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Archive for the ‘polyamory’ Category

Last weekend I had a great date with a new fella. He is geeky and smart and sexy and all those things I like in a guy (if he  reads this, I hope he’s not embarrassed).  We had tons in common, plus, he’s poly so I didn’t have to explain anything. We seemed to match up quite nicely.

Anyway, carried away on a wave of NRE, I wrote a rather gushy email to him, which I immediately regretted sending. After all, he lives in another city, we both have primary partners and so I have a very specific level of relationship I’m after and I was afraid I’d given the impression that I was going to go boiling his bunny.

After fretting most of the day that he would be scared off by my enthusiasm, we finally chatted late last night (well, late for me is 10:30 PM). He explained quite bluntly that his plate was full and that he couldn’t commit to anything serious with a new person, which knocked me back for some reason.  I guess because I had put myself out there in my email, I felt slightly rejected, even though I never wanted anything even remotely serious either. But then it made me wonder, what else could he have possibly thought I wanted? I can’t even fathom trying to have any sort of serious relationship from a distance, not to mention the fact that we both have primary partners already.

He said he didn’t want things to get complicated.

Well, Amen to that. Complications are complicated.

It got me thinking, I’m all for setting boundaries, but all this paranoia is silly. If we took sex out of the picture, we wouldn’t have to hash things out like this. Let’s say it was some other shared hobby, like board games. He and I would just be new friends. It’s always better to play board games with someone you get along with and with whom you have other things to talk about. We’d chat on the internet, talk about board games, and maybe hang out and play a board game when I happen to be in his neck of the woods.  I don’t think it needs to be any more complicated than that, and I do not want it to be. If the friendship grows over time, that’s great. Otherwise, hey, board games are pretty fun!

At the risk of restating the obvious, I am married and I have a small child. I can’t devote time to something big and complicated and I don’t have much emotional energy to devote to anything serious.
However, no matter how casual something is, there is still some small amount of emotional investment. I mean, I even have an emotional attachment to some of my shoes (why else would I keep my purple Doc Martens around when I haven’t worn them in years?) so some emotional attachment is inevitable. I think it’s only fair to be honest about that and not let it be some scary taboo, otherwise things can get even more complicated. Trust me, I’ve been there.

The truth of the matter is, my relationship with my husband is great but there are a few things that we don’t get from each other. Also, both my husband and I like to get away every now and then and be on our own. We’re very independent people and these getaways are essential to the health of our marriage. He has several friends out of town, I don’t really have any. And so it would be nice to have someone to…play board games with when I’m away.

Anyway, I hope this all works out. If not, at least I learned a little something about myself.

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This is a guest post by reader CT. I met CT through OKCupid back when I was pregnant as he is a fellow polyamorous parent who was happy to offer advice. We have been chatting online for over a year now, and though we have yet to meet in person, I consider him a trusted friend.

Here, he offers his experience and insights on dealing with some of the tougher aspects of being polyamorous.

Published in 2008, Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up attempts to be a simple guide to the not-so-simple subject of navigating a non-monogamous relationship.  It’s been reviewed fairly widely since its publication so rather than a review, I’d like to use Opening Up as a springboard for discussing two topics explored by Taormino – honesty and coming out.

Honesty is an essential ingredient for non-monogamous relationships, and this is a view that Taormino endorses. But Taormino has a particular kind of honesty in mind, and it’s not the “radical honesty” promoted by Brad Blanton. In criticising ‘radical honesty’, Taormino claims it is:

an egotistical and confrontational style of communication. It isn’t fair to or useful to share everything with someone who doesn’t want to hear it, is not ready to hear it, or doesn’t have the skills to process the information.” Opening Up – Chapter 4.

In place of radical honesty, Taormino proposes honesty with kindness and compassionate communication. As one of her interview subjects explains, in a relationship:

There has to be a kind of gravitational pull toward each other. If all of your focus is on yourselves you’re just going to fly off in different directions, and there’s not going to be a relationship. I think a commitment to kindness can be the gravity that keeps you in orbit.” Opening Up – Chapter 4.

