Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Poly meets Kink!

There is a noticeable tendency towards poly folk also identifying with some sort of additional type of "alternative lifestyle". One of the more commonly seen ones is kink/bdsm. It's been something that I've gradually delved into myself over the past several years, and find to be an element of my relationships that enhances the overall structures.
There can be a point of concern when the egalitarian poly outlook bumps up against the Dominance/submission element within a relationship that is both poly and kinky. S and I are both pretty switchy, so we just sort of pass the baton around on a physical level, and keep the relationship dynamics piece pretty neutral. D and I, on the other hand, have a pretty strong element of D/s in addition to sadomasochism, and poly.

This has all been going rather swimmingly, with only a few minor twitches where shifting from a role of Dominance/submission into being a self-advocating partner seemed a bit clunky for either D or I. In fact, the smoothness of those transitions led me to a place of feeling quite comfortable deepening that dynamic, so I recently "collared" D as my submissive. That wasn't something lightly undertaken by either of us, and one of the key conversations surrounding that choice was how/what differences might be seen within our poly framework by me stepping more fully into a role of Dominance, and he into one of submission to me.

What it boiled down to for us was that D/s doesn't replace agency and self-determination. I can be in charge, and still require D to participate fully in the relationship dynamic as a responsible partner. Part of his submission to me involves looking towards the well-being of the relationship as a whole. Submission isn't a license to put all the responsibility for making things go on my shoulders. For me, being at the wheel doesn't mean that a navigator isn't useful in getting to mutually agreed-upon destinations, or that I get to ignore it when my navigator lets me know that the road ahead is likely to be bumpy, it just means I get to pick the route that seems best, and if I flub things up, it's incumbent on me to get things back onto a useful track.

Poly and kink can coexist quite comfortably, as long as no one is abdicating responsibility towards themselves, or to the relationship as a whole. If something were to come up that was a significant sticking point, D and I agreed to have the poly model as the fallback position for conflict resolution. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the reality of an eager, responsive sub that is choosing to be at my disposal as required, and all the responsibilities and satisfactions that go along with that, as well as valuing a loved poly partner!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Someone recently asked me what my fears were around being poly, and it's taking a bit of time to get to the bottom of that barrel. How many of us really enjoy looking into the face of personal fear, right? As a matter of fact, it feels pretty vulnerable to expose the things that I fear to the public, even if it's the virtual public, but still worth doing. I'll pull in some that aren't personal fears as well, just to round it out a bit. ;)

Fear of being left- Check! Done that one, and still working through all the ramifications of those transitions in my life. While it's not exclusive to poly, life is a numbers game, and if you have more partners, chances are good that at some point, someone is going to opt out. Does the world end? No, but it can sure feel that way at times.

Fear of being open- Check! When there is pain from a variety of sources, extreme stresses, it may seem like a better idea to batten down the hatches and keep your cards close to your vest. If I'm closed-off, there is no way for anyone to become close, or stay intimate though. This can be a compounding fear. When no one can get close, it's the same functionally as pushing people away, and they leave. Staying open in the face of fear is one of the biggest drains on personal courage I have experienced.

Fear of not being picked- Check! We're out there reaching for someone, and they don't reach back. Hard. It gets harder when they reach towards someone else instead. Why not me? It brings up all those childhood issues about being picked up for teams, and being the last one standing. This is something regularly dramatized in popular culture: Kids lined up on a playground: the hopeful look fading to desperation, then desolation, and often self-loathing. What it comes down to is that I can't control the desires of others, and need to stay resilient, not putting many eggs into a particular basket until it looks like reciprocation is likely.

Fear of rejection- Check! This is a little different than being left, happening earlier in the course of a relationship. Someone gets to know you, things start to move into the direction of importance, and then, they hit on something that doesn't work for them, and opt out. At this point, it really is me, or at least me bumping up against them. It's a big world out there, and a lot of options to explore. Not everyone is going to like my chips. A few will sample and move on. Others will come back for a steady diet. The chips are still quality, but some aren't fans of salt 'n vinegar. ;)

Fear of being wrong- Check! The adjunct of this one is "fear of making a fool of myself". There are so many opportunities for miscommunication, sometimes leading to poor decision-making, deciding to go farther out on a limb emotionally than there is tree to support, to set down a "rule" and then find it does the opposite of the intent, to have the "stupid pink fuzzies" of NRE so severely that it damages existing relationships, to have baggage from the past cloud future perspective, and a host of other exciting possibilities that are often blundered into without awareness.

For this one, I just flat out accept that I WILL MAKE MISTAKES. I WILL BE WRONG! Some of those mistakes won't be recoverable either. I regularly practice apologizing to others, and try to be clear with my partners that I don't have all the answers, that I mess up, and to encourage them to call me on it when something seems off, preferably before it's a significant problem.

Fear of taking too much on- Check! I strive to give quality to each and every person that is important in my life, and there have been times where I've bitten off more than I could comfortably chew, to the detriment of myself, my family, my business, and/or a partner. Getting to know my bandwidth has been a process of trial and error. There have been times where I've had to back away from a connection that seemed promising because there wasn't anything else that I was willing to take time or energy away from. As life circumstances change, bandwidth adjusts, so this is an on-going project, to be aware of what I have to give.

Fear of being too shiny- Check! There are times where I've entered a relationship with someone, and they are significantly more "into" me than the inverse. This creates an imbalance in power that feels really uncomfortable to me. Assessing how well someone manages relationship expectations is part of my screening process now, as is communicating how deeply emotionally interested I am. If there is pressure to always give more than I have time or desire to invest, it's a big red flag for me.

Well, that's a starting point, but certainly not a comprehensive list! What are some of the fears that you've bumped up against in your exploration of poly?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Apply Yourself!

Being a couple of business peeps, S and I often spend time drawing parallels between business and relationship models. Scintillating, no? ;) D and I were also tossing some ideas around in this vein, so, without further ado, let us flesh them out a bit!

This most recent round of ideas was spurred by an online conversation about the concept of age limits, and how it plays into dating. Specifically, having a "floor", age-wise on how low you (or your partner) will date. The easy answers are that people are all different, so just take it on a case by case basis, or that setting an arbitrary number seems like a fine idea; but that would be a really short post, so let's dig deeper, shall we?

Here's where the business analogy comes in handy: Let's say you are applying for a position at a company that requires a particular set of skills to be able to capably perform the required tasks:

  • You lack the skills, you aren't producing the needed results to maintain your employment, and you get fired/downsized/let go.

  • You're looking at applying for a job that is simply way below your qualification level, the concern employers have is that you will get bored, and move on to a different position with higher pay in short order, wasting their time and training funds.

  • You apply for a job that has specialized skills that are taught by the employer. Even in this scenario, there are personality traits that are desired, and a high investment on the part of the employer in bringing the employee up to speed.

  • You find your DREAM JOB! This is something you've trained and educated yourself to do for years! You feel competent, well-compensated, and satisfied for the time and effort you put in on behalf of your employer.

