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My husband has a new girlfriend. She’s young, she’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bendy, and she has a pretty high pain threshold. She has the long hair he always tells me he wishes I could grow, and they click like kin. I’m happy he’s happy, but as I’ve mentioned before, poly will draw every insecurity, every self-doubt, every self conceived blight you have ever had, and I am not known for my high self-esteem. This is not the reason we have issues, honest. Really that’s because she lied to me, and I hold grudges, which is something else I’m working on. It’s something I’m constantly working on, but occasionally old habits rear their bitter heads.
Feelings of physical inadequacy can tear down any relationship if you let them, but this has the potential to be detrimental to a poly relationship. It would be easy for me to think this girl is Hubby’s trophy girl, but it’d be all my own internal baggage. He has not stopped looking at me or telling me he thinks I’m beautiful. Our intimacy has not waned or changed in any way.
I have no reason to let these fears creep back up inside me, but I admit I sometimes when new partners enter the equation. When Hubby met his first girlfriend, Emmy, I had just started to be sick with what would later be diagnosed as fibromyalgia. I was sick, I was weak, and it hurt just to be touched. For a very long time sex was out of the question. Emmy, on the other hand, was just starting to explore herself and was loving the new experiences Hubby was able to offer. Hubby never told me he was disappointed, but it was palpable every time he tried to touch me and my body just couldn’t take the pain. I felt like a failure as a wife and lover, and while I was happy he was taking this new step in our poly life I also felt a tinge of inadequacy. It was a very trying time in our marriage, and there were times I listened to the voice that told me he could only stand to stay with his invalid of a wife because he could still get his rocks off somewhere else. It was an extremely negative thought process that only lead to more negativity. I grew bitter, resentful, and depressed, and eventually I took it out on him.
The further decline and eventual improvement of my health forced a huge change in attitude and perspective. I decided that if my marriage was going to survive I needed to stop looking at it as a need for him to find something more desirable. Instead I learned to celebrate my strengths and experience and know that I am just as desirable to him as I always have been. He may have someone young and sexy to have fun with, but he still comes home to me with the same heated fervor. While there is the new shiny factor that comes with all NRE we have a passionate bond that only time and knowing each other’s ins and outs can bring. I still see the want and need in his eyes, and he lets me know all the time that he thinks I’m beautiful.
In my head I accepted his love and admiration long ago, but I try to keep this perspective in mind whenever the voices of doubt and insecurity, and sometimes a little envy, creep into my heart. All that comes from negativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I act on the venomous emotions and thoughts I become ugly and undesirable, somebody no one wants to be around. This is when I lose him. This is when he seeks others not because of his own love and freedom but to be away from me. It’s not my physical baggage that pushes him away, it’s the mental and emotional. Luckily that’s something I can fix.
I feel thankful every day that I have someone who joins me in ogling men and women when we’re out, who is overjoyed when he feels he’s snagged a looker and never minds sharing, and who is proud of me when I manage a fine catch myself. Hubby lets me know constantly that I am his dream woman. Even on my worst days he reminds me that I’m beautiful, capable, sexy, and smart. I still catch his eyes watching me, and he is just as playful and romantic as the day we met. Through ups and downs, problems with other partners, and bad experiences, he has never let me feel ugly or worthless.
So, yes, my husband has a new girlfriend. She’s young, she’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bendy, and she has a pretty high pain threshold. She has the long hair he always tells me he wishes I could grow, and they click like kin. I am happy he’s happy, and I am learning to forgive and let go of past indiscretions. I also hear she’s quite fond of me and my body, and I am determined not to let my tainted self-esteem close that door to me. After all, she’s young, she’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bendy, and she has a pretty high pain tolerance.
So, in 2012 I wrote this, and wasn’t I cute. Go ahead. Read it. It’s still valuable information, but it merely skimmed the juvenile surface of a much more mature problem. Also, note my almost defiant optimism that what we now know as The Vanishing Act would not, in fact, be a disaster. Ok, so Hubby may have been right on that one, but now this is the evidence he needs every time he thinks a new relationship is a bad idea. I’m surprised there’s not a commemorative plaque on the wall to mark the day in history.
This started out as a post about the balance between having compassion for the growing pains my existing partners experience when a new partner is added without letting it completely destroy my NRE. Then it morphed, as I began to have more and more conversations about compersion, not only with my partners but with friends. Here’s the Quick Guide to Compersion. Or at least what I understand of it.
