Happy Metamour Appreciation Day, JTA

Apparently the NCSF (US) are typing to make 28 February into Metamour Day: a celebration of one’s lover’s lovers. While I’m not convinced that’ll ever get Hallmark’s interest, I thought it provided a good opportunity to sing the praises of my metamour, JTA.

JTA and Annabel looking into a cabinet at the British Museum.
This is a man who knows how to use Greek myths and legends to add magic to his daughter’s museum visit.

I first met JTA 15 years ago at Troma Night XX, when his girlfriend Ruth – an attendee of Troma Night since its earliest days the previous year – brought him along and we all mocked his three-letter initialism. Contrary to our previous experience, thanks to Liz, of people bringing boyfriends once but never again (we always assumed that we scared them off), JTA became a regular, even getting to relive some of the early nights that he’d missed in our nostalgic 50th event. Before long, I felt glad to count him among my friends.

We wouldn’t become metamours until 3½ years later when a double-date trip to the Edinburgh Fringe turned into a series of (alcohol-assisted) confessions of nonmonagamous attractions between people present and a the ocassionally-controversial relationships that developed as a result. Polyamory has grown to get a lot more media coverage and general acceptance over the last couple of decades, but those of us in these kinds of relationships still face challenges, and during the times that bigots have made it hardest for us – and one period in 2017 in particular – I’ve been so very glad to have JTA in my corner.

JTA delivering the 2018 Three Rings Christmas Quiz.
Three Rings’ Quizmaster General at work.

Almost 13 years ago I described JTA thusly, and I stand by it:

You have a fantastic temper which you keep carefully bottled away and of which you draw out only a little at a time and only where it is genuinely justly deserved. Conversely, your devotion to the things you love and care about is equally inspiring.

But beyond that, he’s a resourceful jury-rigger, a competent oarsman, and a man who knows when it’s time to throw a hobbit into the darkness. He’s a man who’ll sit in the pub and talk My Little Pony with me and who’ll laugh it off when he gets mistaken for my father.

We’d be friends anyway, but having a partner-in-common has given us the opportunity for a closer relationship still. I love you, man: y’know, in the Greek way. Happy metamour appreciation day.

Hello, Friendly Insurance Salesman!

Hello, friendly insurance salesman I spoke to earlier today! I’ve been expecting you. Also: sorry.

JTA, Ruth, and Dan at JTA and Ruth's wedding.
Here are the people you just sold car insurance to.

I’ve been expecting you because you seemed so keen to finish your shift and search for me and, with my name, I’m pretty easy to find. I knew that you planned to search for me because after I caused so much trouble for your computer systems then, well, I probably deserved it.

I’m sorry that I have such an awkward name and that you had to make your computer system work around it. At least it handled it better than Equifax’s did, and you were far friendlier about it than the Passport Office were. It’s an awkward name, yes, but mostly only because programmers are short-sighted when it comes to names. And I say that as a programmer.

I’m sorry that my unusual relationship structure made your computer system do a double-take. My partner Ruth can’t have a husband as well, can she not? Try telling her that! Don’t feel bad: you’re not even the first person this last fortnight to get confused by our uncommon arrangement, and even where my name doesn’t break computer systems, my relationship status does: even the census can’t cope. I’m sure people must assume we’re insanely radical but we’re honestly pretty boring: just like any other family, just with more love. Don’t believe me? We have spreadsheets. You can’t get more boring than that.

I’m sorry that the email address I gave you looked like a typo and you felt you had to check it thrice. It wasn’t, it’s just that I give a different email address to every company I deal with.

I’m sorry that what should have been a click-click-done exercise came down to a live chat session and then a phone call. I don’t mean to be more work for people.

John points to Arthur, our car
“Which car are we insuring, little fella’?” // “THE RED ONE!”

But thank you for being friendly. And useful. And generally awesome. I expected a painful process, perhaps because that’s what I’d had from my last insurer. You, on the other hand (and your Live Chat colleague who I spoke to beforehand) were fantastic. Somehow you were more-pleasant, more-competent, and represent better value than the insurer we’re coming from, so thank you. And that’s the real reason that I hope you’ll follow through on the suggestion that you search for me by name: because you deserve a pat on the back.

