joreth: (polyamory)
#WhatRealPolyLooksLike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#polyamory #polyamorous #OpenMarriage #OpenRelationships #ConsensualNonMonogamy
joreth: (polyamory)
We have this damn argument constantly in poly forums.  Somebody calls someone a "unicorn hunter", somebody gets upset at the insult, someone else demands that there's nothing wrong with being a unicorn hunter, someone chimes in that they're a unicorn and proud of it, someone else tries to explain what the term means and where it came from, and then everyone yells "language evolves!" and "language police!" to justify whichever position they happen to hold.

And I'm fucking sick of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hence, "unicorn hunters".

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



From my comments in my FB thread:

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

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

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

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

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

Have I mixed my disaster metaphors sufficiently yet?

The big problem is that by the time I start becoming that squeaky wheel, I'm actually pretty done and ready to start withdrawing too. So it's often too late to fix anything by then.
joreth: (cool)
I think my parents are finally getting the hang of this whole poly thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go away
Come back
Go away
Come back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#MadEngineer #Chaosbunny #KillerOfDreams #TheOutsideContractor #HarbringerDestine #VillaintinesDay #SinglesAwarenessDay #NeverTooEarlyToStartPlanningWorldDomination #IMeanGangingUpOnMutualPartners #IMeanExpressingLoveAndGratitudeForMyPolycule #PolyHolidays
joreth: (polyamory)
Not too long ago, Professor Sex contacted me and asked if I had some extra energy reserves to address a question she had. She asked, if I was on a poly/CNM social networking site (not a dating site but there are no moderators/rules about dating etc.) and I see the following post: "Hey folks, we are a secured married couple in seek of a third to complete our triad. Any women in our state?" --- if I were to assume that they were well meaning and just needed to be educated, how would I reply to that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't try to find people for the spaces in your life, find spaces for the people in your life.
joreth: (polyamory)
I write a lot about the non-possessiveness of love.  This was my latest comment on someone's FB post:

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

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

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

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

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

Nobody can take that away from me which is not mine to begin with. My partners are not mine to share, they share themselves with me, and that is exactly what makes relationships so special, so unique, and so irreplaceable.
joreth: (polyamory)
Your regular, sporadic reminder that not everyone who is poly started out as a "couple opening up" or a bisexual woman who got courted by a couple, and that not all poly relationships involve polyfi FMF triads.

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

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

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

#polycule #TheAmorphousSquiggle #TheTangle #IStartedOutPolyAsAMostlyStraightSingleWoman #NeverOpenedUp #AlwaysPoly #IHaveWaitAMinuteFirstDefineTheTermPartner #MyRomanticNetworkNeedsA3DFlowchart #SorryIHaveNoIdeaHowManyPartnersMyPartnerCurrentlyHasIHaveLostTrack #OKSoWeAre3rdMetamoursTwiceRemoved? #MyBestFriendsSistersBoyfriendsBrothersGirlfriendHeardFromThisGuyWhoKnowsThisKidWhosGoingWithAGirlWhoSawFerrisPassOutAt31FlavorsLastNightIGuessItsPrettySerious #IAmYourFathersBrothersNephewsCousinsFormerRoommate
joreth: (polyamory)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

joreth: (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: (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: (Purple Mobius)
http://www.babble.com/relationships/this-is-what-divorce-looks-like/

This is why I'm so adamant that poly lessons are very rarely ever *poly* lessons, and they're more like lessons for healthy relationships in general. This is why I can seem pushy about polyamory - I'm not out to "convert monos" because, frankly, I'd rather not have your monogamy baggage clouding up my dating pool. But I *am* out to improve the existing relationships of those around me, and it is my opinion that those lessons are most commonly found in poly circles.

Those lessons include advanced communication skills, but more importantly, consciously designing your relationships to meet the needs of the individuals, rather than trying to shoehorn people into a single relationship mold.

This is also the very foundation of why I am solo poly. Solo poly does NOT mean "unpartnered". It's not "being single" (although solo polys *can* be unpartnered, they're just not synonyms for each other). Solo poly means, to me, that I am an individual person, not half of a whole or a third of a triad or whatever. It means that all my partners get all of me as a whole and complete person, and each relationship is constructed based on that concept. Which further means that none of my relationships will look like the standard Escalator model, because that model hinges on the submerging of the individual into the group (or couple, in this case). It requires making the relationship more important than the individuals in it.

So I *might* someday have a relationship that superficially resembles an Escalator Relationship with some traditional markers of "couplehood", but the foundation of my relationships will always include the axiom "the people in the relationship are more important than the relationship". This leads, inevitably, to less traditionally structured relationships in order to meet the unique needs of the individuals in them. Like in the case of these and other parents who have figured out that they make excellent coparents but not spouses.

Build the relationships to meet the needs of the people in them. A marriage certificate is not necessary to create a healthy, fulfilling relationship, even one with a life-long emotional bond and children.

"Meshing your life with someone else’s is no small feat and the concept of marriage isn’t as simple as: Hey! We get along really well. We should live together forever! There are a million subtle nuances within every relationship that cause it to work or not to work, many of them only understood by the two people who experienced the relationship. I get along with my ex. I love my ex. That doesn’t mean we belong together." ~ Ditching The Escalator: Marriage does not have to be the only option; aka "it's possible to really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them" via [livejournal.com profile] tacit.

"Yeah, it’ll be weird, initially, watching my ex-husband with someone new, but I’d far rather adjust to that than maintain a very formal, even icy, existence with the father of my children and the woman with whom they’ll spend a large portion of their lives. ... I want to work with, not against, a woman who could potentially be the main female figure to my children when they’re not with me." ~ Metamour Relations 101

"Everyone is so caught up in defining family in this way or that way ... instead of just looking around at those people who are a part of our lives on a daily basis who love us and whom we love and being happy that so many people are present. The more the merrier. We are all family." ~ Consciously Designing Relationships

"The decision to end a marriage is not about quitting; it is about letting go of one relationship in exchange for another." ~ Polys Don't Breakup They Transition / aka our Breakup Workshop
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-01/sp-auw010615.php

The researchers specifically looked at "self-concept reorganization," the process of seeing and defining yourself separate from your ex and from the relationship. Asking the participants to reflect on their relationships helped the participants "build a stronger sense of who they were as single people," Larson says.
in close relationships, people begin to feel as though they overlap with the person they are close to. "The process of becoming psychologically intertwined with the partner is painful to have to undo," she says. "Our study provides additional evidence that self-concept repair actually causes improvements in well-being."
The recovery of a clear and independent self-concept seems to be a big force driving the positive effects of this study, so I would encourage a person who recently experienced a breakup to consider who he or she is, apart from the relationship," Larson says. "If that person can reflect on the aspects of him- or herself that he or she may have neglected during the relationship but can now nurture once again, this might be particularly helpful."
Although this article was about breaking up, recovery from breaking up, and the study was most likely exclusively about monogamous relationships, my take-away from this article is that solo poly is one relationship style that can give people a leg-up in breakup recovery. Since solo poly is defined, more or less, by the individuality of the participants, regardless of the emotional connection, and the intentional relationship structure is based on communication and self-reflection of needs and wants, it seems to me that people who practice solo poly well probably already have the tools necessary to recover from breakups quickly and in healthy ways, and also that people who practice solo poly well probably have the *potential* to have less painful breakups in general since there is less entwinement happening in the relationship to begin with.

With only a few exceptions, I have always felt that I "got over" my breakups faster than it seemed other people did. Some people have accused me of not really loving my exes if I could move past a breakup quickly, and in my blacker moments, I have wondered the same thing. In my most self-doubtingier moments, it has crossed my mind to wonder whether or not I don't feel as deeply as others.

