Interview: The Creators of The Poly Life

November 28, 2015
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Interview: The Creators of The Poly Life

If you are polyamorous and in need of a utility to help organize your schedule, there’s now a snazzy new app for just that purpose. Aptly named The Poly Life, the app was created as a way to manage everything from the family to fun sides of living a polyamorous lifestyle. In some ways, it’s also a means to dispel the misconception that polyamory and what mainstream culture deems hook-up culture, what apps like Grindr and Tindr mostly represent, are the same. Polyamory, viewed through the lens of The Poly Life, has the same household trials, tribulations, and daily joys as more traditional relationships, just with more individuals and love involved. The Poly Life not only gives order to poly people, but also great representation in culture and technology.

I had the pleasure of communicating with app developer Christine Tseng and the poly family who together created The Poly Life. With polyamory being a controversial topic in mainstream media, and very misunderstood to boot, I wanted to know the inspiration for the app and if Tseng and the family, who wished to remain anonymous, believed the app would set straight false conceptions of being polyamorous and how this would come about.

Simply put, the exchange between Tseng, the family, and me was charmingly eye-opening. Enjoy the interview below.

What is the story behind the Poly Life app? How did it get developed and what is it a response to, in the technology and cultural worlds?

CHRISTINE TSENG: A polyamorous family had been in contact with a client and friend of mine, Natalia Garcia, about her Showtime show “Polyamory: Married & Dating”. The family was going to potentially be a part of the show’s cast but eventually decided not to do it because they were not out yet to all of their family, friends and co-workers. However, the family and Natalia stayed in touch and they eventually told her they had this idea to create an app made specifically for the poly community. Natalia knew I had started developing apps so she told the family about me and that’s how the app got started. I was extremely excited about this opportunity because up to this point, I had only created games. The idea of stepping out of my comfort zone and diving into a lifestyle/productivity app sounded challenging and I love challenges. We spent over a year creating the app and testing its features. Since there are no other productivity apps in the marketplace made specifically for the poly community, we had nothing to compare our app against. All we could do was make an app that the family could use on a regular basis and feel really proud of and we accomplished that so I am thrilled.

How does the app, in your opinion, contribute to the public’s understanding of the poly lifestyle?

THE FAMILY: We are a normal family like everyone else – except with more relationships in the mix. We have a lot to juggle in our lives. We wanted to create a tool that allowed us to stay in touch and up-to-date privately. We want people to see us like them. We’re loving, family-oriented regular people with regular jobs. Just because we have more than one romantic relationship doesn’t mean we are different. We have big love! Our app hopefully shoes others that we deal with normal everyday mundane life stuff and it’s not always about sex.

How has reception been? Have you had a positive response from different poly communities?

THE FAMILY: For the most part, reception has been very positive, especially from vanillas, which we found surprising. However, no two poly people are alike. We’ve had a handful of people ask that they be able to add partners without their partners needing to approve the invite. Although we understand the simplicity of removing the need for consent, we have found through testing that a lot of poly people are not out yet. For privacy reasons, we decided that all partners need to be registered with the app and approve each invite much like you have to with Facebook or LinkedIn. Another request we’ve had is that some people have asked us to remove the family labeling but that’s how we do poly and you don’t have to use that feature if that’s not how you do poly. We know there are other poly families like us so removing it would be a disservice. We’re always open to improvements and suggestions but overall, we’re very happy with the feedback and with the app.

Do you have any fun anecdotes from using the app you’d like to share, especially about it’s helping productivity in normal life?

THE FAMILY: We love using the to do list. We use it to assign everything from picking up grocery and household items to running errands like picking up the dry cleaning. It’s incredibly useful to be able to assign specific partners specific chores or reminders. That way, everyone is accountable for their part. However, we’d have to say that agreements is probably the section of the app we have the most fun with. I drive my wife crazy with my laundry. I’m a bit messy and tend to throw my dirty clothes on the floor. So she sent me an agreement, “If all of your clothes make it into the hamper this week, we’ll do a group date night of your choice.” I had to press the agree or disagree button and, of course, I agreed! That agreement stayed in my phone as a reminder and for the most part, all of my dirty clothes made it into the hamper. Although we use the agreements mostly for relationship and sexual boundaries, we want to remind everyone to think outside of the box. This app has been a really fun way to make the mundane interesting and to have fun with each other. I don’t think there’s another app that can claim to do the same. Though, of course, we may be biased.