Compersion is unconditional. It can’t only exist when you’re being doted on just as much as the new partner. It can’t only exist if my NRE is exactly like it was with you. It can’t only exist if you’re in some other way occupied. It compersion isn’t there even when you’re having a hard time processing the new relationship you’re lying to everyone, including yourself.
Compersion doesn’t mean not questioning. If you have concerns you still have to voice them rationally. If you have disagreements you still have to work through them. You’re allowed to ask for compromise or whatever you need to process, but compersion requires you to handle it like two adults who love each other. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Aren’t you together because you love each other?
Compersion doesn’t invalidate growing pains. You can still have your process, you just can’t use it to be a shyte to everyone else. You’re more likely, in fact, to get the extra attention and compassion you need if you’re not. Compersion means understanding and putting the happiness of your partner in the forefront, but it does not mean sacrificing your own well-being. It’s your responsibility to address it before it becomes a big scary issue, a fight, or resentment, not your partner’s.
What this all boils down to is love, respect, compassion, and balance. In a relationship, shouldn’t those things exist already?
Go now. Demand your balance.
This year I got a rainbow tattoo. It has other things on it, but I decided on a rainbow to represent my pansexuality in a tattoo about freedom. I know, I know, there are debates about whether or not those of us who are bi, pansexual, and all other kinds of ridiculous queer nomenclature are allowed to use the rainbow, but I do. Why? I like rainbows, and I hate pink.
I give this disclaimer because I have been repeatedly told that I am not allowed to be in the queer club because of my lifestyle, which makes me cringe every time I have to defend myself in a community that preaches acceptance and diversity. I have had women walk out of dates when they find out I not only continue to sleep with men, but am married to one and not opposed to others. As a pansexual male who by appearance is very masculine and seemingly heterosexual until you get to know him, my husband gets it worse. Most people simply don’t believe bi men exist, and he has been lectured by gay men, lesbians, and even bi women. This has made both our dating lives a little more complicated than I feel they need to be despite it being the reason we chose polyamory in the first place.
When we first opened our marriage it was just for same-sex partners as a way of being able to express our sexuality honestly and completely. Let me start by saying that this was never a requirement. I am perfectly capable and happy having monogamous relationships no matter how my partner identifies. This was simply a way I had never considered or tried before. My husband’s first girlfriend, as I’ve mentioned before, was supposed to be part of a triad situation. However, after our first sexual experience she decided she was not actually bisexual, so I was no longer a part of the equation. This made a lot of our decisions hard, fast, and undefined. Had we opened as two heterosexual adults things may not have gotten such a rocky start…then again, it could have been much worse.
My entire life I’ve had to field the assumption that as a bi woman I should just be ok with the man I’m seeing watching every encounter with a female partner, like my sex life exists purely for his fantasies. Let me tell you right off the bat that I’m not a huge fan of threesomes or being a spectacle. I may be game for the occasional diversion in that direction, but not as standard protocol. I cannot count how many times ex-boyfriends told me “of course you can see girls! As long as I can watch!” This has been a common thread even now that we’re poly. Many times people seem shocked that I don’t sleep with Hubby’s girlfriend or that once I have a girlfriend of my own I don’t just lend her out to the rest of my household. Apparently, nobody’s personal taste or chemistry matters in this scenario as long as the plumbing fits. Hubby and I have shared partners, but that was because we loved the same person not because we wanted to share women.
I really enjoy the fact that I have the freedom to have my marriage and the freedom to put together the family I want to have, regardless of gender or sexuality. Not all of our partners are queer, and I have never viewed any of my same-sex relationships in a different light than any others. What really matters is how we interact and love one another and that there is respect and acceptance for everyone.
It really IS that simple.
I have stressed many times the idea of the group identity of a poly household. Today I’m going to flip that at focus on exactly the opposite. With so much focus on the family unit as a whole sometimes we can forget to focus on what should be our top priority: Ourselves. Recently I planned to go to a poetry reading that I attend monthly, and I mentioned it to my sister-in-law, who I thought would enjoy the event as a fellow writer. I have invited other people in the past, but I intended to go either alone as I usually do or on a date with a woman I’ve been pursuing for some time now. After the event, which I never even went to, it was brought to my attention that A felt left out. Hubby suggested I invite her next time. I had not intended to exclude her from the reading, it’s just something I generally attend on my own time as a personal interest.
