joreth: (polyamory)

Someone posted a question in a forum that I've seen a bunch of times before. It triggered in me some old feelings of resentment so I wrote a VERY long response. Between the time that I saw the question, started writing the answer, and finished the answer, the post and all its comments had been deleted. So I'm posting the comment here because, really, it's long enough for its own blog post anyway.

Here's the setup: Since I'm copying and pasting the whole comment, I'm going to leave the pronouns and labels and even specific situational details intact, but I want to make it clear now that you can remove the specific details such as who is living with whom or co-parenting with whom or whatever, and it's still a common occurrence whose general advice can be applied.

There's a guy, let's call him Joe. Joe is monogamous and met GF (his girlfriend) who is poly. Joe decided to give poly a try. Joe has lots of loving relationships already, so it's not such a big leap. In fact, Joe has a very close but non-sexual relationship with Joe's ex, BM (baby mama). So close that he's still living with her, although sleeping on the couch, because he has had some "setbacks" and BM is helping him through them, and co-parenting with her. But there's no sex!

So Joe meets GF, they start dating, and now a few months later GF is having problems. She gets upset when Joe posts pictures of himself with BM on social media and she's complaining that Joe and BM have an "intimate" relationship when they don't. They're just friends! But Joe doesn't want to burn any bridges with BM and needs GF to understand that BM is a part of his life.  

Plus, in later comments after people have probed his situation because they felt something was off about his portrayal of himself as a victim of a bait-and-switch and oppressive girlfriend, Joe revealed that he thinks that a girlfriend still has to "earn" his trust, and therefore really *isn't* on the same level as BM, with whom he has an established history with.  He sees "girlfriend" as not yet an equal "partner", so she shouldn't have any say in his other relationships anyway.

Joe thinks that GF sold him on this whole poly thing and now isn't acting very poly. So, what to do?
 


OK, there's a lot going on here. I'm going to talk about the times when I have been in similar situations to try to help make some sense of these things.

Normally, I'd be all right up there in the gf's face about not being possessive and giving you some freedom, but your description is ringing some bells for me. You asked for advice, and all the experienced people here are telling you things that you don't want to hear, so you're now behaving defensively. I, like everyone else here, am seeing red flags in your own behaviour. And if we can see this when *you* are the one telling the story, I imagine it must sound a whole lot worse from your gf's perspective.

First of all, feeling jealous, insecure, or disliking a partner's other relationship is not mutually exclusive to being polyamorous. The first thing you need to do is stop challenging her poly identity just because she's having a hard time with your relationship.

The struggle to be the Perfect Poly Person, especially when in a relationship with a newbie, is a very real struggle and only makes things worse. You're not helping. In addition to whatever else she's feeling, she also has to deal with feelings of guilt (and the shame that you're contributing to) for not being "perfect", and worse, of not being "perfect" according to a n00b's standards who is displaying, at least in this thread, that he doesn't even fully understand polyamory to begin with.

Which leads to the next point, which is that she is likely feeling a lot of conflicting, confusing, and complex emotions. This makes people act out in ways that seem contrary to who they are or to their ideals because the complexity is rarely understood, when, in fact, they aren't contrary at all - they are entirely consistent with someone who is dealing with a great deal of complexity.  Being unable to understand it means that you're not seeing all the contributing threads, not that they're being inconsistent.

I once introduced a newbie to polyamory (OK, more than once, but I'm using this single story as an illustration here). He really was poly and he continued to have poly relationships even after we broke up, so this is not a case of me trying to force him into something he didn't want, which is often the accusation.

Anyway, I introduced him to polyamory. He was in a particular life situation and relying on a lot of assistance from his ex-wife. He was living on her couch as a temporary situation, although the end of that situation was not yet in sight. He felt genuine fondness for her and wanted to remain friends in addition to needing her assistance. She was not poly.

As a fairly young poly myself, I didn't see any problem with this setup. They weren't having sex, and he was clear that they were not in a *romantic* relationship together, so there shouldn't be any problems, right? Wrong. She was totally cowboying the whole thing and he couldn't see it at first, but then was unable to do anything about it when he finally did see because he relied on her assistance and because he was unwilling to "burn bridges" with someone he considered a friend.

Coercion comes in very small, subtle flavors most of the time. The best, most effective forms of coercion make us willingly agree to them because we don't recognize them as coercion. And when people feel the effects of coercion happening, they often don't really understand where the real problem is because they don't recognize the coercion in the first place, and so they act out in ways that seem "irrational" to people standing on the outside, and even to the person acting out sometimes.

Their emotional self is flailing around, trying desperately to figure out how and where they lost control of their lives, and how they can get it back. For instance, I once knew someone who was as poly as they could be. She also had spent a lot of time being a secondary who was constantly restricted by her metamour (who was the mutual partner's primary), so she was very sensitive to the sorts of rules that restricted other people and about infringing on privacy and autonomy.

A few years later, she got into a relationship with another person and it turned out that she was being emotionally abused by this other partner. But, as is the nature of abuse, nobody saw it, including her, until much later. So her mind was being messed with and reality started to crumble and she really didn't understand which direction was up anymore. So her emotional brain, in a desperate attempt to make sense of things, started acting out. She felt like she was losing control, so she started trying to take back control in whatever ways she could.

Of course, none of this was this easily understood at the time. I can summarize things succinctly now, after the fact, but if you had asked me back then what was happening, I wouldn't have been able to put it in these words so that other people would understand. That's important to remember - just because I can explain it now, it doesn't mean that anyone could explain it back then, so responding with "but I'm not abusing my partner!" isn't looking at this the right way. I'm not accusing anyone of abusing their partners (other than this guy in my story), I'm saying that situations can be really complex and the mind can't always make sense of things while they're in those situations so people often act weird when they're trying to figure shit out.

Anyway, so this experienced poly woman who was opposed to couples privilege starting doing things like insisting on going along on his other dates and then starting arguments with him during the dates, and insisting that anyone having sex while she was in the house had to leave the door open so that she could feel "included". These all seemed very couple-privilege-y and infringing-y to everyone else in the polycule and she seemed contrary and not-really-poly.

Everyone saw her acting out and thought that *she* was the problem, even their therapist. But the reality was that her acting out was a *symptom* of a much deeper problem that was really caused by his behaviour.

With my own story above about the guy I was dating who was living on his ex-wife's couch, I started feeling and behaving just like any "jealous" girlfriend who wasn't comfortable with polyamory. I wanted him to "prioritize" me, I wanted him to restrict his activities with her, I wanted "proof" that I was important to him, stuff like that.  And this wasn't the only relationship where I did that, which I'll get to in a minute.

The reason I started wanting these things is because she really was trying to undermine our relationship. It turned out that she actually wanted to get back with him. Well, that's not entirely true, because she only wanted him back once he started dating someone other than her. She didn't really want him back, she was just comfortable in her mono position as his "primary" and didn't want to give that up.

But, because I kept pushing, her tactics couldn't stay very subtle. Other poly people would keep thinking that the problem was with them not being "poly enough", and would keep turning inward to solve the problem. Not me. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew *something* wasn't right and it wasn't me. So I pushed and pushed until it finally became obvious to him that the ex-wife was using her power over him to control his relationship with me - that power that he willingly gave her because she was helping him out financially, giving him a place to sleep for free, and he wanted to stay friends with her.

To be honest, I think the only reason why I was able to push hard enough for him to stay with me long enough that she finally had to step over the line is because he had another girlfriend who saw the same things that I did. I introduced him to a friend of mine, they hit it off and started dating. There were absolutely no dominance displays, no conflict of any sort between me and her. So it was pretty clear that I *was* really capable of walking the walk, not just talking the talk. So when both of us complained about the same things regarding his ex-wife, and both of us were totally fine with him dating each other, he had no choice but to consider that it wasn't the polyamory that was the problem, it was the person.

Before anyone gets bogged down in the details ("yeah, but we have kids so it's different!", "yeah, but she doesn't do this specific thing that you didn't like!"), the point is not the specifics of this one relationship. I'm using this as an *illustration*, because I've seen this same thing play over and over again with a lot of different specifics. It's the patterns that are important.

I had another partner who started dating me first. Then started dating someone else who was new to poly. She set off all kinds of red flags in my head, but she *said* all the "right" things so he kept dating her.   I started asking for things like to be prioritized and to restrict his activities and "proof" that I was important, again.  He and I both held me up to some Perfect Poly Person standard and when I failed to live up to this unspoken expectation, he started blaming me for the fact that she and I weren't getting along and blamed all my issues with her on me being "jealous" and not being "poly".

But a similar thing happened with him - he started dating a third person and she and I had absolutely no problems whatsoever. Before she and I ever met, she came to the same conclusions I had about the 2nd girl - that the 2nd girl was trying to cuckoo him (which is a term we coined *because* of her - it's different from being a cowboy, which is someone who dates a poly person and tries to make them monogamous, i.e. "rope the poly filly out of the poly herd". A cuckoo is someone who insists that they are poly but who sabotages all the other relationships so that they just fail and they end up mono by default. In the end, the outcome is the same and it's not really that important to tell if someone is a cuckoo vs. a cowboy, but the tactics are different.)

So, the 3rd girl and I kept pushing because *something* was wrong, but the 2nd girl said all the right words so she looked good on paper. So the 3rd girl (who had also had experience with poly) and I were accused of being "jealous" and not really poly. He insisted on his "right" to date whoever he wanted, so we agreed that he had a "right" but that he was choosing poorly and we both left him. 12 years later, he is still with that 2nd girl *and no one else*. She has managed to sabotage literally every single other chance he's had at finding other partners and to make him think that it's all "his choice".

On top of all that, when he started dating the 2nd girl, he insisted that it was "casual" and that they were "just friends who like to hang out" and that he could "dump her at any time if she poses a problem". Yeah, no. You don't take "casual" "just friends" on week-long couples cruises or to romantic candlelight dinners for Valentine's Day (totally blowing off the date you had already made with your preexisting partner).  One of the criticisms I gave him was that if he wanted to keep her as a casual partner, he needed to *treat* her like a casual partner (and by extension, treat *me* like his "girlfriend" but not her).

If you treat someone like a romantic partner, "romantic" are the expectations that people start to build up, whether there is sex there or not.  If you're RA and don't like to rank your partners, or don't think that platonic partners are "less than" romantic partners, this still applies.  If you treat someone in a particular way, they start to develop expectations.  If you apply a label to someone, they start to develop expectations consistent with their definition of that label.  If you label them one way and treat them another, they will start to experience cognitive dissonance and begin to have negative emotions and probably start to act out.  So if you want someone to be a particular label, then you need to treat them consistently according to that label.  It's not a guarantee that they won't develop feelings outside of that label, but it will help to manage the *expectations* of the sort of relationship that they are in so that they can better work on their own boundaries within that relationship.

So this guy who was so adamant that he was poly that he was willing to throw away two other relationships to women he felt weren't "poly enough", has been effectively monogamous for more than a decade. Meanwhile, the 3rd girl and I are best friends to this day and have had other mutual partners since.  And, of course, I have maintained poly relationships consistently in the same interim.

I had to say the same thing to the other guy - that he kept treating his ex-wife like a partner while insisting that she wasn't one just because they weren't having sex. But she got possessive just like a mono partner and his behaviour with her didn't match his words to me so I kept feeling like he was lying even though he really wasn't having sex with her.

Back to the original point. Your gf is sensing something that you're unable or unwilling to see but that almost everyone else here in this thread can sense too. It's so subtle that everyone is having a hard time revealing it to you, including me. This comment is so long and wordy because I have to resort to analogies and illustrations to impart a connection since I don't have all the right words to make it obvious. Your gf is not necessarily being contrary, she's feeling something that she can't identify and she's acting out on that feeling.

You're not helping by digging in your heels and you're not helping by challenging her poly identity. All that does is make the cognitive dissonance greater, which makes the feelings stronger and harder to identify the source of, which makes the acting out worse.

You have a power imbalance in your relationship with your bm. The fact that you're not sleeping together is totally irrelevant - as others have pointed out, you do have an intimate relationship with her. She is a major part of your life, so treat it like a relationship and don't dismiss it just because you're not having sex.

But because you co-parent and because she is helping you financially and is your source of habitation, she is in a position of power over you. By continuing to dismiss things as "thinks there is more to it than I'm leading on. I assure her that its nothing intimate going on", you are setting up impractical expectations, which is causing your gf to experience this cognitive dissonance. She is right - there IS something intimate going on, it's just not sex. But people get all hung up on this whole sex thing as if that's the only intimate thing that could happen.

Often, sex is a smokescreen. When people are afraid of something emotionally, they often fall back on "sex". Some people use sexual restrictions to mask emotional fears like insisting on their partners not doing certain things with other partners and using "safe sex" & std concerns as the excuse when they're really just afraid of losing a partner to someone "better". Other people, like me with my exes and probably your gf, might feel that someone's description of their relationships isn't matching the reality of those relationships and latch onto whether or not someone is having sex as a relationship marker, either by accusing them of lying about having sex or by making whether or not someone is having sex the defining line about whether a relationship is a "real relationship" or "intimate" or not.

This power imbalance that you have in your relationship with your bm is being felt by your gf and she's chafing at the reality of dating someone who is in a relationship with someone who has power over him and his life but who insists that he's not. It doesn't even matter if the bm isn't taking advantage of that. When reality doesn't line up with the words, but especially when it's really hard to point out why, people have emotional reactions.

Your gf has expectations for what "girlfriend" and "not-girlfriend" mean. Right or wrong, she has expectations around those words. You are not matching those expectations. Your relationship with your bm more closely resembles what she thinks of as "wife" or "gf", and you are treating your gf more like her definition of "just dating" or "casual partner" or "satellite partner". She is feeling this mismatched set of expectations and trying to explain it to you, but all you're doing is dismissing her feelings of neglect and cognitive dissonance and adding to the baggage by telling her that she's not being a Perfect Poly Person, leaving her to deal with all of this shit on her own.

Personally, I have a hard time with partners who don't accept my non-sexual relationships as equal in importance to my sexual ones. I do not rank my relationships by whether or not I'm having sex. So I'm not at all saying that you need to kick your bm to the curb and cater to the gf. But I am saying that you're dismissing the gf's feelings too easily and that the reason she's having this feelings is because of the things that you're doing and saying to her.

Own up to the fact that you're in a relationship with your bm, and that it's even hierarchical because of the power imbalance involved. As most of us here ought to understand, "power" comes in a lot of subtle ways and is often systemic even when the individuals who participate in the system don't think that they, personally, are wielding such power. The very nature of finances and economics means that there is a power imbalance embedded in this relationship, regardless of what the two of you, personally, do with that power. And that needs to be acknowledged. Right now, your gf is feeling that power structure but having her perception dismissed.   That's gaslighting.  

A lot of us get really pissed off when people with privilege and power refuse to acknowledge their position, even if that person is basically a good person who doesn't *want* to abuse anyone with their power.  Plenty of people with power and privilege think of themselves as "good people" and try very hard not to oppress or abuse or otherwise harm others.  But living in systems with power dynamics inherently built in means that we are participating in these systems whether we, personally, individually, do oppressive things.  I am privileged in many ways even when I am underprivileged or disprivileged in other ways, and even when I actively do things to dismantle systems that I benefit from.  That's important to acknowledge that the power structure exists, even if I attempt to compensate for it.

Also own up to the fact that your gf isn't really your gf, she's a temporary intern who has to "prove" herself "worthy" of being given priority in your life, and only after her probationary period will she be judged good enough for a permanent position with the company. Maybe then enough of her cognitive dissonance will evaporate for her to really find the root of her own feelings and she can decide if that's the life she wants to live or not.

joreth: (polyamory)

Commitments Parchment

* I am committed to discussing harm reduction plans and contingency plans for when bad things happen, because I understand that we can’t always prevent them from happening.

One style of relationships, not just in poly but in all romantic relationships, involves legislating away bad things. Fear of losing a relationship that is important is a completely natural and reasonable fear to have. It's what we do about that fear that makes the difference. For some people, the way they deal with that fear is to make rules saying that things that could lead to losing a relationship simply won't happen. I've seen lots of poly relationships with rules that say "you cannot get anyone pregnant but your wife" or "I promise not to get pregnant by anyone other than my husband." As if we can stop that from happening in relationships that include PIV sex. Oh, sure, we can significantly reduce the likelihood of that happening, absolutely. But condoms break, vasectomies fail, and sometimes someone forgets to take a pill.

A more successful strategy than trying to rule away something like that is to take all reasonable precautions (with "reasonable" being defined by everyone involved, not just the "primary couple") and to also discuss contingency plans and harm reduction. A more successful strategy is to realize that sometimes shit just happens and sometimes Game Changers come along and change the game. Therefore, we can't afford to pretend like we have control over our future. We have some, but not ultimate control. We need to accept that the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. If we go into our relationships with that as our premise, we are better equipped to deal with change when it happens. When it happens. Change is often unexpected, and we can't expect the unexpected, pretty much by definition. But we can expect that the unexpected will probably happen at some point even if we can't predict what form it will take.

So rather than freaking out about it, or feeling betrayed even though change was inevitable, I can accept that change was bound to come along and fuck things up sooner or later and just plan to change the plans. This is how my J-ness (INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs scale) handles P people - how a schedule-oriented person can deal with spontaneous people. I put on my schedule that this is Anything Can Happen Time. Now it's on the schedule, it's part of the plan.

I am committing myself to attempting to address contingency plans beforehand for those scenarios we can think up (like an accidental pregnancy) and immediately afterwards both for those scenarios we couldn't think up until they happened as well as those scenarios we did think up but now someone wants to change the predetermined plan, because Game Changers happen. This is especially important no matter which direction the change comes from. I might want something different than I did at the beginning of a relationship, or my partner might want something different. Either way, I need to be willing to consider alternate options. I want to be more committed to considering alternatives and backup plans than I am to any given plan, so that I can weather change with more grace and dignity than I have in the past.

(Read the full list of commitments at www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html)
joreth: (polyamory)
From a tumblr post I made a couple years ago:

aithne
Polyamory for Writers
* Solo polyamory (someone who does not want a primary-style relationship, but rather prefers multiple casual/less committed relationships)

jorethinnkeeper
::HeadDesk::

People have good intentions, but sometimes when people get things wrong, they REALLY get it wrong. I appreciate all efforts to educate the mainstream public on what polyamory is and is not so that the subject can be treated compassionately and with consideration. But sometimes even people within my own subgroups take a misstep.

Solo polys are not people who don’t want a primary-style relationship or who prefer casual / less committed relationships. Solo polys are people who prefer to maintain their independence while in relationships.  This can take many forms. Just like polyamory itself, there are a lot of ways to do it, so we can only ever use the broadest form of the definition if we want to actually include everyone who does it. Polyamory means “multiple loves” and is generally accepted to be limited to “romantic” love.

But attempting to narrow it to sexual love, or to only people who ONLY have relationships that are full-on big-L Love relationships, is to leave out a large percentage of people, such as asexuals who have perfectly happy and healthy relationships but with little or no sex, and people who are indeed poly and have or desire multiple loving relationships but who also have or desire romantic and/or sexual relationships that do not include big-L Love or whose relationships up until now have not lasted long enough to reach the big-L Love stage yet.

Solo polys are a similar varied bunch. Some of us actually do have relationships that resemble “primary” relationships, depending on how you define “primary”. Some of us do have or desire live-in, life-entangled relationships. But they also date as individuals and make relationship decisions as individuals.  Others do not have such relationships but aren’t opposed to them, they just don’t happen to have them right now. Others are opposed to them during certain times of their life and deliberately choose not to have them at this moment. Others are opposed to them as a blanket philosophy.

Solo polys are not opposed to commitment. That’s probably the part that makes this misunderstanding move out of the realm of simple gaff and into offensive territory. This is making the same mistake that monos make about polys - namely that there are only certain things that a person can commit to or else it doesn’t “count”. For monos, that’s sexual fidelity - some believe that if you aren’t committed to sexual fidelity, then you’re just plain old not “committed” to your relationship at all. As polys, we know this for the fallacy that it is.

But then many polys make the same fallacy, just a step or two to the side. They understand that sexual fidelity isn’t the only thing that people can commit to, but some seem to think that, I dunno, buying a house together (because it requires a 30-year mortgage) or raising children together are the only things people can commit to.

I am every bit committed to my partners as any non-solo poly or mono person. I’ve been with my partner, Franklin, for [over] a decade now. We’ve seen each other through happy times and sad. We’ve weathered other partners trying to come between us and trying to control our relationship, we’ve dealt with changing life circumstances, and we’ve re-built our relationship to handle trials and tribulations like distance and mismatched life goals. Just like any other committed relationship.

The difference is that I don’t live with him, and we have no particular compulsion to change that. Sure, we’d like to live closer to each other than we currently do, but our relationship does not feel a pull to buy a house together, have children, mingle finances, and “settle down”. That does not mean that I am any less committed to the health and happiness of our relationship than anyone else.

Another difference is that we each value consent and agency above all else in our relationship. So we each demand the freedom to live our life as would best suit ourselves. We are committed to flexing and adapting and accepting each other when we each make our respective life decisions, including who and when to take another partner, and how those other relationships will look.

Other kinds of relationships do not have this kind of freedom, or they prioritize the relationship above the individuals in it. Our commitment is to the happiness of each of us as individuals, and if the relationship does not make one or both of us happy, our commitment to the other’s happiness gives us the opportunity to change the relationship until it does make us happy, up to and including a breakup. I’ve seen other relationships that try to hold onto the relationship at all costs, including the cost of the participants’ happiness. This is the “staying together for the kids” method, as an example.

There is no lack of commitment in my solo poly relationships. We even commit to many of the same things that other relationships commit to. It’s kind of like that atheist proverb “I contend that we are both atheists, I just lack belief in one more god than you do”. I am committed to many of the same things that other people commit to, I just don’t commit to one or more specific things that certain other people commit to, such as sexual fidelity. Solo polys can even choose to have children if they want, although I don’t.

The key to solo polyamory is the priority on independence, individuality, and autonomy. This doesn’t mean that other relationships don’t place a priority on those things. But it does mean that those things are the *defining* feature of solo poly. Not lack of commitment, not “casual” relationships, not even living alone.

We are defined by our priority on independence, individuality, and autonomy. That’s it. Everything else is variable, just like polyamory itself is about multiple loves but the details vary.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Your relationship cannot "grow" if you try to keep everything the same. Even if you try to keep it "the same except this one thing". For growth to happen, you need Change.

Change is scary. Change is unpredictable. Change is inevitable. You can't determine how things will change, but you can be sure that change will happen. The best defense against negative consequences of Change is to embrace Change with flexibility and adaptability, not fight it with rigidity. Change laughs in the face of rules designed to prevent change.

As the old proverb says, a supple willow tree that bends with the winds of change will last, but a rigid, brittle tree will fall before the wind.

"The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than mighty oak which breaks in the storm." ~Confucius

"The wind does not break a tree that bends." ~Sukuma proverb

"The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind." ~Mandarin Chinese proverb

I hate Change. I like my schedules and my plans. So I just learned how to accommodate for Change into my schedules and plans. Because Change doesn't care if I like it or not, and will do more damage the less I like it.

I had a partner once who was very spontaneous and could not be pinned down for plans. Even if he agreed to a plan, he would change it at the last minute. This made me furious, until I learned how to let go of my attachment for what I thought of as "the plan" and I started scheduling my time with him as "anything can happen time". Now it's part of the plan! It's in the schedule!

This sort of strategy needs of be applied to the bigger picture of relationships in general, not just individual dates. Many people have hopes for where they want their relationships to go. Some of us even turn those hopes into plans. And we get attached to those plans.

We need to let go of that attachment and embrace the opportunity and the challenge of Change. We need to take the challenge being offered to us to be flexible and to adapt to new circumstances and to come up with new "plans" on the fly. How quickly and gracefully can we meet this challenge? How can we steer ourselves to turn it into a new opportunity for growth, for experience, for lessons learned, for new skills?

Resistance to change is futile. You will experience Change. The more you try to resist it, the harder it it'll hit you. Your best defense for Change (and even little-c change) is to meet it head on and work with it.

Like my daddy taught me when learning to steer a boat in rough waters or drive car that is threatening to get away from me or my riding instructor when I first learned how to ride a horse - don't fight it. Lean into it. Feel what it's trying to do and work with it until it starts to trust you and gives up control. You collaborate with the turbulance and ride it out.

And then, if you're lucky, you walk away with a triumphant story. If you're a little less lucky, you learn how to rebuild the damage or how to start over. If the Change is just too big for you or you fight it too hard, you won't be lucky enough even for that opportunity. But maybe others can learn from your mistakes and we don't all have to go down the same way you did.

Your rules, your plans, your expectations don't mean shit to Change. It will come for you when it feels like it and in the form it wants. If you don't invite it in for tea, it will break down your door and make itself a 6 course meal.



To address some confusion:

I'm not saying that unpredictability is good or more evolved, I'm saying that it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, it will happen so we need to develop strategies to deal with it.

There were obviously problems in the relationship I used as an example, which is why he's a former partner. But I couldn't control HIS behaviour, and he was going to make changes. I could only control my reaction to the change. Continuing to fight him for control over how the relationship went would be an exercise in futility. I could bend with him, or I could leave, but leaving would be another change. There was no way I could make things stay the same or be the way *I* wanted them to be.

The point is that I can't escape change. None of us can. It's not fair, it's not right, but the universe doesn't give a fuck about "fair" or "right". It does what it does, and change happens.

I could change the example to include a person who has a chronic illness, rather than a spontaneous personality. Someone with a chronic illness can't always keep plans due to health reasons. I wouldn't call them selfish or infringing on my autonomy. That's what being in a relationship with a person like that means.

If we can't adjust to the changes that come with a person who needs to make changes - like someone who has to cancel plans last minute because of health issues or who won't commit to plans until the last minute because of health issues - that relationship will break.

Because the "how" and "why" are irrelevant to the fact that change is inevitable. I used the example merely to explain that a day-to-day skill that I had acquired needed to be extrapolated to the bigger picture, where "how" and "why" don't matter.

"How" and "why" doesn't matter to the number 10 bus that loses is brakes and careens into a loved one. That's a change to your life. Cancer doesn't give a shit about what we think of "how" and "why", it changes your life. A sudden influx of cash, a new baby, a random chance encounter with a person who turns your world upside down - "how" and "why" are irrelevant.

Change happens. We have to learn how to deal with and accept change, not make a bunch of rules trying to keep change from happening.
joreth: (polyamory)
Hey! You are not "entering an existing relationship" or finding someone to "enter / join your existing relationship". You are creating a WHOLE NEW SUITE OF RELATIONSHIPS!

Please just fucking stop saying that phrase.

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

While we're at it:

You cannot protect your existing relationship from upheaval.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from changing.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from ending.

You cannot convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced that polyamory will be good for them.

You cannot guarantee that you will all make it out of this intact.

You cannot "go back" if it doesn't work out.

When you change the fundamental nature of your relationship, in any way - be it polyamory, having a baby, separation, moving in, closing it up, whatever - you CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP. It is no longer your existing relationship, it is a brand new one.  But that's never more true than when that change includes the number of people with an active participation in your relationship, such as having kids or getting new partners.

As a matter of fact, when you start adding people, you don't get a brand new relationship, you get 4 new relationships when there are 3 of you, and 11 new relationships when there are 4 of you, and the number goes up geometrically (if I recall correctly the math increase term) from there.

Maybe everything will all work out for the better. Maybe your relationship will change for the better. But it is no longer the same relationship.

If you have a baby, then your relationship *used* to be "child-free couple", but now it's "family". You are no longer a child-free couple and you never will be that same couple again. You might some day be "couple who lost a child", or "couple with grown children who no longer live at home". But you will never again be the same "never had kids together couple" that you were before the baby.

And you did not "add" that baby to your couple. You created a whole new family with a whole new person.

When you "add a third" or "open up", you are, just by virtue of even having the discussion, changing your relationship. You have changed it, and you can never go back to the time before you brought it up.  You can go back to being a couple again, but now you're "a couple who discussed / tried opening up". You will never be that pre-open couple ever again.

You cannot protect your relationship.

You cannot preserve your relationship.

All you can do is hope and work with intention so that your relationship continues to grow in ways that nourish everyone in the relationship. EVERYONE, not just the two of you.

But it might not. It might not grow and nourish everyone, or anyone. That is a possibility, no matter what you do, but it's pretty probable if you keep keep trying to "protect" things.

It's not the same relationship anymore. You are not "adding someone to an existing relationship". Just strike that phrase from your vocabulary and never utter it again.

In fact, don't just strike it, replace it with the repeated phrase above. Constantly remind yourself that you ARE NOT and CAN NOT do that.

If your relationship has any chance of continuing to grow in ways that nourish everyone in it, I promise you that it is through this reminder.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Oh Mayim. ::shakeshead:: I was already annoyed with you for your anti-vax position. As a scientist, you should know better, but also as a scientist, you think that just because you're smart, that your conclusions must also be correct. Scientists are NOTORIOUS for being the most fucking wrong they can wrong when they step outside their narrow area of expertise. You just keep proving the rule.

So now you have to shoot your mouth off about non-monogamy. Please sit down and shut up. You're making educated white women look bad. Not that they need any help in that area, but you're just making it worse.

Your biology is outdated, your sex and gender essentialism is outdated, your anthropology is outdated, your psychology is outdated, and your sex education is way outdated.

AND you make the same mistake as so many others before you of believing that, assuming that even if all your so-called "facts" were completely true, that humans stopped evolving millions of years ago around the point at which we split from apes and that our brains aren't incredibly plastic and highly susceptible to non-genetic influences like culture and higher-order thinking.

You're just so wrong on so many points that it would take me forever to correct you on each one. You're not just wrong, you're fractally wrong. Every single thing you said was wrong.

Except the part where you said that you don't get open relationships. That was 100% accurate - you don't get them.

I'll give you this: it's a good thing that you know your limitations. It's excellent that you have discovered that you lack the attention span and the emotional capacity to care for more than one human and one relationship at a time.

I just wish you had discovered that before you had children.



I'm not linking to the original post because I don't want to give her traffic. But if you really need to see it, do a YouTube search for Mayim Bialik and open relationships. She rants and raves about how she "gets" certain "excuses" for open relationships but then goes off the rails on all the things she doesn't "get" that are strawman arguments, using outdated or incorrect "science facts" to back up what amounts to her personal opinion that *she* is not capable of doing these strawman things. And she completely ignores gender diversity, boiling everyone down to biological "men vs. women" sexual dimorphism.

So. Much. Wrong.
joreth: (feminism)
There's this pernicious trope in the poly community.  It says "it's OK to restrict someone else's behaviour as long as they all agree to it" and "if one person doesn't want his partner to have sex with other men, and she agrees to it, then it's OK", etc.  For some reason, people seem to think that it's totally acceptable to tromp all over someone's agency, as long as the other person doesn't stop you from doing it.  But I have a BIG problem with this.

If everyone wants to "restrict" themselves, then there's no need for someone else to "restrict" them. If one person has to "restrict" another, that's where coercion comes from. The language is important. It leads to *excusing* abuse.

There's nothing wrong with 3 people who decide together that they all want a closed triad. There *is* something wrong with one person dictating on behalf of all 3 of them that they will be in a closed triad (or 2 people dictating to the third that they will be in a closed triad).  It would be just as wrong for one person to decide that the others *must* date or have sex with people outside the group whether they wanted to or not (or for one or two people to decide that another *must* have sex with that person if the other wants to have sex with this person whether the other is interested in both or not, i.e. the "package deal").

Our language affects how we think and feel and behave. The relationship configuration isn't the problem, the language is.

In studies of other languages and other cultures, they discovered that people's perceptions are actually different and that they are not able to do the same things that other people do simply because of the words that they use and the way they use them.

For example, in English, when we speak about time, we use language that measures physical distances, i.e. "short break", "long wedding". Time is perceived as a distance traveled.  But Greek & Spanish speakers use words referring to quantity - "small break", "big wedding". In Spanish, time is perceived as a unit of volume.

In studies, they found that learning a new language that uses different concepts for things like "time", people actually become aware of perceptual dimensions that people who only speak one of the languages can't perceive. Language and our use of it effects our emotions, our visual perception, and our perception of time, among other things.

In a study years ago, they looked at the language of primitive tribal cultures untouched by industrial societies who didn't have words for things that they had no context for, such as global distances. Because of this, they actually couldn't *see* things that they had no language for.  It's not as simple as holding up a smart phone in front of a tribes person and that phone being "invisible", but their brains literally couldn't see things the way that other people could.

One of the things they had trouble with was perceiving distance, because their concept of "distance" is very different from someone who has seen pictures of the earth from space, for example, and who regularly talks about distance in terms of thousands of miles or kilometers, compared to someone to talks about distance in terms of steps taken or the time to get there on foot.

So, back to the point. Language shapes how we think and what we believe. People who are prone to using language that disrespects the agency of others are *more likely* to have beliefs that disrespect the agency of others, and are therefore more likely to *do* things that disrespect the agency of others.  And they are also therefore more likely to be unable to *see* how they are disrespecting the agency of others.

We see this when people use words like "permission" vs. "checking in".  Some people casually throw out that they need to "ask the spouse permission" to do something, rather than phrasing it like "let me check in with the spouse to see how they feel about that."  That's SUCH a huge implicit difference in how the person being granted "permission" is viewed by the person granting it!

The big difference, I discovered a while back, is that there are basically 2 types of people in these discussions - one who focuses on the outcome and one who focuses on the method of achieving the outcome:

To people who focus on the outcome, it's an "end justifies the means" kind of mentality, where the outcome is the same so it doesn't matter how they got there because the result looks superficially identical.

To people who focus on the method, these aren't even in the same universe. When the method differs, the outcome is irrelevant because that superficial resemblance isn't the POINT. The tools and methods we use to get there is the whole purpose.

And I'm coming to learn that the people in the first group can. not. see. the. difference. 

This is why the language is so important. Their use of language wires their brain so that they are *unable* to see the difference. They literally can't see it, like the apocryphal tale of the South American tribespeople who couldn't see the ships that the Spaniards sailed in when they landed on American soil (of course that's not how it happened, but the tale has lasted as a fable with a moral anyway).

