Monday, December 28, 2009

Training Wheels

There are some things that are commonly seen in the early stages of many poly relationships. Often, they are rules or policies that are set in place in an attempt to reduce/manage insecurities, jealousy, or to maintain the "primary" couple bond as the most important. Things like One Penis or Vagina Policies, no sleeping over/travel rules, restrictions on access to other partners, limits on the number of additional partners that one is "allowed" to have, unicorn hunting, or attempts to mandate dating the same person/people. Let's call this general class of ideas "Training Wheels" for the poly person.

Training Wheels serve a valuable function for many of us. They give us a way to prevent deeper injury while we are learning new skills. They give us confidence that we can do something, even when it's a little wobbly around the edges. It's a way to feel in control of something that isn't vaguely under control, because we aren't ready to relinquish that control yet. There does come a point where the skills are there, the confidence is real, and we're ready to fly without a safety net. Keeping those policies in place at that point just slows us up, holds us down, and prevents further growth.

While there are some lucky folks out there that seem to have been hatched from poly eggs, coming straight out of the box fully plugged into the idea that personal freedom and choice in the context of relationships is self-evident, most of us have to do a bit more work to get there. The thing is, once you've gotten to the other side of the fence on something that you may have once considered a "hard limit" for you in relationships, it seems pretty obvious that it may not be the best way to do things, and when you see others who are still in that space, of course you want to bring them along to the place where they are sharing the same perspective on that issue. This is where we often hear complaints about the "Poly Police".

There isn't a "right" way to do poly, but there are ways that work better than others. If you've worked hard to find those ways, it makes sense that you'd like to share that wisdom with others, to help them avoid some of the myriad of "doesn't work so well" ideas that have been discovered.

Here's what I've noticed though: some of us just don't learn things by reading about them, we learn by stepping in it, repeatedly. Even if we are proactive enough to read through the many fantastic resources available online, in books; even if we have conversations with others who have been there, done that, got the t-shirt, sometimes, the only way to really truly understand something soul-deep, is to do it, do it badly, be hurt, hurt someone else you care for, and experience it.

So, those of you that feel peeved or offended by the Poly Police trying to "tell you how to do your relationships", understand that it is often motivated by concern, empathy, and a desire to help others avoid living some of the most painful moments they've experienced, decisions that have damaged or destroyed cherished relationships, and rules that have the opposite effect of the intended result. Think carefully about the concepts that are behind the advice, even if you aren't ready to take it yet.

Finding the right time to take off the training wheels is a personal choice, but it is one that needs to stay on the radar. Each new relationship has it's own growth curve, so it's possible that you may find it important to have certain training wheels on in one relationship, while another is perfectly fine without them. Re-evaluate often, and push against the things that you feel as limitations in your relationships in a way that is compassionate for all involved. Just like when you were learning to ride a bike as a kid, chances are pretty good you'll fall down, but the solution is still to get back on and keep trying until you get it.

Finding the track again

Whew! The holidays are almost past us, thankfully. I've had the additional distractions of kids out of school, a new connection that I'm enjoying, and having my car broken into, which resulted in the loss of all my debit and credit cards, license, several gift cards, and some cash. The renters in our old house are moving out, so we need to find tenants, and/or rent that property out in short order, or face being drug into a financial hole. PG and I are still reorganizing our relationship into something different, so that takes some bandwidth too. Let's just say that it's been a busy month, so I haven't been as consistent here as I would like. Thank you all for the patience!

Oddly enough, I am still feeling pretty darn happy and generally contented with things. Sure, there are aspects that could be going better, but at the end of the day, I know, and like, who I am, so that makes things that would otherwise be terribly challenging more bearable.

So, here I am on the quest to find the track, so that I can get back on it! Let's hear it for those times in life that winnow perspective to just those things that are truly important!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


One of the facets of poly that I continue to explore is the idea that we have more options on how to deal with changes in relationship than we would most likely have access to within a more conventional relationship model. This does seems to be pretty advanced stuff, however, even for people who actively put energy into being self-aware and not following pre-determined pathways.

Most often, if a mono dyad find themselves in a space where one or more of their major needs aren't being met within the relationship, they break up, to continue on the search for "The One" who will "complete" them, and perhaps, if they're really fortunate, be able to maintain a level of civility with their Ex. It seems far more common to have a spectacular blow up, decide that someone never really loved at all, and actively avoid ever needing to interact with your formerly indispensable partner again. Neat, clean, surgical. Cut the person out of your life and move on. Let's talk about something not nearly as black and white. Staying in.

In poly, we have more choices available to us, and can create different versions of relationships than what-has-gone-before. Particularly in interwoven chains of relationships, it is often highly desirable to minimize disruption to the entire system by coming up with a form of connection that doesn't involve flame-throwers or picking up sides!

The first question to ask is if you find value in having this person continue to be a part of your life? Do you still see more positives than negatives? Has what has gone before poisoned the well for future interactions to a degree that will not allow for forward motion? Check this carefully. Unresolved stuff is often internalized, and will continue to be present in future relationships, but that doesn't mean this is going to be the best spot for you to do that work.

There are probably valid reasons that the relationship is shifting focus. So question #2 is: Are all concerned parties still vested in working on their own shit independently and cooperatively? Just saying you want to stay important to each other on some level doesn't mean that anyone is done with the stuff that brought you to this space, so with any newly redesigned connection, there is likely to be some heavy lifting that still needs to be done to move forward into a fresh perspective together. If that seems to be in mutual alignment, great!

Question #3 may look something like this: "Well, I know that what we were doing wasn't working on some level, so I don't want that!". Oh, that wasn't a question, was it? Very perceptive of you! This is where you get to ask the question: "What do I want? What do we want together?". This may sound simple, but clearing out the patterns and habits of "what has gone before" and converting it to "what is desired now" can take a bit of effort, time, and calling bullshit on each other as needed.

Once you know what you want to create together, it becomes a matter of implementation, and, as with any relationship, there may be some bumps in the road, or it could be smooth sailing. Any way you slice it, questions 1-3 are just the starting point of a process that will continue to be refined with time and shared experience. Any relationship is a living thing that requires nurturing to stay healthy, and if you've decided that the delicate, high-maintenance "orchid" you've been nurturing together really needs to be converted to a "cactus" with lower overhead, or if you are "up sizing" a connection that has grown beyond it's original bounds, there are new skills that need to be acquired.

Remember that there can be feelings of loss or grief over restructuring a relationship, as well as excitement and renewed vigor, and remain compassionate with each other. Love is a many splendored thing, so learn to enjoy the splendor of new territory together!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Create your own community!

An oft heard complaint is that the poly people one runs across in an online environment, or in real life, aren't the type of poly people that one wishes to connect with. An addendum to that lament is that the existing events or groups just aren't that interesting or desirable, or that they're clique-ridden or closed to newcomers. To that I say: Go forth, and create thine own community!

How does one go about doing this, one may ask? Well, I'm glad you did, for in these few simple steps, we'll take the journey towards creating your ideal poly experience together. ;) Speaking from my own background, when I first began to look at this idea, one of the main factors holding me back was that it's way easier to be dissatisfied with something than it is to effect change by doing something about it. In short, I was reluctant to take a leadership role, put myself out there, be visible, create a target for someone else to be unhappy about my ideas. Frankly, when I started to pull together the discussion group I host, I got some flack for it. There was concern that it would cause a schism in the community, that I would dilute what already existed, and certainly, no one was going to drive all the way to the suburbs of Vancouver to participate! Considering that we get 20-30 people consistently hauling their poly butts to the 'Couve on a monthly basis, and that the other groups in the area have acutally seen a bump in their attendance, this would appear to be false.

So step number one is to get over that worry. Really. This isn't a popularity contest, there's plenty of room for many different ideas, groups, events, locations, and concepts, and yours is just as valid as anyones. Your concept may have a broad appeal, or a more nItalicarrow draw, but that's what you are interested in finding out, right?

