Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Find a legal pad. Think of your partner. Write down (by hand) five positive aspects that you really appreciate about that person. Flourish a little: explain why you like this aspect of their personality. Then remove the paper from the pad, fold it, and seal it in an unmarked envelope.
Next month, repeat the process. Write down five more that you discovered in your partner. Seal it in an unmarked envelope, and continue this process through the end of the year.
And on Christmas Eve, take all of the envelopes and place them in a box, wrap it, and place it under the tree, somewhere in the back, obscure, nondescript.
When they open their gift, they'll likely be surprised and thankful for your thoughtfulness and individualized attention.
And when they read your thoughts line by line, you'll each be reminded of the tiny melodies that comprise the symphony of your lives.
We can never say enough; there's never enough time. Listen intently.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
When I was six, at the dinner table, I voiced a strong disagreement towards eating my vegetables. My parents – doing what parents do – attempted to encourage me to eat my vegetables by reminding me that they make the rules in the house and if I didn't like it I could just leave. Well, I took them up on that offer. I declared that I wanted to leave the house. I packed my bags. They drove me to the bus station. I stepped out of the car and looked down a long hall of people and trash, bags in hand, and looked back at my parents, who huddled together – barely able to contain their laughter – and I started to walk away. Instantly, the gravitas of my situation fell upon my mother and she ran up, hugged me, and pulled me into her. They then took me home.
It didn't stop there. When I was fourteen, I decided to move in with some friends. My mother went rifling through my stuff and found some Dexatrim tablets. Speed, she said. Hell, I just wanted to lose some weight. So, I left. I didn't tell my parents where I went. I was gone for a few days. They called the police. I was safe. I was living in the basement of my friend's place; he owned his own apartment. No big.
When I was seventeen, it was summer, and I decided to camp out under the stars near Battle Ground lake. I took my bike, my gear, and left. I left a note for the parental consent: “Gone camping. Be back tomorrow.” While I was out there, I met up with some people I knew, and I decided to stay for another night. Then, another. A week had past. Cops were called again. This time they found me.
Close to the end of my senior year, my dad caught me in a compromising position in my room. It was dark, 3am, and I was … downloading. Downloading programs for my Commodore 64. Back then, you were lucky to get in 1mb of data in a night, so I wanted to get an early start to download this stuff from a pirate board on the east coast. My dad, he warned me about this before, so he took my C64; well, actually, that was my second C64 – I had purchased it on my own, hid it, and used it at night, because he took my first one and grounded me. Well, I thought that was the shit – wasn't even rewarded for my clever replenishment of the asset; I mean, how fucking industrious, eh? – so I hung out over at another friend's place. His parents were cool. Didn't talk to my folks for a week.
Throughout my adult life, I would repeat this pattern. I'd meet a girl. We'd hit it off. Things were fine until she said something wrong and I'd piss off. I just started my car and drove. I'd drive everywhere: to the coast, to Ontario (Oregon), to Ashland, to Port Angeles. I'd come back, we'd split up.
In my first marriage, when I had a fight with my wife, I'd scram. I'd head over to PG/PF's and tell them about my problems. They would listen and I'd return to my crap relationship and eventually get in another fight and come back around. Eventually, I ended up staying... for a month. And I got a divorce.
The next girlfriend: same stuff, different day, except this time she liked to run, too. She'd take off. I'd take off. We'd text each other to apologize or to plead – beg! - to meet up, reconcile. And we did. Over and over. Eventually we married. And in my second marriage, when I had a fight with my wife, I'd scram. I'd head over to PG/PF's and tell them about my problems. They would listen and I'd return to my crap relationship and eventually get in another fight and come back around. If it sounds repetitive, it was. Painfully, stupidly repetitive. And, eventually, I ended up staying... for a month. And I got a divorce.
In the last two years I've been in a relationship, a poly relationship which – on the surface – would seem more screwed up than anything else, but it's the first relationship that I haven't run from. Since that time, I've had time to reflect.
Leaving... running... is selfish. I used to convince myself that it was the moral high-ground in that I could escape the situation to return calmer and more prepared to engage in constructive conversation. This didn't happen. Instead, I left because it returned some sense of control that I felt that I had lost, and, because I maliciously wanted my absence to be painfully remembered. I wanted to be missed.
