Unique

I am missing A, but even that sadness was curbed by a great phone call where we laughed and talked about all the silly things we talk about the other night.  I love talking to him more than anything else in our relationship. Our conversations are so random and funny and serious and authentic.  I love it.  

A while ago, we were talking about how poly and kinky dating is different for men and women.  I get a number of messages on OKC and occasionally on Fetlife, but the Fetlife ones are a little lower quality, in general.  I don’t include my kinky side in my description on OKC, because I find it invites people to assume things about me that aren’t true.  It’s like admitting I like sex is an invitation to proposition me.  So, what that means is that at some point in the conversation, I have to come out and tell the man I’m talking to that A and I are kinky.  I joke that I have a fool-proof method of getting a man to ghost me.  Some ask questions, some just disappear, occasionally I get a man who is also kinky, and sometimes he isn’t kinky himself but says it doesn’t matter to him.  This latter is a little problematic, because often, but not always, turns out that it does bother him.  I usually don’t find out until I’ve started a relationship and developed feelings for him, however.  There’s no getting past it though, I have to tell anyone I may get naked with about it, because I have bruises that I can’t generally hide, but the reality is that I’m not interested in omitting that part of my life when I tell people who I am.  I’m more of a “this is who I am, get over it” kind of girl, so I usually tell them earlier rather than later.

A made the point that he doesn’t have to tell girls that he and I are kinky.  He doesn’t have bruises to hide.  He also can say he’s dominant in the bedroom and it can be true whether bdsm is involved or not.  He has always taken control.  It’s just the way he is. The man owns the room he’s in, whether or not he has his clothes on.

I’m aware that my approach to relationships and sex isn’t the norm, so it’s not that strange that some men ghost me as soon as I tell them I’m kinky.  I don’t really want to help someone navigate some intense emotions about my other relationships and kinky nature, if I’m completely honest about it, but it does make me a little sad that it’s hard to find a vanilla guy who just accepts that I have itches I don’t need him to scratch.  Having kinky sex all the time isn’t really my style – my body can’t take that much abuse, no matter how much I like it.

When we were talking about this, I said that I had gone on Fetlife and messaged a few guys who fit some of my requirements. By requirements, I mean they had pictures of gorgeous large cocks and are dominant.  While this sounds….um….superficial….let’s just say that I have a lot of pictures of my naked body on Fet, so it’s not like they don’t know what I look like when they respond.  I can also add to excusing my behaviour by saying that if he took a picture of their cock and posted it, he knows he’s big, and is advertising it.  Also, he’s probably been ordered by a woman to keep it the hell away from her at some point, so someone like me who likes a big man is refreshing.  

What?!?  Stop judging. This is such a me thing to do. 🙂

OK, joking aside, I’ve chatted with a few men and have some hope that I may have a date or two as a result.  A and I were talking about my new predatory dating tactics, and how there is such a dichotomy in the way men and women can behave.  I came clean to a guy that the reason I messaged him was because he had a big dick, and he thought that was awesome.  No man could get away with saying that he messaged me because he likes my big boobs. (OK, well, I probably wouldn’t care, but he couldn’t say that to most women).  This brings me to the expectations that men and women have for each other.  How some behaviours are acceptable in women (like casually touching men without their prior consent) that aren’t at all acceptable in men.  I think about how it’s strange to people that I like a big beautiful cock, but no one is surprised when men love big beautiful boobs.  I hear all the time that I’m unique, the way I think about things is so open and refreshing, that my attitude is so positive, or how open-minded I am.  I am all of those things.  It’s just seems strange to me that most people aren’t.  I see no point in pretending to be someone I’m not or hiding who I am so someone will like me more.  

The thing is, I know what it’s like to be unfulfilled. To not want to tell others about my disappointment in our sex life or the needs I want fulfilled.  I actively decided not to be that person anymore.  I wonder how many of us go through life just ignoring the lack of sexual satisfaction?  Deny ourselves that pleasure by pretending it doesn’t exist, partially because of shame and partially because of fear?  Judging by the number of people who find my approach to life so unique, it’s the majority of our population.  

Now, imagine a world where we aren’t judged for our sexual preferences or relationship choices.  Where we can talk freely and openly about what we desire and we can reach out to those who may be able to provide fulfillment of those desires.  Imagine us talking about achieving sexual fulfillment in the same way we talk about eating our favourite meal and how much we enjoyed it, instead of being ashamed of what we do with our clothes off?  Imagine a world where our kids don’t grow up thinking they are bad for wanting to explore their sexuality.  Imagine a world where it is acceptable for our kids to come to us with questions about their sexuality and how to safely explore it and we weren’t worrying about whether or not they were offending society’s rules.  Imagine not having to hide.  Imagine a world where people are accepted for who they are.

That’s the world I want to live in.  The best part of it is that for the most part, the world I live in is moving in that direction. I have close friends who support me completely.  A and S both accept me as I am.  Hell, they completely support the way I am.  I talk to S about A and to A about S, and they both are full of compersion for me.  A has always been pretty easy going about my other partners, he’s never said anything, so I’m pretty sure that jealousy isn’t a thing he has felt when he thinks about my other relationships.  The only thing he ever said is that Fridays are his.  We rely on our routine for our own sanity in our crazy lives and Fridays are sacred to me, so it’s never been a problem.  He certainly hasn’t ever been jealous of S, but why would he?  Clearly he can’t offer me the same things that a woman could and he’s happy to see me happy.

S is the biggest breath of fresh air I’ve breathed in in ages, though.  She is so understanding about everything.  From my troubles with F, to challenges with my kids, to everything to do with my relationships, that girl is a rock.  I can talk to her about everything.  There are a number of times that I’ve told her a story about A and me and she says “I love A stories!  I love your relationship with him!”. Wait?!  Back the hell up!  I have a relationship with someone who not only accepts my relationship with A, but supports it wholeheartedly?  I’m keeping that woman around (for a million other reasons than just this, but damn, this makes me happy)!  There are so many reasons why S gets me.  She’s been poly for 17 years; she and her hubby have always been non-monogamous.  She’s kinky too, and in a super hot daddy/baby girl relationship with an experienced, amazing dom.  She’s a mom, she’s smart, she’s strong, she’s absolutely hilarious.  So when I talk to her about A being hard on me, she doesn’t cringe and look at my bruises like they are ugly, she thinks they’re hot and wants to hear exactly what he did to me.  She tells me about the scenes she has with her dom.  We can share in the hotness of the sex we each have when we’re not together.

There is something incredibly refreshing about being loved and appreciated for exactly who I am. In having people in my life who are so supportive of me, understanding of the struggles I’m facing, and completely accept my independence and listen to my needs and communicate so well with me, without trying to control me or influence my decisions.  These are the people, who when I say I trolled Fetlife for large beautiful cocks, just laugh and say “yeah you did”, because they understand that I’m not afraid of going for what I need and want, or letting shame get in the way of that.  I don’t want to live a life I regret, that’s for sure, and by being truly myself, I won’t.  