Their use of language is actually limiting their brains' ability to perceive things that other people can see.


The idea that anyone could actually "restrict" anyone else is an illusion. People only follow the "rules" that they want to follow. If 3 people made an agreement to be a closed triad, that agreement is only followed for as long as all 3 people *choose* to follow it. As soon as any one of them doesn't want to follow it anymore, it's over. The "restriction" is an illusion.

I once knew of a guy in a D/s relationship who insisted that his slave was his literal slave in every sense of the word - that it was "real" and that he "owned" her in exactly the same way that he owned his TV. And he kept insisting this right up until the day she served him with divorce papers. His "restrictions" over her only lasted for as long as she allowed them to last. It's all an illusion and he did not actually "restrict" her, she chose to self-limit her own behaviour. It was all her choice and it always was.

If people in a triad use language like "it's OK to restrict someone else", then they are more likely to believe that it's OK to restrict someone else, and that, by definition, is coercion. If the other person willingly "agrees" and *chooses* to self-restrict, then no one in that group is, or even can, restrict her. She is making her own choice. As soon as she decides not to self-restrict anymore, it's over.

Unless the others in the group *actually* have power over her to make her perform actions against her will. In which case, this is abuse and this is exactly the problem people are warning about with the use of language.

Someone will inevitably bring up D/s relationships in these discussions.  I prefer to keep D/s discussions separate - kinda like it's a 201 course and we're still talking about Abuse 101.  You can't get to the nuances of D/s in 201 until you master the concepts in Abuse 101.  But I'll mention why it's different here anyway, but if you don't grasp the underlying concepts, then the subject of D/s and why it's different will only confuse you.

We use the trappings of this kind of language in the context of D/s relationships because some people really want to feel that these things are true for themselves.  If two (or more) people have a D/s agreement, where they will use language like "I forbid you to do X" and the other person obeys, that's an exception to the rule.  But not really.  It's an exception to the rule that you should never use the phrases that imply ownership or that disrespect agency, but that's only because the very act of a D/s agreement is an act of empowerment and agency.

What I mean is that the submissive in a relationship *always* retains ultimate control over what happens to them.  They are choosing to enter into a role-playing agreement where they engage in a fantasy structure of their choice.  The power dynamic is an illusion.  It's called power *exchange* for a reason.  As soon as the submissive loses the power to revoke consent, that's when it becomes abuse.

But the fantasy requires the ability to use this sort of language.  In order to make the brain feel like it's real, we have to make the exception and allow language that is otherwise unacceptable.  The trick, then, is to balance the use of language with the internal respect for agency.  This is indeed a very tricky balancing act and not many people can do it.  So it's usually better to leave out BDSM exceptions when talking about the dangers of language and coercsion.

So, excepting D/s agreements (assuming that D/s agreement truly does value and respect the agency of the people entering into the agreement because that respect and value for agency is what makes it an illusion and therefore not doing what I'm complaining about here), no, it is never, ever, acceptable to "restrict" someone else's behaviour. That is literally the definition of coercion and abuse. If one person has a preference for a certain type of behaviour and another person *chooses* to acquiesce to that preference, that is not someone "restricting" someone else - that is one person choosing to self-restrict. The moment it is not acceptable to say no, that's the moment that consent is violated and that's when it becomes abuse.

The language that implies imposing one will over another is the language that leads to the belief that it is OK to impose one will over another. That belief is what *enables* us to abuse others. Without that belief, one is simply not capable of abusing someone else. Of being a dick in other ways, sure but not of *abuse*. You NEED that belief in order to abuse someone.

And that belief is formed by accepting language that excuses it.

So when we're talking about people who "agree" to various things, it's so important that I can't even stress how important it is, to use the kind of self-empowering language that discourages abusive beliefs and that discourages the community's ability to overlook abuse.  When we promote "but they agreed to it, so it's OK", we open the door to "why did she stay if he was abusing her?  She must have agreed to it."  This is how abuse gets excused.  This is how victims get blamed.  This is how an entire society builds itself on a structure that empowers abusers and disempowers victims.  

The whole reason why victims "stay" with their abusers is because the society around them will. not. let. them. leave.  And part of that is because we give them shit for "staying" even though we have removed any support to help them get out.  When coercion is part of the picture, they aren't "agreeing" to it, they are simply not allowed to not-agree.  And then we blame them for their own abuse because they didn't not-agree.  So we need to change our language so that we center the individual people and their choices over the other people imposing their will.  

She is not "agreeing" to be abused, she was abused and couldn't not-agree.  He didn't "agree" to be restricted by someone else, he chose his own limitations.  These aren't "agreements" between two people, these are things that each person is personally empowered or disempowered to do.  Those words are important.

Just like asking people of privilege to change their language use if they don't really intend to imply whatever racist or sexist or -ist thing that goes along with the words, it is important for our entire community to be cognizant of our own language use and to change it to accommodate belief structures that encourage freedom, choice, and empowerment.

If a white person were to defend his use of the n-word because "it just means a stubborn person" (someone actually told me that not too long ago), I would have to question his motives and why it's so important for him to use that word. Why *that* word, when there are so many other words for stubborn people? Why is it *so* important to keep a hold of *that* one word when people are telling him that it's harmful?

When we say that the language of choice vs. restriction is harmful to the community, I have to question the motives of those who insist "it's just a word" as a defense to keep using it. If it's just "a word", then it should be no problem to give it up.  Because we *know* that words have power. Otherwise it wouldn't be any big deal to switch using that word to another. We know that words are important. So we have to look at why there are even debates at all around people using disempowering language.

So please listen to people who might know a little something about abuse and coercion and disempowerment when we say that this language is problematic, and if you really want to refer to someone who is choosing to self-limit themselves, then say so instead of couching it in terms that imply disempowerment and abuse.

If you don't mean to support abusive and coercive structures, then don't implicitly support them with the language you choose.
joreth: (polyamory)
I've seen this question in several contexts over the years.  The question is to ask if polyamory is "all about sex" or can / do poly people want to eventually "settle down" with someone special?  I've addressed it in a lot of different ways, but all my answers come down to roughly the same thing.

This is a false dichotomy. There are more than two options besides "trying to have casual, emotionless sex with everyone" and "settling down".

I have a life that is rich and nuanced and dynamic and contextual. The number of partners and what our relationships look like is subjective. To a conservative monogamist, a woman who has had only 2 partners ever in her entire life and they have been living together as a family for 40 years with nothing but TV stereotype vanilla, soccer-mom, suburbanite sex is "wild" and "promiscuous".

Focusing on the numbers and ranking emotional connections only encourages the slut-shaming that harms our community as a whole. It's a holdover from the monogamous community, and it's looking at polyamory from the wrong lens.  The problem is the phrase "settle down"and similar phrases like it. Remove that sentence and try to describe the situation without using that phrase at all.

There are several different questions happening when people ask about two binary options like this:

1) Is polyamory all about sex, or is there an emotional connection to it (with the implication that lack of emotional connection in sex is negative).

2) What *structures* "count" as "poly"?

3) Do some people use manipulative tactics to get relationship styles that they want that their partners may not also want?

This is what another commenter meant by "unpack" and "deconstruct" the term "settle down". What are you *really* asking?

Each of these three questions are *separate* questions. The phrase "settle down" carries a lot of baggage with it from a monogamous mindset that ranks relationship structures with some being "better" than others, implicitly judging the people who choose the "lesser" relationship forms, and pretty much completely misses the point of non-monogamy.

The easiest question to answer is #3 - yes, some people use manipulative tactics to get relationship styles that they want. This is true no matter what the relationship style is. People falsely promise monogamy to get casual sex too.

What polyamorists do here is to challenge the monogamous paradigm and all the implicit assumptions that go along with it. Which means that you can't look at what we do through a monogamous lens because then nothing makes any sense. You have to look at it through other lenses.

A person can have lots of casual sex partners with low emotional connection and still lead a life of traditional domesticity. A person can have a life that appears to be "free" and "untethered" and yet still have deep emotional connections to other people.  What a person's daily life looks like, how many sexual partners they have, and what kind of sex they have are all independent variables.

Rather than approaching it from judging the number of partners as a "sign" of all these other, unrelated variables, it's better to look into the implicit assumption of control and restriction that are often being asked about, which we can usually get to if we poke the questioner and they make other comments about not wanting more than 3 people in a family group.

The number of partners is irrelevant. The kind of sex they're having is irrelevant. How respected is each person's agency in the relationship? How much freedom do they have? Are the people in the relationship valued more than the relationship itself? These are the questions you need to ask - both yourself and of others.

"Restricting" other people, whether it's to only 1 partner or to some magic number greater than 1, is a violation of their agency. *That's* the real issue here.

It's OK for an individual to simply not have enough bandwidth to handle emotionally relating on a deep level to more than X number of people, whatever that number is for them. If your bandwidth taps out at only 1 partner (monogamy), that's OK. If it taps out at 3 people, that's OK. If it taps out at 10 people, that's OK too.

If the bandwidth only has room for 1 or 2 emotionally deep connections but there is still a little trickle left over for less-entwined connections, kind of like an internet service that can only handle one device streaming movies at a time but if the other devices only need to check email or use a low-resource network-connected app, that's OK.

But to artificially throttle that bandwidth on other people like a company blocking out certain websites or all streaming activity, that's a problem. That's fine for a company who wants to control the use of its resources, but that's not how individual adult human beings are respected as autonomous agents.

A person who only has enough emotional bandwidth for X number of partners and that's just where they run out of energy can still be in a relationship with someone whose emotional bandwidth accommodates for a higher number than X or for relationships of a different style like kink or casual partners.  Because our own emotional bandwidth is a limitation *on ourselves*, and we can limit ourselves however we want. That's a boundary. But imposing our own bandwidth limitations onto other people - that's an imposition on their agency.

But aside from all this talk of numbers, the more experienced polys discover that there isn't any magic number. Where the limits lie depends on the *people* involved. One of my partners used to believe that he didn't have enough emotional bandwidth to handle more than 2 partners total. ...

Until he moved away and all of his partners became long-distance. And he also started dating solo polys. Suddenly, these relationships, even though they were deeply emotionally connected, were less of a drain on his bandwidth than the live-in, codependent partners he had before and he found he could successfully manage as many as 5 or 6. But it depended on who those 5 were.  If one of his partners required more of his bandwidth, then his total partner limit was reduced in number.

So it's not about the number, and it's not about the "structure". It's way more complicated than that.

It's about *agency*.

At its best, polyamory respects and nurtures every person's agency as a full, individual human being.

What that ends up looking like in terms of numbers of partners, types of sex, or structure of relationship depends on the people in those relationships, and that can change at any given time for any given person.
joreth: (anger)
*Sigh* Let's go over this again.

DO NOT CONTACT SOMEONE WHO HAS BLOCKED YOU.

When someone blocks you, it means that they don't want to talk to you anymore. Any attempt to contact them* after that on another platform, using another profile, or using another method entirely is a blatant disregard for their boundaries.

If the person who blocked you didn't say it was temporary, didn't give you conditions under which it would be appropriate to contact them again, or didn't un-block or otherwise reach out to you, then contacting them while blocked is boundary pushing and probably the reason why they resorted to blocking in the first place.

If I have to block someone I know in real life, I will often give them the benefit of the doubt and block them only in that medium where they are pushing me. I am trusting them to be grown-up enough not to keep pushing, not to keep violating my boundaries, not to look for ways around my block. I'm trusting them to understand that this is the online equivalent of hanging up the phone or walking out of the room during an argument and dropping the subject and not following after me to keep going.  Maybe, with time, I'll unblock and attempt to reconnect sometime in the future.

When I block someone and they try to contact me in other ways, particularly if they contact me in other ways *to continue the conversation / argument*, this only confirms the reason why I blocked in the first place and is a guaranteed way to make sure that the blocking is permanent and across all forms of contact.  This should not ever have to be explained. You, who does this, are the reason why my online profiles are so ranty. You are exactly who I am ranting about.



*There are some exceptions to this. Sometimes we have to cut off contact with people that we can't afford to cut off contact in every single manner.  For instance, needing to cut off social contact with a boss or coworker but still needing to keep in contact in a professional capacity; or co-parenting with an abusive ex.

If you have been blocked by someone online but you have a LEGITIMATE other relationship with them that requires LEGITIMATE contact with them in this other capacity, and you can keep your contact with them limited to this legitimate other relationship, then it's probably not a boundary violation.



Normally I have no problem blocking people who are becoming a pain in the ass, but when it's a *friend* who says *several times* that he will back out of an argument and then refuses to do so, sometimes I have to hang up the phone for him. But I'd rather not, and it hurts to do it.

I already know that when I lose my temper, I'll say things that I will later regret. So when I back out of an argument, I back out. I know that I can't be trusted to have a productive conversation when I'm too emotionally invested in my position to really hear the other side.  If you have the foresight to know that about yourself too, then seriously, back out when you say you're going to. Because I guarantee, no matter what the person on the other side of the argument is like, you will only make things worse if you stay in an argument past the point that even you recognize that you need to take a break from it.

The other person could be the best, most calm and collected arguer ever, or they could be a total douchebag, and either way, if you're not in the right emotional space for the argument, anything you say is going to make things worse. Which is why I back out when I'm getting pissed off. Unfortunately, though, online spaces don't offer very good ways to "back out" and they rely on the other person's cooperation or nuking them.

I wish FB had an option to just, say, put someone in a time-out. I mean, I know that you can unblock people later, but it's so ... final, so harsh. Maybe I just want to stop someone from talking at me for a while. It's like, if you're in an argument with someone in person, you can leave the room. But if you're in an argument with someone at a *party*, then you have to either leave the party to prevent them from following you around the party to continue arguing or kick them out of the party.

Sometimes, neither is an acceptable option for the circumstances. Sometimes, I just want someone to stop talking at me while I go into the "quiet room" at the party, or go talk with someone else on the other side of the room. I can turn off FB for a while and let them rant and rave at an empty inbox, but then I can't wander around FB. That's me leaving the party. Besides, then they're still ranting and raving and those messages will be there when I get back. Leaving might prevent *me* from saying something I don't want to say, but it doesn't make someone else take the space they need but won't take. And obviously I can't kick *them* off FB (nor would I want to).

Unfriending & unfollowing aren't always the right options either. When the problem is that someone I know posts shit that I don't want to see, then those are two reasonable options. But when the problem is that someone keeps talking at me, unfriending and unfollowing don't prevent that.

And, maybe I don't *want* to actually unfriend someone. I grew up understanding that friends and family argue sometimes, and it's not the end of the relationship. Sometimes those arguments are some pretty ugly fights, even, and it still doesn't mean that the relationship *has* to end over it.

I've been reading some stuff (citations not at hand atm) that suggests that there is a point in an argument at which nothing productive is happening because the participants are "flooded", meaning too emotional, and taking a break at that point significantly increases the chances of a resolution post-break. My family did this intuitively. I think it's one of the reasons why I maintain such strong emotional ties to members of my family who have such different worldviews from me.

Sometimes I just don't want to be in *this* argument right *now* and the other person doesn't seem to have the self-control to stop arguing. But, for whatever reason, I don't want to nuke the relationship. It would be nice to have, like, a 24-hour Wall of Silence, where neither of us can message each other or comment on each other's posts, until we've both had some space and time to calm down. But, y'know, you're still friends, and maybe you can even still see each other's posts and still interact in groups or mutual friends' comment threads. You just can't PM them or talk *in their space*.

But as long as people can't seem to help themselves and continue talking at others past the point where even they recognize that they are not in the right frame of mind to be continuing the conversation, I have to resort to blocking.

And I don't like that. There's not enough nuance in our online responses, and I think that hurts us individually and as communities.  Blocking needs to be contextual, but we only have on/off blocking options.  

But it's pretty safe to say that if someone has blocked you in the middle of an argument, don't continue the argument using other means of communication.  If someone has blocked you seemingly out of the blue but left other means of contact open to you, it might be appropriate for you to contact them to ask if you should stay away.  If someone has blocked you in one medium, and you're pretty sure you know why or it was during an argument, but you also have some other reason to be in contact with them, then respect their boundary and restrict your contact of them to those other mediums and that other relationship / reason.
joreth: (anger)
OTG don't start a relationship with someone who is in the process of leaving an abusive partner*! And for fuck's sake, don't get upset when they act inconsistent or seem to reconcile or "go back" to said abusive partner.

Abuse does all kinds of fucked up shit to a person's head and they really need to find their own identity before beginning a new relationship. Escaping one abusive partner into the arms of another partner creates a coercive dynamic because of the fucked up shit going on inside the victim's head, *even if you try very hard not to be coercive*.

The key part here is the loss of identity. Abuse wipes out victims' identities, and without a clear sense of who they are as an individual person, they are unable to create healthy boundaries for themselves in other relationships *which makes those other relationships coercive by nature*.

You cannot force someone out of an abusive relationship before they're ready, and you SHOULD not encourage them to leap straight from the abusive relationship to a new relationship. Be "on call" for them to go pick them or their stuff up at a moment's notice, field or facilitate the finding of a new place to live so that their abuser doesn't find out about it, believe them and give them space, and most importantly, don't take it as a personal rejection or blame them when they inevitably backslide in some way including going back to their abuser.

Abuse does all kinds of fucked up shit to a person's head. If you can't be a proper support system for a victim, which includes not pushing them into leaving before they're ready and not complaining about how hurt you feel or that they "used" you or "played you" or "ditched" you when they end up not leaving or they gradually stop talking to you or they go back to their abuser, then back the fuck out of their lives. Otherwise, you risk making things worse for them.

For a better idea on how to be a "proper support system" for a victim, check out the resources in the back of Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft which includes books on how to be the loved one of an abuse victim.

Just a reminder: escaping from an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim. This is the time abusers are most likely to escalate the violence to murder.

This is not only dangerous for her, it's dangerous for everyone around her. She doesn't need to escape into your home, she needs to escape to a place that knows how to keep her safe from an escalating, now pissed off abuser and that fully understands the situation she is in.

Every time you hear about some woman and her kids or her parents or her new boyfriend being murdered by an ex, it's almost always during the time she is trying to escape the ex.  What do you think an abusive ex, hell bent on power and control and now extra pissed off that his little punching bag is leaving, is going to think of the new boyfriend *and girlfriend* who "stole her away"?

He's going to *blame* the couple and polyamory as being a bad influence on his girlfriend and believe that he needs to teach everyone a lesson and reassert his authority. This is the time when previously emotional-only abusers escalate to physical violence too.

I can't stress enough what a dangerous time this is for her and why the concern needs to be what's in her best interest. That's also why you can't force her to leave if she's not ready. Only she understands the extent of the danger she is in, and if her mind has to rationalize why she stays in order to keep herself safe, then that's what she needs to do.

Please, everyone here, read Why does he do that? by Lundy Bancroft. This is so much more serious than most people who haven't been there really understand.




*I'll be honest, I have known one relationship to work out where the new partner began dating the victim right around the time she was trying to escape. I'm not sure exactly of the timeline, so I don't remember if the new relationship started before the victim moved out or afterwards, but it was close enough in time to be within the range of "while trying to escape".  This relationship happened to work out and is one of the healthiest the victim has ever been in. This relationship was instrumental in helping the victim find her own identity again.

That said, this is an exception. Most people believe that they are exceptions to various rules, but statistically, most of those people would have to be wrong because "most" people can't be "exceptions".

So just don't do it. Be that person's support system, but for fuck's sake, let them find themselves before you immerse or enmesh them in another relationship. One of the things that abuse does is convince people that the relationship is more important than the people in it, and that you need to subsume your identity into the relationship. These patterns will be there, embedded in the victim's brain, and will play out again out of habit in your relationship with them.

And it won't even be your "fault" if the relationship turns coercive, or maybe you have a few of the same coercive habits that we all pick up just from our culture that most healthy partners can manage and work around without being damaged but that an abuse victim will have no skill in managing or deflecting.  So there doesn't need to be any intentional manipulation on your part for a relationship to still turn coercive and an abuse victim who hasn't healed yet to be damaged by a relationship with you.

So just don't. Even though "I know someone who was good for a victim" and "it worked out for me!", still don't.
joreth: (being wise)
Sometimes people feel like the answers they're getting aren't helpful. Sometimes, it's because those answers *aren't* helpful and they're missing the point.

But sometimes it's because the question they're asking isn't relevant to the problem at hand because they have all these implicit assumptions about the subject matter that are incorrect. In order to actually solve the problem, they have to look at the problem from a totally different angle.

So the answers sound like they're coming out of left field. Which they might be, but that's because the ball you think you hit down the center is actually *in* left field and you're looking in the wrong place because that's where you expect the ball to be, but it's not.

If it sounds like they didn't answer your question, that may be because your question is nonsensical in the given circumstances, so they answered the question that you should have asked instead.  In order to make sense of it, you will have to look around the corners of your own question and its embedded assumptions to see what the actual problem is and how to solve it.

#YouCanNotSolvePolyProblemsWithMonogamousAssumptions #YouCanNotSolveMedicalProblemsWithAbleistAssumptions #YouCanNotSolveDiscriminationProblemsWithRacistOrSexistAssumptions #YouCanNotSolvePersonalProblemsWithStereotypicalAssumptions
joreth: (polyamory)
"But WWWHHHYYYYY are you all so mean to unicorn hunters?!? We just want to be loved, like everyone else!"

Maybe because we've seen more than one post where a couple wants to "add a third", except the sex doll, er, I mean new hire, er, that is the "lucky lady" is trying to leave an abusive relationship, and the couple starts asking advice on whether they should risk their hearts with her because it looks like she's flaky and may "back out" of their relationship?

Like, the concern here, folks, isn't that someone you know and presumably care about is IS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP THAT SHE CAN'T LEAVE, but that she might break *your* hearts by going back to her abuser. Because you getting "played" or "dumped" by someone WHO IS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP is the real issue here. 0.o

"Yeah, but we're people too! Our feelings matter!"

Uh, no, not so much, not in this case. Your feelings really don't matter here because ABUSE. This is *exactly* what we're talking about when we complain about treating people like things, disrespecting agency, couple-centrism, etc.

This is why unicorn hunting is a bad thing.

"But we're part of a couple looking for a third, and we don't do THAT!"

Yeah, it's not this very specific situation that's the problem, this is just an especially egregious example that 1) is totally obvious to most people that the unicorn hunters are the fucked up ones, and 2) the unicorn hunters STILL can't tell what's wrong with them because they're the ones who described the situation in the first place, so they obviously don't think they're being problematic here.

There is an underlying mentality that is the problem, and it's a problem because that mentality manifests in a million different, often unanticipated ways. We can't always predict in what way the unicorn hunters will mistreat their "third", but we can predict that they will, and that all reasonable people will recognize it when they do but they will continue to feel that they are the ones being victimized by the circumstances.

Today, with this hypothetical couple, it's a girl who is trapped in an abusive relationship so badly that even though she's in the process of trying to escape, she may not make it but the couple's biggest concern is how bad their feelz will hurt if she gets sucked back in, with maybe some afterthought to how much "drama" she's bringing to the triad because of her abuser's actions with regard to her leaving him and/or dating them.

Tomorrow it might be someone being gaslighted to believe that the triad fell apart because she was too "needy" or because she "changed" when she "knew the rules when she signed up", and what a "drama queen" she is for having wants/needs beyond what everyone agreed in the beginning.

The next day, it might be some poor guy who dared to fall in love with some girl who isn't allowed to feel her feelings because she signed a contract, maybe even literally, giving all her future feelings away to the couple, thereby introducing "drama" by developing feelings that she promised she would never have.

A woman tries to escape abuse, and signs point to a high chance of failure. But the issue on everyone's mind is ... what about the couple she promised to date once she escaped? What about their feelings about her flaking out on them? And what about the drama she'll cause if she does leave and he makes trouble for everyone and she flip-flops and possibly goes back to him later anyway? What about the couple?!

#UnicornHuntingIsProhibitedHere #CouplePrivilege #dehumanizing #NeedFulfillmentMachines #ThePeopleInTheRelationshipNeedToBeMoreImportantThanTheRelationship #EmbeddedCoersion #OutOfTheFryingPanIntoTheFryer
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
We're printing All The Things today and tomorrow and mailing out formal invitations next week! And the only way to get the address for the ceremony locations is through the mail!  Which means that we need your physical mailing address to send you the information you need to attend mine and Franklin's wedding, and we kinda need it right away.  The formal invitations will include all the details of the date and location, directions, lodging information, FAQs, RSVP cards, Pre-Wedding Party info, etc.  

You can download our wedding app, or login to the wedding website to give us your address and update RSVPs, or you can contact us in literally any other way that will reach us and we can update your address in our wedding app database on your behalf.  Then, if you prefer to do things the traditional way, you can RSVP using the included pre-addressed, stamped RSVP card in your formal invitation.

Please don't worry that you're "inviting yourself" - if you can see this post (and one of us hasn't blocked the other or otherwise refused to engage in multiple or all forms of interaction (see my recent post about temporary or contextual blocking vs. total blocking boundary violations)), then you're not "inviting yourself", you are invited!

But, since we don't have your mailing address (and probably your email address too, hence the public and generic posts), we can't send you an invitation yet. That's why we have to reach people this way. So you're not "inviting yourself", you are invited, but we need your contact info.

You can find our wedding app and website by visiting http://bit.ly/SquiggleWeddingCon and clicking on the RSVP link in the sidebar. Only 2 months to go!
joreth: (polyamory)
The latest installment of my extremely sporadic posts about poly jewelry. These are all rings suitable for personal use and/or weddings or commitment ceremonies, most of which are not official poly jewelry but can work to symbolize polyamory "under the radar" with subtle elements from poly symbols:

www.amazon.com/dp/B01N44EOZ5 - Infinity Heart Simulated Sapphire & Cubic Zirconia .925 Sterling Silver Ring Sizes 4-12 Price: $14.99
  • 8mm
  • .925 Solid Sterling Silver
  • cubic zirconia, Sapphire
An open silver heart with two bands of cubic zirconia stones (one in simulated diamond, one in simulated sapphire) that evoke the feel of the infinity symbol running through the heart.
www.amazon.com/Simulated-Aquamarine-Sterling-Silver-RNG15776-4/dp/B01DQHDES8 - Sterling Silver Heart Halo Promise Ring Price: $15.89
  • PURE 925 STERLING SILVER — Crafted to stand the test of time. Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver, mixed with alloys to add strength and durability.
  • SATISFACTION GUARANTEED — We promise superior service which includes fast shipping, great communication, and a full refund policy.
  • QUALITY — All jewelry is new and inspected for quality assurance.
  • SHIPS FROM THE UNITED STATES — All Sac Silver distributors ship from the United States to ensure quality, reliability, and punctuality.
A heart-shaped gemstone (shown in simulated emerald) in a variety of colors and surrounded with tiny simulated diamonds, with two twisted bands of cubic zirconia stones that evoke the feel of the infinity symbol extended on either side of the heart and into the band.
www.amazon.com/Simulated-Amethyst-Infinity-Silver-RNG14453-8/dp/B00X12U6VM/ - CHOOSE YOUR COLOR Sterling Silver Infinity Knot Heart Promise Ring Price: $14.39
  • PURE 925 STERLING SILVER — Crafted to stand the test of time. Sterling Silver is 92.5% silver, mixed with alloys to add strength and durability.
  • SATISFACTION GUARANTEED — We promise superior service which includes fast shipping, great communication, and a full refund policy.
  • QUALITY — All jewelry is new and inspected for quality assurance.
  • SHIPS FROM THE UNITED STATES — All Sac Silver distributors ship from the United States to ensure quality, reliability, and punctuality.
A heart-shaped gemstone (shown in Mystic / simulated topaz) in a variety of colors and a silver band that splits and twists, evoking the feel of the infinity symbol extended on either side of the heart and into the band, with one of the twists including tiny embedded simulated diamond stones.
www.amazon.com/Sterling-Zirconia-Infinity-Tarnish-Resistant/dp/B01N3PLLK4 - Sterling Silver Infinity and Heart Ring Price: $10.88
  • Quality: Solid Sterling Silver w/ 925 stamp. Platinum plating and Rhodium finished, give the look of white gold and platinum, Tarnish resistant .Comfort Fit Design. Extremely hard. retain the perfectly round shape. Comes with a Eco Friendly Cotton bag. Each Ring Width 1.8mm
  • The BoRuo Advantage: BoRuo is a member of a very small number of brands invited to the Amazon Fine Jewelry category and all our products meet amazon Jewelry Quality Assurance Standards. Only those with brand strength and excellent products are eligible to enter this prestigious level.
  • Best Gift for Man/women/girls/ Girlfriend/ Lovers/Couple/Mom. Best Birthday Christmas Mother's Day Valentine's day Present Ever!!! Makes a wonderful gift for any occasion,Comes with a Eco Friendly Cotton bag.
  • What You Get: Boruo Sterling Silver jewelry coming with an Eco friendly Cotton bag. Our 60-day satisfaction guarantee and friendly customer service, No questions will be asked if you are not completely satisfied with the product and want to return it.
  • Please choose the correct size before place the order to avoid Return or Exchange. The paper measurement is intended for reference only. We would like to suggest you have your finger sized at a jewelry store for an accurate ring size.
An open silver heart encrusted with cubic zirconia simulated diamonds, with a silver infinity with heart-shaped ends weaving through the cubic zirconia heart.
www.blueapplejewelryco.com/products/925-sterling-silver-blue-lab-fire-australian-opal-6-heart-shape-blue-opal-ladies-fashion-ring-excellent-gift-for-christmas-valentines - Sterling Silver Blue Lab Fire Australian Opal 6 Heart Shape Price: $32.20
  • Metal Type: Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stampor Hallmark: 925
  • Face measurements from South to North: 25MM (0.9")
  • Band Thickness: 2MM
  • Theme: Heart
  • Gemstone Type: Blue Australian Lab Opal
  • Finish: Rhodium For Anti Tarnish
  • 100% Nickel Free
  • Gift Box Included
  • ****Engraving Available**** (Extra Charge)
  • Customize your ring: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, Black Gold (Extra Charge) Change the Center stone to any color stone or natural stone of your choice (Extra Charge)
A silver geometric band with 6 hearts of different sizes shown with Blue Fire Opal stones. If you search this site for the keywords in the ring title, you may find color variations already available on the website for no extra charge.
www.blueapplejewelryco.com/products/infinity-ring-heart-love-valentines-crisscross-crossover-lab-australian-blue-opal-solid-925-sterling-silver-infinity-heart-promise-ring-gift - Infinity Ring Heart Crisscross Price: $24.99
  • Metal Type: Solid Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp or Halmark: 925
  • Gemstone Type: Lab Created Blue Opal
  • Gemstone Creation Method: Lab Created
  • Gemstone Treatment Method: Treated/Enhanced
  • Face Measurements From South To North: 9mm (0.32")
  • Infinity Measurements from East to West: 17mm (0.86")
  • Band Thickness: 2mm
  • Rhodium For Anti Tarnish
  • 100% Nickel Free
  • Gift Box Included
  • ****Engraving Available**** (Extra Charge)
  • Customize your ring: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, Black Gold (Extra Charge) Change the Center stone to any color stone or natural stone of your choice (Extra Charge)
A silver band with an infinity made of lab created Australian blue opal, with a small silver heart nested inside one side of the infinity. If you search this site for the keywords in the ring title, you may find color variations already available on the website for no extra charge.
www.blueapplejewelryco.com/products/infinity-two-tone-heart-promise-ring-925-sterling-silver-cubic-zirconia-rose-gold-tone - Infinity Two-Tone Heart Promise Ring Price: $20.56
  • Metal Type: Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp or Halmark: 925
  • Gemstone Creation Method: Simulated
  • Face Measurements From South To North: 8mm
  • Change the color of the metal to rose, yellow, black at additional charge
A silver band that splits into a silver infinity with one leg encrusted with tiny simulated diamonds that weaves through an open heart (shown here in rose gold). If you search this site for the keywords in the ring title, you may find color variations already available on the website for no extra charge.
www.blueapplejewelryco.com/products/heart-promise-halo-ring-0-64ct-heart-shape-lab-white-opal-round-clear-cz-accent-solid-925-sterling-silver-wedding-engagement-split-shank - Halo Heart Promise Ring Price: $17.21
  • Metal Type: Solid Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp: 925
  • Gemstone Type: Grade AAA Russian CZ, Lab White Opal
  • Gemstone Cut: Heart, Round
  • Center Stone Cut: Heart
  • Center Stone Color: White Opal
  • Side Stone Cut: Round
  • Center Stone Carat Weight: 0.74
  • Center Stone Measurement: 5mm
  • Side Stone Color: Clear
  • Side Stone Cut: Round
  • Gemstone Creation Method: Lab Created
  • Gemstone Treatment Method: Treated/Enhanced
  • Clarity: Flawless Approximate Total Carat Weight: 1.04
  • Face Measurements From South To North: 6mm (0.2")
  • Band Thickness: 3.3mm
  • Rhodium For Anti Tarnish
  • Gift Box Included
  • Customize your ring: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, Black Gold (Extra Charge) Change the Center stone to any color stone or natural stone of your choice (Extra Charge)
A silver band that splits into an infinity with one leg encrusted with simulated diamonds and an opal heart center stone. One leg of the infinity breaks and rests on top of the heart stone, which more closely resembles the infinity weaving through an open heart. If you search this site for the keywords in the ring title, you may find color variations already available on the website for no extra charge.
www.blueapplejewelryco.com/products/claddagh-ring-white-opal-claddagh-ring-celtic-irish-claddagh-promise-ring-solid-925-sterling-silver-lab-white-opal-wedding-engagement-ring - Blue Opal Claddagh Ring Price: $18.21
  • Metal Type: Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp: 925
  • Gemstone Type: Lab Opal
  • Center Stone Cut: Heart
  • Center Stone Cut Grade: Ideal
  • Face Measurements From South To North: 11MM (0.40")
  • Band Thickness: Top: 2MM
  • Rhodium For Anti Tarnish
  • Gift Box Included
  • Customize your ring: Change the color of the metal to: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, Black Gold (Extra Charge) Change the Center stone to any color stone or natural stone of your choice (Extra Charge)
A silver Claddagh ring (traditional Irish ring) minus the hands that usually hold the heart and instead a Celtic trinity knot in the place of the hands, with a lab-created opal heart stone. If you search this site for the keywords in the ring title, you may find color variations already available on the website for no extra charge.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/496292761/free-engraving-top-quality-infinity - Infinity Heart Engraved Two-Tone Ring Price: $20.56
  • Metal Type: Tungsten Carbide
  • Patter Style: Infinity Heart Design
  • Width: 8mm
  • Size Offered: 6 to 13 including half sizes
A matte black wide ring with a rose gold step around the edges and a poly infinity-heart symbol engraved onto its surface. This seller offers free engraving on all of their rings so you may want to browse the shop for other styles of rings and have the infinity-heart added to another style.
https://www.blueapplejewelryco.com/collections/wedding-ring-sets/products/0-74-carat-heart-shape-blue-zircon-cz-halo-promise-ring-split-shank-round-white-clear-cz-solid-925-sterling-silver-wedding-engagement-love - Heart shaped halo ring with split shank. Ring Sizes 4-16 Price: $23.33
  • Metal Type: Solid Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp: 925
  • Gemstone Type: Grade AAA Russian CZ, Synthetic Blue Zircon
  • Gemstone Cut: Heart, Round
  • Center Stone Cut: Heart
  • Center Stone Color: Blue Zircon
  • Side Stone Cut: Round
  • Center Stone Carat Weight: 0.74
  • Center Stone Measurement: 6mmx6mm
  • Side Stone Color: Clear
  • Side Stone Cut: Round
  • Gemstone Creation Method: Lab Created
  • Gemstone Treatment Method: Treated/Enhanced
  • Clarity: Flawless
  • Approximate Total Carat Weight: 0.98
  • Face Measurements From South To North: 9mm (0.3")
  • Band Thickness: 1.5mm
  • Rhodium For Anti Tarnish
  • 100% Nickel Free
  • Gift Box Included
  • Customize your ring: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, Black Gold (Extra Charge). Change the Center stone to any color stone or natural stone of your choice (Extra Charge)
A silver infinity band with clear stones on alternating legs of the infinity, with a clear stone-encrusted open heart and a colored heart gemstone inside the open heart.  This item is available on the website in several center heart-stone colors.
https://www.blueapplejewelryco.com/collections/heart-rings/products/triple-three-heart-silver-ring-black-gold-solid-925-sterling-silver-14mm-wide-heart-ring-heart-promise-ring-valentines-gift - Triple Heart Ring Price: $47.20
  • Metal Type: Solid Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp or Hallmark: 925
  • Metal Purity: 92.5% Sterling
  • Face Measurements from South To North: 14MM (0.6")
  • Band Thickness: 3MM
  • Finish: Rhodium Plated For Anti Tarnish
A wide ring with 3 hearts in a row, shown here in black gold.  The website also shows listings for yellow gold and rose gold already made with no extra charge.
https://www.blueapplejewelryco.com/collections/heart-rings/products/tri-color-tri-tone-three-heart-ring-pink-rose-gold-yellow-gold-solid-925-sterling-silver-three-heart-promise-love-heart-ring-valentines-gift - Triple Heart Ring Price: $15.32
  • Metal Type: Solid Sterling Silver
  • Metal Stamp or Hallmark: 925
  • Metal Purity: 92.5% Sterling Silver
  • Gemstone Type: No Stone
  • Face Measurements from South to North: 12mm (0.6")
  • Band Thickness: 2mm
  • Finish Rhodium For Anti-Tarnish
  • Size: Available in All Sizes (Resizing Available)
  • Plating: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold
A delicate silver band with three hearts of various sizes and metal colors - large silver, medium gold, small rose gold.
https://geek.wish.com/c/58f97ee832d0c40215b14e19 - Natural White Sapphire Gemstone Ring Price: $2.00
  • Stone :White Sapphire
  • size : 6 7 8 9 10
Split shank ring twisted into an infinity shape that runs through an open heart, and the whole thing is entirely encrusted with tiny white sapphire stones.  You will need to have or create a free Geek account to view or purchase this ring.

