Answer Readers' Questions, Part V
by Alan Wexelblat

Alternatives to Marriage

"K P" of geocities.com writes:

I am involved with a couple who are themselves married. We have been involved for almost a year now. Lately, we have been thinking about having some sort of a ceremony to 'cement' our relationship. Since they had a wedding ceremony with just the two of them several years back, before they met me, they want to have something similar to that now. However, I have no idea how we could go about finding someone to do the ceremony.

First of all, congratulations on taking your relationship to the stage it's at. I understand the desire to have a ceremony to publicly symbolize your progress so far, and to demonstrate your commitment. You are right that a conventional marriage ceremony is probably out of the question.

However, my suspicion is that marriage, per se, isn't what's important here. What I think you might want may be called something like a "commitment ceremony." There are lots of resources on this topic; I recommend Google's Marriage and Domestic Partnership page as a good jumping-off point. It links to Nolo, GLAD, the Alternatives to Marriage Project, and others.

If you are in search of someone to perform an actual ceremony, I suggest that since you are not performing an official state-legal marriage you need not restrict yourself to clergy. Find a good friend - one who knows all three of you well - and work with him/her to design a ceremony that will be fun, meaningful, and rewarding for your situation.

If you prefer an established religious official, you might check with your local pagan resources. A common ceremony in pagan circles is a "handfasting," which is a commitment often for a fixed term of one year and one day. It may, however, be for longer terms or be open-ended. Because the handfasting is not a marriage, in and of itself, it does not cause you to run afoul of bigamy laws. You might also look up "Commitment Ceremony" in your home state or town. I found several recognized clergy who were advertising their willingness to perform such a ceremony with leanings towards a variety of religious disciplines (Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, etc.)

Love Among the Wives

"L C and R L" of aol.com write:

We are looking for information on what is said, if anything, about physical intimacy between the wives-in that the wives develop a sexual relationship between them.

What is out there regarding threesomes where there is sexual contact between the husband and the wives at the same time, but not between the wives, or where there is a lesbian relationship between the wives as well as a bisexual relationship with the husband.

We would like to know your position on the matter and what the Bible has to say, if anything on bisexuality/lesbianism and threesomes.

A lot to address. I can't cover the whole topic, so I'll try to hit a few of the high points. This is a popular topic with many people; so much so that there are discussion boards devoted to nothing else. You might get more detailed answers there, but here's my take.

First, as to physical intimacy. If the wives are living together, with the same husband, then you already have a lot in common and are together a good deal. That's a situation in which physical intimacy can naturally develop, regardless of the sexes of the people involved. If you two are finding an attraction for each other then you may pursue that attraction both within the context of your relationship to your husband, and possibly outside of that context.

With respect to threesomes, I believe it is generally more comfortable all around if all people involved are mutually attracted. That's not a necessity, however. It's possible to see things either way, and that may not be a statement on attraction. It may be that one or both of you is in a different mood at a certain time, or you may feel comfortable taking a certain role at one time, then a different role another time.

Next I think you are right to identify this as a change in your relationships with your husband. Even if you only express your attraction for each other within the context of the existing relationship, it is still a change and it is certainly worth discussion to make sure issues of threat and jealousy are given attention if that's needed. It may be that you want to add or change some rules in your existing relationships to reflect the changed situation.

Finally, the Bible. I'm no expert on it; I'm more of a heretic type. Generally, Biblical advocates claim that the Bible speaks against homosexuality. It may be argued, then, that the Bible also speaks against lesbianism. However, two factors may be worth considering. One is that we know from the Bible that many of the prominent and heroic figures had multiple wives. Abraham certainly did; thus, Abraham is looked upon as the father of Judaism (by one wife) and of Islam (by another). Kings such as Solomon and David also are said to have had many wives, as well as harems or concubines.

The Bible is mostly silent on what relationships existed between or among these wives, except in cases of overt jealousy or conflict. This may be because some societies, including some of those in biblical times, had a very narrow view of what "sex" is. In particular, some societies consider sex to involve only penetration of one partner by another. Under this definition, what two women do together is not considered sex. It may still be prohibited or restricted, though.

Can it Work?

"A S" of nicoh.com writes:

I recently (3 months ago) ended a 8 year relationship to a man who was very polyamorous. I found that while I could handle his activities out side our relationships, he could not handle mine. I resented his pushing me together with other men then seemingly being unhappy that I was enjoying myself and not wanting to "dance to his tune."

