Saturday, May 9, 2009

Me, Me... Me

>rant /on

Several of my poly conversations lately have revolved around the problem of perceived disassociation and unbridled selfishness. Here's an example.

Say that George and Cindy are dating. Further, Melody is dating George.

Some poly people would suggest that Cindy has no bearing on George and Melody's relationship, and that any actions taken by George and Melody should have no impact on Cindy. If Cindy, for example, was to have a problem with something George and Melody were doing, this is obviously a problem between Cindy's ears; George and Melody have no obligation or responsibility to coddle Cindy. Cindy is disassociated with the George/Melody connection.

Frankly, kids, this is a most wacky, ridiculous idea that one connection does not influence the other and that connections exist in isolation. It is the simple idea of "connectedness" that gives poly its core tenant: multiple, loving relationships. If you're invalidating another human being's existence because it's inconvenient, that's simply selfish and small-minded. It refutes the principle idea of poly of there being a community of lovers and friends. Connections do not live in a vacuum nor in isolation - they exist in a larger context of a community.

If you want monogamy, go get monogamy. If you want multiple, loving relationships that co-exist at the same time, that's call polyamory. Like, duh?

What you say and do in the context of another connection does and will impact other connections around you - even metamours of metamours - simply because we are a community. Feelings aren't rationally segregated cleanly between partners; saying so seems profoundly ignorant of the human condition if not cruel. Cindy, in this instance, is not to be dismissed or invalidated as a human being simply because you're spending time with Melody. I mean - fuck people - this person, Cindy, apparently means something to George. George can't take Cindy's objections, feedback, feelings, or observations and neatly put them into a trashcan by suggesting that, hey, I'm not responsible for those. That's Cindy's trash. And while I'm here with Melody I can shove it all under a rug and let Cindy deal with it later.


At best, that's denial; at worst, it's dismissive and inconsiderate. If one partner makes a humble suggestion that one restaurant has a special place in her heart between a couple and asks not to take another one of his connections there, that is just an honest plea for maintaining something sacred and special in that connection. It's not weakness. It's not a flaw. It's not a problem that exists solely in the mind of the requester. It's an honest appeal to maintain a unique characteristic about their relationship. That's not bad or wrong - that's something to treasure! Somebody in your life thinks that moment, with you, was so important that it's to be sacred.

You are appreciated! That moment is appreciated! It's a really simple request from somebody that you care about.

"Nah, that's her god-damn hang up and _imposing_ her views on my freedom, man." SNNNNIIIFFFFF "Woh, let me take another bong hit and try to reconcile that, dude. What I mean, like, to say, dude, is that I can do whatever I want, when I want, because I, like, am so _me_... man."

How completely liberating it must be to those who ignore the thoughts, feelings, and concerns of others who love him when it benefits him. How convenient it is to forget what others have asked for or suggested. How pleasant it is not having to remind himself that there is pain in his circle of friends as a result of his own actions, and how righteous it must be to remind himself that those aren't his problems and require no concern.

Shameful! Poly people who espouse that connections are insular, separate, and independent, seem - to me - to have lost their way. They have forgotten about the importance that community plays, that respect and love plays, in their holistic approach to relationships. Indeed, how nice it must be for them that the label polyamory has so conveniently become a license to selfishly get what you want and bears no consequence for the direct outcomes of their own greed.

>rant /off



livingtotears said...

hmm.... are you guys in my mind, or what?! or perhaps it's just coincidence, or dealing with such common poly issues that it's no surprise that a few of your recent posts click with aspects of my own ponderings lately.

i strongly agree that connected relationships actually DO connect and have influence, ripples, effects.

i haven't found clarification of my own about this topic yet, so my questions are just sharing the direction of my own wondering. for me, i tend to purposely work to set my emotions temporarily aside when i ponder topics like this because i want to see where the issue fits my views and how it connects to my desire about who i want to be. so at least initially, those things are my focus more than my emotions.

for me, that approach has been a lifetime pattern, and in my case, it might be something extra important to me because my husband was not "comfortable" about my shift from monogamy to non-monogamy. but he so strongly felt that he never owned me, and thus, he was willing to stretch his own comfort in order to live in a way that was consistent with his beliefs about non-ownership.

i admire him hugely for that generosity, and even though he's (so far?) not interested in pursuing other relationships, i want to give to him what he has given to me, so i try to think in ways that retain my awareness of two-way-ness, knowing that perhaps i'll be needing to stretch on my end if he opts to fit more love into his life. so for us, we wanted to ponder based on concepts more than feelings.

