"The life of a blended family". Our Poly Life is written by any one of a poly-fi quad. Each month they will share with readers about issues they face as a blended and committed poly family with nine children still at home. You can read more about them at their website; Our Poly Life.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Learning to Deal

A few months ago Temptress and I sought out a poly therapist. In the uncharted territory called polyamory, she and I felt we needed an unbiased third party with whom to converse about some challenges we were facing at home and how best to go about learning to deal with the more distinctive and problematic situations in our quad. I’m always willing to admit that I hold much responsibility in keeping my relationships healthy; even more so perhaps than my “fair share.” The way I see it, if I am the one burdened with concern, then that is my opportunity to take a proactive stance on whatever may be disturbing the peace.

Now I’m not ready to go airing any dirty laundry, but I know you’ll know what I mean when I say the more people you have in close quarters, the more effort it requires to manage harmonious and peaceful accord in the home. So in hopes of continuing and improving the communication and resolution of any afore mentioned issues, we all began seeing a counselor that could give us some perspective and balance on how we each were feeling on certain topics.

We Googled “poly friendly therapists” and came up with several long lists of professionals over the country who advertised alternative lifestyle underpinnings. We made some calls and after asking some pertinent questions, we settled on one woman who has been one of the best discoveries in our 19 months together - I call her our “rare find.” I do so because our quad has some interesting quirks and oddities that we felt would make a doctor-patient match difficult. Not only does she share many of our alternative life choices, but we have very similar hobbies and interests as well. In the counseling world, this is very beneficial for us, for no other reason than we all feel she truly understands us, and does not sit in her chair thinking we are indeed a bunch of nut jobs. Well, she might think that, but I can be certain it isn’t because of our living arrangement. This is a good thing.

Our kink friendly professional has been a wonderful ally in our attempts to restore positive balance in our individual relationships. I can’t say we are healed and whole, as each of us is still a growing human with our own idiosyncrasies, but we are becoming more acutely aware of how every little thing about us has influence on those with whom we come into contact, most especially those with whom we share daily interactive and intimate connections.

In the process of working on the present, we each have discovered some things about the past. I see the whole scenario metaphorically like growing a garden. The four of us decided we wanted a garden, full of beautifully blooming flowers, and perhaps some veggies… but that won’t just happen on its own. There is a long progression of work before the flowers bud and the vegetables are ready for harvest. All manner of things can go wrong, and often do, but those that tend the garden can make adjustments to the care they give, providing the proper nutrients, altering the amount of fertilizer, and guarding the early plantings from threats. The most important part of a garden, however, is not what you see, but what you cannot see; that which is beneath. The health of the soil and/or the underground pests can damage the vulnerable roots are the ingredients that make or break the future of the plant.

Perhaps all of that is over simplistic view, but what I am beginning to understand about our quad is that we are so much more than the sum of our parts. Who we are on the surface, or even who we try to be, is ever so affected by where we came from and the accumulation of those experiences that shape our souls. Particular parts of us can only be tapped by exposing ourselves to certain circumstances. For example, as Big and I dated and married, we talked extensively of what we wanted our lives to be. Both of us had come from divorce situations, and it was of vital importance for us to put safe guards in place to protect us from the traps our parents fell prey. I contrast this with two other persons who may come from intact family backgrounds where divorce isn’t really seen as an option, and therefore no discussion or defenses are put into place proactively.

Big and I always thought we had a strong and secure marriage. Until one day when I discovered I had been falsely secure in that belief. A surprise situation made me reconsider much of what I considered “true.” At present, I can say I still feel that Big and I are secure, but it doesn’t come easily. I have learned that new experiences cause new challenges. And even after twenty years together, our new poly existence continues to bring to light other areas in which we need to use our interpersonal skill set. The “conservative monogamy” tools are not always effective with our more liberal present day lifestyle.

In practicing polyamory we should acknowledge all new relationships are exactly that, new, and must be treated with the understanding that each new person, or multiple addition, to a developed union can vary what has existed before. Change of any kind will bring individual introspection and it is imperative all members of the tribe understand potential dynamic shifts can occur regardless of how well the unit has functioned in the past. Each person is a unique entity and will bring strengths, weaknesses, emotional baggage, and perspective that require transitions and understanding. All involved must be willing to adjust.

To take this discussion a step further, I theorize cohabitation will change any poly “rules” that may have previously determined. What works when you are dating or committed in separate residences, does not necessarily work when you live under one roof. This applies to everything – time, money, behaviors tolerated, etc. As one poly friend said to me, “I can tolerate the subtle differences in our personal lives because his phone bill is not my phone bill and his misbehaving child is not my misbehaving child.” This is not the case when you have combined yourselves into one big happy. Any arising issues must be dealt with in haste since giving yourselves breathing room isn’t always possible nor advisable.

At this point in my journey I can only share the lessons garnered by my personal experience. The fact is it’s ME, my character, the tools I have, and NOT my “successful” relationships that determine the potential within each new relationship. Each dyad (we have 6) must evolve into its own identity, therefore so shall each triad (2), and then the bigger quad still another. The longer our quad is together, the more we wade through the intricacies of our pattered responses. We have conflict, and hopefully following is resolution. Agreeing to disagree is a luxury we can only afford in inconsequential matters, and more than ever before we must learn to deal with everything our loves bring with them, for better or worse.

~Temptress and the Laundry Goddess, September 01, 2007

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