Friday, April 4, 2014

So close, yet so far away...

One of the great things about poly is that, a good chunk of the time, you stay friends with people you've been in relationships with, even after the relationship has shifted to a friendship, or some version of non-romantic.

One of the tough things about poly is that, a good chunk of the time, you stay friends with people you've been in relationships with, even after the relationship has shifted to a friendship, or some version of non-romantic.

There is something bittersweet about hugging and holding someone you still love, yet are no longer with.  It seems much more common in this community than when I was monogamous, to have amicable connections, even close friendships, with people that used to be lovers and partners.  For me, the feelings are often still there, the attraction is still present, but there is some compelling reason that I am choosing not to be in a romantic relationship with them.  It can feel murky, confusing, and yet, still satisfying to wade through.  

This conflicted feeling is usually most intense in the weeks/months immediately following a shift in connection, but in some cases, I find it lasts for years.  It is a value to me to not cut people out of my life when the relationship changes, barring unhealthy dynamics, but that doesn't mean it's always a piece of cake to keep in touch.  At times, it's been necessary to take some period of time completely apart to allow my feelings to cool down before reinitiating a different type of bond.

Giving myself permission to take space when I need it, to ask my existing partners for comfort when I'm feeling melancholy about a change, and to delve into staying connected, even when it isn't completely comfortable, are skills I keep working on.  What do you find most useful in working your way through transitions in relationships?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What are Your Values in Relationships?

I facilitated a polyamorous group discussion the other week and received positive feedback on it, so I wanted to take a few minutes to transform that discussion into a blog post.

First, I asked everyone for an open discussion on values as they pertain to relationships. Relationships in general - it doesn't have to be expressly polyamorous relationships. These are the attributes, characteristics, and things of importance to you when you're engaged in a relationship. Some of the attendees said:

  • Transparency
  • Honesty
  • Growth
  • Freedom
  • Affection
  • Trust

I then asked if everyone could make a list of the top three most important ones to them, for these are the qualities you're looking for in a relationship and what matters most to you, what's important to you.  Take an inventory. I also asked how Polyamory does/doesn't bolster these values.

Then I asked how these values are expressed in their poly relationships? "What do you do every day to express these values?", going off the old idea of treating your partner in the way you'd like to be treated.

Finally, I handed out some homework. I asked everyone to take these ideas and discuss them with their partners after group. Learn what their values are and share yours. 

If you've had a rough patch in your relationships - if expectations haven't been in alignment for you and you're having relationship trouble - talking about your common values may be a good starting point. 

Common, shared values work better than installing rules and restrictions to create expected behaviors and outcomes. Instead, find what you have in common and capitalize on your common belief systems. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And More on Male Privilege

There is no female equivalent for the word "emasculated".

When I am unable to pay for a meal or an evening out, I feel this way. I literally feel like I'm unemployed. That I'm dependent.  That I'm powerless.

Then Camille reminds me of when we first started dating and I insisted then that I pay for everything. Except she used the term "disempowered".

So today was a lesson in disempowerment. 

Last Sunday, I attended a poetry slam where a feminist poet talked about "nice guys". The nice guy was someone who wanted to take care of everything, but that came with expectations. The nice guy expected something to be given back in return. The poet did not want to be indebted to the nice guy and wanted him to evaluate why he finished last because his friendship and generosity came with strings attached.

When paying for things with Camille, I always thought that I was the nice guy. I was just trying to take care of things. But it turns out, what she felt was disempowered, and, potentially, this new friendship came with strings attached. Both Regina and Camille have told me about how they are more often to go Dutch for first dates so that there isn't this imbalance of power. 

Of course, all of this flies in the face of what I was taught to do as a kid. Pay for things. Treat the woman. Take care of things. Be a man.

It turns out that this programming is a lot more destructive than I thought, particularly to women, but also to me.

Why do I feel so ashamed and powerless? And why would I want to make others feel that way? And why does not paying for things make me feel less than a man?


Monday, March 10, 2014

Leaving, and Being Left.

I leave my husband to be with someone else.  I leave my partner to be with someone else.  My husband leaves me to be with someone else.  My partner leaves me to be with someone else.  Everyone knows about all about it, and sometimes, it feels fine, and other times it feels crappy.

Recently, I spent most of the day Saturday with my metamour, Camille, and my daughter at a women's self defense class.  Russell dropped us off, and at the end of the day, picked us up.  Sunday, Camille and I spent the afternoon together.  Again, Russell dropped me off, and we joined him later in the day.  He was noticeably a bit subdued that evening, and, when asked, said it felt strange to be leaving us all weekend.  A bit of a downer really.  That's part of how poly is different from monogamy though.

Sure, people come and go in mono relationships too, but they are usually leaving a partner behind to go to work, or some sort of activity that is less overtly personal. Bonding time, sex, intimacy, shared experiences, these things are the currency of relationships, and in poly, there is almost always someone who is being left out, or left behind.

Dealing with leaving someone you love behind, or being left, is part of the skill package we are all working on in our pod.  It's always easier when everyone is feeling well-resourced, and has other options that they find valuable.  It's harder on the weeks where everyone is stretched, and no one is feeling quite like they have "enough".

I'm in relationships with these people because I like being around them, and the whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" trope doesn't really work for me, so this is an area I'm consistently working on.