So far, so good!
This forum excites me :) I want to blog but not sure where to start, despite Maria von Trapp's simple advice. Guess there's nothing like jumping in the deep end, eh?
I have been blessed with an abundance of amazing people and relationships in my life. Community, communing, communication etc are where I find joy. That said, I also appreciate solitude and spirituality.
My only 'primary' relationship is my relationship with God. That is how I would put it to myself, but in a non-theistic way this could be rephrased as a fundamental commitment to (try to!) be a good person, and follow my deepest instincts on what this means. "True to myself" insofar as this refers to being honest with myself. I am agnostic as to whether there is an objective "true me" :p
I find that definitions often don't sit too well with me (and I know I'm not alone in this). I mean, take "relationships" even. Relationships are everywhere. One version of utopia for me is "a world without strangers". Terms like "partner" and "significant others" are, to me, getting at relationships where there is mutually expressed desire + a feeling of commitment (?) Many day-to-day definitions confuse me when I stop to think about them. However, for the sake of brevity I will use community accepted shorthand words, whilst retaining the freedom to get Humpty on y'all if it doesn't mean what you think it means.
So, preliminaries done with... here's where I am poly-wise at the moment.
I don't identify myself as poly to other people; I usually say that I'm non-monogamous. However I am poly, when you put it like you do in this community :p I grew in awareness of my own natural tendency towards being polyamorous over many years. The final "ping!" was an incident about 7 years ago now that made me realise this was something to discuss upfront with future partners. It happened in a prior relationship with someone who told me (while we were together) that she had a crush on someone else. My reaction was "aw, you should hook up with them! You two would made a cute couple". And her response to this was: "what? Don't you want to be with me? Clearly not cos you're not jealous of the thought of me getting with someone else". Pretty much equating jealousy with caring & commitment. Her perspective was that I didn't really want to be with her, and she was seriously hurt at my response. My perspective was - huh? Why are you hurt? You're hurt because I wasn't jealous? Me confused!
In retrospect I see we were coming from different paradigms in terms of sharing and jealousy :)
Since that experience, I have stated upfront with partners that I don't need or desire monogamy, and thus far I haven't faced the situation where the other person has said they wanted monogamy from the relationship. Not sure what I'd do if they said they wanted us to be exclusive (assuming I wanted to make things work with them). At the moment, this is a non-issue for me because I am now in a civil union with someone (S) who I want to spend the rest of my life with... so unless things change on that front, any future partner needs to be cool with this (obviously).
I've been with S for 5 1/2 years and we've been 'civil union'ed for coming on 2 years now. I am also with another guy (C) and we've been together for about 2 1/2 years. S & C are friends (actually went to school together, I found out after the fact!) but aren't lovers, so in the lingo we're a V and I'm the pivot (but I don't talk in those terms). At present they aren't with anyone else long term. At the start, we fooled around a bit as a sexual threesome but it's established itself more as a platonic dynamic between the three of us.
Some challenges for the three of us at present:
- S is currently depressed and has been for some time. He's been seriously depressed in the past (before we met) but his recent 'patch' started roughly around the time I hooked up with C. This has been quite hard for me in terms of guilt. I wonder if this situation with C "caused" his depression. Although S & I have been open to other relationships from the time we got together, this was the first real poly experience for both of us and we've been learning the practical stuff as we go. As you do.
There are other possible triggers for S becoming depressed this time round, but the timing is so close that it's really hard to know for sure. We have talked about this many times (especially early on) and from his perspective he can't tell for certain, but what he doesn't know is he is happy for things to continue and for us to continue communicating. I have found this quite a difficult thought at moments, less frequently as time has gone on... It has been challenging knowing that some friends think that we've been reckless, and in some way agreeing with them. We are open to taking this risk, if it is a risk. (I'd also consider not being open to be a risk though). I know some of his close friends believe that he's subconsciously feeling cuckolded (despite him thinking to himself that he doesn't feel this way) therefore is obviously depressed, and continues to be depressed because we haven't stopped things with C. He think it's their problem if they think that, but I feel bad sometimes for contributing to strained friendships.
