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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.

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Not long after I broke my arm last year I got a text from someone I’d started talking to when I met the Vanishing Act. Between the boredom and the Dilauded, we struck up a pretty good conversation, and eventually agreed to meet.  I was still a little hesitant and hurt, so we took it slow, but he was so enthusiastic that I let myself get comfortable.

On our first date he wore a bow tie, not for me, but because he wore one every Friday.  He was adorable, he was funny, and he was candid.  I felt immediately comfortable, and even after our date ended up just being dinner and a walk around the mall, I enjoyed being with him.  He brought me home, waited for Hubby, and the two of them hit it off like old friends.  That night I did something I never do.  I made a move and kissed him first.  It surprised us both, but he talked about it for a week.  Our second date was equally as relaxed.  We went on a hike, had lunch by a pond, and took a nap in each other’s arms.

Through it all we talked and shared our mutual geekery, but after our third date or so something changed. When he talked he sounded worried that I’d leave.  I tried to assure him I would not.  All I asked for is the same thing I always ask for, honesty.  I promised him the same.  Even so, our meetings got farther apart.  Then our communication got spotty, so I did what I always do, I tried to talk to him about it.

What I got from the conversation was his refusal to give me any priority in his life.  None.  I don’t consider myself an extremely needy girl, but once in a while I like to know I rank higher than a TV show.  I had known he was a bit self-centered, and I had accepted that, but was I asking too much.  Of course I convinced myself that I was.  I apologized and asked him to make an effort, sure if I voiced my needs again that he would disappear on me.  He even appeared to have taken it to heart.  I got one really good date after that where I almost felt like I could tell him I had started to love him.  I didn’t.  Something inside me said not to.  Something inside me knew I was trying to justify behaviour that I wouldn’t have accepted from anyone, that one night didn’t make everything right.

I grappled with this for a month while I was on a trip to Boston.  During that trip he called me, we texted, and things seemed to be heading in the right direction.   He even said he missed me once, and the part of me that needed to believe it acted like he’d written it in the sky above my head.  We made plans to spend a day together when I got home, and I felt like it was going to be the beginning of something new.

When that day came I waited patiently for him to let me know he was on his way, but he never did. When I finally heard from him he told me he’d spent the day with his ex-girlfriend.  In the texts that followed I tried to explain to him that I was more upset about not even getting a phone call than about getting blown off.  He told me how much he loved her, that an opportunity had come up, and turned my words around to make me look ugly and vindictive after I tried to tell him how I felt about him.  He never realized I’d told him I loved him twice, because he turned it around every time to make the conversation about himself.

It was at that moment that I realized that he was right, I would never warrant a place of any priority in his life.  I had given him the power to step on me.  I had held on to something that looked good on paper to the detriment of my own needs and desires.  I had let him make me feel fat every time he called himself a “chubby chaser” to my face.  I had let him make me feel stupid every time he reminded me of his IQ.  I had let him make me feel inferior by accepting a relationship where he was unwilling to give me a place in his life by allowing him to change plans when something better came up and accepting the excuse that too many other girls had taken him for granted.

The lesson I learned from James was to have some cojones.   I know what I want.  I know what I need.  What I didn’t know is how important it is for me to be able to stand up and either make those things happen or find somewhere where they can. No, it wasn’t his obligation to make me a space in his life if it’s not what felt right, but it also wasn’t mine to stand around and accept that he was the best I would get.  After that text conversation where I couldn’t even convince him that the decent thing would have been to call me to let me know he wasn’t coming over, we never spoke again.  I left that with no closure, feeling unsure about myself or how I handled new relationships.  It would be four months before I’d even let myself think about a date with someone new, even longer before I could accept a compliment without steeling myself inside for the backhanded insult.

I know now that this was a test to see how far I had come from the debilitating lack of self-esteem I had developed as a child.  I thought I had accepted my body and my personality as beautiful parts of my self, but I had only gotten really good at tolerating it.  This was the step I needed to really let it all go, and once I realized how much I had let this kid inside my head, how I had let him crush my spirit, and how little he deserved that power I was able to begin rebuilding the damage that had begun with the Vanishing Act.

