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Polyfidelity - issues in a non-traditional relationship
May 16, 2006
8:58 pm
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Mardoll
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Seeker asked after polygamy and cheating in another thread. Rather than derail that, I thought I'd open the topic up here.

A couple of things, just to get the ball rolling.

1: Polygamy implies, in my understanding, a one man/many women relationship. It's practices in several cultures throughout the world, historically and today, but it's not what I'm talking about.

Polyamory is the context I understand - the sexism of polygamy is not implied in the word. There are many structures to polyamorous relationships, and yes, some of them involve things like "Primary Partnerships", where there is such a thing as "cheating" and it matters who you do what with.

The question Seeker brought up is whether or not a partner who has agreed to certain rules with their lovers is obliged to be careful with people who aren't inside that agreement.

Of course the answer is yes - but the understanding of what qualifies as "careful" and "cheating" tend to be very different.

When you trust your lover with other lovers, and don't assume that means they'll leave you, it creates a context where you don't worry so much that they'll leave you for a friend either, so it's much easier to trust overall.

When the answer to "may I please get involved with this friend of mine?" isn't guaranteed to be "no" and doesn't come with the assumption that you are hurting your existing lover if you want an outside relationship, it's much easier to be honest about what you do and don't want - both with yourself, and with your lovers. Fruit that isn't forbidden is often less tempting, I guess, though that particular factor has never been an issue for me.

What this happens to add up to is that a lot of the underlying assumptions behind the rule that your lover should never spend time alone with a member of the gender that attracts them (regardless of whether or not that *particular* person attracts them) that simply cease to apply.

First of all, you come to realize, in a non-traditional relationship context, that gender is a far cry from the only thing that defines who we are and aren't interested in sleeping with. Second of all, we lose the abandonment assumption that wanting somebody else means my lover doesn't want *me* anymore. It's not that nobody ever gets jealous in a polyamorous situation - of course it happens - it's just that a lot of the fears that feed into jealousy are based on assumptions that don't apply in that context.

I'm sorry, I think I'm not describing this well, but there - I've opened the floor if anybody wants to discuss it.

May 16, 2006
9:09 pm
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on my way
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please direct me to the other thread title?
thanks Mardoll

May 16, 2006
9:49 pm
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snowlover
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Ive never admitted to this here, but Im actually pretty up on this lifestyle. the EX BF convinced me to get involved in "swinging", and we had been for the last 18 months.

This biggest, and most important aspect of anything of this nature is HONESTY. You cant hide things, experiences, meet anyone secretively, or not be entirely upfront in all your relationships. Well, you arent SUPPOSED to do any of those things. If and when you do, then the bond of trust is broken, and from my experience, it can NEVER be repaired.

Id also like to know what the other thread is on this topic.

Snow

May 16, 2006
10:20 pm
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free2choose
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May 16, 2006
10:29 pm
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free2choose
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WHOOPS! SORRY.

The other thread is "forget the consesus" it is not really on this topic, polygamy was just tuched on, then Mardoll moved the discussion here.

Mardoll...

I had always heard about "swinging" and "polyamorous" relationships. (Yes, I know there is a difference between the two.)

I had always just thought that was "Wierd" or not for me. Like S and M...just not really up my ally. More power to those who get off on it, it is just not for me.

Polygamy, in my head, was always equal to sexism and mysogeny. Old men with 2 or 3 or 4 young brides...him as "GOD" or "KING", with the women more as servants, sexual slaves or concubines. The thought of this always made me angry... I think this is much more in the spirit of Fundamentalist Religios polygamy.

Overall though, I never really thought about it a whole lot, just because it was not a part of my life.

Then, recently, I have started watching the show "Big Love" on HBO. At first, I watched the show in this enthralled disgust... Now I have gotten more used to the idea, and have begun to do a little research.

Now, I am not sure what I think or where I stand. I am very big on the freedom of choice...however I do not approve of things that further the sexist degradation of women...so I guess it would all depend on the situations...

Very intersesting topic, to say the least!

I would love to know more.

Erica

May 16, 2006
10:32 pm
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free2choose
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Snow lover...

Question...because this gets to the heart of my qualms about polyamory and swinging...

Did you enjoy the swinging, did you TRULY WANT to participate in it? Or, were you "talked" into it by the man...."If you love me you will try it....Come on...."