However honesty with kindness isn’t just something to practice with one’s partners. It’s also something to be considered when thinking about coming out as non-monogamous.

Coming out earns a whole chapter in Opening Up. Taormino guides readers through the benefits and risks of disclosing one’s non-monogamy, addressing topics such as how best to come out and finding support during this challenging process. Arguably, one of the key messages of this chapter is that being selective in coming out, or not coming out at all, can be a legitimate and valid choice.

Which brings us back to the question of honesty.

If you’ve signed up to radical honesty and not hiding your true self from the world, one can imagine a lot of internal angst being generated by not being ‘out’ to family and friends. But as Taormino’s interview subjects highlight, coming out carries the risk of causing a lot of hurt if not handled carefully.

There is the risk of hurt to oneself through rejection by family, friends and community.  There is the risk that one’s children, partners or family will also be subject to ridicule or ostracism. Finally, there is the risk of hurt to family or friends who may struggle with having their perception of a person or relationship turned upside down.

It’s this last area where I imagine ‘honesty with kindness’ can make a big difference. Both questions of who to come out to and how to have that conversation is something that arguably needs to be done  with not just one’s own welfare in mind, but also with kindness for the recipient.

Who to tell and how has been a big struggle personally, and one that’s been guided by a principle similar to ‘honesty with kindness’. There have been times when it has been tempting to just relieve the weight of secrecy by telling everyone and expecting them to simply  “deal with it”. That temptation has been tempered by a desire not to risk hurting those who really don’t need to know about the openness of my marriage. The decision not to be more openly poly is also, of course, driven by fear of the potential backlash against my family and myself.

And so it is that those who know about my poly lifestyle are mostly new friends made since we opened up, and neither of our families.  Whilst being able to be openly honest with more friends and family is appealing, I think my wife summed up our situation well when she said:

“I like the friends we’ve got, they don’t need to know to be our friends, so why take the risk on telling them?”

Thus, through a combination of kindness and fear, it’s a relatively small circle that knows the nature of our marriage.

And so dear Polymomma readers – I ask you for your experiences in coming out? How “open” are you? How did you weigh up the desire for honesty with the risks and the need for kindness? And what has been the outcome of your decisions?

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This past weekend, I went on a romantic getaway with my honey and left my baby-daddy at home with the baby.

I spent the weekend relaxing, enjoying the benefits of a huge spa tub (not unlike the one I gave birth in, but this time with Cham-pagne instead of actual pain!) a king size bed (for sleeping in, and I mean sleeping in!) and being away from my baby.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby. I love him to pieces, every little tiny bit of him, each of which is getting less tiny every day (he’s almost a toddler now!), but it was nice to have a couple of days to be something other than a Momma.

Being a full-time mother is not easy. Sometimes it takes me a while to get out of the habit of constantly narrating everything I do in the third person as “Mummy”, as in, “Mummy has to put on her shoes now,” or “Mummy’s going to cry if you throw your sippy cup on the floor one more time,” or “Mummy seriously needs a martini right about now.” Not to mention the feeding, changing, playing, comforting, supervising etc. And it’s only going to get harder. As it is, he’s recently begun climbing the stairs at every opportunity. I’ve had to put up a proper safety gate – originally to keep him from going down the stairs – to keep him from ascending while my attention is elsewhere engaged.  The two weeks before my getaway were two weeks of new teeth coming in, along with the accompanying clinginess, crankiness and crying. It’s emotionally and physically draining. Not to mention the isolation of being out in the suburbs without a car most of the week.

Motherhood, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, was not a role I saw myself in until very recently. The whole thing still strikes me as odd. I don’t feel like the Mommy/Mummy ‘type.’ Even though in some ways I enjoy being a domestic goddess – cooking, baking, entertaining – there are other aspects I really suck at – housekeeping…that’s it really. I chose this role for myself, so I’ve nobody to blame, but it still doesn’t feel like me most of the time.

