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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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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.

 

Bubble Wrap

A few months ago my boyfriend decided the poly lifestyle no longer met his needs and my girlfriend slowly found more important things to do and faded out of contact, leaving me temporarily monogamous.  For a while it was nice being able to focus on Hubby and myself, then refreshingly on new experiences, but now I’m finding myself ready for something solid.  There have been a few people on my radar, but for one reason or another they have not panned out, and after a month away from home I suddenly find myself sitting here alone wishing for companionship.

Hubby and I haven’t found ourselves in this particular situation since his infamous days with Emmy.  Since I have a much better relationship with his current girlfriend, A, my old pastime of sitting alone picturing the two of them laughing at how pathetic and lonely I am no longer takes up my nights alone, and I have found myself quite recently with nothing to do but fashion garments out of bubble wrap and packing tape.  A few more nights like these and I can kiss my social life goodbye forever.

Perhaps the bigger issue here is that I seem to have lost the ability to socialize.  My last few partners have been people who already existed in my life in one form or another.  While I was once a fairly keen hunter,  recently I’ve been spoiled enough to have love handed to me on a silver platter, but suddenly here I am, hungry and domesticated.  Have I forgotten how to fend for myself?

We have already discussed that patience is not one of my strong suits, but without it I run the risk of ending up either stuck with a partner I don’t really like merely because he’s the first person to make a move or a restraining order and neighbourhoods in which I am not welcome because I lose my calm and start stalking people.  The third option is that I resign to my fate, become an old spinster, and live vicariously through Hubby and our two North American cricket frogs.

Let’s try to avoid those territories, and instead focus on what I do have, a rare opportunity to really decide what I need and where it’s coming from.  I have time to get personal projects done while Hubby is out being a social butterfly, hence the bubble wrap, and time to relax and be in my own home.  Most importantly I have time to strengthen the bonds within the household we have now.  I have a chance not just for extra quality time with Hubby but also to fortify my relationship with A, something I haven’t really had the chance to consciously do up to this point.  I can be happy for the new steps they’re taking, whether it’s compersion or just letting them have their moment so they owe me some listen-to-me-gush time when I eventually do start a new relationship, and I can focus on our goals as a couple and as a family.

I know this isn’t permanent, and deep inside I know maybe I’m looking too hard and I just need to let it happen.  Even if it doesn’t, I’m really not missing anything in my life.  Would I like to have that partner with whom to connect, of course, but I’m not alone.  Is it easy to feel lonely when Hubby is out having that connection?  Only if I let myself.  I’m poly because I like the freedom to love more than one person and to share my life with whoever I choose, not because I have to.  If it were just Hubby I would be just as happy, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the tallies and the semantics that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that it’s not about who has more partners or the best relationships, it’s just about the love, and that we have by the heartful.

Aloha

Go now, remember the love, forget the rest.

 

There has been a lot of talk recently over open relationships having a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and whether or not that’s a recipe for disaster.  I can’t say yes or no to that, but i can offer my opinions and you can decide for yourself.  Honestly, there have been very few of these types of arrangements I would touch with a 10-ft pole. Unless I know and can verify with both partners that this is a mutual agreement, I will never…and by that I mean never be involved with someone in such a relationship for a few reasons.

I don’t condone cheating, and unless I can be assured that’s not what’s happening I won’t be involved.  I don’t need any residual drama or backlash if it turns out the person with whom I am involved is cheating.  If you have to be that sneaky you shouldn’t be with a significant other int he first place, and if you need to lie to me you don’t need to be seeing me.

I’ve discussed before that communication is the most important tool to sustain a healthy open marriage.  This DADT policy severely cuts down on that communication, if there’s any.  This breeds all sorts of problems that will eventually collapse not just the open relationship but the entire relationship at the base of it.  A lot of these situations end in the “bad experiences” and “survival stories” that give polyamory a bad reputation.

My first question will always be why this policy even needs to be instated.

If it’s because you can’t handle the detailed idea of your SO being with another person you need to re-evaluate whether or not an open relationship is for you.  Ignoring the issue won’t help whatever internal struggle is happening.  If anything it feeds the paranoia, resentment, and insecurities that spawned it in the first place.  These growing pains and feelings need to be brought out to the open and addressed together, and this kind of arrangement does not allow for that to happen.

If it’s to protect other partners you need to re-evaluate who you’ve chosen to be those other partners.  If you feel like it’s going to cause an awkward relationship between them and your SO you need to have a sit-down with all partners involved about maturity and responsible behaviour.  If you can’t trust your SO to behave in an acceptable manner, again you need to decide if this is really the relationship for you.

There are a few ways this type of situation can work, even if it’s not ideal.  If the issue is details and knowing specific people involved communication can still be kept alive, albeit with a little extra effort.  It’s important not to get snoopy and paranoid,  if you’ve decided to make this a more clandestine situation you have to accept the mystery of not knowing.  That can be scary. It can breed monsters that don’t exits and dream up all sorts of things that aren’t happening.  As humans we don’t like to think things are happening behind our back.  Permission or not, that’s exactly what’s happening here.  You’ve created a secret society to which you cannot belong.  If there’s an issue, bring it up, but be prepared for the DADT rule to be upheld, especially if you are defensive or passive aggressive about it.

In my opinion, open relationships are already complicated.  Adding mystery and stunting communication makes it unnecessarily more complicated.  I don’t advise them as a long-term situation, but merely as a stepping stone to help sort out issues and emotions on the path to a more healthy relationship.  I’m not saying it won’t work, I’m just saying it’s risky, and possibly the reason many strong poly relationships never get off the ground.  We need to not be afraid of the emotions.  We need to accept them and learn to let them go, not avoid them and let them control us.

That’s my two cents.  namaste

Go now, ask…and tell.

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