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It was the day I saw the internet meme that read expressed to me that love could always save the day, and anything else was giving up. This friends, is a very pretty thought, but untrue. Yes, there are a lot of people who give up on love too soon. There are relationships that end merely because people don’t want to put the effort in to keep it alive. There are also situations where the love exists but the relationship is unhealthy, and there is only so much compromise one can do. This is where serious change needs to occur.
My biggest hurdle in the past week has been the doubt instilled in me by this very concept. For years I have fought. For years I have worked. For years I have sacrificed and compromised. All for love. All with a smile on my face. All knowing my heart was strong and my love was true. That love hasn’t changed. It hasn’t diminished. It hasn’t quieted. I don’t even feel like it’s less mutual. It’s the only reason I am hurt by the idea that maybe even the strongest love in the world can’t fix everything. And maybe worse, that it shouldn’t.
What if this love is what’s holding me in a place that’s unhealthy for the rest of me? What if this love is detrimental? What if it’s taken the place of the love I should have for myself? These are very real things. This is not an abuse situation, friends, but it is unhealthy. If we can’t find a way to change the foundation of what’s wrong in our life together, no amount of love in the world can change that. I can’t let myself feel like I’m giving up or failing, because that’s what has always made me stick around in the past regardless of my mental or emotional health.
Love can conquer many things. Fear, insecurity, doubt. Love cannot conquer all things, because a relationship needs air to breathe and sun to grow. It needs a good balance of calm and passion. It needs the right environment, and if that environment no longer exists between two people, it doesn’t mean we’ve or love has failed. It merely means our landscape has evolved. It’s time to decide if that landscape can still sustain this relationship.
Just this last week my home state of Pennsylvania legalized marriage equality, and now that both of the states I call home have done so, I feel the push to chime in with an experience I’ve had in both cases. As someone who identifies as pansexual, and as someone who happens to already be in a legal, heterosexual, open marriage, I have come under a lot of fire for supporting the cause as anything but an ally. Let’s break that down…
Pansexual: Yes, I have love and attraction to anyone, anyone, who catches that attention, no matter how they identify. Why is it that because a cis male is included in that I am devoid of caring about the opportunity to marry any of the other possible pairings? We must stop the labeling, the arguing about labeling, and the snobbery and isolation that arise from that labeling.
Married: Ok, so it’s true. I’m already legally married, and I don’t plan on that changing in my life. Does that mean I couldn’t have wanted to marry someone who didn’t legally apply? I love cookies and cream ice cream, but does that mean I wouldn’t like the opportunity to choose Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which I also happen to love? Why does the fact that my ultimate legal choice was an acceptable one negate this as a victory for my heart?
Poly: This is something I’ve struggled with within the LGBTQ community for years. In the opinion of some people, aligning with the poly community means a step back for all the work the LGBTQ community has done to convince the world that they can be just as committed to each other as heterosexual relationships can. While I understand this very conservative opinion, I have to ask why heterosexual marriages don’t have to prove the same? Why aren’t accepted social norms put to the same litmus tests as alternative lifestyles? Oh right, because it’s more acceptable to cheat on a heterosexual spouse than to be honest and open. I also realize that poly families have a long way to go in that regard, and that our struggle for acceptance over prejudice and mockery is in a very young stage.
The truth is, it shouldn’t matter if this step forward benefits me in any way or not. It shouldn’t even matter that I know people personally who it benefits. The only thing that should matter is that this is the right thing for people. Period. This entire post has been an excuse to say this: Congratulations, people! This is how life should be, and we need to stop worrying about who does and doesn’t have the right to celebrate life.
Go now. Celebrate equality and love!
Way back when I did my Poly-tics series I wrote about The Deep End. Well, it all came back to haunt me recently when I became involved with someone who had just opened a long-time monogamous marriage. The result was a lot of exactly what I cautioned in the second installation of the series. Had I known at the time how deep this deep end really was I might not have ventured into it, but there I was, surrounded by dark waters of insecurity, doubt, mistrust, and miscommunication. I did what I could to be helpful. I offered the same advice I would offer friends or people seeking counsel. I tried to help both parties through what I know can be an extremely tumultuous storm. In the end I was left adrift in a Deep End that was not my own with an overload of red flags and I-told-you-sos.
It was during this time that I began to hear the term Testing the Waters in reference to poly. What struck me immediately was the fact that once you’ve involved another human being and a relationship begins to form you can no longer be “testing” anything. It’s unfair to both members of the new relationship, and it’s a detrimental attitude to the entire situation. Polyamory requires complete commitment and dedication. If you can’t give that to yourself, your partner, and any new partners you bring into your life, you’re better off sunbathing on the shoreline until you can really brave the deep end.
Take it from me.
A friend recently posed a question to her pagan friends on social media about being openly pagan in the workplace. As unfortunate as it is, this can be a serious decision to make. While certain things are protected by both company policies and federal laws, nothing is immune to the office politics game. Nothing.
With my new job I don’t generally work with the same people for more than a few days at a time. This means I’m constantly meeting new people and forever telling my story. I wrote before that we never come out just once as anything. We do it every time we meet someone new. Nothing has made this as apparent as the internal checklist I go through in my head every time I meet a new crew. What has this person told me of his life? How open-minded does she seem? What has our rapport been so far? If none of these things throws any red flags there’s a deep intuition check. Does this feel right?
As a general rule I am fairly open about who I am. I’ve found that it mitigates the amount of gossip that finds its way back to me. I won’t lie when people ask questions about my life, but I do try to gauge my audience before I speak, and I very rarely offer unsolicited information unless it’s appropriate to the conversation, which is even more rare. There are some things I will never mention unless a coworker divulges it first or I consider her a close friend.
The simple fact here is that it’s none of anyone’s business. Would I like to be able to mention what I did over the weekend or casually talk about my family? Of course I would, and while it’s a shame that I have to gauge my listener first to do so, that fact remains. Honestly, I wish more acquaintances did this before blessing me with information about their lives that I’d rather not have.
Go now, be you!
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.
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.
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.
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,