Monday, April 30, 2012
Something I've noticed with those newer to poly is that there is an assumption that the trust they have built in their relationship with each other over time also translates directly out to any new relationships they are forming. This has proved a bit problematic, as the people in those new budding poly relationships that are changing from previously monogamous to polyamorous are usually oblivious that this expectation is present.
It might not be going to ground zero on the trust factor when moving from mono to poly in your original dyad, but poly is a different dynamic, with different skills needed, different negotiations to have, different agreements to develop, and a different kind of trust to earn.
Yep, I said earn. People can talk about giving trust all they like, but every time I've "given" someone my trust, it's because their words and actions are congruent enough over time that trust is built. The longer this goes on, the more consistent and congruent they are, the more I trust them.
So, you've been in a monogamous marriage/relationship for the past 5-10 years. You've been through thick and thin together. You've seen each other sick, crying, vulnerable, happy, joyous, frustrated, focused. There have been vacations together, children born and raised, pets picked together, bills paid, debts accrued and discharged, mutually impacting decisions made. Why doesn't the trust you've earned there just transfer into your poly life together? Because this is something different enough that it gets its own category of trust-earning, and that trust folder is currently empty, if you're lucky, or filled with things like, "I've met someone that I really think is shiny, and I'd like us to consider polyamory!".
To move from mono to poly, there is a change in existing agreements, which resets the clock after a fashion. The good news is that you *get* to start over. The bad news is that you *have* to start over. If you treat your long-term partnership as though you've got those 5-10 years of historical trust to buoy you up in this new endeavor, it's likely to bite you in the ass. Sure, it doesn't disappear, but this new category needs to be filled with positive shared experience to earn the trust in poly.
How does one accomplish this? Pretty much the same ways you accrued trust within your mono dyad. Do what you say you're going to do. Don't do things you haven't negotiated for. Show up when you say you'll be there. Don't go MIA without notice. Take care of your responsibilities. Ask, rather than assume, if you need help with something. Communicate clearly and consistently without a hidden agenda. Don't make up stories in your head about what's going on with your partner and their new connection(s), instead, ask for information. Ask for what you want/need before it becomes a problem in your relationship.
If your objective is to create an environment that nourishes your vintage relationships, as well as your new poly ones, it's well-worth the investment to build your poly trust bank up. Trust is simple, but not always easy, to earn.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
One of the often overlooked things, particularly in the early stages of “going poly”, or when one is experiencing a surge of NRE, is that it behooves one to keep a little metaphorical gas in one’s tank when going between partners.
Let’s say you have hot date with amazing partner A. You are in the ZONE! On fire! Makin’ it happen! You are all things wonderful in the universe for the time you are sharing! It’s over the top, and just keeps going! There’s deep, heart-felt conversation, amazing emotional and physical intimacy. It’s a superlative experience by any measure.
You transition out of the date, drag your weary, yet elated, ass home, fall into bed exhausted, and wonder why partner B seems less than enthused about your mind-blowing experience. Turns out they are getting the garbage together (usually your task), handling the plumbing issue that reared its ugly head just as you were leaving, the kid has a project due at school the next day, and the dog apparently got into something dead and smelly, which required bathing and an unexpected load of necrotic laundry.
While we all enjoy a good dose of compersion, it would take a saint of amazing proportions to not feel a bit irate at the differences in the events of the evening. How can one turn this around?
In my experience, it is very helpful when a partner comes in from a date with something left to give. Perhaps it’s a warm snuggle, kiss, sharing of intimacy, or just cleaning out the litter box. Something that says, “I love you. I’m present.” In a way that is recognizable by the receiving partner. Just to have the ability to handle some small issue, to give some comfort or pleasure without it harshing the mellow of the previous experience.
My gf, J, often goes between her various partners in succession on the weekends, because that’s the best way for everyone to get to spend time together. I really appreciate that she shows up to spend time with me well- groomed, smelling delightful, and with a smile on her face that is just for me. Even if she’s tired from a previous engagement, I get something that is about our connection each and every time.
Where it’s gone worst is when partners wear themselves out completely with another partner, then spend a day or so recovering, with an expectation that everyone else is going to pick up the slack. Don’t do it. If that means you live on coffee for a day; make it happen. If it means you cut your date “short” at the previously considered end time, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re completely done; do it. If it means you satisfy your partner’s needs with something other than a rock hard penis; do it. If it means you put aside your need for alone time because you’ve burned those hours; do it. Do not sacrifice one partner’s experience of you for a momentary satisfaction.
Be smart about allocating your resources. Keep something back, if not for others, for yourself. No one, least of all you, is served well by complete depletion. Learn to give generously, but remember you still have bills to pay. Reserves are important. If a need becomes apparent, be able to rise to the challenge!
Saturday, April 28, 2012
My parents decided to divorce when I was ten.
Although their tenuous relationship was likely irreconcilable on its own accord, the sudden revelation that my father was boffing his secretary probably did not help. Overnight, bags were packed, papers filed, an apartment rented, and I moved some 800 miles away to start the 5th grade. I’m certain my mother didn’t take this decision lightly: she was freshly pregnant with my brother; she was conspicuously religious; she was a devoted mom.
