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

    March 9, 2015

    Is This a Date?

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 2:13 pm by Kathleen

    One of the fun things about poly is that it opens up the definition of the word relationship. Not that it isn’t broad already! I have a relationship with my mom, one with my brother, ones with colleagues and acquaintances, and they’re all very different beings and mean different things! But what about my… personal life? What about Relationships with a capital ‘R’? That’s pretty cut and dried, right? What about a one night stand? Is that a relationship? What if you’ve got a fuck buddy that you don’t interact with in any other way except when you’re horny? Does that qualify? What about a group of friends who all “mess around” with each other? Are those friendships or relationships? Are they both? Does it matter?

    A friend of mine, who is also poly, recently told me about a friend of hers. They’re dating, but my friend is the only one who knows that. Once a week they go out for dinner and a movie, great conversation, and joyful companionship. He’d tell you that they’re friends who just enjoy hanging out alone together. She enjoys what she considers dates, is perfectly happy with the relationship exactly how it is, and would cheerfully murder anyone who clued her (friend? boyfriend? date buddy?) in and maybe ruined it.

    Can you really be dating someone and only one person knows about it? It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately, along with questions of consent, ethics, and how relationships and attachments get defined, by whom, and whether they truly have to match. If I am getting what I want and need out of interactions with another person, does it matter if they define our relationship the same way that I do?

    The difference, for me, is in the effects it has. If I was in my friends position and that guy was single, then I’d date away without a worry in the world. But if he was in a relationship already, then my feelings about our dates might matter to his other partner, and that is a secret that I just wouldn’t feel right keeping, even if it cost me my relationship or forced me to redefine it. Which is why, when I recently found myself in a similar situation, I decided that I had to come clean. It remains to be seen whether things will have to change, but I’m glad I didn’t continue to behave in a way that feels sneaky to me.

    Life is complicated, but fortunately it’s beautiful, too. I hope your complications are glorious, and worth every twist and turn!

    Blessings,
    Kathleen

    June 3, 2012

    Defining Relationships

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:19 pm by Kathleen

    I love my husband. But we don’t have sex. And if I don’t have sex with him, and we sleep in different rooms, then how are we different from roommates? And if we’re “just” roommates, then what significance can our relationship really have for us?

    I know this is sort of non-sensical, but it’s some of the stuff that’s been knocking around in my skull lately, and it’s really throwing me off balance, so let’s get it all out, shall we?

    What I’m really questioning, deep in my psyche, is what our relationship is, and how sex or lack of sex may have redefined it. After all, normal married couples have sex, so if we don’t, does that make us less married? Less in love? Less able to care for each other. Of course not, but my fears are the ones in the driver’s seat right now emotionally, so I’m trying to squish them. And that’s where defining relationships comes in.

    For example, my  brother and I share an undeniable bond. We hated each other growing up, but once I moved out things changed radically. We’ve become allies, friends, and companions, and although we disagree sometimes, argue, and get frustrated with one another, I’m still driving something like 14 hours with him to help him move out of state. Because I love him and he loves me, and we are Sibling. So what is sibling? It isn’t just about growing up together, because I know plenty of siblings who don’t have a special bond or even much of a bond at all. It was a decision that we both reached pretty much simultaneously around the time we came of age. I’ve got your back.

    And maybe it really is that easy. Michael has my back, too. We don’t just live in the same house, we’re there for each other, and there’s an understanding, both stated and quietly understood, that we always will be. Like my brother and I, Michael and I have made a decision. I love you. You love me. I’ve got your back.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    June 1, 2012

    A Call for Submissions – Alternate Reality Erotica

    Posted in Call for Submissions tagged , , , , , at 9:42 pm by Kathleen

    Okay, community, I challenge YOU! Send me an amazing alternate reality story… and make it poly friendly!

    Like a Trip Through the Mirror: Alternate Reality Erotica
    Deadline:July 15, 2012

    Ever wondered what’s on the other side of the mirror? From Alice stepping through the looking glass to Mirror Universes, exploring other versions of reality can show us the weird, the wonderful, and the strange twists on the things most familiar to us, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality. Step through the right dimensional door, and there is a universe where your particular kink is commonplace or your ex-lover finds you irresistible. Do you know someone who has created a fantasy world, where she has her own harem of sexy studs? Let’s hear all about it! We want to see accidents of magic and fate that lead us to a sexy new world, experiments in physics that open new doors to places with erotic potential, and technology that takes us into worlds of our secret imaginations. Anything that takes us outside reality as we know it is fair game as long as it turns us on!

    All sexualities and gender expressions are welcomed.

    LIKE A TRIP THROUGH THE MIRROR will be edited by Kathleen Tudor.

    For more details on how to submit, keep reading:

    Length: Our preferred length is approximately 3500 to 7500 words, but we will consider the range from 2000 to 10,000 words.

    How to Submit: All submissions must be made via email to Kathleen Tudor, editor, at the following address: polykathleen@gmail.com

    Submissions sent to other addresses/other editors at Circlet Press will not be considered. Standard manuscript formatting rules apply even though sending as an attachment (MS Word .doc or .rtf preferred). Please note that this means your name, address, and email contact must appear on the manuscript itself and not simply in your email message. (If you’re not sure what standard short story submission format should look like, Google is your friend.)

