“Submission is mine to define for myself.” Interview with Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy was a player in Submissive Playground in 2014, and is signed up to join us again. She is the Social Activities Director of the Society of Janus in San Francisco.

What did you like about the course? What parts of it stand out?

There were a lot of things I liked about the course, but the first that stands out for me is that I felt like Mr. Sexsmith led me through a lot of pondering that I hadn’t done yet, about a variety of topics. I was still/am still very new, and it gave me an organized, thoughtful approach to my own kinks and interests. The quality of the materials was very high – the videos were very informative and entertaining, and I haven’t seen that caliber elsewhere. Mr. Sexsmith and rife are also “informative and entertaining” – you can really see how beautiful and thought-out their relationship is and how that shapes their perspectives.

The other aspect that was very special was the camaraderie with subs from all over the world. Everyone was so different in terms of their dynamics, orientation and interests, but each person was more fascinating that the last! Having people video chat and tell their stories was so cool. I might pay to do the class again just so I can learn from all the next group’s stories.

What drew you to Submissive Playground? Where were you before you took the course?
I was a fairly new submissive when I found out about the Playground. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, taking classes, and getting involved in the local scene. But I needed more, and everything I read pointed me to the Submissive Playground (especially the idea of homework).

What was your favorite part of the experience?
Hearing from submissives of every gender and orientation from all over the world. Having someone share a deep, dark scary secret and several of us all piping in “ME TOO!”

What did you learn?
I learned that I am ok as the submissive I am, and I can strive to become the submissive I want to be. It’s not about the end game, it’s about the journey. The Playground was an important part of that journey.

What kind of skills did you build?
Discovering what kinds of service are important to each of my partners and following through on those things, instead of making myself crazy trying to be perfect with things they couldn’t care less about. And flirting with Tops and Sadists and Dominants (oh my!) while still feeling submissive.

What changed with your relationship to submission?
Realizing it was mine (and my partners) to define for ourselves – there isn’t a right answer.

What changed with your relationship to your dominant?
Watching the assigned videos with Him, or sharing specific readings, was the best part. Further opening lines of communication – me finding my voice to say that something wasn’t working for me (bad pain versus good pain, suffering for His pleasure versus being miserable). Even for a strong, alpha submissive like myself, those are hard things to say aloud to a partner.

What in you feels stronger now than it did before the course?
My trust in my own gut to know when a relationship or scene isn’t right for me. My confidence that as a fat, middle-aged masochist submissive cis-woman, I am a hot catch for the right people and anyone who earns my service or submission better be damn worth it.

How & why would you recommend this to other submissives?
While I got lots of answers to my unresolved questions from this class, I felt more focused on the wonderful questions it brought to my attention. I found myself wandering my neighborhood caught up in a question that came up on a phone call or in one of the videos.

If you are intelligent, thoughtful, submissive (or might be), curious and ideally witty, I think you’ll get a lot out of it, even if it’s not what you think you’ll get out of it. It’s really a bit of a journey – I’m glad I took it seriously.


january-subplay

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“Healing comes through sex.” Sinclair Sexsmith interviews Sophia Chang

How do I know if this kind of dirty kinky sex is *good* for me? What are the healing aspects of D/s play? What kind of biophysical basis for healing does kinky sex have? And how can the sacral chakra and cellular memory assist with healing, and give your sex life even more power and oomph?

These are the kinds of questions I asked Sophia, and we talk about all this and more in the second video in the Sugarbutch series on mental wellness and kink.

Watch it now!

Can’t get enough of Sophia Chang? Here’s more: http://facebook.com/thesophiachang | http://www.sexmoneyuniversity.com

And if THAT’S not enough, Sophia + I are doing a special Q&A version where we’ll talk about wellness, kink, mental health, liberation, feminism, queerness, straight sex, and even chakras (if you ask). Come join us!

Thursday January 8, 2015
6pm PST, 9pm EST
On Spreecast (link will be sent to you the day of the webinar)
Free! Just sign up below:

(PS: There will probably be flirting.)

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Eight: Creating an Active Fantasy Life, It’s Okay to Be Butch, and “You’re Fucking Gay”

And thus concludes the Great Reader Mini Interview series of 2013!

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and engagement and ideas. I have loved reading every one of your responses and recommendations. I have dreams of compiling a big list of blog URLs and recommended books and sources that changed your lives. We’ll see if I can get that done. I have such limited time and SO many project ideas, ya know? Everything I choose to do means choosing NOT to do something else.

And likewhoa, the Submissive Playground has taken up way more time than I expected. I mean, of course it did, doing a course for the first time always takes so much work to create the curriculum, and having something ongoing means I have even more room to tweak it and change it based on what the participants need, as it goes on. Which has been amazing, but also a lot of work. I am almost seeing the end of the course now, though, since there’s only one more full week of materials to prepare, and then the wrap-up call! (I’m still behind on grading homework, however. That’s on my MITs for today.)

If you sent in a mini interview for this series, and you haven’t seen your name here, I’m sorry! I very well may have overlooked it, somehow. Or maybe it didn’t get into the Google forms spreadsheet, somehow. I promise it was an accident—the only folks I didn’t include were those of you who wrote to me and specifically asked not to be printed. I would welcome you writing me with, “Hey, I submitted a mini-interview, but I didn’t see it; do you still have it?” kind of question if you want to (you probably know how to reach me, but my email isn’t really on the site anymore because I’m trying to get my inbox under control).

I love reading your advice and resources, so much. Thank you, everybody. I would really love to keep the conversations going … do you think if we had a monthly chat, in an online IRC kind of chatroom, y’all would come and talk to me? Rife & I were talking about it like a “fireside chat” kind of thing, so there should be tea or cocktails or something, but y’all would have to provide those for yourself.

Okay! On to the mini-interviews:

—–

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading your blog over a year ago. I had just come out to a dear friend– a very conservative straight female friend. Being the woman she is, she decided to google many things LGBT and found your site. She asked me about it, and since I hadn’t seen it before, she insisted that I read it and get to “know” you. A true friend.

—Annie Anthony, http://annieanthony.com

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I won a copy of Say Please at a burlesque show and it opened the flood gates. And I’m not just talking about how wet it made me. I realized what I had been missing and the kinky, leather, submissive, masochist inside me would be ignored no longer! After reading The Harder She Comes, and Sometimes She Lets Me and seeing your name in all three I landed here. So obviously my favorite parts of Sugarbutch are the naughty bits. I love erotica because I always get to play the leading lady in my mind when I read.

—Summer, https://www.facebook.com/summer.r.banks

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I have, as you know, been a long-time reader. I began reading Sugarbutch when I was in a hetero-relationship, maybe about 5 years ago (have you been publishing that long? I know you had been around for a little while already because I devoured the archives when I found you.) I was somewhat questioning my sexuality at the time, knew I was attracted to women- and so did my partner- but I was not out to many other people. … It’s been an interesting trajectory, to say the least, and I have also gone through some of the same stuff as you over the same-ish time frame, in terms of leaving my long-term partner and staying with a new partner who I met & started dating while in the long-term relationship. It was through being a reader of Sugarbutch that I first started to create this active fantasy life, including the desire for a Daddy/girl relationship (I believe you introduced this concept to me) which I now am living out with my partner.

Not only was your writing a great outlet for yummy lesbian smut and D/s dynamic when I was not getting any of that kind of sex, but your honest writing about your own relationships and your thoughtful introspection about power/self/learning/loving has been essential to my own growth and moving through what I needed to move through during that time in my life, in order to come out and to be comfortable with who I am.

—cravatica, http://titlesareeasy.Blogspot.com

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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Don’t worry, it’ll all sort out, one thing at a time. Oh, and Lesbians do totally exist; so you are fu**ing normal.

(Just as a small explanation: as a teen I was kind of questioning my gender, since I am a woman attracted to woman but only knew (at the time) that it was not okay to feel this way (hello Homophobia). So I spend a lot of my time thinking about gender, power and such stuff. Which is okay, since it is a really fascinating topic, but I just wished that back than someone would have told me that it is okay to be butch. And that there are a quadrillion ways to express oneself, so you don’t have to become the girl next door stereotype.)

(I hope I made sense!)

—Max Vague, http://droemmelig.tumblr.com

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Don’t spend too much time in relationships with cismen because they aren’t really your thing. You know you’re not satisfied w just girls on the side and you’ll get to the good stuff if you stop cockblocking yourself with cisdudes. Don’t spend too much time with people who don’t want to help draw out & make real your dirtiest desires from your shy self.

YOU ARE (mostly) A BOTTOM; DON’T DATE OTHER BOTTOMS!!!

—keta, http://papismija.tumblr.com

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I would tell myself that there is less need to wait, that you are already whole and that the parts of yourself that feel freaky, incongruent, vulnerable and broken will be amongst your greatest beauties (especially when they awaken compassion). I would encourage my younger self to keep up the sexual self-exploration, that it will pay off in spades. I would encourage that younger self to honor that precocious gender-resistance and keep the girl-boy-girl-feral internal parts in conversation and alive; you’ll find others soon enough. I would also encourage my younger self to open up, share and to trust those few friends a bit more, that healthy, joyful, hot, loving relationships *are* possible, despite what you see all around. Oh, and PS, Austin is full of queers. Call OutYouth Austin, right now.

delightful wigglepuss, https://www.facebook.com/kim.lasdon

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Dear Baby Summer,

You are going to spend a lot of time looking for the right penis. You will be convinced if you just sleep with enough men you’ll find the one that does it for you. You want so badly to find the nice man to marry and make babies with in a gated community. Here’s the thing… you don’t ACTUALLY want that, it’s just the only thing you’ve ever known. The moment that you meet people who have a different model for love and life your eyes start to open. The reason you are obsessed with the movie But I’m a Cheerleader is you’re fucking gay. This was the first example of young, queer ladies you’d ever seen in film and you latched onto it like a fucking gay life saver in a sea of hetero. It still takes you a few years to realize you don’t just “think girls are pretty”. Even after fucking a few you aren’t convinced you want to be in a relationship with a lady. And that’s ok. All in good time my pretty. You will eventually realize the right penis is actually a strap-on cock and while you weren’t sure you wanted to be in a relationship with a lady, being a butch’s girl is right where you belong. You are going to be so happy when you open your mind and your heart. And you’re going to cum a lot more.

—Summer, https://www.facebook.com/summer.r.banks

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Fuck gender; do what you want. Pronouns aren’t the important things, or names, and breasts come off regardless of gender if you find the right surgeon. Love vintage hair cuts because they are comfortable and awesome, and your voice because it can do so much, and being a member of a community of women because there is similarity, strength, vulnerability and kinship there. Don’t worry what labels any of those things earn you; the labels matter to some people, but it’s okay that they don’t. Gender is a myth built around embodied truth, but still just a myth, and your truth can be something the myth-writers never imagined.

As for relationships, as wonderful as it feels to be someone’s whole world, that’s what puppies are for. There are things called “boundaries” and you really ought to develop some or you will lose yourself attempting the impossible. On the other hand, don’t be afraid of heart break. There are worse things than a broken heart.

Finally, there is no such thing as a “failed” relationship; there are just relationships that end (sometimes long after they stop being a positive force.)

—B., https://twitter.com/liminalgamer

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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Hoffman Process, hands down. And I’ve done a lot of work in many forms. It helped me extricate and fundamentally alter the roots of old patterns that were lodged deeply in my somatic and neurological pathways. It offered me tools to continue the work on my own beyond the retreat. It also worked because I was fiercely ready to do the work and surrendered myself to the transformation despite and beyond the aspects that my rational, critical intellect would have dismissed.

—delightful wigglepuss, https://www.facebook.com/kim.lasdon

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Insight-oriented therapy with a smart therapist. It took nine therapists to find one who clicked, but it was so very, very worth it. In addition to the obvious up sides, therapy taught me skills of self-reflection and intellectualization that have been way more adaptive than my previous coping mechanisms. It taught me to listen to my emotions and body, letting them tell me what I needed to care about or work on or empathize with. Even if one is completely emotionally and psychologically healthy, I still think insight-oriented therapy can be useful [since] we aren’t teaching that kind of emotional intelligence to everyone.

—B., https://twitter.com/liminalgamer

Anything else to add?

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Ever think about coming to Ireland Sinclair? Plenty of LGBTQ groups to visit!

—CTD

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I really love your site and the information and passion you share with the world. I’d really love to see you promote yourself more, to a wider audience. I think some of your stories and blog posts are so intelligent that you can appeal to a very academic audience. Yet your subjects are so interesting and fun that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to enjoy the blog. I’d love to hear audio transcripts of some or all of your workshops and also see more interactive content, pictures, etc. Overall, highly entertaining and interesting work!

—Annie Anthony, http://annieanthony.com/

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I am awed and inspired by your bravery to share so much of yourself in a medium that can often feel completely one-sided, and I love that you opened up these questions to your readers in order to encourage a different kind of dynamic with your reader. Thanks for sharing yourself so openly for all these years.

I look forward to seeing you in person one day, if you ever come to do a talk in Phoenix, please let me know! I’m starting off my classes in gender and gay and lesbian studies this spring at ASU so if I ever come across an opportunity to bring you to campus for a speaking engagement, you can bet I will be trying to book you!

—cravatica, http://titlesareeasy.Blogspot.com

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Seven: The Journey, Smut, and Black Tee Shirts

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading Sugarbutch.net back in 2008 when I first started journaling online, and later writing. I love Sinclair’s honesty and realness in everything that is written on this site. Sinclair is always willing to dive deep and ask the tough questions, the risky ones, the ones that challenge everything. The questions that could risk it all. In the end, the reflection of their own journey, becomes inspiring.

The smut. I love the way Sinclair writes smut, with all the realness of human connection, desire, imperfections, and wavering thoughts. Connection, Sinclair is brilliant at it. I’d love to see more of it. Even short snippets.

—DeDe Deylnn, http://www.deviantdyke.blogspot.com

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‘m a fairly new reader. I’m trying to remember how I found your blog, but I can’t recall… I’m glad I found it though. You’re a great writer. You make yourself so vulnerable to your readers and I really admire that. Thank you for sharing such intimate detail with us!

—Daniela Amaya, http://witharmsakimbo.tumblr.com/

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I started reading Sugarbutch in 2009, which was the last summer I had a sustained crush on a straight boy. I think what I appreciate the most is the self-reflexivity; the approach to relationships as deeply valuable and also deeply educational, always. I suppose I’m interested in you doing more of whatever you find interesting and challenging right now. That’s usually what I want interesting writers to do!

—Helena Swann, http://www.cuntext.com

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i have been reading since just before Sinclair and K started dating. i’ve read all this time even though i don’t identify with daddy/girl or femme expression from a top or bottom perspective. i’ve been going through a lot of discover and changes around my gender expression and how i identify. i check in on his blog at least every couple of days, i love the way he expresses his journey, and his style of writing. i love his smut and the elements that focus on the D/s Authority exchange side. i’m looking forward to reading more about his dynamic with rife, since i’m now identifying as GQ primal masculine expressive, looking to find a dynamic/understand more about Sir/boy, Trans/butch dynamics. i wish you’d tell us more about what makes you tick, where you want your journey with rife to move forward towards, more smut.

—dylen, https://fetlife.com/users/592071

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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I’d tell my younger self to write about sex sooner. Eleven years ago I wrote with Jen Cross in her first workshop for Queer survivors writing about sex and it changed everything for me. Writing in this way and later performing changed everything for me. My attitude and experiences of sex and gender and relationships changed. It changed how I parented, how I interacted with my community and lovers. It changed my writing and my views about sexuality and survivorhood and drove me to become a sex educator and writing facillitator.

http://writingourselveswhole.org has had the most impact on me. I would not have become the person that I am without it.

—Renee Garcia, http://queerly.tumblr.com/

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I don’t feel like I’ve grown up enough to give my younger self advice. I kind of admire her for being so bold and kick-ass and take-no-prisoners. When I was younger, though, I figured all women were attracted to other women, and they just repressed all that to be heterosexual. I do still believe a lot of people play that game, but it wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I realized all those straight women are actually *attracted* to men. Sounds dumb, but it was kind of a revelation.

—Giselle Renarde, http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com

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Relax. Your sexuality is more fluid than you realize. Being queer may or may not be about being sexually assaulted by your boyfriend in high school and either way it’s ok. Being poly will complicate your marriage in good and bad ways. Tread carefully.

—Theresa

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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This isn’t surprising: The Body Electric School’s introductory workshop Celebrating the Body Erotic has been the single most influential resource in my life. This weekend it has been six years (really??) since my first one, and I still find myself stopping to breathe, asking for what I want, and practicing the basic tantric breathing exercise with my partners (in through heart, out through genitals // in through genitals, out through heart). I can honestly say that I was able to handle some big issues in my life very gracefully because of my experiences with the Body Electric School – and not just sex & relationship issues, but various other life circumstances as well. There are just some experiences that have to be processed physically through body instead of through the mind – my first CBE taught me how to do that.

—Miss Avarice, http://missavarice.wordpress.com

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CBT sessions – I know it’s extended but it was where I learned that you are supposed to talk about feelings not just express them in actions and snark.

—john, http://www.facebook.com/jmwallach

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My Dangerous Desires by Amber L Hollibaugh has had the most impact on me and my identity as a queer femme. In one essay she talks about how living out queer desire is radical and subversive because it disrupts the idea that happiness/fulfillment is linked to heteronormativity. I think one reason it took me so long to accept that I was queer was because I wasn’t sure happiness was possible without a husband, a white picket fence and two kids.

—Erin, http://femmenistthought.tumblr.com/

Anything else to add?

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Sinclair, every time I see a black T-shirt I think of you.

—Giselle Renarde, http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com

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I love your reviews and have found so many things useful for my Mr. because of them.

—john, http://www.facebook.com/jmwallach

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I’m pretty excited to check out your other readers. Something deserthooker wrote in one of your open relationship mini-interviews was one of the first things that prompted me to start actively thinking about how, where, and when mental health and D/s relationships overlap, for example.

—Helena Swann, http://www.cuntext.com

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A huge thank you for continuing to share yourself online, there are SO many of that value this, and are here in spirit with you through the difficult times.

—dylen, https://fetlife.com/users/592071

The Great Reader Mini-Interview of 2013, Part Six: Stay for the Smut

Wow, you guys.

Between launching Submissive Playground and helping rife with The Gender Book crowdfunding and planning and executing the Best Lesbian Erotica 2014 release party (which HOLY SHIT was amazing), and then oh yeah the whole holiday thing, I have been swamped with projects lately, and have not kept up with publishing the mini-interviews. But they are very patient, and there they were when I went to sort the next series of answers.

And, you guys … wow. I just love what you have to say. And not (only) because you are saying such incredibly nice things about me and this project, but also because you are fucking smart and thoughtful and touching. I have been chewing a lot lately on how to post more advanced content, how I can talk about the Graduate Studies levels of D/s and cock confidence and healing from heartbreak and all those things I post about (somewhat) regularly, and your answers and engagement makes me think even more that I should step it up. Thank you for all that inspiration.

No wait, let me write that again: THANK YOU for all the inspiration. In these interviews, in emails, in conversations on Facebook & Twitter—with so much. I feel incredibly lucky.

And, that is the SECOND reader who said I should come visit London and they’d buy me a beer, so clearly I should go visit London. (Again. I did a brief study abroad there in 2002 in college, but I’d love to return.) If any of y’all have an idea about how we could put on some workshops there, get in touch!

Okay, on to …

More of the Reader Mini-Interviews!

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading in 2007-ish when I was at university and just discovering the whole blogging thing. I came for the gender talk, was beyond thrilled to find the smut, and have loved the personal blogging, particularly the ones where you seem so connected with nature and the world around you. Your blogging of your gender identity/journey is also fascinating and feels really important to me.

Oh, and the reviews! I got my first packing cock based on your reviews so there’s a special place in my heart for those – I’d love to see more of that kind of thing.

—ollie, http://ollieroberts.blogspot.com

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I started reading Sugarbutch in 2008 or so. I started for the politics, and stayed for the smut. Seriously, your smut has been hot, your writing about gender has been thoughtful, and your writing about relationships has been encouraging and timely. I’m a bit of a hermit, so have always been on the edges of the dyke and BDSM communities, and your writing has made me feel more connected to them.

—Avery Cassell, https://averycassell.wordpress.com/

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What do I like best? Each component of your writing appeals to me in one way or another. Of course you write exquisite erotica, but more than that, I like your writing voice. I like your willingness to be self-reflective (though I think you think readers think that’s boring? It doesn’t bore me at all.) because you unpack things like I do, you seem to have a need to understand things in a deep way (I identify with that like woahhhh), and I wonder sometimes if you wish you could turn it all off, the way I wish I could shut my brain off even once in a while. I’ve learned a lot about coping strategies from you, I even found the Fluent Self through you! And I loved your photo series (what is the plural of series? Seria? Serieses?) over the summer! I know you felt like you weren’t saying much at the time but I saw the proverbial thousand words through some of those shots. Thanks for sharing those.

—Jacks/JacksofHearts, https://www.facebook.com/jacks.of.hearts

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[I’ve been] a girl who loves sex and has wild fantasies but has never had the guts to explore any of them. Always let others make the moves and lead the way, so girls were always going to be a late introduction to my life. But oh what a lovely addition! Kissing girls is like nothing else. So the past few years i’ve had my head down exploring women. Invariably women much like me and i enjoyed learning how their bodies worked and what makes them tick, and come of course.

