July 11, 2015

The Hardest Part of Happy Poly

Posted in Elisa tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:18 am by Kathleen

I’m finding that the difference between my husband dating a woman I don’t know (which can be nervy for me, I admit, just because of all the unknown), and my husband dating my best friend is… there is so much love to go around. Elisa is enjoying getting to know and care for Michael (and him for her, of course), but she’s also very focused on being respectful of my feelings and boundaries and on making sure that I’m comfortable and still okay with their relationship (I am, hon!) There’s already explicit trust between all of us, and it makes the complications of our poly arrangement that much more worthwhile and the little ups and down that much easier.

Actually, the hardest part of this relationship has to do with how comfortable we are all with each other. Or, more accurately, what that comfort leads to. For example, Elisa was hanging out with Michael the other day when his mom called and said she was in town. Want to do lunch? We’re still pretty poly-closeted, mostly for the comfort and ease of the people around us, so when they went to lunch, it was strictly as (apparent) friends. And my poor mother-in-law was… let us just say confused. Why is Michael spending so much time with my beset friend lately? She’s got her suspicions, I think, and she’s fighting as hard as she can to convince herself that her son would never cheat on his wife. And he wouldn’t. But she’s also not exactly wrong.

Likewise, I just got a text from my next-door neighbor who was trying to find a subtle way to let me know that he’s seen my best friend’s car around the house a lot when I’m not home. It’s natural in our society for people to see a married man and a woman hanging out a lot and assume the worst of those people. I just wish that saying “Yup! They’re dating and it’s great!” wouldn’t make things even more awkward with people around the edges of our life. (Bonus fun: our neighbors across the street are famous all up and down the block for top-of-the-voice fighting about the boyfriend’s cheating ways.)

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April 18, 2015

Why Robin Rinaldi was NOT in an “Open Marriage”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:06 am by Kathleen

The headline makes me wince: “I Slept with 12 Strangers with my Husband’s Permission”, it screams, and I instantly feel that sick twinge in my gut because I just know that this is going to be another story of disastrous monogamy-gone-astray that gets touted as polyamory and, thus, depicts poly as dysfunctional and inherently ruinous to the inexperienced reader.

Sure enough, the article, promoting Rinaldi’s book The Wild Oats Project: One Woman’s Midlife Quest for Passion at Any Cost, goes on to describe a year in which she and her spouse lived separately (while spending weekends together) in order to explore other relationships and, at least in Rinaldi’s case, find her sexual awakening independent of her spouse.

That, my friends, is not poly (or an open marriage), that is an amicable trial separation.

Where they Went Astray
There are very few “thou shalt nots” when it comes to poly; every relationship is different, every couple (or group) handles relationships and rules differently, and every person can (or wants to) handle a different level of information about their partners’ partners.

But some rules, you just don’t break:

Communicate!

  • How to handle it: If you’re unsatisfied, talk to your partner about how the two of you can best meet your needs. Define clear boundaries and expectations, and keep the lines of communication open throughout the process to ensure that the existing relationship doesn’t grow apart.
  • How they handled it: Don’t ask, don’t tell. They established rules, but didn’t communicate when those rules were broken, experienced intimacy with other people without sharing any of that with their spouse, and based on how surprised they were to find themselves two very changed people at the end of the year, probably weren’t communicating/working on their own relationship during their weekends together, either.
  • Mind the Rules

  • How to handle it: Negotiate clear rules with your partner(s) and be mindful of those limitations at all times. Rules are how you protect yourself and your partner(s), and your established relationships. They’re a matter of respect and yes you are cheating if you break them, even if it’s a rule that seems silly to you or that no other poly people you know follow. If you and your partner(s) have agreed that you can only have sex with people in clown suits and that’s no longer working for you, go back to #1 and communicate your changed circumstances.
  • How they handled it: The article mentions two rules: no sex without protection and no emotional intimacy (God, I hate it when people think they can legislate their partner’s feelings!) Robin Rinaldi developed an emotional connection with the man she eventually left her husband for. Oops. Her husband, meanwhile, had a six month affair with a woman (emotional) and allegedly was not using condoms. So much for rules.
  • Respect your Partner(s)

