Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bi In bed, Hetero in the head

Seen in comments recently:

‘People might judge us, but my husband and I like to enjoy another female from time to time’

‘He is straight, I am bi, and we would love a woman to join our marriage’

As emotionally confusing it is when someone rejects the political/social labels of ‘Bisexual, sexually fluid, queer or pansexual’ whether this decision is made because of ingrained self hatred, strict religious codes in their community or fear of homophobia by ‘coming out’ there something a bit worse than not accepting who or what you are, this is about not recognising the limits to your sexuality and how it might effect others around you.

This situation is an elephant in the room with a lot of Unicorn seekers but what comes across from many of the women is that they  are ‘Bi in the bed’ by that, I mean, although they might be comfortable with the label, they have not examined further than their sexual desires.  Having a full and healthy romantic relationship with their husbands, (which is obviously strong enough for them to seek out Poly together) they concentrate a lot on sex with other women, whether they actually want, need or are capable of another romantic partnership in their lives. They might be ‘Missing a woman’s touch’ but they haven’t examined their ability to form a romantic relationship with another woman.
 Very often, they have been soft swingers, but more often than not, they are women turned off by casual encounters, but instead of looking for a secondary partner, they get enamoured by the idea of having a HBB at home on tap.

Sexuality is a spectrum, we are not either/or, hetero, bi or homo, there are many different configurations, some people are sexually attracted to both genders but do not have the desire or capacity to form a strong romantic relationships with those of either the opposite or the same sex.

When a woman is only bi in bed than the onus of maintaining a romantic relationship falls to the Male, essentially making the relationship an andro-focused Vee with occasional threesomes or even dyadic sex between the women when the mood strikes them. The friendship between the women gets tried and tested as they begin to fight over the attentions of their romantic focus, their sexual relationship wanes because they don’t have the love to sustain it and the relationship eventually either breaks up or become a Vee, in the same way as the ‘I wasn’t as bi as I thought’ Poly Trope.

There isn’t a problem with being bi in bed, as long as everyone in the relationship knows this and knows what to expect. Consider, before you open your marriage whether it is onlya woman’s touch’ that is missing from your life, you might want to think about dating women and see how your emotional relationships with women develop before you claim to offer up a primary romantic as well as sexual triad, because a background of sexy threesomes is not enough of a basis for believing that you are Bi in the head as well as Bi in the bed.





Monday, 18 October 2010

Dear Santa

"Wanted

New child for expanding family. Must have average build, curly (but not hard to handle) hair, large eyes and a pert nose. No chubbies or bad skin please. My husband and I are really easy going and would like you to be also, we worship regularly at the Jedi Knight Temple and expect you to do so too. We are outdoorsy and we go camping every summer so you'd better get used to it for the next 18 years! :o)
If you are a boy, please be aware that you will be required to attend ball games as and when requested. If you are a girl, please be prepared for being dressed in a manner that I feel is 'cute' regardless of age and also having your sexuality controlled as long as you are under my roof.
I can't wait for you to arrive, I know it will be hard but I can cope."
..........................................................................................

Seem a bit on the unbelievable side does it? Well compare it to this:-

"Hello everyone my name is 'JohnDoeswife' I am 30 years old and have been married for 10 years, we have two beautiful children and live in 'Everywhere, USA'. We are Christians but don't belong to any particular church. For some time I have felt that something was missing and now I realise that what I actually want in my life is a Sisterwife, my husband and I are looking for a Sisterwife to join our family. My husband is very handsome, a good provider and the very best husband a woman can ask for (If I do say so myself). I know it will be hard sharing my husband but I am fully prepared for it . Also, I am bi, so ideally we would want a woman who would have an equal relationship to us both"


Have you seen this profile?
I have, dozens and dozens of times, perhaps there are slight variations, ages, how long married, how many kids, more or less religious and sometimes not bisexual, but the basic message is the same. I want me a woman, now please!
I don't want anyone to get offended by my generic 'Seeking' post if it seems to be familiar because I am NOT picking on you. This is actually the most common seeking post there is, almost every wife or husband posting a seeking ad in the poly-fi world has written this or one of its many variations.

I have seen people in their 50's requesting women under 30. Couples saying that they want someone who doesn't want to work, they believe in quiverful and want lots of children. I have seen couples saying we HAVE to share a bed because that is the best way to dissipate jealousy.

What I feel by all these statements and many more is, you don't want a new family member, you want a new fantasy. This goes beyond the horror of the Unicorn Hunt (for more details of unicorn hunting and why you should not, categorically NOT do it, click here) this is about how people, whether they are unicorn hunting or not, are looking for someone to JOIN their family, without any sort of expectation that they are actually CHANGING their families. They focus on the superficial (albeit important in their own way)  things and seem blissfully oblivious that it has nothing to do with 'sharing' what is 'hers' with another woman, it is being prepared to have a completely different life and relationship to that which you had before.

When Jack met Jill, they had a totally different relationship as young newlyweds than they will have after Baby JJ is born. People expect a new baby to be a game changer, true, some parents do have expectations, sometimes unreasonable ones but hopefully when they realise that little JJ doesn't want to play ball or be a ballerina, they will back off and let JJ be who they need to be, they realise that Baby JJ is their own unique person whom they will have to adjust to, they don't consider sending JJ back to sender with a big red 'Defective' stamped on his/her forehead.

Why, when so many seeking couples post ads, they don't take it to account, that like baby JJ, any adult woman wanting a poly relationship has hopes, dreams, history and a lifestyle of her own, if you understand and respect that, than you would have to understand that you are blending your families, not having someone JOIN your relationship, She will have her own unique relationship to each of the other adults (and the children, a fact that is very often ignored) of her own. This will affect the whole dynamic of the family, it will, like the birth of a child, destabilise the home, there will be a long period of adjustment and then when you come out at the other side, your family and your family relationships will be different than before, sometimes drastically so.

So can someone explain to me why when Jenny meets Jack and Jill, neither of them seems prepared for any game changers, they want someone that fits into their lives seamlessly, it is something that extends beyond 'having shared interests and goals' and becomes needing someone who will be exactly who the couple want her to be, including in some cases, having a sexual and romantic desire for each other adult in the house equally (and any deviation from this is a no no and is considered a threat) and having their own relationship dynamic repressed to fit into the familial norms.

Similarly, Jenny might have a fantasy of this great family who will be exactly what she wants, she might expect and want certain things out of it without being considerate of what they can realistically do. If she heard that Jack took Jill to Miami for a long weekend, she might want the same, disregarding the fact that with the added expense of supporting her and her offspring, they might be strapped for cash. She might not expect that Jack's dynamic with Jill is different and it is also being destabilised by her arrival, instead of feeling sensitive to the destabilisation and want things to be easy and well between Jack and Jill, she might be resentful of the dynamic and the care and attention that Jack might be giving Jill while she tries to adjust to the new changes. She might get insecure and consider them to be uncaring of her feelings, totally disregarding the fact that she isn't the only one who has it hard (and not necessarily the hardest).

If you are established couple JJ or single person J and you want to have a Poly relationship you have to become person centred, not issue centred, it is not about 'wanting someone who fits in with you' it is about loving someone and then finding out how you three (or more) can work together to have a successful relationship. If you want a good relationship than you have to stop thinking of what another person can do for you but what you can all do together.

The myth of the Perfect Poly relationship is that there IS such a thing. Every relationship takes work. Every Good relationship takes a lot of work, to have an Excellent relationship however, takes lots of hard work that most people just simply aren't prepared for, they want things easy, they want the benefits without the work, they think love conquers all and they believe that by staying quiet and keeping the peace, they are bowing to a higher authority, they believe that by screaming and shouting they are making themselves heard, they believe by emotionally manipulative they are getting things on track. They feel that by keeping secrets they are promoting intimacy.

When are people going to realise that these practices will destroy their relationships?

Monday, 4 October 2010

Sweet Shop Poly

Do you remember being a kid? Do you remember standing in a sweet shop looking at all the sweets and really wanting them, wanting to try the bon bons and also the humbugs and also the toffees and also the cherry drops and also.....

This is what poly is like for some people.

We live in a majority monogamous culture. We are told that you get one partner and that's your lot.

