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Just this last week my home state of Pennsylvania legalized marriage equality, and now that both of the states I call home have done so, I feel the push to chime in with an experience I’ve had in both cases.  As someone who identifies as pansexual, and as someone who happens to already be in a legal, heterosexual, open marriage, I have come under a lot of fire for supporting the cause as anything but an ally.  Let’s break that down…

Pansexual:  Yes, I have love and attraction to anyone, anyone, who catches that attention, no matter how they identify.  Why is it that because a cis male is included in that I am devoid of caring about the opportunity to marry any of the other possible pairings?  We must stop the labeling, the arguing about labeling, and the snobbery and isolation that arise from that labeling.

Married: Ok, so it’s true.  I’m already legally married, and I don’t plan on that changing in my life.  Does that mean I couldn’t have wanted to marry someone who didn’t legally apply?  I love cookies and cream ice cream, but does that mean I wouldn’t like the opportunity to choose Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which I also happen to love?  Why does the fact that my ultimate legal choice was an acceptable one negate this as a victory for my heart?

Poly: This is something I’ve struggled with within the LGBTQ community for years.  In the opinion of some people, aligning with the poly community means a step back for all the work the LGBTQ community has done to convince the world that they can be just as committed to each other as heterosexual relationships can.  While I understand this very conservative opinion, I have to ask why heterosexual marriages don’t have to prove the same?  Why aren’t accepted social norms put to the same litmus tests as alternative lifestyles?  Oh right, because it’s more acceptable to cheat on a heterosexual spouse than to be honest and open.  I also realize that poly families have a long way to go in that regard, and that our struggle for acceptance over prejudice and mockery is in a very young stage.

The truth is, it shouldn’t matter if this step forward benefits me in any way or not.  It shouldn’t even matter that I know people personally who it benefits.  The only thing that should matter is that this is the right thing for people.  Period.  This entire post has been an excuse to say this:  Congratulations, people!  This is how life should be, and we need to stop worrying about who does and doesn’t have the right to celebrate life. 

Go now.  Celebrate equality and love!

Aloha

marriage-equality1

I briefly mentioned being fluid bound in my Responsible Sex post, but I wanted to talk about it more in-depth and talk about what it means to me.  In monogamous relationships a couple reached a point where they stop using condoms because they’ve decided they’re in a monogamous relationship and that there is no risk of one of them bringing something contractible into the equation. The risk of pregnancy is still there, as no birth control is 100% accurate, and a couple either accepts this risk or doesn’t.  In any case, it’s a turning point of sorts.  It’s each member of that couple saying “I trust this other person  not to put me at risk by being dishonest”.

In a poly situation the sentiment behind fluid bonding is very similar, at least to me.  I have been fluid bound with very few partners besides my husband.  It’s one of the most intimate parts of a sexual relationship, and one I never just trudge into without serious thought and discussion.  It requires trust on all sides of the die.

Let’s talk about that trust.  When I am fluid bound with someone I have to trust him (I’ll stick to him for this scenario) indelibly.  I had a nurse at a clinic once tell me I should use condoms with Hubby because of our lifestyle because “how do you know you can trust him?“.  My immediate answer was, “because he wouldn’t be my husband if I couldn’t”.  

Being fluid bound means putting the health and safety of my entire family in the hands of my partner.  That’s some pretty serious power.  In turn he’s telling me that he trusts me and the rest of my family.  Any partners fluid bound with me put their health and safety in Hubby’s hands and those of any partners with whom he is bound.  Because of this web of trust it’s a conversation that happens within my partnership, then my marriage, then our family, so that everyone is heard and everyone feels comfortable.  Then we all get tested and proceed from there.

Fluid bound also means trusting my partner to stand by me through anything.  I know plenty of women who can tell you what form of birth control they were on when their children were conceived.  It happens, and before I will even put that percentage of a risk in someone’s life I make sure he knows where I stand on the matter.  This family is strong and resilient, but anyone unable or unwilling to accept the minute chance of being that deeply a part of it has to accept that it’s a risk I just won’t take.

