Live Your Dream, Abridged

While exploring what people seemingly think they are supposed to do in order to appear busy, attractive or likeable, I concluded that this all just seems like a giant façade. It’s getting in my way of getting to know people who I actually like.

http://elitedaily.com/dating/rules-dating-outdated/777713/

Getting in the way, indeed!

Hey y’all! As usual, I’ve been gone for quite some time. The writing bug has been a bitin’, but I’m not gonna lie; so has life. I’m sorry to have abandoned you as I’ve explored my corner of the globe and the people in it for the past few months, but also, I’m a little #sorrynotsorry.

What brought me back here was not a personal epiphany, or huge development in the world of poly, but an article posted by a friend on Facebook, with the quote posted above. I’ve agreed with the sentiment for a while now, and while the author doesn’t seem to ascribe to any form of polyamorous outlook, at least publicly, I enjoyed reading her views.

Regardless of whether you find yourself leaning more toward the monogamous, polyamorous, open, single, or any of infinite other possibilities within the realm of relationship statuses, I think that it’s worth your time to shun anything that gets in the way of getting to know the people you want to get to know. I think it’s a damn shame that some people think that there are “rules” to getting to know people, and who will stop getting to know someone they are otherwise interested in if they don’t follow these arbitrary rules.

Forget the rules; if you want to call someone the same day they gave you their number, who’s to say they won’t be excited to hear from you that same day? I’m only one voice of many, but if someone makes you that excited, perhaps you deserve to know if they are equally excited to hear from you. If they aren’t, perhaps it’s not a match. Who knows? Crazier stories exist than the couple that “recovered” from a same-day call back.

In the meantime, until you meet the person (or people) who make you feel that way, keep being you and loving you. When you’re busy living life the way you love living it, time flies by, and people see you for who you are and love you for who you are. Be you to the fullest; do it the best way you can. I’m cheering you on and doing the same.

Back to living the dream!

 

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Isn’t It All Fair Play?

Polyamory has changed for me since I first discovered it from within a “primary relationship.” I was recently asked what kinds of rules I like to adhere to, and I had a hard time saying that I wasn’t really sure without feeling emotionally reckless. Despite the fact that I’ve read many articles and blogs by people who explain why having rules about love doesn’t make sense, it’s still hard to tell people that I don’t follow rules in regards to love without seeming like someone too dangerous to love.

My “problem,” if you could call it that, is that I generally don’t like attaching obligations or ultimatums to emotional situations, either for myself or for the people I’m potentially or definitely fond of. “Don’t be an asshole,” is probably the only rule that really comes to mind, but because everyone likes/dislikes different things, the meaning of this rule changes from person to person. While some people expect and want to pay for their own dinner, others get offended if the person who suggested the dinner doesn’t pay, for example. (I did once have someone ask me to write a “Handbook to Dating Shannon Burton”, which I still might write, more for entertainment value than anything else.)

Woman Reading a Diary

Italian food, eh? I’ll rock her socks off with my homemade lasagna!

Yes, I do have things that I would prefer you do/not do. If you know me, you’ll probably find these things out rather quickly. I’m not exactly quiet about my needs. Here are some basics, though, that some may not think to ask about:

If you love me, I want you to choose to love me each day, until the day comes, if it ever does, that you find that you just don’t any more. If that day comes, I want you to tell me.

I want you to be you. I want to love you for who you are, not some person you think I’ll like, and not some person who holds him/herself back from pursuing people or things that interest you.

Yes, people. If I like you (and even if I don’t, honestly), I want you to go out and float your boat. I want you to pursue people that interest you. I was likely at some point one of those people, and it probably turned out wonderfully for both of us, even if it was only for just a little while. If it didn’t, it was probably a great learning experience. I don’t want to stop you from experiencing something wonderful or learning something new.

Tourist Boat Near Dragon Palace Cave

I want you to choose, if someone else’s needs require that my role change, and you care for them enough to want to meet their needs, what role in your life you’d like me to take. I want you to make this choice while keeping your own needs in mind, as well.