And then online i met a woman. We were both looking for something casual. She was clear she doesn’t like to be touched. I didn’t really understand this to start off with and just assumed (in an ignorant arrogant sort of way) that this would evapourate as we went on, and i ‘worked my magic’. But of course, for her being touched intimately just does not work. Someone else touching her is not the exciting electric feeling; its just being touched. This has been a challenge for me as i love touching others. Although what i realise now is that i love giving others pleasure and for most that tends to be a form of touching. I have had to learn a lot about erotic energy and pleasure in order to feel that i was giving her as much pleasure as she gives me.

Sinclair you (maybe its fair to say Sugarbutch.net) have been my place of learning. I have learned about dynamics between people and how this can be as erotic as plain old sex. I have learned that i can give someone pleasure through my words. You have inspired me to write erotic stories to my lover. You have reminded me that the brain is the most powerful erotic organ and that the most intimate connection can be through words, or often in the spaces between words.

—clarkeroyale, https://www.facebook.com/helen.clarke.58118

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I started reading probably about a year ago, and while everything is good in its honesty and daring my favorite thing is probably the essays. I am sure it isn’t the common answer, but they are always interesting and well thought out even when I don’t agree with them which I rather love and find admirable.

—Taylor, http://mckownt.wordpress.com/

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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Go with your instinct… you don’t just “admire” her, you are “in” to her – attracted to her. Be yourself – don’t try to fit in with the other girls – you never will. Relax – every encounter with a woman doesn’t have to be a long term relationship.

—Susan

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Know yourself. Do the back-breaking, heart-wrenching work it takes to know your limits and set up boundaries, because that’s when you can start letting people in.

Stop stuffing your gender identity into a deep corner of the closet because the people you date are too afraid to talk about it. You’ll lose 15 years and end up in the same place where you started–having to acknowledge who you really are. Be honest with yourself the first time around.

—Ian Galeski, https://www.facebook.com/ian.galeski

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I’d tell my younger self–my high school senior self–to stop being such a nervous wreck about sex, to trust that her friends can make their own decisions and there is value in committed relationships and value in a one-night stand. I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to have casual sex and okay if she tries things she wouldn’t repeat, things that teach her more about what she really needs. I’d tell her that she will have the person who makes her crack apart with every touch and the person who makes her scream “fuck!” and the person it feels too strange to kiss and the person who teachers her to fall in love with giving oral and the person who will never let her forget her fat body is both desirable and beyond the confines of desire and the person who she will want to take her cock and that some of these people will be the same.

I’d tell my younger self that if she ever doubted her pansexuality, she will meet and desire people in such incredible conglomerations of gender that she will never be able to again, that gender is fun, hard, playful, devastating. I’d let her know that every time she thinks she has something pinned down, the entire map will change.

Relationships…about that one, I don’t know what I’d tell her, because no words could have prepared me for the things love can do, and the things it couldn’t.

—Tamara, http://wordsonnapkins.tumblr.com

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I think I would tell myself to recognize the guilt I felt (over having sexual feelings at a young age, having feelings for women, and being interested in non-normative sex practices like bdsm) as symptoms of socially imposed values and not my own shortcomings or sins. I grew up very aware of my sexual self but also very ashamed of it. Now I know all that guilt was for naught and I embrace the healthy pursuit of self-knowledge and pleasure, but it’s been a long and difficult journey full of lots of unsatisfying or only semi-satisfying sex and relationships.

—Amanda, http://superblysituated.tumblr.com

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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http://www.stevepavlina.com. His work has always stoked the fire in me, the part that wants to live like a wild thing and channel all the strength and anger into something productive. It was because of his site that I had the courage to become a sex worker, which led to a more intimate understanding of things I’d always felt but never had words for.

—Katrina Elisse Caudle, http://www.faeriedark.com

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Sacred Pleasures workshop run here in London. Whilst i found it challenging to take part in exercises with strangers by the end of the day i had reconnected with a sacred sexual aspect that i thought i had lost. I also experimented with some impact play, which was a lot of fun! I would highly recommend this workshop to any Londoners reading. … Keep doing it Sinclair. Come to London and i’ll take you to my favourite bar.

—clarkeroyale, https://www.facebook.com/helen.clarke.58118

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A quote from Terence – ‘I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.’ This ever after encouraged me to try and understand the human processes by which seemingly incomprehensible things happened. In turn, that helped me untangle the incomprehensible in myself.

—Lilac, http://drinklilacwine.wordpress.com/

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I think somehow ending up in relationships with really amazing, self-aware people who have been willing to help me see a bigger picture of life has had the biggest impact on who I am and the path that I’m on right now, but that doesn’t make for a very good resource for other people ;) I’d say a great resource has actually been the Savage Love column – sometimes I love his advice, sometimes I’m ready to call and rant about it, but I do often find new resources because of his suggestions. And actually my college health center has had a huge impact – my first experience coming out to a health care professional was a disaster emotionally, but when I first went to the college clinic the intake form actually had questions about the sex and gender of past sexual partners. Not only did it avoid the awkward direct questioning by the nurse, but then the NP was able to walk in prepared to explain the kind of sexual health education I needed rather than a generic memorized paragraph that didn’t apply to my situation. And the best part is that the positive experience helped inspire me to pursue a career as an NP :)

—Jess, http://www.agirlandhercaronanadventure.blogspot.com

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When Someone You Love is Kinky…such a great pansexual resource when your partner is not as much into BDSM as you are…it helps you communicate what your needs are in a precise and sensitive way and honestly, is great practice for overall relationship communication. Great book, experienced authors, excellent resource.

—Nili, https://www.facebook.com/HolisticHealthRnHealthCoaching

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Because I’m thinking about sex and relationships, the website Scarleteen comes to mind. I come from a very conservative town in Texas with virtually no sex ed. Scarleteen was a haven of respectful discussion and factual information targeted specifically at young people in the scary world of the internet. If I had not had that resource growing up, I think I would be in a very different place right now, both physically and emotionally.

—Amanda, http://superblysituated.tumblr.com

Anything else to add?

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Just that I think the way you’ve been engaging with your readership over the past month+ has been really great to see, and I hope it’s been positive for you too! You’ve been going through so much hard stuff for so long now that (I imagine) it’s easy to forget that you have an entire support system built straight into your website, and you can lean on us, you know? We may be inside your computer but support and good vibes and advice and commiseration and empathy and comradeship are the same wherever you find them. On a personal note, thanks for acknowledging my comments to you. It was a lovely surprise!  I’ve really been enjoying this conversation.

—Jacks/JacksofHearts, https://www.facebook.com/jacks.of.hearts

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Please keep your postings and musings going. You are such a fantastic writer and your postings are relatable and heartwarming (or as of recently, heartbreaking). Writing is cathartic and from your most recent break-up, I think you could use a little catharsis right now and us, your followers, are more than happy to listen and sympathize. You strike a cord with me every single time, so thank you for what you do!

—Nili, https://www.facebook.com/HolisticHealthRnHealthCoaching

The Great Reader Mini-Interview of 2013, Part 5: In which you recommend Stone Butch Blues & Fried Green Tomatoes, and give good advice

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I started reading about two years ago when I really started coming out as gender non-conforming and exploring my queer identity. At the time I was in a poly relationship and so a lot of the material resonated with me. I really have always appreciated the open discussions about sex and gender presentation and some of the more utilitarian posts about clothes, etc.

—Alison, http://a1tg.tumblr.com

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I stumbled upon Sugarbutch from a link in an Autostraddle post nearly 4 years ago and immediately spent every waking second that summer reading the entire archive. I felt like I had come home. Not only was someone writing about the sex I had always wanted to have (and that in and of itself had a huge impact on my sex drive and partners and play and whatnot) but they were doing it beautifully and well and consciously.

I still think some of my favorite posts are erotica, but I also know that the theoretical posts have changed my life in a completely literal sense and now that I am growing into my own versions of an alternative gender identity and kinky identity, they are more important to me. But mostly, it’s just the whole thing. Everything you do lets me know that somewhere in this world are people that think like me.

—Roux, http://www.queerlyroux.com

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That would be “Handprints on the Hotel Window.” My girlfriend emailed it to me shortly after we began dating. On out first trip to New York City together, she booked a room that had floor-to-ceiling windows so we could reenact the story. Tres hot. I’ve been a fan ever since!

—Dawn, http://southernfriedfemme.blogspot.com/

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I started reading around 4 years ago? Right around when you started writing about Kristen. I was just starting to identify as a femme and was desperate for anything anyone was writing. I’d read your posts praising femmes over and over again, reassuring myself that this identity I was claiming was real and true and that someone, some day, would want me. And I mean your smut really helped me get through several stressful days during undergrad…

—Emily, https://twitter.com/EmLuft

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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You’re allowed to want things, even if you feel like your partner doesn’t. That doesn’t make you bad or wrong or broken. There are other people who will like you and also enjoy those things. You don’t have to be perfect, and making mistakes can only lead to improvement and giggling. Gender is hard and exhausting, and you are never going to satisfy anyone but yourself. So have fun and try not to talk other people’s opinions too seriously.

—kaj, http://distractionsandproblems.tumblr.com/

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Women appreciate authenticity. Don’t ever tone yourself down because you’re scared you’re too butch. Also, there is more than one femme in the world, even when it feels like the only one was the last one.

—Meg, https://www.facebook.com/megan.mceachin

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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The book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Something about that book grabbed me when I was in my early 20’s…I read it 5 times in one week after I bought it. It was the dynamic of Idgie and Ruth’s relationship. The people, place and setting of the book, drastically different from my life, but very similar in other ways. The way Idgie and Ruth lived, spoke to each other, the activities they participated in , the running of their cafe. I still read that book once a year (sometimes more) and it is always like visiting an old friend. In my mind I greatly embellished their relationship, which is left a bit ambiguous in the book, and maybe that is why I keep going back.

—April

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Stone Butch Blues. I was sixteen, not out to my parents, and it was the first queer book I’d ever read. It changed everything in my life. I learned that “butch” wasn’t a dirty word, that (somewhere?) there were women who might like me, and, most importantly, that people like me had a history.

—Meg, https://www.facebook.com/megan.mceachin

Anything else to add?

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I think you seriously underestimate the amount of people in this universe who have ridiculous crushes on you.

—Roux, http://www.queerlyroux.com

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I’m so excited to see where Sugarbutch is going to go in the next months and years. I’ve read this site for years and never commented-truly embodying “lurker syndrome.” But this website and your writing has meant a lot of important things to me at different times in my life, and I’m grateful to see a rededication to it from you. Thanks for all that you do and give. It does not go unappreciated-I promise.

—Emily, https://twitter.com/EmLuft

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Four: “Shut up and get hit,” Communion, and fun erotica

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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(As a brief addendum, I publish the above blog anonymously! I’d love others to see it, but am a little nervous, as I have a fairly conservative day life. How have you reconciled your public and private lives intersecting? I’m always curious.)

I’ve been reading you on and off for about four years now. I love your erotic writing and, as a fellow butch, have felt a kindred sense of discovery with you as I’ve come into my own. It’s refreshing to read your perspective as it mirrors some of my own experiences.

PS: I saw that you were attending QI in Hartford. So am I, and fuck, I’d love to suck your cock.

—J, http://camionneuse.wordpress.com

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Started reading 4-5 years ago. Most frequently repeated quote: “shut up and get hit.” Seriously, your life. Never stop writing about it for public consumption.

—Simon Hoardash

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I just came across Sugarbutch a week or two ago, and wish I’d found you sooner! I’ve been skimming through your archives whenever I have some free time. I’ve been thinking about sex/uality, gender, and relationships a lot lately, and thirsting for more discussion of them. I’m especially interested in the D/s dynamic since that’s something I’m currently exploring, from a framework of being queer, poly, and in committed partnerships with two people of different genders. And of course I love your dirty stories.

—elspeth, https://fetlife.com/users/2485909

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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ohgod. calm down. it’s okay to not know (anything). thinking too much about what other people are thinking (and inventing what you think they are thinking/feeling/doing) is the absolute fastest way to create totally unnecessary drama. if you don’t know, ask. when you can identify that you are making an assumption, especially about what someone else is thinking/feeing/wanting, STOP IT, and ask.

—Kat Heatherington — http://yarrowkat.livejournal.com

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That my pleasure in and relationship with my body is the starting point of sex, not an extra. That it should be closer to communion (with self and other) than performance (totally externally focused) in order to be nourishing. I would congratulate myself on not shaming myself about trying lots of things, and suggest not shaming myself about my body shape. I’d suggest trying less hard to please unattainable people, and know that such advice at that time in my life would have meant nothing to me.

—Shereen, http://twitter.com/ShereenSamuels

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Femme is not a bad thing. It’s actually really, really powerful. I know you’ve somehow fallen into the mindset that to be Femme is to be weak or not queer enough, but that’s utter bullshit, darlin. You’ll eventually embrace Femme as an identity, and you’ll finally start to feel as strong and badass as you are. And red lipstick is the best armor you will ever find.

—Ashlee, http://femmeandfists.tumblr.com

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I would leave a link to your website and other queer friendly spaces on my computer for my 18 years old self. I struggled a lot with desire to begin with. I struggled even harder to come to terms with my same sex desires. Feminist and queers spaces have really helped me become a person I much more like.

— Gladys, https://www.facebook.com/gladys.is.awesome

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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Body Electric. because it has opened me up to listening to myself in a way I have never really done before.

—Kat Heatherington — http://yarrowkat.livejournal.com

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The Artist’s Way. It was such a lovely, creative, non-prescriptive way into figuring out lots of things about myself. Many years ago in my early twenties, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah turned my whole world upside down – even though Richard Bach turned out to be something of a self-involved dick, the book changed how I saw and interacted with the world.

—Shereen, http://twitter.com/ShereenSamuels

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This might be a bit of a cop-out of an answer, but recently, Tumblr has had the biggest impact on me. I’ve found some amazing radical queer people and blogs who’ve all been a big part of helping me shape my activist identity. Tumblr also happens to be full of badass Femmes, gorgeous queer people of all identities, and some really, really fun erotica and smut in general.

—Ashlee, http://femmeandfists.tumblr.com/

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, Part Three: Personal accountability & self reflections, Kink, and Do Your Research

What’s your relationship with sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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I actually started reading Sugarbutch while I was still married to male. I had always known my sexuality was not what I was pretending it to be, and I knew that women that leaned towards the masculine side of the spectrum did something strange to me. I was completely naive to who I was deep down, and what it was I really needed in a relationship/partner. One day I was talking to a friend of mine whom I spilled the beans to, and she led me to this site. What I read on here was a beacon of light to me, and I finally started coming into my own. I have learned a lot about myself by reading your articles. I have most of all learned that I am not alone in who I am.

Keep doing what you are doing. I know you have had a tough run of it lately, but I admire you for staying true to who you are, what you want/need, and wearing your scars for everyone to see.

—Jennifer, https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.fitzgerald.92

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I actually like/enjoy your self reflection and journal entries. As PolyAnna, I spend a lot of time talking about personal accountability and self reflections. People who are successful at poly and find fulfillment in poly are those who take the time to reflect on their choices and actions. Please keep writing your journal entries. They are a joy to read. Truly.

— PolyAnna/Josette Sheridan, http://lookingthrough.us/

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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1. It’s okay to be monogamous, even if all the ‘cool kids’ are poly.

2. Don’t even bother trying to date somebody who isn’t kinky; it’s not going to work.

3. Being attracted to trans men, after some years of only being into butch women, is okay and doesn’t change your fundamental self. You can still keep your queer card and just love who you love. Most of your ex-girlfriends will eventually turn into men, anyway.

4. If you’re in a D/s relationship with someone who breaks down your self-esteem and violates your boundaries, that’s not D/s: that’s abuse. Even if they buy you shiny presents.

— Anne Campbell, https://www.facebook.com/riverbend

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Believe in love where you find it. Trust your senses. Be angry. Then let it go.

—Cathlin Star, http://cathlinstar.blogspot.com/

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Oh God. I think it would boil down to “Do your research, do lots and lots of research.” But more specifically: I would find my fifteen-year-old self and sit her down and tell her “Honey, you have internalized some really toxic shit about how sex is *dangerous* and some even more toxic shit about how *knowledge* about sex is dangerous. Neither of these things are true. You want a lot of stuff that you don’t know how to articulate — go do some personal exploration and I promise, you get to decide whether or not you will act on your desires, but first you need to be able to articulate them. Either way, I also promise that the world will not end.”

And then I would give her a hug and tell her that it was going to be ok.

— Clara S., http://thethirdrose.tumblr.com

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Don’t settle! Too many women (men perhaps also but I cannot write for them) settle for perceived security, “love”, to make a home for children. I was too hasty to get it all and follow the traditional norm of settling down before I got too old and have a family. As for sex, I tell my daughter (now 12) that if you are not sexually satisifed in a relationship and the other person is not willing to work on it then you need to reevaluate that relationship and if it makes you happy. I wish someone had told me this when I was younger. I never had the exposure to gender differences. I now teach a program to teens at my Unitarian Universalist (UU) church call O.W.L (Our Whole Lives) about sexuality & healthy relationships and one of the tag lines is “Sexuality is fluid” I so love that!

— Tonja Hewlett, https://www.facebook.com/EnterprisingFae

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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The Persistent Desire: A Femme Butch Reader (edited by Joan Nestle)

Maybe this is just as much about the book as the editor…. I’ve met Joan (she lives in Melbourne, Australia) and her partner Dianne and find her to be such a valuable elder to have in the community. I love the way her writing is so political, and that class and race are made so relevant. I also love that although Butch-Femme influences her whole life, it’s not in such predictable ways and has changed and morphed as she’s gotten older/grown.

Shes so involved in movements around Israel/Palestine and I see her out at refugee rallies monthly. She’s so engaged with the younger queer community here still and puts in so much time, for this and many other reasons I really respect her and she has taught me a lot. <3

In an attempt to look more queer and attract more attention from people that I thought I wanted I really played down my femme side to look as “queer” as possible so I guess I’d like to tell my younger self that there would be someone who would love your femme side and wouldn’t read you as any less queer for it. More specifically, would know all the ways that you were sexy just for her.

—M, http://brownskinnedslut.tumblr.com/

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Scarleteen.com was the sex and relationship ed I hadn’t even known I needed. I found the word genderqueer there, and it was like my head breaking the surface of a lake I hadn’t known I was in so deep, coming up gasping clean, cool air and feeling full, real, awake, alive in a way I hadn’t felt before. It taught me there was space for me, that it was okay to ask for what I needed to feel safe, that my body had agency and value even though it existed in strange, queer, liminal spaces.

—Cricket, http://beatingthebinary.tumblr.com

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In 1999 I listened to Bikini Kill’s Pussy Whipped for the first time and it changed my life. Kathleen Hanna’s outspoken, feminist, intelligent, fuck the patriarchy, sexually freeing, in your face, revolutionary and progressive approach to grrrl punk music both inspired and entranced me. The riot grrrl movement impacted my life in so many ways, teaching me how to love myself and embrace my feminist identity. There has not been a woman since who has challenged patriarchy, sexism and homophobia so passionately and poignantly.

—Kachina Addison, http://www.facebook.com/kachina.addison

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, part two

What is your relationship to sugarbutch.net and Sinclair?

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My favorite part is probably the porn. My least favorite is probably the personal relationship stuff; it’s interesting but also cringeworthy and full of secondhand embarrassment, at least for me, and makes me shout “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT” at the screen a lot.

—jay, http://www.twitter.com/jswaggerbk

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I most enjoy the smart and progressive gender theory. I love the ways Sinclair moves the conversation forward, and remains open to all ways of knowing. I also enjoy the erotica, a lot. I would also be interested in an exploration of the “butch bottom” — my partner would probably fall into that category, and I’m interested in teasing out the less obvious relationships between gender and power there.

—rachel, http://www.bellybuttongazing.blogspot.com

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I wish you would do more of exactly what it is that you are doing. I know that some of your readers have been sending you messages saying that they miss Kristen, or that they wish you would do more of this or more of that. But all I wish is that you keep writing what you want to write. It’s that which shows me your true colours, and its that which is real. SO very real about you that keeps me grounded in my shoes, in my reality, in my concepts of what Butch is. Of what Queer is. Of what Love is and what power is. The fact that you have remained true to yourself. The fact that you have listened to your heart, despite the whispers and the judgements; you are still moving in YOUR direction, and that’s fucking hot. That’s power, that’s taking the time that you have on this planet and making the most of it by not wasting it on doing what others want you to do. You follow your heart, and that, to me, is truth.

You and I went through a breakup at the same time. I found that your silence matched my silence and i never once questioned it. When you finally found words again I felt them with you. and I found myself speaking to you through the screen consoling, and sharing my experiences. I wanted to tell you that we would be ok. That even though things ended perhaps under different circumstances, we were feeling the same pain, the same stages of denial and rejection and loss, and I felt like you brought me home a lot. But I also felt like I wanted to bring you home with me too. It was therapeutic and it helped me out a lot.

—EK, http://instagram.com/ek_bo

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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It’s ok to be gay, go to church, believe in God, and live in the South all at the same time! I’ve been attracted to women since I was 4 years old. My first two kisses were girls! In South East Texas however, being gay isn’t even an option. I just thought I could easily appreciate another woman’s beauty. No one speaks about being gay. Thank you for putting out such straight forward information. I love that there is no beating around the bush on your site. Thank you for being a proud, intelligent, gay woman and not hiding it.

—Julie May Richardson, http://instagram.com/julie321

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I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about what everyone else is going to think, and say, and whisper behind your back and to just go flirt with girls already.

—Sara, http://somekindofsexy.tumblr.com

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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I can’t narrow done one source but I can give you a genre: books. I read everything I can get my hands on. Right now I’m interested in the Invisible Femme problem. Since I happen to be one.

