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this is not my beautiful life, this is not my beautiful wife - helen-louise
this is not my beautiful life, this is not my beautiful wife
From yesterday's Evening Standard, a review of the tv programme "Big Love" by Terry Ramsey:

As if life for Mormon polygamist Bill Henrickson wasn't complicated enough - with three wives to keep happy - tonight things get even more complex when he starts up an illicit relationship. And just to make it really bizarre, it is with one of his own wives.

That's because Bill and Barb are driving home one night when they impulsively engage in a little roadside romance - which relights their sexual fire. Trouble is... it's Margene's night.

But Bill only has eyes (and other organs) for Barb and it's not long before they're arranging another illicit tryst. And suddenly they realise: "We're having an affair." Uh-oh.

So here's a fun task for anyone who feels lilke it. Describe in 104 words (the length of the above review) or less the similarities and/or differences between this tv portrayal and your own polyamorous relationships.

Communication, communication, communication! *snicker*

What, you wanted a serious answer? That was serious!

OK, the real differences - which'll take a lot more than 104 words to write!
1.) I don't do co-primary relationships. I can imagine a theoretical situation where I was living with two or three partners and had the same level of commitment with all of them, but that isn't the state of my current relationships, nor is it likely to happen with the people I'm currently involved with. And, as I rather like my existing people, I'm not likely to throw them away for a theoretical idea.

2.) The idea of a regular "sex" night with my various partners is pretty abhorent to me. My sex drive can't be turned on and off like a tap. I'm asexual more than I'm sexual, and my relationships are more about love, companionship and snuggling than hot monkey sex. Sorry if this shatters any illusions.

3.) Likewise, I don't have a regular "date" night with any of my partners, because while I have the personality type that needs there to be A Plan for the week, I'd get bored if it was the same plan every week. Each week gets booked up as it happens, depending on what everyone involved is doing. Thus it feels spontaneous enough for the people who hate plans, yet rigid enough for the people who need plans, and everyone is happy.

4.) Even if I did have regular date nights with my partners, there'd always be the option to rearrange things depending on how people are feeling. Having only one person in a relationship web with a chronic health problem and/or disability means that flexibility should exist - having several requires it.

5.) Getting involved with a new partner or rekindling the "flame of passion" with an existing one is more likely to make me more focused on all my partners than to make me lose interest in the others. I'm strange like that.

But all these things considered - even if I had equal co-primary partners each with their own regular sex nights (ick!), and even if I was the sort of person who lost interest in the other partners when focused on a new one, there'd still be one major difference between me & the guy in the story: Honesty. If I was feeling far more interested in one of my partners than the others, I'd tell the others that rather than lying about it or trying to hide it. If someone is so easily hurt that they couldn't hear "Margene, you know I do love you and care about you a lot, and that's why I committed to be in this relationship with you - but right now all my hormones are carbonating for Barb and I just feel like doing snuggling with you rather than sex", then frankly, I shouldn't be with that person.

What do you think?

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13 comments or Leave a comment
aca From: aca Date: 4th July 2006 15:40 (UTC) (Link)
I think the show is taking the whole mormon poligamy thing and dressing it up to make it sit with the general american viewing audience.

The fact that it's one bloke who has three female partners rather than what (as an outside observer, I give you) seems to be the norm of a rather mixed bag of interwoven relationships.

That said, can you imagine a major US network commisioning a show about the goings on of the London PolyGoth scene? :)
aca From: aca Date: 4th July 2006 15:41 (UTC) (Link)
Bah, brane got ahead of me there:

interwoven relationships... seems oddest to me.
rjw1 From: rjw1 Date: 4th July 2006 17:03 (UTC) (Link)
i could see bbc3 doign it though.
aca From: aca Date: 4th July 2006 17:08 (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes, but Thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded..., etc :)
alexmc From: alexmc Date: 4th July 2006 15:42 (UTC) (Link)
> this is not my beautiful life, this is not my beautiful wife

Damn that television.