Once, during my second marriage, I recall being alone one night after she had packed her things in the car and left with her kid. It was horribly silent. It was raining and just the sound of the outside, the 'drip-drop-drip' permeated the bedroom, and, when you're anxious and worried like that, you know, you can't sleep, so I was laying there for what seemed like an eternity, waiting, staring at the ceiling, watching my cell phone, and waiting for the call to talk, to reconcile, to make up. I felt awful. I was very alone. She had stolen something from me. She'd taken my breath away. Today, I still wish I could have done something differently that night. It hurts even now, not being able to tell her I'm sorry.
I think I saw then that walking away deprives your partner that breath – that chance – to make amends, to snuggle, or to mend the fence, or to apologize, or to argue, or to resolve the issue. Walking away short-circuits reconciliation and diminishes your partner. Walking away and then making up is a reinforcing cycle – the act of reconciliation may spike emotions, create more feelings of closeness for a while, and may bring you and your partner together, but for me, it became a negatively reinforcing cycle of “problem-attention-resolution”. Walking away is cowardly because it allows you to retreat and leaves the problem clearly at the feet of your partner. You've chosen not to deal with it. You've chosen to leave it – and her – all behind.
I'm thankful that I don't run anymore. I have a partner that doesn't leave me feeling out of control, or, without my breath. She is a communicator and I am never lacking. I am also thankful that I have come to realize that a lifetime of running took me nowhere (just in circles), aimlessly ending up exactly where I was before. Now, I am content.
I have to tell you: if you're a runner, before you run again, think about how many times you had done so before and about how many times you had to start over, and about how much life seems to repeat itself. The pattern isn't found in your partners but the lowest common denominator of yourself, and how you've always dealt with your problems. And in your retrospection you may come to realize - much earlier than I and hopefully at less expense - how much agony your partner feels when they're so carelessly tossed away.
p.s. - Yeah, sorry I haven't been writing for a while. My attention has been seriously removed as of late, working too many hours and building up content on my consultancy's website. I'll try to refocus my priorities. You know it's bad when PolyGestalt (a.k.a. Silent Bob) has been able to blog twice since my last post... can't freekin' have that...
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
What is that point for you? Or is the number of connections that someone has not even a factor for you?
Monday, April 20, 2009
OK. So, I've been thinking a lot about the kind of relationships I want in my life. That lead me to start thinking about how I classify them. I haven't formally organized relationship classes until now, but my mind has always been a bit structured. Classes with a sexual intimacy component would be open to women only, at this time.
Intimacy: Love Bond, Friendship & Sexual
Reliability: Expected emotional and/or physical support
Face-to-Face Time: Daily
Common Interests: At least more than one
Economic Entanglement: Gift giving, integrated finances and cohabitation
Comments: Not sure if I could support more than one of these. If I did, my dance card would probably be very near capacity.
Intimacy: Love Bond, Friendship & Sexual
Reliability: Some emotional and/or physical support within certain contexts
Communication: Nearly Daily
Face-to-Face Time: Weekly
Common Interests: At least one
Economic Entanglement: Gift giving
Comments: I could probably maintain either one high-intensity Heart Keeper, or up to two regular-intensity ones.
Intimacy: Friendship & Sexual
Reliability: Limited emotional support
Communication: Weekly to Monthly
Face-to-Face Time: Two to four weeks
Common Interests: Preferably, at least one
Economic Entanglement: None (possibly spontaneous gift-giving not tied to holiday)
Comments: I could support... hmmm... maybe four of these.
FAMILY (Non-nuclear blood relations)
Intimacy: Family Bond & Friendship
Reliability: Somewhere between expected and limited emotional and/or physical support
Communication: Weekly to Semi-annually
Face-to-Face Time: Monthly to Semi-annually
Common Interests: Probably not!
Economic Entanglement: Gift-giving.
Comments: While my daughter would also fall under the heading of family, obviously the parameters would be very different in her specific case. I don't want to create a whole seperate class for her. The stats above are for other blood relations. I have plenty of these peeps.
Intimacy: From light to deep friendship
Reliability: Possibly some emotional support depending on friendship depth
Communication: Weekly to monthly
Face-to-Face Time: Monthly to quarterly
Common Interests: Hopefully more than one
Economic Entanglement: Depending on friendship depth.
