If you visit here often you know that sometimes things bug me. Usually they are things that most people probably dismiss easily. For some reason I can't. They chew at my brain, and sometimes my morality, mercilessly until somehow they are vented from my consciousness, hopefully in a constructive manner.
Here is the one bugging me a bit right now. . .
I know someone who is poly, let us call her Ethel, who is in a family support group that includes both adults and children. The group is on the alternative side of things so it would theoretically be comprised of more open-minded people. Ethel however has recently found out that might not be the case. Being an overly affectionate and vocal person about her poly (and lifestyle) views, she has drawn some attention to herself, and complaints from group members. Being a sensitive woman, Ethel is deeply hurt by this.
Knowing Ethel personally, I know that she is publicly quite affectionate and indeed, quite vocal. She has even told me directly how a friend of ours was hiding their poly lifestyle from their children and she felt it was her obligation as a parent to take those children aside and explain polyamory to them, against their parents wishes. Yikes! Fortunately she ended up not having the opportunity to do so.
When she expressed her dismay at having someone complain about her public displays of affection, and vocal poly conversations she was having, I gently tried to let her know that some people are sensitive to things to which they, and their children, are exposed. The feedback was not received well and Ethel made it clear she knows how to act appropriately. Umm, okay.
I'm really only telling you these things so you know enough of the story for it to make sense. This next part is where I think it gets interesting.
Ethel decided to get some online feedback about the situation. There were quite a few comments made on the topic. Some suggested she ignore the issues, others that she try to find out who made the complaint. Some suggested she try to work things out, or turn the other cheek. Others suggested the complainer was simply a mean, unhappy person and that Ethel shouldn't change a thing about her behavior.
The overall theme was that Ethel had a right to act the way she was. Most believed that Ethel is a loving, caring person (which I think she is at heart) and it was ridiculous for someone to complain about that. An underlying tone was that Ethel did nothing wrong, shouldn't change, and it was the complainers problem not hers. Essentially, Ethel should be able to talk about whatever she wants, whenever she wants, regardless of the audience.
Here is the sticky part. Those commenting that Ethel should do as she pleases are primarily from the Poly community. They are the same people who scream bloody murder if a monogamous person starts espousing the benefits of monogamy, or God forbid a Christian falls into their pagan laps and is vocal about their religion, and they are the same people who become almost frenzied when exclusivity or discrimination over their Poly lifestyle comes up.
What I got out of the discussion about the problem was this; Do as I say, not as I do.
For some reason a lot of people seem to think it is okay to shout their beliefs from the highest rooftops, beat people senseless with them, convert the opposition, and that they should be legally and morally justified in doing so. But should anyone with an opposing view try to do the same they are the first screaming a breach of morality and begging for legal sanctions.
Ridiculous. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Didn't anyone else learn that one growing up? It isn't a difficult concept really. Have some consideration if other parents don't want their children hearing about your poly lifestyle and multiple partners. Do you have to agree with how they are raising their children? Not at all. But it would be wise to respect their role as parents lest they decide to disrespect yours and educate your children on a subject of which you aren't fond.
-If you oogle the same people as your partner, and discuss their hotness, you might be poly.
-If you find yourself attracted to random strangers on the train during your commute, you might be poly.
-You might be poly if you get excited when your partner has a date.
-If you use the terms Compersion, NRE, or Frubble in conversation regularly you might be poly.
-If you like talking things to death, then resurrecting them just to talk them to death again, you might be poly.
-If your idea of a shower involves more than one person, you might be poly.
-When invited to events you ask how many of your partners you can bring, you might be poly.
-If you are sick of seeing the same intertwined hearts and parrot pictures on every blog and website you visit, you might be poly.
-If you say things like "I love you, but I also love him/her", you might be poly.
-If you know what a Cuddle Party is, or have ever been to one, you might be poly.
-If you have ever heard the response "Oh, so you are a polygamist!", you might be poly.
-If you have ever been slapped after asking someone on a date then telling them you already have a spouse, you might be poly.
-If you have ever heard the saying "I'm bi-sexual, kinky, horny, and I'm still not sleeping with you!" you might be poly.
-If the number of places at the dinner table varies depending on how many of your partners are coming, you might be poly.
-You might be poly if you keep a calendar to know where you are sleeping each night.
-When your partner tells you they have a date on the same night you had plans with them and you just laugh because you had worried that was a mistake you would make, you might be poly.
-You might be poly if your toothbrush holder doesn't have enough toothbrush slots (or holes).
-If you have ever been told "You just want a harem!", you might be poly.
-You might be poly if your towel-bar isn't big enough to hold all the towels needing to be hung.
-If you have heard the names LovingMore or Franklin Veaux, you might be poly.
-You might be poly if a frequent discussion at dinner is who gets to park in the garage.
-If you change the sheets on your bed more often than you mop the kitchen floor, you might be poly.
-If you buy condoms or lube in bulk, while also buying books on communication, you might be poly.
-You might be poly if you know what the terms Vee hinge, Triad, or Quad mean.
-If a double date with friends means more than 4 people at dinner, you might be poly.
-If someone says "Your boyfriend/girlfriend is cute" and you wonder which one they are talking about, you might be poly.
-If you look at someone, think they are attractive, and wonder if your partner will find them attractive, you might be poly.
-You might be poly if when you get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night you find a person on both sides of you in bed.
-If you don't have to look outside your immediate family to get help moving, you might be poly.
-If your big couch just isn't big enough a lot of the time, you might be poly.
-If you know for a fact that multiple marriage isn't legal in your state and have explored options such as handfasting or domestic partner contracts, you might be poly.
-If you have ever heard your kids say "My other dad/mom", you might be poly.
-If you know what a Unicorn is, and Unicorn Hunters are, you might be poly.
-If you neighbors ask how many adults actually live in your house, you might be poly.
-If you know what "OKC" is, and spend more time there than on Facebook, you might be poly.
-When buying things that come in pairs if you have to buy more than one pair, you might be poly.
-And if you are reading this, you might be poly!
So what other things do you think might make you poly?
Today I would like to tackle something conceptually a bit more difficult for a lot of people to grasp. The thought that just because you can enter into a relationship, should you?
I frequently hear people talking about new or potential new, partners and questioning either the satisfaction they expect to derive from the relationship, or the durability. Often there are other factors involved such as SO's, privacy, or even lifestyle. The conversations usually end with the person saying something like "I don't have anything to lose, right?" or "Why not, it couldn't hurt to try, right?” While I can't argue with those sentiments, because I do believe very strongly in taking chances and following your heart, I believe there is a fine line that many don't recognize. That line is drawn between putting yourself out there, taking a chance on love, and entering into a relationship you are fairly certain will end in failure or flames.
Another aspect to the question, and one that may help explain the concept, is ethics. Just because you can screw that hot chick (or hot stud), should you? The same question applies without the sexual aspect; just because you can have a relationship with someone, who may or may not be viewing the relationship from a different perspective, should you?
Let me give you an example. Recently I found myself in an intimate situation with a friend. We enjoyed ourselves and had a good time. I found afterwards that our physical interaction had ignited better conversations and a connection we hadn't experienced before. My friend also began dropping hints that she may be interested in more than just a friendship going forward. It was clear to me that we could easily try to have more than a friendship so I sat down to think about it for a minute. What I realized was that although I enjoy our friendship, and had enjoyed the "play-time" we had experienced, I didn't feel enough for my friend to explore a more emotional relationship, let alone was I feeling "love" in the context of a romantic relationship. I ask myself, "Why not?” Maybe I could develop those feelings; maybe the relationship could be great. I then ask myself; would taking the chance be ethical? My friend is obviously looking for a romantic relationship but if I was just "taking a chance" would we be on the same page with our intentions? I don't think so which for me doesn't feel ethical. In the end although I could have the relationship, or try to have it, I don't feel it would be fair to her since we would be looking at the relationship from different perspectives.
