Frangipani

Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

Am I an activist? September 2, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 3:02 pm
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I’m not sure how to proceed. The Poly Old Fart asked an important question a while ago and I’ve been thinking about it since: Why am I blogging?

This is and isn’t a journal. While I’ve outlined my journey from a monogamous to a polyamorous situation here, I’ve left out lots of details, not published a lot of what I’ve recorded elsewhere about each relationship, and attempted to protect other people’s privacy to the extent that I could. I have, however, posted some very personal things that I can’t take back now that they’re out there. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to take them back when I posted them and I’m OK with that. It was important for me to write those things and important for me to know that someone had read them. I needed to get the frustration I was feeling off my chest, as well as the realization that I needed to acknowledge some very basic things about myself – things I had known all along and chosen to ignore or push aside for the time being.

I didn’t expect people to read my blog and then write to me telling me they understood what I was going through or that they were just a few months behind me in the figuring-it-all-out process and that what I’d written had actually helped them along. For me, this was just a space in which to vent, think, and maybe at some point connect with other people in the same or a similar situation so that I could get my head together. The positive comments and support have been wonderful and I’ve learnt a lot from other poly bloggers who’ve been either poly or blogging, or both, for far longer than I have.

I wouldn’t call myself an activist either, but I am a communicator. My instinct upon finding out about something new and interesting and challenging is to broadcast it. Acknowledging that I was bisexual was a big enough ‘event’, if personal, but discovering polyamory and realizing how much potential there was in it was way too much to just sit on. And then, as often happens when one ‘discovers’ something, I found many other people had got there first and were doing a brilliant job of talking about the emotional, political, financial, social implications of being polyamorous. So now I write and I link.

I stop at communication though. I don’t seek to evangelize or convince people that polyamory is the One True Way, mainly because while it is a good fit for me personally, my experience with it is limited. Most of my information comes from the community I interact with, the books I read, and the bloggers I follow online.  I respect experience and knowledge gained through the thoughtful examining thereof and overall, I’ve found experienced poly bloggers do rather a lot of that, which is catnip to this kitteh.

My own poly relationships are going well. A and I are rolling along happily and my relationship with S is growing firmer as we get to know and trust each other. H and I are closer than ever in a lot of ways and his ‘role’ in the community has come as something of a happy surprise all around. We’re all discovering new things about ourselves, our relationships, our feelings, our attitudes, our wants, our insecurities and much more. Everyone’s at a different point, but we manage to communciate over the gaps and even though we don’t have much of a blueprint, we’re building something.

And that is where I reach the next question: what do I write about now? I’m quite protective of all three of them, but particularly of A and S because H at least knows about this blog and that I write about him (the other two know that I have a blog and expect to be mentioned, but that’s it). I want to write about them – about how they make me feel, how we’ve worked things out, who they are, etc – but I want to protect both their privacy and mine. I also get cynical and think, really, how different is any of what I have to say from the millions of other relationships that get started and are built on every day? Just because there are more people involved doesn’t really make it news. So then I think I should take a leaf from the books of the poly bloggers I read and talk instead about the larger issues, the ideas, the conflicts – the learning and the  learning process, really. That’s what’s meant the most to me when I’ve read other blogs and if I’m to do anything with this blog, providing an account of what I’ve learned from being polyamorous is probably what would be most useful, both to others and also to me.

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A Post-Mortem of Sorts July 26, 2008

So I ended it with M the other day. Things generally started to go south about a month and a half ago – right after we got all warm and fuzzy, it seems. Now, of course, all the little niggling doubts I had about our relationship suddenly seem like such blindingly obvious red flags. Ah well. You learn.

Basically, I no longer felt safe. I didn’t realize that was the case initially, specially since I’ve had a bit of stress piling up from various other quarters. I thought I wasn’t paying as much attention to M as before because I was tired, frazzled, upset, distracted, etc. I thought we weren’t catching up as often as before because she’d been ill and overworked. All those things were true enough, but they were excuses, not reasons.