Comments: This is extremely close to my feelings on friendship, but is a kind of transitionary domain. These are women I generally hope will shift our connection into Playmate or Heart Keeper. But I also have female friends who I have a "just friends" pact with.
Intimacy: From light to deep friendship
Reliability: Possibly some emotional support depending on friendship depth
Communication: Weekly to monthly
Face-to-Face Time: Monthly to quarterly
Common Interests: Hopefully more than one
Economic Entanglement: Possibly gift giving, depending on friendship depth.
Comments: I have a pretty good amount of these. And actually there's quite a variety of expression in this category. The communication and face-to-face time are just the average parameters; it could be way more frequent or infrequent depending on individual cases.
Face-to-Face Time: Various
Common Interests: Only one
Economic Entanglement: None
Comments: Maybe it's a person I know from work or maybe a person who I share a single point of connection with. (Most often that connection would be a shared interest in a game or intellectual point of view.) Could be just about anyone.
Reliability Note: I'm just talking about general expectations here. Of course, circumstances are going to vary from relationship-to-relationship and individual incidents. Emotional support entails both verbal and non-verbal support of a person going through tough times. Physical support would be physical assistance to a hurt or sick partner.
Friday, April 17, 2009
But, but, but... I can show them how fantastic poly is! Sure, they _say_ they're mono, but maybe they'd be open to poly, if they really like me. Maybe we can do mono/poly! Sure, that's it, there's my out! I'll be poly, and they can keep being mono, and we'll have this great wonderful relationship. It'll all work out, if they like me enough to give this a shot.
Um, this is like taking a straight person and making them gay in just this one case. If someone is in a relationship with a poly person just to be with that specific person, chances are really good that there is some level of coercion being felt.
The mono/poly situations I've seen that are working well involve a mono person that is poly in almost every way as far as their approach to relationships, excepting the application of addition people on a personal level. They see the ways that being with a poly partner benefits them personally, and aren't doing it to please anyone.
On the other hand, let's say you meet this great person from the first paragraph, as you are getting to know them (but before you are actually in a relationship with them!) you share that you are polyamorous. They ask what that is, they see the relationships you already have (if you are currently partnered), they seem to show interest on a personally applicable level, as though this is something that they've been wanting, but never thought possible. You may just have something here!
This is about how the relationship with S began. He knew us, knew about our relationship style, and sure, the motivation to be with me was a biggie, but polyamory, as a philosophy or set of ideals, had personal resonance for him. He'd also decided that monogamy wasn't a relationship model that worked for him.
He read, he asked questions, he exposed himself to things that were outside his previous experience, he acknowledged it when he made mistakes, corrected, and moved forward. Yep, I knew there was a learning curve to get through, and while I was willing to support and encourage, there was a lot that he had to do for, and by, himself.
Conversion from mono to poly is possible. Almost all of us made that transition, but the key factor remains personal choice. Going from mono to poly to be with someone specific is like losing weight to please another. The pounds inevitably come back, because the change wasn't motivated for, and by, self. The change must come from the convert, and not the converter.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
POLYGESTALT COMPARES THEN AND NOW.
I've been thinking lately about my friend s1m0n. A lot of people reading this blog don't have any of the back history. So, here's the nutshell.
We met each other on a local multi-phone-line BBS called Foundation Earth around 1992. I had just recently moved back in to live with my parents from a stint away in college. BBS's were an important social networking node for me as I had no local friends in the city where my parents retired. We played role-playing games (RPGs) both online and in person. (Back in the day when an online RPG meant either just writing text stories or playing on a MUD -- we were the text-writing sorts.)
Back then, s1m0n was known more for his creativity than his business acumen. Although, sometimes distracted by rules ("Read the docs!") or character nuance ("Newton's hair is not blue!"), s1m0n was (and still is) one of the best storytellers I know when he puts his mind to it. Couple that with a flair for drawing and I totally thought he was going to write comic books or go down a much more creative path.
But ya know, we all change. While he was always a very motivated person, within the first few years that I knew him, he kicked his ambition into high gear. His priorities shifted and he began to devote more of his energy into both business development and computers. He became a father -- anyone who has gone through that knows that certainly shifts your priorities even further. (As I'm also a father, I totally understand.)