No, I haven’t changed.  I’ve just stopped letting anyone else decide who I get to be.

Go now, be yourself.  You’re all you’ve got.

Aloha

 

Tom and I had a lot of fun.  We went on trips together, and once every few weeks I would take the train to NY Penn Station then on to Long Island to visit him.  We had quite a bit in common, and we shared a deep love of books and comics.  We seemed like a very good match.  I still have a lot of really neat and unique items in my geek collectibles, curiosities, and unique books.  He even met me in San Francisco to meet my family.

That’s where I saw it first.  He followed me around like a puppy dog.  To the kitchen.  To the bathroom.  Everywhere.  My family thought it was odd, but cute.  I thought it was annoying.  Eventually that annoyance turned to irritation, that irritation to pure loathing.  I had to do something.

The problem is that Tom was a really nice guy, and I felt bad.  As frustrated I was about his clinging to me like a barnacle, I admired his devotion to me, and when I wasn’t completely overwhelmed we had a great time together.  He supported my goals, he sent me flowers just because, and he always defended me to his mother.  Believe me, this was huge.

The day I decided to break it off I was on the phone for over an hour trying to calm him down.  He screamed.  H cried.  He threatened to kill himself.  I almost took it all back just to make it stop.  Ultimately he met someone new and was married less than a year later.

What this whole experience taught me was that I can’t stay with someone because he’s nice to me.  I can’t stay because he’s a good guy in general.  I can’t stay because I feel bad.  I have to stay because I want to, because it feels right.  Nothing else is fair to either party. I’ve tried to be up front and realistic with new partners since then.  It hasn’t always been taken well, but in the end I’ve done the responsible thing for those people and for myself.

Go now, be true to yourself.

Aloha

Let me tell you about the day my ethics and intuition were tested.

Let me start off by telling you that I have nothing against sex workers,  I believe there’s no crime in a woman doing what she wants with her body,  but at 19 years old I was ill-equipped for any of this.  After my rape I went through a lot of different theories about sex.  In many cases I either ignored it or I hunted it down with little to no grey area, and little to no standards for who or what I let have access to my body.  I went through more bad decisions in the span of a few months than I can remember, and I can only imagine what a miracle it is that I’m still alive and healthy.  What brought it all to a screeching halt was John.

I met John on the internet.  I know, you’re all shocked.  I was broke and fairly desperate.  My bills were due, and what passed for a kitchen in my small shoebox apartment was empty.  So, I answered an ad.  I had been giving it away free to anyone who seemed remotely interested, so my next logical step was to try to sell it.  My self-esteem had reached such a low that I considered it a boost that anyone would pay for parking to be with me, let alone pay for my time.  John offered me $100.

An hour later I calmly opened my door.  He looked decent enough.  He seemed nice.  I chastised myself for being terrified.  I had been known to let more than one stranger through that door a night.  What made John more of a danger?  Just suck it up, I told myself.  It’ll be over in an hour, and you can go grocery shopping.

John tried to make small talk.  I tried to answer coherently.  He undressed me like a little girl undresses a new doll, making sure he sat the clothes somewhere neatly, taking his time to look over all the new details, scrutinizing as he memorized all my parts.  I watched him like a scientist, trying to divine his next move and what he expected of me.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as he slowly removed the thigh highs he’d asked me to wear.  I knew damned well what came next.  There was nothing left to remove.

Then John kissed me.  For some reason I hadn’t expected it.  In some ways kissing has always seemed slightly more intimate than sex, and there had been several men in my bed whose lips I had never touched.  The closer we got to what he was there for the more my panic response kicked in, and the more I tried to hide it.  He asked if I was alright, and I nodded, afraid of losing my meal ticket.

The second he pulled my body close to his I lost it.  Huge, childlike tears flooded my eyes, falling all over my face, soaking my nakedness.  I prayed for them to stop, but they wouldn’t.  John looked as if I’d smacked him.  He sat up and pulled me close, trying to compose himself and soothe me at the same time.  He stroked my hair and told me I didn’t have to do anything.  I told him everything.  He took me grocery shopping.  John spent over $200 on me that day.  In the weeks that followed he took me to dinner and bought me things I’d needed for my apartment.  He took care of me.  We never had sex.