But then I swim out of my morass and realize that the whole reason why I get so upset at the shit I rant about online is precisely because I feel so deeply about things that I get overwhelmed by bad stuff. And then this study comes out, and it just reinforces the high-self-esteem-voice in my head that, no, I'm just fine, I love just as "much" as anyone else. I just probably have more tools in my toolkit for handling breakups because I always maintain my sense of self as distinct from my relationships. My relationships are things that I do and connections that I treasure, but they are not the entirety of my identity. They aren't even a large portion of my identity, in spite of *how* I do relationship (i.e. being poly) being a large part of my identity.

And, it turns out, this thing that I've always done instinctively is probably what makes it possible for me to have had as many breakups as I've had (and also to have withstood as many attempts of people to trap me in abusive relationships as I have) and to still be able to trust in the next one, to open up and risk being vulnerable the next time, and to still believe that I'm worthy of love and that there is more love out there for me to find even after yet another breakup.
joreth: (Self-Portrait)
Someone asked me the following question, and this was my off-the-cuff answer (with a couple of minor additions & polishes after the fact):
What is your "price of admission" in a romantic relationship? Something that could be considered a flaw or a drawback, but that someone has to deal with to be in a relationship with you.
  • I'm independent, solo poly (even if I choose to someday cohabit and/or marry, I will still be an independent person who happens to be partnered, never "half of a single unit"). I make my own decisions. I ask for input and I consider how my actions will affect my partners, and I will try to make them part of the decision-making process if I can, based on how these decisions affect them, but ultimately, I make my own decisions about my life, I need to be seen as an independent, unique, and individual human being by my partner and the world around me, and that's that.

  • I make a differentiation between "couple" and "partnership". A "couple", in my mind, is a single unit consisting of two "halves". This is an arrangement where the relationship's identity is more important than the individual identities that make it up. A "partnership" is a cooperative connection between two equal individuals where the individuals always retain their individuality (and their autonomy) within the connection. I will not be part of a "couple", but I will build "partnerships" with other individuals who have equal power to sculpt and shape that partnership to our mutual benefit.

  • I still need public acknowledgement of my relationships and to present as part of a partnership at social functions, even though I'm solo poly.  This means that I require certain relationship markers such as public acknowledgement of our romantic relationship.  This can be achieved through Public Displays of Affection, having "dates", arriving and leaving social events together, using recognized relationship labels in introductions and in conversations (i.e. "this is my girlfriend, Joreth"), etc.  Because of the point above where I differentiate between "couples" and "partnerships", these relationship markers within a partnership are not exclusive.  We can coexist in multiple partnerships simultaneously, even in public at social events.  Just like I can have several friends or coworkers at one event and all be acknowledged as friends or coworkers or business partners, my romantic partners and theirs can all be acknowledged at the same time.

  • I'm a mass of contradictions on the surface and it may take some digging to understand the motivations that actually make my contradictions totally not contradictory.

  • I'm poly and that's not changing, although the structure of my network will ebb and flow and change over time and I will occasionally have only one, two, or no partners. The number of my partners and/or metamours is not what makes me poly, it's how I view & structure relationships that make me poly. I will never leave my other partners for someone, and I will never be comfortable dating someone who wants only me, unless he's even more solo & independent than I am and the reason he wants only me is because he spends so much time alone that he can't fit in another partner and still give me the time I need from him, and it's his choice that he's fine with.

  • I'm atheist. I fucking slam the needle on atheism. I'm anti-theist. I'm firebrand atheist. And I will mercilessly mock religion and supernatural beliefs. My friends know this about me and accept it of me because I don't pick fights with them over their beliefs, and they can choose to read my social media or not, knowing how I feel and that I will express my opinions here. Although I will challenge them if they say something to me directly that I know to be false, I am perfectly capable of holding my tongue and not *bringing up* my opinions against supernaturalism right at my friends because I can still like people as people even if I think they have silly ideas. However, I am *not* perfectly capable of holding my tongue with intimate partners and I need for them to be on board with my brand and style of atheism.

  • I'm feminist. That actually explains most of the above. And a good portion of below too.

  • I'm a ballroom and swing dancer. If my partner won't dance with me, I'll dance with others. Even if my partner *will* dance with me, it's proper ballroom etiquette to dance with others, and I happen to like that etiquette because it's primarily responsible for making me as good of a dancer as I am, since I've only had 2 real classes in dancing. And I will always feel like something is missing in my relationships where dancing is not an important shared activity. I view dancing as a metaphor for life and relationships, and vice versa. It's hard to overstate how important dance is to me.

  • I have a very dangerous job and I love it.

  • I have a job that keeps me poor, and I love it (the job, not being poor).

  • I cuss. A lot.

  • I do not want kids. Like, not even a little bit. And I'm pro-abortion.

  • I do, however, enjoy having pets. And those pets will always come first because they are dependent creatures that I have accepted responsibility for. Some days I have a reasonable handle on this, and some days I don't. So I might appear inconsistent in when I prioritize my pets above my people, but it's consistent in my own head and that's where it counts. You do not get a say in how I prioritize them, and you do not get a say in when I'm being unreasonable about handling my responsibilities.

  • I'm a teetotaler. I don't drink *at all*, and I don't do any kind of drugs that aren't prescription and absolutely necessary for medical recovery or treatment. I'm not opposed to those around me drinking alcohol or the occasional recreational experimentation (providing I'm nowhere near any second-hand smoke), but I don't date people who regularly use drugs or smoke cigarettes *at all* and I'm only going to barely tolerate social drinking and vaping. I will never stop hoping that someday my partners (who do them) will give up those things too, although I won't pressure anyone to change what they don't want to change. I will, however, assist in their efforts to quit if they want.

  • I'm a cranky, cynical motherfucker who gets into fights on the internet, even though they cause me massive anxiety and make me disappear for several days. This isn't likely to change.

  • As Franklin has once said, I'm a little bit scary sometimes. And I consider that a compliment.

  • I'm kinky. I don't have to have kink in all my relationships, but I am kinky and that's not likely to change.

  • My gender identity today is "tomboy". It may not be that tomorrow. But whatever it is, I probably still won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.

  • I am inconveniently straight. Yes, I find it an inconvenience. No, that doesn't mean that you can find some magical phrase that will "fix" this. On the rare occasion that I do engage in sexual activity with people of female biology, it's usually twigging some kind of gender play in my head, so I *still* consider myself straight even in that context. If you're wigged out by my fluid gender or by me experiencing mixed or different genders during my sex, we're really going to be a bad match. And I still probably won't want to have sex with your girlfriend. But I might be willing to have sex with certain of my metamours, under the right circumstances & with the right chemistry. If you don't understand the difference between those last two sentences, we're going to be a bad match.

  • I likely have what's called a "responsive libido", meaning that it's mostly low-to-non-existent, but can be revved up on occasion. Sex will likely fade to nearly gone over the course of a relationship and the only thing that will prevent it from disappearing all together is the acceptance of this fact and appreciation for the times when I can get it going. No wheedling, pressure, or moping about its loss will help.

  • I am not a beginner relationship partner.

  • And I do not react well to being "dealt with" or "tolerated" by partners. This "price of admission" needs to be paid gladly, gleefully, considered an honor to pay, or else I will begin to feel dismissed, condescended to, and unappreciated, and that will sour any relationship with me. The price of admission for a relationship with me is someone seeing all these things about me, truly seeing them, and saying "I'm not paying a goddamn thing. I'm so privileged to be in a relationship with you, that these are not deficits that I have to pay, they are things I am getting in return for providing you with the space to feel safe in being who you are around me. It is you who is paying me with the honor of allowing me to see who you are."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I posted this article with the following commentary in the Singleish and Solo Polyamory FB group, and I was asked permission to re-post my commentary.  So I'm archiving it here to prevent it from getting lost in the FB ether, and so that anyone wishing to re-post or refer to my commentary will have a link-back when they give me attribution:


This is a post by my metamour, that if you follow More Than Two, you've probably already seen. http://www.morethantwo.com/blog/2014/01/guest-post-on-zero-sum-family-and-consent/

When I started dating her partner, I spent a lot of effort on language to emphasize my solo nature. I had a dangerous job with unusual hours that I love and I was sick of men thinking it was "cute" at first but then trying to talk me out of it. I had never dated anyone who was poly-before-me at that point and I was fucking sick to death of cowboys. I had a long history of partners who sought to curb my autonomy.

