Meet the Metamour

Having lived a poly lifestyle for over 10 years, I am familiar with metamour relationships. I have made both friends and enemies with metamours, so I have my own spidey sense when it comes to whether a relationship will work based how the conversation with the metamour goes. Many of you will disagree with my approach to metamour relationships, but I think this method promotes honesty and openness that is key to polyamorous relationships.

Step 1: Meet the potential partner. When I meet a new polyamorous person, I am interested in their personality, desires, and needs first. I have a specific set of needs that I look to fulfill in a partner, and I don’t proceed with a relationship if none of those can be met by the particular person.

Step 2: Ask about their other partners. I do not need to know their name, age, orientation, or even where they live. At first I just want to know that they exist. One sign of a healthy polyamorous relationship is that all partners are dating others (unless the metamour is mono). If one partner is dating and the other is seeking without success, that is a potential yellow flag to me. It is often difficult for men to find other partners immediately, so I make room for that possibility. A red flag is when my potential partner has not dated any other people or has only engaged in sexual activity with people and their current partner. To me, that indicates that the person is new to poly or ineffective at dating. It would take another post to explain why I don’t date people new to poly, but the short reason is that they may not be emotionally ready to handle the complexity of polyamorous relationships.

Step 3: Communicate with the metamour. I usually ask to communicate with the metamour when the potential partner and I have a good rapport going. I do not need to meet them in person ever, but I do want to know how they feel about their relationship with the other person. During our conversation I will ask how long they have been poly, what their poly style is like, and how they like their other partners. Red flags during this conversation are clear: if the person is not really interested in seeking partners, not sure they want to be poly, or only doing poly because their partner is, then that tells me my potential partner may not be doing a good job communicating and listening to their partner. It is difficult for me to be in relationship with someone who has not attended to the needs of their original partner. Another red flag is signs of codependency in either partner. As a recovering codependent, I do not have the emotional energy to relate to codependent people or their enablers. A good book to read if you are curious about codependency is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. 

Step 4: Circle back to the potential partner. After I talk to the metamour, I want to know how the partner thinks about their current partners. Unless given consent, I don’t talk specifically about what the metamour has said to me, but I make my concerns clear if I have heard things that are red flags to me. I hope that the potential partner is willing to listen and work on issues with their partner, and at that point I may start dating them. If the partner ignores my concerns or doesn’t believe what their partner has told me, then I cross that person off the list. I am not a guru of poly, but I have been in enough relationships to know that someone who is unwilling to listen to feedback will be difficult to have a relationship with.

How do you interact with metamours at the beginning of a relationship? Are you interested in getting to know your metamours, or do you ignore them and focus on your partner?

Black and White

I’m a white man and I want to date black women exclusively...is that so bad?

 

I have no problem with a specific man wanting to date a specific woman. In my personal polycule, many of my male-identified partners are white. I do have a problem when white men say they want to date black women. (Insert other races and it’s the same problem, but that’s for a different post.) My blackness is integral to my identity, and when I meet a white man, I know he is primarily seeing my blackness first. He doesn’t know that I’m intelligent, disabled, liberal, or kinky. He may assume a lot of things about my behavior in the bedroom. He may be well-meaning or he may be straight up racist. I’ve met enough white men to know that many of them are simply ignorant.

White men have been objectifying black bodies since before slavery. Imagine National Geographic covers of women with bare breasts in “uncivilized” parts of Africa. Now remember that hundreds of thousands of black women were brought over to the US and ranked based on their ability to bear workers, nurse white children, or do manual labor. Remember that even after 1863, black women did not have choice over how their bodies were treated for disease. Now in 2017 a woman who has a lot of sex is still derided as a slut. Now imagine a white man who says he wants to date black women. He is bringing with him all the privilege of his culture to the trauma of my culture. It’s a wonder we don’t run away screaming. (We don’t, because after hundreds of years of subjugation we know how to “make nice.”)

So no, it’s not bad that a white man is interested in a black woman. The problem is when that white man has not examined the reasons behind his interest, and when he hasn’t dismantled the entitlement he feels about why black women should be interested in him. (I went on a date with a white man who told me he was really interested in talking about race. I told him that after hundreds of the same conversations, I no longer talked to white people about race. He said, “But we have a lot to learn from each other.”

I have spent 32 years learning about the white race. If anyone wants to talk about race with me, I expect them to shut up and listen.) At the end of the day, every black woman chooses whether she will date a particular white man or not, and it’s on the individual to understand what worked or didn’t work behind their interactions. But, speaking broadly, it’s not OK for a white man to announce that he wants to date a black woman and expect to hear applause or a stampede of high heels. Treat people as individuals and take their culture into mind.