Step number two is to figure out what you want to create. This sounds simple, until you realize that most of the ideas spring from the, "Here's what I don't like/don't want." perspective. Don't play a zero-sum game! Stop asking for what you don't want, and clarify what it is you do want. This may look like a blog that appeals to a specific portion of the poly community, like "kinky, polyfidelitous quads" or be somewhat broader, like a meet-up with no fixed agenda other than to provide face time to those who self-identify as polyamorous. Really look around and determine if there isn't an already-existing version of what you want to create. It can be just as satisfying to plug your energy into what is, rather than starting something from the ground up!

In my case, I'll use the example of the monthly discussion group I host. I wanted to have a more structured environment to discuss specific issues that would be of interest to more poly-experienced people. I didn't see that available in the community. Although there were several thriving discussion groups and meet-ups, there wasn't anything that provided the depth I was looking for. I decided that I was willing to moderate such a discussion forum.

Step number three is to handle the logistics. Figure out when, where, how many people you can accommodate. Being largely creatures of habit, picking a consistent day, time and location will greatly increase your attendance. Online, this can be a bit more loosey-goosey, although several of the online communities have specific days and times that have hosted discussions, for a more live and interactive feel. Try to see if you can set things up so that you aren't in direct competition for another event within the community. Pick a different day or week to run it in if possible.

Step number four is setting up your format. This is where you get to do the creation process. For me, that looked like setting up a list of potential topics to cover, deciding that I wanted to create a discussion outline for each meeting, and coming up with a basic introduction spiel to run through as I open each session.

Step five is execution! I started off by letting the larger community know what I was looking to do via things like craigslist,, okcupid and the local poly mailing lists, and letting the RSVP's roll in! From that point, it was answering questions, assimilating any feedback received, and fine-tuning the format as issues and improvements became apparent (Note: This process is never complete, so stay flexible!).

That's really about all there is to it. You may find that in the area you live, certain formats are going to gain more grassroots support than others, so if you try one thing, and it falls flat, that's OK. Find the next idea that sparks your interest and run with it! If leadership isn't really your thing, see if you can find someone willing to handle that end of things if you take the reins on organization and logistics. Find the mix that suits you best, and if it doesn't exist, create it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Polyday Gifting

An interesting discussion came around in our poly group concerning holiday gifting.

Like, what exactly do you get the girlfriend of your girlfriend's husband's girlfriend's husband? There is this problem of language and position that doesn't meet the familiar model of either seniority or degrees of separation from your mom (well, that's how I rank people in my universe). How do you know what to spend or prepare a gift that isn't seemingly trivial or inane, like an "Here's-an-I-recognize-your-presence-Gift" of a coffee mug? That's almost insulting. "I recognize your place in our pod. I've gotten you some tea bags. Enjoy."

Is there an obligation to extend special gifting consideration to those you've had full-blown sex with vs just a casual snuggle on a frisky Saturday night? I dunno about you, guys, but this one has puzzled me. Obviously this other person means something and I should go and get something, but is there a graduating scale of gift valuation directly related to the degree of intimacy? Imagine what the lack of a gift could say? Yikes!

Kids? Should there be an effort to bring gifts around to children who'd may be a bit confused why so much attention comes from somebody they barely know? Then again, like they're going to refuse a gift... "Hey, look: it's another package." "It's for you, Sally." "Huh-Who's Michael?" "Who cares?!?!?!" Rip rip shred shred...

How about the husband of the woman you're dating - should you coordinate so that both of you don't over-do the other? It'd be kind of awkward if we both got her the same perfume. Shouldn't there be some coordination?

And then Christmas cards. Nothing really says, "Thinking about your wife this Christmas", or, "From our pod, to yours...", or, "Next year, I'll bring the Unicorn", or, "I hope you and your husbands find Jesus this season." Meh.

I guess I've made the best of it this year by declining to circulate any gifts. It's just a policy I'm taking on this year to protest commercialism but I think it's also a way to save my bacon. I need to regroup and think more on these things so I'll have a better plan next year. I gotta go.


Monday, December 7, 2009

What fosters growth?

"A position of strength is rarely a position of growth."

I saw this in a poly forum a while back, and have been pondering the relative truthfulness of the idea. While it does seem true that adversity often ramps up the growth curve to a peak, this is also where the most trauma tends to happen, and it is advisable not to confuse trauma with growth. Nor does just surviving a challenge mean you've grown from it, it just means you're still standing. Granted, some days, that's a pretty good place to be, but it still seems to me that there needs to be a level of conscious cooperation with the circumstances, regardless of the relative strength or weakness of your position, to lead to growth.

There have been times where I've been talking with someone, and it becomes apparent that they are convinced that their relationships will grow only through adversity or conflict. This is a really dangerous place to be coming from! You're setting yourself up to discount the lessons that come from pleasure and comfort as being less important or valid than the ones that come from pain and anger. At that point, it's pretty inevitable that you'll be actively seeking out things that are uncomfortable or unhappy in the pursuit of growth.

Things happen. Good things happen, hard things happen. What you choose to do, and how you decide to move forward from a given point is where the growth can happen. Within a poly landscape, there are likely to be an above average amount of factors that may pull or push you in one direction or another. Having a strong anchor point within yourself is the first and best place to focus energy when you feel like you "need" someones attention, or that you aren't adequate in a particular relationship capacity. In order to say, "I love you.", one must first understand "I".

Once you know who you are, and have some clarity on how to nurture yourself without others, it becomes much simpler to allow intimacy, with one person, or with many, because you will never lose yourself in that process. Others may enhance your experience in life, highlight your understanding of love and pleasure, intimacy and support, but the core will always remain you.

Growth can happen in quiet moments of reflection, you can learn by watching the experiences of someone dear to you. Growth can sprout in the desert of solitude, explode in a shower of sensual energy, be reflected by a child's laughter, or be expanded by something as simple as reading a thought that had not yet occurred to you personally. See those moments when they happen, and know yourself, and you will grow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Have a Poly, Jolly Christmas!

Or whatever sort of holiday you do celebrate! One of the concerns I see bandied about rather frequently this time of year is how to handle the holidays? How do you split up time? Introduce your partners (people that are voluntarily in your life) to your family (not quite as choice-oriented)? How do you decide who goes to what house or event for a given celebration? How does it impact someone when they are left behind for a particular event? What about the dreaded "Holiday Party" for work? Are there some cans of worms that are better left just hibernating in the refrigerator for another time?

We've worked through several different approaches over the past several years. Particularly memorable was the work holiday party that PG's employer threw a couple years back: He happened to be out of town spending time with another partner, but since the event was at a pretty cool venue, and they throw a good spread, he didn't want the tickets to go to waste, so S and I went to PG's work party. When asked, I merely said that he was out of town, and had asked S to escort me for the evening. He had a fun time on his trip, we had fun at his party.

Last year for Thanksgiving, S's parents were in town for a week or so. He came out to them early in the week as poly, although they were already familiar with the general living situation. That gave them the opportunity to ask questions and brace themselves for impact with the larger family unit. When it came time to have the traditional Thanksgiving feast, they were gracious, curious, and engaged. We also cooked and served a separate meal and spent time with PG's family of origin that day. I was cooked out, but felt great about having supported diverse family connections.

Note: I am strongly in favor of NOT COMING OUT AT MAJOR FAMILY EVENTS!!! There is a certain sick draw toward dropping the poly nuclear bomb at such occasions. Resist the temptation! Sure, by just getting it all out there at once, you won't have to tell a bunch of different people who aren't going to "get it" numerous separate times, you may even avoid being the brunt of some family gossip (good luck with that!), but this isn't all about you! Just tell people in smaller groups, answer the questions, deal with the shock and awe, and be prepared to have people tell you that they always knew there was something different about you/going on. Then, by the time the next family gathering comes along, it's part of the family fabric, weird fabric, but hey, there's always got to be an eccentric, right?

This past week, S was out of state with his family of origin for Thanksgiving. PG and I had extra time to ourselves, and with our daughter, and there were some really great things about that! I also missed S and was happy to see him get home. It's okay to miss someone, it's okay to enjoy couple time, or time with yourself, and it doesn't make anyone less polyamorous to not spend every significant moment in their lives surrounded by all of their connections.

We finished the weekend by hosting a meal here that was open to our friends in the poly community, as they often stand in as our family of choice (particularly for me, as I don't have relations close by). It was much more satisfying than the mandatory family event, because it was a conscious choice.

