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: (polyamory)
So, if you really want to limit or avoid couple privilege in your relationships, you can't have a "primary". By definition, singling out one person above all others (whether we're talking the legitimate definition of hierarchy as a power structure, or we're talking the bastardization of the term with just default priority) is couple privilege.

If you really want to subvert couple privilege, you have to give up certain privileges. Like the ability to default to anyone or have them default to you.  Picking just one person to be the top priority and/or have power over you / your other partners is, *by definition* couple privilege.

Either let it go, or just man* up and admit that you like your position of privilege even when it disempowers others and you have no intention of inconveniencing yourself for the sake of others. At least then people would know going into a relationship with you that they will always be second class citizens to you and that their hearts are not safe with you.

Children do not change my point. Plenty of people co-parent who are not in romantic relationships with each other and who are not "primaries". Divorced parents co-parent just fine, and the children get the priority they need because they are *dependent beings*.

This does not justify *disempowering* the people we are in relationships with, nor does it justify default-prioritizing one adult among all the adults. Particularly if the *stated assumption* is that the person I'm addressing explicitly says they do not want "couple privilege" in their relationships.

This is an if-then statement. If the given is "I do not want couple privilege", then one cannot have a primary. They are mutually exclusive terms.



* I thought about not using the term "man up", but then I figured straight white cis men are pretty much the top of the privilege food chain, so holding onto one's position of privilege at the expense of disempowering others is very much a "man" thing to do, although admitting it may not be. But then again, the contempt for others being naked and blatant is becoming more and more regular in certain straight white cis men these days too.

** Also, I am extremely rage-triggery on people confusing "power" with "priority" and mixing up criticisms of hierarchy and couple privilege with a Motte & Bailey tactic of "priority".

I have no patience for it at all. Read http://blog.franklinveaux.com/2013/03/guest-post-polyamory-and-hierarchy/ and www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control for what I mean when I talk about hierarchy and know that I will not waste any time in my threads going 'round in circles on the definition.

These are the definitions that will be used in my threads or I will simply start deleting and blocking because I'm tired of not having made any progress on the discussion of power and hierarchy in the poly community in more than 2 decades.

See also www.morethantwo.com/coupleprivilege.html
 
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)
#WhatRealPolyLooksLike

“Oh you’re poly?! Are you dating lots of people? Tell me about your partners!”

"So, how many partners do you have, then?"

Well, I've been in a seriously long-term, low-key toxic relationship with the Entertainment Industry. It takes up most of my time and it interferes with all my other relationships, but I just love it.

Ballroom dancing is my secondary. I don't get to see it very often, but it's a wonderful change to my regular routine - I dress up, I go out, I get to forget all the daily grind stuff, and I come home all excited and giddy from the endorphins, and often a little too sore to walk straight.

I also have a pretty exacting Dom named Costuming. Every so often, Costuming decides to cut in and make me service it with long hours spent on my knees on the floor or bent over a table with a variety of textiles and a box of sharp pins. Everything else gets put on hold until I've completed the tasks that Costuming sets out for me.

My husband and other romantic and sexual partners have pretty well adjusted to being long-distance with all the others taking up so much of my time. I think things are working out, in spite of the challenges.

Tell us about YOUR partners! Use the hashtag so we can see all the diversity of #poly relationships! You can also just tell me in the comments if you want.

#polyamory #polyamorous #OpenMarriage #OpenRelationships #ConsensualNonMonogamy
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)
I'm considering two new poly terms for the glossary. This is the definition:
a cishet person (usually male) who fetishizes his partner's bi/queer sexual orientation and who uses said partner to obtain new partners to fulfill his fantasy of group sex with people of the genders/orientations he is fetishizing.
Which do y'all like?

Fisherman / Fishing (he uses his queer/bi partner for "bait" to "fish" for another woman for FMF threesomes)

Muskratting (from Elon Musk and his creepy partnership with Grimes, particularly the weird unicorn hunting attempt with Azeala Banks)

I think Muskratting is funnier / more clever, but I also think it's less intuitive because it relies on a knowledge of current events and is basically a fad, so in the future (and not that far off), people won't really understand why it's called that. So I'm not sure which direction I want to push this in.

Thoughts?

(P.S. - I didn't come up with either of these terms so I have no emotional connection to them. I saw them in a poly forum and I think it's a useful concept to include in a glossary - I mean, since I have terms like "cowboy", "cuckoo", "polywog", and "french kiss" in there)
joreth: (polyamory)
People who proudly proclaim that their partner (almost always singular even when they're poly) has complete access to their phones, including their messages, because they have "nothing to hide" freak me right the fuck out.

They basically tell me that I can never divulge a confidence to them unless I develop the exact same amount and type of intimacy with their partner because nothing I say will be held in confidence.  They tell me that they are not actually whole and complete individual people, because I have to *treat* them as a singular unit with their partner, since anything I share with them will also be shared with someone else.

Whether they *feel* complete is irrelevant from my perspective because I can't *treat* them as complete, I have to treat them as an extension of another person, so anything I share with one must be something I'm willing to share with the other.

I kinda have to treat them like a ship's avatar, if anyone is familiar with The Culture book series by Iain M. Banks - a physically separate being, usually humanoid in shape, that can run autonomously when desired, but is inextricably linked to the mother ship and will merge and become one being (if you define "being" by the collective knowledge and experiences that make one up) at some point.

So nothing the avatar knows or experiences will be kept from the ship. When you interact with the avatar, you are, for all intents and purposes, interacting with the ship itself even when the avatar is, at the moment, cut off from contact with the ship, either by design or circumstance.  If I don't develop the relationship with the ship where I want to share something in confidence with it, then I can't develop that kind of relationship with the avatar either. And I can't develop intimate relationships with one "half" of a "couple".

My partners have *technical* access to my devices, meaning that it's physically and technologically *possible* for them to access the contents. It's not locked up so tight that only a master hacker could break into it.  They have this ability for safety - if something happens to me, certain individuals who I trust need to be able to take care of the business of death or incapacitation. But that's not the situation I'm talking about.

My partners don't have *permission* to access these things any time they want to. And I only date people who do not *want* that kind of access because they, too, value the intimacy that privacy protects.

The "but for safety" people, I'm not talking about you. However, the "it's just easier to have my husband read my text messages for me when my phone is ringing in the other room and I don't want to / can't get up to get it" people? You're straddling the line.

It's not about "hiding" anything. It's about being vulnerable and raw and choosing when, where, how, and with whom to be vulnerable and raw.

I have a fucking scan of my brain while having an orgasm posted on the fucking internet. I have nothing to "hide". But who can I expose my sensitive nerve endings to? Everyone knows that I *have* nerve endings, and a lot of people know what those nerve endings are connected to, but who can I *expose* those nerve endings to?

Who can I give access to my soul to? Not the person who will hold that access door open for someone else.
joreth: (polyamory)
We have this damn argument constantly in poly forums.  Somebody calls someone a "unicorn hunter", somebody gets upset at the insult, someone else demands that there's nothing wrong with being a unicorn hunter, someone chimes in that they're a unicorn and proud of it, someone else tries to explain what the term means and where it came from, and then everyone yells "language evolves!" and "language police!" to justify whichever position they happen to hold.

And I'm fucking sick of it.

The history of this term is hard to cite sources for, because nobody really documented it at the time.   I mean, all our conversations were in text on the internet, but in old BBS boards and email lists and geocities websites that are all defunct now.

So basically it's left up to the old-timers like me who were around back then to try and explain things, and then the young'ins come along with no understanding of our cultural history and how that shapes our cultural present, insisting that things aren't the way that we experienced.  Most don't even realize that we *have* a "cultural history".   But the word "polyamory" was coined in 1992, and it was coined because people were already doing this thing that we wanted to name.  26 years is long enough to create a sense of culture, to create art and history.  It's long enough that we are now multi-generational.

So let me tell you a little story about How Things Used To Be.

The polyamorous community did not invent the term "unicorn" for a bisexual woman.   That came a long time ago, at least from the 1970s, back in the disco swingers' era.  It might even have origins earlier than that (as the wife-swapping version of swinging is said to have evolved out of WWII with soldiers on deployment, so swinging has been around even longer but it may or may not have been applicable to have "unicorns" in other iterations of the Lifestyle) , but since I was never part of the swinger community, I am not as up on swinger history as I am on poly history.  I only know it as tangential to poly history.

So, anyway, in the '70s swinger communities, a "unicorn" was a bisexual woman willing to have threesomes with a straight MF couple, and then go away again without causing any complications like coming between the primary couple or trying to "steal" anyone.  I'll be honest, I don't know if there is any subtext or any implications in that context.  I don't know if it was considered an insult or a compliment or if it was neutral.   Again, I wasn't part of that community, I just know that this is where I first heard the term to refer specifically to a bisexual woman.

However, when the poly community adopted it, the term was definitely used derisively.  When we used the term, we weren't actually calling bisexual women "unicorns", like we were complimenting them as magical beings.  We were insulting the people who were using women as breathing sex toys by accusing them of "hunting" for a mythological creature who didn't exist anywhere except in their own imaginations, to fulfill their own fantasies of capturing such a wondrous creature.

Back when the term first started getting widespread use, those of us who used it were not calling bisexual women "unicorns".  Bisexual polyamorous women were "bipoly" women.   That was our term for them back then.  We liked portmanteaus back then more than the slang today that prefers metaphor or pop culture references.  We used to say that you couldn't go to a poly potluck (because back then we didn't have "discussion meetings" or conferences, we had potlucks) and swing a stuffed parrot (because that was the symbol we used in public for people to find our gatherings) without hitting a bipoly woman.

We weren't calling anyone "unicorns".  Unicorns don't exist.  That was the whole point of using that term.  A "unicorn" was symbolic, not a real person.   It was symbolic of all the hopes and dreams and naiveté from monogamous couples curious about "opening up" their marriages.  As the unicorn has always been symbolic of hopes and dreams and naiveté.

And power.

The unicorn has also always been a symbol of power.   The brave and courageous hunter or prince or knight charges into the forest, seeking that symbol of purity and beauty and grace, hoping to overpower such a powerful beast, kill it, and tear its horn from its head to drink from and steal its magical properties for himself.  There are actual, real thrones made out of narwhal horns and billed as unicorn horns.  Ground "unicorn" horn powder was sold as medicine and magic.

Or perhaps the hero sought the unicorn be found worthy by the magical creature who only appears to the pure of heart to bestow its blessing.   Every myth and legend about the unicorn says something about how the men see themselves, or how they see their gods (which are further reflections of themselves).  Even the legends about unicorns being irresistibly drawn to virgins to lay their heads in the young maidens' laps and sleep (so leaving a young girl alone in a forest as a trap for a unicorn was a thing) says something about powerful men and their values.

The unicorn has never been about the animal.  It has always been about the ones seeking it.

So when the poly community adopted the term "unicorn hunter", we used it in this manner.  A lot of our early lexicon-creators liked literary allusion and historical references (some a little more "pseudo" than others).  The arrogance and ignorance and entitlement of the wealthy white fictional and real historical men who hunted unicorns was more than applicable to what we saw happening in our own communities, with hetero couples trading on their couple privilege to maintain an uneven power distribution in their relationships.

Back then, we didn't have the language of "disempowerment" and "privilege" ... not that this language didn't exist, but it hadn't made it into widespread social use as it is now.   A lot of us made a lot of semantics mistakes back in the '90s and early Naughties because we didn't have this language.  But we were talking about the same things we continue to talk about today - power.

I came into the poly community as a single, bi-curious woman back in the '90s.  I did not start out "opening up" a monogamous relationship.  I wasn't introduced to poly society as part of a "couple".  I didn't have the safety net of an existing relationship to fall back on if this "poly thing" didn't work out.  If my relationships ended, I didn't have an "existing primary" that I could "close up" with and try to go back to being monogamous, or who would stick by me as we tried again as a single unit, I was left alone to mourn the loss of my relationships, and possibly the loss of several relationships if I also lost my metamours in the breakup.  Unlike those couples who only lost a girlfriend, I lost an entire  *family* when a couple decided to dump me for not living up to their magical unicorn standards. 

From my perspective, the community was made up of two kinds of people - hetero couples and Free Agents.  Long before we had the term "solo poly", we had Free Agents - people who dated and who had partners but who always operated as individuals whether they had many partners, one, or none.   The men who were Free Agents were routinely looked upon with contempt for their callousness, lack of empathy, and selfishness.  Even by women who were also Free Agents.

But the women who were Free Agents... I did not identify with that term.   I had known too many men who treated polyamory as a way to have lots of sex without doing any emotional labor in their relationships (not that we had *that* term either).  What I wanted was to build intentional family.  So I didn't identify with the Free Agents.  But because I always maintained my own identity and independence whether I was partnered or not, I was seen, essentially, as a Free Agent by the hetero couples, who almost exclusively did hierarchical polyamory.  The fact that I wanted a "family" but was "unattached" made me extremely attractive to hierarchical polys looking for a bipoly woman to "add to their relationship".

