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Photo: fence bed springs is by Bunny Paffenroth and is available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/craftybunny/89898238/ under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence.

“Never tear down a fence until you know why it was raised.” – Robert Frost

After reading this article by Ms. Scarlet on Life on the Swingset, I was inspired to think a bit about my relationship with Husband.

When I first started this blog, we had a set of hard and fast rules. Since then, we’ve grown a lot more comfortable with simply allowing the policies of honest negotiation guide our action rather than a list of set rules. One of the main reasons I don’t like the idea of rules anymore is that they are pretty pointless. One assumes that rules exist to protect stakeholders. But rules mean next to nothing without consequences. Safety rules are pretty non-negotiable, but the consequences for a breach of those rules are self enforcing. What of a case where you follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law? Such as thinking, “Well, I’m supposed to tell her if I have sex. There was no penetration, therefore it wasn’t sex, so I don’t have to tell her about it.”

The problem with that, of course, is that if the truth does come out, either by the other party confessing, a member of the group testing positive for an STI or by some other slip-up, you have just damaged the trust you worked hard to establish (or re-establish). “Rules” did nothing to protect anyone in that situation. Accountability is a sign of maturity and you don’t need rules to accept that there are consequences for your actions.

But I’ve gotten a bit off-track. This isn’t what Ms. Scarlet’s article is about. It’s about boundaries; the particular limits on the level of intimacy you allow yourself when it comes to extramonogamous (that’s a word, right?) relationships. Her list includes things like co-habitating, having children and combining finances. So, a bit beyond ‘no kissing’ or ‘no anal’. In Ms. Scarlet’s case, she and her partner identify mainly as ‘swingers’ which is not really something I consider myself.

In my relationship with Husband, we have frequently discussed the possibility of a co-primary situation (the opportunity has arisen more than once for him, just once for me). Unfortunately, it’s not our own relationship that has set the limit in the past, it has been the other person setting the limit for themselves. In spite of the fact that we have been willing or even enthusiastic about the idea of integrating someone into our lives, so far nobody has been too keen on committing to that kind of blended family.

But we do allow for that possibility.

As I am moving on this year, finally allowing the possibility for new relationships again after a significant mourning period, I will have to face these issues again. What level of intimacy am I comfortable with now? Will I be able to open my heart to someone new? What are my deal-breakers? (Another post in itself, actually.)

What about you? What are your limits? Are they negotiable? Why do you have them?

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Last night I had a rare forgiveness dream. In it, I spoke to my ex. I found myself talking to him, and enjoying being around him. I knew I would no longer be close to him or let him into my life, but I allowed myself to remember the joy I felt with him without feeling the hurt and anger. It was good.
A friend recently wrote on Facebook

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And in spite of the obvious silliness, it really resonated with me.

I loved really loved my ex. He made me happy. And it’s ok to miss that. And it’s ok to let go of the rest (anger, pain, fear, resentment, cynicism). Letting go of that doesn’t mean I lose anything. It means I get to have my heart back.

And that’s what forgiveness is.

You want this mouldy old mattress? Fine, get that shit off my lawn!

Oh my gawd. If you want to know how not to do polyamory, go follow @polyhorror on Twitter right now. Addictive and hilarious if you’re old and jaded, illuminating if you’re a n00b.

It’s no secret that I hate the whole “Nice Guy” thing. I’m a big hater of the idea that women have this supposed “Friend Zone” or “Friend Ladder” and once you’re there, there’s no escaping.

There is so much wrong with this idea that I can’t even begin. Others have done a much better job.

However, I can relate.

Congratulations... You've Just Been friend-zoned 16/366

Recently, I was reminiscing about Miss K. There was an ad on TV that they were going to show that 101 Dalmatians movie that came out in the 90’s. I recalled watching it one long afternoon after school.

In high school I was pretty out as being bisexual. I was sexually inexperienced, and even less relationship-ally experienced. I desperately wanted to be in a relationship, but I also desperately wanted to be in a sexual relationship. I tried asking boys out, but got rejected a couple of times. I wanted them to ask me out, but NONE of them did. I went out with a friend for a bit, (how’s that for this friend zone thing?) but it didn’t work because after spending a lot of time with him, I realised I just wasn’t as into him as I hoped I’d be. I’d hooked up with another friend and it did work, until he decided we should stop. I hadn’t really gone out with any girls yet, but I was keen to give it a go.

Enter Miss K. Miss K was adorable. She was a high achieving academic student who was suddenly really into the punk scene and hanging out with my particular set of weirdos. She was a year ahead of me and bisexual. She talked openly about how frequently she masturbated and about her vibrator ‘the Silver Bullet’. I was completely smitten. And she lived close by. One day she asked if I wanted to come have lunch at her house, and, of course, I went. She made amazing ramen for me which I could hardly eat, I was so excited. We hung out at school, but this was one on one. Then she invited me to hang out after school and watch a movie. Of course, I went, hoping I’d find my moment, read her signals somehow and she and I would have hours of fun with the Silver Bullet.

