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I briefly mentioned being fluid bound in my Responsible Sex post, but I wanted to talk about it more in-depth and talk about what it means to me.  In monogamous relationships a couple reached a point where they stop using condoms because they’ve decided they’re in a monogamous relationship and that there is no risk of one of them bringing something contractible into the equation. The risk of pregnancy is still there, as no birth control is 100% accurate, and a couple either accepts this risk or doesn’t.  In any case, it’s a turning point of sorts.  It’s each member of that couple saying “I trust this other person  not to put me at risk by being dishonest”.

In a poly situation the sentiment behind fluid bonding is very similar, at least to me.  I have been fluid bound with very few partners besides my husband.  It’s one of the most intimate parts of a sexual relationship, and one I never just trudge into without serious thought and discussion.  It requires trust on all sides of the die.

Let’s talk about that trust.  When I am fluid bound with someone I have to trust him (I’ll stick to him for this scenario) indelibly.  I had a nurse at a clinic once tell me I should use condoms with Hubby because of our lifestyle because “how do you know you can trust him?“.  My immediate answer was, “because he wouldn’t be my husband if I couldn’t”.  

Being fluid bound means putting the health and safety of my entire family in the hands of my partner.  That’s some pretty serious power.  In turn he’s telling me that he trusts me and the rest of my family.  Any partners fluid bound with me put their health and safety in Hubby’s hands and those of any partners with whom he is bound.  Because of this web of trust it’s a conversation that happens within my partnership, then my marriage, then our family, so that everyone is heard and everyone feels comfortable.  Then we all get tested and proceed from there.

Fluid bound also means trusting my partner to stand by me through anything.  I know plenty of women who can tell you what form of birth control they were on when their children were conceived.  It happens, and before I will even put that percentage of a risk in someone’s life I make sure he knows where I stand on the matter.  This family is strong and resilient, but anyone unable or unwilling to accept the minute chance of being that deeply a part of it has to accept that it’s a risk I just won’t take.

Remember friends, condoms are cheaper than bad decisions.  Don’t be pressured.  Don’t be rushed.  Being fluid bound with someone is beautiful.  The proximity you feel with your partner is unmatched.  See this profound experience for what it is, save it for those who really deserve it and cherish it,  and use it to bring you closer as a couple.  If you view it as something sacred you will protect it.  If you view it as something valuable it will take your sexual experiences to new places.  Sometimes we use poly to dilute these natural stages of a relationship and their unique blessings.  Becoming fluid bound has always been one of those blessings for me.  Take your time, and embrace each one in its time and speed.  Believe me, it’s worth it.

The last two weeks have been an interesting and rather cathartic game of chutes and ladders through my past.  I wasn’t able to address all of them, and there were a few I left out due to private details of people I still consider friends.  I know a few of you were looking for your stories, and I assure you that omission from this little experiment was not an indication that you have ever meant any less or more to me than anyone else.  Also, for those who like to chase monsters, this was not meant to be a smear campaign.  It was meant to give an idea of how one heart has grown and learned from each and every person who still resides within it.  You see, I don’t believe that once a person has been loved I ever truly un-love them.  I may move on, and it may not be healthy for me to have certain people in my life, but that doesn’t mean what we had wasn’t real.  If it was love, it still is.  If it wasn’t love, it was still a valuable experience in my growth as a person.

The biggest lesson to come from all of this was that every moment is valuable, and nothing is as bad as it has seemed.  I don’t believe that every cloud has a silver lining, because that glorifies the rain cloud.  I believe that every battle has some blood.  I believe that every blue sky has some rain.  I believe that every word worth writing has a little pain behind it, because that’s life.  What I do not believe is that a single cloud should ruin the sky.  A dear friend, who has been with me through most of these stories, told me recently that most people are morally bankrupt.  “Not most,” I responded.  “Just the ones most of us remember.”  It’s true.  I could choose to remember and label any or all of these stories as tragedy, but I don’t.  They have simply been opportunity for growth and a chance to shine, even on the darkest nights.

Namaste.

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I’m choosing to end this series with the one who has been both the beginning and the end of all my stories, my husband.   Again, this is not a new story to many of you, but humour me anyway.

When I met him I had just started a new job.  I was seeing a few people, and while I cared for each of them I wasn’t interested in a committed, monogamous relationship.  It was on a trip to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with one of those men that I met the man who would become my husband.  He is the cornerstone of our family, our tribe, our Ohana.

He was working for a booth that sold dragon puppets that sat on your shoulder, and he lured me into a conversation using raffle tickets as bait. He was cute, and I was still unaccustomed to being flirted with, so I followed, my confused date following behind us.   After convincing me to wave a flag in the parade and using that time to both question me about myself and critique my flag waving, the raffle began, and he was gone.  I bought myself a cute little dragon puppet and tried not to look disappointed as we headed for the car.  Before we left the gates I stopped off to use the Privvy where I tried desperately to push him from my mind as just another “could have been”, but something just wouldn’t let me leave it that way.

