Mx Ruby-Rouge

"Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free." – Valerie

Sharing: Boundaries, Etiquette and Respect

As the eldest child of five kids, I was well accustomed to hearing ‘learn to share’ from a young age. I shared a bedroom until I left home, I shared my toys, I shared my parents. I shared my free time balancing various aged children on my hip instead of playing in trees and kissing people. Sharing is not something that is new to me. So when I started a non-monogamous life, you’d think that meant sharing was natural to me, right? Well no, actually. As a society, we aren’t used to sharing our partners, our most beloved. We are told that exclusivity equals significance and possession equals security. It took some time to get used to letting the fingers curl from the grip of control, to step back, to invite others to share; it was a step further again to enjoying the sharing, feeling genuine joy seeing my love with another love.

One thing people often ask about how one adjusts to a non-monogamous life is: ‘how do you share’. Well, that’s a very good question.  There are a bunch of things that are involved in good sharing, but ultimately they boil down to three things: boundaries, compromise and respect. Like many things in poly, all of those things are somewhat fluid, and vary from connection to connection, but they form the basis. If you can set out your boundaries, you know where there’s room for sharing. If you’ve talked with your partner and agreed where both your boundaries are, you can identify the wriggle space. I may talk with my husband and we set a boundary that we are busy with work and study, but provided we have one date night a week, we can date other people.

Which leads me to compromise: sometimes my study deadlines might mean I can’t make date night that week. Does that mean I a) re-arrange my date with my husband to when I am free, or b) if I don’t have my date night, I have to end my relationship? Clearly, I can’t see my other partner(s) if I am not making time first and foremost for my husband, because that is what we agreed, they are the boundaries of our relationship. But it doesn’t mean I have to end the other relationships if the date night doesn’t happen for some reason. I might arrange to see my husband another day, or another week, we might not make the time up at all. The important part is that there is a discussion, and we compromise. A compromise is a bargain, sometimes you can make both people happy, sometimes you can’t make a compromise without breaking someone’s boundaries.

Should you respect a person’s boundaries? Always. I believe that any boundary is valid, so long as it relates to the person themselves, and that includes them being able to choose what situations and circumstances they are happy to enter into. A boundary can be anything: a boundary that you won’t have sex without a barrier, a boundary that you don’t play with people who are marked/bruised, or even a boundary that you won’t play with anyone called Dave dressed as Captain Picard. I see people’s boundaries as hard limits; something that aren’t up for negotiation, and should be respected. You can either accept, and respect someone’s boundaries, or you don’t, and you walk away. Do not try and negotiate someone’s boundaries down, or put them under pressure to change to suit you. Boundaries are something that you should come into contact if you’re playing or dating with people; ask them for their boundaries, advise them of yours, note any potential clashes and see if they are insurmountable. If they are: do not attempt to proceed, you will only cause a train-wreck and it will entirely be your own faults. If one partner’s sharing boundary is that their girlfriend can do rope but don’t kiss, but you insist on kissing your partners (or know you want to/will kiss this person), red flags should be waving in front of you at warp speed.

The final issue I want to talk about is respect, and etiquette. It’s so interwoven into relationships between people as a whole, it seems silly to need to point it out in detail here. But a little respect goes a long, long way, especially when you’re sharing. Sometimes when you’re knee-deep in NRE, it’s hard to step back and ask yourself if you’re being respectful of others around you, just like if you have an established relationship it can be hard to assess if you’re being respectful to newer partners to your group. Respect can be shown in a lot of things: respect for a pre-existing relationship or commitment, respecting someone enough to communicate fully and honestly with them, respecting someone’s boundaries. Respect requires for you to take your focus off yourself and what you want, and to consider the feelings and thoughts of others.

Those new to sharing often fall foul of some basic sharing etiquette (and some not so new, come to think of it). Etiquette is simply grounded in respect, be respectful to others and you shouldn’t go far wrong. Everyone has their own levels of what they find rude and what they don’t, but here are some examples of things I consider bad etiquette:

  • not contacting existing partners to check in before first playing
  • not being physically and emotionally present during your time with partners
  • over-committing to play at events and bailing or burning out

The easiest thing to do in terms of etiquette is to ask yourself how you’d want to be treated if roles were reversed, note other respectful things people have done for you, and think about adopting them. It’s always worth asking people what things they like and don’t like – often it can be something simple and small that a person can find huge in terms of goodwill and trust. In the date night situation I talked of earlier, my etiquette would have been to let other partners know I was really busy that week, and that could mean we don’t see each other as usual. Keeping people informed of things, and discussing decisions if that’s an option is good etiquette.

Sharing loved ones can be wonderful, rewarding, and easy if you are involved with people who share well. Those are people who tend to be clear and respectful of boundaries, people who know when they can compromise, but also let you know when things aren’t up for discussion. People who are mindful of etiquette and act respectfully, and expect people to do so for them.

Happy Sharing!

Rx

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This is the year that I….

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Resolutions”. 

The last time I really celebrated NYE was at the Millennium, where I joined 24,999 fellow pill-heads and danced for 12 hours straight at Gatecrasher’s GC2000 at the now demolished Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield 1. Nothing can top that in terms of party or excess, and I find that my tastes for celebrations have changed dramatically since then.

I’m writing this on NYE 2014, and although I don’t really go in for big NYE celebrations nowadays, I do, like so many others, find myself taking stock of the year just gone, and promising to change things in my life for the better in the year to come. Lots of us make the usual, repeated resolutions: lose weight, get fit, earn more money, do more fun things. How many of us reflect on our relationships and make resolutions to improve in the future?

I’ve had to think really carefully on this topic, because in a lot of ways, I don’t want to change a damn thing: I have an amazing husband and I play with a few friends in a very loving but laid back way. But there’s always room for improvement. There’s always ways to be better at living this lifestyle, and more love to share and receive.  So here goes:

#1 Make sure my number 1 is number 1

Continue to invest time and energy into my primary relationship beyond all others. You hierarchy haters can quit right there, my husband is my primary focus, and I need to ensure that he gets the lion’s share of hot dates, shaved legs, quality time and resources. It’s all too easy to let things slide into the mundane routine of life and co-habitation, and focus the energies on the new and shiny. The familiarity of a long time relationship, pressures of multiple jobs and studies can all stand to sap your energy and time to invest in your relationships. Constant vigilance is needed to ensure a balance is kept, and I am resolved to try harder to keep a better balance in 2015.

#2 Invoke the inner hard-ass

In 2015 I will be invoking my inner hardass2 and unless I can do so, I will not actively date or use my online dating profiles.

This summer I dated two people who were against my rules, both turned out to be emotionally immature dickheads and I got hurt both times. In my defence, they both hid things early on, but I did see red flags later and I ignored them because I had already developed feelings for them.

To the asshats who want to date a poly person as a ‘plan b’ whilst searching for the monogamous partner, at least have the courtesy to be honest about that. To the people who hide their many, many suitcases of serious baggage, only to have you turn up for a date and find they are covered in deep cuts from self harming, this is not cool. To those who say ‘let’s be friends’ and then don’t make any effort to do so, go fuck yourself, you spineless shitbags. The common thread here is truth: be honest with people and you can’t go far wrong.