Bottom line: Don't sweat it! Spend time when, where, and with whom you want. If there's a conflict in events, flip a coin, and come up with another opportunity for the event group that isn't graced with your presence. If someone you care for can't make it to your special family thing, find other ways to show them they are important and valued by you. And remember: there's always next year!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Half Year of Shifting

Wow. So... it's been a long time since I've posted to this blog. Miss me? :)

I haven't been in a poly-philosophical place lately and continue to not be there. But I thought the readership would appreciate a glimpse into the background of what's going on in our household -- or at least for me anyway.

The following significant events have happened around me in the last six months:

* The woman who was my Heart Keeper relationship had her husband move out after their divorce finalized.

* A few weeks later, I lost my fluid-bond status with my Heart Keeper. She got into a relationship with a guy that PF and S were nervous about and that flared drama a couple months earlier.

* I went on a week's vacation during the 4th of July week with our poly family and it felt uncomfortable. I began the process of re-thinking a lot of things in my life.

* My Heart Keeper's relationship with new guy deepened even further as he assumed a more central role in her life as her fluid-bonded partner. I felt pushed more to the periphery. When I asked for equal time, it was firmly, instantly denied.

* Made the difficult decision to transition my Heart Keeper relationship from Lovers to Friends -- in the hope that we might be able to salvage emotional intimacy even if we had less physical intimacy.

* Continued my thought process about how uncomfortable I've been in this cohabiting poly situation. PF and I went through couples counseling for a few sessions and then decided to separate at the end of August.

* As a part of my life re-evaluation, I sought closure about my biological father. He was an abusive alcoholic and even though my mom left with me when I was 3 years old, his absence was a significant factor in my life. So, I created a ceremony to give voice to those feelings as well as symbolically bond with what elements of him I could.

* Two weeks ago I finally accepted the fact that my Heart Keeper relationship was really over. Our transition to friends just did not feel good to me at all. Although the intent was to forge a comfortable closeness, I felt even less important to her than ever. I said goodbye to her ex-husband, children and her. The toughest Sunday I've had in a long time -- ripping four people out of my life. I loved them all in different ways.

* Almost a week ago, my oldest half-sister on my father's side died. Reminding me how little time remains for me to develop connections with my siblings on my father's side. We only re-connected 10 years ago.


So, here I am now. Today. Writing the first blog post I've written here in a long time. Still consider myself poly, but seriously doubting that I want to have this flavor of cohabiting polyamory. I feel a bit of an outcast for having those thoughts. After all, it feels like when you become polyamorous you sign a virtual contract to make it work no matter what. Once people have formed poly relationships, the footprint grows and changing course becomes more difficult. Once you add in more financial ties like shared expenses and housing, that footprint can feel like a suffocating snarl of responsibilities.

Where am I with my marriage? Well, we've actually had some good, connective discussions in the last week. So, things look more positive than they have in months. But things are still complicated. Both my wife and I have done things that have violated our trust in each other. And I'm still smarting from the hammer fall of a lot of recent pain.

I also don't want to slip down the destructive trail of demonizing my fellow housemates. They're both good people, doing the best they can.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Fear in my Mirror

I am afraid.

It's difficult to admit that because I'm a guy. I'm not supposed to be - you know - so open with my feelings but I need to tell you: I am afraid.

And I'm not sure what I'm afraid of. What I do know is that I've made some choices recently that allowed me to invest a lot of time and energy into something and it didn't pan out the way that I had hoped. Grin - isn't it always like that? You meet someone, you strive to impress, you do what you think are the right and appropriate things, there seems to be something worthwhile and meaningful in there somewhere, and you wipe away the foggy condensation from the mirror only to find yourself looking in. It was really just you all along. It was something you saw, perhaps fabricated, maybe something you hoped for. What ever it was, you misread it. You made a mistake. Maybe it never existed. You misjudged and erred.

I am afraid of that.

Yes. I'm afraid of making mistakes.

Another mistake.

I don't ever want to make another mistake. I've made too many mistakes in my life. I really can't make many more; I don't have too much of my insides left to spoon out now.

Lately I have felt colder, harder, cynical, less trusting, hypercritical of my own actions and sense of value, confidence. If I work out more, it helps. I get sucked back into work where it feels safe, emotionless, goal-oriented, and it's something I'm good at. It's something where I rarely make mistakes. My work is warm, loving, and accepting, and Polyfulcrum reminds me of all the better choices that I've made and reassures my soul.

Yet right now, I'm looking at this profile in another tab in my browser, and... I'm waiting. I'm afraid. She seems nice. Poly. Likes board games. Seems to be into many of the same things I am into. Likes to laugh, and it'd be a pleasure to talk to somebody about happy and uplifting things, maybe something besides work. She has a nice smile. I could send her a message.

But... I'm afraid. Oh my God, I'm really afraid... It's just something else I could screw up. Just another foggy mirror. I can't tell. I can't tell. I'm polyamorous. This is what I'm supposed to do. Right?

In another tab of my browser right now is email for work. That's easier. I toggle between this and my email and avoid the whole thing. It's easier to close it all down. And I do.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Amelia Earhart and George Putnam

Amelia Earhart is a legend in American feminism and the subject of a movie released this year. George Putnam had a hard time winning her hand having proposed six times before they were married on Feb 7, 1931. Earhart had some very liberal views on marriage as characterised by a letter she had hand-delivered to Putnam on that very day. A copy of the letter can be found here:

Within, Earhart attests to being very reluctant to marry. She refuses to hold George to what she termed "medieval codes of faithfulness" and seemed to encourage both of their lives, and love interests, would remain separate, and even eludes to marriage being a "cage". Clearly, Amelia was concerned over the implications concerning marriage and even asked for a provision in the marriage contract: "I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together."

Earhart was a prominent figure in an age of adventurers and she was probably very aware of the feminist message that she portrayed as a single woman. After her marriage, she even kept her own name - a fact mercilessly preyed upon by the press. Brave and honest, she didn't make compromises on what she wanted and specifically articulated her hope for mutual freedom, passions, and loves in their arrangement. Earhart wasn't afraid to take risks. The last line of the letter strikes me as the most honest and genuine:

"I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want."

Amelia is, precisely - to me - what poly seems to be about.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blood Supply

In my work as a massage practitioner, one of the main focuses is on restoring and developing optimal blood flow to an area of dysfunction. You see, blood is life. Without the flow of oxygen, nutrients, the removal of waste products, there is loss of nerve connectivity, function, inflammation, and eventually, death. What components go into the "blood" of your relationships? Time, empathy, self-knowledge, attention, desire, affection, communication, intention?

There have been people that have come into my life over the years that I would have loved to add to the roster, but some vital facet of the "blood" of a relationship was missing. In some cases, it was as simple as having conflicting schedules, or locations that were too broadly divergent to optimally grow the connection. In others, there was a lack of clarity in intention, or self-knowledge, that made solidifying the relationship challenging. Still others lacked basic communication skills, turning an innocent misread of a concern into a situation.

If you notice a connection that feels a bit clunky or awkward, chances are good that one or more of the things that you consider to be a vital portion of relationship life blood is lacking. It would be worth taking some time to determine if it's a fatal flaw that will inevitably strangle the connection, or if some supplements (finding a schedule that works for all involved, working out a balance between introvert and extrovert perspectives, having a conversation to clarify what each of you is wanting in the connection) would help. Perhaps a more direct approach to bring blood flow to the relationship is in order, things like counseling or taking training on communication is in order?

When it comes down to basics, every relationship needs good blood flow to keep it healthy, vital and growing. Take the time to "massage" your partners, and yourself, to get good "nutrition", and exercise your way to toned relationship muscles! You'll be amazed at the results you can achieve in just 20 minutes, three times a week! ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Penis Policy

Note: The majority of this post is specifically referring to MF couples, although there are comparable dynamics in gay and bisexual relationships, and kink as well. Please feel free to fluidly play with gender and power play concepts in this piece!

