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.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

See me!

Over the past year of blogging, we've fairly well established that I enjoy a goodly amount of attention, being a bit of an exhibitionist. Recently, I ran up on something that feels very core to my adjustment to new partners, either for myself or potential metamours: Being seen.

Some people have the element of veto or approval with their current partners as they bring in new people. That isn't something that we have, although it's darned nice when I find myself liking the latest additions to the fold! In lieu of that, I've found that it's important for me to find a way to be "seen" by the newbie. This generally looks something like either an in-person meeting of some sort, or at the very least a real-time conversation, like a phone call. Chat and email don't seem to get the job done, nor does telling, or being told about someone.

There many things that are important to me to get a feel for that perhaps would seem insignificant to my partner, things that I can't just ask questions about, read a profile, or look at a picture and see. Likewise, I think I'm one of those people that comes across more accurately/better in person, than in electronic media. Just having the opportunity to hear the timbre of the voice, read the body language, find little connections or similarities that make someone seem less foreign, is a gift. It's something I can satisfy over a meal, and be pretty relaxed moving forward from there.

Without that, I tend to fill in blanks with lots of junk that may or may not be accurate, and feel that most people do that when thinking about someone they haven't yet met. They are a role, an idea, and until there is some fleshing out, it's not a comfortable space to occupy.

Perhaps this is just a manifestation of my attention-whoring nature, but it still feels like an important piece for me, both as a date-er and a date-ee. I want to see, and want to be seen. I want to show myself to others, and be shown who they are. It's not about approval, it's about removing mystery, revealing something of importance.

Monday, September 14, 2009


The idea of freedom is one that draws many people to polyamory. The freedom to be open to connecting with others, to experience new and exciting facets of one's personality, to be sexual, to be loving, to explore.

If you ask children what they are looking forward to about being an adult, the answer is likely to involve the idea of freedom, as they see it. That usually looks something like, "People give you money, and you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, and no one tells you what to do." At this point, there is typically laughter and rueful eye-rolling on the part of the adults in the room. Just wait until they find out the realities!

The thing is that some people see freedom within poly very similarly. All the privileges, none of the responsibility. Everyone does whatever they want without regard to others, because we are all individuals answerable to no one but ourselves.

While the underlying idea that we are all ultimately answerable to ourselves has merit, the concept of our actions not impacting others, positively or negatively, is crap. Even in poly systems that are largely independent (no shared practical responsibilities or obligations), each person is connected to those they care for. When one piece of the circle is doing well, it brings things up for the others. Likewise, when one piece is struggling, there's some bracing that is done to maintain position that requires additional effort, or downward inertia sets in.

Pare your needs down the the essential components. This allows the maximal range of "freedom", for yourself and your partner(s). When you can articulate the minimal effective effort needed, it clears out the extraneous stuff that has been pulling energy, much in the way that an appliance that is plugged in, even while not turned on, uses electricity.

"Go Green." in your emotional landscape. Find ways to have lush surroundings that need less water to maintain. By all means, if you have the extra moisture to give, go ahead and add to the landscape, but remember that plants die of over-watering as well as under-watering. Perhaps in your partner selection process you can look at cacti. ;)

Freedom is a word that has different meanings to each of us. For me, a piece of freedom is shared responsibility. I feel less tied down when I am not the only one responsible for something. For others, freedom means less communication, not sharing responsibility with others, or not being accountable to outside parties.

Going through the process to discover the core of what you NEED to feel free, which can be pretty different than what you WANT, takes some pretty significant effort and self-awareness. Self-deception is flat out. In the end, you may find you have more to give, or less, than you thought at the beginning. This is stuff that is worth knowing, so make the effort to discover your personal truth. Let freedom ring.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Now and then

When we had our discussion group this month, there was some pretty intense conversation surrounding hierarchical versus the more organic view of poly. Some people tend to see the whole "primary/secondary/tertiary" model as demeaning, or a strictly ordinal system. Others find it a practical tool that lends clarity to what roles are involved in a specific connection.

On the other hand, the more organic model, where each relationship goes to whatever level possible, without regard to pre-existing structure, can be seen by those who have put years of time and energy into a relationship as dismissive or threatening, to say the least.

As we listened to someone who has felt very hurt by having their place "usurped" with the advent of a new relationship, it pointed out how there are no absolutes within any structure. The landscape DOES shift, and no amount of labeling will change that fact. That said, I'm also a big fan of making conscious choices to nurture and support the people that have been an important part of your life, regardless of how yummy and delicious the newest addition to life is.

It is possible to decide how deep or involved a connection with someone will go. While abundance is a theme that I am a big fan of, there does come a point where some thing's got to give. If you are already close to your maximum capacity, and you add another significant piece to your plate, that time and energy will come out of some one's pocket, and unless you intend to do without sleep in perpetuity, it's likely to be someone that is already involved with you that takes the hit, your job, your friends, hobbies, or your children.

This goes back to the recent post of ideal versus practical. In an ideal world, everyone would flow effortlessly around all of the people that they could possibly feel love for without anyone feeling left behind, excluded, or devalued by the experience. We don't live in an ideal world, but it is a nice idea!

One can choose to accept that there is a level of responsibility on each of our parts to help facilitate those shifts when we add another person to our lives, to help smooth the process for those who we know already love and appreciate us. Alternately, one can look at each person as being totally responsible for their own feelings as the landscape shifts around them. To see each person as a totally independent entity that we choose to interact with on whatever level feels good at the time. Each of these ideas has adherents. Each has drawbacks and upsides. One is definitively more work than the other.

