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New relationships give us all sorts of opportunities.  A new partner means all these new frontiers to explore, don’t they?  Suddenly we’re interested in couples Wii bowling tournaments and Faberge egg painting, and we make all these plans like they’re blueprints for this new relationship.  Then reality sets in.  Wii bowling happens on a work night, and neither of you can paint a fence let alone a hollowed out egg.  Instantly there are all these unmet expectations.  Now throw in the fact that this is a new person you’re learning, and no matter how many times you’ve dreamily cooed the phrase “it feels like I’ve known you forever” it’s been two months, and you’re still learning to communicate and exist on this planet together.  This is where hopes get let down, miscommunication runs rampant, and because NRE has the happy gauge turned up to High Octane, these small disappointments feel world ending.  Sometimes they feel relationship ending.

This is where real life has to interfere for the relationship to survive, and as comfort levels are established we must be willing to let some of those expectations be set aside for a rainy day, reshaped a little, ot even just released back into the wild.  Maybe you buy a Wii and bowl at home.  Maybe you take a Vino and Van Gogh class one weekend, get smashed, and paint nothing put stick figures and butts.  Maybe you find something else that excites you.  The key is to adapt, because at some point the letdowns get bigger; it’s a fact of life that no relationship, yes even yours, is perfect.  If you can’t handle the reality that your partner hated the recipe you learned because she said she likes lasagna, how are you going to survive when you find out she whistles in her sleep and keeps you awake, when the perfect night out you planned in your head ends up on the couch in pj’s because one of you had an awful day, when tears are in her eyes because you weren’t even aware you’d done something hurtful?  These things will happen, and these little compromises on expectations build the foundation for a relationship that can sustain them.

I’ve said it before.  NRE is a roller-coaster, friends, and sometimes one partner gets off the ride before the other.  What then?  You will never survive this blow if you’ve let every other changed expectation tear at you.  This is where the true strength of a relationship is tested.  This is where you find out what you can do together, and once again you adapt.  This is where love and compassion can mean everything.  This is where reaching out and the little things that define your relationship are imperative, because they’re so easily left behind when the ride is over.

There is no other message here.  Just let that one sink in a bit.

Aloha.

Go now.  Hold on tight.

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

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

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

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

The lessons here are:

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

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

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

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

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

Go now, live your reality,

Namaste

 

I talk a lot about NRE and how to set your polyamory in motion.  In fact, most books, blogs, and articles (oh my!)cluster around beginnings and how to get the ball rolling.  Right now I’m going to flip the coin and talk about something we seem to avoid like a taboo: endings.  Yes, I said it, endings. While we would all like to believe that once we’ve found partners who complete our circle and fulfill our needs we never have to worry about breakups.  It is a fact of life that this is simply not true.  For many reasons, sometimes perfectly good partnerships end.  Not that I’m trying to jinx any of you, but here are some important things to remember when navigating a breakup like an adult.

If you’re like me and most of the successful poly people out there you probably have a pretty severe allergy to drama.  Be that as it may, sometimes we forget that when things don’t quite turn out as we expected.  It’s easy to get caught up in accusations and exaggerations, but honestly, mudslinging reflects poorly on everyone involved.  You might feel justified in warning the world about your wounded perspective, but if it’s a true blight on the part of an ex partner most likely everyone else already knows about it.  There’s no reason to resort to social slandering.  Most circles within the poly community are rather small, and the likelihood of crossing paths with an ex or someone associated with an ex is pretty good.  In some cases you may still have to attend the same events and meetings.  Drama within these circles most likely ends with the one doing the loudest squawking alienating herself, as no one wants to sit next to a crying baby.  This includes social media.  The world has enough negativity without you blasting your latest libel where everyone has to read it.  It’s attention seeking behaviour, and it’s ugly.  Stop it!

That being said, not all breakups have to be ugly.  Not all reason for breakups are negative.  For example, maybe one partner is moving away.  I for one can’t function well in a long distance relationship, so a partner relocating would most likely end our relationship.  Instead of lamenting the ending support that partner in what was probably a tough decision to make.  Don’t make it a more difficult situation emotionally, especially if she’s moving towards something positive.  Let her be happy and excited about this new direction, and she will be more likely to be supportive as you process the change.

