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Old 11-20-2011, 08:10 AM
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Default Polyamorous vs Ethical Slut

Something about which I'd be curious to hear what others think...

People often come in here with problems related to a partner wanting to have sex with other people. In some cases this leads to romantic feelings, in others it does not.

Now, in my marriage, I'm polyamorous and my husband is an ethical slut. I describe him as "barely monoamorous." Before me, he had never had a relationship that lasted longer than 6 months because he always bailed as soon as it started to get too emotional. So because I know his history and emotional capacity, I expect him not to form loving, romantic relationships with other people.

Now, some people might see that as a double standard since I'm not playing "what's good for the goose is good for the gander." But in this case, it's actually the opposite. He makes no secret about how challenging it is for him to deal with my emotions. We've explicitly talked about this, and he completely agrees: he has zero desire to be emotionally involved with anyone else. So in that context, I can't imagine how he could form another romantic relationship and still have any energy left for me.

When we met, I proudly declared myself polyamorous and asserted that if we were going to be together, we must both be free to have romantic relationships with other people. What took me time to get my head around was being comfortable with him having sexual but non-romantic relationships with other people.

At first I used the simple excuse of safety: if you haven't formed an emotional bond, then you can't trust what they say about their sexual history. But the truth is that I just felt icky thinking about him banging strangers. Not to say there isn't a valid safety concern, but I knew deep down that wasn't my real motivation. I know how careful he is with safe sex practices, he's even taught courses on the subject.

What really took me time to realize was this: Fairness is not about both partners having the same set of freedoms and boundaries. Fairness is each partner having access to the kinds of activities he or she is interested in, and respect of the other's personal boundaries.

By saying "it's ok for you to have other romantic relationships" I really wasn't granting him anything, since he had no desire for that. But when I finally came around and said "it's ok for you to have meaningless sex with other women" that's when I was really supporting something he actually wanted to do.
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Last edited by SchrodingersCat; 11-20-2011 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 11-20-2011, 09:23 AM
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Great post!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
What really took me time to realize was this: Fairness is not about both partners having the same set of freedoms and boundaries. Fairness is each partner having access to the kinds of activities he or she is interested in, and respect of the other's personal boundaries.
I totally agree with this, it hits the nail on the head.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
By saying "it's ok for you to have other romantic relationships" I really wasn't granting him anything, since he had no desire for that. But when I finally came around and said "it's ok for you to have meaningless sex with other women" that's when I was really supporting something he actually wanted to do.
And this is well put, too! My husband and I begun opening up almost four years ago, first sexually and recently emotionally. From the start, it's been the case that, theoretically, he has more "freedoms" than I do: I am comfortable with anything he does (as long as I know he respects and loves me), but there are some things he's not comfortable with so I have some "limits" that he doesn't have. Now, if I talk about this with somebody, and I present our agreements as they are in theory, they'll think "how unfair to her".

HOWEVER. In the four years during which he's had pretty much complete freedom, what has he done? He has exchanged one kiss with one woman. In the same time I've had partial freedom, and I've taken advantage of it to have some sexual action, and I now have a girlfriend. Now, how is this unfair to me? Tecnically, I've granted him more freedoms than he's given me, but practically, I've granted him nothing since he has very little if any desire to do the things he's "allowed to".
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Old 11-20-2011, 01:36 PM
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I wonder what the limits are he imposed on you? OPP?
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Old 11-20-2011, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
Fairness is not about both partners having the same set of freedoms and boundaries. Fairness is each partner having access to the kinds of activities he or she is interested in, and respect of the other's personal boundaries.
This is just about right, though I would put it in terms of each respecting the autonomy of the other, the ability and prerogative of the other to make decisions for him or herself. It's basic reciprocity.

It's very cool.
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Old 11-20-2011, 03:23 PM
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Interestingly, Eric is exactly the same way as your husband. Gia doesn't so
much forbid him to do anything or see anyone, she just keeps her more emotionally-attuned eye out for when he's about to get himself into trouble (i.e., this person is a bucket of drama, this person clearly wants a type of relationship you can't give, etc.) and strongly suggests that he make the smart decision since it's likely to affect them both.

If he some day suddenly had a change of heart and actually *wanted* to be emotionally entangled with someone else I think she would do her best to ascertain whether it was genuine or whether he was confused, then ask him to go slow if it was real. But it would be a big adjustment and possibly a bit of a shock to her system, since he's been so momoamorous for so long, and I do think she would fear that he would not, in fact, have "infinite love" to share since he's never shown any signs of being polyamorous before, and that he might pull away from her.

It would be a scary time and I think she would let him go for it, on the chance that his ability to love really had expanded, but would keep a very close watch on things and have a long, hard talk with him if it did seem like he was pulling away from her emotionally. I hate to think that she would throw a veto, but it might well come down to that -- they have their kid to consider.
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:22 PM
MichelleZed MichelleZed is offline
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I have this with my husband! We opened things up but sort of reacted to it differently.

I got involved with a co-worker and was unable to make it a one-time or casual thing, and so we've maintained things for about a year now. I sort of think of those two men as "my" people and have no real interest in having casual sex with others.

My husband, however, just has the occasional, rare, one-night stand.

Anyway, people do things their own way and how my husband does this doesn't bother me.
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rory View Post
HOWEVER. In the four years during which he's had pretty much complete freedom, what has he done? He has exchanged one kiss with one woman.
This also reminds me of my husband. He says that for him, it's not so much that he wants to do things with other people, it's that he wants to be allowed to do things with other people. But when push comes to shove, he's usually too tired or unmotivated to actually go to the bath house on co-ed night. But if I were to say "You're not allowed to play with other girls" then he would rear up like a mad stallion.

Does "OPP" mean other people's problems? Or was it a typo for Original Poster with an extra P?
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Old 11-20-2011, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SchrodingersCat View Post
Does "OPP" mean other people's problems? Or was it a typo for Original Poster with an extra P?
OPP = One Penis Policy

(when a guy sez "no other guys allowed" to his female primary but it's okay for him to be with other women)
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Old 11-20-2011, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hyperskeptic View Post
This is just about right, though I would put it in terms of each respecting the autonomy of the other, the ability and prerogative of the other to make decisions for him or herself. It's basic reciprocity.

It's very cool.
This.
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  #10  
Old 11-21-2011, 11:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magdlyn View Post
I wonder what the limits are he imposed on you? OPP?
Was this question addressed to me? Yes, you could say our agreement comes close to OPP, though I do not think using derogatory terminology to describe my partner's feelings facilitates understanding and good communication. (If interested in continuing conversation, please do so here.)
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