Saturday, April 25, 2009

Don't ask, don't tell.

There's an on-going debate as to whether "don't ask, don't tell" can be poly. On the one hand, polyamory is such a broad term that one can make it be anything desired, within their own mind, and a particular partner may be requesting to stay outside the flow of information. On the other hand, someone is out of the loop not being told, which will, in my opinion and experience, eventually lead to unethical behavior of some sort.

Disclosure is one of the foundation pieces in polyamory. It's so closely related to honesty and truthfulness that I'd venture to say that, without disclosure on some level, there is no polyamory. There can still be an "open relationship", but sharing with one's partners is one of the basic parts of the "amoury" segment of poly. Without the sharing of information, relationships live well below the available potential, no matter if they are mono or poly in nature.

As you may have gathered by reading some past material, my first significant poly relationship was poly on my side, and DADT on his. While his spouse knew of my existence, knew he visited, sent gifts to my child, etc, there was no capacity to be part of his daily life, meet any of their children, spend time in their home etc. It was one of the two major limiting factors that led to the demise of that relationship, the other being distance.

Without disclosure, the growth available in a given connection is truncated, on every side of the equation. Choosing to move into more active sharing of information can be challenging, particularly for the person that would rather pretend the whole thing doesn't exist, but knowledge of other relationships colors even the most skilled actor's responses, poisoning the whole system.

If one chooses to disallow DADT in their poly relationships, there may be some missed opportunities, but those are outweighed by the growth options that are no longer stifled by being in information restrictive structures. In short, "If you can't talk about it, you shouldn't do it."


Anonymous said...

I personally believe that DADT, when at least there is knowledge of the secondary and consent to see them, is poly. However, no knowledge and/or consent of the secondary is not poly, but cheating. For me, that is where the line is drawn.

polyfulcrum said...

Is it polyamory, or is it a non-monogamous relationship? DADT seems to be one of those fuzzy categories that no one really wants to claim as belonging to _their_ relationship style.

How does one verify that there is knowledge and consent by the secondary, when there is no direct contact?

Yes, the choice may very well be to trust each partner to manage every relationship independently. Calling DADT polyamory seems a bit optimistic though.

That said, I'm sure my take is colored by my own experiences with DADT, as well as the many people I've talked with that _thought_ they were in a DADT/poly relationship, only to find that someone hadn't been completely honest with them.

Anonymous said...

How does one verify that there is knowledge and consent by the secondary, when there is no direct contact?This is really an issue for the secondary since if the primary didn't know about the secondary it would be cheating, not poly.

I see your point though that people don't want to claim it, and some DADT goes on in most poly relationships since every detail of every encounter with your secondary is not discussed with your primary, and visa-versa.

However, I feel that to be truly a polyamorous situation that everyone involved must know of the other, and if they aren't sure their partner has the permission of their partner, than they should abstain from having any kind of relationship past friendly talk until they have the express permission of the other partner.

After all, isn't the line in the sand between poly and cheating "full knowledge and consent" of the others involved in the relationship?

If I was approached by a woman who refused to allow me to at least meet her current partner, I would assume she is cheating.

Wow, that's a lot of "partner" in that last sentence. :-D

As a rule for us, we do have to at least meet each others potential partners. Our rule is "ask first, don't confess later."

We've also been lucky enough that most of our outside partners have wanted to verify that it really is okay that we pursue other interests also. Those that don't want to meet either my wife or I are cut loose pretty quick.

So maybe, although full disclosure of everything that happens with a secondary is required, full knowledge and consent of your activities by both your primary and secondary is required for a relationship to be truly "poly" and not just infidelity.

Again, just my musings on the subject.

Thanks for such a great read and making me think. You're added to my RSS reader so I don't miss anything.

polyfulcrum said...

I'm so pleased that you are finding this helpful and thought-provoking! We're really enjoying boucing ideas around amongst the larger community.

DADT is a really interesting thing to look at in regards to poly. There are some that think that just disclosing that they _have_ other relationships = poly. Others feel that there must be explicit (not in sexy details, but to know who your partner is dating) knowledge on all parts to be poly, which pretty much precludes DADT.

Total transparency is almost impossible to achieve, but I'd rather work in that direction than the other, personally.

For others, who I would also consider totally ethical polyamorists, knowing that their partner is dating is enough, that they are happy and safe. At the least though, they've been told, even if they don't always ask.