Note: Someone told me recently that being kinky and being poly are not orientations. In this post, I want to describe how my brain works as a poly person, and why it is fundamentally different than that of a monogamous person. It is absolutely my orientation, and I can’t understand or accept the way monogamous people see relationships.
First you should know that I move around a lot.
This did not start because my husband is in the military. In fact, that actually causes me to stay places longer, since we have to stay until he completes a set of orders.
Long before my husband was a part of my life, I moved a lot.
It started because I was poor and lived in a neighborhood that was in the process of being gentrified. I would sign a six month or one year lease, and then at the end of the lease, the apartment complex would try to double the rent and I would have to move.
After awhile, I just got used to moving a lot. I ended up really liking it, since it is a chance to go through all the things you own and figure out what really matters to you. Do you actually need to keep that receipt from that one date? How much do you really care about that book you read that was only so-so?
However, the older I got, the farther the moves got. I actually even traveled from state-to-state with the Renaissance Festival for awhile.
This kind of lifestyle means that you will leave people behind. I know that in the movies and on TV, you would never leave someone if you really loved them. But in real life, it’s pretty normal to choose travel and adventure over a person. In particular, it is pretty normal if the relationship is less about love and more about sex.
Don’t get me wrong- I am not some heartless bitch. I have at least a fondness for everyone I sleep with for any respectable length of time. I mean obviously you don’t always get names at an orgy, but other than that, I get names and remember birthdays and cultivate an emotional attachment to some degree.
And yet, an emotional attachment does not mean that I will stay with that person no matter what. In fact, the one time I chose a person over an experience, I really grew to regret my choice and resent the person I made it for. I had been offered the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica for a semester via a scholarship my Spanish teacher put me up for. I said no because the person I was with at the time would have failed out of college without me to wake him up and kick his ass to class. It was a huge mistake, and I wish I would have spent that semester in Costa Rica.
So that being said: What happens to a relationship or attachment when you leave the place where the other person is?
It turns out that most people consider the relationship to be over at that point. I find that extremely sad. Maybe it is because I am poly, but when someone matters to me, they just keep on mattering to me no matter where they are or where I am.
Example: There is this guy who wouldn’t like me using his name, so let’s call him Chris (just swapping one common name for another.) I met Chris in South Korea when I was a teacher and he was a medic in the air force. We had sex and talked and stuff, and then he got deployed to Afghanistan.
He did two tours in Afghanistan, which was hard for him.
Then, he was shipped to a base in Tucson Arizona when his enlistment was up. I came to see him while he was out-processing from the air force, at his tiny little house with no air conditioning.
Later, he came to see me at a fetish club in Phoenix.
We met up for sex, but also for company.
When someone travels similar paths, you share a bond. We had lived some of the same places, for one. And for another thing, I had seen a lot of violence and death in my teens. We had common ideas because we had common experiences.
When he got out, he moved to Kansas and I moved to Oregon. Both of us had families to go spend time with after our time abroad.
However, we still talked on the phone and kept in touch.
Later, I moved to Guam. He is still in Kansas. And yet, we still keep in touch.
The other day, I sent him a picture of me in the bath to try to cheer him up on Valentine’s Day, and promised that he was always welcome to visit my bed whether it was here in Guam, or in Hawaii when we move there.
And I meant it.
See, my thinking is this: If you had sex with someone and it didn’t suck, why wouldn’t you do it again? And if someone moves away but you still like them, then why wouldn’t you still talk?
This has gotten me into trouble here and there. Sometimes a guy will stay “in a relationship” with me, but start dating a monogamous girl. Then I will turn up to visit and we will have sex (because he does not tell me about the monogamous girl,) and then she ends up getting hurt.
Now first, that is on the guy for not telling me that he started a new (and monogamous) relationship.
But second, why does it have to be this way? What is actually so bad about borrowing someone when you are in town?
I mean, if I had known about the girl, I would have asked her permission (obviously) but it just seems to me that people you have had sex with are part of ongoing relationships until someone says stop.
Example: There was a guy that I dated on and off for fifteen years. We were never soul mates or anything, but he was pretty and I liked to have sex with him. I also liked to just sit and talk with him and stare into his eyes, because he always looked so loving and devoted.
However, a few years ago he started seeing a girl who convinced him that I was “taking advantage of him” by not wanting to marry and be committed, but still wanting to hang out and have sex sometimes.
As a result, he made a huge show of saying “We are breaking up and I never want to see you again.”
This hurt my feelings. I don’t like breakups. Wandering away from someone but still keeping the connection open is fine. I like to explore and try new things, so I am always moving forward. But just because I am wandering, doesn’t mean I sever ties with everywhere I have ever been.
He broke up with me.
So I did the rational thing: I decided that he was dead to me, and I moved on with my life.
Several times since that day, he has written me e-mails and Facebook messages and whatnot trying to reconnect with me. He keeps saying that he misses me and that we were good together.
But for me, the relationship is over.
It ended when he hurt me and I stopped seeing him as an ongoing relationship and started seeing him as an ex. It cannot be restarted again, because in my mind, a relationship is over once it ends. It is a final thing. I have to set a boundary (which I have few of) and tell myself “this is really over.” After that, I cannot change what has passed because boundaries stay in place or else nothing makes sense.
Besides, there was no reason to say that he never wanted to talk to me or see me again. He could have just said: “I want to go for this monogamous girl, so we need to keep this friends-only for a little bit to see how things go.” I would have been fine with that because we were living in different states at the time (although he was only in Washington state and I was in Oregon, so it was a short drive.)