A friend of mine once commented that your body doesn’t lie to you. I think she has a point. At least for me, physical contact hinges on trust. I can talk a good game, but if I don’t feel safe with someone, touching them, particularly intimately, is out of the question – it makes me physically ill. It’s not a pleasant reaction at the best of times, but when it’s your girlfriend that makes you recoil, it fucking hurts.

A while ago, M carelessly mentioned something I had told her in confidence in front of someone I barely knew. I don’t for a second believe that she meant any harm, but I was quite upset and she realized her mistake and apologized. It was a slip. But it shook me pretty badly – worse than I thought because, H recently reminded me that I mentioned wanting to end it when I got home that day. I had forgotten I’d said that, but it’s true and, now that I think about it, things weren’t quite the same from then on.

While the incident itself was Not Good, I think what it did was highlight the fact that there was a disconnect between us. Our attitudes towards a few important things were quite different and I found that I’d done my stupid just-smile-and-go-along-with-it thing, which is never a good idea, however easy it seems at the time. You keep hearing about boundaries, and in theory it makes perfect sense that you would identify and then defend your own, as it were. But in practice…well, the balance between patrolman and peacemaker can be a bit difficult to negotiate.

Still, M is a smart woman and realized something was up, so she asked. And the upshot of that conversation was that I no longer wanted a physical relationship with her. Which hurt her. But I think that she would have been more hurt if I hadn’t been truthful and it had all come out at some later time, so I am telling myself that it is for the best. It’s awful to be the one doing the breaking up. It’s no cakewalk to be broken up with, but I think I prefer to be on that end, really. There’s certainly less guilt involved and you don’t feel quite so much like a horrible person who apparently doesn’t care about hurting other people. Halfway through, I was wondering why on earth I was torturing her like that and almost backed down. I’m glad I didn’t, ultimately, but there was a moment there when I’d have given anything to not have said what I had. Perhaps it would have been easier if one or both of us were given to histrionics. Unfortunately, it was all calm and reasonable and I got to explain how I felt and she explained how she felt, we cried, we went home.

And so it’s done. It’s over. We will carefully avoid all contact and try not to run into each other for the time being, and hopefully, over time, she’ll be able to stand being in the same room as me. She’s a wonderful person – just not someone I should be in a relationship with.

 

A Moment July 14, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 4:24 pm
Tags: ,

Someone asked me a few months ago what I ultimately wanted with my relationships, where I saw them going, etc. At the time, I had no clear idea and, for the most part, I still don’t. But the other day, A stopped by and, while I was in the other room, I heard him and H talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the friendly, warm tone they were using made me smile. They get along. They have stuff to say to each other. They make the same kind of (awful) jokes and defend each other for making them too.

I like that. I like that very much. It makes me happy to hear them getting along. It makes me hope very very quietly – so that I don’t disturb things by pushing too hard – that this can continue indefinitely and keep growing. Growing into what exactly, I don’t know, but growing all the same.

 

Telling Friends July 8, 2008

I came out as bi and poly to a lovely friend of mine the other day who was great about it. Two things prompted my telling her. One was that it is becoming increasingly difficult not to mention A and M in conversation. They’re important to me and my relationships with them have become a big part of my life, to the extent that it is almost impossible to fill anyone in on what I’ve been ‘up to’ since the last time we met without mentioning them.

The second reason was that a mutual friend tends to frequent a place A and I are often in and around so it’s not impossible that she will see us together at some point. If that happens, I think she would probably get in touch with our friends to tell them or ask them about what was going on, and personally I’d rather my closer friends heard about it from me first. I’d rather short-circuit any gossipy stuff where it matters. I’m not terribly concerned about what she might say to anyone she knows – that’s her prerogative – but people we both know and who matter to me I’m a little more concerned about. Of course I could just tell her, but we’re not close enough and I don’t particularly want to. It’s an effort to bring up the whole poly thing because, in the heads of the majority of the people around us, H and I have been neatly filed away as straight and monogamous for years now and attempting to change that would draw more attention to our relationship with each other than I want. And more than the attention itself, it’s the type of attention that bugs me. It’s the way people ask questions that tells you whether they’re genuinely concerned and interested or just asking because they think you’re a freak – I’ve spent enough time getting the latter for other reasons to know the difference.