Over the period from 1997 to 2007, s1m0n and I saw each other less and less -- to the lowest point which was seeing each other once or twice a year even though we lived in the same city. His last wife's "no friends" insecurity mandate was most of the reason for the last few years of that.
Then in 2007, he and my wife developed a deeper bond and suddenly he was slammed back into my life in a full time capacity unprecedented in our relationship. I was seeing him all the time, but doubts abounded. How much of his desire to be here was my wife and how much was his friendship with me? Without crawling into his brain, I doubt there's a way to really evaluate that, but I came to accept the situation as a positive one.
So, how are things now? Well, although I see him on a daily basis now, I'm not sure just how close we are. I guess it fluxuates. Most of the time, I'm glad to have a great metamor that handles his life responsibly and treats my wife with the love and respect she deserves. Sometimes, I feel like there is something between us that bends the friendship from feeling completely comfortable -- a princess and the pea kind of feeling. I'm not sure how much of that feeling is just simply having to live with a partner that I'm not romantically attached to and sharing life responsibilities with. And how much is some mild sense of lingering rivalry over our shared womanly resource.
Things are just different.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Perhaps it has nothing to do with the actual person, and more to do with a difference in style of polyamory, or in communication styles? If relationship expectations are different, why wouldn't there be consistent issues cropping up? Let's say there's an introvert dating an extrovert, well, there are some different types of language that might be needed to bridge that gap, perhaps even with a "translator" person at some points.
Prevailing opinion would lead one to believe that the secondary relationship isn't the problem, it's just the spotlight that brings those issues to the surface. I suppose from the context of "picker problems" this could be true. Even if the metamour in question is a bringer of drama, someone picked them as partner material. Shoot, show me the poly person that's never made a poor pick.
When you've spent time and energy on a direct or indirect connection with someone, there is an investment in them. The desire to "make it work" is huge! So undoing "picker problems" is tough for all concerned. When I see people drifting from things they considered core to accommodate that, that's where a small difference can become a bigger issue.
Having strong personal boundaries is a good place to start. With poly, the difficulty can come where you implicitly trust one partner, but perhaps not the metamour on that same level. How do you maintain a boundary with the metamour without cutting yourself off from the fulcrum partner? I'm working on this diligently, so please bring on the insight!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Within the poly community there is a perception that having a definitive opinion is trying to control one's partner. If you are looking to give or deny permission, this is likely true. If you are sharing what your personal opinion is without ambiguity, not to force behavior, but to inform, this is what a healthy "no" is all about.
Friday, April 3, 2009
"Ask for what you want." It's just about front page on any poly manual out there. Your partners aren't psychic. You want something? Just wo(man) up and say so! Hmmmm... yet, why would we need to cover this over and over again if it weren't quite so simple for most of us? Societal training, particularly for women, says that you should wait for things to be offered to you, hint around it, make suggestions, or otherwise obfuscate what you _really_ want.
Apparently, it isn't lady-like to say: "I really want you to bury your face in my womanly-bits until I pull you up for air." Go figure. Instead, we are trained to be subtle, or just do without needs being met until such time as your partner spontaneously finds themselves interested in the same idea. Of course, by that point, it's likely that toys have been employed and the need no longer exists, but there's still a bit of resentment at being "denied" what was desired by one's own silence. Passive-aggressive much?
"Give what you want to receive." This sounds great in theory, but there are times where it just doesn't fit. Let's say that I'm kinky (just theoretically, you understand...), and that I want to enjoy public play as the Dominant. I offer that up to my partner, waiting for them to appreciate that gift. Hmmmm... they are vanilla, and not into public play. Well shoot, what do I do now?
This idea works better in intention than in specifics. Let's use the above example and instead of that specific scenario, I offer up an evening out, handling all of the childcare arrangements, so that there is a slot of totally free time available for use by my partner. This is getting closer, but let's face it, giving a gift and expecting reciprocation isn't much of a gift. Until I open up my mouth and say: "I'd really like to schedule an evening out, totally free of kids, to run a scene at a party. Here are a few times that events are running in the next month. Can we get that on the schedule, as well as a similar time slot for you to enjoy?" there is just an amorphous blob of vague wants and expectations that aren't likely to find the desired path on their own. It's the difference between going north, hoping to hit Canada, and plotting out a course with a specific route in mind. One is going to be MUCH more direct than the other.
