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)!