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.
joreth: (polyamory)
Based on Poly Weekly episode 516: The Art of Three, I bought the book of the same name. This episode is an interview with Racheline Maltese, who wrote a polyamorous romance novel that does NOT include a couple opening up their relationship for the first time and does NOT include unicorn hunters finding their hot, bi, cis-woman love slave / nanny.
It does, however, include some hot bi men, which is automatically a plus for me.

I only just started the book, so I can't give a full review, but I already like that it's not unicorn hunting, it's not "opening up", it's not written for the literature version of the straight male gaze, and the characters don't seem to do the usual irritating-as-fuck foolishness stemming from typical monogamous culture habits like poor communication and objectification.

The authors, Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, seem to actually know polyamory (and judging by some forum comments, there are self-identified poly people who nevertheless don't understand polyamory, so them understanding it says more about them than just calling them "poly"). The characters are self-aware, have decent communication skills, are respectful of agency, and still manage to have their own personalities, flaws, and foibles. They're not perfect, and they still make mistakes, but they don't make *rookie* mistakes. And even more importantly, they don't make *monogamous people who don't get polyamory* mistakes.

The polyamory seems to go pretty smoothly, at least so far. I have criticized movies and TV shows that make relationships look too easy and that skip over all the hard stuff where everyone just seems to magically be naturally good at relationships. But sometimes I just really need a story where the conflict and plot isn't related to the character's relationship skills. Sometimes I just need them to be decent at relationships so that I don't have to constantly yell at fictional characters that things don't have to be as difficult as they're making them.

Here are some of my reactions while reading it:

  • The book has a tense discussion where the authors, through the wife's character, acknowledge an unfair distribution of Emotional Labor along gender lines! They also make the male characters self-aware enough to be bothered by it when it occurs to them that they do not carry enough of the responsibility or the skill for this labor.
     
  • Love it. The Art of Three points out the sexism inherent in constantly asking if the husband is OK with the boyfriend sleeping with the wife or sharing their "marriage bed" or staying in "their" house, but never asked the same questions of the husband about the wife.

    The book points out that this is behaving as though she is her husband's property and notes the boyfriend's chagrin at the criticism, thereby implying that he is not intending to be sexist and does not wish to be sexist, but is nevertheless a product of his culture and participates in sexist assumptions even against his own better nature.

    To be fair, the boyfriend did ask the wife if she really did have an open marriage and really was OK with him sleeping with her husband for the first time. But he makes a bigger deal out of being in the husband's "place", like their shared bed or "his chair" at the dinner table in their home, when these thoughts never occurred to him about the wife when he was with the husband in their other shared home.

    The boyfriend does handle the criticism well and seeks to change.
     
  • The Art of Three also captures the weight that a long-term marriage has which presses down on newcomers. It reminds the reader of the gravitas that a preexisting relationship imposes on new partners through the boyfriend's occasional insecurity and his constant reminders to himself that he needs to be "respectful" of their marriage, as well as through the married couple's deliberate and conscious decisions to mitigate that weight whenever possible.

    That second part of that reminds the reader of the solidness of a preexisting relationship without enabling any couple privilege such as implying that this solidness and heaviness is as it should be or showing the established couple feeling or presenting as entitled to such privileges.

    These authors also avoided enabling couple privilege by not making the established couple suffer petty bouts of insecurity at the NRE or feeling "threatened" by a newcomer.



    So, if you're looking for a book that shows polyamory in a positive light, written by people who *get* polyamory, doesn't follow the single most overused and irritating trope in all of poly storytelling, and doesn't spend a whole lot of time dragging the characters through Poly 101 Drama, I'd recommend checking out The Art of Three.
joreth: (polyamory)
Hey! You are not "entering an existing relationship" or finding someone to "enter / join your existing relationship". You are creating a WHOLE NEW SUITE OF RELATIONSHIPS!

Please just fucking stop saying that phrase.

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

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

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

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

While we're at it:

You cannot protect your existing relationship from upheaval.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from changing.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from ending.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You cannot protect your relationship.

You cannot preserve your relationship.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

So. Much. Wrong.
joreth: (polyamory)
Apparently, threesome romance novels (which means not just threesome sex but also threesome long-term relationships) with at least 2 men are A Thing, and paranormal romance novels are A Thing, and more importantly, paranormal threesome romance novels with at least 2 men (and often with plus-sized women and also often with Latina women) are also A Thing.

