My poly isn't your poly - so what?

CielDuMatin

New member
As on so many other discussion boards, the whole definition thing seems to come up with amazing regularity. Whether it is discussion of the differences between polyamory and swinging, what love is, and so on and so forth.

I really don't want to open up those discussions again - there are threads for that if that discussion is still necessary, but I think that it might be a good idea to look at why we care and how we might want to deal with it on a community like this one....

I think there are specific circumstances where defining a term has relevance - examples of those would include when trying to cater for a particular group, and trying to understand what the needs of that group are, or when trying to be more public about a concept - having a clarity helps people think about it. But outside of that... (and here's my point...)

When it comes to me and what matters to me - I really don't mind what definition you use, or even if you choose not to define it rigidly or not - I haven't met many people at all where I could say that my poly is their poly, and that is perfectly fine to me - I don't have to be the same as them or think the same as them in order to communicate with them, become friends with them and like them and respect them as people.

Even among poly folk saying "I'm poly" doesn't mean a lot and, if you want people to have an accurate picture of your relationship style, you need to explain a lot more. In my opinion there's nothing wrong with that.

When I interact with people on this and other fora, since I am not trying to define this community or do anything that involves public acceptance of the term in general, I feel that it is perfectly OK to refer to things as "that's not the way I do it" - but that's all it is - it's not a value judgment on the other person's way. Maybe sometimes we could try to defuse a potential situation like this with a little more care in how we express our differing opinions and make it a little more obvious that we respect the other person's right to think differently and to have a differently-structured relationship. This would include using words that don't sound like sweeping generalizations or could be interpreted as "this is the way to do it".

As this nebulous community I feel that it is vital that we try to open our minds and treat those of a differing opinion with respect - they got where they are through their learnings, and life experiences, and I feel that we need to respect that, whether we would personally do it the same way or not.

Everybody comes to this forum with their experiences, and some of those experiences contain trigger words that will set off a chain of emotional reactions to what we write. Expecting everyone to "check their baggage at the door", or similar things, is easier said than done and not realistic. I'd like to think that we could be a little more sensitive to that.

This isn't specific to this forum or to any specific members, by the way - I have seen similar things in most poly communities.

I would appreciate hearing your views on this.

Edit to add: I guess the additional question I would like to know is why do you care what the "global" definition is?
 
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Ariakas

Bosun
Edit to add: I guess the additional question I would like to know is why do you care what the "global" definition is?

Personally, I don't care, I have never cared much for what people around me think of what I do or how I do it, and I care even less about labels. I have gone through life as a conservative geeky headbanging jock. The people who I care are really the only opinions I put any merit on. As a consummate debater, I enjoy debating fine points at times, and it is in fact how ALL of my friendships developed, but if they have an opinion, and want to try and push my into a label, they likely won't get to far into my circle of friends :)

That said, maybe people argue so vehemently for a global standard so that is can be recognized outside people who aren't poly. If the definition is vague and misunderstood, explaining it to people outside the community, and thereby getting public acceptance, would be almost impossible. That is the only reason I can see to lock the definition down into a nice tidy box.
 
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dakid

New member
I really don't mind what definition you use, or even if you choose not to define it rigidly or not - I haven't met many people at all where I could say that my poly is their poly, and that is perfectly fine to me - I don't have to be the same as them or think the same as them in order to communicate with them, become friends with them and like them and respect them as people.

Even among poly folk saying "I'm poly" doesn't mean a lot and, if you want people to have an accurate picture of your relationship style, you need to explain a lot more. In my opinion there's nothing wrong with that.

When I interact with people on this and other fora, since I am not trying to define this community or do anything that involves public acceptance of the term in general, I feel that it is perfectly OK to refer to things as "that's not the way I do it" - but that's all it is - it's not a value judgment on the other person's way. Maybe sometimes we could try to defuse a potential situation like this with a little more care in how we express our differing opinions and make it a little more obvious that we respect the other person's right to think differently and to have a differently-structured relationship. This would include using words that don't sound like sweeping generalizations or could be interpreted as "this is the way to do it".

i could not agree more. of course we have a variety of ways of being polyamorous - i celebrate our diversity i would not want it any other way!

what is painful and diversive at times is when we appear to be telling each other that our way is the only way, that another person's way of being poly is not poly. what i hope is meant in those moments is "that isn't how i practise poly" but sadly what often gets said is "that is not poly".

x
 

constlady

New member
That said, maybe people argue so vehemently for a global standard so that is can be recognized outside people who aren't poly. If the definition is vague and misunderstood, explaining it to people outside the community, and thereby getting public acceptance, would be almost impossible. That is the only reason I can see to lock the definition down into a nice tidy box.