So thanks. But yeah: sorry.

Partner’s husband dropped car at garage.
Garage calls me to say it’s ready.

“My partner will pick it up,” I say.
“The other guy said his wife would pick it up?” they reply.

Pause.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

#awkward #polyamory #moment

Poly Parents Evening

Our eldest, 4, started school this year and this week saw her first parents’ evening. This provided an opportunity for we, her parents, to “come out” to her teacher about our slightly-unconventional relationship structure. And everything was fine, which is nice.

Ruth, Dan, JTA and the kids at the top of the slides at a soft play area.
We’re a unusual shape for a family. But three of us are an unusual shape for being in a kids’ soft play area, too, I suppose.

I’m sure the first few months of every child’s school life are a time that’s interesting and full of change, but it’s been particularly fascinating to see the ways in which our young academic’s language has adapted to fit in with and be understood by her peers.

I first became aware of these changes, I think, when I overheard her describing me to one of her school friends as her “dad”: previously she’d always referred to me as her “Uncle Dan”. I asked her about it afterwards and she explained that I was like a dad, and that her friend didn’t have an “Uncle Dan” so she used words that her friend would know. I’m not sure whether I was prouder about the fact that she’d independently come to think of me as being like a bonus father figure, or the fact that she demonstrated such astute audience management.

School work showing a family description
She’s since gotten better at writing on the lines (and getting “b” and “d” the right way around), but you can make out “I have two dads”.

I don’t object to being assigned this (on-again, off-again, since then) nickname. My moniker of Uncle Dan came about as a combination of an effort to limit ambiguity (“wait… which dad?”) and an attempt not to tread on the toes of actual-father JTA: the kids themselves are welcome to call me pretty-much whatever they’re comfortable with. Indeed, they’d be carrying on a family tradition if they chose-for-themselves what to call me: Ruth and her brothers Robin and Owen address their father not by a paternal noun but by his first name, Tom, and this kids have followed suit by adopting “Grand-Tom” as their identifier for him.

Knowing that we were unusual, though, we’d taken the time to do some groundwork before our eldest started school. For example we shared a book about and spent a while talking about how families differ from one another: we figure that an understanding that families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes is a useful concept in general from a perspective of diversity and and acceptance. In fact, you can hear how this teaching pays-off in the language she uses to describe other aspects of the differences she sees in her friends and their families, too.

Still, it was a little bit of a surprise to find myself referred to as a “dad” after four years of “Uncle Dan”.

JTA with his youngest, on a slide.
I’ve no idea what the littler one – picture here with his father – will call me when he’s older, but this week has been a “terrible 2s” week in which he’s mostly called me “stop it” and “go away”.

Nonetheless: in light of the fact that she’d clearly been talking about her family at school and might have caused her teacher some confusion, when all three of us “parents” turned up to parents’ evening we opted to introduce ourselves and our relationship. Which was all fine (as you’d hope: as I mentioned the other day, our unusual relationship structure is pretty boring, really), and the only awkwardness was in having to find an additional chair than the teacher had been expecting to use with which to sit at the table.

There’s sometimes a shortage of happy “we did a thing, and it went basically the same as it would for a family with monogamous parents” poly-family stories online, so I thought this one was worth sharing.

And better yet: apparently she’s doing admirably at school. So we all celebrated with an after-school trip to one of our favourite local soft play centres.

Kids at soft play.
Run run run run run run run STOP. Eat snack. Run run run run run run…

‘Boring and normal’: the new frontier of polyamorous parenting

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

Sometimes Stephanie Weisner doesn’t know how two-parent families do it all, without a Mike in tow.

Weisner, 38, has been in a polyamorous relationship with her husband, Ian Hubbard, and her work colleague, Mike Wissink, for eight years. The three adults all live together in one home in Moncton, alongside Weisner and Hubbard’s two children, who are seven and nine years old.

