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Leo from offenlieben

“Children can grow up in polyamorous relationships and usually get along pretty well.”

We spoke to Leo of offenlieben about polyamory, freedom and commitment.

Leo is 31, doctor and father of four children. He’s had an open relationship for 13 years. He has been with his second partner for 3 years. For the last 3 months, he has been living with three partners, his children and two students in a shared flat. In his – naturally limited – free time, he enjoys reading science fiction and texts on various social topics. Because he noticed that there is far too little to read about polyamory, he founded the blog offenlieben.de in 2016, where he regularly publishes texts on various aspects of polyamorous life and love. We had a few questions and talked to Leo about jealousy, polyamorous singles and children in poly-families.

What questions about your relationship life are asked far too often?

“And how does that work?” – Thank you, good.

“Are you never jealous?” – No, of course not. I am absolutely perfect and always have my emotions under control. (Editor’s note: Could contain traces of irony.)

“Well, I couldn’t live that way.” – Okay. (laughs)

What questions about polyamory and open relationships have you been asked far too rarely?

Meanwhile there are not many questions that I’ve never heard before or that surprise me. I am always happy when someone is genuinely interested and asks me carefully considered questions. But I don’t like questions that aim to get as much “scandalous” information as possible. The measure is actually always: If I had just told them that I had a very common monogamous relationship, would the other person dare to ask the same questions? Would he or she even ask questions? If this isn’t the case, I am almost always rather reserved with the answers.

You live with three partners and your children. What is the difference between your living together and your form of relationship and the classical polygamy, i.e. the polygamy between a man and several women?

Poly-gam, like you said, means much-marriage. But we’re not married to each other. That’s not possible in Germany, you can’t marry more than one person. And even if we could, we wouldn’t necessarily do it. Marriage is neither historically nor currently as unproblematic or romantic as one might think.

Then, we aren’t just one man and several women, but two men and two women. There is also no rule with us that only the man or only the woman may have several partners. There are no hard boundaries or rules at all in that sense, except the time and resources you have at your disposal. This means that even if I have several relationships, no one will stop me from having more one-night stands if I want to. However, if I wanted to enter into additional relationships, that would probably be a resource problem. So that would simply not be fair to my other partners and of course to the new person. That’s why I personally wouldn’t want that at the moment.

The “classic polygamy” usually actually means that one man and many women are together. This is a very patriarchal and mostly a religious concept. Polyamory, or the form of relationship we live in, claims to be the exact opposite – maximum sexual freedom for women as well. Thus, in my opinion, it implicitly embodies radical feminist values without having to renounce commitment and consistency.

You write that you have to deal with a lot of drama in open relationships. Is it okay to sometimes lose faith in your own standards?

I can’t remember exactly in what context I wrote this. However, it is true that the “initial costs” are quite high. When you say goodbye to monogamy, you have to fill a big gap. The standard suddenly no longer applies, and you have to find and develop new concepts and new wishes. Then you may also notice for the first time how different your partner(s) actually are from you. Especially in the first one to three years of changing from monogamous to open relationships, this often leads to many discussions and sometimes even arguments. It’s perfectly normal to sometimes wonder if it’s worth it.

Actually, the whole thing can be traced back to rather old questions of philosophy: If I could trade a better, wiser, and more experienced version of myself for one from before that would be happier, would I? Or: If I could get into a machine that makes me feel nothing but happiness, would I want that? The answer for almost all people is: No. You don’t want to give back the experiences, the acquired abilities, but also the suffering.

And that’s exactly what usually happens in open relationships. You develop yourself – forcedly – as a human being. That this feels like coercion is of course shit and unpleasant. But the fact that one develops further is actually quite good, only sometimes a bit tiring.

Let’s be honest: Most people already have difficulties finding even one partner. Is it easier for polyamorously living people to establish relationships, or are there many polyamorously living singles, or polyamorously living people with only one relationship?

Both. There are many polyamore people who are singles or “only” have a relationship.

However, many people in open relationships have also developed considerably through their relationship practice. They are able to build and find sustainable relationships. They have become experts, so to speak, in understanding what they want, need, and how and from whom they can get it.

In addition, as a polyamorous person you are not immediately ” out of the picture ” just because you find a new partner. As a result, networks of people are formed in almost every larger city, all of whom have somehow dated each other at some point. And when you get to know one of them, you quickly get to know someone who’s a good fit. There is this monogamous ideal: “One, for everything, forever”. In the polyamorous scene, this ideal is not so pronounced, so that you are no longer so radically restricted in your choice. For example, you can also date a hiking freak as a non-sports-minded person, since they can live out their hobby with the other partner in case of doubt. Then it’s more about the emotional connection than about the fact that you ” fit ” with each other in every aspect of your lifestyle.

Which rules are common in polyamorous relationships?