Anyway, the point is: There could have been the lesser boundary placed of “no sex right now but still friends,” or even “Let’s take a break for a few months or a year.” But that was not what happened. Instead he placed the boundary of: “I never want to see you again.” And I respect boundaries. Forever.
My point is this: How you view relationships is probably different from me.
Monogamous people tend to do this really uncomfortable thing where they feel that they own a person. They do not want to share that person with anyone, and they expect that person to terminate all other relationships as a condition of “being in a relationship.”
This is idiotic.
Think of it this way: I have always been a guy, but I live in a girl’s body. I decided to just accept this, and so I am (as the Native Americans would say) “of two spirits.” It’s fine, but it means that I really need my guy friends to go drinking and blow off steam with. I need time to get my male energy out, particularly if I happen to be dating men at the moment.
Two of my oldest friends are male. One is a few years younger, and one is a few years older. I have never had sex with either of them because they are my designated male friends. But in order to keep them as friends when dating, I have always had to call them my younger brother and my older brother. This is because both men and woman that I have dated have found our relationship to be “too close.”
As an introvert, I happen to feel that I value relationships more, since I have to stretch so far to make them. But more than that, being close to another human in a non-sexual sibling kind of way should not be considered unnatural.
Yet monogamy dominates society and so we are all expected to whip ourselves into a frenzy of jealousy for every little thing.
I adopted a kid as well. He was homeless and his mom was in jail. I grew up homeless, so I had a desire to help him based on personal experience. However, everyone I dated saw him as an “unrelated male” and I have been accused of sleeping with him since he was thirteen (who fucks a thirteen year old anyway?!?)
Jealousy is seen as some sort of value in “normal” world, and so the fact that I would run my fingers through his hair when he had a nightmare was seen as “wrong.” But he had been literally tortured as a child by a meth-crazy mother, and he had awful nightmares about days of being duct taped and locked in a closet without food, water, or anywhere to relieve himself. What kind of care-taker doesn’t show sympathy and compassion for a torture victim? And after I had similar experiences when I was on the streets!
I think you can see that jealously is often beyond the rational. It can be so unbelievably uncalled for at times that I have been utterly incredulous with people. Their heartless expectation that all relationships outside a romantic one should be cold and without touch is unreasonable. I think any sane person should be able to see that.
In the same way, I do not think it is reasonable to expect people to just stop communicating with a person that they wandered away from. If I made a connection with someone, sexual or otherwise, and then wandered out of their country and into another, this does not stop them from being part of my life.
To me, relationships are threads in the fabric of my universe, and they should run continuously in an unbroken cloth from the point of entrance in my life until my death. I hate to cut a thread out of the tapestry of my life, and a person must do something pretty bad to get me to do so.
Plus, I think relationships can (and should) evolve over time. Sometimes it is harder than others. For example, I have this ex who I just really like having sex with. I don’t know why. We just had awesome chemistry, and he intuitively understood what my body wanted. It was awesome.
He has decided that we should no longer have sex (no reason given.) I respect that, but it doesn’t mean that I want to lose the relationship. After all, he carries some of my memories, and therefore a part of who I am. So he is still a Facebook friend, on my Christmas card list, and someone I visit when I am in the same country/state. But the relationship has evolved from sexual to friendship.
Another example is literally laying in my bed right now. She is my ex girlfriend, and she is visiting with her husband. Her husband is not the sort to be interested in sex with me or my husband, so even though we used to date her, she is now off-limits.
That doesn’t mean I want to stop talking to her! She is this amazing and talented person who I admire. Now, does she still make me turn into a complete idiot around her because she is so beautiful and refined? Yes. Totally. But pretty girls have always done that to me, whether I was sleeping with them or not.
My point is, both of these people are part of my tapestry, and I value them as people. They are not just pieces of meat to me. And so, I prefer to keep them woven into my life in whatever way is appropriate at the time.
Anyway, this is how a polyamorous person views relationships. They are ongoing. They may go in and out of being sexual, but they continue.
It is worth noting that some relationships never really get started, and those don’t count.
I have a habit of meeting people and having sex with them pretty soon after, because I want to see their soul and decide if I like them. Sometimes I decide I don’t like them. Those are the ones who don’t get a call back. One guy just stuck me as a shit person. Another was angry and became violent when I asked to change the nature of our relationship because the sex had lost my interest. A girl I used to date started cutting herself and saying she was a sinner for being a lesbian, and I quietly backed away from that because gods are not my thing. So, I do end relationships with people that I don’t really like.
However, for the people who are good people, I see no reason to ever stop being attached to them.
This brings me to the final thought on the matter. People ask me how many people I am dating, and I am never sure how to answer this. To me, dating means:
Staying in touch with the person, have had sex with them, and would have sex with them again if the opportunity presented itself.
I feel that this is “dating” because it is closeness with the potential for sex. And, by that definition, I would say that I am casually dating W, Z, other Z, M, J, and R. So, seven people. And yet, I am only in one in-person relationship at the moment because I am stuck on Guam.
I guess you could say it is shades of dating.
Currently I am engaged in threes shades of dating, but there are others:
1. Level One: Dating in-person, with all the in-person obligations. (R)
2. Dating, the exchanging of gifts on holidays and birthdays, and sex when in person. (M,J,W)
3. Dating and keeping in touch, with sex when in person. (Z,Z)
Is that too complicated? Maybe for you. But, it is how the world exists for me. I did try to be normal when I was young. I tried to end old romantic relationships with people when I started a new romantic relationship, as the monogamous folks tell you that you must do. But when even that wasn’t enough and people were accusing me of sleeping with my brothers and my kid, that was it for me. Monogamous people are insane.