 

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Disappointment

Yesterday I wrote about the fact that it was date night with A and I was in need of some bucket filling. The fact is, I get a lot out of our Friday dates. We catch up on what happened during the week while we were apart, more of the nuance of what happened that can’t be easily conveyed via text, and there’s always a lot of teasing, laughter, and connection.  

Yesterday, in response to my post, A commented that he didn’t know what version of him I was going to get. This was my first indication that something was “off” with him.  We had a quick text chat about what was going on in his head and he legitimately didn’t know what was wrong, just that something was.  He arrived at my house at 8:37.  He greeted me with a passionate kiss and a strong hug.  I expected that we would at least chat for a while, but I have video of him snoring at 9:08.  In under 30 minutes, he’d passed out next to me.  

I knew he needed to cuddle and connect.  He grabbed me in a way he rarely does, hand through my hair, head to chest, arm held tightly against his chest.  I could tell he was breathing me in and calming himself.  I could feel the weight of whatever was breaking his heart exuding from him.  At one point, it seemed like he was going to start something more than cuddling, but the next thing I knew, he was snoring.  Deeply unsatisfied, I knew what type of week he had so I let him sleep.  I rolled over and texted S, and we chatted about how disappointed I was with the snoring man next to me. I even videoed him sleeping to show her what I was living through.  

I was so disappointed and a little mad.  I had spent the week anticipating this date and had no real tangible indication that it was going to go like it did.  I talked to S about how I was feeling. She validated my feelings and the best being: “A! GET IT TOGETHER AND BEAT MY GIRLFRIEND!”  While I was chatting with her, I said that I felt bad that I was so disappointed.  That I was near tears because I was so unfulfilled in that moment.  I felt like what every man I turned down over the years must feel like, I said.  Her words were exactly what I needed to hear and the message was simple:  There is nothing wrong with disappointment. It’s an appropriate response to not having the evening I so needed.  It’s OK for me to upset, and even angry, about this situation and still love him and support him and want to be there for him.  So, I grabbed my magic wand and three minutes later I had orgasmed hard enough that I could fall asleep.  It was an unusually early Friday night for me.  

It’s now early Saturday morning, and I’m sitting at my second job, feeling the disappointment from last night rather acutely.  Fortunately, when my alarm went off this morning, it woke A up too, and instead of a shower before work, I collected a handful of orgasms and ran out the door.  This super quick morning sex, interrupted by a 4-year-old who needed cuddles, was insufficient to make up for what we missed last night, but it was a start.  As he left this morning, he apologized three times, I know he missed out too, and I know he didn’t do anything intentionally, it just is what it is.

Sexually, what I needed last night was to get lost in A.  I needed to connect with him in that physical way.  I needed him to take control of me and I needed him to hurt me to take me away from the stress and busyness of my week.  The fact is, I had built myself up with anticipation during the previous three days and since he has almost never failed to deliver, I had no reason to suspect last night would be any different.  

I am a big girl and sexual disappointment really isn’t that big of a deal.  It’s a short -lived sadness, not something that sits, fastened to my heart.  What’s really bugging me is the lack of the emotional and intellectual connection that we usually share.  We didn’t get to catch up.  I didn’t get to tell him about the ups and downs of my week, nor did I get to hear about his.  Add to this the fact that we didn’t manage to have drinks or reconnect at all during the week, as is our norm, and we were both so busy that we hardly chatted at all.  We certainly didn’t exchange anything meaningful during the week.  I feel robbed of the reset that is just talking to A and tuning out the rest of the world to just be with him.  

On top of this, it’s Saturday.  It’s the day that A and his wife spend together.  Normally, I’m still riding the high of our night together, so I take the relative radio silence in stride. I miss him, but I recognize his need for connection with her too.  Today though, it’s like there is this empty well that needs to be filled and instead of that, it’s going to be sucked dry with the reminder that I am alone, with no telling when the next chance to connect with A will occur.  

So, I’m going to sit here at my job, being disappointed, sad, unsatisfied, and feeling sorry for myself.  It won’t last for long, because I know that come the next time I see him, we will be able to reset.  It won’t last for long, because I’m good at processing and perspective, and I know that this wasn’t about me, but about him and what he needed.  It won’t last for long, because the job I am currently working is an ongoing reminder of exactly how blessed my life is.  

But for now?  I’m going to feel the feelings and embrace my disappointment and sadness.  

 

Over

It’s been a day since I wrote about waking up next to O having sex with his GF and the fallout from that.  I’m nearly sure I’ve made my decision and am just chewing on this new reality for a day or two before I speak to him about it.  Last night involved what I like to refer to as “A sex therapy”, which took me away from the disappointment I was feeling with O and helped me reset.  I had a very short sleep and headed to my second job at way too early o’clock this morning. This has given me a lot of time to sit and process and I’m feeling like I’m understanding what happened better, have rid myself of the anger, and am in a decent place about it.

I’ve decided to break up with O.  The fact is, I can’t get past this.  There isn’t a way to save our relationship from the decision he made to completely disregard my right to consent and for respect.  He didn’t value me at all.  There were several opportunities for him to attempt to dig out of the hole he created, first by not continuing what he was doing when I got up and moved to the couch, second by not owning his shit immediately when messaging me, and third by continuing to offer excuses.  He didn’t. He still really hasn’t, although I suspect he may understand the gravity of what he did.

The fact is, with an amazing comment on my initial post about processing this hurt, one of my readers helped me figure out something.  There is a theme in the way O thinks about things.  In every response, he is trying to find the words he needs to say to quickly get rid of the problem.  He’s not owning his feelings at all, but hiding from the intense emotions he feels. What this translates into is a lack of respect for me.  I realized this as I thought back to the initial discussion where O was warning me to be careful with A, despite the fact that we had been together for over 11 months at that time and I had never had any reason to not have absolute trust in him.  Then the conversation about jealousy and how he doesn’t understand my relationship with A.  Finally this. These seemingly different events have a common theme.  Each one demonstrates a lack of respect for me and my ability to make decisions in my life.  First, he got upset and warned me to be careful with A, demonstrating his lack of respect for the established relationship that I have cherished for a long time.  It tells me he doesn’t respect my decision making ability.  Then the jealousy, triggered by the collar and the fact that he was pushing us towards kink even though it wasn’t a natural state for us to be, and treating me as a primary when I was very clear I didn’t want that label or status.  Again, not respecting my commitment to my other relationship and my ability to make decisions in the framework that I have chosen to live my life and model my poly.  Not respecting the boundaries, wishes, opinions, and desires I had communicated.  Finally, the complete lack of respect for me when he fucked his girlfriend in the bed next to me.  Then continued to fuck her when I was obviously upset. Then the minimizing and excuse making the next morning.  That last event was a violation of my trust, so incredibly disrespectful, and the final straw.

Every single challenge we faced is directly related to a lack of respect.  The situations are all very different.  But each one questions my autonomy, decision making ability, boundaries, judgement, or agency.  I already have to deal with the baggage of one man who didn’t respect me or my boundaries.  I can’t do the same thing again.

