Polyamory, open marriage, ethical non-monogamy — based on some of the comments I got on my recent Money Diary, the words apparently conjure up soap opera-style scenes of drama and jealousy, plus lots of juicy speculation about what’s going on in the bedroom.
Actually? It’s all about the scheduling.
When my husband and I opened our now 10-plus year relationship a few years ago, we had lots of conversations about boundaries and expectations. We expected to have emotional growing pains as feelings came up that we hadn’t anticipated. But neither of us was prepared for how complicated our lives would become from a scheduling perspective.
I have a standing date with my boyfriend, A., for Saturday evenings. Toward the end of each month, we sit down with our calendars (Google for A., an old school planner for me), and we schedule our dates for the upcoming month. If one of us can’t make Saturday work, due to things like travel, commitments to our other partners, or family events, we’ll reschedule that week’s date, usually for Friday or Sunday evening.
My husband and his friend with benefits (FWB) aren’t obsessive planners like me and A., so they schedule their dates a few days ahead of time. They tend to spend time together on Saturday evenings since that’s usually when I’m with my boyfriend, but based on schedules they sometimes meet up after work or during the day on Saturday or Sunday.
My husband and his friend with benefits (FWB) aren’t obsessive planners like me and A., so they schedule their dates a few days ahead of time.
Once the dates are on the calendar, then we need to figure out where everyone is hanging out so that all parties involved get the privacy they need. Both my boyfriend and my husband’s FWB live with their respective partners, so this can be tricky. When my husband and I are coordinating who gets the house, we have to consider my schedule, my husband’s schedule, my boyfriend’s schedule, my boyfriend’s partner’s schedule, my husband’s FWB’s schedule — it can be a logistical nightmare. If he doesn’t have other plans, my husband will sometimes hang out at a coffee shop for a few hours so that I can get the house; my go-to is heading over to my very understanding sister’s place.
No matter how carefully plans are made, they can be derailed in very polyamory-specific ways. Last month, I was planning to spend the night at my boyfriend’s house while his partner was out of town with one of her other partners. The getaway got canceled due to a last-minute illness, leaving me and A. without a place to stay and thwarting my husband’s plans to host his FWB at our place. I’m typically a frugal person, but in this particular instance I was frustrated enough to throw money at the problem, and I booked a hotel room so A. and I had somewhere to go. (Granted, I used hotel loyalty points from business travel, so I only had to pay $37.50.) In our two-year relationship, this was the first time A. and I had to pay for a hotel room.
My husband and I have joint finances, so the idea of using our money to pay for a hotel room with my boyfriend may raise some eyebrows — especially considering that I took a drastic pay cut when I quit my day job in the legal industry and made my side gig as a freelance writer into a full-time career. Currently, my husband earns about $86,000, and my income, since I started freelancing full-time in February, will be about $15,000. However, our money has always been ours — when we were monogamous and I was working a traditional job, and now that we’re polyamorous and I’m freelancing. We combined our finances when we moved in together after college (we were engaged at the time), and we’ve never looked back.
It helps that my husband and I are extremely compatible financially, skewing towards the “very frugal” end of the spectrum. We view our financial goals as something that we work towards as a couple, regardless of our individual incomes: paying off our mortgage quickly, saving for retirement, spending money on travel instead of stuff. I’ve always made significantly less money than him, although in the past there hasn’t been such a dramatic discrepancy — previously, I earned about $50,000. Long-term, I’m trying to transition to more copywriting work to increase my freelancing income, as well as taking on editing work. My husband has been very supportive of my career change — he’d rather have me do something that I’m passionate about (even if I make much less money) than stay in a job that made me miserable.
It helps that my husband and I are extremely compatible financially, skewing towards the “very frugal” end of the spectrum.
The amount of money we spend on our other relationships has never been an issue, probably because neither of us spends all that much. My husband and his FWB go out for dinner a couple of times a month and alternate who pays. My boyfriend is on a tight budget (never-ending home renovations and supporting a partner in grad school), so we tend to do a lot of budget-friendly activities: going for walks around the lakes, watching movies in the park, baking cookies, wandering around the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
If one of us was uncomfortable with how much money the other was spending on another relationship, we would certainly bring it up. But it wouldn’t be more emotionally charged than a conversation about any other sort of purchase. We’ve always been very open with each other about our spending and run big-ticket purchases by the other one in advance, and polyamory hasn’t changed that.
The day-to-day realities of a polyamorous relationship are much like the day-to-day realities of a monogamous one: trying to balance commitments and priorities, making plans for the future and for Friday night, supporting each other through the ups and downs. Having been on both sides of the fence, I know that in my case a polyamorous relationship involves more frequent and franker communication about my needs as well as a concentrated effort to not take either of my relationships for granted when life gets stressful.
Sure, polyamory is more work than monogamy. Trying to make a decent income as a freelance writer is more work than sticking with my stable job in the legal field. But for me, the fulfillment I get from polyamory and freelancing are worth the extra effort — and I have two men who love me that are cheering me on.