Saturday, December 27, 2014

Repeat with me: I am not a special snowflake!

'Tis a common conceit to think of ourselves as unique individuals, and of course we are, in ways that are very similar to other people...😉. So why is it that, upon examination of a thorny issue in our personal lives, the tendency is to disregard our own wisdom, and embark on a course that is less than likely to end in a successful outcome? 

Let's say your buddy, Pat, asks your advice on when the best time to come out to a potential new partner is?  Well, of course you know this one!  Sooner is better, and certainly before feelings and physical intimacy have developed.  Then you meet Davon in the bookstore, end up having coffee and talking for hours, have some spontaneous kisses, and somehow it never comes up that you have other partners and choose to have poly relationships...

You listen to someone at a discussion group talking about their attraction (this is feeling like a relationship, with intense feelings) to their coworker, who is in a monogamous relationship.  Their current poly partner isn't so very pleased about this, and it's causing friction there.  Pretty sure they're just jealous...and wonder how they could possibly be ignoring so many red flags, missing the pieces they say their ethical framework is based upon?  Then you find yourself in a similar space, mouthing all the same justifications and rationalizations for why this isn't a complete disaster waiting to happen.  Why?  

Because it's YOU!  Let's face it, you're pretty special, so special, in fact, that the common sense advice you would give any other human being in the same position doesn't really apply.  You're smarter, better, deserve more out of life, and certainly you can mold the world, and the people around you, into a more pleasing outcome than anyone else in the same circumstances would!

Can you hear yourself!?!  Just stop.  Take a moment, if you are in a sticky situation, to consider the path you might advise someone else to take, hypothetically speaking, and try doing that instead of what you have been doing!  Perhaps you could even listen to the friends and partners giving you the reasonable sounding advice, and actually change your course.  Do something reasonable that isn't based on the underlying belief that You Are Uniquely Different in a way that exempts you from utilizing common sense.  Do you want to build a snowman?  (Ducks and covers)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cheating Cheaters

It's no big secret that one of the main avenues for people entering poly is via cheating on an existing partner.   Often, people having an affair, who still have feelings and investment within their vintage connection, find that they no longer are satisfied with the lying, the division in their life and personal ethics, and choose to "come clean", attempting to open up into a more ethically non-monogamous environment.  It usually ends in spectacular disaster, often permanently ending relationships.  There are vows to never go back to monogamy, or assertations that poly is a force for destruction, and a tool for people to cheat, and put a pleasant face on it.  Sometimes, the storm is weathered, and people come out the other side stronger and more dedicated, with a new shared vision.

It's an inconvenient truth that cheating doesn't always stop once one becomes poly, and is something we would rather not discuss.  After all, a main differentiation point for poly is that WE are honest in our dealings within our relationships, so cheating behavior is pretty thoroughly scorned, disavowed, and abhored within our community.  Still, it's certainly not unheard of for people who would prefer to think of themselves as ethically non-monogamous to backslide in those ethical ideals, and stray towards cheating behaviors. 

It's confused me.  We're poly!  Our current relationships are all set up that way. We have all this freedom!  Why fuck it up? Why would one ever choose to skip the consent and information sharing section in favor of deceit and deliberate damaging of trust built in their life? Here are a few ideas I've observed being bandied about: 

I'm not willing to do the work to integrate a new person into my existing life.  Either there's a lack of communication skills with one or more involved, or a difference in poly styles that makes the new person incompatible with what currently exists.

I get off on having a Dirty Little Secret.  It feels naughty, taboo, and there is still a charge there, the thrill of having a secret, getting away with something.

It's just faster to get what I want, right now, without the "burden" of consent.  I want what I want, and I want it now!!!  Why should I take the time to send that text message to my partners, or delay the gratification I seek in the now?  I'm a free person, and I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, and I'm not sure this opportunity will be there again, if I wait. 

I still feel like it's "wrong/selfish" to desire another person.  There are often mono societal tapes playing in the background, usually with everyone involved, that lead towards guilt.  What they don't know, won't hurt them!

I'm doing this for the protection of my existing partner(s).  They're sick/pregnant/unable to consent in some fashion.  It's finals week.  The timing is just awful.  Seriously.  It'd be selfish for me to bring this up right now.  I'll double back later. 

I've made an agreement that I didn't really desire personally, and don't know how to/if it can be successfully renegotiated.  This one is tricky.  You said yes, and often those sorts of agreements are made to protect your existing partner from something that is hard for them to do, and something you understand the reasons behind.  To change those agreements will take buy in from your existing partner(s), and you may not feel confident in their willingness to do that, or your own worthiness of their effort in this regard. 

I fear that a current partner might look at my new dating choice and feel like I'm missing something major that would preclude that being a good idea to pursue; the Jiminy Cricket Effect.  Most of us are aware that our own judgment can be skewed in the early stages of a relationship, and we may very well be ignoring major, flashing, neon signs that read, "Path to destruction!".  It's harder to ignore those signs when an outside, loved, and trusted source, is pointing them out to you, and also mentioning that they are likely to harmed in this as well.  Better to just sidestep that inconvenience...

There's a semi-comprehensive list of reasons for cheating in poly! Wasn't that fun? That whole section is just a recitation of justifications for poor behavior.  It's bullshit rationalizing to get your own way, without considering larger ramifications. If your brain, or body part of your choice, is headed down any of these pathways, back up the boat!

I've never regretted putting off sex, or not moving faster in a new relationship to attend to the needs of my current partners and relationships, even when I'm crawling out of my skin with NRE.  It's a big old lie based in scarcity thinking that everything worth having must be had NOW, or it will evaporate into the ether. Take the time! Do the work! Get some new skills, if you're in over your head!  Find a mentor!  If you're unable to renegotiate, move out of the current relationship before you embark on the next!  Delayed gratification will not kill you.  Hold the line.  Don't cheat. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Emotional Transportation

Let's talk cars!  I'm not much of a car person, or haven't been until the past couple years.  It's transportation.  Get me from A to B reliably, with an eye towards cost containment.  Some people seem to feel a bond to their vehicle that is inexplicable to me.  It becomes an extension of their person, their ego, sometimes even their sexual identity, or verility.  

There are many different approaches to cars and such, and most people seem to have some pattern to their preferences.  The rental, the lease, the fix-up project, the classic/vintage, public transportation, self-propelled, and the buy-then-drive-it-until-the-wheels-fall-off. Historically, I've been the wheels-fall-off type.  Upon reflection, I realize that is very similar to my approach to relationships, in general. While I have exited relationships that were "totaled", that moving beyond is usually preceded by a significant amount of repair work, and attempts to get things running well again. 

It's worth trying to understand about the people you are connecting with what their approach to "emotional transportation" is.   Do they enjoy a simple lease program, where one pops it back to the dealer in 2-3 years, trying not to put too many miles on it, and relatively free from the burden of upkeep?  Do they enjoy a good project car, where the joy is in tinkering with it, fixing it, making it better, but only taking it out when the weather is fine, and there's an appreciative audience to ooh and ahh over how shiny it is? Do they like a good spin at the wheel of a rental, with that new car smell, lots of flexibility on the mileage, drive it hard, and turn the keys back over? Perhaps they're a more community-minded public transit sort, such that they want to get on and off at will, without the pressures of ownership, more an open zone on an as needed basis? Maybe they like to buy a vehicle, keep it for years, upkeep it well, and aren't too concerned if it no longer has the same sheen to the paint job, or if there are some quirks to daily operation?  

