In this new monthly series that will be featured on Sex and the Southern Belle, we will be doing interviews with those people involved (directly or indirectly) with issues in sexuality, sex industry, gender, and relationships. Some of these interviews will be educational, eye-opening, and hopefully, thought provoking.
This month, we will be talking to Elle (wife) and Dee (husband), a young, African-American married couple who live a polyamorous lifestyle. What is a "poly" lifestyle? Read our unedited, unfiltered. interview with the very candid couple:
1) Could you define what "polyamorous" is for those not familiar? What's the difference between that and say "swingers" or "open relationships"?
Elle: A polyamorous person believes in "multiple loves." Polyamory is having multiple loving relationships with the full-knowledge and consent of ALL parties involved. You could find a couple where one person has an additional partner or partners, both may have extras or they could even be dating the same person or people as a group.
Open relationships and non-monogamy are the umbrella terms for non-traditional relationships like polyamory and swinging. Swinging is different than polyamory because it tends to only involve sexual acts without a relationship between all parties. There are also different levels of swinging. A couple may not switch partners and only have sex in the same room, they could swap and only have oral sex or allow full penetration or they may swap partners without the person they're attached to being in the room.
Dee: Polyamory is the idea that one can have more than one intimate relationship or more than one lover if you will. This isn't the same as having a open relationship where one has sex with multiple partners or swingers where people swap their mates with another couple. Polyamory is more, on the other hand, more than sex. In a poly relationship, you treat your lovers the same as one would treat a lover in a non poly relationship. When one is in a relationship, there are rules of being faithful and while you're loving more than one person, that doesn't give you the go ahead to sleep with people outside of the relationship that has been established.
2) How were you introduced to this lifestyle? Would you even call it a lifestyle?
Elle: I do believe it is a lifestyle. About 9 years ago we discussed opening up our relationship. We started off as just swingers after stumbling across sites like Adult Friend Finder and Swing LifeStyle. It evolved over time into us looking for romantic partners and together having a girlfriend for about a year. She was married and had a "puppy" as she was into BDSM.
Dee:. how I was introduced? One evening me and the wife had a conversation about loving more than one person. We believed that we were swingers at the moment and started attending clubs. Eventually, we realize that we could actually have a relationship outside of the one we had now. As far as calling it a lifestyle? I understand why people would say it but, at this moment, I feel that it's normal.
3) What makes a polyamorous union work for you and your wife/husband?
Elle: I've made it clear to my husband that I will always love him but that doesn't mean that I won't be attracted to or fall in love with other people. And he feels the same way. It allows us to share with each other how we feel about other people without feeling ashamed or guilty.
Dee: Understanding is what works for us. Being able to communicate also helps as well. We both feel that it's easy for us to love more than one person so there's really no conflict. Being honest and upfront about new loves is the utmost importance in making it work.
4) What are the ground rules for you and your husband? Are they established in the poly community or differ between each poly couple?
Elle: Rules differ among the community but an underlying tenet is that everyone has to be on the up and up. Otherwise it's not polyamory, it's cheating. We still swing from time to time so a main rule is that we always do it together. For polyamory, it's a must that we let the other know if we have feelings for someone as soon as it comes up. It sucks to be blindsided and we'd like to avoid that. If anyone has apprehensions then we halt everything and talk it out. Once someone is on the off-limits list they stay there unless as a couple we decide to remove the restriction.
Dee: Well, I don't know of the rules of most poly couples. Our rules is that we bring the new person to each other to have a talk. We hang out, get to know the other person and if we're satisfied with that person, then we give the ok. In a sense, its like we're both getting use to the person and being comfortable with a new person in our lives. Even if only one is dating that person, we both have to be comfortable with them.
5) You have children. So how will you (if you decide to) explain your lifestyle to your kid(s)? Is there a certain age? Or even things you wouldn't discuss about polyamory?
Elle: We have one young child right now. For him, and any future children, we won't share the intimate details of our other relationships. Our hope is that anyone who is a long-term partner will fill an aunt/uncle role in our children's lives. They will know that their parents love them as a part of the family. Other than that we'll just leave it unless our child asks specifics.
Dee: Since he's small, it won't be much of a problem because he will grow in the family and a poly family is what he'll know. When he gets old enough to understand we will explain in more detail to him. We don't plan on hiding our relationships but, we won't introduce new people to them until we reach the relationship stage.
6) What advice do you have for those couples who would like to establish a polyamorous relationship? Any books or resources you'd point them to?
Elle: Communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE! I can't emphasize that enough. Each person has their own expectations and it's not a given that your partner(s) will know. Also, don't rush. Go as slow as the most uncomfortable partner needs. Don't be afraid to talk to other polyamorous people about their experiences. Some good resources are Tristan Taormino's "Opening Up" and Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy's "The Ethical Slut".
Dee: I haven't read any books on this BUT, I would tell new couples to make sure that this is what they want. To actually sit down and imagine their significant other loving another person and to understand how to deal with their emotions. Also, that communication at all times is important. If you feel a certain way, bring it up your lover.
Thanks Elle and Dee for your candidness and educating us!
If you would have a unique story to share, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org