And for those of us with quite real concerns about the potential repercussions of not being adequately understood, this is the key.

I live in the smallest, most rural county in New York State.
It's a definite red streak politically and that conservatism runs through the judicial system.

If the law guardian of the children for whom I am currently legally responsible gets the impression from someone with a different definition of polyamory than I have that my lifestyle includes massive orgies or a constantly rotating cast of characters in and out of my life, I will be facing an uphill battle with the entire system in order to keep these kids safe.

It won't matter that their mother is an incarcerated addict - that's an understood disease, the system is used to dealing with that.
It won't matter that their father is a convicted felon and has also been found guilty of neglect previously - that again is a known enemy.
But let it get out that their grandmother is *gasp* polysomething and immediately red flags will be raised.

So these discussions on finding a definition, on being able to present to mainstream society a non-threatening picture that clarifies who I am and how I love have a very serious and very real potential to impact not only my life but the lives of four young children.

Personally, I don't wish to define how anyone lives their polylife, just as I don't want mine defined. But the reality for those of us who live under the threat of persecution is that there does need to be some sort of basic definition, not only for the outsiders to understand but for those within the community to rally around to remove that threat.
 

crisare

New member
That said, maybe people argue so vehemently for a global standard so that is can be recognized outside people who aren't poly. If the definition is vague and misunderstood, explaining it to people outside the community, and thereby getting public acceptance, would be almost impossible.
Exactly.

Also because language is useless if everyone gets to make up their own definition. Communication and understanding become impossible when people get to decide that various words mean various things for them and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks it means.

If I went to a restaurant and ordered Lasagna and they brought me chicken, I'd be confused and somewhat upset. If I then asked where my lasagna was and they said "this is what we call lasagna" ... that would confuse me even more. We wouldn't be able to communicate.

There is already so much confusion about alternate sexualities and alternate lifestyles that I don't understand why anyone would want to add to that confusion.

Edited to say: Yes there are many different ways of being poly and I'm not disputing that. One can accept a broad definition of poly with regard to structure and partners without going so far as to say that poly = every variety of non-monogamy out there.
 

X-User1335

Inactive
Wow

I like this blog! Mainley because when my huband and I began looking for what it is that we want, now we have the term poly, we began with pologimist. I prob spelled that wrong, but anyways. That's what I thought we were looking for. At the same time I didn't know if that's what it was or not, because I (and my husband) want me to have interaction and to fall in love with our partner as well as him. If anything, my husband finds it very important that her and I are on the same wave length mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. He wants us to click. I want it to.

Then we found the term polyamory. It seems to fit us better. It means love many. We want to fall in love with another, and it may turn into a marriage, we don't know. Who does when you go this route?

But I've seen other things written where it's the man, or the woman, or both, that go about it different than what we are. They both date others. I get it that is poly! But what we are doing is also.

I wrote a blog introducing us and even posted the question "Is that poly"? Mainly because I didn't want to offend anyone in my way of thinking. I don't want to offend anyone's lifestyle and name ours as the same as theirs.

I've came to the conclusion, very quickly I might add, that poly is poly. You are or your aren't. You are in a mono. relationship or you are in a poly one. No one can tell you that you are wrong in what you are doing, not and back it up anyways. And no one can tell you that you are not poly, you are just doing it all wrong! My poly is not your poly, so what. I like that line and I think I will probably be using it often! ;)

Thanks for the blog. It is very interesting to read what everyone's views of this lifestyle is. I'm really enjoying being a member here because of blogs like this! :)
 

Ravenesque

New member
That said, maybe people argue so vehemently for a global standard so that is can be recognized outside people who aren't poly. If the definition is vague and misunderstood, explaining it to people outside the community, and thereby getting public acceptance, would be almost impossible. That is the only reason I can see to lock the definition down into a nice tidy box.