So I used language deliberately to over-emphasize how solo I was, trying to nip that problem in the bud. But Shelly, at that point in her life, had invested most of her own self in the dream of "family". She and I had a lot of emails and a lot of discussion - tense, frustrated, tearful discussion - about family vs. solohood. She just could not understand my relationship with her partner. In her mind, it wasn't "serious" if it didn't match this family dream of hers.

She spent a lot of years struggling to understand my relationship with our partner. And I spent a lot of years struggling to reconcile my need for autonomy and independence with my desire for exactly the kind of family that she was offering, as well as to explain those seemingly conflicting needs and desires.

Then Shelly and I both dated another person. And she learned in one relationship what took me a lifetime of micro-aggressions to develop my autonomous stance. And I learned from that relationship a more nuanced definition of "family". This article is kind of a summation of some of our lessons on this topic (not that I had anything to do with the writing of it).

Shelly and I have both come towards the same destination from radically different starting points. Being autonomous has always been easier for me than for her, but finding that autonomy from within a family is her great lesson that I continue to need to work on.

I post this article because she addresses the need for autonomy within poly relationships from a unique perspective. She comes at it from a place of mental health and consent in a way that, although I'm sure others feel, I've not seen it verbalized in quite that way. Shelly looks at life in a very different way than anyone I've ever met. She adds nuance and flesh to already complex concepts, and she forces me to see myself from different points of view. So I want to share this article because it covers the dangers of hierarchical poly in a unique way, and the importance of autonomy, while in the comments she leaves room for the importance of family and compromise and commitment when oftentimes I see the pro-autonomy side stray too far into the "I am me, so fuck you" inconsiderate, un-compassionate (I know that's not a word, but it's what I mean) side.

Shelly makes me a better person, and if it weren't for polyamory, I'd never have met her; and if it weren't for our dating the same person (more than once), I'd never have gotten to know her on the level that I did. Shelly is the reason why I do poly. I mean, sure, it's great and all to have multiple partners. But equally, if not more important to me, is that poly relationships bring metamours into my life that I wouldn't have otherwise. There are lots of forms of non-monogamy out there, but polyamory and the emphasis on relationships over recreational sex as well as the importance of family - or at least of interconnected networks - polyamory brings the benefit of metamours. Metamours are half of the whole reason to do poly.

Not all my metamours have the same kind of relationship with me as I do with Shelly and not all of my metamours are like Shelly. That's not the point. But just as I subscribe to non-escalator relationships for romantic relationships and I require my romantic relationships to evolve into whatever form is best for *that* relationship because I find value in different types of relationships, I apply the same sort of freedom in evolving my metamour relationships.

My other metamours do not have the same sort of relationship with me as I do with Shelly. And that's the value of solo polyamory for me. If my metamour relationships were expected to ride their own version of a relationship escalator, then I wouldn't have the amazing relationships with each of them that I do have - as varied and unique as the people themselves. And I wouldn't have the amazing relationship with Shelly that I have, because our relationship never grew on the sort of metamour escalator that so many prescriptive, family-oriented relationships insist on - that even Shelly tried to insist on in the beginning. And as you can see from her writing, she is an amazing person, and my life would be less bright if I had to choose between an escalator metamour relationship with her that didn't fit right or nothing at all, if I could not find our own path to grow together. And we wouldn't have this gem of her writing to explain the importance of autonomy and independence as it pertains to consent and to mental health.
joreth: (Xmas Kitties)
I have a lot of issues surrounding cultural obligations of gift giving. A lot of it is internalized so it's not necessarily that any specific individual is making me feel obligated. But those feelings are there nonetheless.

Many years ago, I made a personal pact not to exchange holiday gifts with anyone except my parents (who still buy me lots of stuff, making my life considerably easier, which is a huge relief to someone living below the poverty line) and my nephews (because they're kids). It has always been my extended family's practice to stop buying gifts for family members when they turn 18, so I had some precedence to mitigate the social pressure to give gifts.

But as I dated, that pressure to exchange gifts grew, the more people I dated. It was always there in monogamy, because it's part of the social expectations wrapped up in being in a relationship and in being female (I just could not get it through my male partners' heads that I did not want them to buy me flowers or jewelry because they could not let go of the cultural trope that women like flowers and jewelry even when one of them says she doesn't). But as I started dating poly people, people who are already deliberately bucking the social conventions, that pressure didn't lessen.

As I said, it wasn't necessarily direct pressure from individuals. Because of my difficulty with gift-giving, I tried to date people who had similar issues, so that I could escape that pressure within my relationships. But when I started building large, multi-adult poly families, certain traditions were held by some people with a ferocity that brought all those social obligations roaring back, whether they intended it or not.

When there would be a holiday party, inevitably someone would bring someone a gift. I get it, it's a wonderful feeling to see someone's face light up with pleasure at something you did for them. I enjoy giving people gifts. But I'm dirt poor and I just can't afford it. So at these poly family and extended poly social gatherings, someone would be really into gift-giving. They might say "I just like giving gifts, no one has to get me anything" and they might even mean it. But some people would feel obligated to return the gesture. And others would likewise enjoy giving things. And sooner or later, we'd have a poly holiday gathering where everyone but me was exchanging gifts, and yet I would still be receiving them.

So I could continue to just accept gifts. Or I could make a fuss and reject all the gifts on principle. Or I could bow to the (usually unintended) pressure to return the gestures. Between socialization as a woman not to make waves, to go along with the crowd, "when in Rome", be polite, etc., and the genuine desire to do nice things for the people I love, as well as feeling left out that can be such a danger in polyamory in general, eventually that pressure builds, regardless of the well-meaning intentions of everyone else.

And forget giving gifts to just some people and not others. In a family where "honey, what's for dinner" can lead to a week of relationship triage emails and a panicky group IM chat, deliberately leaving someone out of what is supposed to be a beloved tradition expressing love and happiness is a social minefield.

So now, although I still have a poly family and I still have core partners (my replacement word for "primary" because I refuse the hierarchical power structure but still have emotionally intimate connections and long-term commitments), being a solo poly, I am missing that sense of obligation with regards to gift giving. I feel a huge relief as I look at my meager checking account and tally up all the bills and eye my empty work calendar and I realize that I don't have a dozen other people to buy gifts for in the next two weeks and I don't have to deal with the crazy, hectic consumerist shopping trauma that my life always entails because I'm always too busy with work in the months leading up to December so I only have a couple of weeks before the holidays to even start thinking of gifts. And I know I could make gifts that would be cheaper, but then I have that whole time issue thing.

So, I'm thankful that I can build deep, intimate, loving connections with my partners, and even to create our own traditions, but can also have the kind of structure that makes it *look* like I'm a single person, which allows me to discard certain other traditions that don't work for me without hurting people's feelings or raising too many eyebrows.

I deal enough with poly education of my monogamous circles, that sometimes it's a relief to do something that I don't have to explain or justify, even if they accept it for the wrong reasons. They all think it's totally reasonable that I wouldn't have anyone to buy gifts for because I'm "just dating around" or "single", but when I have a partner that passes for an escalator relationship partner, and I talk about how stressful gift-giving is, that's one more battle I have to fight to make people understand alternative relationship options.

