Non Binary Relationships

Monday, December 7, 2009


In response to Dr Rob

I'm not sure if this is masturbatory - but just to establish where I'm coming from, I'm currently in a long term (12 months+) relationship, which has included sex, sexual contact and cohabitation with my wife and a third party. We have a variety of play relationships with people outside of our dynamic. We self define as a 'Leather Family' due to the BDSM/Fetish connotations with our relationship and we are closely involved as friends, family and former lovers of a large number of people in varying types of open relationships. My wife and I have been together for more then 5 years, but we've also both been involved in a variety of way, with a significant number of open relationships prior to our own relationship.

Fundamentally, the thing I see that builds the most resentment and the most unhealthy interaction in open/poly/non binary relationships is the lack of equality or the lack of fairness. There needs to be a pre-negotiated set of rules for any poly relationship, like there are for a standard binary relationship. The thing is - a binary relationship has rules that were debated and defined by dozens of generations of western culture, Dr Phil, Oprah, Cleo Magazine and hair dressers around the world.

In a non binary relationship, the framework for those rules isn't so pre defined. There's no clarity about 'Cleo says going to a strip bar isn't cheating unless there's touching' - it's all about what the two of you want and can make work. The problem is - a lot of non binary relationships occur between people who don't have a good grasp of what challenges they're likely to come up against. They don't have a lifetime of tested self assessment of what they personally can tolerate and what crosses their boundaries. And fundamentally - it's much more common to want to be in a poly relationship then to want your partners to be in a poly relationship. Greed and lust are a pairing that almost everyone is tuned to understand. Lust and sharing is much less culturally prevalent.

When the rules get set up - there's almost never real reciprocity. One partner is willing to share more then the other. One partner wants more security then the other. One partner wants their cookies but is still too culturally influenced to see their partner get cookies from elsewhere. And envy and a sense of unfairness kills poly relationships in a slow, painful way.

I don't know how many people I know who are in a poly relationship where one partner either doesn't have, or can break the rules - and the other partner is willing to let it slide, but if the willing and comfortable partner looks at one of those same rules funny - the relationship will explode.

I know a couple who devolved into a massive melt down and public explosion because the female partner of the couple sent an enticing email to the male partner and he responded positively. She knows his every trigger and button and wrote the email explicitly to appeal to him as a trap and their relationship went straight to hell because of it.

The same woman fucks on average a dozen different guys and a few girls in an average week. The male partner enjoys that dynamic and that play. But he's not allowed to fuck any of those people. Only she gets the window. Fundamentally - he's got no issues with her being physical with others - but he gets no reciprocation of that trust. He gets bear traps set for him instead.

I know another couple where the female partner set all the rules about no vaginal penetration and no kissing and no fluid exchange and etc, and ran the male partner ragged with her paranoia on the few occasions when he explored his options - then turned up pregnant to another man who she moved into the home. Her male partner has his own set of problems that motivate him to not leave despite the breech of rules and trust - but he's years into a passive aggressive dynamic that he never agreed to - where he scrubs the toilets with the other man's tooth brush and he's forced to be the provider for his wife and a man who he doesn't like. And he's still not allowed to kiss another woman.

I know DOZENS of couples where 'Open Relationship' is another word for 'We're fuck buddies, but you're only allowed to fuck me while I fuck anyone I want, and you get none of the consideration that you'd expect from a relationship while having all the obligations' - usually with a man controlling the relationship.

I watch so many of these relationships where I can only wonder if the guy involved has a vibrating dick made out of chocolate? If the self esteem issues of the involved parties are what drives the continued participation and how they'd react if they actually had a positive self image? I don't believe anything more then a fractional minority of those sort of massively unbalanced relationships are healthy.

I think that fractional minority are almost universally made up of relationships that are balanced in other ways. I don’t think relationships that are fundamentally unfair can ever really work.



I just found a thread about this topic on a forum that I go to sometimes and I thought a few comments there warranted a response.


So to sum up my question is, What are the effects, if any, on children and the relationship between partners in raising children during an open marriage or relationship?

I don't have kids. I don't particularly like kids. That said, my wife raised a niece from infancy to about 10 years old, while in an open relationship. That kid is now 20 and I know her pretty well and some of my friends who are in open relationships have kids.

The answer is I don't think it has less impact on a kid then say being raised by two mommies or two daddies. Ideally - your kids just don't know that fucking much about your sex life and if they do know too much - then you give them the very watered down version so it seems mundane and boring. It only starts to impact kids when you involve them in it - which is fucked up.