If you happen to want to buy any of these books through Amazon, the links I'm using are for my Affiliates Account, which means that I get a very small commission (that doesn't cost you anything extra) if you buy from these links instead of just searching Amazon.

I have not read ANY of these books. I have no idea if they're good or not. But I think I'm gonna try a few out. I am currently adding them to my Polyish Booklist which doesn't have my Amazon Affiliates link.
joreth: (feminism)
There's this pernicious trope in the poly community.  It says "it's OK to restrict someone else's behaviour as long as they all agree to it" and "if one person doesn't want his partner to have sex with other men, and she agrees to it, then it's OK", etc.  For some reason, people seem to think that it's totally acceptable to tromp all over someone's agency, as long as the other person doesn't stop you from doing it.  But I have a BIG problem with this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's about *agency*.

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

What that ends up looking like in terms of numbers of partners, types of sex, or structure of relationship depends on the people in those relationships, and that can change at any given time for any given person.
joreth: (anger)
OTG don't start a relationship with someone who is in the process of leaving an abusive partner*! And for fuck's sake, don't get upset when they act inconsistent or seem to reconcile or "go back" to said abusive partner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why unicorn hunting is a bad thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find our wedding app and website by visiting http://bit.ly/SquiggleWeddingCon and clicking on the RSVP link in the sidebar. Only 2 months to go!
joreth: (polyamory)
Every year, Atlanta Poly Weekend (www.AtlantaPolyWeekend.com) holds a charity auction where items are auctioned off and all the proceeds to go a local Atlanta-based charity called Lost-n-Found Youth (https://lnfy.org/) for homeless LGBTQ youth. I didn't really have the time this year to build new presentations, so instead of being a speaker (although I will be available to discuss any of my past presentations and I will have materials and handouts from old presentations), I decided to make something for the auction.

This year, I am donating a one-of-a-kind chain mail necklace and earring set, hand-crafted by me. Made of black and white-silver chain mail in a Byzantine rope pattern with "floating bead" diamond design, it features real Swarovski crystals in the shapes of hearts and bicone beads, using my own infinity-heart design of a floating infinity in front of a solid crystal heart.

I make and sell the Byzantine Floating Bead necklace and earring sets but this particular color pattern and pendant set does not exist in any of my commercial offers and it will not. I also do not offer the infinity-heart pendants in any color on any of my products for sale - I save this particular pendant design for my own personal jewelry and even I don't have it in this color pattern.

I designed it to be as color-neutral as possible so that it would match any outfit. If I were to sell this set in my jewelry store, it would retail for $50 because of the handmade work and the unique pendant design. I hope I can bring a good price to the auction to help our local charity.

So please start saving up now for June! Remember, 100% of the proceeds goes to the Lost-N-Found Youth charity in Atlanta, GA through the Atlanta Poly Weekend 2017 conference, hosted by the Relationship Equality Foundation.

If you would like to commission me to make some chain mail or wire elf ear jewelry, my Etsy shop is www.etsy.com/shop/InnBetween




Full Floating Bead Byzantine necklace and earring set in a clear plastic case with white foam insert for storage and travel. Retail price for complete set $50. Up for auction at Atlanta Poly Weekend to support the Lost-N-Found Youth charity.





Closeup of the floating bead and infinity-heart design of the necklace and earrings.
Retail price for complete set $50. Up for auction at Atlanta Poly Weekend to support the Lost-N-Found Youth charity.





Closeup of the floating bead connection used to join the 3 Floating Bead Byzantine diamonds.
Retail price for complete set $50. Up for auction at Atlanta Poly Weekend to support the Lost-N-Found Youth charity.





Closeup of the Floating Bead Byzantine diamond and infinity heart pendant.
Retail price for complete set $50. Up for auction at Atlanta Poly Weekend to support the Lost-N-Found Youth charity.





The Floating Bead Byzantine necklace with infinity-heart pendant around the "neck" of a dressmaker's dummy.
Retail price for complete set $50. Up for auction at Atlanta Poly Weekend to support the Lost-N-Found Youth charity.