Does this apply to age? Perhaps. There are quite a few sets of skills that I would like a potential new partner to have, and some of them are very unlikely to be found in a person under a particular threshold of age. An example of this is that I prefer to date people who have at least 5 contiguous years of relationship experience with a single partner. Just having some years on you isn't any guarantee that those skills have been acquired though, so the screening process still needs to allow for people with exceptions on each side.

Let's say that I connect with someone with vastly more experience, or much broader relationship desires than I have previously explored. I need to consider that this may not be a good match in "employment expectations", or that I will need to do a high level of on the job training to catch up to the more experienced partner. If I am still able to bring the qualities that someone is looking for to the table, it may be worth their investment in bringing me up to speed.

Sometimes, in the process of dating, I meet someone who is darned appealing, but their current skills don't line up with my employment requirements, or they don't have the qualities that would help bring that in closer alignment. Perhaps I make an educated guess that the learning curve there is going to be slower than I would have the ability to accommodate, and keep the door open for a return in a few years, if they've acquired the desired skills in the interim. Basically, I keep their resume on file. ;) People have surprised me by their willingness to dig in and grow, and those are cases where I really like being wrong!

To be very clear, I consider each partner potential partner in a relationship to be considering "employing" the other. This isn't a case of one person holding all the cards or power by being in charge.

Having a checklist for a potential partner to fill isn't the goal, but having clarity on what makes relationships work well for you, and being able to recognize those skills and qualities in others is crucial. It isn't a value judgement to decline a relationship opportunity that doesn't suit your needs, it's a recognition that, even when you really like someone, you may not be a good partner-match.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Glorifying Romance

Ah...romantic love! It can be sweet, intoxicating, overwhelming, confusing, scary, exhilarating, enticing, comforting and so much more. Most of us have grown up in cultures that romanticize the glories of romance. Being "in love" with another person has been cited as the motivating factor in everything from war, abuse, and obsession, to being in unsuitable relationships, The Morally Correct Reason to be sexual with someone, and martyring oneself to another.

Now, reading that last couple sentences, you may be under the impression that I'm not a fan of romantic love. Quite the inverse! I write notes, send flowers, stop off to snag that special something for that special someone(s), cook favorite dishes, stare into eyes, dress in ways that may not be my particular favorites (but really do it for my SOs!), take care of the ill, give soft kisses, share music, and touch and caress with conscious intent to appreciate fully the person I am with. Where the cultural norms and I part ways on the topic of romantic love is when hurtful behaviors and negative judgments about the choices others make ensue. In short, I don't think romance is a good reason to abandon logic and trot about leaving a wake of destruction.

Romantic love doesn't make a relationship that isn't supportive of your objectives in life into a good partner choice. A lack of romantic love doesn't make a sexual or relationship connection with another person into a poor choice. As poly people, we run up against the myth of "The One" person who we fall madly in love with, and live happily ever after pretty consistently. If romantic love is the main basis for partner selection, is it any wonder that so many relationships, mono or poly, explode in a blaze of glory?

Certainly, it seems very helpful to a long-term, stable, healthy relationships to involve an element of romance. Romance can provide motivation to put in the time and effort to create that environment. It feels good to have those fizzy hormones in the early days. Frankly though, I've found it much more useful to have developed the skill to sustain and recreate romantic feelings for myself over time in my longer-term relationships. How many times have you heard someone say something that boiled down to, "I just don't feel like I'm in love with partner x anymore, so I'm moving on to chase that feeling elsewhere."?

"Love is a choice." might be an oversimplification, but it has some level of validity. One of the ways that I am able to sustain and recreate romantic feelings as a poly person is by recognition of the choices that are available to me, and to my partners. We all have other options, other possibilities, and are still choosing to stay with one another. When I choose someone over and over again, and they also continue to choose me, it reinforces the romantic energy I have to put into that relationship.

Actions count, words count. If you feel warm and fuzzy, or hot and sexy, SAY SO! If you want to spark more romance in your current connection, treat it like a new relationship again. Put the time, energy and effort in that you would with the new shiny person into the old and linty one. Do the things you did when you were first dating. When's the last time you made a mixed cd to share? Got flowers just because? Watched a movie type that isn't your personal favorite because the pleasure of snuggling and spending time together is far more important to you than the personal entertainment involved?

Romance is a relationship tool, like communication skills. It can be used well, or poorly, and has no moral value to impart. In looking at romance more objectively, rather than elevating it to a mysterious feeling that is put in the driver's seat in our relationships, we can make stronger partner selection choices, including the ones we make in our existing partnerships.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poly Fi...

Do or die!

Not really. I'm just kidding with you. ;)

After the comment by anonymous in the previous post, I realized that polyfidelitous relationships are something that I haven't examined previously. For me, starting out with an LDR for many years, polyfi wasn't terribly practical. The physically separate nature of that relationship for many months at a time didn't lend itself well to sexual or emotional exclusivity, even with more than one person. So, let's go take a peek at an option that I passed up years ago, not considering it feasible at the time.

There's a broad spectrum of relationship styles that exemplify the term "polyamory". On one end of the scale, we have people whose relationships are more compartmentalized, sexually and emotionally unregulated, "free agent poly". On the other end of that range you'll find polyfi. Some have referred to it as "mono plus one", as the most frequently observed configuration is three people, typically a couple that has absorbed a third person, who have agreed to be sexually and emotionally exclusive within that triad. Mono plus one is often said in a disparaging manner.

For me, it's simply another choice available to those of us looking at relationships that fall outside the norms. One of the main concerns that people often have about poly relationships is how to keep things simple, stable and safe. While polyfi certainly doesn't guarantee any of those things, it can be a way to manage worries about uncomfortable complexity in wider networks.

I've seen more polyfi folks with school age children. I may be drawing an erroneous connection here, but I can see where someone may hypothesize that polyfi would likely produce a higher level of predictability and family stability. That can seem very attractive to a parent that wants to protect their child(ren) from experiencing shifts in family composition on a semi-regular basis.

Another oft touted reason for choosing polyfi is to minimize STI risks by keeping the number of people that are "in the pool" very limited. I have no clue if there is any actual statistical data to back the effectiveness of this idea up, but understand the logic of the idea. An off-shoot of this is to assure that any children conceived are the biological issue of the family members.

Detractors of polyfi have said that it contains a level of ownership and control of one's partner(s) that is undesirable, that the 3rd partner brought in is seldom an "equal" in the dynamic with the pre-existing couple, or that they are actively hostile to those of us with less structured poly models. To my way of thinking, it's really only the last one that concerns me directly. The first two are good partner selection criteria that those opting into a polyfi situation should be aware of and screen for to the level of their comfort.

For those who think that their way of doing poly is the OTW (One True Way), I'd encourage an examination of the issues this has caused within religious communities throughout history. We all have our path to follow, and sometimes, we may even switch camps. The thing I think we can all get behind is supporting informed, consensual, healthy relationships, regardless of the configuration they are executed within.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sex Positive

Yesterday S and I hosted an event. For many years, it's been a lament of mine that, not being a night-owl, I often would miss out, or not be terribly conscious/well-functioning by the time most sexual or kink themed parties were getting rolling. Why was it, I wondered, that so many people that self-identify as "sex positive" still seemed to wait until the wee hours of the morning to enjoy being sexual or kinky with others in public? So, considering my utter ineptitude with "wee hours of the morning" play, I decided to create an opportunity to explore sharing sexual space during the very kinky daylight hours. It was duly dubbed the "Afternoon Delight" party.

