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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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Talking About Open Marriage

by Sierra on January 23, 2012 · 28 comments

in Uncategorized

Hello Salon readers!

If you came here from there, you already know I’m on Salon talking about my open marriage.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (hi, Mom!), you can go there for the juicy details about my romantic life, and then come back here for some regularly scheduled programming. Or you can choose to skip this chapter entirely – it’s not that relevant to the main theme of this blog. Mom, fair warning, there are details about sex in that Salon piece. You might prefer to keep reading here.

Now, since I’ve broached this topic, I’ll do something I’m often not eager to do and answer questions about it. Leave ‘em in the comments if you got ‘em. I’ll make another post in a day or two with answers about whatever: jealousy, schedules, STIs, anything you want to ask. If the questions are rude I’ll cheerfully ignore them, but anything asked in good faith I’ll try to answer.

 

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  • http://kellielynch.org/ Kellie Lynch

    I wandered over here from Salon. No questions from me; I just wanted to say thank you for writing that. When Newt is the “public face” of polyamory, we need all the representation we can get from reasonable, honest, and intelligent people.

    So many of the commenters on that article are spouting “It never works out!”–I think they’d be well-served by reading all the other comments talking about the times when it has. I’m one more story on that pile–my husband and I have been open since the beginning, and we’ve been together for 10 happy years. 

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    thank you! Congrats on your happy decade together. We’re coming up on ten years this fall, and it’s such a sweet time for us. 

    [Reply]

    Kellie Lynch Reply:

    Congrats to you, too!

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  • http://cos.livejournal.com/ Cos

    I posted your article to reddit’s /r/polyamory where it was the top link for a the day, and spurred some disucssions:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/polyamory/comments/or52z/our_successful_open_marriage/

    One portion of your article I disagreed with was:

    “Some people – maybe most people – really are jealous simply because their honey likes someone else. Their jealousy isn’t an arrow pointing at another problem that can be worked out. It’s a sick feeling in their gut telling them this is not the right relationship to be in. If you feel like that, do yourself a favor and hightail it back to monogamy.”

    My experience – including seeing people change from “polyamory is not for me” to becoming poly over the years, and having had a couple of girlfriends who were very jealous-possessive-monogamous when we met – tells me that this reaction to jealousy is not inherent in a person’s character. It’s a symptom of how they frame jealousy, sex, fidelity, and so on, in their life, and the experiences they’ve had, and the relationships they’ve seen. Someone who experiences jealousy in the fashion she describes here won’t necessarily always do so, if they get used to seeing polyamory around them and genuinely want to try it themselves.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thanks for that clarification, Cos. I should have spoken more personally about that issue. Of course my experience isn’t universal, and it’s great to know that kind of jealousy doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker for someone who wants to be poly but is having a hard time with it. 

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    Ms Griswold Reply:

    I’m a fairly jealous person, but I find that polyamory works better for me than monogamy, in part, because it provides a framework for talking about jealousy  that isn’t about blame. Feeling jealous doesn’t (necessarily) mean that either one of us is doing something wrong. It’s just a feeling. I might alter my behavior because of it, say not go to a party where my sweetie wants to make out with someone else. Or, I might ask my partner to alter his behavior out of concern for my feelings. Or, I might choose to just endure it.

    It does mean that I don’t participate in the local poly community in the same way that some of my friends do (e.g. going to make-out parties) but by no means does it make me less polyamorous.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thanks for this thoughtful perspective.

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  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    That’s a great question. Thank you for sharing your story and for asking such thoughtful questions. I’m going to sit on it for a day or so before I respond, so I can give you an equally thoughtful answer.

    [Reply]

  • SayWhat

    You’ve been married for 10 years, but dating your girlfriend for three. Isn’t it awkward to tell someone you’re dating that you’re already married? I’d imagine a lot of people would run in the other direction. Do they?