I told my date to wait where he was and took off running towards the puppet booth where I made up some story about losing my debit card.  It wasn’t until a year ago that I told him I had gone back just for him.  We struck up a conversation.  I was nervous.  So nervous, in fact, that I failed to notice when my bodice stopped functioning.  I was essentially topless.  “I’m sorry,” he said, eventually unable to focus on the work he was doing, “but it’s really hard to be a gentleman with you like…like that.”  After that I couldn’t not take his number.  Unfortunately, I took the wrong one, and it took me a week to figure out the problem. On our first date he bought me a pair of blue horns and a bottle of mead, which I had to open with a screw and a hammer because I didn’t have a corkscrew.  Within weeks he was spending every night with me, within months we were handfasted.  It was eerie how much we had in common, down to some of the same stuff, and how often we had most likely crossed paths in years previous.

When we decided to be poly we knew we were embarking on something big.  We both knew it was the right decision, and we both breathed a sigh of relief at finally being able to express ideas we’d each held for years, but we knew there would be growing pains.  We knew there would be mistakes on both sides, and we knew it would be the biggest test our relationship had faced to date.  We were right.  We fought.  We exposed fears, insecurities, and emotional roadblocks of every kind, but we kept pushing forward.  We fought some more.  It strained friendships, relationships, and for a long time we were that couple that brought tension to every social gathering like a side-dish.  It cost us more than we could have imagined, and it was almost the end of us.  Almost.

Ultimately we came out of the fire more closely bonded than ever.  The people who were truly our tribe rallied around us, and our families were able to see us stand tall as a team.  Whenever we have issues now it is those moments that we remember, that first victory that inspires us to keep trying, because those were the fires of truth that made us one.  No handfasting or legal document could have done that.  These new issues are never actually new.  They are simply echoes of the first, and they are generally fixed with the same tools.  I have learned a lot of lessons from my relationship with Hubby, and I continue to learn from him.

I have learned how to communicate.  I have learned better ways to control my emotional responses.  It doesn’t always work, but he has learned to try to see why I respond as severely as I do sometimes.  I have learned that I am stronger than I ever think I am.  Through sickness, money troubles, losing our apartment, and loss, we have thrived as a couple.  In times of trial, we have proven to be each other’s strongest ally.  Even when we have been against each other, the love we have has inspired us to fight for the life we have built together.  I have learned what it means to be humble, what it means to compromise, and what it means to forgive.  I have eschewed the I-would-nevers and the expectations of love and marriage that I held onto for so many years.  I have learned to accept that I don’t always have the answers and that sometimes we’re just floundering together in the sea of life, and that’s ok.  I have learned what it means to lean on each other and how to carry myself knowing it doesn’t mean I’ve been abandoned.  I have learned when to let someone I love fail or hurt, because his experience and lessons are not mine to feel.  I have learned the definition of unconditional love.  I have learned what it means to have someone’s support no matter what.  I know that on any path my journey takes I will carry the love and faith of my husband, even if he doesn’t understand or agree with it.  I have learned compersion and true happiness for another human being.  I have learned to accept that I am a lovable, capable, beautiful human being who deserves to be accepted and cherished by someone who loves her as much as she loves him.  I have learned to trust in love, magick, and hope above all other things, and when even those things fail, to trust in myself.   I have learned what it means to build a life with someone instead of just living a life with someone.

I have learned what it means to be Ohana.

To my Hubby.  Aloha nui loa.

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Note: This letter is written mostly as snark, but partly as a genuine list of concerns families have on both sides of coming out.  I found that when I stopped trying to gently explain things and just started pointing out to our family just how ridiculous some of their concerns sounded to us, they began to understand more that our lifestyle choice didn’t have to be a lifestyle change for them, that we were still the people they raised to be responsible adults, and that we weren’t going to destroy our extended families with our poly laser vision.   Maybe don’t print it out verbatim, but feel free to use it as a rubric for conversation.    

Dear Friends and Family,

I have chosen to be open with you about my family and how we choose to live.  This honestly means that I trust you to at least not condemn me, though I hope you’ll try to open your heart and accept my extended family even if you do not understand how or why we have made these choices.  I understand that this may be unfamiliar and possibly uncomfortable territory for you to navigate, so I will do my best to give you some helpful highlights to make this holiday season enjoyable for us all!

1.  My partners are people, not aliens or monsters.  They have lives, families, and personalities of their own.  Try having a conversation.  About anything, really.  You don’t need my mediation.

2.  My partners are not made of glass.  See above.

3.  My partners are not homewreckers.  See number 1, and see my husband/wife/etc.  That smile?  That means we’re still happy together and that this is a mutual decision we’ve made.

4.  Remember when I went to prom and you met my date at the door cleaning a shotgun and interrogated him until he had sweat through his cummerbund?  Don’t do that.  We’re all adults now, and the fact that these are people I love and value alone should convince you that they’re good people.

5. There is no need to tiptoe around our children.  They know exactly what they need to know, that they have a family full of people who love them and that there are presents to open.  I assure you they are more concerned about the presents than who sleeps in what bed with whom.