So that’s two local friends who know, and a third that I shall tell at the next opportunity. There are one or two other people in particular that I want to tell, but I don’t know when or how. Otherwise, I’m fairly open and visible when I’m out with either M or A in places where acquaintances might spot us. These are not people that I have any kind of investment in so I’m not concerned about what they might think or say, though I’m happy to talk about it if asked. I doubt I will be though.  I do still hesitate to refer to either A or M when talking to people I know through work or casually, but then I don’t really mention H either to people I don’t care about to some extent, so while I may feel a twinge or two when I let something particularly relevant slide, it’s not a huge deal.

What I am still worried about – and I’ve mentioned this is previous posts – is one of H’s friends seeing me with M or A as we’re not out to them. My own friends I can deal with. His, I’m not so sure about. I know I’d feel quite defensive and I’d probably be tempted to imply that he wasn’t monogamous either just to make myself look less ‘bad’. Also, I think that in some cases M might be easier for them to handle than the idea of me being with another man because, thanks to what folks have started calling the ‘hot bi babe syndrome’, my bisexuality could be read as being about pleasing H, thereby allowing it to still fit to some degree into the whole heterosexual-men-are-the-center-of-the-universe thing. But there’s no room within that trope for my relationship with A. They couldn’t stick with the idea that I’m doing it ‘for H’ because that would make them question his orientation, which is something most of them would probably prefer only slightly to chewing lightbulbs, so they’d have to consider that I was doing it for, well, me.

(Wow. I am honestly amazed at the chorus of ugly words that started howling through my head as I typed that. Talk about conditioning.)

Also, where H could be seen as gracious and tolerant for ‘letting’ me have my cute little relationship with another woman (not to mention ‘lucky’ by some definition because the idea that he wouldn’t have sexual access to my girlfriend is too bizarre to consider), it is unlikely that he would be seen as anything but weird and possibly insane for standing by while I got involved with another man. The way I see it, that is because, au fond, women still are considered property and men are considered owners. No matter how ‘equal’ and ‘modern’ your relationship or you yourself may be, no matter whose name you take or don’t take, who does the cooking or the cleaning, who earns more, who takes care of the kids, etc., when you get right down to it, the wife is still considered the husband’s property. Oh the husband may ‘belong’ to the wife too in some ways, but really it’s only because he allows it. If he really wanted to, he could put her right back in her place, and we all know where that is.

All these assumptions make it even more difficult to explain that some of us resist the trope right down to its roots. Yes H and I are married and yes that gives us certain benefits and perks that make our lives more comfortable, but outside of that, our relationship is ours. Before I got married, my father asked me why I would willingly enter into a relationship that was inherently unequal, and I replied that it was because I knew it wouldn’t be. He was skeptical and, to be honest, I was a lot more unsure than I let on, but hey, we did it. Our relationship is our own. Neither of us falls neatly into the category of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ other than legally, and H generally avoids using the terms when he talks about us – in fact, I tend to use the former far more than he does. And our relationship happens to have grown to the point where it can accommodate my involvement with other people without that involvement threatening my relationship with H.

But while I’m secure in my relationships and in what I’m doing, I hate the idea of H being thought of badly. I know, I know. It’s the people who would do that who have the problem, not me or H (or A or M, for that matter), but it’s still hard to stomach. I also know that it hasn’t happened yet and I am probably not giving his friends enough credit, either, painting them as some kind of knuckle-dragging medieval ogres (preemptive strike, anyone?).  And yet here I am tying myself up into knots over it just the same.

