Friday, October 4, 2013

Me vs. That Fucking Black Ball

When the Mister and I first opened up our relationship, we had some rules.  The rules were supposed to make us safe, and make polyamory easier for us to adjust to.  In actuality, the rules were a way for us to control each other and try to control other relationships.  As I'm sure many of you have experienced on your own journeys, the rules all got broken, amended, or discarded.

At the moment our rules boil down to communicate, have safe sex, and don't be a dick.  That's it.  The Mister doesn't really want details of my sex life, but he does like to know how my relationships are going.  He asks about the new guy, Grey.  He sends a quick "Hello!" to the old Flame, too.  I have to remind the Mister about dates quite a lot, but that's normal for us.

Communicate, have safe sex, and don't be a dick.

We got here because while rules seem like a great thing when you make them, once you try to implement them things tend to go all wonky.  Say you have a rule that no outside partners can sleep in your bed.  That's all well and good, except at 33 years old fucking on a couch gets old really goddamned fast.  Say you have a rule that a specific night every week is "your night."  Great!  What happens when the calendar gets crazy and you won't see one of the other partners for god knows how long and that's the only night that's open?

Rules inherently signal to me that partners have some degree of difficulty trusting each other.  And sometimes that's okay.  If you have rules and you're dating me, I'll go out of my way to respect them.  But I won't promise not to get frustrated if I think the rule is a bit ridiculous (I once had a partner's wife FREAK OUT because she thought I left clothing behind on purpose) or if it's structured in such a way that it becomes difficult for a relationship to progress.

The number one rule that usually ends up affecting me is what I call the Black Ball.  Lots of poly couples have a rule in place that allows the spouse to veto a new partner if the new partner makes them uncomfortable or if they think the new partner might not be a good fit for you.  For the most part, I hate veto arrangements.  Giving your spouse the power to just tell you "NO" often puts everyone in a very awkward position. I have been on the receiving end of a Black Ball with no discernible reasoning behind it, and it sucks for all parties involved.

Right now, I am in the middle of a potential Black Ball situation once again.  Grey and I have been friends for over a year, and are just now getting started building a relationship.  Because of my recent history Grey's wife is hesitant for us to date.  We are bottlenecked at a particular point until after I meet her, at which point either we'll just continue being friends or we'll see how being lovers goes.  All of this is okay.  I respect their arrangement, but it is incredibly frustrating to go on a date with him and let myself get emotionally closer to him - all the while knowing that in a few weeks I could just end up with the black ball and a bruised heart.

This is part of poly dating.  Negotiating the ever changing rules of multiple relationships can be exhausting, but it can also lead to some of the most rewarding relationships you'll ever have.  Sure, it sucks to know that in a few weeks Grey's wife could simply tell us "This isn't a good idea."  At the same time, getting to know him and letting him into my heart more than I would a friend is lovely.  Even if I get black balled, we are going to be friends, and he'll be one of the friends I trust the most.

Dating is about making the leap and trusting the person on the other side to catch you before you fall.  Sometimes they don't, and when you fall you learn something new.  Sometimes they do, and what happens after that is one of the best things in life.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Little Bit Broken

One of the most challenging things about my poly life right now is feeling as though I'm in a perpetual state of defense.  After a breakup, everyone naturally questions your actions and your intentions, no matter who you are.  After breaking up out of a relationship like mine was ... no one fucking trusts you at first.

For lack of a better word, I'm about 40% broken right now.  I'm getting better.  Two weeks ago I would have pegged that number closer to 85%.  Getting better is hard work, it's learning to be alone again and learning that it's okay to be sad as long as I find ways to work through it.  Most importantly, it's believing that I'm perfectly fine just the way that I am, that breaking up doesn't mean some parts of me are bad and undesirable and unlovable.  Getting better also involves telling people your story, and letting them get close to you again.

The problem is... when you let people in, you let their partners into your life, too.  Their partners need to hear the story, and understand why you are the way you are.  Those partners need to make their own judgment regarding your trustworthiness and your intentions.  It's exhausting.  And awful.  And painful.  And infuriating.

I have been triggered so many times in the past week or so by things that the man in question probably thought were totally innocuous.  A current girlfriend mentioning me to another potential girlfriend.  A wife being worried about how stable I am.  Being regaled with stories of how gorgeous another potentials bruises are.  Being told "she's concerned, but doesn't think you're a bad person."  Getting canceled on a couple times because life gets in the way of things.

