Valentine’s Nightmare

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Every year Valentine’s Day looms; that pain-in-the-ass day where you feel obligated to honor all of your intimate relationships. Yuck.

Personally, I am much more interested in buying gifts for people when the mood strikes me (if I see something they would like.) And yet, if you don’t get a gift for your significant others on Valentine’s Day then you are an asshole. Also, it has to be a gift they would like; not something that you want (Example: Do not get your girlfriend lingerie and then ask her to wear for you unless she asked for it.)

If you are monogamous, then you really only have to worry about one person, so that is a relief. In this way, you can stress about Valentine’s Day like a vanilla person, with only the concerns of what to get and where to go. It’s still uncomfortable pressure on what might otherwise be a comfortable relationship. But at least you only have the one person to concern yourself with.

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If you are Poly, then you either put a lot of thought into planning something special for everyone you are dating, …or you are me.

Normally I am pretty good at this stuff. I have been poly for a long time, and I know that I need to make sure that everyone feels valued on important days. But sometimes (like right now) I am a little overwhelmed and it all falls apart.

The story goes like this: I just got back from Australia and I am still recovering from the trip. I won’t bore you with the details, but I am not as young as I used to be and I have medical issues that make traveling hard. So, I needed to catch up on doctor’s appointments and sleep.

I bought my husband a card and some chocolates and I thought “that should be fine.” After all, the rest of my relationships are long-distance right now, so what are the odds they will want to exchange gifts? I guess I knew in the back of my mind that I was lying to myself, but it felt so good to choose the option that didn’t involve getting out of bed, so I did…

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Then a very sweet card arrived from one of my guys in the US, with a gift card inside.

Fuck.

So of course, I panicked like the basket-case that I am at the moment.

I jumped on Amazon.com and send him a gift that is probably over-the-top because I feel guilty. Then I grabbed my address book and picked out a book for the other guy I am in a relationship with as well (just in case he got me something.)

Then, sitting by myself on my floor having just spent $100 on amazon, I wondered if I am also expected to call.

Probably.

On the day, or the weekend before?

I have no idea.

Le Sigh.

And this is just the distress of a person who is casually dating people who she is geographically separated from. When we all lived in the same place, it was much more complicated. Who gets Valentine’s Day night? My primary? Or since they get me all the time, is that not fair? What if my primary says they don’t care about Valentine’s Day and so I make other plans, but then they realize last minute that they do care?

This is different for poly people who don’t have separate relationships. Sometimes a couple dates another person as a unicorn and they can all spend Valentine’s Day together. Sometimes two people are dating two other people and each other, and they can just double-date. There are lots of situations that can work out to be less complicated, depending.

Mine just isn’t currently one of them.

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Anyway, you can tell I hate Valentine’s Day. It is, and always has been, my least favorite holiday. It’s full of pressure to have the perfect dinner, the perfect scene, and the perfect sex. Not to mention the pressure on Poly folks to decide who you see on the day, and who gets a day that isn’t really Valentine’s Day but you can pretend.

You can say that I am just contrary, (since if you know me, you know I also hate Christmas.) But I would argue that I have very good reasons to dislike the holidays that I dislike, and that I make up for it by loving Halloween five or six times more than normal.

Anyway, I hope you all have a good Valentine’s Day. Spend it with people you love and don’t let the societal pressures and expectations bum you out!

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A Unexpected Conversation

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Part of my month-long vacation this summer involved going to see some old friends from college. After some adventures, we ended up sitting at a Denny’s late into the night and talking about “how we really are.” When the girls found out that I was in a poly-amorous relationship, they immediately unleashed a torrent of jealously at me.

I should note, these are not kinky girls. They are what I would consider to be pretty vanilla and normal (all things considered.)

And yet, when I mentioned that my husband and I occasionally slept with other people, they were overcome with wonder and asked me how I managed to convince him to allow such a thing.

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Now of course, that is just silly. I didn’t have to “convince” him and he doesn’t “allow” it. It is just who he was when I met him. It is also how I am, and so it worked out nicely for us.

At that Denny’s at 3am, the more the girls described their experiences with their husbands, the more I became convinced that being poly is an orientation. My college friends are hard-wired like me, to want multiple partners. And unfortunately, their husbands are not.

