So, I (finally) picked up a copy of More Than Two because someone posted a screenshot of an excerpt (on twitter) about how part of asking for what you need is being able to handle refusal (regardless of whether it’s “can’t go there (yet / at all)” or “don’t wanna go there with you (yet / at all)”) with grace. Which I am really, really bad at[1].
So far, I am… skipping the first chapter entirely. It’s the “Might you be poly?” chapter. I am already polyamourous. I know that bit.
I really like that the authors (Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux) have included Questions To Ask Yourself at the end of each chapter, and I’m inclined to answer them – in blog form, no less! – just to find out what my answers are.
I’m combining some of the questions because they are connected (for me):
Soul Mate(s) and True Love(s)
Okay. I actually do believe in soul mates. I believe in True Love. I believe we have lots of lives to live and learn from, and that we find Our People over and over again. But I also believe that as people… graduate(?), if that’s even a thing that happens? there are new people entering the cosmic “school system” all the time.
I’m one of those new people. I think that I’m on, maaaaaaaybe, round two? If “round one” is “congratulations, you have been various miscarriages and abortions + a couple of tries at Infant Mortality. You have differentiated Self from Other and formed at least one attachment bond! Now you get to try living to adulthood! Good luck with that, kiddo!”
So I think I’m in the process of finding my soul mates for the first (or one of the first) times.
I might be wrong.
But it also means that I tend to approach relationships like “Are you going to be one of my People for ever? Are you my family? Could you be?”
And that might also be my Insecure Anxious/Preoccupied attachment style showing through loud and clear, asking “Do you love me? Will you love me for ever? Do you need me? Will you never leave me?” and being so ready and willing to make those promises to the people I offer my heart to.
Reading The Ethical Slut back in early 2008, my heart filled up with “Yes! Oh, yes!” at the thought of building that extended family of friends and lovers, all beloved and dear, all loving and constant, all building home together until “Home” stopped being a place and became that network of intertwined connections.
So, yes. I believe in soul mates. But you get so many more than just one of them.
Do you want multiple concurrent relationships? Why? How big a deal is it for you?
My first marriage ended (officially) over my wanting polyamoury and thinking it was going to be a permanent thing for me, and my then-husband not wanting it at all. There were a lot of other reasons for that marriage to end, but that’s the official one.
So, yeah, my desire for multiple relationships is a pretty big deal for me.
But… it’s also not something I feel the need to go running after, if that makes any sense. The first six years of my identification as a polyamourous/non-monogamous person involved me being not that interested in pursuing relationships with multiple people at a time. Partly, that’s because I was more concerned with getting the hang of gracefully sharing the people I was dating with the other people they were dating. Which took a lot of learning and included some spectacular fuck-ups. Part of that was because I’ve never been that good at flirting to begin with, and am more likely to be like “Hey, you’re having a rough time, come and sit on my couch and I’ll feed you, and maybe we’ll become really emotionally close to each other at which-point I may fall romantically in love with you and just have to deal with that somehow,” than “Hey, you’re a babe, wanna get coffee and flirt-chat with each other and see if we could develope this acquaintanceship into something romantic?” (which doesn’t mean that doesn’t work – that’s basically what my now-wife did with me, so…).
But it was only as I got more secure in my relationship with Ghost that I started getting comfortable, say, doing kink scenes with other people at play parties.
It’s hard to tell whether or not my interest in developing Other Relationships has anything to do with dissatisfaction in pre-existing ones. My emotional security in my relationship with Ghost solidified around the same time that the Asexual Adventure started happening. I don’t know if my willingness to try flirting with others developed because I was less afraid of losing my wife or because I was just really missing Being Found Desireable in ways I could actually discern. I started loving C because we had an affectionate, emotional connection with each other, but I can’t deny that it was also just really lovely to finally be wanted by somebody I was interested in, instead of having them nope right out of there any time things got heavier than a quick kiss[2].
That said, the more secure and confident in myself (my sense of worthiness, my ability to care for/about myself, you name it) I’ve become (since learning about the existance of Ethical Non-Monogamy, back in ~2003), the more comfortable and desireable polyamoury has felt, so I’m inclined to think I’m in this for the “right reasons”.