It can be so hard when you first find out about poly not to go mad with sexual desire. It is all too easy to start looking at everyone as a potential partner and this can very quickly get creepy.

If you are already in a relationship, your partner may well come to regret their decision to go for poly. This could not only lead to the loss of the poly option but also seriously damage the relationship you have.

It is imporant to remember what poly is to you and to "take it slowly", if you want anything more than casual, this is the only way.

Also if you are already in a relationship then you must put the time and work into that relationship. If your partner feels insecure then poly is not going to happen.

Integrity is vital. Don't let the excitement and thrill make you less than you are. Try to act from your best and not your worst. It is better for self respect later and much more attractive.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Intimacy and the art of patience

Being an incoming partner in an already established relationship, there is something that might be forgotten in the drive towards feeling secure about your place within the relationship and that is intimacy, if you are in a comparatively new relationship with two (or more) partners who have had years to build up their intimacy levels over time, it is easy to lose perspective of this reality when faced with the evidence of this imbalance, it might easily get mixed up with general insecurity.

So what do I mean about intimacy?

Well firstly it isn’t about sex, another common mistake.

According to Wiki, ‘Intimacy, generally refers to the feeling of being in a close personal association and belonging together. It is a familiar and very close affective connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. Genuine intimacy in human relationships requires dialogue, transparency, vulnerability and reciprocity. As a verb "intimate" means "to state or make known".

In addition I would add that Intimacy is feeling free to be yourself 100% and the total safety and security in being accepted as yourself, warts and all. It is the lack of self consciousness that only comes in a long term relationship when you cease trying to keep up the pretence that you are flawless (and flawlessly beautiful) and amazingly hygienic without any effort at all…it is the intimacy of being able to be the occasionally spotty, farty, sicky, smelly selves. It is feeling comfortable enough to use the toilet in front of one another, not dying of embarrassment if you happen to have a bad evening of wind etc, these are not (unless you are unselfconscious to a fault) the kinds of things you feel totally comfortable with after a week, perhaps not even a few months or a year, but sometimes many years until you totally let your guard down.

You have to keep in mind that the intimacy level of your dyads are in the right place for the length of time of your relationships, if you were in a mono relationship you would not notice any difference, you shouldn't (though I appreciate that it is difficult not to) compare it to the dyads your partners have with each other, because the dyads you have are just fine the way they are and will develop at their own pace.

Intimacy takes time, it just does, you can’t rush it, though it can possibly be helped along by open and honest communication, you can’t possibly compare the intimacy levels between a relationship that is a year old, than one that is twenty years old.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Twice the Fun and Half the Trouble! (The Trouble with Triads 3)


You’d think so, anyway. It seems as though it should work that way. The joys of two relationships, but less trouble, because, after all, your partners can always entertain / comfort / be company for each other while you slope off to do your own thing. You could maybe even avoid the fallout of your own miscalculated comments or actions since the injured party has someone else to console and commiserate with them. After all, they’re mad with you, right, so why would they want to talk to you? You might as well go and sulk / watch TV / read by yourself till the injured party Gets Over It.

Wrong.

Well, half-wrong, anyway. Having two primary live-in partners does mean that there is usually company when you want it, that you are usually not left home alone with the kids while a partner has classes or club events. It is twice as much love and affection, definitely (often more than you have time to fit in). Twice as many people to coddle you when you are unhappy or ill. Twice as much companionship.

But. It does not absolve you of relationship responsibilities to either partner. Each of your partners need to know that you care for him/her as an individual. Yes, it’s great to know that another partner loves him/her, but s/he needs to hear it from you too. S/he needs to see that you care. That you are prepared to put in the time to listen to her/him, empathise with her/him and care for her/his needs. S/he definitely needs to have it out with you if s/he is unhappy with something you have done. This cannot be resolved by weeping on the shoulder of another person, no matter how loved and trusted. S/he may become less emotional about it, but the issue will be there, lurking beneath the surface of your every interaction, just waiting to explode again.

In a triad, just as in any other relationship, you can’t afford to focus only on the benefits to yourself. You have to focus on your responsibilities as well. You have to accept that relationship responsibilities have to be prioritised in your life, and that you will probably be spending more time dealing with relationship issues than you ever have before.

A little forethought will go a long way to making your life easier:
Think things through in advance, considering how your actions and words will impact each person in your relationship before you speak or act.
Empathise: Learn to put yourself in your partners’ shoes.
Work on developing a non-judgemental, non-confrontational, non-melodramatic communication style, and ask your partners to do the same. But then remember to take their words just as seriously as before: just because s/he is speaking calmly rather than screaming the roof down does not mean s/he feels it any less intensely than before.

Each romantic relationship in a triad has to be a full relationship, not a superficial one. It’s no good hoping that your partners will fill each other’s needs and that therefore they don’t need you so much: now you are needed by two people instead of one. To ignore this is to exclude yourself from the functional heart of your relationship; to risk your relationship becoming, emotionally at least, a simple dyad. Without you.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

All Together Now... (The Trouble with Triads 2)


Well, that was a much longer delay than I was expecting. Life foiled my plans yet again!

So... Ahem.

One reason I am focussing so much on the difference between Vs and triads right now is that all of my past experience has been with Vs. Actually, strictly speaking, all of my past experience has been as one arm of a V. Two relationships, one lasting four years and the other lasting two, spread out over 15 years. Consequently, I feel that I know my way around Vs pretty well and I understand what makes them work. But for the last year I have been in a polyfi triad. A permanent commitment to both other people in my relationship. Group marriage, if you will. And it turns out that that is a whole different ballgame.

Poly internet forums are a rich source of information on how poly works in practice. I am truly grateful to all the people who have posted about the issues they have faced and are facing in their triad relationships, as it is amazingly helpful. It is so very much easier to see to the heart of an issue and to see a solution when it is Somebody Else’s Problem than when it is your own problem, because you are deeply emotionally immersed. Analyzing other people’s problems can help us to avoid the same problems in our own relationships, as we can usually see them coming when we know what to look out for.

So. Togetherness...

In a V relationship, when your partner is with you, s/he is with you. By which I mean that you are the sole focus of each other’s attention as partners. Relationship-wise, you have little to concern you at those times beyond your dyad: each other. When you have a relationship conversation, it is usually just the two of you involved (though there should always also be conversations involving everyone in the V, particularly when it involves scheduling time with the hinge of the V, or any relationship issue that involves or will affect everyone). At these times, you only have each other to please or to consider – at least, once the workday is over and any children you have are in bed.

Conversely, in a triad, you are often all together. Your attention is usually divided between both your partners, and your partners’ attention is usually divided between you and each other. This can be tricky enough in a social situation with friends; it can be much trickier when you are dividing your attention between your two partners.

Our monogamous-minded society has trained us to expect our partner’s undivided attention. This is usually not what happens in a triad, and it can be difficult to come to terms with that. It is easy to feel overlooked or neglected by both your partners even when you know that it is not actually what is happening, especially if they are strongly focussed on one another; for example, if they are discussing an interest which they share and you do not.

It is also much harder to paper over the cracks in a triad than as a couple or in a V situation which is essentially functioning as two completely separate dyads. If a person is prone to emotional manipulation of a partner, however mild, it is likely to be picked up and challenged by the third partner, even if the partners concerned were themselves totally unaware of this dynamic. If two of you have been arguing, you can’t leave the argument unfinished and sulk at each other for the next few days as the third partner is likely to be crushed by the atmosphere and demand a resolution. Even lazy household habits, such as a poor diet or bad housekeeping, are more likely to be challenged when there are three adults sharing space. It is also much harder, if you are inclined that way, to continue to be abusive, to be an enabler or to be co-dependent, unless you all have a spectacularly damaged dynamic. On the whole, then, this is a Very Good Thing. But it is not necessarily always a comfortable thing. And everybody gets to take their turn at being criticised. You have to try desperately hard not to respond defensively, and to listen carefully and mindfully to what is being said.