I've done workshops at fetish events to teach people how to shelter their kids from the digital side of their kinks. I've help people lock their kids out of shit. I've helped build the 'store rooms' where mommy goes with guests when the kids are at sleep over's. Most parents keep their kids from being too exposed to the whole deal because kids shouldn't know that much about their parents sex lives. That said, I have friends who's teenage children know WAY too much. I have friends who's pre-teen kids know way, way, way too much. That's nothing to do with the fact that mommy and daddy occasionally fuck Aunt Susan - that's a parenting decision where they've dramatically over educated their children at a very young age (in my incredibly biased, having never raised a child view). But they've consciously made the decision to let their children have that information.

There's certainly an impact from teaching your kids too much about the birds and the bees and the inserting peeled ginger into someone's urethra. But that's not an open marriage thing.

There are some things you can't hide from your kids though - like if one of your partners wears a collar all the time, and obviously isn't Goth or anything - the kids will catch on. If you have a live in third party who is intimate with you in front of the kids - that has to be explained. And how you handle that has to be tailored to the kids in question and how you want to raise them. My friends who I think do that well explain it in a very telly stubbies sort of way with lots of focus on 'different but ok' and 'consenting adults who've all knowingly chosen to love each other' and no details of how the mechanics of the sex works.

From what I've observed from friends, a SUCCESSFUL open relationship takes at least one of two things;
1. Not truly loving the other person. Being fond and kind towards them sure, but not true love.
2. Having a twisted and unusual psychology.

It's already been said in the thread, but this is nonsense. Fundamentally - there are millions of tribes in Africa and through the pacific islands (and Utah) where non binary relationships are working very well. Monogamy is a cultural expectation and the only thing required to not have monogamy in a healthy relationship is a personality that can function outside of cultural presets.

That might arguably be considered an unusual psychology - but I have personally met and know well enough to say 'their relationship works pretty well and isn't a negative part of the lives of anyone involved' despite being non binary - a few hundred people at least. That's not bumped into at a party or met at a conference - that's people I've spent time with and got to know them pretty well
Most of those people aren't standard thinkers, it's true. But Twisted? There's a lot of bias in that phrase that I don't think is warranted.

I'm of the opinion that while there is nothing wrong with an open relationship, it's something at upwards of 90% of the human population is not emotionally equipped to deal with.

This is why the rest of the world makes fun of Americans. I mean really. I know puritans founded your country, but lets try and keep up with some shit - like the fact that you aren't a majority of the worlds population. Through a lot of Asia - polyandrous relationships aren't a big deal, they're not idealized, but they're also not something most people give a shit about. Basically all of Africa's indigenous populations that haven't been converted by catholic missionaries (who coincidentally, have all the food) have non binary relationships.

One of the more interesting theories on why Suicide bombers became prevalent was the lack of available women in societies that prized sons above daughters where food was limited, and engaged in polyandrous relationship models. If you talk about the Christian Western World - maybe your 90% hold water. Maybe. But in the real world - that's not a majority share of the worlds population. Hell, even the very religious Scandinavians almost universally don't give a shit about people cheating in their marriages as long as the core family unit still comes first.

The only way that doesn't hurt is if you don't care

I disagree with the entire point that the person who posted this was trying to make - but this bit is true, to a point. You can't make an open or a poly relationship work if you can't get past the idea that Sex means EVERYTHING the way the Catholics have always told us it does. But not treating sex as an overwhelmingly gigantic sign of undying love is very different from not caring.

And? The only human societies throughout history that have had widespread polygamy (which was usually the men having harems, and women being stoned to death if anyone so much as accused them of infidelity) were ones where women had virtually no rights and were looked upon as mostly chattel. In other words, where no true love existed.

I'm not sure if you had shitty teachers, or what the deal is. But that's just not a true reflection of gender dynamics in a lot of polyandrous relationships - even where wives were bought with cattle, that's just not an accurate reflection. Sharia law can give that impression where it's implemented by fundamentalists - but in terms of the bulk population of Islam, that's not a realistic reflection of the culture or the power dynamics.

Can true love really exist between people who don't see themselves as equals? I love my pets, but I don't respect them as I've respected the women I've been in love with.

If you love your cat like you love your women, you'll run up a fortune in vet bills. I'm just saying - they're smaller animals and lube only goes so far.

In terms of people seeing themselves as equals - This diverges from Poly and moves to BDSM - but I know a lot of people who will actively fight to prevent the ones they love from seeing them as equals and would be very offended if you suggested that it in any way diminished the truth of their love.

Hetero-normative Judeo-Christian, post second wave feminist egalitarian relationships might be very politically correct. They might even be what the majority of the first world is looking for - but it's not the only way for two or more people to get down. And it certainly doesn't have a corner on the True Love market.