Remember friends, condoms are cheaper than bad decisions.  Don’t be pressured.  Don’t be rushed.  Being fluid bound with someone is beautiful.  The proximity you feel with your partner is unmatched.  See this profound experience for what it is, save it for those who really deserve it and cherish it,  and use it to bring you closer as a couple.  If you view it as something sacred you will protect it.  If you view it as something valuable it will take your sexual experiences to new places.  Sometimes we use poly to dilute these natural stages of a relationship and their unique blessings.  Becoming fluid bound has always been one of those blessings for me.  Take your time, and embrace each one in its time and speed.  Believe me, it’s worth it.

I have always preferred the term “responsible sex” over “safe sex”.  It implies that we have a choice when it comes to the decisions we make.  I have written a lot about responsibility as it deals with emotions and how our actions affect the relationships in our poly circle, but today the topic gets a little more earthy.  Let’s talk about sex.  We were all in a Sex Ed class at some time or another.  We all know the statistics, consequences, and responsibilities that come with sex, and by now we all know how to be healthy, sex positive adults.

Do you remember that poster of the sex pyramid?  No not that pyramid, the other one.  The one that shows how many people you actually have sex with when you factor in every partner your partner is with.  Yeah, that one.  As with any other actions in a polyamory, the decisions we make affect each and every member of our family.  I take that responsibility very seriously and do not even consider sex with anyone who tries to weasel his way around safe sexual practices.  I have heard every line in the book.  I consider this blatant disrespect and an attempt to put my entire family in danger, since giving in puts not only me, but my partners and their partners and so on, all at risk.

My family trusts me to make responsible decisions, and I trust them to do the same.  This level of trust is crucial in a poly situation.  I’m sorry, but no sex is worth breaking that trust.  Yes, especially sex with you Mr Random Internet Hookup.  I’m sure you’re just as trustworthy as any other person on the internet, which means I brought my own condoms, so there’s no risk that they’re old, weathered, or tampered with.  As a side note, always make sure your barriers are in good condition.  This doesn’t just mean checking the expiration date.  This means checking the packaging.  Have they been sitting in a wallet for a year getting beat up?  Have they been repeatedly exposed to extreme heat and cold?  Could they have been punctured?  Be smart, friends.   Condoms are not so expensive that you should risk using one that’s past its prime.

The next step in responsible sex is testing.  Unless you’ve been abstinent for the last six months, even if you’ve been protected every time, regular testing is still necessary.  Our family gets tested at least one every six months just to make sure nothing has slipped through the cracks.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and this is something I’ve had to explain to clinic staff in the past.  We don’t get tested because we feel dirty or because we’ve done something wrong.  We do it to be healthy and informed. An informed family is a responsible family.

At this time I am blessed to have medical professionals in my life who don’t bat an eyelash when I talk about my lifestyle and are always happy to give me the information I need to keep us all healthy, but not after a long road of judgmental and unhelpful ones on the way.  I have had OBGYNs tell me I should use condoms with my husband because I can never be sure he’s telling the truth about his actions.  I assure you, I would not be married to him if I could not.  There is also outdated information still being passed out by medical professionals about HIV and bisexual men, gay men, and apparently men in general that is no longer useful or apropos, and they have used it to warn me about the dangers of my choices in partners.

I do have partners with whom I am fluid bound.  It’s a big step in a relationship for me, and one I don’t take lightly.  It takes a huge amount of trust and commitment to accept what happens if accidents do happen.  That old Sex Ed cliché “Nothing is 100% but abstinence” has truth to it, and this lifestyle incorporates a certain level of accepted risk.  Making the decision to be poly, fluid bound, kinky, or anything else means acknowledging that risk and agreeing to deal with any fall out as a family if it happens.  In most cases it doesn’t, but it has to be something you keep in the back of your mind, because the power to decrease or increase the likelihood of unplanned events is yours.

The Dating Game

“If you weren’t married would you still be poly?”

The question caught me off guard, not because it was inappropriate, but because I’d never considered it before. While I was open to the idea and leaning in that direction, I was not poly before meeting Hubby, nor were we poly right off the bat. It was a process that led us to this decision, and one I didn’t make lightly. Since then I have never imagined a time when Hubby and I wouldn’t be married, so it’s never been a question that came up.

The only answer that I can come to after some thought is “I don’t know”.