Something I've noticed over the years is that, while most of the poly folk I've met would consider themselves sex positive, there are still elements of judgment, real or imagined, about playing (for the purposes of this post, let's define play as sexual or kink activity involving others) with someone you lack a relationship or dating connection with. Does it just seem too close to swinging? There seems to be more lurking in the background. Almost a sense that sharing physical intimacy in a less relationship-oriented context diminishes our polyness. Is it possible to be sex positive in a more casual sense, and remain relationship oriented?

So I sent out the invitations to my guest list. Most were poly community members that I have friendships with, but not relationship energy. Some I've seen at public events before, and knew they'd be quite comfortable. Some, this was going to push some boundaries if they chose to attend. In the week leading up to the event, I found myself fielding inquiries from potential guests. Some were anxious about the public nature of the play. A few wanted to be sure that their kinks, sexual orientation, or being overtly sexual was going to be okay. Several were concerned that this was going to be like a high school dance with everyone sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone else to make the first move.

For myself, I was seeking a catharsis. This was a way to let go of some emotional pain through pleasure, through trust, through connection. I wanted to open myself up, intentionally and mindfully, to my community in a very real, physical and tangible way. It felt pretty vulnerable, but I felt relatively sure that my friends wouldn't leave me dangling in the wind with a flop on my hands!

Sure enough, we came through with flying colors! Our home was blessed by an amazing collection of people, most I knew, but some new faces, and we all started off by sharing what we wanted for ourselves during the event. People were honest and clear. Some with trepidations or boundaries, some with desires, many with offers to help others achieve what they wanted. It was a very promising start, and from there we took off!

Our main living room was floor to floor with mattresses that people helped to bring over. We had two violet wands, side by side sybians, a sex swing, gorgeous attire, many toys, floggers, sensual aids, games, food and beverages. Most were things people donated for the event to help create a festive atmosphere. We had a significant range of ages, orientations, genders, vanilla and kinked. People participated, and it seemed to create a sense of ownership in the activities they chose to enjoy, and the event as a whole.

I was privileged to witness some really beautiful play, even more so to participate in quite a bit myself, and observe my partners enjoying themselves with me, and with others. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, it was fucking HOT, and had we recorded things, I could make a tidy sum off of the dvds. ;)

Almost everyone participated directly in something, including people that were pretty hesitant at the beginning of the event. The daytime idea was well-received, and will be repeated. This poly/kink community let go, at least a little, of being overly concerned about "messing up friendships with sex". I feel closer to many people today than I did a couple days ago, that things are tighter knit in a good way.

Pleasure can be a tool for intimacy, not just within relationships, but within communities as well. In a poly world, relationship-level closeness doesn't always need to be the goal. Every so often, just feeling good, and sharing that with those you like is more than sufficient.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brother Husbands

Well... I mean, why not?

The success of TLC's Sister Wives has brought more polyamorous ideas to the mainstream. If you haven't seen it, this is a reality television show featuring a fundamentalist LDS guy with multiple wives and 16 kids living in Utah, and by the end the first season he'd taken on his fourth wife.

The show is kind of interesting because it does address complicated relationship problems in the form of group discussions. All of the parties are fairly open and well-spoken so that the conversation doesn't get dragged down by spirituality or dogma.

Instead, it paints a pretty compelling story of a bunch of poly-types committed to their lifestyle, open about their feelings, talking about what makes them happy, and just trying to make it in the world. It's fairly honest and includes a lot of on-screen processing by the family.

Now, I realize that a few readers out there already chomping-at-the-bit, eager to remind me that polygyny (one guy, multiple female partners) isn't polyamory and that anything that glorifies religious polygyny isn't commendable at all. Okay, point taken. Regardless, the show does put a positive spin on pluralism that seems to have reached mass-appeal, and I'm all about pluralism of any form being put forward for the public's consumption.

Besides, given the show's success, we're probably just a few seasons away from a polyamorous lifestyle reality show and that would give the public a model for contrasting polyamory and polygyny.

In particular, as the nature of their relationship would dictate and I'd hope that conversation would go, I think one thing that disturbs me about the husband is his complete distain for his wives having male relationships outside of him. It's one-penis-policy-extremism: he's viscerally offended by the idea and is just disgusted at the thought. "Ugh! My wives would be whoring!" Yet he seems to have no problems explaining nightly marital rotations to the camera. He's totally fine with sister wives. What throws him for a loop are brother husbands.

Brother husbands. PF and I have talked about what that'd look like, where she'd bring on more male partners. Myself, I don't have a problem with it and it seems only fair to transfer "ownership" away from the man to the woman in the course of the language. Why shouldn't a woman have her lot of men? Why can't matriarchy have its day? Perhaps the commanding nature of this language would shift the perception from "whoring" to something more constructive like "leading" or "fulfilling"?

Although I'd be first to admit it's mostly a power thing for me (hey, I dig powerful, confident women), this isn't a subby thing, group sex thing, or a homo-erotic thing, brother husbands. It's just a recognition of the fact that she's got multiples and is living out her own life to the fullest ... like the husband in Sister Wives. What's wrong with that? I say: bring on the husbands, brother!

Guys? Could you live with the Brother Husband thing? Women? Do you want Brother Husbands or does the idea just rub you the wrong way? What do you think of pluralism like this in the media?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Economic Disparity

Whew! Last night was our monthly discussion group, and it was a very full house! We didn't have the time to explore more than a small fraction of the subtopics at hand, and my role as moderator looked a lot like conversational traffic cop. Such fun!

One of the side points in the discussion about partner selection criteria that seemed to pull up some intense feelings was regarding the way that varying economic factors can play into poly relationships. Even in mono settings, if one partner has significantly more resources monetarily than the other, it can create pressure and imbalance. One person can feel like they're "carrying" things, another can feel as though they are taking advantage. Deciding on how to pay for dates, outings, and other domestic factors takes on a different angle when one person's monetary resources greatly outstrip their partner(s) or metamours.

There have been a wide variety of ideas bandied about on how to manage finances in poly relationships, and I'm not interested in rehashing that here. What was of more interest to me was how some people in the group had strong feelings on how money impacted their relationships, and why.

I'll use myself as an example, as this has been an issue for me pretty much from the very beginning of my poly experience. I grew up in a family that was familiar with poverty. The joke I've made for years is that my parents are very highly educated poor people who choose to work in jobs that don't pay well at all. Frugality was a virtue, and we didn't do things we couldn't pay for, cash in hand. The vast majority of my clothes came from (still do!) second hand stores, and we clipped coupons, repaired things, and lived below the going standards for technology, vehicles, and entertainment. Credit cards were seldom employed, and only in emergency situations. Money was the root of all evil, and any excess went to those less fortunate.