As a result I’ve taken a six month break from dating, and the thick skin, energy and resolve required to throw yourself into the dating pool is not 100% back for me. I am resolved in 2015 that I will not only revisit my internal dating rules, but that I will be more rigorous in applying them, and value my own mental health and worth over any feelings I have for someone. At the end of the day, it is me who has to try and pick up the pieces, to mend my broken heart, to try and let down my barriers and love and trust others again. I can only do so if I am careful about who I open myself up to.

#3 Face my fears

I’ve talked before about being a switch, but most people still see me as a top, and that is how most of my relationships are. Part of my reluctance to search play and relationships is a bottom is that I find it incredibly vulnerable, and much harder to recover from a breakup than when I am a top. Somehow, bottoming is much more emotionally hard for me to allow, and when I do, harder to let the walls come down after being hurt or breaking up (see resolution #2).

I do realise that bottoming is a smaller part of my sexuality than topping, by a long stretch. I do know that fulfilling both aspects of my kinky personality makes me happiest (when done in a secure/emotionally mature connection). Playing as a rope bottom for the first time in 2014 also unleashed something I am unable and quite unwilling to repress: the desire to be tied by people I love. So, I’ll be seeking more of that in 2015, and reconnecting with top partners for those cathartic cp sessions we used to have.

If I end 2015 having adopted, achieved or accomplished some or part of these three goals, I will be happier in love and life. What are your relationship resolutions? What will you be trying to change in 2015?

 

Ruby

 

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/jun/15/gatecrasher-millenium

  2. https://msrubyrouge.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/my-internal-dating-rules/

Have yourself a poly little Christmas

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Poly Festivities”. 

Christmas, like so many other ‘special’ times of year or special days, can be difficult for poly folk. Unless you’re very lucky in your family and poly set-up, the chances are that you can’t spend your birthday/Valentines/Christmas with all the people you’d like to, for whatever reason. So, on those days, you have to compromise. I’m not religious, but I love a good festive get-together.

Many of my partners (past and present) have chosen to spend Christmas Day with their families (often because they weren’t ‘out’ about our relationship), had a primary relationship, or had some form of long-standing arrangements for the festive period. I’m estranged from my parents, and so tend to spend Christmas with my wonderful in-laws. As a result, I don’t get to spend Christmas Day with my siblings, which makes me just as sad as not spending it with my partners.

For a few years now, my husband and I have decided to hold a fake Christmas Day, complete with presents, a big sit down dinner, board games and watching classic Christmas films.  We invite our partners, metamours, past partners (with whom we’re usually on great terms) as well as our close friends and family that we won’t see on the 25th December.

So far, it’s worked out great. I get to play the host-person and see as many of my loved ones in one room as is humanly possible, I get to indulge my childish love of Christmas, and I hope that for more than just me, it gives some semblance of getting to enjoy a special time with the people I care about most. Some of my happiest moments and most treasured photos are from these days; a mix of friends, lovers and metamours all around the table, getting along. Feeling compersion seeing my partners with their other partners. My friends and family getting to spend time with my loves.

This year will be a little different; one partner is (as usual) leaving for over a week with family, and can’t make the fake Christmas Day. Another recently left the country, for at least a year in Australia. This year’s guests will be mainly my family, a couple of friends, and one friend/rope-partner coming. I’m sad that I can’t be with all the people I love around Christmas, and dream of one day hiring a massive house in the country so everyone can be together. But for now, I’ll have to carry on compromising, carry on making do with what I can manage and the circumstances I am in, and that’s ok. But I’ll always dream of having a poly little Christmas.

On the 25th December, I will be spending the time with my amazing in laws and their extended family. But I will also make time to connect with my other loved ones, family, friends, partners. Taking the time to text/call/whatsapp, making sure that they know that even if we can’t be together at Christmas, I’m thinking of them and missing them. Getting a text from a loved one on days like that can mean the world to me.

Wishing my readers a wonderful festive period. See you on the flip side.

Rx

Coming out of the closet

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Coming Out”. Trigger warnings for homophobia, domestic abuse, mental health, gender identity

As a queer, poly kinkster, the topic of being ‘out’ or not is something I’m well versed in. As it happens, I am out about everything, but the process of coming out was not always my choice, and certainly not pain-free, but I do enjoy the freedom of never having to lie about who I am. Be warned, this blog post is much like a Grimm fairy tale, complete with baddies, evil witches and a happy ending.

I knew from a fairly young age that I was neither straight nor vanilla, although I didn’t have the terminology and understanding to be able to explain that, I just remember thinking and feeling things that I found out were not normal when I talked to friends. I explored my sexuality in my teens, and to the great disapproval of my rather judgemental family, I didn’t make any secret of the fact. I remember my mother’s look of horror when I said I’d kissed a woman, and my parents’ various comments about disowning my brothers if any of them came out gay. My own understanding of my sexuality evolved over time, and changed from bisexual to pansexual to queer. Trying to explain these concepts to my family and friends has ranged from indifference to ridicule to genuine interest in new words and meanings.

I got into BDSM fairly young – too young, in some respects. I did keep this aspect of me private, considering it as private as say, my favourite sexual activity or preferred position. I didn’t see the need to share this information about me with people other than sexual/romantic partners. However, my vengeful ex-husband outed me to my family when he found out I’d met a new partner following our separation, showing them my online profiles and god knows what else. To say this alienated me from my family at an incredibly stressful time is an understatement: they utterly sided with him and told me I was ‘stupid’ for divorcing him, a man who was a drug addict, abusive, and controlling.  I suffered years of snide comments about ‘gimp masks’ and ‘kinky weirdos’ from my family, and various comments about being ‘sick’.

Once my partner and I were fairly sure that poly was not just an experiment, but a way of life, we came out. As I wrote in the price of poly 1, this process was not without its fair share of heartache. For the simple fact of being ethically non monogamous, I have had countless arguments, lost friends and family, been accused of all manner of horrible things, and shed many, many tears.

So you, dear reader, who may have found this post thinking of coming out about something, may be reading this thinking ‘what the fuck! If that’s how coming out goes, I’m staying quiet!’. Never fear, I have not forgotten you. Even my stories of coming out are not all bad: you can’t control other people’s reactions and prejudices, but it’s highly unlikely that everyone’s reaction would be permanently negative, and you would be utterly alienated from your social group. What I would say is that I would not go back into the closet for all the tea in China. Why? Because I never, ever have to lie, about anything, to anyone. I never have to make up stories about where I am going, or what I am doing, or who I have been with. I never have to introduce a love as a ‘friend’, I never have to pretend we are less to each other than we are. I never have to worry about being ‘caught’ with someone else, and accused of cheating. There is a great freedom in honesty, and that has more value to me than all the easy rides and simple conversations with family can ever offer. I can hold my head up knowing I am being true to myself, and not allowing other people’s prejudice to cast me into the shadows, I feel that by being out, I am standing up and being counted as part of the communities that I belong to. I am visible. I exist. I do not conform.