This is where things can get a bit sticky and controversial. I could have sat down with my friend and explained my position. We could have talked about how we may be approaching a relationship from different directions. And we may have agreed to try anyway. Assuming my friend was honest, and didn't let emotion cloud her thoughts, we might have found a workable path for us both. And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. What I did at that point was consider the possibilities if we could find a workable path. The feeling that remained for me was that even if we could give it a try I honestly didn't see myself loving her the way she was hoping I would. Final answer; it didn't feel like it would be fair to her.
Another aspect of the question that I mentioned above are outside factors such as SO's. Let's try another example. I have a friend who fell quickly in love with a married man she knows. (His marriage is openly polyamorous by the way). Their relationship went well until my friend began to integrate more deeply into her new SO's marriage and create a relationship with the wife. That is when my friend found out, to be blunt, the wife is a loon. (I know the wife personally and have been the focus of her loony behavior so this isn't conjecture or second-hand information). My friend quickly began to struggle with how her SO was treated by his wife. She wanted to interject herself and help her new SO stand up for himself against his loony wife. Her feelings opened a big can of worms to be sure. Was it her place to intercede in their relationship? Would it be ethical for her to do so? The question I posed to my friend was this; Poly people enjoy the variety of multiple relationships. It sounds as if you are imparting your morality and ethics on your new SO. If he is happy with his marriage what right do you have to interfere? And if you can't be involved with him without interfering, should you be involved with him?
For me the answer to that question is No. If I can't have a relationship with someone and accept how differently their other relationships function then I shouldn't be in a relationship with that person. To do so would create a lot of stress for both of us and in reality, I would want to change them. Always a dangerous proposal in my opinion. Could I remain in a relationship with that design? Sure. I could work on "fixing" what I see as problems. But does it really make sense? Not at all.
Polyamory inherently includes the possibility of multiple relationships. Freedom to be involved with others is awesome and can be heady so say the least. But with that freedom comes the need to act responsibly, both to you and to others. I believe that Polyamory opens us up to multiple relationship possibilities which require us to take a deeper look at those possibilities and realistically determine if they make sense. The flip side is that dismissing a potential relationship because it isn't a great fit doesn't diminish the ability to still have multiple relationships. Maybe a better, simpler way, to say it is this; quality is more satisfying than quantity. Which would you rather have, 1 or 2 awesome relationships or 4-5 mediocre relationships? Personally I would rather have the awesome relationships which still allow me time to explore other awesome relationships whereas overloading myself with mediocre relationships is a time suck that ends up limiting me to those mediocre relationships.
Quality not quantity, ethics and morality, and knowledge of self. In my mind those are the things that can make Polyamory not just successful, but satisfyingly beautiful as well.
The past couple of weeks have been pretty busy from a relationship perspective. Not to mention all the other stuff that life hands out to keep us busy like family commitments, work, kids, and on and on. I went on a couple of casual dates with ladies I know and have been interested in dating but haven’t yet. Although both were enjoyable, neither produced the kind of electric connection you would hope to establish with someone that would support a romantic relationship. Such is life in my opinion, no harm no foul.
Where things were more positive was with a woman I met a while back at a BDSM event. Though not someone who is active in the lifestyle, I have explored (including with my current partner) and am interested in learning more. When I heard this woman talk at the event she echoed interests similar to mine such as; building a trusting relationship first, exploring slowly and with emphasis on communication and feedback, not being very interested in a 24x7 or formalized arrangement, and not being interested in what I would call ‘extreme’ BDSM such as needles, cutting/branding, or really anything with pain involved. We are both interested in the psychological aspects of power exchange with a strong focus on sexual activity, rather than daily activities. We are both also quite interested in collaring in a D/s relationship.
The other night we were finally able to meet for dinner and have some conversation on the subject. I had seen her at another event a while back and mentioned that I was interested in what she had said at the BDSM event and would like to discuss things more, so she had an idea at least of what our conversation would be about.
I explained that I felt we were in a similar position with our BDSM or D/s experiences and interests and I would like to talk more about that with the goal of determining whether we could enter into a defined relationship for purposes of exploring those interests. She was agreeable and the conversation commenced!
Some of the things we discussed were: -Past BDSM, D/s experiences. -Our general focus. Were we interested in power-exchange, pain, domination, submission, etc. (We were both more focused on power-exchange and testing psychological limits). -Was there a sexual focus for us both? In other words, would we be exploring in a sexual or non-sexual setting. (We were both sexual focused). -Was there any interest in integrating our exploration into daily life? If collared, would she be a 24x7 sub, per scene? Would the D/s play extend beyond the bedroom and if so, to what limits? -Would the relationship be strictly D/s, or would it include a romantic component? -Would other partners be included in any way? -What hard limits did we each have? -What type of communication did we both need? -Sexual safety including; partner history for the last couple of years, last testing date, contraceptive use, condoms/barriers, etc., and fluid bonding. -Would the relationship be casual or formalized?
There were a lot of other things we discussed that are more difficult to define such as general feelings about knowing when to stop a scene, what constitutes pain, general likes and dislikes, things like that. We also agreed that were we to enter into such a relationship we would need to start slowly and build up some trust before we started pushing limits.
At this point we are both still thinking about things and have had some follow-up discussions via email when we have thought of new questions, or wanted to further clarify things.
If nothing else, I felt the conversations we had were handled very well by both of us. We both identify as polyamorous which I think helped our talks a lot. Both of us were quite open and honest about our likes and dislikes. When we had finished talking I felt refreshed at having had a very open, honest conversation with someone who doesn’t seem to have a hidden agenda. We were both happy to end our talk with the understanding that we would take a few days and think things over. I was pleasantly surprised that once the woman realized I had an interested in her that included sex, her attitude didn’t change. My experience has been that once you tell someone you are interested in sex with them they either pounce on you or run away. She did neither but continued to engage with me in an intelligent conversation.
So am I just bragging? No, I really do have a point to make here.
As regular readers here have heard me say before; I believe in defining relationships independently of one another. I hold that relationships should be defined by the parties in them. What I hope to have given you above is an example of how I’m applying that same belief to a relationship that isn’t specifically poly. Although the two of us discussing the relationship identify as poly, that isn’t the focus of the relationship, D/s is the focus. Polyamory may support us having the relationship and in that way will be respected, but it isn’t a defining characteristic of the relationship.
We did touch on my other partner briefly during our talks. (The woman I’ve mentioned here isn’t currently partnered). She actually knows my partner and knows my current partner is aware of our conversations and my hope they will result in a relationship.
So friends, take some of those wonderful things you learn from polyamory and apply them to other aspects of your life. And don’t be afraid to explore your interests. Remember, in any relationship you are in control. Control over your own happiness, fulfillment, desires, and needs. Define relationships that make sense to you and make you happy. Talk to potential partners about all aspects of the relationship you want to design, even the difficult things like sex and money, and look for the fit. If it isn’t there during your initial conversations chances are it won’t be there when the going gets tough or the NRE has worn off.
There is a reason I chose "paradigm" as one of the words in this blog title; I like the concept of looking at things from a different perspective and trying to understand a viewpoint or need that I previously didn't understand or even knew existed.
I had a nice paradigm shift recently when I was asked the following question; "What are the obstacles to entering a relationship, creating a Vee, with one partner of a married couple?"
The question itself, and how it was worded, gave me the impression the questioner was anticipating problems with the OSO in a Vee configuration. I hadn't really thought of it from that perspective so I enjoyed having a nice paradigm shift as I thought about answering the question.
I've always viewed my relationships as independent of one another, at least early in the relationship. I hope that my partners will get along, but it isn't necessary. And if they get along well enough to be friends, that is just awesome sauce on the top! For that reason I also approach new relationships a bit differently. I view them as independent, regardless of pre-existing partnerships, and hope to be friends with any OSO's, but don't feel it is a requirement.
So how do you enter into a new relationship with someone who has an OSO?
The first thing I would recommend to anyone contemplating a relationship with someone who has an OSO is to communicate openly with the potential new partner. Ask about their expectations, and how they envision a final design.