That brings me to my next point.  All partners in a relationship deserve to be happy.  Let me say that again. All partners in a relationship deserve to be happy. Partners, metamours, spouses, co-lovers, unicorns, children,everyone.  As much as we try, and as much as we work through issues together, sometimes the truth persists that for one reason or another you cannot avoid detrimental unhappiness.  I’m not talking about compromise; that’s a natural expectation of a relationship.  I mean the kind of unhappiness that’s harmful, the kind that breeds resentment.  There is no good reason for anyone to stay in a relationship that becomes something to be dreaded or burdensome.  I have often told Hubby that it would hurt to lose him, but if he were miserable with me I’d hope he wouldn’t stay just because we have a legal and spiritual bond between us.  If no compromise can be made, change is necessary.  Knowing that he’s with me because he wants to be, not because he has to be is a wonderful feeling.

I believe wholeheartedly that everyone in my life is here for a reason.  I might not know what that reason is, but I will damned well know when that reason has been satisfied.  Some relationships are the same way.  Not every partner I have is meant to be a long-term committed partner.  Not every loving partnership is meant to last a lifetime.  Sometimes a relationship serves as a wake-up call, a reminder, or an awakening.  Sometimes I have a need that the relationship fulfills, a lesson to learn, or an experience I would not have had otherwise.  Isn’t that what life is about?  That being said, when that purpose is satisfied those relationships have a tendency to become stale, unstable, or even unhealthy.  Being stubborn about holding on to these relationships generally leads to an unnecessarily explosive ending.

A few more things to consider before you unleash the drama llama…

The people you may or may not be dragging through the mud are people you once cherished, but they are also people who once represented you and your collective.  These are people you’ve possibly defended and upheld.  How you appear as a part of a relationship reflects on all people involved in that relationship, but the adverse is also true.  Whether or not you are still involved with them, what good is it to further muddy the waters?

On the idea of children.  I have had many friends who stayed in rotting relationships for the sake of children, both biological and non.  In my opinion this is a disservice to both the adults and the children in this situation.  Adults deserve to be in a situation that is healthy for them, and children deserve to be in a family structure that is happy and positive, and when that is not the case they often internalize it.  This can cause deep and lifelong issues, especially if the adults in the situation just can’t get along.  I am strongly convinced that children have a much more positive experience with happy, well-rounded, separated parental figures than with bitter, resentful, bitter ones who just shouldn’t live together.

With great love comes great responsibility.  Open, public polyamory often makes examples of us whether it’s warranted or not.  However we act and whatever we do becomes polyamory.  It’s an unfair responsibility, but it is a responsibility nonetheless, and a caveat to the freedom we enjoy.  For this very reason endings tend to become all about the polyamory, and this is a very easy trap for even those of us who live it to fall into.  One bad breakup and suddenly someone “had a bad experience”.  Just because in your eyes or the eyes of family and friends your relationship may have failed, it doesn’t mean that you or polyamory at large failed.  It also doesn’t mean polyamory isn’t for you.  It just means that relationship was no longer for you.  It happens.  Learn from it, grow from it, and move forward with a peaceful heart.

A peaceful heart.  I’m going to say this as bluntly as possibly.  Holding grudges is stupid.  There you have it.  Why are grudges stupid?  For the same reason holding a hot barbecue briquette is stupid.  Holding a grudge hurts no one but the person holding it.  Hate, pride, and shortsightedness may temporarily hurt the people at whom you hurl them, but in the end you are the one stuck with the lasting scars.  The only way to heal is to process it calmly and let it go.  Admit that very few endings are one-sided.  Admitting your part in the breakup is the first step.  Take what you can from it, don’t try to carry all  the blame or innocence, then toss it aside.

That last part is pretty important, too.  The polar opposite of pretending we are infallible is to take all the responsibility for a breakup and let it fester.  Guilt is quite a strong emotion, and it may lead you to reneging on the decision you made to move on.   Some initiators feel they don’t deserve to mourn the loss of a relationship they ended.  Some non-initiators feel the same way.  This simply is not the case.  Loss is loss.  When someone chooses to give a baby up for adoption or put down a sick pet we don’t fault them for grieving.  Why then shouldn’t it be the same for someone who ends a relationship that isn’t working?  It shouldn’t.  By the time we reach the end there is no reason to point fingers or lash out, and you cannot deny the other people involved their emotional right to feel the loss.