Another complicating factor is that over the last couple of years S has lost interest in the kind of sex we used to have (partly cos of some meds he tried which had the side effect of anorgasmia). We used to share similar intense sex drives and have sometimes rough s/m style sex but his interest in this has waned to the point where we more-or-less have an asexual relationship. It's not unhappy, I get that he just isn't in the mood like he used to be. I really miss being as sexual like we used to (and he does too) but we'd rather not have sex unless we're both really into it so in that respect we still have a healthy sex life! I'm learning to slow down and be guided more by S's personal pace & tastes, and maybe in the past I've dominated a bit because he was more open to trying out what I liked. S is an extremely sensual person with an epic attention span. I'm a real flitting butterfly and can therefore be inclined towards less subtle sensations (ahem). C and I love playing with twisted pain/pleasure d/s dynamics etc and S has been much less inclined towards that since C and I got together. We don't really know why, though we've talked many times about it. really miss that aspect of sex with S and I hope one day it'll feel good again to play that way.
- S moved to Australia for work (I currently live in NZ) on an 18-month contract in the middle of this year. Six months into it now and it hasn't really been too much fun, esp given ongoing dodgy mental health as above. So I've decided to move there for next year... This will be an adventure for me personally as it's meant quitting my stable 'dream job', which has financed my extracurricular creative pursuits til now. I am looking forward to the move in general, but am not enjoying the thought of long-distance with C. However C and I communicate online far better than S and I do (C doesn't live with me so we often chat online as opposed to S who I've lived with for 4 years or so, until he moved to 'across the ditch')
I think that's enough for the first installment. Hugs if you made it to the end :) And happy to answer any questions.
Hi and welcome! :)
Your LDR situation sounds a bit similar to ours. I too have at times lived closer to one of my partners and other times closer to the other one. I think it's important that you realise that you and C communicate better online, so for you two the long distance thing might not be as big an issue that it is for you and S. It's good to recognize the differences in the relationships and work on them on their own terms. :)
Ah, so I've been tripping down memory lane, thinking about the journey so far into Practical Polyamory (it's not that long a lane for me, but there's some dense bush so it takes some time)
The theoretical journey started with my own awareness of being "that way inclined", to me actively seeking out the friendships of local polyfolks (local to my city and country) and reading various forums online. I have not yet read the recommended literature (Ethical Slut etc) but wouldn't turn down the opportunity, though I'm not seeking those books out right now. Have a long 'to read' list and I'm a slow reader overall. I read words fairly quickly but I tend to think a lot when I read, and I also re-read, and get distracted... I have partly-nibbled books lying here and there round the house like misplaced sandwiches.
As a side note, I have a big reading challenge at the moment (The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You) which I'm borrowing off C. It's going to take me a while to finish, whereas he got through it in a couple of days (!).
Anyway, one pebble from the past I found was a message Sage sent to C a few days after C and I got together, mid-June 2009.
The story of our hook-up is kind of funny, really.
Sage and I had talked about poly things since, well, our first proper conversation with each other. (Incidentally, this was the conversation that made us both fall for each other; it happened on a Friday afternoon, and I couldn't concentrate all weekend until I saw him again on Monday and now we're hitched! YEAH)
We were both open to poly in theory but we knew we could never predict what it would be like in practice. Beyond theoretical discussions, we hadn't planned anything in particular. If either of us was interested in anyone else, we'd bring it up. There weren't particular rules like "you need to tell me this" or "I don't want you to tell me this". Safer sex was obvious and really should go without saying (?) though I suppose it's safer to confirm this ;) We agreed it would be fundamentally important to communicate well, esp any fears or discomforts, and take it as it comes.
And it came... so to speak (ahem). I had known of C for many many years, since childhood actually, but hadn't been 'properly introduced' until perhaps five years ago. It was great to get to know him. I'd read his blog and always thought he seemed smart and intriguing, but probably someone who wouldn't be interested in talking with me. 'Twas a pleasant surprise when we finally met for real, at a BBQ party at my place where a mutual friend brought him along, and the conversation just riffed. (I recently came across the term "sapiosexual" and really identify with this label!)