For those wanting some advice on how to come or be out, here are a few basic points for you:-

1. Be sure

Not in a ‘be sure this is what I identify as, until the end of time’ way, but be fairly comfortable and settled with your identity as X before you spill the beans. There’s a world of difference between chatting to a trusted friend that you might think you are gay/queer/poly/kinky/whatever, and coming out as ‘I am X’ to the world. If you come out too early, the inevitable negative response you will get from some people could affect your decision making, and people can become tired of someone who constantly ‘comes out’ and then changes their mind. Just pick your moments and be fairly sure what you’re telling people is accurate, fairly constant at that time of your life, and relevant for them to know.

 

2. Be succinct

There’s no need when coming out to get into big discussions about why, details, thought processes or experiences. Tell people that you identify as x, and that’s that. You should always include things like preferences ‘please use a neutral pronoun for me, because I identify as genderqueer’, or ‘please don’t make gay jokes, they offend me’, etc. Don’t get drawn into discussion or debate about what you identify as – inform, answer questions, end the discussion if you are unhappy with the way people are responding to you.

 

3. Be prepared to answer reasonable questions, but reject intrusion

When you tell people something they didn’t know about you, it’s fair for them to ask questions about it, especially if it’s a term they’ve never heard of before. You have a duty to explain what it is you are asking people to acknowledge and respect, provided the questions are fair and reasonable. You do not need to answer intrusive or personal questions pertaining to your sex life or other personal areas of life, and only you can judge where that line lies.  For me it’s the difference between ‘what does genderqueer mean’ and ‘so, do you fuck all the people you tie up?’. One is reasonable, the other is intrusive. People only need the facts about your identity, they don’t need the details. Anyone who thinks they have the right to ask intrusive and personal questions, or indeed that you are obliged to share because you’re the newest curiosity is someone you need to deal with bluntly.

 

4. Be indifferent to opinion

You’ve identified as X, probably after some time of feeling not entirely right or fitting with general stereotypes or labels, and some soul searching. You’ve been brave enough to share this fact about yourself with others, trusting them with knowledge about you that could make you lose your career, or even be dangerous to your personal safety in the wrong circles1 . Unless you are extremely lucky, at least one person will respond negatively, potentially permanently. Sorry to break it to you, but as much as you can try to come out in a controlled, thoughtful way, someone will not like what you’ve told them, and that sucks. Lots more may be mildly unhappy but will come round in time and with discussion. Some people, in the best possible way, won’t give a hoot.

The main thing to do in coming out, I believe, is to try and be indifferent to the response. People’s responses can hurt, but ultimately you are what you are, and they need to deal with it or get out of your life. Do not hide, diffuse or change who you are for other people. That is a one way ticket to a life of misery. Coming out is not easy, you will get shitty comments from people ‘but what about my future grandchildren?’ or ‘which room is the dungeon going to be in?’ but don’t tolerate it. Demand that people don’t use information about you as a target for jokes or insults, and if they continue to do so, cut them the fuck out of your life. The people who really matter, the people you should spend time and energy on are the ones who accept and love you as you are, and nothing less.

I can’t say that coming out is easy, but I can honestly say that for me it has been incredibly freeing and informative. Being out has been brutal about seeing who cares about me and who cares about what they want me to be. The former are still in my life, the latter are long gone, and that has been nothing but positive. Being out and proud takes courage and resolve, but I wouldn’t live my life any other way. As Valerie puts it: ‘I’d only told them the truth. Was that so selfish? Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us. But within that inch we are free.’2

Live the inch. Be free. Be yourself.

 

Ruby

 

References

1. http://transstudent.org/transvis.png

2. http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0002914/quotes

The Small Things

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “The Small Things”.

When people think about polyamory, they probably imagine the big things. Things like dealing with jealous, sorting sleeping arrangements and relationships with metamours are all pretty big, but once they are sorted, what affects you most? Day to day life and love is all about the small things, the details, and trying to take joy in what you can.

Some of the small things are about the logistics and practicality of loving more than one. It’s not just more bedding and towels that you’ll be needing, you’ll need to buy for more in your weekly shop. Beyond just adding more people to your dinner table, you’ll try and accommodate everyone’s likes and dislikes. One partner may be vegan, so you buy lots of special vegan produce for them, but another partner may prefer meat. Two partners love coffee, but one is a devotee of the Italian hob method, the other likes good old Nescafe. Of course, because you love these people, you try and make sure you have something for everyone.

There are other practical things that are small but can make a big difference, particularly for a partner you don’t live with. Whether it’s making a drawer available in your house just for their stuff so they don’t need to bring everything with them each time, having logins on your PS3/laptop/Spotify accounts for each of your loves, to having a cup that only they use, these small gestures make people feel valued and included in your household. There are small things you can do to try and make partners feel involved in your life, such as sharing Google Calendar, which for me instantly gives partner-privilege, or making sure you keep in contact some way to let people know that although you’re apart, they’re always in your heart.

When people have done little things for me, I’ve really noticed and valued it. Things like the partner who always had loose leaf tea and milk in to satisfy my insatiable tea habit, or the metamour who welcomed me to their family in the early days of me dating our mutual sweetie. Some of these thoughtful things I’ve adopted myself, trying to make my loves and metamours feel valued and wanted in turn.

The reality of loving more than one is full of moments of small joys. The first time you hear a partner refer to you as a partner, and feel that warm glow. The walking on air feeling when you fall in love again. Knowing you’re loved by more than one person. There are lots of little things that can act as reminders of that; a text from a love that you don’t live with or haven’t seen for a few days or weeks, a photo of your polyfamily, making plans for doing something fun when you’re next together.

You may have dates primarily involving just you and your honey, but I also try and have polyfamily time too, so all my loves and friends can hang out and know each other. It can be hard to try and make everyone feel included and equal there, but its down to the small things – taking time to introduce people, making sure you give everyone some affection, group snuggles in front of a film. One of my happiest poly moments (and most treasured photographs) is my husband, our girlfriend and me at our wedding. It’s the little things like that that remind me how blessed I am to live like this.

Rx

 

Polywobbles

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Polywobbles”.

Polywobbles is a term to describe the feelings we get when we’re struggling with poly – whether it’s that anxiety you’re feeling about a new connection, or that insecurity you feel when you meet your  new, ‘insert more attractive feature here’, metamour and feel utterly inadequate – from time to time we all feel uncertain, and question whether this is all worth the emotional investment. Polywobbles are an immensely personal thing, and everyone has their own triggers and causes. I’m going to talk about mine, and how I try and deal with them.

My polywobbles boil down to one thing: insecurity, and can be triggered by a bunch of different things. It might surprise some people to see me write that, as I generally come across as very secure – but it’s absolutely true. The difference is that I try my hardest to not let those feelings rule me, and to deal with them on my own whenever possible. There are a bunch of amazing resources on Polyamorous Misanthrope, such as being your own primary which I recommend to anyone feeling polywobbles.

The peak of polywobbles for me are in the early stages of a new relationship, when I’m not entirely sure how the other person feels about me, and our relationship (and hence, my place in their life and heart) isn’t established. The early stages of dating are an excruciating mix of stomach-fluttering excitement and soul-crushing anxiety, as my mood rapidly fluctuates between the two states. Whilst many folks love the excitement, uncertainty and anticipation of NRE, I utterly despise it. Forming new connections and falling in love is wonderful, but the period of becoming established and secure is one of high anxiety for me.