So let me tell you how people treated me.  I have a whole inbox from an old poly dating forum filled with nothing but straight men asking me to join their households either as an equal threesome or as "sister-wives", raise the children, keep the house, and manage the chicken farm.

No, seriously, there was one in particular that actually opened up correspondence with me looking for a co-wife to raise chickens in Montana.  Or, South Dakota, or something.  And when I complained about his email online, a half dozen other women responded that he had sent them the exact same email, verbatim.   A form letter seeking a co-wife to run his chicken farm.

Many of them didn't start right out the gate like this guy, asking if I'd be interested in becoming a wife.  Most of them went through the motions of pretending to want to get to know me first, but really, all of these meetings and correspondences were interviews.  They had a job position to fill - co-wife - and they wanted to see if I could fit into that position.

The first couple of emails from the first couple of guys ... it's easy to overlook the feeling of being "hunted" at first.  Especially if you're in a category of person who, statistically speaking, never gets hunted and is expected to be the hunter.  Complain about catcalls to a lot of men, for instance, and many of them will respond with "I *never* get complimented!  I would *love* it if women would just yell out a compliment on the street sometime!"

When you're in a category of person who has a lot of social capital and a lot of cultural power, even if you, personally, have setbacks and challenges in your life, it's really difficult to understand how someone without that capital and power might feel on the receiving end of attention from people who have it.  Because part of the advantage of all that capital and power is the freedom from experiencing life without it and not ever needing to even notice what life is like without it.

So, the first few emails just sound like ... dating app messages.   But the next few emails, and the next dozen emails, and the next hundred emails, over years and years and years of them all being the same thing - hetero couples not listening to me, not seeing me, not getting to know me, all of them looking for what I can do for them and not really caring about who I am or what *I* may be getting out of the deal...

It's predatory, it's demoralizing, it's depressing, and it's dehumanizing.

Hence, "unicorn hunters".

So, before our history is lost to ... well, history, I wanted to make a record of what it was like back then.  I wanted to put in black and white what our intentions were when we were still coming up with the terms that people throw around, and away, these days with careless abandon.

Sure, "language evolves" and words change meaning.  But a word's *origins* are important. Words, out of context, might have just a simple definition. But within context, the word can say a whole lot more than just a line in a dictionary.  The origins of a word can tell you what a culture's *atmosphere* was like when the word was coined.   It can show you insight into how we got to any given point and when we turned a corner and where the culture was destined to go from there.  It can explain the subjective experience of the participants of being in that culture.

Words have power.   We started using the phrase "unicorn hunters" to describe a very specific set of circumstances and a very specific type of people.  We needed that term because we needed to be able to discuss a very big and very real problem we were having.  If we couldn't discuss it, we couldn't address it.

And now we have people entering the community who were in diapers back when the term was first being coined, arguing about "evolving language" and "taking it back" and being "proud" to be unicorns, as if all our history doesn't matter.  We still need to talk about disempowerment in relationships and predatory behaviour in our community.  The need for the term still exists, whether that specific term has "evolved" or not.  But we don't have a replacement for a term that is still incredibly accurate.  And the words we *do* use to describe what we mean when we say "unicorn hunter" are received with even more offense.

Because that term is meant to be offensive.  It's meant to describe offensive behaviour.  That's what we always meant when we started using that term nearly three decades ago and that's what many of us still mean when we use it now.  People might want to erase all the subtext and context that comes with the term "unicorn hunter", but I want to make sure that we at least don't erase the history.  That history will tell us where we came from, and show us where we're going.  


For reference:
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: (anger)
You know what I'm really fucking sick of? People who see all my independence and my relationship and poly experience and think that means that I don't need any care and feeding at all.

"Joreth is self-sufficient, so I can just put her on a back shelf somewhere and she'll just be there waiting for me when I have time to get back to her. "

"Joreth knows how to do introspection and stuff so I can just leave her to it while I put out everyone else's fires for them or with them. My other partners need help, but Joreth can handle all her shit by herself."

"Joreth is good at being alone so I don't need to pay attention to the fact that we haven't spoken in over a month, but my cohabiting spouse hasn't heard my voice in 20 minutes and they're getting anxious so I'll just put off talking to Joreth another day."

"Joreth spent years getting over her painful shyness so when we go places together, I can ditch her as soon as we cross the threshold because she already did the work on herself so now she doesn't need my companionship."

"Joreth and I have lots of common friends so I can ditch her when we go out together because all these people are her friends too so she isn't alone if I disappear for the remainder of the event."

"Joreth has been alone for so long, I don't really need do build up any common friends or shared activities because she's used to going out solo so she'll be fine if I never come along to her things or include her in my things - she'll still find a way to go out and socialize."

"Joreth has so much patience and understanding that I never have to worry about her emotional needs or pay attention to her Bids For Attention or manage my own issues in order to save some resources to help her with her issues because she will just serenely take everything in stride."

I do not have infinite patience. Sometimes I feel insecure and need reassurance. Sometimes I get a little selfish. Sometimes I need to do coupley things even when I don't like being part of a "couple" just because sometimes it's fucking nice to have someone else around to go to movies with or to walk into a strange environment with as mutual support or who knows me well enough to finish my sentences.

Sometimes I just want to be someone's priority. Maybe not their only priority, or even not their absolute #1 priority (that should be themselves), but A Priority. Sometimes *I* want to be the whiny troublesome partner who needs looking after instead of looking after everyone else, always doing the emotional labor in a relationship, or stepping back politely while the metamours get all the attention and energy from our mutual partner leaving none leftover for me.

Sometimes I want someone else to be the designated grown up. Being good at relationshipping doesn't mean I'm flawless at it. But even people who know me IRL and who should know that forget it.

And, of course, it's hard to talk about publicly as a community leader, because when we're not flawless, we lose credibility. So I can't turn to my community for support because they're looking to me to uphold the example, and I can't go to my partners because they're the ones I'm having the problem with and the problem is that they think they can get away with not being there for me and shouldering some of the burden.

Fuck all that. I need care and feeding and attention too.



From my comments in my FB thread:

Like, solo poly doesn't mean NO poly. I'm still a fucking partner, I still need to be treated like one, not the backup plan or that old college buddy who will be there whenever you get around to calling them. ...

I feel like a polite "hey, pay some attention to me, please!" should be sufficient and I shouldn't have to be a squeaky wheel, at least not in a romantic relationship where, presumably, the other person *wants* to exchange attention with me. It's not like I'm a passive communicator who requires people to read between the lines and magically divine my thoughts to figure out what I want.

But when other people expect to only notice when relationships are on fire before they start fixing things because that's how everyone else gets noticed, my polite "hey, pay some attention to me, please!"s get lost in the chaos of the rest of their lives.

So then I wait until I'm pissed off, and when I finally start shouting, people get surprised to find out that I'm at the end of my rope over here and when did the fire even start, let alone turn into a blaze, and oh crap, did this relationship have to blow up when everything else is on fire too?

Well, yeah, if there had been routine maintenance done, then this one wouldn't be blowing up while they were busy being distracted by other fires to put out. The check engine light has been on for a long time now. Apparently I need to start adding annoying beeping to my check engine light, to prevent people from ignoring it just because there are no knocking sounds coming from the engine just yet.

Have I mixed my disaster metaphors sufficiently yet?

The big problem is that by the time I start becoming that squeaky wheel, I'm actually pretty done and ready to start withdrawing too. So it's often too late to fix anything by then.
joreth: (polyamory)
Here's why my Simple Steps workshop is so important (the workshop where I teach using lead and follow exercises to improve your relationship communication):

I went to an all-night dance event on a Friday - the day after I got fired from a gig over a medical condition. To say that I was having a bad week is an understatement. At that event, I had 2 friends there - one who dances and one who doesn't.

I met them both at roughly the same time. The dancer, I actually met a year or so ago, but only barely. He doesn't live in the US, he only visits here for a couple of months a year. So he came to a dance event once or twice last year, where I met him. I'm not sure I remembered his name until recently.

About 6 months ago, I started doing a weekly dance thing that I helped to organize with this dancer's father. Because it was his father's project, he attended the first couple of weeks even though that style of dance wasn't really his thing. Because it was a late-night sort of event, some of us night owls started staying afterwards to just chit chat. That's where I actually learned his name and set him apart from just "one of the dancers".

We didn't have any alone-time or any particularly intimate conversation, but we got to know each other well enough, and the others who stayed late to talk, that we have formed our own FB chat group to coordinate weekly get-togethers even though that weekly dance event is no longer.

At this same weekly dance event, I got to know one of the employees at the venue. Again, not very well, but we chatted a bit as I arrived and as I left every week, as did some of the other dancers. Then, when the dance event was canceled, we invited him to meet up with us after he got off work, since he really enjoyed seeing all of us dancers show up and now we weren't going to anymore. He and I have since had some *very* personal conversations and some intense alone-time, and we have gotten to know each other pretty well.

So, the day before this particular dance event is when I got fired from that gig. I realized 4 days later that I have officially slid back into my depression, complete with suicidal ideation. But on that Friday, I didn't realize I was heading towards depression, I just thought I was sad and upset over losing the gig, which is to be expected.

On Friday night (the next day), I went out dancing. The dancer friend was performing at the beginning of the event and I wanted to support him. That was enough motivation to push me through my growing depression and make myself leave the house. I fought my depression all night, and on at least 3 separate occasions, I nearly left to just go sit at home and cry. But I didn't. I pushed through and danced all night.

Dancing releases a lot of endorphins. It's a pretty strong mood elevator for me. But "mood" and "depression" are not the same thing, just ask Robin Williams. Once I started dancing, I got into a good mood. But the depression was still there, bubbling under the surface.

Here's my point...

My non-dancer friend remarked on how happy I looked. So I just smiled and mentioned the endorphins. Remember, I didn't recognize my depression yet, but I was a little surprised that the sadness wasn't showing through. I often post a "sneak peak" selfie of my outfits when I get dressed up and go out, and I think it's glaringly obvious in the picture I posted that night.

By the middle of the night after dancing for a few hours, I was feeling energetic and confident, and I was happy to see my friends. And this friend saw that.

But my dancer friend had one dance with me and knew something was wrong. And it was our best dance ever, yet he still knew.

He's a better dancer than I am, and I am new to this particular style of dance. So over the last few months, he's seen me go from unconfident, hesitant, and wooden, to relaxed and confident and trusting with him. So on Friday, we had our best dance ever. He was amazed and said we should have gotten it on video. And I mean it was a *good* dance - I looked like I had been taking lessons and practicing for months, when the reality is that I've never had a lesson in this particular style and I've really only danced it a couple handfuls of times in social settings.

But later, when we left the loud music and walked around outside in the quiet and the dark, the first thing he did was ask me what's wrong.

I was smiling, energetic, and *killing* it on the dance floor. But I was sliding into a depression. The friend who had some really intimate conversations with me couldn't see the depression. The dancer friend held me close for 3 minutes and, even though everything my body did was right, he still felt it.

This is why my workshop is important. With a dance partner, everything is out in the open, laid bare, raw, exposed, vulnerable. You can learn to read that, and honor that. Dance is one of the ways that can be learned.

And, of course, my workshop doesn't teach actual *dancing*, just the parts of dance that are relevant to that ability to communicate on such an intimate, intuitive level. No musicality or physical prowess or ability to memorize patterns necessary. Just pure, unfiltered flow of primal energy between two people.

He was able to read me that easily, in spite of not being a romantic partner and not knowing me very long or very well, because he is a Very Good Lead and I am a Very Good Follow. I can teach you the exercises that will guide you towards those leading and following skills.

But they take practice. He and I have been practicing, independently, for most of our adult lives. We did not need to practice with each other to learn how to read each other. We did, however, need to practice. A lot. For a long time.

My workshop will give you the tools to grow to this level of proficiency. But it's not a magic spell, where you whisper the incantation and move in the ritualistic movements one time and suddenly you're a good communicator. You have to practice the exercises that I will teach you after you leave my workshop.

And I promise, the amount of commitment you put into it will be proportional to the results you will get in the end.

Because he could read me with one 3-minute dance, through the endorphins brought on by physical activity, through my active processes to be pleasant and sociable and pretend like depression isn't a thing, through all the noise and distraction and other dancers, even through the sensuality and flirtatiousness of the dance and the barriers we all put up just for not knowing someone very well. 3 minutes of full body contact, and he knew.

You, too, can learn how to read the people you are close to. If you are driven enough to learn. And I can show you how.