Artistic shot of the Floating Bead Byzantine necklace and earring with infinity-heart pendants.
Retail price for complete set $50. Up for auction at Atlanta Poly Weekend to support the Lost-N-Found Youth charity.
joreth: (polyamory)
www.polyishmoviereviews.com/show-notes/episode14-trois

Just a tiny bit late, but this month's episode is out! One of these days, I will plan my episodes to have better timing with milestones. This movie is perhaps not the movie I would have wanted to mark my 2-year episode. But here is Episode 24 none-the-less!

Content Note: This review contains the sardonic use of ableist language & possibly sex-negative sex worker language intending to mock the sorts of writers who use "crazy" as a scapegoat and their poor depiction of mental illness as well as their obviously one-dimensional and low opinion of sex work.

I am using the language to describe what the *writers* of these sorts of behaviours think and by using these words, I am intending to show my disapproval and contempt for this viewpoint in my tone. I apologize if my intention does not come across or if readers are unable to read or listen because of the language.

joreth: (polyamory)
The latest installment of my extremely sporadic posts about poly jewelry. These are all rings suitable for personal use and/or weddings or commitment ceremonies, most of which are not official poly jewelry but can work to symbolize polyamory "under the radar" with subtle elements from poly symbols:

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

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

joreth: (polyamory)
A few reminders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this information and more, including relevant links, located here:  http://bit.ly/SquiggleWeddingCon 
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.polyishmoviereviews.com/show-notes/episode23-sametimenextyear

New episode! This time I review the classic play-turned-movie Same Time, Next Year with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Can a movie about cheating find a place on the Poly-ish Movie List?

If you subscribe to Poly-ish Movie Reviews on some kind of podcatcher or RSS feed, you probably already got this month's episode in your podcast feed. But the Show Notes & Transcripts page was posted late, so here's the new episode for this month!
joreth: (polyamory)
I came down, not "hard", exactly, but firm on someone asking some advice. At least, compared to some of my other responses, I don't think it was "hard". But I didn't shy away from the main point. I didn't ease him into it, I just didn't pick him up screaming and throw him into deep, choppy waters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#RealConversationsIHave #PolyEducatingBackstage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's a terrible environment for everyone to exist in, but especially people who are on the receiving end of abusive behaviours.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



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

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



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

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

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

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* see also http://polyweekly.com/2015/01/pw-418-emotional-abuse/
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"It can be easy to forget that the other people that your partner loves and cherishes are not problems to be worked around. They're human beings who add value to your partner's life." ~ Franklin Veaux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only 15 years after I came out as poly, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race!
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
In my effort to eliminate the use of the word "hierarchy" from my discussions about hierarchy, to prevent the usual derailments of people confusing empowerment with priority, I think I'll try on the word "authority" for size.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kinda like polyamory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit www.AtlantaPolyWeekend.com for the full schedule of all the awesome presentations and workshops next weekend!
joreth: (Super Tech)
Also in 2 weeks, I will be giving a presentation on how to give a presentation at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016! Present Like A Boss - this class is for everyone - experienced presenters and never-before-presented newbies! I will teach the different kinds of presentation styles that you can choose from (there's no One Right Way!) and how to choose one, how to build confidence and professionalism, and even the most effective use of your PowerPoint slideshow! There will be a handout. You can use the tips and tricks of the absolute best public speakers to add professionalism and polish to any public speaking endeavor, from business team meetings to poly conferences to TED talks. You might not want to be Tony Robbins, but you can learn a few things from his success no matter what level of public speaking you do.

I will also be teaching little-known tricks that almost no one ever thinks about that will make your presentation look the most professional you can look. How? Because I work in the public speaking industry for a living - yes, it's an industry - and I know all the backstage secrets from how Steve Jobs got to be so awesome at what he does to PowerPoint expertise to the reasons that technology does the things that *it* does and how to exploit it to your advantage.

If you have never presented before, or are new to presenting, and are interested in joining the ranks of poly or alt-sex/relationship educators, this class will help you start right out with a polished stage presence to get your message across to your audience. If you are an experienced presenter, you *will* learn at least one thing about public speaking that you did not know before that can help you step up your own presentations.