The family keeps a joint e-mail account to sort out their household logistics. While Weisner and Wissink, 49, work shifts at their airline industry jobs, Hubbard, 47, home-schools the children. Wissink often cooks and cleans while Weisner does the groceries. All three pitch in with bedtimes and shuttling the kids to their various activities. This winter, the whole family’s going to Disney World.

“We’re very boring and normal,” said Weisner. “We’re not swinging from chandeliers.”

Sometimes somebody will ask me about my polyamorous relationships and they often have a preconception that Ruth, JTA and I’s lives are incredibly interesting and exciting (usually with the assumption on the side that we’re particularly sexually-adventurous). But like virtually any other decade-plus long relationship and especially with children in tow, we’re really quite ordinary and domestic. That there’s an additional adult around is basically the only thing that stands out, and we’re each individually far more-interesting and diverse than we are by the product of our romantic lifestyle.

This article pleased me somewhat because of the symmetries between us and the family depicted by it, but especially because they too seem to have to spend time reassuring other that they’re just regular folks, beneath it all. There’s a tendency to assume that if somebody’s a little different from you then everything else must be different too, and articles like this help to remind us that we’re all a lot more-alike than we are different. Even we weird polyamorous people.

What Monogamous Couples Can Learn From Polyamorous Relationships, According to Experts

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Polyamory — having more than one consensual sexual or emotional relationship at once — has in recent years emerged on television, mainstream dating sites like OkCupid and even in research. And experts who have studied these kinds of consensual non-monogomous relationships, say they have unique strengths that anyone can learn from.

Consensual non-monogamy can include polyamory, swinging and other forms of open relationships, according to Terri Conley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has studied consensual non-monogamy. While there aren’t comprehensive statistics about how many people in America have polyamorous relationships, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that one in five people in the U.S. engage in some form of consensual non-monogamy throughout their lives.

But these relationships can still be shrouded in stigma. And people in polyamorous relationships often keep them a secret from friends and family.

Really interesting to see quite how-widespread the media appeal is growing of looking at polyamory as more than just a curiosity or something titillating. I’ve long argued that the things that one must learn for a successful polyamorous relationship are lessons that have great value even for people who prefer monogamous ones (I’ve even recommended some of my favourite “how-to” polyamory books to folks seeking to improve their monogamous relationships!), so it pleases me to see a major publication like Time take the same slant.

Why Are You Bothering?

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Why Are You Bothering? (The Polyamorous Misanthrope)
A letter I got recently and a question I was asked in another forum really got me to thinking. The question was: How did you come to realize that poly-amorous relationships were right for you? Now …

A letter I got recently and a question I was asked in another forum really got me to thinking. The question was: How did you come to realize that poly-amorous relationships were right for you? Now that you live this lifestyle, do you think that it’s for everyone, or more “natural” than monogamy? I answered:…

I was pleased to see that one of my favourite poly bloggers came out and said what I’ve always argued: that polyamory might well not be for everyone! I’m a big fan of the idea that everybody can learn some useful relationship-negotiation and communication skills from studying the practice of polyamory, but I’m certainly not suggesting that my lifestyle ought to be everybody else’s!

Three’s Company by Natalie Dupille

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Three's Company by Natalie Dupille (Oh Joy Sex Toy)
Erika and I did a long weekend in the woods as part of a victory lap/recovery from the Kickstarter. SO GOOD, and SO NEEDED. It's with great thanks that I share this wonderful comic from Natalie on her non-monogamous life. I hope you all like this slice of autobio and honest comic. Drop her a word of

Extract of Three's Company by Natalie Dupille, as republished on Oh Joy Sex Toy

Erika and I did a long weekend in the woods as part of a victory lap/recovery from the Kickstarter. SO GOOD, and SO NEEDED. It’s with great thanks that I share this wonderful comic from Natalie on her non-monogamous life. I hope you all like this slice of autobio and honest comic. Drop her a…

Oh Joy Sex Toy is a fabulous webcomic anyway, but it was especially pleasing to see some poly-representation in a guest comic on the site recently. Especially when that guest comic mirrors a broad part of my own experience of polyamory: that it may look exciting, sexy, scandalous or crazy to other people, but – for the most part – to us it’s pretty everyday, domestic, and mundane.