Simple Steps For Better Relationship Communication with Joreth - available to come to your event! My next workshop will be at PolyDay North - SquiggleCon in Carlisle, England. Get your tickets now!
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: (polyamory)
Commitments Parchment
* I am committed to allowing the relationship to find its own structure and direction without forcing it into a predetermined shape and to considering alternate structures and directions before automatically resorting to breaking up when situations and priorities change.
I am committed to allowing the relationship to find its own structure and direction without forcing it into a predetermined shape and to considering alternate structures and directions before automatically resorting to breaking up when situations and priorities change.

This is the natural extension of the previous commitment. In addition to committing to being flexible with plans within a relationship, I want to be flexible about the relationship itself. As I mentioned before, I have a style of poly in my head that I idealize - the close-knit poly family. I need to be accommodating to the individual needs of each relationship and to make sure that the relationship follows its own natural path. Sometimes those paths twist and turn a bit. When they take a sharp left turn, it may not be necessary to get off the path entirely just because it's no longer going in the direction I thought it should. Sometimes, I may be able to follow a new path.

Just to make sure that metaphor was perfectly clear, I am reminding myself here that there are more than two states for romantic relationships - together or broken up. I have already established that I can accept a variety of relationship configurations and that I do not want to prescript my relationships. So here I am establishing that I will not let my relationship descriptions turn prescriptive once we get in them. If, some time into a relationship, one or the other (or both) of us decides that our life needs to look different than it currently does, I am reminding myself that it may be possible to simply readjust our relationship to look different too.

When I first started dating Franklin, we lived 3 miles away from each other. Then he moved to Gainesville. Then I moved to Orlando. Then he moved to Atlanta. Then he moved to Portland. If either of us had insisted that our relationship was a local relationship and could only be a local relationship, it would have ended with the first move to Gainesville a mere year or two into it. Instead, what I got was a long-distance relationship that has, as of this post, lasted more than a decade, brought me valuable life lessons, been a source of joy and comfort, taught me how to become the person I wanted to be, and introduced me to the people I consider my intentional family and those I feel the most connected to anywhere in the world (with the exception of my best friend, who I met through another partner).

When things change, I do not need to automatically reach for the breakup card. When things change, I can assess if we can change with it. The relationship may not be what we originally hoped it would be, but then again, it might be something just as valuable or more that we never anticipated if we give it room to just be.
joreth: (polyamory)
I just had an ah-ha moment - one of those things that I kinda already know but it somehow crystallized for me in a way that it hadn't before.

I come from an immigrant family.  It's true that both of the parents who raised me are natural born citizens, but my grandparents on my mom's side were immigrants (and POC at that, who never really learned English), and my grandparents on my dad's side were from that sort of white Norwegian immigrant type family that embedded their immigration status into their family identity, regardless of how many generations ago the actual migration happened.  Like, y'know, Minnesotans who still maintain ties with their second cousins from "the old country" and who are still baking the same old family recipes at county fairs and stuff.

Intellectually, I know that not everyone has the same kind of family ties that I was raised with.  I have the kind of family who still gets offended if their great-niece doesn't send her annual holiday letter every year, and the first time I drove across the country, I was required to stop by and meet my dad's father's sister-in-law's brother (who is my great-uncle by marriage) who my mom hadn't even met yet.  It would have been mildly offensive for me to not introduce myself while I was in the neighborhood.  Keep in mind that I hadn't even known of his existence until I announced the trip, but I sure as hell had to stop and say "hi" or risk ruffling some feathers (and as a product of this family, I thought it was kinda neat to meet family I didn't know I had).

I *know* that not everyone has these kinds of family connections.  But I just put it together that this was related to immigration.

I have drawn parallels before between polyamory and "normal" monogamous extended families.  People often ask me about scheduling in a poly relationship, and I always say that it's no more complicated than trying to schedule an extended family event.  When people seem to get stuck on that concept, it's clear that they've obviously never tried to get 3 uncles, an aunt, about 12 cousins, two grandparents who are divorced and don't speak to each other, a great aunt, a cousin-once-removed, two god-siblings and a god-nephew to Las Vegas for a wedding anniversary party.

And people look at me like I've just grown a second head - of course they've never tried to do that, who would try to do that?!

When I tried to explain to Franklin about the wedding guest list and the need for a large enough venue, he kind of boggled at me rattling off my list of relatives.  Why did we have to invite everyone?  Because of the family politics of *not* inviting someone! (Not that he actually balked at inviting people, but it didn't actually occur to *him* to invite second cousins and great-aunts and it certainly didn't occur to him that any of his relatives might get offended for not getting an invitation).

Meanwhile, I had to check in with him after the wedding to see if his sister was even notified that he had just gotten married.  He *thought* someone had told her.  I have no concept for this in my head.  My bio-mom's step-daughter's (from an ex-husband) cousins all heard (directly from me) about us getting married.  I can't even fathom the idea that a *sister* might have been told by someone, maybe.

So, I know that not everyone does family the way I do, but it didn't occur to me that this is, at least in some part, due to immigration.

If you look at recently immigrated families, you'll see some trends.  Often you will see entire sections of town devoted to preserving their culture, like having a "Chinatown" or a "Jewish" district.  Sometimes that's imposed from the outside, to keep the POC safely contained, but a lot of it is also because recent immigrants to a new country can rely on others of their nationality for support.  They might have immigrated in the first place because they already had family here.  Certain foods might be unavailable anywhere other than their own grocery stores.  They can be guided on naturalization, on language classes, on jobs that will hire them.  The schools in the area are more likely to understand and connect with the children who may be bilingual (or not yet speak English) and have different customs and foods and clothing.

To come to a foreign country is intimidating and there are often a lot of obstacles in the way of settling in.  So people who have had similar experiences, both with the immigration process and with their cultural background, often band together to form large extended family-like neighborhoods and communities.  People whose families have been here long enough for the descendants to no longer identify as a hyphenated-American, but simply as belonging to the US, don't have this same pressure to build and maintain ties to people whose ancestors came from the same place.

Not that they *don't* do that - the Daughters of the Revolution, for instance, is a good example of a purely US extended family construct that has many of these kinds of traits - pulling together as a community, pride in lineage, common cultural mores and foods and clothing and thoughts and behaviours, etc.

But if a person doesn't have, as part of their *identity*, the struggle to fit into an alien culture and needing those like them, even if not directly related, for support, that person may have an easier time adopting a "rugged individualism" sort of identity and maintaining ties with smaller groups like a nuclear family, and perhaps even experience a freedom of social mobility to move through communities and even physical locations without a sense of culture shock and loss of identity.

I have been told by several people that white people like to think that they made up this poly thing, but if you look at black culture, you'll see that something like polyamory has been around for much longer than the '90s when some neo-pagans coined the term, and longer than the Free Love movement that inspired them.  Sure, even white people will talk about how some form of non-monogamy has always existed, but talk of historical non-monogamy tends to be mostly made up of other white examples. While my POC friends point out that they've been doing this *in parallel*, not in response to or influenced by whatever it is that white people think is polyamory.

So, while black cultures can seem to be coming almost from the opposite direction as immigrants, seeing as how they didn't "immigrate" while trying to hang onto an old culture but instead had their culture stolen from them when their ancestors were stolen, the response seems to be to come towards the same place as immigrants - which is to build interconnected, dynamic, extended support networks of families. When you have nothing else, you at least have each other and your shared experiences as an unwanted "outsider" in a hostile land that you call "home".

So, when I was pulling out my usual "polyamory isn't any different from monogamy with extended families", it occurred to me that if anyone needed to develop better tools regarding extended family interpersonal relationships (like therapists, for example), one could look at the research on recent immigrant subcultures and communities in the US.

Which then led me to consider, if immigrant families are so prone to this kind of interconnected family networks, could that be where I picked it up?  My mom is from a recently immigrated, Mexican family, so yeah, probably there.  But what about my dad?  Oh, dad's Norwegian whose parents moved here from Minnesota, who are also pretty notorious for their in-group communities.  No matter how many generations have lived in the US, they still act like recent-immigrant communities, kinda like Jewish people do.

So, now this is a connection I have in my head that I can use to explain polyamory better.  To someone like Franklin, the idea of not talking to a sibling for months or years, or even needing to cut a sibling out for "differences of opinion" is an option that's totally on the table.  But for someone who comes from a Mexican family like mine, or a Chinese family, or an Indian family, the idea that, when two people get married, and the new spouse has a problem with the sister-in-law, the idea that the married couple can just stop talking to the sister because the "marriage comes first" isn't even an option.  It's not even considered, unless one is willing to cut ties with the whole freaking family.

You simply Do Not just drop someone who has a conflict with a romantic partner.  You fucking work it out, one way or another.  And, in some cases, it's the romantic partner who gets dumped.

I'm not saying we should stray too far in this direction where toxic and abusive familial relationships are maintained because they're "family" to the detriment of healthy romantic relationships.  But I am saying that this is a model, a framework, where (some) people understand that a romantic relationship is not the pinnacle of all relationships, and that interpersonal dynamics are complex and strong, and good conflict resolution skills are prized because winnowing down to just "the couple" is not considered the healthy option.

In poly relationships, when we make "the family" more important than the people in it, we stray into coercive territory.  But that's not what I'm talking about here - that's a whole other rant (which I've made several times before).  So I'm not talking about making the family more important than the people.

But I *am* talking about making the family at least AS important, if not moreso, than "the couple".  THAT dynamic needs to go.  That's a lesson we can learn from recent-immigrant communities.  The people in the relationships need to be more important than the relationship, but once that is prioritized, the *networks* of interconnected people needs to be at least as important as any given dyadic romantic "couple".

Because polyamory is not something that "couples" do, it's something that people do.  Your metamours are not people you can just drop when you're having your own issues inside your dyad, in the same way that your mother-in-law is not someone you can just cut out of your lives forever when you decide it's time to have a baby, to focus on your own nuclear family, or when you're having a time of stress between you and your partner.  In fact, calling on your mother-in-law when you start having children, or maintaining your connections with your siblings when you're romantic relationship is going through a rough patch are excellent tools for helping people get through those challenging times.

Poly networks can be an incredible tool for the same things.  When someone dies in a recent-immigrant community, everyone bands together to take some of the responsibility off of the grieving widow, for example - it's a trope to bring food to a funeral because, when this practice became popular, making food was a seriously time- and effort-intensive process (still can be) and if the person who died was the "breadwinner", a community can come together and make sure that people who are grieving, and potentially now out of income or labor to support the family, can still get fed.

And when the entire community pitches in, nobody is overly burdened.  When my grandfather died, my grandmother was not able to care for herself, so she got shuttled around from one of her child's households to another, adding an extra amount of food and financial obligation and labor to that nuclear family.  At least she had several children to keep passing her around to.

But if she had a *community*, with someone who could have dropped off a casserole every other day, and someone else who could have come by to play bridge with, and someone else who could have interfaced with the lawyers, etc., etc., none of her children's nuclear families would have been taxed to the point that she was needed to be "passed off" to someone else (the reason she only had her kids and no extended community has to do with my grandfather being an abusive patriarch type, but that's another story).

Or, as many other elderly people who didn't come from the kind of community-based background as my grandmother and didn't have nearly a dozen children who believed it was their obligation to take her in no matter what have had to rely on nursing homes and the kind of kindness of strangers that money can buy.

When I went into my suicidal depression, I had several people I could turn to, all with different ways of helping - the one who could show me love and affection, the one who could help me navigate the complicated medical system while looking for a counselor, the one who could just listen, etc.  When I found a low-income clinic that accepted my application for the most amount of financial assistance they had to offer ($10 therapy visits), and the counselor they assigned to me learned of me being poly, the first thing he asked was if the stress of multiple relationships was contributing to my depression.

I explained to him that my poly network was the only thing that *wasn't* contributing to my depression and, in fact, was actively helping by being my support network.  I could tell that this possibility hadn't even occurred to him (not that he was familiar with poly in the first place, but naturally the first thing he thought of when he heard "multiple partners" was stressful love triangle, jealousy, competition, superficial connections, etc.).

But, to me, it seems obvious that more people to love means more people to support me.  I credit a lot of my ability to grasp polyamory with my adoptive background too.  My parents instilled in me a very strong sense of "family is more than who you're related to, it's who you're connected to through love, not blood".  But a lot of people see adoption as a last resort, and not even that because they want children "of their own", they don't want to raise "someone else's kids".  And it occurred to me that part of my parents' ability to see adoption as "god's plan" for them and their adopted children as "theirs" might be related to the whole immigrant thing too.

The church I went to in high school was predominantly Filipino, with some Mexicans.  I sang in the church youth choir.  All of us choir kids called each other's parents "mom and dad", because, in our church, they were all our "parents" and we were all their "kids".  Lots of people in this area had adopted or raised "someone else's children" - siblings or children who were unwed teen parents that couldn't raise their children so they did instead, young cousins or their own siblings who had some kind of problem at home and needed to escape, their own kids' school friends with similar problems, a relative's child who lived in an area with poor schools so they took in the child to give them an address that allowed them to attend a better school, stuff like that.