I have never needed to be poly. I could and would be perfectly happy being monogamous in my marriage, and that’s why I am poly. I love that I can explore and experience new partners, but it’s not a requirement to my happiness with Hubby. This was his idea to begin with, and one I agreed to because I love him and want to experience this life with him in a way that suits us both. This best suits him.

Some things to consider:

Would dating as a single woman be easier if I were not poly? It might be if the people I dated were not poly. I could introduce it the way Hubby did for me. I’m not sure I’d start my new single dating life with someone who was already living with someone or married, but I could see a new relationship blossoming into a plural situation.

Would I be willing to date someone who was against being poly? For the right person I will do almost anything. I obviously can’t grant that request at this time, because I am already married, but if the right person asked and I were single I definitely would.

What about the pansexuality? I may be attracted to all kinds of people, regardless of gender, but that doesn’t mean I need to be sleeping with them all to be happy. It just means I don’t care how my partner identifies. There are plenty of happy monogamously committed pansexual people out there. I could be one of them, again for the right person.

I guess a lot of this makes it sound like I’m a pushover, but I’m not. I am, and always have been, willing to offer the right person or people what they need for us both to flourish in a relationship. With Hubby it’s been polyamory and a D/s dynamic. With someone else it might be neither of those things. Does it mean it changes my interests or desires? Not at all. It merely means I’m willing to compromise and sacrifice a little for love.

I will say that the one thing I will not compromise or change is my spirituality. I am very strong in my faith and how I practice, and that is something that has remained constant throughout my life. It can be extremely hard for a pagan to be seriously involved with a non-pagan, and it has caused turbulence for me in the past.

I was extremely fortunate to find a man who is also pansexual and pagan, and the poly aspect was a bit of icing on that cake, but not a required ingredient. We very quickly hit our stride and fell into how we operate as a couple. If he were no longer in my life for some reason I’m not sure I’d find that same fit with anyone else. It’s not really something I intend to explore any time soon.

I was going to write this year’s Ostara piece on spring cleaning, as it has been in the forefront of both my mundane and magickal lives on an almost constant basis.  Then our coven met for ritual, and it managed to throw that thought process into a tailspin that changed the scenery of that forefront quite a bit.

This year Ostara was all about balance and equalization, internal and external harmony.  As I reflected quietly on where I needed a little more equilibrium in my life, the term “help not hinder” came to mind.  It is here that I see a fork in my path, and I must make a choice.

Quite often we focus on the obstacles not the opportunities, and in trying to clear them away we lose sight of new doors opening to us.  I have fallen into a magickal rut centered around clearing away instead of manifestation, and I have resorted to merely chasing my tail in an empty space.  This is where I need my balance.

I’ve always been a purger, the time has come to claim my power of manifestation and intuition when it comes to new paths and clearings.  It’s time to unlock and throw open the windows of opportunity and breathe the fresh air they provide.  It’s time to seize what will not wait for me to notice it.  I cannot stop removing the detritus from my life, but that task alone cannot be allowed to consume me or I will be nothing but empty and stagnant.

Ostara reminds me that this is a time for new growth and rejuvenation.  I will not be able to appreciate the spring in my soul while keeping myself holed up in this dusty old perspective and stale routine.  It’s time to feel the sunshine, and my goddess it feels good to be outside.

Love… Google it, I dare you.  The results would be astounding.  I did it, and after a cornucopia of definitions and usage rules the internet offered to show me “images of love”.  I declined.  It’s been “explained” in volumes of book in every language ever written.  It’s been legislated for and against.  Governments have attempted to regulate it, and religious structures have attempted to restrict it.  Ask a million people what the definition of love is, and you’ll get a billion answers.  Is it any wonder we have so many problems understanding, accepting, or feeling it? We’re simply over thinking it.  We’re too concerned about who, how much, and what to call it.  We’re too worried about the levels of love and where the  boundaries lie between them.  We look for love, and we analyze it when we think we’ve found it.  We think about love so much we forget how to just do it.

“On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux”

This quote from The Little Prince, and I quote this book a lot when writing about love because it lays things out very well, states, “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”  For me this goes beyond the general “love is blind” theory to the root and life of love itself.