Do you have questions about starting a polyamorous relationship? Ask us!

How Do I Convince My Partner?

Polyamory is becoming more and more mainstream, and more people are recognizing that they have the capacity to include more romantic and emotional relationships in their lives. What happens when your partner has not come to the same conclusion as you have? How do you convince them to try polyamory?

The short answer is: you don't. Polyamory is a personal journey of discovery and self knowledge. Some people believe it is an orientation and not just something you do. Below are suggestions for talking to a partner about polyamory when you think they may be reluctant.

Before you bring up polyamory to your partner, know the reasons you have for doing so. Consider these three questions and understand the consequences of bringing up polyamory if you are having marital problems, have cheated, or have a specific person in mind. Those three situations are not only the most common, they are the most likely reasons married couples fail to find healthy polyamorous relationships.

Another step to take is to be informed about the world of non-monogamy. Understand the difference between swinging, polygamy, and polyamory. Your initial idea of a poly relationship will most likely not be what you end up with. Polyamorous people have the freedom to define and redefine their relationships as time goes on, so prepare to be flexible about who you are looking for.

Spend even more time understanding how you want to be polyamorous. Many black people choose polyamory as a way to rebuild the black community. Others choose it because they recognize they are able to love multiple people. Others desire multiple sexual partners with the choice of how to engage emotionally.

Know yourself beyond the desire to date outside your marriage. Many men start the journey once they decide they would like to date two bisexual women. Go deeper. Why do you want your partners to be bisexual? To what extent will you share your home, finances, and children with each partner? What if they have no desire for threesomes or sexual relationships with your other partners? What if they are asexual? What if they are dating other people, including men? What if your partner is nonbinary or dating someone who is gender non-conforming? The more you understand about how polyamorous people define themselves, the sooner you will find what you are looking for.

Once you have a good understanding of what you want and why, it's time to discuss polyamory with your partner. This is never a one time discussion. It is an open-ended conversation that takes into account your current situation and your partner's desires. At every step of the process, you must be open and honest. Polyamory is not about surprises or ultimatums.

Start by explaining what polyamory is to your partner. Have them read the FAQ if they have misconceptions. Allow them to digest the information. Most people who grow up monogamous believe that love is a scarce resource, and, if you want to love others, that means you don't love them. That's why it's important to maintain your current relationship with communication and outside counseling if needed. Your partner will never be comfortable with polyamory if they see it as a way to replace a deficit they have.

After the initial conversation, begin to talk to your partner in the language of wants and needs. Ask your partner about their wants and needs. Talk about what you can do to meet those needs. Acknowledge that you are not always able or willing to meet them. If you agree with the areas they see you lacking in, do the work to meet them halfway--not in a temporary way to get them to agree to polyamory, but because you care about them and desire a better relationship.

This kind of negotiation is the key to any relationship. As their partner, you are agreeing to meet some of their needs and desires. It is up to you to decide how you will meet them, but you must get feedback on how you are doing. If you come to a point where you do not want to meet a particular desire, you are free to say no. This includes sexual relations. Marriage does not obligate anyone to perform actions that they are not comfortable with. Use open communication to explain why you are not comfortable and what you can offer instead. Your partner may react negatively, but maintaining your boundaries is another key skill in a relationship. These intense discussions about wants and needs will prepare you for the work of maintaining multiple polyamorous relationships.

Do not begin a polyamorous relationship without your partner’s consent. Above all, polyamory is about openness and honesty. You must do the work within your current relationship so that your partner feels that their needs are being met, even if yours are not. Only when your partner feels loved and desired will they understand that polyamory is a multiplication of love, not a deprivation. If you break your partner's trust, you will move your poly journey ten steps backwards.

It's also possible that your partner may never believe that polyamory is a good idea. If they are convinced of that, you have the ability to end the relationship. Divorce is painful and difficult, but it is often the right thing to do when people are not able to meet each other's needs. The joy of being a polyamorous person is that you do not have to cut ties with your partner. If you still love them, you can maintain a relationship with them at the level they are comfortable with. However, recognize that your partner may want to disengage completely if you have decided that you are polyamorous and are leaving them because they are not. Do not continue any relationship that is abusive or unhealthy for you.

Recognize that everyone has the right to choose their own path. Your partner may or may not choose polyamory along with you, but with courage and communication, you can begin your poly journey the right way.

What If I Get Jealous?

It's my right to be hellish. I still get jealous.

-Nick Jonas, Jealous

Jealousy is common in all human relationships, and if you're transitioning into the poly world, you may wonder: how do I deal with jealousy? In this post, I'll explain that polyamory is not about avoiding jealousy, but processing it in a healthy way.

