These days, tech entrepreneurs are pumping out smartphone apps for every sexual minority. Grindr, Thindr, Cuddlr—there's something for everyone. But until recently, the polyamorous community had been underserved in the sex app market. So Christine Tseng and a poly family created the Poly Life iPhone app to fix that.
The app is intended to help people navigate the particular difficulties that can come along with polyamory. While swingers and people in open relationships can have sex with other partners, polyamorous couples fuck and love more than one partner. Although this lifestyle comes with many bonuses—including increased emotional fulfillment and sexual support—poly families deal with additional obstacles, like balancing a schedule to accommodate multiple partners and how to find attendees for a poly Christmas party. One poly family—known as a "quad" because the group consists of two married couples and their seven children—has dealt with these issues for years. Eventually they met with Tseng, an app developer, to develop solutions to these problems.
"It took over a year and a lot of countless hours to bring this app and all of its features to life. I've always had a love for computers and technology, but I didn't start developing apps until the summer of 2011, so I'm definitely still a newbie," Tseng said. "I learned a lot about the app world and about polyamory by working with the creators, [the poly family]. It was a long, hard road with ups and downs but we are so proud of the end result."
Interested in learning more, I called a member of the family—who asked to remain anonymous—to discuss the app, jealousy, and how he manages his busy life.
VICE: W hat are some of the app's features?
The Poly Life: The features are Calendar Events, which allows users to create and manage their appointments privately or with each other; Poly Chat, a very easy way to chat with selected partners; and Poly Family, an optional way to keep poly family/lovers organized. We needed this feature because we all have other partners. Poly Fun is the only public feature in our app and a great way to create and share events with all users of the app. Relationship Status is an optional way to organize your relationship status with other partners/lovers. Our favorite part of the app is the To Do List. We've all forgotten to pick up toothpaste or toilet paper at some point. Now we can give each other chore reminders and assign them with no excuses for dropping the ball!
How does the calendar feature work better than a standard calendar or Google Calendars?
This seems to be the big thing people like to pick on—we're not saying our app's calendar is better than Google's, and we're not trying to replace it. We wanted an app that had a calendar and private chat, and sharing chores/to-do lists, and most importantly, a place to keep our boundaries up to date.
Was a poly app missing in the marketplace?
Yes, it was. There's nothing out there that's made for people in multiple relationships. You have dating apps, but nothing that's geared toward extended and alternative relationships like ours.
How did you become a part of this busy lifestyle?
We sort of fell into it. We were lifestylers [swingers] until one day my wife told me she was having feelings for the male half of a couple we were playing with on a regular basis. The four of us had become friends, but nothing more than friends with benefits, so it came as a surprise when she told me she had feelings for him. That got us talking about her dating, not just sleeping with men, outside of our marriage. It was hard at first, especially for me. I never thought of myself as a jealous guy, but suddenly I was getting jealous when she would go on dates without me. We worked through it by communicating and creating boundaries for ourselves. We've been poly for six years now.
What advice do you give newcomers to the community, who could benefit from the app?
It's not easy. If you're not a good talker, polyamory isn't for you. It's a lot of communicating with each other, especially if we start dating someone new. Jealousy and making assumptions were our biggest hurdles —they still creep up. Jealousy is a bitch. When we were swinging, it was purely sexual with little jealousy for either of us because we always went home together at the end of the night. But when you start talking about having feelings for someone else and spending alone time with them, that was a swift kick in the ass. Understanding that we didn't love each other less, and the other partner more, was our biggest struggle.
How did you find the app's developer, Tseng?
We had all seen the first season of the Showtime Polyamory: Married and Dating series. We liked how it portrayed poly in a positive light. We saw an email Natalia [the producer of the series] sent out saying she was looking to speak with families for season two of the show. We emailed Natalia, and she emailed us back, and we started talking about being considered for the show. Our biggest issue is that we're not out to most of our family and our community. We live in a conservative town, we believe in God, we go to church—and we're polyamorous. That's not going to go over well with some of our neighbors or our bosses. We talked about coming out and what that would look like for us. We went back and forth, but decided we couldn't do the show for many reasons. Our kids were our biggest concern and the backlash they would experience. As fun as it would be to do a TV show, it was too much of a risk for us. During our Skype sessions with Natalia, she mentioned Christine [the app developer] and that's how we met her because Christine is also an editor who's edited for Natalia for many years.
Why did she mention Christine?
It's a funny story. We missed a scheduled Skype session with Natalia. We had to reschedule a couple of times with her. It can be challenging to get the four of us together. We joked to Natalia about needing an app to keep us in line; Natalia mentioned that she knew a developer that she could introduce us to if we were serious. There wasn't anything out there made for polys, so we talked about it, thought about it, and took Natalia up on her offer.
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