“Polyamory” became a top relationship search topic in 2017

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We seem to be finally, actually doing it: making the whole world aware of the polyamorous possibility. That’s Elisabeth Sheff’s term for discovering that happy, ethical multi-loving relationships are even possible, that people are successfully doing them right now, and that maybe you can too.

Every December, Google announces the year’s top trending search terms compared to the year before. In the Relationships category, Google just announced that polyamory became one of the top four topics. CNN Money reported this morning,

The Most Skipped Step When Opening a Relationship

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You’ve had hundreds of hours of discussions on what your open relationship will look like? Check!

You’ve written down a list of limits, boundaries, rules, and expectations? Check!

You’ve created dating profiles that honestly detail what you are looking for and the honesty with your existing relationship? Check!

You’ve read at least 3 books together on the topic of nonmonogamy? Check?

You and your partner subscribe and listen to at least 3 nonmonogamous friendly podcasts? Check!

You’re all set! You open up the relationship and go off on your first dates… WHAM, arguing, suspicion, jealousy, withholding information, yelling, crying, breaking down… and a month later, you believe you don’t know each other anymore and you’re ready to call a marriage counsellor, divorce, forget you ever opened up your relationship, or all of the above.

What the hell happened?…

We Need to be Better

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My post You Don’t Have to Do It has been getting an inordinate amount of attention in the last few months. As is often the case about anything in my life, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I really do think that polyamory isn’t for everyone, that while it’s a way…

How my poly family organises our finances (aka. means-assessed money management for multi-adult households). [x-post /r/polyamory]

This self-post was originally posted to /r/polyfamilies. See more things from Dan's Reddit account.

Hi /r/polyfamilies. After much pestering by people who know us, I finally got around to writing about how my polycule and I organise our finances, and I thought that you might be interested to. The whole thing’s described behind that link, but I didn’t want to be seen to be gathering karma or self-promoting, so I thought I’d make a text post to briefly explain it:

Us: My partner, her husband and I are three adults sharing a home (plus, this year, their baby girl!). We rented together for several years, and now we’ve got our first mortgage together. We wanted to come up with a fair way to share our costs (rent/mortgage, bills, shopping, etc.) that wasn’t just “split it three ways”, which didn’t seem fair given that we all earn different amounts – variable even from month to month as my income fluctuates depending on how many days I spend looking after the baby and what kind of freelance work I get, and as my partner gradually returns to work (part-time for now) after her recent maternity leave.

Our system: We use a system of 100% means-assessment based on gross income. So in other words, if Alice, Bob and Chris live together, and Alice earns twice as much as Bob, then she’d be expected to pay twice as much towards their collective household costs, too. And somebody who didn’t earn anything wouldn’t be expected to contribute anything. We didn’t always use 100%: early on, we used 75% – in other words, a quarter of our costs would be simply “split three ways”, and three-quarters of our costs would be split in accordance with means-assessment. Make sense?

It’s really easy: The good news is, it’s really easy to do. I’ve made a spreadsheet on Google Docs that’s a simplified version of our sheet, and you’re welcome to take a copy and use it yourself. Just put in everybody’s salary and what percentage “means assessment” you want to use (0% means ‘simply split X ways’; 100% means ‘split completely according to means’; anything in-between is a balance of the two). Then put in each cost and who paid it (Eve paid the rent, Alice paid for this week’s shopping, Bob paid for last week’s shopping, etc.) and it’ll tell you who owes money to whom in order to square everything up again.

It’s universal: You don’t even have to be a polyfamily to make use of this, I reckon. It works with as little as two people, and it’d work with any household of multiple adults, if you wanted it to. It provides a simple, fair, and slightly-socialist way of splitting up the living costs of a group of people who live together and trust one another.

Let me know what you think!

tl;dr: My polycule and I use a use a spreadsheet to divide up our monthly costs in accordance with our relative incomes, which then tells us who owes money to whom at the end of each month.