Polyamory and other alt-sex / alt-relationship things are getting more and more attention, so we are needing more and more people in the communities to be able to explain and explore these ideas, both within the communities and without. Conferences are expanding and there are requests for a wider variety of topics to discuss and a wider range of speakers to represent the population. People outside the communities are learning about us and asking for more representatives to explain what we do. More and more of us are finding ourselves in positions of authority or educator on these subjects and we can benefit our communities better by giving more effective presentations, lectures, and workshops.

This workshop is on Saturday morning, so get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in early to make sure you don't miss it!
joreth: (Swing Dance)
In just 2 short weeks, Sterling and I will be bringing back our Lead & Follow Communication workshop to Atlanta Poly Weekend! It's the first workshop on the schedule, so you have to get there early!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I have a problem with Relationship Anarchy. I'll preface this by clarifying that it's not a problem with RAs themselves, or even the basic philosophy. My problem is that everything that defines RA are the reasons why I got into polyamory in the first place and it irritates me that so many of us feel the need to create a separate space for it.

When I got into polyamory in the late '90s, I was told about this new thing called "polyamory". I was told about it because I was trying to explain to a date why I could never be his "girlfriend". I was trying to explain how I needed the freedom to explore relationships as they happened, organically, and to take them where the relationship itself wanted to go naturally. I reiterated my standard bit about non-traditional gender roles and how I absolutely could not play "the girl" in a relationship and that was non-negotiable.  I said that I had some platonic friends who meant more to me and were a part of my life longer and more significantly than any romantic relationship I had ever had. I talked about how difficult it was for me to label various people because they don't quite fit the existing labels since some "friends" were sexual and some weren't, and some romantic partners weren't sexual and some sexual partners were lower priority than some non-sexual relationships, etc. I mentioned that I was very independent and not terribly a fan of cohabiting and was definitely not interested in marriage or having kids. I said all these things to "let him down gently" so that he wouldn't expect a monoheteronormative relationships out of me (although I didn't know that word back then). He said "I know what your problem is - you're polyamorous!"

So I looked it up. Everywhere I looked, hideous Geocities websites and forums with infantile UIs all said the same thing - freedom, independence, naturally occurring relationships, fluidity in relationships, valuing different kinds of relationships for what they are instead of forcing them to all look the same - everything I was looking for and everything that, years later, people started calling "relationship anarchy".

Except the labels thing. I differ from many RAs on the importance of labels. And back then, the poly community was as divided on labels as it is now with one side coming up with all kinds of useful (and some not so useful) terms faster than we could adopt them and the other side eschewing "all labels" because they couldn't be "penned in". I think it's naive to take the position "I don't use labels" because we clearly use labels all the time. This entire sentence is made up of labels. I labeled that string of symbols and grouped them together into an identifiable set and called it a thing that everyone reading this can understand even if they all have a slightly different understanding of what that thing actually means. It's called "language" and it's how we communicate. Labels are important for a variety of reasons, but that's a whole other rant and I don't want to digress here (or in my comments) about it. Point is, I do use labels descriptively, I am emphatically anti-prescriptive labels, and I've been having this same argument about labels with the poly folk since I joined the communities back in the last century.

So, the reason why I have a problem with RA is because, based on my introduction to polyamory back when it was still fairly new, polyamory IS relationship anarchy. My experience with the community says that this whole couple privilege thing, this whole closed triad thing, this whole relationship escalator thing, this whole ranking of relationships based on the categories and usually involving the type of sexuality involved, this whole valuing the Primary above all others - my experience says all that was added to polyamory after the fact and that those people came into what I had started to feel was "my space" and started fucking things up for the rest of us. Maybe, technically, it wasn't "added" after the fact, because it depends on which specific local community one got involved with back in the beginning, but based on my introduction, those couple-based concepts as *defining* poly elements came later. Back when I joined, people may have held those concepts but polyamory itself was much looser, much simpler - it just meant "many loves" and required being ethical about it. That's it. That left a lot of room for a variety of expressions of polyamory and it didn't automatically associate the term "poly" with all that other bullshit that is essentially mainstream monogamy with "permission to cheat" or as essentially religious polygamy minus the religion (or, rather, substituting one patriarchal religion for a goddess-worshiping religion which is technically not patriarchal but I could argue is still misogynistic because it's still objectifying, but that's yet another digression that I don't want to get into here).

