Posts Tagged ‘mini interviews’

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

January 2, 2013  |  essays  |  No Comments

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

January 1, 2013  |  essays  |  2 Comments

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

January 1, 2013  |  essays  |  No Comments

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

December 31, 2012  |  essays  |  3 Comments

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

December 30, 2012  |  essays  |  No Comments

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

December 29, 2012  |  essays  |  1 Comment

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

December 29, 2012  |  essays  |  1 Comment

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

December 28, 2012  |  essays  |  No Comments

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

December 28, 2012  |  essays  |  3 Comments

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

December 27, 2012  |  essays  |  1 Comment

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.