Polyamorous vs Promiscuous - A Question of Motive

ZeroDrakken

New member
I'm fairly new to these forums - I've been reading around, and I've seen some of these questions fielded, but nothing that completely matches what I'm going through, so if you don't mind a well-written and dramatic tale of love and woe, here you go...

Neither my wife nor I really ever... dated... during our youth (we met when she was 14 and I was 16 and it was love at first sight, and we've been together in one form or another ever since. Yes, I know, I'm lame, shut up.) so we don't have a lot of practical experience with flirting, asking people out, doing the walk of shame, or any of that. We've been in an open relationship for almost the entire time, and between her time at college and a few of my various adventures in the past, we've picked up a little experience around the edges, but not a ton.

While I've always self-identified as polyamorous, I've never made a huge deal out of it, because (to me) there's a difference between having the capacity to love multiple people and actually being in multiple relationships. When the right person came along, for a while, we three were a thing (and it was great). That ended when our friend grew afraid her presence was ruining what we (my wife and I) collectively had and eventually left us.

Since then, neither my wife nor I have actively been seeking additional partners for a few years now, during which time we got married and had a kid. There've been a few opportunities for things to happen with other people, but neither of us actively persued things and, naturally, nothing happened.

I've recently undergone a somewhat traumatic but decidedly transformative experience. After a series of events forced me to evaluate my own priorities, I realized that over the last few years I've become a mere spectator in my own life - just like with my own lack-of-polyamory, I've been waiting for some external force to act on me instead of trying to act myself. Realizing that this is part of the fundemental unhappiness I've been experiencing for years, I have vowed to fix several things that are within my grasp I'm on a diet, have begun attacking several unfinished projects that I've left lying around, and I've decided that I want to start dating again.

This is not a decision that I've taken lightly - my wife and I talked at length about it, and she too missed having opportunities to meet new people, having extra people in our lives, and also the extra sex, because let's be honest, that was fun. Ideally, we'd like to find a nice lady who likes the both of us so we can reform our previously-awesome trio (triad, triangle, whatever term you wanna use), but we're open to also seeing people individually just to see what happens... if we can find people, that is.

The big thing that we identified as an issue was that our social circle has dwindled to nothing - we live in a nearly abandoned town a good hour from three different cities, smack in the middle of a nexus of nothing. We have no friends here in town (and let's face it, they're still struggling with accepting blacks and gays as humans - coming out as polyamorous around here would likely break a lot of people's brains and may get us lynched), and the friends we do have an hour away in the city all view our relationship with the same sort of "do not approach" that our former third developed. It's probably because she and I have, as I said, been together forever - they fail to realize the adaptability and flexibility of our relationship is WHY we've been together that long - and it's damn frustrating to boot.

So instead, we have been looking at a couple local meetup groups - there's one nearby in Dayton, OH that we're looking into - to see if we can find some other like-minded invididuals who might like to get to know either of us (or both, we're down with that too) better.

Now, here's where my provocative "Polyamorous vs Promiscuous" title comes into play. Another friend of ours, let's call her M, has recently "discovered" polyamory. M is someone who I was nearly involved with years ago but who decided (at the time) she was not into polyamorous relationships (and again citing that she did not want to damage the "holy" relationship that is my wife and I), recently got a divorce. Upon being free of her bad relationship and worse husband, she has decided that she is, in fact, VERY into being polyamorous.

M went from "Polyamory is bad" to "I'm in three relationships at once, look at how awesome I am!" overnight, and while I'm happy for her newfound freedom, I have to admit I'm more than a little jealous of M's success and can't help but be frustrated. I've always felt this way and more-or-less embraced this lifestyle but could barely maintain a triad, but she's fresh out of the gate and it's like she invented being poly.

A lot of this plays out at various anime and scifi conventions, which is the closest to any sort of poly meet and greet I've attended to date. Miss M and I both frequent them due to our hobbies (I'm a writer/artist/panelist/humorist, she's a semi-pro booth babe). She develops a gaggle of men who follow her around and usually winds up with an impressive collection of hickeys, while I make awkward passes at people who I think might be interested in me while completely and totally missing the signals from those who actually are because (as I said before) I'm horribly out-of-practice at this.

