With This Ring – What Marriage Means to Me as a Polyamorist

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With This Ring - What Marriage Means to Me as a PolyamoristI went to therapy for the first time last week. Between the recent breakup with my (our) girlfriend, and general marital stresses at home, it was time to find someone to vent on that would actually be able to help, instead of just thoughtfully nodding at me and offering hugs. Not that I don’t like hugs.

One of the questions that my new, delightful, poly-friendly therapist posed to me was about marriage. We were discussing commitment, and she asked what marriage meant to me in terms of commitment, and how it’s different from a long-term boyfriend/girlfriend type of relationship.

This is actually a pretty poignant and pertinent question for me, especially because I’ve seen so many people that seem to be on board with polyamory or open relationships, until marriage becomes a question. In an online article about an open marriage, I read a horribly vindictive comment that basically said “Sure, it’s great to fuck around when you’re young, but once you get married, it means you need to be monogamous forever.” Worse, we encountered a similar sentiment in real life with the parents of one of the girls in my constellation. My husband had to deal with his girlfriend’s dad basically treating him like a confused frat boy. His sentiment was that you know, it’s great that you can get this many girls to fall in love with you, but you’re married now. Stop that. He treated the idea of multiple partners as a great thing for a young man that wants to sow his wild oats, but that’s all. So my husband’s girlfriend’s father is now treating her like a homewrecker, and is concerned on my behalf for my marriage – mind you, I’ve never met this man.

So, no. Marriage does not mean it’s time to sever all the polyamorous connections and commit to monogamy with my one and only. Pardon my severity, monogamous folks, but that’s stupid. If I wanted to be monogamous, I would be monogamous with my boyfriend or girlfriend just the same as my husband or wife. I want to be polyamorous, and therefore I will do so with my boyfriend or girlfriend just the same as my husband or wife. Which brings up another issue I’ve come up against. I’ve heard a lot of people – poly folks included! – who have assumed marriage is off the table with any new partners because they’re already married. Yes, it’s true, unless we all move to Northern Africa or Southeast Asia, we can’t be legally polygamous. Sad, but true. But just speaking for myself, I don’t need the government to rubber-stamp my marriage in order for me to consider myself married. I am legally married to my husband, but personally that part of the marriage was primarily to make our financial lives easier. We’re now able to be on the same health insurance, and I think both our credit scores got a little better. We file our taxes together – by which I mean he does it for us, so big win for me. But I didn’t need the government to tell me when I was married – I just needed them to give me permission to do all those annoying money things. This means that I am open to the idea of being married again. It hasn’t come up, but it is hypothetically an option.

Ok, I hear all your frustrated sighs, enough stalling and explaining what marriage does NOT mean to me. What marriage does mean to me, is that if I decide to marry someone, I’m choosing them forever. I know, in the world of the 50% divorce rate, that doesn’t seem to be what marriage is about anymore. The fact that the phrase “starter marriage” even exists is evidence of that. Polyamory may have scrapped a lot of the terminology of the standard wedding ceremony (“forsaking all others,” for example), but I hold strongly to the “’til death to us part” portion. A wedding, to me, is a promise made among people in the witness of family, friends, and your optional deity of choice, that no matter what happens, that relationship will survive. My husband and I promised each other that we are committed to each other for the rest of our lives, and not just because we’ve legally tethered ourselves together. To me, the difference between being “partners,” “together,” “in a relationship,” etc, and being “married,” is the promise of forever.

That’s my easy definition, now let’s throw a kink in it, because my constellation are a bunch of kinky bastards. I’m gonna talk about my boyfriend. He’s got two ex-wives under his belt, and as such will not get married again. Period. Hard limit. And we accepted that as part of the deal when we got together. The question – and fear – that boundary raised in me was about how much he was willing to commit to a relationship. Based on my personal definition of marriage, “never getting married” meant “never making promises.” It meant forever wasn’t an option. But the world doesn’t operate on my definitions of things. So when he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I started doing some hard thinking. Once again, I do not have a gift-wrapped platitude to close with, because life doesn’t come with those. But I am reconsidering the meaning of commitment, within marriage and outside of it. The one thing that is certain about polyamory is that you have to let your definitions be fluid. All of them.

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About Author

Star is a 20-something kinky, poly, pansexual, educated, married lady who just likes to talk. About everything. All the time. She can be reached at starontheswingset@gmail.com.

8 Comments

  1. Warren Martin Blanchard on

    I enjoy reading your posts, Star. I find so much I can agree with. This one was great as usual. I have more than one friend with with with whom I have what I hope are ’til-death-do-us part relationships. They are like my family. I’m not sleeping with any of them, but I would sleep with most of them if I could do so without damaging our relationships. Regretably, most of them are into momogamy, but I still appreciate what we have.
    Are you on facebook? I’d like to have you as a friend?

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I have recently been thinking about marriage and what it means for my poly friends. I’d love to hear more about how tying the knot changes (or doesn’t change) the dynamic for you and your constellation.

  3. Dan Tinsoldier on

    You are, indeed, right that when you’re polyamorous your definitions of many things have to be fluid. You also have to be open to a great deal of self-exploration. Based on my experiences, I’d say that you’re right with with much of this. At least it coincides with what I believe and have come to believe. Granted, I’m in a phase where I’m trying to figure out which I need in order to be happy, polyamory or monogamy. Still not sure, but maybe it’s more accurate that in order to be a human being whose honest with itself, you have have to keep your definitions fluid and open to alteration.

    I did want to mention something that I thought of while reading this. I’ve been divorced for a while and one of the huge things I’ve struggled with was the idea of that forever promise. And with the way you put it here, I now don’t feel I have broken it. I promised to always love her and care about her, and since we managed to make it through the divorce and remain the best of friends… we do still love and care about each other, just not as romantic partners. So, thanks. I’d not really thought about it that way, and it certainly makes that piece easier to process.

    Cheers!

  4. I love this. I feel almost exactly the same way and I’m so glad that you’re writing about your life (troubles and all). You are a beacon of the hopeful future, and we are all better for knowing you.
    ~

  5. This is a really poignant piece, and tapped into one of those subconscious assumptions: that when you’re poly and married, your other partners are temporary. Something in me made that assumption without even considering it. I suppose that’s testament to how programmed I am to monogamy.

    But of course that doesn’t have to be the case! Really interesting to read this pieceā€¦ great food for thought, and despite being an advocate for every alternative relationship I can find, I’m still breaking down my own ill-learnt assumptions.

  6. Thank you so much. I have been struggling with explaining my polyamorus life style to my parents, who’s largest question has been, “then why did you get married?” I refuse to defend my lifestyle because I’m just too confrontational with them. I have been trying to find good literature to help where it can, and your post here says exactly what I believe and live perfectly. Thank you for your words, your parallel philosophies, and your willingness to share it with me.

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