There Is No Okay In Poly

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

My wife and I have been happily polyamorous for over seven years now. She’s the light of my life – my “primary,” if you will – and we have tons of rules and regulations that we’ve adopted to make our relationships run smoothly.
So people email us to ask: “Hey, how do you do poly? We want to know how to do it right.”
And I ask, “So if you liked the way I dressed, would you put on my clothes?”
Of course you wouldn’t. Chances that my pants would fit you would be – well, the opposite of slim, as I’m a pudgy dude. My shirt would probably be wrong for your body type, and the bright colors might make your skin tone look sallow. My hat, so carefully chosen because I have a face like a waterfall of chins, would probably dwarf your features.
By the time we finished squeezing my boots onto you, you’d look ridiculous in an outfit that made me look dapper.
No. What you’d be better served doing is asking the hard questions of, “What about my clothing appeals to you? What tricks from my dress can we steal to adopt to your body type?” And then go from there to design an outfit that’s not going to bind you in the crotch.
Polyamory is not off-the-rack.
It is bespoke.
Look, the agreements I’ve come to with my wife have all been hand-crafted, often asymmetrical, in order to patch over the weaknesses that we have as unique people. I would never tell you that these are necessary. They’re only necessary to us.
Everything about our poly is addressing some issue that we have. Is she my primary? That’s because we’re married, and divorce is off the table, and though we do our best to not stonewall people, we feel it’s only honest to acknowledge that if there’s an emergency then we may need to pull back to focus on us. (Hasn’t happened since we started, but you never know.)
Do we have rules for who I can date? We do, but that’s because I tend to fall in love before questioning compatibility, and I’ve plunged head-first into dating women who were ultimately pretty bad for not just us, but me.
Do we have limits on how many people we can date simultaneously? We don’t, but that’s because making people feel valued in a short span of time is a strength of who we are.
All those things you see us doing? We’re doing them because they benefit us, not because there’s some sort of objective path. There’s plenty of poly relationships that have no need for a primary model, or a hierarchy at all. There’s plenty of well-balanced poly people who don’t clear their relationships with other people. There’s plenty of good poly relationships who have limits on how many people they can date before their dance card becomes full-up.
Now, in programming, there’s what’s known as “bad code smells” – coding patterns that generally indicate that someone hasn’t thought it through, indicating a design that’s going to cause problems at some point further in the process. And there are those in poly – I’m deeply suspicious of the one-penis policy, for example, as most of those relationships I’ve witnessed have been selfish men telling their partners how “free” they are to do whatever they want.
But there are doubtlessly some one-penis poly relationships that work wonderfully. Just as there are “bad code smells” that, when investigated, turn out to be the best solution for this edge case.
There’s no objectivity here. There’s only what fits your needs.
Now, if you’re asking me how I do poly because you have a similar dynamic and think you can steal a few techniques, then by God I support that. Or if you’re asking because you’re exploring the universe of options available to you, seeing what feels comfortable and what feels wrong, then hells yeah, bring the noise. Or if you’re asking because something’s changed in your relationship and you’re trying to figure out what alterations you need to make to your agreements in order to feel comfortable, fire away.
But stop asking me, “Is this okay?” There is no okay in poly. There’s only what you and your partners are comfortable with. Maybe you select something off the rack at first, but the end goal is to not emulate some other happy couple, but to become one yourself.
This is all custom-fit. Try a lot of stuff on. Look around the shop. Get some alterations, walk around the shop doing the New Shoe Shuffle.
Ultimately, it’s your body. Maybe this looks good on me. But if it doesn’t fit you, it’s useless.


  1. Vixen Blu
    Jan 14, 2014

    I admit, when people ask about my poly relationship and how to get it to work, I have often hesitated before giving a response. You may have just sorted out why I hesitate. One size does not fit all.

  2. Patrick McKinnion
    Jan 14, 2014

    There never is any “one size fits all” solutions. Not in clothing, and not in matters of the heart.

  3. Professor61771
    Jan 14, 2014

    This is one of the great strengths of the poly relationship as everyone is unique every monogamous relationship is therefore unique and likewise every polyamorous relationship is even more unique/complex.
    I love what you wrote here man. Good job.

  4. Jerri
    Jan 14, 2014

    Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this – a good reminder to stay true to ourselves and our needs 🙂

  5. Sunny
    Jan 16, 2014

    Yep. I think I’ve got a some-internet-guy-I’ve-never-met-or-even-talked-with crush now. That doesn’t happen often.
    I like your brain. 🙂

    • TheFerrett
      Jan 17, 2014

      Awww, thanks. *blushes*

    • Greg Knight
      Jan 17, 2014

      Yup, me too. Very well put, Sir.

  6. abrxas
    Jan 16, 2014

    Very well written. Cheers!

  7. Ron Young
    Jan 17, 2014

    Really great article Ferrett! For some reason, the “your poly is not my poly” saying is one that made me and my wife’s skin crawl. I always felt that it was just a cop-out way of doing whatever you wanted to do and labelling it Poly. We had strong feelings around folks doing that but you’ve shown us another way to look at things. And the “bespoke” analogy was genius. Thank you!

  8. John
    Apr 3, 2014

    I have often thought that Polyamory is described but not defined. This is a wonderful way to explain that principle.


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