Thursday, April 28, 2011

What does "reasonable" look like?

What is "reasonable" when it comes to making requests in our relationships? Ask ten people, and you'll probably get about that many answers. The common refrain I've heard lately is that, while you can ask for anything you want, having expectations of compliance/agreement isn't good poly. Not sure if I agree.

Everyone retains the right to say no at any time, for any reason, to change the agreements, and that's just a free choice issue. Technically, that's true. However, on a practically applied level, having clear agreements that are followed-up on without being changed haphazardly is useful to me in my life. The idea that my partners could just yank the rug up from underneath me without discussion, or be surprised if I was upset if they didn't follow through with an agreement, is distinctly unreasonable to me.

Let's cut back to the idea of reasonable requests: For me, these are things like, "Safer sex agreements aren't changed prior to being discussed.", or, "We don't have loud sex when a child is present in the house.", or, "If I say I'm going to do something that impacts you in a specific time frame, I will either get that done in that zone, or update you if that doesn't work out as expected before that time frame has expired.", or, a personal favorite, "I will let you know as soon as practically possible if I make an agreement or plans within another relationship that may impact the relationship we share. Preferably, I'll strive to include you in that negotiation.".

For a lot of more independently-minded poly folks, that list may sound a bit unpalatable, and that's okay! They aren't my target dating-pool. I seek partners that find responsibility to others to be an aspect of intimacy and freedom that they gravitate towards. For me, being emotionally involved with someone who lacks an interest in having agreements with me is unpalatable. It doesn't lead me in the direction of feeling emotionally intimate, and comes across as a lack of interest in me as a person, much less as a relationship partner.

Perhaps this is a reflection of the relationship goals I have of "long-term" and "stable"? Typically, I don't get into deeply emotive relationships and just "see where it goes". Intimate emotional connection and vulnerability is reserved for those in my life who are positive contributors choosing to be integrally connected for the foreseeable future.

Does the concept of "reasonable" all boil down to mutual choice? This seems likely. Reasonable agreements are ones that are mutually beneficial on some level, and consented to in concert. Changing those unilaterally without arriving together at a new position isn't likely to build goodwill and trust in your relationships, so take the time and expend the energy on creating accord with your partners. Be reasonable!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Not Enough

In the past couple of weeks, my non-domestic partner, D, and I have been unsuccessful in connecting several times for various reasons. I've been missing him quite a bit! This has brought up the idea that some people seem to hang onto when observing poly relationships: If my partner was "enough" for me, there wouldn't be any desire or need for other connections. Really, I'm probably just monogamous, but haven't found the right partner yet, and obviously, I must not really be into S if I still have D in my life, or vice versa, right?

Pshaw! Each person I have found value sufficient value in as an individual to form a significant relationship with is enough, in and of themselves, to be worth including in my life. That I'm missing D doesn't mean that S isn't meeting my needs in our relationship, nor does it make me a greedy woman who is never satisfied. It simply means that I see each of these connections as valuable in their own right, and feel that absence when I haven't been able to touch-in the way I'd like for a while.

One of the ways this seems to impact other poly folks is the sense of inadequacy that can flare up, particularly when one's partner is starting a new relationship. "If I were younger/prettier/thinner/more buff/better endowed/smarter/funnier etc, then Partner X would be happy with just me/us." With the rush of NRE, sometimes things fall through the cracks, and people forget to overtly value their existing partner(s) when they would benefit most from the reinforcement.

What's worked best for me has been when partners reiterate the things they enjoy about our connection, or me as a person in a "this reminds me of how much I love this about you" sort of way. To ramp up the considerate gestures, thoughtful embraces, and spend time together when there are other factors pulling attention takes some effort, but is well worth the energy.

S, you are enough. You are a wonderful partner, and I cherish sharing my life with you. D, you fill a unique spot in my heart, and I value who you are, and the relationship we enjoy together.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Social Experiments

For several months now my daughter (age 9) has been asking more questions about my choice to be poly in my relationship style. Particularly given the transitions in her family in the past year, that seems pretty reasonable. I try to answer her questions to the best of my ability, as fully as possible, but one of the things I haven't been able to do justice to is the idea of "community" that I value within our local poly scene. Even with the people that I don't have direct relationships with, there is a sense with many of extended family, others that are in your corner, friendship, respect, interest and participation. It's very akin to what I had with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents growing up, except I've seen a lot more of the community folks naked. ;)

Not being geographically, philosophically, religiously, or politically in proximity to my "real" family for many years, I've grown to really value the people that are part of my poly-sphere. This is something my daughter hasn't fully connected with yet, largely because the community is a bit more adult-flavored in general, and she's not included in most of the time I spend in community events. It occurred to me that it might also be the case for other parents in the area. Further, we could extend that circle of incomprehension to the co-workers, friends and family we are out to, who know we're poly, but don't "get" the benefits we enjoy by doing geeky things like discussion groups and meet ups with other poly folks.

How to increase the connection between our spheres? That's the question I've been struggling with, and decided to do something a bit different for the upcoming discussion group I host locally. This month we're having an open forum potluck that anyone of any age, poly or not, is welcome to attend. The objective to mix and mingle. Demystify this whole "poly thing" for those who we are out to, but don't self-identify with poly, and yet remain important in our lives. We have someone facilitating a conversation with the kids, so they can formulate questions for the group, as well as a question box for adults to submit anonymously to.

At this point I have no clue how this is going to go, but I am hopeful that at least we'll be able to pull together a decent meal, enjoy some conversation, and not exclude anyone from the table. My community is important to me, and deserves to be out of the closet, not just as an amorphous concept, but as the unique individuals it's comprised of.

So, here's my blatant plug- If you're local to the Portland/Vancouver area please come. Bring others important in your life along. Approval isn't the goal. Reducing ignorance is. Information and transparency are the most valuable weapons in the struggle for acceptance for those in poly relationships. Let's share!