6.  You don’t need to buy us all gifts.  Don’t worry, this is not a scheme to get more stuff.  If you want to include us all, and we hope you do, you can give us something we can all use!  Or feed us.  We LOVE that.

7.  We don’t care if you say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or Hi.  Just be nice, and smile.

8.  There is no need to worry about us acting inappropriately at your gathering…unless it’s that kind of gathering.  The important thing here is that we’re people, not animals.  Those manners we’ve exhibited for years?  Didn’t disappear when we chose to love more than one person.  Let’s add to that that we won’t discuss our sex lives out loud if you will promise the same.  Lookin’ at you, Grandma.

9.  I understand that members of our extended family may not understand our relationship situation.  If they question you, tell them whatever you feel comfortable saying.  It’s not integral to our household that you use titles.  When I introduce my family to people who might not be poly-friendly I simply say “this is Jane”.  Jane knows she’s my girlfriend.  People who have asked me know she’s my girlfriend.  Let Aunt Gertrude make her own assumptions.  People do it all the time for all kinds of ridiculous things.  Again, see that part about acting appropriately at a family function.  We have this covered.

10.  Please don’t feel like you can’t ask any of us questions or trust us not to make the entire family name look like a circus.  I’m still your son/daughter/etc, and we are all family.  We want to share these celebrations with you, and we are thankful to be included as a family.

Love,

(sign here)

What would you do if your spouse fell in love with someone you couldn’t stand?  Think about this carefully for a moment.  I don’t mean a situation where this new partner has done something detrimental or disrespectful.  What if you just didn’t like her?
A common practice for “primary” couples in polyamory is veto power.  Hubby and I do not have a veto agreement, and I go back and forth on whether or not I am in favour of them, as I can see both sides of that coin.  I believe it is up to each couple to decide if having veto power will help or hinder their relationship.
To risk a cliché, with great power comes great responsibility.  Even entertaining the idea of having a veto allowance shows great trust that it won’t be abused.  Can I trust my partner to only use it in the case of an extreme and genuine conflict?  What constitutes “an extreme and genuine conflict”?  You see, I have seen this scenario go both ways, and in the hands of someone who abuses it, veto power is extremely detrimental.
I have mentioned before that it isn’t the obligation of Hubby’s partners to like me.  We don’t have to be friends, we just have to be civil and friendly for his sake.  It helps if we’re friends, but by no means is this always the case.  Unless I’m being blatantly disrespected I give Hubby his space and time to sort out his new relationship.  It may mean less socialization or a less than ideal energy to our family than he’d like, but that’s his call.  If he asks my opinion I will give it, but I will never tell him not to see someone unless it becomes harmful to our marriage.  In the case of any new relationships his emotions matter first.  I’m not the one dating this other person, he is, so I won’t interfere unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary.
Here’s an example.  Hubby dated a girl for a short time a while back.  She was nice enough at first.  We even got along.  Somewhere along the line she started creating conflict by turning things I said against me to him in an attempt to make me fit the Jealous Batshit Crazy Wife role.  The first time he approached me about it I warned him to be careful.  I didn’t tell him not to see her, but I did warn him that I would not continue to speak to someone who would use my own words against me.  Simple.  In the end she did what most drama fairies do; she broke up with him using me as a scapegoat.  I am no stranger to the “I just can’t take how this is obviously affecting her” blame game, and let me tell you, girls, how played out it is by now.
To toss another cliché in the basket, variety is the spice of life.  Sometimes, however, those spices don’t blend well, resulting in an awful taste.  One of the beautiful things about polyamory is variety.  I love that my partners are unique.  It makes my life interesting.  Sometimes it is that variety that causes a little head butting among them, but most of the time it’s the things they have in common.  Occasionally when one pouts about the other I have to stop them and remind them that none of us is perfect.  “We can discuss his dirty socks on the couch once you’ve handled your tendency to leave dirty dishes on the coffee table.”  Remember, small issues with each other are not reasons to veto someone.  Accept that this is someone your partner loves and move on.
In many cases veto power is held in place as a status reminder and a way to hold control.  Sometimes that’s ok.  I recently read an excellent article on Couple Privilege by Franklin Veaux, and while I agreed with it for the most part I also believe that privilege does not always hold the negative connotation we’ve given it lately.  Sometimes, especially very early on in an open relationship, both members of a couple need a reminder that amidst the NRE and exciting new experiences there is still a committed couple that needs attention as well.  It’s an extremely popular trend in the poly community right now to knock a married couples spiritual bond to one another as “just a legal agreement”, because it’s passe to hold that bonded couple in any other esteem than just another couple in the mix or to believe in spirituality as a valid reason for anything.  The flip side of that coin is that sometimes that control is abused or used to ignore feelings of insecurity or jealousy.  In this case you may see patterns and repeated use of the veto, which greatly limits the potential and growth of the relationship and the experiences of each partner.  This happens with any power of decision we give any partner, but again, giving power is a sign of trust and faith.
So why have veto power if it’s not something one can use at will?  Because this is someone you love, and you want him to be happy.  The veto should be used in situations where one partner, the marriage, or the family may be put in danger.  Aha! There it is.  Not perceived danger, real danger.  Patterns of sexual of physical abuse, disregard for sexual or physical safety, lying, and manipulation are all examples of cases in which I think a veto is acceptable, especially if the partner involved is unable to realize what’s happening.  I encountered this with an ex-girlfriend when a new partner convinced her she was being abused and manipulated.  I never told her not to see him, but I warned her that this was not a healthy relationship for her.  In the end we all went our separate ways.  If that was where she was going to be happy I had to let her go, but I had to try to show her what was really happening and how unhealthy it was for her.  This is where veto power is challenged.  If we’d agreed to have veto power I could have told her not to see him, but it would have bred resentment.  I believe she would have left anyway.   We only have the authority our partners give us, no matter what we call it.
         Like I said before, Hubby and I do not have veto power in our arrangement.  Why? For one thing, I have never heard my husband told he couldn’t do something when it didn’t incite him to do it just for spite.  For another thing, we don’t need it.  If one of us has a serious concern we talk about it.  Recently Hubby felt some concern for my safety with a new interest.  After discussing it I couldn’t blame him for how I felt even if I didn’t agree.  He didn’t ask me to never see this person.  He simply asked that I not see him alone until they had been better acquainted.  At first it felt like a power play, but I couldn’t argue something that was set in place for my well being no matter how much I felt he was overreacting.  I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same for him.  Did I feel bad? Of course I did.  It felt a little unfair and drastic to me, but I had to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Would I get that same consideration from him?  I hope I never have to find out.

