joreth: (being wise)
Everyone: please learn that you are lovable *to someone* and worthy of love and that anyone who thinks you are "too" something or "not enough" whatever IS NOT THE RIGHT PERSON FOR YOU.

If people don't like something important about you, you are not going to "scare off" potential partners, you are dodging bullets.

Gaslighters and manipulators will take advantage of the cultural trope (overwhelmingly applied to women) that you have no value without a romantic partner and you must change yourself to find a partner, to keep a partner, and to make your partner happy. This is bullshit. This is how they deflect and get you to accept toxic behaviour, abuse, and general shittiness.

Not everyone HAS to like you. Not everyone WILL like you. That's OK. Don't let that fact become a weapon to manipulate you.

Not only is it OK if people don't like you for a thing, it's what you want. It's how you tell who is compatible with you and who will love you for who you are, your core self. It's a valuable screening tool. Use it to your advantage, don't let it get used against you.



Brought to you by the boring response of men telling me that I'm "too intense" or "too aggressive" to "attract a man". The appropriate response to that is not to tone myself down. It's this:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

[deep breath]

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Dude. No, srsly, dude. Anyone who is intimidated by me or thinks I'm too much is not man enough to be worthy of being my partner.

I eat the weak.
joreth: (Default)
Just a tip: When you post a meme about abortion, and you are TRYING to be a good ally with that meme, you need to listen to the people who are actually in the category of people who could have abortions about how that meme affects them.

Or a meme about racism, you need to listen to the people who are the targets of racism. Or a meme about transphobia, you need to listen to the people who are the targets of transphobia. Etc.

Lots of memes are great for letting off steam and for posing hypotheticals intended to illuminate an underlying issue, but that are actually terrible ideas for people to do in real life. Not every meme, not every post, not every article is intended to be a reasoned discussion attempting to persuade the opposition. Different goals for different target audiences and all that.

Most of what I post is meant for in-group solidarity. I am a place to vent frustration, to feel rage, to express ugly emotions that are not "polite" or "acceptable" or even "productive". There is absolutely a time and place for that. And I'll even be liberal and say that many times and places that make people uncomfortable are still the correct "time and place" for it.

I give people a sense of righteousness and safety that someone has their back, so that they can draw on that anger to motivate them instead of having their fear immobilize them. My posts are not necessarily the best post for guidance on how to actually talk to people about these issues. I'm what happens when the damage is already done.

But when members of the group whom you are trying to support jump in and say "OK but this kinda makes things worse for me when it's acted on", the correct answer is "you are right, this is not intended to be real advice because that would not work out well. This is intended for this other purpose. We should consider how this would affect you if it were acted on in real life and not *actually* do this."

You get to keep your meme (unless they point out that even in-group sharing or your intended goal is also harmful), but you also don't dismiss the lived experiences of people in the group you are trying to ally.

We can see that there is a need for sharing things that wouldn't be helpful if they were reality. As a feminist, I'm quite fond of embracing the baby-eating, man-eliminating jokes and memes. But when I'm trying to convince other people to not hate women, probably telling them that all men need to be rounded up and shipped off to Siberia while we feast on boy fetuses and man tears isn't the best way to do that.

So when you share a meme that is intended to point out hypocrisy but not actually be advice to tell people they ought to go do this thing, and the group you want to ally says "this would be a terrible idea, don't do this", just listen to them, concede that it would be a terrible idea, and if you must, explain that you do not advocate doing this IRL at all but it makes a good hypothetical to point out hypocrisy, or whatever you think it does.

And if the members of the group say "sure, it points out hypocrisy, I can see that, just don't actually do this", then you're all good. But if members of the group say "it doesn't even accomplish that goal and it harms us in this other way," then listen to them.

You're not being a good ally if you aren't listening to the people you're trying to help. They're not "being mean" to you by rejecting your assistance, they're trying to show you how you can be of better assistance.
joreth: (polyamory)
Hey, look, holidays in polyamory, even the "romantic" ones are much the same as any other holiday, only maybe with more schedules to consult (honestly, with 2 kids, godparents, and extended relatives, it's not any more schedules to consult than my monogamous childhood).
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because they don't have any partners at the moment, like single people.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because their partners are long distance, like many monogamous people such as couples with one or both in active duty military service overseas.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because they didn't win the priority to get that exact day to celebrate, like a lot of partnered people whose partners work in emergency services and have to work that day.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because they don't celebrate, like some monogamous people who are conscientious objectors.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day with partners but not doing anything different than any other day because they don't celebrate, like some monogamous people who are conscientious objectors.
     
  • Many polys celebrate V-Day on alternate days, like many monogamous people who are busy on the exact day like when it falls in the middle of the week, and polys might choose to celebrate on alternate days for the same busy-ness reasons or because they have multiple partners so they have multiple celebrations.
     
  • Many polys celebrate V-Day with as many of their partners and metamours as they can get at the same time, just like many monogamous people who celebrate a romantic holiday with their partners and their friends, or make it a family holiday with the kids, or with their entire extended families.
It's really no different than being monogamous (meaning that there are all kinds of ways to celebrate holidays even among monogamous people), and it doesn't *have* to be a big, stressful thing - at least, it doesn't have to be a *different* stressful thing.  Some of y'all want to make this holiday really important and then stress out about it, no matter how many partners y'all have.

It's really very simple.  Ask your partners how they feel about the holiday.  Then find the compromise that makes everyone feel cared for without putting anyone out too much.  If this is a big deal to one or more partners, then make it a big deal.  If it's not, then don't.  Express your own preferences too.

Go out together as a group.  Have your own coupley dates all on different days.  Give gifts.  Don't give gifts.  Deliberately avoid the materialistic, couple-centric commercialism by NOT celebrating your romantic relationships, but by celebrating your *metamour* relationships instead.

It's really not any different from monogamous people, except for a small percentage of us who might have group sex.  That's probably different from monogamy.  Depending on your definition of "monogamy".

But other than that, most of us celebrate like monogamous people do.  If you're new to poly and stressing out about how to celebrate:  relax.  It doesn't have to be any more complicated than the holiday normally is.

But a word of caution - if you're new to this and you're starting out by "opening up", make a point to ask your newer partners what their feelings are on the subject, and try to prioritize *their* feelings, because they get the short end of the stick in most other things.

And if there's really a conflict between your partners, then opt for either the group date or the alternate dates where *nobody* gets The Day for themselves.  Part of learning to be ethically poly is learning that we all have to give up some of our privileges and expectations in order for everyone to feel safe enough to want to concede theirs in return.  You learn to trust by giving trust.  You get their cooperation by being cooperative at them.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Hetero men, your profile pictures on dating sites suck. While you want to portray a realistic version of yourself in pictures, you also don't want to *start* with you at your worst.  Fuzzy, blurry shots of you being sloppy drunk, pictures of you glowering at the camera, and topless bathroom selfies are not good choices for your top profile photo.

Look straight at the camera from eye level or slightly above, have some kind of pleasant expression on your face that isn't intended to intimidate, and look like you *can* give a shit about your appearance when you want to. Especially if you have any expectations that the people you want to date give a shit about their appearances.

It doesn't have to be a suit and tie professional headshot, especially if that's not "you". Just don't look like you're an angry asshole or a fucking loser that your future partner will have to spend the rest of their relationship with you cleaning up after you and tucking you in.

Because I *know* that y'all don't like the kinds of relationships you end up with when your partners are attracted to exactly that sort of mate.

All y'all have the same shitty pictures. If you want to stand out among the crowd, put a decent picture on your profile and don't be an asshole. Seriously, like the BARE MINIMUM of being a decent human being with a decent picture will improve your chances worlds beyond your "competition".
joreth: (polyamory)
Q. What is a unicorn when it comes to polyamoury?

A. Everything that Jessica Burde said. I’m basically just adding some detail to add weight to what they said (more voices and all) because lots of people want to dismiss poly advice when they don’t like it. So I’m adding basically an agreement post to support their answer - their post is not just their “opinion”, it’s the observation of those of us who have been here from the beginning and have seen the origin of words and the intention of the coining of terms and what happens and why we came up with those words in the first place.

The term “unicorn hunter” came first to refer to a particular type of person / couple who uses predatory and (& this is the important part) *improbable* practices to find a partner that is so specific and/or so unattainable and/or so unlikely to exist, that we called the partner they are looking for a “unicorn” because of it, and therefore the person / couple became “unicorn hunters”.

The History Of The Term Unicorn Hunter - https://joreth.dreamwidth.org/388631.html

We could have chosen another set of terms to describe this process, but the term “unicorn” (www.TheInnBetween.net/polyterms.html#unicorn) had some precedent. A lot of the early poly community was made up of people who came from the swinger community but found the lack of emotional connection unsatisfying and so built a new-to-them style of relationship that was more along what they were looking for.

In the swinger community, a “unicorn” is a bisexual woman who is willing to have a threesome with a couple and then go away without disrupting the primary couple.
 
So, when former swingers were trying to find more emotionally intimate multi-partner relationships, and when some of them brought some of their swinger habits with them, including searching for a bisexual woman *who would not disrupt the primary couple* even though this new style of emotionally intimate relationship would, by definition, disrupt the way they did things (I Love You, Just Don't Disrupt Anything - https://joreth.dreamwidth.org/275094.html), it was natural to adapt the term “unicorn” to a polyamorous purpose.

(https://www.instagram.com/p/BVOILerBElZ/)

But, remember, “unicorn” was never intended to apply to just bisexual poly women, not even bisexual poly women who are willing to be with two people in a preexisting relationship. We had a term for them back then - we called them bipoly women (www.TheInnBetween.net/polyterms.html#bipoly).

The “unicorn” bit was specifically because the person they were looking for was a fantasy, whereas bipoly women exist in abundance.

Some people are not familiar with the history or the deliberately intended insult in the term “unicorn hunter”, and think that a “unicorn” is simply a bisexual poly woman. Because of this, some bipoly women have started calling themselves “unicorns”.

While we want to encourage people to identify however feels right to them, and while we also want to encourage it when people “take back” offensive terms to turn around systems of oppression, this all becomes very problematic when poly people do it with the term “unicorn”.

Because the term “unicorn” *in the poly community* was never intended to apply to actual people. It was specifically chosen to refer to a construct that doesn’t exist, as a way to identify predatory behaviour. So it’s not really a term that should be “taken back” because it was never meant to apply to them in the first place.

And it’s a necessary term intended to discuss a deeply problematic, harmful set of behaviours in our community. People who do those things still exist and are still a problem. In fact, I would say they’re even worse now. It’s been almost 30 years and we still haven’t reached community consensus that objectifying and dehumanizing and fetishizing women is wrong.

Not only that, but they’ve become emboldened by another poly catchphrase “there is no one right way to do polyamory”. Sure, there is no ONE right way. That means that there are more than one path to successful poly relationships. But it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any WRONG ways. Certain methods and practices are harmful and also less likely to work than other ways. These would be “wrong ways”.

But because the community embraced “there is no one right way”, it has gotten warped over the years into “there are no wrong ways”, which is absolutely not true. So we still need to talk about this problem. And we have not come up with any substitute terms that so eloquently and simply elucidate this specific problem.

“Unicorn” = mythical creature that does not exist.
“Hunter” = predator.

A unicorn hunter is a predator, someone who is harming others and the community, someone who is *hunting* a creature that they made up and that does not exist, to fulfill their own fantasies of power and purity, who is so filled with their own hubris and delusion that they chase down figments of their imagination for their own gratification.

It’s a beautiful, elegant metaphor. Many of our early terms have fallen out of favor and been replaced by new terms that better resonate with the newer generations of polys. This one has stuck around because it’s so useful.

So when bipoly women choose to identify as unicorns *in the polyamorous context of a bipoly women who is willing to date two people who are in a preexisting relationship* (as opposed to outside context uses of the term “unicorn”), it muddies up our collective dialog about a systemic problem in our communities that need to be addressed.

Polys are all about “communication, communication, communication”. But then we take existing terms and tweak the definitions in a Motte & Bailey tactic (https://www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-1-tower-village & https://www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control) and then get upset when people don’t see us as how we want them to see us.

Sure, language evolves and all of that. But the need for the term still exists, and if you’re trying to “evolve” a word while we still need that word with its original definition, then people are going to make some assumptions based on the original definition whether you like it or not.

So a “unicorn” is not a real person, within the context of polyamory. It’s a construct used to illustrate the predatory, harmful behaviours of objectification, dehumanization, and fetishization of certain people in the poly community.

Some people have tried to strip the term “unicorn hunter” of its intended offensive definition in order to avoid accountability for their harmful behaviour. Some people have similarly tried to strip the term “unicorn” of its intended illustrative construct because unicorns are pretty and magical and some people like thinking of themselves as pretty and magical.

But the term was coined for a reason. And that reason was not complimentary.
 
joreth: (polyamory)
Q. If you could reconnect with any of your exes, who would it be and why?

A. Almost without exception, my exes are exes for a reason. Some of them became friends after we broke up, but I wouldn’t get back together with them. With very few exceptions.

I have an ex who I broke up with because of political pressures. We remain friends and I still care about him. The pressures on our relationship have not changed. But I did recently consider having sex with him when an opportunity came up that was uniquely suited for a fetish we have in common. We will probably never get back together, but I might possibly consider the occasional hookup if the circumstances are exactly right.

I have another ex who I broke up with because we wanted different things from our relationship together. It has now been more than a decade and we are still friends and business partners. Every so often I consider possibly getting back together with him and then I realize that neither of us has changed what we want out of a relationship, so it wouldn’t work.

However, I have a much wider range of acceptable structures in my Friends With Benefits category. The things that we want out of a relationship are irrelevant if we’re not in a romantic relationship but we are friends. It may be possible to find a FWB type of arrangement that would work. I have not yet decided if I really want to pursue this or not, so I don’t even know if he would be interested either. But it’s something I’m thinking about. I’m on the fence and leaning towards “not likely, but not impossible either”. Our platonic chemistry was always stronger than our romantic or sexual chemistry, so I don’t know, we’ll see.

The only ex I would definitely get back together with if I could would be my high school sweetheart. We broke up because we went off to college and neither of us wanted to be tied to each other over the distance and with new experiences and opportunities to explore. A few years after that breakup, I discovered that I was polyamorous, while he remains steadfastly monogamous.

That difference is not a problem between platonic friends. Since he is still the same considerate, caring, intelligent, clever, funny, creative, and passionate person he always was, and since the years have taught him to be more worldly and aware than either of us were as teenagers, I continue to love him all this time.

But it is a love that can endure whether we remain platonic friends or not, through time and physical distance. It is a love based on character and compatibility and respect and admiration, which does not require any sort of romance or sex. So, as long as he is monogamous, our friendship will remain platonic, because he is honorable towards his commitments and I respect his loyalty and honor among everything else that I respect about him.

But he is one of the greatest loves of my life and I would pursue a romantic relationship with him if we were romantically compatible. Since we are not, I cherish the platonic relationship with him that I do have, not as a consolation prize, but because it is valuable all on its own.
joreth: (being wise)
Someone exhibited confusion regarding the differences between Gift Giving (in the 5 Love Languages theory) and Acts of Service. They see their Acts as Gifts, so they don't know why there needs to be 2 categories.

Here is my distinction between the two:
A gift is a tangible reminder that someone is thinking of another person even when they are not physically present. It's a symbolic manifestation that someone really sees another person right down to their core. A gift represents what the gift giver perceives about the recipient.  A gift says "I see you, I see who you are as a person, and the thought of you is present with me even when you're not around, and here is a physical symbol of your presence in my life and how I see you so that you will know every time you see this that you are seen and considered and loved."

Acts of Service are physical or emotional acts of labor that are intended to ease another person's trouble, their responsibilities, their obligations. They are an action that says "I see you and I wish to share your burdens to make more time and opportunity for you to experience joy and to have a partner on this portion of your journey".
Some people exhibited surprise that the 5LL theory could be confusing, and I had some examples of how messy it can be when "theory" meets "reality":

A surprising number of people have a very hard time figuring out their own LL, or their partners' LL, or what category a particular thing fits under.

I mean, even Franklin has trouble with the 5LL theory - he keeps insisting that all these other, specific things are their own Language, rather than dialects that fall under one of the 5 umbrellas because he doesn't seem to see their connection.

For instance, he insists that "co-creating" is its own LL, whereas I think it's a dialect of Quality Time, because the point of QT is to build shared experiences together. That could result in a number of different outcomes - building a shared history, building shared memories, building shared in-jokes and language, or literally building *things* like co-writing books or co-hosting podcasts.

People also don't realize that "co-gaming" falls under Quality Time, if they think that QT means you have to be staring soulfully into each other's eyes for a couple of hours at a romantic restaurant or something. But 2 (or more) people sitting in the same room, basically ignoring each other and doing their own thing can be a form of QT for introverts, people on the autism spectrum, and others who value the idea of allowing someone into their "off-stage" space, when they don't have to "perform" or "entertain" anyone and can be their shoes-off self.

Sometimes Acts of Service and Gifts can overlap, such as when I bake and then give away my baked goods. So the basic concepts can be easy to grasp, but when you start to really dig into the subject, things get a little messier, as most human endeavors that we try to box up neatly tend to do.
joreth: (being wise)
"What does it mean when my partner..."

Dunno, ask them.

"But what are they trying to say when they..."

Dunno, ask them.

"Would my partner like it if..."

Dunno, ask them.

"What is my partner thinking when they..."

Dunno, ask them.

"Should I..."

Dunno, ask them.

"But they won't tell me!"

That's your answer then.

Nobody can read your partner's mind for you and translate what they're thinking. I don't care what that psychic with the neon sign says, nobody can do that. The only answer you're going to get is from your partner.

Silence is an answer. Probably not the answer you want, but it's an answer. If you have outright asked them, in no uncertain terms, to explain themselves, and they blatantly, clearly refuse to tell you, then you're asking the wrong question.

The correct question in this case is "can I remain in a relationship with someone who cares so little for me and this relationship that they won't communicate with me even with direct questioning?"

And that's a question only you can answer. Nobody in a forum or online group can answer any of these question for you. You have to ask the person you need the answer from, either your partner, or yourself.
joreth: (polyamory)
For those who celebrate some version of Valentine's Day, consider sending your metamours V-Day cards or gifts, taking your metamours out for dinner instead of (or in addition to) your partners, and if you're into the whole gift thing, consider mother-jewelry to symbolize polyamory with birthstones to represent everyone in the polycule instead of the typical exclusive-heart type jewelry.

I mean, it can be emotionally challenging to figure out how to celebrate romantic holidays when one has multiple partners - who is going to be left out by not getting the fancy dinner on that exact day? So subvert that by sending the partners off and take your metamours out instead. Or go out with everyone all at once, and have the one-on-one dates *all* on some other day so that nobody gets The Day but everyone does.

Send a card to your metamour telling them how much they mean to you. Buy your partners and metamours jewelry that has room for more-than-one like mom- or dad-jewelry with birthstones. Turn a mono-centric, commercial holiday into a celebration of non-mono relationships with very little extra effort - just take your metamours into consideration and prioritize them instead of your romantic connections for this one day.

And what about metafores? Those former metamours who are basically still family even though you no longer have a mutual partner? Those people who, in some cases, are "the best thing I got out of my relationship with our partner was you"? Why not spend this day appreciating their place in your life, a place they might not occupy had it not been for a partner who is no longer in the picture? Send them a "glad you're in my life" card or FB post too!

Me, personally, instead of Valentine's day, I'll be celebrating Villaintine's Day by wishing my metamours and metametamours a happy Villaintine's Day and possibly scheming with my Villaintines, as good Villaintines ought to do.