Then we sat on the couch and watched 101 Dalmatians. And nothing happened.

I chalked it up to reading the signal wrong. She wasn’t actually into me. Or maybe I just needed to hang out with her more and build up a relationship. Yeah, that’s it…

Several weeks later and she came back from a weekend talking about her new boyfriend. He was from out of town. Or something. Basically, my hopes were dashed.

So, she wasn’t into girls really. I was totally reading her signals wrong and really just holding out false hope. Oh well. That sucked. And I moved on.

It was only in thinking about it again recently that I realised my situation fit the usual pattern of getting ‘friendzoned’. I had interest in a girl, she was probably interested in me too, but instead of telling her I was interested, I relied on this magic of ‘signals’ and waiting for the ‘right moment’ to come along (you know, like in pornos). Instead of putting my interests out there, and risk being rejected (and lose the right to hang out with her), I held back and waited for some sign from above (or for her to make an obvious move). Then when she went for someone else, I wrote it off as some flaw of hers (“she’s just not really into girls” = “girls always go for jerks”) instead of looking to see what I might have done differently.

So yeah, I have a tiny bit of sympathy for these ‘nice guys’ after my revelation. But really they just need to grow up. If you keep placing the burden on external factors and don’t take responsibility for the outcome, you’re not going to get anywhere. Yes, it means risking making the girl you like feel weird around you. And then you deal with it and move on.

I didn’t learn how to ask a girl out until last year. And I got to have a real relationship with her before she dumped me for a guy. What could I have done differently? Well, I did everything I could and tried my best. She met someone she was more into and who could give her what she needed (which was more time and support). So, short of not being married and not having a kid, there was little I could do. And while it hurt to be rejected, I’m happy she found someone she is into.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to help any of these PUA guys who spew this nonsense, but maybe my story offers a different perspective. And maybe if they stop seeing this whole ‘friendzone’ thing as a ‘guy’ problem, then maybe they’ll stop being such whiny dickbags about it.

Imagine you have an acquaintance who is a big soccer fan. They play soccer, sing soccer songs and watch soccer. They love soccer and they talk about their soccer team all the time.

Soccer Ball Cake Pops

One day you tell them that you’re not really into soccer, but you are a sports fan.

“What do you mean, you don’t like soccer? What other sport is there?”

“Well, I like basketball. I play on a local team.”

“Basket ball? What’s that?”

“Well, players try to get a ball into the other team’s basket.”

“Ok, I follow. Like soccer.”

“Yeah, except you bounce the ball with your hands instead of using your feet.”

“Wait, what? You mean you can CHEAT?”

“No, it just has different rules.”

“What do the other players think about that?”

“Well, they all play by the same rules.”

“Maybe you just didn’t commit to soccer. It takes a lot of hard work.”

“So does basketball. It’s really difficult.”

“But it’s just basically permission to cheat. I just couldn’t do that. Sorry.”

“Well, I don’t like playing soccer. Basketball is closer to my skill set and I find it much more exciting and intimate to play. I love watching the game because it’s more fast paced and suits me better.”

“I just couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if the other players were allowed to use their hands like that. I couldn’t do it.”

“Well, it takes skill, but you realise you’d be able to use your hands too, right?”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t want to. I prefer only using my feet to kick the ball. I couldn’t do it any other way. I just couldn’t.”

“Nobody is making you. We just like different things.”

“Okay, but please don’t talk about this basket ball thing around my soccer friends. It might make them feel weird.”

And this is what it is like to talk to some people about polyamory.

The last 12 months have been intense. I went through a breakup, that nearly broke me, then was in two relationships that ended within a month of each other.

After that, I swore off ‘dating’ anyone during 2013.

Then I went back to Uni, and have been busily preparing myself for a major life and career change (a.k.a. getting a new degree).

Since going on semester break, I’ve found myself with a little bit of free time and absolutely no desire to date.

But I miss having a companion. I just do not want to go through all the heartbreak again. And I don’t feel the rewards of being ‘poly’ are really worth the trouble right now.

However, should I meet someone and hit it off, I don’t see myself saying no because of any ‘rule’ against dating.

Husband and I were talking last night about loneliness. He’s an introvert, I’m…less of an introvert. We have each other, but we both get lonely. I can’t speak for him, but I have definitely been feeling lonely lately. I’ve been working, I’ve been relatively social, but I really miss having ‘someone’. I have ‘someone,’ obviously, I have Husband. But we’ve agreed that we are not perfect for each other in every way. We are not perfect lovers. We are not perfect ‘companions’ (which is a gender neutral word I like to use for the role a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ fills).  We are, however, perfect partners. We are great parents. We are an excellent Pictionary team.

