Tag Archives: Non-monogamy

December 20, 2013

“Daddy Kenneth, I’ve seen a lot of discussions recently on Facebook regarding open relationships and poly relationships. In many of those discussions it ends up coming down to two sides, one saying it can’t work and one saying it can, though usually there’s some cross over and more details.

“My question, what would you call a relationship that ‘works’? I’ve been in 3 relationships, my first was only a month long when I was 16 and ended badly, my second was almost two years and ended very badly, my third and current is poly and semi-open and has lasted 7 years. None of these relationships do I consider to have ‘Failed’ even though two of them ended and not on good terms. I feel like the fact that I learned and grew from them, and the joy I had from them even in a short time, makes them a success. I guess what I’m asking, do you really have to be with someone forever for it to have been a ‘working’ relationship? Because that seems to be the definition I see used in these discussions.”

Most of the time when people are talking about open and poly relationships, their standard of what “works” is whether or not the relationship lasts. If there is any break up or end to any of the relationships involved, the detractors state that the relationship “failed” and use the break up as evidence that these types of relationships don’t work. If the same standard was applied to monogamous relationships, no one would ever enter into one. The failure rate of monogamous relationships is astronomical. A conservative guess is that 80% of monogamous pairings “fail” to produce life-long committed relationships. Personally, I do not know anyone who is still with their first boyfriend or girlfriend. I’ve had several girlfriends and boyfriends, and in spite of trying to be be in monogamous relationships with them, the relationships didn’t last.

I am coming up on my eighth anniversary with my husband. It is the longest relationship I’ve ever had in my life, the most stable relationship I’ve ever had, a relationship that my friends tell me they envy, and we are about as open as we can be. Of course, if we break up people will say it’s because we were open and those relationships never work out. They fail to realize that it has worked for us for eight years and counting. Is there a chance that we will encounter irreconcilable differences at year 12, yes. Is it likely? No, because we like to reconcile issues as they occur. (Or at least once a year we have a blow up screaming match that brings everything out into the open; afterwards, since we can’t put the genies back in the bottle, we talk about the issues we’re having and work through them.)

In today’s culture of immediate gratification, and in society’s “Cinderella Syndrome” take on relationships, people want to meet, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after. Anything less than that is “failure.” They don’t want to waste time with all the things that make a relationship fun: dating, getting to know each other, learning the things that are unique and different about your partner, exploring your similarities and differences, things like that. They also don’t want to deal with the work that comes with making a relationship work. They think if you want it and I want it, then the rest is easy. It’s not easy. Something as simple as what you want for dinner can turn into an argument about you never listening to me. It really isn’t about dinner, or necessarily you. It’s about the fact that I’m not feeling heard. If you’re my partner, you need to acknowledge that I’m having those feelings. I need to discover what it is that is making me feel that way and, if I need something from you, ask for it.

When a relationship ends badly, people often remember the “ending” and the “badly;” they don’t remember the things that were wonderful. People often don’t remember the things that “worked” so when they reflect on the relationship, they only see their “failures.” I guess what I am saying is no, you do not have to be with someone forever to consider a relationship a successful one. I’ve had many romantic relationships in my life, and don’t consider a single one of them to be a failure. The fact that I am friends with most of my ex’s is proof that our relationships, while they didn’t last forever in a romantic capacity, did not fail.

Do you have a question for “Ask Daddy”? Send me a message and I will add it to my queue.

November 11, 2013

“I was asked to be in a poly relationship. What’s the good and bad about it?”

You did not define the type of poly relationship you were asked to be in, so it’s hard to tell if I am answering the question you’re asking, but I will try my best.

Assuming that your partner is engaging in poly behavior and you are not (i.e. they are dating more than one person and you are only dating them) the benefits include: knowing that you are wanted as a partner and not merely filling some void that another person needs filled by having a significant other. You also know that every time they come to spend time with you is time they want to spend with you, not time that they feel they are required to spend with you. You know that if they are being open and honest with you about their existing partners and relationships, and open and honest about you with their existing partners, that they will likely be open and honest if they ever meet someone new that they are interested in. Poly people are less likely to cheat, because there is less need for cheating. That’s not to say they are immune to cheating, but it is less likely.