Why is there resistance to the polyamorous lifestyle in much of mainstream culture? Have certain aspects of mainstream culture halted the development of the app?

THE FAMILY: We think people are afraid of what they don’t understand. Back in the day, people thought all gay people would try to make you gay! Same with poly people – they think we’re going to try to date them or sleep with them. People are now educated about LGBTQ people and hopefully the same will happen with us (and even in the swinging community there’s misconceptions). The religious zealots have slowed down progress when it comes to sex and relationships by wrongfully using the word of God to instil fear and shame. We are churchgoers and our God doesn’t spread that kind of hate. So we would say misrepresentations of the word of God have hurt progress in the realm of sex and relationships.

What advice would you give to someone who feels they are more comfortable and happier as a poly person?

THE FAMILY: We believe that whatever makes you happy is what you should be doing. And for some people that’s monogamy or celibacy. For us, polyamory is what fills our hearts with joy and raising a large family together is one of the biggest joys in our life. The sex is fun too 😉

In your words, what does it mean to be poly, and are there misconceptions you want to dispel, either with the app or with other media you plan to produce and release?

THE FAMILY: For us, poly simply means “loving more”. We love more! The biggest misconception is that we have orgies and sex all day long. We do have special occasions for adult dates but our days are mostly spent doing homework with our kids, going to work, and mowing the lawn. The emotional and financial support we get with each other outweighs the sex stuff. With our app, we combined all our needs into one app. Some of us didn’t feel comfortable saying what we really wanted on Facebook. This app is a private way for us to communicate with each other. The other thing we want to mention is we’ve found people have been hesitant from trying the app because they think it’s simply a calendar app. We are so much more than that. What would have taken several apps to accomplish, we’ve put into one single app geared towards our own. We have everything from calendar to to-do lists to chat to agreements to maps and much more. Our app is not a social networking app but rather a lifestyle/productivity app that the poly community can use to keep their poly family’s lives organized in a fun, new way.

Speaking about misconceptions, how best would you differentiate poly from swinging and other movements that are similarly misunderstood by the general public?

THE FAMILY: This a tricky question because everyone defines how they swing or do polyamory differently. For us, the biggest difference was commitment. When we were swinging, we didn’t commit to the people we were sleeping with. We never really wanted to hang out with them aside from when we would all play. With polyamory, we made the choice to make commitments to other partners aside from our primary. Some would say the difference is love. With swinging, it was more sexual for us. The biggest misunderstanding is that it’s all about sex and we’re addicted to sex and are porn addicts. There may be some that fit this stereotype but we find it mostly wrong. Yes, we love sex but we love each other more. It’s hard for people to understand compersion (getting pleasure or happiness from your partner’s happiness). I love seeing my wife happy with her boyfriend and she loves seeing me with my paramour. Do you have more than one friend you love? It’s the same idea. As hokey as it sounds, it’s about love. But also when you’re dealing with so much love, it can get hard when things go awry. There’s a funny saying in the community when shit hits the fan, “Poly-agony” which perfectly sums it up.

This is kinda a bigger, more societal question, but what do you feel about labels? Vanilla seems to inspire a certain type of thought, as does BDSM, swinger, and poly. Is there a way to foster better understanding between these people, or do the labels actually take away from a certain level of communication?

THE FAMILY: Some people like labels, some don’t. I think for some and for us they’re necessary. For us, vanilla or mono is the best way to describe someone who is in a traditional relationship. Since society mainly recognizes a 2-person heterosexual traditional relationship, these labels are the only way we can figure out who’s who. So yeah in some some cases I think it’s an understanding between us, our own language. I called my co-worker vanilla the other day and he didn’t get what I was saying which surprised me. So perhaps labels aren’t as commonly used or understood as thought. But the more the media talks about these labels, the better because it removes the fear and stigma associated with them.

Any plans for future app and tech development, either for poly support or for other types of outlets?

THE FAMILY: Our biggest hurdle right now is coming out with the Android version so everyone can connect with the app. One of my metamours is on Android. Making an app is expensive, more than we thought, so we’re hoping we can raise the funds we need to hire back our amazing team to create the Android version.

For all your organizational needs regarding an enjoyable and stable polyamorous lifestyle, visit www.thepolylife.com and be a part of a hopefully more personally, sexually, and culturally enlightened future–or, at least, never worry about forgetting your partners’ laundry needs again. 

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