J: I’m Julie.
D: and I’m Daphne.
J: And we are here to talk about poly shit for other poly people, because I’m tired of monogers giving me advice on being non-monogamous. Like fuck that! I’m dating like a million people, so the way I see it we should give you like a million answers to every question.
D: Definitely! And that is what we are hoping for. By being “Ask Poly” we want you to have multiple viewpoints on as many of your questions as possible. While you’ll be hearing from the two of us periodically, the answers to these questions will be sourced from the whole polycule and maybe even partners outside of that circle.
J: And actually, how many times do you really meet another poly person to talk about shit? Like never!
D: Right! And chances are if you have started meeting poly people, you’re either on a date, have slept with them, or have considered sleeping with them and sometimes you don’t want the baggage that comes along with that.
J: So instead of going through that awkward part of a first date where you talk about how you all decided to break up your traditional marriage or partnering, we’ll just skip over that for you here and then you can get on with your dates.
D: Are we ready to answer some questions?
J: Yes! I’ll just say my favorite question that I have personally gotten, which was after I came out to my friend while drunk at my bachelorette party. She was just like “Who do you sit next to? Literally how do you decide who to sit next to?”
D: Well, what did you say?
J: I said it depends, which is the obvious answer. I know we’ve talked about this before, and the real answer is “how gay do I feel?” because as a cis woman who is married to a cis man I don’t get to be gay very much in my day-to-day life even though I identify as bisexual. But honestly? I like to sit in the middle because I’m kind of a brat like that, so I don’t ever pick.
D: You don’t sit next to anybody, you sit in the middle of everybody?
D: That’s a good answer. I guess if I was going to answer I’d say it depends on who is going to give me the most attention at any given time. Like how physical am I feeling? Do I need to sit next to someone who is going to talk to me because I’m feeling chatty? For example, at a movie I’d sit next to Anthony and Selena so we could talk shit about the movie the whole time.
J: Yeah, it definitely depends on the vibe. But like, our dynamic as opposed to the other couples we date, is so different and unique to us, so that affects how we interact and what we do.
D: So to clarify, you can sit next to whomever you want or you can be like Julie and choose to sit in the middle of everyone. They are your relationships and you gotta do you!
J: Yes, everybody and nobody at the same time. Or whatever you want. More than four people you kind of stop having a choice anyway. Just sit and be happy.
D: Yeah, just enjoy the company you’re with! I mean if you’re just going out with a group of friends, do you really agonize over who you sit next to? I don’t think so.
J: That’s another thing, and I don’t know if you want to talk about this one today, but can you be friends with a poly person?
D: Oh, yes, I like that question. That’s a great question! Good transition.
D: That question to me feels like you’re asking “how do you be friends with a gay person?” or “how can boys and girls be platonic friends?”
J: Right, just because everyone’s an option doesn’t really mean EVERYONE is an option. Maybe I don’t want more partners, maybe I’m not attracted to you, or maybe I just don’t like you!
D: Just friends still applies! It’s totally acceptable to say “I like this person and want to be friends with them” and then never take the relationship any farther.
J: You know, how I feel about all of my co-workers.
D: Of come on, you don’t have that one hot co-worker everyone wants to fuck?
J: No, no, I don’t mean that coworker we all whisper about behind our hands and go “I don’t know, maybe.” I mean the feeling you have for the majority of your coworkers, where you don’t want to date them, you’re not attracted to them, but you might want to talk to them about Netflix shows.
D: Yeah, agreed. Although it’s funny you say that because Zac is totally the guy that my coworkers whisper about. Technically he’s not their coworker, I am, but he’s the one who gets the “I don’t know, maybe” whispers, from men and women.
J: Oh, HE’S THAT DUDE!
D: Yeah they are all like “your husband is really cute” and then they tell me about their crushes on him. But we aren’t out to any of them, and dating co-workers usually ends poorly anyway, so I just tell them I know he’s cute, and enjoy the flirting.
J: Not sure that’s appropriate, but I love it. And to bring it back, poly people can absolutely just be friends.
D: I have to think that question has roots in the general misunderstanding of what poly really means, right? Zac and I aren’t just out there every night in public saying “well everyone’s possible!” And then hitting on everyone and trying to date them.”