And if you decide we need to alter our relationship, I know you’ll inform me with the knowledge that I, too, have the freedom to decide how I feel about the change, and proceed accordingly.

Does this philosophy open me up to potential pain? Uh, duh! I’m not immune to jealousy and misunderstanding. But this is attraction and love – do you really think you can jump in these waters and expect the lifejacket of assumed eyes-only-for-you, you’re-the-only-one-for-me, and happily-ever-after paradigms to save you from getting nibbled on by sharks? Nope. I’d rather be clear, open, and honest so I can see the sharks in the water when they arrive. Then we can talk about what the eff to do about it – swim to shore? Punch the sharks in the nose? Befriend them? I’m willing to have these discussions if you are.

Three-course meal? Yum!

Three-course meal? Yum!

Don’t misunderstand me: the “lifejacket” in this analogy is assumed paradigms, not to be confused with people who honestly, genuinely, have examined themselves and found themselves to be inherently monogamous or monogamish. If that’s who you are, you’re not putting on a lifejacket when you jump in the water; you are jumping in as you are…just as I jump in as I am. And you know, monogamous, monogamish, polyamorous, or whatever/whoever we are – we still risk getting bit by sharks, because that’s what happens in this particular ocean.

We just get to see what’s coming at us.

Plenty of Fish in the Polyamorous Sea?

Man Scratching HeadWith raised eyebrows, my fellow conversationalist states, “well that certainly narrows down your dating pool.”

This is a common reaction I get after explaining that I’m polyamorous and don’t promise monogamy to potential partners. Funny thing is, I don’t think it’s necessarily true.

I think every one of us, monogamously-inclined or not, has a number of characteristics or relationship desires that narrow down our dating pools. A lot of people knock out about half the world population by preferring only to date one gender. A number of people prefer to only date people of a certain religion. Some also prefer partners who are waiting until marriage to have sex and live together, while others would prefer the opposite.

Some seek out partners with similar political beliefs, or similar goals in life. Some people want kids, some don’t. Some people want to get married, some don’t. Some people want to settle in one place together, others want to travel the world. There are those who won’t date people with tattoos, or people without cars, or people without jobs, or people with bad credit scores.

Here we all are, narrowing and narrowing our own dating pools, hopefully based on not what others want for us or what we think is expected of us, but based on what we think is essential to a good relationship with us.

So, yes, on occasion I run into someone I’m attracted to who prefers not to get involved with nonmonogamous people, just like you run into people you’re attracted to who turn out not to be right for you in some way.

But you know what? It happens less often than you might think.

Man with Eyebrows Raised

Jada Smith on Relationships

Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should “behave”? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions, and underlying threats of “you better act right or else” keep one honest and true? Do we believe that we can have meaningful relationships with people who have not defined nor live by the integrity of his or her higher self? What of unconditional love? Or does love look like, feel like, and operate as enslavement? Do we believe that the more control we put on someone the safer we are? What of TRUST and LOVE?

Should we be married to individuals who can not be responsible for themselves and their families within their freedom? Should we be in relationships with individuals who we can not entrust to their own values, integrity, and LOVE…for us???

Here is how I will change my statement…Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.

MC900434433

So said Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith, on her Facebook yesterday at 6:17pm.

I’m not normally one for celebrity gossip; in fact I saw this post by Jada only because a friend of mine shared it on her wall. I decided to do some research to find out if the profile actually did belong to the actual Jada Smith, and that the post was, indeed, written by her. I was immediately annoyed by the first article Google News pulled up, which was on philly.com:

“Jada Pinkett Smith wants to make it crystal clear to everyone (or at least her Facebook followers): She is in a mutually-exclusive, committed relationship with her Philly-raised, triple threat of a husband, Will Smith.”

*headdesk*

In what part of the above statement by Jada was the term “mutually-exclusive” used? She asked questions about whether relationships should be relate-able to ownership and slavery, asked whether we should be married to irresponsible, untrustworthy people, and then stated that she and Will can do whatever they want. A “grown relationship” could be a relationship in which the people involved are mature enough to do the things they want to do without hurting their marriage or families; in a marriage where one or both partners isn’t bothered by their spouse being involved in some way with other partners, that could include non-exclusivity.

