Friday, August 14, 2015

A Polyamorous Mother Denied Her Rights

This is the thirty-eighth ongoing relationship I've covered through exclusive interviews in which the lovers are denied the freedom to be open about their love and are, by law, denied the freedom to marry and have that marriage treated equally under the law.

The woman the interview below is a responsible adult, someone you might live next to or work with, in consensual relationships with other adults. Yet they face discrimination and prejudice for their love, having to hide the truth. They are clearly intelligent, responsible people and it is cruel to discriminate against them or deny them their rights.

Read the interview below and ask yourself if there is one good reason why people like this person,  should be denied the right to marry all of the consenting adults she love and have their marriages treated equally under the law or should have to hide the full, true nature of their relationship from anyone.


FULL MARRIAGE EQUALITY: Describe your background.

Rhian Ruari: I'm a college educated Demisexual bi-romantic white cis-woman in her 30s.  I work in education.  I write, read, bike, cook and watch DVDs with my loved ones, and making things with my kids.  I love being productive, work more than I should, and I love scheduling and organizing, planning and driving.  I live on the west coast in a house with H and W and our children, G and B.

H is a grad-level educated cishet Latino man in his mid 30s.  He's a scientist, who loves to read,  hike, bike and other random outdoors activities. 

W is in his mid-twenties, is a white cis male who is bi-romantic and mostly heterosexual.  He bikes, cooks, gardens, reads, loves the outdoors and likes dating.

FME: Are you legally married or have you ever been legally married?

H and I are legally married,  and have been for about a decade and a half...together for longer.  W has never been legally attached to anyone (although we have power of attorney papers) and M (H's white cishet girlfriend) has also never been married or legally partnered.  W short-hands our relationship as married, though...and we've talked about how nice having some sort of ceremony would be.

FME: How you would describe your relationship orientation or preference and would you describe it as an orientation or as a preference?

I'd say that being demi/bi and poly ante all orientations for me.  I didn't know about any of them until into my adulthood, but rereading books from my childhood and looking at previous relationships (both romantic and not) really make it very plain.  I think W is the same.  H, I think, is more poly - able bit it isn't really built into him at a core level.

FME: You currently live with…?

H and I have two biological children (a tween girl, G,  and an elementary school aged boy, B).  They live with H, W and myself,  and spend some nights with H and M at her place.  Neither W nor M has kids, bit W wants one, and were open to that (although I cannot have more biological children).  G and B know that all three adults in the home are their parents and W is their legal guardian...We've discussed a legal 3rd parent adoption at some point in the future.

FME: Please describe the structure of the relationship(s). Describe your polycule. Is this a “V”, a triad, an “N”, a square, what?

I think of our relationship as a V...and then H has M and W is looking for his other. For me, the three of us are the central relationship.  H thinks of it as an N, and it will eventually end up an M if W finds his other partner and H and M work out.  In my mind, though, the three of us are life partners (kids, lifelong promises and financial the shared living arrangements).

FME: How did this polycule form? What steps were taken, as far as discussion, research, etc.?

It started, in short,  because W (who we knew was poly) was living with us and fell for me...he told H, and we started talking about what that meant.  We'd had a rather in-depth discussion about it before, due to the fact that I'm bi-romantic and had crushed on a female friend, but this was much more in-depth.  Once it was clear I was falling in love with W, we found a poly-friendly therapist, re-read some literature, and started moving, slowly, in this direction. It took months to get to where H was comfortable with us kissing, and then with other non-sexual specific shows of affection...and then things took a turn when he became interested in M.  Eventually, we all started this journey (albeit tentatively)...and then W decided he never wanted to leave us, our kids or our home.  I asked him, with a ring and everything, if he'd stay with me...proposal style.  He said yes, and that's where we are.

We're relatively closed (H and I only have our one other partner) and w is a stickler for tests and safe sex if he gets to that point with other people he's dating.  He's looking for one other life-partner.  M is casually dating but not having sex with other people at this point.

FME: Before you were involved in polyamory or decided to look into it, what did you think of it or what did you know of it? Were you hostile towards the idea, skeptical, unaware?

