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

    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

    February 14, 2015

    My Husband is Sleeping with my Best Friend!

    Posted in Elisa tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:13 pm by Kathleen

    …and that’s awesome!

    My word, it’s been a long time since I’ve written here! Partly that’s because Michael and I have been fairly low-key about seeking partners, and partly there was simply too much else on my plate, but there’s been a recent development that’s quickly getting serious.

    Due to some health stuff, my sex drive has been practically nil for a couple of years now, but between knowing he could get his physical needs met elsewhere if necessary and simply being a very wonderfully patient guy, Michael has been fine with it. That’s changing lately, but until very recently, I used to love to joke that it would be highly convenient if he and my high-sex-drive-but-dates-jerks best friend hooked up. After all, they get along great, have interests in common, both like sex (yay!), and she is a person I trust completely.

    At first she was almost horrified; she accepts our choices, but she’s pretty strictly monogamous, herself. Well, until now, she has been. After her last boyfriend turned into Mr. Hyde, she confessed that she was sick of losers and was really hungry for a little physical intimacy with a guy she didn’t have to worry about betraying her. And I told Michael. And he sent her a text. And they started discussing it…

    Elisa is still nervous as hell, but she took the leap, and I’m hopeful that their friendship is going to blossom into something really fucking awesome. In the meantime, I just kissed my hubby a very sexy goodbye and sent him off to my best friend’s bed (footnote, they haven’t had sex yet, but they’ve fooled around and actually slept together), and I am SO okay with that.

    Compersion? Yes! And not a speck of jealousy or ill will. AND I get the whole damn bed to myself tonight. Win-win-win!

    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

    May 28, 2012

    Finally Getting Out There

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:44 pm by Kathleen

    Saturday night was ladies night at a local gay club, and I am finally feeling so ready to meet people…

    My night started a little too early when only a few couples in their fifties were at the club, shortly after opening. I hung out downstairs and chatted with a man I met, instead. He was definitely gay, but I guess a little lonely and he kept buying me drinks. I spent more time than I meant to listening to him talk (even if I tried to talk, he wasn’t really listening back, so I let him chatter). Eventually, I managed to get away. Upstairs was wild by that time, with loud music and women’s bodies moving mostly to the beat on the dance floor. I was tipsy already, so I waded out into the dancers and started to move to the music on my own. It was exhilarating and fun, and soon a woman waved me over and we danced together.

    I’m completely new to clubbing, so there are still things to learn. Like how to gracefully switch partners if you spot someone more your type. I did manage to extract myself from the clutches of two different Very Drunk Older Women by claiming a need for water, but I’d float away if I did that every time I wanted to switch partners. 🙂

    I danced until I was drenched in sweat, and then made my way outside onto the patio for some air. It felt great, and I soon found myself chatting with a trio of friends. The one I was most attracted to was straight (damn!) but soon the two straight women had drawn off into their own conversation to give me room with their friend. She wasn’t what I am normally attracted to, physically, but she was sweet and interesting and had a tattoo very similar to mine, which was intriguing. We chatted and flirted and I explained my home situation to her and she explained about her cheating ex. We ended up kissing, and it was not the best kiss of my life, but it turned me on in a pure, physical way that I have been missing with Michael for a while now. His kisses are affection and comfort and love, but they don’t stoke that fire in me. Hers were pure arousal and it was exciting to find that.

    In the end we exchanged phone numbers, but in the morning light I realized that I was much more interested in her as a friend than as a potential girlfriend, and her self-esteem issues were a HUGE red flag for me. I asked her out for coffee to be polite and to keep from damaging her fragile self further, and she politely shot me down because in the end, she wants monogamy. What a relief!

    Yes, I still have a lot to learn… but it seems like I’m going to have some serious fun learning it.

    Blessings,

    Kathleen

    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 12, 2011

    Unfortunate Tangles

    Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:10 pm by Kathleen

    I have a good friend. I’ve been half in love with him since we met about 7 years ago, but at first I thought it would be a betrayal of Michael to have feelings for someone else, then we were poly but he was still off limits because he was in a relationship for a long time. Finally, recently he became available but I hesitated. I didn’t want to jump in like a vulture before the carcass of his former relationship had so much as cooled (and trust me, if facebook can be believed he had plenty of other she-vultures to contend with!) Then I was not sure if I wanted to risk our friendship or upsetting the group dynamic since he is also close friends with my step-sister and her husband.

    Apparently my step-sister doesn’t feel any of the same compunctions. They were semi-poly in the past (they were more like swingers, in a way. They would pick up a girl together, have threesomes with her for a while, but it was a purely physical thing from what I have observed.) She and her husband have been dealing with some marital discord and neither of them is great at communication… can you see how this is the opposite of what I generally counsel? Yeah, it gets worse.

    Here’s what I have pieced together from the current drama: My step-sister asked for permission to ask our friend out. Her husband, knowing that our friend has a problem with the idea of poly, said yes just so he could throw it in her face when the friend said no. The friend said yes. I would guess that he has had a crush on her for a while, possibly in part because she has been flirting with him for months. (He was also apparently in the midst of a personal breakdown when she made her move, so we can argue vulnerability here, too.) The friend is now in love with her, and still not okay with poly. He is subtly but strongly encouraging her to choose, and since he is calm and loving and her husband is having what might be called a prolonged tantrum, he is hopeful that the choice will be in his favor.

    Part of me hopes that the therapy my step-sis and her husband are in result in some resolution and her breaking things off with our friend… I’ve still got feelings for him, but at the same time I am disgusted by his behavior in this situation. I know my brother-in-law can be a jackass, but no one deserves to have his wife swiped, and my friend has made this clear that that is his “best case scenario”.

    I’m sort of feeling the urge to avoid everyone involved until the inevitable explosion happens and things calm down. GOD I hate drama.

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