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.