-Would there be a hierarchy involved from their perspective? Would you be in a Secondary type position or would the relationships and decisions within them carry equal weight? -Do they expect everyone to be friends? More than friends? What happens if a friendship doesn't bloom? -How would they expect to deal with disagreements or conflicts? Would they be the mediator in those situations or would you and the OSO be expected to work things out yourselves?
And of course there are other questions that personally I feel apply to any poly relationship. .
-Is the person prepared to deal with time management issues? How? -We talked about their other partner but, what happens when you have one? Are they expecting to be an equal, a Secondary, or something else? -If you acquire another partner, would they expect to work with that person, have a relationship, and solve difficulties directly if they expect that from you?
Those were some specific questions and thoughts so now let's talk more conceptually.
Monogamy is an intentionally static design. That is to say, a single person finds another single person with whom they share common interests. Should they feel an emotional attachment they create a bond, beneficial to them both in many ways. Negotiation of children is a part of the design, usually when it is created. Once the design is set it doesn't change.
Polyamory on the other hand can be much more dynamic, allowing of course for differences of design. Not only does the relationship grow, the potential for exponential growth is quite possible. As with above, two people join to form a union or partnership. Those same two may also each have another partner, growing the relationship to realistically now include 4 people. Add a partner for each of those people and we now count 6. Add children to the mix. . . I think you can see what I mean.
So what is the bottom line here? Approach any potential poly relationship with scalability in mind. (Yes, I'm throwing IT terms in here). Scalability means essentially the ability to adjust to accommodate future growth in a graceful manner without disruption to current activity. If you approach and design your relationships with scalability in mind from the beginning, adjusting to new partners will be much easier. It also makes some sense with the initial point of this article, entering into a relationship with someone who has an existing SO. The concept of scalability is a good basis for many of the questions that could, and should, be asked before entering the relationship. At the same time, their answers will help outline a roadmap to the future of the relationship and possible changes that can be expected down the road. And if questions of scalability can't be answered, maybe the potential new relationship isn't as strong a potential as it first appeared. At a minimum there is probably some serious negotiation around relationship design that need to take place.
As usual, remember your needs when negotiating any new relationship and you will have a better chance at durability and success.
What other things do you think factor into entering a relationship with someone who has an existing partner?
We all know (right?) how small the poly community can be sometimes. The mild shock that comes when you find out someone you know, and may have dated, is dating someone else you dated. Maybe it is more than a mild shock when you find out it has been going on for a while, or didn't know the two people even knew each other. And of course, the rumor mill can inflate things beyond your wildest imagination if you let it keep running.
So what do you do when you get one of these mild shockers?
The first thing that will probably happen is something like "Really? You are dating him?" or "Wow! Didn't see that coming!" will pop out of your mouth. The result is usually a lot of questions from the person sharing their wonderful news with you. How do you answer those questions?
Let me say it again. . .the poly community can be quite small at times. Even more so when it comes to information about who is dating whom. Expect the answers you give to sift through the community and very probably change as they do. Yes, you are now in a minefield.
Navigating this landscape can be treacherous at best. At the worst, you can end up alienating friends or potential lovers, even finding yourself ostracized by some.
This is the point where I try to step back and think about a couple of things. . . -Would I want the other people being talked about sharing the dirty laundry of a relationship I may have had with them? It really isn't anyone's business but ours, right? -I assume they will be adult, not badmouth me or our relationship, so I shouldn't either. -When all else fails; take the high-road.
I think that way because I truly believe that 99% of the time nobody is at fault for a relationship failure. The simple truth, in my mind anyway, is that we *try* to have relationships and sometimes they just don't work. Whether it is incompatibilities between personalities, outside influences, economic or health factors, it doesn't really matter. I have to believe that when people enter into a relationship they do so with good intentions. They don't plan for it to blow up, they aren't hoping to hurt you or waste your time, nor are you doing those things either. Sometimes people are just incompatible.
That is close to how I answer questions about previous relationships when the questioner is or is becoming involved with a previous partner. I let them know that while we all have reasons for relationship failures, and we almost all universally believe it wasn't our fault (or at least, mostly our fault), probably nobody was at fault. Either of us may have made mistakes or overlooked things when we entered the relationship, we may have grown apart while in the relationship, or it simply could be that as we got to know each other we found incompatibilities and that we didn't meet each others needs.
Often I will follow that up by letting the person know that just because I failed to build a viable relationship with someone, that doesn't mean they will have the same results. Everyone is different and it is entirely possible they will be able to build a wonderful, lasting relationship with the person.
The results. . . usually people will respect my giving them an answer that doesn't either share details or assign blame. I've even been thanked for my respect in handling such matters. But every once in a while someone will push for details or even be upset that I'm not giving them the dirt on someone else. Try to stand tough in that situation and remember that anything you share may come back and bite you.
In the end, your relationships and the things that happen within them are your business not theirs. You aren't responsible for helping someone else avoid making their own mistakes.
I had another one of those interesting conversations the other night. This time the topic turned to labels. Polyamory, Poly-fidelity, Homosexual, Heterosexual, Asexual, and on and on. I personally don't like labels much. I use them to facilitate conversation with others, as a starting point, but not much more than that. The person with whom I was talking took the position that labels are necessary. That people require labels to exist and will refuse to be without a label.
As interesting as I found that, I find it even more interesting that people are constantly creating 'new' labels to define themselves. In that sentence the word 'new' is in quotes because, well, most of those 'new' labels aren't new. They are simply new words that apply the same labels already defined somewhere else.
But back to the original discussion, that people refuse to be without a label.
In some ways I think that is true. People define themselves by comparison and measurement to others. Often that means participating in a group to be able to value yourself. For example; a polyamorist isn't going to measure their success or value against monogamists. A monogamist isn't going to compare their love life to that of a polygamist. A Christian probably isn't going to use a Pagan as a comparison. People usually classify themselves into a group with beliefs or values similar to theirs, then mentally compare themselves against what at that point would be their peers.
But what if we could do away with the labels? Specifically as they relate to our love lives and sexual orientation. I like the word polyamory because I feel conceptually it describes me pretty well but at the same time, I don't necessarily fit the generally accepted or practiced definition of a polyamorist. I like to define my relationships by how they develop, rather than how they are expected to be defined. So what if we developed a term, say Love Relationist, but left the term undefined. Anyone could be a self-proclaimed Love Relationist but they couldn't define the term other than as it applied to themselves. You could be bi-sexual and polyfidelitous and be a Love Relationist. Or you could be homosexual, monogamous, and be a Love Relationist. Whatever you are, you would be a Love Relationist. And so would everyone else.
Yes, I know, it sounds like I'm inventing another label but that really isn't what I'm trying to do. Rather, what I'm suggesting is that rather than trying to apply labels to ourselves, what would the world be like if there were no defined labels?
I think an initial result of such a thing would be the opening of communication. You would have no idea what type of relationship design someone preferred or practiced without asking them. Want a relationship? You have no choice but to start talking to people and asking them about their design. Likewise, you would learn to express your interests and desires or probably be single forever.
The next thing that I think would happen would be the end of valuation by group comparison. Or from another perspective; valuation using everyone as perspective rather than a group. Without defined labels there would be no group in which to put yourself, either for yourself or as an expression to others. With the ability to place yourself in a group using a label, self-valuation might come more from within than from comparison to others.
I think conversations would change as well. Instead of asking someone what their orientation is, you might instead just ask them to describe themselves. Without asking a leading question, as we do now which often involves an explicit or implied label, the person answering would be able to do so with their own words, without the bias currently involved in the original question.
Could this work? Probably not. Current social practices have us place ourselves in a group and define ourselves based on language and general expectations generally attributed to that group. And when someone misplaces themselves in a group everyone else will chat behind their back about how they should probably be classified as something else.
What are your thoughts on labels and groups? Good, bad, indifferent? Do you use labels or avoid them? Do you try to create unique labels or use those that already exist, even when imperfect?
Along with my interest in writing I find relationships and relationship management endlessly fascinating. The things that people require from relationships, the things that bother or upset them, how they react to different situations, and how they communicate are different with every person. The result is an endless supply of information, ideas, and lessons to be learned. Because I enjoy these things I frequently engage with people needing help, advice, or just a shoulder due to relationship problems.
