My Poly Journey

My Poly Journey

A cross post from Free Spirited Aqua on her poly journey.

I am happy to say I have been getting to know myself a lot better and understanding what polyamory means to me. This is what I found out so far.

1. I don’t see myself dating a couple. It would have to be a dynamic set of ladies for this to happen. In my experience, couples seem more concerned about their relationship then the other people involved. Not to say, they don’t care. I also understand, it’s a change and one must allow for adjustments. I think problems arise when unexpected connections happen.

2. I can no longer date monogamous women. I just realized our relationship orientation is so different, I don’t see this working for either of us. I want a free loving relationship that allows for connections with consent, respect and open communication.

3. I have to be okay being judged. Unfortunately many have not been able to get past the title. I have lost relationships and some friendships. Their misconceptions consume them more than sustaining their connection with me. Let’s see, “How many women would you have? Remember to be safe out there?” or other questions related to sex. Polyamory is about building relationships and love. Not extra sex. I’m offended that you would think I am not aware of or care about my sexual health. I am offended that you can’t reflect on what you already know of me and know that I will not do anything to intentionally bring myself harm.

Have you been learning what you want in your poly relationships? Tell us!

A Unicorn by Any Other Name

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A Unicorn by Any Other Name……

“Unicorn.” One of the first terms of the polyamorous lexicon that I encountered upon entering the non-monogamous world. Generally it is used to describe a single bisexual female willing to become sexually and/or romantically involved with a couple that is usually comprised of a heterosexual man and a bisexual woman. You need not be in the polyamorous community long to become aware that it is a hotly contested term with negative connotations. Just try posting in a polyamory group asking who identifies as a unicorn and you’re in for a bumpy ride. You also need not be in the polyamorous community long to become aware that there are many unicorn horror stories, many women who complain of the predatory-like tactics of “unicorn-hunters” (heterosexual couples looking for a bisexual woman to “complete their union”), many who lament the evils of couple-privilege, closed triads, and being a “third”.

I was initially tasked to write some of those stories. Even had a clever little title for my article. “Tales from the Unicorn Stable”. I posted on my page and in several groups asking if anyone who identifies as a unicorn would be willing to share their experience being such with me. I received quite a few responses from those who wished to participate, all of them being women which didn’t surprise me, but I was struck by a thought. Bisexual women aren’t the only ones with “unicorn” stories to tell and the fact that we don’t hear the stories of the other persons in the polyamorous community having “unicorn” experiences is disappointing.

The reality is that lesbian couples seek single lesbian women to form a triad. Gay men seek other single gay men to form triads. Lesbian couples comprised of two bisexual women often seek a single heterosexual man to join their unit as gay couples comprised of two bisexual men seek single heterosexual women to join them. Couples with a heterosexual woman and a bisexual man also seek a single bisexual man to join them. Couples with gender queer/gender non-conforming/gender non-binary persons who seek other single persons who identify as such to form triads with. Basically, if you can think it, it exists. While these instances aren’t as frequent, bisexual women aren’t the only ones subject to the phenomenon of being sought after by eager couples looking to “add to their relationship”.

I mentioned in a comment on one of my posts that I wished I could find a male “unicorn” to interview and a friend of mine who would be categorized by the classic definition of the term expressed what I perceived as a sort of ownership over the word. She replied that interchanging the word to include other persons besides single bisexual women was confusing. I understand her point but how then are these other people who are having these “unicorn-esque” experiences supposed to share their stories when there is no language for them to do so because the definition of unicorn is so narrow? She also expressed not wishing to be objectified by the term while another woman that I spoke to said that she loved being called a unicorn. To her, it has a mythical, magical quality that she enjoys being associated with herself.

Since I don’t technically fall into the original definition of the term, I am a little hesitant to prescribe this but I think the definition of “unicorn” should be expanded to describe the phenomenon of the two seeking the magical one to form the fully connected three. Many women who are categorized as unicorns balk at the term and being objectified as such but if the term were broadened to define a concept and not a specific type of individual, that objectification would lessen because it would include a variety of examples. I also think that the narrowness of the term allows for other types of couples who don’t fall into the classic description of “unicorn-hunters” to believe that they aren’t carrying out problematic behaviors in their search for their “third” because how can they be “unicorn-hunters” if they aren’t looking for a “unicorn”? They may not be looking for a single bisexual woman but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t committing many of the same faux pas that most unicorn-hunting couples commit like treating the new person as an add-on to the existing relationship, making rules and agreements for the new person before they even enter into the relationship, not allowing for the new partner to develop individual relationships with each party in the couple, wielding couple-privilege all over the place, etc.