Monogamous relationships are all about status. First kiss, social media pictures, dinner with the parents--many significant events in a relationship center around when a couple is official. Online forums obsess about when you should have the DTR (Define the Relationship) talk. Modern society believes in an invisible line you cross when you go from single to partnered. Marriage, of course, is the ultimate expression of status. Once that line is crossed, partners are not even supposed to look at other potentials.

Jealous girl meme
Shutterstock's description is: "Disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking amazed at another seductive girl"

Society conditions us to feel jealous when our relationship is in potential danger. If we suspect that our partner may cheat or leave, jealousy kicks in and tells us to fight for the status quo. The bad news is that our fighting is not likely to change our partner's behavior. It will only cause drama and distrust, and it may drive the relationship to its end.

So how do you overcome jealousy when you choose the polyamorous lovestyle? First, recognize that you will feel jealous. When a female partner starts getting more dates than her male partner, he is likely to feel jealous. Insecurity may also be a factor. Many people worry that they're not good enough for their current partner. Once that partner starts dating, their imagination runs wild as they imagine the partner having more fun and better sex. 

When you run into jealous feelings, the key is to let yourself experience them. Don't try to ignore or explain them away. Sit alone on your couch and feel them. Rant with a friend (not someone you or your partner is dating). Cry into a pillow. Process your emotions. Once you do this, you'll realize the jealousy is covering other emotions. Perhaps you do feel insecure about your body or sexual performance. Perhaps you've always had low self-esteem and have tied most of your identity into your current relationship. Perhaps your needs for attention, sex, or touch are not being met. Analyze why you feel the way you do and come up with a solution.

Most of the time, your jealousy is not about your partner, but more about yourself. That means that any fixes you put in place should focus more on you and less on them. Consider therapy or couples counseling with a poly-positive therapist. Start looking for activities or meetups to keep you occupied and grow your self-esteem. Don't create restrictive rules about who or where your partner goes. Instead of demanding your partner text about their every move, ask that they check in before they head out with someone or give you extra cuddles when they get home. Its essential that your partner can say no to any of those requests. It's never their job to make you feel secure in the relationship.

If you find yourself still experiencing a lot of jealousy and are not getting your needs met, consider ending the relationship. Polyamory is a journey of self-knowledge, and even when long-term partners open up, they may realize they are better off without each other. Jealousy is not a relationship ending emotion, but it can be used to transform you into a healthier, happier poly person.

Do you have questions about starting a polyamorous relationship? Ask us!

Who is Black & Poly For?

A group members asks the Facebook group to be inclusive.

Dear Black & Poly, can we visit or revisit the question of whether all black people should be allowed in this group?

Recently, a post came up on our wall about whether it was appropriate to request a partner restrict dating to black people. While the question was simple enough, some responses (many of which have been redacted) argued that white people were enemies unworthy of our love. The idea of interracial relationships, or “swirling” makes some people here sick.

I’m mixed, so this felt intensely personal. Does the thought of me, a product of an interracial relationship, make you sick? I came here because I’m poly, and I’m tired of walking into a room of white people and feeling on the outs because a black woman like me is overlooked or not seen as beautiful or not understood. And here I walk into my black family, and in less than a month of joining this group, I feel even more rejected than I do by the white folks.

Yeah, I might be half white, but I face a lot of the same stigma. I deal with the systemic racism, the lower employment chances, the fear of police, the lack of representation in the media and government. People avoid me and assume I’m on welfare. From being kicked out of hair salons to being called the maid in my own apartment complex, I deal every day with the same mess.

But.

If this group sees the white half of me as evil – that white half of me that was born and raised in Algeria during a civil war, the white half that almost died saving Algerian kids from being killed, the white half that worked on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after it escaped to safety, the white half that devoted its life to supporting the black African community here in the United States financially and emotionally for decades – then I don’t want to be a part of this group. And I think this group should seriously consider who it allows in, in the first place, because it’s crueler to say “we accept you as people” and then present rejection than it is to just say “no” in the first place.

We all know that there is no one experience of being black. Some of us are Southern, some of us are from the cities, some are from the suburbs, some are immigrants, and some are mixed. There are many more people than I’ve listed, and a bunch of us are in this group. It would be my personal preference to be as respectful of all of these experiences as possible, in the same way as we are as respectful towards all expressions of polyamory as possible.

So if your preference is to date one race, that hurts me a lot, but I can accept it. But if you see part of us black folk as the enemy because of how we are born or how we love, then rancor aside, let’s consider this as a group so those of us who don’t belong can form another community that will include people like us. Thanks for your understanding.

Editor's Note: Black & Poly is centered around black people and those who love them. Everyone, regardless of race, is welcome to participate in discussion. What do you think of our group's mission? Let us know in the comments.