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So, much like last season I am late to the review game on Showtime’s Polyamory: Married and Dating, but I did want to cover it, so here we go.

As you remember, last season my criticism was pretty much what you’d expect of any review of any reality show, its lack of reality.  That was the trend that poured from the poly community, and Showtime must have absorbed it all.  The result was a season that dealt with some pretty serious issues if your household is going through them.

In season two we see the newly introduced triad experiencing some friction right out of the gate.  We see a lot of lessons from this triad that I’ve written about before.  Leigh Ann is feeling left out of the loop because life sometimes just isn’t cooperative with the schedules we’d like to keep.  Instead of talking to her husband, Chris, and their girlfriend, Megan, about it she has an affair, which she tries to justify with the poor excuse that she feels she’s being neglected at home.  We find out after some time that she has some resentment over how involved Megan is in their marriage and that she has felt this way since the beginning.  The two remaining member of the triad are railroaded by this sudden revelation, as it had not been discussed in the entire three years of the relationship.

The lessons here are:

  • Communication, communication, and even more communication.  Before poly. During poly.  Communicate.
  • Cheating is always cheating.  Own your behaviour, don’t excuse it.
  • Never be poly or arrange your relationship just to make a partner happy.  Talk about it and compromise, but don’t just let it happen, or it will most likely fall apart on you all later.  There is no room in poly for conflict avoidance or placation.

The situation with the triad also brings up a few good points.  What do you do if you’re deeply committed to one partner and the other decides it isn’t working?  As a triad this is huge.  Do you ask to continue with the other person outside of the triad?  Do you risk your marriage trying not to lose either one?  Do you agree to have the conflicted partner see others as well?  Chris grapples with these questions as he tried to save his marriage and be true to Megan and her feelings, and neither of them seem to consider the place it puts him in as she fights for her relationship with him.

From last year’s pod we see a lot of new energy.  There are new partners, but there is also new drama.  Jen’s relationship with a man who can’t quite accept polyamory puts her in a rather awkward situation where she agrees not to even play with anyone new.  I have made this request myself when I felt a need for some foundation building in a new relationship, but in this case it seems like he doesn’t want to try to embrace polyamory.  This kind of attitude can be detrimental to a relationship, and unless the monogamous partner is at least willing to be open-minded about the poly partner’s lifestyle.  Towards the end of the season Jen is already starting to feel the strain of the restrictions and emotional needs of the relationship.  We see the exact opposite with Michael’s insistence that his new girlfriend be involved sexually with his wife.  They are both unable to accept that she might not be interested or willing to be, and she makes a good point in asking that their relationship be focused on the two of them for a while not her interactions with his other lovers.

I do have to commend Showtime for how they portrayed Tahl’s experimentation with bisexuality and his budding relationship with Christian.  We’re usually so inundated with homoeroticism on a very carnal level that we are barely presented with a real, emotional picture of how these interactions can go, especially when bisexuality is involved.  We hardly ever see two masculine hetero-normative  bi men represented showing tenderness and playfulness with each other.  Kudos, Showtime!

