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.

by Zosia Bielski

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

by an author

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.

How my poly family organises our finances (aka. means-assessed money management for multi-adult households).

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

by an author

Hi /r/polyamory. 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.

Means-Assessed Household Finances (Socialism Begins At Home!)

For the last four years or so, Ruth, JTA and I (and during their times living with us, Paul and Matt) have organised our finances according to a system of means-assessment. I’ve mentioned it to people on a number of ocassions, and every time it seems to attract interest, so I thought I’d explain how we got to it and how it works, so that others might benefit from it. We think it’s particularly good for families consisting of multiple adults sharing a single household (for example, polyamorous networks like ours, or families with grown children) but there are probably others who’d benefit from it, too – it’s perfectly reasonable for just two adults with different salaries to use it, for example. And I’ve made a sample spreadsheet that you’re welcome to copy and adapt, if you’d like to.

How we got here

JTA and Ruth at the supermarket after shoping before Murder... At The Magic College
That’s a long receipt!

After I left Aberystwyth and Ruth, JTA, Paul and I started living at “Earth”, our house in Headington, we realised that for the first time, the four of us were financially-connected to one another. We started by dividing the rent and council tax four ways (with an exemption for Paul while he was still looking for work), splitting the major annual expenses (insurance, TV license) between the largest earners, and taking turns to pay smaller, more-regular expenses (shopping, bills, etc.). This didn’t work out very well, because it only takes two cycles of you being the “unlucky” one who gets lumbered with the more-expensive-than-usual shopping trip – right before a party, for example – before it starts to feel like a bit of a lottery.

Our solution, then, was to replace the system with a fairer one. We started adding up our total expenditures over the course of each month and settling the difference between one another at the end of each month. Because we’re clearly raging socialists, we decided that the fairest (and most “family-like”) way to distribute responsibility was by a system of partial means-assessment: de chacun selon ses facultés.

JTA and Paul pack bags at the checkout, before Christmas 2010.
Another enormous shopping trip.

We started out with what we called “75% means-assessment”: in other words, a quarter of our shared expenditures were split evenly, four ways, and three-quarters were split proportionally in accordance with our gross income. We arrived at that figure after a little dissussion (and a computerised model that we could all play with on a big screen). Working from gross income invariably introduces inequalities into the system (some of which are mirrored in our income tax system) but a bigger unfairness came – as it does in wider society – from the fact that the difference between a very-low income and a low income is significantly more (from a disposable money perspective) than the difference between a low and a high income. This was relevant, because ‘personal’ expenses, such as mobile phone bills, were not included in the scheme and so we may have penalised lower-earners more than we had intended. On the other hand, 75% means-assessment was still significantly more-“communist” than 0%!

When I mentioned this system to people, sometimes they’d express surprise that I (as one of the higher earners) would agree to such an arrangement: the question was usually asked with a tone that implied that they expected the lower earners to mooch off of the higher earners, which (coupled with the clearly false idea that there’s a linear relationship between the amount of work involved in a job and the amount that it pays) would result in a “race to the bottom”, with each participant trying to do the smallest amount of work possible in order to maximise the degree to which they were subsidised by the others. From a game theory perspective, the argument makes sense, I would concede. But on the other hand – what the hell would I be doing agreeing to live with and share finances with (and then continuing to live with and share finances with) people whose ideology was so opposed to my own in the first place? Naturally, I trusted my fellow Earthlings in this arrangement: I already trusted them – that’s why I was living with them!

Louis Blanc
Louis Blanc had the right idea, but his idealism was hampered by the selfishness inherent in any sufficiently-large group. Had he brought socialism to his house, rather than his country, he might have felt more successful.

How it works

We’ve had a few iterations, but we eventually settled on a system at a higher rate of means-assessment: 100%! It’s not perfect, but it’s the fairest way I’ve ever been involved with of sharing the costs of running a house. I’ve put together a spreadsheet based on the one that we use that you can adapt to your own household, if you’d like to try a fairer way of splitting your bills – whether there are just two of you or lots of you in your home, this provides a genuinely equitable way to share your costs.

Means-assessed household finances sample sheet. Click to see the actual sheet.
Click on the sheet to see a Google Drive document that you can save a copy of and adapt to your own household.

The sheet I’ve provided – linked above – is not quite like ours: ours has extra features to handle Ruth and I’s fluctuating income (mine because of freelance work, Ruth’s because she’s gradually returning to work following a period of maternity leave), an archive of each month’s finances, tools to help handle repayments to one another of money borrowed, and convenience macros to highlight who owes what to whom. This is, then, a simplified version from which you can build a model for your own household, or that you can use as a starting point for discussions with your own tribe.

Start on the “People” sheet and tell it how many participants your household has, their names, and their relative incomes. Also add your proposed level of means-assessment: anything from 0% to 100%… or beyond, but that does have some interesting philosophical consequences.

Then, on the “Expenses” sheet, record each thing that your household pays for over the course of each month. At the bottom, it’ll total up how much each person has paid, and how much they would have been expected to pay, based on the level of your means-assessment: at 0%, for example, each person would be expected to pay 1/N of the total; at the other extreme (100%), a person with no income would be expected to make no contribution, and a person with twice the income of another would be expected to pay twice as much as them. It’ll also show the difference between the two values: so those who’ve paid less than their ‘share’ will have negative numbers and will owe money to those who’ve paid more than their share, indicated by positive numbers. Settle the difference… and you’re ready to roll on to the next month.

Now you’re equipped to employ a (wholly or partially) means-assessed model to your household finances. If you adapt this model or have ideas for its future development, I’d love to hear them.