This may sound selfish, but it’s a lesson that many have learned the hard way, especially care takers and parents. I must take care of myself before I worry about the others in my family, with my children coming a very close second. If I am sick, stressed, exhausted, or emotionally burnt out I cannot begin to give anyone proper attention or care. If I refuse to take any time for myself and my development it can breed resentment and negativity directed at those I love. Not every minute of my life needs to be spent on my children. Not every minute without my children needs to be spent with one of my partners. Not every waking moment of my life needs company. I need the time and space to continue my personal growth and development. I cannot allow the Google calendar to consume me. Otherwise I would become a useless partner, an absentee wife, and a jaded parent, as well as a stunted human being.
I really enjoy my alone time sometimes. In the case of the aforementioned poetry reading it’s something I really like to go to with no distractions or expectations. I can show up, read if I want, and feel no pressure to leave at a certain time nor stay until the end. Especially on weekdays when I am on my own for work, I have my routines and my regular activities that do not include anyone outside that particular “circle”. It’s not that I’m ashamed of them or my family, and I’d never intentionally separate the two, but I do enjoy having time just for me and my whimsy.
I feel the same way sometimes with activities as a couple. If there’s something Hubby and I enjoy doing together on a regular basis I don’t see any reason to always invite the whole family. It’s our routine, and I feel our relationship needs things once in a while to remind us of a very important thing. While it’s fine that our lives revolve around our family unit we cannot allow our entire lives to become the family unit. Just as the household needs maintenance and bonding time, so does each couple, and so do we as individuals. It doesn’t make us bad parents or spouses to not include everyone in everything we do.
Not taking this personal development time will lead to stagnation. Hubby fell in love with me, and I with him, because of our respective personalities. We took this journey together, and decided to add to it others whose character and interests complimented ours. We did not set out in search of clones. Nor do we expect anyone in our family to give up any hobbies or interests that we don’t all share. What brought us together is who we are as individuals and what we bring to the table to share and teach. We are a unique blend, but if all the components look the same we will never reach our full potential as a family let alone as people. If we do not take the time and opportunity to nurture ourselves we become fallow and colourless.
It is not the point of life to be absorbed by a family, to have our free spirits grounded, or to have our hungry minds starved. A household should support each other’s personal endeavors and encourage growth, whether or not why share the interest or understand the motives behind it. I do not exist solely in the hearts and minds of my partners. I also live within my own heart and soul, and I cannot be true to myself nor my family if all those components are not happy and healthy. I cannot give my whole self and my whole heart to something that doesn’t see who I am and love me for it, and I cannot put energy into something that puts none into me. The whole should enrich the one as the one enriches the whole, otherwise both will shrivel up and die.
I’ve written a few times now about coming out as poly, but then what? Once we’ve made this disclosure and asserted who we are, whether as a single person exploring or as a couple, how do we proceed in dealing with non-poly family and friends? Do we let it simply fade into obscurity as an abstract fact or do we keep trying to educate and exemplify the life we’ve chosen to live?
The way we’ve dealt with each of our families has been pretty much the same despite the different situations we face. My family lives 3,000 miles away, so it’s easier for them to be newly surprised every time I mention A or someone new I’m seeing. It’s not a conversation I wish to get involved in every time I visit, so I really have just started mentioning our partners as I would anyone else in our lives. Sometimes they ask who I’m talking about, and that’s when we usually have a discussion about my poly life.
We have done very similar things with Hubby’s family with the additional feature of familiarization. Mouse is an employee for Hubby’s mom. She lives with us. Even so, we’ve experienced more resistance from Mom than from my family. In most cases she has accepted this part of who we are and done what she can with it. She’s always been polite, but there is a part of her that still can’t fully grasp that we are happy this way, mostly that I could be happy this way.
A while back we had a family anniversary dinner. When I asked Mom if she was inviting Mouse she told me no, stating it was just for family and she didn’t want to have to explain it to Hubby’s grandfather, who we’ve since come out to. It wasn’t my place to push, so I let it go and let Hubby take it from there, but it felt to me like an excuse. Pop pop had definitely seen Hubby and Mouse interact. She came to our house often at the time and had spent many special occasions with our family.
When confronted about it she reiterated what I’ve heard her say before, that she is only concerned about her daughter-in-law. It’s not like I don’t talk to Mom about the men in my life, she’s even met a couple of them, but as a woman who has been hurt by men in the past she finds it hard to understand why I would consent willingly to live this way. She wonders if I just accept it as a condition of my marriage to Hubby, and if I left him over it she would not blame me one bit. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard from many people when they find out I’m poly, but it’s very quickly detrimental in a family.