I thought O was going to be my life partner.  I thought we were going to be forever.  I’m mourning the loss of a dream but know that I can’t hold on to that dream now that reality includes what he did to me the other night.


I wrote this two days ago. This morning I had the break up conversation with O.  It was a hard conversation to have.  I came in and hugged him and then told him directly that I was breaking up with him.  He said he knew.  I told him I couldn’t compromise my values and keep dating him after he violated such a clear boundary and my right to consent.  We ended it with a hug, said we loved each other, there were some tears shed by him, and he said: “I completely fucked up.  I ruined everything.”  I responded, “Yes, you did”, kissed him on the forehead, and left.  

I looked at this from every possible angle.  I wanted so badly for there to be a way we could get back what we had, but knew we couldn’t.  I tried to look at my behaviour and how it contributed.  Although I truly wish I’d raged and screamed and walked out that night when I woke up with them fucking next to me, other than that, I can clearly see that I didn’t do anything wrong.  What a rare situation to be in, where I am so very certain that the fault lies squarely on someone else’s shoulders.  

I now will mourn the loss of the dream. The dream of the life partner, sharing a family, home, and life with him.  Everything we wanted to do together.  It’s a similar type of sad as it was when I had my miscarriages.  Knowing that through no fault of my own I have lost a real, tangible dream, and everything that I thought would come with it.  

That being said, I am proud of myself. I am my own primary. I am loving myself first.  Honouring myself and being true to myself. I made the hard decision because it was the right one to make.  

Now, I heal.  

 

A stressful few weeks resolved

NOTE: This blog post has been edited by request.  Owning your shit isn’t something everyone wants to do, so I’m allowing this censorship.  But I’m putting this passive aggressive note at the top because I’m actively choosing to be a bitch.  My blog, my choice.

O has been suffering a lot more jealousy, specifically about my relationship with A, than we were prepared for in recent weeks.  It got particularly bad over New Year’s, to the point that I spent a lot of time turned inwards trying to figure out how to best communicate the major changes I needed him to make.  Through talking to a long-time poly friend who I’m hoping to make my girlfriend (more on that in another post!) and doing some intense soul-searching, I figured out what I wanted to say.  It started with his reactions to my collar and then some stress about being at my house with A and his wife on New Year’s eve, and he recognized what was happening and spent some time self-reflecting and trying to come up with a method to deal with his jealousy and move forward in his chose life.

O has given me permission to share his self-reflection, which he shared with me so I could provide feedback:

Solo Poly, Mono/Poly, Poly-saturation

I am a solo poly man. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with what I consider my main (primary) girlfriend. She doesn’t like labels, so I am careful to qualify that I treat her as my primary even though she wouldn’t agree to that title. She has good reasons. I started a relationship with her while she is also in a well-established relationship with another man. She loves us both intensely and I have no doubt of her love for me. The issue I have found difficult to negotiate for myself is the fact I have nothing to temper my love for her in terms of relationship commitments. Like I said, my other relationship seems to be in decline and I am just starting a new one. Love is not a factor in those cases (yet). Because I am jumping without a net, so-to-speak, I have had some very stressful episodes where I either felt like a fool for giving my heart so completely so fast to someone who will always also be committed to at least one other man (or woman), or, I have felt I am in over my head and need to protect myself. Neither of these feelings are productive or wanted. I am actively working on ways to more positively work with these feelings.

One idea is that I need to nurture at least one other loving and sustained relationship so that I don’t feel these stressful episodes when I am not with my main relationship. She is exceptionally good at helping me work-out my doubts and fears, checking-in with her and cuddling are very effective. She is very patient with me, but I also understand that everyone has their limits of patience. However well she helps me in the short-term, I still need to work on the cause. I believe it is that there is an imbalance in that she loves two partners completely, whereas I love one—her. Direct Action: I need to have another partner (or two) to help balance the scales. At this point, I am in still making connections in the poly community and I hope another quality relationship starts for me soon. I feel this will help me both temper my unbridled love for my main relationship into a more realistic/sustainable framework and it will also help me feel compersion for her in her other relationship rather than jealousy or abandonment.

I have been questioning whether I could be in a mono/poly situation with my main relationship. This is partially due to the fact I don’t have a strong second relationship at the moment and I have been functionally and unintentionally mono/poly over this past holiday season. I can’t predict whether I will always want multiple partners. At this moment in time I do, but down the road I may not. I have also been imagining focusing solely on my main relationship and the idea of being monogamous with her is surprisingly attractive to me. She is pretty amazing, after all. She, of course, will be poly forever and I will still be “poly” even if I go through episodes of monogamy focused on her. When I reach the point where our relationship has enough history and an even more solid foundation (we are only two months in at this point), I foresee that I will be able to feel the compersion and not the jealousy while she goes out on date nights and I do not. For the time being, however, I intend to pursue a completely poly lifestyle to its full advantage.

Digging out Jealousy by the Roots

I mentioned that my main relationship has a partner who she has been with for a year. They have a highly developed BDSM relationship even to the point where she wears his collar to work and other public places.

I have been dealing with jealousy of my partner’s partner since the beginning. This is not normal for me. I had twinges of jealousy when my now ex-wife……edited out.... The jealousy I have been experiencing lately from my partner’s partner is different and it has been perplexing me. The following are some of my self-discoveries.

I initially thought it was a personality conflict. My initial meeting with him was sudden and stressful and I wasn’t left with the best impression. But, to be honest, there hasn’t been any conflict and I really am only starting to know him as a person. Our third time in the same room was only yesterday.

I thought maybe it was because we are “so similar.” Well, we may look similar, but it is becoming clear we are very different individuals. When I first started seeing my main relationship, there was a good deal made of how alike we were. That gave me no end of insecurity wondering why my partner would be with me if I was a less experienced, and more vanilla version of her established partner. Thankfully, that insecurity dropped away when it became clear how different we are as people and what I provide my main relationship that no one else does—on all three levels of connection: physical, emotional, and intellectual.

So, that brings me to where I think the root of my jealousy lies. By articulating this, I hope to better understand it, channel it, and control it. I am jealous of their relationship—of their history, their highly developed sexual play, and the level of trust they have developed. That is why I wasn’t jealous seeing my ex-wife …edited out…. They weren’t important figures in my life and in the life of my main relationship.

Now that I have isolated the source of the jealousy, here are some action points I am going to try. The first action is to focus on the history that is developing naturally in my own relationship. I need to continue to make memories and collecting meaningful moments and cherish them for the relationship foundation they are. The stronger/deeper I build that foundation in my own relationship, the less their history will provoke jealousy in me. In time, I foresee feeling compersion toward their trip to Banff, or breaking the bed, etc.

The second is to continue developing our own kinky sexual play in our relationship. I don’t want to imitate or compete with their established way of conducting their BDSM but I want to explore BDSM from the ground-up with my main partner (who is a sub and passionate about it). We are early in this exploration. We had one evening that was highly successful involving restraints in my room. We have another evening planned in two days at her house where I have drawn up an agenda (approving the agenda was an indication of consent) of activities. We are both very excited. It will be my first time flogging her and I am very much looking forward to it. I am actually nervous about my rope tying skills but with her help, I am sure we will work it out. We have two more evenings plus a staycation later this month where we will have the house to ourselves to continue our explorations. The more we develop our own connection and build experience regarding kink, the less I should feel jealousy toward their kinky play. Again, in time, I hope to turn it around to compersion and enjoy my main relationship’s pleasure as well.