Mother's Day is usually a good time to find poly-friendly jewelry too, with multiple birthstone options to represent multiple people.

joreth: (polyamory)
A few reminders:

1) Our wedding is public so if you can read this, you are invited (with only a few exceptions and they probably know who they are, mostly involving people I've had to block - if I've ever told you to fuck off, especially if I knew you in real life and I still told you to fuck off and then blocked you on all forms of contact, then you're probably not invited).

2) Plane tickets are going up, so make sure you make your travel arrangements soon for the wedding. San Jose (SJC) Mineta International Airport is the closest airport to the traditional ceremony and Seattle (SEA) International Airport is the closest airport to the handfasting ceremony.

Also remember that you need Northwest Recess event tickets to attend the handfasting ceremony.  

3) We have secured a block of rooms at an inexpensive (for Silicon Valley) hotel that is the closest hotel to the location for the traditional ceremony. This means that the rate is locked in and will not increase even as regular room rates increase. Any rooms not claimed under that room block 30 days before will be removed from the block and you will have to pay full price to get a room, assuming there are any left by then.

You don't have to stay here. We chose it for convenience and proximity to the wedding location and you can choose other accommodations if you prefer, but prices are going up. Silicon Valley in summertime is not a cheap place to visit, so make your reservations soon.

If you are getting a room there, please let us know so that we can adjust the number and types of rooms available. If you tried to reserve a room and the kind you wanted (2 double beds or 1 queen bed) was not available, let us know and we can add more of those rooms to the block.

4) We will be sending out formal invitations with instructions, maps, addresses, etc. in less than a month, so make sure you RSVP with your email address and mailing address before then to receive them, even if you aren't sure yet.

You can fill out the RSVP form, leave the specific events blank, and just add your addresses and comments for now if you want, and then come back and change your RSVP later.

All of this information and more, including relevant links, located here:  http://bit.ly/SquiggleWeddingCon 
joreth: (polyamory)
I came down, not "hard", exactly, but firm on someone asking some advice. At least, compared to some of my other responses, I don't think it was "hard". But I didn't shy away from the main point. I didn't ease him into it, I just didn't pick him up screaming and throw him into deep, choppy waters.

And he *listened*. I find that to be admirable and impressive and I think there is a lot of good potential for his future in unlearning all the shit that society has instilled in him.

I think the advice is good, so I'm gonna re-post a modified version of it here as a general post not aimed at a specific person but at a situation that I see play over and over again in the poly community.  I've left the gendered pronouns that applied to the OP, because I so often see this playing out with these pronouns and I often speak from my own experience, but the stories and the advice could be found with any mix of pronouns.

So, you're trying this poly thing out for the first time with your partner.  You love each other, so naturally you don't want to lose what you already have together, but you also want to explore something new.  So you discuss it a lot, and you make some agreements as to how to go about it that you think shows your commitment to and compassion for each other.

Then she comes to you and says that this agreement y'all had?  She wants to change the agreement.  Right now, because the thing you agreed not to do is about to happen.  Or maybe already happened.  Or maybe isn't about to happen right this instance, but it's now inevitable and it's *going* to happen and you can't stop it.

And you're afraid.  And hurt.  You agreed!  Now she wants to change the rules!  She can't just do that, can she?  Well, I'm going to tell you something that you're going to like even less than hearing that.  She's allowed to do change things.  What she does with herself and with other people who are not you is none of your business.  She can change the "rules" (whether you use that term or not) regarding what she does with herself whenever she wants to, and she's not "the bad guy" for doing so, even if you feel bad feels about it.

First of all, don't confuse "it's not your business, she's her own person and can do what she wants" with "don't have any emotional investment in your partner".  A lot of mono people and recently-mono people make that mistake.

When your partner goes to work, or hangs out with her friends, is it your "business" to negotiate ahead of time what she does or doesn't do at work?  I mean, you're sharing her with her job, right?  You're sharing her with her boss.  Shouldn't you get a say in what she does?  Of course not, that would be ridiculous.  You're not "sharing" her with her boss!  Even though, technically, she does spend more time with him, the majority of her waking hours, actually.  You don't get a say in it, you don't get to "negotiate" about it, and it's none of your business.  What she does on her boss's time is between her and her boss.  What she does with her best friend when they're out together is between her and her best friend.  How she spends her time with her mother is between her and her mother.

But as a loving partner, you might be *interested* in how her day at work goes.  You might want to hear all about it, or maybe what she does isn't of interest to you so you don't really want to hear all the details but you care how her job affects her.  Her happiness or lack of happiness at work matters to you, so you're "invested" in her well-being at work.  But it's not your "business" to know anything about her work, especially ahead of time when shit happens and things come up.

She doesn't have to report to you or notify you or tell you anything to soothe your own feelings.  But she might want to share with you because sharing who we are and what we do when we're apart with our partners is part of intimacy and connecting with each other.  And she ought to tell you things that could affect your own ability to consent to a relationship (or certain activities in that relationship) with her.  But that's about your relationship with her and how *she* affects *you*, not her relationship with other people.

No one is saying that you shouldn't be "invested" in her and even in her other relationships, but this "need" to know that you're expressing *is* a form of control, whether you see it or not.  It's scary to not know what's happening, and wanting to be kept in the loop isn't, by itself, a bad thing, but expecting to know, with the (probably subconscious) belief that by knowing you can then affect the outcome, is a drive to control.

If you think that she can't just announce it, and that a conversation or a dialog has to happen before rules or agreements can change, then you're likely believing that you can influence things.  Conversation *should* happen so that you can both explore your feelings together, but usually when the person in your position feels *affronted* at the idea that he isn't granted the "right" to this conversation and feels that an announcement is insufficient, if you dig down deep enough, it's based on the assumption that he can control or influence the outcome.

And often, I see people being affronted even when their partner *does* ask for a conversation first.  The very fact of "asking permission" is seen as offensive, because you "already agreed!"  You had an agreement!  Well, now she wants to renegotiate that agreement, and if that bothers you, then you have some issues with control right now.

Maybe you don't realize that's what you're doing, but right now you're not just expressing a desire to know because change is hard to deal with and you want time to adjust.  You're also expressing a desire to influence the potential situation, to influence *her* decision-making process.  That's control.  You might not understand that your underlying, sometimes hidden, assumptions are being expressed, but they are and that's why people in forums jump down your throat when you ask for advice on certain kinds of situations.

The problem is that only people who have made it through to the other side can see what the difference is between control vs. interest, or between "not your business" and "don't get invested".  Much like privilege, most of us can't see it when we're in it, but we can damn well see it when we're on the outside of it.

Because most of us, when we're on your side of the fence, can't tell what the difference is between "not your business" and "don't be invested", it probably sounds like I'm suggesting that you shouldn't *care*, because your side of the fence has all these different definitions of "caring" mixed up with each other.  I've written before about the story of a friend who voluntarily gave up polyamory on the basis that he couldn't deal with his partner "not caring" about what he did away from her.  He couldn't tell the difference between "not your business" and "don't be invested" either.

There are very subtle, but significant, things going on that make "none of your business" and "don't be invested" two very different things, but much like trying to point out to someone their own privilege, it can be very difficult to see what that difference is, until one day you just *do* see the difference.

Second of all, another common rookie mistake is that we often make it unsafe for our partners to be honest with us.  Without doing anything intentionally, and without even going so far as "abuse" or "control", when our partners are afraid of how we will react to something, our partners often skirt things because it doesn't feel safe to be totally up front and honest, and they do that *without intending* to be dishonest.

There is a reluctance to admit to themselves what they're really feeling, which becomes a hesitation to admit to us.  They try to "ease us in" to situations, they downplay this thing or gloss over that thing.  Because they don't feel completely safe in really examining themselves out of fear of how the revelations will affect us.  This happens to newbies all. the. time.  It's basically the transitional step - if you come from a mono world, you have certain habits and assumptions and expectations built in and getting past them into trusting oneself and one's partner is extremely difficult.

The example of someone who is upset that his partner originally agreed not to have sex with her new partner on a date but then calls to ask permission to change that rule while on that date is a *classic* example and the forums are filled with posts asking for advice on what to do now.  He obviously had a problem with her having sex with her partner.  She obviously picked up on that, whether he said anything explicitly or not.  If he really didn't have any problem with it, even being surprised by a change in plans wouldn't have elicited the all-to-common plea for validation that the poly forums would see the next day, as he plaintively asks "that was wrong of her to change our agreement, right?"

She didn't feel completely safe advocating for her own interest in sex with her partner or in advocating on behalf of her partner's interests, so she hedged and cushioned and tried to ease him into it, until sex was right there, in her face, and she couldn't hide from the possibility anymore without being blatantly dishonest.  She had to wait until the cognitive dissonance from the reality of potential sex was greater than her fear of hurting you before she could admit to herself, and then to you, that sex was an option.

This means that *you* have your own share of the responsibility here in setting up the situation you now find yourself in where agreements are changed or broken and you feel "betrayed" because her emotions and desires didn't conveniently followed the path that y'all somehow thought it was possible to map out ahead of time.

She needs to feel that her actions with another aren't going to hurt you, because she cares about you and doesn't *want* to hurt you, and she needs to see that enough times to really trust that it's true, before she'll learn how to let go of this habit of hiding her wants from herself, of downplaying herself, of diminishing herself, of making herself smaller for your comfort. She likely has a *lot* of programming from a multitude of sources over her life instructing her to make herself smaller for the comfort of others, particularly if your partner is female, femme, or socialized as a woman and has male or masculine or socialized-as-men romantic partners.

I've been there.  Yes, me, the Internet Flame Warrior, Le Online Bitch, who demands my agency and takes no prisoners in these battles for autonomy and respect.  I know the complicated, swirling morass of unnamed and unrecognized feelings, the justifications, the compassion tinged with darker fears, that murky soup inside the head that makes me believe, if only on the surface, that no, I really am not as interested in this guy, no, I really don't want sex this soon, no, I'm totally happy not dating anyone else for a while, so please, honey, take your time and get used to things first.

I know how to shrink myself so slowly that even I won't notice it until the box I'm trying to fit in bursts from the pressure.  I know how to put myself on the back burner, how to dismiss myself so that someone else feels better.

I also know that it's a false sense of security.  I know that this usually just makes things worse in the long run because my partner starts to get used to this unobtrusive, inconspicuous little package, so when the box suddenly explodes and sends shards and debris everywhere, he feels like a bomb has gone off.  Either way he's going to feel uncomfortable with me taking up my full size.  I know this.

And yet, I know what it's like to do this anyway, even knowing it.  Because I'm trained to do this.  Everything in my culture and upbringing says that this is the proper way to behave.  To be a "compassionate" person, a "nice" person, a "caring" person, you have to "compromise".  You have to "move at the pace of the slowest person".  You have to "give and take" and right now you have to "give" first.

She feels that she has to be smaller than she is.  She has made herself so small that even she can't see who she really is and what she wants, and she did that because she's afraid of how you will feel if she doesn't.  It doesn't even have to be a fear of punishment or retribution or abuse.  She could feel afraid because she genuinely doesn't want to hurt you because she loves you. 

But she feels that way because she believes that being herself and wanting what she wants *will hurt you*.

You have to set the tone, and you have to do the work before she will feel safe.  That may take some time and she will probably stumble over her own bad habits for a while before she learns to trust you and to trust herself.

But it starts with you.
joreth: (polyamory)
Honey, I'd like to talk with you.   Since you brought it up a few weeks ago, I've been doing some thinking.  You're right, I think it's time that we open things up a bit.  I understand that you have needs, and that this is not a reflection on me as a partner.  But I still have some insecurities.  I love you and I don't want to lose what we have.  So maybe if we lay down some ground rules, it'll help me to work on those insecurities, y'know, just until I get comfortable with things.

[deep breath] OK, so when you start going out for job interviews, I want to make sure that you don't choose an employer who is going to come between us or mess up our routine.  So I think I should be present on your job interviews.  You haven't always made the best decisions in the past. I mean, look at some of your former jobs before we got married!  I think you could use an objective opinion.  And, after all, I'm also a manager, so I know what these people will be thinking.  I think that I ought to meet your potential employers so that you don't get caught up in the excitement of having a new job and miss some of the fine print in the job description.

We should also discuss what kinds of things you can and can't do at work.  I know you haven't even started looking for a new job yet, but that makes this the perfect time to decide these things!  That way your future employer doesn't get his hopes up.  I don't want your new boss to have more time with you than I do, so you should tell him right up front that you have to be off work in time to get home before I do.  After all, before your new job, you always made dinner.  That shouldn't have to change just because you have a new job in your life.  That would disrupt *our* relationship.  So, you have to be home in time to have dinner ready for me when I get home like always.

And you can't be in to work until after I've left for the day.  I mean, who is going to get the kids ready for school and have my stuff all organized for me if you're gone early?  That's not fair of him to cut into your time with the children!  They should come first!

Also, the job needs to be far enough away that our friends and neighbors won't notice that you're working for someone, but not so far that it costs too much in gas money.  In fact, I think your future employer ought to pay for your gas to get there.  If he wants you to be there badly enough, he'll see the benefit in paying for your gas.  I would suggest that he pick you up, but then our neighbors might start asking questions.

It's OK to put in a few hours in the evening while I'm out bowling with the gang every week.  You should do something for *you*, y'know, when I'm not around to be affected by it.  Hey, I care that you're getting your needs met, I'm just that considerate of you.  But absolutely no weekends.  That's *our family* time together.  Remember, the kids come first.  And definitely no over-night stuff either.  I would feel lonely without you in our bed, and I don't think I can handle that.  Our marriage was here first, before your job, so it should take priority.

Speaking of priority, if you're with your new boss and I need you for something, I think you should be able to leave him to help me.  Remember, our marriage came first and if your new boss can't respect that, then I don't think you should be working for him.  Your new boss can't be calling you after-hours for anything.  If he needs someone that badly for more than what we agreed to right now, between us without him present, then he should get more people to do the job.

Also, he needs to offer you a decent salary because you're worth a lot, but it can't be more money than I bring home.  I would feel inadequate as a partner if he gives you more money than I make.  But he still has to value you!

Now, while you're with him, I think it's OK to answer phones and greet people at the door, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you filing things or handling the accounting just yet.  You'll have to just work for him for a while until I adjust before you can work up to that.  I don't know for how long, I'll decide that when I'm ready.

What do you mean, what if the job isn't for a receptionist position?  What if the new employer is looking for a server or a construction worker?  Oh hell no!  There's no way I'm going to let MY SPOUSE do something as dangerous as construction work!  What if you get injured on the job?!  You'll bring that injury back home and everything will have to change!  No, that's a hard limit for me.  I can't handle my spouse working in a dangerous field.  That's a boundary for us.

What?  Of course this isn't unreasonable.  Any employer who wouldn't agree to all this isn't right for us anyway.  He wouldn't be a good match, so it's OK to reject him.  We need to find someone who is right *for us*.  We're supposed to be doing this together, right?  That's what you said.  So we need to find you a job that will make our relationship better.  If the job strains our relationship, it's got to go.  I shouldn't have to accommodate something that's coming into our lives after we've been together this long.  The job is the new guy here, so anyone wanting to be your employer is just going to have to take us or leave us.

And while I'm thinking of "new guy", maybe you ought to just work for female employers.  They tend to be more understanding of relationship obligations, whereas dudes are more territorial.  I don't want to get into pissing matches with your new boss all the time, so maybe just stick to women.

But somewhere, out there, is our perfect new employer. She'll be kind and understanding and considerate and respectful of our relationship and our family and your obligations.  She'll pay decent wages and have excellent benefits even for part-timers, because of course you can't be with her 40 hours a week if you expect to be home when I need you.  She'll never make any demands of us, and if things change, she'll let you go gracefully with a comfortable compensation package because she knew the conditions of hiring you when she interviewed you.  Don't worry, I'll write it all down for her and give it to her when we go to your interview.

Oh, honey, it'll be so great having two incomes and more health insurance!  We'll have so much more money, and you'll have that sense of purpose you've been looking for since the youngest was born!  It'll revitalize our marriage!  We'll go on more vacations together, and I can't wait to come home from work and see you there, waiting for me as usual with a candlelight dinner, and you'll tell me all about your day - every detail!

No, really, I mean every detail - a full play-by-play.  I need to hear *everything* so that I don't feel insecure by not knowing what you did while you were away.  Well, no, I never needed to know every detail while we were apart when you were home and I was at work, but this is different.  In fact, just to make sure, why don't you just text me throughout the day every time you do a new task, that way we'll be sure, and then you can recap it all at night when you get home.  Your boss is just going to have to deal with you making personal phone calls and text while you're on the clock.  That's another boundary for us.

And I promise that hearing all the details of how much fun you're having at your new job won't make me feel left out.  And I promise that I won't make you responsible for my feelings.  I'm totally responsible for my feelings and you're totally responsible for your actions that cause those feelings.  So if I start to feel jealous when I hear *too many* details, you'll just have to quit your job and focus on us for a while.  But since you're *agreeing* to it, it's totally egalitarian.  Because I love you and I respect that you can agree to these boundaries.

I know it's taken me a while to get on board with your idea here, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I think our marriage will be stronger than ever for the adventure we're about to take together.  Just as long as we can quit this little experiment if it gets too hard.  But it'll be great!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Him: I just want to ask, and I don't want to be rude, so if I'm stepping into anything here, please tell me. But, is it ... do you just like the thrill? I mean, I don't know how to say it, but, you know, the thrill?

Me: No, I actually don't like the beginning of relationships. I don't like the novelty, the newness, the excitement of dating. Some do. I like the old, comfortable relationships that have been around a long time and you really know each other and you're "settled".

I'm poly because I just keep falling in love with people before I'm done being in love with the pre-existing partners. There are a lot of interesting, wonderful people in the world and I fall in love with some amazing people who all bring value to my life.

There's nothing missing or lacking or broken about any of my relationships. I fell in love with new people while still loving someone else.

Him: Yeah, I can understand that. It happens all the time.

#RealConversationsIHave #PolyEducatingBackstage

When I have conversations in real life, as when I hashtag #RealConversationsIHave, about polyamory, the conversations are necessarily limited. There's something about verbal speech that makes conversations linear. So I can't get to every talking point in the conversation because my response sparks a particular response in them and I respond to that and we go in a particular direction.  This particular conversation even continued in another direction from here.

Plus, a lot of times, I'm at work. For most people, being at work means you can't say certain things, but for me it means that our conversations are interrupted when someone yells across the room for help RIGHT NOW and we have to stop talking to run over and save someone from being crushed by a falling truss or road case. Or, in less dire circumstances, we're just walking in two different directions so the conversation can only last for as long as we're in earshot. A lot of my soundbites were developed this way. That and Twitter, which I deliberately used as a tool to create soundbites for complicated and nuanced concepts. But then the Twitter-created soundbites also come in very handy in these situations at work.

So there are several reasons why I am poly, not just the one I happened to address in this conversation. One of which is my aforementioned falling in love without falling out of love reason. That's why *I* have multiple partners myself. But a big part of being poly, as opposed to some other form of non-monogamy, is in how one feels about one's partner having other lovers, and in how one feels about those other lovers.

I am also poly because I very strongly believe in agency and autonomy. Because of my aforementioned reason, I know that it's possible (and even likely) for my partners to fall in love (or lust) with someone other than me and still love or like or care for me. So, because I value agency and autonomy, I am also poly because I do. not. believe. in restricting my partners' expressions of feelings for other people. If they fall in love with someone else, they should be allowed to explore those feelings because it is not my place to "allow" or "disallow" it in the first place.

The stronger I really internalize this value, the less often I feel things like jealousy. I am not prone to jealousy mainly because, deep down, I honestly do not see my partners as things to feel jealous over. Envy, sure, but a romantic relationship is not required to feel envy of other people. Envy can be felt over any number of other people, even people you don't even know personally. And envy in poly relationships is pretty simple to solve - I want to do that thing that other people are doing, please do it with me too? Boom, solved.

And the third aspect of polyamory - how one feels about metamours - from the very beginning I felt empathy and compassion for metamours. And over time, as I explored the reality of polyamory, I learned the real-life value that metamours bring to my life as friends, confidantes, pillars of support, activity mates, co-conspirators, and sometimes simply other people to share in the emotional labor and the joy that comes with relating to our mutual partner. I am polyamorous because I see my metamours as opportunities, not as threats or competitors or even "other". The people I count among my best and closest friends are people I met through a mutual partner. In fact, if my metamours weren't already going to be the groomsmates, I'd have them as my bridesmates and one metafore is my bridesmate. Their presence in my partners' lives, and by extension in my life, makes my life better.

There are definitely people who like the NRE and some who like it at an unhealthy level (NRE-junkies), but there are those people in monogamy and other relationship styles too. I, however, am not in it for the "thrill". None of the main reasons *why* I am poly involve "thrill" or excitement or novelty or newness. They all involve complex emotions and interactions which are easier to handle and feel better with time under the relationship, with familiarity.

There are some fun parts to "newness", to "the chase", to the uncertainty, to the novelty, to the NRE, but that's not *why* I am poly. I could get a lot of that from being a serial monogamist too, or a cheater, or a swinger, or any number of other relationship styles. That's not the part that attracts me to polyamory. The more complex parts are what attracts me, because those more complex parts have higher returns, for me.
joreth: (BDSM)

I'm finally getting around to reading "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft so expect lots of quotes in the next few days, and hopefully some longer blog posts if I ever get a computer again. I didn't want to wait on this one because it's relevant to the atrocity of a "kinky romance" movie whose sequel just came out.

In addition to being rape and abuse apologia, the 50 Shades trilogy is also extemely classist. Some tweet put it more succinctly, basically that this book wouldn't seem romantic at all if Christian lived in a trailer park. If a guy with tattoos and a construction job behaved like Christian, even the "soft" version in the movie, it would be glaringly obvious how controlling and manipulative he is. But give him a private jet and suddenly it's "romantic"

Bancroft addresses this very thing as early as the first section in the introduction chapter on The Mythology of abuse.

"The social stereotype of the abuser as a relatively uneducated, blue-collar male adds to the confusion. The faulty equation goes: 'Abusive equals muscle-bound caveman, which in turn equals lower class.' In addition to the fact that this image is an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it also overlooks the fact that a professional or college-educated man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing women as anyone else. A successful businessperson, a college professor, or a sailing instructor may be less likely to adopt a tough-guy image with tattoos all over his body [although that stereotype is gradually being overcome these days] but still may well be a nightmare partner.
 
Class and racial stereotypes permit the more privileged members of society to duck the problem of abuse by pretending its someone else's problem. Their thinking goes: 'It's those construction-worker guys who never went to college; it's those Latinos; it's those street toughs - they're the abusers. Our town, our neighborhood, [our class of man,] isn't like that. We're not macho men here.'
 
But women who live with abuse know that abusers come in all styles and from all backgrounds. Sometimes the more educated an abuser, the more knots he knows how to tie in a woman's brain, the better he is at getting her to blame herself, and the slicker is his ability to persuade other people that she is crazy. The more socially powerful an abuser, the more difficult it can be to escape."



This is Christian Grey. This is Hair Gropenführer. This is even my ex, who is not in the same class as the extremely wealthy, but has the social power of being a white-collar, educated, middle-class, white, likeable, social-justice-conscious, cismale.

The Orangutan-In-Chief has made the "Latino" argument explicitly. One of the reasons he wants to build his security-blanket of a wall is because he claimed that Mexicans are rapists, implying  proportionally more often than US men are. My ex uses social justice language to obfuscate and confuse his victims so that they get confused and start believing that their resistance to his control victimizes *him* and that they are the monsters.

Christian uses his money. He can afford to travel literally anywhere and with no notice or preparation to stalk his victim. He buys the company his victim works for so that her income is directly tied to pleasing him. In the movie, they gave him an excuse that he wanted to fire her "abusive" boss, but a non-controlling person would seek legal prosection means to help her, not replacing one abusive boss for another. He buys her a car against her wishes. He consistently thinks that he knows what's best for her in spite of her protestations and buys whatever he thinks she "needs" from clothes to food to transportation to her source of income, regardless of her own preferences.

He uses legalese to obfuscate his manipulation in the form of a non-disclosure contract (and again in his farce of a bdsm contract) and then uses literally the power of the law with those contracts to isolate her and prevent her from communicating outside or having an independent support system.

Healthy kinksters introducing a newbie to bdsm for the first time recommend that the n00b find a local dungeon and/or community for more resources and support during the learning process. One of the red flags in the community, or "lifestyle", is when a dom tries to be the only teaching source, often insisting that he alone is "responsible" enough to properly guide the sub. One example of an extemist who uses this tactic is a cult leader who is the sole source of wisdom (and sex or decisions about sex).

I once had an ex who insisted that only he could be trusted to recognize predators in the community, so all new subbies had to be collared by him so that any dom wanting to play with the newbie sub had to court his permission and approval, so that he could "vet" them. I've also seen "poly" men use this same excuse to infantilize their female partners saying that they have poor judgement so he needs veto power to make sure that she stays safe. Ironically, this is a warning sign that *he* is the one abusing her.

Christian also uses the "I was abused as a child" myth that Bancroft addresses in the immediately prior bullet point. This excuse pulls on a victim's compassion and makes her feel guilty for her resistance because she is then continuing to hurt an already broken person, as well as making her want to stick around to "save" him.

This book and movie trilogy would have actually made a good suspense thriller (if you excuse the poor writing). If the author wasn't such a piss-poor writer and if she hadn't gone on record multiple times defending her tripe as "romantic", I might have thought that she researched abusive relationships and used the domestic abuse checklist as a character outline. And if the Twilight author wasn't almost as shitty of writer, I might have assumed that *she* was the researcher and used the checklist that the plagerizer - er, I mean 50 Shades author just unwittingly copied into her fanfic version.

I'm not even past the introduction chapters yet and 50 Shades can already be seen in the warning signs. Abuse is about power and control. Money, education, job type, and other class markers are all ways that people obtain power. If anything, it seems like it would be MORE likely that Christian and Orangeface McTinyhands would turn out to be abusers.

Don't support the books or movies by spending money on the franchise or watching / downloading through a service that tracks its popularity like Amazon or Netflix. Don't recommend it to newbies or excuse it as a "gateway" into real kink. If you happen to be interested in the erotic fantasy of being controlled or trained, I can recommend better stories that don't neglect the subbie's consent even while she submits to a power exchange dynamic, even ones that include her resistance and him "knowing her better than she knows herself".

To put it simply (yet again), it's not the kink that makes it abuse, it's the manipulation and control, and what makes it particularly dangerous is that it relies heavily on the audience buying into the class myth of abuse. This myth is one of the tools that abusers use to gaslight their victims and convince them that they are not victims. By not taking a hard stance and speaking out against this franchise, our silence contributes directly to the culture which traps women in abusive situations. Women need to know that this is abuse so they can better recognize it when it happens to them.

He is not romantic. He is not sexy. He is not a dom. He is not a broken bird to be saved. He is not your fault. He is not exempt.

joreth: (Bad Computer!)

#Irony: #Polyamory is explicitly supposed to be about "more than two", and yet every resource we have, every discussion, every fear, every relationship rule, everything centers around couples. We have to "protect the primary couple"; we have to "respect the original or preexisting couple"; we have to develop communication so that we can improve our relationships (implied to be between couples); we assuage fears by talking about how the new relationship can improve the old *couple*'s relationship; singles and solo polys wonder how to get into couples "of their own"; and dog forbid we neglect to discuss how to "open up" an existing couple! ...

"The Couple" takes on a life of its own and soon it's a battle between The Couple and everyone who is not part of The Couple. That goes for the single interloper who is a threat to The Couple and yet is also the same person they want to "include in their relationship" and that goes for everyone who has seen this story play out a million times before and tries to warn The Couple that we already know the ending to this story.

Y'know what? Fuck "The Couple". I don't give a rat's ass about your relationships anymore. I certainly don't "respect" your coercive, destructive, exclusionary relationship. I care about the people in the relationships, and that includes everyone that the people in The Couple are about to sacrifice on the alter to The Couple. I have partners of my own. I have life partners. I have entangled partners. I have partners I care deeply about and who share significant portions of my life with me. Fuck those "couples" too.

I want to focus on building *partnerships* with my lovers and metamours and friends and family. A partnership isn't *inherently* limited to a "couple" and no one dyad gets to take precedence over anyone else and certainly no *relationship* gets to take precedence over any *person*. The partnership must always exist to serve the people in the partnership and never the other way around. Sometimes my partnerships do include just two of us, and that's fine, but fuck The Couple as its own entity. I care about the people, even the two who make up The Couple, but I do not care about The Couple as if it were a living, breathing person in its own right. I do not grant The Couple personhood status. People are more important than The Couple.

And fuck those cousins of The Couple who elevate The Triad or The Quad or The Tribe or whatever fucking group name you have to the same status as The Couple. You won't have as much social support as The Couple, so you might think that your little relationship unit deserves to be in a protected class, but a bully is still a bully even among minority groups so fuck your application of The Couple filter over your technically-more-than-two relationship too.

And if you try to argue semantics with me over what you think makes a "couple" and whether that's different from a "partnership" or not, fuck you too, you're missing the point.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Just like the word "polyamory" itself, there is a person who coined the term "solo poly" who is living* and yet most of the community debates the definition. We seem to like taking words and terms that exist for a purpose and changing them to suit our own preferences.  Then we argue over what the words mean and get upset when people misunderstand our non-standard, unconventional, or unique use of the word.

When the term first came out, I had been an outspoken writer and activist in the poly community for many years. I came into the poly community as a single, bi-curious, woman-presenting person. I wasn't trying to "open up" some existing monogamous relationship. Which means that I was immediately beset upon by the unicorn hunters - poly sharks circling the waters after fresh meat. It's enough to put anyone off their feed, to mix my metaphors.