I am scared that women will be coerced into actions they would rather not take out of a feeling (albiet codependent/sick) of obligation or duty, or fear of bieng abandoned.

What is it in your case, Snow.

(I am not judging you!!! I am truly interested, and just trying to wrap my mind around it)

Thanks,

Erica

May 16, 2006
11:41 pm
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Anonymous
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Erica,

You asked Snow:

{Did you enjoy the swinging, did you TRULY WANT to participate in it? Or, were you "talked" into it by the man...."If you love me you will try it....Come on...." }

That's exactly what I was wondering, too. The several cases I've heard of or know of when swinging occured or was suggested, it was the man who brought it up to the woman.

Snow, I'm curious as to what you think of swinging. Overall, was it been a positive or negative experience? It sounds like you were involved with people who lied to you.

Seeker

May 17, 2006
1:49 am
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Mardoll
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Technically Swinging and Polygamy are forms of Polyamory, though neither has a good reputation, and most polyamorous people I know deliberately distance themselves from those sub-groups.

Swinging, as I understand it, is when couples (usually heterosexual, though the women are often encouraged to be Bisexual) go to parties together, and then each is permitted to sleep with whoever else there that their partner agrees on. It has a reputation of being largely under the influence of the men, with the women being there under some amount of duress. I suspect that it's not quite that black and white - what ever is? Amongst other things I know Swinging has been around at least since the 20s, and a lot of women were enculturated to have a knee-jerk avoidance of any such thing even if it DID interest them. So perhaps the women who found they enjoyed themselves after all weren't self-deluding to please their men, eh? Who am I to question them if they say they're happy?

I'm not in a position to discuss it in depth, since I don't know any "Swingers" personally.

Polyamory is a much larger concept than that, and there's nothing about the category that is inherintly disrespectful to any gender. Believe me, I know more gleefully polyamorous women than I can count, and they are definitely NOT in it because their partner cajoled or coerced them into it. For that matter I know several gleefully polyamorous transgendered people. Gender and Preference runs the gamut in my local Poly community. I consider myself to be significantly less involved than most of the folks I know, just because I seem to be emotionally geared towards one partner at a time.

Trust wise, though, the ethics of polyamory appeal to me. I'd much rather my boyfriend or husband come to me with any realizations of desire than simply cheat on me or deny himself the intimacy with a loving friend.

May 17, 2006
2:19 am
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free2choose
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You know that last sentance....I really get that. Also, in an earlier post you wrote something about losing the "abandonment asumption", and that feeling that if your partner wants someone else, he/she must not still want you....I get that too...

I am a lesbian, in a monogamous committed relationship of 4 years. There was a point in time a while back where I was once again at the point of questioning my sexuality.."OK, am I really gay?" It was due to me working out alot of old rape and abuse stuff from my past, one of the BIGGEST reasons I do not like men, I do not like SEX with men, to be specific. But seeing how that dislike was formed from Emotion, not from biology, led me to question wether or not my "gayness" could perhaps have been "cured" by my working through the abuse issues. (Am I making myself clear enough to follow?)

Anyway... I had to really consider the possibility of re-experiencing sex with men, and of getting more clear with who I am. I often fanticized about how it would be, and in my fantices, the funny thing is, my girlfriend was ALWAYS there. The reason is that she was the EMOTIONAL connection, and for me, she still represented security and love. Whether or not I am gay by choice (if you can call it that, choice thrust upon me by negative experience), I do LOVE my girlfriend.

So there I was, in a closed, monogamous lesbian relationship fanticizing about my possible bisexuality, and my possible need to fufill that. Very confusing! Not to mention an open relationship was OUT OF THE QUESTION, due to both of our abandonment issues and insecurities.

So I really get it, it is totally my FEAR and INSECURITIES that blocks the possibilities of an open relationship. Also the fear and insecurities of my partner.

I told my partner of the thoughts I was having. It was difficult for her to understand, difficult to comprehend, and very triggering to her insecurities. I had a VERY hard time trying to explain that, although I was questioning things, and possibly wanted to branch out and experiment sexually with others, that that in NO WAY lessened my LOVE for her, my need for her, nor the fact that I WANTED her, both sexually and just in general. To her, and before I was put into a position to question it, that was UNTHINKABLE! But now I totally understand.

