Posts Tagged ‘poly’

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

December 19, 2012  |  essays  |  1 Comment

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 Meredith: Six Happy Rules

December 12, 2012  |  essays  |  1 Comment

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 Roma Mafia: Acknowledging the Worst Parts of Yourself

December 11, 2012  |  essays  |  No Comments

Roma Mafia, www.romamafia.com

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

I’d wanted to open up my relationships since I was in high school, but I thought I was alone – it never occurred to me that there was an entire community of people out there having healthy, communicative, consensually open relationship structures. Because I was disconnected from that community and didn’t have the language to articulate my needs and desires, I was unfaithful in my earliest relationships to maintain my own happiness, and I regret that. So, in short, I wish I’d had more information sooner, or the wherewithal to seek it.

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

Situational jealousy. Being poly is harder for me when I’m in an emotional or vulnerable place – all I want to do is feel the warm, protective reassurance of my primary partner. It comes so suddenly sometimes – I’ll have an awful day, and all of a sudden can no longer stomach the thought of my partner going out on a date that night. There’s no way to “fix” this, I’m afraid, but my partner and I have certainly learned how to better deal with it. I’ve turned introspectively to try and determine the warning signs that indicate when a period of vulnerability is coming. I’ve examined why my “panic mode” necessitates I cling to my partner – why I feel like I “need” that specific support, why I “need” to assert my possessiveness at that time. And I’ve explored other options – calling a close friend to be with me during those times instead, for instance, or even seeking comforting company with another trusted play partner. A work in progress, of course, but I’m lucky to be surrounded by extraordinary people.

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

Speaking of extraordinary people, I’ve met countless numbers of them since I opened up my first relationship (4+ years ago). My poly identity came hand in hand with my kink identity, though, so opening up can’t take all the credit! But I truly feel as though I’ve met the most sensitive, intelligent, and creative people through non-monogamous avenues. In addition, I’ve come to know myself incredibly well. Being non-monogamous means that you’re constantly asking yourself to acknowledge a lot of really difficult subjects, the worst parts of yourself, really, and be willing to consistently reevaluate them and commit to evolving. Finally, I’ve become a superb (though not perfect!) communicator and mediator, and it’s worth mentioning that I’ve had the best sex of my life since opening up, both with my primary partner(s) and others I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with along my journey.

On Making Sex Last: Cheerleading & Open Relationships

September 8, 2010  |  essays  |  9 Comments

I’ve asked a couple people recently what their secrets were for their successful long-term relationship, how they keep the passion alive, how they keep walking that delicate line of having enough space and still being connected to each other. Coming together, going apart, coming back together, over and over through the years.

One friend answered, “Do you really want to know? We sleep around. We’re both big sluts. The commitment, to me, means that we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. We don’t believe in possessing each other. I am always on the sidelines yelling, ‘Go you!’”

I find possession kind of hot, personally. In a playful way. But I love this cheerleader idea, the ways that a relationship can be built to support each other through our individual personal trials. And as long as the possession stuff can be fun and consensual, and not interfering with each other’s sovereignty, I think the two—cheerleading and possession—aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It reminds me of the quote in that relationship article I ran across long ago:

“Create for yourself a new indomitable perception of faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly. Let this be your faithfulness: You will experience moments, fleeting moments, with the other person. The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated with the archetype of his/her spirit. And then there may be, indeed will be, other moments, long periods of time when human beings are darkened. At such times, you will learn to say to yourself. ‘The spirit makes me strong. I remember the archetype, I saw it once. No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it.’ Always struggle for the image that you saw. This struggle is faithfulness. Striving thus for faithfulness you shall be close to one another as if endowed with the protective powers of angels.” -Rudolf Steiner

I think that perspective of cheerleading can also be seen as rooting for the other’s highest self, for what they’re capable of, at their best. So that part, yeah, I totally support.

The other part, though …

I have read all good the books about polyamory, I’ve been a proponent of The Ethical Slut and Opening Up by Taormino, I’m a big fan of Dan Savage who is constantly talking about how frequently monogamy fails, and I remain firm in the opinion that my significant, intimate partnering relationship should be open, but the degree of that openness, I’m still not really sure. In part, that’s where the other person comes in, but another part of me thinks that I am actually interested in a semi-monogamous relationship. Monogam-ish, as someone put it to me once.

I do believe in open relationships because, frankly, I’m a little bit of a slut. I have enough experience sexually to know that sex doesn’t actually have to mean anything, that it doesn’t have to necessitate a precursor to a relationship, that if I want to have sex with someone more than once, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to love them forever and shack up with them and share our lives intimately. And I don’t think that we, realistically, just stop feeling attracted to anyone else, ever, just because we’ve made a life-long commitment to another person. And that physical desire for someone else—or even intellectual or emotional desire—is not necessarily an indication of some deep-seated problem in the relationship.