But none of this matters, because everybody is taking this statement to mean that Jada and Will are, indeed, in a “closed,” “exclusive” relationship. perezhilton.com, E! Online, and US Weekly are all breathing internet sighs of relief and using phrases like “committed relationship” to clarify the type of relationship the Smiths’ have. What does that even mean? I’ve already talked about my feelings on what commitment means in this blog post from long, long (a year) ago. It ain’t so clear-cut, folks.

Everyone seems to be celebrating the reveal that the Smith marriage is monogamous, but is it? The answer doesn’t really matter; what does is the fact that if the general population would quit jumping to conclusions, putting words in Jada’s mouth, and instead think about the questions she put forth, it could do a lot of lovers a lot of good, and perhaps help a lot of lovers be better understood.

“Relationship Material”

interview

What is “relationship material”? I’ve been thinking about this ever since writing my second post on slut-shaming, where I mention that someone warned me that a guy I was interested in was not “relationship material”.

“Relationship material” usually, I think, refers to someone’s viability as a romantic partner. The problem is that everybody has different needs from a romantic partner. This is most visible in dating sites, where individuals (or a quiz) can identify who is “relationship material” for them. All kinds of needs can be set out: “Someone independent with a job and a car,” “Someone who values traditional gender roles,” “Someone who likes the idea of moving every couple years,” “Someone who is okay with the fact that I’m married,” etc.

I think online dating sites often highlight the issues with having a third party decide who is “relationship material” for another person. They make it obvious that individuals have individual relationship needs, and then try their best to design algorithms to identify these needs and find “matches.” Members can often identify what they are looking for, with options such as “hang out,” “friendship,” “long-term relationship,” “no strings attached,” “marriage,” etc., and often, I see written on these profiles, “Let’s just see what happens.”

“Let’s just see what happens,” leaves, literally, infinite possibilities open, from good conversation partner, to one-night stand, to friend, to best friend, to friend with benefits, to life partner, to this-person-wants-to-have-bikini-oil-wrestling-at-their-wedding-and-I-do-too!, to any of the other infinite points on the spectrum of possibility you can fathom. This attitude, I believe, is more reflective of the real-life dating world. You get out there, you present yourself to the world, and you see what happens. Maybe a fun conversation at the bar, maybe a one-night romp in the sheets, maybe a wedding down the road.

All of these things are types of relationships. They are all wonderful possibilities. We can learn something from all of them. Wouldn’t you hate to miss out on a great experience and new person in your life because someone (or some website) thought they were not “relationship material” for you based on what they read in an online profile? (I am reminded of the “How I Met Your Mother” episode where Ted’s friends look up his date online, and find out she’s a total BAMF, and he freaks out thinking he’s not good enough.)

And try to think of some “universal qualities” that we all want out of any relationship. Think you’ve got some? I’d like to hear them, because with all of the kinks and cultures out there, there’s always someone, somewhere, who doesn’t want exactly the thing you’d think is universal.

So, when someone says someone else isn’t “relationship material”, I can’t help but laugh inside. How could they possibly know?  The person in question may have qualities that the speaker finds unattractive or undesirable in a relationship, but that’s just their own perspective. Love and friendship often blossom from the unlikeliest of places, so what authority do they have to make that call?

I love many people in my life. I love family, friends, lovers, lover-friends…most defy all effort to accurately label. I do not have anyone in my life that I call a “boyfriend,” or “girlfriend,” but all of the people in my life who are there for me when I am in need, and vice versa, no matter what that particular “need” is at the moment, are people that are “relationship material” to me in some way. I have so many varied and even conflicting needs, that I wouldn’t dare ask one person to meet them all, because it would be impossible. But the various and very different people in my life, when combined together, do meet them all. I guess my “relationship needs” include, “be a part of the team.”

Slut Shaming & My Fear of It

As defined on Urban Dictionary:

Slut Shaming:

An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity. Often it’s accompanied by urban legends such as the common virgin misconception that the vagina becomes larger or looser with use– in fact, sex has no effect on vaginal size.

