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The original title of this post was “Compersion Myths Discussed”, but it dawned on me how inherently negative that was, and my intention here is to write about positivity.  For this one I asked my community about what lessons they’ve learned about compersion through experience.  The results were diverse and educational.

Compersion: The feeling of joy one has experiencing another’s joy

In my experience, I struggled with compersion for a long time.  I have a lot of abandonment issues, and worse, fears that I won’t be left but merely set aside and humoured once in a while.  I have only had one relationship in my life survive a new partner, and that’s been my marriage.  I held my breath through NRE widow periods when I just ceased to exist.  I was expected to understand and smile and wish partners well when their new love wasn’t poly and couldn’t accept me.  I dealt with gradual ghostings where there was just less and less time for me.

I held a lot of these painful experiences on my shoulders, and they became me responsibility.  Who was I to write and speak about poly if I couldn’t find absolute blissful joy for my partners when they found new love?  I felt broken.  I felt like a fraud.  I felt lost.   I started to hide my anxieties.  Anyone who suffers from anxiety will tell you, hiding it and swallowing it only allows it to fester.  Oh and it festered, until it infected everything.  Then something amazing happened.  I found a partner who heard me.  He listened to my concerns and anxieties, and he didn’t tell me I was bad.  He didn’t tell me I was wrong.  We didn’t fight; we talked it out.

Something amazing happens when I feel safe, loved, and heard.  Compersion.  Something else happens.  Sometimes the anxiety, the insecurities, the real life logistical concerns don’t go away, and I’ve learned that it’s ok.  Compersion doesn’t replace needs.  All these things can coexist, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It doesn’t mean I’m “failing poly”.  It doesn’t make me a horrible partner.  It makes you human.

So, I’ve been mulling over this for a few months, and it’s still something I go back and forth with, but I’ve started to do a few things.

  1.  I look at the situation and figure out if I’m really jealous of the time spent with someone else or that I’m stuck at work and they’re out doing something fun.  Usually it’s the latter.
  2. If I am jealous of the time spent with someone else, why?  Am I having a bad day?  Do I have a need I haven’t realized?  Do I merely miss my partner?  Being so far away from all of my partners means sometimes I just miss them, and I worry about the distance meaning I’m the last for them to find time with me.  I know this isn’t the reality of the relationship, but my brain is a jerk, friends.
  3. How can I resolve this feeling?  Is it adding a cool new item to the list of things to do when I see this person?  Is it voicing a need?  Is it reminding myself that we have tons of amazing memories and liking all the awesome pictures of what they’re doing on Facebook?  Usually it’s a combination of these things for me, because once I’ve sorted this I can appreciate the time they’re having.

This question lead to a few really interesting discussions, and I appreciated everyone who gave their perspective.

Here are a few:

Sometimes compersion isn’t feeling joyful or happy about your partner with someone else, sometimes it’s just acceptance.

Someone else responded here that “joy” is in the definition of the word compersion, and it’s true, but OP said something else that struck a chord.  Sometimes just the contentment of being able to accept something brings its own form of joy with it.  For some people, becoming aware of that step, or being able to find peace in a situation they might not feel comfortable or happy with, is a huge weight to release, and that is definitely a moment to revel in.  I remember the first time I gave Hubby’s girlfriend at the time a Valentine’s Day card thanking her for making him so happy.  It was a huge step and a freeing experience.  Even if she and I didn’t particularly get along.  Even if I didn’t agree with the way she conducted her relationships.  Even if I felt she intentionally sought to cause problems.  None of that mattered.  I was able to  be grateful for his happiness and accept her role in it.

You can grasp the concept AND still need to work to feel it.

Hallelujah! I’m glad someone said this, so I didn’t have to.  I’ve said it before in discussing the trials of newly opened relationships.  You can do all the reading.  You can do all the discussing.  You can learn all the buzzwords, and you’re still going to be caught off guard by emotions.  This is also one of those lessons.  Understanding compersion doesn’t mean you’ll master it on the first go any more than YouTube videos can teach you to swim.  You might be a natural.  You might get lucky and have a good first experience.  You might hit the water, feel it run up your nose, and panic.  And you know what?  Next time is going to be completely different, because no two days in your life are the same, and our experience is often flavoured by outside influences and conditions.  See above:  Am I having a bad day?   My advice.  Keep working.  Talk about it.  It’s worth it.