Fast forward to my first multi-partner relationship: My long-distance partner, C, and I would travel to see each other 3-4 times a year. At the time, PG was going to school (on unemployment), and I had a nursing infant, along with a small business to run. C had more money than I did. It was offensive to my sense of independence, but, if I wanted to spend time with C, I needed to allow him to pay for the majority of expenses for our trips. My own family was barely scraping by, and expending resources for luxuries like travel, wasn't a viable option. It stuck in my craw, but it was worth swallowing my pride to spend time with him. Usually, at some point on a trip, I'd pay for some meal, small gift or something, just to feel as though I was contributing.

Advance to current day: S earns more than I do by a very significant margin. We own our house 50/50, and I put into the household account in that ratio. This is a stretch for me, but I want to keep that level of accountability within my domestic arena. When it comes time to go out or buy something extra for the household, I'm conscious of wondering how is the item/event at hand is going to be paid for. There have been times where I have opted out of a proposed plan because it exceeded my financial comfort zone, or I've offered another alternative that fit more in my budget. There have been times where S offers to pay, and I decide my pride is getting in the way of my relationship, and accept the generosity of my partner.

When I'm out with D, we usually alternate paying for things, but I try to pick up tabs a bit more often, as he's currently unemployed. I don't put them on the household account, because I don't want S to be subsidizing my dates with D. There are things that we'd like to do together that have been set aside for the moment, because some activities would require a higher level of financial cooperation than is currently possible. It's not a relationship issue, but it is an awareness level.

At times, we do community stuff, and that comes out of the household pot. Both S and I value community, and part of the way we value that is by participating in, and hosting gatherings. D often will come over early to help set things up, or assist with clean-up afterwards. We all participate at the level that we can, and that is sufficient.

For me, it's not what I buy with my partners that is important. It isn't the venue, the stuff, the travel, nor gifts. It's the time spent with, and feeling connected, to those I care for. Whenever I find myself getting a bit tweaked by the economic disparity in my life, I try to refocus on that. Money doesn't create happiness. It is simply a tool to be used as directed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wrong Woman!

This is one of those "more about sex as it relates to poly" topics, so if that doesn't interest you, please click past this post. :)

One of the things that S and I have noticed in relationships with other women, was that it's kind of easy to get a bit mixed up in bed. Out in the mono world, one of the most heinous crimes that we are warned against is the use of the wrong person's name in physically intimate situations. Poly can take that up to a whole new level! This one was kind of more of an applied practical knowledge thing. What happens when you mix up the preferred sexual styles of your lovers, either when you're having couple time with one, or actually in bed with both?

Let's say Lover A enjoys a slow sensual touch, while Lover B is more a fan of firm and rapid, or that A goes ga-ga over light flicks of the tongue, while B is bored by that experience. Here you are, trying to be the best lover you possibly can to all your partners, but you get mixed up. It happened commonly enough that I started using a reminder phrase to help shift gears: "Wrong Woman!"

I fully think I got off easy on this one, as there are just some absolute differences between male and female bodies that make it a bit more contrasting to transition between lovers of different genders. I'm less likely to forget and play with nipples the same way in the absence of breasts. Unlikely to give cunnilingus instead of fellatio when there's a cock in my mouth. Alas, poor S wasn't quite as fortunate! Yeah, he was feeling the pain...

So, here we are in intimate space, either just the two of us, or with another lover, and suddenly, it becomes obvious that the way I am being touched isn't the way that S knows is most effective. In fact, he's doing something the way that flat does it for his other lover, but doesn't do much for me! Is this the time to have a conniption about my lover getting me mixed up with someone else? No way. This is the time for a gentle reminder that, while the effort is appreciated, this isn't the body you're looking for.

Most of us have experienced the phenomena of needing to do a bit of retraining when a new lover enters our lives. Learning new ways of touching, ones that specifically work for the person you are with, rather than what you imprinted on in the last relationship. When having more than one relationship/partner simultaneously, it gains a bit more gravitas.

This can get a bit more touchy (ha ha!) in group situations where you are literally pleasuring more than one person simultaneously. Sexual ambidexterity is something that takes a bit of practice, and some of us are not going to be as skilled as we'd like, so help from the partners in question can be really valuable when getting off (course).

Of course, this all goes back to basic communication, but it seems that many perfectly good communicators go all pre-verbal in bed. If needed, cut conversation down to simple words. Slower, faster, harder, deeper, stop! Do not, I repeat, do NOT just allow the opportunity to improve the situation pass you by out of reluctance to bruise someone's feelings. Any lover worth their salt would want to know that they've slid into a pattern that isn't working for you, because at that point, it isn't working for them either.

Be bold! Embrace the stern challenge before you of being an amazing, varied lover to all your partners, in the special ways that they enjoy as individuals. Not one of us is the same, and in the arms of our partners, we are loved uniquely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ponderings about Rule 58

Reading through S's post on Rule 58, I realized just a comment wasn't going to get it done for me! Must... post...

I don't like the "R" word at this point in general. Rules. So, I'll be going with the more semantically comfortable "guide line" term! The idea that it might not be a good idea to go into a relationship where there is a lack of parity in available relationship resources is something I've toyed with for quite a while. I've gone down that road a number of times, and more often than not, it doesn't go well. On the other hand, experience would lead me to believe that there are things that can be put into place up front to make this a more successful option!

#1- Be clear up front what it is you have to offer another partner in terms of emotional energy, time, and priority. Be clear with yourself first, and check in with your existing partners to do a veracity check on your grasp of the facts.

#2- Once you are reasonable sure you have a grip on that, share that information with your potential partner without sugar-coating it. This is one of those things where it is better to under-promise and over-deliver than the inverse. Don't say you have 3 nights a week free if you really can only put a bi-weekly commitment on the table consistently. Don't make out like you'll have daily phone calls if it's more likely to look like an email every few days.

#3- Talk about it. Bunches. Preferably before you get all sexified and emotionally vested. This whole top section applies to any relationship you are looking to expand into, not just ones with people who don't currently have a "primary".

This is a step that D and I spent a lot of time on before we began dating, and I think it was well worth the effort. He doesn't currently have another partner, and I was concerned, based on past experiences, that it would create an imbalance and pressure that would be uncomfortable for both of us. He spent the time to assess if what I had to offer would be comfortable and valuable to him, even though it wouldn't be able to meet some of his basic relationship needs and goals. Moreover, I asked him to think about if this would still be true when he does find a "primary", as being a "place holder relationship" wasn't something that I wanted for myself either.

#4- Know that things will change. Yep, best laid plans and all that jazz. The most well-considered strategy only lasts as long as things stay the same, and precisely how often does that happen? About half-past never, that's how often!

S and I started out being a primary/secondary dyad, where I was already in a primary relationship, but he wasn't, then I found that I had the capacity to have that level of emotional investment and practical responsibility to more than one person, and that relationship expanded out into a live in situation with kids and the whole nine. That wasn't the plan. That was about 10 years ahead of the plan. I'm glad I ditched the plan.

I've been with people who lost their main relationship or job during the course of our connection, and it threw the entire balance off. When someone you have a weekly date with suddenly has a ton of free time and energy on their hands, it can be really tempting for them to transfer that time and energy to another existing relationship, but that bandwidth may not be available. The constant feeling of not being able to perform up to a partner's standards or needs will erode things pretty quickly, in my experience.