We’ve all talked about it, but we don’t ever make a big deal about it. We simply keep doing what we’re doing. We don’t need her approval. We only require her respect when it comes to out chosen family, and she has gone above and beyond in that regard. For a while she tried to hide it from the men she dated, but eventually it came out as he and Hubby became close and began to spend time together outside of her presence. Again, he may not completely understand it, but he has accepted it as fact, and we don’t dwell on it.
My family has been able to accept this as a very abstract idea. My dad was, until recently, the only one who had experienced it first-hand. He is also the only one who asks questions when they arise. I don’t know where his opinions or concerns lie, but I know if they get strong enough he will tell me. So far he has listened, but I have a feeling his concerns are the same as Mom’s. It may be easier for him to believe that I’m happy merely because he has only talked about it with me, whereas she heard it from Hubby first and foremost. He’s also known me all my life and knows I wouldn’t live a certain way just to please a man. I’d do it for me, for both of us, or not at all.
In my opinion, the only way we are going to help them grasp this is to keep living it and to keep representing ourselves as a solid couple and a solid family. The happier and healthier we look the more they will see that this is not something we rushed into and not something we do to fill voids in our lives. We do this because it’s who we are, and in order to gain that acceptance from our families we need to be open with them about all of who we are. I can’t tell my father I’m poly and not that I’m pansexual, because that means hiding my girlfriends. The same goes for Hubby. So far none of that has come up in the questions, but I know it’s only a matter of time, and when it does we will address it as we have everything else to this point. Openly. Honestly. With love.
Let me tell you a story.
Let’s pretend you have a kid who’s sick. He’s got a variety of things that make his health a daily battle, several of which could be terminal.
You have two choices.
You can treat each battle as something to mourn and never stop pushing forward. It’s for the kid’s survival. What kind of parent or you. You can dwell on the kids who are losing their battles, and never let your kid forget he could die any day.
Or you can celebrate the good days and let the kid enjoy his life despite the battles. You don’t treat them any less seriously, and you don’t stop taking care of his health, but you take a deep breath once in a while and go to the park. You keep the kids who have lost their battles in your heart, and you educate yourself on advancements in care.
This is how I feel we can handle the Supreme Court decision about Marriage Equality. We can celebrate it as what it is. A step in the right direction. Not the last step or the most important step, but a step. We’re allowed to celebrate small victories without forgetting the other issues or those who are still battling. Why? Because the kid is still a human being, that’s why. Just because this decision doesn’t fix all the problems for all the people does not give us the right to invalidate the people the decision does help in any way.
I’ve been told at least half a dozen time today that I’ not allowed to have an opinion on the matter as anything but a bystander. Because I’m already married. Because I’m bi and chose to legally marry a man. Because I’m white. Because I’m cisgendered. Because…because…because. I have never understood this kid of isolation as anything but what we’re fighting against, and I do not understand it now. As a community of humans fighting together we need to also recognize the importance of being a community of humans exalting together. The two are not mutually exclusive, but they are both vitally important to the survival of the spirit and humanity of the community.
No, the journey is not even mostly over. No, the war has not been one. No, celebrating this victory does not erase from our memories the journey behind us or the long road yet before us.
Go now. Be together.
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.
Go now, reconnect.
I took on an extremely ambitious piece of writing this year for NaNoWriMo. After having to stop just short of my goal the first year due to a broken arm Thanksgiving Weekend and finishing with a product coherent enough to be in the editing process now, this year I took on an extremely heavy task. Half fiction, half non-fiction, the piece chronicled the rocky path of a crumbling marriage in a woman’s mind during her final moments. For those of you who don’t know, my marriage has been a little stressed recently as Hubby and I inventory our issues like LEGOs in attempt to put them back together in a way that works for us both, so taking on this project wa extremely personal and a bit harshly timed. I made it to almost 12,000 words before the emotional weight made it impossible to keep going, but I don’t consider this experiment a complete loss.
For one thing, what I have so far is an amazing piece. I have been adding to it here and there when I can, and when I have the time and energy to put the entire puzzle back together, I believe it will be a beautiful mosaic of words and emotions. I believe in this project, or I wouldn’t have taken it on the way I did.