There are a lot of obligations and expectations that I feel free of by identifying as a solo poly. There are other things I struggle with, other downsides, other expectations. But this is one I am happy to be free of. And it doesn't mean that I dislike receiving gifts, or giving them for that matter. It just means that I feel some relief of this particular pressure to give, that really comes from several places and is a very complex issue for me.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Someone made a post in a poly Facebook group that invited everyone to complete that sentence. So I did. Then I made a hashtag for it on Twitter. Then I realized that tweets don't last forever, so I'm making this post to archive them:

...you come home and your girlfriend's husband's girlfriend is in the front yard tending to the vegetable patch.

...you lay down at night and you have both your husband and wife laying beside you and your perfectly content to share your queen size bed with 2 other adults

...it takes both your husband and your partner about 36 hours long to 'forgive' you for bringing home a new dog and each hopes you intend for it to primarily live with the other. *inno*

...your girlfriend's partner's wife's boyfriend's kids are playing with your girlfriend's kid in the living room.

...you stay home happily napping because you know your boyfriend and your girlfriend and your other boyfriend are all contentedly playing D&D together for the evening.

...you don't own a TV.

...you go to make plans with your g/f but shes busy going out drinking with your other g/f... >.>'

...your husband looks at your potential new lover and says, "Shes spoiled." ( live with two of my lovers) :D

...you describe your metamour to someone as "my boyfriend's life partner".

...you walk down the street holding hands with two loves at once. and then you skip. cause how can you not?

...your hot threesome with two of your boyfriends is interrupted by one of their wives saying "are you guys done yet? Cuz I'm hungry!" and this causes laughter, not strife. (Joreth)

...someone asks you how your boyfriend is doing, and you answer "which one?" (Joreth)

...a msg from your bf's gf filled with evil plots to torture him is met with enthusiasm from all involved, not drama (Joreth)

...you have to clarify to the interviewer for the glossy magazine that honest to god, you get along just fine with your gal's husband, and that he perceives "tension" in your voice because that's what he's expecting to find.

...you have to repeat yourself to the interviewer "no, there really isn't one I love better than the others and no amount of rephrasing the question will change the answer" (Joreth)

...trying to explain who is involved with whom and how, confuses everyone, including yourself until you pull out the chart. (Joreth)

...said chart is color coded, requires a legend, and is on your iphone because this happens to you so often, you need to keep it with you at all times. (Joreth)

...you're hanging out with your husband, your girlfriend and your girlfriend's husband... and you realize for the first time in your life you're really, truly sexually content.

...most of your friends knit.

...your partners have a pseudo show down on who is going to pick up the kid because you are too sick to manage it as usual. "I will pick him up." "no, I will." "no, I will."

...your husband tells you your boyfriend is adorable.

...saying "Ma…Ste…Sar…Ke… shit!" isn't a mom mixing up kids' names, but you mixing up partners! (Joreth)

...you throw out terms like "metamour" & "compersion" & no one listening stops you for definitions (Joreth)

...the kinky butch lesbian at work says "girl, I thought *I* was weird!" (Joreth)

...a sign of commitment is your bf's wife asking your opinion on mattresses for the MegaBed she's building (Joreth)

..."honey, what's for dinner?" turns into a 3 day email conversation & a panicky group IM chat (Joreth)

...you log in to Facebook to find your husband has changed his display picture to one of him and your boyfriend.

...your girlfriend periodically rotates her Facebook profile picture to give all of her men their fair share of time at her side.

...you and your boyfriend can't wait to compare notes on your dates the night before.

    ...(Oh, and hubby has already been filled in. :-)

...your husband hums the Hockey Night in Canada theme as you leave the room to have "quiet time" with your boyfriend. There is no hockey game on.

...your girlfriend and boyfriend take you home after being in an exhausting show, feed you wine and poutine and let you whine about being sooooo sick while your husband takes care of the boy.

...you're out for coffee with your girlfriend and she notices the hickey on your neck from your husband and lends you her scarf so you don't get mocked at work ♥

...you're borrowing your Halloween costume from your husband's gf.

...you see a Poly couple on Anderson Cooper's Show and get totally excited and can't think of who you're going to call first, the boyfriend or the girlfriend.

...you answer "how come you never married?" with "because 2 of my boyfriends are already legally married, and the other boyfriend's finances are a mess so I don't want to get dragged into that. But I might marry one of my boyfriend's other girlfriends for the medial benefits she gets at work if we move to a state with domestic partnership laws." (Joreth)

           -You know you're an OUT poly when you realize you just said this to your new boss.

...you ditch your socially full Friday night to be with your parents at the emergency vet watching your family dog pass away after a horrible accident and come home to your two men trading off showing you love, support and caring by listening, giving you food and a large martini. I am so blessed and grateful for my family and what we have all created (including my parents!)

...someone asks if you're single, & you respond: "Yes. Wait. ...Well, Mostly? ...Do you mean sexually or emotionally?" (@themaili)

...dating one person makes you think, "...wow. my social calendar feels so open. I should call up my old friends..." (@themaili)

...your boss giving you a plus-one to the company holiday party puts you in a moral & ethical dilemma. (@themaili)

...you hand your phone to one partner to take a sexy pic to send to another partner (@rsetzer314)

...you tag a partner in an ambiguous post on FB ("winning") and the partner you live with hits "like" (@rsetzer314)

...you add 'metamour' and 'frubbly' to the dictionary on your phone. (@notpilgrim)

...you realize you're hitting on the waitress, cause your date starts flirtatiously playing wingman for you. (@themaili)

...you hear that some guy is hitting on your wife and the first thing out of you mouth is "you go girl" (@Artofpaint)

...you want a caldav server to keep track of your dates. (@Artofpaint)

...you get grumpy because a romantic comedy doesn't end in a joyful orgy (@nanayasleeps)

...you have to ask "Whose hand is that?" (@relsqui)

...every romantic comedy you see you spend shouting JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER FOR CHRISSAKE. (@themaili)

...you send an iPhone postcard of the [romantic] mountain getaway to your metamour. (@cunningminx)

...you reflexively go to change the station everytime you hear a song lyric like "you're the only one" or "only you" (@themaili)

...the pic of your current partners is the wallpaper on your work computer #outandproud (@youngmetropoly)

...you know that love has no limits but time does (@HeavenlyWillow)

...your child, watching some sitcom, says "Why don't they just talk to each other??" 

...you pull up your file of your mate's sexy photos to find some for him to post to his online dating profile. And you're grinning the whole time! 

...your girlfriend casually mentions going on a date w/you to your wife's dad, and it's a Good Thing. 

...you wish your girlfriend happy anniversary but it's not YOUR anniversary. 

...Winterval gets expensive just buying for your partners (@xmakina)

...you tell her you had sex with her boyfriend in the shower and her first question is about the physical logistics. -F (@labcoatlingerie)

...you are just as excited about your love falling for another woman as he is. (@Shykokami)

...you run out of colors on your Google calendar. (@kelleytastic)

...you wonder why the characters in soap operas bother to marry each other one at a time. (@TriniPagan)

... you miss your girlfriend, and your wife comforts you. #NoNotLikeThatIMeanAHug #NotAllAboutTheSex 

...your network can spread a cold across national boundaries. *achoo* (@FranklinVeaux)

...you stress about introducing your new potential to your ex & their partners (@themaili)

...you can't wait to introduce your new potential to your exes & their partners! (@Kalyana)

...your metamour asks you what color scarf you want knitted. (@cunningminx)

...your metamour mournfully apologizes for disrupting sex between you & the shared GF (@MarkSobba)

...after you've been dumped your primary tries to comfort you by saying "we broke up once too" (@rsetzer314)

..."I'm currently on the lookout for a curvy girl." "You'd probably like my girlfriend." XD (@relsqui)

...you're having a moment of weakness to reach for the phone to call your recent ex & your husband says "don't do it!" (@PolyDen)

...your wife keeps washing underwear and giving them to you, but they don't belong to you, they belong to your husband's other girlfriend. (@Heidi Britt)

...the Canadian court decision makes you want to stage a kiss-in at the courthouse. bit.ly/tUq9q7

...every time you see "it's complicated" FB #relationship status for someone you don't know, you think "closeted #poly." (@themaili)

...you have to take both your paramours on a date in the front row at campus movie night so the whispering crowd will finally get it that it's not a secret!

