Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Traveling While Poly - Part 1

In March, Regina, Camille, and I were able to take two weekend-long trips to Lincoln City, Oregon and Camp Sherman, Oregon. What follows is just an informal reflection on what made the trips work, what some of our strategies were, and our general experiences. This got so long that I've decided to break it into parts.

Regina and Camille, posing in front
of an electric car charging station
in Lincoln City, Oregon ...
Early Sunday morning, the sun peaked over the treetops in Camp Sherman and light cascaded through a rustic cabin window, gently illuminating the room. Saturday had been a day for hiking and my legs and back were sore. I stretched out as much as I could but it was difficult with the three of us in the queen-sized bed.

My wife, Regina, turned towards me to snuggle, and she wrapped her arm across my chest and across Camille's arm, my partner, who was already there, both embracing me in the center. Gina's red hair in my left eye; Camille's black curls in my right. I squeezed both them close and could feel them breathe, and sigh - all were at rest and happy.

It was the last day of March, the end of our vacation, and I couldn't be happier.

Russell, Camille, and Regina on the
hiking trail at Camp Sherman ...
When we sleep together, I'll often be sandwiched between the two and I'll alternate spooning or holding them through the night. Shifting between them has become a conscious habit. I'll show one some attention for an hour and show another some attention later in the evening, and move back and forth through the night. Every now and again, we'll alternate depending on the mood or energy with somebody else in the center; sometimes one of us will need more emotional support than the others. And sometimes I'd get up to go to the restroom only to find them snuggled up with one other ... that's when I take up a bookend.

When Traveling While Poly, alternating attention is the first concept that I'd want to explore. I think it's important for me to enjoy the time with both of my partners in a shared space that all of us enjoy, but also for me to share the travel experience with them individually - that there are experiences unique to each of my partners. As for myself, I try to remember that this is a trip:

  • We're all enjoying individually;
  • My wife and I are enjoying;
  • My girlfriend and I are enjoying;
  • My wife and my girlfriend are enjoying together;
  • We're all enjoying together.

Regina and Camille inspecting tide
pools at a beach near Newport, OR ...
In my thinking, there's a difference between more shared space vs. private space. Shared space are events and times where we're actively doing things together and cultivating a shared experience. It's time we're all spending together. And in my thinking, there's also a time for private space. This would be whether any of us need to step away from the group for a while and be alone and independent, or, any of the dyads (Camille and I, Regina and I, or Camille and Regina) get some one-on-one time alone ... maybe for a walk, a cuddle, or just sitting on the porch together.

This is a conversation that expands a bit on my Playing the Fulcrum blog post from last year, but for me, I operate as a fulcrum while traveling, and it's important for me to be aware of how long that I spend showing attention to one partner or another.

  • When driving, I'll move my hand every so often between the two of them; 
  • When sitting together, I'll try to sit in a spot where I can reach them both;
  • When hiking or touring, I'll spend time to walk with each of them separately, and alternate between them;
  • If sleeping together, I'll try to alternate attention between both of them, and get out of the way when they want to snuggle;
  • When shopping, we often shop as a group but will splinter in attention and conversation into separate dyads;
  • In movies, I try to sit between them and hold them both;
  • When finding downtime, trying to find some exclusive time with each of my partners is a good idea; I also try to extend time to both of them to spend time without me if it's desired.

My attention towards my partners shouldn't be interpreted as over-sexualized or aggressive attention but rather loving, affectionate, accepting attention. I'm holding their hands or knees; hugging them; kissing them; wrapping my arm around them. I would think that overtly-sexual attention could be emotionally charged so I don't attempt to push those feelings unless we're in a shared sexual space. I want to enjoy their company - both as individual partners, and, as a group.

I'm also conscious of public consent when giving attention. In public, bystanders could be exposed to my polyamorous lifestyle, and especially while traveling, because there's plenty of opportunities for kids to see us. Let me be clear: there's no shame for me here, but if there's a possibility where young kids could see all three of us kissing or holding hands, I'd rather spare their parents an awkward conversation and try to appear in public as friends.

