Thursday, June 4, 2009


There are nay-sayers out there that think of polyamory as happy, fucking, people holding hands. Idyllic wastrels that float through life making everything up as we go along. I guess some of that may be true. As we don't tend to conform to the mores of conventional thinking, there is a certain amount of "making things up as we go along" that happens, partly because there isn't a lot in the way of guidance out there for this particular path in life, and so we must chart our own course.

One of the ideas that pops up pretty regularly on any polyamory discussion board that includes outside elements (like monogamous/mainstream people) is that because we aren't exclusive with our partners sexually, we aren't responsible to them. What those two concepts have to do with each other, I will never understand!

There are times when I wish I was a bit less responsible, yet, that quality is one of the characteristics of my personality that I feel the most pride in. If you're someone who is part of my inner circle, I'll be there when the chips are down, I'll pull my oar, I will carry my weight, and then some, to make things go. The idea that poly is synonymous with flighty, flaky, untrustworthy or irresponsible is purely unacceptable to me, and I may even over-compensate to make sure that isn't true within my own life.

I'm curious as to what types of things other poly people have agreed on to be responsible to each other in? Please comment if you'd like to share some of the agreements you and your partners have negotiated with each other. Tell me about the ways that you are choosing to be responsible in your relationships.

In our household, we are responsible with each other for financial matters on agreed costs, child-rearing, the nuts and bolts of running a home, to share things that may impact others that we live with, and to bring concerns up before they become problems. I wouldn't trade that in for all the free love in the world. Responsibility has it's privileges.


BlairM said...

I totally agree with you. To say that Poly people aren't responsible to their partners is nonsense.

Our household is much like yours; shared parenting of four kids with varied lineage, consolidated finances and, therefore, decision making on spending. Looking out for each other and supporting each other.

We've committed to communicate as well as we possibly can. We've committed to owning our own issues and working through them with appropriate help as necessary.

I don't have experience outside of our communal living arrangements, however. So what does it look like for you in relationships outside of your household?

I'll bet that you also carry your weight in other relationships that aren't of a sexual nature.

I've got my parents, my work, my band, my Scout group. I take those commitments seriously and pull my weight in all those relationships.

I observe some of my mono friends who walk all over each other. They do what they want and really aren't consciously thinking about their responsibility to the people close to them. If you are going to have successful relationships, whether mono or poly, sexual or non-sexual, you have to be consciously aware of, and acting on, your responsibilities to your partners.

As you said, "what those two concepts have to do with each other, I will never understand". There just isn't any correlation between them is there?

Anonymous said...

Well right now I don't have a life partner type relationship. That does mean that thing like finances and domestic arrangements and dog care are all in my court.

What I do consider myself responsible to my partner for is largely centered on our relationship, making exclusive time for each other every week, not letting our relationship eat in to other commitments for either of us (and we both have full plates so that can be tricky), and being good for each other. Sure there are going to be tense times but on the whole I want to be sure that our relationship is a good thing for both of us in terms of overall happyness and emotional stability. And of course all of these things are linked.

I guess to sum up, it is not my job to make my partner happy or to make his life work, but I do think that I am responsible for making sure that our relationship does not cause excessive unhappiness and that it doesn't break things that work in his life.

polyfulcrum said...

Trying to "make" anyone happy is an exercise in futility. Either thay are happy within themselves, or they are not.

However, the idea that I can do whatever I want and have no responsibility to my partners, don't acknowledge that my actions, my emotions, can impact those around me, sounds like the ultimate in passing the buck. "Oh, it bothered you when I snubbed you in front of a group of our friends? Too bad. I guess you better deal with that."

Not only is that type of behavior immature and self-centered, it looks to deny the responsibility each of us has to weigh the consequences of our actions on others, including on their emotions.