I never did sleep with another guy or experiment. SHe did give me her permission, she wanted me to be able to do anything I needed to "find myself". But even though she gave me permission, I knew her heart was not in it, she was scared to death, and if I went ahead with it, I didn't think things would ever be the same. We have worked VERY HARD to be able to feel safe and secure in or relationship, and in the trust and faith we have in each other. Ultimately, the experience and experiments were no even close to being as important as her trust in me and her safety. I loved her to much to do it.

I do still wonder.... I don't know, maybe as we both continue to grow things may change, but right now it is not worth it. I know I am where I need to be right now, with her.

Hmmmm....

May 17, 2006
3:10 am
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Matteo
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A they say, different strokes for different folks...I, for one, rather be in a monogamous relationship for as long as we both have a desire to be together, and are satisfied in our union, and find another monogamous partner only after we decide that our relationship is over.

But then, I guess it depends on what one’s expectations are. A relationship between two people, in my understanding, is about excusive connection and intimacy: emotional, intellectual and spiritual, and sexuality (and sensuality) is a form of expression and manifestation of that connection, but it is also its’ integral part it. Relationship like this, in most cases, is not freely given, and requires a lot of effort to sustain it at that level; I cannot possibly imagine any space for the third party. Among other factors, the exclusivity of that kind of union is what makes it special.

May 17, 2006
5:46 am
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free2choose
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I also agree and understand where you are coming from too, Matteo.

I was just writing my vows for my wedding in 2 weeks. I was having trouble so I looked up some sites online, and they had a bunch of questions to kind of promt thought.

A lot of what I wrote is about the "Quiet Stregnth" of the unique bond that my partner and I share, just the two of us. I can not imagine letting somelone else in on that. I can't imagine the amount of work it would take...it is hard enough with just 2 people.

And I agree, the uniqueness and exculusivity of our bond makes it that much stronger and that much more special.

Ughhhh.... I know it often sounds as if I contradict myself. It is because I am a Libra...and because I am entrenched in self-doubt. I can not help that I am a fence sitter.

Oh well.

May 17, 2006
5:55 am
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Mardoll
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free -

"(Am I making myself clear enough to follow?)"

I'm fairly familiar with the pattern in question, so yes, it's clear 😉

"(if you can call it that, choice thrust upon me by negative experience)"

i.e. whether your preference is psychosocial or genetic...

Whether a long-term relationship is open or not, poly or not (because they're not the same thing*) a lot of work inevitably goes into establishing trust, and the perameters to which they apply. The biggest difference between monogamy and polyamory is that most folks in monogamous relationships just assume they already agree on the perameters, and focus on the trust.

The thing is, I've run into an awful lot of trouble in the monogamous relationships I've had because despite all our assumptions, we DON'T all have the same perameters. Exclusivity? Sure... Of what? Romantic Love? Sexual Intercourse? Kissing? Touching? Emotional attachment to members of eachother's gender? And when, exactly, does the Exclusivity kick in?

Some of these assumptions go out the window even in monogamous relationships if the partners are the same gender - A lesbian is seriously unlikely to complain about her partner's desire to hang out in women-only space.

But even in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship, there's all kinds of pitfalls. For me, in a monogamous situation, for example, exclusivity of kissing and any sexual activity more involved than that is trivially easy for me to accept, but I have strong emotional bonds to my four "best" friends, two of whom are male, and while I will tone down some of our interactions to fit within the comfort levels of their or my romantic relationships, I will not agree to avoid spending hours alone with them, talking in private.

My first monogamous relationship was with a guy whose social crowd was big on social kissing and hugs. Because I have never been inclined to kiss mere friends hello, I had to seriously consider how I felt about him kissing random friends. We settled on "french" kissing as cheating initially.

Another guy I dated assumed we were exclusive from the first time we kissed, as far as I could ever tell, and defined "exclusive" more strenuously than I did. This didn't work for me because emotionally intimate, but non-sexual interaction with my male friends registered as a problem with him. I didn't accept his perameters because we had never discussed them, so I had never actually agreed to exclusivity with him in the first place. It was one of the shortest relationships I ever had, though we broke up for other reasons.