#MadEngineer #Chaosbunny #KillerOfDreams #TheOutsideContractor #HarbringerDestine #VillaintinesDay #SinglesAwarenessDay #NeverTooEarlyToStartPlanningWorldDomination #IMeanGangingUpOnMutualPartners #IMeanExpressingLoveAndGratitudeForMyPolycule #PolyHolidays
joreth: (polyamory)
People seem to think that triads are the starter pack to polyamory, when really they're the advanced level. You're trying to jump to the big boss level when you haven't really learned the mechanics of the game yet.

No, seriously, almost everyone who hasn't had a poly relationship yet, and especially those who are "thinking about it" or "trying it out" all opt for the triad model, somehow thinking that because everyone is in a relationship with everyone else, that'll diffuse jealousy. It doesn't. Not only does it *not* work that way, often jealousy gets amplified because it's like this little insulated cyclone where all the emotions just keep whirling around and around among the 3 people with no outlet, no pressure release, and no skills in handling it.

This was my introductory video to a vlogger named Evita, and she covers this pretty well:


In this video, Evita points out that, if you're going to feel jealousy related to your partner having another relationship with someone else, in a triad, that feeling is doubled because TWO of your partners are both having relationships with other people (each other):
"If you've never ever found yourself in a position where you've seen your partner be romantically involved with someone, see your partner be in love with someone, and seen what you're like with your partner being romantically involved with / in love with someone because you have no idea what that looks like for you ... going from never having experienced that to now putting yourself in a dynamic where it's happening *all the time*, right in front of your face, is naive at best and disillusional at worst.

Y'know, thinking that you're just gonna transition into this, going from never seeing it at all to seeing it all the time and you're just gonna be OK with it is super super naive. And most couples go 'oh, we're gonna feel *less* jealousy because we're with the same person' and it's usually the other way around.

Which brings me to my next point. It's usually double the jealousy, not less jealousy. ... Because if you think about it, both of your partners are interacting with someone else and the someone else that they're interacting with is each other. ...
The relationships will not look and feel the same and that is challenging for couples. There's usually what happens is the person coming in gets along much better with one than the other, the relationships do not look the same ... Your relationships are going to look different with the other person but these couples are approaching this going 'we're going to have the same experience' and you're totally totally not."
If you're going to feel jealousy, and remember, jealousy is a composite emotion made up of other emotions like fear of losing something you cherish, insecurity in your own worthiness, being left out - a bunch of really complicated stuff - if you're going to feel jealousy when your partner is with someone else, what do you think will happen with you have *two* partners are are both with someone else (each other)? As Evita points out, when her husband is off with another partner and she feels jealous, it's just regular old jealousy because she isn't emotionally connected or attached to that other person.

But if two of her partners are both off interacting with someone else (each other) at the same time, that's TWO partners she's feeling jealous over. And she might even be feeling different types of jealousy for each one, where her jealousy has different roots for each person. So now it's extra complicated, because regular jealousy wasn't challenging enough?

She later goes on to talk about isolationism as a separate bullet point. Newbies seem to think of triads as a single group relationship, when it's actually 4 relationships that all need to be cared for. There's the 3-person dynamic that is the triad, and then each couple within that triad is its own separate relationship and all of those relationships have to be nurtured and cared for.

A lot of newbies will try to ignore this by only nurturing the triad as a whole and never allowing any couple-time or dyad-nurturing to happen (or, rather, still nurturing the original couple dynamic, but not allowing either half of the original couple to nurture independent relationships with the new third person). Some think that if everything is "equal", if they do everything exactly the same with their third person and never have any differences or any alone-time with her (because it's almost always a her), they won't have to care for those two legs of the triad.

But a triad is more like a 3-legged stool. If you don't care for 2 of the 3 legs or any of the legs at all and focus only on the seat, you're gonna wind up on your ass when the individual legs fail and the whole thing collapses.

Each 2-person dynamic is going to be its own relationship. When your partner is off on their own with another partner, that can leave some people feeling lonely and bereft. So these people are usually encouraged to find themselves - to develop their own friends and hobbies and other partnerships so that they don't lose a piece of themselves when their partner is gone. That's co-dependency, when you feel lost or like you're missing a piece of yourself when your partner is not with you. It's OK to miss someone, but to feel as though you, yourself, are broken, partial, or you're unable to think of what to do with yourself without your partner, that's co-dependency. People in healthy relationships have other interests and other people and other intimate relationships in their lives besides their partner (yes, even healthy monogamous relationships).

So when your partner is off on their own with someone else, and that someone else *is your other partner*, that tends to double the feelings of isolationism because the other important person in your life who you would otherwise turn to while your partner is occupied *is the person your partner is occupied with*.

They don't even have to physically go somewhere and leave you alone. Just the connection that they share between each other can make someone feel left out. One of the most horrible feelings in polyamory is when you're right there, in the same room, watching your loved one share a connection with your other loved one, and feeling that you are not part of that connection, that they are sharing it with each other and not you, and it's right there in your face, reminding you that you aren't connected in that moment.

It's very isolating.

You have to level up to a certain point to gain the skills in relationships to handle this situation, and then you have to do the extra special side quests to gain the fancy armor that makes this situation not problematic and hurtful and needing to be "handled" in the first place.

Jealousy gets doubled when you have two partners to feel jealous about, but feelings of isolation also get doubled when you have two partners interacting with each other to feel isolated from. If you think you can just jump right to that level without learning how to handle your jealousy and fears and communication about that stuff first, you're gonna get slammed when the Big Boss Jealousy walks into the room. Because "if we're just always together and then jealousy won't happen" is not how you learn the skills to handle your jealousy. You have to actually face it, not just attempt to prevent it from ever happening.

Getting tag-teamed with the giant Two-Headed Jealousy Monster and Twin Isolationist Bosses at the same time is the hardest way to learn that. Passing the minor jealousy bosses in stages, where you learn their tactics and weaknesses in smaller, more manageable doses and defeating each one gives you a better weapon and better armor for the next more challenging boss, is how you eventually learn how to pass the giant Two-Headed Jealousy at the end of the game.

Triad relationships take some extra level communication skills, introspection skills, accountability skills, self-sufficiency skills, time management skills, and Relationship Management skills. Maintaining two independent relationships is actually easier on all fronts and, counter-intuitively, how you gain all those skills in the first place.

Newbies talk about wanting "training wheels". This is how they justify treating people as things. "But how are we supposed to learn how to trust people if we don't chain them in and prevent them from doing what we're afraid of?" "But how can we learn how to deal with jealousy without strictly designing our relationships and rigidly policing each other's behaviour so that nobody does anything that will trigger the jealousy?" I say all the time that "training wheels" are a horrible idea when the activity you're trying to learn is how to swim.

You don't jump in the deep end of the poly pool with training wheels. That will just weigh you down. You need water wings that will lift you up and support you while you tread water. Dating separately and learning how to disentangle yourselves and become whole, independent people again are those water wings. This is where you learn the fundamentals of swimming so that when you take the water wings off, you have the muscle memory to help you in the deep water. "Training wheels", in this context, teaches you the wrong lessons, so that you have to unlearn everything you learned with the training wheels *at the same time* you're struggling to learn how to swim. Water wings teaches you exactly those skills you'll be using in the water, just with less at stake. These are the beginning levels where you gain all those extra skill points and extra life-hearts and the fancy armor that protects you against the more powerful villains in the more difficult levels.

Start out dating individually first. A triad will work itself out when y'all are ready for it, not when you set out to make it happen.



"Ooh, that prize looks cool! I want one of those!"

"OK, but you have to defeat the final demon to win the game for that prize."

"Great, where is he, bring him on!"

"Uh, you can't just get to him, you have to go through all of these other levels first, collecting skills and tools that you will need to defeat the big boss demon."

"But I want the prize!!"

"Fine, but you have to defeat the demon first ..."

"Then show me the demon!"

"... and you can't get there until you've mastered the beginning levels first."

"OMG YOU'RE SO MEAN WHY YOU GOTTA GATEKEEP LIKE THAT YOU'RE SCARING AWAY ALL THE NEWBIES WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST PRIZES I'M GONNA GO PLAY THE GAME MY WAY OVER HERE STOP TELLING ME HOW TO PLAY THERE'S NO ONE RIGHT WAY!"

also "hey, other newbies, who else wants the prize at the end and can't get to it? Let's start a group for gamers who just want the prize, where other gamers can't tell us we're wrong!"

- Every #UnicornHunter ever.
joreth: (polyamory)
A comment I want to expand on for a future blog post. The context is that Unicorn Hunters frequently accuse the poly community of being hostile towards anyone interested in a triad, and if we were just nicer to them, they'd eventually learn how to do polyamory ethically. But because we're so mean to "couples", they just leave the community.

It is my opinion that the couples who get all hurt and feel "attacked" are people who actually do want to do the bad, predatory things, are steeped in their privilege and don't want to examine it, and are generally not approaching the community in good faith to "learn". Even if all of this is subconscious.

That's why they feel "attacked", because they are seeing themselves in the "attacks". As I say in basically every post where I criticize people for something - if you're not doing the thing I'm criticizing, then I'm not criticizing you.

Most of the cismen on my friends list who regularly read my feminist posts and don't feel attacked are able to do so because they recognize that they are not my targets (even if they might have been at one time). They see how they are not doing the things I'm criticizing, so they can be part of the group of "men" and yet not be part of the group I am "attacking".

Or they can see themselves in my criticisms and feel humbled by the recognition and seek to change.

But people who tend to see themselves in my criticisms and don't want to change, even subconsciously, start to feel cognitive dissonance, which tends to make them feel attacked, and then defend themselves with straw-man arguments, sealioning, deflection, diluting the definitions, and Motte & Bailey tactics.

And then get personally offended when I, or someone, see through the smoke and mirrors and red herrings and call them on their bullshit.

But I'm the "intolerant" one who refuses to "teach" and who "scares off" well-intentioned but naive newcomers.

My comment that I want to expand on later:

I mean, how often do we hear about people wanting to get into birdwatching being "chased off" by other birders just because they're new to birdwatching and they make mistakes that could even be harmful to the very birds they're professing to be interested in and want to be respectful of, even though that totally happens all the time?

People who are new to an activity typically spend more time with their mouths shut and their ears open, learning how others do that thing and less time arguing that their inexperience is just as valid as the experience of the veterans.

When people *do* make mistakes in a new activity and the community tries to correct them on it, those who genuinely want to learn tend to listen to the corrections, even when some people aren't as "nice" as they could be about it. We don't have all these horror stories of would-be-birders leaving the birding community because birding veterans were mean and wouldn't teach them.

And it's not because birders are just generally nicer than poly people. It's because new birders are more willing to learn, so experienced birders aren't frustrated and burnt out with constantly "educating" people who are coming to the community in bad faith, pretending to be "open" and "willing to learn" but really steeped in their privilege and demanding concessions for their environment-trashing birding preferences.
joreth: (polyamory)
http://qr.ae/TUNDQL

Thanks to some experiences with people who use "agreements" as weapons and who also hide their abusive behaviour behind social justice language, I have become extremely averse to words like "agreements" and the casual use of the term "rules".

I was always pretty anti-rule, but a lot of things are treated as rules while being called other things. And I've discovered that the words we use are important because they subtly and subconsciously influence how we think and view our partners and other people, especially when we use agency-denying language in jest or casually.

So I have written an answer to the common question "what are your relationship agreements" that I'd like to archive on my blog to share every time the question comes up:

I don’t have very many “agreements”. I learned the hard way a long time ago that some people use the word “agreement” as a blunt object with which to beat partners over the head. I don’t do “rules”, which are things that are imposed on other people that dictate their behaviour (and sometimes their emotions and choices). I do “boundaries” which are lines that I draw around myself where I don’t want other people to cross.

Some people treat “agreements” like “rules”. You can usually tell that someone is treating an agreement like a rule when you discover what happens when someone “breaks” the “agreement” or wants to change it. If there are punishments, if breaking or changing the agreement is seen as a “betrayal”, then it’s probably a rule in disguise.

What I do is, I have certain things that I *prefer* to do with my own body, and I tell my partners what those things are so that they know what to expect of me. If I change my behaviour for any reason, then I notify my partners as soon as possible that I’ve done or am planning to do something different, so that they can make informed decisions about their own body (mind, emotions, time, etc.) based on my choices.

The things that I prefer to do is to get tested once a year for HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, & chlamydia (what I refer to as The Big Four) and also HSV +1&2. If I have not had any new partners in the last 6 months, and my ongoing, regular partners have not had any new partners, then I might skip a testing period. But if I am considering taking a new partner then I will get tested right before so that my tests are the most current possible. Then I also prefer to get tested about 2 weeks after I take on a new sexual partner.

I prefer to see the actual tests results on paper for my partners before we have genital contact or fluid transfer for the first time, and 2 weeks after any ongoing partners take on a new sexual partner. I also prefer to keep an open dialog with all potential partners and ongoing partners about our sexual history, our current STD test results, our interests in potential new partners, etc.

I tend to use condoms only for birth control, and I tend to prefer having sex with men who have had vasectomies so that I don’t have to use condoms for birth control. I don’t consider condoms alone to be sufficient protection in the absence of discussing sexual history, STI testing, and sexual patterns so I don’t generally have even barriered sex with people I’m not comfortable having unbarriered sex with.

I prefer to choose sexual partners who have similar STI risk profiles as me - people who prefer to get tested regularly, only have sex with partners who get tested regularly, who openly and frequently discuss sexual risk and history and behaviour, who tend to have a relatively stable number of partners, who have had vasectomies, and who have paper test results that they are willing to share with me.

We do not make “agreements” to do these things, these are just things that I tend to do and I prefer to date people who also tend to do these things. Should either of us make choices that differ from anything we discussed that our partners can expect from us, then we talk to each other about the different choices we have made (or want to make), and we each evaluate the new situation and make our respective choices based on the new information.

I have found this to be the most statistically likely to prevent me from unwanted consequences for sex and to also be the most respectful of everyone’s agency. This allows everyone to be in charge of themselves, to have complete autonomy over their body, mind, emotions, and choices, and to still respect the risk we might place on our partners through our decisions.



**Added**  I  received a comment on my Facebook post of this article and I like my response to it that I'm adding it here.  The comment was about a person who responds negatively to agreements being broken, not because they're "rules" but because they believe their partners should find them safe enough to come to them and renegotiate any agreements that aren't working instead of just breaking them, because their own personal integrity requires them to keep any agreements they make and so only make agreements that they can keep, and because many times people will break an agreement and then dismiss this person's upset feelings as if they are not responsible for breaking their trust.

Here is my response:

And that's exactly why I don't make agreements. I basically treat them as promises, and I don't make promises that I can't keep. For most things, since I can't tell the future, I can't guarantee that I can keep an agreement or a promise. And, yeah, when trust is broken, it's understandable that someone would be upset and want that broken trust to be acknowledged.

For most reasonable people, things like "we both agree to pay half the rent" and then a few months in, having a conversation that goes "honey, I don't think I can make my share anymore, can we change this agreement?" are conversations that are had and people don't generally flip out about one person "betraying" them if they can't make their share anymore.

Those are expectations and agreements about how two people are going to treat *each other*. You will pay for half our our shared expenses, and I will pay for half our our shared expenses, and that is how we will help each other survive.

But most of the abuse that I see comes from "agreements" between two people about what one person will do *with their own body, mind, emotions, and time*. When someone makes an "agreement" about what they will do with their own body, time, mind, and emotions, and then they change their mind about that, whether it's something talked about before or after the fact, the other person they made that agreement with takes that as a personal betrayal, even though it was the first person's sole property, so to speak, to do with what they will, "agreement" notwithstanding.

The casual way that people mix these two types of "agreements" up under the same label of "agreements" is the danger, and, in my experience, most people are not savvy enough to separate these two things out when discussing their relationship arrangements.

I make "agreements" all the time, where I "agree" to come pick someone up from work because their car is non-operable and they need a ride somewhere, or where I "agree" to call them before I show up at their house to give them some notice, or where I "agree" with them on where to go for dinner so that we find a place that we both want to go.

These are not generally the sorts of "agreements" that get people into trouble. I mean, they *can* ... lots of people do things like agree to pick someone up and then totally flake out on them and leave them hanging. But when it comes to  people asking "what kinds of agreements do you make in your relationships", this is not generally what they're asking about.

Usually, they're asking about having sex with other people, falling in love with other people, spending time with other people, and spending money on other people. These are things that are better handled by discussing *boundaries*, because these are things that only one person can *own* and stake a claim to (excepting money, in states with shared property marriage laws).

I will make agreements with someone on how I will treat *that person* and how I want that person to treat me. This is discussing our boundaries. I say what my boundaries are, they say what their boundaries are, and we agree to respect each other's boundaries. Then, if for some reason, one of us feels that we can not abide by that particular agreement anymore, we discuss it.

But I will not make agreements with someone on how I will treat *my body, time, mind, emotions, or money* with respect to other people. My time away from my partners is my own time and I will not make agreements with my partners on how I will spend that time away from them. My body is my own, and I will not make agreements with my partners on what I will & won't do with my own body, etc.

It is the lack of awareness of that division (or the deliberate blurring of that division) that I see causing problems (and becoming abusive, in many cases).

It's one thing to get angry because a partner had sex with me without telling me that they recently had unprotected sex with a new partner without trading test results - that is a violation of my ability to consent. That is a "betrayal".

It's quite another thing to get angry just because they had sex with someone else, even if it was unprotected and without trading test results, and even if it goes contrary to their preferences. That is not a violation of my ability to consent. That has nothing at all to do with me. That has to do with *their* body, and I am not entitled to control of their body. That is not a "betrayal" of me.

And I will not be punished anymore for things that I do with my body, my time, my mind, my emotions, and my money just because somebody else had an expectation of the things I would or ought to do with my stuff. They are not entitled to those things, even if they have reasonable expectations of what I would do with those things.

What I do with the things that are mine are not a "betrayal" of someone else. But as soon as you say the word "agreement", people take any deviation as one.

So I don't make "agreements". I state the kinds of things I am *likely* to do and try to only date people who are likely to do similar sorts of things.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
I cannot stress enough just how important it is to plan your exit strategies with ANYONE you have any kind of legal connection or financial ties with - family, lovers, friends, strangers, exes, coworkers, anyone.  I don't know why this is such a difficult concept for people to accept, but you NEED to put down in writing how to split up with people when you're dealing with anything financial or legal.  And you need to do this when y'all still like each other.

If you get married, get a fucking pre-nup.  Like, seriously, get one.  It doesn't take the "romance" out of it, and it doesn't show a lack of trust.  It's a goddamn necessity.

If you are already married and didn't get a pre-nup, get a post-nup.  It's basically the same thing, but with all the verb tenses changed.  And the most recent post-nup supersedes any prior post-nup and any pre-nup, just automatically, so keep doing post-nups even if you did get a pre-nup, as your various assets and liabilities and debts change over time.

If you go into business together, don't just talk about how you're going to split the business while you're in it, talk about how to LEAVE the business.  PUT IT IN WRITING.  Discuss if one of you wants to leave the business to the other, how can you get out, and discuss if you both want to end the business, how you're going to split the assets and the debts.

Assume a worst case scenario.  Assume that the other person has been body-swapped with their double from the mirror universe and they are suddenly, without warning, totally evil.

No, seriously, have fun with this discussion - if one of you turns evil, how can you write an exit strategy to save the other one?  Then switch roles, is the exit strategy still fair now that the other person is evil?  Role play this out while y'all are on good terms and can laugh at the absurdity of the thought that one of you would try to screw over the other.

Because I guaran-fucking-tee that everyone who has been screwed over would have laughed at the absurdity of that thought at the beginning of their relationship too.

I have some friends who are going through a divorce.  OK, I know quite a few people going through divorces, so let's take a look at one hypothetical couple.  They're poly, they're "ethical", they totally agree with everything in More Than Two and everything I write about power imbalances, abuse, feminism, privilege, etc. They know a few things about a few things.