The drawbacks include: sharing. We have been conditioned to believe that one person should be the end-all-be-all of our romantic worlds, so we look for partners that fulfill that role. Initially people who are new to poly relationships struggle to break away from this way of thinking. However, if you are in a poly relationship, there will be times when your partner is unavailable to you because they are with a different partner. This creates tension, jealousy and hurt feelings. You need to be able to constructively communicate those feelings to your partner so that the two of you can work through those feelings. Do not expect your partner to change their behavior due to your feelings, because they won’t. However, your partner’s awareness of your feelings, and your ability to work through them (with or without your partner’s help) will strengthen your relationship.

If you feel that your relationship with your partner is not fulfilling because of their other relationship(s) I recommend you take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns. In column A write down everything you WANT out of a relationship. In column B write down everything you are GETTING out of this relationship. Look at the things in column A that are missing from column B and decide if those are “deal breakers”. If they are, end the relationship. If they are not, accept that you may never get them, and enjoy your relationship. (This works for monogamous relationships as well.)

If you have been asked to join an established couple in a relationship, the good is that you get two partners for the price of one. What you need to know, is that you are joining an ESTABLISHED relationship. They have ways of doing things and dealing with things that come up in their relationship. If their relationship is stable, the ways they deal with things that come up must work for them. Many times you will find yourself adjusting to them, rather than them adjusting to you. You may feel like you are losing yourself in the relationship. Communication is key at this point, and listening to them. Remember that in two person relationships the individuals involved tend to morph into a single unit. In a triad the same thing happens, everyone comes together to form a cohesive whole. Learn about the adjustments they are making to be in a relationship with you, and do not discount their adjustments as trivial. Sometimes this couple may need a “time out” from the new relationship to reconnect as a couple. This happens, just like you may need to spend one on one time with one or the other of the partners to reconnect with them. As your relationship grows with each of the partners and with them as couple, their established relationship strength will seep into their relationship with you, until there is no difference in any of the relationships.

Learn what they want out of a relationship with you, and make sure you express what you want out of a relationship with them, then make sure they are giving you what you want, and you are giving them what they want. You must communicate your wants, needs, and desires constructively in order to maintain the relationships. Remember: In a triad relationship, there are four relationships happening simultaneously, and you are actively involved in three of them. Those relationships are: The whole group, the established couple, you and one partner, you and the other partner. All four of these relationships need to be strong, or the entire relationship is going to fall apart. Remember, that in the beginning, you are the weakest link in this relationship, so make sure you are doing your part to keep all four of the relationships strong.

August 5, 2013

“Daddy Kenneth: can you explain how a poly relationship is supposed to work in theory? How do you balance things so your primary does not feel left out when your secondaries cause more than their share of drama?”

Poly is a type of relationship where the participants feel that they are capable of being involved in more than one romantic relationship at a time. There are various ways to engage in poly relationships, including: Closed Poly Relationships in which the participants share love and sex with only each other, similar to a monogamous relationship but with more than two people. Primary/Secondary Relationships where the poly person will share more of their life with one person (usually this includes things like children, living spaces, shared bills etc) as well as romance and sex, and will share romance and sex with additional people. Polygamy is where one person has multiple partners, but the others in their relationship do not.

In order to work, all the partners must be “in the know” about the relationships and their statuses and functions. This requires communication, patience, and understanding on all parts. Many poly people reject the notion of “happily ever after” and subscribe instead to the ideology that relationships are by nature transient. You can share a part of your life with someone for a length of time, and then stop sharing your life with that person without your life or theirs ending. Sometimes a secondary relationship will grow into a primary relationship while a primary relationship fades back into a secondary relationship. Sometimes secondary relationships will end all together and a new one doesn’t start for many years. The key to any poly relationship is mutual love, trust, respect and communication with your partners. Also remember, it is not your place to communicate with your partner’s partners, unless they are also your partners.

A person causing drama in a relationship is attempting to communicate, but doing so in a way that is not constructive. Listen to all aspects of that communication: The timing, the preceding events, the follow up events. Determine what it is that the person is asking for. Once you are aware what their problem is, encourage them to bring that problem to you in a more constructive manner. If they feel they are not getting enough of your time, talk with your primary about adjusting the time tables. If they feel that you are disrespecting them, look at your self and determine if that’s true. It could be that they are just being selfish and childish, how would you deal with that if you were in a 1 on 1 relationship with this person and there were no other partners involved? Once you have an established protocol for constructive communication, resist the urge to give into the dramatic communication. If your primary is feeling threatened by these bursts of dramatic communication, make sure you set aside some drama free time with your primary. Disconnect your computers, turn off your phones, lock your doors, and light a scented candle, and share some quality time with your primary.