The One Penis Policy: Where either member of an existing couple is open to connect physically and/or emotionally with an outside partner, as long as that partner is female. Fortunately, this isn't something that is a factor in my life at this point, but it is something that seems to be rather prevalent early on in many people's early poly/open relationship experiences. Why is this?

Here you are: A lovely couple who is affectionate and caring with each other. You talk, and talk, and talk about the idea of opening your relationship up, about having sex with other people, about connecting emotionally with those people. Why are "those people" almost always female when you are first exploring this concept? Is there an ingrained perception that women are safer physically? Safer emotionally? Is it purely a comfort zone issue for the man? For the woman? Is it an attempt to enforce female bisexuality in pursuit of the elusive unicorn/FMF experience?

This is where I have an issue with the OPP: It "weights" penises, and the men attached to them, as different than women. In fact, more points go to the men. It means pretty implicitly that women don't count as much as men do in the equation of sexuality. It says that there is more fear directed towards men in relationships, that they are a poor risk for trying to "steal" a partner, that the man in the existing relationship may be insecure about his value to his female partner when there's another man to stand (or lie!) side-by-side with. It plays into fears, without establishing if they are unfounded, or person-specific, making a blanket judgement for an entire gender. It says that if you have an innie, you're safer than someone with an outie.

Now, I do understand (personally) that some women have had bad experiences with one or more men that cause them to be more cautious on a gender-based level. I'm going to suggest that that is a limit that there is great value in pushing past. Find a space where you see each person as an individual, rather than a representation of a bad experience, and THEN apply your keen observational skills to determine if this person is someone you'd like to connect with, regardless of their bits.

There's the ever-popular "But, she's bi, so it makes sense for us to find a woman to connect with, so that we can both date her!". Potential dating partners are very seldom going to offer a one-stop-shop approach. Last time I checked, she was also into men, as she's with one already, right? She isn't likely to stop being interested in other men, even if she also likes women. So, why try to force things to fit just a single gender?

Maybe it's the penis cooties? Since most of us engage in safer sex, I fail to see how any woman's vagina is going to be sullied by insertion of an additional latex-enclosed penis. Even in a situation of being fluid-bonded to more than one man, basic hygiene observance takes care of that concern.

Even if a woman is in a space where she isn't interested in adding more masculine energy to her life currently, that option belongs on the table, not in the Forbidden Zone. It's about choices, and having them available to say "no" to, if that's what is appropriate for the individuals involved. Do away with the OPP!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Subtle Imperfections

Polyamory charitably tries to defend itself by pointing out our own raw imperfections. Polyamory tells us that we are not perfect for all people and at all times; not one person can ever hope to satisfy all of your needs - sexually, emotionally, or socially - at once. In polyamory, we are admittedly, honestly imperfect.

Western religion also capitalizes on our gross human imperfections. Fundamentalist ideas surrounding monogamy attempts to rationalize a doctrine built on the idea that love is an instrument of the divine and is thus its perfect, and wherein we struggle in marriage is a symptom of our own imperfections as people. Imperfections are revelation of character flaws: sin. Transgressions in love and fidelity translate into failures of faith requiring penitence, self-condemnation, shame, and guilt.

Therefore, polyamory might suggest that humans are capable of a broad range of emotional freedom that reveals too much about ourselves. Surely, isn't the iconic western marriage just an attempt to dismiss our imperfection in a foolish attempt to grasp the divine?

An extravagant white dress so pure as the fallen snow couldn't possibly harbor guilty imperfections. Honestly?

A beautiful ceremony held within the chambers of the Numinous, blessed by the offices of the Otherworldly, codified by the social order around them? Honestly?

Vows that stress all of those lovely ideas concerning obedience and perfect unions, forsaking all others, forever? Honestly?

And within the marriage, it is expected that both partners will cease "needing" any more that they can give, and that they never evolve as people, and that it's okay to habitually pretend and lie about those changes, and to deny those subtle imperfections we acquire through time. Honestly?

Insomuch that I would argue that western religious views on monogamy have come to define coupling in our modern culture as an act of guilt, denial, suppression, and a desire to impossibly live-up to an idyllic, perfect love, and when we falter in love we stray from the divine, and - boy - do we so love beating ourselves up for that! We love beating ourselves up on sin!

Polyamory is at once then a challenge for each of us to strip those notions of guilt, failure, and shame to constructively engage relationships as flawed and imperfect human beings. Honesty and compassion is not sinful. And it's okay to be imperfect. It's okay to admit that we all change over time, and it's okay to recognize that needs and priorities will shift over time. Polyamory presumes that we're emotionally mature enough to realize we're capable of making decisions outside of a "divine plan" and that we can be personally responsible for shaping the happiness within our own lives.



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lord Byron And The Countess Guiccioli

I was intrigued by a question that came up at our last poly meeting that got me thinking about historical personalities who were wrapped-up in poly situations. This may be the first of a few research-related posts to look at polyamory in a time where it lacked a name.

Teresa was sixteen and wedded to Count Guiccioli, a man 44-years her senior; she was just 19 when she met Goerge Gordon Byron. Teresa was pretty with thick blond hair and pristine: she was well-read, educated, and an idealist. And at a reception in April 1819, Teresa's passion for Byron swept her away in a love affair of her lifetime. Their love was legendary. When the Count found out about their affair, he moved himself and Teresa to Ravenna in order to separate them.

But time and distance did not separate Teresa and Byron. In her Ravenna-exile, Teresa would write Byron love letters and she would eventually fall gravely ill from longing him. She was just to a point of death that the Count was forced to bring Byron to Ravenna and have him come to his wife's bedside. Magically, the girl recovered. Byron would come to stay with them; the Countess Guiccioli was seen in public escorted by two men, and Byron was acknowledged as Teresa's lover.

Count Guiccioli was less than compliant in this arrangement. Byron and Teresa lived under the same roof for nearly three years. The poet and the Countess met frequently. The Count was rumored to have regarded Byron with a skepticism and an interest to eventually extort him. Then, when Byron was bed-ridden by fever, Teresa remained by his side, until the Count arrived and physically removed his wife from Byron's chambers. When she was taken from him, Byron exchanged desparate letters with the countess. He feared for his life as he believed assassins were dispatched by her husband to kill him. And when the Count attempted to obtain a divorce, public opinion was drastically against him given her fair nature and Bryon's stature.


Bologna, 25 August, 1819

My dearest Teresa,

I have read this book in your garden;--my love, you were absent, or else I could not have read it. It is a favourite book of yours, and the writer was a friend of mine. You will not understand these English words, and others will not understand them,--which is the reason I have not scrawled them in Italian. But you will recognize the handwriting of him who passionately loved you, and you will divine that, over a book which was yours, he could only think of love.

In that word, beautiful in all languages, but most so in yours--Amor mio--is comprised my existence here and hereafter. I feel I exist here, and I feel I shall exist hereafter,--to what purpose you will decide; my destiny rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two out of a convent. I wish that you had staid there, with all my heart,--or, at least, that I had never met you in your married state.

But all this is too late. I love you, and you love me,--at least, you say so, and act as if you did so, which last is a great consolation in all events. But I more than love you, and cannot cease to love you.

Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps and ocean divide us,--but they never will, unless you wish it.


Teresa was Byron's longest and truest love; the love affair tamed Byron and he became more settled, eventually coming to supporting idealistic causes and human liberty: values which would eventually take him to Greece to fight and die in the Greek War for Independence from the Ottoman Empire.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Size 2 Purple Dress

I am shamelessly absconding with an idea someone presented at discussion group last night. (Thank you, M!) They referred to it as the Size 2 Purple Dress Issue. It's that thing that happens when a partner or metamour is giving you something that you don't really have any use or desire for. You didn't ask for it, have no clue what to do with it, and, regardless of how fabulous it is, you don't feel terribly grateful to be receiving it. You don't fit a size 2, don't wear purple, and can count on the fingers of a single hand the number of times you've been stuffed into a dress.

I've been guilty of this on more than one occasion, for sure. The most shining example of that would be when I was extending "family" status to a metamour that had zero desire to be part of a larger structure than who they were dating. Understand that, for me, family status is probably one of the biggest honors I can bestow on someone. I have never been someone who has a lot of close friends or intimates in my life. Inclusion in my inner circle happens very infrequently. For me, it is a sign of trust, caring, permanence, priority and importance. Absolutely none of which was of interest to her.