—Michelle

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Probably reading Butch is A Noun, S. Bear Bergman. As stupid as it sounds, I didn’t really ‘get’ that there were other people that felt like me. But if I can slide another thing in, it’s been kind of amazing to find the web presence of butches, dappers, and all the other words that confuse me. Tumblrs, blogs, twitter accounts; it’s illuminating to think that I’m not weird. Finding a community of similar folks has actually really helped with my confidence.

—Zoe, http://dapperirishdyke.wordpress.com/

Anything else to add?

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Femmes have been my salvation. There have been 2 femmes who made me whole again. After being abused by my mother for years about my gender, I shut down. hiding even inside the lesbian community. These femmes brought me out with their wisdom and sight, their ability to see me and respond to me. I was lesbian for a long time but never fully me until I embraced and lived my Butch life.

— sumner, https://twitter.com/Butchkind

The Great Reader Mini-Interview, part 1: National Fisting Day, embracing gender complexities, and more

Oh hey there! I’m writing this from my sister’s house in Brooklyn, where I’m staying while I’m doing a couple of workshops for colleges this week. It’s been an incredible whirlwind lately, with college touring season starting and the Outside the Boxes: Celebrating the Queer Body Erotic workshop that happened in Oakland this past weekend. (It was incredible. You should’ve been there. Really.)

I love fall. I love fall everywhere, but fall in New York City is especially special. It’s stunning. The colors the trees the air crackling the people, the scarves! The coats! The boots! People are so well-dressed here. Honestly I miss the east coast “look” over in the Bay Area. (Granted, I’m mostly in Oakland, but the California / Pacific Northwest Casual look isn’t my favorite style.)

It’s the end of day 2 in New York, my first return since I left in April, and I’m starting to feel that deep New York exhaustion. I bought inserts for my boots. I keep taking off my leather jacket because it’s not really real leather (shhh) and the mostly-plastic of it is awful for the humidity that doesn’t allow my body to breathe. My skin sweats in the leather and smells musty when I take it off.

But, I took my sister’s big oaf dog to the park today, collected some fallen red leaves with bright veins, took some photographs, plotted out my Best! Sex! Ever! workshop for some cool queers at NYU and then hung out with them while we talked about what that might mean and look like, what really good sex is, what the barriers are to getting really good sex. And then we had a giveaway for some Pink & White queer porn DVDs.

I really like my job.

But! That’s not why I’m writing you. I’m writing to post the beginnings of the Great Reader Mini-Interview of 2013.

I got 74 mini-interviews in response to that call. SEVENTY FOUR. Thank you, each of you, each of you seventy four people, for taking the time, for spending a few minutes and filling that out. I read each one as they came into my inbox. I laughed. I teared up. I was moved and touched and said, “really? Really??” at some of the praise about my work. I wrote notes about resources. I’m excited to share them with you.

And, as that many came into my handy-dandy google doc spreadsheet, I wasn’t sure how I was going to post them. 74 individual posts? Two a day for thirty seven days? That seems overwhelming and like I’d be flooding my site unnecessarily. Post ten and save the rest? Post them all as an e-book? (Who would read that, except me?)

I finally figured it out: I’m going to post snippets. Maybe that seems obvious, but it took me a while. I’m taking my favorite line or phrase or paragraph or answer from each interview. It might be hard because your WHOLE ENTIRE INTERVIEW is probably incredibly awesome, but I just don’t have the space to reproduce them all. So they must get cut.

I’m going to take 7-8 at a time and edit them down to one central quote for each person, and then post those all together in one post. So there’ll be about 10 of those. After that’s all done, I might (might!) put them together in a free ebook kind of thing, but we’ll see about that.

Ready? Ready! Without further adieu, here are the first seven interviews.

The Great Reader Mini-Interview of 2013: Part 1

What is your relationship to Sinclair & sugarbutch.net?

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I can’t quite remember but I think I was looking at dildos online and saw an ad for the Sugarbutch Chronicles. Everything about the site made me say “Woooooooooow where have you been all my life?”

My favorite part of the blog are the links to other queer sites/organizations. The most memorable email I’ve received was for National Fisting Day 2012. I’m lucky that I had opened the email on my phone because I was greeted with a giant picture from FTM Fucker. I had never seen trans men in porn before and it was amazing. Since I was following Sugarbutch for a while before that email I had already been exploring and realizing how queerness can be sexy and empowering. Basically I love how this blog has taken me on a journey to discover a community that I feel like I belong to.

I’ve been empowered to express my gender and sexuality is ways that I’ve never even anticipated. At his moment I genuinely feel like I am attractive and loved. That is something that I haven’t felt before and I know many queers around me are struggling with themselves. Being a kinky butch bottom is a badge I wear with honor.

—Sarah Garnett, https://twitter.com/lohidoesnttweet

What advice would you give your younger self about sex, gender, or relationships?

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Hey 19 year old self. It’s Feb 15, 1997, and you are going to meet the woman who will become your wife. You will live, laugh, and love together. You will fight together and against each other. You will have 2 sons, a house, and numerous animals together. She will be your first, and (so far) only love.

She will get breast cancer and it will change you. Walking alongside your wife will be the hardest, most sacred journey you will ever take. You will want to run away. You will want to quit. But, you won’t. Because, YOU are strong. You are fearless. You are fucking awesome!

After 8.5 years of fighting, she will die, in your arms. At first, you will think that you are going to be lost and drift. But, you will be found, and you will be fucking AMAZING! Trust that you DO have the strength. When the community you weren’t looking for, finds you, embrace them, for they will get you through.

There will be a second act. I am just starting it now, but trust me – it’s gonna be rad!

—Dree, http://motherbutch.tumblr.com & http://dreesdaydream.tumblr.com

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Go with it, go for it.

You already embrace your gender … “issues” isn’t the right word … complexity, now embrace others, as they have needs and their own complexities too. It’s too easy to get lost in yourself, as others lose themselves within themselves too, so go out and play!

“A person not improving him/herself, endlessly becomes him/herself.” Self discovery is good, gaining insights from others sharing as they go through it is also good; not sharing is bad, not growing/developing/improving is worse.

—randy, https://fetlife.com/users/309032

What one resource has had the most impact on you, and why?

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The Usual Suspects because it’s a wonderful example of how you can’t just look at someone and know everything. Getting to know someone may or may not tell you the full story or even tell you the truth. Sometimes you don’t see the real truth of a thing until it’s too late.

— Cookie

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I suppose my general college experience opened up my world quite a bit. I was exposed to very smart people, very dumb people, and a lot of opinions that I had never known. Sexually, I got to go to the Fetish Flea Fair every year, and met some really amazing sex educators. I’m back in school now, getting another degree, and my goal is to share my experiences with as many people as I can.

— Elise, www.ehmworks.com

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Therapy. I lucked out with a therapist who’s a shorthair who can keep up with me when I get to talking fast, believes the woo when I suspect I might just be crazy, and is slowly encouraging me to trust myself. I avoided going for years, but agreed to give it a try when things got really dark in my life and I was considering far more final options. The trick is to find someone whom you respect, who seems to have some good ideas about life, and who is similar enough that you can manage good communication.

Plus, for me, someone who laughs about life with me and lets me argue it out out loud.

—Roxy, http://uncommoncuriosity.wordpress.com

Anything else to add?

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These past posts, when you did all the hand-wringing about comments and reading, I felt a bit guilty. I’ve been reading for years, I never stopped reading and yet I’d never written a comment (although I did send you an e-mail once, showing you a Greek singer I like, to which you were kind enough to reply).

I thought therefore that it is time that I speak to you directly and let you know that I am still here, and not going anywhere, and that I am sure that there are a lot more like me, faithful and interested readers who are just too shy to comment, or believed they have nothing of substance to add.

We read you, we like you, and we’ll be here.

PS If you ever make it to London, England, I’d love to buy you a pint and meet you in person.

— GL, https://twitter.com/GenovevaLondon

What kind of comments you could leave

In keeping with the Comment Zen idea, here’s some things you could reply to this post with:

  • The places the mini-interviews resonated for you
  • Whether you’d like to see all of the mini-interviews in entirety or if the best quotes are enough
  • Your favorite thing about New York City
  • What you’ll be doing on National Fisting Day October 22nd

Thank you!

Writing your story is “an investment in one’s self,” and more from Amber Dawn

howpoetryI published a note about me & Amber Dawn reading some poetry this week earlier today, but I forgot that I have this lovely little interview from Amber Dawn’s publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press.

Interview with Amber Dawn

Q: The format of How Poetry Saved My Life (prose pieces mixed with a variety of poetry forms) deviates from what readers might have come to expect from the literary memoir form. Sections “Outside,” “Inside” and “Inwards” hint at a narrative arc, though the overall structure remains more loose and thematic than chronological. Why did you choose to tell your story this way?

Amber Dawn: I have a great deal of admiration for authors—especially ex-sex workers—who write their memoir as a chronological journey. Some books I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently are Whip Smart, by Melissa Febos and Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, by Diablo Cody. I doubt I’d have the wherewithal to sit down and write my own story in this manner. How Poetry Saved My Life encompasses nearly fifteen years of collected writing. I wrote each piece for different reasons. Some poems had more therapeutic or cathartic beginnings, harken to the book’s title. Some prose I wrote to present at sex worker conferences or forums. It took a while before I realized I had an entire book’s worth of writing, and a bit longer still before I felt brave enough to release these collected stories and poems publicly. I view the account of my experiences as more of an emotional journey, rather than a chronological one. Through this approach I hope readers will make there own personal connection to the book, even if they’re life experiences are different from my own.

Q: The book represents nearly fifteen years of collected writings. You’ve had a very diverse writing career—you’ve edited horror and porn anthologies and dipped into the magical realist genre with your first novel Sub Rosa. How did you come to write a non-fictionalized memoir?

A: I believe a voice is a powerful and privileged resource to possess, especially when it comes to something like sex work, which is constantly silenced and stigmatized. Through performing on both small and larger stages, I’ve found that in every audience there is at least one woman (or man) who not only relates to my story, but feels almost desperate to have silence around sex work and survivorship broken. I feel a duty to speak up.

Q: Is there a piece of prose or poetry in the collection that was particularly difficult for you to write or realize, and in turn share with readers?

A: “Lying is the Work” is a personal essay that juxtaposes a bad date I had during the last year of working in the sex trade with my grandfather’s story of joining the Navy at age 17 to fight in WW2. This is one of very few examples where I bring my family history into my work. I love my family and want to protect and spare them of triggers or “digging up dirt.” While I’m proud of who I am, I acutely understand that survivors and sex workers are stigmatized and that this stigma can impact families and loved ones.

Case in point, recently, my grandfather disowned me when I married my wife—a ceremony that everyone in my family attended but for him. Therefore, I feel I can tell a bit of the story between my grandfather and I—in a dignified and objective way—without worrying about him reading it. As an Italian-American immigrant and Navy veteran he has a tremendous story of survival. It’s bitter sweet that I relate to him as a survivor and yet we have no present-day relationship. This makes the personal essay very difficult for me.

Q: RADAR Productions recently awarded you the 2012 Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Chapbook Prize for “How I got My Tattoo.” How does the title poem of that particular collection fit into your personal narrative in How Poetry Saved My Life?

A: What an honour to win the Eli Coppola Memorial Poetry Prize, and just before I launch How Poetry Saved My Life! I have a quite a few titles like How Poetry Saved My Life and “How I Got My Tattoo” that are posed like answers to questions. Sex workers and survivors get asked questions all the time. I could over-simplify all these questions to essentially, “How did this happen to you.” I hate that question—the question implies that being a survivor or being a sex worker is outside the norm and needs explanation—when in fact these experiences are very common. Nonetheless, I also sympathize that people need to ask questions and discuss. The titles that I’ve written as answers to questions are there to promote discussion in a proud and creative way.

Q: In the book you cite author Jeanette Winterson and “powerful women whose voices have been cut short” among your inspirations. Would you tell us more about how you have been influenced by literary and activist voices in your life?

A: I was in my teens and early 20s in the 1990s, and was gobsmacked by the Riot Grrl movement. My first serious girlfriend introduced me to the feminist music and zine culture and listing to Team Dresh and Bikini Kill gave me the idea that I too had something to say. Not only where these voices powerful, but they were accessible. I didn’t need education to understand the feminist politicking of Riot Grrl. But after being introduced to feminist art and literature, I wanted to learn more. This was probably the first time I ever wanted to learn or read anything. I began reading Jeanette Winterson, Beth Goobie, Larissa Lai, Evelyn Lau, Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, Michelle Tea, Sarah Schulman. Finally, I understood the comfort and solidarity that could be found through books.

Q: You’ve toured with the Sex Workers Art Show, created short films, as well as performed at a variety of venues including the Vancouver Art Gallery. How does your performance and film background compliment or deviate from your writing?

A: Performing at galleries or appearing in my own films has helped me get into my body. Like many survivors, I’m inclined to live in my head, my imagination is a real sanctuary. Performance art has allowed me to embody the themes and emotions of my work and connect more closely with audience. I really feel the work when I’m hurling my body around a stage. In turn, this has helped me sink into a deeper connectivity to my written work.

Q: You now teach creative writing classes—some to queer and at-risk youth. Can you say more about the potential of art to be a survival skill and lifeline to others?

A: Something very palpable occurs when a person writes their story. It doesn’t have to be for future publication, but simply to put memories on paper and/or to read them in a room full of safe, supportive listeners. It’s an investment in one’s self. It’s an act of acknowledging one’s worth. It’s making the unspoken, heard. This can have life-changing impacts on people who have been shut down or silenced. Each time I run a creative writing workshop I see a little bit of change happen. “Thank you for listening,” my students always say to me. They don’t need to thank me; they should thank themselves. They do transformative work when they use their voices.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Aida: Exercise the Love Muscle

Aida Manduley, www.smutandsensibility.com, @neuronbomb

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

Don’t assume that because someone you are dating is poly and one of their partners gets tested regularly, that your partner in common ALSO gets tested (or is STI-free for that matter). Do not make ANY assumptions about people’s sexual health; bring it up! If someone doesn’t want to talk about that with you, run far away! And if it’s you that feels nervous because you’re a n00b and you don’t know what poly etiquette is because you’re not the primary/spouse/etc., BRING IT UP ANYWAY. This will help you take care of yourself and your future partners PLUS it will show that you are a mature, responsible individual. In a relationship, unless explicitly negotiated otherwise or something, you can and should ask questions (albeit respectfully).

Even if boundaries make sense, make sure to ask and/or be explicit about the reasoning behind them, so when someone makes decisions on the spot and needs an educated guess to proceed, they have all the information they need.

Also, remember that poly is something you need to work on and think about even when you’re not “actively” pursuing/seeing other people. Think of it as exercising the love muscle.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

When it’s me juggling multiple partners, it has come down to time-management and making everyone feel valuable while not being able to give everyone equal time. My calendar is busy as is, and when trying to stick in multiple romantic/sexual relationships, it can get pretty wild. The only way it works is because I have BusyCal/iCal/GoogleCal and I’m not afraid to use it.

When it’s a primary partner expanding their relationships, it has been confronting seemingly irrational, sudden feelings of sadness and jealousy. This actually happened recently, when my long-term primary partner began to explore outside our relationship after a long time of not doing so. I felt this intense possessiveness and it was deeply uncomfortable for everyone involved. It’s easy for me to say “heck yeah!” to partners dating others when I LIKE and know the people they’re dating, but when it’s a random person I’ve never met or someone I don’t particularly like? I get uneasy and nervous about it. The reasons could be different depending on the relationship, but in this case, it wasn’t a fear of being abandoned or replaced or anything … it was a fear that the “outsider” wasn’t good enough; it was about not wanting to feel out of control, like the outside stuff would progress regardless of how I felt about it; and it was the discomfort with having to “share” my partner with someone I didn’t necessarily like when I ALREADY was only able to see them one or two days a week.

I consider myself a level-headed and logical person capable of compersion, so in the instances when I reacted very negatively or surprisingly, it really shook me. I have high standards for myself in every way, and not being able to be the partner I want to be (or that my partners deserve) is upsetting. Add that guilt/feelings of temporary weakness/failure to the feelings of jealousy/sadness over whatever the situation is and it’s a pretty shitty situation. The way I’ve dealt with it has been to WRITE MY HEART OUT; have lots of honest, open, and difficult conversations; and cry. Part of it has also been re-reading things I’ve written about polyamory in the past, revisiting blogs I consulted when I was first getting into this, talking to other people going through some rough times, and just immersing myself in the issue instead of trying to avoid it. It’s also been about trusting my partner.

Speaking in general, though, part of it has been unlearning some of the more ingrained ideas about what love, commitment, and relationships are “supposed” to be like. There was a LOT of unlearning and deconstructing when I embarked in my first relationship with a poly (and married) man, but I still find myself unlearning things to this day–things I didn’t even realize were part of those “packaged” notions. I’ve found it’s also about being able to come to terms with those things I DO want and feeling no (or little!) shame about them, since there are ideas floating around about what “perfect poly” is like and how “evolved” some models are, and there’s pressure to conform to those ideals.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

Aside from the obvious “being able to let relationships take their own individual courses without having to fit into a perfect mold” and “fulfilling more needs in multiple places,” I think another super cool piece of it is being able to feel New Relationship Energy and those exciting sparky feelings of flirting with (and/or crushing on) people many times throughout my life (while still maintaing steady relationships). Furthermore, being able to share that with another partner (whether it’s because I’m feeling NRE or they are for someone else that we both like) is fantastic.

Also? It was AWESOME having a loving support system (in the form of my primary partner) when I went through a rough breakup. Having him around as I grieved/dealt with the debacle of that other relationship and its roller-coaster ride helped immensely. It was nice to know someone still loved and supported me in that situation! In fact, my partner even helped me process and think through a lot of what happened, giving me perspective and reassurance when my morale was low.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Read up on the Love Languages. Figure out what your style is, and think about what ways you like to communicate. Make sure your partners are aware of their own style, and that you all communicate about this.

Finally, it’s okay to want a label for yourself and your relationships. So much focus gets placed on exploding binaries and breaking categories down that sometimes we forget how labels can be HELPFUL and comforting, how they can help people carve a space for others in their lives and vice-versa. The trick is to figure out what those labels actually MEAN on your own terms and to be intentional about those definitions.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Sassafras Lowrey: “I live the queer life I’ve always dreamed of”

Sinclair’s note: This concludes the open relationship mini interview series! I’m debating if I should do more of these mini-interviews, and I might. I’m thinking one about breakups or transitioning relationships, one about healing, one about long term relationships, one about D/s and protocol … Alright so I’ve got plenty of ideas.

Sassafras Lowrey, pomofreakshow.com

Note: I personally use the term “poly” to talk about my relationship(s) not “open.” Additionally possibly useful information – I’ve been in a primary partnership with my partner for coming up on 9 years. Our relationship has always been poly. I came out into a community where poly relationships were very much the norm. Every “serious” relationship I’ve ever been in has involved 24/7 D/s, and my partner and I were already very poly experienced when we got together.

1. What insight about open relationships would you share with your younger self?

I think the biggest piece of advice I could ever give my younger self would be to spend less time worrying about what other people think, or trying to create what I thought I should want, as apposed to what actually felt good to me. What I mean here is I have at times felt pressure to enact being poly in certain ways (dating, sex etc.) because of queer cultural pressures that normalized or privileged certain kinds of interactions or relationship dynamics when the reality is I’ve never been happier or felt more fulfilled than I have in my D/s leather focused relationships which is at this time as a general rule non-sexual.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating your open relationships, and how have you overcome that?

I suppose I’ve already talked about this a little bit above. I think the biggest challenge for me has actually had very little to do with my relationship(s) and everything to do with the queer culture relationship norms that I found privileged sex, and specific dating focused types of romantic connection. I consider myself Leather oriented as apposed to sexually oriented. My primary partner/Daddy and I have been together for nearly 9 years. Ze has a wonderful girlfriend (a “good egg” I call her) and they have been together for upcoming 2 years. Previously ze has dated other people, and I have been involved with others as well. My partner and I live in a 24/7 Daddy/boy D/s dynamic and are (at this point and for quite some time) happily non-sexual with one another – a fact which shocks/horrifies/confuses many queer folk.

On top of that, I have a complicated relationship to sex/dating/relationships. As a general rule I am fairly uninterested in that type of connection to other people though I have dated and/or hooked up with folks in the past. Generally I find it particularly rewarding to date the books that I am writing, and very intimate though entirely non-sexual relationships with my leather/queer family.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationships?

One of the best things about being poly and having non-normative relationship structures has been the ability to live the kind of queer life I’ve always dreamed of. We create the rules for our life, building the kind of relationship(s) that are fulfilling and engaging for us, knowing that for each person that will take a different form. My partner and I are better together as a couple/family because of the connection we have to others in our lives – for my partner that looks like romantic “grown-up” relationships, and for me that primarily looks like the way I engage with my queer/leather family. Because we are poly and don’t expect the other to meet all of our needs be they emotional/intellectual/creative/sexual/etc. We are able to hone and focus our relationship on what is best about who we are to each other. In our case, that means that we create a beautiful home together sharing the ups and downs of daily life, we support one another creatively, and at the core of our relationship is the playful, whimsical magic of our Daddy/boy dynamic.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Nayland: “I finally am having the sorts of relationships that I’ve wanted all my life”

Nayland Blake, naylandblake.net

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

That it’s entirely alright to discard the terms boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse. I’ve found that when I start thinking about someone in those terms that I screw things up, usually by letting my fear lead me into dishonesty. That it is indeed possible to set the terms of a relationship to reflect what I actually want, so long as I have the courage to do that from the beginning, and understand that rejection, when it happens in a context of honesty, is not failure.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

Capitulating to other people’s (those being people outside of the relationship) definitions, even if those are coming from “poly” people. I don’t have primaries, secondaries etc; I have co-conspirators who all know about each other and in most cases know each other independently of me. It works for us, but we still feel pressure from other folks to come up with a more regular model.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

Sharing the tales of our mutual adventures, and helping each other to have more of them.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m now in my 50’s and it’s only been recently that I feel like I finally am having the sorts of relationships that I’ve wanted all my life. I have more sex and a richer emotional life than I’ve ever had before. I think I’m proof that it is possible for things to get better, if you are willing to keep exploring.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Charlie Glickman: “Being poly doesn’t make you more evolved”

Charlie Glickman, www.charlieglickman.com, www.facebook.com/charlie.glickman, gplus.to/CharlieGlickman, @charlieglickman

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

My partner and I have been together for over 20 years and we’ve been poly the entire time. There have been a few times that we stepped back from having other lovers because we needed some space to focus on each other. I’ve had lovers & playmates, as well a few ongoing secondary relationships. So one thing I’d tell my younger self is that things will change, and then they’ll change again. Don’t expect otherwise- there will come times when you struggle against changes that will happen anyway, and fighting them only made it harder.

