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-   -   Polyamorous vs Promiscuous - A Question of Motive (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=12286)

ZeroDrakken 07-17-2011 12:00 PM

Polyamorous vs Promiscuous - A Question of Motive
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 07-17-2011 12:37 PM

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 07-17-2011 12:42 PM

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 07-17-2011 02:53 PM

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 07-17-2011 03:07 PM

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 07-17-2011 03:08 PM


Originally Posted by nycindie (Post 92308)
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 07-18-2011 05:45 AM


Originally Posted by nycindie (Post 92308)
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 07-18-2011 06:32 AM

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 07-18-2011 07:26 AM

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 07-18-2011 07:49 AM

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.

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