Answer Readers' Questions, Part IV
by Alan Wexelblat

I have a huge backlog of reader feedback and questions. I will try to clear out some of it and, hopefully, make Q&A appear more frequently.

Can't Stop Thinking

"G H" of vo.lu writes:

I love three women at once now. They do know about each other and [get] along really well. But when making love with one woman or simply being with one woman, I do miss the others.

I think this can be split into two challenges. The first is to realize that it's OK to have thoughts of other people. As you say, all three of your lovers know about the others. They know you think about them when you're away and a moment's reflection will let them realize that you think about others when you are with each. This is fine. It's a perfectly normal human thing to do.

The only problem I can see would be if your thoughts of one person were distracting you from paying the proper attention to the person you are with at the moment. If the problem isn't thinking, but is distraction then perhaps you need to relax some of your planning. If you are with X and all you can think about is Y then perhaps it's appropriate to be with Y at that time and when X is on your mind, spend the time with her. This may require more spontaneity and flexibility than the four of you have been used to in the past, but it can be worthwhile.

It may be nice to have a dedicated "date" time with someone. But if your mind is elsewhere it's probably reducing the enjoyment of the person you are with. Conversely, if you were to call up a partner and say "I can't stop thinking about you; can we spend some time together?" that might be much more enjoyable.

How Do I Bring Up the Topic?

"L B" of sdsu.edu writes:

What if i am thinking about having one or more sexual partners, but I do not know if my current partner will be interested. should I ask him flat out or ask him questions leading up to us having more than one partner while we are together?

A lot depends on the situation you are in. If there's a specific person you're interested in and you want to discuss that person with your current partner, that's very different from generally bringing up the topic of other partners. It also depends on how you and your partner usually communicate about sexual topics. I would say that you should treat this topic the way you treat other sexual topics, since your interest seems to be primarily in additional sexual partners.

That is, if your partner is the type to lean over and whisper an explicit suggestion in your ear, then by all means use that style to suggest that you find so-and-so really hot, or that you'd really like to talk about possible other partners.

Or you may want to work around to the topic gradually. Point your partner to a URL such as for this column or for some of the other poly resources on the net. You can make some non-committal remark like "What do you think of this?" without it necessarily having to get personal. A clueful partner will pick up on the fact that you're not bringing up the topic randomly, but may appreciate the indirect approach rather than feeling confronted.

Whichever route you choose, you may want to take additional care to reassure your partner that you are interested in expanding your circle, not pushing him/her out of it with this new person. Emphasizing the "while we are together" part rarely hurts.

Is a Threesome "Poly"

"M S" of intouch.com writes:

What about threesome is it sort of poly relationship or not?

When I first started writing these columns I would have said no. For me, then, poly involved a commitment of some kind and I thought of commitment in emotional terms. Nowadays I'd be more inclined to say yes.

While I still would not call a single threesome a poly relationship, I do agree that there are relationships that are based solely around sex. People who get together for fun and enjoyment with no commitment and no promises may still be practicing poly, in that the term poly may be extended to cover any form of responsible nonmonogamy.

Does Polyfidelity Extend?

"L H" of iglou.com writes:

I defined a faithful polygamous marriage as one in which all parties are faithful to those in the marriage, although there may be several of these. He asked "Well, other people might join the marriage at a later date, right? so the partner who has found a new partner, must have been looking, dating... probably even had sex, before the new partner made a full decision to join the marriage. Is that cheating? If not, why not? If it is, how in the world do poly marriages ever become poly, if they can't date?

I think some of the problem you're having comes from how you've defined terms. What you call a faithful polygamous marriage might be called polyfidelity; that is, faithfulness or exclusivity within a group. Within a strictly polyfidelitous group there is no dating of outside partners, by choice of the members.

That does not mean, however, that people can't get to know each other and even become emotionally close. Good friends may share very tight bonds of caring without any trace of physical attraction being expressed. Perhaps one member of a polyfidelitous group becomes such good friends with an outsider that s/he wishes to bring that outsider into the family.

Or the family may make a group decision to expand. For example, I know of a long-term polyfidelitous MFM triad wherein all three of the members decided it would improve things if they had another female in the group. Once they collectively made that decision, they all set about seeking an additional partner. No one of them could make the decision to date a new person, let alone bring that newcomer into the family, but as a triad they collectively exercised that responsibility.

Another alternative may be that the rules are not identical for all members of the group. Another MFM triad I know has a very alpha female. She is quite sure that two partners is all she wants, so she does not date other people. However, because she also enjoys time to herself, she actively encourages "her boys" to go out and seek other lovers.

The important point of these examples is that none of them involve cheating. The point of cheating is that it involves breaking the rules of the relationship you are in, not deviating from some outside definition. Finally, remember that rules are flexible. They're made to suit the needs of the relationship members at a given moment; if those needs change, then the rules may need to change as well. Neither the before nor the after state is wrong. It's just a different reflection of what people are trying to get out of the relationships they're in.

Discretion

"S S" of flnet.com writes:

I live in the backwoods-style provincial west coast Florida town of Sarasota. I had a polyamorous relationship when in San Francisco. It was the best relationship I ever had and I miss it and I would like to have it again, here. Any suggestions on how to go about it and not get thrown in jail?

An excellent question. On the technical side, you are correct that adultery is still a crime in the US, and having sexual relations with a person who is married to someone else is technically committing adultery.

That said, the police - even in small towns - have plenty to occupy themselves with. Unless you do something to call attention to yourself and/or offend someone with status or power, you're unlikely to come to their notice or be worth their time. I have a heuristic I try to follow: Don't Poke Mr. Policeman with the Sharp Stick.

In other words, cops generally have a lot of discretion about how they enforce laws. Prosecutors have wide latitude in which cases they choose to try. Unless something hits the newspapers - you're dating a city councilman; it's an election season and someone needs a big headline - they're unlikely to notice or care.

This all assumes that everyone is amicably involved and aware. If things turn nasty, all bets are off, whether you're in Sarasota or San Francisco. Adultery is most often mentioned these days in the context of divorces. If someone's spouse is filing for divorce they may well decide to drag your affair into the light of day in order to get custody of children, to get property they want, etc.

If that happens, the only advice I can give you is to realize that the media are not your friend. Their goal is a good story, increased readership, etc. If you don't want your life turned into a circus, don't talk to the media when something nasty is going on. Good luck!

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Copyright © 2001 Alan Wexelblat
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Last modified: Mon Jul 30 17:48:12 2001