One of them is being blindsided by what appears to be the other one pulling a stunt like my abusive ex - after years of controlling behaviour that the first one never recognized, the second one is going around telling everyone else that the first one was abusing the second one all along. And they have all this legal crap to untangle.

One of our mutual buddies and I were talking the other day.  The mutual said to me, "I had a bad feeling about That One when I first met them. But I didn't say anything because This One was clearly smitten, and what do I know?  I had just met them.  But, do you think, maybe if I had said something back then, This One could have been warned that That One would do these things and maybe done something to protect themself?"

I had to say "no, I didn't think there is anything we could have said to protect This One, because some of us DID say something.  Over the course of their marriage, several of us, independently, did tell This One that we saw some red flags about That One, and a couple people actually argued with This One pretty strenuously, trying to make This One see.

But when anyone expressed concern about how deep This One was getting entangled, and how that was leaving them open for the potential for That One to do some fucked up shit, This One always said 'well that's just silly, That One would NEVER do something like that!  So I just won't worry about it.'

This One kept insisting, to everyone who brought up concerns, that none of us really knew That One like This One did.  Which is true, of course.  Nobody who said anything about the red flags we saw really got to know That One very well.  They were often absent from group events and did not reach out to most of This One's friends independently.  So we had to concede that point.  And This One felt confident that everyone coming to them with red flags was independently wrong for our own reasons, so there was nothing for This One to be concerned about."

All my friend could say after that conversation with me was "Huh. So there's nothing we could have done then?  Well, that's depressing.  I guess people just have to get bitten on the ass then."

No one who ever ended up on opposing tables in a bitter divorce court ever walked down the aisle and thought "y'know what? I bet, some day, this dearest angel, whom I love with every fiber of my being, will probably turn out to be the biggest asshole in the world!  But I love them so much, I'll just jump head-first anyway!"

Everyone who has ever found themselves at the point of a metaphorical sword held by a former lover thought that their lover was an OK person in the beginning, not likely to do anything horrible enough to financially ruin them or damage their standing with the law.

Take my aphorism about rules and look at it backwards here.  I often say that anyone who would follow the rules doesn't need them and anyone who wants to do the things against the rules, the rules won't stop them.

When it comes to legal and financial stuff, however, things are a little different.  You can't control another human being with rules without tromping on their agency, but you can protect yourself from *them* attempting to control or harm *you* using the leverage of money or business power with some contracts.  If they're truly good-hearted, compassionate people who care about your well-being, then they will WANT to protect you with documents, so things like pre-nups should not be offensive to them because if they really loved you, they would want to see you protected and cared for.

And since y'all are so confident that this is just hypothetical anyway because your love will never die and you are both the paragons of virtue you think of each other, then it doesn't matter if you have legal paperwork or not because you both know you'll never have to use it.  So might as well have it and not need it.  Just like any other insurance policy.

If they are one of these monsters in disguise who is managing to completely fool you, then you *need* that paperwork.

In addition, one of you will die before the other one.  That is almost guaranteed.  Part of these exit strategies can and should encompass how to handle assets and debts and property in the event of that kind of split as well.  Nobody likes talking about death, but too fucking bad. Put on the big kid pants and have the awkward conversation already. Like with most things in poly, or in any healthy relationship, if you want to adult with other people, you have to have awkward conversations, so roll up your sleeves and hitch up your britches and start talking.

And while you're playing at being grown ups with the conversation about death, you might as well go all the way and talk about splitting up too.  It's awkward and unsexy and you might learn something about your partner that you don't like as you hear them talk about how to divvy up property and cash, but if you can't handle that kind of conversation, you shouldn't be entangling yourself in finances or business or legal shit in the first place.

Treat your financial and legal presence as seriously as you treat your sexual presence - use some goddamn protection, and if you can't talk about it with each other, then you shouldn't be doing it with each other.

#IMaybeJustALittleAnnoyedAtWatchingYetMoreFriendsFindThemselvesInBadLegalSituationsBecauseTheirFormerLoverWouldNEVERdoThat
joreth: (polyamory)
More comments of mine that I want to turn into blog posts:

Q. I am a single mother and have more than one male partner. My religious family disapproves. Am I being a bad mother by being poly? How can I do this without messing them up or confusing them?

A. My sister is a monogamous single teen mother (well, she *was* a teen, now she's well into adulthood). Because of her circumstances, she raised her son with the help of me and our mono, hetero, Christian parents. That's 4 adults all living in the home raising one child.

For about a year or two, she moved to her babydaddy's town and lived with his parents, who were right across the street from my uncle, down the street from 2 cousins, and around the block from our grandfather, and a short drive away from 3 more aunts and uncles and a grandmother. That's 3 live-in adults, and about 10 more adults in the vicinity.

When she moved back with our parents, that was the 4 of us again, plus the new monogamous boyfriend (who eventually became her husband and father to her second child), and the kid's regular daycare provider so that she could finish her degree and get a good job. So now 6 adults helping to raise the child, plus a handful of neighbors and teachers and good friends who all played a peripheral role.

That kid grew up to be a decent student, an amazing athlete, and aspiring soldier, who loves his mother and all his other "parents". He's one of the most loving, considerate, compassionate people I've ever known. He became an assistant coach for the swim league that he grew up swimming for and he mentors young children. He also regularly stays with my parents (his grandparents) and does manual labor around the house now that my dad is getting too old to do it himself.

None of this has anything to do with polyamory.

The more loving, stable adults there are in a child's life, the better off that child is. My nephew could have become just one more statistic - a child of a teenage single mom. He could have been poor, he could have been "difficult" with his ADHD and not enough discipline, he could have gotten into trouble with too much unsupervised free time on his hands.

But instead, he had so many pairs of eyes looking in on him and so many people to support his mother emotionally and financially that she was able to finish high school, put herself through college, get a degree, and start a career while *still* being present in his life to coach his swim team when he was a kid and volunteer at his school and help him with his homework. She couldn't have done any of that without all the other loving parental figures around to help.

There was never any confusion about who the adults in his life are or how they are related to him. And he had so much love and support that he turned out to be a great young adult.

You mention being confused. This is something I have a personal beef about. My sister and I are also adopted. We were both born to teen moms who couldn't care for us and made the ultimate sacrifice to allow someone else to raise their children. Our adopted parents adopted us as babies and were the best possible choice we could have hoped for. They were always honest with us about being adopted. It was always clear that we were "born of mommy's heart, not her tummy". So I technically have 4 legitimate parents.

I have never once been "confused" as to who my parents are. I have 2 people who contributed genetic material and who loved me enough to let me go, and 2 people who dedicated their lives to seeing me healthy and happy and raised to adulthood.

Children need loving adults in their lives. They need some semblance of stability. They need security in order to develop healthy attachment styles of relating to other people. They need a reasonable amount of discipline to develop the skills necessary to survive as an adult. None of this has anything at all to do with the gender or relationship of the adults in the child's life.

This concern trolling "but what about the children?!?" for poly households just makes me so mad because I came from a wonderful home that has all the same elements of poly households but without any polyamory, and I benefited greatly from those elements, as did my sister and her children. I feel that we were given an edge over others, that we were *privileged* because of our family circumstances. And I wish more children had at least the same privileges that we did.

If you look at the actual reality of their concerns even a tiny bit, they fall apart completely. More adults who care about the children is better. Obviously they won't get "confused" any more than literally ANY child gets "confused" by their own families. More incomes is better. More resources is better. Turn it around and ask why they want to restrict access for children from more love and more resources?

If you want even more ammunition, pick up the book The Polyamorists Next Door by Dr. Elisabeth Sheff. It's about her longitudinal study on poly families with children - the longest running study on poly families ever. Her conclusions are basically the same as families with gay parents - if the parents are loving and attentive, then the kids turn out just fine and everything else the parents do is irrelevant.

Kids don't care who is sleeping with whom and usually don't even notice. Kids care how that adult is related *to the kid*. Is the adult there to buy them things? Is the adult there to play with them? Is the adult there to help them with homework? Is the adult there to drive them to their friends' houses? Is the adult there to keep them from messing up? It's all about "me", as far as kids are concerned. They don't know and don't care about their parents' genitals or what they do with them in private.

They care if they have a safe place to sleep at night, enough food to eat, and fun things to do (and they also care if their *parents* are happy, because that reflects on their own ability to find stability and happiness at home, so parents who are in alignment about how to raise the kids and who treat *each other* well are also important but whether or not they are having sex or even married or dating is irrelevant too).
joreth: (being wise)
I was listening to a recent episode of the Multiamory podcast and they were talking about their Triforce of Communication, and I realized that this actually mapped pretty well with 3 of the 5 Love Languages. If you're having trouble figuring out your Love Language(s), this may help you narrow it down.

Their Triforce of Communication is pretty simple. It breaks down communication styles into 3 categories:

1) Sharing - one person wants to share something with another person and does not want advice or anything else, they just want to share and for the other person to listen.

2) Support - one person wants to share something with another person and does not want advice but does want some kind of support, like praise or expressions of sympathy or whatever is appropriate for the thing being shared.

3) Advice - one person wants to share something with another person for the purpose of eliciting advice, practical tips, or actual help.

Even though I've heard of these 3 categories before, because I've been listening to the podcast from the beginning, it just dawned on me tonight that these 3 categories overlap with 3 of the 5 Love Languages.
  1. Sharing = Quality Time - specifically the dialect of Quality Conversation. This is where two people are sharing *intimacy* with each other by being vulnerable and sharing of themselves through conversation. This is also known as wanting to be "heard", wanting to be "seen", or wanting to be "witnessed".  This is a connection-building moment. Someone wants to *connect* with another person by sharing something of themselves and the entire point of this conversation is to build intimacy and to make connections.  

    That is why advice-giving is so wrong here. Trying to "fix" the thing they're sharing about makes them feel like the connection has been missed, and the gift of their intimacy is being rebuffed in favor of problem-solving.  They don't feel "heard", "seen", or "witnessed", they feel as though they are being dismissed, not accepted, a problem to be fixed, or that the situation has been turned around to focus on the other person and their problem-solving skills.  I wrote about the Gift of Presence & The Perils of Advice recently, which included a link to a longer article on the subject.

  2. Support = Words of Affirmation. This one is also about building connection and sharing intimacy, but they want it to be more of a two-way street. They are sharing something for the purpose of eliciting praise or sympathetic words. It's through these Words that they get to feel that connection coming back at them from the other person.

    Again, advice-giving is wrong here because, to someone who is looking for Words of Affirmation, trying to "fix" their problem implies that they are not good enough to problem-solve on their own. It doesn't matter if the advice-giver doesn't feel that way, the point is that the speaker needs to hear Words of Affirmation and Support in order to feel loved, but what they are getting is "you should do something different from what you are doing" which, while *helpful*, is not necessarily *supportive*.

  3. Advice = Acts of Service. Now is the time for advice because this person is asking for your help ... a "service" of sharing your wisdom and/or offering to actually do something for them. When a person speaks Acts of Service, and they share a problem with another person, they are requesting that the other person show their love by assisting in fixing the problem.

    Our culture really reinforces the idea that we should not ask for help. It's often a gendered message, but still somehow everyone gets the message. Men are taught not to ask for help because they would seem weak and apparently that's the worst thing a man can be. Women are taught not to ask for help because it would *inconvenience* other people, and apparently being inconvenient is the worst thing a woman can be.

    So it may not always be clear that someone wants advice. They may come to another person with just a story of a problem and be hoping to have solutions offered, but not know how to ask outright. If this is the case, then merely sitting and listening, or listening and offering emotional support, can be seen as not offering *help* when they are in need. They need an Act of Service.
So I thought that was an interesting pattern here, that the types of communication that people often are looking for but very rarely express that they are looking for this specific type, match up with 3 categories of how people express love and how they feel loved by others.

In addition to all of that, these are all examples of Bids for Attention, as described by John Gottman. As a reminder, a Bid for Attention is when a person is requesting the attention of someone they love, and repeated rebuffs of these Bids result in the loss of intimacy in a relationship, which leads to a loss of the relationship itself. Bids are often very small requests, and not usually phrased as a clear "request", so if you're not paying attention, you can miss them. Which is part of the problem - that not paying attention to your loved ones.

So, there ya go - just connecting some patterns for you, bridging 3 different communication tools for your relationship toolbox. If you're having trouble wrapping your brain around one or another, perhaps seeing the connection to one of the other systems can help. Or maybe *you* get the systems just fine but you're having trouble expressing to others why this communication style is so important to you and this other one isn't because they can't really tell the difference? Maybe putting it in the terms from another system can help.



P.S. I teach a workshop on the 5 Love Languages where I take out the religion, the gender binary, the heteromononormativity, and even the assumption of romance, provide the basic framework of what the 5 Love Languages is and how to use it, and expand on it. I have very reasonable speaking fees and I'm quite often willing to waive the speaking fees for some kind of travel accommodation or assistance in getting to your event. Contact me to arrange a lecture or workshop for your group or event.
joreth: (being wise)
Once again, a post where people did a lot of labor to discuss, explain, and sort things out got deleted so the results of all that labor are lost forever from anyone else who might want to ask similar questions.  So I want to share my answer for future reference, to a more generalized question of "did my partner cheat, break a rule, or do something else?" and "what do I tell people about our breakup?" -

Let go of the specific terminology, and also let go of the idea that anyone else needs to know any of the details of why you are separating.  If you must tell people that you are no longer together, come up with a cliff-notes version of the story that doesn't place blame on anyone and focuses on *your* decisions, not someone else's actions.

"We want different things from our relationship and it's time to go our separate ways".

"We are no longer contributing to each other's happiness, so we are letting each other go to find happiness elsewhere."

"My life is taking me in a different direction."

"I am looking for something other than the life they can offer."

It doesn't matter if your partner "cheated" or "broke a rule" or whatever. Those kinds of distinctions are really only helpful for either identifying specific behaviours for correction or for punitive action - for assigning blame and identifying a "bad guy".  This is not a best-self course of action. Your partner doesn't need to be a "bad guy" to justify you leaving. You just have to not want to be with them anymore, and that's all anyone else needs to know, if they need to know anything.

And especially if there are shared kids involved, or both of you work at the same company, or otherwise have overlapping lives that can't be easily disentangled, the higher the road you can take during a breakup, the smoother that road will be, since you will inevitably cross paths again in the future.

Unless you particularly enjoy drama and messy lives, hurting children, and turning your friends into collateral damage, then refraining from blaming, gossiping, demonizing, or even just revealing private moments makes your overlapping futures together easier, and also makes you look like a freaking saint to everyone who is watching.

You'll win some massive adulting points for handling a breakup with grace and compassion.  So don't worry too much about picking specific labels for their behaviour - at this point, it's not really important anymore because you're not going to fix it and, if you're interested at all in looking like a grown up then you also shouldn't be trying to punish them for it anymore.

Just stick to "we broke up because we're not compatible anymore" and let everything else go.

#WritingABookOnBreakingUp #YouWouldThinkThatSomeoneWhoGivesAdviceLikeThisWouldBeBetterAtItHerself #AlwaysEasierToTellOthersWhatToDoThanToDoIt #ThoseWhoCanDoThoseWhoCannotTeach
joreth: (being wise)
https://onbeing.org/blog/the-gift-of-presence-the-perils-of-advice/

Just a bit of perspective - but when people are complaining about "technology", particularly mobile phone usage, this is actually what they're asking. They're longing for more present-ness from people. They're asking you to witness them.

So while I am firmly on the side of "technology is good, the internet has saved lives by bringing connection to those who have little or none, and nobody owes you their attention", when a partner or friend spends a lot of their time on their device while physically spending time with me, it can feel hurtful because it feels like they're not really present and not witnessing either me or our rare and limited time together.

Sometimes I wish various partners I've had wouldn't be so prepared with their charging cables and their phones would just die so they have no choice but to be more *here* with me, because phones are so rarely their "in case of emergency" device there days; they're usually their "get instant answers and check in on people who are not present while the present ones wait for attention" devices.

So maybe "completely unplugging" is an unrealistic or selfish request, but if someone you value is complaining about your devices, perhaps putting it down a little more often and just being in the moment with them is an act of kindness, a response to a bid, that you can afford to pay a little more.

Also, stop with the fucking unsolicited advice. Seriously, if you feel this compulsion, there are tons of FB groups with people asking advice and Quora is a place specifically designed for advice giving.
"Advice-giving comes naturally to our species, and is mostly done with good intent. But in my experience, the driver behind a lot of advice has as much to do with self-interest as interest in the other’s needs — and some advice can end up doing more harm than good."

"He talked while I listened and asked a few more questions. When we were done, he told me that some measure of peace had returned. It was a peace that had come from within him, not from anything I’d said. I’d simply helped clear some rubble that blocked his access to his own soul."

"Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through."

"And yet, we have something better: our gift of self in the form of personal presence and attention, the kind that invites the other’s soul to show up. As Mary Oliver has written:

“This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”"
joreth: (boxed in)
Permanent disclaimer: Almost everything aimed at relationships - communication tools, self-esteem tools, advice, techniques, helpful hints, etc. - do not apply to abusive situations. Abuse changes all the rules.  This goes for everything I say and for all relationship stuff everywhere.

Abusers do not operate in good faith and they fuck up your reality. They take and manipulate all those tools and techniques so that they become weapons instead of tools. This is why regular therapy or "couples therapy" is such an awful idea for those in abusive relationships - it just gives them access to more tools to warp into weapons.

If I'm not talking about abuse specifically, I'm exempting abuse. Abuse is a Game Changer. It changes the game and most of the time, only the abuser even knows that the game has been changed - that's part of the game. It's like that one card game my social group used to play, Mao, where the players aren't told the rules until they break one, and even then they still aren't really told. The person giving the penalty must state what the incorrect action was, without explaining the rule that was broken. Except the Game Changer of Abuse is played with your soul as the stakes.

So if you're in an abusive situation or you have not started or progressed far down the path of recovery, most advice for relationships will not apply to you. Do not try Non-Violent Communication with an abuser. Do not try to trust more. Do not let go of your fears or concerns. Do not open up and be vulnerable. Do not learn their Love Language. Do not respond to their Bids for Attention (or, rather, you probably should for your survival, but it's not to keep the love and respect in the relationship, which are the normal "rules" for BfA).

Don't do anything I say about relationships except to seek the advice of abuse specialists like domestic violence shelters and agencies. I am not qualified to give advice about abuse. At best, I can show you the signs and call out abuse masquerading as other things.

I'm pretty good about recognizing patterns once I've learned that their connections exist. But my abuse warnings and rants are separate from my relationship advice. The only thing I can help with abuse is to point out patterns and say "get yourself safe, then leave". Anything more advanced than that, you need a specialist.

As someone said in my FB comments on this thread, all of my other relationship advice assumes at a minimum good intentions between/among partners. An abusive situation does not meet this minimum standard. Don't do all my other relationship advice in abusive situations, and if you're still recovering, you still need an abuse specialist to tell you how to get from there to where my advice is applicable or possible.
joreth: (polyamory)
Holidays in polyamory, even the "romantic" ones are much the same as any other holiday, only maybe with more schedules to consult (honestly, with 2 kids, godparents, and extended relatives, it's not any more schedules to consult than my monogamous childhood).
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because they don't have any partners at the moment, like single people.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because their partners are long distance, like many monogamous people such as couples with one or both in active duty military service overseas.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because they didn't win the priority to get that exact day to celebrate, like a lot of partnered people whose partners work in emergency services and have to work that day.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day alone because they don't celebrate, like some monogamous people who are conscientious objectors.
     
  • Many polys spend V-Day with partners but not doing anything different than any other day because they don't celebrate, like some monogamous people who are conscientious objectors.
     