Next, it was amazing therapy in some ways and an amazing awakening in others. It allowed me to get words out that I felt lost trying to express before, which meant I was able to keep a logical calm tone when dealing with Hubby in emotionally charged situations. It allowed me somewhere to put the often irrational feelings and insecurities that are mine to deal with, things that often cloud our ability to fix the shared problems. It allowed me a story board to map out my experience throughout this marriage and showed me where my own behaviour and thinking may have been the problem without a tone of blame or guilt to get in the way of resolution.
Finally, it reminded me of what I have to fight for, everything we have already fought through, and the strength we have when we fight together for something not against each other. Killing a marriage that didn’t exist helped me see the ways to save the one that does.
So, no, I don’t get the fancy winner badge, which is a shame, because I loved the graphics NaNoWriMo used this year. However, I don’t consider this a loss. Sometimes you need to both something to be able to think outside the box a little. Sometimes you need to fall to change your perspective.
Thank you , NaNoWriMo. I’ll see you next year!
It was the day I saw the internet meme that read expressed to me that love could always save the day, and anything else was giving up. This friends, is a very pretty thought, but untrue. Yes, there are a lot of people who give up on love too soon. There are relationships that end merely because people don’t want to put the effort in to keep it alive. There are also situations where the love exists but the relationship is unhealthy, and there is only so much compromise one can do. This is where serious change needs to occur.
My biggest hurdle in the past week has been the doubt instilled in me by this very concept. For years I have fought. For years I have worked. For years I have sacrificed and compromised. All for love. All with a smile on my face. All knowing my heart was strong and my love was true. That love hasn’t changed. It hasn’t diminished. It hasn’t quieted. I don’t even feel like it’s less mutual. It’s the only reason I am hurt by the idea that maybe even the strongest love in the world can’t fix everything. And maybe worse, that it shouldn’t.
What if this love is what’s holding me in a place that’s unhealthy for the rest of me? What if this love is detrimental? What if it’s taken the place of the love I should have for myself? These are very real things. This is not an abuse situation, friends, but it is unhealthy. If we can’t find a way to change the foundation of what’s wrong in our life together, no amount of love in the world can change that. I can’t let myself feel like I’m giving up or failing, because that’s what has always made me stick around in the past regardless of my mental or emotional health.
Love can conquer many things. Fear, insecurity, doubt. Love cannot conquer all things, because a relationship needs air to breathe and sun to grow. It needs a good balance of calm and passion. It needs the right environment, and if that environment no longer exists between two people, it doesn’t mean we’ve or love has failed. It merely means our landscape has evolved. It’s time to decide if that landscape can still sustain this relationship.
Just this last week my home state of Pennsylvania legalized marriage equality, and now that both of the states I call home have done so, I feel the push to chime in with an experience I’ve had in both cases. As someone who identifies as pansexual, and as someone who happens to already be in a legal, heterosexual, open marriage, I have come under a lot of fire for supporting the cause as anything but an ally. Let’s break that down…
Pansexual: Yes, I have love and attraction to anyone, anyone, who catches that attention, no matter how they identify. Why is it that because a cis male is included in that I am devoid of caring about the opportunity to marry any of the other possible pairings? We must stop the labeling, the arguing about labeling, and the snobbery and isolation that arise from that labeling.
Married: Ok, so it’s true. I’m already legally married, and I don’t plan on that changing in my life. Does that mean I couldn’t have wanted to marry someone who didn’t legally apply? I love cookies and cream ice cream, but does that mean I wouldn’t like the opportunity to choose Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which I also happen to love? Why does the fact that my ultimate legal choice was an acceptable one negate this as a victory for my heart?
Poly: This is something I’ve struggled with within the LGBTQ community for years. In the opinion of some people, aligning with the poly community means a step back for all the work the LGBTQ community has done to convince the world that they can be just as committed to each other as heterosexual relationships can. While I understand this very conservative opinion, I have to ask why heterosexual marriages don’t have to prove the same? Why aren’t accepted social norms put to the same litmus tests as alternative lifestyles? Oh right, because it’s more acceptable to cheat on a heterosexual spouse than to be honest and open. I also realize that poly families have a long way to go in that regard, and that our struggle for acceptance over prejudice and mockery is in a very young stage.
The truth is, it shouldn’t matter if this step forward benefits me in any way or not. It shouldn’t even matter that I know people personally who it benefits. The only thing that should matter is that this is the right thing for people. Period. This entire post has been an excuse to say this: Congratulations, people! This is how life should be, and we need to stop worrying about who does and doesn’t have the right to celebrate life.
Go now. Celebrate equality and love!