As this community expands and evolves, so will its language and words. One of the things I love and loathe about language is its ability to adapt and to change. I think it’s time that we examine some of those terms and ask do they fit us anymore. Triads are not all heterosexual male/bisexual female/bisexual female. They come in many varieties and are made up of a multitude of genders and sexualities. And just like there are many different kinds of horses, I think there are many different kinds of “unicorns”. While the experience of a bisexual male in a couple would I’m sure be different from a bisexual woman’s, I’m also confident that they’d find a lot of commonalities in being the person entering into an already established relationship of two.

To quote Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and I believe a “unicorn” by any other definition, would still be as magical.

BDSM 101

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What is it?
BDSM or Bondage Dominance Sadomasochism. Historically it is a coined phrase from the “fathers of sexual deviance,” as I like to call them, the Marquis de Sade and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. For many people, BDSM is a lifestyle choice that they live 24/7 while others choose to be involved just in the bedroom or when they can make time.

Couples involved in the lifestyle enter into the D/s lifestyle (Dominant/submissive) or M/s (Master/slave) lifestyle for several reasons. Those entering into the lifestyle and who desire to live it 24/7 decide to enter into a contract between themselves. By entering into a contract, both the dominant and the submissive are aware of what their responsibilities are. Every contract and dynamic (relationship) is different. Some relationships are lifelong, while others, just like any type of relationship, may last several months or years.

Short term play is called a scene. A scene is role play that has been negotiated between the two people. Another short term arrangement can be a professional who works at a dungeon that been can hired, most commonly known as a Dominatrix (female). There are professional male Dominants, but they are less well known. Professional submissives (male and female) can be hired out as well.

Specific lifestyle philosophies
Most practitioners of BDSM follow two different philosophies:

  • Safe sane and consensual (SSC) which is a term which came from a gay activist organization in the 1970s that revolves around activities that are safe for everyone involved.
  • Risk Aware Consensual Kink or (RACK) which is another practice within the kink community that some people use to ensure all parties involved take individual responsibility for their actions.

 

What It Isn’t
BDSM isn’t abuse. BDSM isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s a very clear distinction between BDSM and sexual abuse. So what are the most common misconceptions about the lifestyle? Some of the most common misconceptions are:

  1. BDSM is only for white people and that only white people do it. That is very far from the truth. There is a very strong community of black and brown kinky people within most major cities: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, to name a few.
  2. It’s all about pain. While there are sadists and masochists who enjoy the pain aspect, not everyone identifies with the need to inflict pain or the desire to receive pain.
  3. It’s all about sex. While sexual contact and sex may be a part of some people’s scenes or what they enjoy when they play, for most people it’s not necessary. For most people, like myself, I got into BDSM not for sex but to figure out certain things about myself. I got into the lifestyle for some semblance of normalcy and structure.

What are the Titles?
There are specific titles and categories that most people like to place themselves in based on how they want to be viewed. The most common and most known are dominants and submissives. In general, dominants can be categorized as Masters, Daddys/Mommys, Sadists, or Tops and they are not gender exclusive. Dominants can be either male or female. Submissives can be baby girls/boys, brats, masochists, slaves or bottoms. Another category is called a switch. A switch is a male or female who posses both dominant and submissive traits and tendencies. Other categories are hedonists, voyeurs, exhibitionists, rope tops, bottoms, riggers, and bunnies.

Activities Within the Community
People within the BDSM community have a variety of options that they can enjoy with others who life the lifestyle as well. Some of the most common are:

  • Munches. Munches are get togethers in a neutral, non-kink setting such as a restaurant or bar. People meet to talk, eat, and communicate with others in the community.
  • Play parties. Play parties are parties involving play at a local dungeon that has BDSM equipment to use. Some are open to the public. Often it is a private, invite-only event. Cost can range from free to $40 depending on membership and if there will be someone teaching a technique or speaking on a particular topic.
  • Classes. Classes can be on history, relationship advice, or certain techniques such as how to use implements like a flogger or single tail whip.
  • Sloshes. Sloshes are munches that involve alcohol. Sloshes are held at a local bar or an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.
  • Conferences. Often throughout the year, across the country, conferences are held at hotels. These conferences may range from just a day to a whole weekend. These events are more in depth in regards to the classes and topics being discussed.

 

My Personal Story
I decided to join an online fetish community (Fetlife) because at the time my best friend had joined, and she said it seemed interesting. Me being who I am (always curious) I decided to join. It was something new and exciting and I am always up for something new and exciting.

When I joined the site, I thought I was going to have a different experience. I got weird inbox messages from men I didn’t know and didn’t care to know. I felt like they were rude, and they talked to me like they knew me on a personal level. I wasn’t having that, so I deleted my account, feeling slightly upset and defeated. My father had recently passed away, and I needed to take a break from everything.

A year later, I decided to come back and give it a try. Something was nagging away at me deep inside. I felt like I was missing something in my life. On the surface I had everything going on for myself. A good job, a house, and my children were doing good. But something was missing. I felt like my life was chaotic. I had goals and things that I was accomplishing, but I needed more structure and more rules.