A weekend away has made me feel more like myself. Or rather, being away from my role and my routine has made me feel refreshed and happy with it again. I’ve come back to my baby and my husband with renewed enthusiasm. It’s like the “me” muscles were atrophied and I’d only been using the “momma” muscles. But now I’ve had time to strengthen the “me” muscles so the “momma” side is balanced out and my life is easier to carry.

I’m so grateful to my boyfriend for whisking me away, and to my husband for being a single dad for the weekend.

Life is good.

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Deborah Anapol, Ph.D, has published this excerpt from her book, Polyamory in the 21st Century in the Love Without Limits blog on the Psychology Today website. It’s a great introduction to some of the psychological and social reasons people choose polyamory. There is one aspect I found, at first, to be problematic. That is, the topic of sex addiction. However, in reading further, she is careful to point out that sex addiction, while far from the norm in polyamory, is still a destructive force when people use polyamory as an excuse for their obsession. I still have a problem with pathologising sexual behaviour (when such behaviour is between consenting adults) but there are still some destructive patterns that could be labeled as an addiction. Dr. Anapol also points out that while polyamory can provide shelter for these destructive patterns, a positive label can at least bring them out into the open.  She makes some other wonderful points and acknowledges the diversity of experiences in polyamory, unafraid to acknowledge the dark side without painting the whole movement as a ‘failed experiment’ the way some ignorant journalists might. This is one of my favourite sections:

“True, plenty of people use multi-partner relating as a strategy to avoid attachment, some even recommend this, but in my experience attachment is a powerful force which can override any mental argument or situational defense. Many people hope to find greater stability, depth, and personal growth in their intimate relating by choosing polyamory, while others seek the same qualities in monogamy. The bottom line is that whether we like it or not, all relationships are dynamic by nature and any effort to avoid this reality is doomed to failure.”

I think that pretty much sums up my pre-marriage non-monogamy. If I had actually bothered to learn about responsible non-monogamy strategies back before I met my husband, there were a lot of mistakes I would have avoided and a lot of people I could have avoided hurting. When I first learned about poly, I was in the “avoiding attachment” phase. I used to joke that I had a “90 day warranty” when it came to monogamy. I couldn’t stay in a monogamous relationship for more than 3 months before my eye would wander and I’d pull out the, “Well, I’m polyamorous, you knew this when we started going out, so I can do what I want” excuse then I’d do what (or who) I wanted and come back and say, “I think we need to take some time apart” or some such insensitive nonsense.

Basically, I was a jerk. And I used polyamory as an excuse to be a jerk.

I don’t think there was anything wrong with my sexual behaviour, but I was using poly to justify some very destructive patterns. By doing that, I was hurting the concept of polyamory. All those people I hurt now have a warped concept of polyamory because of how I treated them in the name of poly. For that, I am very sorry.

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A common thread I’ve been hearing lately about polyamory, is that some people, when they are first introduced to it are scared off by “all the sex.”

One person’s first experience was being handed a copy of The Ethical Slut, and finding all the talk about sex to be too confronting. Another was this article on Alas, A Blog! about the writer’s experience of a friend’s attempt to coerce her and her boyfriend into a poly relationship via Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein:

“And then there was the polyamory. Specifically, there was a wide-eyed, subjectivity-less, hot-hot-hot female character named Hamadryad who nurtured others with her healing sexuality…

And all of a sudden? I was no longer wishy-washy bend-like-a-reed on the subject of polyamory. In fact, I was no longer wishy-washy on the subject of Heinlein. I now had a distinct opinion of Heinlein: read Heinlein, said this opinion, and lose your lunch.”

When I read that, part of me really wanted to jump up and down and scream, “NO! NO! THAT’S NOT POLYAMORY! THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S ABOUT!! YER DOIN’ IT WRONG!”
But that would be denying the fact that for a lot of people, polyamory is about sex. Or at least, it’s about sexual freedom. It certainly was for me, back when I was new to it. But then, I was (and still am) a sexual person. I was discovering my sexuality and was all about sexual freedom. “I can haz multiple partners? And there’s a word for it! Awesome!”

But that’s not the whole picture.