I was recently asked about how to deal with online relationship issues. Having spent many years working for a large ISP managing chat rooms, forums, and the like my first reaction was that an online relationship is simply that, online. It isn't exactly real in the traditional sense. You don't have to worry about disease, physical abuse, or even bad breath. At the same time you don't get to hold hands, cook dinner together, or have incredible sex. It took me a minute to remember though that some people do view online relationships as quite real.
After asking a couple of questions to understand the issue, and thinking about things for a bit, I realized I hadn't quite understood the question. What the person was really asking was how to handle the information that is available online from both your partner(s) and their OSO's.
The fact is that you can link up with almost anyone these days. MySpace, Facebook, Google plus, Yahoo, AOL, LinkedIn, and on and on. There are more ways to connect with people these days than ever before and most all of them are right at your fingertips. You can connect with friends, co-workers, businesses, employers, and even relatives. Heck, you can even connect with the checker at your grocery store if you try hard enough. It makes perfect sense that with all the social media available you will likely end up connected somehow to your partner(s) OSO's online.
Where this becomes a problem is when you have an overload of undesired information. Maybe you are friends with your partner on Facebook and see continuous posts by his or her OSO lamenting how good sex is with your partner, or how they wish they could have your partner all to themselves. Suddenly the wonderful ability to connect continuously online becomes a continuous nightmare. That brings us back to the original question; how do you deal with online relationships? Is it okay to tell your partner they can't friend their OSO on Facebook?
I probably have an unusual outlook regarding my partners online lives, believing that although we may have a committed offline life, online I am not the center of their world. Online is a place where people can cut loose, or be someone else entirely. Maybe someone they wish they were rather than who they really are. As a result I don't put much weight behind how someone appears online, what they say, or how they act. Online is an escape for a lot of people and trying to manage behavior there is almost impossible.
Personalities are also represented differently online. Someone to whom I mean the world in real life may find me completely unsatisfying online. In that way I often view my partner's interactions with others online as a gift in that I can see a side of them (their interaction with other loves) that I may not normally get to see.
But how do you deal with an online relationship?
I think the first step is to put things in perspective. Although online activity could be considered a relationship it is really just communication. Think about how you talk to co-workers or store employees. You don't talk to them the same way you talk to your lovers do you? People communicate with each other differently and how your partner(s) talk to you is very likely different from how they talk to their other partner(s). It may be better and it may be worse but in the end, it is just different.
The next step, in my opinion, is to limit your exposure if you are reading things that aren't sitting with you well. Stop checking your partner(s) blog for comments five times a day. Shut off post alerts to your cell phone so they don't follow you around constantly. Check out the privacy options on the site you are using and see if there is a way to limit the information you are getting. Have you friended your partner(s) OSO on Facebook? Maybe it is time to unfriend them if seeing their information bothers you. Cancel your Flickr account if you are seeing pictures you don't like.
Of course another option is to ask your partner(s) to limit their online activity. Personally I don't like setting limits for my partner(s), but this is an option. Ask them to maybe tone it down a notch or avoid certain topics if they bother you. Suggest they have their conversations privately online rather than out in public. It is possible they don't even realize how personal things have gotten, or how it may be making you feel.
The bottom line here is that you are in control of what you see online. The power button is at your fingertips so you can always shut off the information flow. And if you are unable to reconcile your feelings about things you are reading, maybe that power button is the best option.
Have you had to deal with online relationship issues before? If so, how did you handle things? What suggestions do you have for others out there?
Not long ago I wrote a couple of articles about sexual safety. Those of you who read the articles, and provided some great comments by the way, know that safety is something I consider on many levels and take somewhat seriously. Let's be real for a second here. Not being safe could mean your life, but probably not. I'd venture a guess that most people will probably never even encounter a serious STD in their lifetime. Still, I worry about it a bit because, well, that's just the way I am.
But something else that came out of those articles and the contemplation of those who prompted their writing, along with some other random conversations, was that maybe I had been missing some opportunities. Opportunities for relationships maybe, but opportunities for physical encounters yes. There was a festival with a few options, acquaintances with some possibilities, and the endless new people I seem to meet being active in my local poly community.
Now, were some possibilities not explored due to concerns other than sexual safety? Of course. And there were definitely some missed out of safety concerns. But looking back the bulk of those opportunities were dismissed simply because I didn't have confidence they would result in any kind of relationship beyond casual. And FWB's isn't something that interests me much.
But in looking back I began to wonder if I was being overly restrictive in exploring both physical and emotional relationships. That led me to think that maybe I needed to relax both my safety rules and my emotional rules. I chewed on things a bit before initiating a conversation with a partner about opening up our rules regarding safety.
At first my partner was a bit shocked, thinking I was talking about relaxing my rules to allow for us both to engage in casual sex at will. As we talked a bit she understood what I was suggesting was not that we remove our agreements around safety, but that maybe we could temper them a bit. Instead of insisting that there be relationship potential with someone, and starting to define relationships before engaging physically, maybe we could allow for sex if we felt a connection with someone. Before any relationship definitions had been established. We would still maintain our agreements about fluid bonding, condom usage, and vetting new partners sexual history among other agreements. And where we both had believed in the past that sex as recreation wasn't for us, maybe that would be allowable assuming our safety concerns had been satisfied.
After a fairly extensive, and at times intense, conversation we came to understand each others feelings on the subject. With a new agreement in place that would relax our safety constraints a bit, while maintaining our respect and consideration for each other in the process, the conversation moved on. My partners first question was; who was I interested in at the moment that I could pursue under our new agreement? To her surprise there was nobody. In fact, that conversation was more than a month ago and I have had no new partners since.
What I want to relate to you is that this process with my partner was almost painless, even enjoyable, and extremely satisfying for us both. We reaffirmed our trust and faith in each other while finding ways to enjoy our freedoms and continue to respect one another. I think a big reason for this is because we had the conversation before there was a problem or someone else was becoming involved. I didn't have an agenda like trying to renegotiate a rule to specifically allow for an opportunity with someone new. It was simply an evaluation of agreements and our beliefs to see how we both felt, ensure we were on the same page, and maybe adjust things a bit.
I strongly encourage those of you reading this to think about your agreements and how they are working. Don't focus on specific situations or people, but rather the overall intent and reason behind any agreements you may have. If you think they could be adjusted, bring it up with your partner. Now. Before there is a problem or an agreement is broken. Consider it relationship maintenance. By talking when you are both calm and can evaluate things without outside influences there is a much better chance for compromise and you will both likely understand each others feelings more easily.
At a poly meeting recently I was asked an interesting question; "How do you end a poly relationship?"
My initial response to this question was that you end it just like you do any other relationship. My second thought was; "Why do you have to end a relationship?" You might end the sexual aspect, the romantic aspect. You may even withdraw some from the friendship side of things but, do you really need to place a definitive end on a relationship?
I think the last part there is more of a belief of mine rather than an answer to the question. So let's give it a shot . . .
How do you end a poly relationship?
With a single partner I think the question is a bit elementary. Truly the relationship can probably be ended like a monogamous or any other relationship. Thanks, I'm done, have a nice day.
It is more likely that the person asking the question was imagining a situation with multiple partners who are involved with each other on some level. Maybe a quad or triad configuration.
That does tend to add some complexity to the problem. Think about a quad design and what might happen if two of the people in the quad, who had been dating, decided to end their relationship. What impact would that have on the rest of the group? Would the remaining members continue to date? Could they? Could you continue dating other people in the group? What if the quad consisted of a pair of couples? Would you have to stop dating the couple or just one person?
I think the difficulty in answering this question hinges on what it is the person actually needs. What are they feeling that is making them want to end a relationship and is that relationship part of a bigger design? In the quad example breaking up with one person because you are incompatible may allow for the rest of the quad to remain intact. On the other hand, if the problem is with the other couple it could mean the end of the quad.
A Triad configuration while easier on paper probably presents just as many problems. One relationship ending would result in the Triad becoming a Vee. Assuming the hinge person is still happy dating the other two, and the other two are okay with that, continuing as a Vee would likely be possible.