So I jumped back on the website and joined a few groups. I joined groups that mainly catered to submissive women. I learned a great deal about what true submission was. It wasn’t just doing what my mate wanted me to do, and it wasn’t just making his dinner. I soon met my first Dominant. The relationship changed me for the better. He taught me so much and also challenged me to learn why I was in the lifestyle and what I ultimately got out of it. Through self discovery and research that he required, I learned that being a submissive required so much strength. I willingly submit to another person’s will. To trust that that the other person has your best interest at heart that is true submission. That relationship ended, but I went on to have other D/s relationships, and they all taught me a little bit more about myself and what I needed. I’m grateful for my journey.

Do you have experience with BDSM? Comment below or send us your story!

Further Reading
Story of O by Pauline Reage
Tarnsman of Gor by John Norman
9 ½ Weeks by Elizabeth McNeil
Exit to Eden by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure
Belinda by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure
Claiming of Sleeping Beauty series by Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure
Something Leather by Alasdair
The Wet Forever by David Aaron Clark

Left Out

Kiikii Santana shares her story of being in a polyamorous relationship. Originally posted in the Black and Poly Facebook group.

A bit over 2 years ago, I started dating someone who introduced me to poly. That dynamic became very toxic: I would question his intentions with me, she would manipulate both him and I separately, he was in the middle feeling like nothing he did or said was good enough. Some time last year they broke up, she and I stopped communicating, and we (he and I) still remained close. We have had miscommunications this year about a few things which has made our connection weaker than it's ever been.

Anyways, this year came and he's been working hard on himself. He's becoming a better version of himself - smiling more, learning more and more about himself each day, and I'm extremely happy for him. Our relationship is still stagnant, but now instead of it being his ex, it's his work schedule that has gotten in our way. He works two jobs and barely sleeps or eats, which is taking a toll on him, but he enjoys it in a way. He and I both know that there are some things we need to work on in order to reconnect.

That is the short version of how things have been between us.

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When I came in the picture, he told me about his twin - a person he met online who is the female version of Him: same birthday, almost identical life story, etc. They mirror one another perfectly.

I've always been fascinated by them because of how identical they are, and I have always spoke to him about how they should finally meet and see how things go. He'd brush it off, thinking it wouldn't happen, but they finally met this year and they had a good time together--hectic but good.
Things between them are intensifying and I love it. I feel so happy and excited for them. Seeing him happy brings me happiness, and listening to him speak about her and how they speak about the future brings me so much joy, but it also brings me sadness.

I am sad because I feel left out. I feel sad, because I thought that after all we've been through together, we could at least rebuild our relationship - work on our communication, work on our friendship, reconnect, just get to know one another better, and have some time to do the things we have spoken about--create memories together, etc. Granted, we can still do so but it'll have to be another readjustment.

They speak about the future, what they want their poly to look like, household, BDSM, etc. And I just sit there and think "what about me?" I haven't felt secure in our relationship for a while. Just a few months ago, I went into a bit of a depression, because all of my insecurities resurfaced and I've started learning how to love myself and all, but I can't help but to feel envious about how they get to speak about things that I crave from him.

Like I said before, he introduced me to poly, and, him being the person he was, made me submit to him, but we haven't been able to experience any of BDSM power exchange. I've been very understanding, which he acknowledges, but I don't think he necessarily wants that from me. Yesterday, he said to me how he has been thinking about relocating closer to the state she lives in because of the job opportunities, lifestyles, etc. It took me by surprise, because the state she lives in is one that I thought about relocating to in the next few years because of all the things he has said. I never spoke to him about it, because we stopped speaking about things like that a long time ago.

He did say to me that he wants me to come with him, which made me smile, because again, I was thinking of relocating there at some point, and also because he thought of me and doesn't want to "leave me behind." But I also fear that maybe the reason why he doesn't want to leave me behind is because through all of the craziness we've experienced together, I've stuck around and have been patient and beyond understanding, so maybe he feels he owes me that.

Or maybe it is just me overthinking all of this?

I know he cares about me, and I don't want to have that same connection they have, because it is something special and something that I will eventually write a book about (with some twists). I just want him and I to strengthen our relationship.

Writing this helped me realize how deeply wounded I am and how I must heal and learn how to love myself, not just for him but for me. I honestly don't know what my point was in writing this, other than to vent and maybe get back some feedback. What I do know is that I am not feeling as overwhelmed as I was originally.

Do you have a story or advice to share? Write to us!

Mr. & Misogyny

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Although the title is meant to be witty and slightly humorous in the name of starting a conversation, the people I’m describing can be quite the opposite. You know them. Or maybe you ARE them. The forced OPP couple who have deemed it “Unicorn season”. The Hoteps who insist their “secondary” single girlfriends date only them while they themselves are married. The wife who only wants to play pillow princess to, but could never marry or take a relationship serious. Even the LGBTQ couple who fall into heteronormative gender identifications in which the feminine party is viewed as less than, or subservient to the masculine or otherwise dominant one.