Being all together for much of the time can, in some ways, make it more difficult to resolve some issues. This is because it is harder to state (however gently) a criticism of a partner when your other partner, whose opinion you are not certain of, is part of the discussion. It feels uncomfortably like – well... being mean or selfish. It is just as hard when you are certain that the third person agrees with you, because then it feels as though you are ganging up on your mutual partner. And yet, we all need criticism to develop. Similarly, it is much harder to take criticism when there is a witness, even when that witness is your other partner. Perhaps especially if your other partner agrees with the criticism.

And yet, if you wait to have these discussions one-to-one, then whoever is left out of them feels... well... left out. Of their own relationship. When they might have had a valid opinion or solution to the problem. Feeling rejected can hurt as much as physical pain. So you all have to work a lot harder on your communication skills, and on addressing issues in a non-judgemental way. Which is a Good Thing of course. But three-way relationship conversations can take an awfully long time.

I suspect it is probably best to choose in advance which hobbies you are going to drop, at least for the first few years of a triad relationship, while you are all working things out. Honestly, the benefits are worth it, and as with any relationship, a half-hearted effort is almost as bad as no effort at all, and is just as likely to lead to a break-up.

And just so I don’t end on a note of total doom and gloom, I want to emphasize that there are huge benefits to togetherness in a triad. Sharing good films, TV series and books. Good conversations. Silliness and hysterical laughter. Shared hobbies. As much affection as you could possibly need. Support in the rough times. Ultimately, close friends who don’t have to leave at the end of the day to go back to their own homes, because they are already home.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Trouble with Triads


I’ve seen a couple of situations lately where a poly relationship has been ended as a result of the insecurities of a primary partner about her/his metamour. In each case, the assumption has been that the relationship is ‘not working out’ because it is a V, and the couple plan to go on to look for (see Desperately Seeking) a triad relationship in which they can both ‘share’ the same lover. Leaving aside all the issues of intrinsically monogamous thinking enshrined in the protection of the original couple against any external threat, and the assumption that any human being would be happy to be ‘shared’ (as a plaything) by a couple (the ‘real people’) for any length of time, this assumption that triads are necessarily ‘easier’ than Vs is fatally flawed.

It seems logical to assume that a triad would be easier to manage, emotionally, than a V. And it is certainly an assumption I made myself. After all, you all love one another, so you should all want one another to be happy. You can rely on your partner’s partner loving you, because s/he is also your partner, so why would s/he want to persuade your mutual partner to leave you? This is all perfectly true, and there are genuinely a lot of (well documented) advantages to living in a triad situation, both emotional and material. But, as I have discovered through personal experience and through watching others work through (or autopsy) their triad relationships, it is also a lot more complicated than that.

In a straightforward V, one person is the hinge, trying to meet the needs of two partners, which can definitely be tricky. The arms of the V have their own issues to face; mostly fears of abandonment and loneliness when their partner is with the other arm of the V, but they only have one romantic relationship each to nurture. This is not to dismiss the difficulties that can be inherent in developing a friendship with a metamour, but it is a different challenge than maintaining two romantic relationships. By contrast, each partner in a full triad has three romantic relationships to nurture: the relationships between themselves and each of one of their partners, and also the relationship entity that is the triad as a whole. The emotional, intellectual and sexual dynamic within the triad relationship can differ from that within each dyad. And, of course, the dynamic within each dyad will differ from the others.

And those fears of abandonment and loneliness? They can still exist within a triad, as one or more people can fear that they are dispensable to the others; that their partners would be very happy together without them. In a culture where monogamy is the norm, it is easy to assume that you are an optional extra when you see your partners happily in love with each other. And it is double the pain, when you fear losing both partners you love.

There is so much to say about the differences between Vs and triads – and about why triads can actually be a whole lot more difficult than Vs – that I’ll be continuing to address this topic in more depth, element by element, in subsequent posts. Not every triad will face the all of the difficulties I’ll be describing (we certainly have not faced even most of them – and I hope we never will), but every triad is likely to face some, at some point in its evolution.

I hope that identifying the problems in advance may help those seeking triads to be more aware of the difficulties they may face before they start a triad relationship, and triads to recognise the roots of the problem they are facing and so facilitate communication and resolution. I hope also that others will post problems they have experienced, or that they have seen other triads experiencing, together with solutions where possible, either on poly forums or here. Information shared may help prevent needless breakups.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Back Again!

After a long absence, here we are, back again.

Life has been very full and exceptionally busy as we have been:-

  • blending families
  • getting used to living together
  • building our family business
  • travelling more than we would like
  • dealing with birth family non-acceptance (to put it mildly...)
  • dealing with other birth family crises

It's been a busy few months, and the last four issues are (still!) ongoing. I hope that we will somehow find the time to post more regularly. Either way, rest assured that we are still here, and still thriving in our own (possibly peculiar) way.

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Politics of Love


We’ve just had a general election in the UK, and, while watching a political debate I was struck by how poorly the politicians communicated. They were well able to put their own points across, but they did not listen to the points being made by the others. There was no genuine discussion or communication, just a competition as to who could make the most convincing points. When a politician made a mistake in what he was saying and tried to correct himself, the howls of derision – from his opponents and from the studio audience – drowned out what he was trying to say. They were not really interested in what he was trying to say, in fact. They were only interested in hearing what reinforced their own point of view. The debate was not actually a space for communicating and discussing ideas, but a competitive forum, in which it actually did not matter what anybody had to say except in so far as it reinforced each individual’s own pre-conceived notions.

It was so dysfunctional that I found it unbearable to watch. I started wondering whether any of these people had ever actually grown up and got past playground politics. Because what I was seeing and hearing on the TV could easily have been played out in a primary school playground. The mocking, the jeers, the interrupting, the refusal to allow the other person have their say; the wilful lack of engagement with the points being made by the other candidates. Wherever possible, each candidate, when it was his turn to speak, repeatedly emphasized those things they wanted to focus on, twisting the topic of debate until they could make their chosen points.

These are the same tactics we employ in personal arguments, if we are not careful. We try to sweep our deficiencies under the carpet, emphasize our strong points, apportion blame rather than taking responsibility, refuse to listen to what our partners are saying for fear that we may lose the argument. We are not communicating, we are competing. We are not trying to find a win/win resolution, but trying to win the argument, regardless of how it leaves our defeated partner feeling.

Real communication requires us to make ourselves vulnerable to the person we are communicating with. It requires us to be open to hearing what they have to say and to genuinely consider their point of view. To be open to the possibility that they may be right and we may be wrong, and that that is OK, because we can move on from there to make things right between us again. To be open to the idea that, even if we are certain that they are wrong in their assertions, they honestly feel that way at the time they are speaking, and that in itself is a genuine response that needs to be addressed with love and empathy.

Real communication, in my opinion, recognises that there is no fault, there is no blame, just that we are each speaking from a different position. Once we can see that, we need no longer regard ourselves as victims or as wrong-doers. It becomes easier to see one another’s point of view, and therefore work out what we need to do to bring our positions into alignment with one another.

We have to trust that our partners love us and would never deliberately hurt us. That if they have hurt us, it was inadvertently, and that once they understand what they have done that they will do their best never to repeat that hurt. Because if they do not feel that way, then why are we in a relationship with them? And if they do not feel that way, then the sooner we find out about that, the better. Protecting ourselves by turning a false face to our partners can only hurt us. Either we keep loving partners ignorant of how they can avoid hurting us, or we prolong poor relationships with unloving partners, because avoiding communicating hurt also means that we can excuse their poor behaviour for longer. How many times do we hear: 'He's a man; I can't expect him to understand' or 'Women are over-dramatic: I just have to learn to live with it'? People are people. We can learn to understand and we can learn to manage our behaviour. What greater incentive is there than that it hurts our partner/s if we don't learn?

Bite the bullet. Be vulnerable. Trust your partners with your pain as well as your triumphs. How else will you ever know whether they can be trusted? But be prepared to hear some painful truths in return, and to address them in yourself.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Proud to be weird?

There are many varieties of people who seek a poly life, they run across the political spectrum, they are country folk and city slickers, however according to some, people who practice polyamory (as opposed to other forms of non-monogamy) have one thing in common, they tend to be weird.

Seriously.