J: I think it comes from the over sexualization of gay and bi-people, too. Mix that with promiscuous people and it’s a whole thing.
D: Definitely, and then that goes into confusing the terms promiscuity and polyamory. It’s not the same thing and that is part of where this whole website came from; we think there is a misconception as to what poly means and it’s not “I get to fuck as many people as I want.”
J: It’s not swinging. It’s a different kind of rectangle. Swinging and polyamory are both rectangles, but only one is a square.
D: Yeah, I like that. It’s a good way to put it. I have a friend who is poly, she and her husband have an open poly relationship. I came out to her and she was like “oh my god, my husband and I have been thinking about opening our relationship for years and we’ve only started exploring what that means for us.” And that’s great, but we didn’t start dating just because we’re all poly. We’re not all poly together.
J: No. You don’t walk into a theme park and go, “well I’m here and now I have to ride every single ride.”
D: Just line up! We’ll ride all of you!
J: I mean some people are into that’s cool!
D: No judgement!
J: No judgement! Personally I find that emotionally and physically exhausting.
D: We are poly not because of a physical need to have sex. For us, it’s about emotional intimacy, too. And you don’t find that with everyone just because they are also poly.
J: Yeah! Also, I was poly before I was sexual. You know what love is and what emotional connection feels like and, even when you don’t have a language for it, you understand you’re capable of loving more than one person.
D: Agreed. And, actually, maybe this leads well into another question, which is what are the benefits and challenges of dating as a couple or as a partnered single? Maybe we can start with dating as a couple: what are the benefits of having a primary partner and dating with them?
D: It’s fun! That’s a stupid answer…
D: But it is fun…
D: I mean, the thing that turns me on the most is being with someone who cares about you and your needs so much that they will let you be free in every sense of the word. To know that you’re still choosing to be with that person because they are unafraid to let you live your true life and be true to yourself—that feeling is almost indescribable when someone sees you soul for soul like that.
D: Yes, I like that.
J: To be that liberated. Like whoever wrote that saying, “if you love it let it go,” that person was legit poly. I didn’t need to marry Jace to prove that, but it affirmed my marriage and my decision even more, to be with someone who sees me the same way I see him like that.
D: I think that’s all true. So Zac and I had this realization just this week that we’ve been doing this for six years. That’s almost 2/3 of our relationship, right? Dating other couples, being poly, whatever you want to call it, and we’ve called it different things over the years, has been a six year journey so far. And the journey started when we invited someone we cared about to have a sexual experience with us. And that person is still our friend, we went to her wedding last summer.
I’ll add here that we exclusively date together as a couple and do not date as singles. For us choosing to be poly and continuing to be poly is about this connection that we have, our personal relationship, and continuing to act in ways that makes that relationship stronger. We found that dating and introducing other partners into our lives in physically and emotionally intimate ways gives us something in our relationship that makes us feel our most authentic selves. Doing it together always gives us someone to fall back on and it makes hard discussions easier.
If you haven’t, go on a date with another poly person or poly couple. You get to the tough questions like “what do you like or not like in bed” in about an hour. And when you have your primary partner with you, there’s no fear because you know that person is with you and loves you for exactly who and what you are. We’re going to talk to these other people and if they don’t like me, who fucking cares, because this other person, my partner, loves me and is going to go home with me at the end of the date. There’s something grounding about that and something really affirming about that experience.
J: Yeah, emotional connection is so enriching, right? I mean you would never only have one friend. You have friends who affirm different parts of your identity and who you are as a person; they help you grow in different ways. And the romantic connection you get in poly, it’s the same thing. You have different relationships for different needs. Simone de Beauvoir said women should have five different husbands throughout their lives, which I still think is too many, probably.
D: Well if I got divorced tomorrow that’s it, I’m not getting married again. I’d just have concubines and become a silver—what do they call it?
J: A cougar. You’d be a great cougar, one of those legit ones.
D: Right? Maybe have some sugar babies along the way.
And so you and Jace date people individually, not just together as a couple, so what do you think are the benefits of doing that?
J: We are opposites in a lot of ways. I’m much more extroverted in a lot of ways, we have different hobbies, play different sports. As far as what we need socially, it’s very different. So, naturally, I have a higher need for socializing in general, even just as far as the friends that I see every week. I very much enjoy people and so that plays into it and helps fill that need. We had our first experience together as a couple and then we just realized it was fun to do both. Needs and equity are important, right?