  • Many polys celebrate V-Day on alternate days, like many monogamous people who are busy on the exact day like when it falls in the middle of the week, and polys might choose to celebrate on alternate days for the same busyness reasons or because they have multiple partners so they have multiple celebrations.
     
  • Many polys celebrate V-Day with as many of their partners and metamours as they can get at the same time, just like many monogamous people who celebrate a romantic holiday with their partners and their friends, or make it a family holiday with the kids, or with their entire extended families.
It's really no different than being monogamous (meaning that there are all kinds of ways to celebrate holidays even among monogamous people), and it doesn't *have* to be a big, stressful thing - at least, it doesn't have to be a *different* stressful thing. Some of y'all want to make this holiday really important and then stress out about it, no matter how many partners y'all have.

It's really very simple. Ask your partners how they feel about the holiday. Then find the compromise that makes everyone feel cared for without putting anyone out too much. If this is a big deal to one or more partners, then make it a big deal. If it's not, then don't. Express your own preferences too.

Go out together as a group. Have your own coupley dates all on different days. Give gifts. Don't give gifts. Deliberately avoid the materialistic, couple-centric commercialism by NOT celebrating your romantic relationships, but by celebrating your *metamour* relationships instead. 

It's really not any different from monogamous people, except for a small percentage of us who might have group sex. That's probably different from monogamy. Depending on your definition of "monogamy".  But other than that, most of us celebrate like monogamous people do. If you're new to poly and stressing out about how to celebrate: relax. It doesn't have to be any more complicated than the holiday normally is.

But a word of caution - if you're new to this and you're starting out by "opening up", make a point to ask your newer partners what their feelings are on the subject, and try to prioritize *their* feelings, because they get the short end of the stick in most other things.

And if there's really a conflict between your partners, then opt for either the group date or the alternate dates where *nobody* gets The Day for themselves. Part of learning to be ethically poly is learning that we all have to give up some of our privileges and expectations in order for everyone to feel safe enough to want to concede theirs in return. You learn to trust by giving trust. You get their cooperation by being cooperative at them.

For those who do celebrate some version of Valentine's Day, consider sending your *metamours* V-Day cards or gifts, taking your metamours out for dinner instead of (or in addition to) your partners, and if you're into the whole gift thing, consider mother-jewelry to symbolize polyamory with birthstones to represent everyone in the polycule instead of the typical exclusive-heart type jewelry.

I mean, it can be emotionally challenging to figure out how to celebrate romantic holidays when one has multiple partners - who is going to be left out by not getting the fancy dinner on that exact day? So subvert that by sending the partners off and take your metamours out instead. Or go out with everyone all at once, and have the one-on-one dates *all* on some other day so that nobody gets The Day but everyone together does.

Send a card to your metamour telling them how much they mean to you. Buy your partners and metamours jewelry that has room for more-than-one like mom- or dad-jewelry with birthstones. Turn a mono-centric, commercial holiday into a celebration of non-mono relationships with very little extra effort - just take your metamours into consideration and prioritize them instead of your romantic connections for this one day.

And what about metafores? Those former metamours who are basically still family even though you no longer have a mutual partner? Those people who, in some cases, are "the best thing I got out of my relationship with our partner was you"? Why not spend this day appreciating their place in your life, a place they might not occupy had it not been for a partner who is no longer in the picture? Send them a "glad you're in my life" card or FB post too!

Me, personally, instead of Valentine's day, I'll be celebrating Villaintine's Day by wishing my metamours and metametamours a happy Villaintine's Day and possibly scheming with my Villaintines, as good Villaintines do.

#MadEngineer #Chaosbunny #KillerOfDreams #TheOutsideContractor #HarbringerDestine #VillaintinesDay #SinglesAwarenessDay #NeverTooEarlyToStartPlanningWorldDomination #IMeanGangingUpOnMutualPartners #IMeanExpressingLoveAndGratitudeForMyPolycule #PolyHolidays
joreth: (polyamory)
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, 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 Leni Hester on Facebook, who wrote the following post in a group that I and others felt would make an excellent public resource and reference article. They asked for name attribution only, no link-backs. Linked references and commentary at the bottom added by me.



A PSA for Unicorn Hunters! For those of us who enjoy playing with couples, here are some things I wish you would keep in mind:
  1. I'm HUMAN. Unicorn hunting sounds really icky and violent.

  2. The risk is ALL mine. If anything goes wrong between us, I mean ANYTHING--she gets insecure, he loses his 'momentum', indigestion, I tell a joke you don't find funny, you name it--I'm the one who pays. It'll be "okay, party's over, please get dressed and get out" and no matter how I feel, i get to drive home in tears while you two do self-care and cuddle.

  3. Couple Privilege. Yes I know your relationship is the center of your lives. It is not the center of MINE. If protecting the "sanctity" of your relationship supersedes my physical health, my safety, my feelings, and my time--it's obvious y'all don't want a lover. Y'all want a sextoy. Please check out Babes in Toyland for an inanimate object, and leave the actual human beings alone.

  4. One Penis Policy. Hahahahahahaha! You're hilarious, bro.

  5. Babysitting and House chores. No, I will not watch Chad Jr. and Becky Marie while you have date night. I know for a fact, you will NOT pay me for that time. You want me to help clean up before we have a date? Sure! Then I expect YOU BOTH to come over and help me paint or help me move. Not holding my breath.

  6. Ghosting. Eventually you two will meet someone cuter, hotter or less intimidating to the wife, at which point I will be expected to have the good manners to just disappear. My hurt feelings will be proof that I'm crazy, my anger will be proof I'm a bitch, and the fact that I had sex with you will be used against me.

  7. Offended by this? If y'all can't behave courteously, that's not on me. Maybe look into why these simple boundaries feel unreasonable, and be honest: do you really want to be poly? If you want the sex but hate having to care for another person, maybe poly is not for you. Figure this out before you pull another person into your drama.


And this shouldn't need to be said, but it does:  This is not the place for #NotAllUnicornHunters.  We already know that there are people out there who happen to already be partnered and who happen to like threesomes and triads but who aren't doing these kinds of things.  Congratulations, you don't suck.  But instead of centering yourselves yet again by reminding everyone here that you're Not One Of THOSE Couples, you could instead talk to *other couples* and tell them not to be like this. 

People who are technically part of a privileged group but who consciously and conscientiously object to a stratified privileged society don't tend to feel offended or insulted or even guilty when people who are part of a disenfranchised group talk about the problems between the groups.  They already know that they're not the targets or the objects of the criticism, so they don't take it personally and they can really hear the criticism without feeling attacked.  And they can feel secure in turning to others in their group to say "see this?  This is a problem that our group contributes to.  As a member of this group, I think we can do better."

So if you're not one of Those Couples, then be one of these other kinds of couples instead.  *We* are not the ones who need to know, in this space, that you are an exception to the rule.  It's your brethren who need to know that you are not one of Those Couples and you disapprove of those who are, that you will not defend them or hide them, that you will stand up to them and help us make our communities less welcoming to their toxicity.

We don't need to hear yet again that #NotAllCouples.  We need to see it by your actions, which includes not centering yourselves in our discussions, but signal-boosting and supporting us in the spaces where we aren't normally heard.
joreth: (polyamory)
Not too long ago, Professor Sex contacted me and asked if I had some extra energy reserves to address a question she had. She asked, if I was on a poly/CNM social networking site (not a dating site but there are no moderators/rules about dating etc.) and I see the following post: "Hey folks, we are a secured married couple in seek of a third to complete our triad. Any women in our state?" --- if I were to assume that they were well meaning and just needed to be educated, how would I reply to that?

So I wrote out a long response. And a whole ton of it got used in an article addressing Unicorn Hunters! I think it's a great article (not just because it uses so much of my own material) and I'm so pleased to have something like this I can bookmark and link to in all the forums whenever this subject comes up. I like it because the tone is so much nicer than I usually end up being because I'm out of patience, and yet it doesn't mince any words or pussyfoot around the subject, or even make allowances. That's a really hard line to toe.

I even got to throw some love out to my dear metamour, Maxine, when the link to her blog post about poly unicorn math was included. Remember, I have now added tags for all my blog articles on Unicorn Hunting, Hierarchy, Couple Privilege, Triads, and Solo Poly, which are all related to the subject of this article. Most of the posts under those tags are decidedly not so polite in tone.  But if you're looking for more of my opinions on the subject, they can be found here.

I was also asked a second question, which may or may not find its way into another article someday.

In your opinion, is there an ethical way to "unicorn hunt"?

No. The term was specifically coined to describe an unethical practice. By definition, it is unethical. The words themselves mean "mythological, non-human creature" and "predatory". It is a label for behaviour that is dehumanizing, objectifying, and predatory. I write more about how and why it's unethical on my blog.

There is, however, an ethical way to form a triad that happens to have two bisexual women and one straight man - and that's by simply being one of those people and managing to run into the other two people and having the relationship form naturally out of the compatibility between those people. Don't try for one. Be open about who you are and what you have to offer a relationship, and be open to meeting all kinds of people and considering all kinds of relationships. An FMF triad may form out of the people you meet that way, and if it happens organically, without any prescripting of roles or having anybody in the relationship tell another person in the relationship what they can and can't do with their own bodies, minds, or emotions, then it might be an ethical FMF triad.

Don't try to find people for the spaces in your life, find spaces for the people in your life.
joreth: (polyamory)
I want to respond to everyone who ever utters the phrase "open our relationship" with the following:
Stop saying that phrase. Every time you want to say that, replace it with "deconstruct our relationship and reconstruct it as a new, open relationship". And then start *seeing* your relationship as a brand new relationship that is open, not an existing relationship that is identical in every way to the old one except now you can talk to or fuck other people.

Because you are not "opening up". You have to rebuild your relationship from the ground up, with new paradigms and new assumptions and new expectations.  Your new partners are not entering an existing relationship, even if they date both of you. They are constructing WITH YOU a whole new set of structures.

You are not adding on a rumpus room to an existing house that doesn't change anything about the rest of the house and where you can conveniently close the door when you want to pretend that it doesn't exist.

You are building a whole new building complex with multiple structures that interact with each other and share infrastructure while maintaining separate other elements that all add up to one beautiful complex of dwellings that each inhabitant ought to have, not just a say in designing, but the *final* say in designing the part in which they inhabit over anyone who lives in other parts.

So stop saying you want to "open up your relationship". You're not "opening up". You need to "deconstruct" your relationship, and rebuild something totally new that might have some similar elements, like all houses have plumbing, or whatever, but it's still a new relationship with new assumptions and expectations and totally different property lines.

Don't say you are "opening up", say you are "deconstructing" your relationship and constructing new ones.
I think if we all start using this language instead, it will really hammer the point home and make everyone think about what they're doing in a different way, which will hopefully lead to more intentional, more compassionate, and less fearful relationship practices.

You can't "protect" your "existing relationship" if that relationship is already gone because you're deconstructing it to build something totally new. Raze it to the ground, like any construction project requires you to remove what's there before you start building something new.

And, like any good construction project, you start with the foundation that will properly support the rest of the structures. Don't build something on top of a foundation that wasn't intended for this type of building in the first place.

(For more on this subject, click on the tags below, especially for unicorn hunting and couple privilege)

joreth: (anger)
I see a lot of people say things like "I wish I had known this lesson before, then I wouldn't have ..." I've said it myself. But I also spend LOTS of time repeating things in poly forums that the community has collectively learned over the decades the hard way.

In my more cynical moments, I don't think most of us would really have changed things had we known because some of this shit WAS known. I see plenty of people being told what will happen, who get *mad* that people are warning them, and go off and do it anyway.

How many times have you had someone ask your advice, not listened to you, the thing you predicted happened, then they complain about it happening? Or they do it again next opportunity?

My ranting on the internet is predicated on the premise that we don't need to burn our own hands in order to learn that fire is hot. Our entire educational system is based on the idea that people learn things the hard way first and then we tell others about it so we can keep moving forward as a society, each new generation standing on the shoulders of those who came before.

But no, let's continue to fuck up our relationships and governments as if we've never seen or done this shit before. And then wail about "if only we'd known ahead of time, we would have done it differently!"

Y'all know. You just don't want to know.
joreth: (polyamory)
Q. How do you handle things like shared finances, economic support, gifts, co-owned property, etc. without letting those financial entanglements create Escalator expectations in your relationships? When people start buying dinner for each other, or buying gifts for each other, or owning property together, it's usually a sign of a relationship going somewhere, like, to the next step. But what if you don't want to move to the next step? How do you mix finances and still stay off the Relationship Escalator?

A. I'm solo poly and always have been. I don't live with any partners. But I do tend to date other people who respect autonomy very highly. We discuss our expectations and assumptions about money early and often in our relationships. And then money (or the equivalent thereof) is offered as gifts freely, without obligation. Sometimes the gift is rejected, and that rejection has to be received gracefully - that's part of the "without obligation".

One of my partners has a full time job whose salary more than meets his needs, plus he puts in a lot of overtime. He has his own goals for his money and I don't pay attention to the specifics like how much exactly he makes or what he does with his money. I just know that he is comfortable with his spending and income.

I, however, am a freelancer. My income is erratic. Some months I have a surplus, some months I have a deficit.

This partner will often come over for several days at a time and then go home and we won't see each other for several days at a time again. No set schedule, just whenever we both feel like it. Every so often, he hands me a handful of bills "because I eat your food and I want to help out."

I am free to reject it if I want to, but I know that helping others makes him happy and he can afford what he gives me. I don't expect this money and he gives it to me whenever he feels like it. It's totally no-strings-attached. I have food at the house that he can eat. Sometimes he gives me cash to put towards buying more food.

When we go out, we just automatically assume that we're going dutch, unless one of us says "I got this". And then the other one just smiles and says thank you, and that's it. There is no obligation to pay, and no expectation of payment or of what that payment "means". It just happens when one of us feels like doing it.

He also likes to do repairs around the house. His Love Language is Acts of Service. He'll fix things, like my washing machine when it got vandalized, and he installed a watering system for my plants in my tiny garden. He does these things because that's how he shows that he loves people. He does these kinds of things for *everyone* who mean something to him and who will let him.

One weekend, we drove 4 hours south to a mutual friend's house, climbed an ancient tree in the back yard, and re-rigged this massive potted plant that the previous owners had hung there years before. We had to cut the chain out of the tree branch and re-hang it with padding so that it didn't cut into the tree again. The mutual friend had once mentioned that he was afraid the limb would break during a storm and crash into the house. So, because my partner and I both climb things and hang things for a living, we went down there to fix our friend's tree. Because we love our friend and it made us happy to help.

Then there's the story of my metamour and my AAA insurance. She was concerned for me and had the money at the time. It made her feel better to know that I had emergency roadside service with my car breaking down a lot that year. She paid for one year, I said thank you, and that was the end of it. I didn't expect her gift and she wasn't obligated to do it. She just did because she wanted to. And then she paid for another year. And then another. Each year was an unexpected gift. Finally, one year, she said she couldn't afford it anymore. So I thanked her profusely and told her how much it helped me and that was the end of it.

When my house got broken into and all my electronics were stolen, one of my partners who had some extra cash lying around offered to replace one of them for me. Just a gift, because he knew I needed it.

My ex-sweetie, to this day, asks me to do the driving when we meet up and then he pays for something to compensate for me doing the labor. If we just meet for, say, lunch, then I drive out to him and he pays for my lunch.

When we speak at conferences together and we carpool, he has me drive and then he pays for all the gas because he feels it's a reasonable trade-off for not having to put the wear and tear on his car or do the work of driving. I really like to drive, he really likes convenience and is willing to pay or it.

It's not an expectation, though. If he ever didn't do this, that's OK with me. If I couldn't afford to drive all the way to him, or cover the gas on long trips, I would say so and we'd work out some other arrangements.

I am legally married, but my husband and I have a long-distance relationship. We do everything dutch. We have our own households, we have our own money, we have our own incomes, and we have our own expenses. If we ever *did* have any extra money to give, we would help the other out, because we love each other and relieving the stress of being poor is an act of love.

But we are both freelancers and don't have enough to support another. However, I do pay retail for all of his books so that he gets his royalties. I don't expect free access to his writing just because we're in a relationship together. He never asked me to buy his books. I just do. Because I want to help and I have a thing about supporting artists if I share in their art (y'know, being a starving artist myself, and all).

I never found it very difficult to have a mixture of independence and support from partners, but that's because I tend to date people who have similar views on these things as I do. And, being solo poly, all of my relationships from the very beginning are explicitly not Escalator Relationships. There is never any expectation that moving in together or any of the other entanglements are on the table. Any exchange of money is given and received as an isolated gift without obligation or expectation.

If somebody wants to do something and the other can't afford it, we just say we can't afford it. Then, if the other person can afford to cover both of us, and they *want* to cover both of us, they offer. If they don't, then they don't offer. That's it.

As for large purchases like buying property - I look at these kinds of expenditures as business ventures among colleagues. Lots of people can buy property together. My parents owned a vacation home with our next door neighbors when I was growing up. They are *definitely not* poly. Making purchases or having large expenses is a totally separate thing, to me, from being in a relationship. There is no expectation of "going somewhere" because all kinds of different people make these kinds of purchases.

One of my metamours and her husband (before they were poly) bought a duplex with another couple years ago, and they've shared that house for ages now. People who aren't in relationships spend money on each other all the time. Again, reference my metamour and the AAA subscription. We're metamours, so obviously there's no expectation that we're "going somewhere".

Anything involving finances is a *business* or *legal* matter. It's property law or contract law. That's separate. So we handle things that way. If we wanted to buy property together, it would be as 2 investors buying property together.

Tying the state of our romantic relationship to the state of our shared property seems ... weird to me, and a little bit coercive. "Because we own a house together, you now have to share my bed every night and have sex when I want it because that's just an assumption that goes along with owning a house together."

That's just ... weird. For us, owning a house with someone means only that we own a house together. It doesn't say anything about the state of the relationship, except maybe that we're on good enough terms to own property together.

And we TALK. We talk and talk and talk and talk. We all just *know* that going on vacation together doesn't mean that it's a sign that we're headed for the alter or something (well, except for the time 4 of us *did* take a trip together and 2 of us ended up married, but that was the intention of that particular trip!) We all just *know* that buying property doesn't mean that our romantic relationship is necessarily changing in any way. We know that because we all talk about what these kinds of things mean to us.

Buying property together might change the nature of our relationship, but it doesn't have to change the *romantic* relationship. It means that we are now romantic partners *and* property co-owners. So we would have an additional commitment to paying our share (whatever that arrangement is) and not screwing over the other person financially, but the *romantic* relationship is whatever the romantic relationship is.

I would have the exact same sort of financial commitment to a platonic friend that went in on a large purchase with me, just like my parents had a financial commitment to our neighbors when they all bought that vacation condo together. It *certainly* didn't mean that they were now a polyfi quad or something. They were still just neighbors and friends.

I think that, probably since I've always been this way about money and relationships for as long as I can remember, even as a monogamous teenager, that I can't really conceive of it being any other way. *I* have trouble understanding why helping out a partner when they're having financial difficulties automatically means that the relationship means something different than it did before helping.

Also, I think being poor and having a lot of poor friends helps with that too. A lot of people in my industry are used to fluctuating finances and hard times. So we all kinda keep an eye out for each other and help when we can. Most of us do that with no sense of obligation, because we believe that even if this one friend that we supported doesn't return the favor, somebody else will if we should need support someday.

I had a string of bad luck with housing a couple years back and I had to move 7 times in 2 years. One of my coworkers took me in twice during that time period. No expectations, no obligation, he just wanted to help. He was between homes himself just a year earlier, and some of our other coworkers took *him* in when he needed a place to stay. So he invited me in as "repayment" for all the friends who housed him when he needed it.