I quite love the use of the word global within this thread.

http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/global

Global. All-inclusive. Universal.

Having a global definition of polyamory would be lovely because it would by nature involve all polyamorists and inclusive of all polyamorous perspectives. If such a definition is used when attaining legal rights for polyamorous people is would be a huge positive and bring poly people from all walks of life together in support.


i could not agree more. of course we have a variety of ways of being polyamorous - i celebrate our diversity i would not want it any other way!

what is painful and diversive at times is when we appear to be telling each other that our way is the only way, that another person's way of being poly is not poly. what i hope is meant in those moments is "that isn't how i practise poly" but sadly what often gets said is "that is not poly".

x

Indeed dakid. Having a global definition would definitely not be stating "that is not poly" as is often said here because it would embrace all versions and perspectives of polyamory.

~Raven~
 

LovingRadiance

Active member
And for those of us with quite real concerns about the potential repercussions of not being adequately understood, this is the key.

I live in the smallest, most rural county in New York State.
It's a definite red streak politically and that conservatism runs through the judicial system.

If the law guardian of the children for whom I am currently legally responsible gets the impression from someone with a different definition of polyamory than I have that my lifestyle includes massive orgies or a constantly rotating cast of characters in and out of my life, I will be facing an uphill battle with the entire system in order to keep these kids safe.

It won't matter that their mother is an incarcerated addict - that's an understood disease, the system is used to dealing with that.
It won't matter that their father is a convicted felon and has also been found guilty of neglect previously - that again is a known enemy.
But let it get out that their grandmother is *gasp* polysomething and immediately red flags will be raised.

So these discussions on finding a definition, on being able to present to mainstream society a non-threatening picture that clarifies who I am and how I love have a very serious and very real potential to impact not only my life but the lives of four young children.

Personally, I don't wish to define how anyone lives their polylife, just as I don't want mine defined. But the reality for those of us who live under the threat of persecution is that there does need to be some sort of basic definition, not only for the outsiders to understand but for those within the community to rally around to remove that threat.

This! Any minute now 3 of GG's family members will be stopping by. His family is bound and determined that we are all "living in sin" and that we will drag our children down with us. They have already pushed for court battles to remove our youngest child from our home.

Additionally our second oldest-his mother and grandmother have also tried to remove him from our home (tried for 10 years).

It's very important in a legal sense that we educate the general population that there can be a CHILDFRIENDLY poly-lifestyle.

I don't give a damn how ANYONE practices their life. But when we can't define certain things-we put the innocent lives in the balance because the unknown causes fear and that fear causes condemnation and judgement and unnecessary and irrelevant legal actions that hurt our children.
 

CielDuMatin

New member
LR (and constlady and anyone else): If work was done on a generally-accepted definition of poly for the legal rights issues surrounding families, what, in your opinion, is "child-friendly" enough to make it safe for you to still be poly and to have this issue become a non-issue? Or would any definition be good enough?
 
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crisare

New member
Yes. I live in the Baptist, conservative, South. If there is a red state, mine glows with an unholy red light. :) And I'm only partially joking.

I don't have children myself, but all of my partners have had children. It would be nice to know that someday people wouldn't automatically assume that we were all being irresponsible and endangering their children by choosing to have multiple, committed relationships.

And the only way that will happen is to take the fear out of the word by clearly defining it.
 

LovingRadiance

Active member
LR (and constlady and anyone else): If work was done on a generally-accepted definitions of poly for the legal rights issues surrounding families, what, in your opinion, is "child-friendly" enough to make it safe for you to still be poly and to have this issue become a non-issue? Or would any definition be good enough?

This is a complicated question...

Because what I would find "child-friendly" isn't what the LAW already defines as a child-friendly environment.

I've had multiple short term lovers.... and fuck buddies and fwb and raised my daughter well-but I can tell you right now-that had her father and I gone to court-I would have lost her over that detail and sadly-her life would have been destroyed because he was unable to be a responsible father.