When in mixed company I am far too often aware that I am the token weirdo, there is usually a point in the conversation where I am either: a) being looked at strangely because of something I said or b) I find my eyes rolling in my head, due to the inanity of the conversation when it turns to things that more conventional people think are really fascinating. I don't, I just really don't have the ability to pass well in conventional company.

However, in the company of most Polyamorists, I don't feel that way, in fact, I find I am often out weirded....a totally novel experience for me.

People underestimate their ability to cope with the stresses of being 'strange' living an out poly life in a mono world might not only cause estrangement from conventional family and friends, you may, in fact, find out that you are the local weirdo/s, you might be the person/family people whisper about in the supermarket, the ones talked about by neighbours over tea. You know that local eccentric that you have thought rather nuts but basically harmless? Well that's you that is. When you decide you want to live an out Poly life, you'll have to ask yourself, how much does your standing in your community and 'fitting in' mean to you?

Many of us who practise Poly are long time weirdos, we have non conventional ideals and interests, standing out is often expected (or even courted, to those of us belonging to subcultures with distinctive dress like Goths) and therefore, being the one pointed at, or talked about, is not new to us. Being Poly is not only about how you conduct your relationships, it is, if you choose to be out and honest about it, a lifestyle which people WILL judge you on, some will disagree with it quite vocally but harder to deal with, if it is new to you, will be your elevation into the status of 'other'.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mental shackles

I have recently been thinking about the way that our modern way of life makes relationships more difficult, in particular our capitalist paradigm and the ubiquity of porn.

In my view, capitalism makes relationships harder because it pre-programmes us to be selfish and to be "a consumer". In the capitalist world, we are all in individual competition with others for goods or services which are produced with an artificial scarcity.
To quote Margaret Thatcher: "There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families."

So as isolated individuals, and not members of a community, we interact with the world. We compete with others for jobs, status, possessions and all the other "necessities" of modern living. This does not help us to develop the mindset or the skills necessary for living co-operatively or identifying others’ needs, both of which are essential in any real relationship.

As to the ubiquity of porn: this is huge! I would say that for males in our society, porn is often their first sexual experience.

Porn captures and shapes male sexuality, hijacking the creative element of our sexual desire and channelling our fantasies into predetermined avenues. Our intimate fantasies and our very sex lives become an internalised re-run of porn. And of course, porn objectifies both men and women. It turns our sexual desire into a commodity to be courted; a button to be pushed so that we will pay to sate a hunger that has been stimulated by the industry itself. It is, after all, a multi-billion dollar business.

Porn can never show the complex interplay of emotion or the mental aspects of desire. As a result, when young men experience sex with a partner their expectations are often unreal, insecure, skewed and selfish. Sexual gymnastics and the moneyshot are what any girl should do right? Porn numbs our potential to be guided by our natural impulses, numbs our ability to be sensitive to the individual needs and tastes of the partner(s) we have.

How do we (especially young males) deal with this? I find it saddening that we males have been enlisted by the porn industry to defend it from the "feminists and conservatives" who would take it away: after all it is our "right" to have our very minds and sexuality exploited for a buck.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Desperately Seeking


There are a lot of people on poly internet boards who have recently found out about poly, or discovered that they are interested in living a poly lifestyle, and are now keenly seeking their first poly relationship. I can only say...

Don’t. Please. Just don’t. Don’t seek out a poly relationship.

That’s easy for me to say, I know, as I am already ‘living the dream’. And, believe me, I can truly understand the desire to live poly as it is a very rewarding lifestyle for those it suits, despite the additional issues it also brings. So I feel a bit mean advising people to give up looking before they have even started. But I do not mean that people who feel attracted to a poly lifestyle should give up on poly, only on seeking out a partner. And I say this only because I have seen this particular situation go horribly, painfully wrong so many, many times.

There is a huge difference between being open to the possibility of a poly relationship, should someone come along who you naturally fall in love with, and seeking out another partner.

It is horribly easy to get carried away by the excitement of the idea of poly and to leap at the first person who is willing to give it a try, regardless of how incompatible you may actually be with them. If everybody involved is interested in a sexual relationship only, or a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, this may work out perfectly well. But if romantic emotions get involved – if one or more people fall in love with the other/s – and then things fall apart, the pain can be terrible, even if the people involved were always completely incompatible and this has been the driving force behind the break-up.

When people are following a dream, there is a kind of self-delusion that comes into play that makes any actions taken towards the fulfilment of that dream seem reasonable. An obsession with the ideal of living poly can all too easily masquerade as obsession with a particular person, whereby a person convinces themselves that the first willing person who comes along is actually the ideal permanent poly partner they have been looking for all their lives, and neatly slots them into the ready-made gap. That delusion will fall apart, sooner or later, as the people involved fail to live up to one or more of the illusory characteristics which have been projected upon them by their partner/s. And it will hurt. Sometimes it falls apart even before the ‘lovers’ meet in the flesh, and it hurts people more than you would believe to lose these internet romances. Other times it may last a few weeks or months in real life.

As a side note, I have noticed that people are often a great deal quicker to make a strong practical commitment to a poly relationship, such as moving in together or having a commitment ceremony, than they would for a mono relationship. So the real-life break-ups can end up being terribly complicated in practical terms, more so than a mono relationship that has lasted the same amount of time. A further complication arises when one or more of the people involved has come out as poly to their family and then the relationship falls apart, confirming all their family’s fears about poly. That person then has to face social humiliation as well as emotional pain. And may face increased scepticism and / or hostility from their family should they start another poly relationship.

There are several things people can do to avoid getting caught up in this sort of situation.

First: Identify specifically what need you have that drives you to seek poly and find alternatives that help feed that need.
• It may be simply that you are lonely: if so, try to get out more and meet like-minded people by joining local clubs that cater for a strong interest of yours.
• If your interest is in intentional community, see if you can find one you are interested in; they may be happy for you to get involved on an occasional basis.
• If your current sex life is unsatisfying, make an effort to spice it up inside whatever relationship you currently have.
• If you are currently in a relationship, find a hobby or other activity which you can share with your partner: anything from role-playing games to home improvement to starting a small business. In other words, anything you can both feel passionately about. Make time for this hobby: it is very unifying to have a common interest and a common goal. And it will prevent poly becoming your only (and obsessive) common interest and therefore reduce the liklihood of you encouraging each other into self-delusion with regard to poly itself or to any person you might meet (sadly, all too common).
You can still live poly if / when the right person / people turn up, but your needs will be met in the meanwhile and you will be less likely to latch onto something or someone unsuitable. In any case, we bring a great deal more to any relationship we are in when we are content within ourselves, and not reaching out in the hope that somebody else will meet our needs.

Secondly: Find out as much about poly as you can, by reading books, joining internet forums etc. People have different opinions on what kinds of poly relationships they prefer, and on how to manage the issues that arise within them. The more different views you see and read about, the more likely you are to find an approach that resonates with you. Reading about how other people have dealt with issues in their poly relationships helps to develop your own skills. Internet forums, especially, can be a kind of cultural immersion: just as growing up in a mono family helps you to learn how to deal with relationship issues in a mono relationship, reading threads on a good internet board, especially those which the OP has updated regularly, gives you examples of how people work through their issues in a poly relationship.

Thirdly: Get out and meet people, in real life and on the internet. But approach those people as friends. If something develops from that friendship in the fullness of time, then that is fantastic. If not, you still have a friend. But looking at everybody you meet as a potential poly partner is likely to lead to poor choices. Plus, as anyone knows who has come across a hopeful but desperate individual in a mono situation, it can be just plain creepy.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The internet and the rise of the fantasy romance

I have often got into trouble for telling people their Internet romances are not real, yes there are real emotions involved, yes people can find a certain synergy with people they get to know online, but as I have said often enough, on the Internet, no one knows you are a dog.

And there are dogs. Many of them.
On Internet dating sites we have now a phenomenon I like to call the F.I.P = Fake Internet Personality. This is when someone, through malicious intent or woefully pathetic attention seeking create another personality on the net in the attempt to gain attention.

Sometimes they steal pictures from somewhere else on the net of someone else who is often younger and/or more attractive than they are. They often say they have had a terrible childhood and/or young married life that they were lucky to escape from. If you see a picture that looks like it was taken of a model in a plain professional background, chances are it is stolen from another website.

