Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Worst Case Scenario

When people are new to poly, they often have a "worst case scenario" that is to be avoided.  Most of the "rules" are designed to try to prevent this thing from happening.  When my previous partner and I originally opened up our relationship, and transitioned to poly, I had that "worst case scenario" in mind.  When I found myself in a counselor's office 8 years later with that tape playing out, it was devastating.  Here's my WCS-

"You are an amazing person, and I hold you in such high regard.  I love you, but I'm not "in love with you", and never have been.  You are not sexually attractive to me, and I no longer wish to be physically intimate with you.  The other relationship I've been in just gives me "more" emotionally and sexually."

This was my first love, a partner I'd been with for 15 years, the person I'd had a child with.  All the positives weren't enough. Someone else was more, and in just about every way I took pride in about myself.

There was a lot of crying.  I had a lot of support through that grieving process, and emerged the other side with strong relationships, and a stronger sense of self.  All of my current relationships have been poly from the get go, and that seems to make a lot of things easier, with less reprogramming to do.

So, when S and I were talking the other day about his new shiny, and just relationships in general, and this WCS baggage reared it's ugly head again, it was tough. One of the things I realized, and was able to finally put into words is that terminology that puts things in terms of relative value is pretty much guaranteed to set me right back into that awful emotional space in the twitch of an eye. "More.  Better. Deeper. Hotter. Most.  Best." and so on.   Don't use it with me.  Ever.

On the other hand, I'm fine with things like, "Intense. Different.  Unique. Important.  Deep. Hot."  I don't pretend that my partners don't have significant relationships, important connections with others, but comparative language is something that is a hard limit for me.

The challenge to deal with my own baggage about WCS stuff continues.  It's one of those processing things that apparently will only be taken in chunks, and will continue to pop up at inconvenient times.  Having had that experience with sexual assault as a child, where it still sometimes surfaces unexpectedly, I can recognize that this emotional trauma is something on par, although in a completely different way.

It stinks that my current partners, and my metamours, are still having to deal with trust issues and hot buttons not of their creation.  My hope is for continued patience on their part, as I keep working through this from my end.

Hi.  I'm Gina.  I've been poly for 11 years now.  The worst has happened, and I'm still standing.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Learning to Fly

Pink Floyd’s _Learning to Fly_ is one of my most favorite songs.

When I listen to it, I hear a story: the story of a person trying to stretch their boundaries and do something they’ve been told they can’t do. It’s too late for this fellow, though. He can’t turn back. He’s leapt into the void to chase his passion and is hoping for the best.

Love’s like that.

Polyamory is a world of intense opinions, vocabulary, models, and literature.  When I think of people in polyamorous relationships, I see thousands of people like this guy, jumping off cliffs with a guidebook in hand, attempting to learn the nuances, the lexicon, and models, while plummeting helplessly to the valley below. They’re trying to learn how to fly by reading the manual.

In poly discussion groups, sometimes, I’ll indirectly criticize our community in that we obsess over style; words; vocabulary; methods; processes. Indeed, instead of just “loving” and really relishing in the moment, we critique and psychoanalyze love to death. Freekin’ dead horse syndrome. Instead of focusing on the experience, taking in the beautiful moment around us while trying to instinctively stay on top of things, we’re absorbed in a book.

We’re missing the point.

Love is always risky. We risk much as we throw ourselves into the wind and hope that we stay aloft. But that moment, where the wind catches you and throws you into the sky, and you lose your breath, and you don’t know if you’re going to fall … these are the experiences that teach us; experiences that we’ll eventually put labels to and try to make sense of, but then – there in the moment – isn’t the time for manuals, nuance, or methods.

Right there, that’s the time to let go, hope and plan for the best, to stop over-analyzing, stop reading the manual, and simply learn to fly.

That’s why we do this, right? It’s the flight. It’s that experience we’re after, the sensations we wish to gift to our partners, the freedom we hope to convey so that we might experience it ourselves. Remember why you’re doing this. Don’t allow yourself to become paralyzed by an analysis of style instead of enjoying the moment, and learning – intuitively – from the experience.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Give an Inch, Earn a Mile

I’ve heard some polyfolk talk about jealousy as a wasted emotion and they go so far as to encourage others to suppress or ignore it. 

Yeah, rationally mastering scary emotions would appear to be a superior strategy. Still, most of us aren’t training to be a space ninja, either. The shit’s real and dismissing jealousy as “irrelevant” or “wasted” – or something that can be controlled through the discipline of honed personal will - doesn’t seem like a concrete plan to deal with it.

Within the scope of jealousy, people you care about really feel threatened; they really feel a loss of control; they really feel hurt; they really feel conflicted.  And in my mind, telling somebody that I care about to stuff all of that crap into a box for another day (or get over it) isn’t useful. It’s avoiding the issue. It’s dismissing them as a person and I think that sucks.