But I'm stubborn. And I'm very secure in who I am and what I want. And I'm also absolutely adamant about what I believe I am entitled to. Some of the things I believe I am entitled to are controlling my agency, being treated as an individual human being, being an equal partner in my relationships, and designing my relationships to suit the preferences of the people in them rather than forcing people to fit into a predetermined relationship mold. Apparently, I'm asking a lot. But I didn't flee the poly community after being treated like something to be consumed. I stuck around to fight back so that I could change the community into something that was more hostile towards those sharks and more welcoming towards swimmers like me, the people who, I had been led to believe, started the community in the first place.

Around 2012, the phrase "solo poly" started getting used, notably by one blogger in particular who is credited with coining the phrase. I became aware of her when we started interacting on Twitter because we seemed to share similar relationship preferences and a similar frustration with the broader poly community being resistant to and dismissive of our visions of respect for autonomy, agency, and living alone. I do not take any credit whatsoever in the coining of that phrase, but I was there in the beginning when it was coined and I had been publicly espousing what turned out to be its definition for more than a decade before its coining.

There were a few other terms floating around at the time and we were trying them all on to see what fit. While trying on several terms, I started the first ever solo poly group, and I put it on Facebook. I invited several phrase coiners to run the group with me, as we seemed to share the same visions and frustrations. Eventually the other terms dropped out of favor and we stuck with "solo poly".

But in my time defending this new phrase, I have discovered that lots of people use the term differently, including those of us who started the whole movement in the first place. As usual, this has caused some confusion. Today, I have come up with a breakdown of the three or four most common variations on the phrase that I think will help to bridge communication gaps when we all start throwing around this term and everyone starts arguing about what it can and can't include.

Before I get to that breakdown, though, there is one misconception that needs to be cleared up. The one thing that solo poly does *not* mean is "unpartnered". Solo polys *can* be without any romantic partners (for however they want to define "romantic partner") but that is most definitely not what the term *means*. Solo polys can and do have partners of all sorts, including deeply intimate, emotional, committed partners. We already had a word for people who don't have any partners - single. The term "solo poly" is intended to address a specific way that they "do" their relationships, not to indicate that they don't have any.

  1. The most commonly cited explanation for "solo poly", in my observation, is the desire to live alone and be off the "relationship escalator". The "relationship escalator" is that culturally defined path that people in romantic relationships are supposed to take, with certain steps progressing in a particular order, all culminating in a particular relationship conclusion. In my culture, we start programming people from a very young age, notably with the children's rhyme "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage!" There can be some variance in the steps, but in general, the "relationship escalator" involves two people always moving towards a destination that ends with life together, a marriage certificate, kids, a house, entangled finances, and a blending of the self into the relationship unit.

    This can even play out in a microcosm of individual relationships, where even sex acts are ranked on an increasing scale of importance, to be done in a particular order in a particular time and imbued with meaning or significance related to its place on the escalator.  But with respect to this element, the culmination of the relationship, it's symbol of "success", involves the intermingling of lives.

    Many solo polys prefer to structure their lives, logistically, in alternate ways, with living alone or "independently" with housemates being a top priority. Many solo polys expend a lot of energy keeping their lives logistically, practically, disentangled from other people, regardless of the emotional connection they share with others.

  2. The next most commonly cited description that I, personally, see is the elevation of the self as "primary". This is more abstract and involves prioritizing the self over others, usually in terms of self-care and emotional labor. People who use this description will often refer to themselves as their own "primary" and everyone else comes "secondary" to the self. This does not preclude any depth to an emotional connection between the solo poly and others. This is all about priority - who comes first in a conflict of competing priorities (which is usually the alternate definition of "hierarchy" that so often leads us into circular argument over whether hierarchy can be "ethical" or not, where people confuse "priority" for "power" and attach ranking terms to priorities instead of centers of power). No matter how much one cares about another, sometimes priorities conflict and that's just the way of things - just ask anyone with two or more kids who have extra-curricular activities or who have had accidents at the same time. Prioritizing one's own self as "primary" sets the baseline precedent for how to resolve those conflicts.

    In practice, many solo polys are fairly adept at what I call "interdependence" - the balancing of priorities so that each person in a relationship can feel secure that their emotional needs will be cared for and that their partners and romantic networks can provide a safety net for them to fall back on when needed. Yet many tend to emphasize the importance of putting the self first in conversation about priorities, so it often sounds like they stray into "selfish" territory (which I have defined in some long-ago blog post as being different from self-interested, where "selfish" is about prioritizing the self to the detriment of anyone else and is inherently a negative trait).

    In my opinion and experience, I think some of this emphasis comes as a reaction to abuse. One of the red flags of abuse is in the loss of individual identity and subsuming one's identity into the relationship - in making the relationship itself more important than the people in the relationship. Lots and lots and lots of people see the melding of individuals into a single unit as "romantic" and don't see the danger inherent in losing one's identity separate from the relationship. Because of that, lots of people engage in fundamentally abusive practices without even realizing it (which is where the whole power issue of hierarchy comes in), and in polyamory, the people who feel the pressure and consequent explosion first and most often tend to be people who are not entangled in escalator-like relationships.

    In other words, even though losing one's identity into a relationship in an abusive situation hurts everyone, the most visible collateral damage in these situations tends to be the "secondary" brought into an existing dyadic relationship. These "secondaries" are treated as disposable, as crutches to shore up damaged couples, as sex toys, as nannies, as need-fulfillment machines. Even when they aren't supposed to be "secondaries" and are instead supposed to be equal "thirds" to existing dyads, their purpose tends to remain the same - a person is "hired" to fulfill a role for a couple and when it all goes to hell, that third person often ends up with the most visible scars.

    So I believe that many solo polys are gun-shy, so to speak, of getting sucked back into these kinds of toxic relationships or have seen the explosions on the poly battlefield and want to avoid being yet another statistic themselves. I might fall into that camp. Many may also be unable to articulate the difference between priority and power, and fearing a power imbalance, they emphasize their priority for themselves.  I think a lot of solo polys, even though they are quite capable of building interdependent relationships and may even be practiced at it in their existing relationships, I think a lot of solo polys tend to emphasize their self as "primary" to try and explain the concepts of autonomy and independence to an audience that often sees *any* separation or individuality as a threat to their control over the outcome of the relationship.

    I am not at all, in any way, suggesting that solo polys do not feel the way they claim to feel about being their own primaries. I'm suggesting to people who think that these claims mean that solo polys are callous and selfish and unable to care deeply about other people or even work together to form mutually beneficial partnerships that those people misunderstand the importance of the concepts, possibly because of a lack of understanding of that power imbalance and of how deep the threads of abuse go into our collective understandings of relationships where "abuse" and "romantic" become interchangeable.

  3. Closely related to the "self as the primary" but some may view as distinct, is the prioritization of the concepts of "autonomy", "agency", and "independence". This can also be related to abuse. First and foremost, abuse is about control. The way one controls another is by removing their agency - their ability to operate as an autonomous individual. Many solo polys cite "agency" as their motivation, or their priority. Much of what I said in the previous element can be applied here, especially the parts about reacting to abuse, where some solo polys are aware of and concerned about abuse and emphasize the language of "agency" in their descriptions such that people who don't understand the importance can misinterpret solo polys as being "selfish", "afraid of commitment", or unwilling / unable to work together in interdependent partnerships.

    Sometimes the people who are most sensitive to a loss of agency or autonomy are part of oppressed categories and understand the loss of agency from a cultural oppression perspective. Many solo polys are drawn to the label because of their closely held beliefs in the importance of autonomy and they seek to build relationships that honor and respect autonomy and agency above everything else, where all the other elements of relationships, such as support and intimacy, exist to serve and protect the partners' respective agency. Some solo polys believe that intimacy and connection can't exist without recognizing and acknowledging agency, because it is only by relating to an autonomous individual can we truly build intimate connections in the first place. Not recognizing the essential agency of our partners is considered a roadblock to intimacy because the participants are not really in relationships with each other, but are in relationships with models of people that exist in one's imagination that are *based* on real people.

    There are also a lot of motivations for people who value independence. I'm not going to go into a deep dive over the how and why of this. Some people were raised to be independent. Some people were harmed by being too dependent and learned independence as a survival skill. Some people had bad experiences with codependent partners in the past. Some people are just that way and who knows why? And probably there are even more reasons.

    Our culture tends to give us conflicting messages. On the one hand, we're supposed to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps" and be a "self-made man" and not take "handouts". On the other hand, romantic relationships are culturally designed to erode that sense of independence. There is also a gender power influence here, where men who have housewives raising the kids and managing the home are still considered "self-made" who become "successful" with "nobody's help" but women who have partners are considered to need help. If she works and he stays home with the kids, he is "helping out with the kids" so that she can pursue her career. But if he works and she stays home, she's not "helping out", she's doing her job and he still built his career "on his own" because it's the charity or handouts or assistance of others that "count" as "help".

    The gender differential and power dynamic in relationships is a big enough topic that some people can actually build entire careers out of studying it so I'm going to stop here before I go off on a rant about it. Back to independence, we are taught to be "independent" but that doesn't apply in relationships. In relationships, we are taught to entangle ourselves with other people. It's even written into the law in some places, such as shared property laws where, even if you maintain separate joint checking accounts, legally speaking each spouse is entitled to half of the other's money. Some people, for a variety of reasons, prefer to retain their independence even within romantic relationships, regardless of how much they care about their partner.

  4. The fourth element is about introversion and privacy. Many people who gravitate towards solo poly are introverts. First of all, "introversion" has nothing at all to do with social skills, shyness, or misanthropy. Introversion and extroversion are jungian psychological theories that describe how people feel "energized", or engaged, active, and happy. Introversion and extroversion are also not binary states; they are on spectrums. Everyone has some of both, so I don't want to hear any of this "I'm an ambivert" or "those tests never guess me right because I do both" bullshit in my comments. Everyone does both to some degree and boxing you into a single category is not the purpose of the system. But personality type systems and the public's collective misunderstanding of them is a rant for another time.

    Back to the point - introversion is where people feel that they lose "energy" by interacting with some people and they need to "recharge" by being alone. Extroversion is the opposite - people feel that they lose "energy" by being alone and need social contact with others to feel better. Many introverts enjoy social activity, some of us enjoy it a great deal. It's just that we feel tired after the event and it takes some time being alone to start to feel better. Introversion can be a difficult state to adequately care for when someone lives with other people, so polys who are strong introverts often enjoy living alone to care for their introversion. No matter how much an introvert loves someone else, and no matter what they feel or believe about entangling finances or other relationship escalator steps, an introvert still needs a way to get "alone time". So they may be open to such entangled arrangements, but only if they can configure them in the right way. The difficulty of finding such a balance when one is also poly can lead to people identifying as "solo poly".

    And then there is privacy. Again, like independence above, there are a wide variety of reasons why people value privacy, ranging from healthy to unhealthy, from "nature" to "nurture" (i.e. being inherent in the personality vs. a reaction to past experiences), and which slide around on the intensity scale. It is much more difficult to maintain one's privacy from within a relationship that is riding the escalator. When people cohabit, especially if they don't have a room of their own, when they share finances, when they share email and online accounts, when they entangle their lives with other people, it becomes extremely difficult to have privacy. This isn't about keeping secrets (and I'm not going to entertain comments about what "counts" as a "secret"). Every mother I know has made jokes about not knowing what it's like to pee without an audience for the first 5 years of a child's life (longer if one has multiple kids within 5 years of age). Some people value privacy more than they value entanglement and these people are often attracted to the label "solo poly".

These four elements - living alone, the self as the primary, autonomy / agency / independence, and introversion / privacy, are not mutually exclusive. Most solo polys I know desire a mix of the four elements. But I would say that each solo poly person has their own blend of these four elements, with certain elements being more important than others. And that is what, I think, causes a lot of confusion.  Someone asks "what is solo poly?" and someone with a blend that prioritizes element #1 gives their answer, but then someone who really feels and believes that element #3 describes them but doesn't much care about #1 thinks that they are not solo poly because their blend is different and they're not aware of all these different elements.

My personal stance on this, the position I have always held since I started fighting with hierarchical polys almost 20 years ago that led to me collaborating with those bloggers who started coining all these poly sub-group terms, my opinion is that the first element - the logistics of living alone - is not necessary but is extremely difficult to maintain the others without it. I am of the "autonomy and agency" flavor of solo poly. I believe that maintaining one's individuality and independence, and respecting the autonomy and agency of each person, and prioritizing the autonomy and agency of each individual above the relationship are of the utmost importance and how we reduce abusive structures in relationships.

I have always held that the idea of autonomy is what makes one "solo poly", even before we had the terms to use. I have also always held that maintaining one's autonomy is possible even in relationships that look "primary-like", but that couple privilege is a subtle, insidious thing that takes conscious and deliberate effort to undermine so that people in "primary-like" relationships or escalator relationships would have to intentionally structure their relationships to make space for autonomy.

I tend to see the autonomy / agency element of solo poly as being integral to the definition and the other elements as being either expressions of that element or supportive of that element but not necessarily requirements of solo polyamory.

So when you're talking to solo polys or if you're wondering if you "qualify" as solo poly, keep these elements in mind. Maybe three of them really hit you personally but you couldn't give a shit about living alone, or perhaps you're disabled and need to live with caregivers. You could still be solo poly. Or perhaps you really need to maintain your own money "just in case" and you're opposed to legal marriage because screw the government getting up in your business but you still want to build deeply connected, intimate relationships. You could still be solo poly. Or maybe everything about this sounds awesome except that you want to do it in a commune with two dozen other people who all live in their own huts but on the same property walking distance from each other or in the same apartment complex and you socialize with everyone all the time in the common spaces like the kitchen because you're extroverted. You could still be solo poly.

If you're legally married, live with only one partner, share finances, and co-parent, I think there is still room for you under the label if you hold the other values, but I do think you will be challenged more often because I think it's more difficult to see one's internal values of autonomy and agency when one's life is structured to more closely resemble a system of dependence. If you only date together, have veto power or approval power, access to each other's emails and phone or text conversations (especially if no one outside of your dyad has the same access to these things of yours), have a hierarchy, or otherwise have difficulty separating out where you end and your partner begins, I think I would question your commitment to values of autonomy, independence, privacy, etc.

In my opinion, as long as you value yourself, your partners, *and your metamours* as independent agents and you arrange your relationships to support  and encourage that, the rest of it all is more like flavor, or color, shading your own version of solo polyamory to reflect your uniqueness and individuality. Others may disagree, but as one of the earliest pioneers of this style of polyamory regardless of what it's called, this is what I was fighting for from the beginning. Treat people like independent, individual human beings who are more important than the relationship, discourage couple privilege, and separate out the culturally appointed markers of "romantic relationships" from the emotional connection or value that each relationship has for the participants.




This is a work in progress, which is why it's so long. I hope to refine it to a more digestible description in the future.

*Morning Glory Zell is responsible for coining the phrase "polyamory", being the first person to use the phrase "poly-amorous" in print and all other publicly available derivations of the term came later. She died in 2014 but was alive and available to clarify her intent with coining the phrase for the time period in which the definition was being debated and determined. Her intentions were often ignored when people wanted to use the term differently or dismissed under the excuse that another person was the "real" coiner of the phrase even though it was used 2 years later, simply because that other person had the first internet reach. "Who said it first" is an argument for another time.

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
I am, I think, technically, a relationship anarchist although I don't identify with that label or the communities that have sprung up around the label. If I read the various definitions of the term (because dog forbid we let someone coin a term and everyone use the same damn definition), they more or less describe my viewpoint better than not.

One of the reasons why I don't identify with the term is because, in the early days of polyamory, those definitions *were* the definitions I was given for polyamory. I feel resentful of what I see as all the couples finding out about us through Montel Williams and the early news articles and invading "our" space. It's more complicated than that, but to me, we anarchists had this space first and the couples with their toxic monogamous paradigms infected it, driving out the later generations of people like me who came looking for community, didn't find it, and created their own space instead. I feel resentful of that and I keep trying to "take back" what I think of as my space so having throngs of people abandon the fight (because they aren't invested in the community like I am) makes me feel angry, and that is one of several reasons why I don't connect to the term.

But, aside from all of that, the whole reason why I gravitated towards polyamory in the first place is because I had all of these relationships that didn't fit into the neat and tidy little boxes that mono-centric culture insisted I must have. I was good friends with most of my exes. I had "best friends" to whom boyfriends had to take a backseat. I had casual partners who were good for a fuck but not good to call on in times of need. I had different ways of prioritizing my relationships that weren't tied to the kind of sexual activity we shared (or didn't share).

Some RAs insist that they don't do any ranking of relationships at all - that absolutely everyone in their contact book is exactly equal to everyone else. But others (and I would fall into this camp) say that it's not about never "ranking" anyone, it's about removing the requirement of sex as the most important ranking factor. It's about acknowledging that we have all these different kinds of relationships that mean different things to us, and romantic-sexual love should not be given the highest rung of priority *just because* it's romantic-sexual. There are other factors that are just as or more important in determining which person is given more of our priority, time, attention, emotional connection, etc.

As Charlotte once said in Sex And The City, "maybe we could be each other's soul mates, and guys can be these great, fun guys that we have sex with?" That's simplistic, sure, and there are tons of problematic things about the show, but even this heteromononormative piece of entertainment understood that sometimes people come into your life who are your anchor, your core, your foundation, and they are not necessarily the same people you have sex with.

My whole life I have struggled to explain my relationships. Part of the problem is because categorization is an inherently ranked system. Look at the words I've used so far - priority, important, more of... On the one hand, I rebel at the the thought of "ranking" anyone, but on the other hand, Dunbar's Number is still a valid theory. We have, essentially, rings of associations, and the closer someone is to the inner ring, the more ... just the "more" they are to us. That's how the brains of social animals work. Once someone is outside of our monkeysphere, they are Other, but inside that sphere, they are Someone and there are different levels of Someone inside the sphere.

I recognize that I have different levels of priority or connection to different people. I just don't associate those priorities or connections with the same markers as mononormative culture (i.e. sex, cohabitation, even relationship labels). Back before I rejected the primary/secondary terminology outright, I described my "primary" relationships in terms of connection rather than logistics. So, my Long Distance Relationships might be "primary" to me because of the strength of the connection I felt, but a local partner might be "secondary" or even "tertiary" because the connection was less, or ... different. Lots of people, particularly those aforementioned couples, in the poly community had a difficult time understanding this redistribution of primary/secondary terminology, which is what first made me reject those terms even before I really began railing against the inherent ranking in them.

So, I can explain all of this, and I have been for years, but it takes a lot of words for me to explain it. Today I read a sentence that explains it in way fewer words than I ever use.

"[H]aving a relationship with someone gives you an insight into how heavy or not heavy an emotional support request may be."

That's it. That's how I categorize my relationships. My "closeness" to someone, how often I talk to them, who gets "priority" and for what, who has sex with whom ... those may be factors that shade the relationship categorization, but those are not deciding factors. What "level" or what ring in the monkeysphere they reside on is based on how heavy an emotional support request of them might be. Can I call on them to vent for an hour on the phone about something or nothing? Can I ask them to perform Acts of Service for me? Which Acts of Service? Can I ask them to drop everything, pay for a last-minute plane ticket across the country or across the world, and just sit with me until I can quell the urge to reach for my gun without help? How emotionally expensive are these requests to them?

How heavy the request is and how not-heavy they feel the request to be is how I categorize my relationships. Not how long we've been together, not whether or not we have sex or what kind of sex, not their physical proximity, not how often we talk to each other, not the relationship label we use for each other, and not the outward markers of our relationship such as selfies together or going on "dates" or holding hands in public.

How much emotional labor is it a mutual joy to share with each other?

I've written before complaining about the amount of emotional labor I often do for others, particularly men. Those complaints are centered around an uneven distribution of emotional labor and the one-sided blindness of who is doing all the labor. By itself, emotional labor is not necessarily a bad thing. It's what partnerships are for - to share the labor to make the load easier for everyone. In happy, healthy relationships, there is a balance of emotional labor - not necessarily an equal division, but a *balance*, where each person feels comfortable shouldering the burden being requested of them and comfortable with the amount and type their partner is shouldering for them, based on their respective needs and desires and preferences.

That one sentence; it's so very simple to illustrate such a complex concept. Having an idea of how heavy of an emotional request I can make and how not-heavy they will receive that request - that's what separates out intimates from acquaintances from strangers for me. It's ranking, but it's not ranking. There's no implications of how many. There's no implied judgement (in my view) of someone being "bad" or "lesser" for the answer being a lighter load than someone else - just a different category, just as valuable, fulfilling a different niche. This request might be "too heavy", but that request might be OK. Not better and worse, just ... different. Not everyone is or can be *or should be* an emotional tank or heavy fighter. We need all kinds of skill sets to make up a good raiding party. So, to me, I don't see an implicit value judgement in this phrase, but some people probably will. There is probably a strong overlap in those people with the people who don't get polyamory in general, with those who *think* they get it but still say things like "I just can't imagine not caring enough about what my partner does with someone else, but you do you!"

But before I go off on another tangent about people's misconceptions of poly, let's wrap up this already long post. My relationships are categorized because that's how the brains of social animals work. But my categorization doesn't match the culturally accepted categorization system. The most important factor, culturally speaking, is sex - you save sex for The One Most Important Person or the sex is a representation that this person is The One Most Important Person. That seems, to me, like a rather shallow way to rank people. I have deemed you Most Important, therefore I will have sex with you (and only you), or I have deemed you Most Important *because* I have sex with you. Making that the defining criterion just seems so ... weird and arbitrary to me, especially when I *see* that it's not true in practice. Even monogamous people have platonic friends and family who are also The Most Important Person. But somehow their sex partner is elevated to this Other No Really The Most Important Person state?

I have lots of important people in my life. They are all important for different ways. They are all important because they are them and I am me and our relationships are a totally, unique organism made up of the blending of them and me that can never be reproduced or replicated by anyone else. And yet, even though everyone is important because they are unique, there is still a difference between them. There is still a difference between intimates, acquaintances, and strangers and even those 3 categories have fuzzy edges and blend into each other.

That difference is based on how heavy of an emotional request can I make and how heavy do they feel that request to be. No value judgement, people are not "bad" or "good" for the amount they can carry for me, they just are. Some people are heavy lifters, some are short burst sprinters, some can only carry certain types of weight and not others. But that's how I see my relationships. That's how I determine who are my core relationships, my satellite relationships, and my comet relationships. That's how my relationship constellation is organized.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to prioritizing the happiness of the individuals over the longevity of the group if / when those two values are in conflict.
This is a new commitment. I have always advocated for a family-style of polyamory. The ex I mentioned in a previous post, who prioritized his own desires above my feelings or our relationship, I remember having conversations with him where he was offended and horrified at the idea of "censorship". I remember him demanding of me "so you think it's appropriate to censor me?!" And I remember my answer was "no, I think you should want to self-censor, that this is something you would choose because our relationship is worth making that choice for." The hard part for me is that I still feel this way. I still feel a strong desire for partners who are willing to weigh their options, and who value our relationship so highly that sometimes the other option is not worth the cost, that sometimes the health of our relationship and my comfort or preferences are too valuable to trade for the other option. I still feel this way even though I always have, even as a child, believed that staying together out of obligation (i.e. "for the children") was one of the worst things you could do for a relationship.

In the commitment about refraining from hurting my partners, I discussed a situation that a metamour and I went through separately but together. That story applies here too. That was a situation where, even though she and I both want to build a poly family, sometimes desperately need that family, we discovered just how dangerous desperation for family can be. We each learned the price of family obligation. We each learned that when the relationship is too important, it becomes coercive. It becomes coercive when any member feels that they can't leave, that their individuality and their individual needs are less important than maintaining the group itself. I referenced this point in a previous post, which further linked to an article on this very subject. This kind of coercion sneaks up on you even when you think you're on the lookout for it. With all my talk of autonomy and the new poly term "solo poly" and independence, I still didn't see it coming.

One very effective trait of abusers is isolation. An abuser isolates his victims from friends and family, from anyone who might be able to see what's going on and who might have enough pull on the victim to give them the strength or motivation to leave. Something I never even considered before was that this tactic can also be used effectively from within a family to keep a family together through force as well. That sounds counter-intuitive - isolating a victim from family in order to bind a family together. It's very subtle. What you do is you make the promise of a relationship, or a family, so desirable that the other person feels afraid to leave (the other person can give you a head start by desiring that family fantasy before they even meet you); that being without this family or this relationship is a terrible option they can't even consider. Then you turn everything that they do into them attacking and hurting the family group or relationship, even if what they do is for their own emotional or physical health or has nothing to do with the family.

When everything they do somehow manages to hurt everyone else in the group - the group that they desperately need to belong to - it drives a wedge between that person and the rest of the group. Soon, communication between the individual and the others in the group dries up because the individual feels a constant wash of disapproval. If you can orchestrate this so that the disapproval is coming through you and not the other people directly (because you're the one who said everyone else is mad, not them), and direct communication starts to become affected, then eventually it doesn't even have to be true and the group starts to blame the widening rift on the individual for pulling away because they're not aware that the individual is pulling away because they think the group has positioned themselves in an us vs. them struggle. So eventually, the individual becomes too afraid to do anything for themselves or for their own good because the consequence is losing the relationship. The individual loses their agency and subsumes their autonomy into the group. This makes the relationship more important than the individuals.

I still very much want a close-knit family style of poly. But I also still very strongly believe that one does not have to lose one's individuality to the group. I mentioned this very concept way back with the commitment to respecting my partners' life choices. But this one is less about focusing on my ability to let go of my attachment to my partners' decisions and more of a step back and a look at the bigger picture. This is an acknowledgement that there are two conflicting goals in my relationships - maintaining individuality and autonomy vs. building family. I believe that most of the time, in healthy relationships, these are not directly in conflict and both can be achieved simultaneously. But sometimes, they will come to a head and conflict. I am establishing a baseline for myself that, in the event of a conflict of these two goals, the one that serves the individual must be given more weight right out of the starting gate. Because if the individuals' happiness is not being served, I believe that the health of the relationship cannot be served either. The latter requires the former, but not necessarily vice versa. So the former must come first, and the latter will follow automatically as a result, or it will end in service of the former.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
* I am committed to choosing the Path of Greatest Courage by always being honest with myself and my partners while simultaneously allowing compassion to dictate the delivery of my honesty.

Yet another old commitment, this one is best explained by two preexisting blog posts: Thoughts About Truth And Virtue and Radical Honesty. The post on truth and virtue introduces the concept of the Path of Greatest Courage, where courage is best defined at this other post.

The summary is this: "Courage is making decisions that take you closer to what you want, or to the person you want to be, even when you're scared." Courage is a virtue and life rewards those who move in the direction of greater courage. Honesty, in most situations but particularly in romantic relationships, is usually the best method for displaying courage as well as for building intimacy in relationships. But honesty without compassion is often nothing more than cruelty. Framing the discussion as honesty vs. "little white lies" is a distraction. The real discussion is between compassion vs. cruelty because both honesty and lying can be either. Honesty can be tempered by compassion, which serves the goal usually offered by those supporting the "little white lie" side ("I don't want to hurt her, so I'll just tell her a nice little white lie that will make her feel better") without sidestepping the path of greatest courage. I'm setting my bar high to strive for the path of greatest courage, which requires me to be honest in my relationships, but without using my commitment to honesty as a blunt object with which to beat my partners over the head. I am setting a goal for myself that I can and will be both honest and kind in my romantic relationships to the best of my ability.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I have a problem with our new trend of slinging around labels like "narcissistic" and "borderline personality" and even "abuse". I had the misfortune to observe up close several relationships that imploded under mutual accusations of abuse and personality disorder labels. And in many of those cases, I got it wrong. I backed the wrong horse. I heard the accusations and I chose a side to "believe the victim" and it turned out that the "victim" was not what they appeared to be.

To be fair, both sides in all the dramas that I watched *did* do some terrible things to each other. We all hurt others when we are hurting ourselves. But, when all the cards finally got laid on the table, the people I backed as "victims" were solidly, unquestionably, abusive and they were so either first (leading to their victim to lash out in whatever legitimately toxic ways the abuser accused their victim of doing) or were so worse (not that it justifies the other side if the other side was, in fact, abusive, but it does *not* justify my misplaced support of them).

Remember that post I made about abuse being about beliefs, not feelings? Here's the problem: in every case, the abuser honestly, truly, genuinely, sincerely believed that what they did was right and they ALSO honestly, truly, genuinely, sincerely believe, to this day, that they were the victims. Even when I *witnessed*, in person, live, someone gaslighting another, they sincerely believe that they have never gaslighted anyone and that their victim was really a narcissist who abused *them*. In that case, the gaslighter uses science articles about faulty memories as armor and accuses *me* of not seeing what I saw because they keep emails (nevermind that this all happened in person, not in email).

I had someone contact me once, crying, hysterical you might even say, over some disagreement they had. One person accused the other of doing something "wrong". So the one who did the thing was terribly upset over the idea that they had harmed their partner and was a horrible person. What they did, in my opinion, was not "wrong". In my opinion, the demand that they not do the thing is what was "wrong" because it was a controlling act. So, they were upset. Later, I confronted the other person, who tried to tell me that they were totally in the right over demanding to control the other in this way, and besides, the other is OK with it so keep my nose out of their business.

I told them that the other was most definitey NOT OK with the controlling behaviour, I saw how not-ok they were myself. So they called the other person over and said "now tell Joreth that we worked this out and everything is OK." So they said to me "It's totally not a big deal, we talked about it, and I really wasn't all that upset anyway." Uh, yes you were. I SAW you. You had a total and complete meltdown. You were barely even verbal, you were so upset. But no, the abuser had the victim convinced that, not only was the thing they were doing not a big deal, but that the victim wasn't even as upset over it as they really were.

So now, years later, I've had a chance to see how all these different people have evolved after their experiences in these doomed relationships. And here's the problem that I have: without exception, all the people I have now identified as "abusive" still believe that they were the victims and that they were abused. There are even therapists involved! Yet no therapist that I'm aware of in these cases has told anyone that they are using abusive tactics or holding them accountable for controlling behaviour. Although, and here's the really scary part, at least one therapist *has* told a victim that *they* were the abuser. And remember, this is one of the cases where I personally was able to witness and observe the relationship over time, and one of the cases where I originally would have agreed with the therapist until I saw the abuse myself, instead of the rewritten reality that is presented to the public after the abuse happens.

These abusers sincerely believe that they were victims. They hold onto this belief years later. They are attempting to "move forward" as if they are recovering from abuse. They have tons of sympathetic followers on social media, sending them *hugs* and "I believe you" comments. Meanwhile, their victims suffer in quiet isolation, forced to withdraw from social media and to slowly build up their support networks in person again, until they feel that they can creep back onto social media with fake names or locked down profiles or they keep only their work-related profiles active and hide their more personal activity.

How do we tell the difference from the outside? This is a rhetorical question because I guarantee that any answers anyone attempts to post in spite of the fact that it's rhetorical, I guarantee that those methods can be applied towards the abusers' stories and we can still interpret their side in their favor. I guarantee that because I'm watching it happen with these cases. Their friends lists remain large. Their comments remain sympathetic. People still "hear you" and "believe you" and "sending you sympathies" and "understanding" and "it will get better" at them. And the really ironic part? More than one of them have built a reputation for "ethical relating" and still post about consent and abuse in relationships. From the *victim's* point of view. Some of them have quite large audiences. Some of them even still get media attention for their writing about relationships.

So I see all these "they're a narcissist!" posts and I really want to support the victims and provide safe spaces for them, but all I can think of when I see these posts is "how can I trust that this time, your accusation is the real one and not the abuser calling his victim a narcissist?" Because, without exception, every case I have personally observed, the one who I believe is the real abuser, every one of them really and truly believes that they are the one who was harmed.

And I don't know what to do about it. I have no answers for this. Every bit of advice or research I've managed to dig up or had someone share doesn't help the outside observer like me because of those sincerely held beliefs. They honestly believe they have been wronged. So unless I was there to see the gaslighting happen, or to see them attempt to control another, from the outide or after the fact the stories they tell sound totally believable because *they* believe them. They can *tell* me a list of things that their true victim supposedly did, and it will sound exactly like narcissistic abuse or whatever. And their pain will be real. As I said in that other post, abusers are people in pain and fear. Their feelings are *real*, which is why abuse is not about "feelings" but about the belief that it is OK to address their feelings and fears using the abusive tactics that they employ, and why I strongly dislike the phrase "all feelings are valid" because of the slippery definition of the term "valid".

So I don't know what to do about all this, and that's the problem I have with our communities flinging around terms like "narcissism", "psychopath", "abuse", etc. I can look at all the checklists and I can say "yep, these are horrible things" and I can listen to someone tell me their grievances and I can say "yep, that sounds awful". But, if we stop there, then apparently EVERYONE is the victim, even when they're actually the perpetrators.

And THEN, on the very rare occasion when someone does come forward and admit to mistakes and makes changes or seeks help, since they're the only ones admitting to wrongdoing, that just confirms who the villain is and our collective response to villains is to ban them from community support and remove their platorms. And I'm not even saying this is wrong in all cases. I'm saying that we do not have the answers to handle abuse in our communities now that we are attempting to identify it. Now we know what abuse *is*, but we still have trouble identifying it and we definitely don't know what to do about it.

I don't have any answers and, as I said, the answers people keep giving me don't help with the first step, which is in telling apart two conflicting sides. "Believe the victim" is good advice to support victims, but only after we have identified the victim. I "believed the victim" several times when the "victim" I believed was actually an abuser. I am currently watching several abusers have major community platforms with hordes of fans and friends who believe them as "victims". Even they, themselves, genuinely believe themselves to be victims (or, at least, not in the wrong). So I have a problem with all these posts because, when I see them, all I can think now is "yes, that really sucks, but what if I'm wrong again and your sincerely held belief does not match reality? And all you did is just remove the support from someone who really needs it because the article you shared describes a horrible person and we're all supposed to 'believe' you automatically?"