I am now seeing a man, am deeply in love with this man and am very satisfied with him sexually. He wants to have other experiences. I believe it would be good for him to do that. But because of my experience with my old boyfriend I am frightened and feel very vulnerable. What should I do?

Once bitten, twice shy. Given your experiences with your previous relationship, it makes perfect sense for you to be cautious. Particularly given how new this relationship is, you've barely had time to get to know each other. If it took you eight years to decide to dump the other guy, it hardly seems that you could know this new fellow well enough to feel secure.

Your instinct may be right in that it would be good for him to have other partners. That might help him and it might help you. But that doesn't mean it needs to happen right now, or even soon. It is my belief that attractions happen in their own time and that it doesn't make much sense to push them.

Now might be a good time to discuss the idea, before acting on it and discovering you have mismatched ideas or expectations. Obviously, it's a topic you're comfortable thinking and talking about. Use that to your advantage. Let your new partner know about the bad things you had happen in the past, why you felt they were bad, and particularly what you'd like to see him do differently. See how he reacts to your discussion of your needs and experiences. If he is going to go out and form other relationships eventually, I think you will both be more satisfied if he starts off from a basis of knowing what you want, what you're afraid of, and how to avoid repeating the errors of the past.

Finding the Fourth (and more!)

"A R" of hypercon.com writes:

We are a MFM Triad in the Houston area. We are all happy with the way our relationship is working out, we have established a level of communication far beyond what we have known before, we all work well together in all ways. The challenge now is: How do we expand? Our goal is to form a "Family" of about 12 people, forming a successful 3 was not too difficult, but finding the "next" member, (another Wife) seems to be difficult.

I understand your desire to have a large multi-adult family and I wish you luck in fulfilling it. There are two ways I can think of to find another person for your family. The first is to let them find you. If you are out, socially active, and known you will find friends. Some of these friends will learn about your life. Some of them may be interested. It's a slow process but it has the advantage of helping you find good compatible friends along the way.

Second, advertise. alt.com is a site devoted specifically to personals for people in alternative lifestyles. Although their orientation is much more towards BDSM and sex than family growth, it is my experience that people who are open to one form of alternative lifestyle are often more likely to be open to other forms.

You may also want to advertise specifically to the poly community. The best place I know of to do that is The Poly Community Pages, which is the focal place in the polyamory.org domain for personal advertisements.

There's lots of good advice on these sites and elsewhere about how to Write a good personal ad that gets you the kinds of responses you want, but it's my observation that it's harder to form friendships with people who respond to ads. Given how difficult a project you're undertaking, it's probably worth pursuing both routes simultaneously.

Double Standards?

"K V" of dreamsoft.com writes:

I am dating someone who believes it is OK for her to see more than one person, to love more than one person. when I found out that a friend of mine had a crush on me, someone I find attractive, the person I am dating felt threatened and afraid I would leave her.

The catch is my girlfriend is married, her husband knows about us and he and I are good friends. She tells me she doesn't want to say "No, you can't date anyone else" because she doesn't want to be a hypocrite, however she has admitted to me that she doesn't want to share me with anyone else. The thought of me dating anyone other than her makes her afraid that I'll "find someone better" and leave her for them.

For the time being, I've chosen not to date my friend. My friend is hurt, my girlfriend is walking on eggshells around me, and I'm to close to the problem to see a solution.

Forgive me if I sound slightly judgemental here, but your girlfriend sounds like someone with some serious (in)security issues. She needs to learn that you like her for her intrinsic values, not because she scores some arbitrary value on some scale. Once she realizes that there's no objective metric for "someone better" she may be a bit more relaxed.

I would suggest that the first person you turn to for help in this situation is her husband, your friend. One of the big advantages of poly relationships is that there are often other experts around to ask. If she's been married to her husband for any significant time, my guess is that he has seen these same signs of insecurity in other contexts and he has developed ways of dealing with them. He may not be able to tell you specific things she has said -- and you probably shouldn't ask -- but he can be your best insight into how she's feeling, what she's thinking, and how you can work within your self-imposed constraints to resolve the situation.

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Copyright © 2001 Alan Wexelblat
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

Last modified: Mon Jul 30 17:45:51 2001