Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month seven bloggers - ALBJ, Delightfully Queer, An Open Book, More Than Nuclear, Rarely Wears Lipstick, The Boy With The Inked Skin and myself - will write about their views on one of them. This month: Non-lovers.
An interesting topic this month, and one that can often cause the most questions and confusions. How do we define, relate and spend time with other people in our lives who are not our partners? Seems stupidly simple, but as with many non-standard lifestyles polyamory offers the double edged "opportunity" to reassess and rethink how you conduct almost every single relationship in your life. Here's an example. You are out at a party, you meet someone and you click. Now, if you are in a monogamous relationship that would be the end of that, the person could potentially become a friend, but unless you were a cheating scumbag (and regardless of whether you have one partner or one hundred, no-one likes a cheating scumbag) you wouldn't kiss them, ask them on a date, fuck them.
When your relationship is open, these possibilities are open too. Which means that you need to have rules about how you handle these possibilities, and those rules start to be the defining characteristics of your relationship. Different people have different kinds of polyamory. There is no one true way. All I can do, and all any of us on this project are doing, is offering our own perspectives. We're basically making our relationships up as we go along. Hopefully we'll get it mostly right. A side effect of this is that you also start to unpick - and this is a massive, ongoing and often very fraught process - all the terrible lies that are taught to you about what happiness should look like, what a "healthy" relationship is, how you (as a man, as a woman, as a queer person, as a straight person) should behave, should live.
Now, obviously Ganymede and I are in a D/s relationship so even if we were monogamous our relationship would be governed by very overt rules so this isn't a strange situation for us. We have rules that define how we - he and I - operate - but we also have rules for how we interact with others which reflect that. For example, all potential lovers, flings and play partners for Ganymede must be pre-approved by myself. There are levels which cover all kinds of potential social interactions and are based on what is important to me - he can kiss who he likes, whether it's a stranger or one of his ex partners. And there are levels for different situations when we're at a private sex party he will likely be free to fuck whoever he chooses as long as he acquits himself well (which he will, of course). At a BDSM event it would be more formal, more protocol driven.
Most kinky people I know have some kind of sexual or play relationship with others outwith their main relationship. We are no different. Partners from our past, friends we enjoy playing with whenever we are in a club or party together. Then there is the future. Although we are very much a bonded pair, there will be people who will come in and out of our lives. Or rather, there will be people who will be different things to us during the time we know them. I have partners who I have loved, fucked and who have been deep and significant parts of my life. Some of them I will never see again, some of them I see every other week for coffee and cocktails. Learning how to deal with that and to accept that process is difficult, especially when things are never truly "finished" in the world of open relationships.
You develop words and phrases that define different people in your lives: friends, lovers, play-partners, girlfriends and boyfriends, pets, fuck-buddies (though personally I hate that term along with the dreadfully dismissive Friends With Benefits).
A lot of this boils down to how you define your relationships. For me, it's about the physical and emotional connection - the intimacy - I have with people. There will always be a distinction between friends and lovers. For others, the friendship is the basis of everything - there are friends that they have sex with, or kinky sex with, and friends who they don't. I'm not saying that my lovers are never my friends - I hope that they are - but in my mind they are different. Not different bad or different good, but a different sort of relationship. It comes down to definitions and what feels right in your own mind, your own body, your own heart.