When they gain interest from a person/s on these sites they tend to agree with everything this person or people say, becoming their ideal partner, this can fool the person courting them into thinking that this person matches them perfectly, in fact, this is a common method of attachment by F.I.P's, they want your attention and so they are going to say anything to make themselves likable, including fitting in with your lifestyle, hobbies, religion, political stance and anything else which you might form an opinion on in conversation.

Often FIPs do not like sending pictures, they either 'don't HAVE any on their PCs' Or they are 'too shy'. You'll find that a video chat will be a no no, there is usually a good excuse at hand for that, but most often it is that they don't have a camera enabled on their machines.

FIP relationships eventually die out once the person/s courting the FIP realise the planned meeting will never go ahead.

There tends to be a lot of sadness left in the wake of a FIP relationship, this is because quite often people make the mistake of getting too involved with people they HAVEN'T MET!!!

I know how easy it is, online it is safe and anonymous, you can express and be open about yourselves, you have your Internet friends who you might discuss issues with that you haven't told your RL friends, this is especially the case in ALT communities when you think that your RL friends might be judgemental about aspects of your life, whether that would be poly, kink or sexuality. People often forget that you are trusting a complete stranger to be honest with you and to be frank, people are not always honest online. They might not be FIPs but they can still be liars, it is worth being cautious until you meet a number of times before letting yourself become emotionally invested. Sadly, people not only get emotionally invested, but create a future with someone who might not be AT ALL the person that they have portrayed themselves to be, so the relationship is entirely created for the selfish pleasure of the FIP to the detriment of the person/people who are taken in by them.

How to avoid a FIP relationship

Firstly, when you set out to approach someone online, always bear in mind that this person is not necessarily kosher just because they have been banging around either a) A forum or b) a personals site, for a long time, they also might be popular and even have 'friends' on that site, on the Internet the rules for friendship differ than in RL, I have had friend requests from people who I have done little more for than welcome them when they joined the site.

Keep in mind that you are getting to know a friend, even if you would eventually like them to become more, put that out of your mind until you meet them in person.

If things are going well by email, move onto a chat facility. Before you suggest it, ask them what kind of machine they use, almost all mid range laptops have integrated web cams, so if they say they are using X machine and don't have a webcam, take that as a red light warning.

Ask to phone them fairly early on, if they don't want you to call them or insist on calling you only at specific hours (for example, only in the day time) wonder why, is it possible that they live with a partner (a surprisingly large amount of FIPs are actually married women and men pretending to be women).

If things are really going well via email and chat and you really want to take things further but you STILL have not seen them, because they 'don't have a webcam' tell them that you will buy one for them, say that you are on Amazon right now and you will order one, it is an offer liable to take a FIP by surprise and they often do not, at first have a good reason to tell you not to do that, often the first thing they might say is they don't want you to buy it because it would hurt their pride accepting money from you. In which case, tell them that it isn't a gift, it is a loan and they can pay you back when they get the money. An experienced FIP might counter with 'I am sorry but I am not ready to give my address out because it is not safe' this is a sensible attitude to take and because of that, it would be easy to give up, however, you can offer to send the money to her via paypal and tell her to buy it herself. If she accepts the money and doesn't buy it within a week or two, depending on how frequent your communications, cut off all contact and consider it a lucky escape, webcams are fairly cheap now and it is totally worth it for peace of mind, do not let yourself be pulled into the 'I just haven't got around to it conversation' trust me, if she was interested, she would want to see you also!

Chatting on webcam has been a huge comfort to myself and my partners during our periods apart these long months, I know of other relationships where it has been important in building a level of intimacy in the early part of a relationship, if they don't want to do this or only want the webcam to be one sided, question why this is so.

FIPs quite often cut off communication very suddenly, you might be having an enjoyable chat session and 'poof' he will disappear quite suddenly and either a) not come back online at all that night or b) Come back on to say that have to go, sometimes without explanation. They might have a perfectly reasonable explanation the next day which doesn't make sense like 'My sister called and was really upset' (really? Do you cut off a conversation for that reason or would you type that at the time and say a nice goodbye whilst still giving your sister her full attention on the phone?).
If on the phone and and he hangs up suddenly, it might be 'someone came to the door'

Again, ask yourself this, would YOU cut off communication suddenly from someone who you are getting to know without an explanation? If it seems to be unreasonable and a fairly lightweight excuse, there is likely to be another reason behind it which is more likely to be that they were taken unawares by their spouse and had to switch off/hang up before the spouse realises what they are up to and especially in the case of the phone, before you hear their voice.



Now it might be that a person might be quite happy to be seen on the webcam and/or talk on the phone, this does not mean that they are NOT FIPs, a person who is married and pretends to be single is still a FIP, but they might not have the insecurity aspect that some FIPs may have, so don't take the fact that you know what they look like as sound evidence that they are kosher. Some FIPs have partners in the military or work long/awkward hours, some FIPs have jobs which allow them plenty of time to go on the net/use the phone, I used to do a sleeping in job which gave me plenty of time to indulge in webchat and phone calls and I was married at the time, were I inclined to be a FIP, it was the perfect job for it!

However, the number one best way to avoid a FIP relationship is to wait until you meet someone in person before you get emotionally involved, visit them, let them visit you, make sure all the things they say add up, make sure that the personality they gave out online corresponds to the person you see before you. I know in this world of instant communication and the feeling that we are living in a small world, it is SO easy to get involved with someone who lives outside of your geographical region and people, especially people keen for a partner and want to rush things, but let caution be your guide, if someone is right for you, than they would be worth the wait until you can meet.

Being taken in by an FIP has its own particular brand of pain, not only for the loss of the relationship but also, the fact that you eventually find out that there wasn't a relationship to begin with, that it was based upon a person that doesn't exist, that it was just fantasy on your part, that can be terribly humiliating especially if you have publicised your relationship.

Until then, no matter how tempting, keep things non emotive and light, FIPs don't have patience, if they think that you are not falling for their act, they will move onto another victim and you would have saved yourself a world of hurt.

Monday, 22 March 2010

When is a Veto not a Veto?


Following on from my previous post, Just Say No, it has to be acknowledged that there comes a point in many poly relationships where it becomes impossible to give up one partner in favour of another. This is because the relationship has changed: the person you were considering a potential partner is no longer potential, but an actual partner. You have become a dyad in your own right and are too deeply entwined in each other’s lives and consciousness to separate on the say-so of a pre-existing partner.

This is not so likely to happen in less emotionally intense relationships, such as a friends-with-benefits situation, but it may well be a problem in a full-blown romantic relationship. In some cases the point of no return may come a lot sooner than any of the participants expect. You just can’t tell when someone you meet casually might turn out to be a romantic thunderbolt. Franklin Veaux has written a very interesting post on the topic of game-changing events in poly relationships here. Ideally, of course, everybody in the relationship loves everybody else, even if it is purely platonic between some partners, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Does this happen often? Well, I know of three cases online and one IRL in the last 6 months. And I only keep up with two of the many English language poly forums and a few poly blogs, so there are probably many more out there. And it has happened to me, in the dim and distant past, when I was one arm of a V.

When your partner is in love with someone you have absolutely nothing in common with, and that feeling is returned, it can seem as though there are only two options. 1) Grit your teeth and bear it while having as little to do with the new partner as possible and working towards the downfall of the relationship. 2) Demand that your partner instantly end the relationship for your sake, despite all the pain, drama and long-term resentment that would engender. Neither of these is a good option.

So how on earth can a relationship survive such a situation intact and happy? Assuming a situation in which one man has two female partners (example only –genders or sexuality doesn’t matter) one longstanding and one relatively new, the best possible scenario goes as follows.