So what I miss is having a lover and a companion with whom I am compatible. But I do not intend at this point to go seeking out someone to slot into that box (no pun intended). The heartbreak of losing someone who was those things, but also a lying, cheating, betrayer of my trust has left me scarred and scared. Even one year later, I’m just too exhausted to imagine making the effort.

As for Husband, he went through the emotional wringer over the last 12 months too. He was hit hard by the whole drama, then got dumped by his major, longtime companion. They’d been together nearly as long as he and I had been and then she just… yeah. Right after that, he got dumped by his two other lovers/companions as well. (EDIT: I’ve left out a part of this story, another major relationship ended in a mutual agreement to stop seeing each other. It was really emotionally draining and awful. I wouldn’t characterise it as being ‘dumped’ so it didn’t fit into this paragraph.) So it’s not just my own experiences that have left me with Post Traumatic Relationship Stress. Because we were both going through so much emotional shit at the same time (plus there was my school work making me stress out), we couldn’t even really be there for each other either and that has taken its toll.

For now, we are over dating.

Furthermore, I just don’t get crushes anymore. Not in the same way I used to. I used to get crushes that were consuming. And a major part of them was a burning desire to have sex with that person. Now, I get ‘friend crushes’ where I get all excited about hanging out with a new person. I’ve had several major friend crushes on classmates, coworkers and others in my life, but none of them have been sexual in the least. If I find myself picturing someone sexually, my brain clicks in and says, “What’s the point? What makes you think it will be anything special? You’ve had sex. Sex is sex. This person will offer nothing you haven’t had before.” Which is strange. My desire for sexual novelty is completely null. It’s not even like I’ve lost my libido. I still desire sex, but just not with anyone I know (besides Husband and Lovely Boy…more about him later).

I’ve got polyamory burnout.

However, on the horizon, I have an upcoming visit to my homeland. When I arrive there, I’ve got a former lover whom I have been wanting to see since last year. Last year, when I went back home I had planned a tryst, but did not engage in shenanigans out of respect for the aforementioned Lying Asshole, who had expressed discomfort with the idea. (Later events made me regret the decision somewhat, regardless of the fact that it meant I could maintain the moral high ground.) I’m looking forward to seeing Lovely Boy because he’s someone  I have fun with and with whom I’ve been compatible sexually. But he’s a far cry from a regular companion. He lives half a world away, and even if I were to move back next year, he’s still a 10 hour drive from where I’d be living.

And so, for now, I remain lonesome.

mallard1

“So, do you want to hear my safer sex speech?”

“…ok.”

“Great! Here’s my speech. The last time I was tested was [_____], and I was tested for [_____] and [____]. I tested negative/positive/was treated for [_____]. I have [____] and I can’t guarantee I won’t give it to you, so if that is a problem, then I’m sorry but that means we can’t [_____]. I’ve had [____] sexual partners and right now I have [____] partners (our relationship agreement is that we are poly/mono/open/swingers/etc. which means [___]). I am currently on/not on hormonal birth control, but I still insist on using barrier methods for [______] sex. I am open to using barrier methods for [____] but not for [_____]. I really like [______] but I’m not into [_____]. What about you?”

I got this awesome idea from this YouTube video called Reid’s Saver Sex Elevator Speech. It’s by Reid Mihalko and honestly it was a huge turn on.

I thought I might try it if I ever date again.

What’s surprising is that there are people, mostly guys (that I know of), mostly younger than me, who don’t seem to be all that concerned about safer sex. It’s like they don’t think it matters, or think it’s too hard to have that conversation so they just pin the responsibility on their partner and let her call the shots. Well, as the Actual Advice Mallard up at the top reminds us, relying on your partner to set the safer sex standards for a sexual encounter means you’re leaving major decisions about your health – and if you are poly, the health of a whole community of people – to someone else. It’s up to YOU to take responsibility for your safer sex decisions. The only person whose safer sex decisions you can trust are your OWN. The only actions you know about for sure are YOUR OWN.

“But it’s too hard. It’s embarrassing. It’s not how I do things.”

You know what’s a more awkward conversation to have? Telling someone you tested positive for an STI. That is a shitty conversation to have. And if you are non-monogamous, you have to have that conversation with a lot of people. And some of them will never trust you again.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

If you front-load this conversation, and have it as early as possible, you can have ALL THE SEX! Think how awesome that would be!

And the best part, if it scares someone off, well, then maybe you’re not on the same page and you deserve better.

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