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.)

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

    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

    December 8, 2010

    Problems Resolved

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 8:04 pm by Kathleen

    It’s been actually a while since we opened our relationship back up, but I have been so busy I forgot to mention it. It took us about three weeks to resolve a problem that totally rocked me to my core, but our love and friendship remained strong, and my wonderful, supportive husband gave me whatever I needed to work through my problems.

    I’d just like to say publicly that I think I might have the best husband ever. :)

    October 23, 2010

    Stepping Back

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:20 pm by Kathleen

    Michael and I have been going through some hard times lately. Not that we’re looking at a total breakdown of our relationship or anything scary like that, but some stuff (entirely unrelated to poly) has been cropping up and getting in the way. We have had a long talk about it, and I asked for a bit of time to work on our problems without any outside dating. If one of us were already dating things might be a different matter, but since we are both currently not dating, poly is on hold for a while. (I’m personally hoping to resolve things in no more than a month, but you can’t force or predict emotions).

    What does this say about poly in general? I found it easiest to imagine that, for example, Michael had a serious girlfriend, and they were having problems. What would be an appropriate reaction from me? In my mind, I think it would be most reasonable for me to step back and allow him the time and energy that it takes to resolve important emotional issues with the theoretical issues. Poly can’t work with an entirely selfish mindset. Does our primary relationship take precedence? Probably, but that doesn’t mean that outside relationships are unimportant, and sometimes as primary I have to be flexible.

    If you are in a primary relationship and trying to get into poly, there are two outcomes you can expect. It will make all of the cracks in your relationship gap wide for you to see, and the two outcomes possible from this are solving those core problems, or dissolving the relationship. Right now we have found a new crack in our marriage, and we are taking the time and stepping back from outside stressors so that we can fix what is wrong. It’s one of the things that I love about poly, actually.

    March 13, 2010

    Lizzie’s Brand of Selfishness

    Posted in Matt tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:30 pm by Kathleen

    Matt’s wife Lizzie is selfish. There isn’t a question about it, it is just who she is. Because of my experiences with Becky as well as some older childhood programming, I have very, very negative feelings toward selfish people. Matt thinks that this is undeserved, and that I need to rethink my feelings on selfishness. The thing is, I see a vast difference between being selfish enough to care for yourself, which is healthy, and a refusal to put anyone else first except perhaps in the most extreme circumstances, which is, in my opinion, not.  Lizzie falls into the latter category.

    I don’t want to blanket insult her, and I know that even the mildest of factual statements about some of Becky’s behavior was commented upon quite negatively, which I totally understand. Still, please know that while she doesn’t read this blog, I know what is said here, and I have to make nice with this woman as much as possible. This is as much for my understanding as anything, and a need to get it out and express my feelings on the situation. So, in short, no Lizzie-bashing in the comments, please, my dears. Thank you.

    I may go into their history later, but for now, just the recent stuff will do. About a year ago, Matt and Lizzie decided that they would be poly. They had poly friends to show them the way, and Lizzie had a big crush on one of these poly friends. This friend dated Lizzie for a few months, I believe, and enjoying a sexual relationship, she decided that she was deliriously in love with him. When she told him so, he said it was unfair to continue a relationship in which he couldn’t feel the same. In short, he dumped her because she wanted more than sex. I knew he was a jerk from the start and wasn’t surprised (he was also juggling two girlfriends with rocky relationships at the same time), but it was never my place to interfere. While the two of them were still cozy, however, I met Matt for the first time after chatting online for a while. We had a nice chat, along with their one year old baby, and he decided to bring me back to the family owned store to say ‘hello’ before I went home. Please note, this was not a date. Upon entering the store, I was hit with a backlash of violently negative energy from Lizzie. She was jealous and territorial both with the store and with Matt, and after glaring at me, ignored me until I decided to leave.

    Matt and I didn’t meet again in person until recently,  however we continued to be friends through chats and emails. I had decided that because of his wife, I would not date him. I tend toward being low drama, and that was quite enough for me.

    In the mean time, Lizzie had a brief sexual fling with an old college boyfriend, then hooked up with an old high school boyfriend, entering very quickly into sex and talk of love, and practically moving him in for half the week after only a few months of dating. I don’t know much about the guy except that Matt likes and respects him, so that is good enough for me. Again, NONE of my business. Throughout this year of dating exploits on Lizzie’s part, Matt developed emotional attachments to several women, none of whom worked out as a girlfriend. He did push the limits of their agreements once, and sexted with a woman, which caused a backlash with his wife later. Other than that, he was a perfect monk, but Lizzie claims not to trust him emotionally, manages his relationships, and has done her best so far to make our own budding relationship difficult at best.