This made me curious how common it is in each sex, and so I did a bunch of digging. It doesn’t seem that the topic has been studied yet, so if you know a social scientist looking for a thesis idea, please suggest it to them. In the meantime, my anecdotal evidence will lead me to suspect that it is more common in females.

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If being poly truly is an orientation (as many have suggested,) then I guess that means it’s something you can’t talk a partner into if you want the relationship to last. You either have to find someone who is, or become comfortable with being monogamous. At least, that is how it would seem to be.

It’s funny because when I first realized I was poly, I suspected that everyone was like me, but they were all pretending not to be. I held on to that belief for a long time, and used to get annoyed when people told me that they just couldn’t imagine it. I would blame their religion or their upbringing, and imagine that they were being held back from something they really wanted deep down.

However, after years of running workshops and counseling people on everything to do with sex, I am convinced that some people really aren’t into sleeping around. They just want one human to call their own, and consider that to be enough. I think that is really just how some people are.

Thank all the gods both living and dead that I found a mate who wasn’t monogamous.

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Orientation Series: Poly vs Mono

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So far, we have talked about Kink Orientation and Gender Orientation. These are things that occur on a spectrum, where there are rarely absolutes.

In my experience, being polyamorous or monogamous is also an orientation. And, like other orientations, it is on a spectrum.

You might say: How can that be? You either sleep around or you don’t, right? However as always, the world is full of all kinds of nuance.

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Example One: Katie is only interested in sleeping with her boyfriend. She doesn’t like to date, and she doesn’t want to have sex very often. This is not a reflection on who she is with. She just has a low libido. However, she knows that her boyfriend loves her and she is not insecure, so she doesn’t mind that he sometimes sleeps with other girls. He always tells her about it, and he never brings them home. This makes it easy for Katie to feel comfortable with dating a polyamorous person even though she is monogamous. She is monogamous but open.

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Example Two: Sidra really loves her husband. He is her favorite person and she cannot ever imagine her life without him. She doesn’t want anyone else to be in their home, and she doesn’t want anyone else raising their daughter. She is happy with everything about their life. However, she loves the feelings of falling in love. She loves the feeling of people finding her attractive. She has a high libido and really wants to have sex with the attractive men who flirt with her. Her husband only has eyes for her, and he is fiercely in love with her, though his sex drive is low. Thankfully, he understands that she has needs. He may not want to sleep around, but he doesn’t mind of she does. She is respectful and never brings the men home where her family might have to meet them, and at her husband’s request she doesn’t talk about what she does. They refer to it as her going on a “mini-vacation.”

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Example Three: Jack is bisexual. He is married to Jill, whom he adores. However, she is a girl, and he is bisexual. Thankfully, Jill is bisexual as well. She understands that sometimes Jack needs to be with a man. After all, sometimes she needs to be with a girl. Jack and Jill both occasionally date. They only date same-sex partners, though. It would hurt Jill’s feelings if Jack slept with another woman. And, it would hurt Jack’s feelings if Jill slept with another man. They know that some bisexual people are monogamous and choose a partner of one sex or the other and just settle down and be happy. Neither of them are able to do that, but that is okay because they are consenting adults who are happy with their non-traditional arrangement. They tell each other about their experiences with same-sex partners, and they both actually think it’s a really big turn on.

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Example Four: I am pansexual, which means that I like to have all kind of sex. Threesomes, orgies, exhibitionism, kink, whatever. I have sex with men, women, transsexuals, and virgins who have no idea what they are yet. My husband is also pansexual and doesn’t really seem to care what experience he is having as long as it is new. We have lots of sex with each other. But, we also have sex with lots of other people. Sometimes together, sometimes separately. We tell each other about it, because we both enjoy imagining each other with other people (or watching each other with other people.) Last summer he had sex with my friend, who is very straight and not interested in a girl seeing her naked. I was disappointed that she didn’t want me to be involved, but I didn’t want to deny him the experience. So, they had sex a couple nights in a row, and I hung out online. Sure, I was a little jealous. But we both have moments when we are jealous, and we recognize and manage our jealousy because we don’t want to deny each other new and exciting experiences.

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These are just a few examples of different ways in which people can be varying degrees of polyamorous or monogamous. Just remember that the key is always consent. You need to be honest with your partner about what you are comfortable with, and then make sure that they are someone respectful enough to stay within your boundaries.

