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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some additional comments from my people:

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

 

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

 

Go now, find your joy.

Aloha

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The idea of kitchen table poly has always appealed to me.  I was an only child, and having a chosen family structure is an imperative part of my life. That being said, the key word here is”chosen”, which implies a choice, and by placing an “ideal”on something we strip away its choice.  Here’s the rub.

In many cases it’s a fairly simple equation. My partner and I have a loving relationship.  They and their other partners have loving relationships.  I love people who make my people happy.  Come to my table!  Sometimes, however, people don’t get along.  I can’t force anyone to like me.  I can’t force anyone to want to get to know me.  I can’t force anyone to want anything to do with me.  In that same vein, I can’t force my partners to get along.  Ideal vs free will reality, and with free will reality comes a choice.

Do I cling to the Rockwellian portrait of poly I’d love to see or so I adjust expectations and keep my heart, and the seats at my table, open? 

Enter The Community Table.

It’s possible to maintain the spirit and ideals behind Kitchen Table Poly and adapt to free will reality, you just have to tweak perspective a little.  As a kid, my parents were divorced, and those households treated dinner very differently.  At my Dad’s house dinner was 1700 every night, Hell or high water, and it was expected that everyone would be there every single night.  To this day, if you call that house at dinner time someone better be dying. My mom, however, ran things a little more fluidly, depending on schedules and when people were hungry.  If she cooked and you weren’t hungry, you could sit and chat.  If you were busy with homework or something else was happening, as long as you respectfully let her know what was going on there was no harm done.  My friends knew there was a seat for them at our table, on our couch, in our home, whenever they needed it, day or night.  Two tables. Two very different ways of approaching the same experience.

I’ve recently started to see the images in my mind of the ideal situation change to incorporate my mom’s adaptable Community Table approach to my life in general, not just my poly.  If you’re a part of my Ohana there is a seat for you at my table, regardless of whether or not you ever use it or want it.  The people of my people are also my people, and in times of need nothing else matters.  My mom didn’t necessarily approve of all of my friends.  I know for a fact there were a few she couldn’t stand, but if they were hungry they were welcome.  She might not choose to eat dinner with us, but it didn’t mean I had to send them away.  The Community Table gave all of us an open invitation, a place at the table, and a choice, and this is what poly, what family, is about for me.

The Community Table leaves the lines of communication open and supports the opportunity to build relationships without pressure or finality.  It authenticates freedom of choice by allowing every day to be a new choice, and it gives us all the room to grown and adapt as the table changes shape and size.  The Community Table becomes the access point for my life and my Ohana, where no one is pressured or sent away, and that’s my “ideal” situation.

Aloha.

Go now.  Find your seat.

2015-02-23-EatingTogether

full_corn_moon

Lughnasadh always brings an interesting energy with it.  While Lugh won a lot of trials in his life through sheer skill, some of that skill was humour and wit, and there is never a shortage of humour or wit in the messages that come through this time of year.  But what else?  In honouring Lugh we remember the funerary games he organized for his foster mother, Tailtiu. We play games of skill and celebrate our respective talents.  We dance, sing, enjoy the life energy of summer thriving around us.  Now let’s incorporate the celebration of Lamas, the first harvest.  Traditionally the first grains would be used to make bread to bless the occasion as the community came together to enjoy the bounty of harvest.  Sometimes bread was baked in the shape of the Green Man in honour of the sacrifice he gives so that we may thrive.  In all of this there is a theme of both celebration of the light and recognition of the dark as we begin to notice the days shortening, reminding us to be thankful for the harvest that will sustain us in the coming winter.

In my practice I’ve used it as a time to cleanse and bless my hearth and home, fortifying our household for the year to come with the rich energies of summer.  This year I took a deeper look at that practice.  Yes, I will probably still cleanse our home and reinforce our crystal grids, but the more meditation I’ve done the more thought I’ve given to the “hearth” in my life.  While my tangible household is a brick and mortar place, my home is transient, my family scattered between the coasts, farther once I incorporate metamours.  So what of this tribe?  What of our hearth?  How can we be cleansed and fortified for the year to come?

The beautiful thing about our Ohana is that everyone, no matter how far away or how little involved, brings something to the tribe.  We each have our strengths, skills and talents that enrich the energy of the whole.  There is not a single one of us who doesn’t work hard and strive to really experience life in their own way, and this energy finds its way to the core of what makes us strong as a unit.  Those skills and strengths become our grains, and with some nurturing and encouraging, those talents flourish.  Through their harvest we begin to manifest our best selves, and we become the bread men of Lamas, ingested to feel the blessings of the very earth that grounds and holds us.  So, the hearth?  The hearth is community, fired with our dedication to each other.  It’s love, support, and solidarity, but it’s also sacrifice.  We each give at one point or another so that the others may thrive.  When each of my partners’ family becomes my family, and we weave a web of compassion and love, we become a strong tribe.  Through that web we feel each other’s joy and pain.  Through that web none of us can starve no matter how cold the winter might get, and because we’ve got Lugh on our side we do it with the flare of laughter and maybe some smartassery.  Ok, a lot of smartassery.

Aloha, and Blessed Lughnasadh

Go now, celebrate your talents!

roller-coaster-300x297

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.

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.

compersion

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?

 

 

Aloha.

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  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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a thought.

Aloha

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