The mean part of me would suspect that she was really not interested in polyamory and was just doing this as a rebellion against her oppressive upbringing and even further oppressive husband, but I do genuinely believe she's in it for the love more than anything else. While she often comes back from conventions covered in hickeys, but has (as of the last time we talked, she's at another convention this week) only had actual sex with one person at a con - still one more than I've had, but there you go.

The more I think about her, her successes, and my own general failures, the more I start to question my own motives. Where is the line between being polyamorous and being just plain old promiscuous? I love my wife and she will always remain my primary (thus my decision to marry her and have a kid with her), but since we hooked up so young, we both more-or-less bypassed the entire dating scene. Later on, she went off to college, which was about the time we decided to be officially "open" in our relationship, but between the two of us and being as open as we have been, we've racked up an unimpressive number of actual partners.

To date, my wife is at three with me, our third, and another friend of hers who was just interested in her and not me, while I'm at just two - my wife and our former third. I completely and freely admit - I would like to have sex with more people. I feel like I missed something, developmentally, by being so (unintentionally) mono so early on. I missed experiences, and adventures, and a lot of fun physical activity. Yay physical activities.

And so, since I'm in an open marriage anyway, and I'm entirely 100% sure I'm capable of loving at least a couple people simultaniously, I don't see why I can't also get to maybe have some more sex too. My ultimate goal is love - that's it, just love. To love and to be loved. I'd welcome another LTR - or two, or three, or whatever - and as I said before maybe reforming the triangle of power (assuming my wife and I find someone who likes the both of us that way at the same time), I can't say I'd feel all that bad if I wound up going through a few less... permanent... relationships as well.

And now, I'm worried about what that makes me.

I'd welcome your thoughts, those of you who survived the wall of text.
 

sage

New member
I thought promiscuousness was kinda over and people now get to explore their sexuality however they want as long as they don't hurt anyone and are responsible with protection, especially mature adults. With teenagers I'd be a bit more concerned, but I think you guys are old enough to sort yourselves out. Having said that I'm not a poly purist. To me an open relationship is an open relationship whether it's polyamory, fwb, swinging or whatever. That's just my take on it, others will feel differently I'm sure.
 

ZeroDrakken

New member
Yeah, I probably coulda used the term "man whore" so much more effectively here, but then I'd lose the parallel I was attempting to draw through minimal alliteration.
 

nycindie

Active member
I will have to think a bit on the "promiscuous vs. poly" part of your post, but for now, I just wanted to offer this:

Do not think of your past relationships or attempts at relationships as failures. They were opportunities for learning and growth, both of which I am sure happened for you. Just because a relationship ended or didn't go as we had hoped, we didn't fail. Some relationships have a beginning, middle, and end; many are meant to be finite. That doesn't mean our lives were not enhanced or even blessed by them in whatever way they were meant to be. So stop thinking of yourself as a failure in that regard; think of yourself as someone on a journey.

The other thing is: stop comparing! No one wins -- ever! -- when we compare ourselves to others. Just get out of that mindfuck. It is a given, in general, that women have an easier time finding poly partners or playmates. Whether poly or mono, men want sex but women are in charge of whether sex happens. That's just the way of the world. Your friend's or your wife's "successes" in finding partners or their ability to attract attention, is no reflection on your abilities to do the same. It's just different for guys.

That is my immediate response to reading your initial post; I will write more after I've had some coffee. :)
 

Ariakas

Bosun
I am open first, poly second. I date, enjoy dating and do it because I want to. I don't believe i will love everyone, and don't believe I fall in love easily. So I need to get to know a person well. Being friends and getting to know someone is one way. Dating and flirting is another. Fucking the first date.. can also work (I married my one night stand)

Poly is non-monogamy with the capacity to romantically love more than one person. Thats it, the relationship stuff comes in many variations.