I was aware, and had done some reading, as we'd had families in poly configurations near us, spent some time with them, and developed a group of friends who were largely poly.  I find the way it is practiced among many people to be a turn-off to me (casual sex generally is, due to my demi-sexuality and my cautious nature) but that is their choice.  The larger-family-building option has seemed like a much better fit for us.

FME: Describe your relationship(s) now. Are any of you open to new partners, actively seeking new partners, or is this entirely closed?

H and I aren't looking, W is looking for one other partner and I'm not really sure what M wants (long term) although I know she loves H desperately.  We spend a good deal of time as individual couples, and then with the three of us in the home.  H would like more time with M and I, but scheduling makes that hard, and since W and M don't like each other much, it is hard to spend time as a group of four for any extended time.

FME: What are the sleeping arrangements? Is there a schedule?

In theory, there is a schedule.  One night (sometimes two) during the week, H is at M's home and I sleep in W's room.  When everyone is on good terms, M sleeps here with H and I sleep with W on those nights.  There's an occasional weekend night in there as well.  H doesn't particularly like being around if W and I are going to be romantic or sexual, and W doesn't want to be around M and H if they are, so it is good to have it separated.  Since M doesn't live with us, and H is hard to schedule anything, which makes me a little nuts, but we're managing.

FME: Is the lovemaking always, sometimes, or never one-on-one?

Always.  I have no desire to be in on group sex, H would (if it involved me and M) and W has no strong preferences either way.

FME: What kind of rules/agreements for maintaining the relationship and/or boundaries are there?

No one has sex with anyone new without discussing it beforehand. That doesn't give us any veto power, but it does allow me, for example, to tell W that if he starts sleeping with a new partner (or wants to do so without condoms) that I'll need us to go back to using them or stop having sex for a period...putting it in my hands to protect myself.  I also try to have one date night a week, sans W around, with H (his request) and one night where the three of us hang out (my request).  We try and keep very obvious displays to a minimum, refuse to lie to eachother, and don't do anything to intentionally out the situation. M outright refuses to lie about it at all, which is sticky since it effects her the least and I don't feel that's a fair call to make unilaterally, but the rest is pretty simple. H and M still have to use condoms since they are both fertile  and I'm not yet comfortable with them not using them (he's not experienced with them) but that won't last long.

FME: What is your past experience with polyamory, if any?

One crush on a friend. It didn't go anywhere, but it opened up the conversation for H and I.

FME: Who are you out to? Have you noticed any discrimination against you, and if so, can you describe it?

We've told W's mother, a few close friends of mine (most if whom are poly), H's best friend and our housemates. W is honest with the people he dates, and M tells lots of people (her friends, mother, work friends...).  We're going to tell H's brother when we see him next month, and I might tell mine, but we're generally pretty tight lipped about it, since it would destroy the relationships we have with our parents (which are tenuous anyway...but the kids love their grandparents).  G has figured it out (in a "H and M, sitting in a tree..." kind of way) and we've had to explain to her how that's not information for the general public (and why).  Just the suspicion of it has brought child services into our home, and I'd like to avoid that in the future.

And yes, child protective services has actually come to our home because someone suspected us of living in "an atypical arrangement that may be harmful to our children."  If that isn't discriminatory, I don't know what is.

FME: Is there anything you've had to do to hide the nature of your relationship from anyone? Having to hide can be a lot of trouble. Are there other disadvantages to being in a relationship like this? Conversely, do you think polyamorous relationships have some advantages (in addition to some people simply needing polyamory)?

Lying, bald-faced, to my friends, to family I care about, to the less open minded parts of W's sucks.  I'd love to put W on my health insurance. I'd love to have it just be seen as something simple...and not seen as problematic that I want to go to the doctor with him or do banking things or have him pick up the kids.

The advantages are endless.  The kids have more people who love them, we can tap out.  W can be a stay at home parent with a 5 hour a week job and full time school...and still have 2 other incomes to rely upon. I don't have to pay a nanny.  I'm learning new things about sex, relationships and me. About H. W's mom gets a daughter inlaw,  I have a mother in law who likes me. The kids get extra grandparents, and M...who does stuff with them I never have time for. H and M have very compatible sex drives...I feel more cared for.