I’m certain none of this was codified in her life plan.
This particular incident wasn’t my father’s first foray into extramarital transgressions either. In my twenties, I’d come to have several awkward conversations with my mother who took great satisfaction in revealing the frequency, suspects, and principal characters of my father’s adventures. She depicted my father as a coinsurer of women, if you will - a chronic philanderer.
My father would likely suggest that aspects of his relationship were intolerable and his dissatisfaction justified his affairs. Surely he didn’t hate my mother but he wasn’t content, either, and he did what he understood what he was supposed to do: he cheated. Unethical infidelity was the standard model, and when I picked up my dad’s bad habits and cheated in my first marriage, it was only too late that I recalled my mother’s revelations and came to realize how much of an impact that model had on my separation and divorce – just a year after my daughter was born.
I often think of the lasting impact my parent’s divorce had on me, and inevitably, the lasting impact of my divorce on my own kid.
Believe me when I say that I don’t wish to excuse my father for his actions. No woman deserves a serial adulterer as a husband; nobody deserves to be lied to or cheated on. But my father was never exposed to ethical non-monogamy in any of its forms. He didn’t have a working vocabulary, books, websites, support groups, or a community of people. He didn’t have a viable alternative to the standard model.
Being fortunate enough to live in a liberal part of the United States, I’m not openly confronted by bigotry or intolerance concerning my polyamorous lifestyle. Yet, somewhere, there are those who’re convinced that unethical infidelity is a morally-superior approach to conducting relationships and raising a family, and they frequent such websites as AshleyMadison.com, AttachedPeople.com, AffairsClub.com, or Untrue.com. Through creating an account and logging in, these people reaffirm the old model, and go about hurting the world around them.
I’m glad to be polyamorous; I’m glad to belong to Fetlife.com with pictures of naked buxom women suspended from the ceiling; I’m glad to conduct my life in ethical and responsible ways that treats people in my life better than how my father treated my mother. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be exposed to an alternative model and to consider the world in a different way.
If ever your life’s choices are questioned; if ever your family criticizes and ridicules; if ever your boss demands an explanation; if anyone at all disses you about your alternative lifestyle, challenge them to illustrate how the standard model produces better outcomes.
Monday, April 23, 2012
After some consideration and long last, I think I've arrived at the successor Rule to my vaunted Rule 58: Rule 59!
Rule 59 to Poly is ...
"Potential dating partners must have a smart phone; preferably an iPhone."
Okay, here's my rationale.
In today's day and age, texting is important. It keeps us top-of-mind and allows us to have semi-quality discussions over a hand-held device. Yes, iMessage is powerful and it's free. That's important. Moreover, the full QWERTY keyboard allows for more thorough conversations even when texting. And a smart phone gives access to multiple forms of media - maps, email, video, web.
A smart phone just greases the wheels of a poly relationship. Defying Rule 59 is, like, well, "lacking lube". It's friction-filled. It's cumbersome. In every poly purse and every poly ... pocket ... should be a smart phone! It just makes the process of dating and flirting massively easier.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Every three weeks or so, my wife and I invite our partners to come to a Sunday lunch to share space. We call it a metamours’n’more thing.
Yeah, well, I confess. We're not as pretty as these guys. But we still have fun!
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, my metamour is my wife’s boyfriend; my girlfriend is a metamour to my wife; a metamour is your partner’s partner.
It’s a good time and is usually four or five hours. Not all of our metamours can come around but it’s great to have everyone in one space for a while. It’s great to reconnect and see what everyone’s been dealing with over the last couple of weeks. It also gives me insight into the problems my wife might be contending with in her relationships.
We’ll have lunch, hot tub, chit-chat, and watch a television series we’re all in to, like – for example – Game of Thrones. We’ll queue up a couple of episodes on the DVR so we can watch them together. We’ll all puppy-pile onto the sectional, sprawl out, and enjoy each other’s company for a while.
It’s a small thing. It reconnects and reminds me how entangled we are. It’s not a sexy event or a play party. It’s real life. I appreciate these events. I feel a real absence when we skip a month or more. It’s small, easy, fun, keeps us all communicating, and provides real value in reinforcing our connections in our little pod.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
There are many things that can disrupt an open marriage: unanticipated events, scenes, moments, conversations, and people ... all of which can introduce new anxiety and drama and uncertainty. After all, if you wanted static, you wouldn't have agreed to this lifestyle in the first place. Change is all that's certain.
I recently connected with something like an office coworker - a potential "new shiny".
It was my wife that suggested we all get together and have brunch;
My wife that encouraged me to look at the potential as well as the risks in this new person;
My wife that sat on one side of me while the "new shiny" sat on the other during a community gathering;
My wife that reached out in an email to the "new shiny" to touch base and follow-up afterwards;
My wife who negotiated with me on what she'd feel comfortable with;
My wife who agreed to spend weekend time together with this person;
And my wife who - at this very moment - is reading medical literature on a condition the "new shiny" has.
If there's any person in my life who compromises, finds a way to build emotional strength and stability between us, and who actively attempts to understand and participate in all of my polyamorous relationships, it's this woman. My wife. And she's a wonderful, incredible human being, and I adore her.