In the end I got exactly what I asked for last season, a portrayal of the side of poly that was not of some Shangr-la existence.  No, we got to see some of the human aspects of poly relationships.  The catch?  This is what opponents of polyamory want to see.  These are the things that say “see? this is why this relationship model must fail”, because we most commonly associate things about which we are unsure or blatantly against with negative portrayals.  My family grocery shopping is boring.  My family constantly having our hands on each other is unrealistic.  My family having issues to work through like any other relationship in the world is proof that polyamory is a sham.  The moment we come out as poly we are examples.  We are lessons.  We are representatives, and anything we do, any way we act, and any mistakes we make are takes as typical.  Season 2 brings up the most important lesson I have had to learn being poly.  Just because the relationship falters or fails doesn’t mean that poly has failed.  It just means those particular people needed to grow or move on from each other.  If these people were having these issues as single people in the dating world there would not be a show about it.

Go now, live your reality,

Namaste

 

New Love

I talk a lot about NRE.  Why? Because it’s something we don’t experience in monogamy as an outsider.  Sure, we see it in friends and family, but never in a significant other.  This can be an eye-opening experience, not just the first time, but every time a partner goes through NRE.  Navigating it as an observer can be difficult, but it can also be a growing experience.
The first time Hubby experienced me in genuine NRE he was unprepared.  We had been poly for a few years.  I had been in relationships, but until that relationship I had not realized how much I had kept those relationships on the surface.  I went through a very light NRE period with each one, but nothing that came close to what suddenly caught me off guard.  My NRE was quick and intense, and I threw myself at it wholeheartedly.  While Hubby had worked through what he thought my normal NRE behaviour would be he had no clue how to deal with the tidal wave of rainbows and sunshine that I became for this new relationship.  He had never seen me take my defenses down for anyone besides himself, and it rocked his sense of security and stability quite a bit.  Unfortunately that was also the relationship that put a lot of those defenses back in place, but it was a good learning experience for both of us as well as a chance to talk through some personal issues that the NRE in that relationship had exhumed.
My NRE with my current BF was a little different.  He was one of the first people I dated when I moved to Philadelphia, and we’ve been friends for nearly twelve years.  When we started this new relationship it was more of a feeling of relief and comfort than NRE, and we immediately fell into the roles we felt we’ve always played for each other.  Hubby has had to process this very differently than my past experiences.  The immediacy with which it seemed we established our dynamic was a little jarring for him.  He’s been inside my walls since before most of them existed.  It also means we’ve had to work a little bit at having that “new relationship” experience.  When we first realized this was happening I insisted we take the time to get reacquainted with each other.  We went on dates and to parties.  We had quiet nights in.  We tried to not cheat ourselves out of the full experience just because we had history.  Sometimes I still have to remind myself that in Hubby’s eyes this is all very new no matter how longI’ve known R.
I always have some patient processing to do when Hubby has NRE.  His already stubborn attention span severelyzones in on the new thing in his life, be it a new partner or a new project, and it can be exhausting trying to keep up.  I’d like to be able to just let him have his time and be confident his attention will be inclusive again soon, but we have household responsibilities together.  I can’t just let him loose in La La Land until he sees fit to join us here on Earth again.  For the most part I haven’t known his new interests until NRE is in full swing.  This can make me feel like I’m about to encounter some kind of supernatural being when we do finally meet.  In his eyes this new person is infallible and innocent as the baby Jesus.  No matter how calm or logical I am, if there is any contention I immediately get cast in the Wicked Witch of the Wife role.  But there is a flip side to this coin.  Hubby’s NRE is generally very healthy for us as long as there are no growing pains between me and this new partner.  It generally boosts his self-esteem, so when we do have time together he is much more squishy and sweet than usual.
Currently we are in a very new to us NRE situation, one in which his new partner is male.  While Hubby has had male play partners, this is the first fully reciprocal, healthy and happy, looking towards the future, romantic partnership with a man, which means there are two different types of NRE here.  There’s the usual ooey gooey warm center NRE, but there’s also a sort of slow epiphany happening.  This is such a new experience for him, and he has been reaching for this for so long, that there is an almost overwhelming glow that has developed as its own energy.  It has been amazing to watch, and as the one who has watched him fall short of this desire in his life over and over again I am thrilled for him.  I am happy to sit like girlfriends and listen to him gush about his new beau.  This doesn not mean, however, that I enjoy having our foreplay interrupted with cute anecdotes or need to be recounted with every single mushy text message that transpires between them, which is what I present you with now.
So how do we keep our sanity when faced with a partner’s NRE? 
First off, I urge you not to take it personally when your partner forgets something you’ve said to him.  NRE is a drug, and quite often clogs the brain with the aforementioned rainbows and sunshine.  You may want to invest in a pad of Post-it notes to keep the house from falling into shambles.
Next, don’t compare.  No matter how tempting it is to think “I don’t remember him being that way with me”, I can assure you he was just as cute and sickening with you.  Ask around.
Lastly, don’t let the sunshine pouring from your partner stop you from talking to him.  Miscommunication and distraction are rampant in NRE stages, so make sure important things are said clearly, concisely, and often.  If you’re having an issue with something, don’t let it build into resentment.  You’re not killing his buzz if you do.  You’re maintaining your established relationship.  Adversely, this is a rare glimpse at a side of your partner you might not get to see very often.  Enjoy it with him.  Be the bestie that brought you together int he first place.  Offer support if his self-confidence falters.  Give him advice if his flirting might need some help.  This kind of interaction always brings me and Hubby together and reminds us of what a good team we’ve always been.  It always brings me back to a time when we’d put on a rom-com from the Redbox and he’d do my nails while we gabbed like teenage girls.
I can also suggest you find a way to occupy yourself instead of sitting around pining for your distracted love.  Learn a new skill or find a new hobby.  Your partner will be really impressed when he’s back on this plane and you’ve knitted sweaters for the entire family…and all the pets.  Use the time to organize or clean something you’ve been neglecting.  I know these chores go faster for me without Hubby interfering or goading me to do it his way.  It also means I can toss those hole ridden socks he’s been  hanging on to without him ever noticing they’re gone.  Another thought, socialize!  Let your partner and his new love have some foundation building time, and go out a little on your own.  Meet some new people, reacquaint yourself with friends you haven’t seen in a while, or take the opportunity to bond with your metamours.  They probably miss him, too.  I always forget how much of my focus goes to Hubby until he doesn’t need it.  Use your temporary free time for you!
One of the hardest things to remember is that NRE eventually wears off.  When this happens, even if that couple is still together, there’s a lot of processing as things settle back into a comfortable place.  You may be relieved, but your partner may experience a crash, and he’ll need the support of his entire family to remember what comfortablefeels like.  Try not to be too hard on him, and welcome the newly placed piece of your puzzle with perfect love and perfect trust.
Aloha!
Go now, do something new!