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thanks for the question. I live in a community where open marriages and polyamory are common. My girlfriend is also married, and we were both already poly when we began dating. We’d known each as friends for some time and we knew each other’s families well.
    So, no, it wasn’t awkward; I imagine it might be if I were interested in dating strangers, but I’m not.

    [Reply]

    Rachel Stevens Reply:

    The way I found my way into the poly community was through internet dating.  When I listed myself as “in a relationship” but still open to dating, most of the people who were interested in me were poly.  So, I think we’re a self-selecting group.  If I were to go after people in bars or conceal my relationship prior to dating someone, they might run away, but as it is, my relationship(s) are disclosed long before the first date, so it’s never a problem.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.SimonSellsIt.com/ Jen

    Sierra, I enjoyed your article on Salon. I am impressed with your bravery, not so much in being poly, but in being willing to put yourself out there in writing.  Feed back is a viscious thing.  While reading your article and hearing about your positive experiences I thought – I wonder if she lives in Boston?  I know the poly crowd in the Boston area peripherally and your general description sounded like the people I am acquainted with.  I find them to be nice, interesting, disorganized, opinionated, balanced, crazy, hardworking, messy, creative, argumentative, and in so many ways people just like everyone else.  I see many couples with young children, but know one family with 3 teen to adult kids who are really great.  I wish you much joy and happiness in all of your relationships.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thanks, Jen. I think I know the family you mean, and certainly I know the community you’re describing. So good to hear your well wishes!

    [Reply]

  • http://msmsgirl.livejournal.com/ msmsgirl

    I also just wanted to say Wow, I’m so impressed you’re in salon! Great piece, and thank you for representing for all the happy, honest, functional open marriages and other non-monogamous arrangements out there! (I’m another one, never been anything but open with my husband of 5 years and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.)

    I have a question related to thinking about how we’ll represent our marriage to kids in the future: Do you ever worry that by being out to your kids about your non-monogamous arrangements, you will influence them towards monogamy out of reaction against their parents’ lifestyle?  This seems like a weird thing to be worried about, but I do.  We have found such happiness and freedom in non-monogamy, I would really hate to curtail our kids’ eventual romantic choices in an unintentional direction by giving them that example to rebel against.  

    I know that such a huge part of my own embrace of non-monogamy had to do with growing up in a climate where it was harped on as this be-all-and-end-all dealbreaker, and marriages were routinely destroyed over it.  OF COURSE, a lot of this is about kids seeing their parents in HAPPY, rather than miserable, relationship situations — which we are, extremely happy, so that will hopefully go a long way towards assuaging my fears of how reactionary kids and teenagers can be.

    Both my husband and I rejected monogamy in part because of how abysmally badly our parents did it, but we are also both just temperamentally NOT suited to lifelong monogamy, and if they take after us at all I think our children are not likely to be extremely well-suited to it either.  It *almost* seems preferable to be in the closet to them, and to communicate our sexual values as we raise them *without disclosing* the fact that we actually were putting our bodies where our mouths were, so to speak, if it would increase the likelihood that they would grow up just not thinking there was anything necessary or superior about monogamy, just seeing it as one option among many, rather than this big thing their parents had rejected. 

    But of course, am I not going to share with my kids how I live my values in other areas of life, for fear of their rejecting them?? Of course not.  

    I just wondered what you thought of this–it’s the opposite of the usual “how will it affect the children?” question. Do kids have an inherent propensity to embrace what their parents reject?  What kinds of messages do you see them formulating from what they observe about your relationships?  Have they said or done anything thus far that made you think they had a different attitude — in either direction — about sharing or exclusivity or family or love than kids of monogamous families?

    [Reply]

    Niki Reply:

     Just to give one real world example, my parents are poly, and have been for as long as I remember.

     I am in a long-term poly relationship with my fiance. My sister is married monogamously. I have another friend in a similar situation, and he is monagamous, while his sister is poly.