I’m not someone who plays stupid dating games, and for the sake of my own mental health, I will not date people who do. I tend to lay my cards out as soon as I know what they are, telling people who I feel about them and how I feel about the connection. On those occasions where people have needed more time to form their feelings into coherency, I have been walking a tightrope of hopefulness and unhappiness, waiting for someone to decide whether they want to date me. In these circumstances I often find myself making a concerted effort to step back; both in terms of contact to allow someone space, but also emotionally in myself, as a pre-emptive form of insurance. It’s a coping mechanism to stop me getting hurt, and although not perfect, has helped thus far.

I try my hardest not to form preconceived ideas of what form a connection will take, and to not prematurely affix labels to people or connections that can become restrictive or limiting. But ultimately, the OCD in me finds labels, order, routines and plans reassuring and anxiety reducing, and when a connection reaches a point where we agree that this is ‘a thing’, I instantly feel the knot of uncertainty in my stomach unravel. My polywobble reduction directly correlates with the more established a connection becomes, the more a partner demonstrates their feelings for me, the more routine and regular things are. As such I find adding my relationships on the appropriate social media and having regular date nights helps me feel ‘secure’, and I can relax a lot more.

If when I begin dating someone, they are simultaneously newly dating multiple other people, my polywobble level is instantly ratched up a million fold. It shouldn’t be the case, but it feels like a competition – unless the person has one hell of a lot of room in their life logistically, and can manage multiple NRE simultaneously (which I think is  extremely difficult), then I worry I won’t even get a look in. If the person I’m dating says they want to have steady relationships but then goes and plays with lots of random people, I will be anxious. If they are going on so many dates with other people I don’t get to spend time with them, I worry. Essentially my worries are that I am becoming attached to someone who doesn’t reciprocate – but isn’t telling me so. Someone keeping me dangling, or using me as a plan B. It sucks, and I deserve better. If someone’s actions  repeatedly don’t correlate with their words, I will stop trusting them, and walk away.  Make your own dating rules about what you can and can’t deal with, and be a hardass about it. Be prepared to walk away if you know something is only going to make you anxious and unhappy. If you knowingly go into a relationship that makes you unhappy from the start, don’t come to me crying about how ‘poly isn’t for you’ when it all goes pear-shaped. Because it will be your own fault, not a failure of polyamory.

Another time I get polywobbles, is in an established relationship if the partner has lots of casual sex or starts dating a new partner. The latter is fairly standard – we all compare ourselves to the new partner and find ourselves lacking, and we all fear the loss of the new and shiny stage, or being replaced and discarded entirely. Some people are better at managing NRE than others, and that can mean the difference between a happy adding to the family feeling and feeling utterly insignificant and forgotten. These polywobbles are generally short lived, and decrease dramatically once you meet the new and shiny person, and realise they are also just a human being, and as their NRE fades into something resembling a normal level of intensity. It’s really useful in these situations to do three things – first is to check your own trains of thought and try and stop yourself going down a negative line of thinking  or reading too much into the small things. The second is get to know your new metamour. I’ve written before about relationships with metamours, and although you don’t need to be BFF with the new person, being on good terms with them will make them seem way less scary/perfect/threatening.  Finally, ensure you keep the connection alive with your partner; talk to them, tell them you’re feeling a little insecure, and make sure that even in the throes of NRE, they make quality time for you. A good partner will take the time to reassure you (within reason, don’t be crazy needy) and to make you feel as valued as you were before the appearance of the new and shiny.

The final time I get polywobbles is in the midst of a breakup, or when there seems to be multiple relationship issues going off at once. Sometimes I ask myself why I do this to myself, and if it’s even worth all this hassle? Things can become so overwhelming at times that I question whether I even really polyamorous? Ultimately that questioning is a simple defence mechanism, and the answer, when the fog of emotions clears, is yes.  Even with all the wobbles, the insecurity, the need for strict self-control, the dealing with negative trains of thought and being a hardass, I know that I couldn’t live any other way. I wouldn’t want to, really. Polywobbles are part of the price of polyamory and that’s something you have to accept, if you want to experience the exhilaration of loving more than one, and bask in the rose-tinted glow of NRE. Even when you feel like you’re drowning in sorrow, and your heart will never, ever heal – remind yourself that this is the system balancing itself out. You can’t have all the highs without lows – and if you’re sensible about your choices, and stay true to yourself, I think that it’s worth it.

So how do you deal with the polywobbles? Comment below!

Rx

 

 

Further reading:

http://www.polyamorousmisanthrope.com/2012/05/29/overcoming-insecurities/

http://www.morethantwo.com/becomingsecure.html

http://www.polyamorousmisanthrope.com/2010/08/18/handling-jealousy-how-to-fuck-up/

This is why people don’t report sexual assaults.

Trigger warnings: fattism, sexual harassment, police uselessness, rape, mental health

As regular readers of the blog will know from this post, I’ve had my fair share of negative experiences with sexual harassment or assault. This post is about another such episode, but one where I decided not to take the law into my own hands, but to do it ‘properly’ and report it. Be warned, this story isn’t pretty and there is no happy ending.

Three weeks ago today I got on a bus at 10:30pm after a wonderful date with a gorgeous chap I’d met on OKC. Despite the hot weather that day I’d stupidly worn jeans and a long sleeved (but fairly tailored) black top. I sat in the back left corner of an otherwise deserted bus. I had a good forty minutes for my journey home, so I swapped my heels for flats, put my earphones in, and sat back to replay the day’s events in my mind (and the snogging).

When the bus reached town, an older (fifty-ish) couple got on the bus, and the man clumsily sat down next to me, nearly sitting on me in the process. I shuffled up to the window without comment to make room, and his hand shot out onto my arm in some kind of ‘oh I’m sorry’ movement. Still listening to Rammstein at full whack, I smiled at the couple and continued to look out of the window. Then I feel a hand on my thigh – not only unwanted and unsolicited hand of a stranger, but that this hand was very high up on my thigh – inches from my crotch. As I looked at him in utter shock and revulsion, he was saying something to me that I couldn’t hear.

Having been touched now twice by this drunken fucktard I stood up, sat on the seat opposite (out of hands reach) and when he asked why I had moved, I said that I didn’t want to be touched. I put my earphones back in and looked out of the window, seething that yet another lecherous old man had felt it appropriate to enter my personal space and touch me in what I considered an intimate and unwanted way. I felt that I’d made my feelings very clear and that would be the end of it.

How wrong I was. This drunk fucker was with his bulldog wife, who having witnessed this, felt that my reaction was inappropriate. She proceeded to tell every single person who got on the bus and sat near us about the ‘fat slag’ over there, and how dare I say ‘don’t touch me’. I may have had Rammstein on full blast, but I could still hear what she was saying, and still lip-read in the reflection of the window. After about ten minutes of this abuse, I was genuinely afraid of what would happen when I went to get off the bus, and got my keys out and plaited my hair.

As I got off the bus, they said something. I snapped and went to the driver, asking him to radio through to the central office that there had been a sexual assault and that I was reporting it to the police now. By chance there was a police officer on the street as the bus pulled up, and the bus driver suggested I go speak to them. The police officer asked the bus to remain where it was as he asked me what happened. I very calmly told him what had happened, and that I wished to make a complaint. People on the bus began to get rowdy, shouting at me for being pathetic and others asking who my assailant was so they could kick their heads in for me.