Also avoid the traps of comparing your "successes". Its an immediate was to start thinking negatively which WILL directly impact chances for meeting people. You wife is having a bunch of fun, temp successes and.. likely learning from it. Once its realized that there is limited time in a day.. things should hopefully settle.

It sounds like you are at the new and shiny stage. That does pass and people fall in line with relationships their schedule allows.

Best of luck..
 

Ariakas

Bosun
Do not think of your past relationships or attempts at relationships as failures. They were opportunities for learning and growth, both of which I am sure happened for you. Just because a relationship ended or didn't go as we had hoped, we didn't fail. Some relationships have a beginning, middle, and end; many are meant to be finite. That doesn't mean our lives were not enhanced or even blessed by them in whatever way they were meant to be. So stop thinking of yourself as a failure in that regard; think of yourself as someone on a journey.

Good point.. one.. I equally hate.. and respect. But it is unfortunately true.
 

ZeroDrakken

New member
Do not think of your past relationships or attempts at relationships as failures. They were opportunities for learning and growth, both of which I am sure happened for you.

The problem is that I don't actually have those past relationships - I've always identified as poly (or at least having the capacity to be) but have been strictly mono (though not for trying). Aside from the brief period of time where we had a "unicorn" (as you folks have dubbed them) pass through our lives and bed, it's been really REALLY uneventful for me. None of the relationships I've been besides my wife have ever been intentional - I didn't go looking for a second girlfriend, or a unicorn, or anything else - they just kinda happened, and I was accepting (nay, grateful) but I've never before actually sought one out.

I think that's part of why I'm questioning my own motives now - it's fine to say you're stopping waiting for something to happen to you and deciding instead to proactively go looking for people, but I'm not entirely sure I trust why I want to do it. What Ariakas said sounds very familiar and right to me, so I don't feel nearly as bad about going actively "on the hunt". I just don't want to do anything that would hurt anybody - not intentionally, anyway, I understand that some hurt is always an option when dealing with love and romance and stuff.
 

sagency

New member
ZD, keeping score is a common impulse but not a wise one.

Poly folk tend to define poly in terms of wanting emotional connection and relationships with others. It sounds like the booth babe would qualify as more of a swinger or--perhaps a tad harshly--a tease. Some folks like to use the label poly because they think it's more palpable than swinger. As for her "successes" versus yours, I've found the conventions you mention tend to be seething pools of poorly directed hormones. For a willing, vaguely passable girl, it's like shooting fish in a barrel--large fish in a small barrel at that.

It sort of sounds like you need a course on flirting and innuendo plus more confidence in just putting yourself out there. Don't get all wrapped up in the end game--emotional connection and a relationship--when the kickoff is about fun and trying new things. Heck, if you and M get along, you might even ask her to help you become a better flirt. Maybe she'll help, maybe not, and maybe she'll get to know you better in the process.
 

ZeroDrakken

New member
You're completely right about the "course on flirting and innuendo" - these used to come easily to me, but for a long time it's like that part of my brain had just gone dormant and now that I'm actively trying to use it again, the rust in the gears is making me feel even more socially uneasy. Plus, add the open/poly framework to that, and it's an even stranger conversation - "No, really, my wife is completely ok with this. We can call her if you like. In fact, she'll probably thank you." That's why my plan is to first seek the company of some other local polys, because it'll make at least some of that conversation less... weird. If that conversation happens, that is.

And I do know it's not a race, or a contest, and I'm not trying (consciously) to keep score. I only brought up sexual history as an example to show exactly how "in the hole" (no pun intended) my wife and I both are on actual experiences because of the fears people have of "tampering with us". And I also know in my brain meats that being a girl gives her a distinct advantage in most social scenes, especially conventions, but knowing that doesn't actually help things.

I did already ask M to drag me along on whatever adventures she has. Last time we went together (Penguicon, a linux/scifi convention in Detroit), she sort of... forgot about me... and wound up at a big hot tub party all night, while I sat alone in our hotel room. No, seriously. You're welcome to throw a "your friends suck" in here, I know, but they're the only ones I have.
 

sagency

New member
I don't mean to have M just drag you along. I mean ask her to turn you into her socializing experiment.

