Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

(Barely) one week ago, I made a pretty big announcement on this blog.  Reaction to it has been almost uniformly positive, as I had hoped (but didn’t confidently believe) it would be.

You people generally seem to still like Susie and me, and many of you think that what I wrote was honest, forthright, refreshing and candid. This blog is called “” for a reason, and I’m relieved to be living up to my own expectations, and glad that this expression seems to be appreciated.

Of the reactions, many said it was brave or courageous or full of boldness or daring.  I don’t know exactly how to take that. I don’t feel courageous. I felt like I was bursting and drowning and hiding all at the same time before I wrote it, and now I’m not.  In just a week, I’m calmer, happier, and more certain of how I want to be, and that is probably the best part of this so far. Secrets are hard.

One person said they didn’t know my open relationship preference was a secret. That’s awesome: I like her 😊. Another asked why I bothered to hide it in the first place. That’s partially because I wasn’t ready to face it myself, and partially because others weren’t.

There were also two really good, meaty questions* from readers, one of which I’m going to answer right now:

* I wish there had been more!

I commend you for your courage and honesty ... I am curious about one thing though. What are the benefits of getting legally married to one person when you’re polyamorous? You wrote that you don’t rank your partners but wouldn’t being married to one person automatically create a hierarchical structure? Does the formal and legal act of marriage make it more challenging for you?

TL;DR: As another friend asked: If you’re open, why get married?

First, let’s truncate it to be this question: Why get married?

Yes, it’s a bit glib, but really: Why do we do this at all, because the answer to that can then be applied to polyamory.

Some marry because they’re going to have a child. Some do it for love or for their parents, or for their partner who wants it more than they do.  Some don’t, and are happy. Some don’t, and they should have. Some marry because they see that’s what you do, and there’s no example of another way to do it, and some marry because they want the wedding, or the chance to be DONE with the dating scene.  Some marry because they found The One, and some marry because they found One, and some marry because they found someone.

I got married because Susie and I were very young (early 20s), very in love, and we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives loving and supporting each other. I didn’t understand what polyamory was (or would be to me), so at that time, we did what we were led to believe was the next step in tying our lives together, the thing couples were supposed to do, and we chose marriage as a way to show the world and each other our love.

(Funny thing: Very, very few of my friends got married after I did until years and years later ... we started quick out of the blocks and didn’t realize that the race hadn’t yet begun.)

Being married has been an important element in helping us to stay together over the years. It gives our friends and family a structure within which to interact with us as a unit, to support us and advise us, to understand us and be there for us. And it immediately, and lastingly, created a framework within which to deal with problems and conflict. Marriage takes you from “will this conflict split us up if we don’t solve it?” to “we are going to stay together, so how can we solve this conflict?”

However, marriage has also caused significant problems. It was and is far harder to continue to date when you are married, even if your spouse is 100% supportive. Being somewhat hidden about being poly contributed to that difficulty, but it will still be there now. It has, I think hindered people’s ability to understand why I’m poly or what that means.

And yes, hierarchy issues loom large in relationships when you have a spouse.  Several of my relationships have struggled in the shadow of my marriage. I have worked very hard to show my girlfriends that having a wife would not mean I would treat them as a second-class citizen. Marriage isn’t the only culprit here, though. If I were unmarried but together with Susie for 15 years, that would cast its own, slightly differently hued shadow as well—new relationships glow brightly, but do not have the deep roots of an old relationship.

Susie and I have discussed what it would be like to divorce—not because there is anything dire within our relationship, but because of how our being married affects those we love and how they can love us. The flaw in this thinking, is that there is no way to strengthen a relationship with someone through weakening other existing loves and commitments. Love begets love; patience breeds patience, and I feel like my being married does not preclude me from committing equally and deeply to someone else. Rather, it gives me the credentials to show that I can do so.

Which leads to the related question, should polyamorous people be able to marry multiple people and/or should the government allow multiple marriages? That’s a much bigger issue, and I actually don’t have an answer yet. I do think a legally permissible, government-recognized union between just two people has been a very good thing for society, and I think making those unions open to three or more people, or to multiple overlapping sets of people, irreparably changes the role and effect of such unions.

If your marriage partner is considered in many ways your “second-in-command,” your automatic next-of-kin, the person most responsible for you and for whom you are most responsible, making plural marriage possible involves opening some enormous cans of worms and pouring them all together. Other countries and societies handle multiple marriages, so we know it’s doable, but it’s far bigger a leap and a change than, say,  legalizing gay marriage.

And as for the religious implications of polygamy (polygyny and/or polyandry, which is having multiple wives and multiple husbands, respectively), that’s too big to get into and I want to save that topic.  Suffice to say, some religions think it’s awful, and some think it’s a wonderful thing, and some religions used to think one thing and then switched to the other, which is odd because I thought that you weren’t allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game…

In a nutshell: Marriage complicates polyamory and open relationships in general, in ways that can be difficult to overcome—but it also allows, facilitates and encourages the practice of love, trust and support; and marriage should easily be able to give more than it takes from another relationship. Besides, a person might simply want to get married or stay married to one person, while they meanwhile have a deep and abiding love for another person—marriage does not always mean love, as Judge Judy could probably tell you.

I hope that answers your question.

[Editor’s note]: If you tried to post a comment but got an error message, can you please try again now and let me know if it happens, and if so the details? I have been having intermittent trouble with it.  Thanks!


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

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“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

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“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

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“I play with variables constantly.”

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“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

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