Remember, it’s not cheating with consent. As long as you have consent and are respectful of boundaries, then its just good fun.

Note: I still haven’t figured out how to do Valentine’s Day, so if any of you have suggestions, feel free to let me know.

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Bad Relationship Advice

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I guess it turns out that I can’t give vanilla relationship advice. I see everyone as kinky/poly because it’s how I am. I am prejudiced.

My cousin was here and she was talking wistfully about how she loves falling in love, and about how she’s never been in a relationship as long as her current one. She sounded bored.

Naturally, my first thought was “Oh, you could open up the relationship!”

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I even gave her my copy of Opening Up, and told her about how my poly relationship with my husband works. I didn’t even think about it. It seemed like the right thing to do.

It wasn’t until after she left that I realized I made a mistake.

Telling a normal vanilla person with a relatively sheltered life to open their relationship is bad advice. I shouldn’t have done it.

So I guess this is just an admission of my own mistake, and a warning to the rest of us to try not to give vanilla people kin advice.

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Poly vs Open

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I am not much for terms. As a writer, you would think I would love them. But I am not a precise person. I hate specifics. I think in broad strokes about overall ideas and I hate nitpicking. This makes me a horrible copy editor.

Anyway, I was asked about the difference between being “poly” and being “open,” and I thought it was a good question so I will do my best to answer it.

I lot of couples consider these terms synonymous, which is to say, they think it is the same thing. And that is fine. You can define things however you want in your world. I am not a purist, so I believe that usage defines language. But that’s a whole other blog post…

Anyway, those who hold that the terms have different means have defined them to me this way:

Poly: Having multiple emotional relationships at the same time (this can mean a primary and secondary, more than one primary, etc.)

Open: Having only one emotional relationship, but having sexual or play relationships with people outside the primary relationship.

Again, it is up to you to decide how you feel, but I want to put in my two cents that it’s very hard to sleep with someone and not become fond of them. (That’s just down to hormones and such, so don’t think I am being sappy. Oxcytocin and Dopamine are things, you know? ) So to me it seems like if you want to have an open relationship, and you define that as no outside emotional attachments, then you should probably stick to one-night stands.



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Being Ethical

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Not all kinky folks are poly. in fact, most are not. The poly community is still very small, as it’s not yet all that socially acceptable. The concept of monogamy as an ideal is still very prevalent, even as many people fail to live up to it.

In spite of this, I find myself drawn to write about these issues because they effect my life so directly. And one of those issues is being ethical.

It’s not okay to be poly and not tell people, because misleading people isn’t a nice thing to do. And this can lead to a lot of rejection. People will be interested in you and seem very keen to get to know you better, until you disclose the fact that you are interested in them as an addition to your life, rather than as the center of it.

In a place with a large community like Portland, Oregon; this is not nearly as much of an issue. Sex clubs and swingers parties are normal there, and so no one thinks less of you if you’re looking to find a second or third partner in addition to the one you already have. On my recent vacation to Portland I visited Ron Jeremy’s Club Sesso for a Twisted event (Sort of a kink night) and saw plenty of couples interested in poly experiences.

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However, in a smaller community it’s much more difficult to find people who will be accepting of alternative lifestyles. And this┬ácan lead to the temptation to lie. I admit, I have thought about it. It wouldn’t be hard to do. Casually dating someone, it’s entirely possible to never mention my husband and just sort of let them assume that I am interested in a monogamous relationship with them.

And that would be unethical.

So, I tell everyone I meet and am interested in dating that I am married and we are poly. This involves a great deal of judgement. Also, I am about 95% certain that none of the people I have told believes me. I get the feeling they are all sure I am simply cheating on my husband, and that he doesn’t REALLY know I’m on dating sites. (Which is funny because we run into each other on the dating sites we use- as we obviously would since we are looking for the same sorts of people.)

I wish I could give my fellow poly folks an easy way around this issue. I wish there was a way to determine in advance which people are comfortable with this sort of thing, so as to avoid the constant shaming I endure when explaining my lifestyle. However, as of yet, I have found no solutions.

I guess I just want to say that, even when it’s hard, it’s very important to be ethical. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, and don’t mislead unsuspecting folks. Ideals mean nothing if we abandon them when we are challenged.

