Saturday, October 26, 2013

Poly Pro-Tip: It's not gonna go the way you think

Co-author of the upcoming (and funded Kickstarter!) book More than Two, Eve Rickert recently published an article online that I can't find anymore* wherein she details a few mis-steps that poly-n00bs tend to make. One of the things that she talked about is that your first few forays into non-monogamy aren't going to go how you think. Some things are going to crop up that you didn't know were issues, other things that you thought would be issues aren't going to bother you at all; most importantly, your heart is going to expand Grinch-style, and I think people being unprepared for that reality is at the root of the "Terrible Poly Story" that every veteran of non-monogamy has heard as an objection to their relationship-style.

I've seen a lot of people go from "this is a great idea!" to "this was a terrible experience!", or "we're trying this to save our marriage" to "non-monogamy broke my marriage" because sometimes when you just run thru a dungeon without looking you get eaten by a purple worm**. A lot of these people who run into this will say that they read all of the books, they thought and talked and wrote and everythinged*** on the subject of non-monogamy and polyamory in specific, but things still exploded in their faces.

That's because things aren't going to go how you think when you first start into polyamory. Some people are lucky. Some people are more insightful that the rest of us and know all the pitfalls they're about to avoid, but most of us aren't that wise. Unfortunately, it's not possible to predict the future, and even if you could predict it, affecting it is another skill entirely, no matter what the teevee says. But, because there are no foreseeable problems on the horizon, we get cocky about the way situations are going to unfold as we open up an existing monogamous relationship into being polyamorous. This is the downfall of even the healthiest couples (and yes, I know, I'm being annoyingly couple-centric in this topic so far, I'm sorry*') runs into roadblocks that can become insurmountable.

Singlish people who start out down the non-monogamy road encounter problems too. You say, "I'm no longer interested in monogamy", then you meet someone, and you tell them. But you end up being effectively monogamous with that person for several years, because of reasons. Or you meet person after person who says "yeah, I'm into that" at first, then turns out to not even sort of be into non-monogamy, they just think you're hot and want to touch your boobs. I could probably go on, but it's really not necessary.

My entire point here is that relationships are unpredictable, because people aren't rational. When you declare yourself rational, you start to overlook things. Small things. That thing that your partner said that really bothered you, but you're ignoring because you'd rather think of your New Shiny. A twinge of jealousy. A goodnight text. Subtle passive-aggressive behavior. Tiny insults. LIfe's situations are new, and you're rational, and having an emotional respose to a forgotten text, or a perceived slight isn't rational. Let it go, you say, it's not important. Most of this is good.

But, pretty soon it's really important and you're suffering and you don't know what to do because the rational thing isn't working anymore. You're having an emotional reation to something you said was unimportant, weeping on the floor for no reason. Or not. Some people shut down here. Ultimately, the only way to prepare yourself for the roadblocks in this uncharted territory is to admit that beginning polyamory is uncharted for you, and to pay very close attention to your emotional reactions to things.

Also, don't blame your new partners for problems in your existing relationships. That's called being a dick, and if you keep doing that, NO ONE WILL FUCK YOU EVER AGAIN. If you're using non-monogamy to try to fix the problems in your monogamous relationship, that relationship is going to end and it's going to suck really hard for everyone you date and everyone your partner dates*''. Fucking fix that shit before you even THINK of developing new emotional entanglements.

After that, maybe give it a year. What a year? Yeah. A year. The transition from monogamy to non-monogamy is one of the biggest changes you can make in a relationship, and pulling new people in too soon is a bad idea. Don't take my word for it, ask your poly friends about their Poly Horror Stories. And if you don't have any poly friends yet, it's probably not time to start dating yet. Just an idea.

Something else that isn't going to go how you expect, is that not everyone you meet is going to have the same poly-style as you - especially if you don't have a style yet. Trying to conform your style to theirs can work, but usually it's just going to explode. But, if you have a history of relating to people in an intense way, the person who is much more casual with their sexual attention is probably going to break your heart*''', even if they don't mean to. True story.