although we hadn't used the word "sacred", we did have the expectation that in marriage, sex would be exclusive. yet in pondering... if sex seemed sacred/special to us as husband and wife, we noticed how that view didn't fit our view that sex is ok among other consensual adults, regardless of gender, number of people, or marital status as long as there was open-ness, honesty, and informed choice. so why had we bought into the man/woman view of sex and marriage for ourselves?

and if sex was special to us, then we pondered what makes it sacred/special? and to us, in spite of non-monogamy stretching my husband's emotional comfort level, we noticed that in monogamy or non-monogamy, the dyad dynamics itself is what creates unique-ness. even if i have sex with two different men, the dynamics would inevitably be so different that the sex itself would be something different, unique, special, "sacred" within/to each dyad.

so for us... our bodies had a special unique place in each other's hearts. whether that was a personal view or the influence of society's views about marriage, we had the emotional reaction that our bodies "should" be sacred to just each other. but intellectually, and in considering our beliefs, that view conflicted with our ownership concepts.

and although we haven't yet bumped into a wish for a place to be just ours, we've pondered the concept. it was previously important to us that our bodies be 'just ours'. yet if we no longer believe that sharing our bodies with others makes our bodies any less each other's, would that concept be any different for a restaurant or other special-to-us places? if we no longer believe that sharing our bodies with others makes sex any less special or sacred with each other, would that concept be different if applied to a special-to-us vacation place, or other location?

if being non-monogamous about our bodies and sex would still be special/unique/sacred because of the inevitable different dyads, nuances, dynamics, and responses, would that concept also apply to places we've gone and things we've done together that were special to us? would different partners be likely to notice and respond to such different aspects of places and things that even special-to-us places would be such a different experience with each partner that the special-to-us aspect would not be diminished by sharing it with both partners? would those places and things simply grow a new and different flavor... an added layer in our tapestry of life experience, based on the different dynamics, just as sex grew a different flavor, no less special, no less unique or sacred?

or *are* there places or things we'd wish to limit and reserve for just-us? if so, why? NOT pondering "why" to talk each other out of reserving some things for us, but pondering "why" as an aspect of self-introspection.. to dig deeper into personal understanding of our selves. do i think that a different dynamic somehow reduces or taints previous memories? am i trying to retain a memory with no other nuances? if so, why? what need am i meeting by an exclusive experience/memory? do i think i lose aspects of the original experience if i'd create another memory of the same place with a different person? if both of my children might enjoy seeing a,b,c, or doing x,y,z, do i have places or activities i reserve for only one of my children but not the other? are children even a comparable analogy for this concept?

aside from the residential, financial, death/taxes/wills, and parenting structure that we intend to retain with each other in our marriage, in our pondering, we so far have not come up with places or things we have decided to reserve for just-us. in the other direction, we've identified that we'd want each of us to ask to also have "x" in our marriage if we end up discovering/doing/giving some desirable-to-our-spouse "x" to another partner, but we'd so far not wish to ask each other not to do/give/have "x" with another partner.

those preliminary "decisions" are easy to sound good in theory. it might be that in real life, we just haven't yet come up with things that will hit us as special-to-us at a level we'd wish to reserve for just-us. in general, we'll plan on a concept level, but we do care deeply about each other's emotions, and if something will truly be more hard, uncomfortable, or sad to one of us than we can predict now, we'd work hard to balance self-introspection and analysis with heart-felt care. that path might lead us to different decisions and actions than the theoretical scenarios we're working with now. real life is stranger than fiction; harder than theories.

wishing everyone peace in the paths they forge to fit them selves....

Anonymous said...

Yes. Yes, LTT, we are in your mind. That's why you're here and you continually come back. We are you. And if that doesn't freak you out, wait until I tell you what's in the secret envelope in your dresser. You didn't think I knew about that, eh? Well...

Wow - an extraordinary response. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I would say, LTT, that if a couple regards the event as sacred and not so much the space, then that is the result of their own negotiation and conclusion. Naturally, if a couple mutually feels that a space isn't as important to them as an event, or, as an act, then that is a conclusion reached in harmony of their own expectations.

However, if one partner says, "I'd prefer that you do not urinate on your secondary - that is reserved elusively for me..." (yes, I have had this conversation before), then it's up to the parties to negotiate. Is that kind of play "sacred" in their lives and does the concern/appeal from your partner drive them to oblige?