With any configuration there is the possibility, and ability, for a breakup. Although I think the question "How do you end a poly relationship?" is valid I think it is also unanswerable. Poly or mono really only adds to the logistics of the breakup. How the breakup takes place, as mentioned before, really depends on what a person needs. If there is anger or abuse the breakup will take one form, while people simply growing apart will take on a different form. Emotional needs (in my opinion) will probably have much more of an impact on how a breakup is managed than the actual relationship design.
The other day I was chatting with a friend about a new relationship he had entered. He was lamenting the relationship, how he felt it was a mistake, and had ended the relationship shortly after it was consummated. He told me of how he had waited to have sex with the woman until they had established an emotional connection. He had wanted to wait longer but the woman had been relentless in her sexual pursuit of him so he finally relented. He felt that waiting any longer would have left the woman frustrated to the point she might not want to continue the relationship. During their first sexual encounter he realized in the middle of things that they were not sexually compatible. Not knowing what to do, he finished as quickly as possible and ended the relationship shortly thereafter.
I had some questions about the safety level of this woman, which he shared, and so I asked why he had sex with her at all. His response was that due to her relentless pursuit he felt there was no other choice. The man stated he felt obligated to have sex with the woman because she believed sex was necessary for them to have a relationship.
To be blunt his logic confounded me. I didn't, and still don't, understand how someone would feel obligated to have sex because someone else felt it was necessary. Now don't get me wrong, I think people in committed relationships from time to time may have sex with their partner even when they aren't in the mood. But making your partner happy at your own expense once in a while is part of a healthy relationship in my opinion.
I comprehend even less why someone would feel obligated when they aren't even convinced the relationship is viable at that point. And finishing the job when you aren't even enjoying having sex with the person? Sorry folks, I'm completely in the dark on that one.
So have you entered into a relationship, or made the mistake of trying, in the manner this gentleman did? What was the result? Would you do it again or did you learn how to avoid making the same mistake again?
If you are someone who knows me in real life you probably see me shaking my head once in a while. And if you know me really well, you can see me mentally shaking my head even when the outside remains neutral. Recently I found myself shaking my head constantly around a couple I know.
The couple I'm talking about is openly poly and has been for a bit over a year now. I say openly poly because they actually moved from their home state so, I believe, they wouldn't have to tell their families they were poly. Or if they did, it would be over the phone so any potential explosion could be avoided. (Yep, that was a head shake).
I talked with this couple a lot and the male particularly has spent some time educating himself about poly and they both have contemplated and at least theoretically resolved some of the more serious poly issues they could encounter. A good thing since the female already had another partner.
When I heard about the other partner things got a bit more interesting. The woman explained he was an older man, she knew he was likely getting his kicks from being with a younger woman (her), and it was unclear if his wife knew about their relationship. She was okay with that because the tangible things he provided her (nice paid 'vacations' away from her husband) were worth it. (uh huh, another head shake).
I bit my tongue and chalked some of the things I was hearing up to immaturity and a desire to 'fit in' with the new poly community. (The woman and her husband are quite young).
Spending more time with the couple was when things got much more interesting. The female, an attractive outgoing woman, was fairly openly looking for other relationships and willing to entertain the idea with any number of available males who were happy to oblige. The male of the couple, although also quite attractive, was not as adept at attracting females.
After seeing the woman flirt with a few different men I began to see a pattern emerge. When flirting or being affectionate with other men while her husband was around she treated him very poorly. Sometimes she would simply ignore him but more often than not she would talk down to him quite directly, belittle him openly, and physically push him away. (This got my head to shaking pretty good).
As I watched, her behavior became more pronounced until they were almost fighting at that uncomfortable level that makes you, as an observer, just want to run away. (Head was shaking even more). What I couldn't quite comprehend was why the husband would put up with this kind of behavior. After watching some more, and picking up on a few comments, it is quite possible the woman believes this type of behavior turns her husband on. The husband on the other hand appears to be using that belief as a convenient way to accept polyamory though in actuality, he has problems seeing his wife with another man. (Head is really shaking now).
Along with some other behavior, and persistent neck pain, I decided to walk away from this couple. I still see them from time to time, and I'm very social with hugs and kisses all around, but that is all. Generally when I see them, the head shaking returns along with the resulting neck pain.
To me what they are doing doesn't by itself qualify as polyamory. Yes they have multiple partners from time to time but the manner in which they acquire relationships is not just unusual in my opinion, but potentially very destructive to everyone involved. If being in more than one relationship at a time requires the destruction (even temporarily) of a partner that doesn't seem healthy. What is the point of being polyamorous if you have to psychologically justify your behavior by beating others down?
Another question that popped into my head was wondering why anyone would want to get involved in such a messy relationship style. The men with which this woman was flirting had to have seen how she treated her husband. Yet, even if they could somehow assume he enjoyed it how could they not realize she would likely treat them the same in the future?
I wrote this as a poly article but as I look at it I'm reminded of the old saying "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Maybe instead of a poly issue this one is a human issue?
What say you? What do you think of the relationship style I've outlined here? Is it something you practice and if so, can you explain it a bit? If not would you ever get involved with people practicing relationships in this manner?
No, not the television show. Do you remember that one? Archie Bunker the bigoted, racist, stereotypical, hot-headed "father" of the family? I wonder what he would have thought of polyamory.
But, I digress. . .
I don't know how things are where you live but, where I live there is quite a good sized poly community. Or at the least, it is developing into a fairly large community. At the same time I'm often surprised at how small the community can be.
The other day I was talking with someone who has a fairly extended poly family. While trying to understand all the relationships, which resulted in a flowchart, we found a connection between our families that we didn't even realize existed. Initially I found this quite amusing but after some time pondering the connection I became mildly concerned. You see, the other family and I don't share the same views on sexual safety. From my perspective, they are a bit lax despite having some restrictive up-front requirements such as producing STD testing paperwork.
Let me step back and explain the scenario a bit.
Imagine a poly family with a core of of about 6 members. Those six members have all produced STD testing paperwork to one another and many are fluid bonded. Most of those six however have other partners which may or may not have produced testing paperwork, and may or may not be fluid bonded. Many have more than 1 other partner. Doing the math that family already includes upward of 15 people at the second level. Add another level and that number almost doubles. The perception within that family is that because paperwork has been provided by the core group, and by most of those who have fluid bonded, they are sexually safe. To a certain point I agree.
But here is where I disagree. STD testing as proof of safety relies on a static situation but, people are dynamic. That's to say if someone is tested then adds no new partners who have other partners then yes, they are probably quite safe. But as soon as anyone is added who hasn't been tested the paperwork from their last STD test is for the most part worthless. Add in the delayed presentation of some diseases and it would be quite difficult to even get retested accurately for several months. Even then, any confidence in safety would again require a static situation for those past several months.
Though I admire the core group for their insistence on paperwork it made me wonder if they are truly safe or placing faith in a process that is at least mildly logically flawed, in my opinion. On the other hand, they are probably safer than many out there so am I being overly cautious and pessimistic?
The question I was left with was this; At what point does an extended poly family become a concern? How big can it grow, and how many levels should be evaluated, when considering safety?
Usually when I'm attracted to someone I pay attention to them. Maybe we hang out more often or I will call them regularly. During the initial phases we will probably flirt a bit, try to sit next to each other, and maybe touch more frequently. Essentially, we enjoy spending time together and start to show affection as our interest increases.
But every once in a while someone different comes along.
The someone I met recently did a lot of the things I already mentioned. The flirting was good, the touching was nice. But then something happened that threw me for a loop, I was pushed away. I noticed that almost every time something nice happened something a bit mean would happen soon after. I would be pinched, punched, pushed, or talked down to. Or even worse, the other person would get upset with me for reasons I couldn't completely understand.
The culmination of this strange behavior was when the person, after pretty much ignoring me during an evening with friends and shamelessly hanging all over the male in the other couple, seemed to get upset with me when I didn't want to get intimate with her. What can I say, I just wasn't feeling it at the time. Watching someone I'm interested in throw themselves at someone else isn't a turn-on for me.