This varies from couple to couple and from person to person. However, most people in open relationships attach great importance to honesty and open communication. This is also necessary because otherwise it becomes very complicated much too quickly.

The necessity of “rules” alone, however, is already doubted by many polies. It’s often more about reliability, commitment and respect for wishes and limits.

The idea of “relationship rules” in itself, is also more monogamous, and more typical of “fresh” open relationships. The longer they last, the more likely it is that such concepts will be abandoned. Instead, you think together about what you want and how you can achieve it for everyone.

For example, when new partners join: Are there principles you can’t negotiate? Are there any who are?

For me personally it’s not negotiable that I am going to be honest with my partners and talk to them. For many, this is first and foremost a violation of intimacy, but it prevents many funny situations and misunderstandings. “For me, the “principles” that should be thrown overboard are above all the so-called “couple privilege”. This is the idea that the “older” relationship is definitely worth protecting against the needs of the “newer” ones. Doesn’t mean you have to start being ruthless. Nor does it mean that there can be no differentiation in importance and intensity between different partners. It means, however, that the needs of all those involved are equally important for the time being. The balance between these two principles, on the one hand, to maintain and value existing relationships and, on the other hand, to take the needs of new partners seriously, can be difficult at first.

(How) can you learn not to be jealous? How much space can you give her in an open relationship?

Jealousy is actually pretty okay as long as everyone sees it for what it is: an emotion that causes problems for the person who feels it. However, it is not an indicator of love, intensity or even instructions for action. One of the bigger problems with jealousy is that it is misunderstood as just emotion like love or affection. Actually, it is more of an emotion like envy or fear of loss or anger. It may well have its truth value, but if it increases into dysfunction, it is not something that must be stylised into virtue. To abandon it is unfortunately a longer process and you can write a whole book about it.

Which is what you did! The e-book “Enfersucht verlernen – Mitfreude erlernen” can be downloaded free of charge from your website.

That’s right. All you have to do is subscribe to my newsletter (https://offenlieben.de/newsletter) and it will be sent to you. If you are not interested in the rest of the content, you can unsubscribe afterwards without any problems.

Let’s come to the next question: If I meet someone who already has an open relationship, aren’t my needs in third place?

That could be, yeah. There is, as already mentioned, something called “couple privilege”. For many people who open their relationship, this is a topic especially in the beginning. Many people don’t even know that they have this privilege. In short, the problem is that the needs and above all the “preservation” of the chronologically first couple always take precedence over the needs and the preservation of those who came after them. But it doesn’t have to be like that and it’s not always like that. Fortunately, there is no such thing as “THE” open relationship, but quite a few different variations. You can be quite satisfied with certain roles that would be unthinkable in a monogamous relationship. For example, if I already have two partners and children, I might be quite happy if another partner “only” wants to see me once a month. Because that’s all I have time myself. If I’m very avoidant about bonds in particular, it might be quite right for me not to have to give any account if I don’t feel like spending time together. So I can date someone who wouldn’t normally fit me.

For many people it is still unthinkable that children grow up in polyamorous relationships. The idea that not only two people are responsible for one child is actually very plausible. What does this look like in practice? Do children in polyamorous networks have two parents, or are there several?

In practice, it works pretty well. The parents I met, apart from their love form, are normal families. There are many different forms. As far as I know, however, there are not yet many people who live a form with more than two parents.

For the children themselves, there are many advantages to having more caregivers. Of course, there are also some disadvantages. Elisabeth Sheff has worked on this scientifically and published the book “The Polyamorists Next Door”.

But still, in a nutshell: Children can grow up in polyamorous relationships and usually get along quite well with it. The few studies that exist on this subject are not very resilient due to the lack of dissemination of this way of life. However, they point out that children are probably a little “better” off with this than when they grow up in monogamous relationships of two. The fear in this respect is therefore unfounded.

Is parenthood sometimes also a trigger for withdrawing from open forms of relationships and becoming a classic bourgeois nuclear family?

A lot of people decide this for themselves because they’re very afraid. In my own experience, however, there are no good reasons for this. Children don’t really care who has relationships with whom or how, as long as they have fixed caregivers. Romantic love and sex are adult themes, they interest children as much as they are interested in other things. That’s all it is.

Polyamory certainly also means a lot of work. Most people at an old age are less willing to invest a lot of energy in their relationships. What thoughts do you have on polyamory in old age?

The subject of age and sexuality is generally quite taboo. Many people do not want to have to deal with new things so much when they get older. But I also got to know a lot of people who only started to live open relationships at the age of 50. For example, because at that time they could get off the prefabricated train for the first time. These people mostly seemed more relaxed to me in terms of all the emotionality and drama that was more present in younger people. However, with regard to the idea of fundamentally questioning and breaking open serial-monogamous relationship concepts, they have usually found it somewhat more difficult.

All in all, you can’t say that open relationships are just for old or young.

Thanks for the interview!

 

Julia

 

 

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