For some reason or another polyamorous people are sometimes looked upon as more enlightened and or evolved than the general monogamous population.

Some of us will argue that monogamy is actually the devolution of the natural order of things, but I can agree that the ability to connect to and love more than one person in these times is hella progressive.
But to think that these poly-oriented people don’t each come with a customized set of very human and sometimes downright oppressive belief systems is not a stretch, it’s just incorrect.

I can only speak for my experiences , and those that have been shared with me from other non mono people. I listen to the stories of women and men who try to love these people, only to be treated as less than, or even as some kind of disposable object, here for the entertainment of those who subscribe to these ideals. The worst of these stories end in abuse, self esteem issues and other emotional and psychological damage.

I myself have my own tales to tell, as a masculine leaning androgynous queer person in a largely hetero community, (many woman I date are married to men) I have been made to feel as though my relationships are invalid. As if my presence in a married woman’s life was temporary, a phase she was going through, and not to be taken seriously. And not just by the men in these scenarios.

I’ve seen men and women alike flip out over wives for even wanting sexual encounters with men, but won’t push to meet or otherwise interact with me in the same situation because “men are different”. As if somehow my vagina makes me safe. Or not as bad. Or anything less than capable of doing just as much damage as my male counterparts. How cute, my girl has a girlfriend!

How do we move past misogyny in a society in which rape, domestic abuse and other atrocities are often blamed on the victims? How do you convince a woman her internalized misogyny is toxic to free thinking, womanist or feminist types, and this may be why nobody wants to “inbox her man if they aren’t eating her p*ssy” as one meme I saw suggests?

Here’s an idea; by not entertaining that mess. Say no to the date with the dude that insists you wear heels and know how to cook. Don’t hook up the woman who lets you know she could never go beyond sex with a woman. Let the woman who expects you to pay for the date know, men can be treated too. Call out the LGBT folks who belittle those who don’t fall into their already marginalized hypocrisy. Y’all need to check yourselves. This ain’t the 50’s!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for living your truth unapologetically. We are in a free thinking society in which one can do what they please, and some folks are OK with varying schools of radical thought. This is all good! But instead of forcing these hyper masculinity based belief systems on the rest of us, find each other and be happy. Let Mr. and Misogyny take their forced OPP elsewhere. Let the rest of us poly in peace and equal love.

What’s your take? Share it with us!

Three Questions

Wanting to explore an open relationship with your partner? We have many resources to help you navigate your poly journey, but first, ask yourself some questions. Are you in one of these three situations? (This article assumes you are married or otherwise coupled.)

  1. You’ve been married to your current partner and your relationship is stable but kind of boring. There’s a new person at work who flirts with you, makes you laugh, and makes you wonder...is the grass greener on the other side?
  2. You’ve already crossed the line with someone. You’ve had sex on the sly, and it feels great. You’re worried your partner will discover it, but you’re curious if this is actually a good thing.
  3. Your marriage is at a low point. The fights and stress are not worth it. If you haven’t already starting looking to others to meet your emotional or sexual needs, you’re thinking about it. What if there was a way to reignite the flame between you?

These describe very common situations in monogamous couples. They are also common entry points for couples that get into polyamory. Caution! These exact situations can actually hamper your future happiness with new partners. Let’s look at each situation in detail and how you can resolve them before becoming polyamorous.

1. Do you have someone in mind?

Polyamory offers the opportunity to explore love relationships with multiple people regardless of whether you are married or not. One person can’t meet all of the needs in your life; that’s why you have drinking buddies or or spa friends. In marriages, emotional needs get neglected just as often as our sexual needs. The spark you feel with your new friend points to something missing in your life. Sometimes it’s just the rush of stealing glances like teenagers. Other times it’s the late night phone conversations that help you feel loved. (If you’ve already crossed into emotional infidelity with this person, see quesiton 2.)

If you have identified someone who may be a good potential partner for an open marriage, take a step back. Does your partner know this person? Do they already suspect that your feelings for them may be more than just a friendship? If so, the bonds of trust are already starting to degrade in your marriage. Suggesting an open relationship may only confirm your partner’s fears of being left for the younger, hotter model. Even if your partner doesn’t suspect, your suggestion could start the death spiral of anxious thoughts about the health of your marriage. Have a frank discussion with your partner about what’s missing. What are your needs? What about your partner’s? How are they getting met or being neglected? Enlist the help of a counselor to help you hear each other. Polyamory requires trust and communication, so build those skills now! Don’t move forward until you both feel comfortable.