 

 It is in no way mandatory to feel compersion to be “real” poly. And sometimes, even if the majority of the time you do feel it, you’ll have moments where you don’t, and that’s okay too.

I’ve learned that compersion can’t be forced. And if you don’t feel it right away, you shouldn’t be hard on yourself. It’s hard for your head to understand that feeling sometime, and you just have to allow yourself to adjust.

The point here, is to not be hard on yourself if you don’t feel it.  This isn’t a free pass to be a jerk to your partner, but it is an opportunity to open up discussion.  Believe me when i say avoiding it all together is not a good idea in most cases.  Talk. Talk. Talk.  Do some internal searching. Talk some more.  If the opportunity is there, maybe spend some time with the other person involved.  I’ve found that learning the real person behind the outlandish abstract of infinite horrible worst case scenarios is a big help.

I admit, when they are on the verge of a new relationship, I still tend to get a little jealous, but once that feeling passes the compersion is definitely there. I think it’s adorable how excited they get talking to a new person and seeing them happy.

This is a really important thing to remember.  Compersion doesn’t have to be instantaneous to count.  Read it again.  Compersion does NOT have to be instantaneous to count.  Sometimes it takes some processing.  Sometimes it takes some discussion.  Sometimes it just takes a little exposure.  For the love of ice cream, don’t give up.  Did you see that second part?  It’s amazing!

You find it in the damnedest places and about the oddest things.

This is one of the most amusing things about compersion to me.  I can spend a month agonizing over how soon it’s going to be before I’m toast, then something clicks, something absolutely random.  For me it’s always been hearing that the other person mentioned me in passing.  An example of one of my random A-ha! moments of compersion was hitting Six Flags with Hubby and his new girl, which was also my birthday and the first time I’d ever met her, and watching her attempt to ride all the roller coasters with him.  I cannot, and will not, ride them, and seeing him find someone who would suck up her own fears and make it a personal challenge to ride ALL OF THEM was heartwarming.  Did I still have some anxieties after that?  Of course I did, because compersion is fluid.  Still, that was the moment I could see it, feel it, and enjoy it.

Feeling positive things for your partner comes back and improves all of your interactions.

Plain and simple, it does.  It reminds me every time why I chose poly.  It reminds me that I, too, can be open about new experiences and connections, and of how much love and support my partners give me when I’m on the other side of compersion.  It’s a helpful two-way street for me.  I find compersion by remembering that when I make a new connection none of the other fades, and that I am still madly in love with each of the partners in my life.  If I can do it, why should I be afraid that someone who has been good for and to me can not?  The joy this feeling gives me is one of the most fulfilling things a heart can experience, being grateful and surrounded by love, knowing that each of my partners still chooses me and that I am a part of a big beautiful web.  It leads to almost a reignited NRE feeling, and I’ve long since stopped having partners that make me an NRE widow, because that’s not healthy poly.  If I need time and assurance, I ask for it.  If they’re not willing to give it to me?  I decide if that’s behaviour I can accept.

I don’t feel jealousy often at all. I get envious of time spent sometimes, but most often, I experience compersion for anyone who is feeling loved and happy. I love love. I want to hear stories of love, good and bad, and I enjoy the energy people give off when they’re in love.
I am also a major introvert and I enjoy my ME time. Although I’ve been single for about 5 months, I am hardly ever without things to do. I’ve learned to love my time alone. So, when I do have a partner, and if they’re off with someone else, I will most likely find something to fill my time.

Hubby hates spicy food, and his partner, who lives with us, has some unfortunate food allergies.  Them being out means I can cook what I want.  With so many people in our small house, quiet alone time is rare.  This is how I first found at least a hint of compersion.  I found a hobby I would only do when Hubby was out with his girlfriend a the time.  In time, I came to look forward to their date nights.  It’s a little different now that my job and our living situation has changed, but there are ways to find a silver lining even when I might want to be out with them or feel lonely.

I am not really a jealous person, it’s just not something I often feel. I also don’t tend to feel possessive of my loves.
So with my partners, compersion is often finding joy that they are happy, loved, and fulfilled no matter what they are doing or with whom.
And I also admit that I enjoy the 20% when they are out and I get me time to do whatever as well.