    I could almost understand this behavior, if not sympathize, except that Lizzie is not precisely keeping Matt for herself, either. Why do I say this? I know from him that she rarely agrees to have sex with him, despite a raging sex life with her boyfriend even in the same house while Matt is in another room. He does very well not taking this out on Boyfriend, but he feels deprived, and since I care about him, that upsets me. In my experience, she takes advantage of him for babysitting, especially when she wants to be alone with Boyfriend, but forces him to beg and negotiate to get time to come visit with his current love interest (me). I’ve seen him exactly once this year, and that was on a “friendship” basis. We’ll be seeing each other again in a few days on a dating basis, and let me tell you, it was a hard road to get there.

    First, Lizzie demanded that we slow down because she can’t trust him. I pointed out to him that we have been perfectly well behaved over the last year, have had opportunities and desire to push the limits and did not, and that he has made only one indiscretion, which was not even explicitly forbidden at the time, and has been proving himself ever since to apparently no avail. I also pointed out that when we first met he was raring to date me, and I slowed things down because I realized his motives were not ideal (he wanted things to be “fair” – Lizzie was dating, so he wanted to, also). What more, I asked, do we have to do to prove ourselves, and what has she done to prove herself after falling into bed with three men other than her husband in the space of a single year?

    He spoke with her and came back to me with a tentative agreement that we could date. Eventually. But first we should meet as friends a few more times just to be sure of our chemistry. I flat refused, telling him that my own husband does not stretch to manage my relationships in that way, and that it was up to us to decide if we had chemistry and when to act on it. I refused to have my hand held by his wife. He sheepishly agreed and stated that it made him angry to hear me accuse him of being “managed”, but agreed that it was indeed the case. He went back for more talking.

    I won’t go through all the details or hoops – this post is already too long – but suffice it to say, many conversations and delays later, and we have freedom to make our own relationship decisions independent of his wife, and one date planned for next week. One that I am very much looking forward to. It seems I got drawn in despite the selfishness and drama.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    March 11, 2010

    A Reawakening

    Posted in Matt tagged , , , , , , , , at 6:49 pm by Kathleen

    Michael and I settled into a pretty long period of, if not monogamy, at least not active polyamory. Sure, we kept our minds open, but nothing exactly fell into our laps, and we were both content to leave things as they were. We’re quite happy together, and we do keep busy.

    Of course, things don’t always STAY quiet! A couple of months ago, I met up with a friend of mine for coffee. This friend is a guy, and he is poly. In fact, I met him for the first time over a year ago with the intention of seeing if we would be compatible for dating. I liked him quite a bit, but he and his wife had very recently started to explore poly. She had a boyfriend, and I could tell that he was very eager to get his share much more than actually ready to date. I told him that I would very much love to be his friend, and we backed off. We didn’t actually meet in person again until pretty recently, but kept up with regular emails and chats over the year.

    A couple of months ago, Matt and I decided to catch up in person, and got together. He is much more self-aware now and has a better handle on poly, and the chemistry was very strong. We kept things friendly and avoided touching except to hug hello and goodbye because of his limits, but it was very hard for both of us not to kiss goodnight.

    Fast forward a couple of months and a TON of negotiation, which I will go into later, and we have decided to date. Our first official date is next week, and I really could not be more excited by this. He is a wonderful man, and very smart and fun. He is respectful of both me and my husband, and very willing to listen. And he likes that I am blunt, which is always a big plus.

    I guess you can look forward to some stories about us, and possibly about my processing with his wife, Lizzy, who seems to be on the selfish side and reluctant to let him date anyone, much less a woman a decade and a half younger than her. It will be a process. :)
    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    April 6, 2009

    Wonderful Questions

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 6:55 am by Kathleen

    This is an old question, but I recently ran across it and decided to answer.

    Kathleen the poly experience seems to be more than just about deep and intimiate trust because I’m sure that other married people would agrue (and I’m sure you’d agree) that couples can share a deep and intimiate trust without poly.

    You may not have the answer to the following question because sometimes feelings can’t be explained, but besides the deep and intimate trust aspect what drew you to poly?

    And for those who are married and not in a poly relationship what activities do you participate in to achieve deep and intimate trust?

    One thing that I find interesting about Kathleen is that she is actively seeking ways to improve upon her relationship. That’s a rare quality in any couple, poly or not. Or do those of you in a traditional marriage disagree with that assessment?