The Man
When the issue first raises its head:

• Back peddles a bit on the new relationship in terms of time
• Explains to the new partner that he loves her and wants to spend time with her, but that, although he will continue to see her regularly, he will have to see a bit less of her for a while, because they need to make sure that his pre-existing partner feels secure about their relationship
• Keeps in regular contact with the new partner and makes sure that she knows he loves her
Initially and Long term:
• Makes a point of spending quality time with his pre-existing partner and new partner, individually and together
• Shows and tells his pre-existing partner in every way possible that, even though he has a new shiny toy, she is still indispensible and utterly necessary for his happiness. If this is not true, he should not say it, but should instead take a deep, hard look at his pre-existing relationship and try to work out why it is not true, and whether he values this relationship enough
• Shows and tells his new partner in every way possible that, even though he still loves his pre-existing partner deeply, she is still indispensible and utterly necessary for his happiness. Again, if this is not true, he should not say it but should try to work out why it is not true, and whether he values this relationship enough to continue to pursue it
• Makes a point of making up for any additional work or responsibility his pre-existing partner will have as a result of him spending time with his new partner. She might, for example, be alone with the children more often while he is out. In this case, he might make sure that he does extra housework or cooking before he goes out, so that she has less to do while he is away.
• Ensures that all of his home responsibilities are met, regardless of his desire to spend more time with his new partner.
• May need to give up (temporarily at least) a hobby or pastime that currently occupies his spare time. Until this situation is resolved to everybody’s satisfaction, he has to accept that he has very little free time because he will need to get extra time from somewhere to meet the needs of both his partners. He may need to put this hobby on the back-burner indefinitely. If this is too difficult or is unacceptable to him, he needs to ask himself whether he values either of his relationships enough if he is not willing to do whatever it takes to make them work out successfully.

The New Partner
• Understands the pre-existing partner’s need for reassurance, so she co-operates with the time reduction
• Makes an effort (without being intrusive) to befriend the pre-existing partner and build a good relationship between them
• Takes the needs of the existing partner into consideration when making plans with the man

The Pre-existing Partner
• Should recognise that this relationship is something apart from her, in which she has no power to interfere. Her man and his new partner have built a relationship between them, and it would be terribly painful for both of them to lose it. At this point, their relationship has to stand or fall on its own merits. It would be very foolish to stand out against it, as it risks losing her partner’s trust that she wants what is best for him, and wants him to be happy. In any case, the knowledge that demanding an end to the relationship would cause pain should be enough to give her pause. Who would want to be the cause of so much pain?
• Will probably need much more attention and reassurance than before this relationship came up
• Will try to appreciate the efforts being made to reassure her and recognise them as an expression of her continuing importance in her man’s life, and of the respect that the new partner has for her and her relationship with their man
• Makes an effort to build a friendship with the new partner. They do not need to be best friends from the start, but they do need to have consideration for one another
• Takes the needs of the new partner into consideration when making plans with the man

All partners
• Should be completely honest and transparent about their feelings, their current plans and their hopes for the future. Lying and prevarication are never acceptable in this situation.
• Should ensure that their own needs (not wants, but needs) are being met, and should speak up (courteously!) when they are not
• Will negotiate arrangements such as outings all together to ensure that nobody’s needs are overlooked, and that nobody feels left out of the decision-making process. Personal commitments and obligations, such as child care, should never be considered optional in these arrangements.

It is vitally important that the two arms of the V (both women in this scenario) make an effort to get along with each other, to keep in contact and to spend time together, as it will make the situation easier for everybody concerned. It is very easy to resent a person who is an inconvenience in your life, especially if you never see or hear from them. Keeping in contact helps the women to remember that they are dealing with a real person, with her own thoughts and feelings, and this helps them to be more considerate of each other’s needs. It is less likely that either woman will say or do things that may hurt the other if they care about and like each other. Each woman is less likely, for instance, to think that she would be much happier living mono with their mutual partner, and to make a push for it.

Additionally, if both arms of the V are understanding and caring of each other, they will earn the gratitude and appreciation of the hinge and also of the other arm of the V. The poly partner who feels understood and supported is less likely to find mono an attractive option, and choose to dump one person in favour of another, or try to encourage their partner to dump a metamour.

It is critical for the arms of the V to communicate directly with one another rather than have all or most of the communication going through the hinge of the V. Indirect communication (e.g. via the hinge) is more likely to be mistaken, garbled or misrepresented than if it is direct. This often leads to needlessly hurt feelings and resentment. It also permits a lot of opportunities for emotional manipulation on all sides, intentional or unintentional. Communication via the hinge also puts a great deal of pressure on the hinge to negotiate, pacify and problem-solve between the arms of the V, which can be utterly exhausting.

Where possible, communicate face-to-face. If this is not possible, communicate by email, text, IM, phone and video link; video link and phone to be preferred over more impersonal means of communicating. However uncomfortable it may be to open up about your needs to the other arm of the V, it is totally worth it, and it does get easier with practice. Yes, it makes you vulnerable, but if the other arm of the V takes advantage of that, you know where you stand, and it is unlikely to endear them to your mutual hinge. The ultimate goal of all this is to build as close a friendship as possible between the two arms of the V, as this will make it easier all round, and may even lead to a very rewarding, if platonic, relationship between them.

It is impossible to over-state the importance of open, direct communication, of kindness and consideration and of complete transparency and honesty in any poly relationship, but they are particularly critical in a case such as this. Lying, prevarication, selfishness and wilful self-deception will lead to a lot of pain all round, and, almost inevitably, to disaster for the relationships.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Giving up victory

Currently I am trying to argue more constructively. Giving up the need to "win" an argument is an important part of this process. I find that when I can bear this in mind things go much more positively.

We are all human. We all make mistakes. We cannot and do not always behave as our better selves. When this happens it is vitally important to "own your own shit". To be able to acknowledge and accept that you have screwed up and to take responsibility for the consequences.

Seeing how your behaviour hurts another, or if it has been unreasonable, can be hard sometimes and may require someone pointing it out to you, and this can lead to arguments. It is easy to feel on the defensive when we are criticised, and to say whatever we can to defend our position or action, even if it is unjustified.

But arguments are not necessarily completely negative; constructive discussion can lead to resolution of long-standing problems in a relationship and promote new ways of looking at things leading to a happier relationship. The important thing it to try to argue positively.

For this to work there must be honesty, trust and mutual respect. These are the fundamentals of any relationship. There must be a commitment to each other and to making your relationship work.

It is important to remember when you disagree that:-
· there is no "winner" and no “loser”
· you are challenging someone's behaviour, not attacking them as a person
· you are dealing with a particular issue for the betterment of your relationship and not just aiming to score points off one another
· you are working together as a team, confronting the issue, rather than one another
· you are working for resolution not "victory"

This way there is more mutual satisfaction and less disgruntlement when the argument ends.

Know that you love your partners and that they love you.

It can be helpful to start with an argument code. The do's and don’ts of arguments e.g. honesty, staying on topic, remembering it is the issue you are arguing, no violence or personal abuse, time-outs etc. An argument code should be agreed by everybody involved, and then it can be kept somewhere visible, to remind everybody to stick to it. There will be backsliding even with the best of intentions, but you do get better at it over time.

Another alternative is the "speaker's staff" where only one person at a time may speak. The person holding the “speaker’s staff” speaks without interruption until they have finished, then it is handed on.

Whatever works for your relationship.

We, as men, must get beyond the competitive win or lose model which is only destructive in any relationship. We have to learn to be emotionally honest and to lose some of the defensive emotional camouflage which we have been trained to use from childhood.

If we wish to be treated as equals in our relationships then we must attain some emotional maturity, even when it hurts.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Just Say No

Something that comes up occasionally on poly forums is a situation where one partner in a couple is anxious to pursue a poly relationship, and the other is opposed.

Is it really possible for a poly-minded person to live monogamously, if that is what their partner needs to feel loved and secure? I know of at least two cases where somebody, having explored the idea of poly, decided against it in the end because his partner said she did not want it. I am absolutely convinced that there are many people out there in good relationships who have decided against poly because their partners dislike the idea.

Every day, people decide against starting relationships which their partner would not like because they honour their feelings: everything from opportunities for cheating to poly are turned down. There are poly-minded couples who have decided against a relationship with a particular person because, although one partner was very attached to the person concerned, the other did not get on with them, and it was clear that pursuing that relationship could only be painful for everyone concerned in the long term.

Everyone in a relationship should honour the feelings of their partner/s. So should we expect our partners to sacrifice a poly lifestyle, or a relationship with a particular person, for our own comfort? There is absolutely no doubt that a poly relationship will result in additional demands on the time and energy of the person in the relationship, and so the original partner will lose in some ways. Poly is very rewarding for those of us who choose the lifestyle, but for those who do not want or choose it, any benefits are vastly outweighed by the losses.