 

Ah Sleep, I knew you well June 29, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 5:22 pm
Tags: ,

You know what? Running three relationships is tiring. It’s a lot of fun, certainly, and wonderful on levels I’m still discovering, but I’m finding that, in addition to coordinating free time, one has to also consider when exactly that time happens to be. For instance, spending Friday night with partner no. 1, Saturday with no. 2, and then Sunday with no. 3, followed by a catch-up with no. 1 on Monday might sound like a fun (and it is) but it is also exhausting. And no, not just because of what you’re thinking.

It’s the sleeping. Or the lack thereof.

Now, it’s hardly news that everyone sleeps differently, but it’s something most of us know in theory. However, if you’re as light a sleeper as I am, you will soon find that a whole new set of sleeping patterns can be very distracting. Just as I’m about to drift off, A will snuggle or M will sigh or H will shift and I wake right up with ‘whatthehuhwhothewhatwasthat?’ running through my head like a news crawly-thing gone haywire. Generally, a jump like that will wake the other person up as well and you’re both back at square one with regard to sleep. So you settle back down because, hey, you have work and life and stuff to get to in the morning, and juuuust as you’re about to drift off, yup, it happens again. Rinse and repeat until totally sleep deprived.

And yes I’ve included H in there because apparently there’s some sort of recency thing where your brain’s so preoccupied with the new patterns that it blanks on the old pattern. I’m sure it will eventually catch up but I’m guessing not bombarding myself with different sleep patterns every night might be of some help. Because obviously, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be more jumpy. If you’re more jumpy, you’ll be more disturbed. If you’re more disturbed, you won’t sleep, and the merry little cycle will continue.

So take it from someone figuring this stuff out one day at a time, scheduling isn’t as easy as Google Calendar makes it look.

 

Time Management May 19, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 1:31 pm
Tags: ,

If you’ve read other poly blogs, particularly those that seek to explain polyamory and provide support for people looking into it, you’ll notice a few issues that come up fairly consistently. One of these is the very practical issue of time management. It is possible to work through one’s jealousy, one’s insecurities, one’s hang-ups, to acknowledge things one never knew about oneself before embarking into responsible non-monogamy, and to build rewarding relationships as a result. But in order to do all that, what one needs most of all is time.

I thought I got that. I thought I understood that while one may want to get involved with, say, three different people, it is very unlikely that work and leisure schedules will all match up so perfectly that there will be time enough to spend with each individual. I mean, that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? People have lives, after all, and interesting people even more so. Obviously!

I also thought I was a fairly organized individual. I generally know where I’m going to be and what I’m going to be doing on most days in the near future and it’s all fairly consistent. So how hard could scheduling be?

*maniacal laughter*

How hard indeed. My first week and a half of being actively polyamorous involved so much scheduling and planning and re-planning that I was about ready to throw in the towel. Granted I suppose I tried to do too much in too little time, but who knew organizing a simple dinner date could be so fraught? And this without anyone involved being even slightly demanding or inflexible. No, it was the speed at which planners and datebooks were whipped out and compared that threw me. When I explained that I didn’t happen to have a planner but that I thought I was free Thursday, I nearly collapsed under the weight of the pitying glances piled on me.

“No, no, no, child,” said a gorgeous woman in a red corset who kindly took me under her wing. “You need not only a planner for yourself but, a shared one for your partners. Oh and it would help if everyone could see it too. Paper and pen planners are all very well for use when you’re out, but when you get home, be sure to put the information where everyone can see it.”

Everyone else nodded sagely at this advice. “Fine,” said I, “but where do I get hold of such a thing?” In chorus, they responded “Google Calendar“.

And so the wonder of online calendars was revealed to me. With great alacrity, I signed up for an account and proceeded to fill in event after event, watching in delight as my days, weeks, and even months lined themselves up neatly for all (with permission) to see.