It took quite some time before she got around to bringing me up to speed on that, so I kept trying harder, being more inclusive, giving and sharing, basically compounding the issue. Not only had I given her the size 2 purple dress, I then accessorized that puppy! Shoes, matching handbag, jewelry, the works! It was truly stunning. When I, metaphorically, saw the entire ensemble in the window at a consignment shop, it was extremely hurtful. It was entirely my issue for giving something to someone that they didn't value or desire. I gave them the gift that _I_ want for myself.

No more Size 2 Purple Dress giving for me! Tell me what you want. Tell me what you value. Let me know if I am giving something you don't need. I'll take responsibility for doing the same in return.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

In Celebration of my Trophy

She was tall, thin, had curly dark hair, and a beaming confident smile. She was practically smart with life experience but not extraordinarily academic, rather materialistic in almost every sense of that term, stubborn, and demanding. She was a most superb trophy. We dated ten years ago and, these days, my friends just call her Faconnable.

Now, if you're unfamiliar with that name, Facconable is a brand of pricey male fashions offered by Nordstrom out here in the Pacific Northwest. Go ahead and Google it - when you're ready to spend $200 on a dress shirt now you know where to look. Anyway, she earned the name because of the tawdry way she convinced me that I'd only be desirable if I had expended the requisite amount on my wardrobe, and that my appeal to her was only limited by the amount of money that I could ante-up in self-improvement.

All of that may sound atrocious although you shouldn't be thinking that I was entirely selfless and victimized. As for myself, I didn't use the earlier term "trophy" carelessly with her because it should somewhat connote my own requirements from this relationship: you see, Facconable was to be the culmination of my success. The icing on the proverbial cake as it were for I was to celebrate my thirtieth birthday by earning my master's degree and landing a lucrative executive position; I had the car, the house, the job, everything... except for one thing that had escaped me forever. You see, in my head, all I lacked was the appropriate (perfect) girl.

Certainly horrific as it may sound we were both getting what we wanted out of the relationship: I had something strikingly pretty to hang off of my arm and she had expensive tastes that through me could be ultimately provided for. We probably weren't very good friends and that translated into some contentious times. The relationship was tumultuous and unsatisfying at best for the both of us.

When it inevitably imploded, the universe corrected itself by deflating my ego with compounded interest and a broken heart. Rightly so. It shattered not only this silly illusion of myself but obliterated the epic fantasy of the "ideal" woman. It was a monumental event in my life that reshaped who I was at the time and created the conditions by which I'd eventually "settle" for my second marriage. And, in retrospect, I wouldn't have changed any of it for the relationship with Facconable took greed to an extreme and transformed a single woman into currency. In its bloody demise I recovered with fresh perspective on many things, but in particular, the conceptual "ownership/possessiveness" of a woman through a relationship.

Love isn't possessive. It is, in fact, just the opposite and seeks to be liberated. There are many facets of our make-up as men that encourage possession (rejection, fear of loss, emotional insecurity, low self-image) as just as many societal instruments that reinforce those perspectives in our patriarchal culture; love is so spoiled when we look at the appalling rates of domestic violence and violence performed upon women in this country. Yet, it's from this disastrous experience that I identify so strongly with Polyamory because it respects women as independent, adventurous, powerful, sexual, and playful; women are their own masters and every one a goddess in her own right, and for me, the expressions of her power through Polyamory is intoxicating and, because of Facconable, today, I can experience that to its fullest extent.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Share the wealth!

What do I bring to the table in a relationship? Well, rather a lot, I think! I'm intelligent, witty, caring, giving, good with my hands and feet, snuggle-friendly, communicate well, am sociable, very modest, and, oh yes! I like sex. Quantity, as well as quality, counts for me. I have a pretty intensive sex drive. I like having access to sex, to be able to reach out and get some when I would like, to not tax my partner(s) beyond all endurance by being my one and only source of layage, to share sex with people I love/care for, people I trust with my health and emotions. While poly isn't all about the sex, it's an aspect of poly that I wouldn't prefer to do without.

One of the things that I realized when PG and I first started looking at opening up our relationship up was that I had not really allowed myself to trot out and fully explore my sexuality. A good chunk of that was because I'd not had the opportunity to do so, having gotten into that relationship when I was 18. Some of it was reprogramming the whole "sex is bad" training, which has taken years to get through, particularly since I still tend to see my level of desire for sex as a burden on my partner(s), rather than an amazing resource that I can share with others! ;)

So, I'm working on seeing my innate lustiness as a great way to give to my community, one relationship at a time (or concurrently, if I'm really lucky!). It isn't about being casual, it's about embracing my sexuality as a positive, rather than something that I need to keep buckled in at all times. To feel valued, safe, protected and desired, rather than feared, as a sexually liberated woman.

Shockingly enough, it seems like poly folk are a bit more open and accepting of my particular foibles in this regard. They are more accustomed to sharing with others emotionally and sexually, so someone that has abundant resources to give is pretty highly regarded. Swinging felt like I need to keep my sexuality in a comfortably small box and just pull it out for special occasions, and never get emotional about it. Monogamy felt like my sexuality needed to mirror my partners, with very little room for variation, but I could love as deeply as I wanted to. Poly is the first time that I've been able to envision a place where I can love deeply and embrace every aspect of my sexuality and drive and have it be a positive thing.

Time permitting... ;)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


As I entered the world of non-standard relationships, one of the first things that I noticed was that I had a LOT of thinking to do. So many of the things that I just sort of accepted and went along with in life needed to be looked at. This is one of the topics that we'll be looking at during the next discussion group, so I'm very interested to see what types of de/re-programming people feel they've needed to accomplish to make the shift into poly work for them.

For me, questions like: Does it matter what gender the person my partner is interested in is? Does sexual exclusivity equate to love? What about the whole "my other half", "The One", my "soul mate" concept? What is kinky? What is too kinky? Where does personal responsibility start and end in a relationship? Can I really love more than one person at a time? Do my partner's feelings for another person diminish our relationship? Do children need a two parent family to have an optimum childhood? Is seeking pleasure selfish? all came into play.
Examining the vast majority of the positions I was brought up with took some significant bandwidth. Even with being a pretty open-minded sort of person, there is/was plenty of self-examination to do.

Going through this process has been one of the most valuable things I've ever done. Lifetime. It isn't something that will ever be completed, but is a constant re-evaluation. Many of the hard and fast rules have gone to the wayside. There is situational context to be considered in determining the relative morality of a given action or belief. This is squarely at odds with the majority position of right and wrong, yes and no, black and white. Many of the questions that have come up wouldn't have been put in my way outside of polyamory, so I am thankful for this opportunity to learn more about myself and the world around me.

Shoot me a note! What have been your most interesting discoveries in deprogramming your worldview? How has poly shifted your perspectives on life, love, relationships and who you can become?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Polyween!

Today is a day that people in the typical world use to try identities on. To scare themselves, exhilarate, titillate and explore the idea of "What if I were someone different?". They use costumes to play with that idea. Makeup, wigs, and strange clothing go on, and suddenly, there is a shift in the attitude! A new persona is born!

During the process of exploring poly, it seems that many of us do something similar. We try on new ideas, new types of people, new varieties of relationships. Some exhilarate, titillate and thrill. Others scare us, and perhaps our existing partners as well. There are light fluffy relationships, fun, cute ones, intensely meaningful types, and ones that are dark and edgy. If you're really lucky, you might get to do them all at once! ;)

Having the freedom to try on new types of connection can help keep our perspectives fresh. It moves us in the direction of being on the edge of our growth curves. We can be in contact with aspects of our personalities that don't get a lot of play, including the ones that we wouldn't want to live with 24/7.

So be bold! Try something different! Find a part of yourself that hasn't been out to play in a while, a partner to explore that with (existing or new!), and let it rip! 'Tis the season to enjoy your Polyween.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time out

This weekend was a get-away weekend for me. S and I jetted out of town to belatedly celebrate my birthday. We didn't go far, or extravagant. As a matter of fact, one of the defining features was that I crashed way early both nights. So what was the big deal?

