The reason I haven't posted here lately is not because poly hasn't been in the news, but because I was lost and gone for ten days at the Network for a New Culture
's annual Summer Camp East
in West Virginia, west of DC.
|Preparing for Forum|
It was my sixth Camp. Each year I grow more impressed at the power of New Culture's "responsible anarchy" methods for building intimate community
— by cultivating transparency and curiosity, self-examination, group processes (notably ZEGG Forum
), and an ethos of radical personal agency, meaning boundaries, choice, and personal responsibility in all things. Oh, and at least two-thirds of the 80-plus people were poly.
Picture a giant social petri dish in the woods — mixing human-potential workshops, a well-regulated commune; music, dance and costuming; HAI... with Burners and shack-dwellers, professors and artists, nightly tantric ritual put on by those so inclined, a swimmable creek, late-night songfests over food prep in the kitchen, challenges to self-discover almost around the clock... around every corner a scary AFGO ready to pop out (Another Fucking Growth Opportunity)... heaps of peace, love and understanding, and did I mention ZEGG Forum? After breakfast every morning.
No wonder I came home dazzled again and having to catch up on about 12 hours of sleep.
The remarkable folks who conceived and run this thing, by the way — Michael Rios, Sarah Taub, and friends and companions — are the same ones who run the Polyamory for All Seasons
five-day intensive retreats four times a year at the same venue. The next one is Endless Poly Summer
, coming up August 15–19. If it weren't for my day job and home life, I'd be back there in a flash.
But back to polyamory in the news.
Lots more media pieces have appeared while was away that theorize about poly marriage, following the Supreme Court's gay-marriage ruling. Some of them are thoughtful and legally well-informed. A theme seems to be developing. I'll get to that soon.
But for now, here's a tale that appeared in Vice
two days ago — by a member of a long-term gay triad about how they formed and developed. Vice
is a huge international magazine aimed at the young and hip. Excerpts:
How I Figured Out the Rules of My Three-Way Relationship
By Jeff Leavell
|Me, my husband, and our boyfriend|
Recently, while I was at lunch with a friend, she asked me about intimacy. She did it in such a way that it was clear she wasn't really asking me, she was telling me what she thought about intimacy. More specifically, what she thought about the intimacy involved in my relationship with my husband, Alex, and our boyfriend, Jon.
"I just don't understand," she said, picking at her salad as if meaning might be buried under her kale. "If you give 40 percent to Jon, then you only have 60 percent left for Alex, your husband, and I guess... Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Can a relationship survive on just 60 percent?"
...I thought about her kids. How when her son was born she told me he was everything, the love of her life. And when she was pregnant a second time, she worried she would never love another child as much as she did her firstborn. But then her daughter was born and she fell in love. Completely. She loved them both infinitely and separately and the love of one didn't jeopardize or diminish the love of the other.
When you are in a triad you get used to these questions....
When I met Alex I knew I had met my soulmate. We met on Scruff, a gay hookup app — his username was Spy in the Cab, a Bauhaus reference, that was a throwback to my youth. He was supposed to be a trick. Just a fuck. He was working on a movie and suggested we go to dinner. I was disappointed; I didn't want to go to dinner, I wanted to get straight to the fucking, but I conceded.
I remember the moment Alex walked into my house....
Alex is my lover and my travel buddy and my best friend. He is my partner in adventure. I obsessed over him and longed for him and fell madly in love with him. He likes to tell people I gave him the keys to my house after two weeks. I'm pretty sure I made him wait seven, but either way, we moved fast....
Alex and I were not open. We had no interest in being "poly." We had what we called a kind of "monogamy-ish" arrangement. Whatever we did together was allowed. If there was a guy we both wanted, fine. We had three-ways and four-ways with other couples. We picked up guys and went out flirting together. I loved watching Alex fuck another guy. He was so sexy and strong, such a stud. It just made me want him more....
...Jon was supposed to be just another three-way. A fuck and nothing more. We met him on Scruff.... It was a Sunday beer bust, busy and chaotic. We were going to meet at the bar for a quick kiss and to check each other out. Jon pulled up in his silver Volkswagen Beetle. I still remember watching him walk over to me, his hunched old-man gait, kind of awkward and shockingly handsome. He smiled his crooked smile. His nose was off center from being broken, his eyes serious and vulnerable, his hands at his sides, fists clenched. He was so beautiful and lost in that moment, so perfectly himself without pretense....
Alex and I would go on long walks and have endless discussions about what this meant. We were supposed to be getting married in six months. We both knew where things were headed: The question was, did we want to be moving in that direction? We had always been disdainful of triads, thinking the idea silly and overly complicated. I bought books, like The Ethical Slut and Opening Up, but none of the people in those books felt like me. Like us. I didn't want to join poly groups. I wasn't looking for a lifestyle.
I was jealous. Jealous of Alex. Jealous of Jon. I wanted them to love me, but I didn't know how I felt about them loving each other.