It’s true.  There are people who don’t feel jealousy.  Good on them, really.  I realize this doesn’t mean they are without needs or anxieties.  Emotions and reactions manifest differently in different people.  I have a few partners who don’t experience jealousy, and for a while, again, I took it to mean there was something wrong with how I feel in a relationship.

 

Some additional comments from my people:

  • For me it’s a sign that you truly love someone… That you want them to be happy. Compersion is never about yourself. At least in my opinion.
  • That falling in love with the love someone has for someone else is both bizarre and absolutely wonderful. That you can get butterflies, for them.
  • It is good in the beginning hard then and ends up very good
  • Feeling compersion is great and comes easily to me, but I also experience sorrow when someone’s relationship is going through trouble. I try to fix things so they can be happy again, and so can I. And sometimes that just doesn’t happen.
  •  I’ve experienced it, makes me happy when I see him happy. Even if it isn’t me that is making him happy, why wouldn’t I be joyful for him?
  • I’ve never been jealous or possessive and i like to see people in my circle happy..it genuinely feels good to see . Always been that way.
  •  I get super excited when they are happy and talking about a new person…I find it just adorable! I don’t get jealous…the most I will get is envious of they are doing something that sounds fun that I would like to do but I am always happy when they are happy
  • I get all giggling and school girl like, and am like “tell me more, tell me more.”  I wanna know all the things. As my eyes are big and smile awaiting to hear so much more.
    Sometimes, though, if I feel a bit insecure in a relationship, I may not have as much compersion. That is when I rely on my partner to assure me of my place and value.

 

I think the most important line in this entire post is “at least in my opinion”.  There is no right or wrong way to feel, find, or work on compersion.  I , and a group of my friends, can only give you the words of experience.  Compersion, in my opinion, is one of the biggest hurdles in poly, and no one or nothing can make it happen.  Keep working.  Keep loving.  Keep moving forward.

 

Go now, find your joy.

Aloha

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It is the moment I hear the words “I can’t handle drama” or “I need something uncomplicated” that I cringe, because I’ve never been considered particularly high maintenance to anyone except for the people who start conversations this way.  You see, the term “you throw up red flags” is it’s own monumental crimson banner.  Sometimes it even has floodlights and a little commemorative plaque.  In any case, this goes one or both of two ways.

In the first case I note the need and do my best to keep things laid very free-flowing, but there comes a point where my needs fall by the wayside, because any request on my part is seen as some kind of irrational demand on this person’s life.  I am immediately labelled “High Maintenance”.

In the second case I begin to walk on eggshells, afraid that anything I say or do may be misconstrued as histrionics, until I am so frustrated and exhausted by the who experience that I begin to reach out for anything I can get. This generally makes any previously mentioned “red flags” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The added complication recently has been the additional condition of “What does Jenn need or want?” wherein not answering makes me a doormat and answering makes me complicated, both actions making me equally unacceptably high maintenance.  Friends, the answer to that question had two very simple conditions to it, and they’re the same as they have ever been.

This all seems like a perfectly good waste of what started as, and has the potential to be, an amazing relationship behind all the overthinking, but I have no other recourse but to step back and see what direction he takes.  I can’t keep worrying about it, nor can I keep throwing energy at something that neither meets my needs nor seems to be doing anything for him.  Do I hope it can be worked out? Of course I do.  Have I given up?  Nope.  But can I force something with someone unwilling to be inconvenienced?  Negative.  To try is a fool’s errand, and too often in love I end up a very frustrated fool.

Oh, and  Mr Too-Complicated?  He’s got a story for me every day about how negative and overly emotional people are making his life difficult, but I had too much going on to be date worthy.  

It has been my experience that people who use this condition are either ill-equipped to deal with emotions, unwilling to accept a situation that might require a little effort, or are prone to exaggeration.  Maybe I need to start taking their “red flags” as stop signs.

Just a thought.

Aloha

Go now….with the flow.

In a recent post I mentioned briefly the adjustments I’ve been making in my relationships to conquer the distance inherently put between me and my partners by my job.  I’ve always held a strong position against long distance relationships.  I rely heavily upon touch and face to face interaction to ground me in a relationship and give me a sense of stability and connection, and I havent never seen that possible in a situation where I don’t see a partner more than once a month, but with the commute I make for my job I’m finding more and more that even my marriage has similarities to a long distance relationship.