Another police officer had responded to the call out and arrived. The two people I was complaining about were removed from the bus and began to hurl abuse at me in front of the officers. Between the events, and people’s responses to what had happened, I couldn’t remain calm any longer. I turned my back on the bus and broke down. The officers boarded the bus and asked if anyone had witnessed this event. Not one person came forward. Not one of the people who had been told the story by this drunk pair and had laughed along with them came forward. Not one.

The officers were uninterested and unhelpful to say the least. As the couple were drunk and becoming increasingly aggressive towards me and each other, they were repeatedly interrupted from taking my statement to go and deal with them. Eventually seeing how distressed I was they moved us further away so I couldn’t hear their abuse, and took our details. Both officers repeatedly suggested that they ‘give them words of advice’ there and then, and that be an end to it. I repeatedly said I wanted to take this as far as possible, so they know they can’t treat people like this. This didn’t go down well with the officers, as they were in the area investigating a murder, and this seemed like insignificant shit to them. They suggested because it was my word against theirs, they could only charge them with a public disorder offence.

After taking both our details, the officers said they would go and see the couple after four days. We were not given a crime reference number or the police officer’s details. They were seen onto a bus and we walked the few streets to our home. I sat in shock for ages, trying to take in what had happened. I felt numb, but couldn’t stop crying. For the next week I refused to go out alone, terrified I’d bump into them at the shops or find them sat on my regular bus. I was angry at my own weakness. I emailed the bus company the next morning to advise of the incident, quoting my ticket details and advising them to retain the cctv as the police would need it.

Over a week since the incident, I called the police to ask for an update. You can imagine the distress when I was told there was no record of my incident ever having taken place. Imagine the anger at my own stupidity for not taking some kind of reference number or officer’s details. Imagine the gut wrenching feeling of knowing someone has got away with it yet again. The police offered to come and take my statement again, but as I advised them, two of their officers had my assailant’s details in their books, and I was vehement that they track them down.

Two weeks after the incident I received a couple of texts saying they had tracked one of the officers down, and then later they found the other. I finally heard back from one of the officers saying that the bus company had deleted the cctv, and unless I had any other witnesses, there was nothing they could do. They haven’t even interviewed the assailant (who at the time did not deny he had touched me). Their delay in recording and requesting the cctv has meant this will not even result in a caution.

To those reading this going ‘well, this incident is minor’ – you’ve got a point. This was a minor sexual incident in the bigger scheme of things, but it has greater implications. Look at the way a person alleging a sexual assault is treated not only by the police, but also by the general public. Look at how the report was delayed and evidence destroyed. Look at how I have had to chase and push and be adamant something would be done. Look at how the world looks on as people’s boundaries are breached and people are made to feel dirty and ashamed by these fuckers. Look at how often someone is sexually assaulted once it has happened to them already.

A hand on my thigh might not seem like much; but it has awoken every other incident and feeling from a sexual assault I have ever had. And this happens every time – every time the victim of an assault is re-assaulted, the earlier wounds are reopened. The sickening feeling of your personal space being breached. The gross feeling of someone touching you in a way you don’t want, and ignoring your requests for it not to happen. The terrifying feeling of what might have been, in different circumstances. The panic as you try to decide in a split second whether to punch the person, make a scene or quietly slip away.

This assault might be minor, but it’s affected me in more ways than seems appropriate. I’m on edge and jumpy, and when I’m in public I prefer to be with someone, as though their presence can prevent such an attack happening again. I choose the inside seat on the bus or tram so people can’t sit next to me, or if I am alone I try and sit in spaces that won’t make me feel trapped. I am perpetually expecting to bump into them and have a fight; if my hair isn’t up I wear a bobble so I can put it back quickly in a fight. I refuse to walk alone down the street at night. I’m tearful at the drop of a hat and struggle to talk about what happened. My partners have been amazingly supportive and understanding of my mood swings; explaining what has happened to others so I don’t have to talk through tears, giving me cuddles when I need them and understanding that sometimes I can’t bear closeness. How I veer from desperately needing to reclaim my body’s agency and sexuality to not being able to stand the idea of sex and intimacy.

So why am I writing this tale of woe? Mainly, for my own mental health. I have to get this shit out somewhere, in the hope that when the sorry story is out and stored for posterity, I can try and forget it. I am so, so angry not only at what happened to me, but the way I was treated on the night by the officers and people on the bus, and how I have been treated since. I am angry that these fucking bastards have got away with it, without so much as a caution or a visit from the police. I’m angry that even in this blog I felt it necessary to explain what I was wearing and where I’d been, as if I could have somehow been responsible for this bastard’s actions. Sometimes I am so angry I’m afraid of myself and what I might do if I run into them.

Maybe someone will read this and it will help them understand that the vile things a sexual assault makes you feel are totally normal. Partly this is me calling out South Yorkshire Police and First Bus Sheffield for being total, utter and complete useless cunts. You add insult to injury when you don’t treat victims with kindness and respect, when you minimise their distress, when you fail to properly investigate matters and when you destroy vital evidence. FUCK YOU.

One important part of writing this is to appeal to all of you to understand the bystander effect and to override your instinct to not help. If you see someone being harassed, go over and ask if they are ok. If you don’t feel safe doing so, ring the police. Don’t stand by and witness a crime, be a citizen, do your duty. Because one day, you may be the victim in a crowd of people who pretend not to see.

Next time I won’t sit meekly, soaking up the insults, the touching, the abuse. I will go fucking vigilante style on my assailant, and I’m damn sure there will be a record and cctv then. Because fuck sitting quietly, and fuck reporting. Until the world changes for the better, if someone breaches my boundaries, the rules are void and equal retribution is fair game. I will happily tell that to any judge. I am never going to let this happen to me again without doing something about it; if someone tries to rob me of my personal space and agency, I am damn well taking it back by force. I will happily accept the consequences, because I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror without shame.

Relationships with Metamours

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Relationships with Metamours”.

Metamour is a term specific to non-monogamous relationships: it means the person(s) your partner is also partnered with. It’s a reciprocal relationship, if you have a metamour, you are also their metamour. It can seem like an unusual connection to have with a person: the lover of a love, but really, it’s not that much different from your best friend’s other best friend. Relationships with metamours are like those of any other connection with people; some are good, some are bad. Sometimes a combination of circumstances, personalities or people can cause a head-on clash, causing mayhem to all involved. Sometimes the mix results in a wonderfully close family feeling to those in the group.

I’ve been polyamorous a few years now and have dated single poly folk, people with primaries, people with no primary, been involved in a triad and dated people who were in a poly family. I’ve been close friends with a metamour, I’ve had metamours who weren’t remotely interested in meeting or engaging with me. I’ve dated some metamours, and I’ve become friends with most of them. I’ve had metamours who were there to help through difficulties, and metamours who caused difficulties. Some metamours have sung my praises to potential new partners when my name came up in conversation, others have spread vicious rumours about me and scared potential partners off. Relationships with metamours are like relationships with people generally: a mixed bunch.