People? Yes, people, plural.  In some cases you may break up with more than one partner, but even if you don’t there are generally other people affected by the breakup.  Your partner’s other partners will feel the ripple effect of their grief, and you may have made some close bonds with them as metamours.  I know if Hubby and A broke up I’d have some pretty strong feelings to work through.  I’d want to support him, I’d want to help him process if I could, and I’d feel my own loss at the departure of a family member and the disruption of what has become a very comfortable routine for us.  We are not isolated beings in polyamory.  We are all connected like a spiderweb, and any break or movement in just a string on the web causes the whole structure to shift and change.  Everyone in the web feels it.

Endings are just as much a part of life as new beginnings, and without one we cannot have the other.  Instead of having a lifetime of bad breakups and negative feelings towards our exes there is a true peace at the core of anyone who can let all that go and truly be at peace with goodbyes.  One of the highest levels of compersion is found in the ability to with someone well when the best thing for him is not with you.  One of the purest forms of self acceptance and love is making decisions that truly enrich us on a psychological, emotional, and spiritual level.   Oftentimes the decisions that are the hardest for us to make are ones we have already made in our hearts.  Be honest with yourself, and listen to your intuition.  You alone know what is right for you and when it has stopped being right.  You owe yourself that level of communication and trust as much as you owe it to your partners.

Aloha.

 

 

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“Polyamory probably saved my marriage.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

What does it mean to be poly?

Polyamory is not a method or a behaviour; it’s who we are as people.  While no two people are identical, there is a very bare boned archetype of a polyamorous person.

To be poly, one must be open-minded, honest, and willing to step outside of her comfort zone.  She must be strong, sensible, reliable, and able to put the needs of her family ahead of her own.

To the outside world, from conversations I have had, we take on a bit of legend and fantasy.  To those who support polyamory, or at least tolerate it, we are saints.  We are patient, selfless, and unfettered.  We never have a negative emotion or disagreement, and life in a poly family is nothing but a day in Shangri-la.  To those who are not supportive of our lifestyle, we are flaky, immoral, and non-committal.  We are either being taken advantage of or avoiding real relationships, and we never deal with real issues because we can’t possibly work together as a team.

Reality is what reality does, lying somewhere in the middle  Yes, polyamory requires patience, a skill many of us have had to hone as we go.  We must not be selfless, but able to compromise, and poly merely means setting or own limits and boundaries as they make sense to us, not that we can simply ignore rules.   On the  other hand, yes, there are some people who are poly just to avoid real relationships or commitment.  Sadly, it is my opinion that they will never grasp the full potential and freedom one can find in a committed poly family.

We’ve been over all this before, but what I have not discussed is how being poly looks and acts within the community, and even within the family.

Within the community we are a team, no matter what.  Past that, we may look different, because poly is not a set of rules.  No two poly families looks or acts the same.  To some we’re a little more conservative. To others we’re a bit more open and free.  In either case, we try to be a good resource and sounding board, especially to those just exploring polyamory.  Our lifestyle isn’t a closed cult or a patented method, nor are we the poly police, but we try to project a loving, sharing attitude to those who may want to learn and grow or just talk.  What’s that line about poly people talking a lot?  We do.

When I think of Hubby or A, I think of people I can trust and speak with openly without judgment.  I think of people who will fight just as hard as I will for our family and come to me with a problem before letting it cause resentment or discord. The fact that we’re human means that sometimes we get a little off track or lose sight of the bigger picture when something is important to us as individuals.  We have bad days, we get emotional and cranky, and we have fears and insecurities that can sometimes keep us from being as open as we hope others will be with us.  This doesn’t mean we’re “doing it wrong”, it means we’re not gods or angels, but mortals after all.

In a conversation I had with someone recently I was asked how I thought the “group mind” of a family changed our identities, and I think a lot of my answer to him fits here.  To the outside world we feel a need to look strong and well-adjusted.  We want the world to accept polyamory as a happy, healthy lifestyle, so we put on that facade to never let on that we have rifts, because to have an issue is to prove all the arguments made against polyamory.  Sometimes this behaviour gets internalized and becomes how we act with each other, which can dangerously lead to a lapse in communication and compassion and make us feel trapped.  At times I feel like we do the same within the poly community to prove our authenticity.  We hold ourselves to unreachable standards, leading to inner turmoil and an unstable family structure.

Now I may to contradict myself for a moment.  Yes, poly is a way of being not a way of doing.  No, this does not mean that every poly person will get along with or be able to love every other poly person.  I have gone on several date with people who admitted that polyamory was the only thing we had in common.  The only reason I was a blip on the map was our proximity and lifestyle and the size of our local community.  The problem here comes when people settle with situations that don’t make them happy because of the assumption that there aren’t any other local poly people.  This panic leads to bad experiences which can actually drive people away from the lifestyle, which I hate to see.  That’s like never eating pizza again because I assumed the place next door was the only pizzeria in town and got sick from it.