There's room in poly for all these types, and some blend well, but if you're someone who seeks a wheels-fall-off connection, try to be cognizant if you're falling for someone who is more geared for a lease or rental.  Some people find little value in approaching relationships with longevity as a priority, living for maximal value in the moment, and when that moment has passed, open to the next ride.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Polyamory is Hard

I was talking to my therapist the other day.

Actually, it was couples therapy.

And, actually, I brought this up twice because, in all honesty, I have two sets of therapists: one I see with my partner/girlfriend and the other I see with my wife.

Polyamory is hard ...

... which, I think, should be pretty obvious in that I'm seeing two therapists but that's not the point.

I opted for this lifestyle because it offered such a range of possibility. It challenges conventional thoughts about love and marriages, pushes my boundaries, and forces me to routinely think about feminism and masculinity, commitment, and love in a myriad of ways. I chose this lifestyle and I'm fully committed to it.

Still, it's damn hard.

Sure, open relationships and sex with multiple people - right on, sounds pretty cool to you, right? - until you have to sit down and do the work.

There's the routine stuff:

  • Constant (endless) communication
  • Questioning assumptions that you have about love and relationships
  • Calendaring and scheduling
  • Expectations management
  • Emotional processing - sex, love, jealousy, guilt, regret, etc.

I mean, all of that takes a great deal of energy amongst multiple partners but these are just the surface, the most obvious things.

Then there's the long-term, extended stuff:

  • The legal differentiation between partners (example: a "wife" affords a legal distinction over a "partner"), leading to a whole rats nest of issues concerning wills/probate, medical care, rights over your assets, etc.
  • Re-thinking the roles of "husband, wife, partner" - and the promises those titles imply - in the context of multiple people.
  • Break-ups and ending/transitioning relationships that've lasted for years.
  • Challenges surrounding space, distance, travel, and cohabitation. Not everyone wants to live together; not everyone likes the same kinds of personal space. Those are some tough compromises.
  • Embracing inequity. Poly's inherently unfair. My wife has made sacrifices that enable me to spend time, energy, and resources on my partner, which often excludes her. Meanwhile, my partner isn't around me as often as my wife, and, doesn't attend family travel, and I'm not always around, which excludes her, creating her own set of sacrifices. Resolving those inequities is a full-time preoccupation.
  • Retirement and security. Our social systems are setup to benefit a spouse. I worry about guaranteeing financial peace-of-mind to my partner and helping build her own security, nest-egg, medical and insurance and investment portfolio, etc. 
  • Combining or separating the finances of multiple people, how to communicate and work with cash flow shortages, new financial expectations, etc.
  • Realizing that you can't ever make everyone happy. Instead, poly is a lifestyle of compromises where everyone doesn't get exactly what they want: there's only so much time, so much space, and so much of you to go around.
  • Getting along with extended connections (metamours, partners of partners) and intentional family for long periods of time.

So poly is hard. Personally, it hurts that I can't give everything to both of my partners and make both of them 100-percent happy at the same time. It's a constant process of compromise, learning, re-tooling my skillets, and managing expectations.

And I think anyone just getting into polyamory should know that it's hard. In fact, just last week, I was at a bar on Mississippi Avenue just last week with a bunch of enthusiastic poly-newcomers. I was kind of a Debbie-downer in that crowd, but I think it's real. Poly looks pretty good on paper, especially if perceived in the context of short-run but everyone should be prepared for the long-game, and what that means in their lives.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Don't tell me I need better boundaries....

One of the things we touch on pretty often in poly is "having good boundaries".  We all have things that work better for us as individuals, and a big part of beginning, and sustaining, a strong relationship, is sharing those with each other, and having that as an innate part of the relationship.  Sometimes, it seems as though people feel that just about anything is renegotiable, can change, will be okay moving forward, as long as we have good boundaries. It's becoming a pet peeve of mine. 

Boundaries are ideas we put into place to protect ourselves, and others, from being walked all over, or having our consent violated in some fashion. They are tools to create an environment where we aren't taking advantage of anyone, and they aren't taking advantage of us.  In my professional life, in parenting, in public spaces, I have a plethora of boundaries. When it comes to my personal life, the relationships I share with people I love, it would be my ideal to have minimal boundaries, not because boundaries are bad, but because they wouldn't be needed. 

I'm a pretty giving sort of person.  I enjoy being in relationships where I can be generous to others, consider their needs and wants along with my own.   If I find myself spending lots of time and energy holding boundaries in a relationship, that isn't being reciprocated.  It's being sucked dry.  It's settling for less that what I need in a given relationship to feel healthy and happy. It's putting up walls against intimacy over and over again to protect myself.

So, I'm working towards the radical ideal of reducing my boundaries by choosing to be in relationships and friendships only with those people who consider my happiness and health with their own.  Because, sometimes the answer isn't to get better boundaries, it's to be connected with happy, healthy, considerate people who grok that the happiness of each individual lends itself to the joyous expression of the whole within poly, and chooses to think and feel in a more expanded context than self. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sharing Information is NOT Asking Permission.

A does something that's not consented to within their relationship, and, when A's partner is upset about it, A is angry with that response because, "I don't need anyone's permission do to anything I want. I own my body, my time, and it is my right to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, and with whom."  A is correct.  Those are all choices that each person gets to make for themselves.  It's also a poor way to stay in a connected relationship with anyone that actually gives a rats ass.

The thing that perpetually sticks in my craw is the conflation of "asking permission" and "sharing information, and/or asking for input".  They aren't the same thing.  My current partners count in my world.  I'm not asking permission when I say, "I think I've got a date coming up later this week with New Person.  Does this time/date work for you?  Do you have any input on what boundaries would feel reasonable to you? I'm thinking that the interaction is likely to look like _______."  I'm digging into my own trusted resources, acknowledging that my life doesn't exist in a vacuum of my own desires, and sharing what I might desire for myself.  Choosing to share information, or limit my own actions in any way out of consideration for someone else IS me exercising personal agency, not them controlling me, or submitting control of myself to another.  It is in my own best self-interest to bring my partners along with me, rather than just dictating my decisions, so I put effort into making that happen. 

Maybe I've just been super fortunate in choosing non-controlling people, but in my experience, the more I share with my partners, the more they feel like they DO have input, the faster and easier it is to get where I want to go without alienating anyone, or feeling stifled.  Why?  They feel listened to, safe, relevant, considered, valued, and have the information desired to manage expectations.  They say yes, and they mean it, they share relevant information about their perceptions, their feelings and desires, and I make stronger decisions that benefit us, that benefit ME more. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Renegotiate first

There was a situation brought up on a discussion board recently where a person was very upset.  A partner of many months had broken an agreement to share ahead of time the intent to pursue others, had sex with a friend of the poster, and informed the poster after the fact. Via text. 

Sending a text after the fact is better than not telling at all, but to inform a partner after, rather than before, as per the agreement they shared, was just an attempt to sidestep a potentially uncomfortable conversation.  The poster's partner took the coward's way out by waiting until afterwards to bring it up. 