...your boyfriend's girlfriend comes up with a brilliant idea, and you glow with pride to be part of such an awesome network of people. (Yes, me, just now, at this. :) ) (@Emanix)

...you make sure the UU minister who is to marry you deletes the words "foresaking all others" from the vows - and she takes it all in stride because she knows full well why you asked her to do it without your having to explain. (Anita Wagner)

...you have a romantic candlelit dinner for three (@Emanix)

...you ask a metamour about who's partnering who to your other partner's wedding, & both end up with a 'plus one-half'. (@Emanix)

...you hear the word #unicorn and you don't immediately think of a mythical horse with a horn. (@youngmetropoly)

...you giggle like a school girl gushing to your HUSBAND about seeing your BOYFRIEND. (@funkristy)

...you ask your partner for opinions on Valentine's gifts for your boyfriend (@OxfordPoly)

...you can't decide if 'friend/partner of a friend' or 'my partner's partner's partner' is a nearer connection (@Emanix)

...half of any relationship is spent learning new terminology (@NiaCJohn)

...you out your hubby’s crush TO HIS CRUSH, & your 1st thought is: I REALLY hope he’s home getting great sex. (@themaili)

...your girlfriends send each other photos of themselves with the bears you got them last weekend (@xmakina)

...your weekend is as likely to involve watching cartoons in bed w/a sweetie as it is a hot threesome. #NotAllAboutTheSex 

...spending the weekend "at home" could mean any of 4 different houses in 2 different cities. 

...one person dropping out of a weekend causes a complete reshuffle of sleeping arrangements for everyone. (@Emanix)

...you have to explain that, no, he can't come to the orgy cuz he's not part of the network & hasn't been tested (Joreth)

...you have to further explain that there is a surprising amount of logistical planning when it comes to orgies (Joreth / Franklin)

...your conservative Christian coworker tries to set you up with his younger brother because his brother refuses to "settle down" and your coworker thinks you've figured out how to do it responsibly & safely & without "the crazy chicks". (Joreth)

...your conservative Christian coworker asks you for sexual safety advice when he and his wife start talking about having a threesome. (Joreth)

...your mono "friends" confide in you about their cheating cuz they think you'll "get it". (Joreth)

...your cheating mono "friends" are then surprised to get a lecture from you about safety, compassion, & insensitivity. (Joreth)

...you have certain phrases on auto-response & don't even have to think about them, they just come out: yes he knows & he's OK with it; no I'm really not jealous of his wife; of course they both know, if they didn't, it would be cheating; actually, they were both friends with each other before I started dating either of them; I did find The One - in fact, I found several Ones; I am settled down, they are my family; my relationships ARE real relationships; no, I'm not a Mormon.

...at a wedding, there's a special photo for 'partners of the bride & groom'. <3 (@Emanix)

...people look at your "family" and say "nice entourage!" (@deadhead_moni)

...your boyfriend takes you to his office Christmas party. On the way, you stop at your other boyfriend's house to get the coat he borrowed from your boyfriend.. Boyfriend needs pants for the party, so gets a loan of fancy pants from your other boyfriend. Boyfriend needs office party gift wrapped, so your girlfriend offers to wrap it all pretty for him. You both get kissed and hugged goodbye as you leave for the party! (PS.. for those who are still confused, there were four poly people involved in this story.)

...you're out Christmas shopping and hold up the cashier because you're distracted simultaneously texting one boy about last night, a second boy about tonight, and a third about tomorrow night!

...you're making presents for 8 parents (two sets for one of us due to a remarriage).

...you are out browsing with your husband and son and your husband finds the perfect gift for your boyfriend on sale.

...you spend more time talking about sex than having it.

...you're talking about a schedule for showering in the morning with your wife and GF and just decide to have one together.

...Facebook's new Timeline shows a random image of six of your friends, and all six are crushes.

...nobody seems to have done anything wrong, but suddenly everything is all fucked up.

...your husband doesn't remember the date of his anniversary with his girlfriend, so you have to find it for him using the records in his Google Calendar.

... on your partner's Facebook profile it shows you a thumbnail box of eight mutual friends, and you've been intimate with all eight of them.

...you invite all your friends over and realise you've dated all of them, or their partners, at some point in time.

...you're in bed with your girlfriend checking out profiles on OKCupid and comparing notes.

    ...and then she gets a text from her boyfriend and has to jump out of bed to go check her Google calendar.

...you agree to go to a movie with your husband even though it is going to scare you silly and you hate being scared all because you realize he deserves it because he willingly stays home with the kids so you can have overnights with one of your loves.

...you are in bed with your boyfriend while he is texting his wife... and you love it . or when your hubby offers to stay out so you and your bf can have a sleep over at house

...you're making a fancy dinner for your two sweeties.

...your husband calls your boyfriend cupcake and boyfriend calls husband muffin! Lmao....totally platonically.

...your husband helps you pick out an outfit for your date with your boyfriend.

...your bf tends the kids so hubby and you can go to the hot springs for playtime with another couple. Teehee

...a calendar is more valuable to you than money o.o

...boyfriend has to buy two packages of condoms because he forgot which size husband needs....lolol..

...your boyfriend shows up with flowers for you, and beer for your husband and a movie to all snuggle up to

...talking on the phone to a far-away partner about their budding relationship (and accompanying sexy misadventures) with another person makes you feel fuzzy and warm inside.

...you are home alone, because your partner is on a date, your girlfriend is in another city, and your lover is at work.

...your partner asks you "why are you so dressed up this morning, is there a cute girl at work?"

...your sleeping-arrangement negotiations have to include whose bed the cat will sleep in.

...you're at a break-up dinner party hosted by your partner A and his ex B, your ex X messages you seeing if you want to hang out tonight, and when your girlfriend G notices X checked in on foursquare at his apartment (after a spell of international check-ins) you suggest to her (G) that you and G surprise crash X's place since you haven't seen him since many poly meets ago and both you and G both think he's cute.

...you often confuse people in your life when you mention other people in your life and don't have your current (and past) polycule diagram on hand.

...you just knew passing up that potential GF was going to kick your ass eventually. And holy fuck did it ever!

...you stay up late poly processing about twice as often as you stay up late having sex.

...you think about whether you're doing it wrong at *least* once a week, and share that with other poly people (because the non-poly friends stopped getting it).

...you can't see your lover often because she lives in another city, but you find time to flirt publicly on a social media group for poly people.

...you're reading this and getting all frubbly, or you're thinking 'yep, me too'.

...your boyfriend comes over to be cheerleader for job interviews because hubby is *not* so good at that....

...you wonder where all the time went.

...you are chatting with an online friend you haven't met in person- but are attracted to- and mutually agree to do a smooch test for compatibility when you do end up meeting in person.

...you're saddened by the difficulty one of your metamours (who identifies as mono) is having with the fact that your shared partner is poly. Due to the fact that she is not poly, she wants nothing to do with meeting you but you really wish she would so you could try to help her understand. You just wish you could go for a beer with her and give her a hug

...you're scheduled to sing at your boyfriend's upcoming wedding reception.

...you can flirt with multiple people simultaneously, within the same thread on a FB discussion.

...you deliver your boyfriend to your girlfriend so he can take her shopping for sex toys, and, after kissing them both in the lobby of a 5-star hotel (where you'd been hiding from the rain), you text your girlfriend to remind your boyfriend to pick up lube.

...the new guy you're dating turns out to have been a jerk, and you talk to your boyfriend about it and he gives you snuggles to help you feel better.