2. Have you already cheated?

When the outside world thinks of polyamory, they picture sex with multiple people. Even the typical stock photos are of threesomes kissing or in bed. So why not open your marriage to more sexual freedom? Whether you married young or want to explore another side of your sexuality, adventures outside of your marriage sound like a way to have fun and still stay secure in the life you’ve built together.

Infidelity is a serious breach of trust in a marriage. Even if the spouse never finds out, you are lying to a person you promised to commit your life to. Polyamorists make committments too. Cheating is not OK. There is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but there is no Down Low. Therefore, before you engage in an open marriage, reveal your infidelity to your spouse. They may be hurt, they may not care, but you are starting the process of communicating your desires and how you want them to be met. Your partner did not consent to your affair, but they will need to consent to any relationships moving forward. Many times the spouse agrees to the open marriage only because they are afraid of divorce. Do your best to give them an honest choice. If they say no you are bound by that decision. Do not continue to hurt them by forcing them into an open marriage when they are unwilling. Once again, a marriage therapist will help you communicate with each other and get past any sticking points.

There are very few circumstances where I would recommend continuing a relationship with the person you cheated with. Your polyamorous relationships should be with people who are ethical. Your spouse will also likely have lingering mistrust about that person’s place in your life. If you want to be in a relationship with that person, do the right thing and get a divorce.

3. Is there some problem in your current relationship?

Marriages go through highs and lows, and sometimes people just stop meshing. Maybe your interests are different, or your schedules are out of sync, or you’re just disconnected. Often mismatched libidos lead people to try swinging or inviting a woman to have a threesome. Whatever problem you have in your relationship, new people and new feelings seems like it could bring back the connection you want with your spouse.

A marriage is between two people, and (besides a therapist) those two people are the only ones who should do the work of fixing your relationship. Polyamorous people want healthy relationships based on communication and openness. If you have unresolved issues in your marriage, you’re missing the boat on one of those. The last thing a poly person wants to do is get involved in a relationship with one spouse, only for the other spouse to demand that it end because “we need to secure our relationship.” Other people, especially bisexual women, are not here to make you feel good about your marriage. Understand your needs and where they are not being met. If both you and your partner agree to pursue an open marriage, start by reading and learning. Your expectations about what a new partner can do are likely wrong. Most couples date separately, and most bisexual women date men as well as women outside of their spouse. You are unlikely to find a woman willing to date both spouses in a serious poly relationship.

I know this post is full of bad news, but transparency is a big part of polyamory. We polyamorists put a lot of work into building relationships that are ethical, respectful, and honest. Your current relationship may need some work of its own, but hopefully that work make your relationship stronger or bring it to a place where it can end peacefully. Either way, you will develop good tools to enter into healthy polyamorous relationships.

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

Ask Aunty: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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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,

I'm trying to convince my husband to be poly. He doesn't mind if I step out on him, but he doesn't want to have an open relationship where he knows my partners. He's afraid of all the attention I'll be getting. He agreed that I can date as long as he doesn't know, but I feel like I'm lying to people. What do I do?

Date Anyway or Date Truthfully?

Dear DADT,

Your husband wants DADT--don't ask, don't tell. DADT works for some people when they understand why they don't want to know. Your husband is insecure, no doubt, and he wants to pretend he's satisfying you in every way. That's not true and you know it. You have sexual and emotional needs, and you already know one person can't meet all of them.

By asking for DADT, he's consenting to a poly relationship. Consent is the key. Take the deal and keep talking. He really doesn't want to know what private parts were where when, but tell him how happy you are. And always remind him that he's still your boo thang.

He still may get jealous and demand you end all the side relationships. Too late, honey. You will hurt your partners, yourself, and even your relationship with hubby. Aunty has been on the bad side of the veto and you can bet those numbers are blocked.

Keep being honest and open and you’ll show him how poly can make everyone happy.

Aunty

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

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Happily Ever After: The Everitts

Everitt family

Evita Sawyers writes about the Everitt triad after their recent committment ceremony.

“What was your favorite part of the commitment ceremony?” I asked each member of the Everitt Triad. Sonya 28, Shallena 40, and Cliff, 40 recently tied the knot in a beautiful spring ceremony accented with coral, grey, and crème colors and delicate calla lilies. Shallena replied that the ceremony itself was her favorite part, while Sonya chose walking down the aisle towards Cliff and Shallena as her favorite memory. Both women mentioned seeing each other in their dresses because, while they both got custom gowns made of the same fabric, neither had seen the other one’s gown until the day of the wedding. Cliff’s answer was seeing Sonya with her father during the Father/Daughter dance. “Seeing Sonya with her Dad and knowing that he accepted us and approved of our union was very touching to me as a man.”
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The Everitts have been a triad for four years. Shallena and Cliff were married for 14 years prior to meeting Sonya in summer of 2013. For edification purposes, a triad is a polyamorous dynamic in which three persons are all romantically involved with one another, creating a “triangle of love” if you will. The relationship started with Cliff and Sonya interacting in a Facebook group online, although Sonya and Shallena were the ones that went on a date together first. Sonya was only interested in Cliff first, but the relationship evolved. “Sonya was consistent,” Shallena said when I asked what made Sonya a match for them both.