Something else I’ve learned from being poly is that it requires the ability to talk about and process feelings quickly and efficiently. Of course, that skill will benefit any relationship, but when there are multiple people, each with their own needs and desires, as well as their feelings about each other, there are a lot of moving parts. If I could, I’d tell my younger self that the best way to learn how to process well would be to build social networks full of people who are dedicated to open-hearted, honest communication. Yes, therapy helped. Yes, workshops and books helped. But getting to see how other people do it and getting to practice it with lots of friends made it much easier to develop those skills in sexual/romantic relationships.

It’s also really easy to get smug about it. Being poly doesn’t make you more evolved or better than anyone else. If you think it does, you’re being a jerk. Don’t let it happen.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

Well, scheduling used to be one of the hardest, though google calendar is a big help. :-)

Sometimes, the New Relationship Energy I feel with a new partner can make things tricky for my partner. Fortunately, I’ve gotten better at managing that initial crush phase, in part because I know that it doesn’t last more than a few months. Sometimes, it deepens into a new dynamic and other times, the connection ends when the NRE does. I’ve learned how to let it take its own shape and be present with it, without letting it spill out into my partner. Usually. And when it doesn’t, she knows that she can tell me to take a break from talking about it, which makes it easier to manage.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

At this point in my life, I rarely have sex with people I don’t have a heart connection with. Having said that, I have a lot of people in my life who I love. Some of those people are lovers and some aren’t. Each of those relationships is unique and each offers different gifts, pleasures, and delights. For me, whether we have sex or not is really less important than whether we can be open with each other about what we think, feel, and want. Being poly has been a lifelong practice in how to love each of these wonderful people in the way that works for that dynamic. It’s like I get to have all of these different flavors of love, some of which have been in my life for years and others are more fleeting. And the more I practice it, the more kinds of love come my way. It’s really quite delightful.

Being poly is also a really great way to make room for different desires and interests. I don’t expect to be able to give my partner everything she might want, so I like to create the space for her to get it elsewhere, and vice versa. That has given us much more freedom to enjoy the many things we do offer each other because there’s no resentment forming as the result of unmet needs.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

There isn’t any one way to be poly. That can be challenging because you have to figure out what works for you, which means making mistakes along the way. You’ll feel hurt sometimes, and you’ll hurt others. Learning how to apologize and reconnect with people is essential. Don’t expect perfection- plan for bobbles.

Don’t keep secrets. That doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone everything, but if you’re withholding something that you know someone would want to know about or that they deserve to know about, lean into the fear and do tell them. Withholding leads to secrecy and resentment, both of which kill relationships. There’s plenty of room for privacy within a relationship, but not for secrets. So if you can’t be honest about what you want or what you’re doing, either stop doing it or learn how to be honest.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Alphafemme: I Create My Own Sense of Security and Safety

Alphafemme, alphafemme.net

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

The way I ended up in an open relationship (and we haven’t agreed on it being an “open relationship” per se, but rather we have an intimate/romantic/sexual relationship that is completely undefined and has no specific rules or boundaries and we haven’t really ever had specific rules or boundaries) was catastrophically messy. I won’t get into the details here, I’ll do that on my own blog soon, but there are many things I wish I had done differently or insights I wish I’d had earlier on. I think the main one is that however uncomfortable and scary honesty is, it is critically important. I have always been someone who only ever wants to please others, accommodate others, make others feel happy and loved, and I had to learn how to come to terms with letting go of the need to please everyone. I can’t both take on everyone else’s happiness as my own responsibility and have integrity at the same time. I think that open relationships require real gut honesty and real commitment to hashing things out, and it is scary as fuck but also worth it. I was so scared of my own emotions that I ended up needlessly hurting one person (my ex-partner) and losing the trust of another one (my lover’s ex-partner) in a way that could have been avoided had I been more emotionally honest with myself (and, then, with others). Now, my commitment is to always be candid and intentional, and take the time with myself to understand my own emotions in order to be able to state them clearly.

I also wish I’d had more faith in myself to be okay, no matter what. That no matter what, no matter how hard things are, no matter how messy they become, no matter how impossible they may feel, I will be okay.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

My current relationship has never been a closed, partner relationship. It has always been a flying-high-in-the-sky-fuck-the-parachutes-are-broken-shit-we’re-gonna-die-omgomgomg-ok-no-actually-we’re-ok kind of relationship. It is an intense relationship with a lot of processing and a lot of emotions and a ton of trust-building work. I think the hardest part for me is sometimes feeling like there are no walls and ceilings that are protecting me from the elements. I think I’m forced to confront scary emotions (fear of abandonment, fear of hurt, fear of pain, jealousy, etc.) a lot more than in my prior monogamous relationships, and work through them on my own. What I mean is, in my monogamous relationships, I have relied on the safety of the relationship and the boundaries of the relationship to take care of the scariness of being vulnerable and intimate. I have avoided working through the sources of those fears because the monogamy was the safety net. In this open relationship, it can feel as though that safety net isn’t there and so instead I have to just let those emotions and fears in and sit with them, become acquainted with them, make peace with them, and even send them on their merry way – and I can do that with my lover’s support and understanding, but she doesn’t do it for me and she doesn’t fix it for me by eliminating the source of the fear for me. And that part is hard and takes a lot of emotional energy. Buuuut the flip side of the coin…

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

…is that the hardest thing is also the best thing. I feel like this relationship has helped me become so much more aware of my resilience and my capacity to get through difficult emotions and land on my own two feet. And this in turn has meant that my ability to trust – to trust her but also trust myself – has deepened immensely. It’s really gratifying to know that I can create my own sense of security and safety and don’t need to make rules for the relationship that are based on fear. And I have learned a LOT about how to communicate my emotions responsibly and when is a good time to stop and take space. It’s not easy, and I can imagine at some point not wanting an open relationship anymore, but for now I have no desire to change anything.

It’s funny – a lot of people in response to this question I noticed said that the best thing was being able to have sex or play or be involved with other people, and the bounty of love that invites. And that’s just not where I’m at with it right now. Maybe someday I will appreciate that but for now I’m not even really interested in that. For now it’s all about the emotional work and trust-building.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Someone I look up to recently said to me that she thinks we should all take the “ship” out of “relationship” and just focus on relating to one another. Relationships are not one size fits all and often when we enter into capital-R-Relationships we enforce an agenda on them that just doesn’t work for every relationship. That really resonated with me and that’s my M.O. with my lover right now. For us, we go day by day and make decisions that work for us based on what we want, and we arrive at those decisions based on working things through on our own and together and trusting each other a lot, and trusting ourselves. Easier said than done (see my answer to number 2!) but ultimately I feel like I’m growing in really important ways right now.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Roxy: In Love With the Whole World

Roxy, http://uncommoncuriosity.com/

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

That they exist. I was “younger” at a time (mid-80s to early-90s) when bisexuals were treated with suspicion by just about everyone (my nickname at the local LGBT Center where I volunteered was “straight girl,”) and so I wasn’t hanging out with folks who were exploring anything other than 1) dating a lot of people without commitment or 2) full monogamy. In the suburbs it’s pretty easy to go your whole life just drinking the kool-aid and never knowing there is anything else out there.

Now that my eyes have been opened, I continue to be amazed at all the different ways folks “do” poly. Sometimes it’s easy for me to get stuck in an idea that there’s a wrong way and a right way, and I have to keep reminding myself to keep an open mind along with the open relationship.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

Given that I drank gallons of the kool-aid, it’s been hard to reframe what relationships can be if you’re not following the Princess Bride, one true love, model. Despite all of the wonderful work that’s been written about poly, there still aren’t a lot of role models who are successful and happy in popular culture, either in real life (astonished and scandalized reactions to Tilda Swinton come to mind as one of the few) or fiction. Living in a socially progressive, but still pretty relationship-conservative, area means that I spend a lot of time either trying to explain all of poly in one sentence (“It’s like telling your partner they can cheat, right?” “Oh, I could never do that. I get jealous.”) or just not speaking up and feeling very isolated. It helps to have a strong virtual community of friends who are navigating some of the same issues and challenges.

A lot of other interviewees have mentioned communication, which is very, very key, but also one of the hardest parts for me. I’m constantly amazed that other people know themselves well enough to express it in anything other than questions – I find myself stumbling through sometimes, just trying to work out what’s right for me and what’s not. Frequently something will seem like a great idea in my head and then turn out to be an absolute disaster in practice.

Another issue is that I *am* a romantic, and that can be very scary, because there’s a lot of pressure in the scene to be easy-going and laissez-faire like the cool kids. It’s so dangerously easy to give in to internal pressure to be ok with a lot that I’m not really ok with, afraid of being labeled – *gasp* – clingy or needy, or being rejected altogether. Thankfully, I’ve been involved with two wonderful partners who love me for the person I am, not the person I sometimes wish I were, and I’m learning to ask for what I need, no matter how intimidating it feels. From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that it’s much less messy to admit to having needs up front rather than simply falling apart into a mess when you manage to break your own heart.

Putting that into practice remains an ongoing project for me.

Oh, and jealousy? *Sigh* Still working on it.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

At its best, it’s like you’re in love with the whole world. You feel supported and loved and beautifully fulfilled. For me, NRE lasts as long as the relationship, and I love being in love, and I adore people. Each partner offers precious new surprises and new ways to look at the Universe, and so there’s just that much more to be amazed by.

At its worst, it offers you a real-time education in patience with yourself and everyone around you.

Each extreme has been a gift.

Poly is a crucible that burns away extraneous distractions and demands your presence, attention, and full participation. I’ve learned to use words like “space” and “support” without snickering. I’ve learned to consider and express feelings, and that alone is a miracle. Despite an excellent education in the sciences, I managed to avoid maturing emotionally beyond about 14 years old, and it went unchallenged for decades. The past 4 to 5 years have offered me the (sometimes unwelcome) opportunity to develop skills I never had before, and I am very grateful for that opportunity, despite my occasionally quite pitiful thrashing at the time.

Stepping outside the box affords a view of the world that can be daunting, but liberating, and full of possibility. Having to sit down to negotiate parts of life many take for granted gives you the chance to create something new and wonderful. The price can be high, but the rewards are beyond what I would have imagined.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I am *so* thankful to everyone who contributed to this series. The relationships I’m involved in have been changing recently, and I’ve been struggling with where my future might lie. Reading about all the myriad choices and flavors that others have chosen is opening my mind to new possibilities for myself, and I feel a lifeline of connection to everyone else who’s exploring this brave, new world.

Open Relationships Mini Interview with Ashley: Love is Infinite

Ashley Young, http://indigostheory.wordpress.com.

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

I would definitely tell myself not to be so cynical and that love is real, no matter how confusing it might be. Oh and I’d also tell myself ‘you aren’t going to end up a lonely spinster in the woods writing books like you planned’. When I first started to attempt poly, I didn’t even know it was possible until I had a loving partner to encourage me. I think if I could go back, I would give myself permission to explore love, sex and relationships, despite how overwhelming and scary it might be.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

There have been a few things that have been hard about being poly. At first it was jealousy. Seeing my partner with other people was hard but when I started to see the benefits of sharing her with others – these benefits being my partner’s happy and poly being a full expression of herself – I got over it. Once I realized jealously had nothing to do with my partner and had everything to do with my own insecurities, I started to deal with my relationship shit instead of dumping it on my partner.

The next challenge was stepping up my communication with my partner. I used to be so afraid to say what was on my mind but when I realized sharing doesn’t actually make me explode or expire, I started talking. My partner and I both worked very hard on our communication early on in the relationship before becoming poly so I trust her. I learned earlier on that trust is key in polyamory. To maintain the trust, we in a sense created an intimate poly language that works for us and talk constantly and openly about our issues with each other first.

After I got over my jealousy and learned how to communicate, I started dealing with my own shit. Dating others has made me continue to confront fears of intimacy and acceptance and discover the power and beauty of my evolving sexuality. The biggest challenge has been accepting my poly, queer, kinky self and creating relationships that work for me. I’m still working on that one!

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

I discovered I’m not a misanthropic and jaded as I used to pretend to be. I love people, I love bodies and I love sex. I love conversation and connections and being in a poly relationship has reaffirmed that for me. Plus, the more people I love, the more in love I am with my partner.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Love is infinite, not finite. Spread it.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Hawkin47: Freedom is Worth the Pain & Pangs of Jealousy

Hawkin47, http://hawkin47-randomactsofawesome.blogspot.com, http://promiscuouspersonsguidetoportland.blogspot.com

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I wish I hadn’t had the equation of monogamy = true love so deeply ingrained in my head that I couldn’t define an open relationship as a loving one. The relationship I’m in now started as a completely open, Friends with Benefits who happen to live together and sleep next to each other every night sort of deal. The FwB part, which precluded the idea of monogamous, romantic love, made it easier to accept the knowledge that I was sexually attracted to other people, and so was he. And over the 3 years we’ve been together, we still consider ourselves close friends more than lovers. But over these years, I’ve learned that open relationships, when they’re done right and when they’re right for YOU, surpass any level of monogamous love I’ve ever seen. The freedom you give yourself and your partner creates this incredibly open, non-judgmental sort of love that is immensely satisfying.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

Jealousy, bar none. I’m a jealous goddess, and you shall serve none above me or below me. My primary partner is also an intensely jealous sort, and being ex-military hasn’t helped control that part of himself. The green goblin has reared its ugly head multiple times over the years we’ve been together, and each time has been traumatic.

We still haven’t completely expunged jealousy from our relationship, and I doubt we ever will. I doubt I’ll ever be capable of being in an open relationship without a level of jealousy on my part.

However, we have developed very effective workarounds for both of us, that I think will work in most any relationship.

First, embracing the knowledge that freedom is worth the pain and pangs of jealousy, for both of us. That part was really important, because it put jealousy in its proper place, well below a number of other things.

Second, though we are completely honest with each other, we are NOT completely open with each other. I tell him every time I’m going on a date, generally where, and generally with who. But I don’t discuss my dates when I get home unless they’ve been particularly traumatic and I need some advice or a sympathetic ear. But if they were stellar? He doesn’t need to know. And I’m ok with that. He doesn’t date nearly as often as I do, but he doesn’t tell me the intimate details of the conversations he has with other women. I’m peripherally aware of his interactions with other women, and I give advice and commiserate when needed. But that’s it. And this has helped keep the peace more than anything else we do. I have never felt the need to lie to my partner, and as far as I know he has never felt the need to lie to me. And I kind of love that :).

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

For me, I’d have to say freedom. I feel like I’ve been unchained from years of repressive, unhappy, unrealistic ideals of love and sexuality. I have given myself permission to realistically and honestly explore parts of myself that I have never been able to express or understand. I have a primary partner who understands my needs and meets most of them, and then I have as many other partners as I need who help me explore facets of my sexuality and ability to love that my primary can’t. It’s taken the pressure away from having to be everything to one person, and wanting that person to be everything to me. When I was a young girl, and all my other friends were fantasizing about the man they’d marry and the type of wedding they’d have, I fantasized about marrying a sea captain. It took me a long time to realize that the reason a sea captain was my ideal was because he was gone 6 months out of every year, and I loved the idea of that freedom. I wanted to love someone desperately for 6 months, and then have the freedom to take lovers for the next 6 months. Being in an open relationship has helped me realize that ideal for myself, year round.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Something I’ve noticed, and thought about quite a bit, is that the truly successful open relationships I’ve seen (and been a part of) all follow a very similar model. It seems to me (and this may very well NOT be true for everyone) that people in a successful open relationship often sacrifice a level of depth in their relationship in order to gain a level of breadth in their relationships.

That is not to say that primary partners don’t love each other deeply and passionately. But… but it seems like the role of lover is often less appropriate than the role of friend amongst primary partners. Acknowledging that sacrifice, if that’s how you see it, has been important to me. It’s helped me figure out what I really need from my lovers and my life, what’s truly important to me. The satisfying breadth of experience I’m given and allowed to take has more than made up for the inherent lack of depth that non-monogamy has meant to me. That may not always be the case, and it may just be my own lack of experience and knowledge talking. But it’s been a helpful sort of idea.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Becca Bee: Identify Needs vs Wants

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

That you need a support system of people who understand when you are just having a feeling that needs to be heard, but not necessarily by your partner. That they can listen and validate the feeling without worrying that your other relationship(s) are in jeopardy because you’re having a feeling. Crisis mode/intervention is not needed every time you have envy or even *gasp* jealousy.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

That I’m awfully good at introducing my primary partners to their new primary partner. I’m currently working on this by not having a primary partner, and acting as in independent owner/operator. Which is very different for me.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Beefing up my communication skills with the world. Each relationship exponentially adds to the communication load of every other relationship. Updated calendars are a must.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Identifying your actual needs vs your actual wants. Sometimes they look an awful lot like each other, and the identification can be difficult. Also, letting your relationships know what things they provide for you that is unique and important to you.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with EK: I Wish I’d Had A Manual

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

Before I started an open relationship, it would have been nice for someone to tell me just how hard it was going to be. Hard in a sense that my oh so creative imagination was gonna death grip my balls and have me thinking and over thinking just about any possible scenario when came to my girl fucking someone else. I wish there would have been a manual to give me step by step guides on how to deal with the jealousy, the nights alone and the reconnection part that is oh so necessary once you have returned home and showered after a night out with someone else. But most of all, I wish someone would have told me that being in an open relationship is like walking a tightrope. One false move and you’ve disrupted the balance and you’re falling… falling fast.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I thought that the hardest thing going into the open relationship would have been controlling my jealousy and my possessiveness. I thought it would be hard to let my girl know that it was ok. That I was ok with it. In the end I overcompensated by suggesting people… like.. hey, so and so, they’re cute. I would totally be ok with you banging them. In the end I think I suggested the wrong person, and she ended up falling in love with him… which, disrupted the balance and I am now currently laying face flat on the ground.

But in general we knew it was going to be a trial… so we made rules. No sleep overs, no feelings, no breakfasts, no fancy dinners, no dating. This was not a dating game. This was a sex game and we lay down boundaries to help each other feel safe and secure.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The best thing about the open relationship was the freedom I felt. I could talk to women, I could flirt with women and I could touch them and not feel one tiny bit bad about it. I knew deep down that they could never match what I had for my girl, so I felt safe, and free to be myself. There was no pressure and a sense that I was in the best relationship in the world. I had it all.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Open relationships really are not for everyone. To me open and polyamorous relationships are a whole different ball game. You need to be sure to build solid foundations, and build up slowly. Reassurance must be applied in the right doses depending on the different participants. So much communication… talk about it to death. Write down rules. Write down all that could happen and what you dont want to happen. And also know… that it could make or break your relationship. Mutual consent all round. Communication to all parties… I can’t stress this enough. Deceit only increases the chances of disrupting the balance. But most of all.. remember who you are going home to. Make sure your sex life is a healthy one before you starting opening up doors to other people. Resentment can build so fast and its so easy to falter…or say the wrong thing. I am no expert at these things, but I know what has gone wrong and I have a good idea why. Timing can mean everything, but mostly it is balance and communication. If I could go back and do it all again, I probably wouldn’t… given the outcome I was met with. But I’m not saying I wont ever do it again.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Katie: Fluidity in Long Term Relationships

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

That no matter how progressive your family might be, they might have a very difficult time accepting plural relationships. In my adulthood, I’ve only had one protracted fight or falling-out with my mother, and it was over my concurrent relationships with two men. Her inability to understand came out as disgust and it hurt me tremendously for quite some time. Also, that you yourself must want that type of love in your life – don’t ever get into it because of someone else’s ultimatum.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

Initially, when I began, it was pretty much a neverending onslaught upon my sense of security and self worth. Living in a world that upholds monogamy as the ultimate form of love really shapes the way you view loving and being loved — when someone doesn’t approach you and your relationship in the de facto ways, it can be very disorienting and scary. I struggled a great deal with jealousy, but much of that had to do with my (at the time) primary partner’s adherence to the old adage “it’s easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission”. I felt like a lot of stuff happened without consulting me first, and that my concerns about partner selection were not being heard. In the end, I suppose I overcame that by not remaining with that partner. He was a lovely person who was not a good partnership fit for me — acquiring the knowledge that you can love and respect someone a great deal but not “fit” with them was a real eye-opener.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

It forced a great deal of introspection in my early/mid 20s. I learned myself, my emotional patterns and my weaknesses very, very well. Through a great deal of reading (I’m particularly partial to Tristan Taormino’s “Opening Up”), I learned a tremendous amount about non-violent communication. How to know what I wanted or needed and how to ask for it without resorting to passive aggression (or straight-up aggression) has been a boon to literally every other aspect of my life, too.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m no longer actively nonmonogamous. In short order, I’m marrying the person who was, for several years, my secondary partner. Meeting each other on the terms of an atypical relationship structure forced us to communicate on a different level than if we had met each other as single people. There was a lot of deep discussion that might not otherwise have happened at such early stages. The raw honesty that was required forged an incredibly solid bond between the two of us. We’re certainly keeping ourselves open in theory if not in active practice, as we feel it stops us from lapsing into bored complacency. There’s a bit of a safety valve built in there, too. If we become infatuated with someone else, knowing we can talk to each other about it and possibly negotiate for a very happy conclusion really takes some of the pressure off of a long-term commitment to each other. It’s very unlikely either of us would run off with a sexy coworker or what have you, if we acknowledge the truth fluidity of desire within a long-term relationship.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Colin: Jealousy is a Pain Reaction

Colin

Reading your questions, I realize that I may not be the target interviewee for you, since, while I am technically in an open relationship, it’s because I identify as poly and have for way longer than I’ve been in this relationship. My girlfriend is dating someone of equal importance to me and was dating him before I came along. Still, I’ll answer the questions in hopes of being useful!