Why? Fulfillment in the moment (despite the potential fallout and damage to follow) is more highly prized by some than the health of on-going, established relationships.  

Having been at the whole ethically non-monogamous gig for over a decade, I can honestly say it has never damaged me, or ruined my opportunities for sex, to bring my partners up to speed before proceeding. The idea that the sex evaporates because of a pause is pretty deeply rooted in scarcity thinking, and possibly even predatory behavior. 

Not everyone structures their relationships the way the poster and their partner do, so the above won't apply.  Most of us DO have some form of agreement within our relationships, however, and the following advice applies across the board:  If one is in a situation where the agreements made with a partner chafe, renegotiate BEFORE taking actions that violate the agreement.  It's the most loving thing one can do, for oneself, one's partner, and the new person being connected with. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Echo Chamber

There have been a lot of changes in the past several months.  Other than my connection with Russell, all the other relationships I've been involved with have ended.  Amicably, for good reasons, and all that jazz.  Still, for the first time in 13 years, I have one partner, and it feels bloody strange.

Over the past decade and change I've worked diligently to increase my capacity to be emotionally connected to others, to process, to communicate, to be part of something larger than a couple.  Right now, there is a void where my poly life usually sits, as though I'm rattling around in my own head and heart, empty nesting with Russell.

When I consider the style of poly I prefer, it's similar to being in a triathlon.  I bike, I swim, I run.  Being functionally emotionally monogamous at the moment, it's as though I can bike, but running and swimming are off the table.  I can still break a sweat, but muscles I normally use are stiff and sore from neglect.  Others are being overused, because you can only ride a bike so long before you get saddle-sore... ;)

Dating a bit now, it feels like taking a short training run, or swim.  Just enough to be a reminder of what I deeply enjoy doing and feeling, but not enough to really scratch that itch. This isn't a lack in my relationship, with Russell, or with myself.  I am happy with what is happening with him, with us, with me.  In many ways, this is a positive interlude!  Even if I had no partners, the core of who I am doesn't change.  Right now, it just feels a bit...overly capacious.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Enjoy What Becomes

It's been a while since I've posted.

Suffice it to say that I've been living the grand poly lifestyle and ran headlong into a nest of sticky wickets. The long of the short story is that horrible mistakes were made, feelings were hurt, and a lot of hard work is being done by everyone to lick their wounds and right all the wrongs. My heart hasn't been in writing about love. It's been a terribly long month and I'm glad it is over.

Reflecting lately as I have on the lifestyle of Polyamory, the more I'm convinced that it's more a journey of self-discovery - more that than a destination, a label, a title, or an orientation. Polyamory is a process.

It is a process of reinvention, continuously re-examining your beliefs and your assumptions, to arrive at something more genuine and more authentic in your relationships. Along the way, through heartbreak, tears, anger, frustration, and fear, you change. You learn about yourself - your limitations, your inadequacies, your strengths, and your capabilities - that (hopefully) will make you a better partner, lover, friend, wife or husband.

After all, caught in a complex web of relationships between n-number of people, how could we ever assume everything can and will remain static? Polyamory through its nature inherently invites change and ensures that the status quo is invariably short-lived. Poly is an awesome catalyst for self-discovery.

And for me, there's been a lot of work this month on self-discovery. I think I'll leave it at that, but I will say that for a long time I've been intensely focused on outcomes - the final destination - in my own Polyamorous relationships. Yet lately, I'm more likely to focus almost entirely on the now. Living the now, enjoying the now, accepting what the now is and what it can offer. Loving everything about what the now can be.

I recently read that Benjamin Franklin asked himself in the morning, "What good shall I do today?" Okay, so lately my spin on Benny has been, "Today, what good can I do for each of my partners?" What can I do, right now, today, to make the most of each bond in my life, and to accept the joy that each of them brings me, instead of focusing on the end-game. Take it one day at a time. Enjoy what becomes. And it's helping.


Friday, April 18, 2014

No, I won't send you a naked picture...

No, dude-I-have-not-yet-met-off-the-internet, I will not send you a naked, and/or sexy picture of me.  Yes, I do understand, and agree, that physical attraction is an important component of many relationships, and that you want to get a look at the goods before gracing me with your presence at a coffee shop.   I'll even send you a recent face shot, like a selfie taken within the past week.  There are many pictures I have posted publicly on various websites that show a lot of those goods.   If you're too lazy to look where I tell you there are pictures of that sort, you're too lazy for me to take time out of my day to meet.

In over a decade of non-monogamous dating, I've run into the "I'm entitled to look at your body because, being poly, you must be indiscriminate about sharing said body." guy more times than I can count.  They often send the unsolicited dick pic, in an attempt to create a quid pro quo environment.  Trust me on this, if a woman hasn't asked, and hasn't met you, she has no desire to be confronted with your man-bits in a text or email.  If she hasn't offered, she is similarly not inclined to send you racy pictures. 

This isn't a difficult concept to absorb, so take it on board now.  When you've been chatting a woman up, and they stop responding after you've asked for hawt pix for the third time, it isn't a mystery.  They've decided you're a creeper.  You've been disqualified based on your own behavior.  It has nothing to do with women being "teases", or too chicken to follow through with in person meetings.  It's you.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

So close, yet so far away...

One of the great things about poly is that, a good chunk of the time, you stay friends with people you've been in relationships with, even after the relationship has shifted to a friendship, or some version of non-romantic.

One of the tough things about poly is that, a good chunk of the time, you stay friends with people you've been in relationships with, even after the relationship has shifted to a friendship, or some version of non-romantic.

There is something bittersweet about hugging and holding someone you still love, yet are no longer with.  It seems much more common in this community than when I was monogamous, to have amicable connections, even close friendships, with people that used to be lovers and partners.  For me, the feelings are often still there, the attraction is still present, but there is some compelling reason that I am choosing not to be in a romantic relationship with them.  It can feel murky, confusing, and yet, still satisfying to wade through.  

This conflicted feeling is usually most intense in the weeks/months immediately following a shift in connection, but in some cases, I find it lasts for years.  It is a value to me to not cut people out of my life when the relationship changes, barring unhealthy dynamics, but that doesn't mean it's always a piece of cake to keep in touch.  At times, it's been necessary to take some period of time completely apart to allow my feelings to cool down before reinitiating a different type of bond.

Giving myself permission to take space when I need it, to ask my existing partners for comfort when I'm feeling melancholy about a change, and to delve into staying connected, even when it isn't completely comfortable, are skills I keep working on.  What do you find most useful in working your way through transitions in relationships?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What are Your Values in Relationships?

I facilitated a polyamorous group discussion the other week and received positive feedback on it, so I wanted to take a few minutes to transform that discussion into a blog post.

First, I asked everyone for an open discussion on values as they pertain to relationships. Relationships in general - it doesn't have to be expressly polyamorous relationships. These are the attributes, characteristics, and things of importance to you when you're engaged in a relationship. Some of the attendees said:

  • Transparency
  • Honesty
  • Growth
  • Freedom
  • Affection
  • Trust

I then asked if everyone could make a list of the top three most important ones to them, for these are the qualities you're looking for in a relationship and what matters most to you, what's important to you.  Take an inventory. I also asked how Polyamory does/doesn't bolster these values.