That got me to thinking about intimacy in general and how we deal with potential relationships.
I think most of us become affectionate when we feel a click with someone and want to pursue more than a friendship. But again, there are those that instead use jealousy or maybe feel that any kind of physical contact is good, even if it is painful.
I know for myself that affection does a lot more to acquire my interest than pain or rudeness does. And I've noticed when I'm cranky I have the same effect on my partners. When I started writing this I thought I'd have some interesting insight here but I don't. Really, I'm just confused and I guess I'm looking to you wonderful readers to give me your thoughts.
Why do you think some people act this way, pushing someone away and expecting it to have the opposite effect? Are you excited and interested or turned-off when someone is pinching, pushing, and verbally absuing you? Does someone intentionally making you jealous by hanging over someone else in front of you make you want them more?
Maybe this isn't an entirely poly article but then again, maybe it will turn into one.
I'm a happy person. I like to discuss problems and difficulties in my life but don't usually whine a lot. On any given day if you see me at the coffee machine and ask how I am you will get a silly response like "awesome, how are you?" or "Just another day in paradise, you?". I'm not one to just pop out and start complaining about burnt toast, the price of gasoline, or how my knee hurts.
But even the eternally happy, have a day now and then when they want to bitch. A day where they can be the whiner.
The supporter needs to lean on someone once in a while. The listener needs to be heard sometimes. Almost everyone has an off day, or is out of character at times. But I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about others. What do you do when someone you are familiar with is acting out of character? Do you recognize that something isn't quite right and try to be supportive? Or do you have little patience for someone who is acting out of sorts?
What is interesting about being poly is the variety of roles you are sometimes required to play in a day. You may have one partner who is usually always happy but having a down day. You will need to be the supporter, the listener. You may have another partner who is struggling with a problem and you will need to provide wisdom or play devil's advocate. Between all of that, you have your own emotional needs which could be strong on that same day requiring you to find someone to lean on. That's where things get tough.
It is often hard to see past our own needs to support someone else. If you are having a bad day and need support, interaction with your partner needing advice may not go so well. They are wanting to talk about a particular problem and have you focused whereas you are wanting to talk about the bad day you are having. Putting your own problems aside for a few moments to help with theirs can be a challenge.
When in that situation I try to have faith that once I help my partner or friend, they are going to return the favor and help me with what I need. To have a relationship I need to know that support is a two-way street. If I'm always supporting but never being supported I quickly lose interest and feel the relationship is one-sided. When I see that happening I'm usually pretty quick to speak up and ask for support. I think some people don't recognize needs in others easily so I'm willing to make sure I communicate mine and ensure there is no doubt. If I still don't get the support I need things are probably not going to last long.
My message to you today is a simple one. . . support your partners. Try to see past your own needs and help others first. I'm not saying you shouldn't get your needs met, simply that ensuring you are meeting the emotional needs of your partners will go a long way toward maintaining a strong relationship. And letting them go first for once might just mean a lot to them. Once they are done then your needs can be met so don't worry, you won't be left hanging. Have faith.
The other day I was in a business meeting where an officer of the company was talking about the company process of signing on new clients. A process which while working well for the Marketing Department didn't seem to be working so well for other departments. To sum things up they said "We partner with people quickly, get married right away, then go into therapy the next day to try and fix things".
My first thought was that they were talking about some of the poly people I know.
The next thing they said was "We need to see if there is a fit before signing if there is to be any hope of things working".
And again, I thought of poly people I have known.
More than once I have seen someone who seems to acquire, and quickly discard, partners in quick succession. It is almost as if they believe with the ability to have multiple partners the skills and energy required are automatically granted as well. Which in turn seems to instill the belief they should engage with any potential partner who comes their way. In short, they sign people up right away as partners and then (if they are at all dedicated to the relationship) enter almost immediately into "therapy" to make things work.
Personally I prefer to explore potential partners a bit before engaging them as actual partners. Sometimes to the extent I actually chase them away, or they get bored waiting for an actual relationship with me. That can be a bit frustrating but it seems to help eliminate the need for immediate therapy after entering a relationship.
I don't think fully exploring potential partners as I do is for everyone. Some people just have too much energy and fly through life full-tilt. For those people quickly entering relationships is a way of life and they probably wouldn't be happy functioning differently. But for those who jump into relationships, fall deeply in love almost overnight, then lament the loss of a short-lived romance maybe a bit more up front work would help provide longer lasting and more satisfying relationships.
As I mentioned earlier, "being poly" doesn't automatically provide the skills needed to be successfully poly. I think it is even possible that quickly jumping into poor fitting relationships can have a negative impact on a properly functioning existing relationship. Think of it as the polar opposite of NRE.
So the next time you are about to enter into a new relationship take a few moments and think about the emotional cost of therapy if things don't work out right. It just might be that a small investment of time up front will avoid the need for therapy the next day.
If ignorance is bliss, arrogance must be downright spiritually orgasmic.
Listen to the following and tell me what you think. With the idea of promoting polyamory awareness to the general public, who may still be confusing polyamory with Mormon polygamy, what kind of message do you think the following statements send?
"Poly conferences and tantra confabs provide participants perfect places to contact potential lovers and tantra buddies."
"you can meet and quickly get to know people with whom you might fall in love--or at least in attraction enough to know if you want to consider as possible intimates."
"Some folks are monogamous most of the year but celebrate polyamory and tantra at conference time." (Okay, we know what they are hinting at with that, right?)
"The seminars at a conference . . . offer . . . cuddle parties, group massage and yoga classes where you can talk to, touch and interview like-minded folk who, like you, seek tantric friends, multiple lovers. . . "
"The seminars teach you how to advertise yourselves on the internet…"
"...leads us through get-to-know and flirting exercises…"
Sounds like a lot of fun doesn't it? But, doesn't it send a message that whatever is happening here is very sexually focused? If you were telling a monogamous friend about polyamory would statements like those above help you explain things, or would your friend think polyamorists are basically just looking for sex?
Let's try a different exercise. If you were telling that same friend about polyamory and they ask for the name of websites to get more information would you think one named "World Polyamory Association" might be good?
Guess what (you are smart and probably already guessed) all of the statements above are from the World Polyamory Association.
Yes kids, someone who had the arrogance to proclaim themselves a WORLD-wide association with a name implying they are the authority for polyamory are the same ones making those sexually focused statements above. And actually, if you read most anything from the WPA, the statements above are mild compared to how sexually focused they are most of the time.
Let's try one final exercise. Your same friend checks out the WPA site and then comes to you to talk about polyamory. The first thing out of their mouth is how polyamorists are just sex starved people looking for a justification for their carnal desires. I double-dog dare you to try and argue with your friend because as soon as you do they are going to say "But I learned this from the World Polyamory Association!!"
Done. You are just done. Your friend isn't going to listen to you at this point. You might as well tell them that the Earth is flat and money grows on trees.
Now I don't have a problem with sexuality. Personally I think a lot of it is a good thing! And I have no problem with tantra, new-agey, granola flavored, spiritually centering, happy things like that even though they aren't for me. But it does raise the hairs on my horns when someone not only implies they are *the* authority for something, but *the* authority for the WORLD!
I've bit my tongue for a while with different things I have read from the WPA and their "association", which really appears to be only two people. I figured I was misunderstanding what they were saying, or I hadn't heard enough of what they say and I was seeing an isolated incident, or maybe I was seeing only a particular speaker for the "association". Well those days are gone. Sexuality, and plenty of it, without much regard for safety or common sense is the order of the day, century, and lifetime at the WPA.
I simply ask one thing. I beg it. Please. World Polyamory Association, please, pretty please take the world "Polyamory" out of your name. I'll find a way to live with your proclamation that you are a "World" authority somehow. But your inclusion of the word "Polyamory", in consideration of your openly sexual focus, is doing absolutely nothing to further the cause of polyamory or it's acceptance into mainstream society. Making a guess I would say it is only helping support the perception by many people that polyamorists are simply in it for the sex and nothing more. Personally, and I think I'm pretty open minded about polyamory, I shudder to think that if I told someone I was polyamorous they might see the WPA website and associate what they find there with my lifestyle. The two are about as similar as oil and water from what I can see.