Regina and Camille unpack a lunch
at a park along the way to Camp
Sherman ... 
One of the take-aways from this round of trips was to actually schedule one-on-one time with each of my partners. Intentional scheduled time didn't happen. Instead, one-on-one private time came around somewhat sporadically.

In our pre-planning for the trip, we talked about a way for each of us to call for private time, but it came a little late. After thinking back on the trip, think it's valuable to have something to look forward to and to set up expectations. Next time, I'd like to mutually schedule what those times would be with each of my partners.

Trips are great but sharing time and attention together is especially important while traveling because nerves are on end and patience can be worn a little thin. We're around each other 100-percent of the time. Too much or too little affection could be misinterpreted by any of us, causing an unanticipated flair-up of emotions. It's an effort to work through these kinds of issues together and find common ground to make the whole trip fun and worthwhile.

What are some of the techniques and strategies your pod's used while traveling to maintain space and balanced attention?



Violante said...

Hi, I 've been reading your blog in the last weeks, and I wanted to thank you because I find it really interesting and useful. My husband and I became officially a polyamory couple about six months ago, when I also started dating my boyfriend (we had been talking about it since we got married). My boyfriend is married and they are also in a polyamory relationship. It is very challenging and difficult sometimes, and sometimes I wonder if someone as jealous as me will ever succeed. But I really want to be good at this, and I am not proud of my jealousy. I want to learn to deal with it, and to eventually overcome it. Both my husband and my boyfriend are not jealous, so it makes things easier.Anyway, I read your blog and I hope I will become as good as you guys are. So thanks for showing the right direction. Best luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Amaranta -

Thank you so much for your comment and for reading our blog!

Jealousy and envy are normal aspects of all relationships; you can and will get through it. Take a looksee at my Poly101 articles here on the blog - just click the poly101 category off to the right. I've got a 101 on Jealousy.

All the best, and thanks for reading -

Dave said...

Amaranta, I'm glad that you are enjoying the blog. I'm kinda partial to this one (duh), but there is a lot of good stuff out there.

One thing that stood out, reading your comment, was this part:

"...sometimes I wonder if someone as jealous as me will ever succeed. But I really want to be good at this, and I am not proud of my jealousy. I want to learn to deal with it, and to eventually overcome it."

Without getting too "Counselor/Buddhist" here, I want to say something that might sound batshit crazy.

First, I'll skip to the end. The answer is yes, if you truly want to, you will succeed. Congratulations!

Second, the part that might sound nuts... what if instead of being "not proud" and "eventually overcoming" it, you change two of those words?

What would happen, if instead you said that "I want to become accepting of my jealousy, and to eventually learn to value that part of myself"?

What would that look like?

What if instead of sewing internal conflict and strife, you accepted and acknowledged that part of you that has those feelings, addressed it with love, and then chose behavior that would lead to greater happiness?

What if you proudly stated, "Sometimes I feel jealous, and I don't want to share time with , or I feel spiteful feelings toward , but I know what causes that, and I will choose to behavior in a way that shows love and trust to everyone despite those feelings"?

That might be one definition of "overcoming", but instead of using conflict-oriented phrasing, I think it might be more accurate to say that you are "making peace" with that part of you through understanding, acceptance, and tolerance.

I hypothesize that with additional communication and understanding externally (mitigating the "fear" source of jealousy) and internal communication and understanding (mitigating the knee-jerk reaction as you know yourself better), you might find that the strength of your jealous impulses would wane over time, becoming an acceptable part of yourself that no longer drive behavior, but is something that you can recognize and control.

Just an idea. :P

Dave said...

I forget that the comments have html tags enabled so some of my words disappeared because of my addiction to angle brackets. Sorry. I think the gist still comes through. :)