On the flip side, let's suppose you want something. You best be prepared to set that up for your partners in return! Let's say you're the first one to have an outside partner. When the time comes that the shoe is on the other foot, work on wrestling any "But it's _different_ when it's you!" sorts of thoughts to the ground. They don't belong. You asked for it from them, you want it from them, pony up on your side of things!
Being upfront in negotiation with partners is really the fastest and easiest way to get what you want without jumping through a lot of extraneous hoops. Even if you get a no, at least you are aware of what you're working with, instead of waiting for the Relationship Parity Fairy to swoop down and bestow the perfect resolution.
Men, in contrast, have the idea that expressing a need is, well, needy and perhaps emasculating. They might do some of the same things, as far as indirectly asking, as a woman would do, but not usually for the same reasons. For example, I know a proud male Massage Slut. I am open to giving him massage, but find the approach of pathetic whimpering and whining with lots of hints to be less than appealing. ;) I'd rather just have a direct request, say yes (or no), and put a time frame around it. It's not needy to make a request, it's needy to expect someone to _notice_ that you _want_ to make a request.
Continuing to be aware of what your needs are, and how you generally go about trying to bring those needs to the attention of others in your life is an area of growth for most of us. Often, I find that if I'm feeling frustrated with my partners, it's because I didn't ask for something, or they didn't. Back-tracking and picking up that missed connection is usually a big step in the direction of resolution and getting everyone on the same page. Give what you want to receive, but also make sure you are communicating that clearly. The Relationship Parity Fairy will be pleased with you...
Thursday, April 2, 2009
We all have the right to do our relationships anyway we see fit. However, the assumption, even among the poly community, is often that in a mono/poly pairing, the mono partner is sacrificing something, perhaps by being in a relationship style that doesn't suit them personally, to stay with the poly partner.
Some of the more functional poly folk I've met are with mono partners. The way this seems to work best is if the mono partner doesn't perceive sexuality as really that much different than any other form of socialization. Emotional connection is seen as an abundant commodity, and their poly partners do an exceptional job of creating a base of trust to work from. They need to be willing to speak up for themselves and have well-defined boundaries, including the capacity to negotiate and form connections with their metamours. In short, all the qualities of any well-functioning poly partner, but choosing to be monogamous themselves.
That the mono partner might change their mind and exercise the option to become poly is also something that seems important to mono/poly pairings. Where knickers get all twisted up is when the idea of choice is taken off the table. Even if it's not exercised, it needs to be there.
Being functionally poly in all directions myself, I don't have a lot of experience to draw off of when it comes to mono/poly. What direct experience I do have comes from spending time where one of my partners wanted to manifest an outside relationship and wasn't able to at that time. Either there were too many other responsibilities to afford the time to connect with someone, or there wasn't a suitable candidate to bring on board. It seems we're all agreed that it's better to be "poly single" than to insert a poorly matched partner, or try to satisfy too many demands on one's attention.
When you are the poly partner in a relationship where your partner is, at least in practical application, mono, guilty feelings may arise about having something in life that one's partner also wants. Another possibility is being in a position where one is looking forward to their partner having a secondary, not only for the positive impact on their growth in life, but also to alleviate pressure on the relationship from being the footloose poly partner while the mono partner is all nose-to-the-grind stone. The amount of concern that a poly partner might feel, the desire to make sure the mono partner is "really okay", can branch into martyrdom or taking on responsibility for the feelings of another.
As the mono partner, it is imperative to develop coping strategies and a strong support network outside of your poly partner to help work through the challenges that are primarily your responsibility. While there are a great many things that are within the purview of the relationship, there are pieces that belong to you, and would be best served with outside input, or structured action that helps you work through your own emotions.
Let's run an example: Let's say your partner is off on a date. You've asked for what you needed as far as support from them, and are still having feelings of anxiety. What do you do? Some strategies that may be helpful include setting up a different social opportunity for yourself, gaming, catching a movie, working on a project, cleaning, journaling, or working. If it's something that you can feel good about, plug it into that space and give yourself some emotional breathing room. Again, these are the same sorts of strategies that poly/poly partners would want to develop, so it can be very useful for mono partners to participate in poly groups, gaining these types of skills that serve their personal needs.