Polyamory doesn’t change who we are, and it is not an exclusive personality trait.  It’s merely a lifestyle that embodies a set of personality traits that make up part of who we are as lovers, families, and individuals.  By no means does it make us all compatible, and by no means does it make us all experts, but by no means does any of that make us less genuine.

There are a lot of interesting opinions about polyamory and how it does or should work. Today I’m going to address my Big Five.

1. Poly people have all the answers.
I get asked for a lot of relationship advice, and while I am always happy to listen and offer my perspective I do not possess any personal gnosis or insider information. I’m not poly because I’m better at relationships, and being poly doesn’t make me better at relationships. This is not a “practice makes perfect” scenario. While I may have more opportunity to make and learn from mistakes I continue to encounter new complexities and issues in each relationship I have. No two people are the same, no two couples are the same, and no two issues are the same. Poly does not mean we’ve memorized some magic key or mastered some kind of high level skill. We’re just willing to work at it on multiple levels with multiple people. Usually lumped into this belief are the ideas that poly couples never experience jealousy or dishonesty, but believe me we do. Jealousy is a pretty normal emotion, and in itself is not destructive. What becomes a problem is how we process and express this emotion and how we identify and fix its root cause. As far as dishonesty, lying is always lying. You can cheat in poly, and it does still hurt when partners hide things. Polyamory doesn’t make everyone perfect nor does it make everyone an honest saint. Polyamory has the same concentration of assholes and snakes as monogamy, and it really bothers me when those jerks ruin someone’s experience and turn them off to the lifestyle. To everyone who has “had a bad experience” I recommend trying it a few more times before you write it off.

2. All problems in a poly relationship are caused by the poly.
I get it a lot, the look. Hubby and I have a disagreement, whether or not it has anything to do with me of his partners, and somehow it’s root cause is our lifestyle. Some people believe that if we would just focus on each other and our marriage we would never fight or have differing opinions on things. Our life is obviously clouded and complicated by our other partners. Believe me, it’s caused trouble in the past. The truth, however, is that our other partners sometimes give us a little perspective. They give us a place to vent and cool down so that we can resolve our issues calmly. They tell us when we might, in fact, have been out of line or outright wrong. Looking at these other relationships even show us patterns in our own behaviour and possibly give us a look at how each one operates, even if they do so very differently. Hubby’s girlfriend has given me a lot of help when it comes to the “am I the crazy one here, or is this actually an issue?” internal debate. Sometimes, yes, I’ve been a little irrational. Other times I am justified in being upset and having that friend to talk to is a great aid in fixing the situation. The fact remains, marriage is a very complex recipe, and we don’t always get it right. While poly may add a new flavour to the mix it does not sour the pot on its own. Unfortunately sometimes things just don’t blend well and things don’t work out. Even in extreme cases just because the relationship failed doesn’t mean the poly failed.

3. Poly is easy!
This part has a lot of smaller issues wrapped up in it. I cannot count how many times Hubby and I have heard “wow, you’re so lucky! You can be with as many people as you want and no one cares!” Hold on a minute, what? Really? This is a ludicrous as the “you’re bi so you have twice as many options” idea. While it’s true that I have the freedom to explore and experience a variety when it comes to who I date or even see casually, “as many as I want” seems a little drastic. I guess it could be true if I had the time and energy to just date and never have a job or a life, but I’d be exhausted and boring. I’m also not really that much of a social butterfly. Just because I love more than one doesn’t mean I love everyone. In fact, I’m fairly guarded when it comes to real trust and love, and it takes a lot for me to really open up and accept someone as family. The result has been a handful of very close relationships that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Hubby gets the “every man’s fantasy” cliche a lot, which is hilarious. While many men want to sleep with more than one woman, not many could handle the responsibility and organization required to carry on relationships with more than one woman. See the difference? I’ve said it before, and I will repeat as necessary; Poly is worth it, but poly is work. It involves a lot of unselfish compromise, flexible time management, and seemingly endless communication. That part where we all sit around and have sex all day? Just for Showtime. Which brings me to…