At first I fought it.  Adjusting to the commute and unusual schedule was hard enough without taking into account what might be happening at home.  In turn, Hubby sought solace in his tangible life and partners he could reach out to and began to suppress fears that I was on the slow road to leaving him, and our life together far behind.  The next step in the downward spiral was a deep depression caused by feelings that I was gradually being erased from my own family.  I considered leaving.  Unable to voice this feeling properly, I only validated Hubby’s suspicions, and the unraveling began, leaving us both feeling alienated and alone.

The solutions seemed bleak.  We either had to accept that this was our life now or end it, and neither of us was willing to accept either option.  Hubby’s approach was to demand things.  My time.  Phone calls.  All my plans and commitments at home would have to be cancelled to spend time with him.  I felt exhausted, smothered, and stretched too thin, and I lashed out, suddenly understanding why trained tigers might eventually eat their owners.  I felt helpless.

Then something happened.  I started texting him every day.  I didn’t have the hour or five a day he would have liked to have phone calls, and there was nothing I could do about the frequency with which I had to end such conversations abruptly because of my schedule, but he started to realize just now much I think of him when I’m not around.

A transformation began.  He became easier to talk to.  We exhumed inside jokes that had lost their sheen in the midst of our fighting and developed new ones.  Suddenly I felt like there wouldn’t be an exhausting battle every time we spoke, so I started putting him on speaker phone while I readied myself for work.  In short, I got my best friend back.

Other relationships were not so lucky.  After months of not knowing how to fix it, Ralph and I decided we could only survive in each other’s lives as friends.  Other tentative relationships came to similar fates, while the ones that were able to find a way to reconnect in new way thrived.  This.  This is where I began to see where the strength was in myself and in my partners.

Since this experience, each new relationship has been a valuable learning experience in communication and bonding.  Things that are important to me have had to be compromised while new needs have emerged in order to gain the stability I need to be a happy, sane, openly loving wife, partner, and even friend in some cases.  It hasn’t been easy, and at times I feel like these new endeavours are an emotional game of chutes and ladders, but it’s forced me to take  second look and only spend that energy on someone I feel deserves that kind of time and energy.

I’m still not sure what my stance is on long distance relationships.  The impulse is to have more partners to cover the lonely times, but even people I don’t see regularly take the same amount of resources, and I know all too well the effects of polysaturation.  Instead, I’m learning to find what works with each partner, and to give myself some of that energy as well.  We’ll explore that concept a little bit more later.

Aloha

Go now, reconnect.

The last several weeks for me have been full of reconnections, reunions, and a lot of dredging places I forgot I had sunk some pretty heavy ships.  These day’s I’ve stayed afloat by riding the waves and staying on the surface with the belief that what I really needed to focus on would be blown my way.  As someone quite often lead by emotion and intuition, this approach has been a refreshing change from being ruled rather than lead.  This is the only way it’s been possible for me to accept the sudden resurfacing of so many abandoned parts of my past.  For the most part this had been a positive experience on a very cathartic level, but also because I missed having some of these people in my life. I’ve shared a lot of laughs, shed a few tears, and had some amazing conversations.  I’ve also vowed not to try to sort these relationships based on their former blueprints.   Easier said than done, right?

Well, enter Mercury Retrograde and its not so gentle reminder to examine information coming in for what it truly says instead of what I think it should say, including self chatter.  I talk to myself a lot, both internally and externally, but how often do I really try to analyse any of it?  The answer is, most likely, almost never, which is probably counterintuitive for a writer and an energy worker.   Right on the heels of this retrograde, like a questionable sidekick, are the days where nothing seems to work right, the tied tongues, and the miscommunication that starts to break the harmony I’ve worked so hard to restore to this household after the changes of the winter.  I can’t let this happen, friends.  So, it’s time.  Time to dive a little deeper.

My aim here is not to exhume old shipwrecks and the tragedies that went down with them, but to see what they’ve now become.  Actual shipwrecks become their own ecosystems.  I’m anxious to see what lives in mine now and what might float to the surface when I find whatever it is that’s calling to me.  These are the things that will be important moving forward.  Adversely, this kind of diving reminds me that sometimes what looks like a jewel is just a shiny rock, and where there are cute fish there are also sharks.  There were reasons these ships sank, and if those problems haven’t been resolved there’s no reason to revisit the vessels to begin with.