What a bad picture

alexmc From: alexmc Date: 4th July 2006 19:05 (UTC) (Link)

Sorry - that Talking Heads quote may be a bit obscure... It is a song about a couple who are always getting into fights and then realise that they could write a tv programme about it.
baratron From: baratron Date: 6th July 2006 17:16 (UTC) (Link)
Nothing wrong with obscure song lyrics! My brain's full of them. Actually, I just figured it was the rest of the song that the title of my entry was from :) Google tells me it isn't, though.
(Deleted comment)
redbird From: redbird Date: 4th July 2006 21:27 (UTC) (Link)

Less than 104 words

My web does not involve three people sharing one partner, and only that one. It's geometrically more complicated; emotionally, I don't know, in part because easier for me might be harder for someone else.

cattitude urged me to go to Boston this past weekend, because he realized that adrian_turtle needed me right now. I mentioned this to Q, who observed that I'm fortunate to have Cattitude. My partners are not rivals, nor do they have neatly divided shares of my life. Rather, the four of us--and their other partners, and the other important people in our lives--are friends, and we cooperate to make our lives work.
sashajwolf From: sashajwolf Date: 6th July 2006 13:17 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Less than 104 words

One of the things I like about Big Love is that it's made very clear that the wives are good friends (in fact, they use the word "love" to describe their feelings), and they are shown co-operating quite a lot. It doesn't seem like they have neatly divided shares at all - they have separate houses, but they do the shopping and childcare together and refer to themselves as a single family. There's certainly some rivalry, though, of much the same kind that sometimes happens when people try polyamory for the first time and aren't quite sure yet how to make it work. I'm very glad that, like you, I don't seem to have that in my relationships these days.
sashajwolf From: sashajwolf Date: 5th July 2006 10:47 (UTC) (Link)
dr_d and I caught an episode of this last week, and I'm planning to start watching it regularly (courtesy of his Tivo). In a lot of ways, I thought the family at the centre of it was very like us. It was quite a balanced portrayal - it showed both the occasional jealousies and the genuine affection between the wives.

I do have regular date nights with two of my partners, and I find that useful for planning purposes if nothing else. When I first started having poly relationships, it also helped me to feel more secure in the relationships, but that is less of an issue now. Fortunately, there is enough communication between us that rearranging a date night to accommodate other events doesn't tend to cause problems.

One of the side-effects of my health issues, particularly the hormonal ones, has been that I rarely want to have sex with anyone other than djm4, so that's an issue that has come up for us in a different form than in this story. I think we've handled it without any dishonesty, but it could easily have been otherwise, especially if we had not had the support and advice of other polyfolk to fall back on. That is something the family in the series seemed not to have in the episode we saw, because the other polygamous people they know are so much more conservative than they are that they are not really trusted. So although I obviously think it is wrong to break the ground rules in a relationship, I wouldn't want to judge Bill and Barb too harshly for it, especially bearing in mind that (although this is not apparent from the review) they are newlyweds, and Barb is quite young and inexperienced.
nou From: nou Date: 5th July 2006 18:33 (UTC) (Link)
Barb's the oldest wife, isn't she, not the newest?

I didn't manage to get into the series. I just wasn't very interested by anything that happened in the first episode.
sashajwolf From: sashajwolf Date: 6th July 2006 13:11 (UTC) (Link)
You're right, she is the oldest. I realised when we sat down to watch the episode last night that I'd got the names confused. Having watched the episode, it didn't seem to me that they were really "cheating" - none of the sex actually happens at times when the husband is supposed to be with one of the other wives, even the one that provokes Barb's comment that "it's Margie's night". I think the context for that one is actually that the husband has erectile problems, so she's worried that if he sleeps with her, he may not be able to "perform" with Margie later - but later in the episode he's shown throwing away his Viagra, so presumably that's not actually the case. dr_d said, and I think rightly, that the real reason they're describing it as an "affair" is that they're getting turned on by the secrecy, rather than that there is any real need to keep it secret.

The moment in this episode that reminded me most of our own version of poly was when Nicky, having realised that the husband is up to something, promptly concludes that he's courting a fourth wife and becomes recognisably frubbly at the prospect. Of course, a few scenes later she's starting to act jealous, but that kind of see-sawing isn't exactly unheard of... BTDT.
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