That Valentine’s day I took a trip to NYC to visit a friend.  On my way home John called me, but I missed the call.  As I stepped from the escalator at the train station he was there.  He held a teddy bear and a dozen roses.  I wasn’t sure how he had known I was there, but it scared me.  I thanked him cautiously and told him we’d talk.  I was tired.  I was cold.  We’d talk.  He was upset, but he acquiesced.  The next day I told him I didn’t think I could see him anymore, and all Hell broke loose.  He told me he loved me.  He told me he would kill himself, or me, or both of us.  I tried to ignore it.  He’d disappear for a day or two, then he’d come back with a story about attempting suicide.  I had people come stay with me at night to make sure I was safe, and I watched my surroundings like a Secret Service agent any time I left the house.  John’s final contact with me talked about how he could have given me anything I had ever wanted.  He was right, and had I been able to just accept that I’m sure I would have been very comfortable.  Either that or I’d be dead.

What John taught me was to trust my instinct.  If something seems like a bad idea, it probably is.  My intuition has a far better decision-making track record than my brain does.

What John, my phase of no standards, and a subsequent foray into swinging with Hubby taught me was that “Just sex” isn’t for me.  Sure, it’s fun.  If there’s a new experience to be had, I’ll probably enjoy it, and if it’s with someone exceptional I won’t turn it down, but for the most part I must have some kind of connection with the other people involved.  I’m not claiming I need to have love to have sex with someone, but we have to at least have some kind of chemistry.  Without it, sex gets empty and unfulfilling for me.  It was after my experience with John that I stopped seeking any set of arms that would have me and started seeking some that cherished me and valued me even with my clothes on.  Could John have done that?  Maybe, but there was not a mutual connection.  Something about him set off a lot of alarms, and I have since learned that my alarms do not go off easily.

Yes, John could have given me anything I desired, but he could not give me everything my heart desired.  Love.  Trust.  Passion.  In the end, that’s all we get to take with us to the next life.

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You always remember a first.  The first kiss. The first “I love you”. The first time you get stuck in a window trying to sneak out to meet someone.  Ian was my first, not that first, but a lot of others.  We met fresh off my high from my encounter in Nashville, and while I felt invincible I felt utterly unworthy.

A friend and I had tickets to Warped Tour, and we planned a weekend adventure around it with a group of other friends.  I hadn’t planned on boys, but there they were, my friend’s boyfriend and his roommate freshly arrived from Los Angeles.  Whether it was just because he was the only available male in a sea of females, because it was clear I was to keep his distracted in order to give my friend and her boy some alone time, or because there was genuine chemistry, I was drawn to him immediately.  It took me a full day to get up the nerve to look directly into his lapis blue eyes, but as soon as I did I felt the urge to retreat, sure he’d reject me outright.

Unfortunately, that feeling was mutual, and we each spent an entire party pretending it was no big deal being ignored by the other.  Finally, possessed by the spirit of panic and desperation in a room full of strangers, I touched him.  It was some lame remark about how the lines of this shirt travelled in different directions, but I traced my fingers along the lines on his shoulders, and it worked.  His lips were on mine, and I was stunned!  We started making out, committing the grievous error of being the first couple to do so at a party, but by the time we came up for air everyone was doing it.  At the end of the night, we would be caught with our pants off in the backseat of my friend’s boyfriend’s Honda Civic.

The night before their return to Los Angeles we were locked safely in my friend’s overprotective mom’s clutches while the boys slept up the driveway in the guesthouse.  My spirit was crushed, and my awakened teen libido sensed it was losing precious time.  At 17, I had never had to hide or sneak around anything, but here I was, concocting a plan to get us in to that guesthouse.  Unfortunately, even at 17 I was not a slender girl, and while my friend shimmied gracefully through the living room window, I dangled helplessly while she tried not to wake her parents by laughing at the fat girl stuck in their window.  I still have bruises of embarrassment on my ego for having to wiggle my way into a bush, but mortification is an excellent motivator.