I have a problem with RA because I feel like we already HAD a community for exactly that, but couples with their hierarchies invaded, took it over, and pushed everyone else who is like me out. Not that there wasn't room in polyamory for a variety of ways to practice it - back then we did have terms for the spectrum with "family-oriented" at one end and "free agent" at the other. So I'm not even saying that polyamory must be a term to describe exactly what I'm doing and no one else who is doing similar but not the same gets to use the label. There was room for most of us in the community, back then. I'm saying that the couples with their fucking rules and fucking fears and fucking disrespect and fucking disempowerment got so numerous and so loud that they tainted the community to the point that people on the other end of the spectrum felt that it was better to just break off and create their own communities rather than stick around and improve the existing community - a possibly futile exercise.

Not everyone left, of course. Some of them identify as both RA and poly and are trying to drag these couples out of the toxic, abusive programming they've had from mainstream society and into the whole reason why we all came looking for something like polyamory in the first place. And some of us are sticking around and not identifying as RA (even though one could say that I technically am RA, I just don't use it as an identifying label) because we still believe that this is what polyamory *is* and we're still trying to keep those couples from destroying our cultural history altogether by being the only ones left (history is written by the victors, as they say).

So Relationship Anarchy bugs me, not because of the people who choose the label or because of the definition of that label, but because the label reminds me every time I see it that we already HAD a space carved out for us but people with their toxic bullshit came in and filled it with their abusive practices and self-defenses so much that many "free agent" type veterans left in disgust and new people see only These Couples when they look at the community and if they're not like Those Couples, they decide that this community isn't for them so they wander off to find something that fits better.

RA bugs me because I am resentful of what people have done to the poly community that I first joined which resulted in the sorts of people I came here to find splintering off to form, basically, the same community that we started out with only without attracting Those Couples because it costs  too much to deal with their insistence of trying something fundamentally in opposition to mainstream society while using all the same mainstream tools.

It kinda reminds me of the A+ community when socially conscious atheists split off from the atheism movement community because of the racist, misogynistic, trans- and homophobic assholes making it a toxic waste dump, only the RAs were more successful in carving out their own niche whereas SJW atheists are still trying to find the right way (i.e. comfortable fit) to label and organize themselves.  Also, the RA symbol of a heart and an A in place of the infinity reminds me of the poly atheist symbol, which is the infinity-heart with an A - not sure which came first, but I saw the poly atheist symbol first so that's what I associate with an A in a heart.

So, I have a problem with Relationship Anarchy, but it's not the relationship anarchists - it's the people who drove them to feel that they needed some other community in the first place because the community we had doesn't provide a safe enough space for them and their ideals. So, really, I have a problem with the poly community and I just want it to be better so that RA isn't a necessary thing.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
*I am committed to limiting my actions and words which have the intent or goal of harming my partners, although I acknowledge that some decisions I may make for the benefit of myself or my relationships may result in hurt as a consequence, unintentional or not.

This one is complicated and may require its own post as well. This one took the most number of rewrites to get to a point where I felt it was close enough. The original wording was about harm reduction and a promise to avoid deliberately causing harm to my partners. That sounds pretty good - promising to not hurt someone I love, right? But, as usual, Shelly brought to my attention a different perspective.
"Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
You see, Shelly and I had a very difficult experience together. It wasn't the same experience, and I rather think that she got the worst of it by a long shot. I also don't think we quite realized that we were in the experience together. In fact, we started out the experience at odds with each other. I first wrote this commitment to do with avoiding hurt. But conversation with Shelly changed my perspective. Our experience had taught us both, but it really reinforced in her particularly, that sometimes the only available options to us will lead directly to hurting our loved ones. Sometimes, for our own safety, we may have to do something that will cause hurt, and we will have to do it knowing that it will cause hurt because the alternative is to further hurt ourselves.

I balked at this perspective. I had a previous relationship with someone who routinely did things that hurt me because he placed a higher value on meeting his own desires than on choosing to abstain in order to refrain from causing hurt. I hated the feeling that my partner was more invested in experiencing something that he wanted to experience than he was in considering how much pain his experience would cause me. I considered it a fundamentally selfish point of view. But my shared experience with Shelly taught me the darker, evil twin of this point of view. It's possible to use someone's desire to avoid causing you pain as a form of emotional blackmail to prevent them from doing what is necessary for their own emotional or physical health.