FME: What do you want to say to people who disapprove of your relationship, or disapprove of anyone having this kind of relationship? What's your reply to those who would say that women are victimized by a relationship like this or desperate to agree to it, or that men must be weak or desperate to agree to something like this, or lack discipline to request something like this?

Usually? Not much. You can't fix stupid.  If I'm around people I feel should know better, I bring up the "they're all grown-ups and not hurting anyone...what do you care?" If there's a poly relationship that strikes me as abusive, I'll make sure it's the abuse I take issue with, not the nonmonogamy (and voice that specifically) and if it is something that just strikes me as uncomfortable,  I'll say that, too ("this isn't something I would do for X and Y reasons? But it seems to be working for them, and if it does or doesn't,  that's up to them to decide. They're adults."). 

As to the arguments against it based on scurrilous accusations: H is as strong a man as I know, and I am a VERY strong and independent woman.  We dated for years before we wed, and married as virgins, so I'm not about to be convinced we have no self control, and the two decades of monogamy are also evidence of that (because God knows women offered to "just not tell his wife").  Agreeing to treat your spouse like your friend and partner, to meet their needs and grow with them down a hard road?  That's not can't be.

FME: Do you have anything to say to people who say they support the freedom to marry but do not support rights for polyamorous people?

Most arguments center around either bureaucracy or religious polygamy. 

In relation to the paperwork: since you can claim as many  minor children on your taxes (or adult disabled children or adult children in college or elderly disabled parents or...) the rules could be adjusted to allow for the claiming of more than one spouse.  As long as, like with current rules, you aren't a dependent on more than one person's form, it shouldn't upset the balance of the entire system.  Insurance companies could work the same (although single payer takes care of that mess) by letting you pay to add an extra adult family member (spouse or parent or sibling).

Religious (or other) poly that preys on young folk is wrong. Period. If we're talking about consenting adults, their reasoning (religious, financial, whatever) doesn't matter.  Also, many people (men, usually) in religious lore were involved in multiple-marriages.  God apparently sanctioned those, and the only ones he punished were David (whom was punished for having an affair, using his power unfairly and killing his metamour) and Solomon (who chose wives for political gain and was untrue to himself and his faith in his choices).  Stay true to yourself and be honest, and it is even biblical.

FME: So much of our culture currently claims that monogamy is the ideal for relationships and that polyamory is wrong. Can you think of anything that would make relationships like this inherently wrong?

Monogamy is phenomenal. Most people don't do it. They just don't.  They do serial monogamy (relationship after relationship) or marriage after divorce, and no one questions that.  I've had two sexual relationships in my whole life...they just happen to be concurrent. How is mine more wrong than someone who had a relationship that ended and then had another relationship?

FME: If you could have a legal polyamorous marriage, and that included protections against discrimination, harassment, etc., do you think you’d ever want a marriage? Or even if you do not want a legal polyamorous marriage, do you see a need for protections against discrimination?

Yes. I'd marry W without a question (after making sure H didn't faint).  The protections are absolutely necessary, because even of we weren't going to do that, other people want to...desperately.  They can't for stupid/ignorant/bigoted reasons and it is unfair.

FME: What advice do you have for someone who thinks they may be polyamorous or may want to enter into a polyamorous relationship? What do your children know, if anything, of polyamory and  monogamy and are you raising them or will you be raising them with an attempt to prefer one of those?

If you want your children protected, fill out a "Power of Attorney for Minor Child(ren)."  There's a link to a text post on the left-hand quick links on my blog.  It gives functional guardianship to your other co-parents. 

Be honest with your kids because you don't want them to think that they're being lied to, and then not be able to trust you when they're older.

I, personally, hope my children grow up highly valuing sex and romantic relationships.  I'll be, personally, saddened if they take a widely casual view of sex, but that's MY issue, and I own it.  I want them to be smart about who they choose to entangle their lives with, be protected (from disease, from pregnancy, from unnecessary heart-break, from hurting others, from dishonesty, from unclear communication, from abusive relationships, from financial problems due to any of the above, etc) and I want them to know that love is an important and, sometimes, destructive force that should be handled wisely...regardless of the number of partners they have.