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

While no two open relationships are the same, there’s some basic stuff that I wish was more common knowledge. ‘Communication is key’ is one that gets taught to all poly people who get taught anything at all, and it’s very true, but ‘No Surprises’ is a solid guideline that makes any open relationship easier. Gonna start dating or fucking somebody? Tell your partners before it’s a sure thing. It may cut down on spontaneity, but it dramatically reduces paranoia and resentment.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

This question doesn’t quite apply to me. I identify as polyamorous, which means that I only go into relationships with the understanding that they will be open. The relationship that I had that went from closed to open didn’t work out and is now in the distant past.

When it was still pertinent, jealousy was an issue and I’ve seen it be an issue for a lot of people. It can still be one now for me, but I approach it far differently than I used to. I see jealousy as a pain reaction — it’s your psyche reacting to something uncomfortable. Sometimes you feel uncertain that your partner values you as much as you need, sometimes you feel like you’re not on the same page, sometimes you don’t feel like you know your partner’s partner well enough. In all cases, letting the jealousy dictate your actions is a bad idea; you want to get to the root cause of the jealousy and explore what might alleviate it.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Being polyamorous has allowed me to explore a lot of different kinds of love, sex, affection, and intimacy. If I were monogamous, I never could have maintained an asexual relationship, but I have since come to have a few and feel deep love for the people I had them with.

I’m not interested in having a power or kink dynamic with my ‘primary’ partner; I need an equitable partnership. But since I’m poly, I am free to explore kink that my partner and I aren’t interested in doing with each other! (‘course, I have run into problems with my local kink scene, but it has nothing to do with polyamory.)

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

‘Open relationships’ creates a very wide umbrella. It covers people who love only each other but can fuck others individually, it covers people who love only each other and will only fuck others together, and it can cover people who love each other and are free to love others.

It doesn’t necessarily cover people who consider themselves to be polyamorous by identity but aren’t currently partnered. When I am single, I’ll only date someone who is willing to enter into an open relationship. ‘Open’ also doesn’t necessarily cover polyfidelity, where a member of a relationship is dating more than one person, but not open to any new relationships.

There are more types of multi-person relationship than there are terms to cover it, but I’m still glad to see the concept getting more attention!

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Ozy: Compersion is Seriously Excellent

Ozy Frantz, ozyfrantz.com.

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

The biggest insight I have about open relationships is that they’re less difficult than you think they are. Admittedly, I kind of fell into polyamory by accident. My now-girlfriend then-roommate hooked up with a guy that she thought I’d be interested in (we both liked comics). Like the kind and generous-souled person she is, she brought him home. That night, the guy and I ended up having sex with my now-girlfriend in the room reading Sandman; we invited her to join us and by the next morning, without anyone quite meaning to, we were all dating.

So I didn’t really put much thought into the whole “becoming polyamorous” thing. If I had, I probably would have processed it a lot more than I did and worried about jealousy and time management and communication and all that stuff. In practice, though, polyamory is basically like a monogamous relationship, except with more people. Good intentions, communication, and honestly wanting the best for each other is the most important thing.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

The hardest thing for me is that I tend to be very afraid that people will abandon me if I don’t do everything right. So sometimes I get worried that my partners will leave me. That’s really the only time I get jealous: normally, I’m not a jealous person at all. The big thing for me was realizing that my jealousy and fear of abandonment are important issues. I had– still do have, in a way– a tendency to repress my emotions because they’re irrational and I shouldn’t have them. But even though my fear of abandonment is very irrational, it’s still real. It’s okay for me to bring up that I’ve been feeling abandoned lately and to talk about it with my partners and make sure they spend some extra time taking care of me until I feel more secure.

Also, dishes. My poly household gets into some truly epic arguments about dishes.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Compersion is seriously excellent. You know that feeling when you’re watching your favorite TV show and the couple you’ve been rooting for for six seasons finally gets together? Like that, but for real people. Not to mention that finally there’s someone who is as interested in discussing the fabulosity of your romantic partners as you are, as opposed to your regular friends, who would really just prefer you get back to discussing My Little Pony.

I also like the way polyamory makes relationships so much more fluid. I feel like, with monogamous relationships, there’s a certain mold you’re supposed to fit: sex on the third date, “I love you” by month six, moving in together after a year, that sort of thing. But because of polyamory I can have all kinds of relationships that enrich my life but would be deeply unsatisfying as my only relationship. A romantic relationship where we don’t have sex, a platonic relationship where we love each other and have sex but still don’t want to date, long-distance relationships, flirty platonic friendships… every relationship grows into its own unique form once you take away the way it “has” to be.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s amazing how natural polyamory feels to me. It’s like the final puzzle piece clicking into place, a puzzle piece I didn’t even know was missing but now that it’s here the entire picture makes sense. Normally I’m a very analytical person who questions whether I’m “really X” a lot, but I have never questioned being polyamorous since I started. I literally cannot imagine going back to monogamy.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Doodle: Assumptions, Impatience, Jealousy, Emotional Freedom

Doodle, @doodle_pops

Before I get started with my answers, for context, I live with my fiance, boyfriend, girlfriend, and metamour, most of whom have relationships outside our family, although I currently do not. The five of us are in this for the long haul and intend to spend the rest of our lives together, although that was not initially the plan.

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I wish I had realised how many assumptions I was making. When I negotiated opening my relationship, I was dating my fiance. Then I fell in love with a married man, who I knew was in an open relationship. I made a number of assumptions about what it meant to be married and open (that we were allowed sex but not feelings, that his wife would always take priority over me, that I had the right to sleep with him, but not the right to hang out and watch movies with him, that I couldn’t ever call him and ask if he was free because I’d be intruding on time I assumed he was spending with his wife and she would get irritated and end our relationship, that our relationship could never be anything long term, because he and his wife did want to settle down to monogamy at some point) which were all completely untrue.

At some point, the word ‘polyamorous’ was mentioned instead of ‘open relationship’ and I looked it up and realised that the model I’d been basing my assumptions on might not be true and I should probably check. (I’d spent three months trying to pretend unsuccessfully that I wasn’t in love with him at that point.) Not a one of them turned out to be true. Funny, that.

I wish I’d realised that signing up for a relationship includes signing up for me when I have inconvenient feelings, instead of just when I’m at my best. I tried to ‘protect’ my other partners from that for a while. Big mistake!

I wish I’d realised that if I wanted to know how my boyfriend and his wife thought about a topic, I had to ask them both, instead of asking him and assuming I was getting the ‘party line’, so to speak. Had I just had the nerve to speak to his wife, all of these misunderstandings would have been cleared up in half an hour and I’d have fallen in love with her sooner.

I also wish I had been less impatient with my fiance. It wasn’t until two years later where he found someone he liked and was in a relationship with, as opposed to casual sex and I suddenly realised how hard I had pushed him in the beginning, how little time I gave him to adapt, because I was in the New and Shiny time and I didn’t realise what I was doing. I have come to a new appreciation of how well he was dealing back then.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

For me, personally, it’s letting other people in. I have recurrent depression and gender dysphoria, so it’s really important for me to be able to say to my loves “I can’t stop thinking X terrible thing about myself, even though I know it isn’t true. Can I have a hug and some reassurance, please?” It’s one of my methods of coping, but it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable.

I’ve been with my fiance longer than my boyfriend and girlfriend, so it’s easier to talk to him than it is the others, because I’ve had more practice.

Letting more people in, past the defences I put up, feels intensely vulnerable. The only way to overcome it is to keep trying, hour by hour, day by day. I remember a quote from Neil Gaiman that summed my strategy up in a nutshell. He was talking about making art, but I think it applies to an awful lot of polyamory, too. “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself- that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Jealousy is kinda horrible for everyone and while it comes up more and more infrequently as we get better at navigating it, it so often blindsides us. I have a horrid tendency to compare myself to my metamours and think “If they’re dating this person, it must be X quality that I don’t possess that attracts them! Oh no, I must cultivate a more femme gender expression/a love of knitting/the ability to not be squicked by certain sexual acts/a more dominant-than-thou aura of command for kinky fun times/the ability to not be bored to tears by ice hockey!” It is utterly ridiculous.

I’m finding that because I tried to protect my loves from my feelings for so long, I’ve got a backlog of stuff to work through with them, now I finally feel secure about our long term future. They didn’t even know that I was doing that! The moral here, ladies and gents: do not bottle up your feelings. Lesson learned.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Emotional freedom. Hands down. When I was monogamous, I always said I would be more upset if my partners fell in love with someone else, than if they slept with them. (With the caveat of “and didn’t tell me about it”, this is still true.)

As a result of that feeling, I felt that the most important thing I could do to show fidelity was never be more than casual friends with someone I was attracted to. This is a problem when you consider that I have a large number of incredibly attractive friends, both in terms of looks and personality. At the start of monogamous relationships, I used to have to explain to partners that I expected them to make exceptions to this rule for my two best friends. (It worked really well, until I fell in love with one of my aforementioned best friends.)

I realise this is not how everyone does monogamy, but it’s how monogamy was drummed into my head. I tried for a long time to change my definition of monogamy, but it only led to a nagging feeling that I was doing it wrong somehow. It wasn’t til I left it behind entirely that I realised how much it’d stifled me.

Now, I don’t have to have designated best friends who are exceptions to this rule. An example- one of my closer friends is, somewhat unusually for our crowd, entirely monogamous (and does not do monogamy the unhealthy way I used to) and our friendship can just be what it is, as deep as it is, with as much love as there is, instead of me having to force it into the shallows for the sake of his marriage or my relationships. And that applies to every single person in my life, too.

I may have gotten into poly because there was a cute boy I wanted to sleep with, but this, this right here, is why I’ve signed up for lifelong poly.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

There will be people reading this thinking “This is all well and good, but can it work in the long term?” because they want it, but they’re scared of trying, scared of messing up or because the way they want to do poly looks different from the way people on the internet do it.

Please, oh faceless denizens of the internet, have faith in yourself and try. I don’t know of another poly family the size of mine who live under one roof anywhere in the world. The five of us still bought a house and intend to still be in it when we’re seventy. There are so many different people doing poly who don’t talk about it on the internet.

I went to Polyday ( http://www.polyday.org.uk/ ) in London last year and there were folks there who had been poly since before I was born and raised grown up kids who had gone on to be poly themselves. Find out for yourselves, if this is what you want.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Parks: This is Magic, I Promise

Parks Dunlap. parksdunlap.wordpress.com

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

(I’m currently in my early twenties, so my younger self would be nineteen and stubbornly monogamous.) I would tell her, Working two jobs is not the way to be so busy you won’t form crushes on other people than your partner. You will still fall in love with about three people you shouldn’t have. Don’t get married just yet, but you’ll figure that one out. Nonmonogamy is not a quick fix solution, but it will feel a whole lot better than repeating, “you are monogamous. You are monogamous. Focus,” to yourself all the time. BDSM is a significant part of the reason you are nonmonogamous. And it is okay to want that. This is all going to be really hard, and it/s going to feel like you are starting over, but this is going to be magic, I promise.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

The hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships has been acknowledging the shame that comes with wanting, with desire, and with breaking away from queer assimilationist relationship expectations. It is often hard to feel wanted, and to want. And it is really hard for me to trust that its okay to be a big slut. I’m from a conservative southern family, so rejecting and fucking within that socialization is hard work.

The other thing that is often hard checking my privilege and learning how to be an ally. This is a constant practice outside of and in relationships. I think that it is often hard to see my relationships as non-neutral ground, and see the way social structures affect my relationships. For example, a partner of mine does not have the hours to date other people because she works a full time job and goes to school full time. I have the class privilege that I do not need to work a full time job while in school. We have had to discuss the complicated feelings that come with this difference in our lives, and the jealousy that comes up when I have time, money, and energy to date and she does not.

I have not overcome either of these things, but I have found things that help. Asking for affirmation from my partners and poly friends helps with the guilt, and my two sisters are really supportive of my dating multiple people, which is super helpful. The privilege and ally thing is going to be something I work at my entire life. I have learned that shutting up when called in, and taking notes during those long processing conversations is really helpful. Google is also an excellent resource.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

How hard it is. It is constantly pinning me into a corner and forcing me to look at my own vulnerability. It has really helped me to grow as an individual. Also I really love playing the game of “when I grow up and have babies with all my queer poly friends what color are we going to paint the porch?”/having queer Dad house butch dreams.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I have been so impressed with the majority of queer poly folks I have befriended, worked with, and admired from afar. I think that poly done in a radical context can be serious political work. And if anyone ever has the chance to hang out with Joy Fairfield, who presented at this year’s Open SF conference, ask her about her Rhizomatic Intimacy lecture. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Andrea Zanin: Applies to All Relationships, Not Just Poly

Andrea Zanin aka Sex Geek, sexgeek.wordpress.com & 10 Rules for Good Non-Monogamous Relationships

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

To preface this, and my other answers here, I don’t think much of what I have to say is particular to polyamory. It’s about relationships, and it so happens that I’ve been doing polyamorous relationships since my very early twenties, so for nearly fifteen years now. But I’m pretty sure most of this would still apply if I were monogamous.

I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to break up—that breaking up does not mean failure, and that there’s no bean-counter in the sky judging me if I haven’t tried absolutely every single possible thing to save a relationship. Deep joy is crucial. If a relationship drains you for a little while as you work through something difficult, fine. But if your experience is one of constant drain, pain or sadness, and there’s no realistic way that’ll change substantially in the foreseeable future, then it actually doesn’t matter how much you love someone, or how much they love you, or whose fault any of the bad stuff is. It’s okay to leave just because you’re unhappy. You have permission.

I’d also share a term I came up with just a few months ago: “terminal issue.” All relationships encounter challenges, right? Sometimes we don’t even register them as such because we deal with them so easily and quickly. Sometimes they take up space for quite some time, or are especially big and painful, but then we resolve them and they don’t come back. But sometimes they last, and last, and last; or they get worse over time; or they arrive in one fell swoop, but are so gigantic they stop us in our tracks. Eventually, those big or long-lasting issues, if they’re serious enough, are the ones that can lead to a split. Those are what I call terminal issues.

In my experience, the terminal issues are rarely about circumstance or outside events, though outside events can reveal or exacerbate them. They’re the ones that relate to deep-level incompatibility—the structural components of two people’s personalities, psyches and life philosophies that simply aren’t going to budge enough to accommodate one another and result in mutual joy. To wit, if I look back at my past relationship splits, the terminal issues are ones that would still be present today if I tried to get back together with the person, even many years later. Neither of us magically changed after a split. No amount of work would have made us fit better. I think that the more clearly I learn to discern workable issues from terminal issues, the more I understand how compatibility is crucial, and the less important it becomes to figure out who’s at fault when that compatibility is absent in a given area.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that? 

It’s been challenging to understand the difference between poly as a value system and poly as a concrete practice. For me, they go so closely together that I make no separation, but I’ve learned that for many people this is not the case, and it’s been a painful lesson. For some people, poly is a value that may or may not translate into practice for any number of circumstantial reasons (health, time, emotional readiness, etc.). For some, it’s a practice that may not relate to a value system; it’s simply helping them meet a need (sex, closeness, whatever) at the moment. Neither one is inherently better, but they do lead to two very different ranges of assumptions, some of which may clash. I am definitely better off being involved with other people who, like me, hold polyamory as a core value or a key element of their identity. I was devastated once, for instance, by a lover who took for granted that if she got seriously involved with someone, we’d split up (I didn’t know this). So when she announced she’d found a partner, for her that was a breakup conversation, but I was just happy for her and still looking forward to our next play date. To her it was obvious: a real relationship meant no more playing around with me. To me it wasn’t obvious at all—after all, we were playing around even though I was in two serious relationships myself! Clearing that one up was pretty ouchy. Definitely it taught me to ask more questions about value systems from the get-go.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

It’s allowed me to live by my ethics rather than accept the ones that were fed to me as a child. Full honesty, not just honesty about the stuff you’re supposed to think and feel and want, and denial about the rest. Real, vibrant, living desire, not duty. Deep, gentle commitment to everyday relationship quality, with longevity as a by-product, rather than a gritty commitment to stay together til death do us part while ignoring the daily cultivation of intimacy. Poly has also allowed me to co-create the kind of family I deeply value, with long-term partners, metamours and friends who are, frankly, amazing people.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I learned the word “idiolect” the other day, and I think it’s a really handy one. It’s a linguistics term that essentially means each person’s totally unique, individual way of speaking a given language. I think the concept can apply to emotions, too.

Think about the experience of physical pain. It can be very real and intense for the person experiencing it, but anybody looking on can only ever understand it from the way it manifests. If different people are experiencing identical pain, one might scream and cry, the second might grit their teeth and be stoic, the third might giggle and make light of it, the fourth might faint, the fifth might get angry and kick the wall. They’re all legit pain responses, but an onlooker might have a very different read on what’s actually going on in each situation.

The same is true for most inner experiences. The way each person expresses, for instance, respect, care, desire or anger is all just their individual manifestation of what’s going on inside. Figuring this out means it’s become easier for me to ask questions about the inner experience instead of interpreting it all from the outward manifestation and reacting only to that. Questions like, “What does X mean to you?” “What is your reasoning behind Y?” “What is your intent when you say or do Z?” “When you act in this way, what’s going on inside you?” When I start to understand how their emotional idiolect works, I have an easier time immediately “hearing” what they’re “saying.”

So, for instance…
Manifestation: Partner is unfocused and keeps changing the subject.
Interpretation: If I were doing this, it would be a sign I probably wasn’t too interested in the conversation, or had a big issue on my mind.
Question: You seem distracted. What’s going on with you right now?
Inner experience: This means they have low blood sugar, not that they don’t care what I’m saying.
Solution: Feed them now, talk later.

I find that if I remove the focus on the outward expression and look to the inner experience instead, it’s relatively easy to empathize with my partners or explain what’s going on with me. From there, if someone’s outward manifestation is a problem, it’s much easier to tweak, since it’s not loaded with the added emotional weight of misinterpretation.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Lolita: Rules Can’t Balance Out Insecurities

Lolita, leatheryenta.com

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I now have less rules with my partners. Rules can’t balance out my insecurities. Instead I have become more self-confident and less controlling. If somebody is an asshole, they will be an asshole with or without rules.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I have not opened up my relationships. They start out open and stay open. I would not do it any other way.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I trust my partner. I don’t worry. Having no worries is very liberating.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

There is no such thing as TMI between us. Sometimes it is tough to tell my partner things, but after it’s out in the open, it’s so much better.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Jack: Ridiculously Hot Kink & Sex

Jack Stratton, writingdirty.com

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

Ask for what you want and help your partner understand your attraction.

One of the main of causes of the negative aspects of jealousy is your partner(s) filling in what they don’t know about your desires/partners with their own worries, fears, and self-consciousness. Be upfront about what you want and why you want others. I find it a lot easier to get into that lovely compersion zone when I understand my partner’s attraction. I don’t have to share in it, but often I do, since my primary and I are somewhat similar.

Know that people want different amounts of information and different types of information and sometimes they are not going to know exactly what they want right away. You have to communicate a lot. You have to communicate about how you want to communicate.

Keep discussion and negotiation as fun as possible. Remember that you are not brokering a business transaction, you are figuring out how to get your desires and your partners desires met (and exceeded) while keeping everyone happy.

Reinforce each partners’ specific special place in your life and in your heart. Keep certain things sacred to certain partners.

It’s okay to to give your primary veto power.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

Learning when to talk about what. I tend to worry about talking and negotiating if my partner is in a bad mood or busy. Sometimes that has bitten me in the ass because I end up talking to them too late or too close to a date or something. Timing is the toughest for me.

Asking for what I want. It means knowing what I want and understanding what I want.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

The rush of meeting new people mixed with the joy of stable long term relationships. Swooning over people and watching my partner swoon over someone. Getting all tangled up in mutual attraction and three way attraction and so on. Having crushes all the time and being able to follow them through as much or as little as I like.

Ridiculously hot kink and sex.

No guilt ever.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Google Calendar. Google Calendar. Google Calendar. It is the most useful thing in the world for poly people. Knowing who is doing what, when, and where but me and my partners at ease. Also, you can look and if you see something you’re not sure about you just drop a little note. “Who is Lisa again?” I love it.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Dire: Relationship Resilience (and Sexual Variety)

1. What insight about polyamory/open relationships would you share with your younger self?

Don’t give more of yourself than you’re capable of giving. There have been a number of situations in my open relationship which have made me very uncomfortable, but I felt as though I shouldn’t feel that way for one reason or another, and so I would say I was okay with whatever the issue was and hoped that I would eventually become comfortable. I didn’t, and, in fact, it only got worse until it reached the point where I would consistently be reduced to tears and laden with anxiety. Both individuals have to develop and evolve together, and expanding the open aspects of the relationship need to be guided by the least open/comfortable person, not the most.

