Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Aftermath and explanations

Well, I'm exhausted. I felt like I'd slept well, but today I'm bleary-eyed and a little wobbly, fuzz-brained and easily distracted.

What I also am, though, is frankly astonished -- and eternally grateful -- at the amount of support I've gotten. From people I expected and a few I wasn't sure I should hope for, and many, many people who I didn't know at all -- people who read my blog but never commented, and a few, I think, who came here pointed by others. People who've posted to their own journals supporting me, whether or not they named me or the Issue specifically. Thank you all so very, very much. I can't usefully express how much that support, and all your prayers and good wishes, have helped -- but I feel I ought to try anyway.

As Mother Laura and I both said at several points during our long phone conversation last night (and thank you, thank you, I needed that), it's a good thing this didn't happen a month ago, or a couple months ago; it might well have broken me. I've gotten stronger since then, but I have to say, it came pretty close to breaking me anyway. But today despite my exhaustion I feel stronger; hurt, yes, but ready to go on regardless. And all of your comments have been a large part of that.

And really, I'm hardly the only person to be discriminated against ever. Most of the time it's a lot worse than what I'm going through. And the answer is the same; to fight it one way or another.

I don't plan to protest to the RevGals, though I understand that there are some who are doing so on my behalf (and for that I thank you). I ... I don't know. I guess I have a hard time protesting on my own behalf; if this had happened to someone else, believe me, the emails would be flying!

What I do plan to do is to keep living my life the way I have been, openly and in as Godly a manner as I can manage. I don't want to push myself or my way of life onto anyone, but it's here and I'm not going to hide it, either. If I can but be a good example (and I try, anyway) and maybe convince a couple of people that polyamory (or whatever term you wish to use) isn't so scary, after all, then hey, I'm accomplishing something.

Polyamory can apply to anything from a negotiated open relationship with any number of people in it (which I lived for a while; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't) to a faithful relationship, like a marriage or a 'monogamous' relationship, that just happens to have more than two people in it. The classic 'swinger' thing, while related I suppose, isn't really polyamory; the emphasis there is on the sex, not the relationships, the love.

What I'm in is a faithful relationship which just happens to have three people in it. We're not married (it not being legal, and all) and right now even if it were, we wouldn't be. Yet, anyway. To put it bluntly, Ray is 22 and a little commitment-shy still. Also, he and I are still very much getting to know each other and figure out how we can be together. Someday, though, I hope...

I know all of this about him -- and he about me -- because we talk about our relationship. A lot. Openly and (generally, ideally, but we're human) without rancor. Such open communication is vital for any relationship -- the more so for polyamorous folk. The open relationship I described above? Yep, there were several people I was having sex with, off and on. Sounds like cheating? Here's the difference: everyone involved knew what was going on, was okay with it, had talked about it until we all knew that we all were okay with it. That's the 'negotiation' part.

If I was going to be with someone, first I made sure my boyfriend was all right with the concept -- both with the person involved, and with the timing. Is this Friday night all right? Will you be okay if I stay over, or would you rather I came home afterwards? Can I bring someone home to our bed, or would you prefer that it happen elsewhere?

Next was talking to the other person's significant other(s).I learned the hard way not to take someone's word for it when he said his wife would be all right with things. I learned how to tell when someone's boyfriend was really okay with sharing, and when he was just saying so in fear that she'd leave him otherwise. Open and honest communication, and trust; a lot, a lot of trust.

It's complicated, and it's not easy, and it's sure hell not for everyone; but I know any number of people in happy, stable, loving open relationships.

Is it Christian? I don't know. I'm of the opinion that it's not incompatible with Christianity as long as everyone's treated with the love and respect that Jesus asks of us, but I don't have any theological backing on that opinion, and if I'm wrong, well, I'm wrong.

In any case, that's not where I'm at any more. I say that my life is quite complicated enough without adding anyone else to it (and that's so, so true) but it's also true that I'm generally happy with Tim and Ray and feel no need to go elsewhere. Doesn't mean I won't flirt with a pretty girl, but really, things are complicated enough. See? There I go again.

