Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poly Fi...

Do or die!

Not really. I'm just kidding with you. ;)

After the comment by anonymous in the previous post, I realized that polyfidelitous relationships are something that I haven't examined previously. For me, starting out with an LDR for many years, polyfi wasn't terribly practical. The physically separate nature of that relationship for many months at a time didn't lend itself well to sexual or emotional exclusivity, even with more than one person. So, let's go take a peek at an option that I passed up years ago, not considering it feasible at the time.

There's a broad spectrum of relationship styles that exemplify the term "polyamory". On one end of the scale, we have people whose relationships are more compartmentalized, sexually and emotionally unregulated, "free agent poly". On the other end of that range you'll find polyfi. Some have referred to it as "mono plus one", as the most frequently observed configuration is three people, typically a couple that has absorbed a third person, who have agreed to be sexually and emotionally exclusive within that triad. Mono plus one is often said in a disparaging manner.

For me, it's simply another choice available to those of us looking at relationships that fall outside the norms. One of the main concerns that people often have about poly relationships is how to keep things simple, stable and safe. While polyfi certainly doesn't guarantee any of those things, it can be a way to manage worries about uncomfortable complexity in wider networks.

I've seen more polyfi folks with school age children. I may be drawing an erroneous connection here, but I can see where someone may hypothesize that polyfi would likely produce a higher level of predictability and family stability. That can seem very attractive to a parent that wants to protect their child(ren) from experiencing shifts in family composition on a semi-regular basis.

Another oft touted reason for choosing polyfi is to minimize STI risks by keeping the number of people that are "in the pool" very limited. I have no clue if there is any actual statistical data to back the effectiveness of this idea up, but understand the logic of the idea. An off-shoot of this is to assure that any children conceived are the biological issue of the family members.

Detractors of polyfi have said that it contains a level of ownership and control of one's partner(s) that is undesirable, that the 3rd partner brought in is seldom an "equal" in the dynamic with the pre-existing couple, or that they are actively hostile to those of us with less structured poly models. To my way of thinking, it's really only the last one that concerns me directly. The first two are good partner selection criteria that those opting into a polyfi situation should be aware of and screen for to the level of their comfort.

For those who think that their way of doing poly is the OTW (One True Way), I'd encourage an examination of the issues this has caused within religious communities throughout history. We all have our path to follow, and sometimes, we may even switch camps. The thing I think we can all get behind is supporting informed, consensual, healthy relationships, regardless of the configuration they are executed within.


Anonymous said...

So what advice would you give someone who IS that third person in that has been added to the duet in a poly relationship. Because I am that person and its true, I do not feel "equal" to the other two people with whom I am involoved with, and am a few years younger than both of them as well. I particularly do not want to be involoved in this poly relationships only for this reason.

Dave said...

I know that you were asking Polyfulcrum, but I can't help but put my 2 cents... er... 3 steps worth into the pot.


Step 1: Spend some time carefully considering what behavior is leading you to feel less equal. What words and/or actions have prefaced these feelings.

Step 2: Sit down and talk with the couple and share that information with them. Make it clear that you aren't accusing anyone. Be sure to own your feelings.

"When you , I've noticed that I sometimes feel as if I'm less important. I would like to change that feeling and would like your help with that."

Step 3: Make suggestions for what behavior you would appreciate instead of the current, triggering behavior, or see if after hearing them out your feelings have changed. It's possible that now that you know what was going on with them, when they did/said ~that~, it is no longer an issue.


Be sure to give each of them a chance to respond to you. Be clear that you are not attacking them or demanding anything. Let them know that you see this as a problem for you, and you would like their help in addressing it.

I think it would be valuable to do this even if it ends up being something that you determine is "silly". If you find that it's because they DO believe that you are less than "equal", then that sounds like really good information to have.

That's what I'd like to think that I would do in such a situation.

Dave said...

Well, so much for using angle brackets in comments. The first sentence of the section in quotation marks should read:

"When you ~action~, I've noticed..."

Sorry for the misuse of html characters. :P

polyfulcrum said...

I'll second what Dave shared, and add a few additionals to boot! Franklin Veaux, in the xeromag site, has some great resources for those considering entering relationships with pre-existing dyads. and
Some well-considered information.

That said, equality and fairness are difficult to quantify, and it's not particularly useful, in my opinion, to work off of the scorecard model of relationship.

When someone enters a well-established relationship dynamic as a third party, and has an expectation of parity and priority equal to those who have been in relationship with each other for many years within a few weeks/months, this seems a bit unrealistic.

Rather than seeking "equality", it seems more useful to ascertain that there is room to grow into, and if there is a ceiling on that. Create your own place within the dynamic. It will be different than what the couple shares. Different doesn't need to mean "less than".

Ask for what you want, based on your own needs, rather than what someone else is getting. You may find that a V configuration feels more authentic for you than a equilateral triad, and that's okay too.

The main things that make a difference for me in that dynamic are feeling included and considered. Discover what types of things and actions help you feel included and considered, communicate those clearly, reinforce it with your partners when you are getting what you need, and allow the relationship to grow!

Specialfxlady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Specialfxlady said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I'm only looking for one other partner in addition to my primary right now because I don't have the emotional resources or time to juggle multiple partners in addition to developing friendships - which are both important! With my schedule it wouldn't be fair to the acquaintances that I have if I somehow found room for a bunch of other lovers while I wasn't ever able to see the acquaintances and most importantly I wouldn't enjoy not having the time to see my acquaintances. So it's not always one way or one reason with poly stuff!

Racheal Jacobs said...

Being equal in a polyfi relationship will take time to evolve, but it will occur. Anonymous needs to sit down with their partners and discuss their need to be equal and to derive a plan to do so.

Missy said...

This topic is a live one for me right now -- I'm half of the pre-existing pair in a "mono-plus-one" equilateral triad. We all ended up here unexpectedly. I find myself frequently anxious that our third (who's been with us less than a year, vs. 10 years for us first two) may feel like a second-class citizen. This overlaps with coming-out issues. On the other hand, *I* sometimes feel like the odd one out in certain contexts. Does that make it better, if even the original partners take turns feeling one-down? :)

polyfulcrum said...

Hi Missy!

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. :) It sounds like a really normal fluctuation in finding equilibrium within a relationship system. Anytime a significant factor enters the picture, it's going to be an adjustment. Even positive change is still often stressful on an exisiting system.

@specialfxlady: I can understand why you are interested in finding only one additional connection, and applaud you for recognizing the importance of keeping up friendships etc, but can you share with me why it feels important that the new person be sexually/emotionally fidelitous as well? Or did I read things differently than intended?