And that's a terrible environment for everyone to exist in, but especially people who are on the receiving end of abusive behaviours.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
[livejournal.com profile] margareta87 shared this website and suggested that everyone read everything on it. So I'm reading the most recent blog post and I want to share it specifically.

https://norasamaran.com/2016/08/28/variations-on-not-all-men/
"Sometimes he can’t tell the difference between him feeling bad because he hurt somebody, and feeling bad because someone hurt him. ... When Kyle is 20, or 30, or 40, or 60, and harms someone by action or omission, where will the ‘parent’ be who can say “you are good and loved and not shameful, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right.”?"
I have an abusive ex that I talk about often. I *think* that I've done most of the emotional repair work so that I'm no longer acutely affected by my past relationship with him, but he makes such a good illustration of the messiness of emotional abuse that I continue to talk about him as a tool (heh, pun intended) to teach ethical lessons. This was basically what he was like. He was unable to distinguish between feeling hurt because someone hurt him and feeling hurt because *he* hurt someone and they reacted to it.

As the blogger, Shea Emma Fett phrased it, being victimized by acts of control is different from being victimized by my resistance to your control. In my most recent blog piece about beliefs vs. actions, I phrase it as raising your hand to slap someone and then having your hand hurt when you strike the arm that they raised to block your slap. Where was the grownup for my ex to say "people love you, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right"? When I, eventually, tried to take that role, I got punished for it. I was lumped right in with the "bad guy" and we were both seen as "attacking" him. I was called "intolerant" and told that I was a One True Wayist because I told him that his method of keeping his partners small for his own comfort was unethical and hurtful and that *he* needed to do the work to let them grow rather than making them stay small on his own timetable.

"If you harm someone and then make it so that they feel afraid to tell you about it, be aware that women are likely coddling you constantly day in and day out in ways that exhaust them and that you take as normal and do not even notice."
He did this too. He made having a difference of opinion to him so intolerable that most of the family just let things go rather than argue. And they didn't make it clear that they were "agreeing to disagree" either. Often, he and I would have an argument, he would go away to complain to the others in the group, then come back and say "I talked to everyone else and we all agree that you're wrong", but then one or more of them would come to me privately to say that they actually agreed with me and disagreed with him but they didn't want to say anything because it was too much trouble to start a fight about it.

People in the group were constantly rearranging things in order to make him feel comforted or to accommodate him. If an argument got too heated, he would shut down, go into a semi-catatonic state, and when things got really tense he even reverted to self-harm and threats of self-harm. People in that group would literally force themselves into situations where they felt physically and emotionally unsafe just to prevent him from having a meltdown. Any attempt to tell him that his actions harmed them was met with said meltdown in which people had to back up and take back what was said. He called it "admitting they were wrong" and "owning their own shit" and he also called it "backtracking" and being "unreliable" which made them afraid because there was no right answer and no way to get out of the quicksand bog of arguing with him. I called it "badgering them into conceding." His victim called it "gaslighting". Whatever it was, he rewrote reality around him so that he was always right and everyone else catered to his "needs".
"Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?"
This is what happens when people "blow up" seemingly "out of nowhere". If it looks like someone is "overreacting", there is a very good chance that they are actually acting appropriately if you add up all the times in the past, instead of taking this one instance in isolation. Regardless of how righteous you feel in your position (and believe me, I've seen plenty of people "blow up" at me on things that I'm dead certain that I'm right about - like gently pointing out something mildly racist and having them explode all out of proportion to what I actually said), embed this in your brain - if someone has lost their shit, there is probably something deeper going on. It is likely that they are reacting to an accumulation of things and your most recent encounter is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it's *your* job to step back and see if they are reacting to a lifetime of microaggressions and it's not personal to you or if they added together all the times they tried to talk to you about this and they're fed up with you not hearing them.
" if you make it hard for people around you to let you know you have caused harm, you’re going to invoke survival strategies in your friends and colleagues when you think you’re just having a regular hangout with your friend."
This partially explains when people of some sort of privilege get on their FB soapbox to preach about maintaining friends of different viewpoints. For someone with privilege, it's not a big deal to have a friend who has a different perspective when that person has less privilege because that different perspective doesn't affect the more privileged person directly. Their "debates" are all "academic" and they can take them or leave them. But the less privileged person is *harmed* every time they have that "debate" because, for them, it's not academic, it's personal. So one person thinks they're just having a friendly, spirited debate and the other person experiences it as one more cut in the death of a thousand cuts. So they have to employ fucking *survival strategies* in order to maintain that friendship, and eventually it becomes too much to bear. Think about that - the person you think of as a friend has to treat you like they're handling live plutonium and put on protective emotional "gear" just to be in your presence. I hope that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now sit with that discomfort because I'm not going to provide the coddling to make you feel better about yourself over it.
"I would actually apologize to him for having felt afraid. Because my hurt and fear hurt his feelings."
Being victimized by your control is not the same thing as being victimized by my resistance to your control.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

Modified disclaimer: "This is a personal post so it has extra rules. I don't want advice. I don't want condescension about my age or any other aspect of my identity or lifestyle or about not "seeing clearly" precisely because I've been through some fucked up experiences. I do not want devil's advocate. In fact, since this is all completely about lessons I've learned through very painful personal experience, I'm not interested in entertaining any debate over it. You are welcome to believe that I am wrong about my own life and experiences, if you keep that to yourself. If I see anything in the comments section that makes me regret having been open about my life, it'll be deleted without further explanation."

I have an ex-boyfriend. He abuses women. But he didn't abuse me. I'm not the kind to abuse easily. I'm not totally immune to it. I spent several years in my youth engaged to an emotionally abusive person who was successful at it. In fact, that's partially why I refused to believe it when his victim accused my partner of abuse. I had been through abuse, you see, so I should know it when I see it. And I didn't see it, therefore it didn't exist.

In general, I'm not the kind of prey an abuser looks for. I'm loud, aggressive, I have a strong support network, and I'm extremely confident in my memories and in defending my autonomy and my boundaries. Frankly, I'm too much work for an abuser to abuse. But, here's the thing I learned in my most recent lesson with abusive men: abusers aren't comic book villains twirling their mustachios and plotting out their Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to erase their partners' identities for personal gain. The term "gaslighting" is incredibly valuable, but not all gaslighting looks like the movie the name comes from. In fact, most gaslighting does not look like a film noir movie.

Abusers are often people in pain. They don't abuse because they hate their partners. They abuse because they're afraid. They're afraid of being abandoned. They're afraid that they're unlovable and if their partner ever discovers the "truth" about them, they'll lose that love. They're afraid of who knows what else. But a lot of us are afraid of things like that. So what makes them abusers and us not abusers?

They believe that they are right to address this fear by overwriting someone else's identity. There is also not necessarily a sharp dividing line between "us" and "them".

From the an article by Shea Emma Fett called Abuse In Polyamorous Relationships1 (all bold emphasis in all quoted passages in this post are mine):
"Most importantly, abusive behavior arises from beliefs, not from feelings, which is one of the reasons why people who are abusive are resistant to rehabilitation. I think this is a really important distinction, because people who engage in abusive behaviors can be kind and caring and gentle, and happy and wonderful to be around. They are not abusive because they are evil. They are abusive because the abuse makes sense and feels justified to them."

"[Lundy] Bancroft [author of Why Does He Do That?] says, “Anger and conflict are not the problem; they are normal aspects of life. Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another.”"

"What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. ... It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people.

But more than that, many of our fundamental beliefs in relationship[s] create a fertile ground for abuse. The goal of marriage is often longevity at any cost, and the presumption is mutual ownership over not just intimacy, but our partner’s choices, feelings and thoughts. And even if we take care to form our commitments outside of these assumptions, we still often carry a powerful sense of entitlement in intimate relationships. In short, intimate relationships often default to the power over model, and the relationship becomes a struggle for this power."

"The purpose of abuse is to erode a person’s ability to make choices for themselves. The abuser feels justified in taking proactive and punitive actions because of a fundamental sense of entitlement to their partner’s choices."
And from 10 Things I Wish I'd Know About Gaslighting2 by Shea Emma Fett:
"Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting."
I'm not certain that identifying a paradigm of ownership is easier than spotting gaslighting, at least for me, because I've seen some people who are really good at twisting and using language to appear like they're on our side, but aside from that so, what? I've referenced these articles before, many times. Lots of people are talking about abuse nowadays. Why another essay on abuse that is basically just referencing something that's already been said? Well, because I don't think that the concept of "abuse is about beliefs" has really sunk in yet. I've spent many years yelling on the internet about why hierarchy* and rules in poly relationships are dangerous. People keep insisting that they can be done "non-abusively" or that everyone agrees to it therefore it's not abuse, but I don't seem to be able to get my point across - that it's not whether this specific action or that specific action is "abusive" or not or is "consented" to or not. It's about the underlying mindset and beliefs that allow people to think that hierarchy and rules can be done "non-abusively" in the first place.

From Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away?3 By Eve Rickert:
"I believe that if you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."

"There are certainly cases where you might choose not to exercise a right. It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there.

And that’s what makes it a right."
That is the foundation of some later blog posts on whether or not hierarchy can ever be "ethical".

From Can Polyamorous Relationships Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control4 by Eve Rickert:
"Healthy relationships are ones in which we can express our needs and desires, but it’s when we feel entitled to have our partners do what we want that things go off the rails. Entitlement makes us feel like it’s okay to overrule our partners’ agency (and that of their partners). If we’re part of a socially sanctioned couple, this is especially dangerous, because we’ve got lots of societal messages feeding that sense of entitlement. And the most damaging parts of hierarchical setups tend to come about when we enshrine entitlement into our relationship agreements."

"Once the tower of intimate influence is defended, however, we see the village once again reoccupied. The village is things that a person feels entitled to control in their partner’s relationship, or rules and structures that are put in place to ensure that one person’s needs are always favoured in the case of resource conflict."
I didn't recognize that my partner was abusive because he didn't *behave* that way towards me, and I didn't *see* him behave that way towards his other partners. So when this one person came forward and said he had abused her, I, along with his other partners, all stood up and said "He can't be! He's not like that! He's never done anything like that to us! The problem must be with you!"

But the truth is that he *did* do things like that to his other partners. They just looked a little different because we were all different people so he had to use slightly different tactics. His abuse was expressed differently with everyone so it didn't look like "abuse", but they were all expressions of the same set of *beliefs*. So when his other partners succumbed to his manipulation of them, it looked like everyone was consenting, therefore it couldn't be abuse. Because it wasn't necessarily the behaviour, it was the underlying belief that permitted the behaviour. "[I]f you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."3
"Do abuse victims “consent” to be in their relationships? On the surface, perhaps it looks that way, but that is rooted in a victim-blaming, “why doesn’t she (he) just leave?” mentality and a serious oversimplification of the psychological dynamics of abuse. Abuse relies on tearing down your partner’s sense of self and personal agency to the point where consent is really no longer valid. And it doesn’t take physical violence to make a relationship abusive."3
The thing of it all is that this pattern was visible from the beginning. It wasn't invisible at all. It was just camouflaged beneath this community insistence that "anything" that two people "consent" to is A-OK. That whole YKINMKBYKIOK (your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok) mentality that I find so profoundly dangerous. I get why we started that. It's easy for people to place our own biases and judgements on other people even when we're trying to be all liberal and inclusive and shit. Look how often the furries get thrown under the bus by other kinksters, for instance. We had to teach ourselves that we don't have to agree or approve of someone else's preferences for those preferences to still be legitimate and valid and accepted. But instead of opening the door to inclusiveness, the door swung in the other direction and is now being used to bludgeon anyone who tries to critically examine toxic or harmful behaviour. It's like the religious extremists using "freedom of religion" to justify *imposing* their religious values onto other people by granting corporations personhood status to avoid covering contraception.

When I first met my abusive ex, he was in a hierarchical relationship that enforced triad structures only (FMF with bi-women, of course). So I thought "I kinda like him, but there's no way I'm touching that with a 10-foot pole!" Over time, their structure evolved until, many years later as our friendship grew, I was told that they had worked through their issues and they could now have independent relationships without each other and those relationships were allowed to grow on their own. So I thought "Hallelujah! People can change! People can learn and grow and break out of their insecurities!" Boy, was I wrong.

See, he and his wife still had a lot of rules with each other that I found ... disconcerting. But I wasn't told the full scope of all the rules, just that they found what works for them but that they had reached a point in their lives where they could accept that their other relationships couldn't work that way. So, in enters YKINMKBYKIOK - it works for us and we're not imposing it on you, so don't question it unless you want to be seen as intolerant of other people's preferences. So I didn't inquire too much, except to insist that this structure absolutely, without a doubt, no exceptions, would not work for me. They assured me they wouldn't try to impose it, and thus reassured, I entered into a relationship with him.

In the throes of NRE, I saw all the red flags, but I ignored them. Because he wasn't doing them *to me* and the person he was doing them to *said* she was OK with it and even claimed to be her idea in some cases. But they niggled at the back of my brain, so I stored these red flags in my memory (sometimes literally - a lot of our conversations were via chat, so I have the chat logs and I'm not relying purely on my memory) and when things came to a head years later, I was deeply ashamed that I hadn't paid more attention back then. And holy shit, when I learned what some of their rules were much later I was *really* upset with myself that I didn't press the issue in the beginning.

One of the red flags was that his wife didn't allow pictures taken of herself. Not just explicit photos, but any photos. Well, very occasionally she would pose for group photos of social events. But no candids and definitely no sexy shots. At the time, I thought this was just a quirk of hers. And it was, but sort of. She's also a very dominant personality, much like me in a lot of ways. Back in the beginning, when I thought "nope, not ever gonna go there!", I thought it was because *she* was calling all the shots and I didn't want anything to do with any relationship where the wife had more power over my relationship than I did. But they inadvertently introduced me to what I now call Relationship By Hostage Crisis. This is where two people get into a relationship with each other and one of them allows their partner to remove their agency in some way because the first person wants to remove the agency of the other themself. So they basically trade their own agency in exchange for controlling the other person's agency.

Some people seem to think that this is a fair power exchange, that it's not abusive if it goes both ways. But we're not talking about a D/s agreement where someone has the power to concede something. The reason why that's different is because *that person always maintains the power to take it back*. If they don't, it's abuse, by definition. I know this gets a lot of serious edge-players up in a snit when I say this, but kink is all about fantasy and illusion. None of it is real. Sure, it's real *enough* that it triggers the reactions in our brains so that it *feels* real. But it can end at any time. Franklin ([livejournal.com profile] tacit) once knew a guy who insisted his wife was his slave in every sense of the word and he owned her in exactly the same way he owned his TV. He insisted that it was a real slave relationship right up until his wife divorced him. You'll note that she wasn't summarily hunted down by the government and lashed or hung for leaving him.  But we do see cases where women try to leave their male partners and the men punish them by stalking, harassing, raping, and killing them.  He feels entitled to control her agency - her choices - and she is punished when she makes choices he doesn't approve of.  She does not have the power to take her agency back.  This is not a D/s consensual power exchange fantasy.

Giving up your agency in order to have control over someone else in trade is not a BDSM power exchange fantasy. You may indeed have power over someone else, but you *lose power over yourself* in exchange. This is not something you can renegotiate later when it's not working for you. You have become *powerless*, and it takes a great deal of effort to wrest that power back, if you ever get it at all. As they say, two wrongs don't make a right. Sometimes you can have two bad actors in the play instead of just one.
"Our brains are optimized to seek pleasure and avoid threat. It’s most of what we do. There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid things that we believe will hurt us. However, most people would also agree that you can’t put a gun to someone else’s head in order to avoid the things you fear, no matter how uncomfortable the consequences. Sometimes we have to face what we fear because all other options require taking actions that we consider to be wrong. Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head."1
So, the wife wanted control over her husband in some way so she allowed her husband to control her body in this way (among others). He didn't want other people looking at her body in ways he didn't approve of. They held emotional guns to each other's heads. This is not a fair power exchange. No one was empowered by this situation, they were both disempowered *even while* they held power over each other. So, no pictures of her. Except that *he* obsessively took pictures of her. Of everyone.  At all times. And I mean at *all* times. I had ample opportunity during group sex to see him actually stop the sex, reach for a camera, and take a dozen pictures, all with her glaring at him in the picture because she didn't like having those pictures of herself taken. *She* wanted to control when pictures were taken and right then was not when she wanted to have pictures taken. But it didn't matter, because *he* wanted them.

I had a conversation with her about this once. This is where I learned that the no-dirty-pictures rule wasn't her own preference. She would have wanted to have posed for something for her own enjoyment, but he wouldn't allow it. She saw nothing wrong with his prohibiting her because, as her husband, he had that right to determine what happened to her body, but he also had that right (she believed) because she gave it to him. But there was no consideration for renegotiating that rule, at least not in practice. He made disagreement with him so traumatic to everyone in the family that everyone avoided disagreement with him at much cost. He literally made it a matter of life and death when people disagreed with him. So it was easier to capitulate than try to talk him out of one of his catatonic or self-harming states, and then they got to believe that it was their "choice" to negotiate that power away.

Later on, some other things were happening regarding her relationship with her boyfriend and my partner and I were arguing over his wife's autonomy and the boyfriend's rights in his own relationship with her, and we circled around to the subject of sex work, which led to the subject of dirty pictures. He was appalled, I mean *appalled* at the idea of a partner of his either "selling her body" or of his wife having nude pictures that someone else could see. We veered into all kinds of tangents, including me demanding him to explain how "selling one's body" through sex was any different from me getting paid to dance or to perform manual labor or how sex work was any more inherently demeaning than my soul-sucking retail job at barely above minimum wage.

I also had to watch him go through a series of mental gymnastics to explain why it was OK to be dating me, who has naked pictures of myself on a public website from when I posed as a tutorial model for [livejournal.com profile] tacit's BDSM site, but not OK to have a wife who might have similar pictures. The gymnastics got even more convoluted when I disclosed to him that I had been paid to pose for a nudie calendar years before and that picture is out there, floating around somewhere that I've never even seen and certainly have no control over what happens to it. The takeaway I got from that exchange was that it actually *did* bother him, but he was unable to admit it to himself so his cognitive dissonance forced him to justify on the spot why it was somehow different to be dating someone with that kind of exposure than to be married to someone with it.

But what really stuck in my memory was his explanation of why he believed he was in the right for not allowing nude pictures of his wife on the internet. He told me the story of the bowl of M&Ms. So, let's say you have a bowl of M&Ms on your desk at work. You love your M&Ms. They're your favorite candy. And sometimes you don't mind sharing your M&Ms with your coworkers, but you have this one coworker who you hate with a passion. He's a major asshole to everyone and he definitely doesn't respect you or your M&Ms. He feels entitled to them. You don't want him to have your M&Ms because they're not *his* M&Ms, and, in fact, you hate him so much that you don't want him to have any M&Ms ever because you don't want him to have the pleasure of eating M&Ms at all because he's such an asshole that he doesn't deserve the profound bliss that is the M&M.

I couldn't believe what I was reading (this was a chat argument). I couldn't believe this was coming out of the same person who was otherwise so aligned with all my values and beliefs and philosophies! So I said "but your wife isn't a bowl of M&Ms, she's a person who you can't own and she gets to make up her own mind about what happens to her own body." He tried to handwave away the objectification inherent in his analogy and pushed the "but he's an asshole and doesn't deserve to see the glory that is her body" angle.

He tried to appeal to my sense of justice but I don't actually want people I dislike to not have good things. I might often wish bad things on them, but all the times I can think of when I did that, what I wished was for the bad thing to be relevant to why I disliked them so that they would ultimately learn compassion and empathy from the bad thing, or at least be punished in the same way they were punishing others. I honestly don't give a fuck if Racist Joe in the next cubicle gets a lot of pleasure out of his cold Budwiser while sitting in his favorite recliner watching football at the end of the work day. I don't want to steal his Budwiser just so he can't have one. I'm not bothered by the idea that someone I don't like might actually be experiencing something pleasant or enjoyable or feeling happy. But I am deeply disturbed by the idea that other people are bothered by that.

There are so many other examples, that I have been using my experiences with him as moral tales for years since it all went down and I have yet to run out of examples. Argument after argument, random side comment after pointed discussion, there are a million different ways that he expressed his underlying belief that his partners could not be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies; that if left to our own devices we would necessarily choose things that were not in *his* best interest; that what was in *his* best interest was therefore what was in *our* best interest; that what was "best" for the group took precedence over what was "best" for the individual; and that he was absolutely entitled, as the romantic partner, to have the power to make those kinds of decisions and to ask, demand, or manipulate his partners into doing what he decided we should.

I didn't see any of this because, for most of our relationship, what I wanted for myself and our relationship and what he wanted for me and our relationship were in alignment. "It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there." Until one day, we weren't in alignment. He had no need to try any of the gaslighting or logic-circling or even more blatantly abusive tactics like threats of self-harm because I wasn't doing anything contrary to his vision of how our relationship ought to be or how I ought to be in our relationship. Until one day, I did. And then I saw it. I saw what his victim had been crying to me about just a few weeks before. I saw the entitlement. I saw the belief that he ought to be able to dictate my actions. I saw the carrot-and-stick game he played with her - using group acceptance as the carrot to get me to fall in line and group shunning as the stick if I didn't fall in line. "I talked with everyone else, and they all agree that you are wrong. You’re hurting the whole group, don’t you care about us?" I saw everything she said he had been doing to her for the length of their relationship, finally, in one day, directed at me.

And then I saw that I had always seen it. It had always been there.
"Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head.

The prioritization of fear arises when we replace a relationship of mutual support and co-creation, with one of parental protection. ... A relationship that is hostage to fear is one where everything, the relationship, the mental health of the participants, the future, everything hinges on the avoidance of something. Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it."1
When we first broke up, it came as a shock to everyone. To everyone on the outside, he and I were the most compatible and stable of all his other partnerships. We were so similar in so many ways. And by the time we broke up, his relationship with the victim who came forward had gotten so tumultuous that all his other relationships were being affected, except, apparently, ours. Everything in his life seemed to be falling apart. He was so wrapped up in the drama with this one person that he had no more resources for maintaining any of his other relationships and they were all in danger of blowing up too. His last blog post prior to our breakup was lamenting the fact that his life was falling apart and I was his one port left in the storm. So no one saw it coming, because no one understood that this box containing his beliefs and fears was still there, informing the health and stability of every relationship including ours.

When I told people who had met him or who were privy to my gushings of my relationship with him during NRE, when I told them of how it ended, without exception everyone said that it sounded like I was describing two different people. It was a total Jekyll and Hyde story. His victim once said that she tried to reconcile these two people in her head. Part of what made her stay with him so long is that she kept thinking that she could get back to the nice Dr. Jekyll if she could only find the right way to behave that wouldn't let out Mr. Hyde. But her other partner pointed out to her, "He's not two different people. Your nice, sweet boyfriend is also the abuser. They're the same person."

I keep saying that patterns are important. But I also keep saying that it's the underlying beliefs that are important. People might be tempted to say "but look at all these other relationships he has! She was the outlier! The pattern is that he's a good guy and she's the problem!"  But that's not the pattern. The pattern is in his beliefs. Sure, he didn't try to manipulate me or control me ... as long as what I was already doing was something he approved of. So it may have *looked* like there was no pattern of manipulation or control because he didn't seem to try that on me. But the real pattern was that he *believed* that manipulation and control are appropriate methods of dealing with a partner whose behaviour was something he didn't approve of. "It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices."

This is why benevolent sexism is still sexism and still a problem. The behaviour, on the surface, might seem like it's not oppressive because it supposedly elevates women. It rewards them. It "privileges" them. But only as long as women toe the line. Only as long as women fall within acceptable ranges of behaviour or dress or thought. A pedestal *seems* like a place of power and enshrinement, until you realize how confining it is to stand in one spot or risk falling to your death for daring to sit down or change positions.

It's tempting to say "he's not an abuser because he didn't abuse me!" I know, I said that at one time. But it's also tempting to say "but abusers don't abuse everyone yet they're still abusers". The thing is that they actually do, we just can't see it behind the camouflage. As [livejournal.com profile] tacit, and one of my metafores, are fond of saying, it’s not a problem … until it is. "Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it." A racist who keeps his mouth shut when a black customer walks into his store is still a racist towards that customer. He's not a racist because he does racist things. He's a racist because he holds racist beliefs. And he holds those beliefs all the time, at everyone. A person who believes that they are entitled to control other people’s bodies, thoughts, and choices still believes those things even when they don't choose to exercise that entitlement, for whatever reason they choose not to in that moment. And those beliefs leave signs. It's not about whether or not he tries to manipulate a partner who is already doing what he wants her to do. It's about whether he *believes* he is right to manipulate her should she ever not want to do what he wants her to do. And that kind of thinking leaves footprints, if we only learn how to identify them.

The reason why this is important is because it is too easy to dismiss abuse when it doesn't look like how we think abuse ought to look. It's also too easy to accuse people of abuse when they are not, in fact, abusing anyone.

I wrote a paragraph in a recent post where I distinguished between "selfish" and "self-interest". That paragraph got quoted, and some people took exception to that distinction because abusers will just turn around and call what they're doing "self-interest" to justify their actions. What these detractors didn't seem to get was that this was my whole point.

What worked on my partner's victim was the accusation that she was being "selfish". That it was *she*, not he, who was the abusive monster. Her story is remarkably similar to the same one I linked to and quoted above. That's why I keep sharing Fett's writing - it really hits home with how similar it is to everything we (mostly she) went through. It all started unraveling for me when she called me crying, desperate that she had harmed him in some way, and how could she fix it? When she told me what she was afraid she had done, I was horrified that she could possibly think that she had done anything wrong at all. But how could she be such a monster? she wondered. How could she treat him so heinously? Are you fucking serious? I asked her. This had nothing to do with her at all. This was all about him.
"If you are being abused, there is a very high chance that you will be accused of being abusive or of otherwise causing the abuse. That’s because this accusation is devastatingly effective at shutting you down and obtaining control in a dispute. However, I also believe this accusation is often sincere. People often engage in abusive behaviors because they feel deeply powerless and that powerlessness hurts. But not everything that hurts in a relationship is abuse, and not everything that hurts your partner is your responsibility. It’s important to be able to distinguish abuse from other things that may happen in relationships that are hurtful, or may even be toxic or unhealthy, but are not fundamentally about entitlement and control."1
There are all kinds of things that are problematic to varying degrees. But they are not all about entitlement and control. And this is *very* important to recognize. And they should never be conflated. That harms actual victims of entitlement and control. It's not always just the abuser accusing his victim of being abusive. I see it in communities as well. Now that we're finally talking about abuse in my various subcultures, a lot of terms are getting bandied about - abuse, harassment, consent, violation, predator, narcissism, borderline personality disorder ... just to name a few. Not all of these terms are being applied where they should. When things that aren't abuse get mislabeled as abuse or "rounded up" to abuse, it makes it much harder for actual abuse victims to find proper support. When things that are indeed problematic but not "abusive" get labeled as "abusive" instead of their real problem, then we can't address the problem in ways that are effective for solving the problem.

And when people live in fear that any possible misstep might get them cast out of communities under accusations of "abuser", especially if those people are actually victims who have been told by their abusers that they are the abuser themselves, it makes it way more difficult for anyone to seek help or to seek correction for things that might actually be correctable (or not even offensive at all).

I think we're on the right track now that we're sensitive to abuse and harassment and control in our communities. But I think we're also in danger of slipping off the track too easily. We're not quite at the destination yet and we still have further to travel. One of the dangers is in stopping too soon. Now we know all these words, and now we have started supporting victims and accusers in order to break the previous chilling hold on victims from finding the support they needed when they come forward. But we still don't quite have our finger on the pulse of the problem yet.

Patterns are important, but it's the underlying beliefs that those patterns reveal that are the real key. Those underlying beliefs are what enable abuse and harassment and control and oppression and all the other bad things we're finally starting to look at and combat. Those beliefs set up the foundations that allow abuse and control and manipulation to happen. But not all bad things are about entitlement and control. It's the beliefs that make abusers so resistant to rehabilitation, so it's the beliefs we need to confront. If we don't confront the beliefs but instead attack the behavioural patterns, abusers will simply change their behavioural patterns to continue avoiding detection. It's the beliefs that need to change, and the behaviour changes will follow naturally as a consequence.

At the same time, if those beliefs aren't present, then not only is the attack the wrong way to approach the situation, the behaviour itself also has different chances of correction. It's much more likely to correct someone's behaviour if the behaviour doesn't stem from a deep belief that their behaviour was, in fact, already correct. I’m repeatedly told by those with social anxiety and other social awkward issues that we need to stop excusing bad social behaviour by labeling it some mental illness because people who aren’t predators but legitimately socially awkward often feel horrified when it is brought to their attention that they have done something wrong and they want to learn how to do better. That’s because they don’t have an underlying belief that they were right, they were simply unaware, and they don’t want to do these wrong things. These issues are correctable, but not if we ostracize everyone who does something wrong without first finding out if it was a social awkwardness / anxiety thing or if it was a boundary-pushing predator masquerading as socially awkward thing. One of them believes they didn’t do anything wrong and the other doesn’t. One of them can have their behaviour corrected with guidance and the other can’t because they don’t believe their behaviour was wrong.

How we address the problem needs to be changed if the belief underlying it isn't about entitlement and control, if we want our efforts to be effective. And, as my partner's poor victim learned the hard way, if there are no underlying beliefs about entitlement and control, then there's a good chance that she wasn't doing the abuse she was accused of in the first place. She, like Fett, wracked her brain trying to figure out how to stop this "abuse" she was doing to him, and that only made things worse for her. Fett describes many times about the extreme self-loathing and self-hatred they felt because they believed themself to be an abuser when they weren’t. Because they weren’t actually abusing anyone, the intense searching for the root of non-existent abuse only deepened the wound and left them more and more vulnerable to their abuser’s manipulation.

As Fett says, being victimized by your control is not the same as being victimized by my resistence to your control. His victim wasn't abusing him because, no matter how much he felt hurt, she wasn't the one doing any hurting of him. She did not have any underlying beliefs that she was entitled to control him. In fact, all of his hurt stemmed from her very strong belief that no one was entitled to control anyone else. She was resisting his control and that made him feel hurt. If your hand hurts after slapping someone who raised their arm to block the slap, that person didn't hurt you; you hurt yourself by slapping them.

But *his* underlying beliefs of entitlement were always there, and were always visible. When he first accused her of abusing him, almost everyone who knew her were shocked and suspicious. What do you mean she abused him? She had never exhibited that kind of behaviour before! They had relationships with her that weren't abusive at all! When she later accused him of the same, people said the same thing about him.

But she did not have those underlying beliefs, and her supporters were not wrong to question the accusation. It *was* contrary to everything about her. And because it was so contrary to her very nature, it was a sign that she was actually a victim of abuse herself. When his supporters questioned her accusation of him, well, I don't want to go so far as to say it was "wrong" to question, because serious accusations deserve to be treated seriously, which includes inquiry into the situation. But their dismissal of her accusation in favor of their personal experience with him *was* misplaced because they were looking at the wrong thing - his actions and feelings vs. his beliefs.

When her supporters questioned his accusation of her, they investigated her beliefs. In light of what she believed about entitlement and control, the accusation was patently absurd. The absurdity of the accusation is what led to the situation finally being identified accurately - that he was gaslighting her and emotionally abusing her. He accused her of abuse. Some people who knew her (not me, to my great shame), questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about her. She had never done anything like that to them. But, more than that, her *beliefs* were so contrary to the accusation, that her supporters were able to start piecing things together for her when she was so mired in self-doubt and illusion that she couldn't do it herself. So they started adding things up and told her "you are not this person he says you are. He is gaslighting you."

She finally broke free and accused him of abusing her. Some people who knew him questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about him. He had never done anything like that to them. But that's where they stopped. They did not question his *beliefs*. If they had, like I eventually did, they would have discovered that his beliefs are not actually contrary to the accusations at all. And they would have discovered, like I eventually did, that signs of his beliefs had been visible from the beginning. So no one else started adding things up, and to this day people believe that she abused him and that I also abused him because I withdrew my support and then resisted his attempt to control me when I withdrew that support. Because they looked at actions and feelings and not beliefs.

Those beliefs were visible, and showed a pattern, if you knew how to look for them. Without those beliefs, she could not have abused him. Hurt him, sure, because we all hurt people, especially when we are in pain ourselves and especially because the people who are the most vulnerable with us are also the most susceptible to being hurt by us precisely because of that vulnerability. But she *could not* have attempted to control or manipulate him because she *does not* hold any beliefs that she is entitled to his thoughts, his body, his choices. Everything she ever did in that relationship was an attempt to escape his control, not exercise it. But her attempts to escape that control were *felt* by him as "harm". And misunderstood by everyone else as "selfishness". And I, of all people close to that dynamic, should have been able to see the difference, since that is essentially my very existence within the context of romantic relationships - constantly attempting to escape control and being labeled "selfish" for the attempts.

The problem is that this subject is so complex and so nuanced that I don't think I'll ever be done writing about it. And so this post now becomes a mini-novel. All to explain that patterns are easy to disguise or misinterpret if we only look at actions and not at underlying beliefs. When we look at patterns of *beliefs*, things appear very different. Someone who seems totally affable becomes a manipulative monster (everyone's favorite TV dad, for instance). Someone who is accused of being that monster turns out to be a victim themself. And within communities concerned with social justice, it's hard to see sometimes because those monsters learn to co-opt the language of social justice. But the beliefs are still there, and they show up, if you know how to look for them. So when you go looking for them and they don't show up, it's time to wonder just who is the attacker and who is being attacked and maybe all is not as it seems.

When a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and they didn’t perform those actions on me!", maybe we can question the validity of the group defense. But when a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and those beliefs just aren't present", maybe we ought to question the validity of the *accusation*, like when my abusive ex accused his victim of being abusive for daring to resist his control of her. She (and later, I) was ostracized from her community and her support group because everyone automatically believed the "victim", meaning he called dibs on the label first and everyone jumped to his side by default, without critically examining whether his claims were even plausible, given the beliefs of the people involved. Her actions were deemed "abusive" simply because he felt hurt by them, without looking to see if there were any elements of entitlement or control present and, if so, which direction they flowed.

But those who cared enough to look beneath the surface finally saw the truth. Those who took the time to look for patterns of *belief*, not actions or not simply whether someone felt "hurt", when we saw the patterns of belief, we knew that she could not have been abusive, even if she might also have caused harm. And my refusal to see this pattern when it was first shown to me, that led to consequences of my own. Consequences that could have been avoided, and possibly even resulted in better protection for his victim sooner, had I learned to look for belief patterns and had I learned to recognize that internalized paradigm of ownership rather than quibbling over whether or not specific actions "counted" as "abusive".