    No simultaneous submissions (that is, don’t also send your story elsewhere at the same time, and don’t send it to multiple Circlet editors, either), and no multiple submissions to the same book. One story per author per anthology, thanks.

    All stories must include explicit sexuality and erotic focus. Romantic content is welcome, but in a short story remember to keep the details on the action and its effects on the main character’s internal point of view. We favor a strong, singular narrative voice (no ‘head hopping’). For more details on our editorial preferences, see the general submission guidelines on circlet.com. We highly recommend reading the guidelines, especially the “do not send” list, to increase your chances of sending us something we’ll love. Try to avoid cliches. Fresh and direct language is preferred to overly euphemistic. Sex-positive, please, no rape/nonconsensuality/necrophilia or other purposefully gross topics. We do not publish horror.

    Originals only, no reprints. We purchase first rights for inclusion in the ebook anthology for $25, with the additional rights to a print edition later which would also be paid $25 if a print edition happens. Authors retain the rights to the individual stories; Circlet exercises rights to the anthology as a whole.

    May 24, 2012

    I’m Not Watching Her Kid!

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:57 pm by Kathleen

    Michael has been chatting with a nice young lady (she’s a year younger than me, so I think I can officially call her that) on a dating site, and the time has come… They’re going to meet! It has, you may have noticed, been a LONG time since either of us has dated any, so this was a sort of big deal and I am getting emotionally used to the idea, again, of sharing him. Their first meeting is to be a get-to-know you while our kid (4) and hers (5) play together, no hanky-panky.

    And suddenly it occurs to me what a convenient solution that might be for them – let Kathleen watch the kids, after all, they play great together! And we’ll go have a romantic dinner. My first, intense, knee-jerk, nut kicking reaction is “OMG NO!” And this before the idea has even been conceived of by anyone but me. Pretty intense, but upon further inspection, not unreasonable. (And before I get too much farther into this post I just want to say, I’m not saying I’d never watch her kid, but it would have to be after I had gotten to know and like HER, and after she and her child were an established and steady part of our lives.)

    The thing is, when Michael and Becky were dating, I was a facilitator. My needs became secondary as I smoothed the road and made sure that all obstacles to their togetherness were removed where possible, despite the fact that this was neither my responsibility nor my role (or should not have been). Becky, who claimed all the “poly experience” should have known better and asked me to back off, but that is neither here nor there. The fact is, babysitting a kid I barely know so that my husband can go have a romantic evening with a woman I barely know… It’s wonderfully convenient for them, but unless she’s paying me $10 an hour, it’s definitely putting my needs and wants below the establishment and growth of their relationship.

    Logically, we have kids the same age and if I’m watching one kid, why not two? But emotions are a very different matter, as are perceptions (I don’t exactly want my husband’s new girlfriend to see me as the nanny or the pushover or the person to use for her convenience!) And for that reason, unless she becomes a serious partner of Michael’s and unless she and I (and her KID and I! And her kid and MY kid!) get along, she’s just going to have to call a sitter.

    Heck, logically we should all just live with our parents for the rest of our lives and save the money on rent, but sometimes you just have to think of yourself. :)

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    February 10, 2012

    Lesbian Married to a Straight Man

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:14 am by Kathleen

    My husband and I have a great relationship. We’re best friends, we talk about everything and communicate freely, and over the past decade we’ve grown to be a part of one another as integral as an arm or a leg. I can’t imagine what life would be like without him.

    So it was uncomfortable and scary when we sat down and he told me that he didn’t think we should have sex anymore. Let me back up a little: we used to have sex a LOT. This was tied to my personal insecurities. On a subconscious level, the more we did it, the more he was tied to me. So I was always ready to go. But as I got past a lot of my issues and he helped me break through barriers in my heart and mind, beating back depression and self esteem issues and building me up as a whole person along the way… that drive for sex diminished until, over the last few years, it has vanished entirely. I am just not interested in sex, at all. I’ve tried “fake it until you make it”, but although I don’t find intercourse repulsive, I also don’t find it rewarding, even when I reach the, uh, pinnacle of the event. I keep a mental note of when we last did it so I know to give in to advances if it’s been more than a week or so, and, well, it was sort of getting transactional and icky for both of us.

    So Michael sat me down and told me that he was frustrated and hurt with feeling like he was obliged to make the moves on me, but getting turned away more often than not, and I really can’t fault him for that. He said that if he isn’t being rebuffed, that we just go on the assumption that there is no sex, that’s something he could live with. We talked it out, I cried and felt like a horrible wife, and we decided to give it a trial run for the month of February. And then he closed with something that shocked me: “I’m like 90% sure you’re a lesbian, anyway.”