For recent-immigrant families, seeing everyone as part of one big family is how we survived.  I think it gave my parents the ability to provide me with probably the most idyllic adoption story possible short of a Daddy Warbucks story, and that sense of family and my positive adoption experience gave me the ability to foster a healthy outlook on polyamory, one that sees the destructiveness and toxicity of couple-centrism and couple-privilege.

In recent-immigrant families, you can't isolate yourself down to just "the couple".  That's where you are in the most danger.  You can't lock yourselves into a "couple" because that leaves no room for family, friends, god, and community, and without those things, you can't survive.

Obviously, within monogamy, a "couple" is still important - you wouldn't want someone to "come between" a romantic couple by having more romantic connections, so the analogy starts to break down at that point.  But, even there, we have some room.  There is some precedence for "the mistress" being part of the family, or at least maintaining connection to the community.  As we see in The Color Purple, black families have had some romantic interconnectedness going on there too.

These things have happened, they're just not talked about in the same way as modern polys talk openly about polyamory.  A lot of times, kids grow up never really understanding that "Aunt" Sarah isn't someone's sister or a friend of the family that moved in to have help raising her kids, but her kids might be Daddy's kids too.  And in certain sorts of communities, while this might not be the norm or widely accepted, it has happened, and people are not thrown out for being "black sheep", because they're *family* and family is supported and helped to the best of the community's ability.

So I think we can look to the complex nature of recent-immigrant communities for some guidance and modeling of large, complex, interconnected networks of family systems.  And maybe all these damn "couples" can learn a thing or two by emulating the healthier aspects of communities with rich cultural traditions of extended families.

Lots of time, the Argument From Antiquity is a logical fallacy - just because it's "old", or "we've always done it", it doesn't mean that it's true or healthy or good for you.  But sometimes things are "always done" because it's a system that works.  Sometimes, it *is* in our better interests to "listen to our elders" and keep certain traditions alive - like valuing the larger family and not prioritizing couplehood over complex family network connections.
joreth: (Default)
I'm working on my memoir. I've always expected it to be published (like, on my blog or something) either post-mortem by a loved one, or at least near the end of my life. It always felt ... I dunno, presumptuous, to write a memoir while still young enough to have more stories to tell. I suppose if one had a particular segment of life that had an identifiable ending to it, that would make sense.

My memoir is basically a chapter-by-chapter review of my poly explorations, to see how I've grown and the mistakes I've made over time.  I'm also working on a book about breaking up. This is more of a how-to, self-help sort of break up manual. Although, to be honest, more than a little of the "do not do" stuff is shit that I've done (and the rest is shit that I've had done to me).

Recently, I wrote about having to block an ex over something that, by itself wasn't really a big deal, but was symptomatic of a larger picture of abuse, and then I ended up telling the whole tale of our breakup where he physically tried to restrain me from leaving.

As I get more informed about what abuse is and isn't, I look back over my history and I've come to recognize that more and more of my past relationships were abusive and I just never recognized it because, to me, that's just how relationships go, according to my expectations from my culture and the sheer commonality of the behaviour I've experienced.

Like, early on in my relationship with Franklin, we discussed something that I call Octopus-Hands - how I've been on dates, and just hanging out with "friends", who have suddenly tried to touch my breasts, and when I knocked their hands away, they grabbed for my crotch, and when I tried to block there, they used their other hand to go for the breast again...

Franklin was appalled. He couldn't even fathom that this would happen at all, let alone be common. When he expressed surprise, I responded with surprise at his surprise, telling him that this is just what it's like being a woman who dates men. Like, it surprised *me* that someone was surprised that it happens. I think it was my first sign that my experiences weren't "normal" - or rather, they were "normal" in the sense that they were common, but they're not "normal" in the sense that they're acceptable or universal.

I talk about my abusive ex, who didn't abuse me because I didn't "take" it but did abuse someone else, and I talk about my abusive ex-fiance who *did* sexually assault me and gaslight me on the regular. But I never considered that other ex, who tried to prevent me from leaving, and who did the whole pussy-grabbing-while-asleep-after-I-said-no-sex-tonight thing to be "abusive" until I wrote out the story recently.

The growing realization of just how many of my past experiences were actually, unambiguously abusive combined with my writing of a book on how to break up, and the periodic drive to get back to my memoir all combined at once yesterday to forge an idea that popped into my brain.

What if, after my how-to breakup book is published, I rewrite and release a serial publication of some sort detailing every breakup I've ever had (that I can remember)? Maybe I can crowdfund it, and each breakup will get its own release, perhaps on my blog, perhaps as an e-booklet or something? Might this be something people would be interested in?

If not, I'll end up publishing my original story anyway, probably as the original blog series, but later in life as planned. I was just struck by the confluence of subjects and events and wondered if I could connect all these things together.
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: (polyamory)
Couples wanting to "open up" their relationship for the first time (besides being impossible, because you can't just "open" an existing relationship and expect it to be exactly the same as before just with more people, you actually end up creating whole new relationships) often spend a great deal of time fantasizing and worrying about hypothetical future relationships with people they haven't met and have created in their minds, who they make up to be either their greatest fantasies or their biggest fears.

Then these couples go about looking for these hypothetical, mythical people. They simultaneously seek for some magical goddess (because it's usually a bi cis woman) that will fit their giant laundry list of qualifications, while seeing monsters peeking out from behind the eyes of everyone who doesn't fit that list.

What they're doing is overestimating the happiness that they expect to find with their mythical pet and overestimating the UNhappiness that they expect to find if their new pet doesn't meet all their criteria.

This is called Impact Bias.

"The impact bias is our tendency to overestimate our emotional reaction to future events. Research shows that most of the time we don’t feel as bad as we expect to when things go wrong. Similarly we usually don’t get quite the high we expect when things go right for us." - Jeremy Dean www.spring.org.uk/2008/05/why-youre-sucker-for-impact-bias.php

In other words, people are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy. (paraphrase of Franklin Veaux)

Impact Bias does several things, two of which are particularly relevant to polyamory:

1) When predicting how an experience will impact us emotionally, things we haven't experienced yet are REALLY difficult to accurately predict and we usually get it wrong.

2) We have our own "theories" based on our culture and our cultural experiences, and those "theories" are often wrong.

What all this means is that couples, if they want to find success in polyamory, need to be aware of Impact Bias in a similar way that they are told to be aware of NRE. They don't actually know what will make them happy, even though they feel really strongly that they do. They are likely basing those predictions on cultural assumptions. But those cultural assumptions come from our monogamous culture, which means that they don't apply to poly relationships.

Trying to apply mononormative assumptions over poly relationships tends to make them fail because poly relationships, fundamentally, run contrary to those very mononormative assumptions. The couple's background, past experiences, and cultural exposure are all conspiring against them to give them bad information when they make their predictions. Predictions made on faulty premises usually come out wrong.

When everyone in the forums is saying "stop focusing on a single bi woman to love you both equally in a live-in triad" and "all those rules aren't going to help you 'protect your relationship', just let go and trust", and the couples are feeling upset and defensive because hey! they've thought all this out and they know how they feel and what they want! ... no, you probably don't.

I mean, yes, you probably do feel all that fear and hope and desire, but it probably doesn't reflect reality. Everyone falls victim for Impact Bias, just like everyone falls for all the other cognitive biases. They're what our brains do. The advice for NRE is to feel what you feel, but keep in the back of your mind that it's a temporary state and likely an illusion so don't make any *real world plans* based on NRE because NRE is lying to you. Fiction can be a fun experience, even a meaningful, profound experience, but at the end of the day, it's still a fiction.

The same goes for this Impact Bias - feel your feelings, just know that they're probably lying to you so don't actually make plans based on them. You are probably overly optimistic about how happy you will feel if you find some magical unicorn with perfect boobs and a penchant for childcare, and you are very likely overestimating how terrible things will be if you try dating someone who doesn't meet all your criteria, like someone who is only interested in one of you or who maybe has a penis or doesn't want children.

So just relax, acknowledge your fears and your fantasies but let them go and just meet people. Dating someone a little different from all your rules probably won't be as bad as you think it will, and searching for The Perfect Match probably won't bring you as much happiness as you think it will - at least not enough to be worth the price of dehumanizing all your interviewees and missing out on other potential sources of happiness.
joreth: (being wise)
Logical Fallacies are difficult for people to wrap their brain around. We employ them all the time in regular conversation, in debate, and even in research.

"Begging The Question" is probably the most misunderstood logical fallacy name, because it's not just *not* understood, it's understood incorrectly. Most people use it to mean "that statement you just made leads us to ask a followup question..." But what it *actually* means is "that statement you just made assumes the conclusion in the premise, making it a circular argument".

A Loaded Question is a question which has a false, disputed, or question-begging presupposition behind it. Here's an example:
"To what degree have you and your partner discussed the boundaries or “rules” related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people?"
The way it's phrased, in particular "discussed THE boundaries or rules", this begs the question. This assumes that we have rules (and the word "boundaries" is used incorrectly here in this sentence too, which is another begging the question) related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people.

Because of this presumption, it can't really be answered if the premise is incorrect. If we don't have any rules telling each other what we can and can't do with other people, then how can we have had any conversations about it? But, of course, it *is* possible to have lots of conversations about things that we ultimately decide not to participate in. Except we can't answer "we have talked about this a lot" because then it implies that we do, indeed, have these rules in place when we don't. There isn't an option for "we have talked about this subject but we do not have any rules regarding this subject", because the person writing the question assumes the premise, and so did not provide any options to accommodate for a false premise option.

Now, had the question writer not had this assumption in mind when the question was written, it could have been written exactly the same but minus the word "the" - "To what degree have you and your partner discussed boundaries or 'rules' related to sexual and/or emotional connections with other people?" This is a general "have you discussed this topic" question. But, because of how English works, that article "the" implies a specific set of rules, while the absence implies a general "concept or subject of rules".

If we say "we discussed it a lot" under the original wording, then it implies we discussed *our* rules on what we can do with others a lot, but we don't have rules that needed to be discussed in the first place. If we say "we didn't discuss it at all" because we don't have rules, then it implies that we *do* have rules and we just didn't discuss them at all, we just went ahead and implemented them. Both assumptions are not only wrong, but things I actively want to combat about polyamory in general.

These kinds of things are really sneaky. Preset assumptions and biases sneak into all kinds of things, usually without our notice. Lots of times, when we read or hear things like this, we know that something is wrong and we have an emotional reaction to what was just said, but we can't always deconstruct *why* we know it's wrong and *why* we're feeling emotional about it.

Someone who has incorrect presuppositions and asks Loaded Questions gets to "just ask questions" while people get pissed off about it, and they don't ever understand why everyone is mad at them and the people who are mad can't always even explain why it was so angering. It's because we can tell that you have an embedded assumption. You're not "just asking questions", you're revealing what you think about the people you're "just asking questions" of.

This question is not a particularly offensive or antagonistic one. It just happened to be a pretty decent example of several things at once: of the logical fallacy, of how people get that logical fallacy wrong, and of how subtle this fallacy can play out and how simple it can be to correct for, as long as we know what to look for. We often use the really obvious example of "when did you stop beating your wife" when we talk about this logical fallacy because it's crystal clear how there is no good answer to that question that won't get you in trouble and it's so obviously an offensive question.

A loaded question is a question with a false or questionable presupposition, and it is "loaded" with that presumption. The question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" presupposes that you have beaten your wife prior to its asking, as well as that you have a wife. If you are unmarried, or have never beaten your wife, then the question is loaded.

Since this example is a yes/no question, there are only the following two direct answers:

"Yes, I have stopped beating my wife", which entails "I was beating my wife."
"No, I haven't stopped beating my wife", which entails "I am still beating my wife."

Therefore, either direct answer implies that you have beaten your wife, which is a presupposition of the question. So, a loaded question is one which you cannot answer directly without implying a falsehood or a statement that you deny. For this reason, the proper response to such a question is not to answer it directly, but to either refuse to answer or to reject the question.

Which makes supporting and participating in research on polyamory very difficult when their questions are written as Loaded Questions with false, disputed, or question-begging presuppositions behind their premises.

That famous scene from My Cousin Vinny where the lawyer asks the girlfriend a question that's "impossible to answer" is also a Loaded Question, and he doesn't even know that it's a trick question that can't be answered as-is (at least, that's how it's played in the scene, IMO). He didn't know the answer (I believe), he was just banking on the fact that she wouldn't know it either (mansplaining). Since he didn't know the answer, he made a lot of assumptions in his question, like that Chevy made a Bel Aire in 1955 or that it came in 327 cubic inch engine.


joreth: (cool)
I think my parents are finally getting the hang of this whole poly thing.