Then I asked how these values are expressed in their poly relationships? "What do you do every day to express these values?", going off the old idea of treating your partner in the way you'd like to be treated.

Finally, I handed out some homework. I asked everyone to take these ideas and discuss them with their partners after group. Learn what their values are and share yours. 

If you've had a rough patch in your relationships - if expectations haven't been in alignment for you and you're having relationship trouble - talking about your common values may be a good starting point. 

Common, shared values work better than installing rules and restrictions to create expected behaviors and outcomes. Instead, find what you have in common and capitalize on your common belief systems. 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And More on Male Privilege

There is no female equivalent for the word "emasculated".

When I am unable to pay for a meal or an evening out, I feel this way. I literally feel like I'm unemployed. That I'm dependent.  That I'm powerless.

Then Camille reminds me of when we first started dating and I insisted then that I pay for everything. Except she used the term "disempowered".

So today was a lesson in disempowerment. 

Last Sunday, I attended a poetry slam where a feminist poet talked about "nice guys". The nice guy was someone who wanted to take care of everything, but that came with expectations. The nice guy expected something to be given back in return. The poet did not want to be indebted to the nice guy and wanted him to evaluate why he finished last because his friendship and generosity came with strings attached.

When paying for things with Camille, I always thought that I was the nice guy. I was just trying to take care of things. But it turns out, what she felt was disempowered, and, potentially, this new friendship came with strings attached. Both Regina and Camille have told me about how they are more often to go Dutch for first dates so that there isn't this imbalance of power. 

Of course, all of this flies in the face of what I was taught to do as a kid. Pay for things. Treat the woman. Take care of things. Be a man.

It turns out that this programming is a lot more destructive than I thought, particularly to women, but also to me.

Why do I feel so ashamed and powerless? And why would I want to make others feel that way? And why does not paying for things make me feel less than a man?


Monday, March 10, 2014

Leaving, and Being Left.

I leave my husband to be with someone else.  I leave my partner to be with someone else.  My husband leaves me to be with someone else.  My partner leaves me to be with someone else.  Everyone knows about all about it, and sometimes, it feels fine, and other times it feels crappy.

Recently, I spent most of the day Saturday with my metamour, Camille, and my daughter at a women's self defense class.  Russell dropped us off, and at the end of the day, picked us up.  Sunday, Camille and I spent the afternoon together.  Again, Russell dropped me off, and we joined him later in the day.  He was noticeably a bit subdued that evening, and, when asked, said it felt strange to be leaving us all weekend.  A bit of a downer really.  That's part of how poly is different from monogamy though.

Sure, people come and go in mono relationships too, but they are usually leaving a partner behind to go to work, or some sort of activity that is less overtly personal. Bonding time, sex, intimacy, shared experiences, these things are the currency of relationships, and in poly, there is almost always someone who is being left out, or left behind.

Dealing with leaving someone you love behind, or being left, is part of the skill package we are all working on in our pod.  It's always easier when everyone is feeling well-resourced, and has other options that they find valuable.  It's harder on the weeks where everyone is stretched, and no one is feeling quite like they have "enough".

I'm in relationships with these people because I like being around them, and the whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder" trope doesn't really work for me, so this is an area I'm consistently working on.  

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More on Male Privilege

Today is Saturday, March 8. My partners, Regina and Camille, and my step daughter, are participating in a self-defense class for women.

I'm outside in the hallway right now writing this blog post on my phone.

First, it strikes me that there's no such thing as a self-defense class for men featuring specific techniques for me to defend myself against another gender. To think that women must live in a constant state of awareness (fear? Defensiveness?) because men are generally unaware of their actions, or, take license with women, is sad.  I personally don't walk into a room of women and feel scared or alert or aware. Here is another example of my privilege.

Second, I find it interesting that this class is taught by men. Yes, they are probably trained professionals, but it seems that their privilege would interfere with the message. How can they know or empathize with that constant state of fear?

It's terrible to think that anyone - male or female or any gender inbetween - would need to be deliberately conscious to protect themselves at all times. I wonder what more I can do to be aware of those concerns and fears, and try to negate them?


Response to Polyweekly's: Everyone is Doing it Wrong

Just listened to Polyamory Weekly's Episode 385: Everyone is Doing it Wrong. Minx does a great show and everyone should be listening to and supporting her contributions to the Kink and Polyamorous community.

I agree with @cunningminx that we're all one big diverse community; I agree that diversity in thoughts and opinion should be respected; I agree that it's indecent and harmful to use pejorative, hyperbolic language when disagreeing with somebody; I agree that we, as individuals, have the right to define for ourselves what marriage and commitment means ...

Where I disagree, however, is when somebody vehemently defends their membership in a community even though their practices and behaviors defy the tenets of that community.


1. I could call myself Jewish and yet do very non-Jewish things. Those who are Jewish would look at me and insist that I'm not Jewish, and I really don't have a right to call myself Jewish. Are the observations of the Jewish community nullified for the sake of my insistence that I'm Jewish? [2014.03.09: Jewish - both a culture and an ethnicity - okay, maybe not a great example.]

2. I could call myself a practicing Dommy Kinkster and chronically violate the consent of my play partners. Those within the Kink community would likely ostracize me for not practicing ethical, safe, respecting, and sex-positive practices. Should the Kink community bend to my insistence that I'm in any way associated with them?

3. I could call myself Polyamorous but engage in cheating on my committed partner who has no knowledge of my other affairs; or I'm a religious Polygamist preying on 12-year old girls and I declare I'm Poly. Should any Polyamorous person tolerate the use of the label 'Polyamory' to be assigned to unethical and harmful behavior?

I think your conversation has to make room for standards, Minx. There are community standards for Jews, for Kink, for Polyamory, that a majority of these participants agree are core values and tenets of their practice. If anyone can walk in and violate those tenets - and then make use of our community to justify their actions - then I feel that's heavily disruptive to the brand (or idea) of Polyamory ... or Kink, or being Jewish, etc.

I like the messages of inclusiveness, tolerance, and acceptance, but I truly believe that we've the right and expectation to declare vehemently "You're doing it wrong" when their practices violate our community's standards.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Exploration of Male Privilege

It's hard getting used to having my partners pay for things. It makes me feel uncomfortable; I usually end up reaching for my wallet and they'll knock it away to remind me that I'm not paying for this. 

Although Gina and I use the same banking, and the money comes from the same place, I'm still not used to not paying.

Today, Camille took me out to lunch. She paid for it with a credit card. She handed the credit card to the woman behind the counter, who received it, swiped it, and then proceeded it to hand it back to me. 

I thought this was a little absurd. Why was she handing me Camille's credit card? I then said directly to this person's face: "this is Camille's credit card."

I then handed Camille her credit card so that she could return it to her wallet.

Then, as the receipt was printed, the person behind the counter handed it to me to sign! 

I was taken back… I again handed the receipt and pen to Camille to sign.

That was a crazy ass exchange. But indicative of male privilege. Just my being there somehow tainted the transaction so that I was given credit for the meal. 