Thanks for listening to my rant. Maybe some of you feel the same way, and maybe some don't. I'd be interested to get some input on this one so I know if I've gone off the reservation again. Regardless, I'll leave you be for a bit as I'm off to create a new website: "The One and Only Definitive Source for Polyamory in the Universe Ever Association Non-Profit Incorporation Limited, LLC, All Rights Reserved, Trademarked, Copyrighted, and Patented Forever and Ever." Coming soon to a web browser near you!!
I've said it before so those of you who read here a lot already know what I might say. . . Decide for yourself what you want out of relationships before you are in one. If you don't know what your needs are, there is probably no way someone else will be able to figure them out for you.
In the poly world that is even more important since unlike monogamy, polyamory comes in assorted flavors, sizes, and varieties. Almost like going to a build your own sundae bar. If you don't know what you want before you get there you will end up with a bit of everything. Sometimes that is okay, sometimes you end up with a complete mess.
Now this is where I leave you hanging because there is no magic potion, recipe, or place that will help you figure out your needs. I think you need to be in touch with who you are to figure that out. Fortunately when the time came for me to figure out my needs in polyamory it was as simple as learning the language because I had already been living it, just not as polyamory.
This is where I make up for leaving you hanging. . .
I am a very good Secondary but I will never be a Primary. Despite that, most would define me as a Primary in relationships.
And once again you are thinking, "Is he smoking crack? I know he doesn't like or believe in relationship hierarchy, and not only is he using it here but he can only be a Secondary?"
Well, sorta. I am very comfortable being in the position of Secondary with a woman who is married or has a Primary. I can easily respect boundaries, limits, and needs of her other partners. That fits with my personality somewhat, I enjoy rules. (Yeah, I know, sick isn't it?). But in my relationships I believe in equality. If someone new were to join my family I would consider them equal, on the same level, or whatever you want to call it as my existing partner of 3 years. I wouldn't give either preference over the other. That seems to be where some people classify my relationships as Primary. Because not only do I consider my partners equal, I consider their importance in my life to be equal to that of (for lack of a better term) a true partner. I regard them as family, depending on them and supporting them as any family would do.
I believe that my knowing this, being able to see my needs, is what allows me to enjoy polyamory when I hear others talking about failed attempts, exploded or explosive relationships, and constant drama. Upon entering a relationship I usually am able quite quickly to realize whether my needs will be met, how well, and sometimes even how long. Knowing that fast allows me to adjust to realistic expectations and be less surprised if things don’t last.
My suggestion to you is to simply know what you want, and what you can give, in a relationship. If you know you can't be a fulltime partner, don't get involved with someone who wants a fulltime partner. Likewise if you want a fulltime partner, don't enter into a relationship with someone who can't commit the time you need. If you need more exclusivity, maybe dating someone who already has 2 or 3 partners isn't your wisest choice. At the same time remember that polyamory is as much about designing a relationship paradigm that satisfies your needs as it is having multiple partners. Find a design that fits you well and you will much more easily find partners that fit your design.
As open minded as I think I am, and try to be, I do have limits. Part of what builds those limits is personal preference. But part of those limits is in understanding my own.
Several years back after a few failed attempts at having relationships I realized the failure was actually mine. I had been engaging in relationships with women at least 10 years younger than I was. After a short time the relationships failed due to differences in goals, desires, general outlook on life, physical differences, and more. It took me a while to figure out that age was a problem. Not that my younger partners were defective in the least. They were just at a different point in their lives than I was.
What came next was a bit of soul searching. I'll admit the male inside of me was reluctant to give up the idea of a nubile young 20-something-year-old who hadn't yet suffered the effects of gravity as I have. Once I got past that I realized that as delicious as a younger woman may be, not all of my time is spent enjoying her physically. A lot more of my time is spent doing things like shopping, cooking, entertaining, watching movies, or many other things. And not having stress during those times is quite important to me. I realized the trade-off between youth and maturity had benefits in many areas. I thought maybe it was time that I started to focus on women with maturity. Now I'm not saying that younger women aren't mature, some are, but in general younger people simply want different things out of life than older people.
The inevitable next question was the one posed at the beginning of this article; How young is too young?
Well, I can't answer that question for you. Obviously your age and tastes will dictate your needs which are likely different than mine. What I will do though is encourage you to examine your tastes. Particularly if you find yourself in a position similar to mine with relationships that seem to be failing for the same reasons over and over. Maybe age isn't even the factor that seems to be affecting your relationships. Maybe it is religious background, how they were raised, geographical differences, financial differences. The point is to know yourself well enough, and to evaluate your relationships deeply enough, that you can recognize what may be a relationship red flag for you. Figure out what the common factor is between any failed relationships you may have had, how to recognize that factor in future relationships you may contemplate, and devise an effective way of handling the situation. Maybe it becomes an automatic "deal breaker" for you, or maybe it is something you can negotiate away. Either way, at least you are aware of things up front.
The real challenge comes when actually executing your new master plan. Sometimes the heart gets in the way of the head and the best laid plans fall apart with a kiss. Seeing the bumps in the road is one thing, while actually avoiding them is something quite different. When I figure that one out I'll be sure to let you know!
It should be no surprise to you that we are all human. (Well, except for Barbara Walters maybe. Does she age?) We all make mistakes. We do things every once in a while that we said we never would. We have emotions, desires, fetishes, and hang-ups.
One of the mistakes we often make is to start a relationship in the wrong way. Instead of getting to know the other person well, we get excited, emotions like desire take over, and the next thing you know you are crawling around in the dark looking for your socks. (I'm not the only one that has happened to, right?). We go home and beat ourselves up over our indiscretion. We worry about safety. And as we brush our teeth and look at our messed up hair we promise to never do that again.
Of course, some of us probably will.
I don't know that a lot of that actually matters. But what matters, in my humble opinion, is what we do next.
Instead of beating ourselves up and making promises we may never keep, I propose something different.
Look at a casual encounter as an opportunity rather than a mistake. Instead of running away, embrace the possibilities. Often after a casual encounter our first response is to avoid the person or, at a minimum, avoid finding ourselves in the same situation with them again. But why write the person off as simply poor judgment?
In my mind, it is never too late to take a step back and reapproach things with a level head. Why not realize that there was some attraction to the person or the casual encounter would never have happened? Sit down and have some of the conversations you should have had up front. Learn more about them and find out if there might be a connection. Let them know that you are interested in the possibility of more than just a physical relationship. If they feel at all the same they will welcome the conversation, and the opportunity. They will be happy to take the time to build a real, solid relationship.
And while you take that step back and negotiate a possible relationship try to remember that every relationship is different. There is no reason it has to fit social models or fit into acceptable categories. Build a relationship that you want, that satisfies your needs, whatever that may look like. Realize that building a relationship is a good time to challenge yourself as well. Try something you haven't tried before. Accept the other persons differences as qualities, rather than deficiencies. You never know, you just might find that you enjoy something in another person you never have before or didn't think possible.
Life has been going 100+ mph lately it seems. Work is insane, warmer weather means more social commitments, more social commitments means more contacts, contacts mean more dates. It is a cycle that will keep anyone busy.
Along with the usual craziness of life I've had some other things happening lately that have kept my brain as busy as my body. One of my partners is preparing to buy a house. Being her first house she has a lot of questions and a lot to learn. Helping her with that has been keeping me busy with conversations and weekends spent looking at houses. But that isn't what keeps my mind busy.
In my thoughts lately is the question; why is she buying a house at all? For those of you who don't know, I'm a single dad with two kids. I have a nice sized house that meets my needs well. My sweetie and I have talked about moving in together and in fact plan on it happening but right now is just not the right time for a few different reasons.
That is leaving me with some mixed feelings. Why shouldn't we move in together now? If we want it to happen, why not just make it happen? Is it silly for her to buy a house near me when we could just move in together? And if we do move in together, how will our lives change?
