Money and insurance issues are complicated enough for a two-adult family to handle – what happens when the family adds in a third partner? And a baby?
Miss Jaiya – a Los Angeles-based sex educator – lives with two male partners, Ian and Jon, and one young son. Ian, one of the male partners, is the baby’s biological father; Jon, Jaiya’s other male partner, stays at home to take care of the baby.
Recently, Jaiya spoke with OOTS News about finance and insurance issues specific to polyamorous families – nonmonogamous families, consisting of more than two adults – and how her poly family handles money and insurance.
OOTS NEWS: Can you just describe what your poly family looks like, what it consists of?
J: We have a child, he’s one and a half. His biological father is the main breadwinner of the family and then Jon, my other partner, stays with him during the day.
I work from home. My full time job is as a sex educator. I write books and make videos.
Jon also helps me out in my business. We really have a support role with Jon. He watches the baby and helps me out with my business. He cooks. He cleans. He does the laundry. Because none of our parents are here, so we don’t have that support system. But we do have like a salary for Jon, because he had to quit his job; of course he needs his own finances and we provide a
place to stay for him. We all live together.
OOTS NEWS: How long have you guys been living together?
J: We’ve been living together for over a year now. Almost two.
OOTS NEWS: Do you all own the house together?
J: We rent our house.
OOTS NEWS: Are you all on the lease?
J: No, just Ian and me. But our landlords know about Jon and know about our situation.
OOTS NEWS: So when you all get renter’s insurance, do you all get renters insurance together or do you get separate policies?
J: Ian was the only one who got renters insurance.
OOTS NEWS: And how about joint accounts or joint credit cards?
J: We all keep everything separate.
OOTS NEWS: Do you think that’s pretty typical in poly families?
J: I think so, just because of the fluidity of everything. If you’re married, that’s different but none of us are married.
I know other poly couples who do have joint accounts, but they’re married. Everyone else that I know who’s poly and aren’t married keep finances separate.
OOTS NEWS: And when you say fluidity, does that mean that unlike a married couple where you actually make a vow in front of everybody you know that nothing will ever change…is it sort of expected in a poly family that there will be changes or that there could be changes?
J: I say that definitely for us. I have poly friends who are married, and they have more like “we’re going to stay.” But I think everybody has this sort of understanding that relationships ebb and flow, and that there’s change and transformation in them. Even in a monogamous relationship, people get divorced.
I find it easier to have everything separate, especially when it comes to finances, because then we all have our own autonomy when it comes to money. We have our agreements like “here’s what you provide.” Like, I’m doing groceries. But right now Ian is the main provider; that’s the agreement that we have right now.
OOTS NEWS: That’s really interesting. When it comes to figuring out how that will work, it must require a lot of openness, a lot of communication?
J: Yes very much so. Like we just had a meeting on what are spending, what’s our budget. It’s crazy because it’s Southern California and it’s so insane.
OOTS NEWS: So if everything is kept separate, you guys are contributing to your own savings, your own cushion? How would that work for Jon?
J: He has his own thing. We pay him a salary to make up for his job that he’s not doing anymore, since he’s staying home with the baby. He doesn’t pay rent or anything like that, because that’s something we’re providing in exchange, again, for him helping out around the house, helping out with the business and helping out with the baby.
One of the hardest things is that since that he’s a caretaker for the baby, he has certain hours that he’s taking care of the baby – but then he lives here. That’s an interesting boundary that we have to keep, for Jon to have time off and not be constantly caretaking around the house.
OOTS NEWS: You must have to communicate very clearly about that too.
J: Very clearly. And keep checking in like “how are you doing with this agreement? How does it feel? Is there anything that’s not
OOTS NEWS: And would you each sort of get equal input? Is that how it would work?
J: Pretty much, yeah. Things are pretty equal.
OOTS NEWS: Interesting. So what if one of you suddenly got the urge to buy something really big? Like a big screen TV? Or a car? Something that’s slightly an extravagant amount of money. Would it be something anybody else would have a say about?
J: I think we would definitely talk about it. If someone in our family wanted to buy a television, that would be, like, a huge discussion. And it would be less about the money and more about someone’s bringing a TV into our house because we don’t have a television. That would be a big shift, to have a TV going into our home.
But a car, for example, we would all discuss that. Ian was making a major change with getting rid of a car and purchasing a new car, so that was a discussion that we were all in on. Jon really wanted to get a minivan. It usually comes down to a needs conversation. Jon’s need is to get the baby in and out of the car easier with a car seat. But Ian is still sort of in his bachelor ways, he’s like “I’m not ready for a minivan.”
So we compromised and got a station wagon – a sporty station wagon. We ended up with a Jetta. It gets as good gas mileage as our hybrid.
OOTS NEWS: How interesting. And what about health insurance? Can every member of a poly family be on one plan or do you have to get separate plans?
J: We have to get separate, except for the baby, of course. He goes on Papa’s.
OOTS NEWS: Okay. Somebody was mentioning that one of the issues with poly families that you don’t find so much outside of poly families is dating expenses.
J: That’s a really good one, because let’s say we’re here and we’re struggling to pay rent for the month and Ian – I’m just thinking
hypothetically – Ian is going out on an extravagant date and spending tons of money on some other person. That would be an issue. Because we have certain needs and we’re priority. The family that we have is priority.
So in getting our needs met, of having food in our tummies, if he was out spending tons of money on extravagant dinners on a different woman every night, that would be an issue. Or buying extravagant gifts, something like that.
OOTS NEWS: How would something like that get resolved?
J: Communication. We just basically sit down and say “Hey, you know.” I would say “My need is to be fed and to have a roof over my head.” I think what we’re really good at is not going to blame. I would never go to him and be “You asshole, look at what you’re doing. This is awful, blah blah blah.” It would be more like “Hey, I have a need, and this is my need, we’re not being fed and I’m noticing that you’re going out every night and what’s going on?”
And sensing something’s maybe going on here – either your need might be for freedom or is there a way you can take people out or go hiking or go on a weekend excursion that doesn’t cost so much money?
OOTS NEWS: And how about saving for retirement? In a poly family, how does retirement savings tend to work?
J: It’s pretty much on our own. I know Ian has his own. I’m really bad at it. Jon doesn’t really do much – we’ve been pretty much
investing in our business as our retirement. Ian has his own business and his own retirement. Ian invests in my business as well, so all three of us are all pretty invested in my business.
OOTS News: What do you think are the financial advantages that poly families have?
J: I can list advantages like crazy. One is the environmental advantages – like we don’t need three blenders. We only need one. We have more people sharing resources so it’s not as expensive. We have three people pitching in to rent so we can get a bigger home and we also have more support – especially our family where Jon is at home, we don’t have to have a housekeeper, we don’t have to hire daycare. Our child gets really good care because it’s one of us.
And you know developing those skills – you get to develop those communication skills in everyday life, just around anything, not just about finances.
OOTS NEWS: What are the financial issues that poly couples and poly families run into that people who aren’t in poly families might not think of?
J: I think it’s fairly similar to what a lot of other couples experience, which is balancing, having good communication. I think
that’s actually one of the benefits of polyamory, is that we all have really, really great communication skills. So we’re able to communicate our needs and our desires around finances. I’m a really lucky woman.
OOTS NEWS: Great. Thank you so much for doing this.