I’ve found that it’s always better to know your partner’s other partners than not. Three years ago (slightly more than that, actually), my wife (who was my Fiancee at that point) started a relationship with someone who made a point of getting together for coffee and chatting with me once a month or so. I was originally really, really hostile to this idea – thanks to a lot of Brene Brown, I can articulate why that was, and how I solved that problem: Basically, I was feeling really threatened (aka: vulnerable) and really really rotten (aka: shame) about the possibility that my lady-love might potentially prefer to be the Domme in her power exchanges rather than the Sub, and so was putting up huge, huge walls (of disconnection) in order to stave off those feelings which, because Vulnerability Is A Continuum, meant that my empathy was turned waaaaaaaaaaaay down. I did not want to hang out with her. But I did it anyway, and I pushed myself to put my head in her shoes, so to speak, and… it worked. Eventually.
Similarly, having Poly Family Movie Night – we watched the entire Harry Potter series over the course of a couople of months – with me, Ghost, and one of her other primaries, went from Ghost being “the demilitarized zone” and her two partners basically politely ignoring each other for the duration of the visit, to all of us being able to hang out, eat dinner, and enjoy a movie together. Just because we practiced, basically.
By the time I was being introduced to C’s partners-who-weren’t-also-dating-me, it was easy for me to like them just because we cared about the same person.
On a related note, the period where there were two people in my life who loved each other in more or less the same ways they loved me has made for some of the sweetest, loveliest memories I’ve got.
So, yes. It’s important to me to meet the Other People that a given partner is dating, and it’s important for my partners to meet (and ideally like, but you never know) each other. How else do you build a family?
What Is Commitment, Anyway? What Do I Really, Really Want, Relationship-Wise?
Which is a handy segue, I guess, into Building Family and what I mean when I think “commitment”.
I’ve written about something related to this before – the whole “floating docks” situation where I’d really like to feel safe-and-secure in relationships that are neither “Loving (but non-sexual, non-romantic) Friends” nor “Long-Term/Aiming-for-Permanent Romantic & Sexual Partners”. Basically, right now, “commitment” is… kind of hard core. And I’d like to be able to calm that down a little. A new acquaintance I met through a mutual friend recently – someone new to town and happy to be meeting other queer, polyamourous-but-not-polynormative folks – commented on how it was really nice to be able to have relationships with people that are both long-term and casual.
I am not at a point where I know how to do that. Someone who is an occasional sex/kink partner for a number of years is just… not my partner. They’re my friend-I-do-scenes-with. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have a (possibly nebulous, I admit) sense of what kind of time-energy-and-attention commitments are being asked of, or offered to, me. But in those situations I tend to be a bit more cautious with how much of my own time, energy, and attention I offer. Whereas someone whom I think of as a partner… That’s basically, “Here is my offer of multiple decades of me making you a priority in terms of where I spend my own time, energy and attention. I hope you will offer me the same”.
…And I’d like to learn how to be comfortable, happy, and fulfilled in relationships that are more casual than that. Because, let’s face it, just about anything is more casual than that. O.O
In “floating docks” terms, to stick with that metaphor, I would like to build a few more “solid places to stand” so that the continuum between “beloved non-sexual, non-romantic friend” and “beloved sexual & romantic partner” involves stepping easily from one dock to another, to another, back again, maybe sideways, but always on something solid that I can recognize… rather than feeling like I’m “treading water” if I’m not solidly, recognizably, with words-and-actions-matching-up, on one or the other of the two docks I’ve currently got.
A friend of mine, having read the floating docks post, suggested that if I focus on the connections that are already there, the ones that don’t fit neatly onto one or the other of my pre-existing docks, I may get a feel for what the new docks I want to “build” look like and require in terms of time, energy, and (various types of) attention commitments.
Trying to see how this works.
Ms Syren.
[1] It’s one of the reasons I avoid actually asking for things and tend to “test the waters” as subtly as possible (an then less subtly, and then less subtly than that) in order to find out whether a direct ask/offer is likely to result in a Yes. Because I don’t want to get a No, obvs, but also because I don’t want to have to pretend, in that moment of hurt and loss and shame-for-wanting-something-I-shouldn’t-have-wanted, that I’m totally chill and it was no big deal, I didn’t really want it anyway, it was just a suggestion not something I was invested in sharing with you, or that I needed in order to confirm that your feelings for me aren’t actually just wishful thinking on my part. See? It’s a problem. :-\