This has nothing to do with film, but it’s something I’ve been quizzed about as a direct result of the piece I did on Trainwreck.
A few weeks ago, I completed the rest of my transition into a fully outed life and came out as poly. The damnedest thing happened: people started asking me questions, and not as a way to gain salacious details. Nope, they were genuinely interested in my world. I’ve gotten questions that are well-intentioned, and the folks asking have done so by prefacing any statement as, “I hope you don’t think I’m stupid/nosy, but I want to know…” It occurred to me that if someone wanted to educate him or herself, I was up for honest answers, especially when that someone was willing to risk mild embarrassment by asking. Here are the most popular questions I’ve been asked in the past few weeks.
|Have a rainbow unicorn. On the house.
Q: So when you say open marriage, what do you mean?
A: First off, it’s not cheating. Let’s clear that up right away. Cheating is a different sport altogether: there’s lying and lack of respect, and that’s not being open at all. Open is a conscious decision made with the consent of the two people in the relationship; cheating is the exact opposite. Don’t confuse the two just because there’s sex going on with someone other than the spouse on the legal document.
There are many permutations of being open. For some, it means that there’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy: everyone plays dumb and looks the other way; no one asks questions, and no one volunteers information. A great example of this is the freedom to sleep with someone while you’re on a business trip, so long as it’s kept quiet. Another variation of open gives freedom to just one half of the couple, e.g., the female half of a duo has lovers while the other half is content to stay put. Some are full-on swingers that engage in casual partner swapping; others prefer a single kink partner that fulfills a need that the primary partner cannot (or is simply unwilling to try due to comfort constrictions), such as dominance/submission dynamics. Others go full-on polyamory (poly for short), which is the development of a full relationship with multiple partners. Even then, polyamory has different facets: some poly couples live together, some live as one huge family complete with children with different partners, and others are more casual in terms of their dating by establishing a type of hierarchy (wherein there is a primary spouse and a secondary partner).Really, at the end of the day, it all depends upon the rules set up by the couple. Me? I’m poly, and my rules are simple: honest and safe. Don’t lie about what you’re doing and wrap it so that no one gets any gifts that keep on giving. I’m a relationship girl at heart. I like dating as opposed to a revolving door. No judgment toward those that like casual arrangements; just my comfort level. I really like the intimacy of a relationship. And for the record: it’s not for everyone. It’s a ton of work. Each couple comes to its own conclusion on rules, and if you decide it’s not for you, that’s perfectly fine.
Q: Are you going to sleep/flirt with my husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife?
A: Some people have an anything goes mentality; I, however, do not. If your marriage/relationship is closed e.g., monogamous), then absolutely not. Contrary to popular belief, I do have some self control; the only place I lack self control is when someone places cheesecake in front of me (seriously, if you do that, I can’t guarantee your safety). This goes back to my core rules: honest and safe, with emphasis on the first part. I have enough respect for someone to not treat that person as a dirty secret, nor do I wish to be treated as one in return. This means affairs. Someone who isn’t fully out as poly is one thing; I can be patient and understanding with that, having gone through the process myself. It’s tough because you get judged, and you have to build up to that level of transparency, especially when there’s potential for lifelong relationships (siblings, parents, friends, etc.) to go belly up as a result of someone else’s hangup. Where I draw the line is a request for an affair. Someone deceiving a partner to get in my pants is another beast altogether, and I don’t play those kinds of games. So don’t worry that I’m going to make a play for your spouse. I respect you, your partner and your committment to being monogamous far too much to let something like a sex drive come between that. I value my friendships far too much.
Which isn’t to say that an insecure spouse hasn’t drummed up unfounded ideas before, and boy are those doozies. I’ve been told in the past that I’m too pretty to be someone’s friend, or that “it’s only a matter of time” before I try something when there is nothing going on. To that extent, there is something which all poly folks want to say to those possessive types: get over yourself. Take a long look in the mirror and figure out why you’re so unhappy rather than trying to accuse others of being out to steal your man or woman.
Q: Are all bi people poly/open?
A: Not everyone. Me, personally, yes. But avoid generalizations. Especially when it comes to being both bi and poly/open: most of the time, the two are paired together in a way that insinuates that bisexuals can’t possibly have the capacity to be monogamous, which is rude and disrespectful on a multitude of levels. So don’t go there, because for the bi men and women that already get marginalized – and let me tell you, we more than get our share of abuse and dumbass statements – there’s already an uphill battle about defining who we are and what we do. Just as I wouldn’t make assumptions about you, don’t make assumptions about an entire group of people.
