Riding on the West Highlands train line from Mallaig to Fort William in Scotland, listening to Hozier, and gazing out the window at some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, I was overcome with emotion. Thankfully, this happens to me frequently. I am so aware of the blessing, the honor, and the privilege of being able to live my life this way. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I try to be worthy of the blessing of living life exactly the way I want to live.
My job allows me to travel pretty much anywhere in the world I choose while still being able to work and earn a living. Over the past few years, I have lived in or traveled to more than 40 countries. I have sometimes had to schedule 20:00 conference calls or 5:00 Skype messaging sessions to get work done, but that is a small price to pay for waking up in a traditional apartment on a mountain in Thailand, wandering through the night market before starting work, and taking a long swim first thing in the morning.
Once I discovered this nomadic way of life, it opened up the most amazing doors for me, though I have not always taken advantage of a “fully” nomadic existence. I lived in Berlin for almost 2 years, and in Costa Rica for nearly 1.5 years. I am a homebody at heart. I love adventure, but I love my tribe, a cozy place to live where everyone is welcome, and people congregate and hang out together.
But, I have the blessing and privilege to choose which I want to have at any given time. Even leaving Berlin because my Visa expired still shows my privilege because I can still travel, I can still make my life what I want it to be considering the circumstances. I pray I never forget that blessing.
Another area of my life I experience a great deal of freedom and privilege is in how I conduct relationships. If you read this blog or my Twitter feed you know I am polyamorous. I an open to more than one romantic love relationship. I believe that relationships should be allowed to find their own level, they don’t have to follow a traditional “escalator” trajectory. In my own practice of polyamory, I am also open to non-attached sexual relationships (one night stands, friends with benefits, swinging clubs, sex parties, etc.) Any partnered relationship I involve myself in is undergone with all of these things clearly defined and everyone in full agreement with the open and wide view of love and relationships that I have.
There is a lot of literature out there in the world about polyamory, and 98% of it is written from a couple opening up their relationship to allow other relationships. I came to polyamory as a single 40-something divorced cis-gender woman. I was not in a long-term love relationship that had to be opened up. I didn’t even have a boyfriend. I had Stefen. (I write a lot about him, but I cannot define our relationship as a “boyfriend/girlfriend” because those words imply a relationship style that does not fit the litmus test of how we relate.) I am solo-poly. Solo-poly, for me, means:
- I live my own life.
- I very highly value my autonomy.
- I don’t share finances.
- I don’t cohabitate or share a full-time living space.
- I don’t share life decisions.
For some people being solo-poly also means not identifying as part of a couple and maintaining a very light touch in relationships. But that is not really true for me. I am happy to be part of a couple, as a matter of fact at times I’ve called more than one man my boyfriend. I identified as part of two couples. I am happy to be in a relationship that includes grocery shopping, household chores, hanging on the couch and relaxing. I want to be in deep in my relationships, I want to share experiences and feelings, and eventually, I want to go home and sleep in my own bed. I make decisions about my vacations and who I spend time with when, without consulting my partners. I tell them what I’ve decided. No one gives me permission to do anything.
I prefer non-hierarchical polyamory. None of my partners are ‘more important’ to me than the other. I may expend more emotional energy or time resources on one or another at any given time, depending on location, circumstances, stage of the relationship, etc, but no one is primary or secondary. However, on the other side of that coin, I am ok being “secondary” to my partner’s primary partner. As long as there is an understanding that decisions involving me, actually include me.
One of my favorite times in this polyamory journey was when Benjamin and I started dating. I loved going to spend long weekends in the home he shares with his wife. It was wonderful to hang with her, play with their daughter, and wake up in his arms in the morning for another day of “family” fun. Mia, Benjamin and I, spoke about our relationships frequently and I was confident that we could talk about any changes in our lives that impacted each other.
I would almost call myself a relationship anarchist, except that my occasional strong attachments to this boyfriend/partner or that one would appall a relationship anarchy (RA) purist. But the idea of letting a relationship become what it wants to be, comes from my RA leanings. So does the concept of not placing my romantic relationships above my friendships. Too many times in our lives, new relationships overwhelm us with all this new relationship energy (NRE). They are new and fun and exciting and hot- it’s fucking awesome, but the risk is we lose sight of other supporting and loving relationships, and when all that fun and excitement is back to normal, we have lost friends and connections. I have too many partners for that to happen!