My true test came that night.  We were nestled in the bathroom of the guesthouse after being driven from the living room by what would scar our memories as a swarm of bees.  Would he be that first?  I could see no reason why not, except for the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to tell him he would be.  Thinking back, almost anything would have been better than my actual first time, but at that moment I was terrified to tell this boy I had never as much as  seen a man naked in real life. As we parted ways the next day I kicked myself for cock blocking myself, fairly sure I’d never speak to him again.

To my surprise, I did, and I got to add a few more firsts to my list.  He was the first person I’d voluntarily talk on the phone with after my mother’s death, the first person to call me his girlfriend, and the first AOL screen name to ever set off butterflies inside me. He also got to be the first guy my dad ever pursued down our driveway as he tried to sneak out one morning after he’d driven 300 miles just to sleep next to me.  I had made him sleep in the living room, because I still hadn’t told him I was a virgin.  It was that event that caused him to rethink our relationship.  To this day he has no idea why I was as skittish as I was around him.  I simply had no experience or understanding.

The lessons from my relationship with Ian were numerous.  It taught me to go for something I want and to enjoy the moments that are made available to me.  It taught me how to silently dislodge myself from a window.  It taught me to be ok with an ending, as it was my first real heartbreak.  It set a precedent of forming a friendship with exes, but it also taught me to let it go if that’s clearly not what’s happening.  You see, while he was friendly when I made the gesture, there was no friend in him.  I wasted a lot of time trying to hold on to a friend I didn’t have.  The biggest lesson this relationship taught me was to be honest with the people I’m dating.  If his reaction to me being so inexperienced had been bad he still would have left me.  At least he might have understood my behaviour a little better.  I had to learn over the years to be open and honest in relationships.  I owe it to my partners and to myself, because if they can’t accept me how I am it won’t last anyway.

Despite being one myself, I have never understood females.  I had friends who were girls in elementary and high schools, but never a lot of them, and very few of them still exist in my life today.  When I moved to Philadelphia and started making a new group of friends, a large majority of them were males.

Why?  For one, I hate drama.  Be my friend, or don’t, but don’t make me guess, and don’t change your mind about it every day.  Know what you want from me, and be able to communicate that in a way that isn’t whining at me or bitching about it.  I understand that not all women are like this in the same way that I understand that some men are, but my experiences with female friends and girlfriends early on in life left my tolerance for such things awfully low.

Let’s now toss in a dash of awkwardness.  I’m never sure how to act around other women.  I’ve always had a very relaxed, “tomboy” streak, but I also have times when I like to dress fancy and be very feminine.  I’m never sure which one I’m supposed to be.  I spent many years as the fat friend, even more as the frumpy friend, and a few more than that as the one everybody knew liked girls.  All my life I’ve felt like other females spent time with me out of some sense of pity, like a community service project.  I constantly feel too old, too old, too square, or too stupid to carry conversations with women where I’m more confident in face-to-face interactions with men.  Why?  In my experience, men will tell me when I’m wrong, how they feel about me, and whether or not I’m boring the life out of them.  They will not sugar coat things or pretend to want me around.  In general, men are not afraid to be blunt and not patient enough to keep me around because I might be useful someday.

This awkwardness has bled into my dating life.  I’m not a dating guru by any means, but I can hold my own in the heterosexual dating realm in ways I could not imagine doing when dating women.  I have a hard time deciphering the girl code enough to know whether she’s flirting or just being nice.  I feel like making the first move makes me vulnerable to being laughed at and rejected, so I pull back very early on if I start to feel interested in a woman.  It’s a very odd feeling for me.

Hubby has tried to teach me to flirt with women for years.  He has seen me, in a single night, flirt a man so far out of my league that we shouldn’t even have been in the same room out of his number then clam up when a woman is obviously interested.  This is not to say I haven’t had girlfriends, but I have yet to have one in the last six years that Hubby hasn’t found for me.

I’m not really sure how to fix this problem or why I’ve decided to throw it out into the universe, but maybe one of you kind souls out there has a handbook or something…or just  woman to throw my way.

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!
Date night

Date night (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

 

 

Dating in a poly relationship can sometimes be a little tricky to navigate, not just because of the boundaries and agreements of your own relationship but those of the people  you intend to date.  Non-monogamy comes in all shapes and sizes, and you can have great chemistry with someone, but if they’re style doesn’t compliment yours there may be some disappointment.

