Sunday, February 28, 2010


It's been a very busy couple of months, with the culmination of several proto-connections and friendships moving more into relationship territory. At latest count, I am currently dating 6 people, and I'm not quite sure exactly how that happened, except that it all seemed a very good idea at the time! ;) This is approximately double my most ambitious dating pool to date, so uncharted territory.

While things are going pretty smoothly, I find that there is a particular thing that, while I was aware of it previously, is becoming even more obvious: I have specific desires to spend time with people, unique to the individuals, regardless of whatever additional social richness I may be experiencing.

This past week, PG wasn't feeling particularly well, and was a bit less accessible than usual. This coincided with S being VERY busy with work, to the exclusion of most everything and everyone. While I had some really wonderful opportunities to connect with others of emotional import in my life, I still found myself missing PG and S, despite seeing them blow through the shared space on a semi-regular basis.

It's like when you have a particular desire for a specific food item. You can eat other things, and they can taste good (and I am talking REALLY GOOD here!), but it still doesn't seem to dissipate the craving for the original item of desire. I really like what I have going at home, and as fun and exciting as the NRE and explorations with others are, I still deeply desire those mainstay connections in my life.

Once you've gone into the place of looking at people as roles that they can fill in your life, it's easy to start to extend those expectations we've been talking about onto them, to try to fit them into the box that would be most convenient. For example, the connection with Z and T, which started as me presenting myself to them as an interested unicorn, has shifted to accommodate the individuals and personalities involved, and is a more fluid thing that involves Z's child and ours connecting on a friendship level. D recently moved out of the "friend box" and into a more open zone that isn't nearly as solidly defined, and is more emotionally open. JA, who is dating S and I both, was someone that I considered a "near miss" on relationship territory, until her interest in S brought her back into closer orbit again, close enough to grow a more solid connection between all concerned .

Sometimes, we talk about the idea of poly being useful in exploring dynamics that don't fit into existing relationships, being able to meet needs that aren't being addressed in a current connection. At some point, that can begin to look as though you are treating people as cogs in your "Relationship Needs" listing. "I have a spot open for one more bisexual female lover!" instead of, "Wow, I really connect well with this person, and am interested in finding them a unique space in my life.".

So, I crave my individual partners, even when there's so much going on that it makes my head spin, and I want to keep that recognition of what each person is bringing to the table, and how I enjoy spending time and emotion with them. I want to continue to be cognizant of the deep and profound ways that PG and S, in particular, are important to me, because the role of the domestic partner isn't always the flashiest, coolest, or most fun, but that doesn't diminish the impact in the least.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Does new = less than?

There's a conversation thread that sparked my interest recently regarding the idea of "secondary" partners not being able to come into existing relationships as equals. This was seen as a negative, or something to be overcome by the metamour not directly dating the new person.

While not an adherent to hierarchical poly myself at this point, it can be useful to recognize that there _will_ be differences in relationships based on many factors, one of which can be longevity and shared experiences. Someone that plugs into an existing relationship of any length, and expects to be on equal footing immediately, is likely to be disappointed. This certainly doesn't preclude the possibility of growing into that space, but some patience in growing those relationship bonds is likely to be hugely appreciated by preexisting partners.

Each relationship requires some time to find its own footing and depth, which is often confused with the intensity that marks NRE. Take the time to give all concerned an opportunity to form a firm foundation of mutual appreciation and shared experience, and the sense of equity can naturally grow within a structure that has that as a goal.

If you, a person looking to gain a new partner, are entering a situation where the pre-exisiting couple isn't interested in getting to a place of equity, let's hope that it isn't a goal for you either! If it is, bring it up early and often with all concerned. If that doesn't appear mutual across the board, the time to get out is now. Banging your head up against a metamour that is zealously guarding "their" partner is a great way to learn to hate poly!

There are many who enjoy less intensive relationships involving fewer overt responsibilities. I'm involved in several of those, where the relationship goals don't currently include things like cohabitation, raising kids together, or being day in-day out partners. There's nothing that says that may not come up in the future, but for now, this is what we are all interested in and agreed upon. This doesn't make them less than, but they are different from the relationships that I share with my live-in partners. That's my reality as it currently stands.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


What is intimacy? For me, intimacy is feeling free to share who I am; my feelings, thoughts, dreams, responses, needs, and desires with another who is respectful of that vulnerability. Another who values that trust as a precious resource.

I'm a pretty open person in general, as you may have already guessed reading through these posts, so there aren't a lot of things that fall under the category of "too intimate" for me to share with someone, which just makes the things that do fit under that umbrella even more significant. Part of intimacy is sharing the pieces of self that aren't totally shiny, perhaps the things that have been damaged in the past, or areas that I desire growth in myself. It's being able to say, "Look, I know I don't have this down just yet, and I want to work that through. I'll need your support and love to hold me up when it would feel safer to just revert to what I know." and know that the weak spot will be treated with respect, and that my partner will nudge me gently if I am falling down on something. It is not enabling, but it is reinforcing.