...you chat on Skype with your best friend, talking about the hot sex she just had with your boyfriend

...your boyfriend comes over to make sure you are OK when hubby and you are having difficulty and does his very best to support the both of you without being "in the middle"

...you like one partner's Facebook comment but not the other's, and then you start to wonder if the other partner will be offended that you didn't like their comment, and then you wonder if you should just like all their comments just to be fair to both of them.

...metamour bonding includes all three people in the V sharing a bed, and you're so impressed with the intimacy that was created from caring about the same person.

...your metamours console you about a rough breakup.

... you break up with your partner and their other partner reaches out to help you get through it. (Joreth)

... you break up with your partner and your other partners and metamours are shocked and upset that your now-former partner's other partners *didn't* reach out to help you get through it, because your current partners & metamours assume that family is family and a breakup doesn't necessarily change that, so the metamours through the former partner should have. (Joreth)

...there is nowhere on the internet to discuss your poly joys or sorrows that doesn't include at least part of your romantic network.

...your new love interest comes over to meet your primary, your bf shows up too in a protective gesture lol.

...after (a most unusual) 3 weeks in which nearly every night has been spent with a partner, you are foolishly, blissfully happy to find yourself alone in your own bed.

...your girlfriend says how happy she is to be alone in her bed after several weeks, and you and her other girlfriend both have the same thought- what about the cat?

...you spontaneously ride out to meet your metamour for a quick lunch on the beach, then make sure to check both of you in together on Facebook because you know it will make your sweetie happy.

...you have laundry. ALL THE LAUNDRY.

...you're home all alone because your partner is on a date, and your out of town lover, who is also on a date, texts you at the start of hers to tell you how it's going, and this makes you feel cared about.

...you send four texts in a row to different people, all containing the mathematical expression, less than three.

...you read stuff like this pretty much every day on your newsfeed, because the vast majority of your FB friends are either your lovers, your former lovers, your metamours, or part of your poly community.

...you try to create a Facebook list called "Polyfamily," and you struggle to remember everyone who's supposed to be on it, and even when you're finished, you're pretty sure you've forgotten someone.

...you negotiate relationships as early as the day after a first date because you know you have a full plate of things to put energy into. You feel a little sad but empowered to be saying no.

...you text "I love you & miss you" to a partner that reminds you to text another. I love being loved!

...you're giddy with excitement to have made a coffee date with your very first poly metamour!

...you get stuck home with the kids when hubby is gone for the weekend and original plans with so get all screwed up because he suddenly gets invited out, and you can't go

...you haven't dated in a decade b/c school, work and home made your schedule too full, so now that you are dating, you need your husbands help to make sure you aren't making a fool of yourself. And when he sees you talking to said interest online, he finds something else to do instead of asking for the computer b/c you are obviously doing something more important that him checking FB.

...your husband gives you his fortune and it reads "Your meaning of love is special. Why not share it."

...you go on a date, come home to your boyfriend, and send a message to your lover excited about it.

...you encourage your partner to go on dates because reconnecting after is so much fun and you have so much to say to each other.

...Friday night plans involve a game of musical beds amongst some of your closest friends, with your roommate having an overnight at yours/her boyfriend's place so your girlfriend can have an overnight with you while her hubby has an overnight with his girlfriend. #keepingitsimple

...you spend your Friday night talking poly with you metamour and consider it a well spent evening.

...you have plans for dinner next week and as a trained pastry chef you let go of the reigns to let said metamour bring dessert.

...you can't keep track of who all the toothbrushes belong too. (compounded when you have poly roommates)

...you ask how she feels about sneaking off for a quickie at an upcoming engagement. Her reply: with who?

...you sneak in a quickie with hubby before going out with your other sweetie

... you ask your husband, "may I have some of your potato chips." He responds, "as long as you don't take more than half." And you answer, "That is a very clear boundary that I can respect."

...your husband writes a post on a poly forum on April fools morning stating that you are pregnant by your boyfriend and it could be true if he weren't fixed.

...you exchange contact info and ask if they want to link Google calendars to "make it simpler".

...you need to get someone quickly out of a bad situation, and 12 people and 4 trucks show up with 6 hours notice to get it done in under two hours. Yay community!

...you set up a date with an online acquaintance at the local fet night, as a double date with your husband and his girlfriend...and your date is totally okay with the arrangement.

...this thread gives you a bigger and bigger smile that is equal parts recognition, compersion and "oh, I want THAT"! 

...you think about inviting a new lover to something you regularly attend with your partner, and wonder what your partner would think about that... then remember that your partners other lover comes too

...you spend an awesome night out at the club with your husband and metamour then come home to hang out. She stays the night and is there to help you care for your sick husband the next day.

...your boyfriend and your roommate (who happens to also be dating your boyfriend) make extra food for you cos you haven't eaten all day and have tons of work to do, and you smile as you hear them giggling and making out as you get back to work at the computer for the evening

...you totally get the title of this book and want to read it: http://www.amazon.com/Polyamori-gypsysattva-ebook/dp/B006UTL748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327351717&sr=8-1 (@diparra27)

...it fucking sucks to be in the middle of dating 2 people who are each dating one half of a shitty breakup. (
@themaili)

...you find yourself joking, "no YOUR partner did something dumb" ...about the person you're (both) dating. (
@themaili)

...watching your partner dance w/draw on another woman makes you grin like an idiot (@rsetzer314)

...you spend your evening wrapping ALL your metamour's bday presents because your partner sucks at it (@OxfordPoly)

...pillow talk includes discussing other partners or potential partners (@rsetzer314)

...you go to a bisexual meetup with your metamour and have to keep saying 'our partner' instead of 'my partner' (@OxfordPoly)

...your girlfriends go to IKEA together… to purchase a bigger bed. (@sfslim)

...you are negotiating boundaries in your relationships via grouptext. (
@themaili)

..."I'm really glad you can be there for her" turns into a makeout session. (
@themaili)

...your boyfriend helps you revise your okcupid profile. ("How do I find more people I like as much as I like you?") (@relsqui)

...you're planning a first date on IM, while you watch boyfriend play video games, and his girlfriend is making dinner. (@relsqui)

...you fantasise about living in a farm house to accommodate you and your lovers, even though you hate rural living. (@redfernjohn)

...the family schedules a time on the calendar to schedule time on the calendar. True story. 

...someone cute mentions an upcoming date, & your default response is to flirt by offering cute date ideas. (
@themaili)

...you & your metamours spend quality time razzing your shared partner. (
@themaili)

...you are watching the LGBT pride parade with your metamour, and having a blast! (@polyamorypundit)

...you ask your wife what your girlfriend's favorite condom flavor is. :-) 

...your poly perspective takes the funny out of a comedian's routine presuming universal monogamy. (@polymisanthrope)

...your boyfriend's wife knits you a scarf for Valentine's Day. And it matches your outfit perfectly! (@cunningminx)

...your husband offers to make a romantic candlelight dinner for you and your girlfriend on #valentinesday. (@rosefox)

...you're forced to answer your friend's "How's your love life?" at a party w/ "...We should catch up over dinner." (
@themaili)

...you have a dream that the girl you're crushing on, and her boyfriend, turn out to be poly already. (@FishAye
)

...sharing Google calendars has become the official First Step in turning "dating" into big-r Relationship. (Joreth)

...your boyfriend's other girlfriend comes to visit you, even though your mutual boyfriend doesn't even live in your state, and you take her out swing dancing because that's another thing you have in common with her that even your boyfriend doesn't share. (Joreth)

...meeting your high school sweetheart's new girlfriend makes you feel compersion even though they're mono & you haven't dated him in nearly 20 years. (Joreth)

...you apply same justification for poly (metamours are opportunities to make new friends) to defend why it's OK to stay friends with exes (partner's exes are opportunities to make new friends / exes' new partners are opportunities to make new friends) even in mono culture. (Joreth)

...you text your boyfriend with a deliberately-misleading-but-technically-true "I met a dancer & took him home last night!" message and when you explain the details and it's not what it sounds like, your boyfriend is actually disappointed for you that it's not what it sounded like instead of jealously relieved that it was a joke, because he knows how much you'd like to date another dancer.