Polyamory works for me because there is no degree or differentiation between the love I give to anyone over another.  Yes, Hubby and I have a connection I will never have with another human being, but the love I give is no different from the love I give anyone else.  When I decide to give my love it is wholeheartedly and unconditional regardless of whether the relationship is ever sexual or committed.  I have friends I love like immediate family.  I trust them, I confide in them, and I share my life with them as much as they will have me.  I expect nothing in return unless they decide to offer love as well.  In that case I expect honesty and acceptance.  I expect them to love me completely and with no emotional restrictions.  I would give my life for the handful of people I have chosen and continue to love.

Despite the poly aspect of my lifestyle love is not something I give to everyone, mostly because it is something I don’t take lightly.  I have never said the words “I love you” when I didn’t mean them.  I don’t even use it as a term of endearment unless there is some form of the emotion present.  There are plenty of people I like and care about.  There are even some I cherish and will gladly offer them anything I can, but love is something that grows from those relationships.

This has not always been the case in my life.  There was a time when I “loved” every person who offered me a kind hand or a night’s touch.  I made a lot of mistakes and opened myself up to a lot of destructive energy. I let people I loved take advantage of it and use it against me.  I gave up who I was to be who they told me they would love.

I made it through with a better understanding of what I want, need, and deserve, as well as an ever-growing knowledge of what I am willing to sacrifice and capable of offering.  The love I give now is pure, strong, and unstoppable.  The love I give now can change lives and heal wounds.  The love I give now is worth having and giving.  The love I have now is worth getting in return, and sometimes I do.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes. . . . It’s the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important. . . . People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said, “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose. . . .”

Go now…love without thinking about it.

Aloha

 

In the past few weeks there have been more suicides in the young LGBT community than I can count on one hand.  As a teacher, a mother, a member of the queer community, and a citizen of the country that is doing nothing to protect these young people from harassment, abuse, and humiliation, I find this trend unacceptable on a violently angry level.  We’re talking the type of anger that makes my pupils twitch and my hands shake.  These kids, like many in our community, were treated in ways that would make anyone feel helpless and hopeless, especially at a point in their lives where they are vividly aware of their differences and want nothing more than to be accepted.

All across the country gay adolescents are told they’re just confused, that they’re broken or sick, and that they should be ashamed of how they feel, think, and love.  At best they are ignored by their parents, but often they are punished, chastised, or beaten.  They are cast away, kicked out of their homes, and shunned by their families.  Their spiritual leaders tell t hem they’re damned, their peers ostracize or bully them, and there is generally little to no support or protection from schools or the community.

But what about those of us who could help them?  What about those of us who have been in their shoes and could guide them through one of  the most trying and confusing points in their lives?  We’re kept away from them in hopes they’ll grow out of it and in fear that we’ll encourage them to be themselves.  Instead of being seen as a support system or valuable resource, queer adults are considered a detriment in a youth’s life.  Why is this ok?  At what point do we stop telling our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and giving them the mentors and environment to nurture whatever that might entail?  When do we instead start limiting and judging them?  More importantly, why is any of this treatment allowed to happen?  Why were these young people pushed to a point at such a young age that they felt it would never get better?

In his September 22 article Dan Savage speaks of how the first of the recently publicized suicides touched him.  Like many of us he was heartbroken.  Like many of us he has been where these kids were and are today.  Like many of us he knows that something needs to be done.  It’s time the people who can give these young people a little hope stopped being stuck in a closet and spoke out to them.

“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids?”, he says. “We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”

So, Dan and his partner made a video.  Then they made a channel on YouTube and encouraged members of the community to make and post their own videos to encourage these kids and share our stories to show that it does get better.  To find the instructions and post your own video, you can go to youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject .  As soon as I figure out how to use the camcorder function on my new smartphone I’ll be posting my own.  If I can get over my technophobia and do this, you should all be making videos!

My life as a bisexual teen (and at the time there was only gay or bisexual in my world…no pansexuals, homoflexibles, heteroflexibles or otherwise) was fairly quiet.  I kept it that way purposefully.  It had its rough moments, but for the most part I’ve forgotten the trappings.  Yes, I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that’s not always as free-thinking and forward as it sounds.  I went to an all girls catholic school, and had several strikes against me already.  I had friends who knew I was  pagan, but it wasn’t until I was extremely close that I admitted to my sexuality.