The second time I had to stay with him, after I was there for a few months, his bills went up so he asked me to start paying rent. He suggested a reasonable rent amount that was open to negotiation, and I payed until I found my own place to live again. In none of this time was there ever any expectation that our relationship was "going somewhere".

One of my former fuckbuddies is also my car mechanic. He drives the same car and just has a flare for automotive maintenance. He likes messing around with engine parts. I pay for all the parts, he does the labor for free, and this is the case whether we are sleeping together or not.

He was a coworker first. At the time, I was living in one town and working in his town 2 hours away. He used to let me crash on his couch so that I could take several days worth of work in a row and not have to drive 4 hours round trip every day on top of our 12 hour work days. Free of obligation, he just supported me in a way that I needed and that he could provide.

Somewhere along the line, we started sleeping together. And then somewhere along the line, we stopped. In the middle of that, I moved to his town so that I didn't have to commute anymore so I no longer needed couch space, and he started fixing my car. We haven't hooked up in, I dunno, like 6 years now, but he came over last week to work on my car again.

I think if people learned to value their friendships more, these difficulties with entanglements and assumptions would be easier to deal with. When we make our partners into our *entire world* and our whole support system, then we start tying together all of these otherwise unrelated things.

But if we have friends that we can rely on for emotional support, financial assistance, physical labor, emotional labor, etc., and those friendships aren't expected to "go somewhere", then I think we would all be better at developing the tools that protect our relationships from these Relationship Escalator traps.

The people best suited for my nesting partners may not be romantic partners. Good co-parents might be former romantic partners or never-been-romantic partners. Caregivers to disabled people might be best found among our siblings or relatives or platonic friends. A metamour might be the best source for financial assistance during economic downfalls.

There's no reason any of this should be tied to romantic relationships and no reason why romantic relationships should be assumed to be something other than what they are.

My relationships are what they are. Sometimes, we help each other out financially. Sometimes we make legal or financial commitments to each other. Sometimes they are romantic. Sometimes, those things overlap.

joreth: (boxed in)

Q. Is this thing wrong?
A. Yes.

Q. Am I a bad person for doing it?
A. Well, that depends on context.

Q. What should be the consequences or punishment?
A. Uh, first of all, consequences and punishments are two different things. And what they "should" be depends on a LOT of nuance.

This is a problem in a lot of online advice seeking. The answer depends on how you ask the question. A thing can be wrong, but *how* wrong it is, what kind of character you have for doing it, and how you should be treated going forward are all *very very* different.

For instance, is stealing wrong? Yes. But on a scale of all wrong things, stealing a loaf of bread for your starving children isn't as bad as, say, murdering unarmed black people for selling cigarettes.

Is the person who steals a bad person? Well, what is the context for the theft? I used to steal food when I was poor and briefly homeless as a teen. Everyone I know "steals" other people's intellectual property. A lot of people steal office supplies from work. Everyone in these examples also pays taxes, donates to charities, cares for their children (if they have any), has been there in a time of need for a friend, and otherwise exhibits compassion and consideration for others. Except for maybe when they steal something. Does this make them "bad people"?

What about going forward? Can you ever trust someone who steals? They've proven that they're willing to take things that don't belong to them, how do you know that they won't take something of yours? Again, go back to the context. What's the motivation and where is the line after which they justify the action?

What should the consequences or punishments be? Consequences can include legal repercussions and loss of trust. Do those consequences also act as punitive? How about preventative?

The point is that the answers to the question all depend on the framing of the question. Something can be wrong, but what does it really mean to be "wrong"? Is physical violence "wrong"? What about in self-defense? What about in defense of someone who can't defend themselves? What about in defense of a nation? Of an ideal? Of an ideology? What about the best defense being a good offense?

And then there's the confounding element of the other players, such as with the violence question. Hitting people is "wrong", but what if it's the only way to make someone stop hitting you?

I see a lot of people justify cheating by saying that the spouse being cheated on has somehow wronged the cheater first. OK, so that just means that there are two wrong parties, not just one. Doing a bad or wrong thing doesn't absolve the other person from also doing their own bad or wrong thing. Selling individual cigarettes is illegal. Doesn't justify being murdered for it. Jaywalking is illegal. Doesn't justify being murdered for it. Committing a petty crime and running away is illegal. Doesn't justify being murdered for it.

Two wrong people. But also in context, one more wrong than the other.

It's less helpful to ask "is this thing wrong?", because that answer is often a simple "yes" or "no". It's more helpful to ask *why* and *how* it's wrong, because that's where we get to the more interesting answers.

Is lying wrong? Usually yes. But why did the lying happen? Was it someone trying to avoid responsibility for something they did? We can talk about cowardice and selfishness. Was it someone trying to protect the lives of Jews hiding in the basement from Nazi concentration camps? We can talk about when lying is an act of courage.

Is cheating wrong? Yes. But why did the cheating happen? That will tell us where they draw the line that justifies doing a wrong thing, how trustworthy that person is and under what circumstances, and more importantly, what other solutions to the problem other than cheating may be more effective (or at least, more compassionate and ethical).

Rather than ask "is this wrong", ask "what is the context, the motivation, the subtext, the consequences, the responsibility, the goals?"

Is this wrong? Yes. Now what? What do we do with that answer? Well, that depends.

joreth: (polyamory)

A quick explanation of how I have boundaries regarding safer sex practices that don't turn into "rules" or those insidious type of rules that masquerade as "agreements" from a comment I made literally upon waking and not even out of bed yet:

Q. You say you don't have rules or agreements about what people can do with others, but don't your safer sex agreements cover what your partners can do with others?

A. Nope, they address safer sex boundaries *with me*.

All of my relationships are structured to support everyone in being authentic to themselves and any "agreements" are about what "you" can do to *me*, not what "you" can do with others. And even then, those "agreements" are always subject to negotiation. "That thing you said you needed me to do to you? I don't think I can live up to that, so let's talk about our options".

Boundaries are the lines I draw around *myself* and only myself. They are the edges of where I end and the world begins. They tell you how to treat me, and that's it.

Boundaries are if-then statements. Rules are you-will statements. So, my boundaries are "if you take these kinds of precautions with others, then I will have this kind of sex with you" and "if you do these things, then I will not have this kind of sex with you". I do not say "we agree that you (and I) will not do these things with others."

My partners can make whatever choices they want regarding their own bodies, minds, and feelings with regards to other people. Only when it comes to what they do with me do I get a say in it. Then I choose partners who naturally, of their own volition, *prefer* to do the kinds of things that match my boundaries. Then I never have to police anyone, and there is never any punishment nor "breaking" some agreement (which, btw, is one way you know it's a rule in disguise) because I'm not their mother to dictate and punish their behaviour when they misbehave.

My relationships are a Choose Your Own Adventure story. If we make Choice A, the story goes this way. If we make Choice B, the story goes another way. This respects everyone's autonomy and agency at the same time. They are free to make choices about themselves, I am free to make choices about myself, together our choices create our relationship structure.

joreth: (polyamory)

I had a match available to answer someone's genuine-seeming question on why some of the less-offensive unicorn hunting posts were also picked on. The thread is a good thread, with thoughtful yet passionate responses. My comments aren't that great, because I just typed quickly, trying to answer before I leave my house to the mercy of the coming hurricane. But there are some nuggets in there that I'd like to be able to find again, to write a more comprehensive post on the subject later. It is my opinion that couples-seeking-thirds is *always* coercive and disempowering and cannot be anything else. But it's really hard to explain why. Here are some of my comments touching on why:


Polyamory isn't an add-on to a relationship. Polyamory isn't something that COUPLES do, it's something that PEOPLE do. It's when a "couple" is seeking, as if that couple-relationship is a sentient being of its own. It's when the *relationship* is prioritized above the individual needs of the people.

When the relationship is prioritized over the needs of the individual people in it, and when any relationship requires any one person to have a relationship with someone else, those relationships are fundamentally, inherently coercive in nature.

People get all hung up on the configuration, as if we're complaining about triads, instead of recognizing the *nature* of the relationship itself. Unicorn hunting is coercive and disempowering. It just so happens to most often take the form of a MF couple seeking a bi woman for a triad.

It's not the triad that's the problem, it's the hunting that's the problem.

If you read any material on emotional domestic abuse, stuff that is a clear red flag for mono het relationships are things that the poly community just nods its collective head at, like, "well, sure, that makes sense, you totally need to organize your multi-person relationships that way in order to stay safe! What? It's just our preference! There are no wrong ways to do poly! Stop oppressing me for wanting to oppress others!"

Seriously, read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, and see how many couples-seeking-thirds do these kinds of things to their thirds.

For some reason, poly people like to reinvent wheels. Just because some of us are seeking to dismantle the monogamous paradigm, it doesn't mean that everything we've learned about monogamy needs to also get thrown out. We've learned a lot about what NOT to do, but the larger poly community seems to want to start over completely from scratch.

So now we have to re-learn what coercive relationships look like, because it's somehow "different when we do it". As if having 2 people in positions of power exerting coercive control over a third is less wrong than when one person does it.

Why Does He Do That is a book written by an abuse specialist who specializes in men-on-women abuse. He includes some nods to other demographics, but this is his specialty. It's tempting to write this book off because of that, but I think it's really important not to.

The reason is because men-on-women abuse has an added layer of culturally supported misogyny protecting it, and this book acknowledges that. How intersectional social issues affect abuse in relationships differs among demographics. White cis het men in particular are at the top of the privilege food chain, so it's important to see how all those privileged positions affect their ability to abuse and their type of abuse.

Even though we are polyamorous, we are still living in a monogamous culture. So we have couples privilege on top of all the other layers of privilege. Granted, couples privilege is not even in the same class as race or gender when it comes to oppression, but it is *one more layer* of a privileged class that affects abuse.

This is why I think we can take the lessons we learn from Why Does He Do That and apply it to unicorn hunting. In the microcosm that is polyamory, couples have the cultural support that white cis het men do, so we can draw parallels.

In addition to that, many of those unicorn hunters have white cis het men at the helm, having been steeped in the same culture that protects and excuses the abusers in the book. Throw in some internalized misogyny, and their women partners turn into enablers, funneling and directing the abuse out towards a third even while they are subjected to the very same coercion by their men partners. Like when child abusers turn their victims into accomplices later in life, only less dramatic.

So, as touched on in a comment above, because of the nature of most unicorn hunters just happening to be cis-MF couples (usually white but not always), it's bigger than just individuals being coercive and it's bigger than just "couples privilege".

Unicorn Hunters exist because we live in a culture that, through several axis of privilege and oppression, have spawned this one, little demographic of cis-MF couples seeking thirds that is a culmination of all kinds of intersectional privilege.

Which means that they are *inherently*, definitionally, fundamentally, harmful to the individuals they hunt and to the community as a whole. And this book is relevant for that point.

Related reading:

 

joreth: (polyamory)

Q. If monogamous people have to restrict themselves to just one partner in order to be monogamous, how come polyamorous people can still be poly even if they only have one partner or no partners?

The definition of polyamory is not "Must be in a romantic relationship with 2 or more people at all times." Monogamous people are also still monogamous even when they have no partners. It's about the *kind* of relationships they prefer, desire, or have the capacity to have, not a requirement on the number of partners people must have at all times. That a why it's still poly even if someone only has 1 partner.

A straight person is still straight even when they're not in a relationship. A bisexual person is still bisexual even when they only have partners of one gender at the moment.

And everyone is still whatever they are when a relationship breaks up and new relationships have not yet been found. It takes time and effort to find compatible partners. Just because someone happens to not know anyone compatible for a relationship at the moment (even if that "moment" lasts a long time, like years), it doesn't change *who they are as a person*.

There is also a difference between what a *person* is, and what a *relationship* is. A poly *person* is about the kind of relationships they prefer, desire, or have the capacity to have, while a poly *relationship* is about the kind of other relationships that the people in this relationship are available to have by the nature of this relationship's configuration.

A relationship is a Thing with needs and limitations all by itself. If a *relationship* is open to its participants having other partners, but any of the *participants* is not open to having other partners at the moment, the *relationship* is still poly. For instance, a relationship can be open and poly, but maybe someone in the relationship is polysaturated and doesn't have time for any more partners. That individual person not being open to more partners doesn't make the *relationship* less open.

Or if a relationship is open to its participants adding more partners but someone is in the middle of their doctorate program and also working to put themselves through school and maybe doesn't even have the time or emotional resources to maintain the one partner that they have - that *relationship*, and even that *person* can still be poly, they're just tapped out of resources at this moment in time.

And if a relationship is open to its participants adding more partners but one of the participants simply *does not* prefer, desire, or have the capacity to have multiple loving, romantic relationships, this can be a mono person engaging in a poly relationship - the *relationship* is open to that person having more and to the other people in the relationship having more, whether any individual wants to or not. Just as a poly person, who prefers, desires, or has the capacity to have multiple loving, romantic relationships, can *choose* their behaviour to limit themselves to a monogamous relationship.

Polyamory is not Pokemon! Go - we are not here to "catch them all". With all the other things going on in our lives, we can self-limit the number of romantic partners that we have to whatever functions best in our lives and still be poly in nature, just the way that straight people who are not dating anyone right now because they want to focus on these other important things in their lives are still straight even when they're not currently dating anyone.

Monogamous culture, at this point in time and in this region, sees "dating" like an interview process. This allows people who prefer, desire, or have the capacity to romantically love only one person at a time, to *date* more than one at a time (a behaviour, as opposed to a preference), providing that they are in the process of winnowing them down. It's OK (says monogamous culture), to interview a bunch of people at once, because the goal is to optimize your time by dating a bunch of people in order to find The One out of the interviewees. They are trying to identify *which one* of the group is The One they will love forever.

We even have several popular television shows with this very premise - The Bachelor goes out on a bunch of dates with a bunch of women, but his goal is to find out which one of the 20 (or whatever) is his Soulmate and pick The One out of the crowd. These people are monogamous, even though they are deliberately dating multiple people at once.

It's because of the *kind* of relationships they prefer, desire, or have the capacity to have. The multiple dating thing is a *vehicle* to eventually get to the type of relationship they ultimately prefer. Whereas, for polys, the multiple dating thing isn't a tool to get to the preferred type, it's the point all by itself.

Or, they may be between "serious" relationships but still enjoying sexual encounters. This kind of "dating around" in monogamy also doesn't include big-L Love, so it doesn't "count". Although, this kind of setup *is* debatable among monos - some would not count this as acceptable within the Monogamous Paradigm.

Behaviour and internal inclination are not the same thing. Everyone behaves in ways contrary to their natural inclinations all the time, and for a lot of different reasons, many of which include social cohesion like following traffic laws when we'd rather drive faster or asking permission or paying for something before taking it rather than just taking it because we want it. We can make choices for our behaviour that do not necessarily align with our preferences. It doesn't change our preferences.

When gay people are so closeted that they don't even admit it to themselves, they often go their entire lives in hetero marriages, become biological parents to children with opposite sex partners, etc. That doesn't make them straight. It makes their *behaviour* appear to be straight, and they can have any number of reasons for choosing to do this, including fearing for their lives.

Polyamory is not about how many partners you have. If that was the only criteria, then we wouldn't need swinging, RA, monogamish, or any of the other labels of non-monogamy that's out there. Technically, we wouldn't need the word "polyamory" because we had other words for multiple partnerships long before polyamory came around. We came up with the term precisely because we wanted to differentiate between the *kinds* of multiple partnerships that we were having and the *kinds* of multiple partnerships that other people were having. It was never about the numbers, it was about what those numbers represented.

It's about the *kind* of relationships that you have. One of those important criteria is how the person in question handles *their partner* having other partners. If they prioritize a primary couple and insist that their partner only have casual sex with people they meet at parties intended for hooking up with casual partners, and they only have sex with the hookups together as a couple - that person probably isn't poly, they're probably one specific type of swinger. But they have multiple partners, so it's not about the numbers, it's about the nature and the criteria of those partners. If they revel in their partner's autonomy, encourage their romantic interest in others, view metamours as potential opportunities instead of competition, and feel compersion, that person is probably poly even if they aren't romantically involved with anyone else at the moment.

They could also be any number of other things, like a swinger, a kinkster, a sex worker, etc. - one person can enjoy, prefer, or desire different kinds of relationships. That makes them all of the labels, it doesn't disqualify them from all of those labels. Some are mutually exclusive - so one can't be both a monogamist and a polyamorist at the same time, but most of them are not mutually exclusive; the different types of non-monogamy labels just clarify a certain type of non-monogamy that a person can like, and just like a person can like different kinds of desserts, a person can also like different kinds of non-monogamy.

There are a lot of things that go into whether or not a person is poly or mono, not just how many people they're dating. In my opinion, the actual number of partners at any given time is the *least* important of the criteria to determining if someone is poly or not. How they feel about metamours, what *kinds* of relationships they prefer to have, their ethics on interpersonal dynamics - all of these things are more important.

Someone looking at a relationship group from the outside and only counting the number of people can't tell any of that stuff, which is why we can't label other people's relationships without their input on themselves.

joreth: (polyamory)

www.quora.com/My-wife-is-interested-in-and-Im-open-to-polyamory-with-a-second-man-How-do-you-bring-a-healthy-third-person-into-an-existing-marriage

My wife is interested in and I'm open to polyamory with a second man. How do you bring a healthy third person into an existing marriage? We are not having children and are not close to our biological families, but all of our friends have or are moving away. We miss having “family” and there are times that two just doesnt feel like enough. We both have attraction to men but have no desire to replace the other.

I’m answering this because I see this sort of thing all the time, where someone asks “how do I?” about polyamory, and a bunch of people say “you’re going about it the wrong way, do it this way instead” and the person asking the question gets upset that no one is validating their approach.

Which is ridiculous because the person asking the question is asking that question precisely because they don’t know the answer. Listen to the collective wisdom of those who have been there, done that.

The word polyamory has been around for 27 years. We’re now onto multi-generational poly people. That’s a LOT of accumulated wisdom. Don’t dismiss it just because you don’t like what it says, the way so many others have.

I’m answering this to add one more voice, so that it’s harder to say “these are all just opinions and I don’t have to listen to them”. It’s not *just* opinion. It’s *experience*. And it’s experience earned the hard way.

  1. Don’t try to “bring someone into our marriage”. You can’t. It’s impossible. You do not “add a third” to an existing relationship, you create all new relationships. Even your existing marriage will be recreated as a totally new relationship that’s now “open”. Treat each dyadic relationship (of which there will be 3) as their own entity that requires nourishment and care, and then treat the relationship among the 3 of you (whether it’s a triad or a Vee arrangement) as *it’s* own entity that needs nourishment and care.

    Yes, you read that right, when 3 people get into a relationship, you have 4 whole new relationships to care for. You do not “add a third” like simply pouring in a new liquid into an existing drink and it all blends together into one drink.

  2. The phrase “healthy third person” reveals a pretty sex-negative, abled bias. That’s going to come across pretty poorly when you start engaging with poly communities. Go do a LOT more research on sexual stigma, body positivity, and ableism.

  3. Join poly communities - as many as you can make time for (at least one being in-person). Regular discussion group attendance is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you really need to know other poly people to develop good poly skills. You need to see how others are succeeding (or failing) and you need to know people who understand and accept polyamory as a choice (because even compassionate mono people just don’t have that mindset or that experience to really empathize and see the joys and problems of what you’re about to experience).

    Being isolated is one of the tools of abuse. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying you’re being abusive. It means that abusers understand how important it is to have a support network and to have more objective sets of eyes looking in on a relationship to see things that the people in the relationship are too close to the situation to see. Abusers understand how important these things are, and that’s why they try to remove these things from their victims.

    You don’t want to unintentionally put yourself in the same sort of dangerous situation that abusers try to create intentionally. You need a support network that extends beyond your romantic relationship and you need people who can see your relationship from other angles outside of the relationship. That’s a tool for mental health and relationship health. Join communities to meet other poly people and build a support network. If you don’t like structured discussion group meetings, go long enough to make friends and build up a social network through the group.