The third, the level of trust, is in some ways the most elusive but also the most important. None of the previous two work or hold meaning without trust. It must build over time. Part of my efforts here in articulating my self-reflection and defining my needs is so that I can be a better partner for all my relationships, but especially for my main relationship. I had a hard time this last week because the collar that was given my partner as a sign of submission to her partner is a physical symbol of their dom/sub relationship and the trust it is built on. Seeing it makes me aware of how far I have yet to travel. But I will traverse that distance and this document is a step down that road.

I received this, and it set off so many red flags for me.  I had a disheartened few days while I thought about how I was going to communicate with O about how I felt about his thoughts and emotions and plan, when there were so many things I needed to say that would be hard to communicate and even harder to hear.  I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, or worse, lose him, because I was really not dealing well with his jealousy, or the way he thought he should tackle it.

I put together some thoughts on paper and formed an idea of what I wanted to say, then edited the shit out of it, so he knew it was coming from a place of love and support and not criticism.  He came and had a coffee break with me and knew something was wrong (I completely lack a poker face), and asked, so I gave him a very condensed version of what I was writing out after I told him to remember that while it may sound critical, I’m coming from a place of love.  

Here is my response:   

First, let me say, I’m glad that you are working to understand your jealousy and anxiety over my relationship with A. Second, let me say that it is a huge priority for me to help you work through it.  I love you and I want to just love you and have it be about us.  Talking about A and I and our relationship so much is draining on me.  

For some time, I’ve been concerned that you have such a hard time when I’m with A. It seemed to be getting better and then all of a sudden it got much worse.  I find it a bit overwhelming, honestly, because I really don’t understand it.  The fact is, I came with many relationships.  I came with my kids, and my parents, and my friends. I love many people, A included.  But if I have a night out with G, or my work friends, you don’t have a hard time with that.  But if I’m with A, you do. Truthfully, I don’t get it.  To me, love is love is love, the only difference is how I express it.  The fact that I have sex with A, even in a committed BDSM dynamic, doesn’t seem any different to me than me going to Mexico with my parents because my mom loves me and pays for the trip.  It’s often too much for me and I don’t know how to reconcile supporting you through your feelings while also honouring my discomfort with the fact that you react so strongly.

There are a number of things in your document that give me cause for concerns. I’m going to try to address them appropriately and add a few of my concerns to the mix as well.

  1. You identify me as your primary, despite the fact that it is important to  me that we don’t have a hierarchical relationship structure. I get that you are trying to respect my request, but treating me as a primary relationship but just not calling it that is problem for me. I want us to evolve naturally in our relationship escalation, without the labels, without expectations, in a way we decide together. I would really appreciate you eliminating the idea of me as a primary from your internal dialogue. I consider all of my relationships as separate entities. I don’t compare them and they certainly aren’t competition. It’s important to me that I am not better or more than anyone else, but I can’t dictate how you think of me.  I just want to be me, for you.  One relationship should never restrict the other’s development except within the parameters agreed upon within that partnership, in my opinion.  (For example, A and his wife’s relationship and their mutual commitment to their marriage and cohabitation naturally limits my relationship with him.)  I love you. You are a game changer and I want to have you as a life partner.  That doesn’t mean we need to escalate to every level of relationship status now.  It means we are committed to making our relationship work, grow, evolve, and thrive moving forward.  It doesn’t mean we are committed to making it fit a specific mold. I feel like you are trying to move us towards a very mononormative escalation and hierarchical level of poly that I won’t ever be comfortable with, and I really need this boundary observed.  What I really want is for us to work together to define what we want together in an ongoing, continuous, and loving capacity.
  2. I feel like it would be beneficial for you to look at our relationship and the length of time we’ve been together.  We are totally in love and that’s amazing.  We are still new and you are new to polyamory AND I haven’t been doing this for a significant amount of time either. What I do know is that I’m solidly polyamorous.  Your experience …edited out… is not a comparison to dating a fully polyamorous woman in a committed relationship with someone else who came before you.…edited out…  I’m not sure that you were completely OK with it and I suspect much of what you are experiencing now is actually triggered by that experience at least in part.

I feel like you are overthinking everything and not giving yourself time to just feel the feelings and adapt through a natural evolution.  It seems like you are trying to control things and direct them and that’s impossible. The evolution of multiple simultaneous relationships and the feelings that you have with them is so important.  Things are changing too fast and I suspect you are not adapting as fast as you’d like.  I think you are happy with your decision to embrace polyamory, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth sailing.  I am very concerned that with all the emotions you are experiencing, starting another relationship, in fact, actively looking for one, may not be the best idea. A new relationship will add a different level of confusion to your life, navigating new emotions, specifically to distract from the emotions you are having with me? The idea that you need to get another girlfriend to distract you from the fact that I have a date with A really bothers me.  I think that it might make you feel better temporarily, but it’s not owning your emotions or processing your feelings or working through your challenges. I think you need to feel all the feelings. Work through them. Accept and understand them and accept and understand my relationship with A.  Compersion isn’t necessary, but acceptance is.  We should not have to talk about jealousy and triggers several times a week.  Jealousy is normal, but this intense form of jealousy is a very real problem that needs to be worked through as a priority.     

  1. Finally, I’m concerned about us venturing into kink.  It’s just not the relationship dynamic that you and I share.  I find it forced and unnatural.  I don’t find myself naturally submissive to you.  I love our vanilla sex. Loving, caring, passionate, and fun.  I have this feeling that you are venturing into kink with me as a sort of end goal because you want to be what A is for me.  Like if you can fill the spot he does, you’ll be more important.  But the whole premise behind polyamory is that no one person has to scratch all your itches.  By moving towards a relationship dynamic more like my relationship with A, we’re losing the dynamic we established that felt so right and perfect and full of connection.  The fact is, I don’t want a kinky relationship with you, apart from the occasional spontaneous fun play.  I would encourage you to find a girlfriend to explore that area of your sexuality with you, but I don’t think I can be that person. I’m glad you want to understand what I get out of it though.  I really really really want to return to ***our*** natural state..  

Remember everything here is from a place of love.  I want to work with you. I can clarify as you need and I am always here for you.  I love you.

In true academic fashion, he read and reread this and made notes and then responded.  Here’s how that went:

First, let me say again, you are right on all fronts. I recognize that I was trying to move us toward a mono-narrative, hierarchical level of poly. Intellectually I was resisting but emotionally I was. I see that too. Consider that issue identified and dealt with.