I knew at a very early age I loved everyone equally, but never expressed any of it.  I was told it was a phase, that I just didn’t know how to express my feelings towards friends, and that I’d get over it someday.  My mother passed before I could try to talk to her about it, and the rest of my family was all about not making waves.  My confusion and fear caused me to withdraw completely.  I didn’t go on dates.  I didn’t socialize much.  I didn’t have my first kiss until I was almost eighteen, and that one defining moment started a revolution inside me.  I could no longer be quiet.

I can’t imagine my life being any different.  It took moving to Philadelphia, a place most consider a lot more conservative that Berkeley, CA, to find “my people”.  I am never ashamed to talk about my husband and my girlfriend.  I am never ashamed to be poly, pagan, or pansexual.  I wish nothing more for these young people than to know how good life can be when you find where you belong.  We owe them that optimism as people who have laid the path.

Today begins LGBT History Month, and what better way to start than with each of our own personal histories.  Those who came before us gave us a wonderful foundation, and we have built the beginnings of a wonderful world, but these kids are the ones who will be in charge of finishing the job.  We need to invest in them the pride and freedom we know is possible.  Our goal isn’t just for them to survive, but to live.  Like a good bra, we must not just support but uplift.

This is my promise to the queer youth of America…You can always come to me.  You can share with me.  You can talk to me.  You can be safe with me.  You have all my love, support, and optimism.  You have my arms for hugging and my shoulder for crying.  I will help in whatever ways I can, and I will never abandon you.  I will never stop trying to show you that it does get better if you can promise me that you’ll never give up being you.

Yours, Autumn.

~*Namaste*~

I was G-chatting with a friend from elementary school today, and he mentioned that he had no idea who any of us was at that age since no one has reached who they are now that young.  He’s right and he’s wrong.  In some ways, we are never “who we are”.  We are constantly evolving, learning, and growing into ourselves.  It is true that we start to develop personality traits that we carry throughout our lives, but when?  Are we born with some of these thing?  Are they learned and encouraged by our environment and the people in our lives?  Do they come from experiences and life lessons?  The simple answer is yes.  All these elements add to who we are in some way, but if some of them didn’t exist would we really be any different at our cores?  At what age do these things really start to shape who we are?

I like to think of the personality traits we posses as children as words.  When toddlers first learn words, that’s all they are.  They have a meaning, but they stand alone.  As we grow older we start to string these words together to make phrases, and eventually sentences.  This is much like how we start to build ourselves into the people we will become.  We collect bits and pieces of ourselves as we grown, and eventually we can fit them together like a puzzle to make a complete picture.  I was the same person I am today when I was in elementary school.  I just didn’t know how to express it without being told I was wrong or different.

This is where the second half of our conversation comes into play.

In the 80’s there were two kinds of children.  Normal, healthy children, and broken children.  In my schools the only kids anybody bothered to worry about were children of divorced parents.  They were considered the highest risk children in our community.  It wasn’t that abused, neglected, molested, or troubled children didn’t exist, because we did.  We were simply not acknowledged because no one wanted to admit we existed in our community.  Instead we were convinced there was something wrong with us.  We were taught we were wrong and bad.  We were hushed, and we stayed hushed because we believed it was our fault.  We were bad children.  We were separated from the other kids and sent to institutions for cases when we really just needed a mentor or a support system.

It is in how we managed to deal with our issues ourselves that we began to become who we are today.  Some of us simply stopped growing and have either become co-dependent or misanthropic as adults, not knowing how to cope with real life.  Some pulled together and created their own support systems and families, encouraging each other to strive and grow.  Me?  I got dark, but I never completely let the shadows consume me.  I buried myself in school and let a few close friends enter my life.

I was lucky early on in the aspect that  for the formative years I had my mother to guide and encourage me.  She knew I was different.  She knew I knew things kids weren’t supposed to know at my age.  She also knew that none of this had to be a bad thing.  I still had trouble, but she kept me from shutting down completely.  Then she died.  I was 12 years old.  Being a teenage girl trying to figure herself out is hard enough without having just lost the only resource she ever had.

I had no idea who I was when I went into the eighth grade.  I was one of a handful of pagans I knew, I was a diabetic, I was bisexual, and I was “that weird girl”.  I was dark, sarcastic, morbid, and a little too honest with people.  I had all of three friends, but I never felt alone.

