SEX, LIES AND ALTERNATIVE RELATIONSHIPS Part I: The Homecoming by Janet Kira Lessin

» Posted by on Nov 7, 2010 in Relationships | 2 comments

SEX, LIES AND ALTERNATIVE RELATIONSHIPS Part I: The Homecoming by Janet Kira Lessin

“Everybody Lies” so proclaims House, the doctor on the Emmy award-winning series. But is that the truth? And when is it appropriate to lie? Is it ok to lie to protect someone else? Better to always tell the truth, be transparent, authentic, truthful? Should you tell the cop you have that joint hidden under the seat?

The most complicated lies to stem around relationships. How you start the relationship sets criteria for truth between partners. What do you share about your relationship style? Do you candidly explore monogamy, polyamory, swinging or other? How do we identify yourselves sexually? Do you share the degree to which you’re gay, lesbian, heterosexual or bi? Do you reveal there’s four of you and one of each?

If you chose monogamy, when are you cheating? Do you cheat when you flirt with someone? What about a kiss? Is it okay to kiss someone on the cheek but not on the mouth? Or is the mouth ok as long as there’s no tongue involved.

What about touch? Is it ok to touch a shoulder and not a breast? What’s your policy on hand holding? Is it cheating if you watch porn on the internet? And what emails you exchange? You haven’t ever met, you’ve never touched and you live so far away you probably never will ever will. Do you cheat if you have a fantasy? And what happens if you fall for your fantasy?

And what about the lifestyles? Do you require emotional fidelity but swing when you go to a club?

“It’s complicated” has become an option on dating site applications when one is attempting to explain the complexity of their relationship.

Honestly, honesty can be hard. Case in point. I’ve been openly polyamorous for the past 18 years. Recently, Shivaya, my second husband returned home to Maui after he toured the mainland for several years. My first husband, Sasha, and I were so excited about Shivaya’s return. He took several days by car, train then plane to go from the East Coast home to us. We shared dozens of calls tracking his trip across America.

Our first week with Shivaya was ok. But something had changed. I introduced him to Jill, my best female friend who’d just moved in with us. I was relieved they clicked. Now we were a quad. But I felt hurt when they contracted and disappeared emotionally. We could no longer communicate consciously or clearly. I noticed a tendency for all parties to demonize and reject just because things didn’t connect. Tempers flared, sometimes roared, but quickly dispelled. We bolted away from one another into our respective corners to lick our wounds.

Despite the training and the workshops, my skills failed me. After three short weeks Jill and Shivaya decided to leave our community. Jill and Shivaya, my best friend and second husband moved across the island. And as they left, I felt relieved, glad it was over and that now I am free to find another way along the path through the journey of life.

I was surprised how Sasha felt free too. It was as though we were complete with this relationship that was our longest running experiment in polyamory to date.

I guess eight years is a good showing. Respectful. We gave it our best shot.

But I wonder how we could have done it better? How could we tell our personal truths and remain calm and centered? We tried the talking stick, timed it so none could monopolize the conversation. It’s hard to believe how long three minutes can be. So we shortened it, send the stick round the circle so all could have a minimum of three turns talking. The rest listened. Witnessing another’s personal truth is half the battle.

But even that doesn’t work when there’s no agreement in the first place to learn and incorporate conflict resolution skills up front, before you go into the rink. We have to learn “the rules” to really learn how to relate. And the more characters you incorporate into the play, the more complex it seems to be.

I sometimes understand why Swingers swing and decide to have no emotional intimacy with others outside their primary relationships. I prefer emotional as well as sexual intimacy with poly partners. Yet sometimes it’s sticky. The more intimate one gets, the more muck emerges from the mire.

But the muck’s somehow necessary. It’s food for the grissmill, that which allows us to learn, grow and evolve. As long as I live, exist here in this physical reality in this grand experiment on Spaceship Earth, there are things I must face, endure, learn, embrace, reject, repair, reprogram, modify, move beyond, incorporate into my being and hopefully, eventually, because of this process, become conscious, maybe even enlightened.

End of SEX, LIES AND ALTERNATIVE RELATIONSHIPS: Part I: The Homecoming         by Janet Kira Lessin


  1. Perhaps there is a significant paradigm shift in the complexity, sophistication and wholeness that can come from a polyloving existence. But these sorts of transitions are not easy. Perhaps this is something that has to develop over generations, just as the current relationship rules have.

    You seem to be poly-monogamous (word contrived in the moment.) That is, your foundation is the relationship you have with Sasha and other relationships are subordinate. This seems like a good transitional set up. It provides the security and stability of monogamy and the expansion and sophistication of monogamy.

    Relationships are as much, or more, about commitment as they are about love. Poly experiences teach us how to have expanding love. I suspect that expanding commitment is the real problem. It is difficult to expand commitment, both in terms of time and energy, and in terms of psychological understanding. Difficult as it is to know how to love different people, knowing how to create emotional commitment to different people is even more complicated.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. Sasha and I have been experimenting with polyamory as a couple going on 15 years now. Before that I was involved in a single dating type situation where I was living with one man and dating several others that he wasn’t involved with and he was doing the same, dating others without me even meeting them. I find dating as a couple more satisfying. Yet, I must admit we’ve not been able to get an equal commitment from a third or fourth.

    We dated another couple for several years. But the couple bond was primary and we were secondary partners for them. We never lived together.

    I’m still open to the adventure. Yet, at this point where I am entering into “old age”, I think I may be past the point where I can succeed in creating equal bonds across all the relationships and hope that generations that follow us may be more successful.

    Still, it’s nice making the attempt. And as we saw with gays, over the years once the paradigm becomes more established in the human psyche, it does get easier.

    We laid a foundation and who knows? We ain’t dead yet. I just love more than one. I now and again find those with whom I like to make love. I find those with whom I love living with in community. Rarely do I find those I like living with who like living with the ones I like living with and like loving and making love with the ones I like making love with.

    As they say.. it’s complicated.

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