"M, your flirtation skills are legendary. I want to be your grasshopper and have you teach me the ways of snatching the pebble from your hand. I'm a dude, so your work is cut out for you, but I bet you could do it. No picking up smouldering urns with my bare wrists though."

Hell, turn it into a game. Hang out with her and have her pick out a chick to hit on. Go hit on her, and report your results.

Or you could try something perhaps more sane (maybe)... hit on your cashier. No, really, next time you go to the grocery or a restaurant, look at your cashier or waitress. Find something about her that sticks out (something, not somethingS, sheesh). Make a comment about it like a normal, not creepy person. ("Hey, Cindy, let me ask you... Is it true that I should avoid the crab delight at all costs?" or "Hey there, Sue, you look like you're ready for this shift to be over.") It's good practice at using her name and working on being more fluid. It doesn't matter if she's 18 or 80--it's practice. Think: Southern charm.
 

ZeroDrakken

New member
The problem is that M - I suspect - is still a little hung up on me from our not-quite-a-relationship years ago. She still sees me with somewhat rose-tinted glasses, and when I talk to her about my problems, she dismisses them saying that I'm awesome and don't actually need any help. Like the night I mentioned with the hot tub - she didn't go looking for me because she figured I was up to equally awesome sexy adventures elsewhere, where in fact I was curled in the fetal position wishing that I had the courage to go out and have those adventures and silently cursing her for disappearing and not answering her phone.

I'm trying not to do that anymore - not to be that guy. That's one of the reasons I'm here... this is a lot more forward than I've ever actually been about my emotions or relationships or anything else than I've ever actually been, and it feels pretty good to get a lot of this stuff off my chest, even if it may not actually be helping anything.

I do like the idea of her giving me assignments. Possibly us, since I'm trying to find a con my wife can also attend. We function better as a team, if only out of practice, which I think may be another one of the reasons I have troubles on my own.
 

sagency

New member
Fake it 'til you make it, bro. :D

If M is grading you on too much of a curve, you're back to self-study. I really wasn't kidding when I suggested chatting up (perhaps that's a better term in this case than hitting on) people you meet in normal daily interaction. I started chatting with staff folks years ago because I sometimes have questions that won't go away, and I let myself be bold enough to voice them. You'd be amazed what strangers will share when you engage them in conversation as though they're normal humans worth listening to. (A restaurant in Philly used to make their staff pick through the garbage every night to get flatware out because the busboys would just dump the entire plate over and the new manager was a jerk--but now they don't lose flatware anymore, for example. Those old people over there just order hot water and nothing else, and when the water comes out, they pull out their own tea bags and use the sugar on the table...)

Anyway, set a few goals for yourself:
1) I'm going to learn her name.
2) I'm going to learn something about her that is not readily aparent.
3) I'm going to find something about her to compliment.

If you try these as a personal exercise while going through your normal routines, then you might find it's easier to get the ball rolling in the hormone-infused atmosphere of a convention. Heck, you might find a perfectly fine target at the Safeway and not worry about the cons altogether.

It's about having fun and trying out new stuff. Save the decoder rings and throat-clogging Deep Talks <tm> for after she's bowled over by your witty banter.
 