Without a HUGE overhaul of current laws-there isn't much way to include those within a definition AND show the courts that the dynamic is a child-friendly environment.

Furthermore-each state in the US (not to mention any given country) has different laws on the books of what is or what is not acceptable in a "family dynamic" in regards to being a child-friendly environment.


Soooooo-that said,

for me the bottom line in raising children is that they need stability, security and safety. So TO ME if a child has a stable environment (where all those extra "for the moment" lovers don't come and go) and the security that all people within the environment (lovers, friends, family whatever) are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure the child's security and safety.
There are no dangerous situations being created for the child then that wold be good to me.

BUT-how do you define and ensure that? It's ultimately impossible.
I think the argument is pretty much pointless to a large degree-because it's impossible.

I have already decided that defining myself as poly is too risky for my kids. I will tell someone I am in a long term loving relationship with my husband of 11 years and boyfriend of 17 years. But I won't any longer name it-because the risk is too high that the word I choose will lead to conclusions that simply aren't true or correct in my situation.

I think many others have found the same true for them.
 

crisare

New member
I have already decided that defining myself as poly is too risky for my kids. I will tell someone I am in a long term loving relationship with my husband of 11 years and boyfriend of 17 years. But I won't any longer name it-because the risk is too high that the word I choose will lead to conclusions that simply aren't true or correct in my situation.

I think many others have found the same true for them.
As I've mentioned, I don't have children, but just the discussions on these boards have led me to realize that I no longer want to self-identify as poly.
 

StitchwitchD

New member
LR (and constlady and anyone else): If work was done on a generally-accepted definition of poly for the legal rights issues surrounding families, what, in your opinion, is "child-friendly" enough to make it safe for you to still be poly and to have this issue become a non-issue? Or would any definition be good enough?

I worry about this, because I'm trying to get custody of my kids, and my ex has tried to use his suspicions about my sex life against me in court to show that I was an unfit mother- but it was a non-issue at that point because he couldn't prove anything and my lawyer said that as long as I wasn't doing anything illegal (pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality) and I wasn't doing anything inappropriate in front of the kids, no one cared.

The issue in my case is more that the court wants me to show I can stand on my own 2 feet and live in my own apartment- which is a pretty quiet and lonely place when my kids aren't there, and it really doesn't require any work to keep a place clean with just one adult living there. So, if I was in a monogamous relationship, I'd have the same issue with the court wanting me to prove that I can be a SINGLE mother and live alone and not rely on anyone or have them rely on me....which seems a bit unreasonable, every single mom I've known has needed a healthy support network.

I have friends who are foster parents who are adopting a teenager, and there were some issues about them having a single mom living in their basement, the agency was worried that their household wasn't stable, that people would be coming and going from her life- in the most stable home she's ever been in.
 

MonoVCPHG

New member
I worry about this, because I'm trying to get custody of my kids, and my ex has tried to use his suspicions about my sex life against me in court to show that I was an unfit mother- but it was a non-issue at that point because he couldn't prove anything and my lawyer said that as long as I wasn't doing anything illegal (pedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality) and I wasn't doing anything inappropriate in front of the kids, no one cared.

.

This idea that multi-partner relationships are a detriment to children is probably going to be the biggest hurdle to cross in my mind. People who's kids consider me their uncle still needed a fair bit of reassurance that my presence was not going to confuse and disturb Redpepper's son. Even their kids sometimes accidentally refer to me as Dad LOL!

Hopefully someone will take on an extensive and unbiased study to ascertain what affects this has on children. Sad to say, but for the studies to be accepted I believe they will have to be done in the countries we live in as people will ignorantly choose to disregard the examples present in other cultures around the world.

This will be the biggest boon for acceptance and protection in my opinion. Redpepper, her husband and I had a video conference with one British author working on a book about differing family structures and child development. Perhaps that will be a good resource in the future.
 
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Ceoli

Guest
If the law guardian of the children for whom I am currently legally responsible gets the impression from someone with a different definition of polyamory than I have that my lifestyle includes massive orgies or a constantly rotating cast of characters in and out of my life, I will be facing an uphill battle with the entire system in order to keep these kids safe.