Before long, I was seriously crushing. I told Sage, and he thought it was hilarious. Sage and C had known each other at school, but weren't very close friends so there was no real delicacy required there fortunately! My fine motor skills in social situations leave something to be desired, though I do have the best of intentions. ("She meant well" is a potential epitaph.)
C at that time had his own stuff going on emotionally. I'm hoping I can lure him into blogging here too so will leave that for now!
I was doing my best to get into his pants but he wasn't making it easy. We had coffee a few times, but most often I'd see him when other people were around and they're not occasions conducive to totally scoring already.
One evening, we'd been having group drinks at his office before heading off to another friend's place. On the way to the car I finally delivered the line that I'd hastily written, edited and rehearsed in the last 30 seconds. It was either one of these two, or maybe something completely different (memory is a sly octopus):
"There's something I want to tell you but I don't know if I should."
"There's something I need to tell you but I wish I didn't have to."
Something typically subtle and obscure. Point being, it was an opening hook that could be bitten if he was up for it, or rejected if he was disinclined to go there.
At this point we were interrupted by some practical details involving the whole group, which felt like a guy slamming a round of beer on the table and toppling my pretty card castle just as I was assembling the final card...
Luckily the fish was well caught and would not be shaken off. A minute later we were on our own again, and C said "You were saying?"
YES. Yes yes yes. "I kinda sorta have a crush on you," I confessed.
"Er, I kinda sorta do too." Pause. "What should we do about it?"
"I think we should make out," I helpfully suggested. So we did, and those sugar sweet kisses turn out to be quite addictive cupcakes.
Eventually that night I made it home, buzzed, and slipped into bed. Sage gets the goss, theoretical high fives (don't have the co-ordination even when sober) etc.
Next day or two, chatting with C, and he likewise was glowing... but admits that in his blind rage of happiness he unthinkingly told some mutual friends and they said "oh yeah... Sage and M, aren't they engaged?" Thus raising a big red 'whoops' flag.
Before this, Sage & I had more-or-less kept this to ourselves. We'd had a few casual forays, taken a sip or two at the swinging scene, but it was our private business and we hadn't asked ourselves if we wanted to "come out" to anyone. Not that there was anything to come out about. Hmm, a few agenda items to discuss :)
A couple of days later, we're at a mid-winter Christmas party at another mutual friend's place (C's ex actually). This is the first time the three of us have caught up since I pounced on C. I arrive with Sage, and there a lot of people and I feel a tad self-conscious. Not sure who knows, what people are thinking, and I don't want Sage to feel odd. There are "Hello my name is... " tags. C is Bad Santa, Sage writes "Shiney and new" on his. (I kept that sticker for ages) It scared me a little, made me wonder if he felt the opposite of that. (At that point I hadn't read about NRE, but I was certainly recognising the dynamics. I like it when people bring up ORE too, though!)
The party goes on and I pretty much hang with Sage. I didn't think I was ignoring C but I was trying to avoid any PDA or excessive attention that could make Sage feel less welcome. At one point I get a text from C: "I'm confused. What's going on?" I ask Sage if it's okay if I go for a walk with C to chat, and he says - cool, go for it. I head off with C round the block, I explain that we don't know how private we wanna be, also want no one to feel abandoned at a party, Sage knows fewer people here than C or me, it's early days, baby steps, but all's good etc. In between the talking we make out too, of course... I mean, you have to appreciate any windows of opportunity :p
After the party, Sage and I were talking about how odd it was... how he felt like he should say something to clear the air, but what was that to say? He doesn't feel like he owns me, it isn't some kind of wife-swapping thing. On the other hand, we agreed it was important for there to be a clear communication from Sage to C that things were okay.
Therefore, this communique - 22 June 2009 from Sage to C (and cc to me):
"Hey C. It was good to see you yesterday. I was hoping to have a chance to talk to you about this face to face last night, but since I didn't, here goes.