  4. Don’t join groups for the purpose of meeting your potential partner. Sure, if you want to meet someone who is open to polyamory, you’ll have more luck if you’re in spaces where poly people gather. But going to these groups in order to *use* the group as a dating service is usually both poor etiquette and off-putting (unless the group is specifically labeled as some kind of poly dating service).

    In general, going out for the purpose of finding someone is less successful than just being yourself and doing things socially. People don’t generally like being interviewed and then hired for the job of Your Next Partner, and that’s what it feels like when you go out “looking”. But people *do* generally like meeting people who share their interests and values and are interesting people doing interesting things. So go out and be interesting and meet people. Dating partners will *eventually* follow from that. And if you just go out and be interesting, you might be surprised at all the different places you will end up meeting partners.

  5. Speaking of job positions, don’t treat people as things. Again, people are generally attracted to those they find interesting. They are not here for you to use. They do not exist to fulfill your desires. They are not supporting characters in your story. They are whole and complete humans and deserve to be treated as such. They are the main characters in their own stories. A lot of newbies go out and say “we’re looking for someone who can do these things and be this way and likes this stuff”. Try shifting your perspective away from what the other person can do for you, to what *you* can offer in a relationship to another person. That’s not the end, that’s just the start, but do that first before you get to the next part of that equation.

  6. Don’t decide ahead of time what the relationship ought to look like and then try to find people to fit into that idea. Again with the “the people you date are real people” thing. The happiest, most successful relationships are those that built organically, over time, based on what *all* the people in the relationships want and need and negotiated. Just meet people and listen to what the *relationship* is telling you that it wants to be. Most people find themselves surprised to be happy in configurations that they didn’t anticipate, mainly because people really suck at predicting what will make them happy. It’s not the configuration that brings happiness, it’s the people. The “correct” configuration develops from the people, not the other way around.

  7. Don’t try to “protect our marriage”. You can’t. Even if you remain monogamous, you can’t. Shit happens and Game Changers exist. All the promises you make to each other don’t mean anything to the #10 bus with broken brakes that comes careening around the corner and into your car. All the rules in the world won’t save you from cancer. All the agreements you agree to won’t stop one of you from leaving if you change who you are or what you want over time. Ask anyone now sitting in divorce court how well that “promise to love and honor until death do we part” really lasts when someone decides it’s not what they want to do anymore.

    Your marriage will work, or not work, because of the two of you in it, not because of some other person. If you try to “protect” your marriage against your third person, first of all it won’t work because it has nothing to do with them, and second of all, you can’t ever fully engage in a romantic relationship with another person if you are simultaneously viewing them as a “threat”. That is a barrier to intimacy and a Sword of Damocles hanging over their head. Most people will not want to take that role anyway, and those who do will be in a fundamentally disempowered relationship.

    If you want someone to give you their heart, you have to be just as vulnerable and just as intimate as you expect them to be. They can’t open up and fully trust you with their heart if you think of them as a threat and put up barriers to them in the interests of “protecting our marriage”. Their relationship with you deserves all the same potential to develop as your marriage did when you first met your now-spouse.

    Which also means that once you decide to “open up”, if you leave yourself a back door by agreeing to dump partners if one of you thinks it’s not working out, or if you think you need to “work on our marriage”, you’re treating other human beings as disposable, which is not giving them the same potential, not treating them as whole human beings deserving of intimacy and vulnerability, etc. Don’t do this.

    If you decide to “open up”, then you’re open. If you’re not involved with anyone else and you want to go back to monogamy, that’s one thing, but dumping existing partners for the sake of your marriage is doing all of these things here that we are all saying are bad ideas. Frankly, your other partners deserve better than what you’re offering if you’re willing to do this.

  8. And related to the previous one, don’t do “rules”. Don’t even make “agreements” when the “agreement” is something about what you can or can’t do with another person, especially if that other person isn’t yet present to give their input. Talk to *each person* (your spouse, your future partner, etc.) about how *they want to be treated*, and then treat them that way. “I want you to not have sex with that person” is not a statement on how I want to be treated, just FYI. Discuss what things you can and can’t do *to that person directly* - that’s what getting consent looks like and that’s what boundaries are. But don’t make decisions (whatever word you use to label them) with one person about what you will or won’t do *with another person*. That’s treating people as things, which we’ve already discussed in several comments and at length in this own comment.

    Nobody should have less power to negotiate what you can and can’t do to or with them than someone who isn’t you or them.

Remember, when you go to a community and say that you want to do something, and a bunch of people in that community try to tell you that it’s not a great idea, don’t dismiss it just because it was "too long; didn’t read", or because they had an attitude and you didn’t like their tone, or because everyone is being “too negative” towards you, or because you’ve thought about it a lot and you’re pretty sure this is what you want to do in spite of their objections.

If the people in the community are telling you that an idea you have isn’t a great idea, listen to them. They’re probably telling you that for a reason. And being new to the community, no matter how smart you might be or how much you’ve thought about the idea, the collective experienced community is probably in a better position to be able to predict how well your idea will work in practice. Lots of things sound good on paper, but when the rubber meets the road, we already know how it plays out because we’ve done it and seen it a million times before.

Don’t “add someone to our marriage”. Start a whole new set of relationships with your spouse and your future partner.

Also, read More Than Two (www.morethantwo.com)

joreth: (polyamory)

This is one of those ageless questions that have been going around the poly forums for DECADES. Well, ok, 2 decades tops, because the word itself is only 27 years old as of this article, and it certainly can't have been very common when literally everyone was a n00b. The point is that ever since some people felt that they had enough experience under their belt to only want to date other people with similar experience, baby polys have been getting their feathers ruffled at the thought that experienced people might not want to date them.

Every so often, one of them stomps into a forum, crosses their arms, and pouts at us, demanding to know what's so wrong with dating newbies, and how are they ever supposed to learn anything if experienced polys won't date them (sounding very much like entitled white boys demanding to know how they're supposed to learn about feminism or racism if we won't drop everything and explain it to them in the tone they prefer or getting upset if women or people of color say they don't want to date cis white boys anymore because it's too much work). And then, no matter what we answer or how we answer it, somebody gets huffy at the response that they are not entitled to our wisdom, knowledge, experience, or emotional connection. This very reaction is exactly why poly vets use the phrase "don't date the newbies".

Although that phrase is popular, it's also not entirely accurate. This is a culmination of several comments I made on the subject that I hope will answer the question sufficiently to just refer back to this over time.

The short answer is that it's an issue of ethics, entitlement, emotional resources, roles within relationships / separation of roles, emotional labor, burnout, and boundaries.
 



Q. Why won't poly veterans date newbies? How else are we supposed to learn? What's wrong with teaching newbies?

#DoNotDateTheNewbies #DateYourSpecies

It's not that vets don't want to teach, it's that vets don't usually want to teach *the person we're dating*. I've been poly for more than 20 years. I don't date newbies anymore precisely because I can't mix the Mentor role with the Partner role anymore. It creates an unequal power dynamic (that isn't consensual PE, which is equal, by definition, because it's an *exchange* of power) and I just can't do it anymore.

Teaching and dating at the same time is VERY emotionally exhausting and also creates an unethical situation because of a built-in uneven power dynamic. Those of us who have been around a while have learned the hard way to separate our teaching from our personal lives. A dead giveaway that someone is a newbie is someone who doesn't understand the danger of uneven power dynamics in romantic relationships. You'll see this in other forms of uneven power dynamics too, not just the vet / newbie one. Just asking the question, or not seeing power dynamics in relationships, or not seeing the danger in them, is an obvious sign that someone is new, or at least inexperienced and ignorant which is often shorthanded to "new".

You get your mentoring and instruction from a mentor and from other resources like online forums, books, discussion groups, etc. Then you can go back to your romantic relationships as a *partner*, not as a child / student. Most of us vets have no problem teaching. Most of us vets lead workshops, write blogs and books, and even take on a student in a mentorship role.

We don't mind teaching. We mind teaching *our partners*.

If we didn't want to teach, we wouldn't be here, on the internet, in these groups with y'all newbies. We'd all start backing out and making our own vets-only groups if we didn't like newbies and didn't like teaching them. Kinda like some weird, poly Logan's Run, where our palm crystals turn red when we've reached a sufficient poly vet age and we all ascend to a magical poly vet carousel in the sky to be with other poly vets, leaving only the children behind to govern themselves. As much as I might like to do that some days, remember how well that ended for Logan and his people?

And there absolutely are vets who back away from poly groups. After a while, they tire of having the same conversation over and over again, and they've been doing this long enough that they have a dynamic, active, supportive group of people who grok their style of relationships, and they just withdraw from the "poly community" because they're' too busy just living life and loving their extended families of choice. So those of us still here, it's not the teaching that bothers us, it's the context in which the teaching is requested or demanded.

I think that there may be a difference between poly vets and poly vets who are also community leaders. I would bet that a lot of poly vets who are also media spokespeople or lecturers or who teach workshops or who are intersectional activists - I would bet that those are the poly vets who are less likely to want to date newbies. But poly people who aren't activists and educators but who have just been poly for a while - I would bet that those people probably have more emotional resources for mentoring in their romantic relationships.

I'm an educator and activist. I need to be able to let that role go in my romantic relationships.

Also, this whole vet / newbie thing isn't binary. It's not like all vets are 20+ year vets and all newbies are 3-month old infants, and we're all set up across some imaginary line in opposition to each other. Someone who has never had a poly relationship before can still get into a relationship with an experienced person. Someone who has only been doing poly for a few months or a couple of years might feel "new" but might have garnered a lot of experience in that time and be well-suited to someone who has been technically poly for many years but has little experience. 3 years, 5 years, 8 years, - that's a lot of experience to draw on.

And not all vets are also *educators*. Vets who don't also write, blog, teach, mentor, give lectures and workshops, etc. and/or who aren't also educators in other, probably intersectional, subjects, don't reach burnout as fast. So you'll find people with lots of lived experience still willing to date newbies and also some who are willing to play the mentor at the same time.

Poly people are people, which means that they are diverse. There are all kinds of people at all levels of experience - people with little experience but who are still good at poly, people with lots of experience but who are still bad at poly, people who like to teach regardless of how long they've been doing it or how good they are at it, people who don't particularly like to teach no matter how long they've been doing it or how good they are at it, solo polys, RAs, hierarchical polys, 2nd generation millennial polys, aging hippie polys, just discovering poly after 40 years of monogamy polys, asexual polys, queer polys, straight cis polys, polys with mental illness, kinky polys, closeted polys, Libertarian polys, etc. All of these different kinds of people can be put into broad categories, and come with likely pros and cons of getting into relationships with them.

But the *specific* problem of mixing a Mentoring role into my romantic relationships is a set of cons that I no longer have the patience to deal with. Many other vets come to similar conclusions about their own energy and resources. I find that it's personally exhausting in a way that some other sorts of problems aren't, and I find it ethically questionable to have that sort of power dynamic embedded in my relationships.

Not that every single person who has been poly for more than a certain amount of time who is dating someone who has been poly for less than a certain amount of time *necessarily* has this exact same ethically questionable power dynamic. It has been pointed out in other contexts that being poly doesn't make one "enlightened" and there are certainly people who have been "doing poly" for a long time who still lack the advanced relationship skills, and who lack the power behind a community-held authoritative position.

But *I* am not a beginner relationship. I am not *just* a 20-year vet, I am also a 20-year *activist*, educator, and spokesperson. I *train other vets* on how to be even more advanced vets! I have a position of respect and authority in the poly community (or, at least, of notoriety), which adds weight to my side of any power dynamic that any relationship I engage in might have.  Even people who aren't that good at relationships but are pretend famous on the internet have a degree of power in relationships, because of that fame, that automatically influences their partners.

To me, dating newbies is like a tenured teacher who also sits on board at the school and has a vote in making policy or in deciding curriculum or in influencing the status or experience of other people in some way who then dates their under-age student who is in their class. It's an unethical power dynamic for *me*, and people in similar positions, to do it.  Since my whole interest in polyamory is in *ethical* non-monogamy, I choose not to deliberately add unethical power dynamics into my relationships when it's something I can avoid.

And because I spend so much time educating, I am totally out of the emotional resources to do it at home. Other problems that I might encounter with experienced people don't tax my reserves the way that *educating my lovers* in the basics does.

I mean, I still have to educate everyone I date on who *I* am as a person because that's part of getting to know people and finding out shared paths. But they're doing a reciprocal educating of me about them, so it's more of an equal exchange. I don't have the patience to add Poly 101 on top of that. That specific form of emotional labor is too much for me. I have other forms of emotional labor that are also too much for me, like teaching Feminism 101.

I shouldn't have to have debates and lessons *with my own lovers and partners* about whether or not I am an equal human being deserving of rights and equal treatment. When I get into a relationship with someone, I expect them to already have some of the basics down, like how to be ethical in a relationship. And those lessons on ethics are often the same lessons, whether we're talking about feminism, racism, or poly relationships - not treating people as things - so it's just tiring and frustrating to have to have those lessons with people I'm being emotionally intimate with at the same time.

I have other problems with experienced polys. But, 1) that wasn't the question, and 2) I can more easily deal with, and recover from many of those kinds of problems. I need partners who have a history I can verify, other partners I can check in with, and who have ties to poly communities. Those don't necessarily guarantee that they have all the skills I'm looking for in a partner, but it gives me more avenues to *verify* that they have the skills and more accountability for when they don't, and I don't have to spend time in my romantic relationships having the same annoying conversations that I end up in online, like repeating for the millionth time what the difference between polyamory and polygamy or poly and swinging is. By the time he's been poly for a few years and had a couple of partners, I don't have to tell him to check the glossary anymore.

Franklin's post about dating black belts is a good summary. A black belt isn't someone who has *mastered* it all. A black belt is someone who is proficient in the basics and now has enough knowledge to grasp just how much more they have to learn. A black belt in relationships is basically someone who can compensate for the Dunning-Kruger Effect (although he doesn't mention that term in the article) - it's someone who has enough education and training to be able to see how much they still don't know and to be confident in the skills they do have with a reasonable degree of accuracy.  I can have a student who is learning how to become a black belt, and I can have a partner who *is* a black belt, but they are mutually incompatible roles in my life. I can't have a partner who is also my student. It's too much work and it's unethical to date your students.

I also make a distinction between "well, I've never heard of it but I want to date you so I guess I can try it" newbies and "YOU MEAN THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE WHO FEEL LIKE ME?! I’M NOT ALONE AND I CAN FINALLY EXPRESS ALL THESE FEELINGS I'VE ALWAYS HAD BUT OTHER PARTNERS MADE ME SUPPRESS?!" newbies. The latter type may be technically "new" to the word and the community, but they very often have the more advanced skills that I'm looking for because they often keep trying to find a way to turn their relationships into poly-like relationships except only with 1 sex partner at a time.

That's how I was when I first discovered the word back in the '90s and how one of my current partners was when I introduced him to poly 13 years ago (10 years before we actually started dating). When most of the reactions to my teaching are "there's a word for what I'm already doing?", I wouldn't really call that person a newbie. I usually call them "isolated polys", because they're naturally, inherently poly or have already received many of the skills necessary for healthy poly relationships, they just didn't know that they weren't alone.

But when the conversations are filled with "wait, why can't I call it polygamy again?" and "but I still don't understand how you can say you love me if you have sex with him!" and "can't we just have some rules in place so I can learn first, like training wheels?" and "I don't see why I need to talk to some strangers in a discussion group when I have you," I just can't anymore.

There are some common pitfalls when vets date newbies:

  • The newbie constantly feels that they are never good enough;
  • The newbie feels that they are being held to standards they can't possibly be expected to reach yet and may not even be possible;
  • The newbie feels like they can't just enjoy the relationship because everything gets turned into another lesson;
  • The newbie starts to feel like a project;
  • The newbie starts to feel like their partner can't relate to them or doesn't understand how hard things are for them;
  • The newbie feels that they are being controlled by the more experienced partner or molded to fit the experienced partner's vision of polyamory instead of learning to find their own vision of their poly self.
  • The vet constantly feels like they're a parent in a romantic relationship;
  • The vet can feel frustrated that they have to revisit lessons that they've already covered or already learned themselves the hard way, like they're doing double the work;
  • The vet can lack patience;
  • The vet can feel held back from their own personal growth because there's nobody around to challenge *them*;
  • The vet can reach burnout and lose empathy;
  • The vet can feel that there is pressure to always be the Perfect Poly Partner because they are more experienced so they can't ever make mistakes of their own;
  • The vet may have trouble relating to the more inexperienced partner, and may lack the ability to empathize and therefore expect too much of the more inexperienced partner;
  • The vet may indeed try to control or mold the inexperienced partner into their vision of polyamory instead of allowing them to find their own path;
  • The vet may start to feel like they're not really the inexperienced person's partner, but their science experiment.
When there is an extreme experience difference between partners and the relationship doubles as one big learning experience, then there's no space to relax for either partner. Think of what it might be like to date a math teacher who makes you show your work on bill night and tests you at restaurants when the check comes and makes you prove that you know how to balance a checkbook and assigns you homework.  Doesn't mean that the math teacher *never* gets math problems wrong anymore or never gets stumped by hard ones, and it doesn't mean that the math teacher is any good at anything else.  It just means that if you date someone who is also your teacher, they're going to be *better*, not perfect, at that thing and their job is to keep pushing you to get better too.

When the subject you're trying to learn about IS your relationship, you're never out of the classroom. *Everything* is Another Fucking Growth Opportunity. It adds another layer of stress on top of everything. And THEN, you still have all the usual sorts of conflicts and growing pains that comes with any old relationship.

As a vet, my relationships are *already* filled with relationship processing. We are already spending huge amounts of time digging in deep, analyzing, introspecting, communicating, revealing, and just generally working. I simply don't have the energy to *teach* someone how to do all of that in addition to *doing* all of that.

But I've also been doing this for more than 20 years. And I teach other things - I teach dance, I teach newbies at work how to do our job, and I teach other poly vets more advanced poly vet stuff. That's a lot of teaching, so when I come back to my relationships, I need to be my shoes-off self. I need to take off the Teacher hat and go braless in the Girlfriend t-shirt for a while. I need for my partners to take up some of the slack and do an equal amount of work in our relationships.

Read up on the concept of unpaid emotional labor. That's what a lot of the conflict about newbies vs. vets is here. People of color are frequently asked to perform unpaid emotional labor in their everyday lives, especially by white people. So are women or people socialized as women or people perceived as women, especially by men(etc.). Add on some intersectional issues like female queer POC, and basically their entire lives are nothing but unpaid emotional labor for everyone around them.

Most of the resentment in these poly groups over the whole vets vs. newbie thing is basically one long example of requests and demands for unpaid emotional labor. It's not appropriate to say "just don't do it". The solution is for everyone to respect the burden of emotional labor more and to shoulder their own share of it, so that teaching *can still happen* while people stop expecting others to carry all the weight of emotional labor.

Emotional Labor is a huge subject with *tons* already written about it elsewhere, so if you don't know what it means, you need to go off and read about it on your own. There, I introduced the concept and provided some context for you. I did that as an educator. Now y'all's job as students is to do some homework and look up more about it.

That's sharing the burden of emotional labor.

There are plenty of vets who enjoy teaching newbies the ropes as mentors and educators. There are also plenty of vets who are also educators who don't mind dating people with less experience, as long as they don't also have to play Teacher to their partner. If their newbie partner can find mentoring from someone else, or does the emotional labor on their own to go out and find resources and talk to others and build their own support networks, then a lot of vets are totally willing to date someone who is doing their own work. Or who did the work with vet as a mentor *first* and later traded in the "student" role for the "partner" role.

