Polyamory’s warts

It was about a week and a half ago that Girlfriend told me about her sister’s graduation ceremony. She was interested in attending it, but it was a twelve-hour drive away, and with her husband unable to take time off work for it, she didn’t feel confident making the trip alone with her small children.

I did what any self-respecting boyfriend would do. I offered to accompany her on the trip. When Mr. Wonderful agreed with the plan, I was really excited. I figured it would be nice to have a little getaway with her, and that helping out with the children and the driving would be a small price to pay to be able to visit Girlfriend’s hometown with her. What I didn’t count on, though, was that I would experience firsthand the reaction that most people have to those involved in a polyamorous relationship. Nor could I have predicted the effects those reactions would have on the relationship itself.

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Among tooth fairies

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter a few days ago. I had asked her if anything fun was going on in her life recently. She didn’t need much impetus. She has a lively sense of humor and loves to share things that seem funny or whimsical to her. She told me the story of how she had recently lost a tooth. She told me she was slightly worried that it wasn’t a baby tooth, because she hadn’t noticed it getting loose. Instead, she noticed a small pain in her mouth, and when she explored the source, her tooth came out in her fingers.

She told me how she had given the tooth to her mother, but that her mother had lost it. “It’s okay, though,” she told me. “Mom gave me a dollar for it anyway.” Then she got a serious look on her face as she asked her next question. “Dad, what do you think Mom does with the teeth?” I wasn’t quite sure how honest I was supposed to be, so I asked if normally the tooth fairy doesn’t take them away. “Dad!” she said, her eyes lighting up with the pride of being among those in the know. “I already know about the tooth fairy!”

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The sacrament of remembering

A week or two ago as I was driving home I was perplexed to see an American flag flying at half mast. I don’t know why I do this, but I tend to segregate different parts of my life. You know. I have this life at work that doesn’t really intersect with the life I have at my apartment, which is completely separate from the life I have when I visit Girlfriend. The trip home from work is disconnected from all of them, so I saw the flag, and it puzzled me for a few moments until I realized that it had been lowered in memory of the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

Perhaps it was this moment of confusion that did it, but I started to wonder what made the three deaths in Boston “worth more” than the thousands of deaths that happen around the world every day. Not to belittle the tragedy of that bombing. But is it any less a tragedy when anyone loses a loved one? Should any flag ever be raised all the way to the top of the flag pole?

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Unexpected compassion

I received today a copy of the judgment that was entered into court in my divorce proceedings. I don’t really know if there is anything else that still needs to happen before the divorce is considered final, but since the paperwork says the judgment was entered a few days ago, I think that makes it official. I’m divorced.

I went into the human resources office at my workplace and asked to speak with the benefits coordinator. With the divorce final, I have an official qualifying life event that allows me to review the benefits I’ve selected for the year and make any changes that are appropriate. Our company’s benefits coordinator quickly and professionally provided me with the information and instructions I needed, but also gave me something I hadn’t expected: compassion. Instead of being strictly business, the benefits coordinator asked me how I was doing and talked with me for about half an hour about the things I was going through.

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Subdued celebrations

Happy birthday! 183 years ago today Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ in New York. Starting with just six members, the church has grown over the past 183 years and now claims a membership of over 13 million.

Today, you can’t blame them for wanting to celebrate. Nor could you blame them for wanting to celebrate after their own style: by prayer. And what better way to celebrate than, for the first time in 183 years, finally allowing a woman to pray in General Conference.

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Monogamy for the masses

I’m not sure how common it is for people to take a good hard look at monogamy and decide that they want it. My guess is that monogamy is so well ingrained into our culture that it’s almost invisible. Sure, we spend a lot of time thinking of whom we’ll marry. Some of us spend a lot of time even deciding if we’ll marry. But how many of us think about or decide between monogamy and polyamory? I mean, really think about it.

In my discussions with people, I hear a lot of arguments against polyamory and in favor of monogamy. Yet I’m not sure that they aren’t just knee-jerk reactions to something that is utterly foreign to them. “I mean, polyamory? Come on. You can’t seriously be considering that. Everyone knows….” And then I am presented with something that, to me, at least, usually doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Am I not considering the full consequences of my decisions? Or is it just hard for people to reject something that has become simply a backdrop in our culture, the fabric upon which the other choices of our life are made?