As I'm sure M has told you, she and I have had a chat about she and you. I have no problem with this and I hope this will give the three of us a chance to hang out together too.
Just thought I'd set your mind at ease, in case you were at all concerned about where I stand :)
I love that little artifact of how it all began.
Just realised that my tendency to ramble and cut a short story long may come across a bit "special snowflake". I'll try for something more bite-sized today.
I'm m, M, mimosa, mess
S is a sugar a sage salacious
C is a badass fist in the face, "one of the sweetest guys you'll ever meet", secretly loves funk, wears black and jeans
I guess maybe you don't need to know us; we can be placeholders and you can do the relationship algebra:
m(s + c)
From C's blog, Feb 2010:
"It's taken me a while to actually grok that there really are three people in this relationship and not just: me and her, her and him, two independently spinning wheels turning around the same axle."
Sage didn't expect the "threesome dynamics" to impact on his world as much as it did. He thought: good for M, she can go do her thing, and I'll do my own thing when she's off doing her own thing... It wasn't a DADT scenario at all, but more of a don't need to know, and don't expect to have to put that much energy into it.
But woah, poor dude, it's taken a lot of effort from him to make this work. Much of it was because of my fear that he actually wasn't okay, and me needing to talk with him about how he felt about this or that. I guess it was just all the initial hardcore communication work you need to put in, but we hadn't really thought how much that would be.
He had to do quite a bit of reassuring, which he found taxing at times. Once he said the most difficult thing about poly was having to constantly communicate to me that he was okay with things (e.g. me staying out with C when S wanted to head home - it wasn't enough for me to hear Sage say things were cool, it's almost like I needed to have a long cuddle and a chat to feel like we were all good before I could let him go home alone without me. You can see how this would grow tiresome quickly!)
Over time I've learnt to take things at face value, and trust S to tell me when he's feeling bad. He has a tendency to process 'minor' things himself, rather than bring them up as issues, but I guess that's his style. I need to believe him when he says he cares about our relationship too much to sabotage it by staying silent when he should communicate. And I have to stop fretting the little things.
Now and then I still need that almost non-rational reassurance, but it's far less often than before. We actually developed a speed solution for when I need reassurance. It's kind of embarrassing but it works...
When we're over talking and I just need a strong sign from him that things are cool, I flap my arms like a penguin and make this little growl-whine noise, and he pats me on the head and says "pats pats" (like "there there"), then we laugh at ourselves and kiss and we're done!
your story sounds great so far and I am curious how things will develope for you. I can so understand where you are coming from with the last post; we tend to have a similar dynamic. But your solution for it is priceless :D, I told my husband and he swore that he knows how this little noise has to sound like, just because I tend to be the same if discussions go on and on and no solution is in sight. Maybe he should use a similar strategy to counter it :p.
@Mya - thanks :) I know I'm getting off fairly lightly on the LDR front. So far I've been spoilt in that I haven't needed to deal with that additional complexity... At least for me there's an end in sight - planning to move back to NZ at the end of next year.
@Phy - aha! YES, so glad that I'm not the only one. Funny if you started doing the penguin too ;) Thanks for your message. I've been reading your blog and loving your story-telling skills
Of course there are varied levels of expectations, certainty and commitment between different relationships at different times. Even so, I'm not really into referring to relationships in hierarchical terms (primary, secondary) because some important things feel equivalent for me. We all have equal respect, are equally autonomous agents and our feelings are equally valued (i.e. no one has veto power). We work together to make sure everyone is cared for. But beyond this realm of care & respect, equivalence isn't possible, and isn't really the point anyway.
That said: I've sometimes found it hard to separate my sense of non-hierarchy on the one hand, with my sense that it's important to 'keep it real' and see each relationship for what it is. Right now I am more "sure" of Sage than Carob, in terms of being compatible as "life partners". I am not too bothered by it, because I think becoming more certain of these things sometimes just needs time. I also don't think "life partnership" is the goal, or the measure of success of a relationship. And yet, it is something that's been on my mind recently.