    I never thought of being poly or not poly as rebelling or not rebelling, it just seemed to make sense as a relationship model for me, and not for my sister.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thanks so much for sharing that. It seems to reflect what I see in my friends’ grown children: some of them choose to be poly and some don’t, and it doesn’t seem to be a source of stress one way or the other.

    [Reply]

    msmsgirl Reply:

    Thanks so much for this perspective — I am *greatly* hoping that it works out for us to have kids and be out to them, because of exactly what your story exemplifies: the power of seeing adults in honest, successful, happy, mature relationships to take children’s choices out of the reaction/rebellion paradigm altogether.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    This is a great perspective for me as well, since I’m raising my kids in an out poly family.
    The kids I’ve seen grow up in poly households have made their own choices about monogamy or not-monogamy. I haven’t seen any of them rebel against their parents’ openness by choosing more conservative lifestyles. My own experience is somewhat parallel: I was raised by wild hippies. As an adult, I’ve chosen some of the alternatives my parents brought me up with, done some things more mainstream than they did, and adopted some alternative lifestyles they didn’t embrace. I think growing up in an unusual home made me more aware that I had choices, though, and inclined me to really seek out what worked for me.

  • http://lovelivegrow.com/ Issa @ LoveLiveGrow

    I’ve been enjoying your blog here for awhile, and so I was delighted to see your Salon post being passed around my G+ the last few days. I really enjoyed your article (although I didn’t dive into the comments, because those often rile me up!) I recently posted myself about 20 years happily poly, and I love to read other people’s happy accounts, too. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thank you! I love hearing happy stories too! share a link to yours?

    [Reply]

  • Anonymous

    Just read your Salon article. Here’s an alternative explanation about why you’re so self-congratulatory about your “arrangement”: You are a  lesbian and have managed to convince a beta male chump to have your children. No wonder you’re so happy! Sure beats you and your “girlfriend” going to the sperm bank. You bring the “entitled white female American” cliche to a new level. Congratulations, I guess. I sure hope your “husband” is getting something out of it, temporarily at least. The “me” generation lives on…

    [Reply]

  • Meagan

    I get itchy when people talk about alt lifestyles in tandem to cases such as Gingretch (sp?). When someone has an affair, then asks for an open marriage, he isn’t “different,” he is a scumbag who wants to have his cake and eat it too. What you are doing and living is totally different, and using Gingretch as a launching point makes me nervous, it sort of undermines your lifestyle if that makes any sense?

    I have poly friends, but am personally not into sharing.

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Thanks for your perspective. Things like the Gingrich story are just a news hook – they put this topic in the headlines and made space for people like me to write about these issues. I couldn’t agree with you more: Gingrich is a lying cad who richly deserves the mockery and derision of the public, and his wife did the right thing to leave him.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Sierra, thank you for your openness to educating strangers about this. I live in Boston too, but don’t know any poly people myself and I’m curious about how it works. Mainly, I wonder about the non-primary partners. You said you met your current girlfriend by being friends first, but have you dated anyone else during your relationship with your husband? If so, how did you handle the breakup? Do you ever date outside the poly community, or is it too complicated? Do you and your husband have any guidelines for your other relationships? I recognize this will probably be different for everyone, but I’m just curious how it works for you because you seem to be doing it well and happily.

    Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    These are great questions; thank you for asking. I’m going to answer them in their own post. Stay tuned!

    [Reply]

  • Julianne Baecker

    While I think making open relationships public is great, this phrasing bugs me:”We’ve been dating for three years. Eventually, many people who like each other as much as we do get married.”If you like eachother enough to get married, why not call it what it is? 
    Why call it “like”?Why not call it love?

    [Reply]

    Sierra Reply:

    Just a poor turn of phrase on my part. I do love her, and tell her so nearly every day.

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  • Sinny

    What is your advice on sharing the fact your in an open marriage with potential lovers & friends?

    [Reply]

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