So I would suggest that the issue comes down to a choice between sacrifices. Someone who refuses to 'sacrifice' a desire for a poly relationship when they know that their partner is not, and may never be, ready for it, sacrifices a part of their existing relationship. Specifically, they sacrifice their existing partner’s trust that they love them enough to take their needs into consideration; the trust that they would never deliberately hurt that partner. An element of emotional insecurity is thus introduced into the relationship which will affect them both in the long run.

As long as somebody insists on a 'right' to poly or to developing a particular relationship over and above the wishes of their partner, the partner is likely to remain insecure. An insecure person is unable to give as much to a partner or to a relationship as one who is happy and secure. Pressure will only make a person defend their position more strongly than ever, and become deaf to the feelings of their partner, because an element of competition has been introduced into the relationship: a conflict between what ‘you’ want and what ‘I’ want.

A poly relationship which begins under such circumstances has, I believe, very little chance of success in the long term. Quite aside from the issues between the original couple, it is unethical to bring another person into a relationship which is currently unstable. It will only make the situation worse and the other person desperately unhappy, as well as exacerbating problems between the original couple. It is all but impossible for anyone to keep their poly relationships completely separate: misery or stress in one relationship will inevitably affect any other relationships a person has. In my view, forced poly is no better than cheating, though the third party bears little or no responsibility for the situation.

Sometimes, just knowing that their partner is prepared to forego something important for their sake can be enough to make a previously insecure person completely confident in the love of their partner. Sometimes, so secure that sometime down the line they may suggest poly themselves, because they want their partner to be completely happy. The root of compersion is security.

I am a firm believer that nobody, male or female, should go into poly against their better judgement. It is a difficult lifestyle even when everybody in the relationship loves each other and is very keen to work at it. If someone's partner is trying to coerce them into poly, I think they should examine their relationship very carefully, and strive for open communication. It is very important to be aware that, in some cases, one partner may really not understand what a huge problem this might be for the other: both partners should take care to explain their feelings about poly (or about a particular relationship) very clearly and in such a way that they cannot be misunderstood.

If I had made my feelings plain, and a partner still insisted, I would ask myself: Is it worth staying in a relationship where my partner cares so little for my feelings that they would force their preferences on me against my will? I do not give up on relationships lightly, but I EXPECT my partners to care for my feelings as I care for theirs, and I think everyone, whether mono or poly, should have such high expectations of themselves and of their partners. We can and should, in my view, make choices that respect and honour our existing partner/s. Again, if we do not care to do so, we should ask ourselves how committed we actually are to that partner. Are we really prepared to risk losing the relationship we have in favour of one which may, or may not, turn out to be worth having?

A person in any relationship who desperately wants to live poly or to develop a specific romantic relationship would be wise to pay attention first to developing trust, security and emotional openness in the relationship they already have, and to ensuring that their existing partner is absolutely certain they are loved. Only when these are in place is it likely that an existing partner will feel comfortable with the reality of a poly relationship. Without them, it is likely that any poly relationship will very soon become mono again, one way or another.

People can only be termed ‘polyamorous’ if they are living by the accepted definition of polyamory. Polyamory is often described as ‘consensual non-monogamy.’ Somebody who is brow-beaten into accepting poly, or a particular poly relationship, against their wishes or better judgement is not truly consenting to the arrangement in my book. It is certainly non-monogamy but it is not consensual, so it is not polyamory. There is a word for it. That word is ‘cheating.’

Friday, 5 March 2010

Bare Necessities

To expand on my recent post on my personal blog about Single Issue dating (Read it here) , I have written some guidelines about what people should be looking out for when they are open to finding a new partner, whether they are seeking a poly or a mono relationship.

There are three essential elements when getting to know a person who you are are interested in, without these elements being in sync with yourself and your family, your chances of having a happy home life is greatly reduced.

They are:

Worldview

If your politics, your ideals regarding social issues or your religious convictions are widely different, forget it! Our worldview is the backbone to our principles and who wants to compromise their principles or expect others to compromise theirs, just to get a partner? Is it worth it?
If you are a vegetarian, green, liberal would you expect to have a successful relationship with a hunter who constantly instructs you on the fact that those evil commies are trying to take away their gun rights?

If you are a Christian family do you expect to start a relationship with an atheist who might mock your beliefs normally? Would you hope to convert them? Should anyone have to live with such pressure?

At the end of the day, although someones age, looks and sexuality seems to fit what you want, it is their worldview which helps to shape the person that they are, ignoring that and relying on superficial things to guide your courtship will definitely lead to disaster.

Aims

Similar to worldview, your aims for the future are often guided by the above, how the home will run once the new person joins? Do you want someone to be at home all the time? Do you want children in the relationship? I have seen people who state on forums that they expect any woman they date to be a housewife and mother and then start flirting with Ms. Smith who says that her job is really important to her!!
Why do this?

Similarly, if you have widely divergent aims when it comes to having and disciplining the children you already have, you are looking at major marital disharmony, if they don't believe in sparing the rod and you believe that beating children is abusive, how on earth do you expect anything to work? No one ever likes their parenting techniques being criticised, if you want a harmonious homelife, make certain that this is an issue you are all agreed on, even if none of you have children yet, it can save a great deal of pain.

Also location, if you live in the middle of a rural wilderness and they live in the city and don't want to move too far from it, discuss that beforehand, it might be that they are hoping you would move and you are hoping that they will, but location means a lot more to someone than where they live, it's about being comfortable with the facilities and convenience of the location, if they are social people used to going out every weekend and might be bored senseless on your small farm a mile away from the nearest neighbours, please take that into consideration.

Interests

Your interests and passions are just as important in a relationship as any thing else, long relationships can wither and die when the people involved realise they have little of shared interest outside of the running of the home and trust me, it will be discovered eventually.
If your idea of a good time is curling up with a good book and his is dancing the night away, is this a good match? If family activities are mostly centered around the great outdoors and it might be their idea of hell, this is just a huge store of resentment waiting to explode when the new person in the relationship feels they either they have to conform to the group activity(and be miserable) or be left out when others go off and enjoy themselves (and be equally miserable and lonely to boot) it is just a bad situation. 

If one of your pet peeves happens to be reality television and the couple you are courting are addicted to them, this might be a constant source of annoyance.

Of course there is room for a bit of compromise when it comes to interests and hobbies, neither of my partners is as passionate about films as I am, nor do I get as addicted to novels as either of them, but where they like and enjoy a good film and I like and enjoy a good book, we can meet half way with our interests. Also, I have interests in common with one or both of them and they both have some interests they share that I am less interested in, so these interests overlap meaning that there is always someone to share with and you are not boring a partner senseless talking about your love for Star Wars when they hate sci-fi.

At the end of the day, successful relationships, poly and mono, rely a great deal on chemistry, but we shouldn't allow sexual attraction (or sometimes just the mere fact that someone is single regardless of what they look like) and the fact that they will accept you, be your only guideline for going ahead with a relationship, you have to like a person just as much as love them, without that, you are left with not much else when the NRE wears off.

The Difference between Poly and Swinging

I have seen a lot of posts recently on some anti poly websites which basically consider Polyamory as nothing more than swinging by another name, this was a post I wrote previously on this topic.

I see a HUGE difference between an emotionally and materialistically monogamous couple getting together with other couples for sexual purposes

and

a couple opening up their relationship to one or more people to share their lives sexually, emotionally and materially.

Swinging by its nature is about change and variety, it is supposed to enhance the marriage of the couple by giving them an alternative sex life but keeping their home life entirely separate.

I have only known one couple who tried swinging and they did break up, swinging wasn't the reason though, the reason was she was sick of the marriage and wanted out, desperation makes people consider things they might not normally consider just to make their marriage exciting again. So it was more the symptom than the cause.

I do know a few single people who have had connections to the swinging world and from what I recall, what you would get is a great many of the wives in the kitchen chatting together whilst their husbands were upstairs, The consensus was that they had no interest in it themselves but their husbands would just have an affair if they didn't and they would rather see what they were getting up to.