Maybe, had I done that instead, I wouldn't today be wracked with guilt and self-doubt, all these years later. Maybe his victim would have escaped sooner and healed faster had I not backed the wrong horse and had I not challenged everyone else who said "but she can't be an abuser because our experience of her is different!"  Maybe she wouldn't have been so easy to isolate had I listened to *her* other supporters instead of arguing that they just didn't see how much drama the family had only when she was brought into the fold. Instead of questioning their support of her on the basis that they were too close to her to be "objective" and not close enough to the situation to see all the hurt feels he had. Maybe if I had acknowledged that, as people who knew her so well for so long, they might actually have had some insight into her belief structure and been exactly the right people to know if she had the beliefs necessary for her to abuse him. Maybe, if I had known that it was the beliefs that were important, not actions that happened behind closed doors that can be interpreted in many ways or rationalized and not simply “feeling” hurt by someone, things could have been different and we both could have been spared at least some of the damage that dating an abuser left us with. Maybe, had I understood all this back then, I wouldn't today feel like that house with broken windows**.

This is not the only time I made this mistake, either, although I was closer to this situation than to others. There was another time someone cried "abuse", and I believed them automatically because I was told I should, and only many months later did I learn that he was, in fact, an abuser. He was just the one who cried foul first. But, again, it took a confrontation with him personally where his beliefs that it was acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality became visible for me to see the pattern. Two people accused each other of abuse, and I took this side because I now "knew", thanks to my experiences dating an abuser, that abusers often think of themselves as victims. So, obviously, his abuser was just doing that, right? Except that later, he tried to gaslight me too. After telling him multiple times my feelings on something, he continued to insist that I did not feel those things, and to insist on his own narrative of what I felt. Now his "abuser’s" accusations of gaslighting sounded more plausible. He *believed* that he was entitled to control another person’s reality, and patterns of that belief were visible, if you know what to look for. That doesn’t let the other person off the hook for whatever wrongs they committed in this very messy situation. But it does mean that I was wrong to "believe the victim" without treating all the accusations flying around seriously and critically examining the situation even though I thought I did at the time. My bias towards "believe the victim" and my personal experience with abuse telling me that I should now know what abuse "looks like" fogged the matter and I did not examine the situation critically enough, or with enough information (knowing the difference between beliefs vs. behaviours or feelings) to be able to examine it properly.

So I yell on the internet, hoping people can learn very expensive lessons without paying the high price I paid to learn it first. After I believed the wrong "victim" more than once, I'm not positive that "believe the victim" is the right response. *Support* the victim might be a better response, because support allows for the ability to examine the situation and then provide the *right type* of support based on that examination. Had I "supported" all the actors in that messy double-accusation drama instead of "believed" just one of them, I might have been able to provide better support for the actual victims in the story, given that I had some community authority and responsibility in the matter. Had I "supported" my then-boyfriend instead of "believed" him, I might have discovered the truth sooner and been able to support him by holding him accountable instead of inadvertently contributing to the gaslighting of his real victim. Had I "supported" him instead, I might have been able to hear the chorus of "she couldn't have done that because we know her!" and looked into it more clearly instead of dismissing it out of hand, and I might have then learned about this beliefs vs. actions/feelings problem.

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



* I will not be hosting any debate in my comments about the definition of hierarchy. That’s why I linked to the definition I’m using here. If your definition differs, then you’re not doing what I am calling "hierarchy" and I don’t care. I absolutely refuse to hold space for this endless circular argument because it has managed to keep the entire community derailed for over 20 years. I’m insisting on moving on. Any comments that include anything even remotely resembling "but sometimes hierarchy is…" or "but I don’t do that…" or "but my kids really do take priority!" will be summarily deleted regardless of what other content the comment may have. If you’re feeling the desire to make a comment like that, go read the link I provided for the definition of hierarchy, and then parts 1 and 2 of Can Poly Hierarchies Be Ethical first. If you still feel the desire to make those comments, re-read all three posts. Continue re-reading until you no longer feel the need to make those rebuttals.

** This is in reference to an essay that might not be available. The essay is an analogy to living in a house with windows that aren’t perfect but that do the job. They’re good enough and the house is sound. Then one day, someone comes along and breaks the windows. And you spend a long time ignoring the broken windows, and then working around the broken windows, and then finally learning how to fix the broken windows. One at a time, you repair them. They’re not all repaired yet and some rooms are still unusable because of the broken windows, but the house is getting fixed, the new windows look great, and you learned a new skill. But the windows were fine to begin with. You didn’t need to learn this skill or replace the windows until someone came along and broke them. So you’ve had to spend all these years learning how to fix windows that shouldn’t have had to be fixed in the first place, and all these years ahead of you continuing to fix each window, when you could have been using that time to learn a different skill, to get better at something new, to grow or improve. Instead, you spend all this time just trying to move backwards to get back to a place you were before because you can’t move forward until you get there first. The breaking of the windows was a huge step backwards and now you’re playing catchup. And it all feels unnecessary because the windows were fine to begin with.



1. Abuse In Poly Relationships by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/01/relationship-rights-can-negotiate-away

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Super Tech)
Me: ... I even know what song I'd dance to at my wedding.

Him: You don't even want to get married! Do all girls just naturally like planning weddings?

Me: No, you don't understand, I've had my wedding planned since high school because it was a *required class*! I've had the dress designed since then and even had a version of the dress made as my high school prom dress (which I still have in the closet, I'll show you later if you're interested). Obviously, if I really were to get married today, there would be some changes because I have some very different values since being a teenager (like not believing in marriage, for one thing, and being poly for another), but the reason why so many women have ideas for their weddings even before there is a prospective husband is because we're proactively coached in wedding planning.

Not everyone is forced to actually take a wedding class in high school. Some get it through their cotillion or sweet 16 parties or similar "coming out" parties that are really just mini-versions of today's weddings. Others just get it through their families. But I had sex ed every year from 6th grade through 12th grade, and eventually there's only so much biology to be taught on the subject. So they covered other related subjects.

One semester, our "sex ed" course was a self-defense class where I learned tae kwon do (not that I remember any of it, but I did flip a real assailant over my shoulder once, which was pretty cool). That class doubled as a P.E. credit. Another semester was a marriage and family planning course where we had to actually plan an entire wedding, down to calling venues to find out about how to reserve dates, developing color schemes, and making a budget. We were also randomly assigned various careers with certain incomes and had to plan a household budget with given criteria and limitations. The course ended the semester with one of those flour sack baby projects. And I also learned all the symbolism and significance to all those wedding traditions.

Did you know that the bride is supposed to have two bouquets? One of fresh flowers that she walks down the aisle with and then dries or freezes to keep stored forever and another fake bouquet to throw at the reception?

Him: What? You have to keep the bouquet?

Me: Yeah, along with the dress. That multi-thousand-dollar dress that you only wear once and then put in a box in the closet, never to see the light of day again. The flowers can get preserved and saved too. If you spent all that money on flowers, wouldn't you want to keep it too?

Him: I suppose. I just didn't know you were supposed to.

Me: So it's not a guy vs. girl nature thing, it's that I literally didn't have a choice. And even women who don't have a class to make them plan their weddings don't really have a choice. We're hounded by our family and friends, asked questions about our wedding plans that we have to answer, and when we're segregated into our respective gendered wedding parties, you guys are expected to go out and get rowdy while our "parties" are actually helping the bride prepare for the wedding. So even if I hadn't ever had that class, all I'd have to have is an invitation to a bridal shower or a close relative get married and I'd have been expected to help pick out dresses and florists and taste-test the cake and look at invitation fonts and discuss the hopes and dreams and expectations of the bride and her bridesmaids.

That bridal shower is pretty much all wedding planning and grooming. We give the bride wedding gifts that are supposed to help her with the wedding ceremony or the marriage after. The "games" we all play at these things are basically silly versions of wedding traditions that reinforce the cultural programming of weddings. Like dressing the bridesmaids up in toilet paper wedding dresses. That's dress designing reinforcement right there, even if it's silly.

Do you know the importance of choosing an invitation font? Or the seating chart at the reception? Or the consequences for having a more casual reception where there is no seating chart? How about the order of events? Do you know why, when you were a groomsman and you walked down the aisle with your bridesmaid, your linked arms were "wrong"? Do you know why that's important? And the cake, the topper for the cake is supposed to be saved too, frozen, and then eaten on your first anniversary together. Every little bit of the wedding and reception has to be planned out and it all means something.

Him: !!

Me: We are literally pulled into two different worlds and coached on different things. So, yeah, I have a wedding plan even though I'm ethically opposed to the government regulating my romantic life and philosophically opposed to most of the symbolism inherent in traditional marriage ceremonies (which, as I told Franklin, is subtly but significantly different from being "opposed to marriage" but it's too complicated to say all that so I summarize it as "opposed to marriage", but I'm not quite, not exactly). I have that plan because it's not really very likely to be socialized as "female" in this society without one. Even for us conscientious objectors or conscientious "modifiers", we can't be "conscientious" about it without looking into the whole concept of weddings and marriages and analyzing what we disagree with and why, both for our own introspection and also because we, as women, will be challenged on our objections so we have to really understand the subject in order to defend our position.

You guys just get to show up with a tux, or not. Even if you choose not to, you don't *have* to really examine why. You're guys. You could just be "a bachelor". But I have to defend my protest with reams of historical data, studies of sociological mores, piles of legal precedent or justification, and a degree in biology to counteract the false "evo-psych" bullshit that says I'm supposed to want to get married.

And even then, I'm still supposed to be able to describe the dress I would wear if I ever changed my mind.

Him: Huh. I didn't realize there was that much that goes into weddings.

Me: Yeah, it's not a "girl thing" in that we just like planning weddings. It's way more complicated than that. We don't really have much of a choice in whether or not we "like planning weddings".



In response to the inevitable "but I'm a girl and I didn't take any classes like that in school!" response:

I went to a private Catholic school, which held this class. But many public schools do have flour sack or egg baby projects so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they also have wedding planning mixed in there somewhere. Maybe in home economics class? I dunno, I'm told they don't have that class anymore, but they did when I was in high school, so it's not that archaic. Not yet anyway.

But, as I mentioned, we do have cotillions and bat mitzvahs and other religious or social practices where wedding planning sort of sneaks in there. Much of our "wedding training" is pretty subversive.  A lot of us go to religious or cultural classes in addition to our public school education. I went to Catechism as a Catholic (religious Sunday School), for instance. The Filipino Catholics had cotillion training that I only learned about after I joined a Filipino church and was invited to someone's cotillion, where I discovered it was basically a wedding reception where they dismissed the importance of the "groom" entirely except to be arm candy for the girl whose party this was. She held "court" and everything.

But many, as I said, just learned about wedding planning through attending the pre-wedding events like the bridal shower. It's sort of an informal tribal-school learning session, where the bride is the main attraction and the elder women all gather around to assist and then instruct the younger women and girls on doing the legwork. I can't tell you how many times I sat at someone's kitchen table with a sponge and a stack of invitations, stuffing envelopes and listening to the older ladies all talk about the wedding and the symbolism and the etiquette and fielding off demands from the grannies to know what *my* wedding will one day look like.

So even before high school, it's not like my mother quizzed me on wedding rituals, but I absorbed a lot of this knowledge just through cultural osmosis by being around other women going through their wedding preparations.  Which I was required to do as a "girl" as my mother, and then later myself personally, was invited to participate and celebrate in weddings, because the wedding activities were all segregated, with women attending bridal showers and pitching in to help and men attending bachelor parties and pretty much nothing else.  Really, sometimes my upbringing looked like a movie from the 1950s without the poodle skirts.

Plus, as I mentioned, even when women do opt-out of the cultural expectations, a lot of the time they still end up knowing about weddings precisely because they chose to opt-out.  Either they really looked into the subject and what they saw informed their opinions, or they started looking into the subject for their own weddings and got overwhelmed and just said "fuck it" and deliberately ignored the rituals.  Either way, the guys still mostly had the luxury of just showing up without really having to learn much about the process they were either participating in or eschewing.

It should also be noteworthy that people who follow me online are kind of a self-selected group, particularly a group of those who break gender norms, and when I speak of gendered social programming, I'm speaking of cultural trends where it should be obvious that some individuals (especially those who follow me) would be on the outsides of the bell curve.  Obviously I wasn't alone in going through these gendered normalization practices.  I grew up in one of the largest cities in the world and was raised in one of the most populous religions in the world.  While weird to my current friends and followers who follow me pretty much because we're all weirdos in these ways, my experiences growing up were still very common and are typical examples or illustrative of the sorts of experiences that shape the culture in which I live.



*Update*

In the comments of someone else's share of my post, someone said they were glad they didn't grow up like me. I have a response to that which I think is kind of important. I'm noticing a lot of borderline horrified reactions, and I think that's kind of missing the point.

The point of my tale was not "poor me, I was forced to learn about weddings". The point was "poor men are excluded from this process and women are expected to pick up the slack so here is yet another example of culturally enforced gender discrepancy of emotional labor".

The learning of the wedding process wasn't the criticism. In fact, I believe I benefited from the learning process and that maybe classes like these should be taught more often - just without the gender role enforcement or heteronormative structure.  Imagine what kind of cultural awareness we could be teaching our youth in classes that examined popular cultural traditions like weddings in-depth and challenged the students to understand why those practices are used and why they might want to keep or reject any given practice by having them plan and explain their own hypothetical weddings!  Imagine how the entire wedding industry might have to change as a result of an entire generation of youth growing into marriagable ages where they have already examined and challenged the gender roles embedded in weddings and already examined the interconnected economic consequences for participating in the wedding industry!  Imagine the generation after the "millennials" seeing the economic disaster that their parents are currently facing and learning about how we got to that point and how it affects even day-to-day decisions and larger decisions like the structure of our relationships, and then applying that knowledge to their own creations of their own relationships and futures!

There are much worse things than expecting children to learn and understand the culture in which they are expected to participate as adults.

Here's my comment:

I am glad to have grown up as I did. I learned a lot about my own culture, so that when I choose a different path, I have a very in-depth understanding of what I am choosing, what I am rejecting, and the whys of it all. I have a deep understanding of our cultural history and all the connections made over time and across cultures as imperialism and trade created influences on our own culture.

Knowledge is a good thing and I was fortunate to have grown up with people who embraced knowledge. It wasn't enough for my family and teachers for me to just adopt, say, wedding practices without understanding them and it wasn't enough for them to let me get to the stage where I would have a wedding without learning all the work involved in putting one on. My schools and the elders in my life wanted us to be prepared for adult life. They didn't want us to build these giant, unrealistic dreams of fantasy weddings, they wanted us to know how much they cost and how much work goes into them. They didn't want us to go out into the real world without understanding how checkbooks and credit cards worked and how much of our pay would go to essentials like rent and utilities.

I was better prepared to enter life as an independent adult than most of my friends who went to schools that didn't offer such instruction and I had a better understanding of why we culturally did the things we did than those same peers. No, the sad part is not that I learned all the stuff that I learned, but that men don't also learn these things and aren't expected to shoulder any of the burden while women are expected to know and do all this on our own (whether the women were given instruction as I was or not). As I told the person in the original story, if I ever was to have a wedding, my future husband would be an equal partner in the wedding planning because he would be an equal partner in the marriage. But thanks to culturally enforced gender roles, if I want an equal partner in this, it'll be up to me to educate him to the point where he *can* be an equal partner, and that's the part that is the problem, not that I'm already schooled in how to put on a wedding.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/08/16/selfishness-valid-response-entitlement-boundary-crossing/

In a completely different context, I have been known to say to my coworkers:



"I can totally tell you're a straight dude, because you've *obviously* never dated another guy.  Y'all think you're all rational and logical and shit, and that you're all about the sex and not the romantic stuff, but I know what y'all say to women when your dudebros aren't around.  You whine about not 'connecting' and missing the romance and all the fucking talk, talk, talk.  After a while, it's like 'do we have to talk about our relationship ONE MORE TIME?  Can you please just shut up with all the relationship talking?  Is it too much to ask to just come home, have some dinner, watch a little TV in quiet, have a little sex and go to bed?  Jesus fuck, you guys with all the talking!'  You sit there and complain about girls doing that but as soon as a girl doesn't WANT to do that, y'all turn into the whiny little bitches you complain about!  And don't tell me it never happens, unless you've dated as many men as I have, I'm pretty sure I have more experience with how dudes behave in relationships than you do.  You're getting the story your dudebros TELL you and the side they want you to THINK.  You're not seeing them behind closed doors.  I am.  Y'all are just as whiny and emotional as any of the girls you complain about."

Now, keep in mind that, when I phrase it like this, I'm talking to dudebros.  I'm talking to guys who are working in a masculine industry, talking to other guys, and doing that toxic masculinity bonding thing where they complain about how girly girls can be.  But the story under the language is true - I have spent a lot of time in relationships throwing my hands up in the air, yelling in frustration, "what the fuck, dude, I don't want to talk about our relationship anymore!"

Before I started dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit, about 13 years ago, just about every relationship I ever had ended in accusations of being a cold-hearted bitch.  I've had a few since then too, but he sets a high bar and my tolerance for partners who can't even come close to meeting that bar is rapidly dropping as I age, so my other partners since dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit have been a better ratio - with only a couple of outright abusive assholes using that accusation and the rest breaking up for other reasons.  By the end of things with those who accused me of being a cold-hearted bitch, I was no longer interested in hearing about their day, in listening to them whine (because that's how I thought of it by the end) about how much they "missed" me, in making them dinner, in sitting with them to watch their favorite show, in, really, doing anything at all kind or compassionate for them.  There would come a point in the relationship where I would just ... check out.

And I bought into this idea that I was some kind of borderline sociopathic monster (or, a dude in a girl's body, because the other common accusation is that I act like "the guy" in the relationship, which "forces" them to act like "the girl", because there always has to be one of each? Oh right, if *I'm* not performing the emotional labor, *someone* has to, and it's just not *fair* that it has to be the actual penis-holder!).  So I would warn people up front that I'm "the guy" and this is what I do.  But, in the beginning of a relationship, I like performing some amount of emotional labor - I like hearing my partner's inner most feelings.  I like baking for them.  I like validating them.  I am actually pretty schedule-oriented so I will keep the calendar and schedule events and remember (or get calendar notifications for) people's birthdays and anniversaries.  I even like the cuddling and the sex, in the beginning.  So they get used to me behaving in a way contrary to my warning words.  Then they start to feel entitled to that behaviour, and that turns me off.  So then they're surprised when I start acting exactly like I said I would because they weren't hearing my words, they were seeing my actions which contradicted my words and they put a filter over their interactions with me that projected their own biases onto my actions and filtered out my words.  Then they accused me of being "cold" and I would yell right back at them "what part of 'I'm a cold-hearted bitch' that I said in the beginning didn't you understand?"

The Five Love Languages theory claims that everyone has one primary Love Language that they use to express their love for people or that they feel love when expressed towards them.  It claims that it's possible to learn the other languages just like it's possible to learn actual languages, but that there is always The One.  I disagree.  I think that there is no limit (upper or lower) to the number of languages any given person naturally "speaks".  Some people have a single language and all the rest will always be a struggle for them.  Others, like me, speak all five fluently and naturally.  And most everyone else is somewhere in between.

Here's something I learned about the Five Love Languages - if a person has a particular Love Language, and that Love Language gets abused from an early age, and/or often, then that person will develop a strong aversion to the expression of that Love Language precisely because that Love Language is so important to them.  It's like touching an exposed nerve almost.  Maybe not quite, but touching something sensitive - if you do it exactly right, it will make them melt with pleasure, but if you do it wrong, it'll be a screaming, painful experience for them when the rest of us are all like "I don't get it, what's the problem? This doesn't hurt *me* that much!" (we see this very clearly in the "can't you take a joke?" defense where some people have no problem slinging insults around as signs of affection, but get confused when someone they love takes it "personally").  If that Love Language gets abused early enough, before the person is aware that this is a Super Important Way To Express Love, this person might believe that they are actually opposed to it completely, instead of it being extremely important to them.  And then, because they are avoiding the expression of that Love Language out of self-defense, their "love tank" runs on empty for most of their life.

A "love tank" is often compared to a car's gas tank or a bank.  It's this metaphorical space that gets "filled up" when you do things that makes the person happy.  When the tank is "full", they have a reserve to fall back on when things are tough.  When the love tank is full, and you have a fight, they are more likely to be charitable or compassionate during the fight and get over it afterwards because they have this extra cushion to fall on, this extra reserve to draw from, so they can afford to bend more, be more flexible, give more during a conflict.  This is why conflict, anger, or arguments are not necessarily a sign of a bad relationship - all relationships have these.  It's contempt that is the big warning sign.  Contempt, and similar emotions, are what gets brought out when these love tanks are running low.  Contempt and disgust lead to a lack of empathy, and that lack of empathy leads to "selfish" behaviour.  If you can't empathize with someone's position, you prioritize your own safety or your own security or your own escape route.

These behaviours are labeled "selfish" because you are putting yourself ahead of them.  I, personally, make a distinction between "selfish" and "self-interested".  "Selfish", when I use it, means putting WANTS ahead of someone else's NEEDS, and doing so either knowing that your actions will harm another and not caring; or thinking of yourself to the exclusion of the other person so that it doesn't even occur to you that someone else might get harmed.  When I say "self-interested", I mean that you are putting your NEEDS ahead of someone else's WANTS.  I might include "putting your needs ahead of others' needs" as well because sometimes there are situations where two people have legitimate "needs" that are incompatible and someone might have to choose themselves over someone else.  I don't consider that to be "selfish" so much as "self-interested".  Often, the person putting their own needs ahead of someone's wants is aware that someone else might feel hurt by it, but they feel it is a regrettable necessity.  They aren't lacking empathy, they are making a choice about priority.

I think this distinction is very important because the accusation "selfish" is a very powerful tool of abusers to maintain their victims.  Being "selfish" is one of the worst things a person, especially a woman or someone coded as "female" or "feminine", can be.  So it's easy to keep her in line by grooming her for her entire life to not be "selfish" and then drawing on that grooming whenever she acts self-interested.  Meanwhile, the actions of the abuser are, in fact, "selfish", by this definition.  I think it's important to note these two similar but distinct actions and belief systems with their own labels.  This is not a criticism of the original article's use of the term, but an explanation of my own position on the subject and how I normally use these terms.  Regardless of which term is used, I completely agree with the posted article's position on this subject, which is why I'm sharing the article.  It prompted me to take a look back on all the times I've been called "selfish" and "cold" in relationships and to be critical of those accusations.

So, back to the Five Love Languages - I apparently speak all 5 fluently and naturally.  Which might sound awesome at first hearing, because there are so many ways that people can express their love for me and I can speak naturally to any of their individual ways so you'd think that I'd get along well with a whole bunch of different people.  But, as I like to joke, it's actually more like there are so many *more* ways that people can fuck this shit up than those who only speak 1 language.  Because there are *5 separate love tanks* that people have to keep filled, not one, if they want me to feel secure in our relationship.

So, I would start out in a relationship with the NRE filling the role of the "cushion" or "reserve" in the relationship.  Kinda like how lactic acid works when there's an oxygen deprivation to keep you physically moving, only in reverse - I start *out* with the NRE giving me a boost just long enough for the new partner to start making emotional "deposits" that I will eventually start drawing on when the NRE wears off.  So, the NRE makes me all physically affectionate, verbally validating, intensely interested in everything they have to say, interested in doing things for them, and even wanting to give tangible things to represent my feelings for them or to show them that I was thinking of them when they weren't around (in order, the Love Languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving).

But here's something that the Love Language theory doesn't cover.  I propose that "entitlement" can actually draw *out* any saved reserves from love tanks.  So, even if my partner is actually expressing love for me in ways that might otherwise fill up my love tanks, if he is acting *entitled* to any of these expressions of love from me, that entitlement will start to siphon off some of those reserves.  So, he may be showing his love for me by wanting to spend Quality Time with me, but if he's also *demanding* that time of me because he feels that I owe it to him as part of our relationship bargain, that Quality Time now starts to act as a deficit instead of a deposit.

"Leaving aside the fact that it’s still her phone and she still gets to decide who gets to use it and for what–a very important fact that I’m only leaving aside because I’m writing about something else–our brother has a pattern of entitled, demanding behavior towards her. He treats her time, belongings, and energy as if they’re his to take. Unfortunately, that happens a lot to selfless and caring people.

Because of that pattern, my sister has stopped being as giving with our brother as she used to be. Often she angrily refuses to do even tiny favors for him, like letting him borrow her phone for a few minutes to take some photos. Occasionally he makes his requests in a more appropriate way, but sometimes she still reacts with knee-jerk irritation and, raising her voice, tells him no."

I have been quoted as saying that I have a long fuse, but a huge blast radius.  This means that I seem to have these endless reserves of patience and caring and compassion and empathy ... until you reach the end and then I blow up in what appears to be a totally disproportional way.  I have yet to find a way to fix this, because I actually have gotten very good at clearly stating my boundaries and warning people that I'm nearing the end of my rope.  But that seems to make it worse for me, because then when they overstep my boundaries, they're doing it *knowingly*, from my perspective, and I take it now as a deliberate blow.  But, there's something else that gets added on top, it's just that very few people ever get to see it these days because I've gotten more comfortable with the banhammer and burning bridges.

When I have finally lost my patience with someone on a particular thing, but for some reason I haven't decided to nuke the entire relationship, I never again build up any resources to deal with that particular thing.  So, for example, my family.  My family doesn't do anything so horrendous that I'm willing to cut ties with them.  They're not abusive, they're not racist (at least not all of them, and the ones who are aren't overtly racist), and since I live 3,000 miles away I can enjoy their company in small doses of my own choosing.  But when we were kids, my sister used to steal my stuff.  My clothes, my cassette tapes, whatever I had, she would steal it whether she liked it or not.  One day, I'd had enough and we got into a fight about something probably not even related, and I shoved her bedroom door through the connecting wall.  I got grounded forever and I had to do the repair work on the wall when my parents got home.  To this day, I am extremely short-tempered about my stuff going missing and I'm incredibly territorial about my stuff.

Another example is my parents not respecting my agency.  In a million tiny ways almost too hard to describe, my parents have never respected my autonomy and my desire or ability to make my own decisions or be an independent person.  It's hard to describe because any one example is minor enough that many people just don't get why it's a big deal.  The big deal is the aggregate.  It takes a lifetime of tiny little chips away at my autonomy before I finally blew up about it.  I got into a huge fight with my mom and moved out (and into the arms of my first abusive fiance, but that's another story).  My mom tried to physically restrain me from leaving the argument and, for the only time in my life, I pushed her back and into the hallway wall.  My sister came running down the hall and broke up the fight and I left.

My mom and I have repaired things and I consider her a good friend in addition to being my mother now, but every time she does even the slightest thing to remind me of an infringement on my autonomy, I get red-faced, temperature-raising, pissed off.  The most common example is that, every time I visit or they visit, mom asks me if I need her to wake me up in the morning to get to whatever we have to do that day on time.  She doesn't believe that I can do it myself just because my sleep disorder showing up in my teen years took me some time to learn how to compensate for.  No, I don't fucking need mom's help to wake up.  I'm motherfucking middle-aged and I've been getting myself up for two-thirds of my entire life.  Don't fucking wake me up before my goddamn alarm.  I have a system that works for me, don't fucking do it.  See?  Totally unreasonable reaction if seen out of context and in isolation.  But I have never been able to build up any extra reserves to my mother infringing on my autonomy, so it is *always* that exposed nerve, that empty tank.

"Once I realized that my partners thought that it was my job to do emotional labor for them, I started rapidly losing the desire to do it."

"Even now, even to myself, I sound selfish and cold. But so does my sister, out of context. Neither of us is selfish or cold. What we are is exhausted. What we are is tired of being unable to set any boundaries. What we are is totally done doing things for people who have never, ever asked us what we need."

"When someone’s reserves of compassion get drained like that, they start setting boundaries that are much stricter and tighter than what they would’ve been otherwise. No, you can’t borrow my phone for even a few minutes. No, I don’t want to listen to your feelings at all. No, I honestly don’t even have enough emotional energy to give you a compliment to make you feel better about yourself."

"Because others’ entitlement often shuts down our desire to help them, and when we’re constantly afraid that our boundaries will be ignored, one strategy that many of us feel compelled to use is to start loudly, bluntly stating and defending those boundaries, as if to remove any plausible deniability from the person who continually crosses them."

The author goes on to say that they're not very optimistic about salvaging a relationship after the point at which it has collapsed from one person just flat out giving up on doing any more emotional labor.  I can relate there too.  Once I "go cold" like that, once I'm just done giving a shit about their feelings in the matter - any matter - I really have no interest in trying to repair the relationship and I don't see it as being very likely that anyone else will have any success in their own relationships after someone reaches that point.  I'm reading a book now that claims to be able to help people come back from that precipice, but I'll be honest, I have some reservations about it.

The book I'm reading is all about the scientific research being done about "trust" in interpersonal relationships, and it actually had me for about half of it.  I was on board, I was nodding my head as I read, I was already trying to come up with ways to work some of its theories into my Love Languages and Breaking Up workshops.  And I *still* think those parts have merit, so I may still reference them.  But then I got to this one part where he lumped kink into "impersonal sex", which tells me that he has no fucking idea what kink is, which means that he really doesn't understand what's going on in the minds of people regarding trust at all.

He moved away from kink and went back to just talking about repairing trust and betrayal and I thought, well, OK, the 5 Love Languages is deeply problematic too, coming as it does from a heteronormative, couple-centric, deeply Christian perspective, but I managed to strip it of all that bullshit and find something usable to present to the poly community so perhaps I can pick and choose with this book too.  But I'm not entirely sure I agree with his premise for using his research on trust and betrayal to mend broken relationships.  He seems, from my perspective as someone who has been thrust down the rabbit hole of abuse in poly relationships, to be fetishizing the couple and prioritizing the needs of the relationship over the needs of the individuals in the relationship - a core axiom of ethics violation in poly relationships.

We go through so much trouble to try and salvage relationships after things have gone sour.  There is a point before which things are rocky but there are enough good parts to a relationship that things can be improved and bring value and joy to everyone involved, and there is a point after which I'm not so sure it's worth the effort even if it *can* be turned around and start bringing more joy than suffering again.  And that's not a hard and fast point that I can just say "if X happens, it's not worth it anymore, for anyone, no matter what!"  I think that's something only the people in the relationship can decide for themselves, and I think it's possible for it to be true for one / some of the people and simultaneously not true for the other(s).  But I think that point exists, and I think it's very important that we as a society acknowledge this.  Relationships and love are abundant.  We can find them all over the place.  But we can't *see* them, or won't be open to receiving them, if all of our resources are tied up in Scotch-taping broken relationships back together.  Sometimes, we might just be better off by using our resources more efficiently by giving up on a broken relationship and spending those resources in other places that aren't so broken.

In this book that I'm reading, the author talks about this point where someone in a relationship starts comparing what they have to what they could have elsewhere, either a real person / relationship that they know of or a fantasy in their head of something that might exist elsewhere if only they could go look.  I really want to expose this researcher to healthy poly relationships where believing there is "someone else" out there who can do or be this other wonderful thing *isn't relevant* to whether or not we choose to stay with our current partners.  But there is a nugget of truth in there, that if we are too busy spending all of our resources on a sinking ship, we don't have any resources to maintain or repair all the other ships in our lives, whether it's other romantic partners, family, friends, hobbies, or jobs.  This even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we keep dumping in resources after resources into an endless pit because we feel that we have to justify all the resources we have been dumping in so far.  To cut our losses and run is to have "failed" and to invalidate all those spent resources.  So we keep spending.  And that contributes to people staying in abusive or toxic relationships (among other things).

I think we need to stop romanticizing the Forever After and accept that relationships, even successful ones, may not always last until Death Do We Part.  I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing to reach this point of No More Fucks To Give and decide that, even if it's possible, it's not desirable to try to "fix" the relationship.  I think that, not only is not a bad thing, but it's actively a good thing in many cases, and that it's also not a bad thing to decide it's not desirable *before* reaching that point in order to meet a different goal of maintaining a civil breakup and post-breakup relationship.  Better to walk away still remembering the relationship fondly and perhaps even harboring some loving feelings, than to wait until the only feeling you have left for them is contempt, disgust, or anger.  Assuming, of course, that you can choose when to walk away, but that's a different discussion.

When we have someone who repeatedly violates our boundaries, or regularly draws upon our emotional reserves in the relationship without putting enough of their own back in to compensate, "selfish", or as I have termed it, "self-interested" behaviour is a valid response.  If you're wondering why someone seems to have "checked out" or why they seemed to have lost all their compassion for you, it may be because you've been drawing on their "love tank" reserves instead of filling them up.  If you're being accused of being "selfish" and you're wondering why you seem to be this heartless monster around this person in particular but you either remember not being that person or you aren't that monster around other people, it may be because this particular person is crossing your boundaries in small, almost unnoticeable ways or because they're acting entitled to your emotional labor or because they're withdrawing your love tank resources instead of depositing into them.

And if that is the case, it may be for everyone's benefit that you act a little more "selfish", or at least self-interested, and remove yourself from that relationship.  If full removal isn't possible at this time, I'd recommend embracing the accusation of being "selfish" and/or looking into ways that you can get away with enforcing as many of your boundaries as possible and acting in your own self-interest in as many ways as possible, as often as you can.  If "reclaiming" the label of "selfish" gives you the strength you need to do what you have to do, go for it.  If just reminding yourself that "selfish" and "self-interested" are two different things and that people who have a vested interest in keeping you under their control often use the "selfish" accusation when you're really being "self-interested" - if that reminder is enough make you feel better about taking care of yourself in the face of boundary-crossing and entitlement, then hold onto this until you can improve your circumstances and keep reminding yourself of it.  It is not a bad thing to take care of yourself in the face of this kind of violation, even if that means you have to "shut down" something in order to cope.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
From Tumblr:

"here is an idea: normalize the idea that adopting kids is a valid option even for parents who could conceive a child themselves, and not just an inferior backup option for parents who can't." ~ monsterkissed

I've been trying to do this since I was a kid. I'm adopted. There is no difference between the love my parents have for me and the love people feel for their genetic offspring. I have maintained from the first time that anyone ever asked me about being a mommy that I would adopt if I were to have any children at all.