Since we got married (at my parents' house), my parents finally remember and recognize Franklin as my partner.  Because he's always been long-distance to me, he isn't in a lot of my pictures that I post online and I don't have a lot of "we did this thing last weekend" stories about him, so it was easy for my parents to "forget" that I'm dating him.  But now he's a legal spouse, so that "counts" to them.

During the whole wedding extravaganza, they had a chance to meet Ben, who is our Squiggle Designated Extrovert and can charm the pants off of anyone (especially girlfriends' mothers).  Both of my parents just fell in love with Ben, who made himself indispensable during the wedding by filling in the gaps wherever someone was needed.  Ben has the same sort of "family" connection that I do, which is that family-of-origin of the partner is important so he makes friends with parents & siblings of partners that even outlast the romantic relationships.  I still send holiday cards to my high school boyfriends' parents.

So now they can't pick just one of my partners as the "real" one, because Franklin is the spouse and the person I've been with for 13 years and Ben left such an impression on them that they continue to text each other directly just to see how each are doing.

I had to actually reassure my parents that neither I nor Franklin would feel slighted if my parents developed a friendship with Ben because of his outgoing, friendly nature that makes him so easy to like.  They were concerned that we would feel that they were undermining or dismissing our married relationship by befriending Ben, so I got to have yet another poly talk with them about the independent nature of solo poly relationships and the solid self esteem of both of my partners who do not take things personally when people like or dislike the other one because it has nothing to do with them personally.

Now my parents actually tell me to pass along their hellos and well-wishes to both partners!

#polyamory #ItOnlyTook20YearsButTheyMightFinallyBeGettingIt #ParadigmShift
joreth: (polyamory)
One of my ongoing rants is the anti-polyness of pop songs. With only a very small exception of artists who do an excellent job with music production and in that "it factor" in writing music, most of the songs that are written by poly people as poly songs are really pretty terrible songs, quality-wise. The recording quality is terrible, they don't have the full range of instruments to make a good, round sound, and the lyrics, while they rhyme, aren't really all that catchy.

Say what you will about the banality of pop lyrics, but they're catchy and they stick, which is what makes the songs popular.

Popular music (through the ages and genres, not just Britney's and Justin's music) is popular for a reason. It's well produced, it's catchy, the combination of instruments and vocals blend into pleasing sounds, and if the lyrics themselves aren't exactly high poetry, they're memorable and they flow.

So I've long said that what we ought to do is just record parodies of popular music with poly themes - people would be much more willing to listen to it, I think. Of course, we'd still need decent recordings, but we already know that the melody will be liked.

So, here's an excellent example: One of my favorite songs is Pink's Leave Me Alone, I'm Lonely. I think it's an EXCELLENT example of what it's like to be solo poly, except the song is clearly not poly. It has one line that explicitly excludes multiple partners. But, it also means that there is really only one line that needs to be altered to make it a solo poly anthem. And it's ridiculously easy to change this line too...

I don't wanna wake up with another
But I don't wanna always wake up with you either

to:

I might wanna wake up with another
You might not wanna always wake up with me either

So now we just need someone who can do justice to a Pink song to get the karaoke track and a decent mic and record this very slightly changed song to make a *really* good solo poly song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtEwKSFdA-Y



Go away
Give me a chance to miss you
Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you

I love you so
Much more when you're not here
Watchin' all the bad shows
Drinking all of my beer

I don't believe Adam and Eve
Spent every goddamn day together
If you give me some room there will be room enough for two

Tonight
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely
I'm tired
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely tonight

I might wanna wake up with another
You might not wanna always wake up with me either
No you can't hop into my shower
All I ask for is one fuckin' hour

You taste so sweet
But I can't eat the same thing every day
Cuttin' off the phone
Leave me the fuck alone
Tomorrow I'll be beggin' you to come home

Tonight
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely
I'm tired
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely tonight

Go away
Come back
Go away
Come back

Why can't I just have it both ways
Go away
Come back
Go away

Come back
I wish you knew the difference
Go away
Come back

Go away
Give me a chance to miss you
Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you

Go away
Give me a chance to miss you
Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you

Go away
Give me a chance to miss you
Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you

Tonight
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely
I'm tired
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely tonight

Tonight
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely
I'm tired
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely tonight

Tonight
Go away
Give me a chance to miss you
Leave me alone I'm lonely

Alone I'm lonely
Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you
I'm tired

Go away
Give me a chance to miss you
Leave me alone I'm lonely
Alone I'm lonely

Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you
Tonight
Go away

Give me a chance to miss you
Say goodbye
It'll make me want to kiss you

joreth: (polyamory)
If you ever want to see just who is willing to put their money where their mouth is in terms of poly "equality" and "our others are just as important to us as we are to each other", ask if they'd be willing to divorce in order to give one of those other partners legal protections, rights, and obligations, and see how quickly people justify that their need for legal protection is necessary for life and more important than anyone else's need.

Usually the conversation goes like this:

Me:   So, you want your metamours to feel "equal", but you won't divorce so they can marry, huh?

Them:   We can draw up legal documents to make them equal if necessary.

Me:  OK, so then why not divorce and let them marry and YOU draw up legal paperwork to make yourself "equal"?

Them:   Because there's this thing I need that I can only get from marriage.

Me:  ...

Me:  So, you're saying that legal contracts can't give you the same things?

Them:  [without noticing the irony] No, I have to stay married to get this thing.

Me:  0.o

Me:  ::blinkblink::

Me:  So, much like why gay people wanted marriage and said that civil unions were not good enough and they were being treated like second class citizens and did not have equal rights, maybe that's partly why people say you have couple privilege and why they don't want to date couples and why they don't feel truly equal?

Them:   No but they are! We totally love our OSOs as much as each other!

This is why it's about power, not emotions or priorities.

#ItIsEqualAsLongAsIAmNotTheOneToSacrifice #ButItIsDifferentWhenIDoIt #ButIHaveTheGreaterNeed #UntilYouDoNot #ButWhatAboutTheChildren #InATrulyFairSystemSometimesYouHaveToBeTheDisadvantagedOne #WeDoEgalitarianPolyAndDoNotBelieveInCouplePrivilege #ExceptOnlyOurKidsGetHisHealthInsurance #WhatWeAlreadyDecidedNoKidsWithAnyoneElseAnyway #ButWeAreTotallyEgalPolyAndOurSecondariesAreEqual #OopsDidISaySecondariesOutLoud?
joreth: (being wise)
So, this is interesting. I'm putting together a playlist of love songs that don't suck. Basically, I just want songs that are merely absent of exclusivity in their lyrics and absent of promises of forever. And I'm grading those criteria gently. I recognize that, while I have found tons of songs that *technically* qualify as poly-ISH, in that they're explicitly about multiple partners in one way or another, most of those songs actually suck. They are either poorly produced, or they're joke or satire, or they're just badly written.

So if I want to get all schmoopy with music, I'll settle for songs that I can apply to any individual partner because they don't actively prohibit the presence of others outright or they don't violate autonomy by making promises that can't be kept and so reasonably shouldn't be made. In other words, if I can't have good quality "I love you and you and you" or "I love you, but not to the exclusion of the others I also love" in songs, then I'll take "I love you but without 'forever' and 'only you'".

So, now to my point.

I had the song I'll Be by Edwin McCain in my library. But as I added it to my YouTube playlist, I thought "why don't I just double check the lyrics, in case I'm missing some context that plain text might help me see?"

When I looked up the lyrics, I started to get a little wibbly about its inclusion in the list, what with it's line about "love suicide" and its future tense implying a promise. So I looked up the meaning of the song, and I learned that it was never intended as a love song, but of a guy processing his feelings during a breakup.

And, ironically, his explanation actually made me feel better about including it as a love song that doesn't suck.
"It was the end of a relationship for me, and it was also an admission of my inability to function in a relationship, hence the love suicide line. And it was the hope that I would be better, grow and be better as a person. I was struggling with some personal problems at the time, as well, so it was all of those things. It was this admission of failure and this prayer that I could be a better person, wrapped up as sort of the end of a relationship kind of thought. "
To me, an admission of one's faults that contributed to the demise of a relationship and the motivation to become a better person through one's experience in a relationship IS a song about love. Maybe the relationship ended, but he is taking responsibility for his own part in the demise, he is using the experience to be a better version of himself and to grow, and he is not holding onto bitterness when he says he'll continue to be a fan of her and her work. Those are very loving acts.

I wish all breakups were as positive as that, even though this particular breakup was traumatic for him. Some breakups are relatively painless (but likely a little bit uncomfortable), and some are just fucking torture. But if this is how we come away from them, regardless of how much they hurt to go through, I will have considered that a successful ending (or "transition").
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)
https://medium.com/@PolyamoryINC/the-most-skipped-step-when-opening-a-relationship-f1f67abbbd49
"What you didn’t realize when you were living in the cocoon of a monogamous relationship is how much of a monogamous relationship is a favorable breeding ground for codependence. ...

Disentanglement will help 90% of that go away. And it’s rather simple. And you can do it all before you ever go on a single date.

Step 1 - Pick a night, any night, and leave. ...

Step 2 - Make the night random. ...

Step 3 - Get comfortable having to ask each other for date nights. ...

Step 4 - Now, and only now, ease into dating other people."

This. Thisthisthisthisthis.

All of this.

There is only one thing I would amend this with:

This article is about not subsuming your identity into your relationships (usually into your couple) and how avoid doing that. It calls this a single step - disentanglement - but then goes on to give 4 steps on how to disentangle yourselves from a codependent (read: monogamous) relationship. It even insists that people who intend to remain monogamous learn how to disentangle themselves for their own relationship health, which I totally agree.

In the last step, you finally get to the part where you "open up" your relationship and start dating people. I totally agree that you should do all this other work first, so the dating part will be a long, slow process because you have to do this other stuff first.

This article *does* point out that people have trouble keeping to plans and to learn to forgive yourself for not following the timeline exactly. So what I'd like to amend is really very nitpicky and only because I've seen people who don't engage in polyamory in good faith abuse this otherwise well-intentioned advice.  But I think it's *really* important, important enough to mention.

The article insists that you start out dating slow - only once a month, and then not until a few months in do you start kissing, and another month in for making out, etc. What I don't want to see happen is for couples to make "agreements" that they won't have a date night with a new partner more than once a month for 4 months, and then they won't kiss their new partner until month 5, and they won't start making out with their new partner until month 6, etc.

This guideline is supposed to teach you how to *disentangle* yourself from your partner. If you start making *agreements* with each other that dictate what you can and can't do with people who are not present there to negotiate the agreement, and when you can and can't do them, that's the exact opposite of learning how to disentangle yourself.

Yes, please learn how to be an independent individual while partnered before you stick your toes in the poly pool. PLEASE do this first! But don't then undo all that work by sitting down with your spouse and making "agreements" with each other about how quickly or slowly your forays into dating will go.

The point of the slow speed in the article is to make sure that you really learn to disentangle yourselves first, to give yourselves time to become full people again, and not these weird amalgamated conjoined spouses. The point of the slow speed is not to then yank yourselves back together with agreements that dictate other people's behaviour, particularly if it feels contrary to the wants and desires of those people who are behaving and who aren't the one enforcing the agreement.

Yes, we absolutely want you to take things slow - as slow as you need to! Just don't shoot yourselves in the foot by doing exactly the opposite of the whole point of this advice, which is to become independent people. Don't follow up all that hard work learning how to be whole and complete with some kind of "rule" or "agreement" to connect you back together again.

The article even says that this monthly timeline thing is a *guideline*. If you don't happen to have anyone of interest when you're ready for this step, then make it a *personal* goal to try dating once a month because that's a pretty reasonable goal to start with. But then once you meet someone and you're ready to start dating them, make sure you talk to them directly about your concerns and your process and decide *with them* how frequently the two of you will share this experience together.

Because let me tell you, as the new partner feeling New Relationship Excitement, seeing you, their new love interest, only once a month *fucking sucks*.  It's going to feel like torture not seeing you for a whole month, doubly so if the reason is because "I made a promise to my spouse and they won't let me go out with you more often" (which adds resentment on top of the yearning), so get their input on how often they want to see you and how often you are both available to see each other before making any decisions about frequency.

Then you can let your existing partner know what you've *decided* with your new partner and work with your existing partner on reassuring them or compensating for your time apart, or whatever it is that needs to happen so that the decision *you've made with the new partner's input* can be acted on with consideration.

Remember, the whole point is to become independent people engaged in an interdependent relationship. Don't undo all your hard work with old, codependent habits.

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: (Xmas Kitties)
I don't understand the question of how do poly people decide whose family to visit for holidays.

Or rather, I understand the question in the sense that I understand English, but the underlying premise that assumes that making holiday decisions is somehow *different* for poly people than everyone else is what I don't understand. Strike that. I "understand" even that premise, what I'm trying to say is that why *they* don't see that their question has this premise and why it's problematic is frustrating for me.