In high school I saw a few of those children I had grown up with lose their fights with themselves.  I still had no idea how to adequately express who I felt I was inside,  but I was learning.  I was still being told over and over again by adults around me that I needed to “be myself”, but none of them really knew what that meant any more than I did.  Then I graduated and had the summer that really solidified the woman I was becoming.  I had new experiences I would have never dreamed I could have.  For once in my life I was calling the shots in my life, and it felt good.  It felt right.

When I moved to Philadelphia I met a group of people who would, over the years, become my family.  They are my brothers and my sisters, and sometimes my conscience and my foundation.  They have gotten me through more hard times than I care to admit, and without them I’m not sure I would have made it through the past nine years.  They have never judged me or told me I was broken.  Instead, they have seen the potential I have to be who I want to be instead of what the negative experiences in my life had the opportunity to make me.  They have seen the person I am when you strip all those things away and look at my core.

When I left Drexel I knew it would change me.  I was no longer “the student”.  I was now a real adult.  I needed a job.  I need a place to live.  I needed to be able to take care of myself.  I was also pregnant, which meant I no longer had time to worry about who I was or what I wanted.  I needed to be “the responsible adult” and “the single mother” all while dealing with what ultimately constituted date rape, a mental collapse, and the fact that I had just walked away from the only future I had ever known.  I was this woman for three months.  Then I miscarried, and I was no longer even that.  I felt like no one.  I felt empty.  I felt more than alone.  I had no idea who I was.

It was then that I started to become the person I am when I cease to be myself.  I went through a few renditions.  I went through a slut phase, a tortured artist phase, a lonely wanderer phase.  I was a girlfriend, a fiance, a mistress.  At many of these turns I was told I was wrong.  I was still being told, after all those years, that I was broken and inadequate.  Still, in the end of all these things, I was me, and it dawned on me I didn’t have to worry anymore about it being wrong.   I was who I was, and no thing, no one, and no moment was going to change that.  It was then that I started living my life to my standards.  I had jobs I loved.  I met people I could not live without.  I loved indiscriminately.

Not long after that I met Hubby, who not only encouraged me to express every aspect of myself but loved me for it.  For years I was convinced I was broken, but the last three with him have shown me that there was never anything wrong with me.  My mom had it right all along.  She’s been gone for fourteen years, but her lessons are still coming thorough loud and clear.  I will never again let society tell me who to be, who to love, or who my family can be.  I will not let the world tell me I’m stupid, ugly, or unlovable.  I will not let them tell me the way I think, act, or express myself is obscene or unacceptable.  I will never again feel like an abomination.

Do I still have broken moments?  Of course I do.  Will I let them run my life?  Never again.

So, my question for you, my friends, is this: Who are you when you cease to be you?  Think about it.

Namaste.

Even the best laid out roads can lead to surprised; Hubby and I realized this early on in our adventures in polyamory.  Things we thought would be a struggle turned out to be smooth sailing, while things we never imagined would be a problem threatened our integrity as a couple.  This is where it became integral that we remain flexible as individuals while staying steadfast as a partnership.  This was the true test.

In our haste to involve Hubby’s girlfriend, who I am going to call Emmy, we ceased to do anything without her.  Every movie night, every road trip, and every celebration we had involved her.  We started to lose our identity as “us” in many ways, and it was as if we were no longer allowed to do anything without her.  I hate to admit it, but even sex started to wane and fade away.  It was as if our triad had taken over the marriage.  This led to fights, tension, and resentment on both sides.  Much worse, it led to animosity and jealousy on my behalf.  I felt as if my company was no longer good enough, like I was no longer good enough. 

The result of this was a need to exhort my position as Wife.  It sparked one day when Emmy turned to me in the car and announced that she was “not comfortable being anybody’s second”, and I had to remind her that she willingly joined a married couple.  In hindsight I see that I did get a little catty.  Remember this, dear readers, there is a thin line between owning your position and lording it over your partner’s other partners.  Kissing your husband is acceptable.  Body checking his partner to kiss him is not. 

Another overzealous oversight was the boundaries we had set in our early conversations with Emmy about how our triad would function.  In these kinds of situations it is easy to assume everyone is on the same level and ready to move forward, perhaps beyond set parameters.  Hubby, being the hinge that joined the two women, took the reigns and ran with them a little too voraciously than either of us was prepared to handle. 