 

Today I’m going to talk about “The Package Deal”.  This generally means a couple who dates, plays, interacts as a couple.  They may be looking for a third, another couple, or any other grouping of new partners, but they come as a set.  Hence, “The Package Deal”.  Let me start by saying that I’m not putting down any style that works for you.  Sometimes we get so comfortable in our ways that we forget that others are also entitled to develop their own relationship styles.  Hubby and I tried “The Package Deal” once, and while it wasn’t for us I admire anyone who can make it work.  To me it’s one of the more complicated forms of non-monogamy, but that doesn’t make it impossible or a thing to be avoided.

 

At the beginning of our poly journey Hubby and I dated as a couple until our second triad when our girlfriend decided she wasn’t actually bi.  Our choices at that point were to either end things with her completely and break up what was a strong bond between them or open our marriage completely and date as individuals.  It was a scary move when we decided on the latter choice, but one that was ultimately the best one for us.  Since then we have had points where we’ve dated the same person, but as two individuals not as a couple.

 

So, what are some of the pros and cons of “The Package Deal?”

 

Logistically, “The Package Deal” takes more consideration when it comes to time management.  On one hand it means less time away from one’s existing partner, since dates and time spent with the new partner are spent together.  This does mean, however, that there are more schedules to try to coordinate.  Time is something we’ve discussed before at great lengths and can be a deal breaker or mitigating factor in all types of poly situations.

 

In this particular form of non-monogamy there is no “blind-eye”.  While you don’t have to wonder what your partner is up to with others you also can’t avoid it when you’ve got a front row seat for the action.  You must be completely, totally, 100% secure in your partnership or there will be drama.  This is great for anyone who tends to think the worst about things he can’t see or experience first hand.  It’s perfect for anyone who gets excited by the idea of her partner with someone else but not so much for someone who is shy or prefers more intimate one-on-one interaction.  “The Package Deal” is not a way to avoid jealousy or have control over a given situation.  No matter what form of non-monogamy you practice these issues will come to a head and you will have to deal with them.  End of story.

 

“The Package Deal” requires a little more patience than most forms of non-monogamy to find the right fit.  Think about how long it took to find your existing partner.  Think about how many times it just didn’t feel right or the chemistry just wasn’t there.  It’s hard enough sometimes when just two people are involved.  Now that you’ve added another person and his dislikes and preferences in a partner you increase the variables that need to match for a healthy relationship to form.  This may mean compromising a little.  We’ve all heard of the “unicorn”.  This is where we start the quest for the unicorn.  If your standards are too rigid or your expectations are too high you may never find a partner that suits your needs.  You may also find someone who fits one persons needs but not the other, especially when factoring in sexual orientation or BDSM dynamic roles.  “The Package Deal” demands that you have at least similar taste and needs from someone new.  This is an enormous shoe for that one person to fill.  The flip side of this is that if you find someone who fits the bill and they have chemistry with both partners the resulting unit is generally extremely solid.

 

In my experience “The Package Deal” can either bring a couple closer together or tear them apart.  In some cases sharing those experiences and loving someone together can strengthen the bond between existing partners and foster a larger sense of community.  In others it can pull out latent insecurities, competitiveness, and fears. I have heard everything from “I love the look you give me when you’re with her” to “you never make those sounds for me!”.  As with any form of non-monogamy you can handle the latter case with open, honest, non-confrontational communication and the desire for balance.  There is also the chance that one person will get very attached and the other won’t or one will fall in love and the other will actually dislike the new partner.  In a situation where emotions are already running high this can cause a lot of internal processing and damage control if not handled carefully on all sides.  We can’t control or predict every scenario or our emotional responses to them, and the “Package Deal” can make that reality exponentially intense.

 

“The Package Deal” can be a good gate to independent dating or it can be a permanent state of non-monogamy.  I believe it really helped me and Hubby feel things out and decide how we really felt as opposed to over-analyzing or over-intellectualizing them.  It left no room to hide reactions or surprise emotions, and while it may have caused some severe growing pains it also taught us some harsh but necessary lessons about communication, compersion, and sacrifice. It forced us to step out of our comfort zone as a couple and build trust that we would conduct ourselves appropriately outside of the one another’s presence.  This was a huge turning point for our marriage and one we’ve built on in the years since then.