Every time someone asks that, I just think "did you really grow up with a mom and a dad who were still married to each other and literally no other family anywhere so that your family never had to answer this question at any point during your childhood? Do families like that actually exist? Because I know they're not the norm."

And I ask that as a child of two parents who got married to each other right out of high school and remain married to this day and who actually *do* live in a city with no other blood relatives in the same city. Because we still had family nearby, and we still made family-of-choice out of friends and neighbors, as most people do.

There was always a question in my home growing up - do we visit mom's sister an hour away, mom's adult nephew's family about half an hour away, dad's brother about 2 hours away, dad's sister, dad's mother or dad's father (who were divorced) - all about 7 hours away, mom & dad's best friends or mom & dad's other best friends (in our city), or the godparents a couple of neighborhoods over?

My parents solved that one by putting out hors d'oeuvres and having everyone else and the neighbors (literally) drop in at our house throughout the day if they could.

This isn't a poly problem but a people problem of any "nuclear family" growing up and starting families of their own which makes the whole concept of "family" into this giant branching tree with conflicting schedules and priorities. My dad grew up in a nuclear family but once he and his siblings became adults, there were 5 new "nuclear" families to consider.

My mom also grew up in a nuclear home, but when her generation became adults, that made 8 more nuclear families to visit. So when my mom and dad created their own nuclear family, they were still connected to their own nuclear-family-of-origin but being adults that meant 13 different households.

Since "who to visit for the holidays" isn't a poly problem, growing up we did what everyone else did - made decisions for each holiday based on a million different variables including time, money, distance, children's school schedules, who we saw last year, and then we try to pack as many of everyone who didn't get eliminated by conflicting schedules, finances, or priorities into one event.

I handle poly holidays the same way I handled holidays while monogamous - talk with everyone involved, see who wants to host and who wants to travel, balance time and money against preferences, and make decisions based on all of that information every time a question of "who to visit during the holidays" comes up. It's a different answer every time even one of those variables changes, and most years at least one of those variables is guaranteed to change.

With so many families scattered around the country and around the globe, usually the problem is pretty simply sorted out by who is even in physical proximity to visit in the first place. Most years, that doesn't leave us with more than 2 or 3 options, logistically speaking, and house-hopping is totally an option with so few choices to reasonably choose from.

But honestly? If I could make the whole country scale way back on how important these damn holidays are and just spend the time quietly at home, away from repetitive holiday music and obligatory gift exchanges, I'd rather do that. Or better yet, working.  My friends and I manage to find plenty of reasons to host large food-centered gatherings so if it's the food and the gathering part that I wanted, I don't need an over-commercialized holiday shoved down my throat to get it.

But, back to the point. Most of the questions I get about polyamory can quite easily be answered with "I dunno, how do YOU deal with it? Because it's probably pretty similar to how you do things."

Since the question isn't really the question. The *real* question is "but are you even people? How do you people if you're not people?"
joreth: (boxed in)

I'm working on an analogy of privacy vs. secrecy vs. transparency. I looked *everywhere* through my blog to find some post talking about the difference between these 3 things. I'm *sure* I've talked about it before, but it seems to have only been in comments and not archived here anywhere. I could find a couple of posts where I'm railing against Those Couples who tell each other "everything" where they think it's acceptable to "protect their relationship" by violating other people's privacy, but nothing that that merely described the difference between the 3 terms (that people often use interchangeably) and nothing that defended either privacy or transparency.

There's also a recent Poly Weekly episode with Casey Blake, who talks about the difference, but I'd have to go back and listen to the whole episode to find the specific quotes. I think she also talks about it in her book, which I'd now like to read. The analogy is coming up at the end. But first, a story that I usually tell to illustrate the point:
 



I once dated this guy, who had an ex-girlfriend. She and I used to be friends, until I started dating him about a year after they broke up. Apparently I broke the Girl Code by dating a friend's ex-boyfriend. Then she actually got me blackballed from the local union office in that town so that I couldn't work anymore (all 3 of us worked in the industry together). Anyway, I thought they both brought out the worst in each other, so I didn't start dating him until we ran into each other a year later and he said he wanted her completely out of his life because he recognized they were bad for each other, and while we were dating, I was opposed to him even being friends with her, let alone getting back together (for the millionth time).

One day, we were hanging out at my place, just catching up and talking about our lives. He mentioned "the other day", but was kind of dodgy about it. I asked some questions, as I do when I'm engaged in my partners' stories and want to know about who they are and what they do in their lives. His answers were even more dodgy. So I started asking questions as I do when I'm suspicious that I'm not getting the full story.

After a bit, he got all pissed off at me for "prying", so I got all pissed off at him for keeping secrets. What could he possibly be doing that he would actively lie to me to keep me from finding out? Finally, he blurted out that he had spent the day with his ex because she had a run-in with her abusive mom* and since he had a similar upbringing and they originally bonded over that shared abusive childhood, she called the only person she knew who she could talk to about it. So he listened to her and comforted her.

But that was supposed to be a secret, and now I "forced" him to divulge "private" information about someone who didn't agree to telling me those details. He yelled at me about not respecting "privacy" and now look what I had made him do. So I blinked at him a moment, and then said "you didn't have to tell me her secrets. You didn't have to tell me the details of her trauma. All you had to say was that she had a personal thing that she needed to talk to someone about, and it's a thing she feels safe talking to *you* about, and that's how you spent your day. I don't need to know anything about *her* intimate life, I wanted to know about *your day*."
 



It's not actually that hard to maintain privacy (yours or someone else's) while still maintaining transparency in a relationship. A simple "yes, there is something, but I don't want to talk about it," usually suffices. Also "that's not my story to tell, I'm sorry." Also, "I spent time with a friend who is going through some shit that they don't want me to share, but that's where I was the other day for 5 hours." Admit that there is *something*, acknowledge that you are not going to share the details, and then let it go. Privacy and transparency at the same time.

I tell this story frequently as an illustration of the difference between privacy and secrecy, so it really ought to be a permanent page here in the blog for future reference. But I also want something pithy to trot out that's a little more lighthearted, a little more memorable, a little more repeatable. Kinda like my "polyamory is multiple loves, there may or may not be marriage / polygamy is multiple marriages, there may or may not be love" slogans.

I haven't gotten the pithy part down yet, but I did get the concept out. I'm hoping that writing it out here, for the first time, will give me something to refer back to, and then refine over time as I use it in conversation more and more, and eventually I'll find a way to boil it down to something meme-able.

Every mother I know has made jokes about not knowing what it's like to pee without an audience for the first 5 years of a child's life.

Privacy is your partner being able to go to the bathroom without an audience.

Transparency is knowing what they're doing in that bathroom and that it doesn't hurt you or them (i.e. they really are peeing, not doing drugs or sneaking cigarettes or scheduling a date to cheat on you), but you don't need to watch or hear the details about it because that's their business.

Unless, y'know, you have that kind of relationship where you talk about your bathroom habits. *Shrug* I'm not judging. But it's your partner's bathroom habits, so it's your partner's call on what to share. But they don't *have* to share, because they're transparent about the fact that they're going to the bathroom.

Secrecy is not telling you that they go to the bathroom and taking measures to keep you from finding out that they use the bathroom, whether they are using drugs in the bathroom or really just peeing.

Now, when it comes to other people -

Privacy is your partner's other partner being able to go to the bathroom while your partner is visiting them without you witnessing it or getting a text update about it. Even if their bathroom habits differ from yours.

Transparency is knowing that your partner and their other partner do, indeed, go to the bathroom (separately) when they spend time together, but you don't *need* to know the details - you're aware that it happens because you know they're both humans who use the loo occasionally.

Secrecy is your partner refusing to admit that their other partner uses the bathroom, like ever, or that they leave the door open to use the bathroom when they visit even though you don't care if they leave the door open or shut and you already assume that they use the bathroom because they're human, or maybe they refuse to divulge that they do other things in the bathroom - dangerous things - that could harm themselves, your partner, or even you by extension, so that you don't have the information necessary to make informed decisions about your own body or relationship with your mutual partner given the context.

Everyone deserves the right to pee without an audience (unless they want an audience, and then they ought to find an audience who wants to *be* an audience). Everyone deserves to know that their partners do, in fact, pee because not peeing means they're probably not human and that's kind of important information. Nobody should deliberately, through lies, omission, or obfuscation, keep anyone else in the dark about the fact that pee happens.



* She doesn't actually have an abusive mom. I changed the nature of her trauma to protect her privacy, even though this was more than a decade ago and we haven't spoken to each other since before then. But it was a trauma of similar enough kind or similar enough intensity that this will suffice.

joreth: (polyamory)
I write a lot about the non-possessiveness of love.  This was my latest comment on someone's FB post:

I cannot share my partners because my partners are not my possessions to share. Their body, minds, emotions, and time do not belong to me, they belong to them and them alone, and THEY choose to share THEMSELVES with me (and anyone else).

What they choose to give of themselves to others is not something taken away from me because it was never mine to begin with.

What they give of themselves to me is a gift. And only when received without entitlement and without obligation does it remain a gift. Otherwise it is a tithing, and I am nobody's lord and master to be tithed to.

We are equal partners in this partnership. That which I choose to share of mine, I share freely. That which they choose to share of theirs with me, they share freely. Together, it blends into a wonderful new entity that is our relationship.

But always it is made up of mine and theirs, and we each retain sole ownership of ourselves - our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our time - to share with whom we choose.

Nobody can take that away from me which is not mine to begin with. My partners are not mine to share, they share themselves with me, and that is exactly what makes relationships so special, so unique, and so irreplaceable.
joreth: (polyamory)

I'm going through my blog, looking for a particular entry, so I'm coming across some old writings and I found this paragraph:

"I went after something that, at the time, I felt I needed to help cope with all my chaos and loss and pain. And it did help. It was honestly the right thing for me at the time and I don't regret it at all. It directly led to another series of events that eventually contributed to my healing, and to pulling myself out of the bleakness that was consuming me. It turned out to be absolutely necessary for me, although I couldn't have known that at the time - I thought it was something I should do, but I didn't realize how it would start a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to saving my life. The details are not mine alone to share, even anonymously, but I will also say that the thing I "went after" is not actually the thing that I was accused of doing that lead to my partner "Flipp[ing] the Fuck Out". But I did pursue another relationship, and its progress frightened my abusive ex."

It got me to thinking.

I see a lot of "my partner is doing / wants to do this new, scary thing and I don't want them to!" posts in the forums. Sometimes they're asking how to make their partner stop, and sometimes they're asking how to learn to be OK with the thing. I don't want to focus on what they "should" do, because, honestly, it depends on the context.

But I want to address their fear from the perspective of the partner who wants to do / is doing something "scary".

As I mention in this post, and in a lot of other posts that I make on the subject, I went through a turbulent period. I lost everything important in my life at the same time - I lost my place to live and then had to escape from a "friend" who offered to "rescue" me but turned out to be a monster who tortured my cats, and from there I moved 7 times in 2 years because I *kept losing my place to live* through circumstances beyond my control.

If you've never lived in the kind of poverty where the very basics of life such as "shelter" are uncertain, you can't know what this kind of uncertainty does to one's psyche. I've now been in my current apartment for 4 years and I *still* keep all of my things in file boxes on the shelves because I'm afraid I'm going to have to bug out again with no notice.

But, more than that, I have this sort of apathetic distrust of the world. I now expect that people will fail me and abandon me and that life as I know it will get turned upside down, and that this is just how life is and there is nothing I can do about it.

When I was a kid, my parents were lower-middle class. We lived in the suburbs, I went to a private school, didn't have to buy my first car, but my parents were just barely making an income to support their lifestyle. They didn't live above their means, they lived just barely at it. They never got into trouble, they never had their home foreclosed on, they always kept their head just above water. But there were some months that were tense.

My situation now is nothing like that. To live with that level of uncertainty seems to me like a fantasy, like real people don't actually live like that. I aspire to be so wealthy that I can sit up late at night in my spacious kitchen, balancing a checkbook and finding corners to cut so that the kids don't notice how tight the belt is. To me now, that's a level of wealth that's as unattainable as gold-plated toilet seats. And yet, that's my entire childhood experience.

Back to the point - I was experiencing a devastating series of losses. In addition to my unstable living situation, I also lost both of my cats, who had been with me since I first moved out of my parents' home. They were more than just pets. They were part of my transition to adulthood. They were my source of comfort and companionship. I can't overstate my bond with my cats, it was so strong. And I lost them both almost exactly within a month of each other, thanks to that White Knight who decided that he didn't want me there after all and took it out on my cats instead of just telling me to get lost.

On top of that, someone who I had very strong feelings for years and years ago but who had hurt me very deeply, had come back into my life and seemed to be hinting that he could make up for the hurt and offer me some solace and comfort and love that I felt I was missing. And then that person almost immediately took that offer away just when I was starting to trust that the offer was real, by announcing that he was moving to another state.