This Mercury Retrograde is a bit oddly timed, but not in a particularly bad way.  It’s introspection I have needed to really sort how I feel about the events of the last several months.  It’s facing a broken part of me and working through the trust issues and emotional avoidance I’ve been struggling with for almost a decade.  It’s being able to enjoy the root good of these relationships without all the barnacles that have since grown around them.  The beauty of the Titanic wasn’t lost with its demise, which is why it’s been the focus of romance, adventure, and exploration for over 100 years.  That beauty still fascinates us to this day, and the stories of survival and strength pulled from her wreckage are inspiring and powerful.

We often give Mercury Retrograde a bad rap.  Yes, it can be frustrating.  In fact, there can be moments where it’s infuriating.  There are storms over even the most calm seas.  This can also be a time to do some organizing, some regrouping, and a lot of thinking outside the box.  It is in time of our greatest frustration that we sometimes find our greatest inspiration and perspective.  So, I let myself be overtaken by the current and sink below the surface, and I find some amazing things.  It is when I am submerged that I am reminded why I live and love the way I do and why I will always choose it over the alternative, which is to risk never experiencing the tides at all.  When I do come up for air it will be to blue skies and a shining sun, and that, my friends, is the only way to live.

Aloha.

Go now, dive deep.

howto-capture-monster-waves-camera.w654

As I’ve stated before, Hubby and I have very few rules for our polyamory.  It wasn’t always this way, however, and I have to constantly remind myself of this fact every time I encounter a couple who is just opening up. The more I read other poly blogs about rules and how much they hold us back, the more I think sometimes we all forget that we were once new at this, too, and that the fears and hesitation that spawned those rules were very real.

There’s a flip side to this coin.  At what point do rules become restrictions, and at what level do restrictions start to become detrimental?  

When Hubby and I opened up we had a “no kissing during sex” rule, which was not only extremely hard to follow but extremely silly.  Here we were welcoming new people into our hearts and our family, and we weren’t allowed to kiss them sometimes because of what we perceived the attitude and environment of the actions involved to be.  My first couple of experiences were awkward.  On top of the stress that already surrounds a new encounter, there were these stupid little stage notes I had to follow, and it made everyone tense and a little withdrawn because we all felt like we were being graded.  I remember very clearly the night I eschewed that particular rule right in front of Hubby in the most free feeling french kiss I’d ever given anyone.  This died the “no kissing during sex” rule and thus began the beginning of a serious re-evaluation of what essentially boiled down to micromanaging of something that should be very organic.

What changed our mind on these rules?  Trust.  We realized at that moment that there are things we couldn’t, and shouldn’t be, controlling about relationships that needed to form their own shapes.  I could mask my insecurity with a litany of things Hubby wasn’t allowed to do with someone new, or I could trust him to be a decent human being and act accordingly.  After some growing pains and restructuring it was the best decision we have ever made for our marriage and our respective relationships.  It not only fosters trust but respect for the trust given to us by our partners.

A new relationship is like a seedling .  If you nurture it and give it the fresh air it needs, it will grow to it’s full potential.  With the right maintenance and some appreciation, under the right conditions, it will be enjoyed for a long time.  Rules tend to put that seedling in a pot, which isn’t always a bad thing.  There are some integral broad rules, if you choose to call them that.  Honesty.  Respect.  Safety.  Communication.  However, the more rules you add to the mix the smaller the pot gets, and the relationship can eventually be restricted in its growth or completely choked.  The whens, the wheres, the words, the whats…none of it is important if you can hold to the tenants of the broad set.

So, I refer back to the beginning.  Patience and understanding versus a relationship’s need to form and grow organically.  Can the two reach a level of homeostasis that is healthy for everyone involved?  I think they can, though I sometimes question the spirit behind the rules.  A little help can quickly become a crutch.  A seedling can very quickly become a bonsai tree, even when it could be a great Sequoia.

Polyamory_meme_poster

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

 

The Passage of Time

Two years ago I wrote a post in my blog about Time Management.  It centered mostly around the time constraints of a new relationship, so today I’d like to talk about time management in a family situation.