4. Poly is all about the sex.
Again, I hate to sounds like a broken record, but “just because I can doesn’t mean I will.” As soon as people hear I’m poly it is assumed I will have sex with anything that isn’t nailed down, and if it’s nailed down at least it won’t move while I’m having sex with it. No. People, I do have standards, and I do exercise them. Even the relationships I have are not centered around sex. It’s a nice perk, yes, but I don’t feel like I have any more sex with multiple people as I did with one. We do not have naked time during important conversations and planning sessions like they show on TV. Our life isn’t one group session after another. I guess maybe some poly family somewhere might, but that’s not us. While I enjoy the occasional threesome or so, I tend to prefer to focus on one person at a time. I really enjoy close intimacy and he ability to express and experience that intimacy differently with each partner. When it comes down to it, though, even if the relationship is asexual it can still be powerful. Polyamory is about love not sex.

5. Poly is just for men who don’t want commitment and women with low self esteem…and a kicker.

I saved this one for last because not only is it ludicrous but one I’ve encountered a lot lately, especially that second bit, which I had never heard until recently. The first half implies that poly men, or anyone for that matter, can’t commit to more than one person at a time. Again I’ll use my children as an example. If I have a second child does it mean I am less committed than the first or that the first is in any way less important to me?  No!   I agree that some poly people open to casual encounters and “friends with benefits”, but not all of them and not as a rule. I am actually not a fan of casual encounters on a regular basis. It does nothing for me. The second part of that is also pretty shaky logic. My husband doesn’t have other partners because he find me unsexy or boring, and I love the fact that he still desires me no matter who he can get. He’s not stuck with me, he chooses me. I do not view my decision to be poly based on the opinion that no one would be monogamous with me. Hubby and I have been monogamous, and our switch to poly has nothing to do with what I “put up with” to keep him. Besides, he’s not the only one benefitting from this. I’m going to add “Poly couples are poly because they’re unsatisfied or unhappy” to this one. I have had a lot of men tell me they can “give me whatever I’m missing” or make me monogamous with their pure sexual talent. Sorry, boys, but I am plenty satisfied with and by my husband. I’m not poly to supplement him, and you are not going to win me away from him with your prowess. My message to couple who consider polyamory because they’re unhappy or having problems is to reconsider and work on fixing your foundation before you build on it. If you’re poly because you’re trying to escape your marriage or avoid your spouse you’re asking for a full collapse.

In the end, polyamory is a very complex puzzle, and not one that has the same solution or rules for every relationship. I cannot tell you how frustrated I get with negativity within the community about “how to be poly” or what it should look like for my family. It’s really a matter of education and acceptance, and that means of each other as well. I’m not an expert or an archetype, and I’m not here to tell people my way is the only way or even that polyamory is the only way, I am just a woman who has found a way that feels right and doesn’t mind sharing what has worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you at least you’ve had something to read for a few minutes.

romance sous le parapluie jaune #1

“I’m too much of a romantic to be poly.”

I have heard this in some fashion several times recently, and it has been the source of discussion and thought.  In some cases it has been cynical, in others an excuse as to why they chose monogamy, and there are times when it seems like it might bear some weight.  We spend so much time on logic and communication in the early stages of poly relationships that romance and playfulness don’t always take priority.  For some people, that’s fine, and love and shared openness are all they need.  For me it’s an integral part of my relationships, not just with new partners, but with all of them.

I admit it, I am a hopeless romantic, rather I have opted to stay hopeful that romance can still exist, not only in a long-term relationship, but a polyamorous one as well.  While the logic and structure of it all speaks to the science geek within me, the constant potential for romance and surprise feed the poet, the artist, and the believer in me.

In my mind romance is not always flowers and candy.  It’s a mindset and a way of love.  It’s a realization that my partner knows me inside and out, that he or she understands what makes me smile and is willing to take the time and effort to make me feel special.  Romance feels organic and free.  It exists in making memories, and it can be as elaborate as an orchestrated surprise or as simple as a held hand.

I’ve had some pretty romantic experiences in my life, and they’ve run the gambit from cliche to innovative.  I’ve gone to Atlantic City at midnight in the middle of hurricane weather for a drenching walk on the beach and hot chocolate in a casino diner.  I’ve been given flowers, inscribed children’s books, and homemade cards.  I’ve written poetry and put together photo collages.  Some of my sweetest moments with partners have been spent at flea markets, on mini-golf courses, and in movie theater photobooths.  Some of my best memories have been made at the Renaissance Faire, chinese buffets, and long drives to anywhere we had to go anyway.  There is no formula for romance, and this is what makes it worth its weight in magick.