Intimacy means that I don't have to be perfect all the time, that I can let down my guard and drop the facades that are part of daily life, the things that protect me from the outside world. It means that I can delve into my inside world, and have company on that journey. It means that I am safe being hurt, or being pleasured; being submissive, egalitarian, or dominant.

Intimacy is reciprocal. It only works well if all parties concerned are putting into the pot, if everyone desires to be close, to be real and unvarnished with each other. Just listening, while not giving of self, can feel intimate, but it lacks the give and take of a shared experience to back it up.

Recently, Z was sharing that she used to have prospective partners read her live journal before delving into relationship with them, but started to notice that it was leading to preconceived notions, based on feelings or experiences that were well into the past for her, rather than building the intimacy that she desired. The new person would feel like they already knew her, without doing the "giving of self" that is part of reciprocal intimacy.

For me, intimacy is best grown in an inclusive environment of conscious choice and desire to share. It is shared experiences, shared thoughts, shared pain, and shared joys. It is a beautiful thing to have with others, and I am blessed with several "intimates" in my life. Let's hear it for poly!

Friday, February 12, 2010


Last night, many of the members of our local poly community decided to invade a kink night at a swing club. This was pretty boundary pushing for several of the attendees, as they'd either never been to a club that identifies first and foremost as a place for people to have sex out, or had never been to a public event that was geared primarily towards bdsm play and energy. I've done both, and find that mixing those types of activity work well for me, but had plans to play with others that were in one or both of the above camps.

My interest in kink has been something that has kind of tweaked PG when I started exploring that several years ago. Initial explorations were often within the context of the bi/lesbian community, as that coincided with the point in time that I was most interested in delving into connections with other women. That didn't seem to hit as many buttons for him, I'm guessing largely because I did most of the topping at that point, so didn't have a lot of marks, or power dynamics that bled into his sphere of interaction with me. Out of sight, out of mind.

S and I have been going around since the very beginning of our relationship with bdsm conversations. His initial impression when we started dating was that my experiences far exceeded his own, and that would translate out into not be satisfied with "normal" sex, or that I would constantly be pushing for something new, bigger, more flashy, to do in bed. After noticing that I do just fine with vanilla stuff, that concern seemed to subside. Right up until I started dating in the past several months, and without exception, all of the others I'm dating share an interest in kink. As a matter of fact, I'd say that they're all probably more versed and experienced within that sphere, and that it is a positive factor in my decision to date them.

While I wouldn't consider either PG or S to be pure vanilla, neither are they avidly interested in bdsm. This is one of the things I find helpful about having poly relationships: They don't need to be, because I can enjoy that with others. S would like to understand more about what that looks like for me, and how I interact with others, and I find myself a bit reluctant to expose myself that way. I think this goes back to the fear of being seen differently by my partner, as perverse (in a bad way), or otherwise damaging the emotional components of our relationship by showing my dark side.

I'm clear that I do have a darker side. Causing pain doesn't bother me in the least, and I enjoy the challenge of seeing how far I can push someone consensually towards the limits of what they can handle. Being in charge feels very natural, and can be at odds with my egalitarian ideals within my poly relationships. At the same time, I'm switchy. Receiving sensation, putting myself in the hands of another trusted partner, has a great deal of appeal. As does someone "making" me do things that I would cringe at as being too slutty to embrace on my own power.

So I go to this event last night, and I have solid plans to play with D in a specifically negotiated way. This was going to be a first experience playing together. S was going to be joining us later in the evening, and had originally requested that my scene with D be completed by the time he was due to arrive. Late in the afternoon, he changed his mind, and opted to come along for the whole event, and to try to understand more about what I found appealing. The three of us arrive together, and I split off to begin the scene with D, not having assimilated that S really wanted to watch the scene. So he felt excluded and disconnected about something that was already a bit scary/new.

I emerged from my time with D, which went very well, and noticed that S wasn't looking so happy. We talked a bit, explored what happened, and decided to attempt to move forward with the evening. Apparently, that involved some penance and punishment for my "transgression", and I was most heinously made to regret my lack of understanding, with an audience. Yeah, he isn't kinky at all. :P

The rest of the evening passed in a haze of sensation, connection and community. There is something very comforting to me to be held down and seen by others while enjoying the attentions of my partner(s). We got a big cuddle pile going in a group area, and I was floating from all the places I'd been energetically and physically in a short few hours. I topped, dominated, bottomed and submitted, exhibited, was shown off, and took the energy of the place and people around me and tossed it back with explosive response. At the end of the night, I felt connected to most of the people that I wanted to be connected with that evening, and expressed firm intentions to make up the lack with those I missed out on. It was a great night, even with the misses in communication early on, and I am looking forward to exploring more, and getting past feeling discomfort around this topic. I'm a lioness. If you're brave, you can put yourself at my mercy, attempt to guide that wild energy, or both!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Risk Scale

I've been stewing on this topic for a long time. In my mind, the most core concept to the practice of poly is risk. We encounter risk every day just going to our jobs and conducting our daily activities. Those who live in war-torn countries are even more familiar with that sense of risk on a daily basis.