the Everitts
Triads, especially Female/Male/Female ones, catch a lot of flak in the polyamorous community, with terms like “unicorns” and “unicorn hunters” being words that bring up negative connotations of couples preying on defenseless single bisexual women to force into relationship captivity. I have my own difficult experience when it comes to triads. Mine ended after a challenging two years together in 2016. Ironically, they are the most sought after dynamic and the one most publicly depicted. With the running narrative of triads being nearly impossible to maintain, especially within the black community, stories like the Everitts are rare.

“Cliff played a trick on me before he asked me to marry them, so I was mad at him,” Sonya laughed as she remembered the proposal. Cliff told her right before he asked that they wouldn’t be having a ceremony to throw her off the scent. “I like practical jokes,” he chuckled. Shallena did all of the wedding planning, with Cliff and Sonya pitching in where they could. “One of my biggest concerns was what the officiant would be saying,” Shallena told me, adding that she wrote the speech herself by tweaking a traditional wedding one she found online. The trio’s children, four girls and one boy, were all a part of the ceremony, and all three of their families were in attendance. “We’re out to all of our families,” Shallena said. For the honeymoon, they enjoyed a cruise to Bermuda. When asked what was next on their journey, they answered that getting the legal paperwork to recognize Sonya as their partner. They adamantly stressed that they would be having no more children.

heartI asked them what advice they would give to people seeking to build triads that weather the years of life, and they echoed what most polyamorous veterans would say: communicate, be patient, have realistic expectations, and be vulnerable. Shallena had a message especially for “wives” in triads: relinquish some of the control and enjoy the relationship that they are building with their new partner as well as the one that is being built between that partner and her spouse. “You’re building an entirely new relationship, not just adding on to the existing one,” she says. This was a personal struggle of mine during my own triad so I could definitely agree with her admonishment. “Believe that your relationship with them is special and has value,” Sonya advises.

As we laughed and talked, I was struck by how “normal” it all was. They were just a family in the middle of the evening routine: putting laundry away, dealing with the children, working together. It made me nostalgic myself for the family that I had once created. What I saw was simply people that loved each other that had decided to link themselves to one another and go through life together. Not much different from what people search for in monogamy, huh?

I want to thank the Everitt family for talking with me and for giving us a glimpse of a poly “Happily Ever After.” I’m also thankful for the opportunity to write this. Black love, abundant black love, in all the forms it comes in, is a beautiful thing.

Want to share your poly love story? Contact us!

Bi, Poly, Slut, and Muslim: Reconciling and Understanding It All

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Maya is an Arab-American polyamorist. Here she shares her story of sexuality, mental illness, and the power of family.

I’m a 26 year old woman, and I was born and raised in southern California to first generation Arab-American immigrants. My parents were very religious when I was young, and my siblings and I were taught to pray and fast. We all attended a religious private school at our local mosque for quite some time. At six years old, I asked my mother why I should believe in god if I couldn’t see him. She replied with the standard, “well, that’s what faith is.” I was completely dissatisfied with that. I wanted more, and I realized then and there that religion would never give me more.

Things shifted dramatically for my family following the September 11 attacks. It was a jolt that we needed, something that underscored a very distinct problem within our religion. My parents did a ton of research, which led to my mother deciding to remove the headscarf. Within our community this was such a dramatic and daring move, I can’t even explain it. With my family shaken but thrust into a period of real digging and exploration, life went on. In middle school, I began having little crushes on other girls in my class. I remember watching a certain Beyonce music video over and over, not really knowing why I liked it so much. I never acted on my feelings and didn’t bother telling anyone, mostly because I knew I was attracted to boys too. So my homosexual tendencies weren’t really at the forefront of my mind.

Once I had finished up high school and began to attend college, I began to struggle. Having been labeled as this bright and happy girl for so long, I crashed when I was left to my own devices because I realized that that wasn’t really me. I had so many unanswered questions, and I was very confused about who I was or where I fit in. I’d always been an emotional eater, so I gained a lot of weight during my first year of college. I also began noticing other women more often, possibly because my self-confidence was near-zero around men. I still wasn’t ready to address my bisexuality.

After finishing up college and successfully coming out to my parents and family with an overwhelmingly positive reaction, I moved away from California for graduate school. This was my first time ever living completely alone. Up until that point, I’d always lived with my siblings or immediate family. I gained a lot of weight once again (60 pounds in one year!) and drank a lot. I did well in school, but that was the only thing in life I was keeping somewhat organized. I was struggling in a very real way. Toward the end of my first year of grad school, I met a woman in my program whom I liked, and I finally had my first kiss at 24 years old. It was sensual, soft, and fulfilling.