D: Sure, like if one of you has a single date then the other wants to have one, too. Is that what you mean?
J: Yes, and that’s something we struggled with early on because let’s be honest, single dating is a ladies game. Meanwhile it was so much harder for him to get dates and that was hard at first.
D: Yeah that makes sense. It’s so much easier as a single woman to just get matches and start conversations.
J Definitely! I also think I enjoy the perspective of single dating. Especially now that we are in a couple of different quads and each of those has its own dynamic, dating someone else one-on-one is different and it’s refreshing.
D: Through this process, have you learned things about Jace that you maybe wouldn’t have learned if you weren’t poly and/or if you weren’t dating both together and separately?
J: Yeah, I think everyone is different when they are in different roles. So seeing Jace outside of him just being my husband or just being my nester person, to see him in the role of being my partner and also someone else’s is super interesting. And frankly, I just feel like I have nothing to worry about. Not that people do this because they have fear, but I can honestly say fear is whatever.
Early on we were only dating together because of worry- I know I was worried I’d miss something or feel a sense of loss because I wasn’t there, but then you realize like what am I going to do, stare into his eyes and be like “DOES HE LOVE HER?” But we got to a place where we felt more secure and realized that if there was a time one of us didn’t come back it wasn’t because of the other person in the relationship, it was because of me. Or because of him. Also, Jace loving another person does not mean he doesn’t love me, so no need to worry there either.
D: Yeah, absolutely, and we didn’t add the question about jealousy into this session.
J: Yeah that one is heavy!
D: Definitely for another time, but I think it’s fair to say that we wouldn’t be in this as deep as we are if we weren’t secure in who we are with our primary partners. And if we’re not secure then that’s us looking for an out and basically being assholes to each other by using polyamory as a way to say this isn’t working and I want to hurt you.
J: This brings me back to a bigger question that I get a lot, “Why would you be married and also open in your relationship?”
D: Yeah somewhere along the line we, and I mean the royal, cultural “we,” took the ideas of monogamy, love, and trust and smashed them together. Now there’s this belief that in order to have love and trust in a relationship you also have to have monogamy. And that’s not true.
J: Definitely not true!
D: But when it’s completely consensual and healthy all around, then it can be a great thing for your relationship. Honestly I don’t think most people even mean to be offensive when they ask those questions or make those assumptions, they are just taught monogamy from a young age and then see polyamory portrayed negatively in the media and make assumptions.
J: They watch Tiger King and see an older man with four younger women and think “oooh yeah that’s how it is.”
D: Exactly, which is super unfair because that’s not a realistic take on what I see as my real life.
J: So how did you and Zac come to only date as a couple?
D: I think it started out because initially when we were having these conversations we weren’t living in the Bay Area and the dating options were very different, aka almost non-existent. It was harder to be open about everything, so if we’re going to do it, this was the only way we saw it happening. And then after we moved out here and started exploring, we just realized that together was the way we like it. I realized that a lot of the thrill for me is in seeing Zac enjoy himself with other people and knowing that not only turns me on, it gives me emotional pleasure and a feeling like I can give him what he needs by letting someone else give it to him. And he agrees with me, and so a big part of the reason why we do this together and keep doing it together is because we want to see the other person experience that pleasure.
J: Like FOMO but in a nice way.
D: Yeah, FOMO but in a let me be a part of it and reap the good stuff kind of way. It’s not fear or jealousy or anything like that. And as we’ve gotten to know couples, we’ll see partners alone and do solo things and that’s part of the experience, but it’s also knowing that we as a couple are dating them as a couple. Not we as a couple are dating Julie or we as a couple are dating Jace. We are really into the We in all of this.
So yeah I think it stemmed originally from “how do we jump in and navigate this” and then it became about how much we enjoy experiencing everything as a “we.”
J: Yeah that makes sense. And as you were talking I was thinking that the experience of dating another person or set of people as a couple is so satisfying. It’s someone going from being yours to someone being ours and to be like “you and I are going to work to cultivate this relationship together,” that is super cool. And, I just love loving other people. I love loving people.
D: Yeah! Yes!