We as poly folk tend to encounter it more often than those in the mono world. We risk emotionally and we risk physically. Each person will have a different sense of what acceptable risk means to them and that notion is subject to change over time -- in either direction. But indeed, there is a continuum of risk and if you are in poly for any length of time, I can almost guarantee you that you WILL encounter people who have a different concept of risk -- emotionally and/or physically -- and that WILL cause some degree of friction. Hopefully it will be resolved quietly and without much drama, but the more profound the difference, the higher the chance you will see sparks as your concepts meet.

Most people come into poly through relationships that don't have the opportunity to match risk-assessment as a partner criteria. Our community is a smaller slice of a larger pool of potential people to date and chances are that the people we meet will have different ideas of risk. We're often thrust into situations that force us into positions that make us face this issue head on. If you don't encounter it directly with partners, you're bound to encounter it across metamor relations.

But hey, I'm a RPG gamer and that tends to encourage me to take abstract concepts and boil them down into more discrete bits that can be managed and talked about. Let's see if we can add some language to talk about the issue. The following are the general risk stances I can see people taking:

1) RISK PARANOID: This end of the scale sees people who want a sense of direct control over every aspect of their life. Generally these people would not even consider being Polyamorous. If you find them -- Run far. Run fast.

2) RISK ADVERSE: These are the generally the most conservative people in the poly community. You'd find them engaging in Polyfidelitous relationships with lots of rules/gates/structures to support risk management.

3) RISK CAUTIOUS: These people exercise restraint and while they may or may not have a lot of rules about interaction, they do have some benchmarks for behavior and they usually are vigilant about checking in with partners and metamors.

4) RESPECTFUL HEDONIST: These people at least mildly individualistic free agents, but they are honorable and will do their best to adhere to pre-arranged agreements. However, they will generally be cautious about agreeing to too many conditions that constrain their activity.

5) GENERAL HEDONIST: These people are pretty strongly individualistic and unlikely to consider any agreements that take into account relationships beyond their direct partners. Metamors are largely left to fend for themselves.

6) RAMPANT HEDONIST: These people are concerned only for their direct pleasure. Anything that interferes with that is a bad thing. Even the safety of their direct partners don't factor into their world view. Yes, with these types -- Run Far. Run Fast.

I'll wager that most people you will encounter in the poly world will be 3's and 4's. But even though that doesn't seem very far apart, you will probably encounter friction. People will have different ideas about how to relate to your sense of emotional safety and they will also have different ideas about how to deal with your personal safety. Emotional safety generally takes place with managing jealousy and expectations. Physical safety is largely the domain of STD management.

I've already talked too long about risk in general. But I strongly encourage you all to talk to your partners and metamors about both emotional and physical risk. Consider what it means when your partner encounters someone who really excites them and they get lost in NRE. Consider what happens when you or your partner encounters a person with a STD and becomes emotionally vested in them (or a previously STD-free partner becomes infected). These things are real. They're where the rubber meets the road -- where theory meets practice.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Expectation management

When people get into a relationship, there are often expectations that come into play. It could be fairly reasonable things, like communicating well, or being honest, considering physical safety, or doing what you say you'll do. Or, it could be things that are much more subjective, like a particular style of relationship, sharing the same priorities, or feeling the same way about the connection. When things get rough is when those expectations are "violated" by the person to whom they are being attached, who is often either oblivious at the differences in perspective, or hasn't made any agreement to live according to those expectations.

So, how does one deal with that? One of the ideas I've seen espoused is to dispense with expectations entirely. Frankly, while this sounds good in theory, it seems a bit less connected to reality to be workable. Expectations have some value, as long as they are MUTUAL. They can provide a more predictable landscape within a relationship, which ties in with a sense of safety. Mutual expectations can give direction to a relationship, as people are able to work towards goals and shared perspectives. The key is that word "mutual". Projecting your expectations on others may work out for a while, as coincidence and NRE play together to buffer differences, but there will come a point where, unless you actually agree on what expectations are part of your relationship, things will hit a speed bump of potentially monumental proportions.

For example: If someone is more community poly and they are dating someone who is more free-agent poly, there are likely to be some significant differences in desired relationship parameters. One partner who wants to be part of an extended family isn't likely to be happy at being kept in the background by someone who would rather maintain a "separate, but equal" expectation for their dating life. Unless this is brought out into the open, examined, and a mutually acceptable solution is negotiated, things are about to get bumpy! Personally, I would rather have expectations to live up to, rather than down to, but I'd like to know what I'm shooting for as well!

Another option for expectation management is to apply expectations only to oneself. This may look like knowing: who you want to be, what you want to give to others, and holding good solid boundaries on your emotions. It can be very challenging when there are differences in emotional intensity, for example, but as long as all concerned are sharing where they are at, the opportunities to put expectations onto someone else are minimal. This has been one that I've fallen down on in the past, and keep on my radar screen regularly as a skill that isn't automatic for me.

However you choose to handle expectation management, do handle it! This isn't one of those things that is just going to go away if you fail to recognize it, and it is something that can have deep and lasting impact on your relationships.