In every single one of these situations, the problem is ME, not the man or the partner or the weird situation. I am the one who doesn't remember how to emotionally adjust to new metamours entering the picture, or feeling as though I'm being judged, or feeling as though someone is purposely fading out so that they don't have to deliver the news that I'm just too crazy right now.  I am the one who is overly sensitive.

I give myself a lot of credit for reacting to being triggered in the ways that I have.  In every single case, I put down my phone (or got up from the computer), and just went and did something else while I processed what I was feeling.  Why was I upset?  What was I upset about?  What could I do to make myself feel better?

The answers vary, but it really boils down to: I'm a little bit broken.  It's hard to feel valued and appreciated when you feel like you have to defend an entire year of your life over and over and over and over.  It's hard to build relationships when you're constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But it's imperative that I not blame my responses on my partners, nor should I expect them to make me feel better.  What I do need to do is talk to them rationally after I've processed the damage, and explain to them why I felt the way I did.  Otherwise I just look crazy.

In one relationship, the worst is past, things are looking great, and I'm eager to see where things go.  In the other, more tenuous relationship, I don't even know if things will get off the ground.  I know that the next few months have the potential to be both joyous and painful.  I know that I still have a lot more work to do.  But putting myself back together means getting back out there, and letting people in again.  There's no getting around it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Aftermath & New Beginnings

One of the hardest things about breaking up is the inevitable untangling of your online lives.  The Libertine and I were linked together on Twitter, Facebook, Fetlife, Google Calendar... you name it, we shared it.  During the first few days after we broke each other's hearts, I cut him out of all the obvious places:  I deleted him from my phone, unfollowed him on Twitter, etc.

But because of how intertwined our lives were, there's always just one more thing that I've forgotten about.  The Libertine was never a big Facebook user, so I neglected to unfriend him there for quite a while.  One morning I logged in to check on my family, and I noticed his picture was no longer smiling at me in the corner of the chat box.  He had unfriended me.

That hurt.

A breakup is like a million little deaths over and over and over.  Just when you think you're done, something else pops up and reminds you that this person you loved with your whole soul is no longer a part of your life.  So you get to experience that grief again and again.  I'm glad to say that each time this happens, the hurt is less.  Each time he and I talk for logistical reasons (hey, have you seen my <insert random object here>) it's a little bit easier on me.

One of the things helping me is leaning on the Mister and a pair of potentials.  The Mister is letting me heal, not pushing me to recommit to our marriage right away.  He lets me know that he loves me without getting in my face; he's giving me space and care right now.  He is supportive of my other burgeoning relationships, he likes both men and is once again talking to me about my relationships outside our vows.

The potential partners are even more careful.  Both men I have known for a long time.  Both men are more worried about my emotional health than they are about getting into my bed.  Both men have made it known that even should I choose not to date right now, they are staying in my life in some form because I am important to them.

I am so lucky that polyamory has given me such lovely people to lean on in times of crisis.  I am so lucky to know that I am loved, cared about, wanted, and appreciated.  I am so lucky that despite all of the horrible choices I have made in the past year, these people can see that I'm getting better; I'm a better person and a more careful partner than I have ever been.

I cannot wait to see where these relationships go.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lesson Learned: Hierarchies Suck

I am coming out of a relationship so intense, I don't know that I can really do justice to it.  It started strong, it ended painfully, and everything in the middle was a battle - just not a battle that was easy to see.  During that 18 months, I never considered any of my relationships to be in a hierarchy.  I was pretty vocal about thinking the hierarchy system was awful and demeaning to those "secondary" partners.  But I was operating as though each partner outside the intense one was secondary.

I'm not writing this to attack that primary partner.  I'm writing this to call myself out on being hypocritical, and naive, and just generally a terrible partner.

As I'm feeling out a potential new partner (and touching base with an old one), I'm realizing that I really do hate the hierarchy.  I need to be so much more cognizant of the way I treat all of my partners, and not allow one of them to dominate my resources and time.  I need to never ever allow a partner to demand that I make a change to the schedule, or to my roster, or to the way that I interact with another partner.  Those are decisions I need to make for myself.  If a partner has a concern about something, they need to discuss it with me and let me make up my own mind.  If the decision I come to isn't one that they like they need to respect it and evaluate their own level of involvement.  