Ask Aunty: Black & What Now?

aunty

Ask Aunty is a regular feature of Black & Poly where real people ask about their polyamorous relationships. Aunty is here for you, so ask away!

Dear Aunty,

Why are there white people in the Black & Poly Facebook group?

Black Nation Builder

Dear Aunty,

Why do the admins silence white voices in the Facebook group?

Social Justice White Person

Y'all are looking at two sides of the same coin. Black & Poly was started by Ron Young to be for black people transitioning to polyamory. Not black allies, black people's lovers, and certainly not for white people. White people have their own blogs, books, and groups about polyamory. White people will even tell you they straight up invented polyamory.

The problem is, white people don't know how black folks are. We know how Aunt Clara always had "friends" who liked to visit late at night. How our distant Nation of Islam cousin was actually married to three women. How our other cousin is always talking about "nation-building." Black & Poly is a space to acknowledge and define black nonmonogamy for the black community, past and present. So when new people come to B&P looking for advice, they find people who have lived through the same stuff--unicorn hunting, jealousy, new relationship energy. Not only that, we lived it while being black, not just poly. Consider us your elders at the church who smack you upside the head if you're not listening to the sermon.

Don't get it twisted, though. Some of us are biracial or multiracial, and some of us love and are loved by people who are not black. That's why B&P is open to everyone. Love is color blind, and who am I to say your red head needs social justice classes STAT? (Well, I am, but you do you.) This isn't a fishbowl for others to examine us, but it's a good place to learn how to interact with the black community and occasionally hear from non-black poly veterans.

Because it's still a group for black folks. When non-black people comment and say our way of poly is wrong or this is the actual history, they are taking away our voices. You know how you'll argue with Uncle Mike about everything, but as soon as someone steps to him you're "brothers 4 life?" The B&P family sticks up for itself. Non-black voices are welcome as long as they recognize they are guests. Sometimes we're gonna tell you to take a seat. Maybe several seats. Maybe several seats outside the room. At the end of the day, people coming to B&P may have a lot to learn, and we want them to learn from people like us.

Editor's note: I am not an admin of the Facebook group, but the blog is an outgrowth of their work. If you've found yourself rejected from the Facebook group, browse our Poly 101 articles so that you have an idea of what polyamory is and is not. You can always reapply as long as you answer the three questions appropriately and have not broken the group rules.

Do you have a question for Aunty? Comment below or use our contact form!

Finding Partners

A common question for those beginning a polyamorous relationship is: Where do I find partners? The answer is amazingly simple, but this post will break down the various ways you can find a new partner.

In Person

Just as if you were in a monogamous marriage, people find their partners at the places they go frequently. People old and young enjoy going out to bars and restaurants, sporting events, concerts, or Meetups. For the more introverted types, there are game nights, books club, and discussion groups. Since monogamy is the default for most of the world, the people you are attracted to may not be familiar with polyamory. However, if you tell them you are polyamorous from the beginning (no later than the first date), you have a chance to start an honest conversation about your needs and desires.

Black & Poly has several local Meetups across the US. You can also search Meetup or Facebook for local polyamory groups. Polyamory groups often have a white, heterosexual majority, but showing up and representing your identity will go towards creating an inclusive environment.

Online

More and more relationships are started online. Black & Poly itself has an active Facebook group, though its goal is not to help people find partners. Interacting in online forums helps you find people who have similar interests. It's likely that you'll be attracted to some of those people, which can lead to a relationship. Just be conscious of the group's guidelines about messaging members and posting "seeking" posts.

Dating sites are also becoming more open to the idea of polyamorous relationships. OK Cupid is highly recommended in the poly community for its ability to mark yourself as polyamorous or in an open relationship. You can even use the filtering option to show only people open to polyamory. Google is your friend when searching for other dating sites. Just be aware of the differences between polyamory, open relationships, and swinging. You should clear on what type of relationship you are looking for when approaching people online. While many polyamorous people enjoy sexual relationships, it's rude to assume that's what they are seeking based on their identity as polyamorous.

Final Thoughts

Polyamorous veterans often find new connections occurring naturally as they live life. If you are new to poly, spend lots of time understanding yourself and your wants and needs before rushing into a relationship. If you are a couple, examine your own relationship and your reasons for opening the relationship. If you are single, be wary of looking for a couple as your ideal. If you are already in a relationship, your current partners must be aware of your desire to be poly and intention to date others. Keeping anyone in the dark is considered cheating, even in the poly world. (Don't Ask Don't Tell is one exception.)

Learn as much as you can about polyamory, and enjoy your journey!

Do you have questions about starting a polyamorous relationship? Ask us!