It seems to me that the issue here isn't the definition. The issue is prejudices that are attached to the definition. If we start trying to make a definition for the purpose of preventing prejudice, we are actually enabling that prejudice and shifting it to other places.

Trying to tailor a definition to be more acceptable to mainstream society never really gets very far because it doesn't actually address the underlying prejudice it's trying to negate. This has been seen in the battle many gay people have already fought for more legal rights. None of these rights were gained by trying to create a definition of being gay that excludes the "less desirable" elements.

There are gay people who live in long term settled domestic relationships.

There are gay people who go clubbing and take a new person home every night.

None of these things have to do with the definition of being gay.

The fact that gay people have made advances with legal rights in society isn't because people decided to come up with a clear and concise definition that included one aspect but not the other in order to make it more acceptable to society. If the gay rights activists had tried that, none of the actual prejudices and myths that society holds about being gay would have been addressed and society would take longer to move forward into actual acceptance.


Similarly, there are poly people who live quiet domestic lives.

There are poly people who have a constantly rotating cast of characters in their lives.

There are poly people who have massive orgies.

None of these things have to do with the definition of poly.


Trying to add more to the definition than it actually is for the sake of clarity actually produces the opposite effect. Poly means loving more than one. Once we start to try to make a definition to be more specific for the sake of clarity, we're actually just trying to make sure the "wrong" things don't get lumped in with the "right" things in our definitions.

As a society, we're pretty comfortable with the fact that a monogamous relationship can mean marriage, dating, healthy relationships, toxic relationships, casual relationships, long term committed relationships and all sorts of variables in between. The reason we don't feel the need to be more specific about that definition is that there aren't as many prejudices attached to it.

The queer movement used to have a similar need to lend legitimacy to being queer. It wasn't achieved by trying to create a narrow definition that only contains the elements that are more acceptable to the views of society at the time. It's being achieved by dismantling the inherent myths and prejudices that people have towards the actual broader definitions.

My definition of poly is pretty clear. The only thing making it unclear is the prejudices people put to it. The only way to fix that is to address the prejudices and not cater to them.
 

redpepper

New member
I think that a definition will make it easier for some to be able to tell people in full confidence that they are poly, knowing full well what they are saying is true for them. I flounder when I say I'm poly because I don't personally feel I can truly embrace the definition as it includes lifestyle choices that don't fit for me.

I seem to be the type to use a definition until I feel I can stand on my own two feet and then leave it... almost like learning to walk. A baby needs a coffee table to stand up to and then when it knows how to stand, that coffee table is still there, but not needed for that purpose anymore.

I guess the lack of definition makes me feel as if I am still learning to walk in my poly shoes whereas in other ways I am definitely walking just fine and don't even think about it anymore. I feel far more marginalized identifying as poly than I ever did when I identified as a Lesbian or even now as pansexual.
 

Ravenesque

New member
I think that a definition will make it easier for some to be able to tell people in full confidence that they are poly, knowing full well what they are saying is true for them. I flounder when I say I'm poly because I don't personally feel I can truly embrace the definition as it includes lifestyle choices that don't fit for me.

...

I guess the lack of definition makes me feel as if I am still learning to walk in my poly shoes whereas in other ways I am definitely walking just fine and don't even think about it anymore. I feel far more marginalized identifying as poly than I ever did when I identified as a Lesbian or even now as pansexual.

Are you stating that there is a definition or that there isn't? You speak of a lack of definition but then you state that you cannot embrace the definition as it includes lifestyle choices that don't fit you.

Which definition are you finding you cannot embrace? And why does this definition including your lifestyle choice as well as others make you feel you cannot embrace it?

~Raven~
 

Ravenesque

New member
My definition of poly is pretty clear. The only thing making it unclear is the prejudices people put to it. The only way to fix that is to address the prejudices and not cater to them.

Thank you. When I finally do get around to answering my own thread, there's another value I can add.

~Raven~
 

dakid

New member
And for those of us with quite real concerns about the potential repercussions of not being adequately understood, this is the key.