2. What has been the hardest thing about navigating multiple relationships, and how have you overcome that?

The hurting. It is inevitable that at some point both individuals in the open relationship will get hurt. Whether it’s jealousy, misunderstandings, insecurities, STD scare, or any number of other issues, being part of an open relationship exposes you to a plethora of tribulations and pain that will need overcoming. Overcoming being hurt isn’t possible — which is important to remember when considering your ROI vs cost — but you can address each issue as it arises (or before, if you can foresee it) to minimize future hurting.

3. What has been the best thing about being open/poly?

I won’t lie, the sexual variety has been pretty fantastic, but I suspect that’s the more obvious benefit, so instead I would say the resilience of our relationship. My mate’s brother once asked him, after discovering that we were open, if he was worried that I might leave him for someone I was having sex with. His answer was, “No, because if our relationship is so bad that it can be ended by good sex, then it wasn’t good in the first place.” Because we’ve expanded our sexual experiences as a couple to involve other people, we’ve removed an emotional weak point that is often exploited in traditional couples.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

  • Don’t sleep with your roommate(s).
  • Never compromise your morals, convictions, or safe practices for anyone.
  • Remember that the health and emotional wellbeing of you and your mate is paramount.
  • Don’t use an open relationship to fill the gaps in your current relationship, or to transition to a new person.
  • Don’t have sex with a lot of people just because you can. An open relationship isn’t an invitation or an obligation to be promiscuous.
  • Don’t use an open relationship as a way to compete with your mate sexually. If you’re having vindictive or equalizing sex, you’re gone astray.
  • Always be completely open with your mate. This will save you so much strife.
  • Always play safe.
  • Remember to put your relationship first, and playing with others somewhere down the list.
  • Be mindful of playing with people who are, for one reason or another, emotionally vulnerable. Don’t play will people who will get attached, or angry for one reason or another, or jealous, or otherwise be unable to handle being part of your open relationship. This will take some practice, but trust your gut and learn from your mistakes.
  • An open relationship isn’t accountable to anyone but those in it with regards to what you’re comfortable with. Just because other couples or individuals are comfortable with something, that doesn’t mean you need to, or that your open relationship is somehow inferior to theirs, even if you never become comfortable with a given practice. Whatever you and your mate are comfortable with in any given moment is what’s right for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that moving more or less open.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Rory: Special Treat Lovers

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I don’t know if I would have done things any differently if I had known the following things. Perhaps I would have been more realistic in my hopes and desires. And not so long ago, knowing all these things, I entered into a trio with my mate and another woman – wanting it to be different, ignoring all the warning signs that I was headed down a familiar path.

In my experience, a woman might start out feeling ok about having a part time relationship with my mate. And often, the more she is in love, the more time and emotional demands she makes. At some tipping point (different in every relationship) that is likely to become uncomfortable for me.

Many people want a full time partner. My current life mate likes me to hang out with him and his other lovers. I am better at making space, especially if another woman and I don’t connect well or have had a falling out. If I do hang out, I often feel most of my mate’s attention is going to the newer lover and I see no point in me being around.

On the other hand – while I appreciate my lovers being friendly and respectful of each other – I like to spend most of my time with a special treat lover apart from my mate, unless we’re all lovers.

I can’t seem to keep a sexual relationship with a woman going longer than 6 months, unless it’s long distance. Intimate / platonic friendships with women are way easier and longer lasting for me.

Many people are judgmental of the life style.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

N/A. I haven’t opened a relationship that started out closed. My first lover and I read the Harrad Experiment. It made sense to us. We were 16 and it was 1970. We did the best we could – which meant he was open to me being with woman, and couldn’t handle me connecting with men. We were together 15 years. I have been in completely open relationships since. (Except for some months when my mate agreed not to take a new lover at the request of another lover.)

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

While in that first long relationship, I got to explore a little with women. Next came some years of busting out – lots of playmates and a steady guy. Now, I share my home / life with a man I connected with more than 20 years ago. I still have the freedom to explore with other people – from ongoing relationships with people I care for deeply, to experimenting with someone I am curious about. I’ve had plenty of encounters I could have skipped, so I am picky these days – and it’s still important to me to have the freedom to connect with someone new, or a lover who comes round again when the time is right.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

A question – any response to my musings?

Open Relationship Mini Interview with TP: Dating is Hard

TP

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

First and foremost, I wish I had known how much love I would find and conversely how much hate I would find. It feels so natural but I feel as though we are looked down upon not only by the right, but also among many in the gay community who feel we distract from thier cause. As soon as those on the right attack gay marriage saying the next step is legalizing polyamorous marriages, we say why not? Many gay rights advocates turn on a dime and throw us under the bus.

I always thought we would see some converse support for our cause after theirs however I see this to not be the case. See also the recent statement from Dan Savage. In the way he addressed polyamory initially, it almost seemed to discount the experience entirely. He did recover nicely printing responses from other voices he respected. I must also say that I do appreciate his writing for the most part anyways.

I wish I would have known/remembered how hard dating is.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

Two Words: Time Management. This is probably not what you were looking for but arranging time with our honeys is hard. Really hard. We have to cover for each other in watching the kids and often times we have to facilitate each others dates, we even sometimes buy each other condoms and other items in preparation for each others dates. Balance can be hard unless we are forcefully intentional about it.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The freedom to explore our fantasies with other people that we have not been able to experience for ourselves. I am circumcised. In a monogamous relationship my wife could never honestly experience giving falacio to a man with an uncut penis let alone riding him. But with our open relationship she can experience many different kinds of penises, and the concept follows for me with other people. It opens up a brave new world.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Marie: Keep Loving

Marie

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

That each person is an individual. There are no hard fast rules on polyamory. One must work out the parameters of the relationships based upon their own merits and not on rules given by friends or experts.

I am in a bi-amorous situation myself, and my husband has 2 girlfriends and me. His girlfriends are married to other men.

I am married and about a year ago started dating a friend whom I left over a decade before, for my husband. I was also in a relationship at the time with a third man, which was not working out well, but I did not leave him right away.

I nearly did not have a chance at a relationship with my old friend due to some established polyamory rules I’d heard and read that a secondary partner (and we take issue with the term “secondary”, but I’ll leave it here for clarification purposes) should not have a say in possible tertiary partners. We worked it all out, but the “rules of polyamory”, as I’d heard them, were a major source of trouble in the beginning. To this day, my lover does not consider himself polyamorous, as he is monoamorous with me.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

The hardest thing has been time management and scheduling. Time is definitely the enemy. I wish to be with both of my men more and also to have a life of my own. It’s my own life that is suffering the most from lack of time attending to it.

My husband has made similar sacrifices for his ladies.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I have the man back whom I love so much, from before I met my husband. And I didn’t have to shatter my world apart and leave my wonderful husband to get him back.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Keep communication open. Realize that people need to enjoy their new relationship energy. Keep loving those whom you love and remind them of this always.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Cricket: Support

Cricket; general reference points: I identify as a butch genderqueer boi and I’m a student at a liberal arts college.

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I can be a very controlling person at times – I am drawn to “help” or “fix” people even when that isn’t something they really want or need, and I depend on the people close to me to be bluntly honest and call me out when I try to take on responsibilities that aren’t mine to take or treat people like projects I need to get an A on. As a result, I’ve learned that it’s a very bad idea for me to commit to a person who has very few other support systems in their life, because I will attempt to guide and support them in everything, which is stressful for me and generally both emotionally uncomfortable and enabling for them, because then they don’t have to look for other sources of support or work on self care, and the stress I feel in trying to give too much support mainly serves to put stress onto them.

When I first got involved in an open relationship, I thought the fact that I was dating multiple people who were themselves also with other people would keep me from being anyone’s “one and only” and attempting to intensely overmanage their life. It turns out that is absolutely not the case. Regardless of the number of people I’m with or the level of commitment I have to them, I need to watch myself and work to manage my controlling tendencies. Don’t expect a shifted relationship model to turn you into a new person or magically erase unwanted traits or habits you display in monogamous contexts. Being someone’s lover/partner/term of your choice is a conscious process of interaction. Assuming you know what’s best for your partners without communicating and evaluating your own thoughts is a bad idea, whether you’re with one person or a dozen.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

Everyone I’ve been with has exercised the dynamic of openness in a different way. We each have different degrees of comfort with being sexually or romantically close to other people, an different activities we’re generally drawn to. A fear of imbalance has definitely been present at times. When I’m close to people other than my primary partner, I sometimes worry that she’ll be jealous – not that other people are close to me, but that opportunities haven’t arisen for her to do the same kinds of things with others. This goes both ways – she’s expressed some jealousy that I’ve found a Dom friend who’s a willing play partner, while I’m jealous of her warmth and social acumen, and her resulting ability to initiate casual kisses and cuddles with friends in a way I seldom have the nerve to suggest. We aren’t jealous out of a sense that we own or possess each other, but when one of us has a positive experience outside our relationship dyad that the other desires, we are jealous from our own lack of access to the experience.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I am intensely grateful for the lack of shame. I know I’m capable of having monogamous relationships – I was in one for over three years – but when in it I felt a deep sense of shame around my own sexual and romantic feelings. I was attracted to and had crushes on other people. Even though I didn’t have any particular need or even an intense desire to act on those feelings, I felt ashamed. The simple act of finding other people attractive made me feel like a failure in my relationship, perverse and unable to control my desires. In my current relationship, which started out relatively monogamous, I was extremely clear and upfront about the fact that I would be attracted to other people while in the relationship. I wouldn’t act on those feelings without some serious pre-negotiation, but I would still feel them. As a result, even when the open elements of my relationship are not directly in practice, I feel far more secure in myself because I know I will never be vilified for finding others attractive. Knowing that not only my feelings but even actions associated with them are permissible is beautifully freeing. It is so good to have affirmation that I can care about someone, even love them deeply, without pledging exclusivity, and that having feelings for others does nothing to lessen the romantic commitments I have already established.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Not seeing the relationships you practice or desire represented in the media can seriously mess with your head. It gives you a sense that you aren’t meant to exist, and that you will never find community and acceptance. Without a group of close and caring friends, many of whom also practice various forms of non-monogamy, my relationship would feel far less comfortable and possible. I am also deeply lucky in that my parents don’t have a problem with the way I run relationships. I’m not out as poly/open to all of my extended family, but being able to tell my mom how awful I’m feeling after a breakup with someone other than my primary partner without facing judgment for simply attempting to run multiple relationships is something I am hugely grateful for.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with c.: There Are Lots of Ways To Do This

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I came into poly life in a little queer bubble, where being poly was sort of expected, and sort of the norm, and there were pretty intense social expectations around what that should look like. I wish I had known from the beginning that there are lots of ways to do this thing, and as long as you are honoring your relationships, feelings, partner(s), and self, it’s ok if your rules don’t look like other people’s rules, or you have feelings other people aren’t sharing.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

My current relationship is with someone who was generally monogamous before we got together, and I feel like the two of us have been generous and brave together in making up a set of rules and scripts to follow. Building your relationship from the ground up is scary and challenging, and there have been lots of times when our needs, expectations, feelings, and desires have bumped up against each other, or not fit together in any neatly arranged way. Pulling apart the mess of feelings that can happen when that comes up, and figuring out where everyone’s responsibility begins and ends can feel like playing cats cradle with spiderwebs. I’m still learning how to be gentle with myself and with him when things are hard. Living with ambiguity is wonderful and hard. Probably none of that is helpful concete advice. Times that have been the hardest for me are when I know that my partner is having some bad or uncomfortable feelings about a date I’m going on, or a person I have crushy feels about. I have to spend quite a bit of energy convincing myself that I’m not being cruel or unfair by pursuing those interactions with knowledge that he could feel badly as a result. Not taking total ownership for other people’s feelings is really hard, and can feel like doing harm to someone I love. It feels like a dangerous amount of trust to place on his word that he is in this with me with full knowledge of possible consequences and avid consent, despite the bumps and bad feels that sometimes come up. That trust is precious and rare and I treasure it.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I love having crushes. I love flirting and blushing and and feeling sweet on people. Sharing those exciting feelings with my partner is just about the nicest. That crackly energy is good for me, and good for my relationship.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve been more and more interested recently in playing with other kinky queers (rather than pursuing more traditional “dates” with all sorts of humans), and this has provided really interesting opportunities to engage with other folks in sexy ways that are quite structured. These sorts of dates have been somewhat simpler to navigate with my partner because of the high level of pre-negotiaion that (for me, anyways) is such a fun part of planning a date or scene with someone. I’m excited about growing more connections with perverts!

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Alex: It’s Okay To Have Feelings

Alex Bettencourt

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I wish I had come into the polyamory arena knowing it was okay for it a) not to work in every relationship, b) that it was okay to have feelings about my polyamory, and c) that it was okay NOT to be okay with my polyamory every single second. I think it’s a big fallacy that, when we are poly or open, we are okay with it one hundred percent of the time–that all our relationships are lined up well, are balanced, are in good working order, and that our feelings fall in line with that. I’ve found that such a delicate balance is usually not in play–someone might be feeling ignored or threatened by a new
partner, the time commitment isn’t there, your relationship is going through difficult changes, etc. I had to learn that it was not perfect all the time.

I wish I had known ahead of time how much work goes into poly arrangements–how much personal work, and how much interpersonal work. No poly arrangement is hatched fully formed without at least a little bit of growing pain somewhere, be it personally or in another relationship or whatever. I think it’s sometimes believed that, somehow, poly arrangements are LESS work than monogamous ones. I think they are equal work, or are work in different ways, with similar goals of having a functional, healthy relationship(s).

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I think my own insecurities have been the most difficult thing thus far, and I have not overcome them nor do I think I ever will. It’s a matter of managing them and addressing them as necessary, and doing the work on WHY they are insecurities and what I can do about them, with help from my partner(s) as necessary. I think that’s also a big fallacy in open and/or poly arrangements–that insecurities magically disappear and are never dealt with again.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The sense of personal freedom and validation. I feel like, being poly, I can bring all of myself to the table in ways I was not able to when I was trying to be monogamous. That’s not to say that monogamous people do not bring their full selves into their relationships–I just couldn’t. I feel like I can be transparent with who I am and with my needs and, if my partner(s) are not into something or can’t meet that need, I am free to go elsewhere to have that need met.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I feel like people believe that polyamory is kind of a better way than monogamy and I don’t think it’s true–I think they are just different animals and some people are suited to one or the other. There shouldn’t be judgement attached to the ways in which we are able to love.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Deserthooker: More Confident, Self-Assured and Grounded

Deserthooker, @deserthooker

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I wish I had understood that relationships can take different courses than the traditional one. I struggled at first with how to navigate levels of intimacy and involvement because I was used to things always tending toward more enmeshment. Being a secondary was a completely new feeling for me, for example. I still seek deeper, more lasting relationships with my partners, but so far I’ve found that each relationship has to develop on it’s own path. Surprise surprise, not everyone wants to be married. And even more surprising, I don’t always want to be either.

The other thing I wish I understood more deeply was the “locus of control” concept when it came to boundaries. The difference between “I want you to do the dishes” and “I want the dishes done” is vast, and delicate, and understanding the difference has helped me through a LOT of difficult moments in poly.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

By far the hardest thing about opening my marriage has been navigating that while also dealing with my partner’s depression. We still struggle with that, sometimes on a daily basis. It is difficult to know what is a “real issue” and what was coming from the depressed place at times, for myself and for my partner. I’m a pleaser by nature, so I had to learn that not every problem can be fixed or even NEEDS to be fixed. I’ve also had to learn that just because someone is temporarily unhappy, that doesn’t mean I should change my plans or feel guilty for being happy myself. I had to learn to separate my partner’s happiness from my own. That remains the biggest challenge I face, both in poly and in life.

I would say the main thing that helps us through the upheaval of depression is our D/s dynamic. I act as anchor in a very stormy sea, and that helps us both stay on course. We have daily rituals, for example, that are said no matter how hurt/upset we are. Keeping my boundaries firm and clear also helps, as well as getting a LOT of down time and support. Also being sure that when things are good, we make the most of it. When a foundation gets rocked, it can always be rebuilt but I had to learn to let go of resentments and hurts and just enjoy the partner I have when I can.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I would say the best thing is the ability to truly open up to love the way I think I was always supposed to, but didn’t understand how. I always joke that I could fall in love with a lamppost. I love people. I spent a good quantity of time in life being used, my good nature and willingness to be there for others are easy to exploit. Well, they used to be, anyway. Being in an open relationship means I can integrate my natural tendency toward loving relationships into my life without hesitation. I am safe to explore whatever avenue may appear, rather than artificially limiting myself because of convention or societal expectation. At this point I have a network of wonderful, intelligent, loving people that I can count on to treat me with respect and love me as much as I love them.

Right along side that, I have learned how to navigate many relationships with better boundaries and respect for myself in place in a way I might never have if I’d stayed monogamous. I feel I’ve gained a few levels in the game of life since poly, and I feel more confident, self-assured and grounded than ever before.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that none of that good stuff would be possible without the support of my partners and dear friends who are the backbone of everything I’ve become in the last few years, and I’m so grateful for each of them.

And also that you’re a fantastic writer, and your journal entries have also been a wonderful way to access community for me, so thank you so much :D

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Miranda: Act in Your Own Self-Enlightened Best Interest

Miranda, On Fetlife

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

Reality. The first open relationship I was in wasn’t based in reality, it was based on one partner’s “vision” of what her fantasy world would look like. The reality is that every person’s relationship with someone else is different. Do I love my boyfriend or my cat more? Well… yes? I’d love to see my partners more often, but I know that’s not realistic, so I don’t worry about it. Also, acting in your own self-enlightened best interest. Do you want to be the most important person to all your partners? Of course, not! That would make their partners feel like crap, and the effects would snowball and mess everything up. You want your partners to have strong relationships with other people, because that comes back to benefit you later.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

That’s hard to say, because the relationships I’m currently in have been open from the beginning. Of course there’s jealously, mostly based on lack of self confidence, but with time that fades. Also, lack of teleportation.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Cookies! I showed up for an event once to find that my boyfriend’s girlfriend had a bag of cookies waiting for me, freshly baked. You know that you’re doing it right when everyone acts like a huge happy family! Don’t get me wrong, this takes a LOT of work, time, understanding and compassion. When it works, however, its amazing.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Being in an open relationship seems so natural to me now. Why wouldn’t I want to share my partner’s love? Why would I want to horde it all to myself and let no one else experience the joy that they have to offer? Also it is sometimes useful to say, “Darling, I’m really looking to be alone tonight, would you mind if I asked you to find someone else to cuddle with?”

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Gina Mink: Jealousy is Normal

Gina Mink

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I wish I had any insight at all, honestly. When you are bombarded all your life with a certain standard view of the world/relationships, any drifting outside the “norm” will present new challenges. I ran into it when I came out gay, I ran into it again when I started dating someone that was already in a primary relationship. The biggest hump for me was wrapping my mind around the fact that it wasn’t cheating.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

For me the hardest thing, at least in the beginning, was dealing with jealousy. As time has progressed and our relationship has gotten stronger … Well, I’d like to say that its non-existent, but I think a little jealousy now and again is normal for most people. the most important thing is I don’t let it get to me anymore — I know where I stand and what I have, and I don’t have a fear that someone is going to usurp my position or take that away.

Now, the most difficult thing is simply not having enough of her, but as it is sometimes unavoidable, I cope.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The best thing is my kitten can be a handful sometimes- I need help ;) But seriously, it has helped me grow I think, as just a person as well as a lover. Though these things could be simply *who* I’m dating, not a specific of the openness of our relationship.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

10 years ago had you told me where I’d be today, who I’d be with, and *how* I’d be with them … I never would have believed you. and then had you told me I’d be completely happy … Wow.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Tuesday: So Much Love

Tuesday

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I am one of those people who was born poly, monogamy is such a foreign concept to me. I don’t even understand it at all. What I wish that I had known was that the person I ended up marrying would suddenly expect monogamy with marriage and that we would spend the next 9 years rehashing our boundaries and trying to change fundamental beliefs in each other, it wasn’t pretty.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

The hardest thing was convincing my husband that it is possible to love more than one person, it took years of talk and and fights, and constant disclosure and 100% honesty about feelings and standing up for myself and what I need. But it’s been over 6 years now of happy poly, he is dating one of my very best friends now and I am with a woman who makes me the envy of everyone we meet because of the amount of love we share.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The best thing is that my kids have a huge support system, there is always an adult available to them, and I am able to get my needs met in the best ways and no matter how bad life gets I always know I have so much love. Love may not be all you need but it sure helps you get through the tough times.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

There is nothing worse than fighting with more than one lover at a time, but besides those rare times, there is nothing more amazing than love multiplied. I often explain it to new friends that just because you have a second or third child it doesn’t mean you love that first baby any less, and it can be the same way with amorous love, you might even love your first even more for accepting you and wanting you to be happy no matter what, which is really what love should be all about.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Dani: Know Yourself & Respect Your Instincts

Dani, daninelson.com, okayokayigive.tumblr.com

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I’d want my teenage self to know that it’s really okay – and not weird – to feel happy when your lover and your friend fall in love with each other. That yes, you really can be dating one person, friends-with-benefits with a handful of others, and falling for that blonde chick…because they’re all okay with it too.

More importantly, though, because I came through that okay, all things considered – I’d tell my 20-something self (and anyone else who asked) that you need to know yourself – and respect your gut instincts – above and beyond anything else. There are different types of poly out there, and so many of them are just not right for you…and can make you as uncomfortable – if not moreso – than a monogamous relationship with a borderline abusive asshole. Be upfront and open and honest about what you really need.