    ...the same thing happens when you do again to your other boyfriend. (Joreth)

...you realize that the "celebrity exception" lists that you thought were a safe way to fantasize with your partner about other people because it could never really happen aren't so safe because it could actually happen.

...you realize that said "celebrity exception" list is actually more exciting knowing that it really could happen and you're totally OK with that.

...you exchange dirty emails with a celebrity you idolize and arrange a second tryst, preferably in his town next time, and when you tell your boyfriend about it, he gives you a high-five and a "RIGHT ON!" (Joreth)

...My husband lost his phone. The first thing I did was message his girlfriends to let them know. ‪

...you start making valentine's plans before xmas, which include a romantic dinner for eleven. (@Emanix)

...you realise you need a bigger table for your romantic valentines dinner for nine. (@Emanix)

...someone's talking about unicorns and you assume they are talking about single bisexual females

...you just did laundry for three days and you realize none of it was yours.

...you've ever used the word metamour in casual conversation

...you use the phrase "my boyfriend's girlfriend" in a non-joking context.

...you mention your "girlfriend's girlfriend" in the office and everyone stops what they're doing to stare agape at you

...you and your husband are talking about his girlfriend in public and people think you're joking.

...u show up at work with love marks and when asked if your wife was hungry and you say yes they sure were.

...someone says they spoke to your girlfriend or wife and you answer with "You are going to have to be more specific."

...you redesigned your kitchen to make space for an industrial three-bay sink and a six-burner stove, and your cookware looks like it could easy roast a whole pig!

...you wake up in bed with your boyfriend and his wife.

...you're watching a show or movie and the main characters are in a love triangle with drama, the first thing to come to mind would be "they wouldn't have problems if they were poly,"

...you have an opinion on "couple's privilege,"

...you find yourself giving your gf/bf/wife etc. dating advice and/or counseling on their other relationship(s)

...you've helped your husband pick out a gift for his wife

...you have a Google calendar called "dates" that is shared with more than 2 people

...you have ever found another woman's underwear in your bedroom floor and laughed trying to identify who's they were

...you decided to go to "no gift Christmas" because re-financing the house every year wasn't an option

...you ever smiled while seeing your partner kiss someone else

...you've spent the last few evenings helping your partner process her transition with your former metamour - with and without your nesting partner there helping - you might be poly.

...your boyfriend's wife calls your partners to remind you to get ready for the dinner cruise with him. (@AnneRialen)

...between partners and metamours planning valentines week requires the coordination of seven people's schedules (@RandyFrehse)

...your bfs wife is baking cookies for her bf and sends some to you just because (@tixarah)

...you call out "Honey!” and more than one person answers back. (@AnneRialen)

...If the town gas station attendant pulls you to the side to inform you that your husband was spotted "seeing someone else" and you reply with "yea I needed a break - I've been with them every night this week"

...you end up with a husband-in-law.

...you somehow manage to get engaged to your husband's girlfriend *at your wedding(Joreth)

...the woman you proposed marriage to marries another, and then promptly re-proposes back to you at the wedding. (Joreth)

...your boyfriend becomes your outlaw and his girlfriend (you) becomes his fiance-in-law. (Joreth)

...the Bride & Groom nearly end up in a sword fight over who gets the Best Mate on whose side. (Joreth)

...And then the Best Mate and the Groom nearly end up in a sword fight over who gets the Bride. (Joreth)

... The Bride & the Best Mate don't need to get into a sword fight over the Groom because they've already tag-teamed him and they have a contingency plan to save him for food when the zombie apocalypse happens. (Joreth)

...your extra-competitive partner can't let you Eiffel Tower her more than she's Eiffel Towered you, so she and your other partner literally stop what they're doing to Eiffel Tower you a few more times (whether you consented to it or not), and invent a Tower of Babylon while they're at it so that you can't even hope to catch up when it's your turn to Eiffel Tower her later. (Joreth)



1. I left out attributions to the Facebook contributors since FB requires real names. If you want yours to be attributed, feel free to say so in the comments, along with your preferred name, and I'll edit this post.

2. I will periodically re-check the hashtag & FB thread and update this post with new additions.  Feel free to add to this list in the comments.
joreth: (polyamory)
How To Share:

One of the biggest concerns/complaints that I hear from poly newbies (or, rather, from monogamous partners of poly newbies who are only reluctantly poly) is the division of time. If I work 8 hours a day, spend 1 hour a day in commute traffic, and sleep 8 hours a day, that gives me only 6 hours a day with my spouse. If some of that time is spent doing chores & eating dinner, that really only leaves the weekends. How can you ask me to give up any of the only 48-hours left to someone else?

Well, as Franklin continues to point out, it's not a zero-sum game if you can learn to value all your time with your partner as quality time, even if there are other people present. This doesn't mean that alone-time is totally worthless, just that shared-time *also* isn't totally worthless. In fact, it could very well turn out to be some of your most important relationship-building time ever!

This is something that my parents taught me.

For example, by definition, the entire time I've known my parents, they've had kids. This means that they almost never got any "alone time". Babysitters are expensive. Usually, anytime my parents wanted to do something special with each other, they had to take us kids along. But instead of begrudging our presence, my parents valued "family time". Their relationship to each other was redefined once us kids came along and it was no longer just about the two of them, it was about the four of us. Sure, they did still hire babysitters and, once, they even had my grandmother come stay with us for a week so they could go to Hawaii. But they were not a "couple", they were a family of four.

In my family, my parents anniversaries were never a private matter. Their smallest celebrations always included us kids - usually dinner at a nice restaurant. But for their special milestones, they had big gatherings. My parents viewed celebrations of their relationship as things to be celebrated with others. Just like their wedding was an honoring of their commitment to each other by including their family and friends, other celebrations of their relationship, such as anniversaries, were also considered to be honoring their commitment by including their friends.

In other words, my parents' anniversaries and special celebrations that were all about the two of them were considered to be more honored and more special by including their family and friends in the celebration of my parents.

There's something special about sharing your relationship with others, about having those you care about most gather together to help you honor the relationship that you have with someone else. It's why we have big wedding ceremonies and big receptions afterwards. If relationships and relationship commitments were considered "private", there would be no wedding industry. We'd all stand before the officiate of our choice with a couple of witnesses for legal purposes and then have private "celebrations" after the legal work is done. Sure, some people do, but it's certainly not how our society thinks such things ought to be done.

In monogamous society, we already have a template for sharing our relationships with others. We already have a precedent for making a relationship between two people even more special by including others in a celebration of that relationship. In polyamory, it's no different in concept. It's only different in scale.

My relationship with my partners are each strengthened and honored when we share our love for each other with those closest family and friends. When my metamours can be present to witness how much my partner and I love each other, when they can participate by celebrating with us, our relationship to each other is made more intimate, at the same time that it deepens each of our respective relationships with them for having honored ours. When I can witness and celebrate their relationships and their love for each other, their relationships are made better for my honoring of their relationships, and my relationship with both my partner and my metamour is also strengthened by allowing me to participate in some part of their relationship together.

Just as, to me, a wedding without my sister there as my maid of honor, or a milestone wedding anniversary that my parents couldn't wish me happiness at, would be diminished for the lack of their presence, my relationships with my sweeties would be less without the presence of their loved ones and my other loved ones to help us celebrate. My parents celebrate their anniversaries with their children, and sometimes their extended relatives, because, to them, that is what their relationship with each other was all about - the foundation for building a family.