I know it’s possible to be attracted to or interested in more than one person at the same time, and that one does not necessarily take away from the other. Most importantly, though, I recognize that just if or when I or my partner feels an attraction, I want us to be able to talk about that, to puzzle through it, to figure out if it’s important to go sleep with that person or if flirty coffee dates or making out is enough, or if it’s a temporary infatuation, or if it should become a bigger friendship.

Why do people cheat when they’re in a relationship? They cheat because they, ultimately, are feeling unfulfilled, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise. Because their relationship was sexually (or otherwise) incompatible from the beginning, but they made the decision to commit anyway, or because their relationship used to be sexually fulfilling, but isn’t anymore, because something changed (be it someone’s body, ability, health, sex drive, etc). This often leaves one person extremely unhappy and unfulfilled, while the other is guilty, apologetic, or withholding (or all of the above). But under the strict rules of monogamy, one can’t possibly go seek sex or comfort outside of the committed relationship without doing this awful, home-wrecking thing: cheating. Which is, according to most people, unforgivable.

But what about being so withholding as to not allow your partner their sexual fulfillment? How is that not the thing of which we are unforgiving?

And under the strict rules of relationships in this day and age, it isn’t just the monogamy that’s a problem: it’s the culture that de-emphasizes sex as not important, while simultaneously using it as the be-all end-all status symbol. Think about it: how many times have you heard someone complain that “the rest of the relationship is just fine!” And there’s “only” a problem with the sex part.

As if that was just this little, teeny piece.

Well, if you’re talking about a monogamous relationship, sex is pretty much the definition of what you are going to be doing with this person that you are going to avoid doing with every other person on the planet. And if you accept the premise that you are a sexual being and deserve to have your sexual needs fulfilled (though, I know, that’s a stretch for most folks), then by definition the key component of this monogamous relationship is to be sexually compatible.

But most of this stuff, for me personally, is theoretical-in-the-future. Because right now, my girlfriend and I are sexually compatible, are highly communicative about our needs (and continuing to practice and hone our communications skills), and very committed to both our sex life together and to our individual erotic fulfillment.

So we’re open.

But not because we want to sleep with other people. Well, threesomes, sure—we are both slutty enough and interested enough in interesting new sexcapades that doing sexual things together with other people is totally an option. And, sometimes, we have cashed in on that option, making dates with hot queers who, to our thrills, have agreed to come home with us.  We might be willing to play with other people at a party, and I have dreams of orchestrating a butch gang bang for her, where I just get to sit back and watch. Or maybe be the first and the last in a string of butches who get to take advantage of her.

But what about sex outside of this relationship, sex with another person on our own, without the other person there?

We’ve been talking about this, lately. From the beginning, we’ve claimed that we were open, and for a while that meant we could do whatever we wanted when we weren’t with each other, and we didn’t need to know about it. Then, as things got more serious between us, we decided we wanted to know, which (chicken or egg?) meant that neither of us were sleeping with anybody else.

But what does it mean now, a year and a half into our relationship? I guess we’re still working that out. By “regular” standards, we are open because most folks would consider things like threesomes or making out with another person potentially crossing the lines of monogamy. Oh yeah, and we have both attended erotic energy retreats, which others could (and have, for me) consider “cheating,” but which we are both fine with. And we are open because we are acknowledge that sexual desire for someone else can happen, and we should be able to talk about that, that desire for someone else doesn’t have to have repercussions within our own relationship,  and that sex can be fun and playful and, ultimately, meaningless.

As our lives become more entwined, though, and as we continue to be cheerleaders for more and more things in each other’s paths and trials and triumphs, from our sexual fulfillment to our careers to our emotional hurdles, we are less interested in other people. And playing with other people sexually, alone, without each other, just … doesn’t sound like much fun. We’ve both articulated that, recently. My sex life, at this point, has to do with her, and hers with me, and for a while anyway I want to be sure that she is a part of it.

For me personally, when I sleep with someone, I want to learn something. About myself, about the other person, about sex, about erotic energy exchange. For a long time, I was sleeping with people while looking for a person against which to form myself, I was looking for the particular magical orientation combination of femme-bottom-submissive to match up with my butch-top-dominant, while being in a person with whom I was also emotionally and politically compatible. Someone who would challenge me, someone who brought a lot to their side of the table, someone who took responsibility for their own shit. Someone that I could work on my own shit with, someone I could grow with, someone who will listen if I say, “I’m unhappy, and here’s why, and here’s what I think we should do about it.” Someone fierce, strong, capable.