ClariceK

New member
I have to say that I know exactly how you feel but I am female. I am not good at flirting, I am shy about asking a girl anything let alone to come home with me and hubby. Hubby has the same thought process about how hard it is to say "No really, my wife is ok with it and would love to meet you" yet he has been the one who has always gotten the girl. (Except the girl I found while inpatient in a psych hospital, I had a very bad time for a while with my PTSD issues, and was admitted because of depression that "others were concerned about" I felt I didn't belong there, I met a woman who I was attracted to but had never been with a girl. I seduced her and we both got into trouble a number of times for "being alone in inappropriate ways in inappropriate places like alcoves. I had even gotten male patients to stand guard in exchange for watching me and her make out up against the soda machine. Hubby met her when he came for visiting hours, he liked her but was apprehensive about the whole "She is a psych patient you know" but I convinced him that he loves me even though I am pretty freaking nuts (the last 10 years of therapy has helped me to see that this was more about being in a very low place and grabbing the first hot thing I could find to hold to my head and burn myself with) so he agreed to see her after we both were discharged. She was married, to a man who was abusive in many ways, going so far as to take advantage of the fact that she had seizures by having sex with her while she was "out of it" after. She came and stayed with us when she left her husband, after a week she went back to him, he threatened to take her kid away from her, so she went back to him. About 3 weeks after she left, a police officer shows up at our house to "ask my husband some questions". This woman went to the police, told them that my husband kidnapped and raped her, wouldn't let her leave our house, that she was forced to have sex with not only both me and my husband but also over 12 other men we brought home (NEVER has my hubby ever wanted to or even thought of having another man involved with anything, so that was a shock LOL). Luckily the officer thought that her story sounded kinda hokey, and when we handed him a box of birthday cards, love letters, and also letters telling my husband I how much her husband had done to abuse her and the things he was doing to her, the police officer looked at hubby and said "Maybe if you are gonna sleep with women other then your wife you should make sure they aren't absolutely batshit crazy" which to this day hubby and I use the phrase "batshit crazy" to judge the level of craziness that a woman has.

That was probably the scariest experience I have ever had as a poly, I mean the idea that if we hadn't had the love letters and other proof that it was consensual (right down to her writing in a card that my husband was the best sex she ever had and that she was the happiest when she was having sex with him) that my husband could have been put in prison for another woman and her husbands word of the way things transpired. I had never before considered that to be a risk of this lifestyle and I dont know how many really do think of that as a potential pitfall. Of course there is a chance that can happen in any relationship, mono people do it all the time, get pissed because the sex and relationship is over and decide that they are going to do whatever they can to make the other person pay, even if it means completely ruining their life. Hubby and I have considered (not seriously but jokingly) getting a form letter written up stating "I am choosing of my own free will to have sex with these people, they have not kidnapped, coerced or otherwise tried to kill me" (she said we didn't let her have anything to eat or drink the entire time she was here, I know we are so mean, I mean we both went out of the house daily, left her with her own vehicle here to "run away" if she wanted to, which when the police asked about this she said she had "stockholm syndrome" helped her open her own bank account, but we didn't feed her the entire time.) I would have thought an intelligent captive would have said to the bank person setting up the account "Hey these people are holding me hostage and have given me the $100 I am opening this account with, so please dont let them take me away and call the police for me" I dont know if you can tell I am still a bit bitter about that relationship.

I guess I am saying this to let you know that you can find what you want, but there will be bumps along the way. If you want to have a triad with your wife, then you need to be around when she meets the other person. It isn't that she isn't thinking of you, it is just that her eyes and mind is on other things at that moment and not thinking "He might be curled up in the fetal position wishing I wasn't in a hot tub", go to the hot tub with her!! If you dont talk she will be able to fill in the spaces. It has been a hard road for hubby and I, but now that we have SluttyUnicorn, we are so happy it has been worth it. Hang in there and watch out for the "batshit crazy" women out there!! Most importantly I have found that the more I keep the "have fun" mantra in my head, the more fun I end up having.
 
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ZeroDrakken

New member
To clarify, M is not my wife. Here are the four characters in my life...

Me - Me, straight male poly an in open relationship, now married
Wife - Bi female poly in an open relationship, now married (to me)
The Unicorn - Bi female poly formerly in a triad with my wife and I, left us because she was concerned she was going to break up my wife and I despite the fact that our relationship was actually without any drama or jealousy and was even stronger with her balancing things out. Now just a friend who still has strong feelings for the both of us and comes over to hang out and throw huge waves of UST at the both of us. Yay.
"Miss M" - Straight female ex-mono, now embracing the poly lifestyle (perhaps too vigorously). Years ago, was almost the other side of a vee, with me as the hinge, but decided she could not handle it. Married a borderline autistic guy who verbally abused her and was emotionally distant. Now divorced and has decided she DOES want to be poly, just not with me. Direct contact with her and her awakening polyamory has caused me to reembark on my own quest for a more active, full poly lifestyle, but has also made me question if I may just be trying to get more action.