I am blessed enough to have a wonderful husband who feels the same.  From the occasional “just because” flowers to the night when he staged the first date we would have had if we’d met as kids, and though he’ll deny it to the death, he is just as much as hopeful romantic as I am.  It gives me hope that I’m not the only one and that there may be more out there.   It may mean I get my hopes up and have my heartbroken a little more, but I believe the possibility for finding people who enjoy whimsy and romance as much as I do makes it all worthwhile.

I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, and with my last tattoo I now wear it permanently on my skin.  It’s who I am and how I live.  I choose to act not just from my mind and my gut, but from my heart.  It may seem silly at times, but I hope I never lose my passion and drive for romance.  I hope I never stop meeting people who believe in the same.

Go now, do something romantic,

Aloha

Please note, Part 2 of this will be in the Sintangible blog at http://www.sintagiblyspeaking.wordpress.com.  Stay tuned! Thanks!

“So, do you guys have sex with other people?” my dad asked me out of the blue.  Being separated by 3,000 miles, he doesn’t have the day-to-day exposure to our family, and  the information my grandmother had garnered from this very blog had given him a whole carnival of ideas about out lifestyle.  He had met the rest of our family, so after a cursory explanation and the assumption that he would ask if he wanted anything more he seemed at ease and thoroughly convinced that our partners are normal, consenting, sane people instead of sex crazed circus freaks.

Hubby and I realize how extremely lucky we are to have family who love us and try to understand and accept the choices we make.  We had a similar experience with his mother, who was mostly concerned for my patience level and our physical safety.  Once she realized I was not just tolerant but an open participant she did what Mom does, smiled and filed it under “those kids..are they trying to kill me?”.   For the most part, the poly people in our lives have similar stories, and amazing parents.  Even our girlfriend, Karissa, who was extremely concerned about her parents’ reactions, not only to her new poly arrangement but to her bisexuality, was not met with the backlash she had envisioned in her head.  They have tried to be supportive and welcomed us into their lives as a part of their daughter’s.

My boyfriend, Matt, however, while not met with as negative a reaction as he had expected from his family, has not had the accepting experience the rest of us have.  Viewed as unconventional and strange, while glad he’s happy in the wake of a troubled year, I am not a welcomed guest as a part of his life.  We expected this and have adjusted to make time together despite the stress and added hassle this creates.  In some ways it’s made us stronger, and whether or not because of the stretches of separation, we have come to cherish every and any moment we get to spend together.

This is one of the biggest outside problems we face as poly households, especially in the event of long-term, committed relationships and children.  Parents and families can do enough to cause tension and even breakups in monogamous relationships.  In plural situations the probability grows.  Will a mother who doesn’t agree with her daughter’s lifestyle refuse to acknowledge her own grandchildren?  Would I be willing to not have my family at holidays and important functions because they are not welcome, or would I simply not go?  Adversely, could I handle watching Hubby spend those days away from his mother if she refused to come to our house if my other partners were there, or would I send them away?

These are extreme cases, but they exist, and they are the choices we make when we make the decision to be non-monogamous.  We risk gossip and misunderstanding, disownership and even interventions.  Most of the time we risk never being taken seriously no matter how real or lasting these relationships are.  Moms will ask when we’re going to end this nonsense and settle down.  Dads will ask when we’ll find men who really love us and know how to treat a woman instead of all this running around.  We’ll ask why we even bothered to get married if we weren’t going to take it seriously.  Surely, as with our sexual and religious phases, this too must end.

To some parents there’s a religious aversion; to some it’s more societal.  What will their friends say?  Aunt Gertrude always did say my kids would turn out funny! To some families it’s just not normal, and many people have a problem accepting change or the idea that anyone can be happy any way but theirs.

As the poly community grows and is more openly happy and healthy we will hear more and more “coming out” stories.  Some will be heartwarming, others heartbreaking, but we must remember the importance of living life for ourselves and those who love and accept us, not to shelter those who never try.  These chosen families are full of people who deserve to know and be loved by who we really are.

I count my blessings every day that Hubby and I can be open with our families about how and who we love and that Matt has been willing to stick it out, love me, and see where our life together goes despite opposition and awkwardness.  That, maybe more than anything, proves that we all have made the right decision.  We all love each other, and love makes a family no matter what it looks like.

Aloha.

Go now…be open and honest!

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