To help a little further I have compiled a list of a few other things to avoid once you have found an active third to your relationship.

  • “Ooh Shiny Syndrom”- As with any new relationship there will be that “new love” feel.  This is a good thing, but try not to let it give you an excuse to ignore the original partner.  This only leads to hurt feelings and resentment.  There is also the tendency to not see anything negative with the new partner, which leads to unfair comparisons.  You may have lived with your original partner for some time, so you know his bad habits.  The new addition can be selective about the habits she shows you, at least in the beginning.  Think of John Cusack’s proposal scene in “Say Anything”.  

 

  • The “G” Word- Gossip.  Avoid running to your new confidante to gossip, complain, or cry to your new partner about the original partner.  Hubby and I were both guilty of this in the beginning.  I needed a woman’s perspective and he felt the need to tell her every growing pain I was feeling with our relationship.  As a result her initial impression of me was not very good.  I still feel the after-effects of it, and it has affected our ability to open with each other.  Any time we fight on the phone he calls her to vent, but I am left with my own feelings and emotions to process.  I have done my share of venting to Emmy, and afterwards I feel slightly childish, and it puts Emmy in an awkward position.  Our arguments should remain just that, ours. 

 

  • “Pussyfooting”- This one may not be as obvious.  You may even think you are helping a situation by making one of the members of your happy little family feel better.  In reality, when they find out that you are only doing or not doing things “out of respect for (their) emotions” they feel foolish, suspicious, and paranoid.  For a while Hubby would not tell Emmy he loved her in front of me.  When I found out they had been exchanging those feelings for some time I confronted him about it, and that was the answer.  Respect for my emotions.  It made me wonder what other things could be explained away so easily on my behalf, and it caused a dent in my trust.  In  his opinion it was no big deal, but it changed the way I viewed their relationship for a long time.

 

  • Disappointment- Do you remember what it was like to be single?  Do you remember what first dated were like?  Do you remember the disappointment when things just did not work out?  Why do you think this will be any different?  Polyamorists are neither more enlightened nor more compatible with each other than any other person looking for a relationship.  Hubby and I have had plenty of flops, believe me.  At times it was daunting, especially with such a specialized dating pool, but we kept trying.  Even if this relationship does not work out int he long run, we know it has been a positive experience above all the flops.

This has all helped us hone another skill.  Conflict resolution.  I tend to get defensive when I feel hurt or rejected, and I tend to feel hurt and rejected when someone starts chosing other people or activities over time with me.  Did we have genuine issues to resolve?  Of course we did, but me getting defensive and crying and Hubby getting frustrated and shutting down because I could not see things his way was never going to fix those issues.  Over the past few months we have worked extremely diligently to improve our conflict resolution process, and it has done our marriage a world of good. 

We are just now finding the balance and compromise needed for this arrangement to function.  Each of us has had to make sacrifices.  I have given up time with Hubby.  Emmy has given up a little of her independence and has taken up a little responsibility to help our household run smoothly.   Hubby has accepted that some of the things I have asked for from him are not unreasonable, and he has taken the initiative to be a better partner to me and to Emmy.  I believe we all have, and will continue to, change  for the better if we can keep that balance and spirit of compromise alive.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to not let polyamory ruin your marriage.  There is nothing worth risking a strong relationship that can not be worked out and used as a learning experience. 

Now go…love someone.

There are certain things that will make or break a polyamorous experience.  I admit that in the early days of our relationship Hubby and I had innumerable arguments about boundaries, and every time we fought he would ask me why I felt the way I did.  My response was always a stubborn and shut down “I just do!”.  It was immature and a bit shortsighted of me not to want to dig deeper and admit that there may be reasons for my emotions.  My fears?  I might not like the real reasons for my emotions.  They might redefine character flaws.  They might point them out to Hubby.  He was trying to understand, and I needed him to not only understand but to care.  This is generally where logic brained Hubby meets emotionally charged romantic brained Autumn and communication flies out the window as if on fire.  The lesson here is that even if you have both decided to give polyamory a shot there are some conditions you should be willing to accept and some requirements you need to meet as a couple to ensure not only a positive experience but one that does not end in a messy breakup and a custody battle over a shitzu. 

