Bryghteyez and Michael are a poly couple I’ve known for some years on the PolyFamilies list, as well as working with them on a couple of PolyFamilies CampCons. They graciously consented to be interviewed about their marriage and relationships.
1. How old were you both when you met?
Michael: Lesse, it was the spring of ’77, so I was twenty. Bryghteyez would’ve been eighteen.
2. How long were you together before you married?
Bryghteyez: Our first official date was 3/17/1977 and we were married 8/25/1979, so, about 2 1/2 years. I think this is important, because I see so many people getting married when they haven’t known each other very long, or moving someone into their home on short acquaintance while still in the throes of NRE, without really taking the time to get to know each other.
I didn’t want to get married. Time Enough for Love convinced me to marry him. I saw possibilities in that book that I thought I could live with over 50 years, unlike the patterns of a lot of the marriages I saw around me. I couldn’t bear the idea of someone thinking of me as property and, coming from a rural area in upstate NY, that was the norm. Don’t misunderstand, most of our family members were married for the long haul – but that kind of being chained down didn’t and doesn’t work for me. Luckily, I met a man who was willing to let me be the person I was and has the patience to put up with my temper.
3. How long have you been married?
Bryghteyez and Michael: Twenty-seven years.
4. Did the relationship start out polyamorous? If not, what made you decide to go poly?
Michael: More or less, but we were making it up as we went along. I’ve always had a hand in music somehow or other, but until we moved to Virginia I’d never considered making a full-time living at it. After we got here and I discovered that I could get paid a weekly wage for playing bass, I spent the next twelve years or so doing just that. Being on the road and away from Bryghteyez as much as I was would’ve put a much larger strain on our relationship than it did if we hadn’t had the “open” relationship we have. I’ve worked with a great many musicians who tried to maintain conventional relationships while out on the road, and they never seemed to work as smoothly as mine did with Bryghteyez. In fact, watching the other guys dog their way through one club after another made me appreciate my not having to lie and hide things from her that much more. I will confess to having fallen into the trap of trying to keep my activities hidden from her, but it blew up in my face spectacularly enough that I really don’t want that to ever happen again.
Once we found out what “poly” meant, we’ve more or less embraced the concept wholeheartedly. It’s interesting to find out that our views on relationships have been more or less legitimized. We thought for a long time that we were the only ones, or some of a very rare few, who viewed our marriage the way we do.
Bryghteyez: For starters, I didn’t know the word. Having said that, we didn’t have an exclusive relationship pretty much from the start. MK graduated college at the end of my freshman year and was spending the summer away playing in a band (story of our lives together). I told him I had no intention of staying home alone all summer and didn’t expect he would either. After he picked his jaw off the floor…well, I’m still around
5. How did you get involved in the “Polyamory Community”? What is the present nature of your involvement? (Workshops, discussions, cons, etc)
Bryghteyez: Well, we had a quad blow up in our face and MK wanted to know why. He did some research online and found a local poly group and polyfamilies and got very excited about telling me we weren’t the only ones.
Well, we had a quad blow up in our face and MK wanted to know why. He did some research online and found a local poly group and polyfamilies and got very excited about telling me we weren’t the only ones.
I belong to the polyfamilies list and we are members of one local poly group and there seems to be another one starting up that I am involved with. I’ve been a member of the Board of the local group for the last 4 years. We participate in local dinners, discussion groups and workshops. Been to 2 PolyFamCampCons. I’ve been to a couple of PolyCamps in WV, one with MK, one without. I’ve facilitated a lot of discussion groups, including a series called Practical Poly for the local group covering topics like How to Keep House with a Multi-Adult Household Without Killing Someone, Rules of Engagement – or How to Argue Effectively, Financial Arrangements, Kids and Discipline, How to Deal with The Relatives, Legal Necessities, What NOT to Do?, BDSM & Poly, etc. When I am teaching, I prefer a seminar or discussion group approach rather than lecturing, even though I might do an introductory short lecture of some sort.
Michael: Bryghteyez has already related the disaster our first attempt at a quad turned out to be, so I won’t recap that. Somehow or other, and I still can’t really remember how, I stumbled over the term “polyamory” while on line one day, and decided to pursue it in order to find out where our plans went wrong. We were both hurting pretty badly over how it all turned out, and my initial interest was in finding out how we could avoid such in the future. I distinctly remember Bryghteyez coming into the study while I was doing the search, reading what I had up on the computer screen, and saying “I thought we tried that and it didn’t work.” My reply was “I know. I’m trying to figure out what we did wrong,” or some such. After that I discovered that there was a polyamory organization right here in Tidewater, joined it, and started to investigate its resources. Bryghteyez was sufficiently intrigued by the things I was relating to her from my search to check out the site herself. She subsequently joined, and spent a few years on the board of directors.