I have been thinking all week about how I need to stop thinking of you as my primary. So, yeah, I totally agree. I realized on my walk today that I was having trouble consolidating the fact you avoid labels because of people’s preconceptions of what they mean and that affects their choices, yet you have one relationship that is clearly labelled and defined (drawn up in writing as a contract) and another relationship that is not. It is true, I have been needing more definition of our relationship for quite a while but I realized today that I shall embrace the contradiction. It is part of my dynamic with you and your other relationship. It helped me greatly to read that “I just want to be me, for you.” I can solidly get behind that. It also helps me SO much to read that I am still your game changer and your life partner. To be honest, I just needed to hear that. That is all the reinforcement I need.

My wife…edited out…you.

I totally overthink things. I need to let go and let things proceed naturally. You are totally right. You are right that I need to give myself the time to just feel the feelings and adapt naturally. I heed your words of caution regarding starting a new relationship while I am dealing with this. I am taking your words of caution to heart and will be mindful of this when I meet with anyone new. …On my walk I questioned my need for another relationship and I realize it is not for distraction (you are right, that is a stupid reason), but because I want to feel a real connection with another person for all the reasons I chose a polyamorous lifestyle last fall. I need to get back to my poly roots and be true to myself. …I foresee a time in the future where I will be content being mono/poly with you but I am not there yet. With that said, I recognize I need to take the time to evolve, feel the feelings (there are A LOT!), and learn to accept. …And I need to either GET OFF the meds and get some anti-anxiety meds to help me be the chill and rational guy I was only a few weeks ago. Walking sure helped today. I need to do that at least once a week!

Last: I TOTALLY needed to hear that you love our vanilla sex…and that I am still your gamechanger and life partner. I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear those things. …And I agree with you, I thought you would find our play even hotter with being kinky. Don’t get me wrong, I was really starting to get into it, but yes, let us return to doing what we do well. Let me do some reading on it. Let us introduce toys naturally over time. Please let me know when (and if) you would like to introduce some bdsm into our play in the future. …I Love you forever. I want to be with you. That was one thing that is never in question and the place I started from on my long walk today. I am for you.

I had to clarify from his first part about my defined relationship with A:

Let me say this: My relationship with A isn’t defined at all. Our sexual dynamic is. And part of the long verbal negotiation that happened was the contract as part of embracing that ONE part of our multifaceted relationship. If I say I’m submissive, it’s the same as saying I’m poly. There’s a lot of individual variability

Thank you for the clarification. Either way, I am choosing to embrace the variability and constant flux rather than try to control and define. That is the lesson I am learning here. To let go and let things grow and evolve. …It is that leap of faith I wrote a few days ago…the trust exercise of falling back and trusting someone will catch you.

This is a wonderful response.  Thank you for responding so positively and knowing I was coming from a place of love

Talking yesterday helped me more than you know. I could also see you relax as we talked and I held your hand in the car. We are all good at the articulation of our ideas in print but nothing is better than face-to-face and hand-in-hand. You told me yesterday you were going to be critical but it was coming from a place of love. I never doubted that. Besides, I know I have been not myself lately and I really needed the honest feedback. I would never forgive myself for messing up our relationship. …Walking today helped me in ways I need to keep doing no matter the weather. …And I need to deal with my meds.

And I Love you. I trust you to always treat me fairly and with respect. Yet another reason I choose you to be my life partner.

Here’s is my twitter summary of what I learned today: “It is what it is. Let things grow over time. It is ok to feel all the feels but also important to know when to let go.”

This all happened over the course of a week or more. It was incredibly stressful for me.  I was really concerned about how O would react when I responded in a critical way.  I didn’t want to lose him, I didn’t want to hurt him, and I couldn’t pretend like the problems I had didn’t exist. This conversation went so very well, and it was really productive.  

Since then, he and I have had a few dates and one in particular, where he took me out for dinner and I stayed the night at his place was perfect. We reconnected and reset and are back to the dynamic that made us so strong to begin with.  I’m happy and excited about where we are going.  I’m even happier that we were able to navigate a very difficult and heavy emotional discussion without anger or argument.  I think it says a lot about where we are going in the future that we so easily discuss things with love, support, and understanding.  

Inadequately explaining my hurts

My heart is breaking and repairing and breaking and repairing again.   This seemingly never ending cycle hurts.  It’s left me feeling raw and vulnerable and weak.  This is not something I’m used to, and it’s rather hard to cope with, truthfully.  I think that now, over six months after I asked F for a separation, I’m starting to tease out some of the baggage I have that he saddled me with that I’ve been carrying, starting fourteen years ago and adding to the load frequently for years.  I’m realizing that behaviours I thought were normal, or minor, when looked at in isolation, were just that, but that as I look back at the cumulative history of those interactions, what I went through was a thorough and devastating form of emotional abuse.

Why is this coming out now?  Because of O.

I’m going to start at the small things that amount to abuse on a larger, rather systematic scale and then add to how I started to determine this was actually abuse and how it’s all O’s fault.  I say that tongue in cheek, I realize how amazing it is that he’s helped me peel off so many layers of bandaids in such a short time.

 I remember before we were married, F getting so angry with me that he kicked a 4L milk jug in our front hallway and it exploded against the wall.  I remember him refusing to clean it up, leaving it for me as he stormed out of the house, I remember seeing the drips of the hasty job I did for weeks.  I remember another fight around that time where I locked myself in our bathroom, and he punch a hole in the door trying to break it down.  He was yelling at me to open the door and I refused, and he asked me why and I said “Because I’m scared of you right now.” and he laughed and said it was silly that I was scared, asking why I would be.  I responded with “What response did you think you would get when you started banging on the door?”  In his defense, he calmed down in that moment and said “You’re right, I’m sorry.” There was the ongoing issues with sex. Where if I said “no”, it became a fight.  If I wanted sex, it became a game.  It became about him and his needs and all about him cumming.  I like hard sex, and whenever I asked for it harder, he would complain that I “just wanted it over”, when the reality was it was the only time I really enjoyed sex with him.  If I made a mistake in front of our friends, he would make a joke about it and intentionally embarrass me.  He would throw me under the bus in excuses all the time to his parents, my parents, everyone.  Whenever I came to him and said that something he did or said hurt my feelings, he would make it like it was my fault, or that I was being too sensitive.  He would frequently say I was being controlling, too strong, too opinionated, unreasonable, and stubborn.  I suspect I sometimes was.  Other times though, I most certainly was not, and it was his way of getting my back up so that I would get upset and he would “win”.  It was his method of taking control of the situation.  Often times, these discussions would end in me crying, my feelings hurt, confused that I came to him with what I thought was a valid concern and wondering if I was, in fact, too sensitive/demanding/controlling/etc.  When this happened, he would say things like: “Oh god, you’re not crying again are you?”  or “Right, cry, because you can’t get what you want.” or if I was crying in bed and he heard me when he was sleeping or trying to sleep, “If  you’re going to cry like that, can you go somewhere else and do it so I can sleep?” For our entire marriage, I did all the household shopping.  There were constant complaints about the food I prepared.  The “junk” I bought.  The cost of everything.  When I made family meals, which was all the time, I would announce that supper was ready, the kids would come running, and F would head to the bathroom.  The five of us were often finished dinner when he finally arrived, and I had just taken care of all the kids alone.  Often I would start cleaning up while he was eating and playing on his phone or reading a book and yelling at the kids for being kids.  When he was done, he rarely did dishes.  He rarely did laundry.  He rarely helped around the house.  In fact, until just before I asked him for a divorce, he never really independently decided to do anything that needed to be done around the house, from grocery shopping, to housework, to mowing the lawn, to laundry, to preparing something for the children’s week, to registering kids for programs, to preparing school lunches, to giving kids baths, to everything, really. I read a post recently about this emotional labour that we do as women, and I acknowledge that much of this was of my causing – I just did these things, the organizing, emotional labour, family management, and household management automatically – he never HAD to help.  When I asked for help, he attacked – I was being demanding, controlling, wanted to dictate what he did with his time, and naggy.  Throughout our marriage, I would establish boundaries, and F was always pushing them.  He was constantly breaking through those boundaries and I was constantly bending them for his benefit.  So much so, that at the end, when he started pushing my boundaries so blatantly that it was impossible to miss, and some of my things were getting destroyed as a result, I continued to excuse his behaviour as abnormal or uncharacteristic, but when I truthfully looked back, I realized that his behaviour hadn’t changed, but the frequency of it had.

