"The life of a blended family". Our Poly Life is written by any one of a poly-fi quad. Each month they will share with readers about issues they face as a blended and committed poly family with nine children still at home. You can read more about them at their website; Our Poly Life.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

The Ripple Effect

Sir Isaac Newton, a famous English mathematician and physicist (1643-1727), was an intelligent man. According to legend, he observed an apple fall to the ground and deduced all manner of gravitational equations including what held the moon in place and the strength of centrifugal force. Smart is an adjective that can be attained by education, deduction however, requires a deeper thought. It is only the thinking man (or woman) who can look at a situation and hypothesize possible outcomes. This is called consequential thinking.

Newton’s third law states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is most definitely true when calculating formulas in math and science, but human relationships are not so easily quantified. Individuals are unknown variables. Life is uncertain. Any action or choice will in all certainty produce some sort of reaction, but the consequences of human act can sometimes be infinitely more dynamic than the initial action itself. An action that seems initially insignificant can have major and long lasting effects. Imagine a small pebble being tossed into a still and silent pond. The ripples of some choices can be seen or felt for years, even generations.

I cannot recall a specific time along this path when I was at one moment monogamous and polyamorous the next. On the other hand, I can, in retrospect, detail the exact moment my life turned and the door to all things new began to creek open. It wasn’t a very pleasant moment in the scheme of things, in fact, quite a painful one. That moment could have had disastrous effects if handled differently by any party. Alternatively, it could have been handled monstrously better. There was a time when, if I could have, wished it all away. Believing all things happen for a reason I am now thrilled with the prospects that our poly life is, in essence, the most spectacular illustration of the proverbial “making lemonade from lemons.”

It is, however, the question of forethought that drives this month’s column. In my poly research I have read hundreds if not thousands of sites, blogs, and forum posts. From those readings I have sensed many an underlying reflection that the polyamorous lifestyle is merely a band aid for persons searching for some unidentifiable or unattainable element in their life – they are looking for something unknown and “find” polyamory. More rarely have I found ones who see poly as a seasoned choice; when originally a person knew of polyamory and then decided to go looking for a suitable partner. If you need more in your life than one partner can give you, I totally understand that (its where I came from myself). If you think it is implausible to envision one partner can be the one and everything to another person, you’re on the right poly track. But if poly to you is about permissive multi-partner copulating, you’re missing the point.

I am not going to slide into an, “it’s all about the love” lecture. Those are plentiful in other places. Let’s be honest. Living a polyamorous lifestyle is fraught with challenges. Polyamory is not for the timid. The term “flirting with disaster” immediately comes to mind. Issues handled properly can ease the negative aspects and, yes, YES, YES, the benefits of “poly done right” are truly amazing. I could gush for days about the upside of the poly lifestyle. But at some point you find yourself on the threshold of Polyville, or worse, at the beginnings of another new relationship (where the NRE has you fooled into believing it will be wine and roses forever) and you need to ask yourself, “What is it that will make this alternate lifestyle work for me?” Now think… think long and hard. Do not dive at those fluffy feelings of infatuation without taking time to step back and consider all the consequences. Are you ready for all the “what ifs?”

There is enough social stigma with alternate lifestyles that one must be strong enough to swim against the current in order to survive. Primarily, where you live, your business or job, the amount of anonymity you’re afforded, and the support of family and friends are all important things to consider regarding how much you want or need to be inside or outside “the closet.” Aside from the coming out challenges, you need to do some introspective thinking and ask yourself if you are truly communicative enough to pull off a poly relationship(s). I think no other skill is more vital when pursuing polyamory than the ability to vocalize your needs, wants, and feelings in a calm and articulate manner. Polyamory is all about communication and commitment. It takes determination and hard work. JUST LIKE IN ANY OTHER IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP.

Allow me this little diatribe on commitment for a moment. Commitment is a choice, a decision, a binding agreement, an act of loyalty. There are days when the pressure of living in a quad with all the many interpersonal dyads and triads is mentally exhausting. Add nine children into that equation and I wonder if I was insane to ever consider such a step. My point is this, if you can’t stay committed to one partner, lover, or spouse – how in the world do you think you can juggle the demands of polyamory? If there is a problem in your primary relationship, going poly won’t solve it. Before you take another step, solidify the relationships you already have before seeking to “love more.”

In addition to all of the above, you must consider your family situation, namely, the children. We constantly ask ourselves if this living arrangement is the best option for our children. Any time an issue arises we reevaluate how we are doing and what the consequences will be. We jokingly say of the children’s college funds, the one for smallest daughter will most likely be used for therapy upon her coming of age. Although we honestly do not think we’re doing damage to the children’s psyches, quite the opposite, that joke is merely a reminder to us to be ever vigilant of the impact of all our parenting actions, not only our lifestyle choices.

If you are considering a poly lifestyle or even find yourself in the midst of attempting poly, please consider the following… What are your values? Your priorities? How do your needs and wants stack up against the other situations in your life? How will expanding your personal circle affect your current relationship(s)? How much more devotion, time, and attention will multiple partners or family members require? If you think break-ups are painful between two people, consider the full ramifications of separating from multiple loves.

The point is this... (See, eventually I wrap it all up) I can think of few decisions in your life more important than that of choosing partners. Relationships aren’t just for the personal gratification of those involved, but can have far greater impact on everyone than what’s evident at the moment. Yes, human life isn’t a science, but an art form that must be fine tuned as we go along. But don’t just drive blindly; there are too many lives at stake. Here’s to responsible non-monogamy!

~~ Laundry Goddess; August 15, 2006

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folks have read this article.