Know yourself. Don't get cocky. Listen to your emotions, and please make sure you're going to extra measures to make sure your existing partner is heard. Also, if your existing relationship isn't good, don't think that adding more people is going to make it better. It won't.

*Full disclosure, I didn't look that hard.
*Continuing the theme for this entry's footnotes: yes, I watched the D&D episode of Community then mainlined season 6 of The Guild tonight. You knew I was a nerd when you started reading my blog.
***I'm sorry, it's a verb now. Not actually sorry.
*'Actually sorry. Keep reading.
*''After being dumped several times because "things aren't going well in my marriage and I need to focus on that" I've stopped dating people who are new to polyamory because they think it's the solution to their marital problems. It's not. Counseling is. 
*'''Another person who gets set into the "not now" category, is the one who doesn't have their own poly figured out. I know, it's not fair, but I'm not the gal you cut your poly teeth on. This isn't a 100-level class.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Polyamory objection #81: it's not fair

The argument goes like this:

"I just don't think having more than one partner is fair to them. The love will never be equal, the relationships will never be equal."

I'll start by sparing you the Life's Not Fucking Fair, Grow The Fuck Up Speech*, and really cut to the quick on this argument. The person making this argument is starting from the false assumption that different relationships with different people are supposed to be the same. That the love you have for your mother is interchangable with the love you have for your father, both are parents, therefore it's only fair that the love be exactly the same.

Horseshit. Let's talk about something that really isn't fair (by which I mean just): expecting someone who's been seeing you for less than a year to prioritize you above (or even at the same level as) someone they've been seeing for 2 or 3 or 8 years. That's just not reasonable, regardless of whether it's just or fair or not. Not only is it unfair to expect to be equal to a new partner's other partners, it's not just or right or reasonable for a new partner to be made equal or the same as an established partner.

Oh, also: different people and different relationships are different. There's no comparing Ten to Jack! Pond to Eleven! Anyone to Nine! No comparisson because they are each individual persons with whom I have individual relationships, (and most of the poly folk I know run their shows this way), and when a person makes the mistake of comparing one relationship to another that's where drama starts.

Now, as a Timelord, with two hearts (you can count them), I love a little more, and more easily, than a lot of people I know. If I was to operate on this model where love between partners must always be equal I could never experience happiness in a relationship. I would not be able to count my friends because I wouldn't have any. The expectation that two different people could love or be loved in the same way or even the same amount is foolishness regardless of the context of the relationship. And if you do take into account the context of each relationship, that expectation becomes outright idiotic.

Of course, I've also said before that love is love is love, regardless of the context of the relationship. So, it doesn't really matter if you think it's fair or not.
*Guess what: life's not fucking fair. Grow the fuck up.

Friday, October 11, 2013

"I Don't Want To Write About Sad Stuff For A While"; or Here's a post about polyamory

Today is National Coming Out Day (apparently). Most of the people reading this already know that I'm poly, so that's not news - unless it is, in which case, hey, guess what! But in the spirit of NCOD, I thought I'd write a little bit about what that means to me and save you the trouble of feeling weird about asking for more information. I find most people are curious about polyamory, but they don't want to pry; except for the occasional gross person whose first question is whether I have sex with all of my partners at once*.

First, I am a polyamorous person involved in several polyamorous relationships. I consider polyamory to be a part of my identity just like being a Jewish, cisgendered woman, who is heterosexual**. In the past I have had monogamous relationships, and Ten and I even had several years where we were effectively monogamous even after deciding that poly was right for each and both of us. There's a bit of a debate about whether polyamorous qualifies as an orientation, but no amount of old men harrumphing on the subject is going to change my mind. I consider myself a polyamorous person because I don't stop desiring multiple relationships because I have one or none on-going. Just like I don't stop being attracted to men when there aren't any available ones around; nor do I become asexual from sleeping alone too frequently***.