In all of this, I was convinced I was the one with the problem. I was too controlling. My expectations were too high.  I wasn’t communicating my feelings well.  I was broken by my childhood, so I wasn’t able to be the wife I should be.  It never occurred to me that maybe the problem wasn’t entirely me.  I’m realizing more and more that much of the problem was him.  I’m being very careful to not blame things on him that aren’t his fault, but restrict it to those things that are, while acknowledging and accepting blame for my part in things.  I’m not saying I’m blameless, I’m saying that I recognize that many things I thought were normal were actually abusive, and O has helped me realize a lot of these.

How?  Well, by simply being him.  When we had our first major discussion, when he expressed concern about my relationship with A and I got upset with him, instead of blaming me, or even arguing with me, he met me with a list of coherent thoughts he wanted to work through together.  The first part was just some basic understandings that we had based on our relationship structure. The second was clarification questions. The third was a talk about how we responded to our text dialogue and what it meant.  In all of it, we held hands, had our legs wrapped around each others’, and not an angry or accusatory word was spoken.  It wasn’t heated, it was loving, and there was no blame.  Trigger the first time I realized I was responding to O as if F was on the other side of the conversation, and I expected hidden meaning where there was none.  I expected a motive where there was only desire for understanding.  I was too hard on him because of the hurt someone else caused me.

Then, one night I was at his house.  I’ve had a lot of work stress in recent weeks, and I haven’t been at my best.  We played for a while, and I had a very fulfilling time, but he didn’t “finish”.  He asked me what I wanted.  What I truly wanted.  He presented it as: 1) keep playing and have a super hot, fun time; or 2) cuddle in and fall asleep holding each other.  I knew I wanted option two.  I was exhausted. I was emotionally done for a variety of reasons.  I needed to sleep and be held and feel safe and loved.  He had to drag that answer out of me.  I was ready to give up what I truly wanted to satisfy him, because I was so used to the guilt and manipulation that I received with F.  I wasn’t giving him a straight answer and he asked me why.  So I told him the truth.  This resulted in a short chat about how he was perfectly happy holding me while we slept and that there was no place he’d rather be and sex had nothing to do with it.  I cried a little that night, even though he didn’t know it, because I didn’t know that doing what I needed for myself could come without guilt.

A couple weeks ago, F was at his worst.  He was arguing with me about preschool Christmas concert tickets, and treated #3 horribly, manipulatively, abusively, and I lost it.  It brought up so much hurt. So much history.  So much of so much.  O came over that night. We sat on the couch, drank wine, and I talked about my life. About how I felt like layers and layers of bandaids were getting ripped off and my heart was hurting and all the reasons why. O listened. He held me.  I cried and he told me he appreciated my vulnerability.  I told him about my relationship with F and it took most of the night.  I was so raw and hurting and incapable of anything more emotionally so we crawled into bed and he held me.  He helped me heal by just being what I needed.  Something no one has ever done for me before.  I didn’t have to ask.  

That’s it:  I didn’t have to ask.  It wasn’t a compromise on his part. He just did.

I’ve written so many versions of this post.  Everything I write has meaning for me, but if I read it from the perspective of an outside observer, I think it sounds trite and petty and full of blame.  Yesterday, I went to my counsellor and I talked about this.  About how bad I am at being vulnerable, how I need to be asking for help when I need it, and  how I need to be dealing with the realizations of F’s manipulations and abuse one at a time.   

I’m not sure I can write the words that would make others understand what I’m going through in my brain and in my heart.  But the important thing is that I am going through it.  I’m growing, I’m healing, and I’m on my way to being complete.  And I’m happy.

 

Vulnerable about vulnerability

This last week was a bit crazy.  So much of A’s stress has resolved, he’s back to the basal level of stress he has as his “normal”, which is still a lot for most, but he’s an expert in dealing with things in the most amazing way. O and I had a rather challenging discussion last week after he reacted strongly to a spontaneous night A and I had and some of the dom/sub dynamics we enjoy and I then was way too hard on him.  What came from it was the most functional, understanding, and loving conflict resolution-type conversation I have ever had with a partner.  He was so….perfect.  About everything.  I was really hard on him.  I over-reacted.  I took our conversation of the previous day, where he warned me to be careful with A, and turned my feelings about that into an excuse to react badly about his feelings about A coming over spontaneously the previous night.  I was blunt and direct and not at all empathetic.  I wasn’t recognizing my triggers and I wasn’t recognizing his. I was not a good girlfriend.  He continued loving me anyway and we had a great talk about the whole thing that evening.  The conflict part of the conversation happened during the day, via text.  Text is, of course, the best way to fuck up your meaning, and this was truly the case. I felt he had questioned my judgement, he felt I had lied to him.  It was a storm of miscommunication and was completely avoidable.  When I sat on his couch with a glass of wine to talk it out, I knew, immediately, that it was going to be fine.  When we are together, we have a very hard time not touching each other.  So, legs wrapped together, holding hands, we broke down and broke through every detail that needed to be discussed.  It ended in us giving each other context, clarifying a few “guidelines” (I can’t think of a better term, but it’s just overarching themes of our relationship that we agree on), and most importantly, opening up the understanding of how our own personal baggage has influenced how we respond to each other, and how we recognize that what we have in each other is as amazing and as statistically improbably as winning the lottery, and how we both want to work to maintain what we have.  I left that conversation, completely emotionally exhausted, but completely reassured that I love him, he is as perfect for me as I thought, and that we are so incredibly good together, it’s amazing.

