Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boil it down!

There's a trend I've notice within the poly community, also commonly seen within the mono world. The majority of drama seems to originate from people getting overly vested in relationships early on, feeling very hurt and upset when partner selection hasn't been optimal, then seeking outside validation for their feelings, and more key, their actions in response.

Put me first in line to admit that when things don't go my way, I get upset. When it involves another person I care about, my Momma Bear comes out, and I usually feel vested in protecting them, even from the fallout of their own choices. How useful is that? Not so much!

What I'm finding helpful at this point, is to look at things in the most essential components. Let's say I got into a dating connection witBoldh someone, then find out a few dates in that there is an essential piece of compatibility missing that is going to put this into the non-starter camp. Now, I could spend a bunch of time and energy being upset that this isn't going to go, because that is disappointing, almost in the same way that being rejected would be. However, when it comes down to the bottom line: I dated someone. In that exploratory process, it began to look like a no-go, so we have a conversation about that, thank each other for the time spent, and move forward with a minimum of hurt feelings.

Where I see this process go sour in most poly situations is that outside influences (read: other partners) are often seen as a contributing factor in the no-go. For me, this isn't any different really than any other base incompatibility. "Hey, I really like what you have to offer, but don't think I fit well within your existing structure.". Yes, I blaspheme! Why should existing partners have any impact on future partner choices? Because they do, or you like to live in a compartmentalized world where there is no contact between the moving parts in your life.

On to the next big challenge: People seem to expect that, just because they are interested in forming a relationship with someone, that it's reciprocated. This one has put me in hair-pulling mode more than once, on both sides of the equation. It completely sucks when someone is either just not that into you, or panting to do whatever it takes, if only they can be with you! It is uncomfortable and/or painful for everyone involved. What did the more-vested person do wrong? Nothing. Their feelings just clicked in too hard, too fast. What did the less-vested person do wrong? Nothing. They just didn't get on board the train. Yet, time and time again, it is seen as a blame issue that must be apportioned fault.

Try this on for size: "I'm sorry, but my feelings for you just aren't at that level.". Keep it simple, and remain compassionate. Stay aware that you aren't obligated to fall in love with someone, regardless of how much you respect them, enjoy their company, like having sex with them, or how passionately in love with you they have become.

When the swirling winds of emotion threaten to overwhelm the good sense I try to retain, I just boil the situation down to the simplest factors. Often, this creates a different level of clarity, perspective and understanding of the other views represented. It's well-worth the time and energy spent to detach from a desired outcome. Sometimes, a situation you viewed as extremely personal becomes much less scary or hurtful when you take the time to distill it to essential components. Remember, sometimes a sausage is just a sausage!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weddings, Marriage, and Poly.

The cat is out of the bag: S and I have decided to tie the knot this summer! It's been a very interesting process getting to this point, and then also noticing the responses that others have to the news. It isn't that the opinions of others impact our decision, but it's still intriguing...

D was overtly pleased, and seems to feel this is a good choice for me. My prospective in-laws are pleased that they have something convenient to call me, after years of trying to figure out a title. My ex-mother-in-law (or as I now consider her, my mother-in-love), was supportive and concerned about potential impact on her grandchild. PG was pleasant and kind. Business associates were a bit surprised, but overall positive. My parents were less than excited, largely because they filter things through the lens of their own values and life experiences, and it seems precipitous to them to marry again within a year of the formalization of the divorce. My main concern was how this might impact the kiddo, who's been struggling with the transition of having two households.

I had some apprehension opening up that conversation, but it went quite smoothly! My daughter wanted to talk about what will happen with my name, and have input on that decision. She was also concerned about securing a pretty dress, a fancy cake, and some punch that isn't carbonated for the party after the legal stuff is completed. She wanted to make sure that no parents were going away, that S is looking to be my spouse, and not her dad. In some way, it seemed to be reassuring, since our household would look more "normal", and she'd have an easy way to describe people in her home that's readily recognizable to her peers.

We announced the upcoming nuptials at one of the local poly discussion groups last night, and had a nice warm response. It seemed a bit puzzling to some folks though, as formal marriage seems to have a semi-bad rap among the poly crowd in general. Why would we want to do this? Why not just keep things informal?

There are many answers for that question for me. High on the list are the significant legal and financial protections, rights, privileges and responsibilities marriage brings that, although they can largely be arranged through other legal channels, are much more expedient and inexpensive to line up through marriage. It shows our intention on the importance and priority of the loving connection we share. When it comes down to it, I like being married, having a spouse, and being a wife, and S is a wonderful partner to share those things with. The social and cultural reinforcement doesn't hurt either. For me, it would be better to expand out who can have these benefits, rather than opt out entirely because the institution doesn't look precisely as I would like it to.