    I don’t know why that should shock me. I know I like sex with women, I do NOT like sex with my amazing husband, even when it fulfills me physically, and the idea of other guys’ penises (peni?) just squicks me out something awful. I was once playing with a male sub and got precum on my hand, and had to do the “YUCKYYUCKYYUCKY” dance while his back was turned because I was so grossed out. Hell, I even SAY, on a regular basis, “I am a lesbian and Michael is an exception. ”

    So, yeah, the lesbian thing probably shouldn’t have shocked me. But it did… because even though I joke about it, I have never really accepted that I am anything but bi. After all, if I’m gay, then I’m the ultimate failure as a wife, right? And if there’s no sex, there’s no marriage, right? Michael is currently helping me to prove both of those things wrong this month. There has actually been MORE intimacy with us because I am not afraid anymore that if I snuggle him or kiss him or even do a little flirty groping I will have to put out. And so far he says he is happy with our arrangement, even without intercourse.

    It’s going to be a long road to figuring things out, but I think I can say with pretty good certainty that I am indeed a lesbian (in a SUPER confusing situation!) And I’m married, quite happily, to my straight male husband. Life is interesting. Life is good.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    August 11, 2011

    Haven’t stopped shaking yet…

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 3:08 pm by Kathleen

    Whew! Just took a risk and even though it didn’t pay off, it wasn’t so bad. Yesterday I briefly met a young woman, around my age, gorgeous, friendly, and possibly flirting with me. And then I left. I was very tired and didn’t think until after that she might have been not-straight (I have a habit of presuming that every woman is straight until proven otherwise).

    I happened, coincidentally, to have a way to probably reach her. So I tried it. I called today, and said “this may sound crazy, but were you maybe flirting with me?” She sounded shocked, a little pleased, and very amused, but the answer was no.

    And guess what? I didn’t get stabbed through the heart. I didn’t lose any fingers or toes, and no matter how scary it was, it wasn’t painful at all, even when my gamble didn’t pay off.

    So maybe next time you see that perfect guy or gal, and you’re too scared to take the risk… ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen, and then ask yourself what’s the best? Maybe going out on a limb could really be worth it.

    May 9, 2011

    Sometimes…

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

    Sometimes poly is beautiful and wonderful and almost perfect.

    Other times the guy you’ve had a crush on for almost a decade starts dating your step-sister… whose husband gave permission, but is, in fact, not okay with it.

    More later… :P

    March 29, 2011

    Insecurities are all about YOU

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:35 am by Kathleen

    If you are experiencing jealousy, there is a pretty good chance that it is an unfounded jealousy (if your partner is threatening to leave you, well, your jealousy is founded for sure, but you have bigger problems.) Jealousy is a sneaky and harmful emotion if you let it start to take over, and it can harm your relationships as well as both your and your partner’s happiness. But don’t look to your partner to make it go away (although maybe he or she can help). Your insecurity is the root of your jealousy, and that is something you have to examine and deal with on your own.

    So how do you deal with it? When you feel jealousy, you are feeling your insecurities made manifest. You are, in essence, afraid that you may lose your partner to this other person because… why? In what way are they “better” than you? It’s time to step back as far as you can and objectively (I know it’s hard) look at what you think is so much better than you are. If you can do this yourself (“I’m afraid he’s more handsome, but we’re both good looking guys.”), cool. If you can’t, it’s time to involve your partner, not to bolster your self-esteem but to help you sort through what the new person may have/do better, what your own merits are over said person, and why these things are important to your partner.

    The rest is all processing, I’m afraid. You have to examine your self-esteem flaws to death. You have to hold on to your trust of your partner, even when you feel like it’s killing you. Because in the end, the only one who can banish your jealousy and insecurity is… you.

    March 23, 2011

    Polyamory and Guilt

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 8:35 am by Kathleen

    PolyAnna had a great post last week about the various kinds of guilt that many poly people experience.  They were in-the-closet guilt, unfairness guilt, and if I understood her correctly, just plain guilt about being poly.

    The first kind is pretty easy to understand. You might feel that you are unfair to an OSO if you aren’t out at work and can therefore only bring/talk about the known spouse/partner at work functions. You might feel some of the same guilt at family functions if you are not out to everyone. And on the other side of the coin, you might feel guilt for not telling friends or family, particularly if the secrecy is to protect one of your partners when you might otherwise be “out”.

    The second kind stems from the fact that poly is just rarely fair. You might both WANT to find new partners at once, for example, but that doesn’t usually happen the way that you hope. And while you are out enjoying yourself and basking in the heady cologne of NRE, your partner is sitting at home. Alone. Maybe miserable or at least lonely. This isn’t always the case, but it is certainly a source of guilt.

    The last type seemed a lot like the second to me, but I think it was more of a “time spent” guilt. For example… If I weren’t poly I would spend more time with my kids. Or maybe “if I weren’t poly I bet I would be a better husband.” But for some people, poly is just a part of who you are. You aren’t cheating or trying to be unfair… This type of guilt, I think, is almost entirely societal.

    Guilt can be helpful up to a point in that it can force us to take a look at our actions and whether they are truly warranted or whether they are really the best option. Once you have determined that you are doing the best you can, communication with your partners about your guilt and wanting to let it go might be the first step toward relaxing guilt’s hold on you.

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