#5- In the interests of dating people who are better equipped to answer #2 and 3, choose potential partners that have experience in considering the practical side of relationships on an emotional and logistical level.

Have they been a "secondary" partner before? Some people really like this zone of relationship, where there is emotional and physical intimacy, but less practical entanglement, intimacy with a lower demand level. Some people really dislike having a ceiling on how much time they may have available with someone, or how many overnights, or needing to consider other scheduled dates, work events etc. Dating someone who knows with some level of assurance that having this type of relationship will be comfortable and happy for them is a big plus!

For me, a significant consideration is parenting. If someone doesn't have/hasn't had kids, that takes a whole other level of examination. Will this person be supportive of the idea that I spend a couple nights a week helping my daughter at the rink? That my goal is to be available to help her with homework every day? That if something changes with my childcare arrangements, our "date" might look a lot more like snuggling on the couch with her between us entertained by a placid PG movie that neither of us might choose to ever watch, rather than a raucous evening out/in doing things that are decidedly more adult in nature?

If everyone involved has relationship or life experiences that they can translate into practical skills, it will put you far ahead of the game in determining if a potential relationship is going to be a positive experience for all concerned before you even begin.

What are some of the things that you consider before moving into "unbalanced" relationships, either as the partner with a high degree of relationship resources, or the one who is less resourced? What has led to an unfavorable relationship outcome for you? What are some strategies for success that you've found useful? Share your valuable experience with the rest of us!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rule Number 58

In excess of eight months this year, PF and I were dating a fantastic woman. We all had a lot in common and shared a lot of great times.

Towards the end of the relationship, though, she wanted more time that I wasn't able to give her because of my commitments to PF and my work. She wanted something more in her life - something that would endure, around more, and be forward-looking to marriage - and that's not something either one of us could offer. Eventually, she did what was good for her.

I really can't blame her. But that's not going to stop me from over-analyzing it with you.

So here's what I think. The problem for secondaries is neutral buoyancy. They exist in a place where there's probably going to be little forward momentum. This is also a place where asking for too much may be perceived as a "cowboy"-maneuver (you know, a chic coming in and roping herself a new man). If you're seeing a secondary having already a primary relationship, you've already made commitments that preclude the secondary from becoming mondo-awesome - more. That commitment's a known fact, and everybody's in agreement to honor that commitment as to avoid strife and confusion.

So that's a trick: how do you maintain the spark in a vacuum?

In my experience with this, I think I have to come down to the "risk of the single secondary". Yep, this is one of my new rules now. And here it is.

Rule 58: Secondaries should always have a primary of their own.

Ta-da! Why?

Because they're committed to that, too, and they, too, can only offer neutral buoyancy. They have somebody to keep them warm at night when I'm not around; somebody to look forward with; somebody that can look after them; somebody that helps keep them focused on the future.

Woe to those who violate Rule 58 because it's a treading lightly on water thing. The single secondary may want more. They're not otherwise distracted by another relationship or a job. They're pining away somewhere while they know - in their heart - that they're lonely, yet, all of your needs are being pleasantly fulfilled with your primary. That sucks. Yep. A real sticky wicket.

So Rule 58 will figure prominently in my next ride on the merry-go-round. I'm thinking that it's a good rule of thumb for everybody.

What do you think? Do you think secondaries just get the raw end of the emotional stick? If you're a secondary, how do you deal with neutral buoyancy?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Changing the way the picture looks.

When working in the realm of photography, there are many things that play a part in how the picture looks in the end. Lighting, the resolution of the camera, what camera is used, what type of lens, the speed of the exposure, photo editing, and probably a dozen other things that I've never heard of, not being a particular buff of photography myself. The point being that, depending on any one of those factors, the end product, the visual is different.

Noticing the factors that change our ultimate picture is a very important skill to develop in life, particularly within relationships. Who hasn't had the experience of having a poor day at work, then returning home feeling snarly and irritated, and taking it out on the people that are closest in your world? Who hasn't had a partner bring past baggage into their current relationship, totally unaware of it at the time? Or, more challenging, aware but unable/unwilling to change the way they are filtering what is happening in the here and now?

I recently had an unpleasant experience where someones past relationship stuff was strongly felt enough that I became a proxy in the here and now, target of their anger and unresolved issues based on some triggering behavior. This isn't even someone within my social circle! It really brought home to me how insidious such things can be, where someone who thinks they are viewing a given situation clearly can still be running entire sections of their life through an overwhelming filter, changing the picture they are dealing with into something entirely different.

For me, this is useful in looking at my relationships with others, myself, my child, my partners, even my clients. If I catch myself using a "lens" that distorts what is happening in reality, it can help me identify an underlying area that needs some additional processing. I may choose to back away from a given conflict, to say something like, "Today, I do not have the resources to see this situation clearly. I'd like to schedule some time with you next week/tomorrow/later today to work towards a mutually agreeable resolution with you."

Where it gets really hairy is when you have two or more people that are processing issues that dovetail with each other. This can either be a recipe for amazing growth, or disaster, depending on if each party involved is aware, willing and ready to put the work in to peel a conflict down to the "real" picture.

Many people seem to choose partners that are really talented at bringing their baggage to the surface. One of the most useful things I'm learning to do is to recognize when a particular person isn't going to be a good choice to work on my stuff with, and step away from that "bang my head against a wall" opportunity. There's my recommendation of the day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Emotional Control

There! I said it. I used the "C-word". Control. Ooh! That feels very non-poly. Controlcontrolcontrolcontrolcontrol!!! Relax, I think I have a point coming on. There are a couple of common takes on emotions and how they work inside poly relationships, or relationships in general. One is that emotions are there to be felt and should be fully experienced in the moment. Another is that managing emotions (or controlling them) is more desirable.

In the past few weeks, everyone I'm in relationship with has identified me as the latter version of those possibilities. When one of my partners shared with me that they hadn't realized how "emotionally controlling" I could be, my initial response was panic! What?!?! There's been a lot of work put into not being controlling, so if I was failing to hit that mark, it was hugely concerning! He went on to explain that he didn't mean that I was emotionally controlling towards him, but with myself. Oh, okay. That's was a bit more palatable. Still a bit confusing, so I asked for more input.

What I came up with during several collaborative conversations with different partners and friends is that I have a strong attachment with the concept of circles of trust. As you're sitting there, reading some of my inner thoughts, it would seem to be pretty apparent that being fairly transparent is something I shoot for. Lots of people see me as quite open. What many would consider to be "over sharing" is very comfortable for me. On the flip side, I seldom place myself in a position to be emotionally vulnerable, based on my own standards, with people that aren't directly inside my inner circle.

As the partner that brought the idea of being emotionally controlled elaborated, he's found as he got closer in towards the innermost circle, just how much is going on under the surface, which wouldn't be apparent based on the perceived level of transparency that many people in the friends and acquaintances receive.

Why do I do that? Well, for me, it seems self-indulgent to put my most volatile emotional states on people that haven't asked for that level of intimacy. With all the challenges in the past year, I've crossed that line more than I prefer at various community events, been more vulnerable, not done as much self-editing as I would like. There is shame around that for me. Expressing my emotional state isn't the issue, having feelings isn't the issue, it's feeling as though I have less choice in how I express them which drives me nuts!