With Sage, I know we are compatible all the way. I want to live with him longtime, and I've really been missing him since he's moved to another country. (He's been gone since July; we've seen each other a few times but it's been pretty bleh to be apart.) We share the same basic values. I not only respect and admire him, but I aspire to be like him in many ways. I love how he is considerate to other people's needs, and treads gently on this earth. We inspire each other to be better people.
With Carob, I have similar feelings of admiration and inspiration. He definitely challenges me to be a better person in a lot of ways. But... I'm not sure that we share a connection all the way (?) It's hard to express, and it's certainly sounding like a hierarchy, huh?
I don't know, it's something like a fundamental moral/aesthetic, maybe even cultural, connection that I have with Sage; and I'm unsure whether I have the same kind of connection with C. I'm keen to find out... I trust Carob entirely, I love him deeply and want to share my life with him, and on the level we're at right now, things are great and I have no complaints. But before I feel sure of making serious 'life plans' with him, intertwining our futures more intimately, I'd want to feel that bedrock... Obviously not identical to what I feel with Sage, but some solid ground. Without this, I think we can't go much further than where we are now: close friends and lovers, but more like visitors in each other's houses.
I'm writing this in a bit of a sideways mood. C has been staying over for the last couple of days but he's been kind of in his own space. I'm happy he's comfortable to do his own thing, but I feel strangely separate from him all day, though it's lovely to cuddle in bed together at night.
Don't get me wrong. We share common interests and passions apart from sex (ha!), and from time to time have worked on projects together... but when we have done this (worked on something together), it's usually been me initiating it or driving it. This is making me wonder if I'm pushing things. Maybe he's just not that into the same stuff as I am, or is more interested in different things...
If so, well, that's cool but I'd like to know because the kind of relationship I want from a life partner is someone who I can team up with whole-heartedly to enrich not only our own lives, but the community around us (as much as we can). Carob and I have been together long enough that we seem to be drifting into assumptions that we're compatible as life partners... He's been feeling some tension around this e.g. Sage being married to me is already there as my "official" partner. In my opinion the issue isn't "how do we accommodate the three of us in the same metaphysical relationship space?" but rather "is this where I want to go with C?" 'Cos I don't think Carob and I have to go there just because it's where Sage and I went.
Ah. Trying to parse which bits are related to overall poly dynamics, and which bits are just how things are between C & me, and which bits are just my funny head space right now.
(I thought I'd blog on this even just to articulate this better to myself. I've talked with C about some of this before, but not in particular about how I've been feeling this weekend. Will definitely chat with him if I feel I need to!)
Maybe you could talk to C and see how he feels about the projects you've done. You having initiated more may not necessarily mean that he is any less enthusiastic than you are, it might just be that you have more ideas/energy to get things rolling. :) Otherwise, I think aspects of compability are important things to consider.
Yeah, I tend to get tangled up in my own thoughts, but it's usually not for too long. Just add a bit of olive oil and the spaghetti falls right off the fork.
Blogging helped actually. Had a cuddle and chat. (Love cuddle chats!) Carob agreed we hadn't done that many projects together recently. I mean, there's cosy stuff like cooking dinner together, cuddling, watching movies. There's some domestic stuff (which, not living together, the two of us don't have that much of). There's socialising with family and friends. But we have been missing the joint creative projects thing of late. We have damn good conversations, always, but I also crave the practicals.
There are definitely things that I know we'd like to do together, or at least that we want to explore to see if we like it. Given limited time, we obviously can't do everything we want to do together. And there may be other things going on in our lives that we might want to prioritise. Each person is a free agent and drives their own schedules, yada yada, all obvious stuff really. Didn't need to make any decisions or agreements. It was enough simply to acknowledge that this was an area we hadn't touched much recently.
He asked me if I had any particular concerns around this... and I really don't. This isn't a problem, it's just a thing. If we do more stuff together, we'll learn more about how we work as a 'team', and what we share as dreams. If we don't, then we don't --- and that's okay, just a choice. Definitely not deal breaker material; things are very very beautiful and I'm loving our relationship.
Wow. Communication isn't always easy, but it feels right to keep trying, keep fumbling for the words.
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