Part of what I told him was the full story of F and I and our journey in polyamory.  As I was explaining the critical occurrences, the things I did wrong, the things F did wrong, and everything in between, I had this crazy epiphany that I tied into my realization that I’m absolutely shit at asking for what I need. I’m really bad at being vulnerable.  Absolutely horrible, in fact.  Several of my partners have commented on how they don’t know I’m processing something I’m emotional working through until I all of a sudden come to them with a conclusion.  Then they have to catch up with the fact that I have been struggling with something and they had no idea.  I then have to describe the process I went through, the feelings I had, the hurt I experienced.  More than once I’ve heard: “But why didn’t you tell me you were having a hard time?”  Truthfully, I thought it was just how I am.  That I’m an internal processor and that I wasn’t hurting anyone.   I was proud of the exclamations from partners about how strong I am.  Truthfully, I was hurting myself first, and partners and those who love me second.  I was taking on loads that should be shared by the people who love me.  This is the case with O the other day, when I was upset with him about warning me about A, but didn’t communicate it with him.  This is the “event” that made me realize that I have some broken parts that need repairs.  

A few weeks ago, I asked A for some cuddles when I was going through a particularly difficult time. It was slightly easier for me to ask then, because I didn’t know what was wrong.  I just needed closeness and cuddles and to be held, and he obliged. He’s actually really good at just being what I need in the moment without making me explain.  I think he knows that I’ll eventually get to the explanation without being pushed.  I also think it’s just his way and the dynamic we set up this last year as I asked for diversions and distractions from him physically as I went through the emotional pain I wasn’t communicating.  The fact is, asking for cuddles was the first time in several years that I’ve asked someone to do something emotionally supportive for me, because I need it.  When I was talking to O about my story last week, I realized that there was a time when I was better at asking for what I need.  When I was OK with being vulnerable and didn’t feel like I needed to be strong and hide my pain from others.  I realized that that time was long in the past, before F and I were married and our dynamic changed from one of some sort of mutual support (I’m not sure it was ever completely healthy, but certainly healthier than where it ended up), to one where I supported him, and if I needed support, he had free license to turn it into something he needed support for.

Before I go on, I need to also address the fact that I remembered last weekend that F has PTSD.  He is in emergency services and has been for nearly 20 years.  I was talking with a friend and coworker at my second job who has been a huge mental health advocate for emergency services personnel in the last years.  As I chatted with her about her journey, my experiences being married to F came out.  I remembered the hurtful awful things he did.  The pain he felt. The fact that he was able to pretend he wasn’t chronically affected by his career choice when we went to Sweden and the stressors were removed, but that when we returned to Canada, the stressors reappeared and he spiralled into the oblivion that is PTSD.  She understood the trend for long-term emergency services workers to take their worst experiences out on their spouses. It reminded me that early in our relationship, and even as it progressed for the next 14 years, F frequently talked of divorce, alcoholism, or suicide as a given.  He seemed to think that losing his mental health was a predetermined certainty and that it would cost him everything that meant something to him.  As I told my story, she sympathized with me AND with F, and just shook her head and even cried at the fact that our story isn’t unusual.  This whole conversation reminded me that while the way that F treated me was unacceptable, it isn’t entirely him, so much as his mental illness, that is driving his behaviour.  That I, too, am a victim of the stress that is the career he chose.  It also made me ridiculously angry at the fact that he didn’t move into positions that would offer less stress (and more money) or access the amazing supports available to him when he had opportunities for the protection of our marriage and, even more, our children and families.  There were many of these opportunities, yet he focused on blame and the fact that I chose to work in a job I love in my chosen career rather than stay home with my children.  So, take any story of his inability to be a decent husband, and sometimes, a decent person, with a grain of salt. The man clearly has mental illness, and I don’t want to diminish from the fact that he actually has redeemable qualities that made him, at one point, long ago, an acceptable choice as a partner.

As I told O my story, I realized the gravity of the things I went through in the last year.  How any support from F came with a price.  How I needed, badly, someone who had my back in all of the horrible situations I found myself in.  I thought about how I asked F for support as I was encountering feelings with his relationship with W.  How I asked for time, connection, love, touch, and even a smile.  How I frequently asked for simple touches, like a hug or a kiss, and was denied.  How he frequently refused to sleep with me because I snore, wouldn’t touch me when I was struggling emotionally, demeaned me as useless when I wasn’t supporting him exactly how he wanted, though he didn’t communicate his needs, and how even when he was intimate with me, the whole episode was about his pleasure, his climax, and had so little to do with mine.  As I thought it through, as I recognized the damaged goods that I am, I could see how somewhere in the years that we had been together, F had become the person who I supported.  I became his strength and his support, but he wasn’t that for me.  (There’s a lot of irony here, because he had a hard time with the fact that I “didn’t need him anymore”, when we embraced polyamory.)  

Nothing is a more clear an example of his manipulation as when I was diagnosed with post-partum depression in 2015.  At that time, #4 was 3 months old. He had a few health scares early on.  When they were resolved, and I didn’t get better, I realized that I needed help that wasn’t going to come in the form of “giving it time” or “accepting my situation”.  So I made an appointment with my family physician and got a prescription for antidepressants.  Thirteen days later, I woke up, myself, for the first time in six years, realizing that this acute depression had been preceded by six years of a low level chronic depression.  The intervening thirteen days where I adjusted to my meds were some of the most difficult of my life. I was unable to get out of bed in the morning.  The antidepressant I’m on is a sedative and it takes some time to adjust.  I had a three month old baby, who, thankfully, was the best sleeper, and would wake a 8:30 a.m.  I would nurse him and hand him off to F.  F would get up with the children, feed and care for them, and put #4 down for a nap, who would wake up at around noon.  I would get up, feed him, and we would get going and spend the afternoon together. I was groggy and stressed and still very much depressed.  Just going through the motions of daily life was an enormous challenge.  During this whole time, I heard no end of complaints about how hard it was on F.  How he wasn’t getting a vacation, how I was “lazing” away the days while he worked so hard.  How he was suffering, and I wasn’t helping.  It went on and on. It was one long complaint.  After two weeks, I came out of my depression with a new lease on life. I realized how difficult our relationship had been for years and started tackling some of the issues that needed to be fixed.  I took control again.  

The reality of this is that every time I had an issue, every time I was vulnerable, my needs became a problem for F.  He turned my suffering into his.  I ended up supporting him through my stresses.  It was the very definition of unhealthy, having a partner who couldn’t actually see past the end of his nose to support me.  When I was talking to A about F, he said “I don’t understand him.  He’s clearly very selfish”, and I can’t help but agree with him.  Anything anyone in his life was going through became about him.  The kids being kids and being loud or demanding became them misbehaving and being hard on him after a night shift.  Me needing a break and time off for myself when I was home with kids alone for days at a time on his days off was me making things too hard for him, denying him a break.  Me needing him for anything was about him.  

What does this mean?  It means that every time, for 14 years, that I was at all vulnerable, I had a partner who not only didn’t support me, but required me to support him.  I did so, to the best of my ability, and he criticized me for it.  So somewhere along the journey, I stopped asking for support.  I stopped being vulnerable.  I stopped needing anyone but myself.  I turned completely inwards.  This is where A and O, the loves in my life, find me.  This is where my strong friends, like G, find me. Strong and independent to a fault.  Reluctant to share my truths with many.  Not asking for help, but wanting the support (and perhaps needing it) more than anyone can guess.  