Time can be one of the hardest aspects to master in any marriage.  Between work and personal interests it never seems like there is enough of it to get everything done and spent quality time with all the people we love.  This can be a sensitive topic in a poly relationship and the one I find leads to the most emotional discussions we have.  At times it seems like juggling knives would be less tense, and often less risky, but it’s not something that can be avoided.

Our family full of independent people with jobs and extracurricular passions that take up a lot of our free time.  Add in commutes, differences in shifts, and household chores, and this leaves very little to work with when it comes to spending time together.  We have a pretty colourful Google Calendar, which I will mention again and again as a poly family’s best friend, but finding space between the motley array of prior commitments can be frustrating.  Making that time healthy rather than stressed and rushed can be even more so.

My piece of that pie comes with the fact that Hubby and I have household responsibilities that generally fill up the two days a week I’m home from work.  This may change when I’m home every day or when we all live in the same house, but at this time that’s the reality.  It’s also the only time we have to see friends and family, so even that together time is rarely the one on one bonding time that keeps an intimate relationship healthy.  We can go months at a time without a day spent alone together doing something relaxing or fun together, and this causes a lot of stress on our marriage when it starts to seem like all we do is visit friends and do chores.  From my perspective, Hubby’s nights with A are still considered “planned”, so he won’t plan a night with a friend or another hobby during the time he’s with her, and I admit I get a little flustered knowing my time gets filled with those things because we live together.  While I may have more time on the whole, very little of it is quality time even spent in the same room, while they get to go to dinner, movies, and wine tastings.  Hubby is trying to make sure we balance that better, and we try to have a “planned” date once in a while, but sometimes nothing can be done.

On A’s side she worries about our responsibilities completely filling Hubby’s schedule and pushing out her time.  Hubby likes to sleep, so unless there’s a planned activity he will lounge and sleep or play games on his computer.  This often frustrates her, because she wants to be doing something, even if it’s just cuddling or making breakfast.  Because I’m often only home on weekends, that’s when we’re usually busy, so she doesn’t get a lot of time with him that doesn’t involve a work schedule in some way.  This can be stressful having to factor in bedtimes and work responsibilities, and if he gets held up at work she misses out on what waking free time she has.

Now let’s add a new development, just because things weren’t stretched thin as it was.  Hubby just started a job that will sometimes have him out of town a few nights a week, which means the only time he has consistently available is the weekend.  This means our schedule changes somehow.  It also means that all the personal activities he had reserved for weeknights also now can only happen on weekends.

We have discussed options that will make everyone happy.  I have no problem with spending a weekend or half a weekend alone.  My concern is that all Hubby’s personal time, all our time with his friends, and all our time spent as a family will come out of the now abridged time he and I have together, especially over the summer when events and outings pick up frequency.  Last year we had a few incidents with time management and things that were really important to me getting pushed aside or family time that left me feeling like a third wheel.  Some of that is internal, but some has been identified as something we all really need to work on to be a happy, healthy family.

Right now it’s all very up in the air with me out of work, and I will be returning right about the time our Google Calendar lights up again.  I won’t say I’m not a little worried, but we’re all adults, and I’m sure we can work out a solution.  It might take a few rounds of discussion and trial-and-error, but I feel like we’re headed in a positive direction.

My husband likes to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.  The secret is it’s all small stuff.”  In many ways this becomes true in a poly household.  In many cases big issues can be simmered down through conversation and a little understanding. The trick is being able to identify these things before they become overwhelming or detrimental.

When you start out in polyamory, no matter how prepared and open you think yourself to be, you will be blindsided by something.  The initial growing pains of poly will draw out insecurities you never knew you had and make you face them head on.  Failure to do so will result in resentment, jealousy, retaliation, and a full collapse.  What would normally be a harmless comment will suddenly become a judgment of you character, and every little stress and bump will be ten times heavier, a hundred feet higher.  The fix here, as to most things, is communication and acceptance.  You must trust your partner when he says he loves you and thinks you’re beautiful.  You’re not being replaced by his side, you’re simply getting company.

Polyamory will teach you the art of compromise.  We call many things “compromises”. We see a movie we didn’t really want to, and it’s a compromise. We do the dishes when our partners are unable, and it’s a compromise.  No, these are not compromises.   Compromise comes when something challenges the rules or structure of your relationship and the choice it either to let one partner pursue something scary and unprecedented or insist upon the rules.  Compromise demands sacrifice and understanding that we may have to hurt a little privately to let someone we love really experience this lifestyle.  Hubby’s first girlfriend started with both of us.  It was not in our experience or agreement what we would have separate partners.  Not long after we started she decided she didn’t care much for me, and a decision was made.  Compromise meant swallowing my pride and accepting a situation that we had not prepared for in order for Hubby to be happy.