I live in the smallest, most rural county in New York State.
It's a definite red streak politically and that conservatism runs through the judicial system.

If the law guardian of the children for whom I am currently legally responsible gets the impression from someone with a different definition of polyamory than I have that my lifestyle includes massive orgies or a constantly rotating cast of characters in and out of my life, I will be facing an uphill battle with the entire system in order to keep these kids safe.

It won't matter that their mother is an incarcerated addict - that's an understood disease, the system is used to dealing with that.
It won't matter that their father is a convicted felon and has also been found guilty of neglect previously - that again is a known enemy.
But let it get out that their grandmother is *gasp* polysomething and immediately red flags will be raised.

So these discussions on finding a definition, on being able to present to mainstream society a non-threatening picture that clarifies who I am and how I love have a very serious and very real potential to impact not only my life but the lives of four young children.

Personally, I don't wish to define how anyone lives their polylife, just as I don't want mine defined. But the reality for those of us who live under the threat of persecution is that there does need to be some sort of basic definition, not only for the outsiders to understand but for those within the community to rally around to remove that threat.

i feel for you, i really do. this is a difficult situation for you to be in i do understand that. i myself was until recently the full-time carer/parent of my young niece, because of both her parents drug and alcohol addictions. i had social services poking their noses into every area of my life, and i too lived in fear of being judged because of my sex and love life.

i was very lucky in that i have a friend who is a family lawyer and has a great deal of experience in this matter, sadly only in the UK otherwise i would perhaps suggest you two linking up. the advice i got from her kept me going at times when i thought i could go mad here.

happily for us, and more than miraculously to be honest, my niece was able to return to live with her mother (my sister) in august 2009, and my sister has now achieved 12 months clean of all illegal drugs (and been thoroughly tested don't you worry! regular hair tests and ongoing). i remain however responsible formy niece alongside my sister.

anyway, what i found was that in the UK there is reluctance to take children away from family care (we call it kinship care) mostly due to the cost of funding state care of a child. things have to be pretty bad before they'll do that. also, what i do when i am not with my niece, i was advised, is unlikely to be seen as relevant by a judge or social worker unless it somehow affected my niece.

i am sober, don't drink or take drugs. my niece was introduced to and developed fabulous friendships with my friends and partner, and the social workers did accept that these were stable longterm relationships with positive benefits for both my niece and myself. i never told her about or allowed her to meet my fuck-buddy and if i had had any one-night stand or similar she would never have known about that either. not that i had the time or energy but!

since my sex-life never infringed upon her life in any way (my fuck buddy would only visit whilst she was at school) and my partnerships/friendships are as stable as anyone's i was not judged negatively at all. they simply didn't know about my sex life beyond my partnerships, my lawyer advised i approach it on a need-to-know basis and as long as my niece didn't know and therefore wasn't being asked to lie or keep secrets, then they didn't need to know either.

of course they had to ask questions, but i was assured and do believe that they would have to ask questions about anybody in care of a child, whether single/celibate/monogamous/whatever. what they care about is stability, protection from abuse, and general safety, not how we get our rocks off when the child isn't there to be affected.

i do appreciate this may be different where you are, and i also remember from my own experience that however rationally we know something we still fear the worst, at least i often did. i just hope that you have a similar experience to mine, or at least that my story gives you something on some level.

on a more general level i very much agree with what ceoli has written here, we need to be careful not to adopt the prejudices of those who might judge us and to stay true to ourselves. if people are prejudiced against polyamory then no amount of stability/permanence/polyfidelity is going to beat that prejudice.

it is good practise in social care and child protection to judge each case on its merits. just because you may identify as poly does not mean that you live your life exactly as all others do who share that identity. that wouldn't be possible would it!

imagine if everybody, for example, who identified as a football fan was judged for the behaviour of every single other football out there, regardless of their behaviour, how awful that would be.

i wish you and your grandchildren all the very best, x
 
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Ceoli

Guest
I flounder when I say I'm poly because I don't personally feel I can truly embrace the definition as it includes lifestyle choices that don't fit for me.

What is the definition as it stands and what lifestyle choices does it include that don't fit for you?
 
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