 

I would never advise against “The Package Deal”, but I would suggest that you keep in mind that relationships are not solid state objects.  They are constantly changing and growing, as are the needs and desires of each person in those relationships.  I would strongly recommend that once you find a comfort zone in this lifestyle you revisit your opinion on “The Package Deal”.  Decide if it’s still what you need as a couple and as individuals, and repeat as often as necessary.  What works for you now may not work for you down the road, and you must always be prepared to at least discuss the possibility of change.

 

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.

Well, you’ve either made it through my last posts without being smacked silly or you have been and liked it.  In either case, you’ve made it to a turning point in your new relationship.  If you haven’t already, it’s time for your new love to meet the tribe.

Hubby likes to meet my dates before we go out, because it makes him more comfortable with me being out with a stranger.  We don’t have a vetting process, but I appreciate having a perspective other than my own, and he’s generally a good judge of people.  I trust his opinion, and he’s been correct for the most part.  I like the two to meet before the rest of the family gets involved.  It makes it less overwhelming for my date, and it gives he or she and Hubby a chance to bond a little bit as metamours.

Once we’ve gone on a few dates and feel comfortable as a couple in a controlled environment I like to introduce new partners in a light setting.  I generally prefer to have it be a public outing or occasion where everyone feels on even ground, and something laid back in fun to reduce tension and anxiety.

If everyone gets along it’s great.  If not it doesn’t immediately dissolve the new relationship, but it does limit things a bit.  We push to foster a sense of family and community, and if there’s an impasse it greatly stunts the progression of a new relationship.  Sometimes it’s a matter of mere growing pains, and with time the kinks can be worked out.  At other times it’s an irreconcilable issue.  I’ve never encountered a situation where a partner and Hubby couldn’t stand to be in the same room together, but I have had metamours refuse to ever meet me.  In the end one of the relationships will fail if we cannot either smooth out the problem or live double lives.  I would never consider the latter a viable option.

We are not a family who believe in shielding our children from our lifestyle, therefore where there are kids involved there is a second family outing, one that centers around them.  Thus far I admit this has only concerned small children, but only time will tell how it will work with older children and teenagers.  When people ask how kids can benefit from or this kind of lifestyle I remind them that children are without preconceived notions about what love and family looks like. Children are not as easily confused as we think they should be.  They will accept what we show them as reality, and as long as what we show them is an honest, open, loving family they will be happy, well-loved children.  There is nothing wrong with that.

What advice can I give to you as you introduce a new partner to your family? Be yourself.  Don’t act differently with either your family or your new love.  Don’t feel a need to entertain everyone.  Your family will do just fine on their own.  Let them all get to know each other naturally.  Don’t feel a need to constantly be at your new partner’s side.  Let him represent himself, but do quietly check in once in a while to make sure he’s not too overwhelmed, especially if this is his first poly experience.  Follow up later with everyone, as if your family would hold their tongues anyway.

My advice for family members meeting a new partner?  Again, be yourself.  This is a friendly introduction, not an interrogation.   Remember what it was like to be new and nervous.  Remember all the mistakes you might have made and consider your reaction if the family had been this particular about your first impression.  You’re not losing status, and you don’t need to prove your place or experience.  Just relax and have fun getting to know someone new who has obviously really connected with someone you love.

Lastly, my advice to a new partner?  Can you guess? Be yourself.  These people are a part of this new step in your life and this new love you’ve found.  Embrace them and think of them as valuable resources.  How often do new relationships come with living manuals?  Last but not least, don’t let them intimidate you.  You mean an awful lot to someone.  Find strength and pride in that and let them love you, too.

The last piece of advice I can give is one I’ve given before.  Remember that this relationship is unique, and it will continue to be unique as it becomes a part of the greater family structure.  You must let your new partner’s relationships with the rest of the family form as they will, without interfering or trying to control them.  This new addition will ripple throughout the family and indelibly change its inner workings.  The more you can let that happen organically the better the transition will go and the stronger the new family unit will be.

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