Since PG and I opened up our relationship 8+ years ago, I started taking trips several times a year with C, my long-distance lover. He and I would travel together 3 or 4 times a year, usually for a long weekend, and it was something I learned to really cherish. For a few precious days, I was able to do something out of the ordinary. I could just be myself. Not any one's mom or therapist. There wasn't anyone I needed to take care of.

Perhaps you are more skilled than I at embracing that within your own space. I find that I MUST leave my usual environment, and in particular, get away physically from my child, to have full access to myself any more. With really significant roles in life, it feels vital to pull outside of them every so often to see if they still fit, to rejuvenate from the rigors of routine, to do nothing but care for self in very loving, hedonistic and nurturing ways.

Within poly, I think this becomes even more important. There are so many factors and considerations that one juggles as a usual part of life. As you add people who have importance to you, the logistics multiply geometrically. Stepping outside of that, not taking care of others for a bit, lends itself to perspective about the many facets of one's life and loves.

So, take that time out! Go away for a few days. Set things up so that life runs smoothly in your absence, and embrace the release from daily responsibilities to others! Cherish being your own "primary partner", and remember that by feeding that relationship, you nourish all of the others in your life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poly Peer Pressure

Recently, I was on a date with a delightful man for the evening. He's someone I've gotten to know a bit over the past several months, and whose company I enjoy. As the evening progressed, one of the things that came up for both of us was the fact that we each have partners that are going through a certain amount of NRE, and that they were rather highly encouraging us to "Get out and have some fun!".

Now, I'll admit that when I'm in the throes of a new relationship, it can be a bit anxiety-provoking. While the desire is there to really enjoy that stage of the progression, I also find myself rather concerned that my preexisting partner(s) might be feeling a bit left out, or as though they aren't having as much fun, even if I am doing a reasonably good job of staying engaged across the board. So, it makes sense to me that the desire would be there to gently nudge one's partners to go and find something/someone to keep themselves entertained with while I'm off indulging in the fizzy hormone stage of things.

The really funny part of this was realizing that both my date and I were in the same boat of going out, not only because we wanted to spend some time together, but to please our partners and alleviate some of their potential anxiety about leaving us at home "alone"! This subtle sort of "Poly Peer Pressure" seems to be motivated by both the desire to make sure that one's mate is happy, and for fairness or parity across the board. Of course, there are all sorts of ways that people seek balance within their poly circles. Sometimes, it's pulling back from being emotionally or physically close with someone, largely because that same opportunity for intimacy may not exist concurrently for everyone. Other times, it may be pushing a partner to get a new hobby, or to pull them closer to home for a while. Whatever the method used, it seldom produces the desired equality.

The bottom line remains that there is absolutely no way to create the exact same potential relationships at the same time for everyone you are involved with. Chasing that balance point is crazy-making material. So, have the relationships you want to have, take care of the partners you want to stay intimate with, and let them handle their own pacing with additional connections. It may take a while, but things tend to balance out over time. Your partners will find what they need when the opportunities present themselves. No need to pimp them out! ;)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Center of the universe

This may come as a surprise to some of you. I know it did for me. I am, in fact, not the center of the universe. As you recover from your shock, allow me to elaborate! This sort of hearkens back to the Mama Bear Syndrome mentioned in this post: See, I sort of expect that other partners are going to think about me when they consider other relationships. In specific, I have a pretty strong desire that those other connections be warm, loving and positive. Because it's in my own self-interest.

When I see someone I love moving in a direction that looks to be less positive, it feels yucky. It feels scary. It feels uncomfortable and unhappy. And it has almost nothing to do with me directly. These choices are about someone else's journey in life, not my own. Stepping back and watching someone I care for get their heart ripped out and handed to them on a platter, still pulsing and steaming, is one of the hardest things for me to do. I don't like the person that does it to them, and I don't like my partner choosing that path. I fight it every step of the way, and that resistance isn't working all that well.

One thing I am working on is just letting that go. Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? Just don't worry about it, concern myself with it, be involved, or have any sense of responsibility for how things are going with anyone else's relationships. It's one of the things that drops into my lap on a pretty regular basis, so obviously, I need to get some additional clarity on letting go.

Let's look at the upside: Stepping back and just observing is a great opportunity to learn some of the "What NOT to do!" sort of lessons by proxy. Sure, it isn't as comfortable as watching people in a farther orbit experience things, and applying the learning to my own life, but it's much more impactful.

Several years ago, PG had a kidney stone. For years I'd been preaching about the value of drinking water, but a morning of excruciating pain was far more personally impactful for him than repeated advice from my quarter. He decided that he NEVER EVER wanted to feel that pain again, and started drinking water. He's never had another kidney stone. Some things just mean more when you learn them the hard way. Certainly more than a partner standing in your pathway trying to divert you from a course of action, or a relationship, that you want to explore.

So, I just need to be the center of my own universe, and accept that those around me are in a similar position. That I can keep myself safe, regardless of the storms that may rage about me. Trust that I am my own center, even if someone else I love is struggling, and that I will be okay.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Something has been making its way into my consciousness over the past several months. As we've been discussing the concept of hierarchical or organic poly with various people, it's become rather apparent that even within the organic poly segment of the community, where there are no overt rankings used (like primary, secondary etc), there is indeed an ordinal system in place. The difference is that the ranking is emotional rather than practical.

When speaking with someone who is more organically poly, it is pretty common to hear the idea of having "each relationship progress to the level it is capable of reaching" being a motivating factor. There are, ostensibly, no limitations on how deep and full a connection can become, because there is no system in place to define what relationships are prioritized. Each can then achieve it's full potential in a unlimited landscape. Makes sense, yes? After all, it's not like you can choose what your emotional connection with a given person is going to look like in advance, right?

What I'm seeing more and more is that organic poly operates on more of an emotional ranking system, than a practical one. "This relationship is most intense for me right now. I feel the most connection with this person, therefore, I am choosing to spend more time and energy on this relationship currently." On many levels, that seems like a good plan. You spend your resources where you feel most pulled to be. On the other hand, the idea that you aren't ranking your relationships at that point is silly. You might not be putting words to it, or having an implicit agreement about it with anyone else, but you are definitely attaching emotional "numbers" to the relationships you have. It's just happening in your heart and mind, not verbally.

Theoretically, this may spare someones feelings. If you never actually say it out loud, it isn't as real, and, after all, next month, you may very well feel differently and have a shift in your priorities, so no one feels less valued. This isn't about how much you value a relationship though, it's about where you are feeling compelled to put your resources in what proportions.

There's also the concept that each relationship is just "different", rather than applying a priority to one over another. This can be very true, depending on how you process emotions. I tend to work a bit more on this level. PG and S are different people, and I feel differently about each connection. The intensity is pretty equivalent, on completely different wavelengths. I tend to approach prioritization on a "need" basis. If I, or they, have a particular need for something, that takes a higher priority than a want, or a routine.

People prioritize tasks for a reason: to accomplish key things in life with the time and energy available. There is nothing wrong with this. It's an important skill to avoid becoming swamped. Why not be genuine with that? I'm sure that many organic poly's already do this, but in the event that it's been an unconscious system to this point, this could be an opportunity to take a look at how your relationships are feeling, and what your responses are to that, and share that information with those that would benefit from being enlightened about what is going on in your head and heart.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Practical Poly Trick #17

Lately, PF and I have been dating a few peoples outside of our little tripod.

Dating under any circumstances can be risky. Trusting anybody new is hard and usually takes more than a couple of dates. It only gets more concerning when you throw-in extra curricular activities like group and public play, or attending a BDSM function), or a snuggle, then the risks - real or simply imaged - escalate exponentially.

Imagine. It's 4am - two hours later than when you expected her to be home - and you don't know where your partner is. Your options are limited. You don't even have a phone number to call. You're really concerned; you can't reach her on her cell. What do you do now?

Or, imagine it's 4am - two hours later than when you expected her to be home - and she must be out partying it up. Having a great time and having some really good sex. Way good sex. Like, mind-blowing monkey sex that she doesn't have with you. You've now eaten all of your good nails. Even the bad ones. Your anxiety is high and, quickly, your confidence begins to erode and you're beginning to chew on your jealousy as if it were a cherry jolly rancher.

