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polyquakers: Friends' experiences of Polyamory

 
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trueRiver



Joined: 18 Aug 2011
Posts: 10
Location: Manchester, England & Tain, Scotland

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:53 pm    Post subject: polyquakers: Friends' experiences of Polyamory Reply with quote

This thread invites any Quaker with personal experience of polyamorous relationships to share their experiences, positive or negative. The first response will be my own, and I'd encourage other Friends to add their own experiences. Did your experience lead you to accept or reject polyamory, or has it left you unsure?

Polyamory is defined in the dictionary as having multiple concurrent relationships with the full knowledge and consent of all parties. The Wikipedia article is a good place to learn how polys see this in theory and practice. Friends may be most interested in going directly to the section on values in polyamory.

Please note: the current thread is not about the theology, nor for you to tell us about what happened to other people, but for Friends to post their own experiences, and maybe say how those experiences led them to adopt or reject polyamory. There is a theological / theoretical thread already, so please post those kind of comments there, thanks.
_________________
River~~

I hope other British Quakers who are polyamorous (or wondering if they are) will contact me by clicking the
pm button below. Thanks.


Last edited by trueRiver on Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:57 am; edited 13 times in total
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trueRiver



Joined: 18 Aug 2011
Posts: 10
Location: Manchester, England & Tain, Scotland

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:37 pm    Post subject: How I came to be a Poly (polyamorous) Quaker Reply with quote

This account is an attempt to describe how I have arrived at my current views on the relationship between polyamory and Quakerism. I should also make clear that this purely an individual view: not endorsed by any Quaker Meeting or group.
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I have been in a polyamorous relationship, though we called them open marriages in those days; I was in a secondary relationship with the woman of a married couple back in the 1980s, long before I came to Friends.

I had been present some years before when the couple married, in an Anglican Service, in which they had made the traditional promise 'till death us do part', but not the equally traditional one about 'holding myself only unto him/her'. The couple had advised the priest beforehand tha they had no intention of making a promise they were not going to keep. Should they have been married under those circumstances? Should we, as Quakers, marry a couple who say that? But whatever you think about that, those were the promises I had heard made, and not made. At the time I had no idea of the relevance of those promises to my future.

When I entered into the relationship with the wife, some years after their marriage, I knew that I was committed to do nothing to destabilise that marriage. By my own integrity I would not let things develop to the point where that would happen. The woman's love for me was always less than her love for her husband. The relationship between us was one that was acknowledged to be transient: medium term rather than long term, whereas the married couple had made and were intending to keep a lifebond.

For all these reasons, at the time I regarded the relationship as secondary to the primary relationship of the married couple. As expected, the relationship did not last forever: it finished after just over two years. The married couple are still together today. Having both had a number of other partners, at some time in the last 20 years they felt they wanted to make an exclusive commitment to each other.

All that happened before the words 'polyamory', 'polyamorous', and 'polyamorist' had been invented, but to be slightly anachronistic, I feel it is true to say in today's terminology that this was a polyamorous asymmetric V.

The terms primary and secondary, which were already in use back then, have continued to be used right up to the present.

In 1996 I came to Friends. (Quakers)

In 2000 I started a relationship. Before the new relationship began, we talked about these issues, and my new partner told me she needed us both to be monogamous, and I believed her, and I was happy to make that commitment, and having given her that commitment I kept it.

For her.

And the reason I kept that commitment was because my partner said it was what she needed. And that is, in my opinion, the only valid reason for monogamy: in response to one's own needs or the needs of a partner. Chosen after honest negotiation with the aim of allowing both partners to flourish within the relationship

And not because some bronze age prophet wrote it down in a book that we all respect.


And similarly, within polyamory, multiple relationships are not to be forced upon an unwilling partner (or worse, an unwitting partner). The decision to go outside monogamy, (and any boundaries connected with that decision) are chosen by honest negotiation with the aim of allowing all affected parties to flourish.

And whatever boundaries are agreed, are kept to. Breaking of Relationship agreements is regarded as cheating by polys, whereas sleeping with someone else within the agreed boundaries is not.
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Now, after the first of these relationships had finished, many religious people (remember, I was not in contact with Friends then) told me that this is what happens when we break God's laws. My mum put it like this 'you have discovered that it is impossible to break God's laws: you can try but you will only break yourself on them'.

That first break up was messy in some ways, but it was the second relationship, the monogamous one that was the real traincrash.

And looking back at them both, it was not the polyamory that was the problem in the first relationship, but the times when each of us fell short of the standards of Truth that polyamory theory demands.

And the second major relationship, the monogamous one, would have benefitted from those same standards of Truth and Equality. The lack of those values in our relationship, on both sides, were part of what ended it, and were a major part of the subsequent mess.
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In my experience, Polyamory was not free love, was not sex without commitment, was not casual.

Sorry Friends, I also tried casual sex in the 80s (before we knew about AIDS), and stopped soon, finding it totally empty. In contrast, I felt that my poly relationship was based on a real emotional bond, albeit not a lifebond, and helped my partner and myself to flourish as people.

Having met contemporary polys recently, I am confronted with standards of Truth and Equality that would not look out of place in Quaker Faith and Practice chapter 22.
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I only recently came across the word 'polyamory'. It reminded me of that earlier relationship, and I realised, although my recent relationship had been monogamous, that was because of my partner's wishes, rather than a personal decision for monogamy.

With this whole new set of information on the internet: sites and sites about polyamory theory, sites advising folk whose relationships are in difficulty, what did I think? You see, since that earlier relationship broke up, I had never thought through my own position. What did I now believe, after 14 years with Friends?

Was it time to repent of my earlier poly experiences?

The more I read, the more I was sure, No, on the contrary with its emphasis on Truth and Equality, I became sure that polyamory comes from the same roots as Quakerism. Our God is the God of Truth, and that of God underlies all genuine attempts to be Truth Full.

I realised that I had continued to be a polyamorist in heart throughout my monogamous relationship, and decided that that was how I wanted to continue. Whether my next relationship is poly or mono depends on the needs of the primary partner I have yet to meet: but the decision will be made according to our joint needs, not in obedience to other people's ideas. That freedom from preconceptions makes me poly, even when I choose to accept a mono relationship.

It was time to claim for myself the label 'poly', and indeed 'poly quaker' or 'polyquaker' or 'pq'.
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For a more theoretical analysis of why I feel p and q are fully compatible: please see One British Quaker's perspective on polyamory (posted on another site).
_________________
River~~

I hope other British Quakers who are polyamorous (or wondering if they are) will contact me by clicking the
pm button below. Thanks.
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punkrainbow



Joined: 24 Dec 2007
Posts: 301
Location: Leeds

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear River,

This is a follow-up to PM I just sent. Thank you for giving us a window into your life-journey Friend. It is often difficult to open up about our relationships, especially in the context of our worshipping community. I think I agree with a modified version of the quote you recounted about it being impossible to 'break God's laws'. Its impossible to break divine law if one's heart is open to love and truth. Both these shine for me in your account.
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I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.
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