That summer, I left to travel overseas and have weight loss surgery. I’m 5’6″ and my highest weight was 236. Since then, I’ve lost over 80 pounds. I returned to complete my second year of graduate school and this is when my period of “heavy dating” began. I went on four or five dates per week. I drank a lot during my dates, even though I wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all right after having surgery. It was reckless and unhealthy. I would fade after seeing someone a few times, because I was afraid of having sex for the first time. I’d never been confident about my naked body. Mental images of perfect, cellulite-free models haunted me and made me feel like shit about myself.

I graduated from my Master’s program and got a job in academia. I began drinking even more. I was seeing someone who I didn’t really care for, and after a long day of drinking and smoking weed, I decided, fuck it! We had sex on July 4th, 2016. My body was on fire; it hurt so much. I was bleeding profusely. We got out of bed afterward and sat outside to watch the fireworks. He began discussing the war in Iraq and made some comments regarding the murder of civilians that still make me shudder. He topped it all off with some xenophobic and racist comments about Arabs and Muslims, knowing full well what my religious background and ethnicity were. I left his house like I was dreaming, in so much physical and emotional pain that I didn’t know what to do. I went to work the next morning and texted him that I didn’t want to see him anymore. I don’t think about him at all.

That same week, I met someone at a bar and had a one night stand. From there, I had roughly fifteen casual sex encounters (thankfully I always used protection) over the next two months. I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted in bed because I didn’t know what I wanted, so I often ended up being used by people just to get off. I was very aware of that.

I began to feel distinctly bored, empty, and unhappy. I’d been going to therapy and taking antidepressants for years because I’d always been anxious and sort of depressed, but combining the alcohol with prescription drugs was not working well for me. I fell into a pit of depression, HARD. I couldn’t focus on work, so I was falling behind. I was calling my parents long distance every day at lunch to cry over the phone. They didn’t know what was going on and I wouldn’t tell them because I was so ashamed that I was drinking and having sex. I switched medications, and that’s when the shit hit the fan. Suicidal thoughts overwhelmed me. What pushed me over the edge was receiving a formal warning at work. I planned to kill myself that afternoon. I picked up a bottle of liquor from the store on my way home and had a Xanax prescription waiting for me at the pharmacy. I was driving to the pharmacy when I unconsciously reached for my phone. Seriously, I don’t even know how or why I did it. I don’t remember.

I called my mom, who lives in a timezone twelve hours ahead and was asleep. She woke up and picked up the phone. I was sobbing so hard I thought I would never stop. My heart was broken and I had to finally ask for help. I did. My mom, a very mild-mannered and soft-spoken woman, is the strongest person I know. She asked me to promise her that I wouldn’t hurt myself. She asked if I would throw out the bottle of liquor and just go home and rest for the day. She told me that she was going to support me no matter what. That my whole family was standing behind me if I would let them. We agreed that it would be best for me to quit my job and move back to California to figure things out. I hung up the phone, and the time was 5:02pm. The pharmacy had closed at 5.

At 6am the next morning, I received a phone call. It was my brother, and he was in front of my apartment building. He had taken a flight across the country with two layovers so that he could get to me as soon as possible. Still dazed and feeling worn out from the day before, I fell apart when I saw him. We were headed back to California within a week.

I was not myself for a while after that. My parents came to visit me a couple of weeks later, and I could tell they were shocked when they saw me. I was on a heavy dose of benzodiazepines; I wasn’t eating at all; I was smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee around the clock. I’m sure I must have looked dead behind the eyes. I was having lots of sex, still sort of meaningless and unsatisfying, but I had a lot of time on my hands and I was restless. I jumped into bed on the first date pretty consistently, and I could never really figure out why I still had so much energy when I was being so active with so many partners. Now I know that it’s because the sex didn’t hit me on any emotional level, so while it was physically draining, it didn’t affect me mentally. I was always overthinking, not at peace, and generally unhappy.

Strangely, and I think this is important to mention because of this post’s topic, I have never felt guilty about having pre-marital sex. On the contrary, I’ve always been pretty opposed to the idea of getting married and settling down, so this just seems to be the only viable way to live my life.

I had my first meaningful sexual relationship around October of last year. I was still fragile and recovering. I hadn’t had a drink since mid-August, before my breakdown. I was being weaned off my medications and doing okay. That’s when my partner brought up the question of exclusivity: did I want it? My knee-jerk reaction, much to my surprise, was no. I enjoyed our relationship but I saw no need to restrict myself from seeing other people. He was definitely monogamous, and the breakup was drawn-out and unhappy.