National Coming Out Day logo, designed by arti...

All my life I have been the “unique one” in my family.  At the age of 5 I was determined to be the next Reba McEntire, and it didn’t get any more normal for me from there.  I don’t think it was any surprise to my family that I chose some sort of alternative lifestyle.  I think the main question was which one I would pick and when.  That being said, I never really came out to my family about any of it.  If anything they outed me to themselves.

I have been a decidedly practicing pagan since before I moved out on my own, and my daily practices before that all had pagan flavour no matter what I called it.  I never hid my alter, my tools, or my jewelry.  No one asked.  My dad did ask me once to light a candle for something for him, but beyond that no one mentioned it until I was wedding planning.  No one had heard of a handfasting, and my mother-in-law had been telling people we were having a “traditional Celtic wedding”.  With a guest list of Catholics, Lutherans, Protestants, Jews, and a few others thrown in for good measure, we expected some questions, and we worked hard to put together a ceremony that was both true to our spirituality and not alienating for our guests.  In the end we heard nothing but good about our ceremony, and it was everything we’d dreamed of.  I guess, in a way, it was our coming out, and we did so my showing how beautiful our spirituality can be.

I’ve felt my sexuality from a very young age.  I don’t think there was ever a question in my mind or heart that I was Pansexual, even if I didn’t have the words for any of it.  My mother never told me I was wrong, and it was just who I was.  I never felt the need to have a “coming out”.  I did try to talk about it a few times, but it never resulted in anything memorable.  Though he had heard me use the word “girlfriend”, the first time my father and I ever discussed it he had met my girlfriend and was more concerned about the trappings of polyamory than anything else.  That was the same weekend Hubby and took him to his first Pride festival.  He wasn’t particularly comfortable, but he went along with us and did what he has always done as my dad.  He watched and listened and didn’t judge or protest.

Our talks with our respective families about polyamory was as close as I have ever come to “coming out”.    Hubby just up and mentioned our girlfriend in conversation one day.  My dad asked me on a visit from California because my grandmother had taken to reading my blog and had given it her own twist.  In each case the conversation was calm and pretty well received.  Both parents met our partners at the time, and once they were sure we were being safe and that we were both happy with the arrangement they were fine.

A lot of my lazy “coming out” process can be attributed to social media.  I only have the energy and time for one Facebook, so all my friends and family get to see the same online persona.  I have had cousins I didn’t know paid that much attention tell me they think it’s really positive how I live.  This past summer I had a really relaxed conversation about polyamory with my grandmother, dad, and a cousin, and no one seemed weirded out about it.

This has been my experience more often than not in my family, and for that I can be grateful, because I know it isn’t the case for everyone.  I am in constant awe and appreciation that I can discuss men who are not my husband with my mother-in-law and she doesn’t even bat an eye.  I feel like I could tell my dad I like to paint myself purple and roll in marshmallows and he wouldn’t judge me unless it led to some kind of jail time.  I’ve never felt the need to make a grand gesture of “coming out” because I’ve never felt like I wouldn’t be accepted for being who I am and acting accordingly.

