These writings contain my experiences and opinions. The opinions are personal in nature, not professional. I am not a professional; I have no degree. These are the insights I have gleaned from living four years in a polyamorous relationship.

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Stuck in the Middle With You

I'm tempted to both start and finish this particular article with the statement "hinge does not mean go-between". When it's written out like that, there in front of me in black and white, it seems to be quite self-explanatory, and even more than that, it seems that it should be total common sense. However, it is not, which is why I can't just leave my article at that one simple sentence.

I've been a part of the poly community for four years and three months now, and the predominate familial configuration tends to be the triad with one member acting as the hinge. That's certainly not the only configuration, to be sure. I've come across a quad or two; in fact, I used to be a part of one. I've found a couple of equilateral triads, and there are myriads of poly folks out there who have what pretty much amounts to an "open marriage;" they have the core couple and an understanding that they can have other lovers, yet those other lovers are not necessarily ever integrated into the core family. However, in my search for community, for family, for peers, I've mostly come across triads--two men and a woman, two women and a man, even several families of three women--and the one thing they all have in common is that one of the partners acts as the "hinge" in the relationship.

In poly jargon, "hinge" is the person in the middle, meaning that the hinge person is intimate with the two people on either side, but those two people are not (physically) intimate with each other. My own family is a V triad with a hinge. While Wife and I are not sexually involved, there is plenty of non physical intimacy between us. I do consider her my wife, as she does me. Hubby is our hinge, being the person who is sexually involved with the two people on either side. That's all he should be. "Hinge" should not be a job. All the hinge should be is the person in the middle; however, that does not mean that s/he should be given the job of "go-between."

Unfortunately, more often than not, a go-between is exactly what the hinge in a poly relationship becomes. No matter how open a person is, how liberal, how all around poly, there are still relationship rules that have to be re-learned when actually living in a poly family. Communication "rules", or more aptly communication skills, are one of those things that need to be re-worked and adapted to fit an expanded family. When we became a triad, after our quad dissolved, I promised myself that I personally would never put Hubby in the middle. Until I did. It's easy to do without even realizing that you're doing it. I go to bed with Hubby one night say something about how irritated the piles of chaos make me. Wife goes to bed with him the next night and says something about the fact that I'm almost obsessive/compulsive in my neatness is driving her nuts. We both think that we're just making conversation, offering observations. What we're really doing is putting Hubby smack dab in the middle of an on-going battle between us. He immediately feels that he needs to "fix" things, but he has no idea how to go about that. He is in a no win situation. He cannot physically make her any more organized, and he certainly can't make me any less neat, so what we've essentially done is caused him a huge stress inducing situation, by each only speaking one sentence at bedtime, and this is a relatively small example. Things can get bigger, and then they can get really ugly, really fast.

Hubby came to me last night, and looking very uncomfortable, he said, "Wife says I should ask you why you didn't vacuum when you cleaned the house yesterday evening." I replied with, "Because I hate that vacuum; you know it hurts my back." He just now came to me and, once again looking totally miserable, said, "Wife says to tell you that vacuuming is part of cleaning the house, and all the sand on the tile grosses her out." I said, through gritted teeth and slitted eyes, "Tell her that if she doesn't like the way I do it, then she can lead by example once in awhile and clean this %^#$$#& house herself." The look on his face just about broke my heart, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. I knew that I'd made his position as the hinge into the job of go-between, and Wife had been doing it as well. Not only were we putting him in an awful position, the fact that we were using him to communicate, instead of speaking to each other face to face, was doing nothing but allowing us to harbor resentments against each other.

I took a deep breath, gathered my courage, swallowed my pride, and went to talk to Wife. It didn't go nearly as badly as I'd feared it would. I very calmly said, "Look, I know the sandy floors are irritating. I don't like them either, but that vacuum really does hurt my back. I miss the old one. I'd appreciate it if you would go ahead and vacuum, because I cleaned everything else." She then said, "So does that mean I'm going to have to vacuum every time?" This made me rather angry, but still remaining very calm I said, "It's all about comfort levels. You'll just need to vacuum when you aren't comfortable with the floors anymore. I think this is a fair trade since I really do clean the entire rest of the house." She agreed, and it was over without anyone having to play messenger. Hubby was no longer miserably in the middle wondering how to fix the problem, and Wife and I let go of our resentment.

It's not fair to make someone the go-between in any relationship. It makes them unhappy and uncomfortable. It causes them worry and stress. It puts them in the middle of situations that generally don't even have anything to do with them. So before turning to one of your spice and saying, "Tell him/her this that and the other thing," stop and think very carefully how you'd feel if s/he did the exact same thing to you. The middle is supposed to be a good place to be; it's supposed to be a happy place; it's supposed to be a safe place. I for one am going to work on keeping it that way.

PolyAnna; December 09, 2005

PolyAnna is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.


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