What Tim and Ray and I have, what we're building towards, is, I think, as Biblical as any marriage of one woman and one man. Again, opinion; I don't have a lot of theology to back me up here, but I do know that in the Old Testament there were plenty of guys involved with two women -- or many! We may have the genders arranged a little differently but apart from that I don't see a lot of difference. No, I do: we all have a lot more choice in the matter than women in the OT did.

How can I balance loving two men? Even Tim once said, 'you can't serve two masters'; but a parents can love two (or many more) children, and a child can love both her parents, all her siblings, all of her many relatives. I can have many friends, and love them all.

And yes, I wind up with the same problems that parents of more than one child run into: balancing time between them both (or all), not playing favourites, giving each the love and attention he deserves. I think we do okay. We're hardly perfect, but we do try.

Like I said, it's complicated, and it's not for everyone. But again, I know upwards of fifteen triads like what we're aiming for, in any gender combination you wish to name. And they are all stable, happy, loving; supportive, healthy places for the people in them. They give me hope that Ray and Tim and I can pull this off.

Because at the end of it, I do love them both. They love each other (they'd been together for over a year when I moved out here), and they both love me. It may be a sin for the three of us to be together, but it feels more of a sin for any two of us to deny the third -- or for the three of us to separate entirely. In my last post I asked which of them 'you' (for a 'you' which probably doesn't encompass anyone who's made it this far) would have me not love -- I ask, now, which of them do you think Jesus would ask me not to love?

For those of you who've said you don't understand polyamory (and those who haven't, but kinda wondered anyway) -- I hope things make a little more sense now. I'm not at my most awake and I probably should have written this tomorrow, but I felt it was important. I hope things came out more or less in English (I wonder, some days, even when I'm relatively awake). If something doesn't make sense or there's something else you're curious about, do please feel free to ask, and I'll do my best to answer.

17 comments:

Jan said...

Thanks for explaining. I had no idea what "ployamory" was. I'd never heard it before today, when I first visited your site.

David Oliver Kling said...

The classic 'swinger' thing, while related I suppose, isn't really polyamory; the emphasis there is on the sex, not the relationships, the love.

Amen!

I'm glad you made this distinction, and I agree with you 100%!

Nina said...

I don't have to reject what I'm struggling to understand. I am called to love and to learn. Thank you for being my friend and speaking your truth. (((KATE)))

Mother Laura said...

I am so glad you are getting the love and support you deserve, dear one, as you have given so many of us. And thank you very much for sharing more about yourself and your orientation and your relationships and experience with us.

I am especially grateful to clearly understand the difference between polyamory and swinging...and repeat here to you the apology I made to Dave on my own blog for mistakenly linking them in my post.

(((you)))

Rainbow Pastor said...

I am thinking of you, and supporting you. How can we deny our love?

I have faced some of the same issues from the women's community at the mere suggestion that I might be with a man in my next relationship (it's looking more and more likely). So I have some idea of what you are feeling.

Hugs and prayers for you, Kate...

(((Kate)))

Rev. Sharon said...

{{{hugs}}} I am stunned that this has happened, and sorrowful that it happened to you--but I know you have thought long and hard about the choices you have made and are making, and I know, KNOW in my heart of hearts that God is with you in those choices. I have many friends in similar relationships, and have been both blessed and challenged by their circumstances and situations... I know you will be blessed and challenged as well.

FWIW, you completely and utterly have my support and prayers. May you all be blessed!! Love, Sharon+

Cecilia said...

I ask people who can't understand lesbianism to trust that my relationship is loving and no barrier to my faith... in fact, it helps me live more authentically into my faith, as it is who I am. I can't very well turn around and reject something simply because I don't understand it. Thanks, Kate, for your efforts to help us all gain a clearer understanding of your faith, your life and your commitments.

Pax, C.

karlassi said...

I just learned about the revgal thing by scrolling through the birthday comments. As with Jan, I have never heard of polyamory before, and like Cecilia, just because I don't understand something doesn't mean I get to reject it, or a person. I am troubled that revgals asked you to leave.
Most of all, though, I wanted to thank you for your courage, your grace, your vulnerabilty and honest reflections...and my deepest thoughts and prayers are with you. I am grateful.

Rae Trigg said...