There is a saying that “coming out” is something we do every time we meet someone new, and it’s true.  I do it whenever I mention my husband and my girlfriend in casual conversation.  I do it whenever our whole family goes somewhere together and I don’t introduce our partners as “friends”.  I do it when I wear rainbow or pentagram jewelry or someone sees my poly heart tattoo.  I do it by how I live, because I refuse to censor myself for strangers.  If you ask about my family, my holidays, or my home I will tell you the truth.  This is just the way it is for me, no matter what day it is.

_Emotions 02

 

 

 

“Polyamory probably saved my marriage.”

 

I have heard this statement made several times, and it always refers to something different.  Sometimes it refers to a sense that things had gotten stale and polyamory put a fresh spin on the marriage.  Sometimes it’s been sexual desires or orientations.  Other times it’s been a deeper need to become closer through shared experiences.  For me it’s been about lessons.  I mentioned in a previous post that recently Hubby and I had some troubled waters.  I strongly believe that we would not have come out of them unscathed as a monogamous couple, at least not as the monogamous couple we were.  While the idea is emotionally unfathomable, realistically I don’t think we would have had the right tools to keep our marriage afloat.

Communication:  While this one seems like it should encompass everything else, there are a few key lessons in communication that come from experience with polyamory.  Most of us know how to identify communication, but many don’t know how to actually communicate.  Good communication makes the difference between an electric mixer and a wooden spoon.  Where good communication makes things smoother and easier to handle, bad communication often causes nothing but soreness and a mess.  My apologies to anyone who likes to mix things by hand.  To communicate freely requires that one eschew fear of being honest.  Oftentimes when we bring up an uncomfortable topic we try to avoid confrontation and word things to sound more innocuous.  Sometimes we even try to predict what the other person’s reaction will be and how to avoid it being negative.  The truth is, sometimes we need a negative reaction.  Sometimes Hubby needs to know things are not copacetic.  We can’t fix a problem he doesn’t know exists.  That being said, communicating dictates you be calm, concise, and factual with no emotional mudslinging or attacking.  Everyone listens instead of plotting their next move, and everyone gets to talk.  As long as this can be done in a mature manner, you’ve done it!  You’re communicating!

Dedication:  It has always been my belief that one contributing factor to our nation’s divorce rate is how easy it is to give up.  There have been moments when we may have thrown in the towel had we not been married and committed to those vows.  If in the end we agree that we’ve done everything we could to fix our problems I will fully accept that, but until then I will keep trying to make our marriage stronger and healthier.  Many people in relationships act as if a difference in opinion or beliefs is an automatic sign that the relationship is doomed.  No one is perfect, and nothing that lasts a lifetime is polished in a day.  The marriages that last are the one that are constantly maintained by people who don’t avoid or repress their problems.  Instead they work through them one at a time to nurture their bond and grow as a couple.

One Step at a Time:  Think of a math equation.  Looking at all the different functions in the equation all at once can seem daunting, but if you break it down into smaller, easier to handle parts you can focus on one function at a time.  Quite often when a relationship experiences an obstacle it seems insurmountable because it’s never made up of just one issue.  Usually by the time a marriage is in serious jeopardy the root cause is an amalgamation of smaller issues.  Trying to work on them all at once can be overwhelming and will only cause more frustration and friction.  Prioritizing and processing one problem at a time and accepting that there will be setbacks can help the healing process to not become such a burden that a couple gives up.  Poly teaches us to deal with one thing at a time as it pertains to each situation.   Just as no two partners are alike, no two problems are alike.  Still, no member of our family is alone when problems do arise.  Working on them together makes anything possible if we take it one step at a time.

Letting it Go:  Once a problem is discussed and resolved it needs to be let go, not just until the next fight, not just until you’re feeling a little neglected and need some attention, but let go for good.  There is nothing as detrimental to a relationship that’s trying to heal like bringing up old baggage that doesn’t serve the issue at hand.  Poly teaches us to deal with any possible situation then let it go, because there is no room in healthy non-monogamy for extra baggage.

Perspective:  Sometimes the way we see things is not how others see them, and either way may be a skewed version of the truth.  Polyamory has taught me not to use phrases like “you did X” but instead say things like “it seemed to me like you did XYZ”.  Blame solves nothing, and it makes you look foolish and out of control.  Instead, calmly recounting the situation from your perspective can help the other person understand why there was an emotional response, and understanding is the beginning of both of you processing.

Avoiding Scapegoats or Insults:  Blaming solves nothing, but playing dirty makes things worse.  These issues are between you and your partner, not other partners, kids, or other mitigating factors.  Accept that they didn’t cause the problems you’re having, the two of you did, even if your partner’s behaviour was based on these other things.  I had this realization not too long ago when A told me it seemed like I was mad at her.  Even to her it seemed like I was blaming her when really my real anger was towards how Hubby was treating the situation or acting because of something in their relationship.  While it all may have exacerbated our issues, it wasn’t their relationship that was responsible for it, it was his behaviour and my reaction to that behaviour that was.