Shelly resisted my original wording because she found herself in a terrible position. She found herself in the position of needing to make a choice for her own safety that she knew would cause pain to someone she loved. I slowly came to connect with Shelly's position because I had a partner who looked at my decision to do something for my own good that would result in his pain and responded "how could you hurt me, you evil monster?!" I hesitate to say "cause him pain" because, in my case, much of what hurt him wasn't directly aimed at him. What I needed to do for me were things that were about me and had no direct effect on him, only indirect, but that he twisted into somehow being all about him. Even things that I hadn't actually done but just contemplated doing, the very act of considering them hurt him. I had the potential opportunity to have a sexual experience once that I believed was unlikely but still possible that I really felt was something I needed to experience for my own emotional gratification and my own self-identity. It's a long story why I felt this one experience was so important, but it was. Maybe I'll tell that story sometime. I recognized that it would be discomforting for him and I acknowledged that I would be uncomfortable if our positions were reversed. So, just discussing the situation hypothetically, I tried to show him that I was on his side (see the relevant point [prior]) by acknowledging his concern and being willing to compromise in order to assuage his concern.

For many people, when we have concerns about our loved ones, we just want to be heard. Many times, all we need is for our loved ones to acknowledge that they hear us, really hear us, and we feel better. We feel like a team. But not in this case. In this case, being willing to say "I hear your concerns, I think they are valid, I've already considered your feelings and agree that the likely reaction would be totally appropriate and I accept that reaction as a consequence for my choice" didn't result in relief at being heard and a willingness to bend with me towards a compromise. Instead, what he heard was "yep, I know this will destroy you because I've already thought about it and I'm going to do it anyway with full forethought because I don't care if it hurts you." Instead, my acknowledgement of his concerns was to make my position even worse because I couldn't even use ignorance as an excuse for hurting him. In his mind, what I had proposed to do was now deliberately stab him in the back with intention and malice. Remember, this was all about something that was only hypothetical at the time and, I thought, pretty unlikely although there was a non-zero chance it could happen. I was just discussing the possibility because, as my point [prior] states, I wanted to address it before it became too big to handle. I felt that addressing it before there was any emotional investment in the outcome would result in a more rational, easy-to-tackle decision. I wanted to work it out when I didn't have the possibility hanging over me and the pull of a missed opportunity influencing my position. But even this became a deliberate attack on him.

But I really didn't want to rewrite this commitment in such a way that acknowledging the fact that we would inevitably cause our loved ones harm would leave the door open for the opposite to happen - that which I experienced with the other ex who seemed to blithely go about doing things without concern for how they affected me simply because he wanted to do them. I didn't want to leave room for a partner to read my list of commitments, then go off and do something hurtful, knowingly hurtful, and come back and say "well you gave yourself an out to hurting me like this, so I'm only doing what you want to do to me!"

So I'm trying to limit the ways in which I hurt my loved ones. I want to limit those ways to only unintentional harm, accidental harm, but my experience with Shelly and my observations of her experience with that situation forces me to leave myself a back door where I might have to hurt someone and do so knowingly, for my own health and for the good of the relationship itself. To leave that door open, I have specified that actions with the goal or intention of causing harm are to be avoided when possible. I don't want to hurt my loved ones, but if my intention is for some greater good or need, and harm is the consequence and not the intent, then even if I am aware of the potential to harm, I believe this serves the conflicting goals of needing to do for myself what is necessary and still not trampling over my loved ones on a selfish ride of personal desires. I need to somehow simultaneously prioritize my right to do things that I need to do, being considerate and compassionate towards my partners and how my actions affect them, and not demonizing myself whether I am able to foresee the consequences or am unable to see the consequences. And I need to do it in a way that a partner reading this can't rules-lawyer his way into excusing or justifying his disregard for me. I feel that this wording is the closest I have come to achieving all those conflicting goals.

www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/04/04/one-penis-policies/

I had a partner once who, when I found out that their pattern of both he and his wife only dating women was partially instigated by his discomfort with having his wife date a man and not fully because she was really more into women than men, I got really upset with him and pointed out the inherent sexism. I went through the usual objections, including the idea of ownership over his wife's body, etc., but right now I want to focus on his reaction to the proposal that the reason why he wasn't bothered by his wife having female lovers but was regarding male lovers is because he, fundamentally, believed that "lesbian sex / women's relationships don't count".