So vets dating newbies is a lot of *extra* work and an ethically questionable situation. But y'know a great way to make sure a vet doesn't date a newbie? Having the newbie complain that vets won't date them. It's kinda like when guys complain that women won't date them because they're "just too nice". Feeling entitled to someone else's experience because you are "owed" that lesson or "deserve" that lesson or that gaining experience automatically requires a payback in the form of teaching someone else is very unattractive. So maybe some vet *would* date a newbie, or mentor a newbie, or explain something to a newbie, but just not you because you're annoying and entitled and presumptuous about it.

joreth: (dance)
www.quora.com/Why-did-so-many-Latin-music-and-dance-genres-originate-in-Cuba

They didn’t. Latin dances originated in a lot of different places in South America and are heavily influenced by Afro-Caribbean rhythms from the booming slave trade and trans-Atlantic travel of the 1500’s-1800s.

Samba originated in Brazil in the very early 1900s: Samba - What Is It? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal

Salsa doesn’t have a single point of origin but Cuba likes to take the credit for it: Salsa - What Is It? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal Salsa includes influences from Puerto Rico, Haiti, Africa, and even a little bit of European country dance styles. Mambo is also Cuban, but today’s Mambo is basically the Salsa on a different beat.

Tango comes from Argentina: Tango - What Is It? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal

Merengue hails from the Dominican Republic but Haiti likes to claim credit for it: Merengue - What Is It? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal

Cha Cha is genuinely a Cuban dance, having been created by a Cuban composer who invented the music that people eventually developed a dance for: Cha Cha - What Is it? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal

Bachata comes from the Dominican Republic: Bachata (dance) - Wikipedia

Rumba is a Cuban dance, but it also has some differences with today’s rumba/rhumba in the US. The *music* came from Cuba, and a dance was made up to go with the music, but the 2 versions danced today are American Standard (which was invented in the US) and International Standard (which was invented by a French instructor in London). Rhumba - Wikipedia

Bolero is a dance that has two separate styles and two completely separate and independent origins - Cuba, and Spain, with the Cuban version being heavily influenced by other countries like Puerto Rico and Mexico: Bolero - Wikipedia

Paso Doble is usually categorized as a “Latin dance” when you watch the TV competitions, but, ironically, the partner dance is French (based on Spanish military marches & bullfights), and then adopted by Spain and Portugal: Pasodoble - Wikipedia

And then there’s Jive, which is classified as a “Latin dance” under International dancesport categories, but Jive originated as Lindy Hop in New York at the Savoy Theater by a primarily black community and was later codified by Arthur Murray and other ballroom studios to make it easier to teach, and also to compete in. This led to the development of several different sub-categories of Lindy, and the competition version which is classified as a “Latin dance” is called Jive: Swing Dance - What Is It? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal

joreth: (dance)
www.quora.com/How-do-I-learn-to-dance

That depends on what style of dance you want to learn. Generally speaking, taking lessons are a pretty good way to learn how to dance.

If you want to learn how to *partner* dance, I wrote a whole article on how to decide what to learn: What To Learn? - Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal

Basically, you need to identify your goals, look into the different types of instruction to see what meets your needs, and then choose a dance style to start out with.

My personal bias is that partner dancing requires in-class lessons with a partner and an instructor, supplemented with videos *after the lesson* for “homework”. I usually recommend group classes first because it’s a low-investment, “dip the toe in the water” kind of method for exploring dancing. It costs less than private instruction and there are other people there who are also learning that you can share the experience with. Plus, you don’t need to bring your own partner with you.

I believe you need in-person instruction before videos because it won’t feel the same without the resistance and communication from a partner, and most people need someone who can observe their body and offer corrections. Beginners simply *cannot* tell if their bodies are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

Partner dancing is as much communication as anything else. Partner dancing is a *conversation*. It’s not just learning steps. In fact, memorizing step patterns is the least important part of dancing, believe it or not. The important part to being a good partner dancer is the communication between you and your partner. And, for that, you need to dance with another person, not watch a video. The steps will feel *very* different if you try to do them alone, and some people aren’t even able to do certain steps at all without the partner providing the resistance and communication. Partner dancing is a collaborative effort.

Do a Google search for the name of the dance style you want to learn + “lessons” + the name of your nearest largest city.

joreth: (polyamory)
www.quora.com/Can-a-polyamorous-relationship-really-work
I would really like to know from those of you who are in, or have been in a polyamorous relationship. Did they happen by accident, or did all parties talk about entering the relationship first?

Can monogamous relationships work? I mean, really, how many monogamous relationships has any given person witnessed that ended? And yet, we don’t ask if monogamy “works” or not. We ask if *that relationship* “worked” or not, not the underlying structure in general.

Then there’s the question of, what do you mean by “work”? Do they bring happiness and joy to the participants’ lives? Of course, some do and some don’t, just like monogamy. Do they all last until death do they part? Frankly, that’s a really morbid definition for “work”. And no, not all of them do, but neither do all monogamous relationships.

I have been polyamorous for 20 years. I consider most of my relationships to be “successful” in that I was happy for most of the time in the relationship and we parted when the relationship was no longer right for one or both of us, and I grew as a person as a result of being in that relationship. Some of my relationships did not meet that criteria for “successful”. Pretty much all but one of my monogamous relationships did not meet that criteria either.

As a general matter of policy, every single type of romantic or sexual relationship that I enter, I do so by talking with my prospective partner to find out if we’re open and available for and interested in the same kinds of relationships. That goes for when I was still doing monogamy, that goes for when I get into casual relationships, that goes for when I get into deeply intimate poly relationships.

I like to talk to the people I’m interested in, to see what they’re interested in and to let them know what I’m interested in with them. Getting to know potential partners and getting involved with people who share my relationship goals and values is a thing that I do. I’m kinda funny that way.

I don’t really understand how people “accidentally” wind up in relationships. It’s like when people “accidentally” have sex. You have to make a series of choices and do a series of actions to end up in this situation.

But plenty of people make those choices and perform those actions without bothering to talk about their expectations, assumptions, and intentions with their partners. I’m not one of those people. I like a little less heartache in my life from unmet, unspoken expectations and poor communication. I’m kinda funny that way too.

joreth: (being wise)
www.quora.com/Should-a-girl-marry-a-man-she-loves-or-a-man-who-loves-her/

I'm just gonna skip over the whole issue about referring to her as a "girl" and him as a "man", and I'm also going to skip right over the part where we're talking about what the *girl* should be doing, and not the man in the scenario or the fact that it's heteronormative in the first place.

People should marry the people who would make good legal spouses. Marriage is a legal contract that comes with a whole host of responsibilities and obligations and pitfalls and surprises. Roughly 1700 of them or so. Marrying for love, and only for love, is a good way for those surprises to bite people in the ass.

Love does not conquer all, and love is not all you need. If a person chooses to marry, they should go into the marriage knowing what a legal entanglement they’re getting into and choose their marriage partner based on who would make a good partner to be legally entangled with. Sometimes, the person who we are in love with is also someone who would make a good partner to be legally entangled with. Sometimes, it’s not.

That being said, it’s not generally a good idea to get into any kind of romantic relationship where only one person loves the other but it’s not reciprocated. True, we usually don’t have the exact same feelings at the exact same time as another person, but we should at least be on a similar page when we get into romantic relationships with people that involve intimacy and vulnerability.

Sharing intimacy and vulnerability is a deeply significant, meaningful gift. It’s an insult to that gift to get into a relationship with someone who doesn’t value that gift and who doesn’t exchange their own gift of intimacy and vulnerability in return. It’s also a good way for at least one person to get very hurt and at least one other person to be a jerk.

There shouldn’t be an either/or answer to the question. People should get into deeply committed and emotional relationships with people who they love AND with people who love them. And people should get into legal entanglements with people who make good legally entangled partners.
joreth: (polyamory)
www.quora.com/What-should-you-tell-a-girl-to-make-her-like-you

Nothing. You cannot *make* someone feel anything they don’t feel. Trying to make someone feel what you want them to feel is coercive and manipulative. You are not entitled to her feelings.

That being said, people generally like people that they find interesting, share common interests and worldviews, and that respect them and treat them like human beings.

If you want people to like you, go out and be an interesting person who respects other people’s autonomy and treats others with dignity, compassion, and kindness. This particular girl still may never like you, but *someone* will like you if you’re just a decent person.

And, just FYI, trying to “make” someone like you is not being a decent person.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
No patience anymore. "But what if my husband and his new girlfriend make a decision that takes time or money away from me, the mono partner? Don't I get a say in what they do?"

No, you don't. You never did, even if you made a rule that says you do. That's an illusion. They'll do what they want to do. The only thing you get a say in is how he treats YOU, not how he treats someone else.  It's harsh, but reality doesn't really care about our feelings. And the reality is that he is his own individual with his own agency, and so is she, and your opinion of what they do in their relationship ultimately doesn't matter. It only matters for as long as they let it matter, which means, ultimately, it doesn't matter.

If he wants to spend money on her, you could technically get into legalities with common property laws. But, ultimately, if it's something he really wants, he can divorce you and spend his money on her anyway.  If he wants to spend time on her that doesn't include you, you don't get a say in that. You don't get a say in how he spends his time that isn't with you.

You *do* get request an amount of time that would make you happy, but it's up to him to decide what he has to cut out in order to make that time for you. You also get to request what kind of time he gives you (i.e. if you want some fun date time mixed in with the household duties, etc.), and then the negotiation between the two of you can begin. But he will spend whatever time on her that he wants to spend, and if he doesn't have enough time left over between his girlfriend and his job and his friends and his hobbies to suit you, then the only thing you have any real control over is whether to accept the time he gives you or to leave.

Now, in a caring, healthy relationship, he won't be a dick about it and he'll try to work with you to give you enough of his resources to keep the relationship flourishing. But the bottom line is that, regardless of how caring and loving he is, his resources (his body, his time, his emotions, his intimacy, his money with certain legal exceptions) are his to allocate and his relationship with his girlfriend belongs to the two of them and you get no say in it.  

If you've chosen wisely and married a caring, considerate man, then he will take your feelings into consideration and try to make decisions regarding his resources and his other relationship(s) that don't tax you too much, but that's not the question. If I were talking to him, I'd be advising him on how to treat *you* compassionately and considerately as he begins new relationships, but I'm not addressing him right now, I'm addressing hypothetical you. And your question is, do you get a say? The answer is no, you don't.

I'm tired of mincing words, which is why I'm vaguebooking instead of addressing anyone directly, because this response would not be well-received as written and I'm out of patience for addressing this question constructively because I've seen this question for the last 18 years and I'm tired of it. At some point we all need to just take a deep breath, be an adult about it, and jump. We do not get a say in our partners' other relationships - romantic, familial, friendship, or work-related.

We can advise and we can indicate consequences if their other relationships *directly* negatively impact our relationship. That's it. Those relationships are not our relationships and we do not have any right to hold power over them. The people in those relationships will do as they will anyway. If they want to be considerate towards us, then a rule making them considerate is unnecessary. If they don't, then a rule won't stop them.

I think the entire poly community would fare much better if they all had the horrible opportunity to experience what it feels like to pull a veto and have their partner just blink at them and say "no". It hurts.  But it's like ripping off a bandage.  I think that some people will not be able to accept that vetoes and hierarchy and other methods of control are illusions until they experience first-hand that it doesn't matter how much you love someone or they love you, it doesn't matter what rules you set in place in the beginning, that Game Changers happen and there is nothing we can do or say to make someone do what we want when they no longer want to do what we want them to do.

Much like spoiled, entitled children, it would probably do the entire community a world of good to have someone tell them "no" once in a while.  I get that it's borne out of fear, but the only way past fear is to face it.  The world still turns, the seasons still change, and we continue to march towards the inevitable heat death of the universe.  There is much we can't control, so we need to give up trying to control that which we can't, and focus on that which we can.
joreth: (polyamory)
I'm in love with a man who is pathologically poly.  He has to have new sex partners constantly, and as soon as the NRE wears off, he gets bored with the new puppies & kicks them to the curb.  I've come to resent the new playthings deeply and I want to warn them all away.  I want to explain to them that I've been there, that I remember falling for this man who makes you his intense focus, for a while, and that's deeply romantic and and addicting.  But after the shiny wears off, he'll lose interest in the fluffy new puppy and she'll be the old dog chained in the backyard with the rest of us, watching her master go off and play with the next new puppy.  Those of us who have stuck around hate the new ones and barely tolerate each other.  But I love this man, so I can't leave.
This is a paraphrase of something I've heard many times over the years.  The posts are usually dripping with resentment, bitterness, and anger, and usually all directed at the poor metamours.  Pointing out that the bitter "old dog" should just leave if she's not happy with her relationship only results in her defending her decision to stay by insisting that she loves him, all the while complaining that he's a "sex addict" or NRE junkie, or some other derogatory thing that makes him sound like a bad guy & her his victim.

A lot of people take the tactic of sympathizing with the poster, saying that the guy sounds like a royal asshat & she should get out while she can.  This is, of course, assuming that the picture the poster has painted is even close to accurate.  But his royal asshatness is usually not present to defend his side of the story.

Now, I'm not going to disagree with anyone who takes the position that the posters in these scenarios are in bad situations and should get the fuck out.  If their partners are as callous & compulsive as it sounds, or even half as bad, they definitely should GTFO.  And, frankly, there are people like that.  We've all heard the stories of assholes who use the label "polyamory" to justify, what is essentially an excuse to fuck around without compassion or consideration for who he hurts in the process.

(Also, I'm going to stick with the gendered pronouns to make it easier to follow my ramblings - but any gender can be any player in the hypothetical scenario I'm describing).

I have tried to step back from the details themselves when posting responses, and just address the emotions.  Here we have one person who is expressing extreme distress at a relationship partner's behaviour, and two people who appear to want different things out of the relationship they are in.  Regardless of who is right or wrong, or who is seeing clearly or not, if you're that unhappy in a relationship, then this is not the right relationship for you.

I want to exempt from this analysis any scenario that actually makes it, for all practical purposes, impossible to leave - shared kids that the spouse has threatened to steal, some sort of financial or legal entanglement that can't be separated, whatever.  Let's just leave it at people who are in the poster's position who say they can't leave only because they "love" their alleged-sex-addict partner too much to leave.

Basically, when one person is as miserable in a relationship as these posters express that they are, I see two possible solutions:  1) Talk to the other partner & renegotiate the relationship so that the miserable partner gets more of the relationship that they want;  2) leave the relationship (which may be *step* 2 instead of option 2, if #1 doesn't work).

Yes, I *know* it's terrifying / heartbreaking / difficult / painful / awful to leave a relationship - even one that is making you unhappy.  I've certainly overstayed my own share of broken relationships because the idea of losing him, or of being alone, made me feel bad.  That doesn't change the fact that it's what needs to be done.  Cunning Minx's most recent Poly Weekly podcast called "I Hate My Metamour" actually brushed on this very subject.  It's hard, it's scary, it sucks to think of being alone & starting over.

Do it anyway.

But I actually want to address this issue from the other perspective for a moment.  I don't often do this because 1) the other person in the story isn't around to hear me anyway, and 2) the person making these sorts of pleas for help never appreciate hearing what I'm about to say because they're currently hurting and what I'm about to say is not flattering to someone already in pain.

If I were the "sex addict" in the story, and I heard that this was how my partner thought of me, I would be appalled - at my partner.  This would make me lose all respect & caring feelings for my partner to know how resentful she felt towards me & how much she hated my other partners.  And I would want to ditch the poster if I knew this is how she felt about me.

There are a couple of reasons why the NRE Junkies in the stories might feel that way.  This may be a wake-up call for some people, who don't realize how much they are hurting their partners.  But my observations suggest to me that the more likely reaction is to become defensive about one's behaviour.  Either the Junkie really is an NRE Junkie, & they're likely to dig in their heels & try to justify what they're doing with "well, you knew the rules when you signed on, so tough shit", or they really aren't an NRE Junkie and this is just a typical reaction from a monogamous cowboy who was not honest with either her partner or herself about what she wanted in a relationship.

I hear stories about "sex addict polys", and I see things just a little differently than how they're painted in the story.  The reason is because I have often been on the receiving end of "sex addict" accusations.  I have had people mad at me for taking new lovers, or even just wanting to, and I have been accused of being a sex addict, of being uncaring towards my partners, of having some "need" for NRE.  And as the person currently residing inside the head of someone being so accused, those accusations are just baffling.

I have the lowest sex drive of anyone I've ever met who doesn't actually identify as "asexual" (which I don't, because I do occasionally desire sex).  I can go months, even years, without feeling any particular desire for sex or sexual activity.  And I really don't like NRE.

I tend not to like my partners going through NRE because I know how fleeting & unstable it is and they so often don't so they usually end up doing things that I hate, like him mistaking the rush of hormones for proof that we're "meant to be", making the long-term plans like marriage & cohabiting before we really knew each other, etc.

But I also don't actually like the feeling of NRE itself.  To me, NRE is kind of like being drunk.  I know a lot of people who enjoy getting drunk & feel no remorse afterwards (even if they do feel hangovers).  I also know a lot of people who like getting drunk but who feel bad about it or the things they do afterwards.  I never liked even the idea of getting drunk.  I have never been drunk, but the descriptions sound awful to me, even when someone is telling me what they think are the good parts about it.  I have been on various sorts of medication whose effects match the descriptions I have been given of being drunk, and I hated every minute of it, even while I might have been laughing at the time.  I do not like NRE.

It's kind of like being tickled.  Apparently some people really enjoy the feeling.  I'm one of the many who hate the feeling of being tickled, even if my automatic response is to do something approximating a laugh.  It's the same feeling as the one those who enjoy being tickled feel, but to them it's pleasant and to me it's torture.  Being drunk and NRE are torture for me like tickling is torture.   And I do not say that as hyperbole.  It.  Is.  Not.  Pleasant.

But I like being in relationships.  I'm not afraid to be in relationships.  And I view the outcome of a relationship as being proportional to the amount put into it.  So once I've decided to be in one, I jump wholeheartedly into it.  And when the other person is going through NRE, whether I am or not, sometimes that means that the person I thought I was getting into a relationship with isn't the person I end up in a relationship with (because they're putting on the NRE best-face that people do), and the relationship I thought I was getting into turns out not to be the kind of relationship the other person wants.  So I've had a pretty long string of short-term relationships - almost exclusively with people who either did not want the same kind of relationship I wanted, or who did not want a relationship with me, but instead with a person they were hoping I would be.

So, to a person who really, in their heart of hearts, doesn't really want a poly relationship or believes it's something people do only until they find The One, my having a series of relationships that end fairly quickly becomes another point in their confirmation bias that I'm only in it for the NRE, because they don't understand the other factors involved.

I have someone who I have gradually come to call "my stalker".  We've known each other since we were in grade school.  He decided the moment we met that I was his One True Love.  Thanks to fucked up books & movies like Twilight (not that Twilight was around back then, but it's an easy example to give), I thought this was romantic.  When he pursued me relentlessly through our teens & into adulthood, I still thought this was romantic and it was definitely an ego boost, particularly when I had just been dumped or had been single for a while.

Even after I learned that he used to sit on my front lawn at night, watching my bedroom window while I slept, I still thought it was romantic.  I didn't learn just how creepy that was until much later.  I refused to date him because, although I didn't know I was poly at the time, I knew I was still looking for *something*, and I didn't want to repay his devotion to me with any sort of pain or betrayal that I was sure I would inflict while I kept "looking" for whatever it was I hadn't found yet.

There's a country song whose basic theme is that a guy changes his answering machine message with "I'll be doing this thing until this date, and if this is Austin, I still love you" for years.  The girl is amazed at his level of devotion & after a string of broken romances, finally decides that a man who is that devoted to her is worth loving.  Crap like this is what made me finally give him a chance.  Plus, he was hot & I was single.  And I didn't understand how coercion, "settling", and the "wear her down" technique were all abuse tactics.