Emotional Independence:  Polyamory has taught not only to be responsible for my emotions but also to handle them as much as I can on my own. There was a time when both of us where extremely needy and co-dependent on each other.  Opening our marriage and branching out forced us to be aware of that co-dependency and to become more self-reliant.  I now feel that I don’t need to run to Hubby every time I feel emotional.  This puts less stress on him and allows him to be more self-reliant as well.  It also means he’s available when I really need the support instead of being burnt out or overburdened already.  Because of this emotional independence I have been able to trust both of our emotions and have faith that he’s with me because he loves me, not because he needs something from me emotionally.  It has also given me the confidence to voice my emotional needs and know when I just can’t process certain things on my own.  When working through problems in a marriage this is all integral.  I feel less desperate for that emotional support, therefore I can be more articulate about real needs.  I feel less burnt out and more willing to be supportive when he has real needs.  Without emotional independence neither of us can be honest with ourselves or each other about emotional issues.  Without it neither of us can grow as an individual.

What Worked Before:  Marriages sometimes fall into a comfort, and resentment can build when the NRE starts to fade.  When issues arise this is the first thing that gets flung between partners. “We never do XYZ anymore!”  My first question is always, “why not?”.  I have found that polyamory has kept us fresh and inspired.  We have found new ways to keep our lives exciting, and we hold on to the memories and traditions that still serve us.  The truth is that what worked before may not work now.  This can include little things like mutual hobbies and weekly rituals to big things like relationship style and family dynamic.  You may not do those things anymore because those people are no longer who you are as individuals.  That couple may not be the couple you are now.  That marriage has grown and evolved just as the two of you have done.  Nostalgia can be a great reminder of where we come from, but it can also be a great road block to moving forward.   We hold on to thing that once felt good forgetting that as we change we can and should find new things that make us feel good, too.  Whether it’s changing how you date others or changing how you eat dinner together, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate.  Polyamory has taught me to constantly re-evaluate our needs, my needs, and the needs of our family as a whole.  If there is not growth and movement a stagnant marriage cannot thrive.

I’ll say it one more time… “Polyamory saved my marriage,” and possibly my life, or at least the quality of my life.  I’ve used these tools with friends, coworkers, children, and clients.  I feel enriched and empowered, and confident that I can tackle anything.  Having my husband and our family on board helps, too, of course.

Marriage Equality

 

So, there’s this guy…

Doesn’t every good story start with “so, there’s this guy”?

In any case, there’s this guy, and we meet at a bar.  I ditch the excruciatingly dull date I’m on, and I bring home a guy from a bar, which is something that, at the precipice of 30 years old, I have never done before.  Another item on some kind of unwritten Bucket List I didn’t know existed.

This guy has a very black and white perspective on life and how the world turns.  He not so much questions my beliefs but preaches his opinion on them like a sermon to save me from a life of ridiculous spirituality and ill-advised relationship decisions.  On the former I stand firm, and there is no doubt in my mind that my faith is unshakable.  He seems frustrated that I won’t try to prove my beliefs, but it is not my responsibility to convince him of their validity or sciency data.  On the latter, however, I waver and bend a little.  I am unsure.  I unearth old doubts and question my faith in myself and the choices I have made over the last decade.  When it comes to believing in myself I am weak.  Things that were once true seem less so.  Things that made my love and my marriage healthy and good for me begin to seem detrimental and lacking.  Hubby and I no longer seem like the strong, loving partnership we once were.

This guy dangles in front of me all the things I’ve wanted in life, but as with most things worth having, it all comes with a price that until recently I have not been willing to even consider.  More questions.  Would I be willing to give up one big piece of who I am now to have a shot at goals I’ve been vying for my entire life?  In the last few years I have resigned myself to a limited path.  I have chalked  up a lot of my dreams and aspirations to bad decisions or believing those things just weren’t meant for me.  Hubby supports me where he can, but more and more reality sets in, and when our goals are in direct conflict mine fall away.  He is always more driven, always a better opportunist, and almost always has more backing and resources.  This is just how it’s always been.

I see myself now at a crossroads where it is integral that I have no doubt in the direction in which I choose to continue my journey.  This is something I’m unprepared for, and it’s a self-portrait I cannot begin to paint.  Can I adapt my current path or must I make a complete break and risk being lost?  This is a question I am unprepared to answer, but how long can I wait for life to make it for me before all the doors close around me?

The big question here is not whether or not I leave but whether or not we can fix the rift that’s grown between us.  It has not gone unnoticed, but I don’t think either of us has been aware of how big it’s gotten.  If we can we will be the solid couple we once were.  If not, it will swallow one or both of us, and we are each too beautiful and unique to be unhappy.  This guy is not my future, but he has prompted me to think about what I want my future to look like and how I can make that happen.  My hope is that a clear idea of just how deep and wide this rift in my marriage is can help us begin to fill it in with healing and love.

And here we are now.  We have faced the end of our story and refused to accept it.   Instead we have once more rewritten our future together.  We still stumble occasionally, but we now have a better understanding of and commitment to this marriage and the promises we’ve made to each other.  The Death card dealt here was not for a finite ending but for a razing and rebuilding, and we are building something strong and wonderful together.

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