Our involvement in that group has mostly to do with attending special events the group sponsors, along with occasionally hosting events ourselves. “Practical Poly: What Not To Do” is a big seller.
6. How do you feel about your present relationships?
Michael: Given that I currently have none outside of my marriage, I can’t really say for myself. As regards the relationships Bryghteyez has going, I have no problem with them. Humans being the multi-faceted beings we are, I’m not threatened by her actions in going out to find relationships that let her explore the facets of her character that don’t get much attention from our marriage. It makes her a happier, more “whole” person, and I can’t help but benefit from that.
Bryghteyez: Very warm and fuzzy. No, seriously. Last weekend, I went to spend the weekend with a new long distance partner, whom I’ve known for a while, casually, but with whom things have gotten fairly intense recently. His primary girlfriend made a point of chatting with me online, taking the time to get to know me a little and letting me know how much she was looking forward to meeting me. My husband helped me pack the car and asked me to stop by his office on my way out of town so he could send me off with a hug and a kiss. My local sweetie of several years made a point of calling me that afternoon to wish me a lovely trip and a lot of fun.
What more could a woman want? Really.
7. How do you feel that they’re working out?
Michael: When I have one that works, I’ll let you know. I have a bad habit of rushing into something new way before it’s strong enough to withstand that much attention, and over the last few years I’ve had several budding relationships tank as a result. I find myself more than a bit gunshy over starting anything new, but I do have some close friendships that I hold dear.
Bryghteyez: Everyone involved is poly and has been for quite a while. All of us are adults. By that, I mean, none of us are into ‘drama’ and most of us are very good at communicating our needs and desires. Those that aren’t, are learning.
8. What sort of relationship challenges do you face? Do you ever feel like you’ve fallen flat on your face in them? If so, how do you handle that?
Michael: “Fallen flat on my face”? All the time. My biggest challenge, as I stated beforehand, is to keep my feelings from running away with me to the point where the other person in the bright, shiny, new relationship doesn’t feel buried or smothered. Scared off quite a few that way, I have indeed.
Consequently, I tend to hold back more than I probably should. There’s an inherent dilemma in that: If I show too much interest too soon, I tend to scare people off. If, on the other hand, I hold back and try to let things progress as they naturally will, I tend to act as though there’s not much interest there, and things never get off the ground. All in all, I’d rather take things slowly and preserve a friendship rather than rush things too far and break that friendship from too much weight and pressure. I don’t go out on a lot of dates as a result, but there are warm hugs and kisses waiting for me here and there.
Bryghteyez: Hell, yes!
If so, how do you handle that?
Oh, you want details? About 10 years ago, I got involved with a guy, K, to whom I had explained and thought he understood about our marriage being ‘open’ (best term I had for it at the time). Within a couple of months, he had moved in with us and so had a partner of M’s, J, who was coming off an abusive marriage. K & J barely knew each other when they moved in with us. Mistake #1. K was lazy as sin and didn’t seem to understand my house rules about everyone working, paying rent and doing housework. Mistake #2. M and K were both pretty fixated on me, leaving J feeling odd-woman-out. Mistake #3.
At the time, M was still out on the road, so he was only home 2-3 days a week most of the time. Our son was a young teen.
J moved out. She couldn’t take feeling like second string, and really didn’t understand poly – still doesn’t for that matter. We are still close with her, but she is much happier now that she’s been married 5 years to someone who is laid back and comfortable with her being who she is.
K eventually made it clear to me, after it was clear to everyone else with eyes, I might add, that he was trying to break up my marriage and wanted me to himself.
M nearly had a nervous breakdown and gave me an ultimatum – the only one of our marriage – him or K. K moved out.
M and I spent the next year putting our marriage back together. We spent time learning to communicate all over again. We had separate rooms for a while. We passed a notebook back and forth to talk about the stuff we had trouble talking about face to face.
Sheer cussedness kept us together. Neither of us were willing to give up on the other.
It was nearly 5 years before I was willing to take a chance on another relationship and I’m glad I did.
9. What effect do you feel being poly has on your marriage?
Michael: It’s opened a great many doors to communication and conversation that would otherwise never even be recognized as being there, much less opened. We’re much closer, as a result. There isn’t a whole lot that we either can’t or don’t discuss, much to the embarrassment of our son’s friends.
Bryghteyez: In the long run, it has made us stronger, more self-sufficient – and if we weren’t poly, we probably wouldn’t still be married.
10. If you could go back to your younger self, what advice on poly would you give?
Bryghteyez: Don’t ever forget the rules:
1: Treat others as you wish to be treated
2: Only sleep with friends
Every time I’ve ignored one or the other, I’ve gotten into trouble.
Michael: Slow down, dammit! Loving someone new doesn’t require flipping head over heels and drowning in NRE. It’s a holdover from my teenage years, one that I’m still having trouble handling now and again.
Thanks to the both of you for being willing to be so frank! Here’s to 27 more years!