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The D word

I’ve spent a lot of time with Wife in the past few days. Maybe six hours each day on both Thursday and Friday. And I have to say, I quite enjoyed the time we spent together. I was reminded once again of some of the many qualities that she has that attracted me to her. Even after this time of being separated, I found it very easy to slip back into the comfortable role of being with her.

In fact, if it weren’t for the topic of conversation and our purpose for being together, I would think it would be easy for anyone seeing us together to believe that we have a great relationship. And we do. She is amazing. She is fun to be with. In spite of that, however, our topic of conversation revolved around the D word: divorce. You see, her lawyers had completed the paperwork, and it was time to sign.

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Vignettes on cheating

How does one make a transition from one lifestyle to another? Especially from a lifestyle that is socially acceptable to one that is not? I have recently come to the conclusion that polyamory is a more workable approach to life than monogamy. One of the things that appeals to me about polyamory is the idea that you can live your life honestly. In a purportedly monogamous lifestyle, many people still have relationships with other people outside of their marriage, but in cases where those relationships exceed the expectations of the marriage, deception becomes a central feature of the relationship. Some people have affairs. Even in cases where a physical affair isn’t undertaken, many couples engage in what have become known as emotional affairs. In my mind, though, deception plays at least as large a role as infidelity in causing damage to the relationship.

So the idea of being able to be completely honest and open about relationships is extremely appealing to me. Instead of hiding that a certain person is an important part of my life, I want to be able to acknowledge that part of my life. Girlfriend is important to me. I love her. I want other people in my life to know what a positive influence she is. I want to share my happiness with others. Yet I have been discovering that instead of people finding joy in my ability to be honest, the only way that they can relate to what is going on in my life is to equate it to cheating.

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The ex-Mormon in the elevator

This week a team that was initiating a new project at my workplace came into town, and as part of the initial get-to-know-you activities, we all spent an evening together at a local sports bar. I decided that this time I would order an alcoholic beverage. However, I hadn’t thought it through beforehand, and when I stepped up to the bar and the barkeeper asked me what I would like to drink, I had no idea what to say. “Um … something with alcohol in it?” didn’t exactly sound like the sort of thing one says at a bar. So instead of ordering, I said, “Yeah. Gimme a minute to decide.” I spent the next few seconds searching deep into my lore of alcohol, and coming up empty, I texted Girlfriend: “I’m at the bar and have no idea what to order. Any suggestions?”

While waiting for her response, my coworker arrived and sat next to me. He effortlessly ordered a Blue Moon, and I quietly explained my dilemma to him: “I want to drink something, but I’ve never ordered at a bar before. Got any ideas?” He told me since I’d never drunk beer before, I probably wouldn’t like the flavor, but recommended maybe I start with Coors Lite, since it would be the mildest. I asked if he enjoyed any other kinds of drinks than beer, and after considering it a moment, he said his favorite was probably rum and coke. Short of any better ideas, I decided I’d give it a try. I placed my order and as I was waiting for the drink to come, my coworker asked the obvious question: why had I decided to drink that night? I mumbled something about having left the church, and he asked the next obvious question: what had caused me to abandon my religion? I’m sure he must have thought he had somehow been transported to the local aquarium, because I did my best impression of a fish: wide unblinking eyes with my mouth opening and closing several times without saying anything. It was only then that I realized: I have no idea how to be the ex-Mormon in the elevator.

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poly-what?-ery

I love words. I’m an avid reader, and I appreciate works from authors who understand the power of words. I enjoy writing, and I know that sometimes the difference between a bland sentence and a powerful sentence can be a simple matter of finding just the right word. I don’t claim, however, to know a lot of words or even the nuances of the ones I do know, and thus I am always seeking to expand my vocabulary and my understanding of word meanings. I carry a dictionary app on my phone, and I refer to it often, probably to the consternation of those people in whose presence I practice this arguably antisocial habit.

So yes. I love words. I love to learn them. I love to use them correctly. It isn’t often, however, that learning a new word completely changes your life. Yet that is what happened to me. It was October of last year. I stumbled upon a word I had never seen before. And my life hasn’t been the same since. The word? Polyamory.

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