Also, when I say I moved to Guam, people often ask me where the hell that is. Here’s a map to help you:

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Watching My Husband Have Sex

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One of the things people talk about when they advocate for monogamy is about picturing their lovers having sex with someone else. They say they simply can not handle the thought; that it is too awful to think about. Often, in a relationship, the parties involved begin to feel a sort of ownership of each other, and of course this extends to sex.

In fact, I have seen jealousy in the many extremes over the course of my lifetime. Once, a member of my D&D party found himself kicked out of his home by his girlfriend. I offered my couch as a place to stay until he sorted out what to do, and inadvertently opened myself up to the private details of his relationship as they continued to fight in my hallway long after he had moved out. He was vocal about he details.

It seems that she felt that even looking at another woman on the street was cheating, as was watching pornography and talking to other girls. When they had been together, she had gone so far as to “supervise” our D&D quests, sitting in while not playing just to make sure he wasn’t looking at any of the female players while he played his character.

It is not my wish to judge this type of relationship. Cheating is whatever you and your partner agree to, and that can be anything from emotional connections with others to physical love. It can be anything from your subscription to Playboy, to talking to a female coworker. And where you set limits in your relationship is none of my business.

However, I would like to say that just as I am willing to respect your right to consider pornography cheating if you wish, I think it’s also important to consider the other side of things. Perhaps my standards for what is considered “cheating” can be equally valid to your own?

With that said, I happen to really enjoy watching my husband have sex with people other than myself.

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For us, cheating is defined as lying to the other person about a relationship. It’s fine to form emotional attachments with other people (I was rather attached to my recent boyfriends in Portland, and he’s been attached to many of his lovers as well.) But we were always honest about it.

I think we knew at some point along the way that we share a bond that is unique for both of us; one of mutual love and respect that is somehow deeper than other attachments that we form. I couldn’t explain why. It’s still too new for me to understand. It will be three years in the spring, and in that time I can’t say I’ve ever really figured out how it works. We are just alike in a way that is fundamental to who we are, and it allows us to understand each other in a way that is comfortable and fun for us both.

As it turns out, we both enjoy going to sex cubs, having threesomes, and other variants on “traditional” sex. And this has allowed me opportunities to see my husband in ways that I couldn’t see him if we were exclusive. I have been able to watch him whisper in another girl’s ear during an orgy, telling her that she was beautiful and asking if she would like to have sex. And I have been able to watch her giggle and say yes, and then to see him take her in his arms and watch how things played out. Seeing him so completely enthralled in what he was doing at the time; the way he forgot about the room full of people and saw only her… and to see him so focused, in a way he never is about anything but sex…

To me, it was fascinating. And certainly it made him seem more attractive to me. Here were these beautiful girls, far prettier than me, excited to have sex with him. Moaning in pleasure. Laying back, closing their eyes, and giving themselves over to the moment…

When I see my husband that way, it reminds me how beautiful he is. It makes the silly things fade away. Yes, he drops food on the floor when he eats. Yes, he will leave all his clothes in a pile (clean and dirty!), smelling them to see if he can wear them. He has habits that I find perplexing or don’t entirely understand. But those are silly things. What do they really matter?

Another occasion where we had a threesome with a stunningly beautiful girl in Korea, I was watching them have sex after I had played with her, and I was amazed at how they were more beautiful than people in a porn. And yet here they were, giving me this little private show. And I got to see them at their most vulnerable, and in such a state of being laid bare before me, in every sense. And they were just gorgeous.

It’s not the same as the cuckold phenomenon, where a person enjoys being deprived while their partner engages in sexual contact with someone else. I couldn’t find a name for our fetish. We just enjoy seeing every aspect of one another. We like to see how we each behave, from up close and at a distance. And we like to see other people be charmed by each other.

All I know is, when I watch people have sex with my husband, or fall in love with my husband, or laugh at his jokes even; I am proud beyond words. And it reminds me how great he is, and how lucky I am to have him. It reminds me that his good points far outweigh anything bad, and that the relationship will always be worth the effort I put in, because I get so much back.

Lately I have been on a military base around a lot of monogamous people who think that my husband and I can’t possible love each other, because we have an open relationship. And this does seem to be a common view. But somehow, for us, it is the opposite. We love each other more, because other people love us too.

So I guess that I’m just asking once again for tolerance. Everyone is different, and each relationship is unique. Let’s remember that, and try to respect everyone’s unique view of life.

 

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