There's gotta be a better way.

Here's a couple of practical ideas that PF and I use to stay safe and stay sane.

1. Set Expectations.
If there's an overnight likely involved then try to set that expectation before the date takes place. Like, way in advance before the date happens. Don't let the situation roll from being a date, to a late date, to an early morning date, to a surprise return in the morning. If there's an expectation you'll be home, then communicate that. Myself, I do like things to develop organically (as has been mentioned earlier in this forum by PF) but I do think there is some merit to setting expectations for all the parties involved, especially if there are children and childcare, otherwise, it just seems like you're taking advantage of your partner's generous time.

2. Set Defined Times.
Organic as I may be, I live and die by schedules. There has to be a definitive end and, if it's 3am, that's what it's going to be. If you promise to be home by midnight, make every effort to be home by midnight. Be true to your word so you can be trusted.

3. Set Up a Means for Communicating Exceptions.
Yet, that said, I don't think it's unreasonable if conditions changed and there is a pressing need or desire to stay later, all night, or what have you. We're adults - stuff happens. Having a means of communicating (text, for example, seems to work pretty well, or IM if you've loaded an app for that on your phone, or maybe just a simple phone call) different expectations is part of the game.

For me, I think it boils down to respecting my partner. I respect my partner and what emotions she might be going through while I'm out with somebody else, and I appreciate her willingness to let me do those things, and I want her to trust me. Setting parameters helps ease the unconscious mind and allows your partner to grapple with some certain truths: there will be this but not that; that but not those things; those things but, woh, none of "that". It allows her to help grapple with what she's feeling.
I suppose I could approach this stuff another way: I could conceal my intentions; I could feel intruded upon to set a timeline; I could reject the mere notion that my activities should be structured, defined, or dictated. What right is it of my primary partner to interject herself in to the activities of another relationship? Already, you can see that there's a problem here of trust, and a selfish desire that puts my desires above her concerns and excludes the way she might be feeling and coping. Such an approach is without trust and leaves a void of emptiness that your partner has to deal with entirely alone. That's not right.
And guys, you need this, too. Communication is healthy. Sure, it may drive you bonkers to actually know what's happening when your sweetie's out with another guy, having some understanding of parameters helps you develop a stronger bond of trust with your partner, and, rationalize your own fear and anxiety. It also will go a long way in helping to keep each other safe while enjoying your extended connections. It's just a practical approach to a common problem.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cooperate, coexist, or compete?

intr.v. co·op·er·at·ed, co·op·er·at·ing, co·op·er·ates
1. To work or act together toward a common end or purpose.
2. To acquiesce willingly; be compliant: asked the child to cooperate and go to bed.
3. To form an association for common, usually economic, benefit: When buyers cooperate, they can make large wholesale purchases at a discount.

I'm experiencing something a little different in my poly landscape these days. It's a growing sense of cooperation with my new metamour (with S holding the fulcrum spot). We just had a delightful outing today that was emotive, fun, and built more closeness into the connection. It affirmed that I like her on her own merit, and not merely because we share a common interest in S.

Often in the past, my relations with metamours have been more along the lines of coexisting. We could be social, but probably wouldn't be hanging out if it weren't for the person we shared in common. Amicable was good, and most often the case. If there was mutual respect, so much the better! This is what I see often in the relationships in our community, and seems to be a desired level of comfort to make poly connections workable for all involved.

Every once in a while, it's an even-less-connected thing, where all parties are aware of each other, but could care less about meeting or getting to know anyone else. For some, this model works very well, as they consider it significantly less complicating to their lives to keep all the working emotional parts from touching. This is a model where each person is as completely independent as possible, while still remaining ethical.

Then we have the worst case scenario that sends shivers of dread into the hearts of community/family oriented poly folk: Competitive drive. When one or more of your connections become competitive with each other, and you are stuck in the middle, it can be extremely uncomfortable. There you are trying to answer questions like: Who do you love more? Who do you have the most sex with? What activities did you do with them, and why not me? They get more time with you than I do! These sorts of thoughts, and the actions that accompany them, usually tear things apart in rather brisk order.

So, back to my happy place! Here I am, having lunch with N, S's new interest, and I'm happy for her, for him, for them, and for myself. I can see her doing things that are hard and scary, and I'm pulling for her, because I've been there, and revisit every so often just to keep it fresh. ;) She's treating herself, and my partner, well, and that is something that I can sink myself into and support her in doing. It's cooperative, collaborative, open, vulnerable, and it's what we all seem to want to be giving to each other. I'm blessed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

See it coming...

Here's another little twist in relationship style stuff for your edification: Planned or organic dates/relationship growth? I have a pretty strong desire for structure and predictability in my surroundings, including the relationships that surround me. This is pretty directly at odds with S's more organic take of enjoying the mystery and seeing where each moment/connection takes him. Yeah, when I see it in print I feel really boring and dull.

The thing is that when I don't know where something is going, I can't prepare for it. If I'm not prepared, the chances of having a less controlled response go up. Since I prefer to seem like a reasoned person who has their poop in a pile, the whole "go with the flow" thing just tweaks with my approach.

When we watch a movie or show, it often happens that I'll pick up the twist or upcoming plot before it actually gets there. This sort of amazes and annoys S, since he's engaged in allowing things to unfold, where I like to figure out where the writer is going with the plot as it unfolds. In that same way, I tend to look ahead, seeing the direction of something on a relationship level, and make predictions about several possible courses of action that I may need to be prepared to execute. This helps me feel more safe. It's a coping mechanism. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much, sometimes it can leave those around me feeling like I'm trying to drive their relationship with someone else (read:controlling them, or worse yet, doubting _our_ relationship/them) instead of taking care of myself.

How does this look? Well, one of my major sticking points is wanting to know how late my partner is going to be out on a date. It's probably less stressful for me to have someone out all night and know that ahead of time, than trolling in at 3 or 4am, because I've typically been waking up waiting for them to get in for hours at that point. This can run contrary to the desire to just see where things go, and if it feels comfortable to stay over or not.

Another point I struggle with is wanting to know the general outline of what's being planned for a date, particularly early on in the relationship when things are less well defined and there isn't much of a track record to draw off of/feel comfortable with. This is exactly what excites S! "What might happen? The possibilities are endless!" In the mean time, I'm mulling, "Are they going to have sex? I wish they would... Are they falling in love? The anticipation is just killing me. I just want to KNOW." This would be another example of "things that remind me of how silly I'm being" when I see it in print.

So, how do these two different desires co-exist? What I've found to be most helpful so far is to ask questions if I'm curious about something, if possible, to get to know my metamour so that I don't fill in blanks with erroneous information (thank you, N, for being willing!), to share a preference if it feels important to me, and to take an informed "no" from my partner to those requests, hopefully with some grace, rather than martyring in self-righteous "I'm so poly I can take anything my partner wants to dish out." silence.

Organic or planned is rather similar to the disclosure or non-disclosure of information question. There IS middle ground to be found where one person gives a little more than they are naturally inclined to, and another takes a little less than their fears suggest they need. Here's to finding the balance and trusting in oneself and one's partner(s)!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Creating space

There are so many reasons that people need space to themselves in life. I've always tended towards wanting more time with others than with myself, but that isn't the case for many others. Finding a way to create space within your mutual life for each person to have individual time, for other connections, for their hobbies, for personal development, is an important skill to develop, and one that hasn't come naturally to me.

Right now, both PG and S are needing more space than usual for other pursuits. It's tempting to cling, but I am making a real effort to learn to enjoy more space of my own. This sort of reminds me of when I started lifting weights. It felt repetitive, time-consuming, boring, too deliberate, and didn't allow me to check out as I was lifting. I much preferred the more active types of cardio, or yoga, something that I could get in the zone and just _do_. Over time, it got easier and easier to find value in lifting. The exertion on a focused level, the flexion and extension, getting inside my muscles and really connecting with movement became an end unto itself. In that same way, I am looking to learn to anticipate time with self, and enjoy the space that I am giving to others as a gift to myself.