J: I imagine this is why people have children and feel so much pride in raising their children together. You have to partner to build a relationship and you do it together. And the fact that you two as a unit want to build your thing, that’s dope. Like Captain Planet.
D: Yeah I like that. Captain Planet.
J: What did they call them, Planeteers?
D: Yeah, Planeteers.
J: No way, not Planeteers. I made that up!
D: No it totally is! It’s Planeteers! Captain Planet and the Planeteers! They had the rings, wind, water, and heart?
J: Oh heart. Everyone felt bad for heart.
D: Monty, his name was Monty! I liked that cartoon.
J: It made me aware of global warming. And now I hate that I’m really living that.
D: Okay, we’re cranking through these pretty well. So…how do you process a bad date or negative experience?
J: Me dating by myself? I just wanna say first, poly people are not magical unicorns that are devoid of emotions like jealousy, and are just Zen as fuck or anything. You just get really comfortable with being like well, there’s no connection there. It’s not anything against them or me, it just didn’t line up. That is it. To be clear, it also depends on why a date goes bad. If it’s one of those ones where you come home and you’re like “I’m not mad at the money I spent on dinner, but I wouldn’t ride that ride again” that’s very different from “that person made me fear for my safety.”
D: I mean we told you we almost got kidnapped once. But that wasn’t a bad date, exactly, it was a learning experience because we were still newbies. We were new to the scene and app dating. We’d had some experiences with threesomes and other things, but hadn’t explored what dating really meant yet. I don’t think they really would have kidnapped us, but they did keep joking they weren’t going to drop us at the BART station and were just going to take us home with them. It was a fascinating example of a couple we never wanted to see again, but we feel like we learned so much about what we were looking for from them. Sometimes I think bad dates, or even non-dates, are necessary so you’ve had the experience and can then say “no, I don’t want that.”
J: Honestly I think dating as poly is easy at least when you have a primary partner like we do because you’ve already figured out one relationship and so there’s no point in me being anything less than who I am.
D: Yeah I agree, I think. And I think because of that every poly person I’ve ever been on a date with is so much more honest and open and up front about what they want and who they are from the first moment we start talking. Here’s what I’m looking for, here’s what I like for sex, here are my rules, here’s how we go about doing XYZ.
J: “Here’s how I view relationships.”
D: The first date isn’t ever “oh I think they liked me,” it’s “here’s what I want”
J: Yes, and it’s not in a pressure way, but in a “if it lines up it lines up” kind of way.
D: Yeah, but like Zac and I have had a legitimate bad experience. One that caused us to question our connection with each other and why we were dating other people and opening up our relationship. And we are always super up front in new relationships that we have “rules” and it was this date that caused us to stop and really implement those rules. For us, it’s important that we are together and on the same page and in all things.
J: Yeah, there was one experience where we went ahead of everything kind of assuming that it would be as amazing as our first one. It was not. I don’t know why we were so naive about it honestly, like people are still people. Anyway, Jace had a good time, I didn’t, and that’s the long and short of it. We talked about why I was uncomfortable, what we’d do next time, and moved on. No fault to the couple, no fault to each other.
D: I think for us any time we have an experience, good or bad, we debrief about it. We talk about what happened and what we want and how we thought a date went. We try to be brutally honest with each other and then move forward together.
So how do you process a bad experience? You talk about it. The worst thing you can do, from our experience is hold it in. We try to talk about things before they get critical or even bad.
J: People are basically cats. They go where they’re wanted, they get fed, and they get rubs.
I think debriefs happened a lot more for us in the beginning, but not as much now. Or maybe the way we debrief has changed. It’s a lot of checking in in the beginning, because you’re unraveling your preconceived notions about relationships while trying to feel safe, but now it’s more talking about what’s happening and staying honest and not being secretive about shit.
D: The only really in depth debriefs happen on first and early dates. Do you really think we’re going to get a second date? And then check-in before we decide to have sex with a new partner or partners. We are really deliberate about that. We’ve had two or three or five really good dates and so we ask each other “are we ready for this?” And that is a check-in for us.
J: I love how honest and up front you guys are. It’s so refreshing! Zac walked us downstairs and he was like “So how are we feeling about this? Still feeling good? Everyone’s happy? Okay cool, can’t wait to see you again, good night!”
D: He’s the best. I’m just glad one of us is up front all the time—it certainly makes things easier!