I literally cannot afford to let that happen. My friendships with other people in my life are too important to me to risk. So I purposefully make them just as high a priority whenever possible. When I was in Berlin, I saw Stefen weekly. I also saw all three of my best gal pals weekly. We all started the week working our schedules to be sure there was time for everyone. That is a key priority in my life. My romantic partners also know and understand this. I cultivate relationships that suit my life, my lifestyle, my love style.
That brings me to another part of the privilege story. I am blessed, lucky and privileged to be able to create relationships that operate the way I want them to. I curate friendships. As a freelance consultant, I don’t work in an office setting where people you might not usually be friends with become “friends” with each other. I don’t have children, so I haven’t picked up random “mom friends.” I can’t think of one person in my life that I haven’t specifically allowed to be there. Even on my Facebook page, I keep my circle “small” and regularly curate who I am “friends” with.
Because my general lifestyle allows me to pick and choose my friends and acquaintances, it’s easier for me to be open and “out” as a polyamorous person. Obviously, as any polyamorous person will tell you, there are limits to being “out.” Too many of my mother’s right-wing evangelical friends would waste a lot of prayer energy on me if I were “out” on Facebook. But I have posted pictures of me with Stefan and me with Benjamin within weeks of each other, talking about “him!” I just count on people not paying enough attention to notice that it’s two different men. Not one person has asked me about it. Not one!
Everyone in any of my close circles knows how I live my romantic life. I am blessed that there has been little to no backlash. My mom was not thrilled (see evangelical right wing comment above), but even her reaction, in the end, was “…but I love you regardless of what you think you are.” I don’t usually use the word Polyamorous because… well, I don’t know why, but I don’t. However, I have sent my dad pics of both of my boyfriends and me at a Thanksgiving dinner. Most of my friends in Berlin have met Benjamin or Roland when I was dating him. My sister has mostly open/polyam relationships herself. (My poor mother!) Her only complaint? She thinks I care too much about labels. “Why can’t you just be what you are?”
Another way privilege impacts my romantic life, is in the area of finances. I can afford to be “solo.” I don’t need the financial support that comes from pairing up and sharing finances. Both times I’ve lived with a romantic partner finances were a major consideration for one or both of us. If my finances were different, I might need to live with someone, and most likely I would choose that person to be a romantic partner. (Partly because of my age and partly because of who I am.) My need for autonomy could be overshadowed by my financial need, and my life would look different. I am blessed to have learned how to manage my money well, stay out of debt (mostly) and live carefully within my means. (A gift from the ex actually!)
Being a freelancer, digital nomad, living mostly outside the US, has given me space, freedom, and the acceptance to grow and fully immerse myself in this open romantic and sexual life. Living in Berlin while I navigated the beginnings of this lifestyle was one of the most incredible blessings. Berlin is extremely sex friendly, sex-positive, and polyamory friendly. I could tell strangers I was polyamorous and they would pretty much react like, “So what?” As I leave there and move on to other places in the world over the next year or so, I look forward to experiencing life outside my comfortable Berlin bubble.
I do not look forward to potentially censoring who I am and how I live. But I am aware that all the privileges I have experienced will not extend itself to me forever. Living in South America again will come with its own set of relationship challenges. (Though I have found a poly meetup group in Medellin and plan to attend!) So far I have also been lucky that on this blog I don’t encounter haters in my comments nor on my Twitter feed. (I love my sexy Twitter peeps!) Until then, (and of course after too) I am thankful for the life I live. I am enjoying the UK and will be meeting so many of my sexy Tweeps at Eroticon soon. I still feel very safe to be open and me, surrounded as always by people of my choosing. Hopefully, I am always this lucky.
Please check out another blogger whose recent posts have really had an impact on me finally writing this post about being solo-poly, privilege, and what it all means to me.
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***** Orignally posted on www.elbyrnewriter.com ****