Fortunately, I like my own company, and I do have others that I can spend time with while I'm "on my own" in the household. The kids enjoy having my focus, perhaps a bit too much, but this is a good point to help them start to develop the skills I'm working on acquiring myself. You never know, I might actually learn a thing or two in the process... ;)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Went Right

You know, often in this forum we concentrate exclusively on what we're dong wrong. Cathartic and introspective but not irrationally exuberant; in fact, kind of a bummer at times. Today, I'd like to bring up a couple of things that are going right and made me irrationally exuberant.

Many of you probably already know that I've started up with somebody new to poly. Over the weekend, I had invited her over for dinner. A good time was had by all. I'd like to share a couple of tips and ideas on what went right.

1. Do a community event. Poly to me is very community-oriented and I think my pod does a good job selling it. We're able to share jokes, pieces of our communal history, and the poly-newcomer can see something that's positive, accepting, and reinforcing. What can you do to strike connection between others?

2. Do try to cook. You know, I think food brings people together. Being able to share a meal is a real plus. What can you do to give a part of yourself – your time, your talent, your effort - to everybody?

3. Do try to introduce your partners and their metamours and your “space”. Although it wasn't the first time we've all been together before, it was nice to be in our “space” - at home – and to bring everyone together. That also gave the new person a chance to see how we lived. What can you do to get all interested parties into a shared space, to spend a few hours together, sit together, and to get to know each other better?

4. Do go out of your way to share common interests. One of the cool things that happened was that PG knew that my date liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so he lent her his 8th Season comic books. I thought that was really cool. A metamour making a gesture like that sets the right tone. What can you do to go out of your way to feel somebody more accepted?

5. Do give your partners space to snuggle and be a couple. The gracious goddess that she is, PF stepped away later in the evening so my date and I could have a few minutes together at the close of the evening. She went upstairs and we were able to noodle-around a bit and connect privately for a few minutes. What can you do to foster connections?

6. Do try to set expectations. Admittedly, my primary needed some clarifications on where the night was going to go before it started. PF had asked for an understanding on where she should be later in the evening, or, if there were going to be separate sleeping arrangements. That one took a little while for me to come around to because I wanted the evening to be kind of “organic” and just see where it went, but if we had gone that route, PF could have felt out of place. Kind of a 3rd wheel. She needed that kind of expectation set. What can you do to communicate your expectations to your partner(s) in advance so that everybody is on the same page?

7. Do follow-up with an emotional check-in. This morning, PF had taken it upon herself to text a follow-through with my date to see if she had any questions, and just make sure it went okay for her, too. What I got was a text back about how great my primary is, and how accepting the whole household was, and what a fun time was had. It was awesome. What can you do to lay-down bridges and and follow-up on people's emotional states?

8. Do try to engage poly. We all talked a little bit about the poly lifestyle; my friend is, in fact, reading “The Ethical Slut” - it's great. She's going out of her way to ask questions as somebody new to all of this, and is making a genuine effort to learn more about it. If you're new to poly, consider how you can engage it, learn more about it, at least to some extent that makes you comfortable.

It's the little things that count. What happened the other night was a bunch of little things that added up into one big ball of a pleasant evening for all. My hats-off to my awesome partners and friends...


... and by the way, finding a new partner whose interested in learning about poly and is open minded, smart, charming, and literate.... It is so... choice. If you have the means, I'd highly recommend picking one up. :)

Attention Poly Shoppers!

There is a pretty common pattern I've seen within poly relationships that is also seen in the mono world. The shopping up concept. This is where one shifts from one relationship to the next, based on what feels best at the moment. Serial monogamy is an example of this, but I've seen it in poly as well.

There can be cracks below the surface of a connection that are glossed over, right up until the point where someone "better" comes along, at which point in time, it's all up for grabs. After all, who wouldn't want to be in a better relationship? To experience a more amazing connection, conversation, sex, and love? It seems that this tactic, where one is looking for the next "best thing ever", is counter to some significant common relationship skill goals. Chief among them is exploring what a sustainable relationship looks like 10,20,30,40 years in.

Many of us still visualize our golden years as a space that we share with partners we love and care for, nurture each others growth, that we have comfort with. By consistently moving from relationship to relationship, no matter the number of partners involved, we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to learn the skills that can get us there. How do you stay involved and vested in a connection that doesn't have that same "spark" it had 20 years ago? How do you create a sense of excitement discussing things with someone you think you already know like the back of your hand?

Some of this is about choices on each person's part. Do you seek out shared experiences? Do you attend to your personal growth in addition to your presence in your relationships? Are you as healthy as you can be physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, professionally, and spiritually? Do you look to create a sense of kinship, community, or family in addition to the flashy parts of your relationship? When is the last time you spent as much time on foreplay with your long term partner as you do with your newest one? Looked to create a date that would be meaningful to them? Asked them about what they feel would improve your connection? Do you nurture yourself regularly with activities that feed your sense of self?

When the lust for change is coursing through your blood, find a way to manifest that change in your current relationships and within yourself. Don't close yourself off from new connections, of course, or stay in a bad situation, but just moving onto the next best thing is the path of least resistance. Even if the relationship ends up looking pretty fundamentally different than it started out as, that is growth. The nice thing about poly is that we don't need to have every relationship look the same, or satisfy all the same needs. We can make it be whatever serves the needs of the people involved, and that is what is important in the long run, however long the run may be.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


This weekend was spent in continuing education for my profession as a massage practitioner. For those of you that don't know me personally, about 2 1/2 years ago I was hit head on by a drunk driver. Fortunately, the injuries I had were relatively minor, with one particular issue that has been highly impactful for me: I have some permanent nerve damage to my arms and hands.

For most people, this wouldn't be of great concern, but as someone who used her upper extremities professionally for hours each day, it led to some major shifts in how I work. Basically, I moved from using my hands 100% of the time, to using my feet to handle 70-80% of my workload. This is a change that my clients have been very accepting of, which I have been truly grateful for. What I do for work isn't so much a job as a calling, and if I was independently wealthy, I would almost certainly continue to massage others as a personally enriching activity, so finding another way to be physically capable of my profession has been a huge priority.

Most of the time, I can forget that I have any limitations, since I'm pretty accustomed to managing the nerve damage. However, this weekend during the class, we spent several hours daily in practice of the technique we were learning, which was all done with hands. This was the first class I'd taken using hands since I was injured, and by the end of the first day, I could feel that nerve pain and sensation loss setting in.

Toward the end of the class this afternoon, we were given the opportunity to work on a segment of what we'd learned during class. The partner that I was working with was open to it, and so I asked them to let me try to adapt what we'd learned to working with my feet. As I was working on them, the instructor came up, and was somewhat disapproving that I wasn't doing things as shown in class. I'd explained earlier in the day the circumstances leading to the evolution of the predominant use of feet in my practice, and stated pretty firmly that I needed to look at shifting the techniques to suit my particular needs. My partner was very clearly enjoying the results, and verbally supported my choice, and he decided to let it slide.

As I continued to work, many of the 30 people in class with us looked over, intrigued by what was going on. Several of my colleagues in that group have been practicing even longer than the 15 years I have. A couple of them stopped by to say that they would take a class from me if I ever decided to teach this type of work, which was very flattering, to say the least.

The class wound to an end, and the instructor was making his closing remarks. Suddenly, they went in an unexpected direction. He specifically pointed out what I'd been doing, and held it as an example of someone who wasn't going to allow adversity to hold them back from doing what they were called to do with their life. Someone who takes a challenge and shoves it down the throat of fate and finds a path that is better than the one they were on to begin with. There was an ovation from my classmates. I became rather choked up at that point.

Sometimes, when we begin down the road to ethical non-monogamy, the optimal circumstances or timing aren't there. We may not even be in a space where we WANT to be poly, but opt to go in that direction to please a partner, or out of fear of loss. This is your opportunity to take those circumstances, some of which may not be of your choosing, and create the path YOU want. Find your own direction, motivations, and do it better than what your "limitations" might suggest. Sometimes, the changes in life that feel forced on you can be the ones that transform you in ways that you wouldn't have dared to dream on your own for the better.