And that's what polyamory is all about to me too - building a family. The very idea of my time with any of my partners being diminished or lacking in quality just because a metamour is present is like saying my parents' anniversary celebrations are somehow diminished because us kids were there for it. Time spent alone with a single partner is *different* than time spent in a group, and sometimes we do need to prioritize alone-time over group time. But the idea of it not being *quality* time just doesn't compute to me. My parents wanted grown-up time without us kids, and we kids certainly wanted kid-time without them, but having the kids around was not a lack of quality time with each other. If anything, it was a greater quality because we were a family, and having us kids be there only reinforced that we were a family.

Having my partners and metamours present does not take away from the quality of my time with each of my partners. If anything, it's a greater quality to have everyone present because we're a family. Sure, I still want alone-time with each of my partners, and that alone-time provides a certain type of intimacy that the group-time doesn't. But it's not just me and him. Just like my parents are not a couple - they're a couple with a family, my partners and I are not a couple - we're couples with a family. And I learned that lesson from my monogamous, fidelitous, Christian parents. These are the "family values" I can support.
joreth: (Super Tech)
When discussing polyamory, I am often confronted by people who think it is reasonable to limit their pool of prospective partners to a single category.  This is often summarized by the cliche of the Unicorn, the Hot Bi Babe.  People confuse the very understandable desire to, say, limit their choices to people who don't want to eat babies in the middle of the night, with the idea that a single type of person is the only possible person that can make them happy.

What happens is that they say "I know for a fact that I can only be happy if I and my wife share the same person, and that person has no other partners, and we all live together in a house and raise children together and live off the proceeds from our chicken farm in Montana" (seriously, I was approached by a guy who said this once).  They then set out to find exactly a single bisexual female to give up all present and future partners, to love them both equally, who wants to raise children, leave her home and job to move into their house, and raise chickens.

And then they wonder why they can't find it.

There *are* some things that are deal-breakers.  For instance, I don't care just how much I might be attracted to the guy, if he likes slaughtering kittens, we're gonna have some relationship issues.  If he thinks that the Man is the King of his Castle, we're gonna have some problems.

But these people often come up to Franklin and say "wow, you have so many bi female partners, you must be really lucky!" and Franklin hates that, with good reason.  It completely negates all his hard work and effort to see people as who they are, not as providers for his happiness.  It completely overlooks the part where Franklin *sees* each person individually and leaves himself open to finding out how that relationship wants to work out.

As I keep saying, I find spaces for the people in my life, I don't find people for the spaces in my life.

And, as it turns out, there has been a study on this very thing.  It turns out that people who leave themselves open to just seeing what's out there, tend to be "luckier".  People who focus on a single outcome tend to miss possibilities and potentials that "lucky" people don't miss.  So when Franklin meets a woman, he just leaves himself open to learning about who she is and how she might naturally fit into his life and he into hers.  

When the Percivals (i.e. Unicorn Hunters) meet a woman, they are not open to the experience of who she is, they are evaluating her on how she fits a narrow list of criteria, and when she doesn't fit that exact list, she is rejected wholesale as unsuitable.  If she already has a husband, she is passed by without the Percival ever noticing that she actually *is* compatible with him and his wife, even with the husband, because the husband is also compatible and a quad could have formed.  But, since it's not a triad with a hot bi babe, it's rejected.  

People are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy.  And this study shows that people who are not fixed on a single idea are often happier, and "luckier" in life.

So, go out and just meet people.  See how things work without taking a preconceived notion of how you think they should work.  You might find that this person is, indeed, incompatible.  It doesn't mean you have to try dating everyone you come across, it means being open to considering the options and looking at it for what it is, not rejecting it for what it's not.  You might find a relationship that brings everyone happiness that you never even considered before.

And, interestingly enough, there's a note in there about how lucky people consider both logic and emotion.  The logical-only people fall into the "unlucky" category.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3304496/Be-lucky---its-an-easy-skill-to-learn.html

Those who think they're unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune, says Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman
Published: 12:01AM GMT 09 Jan 2003

A decade ago, I set out to investigate luck. I wanted to examine the impact on people's lives of chance opportunities, lucky breaks and being in the right place at the right time. After many experiments, I believe that I now understand why some people are luckier than others and that it is possible to become luckier.

To launch my study, I placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact me. Over the years, 400 extraordinary men and women volunteered for my research from all walks of life: the youngest is an 18-year-old student, the oldest an 84-year-old retired accountant.

Jessica, a 42-year-old forensic scientist, is typical of the lucky group. As she explained: "I have my dream job, two wonderful children and a great guy whom I love very much. It's amazing; when I look back at my life, I realise I have been lucky in just about every area."

In contrast, Carolyn, a 34-year-old care assistant, is typical of the unlucky group. She is accident-prone. In one week, she twisted her ankle in a pothole, injured her back in another fall and reversed her car into a tree during a driving lesson. She was also unlucky in love and felt she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Over the years, I interviewed these volunteers, asked them to complete diaries, questionnaires and intelligence tests, and invited them to participate in experiments. The findings have revealed that although unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.

Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not. I carried out a simple experiment to discover whether this was due to differences in their ability to spot such opportunities.

I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: "Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: "Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250." Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.

Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people's ability to notice the unexpected. In one experiment, people were asked to watch a moving dot in the centre of a computer screen. Without warning, large dots would occasionally be flashed at the edges of the screen. Nearly all participants noticed these large dots.

The experiment was then repeated with a second group of people, who were offered a large financial reward for accurately watching the centre dot, creating more anxiety. They became focused on the centre dot and more than a third of them missed the large dots when they appeared on the screen. The harder they looked, the less they saw.

And so it is with luck - unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

I wondered whether these four principles could be used to increase the amount of good luck that people encounter in their lives. To find out, I created a "luck school" - a simple experiment that examined whether people's luck can be enhanced by getting them to think and behave like a lucky person.

I asked a group of lucky and unlucky volunteers to spend a month carrying out exercises designed to help them think and behave like a lucky person. These exercises helped them spot chance opportunities, listen to their intuition, expect to be lucky, and be more resilient to bad luck.

One month later, the volunteers returned and described what had happened. The results were dramatic: 80 per cent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. While lucky people became luckier, the unlucky had become lucky. Take Carolyn, whom I introduced at the start of this article. After graduating from "luck school", she has passed her driving test after three years of trying, was no longer accident-prone and became more confident.

In the wake of these studies, I think there are three easy techniques that can help to maximise good fortune:

Unlucky people often fail to follow their intuition when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches. Lucky people are interested in how they both think and feel about the various options, rather than simply looking at the rational side of the situation. I think this helps them because gut feelings act as an alarm bell - a reason to consider a decision carefully.

Unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine. They tend to take the same route to and from work and talk to the same types of people at parties. In contrast, many lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives. For example, one person described how he thought of a colour before arriving at a party and then introduced himself to people wearing that colour. This kind of behaviour boosts the likelihood of chance opportunities by introducing variety.

Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. In one interview, a lucky volunteer arrived with his leg in a plaster cast and described how he had fallen down a flight of stairs. I asked him whether he still felt lucky and he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before. As he pointed out, he could have broken his neck.

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. His book, The Luck Factor (Century), is available for £9.99 + £1.99 p&p. To order, please call Telegraph Books Direct on 0870 155 7222.
joreth: (Super Tech)

A playfellow I'll be, but no man's toy.  A partner, helper, but no one's servant nor slave.  I will be captain of my fate and commander of my destiny, though the path I may share and the course I chart be followed by others.  What I have, I'll share, but I'll not give it over.  What I am, I am, and I'll not change it  What I will be, I will be, by my own will and no other.
~Mercedes Lackey, The Fairy Godmother

...although this does not preclude me from voluntarily giving up "control" in a temporary BDSM setting with very particular individiuals, but this is how I see life in general.

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