I have never cheated on any of my boyfriends, and only one of them ever cheated on me, by breaking the rules we had agreed on (do what you like within certain perameters, but save intercourse for me). It's just not that hard to avoid when you recognise that hormones are not an excuse for forgetting the rules, much less alcohol or drugs, over which you generally have more control. A lot of the things people use as excuses for poor judgement aren't really as judgement-impairing as they are a cue that it's ok to relax to the point of being stupid.

Matteo -

"Among other factors, the exclusivity of that kind of union is what makes it special."

In much the same way my relationships with each dear friend are unique simply because we are each unique people, so are my romantic relationships. The nature and depth of my attachment to each of my two lovers is very different, and I get different things out of them. One of the benefits of not assuming exclusivity is that I don't expect my lover to be everything to me, and I know he doesn't expect me to be everything to him.

* Open vs. Polyamorous: There's such a thing as Polyfidelity, and closed polyamorous relationships, wherein the agreement is that sex (and perhaps other things) are only acceptable within the triad/group. An open relationship implies that there's a certain amount of freedom for each individual to choose who they mess around with without having the new person first go through a complicated process of veto and STD testing, etc. etc.

For example: I have a friend who is in a closed triad. Neither she nor her two partners is allowed to get involved with anyone else. Presumeably this is subject to the same re-negotiation that her monogamous relationship was subject to when her second lover hit the scene, but it's not a simple process. In contrast, I'm in a somewhat open Hierarchical relationship. My primary boyfriend and I have veto rights, and there are rules about how far we may go without testing. My secondary relationship, however, is essentially open. Our direct interactions are subject to my rules with my primary of course, but our only agreement regarding his other relationships is that of Informed Consent.

May 17, 2006
6:02 am
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Okay everyone...i will be totally honest about this topic with all of you.

Believe it or not, i was the one that brought up swinging. Well..sort of. he had been talking about clubs a lot, and well, i asked if he would want to go, so thats how it started.

My reasons for doing it werent exactly the best Im sure. He always had issues with fidelity, his entire life. he and I had an excellent sexual relationship, so in that area i felt very confidant with him. I initially thought if we swung, then why would he ever have a reason to cheat on me? He would be able to be with other women, nothing would be behind anyones back, and I thought being that open with each other would be a good thing.

It just never worked out that way. Every single time we met with another couple, or a single female, he would insist that i was acting jealous. I swear i was NOT!! he would go on and on about it, make me feel very insecure, and question my own feelings on the matter.

he then began to lie to me about what he was doing. Thats WHY I put spyware on his computer, if any of you recall me admitting to that several weeks back. We had a profile on a swingers website, and he had gotten mad and removed my info from it, and put his EX WIFES there in my place. he tried to say it was just to get me back, and nothing was going on. Well, I may be blond, but Im not stupid.

Swinging involves total honesty and trust. We had none of that, and it never worked. But..i always felt like it gave us this bond that he couldnt have with anyone else. Not true. he has talked his ex wife into doing it, and well, I was replaced. he was also secretly meeting with some of the women we had met thru the lifestyle.

if Im honest with myself, i dont think I ever really enjoyed it much. he kept me insecure. it got to the point where the ONLY time he wanted to see me was if i could find a "hook-up" for us. I definitely felt used for sex.

Im going to admit to something else Ive never told ANYONE. i also have experience with a somewhat polyamory relationship with him. For several months almost 20 years ago I lived with him and his first wife, the 3 of us as a "couple" somewhat. This was HER idea, as a way to not lose him to me. Very similiar to Big Love on HBO. I had a bedroom, she had a bedroom, and he was on a schedule with us.

if he wasnt the type of person he is, then perhaps that could have worked out, but wow, was it painful at the time. it totally messed with my head, and hers. Its funny, when he and i talk about it now, he says there were wayyyy too many emotions involved (DUH!!!) and he didnt like it at the time. I dont believe that for a second.

he happens to love Big Love, and tells me all the time thats the life he wants. He will then tell me I could never do it, because Im too insecure, and i want him all to myself. Hmm..all to myself..Ive never had that with him, not sure what thats like.

Ive never admitted to any of this here, because well, i was terrified of what you all would think of me. Im still scared of being judged, or thought badly of for what Ive done with him. Im willing to answer any questions you have, and I'll try to be honest about it.

Snow

May 17, 2006
6:22 am
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Mardoll
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Snow - It sounds like you've made a couple of mistakes that you'd probably want to avoid in the future, but IMHO getting into swinging is not automatically one of them.