At this point, I had discovered polyamory, and I spent about a year trying to explain to him what it was and how I felt.  The whole "it's possible to love two people at once" concept and everything.  Finally, he said he understood, so we started dating.

The short story is that he was fucking miserable the whole time, which made me miserable.  We just did not want the same things out of a relationship.  We broke up, but remained friends for another decade.  During which time, we had the same conversation, about once a year.  He swore to me that I was his One, I reminded him that I was poly, he wanted me to "give up trying to fill some emptiness with an endless string of men" & find happiness with just him, I tried to explain that my life was not actually a revolving door and that I didn't feel empty but that I finally felt happy, he would recant & say he understands poly now and could I give him another chance, I would really drive home all my poly talking points yet again to make him face the fact that I *loved someone other than him*, and he would break down crying and asking why I couldn't love him.

I finally had enough.  I finally learned that this was not actually romance, that this was a serious problem and that he needed to get over me and find someone else who would love him the way he wanted to be loved.  Or, failing that, maybe some psychiatric attention.  I had not yet read the book Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft, so I didn't recognize all of this as abuse, but I finally recognized that I couldn't keep having that same conversation anymore.  So the last time we had this conversation, I told him that he was never to bring up the subject of us dating again.  The consequence for bringing it up was to lose all contact with me entirely and forever.

So we drifted apart (because, apparently, if he couldn't beg me to get back together, he didn't have much else to say to me), and if it wasn't for Facebook, I wouldn't have had any contact with him in several years now.  Except for 2 emails he sent me, one of which is relevant to this whole story.  He went back to school, and in his creative writing class, he wrote a story about his perspective of our relationship over the years.  He said that he knew there was no hope for us, but that he thought I would want to read his story and see how things looked to him.

All my years of knowing this person, all our conversations, all our arguments, all our letters, and I still didn't know just how different his perception of me was until I read something he wrote that he did not intend for me to read when he wrote it.  After YEARS of talking about how much I loved my very few concurrent partners (4 being the most number simultaneously, but 2 at a time being the more common number), how much happier I was in poly relationships, how devoted I was to them, how I felt I was building futures & lives & families with these people, and also how important it was to me that my partners had other partners in part because I didn't have the sex drive to be *anyone's* only partner, let alone several people's only partner, he still never got it.

In his paper, the image he had of me, after all these years, was still a person who shied away from intimacy, who was "promiscuous", who filled some emotional gap with a variety of casual sexual partners, and who kept people at arms-length to protect herself from hurt.

::blinkblink::

Who *was* this person he was writing about?  It couldn't have been me!  How could anyone hear me talk about my loves and not hear the depth of my emotion, or the severity of the heartache when it ended?  How could anyone know me in person for any length of time - hell, how could anyone *date* me and not know my sexual limitations?  Where was he when I poured my heart out to him over the phone for all those years?  How is it even possible for someone with even a cursory peek into my life to be unaware of my heart's desire?

Because he never fully saw me.  From day one, he never *saw me*.  At first, I was an idol, a work of art, put on a pedestal to be worshiped, too perfect to touch and only safe to view from a distance.  Later, I was a TV sitcom character, a personality written the way the writer wanted her to be & layered over the actor regardless of how she felt in real life, but able to be brought into the home via the airwaves, able to spend time with & pretend to get to know.  And finally, I was a stick figure drawing - two dimensional, empty, heartless.

For all that he professed his love for me for decades, he didn't seem to know me very well, nor did he seem to really like me very much.

He was not the only person in my past to do this, but his story was the most dramatic, the most long-term delusional.  So when I hear stories about these supposed-poly sex addicts, these NRE Junkies, from people who also claim to be in love with them and who won't leave these people who are hurting them so, I'm reminded of my stalker.  And I have to question just how accurate their perception of their lover is, or of his motivations.  Maybe sometimes they're completely accurate.  Maybe even most of the time the people making these complaints are completely and absolutely accurate.

But having been someone who had partners who saw me in the same disdainful, resentful, bitterly angry way as these posters see their own partners, it's really hard not to feel contempt for the *posters*, rather than the alleged NRE Junkies.  It's really hard for me not to be contemptuous and disgusted by someone who claims to love a person they describe with such anger and resentment.  It's really hard for me to feel very much sympathy for people who feel such bitter feelings about another person but who won't leave the person they seem to hate so much.  It's really, really hard to be hated and resented that much by someone who claims to love me.

And it's really hard to see that as "love" at all.

As any member of the LGBTQ community can tell you, "hate the sin, love the sinner" is a hollow, empty, painful definition of "love" that many of us would prefer to do without.  It does not feel like "love" at all for someone to say they "love" me but hate everything I do, everything I hold dear, or who I am down to my very core, as polyamory is to me.  People keep saying that word, "love".  I do not think it means what they think it means.  I don't recognize that bitter, resentful, disgusted emotion they describe as "love".  

So I write this here, rather than respond directly to the dozens, probably hundreds, of people who have made online posts like this over the years.  They are genuinely hurting, and me telling them that I am disgusted by them while they are in the middle of their pain and reaching out for help is not productive for them.  I stick with the "you're obviously unhappy, this relationship doesn't seem to be the type of relationship you want, I think you will be happier if you look elsewhere" line, because it's true and it's more helpful.

But maybe one of these so-called sex addicts will stumble across this article someday and see their situation reflected in my story.  And maybe this will help them to make the courageous decision to cut someone loose who feels tied to them and unhappy about it.  Or maybe they have been harboring similar feelings to mine of disgust and resentment of my partner's obvious dislike of me renamed as "love" and they feel guilty for having those resentful feelings - after all, if their partner can feel such resentment and still love them, then shouldn't they hold on to the "love" part & ignore their own bad feelings too?  No, I don't think so.

Or maybe one of these resentful posters will stumble across this post and, since it's not a direct response to their specific post, they will be more open to hearing it, and therefore be made aware of how much their resentment may be poisoning the very relationship they refuse to let go of.  Maybe they're not aware that all this anger & resentment can make their partner feel angry & resentful back.  Maybe they're not aware that they aren't the only ones in the relationship who is looking on their partners with disgust and contempt.  And maybe they'll learn to change their perspective or maybe they'll talk to their partners to renegotiate a more equitable relationship or maybe they'll finally get the courage to leave & find someone who wants the same thing they want out of a relationship.

It's possible to really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them.  It's also possible to really and truly dislike someone but confuse other emotions, like attachment & fear of loss, for "love".  If you are really not what they want and they are really not what you want, then even if you love them, it may be kinder to let them go.



If you see yourself in any of my examples and think I'm talking about you, well, if you made any posts like this on the internet, there's a good chance that I am talking about you.  But I'm also NOT talking about you - at least, not you specifically.  Even if I used phrases that sound like phrases you used, I'm still not talking about you specifically.  Believe it or not, you're not the only person to be in this situation, and the fact that it's so commonplace is exactly why I wrote this entry.  But if you see yourself here, whether I ever came across your specific story or not, you probably ought to do some reconsidering of your choices, because that says more about you than it does about me.

joreth: (polyamory)
 Him: "Can love be split?"
Her: "It's not that it's cut in half. It doubles."
~My Wife Got Married

One of the biggest fears, it seems, from monogamous people faced with the possibility of polyamory is the scarcity model of love.  The idea is that love is a finite quantity that we have to give to another person.  Therefore, when someone new comes along, there will be less love for the pre-existing partner.  Oh, it's often couched in more reasonable concerns, like finite time, but when you really unpack the idea and get down to the root, it usually has to do with the idea that your partner doesn't love you enough, or as much, if they love someone else.

Here's the thing: let's say you and I are in a relationship and that I love you.  My love for you is my gift to you.  It's something I feel and it's something I do, but most of all, it's for you.  Now let's say that a new guy comes along and I love him too.  You know that gift I gave you, my love?  It's still my gift to you.  I'm not taking any of it back.  That love belongs to you.  I'm a human person, so I do not belong to you.  But my love for you is a gift I freely give to you.  That love is comprised of all the things I like and admire about you, all our common interests, and, most importantly, all our shared history.  It is a one-of-a-kind, completely-unique-in-all-the-world gift, tailor-made just for you.

This new guy, he gets my love too.  But he doesn't get the love I gave to you.  That is yours, and yours alone.  No, he gets his own gift of my love that I will give to him.  It is made up of all the things I like and admire about him, all our common interests, and, most importantly, all our newly-shared experiences that will one day become our shared history.  The love that I give to the new guy is a one-of-a-kind, completely-unique-in-all-the-world gift, tailor-made just for him.  It did not require taking any love back from your gift to make his because it is made only of those things that are a part of him, and a part of he and I together.

The love that I give to you comes from a wellspring of emotion that only exists because you exist.  Without you, that love does not exist.  It arose into being, building from a trickle to a deep reservoir, only because of you.  The love that I give to the new guy comes from a SECOND wellspring of emotion that only exists because he exists.  Without him, that love does not exist.  That love that I give to him did not exist before him, and if someday, I cease to love him, that love will not go back into a communal pool of love that was deficient without his share and that now you can draw upon.  If I cease to love him, that love will cease to exist.  Your love, the love I have gifted to you, remains yours, and yours alone, as does the love I have gifted to him.

Our shared history, and all those things about you that make you who you are, can never be duplicated.  No matter how smart, how funny, how good looking he might be, no matter what restaurants we go to, no matter what sexual positions we get into, no matter how much time I spend with him, he will never be you and my time with him will never be my time with you.  My love for you is made for you.  Even if you and I were to ever part, that history still exists, and that history is irreplicable with anyone else.

When I fell in love with you, I gave you all the love I had to give.  My love is partly what I feel, and partly what I do, and it comes from who you are and who we are together.  When he comes along, my love for you is not split in half to give him some.  My love for you remains my love for you.  Instead, my love doubles - the love I give to you, and the new love I have created for him.  And, if we're open to it, possibly a tripling of love, that is the love that gets created for the three of us together.
joreth: (polyamory)
I've lost it now, but someone once wrote a blog or a forum piece about the failure rate of polyamorous relationships.  This is one of my pet peeves - polyamory is held up to impossible standards of "success" by monogamists, yet those standards are not applied to monogamous relationships.  What I mean is, when a relationship ends, the Monogamous Mindset declares that relationship a "failure", whether it's poly or mono.  But when a poly relationship "fails", it's a sign that polyamory itself is doomed to failure.  Yet, when a monogamous relationship "fails", monogamy itself is not seen as inherently flawed, just that couple is seen at having failed in their relationship.  I HATE this double standard, and I also hate the bunch of assumptions that underlie the idea, including that longevity is the sole measuring stick for success in a relationship.

So, someone wrote a piece somewhere on the internet asking how many of our poly relationships have to fail before we give up clinging to the idea of polyamory and just admit that it's doomed.  Naturally, I had a few things to say about that:



How many monogamous relationships have you witnessed that ended? How many were great for a year or two before some form of amicable split? How many went down in flames? How many people have you witnessed that got involved with a single person EVER and remained with that person until death? Personally, I know only a few, the majority of whom are in my grandparents' generation (and even my grandparents are divorced). I also know more monogamous people who remain involved with someone who tried to hit them with their own cars than monogamous people who haven't (seriously, I can give you 3 names just off the top of my head, and more if I think about it). Should I then extrapolate that monogamy is bad because so many monogamous people try to commit vehicular manslaugher on their spouses? Or is it perhaps more likely that I know a lot of dysfunctional people and it's not necessarily monogamy's fault?

Of course I'm not saying that monogamy is always bad or a "failure", or even a death sentence. But I am saying that confirmation bias is a logical fallacy. Statistical analysis requires a large sample population to be representative of the population as a whole, and a method to remove personal bias from interpreting the results. "What I've seen" does not count as representative, nor unbaised. It especially does not count when coming from counselors whose sample population is made up exclusively of their own therapy practice. They (and you) have a skewed sample popluation because of the types of people they are likely to see - in the case of the counselors, people whose relationships are already in danger, hence the reason for a trip to a therapist. People with functioning relationships don't tend to seek counseling, don't tend to make headlines, and don't tend to get noticed by friends and neighbors without intentionally sharing the details of their relationships.

Also, because of the stigma, and in some cases, legal threat, you probably know more poly people in "successful" relationships than you're aware of because a large number of poly people are still in the proverbial closet. There have been countless people who were rendered speechless upon discovering old love letters and other evidence of lives they never knew their parents had, when going through their personal effects after death: same-sex love affairs, mistresses, swinger partners, kinky sex lives, even whole other families. My paternal grandmother was completely unaware of my existence until 30 years after my birth (and to this day, she refuses to believe I'm not a charlatan trying to scam her family out of money and not really related).

If people can keep secrets this big from their spouses, children, and parents, it's ridiculous to think that your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances aren't also keeping secrets from you, let alone the cute waitress who serves you coffee at your favorite restaurant, your hunky UPS guy, the guy sitting next to you on the bus, or your kid's soccer coach, especially if you have ever exhibited the subtle and unconscious signs that you are not accepting of the idea of polyamory and are therefore not someone who is safe to confide in. You have no idea what people are doing in the privacy of their own bedrooms (or kitchens, or dungeons, or play parties) if you aren't there to witness it and you are completely unaware of what you don't know.

I'm also saying that if you hold these standards up to polyamorous relationships and suggest or imply that polyamory doesn't have the appropriate numbers to count as "successful", then you have to hold monogamous relationships up to the same standard. And, as studies have actually shown, people are NOT clamoring for the end of monogamy when shown the high "failure" rate. In fact, when we see headlines like "49% of first marriages end in divorce", the article is not usually calling for an end to monogamy, it tends to be calling for a tightening up of the standards of monogamy so that we can get that failure rate down (and even in some cases, a "redefining" of monogamy so that people can broaden what "counts" as a "successful" monogamous relationship). As for that statistic, keep in mind that it's for "first marriages" - second and third marriages have an even higher failure rate and every relationship prior to the first marriage had a 100% failure rate. Monogamy's track record for longevity is really not very good at all.

Longevity alone is not a good measuring stick for "success" in a relationship, be it polyamory or monogamy. Millions of people are stuck in loveless, even abhorrent, marriages because of pride, of religious edicts, of legal complications, of "family values", of social stigma, of emotional restrictions, and more. If those relationships last for life, should they be counted among the successes? If they were to end, would they be counted among the failures? And how would we know which relationships they are? Relationships are rarely what they appear to people on the outside.

A relationship is successful if it meets the goals set by the participants. For some, longevity may be the only or most important goal, and in that case, simply ending *would* be considered a failure. But for others, the happiness of the participants may trump that. Some may be to raise a family. Some may be for financial incentive. Some may be for companionship.  Some may be a combination of goals.  Personally, since you asked for personal stories, my goals tend to be about intent, rather than longevity. I intend for my relationships to emphasize communication, for the participants to actively contribute to (but not try to be responsible for) each others' happiness, to find compromises and common paths, to support each other in our endeavors including personal growth and discovery, to be compassionate, to learn from my mistakes, to grow as a person through the influences of my partners & metamours, and I intend to be ethical and considerate in my breakups should the relationship no longer be a source of happiness to all the participants.

My relationships almost never end because of polyamory. They end for the same reasons that monogamous relationships do - compatibility. They end because we eventually figured out we are not romantically compatible in some way, just like how most monogamous relationships end. They end when we want different things from our relationship, or when we have different goals, or when we have personality conflicts that just can't be overcome. So many people want to blame polyamory for the ending of a poly relationship even when the polyamory part wasn't the problem, but when a monogamous relationship ends, it's not the fault of monogamy.

A relationship can also be "successful" when it has a successful transition from one form to another, and sometimes that means transitioning from a romantic relationship to a platonic one. As a line in a movie once said, I don't tend to think of breaking up as a relationship ending, I tend to think of it as two friends getting back together.

People change over time and sometimes they just don't change in the same way or at the same rate as the people with whom they are in relationships, and sometimes the relationship cannot remain in the same state when the people have changed in certain ways. That doesn't necessarily indicate a failure of the relationship. It indicates the luxury our society has of demanding such an enormous amount of responsibility from a romantic relationship. Insisting that marriages include love is a relatively recent addition to the structure, and with the almost-equality between the genders regarding income and independence in our society, we can now have the luxury of requiring higher demands of our relationships than ever before in our history, and the luxury of ending a relationship when it doesn't meet all the demands we place on it.

The "failure" rate of relationships is not a sign of degrading family values, as some would like to think. On the contrary, it's a symptom of HIGHER family values, demanding even more from relationships than ever before and not settling for less. Relationships are no longer simply about property and alliances. Now our partners are expected to be our best friends, confidantes, lovers, and co-parents in addition to securing property for our offspring and allying our families. Because of all that monogamous relationships have to live up to, monogamy itself has a very high "failure" rate.

One of the advantages to polyamorous relationships is that they do not need to live up to this high standard of a single person being everything to someone else, much like past relationships did not need to - with family, friends, church, and lovers taking up the slack for emotional intimacy and child-rearing since the spouse was not supposed to fulfill all those roles. Poly relationships have a lot of flexibility and they can look like a lot of different things without being a "failure" or coming up short in comparison to some Happily Ever After relationship that has been pre-charted for us in fairy tales and romantic comedies. A poly relationship can look like whatever it wants to look like, and if it doesn't look like someone else's relationship, or if it ends without one of the partners dying, if the participants think it was successful, then it was and no one else has to agree or approve of it.

If I fall in love with someone who is not compatible with me as a live-in partner, I can enjoy that relationship as it is without ever having to cohabitate. Since monogamous culture has a prescribed path for relationships (first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage), a loving relationship that doesn't have the goal of marriage and cohabitation might seem like a failure. But in polyamory, it doesn't have to be if we are happy with the arrangement.  And if a cohabitation situation is still desired, continuing to enjoy this fulfilling but non-living-together relationship does not prohibit a cohabitation situation with someone else who might be more compatible in that role. Rather than being disappointed at the relationship for not living up to its enormous expectations, I can enjoy the experience for what it *does* provide, which is usually fulfilling in its own right if not constantly being compared to a fairy tale.

This is fundamentally different from "settling", by the way.  "Settling" is "taking what you can get", it's accepting something you are not completely happy with because the alternative, which is to go without, is worse.  I'm talking about liking my roasted chicken because I like roasted chicken, and not being disappointed in my chicken just because it doesn't taste like grilled salmon.  Settling is more like eating a rice cake because you're hungry and don't want to go without *something* but you're on a diet and you'd really rather have a chocolate cake instead, so you munch the crispy rice as a diversion just to shut your stomach up so you won't keep thinking about chocolate cake when you know you can't have it anyway.

If my relationship does not follow the love-marriage-baby path, if we do not cohabitate, if it ends before one of us dies, but we are all happy at the time and we do not regret it when it ends, why should that be considered a failure? And if you're going to hold us to that standard and declare "success" or "failure" on other people's relationships and an entire relationship style, that standard ought to be held up to your own chosen style.

So, I ask you, when do you call monogamy a personal failure and move on? Do you just keep trying? Or redefine and create relationships of a different type?
joreth: (Polydragon)

In addition to MySpace and OKC and LJ, not to mention my actual website, I also have a profile on a website designed to match up dancing partners. It's not a very good service, because you can only contact people if one of you is a paid member, and not many of us like to pay for such services. So I get the occasional email in my inbox that I can't read because neither of us is a paid member, and I find the occasional profile I am interested in who I can't contact because neither of us are paid members.

I did get one email I could read and respond to, though, and I thought it was interesting enough to warrant an LJ post. It's a guy asking for advice on how to deal with his wife that believes that DANCING is CHEATING.

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