Poly Question 1.5
How important is transparency to me? If I have more than one lover, am I happy with them knowing about each other? If they have other lovers, am I happy knowing them?
The importance of transparency for me is very context dependent.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Sucks
I could never have an ongoing romantic relationship with someone who would not meet Skyspook. Logistically speaking alone, it would be a total fucking nightmare. I live with him. I hang out with him a lot. Scheduling around that would be annoyingly difficult.
The other big issue is that anybody who wouldn’t want to meet Skyspook probably wouldn’t be all that keen on my talking about him. I talk about him. A lot. He’s a big part of my life. We do a lot of things together. He’s my best friend. He’s important to me. He is an extremely significant other. Tact is one thing, being gentle about other connections, etc, but never mentioning him? Pretending he doesn’t exist? It would be an exhausting mental exercise to censor, redirect, find other ways to discuss whatever issue involves him or is somehow connected to him.
That’s one big thing about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) style poly. It’s a lot of work.
And don’t think because you can keep things completely separate in the short term that there won’t be times when unintentional overlaps happen. I’ve known people trying to keep things separated who sometimes stumble into situations where due to wild coincidences of social media and general “small world” randomness that they cross paths anyway. A good friend of mine reevaluated her DADT setup when her husband’s girlfriend ran into them at the movies.
Not only that, but the DADT setup signals a fundamental discomfort with the idea that a polyamorous thing is going on. You’re okay with sharing so long as the others are out of sight, out of mind. If that’s the case, can you really say that you’re okay with it? And how will this rear its head down the road when you least expect it?
Dating people who are fundamentally uncomfortable with polyamory as a concept yields pretty interesting stories, that’s for sure, but it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. I experienced this in 2009 in rural Maine, and my only consolation is that it has all the makings of turning into a pretty good book (6/2017 update: It did!). I’m not eager to return to such a thing.
Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater, or, Compersion is a Good Thing, and Metamours are Great
If you never meet or know your metamours, you are never going to experience compersion in all its glory. When I got into all of this poly business, I never expected to find that not only did I love having metamours, I loved being one. It’s probably especially important in a situation like mine, where I rely mostly on chosen family. No kids, difficult relationship with my family of origin, living in a city some distance from where I grew up. My friends ARE my family. And I date friends. So there you go.
Counterpoint: Some Privacy Can Be Very Important for Building Intimacy
It’s important, however, to acknowledge that a bit of shade can be helpful for relationships to grow – after all, some plants can’t handle full sun.
The last time I did a robust OkCupid sweep, I corresponded with a young man who apologized after one period of silence for taking so long, explaining that his girlfriend had to review and approve all outgoing messages to other partners, and she had been quite busy with professional obligations and hadn’t gotten around to it.
Granted, there weren’t any sparks to speak of (I just ended up giving the guy poly advice he asked for), and that probably would have died on its own, but I can’t imagine opening up with authentic vulnerability with such a chaperone structure in the picture. Still, he seemed a bit upset when I stopped writing back, so I imagine I’m not the only one not keen to forge connections under such a microscope.
How the Hell You Gonna Have Dynamite Group Sex Without People Knowing What’s What?
Seriously. Group sex is awesome. What the hell are you doing not introducing everyone to each other?
It’s a funny thing to ask this of a person who calls herself “Obscurantista.”
noun: obscurantism 1: opposition to the spread of knowledge : a policy of withholding knowledge from the general public. 2 a : a style (as in literature or art) characterized by deliberate vagueness or abstruseness b : an act or instance of obscurantism.
Of course, my vagueness is less driven by fear or discomfort and more a belief that all communication and lived experience are ambiguous and nuanced things, that truth is multifaceted, and none of us are entitled to the full revelation of another person’s innermost self.
Note: I wrote these 2 sections first but will place them at the end of the post since I don’t want to distract from the rest of the piece.