That's just whacked.

Camille took it in stride and said it happens all the time. To be completely disregarded by clerks behind a point-of-sale station? Ridiculous!

My journey continues…

Dieting and Poly

Don't Date Outside Your Species!

Recently, I was reading through a conversation thread about a person who identified as poly, and often dated people who had previously considered themselves monogamous.  The experience they kept having was that their dating partners would say that the whole poly thing was okay upfront, then, several months down the road, and a lot more emotional investment, try to make the relationship monogamous, or break up with them, saying they just couldn't do the poly thing.

My first thought was to date people who are already demonstrably poly, but I realize that, in many places, the predominance of poly people isn't particularly strong, so one tends to make due with the dating choices that are available.

Here's the deal though:  If someone is monogamous, they aren't going to turn poly for you long-term.

Choosing to date someone that is poly, because you like them, when one is monogamous, and would really prefer to have the poly partner to yourself, is like going on a diet because someone you love asked you to.  Maybe it's healthy for you.  Maybe it's something you think is a good idea.  It just isn't what you really want in the deepest core of your being.

For a while, you can make yourself do it, cheating here and there with fantasies that the person you love is going to fall so deeply for you that they'll realize you are all they want in life, while still making the appropriate statements of openness and support  for their poly nature, and how on board you are with the whole thing.

For a while, you can go through the motions, pushing yourself with the thoughts of how much your partner is going to appreciate what you are doing for them, how much this will mean to them, how much love you will earn.  Maybe you are even realizing some personal benefits and growth in the situation!  Eventually, that well will run dry though, and you're left realizing that this isn't what you really want, and you've been doing it to try and please someone else.

Of course, the same issue happens in the inverse too.  Thinking that someone who identifies as monogamous is going to make the leap to poly for you is a dangerous and cruel self-deception. There is no amount of attention or energy you can give someone who is monogamous (and wants you to be monogamous with them) that will create enough safety, security, intimacy, and love to get them to be fine over the long-haul with the part where you have other loving relationships.

Mono-poly relationships are workable, just not with any real level of "doing it for the other person" present.  If both parties can't honestly say that this is what they want, for themselves, because it is what is best for them, move on before hurting each other deeply.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day One: Understanding Male Privilege

Didn't believe I was actually going to do this, did you?

Today, Regina and Camille and I needed to run to the supermarket. I did not drive; Regina drove; Camille ended up paying for the groceries.

It was a odd. I usually drive and I usually pay for things. I sat patiently in the backseat. 

I must say that I do like determining where the car goes.

Evening out part is coming up. A play. A comedy show. Return home. Unsure about that. We'll see how it goes.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Polygamy Isn't Polyamory

Okay, coincidence?

It was just this week where I was asked what I thought the biggest misconceptions about Polyamorous relationships were and I brought up one of my personal pet peeves: the conflation of Polygamy and Polyamory for - as mass media attention in the last five years has focused on Polygamists and their struggles - I feel that attention is has created an unhealthy fusion in the public consciousness between Polygamy and Polyamory and, to my horror, I learned that TLC is, in fact, planning to launch another Polygamy show called My Five Wives March 9, 2014.


TLC is building off the success of Sister Wives by quenching its viewer's voyeuristic preoccupation with non-monogamous lifestyles (certainly one moneymaking reality TV show deserves another), and  as a capitalist myself, I wouldn't slight TLC for wanting to make a buck off of its audiences' fascination with taboo. It's the spotlight on Polygamy that narrows the gap between it and Polyamory, and I suppose I've a serious problem with it.

Correcting this: polygamy is the broad term describing a marriage with multiple spouses; polygyny is where a man has many wives; polyandry is where a woman has many husbands. Thanks readers!

Noteworthy differences include:

1. Precondition of Marriage.

Both Polygamy and Polygyny attempt to describe a lawful or spiritual union between partners. Those unions may or may not be recognized by the dominant culture, and may even be considered bigamy, but they're unions that justify the plurality of their situation.

Polyamory doesn't require partners to be married although married partners can be poly; individuals may not enter into Polyamorous relationships with an intent to be drawn into a union with their other partners, whereas that's the clear intent with Polygamy and Polygyny. Polyamory isn't immediately about dating others to join into a union of any kind.

2. Gender Inequality.

Although I appreciate the show, I often cringe at Sister Wive's LDS religious docterine that justifies the male's role as head-of-household; the featured family has often labeled the idea of the wives having more than one man in their lives as "disgusting". Within the media's portrayal of Polygamy (and its common interpretation in our country) is the elevation of the male and the subjugation of the female. Doctrine and religious convictions within Polygamy tend to reinforce sex negativism, promote OPP (One Penis Policies), and constrain female freedom.

This is quite different from Polyamory whereas religion/dogma doesn't play a prominent role in shaping gender roles. Sure, Polyamory can have configurations that look similar to Polygamy or Polygyny, and sure, partners can create rules and expectations that promote OPP-thinking. But generally speaking, Polyamory is more egalitarian about power and the ability to make individual choices concerning sexuality and relationships.

3. Implied Spiritual Mandate.

I'm a Polyamorist and, fuck no, God isn't telling me to have three partners so I can breed haphazardly and prepare a celestial kingdom for myself in the afterlife. Every one of my partners are fixed and they're not in it for my sperm, either. My partners and I don't share a common goal of world-creation on another plane of existence. This isn't something that's usually found in other Polyamorous circles. Instead there is a desire to share lives and love, to create community, and to seek emotional fulfillment through engaging in multiple relationships. Intentional community ... okay, that's something we have in common with Polygamy, but it doesn't have a religious overtone behind it.

4. Questionable Ethics / Loss of Consent.

One doesn't have to look too far beyond the Warren Jeffs of the world to find Polygamy's PR problem. Taking 13 year old girls as brides, in my mind, doesn't constitute "ethical non-monogamy" in the way that Polyamory attempts to define it. Trading partners as chattel or using them as tools for maintaining political, spiritual, or religious power also doesn't factor into the Polyamorous lifestyle.

That said, recent portrayals of Polyamorous lifestyles in the popular media from shows like Showtime's Married and Dating (which includes such memorable and astonishing dialog like "Hmm Fresh meat" and "We're Poly, and that means I get sexual access to your partners") really doesn't help matters either. That's a cluster of relationship chaos that doesn't advocate for the lifestyle but rather ridicules it.

But I think these distinctions between Polygamy and Polyamory are worth understanding.

So the media isn't perfect and neither is in the information that it's spreading about ethical non-monogamy as it favors a spectacle. Still, I've hope. There are hundreds of poly blogs out there (and thousands in grass-roots communities and discussion groups) with real people telling their stories, their normal everyday lives, and sharing their journey. That'll help get to what's real.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Deconstructing my Male Privilege

In my writing and blogging, I've always contended that Polyamory is more than a label describing sexual orientation. I feel it's a journey into opening the mind, expanding horizons, and challenging expectations and paradigms. For me, Polyamory asserts my more authentic self.

Since June 2013, I've come to interconnect issues between Polyamory and Feminism: virgin whore dichotomy, consent, coercion, sex positivism, rape culture, slut shaming, and the like.