Plus, the nation was in an economic "recession" and I was not working as much as I needed to pay the bills, let alone put down deposits on all these apartments I had to keep moving into (and out of).

I was living in a quicksand bog with giant attack rats hiding behind every tree and random geysers that shot fire whenever I stepped near them.

At this time, my then-partner was going through his own shit. As I predicted, he had taken on too many partners and they were consuming his time and attention. What I *didn't* predict was that the reason they were consuming his time and attention is because it takes a lot of extra effort to manipulate and control multiple partners, particularly when one of them is resistant to that control.

So he was abusing one of his partners, and she went "crazy". His life was filled with arguments that he thought they had resolved, only to have her bring them up again and again. So all his spare time was taken up by her and her "erratic" behaviour, and all his other partners started to get pissed off that he wasn't available to them. I was allotted 10-minute increments of his time in phone calls 3 times a week. That was the extent of our relationship.

I detail all of this to explain how utterly chaotic my life was and just how dark things got. I spiraled into a suicidal depression. I actually got to the planning stage, where I started trying to tie up loose ends, get my various passwords to people so they could access my social media accounts to make announcements, my bank account to handle my post-mortem financial obligations, my list of Important People so that family and friends would get notified, etc.

Before it got quite this bad, though, when I was still on this path but not at the destination, I felt a pull to do some things. I didn't yet recognize that I was slipping into a depression. I didn't yet recognize what was so valuable about these things that I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to do them, and I wanted to do them very strongly.

These things were very scary to my then-bf who, unbeknownst to me, believed he was right to control his partners when they did scary things. Well, not *totally* unbeknownst ... there were red flags, I just had on rose colored glasses that render the bright red grey.

When I first started dating him 3 years prior, I had 2 other partners - 1 who he had known for over a decade and was friends with him, and another who he didn't know very well but had a decent reputation in the poly community and was *extremely* conservative in his dating practices.

The partner that my abusive ex had known before me was a long-distance partner who I saw only once or twice a year, at best. The other partner only had 2 girlfriends (me and another), had been with us both for a long time, and his other gf had her own conservative sexual history.

There's this phenomenon in the poly community, where people with insecurities seem to have no problem "sharing" their partner with people who came before them, but who then freak out whenever someone new comes along. It's because the preexisting partners are part of the initial calculus when deciding on beginning a relationship, but new partners are a *change*.

People, as a general rule, are frightened by change. We are more comfortable with known variables. Coming to us with existing partners is a known variable. We set up our expectations based on what *is*, right now, so when a new partner comes along, that upsets the status quo and changes the expectations. We don't usually like that.

In the 3 years that I was with that abusive ex, I lost the local partner almost immediately (because he also couldn't deal with the change of me dating the abusive ex - not that either of us knew he was abusive at the time), so I was only dating my long-distance partner and nobody else.

So even though I'm solo poly with a HUGE rap sheet of dating partners, I was, in effect, basically monogamous with this abusive ex. I had an LD partner who I never saw, so the abusive ex could almost forget that he existed, except to capitalize on the fame-by-association he got for being metamours with him, and I had the abusive ex, and that was it, except for group sex that included the abusive ex's own branch of the network. I could focus all my relationship energy on the abusive ex because I wasn't *dating* anyone else, even though I was technically connected to a couple of others.

He got used to that. For 3 years, that's how it was. I don't actually need a whole lot of partners in my life. I don't really have the time or attention for that. I need the *freedom* for multiple partners, but one or two healthy relationships and *maybe* a couple of casual hookups every year or so is pretty good for me. I can get by on just one, long-term, satisfying relationship for years, especially when my sex drive tanks for months at a time.

So then the abusive ex became unavailable, and then all that chaos happened. And I needed ... something. I found myself drawn to a couple of experiences that frightened my abusive ex. In our entire relationship of several years, this was the first time I had ever taken on a new partner, or wanted to. This was the first time he had ever had to deal with how, when, and why I take on new partners.

And he really didn't like it.

So he sought to prevent me by pulling out all the usual SJW, "enlightened" poly language - I was hurting him, I was disrespecting his "boundaries", I didn't care about his feelings, you're supposed to move only as fast as the slowest person in the group, I need to consider the safety of everyone else in the group, I need to consider group cohesion and how these new experiences fit (or didn't) into the style of the group, everyone else in the group needs to have a vote on what I do because it affects them, etc.

I needed to have these experiences for me, but he turned them entirely from things that happened to me into things that I DID TO him.

What I was unable to articulate at the time, because none of this stuff ever becomes clear until after the fact, was that these experiences literally saved my life and I *needed* to experience them. We throw around the word "need" a lot in poly relationships. "Different people meet different needs". "I need for all my women to be with no other men." We all "need" a lot. But most of the time, this word is not used correctly.

As it turned out, I *needed* these experiences. And I needed them in ways that I couldn't predict. There is no way that I could have known that, in just a few months, I would find myself sitting on the floor of my storage unit, sobbing hysterically, and gazing longingly at the gun that was just out of my reach but having literally not enough motivation to get up off the floor to either grab the gun or dust myself off and leave; and no way to predict that these experiences that I had would lead to relationships that gave me the sort of comfort and stable base that I needed to eventually leave that storage unit and not reach for the gun that night, or on future nights.

These specific experiences that I wanted that my abusive ex yelled at me about one night, keeping me up several hours past my bedtime the night before a performance when I really needed my sleep (and told him that I could not have that discussion that night for that reason) - these specific experiences were not some magical sex dates that brought life back into my suicidal brain. It wasn't that simple.

These experiences led to things that led to things that brought about a relationship and a renewed attachment and affirmation of my other relationship and a deep bond in solidarity with a metamour, that all became my rock and my salvation after that night on the floor of the storage unit.

Those experiences that drove a wedge between me and my insecure, abusive ex were not directly responsible for saving me from suicide, but I can draw *direct* lines from those experiences to the broader circumstances that provided me with the safety net that I needed to pull back from the edge.

If you think of a safety net, with its webbing of rope connecting from multiple points to multiple points, and all those strands and connections are what make it safe to catch you, my couple of experiences that so freaked out my ex even before I had them and they were just possibilities, those experiences are the spools from which all that safety rope came.

So, when you're thinking about your partner who wants to do a thing that frightens you, remember this story. Your partner is probably not on the brink of suicide at this very moment, and likely won't ever be. Your partner's experiences probably won't be literally life-saving to them.

But the things that your partner wants to experience will be the foundation of who they will become in the future. There's no way to predict who they will become or how their experiences will affect that. But those experiences are things that their future selves need to become their future selves.

Sometimes that's not a good thing. Sometimes we have experiences that we do not benefit from. But, again, we can't predict that.

So, you can be like my abusive ex, who was so frightened of me having experiences that I *needed* to have even though I didn't know yet that I needed them or I didn't know how to articulate how important they were that I have them, he was so frightened that he tried to manipulate and control his partners in order to avoid feeling that fear, and when that didn't work, he ended up losing the very relationships that those experiences made him afraid of losing in the first place. You can be that person.

Or you can recognize that your partner is not your possession, and is a fully formed human being, who needs to have experiences in order to become who they will become. And sometimes those experiences are life-saving. You can ride the curl, or you can try to push back the ocean with a broom. Either you will fail and the tide will wash over you anyway, or you will succeed in containing and hampering all the wild glory that is an unfettered wave.

I know it's scary to face the unknown. But this isn't about you. This is about your partner and who they are and who they will be. Are you the kind of partner who stands before your mate and blocks their path?

Or are you the kind of partner who feels fear, takes a deep breath, tells that fear that it will not control you or make you control your partner, and musters up every ounce of courage you have to trust in your partner and let them be who they will be?

This isn't about you, this is about them. What kind of partner will you be to them?

Life rewards those who take the Path of Greatest Courage. I took mine. I risked losing a relationship that I valued, and I did lose it, but in exchange I also lost an abusive partner, the scales from my eyes hiding his abuse of his other partners, and I gained a measure of control over my circumstances, and my life as well as some deep connections and a better understanding of myself. I think it was a fair exchange.

So when you and your partner make it through all of this to the other side, how do you want them to look back on their relationship with you over this? Do you want them to see you as I see my ex? Someone who was holding me back and causing harm, who I am better off now for having traded him in for those experiences he was so afraid of?

Or as someone with courage who faced your fears, trusted in their love, and embraced your partner for all they are and all they will become?

joreth: (polyamory)
Your regular, sporadic reminder that not everyone who is poly started out as a "couple opening up" or a bisexual woman who got courted by a couple, and that not all poly relationships involve polyfi FMF triads.

In fact, the majority of poly people and relationships are not this.

Not all of us are hetero men and bisexual women. Not all of us are cisgender. Some people are even gay! And asexual! And aromantic! Some women are straight and some men aren't!

And most of us have relationship structures that don't fit a convenient geometric shape.

#polycule #TheAmorphousSquiggle #TheTangle #IStartedOutPolyAsAMostlyStraightSingleWoman #NeverOpenedUp #AlwaysPoly #IHaveWaitAMinuteFirstDefineTheTermPartner #MyRomanticNetworkNeedsA3DFlowchart #SorryIHaveNoIdeaHowManyPartnersMyPartnerCurrentlyHasIHaveLostTrack #OKSoWeAre3rdMetamoursTwiceRemoved? #MyBestFriendsSistersBoyfriendsBrothersGirlfriendHeardFromThisGuyWhoKnowsThisKidWhosGoingWithAGirlWhoSawFerrisPassOutAt31FlavorsLastNightIGuessItsPrettySerious #IAmYourFathersBrothersNephewsCousinsFormerRoommate
joreth: (polyamory)
https://longreads.com/2017/10/10/the-horizon-of-desire/

"Why 'you knew what the deal was going in' is bullshit in relationships. Just because I knew the deal doesn't mean I am required to consent to it unendingly.

'Consent is a state of being. Giving someone your consent — sexually, politically, socially — is a little like giving them your attention. It’s a continuous process. It’s an interaction between two human creatures.'"

~Jessica Burde

The article linked is about sexual consent in the context of what constitutes "real rape" and our current Rapist-In-Chief's endorsement of the new social climate of Rape Culture. But "you knew the deal going in" with respect to poly relationships is a natural extension of this same mindset, even if it's adjacent to the conversation about Rape Culture.

It's a coercive practice in the poly community where, usually, a cis-hetero couple lays down the law for some poor bisexual woman about what their relationship is going to look like once she signs her life away to them (sometimes not much different from the scene in 50 Shades, with actual contracts on paper and everything).

And then, when the woman who was initially snowed over with lust and New Relationship Excitement and the promises of double the fun by a, usually, more experienced couple, and not a little bit of strong-arming her to accept what would clearly be manipulative and toxic relationship practices in a monogamous context but who get away with it because it's "polyamory" so obviously it's going to look different so why can't "toxic" = "healthy" when we're turning the whole monogamous paradigm upside down ... ahem,

when this woman eventually starts to add up all the red flags and she can't ignore her misgivings any longer, or when she just changes her mind and her libido as people do over time and wants to renegotiate the parameters of her relationship *as we all have to over time*, the couple trots this old worn out trope and demands that she not ever change, that whatever she consented to previously still holds, and it's ALL HER FAULT for "disrespecting the primary" by daring to want something other than what she signed up for.

Consent, whether it's missionary sex in a long-term, hetero, vanilla relationship, casual hookup sex with the person you met in a bar, or ongoing intimacy in a poly relationship, is a continuous process and it is required *the whole time*, not just once up front. Expecting anyone to maintain a sexual, emotional, or romantic agreement they made in the past is coercive and a part of Rape Culture. Even when it's a couple doing it to a bisexual woman who "knew the deal going in".

"The problem is that technically isn’t good enough. 'At least I didn’t actively assault anyone' is not a gold standard for sexual morality, and it never was."

"Ideally you want them to say it again, and again, and mean it every time. Not just because it’s hotter that way, although it absolutely is; consent doesn’t have to be sexy to be centrally important. But because when you get down to it, sexuality should not be about arguing over what you can get away with and still call consensual."

"Rape culture describes the process whereby rape and sexual assault are normalized and excused, the process whereby women’s sexual agency is continuously denied and women and girls are expected to be afraid of rape and to guard against it, the process whereby men are assumed to have the erotic self-control of a gibbon with a sweetie jar of Viagra, creatures who ought to be applauded for not flinging turds everywhere rather than encouraged to apply critical thinking."

"The thing is, if you accept the idea a woman has the absolute right to sexual choice, you must also wrestle with the prospect that she might not make the choice you want. If she’s really free to say no, even if she’s said yes before, even if she’s naked in your bed, even if you’ve been married for twenty years, well then — you might not get to fuck her."