Because that honesty? That leads to great things like rules about gorillas.

Finally, I’d tell my 30-something self that it really is possible to identify as poly and not be actively dating outside your main relationship. It doesn’t make you any less poly, or weird, or broken. It’s just that dating is not a priority, and that’s okay.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

The relationship I’m in now started as open – it was never a question, or a point of negotiation, for either of us. In fact, I think all of the open relationships I’ve been in were like that – open, in one way or another, from the get-go, all cards on the table. I have been in a semi-closed multiple-partner relationship, however, and the hardest thing about that by far is that the rules that we agreed on were not necessarily the right thing for all of us. (See the note to my 20-something self above).

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The relationship I’m in now – with Meredith, who was interviewed earlier in this series – has been by far the strongest and best relationship I’ve ever been part of. Not because we’re still together or still in love or anything like that, but because we came into it with very specific requirements. We both knew what we wanted, and were strong enough to say “it has to be this way for me”. Fortunately, our needs were well-matched – and that includes a level of communication that I wish everyone could have.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Relationships are hard; that level of hardness goes up as you add people to the mix. Talk to each other. Be open and be honest with yourself and with each other. (With yourself most of all.)

And, to share a lesson that an ex taught me – even if you think you’re just sleeping together, or it’s just casual, there is a relationship there. It might not be a long-term relationship, or a deep relationship, but if you’re interacting with someone else, there is absolutely a relationship there. Relationships take time and energy and nurturing. (And communication.)

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Kyle: It Can All Change

Kyle Jones, www.butchtastic.com

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

I assumed that there was ‘a way’ to do poly and that if I learned that method, everything would work out perfectly. What I learned was that there are as many ways to open up a relationship as there people doing it. I’ve also learned that it can all change – people change, their needs and circumstances change. When that happens, your approach to poly may need to change – temporarily or permanently. And, this one has been the hardest, a person can identify as poly at one point in their life and as monogamous at another point in their life. Even though I was strictly monogamous for the first 40 years of my life, it never occurred to me that a person could go the other direction. So I guess in the beginning, it might have helped to hear from someone with more experience that things can change, in all directions, and the best thing to do about that is to have really excellent and honest communication with your partners, and work on those while it’s easy, so you are more capable of communicating well and handling change when it comes.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

When my wife and I opened up our relationship, I knew I’d go through a period where it was hard to deal with her being with others. I was determined to work through that and I was lucky to have good friends to talk things through with. I also had someone I was seeing outside our primary relationship, so the NRE and excitement of that carried me through a lot of the more difficult initial stuff. What I wasn’t prepared for was the differences in how my wife and approach being poly, and how that would effect our relationship. I am truly polyamorous, I am happiest and healthiest when I love, and am loved by, multiple people at the same time. My wife comes from a ‘friends with benefits’ perspective. She is leery of and steers clear of people who are likely to develop a romantic love for her. This has been a source of conflict for us, as she has been very critical of my approach. When things get challenging in my other relationships, she has a tendency toward ‘I told you so’ comments, which I don’t take well. She would be much happier if I’d manage my other relationships the same way she does, but I’m not wired that way. This difference and conflict is not something I was prepared for and remains a source of stress between us, though not as much as in the beginning.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I’m not as angry, resentful or depressed as I was before we opened things up. Since I was looking to my wife to meet all my intimate relationship needs, when it became clear that some of my needs were not going to be met by her, I grew angry, resentful and depressed. Having the opportunity for other partners means I’m not angry with her for not being everything for me. As time went on, and I became interested in pursuing my interest in kink, it was really, really good to know I could, even though my wife has no interest in BDSM. Over all, I’ve learned a lot about my capacity to love and hold space for multiple people. I am a much better communicator now, I think I’m more empathetic and slower to judge. As time goes on, I am more gentle with myself, less likely to judge myself for emotions that are generally seen as negative – jealousy, fear of inadequacy, insecurity. Learning to recognize those reactions as valid and honest, learning to express and own them and learning to accept them with less judgement has been a very positive experience. Also, I’ve been learning the lesson that in order to do well in a relationship, to give to your partners, you have to make sure to give to yourself, too.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

When people say that communication is the key to successful polyamory, they are not just saying it because everyone else does. It is absolutely essential to continuously practice honest, open, sincere communication with all you partner with. But not only that, you need to practice it with yourself. Be honest about what you need and what and expect from the relationships you are in. If you find yourself giving up on your needs and wants, that is a warning sign. You need to be very careful about giving up your needs in order to make things easier with a partner. That road leads to resentment, insecurity, depression and a breakdown in the relationship. If you’re not happy and feeling good about the relationship, you’re not going to do a great job in it. Self-sacrifice has its place, but if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not having a relationship based on equality and balance.

The things that make good relationships between primary partners, make good relationships between all partners. Since everyone will naturally have different expectations and assumptions about relationships, discussing those assumptions and expectations — not just once, but regularly — is a core part of healthy poly. Expect change, come up with strategies for handling change, both within yourself and with your partners. Don’t assume you know what’s going on, ask, listen, ask some more. Cultivate friendships with poly knowledgeable people who aren’t partners so you have friends to go to for feedback, or just to safely rant about things. Realize that for most people, jealousy, fear, competitiveness, feelings of insecurity — emotions we tend to judge as negative — don’t just go away when you’re poly, people who are poly aren’t less likely to experience those emotions.

Now, if you want to ask about long distance poly relationships, that’s gonna generate a lot more paragraphs :-)

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Rife: “I Hear You”

Rife, www.thegenderbook.com

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

The guilt is normal, you don’t need to let it hold you back. Stand up for your needs and desires. Be more honest than you’re comfortable with. Learn to not take it personal when you contribute to someone else’s hurt. You are responsible for your feelings, they are responsible for theirs. Be kind. Listen. Wait until they’re done crying to ask what’s wrong. Repeat after me: I hear you. When they ask how the date went, start with the general “Fine, we watched a movie” and slowly ramp up to the particulars, “…the acting sucked so we ended up making out the whole time.” Watch for a glazed look. That’s your cue to shut up. Reassure them every chance you can get. You cannot do this enough.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I’ve never gone through the process of opening a relationship that was monogamous. I imagine it’s very tricky. The hardest thing about maintaining an open relationship has been keeping an open mind about how it can serve me best, being flexible with what that might look like, and gently shifting structures as needed to accomodate that.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

That same flexibility I talk about being the hardest. A thing can be both. Runners-up include: the freedom to chase and be slutty and explore other aspects of my kinky self, as well as the lovely explicitness and clarity and customizable nature of making your own agreements.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

That same thing everyone says about having babies: it’s hard, but it’s worth it. With a weary sleepless smile.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Molly: Boundaries & A Reassurance List

Molly Malone, www.naughtymollymalone.com & naughty_molly

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

In the two years that I have had open relationships, my greatest insight has been around *yawn* boundaries. What they are, how they work, what they look like, feel like, what purpose they serve, and so on.

When I first observed open relationships, and started reading up on polyamory, I found that this word ‘boundaries’ was bandied about, and given a kind of importance, that looking back, I just didn’t understand. If I’m honest, I never really got it. Once I began to embark on opening up my own relationship, I would talk about my boundaries and other people’s boundaries, as if I had significant understanding of what that meant. I didn’t have a clue.

I truly wish I did. I wish I hadn’t assumed that I should know. I thought they were somehow supposed to just protect me, and other people, like a shield, just by saying they were there, and promising to respect other people’s. I kind of knew I probably didn’t have that quite right. In reality, I must’ve known that there are no such words in our language that have a special magic ability to protect people, like a spell. But I was too embarrassed to ask, and for a long time, being ignorant didn’t have any adverse effects, so I didn’t think it could be that important. So I never really questioned it, until, of course, everything was in a big messy tangled pile and I thought ‘Oh dear, how did I get here?’

I tried so hard to be the fixer. I felt a massive weight of responsibility for a sticky situation. I denied the people I cared about the responsibility to deal with their stuff by intentionally taking it on. And I did this in my home. My home was the base for a polymess. That was when I had a bolt out of the blue, when my very first boundary came to me, and I knew, that whatever was happening, and however sad I was for all of us involved, it was no longer going to be worked out in my home. That I needed my own safe space to escape to when it all got too much. That it wasn’t my responsibility to create a space for us to all work this out, and that it was ok to stop it. That very moment, I clearly and calmly expressed that boundary, and who knew, from that point on, we didn’t use my home any more for our meetings/arguments/counselling etc.

Since then, I have discovered a few boundaries’, and managed to employ them with varying degrees of success. It’s all a bit of a learning minefield, and you just don’t know about the lesson until it blows up under foot. It’s still a word I have to remind myself the meaning of. And when I discover a new one, or spend time thinking about what other boundaries I have, I often wonder if this thing I have invented really exists, until one is crossed, and I feel like my land has been trespassed. Yup, they really exist. I now know what they are (although they metastasise often), what they feel like when they are working, and when they’re not.

What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

I feel like I haven’t had the ‘proper’ test yet; the person who I was with before I discovered polyamory, I am still with now. We are engaged to be married. This man and I began our relationship under the presumed and customary norms and traditions – one of those of course being “I will not, to the best of my ability, fuck anyone else, or fall in love with anyone else, whilst we are together”. And although we both were already questioning this norm when we met each other, we had not yet gone the whole hog and decided to open up our relationship. That came a year later.

Since then, although there has been a healthy dose of sex and play outside of the relationship, only I have formed a loving, meaningful connection with someone else (and the amazing new-love sex that comes with it). He is yet to fall in love with someone else, and I am yet to know if that will be hard for me or not.

That’s not to say things haven’t been hard.

For me, there have been two areas of difficulty. The first has been negotiating the new relationship. In this instance, the person I wanted a relationship with was in a relationship with my friend, formed under the same conditions as my primary relationship – with all the presumed wisdom of monogamy. The new relationship was formed slowly, over a twelve month period, and was done, for want of a better phrase, by the book. As our new relationship blossomed, their pre-existing relationship crumbled. Their relationship has since ended.

Traversing the many challenges that brought was exhausting and most definitely hard. Initially I tried to fix everything, to take responsibility for their relationship and the problems they were facing as a couple. All the while taking on guilt and shame. It was, and still sometimes is, very difficult to learn how to distinguish between what was my responsibility, and what wasn’t. Being able and willing to hold my friend, in her pain, whilst not taking on guilt or resentment, was exceptionally hard.

Subsequently, having the courage of my convictions can feel hard. I sometimes feel like I have to defend myself, my choices and my actions. When this situation is viewed from a normative context, it looks like this: You fancied your mates girlfriend, they broke up, and you started going out with your mate’s bird… some friend you are! So I think what is hard about this is not having a group of supportive peers. Choosing an ‘alternative’ relationship paradigm sometimes feels isolating because of that. It can be hard to ask for support from friends and family, when first you have to have that conversation. There is fear and vulnerability mixed up in there somewhere – that I won’t be heard, that my feelings will be discounted or invalidated by my peers because I’m being ‘greedy’ choosing more than one lover, that the inevitable question will be “But what about your friend? And what about your fiancé? Aren’t you hurting them?” And I will have to answer “Yes, sometimes they feel hurt, or sad, or jealous. But I’m ok with that, and their pain is not my responsibility, and we talk about this stuff, we have procedures in place to help us through those bits” and it all just sounds like lefty liberalism that is doomed for failure. It’ll be met with the same suspicious eye-roll that my mother gave me when I was a rebellious youth, with that “don’t come crying to me when it all blows up in your face” tone of voice.

A different challenge has been realising, for the first time, that falling in love when you are polyamorous, feels just the same as falling in love when you are monogamous. For some reason I was under the impression that with all these new fancy words, and emotional maturity, and books, that if I fell in love with someone else, I would be somehow immune to all the stupid, crazy, indulgent, ecstatic loonyness that falling in love traditionally inspires.

How foolish of me! It has been quite difficult to come to terms with the fact that I have responsibility to my other relationship. And as great and exciting as new love energy is, and as positive as its effects can be on pre-existing relationships, it is not an excuse, or get out card, for suddenly dropping all your commitments, to your relationship, or anything else for that matter (job, exercise-class, pet, house) and spending every waking minute talking to/fucking/staring at your new love. That’s been hard. We have overcome that by implementing quite a structured framework for seeing each other. We see each other once a week and we see each other somewhere mutual (not in my home, not in hers).

I also spent some time with my fiancé creating a Reassurance List, which is a list of things which I can do to reassure him when he needs it, and vice versa (like taking a bath together, doing some gardening, solving a household DIY problem together etc).

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Back even before we opened our relationship to others, both my fiancé and I felt that one person could not possibly be all things, to one person, at all times. For me, one of the best things about being able to form meaningful connections with more than one person is just that! I get to explore connections with people without the limit or restriction or fear of developing ‘feelings’ for them. We are multifaceted creatures, different people bring out different sides to our personalities, and we have diverse and changeable requirements. It feels logical, like it makes sense, it enables me to explore the dimensions of myself in a way that I couldn’t with one closed relationship. I remember, way back in adolescence, peers debating over which stage of a relationship was better; the crazy new-love with all its uncertainty and excitement, or the comforting long-haul with it’s predictability and reassurance? I remember thinking, shit! Do I have to choose? I like them both! And the answer was no, I don’t have to choose.

I would also say that the extraordinary level of self-development, of turning yourself inside out, examining the contents, and putting it all back together, is an invaluable process of embarking on non-monogamy. But also, the sex. I have always been attracted to boys and girls. I like having heteronormative sex, with a boy, with his penis in my vagina, but I also like having girlie lesbian sex, I also enjoy genderless sex, and gender reversed sex, I like submissive sex, and dominant sex, and switchy sex. I like having sex with my cock, I like sex with men who identify as gay, I like sex with myself, I like group sex. My fiancé is a heterosexual, cis gendered male. Thus he cannot fulfil all my sexual wants and needs. Although it’s a bit of a carnal and sexually obsessed answer, that’s probably the best thing about our open relationship. Not having to choose or value one type of sex over another and stick with it for life.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Sara Eileen: They Shouldn’t Be This Hard All the Time

Sara Eileen, @saraeileen

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

My first few open relationships were, in retrospect, fairly awful. In one (my very first) a husband and wife team had the very bad habit of communicating different rules to me about the same interaction, without talking to one another first. In another my partner was monogamous, and had a guilt complex about being monogamous. In a third (by far the worst, and also my longest relationship to date) we dealt constantly with passionate, rage-filled jealousy, almost all from his side.

At no point in any of these relationships did I question identifying as polyamorous; it’s a part of my identity that has always felt extremely stable and sensible. But when I was starting out I heard frequently that poly relationships “take more work” and “are just harder and that’s the way it is” and to some degree I’d internalized that. I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her that yes, relationships are absolutely hard work, but they shouldn’t be this hard all the time. My more recent experiences with open relationships have been easier, more loving, and much happier, and have taught me that while it’s critically important to work with my partner and communicate well together, those past relationships had problems that extended far beyond our failing aspirations toward healthy polyamory.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

The hardest thing about being open in my current relationship has been trying to find new individual partners while sharing much of the same dating space and opportunities. I would call that less hard and more confusing; we are both interested in pursuing new partners, both a little (or a lot) awkward about dating and approaching new people, and tend to stick together in social situations within our shared community. I think that when one of us decides to date with more dedication we will probably solve this problem by literally separating ourselves into different dating spaces, but at the moment we’re very entwined with one another and we’re trying to navigate that in all of its lovely and sometimes incredibly awkward glory.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

The best thing about my relationship is that my partner is amazing for me, and I’m fairly certain that the feeling is mutual. The best part about my relationship being open, and capably open, is that it feels like a good, healthy space to occupy with someone I love. It is literally the only way I could see myself in a primary relationship with another person, so perhaps the best thing about being in an open relationship is simply that we are. We found one another, we’re happy, this makes sense for us. That’s pretty great.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

If you’ll forgive the extended metaphor, I’ll share something I wrote to a friend recently when trying to explain my ideas of a poly partners bill of rights:

Imagine that having a relationship with a person is like taking a walk with them. In poly, you’re agreeing to take multiple walks with different people at the same time; some of them are short, sweet walks that only last a night, while others are long, committed walks that could last your entire life.

Now imagine that communication is the material that makes your road wider. People who communicate clearly and honestly with one another about everything that’s important to them, and who use that communication to make agreements about how they will each take other walks as well as the one they share, have laid out a nice, wide road to walk on. It lets them run around and be playful and try new things, all on the security of that wide open, solid space. The width of your road is not measured by the number of words you exchange; it’s measured by the confidence, trust and clarity provided by those words.

People who don’t communicate with one another about their expectations, feelings and roles are walking a narrow path; it’s possible to walk it, but the littlest breeze can come along and tip one or both of them over into a ditch. Our roads change size as we go through each relationship; something wide and solid at the beginning can become increasingly narrower until both people fall off, or vice versa.

These walks cross over one another as different people in one’s life meet one another. Narrow paths can be widened by meeting wide roads. Narrow paths that cross often leave room for no one to get by. Wide roads that meet one another have plenty of space for everyone to get what they need. And, most critically, everyone has the right to decide how wide of a road they need.

Also thanks for doing these interviews; they’ve been fascinating so far!

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Meredith: Six Happy Rules

Meredith, and I suppose you can link people to my soundcloud, http://soundcloud.com/braindouche and share my pretty, pretty music, described as good to take drugs and/or write novels to.

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

That rules are highly overrated. In the beginning, I tried to control problems by adding rules, structure and boundaries, and it failed every time. Now, my relationship of 9 years trundles along very happily with 6 rules:

1. Call if you’re not coming home. (Because the partner wakes up in the middle of the night quickly, but rational responses to things come online much more slowly.)
2. When you do come home, tell me about it. (Because we’re both voyeurs.)
3. Be safe.
4. A gorilla must be prominently displayed in the living area at all times.
5. Don’t fuck her clients. (Was “don’t fuck the clients” when we shared a business. Now we run separate businesses, and anyway, this rule was temporarily suspended for a while.)
6. If you don’t feel like you can tell me something, come talk to me.

For a long time, it was just those first three rules, but as they all do, the rulebook expanded.

I also didn’t expect to come to the conclusion that I really, really *hate* dating, which presents an unexpected and interesting challenge.

Oooh, another good one, relationships don’t need to be symmetrical to be fair. My relationship with my partner has been open since day one, but she’s only ever “taken the option” to date someone else once, and briefly at that. (Twice, if you count that thing that happened at that party we went to, years ago.) I’m much sluttier than she is, and generally just more interested in dating, so I’ve been far more active outside of our relationship. We’re perfectly content to do it this way. A lot of people think it looks odd from the outside, or negative, or wonder if I’m lying or really cheating, and I see where they’re coming from and genuinely appreciate their concern. We just have somewhat different priorities, and go with it. (And we’re independent like that with everything, not just our sex lives. The joke is that I had to take her to my friends’ wedding this summer just to prove that she a) existed and b) wasn’t chopped up in my freezer. My friends have dark senses of humor.)

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

For what it’s worth, I’ve only been in one non-open relationship. There wasn’t anything to overcome, I just, yanno, did it.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Oh, all the typical warm and fuzzy marriage crap, that it’s great to have a teammate who knows all your plays, and other goofy metaphors. Compersion is pretty damn awesome, too, but it’s not a thing that’s limited to non-monogamous relationships. They just don’t know there’s a word for it.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

There needs to be a term for people who are poly, non-mono, or otherwise in open committed relationships who, for whatever reason, don’t date or actively seek out other relationships or sex partners. It describes my relationship with my partner, and I’ve met scores of perfectly happy people who would welcome a compatible cutie falling out of the sky into their bed, but otherwise simply can’t be arsed to go out and discover other new cuties actively. The word “lazy” gets thrown around a lot.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Mysty: Advanced Relationship Studies

Mysty Mayhem, Women Writing the Weird

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

It’s ok not to have the answers. My husband and I joke now that we are in Advanced Relationship Studies, and that when we began exploring 13 years ago we were in Relationships 101. It’s definitely a learning experience and should be treated as such. The opportunities for growth are endless, but you have to be willing to admit failure and learn from mistakes. There is no “right” way to be in an open relationship. You have to find what works for you and your partners. Also, communication communication communication.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that?

We have been open since the beginning, really. When he and I started dating, I had a grrlfriend and I was very honest about my desire to be physically with other people than him. He was raised in middle class white America with the model for Leave it to Beaver in his home life, so he was somewhat resistant at first. I was (and am) unapologetically Queer. Open communication was the key to our success. I don’t gloss over my needs and wants, I try to be very transparent. This helped him to understand not only WHAT I wanted, but WHY I wanted it.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

Building strong bonds with so many fabulous people, having a large, loving, caring support system to share my life with, learning more and more about my primary partner, growing emotionally, mentally, and sexually in ways that would have been impossible in a mono relationship. And the sex :)

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

Sugarbutch fucking rules. That is all.

Open Relationship Mini Interview with Del: Freedom & Power

Del, sexgodsrockstars.wordpress.com

Before I start answering your questions, I should probably warn you that I’m not only a verbose writer, but that I have done a lot of navel gazing and processing around polyamory. I started having open relationships pretty early, when I was a freshman in college. It happened naturally, rather than having read one of the poly books or a Loving More magazine; I was dating a girl who wanted a threesome with her ex boyfriend for her birthday, and after hashing the whole situation out, it turned into a triad relationship. Once I was able to wrap my brain around dating two people at once, and it felt so natural to me, that any attempts at monogamy after that always went awry. In some ways, I think my romantic brain wiring was permanently changed by being in an open relationship that started and ended well, and now it’s monogamy that feels awkward and hard to navigate.