Becoming married this time doesn't feel exclusive. I think that, having been poly the entire duration of our relationship, it's easier to continue that way, without needing to unlearn proprietary behaviours. We are still looking to take a hiatus on adding in new factors at this point, but are still staying socially engaged. I look forward to our next adventures and growth together. Thank you, S, for saying "yes"!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


There have been several points in my journey as a poly person where it has seemed like a good idea to take a break, pause, catch my breath, stay focused on what is, and not reach for what may be. Often, I've ignored that idea in pursuit of the ideal of being able to handle everything all at once. Is it that I dislike saying no to others (and myself!), or admitting that maybe I don't have the capacity to handle "just one more" relationship? Perhaps that I'm not poly enough to be infinitely loving in the face of practical concerns? All of the above seems likely.

This time, I'm hitting the pause button. It's going to stay active for a while. There is already so much happiness and richness in my life, with my daughter, S and D, my business, the dogs, holding the group discussion, and nurturing the friendships that are part of my community connections. There is no need to hold the door open for more. I'm still sad over the loss of the relationship with PG, even with over a year of processing, and the divorce has negatively impacted our daughter, even with all the care we've taken to maintain a positive environment. In order to help her heal, I need to take a step back from the immersion in my personal growth, and sink into parenting for a while.

If you have stories to share about how your kids have dealt with breakups inside of poly relationships, mostly between their parents, but also with other beloved adult figures, it would be a great time to share that wisdom with me. We could really use it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

STI's, Logic and Emotion.

There's a huge on-going debate in many discussion fora regarding the topics of STI's, barrier usage, safer-sex practices, and how to approach this within poly relationships. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an expert in STI's, transmission rates for various microbes, likely vectors, and how effective/ineffective barrier usage is in preventing the "sharing" of more than orgasms. I haven't spent hours and hours researching the topic, nor do I whip out statistics to justify or defend my own position on my choices, or the requests I make to my partners regarding safer sex practices.

For me, the idea of making sexual choices about "acceptable risk" as weighted against potential pleasure doesn't get all the way to my decision-making center. It isn't as simple as saying, "Well, my odds of getting an STI from sharing a few orgasms with this person are lower than my odds of getting mowed down by a drunk driver while getting my mail. That seems reasonable, so let's run with it!"

There is certainly a component that is about acceptable physical risk, but, being poly, that doesn't hit me where I live. If I, or my partner, is going to have sex with someone who has an STI, having an emotional context to frame that in feels important to me. Example: Let's say that I'm interested in being physical with someone that has HSV-2. For me, it makes more sense to keep the physical interactions confined to the realm of pleasurable activities that don't involve significant risk of exchange of bodily fluids unless there is potential for an on-going relationship. At that point, the admittedly low-level of risk for transmission can be assessed. All the related parties get to (are requested to) have a conversation about what that might look like, and see if there is sufficient consensus to move forward.

Yep, I don't make the call just for me and let everyone else deal. There are people that are already part of my life, and I prioritize those relationships (dare I say privilege?) more highly than potential connections or pleasure. That doesn't work for everyone, and there is certainly a very honest and morally conscious segment of the poly community that this wouldn't work for. Many prefer to approach sexual behavior from the perspective of each person being responsible for their own sexual health and risk setting. For me, that's a bit antithetical to having a family approach to poly. I remain very sex and pleasure positive. I just choose to empower my existing partners to have input in my sexual decisions, because my decisions impact them.

Each of my partners gets a head's up and opportunity to weigh in on their preferences in advance of any interaction that would have potential to bring slippery bits into proximity. Let's say I'm going to a party where there is some possibility for raucous libidinous excesses; if they have input on how that needs to look for their sense of safety to be maintained, we hash that out before anything happens. If we haven't talked about it, and an opportunity arises, I keep my pants on and my mouth closed. Do I miss out on some possibilities? Sure, but if someone doesn't want to wait long enough for me to go through proper channels and get consensus from my existing partners before boffing, they really aren't my cup of tea anyways.

It isn't all about me. That's a huge part of being poly they way I choose to do it. My partners get to have more input in my decisions than whether they want to use barriers to protect themselves from the potential risks my choices bring to the table. Yes, that means that I choose to curtail my personal freedom at times. That's not being controlled by others. It's choosing to be self-controlled.