To me, it seemed the only thing to do. I was given a home when I might otherwise not have had one. The right thing to do was to pay it forward and give some other child a home who might not otherwise have one. There is nothing wrong with my reproductive cycle. I just believe that children already born should be given a chance at the same kind of decent life I had growing up.

I am ever thankful for the decisions of both my sets of parents that led me to the home I had. Adoption is a valid, noble option for anyone to choose. There are few things more selfless than to either choose another set of parents when you know you cannot give a child the best life it deserves or to choose another person's child to raise as your own.

Not everyone who was adopted had my good experience, of course, but that doesn't make adoption an inferior choice. Adoptive parents, like genetic parents, are a mixed bag. Some genetic offspring are far worse off for having been born or kept, but no one suggests that parenthood is anything other than a "miracle" or "noble" or "the best thing a person can do with their life". It's like monogamists blaming all of polyamory for a poly relationship failing but blaming the couple for a monogamous relationship failing.

The truth is that parenthood and families in general are incredibly complicated and nuanced no matter how those families are formed. So the point should be not that all adoptions are wonderful, but that adoption should be a valid option and if it WAS a valid option, it would have more cultural support than it currently does, which would make it a good option *more often*. Kinda like polyamory.

If adoption had the cultural (and governmental) support that such an incredibly important choice like this deserved, the negative stories would decrease because of the support given to ensure the safety of the child and to care for the emotional needs of the parents releasing their parental rights. More children would have the positive experiences that I had growing up, at least on par with biological parenthood and likely higher simply because adoption requires deliberate, thoughtful choice and planning and oversight and independent approval whereas the decision for biological parenthood can be made after the fact by pretty much anyone.

Kinda like polyamory - if it had the cultural support to be just one option among many, the intense introspection and thoughtfulness required to do it would likely result in higher satisfaction ratings among practitioners than other options if we removed the social pressures, stigmas, and cultural baggage that poly people have to unlearn in addition to learning the extra skills.

And P.S., if you adopt an older child, you are still a "real parent". That comes with its own set of challenges that ought to be acknowledged.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/08/09/as-seen-at-the-olympics-there-is-still-a-lot-of-ignorance-about-adoption/


"In a world that embraces the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, why is it so difficult for people to understand my family and Simone’s family? Setting aside the idea that it isn’t anyone’s business for the moment, what makes adoption so confusing? It is not a rare occurrence. Since (at least) biblical times, when Moses’ mother floated him in a basket, babies have been raised by others who aren’t necessarily their biological parents. Each year in the United States, about 135,000 children are adopted."

"DNA was not the defining characteristic of our relationships."

"Ask yourself, what tethers you to your own parents or to your own children? Is it a shared recessive gene that caused you to both have green eyes? ... Rather, isn’t it the time your heart was shattered and your father hugged you tightly and let you cry on his shoulder? ... That is what makes us parents. What makes us sons and daughters. That is what makes us real."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I have, on occasion, offered to host "guest posts" for people I know who wanted to write something they felt was important but didn't feel like their own platform was the appropriate place for it, for whatever reason. I'm not really known as a blogger with a large audience, and LiveJournal isn't really a popular blogging platform these days, but I figure with my history of topics I can probably afford to host certain posts when others can't or would rather not.

So, today I'm providing a platform for Jess (Burde) Mahler over at Polyamory On Purpose:



Had a conversation today that pulled into focus some thoughts on “boundaries” “control” and, most importantly, “choice.”

I’ve said in other contexts that every day we choose to be in our relationships. I didn’t decide to be with Michael one day seven years ago and that was it. Every day we have been together, I have decided to be in a relationship with him and to make our relationship healthy(er).

In the same way, every (social) relationship you are in is one you choose to be in. Work, military and political relationships can be forced on us. Who we love, befriend, count as family, and bump bits with cannot. Every day we choose to be in those relationships.

Usually, we aren’t aware of these choices. If you choose to be in a relationship with Wanda, you aren’t going to wake up every day and say “Do I want to be in a relationship with Wanda today?” You default to the established choice. Somewhere in your subconscious a decision tree runs “I decided to be in a relationship with Wanda yesterday and nothing has changed (or things have changed for the better) so I’m still in a relationship with her today.” We only become aware of this choice when things go wrong. "Wow, I can't believe Wanda did that. Maybe this relationship isn't the best idea. No, I'm going to stick it out, we can make it work!" (Or "...Yeah, I'm not sure I can do this anymore. I think it's time to leave this relationship.)

People always have the right NOT to be in a relationship. At any day, at any moment, we can choose to end an existing relationship. Starting a relationship takes agreement, ending a relationship does not. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.

Remember that.

Okay, so this conversation I had today, someone was bothered by the distinction between controlling and consideration for a partner’s feelings. The specific phrases were “My bf/gf won’t let me….” and “My bf/gf would be hurt if I did ____, so I won’t.” The person I was talking with basically saw the second phrase as emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation is a way of exerting control on someone and is a form of abuse.

I, on the other hand, saw the second phrase as respect for a partner’s boundaries. My partner will be hurt if I do this, I don’t want to hurt my partner, I won’t do this.

The difference, the critical difference, (and why I still think I’m right ;) ) is choice.

Let’s break those two phrases down a bit.

“My bf/gf won’t let me...” In this statement, you do not have a choice in your actions. Your partner has made the choice for you. This is controlling. It would not surprise me to learn that this relationship is abusive. (Controlling relationships are not always abusive—you can choose to give control to your partner, a la power exchange relationships, but controlling relationships where the control is coercive are always abusive.)

“My bf/gf would be hurt if I did...” In this statement, you have a choice. You may choose to do this thing. You may choose not to do this thing. All your partner has done is give you information. In this case, the information that if you do this thing, they will be hurt. In consent, giving additional information is called making sure your partner is fully informed. Same applies here.

Now, if you choose to do the thing that hurts your partner, and your partner punishes you for it, that is abuse. Your partner is trying to control your choices. The next time you think about doing something that would hurt them, they want you to choose what they pick for you to choose. Not what you would choose for yourself.

Telling a partner what to do: controlling.

Telling a partner your feelings and preferences: informative and important for fully informed decisions.

Telling a partner your feelings and preferences and punishing them if they don’t do what you want: controlling and (outside of consensual power exchange relationship) abusive.

With me so far? Cause the next step is a humdinger.

“If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

I’ve been told in the past that this kind of statement is automatically coercive because it is an ultimatum. But if I fill in the blank this way:

“if you hit me I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

Suddenly the same people who were saying it is controlling or coercive language agree that you are making a perfectly reasonable statement.

Let’s drop something else in the blank:

“If you talk with your ex I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

All of a sudden, those same people will once again see it as controlling or coercive. But it’s the same language, the only thing that has changed is what your partner is talking about.

So the idea really seems to be “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling.”

And this is where we come back to where we started. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them. I can break up with you tomorrow because you have a hangnail. I can break up with you because your voice is squeaky. I can break up with you for no reason at all. And you can do the same, in all of your relationships.

It’s not asking your partner to do or not to certain things to be in a relationship that is controlling—they are asking you. The idea that “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling” This is controlling and coercive because it implies “you can’t break up with someone because they do something you don’t like.” Fuck no, I can break up with who I want, when I want, where I want. And so can you. And so can your partner. And their partner. Ad the nauseum.

But-but-but-

I can hear the objections. “Saying ‘if you do this I can’t be in a relationship with you’ isn’t asking! It’s telling them what to do if they want to be in a relationship with you!”

big sigh

Rather than argue, which I so could, I accept this framing. And?

Seriously, so what? I have the right to lay out requirements for the relationships I am in. This goes back to (again) No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.

If I want to, I can say that no one can be in a relationship with me unless they shit gold and fart rainbows, while dancing the rumba. That is my right. Deal with it. (It’s also your right. And your partner’s. And their partner’s. Ad the nauseum.) If I say that, chances are I’m not going to find anyone to be in a relationship with. That’s my choice. If I relax my standards to only people who shit and fart while dancing the rumba, I might actually find someone to be in a relationship with. But if I don’t want to relax my standards, I don’t have to. (also, ewwwww.)

So let’s go back to “If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship wit you.” If it’s not controlling, and it’s not asking, what is it?

It’s laying out a decision tree.

It is saying “You have choices. You can choose to do this. You can choose to not do this. Those are your choices. After you make your choice, I get to make a choice. I get to choose (again, just like I do every day) whether or not to be in a relationship with you. If you do this, I will probably choose not to be in a relationship with you. If you choose not to do this, I will probably choose to continue being in a relationship with you.”

In this can, your partner is not taking away your choices. They are not controlling or coercing you. They are clearly stating “These are your available choices. These are the choices I will make depending on what you choose.”

This, like “My bf/gf will hurt if I do ...” is providing information. It is providing information that you need to make an informed decision. You can choose to do this, knowing it will probably end your relationship. You can choose to do this and coerce your partner into continuing to be with you (abuse) or you can choose to not do this because being with your partner is more important than doing this. These are your choices. These have always been your choices. The only difference is, they have now been stated clearly, so you understand them.

“But not letting me talk with my ex is coercive!” Yup. And if your partner said “you aren’t allowed to talk with your ex,” that would be controlling and wrong. (Again, assuming not a power exchange relationship.) However, your partner is allowed to say “I will leave this relationship if you talk with your ex.” Why? Because your partner can leave this relationship at any time. Because you cannot require your partner to be in this relationship. All you can do is choose to be in this relationship with them and make the right choices for you.

What if something your partner wants is harmful to you?

Well, then we have an incompatibility. One of the incompatibilities that gets talked about a lot is children. I want children. You don’t want children. We are incompatible. We have two choices. One of us can give up what we want to keep the relationship together, or one (or both) of us can choose to leave the relationship. Some incompatibilities can be worked around. “I am a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat meat.” “I’m not a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat tofu.” “Okay, how about we each cook our own meals, and we can make sure our families are on board with us bringing some vegan/non-vegan chow for the holidays.”

Now, someone saying they can’t be in a relationship with me if I talk with my ex would be a major incompatibility for me. I couldn’t give up talking with my ex even if I wanted to (we have kids together). So what would I do? I would not be in a relationship with this person.

What if I’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while and they say they can’t continue the relationship if I talk with my ex?

We go back to that decision tree. Being able to talk with whoever I want is a major deal for me. So I would reluctantly decide “I love you, but if you need me to not talk to people in order for our relationship to continue, I’m afraid I can’t do that. If you need to leave our relationship, I understand.”

Maybe they leave the relationship. Maybe we talk about it and they realize it was never about my ex, it was about their insecurity. Or maybe they tell me that every time I talk with my ex I’ve been picking a fight with my partner and didn’t realize it. (in which case, they kinda could have phrased their boundary better, but hey we’re all human). Maybe if there is an underlying cause of their boundary that isn’t directly about talking with my ex, we can find a compromise. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just an incompatibility that can’t be worked through. Or they aren’t willing to work through it. And they go their way.

And none of this is controlling. Or coercive. It’s just two people making the best of a hard situation and doing what is right for us.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

* I am committed to be as clear about my expectations as possible, both with myself and with my partners.

This is another really old commitment and should be as clear as the intention of the commitment itself. I am a direct communicator and it is my opinion that direct communication is the best form of communication between people in romantic relationships. [livejournal.com profile] tacit says that we can't reasonably expect to get what we want if we don't ask for it. People suck at telepathy, no matter what those wooager "psychics" say. We just can't do it. I cannot expect my partners to read my mind. However, as established [in previously posted commtments] and elsewhere, I believe that my partners are with me because they love and cherish me, and I believe that part of love includes wanting to meet each other's reasonable expectations whenever possible. But if my partners are not aware of my expectations, then they can't hope to meet them even if they intend to meet them.

Dr. Gary Chapman, of the Love Languages books, says that it's important to tell our partners how best to love us. We need roadmaps and instructions on how to best love each other. That's what my entire Me Manual tag is for - an instruction manual for how best to love and understand me. But even telling my partners about my expectations won't work if I'm not clear about my expectations to myself. Clear communication starts with clear thoughts. In order to clearly communicate my expectations, I need to know what my expectations even are. I am committed to practicing introspection so that I can understand myself and my expectations, so that I can further communicate those expectations to my partners so that those expectations get met whenever possible.

joreth: (Misty in Box)
In the course of explaining my quirks to a new partner, it gets bought to my attention just how much emotional labor I perform in my relationships, or at least how many habits I developed from performing this emotional labor and compensating for other people's inabilities to deal with their emotions in the past.

There are all sorts of little things that I do that, by themselves don't really seem like a big deal, but when I'm spending a week with a new partner and nearly every interaction we have involves me saying "so, this thing about me, I do this thing and here's why", the aggregate of all my emotional labor is more apparent.

For example, I cut the bread for the table. I used to sell and demo cutlery and I have always had an affinity for knives. I am also a bread addict - er, I mean, aficionado. I have known a lot of people who do not know how to properly cut bread and it ends up smashed in a lump when they grip it to cut or rip it apart. Instead of light and fluffy and we now have to *chew* it instead of lightly chewing it while it also dissolves on the tongue (for those breads that are soft and do that). I can slice the softest breads and cakes with even a fairly dull knife and still retain most of the integrity of delicate pastries and breads.

But I have learned over the years that some men do not like to be schooled on proper cutting technique. I'm not sure if they don't like to be schooled by women or they just don't like to be schooled in general and it doesn't really matter for this discussion. But I have had some men react harshly to what they perceive as criticism of their manly cutting skills, and still more men who just ignore my corrections entirely and continue to mash the bread. I have never had either reaction from any woman I have had this conversation with.

So, in order to avoid hurting feelings or eating smashed bread for the rest of my life, I now automatically reach for any communal bread on a table and slice off two slices for myself and a few more for whoever else is at the table, without trying to teach anyone anything.  I just kinda do it as if I just happened, by coincidence, to be the first to reach for the bread and oh, by the way, here are some slices for you too, honey.

So, as I said, this is not a big thing in isolation. But when I tell this story and it is the third story I've told that day that involves me changing my own behaviour in order to manage someone else's feelings or to get something that I want without a confrontation or conflict over it, I am reminded at just how often I shoulder the burden for maintaining my relationships.

That's the thing with emotional labor - it's largely invisible to both sides, the side shouldering the burden and the side not carrying the weight. It isn't usually one giant rock weighing us down, it's a sack full of pebbles that grows over time. One person carries a handful of pebbles while another is bent over double from the sack on their back. They didn't notice how heavy the sack got because each pebble only weighs a few ounces and they were added one at a time over a lifetime. But if you try to split the weight and make the other person carry two handfuls, suddenly it seems "unfair" that they're having to take up so much extra work! Why do they have to do these things anyway? It's just a pebble, can't you just keep holding it?

This is why it's important for adults to know how to do their own fucking laundry. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cook a number of meals that provide for their nutritional needs and not just that tastes good, even if they have the money to pay other people to cook for them. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cry. This is why it's important for adults to have a friend and family network of some sort to turn to for emotional support and celebrations, in addition to their romantic partners. This is why it's important for adults to know how to use a calendar system *of some sort*, whether it's Google or paper or whatever. This is why it's important for adults to know about culturally appropriate dress codes, whether they agree with them or not, and how / when to break those codes along with the consequences for doing so. This is why it's important for adults to pay attention to their bodies, eat as healthy as they can under their given circumstances, exercise as they can under their given circumstances, take their damn medication when they can access it, and treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health (which is to say, treat them both seriously) including utilizing mental health professional services when they can access them. This is why it's important to stop calling what fathers do "babysitting" when they watch their own kids or asking them to "help out" around their own house.

This is why feminism is important, particularly the latest wave of non-TERFy feminism that sees the harm of imposed gender roles and binary systems.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I think I'm zeroing in on why I still get startled when I see people talking at my abusive ex (even though I've blocked him so I can't see his online activity). It's not that I'm upset that people still talk to him - it's more complex than that. It's more like ... I expected that person to be closer to me than to him so I project my own discomfort of him onto those people even though, in many cases, I wasn't actually close enough to that person for them to know enough about the story to choose "me over him".

So, here's what I mean. When he and I broke up, I lost direct contact with that entire branch of my network, even though I was *also* romantically involved with someone in that branch and had what I thought to be some very good friendships from that branch. This was mostly by my action, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it was my "choice". My abusive ex was stalking another one of his exes, with whom I was still in contact, so I and several other people on my side of the network actually blocked his entire side so that "his people" couldn't feed information to him about the ex he was stalking through our contact with that ex.

This sounds like that entire network was in some vast conspiracy to hunt down a single person, but I don't think it was like that. Maybe it was, I dunno. But I still have mixed feelings for some of those people I lost. When I see them some of them in person, I still greet them warmly. But I don't tell them anything personal or intimate about my life now. Someone once questioned me upon witnessing me hug one of them hello why I was still willing to do that but not still date or keep in contact with that person. I said something about how I didn't trust them enough to be intimate with them, but hugging isn't intimate. They thought that was weird, and after I said it, I can understand how someone else might find it odd to hug someone you don't trust.

But, the point is that I knew those people were going to side with him - that's not exactly true, they were going to either side with him on certain specific things or they were going to abstain from taking sides on certain other specific things which *effectively* put them on "his side", given the details of those things. I knew that. I know the dynamic of that group. That's partly why I had to block them too, because I knew that they did not find what happened between us worthy of siding against him. So, when I see one of them out somewhere, it doesn't surprise me or, well, "trigger" used to be an appropriate word but I'm much less effected by his memory now so I don't know if it applies, but it doesn't do that to me when I am reminded that people in that group are still actively in contact with him.

I've long since gotten over my disappointment that they didn't find his behaviour worthy of "breaking up" with him too, and I don't actually feel that abusers need to be left completely isolated and alone. There was an excellent blog post by Shea Emma Fett (whose blog is now taken down but there is a wayback link at http://web.archive.org/web/20160211074648/http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html) about how abusers *need* friends, but they need friends who can hold them accountable, and we need to find a path to reintegrate people back into our communities after accountability has been held. Otherwise, all we do is shove wolves out to find some other flocks to prey on (www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/02/thoughts-community-abuse), only now they're also resentful on top of their entitlement that led them to abuse in the first place.

Please note that "reintegrating back into our communities" is not a statement on what any specific individual victim ought to do with regards to their abuser. I'm not saying that victims can't make their own choices as to who they allow into their lives, but broader communities need to have different standards and tactics (which I am not personally always able to uphold but I still believe in).

So, back to the point - I'm not bothered that my ex has friends, aside from my early disappointment of losing those same people as friends back when it happened. I *am* bothered that they don't seem to be holding him accountable, but the mere act of there existing people who like him isn't what's bothering me when I get that twinge when I see his name @replied to online. That surprise I feel is always "how can you still be friends with him after what he did to other people?", but now I can see that it's more than that. It's that, but ALSO it's "you're supposed to be MY friend!" and it's also "don't you know about this thing?"

The problem is that A) no, they probably don't know that thing because I don't name him when I talk about him publicly. So if they're not one of my in-person, RL friends who I am close enough to confide in about abuse, then there's a good chance that they don't know who I'm referring to when I say "my abusive ex", even though they're also friends with him. And B) because I haven't confided in them, that means that they're not close enough to "take sides", and consequently to take *my* side.

It's true that several of my communities are pretty gung ho on the "always believe the victim" policy right now, but that's much easier to say when all the people in question are internet-friends or famous people or are otherwise not someone one currently thinks of in intimate terms. I'm not even going back on that policy and saying that we shouldn't. But I am saying that personal emotions and social nuances make things complicated in the minds of individuals and it's not fair to tell other people when to stop being friends with someone when there are all these other influences regarding social ties or intimate connections.

So I'm saying that these twinges are a result of a contradiction, of a dissonance in my head between social justice policies and personal expectations. One the one hand, there's the "burn the abuser at the stake!" anger, while on the other hand there's the "hold them accountable and that requires not shunning them out of the community" compassion (that I am still not very good at).  One the one hand there's "how can you still talk to him, I thought you were my friend?" while on the other hand there's "oh, right, we're just acquaintances and you don't know my side of the story".

There's no real point to this. There's no deep lesson to learn from this, no "here's how you can be a better person" morality tale. Just uncovering a little more nuance into my own psyche for my own benefit (hopefully).

* see also http://polyweekly.com/2015/01/pw-418-emotional-abuse/
joreth: (Bad Joreth)

https://youtu.be/XBmJay_qdNc





"In his mind, he wasn't just stealing music, he was fighting for freedom!"

Coincidentally relevant to my last post (coincidentally in that it happened to cross my feed and my attention right after making my last post).

This is an interesting observation on exactly the points I was making - 3 in particular:

  1. We are all the heroes of our own stories and we can justify everything we do from within our perspectives;

  2. That doesn't mean that there is no such thing as "right" and "wrong" just that it's more complicated and the paths to correct people need to reflect that complexity and that understanding; and

  3. We have to leave room in our communities for people to fuck up and to treat them with compassion and understanding if we want to have any hope at all in changing the culture around us to lead to fewer fuckups with lesser degrees of consequences.

Burning it all to the ground (as I have been known to do) and leaving no room for tolerance or understanding (as a community - it's still OK for an individual to not want contact with someone or to give up on someone who harmed them) doesn't prevent people from doing bad things. This is why punitive justice systems don't work. If people come to believe that they are Bad People, for whatever reason but often because their society insisted that they were Bad, they tend to think "well, fuck it, if I'm bad, then I'm going out all the way!" There has to be room for redemption. That is actually much more effective at stopping bad things from happening and in limiting those bad things that still do happen to more manageable bad things.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I'm watching a show where a divorce attorney is getting divorced and it's all his fault (and he knows it). I'm sure those of you who have seen it can guess what I'm talking about, but I'll try to keep it vague for those who haven't seen it. Anyway, he's the one who fucked up, he still loves his wife but can't stay married to her, he knows he hurt her, and he hates that he hurt her but that's the way things are.

So he starts out the divorce following the script he usually gives to his clients, which is to prioritize self-preservation on the assumption that the other person is his opponent. But she sits him down and points out that the person on the other side of the table is not one of his clients' "crazy ex-wives", but HIS wife. How does he want to handle this one?

He admits that he has no freaking idea. In all his years of being a divorce attorney, it has never once occurred to him that the person he is fighting is a human being with a shared history and complex emotions and that the person on his side of the table also has complex emotions about that other human being. In all his years as a divorce attorney, he has seen people at their worst, fighting for what they believe is their survival against an evil enemy but he has never thought that self-preservation might actually be counter-intuitive and cause exactly the sort of situation where self-preservation tactics are necessary.

So now he's facing his own wife across the table. Preemptively shutting down the accounts to prevent her from retaliatory spending didn't protect him from her vindictiveness, it made things worse. It hurt her and treated her like a criminal. It attacked her very sense of self as a decent person. It created self-doubt in both of them. It tarnished not just the memory of their marriage together, but even the love that they both still feel for each other behind all the pain.

That action actually changed the very nature of their relationship and their feelings towards each other and about themselves. That action was not the result of things changing, it was the catalyst.

But in their future, they won't remember it that way. They will see each other through this new lens, and that action will be representative of this new changed perception of each other, rather than the action *causing* the change. Because that's how our memories work.

What would our world look like today if the entire divorce industry had been built up from a societal foundation of compassion instead of brutal self-preservation? I don't mean that self-preservation was thrown out the window and that everyone just rolled over and let people take advantage of them. I think that self-preservation is a natural extension of compassion, it's just that it takes different roads to reach that destination, and the destination is a prettier landscape than what the other road leads to.

What would our world look like today if divorce attorneys had a background in psychology that believed compassion should form the foundation of every interaction? Would there be more attempts by attorneys to reason with each other and their clients? Would law firms have mottoes espousing compassion, ethics, and dignity? Would law schools teach, in addition to the law, how to see others as fully formed human beings and how to see multiple perspectives?

Would divorce offices have couches and personal end tables for writing instead of large, domineering conference room tables where people square off against each other? Would everyone sit down in these comfortable but not vulnerable seats, and would the attorneys lean in and say to the future ex, "I'm so sorry this is happening. This must be very difficult for you. Let's try to work together to make this as painless and equitable as possible. Would you like some tea? Can I make you more comfortable? How is the temperature in here for you?" and would they make every effort possible to instruct their own clients to reign in their tempers, to give just a little bit more than they're getting, and teach them how to see things from their soon-to-be-ex's perspective?

And if this was the *norm* for the divorce industry, not just individual practices existing here and there, what would the society that spawned this kind of industry look like?

We are all the heroes of our own story. Everything we do seems rational and justified from inside our heads, with the information that we have and the feelings that we have and the experiences that formed us and and the memories that we have created. If other people could only see from that specific perspective, they would also understand how rational and justified our positions are.

That doesn't mean that we are always *right*. Our memories are faulty. Our information is incomplete. Our brains are subject to logical fallacies and flawed premises. The world in which we are operating is the way it is, and within that way, sometimes things have to be done that do not reflect the way we would like to see the world become but the way the world is.  But from within that perspective, things look very different from outside that perspective. And, most of the time, with the situation being what it is, people are not unreasonable for making their choices from within that perspective.

When you're on the opposite side of the table from someone with a very different perspective, it can be difficult to remember that. This is not one of my strengths. I got the nickname Flame Warrior for a reason. I have a long history of burning people at the stake and razing forums to the ground. In each and every case, I felt justified in doing so. I have very good reasons for everything I've done. My compassion has always been reserved for the people on whose behalf I was doing the burning. It was from that very deep wellspring of compassion that I acted as I did, because it was held exclusively for the people whose side I was on, much like a divorce attorney going to the mat for a client. I put everything into the best defense for "my side" and fuck the other person for being on the opposite side in the first place. They were clearly wrong, that's why they were on the opposite side.

But what would the world look like if I was better at sitting down in one of those comfy chairs? I'm not naive. I identify far more with the Operative in Firefly than with most of the other characters (although I love the other characters more). He explained that he was there to do the hard, ugly work of creating his perfect world. When Mal snidely accused him of going to live in his perfect world after he's eliminated all the messiness, the operative said quite clearly that the perfect world was not for him. He was a monster. But a monster was what was needed to create the perfection for everyone else.

I don't believe I'm a monster, but I've never literally burned an entire colony of children and peaceful people just to hurt one man and get him to come out of hiding. My point is that there is no such thing as a perfect world and I don't believe that all conflicts can be solved in pleasant rooms with cushy chairs. Just look at any of our upper-tier "diplomatic talks" throughout history - they have plenty of cushy chairs to sit in and yet still they send other people out to die for abstract ideas like power and religion. Sometimes, we need a bulldog to defend us who will keep holding on until he wins.

But just what if? What if we were all taught how to see through different lenses? What if we all learned how to identify with those on the opposite side of a conflict with us? Without giving up a goal of putting more credence and weight to objective facts and metrics, what if we knew how to value other people's feelings and how we affected them? What would divorces look like then? What would political squabbles look like? What would social justice look like? What would our communities look like?

Every time I get into a conflict, if it's bad enough to require me to vent to my partners for some relief, [livejournal.com profile] tacit has to butt into my ranting with "well, from their perspective..." It's infuriating. Not just because it's interrupting my momentum for a good rant, but because he's always so fucking right. And I hate having to learn that someone else has reason for what they're doing. It's so much easier to be pissed off at them when they're so clearly wrong and irrational and mean. It's so much easier to work myself into a righteous rage when they're malicious and evil and hateful.

And it's so damn irritating to have to acknowledge their humanity even while the objective facts still bear out that my side is the more correct side. When I'm right, I should be right, goddamnit, and they are just fucking wrong. It's much less satisfying to be right-but...

[livejournal.com profile] tacit makes me aspire to be a better person. Which I suppose he ought to, seeing as how he co-wrote the book on how to be an ethical person. And I fail often, but I am ever striving to do better. Which is all anyone can really hope for, honestly ... just to keep doing better. To keep seeing the humanity and the nuance in other people, especially those who I find myself opposite of in a conflict.

It doesn't mean that there are no "right ways" or "wrong ways", and it doesn't mean that even when I can see the other side that I am necessarily "wrong". But it informs how I treat the other side as people. Which makes me a better person for my own sake and the sake of those I interact with, no matter who is "right" and who is "wrong". Because I am not talking about who is "right", I'm talking about how to be *better*. There can still be a "right" and a "wrong" side while the participants are practicing being their best selves. It just makes those sides more complex, richer, nuanced, and messier. And it also opens up the options for solutions because the sides are not black and white. There are more ways out of a conflict when it isn't an all-or-nothing brawl. Yes, even if only one side is seeing the situation in color and the other is still viewing it in monochrome, there are still more solutions available.

If I had taken my Breaking Up workshop as a teenager, what would my future had looked like? What kinds of mistakes would I have made differently? How many flame wars would I have engaged in, and what would their outcome have been? How many more minds could I have reached and more hearts could I have changed? Sure, some people need a bulldog to defend them still. But what could have been, had I started becoming a better person sooner and what could the world have been if we all had started becoming a better person sooner?



Cultural attitudes about seemingly small things can lead to massively different cultures because of their foundational nature, and some of them are simply objectively better than others even with their problems and flaws.

The idea of a collaborative divorce as an institution in the US is laughable. I can't even imagine it catching on as a thing, although I can imagine individual legal firms attempting to offer that kind of service. But divorce is *assumed* to be adversarial, therefore it is. Any individual who bucks that trend is considered an exception, even a sideshow freak on the extreme end!

And I think that's symptomatic of a generally adversarial outlook. All of our conflicts are seen as adversarial, not collaborative. We so often immediately jump to opposing sides rather than individuals with similar goals but differences in opinions on how to obtain those goals.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"It can be easy to forget that the other people that your partner loves and cherishes are not problems to be worked around. They're human beings who add value to your partner's life." ~ Franklin Veaux

This is most clearly illustrated in poly relationships when pre-existing partners want to set up hierarchy and rules dictating "outside" partnerships, but this is actually an example of couple privilege because it's true in all kinds of relationships.

Think of the mono-hetero couple whose spouse doesn't get along with one's friends, or the stereotype of the wife and mother-in-law not getting along. Because our culture is set up to privilege the romantic dyad, we are told to take it as a given that a romantic dyad takes precedence over all other relationships. When that happens, some people view their partner's loved ones as problems to work around (or in some cases, like parents and siblings, they view their loved one's PARTNERS as problems to work around, still because of this assumption that romantic dyads come first so it's assumed that they will "lose" the loved one to the new partner and therefore the new partner is a "problem" to work around), rather than remembering that they are human beings who add value to their partner's life.

When you don't like your husband's buddies, it's hard to remember that they add value to his life, because the value system you need to judge by is *his* value system, not yours. The buddy is friends with him for a reason. He doesn't have to be *your* friend, he is still a human being who adds value to your husband's life.

When you can't stand her mother, it's hard to remember that she adds value to her life just because *you* find her annoying and she doesn't like *you* so she makes *you* uncomfortable. Doesn't matter, she's her mother and your partner wants her mother in her life for a reason. You don't have to have the same value system. She thinks her mother adds value, and her mother is a human being.

These people are not *problems to be worked around*. Not getting along with them might *cause* some problems, but they themselves are not problems, they are human beings who add value to your partner's life. The ethical way to deal is to not treat them like an interference that you have to manage. The ethical way to deal is to accept that they are human beings who add value to your partner's life, and that your partner is a human being who is capable of deciding for themselves what and whom brings value to their own lives.

‪#‎MetamoursMakePolyamoryWorthDoing‬ ‪#‎IHeartMyMetamours‬ ‪#‎MetamoursAreHalfTheReasonToDoPoly‬ ‪#‎InternationalPolyJusticeLeague‬ ‪#‎YouAllBringValueToMyLifeToo‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control

"But in giving Gilles an ultimatum, was [Elena] prepared for the possibility that he might say no—thus leaving her in the position of having to make good on her promise to end her relationship with him? Or was she working from an expectation that he would say yes—thus making the ultimatum dangerous for only Louisa, and not for Elena? What would her response be if Gilles said no? Would she be angry? Consider his choice a betrayal? Use shame and guilt to try to get him to do what she wanted? Or would she accept his decision—and leave the relationship?"

Eve Rickert follows up with part 2 on the question "are hierarchies ethical?" I pulled this quote out because of my own experience with "accidental hierarchy".

I was not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. Hell, I'm *still* not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. But my security has grown over time, as have my skills in handling my insecurities. In the past, I have taken advantage of Couple Privilege (without realizing it) and I have been in sort of de facto hierarchical relationships, even though I have never approved of hierarchy.

One common tactic I have actually participated in was the pre-approval veto - where any new partner must be pre-approved by the existing partner before any moves are made towards a partnership. This is often seen as an exception to the no-veto rule because the new potential partner often isn't even aware that they are being considered as a potential partner at this point - they might not even be interested, or at least they might not have expressed any interest yet. And if the veto is played, they may never know. I could go on a whole blog post about how that isn't really any different or better from a regular veto, but that's not the point of this piece now.

A long time ago, I dated someone who sought to reassure me about a new partner he was interested in. She wasn't poly. She had never heard of it before. She hadn't even had very many romantic partners at all. I was concerned about how "advanced" her relationship skills were and how this would negatively impact my relatively new relationship with our mutual partner. But I was here first.  So my partner volunteered that, because he was committed to *polyamory*, not just me, if this new interest of his started making "enough" trouble, he would break up with her and not just for me, but because he also didn't want any mono-poly drama.

So, fast forward something like a year and a half, and I decided we had reached "enough trouble". So I pulled out my defacto veto. I reminded him of his promise and told him to break up with her.  This has always bothered me. In hindsight, I see where I went wrong and I am now opposed to even the pre-approval veto. But it bothers me that I could have been opposed to veto and hierarchy for the whole power imbalance thing and I still pulled rank when I had it.