A person feeling jealousy should have the right to feel it, be acknowledged, and ask for a conversation about it from their partners. It’s a natural emotion. It’s messy, complicated, and very unavoidable. Get used to it.

Meanwhile, their partner might ask about what measures they could perform to alleviate the pain. Specifics are important. It’s not fair to play the jealousy card yet force a partner to guess as to what you need to ease your pain.

Then, finally, compromise. It’s unfair to compel any single partner into making all the sacrifices and ultimately there may not be a “fair”, balanced solution that meets everyone’s needs, but there can always be common ground or even incremental steps towards meeting everyone’s expectations.

Jealously is a real emotion. It can’t be easily repressed and it’s really unreasonable to expect it can be ignored. I personally don’t think jealousy ever goes away: if you care about somebody, there’ll always be some level of fear and insecurity surrounding their activities outside of you. Still, the intensity of those feelings can be addressed by jointly acknowledging, specifying, and compromising on controls: maybe an inch is given where a mile is earned; little bits of predictability offered over the course of a relationship can reduce fear and create stronger bonds of trust.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Time Wasted...

This past weekend, S and went to Bend to celebrate his birthday.  When traveling, we generally prefer to do things a little further off the beaten path.  In this case, we ended up staying in a new B&B outside the city.  Lovely space, with a very distinctive and unique look to it!

The woman of the hosting family was out in Portland for the weekend, and so we were left chatting with the gentleman who had built a good portion of the house himself, a craftsman in his early 60's with a varied background that included spending 23 years off the grid in the wilds of Maine.  As conversation went on, it became apparent that there was a similarity of interest, and we outed ourselves as poly, which was received with interest.

The sad part of the conversation was the degree to which he felt trapped in his choices, his life.  How various versions of relationships hadn't worked out as anticipated, and how very little power he felt he possessed to change his fate.

This isn't a new theme.  Talking with people, it seems fairly often that they seem enamored with the idea of poly, but automatically shift into the, "Oh, but I could never..."  stance.  When S and I first began to date, he was in that mode.  When he decided that living a life of quiet desperation was worse than the potential repercussions to making a dramatic change in his choices, everything changed for him.

We've often spoken of the 13 years we knew each other before exchanging our first kiss, embarking on a shared journey.  Felt saddened by the years that passed us by, but also recognizing that, without the life experiences that came before to anchor us, our relationship would have likely burned itself out in short order.

Still, it was sobering to meet someone another 20 years further down the road, and see the possibilities missed, the opportunities passed by in the pursuit of "normalcy".  While I am not evangelical about poly, or converting others to chose relationships that are polyamorous, I do take solace that the landscape is changing, and that the upcoming generation is less likely to be sitting in the place our host was occupying at 60.

Information is getting out there more frequently and consistently.  When mainstream television dramas are portraying polyamorous relationships, like a recent episode of "Private Practice", on a semi-regular basis, when we see articles in print, when psychologists are discussing the need for awareness of the repercussions polyamory can have on relationship counseling, it is less likely that people will be in the position our host was in, only seeing the lost opportunities after the fact.

The status quo is changing rapidly, and continuing to share and model positive, functional poly relationships is more important than ever, as people try out their wings, based on loosely considered ideas and media portrayals.  Here is hoping that, in 20 years, I am not listening to another person share their story of time, of life, wasted because they lacked awareness of other options, or models to grow from!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Considering Abundance

A student joined his master in the garden.

The student asked his master, “Is abundance freedom?”

There was a brief moment of silence, then the master bent over, picked up a rock, and handed it to the student.

The student accepted it and looked at the rock.

The master nodded.

And the student looked back at the rock. And then looked back at the master.

The master said nothing.

A long time passed before the master bent over again and handed the student another rock from the garden.

The student balanced both rocks in one hand and then transferred one to his left hand, just as the master recovered another rock from the garden and handed it to the student.

Then another. And another.

His master handed him too many rocks and the student’s hands were overwhelmed. The rocks fell from his grasp and littered the path near his feet. The student quickly crouched to the earth, anxious to sweep up the rocks again.

While the student kneeled to collect the rocks he dropped, the master placed just one rock perfectly balanced on the top of his own bald head, smiled, and walked away.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Make Giving Your Kink

When introducing myself in discussion groups, I will often say that I’ve got no issues. It’s kind of a joke and it earns a good chuckle. My life’s pretty great. I figure my problems are pretty inconsequential as compared to the problems others.  The bottom line is that I’ve really got nothing to bitch about.

This week’s been fairly hard on my friends and extended family.  Parenting negotiations between my wife and her ex-husband introduced significant emotional challenges early in the week; missed expectations rattled a few of my friend’s relationships and sent them into a tailspin of anxiety following a party last weekend; another learned of an MS diagnosis; another friend had not one car break down on her but two – and just on the eve of starting a new job - while another struggles another week unemployed.