What became clear to me is that there is no map here. No guide to how this is done. We weren't new-ageists or vegans looking for some new tantric style of love. Alex and I weren't looking to open up. We weren't struggling in our relationship or our sex life. Things were good. We were happy with how things were.
So then why? Why were we heading down this road? We had a choice....
It was strange watching Alex fall in love with someone else. Seeing the process, sharing in it, being a part of their experience while having my own.... And I was jealous. Jealous of Alex. Jealous of Jon. I wanted them to love me, but I didn't know how I felt about them loving each other.... There were nights of high drama. Nights when I would storm out of the room, knocking things over, purposely trying to wake them, because I was mad. They had spent too much time wrapped around each other, leaving me out, on the far edges of the crowded bed, alone....
Our first official three-way fight occurred in Spokane, Washington, when Jon and I had gone to visit Alex while he was working on season two of his show. I don't even know how it began, but somewhere along the way Alex was threatening to divorce me, break up with Jon, and kick us out. I have a lot of experience fighting with Alex. He and I are similar. We are passionate and volatile. Jon is different; he isn't used to that kind of fighting. So without saying anything he booked us a room at a hotel, sure that this was over. The fight lasted close to six hours and cost us $200. It felt endless. Once two of us were OK, the third was mad. It kept going....
Because this is all new.
I have had to learn a lot about myself. I've learned that I am afraid of being abandoned, of being left.... And what you are left with is yourself. I have learned to trust myself, to be secure in who I am and in what I have to offer. I have learned to be secure in the fact that they love me, even as they love each other....
We talk about [Jon's] feelings and concerns about being in a relationship with two married guys. There are no legal protections for him. And I can't imagine they will be coming any time soon. He doesn't get to be on Alex's union insurance. My father doesn't offer to buy his ticket home for Thanksgiving. There is no simple solution to these things, so we come together, we split the extra ticket three ways, we agree to help Jon with his insurance and to all take care of each other the best we can. But still, is it enough? Does it appease that feeling of being left out? Sometimes. And I'm sure sometimes not. There is a price for the choices we have made.
Jon is like a perfect mixture of the two of us. He shares things with each of us. Sometimes he and Alex will be going off on some tangent about something they saw on Tumblr that has nothing to do with me. Sometimes Jon and I will be talking about some book we loved that has nothing to do with Alex. That's the thing we each have to accept: Sometimes you aren't a part of it. Sometimes you have to learn to love them for loving each other. To enjoy their enjoyment, even when it doesn't involve you.
We decided to introduce Jon, officially, to our families and friends at our wedding. This might have been a flawed decision, but it seemed like the only time everyone would be at one place at the same time. My 13-year-old nephew, Eli, probably handled it better than anyone. He didn't seem to really care. He just called it an "alternative relationship" that made his Uncle Jeff happy.
|Me, Alex, and Jon on the day of my and Alex's wedding|
Not everyone gets it.
...Alex and I got married in our small craftsman-style house in Hollywood. Our friends, mostly people from LA and New York City, welcomed Jon. Triads seem to be a thing that is happening now. I still remember someone saying to Jon, "So how do you know Alex and Jeff?" and Jon replying in his bookish, quiet way, "Oh, I'm their boyfriend."
Two weeks later he moved in....
I am in a relationship with two guys, each having his own insecurities and needs and goals. Each of us is a complete universe unto ourselves. Three-way sex is hot. Three-way fights suck. Sometimes they annoy me. Sometimes they charm me. Sometimes I want to run away and hide, be alone. We are lucky because we have a three-bedroom house and a back house that we can escape to if we need it. It's nice knowing there's a place I can go to that is all mine. It's important. It's hard not to get lost with all these people around. It is important to me that we are each given the opportunity to maintain our selves, to have our own lives and our own experiences inside all of this. That isn't always easy. It is something we work at very hard.
...When we were flying to Vancouver we all fell asleep with our heads and hands all over each other. I woke up to find people staring, not sure what was going on. A woman in the aisle next to us shook her head at me, like I had slapped her. The stewardess had the exact opposite reaction: She kept saying how adorable we were. Both reactions made me feel like a strange museum piece or an exotic animal at the zoo.
When trying to find a place to go for Valentine's Day, we ran into all the prix-fixe menus for couples. Nowhere was willing, even when I said I didn't care about the cost, to do a prix-fixe throuple menu. We ended up ordering pizza and watching My Bloody Valentine.
Nothing ever comes in threes. Everything is set up for two people....
Sometimes I will be sitting at my desk, writing or reading, and I will look over at the two of them on the couch, giggling at stupid cat GIFs, or holding hands quietly, and I will think, I am lucky. I am loved and safe. And together we will face the world, the three of us....
Go read the whole article
(July 22, 2015). It's almost 4,000 words and worth it.
Labels: gay, New Culture