I’ve written about being a secondary, and a lot of the metamour relationship is covered in being a decent polyamorist.  It’s not just about trying to get your metamour to be good to you, it’s equally important to work on being a good metamour to others. As I reflect on my relationships, I’ve identified some patterns, and picked up a tip or two. Here’s my top ten points for metamour relationships:

1) Have a direct link with your metamour

When I try and analyse every good metamour connection I’ve had, and every bad one, lots of it comes down to the level of direct communication between myself and my metamour. Too little and you risk misinterpretation of actions and intentions, breeding resentment and mistrust. Too much can make you appear needy, interfering, or simply find that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. Get in touch with your metamour early on when you are dating someone, and keep the lines of communication open: don’t rely on your partner as a go-between. If a metamour refuses or is extremely reluctant to engage with you, walk the fuck away from that bomb waiting to go off.

2) Hang out as a group

This may or not be easily possible, depending on logistics of your relationship(s) and other commitments, such as family, children, level of ‘outness’ and such, but even if you need to Skype your metamour every once in a while as you and your honey hang out, do it. Involve each other in things, and don’t only contact them when there’s a problem. Let them share in your relationship, let them share your joy, be sure to share theirs too if they return that inclusion of you. Fostering a group connection is healthy and beneficial to everyone involved.

3) Communicate as a group

When there are quite a few people involved in an extended poly circle, lines of communication can be hard to maintain, and it’s easy to rely on messages being passed on to keep people informed. Problems can so easily arise if one or more of the partners aren’t passing on the full status of what is happening, or leaving people guessing, or even worse: assuming. Don’t leave people out of discussions about decisions that will affect them, and understand that when you date (and have commitments) to more than one person, your level of autonomy can be reduced. It’s much easier if people make a concerted effort to check in with people, and to make sure they know of things rather than finding them out by accident. If everyone knows that everyone talks to each other, no one can feel anyone is talking behind their back or betraying trust (unless expressly asked to keep something private).

4) Treat others as you would be treated yourself

It’s an old saying, and its a good maxim to live by. If you try and treat others as you would be treated yourself (which for me is with respect, honesty and fairness), then ideally, you’ll get some of that back in kind sooner or later. It’s important to act like this even when you aren’t being treated as you’d like. The poly world is small, and reputations spread round fast. There will always be occasions where people decide you’ve treated someone badly, or are a bad person, but that’s life, and generally, your actions over time will show that to either be not true, or a genuine fuck up.The difference between a good metamour and a bad one is the person who will talk to you before they decide you’ve behaved badly, and allow you to make reparation if you’ve fucked up. A bad metamour will simply consign you to the ‘shitty person’ bin and tell all and sundry of your so-called crimes. Eventually a bad metamour’s behaviour will come back and bite them on the ass, and a good one will be vindicated.

5) Be aware of your own position

As a primary (and married) partner, I realise that I can be daunting as a metamour, especially to people perhaps new to this. I know I was terrified of meeting the wife of the guy I was dating (she is lovely, and she and I dated for a year, incidentally). Sometimes you need to flip your thoughts on their head and figure out what you could be doing for your metamour, especially if you have a hierarchy. Have you contacted them to say hello in the early days? Could you do something to make them feel welcomed into the group or reassured of their position? Are you fostering group connection? Think of all the crappy things that have been done to you as a secondary or by your metamours, and make sure you aren’t doing them yourself, without thinking.

6) Don’t try and force it 

Sometimes you put loads of energy into the metamour relationship, but it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes your metamour can be a close friend, or even a lover. The important point is not to force it, but try and foster the basics of respect, open communication, honesty and fairness, and anything more is a bonus. Sometimes personalities just don’t mesh. Sometimes you just can’t spend enough time together to feel like you’re actually friends. That’s ok. Don’t feel like you’re a bad metamour, as long as you’ve tried, and you’re covering the basic principles.

7) Be careful of getting too close, too soon

NRE isn’t just for new lovers. It can be for metamours too. Don’t be fooled into believing that your new-found desire to be part of your new partner’s poly setup isn’t down to limerance, and possibly a touch of envy. It may well be that in time, that you find yourself accepted into the inner charmed circle. It may also be the case that six months down the line, you realise the group is a disaster waiting to happen, and you’re glad you didn’t get involved that heavily. Let things develop at their own pace, and let them be what they are naturally meant to be. Get those definitions and pre-conceptions out of your head. Similarly, getting involved in multiple metamour-turned-romantic relationships too quickly can be a disaster.

8) Watch your boundaries

Being and having a metamour inevitably means there is a level of flexibility and accommodation going on, ideally a fluid, give-and-take situation, where everyone ends up giving and taking a bit somewhere along the line. Be mindful that you need to be flexible sometimes, but also balance that against your own boundaries. It’s hard sometimes not to feel like we should be flexible, even if it’s not necessarily the best situation for us. It’s a hard balance, and you’ll definitely get it wrong sometimes. Sometimes you’ll find people taking too much, too often, and you need to call that shit out.

9) Owning faults and making apologies 

Put two people together and sooner or later, one of them will do or say something that annoys the other, even if by accident. Add more people into the mix, and under more emotionally charged circumstances like romantic relationships, and the potential for hurt can quickly multiply. Beyond good communication and negotiation beforehand, the only thing you can do is after the fault occurs: someone communicates, someone owns, one apologises, the other accepts. Ideally that helps a lot towards dispelling ill-feeling. Sometimes you have to say you’re sorry for upsetting someone in a way you didn’t know was possible and certainly wasn’t intended, but it’s the right thing to do. One day, the shoe will be on the other foot, and the apology will be the savlon to your emotional graze.

10) The metamour relationship is linked relationship that spawned it

Which means, if you and your honey break up, it’s quite possible that you and your metamour will too, at least temporarily. Most of us, if we are forced to, will pick a side, the person we love the most and want to protect from pain. So when a breakup happens, the chips are really down, and the metamour relationship truly laid bare. Sometimes a breakup is as civil as you could ever want, and there may be no need for a period of silence or withdrawal. However in most cases, there will be, even if just for a short time. Sometimes the people who called you family yesterday will suddenly not have anything to do with you, and may never do so again. If the work you put in during the relationship resulted in a genuine connection, in time an independent friendship may resume (mostly likely if you become on good terms with your ex), but don’t assume it will.

 

Some of that sounds quite negative, and maybe it is, but I can’t bullshit you. Polyamory means connecting with more people, and sometimes metamours are people you wouldn’t share a coffee with in normal circumstances, but as they are a love’s love, you have to make the best of the situation. I can honestly say that whilst I have had my fair share of absolutely awful metamour experiences (whether during or after the relationship), I can also say that a large portion of my friends are current or former metamours, and I’m closer to them as a result. A good metamour can be a confidant, a friend, even a lover if you’re very lucky, but at the very least they should be someone important to you that you treat with respect and civility. You can do a number of things to not only have a better metamour for yourself, but to be a better metamour to others, which is pretty much its own reward.

Rx

 

 

 

Top Ten Misconceptions and Judgements About Polyamory: Mythbusters Edition

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Misconceptions and Judgements”.