Other than that, I appreciate the fact that I'm not the only poly who also sucks at dating (no offence). A part of it is that my self-confidence has taken a lot of serious hits over the last few years (I believe the term 'repeatedly shattered' came up in therapy once... from the therapist) and while I may apparently still be awesome and sexy, I no longer see myself as awesome and sexy, so I have a hard time accepting that others see me that way (including my wife, much to her frustration). I'm working on it though.
 

ClariceK

New member
More paragraph breaks, please!

I apologize, I know it may not have seemed like it but I went back and put the ones there in there LOL I tend to just type and type. I have been doing what is called "unconscious writing" for a number of years and that is just sitting and writing or typing whatever comes up and to mind, it is something that gets too easy to transition into when I start typing for more then a minute or two.

I will try to be more respectful of others who have to read my ramblings and again I apologize.
 

gwendolenthefair

New member
Zerodrakken, have you sought partners online at all? Cons are all very well but you are a shy guy and it sounds like getting to know someone online might be much easier for you up front. Okcupid is a great site and if you aren't fixated on finding only local partners (since you sound like you live in an area where there might not be many), you might have very good luck there at making new connections.

Also, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

There are plenty of straight married poly women and we are the wallflowers at the party, from what I have heard and experienced.

I cannot tell you how many times a guy like you with a bisexual wife or girlfriend has wasted my time getting to know me and then, just as I think we are starting a relationship, I get some version of "Ooops, you are neither bisexual or single, never mind!"

Five years poly here in one of the poly hotbeds of the U.S., actively looking the entire time, and have found exactly TWO poly men to date in that five years. Lost number 1 after two years together when his domme got jealous and made him end it, lost number 2 when he decided he wasn't poly after all. At present I have the beginnings of a LDR with someone halfway across the country, and my dear husband, and that is it. I'm smart and cute and loving and a fabulous girlfriend and my husband is the greatest male metamour ever. I can find any amount of casual sex with very attractive monos, but finding an intelligent, loving, attractive poly guy who will actually date a straight married woman, and who doesn't already have three girlfriends...well, I can dream, I guess.

Forget about finding unicorn number 2 and forget about single, and go find someone like me. Trust me, our dance cards aren't full.
 
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gwendolenthefair

New member
All I want is someone who is fairly local and has time to see me a few times a month, and keep in reasonable touch the rest of the time. Dating a single man can be easier from a logistical standpoint, but I'd happily date someone married or attached as long as their partner was on board and willing to tell me so to my face. My last secondary partner was married when we were together, and my first one was married when I met him, although he and his wife separated soon after.

At present, I'd probably opt for happily married or attached over single if I had my druthers, because I lost my last sweetie to monogamy when his marriage fell apart, and I see that possibility as much greater if the person is already single.

I do have someone poly and local right now who says he's interested in a relationship with me. We've met twice, initially at a speed dating thing and then, a couple of months later, for lunch. That one lunch date was scheduled and rescheduled numerous times because he is SO busy. I don't think he's even communicated with me once a week since I met him. He appears to be overwhelmed with attending to his two female live-in partners (neither of them is his wife) and his social life in general. He has no job at present and it won't get better once he finds one, I'm sure. Needless to say, I'm writing him off. I've met a lot of what I call "no-time guys" in the local poly community and that just won't suit me.
 
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ZeroDrakken

New member
I haven't really looked into online dating much, but mainly because I haven't been "actively" looking to date until now. It's something i'd certainly consider though. I still would like another unicorn situation (what can I say, I'm a fan of one stop shopping) but I understand how unrealistic that actually is so i' not holding my breath.

As to the single straight wallflower poly thing, you're about the exact class and speed of person i'd be looking for, but my own similar nature seems to prevent me actually meeting someone like you.
 
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