For me, the people who are a part of my life are not like disposable razors, to be tossed when they become dull, or technology, which changes at a steady clip, but more in the realm of favorite things that gain patina, nuance and richness over time. There might be something more flashy on the horizon, but there is always space to appreciate what has gone before, to notice the comfort and relaxation of sinking into a favorite chair, to take your pillow with you on vacation, to love what has come before.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Life's little irony is that we might receive compassion, admiration, and tenderness from the same person who could wound, cripple, and scar us. Whether we're aware of it or not, life teaches us that to love is to risk: we must gamble total vulnerability in hope that our partner will do us no harm and show selflessness even in the face of adversity in their lives. And nothing is guaranteed other than - more times than not - we might find love in exchange for a lot of hurt.

To me, the preamble of two googly-eyed people falling deep in love and spending hours together to emerge as some glowing, floating, idyllic, unified soul is entirely unremarkable. Yeah, we see that shit every day.

Further, to me, it isn't entirely novel to see the myriad of events and antagonists that eventually come along to undo things or to cast doubt on the unions' little imperfections. We intuitively all know that nothing perfect goes unnoticed for too long by the universe.

And, to me, the dreary, trite, long-anticipated conclusion is such a tiresome bore - a sad realization, a break-up, terrible dispair, perhaps even a mortal wound, a pleasant speach that should have been given in the first place, and, alas, the death of the perfect thing.

"See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love."
--Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Instead, what is whole-heartedly remarkable to me is the capacity and willingness we all have to heal... that, somewhere and sometime between the death of love and the birth of another love affair (yet one more that will surely deal the final blow)... we heal. It's pretty cool. It's almost as if nature gave us an uncanny ability to regenerate, scar, grow a tiny bit tougher, and to forgive, to forget, and to try again. It's amazing that we all don't lie down and just give up. Love hurts.

This weekend, I spent time with three lovely women who're healing from loves lost, love in trial, and love in transition. What's remarkable, I think, is their story. It's not the story of who they were with this guy or who they were without that guy or what that guy is or isn't, does or doesn't do. Healing from love is almost an act of "re-self-discovery" and rediscovery of our own intrinsic value: its the realization of how love changed us without destroying us, and that's a beautiful story of transformation... a more important story. That's the one we should be listening to.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Idealistic or practical?

After several years of exploration, discussions and delving into the pool of poly, having many people explain their particular brand of poly, it seems that there are essentially two different types of polyamory that lie under the many variations: Idealistic and practical. I tend to fall more into the practical camp, so I'm sure this may be a bit biased in approach. You have been warned! ;)

With a more idealistic approach, the concepts, ideas, and best-case scenarios are cherished. One may even prefer to be solo than to be in relationships where the ideals aren't being met. This model seems to be related to the early poly movement, the communes of the 60's, where "free love" was the ideal. Anyone pointing out the lack of success with a particular ideal must just not be doing it right, rather than the ideal itself being unachievable, or unsatisfactorily difficult. On the other hand, there is something to be said for sticking to your ideals, and having connections with people that are rooted in common beliefs.

The main difficulty with this model is that the participants are seldom ideal themselves, bringing programming and baggage to the party. Therefore, the best case scenarios are seldom actualized, and some or all of the participants end up failing repeatedly. If one can view those failures as opportunities to grow, great! If the failures bog the participants down, it might be time to shift your standards to what actually works, versus what you WANT to work.

Practical polyamory is a bit more in the direction of Heinlein's famous TANSTAAFL- There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. It recognizes that the relationships one has touch others, exponentially so as the network of connections moves out, so there are very few things that one does within a vacuum. For all the additional freedoms, loves, and support that comes with poly, there are corresponding responsibilities and balances that must be struck.

For some, the balancing act can feel cumbersome or controlling, but with some patience, mutual compassion, and compromise, it is possible find enough of what is desired to make that transition period palatable, and then continue forward towards an ideal from that point. It is slower, more deliberate, and less self-centered. The trap can be in sublimating your own needs to the point where others take top billing consistently over self.

What works? What doesn't? How can something be refined to improve performance and satisfaction? If only we looked at our relationships like we shopped for cars! The nice thing about people is that, unlike cars, there are upgrades available after you take them out of the showroom and drive them around for several years. No one is static, and the practical approach would be to update and upgrade relationships consistently to keep them fresh and vital, tossing in ideas that sound good to see if they also work. Discard what doesn't function, and keep moving forward.

While there are many approaches to poly, it seems that most fall under one of the two above umbrellas. Finding the sweet spot, where the best of each is available, offers the best options for success and satisfaction. Go in search of the sweet spot!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beginnings and sushi

This evening S and I are having dinner with his new interest. While she and I have met previously, it wasn't in the context of having a mutual connection, so this is sort of the "get to know you" outing. I think we're all a bit excited, and a tinge apprehensive.

It's a little different when you are starting a conversation with someone who isn't familiar with polyamory. There are no assumptions made, no common vocabulary or expectation, and so there's an additional level of communication that happens, probably at the level that all of us would do well to start with, regardless of the potential connection's poly experience level.

As per usual, I'm likely to be a bit direct. This may, or may not, be comfortable for her. Clarity is something that has a lot of value to me, so I'll stick with direct. It'll be pretty amusing if S ends up being the diplomatic arm here, since that is typically my forte. ;) When he and I started dating, it was similar. He was learning _everything_ from the ground up about ethical non-monogamy. Trial by fire, blood, sweat and tears. He did beautifully. It gives me hope for the future, as well as the present.

On an amusing note: We're going to have sushi! This is funny because S has steadfastly refused to have sushi with me previously. However, since she and I both like it, we're leveraging New Relationship Energy plus Old Relationship Magic to get him there tonight. I'm not above using the system. ;)