I think part of the problem is the definition of sex. Sex, as it is most commonly defined in our heterocentric, patriarchal culture, is when one person’s genitals go inside another person’s genitals. Specifically, when a penis goes into a vagina. That’s the big, stupid wall that is erected around monogamy. We can do whatever we like, so long as nobody’s ding-a-ling goes in anybody’s hoo-ha. That is how we’ve officially defined monogamy: exclusive rights to someone else’s genitals.

This is, of course, a ridiculously narrow definition of monogamy. Ask most monogamous couples and their definition of unacceptable behaviour could be anything from oral sex to simply looking at another person. Hell, if TV sitcoms are to be believed, some monogamous couples even consider it cheating when their partner fantasises about someone else during lovemaking. But even many monogamous couples allow some things: flirting is ok, but not kissing; oral sex is allowed, but not intercourse; snuggling is ok, but only if clothes stay on; girls are ok, but not boys; etc. So, really, open couples just take it a step further and say intercourse is allowed. It’s just one step, but it’s officially what separates us from monogamous couples.

So really, it’s not just about sex. Sex is just that tiny, but significant, difference. It’s about relationships, honesty and communication. It’s about making sure there are no surprises, as Mo’nique said in her famous interview with Barbara Walters. Sex is part of it, but if you’re in a monogamous relationship and you don’t clearly define your boundaries, you’re asking for trouble. I’ve learned that the hard way many a time (“What? It’s not like we had sex, we just fooled around!”) and it was not pretty.

It helps me to think of polyamory like this: You have lots of friends, some are closer than others, but you have various levels of intimacy with all of them and you don’t care about any of them any less if you make new friends. In polyamory, the same is true of lovers. That’s it.

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Poly Pretties

Hello my readers (all 12 or so of you)!

You may have noticed I’ve made some changes to the blog. I switched to another theme (I think this one’s called Misty) which allowed me to create a custom header. I used the freeware program GIMP to create the image. It’s not a perfect software program, but it is good enough for my amateur purposes. It reminds me a bit of the old cracked version of Paint Shop Pro I used to have on my computer back in 1999 when I made my own website using pure HTML. Ah, the 90’s…

Anyway…

The image on the right is of me breastfeeding my son at two or three weeks, the image on the left is of me holding my son at about 8 months. The centre image is modified from a picture of a silver pendant from Abzu Emporium. In case you aren’t familiar with the symbol, it is one of the common symbols for polyamory: a heart with the infinity sign wrapped around it, signifying the infinite possibilities of loving openly. Abzu Emporium has several lovely pieces incorporating this symbol, from a small silver charm for $5 to a 14k gold pendant for $110. Any of them would make a great gift for a wife, girlfriend, or your favourite poly blogger (Hint! Hint!).

I also found this belt buckle on Etsy, so if you want to get something for one of the men in your life, or if you have a lady that likes big belt buckles, or if you just want to get it for yourself.

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I’ve been reading a great deal of buzz about the new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. Mostly people just saying that the book is important, or that reading it has been opening their eyes, making them feel less ashamed of their poly lifestyle. After all, having science back up what has, for some of us, been an often uncomfortable truth, is very gratifying. It confirms what we’ve been saying for years, that some of us just aren’t “wired for monogamy.”  It even, apparently, goes so far as to say that most of us aren’t wired for monogamy, or at least, that wiring is usually temporary. I, for one, am very keen to read it, but books are expensive here in Australia and I’m waiting until my upcoming trip to the US to pick up a copy.

Polyamory in the News has written one of the more thorough reviews I’ve read, but more notable is that they go on to explain why this book is so important for the public’s understanding and acceptance of polyamory:

For most of the polyamory movement’s 30-year history, advocates who have sought to give poly a theoretical foundation have generally turned to New Age or spiritual philosophies, involving things like the limitless nature of love, the spiritual heart of the universe, and other concepts that I find fairy-taley and unproductive. By unproductive I mean that theories built on them never seem to lead anywhere predictive or useful, as a good theory must.