Here's what my relationship organization looks like:
There's me in the middle. I am my most important relationship. I spend all of my time with me, I make life decisions with myself, and I'm pretty much a super big deal to myself. That's why the yellow bubble is the biggest and in the middle.

*The next biggest bubble is Ten. He and I live together and share a lot of things, including nearly 7 years of our lives. He is very important to me, and I wouldn't trade him for a neon-pink Winnebago. We make life decisions together, and our relationship is sexual, romantic, and platonic. We also have a dog together (who doesn't have a bubble on this chart). 

*Captain Jack: We don't live together, and it's unlikely we ever will. At this stage in our relationship we don't make life decisions together. I don't know what it would take for that to happen, and I'm really not that worried about it, because there's no reason to rush to that point. Our relationship is romantic, sexual, and platonic.

*Pond: Pond is my platonic wife. My hetero-lifemate. We don't live together, probably never will, and we don't make life decisions together. She does play a significant role in my life (at least as significant as Jack, tho not as big a role as Ten), and our relationship is platonic and hopefully as enduring as Jay and Silent Bob. She is also the only woman I've ever considered to be a partner.

*Nine: I go back quite a long ways with Nine. He was my first poly partner, and I still see him on occasion (tho not as frequently as I would like). Our relationship is platonic and sexual.

*Eleven: lives far far away. I don't get to spend much time with him at all because of the distance, and I don't really know how we would fit into each others' lives if we did get to see each other. But, he has a special place in my chart.

Some of my relationship bubbles touch, but none of them really overlap because I relate to each person on a one-to-one level. And, in addition to my dog not being on this chart, my metamours aren't either. I have many, I like them all, and here's why: my partners have awesome taste (I mean, c'mon, look at me), and only date awesome people, therefore all of my partners other partners are awesome unless shown to be otherwise. I've been at this for a while now, and my Metamour Awesomeness Theory has yet to be proven wrong.

I can't cover every detail of my poly life in one post. Not effectively anyway. So, here's a little more of an overview of some key points to how this whole thing works:

*I am at least emotionally independent from all of my partners. I don't practice couple-centric polyamory because I don't like it.
*I don't have rules. As far as I'm concerned, the only real "rule" is that everyone follow Wheaton's Law: Don't Be A Dick.
*My expectation in my relationships is that each person be allowed to ask and each person be allowed to respond to a request with a yes, no, or let me think about it. This is the perpetual consent dance. Constant communication and honoring of boundaries is a gigantic part of this.
*I dream of one day being rich and having a rich person house so that my core partners and their partners can all live with me all commune style. I don't think that will ever be a reality, but it's fun to dream.
*Love is infinite. Time, not so much. Not even when you're a Timelord.
*Hierarchy (titles like "primary", "secondary", etc) bugs the shit out of me. I don't mind if people I'm not involved with run things that way, but I'm not a "secondary" type partner. I'm an all-in kind of girl, and after a certain point, my emotional investment in any given partner is going to be about equal to my other partners.
*Jealousy is a thing, (tho pretty minor for me), but just because you feel something doesn't mean it gets to rule you.
*My partners are people to me first, and I don't consider them items on a psycho-sexual buffet (altho I've been told the idea sounds appealing). I choose my partners based on who they are, not whether they fill a niche.

I also want to talk to other poly folks and give them a platform for sharing how they make things work. There's a lot of variety in the world or polyamory, not just the stuff you see on the teevee where a thin, white, conventionally attractive, married couple decides to start seeing another thin, white, conventionally attractive woman - altho this does happen, and I'm not the judgmental "YER DOIN IT RONG!" type (so if you're a thin, white, conventionally attractive triad, please don't write me to complain).

*Not that it's any of your fucking business, but no, I don't. 
***Yeah, I heard that sigh of relief. Perverts.

Personal Definitions of Terms (anything else you can google):
platonic - I can hang out and be social with this person
romantic - I can be cuddly and squishy with this person
sexual - don't make me spell it out, my mom is reading this