  • How to handle it: Ask your partner what they need. Discuss what needs are not being met, and find respectful, mutually work toward solutions, and be willing to acknowledge when needs are simply un-meetable (for example, a person working full time and going to school full time and sleeping part-time only has so many hours, and “I need to see more of you” isn’t going to work short term; instead, these partners could discuss how things will change in the long term, and exactly when they expect to be able to re-negotiate their circumstances.)
  • How they handled it: Robin handed down an ultimatum (I am GOING to go have sex with people!). Her husband spent six months actively flouting the rules they’d laid down together, and the only one he willingly followed was “keep your mouth shut”. These are not respectful behaviors on either end.
  • I am not hating on Robin Rinaldi!
    Please don’t mistake me; Rinaldi is a grown woman who saw that her needs were not being met within her marriage and took steps to place herself in a situation that was right for her. She had lots of sex (awesome!) and opened up to new aspects of herself, and ultimately seems to have landed in a situation that is more comfortable for her.

    But the way she did it was NOT by having an open marriage. She and her husband physically and emotional separated themselves from their commitment to each other and dated other people while they tried to figure out if their marriage was fixable. It’s not an uncommon end to marriage, and it wasn’t, by outward appearances, a particularly devastating one, but to call it polyamory (or open marriage) is to portray consensual non-monogamy as ruinous and dangerous–a last-ditch, wild-oats patch on an already failing marriage, and one more likely to end that marriage than save it–and that’s not fair to those of us who, with the blessing (not just “permission”) of our partners explore intimacy, love, and yeah, plenty of hot sex with other people.

    Blessings,
    Kathleen

    April 14, 2010

    Poly After Cheating

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 10:44 am by Kathleen

    It seems to me that one of the hardest ways to become poly is an open minded approach to healing after cheating. I don’t mean telling your partner that your cheating was actually poly and trying to get them to go with it, I mean working, as a couple, to make the decision to open your relationship after as big a mistake as infidelity. It requires a lot of trust on the part of the wronged partner, and can be an extremely emotional process, I would imagine.

    For some people, cheating is almost inevitable. I don’t condone it, but I can understand how hard it is for someone who is hardwired for non-monogamy, particularly if they haven’t been taught that there is any alternative. While some of these people invent the wheel for themselves and simply start out dating many people openly (Becky was one of these) many others try to force themselves into the mold of monogamy. Will all of them cheat? Of course not. Will they be happy? Probably not very.

    While some people, myself included, can be happy whether they are poly or not, others will always feel a certain lack in their lives if they try to ignore that part of themselves, much like a gay man trying to fake a straight marriage. If this is you, and you feel driven to cheat, talk to your partner. If you already have cheated, well, talk to your partner. It is not going to be an easy conversation, and maybe not a pretty one. Your relationship may not make it, but if you really do need poly in your life, then a purely monogamous relationship was already doomed anyway.

    Be clear about your need to express love and trust for others in a romantic way, and provide examples, if you can, of what great poly can be like. It can be very hard for someone to process this kind of thing quickly. Back off, give them time to think, and whatever you do, please keep your hands to yourself until the relationship is officially over or your partner agrees to a poly lifestyle. There is nothing worse you could do than to cheat again.

    A poly relationship that starts in this way might start out with a lot of restrictions on the cheater. You might have more checks and balances in place, and it could feel like punishment, but please remember that this is hard for your partner, and that they really are trying to make things work between you. If you accept sometimes difficult restrictions as a direct result of your actions, eventually things will even out and your relationship may make it through intact.

