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?