So that's where this quote comes in. Before I called his hand, I thought long and hard about doing so. I thought of every possible outcome to challenging him to break up with her. And I didn't do it until I had decided what the worst possible outcome was and accepted it. I waited until I was fairly certain that he would *not* break up with her, and that my challenge to him would result in our own break up.

When that's exactly what happened, I wasn't angry. I was sad and disappointed, but not angry. I did not feel betrayed. I felt let down because I felt as though he hadn't lived up to his commitments, but that's actually part of a pattern - he had broken several commitments to me over the course of the relationship and those commitments were *to me*, not about her, but that's what led me to the decision to issue the challenge in the first place. So I felt let down, but not betrayed.

However, many years later, I dated someone who believed that I had violated some agreement that I still do not believe I ever made, and he felt *betrayed*. Based on this partner's reaction, my emotions to that earlier partner choosing not to break up with his other partner were nothing like, and not even in the same family as, the emotions that this later ex seemed to feel towards me and my choices of partners.

I did not shame or guilt my then-partner into breaking up with her and staying with me. I accepted his decision immediately, and I left the relationship. We hugged, and got to work on building a new foundation for a friendship. I'm not saying it wasn't painful, and that I didn't have feelings of resentment, but there was no coercion and no entitlement there.

Later, when the shoe appeared to be on the other foot with that other partner, I worried about consistency. When *I* had a partner who took a new partner that I wasn't happy with, I told him about my unhappiness and I broke up with him when he didn't "do what I want". But then when this later partner was unhappy with my new relationship and this time *I* refused to either curtail or end this new relationship in favor of my existing partner's feelings, how was I any different from this later partner?

I *felt*, deep down, that there was a difference. But of course I did. I am the hero of my own story, after all, as is everyone. Of course it's "different when I do it"! But, was it really?

I think it was. As this article explains, it can be really difficult tell from the outside because often the end result is the same. "An outside observer who did not know Elena would in fact not be in a position to say whether her actions were a veto or not. Why? Because the difference comes down to expectation and intent."

This later partner felt *entitled* to have me choose him. He felt *entitled* to make demands on who I chose as another partner and how that new relationship could progress. He attempted to shame me for not allowing him to dictate the constraints of my other relationship, still trying to shame me even after he broke up with me. He felt betrayed. In fact, that's the exact word he used. He felt it was OK to override the agency of his partners, and not just me. Part of the reason why I refused to be flexible with respect to how difficult this situation was on him was because I saw him override other people.

See, I'm one of those annoying people who, when you back me into a corner, I'll just dig in my heels, bare my claws, and fight back out of spite. I'm working on that, but it's something I do. When I see someone having a hard time with something, and I don't see a good faith effort to own their shit and deal with it, I tend to throw people in the deep end.

Which means, in practice, that when I first start dating someone, I'll be extra considerate to make sure that they're comfortable with all the new poly stuff. I am not a beginner relationship. Even other poly people need a little adjusting when they start dating me. But if I start to notice that they are not making an equal effort to move past the discomfort and grow, if they are instead taking advantage of my consideration, I'll stop coddling them all at once, kind of like throwing ice water on someone. It may not be my best self, but I'm at least self-aware about it and I do warn people up front.

I had witnessed him being unreasonable towards his other partners. I saw him attempting to control their bodies. I saw him even trying to control their minds. He was startlingly successful at it. So I got pissed off. Then I started talking to someone new. This was the first time I had added my own new partner since he and I had started dating, and he was *not* prepared.

Incidentally, this is why I do not subscribe anymore to the principle that you should let your newbie partner start dating first. I mean, if it happens that way, then it happens that way. But I do not believe it is actually doing them any favors to "ease them into" polyamory and I no longer believe that all people need is to experience how it's possible to love more than one and they will magically not be afraid when their partner starts loving someone else.

Personal experience and observation of hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships in the poly community over the last two decades that I've been participating in it have taught me that putting off one's own entry into the dating world, or "easing them in" only makes one's partner comfortable in a fiction. They start to get accustomed to life as it is - with you not dating anyone - and then it's a shock to the system when you finally do start dating someone, because it's a *change* that they never really accepted. How often do we see people have no problem at all dating someone who is already partnered, only to freak out when that someone gets an even newer partner? The existing partner was part of the calculation, but a new partner is a *change*. The kindest thing you can do to someone like that is to show them up front what sort of relationship they can expect from you - and that includes how actively you date others.

Anyway, this partner had become accustomed to me not having any other partners for several years, because I made him a priority. But he added several new partners of his own and his time became more scarce. So eventually I had more time and emotional resources to devote to meeting new people as he dealt with the distraction of trying to control too many women at once. With his time being taken up by all the fires he had to put out with his mismanagement of his other relationships, and his attention definitely not on me or us, I felt alone and was open to considering other partners for the first time in several years.

But I wasn't *just* open to considering new partners, I was also pissed off at him for how he was treating his other partners. So I took off the kid gloves and I just did my other relationships however it felt natural between myself and the new partners and I expected the existing partner to just deal without any coddling from me.

Let me be clear and say that I don't believe I was *cruel*. I don't believe I was *anything*. My other relationships were between me and my other partners. They had nothing to do with him. He and the other partners didn't even live in the same city (or state). What I did was refuse to limit or restrain or shape these other relationships according to *his* wishes even a little bit. Not even the pre-approval veto that I previously believed didn't "count" as hierarchy or infringing on agency. But I'm quite sure that he disagrees with me on whether or not I was "cruel".

So when he confronted me about my new relationships, he was *angry*. He was mad that I wouldn't get pre-approval. He was mad that they progressed at a speed he didn't condone. He was especially pissed that I disagreed that we ever made some sort of "agreement" where he *could* have a say in those things. He called me names. He called me unethical - a sure stab right into my very sense of self. He accused me of betraying him. He accused me of being *unsafe* and putting him and all his other partners in danger, even though A) I had done nothing to put them in "danger" and B) I gave him all the information he needed to make his own safety decisions before we were even in the same city together again.

These are things meant to control. These are things meant to disempower. These are things meant to overrule agency. These are the tower - safety, ethics, consideration for existing partners' feelings. But I saw the village behind them - control, entitlement, fear, disempowerment. And these are not the things that I did with my prior partner, even though the outcome looks superficially similar.
joreth: (Super Tech)
"Our bodies are special so only our (future) husbands should get to see them!"

My body isn't special because no other man has seen it, nor is it tarnished because men have seen it. My body is special because it is part of me and *I* am special. It is the vessel which houses my soul, my essence, me. No man is so powerful that he can remove my specialness just by looking at me.

No matter how many men see or touch my body, it remains special because *I* am special. No matter how many men I share the experience of my body with, every experience with me is special because *I* am special. No one, man especially, is powerful enough to remove my specialness.

Just because I exist, I am special. Just because I *have* existed, I will always *be* special.


It's also why I'm not afraid of polyamory. Nothing my partners do or say or think or feel with other people changes my specialness, and our relationship is special because *we* are special and *we* are in the relationship.
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
https://thingofthings.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/1433

With the awareness of abusive patterns growing in the poly community (which is completely a good thing!), I'm also seeing a fairly common correlated pattern of people discovering a new thing and then labeling everything as that new thing, or thinking the new thing is the solution to everything.

So, for instance, often when polys first discover polyamory, we can become a bit evangelical and/or run around yelling about how poly can solve every relationship problem. I've been trying to get better about clarifying that I mean a *society* that embraced poly as one option among many would be a *society* that had fewer instances of certain types of problems, but those two people in particular would not necessarily benefit from poly *right now* as they are in this society because they don't have the skills (or the "nature" or the interest or whatever) to make poly work and, in fact, attempting polyamory from that broken place would only make things worse.

Now that we've done a fairly good job of raising awareness about abuse in poly relationships, I'm seeing a lot of armchair diagnosing of people as "narcissistic personality" or abuse. But, as I've been accused of things like abusing people for things like refusing to accept his control of my body or not tolerating abuse apologetics in certain forums that have been deemed as "safe spaces" for victims, I'm concerned that we, as a community, are throwing around that word too glibly.

And I say that as someone who fully intends to continue to speak out against abuse in poly relationships and to identify certain poly trope behaviours as abusive patterns and to maintain my hard stance against abuse apologetics.

It's a difficult line to walk and I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers. Stray too far down this path and actual victims start to question and doubt themselves. But, as part of one of my activist goals for bettering the poly community's collective skills in breaking up, I think we need to take a more nuanced approach to this problem. In some contexts, I think it's very important to label things as "abuse", but in other contexts, I think maybe it's not so important what we call it, we just need to recognize that it's not for us. Although I'm sure I will continue to argue with people over which side of that issue is the "correct" one for any given individual circumstance.

One of the bad habits from mono culture that we keep dragging into poly culture is the toxic breakup. We are taught to villainize our exes. I believe this is harmful to the community as a whole and to the individuals who go through this process. This makes it easy to switch from "he's a horrible, evil, hell-demon!" to "he's abusive!" when that may or may not necessarily be reality. So I hope articles like these can help bring the nuance back to the conversation without making abuse victims feel too shameful or self-doubtful about their situations. I mean, a bad relationship is still a bad relationship and everyone has every right to not be in a relationship that they don't want to be in, no matter what their reasons. Even if it's a good relationship but it's not meeting something in their life that they feel is important.

Relationships should serve the individuals in them. When individuals serve their relationships, that's when coercion happens.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Well, I suppose it's progress. Phone call with mom tonight included telling her about helping Richard move across the country, so she asked how I felt about him and I got to gush for a bit. Then she actually asked about Ben! To be fair, she did ask me if I was still seeing him, but she didn't automatically assume we weren't now that I'm also seeing Richard, and she even said to say hello to them for her!

I still had to remind her that I'm still dating [livejournal.com profile] tacit, though, which irritates me because I've been with him for nearly 12 years now (which suitably impressed her when I pointed that out - mononormativity means longevity = success). But she hasn't met him yet so it's harder for her to remember. Couple privilege rears its ugly head in the damnedest places sometimes.

Society places a higher priority on relationships that have met the milestone of "meeting the parents", which is why I actually make a point of introducing my partners to my parents as early and as often as I can even though it's not a big deal *to me*. I recognize that "meeting the parents" legitimizes relationships in my parents' eyes and in the eyes of most other people. When attempting to communicate, more ground is gained when I can speak in the other person's language. So I will often do or say things that mean one thing to me but another thing to someone else, because that *meaning* is what I am trying to convey.

In this case, meeting the parents isn't really a big deal to me because they're across the country and I hardly see them. But when I'm trying to explain to them how important someone is to me, I know that "meeting the parents" expresses "this person is really important to me" in their language, so that's why I do it. It's also why I have started to teach myself how to get comfortable with the selfie and with taking silly "couple" photos when I'm with a partner. That's another thing that society uses as a marker for a "legitimate" relationship, and I have chosen to use that marker as another communication tool that my relationships are real and "serious".  It's important to me that my partners feel legitimate, important, and validated in their relationship with me, and part of that includes making sure everyone else understands that my partners are legitimate, important, and valid.

It seems to finally be bearing fruit. Mom remembers at least 2 of my partners and acknowledges them both as "serious" partners. She acknowledges the other one as a serious partner but still has to be reminded that he exists because A) she never met him and B) I rarely see him so I don't have a lot of goofy "couple" photos of us on FB.

Only 15 years after I came out as poly, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race!
joreth: (Bad Joreth)


If an abuser is a dick 24/7 they'll never actually GET ANYONE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM in order TO abuse them.  Thinking about this logically for .5 seconds would make all the "but he's nice to ME" people realize that OF COURSE HE'S NICE TO *YOU*, HE WAS NICE TO HER TOO BEFORE HE WASN'T


I have this problem with one of my exes. All our old mutual friends are still friends with him because he never did any of his abusive shit *to them*. He never did it where they could see it. His victims were the "real abusers". Not one single person left his friendship over his abuse who wasn't already on the victims' side before the abuse was revealed. Not one. It still throws me for a loop when I see people @reply him on social media or when I run into people I used to care about who are still connected to him (who often say that they miss me when we meet in this manner).

Hell, even *I* tried to defend him at first. It took him turning his tactics on me before I could finally see what his victims were saying was true.  He's charming and endearing and so harmless-seeming because he's not attempting to control everyone he meets.  Everyone loves him.  Except those he has harmed.

I just can't trust people who try to play the "neutral party" with abusers anymore, even though I was one of them and even though I adamantly believe a person who has harmed can still redeem themselves if they show a willingness to be held accountable (and I have put my money where my mouth is and given some people a chance when they showed evidence of accountability).

Consequently I remain apart from my old communities because too many people are willing to throw their hands up, say that they weren't there so they don't know and won't "take sides", and continue to socialize with certain people because Zeus forbid they give up access to parties or events in order to take a stance and not implicitly condone or support abusers' unwillingness to be held accountable for their actions.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
It's kind of amazing how often saying "when you say 'I trust my partner but don't trust other people' it really means that you don't trust your partner" results in other people responding with "that's not true, I totally trust my partner!" and then proceed to give examples that can still be traced down to "I don't actually trust my partner". It's just that sometimes that lack of trust isn't rooted in reality.

I mean, "I totally trust my partner 100% because I absolutely know without a shadow of doubt that they would never cheat but I feel strong emotions anyway" only means that you don't actually trust your partner, you just have no *reason* to distrust your partner - you just feel that insecurity inside your head because of you.

Really, any "no, I totally trust my partner, but..." means "I don't trust my partner". If you trusted them, there is no "but". You can *mostly* trust someone, like trust them enough to get on with life and not be upset over things, but at some point, your trust runs out.

Like, I don't actually *distrust* my partners to be honest about their STI statuses, but I still want to see their paperwork because I have experience that tells me that not everyone has the same understanding of STI tests as I do (I actually had a partner who swore up and down that he got tested for "everything" even after he showed me his paperwork and was surprised a couple of years later to learn that he had never been tested for HSV, which I knew because I read his paperwork).

That means that my trust is conditional. I trust, but only up to a certain point. That point at which my lack of trust kicks in may be entirely in my head due to my own experiences and not because of anything my current partners have done to earn that lack of trust. But I'm owning that this is where my trust for my partners stops. Trust can be gradient and can apply unevenly to different circumstances.

"I trust my partner but..." means you don't trust them, at least not about that thing or after a certain point. But the number of people who, upon hearing that, respond with "that's not true!" and then proceed to list exactly the point that they don't, in fact, trust their partners, is kind of amazing.



*inspired by this post: I Trust My Girlfriend. I Just Don't Trust Other Guys.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
In my effort to eliminate the use of the word "hierarchy" from my discussions about hierarchy, to prevent the usual derailments of people confusing empowerment with priority, I think I'll try on the word "authority" for size.

"I don't do hierarchical" = "I don't do authoritative where one of my partners has more authority over another of my partners."

"Hierarchy is bad, m'kay?" = "Authoritative is bad, m'kay? It disempowers / disenfranchises / disrespects autonomy & agency."

"Why do you need a hierarchy to maintain your priorities?" = "Why do you need to assign authority of one over another to maintain *your* priorities?"

I need to make a page somewhere that I can find and reference for all the alternative terms that I am trying to use. I replaced primary/secondary with core/satellite. And I made a post like this a while ago but fuck if I can remember when or what terms I used to search for it!

Oh! I think it was replacing "needs" with "niche", as in instead of "he meets my needs", "he is in this niche". I've also used the word "permission", as in, "permission-based relationships". It strikes me as bizarre how many people don't mind the infantilizing implications associated with needing "permission" from a partner. But I think that's a cultural thing - we're so indoctrinated with the idea of giving up our autonomy to a relationship or a partner that all manner of disempowering, and frankly abusive, traits in a relationship are seen as acceptable.

But, then again, that's how "hierarchical" got established in the first place. No one saw any problem with the assumption that "of course the spouse comes first!"
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But what if two of your partners have an emergency at the same time?! Polyamory can't work! You have to have a hierarchy or else anarchy reigns and everyone loses!"

A few days ago, my great aunt, who has leukemia, slipped and broke her hip. My dad, who is retired and spent 2 months last year out of town to care for her when the cancer got really bad and she was hospitalized, went down again to care for her with this latest emergency.

Today, my mom tripped and broke her ankle while my dad was out of town.

My parents are not poly. Yet they also have to answer tough questions like what happens when two loved ones have emergencies at the same time. Who should my dad choose - his wife or his ailing aunt with whom he has previously set a precedent for being her caretaker?

This is a rhetorical question, of course, because the answer isn't anyone else's business. The answer is between these three people, their specific needs, and the agreements that they all come to after all relevant parties discuss it because no one could have anticipated this exact set of circumstances.

Kinda like polyamory.

We already have these scripts. We already have these skills. We already have to face these kinds of challenges. Ethical and compassionate relating doesn't change just because there is sex involved.

‪#‎ThereIsNotMuchAboutPolyamoryThatIsSpecificToPolyamory‬ ‪#‎PolyLessonsILearnFromMyMonogamousFamily‬ ‪#‎PolyPeopleTryToReinventTheWheel‬
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
There are some assumptions that the poly community makes that I think bely some faulty premises. I have spoken out in the past against the assumption that we all "need rules" at the beginning of poly relationships just until we somehow magically learn how to be ethical people while practicing being unethical. I have written recently how I wish I had the power to strike certain words entirely from our cultural lexicon like "hierarchy" because it allows people to mask some assumptions that I think are harmful behind the confusion of using a word to mean two very different concepts (priority vs. power) and I want to force people to have to spell out their intentions rather than using this Motte & Bailey Doctrine of hiding their disempowerment of partners behind more reasonable "priority" lip service. I have written even more recently about wishing that I could get everyone to stop talking about polyamory as a source of "getting needs met" because it reinforces the idea of people as need fulfillment machines. And I have another blog post brewing wherein I will be railing against the very existence of the word "jealousy". In other words, I have opinions on certain things that people in the poly community say that I wish they'd stop saying.

This time, however, I am not making the argument that people should stop saying something, although I *can* make that argument in this case too. This time, I just want to talk about something that *I* do that I wish had more representation because that lack of representation is leading to some assumptions that I think are making it harder for people to be ethical - they're struggling upstream.

In the poly community, there is an idea that is taken for granted. We see it in many forms: "No single person can be *everything* to someone"; "Sure, a good steak dinner might be your favorite meal, but you can't live on the same food for every meal - people need variety!"; "I love my partner, but I'm kinky / a dancer / into sport stamp collecting and my partner isn't so I have other people in my life who share these things with me"; "I get to explore different parts of myself with different people"; etc.

I'm not saying that these things are *necessarily*, *inherently* bad, not like how I say hierarchy is fundamentally disempowering at its core so that even if people manage to somehow find a way to engage in hierarchy "ethically", the very structure of hierarchy is unethical. But, to me, all these things are *consequences* of relationships, not causes. When they become causes, that's when people turn into need fulfillment machines. When "I like variety" becomes "I need variety, therefore I will seek out someone who is different from my existing partners to fulfill my desire for variety", that's treating people as things. But when "I like variety" comes *from* "hey, I like you, and you happen to be different from the other person I like in this way, this variety thing is kinda neat!", that's a *consequence* and the partners are not need fulfillment machines or things.

Language is an interesting thing. It turns out, that the words we use and the order in which we use them can affect how we think. There are some fascinating linguistic studies of various cultures (particularly tribal cultures) where the group doesn't have words for certain things and therefore can't even conceive of the broader concept for it, or where the order of the words affects how they perceive time itself, really complicated shit like that which I don't have sources to cite at my fingertips but it's fascinating. This is why I am so particular about the use of words and phrases like the hiearchical terminology - we may *say* that we "love" all our partners and that the ranking terms only mean things like who lives with us, but research suggests that our deep seated beliefs and actions are more affected by the words we use than we might realize even up to and including an inability to see that we can't understand a concept. This is why I'm so adamant about the "I don't believe in labels" argument. Language is probably our most powerful tool and most powerful weapon. Even our actual weapons are conceived of, built, and shared using languages.

When I hear things like the above phrases, one of the implications I hear in them is the subtext that our partners are "not enough". That's one of the biggest insecurities that poly people face - that we are not good enough, deserving enough, that our partners won't love us enough. On the one hand, there is a certain amount of freedom and security that comes with truly accepting that no single person can be "enough" for anyone so we can let go of that expectation either to put on ourselves or to impose on others and that we all, mono people included, have multiple intimate connections in our lives that fulfill different roles. But, on the other hand, there is also a certain amount of danger that we are seeking other partners because our current partner isn't "enough" which further implies that there is something *wrong* with them or the relationship, and I'm not even going to touch the issue that needs aren't usually transitive in this piece.

I know, I know, people are going to get defensive at that and rush to tell me how much not-wrong their partners are even though they say those phrases. Refer to my first two paragraphs above and save the defenses. I *know* there are plenty of people who do not use their partners as need fulfillment machines and I *know* there are plenty of people who do not see their relationships as lacking anything while they are simultaneously open to other relationships. I would like to see more of the people like me in this regard represent this perspective in the poly community so that these phrases are not just a given. People say things like "humans like variety" as if we all understand this is a big-t Truth. The language that we use is important. I have been changing my language over time to reflect exactly this problem with assumptions and flawed premises that underlie certain phrases that we use.

When asked "why are you interested in people outside of your relationship?", instead of responding things like "because I like variety" or "because no one can be someone's everything!", I see my relationships differently. I am interested in other people because people are interesting. There is absolutely nothing wrong or lacking with any of my relationships. They are the way they are because of the people in them. Yes, they are different in some respects from each other, but I am not *seeking out* people who are different in order to fill a raiding team in a role playing game (although I will sometimes joke about my extended poly network being a zombie apocalypse survival team). The relationships are different and encompass different things because the people in them are individuals and I *see* them as individuals, therefore their differences and the different aspects of myself that come out when I relate to them are reflected in the different dynamics of each relationship. Do you see what I mean? It's a *consequence*, not a motivating cause.

If, for whatever reason, I was only with one of my partners, that relationship is whole and complete all by itself. No, not all my partners are kinky. No, not all my partners are dancers. No, not all my partners are local. No, not all my partners are anything other than cismale, which is still a consequence of me being hetero (although that hasn't historically always been the case). But I didn't seek any of them out because the others weren't kinky or dancers or local or whatever. I met people and some of them turned out to be that specific kind of awesome that made me have romantic feelings for them. As a *consequence* of having the freedom to explore those feelings, I happen to have some partners who are kinky, some who are local, some who are learning how to dance, some who share my tastes in movies, some who share my taste in activism, etc., etc. As a *consquence* of having the freedom to explore those mutual feelings, I have learned different things about myself, I get to express different facets of myself, and I get to have "sexual variety", which makes my life richer and more complex than when I can only explore romantic feelings for people serially.

Yes, it happens to be true that no single person can fulfill every single role in someone's life - no one person can be parent, sibling, child, mentor, student, lover, partner, therapist, co-parent, boss, subordinate, platonic friend, Dom, sub, puppy, daddy, cousin, grocer, blah blah blah. But I don't need polyamory to solve that. Monogamous people also manage to have romantic partners while also having parents, siblings, friends, therapists, bowling teams, hiking buddies, or whatever else. Swinging is one of many options to have that sexual variety that people seem to crave. And yes, as I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes it is even appropriate to seek someone out specifically to fulfill a particular role, such as competition dance partner.

But I would like to see more poly people who are recognized for not seeing their partners as a lobster dinner to keep from being bored to death with steak every night (because, really, there aren't very many people out there who take "if I couldn't date other people, you'd bore me eventually" as a compliment). I would like to see more poly people talk about their relationships being fulfilling in their own right rather than filling holes in some other relationship. I would like to see more representation for this way of looking at people and relationships so that the rest of the community, especially the newbies, don't take those assumptions for granted, as if "I like variety" was the *reason* why everyone is poly, rather than "variety" being one happy consequence of being poly.

I am not interested in other people because my current partners are lacking something or not fulfilling some "need" or because it's "boring" to be with the same person every day for the rest of my life. I am interested in other people because people are interesting. And I wish more people talked about polyamory or answered that question like that, as if *that* were a given.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
And, if those two workshops weren't enough, in just 2 weeks from now I will be on a panel with Billy Holder and Tikva Wolf of Kimchi Cuddles and others to talk about poly in the media!
If you have any interest at all in polyamory in either news media or popular media & entertainment, you seriously don't want to miss this panel! Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016, come out and see us!

PLUS!!! Sterling Bates will be back once again at APW to discuss how to use personality type systems to improve your relationship communication! This workshop fills up every time he gives it, and he also improves it every time as new research brings even more helpful ways of understanding ourselves and our partners and metamours. I've never missed one of his personality workshops and I learn something new every time.
He will be presenting FIRST THING on Saturday morning! Again, make sure you get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in EARLY so that you don't miss out!

Visit www.AtlantaPolyWeekend.com for the full schedule of all the awesome presentations and workshops next weekend!
joreth: (Swing Dance)
In just 2 short weeks, Sterling and I will be bringing back our Lead & Follow Communication workshop to Atlanta Poly Weekend! It's the first workshop on the schedule, so you have to get there early!

In this workshop, we will teach you exercises to practice at home with your partners that will improve your ability to:

1) be aware of the physical and emotional space that you take up and how that affects those around you;
2) be conscious and considerate of your actions with your partner and how they affect people outside of the two of you;
3) how to better navigate metamour relations and juggling the emotional considerations of multiple partners while still allowing time to focus on one person at a time (i.e. it's not all everyone together all the time or compartmentalize everyone always);
4) how to get better attuned to recognizing nonverbal communication and expressions
5) how to get more comfortable asking for consent;
6) how to get more comfortable giving clear, verbal, affirmative consent;
7) how to become more comfortable giving clear, verbal rejection to your partner and to potential partners kindly;
8) how to hear a rejection and learn how to not take it personally or to accept it and move on more easily.

These are techniques learned over time in the dance community, but we will be teaching them to you without any dance experience required. In fact, we will not be teaching any dancing at all so you do not need to be good at dancing or even interested in dancing to attend! But we will be having fun with music and movement, so if dancing *is* your thing, whether experienced or not, you will have a good time! If you *are* an experienced partner dancer and are already familiar with leading & following, you may still enjoy learning how we put these skills together with relationship communication.

You do not need to come with a partner for this workshop. You can learn these skills on your own and apply them to your relationships later. You will also receive a handout to help you remember and practice the exercises at home so you can teach your partners on your own time.

I hope to see everyone there!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Dehumanizing, Objectifying Method Of Polyamory:
Quinn, Jordan, and Taylor all meet different needs. Quinn is my activity partner, Jordan is my domestic partner and co-parent, and Taylor is into kinky sex. Together, they all add up to the perfect partner.

Agency-Respecting Method Of Polyamory:
Quinn, Jordan, and Taylor are all different people. Quinn is my Quinn partner, Jordan is my Jordan partner, and Taylor is my Taylor partner. Together, they all enrich my life in their own unique ways.

There are several phrases that the poly community uses that I wish I could erase from the cultural lexicon. "Meets my needs" is one of them. Partners should not be hired to perform certain tasks, they are complex human beings and deserve to be treated as such. I'm not with [livejournal.com profile] tacit because he's into kinky sex. I'm with [livejournal.com profile] tacit because he is [livejournal.com profile] tacit, and because he is who he is and I am who I am, consequently kinky sex is part of our relationship. But if all I wanted was someone to fulfill a kinky sex service, there are any number of people who could fill that role and the person in that role becomes interchangeable. But no one else is [livejournal.com profile] tacit and that's why I'm with him.

I don't find people to fit the spaces in my life. I make spaces to fit the people in my life.

‪#‎polyamory‬ ‪#‎poly‬ ‪#‎polyamorous‬ ‪#‎OpenRelationships‬ ‪#‎EthicalNonMonogamy‬ ‪#‎LoveMoreBeAwesome‬ ‪#‎Frankenpartner‬



The thing is, when a person isn't dehumanizing their partners but still recognizing what role a person plays in their life like "the friend who likes playing poker", they're not doing what I'm talking about precisely because it's not about that one thing. To not recognize that the people in our lives do these things with us, don't do these other things with us, like those things, don't like those other things, etc., is also to not see them as people and is also dehumanizing (related essay: http://tacit.livejournal.com/241568.html).

But to see a person as "fulfilling my poker-playing need" is objectification, as opposed to having a need for connection and shared interests, among which playing poker is one interest that only some people will share, and which is not objectification. The lists of things that we like to do or share with people that too many people list as "needs" usually overlap with multiple people, and they aren't really needs. They're vehicles for meeting a need. That's an important distinction and one that few people ever make.

I have a need to share common interests with people, because of the connection that it builds on shared interests and shared passions. Dancing is a *vehicle* through which that need can be met. But to deliberately look for a *romantic* partner who is "The Dancing Partner", and that trait is the defining element of our relationship - the thing that sets that partner apart from the others, is to dehumanize him. If that partner was instead That Partner With Whom I Dance Among Other Things - a whole and complete person that I see for himself who shares a common interest, that would not be dehumanizing, that would be recognizing his differences, his uniqueness. To relegate him to "my dancing partner" is to ignore the rest of him. The language is important, because it shapes how we think and consequently how we act. This is why hierarchical terminology is so dangerous.

This is not to say that there are never times when it's appropriate to have people in one's life to fulfill a specific role, such as a dance partner that is a business-like arrangement where two people negotiate and discuss to limit their interactions to dancing for some shared goal. But that still makes those people disposable and interchangeable - any number of people could qualify for the role of "dance partner" because that role doesn't depend on the partner being a whole person, just someone whose dance style and dance goals are compatible.

We often enter into limited engagements with other people. I'm saying that it's not appropriate for healthy poly relationships - other types of relationships, perhaps - and is actually the source of the very insecurities that so many poly people try to use this method of relationships to protect against. If I am "The Partner You Kiss On The Lips", then anyone else you kiss on the lips has the potential to replace me. But if I am your Partner, whom you kiss on the lips, then it doesn't matter who else you kiss, because I am me and no one else can be me and kissing is just one trait among many that make up our unique relationship.

One of the big distinguishing markers for when it's dehumanizing and when it's not is to answer the question "if this partner stops doing this thing, will they lose their value and their place in my life?" If my friend who goes to the movies with me stops going to the movies with me, is there anything else to value about that relationship and him as a person? Can I have the same movie-going experience with someone else to replace him if he stops going to the movies with me? Can we flex our relationship to accommodate no longer doing that thing together? Will their Friendship Contract be voided if they renege on going to the movies with me? And will *they* be held responsible for *my* no longer being able to do that thing as long as they remain in that friend slot?

That last one is important. That's what makes someone a need fulfillment machine. We see this with certain types of monogamy, where one partner stops wanting sex and the other partner believes the first is *obligated* to provide that sex because they "need" sex and if the first doesn't *provide* sex, they are no longer useful as a partner and they have "voided" the marriage contract. This is usually the first step on the justification for cheating - "they broke the marriage contract first, so it's not cheating when I have sex with other people without telling them", for instance. But I digress.

When it comes to "needs", the question is, who has the responsibility for getting that "need" met? Is it my movie-going friend's job to make sure that my "need" to watch movies is met? Or is it my responsibility to find some way to watch movies that will make me happy and not infringe on the autonomy of anyone else? And is "going to the movies" *really* a need all on its own, or is it what I said above, which is a need for connection through shared interests and one of those interests happens to be going to the movies?

What I'm talking about above is when people make "going to the movies" a "need" that their partner has to fulfill for them, and deciding not to go to the movies anymore invalidates the relationship and finding literally anyone else to go to the movies with is equally as acceptable. Just having a body there at the theater is the important part, and if their partner won't do it, they'll just find someone else to do it, because there's nothing specific about *that person* that made the experience special or a "need".

What I'm talking about is instead recognizing that "going to the movies" is not a need, in and of itself, but is a representation of a need for connection through shared interests, acknowledging that it is no one else's responsibility to "meet" that need for me because it is my responsibility to find ways to develop connections through shared interests with the important people in my life, then developing relationships with people with many facets to reflect their humanity and our shared relationship so that they are not defined and obligated by the one activity or "need", and finding anyone else to do those things with will produce *different* experiences even though the activities are the same because those other people are *different* people and that will affect the experience.

Oh, and also that last line above "together they add up to the perfect partner" - that's a direct quote that I've heard so many times I've lost count. That's kind of important to the mindset. These people *literally* see their partners as part of a person, not a whole person.

Sure, if you call them on it, they'll backtrack and say something about a metaphor, but as I said, language is important and it shapes how we see things and how we behave.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

So I find it interesting that only a portion of my posts get multiple shares. If I'm extremely lucky, the number of shares gets to the 2 digits. Like I said, I'm fine with that because I'm not in this for the numbers, I'm in this to be available to those who want my words and that's it.

But the really interesting part isn't that I only get a handful of shares every now and then. No, the interesting part is that the more angry I get, and the more cuss words I use, the higher my shares go. And the post that I made that starts right out of the gate with cussing and rage? Yeah, over 1,300 shares so far.

So, to those people who think that a message will go further if it's nicer, fuck you. To those people who like the sentiment of an activist, but not the anger, fuck you too. The anger is PART of the sentiment. Even people who were embarrassed by the cussing and preemptively apologized for it in their shares, they still shared it because it was *important*, because it said something that people felt needed to be said.

I know that I'm not going to accomplish very much sitting here at my computer and making Facebook posts. That's why I vote and why I sign reputable petitions and why I contact elected officials. But what I *can* do from my computer is provide people with a voice. I will express that rage and that sadness and that horror that people are feeling even when some people wish I would just shut up and stop causing a ruckus, because I can afford to. I will express anger so that people know they're not alone in their passion, and I will share words for those who need to borrow some.

I don't have very much to give, but I do have my emotions and my words. Those include swear words, ugly words, harsh words, because sometimes, those are the only words appropriate for the depth and the intensity of the emotions they represent. There's a reason why my most angry, most cuss-filled posts get the most shares - they reflect what people are feeling. You can't separate the "bad words" from the emotions. They are the expression of those emotions.

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.

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