    Poly generally takes a very strong relationship to work. Cheating makes things much harder, but it is possible to successfully open your relationship if you are patient, open minded, and willing to communicate clearly.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    April 4, 2008

    Is Non-Physical Cheating, Cheating?

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:37 am by Kathleen

    What constitutes cheating, anyway?  I came across a wonderful definition a while ago, and I would love to share it here: If you are doing something that you would not tell your spouse (or SO, or multiple SOs) about, then you are probably cheating.  Emotional attachments are just as important as physical ones.

    In fact, it is possible to be poly and to never sleep with anyone other than your primary partner.  Hell, it is possible to be a virginal poly person.  How cool is that?  Poly is about the openness to love multiple people, and has nothing whatsoever to do with sex.

    By the way, I wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful responses yesterday and the warm words of support.  It is sad that I have to stay in the closet to protect my son, but perhaps knowing that, others with fewer attachments or less to lose might have the courage to step forward instead.  And as for those who read this to learn and not because you are poly, well, your support and acceptance is just as important.

    Blessings to all of you,

    Kathleen

    March 17, 2008

    TOW and Affairs

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:45 am by Kathleen

    Being the curious little creature that I am, I decided to do a search for “the other woman” myself to see what I came up with. One of the results was a site called TOW or The Other Women, and is a site that is a support and networking place for women involved in affairs with married men (or the other way around, although I didn’t see many if any men when I was cruising the pages). Sick fascination had me reading things like “does your boyfriend wear his ring when he is with you”, with comments from the “other women” like “I tell him ‘Don’t touch me with that thing!’ He’s been forgetting to take it off lately. One of these days I’m going to throw it out the window!”

    What a sick and twisted little world that seemed to be. I realize that not everyone is cut out for poly and that in most cases if a man asked for extramarital sex, his wife would hit the roof (and probably bounce twice), but to cheat? I swore to myself when I was a wee lass of 13 that I would never cheat, and that if I felt it was necessary, I would end the relationship, and I have stuck to that. But what about the kids, you say, what about the family’s judgment… Well, I’m sorry, but an affair just seems like such a sick and sad thing to me.

    There is enough jealousy and turbulence in life without adding lies to the mix. Yes, knowing that my husband has had sex with another woman is painful at times or difficult, but it would have shredded my heart to know that he had had sex and lied about it. Anyway, a lot of the time I can just feel happy for him that Becky made him happy, and that is a wonderful feeling. There isn’t even a possibility of that in an affair.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    March 5, 2008

    Can Poly People Cheat?

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:42 am by Kathleen

    It might seem like a silly question.  I mean, if you are poly, then there can be no cheating, right?  This is entirely false, and I will show you why.

    When you enter into a poly relationship, you hopefully do so with the consent and the knowledge of all those involved.  When you find a new girlfriend, you do not “forget” to tell her about your wife, nor do you remove your wedding ring when you head to the bar.  For unmarried couples who are getting into poly, these same rules apply.  To do otherwise is deceptive to the person that is kept in the dark.

    Let me make it clear, also, that if you are having sex with other people and your partner does not know… this is not poly, it is cheating.  Trying to dress it up with a legitimate label is false, and it sure won’t save your butt when you get caught.

    That said, it is also important to know that poly relationships differ from each other.  My husband and I are fluid bonded (obviously), but we are not allowed within our relationship to have unprotected sex with other people.  If I were to go enjoy some fellow, everything would be find in our world.  If I did so without a condom, it would be a violation of his trust, and would be considered cheating.  Some couples require that sex only be engaged in when both members of the couple are present with the third (or more).  Some prefer that their partner inform them at least 24 hours before they have a date.  Some require permission before anyone is allowed to enjoy another person physically.

    Whatever the limits of the poly relationship, breaking those limits is a betrayal of trust and, yes, it is cheating.  Some people even cheat on purpose, perhaps seeing the person that they care for but that their primary partner does not approve of.  In poly, trust and respect are very important, and cheating is a devastating betrayal of trust to which even we are not immune.