I don't know 100% because I have not been involved personally with swinging but from what I recall from the various conversations, is that swinging seems more male led and dominated and Poly seems more female led and dominated (though that might upset the Patriarchal folks, the stats don't lie). When women want something to work it works, when they don't, it won't work.

So like everything, it depends greatly on the people (especially women) involved.
If Poly (or swinging or anything that dramatically changes the nature of a particular marriage) is used as a sticky plaster/band aid for a marriage already failing I would say work on your marriage first. If either partner is falling out of love with the other one then Poly will not help. If it isn't something that both people want and/or something they have always intended for their lives (openly, I hasten to add - saying, I always wanted to be polyamorous and so five/twenty-five years into my monogamous marriage with Jackie, I admitted it to her, does not count!) than it probably would be doomed to failure.

If the Primary feels like s/he is being pushed into it, it will fail, if the secondary partner is only going into it because s/he likes the husband/wife (but not poly) or s/he thinks it is something cool and fashionable because it is on HBO, it will fail.

I have never heard about a scientific survey about poly but it would be of great interest to me to be involved in a research study (my scientific brain is going just thinking about it) but you do run the risk of it not being taken seriously by the scientific establishment, after all, what do you consider a successful and healthy poly group? Those who have been together 5, 10, 15, 20 years plus? Is there a standard time line for 'successful'? What if you interview 200 poly families, who you consider successful and ten years down the line they have all divorced? As a scientist, the better option would be to follow a number of couples over a number of years monitoring them every year to check how happy, stable and functional the family are.

You also run the risk of poly people themselves not caring for any conclusion you draw, for example, if you admit ALL poly situations you will likely have those saying 'We are not like that because we are FLDS/Christian/Patriarchal/Egalitarian/polyamorous/bisexual/open/closed/whatever.

In other words there are so many variables that you can either choose to involve everything (which would mean that some will disregard how meaningful it is) or narrow it down, in which case it won't actually show the full scope of polyamorous groupings and therefore it will be scientifically useless.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Where are all the Successful Poly Relationships?

This is a question that comes up time and time again on poly internet sites. It is often raised when people break up painfully (sometimes even publicly) prompting some in polyfi relationships to question their stability and those considering polyfidelity as a relationship option to wonder whether it is actually workable in practice.

It seems to me that there are three main reasons why we don't see very many successful polyfi relationships.

First, it is not that the successful relationships are not out there, but that they are not much publicised. There are quite a lot of people on the internet in successful polyfi relationships: some are very open about it, and others are much less obvious; you would have to read their posts pretty closely to discover it. There are two main factors which limit the visibility of successful poly relationships:-

  • People in successful poly relationships of any kind where there are children or an employment risk involved tend to keep a very low profile, even in countries where they are not actively persecuted. Just in case. Only in countries where polygamy, whether as polygyny or polyandry, is an intrinsic part of the culture are we likely to find a reasonable proportion of people living an openly poly lifestyle, and even then, only those whose lifestyle looks similar to the locally acceptable norm.
  • A lot of the people on poly internet sites are interested in learning about a poly lifestyle, but are not yet actually living poly themselves. It is not uncommon for members of a site, once they have developed a poly relationship, to vanish from the board completely for a period of time, often until they need advice from others about their relationship problems. I suspect this may have something to do with their focussing their energies on building their new relationship, and something to do with a sudden desire to keep a low profile. Once people are actually living poly all the stories of poly problems which they have read online, and which were once just academic curiosities, can become a very real fear or even a reality which may threaten their families and their children.

Secondly, a lot of poly relationships actually do fail. But a lot of mono relationships fail as well. In some cases, it is for the same reason: people rush into relationships enthusiastically and thoughtlessly. This appears to be even more common in polyfidelitous relationships than in monogamous, because we compare polyfi relationships to marriage rather than to other forms of mono relationships (such as co-habiting or non-cohabiting sexual relationships). It is difficult to imagine a mono person proposing marriage to someone with whom they have corresponded for just one month and only seen in the flesh for a single visit of a week or two. But unfortunately this IS sometimes the case in many forms of poly, as people new to poly become so carried away by the dream of 'living poly' that they are willing to plug almost anybody into the empty gap labelled 'second partner.’ They lose sight of who the person is. They are enthusiastic about poly not the person.

It is not always the case: sometimes people do get together very quickly and go on to have a wonderful long-term relationship, but it is the exception rather than the rule. In cases where people have declared a long-term commitment very quickly, it is probably more helpful to regard the early part of the relationship as a dating period rather than as a permanent relationship, regardless of what vows have been exchanged. In mono terms, it is more like a 'living together' period that might or might not lead to a true marriage. The relationship is so very young, and young relationships can be terribly unstable.

What I am suggesting here is that when compared with mono marriages, polyfi relationships appear to have a poor success rate, but I suspect that when compared to non-marital mono relationships, they are not so very different. I have no figures or research to back this up: it is pure supposition on my part. I would be very interested if anybody could dig up some reputable data which might confirm or refute my theory, but I suspect it will be more difficult to come by than marriage statistics, as marriages are legally recorded and other relationships usually are not.

Thirdly, I can think of just one good reason why, all other things being equal, poly relationships might not work out as well as mono, and that is that they have all the stresses of mono relationships, but also additional stresses peculiar to poly. Certainly, there are emotional and material advantages to polyfi (such as an available friend when you need one or help with childcare, housework or family income, depending on the living arrangements) and these more than balance out the disadvantages, but the advantages only really obtain if all the spice care for and are happy to help one another. For example, in a situation where each of several women in a heterosexual polyfi relationship is focussed only on the man and has little time or concern for the other women, mutual support of any kind is likely to be minimal and competition is likely to be high. In this case, there are no advantages to polyfi over mono for the women concerned, and there are additional emotional and practical burdens (such as limited time with their sole emotional support, and probably additional childcare and home responsibilities owing to his spending time with another woman and therefore having less time to pull his weight domestically).

Is living poly worth it? Well, that depends on the person. To some people, it is totally worth it and to others it is not. There are seriously rocky times in even the best of relationships, mono or poly. But once you have got past the unbearable stress, tiredness or exasperation, had a good night's sleep and are feeling a bit calmer, if you can look at your spice and think: 'I still want to try to make this work, because I really can't imagine walking away from you, or being happy without you,' then it is worth going on. If you know that your life would be more miserable without your spice than it is with them, then it is worth it. And when it is working well, the emotional rewards of polyfi are indescribable.

Adapted from a post written by Deorccwen on SisterWives Yuku

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Men: Emotional Cripples?

As men in this culture, I feel that we are often trained not to express our full range of emotional responses, (anger is sometimes acceptable) through the fear of "being a fag", "not being a real man", "being pussy-whipped" etc and I think that this can have serious consequences when it comes to relationships.

If a man is hiding his deeper-self, expressing only socially acceptable emotions through fear of vulnerability, then there can be no real intimacy in the relationship. He becomes infinitely replaceable, interchangeable with any other man from the same mould.

Our relationships with other men are often flawed and somehow competitive (who is "harder", has the better clothes, car, job, wife etc) or competitive against others as part of a team. Respect is often given through fear of violence or power (eg. in the workplace) and genuine respectful, intimate, unflinching relationships between men as equals are rare.

Through all this men are trained to turn to women for our emotional needs and often we go into a relationship without the tools we need and do our growing up (if we are lucky) in that relationship. This adds a tension to the relationship and sometimes leads one to question the equality of the partners in the relationships one sees. How equal is a relationship where the majority of the emotional needs are being met and the majority of the emotional work is being done by one partner?

I feel that it is vital for us to break away from the competitive and emotionally crippled model of manhood and develop a more whole and truly healthy model. Authors such as Steve Biddulph, Sam Keene and John Lee have written about this much better than I can and are well worth a look.

As Poly men, I think we have to address our issues concerning communication and intimacy so hopefully we will be capable of maintaining genuine intimate unflinching relationships with one or more partners. This is entirely possible and hugely rewarding, after all, being a whole man loved as an individual and respected as a truly equal partner in your relationship is what it is all about.

Adapted from a post written by Kester on SisterWives Yuku