I've had some growth opportunities lately concerning these sensitive topics, yet I've difficulty in broaching a meaningful conversation about these issues for - well, for starters - I'm a man whose obvious privilege obfuscates the reality of these problems - and second - within the larger the public consciousness, Polyamory is so closely related to the politics of Polygamy that I feel it'd be really complicated to navigate potentially negative, cumbersome stereotypes.

Today, I asked my Facebook friends for help in broadening my understanding of these issues:

Over dinner, I had a conversation this evening with my partners Regina and Camille and asked for actionable ways that I could take to understand these issues, and they came up with some ideas that I may implement in March. They came up with a few sensible suggestions:

  • Let us pay. Well, I've got this built-in programming that says I need to pay for everything with my partners. Over dinner, they asked me to let go of that. Let them pay for stuff. Having me pay for things all the time is disenfranchising, an exercise in male power, and creates negative feelings. I'd like to unwrap this gender-role issue. So in March, we agreed to try that.

  • Keeping a total. They'd keep their receipts and we'd look at the financial resources being pushed one way or another, and build some awareness behind my perception of value. I've got this weird hang-up that my value as a guy is related to my being a provider, and they'd like to help me decouple this. 

  • Keeping a log. In March, I'm going to keep a log on my phone when I encounter overt forms of sexism and sexual objectivity. I was thinking of even dumping the log here, maybe try to contextualize it a bit to Polyamory? Not sure. I just think the log is going to be, like, mondo-huge. I was thinking about creating another whole freekin' blog but, really, I don't have the time.

  • Let us drive. Literally. I mean, when we go places, I'm usually driving the car. I assert some kind of male, sexist control thing here. So in March, I'm going to step away from the wheel.

Anyway, the response on Facebook has been good so far and please, if you've any wisdom, ideas about this experiment, Polyamory and feminism, blogs, books, or sites to share, I'd love to hear about them.


Friday, January 31, 2014

On Being Transparent

In my opinion, Polyamory just doesn't happen. It's a journey, not a condition. Nobody is perfect at being poly and it's much bigger than applying a self-affixing label.

That's why I guess I'm skeptical of people who - with a flip of a switch - suddenly say, "Oh Jesus, wow, I'm Poly!" as if they had a V8 moment and (cue Emeril) BAM! They're poly. I just don't think it happens that way. Being poly takes a lot of practice.

So I guess this is a story about my practice.

My initial run at non-monogamy was under the auspices of the default model. That's to say I was married and cheating, and that was anything but ethical, moral, or transparent. I wasn't supposed to be seeing anyone else. I didn't reveal what I was doing to my spouse because that wasn't how the cheating game was played.

So, when I came around to dabble in Polyamory, I had a lot of built-in behaviors that erred towards concealment, avoidance, and lying. I had a lot of de-programming to do.

I'm not sure if I can speak for other men but I'd be willing to bet that there's a tendency to lean more this way, particularly for those brand new to the polyamorous experience and transitioning from monogamy. There's something in you that wants to gravitate towards the cheating game.

  • Maybe it felt awkward to share the details of your time with another lover;
  • maybe you wanted to spare your partner hurt feelings; 
  • maybe you felt your choices would be scrutinized;
  • maybe some of the things you did or places you went hit a little too close to home, or could have rubbed her the wrong way;
  • maybe you just felt weird about talking openly with your spouse.

Whatever. For me, it was a little of all of these things. They created some pretty bad habits.

Before I'd go on a date with somebody else, I wouldn't volunteer information to my wife on where I was going to go or do. And when I returned, I'd be hesitant to give a full accounting back to my wife.

Over the years, I've mellowed. I thought about the way that I'd want to be treated, and that's not how I'd like to be treated in those circumstances with any of my partners. These days:

  • I tend to schedule with my partners in advance. Weeks or sometimes months in advance. And as you know, we share calendars through Google so we can all see our time and availability.
  • Regardless, when I'm chatting with my partners in the morning, I tell my partners when I'm going to see someone. It could be a regular, established partner or somebody new, but even though it's on the calendar, I want to be clear about what's on my agenda for the day.
  • If a regular partner, a lot of that person is already known and we're likely to be frisky and have sex. If it's a new person or a new date, or if I'm intending to go to a party where adult play might be involved, then I'll try to clarify what I expect will happen.
  • I'll usually open up to a conversation at the point with "do you have any questions or requests?" At this point I'm trying to extend an opportunity. If any one of my partners has a particular squick, or, are just feeling a tad insecure about my activities, now's the chance to talk about expectations, boundaries ... actions that I can take that'll make them feel a little more comfortable.
  • And sometimes - and you're probably thinking this - conditions change. Expectations run-afoul. The agreements that I have with my partners are to make the best choices I can then follow up with a conversation at the earliest opportunity. 
  • I try to be back on time, at the time that I promised or said I'd be back, and again, if conditions change, I'm expected to call or text just to let folks know I'm okay. A good example are check-ins for arrivals and departures - I'll often text my partners to let them know when I'm back at home, or, arrived at a party, or, left a date. That way they're not hung up on what's going on.
  • Then afterwards, especially if it was a new date or situation, I'll open up another dialog with my partners. How are you feeling? Here's a little of what happened - do you need to know more? Any questions for me?

Some might read what I'm doing here and shudder.

Like, OMG:TMI, or, dude, you're so pussy-whipped, or, Jesus, are you some kind of control freak to expect this out of everyone else in your life?!


I guess I feel that what I do here is, at foremost, trying to give a voice to my partners, and that my activities don't occur in a vacuum. They've got a say and input into what's going on. I'm also extending an opportunity to ask questions in an effort to curb jealousy, envy, or any other negative emotion through communication. I'm also trying to be transparent so that they understand where I'm coming from and what I'm feeling. Finally, I'm trying to build and reinforce trust between me and all of my partners.

Personally, I don't feel controlled or controlling. I try not to meddle too deeply into the affairs of my partners or challenge their personal autonomy. I do want to be a factor in their lives and have some insight into their feelings, their activities, and their shifting emotional landscape; I don't want to be taken by surprise.

Anyway, that's a little of what I've learned, that transparency goes a long way in being Polyamorous, and opens the doors to new possibilities and understandings about yourself and your partners. It's one more step to being truly genuine and honest, and that's the way I try to approach it.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Trying Things On For Size.

Given the nature of life, poly just seems to add accelerant to the fires of growth and change.  There are a lot of times where that can feel pretty daunting, and the impulse is to put the brakes on.  Having a voice is important, somewhere, anywhere, just to feel like one still has a say in the direction of life.

The problem is that, in poly particularly, there are other people, with their own needs and desires to consider. The desire to put the brakes on isn't likely to impact only you.  It's going to hit your partners and metamours as well.  How can that be navigated? 

One of the tactics we've been working with quite a bit has been the idea of trying things on for size.  The idea being that we can choose to push into something uncomfortable, try it once, and then see if it was better, harder, or different than anticipated, make requests around changing it to something else, or try it again to get more practice, without that experiment setting a standing precedent for on-going commitments. 

If it just really doesn't work, we try something totally different to meet that need.  If there was a piece that could have gone better, we look at making that piece more functional.   The end result is that it's less intimidating to attempt something that feels hard, because it's not the way it has to go in the future. 