The most important asset to any relationship, no matter what shape it takes, is communication, especially when emotions may be running high or people might not really grasp such abstracts as love and sexuality.  Each partner needs to state clearly, with no metaphors or ambiguities, not only what desires and intentions exist for the relationship but also any concerns and roadblocks may there may be.  There has to be an understanding that nothing is barred from the discussion as long as it stays a discussion and not blossom into an argument.  Only then can everyone feel like all the issues at hand have been addressed.  Ground rules need to be set, again in no uncertain terms, before anyone else is added to the equation to ensure there are no hurtful surprises, assumptions, or offences.  Things like “who are we looking for?”, “what will we do with them and what is off-limits?”, and “when in our schedules and our life together are we going to fit this new person?” need to be discussed.  Basically there needs to be a plan for “how will we do this?” that leaves room for compromise, growth, and change.  Believe me, there will be change.  When Hubby and I started out we sought out same-sex partners only.  If there was any opposite sex contact it was generally assumed they were at least bi-sexual if not interested only in the same-sex portion of our marriage.  When Hubby fell in love with a straight woman things changed.  In the long run they changed for the better, but it was a bumpy transition full of growth and compromise.  I admit, it also included hesitantly putting my faith in the belief that things would work out for the better and not leave me lost and alone.

Another important piece of the puzzle is security.  Trust is one of the hardest things for a couple to admit they may not have.  We can all say we love our significant others, but do we trust them indiscriminately?  Do you check your boyfriend’s text messages?  Do you read  your wife’s instant message or email history?  Do you stalk you lover’s Facebook for incrimination wall posts?  How do you react when your partner fails to answer the phone when you call?  Dig deep on this one or it will kill you.  Before  anyone else can enter a relationship it needs to be secure with itself.  We need to trust not only our partners, but ourselves and our marriages to withstand any blows it may take as a result of change.  This includes self-esteem and self-worth issues and honestly knowing the limits of each partner’s will power.  It can be easy to fall prey to “I wonder if he just wants someone prettier, sexier, smarter?” or “am I just letting her get away with cheating on me?”.  This is a mind trap, and once you let it take over there is little anyone can do to save the relationship. 

Once you can be sure of security the last step is honesty.  What motives do you have for wanting this?  Are you sexually unsatisfied?  Are you avoiding commitment?  Do you think it will make your husband love you more if you bring another woman into your marriage?  Are you afraid your girlfriend will leave you if you do not agree to her having a girlfriend?  I promise you these are all extremely poor reasons to live a polyamorous lifestyle.  If you can say, however, that you still look at your wife with wonder and love, that your feelings and desires for her have not changed and will nto change with the addition of another partner, and that you would choose this marriage above any other you have reached a level of union that will withstand any test this lifestyle may pose.  

I was asked recently what my advice would be for a couple who are just beginning and who may not know if polyamory is for them.  I would never say not to test it out, but I would say to take small steps.  Do not immediately involve people with whom you already share strong emotions and expectations.  This poses a grave risk of hurting everybody involved and possibly destroying friendships.  Remember, other people have emotions too.  This goes beyond just you, and even beyond just you and your partner.  Hubby and I began at a club as swingers.  Start there.  One of a few things will probably happen.  One, you will both decide you are just not comfortable enough to go this route.  It may bring up some issues you and your partner need to address.  Two, you will find playing without any additional commitment completely satisfying.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Three, and this is where Hubby and I began to identify as polyamorous as opposed to just swingers, you will still feel a void.  I liken it to the moment one realizes that a string of one night stands can never replicate or replace the intensity of a passionate, loving relationship.  This is when there is generally a desire for more than momentary pleasure.  This is where you start inviting these people to share your life not just your fun.  This is when you know that polyamory is right for you, and as long as all the other strengths and failsafes exist you will most likely have a positive experience. 

These values are not by any means exclusive to polyamory, so my task to you today, dear readers, is to look at your relationships and see if they have what it takes to withstand challenge and hardship.  If not, try to identify why.  If so, are you sure?  Do not wait for s crisis to test your bonds.  Fortify them in advance and you can do anything with love.

Go now.  Love.

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