Since then, I’ve learned to be selective about taking on partners. I’ve learned to ask for what I want in bed. I’ve learned to be a good lover and a mature partner. I identify as solopoly because I need a lot of time to myself, and the pressure of a primary relationship feels like too much at this point in my life. That being said, my experiences have been fantastic. I’m assertive, mostly dominant, and I have found some remarkable people who like to play with boundaries and explore some crazy fun things with me. It feels insanely good to be giving in bed, to be kind to someone in some small way, like gently stroking their neck or giving them a kiss when they least expect it. The intimacy that comes along with sexual contact is something I struggle with, because I went without it for so long. I am learning to open up and let my guard down with partners.

It mostly happened during the unhappiest time of my life, but there you go. My story. And maybe my point in spilling all this is to say that we can all rise up and that each one of us can break free and find a place of comfort, of satisfaction. I found mine in polyamory. I can never completely reconcile my cultural identity with my sexual identity, but I can definitely find some peace in specific places that I’ve created for myself.

Have you struggled with faith, mental illness, and sexuality? Share your story!

Relationship Anarchy and Common Misconceptions

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What exactly is relationship anarchy, and why is it so hard to define?

Wikipedia states “Relationship Anarchy (abbreviated RA) is the practice of forming relationships that are not bound by rules aside from what the people involved mutually agree on.”

The term is credited to Sweden native Andie Nordgren in 2006, and was used to describe a completely radical approach to traditional and untraditional lovestyles. Relationships formed by RA identifying people are usually not distinguished between platonic or romantic, sexual or asexual. All relationships are given equal equity. At least in theory.

That last concept, for me has been the most challenging to explain to people who may not subscribe to these ideals. Very few people could grasp the concept of my “platonic wife”, an almost 15 year relationship that has transcended best friendship but has never crossed sexual boundaries. That isn’t to say we aren’t extremely close; we may cuddle, kiss, and show affection but for many reasons the relationship hasn’t and likely won’t escalate into what some may consider a “real relationship”.  Even fewer can grasp the concept that she is no less important to me than my fiancée was, or that depending on the situation, her needs may take priority over any relationship I may be engaged in. And that that priority can and does shift to others.

Before I had even become conscious of the label, I was always very anarchistic about love and relationships. I believe I was born non-mono, and at an early age could not subscribe to the boundaries, real or imagined, placed upon traditional romantic concepts. I connect with people on various levels, and though my time may be divided in a way that become heirarchal, my mental playing ground remains one level. They are all royalty in my eyes.

If you were to ask 8 different RA folks what it meant to them, you’re likely to receive 8 completely different answers, with some intersecting ideals sprinkled throughout. This is as to be expected from a group of anarchist, as the term itself implies no central leadership or school of thought. This may be the reason so many misconceptions are applied to the topic. The similarities are mostly centered around maintaining autonomy against all odds. Here are some I’ve encountered and disputed. Keep in mind, another RA may completely disagree, and they would be right as well!

  1. RA ARE SCARED OF COMMITMENT

I have a (half) joke response to this : “We want to commit to everyone. Equally.” In my experience, it’s not the commitment I shy away from but what that commitment might mean for my boundaries. Why is this label important to you? Will you want me to check in with you daily? Am I expected to conform? Which of my coveted freedoms are you not comfortable with, and are likely to impede upon once I do? I have some concerns! Because a label to an RA is likely just descriptive, they aren’t as consequential or even needed to have a fulfilling relationship with an RA. Once you’re in, you’re in.

2. YOU CANT BE RA AND BE MARRIED OR OTHERWISE ANCHORED

While I might cringe at words like “Primary” “Secondary” and “Heirarchy” I do acknowledge the existence of these things and understand they form based on time/resources spent etc. There was a time that I wouldn’t label or title any relationship except for descriptive purposes, but as I get older I seek more stability within my connections. I seek family structure, more children, and economical community building. This is quite hard to achieve without some form of anchoring or another. As my needs grow so do my ideas of how my RA looks. It’s not over for you once you say “I do”.  Again, it’s more about what that partnership does to your autonomy that might change your RA status. You are what you feel you are. How you connect doesn’t change once you actually connect.

3. RA ARE SHORT TERM LOVERS

Because in my mind there is no distinction between friend, lover, and ex, this is probably the most offensive of the misconceptions I’ve encountered. Things simply transition! Many of my relationships, platonic or otherwise, are pushing 10 years or better. We don’t have to be a titled item to be loves. We may move across the complete relationship spectrum within a month, or never make it past first base after years, it’s all about what works for us. Some people aren’t fully aware or knowledgeable of what RA is, and may be turned off once they experience just how free we can be! Some of us as RA aren’t aware enough to understand our own needs and figure this out once we are in titled relationships. Whatever the case, I don’t believe someone being RA makes them any more choosy then say, your average serial dater!

I know I’ll have to update and revisit this list, as the conversation always brings up different opinions and viewpoints!

Do you identify with or have experience with Relationship Anarchy? What are some misconceptions you’ve encountered?