But then, in a fit of super-efficiency, I wandered over into ‘settings’ to change my time zone and location. Let me tell anyone contemplating an account to do this FIRST or to just leave it the hell alone. The calendar obligingly adjusted itself to match my current location, which was lovely of it, but instead of moving all my events up, it adjusted for the time zone, meaning I had meetings scheduled for 3am and lunch dates for 11 at night. Cursing under my breath, I set out to re-adjust it. That was a fun half-hour.

But back to proselytizing. I know most other email services (Yahoo! for sure) provide calendars that are quick and easy to use, and though I haven’t tried them out myself, I’m sure they’d have similar features. The sharing/viewing option is what I’d look for, since Red-Corset Lady’s point about these calendars being viewable by all one’s partners is an excellent one. Not only does it help with scheduling, it also assists in keeping things transparent. Remember Pepomint‘s advice: “If you are feeling that cheating feeling, it is time to speak up.”? I think not wanting to put certain dates or events on the calendar because you don’t want a partner to know what you’re up to is a fairly obvious indication that something is amiss, but given the ubiquity and handiness of denial, it is likely that the realization that there’s something not quite right about a situation will escape us until we come up right up against it.

I doubt that the good people at Google intended their nifty application to play Jiminy Cricket to our Pinocchio, but hey, that’s innovative usage for you.

And it’s working fairly well for us. Right now H and I can view each other’s calendars and we’ll see about getting other people on board so that we can schedule stuff more painlessly. I’m looking forward to limiting, if not outright avoiding the amount of time we spend on the ‘Sure I’m free that day. Oh wait I’m not. Oh wait…umm…arrgh….what’s the date again?!’ song and dance. Of course some of us will be viewing more calendars than others and the question of who should have access to whose schedules remains to be addressed, but I’m sure we’ll work something out.

 

Progress May 8, 2008

I have a few draft posts sitting on here but I haven’t had the time to finish any of them because I have of late actively dipped my toes into the poly dating scene. I’ve met some fabulous people who I’m getting to know slowly, most notably a woman who is at the same general point in her life as I am. So far everyone’s getting along fabulously and H will meet them all shortly, which all involved are actually pretty excited about.

H has also pointed out that we will eventually have to ‘come out’ to our friends and family – at least to those we interact with regularly – which is slightly scary. I do want to do it, but it seems a bit soon. While I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin lately – noticeably so, according to H – I feel I need more time to figure out how this whole thing’s going to work before I can start telling people who will ask detailed questions about it. It’s one thing to defend polyamory in an academic setting where nobody wants to know what your actual practice is, but it’s another matter entirely to tell your monogamous spouse’s extremely loving and protective family about it. Part of me thinks that there’s no reason to since one doesn’t usually discuss one’s sexual activity with one’s family, but then this other voice pipes up about the whole ‘relationship’. If I’m in a relationship with someone else, clearly they’re important to me and I’d want to include them in my life. That life involves a husband and a family-in-law that I am very close to and fond of. I know, for instance, that if things go well with a particular woman I’m dating, I’d love her to meet H’s sisters because I think they’d get along great. And I’m not going to ask someone to be in a relationship with me but be treated like a dirty little secret – that strikes me as unfair to her and dishonest of me and isn’t all that different from cheating when you think about it (except in this case it’s the in-laws I’m cheating on!).

But it’s early days yet and there’s lots to explore. More than anything else, this whole experience has resulted in some very involved friendships that, regardless of whether they blossom into something more, I am finding extremely rewarding. Who would have thought I’d be thriving on getting to know people?  That’s the bit that surprises me the most. I can now walk into a bar or a party unaccompanied and make my way around the room fairly smoothly. I’ve never been able to do that before. I make plans and actually suggest things and places and activities. I actually tell people I’d like to see them and I then actually follow through on that regardless of how nervous I am, and it actually works. I talk! To people! In real life! All in all, things are pretty damn good at the moment.

Is it any wonder I can’t stop smiling?