The rest, as they say, is mostly small stuff.  You learn to better manage time and affection.  You learn to fight fair and accept that your partners’ choices may not be your own, but you support them anyway.  You learn to be compassionate and supportive, and you learn to trust your own judgment and that of your partners.  This all boils down to communication.  You will learn to communicate about everything as often as it takes for as long as it takes.  You will communicate until you lose your voice, and then you will write it until a resolution is achieved.

There is no issue in poly that cannot be overcome with a little determination, perspective, and compassion.  The hardest hurdle sometimes is to start viewing someone as a unique person with needs and goals other than your own and not just as “my spouse” or “our family”.  Remember, poly relationships are still real life relationships with real life people.  You will fight, you will disagree, there will be miscommunication, mistakes, and hurt feelings. You will learn to handle all of it as you would in any relationship.  If you’re wise, you will learn not to blame polyamory.  It is not a scapegoat for real problems, nor does it cause them.  Poly just makes it harder to live in a vacuum.

The final lesson here comes hand in hand with every issue: moving on.  Nothing is ever accomplished by exhuming old arguments or disagreements.  Resolve it, let it go, and move on.

“Please be a traveler,not a tourist.
Try new things,
meet new people,
and look beyond
what’s right in front of you.
Those are the keys to understanding
this amazing world we live in.”
-Andrew Zimmern

I’m officially home from a month working and living in New York City with a flash card full of pictures, a head full of memories, and a severe plague from living in a hotel full of piped air for a month.

When I got there I was a little nervous.  I used to do new things all the time.  I used to be really adept at navigating new cities and never shied from experiencing something new on my own.  Since meeting Hubby, however, the solo missions have slowed to a trickle, but if I was going to see anything but LaGuardia Airport I needed to reclaim that adventurous spirit.

My first day was a little rough.  I almost boarded a bus in the wrong direction, and I got off at the wrong stop.  I ended up in a Duane Reade in Jackson Heights.  I hadn’t yet had the chance to get a MetroCard, and I had spent all my coins on the bus that had just left me on the curb on the  verge of tears.  Under the guise of grabbing a bottle of water, I let out a sob, pulled myself together, and chastised myself for being ridiculous.  This was not my first time in NYC, let alone on a bus, and I had not just spent my last $2.25 ever.  I was not trapped.  I was not lost.  I was not in trouble.  I was letting myself panic.

I remember my first trip to NYC.  I fell directly into the Big City Panic, forgetting I had navigated cities before.  NYC is really no different.  It may be a little bigger, but because of that it may actually be a little better prepared for the chaos.  It is well mapped, well canvassed with mass transit that runs 24-hours a day, and crowded enough that you can always find someone to ask if you really have to.  I have never been “lost” for more than five minutes in NYC, which is nothing compared to the amount of time I have spent completely turned around in Philadelphia, where I’ve lived for over ten years.  It’s really not as complicated as it seems.  It’s big, yes.  It’s complex, definitely, but neither of those things has to equal complicated.

By my next trip anywhere I had figured out the websites, the apps, the maps, and my own directional calibration to the way the city is laid out.  I bused and trained through Astoria, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and by the time Hubby drove in to visit I knew not only how to get where he wanted to go by car but where to find free parking.  That’s right, free parking in Manhattan, friends.

And there you have it, the lesson of the day.  Oh please, you saw it coming.  How often do we do this, friends?  In love, in life, in anything?  Since this is a blog about poly, pagan householding I’ll funnel it there, but this can apply to any new venture in life.  How many times have I heard, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t even know where to start”?    I know I’ve done it.  Hell, I know I did it with polyamory, with most of our big hobbies, even with my writing.

They keys are not to panic and to break it down into pieces that make sense.  We didn’t start this open marriage with a dozen serious partners.  We started with one, and believe me, that one brought out enough issues and points in our marriage that needed work.  That one lead to enough discussions and changes in how we did things and interacted with each other and those around us, how we dealt with conflict and negativity.  That one seemed like our Big City Panic enough to make us run for the hills, but we didn’t.  We learned the maps.  We stuck together, used our heads and our hearts, and we found that it did make sense if we looked at it calmly.