It basically boiled down to "I can't compete with other women and they can't compete with me because we have different parts, so I'm not threatened by them because they offer her something she can't get from a relationship with me, but another man can give her the same thing that I can, therefore she might leave me if she has access to another man" with the further assumption that said other man would necessarily be "better" in some way to facilitate the threat that she would leave if she only had the chance to know some other man.

This idea equates people with their genitals. A) No one can "give her the same thing [you] can" because NO ONE ELSE IS YOU. B) Since your relationship is not purely sexual, a woman can also give her the "same" things that you do, which are good sex, companionship, understanding, support, love, fun times, arguments, and everything else that makes up your relationship in addition to inserting your penis into her vagina. C) Women can also insert penises into vaginas - either the ones that are part of their own bodies or the ones bought in the store.

Since this argument is literally condensing all of human romantic / sexual interaction to which body parts people can mash together, it requires an unspoken assumption that mashing two particular set of body parts together is more important than mashing any other set of body parts together because mashing those other body parts together (or, y'know, any other part about relating to each other) couldn't possibly compare to or threaten the act of mashing that one set of body parts together.

BY DEFINITION, being afraid that someone else's vagina coming into contact with someone else's penis might make that vagina-haver discard everything about your relationship that makes it special and break up with you, but not being afraid of someone else's vagina coming into contact with literally any other body part from some other person will do the same thing is erasing the validity and legitimacy of relationships between women (going with the position of those who defend this policy of equating vagina-having with "women").

I also want to address the idea of using rules with what's called "sunset clauses" - a specific time limit for when the rule will end. This is a legitimate use of rules to work through specific issues and I have used them myself. However, I remain suspicious of them as "rules" - limitations that one person imposes on (or asks nicely of) another person(s) with regards to how they interact with other people to mitigate one's own issues, again, primarily because of this same former partner.

He and his wife also used the excuse of sunset clauses to justify rules, and they used these as "evidence" that they were both "getting better" and experiencing "personal growth". What would happen is that he would have a bad reaction to the idea of his wife doing a thing with a guy, the wife would hold off on doing that thing until the husband felt better, then when he could deal, he allowed her to do the thing. Their position was that, since the wife was building an ever-growing list of specific activities that she could do with men, clearly the husband was "getting better". I thought that sounded like it too.

I was wrong.

Yes, the wife was able to check off additional specific sexual activities over time that she was able to engage in, but neither of them ever got out of the mindset that *he* had a right to control access to *her* body or that sexual relationships with other men was somehow inherently more "threatening" than sexual relationships with women. There was never any actual personal growth happening, just a desensitization of specific sexual activities and positions. That is not "working on it" and it is not "getting better". It's basically just moving the goalposts while defending the same basic premise.

There is a time for when people have such a strong emotional reaction to something that the first thing they can focus on is just desensitization. I've used this tactic myself. But the point of desensitizing myself to an idea is to "numb" the emotional reaction enough that I can see through it to the root issue, and then actually do work on the root issue itself, so that I won't *need* to continuously desensitize myself to something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with me in the first place (i.e. my partner's other relationships).

But too many people stop at the desensitization process and think that, now that they're "numb" to this one thing, problem solved! Then that exact same issue gets triggered by a totally different thing, and they think "well, last time this desensitization made it more bearable, let's do that again!" It's the emotional equivalent, to borrow the pill analogy from the article, of taking shit loads of ibuprofen for my endometriosis. Every month, I'm wracked with pain and forced to spend a day or two in the fetal position, so I take ibuprofen to numb the pain enough to barely function. That is not a solution! A solution would be to attack the endo at the root cause so that I don't have to rely on copious amounts of drugs that may ultimately damage my liver from chronic use ever again!

Unfortunately, our medical industry is also misogynistic and has not put any effort into solving the root cause of endo, so millions of women are stuck desensitizing ourselves just to make it to work every month or ripping out a part of our internal organs which may or may not fix the problem anyway.

So don't let your cultural misogynistic programming work like our cultural misogynistic medical industry - we should not accept as sufficient the mere desensitization of emotional issues or hacking out deep parts of ourselves just to function. Focus on solving the actual problem of not seeing queer relationships as equally legitimate to hetero ones so that you don't need that mental ibuprofen anymore.

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