Myself, I don't feel compromised by such a question and I don't feel a loss of self, identity, personal freedom, whatever... by honoring it. It seems simple enough. If that specific act is important to a partner, I feel in no way minimized to agree to the request.

However, if she said, "Dude, that McDonald's is special to me - don't ever take a chic to that McDonald's!", I think I'd argue that one, because it's just silly, and I'd try to reach some kind of compromised if she was seriously interested in preserving the sacredness of "that" McDonald's.

I think it's really negotiation and listening and showing genuine concern. It's not dismissing, or refusing to take the concern under consideration because "I have no emotional hang-ups about it, and neither should you". I think that kind of thinking is selfish and irrational - it's a 12 year old response than shuts down the other person, and that's sad. A request like this - whether or not it's peeing on someone or going to a specific McDonald's - _means_ something to someone who _means_ something to you.

We can listen; we can compromise. The worst we can do is invalidate and dismiss with some selfish, self-righteous attitude defending personal liberty and freedom, when all our partner wanted was to be heard.


I AM ANOTHER said...


livingtotears said...

cracking up! i read "LTT" and wondered who in the heck you were talking to! as far as being in my mind, who knew? but hey, if you're going to be there, perhaps you can help with the clean-up i need to do in some areas?!

i'm not certain, but we might be saying similar things about sacred-ness. when i commented on a different post you wrote, i was struggling to convey how evolving from monogamy to polyamory wasn't about my husband not meeting my needs, and it wasn't about sex, yet the main change was that sex wasn't exclusive anymore. it's felt so hard to have it seem to be about sex, and yet so NOT about sex.

PF clarified my thoughts about that *so* well ~ that "it's not about the sex, it's not about something your partner isn't giving you. it's about having the freedom to give fully of self, and receive on that level as well."

i am very unlikely to feel negatively compromised, or feel a loss of self, identity, or freedom in considering and/or honoring my husband's (reasonable) request to have something be just-ours (and yes, "reasonable" is subjective). whether or not the request fits my "reasonable" views, i would not invalidate or dismiss his request with statements about my personal freedom. in both directions, we'd talk, listen, consider, analyze reasonableness (because that matters to both of us and we usually have similar views about it), question for understanding, inquire more about feelings and fears, and see what mutually agreeable compromise we can reach that addresses needs, wants, fears on both ends, while aiming as much as possible for the concept of mutual support of giving/receiving fully ~ in sex and in other details.

for us, that may be possible because so far, *for us*, we've identified that we *already* have unique-ness, special-ness, and "sacred-ness"~ in *us*. *for us*, we've so far identified that it's not exclusivity that makes things special or retains the special-ness. it's our unique-in-all-the-world dynamics, responses, reactions. our dyad. those things created our past shared experience and our shared memory of the thing, place, or experience. no one else and no sharing can duplicate that, replicate that, diminish that, or take away from that. sharing might add other layers; but sharing cannot undo the unique-ness.

yet as you said, that's possible based on the negotiations and expectations that we have with each other. and that is also unique in all the world, so not a reasonable expectation to overlay onto anyone else.

in our situation, it might be that sex was such a huge "exclusive" paradigm, that after deciding to support sex not being exclusive, anything else would be easy to share in comparison. or... real life hasn't hit (yet?) in a way that has us wanting/needing to make something exclusive.
in pondering though... so many questions come up. some of them probably reflect my own fears, and some probably reflect the situation and structure of my relationships. even though we don't really use these terms, i'm primary in one relationship (with my husband) and i'm the secondary in my other relationship, and hierarchies aren't my preference. but the situation has the (unique?) result that in pondering, it's two directional.

it's very easy for me to feel receptive to anything my husband might request as an exclusive thing because i love him; i adore him; and he's given me sooo much ~ support of my freedom to give and receive fully.

it's harder for me to feel receptive to exclusivity that.... well, excludes me from having, doing, being, building things with my other love. although mcdonalds or peeing exclusivity wouldn't bother me as specifics, the *concept* level could be hard. it's coincidence that i don't happen to want to go to mcdonalds or be peed on. but different specifics might matter to me.

regardless of the specifics, i'd intellectually understand and support that my love is supporting and respecting something that means something to someone he loves. and i'd admire him for that. yet in some cases that situation may be hard to feel that he has the freedom to support and respect something that also means something to me ~ someone else he loves.