Ryan and Jethá have now given us a theoretical underpinning that is concrete, scientific, and evidence-based. They show that polyamory matches what human nature actually evolved to be. Seen in this light, the modern, ethical, egalitarian version of poly offers a path to a saner future — in which humans are not so perpetually conflicted with themselves, and are less driven by the insatiable needs and neuroses that in many ways are causing us to ruin the world.

Powerful stuff.  I really can’t wait to read this book.

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(Should that be “Merry” instead of “Happy”? Nah…)

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit shut-in. I live waaay out in the suburbs and it takes me at least 20 minutes to get ANYWHERE. My husband takes the car during the week and to get anywhere I either need to walk or take the bus. It’s a pain and it’s very, very isolating.
I have a mothers group, or at least I had a mothers group, but they tend to get together in places that I can’t get to without a car. We used to meet in the park, but now that it’s winter, that’s not practical.
And now some of them have gone back to work full time. I’ve been considering putting my son in childcare one day a week so I at least get a little ‘grown-up time’ once in a while. But childcare is going to be expensive, and I’m pretty sure what I’ll be making at a job won’t even cover the cost. It’s frustrating at times, and very lonely.
Yesterday, however, I had a lovely afternoon. My husband’s girlfriend’s other partner, with whom she co-habitates, works evenings and has a car. He told me last week that if I ever want company, that he can come by and hang out. I’m totally out of his way, but it was a nice offer. Yesterday, I was starting to get the lonely crazies and so I took him up on his offer. He came by, looked after my son so I could take a shower and we played a card game and chatted while my son crawled around. It was such a nice reminder of the benefits of having a poly family.
Next week, my husband’s going to be away, and his girlfriend has offered to babysit so that I can continue my activities. And my secondary partner will be coming by in the evenings to keep me company. We’re all part of one big, happy, poly family.

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Just ran across this article that @PolyWeekly tweeted today.

Here’s an excerpt:

…why did I suddenly find myself building a nursery for a 4 year old and a 2 year old? I mean, children normally come into your life in predictable stages. You have 9ish months to build a baby nursery and then age it gradually as the child grows. But I never saw these kids as infants. They sprang fully formed into my life. After knowing them for a little less than a year, I figured it was time they had their own room in my house.I am not their stepmother. Even though I am Daddy’s girlfriend, I am not even a potential stepmother. Daddy doesn’t live with me. He lives in a small town in rural Georgia with his loving wife and beautiful young boys. I live three hours away in Atlanta with my amazing husband and a strict budget that does not (yet!) allow for children.

It’s great getting the perspective on the role of a secondary partner of someone with kids.

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A child brings a new dimension to my lifestyle. It means there must be a great deal more precise planning when engaging in any shenanigans, but if one of us goes out, the other can stay home with the baby, so each of us gets a break every now and then. I’m lucky to have found a secondary that loves babies, but when my husband and I originally announced our plans to reproduce, my husband’s secondary didn’t take the news very well. She has since come around, and has a healthy relationship with our son. She even babysits for us occasionally, so we can get some time alone together. We have a happy family and things are going well.

In the future, things are, of course, going to get more complicated. I have spoken to other poly parents about this, and they have had to deal with these issues already. There’s no clear cut answer to how to deal with being poly with children. It’s unique to each couple (or triad or poly-family) and their situation. In our family, we are still somewhat in the closet. My mother knows, my mother-in-law knows, but my father is still in the dark. And I’d like to keep it that way, as he’s somewhat conservative and very protective of me. Also, my husband and his secondary work together and we live in a relatively small town, so they’ve had to keep things somwhat under wraps. So while we plan to be honest with our son, what do we do when he blurts out to his grandpa that “Mummy’s friend slept over last night,” or whatever?

My husband and I haven’t decided how we are going to deal with the specifics, but we know we plan to be honest and keep things age appropriate.  We have more detailed discussions about how to deal with the whole Santa Claus thing (he’s against it entirely, I’m for making it a game) than we do about how to deal with this. We seem to think we will deal with it as it comes along.

This is a pretty good source for answers to the questions other people might have. The bottom line is that I think living this lifestyle means that there is more love around, and a child that grows up surrounded by love is a child that grows up happy.

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