It's a fine line to walk sometimes, not wanting to upset a partner while also making sure that your own needs are met and you are invested in each relationship to the degree at which you want to be.  Polyamory requires constant re-evaluation and negotiation with each of your partners, and everyone involved needs to be equally informed.

The old partner that I'm touching base with made a wonderful point to me the other day.  There were red flags for him in the time before we split up - concerns about the intense partner that he wishes now he had brought to my attention and talked through with me.  But at that time, he was afraid that even broaching the subject with me would create battle lines, a him vs. us situation, and he was too afraid to lose me to reach out.  In the end he lost me anyway.  The reality is, had he spoken with me about those things, he and I might have worked through the problem and not lost each other.  I might have grown up a little bit faster and saved myself a lot of heartache, too (probably not, but that's a whole other story).

I have asked him to please, in the future, always reach out.  Always tell me the things I need to hear but don't want to hear.  Always make me truly evaluate and question if something is too much, too little, or just enough.  It's natural to be worried that a partner will get angry, but trust that partner to work past the anger and listen to what you have to say.  

For myself, I am going forward with the knowledge that whether the partner in question is my husband or a man with a wife of his own, the relationship that we build is just as important to my emotional health as any other.  I may not see them every day, but I certainly talk to them every day, and the time that we do share is sometimes more dear to me since it can be so limited.  If I invite you into my life, you have the right to know whatever is going on in it, and to have your opinions about it heard.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Polyamory: Square One

So.  Stuff happened, almost none of it good, and here I am back at poly square one.

The Mister and I are putting ourselves back together, slowly.  It's been a long summer, filled with regrets and stupid mistakes and lots of learning the hard way.

But the end result of all of the bullshit is that I'm back at the beginning, asking myself what I want out of poly, what I want out of life, and where I'd like to go.  I don't know the answers to any of those questions, but I'm certainly taking my time looking for them.  

I am making connections again.  I am telling people close to me my story.  I am admitting things I'm not proud of (and that I won't admit here for the most part).  I am telling those that need to hear it that I'm sorry, and I'm owning my mistakes.  I am accepting that right now I'm a little bit broken.

I plan to be back here, telling the world what it's like to be poly and fuck it up, get it right, and really find what you need.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Learning Curve


This is cross posted on my body positive blog, imperfectfigure.wordpress.com.
Tuesday night I went to dinner with a friend.  He kindly listened to my sob story, gave me some really good advice, and then magically turned the conversation away from relationships to other things we share.  It was a much needed respite from being inside my own head.
The highlight of the evening was watching the teenage couple in the next booth.  It was hard to tell at first if they were a couple or just friends because their body language was really awkward.  He was hanging on her every word, while she was looking more at the table than at him.  I watched as the young girl, whose back was to my friend, beckoned her boy to come to her side of the table.  When he arrived, she pulled him close and began whispering in his ear, occasionally glancing to us.  If I had to guess, she thought that she was being sensual.  From my angle she was being obvious and juvenile… but then again she was a juvenile.  If she had just been paying attention to her companion, she would have seen that he never looked away from her, he clearly wanted to hold her hand or be closer to her than he was.  But she almost never made eye contact.  If she was trying to make her interest known, she could have done so with nothing more than a smile, a well placed look, and perhaps a light brush of fingertips.  
My friend and I had just been discussing BDSM, the politics of trans/cis interactions, and polyamory.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she had heard me talking about blowjobs and service and had decided filling her boytoy in on my (gasp) slutty behavior was good cover for making an advance.  I also couldn’t stop laughing.  My friend suggested that perhaps I should be giving her pointers on how to really  interact with the opposite sex.  I suggested that if I did so she wouldn’t date boys her own age very long.  
As I drove home I reflected on the experience.  Sometimes it feels as though it wasn’t that long ago that I was the teenage girl with barely an inkling of the effect I had on the boys around me.  I’ve always been a plus sized girl, and even now, 15 or so years after my first sexual encounter, it surprises me to hear a man tell me he thinks I’m sexy.  And that’s sad, because I happen to think I’m pretty sexy.  And I don’t just mean that physically.  I am confident in my sexuality, my desires, and my abilities.  I like who I am, and that projects as sexy and confident most of the time.  
I guess we all just spend so much time listening to the assholes of the world tell us that we’re not good enough, we have a hard time listening to the real men who know what they want and aren’t afraid to tell us what they really think. 

Music as Therapy: For You

One of a few songs on a perpetual loop lately.