Q: How long have you been poly?
A: Since I was five. My first boyfriend was actually a pair of boys that knew full well about each other. I liked them both for different reasons: one was funny, the other was smart, and while vastly different physically, they were both cute to me. I liked them for different reasons; they made different parts of me happy, which made sense to me. I was told that “that’s not how it’s done.” From there, I tried to focus on one person at a time, and I did it for quite a while. I didn’t cheat, but I also felt kind of fake deep down. Falling in love with more than one person at a time is very confusing if you’re trying hard to be monogamous; there’s guilt and self-loathing, and you ask yourself, “Why am I not like other people?” Once I learned that there was a word for how I was wired, it made sense. I’ve met more people that are the same way, and it’s made me realize that I’m not wrong; I’m just different. And that’s okay. I’m just more comfortable now with being able to love different people at the same time. It’s natural to me.
Q: How many people do you have in a relationship at a time?
A: Some people are really adventurous and have upwards of four or five relationships at once. Personally, I stick to just one outside of the guy to which I’m married. Anything more than that seems exhausting to try to maintain without a huge plot of land and commune-like conditions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and for all I know, I could wind up loving three or four people at the same time on a farm in the middle of nowhere someday. For all I know, I could decide to close my relationship someday. Point is, never say never. At the current moment, I’m at a two-person limit.
Q: Is it hard to split your time and heart?
A: For me, love isn’t about treating your partner like a possession: it’s about letting that person decide that he or she wants to be with you; it’s freedom. Likewise, for me, it’s natural to love more than one person at a time. I don’t think that one person can fulfill every last need. Different people are going to make you happy in different ways, and it’s okay to admit that out loud. It’s never been hard for me to love those different aspects based on that mindset alone.
That being said, scheduling and communication are both key to success. If you’re not talking, you’re going to fall off the same page, and frankly, it’s inhuman to expect anyone to read your mind to determine your needs. Likewise, you have to make time for everyone, whether it’s scheduled or a quick line that you’re dropping just because. Do little things to let the other person know you care. Keep communicating and making time, and you’ll go far.
Q: Do you get jealous?
A: Of course; jealousy is natural. It’s what you do with it that matters. Bottle it up, and it will cause a harmful explosion. Talk about how you’re feeling, and you can work through it to make yourself into something better: someone more confident and honest. Do I love being home alone on Saturday nights? Not always. But there are other things I get to do with my husband that combat that, and it makes those evenings not so bad. That makes the date nights I have all the more special. You value your time because it’s given, not because it’s there by default. Talk about it when it bugs you, but don’t place demands. All about perspective.
Q: Why isn’t everyone out?
A: The world is not always kind to people in open relationships, from custody cases to social stigma. While the world is becoming safer (more on that in a minute), it’s still not entirely accepting. And let’s face it, there are some serious creeps that prey upon someone who isn’t in the most accepted of relationship types. There’s a lot of abuse out there, from pressuring someone into a sex act or emotional battery, and where there’s an abuser, there’s someone who will point and say, “What did you expect when you slut around like that? It’s your fucking fault.” Somehow, any little thing that happens to you is your own damn fault because you’re not normal, and so most people don’t speak up when bad things happen to them. The good news is that if you’re more open-minded, you make it easier for people to be out, and you can see that they deserve to feel upset, sad or betrayed when things aren’t so great, just like everyone else. We’re not scandalous; we’re people.
Q: Do your kids know?
A: No, but that’s mostly due to age-appropriateness and the level of my relationships. They know I’m bi, but I have not yet introduced them to a partner outside of my marriage. You don’t get to meet my kids unless if we’re really serious. That introduction policy could be applied to anyone dating with kids in the picture. You have to think of them, their feelings and their attachments. That being said, I did come close, once, but no.
Q: What’s it like when you break up with someone?
A: Same as it is when you break up with someone: it fucking sucks. That being said, I cannot say this enough: having a solid, accepting support system meant the world to me. Giving a hug, listening, letting me put my shattered self back together… it’s wonderful to know that even though you can’t see the good in yourself, other people can. Not only that, they actively believe in you and thank you for being in their lives, just for being you. If nothing else, try to be like this. It means more than you know. I’m getting there with the unwavering support of some truly loving people. If you’re lucky enough to have friends like that, you can survive anything. Even yourself.