Also, I notice that your questions are based on an assumed trajectory – that the people involved started out as a monogamous dyad who mutually decided to pursue an open relationship. This is a fairly typical entry point to polyamory, but it’s not the only one. Some of these questions are hard for me to give a straight answer to, since currently my relationship structure is not one where I have a single primary partner in a spousal-type relationship and then additional relationships outside of that one. Instead, I have a bevy of radically different relationships with different levels of commitment and interaction, and no one person is more important or gets more priority than the others. I’ll attempt to answer your questions based on having had done the “dyad-gone-open” model, and then add some insights from my current model.

1. What insight about open relationships do you wish you had when you started?

It took me quite a long time to figure out the one thing about living a polyamorous lifestyle that I adore the most: because you no longer have to ascribe to some sort of culturally or socially dictated definition of what a “real” relationship is/is not, polyamory allows you to have a wide array of emotionally and physically intimate relationships and the ability for everyone in your life to treat them all as equally important. I have a best friend from childhood that although we don’t rub our bits together, doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t drop everything to rescue them from Tijuana at 3am with no notice. Or even possibly cancel a date with someone I’ve seen naked because they had a bad day and need a little Del coaching.

There’s no longer this artificial hierarchy in my life, where those who give me orgasms are somehow inherently more important to me than those who have held my hand while I’ve cried my eyes out. Many people I’ve spoken to have found themselves in situations where someone they’ve been fucking for a few weeks assumes they are entitled to the lion’s share of their new friend’s time and attention, even over blood-family members and long time friends. Now, we’ve all had that person who immediately took residence in our brain and we couldn’t think of anything better than to spend every waking moment with them (which us poly people refer to as “NRE”, for New Relationship Energy), and that can be great. But we’ve also all been the best friend, or other partner, or coworker, and been annoyed and hurt that their newly NRE’d friend has seemingly vanished from the Earth.

But the real thing that has come from this freedom, is that I have the power to allow my interactions with a person become whatever works best for both of us. If we’re hotly sexually attracted to each other, but she’s a Republican who loves to quilt and I’m a Libertarian who plays Halo for hours, we are free to get it on for hours in the bedroom and then go off and do our own thing. And even better, it allows for relationships that have deep rooted emotional intimacy with people who have a sexual orientation that doesn’t include my gender. Instead of finding out six months later that “boyfriend” means radically different things to two different people, it forces us to talk about what I mean, and what they mean, when we call each other that. It makes us make conscious, considered decisions about what our relationship will and won’t include, rather than just pretending that every single romantic and sexual relationship has to follow the rail from dating to going steady to engaged to married to divorced.

2. What has been the hardest thing about opening your relationship, and how have you overcome that? 

For me, it didn’t start with being in a dyad and then deciding to pursue other people, but I have a story that relates.

When I started dating A, back in the late 90’s, we both told each other we were poly when we first got together. As the situation would have it, we weren’t dating anyone else when we got together, and as these things go, we spend the first year completely obsessed with each other so dating others really wasn’t an issue. We never really talked about it other than noting attractive people we saw in the mall, or sharing fantasies about having group sex.

This turned out to be problematic. To be fair to both of us, although we knew what polyamory was and had read all the poly bibles at the time (mostly The Ethical Slut and copies of Loving More’s magazine), neither of us had a whole lot of experience with it, so we didn’t really know any better. I had no way of knowing that A’s idea of having an open relationship was me bringing home attractive women for us to share, and mine was more about having fully-fledged romantic and sexual relationships outside of ours. Also, A had assumed that I was only interested in dating women, when in fact I’m queer and date people from all over the gender spectrum. So it wasn’t until I started spending significant time with a man that all of this came to a head. A was very upset, both because they felt left out of this budding relationship, and A’s version of polyamory was more what I would call “soft swinging” – being romantically monogamous, but sharing third-party sexual partners from time to time. All of a sudden, A and I came to a screeching halt. We had never thought to discuss what “polyamorous” meant to either of us, because we both just assumed that what we envisioned in our head was what the other thought, too. We never thought to discuss hypotheticals, to know beforehand what we were free to do without “getting permission”, how much we wanted to know about the other’s outside relationships, etc.

And what’s funny is that we had a “contract”, so we thought we were covered. When I look back at it, I am amazed we had talked this out without ever discussing what our goals were in being open. Basically, we weren’t allowed to have sex with someone the other hadn’t met yet; we were fluid bonded but any other partners required safer sex protections; if we wanted to initiate a more serious relationship everyone involved would sit down together and agree to a new “contract”. It seemed clear to both of us, and yet it turned out to be so terribly lacking.

In the end, A and I had to split. A was incredibly uncomfortable with me dating or screwing people who weren’t cis gendered females, and was basically interested in a monogamous romantic relationship with me that allowed for a little hanky panky on the side. We tried, very hard, to find a middle ground, but in the end it was too complicated and too dangerous for either of our hearts. It’s sad, because looking back, if I knew more about how to negotiate and to be unafraid to be brutally honest with my partners, it’s likely we could have worked something out.

So the lesson learned here is that the very moment you find yourself assuming that a word means the same thing for your partner(s) as it does for you, it’s time to make absolutely sure. I can’t tell you how many times, with so many people, I’ve had long uncomfortable conversations about what “sex” means. (Think about it. Once I found out, too late unfortunately, that making out with tongue was “sex”; another time with another partner, that fisting wasn’t “sex”.) Is a silicone dildo a “cock”, and does it violate your safer sex agreements if it doesn’t have a condom? Is there a difference in permissions if there is/is not penetration? If no one has an orgasm, but they’re both naked and touching each other genitals, is that sex? Complicated, isn’t it?

Make sure if you use a title to describe your relationship (boy/girlfriend, lover, partner, spouse, primary/secondary, fuckbuddy, etc) that everyone in your love life knows what that means for the people involved. People make assumptions about my romantic/sex life all the time based on titles of my lovers – in fact, I was recently looking through my medical files from a hospital stay, and according to Johns Hopkins: I am straight, gay, and bisexual; I am celibate, married, and have excessive sexual partners; and they assumed that three different people was my spouse.) In reality, I have a “partner” I have never had sex with, a “girlfriend” I’ve never had a date with, an “assistant” (our vanilla-world code word for “slave”) who is my medical proxy and full time roommate, and a “boyfriend” who has G sized tits. All of these titles were agreed upon by both partners, and have been fully explained to each other, so no one gets confused; like I said in the beginning, I don’t have one relationship that holds more power or sway than any other, which can be hard to maintain when one of them lives in the same house as me. But for me, I’m happier when I am the master of my own love life, and I have found (through much trial and error) that having a spousal-type primary partner who comes before everyone else doesn’t jive with the way I want my life to be.

3. What has been the best thing about your open relationship?

I want to take a moment to talk about language, especially after that last answer. It’s important to note that although for some people, “open relationship” and “polyamory” are synonymous, for many others it’s not. “Open relationship” can include a wide range of sexual and romantic arrangements that may or may not include sex, romance, or commitment. Some swingers, who identify as “monogamous”, will in the same breath explain that their relationship is “open”, because they see the sex they have outside of the relationship as purely recreational and having no long term meaning. Most polyamorous people shy away from “open relationship” for this exact reason – they tend to describe their relationships as being “polyamorous”, or “multipartnered”, or other terms that describe the exact flavor of polyamory they engage in, such as polyfidelity. That’s the other thing; I know many triads, quads, and other multipartnered polyamorous relationships that are “closed”; that is, no longer accepting new applications. I just wanted to point this out. As for me personally, I usually say “polyamorous”, or lately “non-hierarchical polyamory”.

Right now, at this very moment?

I am getting ready to have a risky surgery at the end of December. At the same time, I just legally changed my name (which requires changing just about every single document in my life, and all of my bills), I am looking for a new apartment with my slave, I am going through the application process for SSDI, and oh, it’s the holidays.

Yeah, my head is barely hanging on by a thread while Col. Sanders eyes my legs for his fryer. (Get it?)

But I have a team. In the closest circle is all of my lovers, each doing things that they are best at, to help me get through this. My partner Winter, that one with all the emotional intimacy? He’s been calming my fears about the surgery, and because our spiritualities are very similar, he has also been helping me in that realm. Also, it just so happens that he legally changed his name a few years ago, and his other partner is about it, so he knows the process really well and can walk me through each step so I don’t accidentally forget to tell the power company and lose power, or end up in this in-between ground for longer than necessary. My slave, Rave, is handling the core of the administrative tasks, like making sure my Will and Advanced Directives are all in order, making my doctor’s appointments and keeping my calendar, looking at potential apartments, making hotel reservations for everyone who’s coming to be here during my month-long hospital stay. When she started feeling overwhelmed, my play partner and service tiger (yes, making up your own titles means that you can end up with a service tiger. You know you’re jealous!) came forward without hesitation and volunteered to work in conjunction with Rave on getting that stuff done. Alex, my boyfriend, has been invaluable in his relentless goal of reminding me that even with all this medical stuff, I’m still sexy and vital and alive and important, and is keeping me from hiding in my cave hating myself and my life for the next month. He’s also very good at grounding me when I feel panicked, or overwhelmed, and he makes me able to focus on getting stuff done. My girlfriend Ruth has plans to come down once I get home because she’s a whiz at both medical aftercare as well as a domestic queen whose cooking can’t be beat. And there are more, people with whom I have a myriad of connections, sending me a little extra money so I can make the deposit on the new place, or giving me their frequent flier miles so others can come visit. I’m almost worried about stopping, and list all the wonderful and amazing people I have in my life who are going out of their way to help me through this quagmire of stress, but that would take way too long.

And never, in any moment, is there a breakdown where one person feels like they’re not intimately involved in my life in some way, or feel like someone else is intruding on their “territory”. Not only that, but I know that when I’m under the knife, all of the people I care about will be together, supporting and calming each other, taking shifts in the waiting room so no one person has to wait all 12 hours, and looking out for each other.

They live all over the country (mostly on the East Coast), and yet we’re all our own little dysfunctional family of choice. My friends and acquaintances (and the occasional stalker fan) make up a support network that bowls me over with their love, support, and devotion. In a time where most people are most worried that they might have to go through a scary ordeal alone, if there’s one fear I don’t have, is a lack of hands to hold, shoulders to cry on, ears to shout or whisper into, etc.

To me, that’s the real beauty in my life. Instead of having to choose one of these wonderfully talented, insanely gorgeous, wickedly intelligent people to be my own and only, I get to experience the wide array that they all bring into my life.

And I’m not even done yet. Ruth’s wife, Lizzie, makes me laugh with her sardonic wit. Winter’s spouse, Fireheart, is the voice of reason when the rest of us slip too far down the rabbit hole. In the polyamory community, your partner’s partners are called “metamours”, and I have some really awesome ones. In some ways, it’s like the prize inside the cereal box you didn’t know was there – you get to have these great friendships with someone you obviously have something in common with, since you both chose the same person to be in a relationship with.

Now, don’t let me be all Suzy Sunshine here. Polyamory is hard work. I recently separated from one of those spousal, “I come first” relationships, and it took a lot of time and energy to reshape things once they were gone. Everyone was worried that I would hole up and decide love was for dummies and walk away. There have been times when I had to break up with someone not because of anything wrong with our relationship, but because a metamour decided they didn’t like me or want me around. Some people are intellectually interested in polyamory/open relationships, only to find out that emotionally they can’t handle it; I’ve had more than one relationship come crashing down because someone was totally comfortable with the idea that they could go out and have sex/relationships with other people, only to find that they’re the ones home alone on a Saturday night while their boyfriend is out with someone else and they’re steaming.

4. Anything else you’d like to add?

I could write a book. Maybe I should write a book. Let me see if I can boil it down into a list.

A lot of people, both inside the poly demographic and not, make being polyamorous as more evolved, a more intellectual way of doing relationships, or meaning that one is more mature emotionally. I don’t think they realize that it sends the opposite message – that being monogamous means that you’re a less evolved, emotionally immature person. This does a lot of damage, as people who are monogamous “force” themselves into polyamory in order to seem hip, smart, and evolved, and just bottle up all the mental anguish they experience. I’ve had clients (as a pastoral care counselor and shaman) who beat themselves up for years, having one unsuccessful relationship after another because they’ve convinced themselves that polyamory is the only way cool people relate these days. It’s 100% okay to tell people you’re not sure but willing to try, or to come to the conclusion that it’s not for you. My friend and colleague Mollena Williams has a brilliant class she teaches at kink conventions (where polyamory is practically the norm, rather than the exception) on how to embrace monogamy as a perfectly acceptable relationship orientation.

I won’t say “communication, communication, communication”, because you’ve already heard that, or will soon, if you start talking to poly folks. I think, even more important and basic than communication, is “honesty, honesty, honesty”. Not that I think people lie on purpose (or at least, not most people), but I have found that doing this poly thing has really made me do some serious navel-gazing, and to be brutally honest with myself, first, about how I feel and what I think about relationships as a concept. And we’ve all been in situations where we’ve been less than truthful with a partner because we’re scared if we tell them the truth they’ll reject us. No one relishes the idea of having to admit that no, you really don’t like having Moonbeam over every night because he leaves the toilet seat up or makes snide comments about your music, when your partner is totally head over heels for him. Nor do we always enjoy four hour long conversations about whether or not it’s okay to have sex tonight (with each other or with other people). You kinda learn to be a process-junky, but there are some times when it can drive you crazy, too. People tell me all the time that I’m such a self-aware person, and I tell them that 75% of it is because I learned something about myself the hard way, usually by having my heart broken, or breaking someone else’s heart.

And that’s another thing people don’t talk about when it comes to having more than one relationship – heartbreak. One of the things that happens often in poly relationships is that relationships come to their natural end, but because we have other people in our lives, instead of just owning up and recognizing that the relationship is over, things just linger until resentment takes over and you just slowly drift apart. In some ways, it can be a good thing; dying slowly and quietly can be kinder and gentler than a shouting, dramatic fight followed by weeks of Ben and Jerry’s and Gray’s Anatomy. But either way, more relationships means more break-ups, and it can be difficult to feel totally wrecked but still have a date on Tuesday. It is a tricky thing to be there for your lover while they grieve the disappearance of someone else. If you’re the kind of person who ends up needing months of therapy and psych meds to get over a short-lived relationship, just be warned that bringing more people into your love life means that you’re going to be in that dark place often. It’s best if you can figure out what your break-up process is, and be able to explain it to others (“I need a week to listen to the Cure and wear all black, and I eat four pints of Cherry Garcia, and I won’t want to have sex or cuddles for a while.”) because it’s likely you’ll still be expected to be engaged with your other loves while nurturing yourself through it.

There are many ways to do poly “wrong”. Obviously, with any other judgment call, “right” and “wrong” are subjective, but these four are pretty commonly accepted within the poly demographic as being, at the least, problematic.

A. “…but my spouse doesn’t want to know.” It may seem like a good idea to put it in your contract that you don’t want to know about the other loves in your partner’s life, but trust us, that way lies ruin. First off, nobody likes being your dirty little secret – at least not in the long term. It’s hard on the self esteem, and it can be hard to have to be all stealth in public (no hand holding in the movies, or kiss goodnight on the doorstep). Also, information is a common balm for envy and jealousy (two different emotions, by the way); it can be tricky to figure out how much information you should be sharing and what should be just between you and your partner.

B. “Relationship broken; add more people.” Like I said before, sometimes in poly relationships it’s easier to let relationships linger rather than face a difficult conversation. In the same vein, when you’re not getting something fundamental from your current partners, it may seem elementary to go out and find someone else to get it from. This isn’t always a bad thing, but you should be clear with yourself and your partners that this is what is happening. More often than not, adding new people into a dysfunctional or struggling relationship only add complexity and strain; it’s harder for anyone to accept a new love in their partner’s life when they feel like their needs aren’t getting met. It’s a poly adage: love may be infinite, but time is not. If your partner is feeling neglected, or shut out, or disconnected, seeing you share your time and attention with a new person will only make things worse. Before you add a new person into your life, make sure you’re on steady ground. No one likes ringside seats to someone else’s relationship drama, especially if they’re sitting in the splash zone.

“I don’t feel beautiful unless everyone wants me.” As much as poly is touted as a relationship style for evolved, intelligent, self-aware people, I’ve run into more than my fair share of people who use it to feed an unending hole in their self-esteem. Some people can become addicted to NRE, and long term relationships require a lot of work and compromise. It can be easier to just jump from one rope to another, not fully letting go of one before grabbing the next. And if these people do decide to stick it out, be prepared to endure their take-a-number machines next to their bed; it’s not that they have a high sex drive, or that there’s anything wrong with casual sex, but because poly is supposedly “all about the love”, and we all know people who conflate love and sex, you might find yourself watching a glutton at the orgy feast, never having enough love in their life to make them feel whole.
“Poly is a cure for cheating.” No, it is not. It is totally possible to be poly and still cheat. Cheating is not about sleeping with someone else; cheating is about dishonesty and disrespect. Monogamists get so tied up in the sleeping with someone else part, because that’s the gold standard for being the most important person in someone’s life. But it’s not about where she put her fist last night, it’s that she was able to make the decision that even though it goes against your agreements or contract, she was going to do it anyway. There’s no room in polyamory for “I’d rather beg for forgiveness than ask permission.” If you’re just interested in lots of no-strings-attached sex, be honest and forthright about it, and more importantly, be ethical about it. Don’t let someone believe that you’ll take their desires into consideration if that’s not really your plan. Cheating can be intoxicating: it’s secret, and forbidden, and sexy in the moment. But the core of ethical polyamory is that it isn’t all about the sex, and if you don’t honor all of your different partner’s desires, then you’re not focused on what makes polyamory different from just sleeping around.

One of the best skill sets to have if you’re going to be poly, other than self-knowledge, is the ability to enjoy time alone as much as you enjoy time with a partner. There will be nights that your partner(s) will be off having fun with others and you’ll be stuck with the remote and the cat. It’s not the first mental picture we get when we think about open relationships – we’re so focused on the idea that we can go out with other people and have endless amounts of fun, that we forget that the other side of that is our partner’s third night in a row of snuggling alone with Mr. Teddy Bear. Many of us, having been raised in a monogamy-focused culture, have the expectation that once we’re in a relationship, we don’t have to be alone anymore. Sure, there are business trips and girl’s nights out, but they’re the exception instead of the rule. If you or your partner have other relationships, those other relationships are going to want the same amount of time and energy that your partner wanted in the beginning. I mean, you might be lucky and find another busy poly person (or someone else who has a severe lack of free time) who is fine with only seeing you one weekend a month, and only getting phone calls from your work, but they tend to be few and far between. So it usually means that someone is going to be on their own some of the time. It may help to have hobbies or interests that get you out of the house on a regular basis, or require long stretches of time and attention. This could be seen as an opportunity to pursue interests that your current partner(s) doesn’t share with you – you can turn up your polka music as loud as you want, or get lost in your guild’s weekly raid, or finish the great American novel. But it’s no fun to be sitting at home, trying desperately not to look at the clock, waiting for your partner to come back from a date.

Google Calendar. Or some other program/app where multiple people can see and post their activities in the same place. I honestly don’t remember how I managed before Google Calendar. It is a tremendous help when you’re dating three people who all have different schedules and availabilities, instead of making a hundred phone calls back and forth figuring out who you’re going out with when, or who is available to accompany you to the art gallery opening. I even keep my metamour’s schedules on my calendar, in case a partner forgets to tell me that she and Moonbeam are going away together for a week, or so if my partner is upset that I can’t go to the company picnic, a glance tells me that his girlfriend is available that day. There have been times when I couldn’t figure out where someone was, until I checked the calendar. I’m telling you, it’s a godsend.

Valentine’s Day. There is so much pressure around V-day, and sometimes there’s just no good solution. Sometimes, the best answer has been to purposefully spend the 14th alone, but to make sure to have special dates planned for my loves around that time – there’s too much meaning to being “the one who actually got the 14th”. Of course, this all depends on how you and your loves feel about February 14th in general – if you’re all a bunch of loveless curmudgeons who think it’s an invented holiday to sell overpriced flowers and candy, then don’t stress about it. However, if even one partner is feeling sentimental, it’s best to have a plan in place weeks (or months) before the actual day. Some poly families spend the day together, but if you have a large network of loves and metamours, that might get difficult to get them all in the same place at the same time. Some poly people have multiple dates on the same day. Some go away as a group, and hive off into various conglomerations as the weekend progresses. It’s just best not to forget about this until February 12th, when all of a sudden your coworkers and friends are asking you what your plans are, and you realize you have more than one person to think about. The same thing goes, to a lesser extent, for your birthday or other holidays that you celebrate.

Coming out. Thankfully, the average American is willing to overlook a lot of suspicious behavior if they know you’re already in a relationship, but there are just some things that can’t be hidden forever. Like any other form of coming out, it’s a very personal decision and not one to be made lightly. I haven’t seen as much parental outrage over coming out as poly (especially if you’ve already shocked them once, like coming out as queer, kinky, Pagan, or by having obvious body mods), but if you’re married or in a long term committed relationship and then decide to open it up, you will have to fend off lots of misunderstanding, both from family members and from potential partners who are new to poly. It can take a while for a person who hasn’t been exposed to poly people before to fully understand that yes, your husband knows about you having other relationships, he’s fine with it, he’s actually with his boyfriend right now! For this reason, some people (like me) only date people who already identify as poly (also, breaking in poly virgins, and having to carefully walk them through all the internal processing, as well as education, can get tedious if all you want is a friend-with-benefits who also likes Hitchcock movies) .