it can feel like whoever was "there" first has the ability to claim exclusive-ness, and that might limit some things that matter to me for what i can have, do, build with my other love. maybe that's just a reality of being secondary, but it's not an aspect that is easy or appealing to me. especially when the reason i did this at all was to be able to give and receive fully.

that situation ripples and then has me feel adamant that i will absolutely *not* ask my husband to exclude his other loves from anything they wish to have, do, be, build with each other. i want them to have the opportunity that he and i had ~ to have, do, be, and build whatever they wish for in their dyad.

and that is *so* easy to say and do while he's busy staying monogamous. so as strongly as i feel that, it feels somewhat hypocritical, since that aspect is all theory without real life hitting me in the face and smashing my theories to bits.
yet in pondering... it seems that there are more options than reserving exclusivity upon request, or not. and your words about listening, validating, compromising lead there.

just as we might feel jealousy, stress, or angst when a love is planning to go out with another love, instead of asking our love not to go out, we might convey our stress, work together to brainstorm ideas about distractions and ways to enjoy the time apart without obsessing, identify and discuss fears, and we might ask for extra hugs and reassurance when our love gets back. those things might be effective and compassionate ways to help a love with a sometimes hard aspect of non-exclusivity. and those things might actually contribute to melting our fears, growing stronger, and building mutual capacity to support each other in giving and receiving fully.

perhaps similar strategies might work as compassionate and effective ways for people to work through desires for exclusive places or things in cases where people differ in their views about whether the special-ness is in the event/thing or in the dyad dynamics. maybe...?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Hello from Port Townsend! On vacation this weekend at Discovery Bay...

Grin - you'll find that I'm an excellent housekeeper, LTT; go ahead: you can ask any in my home dynamic. I carry good references...

You know, LTT, for me, poly is less about the limitless sexual expression and more about self-exploration, self-maturing and self-enlightenment. It's really challenging the conventional and coming out as a different person. So, in your second paragraph, I can completely agree: it's got very little to do with the sex. It's personal growth.

Your relationship with your husband sounds very healthy. When I wrote this, I was ranting against a fundamental argument held by some that poly relationships are mutually exclusive and don't impact another, and requests like these are reflections of someone's own insecurity - like, there's some pure, idyllic approach to being poly and these requests disrupt an intellectual/emotional state of pureness. That's just crap.

Now, it sounds like you guys are great, smart folks who rationalize their needs, negotiate, and compromise, without attempting to "ascend" to some greater form of poly than each other. You respect each other, you give each other space, and you reach compromise without belittling the other for being emotionally incapable of dealing with an issue. To me, your situation sounds compassionate, loving, accepting, mature - all of those things related to self-enlightenment and growth that I was talking about earlier. That _is_ advanced relationships - that's polyamory. Dismissing somebody else because they are somehow a lesser creature is just plain cruel and arrogant.


mono here said...

I'm a mono dating a poly for the past few months. I didn't learn about the poly's lifestyle until after we became sexual and he's lied by omission about his other partner. As you can imagine, I'm dealing with a serious amount of hurt and jealousy.

But I still want him in my life.

I've been trolling the web for info so I can understand the underlying tenets of polyamory. Thank you so much for your blog - so much of what I've read seems to say, "The enlightened ones choose polyamory."

To which I said, bullshit. Until I read your blog.


I'm not sure what will happen, but I'm glad there are rational, compassionate folks out there in the poly community. You guys should be the poster child.

polyfulcrum said...

Hi Mono! It sounds like your introduction to "polyamory" wasn't very amorous.

This is like when I see another woman doing something that makes me want to apologize on behalf of our gender.

What your lover did wasn't ethical or honest, and it shames me, as a member of this community, that it was your introduction to poly.

I hope that following the disclosure of non-monogamy, you have been able to start fresh and set some good boundaries. How is your metamour doing with all of this? How are you?

Thank you for the kind comments on the blog, and on us! We're glad you're finding this resource useful in a time of need.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mono - so glad you're here and participating...


mono here said...

Update. Thanks again, guys, for giving me insight into the more positive aspects of polyamory. fulcrum - we were not able to establish boundaries and have since inamicably parted ways.

Que sera, sera...

polyfulcrum said...

Mono here: Thank you for the update on your situation. We're sorry to hear that things weren't workable for the two of you, and hope you find as many loving and supportive relationships as you desire as you move forward.