See how often these things apply to a couple's "third" when you mentally place them in these statements?

joreth: (polyamory)

#ThingsIWantToToon: I want to show a picture of people riding an escalator with signs or markers or levels that are labeled with common Important Relationship Markers (like "first date", "first kiss", "meeting the parents", "PIV sex", "marriage", "baby", "first mortgage", etc.)

The people all look remarkably similar, bland, and like they're trudging through the process unwillingly or neutrally. Maybe one or two of them look happy and excited to be there.

In the next panel, or maybe down on the ground floor, there is a buffet set up with several different food tables scattered around in a non-linear fashion with all the same labels on the dishes, and maybe a few not listed on the escalator. People are wandering around, not in line, browsing, excitedly helping themselves to this or that, walking away with heaping plates or sparse plates, all generally looking happy to be there and full of color and "energy". Maybe a few people standing around the edges with empty plates looking nervous.

And at least one person in both groups is looking longingly at the other group.

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)

Why do poly people always need to invent new words? What's wrong with all the words we already have?

Because, even when we use the words we already have, people don't understand what we're saying, thanks to narrow gender roles and social expectations.

I'm watching a video where a couple of women are professional dance partners and they're talking about the nature of their relationship. They go by the professional title of The Decavita Sisters (I think - I wasn't really paying attention to their names; a big flaw I have in general). So the interviewer asks about other siblings, and they admit that they're not biological sisters. They're asked to go on, so they talk about meeting "a very, very long time ago" and how close they became very quickly, and eventually they became sisters. "We adopted each other".

The interviewer's next question was "so, are you *together*? Or just dance partners?" The women both look at her and repeat "no, we're sisters. We adopted each other." So the interviewer asks "and you changed your name legally?" They look at her as if to say "well, yeah, we adopted each other, that's kinda what you do," but they answered much more politely with a "yes, it's in our passports."

She then asks whose name they took, so the women have to explain that they made it up, and that they are "the only in the whole world with that name." The interviewer is just stunned and baffled by this. She has no idea what to do with this information. To me, this makes perfect sense. They became sisters, so they are now sisters. I don't understand the confusion. "Sisters" is the relationship that they have, therefore, they are.

I think my adopted background helps me in polyamory. I intuitively recognize families of choice. I have a sister, because we were raised together as sisters. We're not biologically related, but we're still sisters because that's our relationship.

When I was in junior high school, my clique did a thing where we all took on familial titles. I have no idea why we thought this was a good thing at the time, we just did. So I had 3 sons, I think, and a sister, and an aunt maybe? I don't remember them all, just that 3 guys were my "sons". We were all the same age, and there were maybe 10 or 12 of us in this "family". I think I drew out a chart. As I do.

Then, in high school, I had my 5-40 Fone Crew - my besties who all hung around the only pay phone on campus during our lunch break (40 minute lunch break, 5 days a week). Our boyfriends were all friends too (I introduced my friends to his friends when we started dating and everyone kinda just paired up), and we were the first in our school to all have pagers because our boyfriends were older and all had them, so we sat by the phone so we could all send each other l33t-type pager messages. We were also a family of sorts, and we had our own terminology for our group.

I was just in a thread discussing a term for a metamour who is technically no longer a metamour because one or both of you are not dating the person who connected you, but you both still *feel* like metamours (the word is metafore, btw, www.theinnbetween.net/polyterms.html#metafore).

There are 2 uses for the term "metamour" - one that means just the connecting line, which is "one's partner's other partner", and the other that means a special kind of direct connection between two people who have a mutual romantic partner in common. Both are valid and necessary definitions.

Because of the nature of poly relationships, as different from other forms of non-monogamy, which builds more interconnected, entangled, and interdependent types of relationships, it's important to acknowledge our partners' other partners as valid and deserving of recognition. So we have a word to call them.

I really like the fact that my metamours are MY metamours, not "something over there on the other side of my partner that he does that has nothing to do with me". I think there's a certain level of respect inherent in the metamour relationship that other forms of non-monogamy don't require in their partner's other partner relationships.

But this label doesn't tell us what *kind* of relationship we have with each other, just *how* we are connected. I make the analogy to cousins and in-laws: saying that someone is my cousin or my sister-in-law tells you how we are connected via other relationships between us, but it doesn't tell you if we like each other, or get along, or what. But it does tell you that we are *family*.

And I think that's an enormously important concept - the idea of acknowledging and respecting how people are connected to each other without dictating or prescripting how that relationship ought to look.

The other definition *is* about the nature of the relationship. Some poly people don't bestow the label "metamour" without that direct connection between them - usually an independent friendship or a sibling-like bond. We often hear about sister-wives (controversial because of the associations with religiously determined polygyny), and about metamours who see each other as "brothers" or co-husbands, etc.

This is why "metafore" came into being. This is when people feel a special closeness that is related to their shared connection to a mutual partner. It's difficult to really explain, but there is a special quality to the closeness between people who have a romantic partner in common that doesn't exist in any other relationship bond. So when the connection to the mutual partner is severed, that closeness can sometimes remain in spite of the break, because of that shared linkage in our history.

Or, in my case with my 2 metafores, that bond gets even closer when we both went through breakups with our mutual partner. I have people whom I like and respect a great deal who are former metamours, and I have 2 metafores because that bond is unique to that situation of having once been close metamours and remaining in (or strengthening) that close bond.

People ask why we need all these terms. And I think that's because society gives us such strict roles, that anything outside of that role doesn't make any sense without a new word to cover it. Instead, society tries to give us a blanket term, "friend", to cover *everything* from slightly more than acquaintance to "best" friend who can often be a more intimate, stronger bond than romantic partnerships.

Sex And The City, for as problematic as it is, was an excellent example of "friends" who are "more than" the romantic relationships in their lives. No matter what happened in their romantic relationships, their friendships were their anchors, their partners, the core of their lives. That show was instrumental for me in being my first step towards learning to see the relationship between women as valuable, and as necessary, even for tomboy Chill Girls like me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx5N2b94BSk

 

We can't use "friend" because that means too many things, so it doesn't cover it. But, at the same time, we have a culture that privileges romantic couples. Romantic partners are privileged and prioritized above everything else, except possibly the parent / child relationship.

This is why the SATC show was so controversial. The characters were accused of "using men like Kleenex" because all their romantic partnerships took a backseat to their platonic friendships. The only men who made the cut were the ones who basically accepted that they came in second to "the girls".

Normally, if a platonic friendship interferes with a romantic relationship, it is culturally expected that the platonic friendship will have to end unless the romantic relationship isn't The One. Nobody ever asks what happens if the romantic relationship interferes with the platonic friendship. Except abuse specialists.

If you get invited to a wedding, your legal spouse is pretty much automatically invited. I've never heard of anyone sending a wedding invitation to one half of a married couple and then getting upset when they RSVP for the spouse too. But bringing along "just a friend" is very controversial. It's often seen as the "consolation prize" - who you invite when you can't get a date. And you need to ask permission to do so. And it's totally cool for the bride to say no, but saying no to bringing a spouse? That's pretty uncool.

Legal marriage confers a whole bunch of legal rights and responsibilities that are *just not available* through any other means. Like immigration, for example, and not testifying against someone in court. If you try to use these rights, the government makes you "prove" that the person you're using them with is a "legitimate" spouse, meaning a *romantic partner*. If you aren't romantically involved with your spouse, that's actually grounds for an annulment in many areas, which means that the marriage never legally existed in the first place.

This is my entire problem with legal marriage. I should be able to enter into any legal contract with any other person I want, providing we are otherwise eligible to enter into legal contracts with each other. My ability to enter into a contract with someone should not hinge on something as subjective and ethereal and, frankly, nobody's fucking business, as romantic feelings for them. If they are of legal age and "sound" mind to give consent, that's all that should be necessary for entering into a contract with them.

But before I go too far down the rabbit hole of my moral objections to legal marriage, let's get back to the point. If two people seem exceptionally close to each other, we just automatically assume they must be romantically involved. Because romantic couple privilege.

If we call them "friend", it's not descriptive enough, even though it's true, because "friend" covers too many different things. But "friend", for as broad as it is, is also limited in its own way, *because* of that romantic couple privilege. As in, "just" friends. Since romantic couples are privileged, everything else is "just", no matter how close those "friends" actually are.  So we come up with other terms. "Sisters" (but, if you don't have the same parents, how can you be sisters?), soulmates (but that's for romantic relationships!), metamours, anchors, nesting partners, core partners...

We need these terms because we're not *allowed* to be these things otherwise. Two women are supposed to be close because women have certain gendered expectations of their relationships and women (apparently) are all nurturing and emotionally intimate. But they can't be "too" close, because then they'd have to be romantic partners.

We can only understand that level of intimacy without sex as siblings. Never mind the fact that lots of sisters aren't that close. Only "sisters" can be that close. Blood vs. water, and all that (and don't even get me started on the irony of that cliché in context).

I don't really have a point, I think. I just heard this bit of dialog in a video, and it came on the heels of a discussion of metafores and people complaining about yet another poly term and why is it even necessary when we have the word "friend", and I got all annoyed at the interviewer's confusion because our current vocabulary is simultaneously too broad to be clear and too narrow to allow for the diversity of intimate connections.

In other words, our culture is incredibly stunted when it comes to recognizing and accepting intimacy. And that irritates me.

joreth: (dance)

It is my opinion that social partner dancing is *the perfect* activity for poly people. Partner dancing is a conversation; it reinforces consent and active listening and communication; it actively supports multiple partners and good community skills; it's a physical activity that increases endorphins; it rewards effort and personal growth; it provides a pathway for intimacy and vulnerability; it creates an awareness of yourself, your partners, and your effect on others; and it satisfies the Physical Touch Love Language that so many polys seem to speak (possibly why they're drawn to community-based forms of non-monogamy in the first place).

I strongly recommend the movie Alive & Kicking, available now on Netflix (at least in the US, not sure about other countries). It's a documentary about swing dancing, from its origins to its modern day revival.

These are some of my favorite quotes from the documentary because they highlight exactly what I'm always saying about social partner dance and polyamory:

There's a leader and there's a follower. The leader always has to be thinking ahead, planning what they're gonna do next, how they're gonna move the partner. The follower is responding to what the [leader]'s doing and they have this great conversation.

It's a little hard to learn. It's like a lot of good things in life, maybe you have to put in a little work to get to a place where you get tremendous reward.

When you are social dancing swing, there's no choreography. You are dancing to the music that the band is creating.

You have to improvise, you have to negotiate. Kinda like jazz music, this ability to call and respond, to read your partner and see what happens.

You're sharing your imagination with someone else. That's real intimacy. In that moment, you never recreate it, that's what makes it special.

Unlike some dances I've observed that are partner dances but they're very much "I'm on a date with my girlfriend, don't ask her to dance", lindy hop it's understood that everyone dances with everybody. And the more the merrier. I mean I think really if there were a movie called "lindy hop", the tagline should be "the more the merrier".

...

There's an incredible intimacy that forms among strangers. You meet someone for the first time and by the end of the song, you feel like they're finishing your sentences. If I had that kind of connection with someone I met in the grocery store, I'd ask him for his number. But it's not like that. In swing dance, you just move on and then find the next person.

Frankie always called it, like, "3 minute romance". You're just gonna be in love with this person you're dancing with for 3 minutes and it's gonna be amazing, and then you do it again, and again, all night long.

I know that in some areas, the lindy hop community is pretty well saturated with polys and non-monogamists.

But not in all areas, and it doesn't work in reverse - there aren't many *poly* spaces that are saturated with dancers. If I go to a swing dance in the Pacific Northwest, I can be sure to meet a bunch of polys. But if I go to a *poly* meetup anywhere, I can't be sure that I'll meet other dancers, and if I go to any kind of partner dancing here in the South, I'm more likely to meet a bunch of conservative Christians than anything else. And also, lindy isn't the only (or best) style of partner dancing.

And that seems a shame to me because the nature of social partner dancing fits so well with the nature of poly communities. Especially if you expand to *all* forms of partner dancing, not just the acrobatic, elite level of swing dancing highlighted in the documentary.

There are even more elements that I find valuable, such as the reverence the social dance communities have for people of more advanced age that I so rarely see in other areas of society, and the wider community safety net.

So, go watch the show if you have access to it. Maybe it'll inspire you to learn how to dance, or maybe it will help you to understand why I love it so much. It's worth watching, even with the sprinkling of anti-technology sentiment thrown in there (ah, the irony of people who disparage the internet as a form of communication in a documentary that will be disseminated and spread through online viewing & social media, but that's another rant for another day). Roll your eyes at that part, but the movie is worth watching anyway.

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: (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: (polyamory)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (polyamory)

Commitments Parchment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jorethinnkeeper
::HeadDesk::

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



To address some confusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change happens. We have to learn how to deal with and accept change, not make a bunch of rules trying to keep change from happening.

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