It's often said in the poly community that polyamory absoloutely will not fix a broken monogamous relationship, and I totally agree. My own experience with moving a breaking monogamous relationship into a more open relationship was that it just changed the perameters, but didn't change his urge to cheat. Whatever the rules were, he "needed" to break them. I broke up with him during the same conversation that I found out he had cheated on me. It hurt like hell, but I refused to undermine my own authority over myself.

May 17, 2006
7:53 am
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snowlover
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Mardoll,

I agree with what you said. One of the mistakes was thinking that lifestyle would work for "us", and it would curb his urge to cheat. Never works, and it certainly didnt for us. Was just a sort of "license" to do what he wanted, and then try to cover it as swinging, and then tell me how insecure I am.

Snow

May 17, 2006
9:02 am
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Anonymous
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This polyfidelity thing is frustrating to me.I don't understand why or how someone would get involved in this lifestyle or what have you.I have been fighting this "fantasy" of my husband's for so long,that even talking to other women has become rage inducing for me.I refuse to share my husband with anyone,and I would never share myself with anyone outside this marriage,no matter what he said.This immature teenage tactic of "if you love me,you'll try it,"just makes me want to scream at this computer wishing the hundreds of people who think this is ok could hear me.I know in my heart that this is what is right for me,and I cannot stop my husband from cheating,but if I found out that he has,I now have no qualms about throwing him out on his skinny butt!!So far,this polyfidelity thing has shown up in my comp in movies.It will NEVER be a reality in this house while I still draw breath.Call me scrooge,prude,whatever....I will never share my husband willingly.I do not understand when people say this lifestyle requires "total honesty and trust".Isn't that what was established before this topic was brought up?I can just hear some dude now in my head,"To be totally honest,I need other women to please me sexually,because you just don't do it for me by yourself,is that ok with you?"NO WAY!!!
As in other threads,I have communicated recently that I am the ONLY one who gets to be good enough right now,and that if he wants someone else,or another lifestyle,have at it,I refuse to be involved.I am not by any means trying to judge or belittle anyone for their life choices,but this is my life choice,and I just don't understand what happened to happily ever after...it isn't here....but I wish it were,and I really am behind if there were more than one Prince Charming,and I missed it...LOL

May 17, 2006
9:13 am
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snowlover
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I certainly wasnt trying to convince anyone the properness of things I had or hadnt done. Instead, was trying to answer a question put on this board.

po'd in springs..i definitely felt judged by your post. I truly understand not everyone could consider some of the choices I have mad, whether they be right or wrong. But at the same time, i think when you criticize something that you dont understand, you are passing judgement.

Trust me..I NEVER stand up for myself, and never on this board. but..that being said, opening up about this was a risk for me, but I did it to try to answer questions of others who were needing to know. Im now wishing I would have ket some of my life choices to myself.

Snow

May 17, 2006
9:30 am
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SnowLover,I apologize with every fiber of my being....I NEVER meant to judge you,or make you feel bad about your life choices.I am struggling with a ton of situations in my life right now,this lifestyle being fantasized about by my own husband,being one of them.Perhaps,after thinking about this lifestyle somewhat,I do not want to understand it.I wanted what I was promised on my wedding day.Love,Faith,Honor,and Fidelity.What God hath presented,let no man put asunder.Even if I weren't married to this man,I guess I'm an old fashioned gal who would expect the same of a mere BF...complete and absolute faithfulness.
Once again,Snow...I apologize...I kinda got up on my soapbox with my resentment for excused cheating,and let it get away with me.I do not wish to hurt anyone,nor do I wish to be hurt by anyone here.This website has been a lifesaver for my sanity,and I do understand that people are sharing their most personal thoughts and feelings here as I have done as well.Please forgive me.

May 17, 2006
9:53 am
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snowlover
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po'd in springs..apology accepted. I myself am dealing with MANY issues with this man i shared this lifestyle with, so I understand feeling opinionated on things.

This website also has saved my life on more than one ocassion.

Hugs to you.....Snow

May 17, 2006
10:01 am
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Hugs to you as well Snow...I rerad your story above again,and realize now I was "pissing in the wind" so to speak.Blustering on and on about my own hurt feelings and such,that I did not see your vulnerability clearly until just now.Thank you for your forgiveness.