Our pod has used this technique to find solutions to being apart overnight.  Some of the things we've tried are late night dates, early morning dates, overnights with phone calls/texts on one, or both ends of the night, co-sleeping as a group, sleepovers that were in different rooms of the same space, sleeping with other people, white noise generators, medication for sleeping, extra snuggle/intimate time before leaving/upon returning, notes, music play lists, shared jewelry, stuffed animals, journaling, special decorations in each other's space, and just being uncomfortable. 

Some of those ideas worked well, but the ones that bombed out didn't need to be repeated, or were adjusted to improve the outcomes.  Sleeping alone still isn't a favorite thing, but we're all getting better at it, and that's because we aren't afraid to TRY. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Valentine's Day for the Polyamorous

It's that time of year again. February. Valentine's Day.

Yes, a day fairly inconsequential for the monogamous since it's just another date night whereas Valentine's Day is a logistical logjam for the Polyamorous.

I mean, look at ol' Eros here. His wee little wings are barely keeping him in the air. Imagine if he had two more chics he was embracing and trying to remain aloft? Anyhow, I digress.

Let's do some math.

Including my wife, I've three partners; she has three partners including me; each one of those people have on average two partners ... and we're all competing for time on the same day. So that's six of us in my immediate pod then approximately eight metamours - at least 14 people - all vying for roughly six hours of evening time on Friday February 14, 2014. Ugh.

So Valentine's scheduling begins early for the Polyamorous. In our household, matters are made more complicated in that Regina, Camille, and I share an annual commitment to each other during the Candlemas/Imbolc Ritual; this happens around the first weekend in February. We write our commitments to each other on 3x5 index cards and recite them to each other in a shared space with low-light and candles, hand-holding, smiles, and tears - we state our intentions and commitment to making this all work. It's our annual reminder of why we're doing all of this. This year, we're heading out on a trip together on that first weekend.

Slightly complicating matters, annually, during the second week of February, Camille flies off to Pantheacon in California. This year, Cam will be boarding the plane on Valentine's Day itself, so she and I had to schedule our romantic time together on the 13th ahead of her departure date, meaning Gina and I get Valentine's Day proper to ourselves. Still, I had to schedule time with Alisa after returning from our trip, ahead of the week on Tuesday the 11th.

Okay guys, start thinking about the traditional Valentine's Day expenses here. Today, for each of these dates, I had to secure reservations for evening dinners. Along with the dinner there'll probably be some flowers, gifts, cards, and at least in one case, evening entertainment. Moo-ching. That's the cash-cow. It's grazing, right over there, in the pasture of love.

Meanwhile, Gina's scheduled time with one of her partners on the 13th and (perhaps luckily) Dave doesn't do Valentine's Day. Gina informs me that it'd be impossible to select just one piece of new lingerie that would satisfy all three of her partners so she'd have to find three separate outfits - if she was going to do such a thing - and then she'll be picking cards, gifts, and keepsakes out, too. Moo-ching.

Come to think of it, there's probably an awesome multiplier effect here that - if measured - would show that Polyamorous people contribute at least 1% of national GDP on Valentine's Day in redundant economic expenditures. Call it the Poly Boost.

And Heaven help us if we're going on any romantic trips.

Of course, it'd be terribly sensible to share lingerie and flowers amongst our partners yet regrettably insensitive, but that's kind of what our pod does when we share the Candlemas trip together. We're sharing time. That's one way that we skirt through incurring hugely outrageous expenses. We all chip in and make it happen for all of us. And for me, it also helps reaffirm that we're all in a relationship together - the three of us - in a season that celebrates dyadic relationship models.

Anyway, I thought this would make a decent blog post so decided to say a few words on it. How does your pod/poly circle celebrate Valentine's Day?


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Poly in the Media: NPR Planet Money Interview

Some follow me on Facebook and others don't. Just an update for the 'others' . 

The NPR Planet Money team is doing a special on love for their Valentine's Day podcast. They asked listeners to forward their questions for an economist, and I pushed a question regarding polyamory. Here's what I wrote:

I am polyamorous - a contrived word meaning "multiple loves"; I am married but also have two other close, loving partners who I share my life with. And in turn, my wife has partners of her own - one of her boyfriends lives with us. And all of them have other committed partners in their lives.

A core tenant of polyamory is the concept of abundance: love is abundant and can be shared with whomever you choose in an ethical and transparent way.

Monogamy, on the other hand, concentrates on scarcity: there is only one love you're destined for; sharing it is cheating and a taboo.

Economically, scarcity and abundance are interesting topics, but practically, there's a benefit in shared resources and time amongst 3,4,5,6 people rather than 2.

I'm curious to hear your economist's thoughts on the scarcity and abundance of love, and what economic benefits/detractors could arise from a society thinking abundantly about love.

This AM, I just had my phone interview with the Planet Money team. If they use the interview, it'll be aired on the planet money podcast sometime around Valentine's Day. The subject was about love, economic scarcity and abundance, and polyamory; specifically, the economist focused on an economic theory of time/children (relating it to quantity of partners) which I thought was very relevant.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Do You Handle It?

On January 1, 2014, I received a cool comment on my Poly 101: Fluid Bonding post yet, regrettably, the author retracted it.

A bummer, seriously, because I believe it addresses a common squick, so - with many, many apologies to the reader who thought it deleted - I've pulled it from the proverbial garbage can while ever-so-kindly omitting the author's name. It read as follows:

### asks:

How do you deal with your lover being sexual with another? Thinking about the actions that take place with sex, fluids and intimacy being shared. Your lover has sex with their partner, then they come home and want to be with you; after them being with someone else it feels a little dirty to engage in physical intimacy. How do you handle knowing their face was in between someone's lap? Even if I like my lovers partner and respect them, how could I turn to my lover and be physical with them after they touched someone else? Trying to figure it out. What helped you? 

Wow. Really good stuff.  And let me tell you why I love this question.

First: it's terribly provocative - truthfully, it would likely garner scornful sneers within the touch-positive communities I'm involved in but a blog is a totally perfect place to voice the question, and, second: it is so brilliantly honest. I just love it. And I was looking forward to replying.

The answer, for me, is found in the notion of sex positivity.

I like sex. I'm fairly positive about it. Shuh, I should be positive about it: I've got three partners and every one of them loves sex. I'm seriously having sex anywhere between 2, 4, or 8 times a day. It's an integral part of my life.

For me, sex isn't a bad thing - sex is a good thing. It's abundant. Sex is a natural and fun biological function well-suited for recreational purposes. I embrace sex in my life and the sexual appetite, expression, and health of my partners is of significant importance to me.

More so, I'm very certain all of my partners had sex prior to meeting me and yet they still so deeply appealed to my heart and mind that I fell in love with them. Further, I'm also convinced that their having sex with others won't fundamentally change them, regardless of what sexual encounters they may have.

Now, dear reader, I'd encourage you to read your response closely. There's an underlying set of ideas:

  • sex is bad, dirty, gross;
  • the act of sex is so terribly intimate that it shouldn't be shared;
  • respect is earned through fidelity (slut-shaming);
  • sexual exclusivity equals love and devotion

Arguably there's a lot of sex-negativism here and these ideas are quite opposite to the way that I feel about sex. Perhaps it wasn't your intention to communicate these ideas yet they're clearly here, and I'd be the first to suggest that it's okay and not your fault; your thinking has been shaped throughout your life by Western cultural norms. You've been trained throughout your life to believe these things.

