Posts Tagged ‘relationships’
As I’ve been exploring deeper into power theory, like D/s and M/s, and as I’ve been trying to understand how my relationship with Kristen went wrong and in what ways power played into that, I’ve been thinking more and more about responsibility.
I’ve been meditating on the basics: What is it? How does it work? How does one “take responsibility”? What kind of responsibilities does one have—as a partner, as a lover, as a Daddy, as a dominant, as a friend? How does responsibility shift and changes when circumstances are not ideal, such as when someone is grieving (you know, hypothetically)?
Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny, whose books on M/s I have been recently devouring and whose theories I astutely agree with, mention in one of their books that a dominant’s hunger for responsibility must be equal to or greater than their hunger and lust for power. That resonated deeply with me, so I have been chewing on how to act from a responsible place, how to behave responsibly, how to hunger for responsibility, how to be responsible with my power.
We commonly use “responsibility” to mean our obligations—the things we have agreed to do, or the things other people have put on us to do that we may or may not have agreed to—and how we cope with those obligations. It is my responsibility as a cat owner to make sure my cat is fed, for example.
But when it comes to interpersonal relationships, what our responsibilities are vary greatly from person to person, and from culture to culture. My responsibilities to my parents might mean, to me, calling them on their birthdays and going to visit once a year, but to another person, their responsibilities to their parents might be visiting them every day, or might be sending one holiday card annually. Same with lovers and partners: I might think my responsibility is to respond to texts or emails from lovers is to respond when I can get to it, but my lover might think it rude and irresponsible of me not to reply right away (especially when now, with iMessage, you can see when your texts have been read). I suspect some of the expectations in relationships are built on our love languages (quality time, acts of service, gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation).
The expectations we place upon responsibilities of those around us are often unspoken and unconscious, and therefore difficult to make clear. Making those clear is a key piece of good communication, I believe.
But that’s just one piece. We also use the word “responsibility” to talk about one’s behavior in any given situation, such as, “They’re not being very responsible,” or, “they’re not acting very responsibly.”
I started breaking down the word responsibility into its two parts: response and ability. Response-ability. And that led me to my first conclusion about it: responsibility is your ability to respond to any given situation. But how does one “respond”?
Most of the time, I think we are reacting, not responding. Reacting is the knee-jerk impulse our combination of body, mind, experiences, emotions, and self tells us to have. We get an email from a boss with some critique, we feel insulted. Our lover asks something taxing of us, we feel put out. Not everybody has the same reaction, of course—depending on our unique histories, unique bodies, unique patternings, we react in different ways; many of us have different reactions to the same emotions, too. Some people feel insulted and fight back, some people feel insulted and become paralyzed, some people feel insulted and run away.
I think that responsibility is your ability to take the reaction you have, process it through your thoughtful higher self who wants the best for everyone involved and can see many perspectives, and choose your response and your next actions intentionally.
Let me put that another way. My ability to respond well to a situation, to be responsible in my role or job or relationship, depends upon my ability to notice my knee-jerk reaction and use that as one piece of the data that I gather before I decide what to do next. Other pieces of data you could use as you analyze the situation include:
- What would the high wise imaginary counsel inside your head, made up of all of your mentors and favorite people, advise you to do?
- What would your counsel of very favorite people advise you to do? (Perhaps you should call them to ask?)
- What would the best possible outcome for all people be?
- What would you say if you were really telling the truth about this situation?
- How do your ethics ascribe you to behave?
- What would yourself in ten years say about this situation?
- How do your spiritual or religious beliefs guide you in this quandary?
- Where are the places where your ego, pride, or stoicism are getting in the way?
- Where can you use your great strength to be more vulnerable in this situation?
- Where do you feel this pain, sorrow, longing, anger, or frustration in your body?
- What does your bodywork or therapy point you toward?
I’ve been chewing on this difference, between reaction and response-ability, for at least a year now, trying to figure out how to be sure I am exploring what it means to be responsible with the privilege and power that I hold. Because, as the cliche saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and as I’ve been seeking more and more great power, I want to make sure I have the great responsibility part down as well. I don’t think “responsibility” dictates a code of behavior specifically so much as it dictates an intentional response, and that is a comfort to me, as I try to continue to sort our my own wounds, heal my own heartache, and continue to pursue my lust for power.
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.
1. Shower ever day. Even if you have to cry through it.
2. Put on clean clothes, even if they aren’t your favorites. Or do laundry, and wear only your favorites.
3. Behave well toward Kristen. She loves you, you love her, even if you are numb and can’t remember.
4. Write. Because it heals you. Because you can’t do anything else. Because it makes the most sense. Because it is your deepest practice, your deepest craft.
5. Run. When you want to get away from yourself and these emotions, get them out of your body. Go back to boxing class. Take out the anger on something else.
6. Grow the fuck up. Behave like an adult. Stop the self-pity. Stop the over-indulgence of your feelings. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
7. Read. Read poetry if you can’t get into long things. Read indulgently. Read grief memoirs and buddhist philosophy and ttantra and open up to healing. Ask yourself, what do I need to do to heal today. Read more.
8. Work. Set reminders in your phone for appointment times because you can’t keep track of time. Calendar everything. Make work a priority. Finish projects. Make art. Focus on this, if nothing else.
8a. Don’t publish over-indulgent blog posts that attempt to tell the “whole story” and draw some conclusion. Write poetry. Write about feelings. Write about love and sex and grief and loss and abandonment, how scary it is to watch Kristen bloom, and how much it matters to let her. Learn what over-indulgent blog posts look like, so that when you do write them, you don’t hit “publish.”
9. Go outside. Feel the earth. Drink water.
10. Pray. You are not alone, even though you feel you are. Faith is when you see no hope, and you do it anyway. Times like this are why we practice. Lean on your practices. Everything is temporary.
11. Behave well toward yourself. Take care of your body. Eat well. Nourish. Buy a fancy new soap so showers suck less. Make a list of your favorite foods, then eat them. Start watching a new TV series when you can’t be in your brain anymore. Be alone when you need to be. Practice impeccable self-care. Forgive everyone, and maybe yourself most of all.