I thought I’d tackle this month’s PMM topic by relating some of the comments I have personally received as a polyamorous person, and bust some of the myths of those misconceptions or judgements. Whilst most of this is light-hearted, there has been genuine strife behind some of these people’s views, and the times I was unable to change those views, we lost those people as a result. Others are just wanky comments I get on dating sites, but become so common or so insulting that I deleted my profiles in dispair. Sometimes people make comments in the best of intentions, and will openly listen to your response and take on board what you have said in response. Others make comments out of judgemental and prejudiced views and changing their minds with simple information can be nigh on impossible.

1. Multiple parters = free for all, right?

Actually, no. Playing with, dating or sleeping with me does not and will not in any circumstances guarantee or oblige any of my other partners or metamours to get involved with you. Not only is that a hideously ugly thing to do (dating someone in order to get close to another), it completely misunderstands polyamory. Every relationship and person in the circle is separate from each other until they decide otherwise. There’s no obligation or pressure on anyone to add another into anything existing, or start something new with a new person in the group. If that happens: cool, if not, suck it up, sunshine.

2. Dating someone in a poly circle or family  = group sex

Similar to number one, only instead of dude x wanting to get to shag me, my girlfriend and my partner, person z  wants to know if they date me, can we all fuck together? I guess there’s no harm in asking, but possibly not in a preliminary ‘hi’ message on a dating site. Kind of works against you at that stage, because I’ll assume you’re only interested in sex and numbers, and not me as a person. If I end up dating someone and not only are we getting along swimmingly but one or more of my other partners fancies a group session, then at that stage we can talk about and and do it if it all feels right. But no assuming it’s going to happen, m’kay? Dating me is not a golden ticket to orgies.

3. That I’m shagging all my partners (or everyone in the room)

This one was from my sister, bless her cotton socks. I think she meant it in the best of intentions; she only wanted to know which of the people at the party I was actually fucking, so she could be introduced to them as ‘important people’. Only thing is, I have lots of important people in my life, and I definitely don’t fuck them all. I don’t even shag all of my partners; many of my connections are kink focussed, not fuck focussed. I love them, and count them as important to me. Not all significant relationships are formed around genital contact.

4. That I want to fuck everyone in the room

Sometimes it seems that poly folk can come across as somewhat predatory and constantly ‘on the lookout’. Well, I can approach that a number of ways. First, human beings are constantly on the lookout. Yes, you two over there, in love and necking all the time. You both look at that hot number who just walked down the road. You, unhappily married person, you look too. Not forgetting you, single person over there. Lots of people look, and that’s absolutely fine. Obviously I’d argue that’s because lots of us want to be with more than one person but a number of constraints stop it happening. Poly folk are just open that not only can they look, they could approach, and that can make it seem a little intimidating.

Second, there’s also a tiny feeling of jealousy going on there. Lots of poly folks have more than one partner already, so looking out for more is just greediness, right? Well actually no, because anyone who is ok dating me (bar mono folks happy to date polys) is potentially up for dating others too. I’m happy to share. Third, just because I am polyamorous, doesn’t mean I am constantly actively seeking partners. I find it works the other way round, I look and can’t find people, I stop looking and meet someone in an unlikely place or setting. Finally, I may be polyamorous, queer and switchy, but I still don’t want to fuck absolutely everybody. I do have preferences, yanno.

5. That I have more sex than everyone else

A common one, and easily dealt with. Unless you engage in group sex a lot (which I don’t), you see your partners individually, at least for sexytimes. Which means if you are seeing partner z on tuesday, you can’t be fucking partner b. As there are only seven days in a week, we’ll assume you probably get the same amount of sex as everyone else in  a relationship, unless you possess some kind of wormhole device or a time machine. The difference is you do it with different people.

6. That I’m flirting with someone if I talk to them

Related to number 4, and can cause major issues if the people you hang out make this assumption. Not to mono-bash, but there is a higher prevalence of possessive/jealous types in monogamous relationships, due to the nature of the beast. So when I’m chatting animatedly to your partner about the intricacies of the decolonisation of empires, try not to assume it’s because I want to fuck them. Similarly, when I’m talking to your girlfriend about Hannibal, don’t assume I want us to have a threesome.  Most of the time, I’m just geeking out or sharing mutual spaff-material with someone.

7. Poly is just screwing around /it’s just about the sex 

Wrong, in a number of ways. First, the clue is in the name: it’s polyamory not polyfuckery. Not to say that sex doesn’t happen, but that’s kind of accepted in adult relationships. The primary difference between polyamory and say, open relationships or swinging is the focus on connections between people, love, feelings rather than on sex and sexual activity. Second, most poly folks I know screw around a hell of a lot less, and a hell of a lot safer than the majority of monogamous folk. We might be dating three people at once, but we’ve usually adopted some level of safer sex, and we probably know the people we’re fucking. It’s important to say that I have no issue with casual sex; do as you will with consenting adults, but for the love of the gods, please use safer sex methods!

8. Marriage is pointless if you’re poly 

I’ve talked before about the price of poly and how when EGB and I got married, one long-standing friend of EGB’s in particular was extremely judgemental about our decision to get married if we were to continue, as he put it ‘messing around’. To many people, polyamorous marriages are a sham because they are not exclusive.

It’s hilariously ironic that the majority of people who have criticised my polyamorous marriage have been from monogamous people who have cheated. I’m criticised for being open about having multiple partners (ethically) whereas they consider themselves moral and proper for doing it on the sly. Which relationship is more valid or true, I could ask. I could talk at length here of my justification for marriage within polyamory, but its almost irrelevant. It’s more important to do what works for you and makes you happiest. I know lots of poly folks would happily do away with marriage altogether, whilst others would love more marriage options.

I subscribe to relationship hierarchy; it feels right and works for me, and I’ve never met anyone who made me want to change that (but I don’t say it never would). In the last ten years EGB is the only person I’ve ever wanted to cohabit with, consider having children with, and be with for the rest of my life. I love him an insane amount, and in a way I’ve never felt about anyone else. Sure you can do all those things outside of marriage, and I don’t hold particular sanctity of marriage given that I am atheist. Being a spouse does afford you recognition and rights in the monogamy-dominated world, and I, rather hypocritically, want them for myself. My marriage isn’t purely down to the benefits I get from the outside world, marriage reinforces my primary status and essentially carves out a little space for me that no one else can have (and likewise for EGB). I’d argue that my marriage is stronger because of our openness, and that neither myself nor my spouse should never need to cheat, or leave the other for a new partner because we are forced to ‘pick one’.

The point I’m trying to make here (as we tried to tell our former friend) was that we’re married because we want to be, because we love each other, and that should justify it just as much as any monogamous couple who want to get married.  Just like I date all genders because I want to, wear stompy boots because they feel like ‘me’, or listen to Rammstein because I want to, I got married because I wanted to. End of story.

9. That jealousy is a problem

Possibly the most common and well-meaning comment: ‘I couldn’t do it, I’d get too jealous’. Well… jealousy and envy happens, but you either let it rule you or you don’t. In a society where relationships run on the survival of the fittest (read: most vigilant) model, it’s easy to see why jealousy and fear of loss is a problem. But turn it on it’s head: my partners have the ability to walk away from me whenever they want to. Their choice to stay in a relationship with me, each and every day, tells me something. It tells me that despite the ability to walk away, despite their ability to have other people, they choose to have me in their lives. If you don’t fear someone leaving you (not that you should become complacent, good relationships require ongoing investment), then other people aren’t a threat. Not that all of this avoids jealousy entirely, but there are ways and methods of dealing with jealousy and envy, and thus far, in over three years of being polyamorous, I’ve yet to hit a jealousy issue that couldn’t be overcome with work.