The other viewpoint I've seen within the poly community in general is the idea that if you have emotions, expressing them freely is really the way to go. This kind of goes back to the earlier post on catharsis. Deep emotions are unhealthy to "stuff", so you should just go right ahead and put it all out there! All or nothing, black and white. Absolutes are uncomfortable for me, and it's been jarring when I've partnered with people that enjoy that realm of emotional output. To me, it feels volatile and scary, unpredictable; as though the edge of a cliff is somewhere just ahead, and it won't be seen until dropping over into free fall.

Is structured emotion just as valuable as unstructured? Is something lost when a person takes the time they need to analyze, process and organize their feelings before sharing them with others? That, I lack an answer for. It seems more prevalent within the poly community to choose structured emotional sharing, likely because the higher number of partners involved creates a higher degree of risk for crossing ethical lines (over sharing about one partner with another, for example).

So I'm emotionally controlling. It's worked far better for me than emotional outbursts, and my energy will continue to go towards gaining better skills in understanding what I am feeling, seeing the underlying causes, and choosing my responses to those emotions, within and without. Some days, I may fall off the bandwagon, but that's an opportunity to learn something new and apply it moving forward. Isn't that what all of this is about anyways?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's going to be a rebuilding year...

Wow, I know it isn't year end just yet, but it's got that feel! Maybe it's because the changes inside the household have reached their settling point for now (I hope!), with the addition of our new housemate, who is pretty fabulous thus far! Maybe it's because PG and I filed the divorce a few weeks back, ending a 16+ year era in my life. Maybe it's that JA (the partner that S and I had in common) decided to move on in search of a more "primary" relationship. Maybe it's the reemergence of the school year routine. Whatever it is, it feels like a point of tipping, and I'm a bit contemplative.

In the past year, I've gone from a very "full cupboard" feeling, to being pared down to the essentials. Fortunately, the essentials are something that aren't externally located, and going through the adversity of late has confirmed that. I'm learning to parent in separate households, letting go of important relationships in my life, and appreciating anew the connections with S and D. Some things have faded away, or changed into something entirely different than I once projected, and the care and support of the poly community has been unexpected and welcome.

Currently, I'm at the least polysaturated state I've been in years, and I think that is probably a good thing. I need to lick my wounds a bit and figure out what my burden of responsibility looks like, and how I want to do things differently moving forward. There are definitely some differences in how I will approach relationships, but the core of who I am and what I want hasn't shifted much.

The nice thing about being blasted down to the foundation is that there isn't much need to tear anything down to build a clean structure on that foundation. It's pretty close to a clean slate, at least as close as I'm likely to come, and all the essential materials are there to build a pretty kick-ass edifice. Break out the blue prints, and let the rebuilding process continue!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Emotional purging and catharsis. It can look very similar to being ground zero at an explosion, and then picking up the debris afterward. My family was pretty repressed in expressing feelings of a negative nature, and so this whole concept has seemed a bit scary to me. Still, I've been willing to give things like this a try. It sounds kind of logical: You have an emotion that is overwhelming, so you just let it all out, release the pressure, and then you have a clean slate to build off of. Why not give it a shot?

So I have, on a few different occasions. Here's what I've found: This is flat out destructive. Even with the express consent of the others involved to "say anything you are feeling", a "safe container", or whatever euphemism you'd care to insert for an emotionally non-stick environment, it just doesn't turn out that way. People can't un-hear things. It damages your connection. It doesn't make anything any better, and once you get a taste for explosive decompression, it gets harder to have a measured response to intense situations.

Emotional mastery is a concept that can be misunderstood to mean distancing oneself from their emotions. For me, it's about being even more deeply aware of my emotions, working to understand the underlying reasons something is hitting a hot button, and choosing actions that are congruent with who I am, rather than allowing my emotional states to determine my behavior. I'll let you know if I ever get there! ;)

Some of the ways that I might choose to work through my darker emotions include, but are not limited to: writing, listening to morbidly awful music, and often singing along, crying, exercising, bathing, talking to a friend that isn't involved with whatever I am upset about, creating a plan to improve a situation I am feeling stuck about, going to a discussion group, tossing something out into an online forum, and the medicinal application of good-quality chocolate.

If I feel a need for catharsis, I'll go ahead and do that, but not with the people or situations that I'm upset with. It's self-indulgent, and destructive. Once I have a bit more of a handle on my own emotional state, I will have an open and honest conversation, but without the hysteria, or a sense of entitlement that having an emotion means that I should express it in any fashion that feels good at the time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pair Bonding

Here's something I've noticed in several instances, both personally and by observation, and was wondering if others have observed something similar: When a couple is very well pair-bonded, it can feel intimidating to another party entering their sphere. This may be one of the reasons that it's tough for many that are "looking for a third" to find what they are seeking. It's just exceptionally tough for someone that is becoming part of the space of an established couple to feel that they are ever going to catch up.

On the other hand, there are people out there that crave and delight in sharing the energy and space with a well-bonded couple. It feels safe and welcoming, and like they can piggy-back on what has gone before to advance farther and deeper more rapidly.

Speaking personally, I've been on both sides of each end of the equation. There have been times where I've been the third party in the room, and I've felt either isolated, or cherished. On other occasions, I've seen someone either feel the rush of sharing in a bond that they can feel from the outside in, or seem pushed away by the strength of it.

What is it about strong pair bonding that can bring out deeply held fears of adequacy, or enhance the joy of togetherness? Are we hard wired for pair bonds, or is that strictly a societal construct? For me, I've been in strongly felt pair bonded relationships since I was 18, and that seems to be a deeply held desire for me, to the point of almost being a need. I don't think I'd be happy occupying a more peripheral sphere in all of my relationships, but enjoy deep emotional and physical intimacy with others in addition to my main pair bond(s).

Many of the most independent personality types that I've run across seem to be content to observe the pair bond in others, or participate from a support position. Often, these people are happiest to have connections with others that aren't as entwined as live-in partnerships, but still enjoy a deep sense of intimacy with others. A pair bonded partner can be an excellent fit for them, since the PBP isn't typically interested in having an additional relationship that involves the same level of interconnected relationship with another partner.

The sticky point can come when a pair bonded relationship ends, and the partners desire their other connections to further develop to pick up the slack. Sometimes the space is there, and other times it is not. If it isn't, that can be rather disappointing to all concerned. In my ideal world, the existing connections would be kept viable while the partner in need of a pair bond is looking, and preferably while they are growing their new relationship. I'm a fan of "grandfathered in" relationships that are still serving a purpose for all concerned.

I consider myself very fortunate to have enjoyed contiguous pair bonded relationships throughout my entire adult life. In the past, I feared being alone. At this point, I am very content with my own company. Poly, by the very abundance that I've explored, has helped to diffuse my own insecurities about loneliness. A person can be utterly lonely in the midst of a crowd, or filled with a sense of companionship with nothing but a good book for company. Pair bond or no, poly in thought or in practice, I'm satisfied.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Conflicting Emotions

This past Friday, PG and I filed for divorce. I hadn't ever expected to be in that position, and it's been a long, drawn-out process of getting to the point of accepting that taking that step is the best for all concerned. After the past year of trying to salvage the relationship in a marital configuration though, even I am forced to admit that it is time to let that go.