Now, I have two men in my life who ACTUALLY want to help me work through my weaknesses.  I have friends who are unfailingly supportive.  But I don’t know how to ask for the help I need. No, that’s not true. I know HOW to ask, I don’t know how to feel safe asking for what I need.  I’m bad at vulnerability.  The fact that I’ve felt raw and vulnerable this week, while I process this truth of my inability to be good at vulnerability is the wildest irony in this situation.  The fact is, I have to unpack this fact, dissect it.  Understand the healthy parts, discard the unhealthy ones, and figure out how to function better for my own good.  For myself, but also for the people who I love and who love me.  I need to model good communication and self-care for my children and that comes with not always being the strong person and being vulnerable sometimes.  I need to be better.  I’m still being strong and fun and unapologetic, which is good.  Going forward, I need to be someone who is strong and fun and unapologetic who is really, truly all of those things because I have the support of those I love and the strength to show them the vulnerable, feeling, hurting, emotional side of me too.  Understanding what led me here is a huge revelation.  Unpacking it will take time.  Thankfully, I have people who will encourage me to do the things I need for myself, including being there when I am vulnerable and ask for the support I need.

One of the many things I love about O is that he asks me what I need.  What I want from our date or what I want him to communicate or if I need anything specific in any situation.  Just by being himself, he is pulling my needs from me and making it normal for me to ask for what I need.  This game changer seems to be just naturally changing my game.   

Choose Every Day

I’ve had a lot of conversations with A about relationship structures and obligations, responsibilities, and priorities in poly relationships and how they relate to hierarchy.  Hierarchy doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Formalized rules and regulation and veto usually are, at least in my experience, but also don’t have to be bad.  I had a friend recently who really liked a guy.  She wanted to continue dating him.  She ran away as fast as she could in the opposite direction when he laid out the rules he and his wife had:  The wife had to know all the plans for the date.  He had to be home by 11 p.m.  His wife needed all of my friend’s sexual partners disclosed to her. No more than one date every week.  No overnights.  It went on.  Honestly, I wouldn’t ever consider dating a man with that type of primary relationship structure.  It smacks of insecurity.  Having been married to an insecure man and dealing with him as my partner in a poly relationship and having him date an even more insecure woman and dealing with her particular insanity have me on high alert for those types of control issues.  Too many rules inevitably mean that someone is try to control the situation because they are uncomfortable, usually driven by insecurity, or lack of stability in their relationship.  I just can’t date a person who lives in that world.  

Fortunately, A, O, and I don’t suffer from major insecurities, we all communicate well and have very few rules apart from the “Be safe, be honest, be respectful” undercurrent in all our time together.  But what this means is that there is a lot of communication about other relationships, how we feel about them, and how the relationships overlap.  I came into my relationship with A knowing he was married.  I’ve never expected or desired any more than exactly what we have right now.  What we have is absolutely perfect for us.  But I actively chose to respect his relationship and honour his commitments to his marriage, his family, his business and everything else in his life.  F liked to criticize my relationship structure with my other partners when we were still together, so I had to think a lot about what I want and how I feel about my relationships.  I enter every relationship with the same idea – that no matter what the obligations and responsibilities are, I will respect my partner’s choices.  I’ve dated a few solo poly men with kids, a solo poly guy with dogs and a mortgage, and a couple married men.  The point to me is that no matter who they are or what they do or what their life looks like, they come with a life that they have chosen and that requires respect and consideration when developing the relationship structure that we want together.

A few weeks ago, A and I were talking about his different relationships and what they meant.  In typical practical A fashion, he said something to the effect of: “I have a 20 year history with my wife, a family, a mortgage, and an entire life together.  With you, we don’t share anything.  Ending my marriage would be devastating.  Ending my relationship with you would suck, but it would be easy.”  OK, obvious heart pang aside, there is an element of truth in this statement that is obvious.  When you only share selfies, a few pornographic videos and pics, and hot sex, the relationship is easier to untangle.  When you share retirement savings, progeny that contain 50% of your DNA each, and purchased your bed together, things are a little more complicated.  This was quite apparent to me this past weekend, when I was talking to a poly friend about her boyfriend and her husband.  She’s been with her husband for 23 years.  They were high school sweethearts.  I said something about my divorce and she said “I wish I was as strong as you.  I should leave my husband, but it’s just too hard.  I still love him, but I’m not happy.  I think we are just together out of habit.”  Another friend came over for wine last week.  She said she was going to give her marriage another four years, and then she’s gone.  Four years!  Knowing she’s planning on ending it.  Her reasoning?  They can’t afford to live apart right now.  They need each other’s incomes.  They are staying together out of practicality, not because they want, need, or desire each other in their life.  

These conversations had me thinking.  As I’ve looked back over my marriage, critically analyzing my role in the whole process we went through, I realized that I fell back into that routine and comfort in a relationship, continually moving forward without really considering if it was what I wanted for myself.  I just accepted it as the commitment that I made, no longer considering if it was, in fact, what I needed and wanted in my life.  If it fulfilled me and my need for connection and love.  I really didn’t consider that I was unhappy.  I just thought that was how it should be.  Of course, it’s easier for me to break up with a boyfriend of a few months than it is to break up with my husband, who I have four kids with, a mortgage, retirement savings, debt, and a 14 year history.  But that for as long as I can remember, I didn’t really consider if I *wanted* to be in that relationship, but just accepted it without thought, is a bit of a problem in my mind.

I was thinking about my current relationships, the relationships I have had in the last year, and the relationships I would like going forward, and I realized something that is a strength of polyamorous relationship structure that is lacking in monogamous relationships: the common thread about all of my poly relationships is that every day, I choose them.  There is something completely romantic to me in the fact that every morning, I choose A and O.  I choose the time I spend with them, I choose the contact and communication I have with them, I choose to be completely with them when we are together.  I carve out time in my life to prioritize them because I love them.  In my monogamous relationships, they all started out that way, but eventually life took over, we took each other for granted, and we moved forward as a matter of routine.  It wasn’t choosing each other, but rather, not choosing something or someone else.

This complacency isn’t something I want in my life.  I’ve spent the last year actively choosing only things that make me happy and fulfill me in ways that I hadn’t previously dreamed. I’ve made some hard choices, some even harder choices, and some that were so easy that I wondered why I didn’t make them sooner. Within my relationship with A, it’s easy to avoid complacency.  We won’t escalate to the point where we ever won’t have to choose to be together.  We won’t share life in the way that anything could become routine.  Now that I have a partner who is likely to escalate to all the levels, I’m trying to work through the mental exercise of how I can hypothetically take on all the comforts and commitments of a shared life and responsibilities and obligations that go with it, while avoiding that mental switch that turns it from a choice to a routine.  I want to choose to live my life the way I want every day for the rest of my life.  I don’t want to go through life as a matter of routine, like a ghost floating through my days without actively engaging in my life and connecting with the important people in it. I want to remember all the reasons I value my partners, friends, family, jobs, and overall life, always.  I want to go through the rest of my life actively choosing it.  I think a strength of the polyamorous relationship structures that I’ve chosen, is that I do get that choice.  Every day.