10.  I’m more likely to have an STI

After one douchebag comment too many about how poly folks are STI ridden, I wrote this post about safer sex. Every poly person I know well or have talked to consider safer sex methods as part of their poly practice. Most of them have quite stringent rules, which vary to fit their personal circumstances, risk taking levels and relationship types. Poly folks are some of the most careful and most importantly risk aware people around. I personally feel more likely to catch an STI from unprotected sex with a serial monogamist than from a poly person.

So there are my personal top ten misconceptions and judgements about polyamory: busted. I hope it’s been a useful insight into how poly can ‘really’ work, and perhaps how to avoid asking silly questions of people or making judgemental comments without realising.

 

Rx

 

Relationship Significance

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “Relationship Significance”.

When my (now) husband and I first started out as poly, we kept our dating and partners private, not wanting to cause the bedlam of coming out to our friends and families until we knew this was a long term thing for us. As it happened, we both met someone we cared very deeply about quite early on, and as our wedding day grew closer and closer, we realised that we wanted our loves to be recognised for who they were to us, and not hidden as friends. We decided to come out as poly to our families, and although it hasn’t been an easy road to take, I am glad we did. Our girlfriend K was recognised at our wedding as our girlfriend, she sat next to me at the wedding feast, and one of my favourite wedding photos is of my husband, myself and our girlfriend, together.

It was really important to us that she was recognised as being who she was to us, and that we didn’t insult her by asking her to pretend we were only friends, and that we didn’t insult ourselves by lying to save other people’s feelings. My mother was vehemently against the idea of having K in our wedding photos, saying she was someone we wouldn’t have anything to do with in ten years time, but I told her this was irrelevant.  It’s true that just three years on our relationships are radically different now to how they were then, but I wouldn’t change a thing. For the rest of my life I’ll have those treasured memories of her being there on our wedding day. I’ll show my kids the wedding photos of the three of us on the day, and be so glad that I insisted she was recognised as our partner. I’ll be proud that in the face of adversity, I was resolute that people would respect her as our partner, and not pretend she was anything else.

Having my relationships recognised as being significant by friends and family has been a mixed battle. Some people have been wonderfully accepting, almost oblivious to the fact that having four partners is unusual. Others have been cautiously nice about it; not really knowing what to say without causing offence, but having good intentions. Then there’s the people who just hate the idea, like my father who point blank refused to meet any of my partners due to their ‘transience’. I’ve always gone with the philosophy of being firm but consistent in terms of approaching acceptance of my polyamorous lifestyle, but sometimes your patience (and perseverance) can wear thin when your mother perpetually (and purposefully) asking after your girlfriend using the wrong name. On the whole my life now is happily full of people who accept and recognise my partners for who and what they are: people I love and who mean a lot to me, but it hasn’t always been that way.

The other side of this of course, is being in a relationship that is universally known, and accepted as being significant by your partner’s social circle.  I’ve dated a fair number of people who weren’t out about poly, and so our relationship was a secret, and that became an issue. I’ve written before about being in relationships that have lacked recognition or belonging, and how painful it has been to feel excluded or dispensable. I’ve been in relationships where I felt like I was just a plaything to someone, or that I was unimportant to the person and invisible to their friends or family. I’ve dated single poly folks, and been dumped the instant a primary relationship was started. I’ve been told the views of my love’s family or friends who say that as a married woman, I can never offer the ride of the relationship escalator, and so not only is our relationship pointless, that I’m selfishly preventing them from finding a life partner for themselves.

So how do we deal with these issues without riding (or pretending to ride) the relationship escalator? I think the solutions are split between making your relationships feel significant to the people involved in them, and to the perceived significance of your relationship(s) by other people. In the first instance, the first things are the day to day issues: ask your partner for their preferences on things like amount of contact, regularity of dates, involvement in vanilla life or decision-making, anniversaries and that kind of thing. As someone reading this blog I hope I don’t have to state the obvious about how to make someone (and your relationship) feel appreciated and significant generally.  In the bigger picture of relationship significance, the primary issue has to be what the people involved count as significance, and if they want it from this relationship. Is it anniversary cards? Fluid bonding sex? Having Sunday lunch with your parents? Co-habiting? Being introduced to your social circle? Collaring? Hand-fasting? Children? Start with a discussion about what your honey would feel made the relationship significant, and go from there.  Once you’ve identified what are the qualities of significance according to your partner, you need to see if that works with your own set up, current relationships and desires. If you already co-habit with someone, could you co-habit with another? Are some things even possible? It’s really easy to fall into the trap of attempting to mimic the escalator to make a relationship feel significant, and takes a lot of introspection and self-awareness to know what you really want versus what society tells us we should want.

In terms of the perceived significance of a relationship, this can be a trickier issue depending on if someone is out as poly or not.  Some situations can be dealt with over time and with persistence and tact, others are immovable and it’s best to know where you stand before you get heavily involved and have to break something off for a lack of significance. If you’re dating someone not out as poly to friends and family, you have to decide early on if that’s something you can deal with. Could you deal with being with your love at a social event and having to pretend you’re ‘just friends’? Being introduced as ‘my friend’ and not ‘my partner’? Can you deal with being on the periphery, and potentially never being able to be included properly in the family and feeling somewhat invisible? Is recognition of your relationship important to you, or not? Depending on your relationship structure or dynamic, this may or may not be an issue for you, but it’s something to consider.

If the people involved are out as poly it is easier in some respects; people can know who and what you are, but that doesn’t automatically mean the significance of your relationship is respected or recognised. If you’re a partner to someone with an established primary partner, it can be extremely difficult to get people on both sides to accept you as a significant person: friends and family of the established couple might see you as a ‘bit on the side’ and your own friends and family might see your affair with a ‘taken’ person as being good for nothing but heartbreak.  It can take a hell of a lot of patience and persistence to overcome those prejudices, consistently and firmly correcting false assumptions and snide remarks, engineering low-key social events where all parties get to meet face to face (because it’s harder for people to be an asshole to someone to their face) and repeatedly explaining how important this person or relationship is to you.

The issue of relationship significance is really important to happy, long term connections of all kinds. It requires honesty from all the people involved to say what they’d like from this relationship and how you feel recognised as someone important to your love. When you have relationships outside of the normal relationship pattern, it follows that your means of importance and significance may fall outside of the norm too, but as long as it works for you, then that’s all that matters. If the Batarang your boyfriend got you means more to you than any diamond ring from him ever would, then go with it! Similarly if the fact your boyfriend lies about who you are to his workmates bothers you, don’t accept what makes you unhappy: talk about it, and if it can’t be changed, figure out if you want to stay or leave that relationship. Having your relationships perceived as significant by others can be harder, but whilst we don’t have the right to force our friends and family to approve of our relationship choices, we can expect them to respect and recognise the people most important to us, whether they like who they are or not.  It can take time and effort to get that, but it’s worth striving for, and is something I continue to do for my own relationships.

Ruby x