    As usual, Auria has presented some wonderful questions, not just for me but for the rest of my readers as well.  Please do respond!!

    I was drawn to poly out of a desire to see my husband happy.  The initial foray into a threesome was more like swinging, or at least it was supposed to be.  Michael didn’t like the idea because he didn’t care for the idea of casual sex, but the emotional masochist in me still wanted to see what would happen if I set us on this course.  It was a combination of that (emotional masochism) and a serious desire to both understand and hopefully better myself that got us started.  It was a desire to enjoy watching Michael enjoy himself (and Becky) that allowed me to come to the decision to encourage it gracefully, and it is the wonderful feeling of trust as well as the feeling that I don’t EVER have to hide, pretend, or restrict myself when it comes to love that keeps this whole thing going for me and for us,  I think.

    Thank you, Auria!

    ~Kathleen

    June 17, 2008

    A Wonderful Question

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 3:17 pm by Kathleen

    Kathleen the poly experience seems to be more than just about deep and intimiate trust because I’m sure that other married people would agrue (and I’m sure you’d agree) that couples can share a deep and intimiate trust without poly.

    You may not have the answer to the following question because sometimes feelings can’t be explained, but besides the deep and intimiate trust aspect what drew you to poly?

    And for those who are married and not in a poly relationship what activities do you participate in to achieve deep and intimiate trust?

    One thing that I find interesting about Kathleen is that she is actively seeking ways to improve upon her relationship. That’s a rare quality in any couple, poly or not. Or do those of you in a traditional marriage disagree with that assessment?

    As usual, Auria has presented some wonderful questions, not just for me but for the rest of my readers as well. Please do respond!! I was drawn to poly out of a desire to see my husband happy. The initial foray into a threesome was more like swinging, or at least it was supposed to be. Michael didn’t like the idea because he didn’t care for the idea of casual sex, but the emotional masochist in me still wanted to see what would happen if I set us on this course. It was a combination of that (emotional masochism) and a serious desire to both understand and hopefully better myself that got us started. It was a desire to enjoy watching Michael enjoy himself (and Becky) that allowed me to come to the decision to encourage it gracefully, and it is the wonderful feeling of trust as well as the feeling that I don’t EVER have to hide, pretend, or restrict myself when it comes to love that keeps this whole thing going for me and for us, I think.

    Thank you, Auria!

    ~Kathleen

    June 14, 2008

    Marriage

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 3:41 pm by Kathleen

    In this post I am referencing a comment that was made in a conversation in the “Sex” post, so if you have not read those comments, please go back and do – this will probable make much more sense that way!

    Adrienne writes:
    Well yes, again, I can certainly see “less than great sex” being a deal breaker for monogamous couples. But then, that’s one of the beauties about poly huh, not having to rely on one partner to meet all of our needs. I’ve often heard monogamous people talk about “settling” (or not settling) for that less that perfect partner–but with polyamory, I think it’s perhaps a bit easier to just allow people to be who they are and to let the relationship evolve naturally, not having to set one’s sights so much on whether this person is suitable for marriage for not. I realize that poly people are still out there looking for the perfect primary but still, the less than perfect partner doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.

    We are coming from very different directions on this topic.

    There are two kinds of “settle” that I think of when I think of marriage.  One is settling for less than you deserve.  That’s a bad thing, I think.  ((PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS BLOG AS A WHOLE IS JUST MY OPINION)).  The other kind of settle that I think of is settling down with someone.  Some people just are not made for “settling down”.  I am.  Some of the most important parts of growing up, for me, were getting married and having kids.  Not because I felt that I have to, but because it was and is absolutely what I wanted.

    Poly can mean just about anything, from a “fi” triad to a “single” person who has a different playmate for every day of the month.  IN MY LIFE, the most important thing for me is my husband, followed quickly by my family, which includes our son.  NO ONE ELSE will be making babies with either of us.  NO ONE ELSE will be replacing sex for either of us (for example, I would never go out and find a guy to sleep with and stop sleeping with Michael), and NO ONE ELSE, that I can imagine, will ever have the same place and importance in our lives that the other does.

    From your point of view, sex is no big deal.  I can’t sleep with A, fine, I’ll just sleep with B.  But poly is not the core of my life.  Poly is a small part of my life, and my family, especially my husband, is at the core.  If I was a poly person who happened to be married, then things might be different.  As things stand, I am a married woman who happens to be poly; sex with my husband is extremely important because HE is extremely important.

    A less than perfect partner would not be a deal breaker.  A less than perfect husband would be. Luckily, I found the perfect man for me.
    Blessings and Thanks!

    ~Kathleen

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