If it sounds like a tall order, well … it is.

So for a while, I was just trying to find her. Searching and playing and refining what it was that I wanted by learning about what I didn’t want. And now that I’ve found someone like that, all I really want to do is play with her, in that delicious dynamic that I’ve been craving all this time. In our year and a half together we have already come to some fascinating new places in our sex life, and every time I find myself even remotely thinking that I’m bored or unfulfilled, I just quickly ask myself: well, what do you want? I bet whatever you ask for, she would be interested in doing it. And I quickly realize whatever momentary restlessness I felt was not about actually unfulfillment, but usually something else entirely. Usually something old of mine, rearing its ugly head.

And now that I have all of that, now that I have this relationship that continues to blossom and show me new things about myself, her, and the world, why would I go back to one night stands? I look back on my one-night stands, and even two- or three-night stands, and though they were fun, often a delight, they were also occasionally a disappointment. What would I learn, now, by sleeping with someone outside of my relationship?

I suppose it’s true that I am no longer looking for the be-all end-all package of my compatible girlfriend, so perhaps my standards for playful, casual are different, or should be. I think this is the question I should be asking myself: now that I have what I’ve wanted, and it basically works for me, what’s next? How do I continue to deepen my sense of self, my connection to erotic energy, and my connection to my girlfriend? What else can I—or do I want to—learn about sex?

Well, that’s a million dollar question. I will keep investigating.

Protected: my issues + her issues

July 4, 2008  |  journal entries  |  Enter your password to view comments.

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in which there is a hurdle

January 7, 2008  |  journal entries  |  8 Comments

So. Miss DD and I are talking and chatting and falling.

I sent her flowers on Friday. She called me at work and climaxed on the phone, let me listen. (I was immobile, unable to say anything or join her, torture, so fucking hot.) She’s talking about coming to see me, stay with me, here in New York.

And here we’ve run into a hurdle: I had a date on Saturday night.

I was tempted to cancel the date, scared to tell Miss DD that I’d set it up at all. It’s with someone I don’t know (yet), someone who answered a personal ad profile and who is intreaguing.

I am not sure how to navigate this dating-other-people-while-falling thing. Seems so dangerous, our hearts both on the line. I am (probably overly so) concerned with her feelings.

I guess I’ve decided that all I can do is be honest and open, kind, as best as I can. It sounds like a simple strategy, like staying present, but is so very difficult to practice.

We talked about it. Miss DD and I both agreed that it’s a good idea to see other people, but that we’d like to know before the elaborate sex story gets posted on the blog, and would like to know if or when it gets serious. Seem like fair guidelines so far.

So I went on the date.

The girl was bold and sometimes brash. She’s new to dating butches. Called me a chauvinist. (Which, of course, is a quote out of context – it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds.) Maybe I should have said, masculine is different than chauvinistic, but instead talked about what it means that I’m a feminist, how I believe in gender theory, and what it’s like to be butch, to date femmes. That was when she started stroking my hand, and giving me those smoky eyes.

She’d like to see me again. But here’s the thing. I kissed her, and went back to her place, because she asked me to, because I could. And that’s how I’ve been operating on these dates the last six months or so: taking the opportunities presented to me. But honestly, I’ve learned that there are more opportunities than I have time to take, and that I shouldn’t necessarily take all of them, though it’s hard to know which ones will be the most valuable. They’re all valuable in their ways, of course; but I’m finding some patterns, and I’m learning that I can, and should, be more discerning.

And right now? I am kinda into Miss DD. (Kinda a lot.) My head’s all aswirl with her and this predicament: she’s far away. I want her to be with me.

DD’s friends advise her that perhaps seeking out more than one person means you haven’t met the right person yet. Yeah, maybe. Or perhaps it means circumstances just aren’t quite right. You gotta make due with what you got, right? You gotta boogie where you are, you can’t boogie anywhere else.

So, for now, especially given Miss DD is planning to come visit me soon (eleven days), I’m not going to make any dates. This is my own idea, not hers, she is not pushing me for this. I just don’t know how to reconcile falling for her and dating other people in my head. There’s too much happening in there, I need to eliminate some of it.

We’re working on the beginnings of some conversations about being poly, and what that means, and how this will work between us, and obviously this will be something tricky to negotiate, but it is not impossible.

This girl matters to me. I don’t know how she did it, how we did it together, how we got our hearts into this mess, but she & I are problem solvers if we are anything: we can do this, talk it through, check in with ourselves and each other, figure it out.

Tonight, I’m feeling hopeful. And I can’t wait to see her again.