In the thick of problems and desires, it may be hard for us to really listen to our partners and lovers are telling us. Events like these … they’re like an explosion. Our senses are overwhelmed. We seek cover. There’s a ringing in our ears.

·      Sometimes it’s the drone of a conversation that we’ve been having for months that hasn’t found a resolution;

·      Sometimes it’s a long hurt that’s turned defensive;

·      Sometimes it’s heartbreak or the ache of lost love;

·      Sometimes it’s missed expectations and frustration over not getting what we want;

·      Sometimes it’s our own anxiety and fear about who we are, the kind of people we want to be, and the commitments we’re willing to make.

In the thick of our problems and desires, that’s the time for our greatest compassion. To pause, breathe, listen, and give. Give. Give in the form of your time, your energy, your patience, your forgiveness, your mentoring, your effort, your assets, your attention, your kindness, your love and caring, your check-in, your stable hand.

It’s tough. We’re hurt, too, but if you can, in a moment of crisis: pause, breathe, listen, and give.

Giving won’t solve everybody’s problem. You can’t and won’t heal all of the damage caused by the bombs that detonated in their lives. It won’t fix anything. Rather, at that moment, giving will erect a bridge to cross from fear, anxiety, and isolation, to a paved path of community, safety, and acceptance.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Freelance or Agency Polyamory

Yes, yes – I’m glad you joined me today to discuss this terrible affliction.

One lump or two? Cream? Good.

I believe I’ve heard it described before as “freelance” or "agency" polyamory.

Yes, now, insofar as I can tell, freelance polyamory is a condition where a person who identifies as polyamorous – somebody who supposedly espouses the values of polyamorous relationships ( - and suffers from temporary bouts of amnesia.



And believe it or not, the abrupt memory loss often coincides with situations where the afflicted polyamorous person can grossly indulge in their desires without having to assume accountability for their actions to anyone, let alone their other partners.

Yes, I know, it’s terrible.

Indulge me only to provide an example.

Let’s say your husband informs you that he’s about to go out on a date with another partner.  Not a problem and perfectly reasonable, you might believe, but then let’s say you were to dig a little deeper and ask some clarifying questions of your life partner:

·      Where will you be going?
·      When will you be back?
·      How much money are you likely to spend?
·      Can I set some expectations on what kind of sexual contact you may be engaging in?
·      Is there a place I can reach you?
·      When you come home, can I expect we’ll have some fun together?
·      I’m a little uncertain about this – can we talk before you go?
·      I’m your wife – can I get a little priority in your decision-making?
·      So how was your time together? Tell me about what you shared.

Whereas the poor inflicted freelancer would likely respond:

·      “That’s none of your concern. You don’t need to know anything about my other relationships.”
·      “I don’t know. Whenever I want to be or when my other partner is done with me.”
·      “Uncertain, but enough for the two of us to have fun tonight.”
·      “I’m not going to discuss that with you. What my other partner and I do sexually doesn’t concern you.”
·      “You can reach me on my cell phone. If I don’t answer, I’ll see you when I get back.”
·      “No, I want to focus on the moment that I’m spending with my other partner and not with you, and if I’m totally exhausted and drained afterwards when I come home, so be it.”
·      “Listen, your emotional responses are your own. You really need to deal.”
·      “I so hate hierarchical language. Can I just refer to you as Skippy?”
·      “Are you kidding? I’m telling you nothing of the great, amazing time we had.”

Yes, it’s simply incredulous, I know, and I realize this may come as an awful surprise. After all, as you and I have discussed these many years, if polyamory is a community that champions honesty, communication, dignity, respect, loyalty and fidelity … the freelance polyamorist is an aberration.

The way I see it, the freelance polyamorist:

1.     Disregards emotional appeals as a personal weakness;
2.     Deflects responsibility for their own actions in favor of short-run fulfillment;
3.     Finds accountability in any form constraining on their other relationships;
4.     Are intentionally secretive and obscure concerning their other dealings finding such questions intrusive – transparency is a weakness;
5.     Somehow believes that – just because you step away from your wife or husband for an evening – all of those sticky emotional, financial, spousal, or parental obligations that relationship entails just evaporates or is non-existent … because it’s convenient to push that aside to get what they want;

Yes, perplexing isn’t it?

More tea?

And apparently, the condition is transmissible! If one partner selfishly believes as the freelancer, then they’re apt to assume the same belief system and impose that upon others as to, again, fulfill their desires.

Yes, truly beyond my understanding. This condition seems to run contrary to the very values polyamory wishes one to aspire. It’s simply selfish to the core, and not selfless, or compassionate, or communicative, or trusting, or …

Well! I think I’ve stirred this pot well-enough, dear. Would you care for some stew?