One of the big challenges that has been repeatedly touched upon in all my other relationships and life functions is that the sorrow and loss that I feel regarding the ending of that chapter of my life. This can butt squarely up against the joy that I feel in those other connections and roles, and the fact that, in the base of my being, I am an optimist, and a happy person.

In most mono relationships, there isn't this same emotional overlap. When you break up with someone, you go through the stages of grief, loss, acceptance, and then move into a space of emotional intimacy with another. For me, there was never a thought of isolating myself from the people that I am close with already to go through this process. In other words, I wasn't going to dump anyone I was emotionally involved with to mourn the loss of the marriage with PG.

This has led to some interesting states of internal conflict at times, however. There have been days where I am thrilled to be spending time with D, and yet sad or angry with something happening with PG. Times where I've been more interested in venting or decompressing with JA, than in being emotionally present in our relationship.

Being my domestic partner, S has bore the brunt of these conflicting emotional states. We've had a number of conversations about my relative neediness and volatility, and how this impacts us as a couple, or as a triad with JA. I am very aware of bleed-over, and try to keep it minimized, but it has been impossible to maintain a totally firm boundary between the feelings I'm having in various relationships.

For me, it's been a tough thing to work with. I pride myself on being very stable, reasonable, predictable and dependable, and haven't been resonating much with any of those things in the past several months. While I don't think I've been a bad partner, I haven't been living up to my own expectations within relationships, and that hits me where I live. A well-known poly friend of mine has been known to say that for many poly people, their relationships are their hobbies. For me, that has certainly been the case. My relationships have taken me towards a deep level of self-examination, blogging, facilitating the discussion group, and spending most of my free time with my various loves. So, being emotionally compromised in one space and allowing it to ooze into other areas is something that I feel a sense of failure about.

Being too hard on myself? Probably, and I do try to cut myself some slack on that, as do my partners. Moving out of a 16 year relationship is a massive change, and it impacts many different spheres of my life. A goal for myself is to actually deal with the hard feelings I'm having, rather than sweeping them under the rug, and that means that some of that processing is going to find its' way into my relationships with others, since those can be triggering spaces. We all try to be conscious of where things are coming from, and redirect as needed to underlying causes. Remembering a time where there was more consistency in intimacy and feelings across different connections, I find myself impatient to get to the other side of this stage of conflicting emotions, and look towards the possibilities that lie farther along the horizon.

Sex and parenting.

There was an article in salon.com regarding teenage sexuality in the Netherlands that I found very intriguing and pertinent. (please read it now) The basic idea is that by being supportive, not just informative or turning a blind eye, to your teenager's sexuality and sexual expression, the odds of them experiencing negative consequences to sexual behavior are greatly reduced. This particular take is pretty squarely at odds with what I learned growing up, and I find myself not as far down the road of enlightenment as I had hoped. ;)

Poly has been one of the most useful instruments in my reprogramming process about sex I've used, and I'm eager to see how growing up in a more open environment will improve my daughter's experiences in life, particularly in sexual expression. Let's face it: As parents, we often use our kids as guinea pigs to replay things that weren't optimal for us, and have a re-do by proxy. Kind of sounds yucky, but why wouldn't someone want to provide a (in their eyes) better life experience for their offspring?

My family had a very clear delineation for appropriate sexual expression: Are you married? Well then! You get to have sex, and even enjoy it, because God says it's ok! Not married yet? Don't even _think_ about it! Don't do it, don't fantasize about it, don't get information about it. We'd greatly prefer you don't masturbate, date, or consider pleasure a positive.

When I "became a woman", my mother gave me a pamphlet that explained feminine hygiene products, and that I could become pregnant now. It was so obviously uncomfortable to my parents that, when I was 12 and hemorrhaged from my uterus, I was embarrassed to the point that I almost bled to death before I went to an adult for help. We still didn't talk about anything "down there".

A couple of weeks prior to my wedding, my mother took me aside and asked me if I had any questions for her about "marital duties". I shit you not. Exercising an immense amount of self-control, I didn't laugh in her face, but assured her calmly that I had already taken it upon myself to research the topic, and felt capable of handling my duties to my husband.

Once the magical ceremony took place that made all of those activities blessed and permissible, my mom took delight in ribbing me about breaking the bed, the amount of sleep we might be getting, and her own frisky nature. It was clear that my rather abundant libido is my mother's doing, genetically speaking, and for many years, it was something that I considered a burden.

Since my daughter was very young, my take has been that if she's old enough to ask a question, she's generally old enough to hear the answer. She's pretty curious by nature, so we've had a lot of conversations surrounding menstruation, sex, body parts, birth control and childbirth. She recently watched her own birth video, and found it fascinating! Generally, I think it's going pretty well.

Then I read this article, and realize that I still have a ways to go as a parent, because all of that makes sense, but it's way out of our cultural norms. I have enough of a challenge creating opportunities to have sleep overs with MY lovers! What is it going to be like when she asks me to help her have a partner over? Should I get her a vibrator? Am I going to be reminding her to take the pill? How do I have a reasonable conversation with other parents about our kid's sexual life, and being supportive of that, when it's likely that they'll get hung up on me being poly, or bi, or whatever excuse is needed to derail things away from our precious babies wanting to boff?

Well, at least I have a few more years to work out a game plan, and make sure that she knows that, while she's in the driver's seat on this topic, I'll be helping her cover the insurance, driver's ed, and the occasional tank of gas.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Tending to Our Soil

Around here, about this time, leaves turn bright orange and vivid yellow. But the last week of September is just the opening act. Soon our forests will ignite in a brilliant autumn fire. One week before Halloween, chill winds will blow the fire out and scatter a collage of frail dry leaves to streets and ditches. And vacant black and gray trees will remain, reaching skyward, shivering - their summer coats spent.

Is it true that relationships can intensely burn like autumn leaves to yield a wasted land? Yes. But we'd be fools to believe that love is an endless summer with no trials, no weakness, no death, rebirth, and renewal. It is as nature intended: lovely gardens bloom only after years of cultivating the finest soil.


Continuing a blog chain on seasons - here are other entries:

Ralph_Pines: http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ and direct link to his post
http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/ and direct link to her post
http://zahirblue.blogspot.com/ and direct link to his post
http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com/ and direct link to his post
http://www.katherinegilraine.com/ and direct link to her post
http://semmie.wordpress.com/ and direct link to her post
http://www.twylanonsequitur.blogspot.com/ and direct link to her post
http://www.hillaryjacques.blogspot.com/ and direct link to her post
http://clairegillian.wordpress.com/ and direct link to her post
http://www.craftingfiction.com/ and direct link to her post
http://www.sonyaclark.net/ and direct link to her post
http://freshhell.wordpress.com/ and direct link to her post
http://superpenpower.blogspot.com and direct link to her post
http://www.paseasholtz.com/ and direct link to his post
http://www.ulbrichalmazan.blogspot.com/ and direct link to her post
T.N. Tobias:
http://tnt-tek.com/ and direct link to his post
http://desstories.blogspot.com/ and direct link to her post

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time Waits for No Man ...