I had actually already known what polyamory is - I know at least one other person who is polyamorous. But I can see this post has explained polyamory to others (and will hopefully continue to do so). Maybe it will also show those who are prejudiced that someone like you is just another human being like them.

*Hugs*

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

Kate, I am so sorry this has happened ... in so many different ways. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

I am working on a blog regarding polyamory, but it is not yet fit for "public" consumption. When it is, I'll send you the link.

stealth priest said...

Never have I more believed that others have neglected to heed this sage advice, "judge not lest ye be judged." You are supported and cared for by many.

Peace and ((((Kate))))

Pastor Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diane said...

I didn't know what polyamory was either. so thanks for helping me being to sort that out.

Kate said...

Glad to hear my posting made sense, both to those who didn't know about polyamory before and those who did. And for those of you who are challenged by the concept, thank you so much for your struggle with the concept!

Rainbow Pastor, darlin', I know what it's like to be bisexual and to get it from both sides. I understand it's a lot better than it used to be, though, which is comforting some days.

Mother Laura, no offense taken and apology accepted! (((you)))

I look forward to your post, Dona Quixote! (Hope that's an acceptable form of address!)

Pastor Anonymous, you speak truth here. Apparently I've got a heck of a lot more community than I thought I did. :)

Anonymous said...

I have heard of polyamory, but find the actuality hard to imagine, since so many dyads blow up. I'd say that if you can make this work without neglecting or hurting either man and vice versa, all of you deserve serious props for patience and communication skills. I'd think polyamory would be generally inadvisable simply because if you can't get it right with one other equal, why think you can do so with two other equals? But to every rule there is likely to be an exception.

I don't think Biblical polygamy provides much help - the relationship was one master, two or more servants.

Anyway, it's none of my business.

NancyP

terri c said...

Hullo--came over from the lair of the Mad Priest and am sorry about the RevGal thing. It is very sad--but so human--we can be "theologically open" until something hits us personally. I'm no better than anyone else on that score, so I'm not just pointing fingers at them. Anyhow, blah blah blah, but I think you might be interested to read stuff by the lesbian feminist Christian ethicist Kathy Rudy. You might find some comfort in her notion that there is something about Christianity that stands over and against mandatory two-person monogamous pairings. The example she uses is the "sexual communities" that can exist among groups of queer men; that is, even she admits, a problematic example in some ways, but still. Look her up, or email me if you want a specific reference.

Anonymous said...

I'm a first-timer to this site; linked here from +Laura's place.

I'm not aware of any poly individuals among my friends and acquaintances -- if so they're pretty tightly closeted -- but your story has been forward and back in my thoughts since I first heard of it, being a subject concerning which I needed to do some personal discernment, both for myself as an individual and as a member of a religious community.

My own thinking was straightforward: The crux of the matter, in poly as in all relationships is simply, Does everyone in this relationship honor their contracts/covenants/vows and are all participants honest with one another? And are their activities fully consensual and non-coercive? If yes, then their arrangement is really none of my affair and my opinion(s) are rightly limited to my observations of the individuals in it, whom I'm free to like or respect *as individuals*, or not. (I would add that if children are involved their needs for nurture etc. should always be a priority and someone's responsibility, but this to me is simply common sense and basic human morality.)

More troubling are my thoughts concerning the "liberal" Quaker tradition with which I'm personally affiliated. While the Christians among us are far from literalist, and we are perhaps a little too proud of inclusiveness, I *know* that there are some among us who would disapprove -- perhaps publicly -- of any individual(s) self-identifying as polyamorist who should happen to visit us. And I am not yet sure what I would say to these members of my Meeting; I guess I'll find out when and if it happens*.

Lastly, I am sorry for the anguish this has clearly caused you. At the risk of being the Pollyanna in the crowd let me just say that, while I personally do not find suffering to be inherently redemptive, I have found, in my own ahd the world's histories, that not infrequently great illuminations happen when we encounter those dark nights of the soul, that nothing that happens happens accidentally or counter to divine will (whatever exactly that is!), and sometimes joy DOES come in the morning. May it prove so with you and yours.

Francis Drake sirfr AT earthlink.net

* Off-topic but it turns out there are poly Quakers too. Who knew? See, e.g.,

http://gaq.quakerism.net/?p=98