so many different configurations that this can take, and these formations also apply to polyamory in general.  Here are some of the most basics configurations that he mentions.

Triad- This is when three people have sexual and romantic relationships with each other.

V triad- In this situation, one person is dating two people, but the other two people are not dating each other.  Think of the Meeting point of the V as the person with two partners and the two end points of the V as the other two partners.

Quad- This can have many different gender and orientation configurations, but it is where four people are all dating each other.

Poly circle/Poly family- This is essentially a situation where more than four people are all (or mostly all) dating each other.

W- a fivesome.  Think of it as an unconnected poly circle or two connected V triads.

I currently am in a V triad situation, where both Boyfriend and Lana and myself are allowed to see other people if we wish (so the relationships are still open).  I think at the moment two relationships is all I want.  That may change, I suppose we shall see (at the very least I'm currently not interested in anyone else).  I think, somewhere in my mind, secretly, I would love to see what a non-V triad is like some day.

Mono/Nonmono and Poly/Mono Combinations:
I didn't realize what this was from the chapter title, but it made infinitely more sense once the author explained.  By the title, he meant a situation where one partner is nonmonogamous/poly and the other is monogamous.  He mentioned that this is a style that is rarely talked about or mentioned, but is far more popular than you might expect.  I suppose, to some extent, I am in this situation since both of my partners are currently monogamous, though they have the option to be nonomongamous if they are interested in someone.  In this chapter, Tristan spends a good (and worthwhile) amount of time explaining that this is a valid lifestyle and can be the right choice for people.  The relationship does not have to be inherently unequal if both partners are okay with the situation.


I think that's all I have to say at the moment.  I'm certain I will write more about this book as I get further into it, but that being said, I highly recommend it and suggest buying it because the author deserves the money for putting together this wonderful book.

Note: Some time when I am not exhausted (maybe tomorrow) I will add these terms to my terminology post, which is something I have been doing as I learn/think of new terms.

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