We have tried to take this approach to the big changes that life has thrown at us: my illness, moving, changes in our family.  Sometimes we realize somewhere along the line that we’ve fallen into the Panic. Ok, so sometimes he realizes it for me.  It’s then that we have to reel ourselves in and remind ourselves that it’s really not that complicated.

As Hubby likes to remind me:

“Step 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“Step 2: It’s all small stuff.”

Aloha.

Go now, uncomplicate.

Part of being in a poly household means learning to share.  We share time, affection, space, and each other.  I means acceptance not expectation.  We discussed a lot of this in my post about sacrifice.  In the early days of our poly life I had a lot of issues with security.  While my role as wife is and always will be a strong and firm one in Hubby’s life I didn’t always know how to recognize or believe that.  Likewise, we had a lot still to learn about times when other partners will inevitably take priority and how to handle those moments.

Hubby and I currently have limited contact and are, for the most part, separated physically for the next several months.  This comes at a terrible time, and will explain any lengthy absence I take from writing.  Life is hectic, stressful, and a lot bigger than these little arms can carry, but I’m doing my best to hold it all together.  What it has done, however, is show us where we may have lacked that sense of priority, or at least caused us to reassess how we express it.

Not every poly relationship has the same system of hierarchy.  Some families have more than one husband or wife.  Some have primaries and secondaries.  Some have no system at all, everyone is equal.  Early on Hubby made it clear that, as his wife, I am the woman he chose to be his partner.  This means I have a lot more on my plate, but it also means I enjoy a certain position.  I am his wife, and while others may hold very special and similar positions down the road, none will be his wife. This doesn’t give me permission to lord over Hubby’s other partners.  On the contrary, it puts me in a position of a mentor.  This is the benefit and responsibility of my priority.

There are many problems that arise in a poly relationship surrounding priority.  One being how a primary feels when her partner has NRE with someone else.  It can be daunting when he is suddenly smitten and can speak of nothing but this new love, but it’s important to remember not only how crucial these formative early moments are for a new relationship but also that you are his confidante and best friend.  You are the one he wants to share this new experience and excitement with because he loves you.  Sometimes Hubby may get a little over excited and have to be reminded that it’s our time or that it’s our date at the carnival, so no, we should not win a teddy bear to take his new girlfriend.  Still, this NRE is not a threat to your status.

Another issue that arises is recognizing how a significant other expresses that you are at the top of his list.  No, he probably will not walk up and pee on you in front of your new girlfriend or accept you doing it in front of his.  No, your wife will probably notˆagree to get you name tattooed on her forehead.  Well, maybe they will.  He might, however, ask if you want to see a movie before he takes his new girlfriend.  She might turn down a night out once in a while just to stay home and relax with you.  Just because they aren’t grandiose gestures or things you would do does not mean they aren’t important actions to your significant other.  Sometimes a slight change of perspective changes everything.

The biggest issue that comes with priority talk is that sometimes you don’t take priority.  If you’ve given a night for him to be with someone else, unless there’s an emergency you owe him that respect.  If her other partner  has a serious need or problem, or just really needs her for some reason, you owe it to both of them to be the bigger person and not make an issue of it.  This is where those sacrifices come in, but this is where being poly really means loving, and loving our partners more than ourselves.  I could be selfish and make demands that let me have a little more alone time with Hubby when I  can  see him while we’re apart, but to the detriment to his other relationships, and to him.  As wife, and as his partner, it’s my responsibility to make sure he’s happy and everyone’s needs are met, because I love him.  I know in the end there are little things for only me, even now, and those are the things I look forward to when I can’t quite get what I want now.

In the end, priority isn’t about who comes first, but about being strong and sure of your place in a relationship.  It’s about compromise when the needs of others must come before your own, and it’s about partnership.  Yes, we are at the core, but that does not discount any other relationships that may stand the test of time.  It just means ours has that strength and power.  It means ours has that love.  I recognize, now, those little things, and I love them even more than the little ones.  This is what he gives his Wife.  It doesn’t matter to what he gives anyone else.

Aloha

Go now, love everyone!

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