I've struggled with these questions a lot and what I've come to believe is that every relationship evolves at a different pace. Some move along quickly, growing strong fast, and burning out just as fast. Others build slowly and steadily, lasting sometimes a lifetime. Where I think we sometimes make mistakes is when we try to change the pace of a relationship, either moving it along more quickly than is natural, or trying to slow it excessively. When we accept things as they are and allow relationships to move at their own pace is when they seem to work the best. At that point, even mistakes made, as long as they are made without malice, seem to be more easily corrected and forgiven.
I have thought about that a lot during my partners house buying experience. I've wondered if we should try and move things along a bit faster, jumping to the next step in our relationship instead of growing into things. Realizing that trying to force things to happen unnaturally may cause problems and pain rather than joy has helped me be confident we are making the right choices now, even if it means delaying other things.
I hope that you too are able to find the pace with each of your relationships. With polyamory, that is quite a challenge. One relationship may move fast, while another moves slow. And sometimes the difference of pace can be a cause of pain when one partner feels your relationship with another partner may be moving to fast or that their relationship with you is moving too slow considering the speed of your other relationships. Communicating this difference to them may help solve the problem though often the need to "make things even" can override the logic of understanding.
Although life has been crazy lately, working through this seems to have not only helped me find my pace, but helped my brain calm down a bit as well.
What are your thoughts on the pace of relationships? When you have multiple relationships how does the pace of each affect the other?
You have heard me talk before about poly people looking for other poly people for dating, socializing, or even networking. Despite a fairly large and growing poly community where I live it seems like people still have a hard time finding other poly people. Social groups are popular and grow quickly. Online poly sites seem to be gaining in popularity. At poly group meetings I often find myself sharing information about poly dating sites or how to find poly people. I recently even wrote an article about finding the poly community in your area.
For quite a long time I have enjoyed the diversity and challenge of finding other poly folks. It has led me on a journey I will never forget. I've seen the Swing community from the inside, the Gay community fairly up close. I've done some exploring in the BDSM community and talked with those building self-sustaining communities. I've learned what it means to be pagan, becoming interested in theology along the way. I've helped start festivals, social and support groups, internet sites, and even a winery. I've written blogs, opinions, reviews, and given quite a few interviews. With everything one of the biggest pleasures, if not the biggest, has been meeting a variety of people.
Recently I've had cause to ponder the exclusion of some people from my (I mean My personally) poly community.
A portion of my community is growing so quickly that it is becoming unmanageable. I won't bore you with the details, nor do I want to provide specifics in the event those from the community may read this, but the problem centers on a social group that has grown drastically in the past few months. In talking with a friend who has been involved in the group with me we came to discuss options for keeping the group of a manageable size. Before long we were talking about specific people in the community, and not long after that I realized we were talking about excluding people. Essentially we were figuring out which people from the group didn't fit with the majority and could be excluded. We were talking about the guy who seems to be interested mainly in finding sex partners and whom we have heard has been "too friendly" without invitation in the past. We were talking about a couple of people who can't seem to give a short answer to any question and dominate conversation with their own agenda. We talked about the people that could be called "fringe", with maybe more of a Swinger attitude than a Poly attitude. Then came the drama lovers and whiners.
The entire time I was thinking that I didn't like the idea of being exclusive when I've spent so much time trying to build an inclusive community. I pondered things a bit more and think I came to the root cause. When we try to build community, whether that means expanding our list of friends or more, inclusion is natural. Without a full social plate people tend to let most anyone into their social circle or community. Once that community is built a bit and has more members you begin to feel like you can pick and choose a bit more. And if it grows larger than you expected outright pruning becomes an option. It changes from being all-inclusive to somewhat exclusive. You begin to be picky.
It was at that point I realized I didn't like how I was thinking. At the next gathering of the group a few people must have been feeling the same way and started pushing the idea of making the group private as well as limiting membership. Having just been contemplating those same things the topic didn't surprise me much when it came up. While some of the concerns about privacy are valid, I think more than a few have to do with keeping the group smaller, more intimate, and with providing the ability to choose who will be included. In my mind, choosing who to include is the same as being exclusive. This is something I'm going to push back against pretty hard. My feeling is that the group wouldn't be growing as big as it is if it wasn't needed in the community. I felt it was needed which is the reason I run the group. To shift into an exclusive model would put the community back into the same position it was before which would mean I had accomplished nothing.
I have seen this happen before with festivals and even web sites so I'm not entirely surprised it happened with the group I've mentioned. What has surprised me is how fast it took place. Fortunately I have had some plans in mind for a while now and it will only be a matter of dusting them off and refining them a bit. Overall, my hope is to keep building an inclusive community. Just like pruning in my yard, I don't enjoy pruning much in my community.
So how about you? Is your poly world all-inclusive at this point or are you starting to think more exclusively? Or are you already pruning? What do you think of the scenario I presented? Would you take steps toward being exclusive or even private, or would you continue to include most anyone?
It is 3:30 AM. I am awake. I am not happy about this. Yes, I said 3:30 AM. 0300 hrs. This isn't the ass crack of dawn, it is above that. Before that. Above even the top curve of the ass. Above where the first hint of a depression appears, the lower (like way lower) back even. It is so friggin' early that if I turned around fast I would probably see yesterday. Yep, that early.
Anyway, so here I am laying in bed wondering why I am awake so early. My mind starts running and I am pretty much done with sleep. Hell, I am already processing the day ahead. But, I fight it. Trying to find a comfortable spot that will put me back to sleep. Yeah, that comfortable spot must have woken up before me and is downstairs making coffee or something because it sure as hell doesn't exist in my bed anymore. Dammit. I might as well get up and get started on my day. There are always emails to answer, articles to finish writing, events to post, and planning to be done. That's just my stuff, then I have real work it would be nice to get ahead of for once.
That was about the time that my life choices bit me in the ass. See, I live as a single parent with two teenage children. Why is a long story that I'm not going to recount right now so suffice to say, it has been this way for quite a while. During that long while I have pretty much chosen to live without a partner. That isn't to say I don't have partners, I do. The children know about them, know them, and see some stay overnight from time to time. For personal reasons, I just haven't felt the urge to have someone living here with us for quite a while. But while laying here awake at the pre-pre-ass-crack-of-dawn thinking about all the things I could be doing, it was what I wasn't thinking about that bothered me.
I wasn't thinking about that perfect put-me-back-to-sleep comfy spot. You know, the one where you roll over and find your partner ready to spoon with a hand on her boob and your face in her hair. Or when you are wiggling around and it wakes up your partner just enough that they move over to snuggle you. It was irritating at that moment that I was planning and thinking about my work day instead of wondering if the warm body next to me would mind a 3 am wakeup booty call. Nevermind. There was no warm body next to me.
Oddly enough, that also sealed the deal for getting out of bed and doing something productive. At that point I realized that to continue laying in bed would only result in me fantasizing about what might happen if there were someone else in bed with me. Which is almost as frustrating as waking up at 3:30 AM by myself. And thinking about *that* would definitely keep me awake.
So I got out of bed and started my day, checking emails and such. When I got caught up a bit I figured I would write down what had just happened. At the time I wasn't sure why. It really wasn't poly related. I can't complain or whine about there being nobody in my bed because after all, it was my choice. And do you really care what I'm doing at 3:30 AM? But there is a point.
Don't take that warm body next to you for granted. When you wake up with your hand on a hip, spooning some warm, delicious person think about how lucky you are. As they wiggle up against you, or you them, and find that soft, warm spot that will help you drift back to sleep think about how awesome it is to have them with you. Daydream about greeting them in the morning with a warm hug, a soft kiss, and a whisper in their ear saying "I am so lucky to have you" or "I loved waking up and cuddling with you in the middle of the night". Have a cup of coffee waiting for them when they walk into the kitchen and just hand it to them with a bright smile and think about how you enjoyed cuddling with them as they slept and didn't even realize what was happening. Whatever you do, remember how lucky you are to have someone willing to share a bed with you and how empty that same bed can feel at 3:30 AM with nobody else in it.
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