I was submerged in a summer of distractions that kept me focused exclusively on work, and any woman who's loved a workaholic man will probably admit their principal competition is a tireless harlot that robs him of all his time. It's the damn job. That bitch.

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm found too often the arms of that temptress. Yeah, I'm really crazy for her. Seriously though, she pales in comparison to the two real women who want the balance of my time and therein lies the problem.


There's only so much to go around. It's a commodity that demands management so every month we'll get together on the phone or in-person and spend about an hour looking for holes in our schedules. Between the three of us, we'll color-in a few lunches, day-time rendezvous, date nights, or weekend getaways. It's time well-spent. It gets us all in a room to negotiate a way for each of us to get what we want. It's a fairly practical exercise and its a great tip. Take the time to negotiate what you want together - no surprises.

Meanwhile, I can't be everywhere at one time; my secondary will sometimes be on her own while Polyfulcrum (PF) and I are together living our lives. That's hard on everyone. One of the greatest assets that I've got is a communication style with PF where we can both talk about what our lovers need, and we'll try to bend time around so we can each meet those needs. I'm really lucky that way. I'd say learn to be flexible and accommodating.

Birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions ... for any guy, need I say more? Now, take that problem and multiply it by two. Yikes! So this is one of my big weaknesses. I'm still trying to come up with ways to help with these things. I was thinking of establishing a relationship with a brilliant local florist to help out. Right, there's my next job: polyamorous gifting and event planning. Don't laugh, dude - there's a market there.

I've also learned about the importance of being present. I find myself making frequent calls, texting, and chatting a routine as to keep my sweetie engaged. I miss her and she shouldn't think that she's barely noticed. Everyday time together needs to be created, even if its just a few minutes on the phone or over Skype. Every little bit helps.

Life's a balancing act when it comes to time. Sometimes you just have to get creative. If PF sees me scheduling time with my sweetie away, I've found that it's not in her nature to just idle the time waiting for me to come home. Instead, she books time with D or engages some of her other interests. She makes the best use of the time she has. And I'll do the same when I find her away at a munch or it's BDSM night at the local adult club. You learn to make the best use of the time you've got.

And a closing tip to all of the guys out there: consciously make dating arrangements with your primary. I've screwed up on this one several times by fixating on booking date time with my "new/shiny" that I totally forgot to make time for her. Doh! Classic dumb move. So I've learned to book PF on date nights just as I'm also booking my secondary. Now, I don't think anybody should come to expect total equity out of poly relationships, but some semblance of making equal time for your principal relationship is an important fulcrum skill to learn.

Time. It waits for no man, and especially if there's two women involved. In the long run, you have to consciously find ways to make it work, and find ways to set work aside to pay attention to what really matters.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

ROI- Return on Investment

ROI is a term that is frequently bandied about in business settings. Let's say you send out a mass mailer, spend $300 and 4 hours of your time on it, and get two new clients. Well, if they are fantastic clients that turn into a long-term connection, that may be worth your time. You got good ROI. On the other hand, let's say you get those same two new clients, but they are just there for the mondo cheap promo that you put into the mailer, and then you never see them again. Poor ROI. It cost you way more to do the marketing than the benefit you received.

Often in poly, I see people flailing around, trying to figure out what is going to get them the best ROI for their time spent "marketing" themselves to potential partners. If one spends 16 hours creating a perfect profile on OKC, answering questions, and sending out emails to people that seem like they may be a good fit, and one date is the result, is this a good ROI? What if they go to local events, snuggles, discussion groups, actually meet people and find a new connection, but it isn't at the level that they are looking for? Was that worth the time?

Finding quality partners isn't something that comes too hard for me. While I have the gender advantage going for me, I don't think that's really all it is. What I think is really working for me is that the things that I do to connect with others, online or in person, are more about building community and creating a positive space to explore myself inside of, rather than having an expectation that doing z is going to lead to a particular type of relationship, or x number of dates. My ROI is based on personal satisfaction and growth, not on relationship or dating connections.

For those of you out there that are just at your wit's end to make something happen, I'd encourage a reevaluation of approach. By all means, know what you want in life, and go for it! Just make sure that those wants are achievable without the specific cooperation of others. When you are in a space where you are really happy to have a conversation with someone, and aren't angling for a deep exploration of their bits, it comes through, and the bits just follow at that point. ;)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Passing the Emotional Buck

There were several things that happened this week that left me feeling in an extremely poor mood, just in time to have a date with S and JA. Having lived a pretty charmed life, unpleasant emotions aren't my forte, and I try to stay pretty cognizant of that. So, I was very up front with the fact that I wasn't in a good mood, that I didn't feel terribly social or talkative, or like being touched, and that it wasn't anything that anyone that I was currently sharing space with had done/not done, or said that had brought me to that point. I shared my frustration, and that my objective was to first make sure that I didn't take it out on anyone else, and secondly, to walk my way through my own emotional state to the point where I could be more fully present and able to participate positively in my current environment.

It seems like a no-brainer to not get snippy with people that don't have anything to do with what we are upset about, but it's something that I see others do often, and struggle with myself. I've also been on the receiving end of such treatment, and have a significant dislike of that as well! An example from my week was that my daughter asked me to watch her skating practice, and at one point, she started showing off more, focusing on my response, lost concentration, and crashed into a wall. While she wasn't hurt much, she was embarrassed, and proceeded to chew me out for "Looking at her funny.". While that sounds kind of amusing in retrospect, at the time, it was a culmination of feeling like the target for her frustration over the changes in our family, and was very painful.

Within poly, there are sometimes clear delineations when someone does something hurtful, or something to push us up against an area in need of attention or growth. Person A did/said/neglected to do xyz, and that led to feeling jealous/neglected/disregarded/under appreciated, so that is something that I need to address with Person A. Other times, the feeling that Person A engenders can be globalized to other partners or connections, and that can lead to some really unjustified nastiness, where the assumption is that Person B will act the same way as Person A. Welcome to the evolution of Baggage!

Fortunately for me, this week when I was struggling through my own crap, my partners were open to hearing what was going on and how I was feeling about it, gave me space to pull my head out of my ass, and then invited me to participate in connecting with them. There was some clinging to my ill-temper, but I was finally able to pull away from that and enjoy who, what and where I was, without contaminating it with outside concerns overly much.

I really appreciated the forbearance I received early on in this process, as I was almost certainly sulking like a 4 year old in need of a smacked bottom during the beginning of our date! Being able to stay vulnerable with who I was with, rather than becoming closed down and defensive across the board made a big difference. When someone is in a poor mood and refuses to share about that with those they are close to, that builds distance into the equation. Distance never seems to help people feel intimate and connected, strangely enough, so I don't recommend it as a coping mechanism when around people you'd like to feel intimate and connected with, even if you're not really "in the mood".

Keeping things energetically "clean" between the past and present, and between one relationship and another is something that most of us would benefit from keeping in our field of conscious focus. Own your own shit, and don't make anyone carry the baggage someone else is bringing to the party.