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 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: and direct link to his post
Aheïla: and direct link to her post
DavidZahir: and direct link to his post
orion_mk3: and direct link to his post
LadyMage: and direct link to her post
semmie: and direct link to her post
llalah: and direct link to her post
hillaryjacques: and direct link to her post
AuburnAssassin: and direct link to her post
laffarsmith: and direct link to her post
sbclark: and direct link to her post
FreshHell: and direct link to her post
IrishAnnie: and direct link to her post
PASeasholtz: and direct link to his post
SF4-EVER: and direct link to her post
T.N. Tobias: and direct link to his post
Proach: 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.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Prioritize?

Prioritization is one of the most complex, tricky, sticky, fraught with danger, with potential to hurt feelings, sorts of things that people (me) seem to struggle with in poly. There are so many roles and people desiring or needing time and attention that it seldom feels as though everything is in optimal balance. By optimal balance, I mean that all sectors of my life are receiving what is necessary to be functioning well, including me!

One of the first thing to go is self-care. In my professional life, I see this fairly often, usually once someone has utterly exhausted all their resources. From the perspective of a completely drained person, it suddenly becomes obvious that caring for and giving to others is impossible if you have nothing left in your own tank. Therefore, the first thing that one must prioritize in any of their relationships or roles is attention to self. Sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and stress management are great places to start!

Once you have self attended to, what comes next? Is it work? Family? Relationships? Self-development above and beyond the basics of self-care? I don't know that I have hard and fast rules on this, but often work comes next, as the basics of food and shelter are quite fundamental. There are times where, based on a high level of need, I will defer a work opportunity for my child, or for a partner in crisis.

As I read through that last paragraph, I realize that I will also defer the occasional work opportunity for pleasure as well! The pleasure of time spent with a partner, in or out of bed, feeding that relationship is not to be overlooked as a necessity of life. Ultimately, what gives us the deepest rewards: avoidance of pain, or the pursuit of pleasure? Let's keep the kink angle out of this, because that can give some real overlap! ;)

Challenges can crop up when you simply don't have the available time, proximity, or perhaps even desire to spend energy when someone else desires it from you. This seems particularly tough with non-domestic partners. When living with someone, you can usually cram a quick "touch-bases" into the day, or have the comfort and satisfaction of sleeping next to them. When it takes committing to commute time and a different location to connect with a partner, that can get less easy and require some concerted effort, especially mixing kids and other partners into the equation.

JA, who S and I are both seeing, is going out of town for some time, and we've been trying to figure out ways to have couple time for each pairing, as well as triad time, before she leaves town. Due to illness, a couple date got bumped off the schedule, and now there are machinations in process to clear the house of the kiddo and other partner to allow a solo date for the one couple, then follow that with a triad date. And that's just the beginning!

So why are we all going through so much effort? Because there are things that we have each asked for, and decided to make a priority to benefit each other, and our group dynamic. Perhaps because some one's feelings might be hurt? Maybe they would feel excluded if spending time together didn't seem as important to the others in the relationship? Being able to help my partners find time and space to nourish their other relationships helps me feel useful. It's not totally altruistic, as I hope that they will find value in doing to same for me, but it's a move in a direction I hope to become totally congruent in over time: Your happiness is important to me, and I will make it a priority to help you in any way I can to reach your goals. What more can any of us ask for from our loves?