African American Women | Freedom-Based Relationships
Recently I was asked about what it means to be an African American woman practicing polyamory. According to WIkipedia Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly], meaning “many” or “several”, and Latin amor, “love“) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. My husband, Carl, and I have been practicing polyamory for about seven years now. He too is African American.
We came upon this style of love after eleven happy years of marriage. One day he came home from work, sat me down, and explained he was having feelings for another woman. As a stay-at-home mom, nursing our third child and home schooling two others, I was taken aback by this. One million thoughts of betrayal, deception, and rejection came ot my mind. However, I too had been in his position prior in our relationship. At year four in our marriage, I had felt feelings for another man. I too was able to open up and share that information with he and our marriage counselors.
Neither my husband or myself had acted upon our love for an outside partner without first bringing it to the other. We had both been honest and up front about what was happening. That gave us leverage and mental stability. We hadn’t “cheated” on one another, we were simply willing to share the truth with one another.
My husband’s admission of his feelings that day opened a long period of reflection and discussion between us. For two full years after that date, we talked about how we could and should conduct our relationship. Even as I was afraid of him loving another woman, I wanted to see him happy. If happiness meant loving others, as well as myself, I was willing to at least think about it. My husband, no matter if I’d decided not to embrace this idea, would never leave my side as husband, provider and so forth. I felt assured of this.
But what about me? Would I be afforded the same privileges to see and love outside partners as he was asking for? At first, the idea of me being ‘open’ to intimate relations with others seemed foreign to Carl. However, over time he came to understand I should have the same freedoms and privileges as he. In fact, after discussing this arrangement for two full years, I was the one who met a man outside the relationship and began a dating process first!
Granted, it was not an easy transition into polyamory or what we now call Freedom-Based Relating™. We had many arguments, jealousy spells, and out right break downs. Our children were a factor, we wanted to make sure anything we did was something we felt comfortable sharing with the children. So we decided on embracing responsibility rules that would make it such that our lives with family, particularly our children, would not be neglected.
We also thought about money, safe sex, emotional attachment to others and what that would do to our relationship. We talked about so many things in that two year process – this actually drew us in closer than ever before. Our sex life was fantastic, and our communication deepened as we became authentic with one another in this way.
My first time dating another man outside the marriage was not easy for my husband, nor was it easy when he eventually – some months later – began dating outside the marriage. There was nothing that could have prepared us for the experience. Everything we’d discussed was useless when it came to the actual act of sharing love with other partners. However, everything we’ve experienced since then, the intellectual growth, the bond created from authentic sharing, and the love and friendship that deepened with the experience has been extraordinary. We’ve paved a way for others by creating the very tools we ourselves needed as we moved through those tough phases.
What we went through together is what I like to call the death of ego-based insecurity, possessiveness, and the ownership mentality. My husband and I grew up into adults through this experience, and as Jada Pinkett-SMith says – we began a grown folks relationship. My husband could do whatever he wanted, and so could I. This was the beginning of a very beautiful new relationship between us.
In reference to being African American and Poly
In reference to being an African American living an alternative relationship style, I’d say we feel like pioneers in one sense, but in another sense, people have been doing this for so long – albeit under the radar – that it shouldn’t seem new. What’s new is the honesty, what’s new is the idea that we can both tell the truth. Telling the truth, I’ve found, removes an element of fear. Be mindful that telling the truth doesn’t mean there is no pain, but in my humble view, I’d much rather know the truth than find out my partner has been inauthentic with me.
I believe practicing this alternative relationship style – freedom-based relating – has strengthened us as human beings. Not only are we sparing ourselves the horrific statistic of marriage failure in the African American context, which is 70%, but we are also opening a doorway into possible solutions for others. We do not believe the entire solution to the issue of marriage failure, and broken families is polyamory, but we do believe there are elements to being authentic and able to tell the truth that would support modern couples.
SInce that time, my husband and I have written several books, as well we run a Love Academy online. We feel it pertinent to note the honesty we have been able to cultivate in our relationship, the fearless authenticity, is something that can support even couples who wish to remain sexually exclusive. As well, we have developed a three step plan to opening a marriage that includes two steps before sexual opening.
We have appeared on several talk shows, and other media. We espouse our views and share our lives because we know how important it is to bring about solutions in a world of relationships turmoil. African American couples need solutions, our company JujuMama llc provides them.
Regarding the fact that I represent African American women in this advocacy, as well as all women of any race, I will say as a woman who lives a Freedom-Based lifestyle, I feel utterly liberated and free. It feels good to enjoy the unconditional love of my husband. It feels good to trust and know that he will never leave my side, no matter what wonderful women he meets, and no matter what relationships I enjoy with other men. Having been with controlling men in my past, and having felt the critical eye of a man who wants to know my whereabouts at all times, due to his insecurity and lack of trust – it feels good to be trusted and respected, and honored in this way – freedom and commitment, I feel, go hand in hand.
Our lifestyle takes courage, but it rewards us with commitment that feels more flexible and valuable, less flimsy than what we felt during our exclusive years. In fact, I feel more committed to my partner now that we are open, than I did in the first eleven years of marriage. Currently we have been married 19 years.
Where would we be today without having gone through this transition into polyamory? We’d still be married, and raising our children together; but, would we truly know one another? Would we feel as comfortable in our skin together as we do now? Would we have worked so diligently on removing the fear, insecurity, and jealousy that plague even sexually exclusive relationships? I just don’t feel so. Taking this step, as an African American couple has meant finding a new frontier in freedom that feels satisfying, intelligent and utterly delightful. Taking this journey together means an ongoing process in giving up a dependency on fear in exchange for a true relationship with real love. We were up for the exchange and it has been a very moving life experience, one that I don’t regret and will always cherish.
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Kenya K Stevens,
CEO, JujuMama llc