May 17, 2006
12:05 pm
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Matteo
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Mardoll,

It is not fair to ask anyone to be “everything” to another person; it is also impossible to deliver. I need a lot of space in my relationship, for interaction with other people and for personal reflection alike. Exclusivity in a relationship is not to be confused with enmeshment. Relationship is, in my understanding, about sharing our worlds, not making our worlds identical. That’s the beauty of it, we bring more to the committed relationship, we enjoy, live, experience and learn more through sharing with the partner, than if we were alone.

Sensuality and sexuality are two very important factors of that relationship. They bring two people closer to each other, they enhance their relationship, and they are both adhesives and expressions of that relationship. I cannot imagine having a romantic relationship without it. Even “love of souls” brings Eros right in the middle, right away. Romantic love without sex doesn’t exist for me. However, I have very clear boundaries in regards to my close friendships of the opposite gender (and the same gender), and I don’t confuse those relationships with a romantic relationship. I don’t have the same needs in those relationships, neither do I expect them to fulfill the same needs, nor play the same (or similar) roles in my life, as in regards to my romantic partner.

The truth is that the kind of relationship I am talking about, constantly requires true commitment and effort from both partners, and necessitates their ability to open up and be vulnerable on a very deep emotional level, while and at the same time maintaining their own individuality and equality with the partner. I am sure that for many it is much easier to water it down among few other people and not to have to invest so much emotionally. Please don’t get me wrong again; I don’t believe that a couple should absolutely be involved with each other for a lifetime; most often – not. Perhaps that would be the perfect scenario, but as I said, effective functioning in that kind of commitment doesn’t come easily, and sometimes (often), despite a lot of effort, people grow apart instead of growing together, especially if they were not compatible to start with, not to mention different goals and functions they have and aim for, at different stages of their lives.

If the lifestyle you are talking about suits you and everyone involved – great! Frankly, I am puzzled with your motivation behind choosing this topic for a discussion, if it works well for you already and if you are convinced about it. Which end of whoever’s relationships is open or guarded more (or not) than the other, should be a concern of those involved in that particular relationship(s), and I am sure that there are myriads of possibilities (and as well confusions).

No matter what are the supporting arguments, this lifestyle would not be suitable for me, and first of all, this is not what I am looking for. I rather put an effort into my monogamous romantic relationship than be preoccupied with maintaining and guarding fluid boundaries of all relationships I am involved in. I think being involved with one person makes it much simpler to follow and to respect those rules, and makes life easier. But, as I said, that’s just me and my preference. All the best to you.

May 17, 2006
12:05 pm
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I feel like I am intruding in a personal conversation between others but so much in this thread has affected me in one way or another. My b/f has done the whole please just try it once if you dont like it we'll never do it again (on the swinging).

p.o'd I feel exactly like you do. Why would I want to give him permission to let someone else not only recieve the pleasure I feel he should only want to give to me but by him wanting to be with someone else makes me questoion am I not enough?

On a more personal level I cannot say that if it were solely my choice and I did not have the worries that I am not good enough or abandonment issues I would probably choose to just try it. I think I am a very confused person.

May 17, 2006
1:46 pm
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Anonymous
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When someone promises you to be your everything,and you theirs,I guess it's just me,that's what I expected.I never wanted my husband to be identical to me in any way,I just wanted what I wanted,shared that with him at the beginning,and was promised that was gonna be the way it was.That promise has been broken repeatedly for 15 years.I guess I maybe expected too much of a 17 year old boy when I met him,but he is nearly a 32 year old man now,and knows what I need and expect from him,and instead,I am bombarded with lies and deceit.I hate the feelings of knowing that this topic seems to be a fantasy waiting in the wings to be a reality now.This is not for me,and I have a feeling like I am gonna have a fight on my hands to get away from being dragged into this,or for him to choose this lifestyle over me and my children.Like I said before,I refuse to be involved.But like it was stated in a later post,if you can hang with it,go for it...and all the best to you.

May 17, 2006
2:42 pm
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on my way
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The word "poly-fidelity" is a contradiction in terms to me. Fidelity has only ONE meaning and that is ONE. did you all make up this word or something?

May 17, 2006
3:17 pm
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snowlover
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The correct word is polyamory.

Snow

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