FME: What advice do you have for family members and friends who are having trouble coming to grips with the reality of their family member or friend being polyamorous?

If it isn't hurting any of the people involved, then it isn't your business.  Be supportive if you can or civil if you can't, but don't be an a--hole.

FME: Do you know/meet up with other polyamorous families?

We know other people who are poly, most of whom aren't families but are tangentially involved polycules.  We meet up with other poly families every once and a while just to be around other people with the same challenges (kids, work, a mortgage, responsibilities, etc...) but it's rare to find.  I'd love to know more people.

FME: Any plans for the future?

W wants children of his own and another partner.  H and M have their own plans, which I don't know about fully.  I hope to grow old with my men.

FME: Anything else you want to add?

Thank you for doing this interview!  Your blog is a step forward for poly/queer/consanguineous families.


There you have it. Consenting adults who aren't hurting anyone, some of whom have children together, and face discrimination and denial of their rights simply for loving each other. You can follow her updates on her Tumblr blog:

Why should they be denied their rights? There’s no good reason.We need to recognize that all adults should be free to be with any and all consenting adults as they mutually consent, and part of doing that is adopting relationship rights for all, including full marriage equality sooner rather than later. People are being hurt because of a denial of their basic human rights to love each other freely.

You can read other interviews I have done here.

If you are in a relationship like this and are looking for help or others you can talk with, read this.

Thank you to "Rhian Ruari" for doing this interview! If you want to be interviewed about your "forbidden" relationship, connect with me by checking under the "Get Connected" tab there at the top of the page.
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  1. We live in a mainly Christian religious driven society in which one man, one woman is the standard. At the time of Christ (and I'm not a Christian, actually, I'm not religious), a Hebrew man could have as many wives as he wanted and could afford. Most Christians don't realize that. But it was a totally patriarchal system.

    The new religion, Christianity, came of age, so to speak, under the influence of the Greeks and Romans (both patriarchal societies also). The Greeks and Romans believe in one man and one woman marriages-- it made inheritance easier. However, both the Greek men and Roman men, as well as the Hebrew men, had sexual access to any female slaves in the household, as well as prostitutes--not the Hebrew men, however, as far as prostitutes went. The women could only have one husband.

    The Christians adopted the one man one woman system. Actually, at one of the early meetings of the Bishops, they discussed that men and women should live together as brother and sister and not have "carnal knowledge of each other," not realizing or ignoring the fact that God did not punish Lot and his daughters for fucking, ergo, allowing father-daughter incest. Then someone pointed out that if no children would be born--no marriages, etc.--then they would run out of Christians in a generation or so. That argument was specious at best. If there were no more Christians, then all the good people would have gone to Heaven and the rest to Hell. Anyway, at that point the bishops--not really great on logic--adopted the one man and one woman marriage principle but it was only supposed to be for procreation, not recreation.... Yeah right!

    Anyway, you are up against about 2,000 years of dogma. How far do you think you can get? Don't sweat the legalities. We don't need the government support of our ideas or marriages or sexual arrangements and we shouldn't want the government support of our sexual/financial affairs. Do it yourself and don't tell the government. Live together and love together. To ask for the government's permission is to admit that you are a subject of the imperial government and not a free and independent person. Fuck the government because, at base, it is force and it is evil. Live your life without it as best you can. But don't expect society to accept your lifestyle that contradicts their religious or personal moral beliefs even if their beliefs violate your so-called inalienable right and your beliefs violate no ones right. That why I call the idea of inalienable rights a myth. (Whew!)

  2. Thank you for the interview!

    I'm aware of the thousands of years of Christian tradition and where they come from, but I was pointing out that the argument was specious. As to the government issue, I admit that I live under a government and that its laws impact my family. It is made up of people, and that by changing the laws, it allows more people to live as free and independent persons, equal under the law. Changing what people accept is a slow process, I know this, but it doesn't trouble me over much. Change comes.


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