If you're one to pick up your ideas, examine them, wonder how they got there, and consider alternatives, I would encourage you to read more on sex positivity.

Still, to address, "... how do I handle knowing their face was between someone's lap?", I don't concentrate on that very much; I'll often repackage the idea. Example: my wife returns from a daytime adventure with her boyfriend with the 10-inch shlong. I don't obsess about the deeply-penitrative experience she had with somebody else, nor am I overly concerned about his fluids pouring out of her vagina or something (as if my partners aren't capable of basic hygine). Instead, I'll ask, "Did you have a good time? Was it very connective? How do you feel?" This is my attempt to convert jealousy into compersion - excuse the hippy-dippy but I am happy for my partner, and pleased that they're joyous and happy. How the act came and went isn't of any big concern to me (unless I intend to eroticize it in efforts to cope with it).

I also trust my partners who have specific safe-sex practice agreements with me as I've with them. I trust that they'll take into consideration my health and emotional well-being.

Aside from that, I would say that I've a certain degree of faith. Before and after sex, I will continue to love my partners and they'll continue to love me. Yes, believe me, this is hard, for even as I'm writing this, I'm having flashbacks to moments of intense jealousy and fear that I experienced when my partners did have/were having/would have sex with somebody else. Learning to examine your feelings around this stuff is part of the polyamorous experience and it's something we all work on every day, but underlying all of that crap is the sincere belief that my partners will return to me. And they do, as I return to them.

I think the hardest thing for me isn't the physicality reflected in your question but the emotional content of the engagement, leaning towards base sentiments expressed between monogamous lovers that are fairly contentious within the context of poly:

  • I love you, and only you, forever
  • You are my destiny
  • You are the most important person to me
  • You're the best lover I've ever had
  • That's the most amazing sex ever

Yadda yadda ... stuff like this are part and parcel of pillow talk that seeks to comfort, re-assure, and reinforce the emotional bonds we have with our partners. Yet they're sticky wickets in non-monogamy. It's these kinds of thoughts, expressions, and ideas that keep me up at night. What helps me fight through these kinds of feelings are honesty and communication: discussions with my partners about what I'm feeling and in seeking reassurances, leaning heavily again on that faith I spoke about earlier.

Finally, your imagination is your worst enemy. It will ruthlessly create every fear imaginable to you. Cope with your imagination by dispelling it, ask open and direct questions of your partners, invest in both understanding and empathizing with their sexuality, and specifically talk with them about your insecurities. For me, being told how a sexual experience played out with one of my partners removes a heavy weight of insecurity from my shoulders - no longer huge, unknown, and scary, the event becomes perceivable, understood, manageable.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to respond to your question even though I had to bring it back from the dead. Hope it helps - thanks for reading and all the best.


Oops! Wrong Partner....

One of the things people like to say is that poly is really just all about relationship and communication skills.  There really isn't much that is unique to the poly experience, so stop making out like we're so special!  For the most part, this is true.  There are a few things that are exceptions to that concept, and I'd like to tackle one in this post.  It's the, "Oops!  Wrong partner!" issue, particularly when it comes to physical intimacy in our relationships.

Let's say you've been with your lover for a while.  You know their body.  You know how they like to communicate. You know their preferences for food.  You know what types of clothes they like. You know a vast plethora of trivial, and not so trivial, details about this person you love.  Now, imagine that you have this in triplicate, except that a lot of those details differ from person to person.

Russell and I were in bed the other day, and he did this thing that one of his other partners really likes. For me, it's kind of uncomfortable, and not sexy fun-making.  I flagged it playfully by saying, "Wrong chick!", and he said, looking puzzled and repeating the action, " really like...Oh shit!"  We got a good giggle about it, but this isn't the first, nor last time, something like this is likely to happen, for either of us.

From buying the preferred beverage and presenting it to the incorrect partner, to a caress that makes one person giggle, another collapse in a puddle of goo, and triggers a third to lash out, there are so many things to track between partners, that cutting everyone some slack on these types of mental clerical errors is a merciful skill to learn in poly.

Particularly when transitioning between partners in relatively rapid sequence, it's easy to get muddled. Take a moment or two when shifting to remind yourself of who you are with NOW.  Allow yourself to ask if you're having trouble pulling up relevant data about personal preferences.

If you have a partner that has a difficult time moving between relationships cleanly, in regards to recall, or touch, or whatever is important to you, let them know!  Don't patiently endure a sex act that your metamour would be thrilled to receive that leaves you bored.   Don't eat the spicy food that your metamour enjoys which will make you uncomfortable the rest of the evening out of politeness.  Ask them to change the movie selection to a genre that you actually enjoy, and to please see the originally offered option with their other partner.

Being poly isn't a free pass to be unobservant, or treat everyone the same, just so you don't screw up. It adds another layer of complexity and memory that one needs to be mindful of.  When you mess up, own it, apologize, and recommit to honoring the complexity and individuality of those you love.  We're all fallible individuals muddling through this together.  Stay compassionate with each other, even in the face of an "Ooops!".

Staying Vulnerable

Minor rant warning:

For the past five years, each month, I've created a discussion outline and hashed a couple of topics out with a group of our local community members.  During a recent meeting I was talking about self-advocacy, and I realized that I kept sharing information that isn't super comfortable or flattering to me. It's vulnerable bits.

Yep, I still struggle with overnight visits, in every direction.  Yep, I still feel hurt if my spouse takes off their ring while they're out with another partner.  Yep, I still get twitchy when my submissive partner has marks I didn't make. Yep, I still have feelings of territorial nature around "my" bed, and make requests around that.  Add that all together, and it makes me look neurotic, insecure, and perhaps even a bit controlling.  It's not even a comprehensive list.  And that's okay.  I'm working on all of that, and making progress that I, my partners, and my metamours, would say is demonstrable.

One of the biggest disservices that anyone in a functional, healthy, happy poly dynamic can choose is to make out as though they don't have ANY issues, anything they're working on, any points of growth they're addressing when discussing poly with others.  There is no such thing as perfection, and those who pretend their relationships are flawless, particularly while espousing high ideals they fail to achieve, hit my hypocrisy button.  At the least, say that this is what you're working towards.

The lack of vulnerability in the poly experienced within public discussions and writings raises the bar too high for those who are new, who are having a rough patch, who are learning, who are trying things out and wondering if anyone else has ever struggled with a particular problem.

To those who are working on things:  Stay open!  Be forthcoming.  Sure, there are going to be things that are too hot to handle in the moment, but after the fact, bring it out into the light.  Talk about the challenges you've faced, and how accord has been reached.  Talk about the failures, the meltdowns, the moments where despair was high, then share how you were able to reach deep, and pull things you didn't even know you had from the recesses of your soul, how your partners helped hold you up, not by giving you a pass, but by staying with you through those struggles.

Only through shared vulnerability can we help each other grow, without having to recreate the wheel in each and every poly relationship.