However, since most people would rather women be MORE sexually active than less, slut shaming is counterproductive to the aims of most men and quite a few ladies.

I know that many in the polyamory and ethical nonmonogamy community are already familiarized with this term, but the thought occurred to me today that it’s a term I haven’t defined and talked about here for the people in my life who read this blog and aren’t involved in the online communities I frequent.

Slut shaming is counterproductive, as demonstrated in the example that accompanied the Urban Dictionary definition:

Guy 1: Ha ha Megan had sex with two guys, she’s such a SLUT!

Guy 2: You idiot, do you want her to stop having sex? We should be encouraging this. Your slut shaming will simply discourage more women from sleeping with us and we will be virgins forever.

And even more than perpetual virginity, slut shaming is counterproductive to gender equality. More on that in another post, hopefully.

I will admit, slut shaming is something that I fear a bit. I didn’t know that there was a term for it until recently, and now, knowing that there is one, I feel more empowered to identify what is happening in a situation, if it ever happens, and call someone on it.

Still, the fear lingers. Why? Because even if the effect slut shaming tends to have (sluts stop being so slutty) is unlikely to affect me, there’s the fact that I spent my whole adolescent and young adult life surrounded by slut shaming, and it’s ingrained the idea into me that promiscuity is bad. For a long time, I thought that was true. As I grew into an adult, I thought it was true. It was five or six years ago that I started seeing the possibility that promiscuity was not inherently bad, but even after so long, I’m still working so hard to push that message out.

My fear, I think, is based on one thought. One thought that I fear admitting, because it will open me up to attack from all those people who do think sluts should be ashamed.

What if I’m wrong?

We all fear being wrong from time to time. This one’s a biggie for me. What if my promiscuity means I lack good decision-making skills? What if it means I have low self-esteem? What if my promiscuity is the result of “daddy issues”? What if this, and my lack of ability to commit to a monogamous relationship, and my lack of ability to stick to a career, and my depression, are all linked…the common denominator being me, and me being the problem?

When this fear grips me, I have to take a deep breath. I remind myself that I have great decision-making skills. I’ve helped so many programs I’ve worked for grow, develop, improve. I am an excellent problem-solver and leader. I have left situations in which I was unhappy, and those to me are the most important decisions. I have healthy self-esteem. I know my strengths and hopefully most of my weaknesses. I use my strengths to help others, and am thanked for it often. Sure, Daddy and I have issues, but I’ve accepted that, stopped blaming both him and myself, and moved on. All the other things, well, I’ve spent so many years investigating them, writing about them, and even getting professional help for them, that all I can do is know that I’ve done the best I can with who I am, and, ultimately, I am happy.

And that is what is most important.

Not All Which Ends, Has Failed

Walk it OffSome cogs have clicked together recently in the slow and constant grind of gears in my head, and two converse ideas have formed:

Not all relationships which end, have failed.

Not all relationships which have failed, end.

To be honest, at first, I was only focused on the first idea. I wanted to write a post about how the ending of a relationship does not signal that it has failed. That some  (probably many, even most) relationships are not meant to last forever. That our irrational obsession with ensuring the longevity of a relationship despite massive sacrifices of happiness only exists because of the relationship-centered culture we are influenced by and the assurance that being in a long-term relationship is happiness, not that you should seek happiness from within yourself and hope to find someone awesome enough to appreciate that happiness as you do theirs.

Quite a mouthful, I agree. Which is why I hesitate to even get into the second point: that not all relationships which have failed, end. That is truly unfortunate. How many failed relationships do you know of that still exist? How do you know it has failed? If a couple is staying together because they appreciate the status that comes with being together, or staying together for the kids, has the relationship failed, or have they found a common point strong enough to validate the relationship?

More questions than answers appear. For the sake of brevity, I am going to set aside the second point for now, and focus on my original idea:

Not all relationships which end, have failed. This also means that when you see an end coming, that it doesn’t mean you are failing, or that the other person(s) has/have failed. Sometimes, a relationship has simply run its course, and that’s okay. Sometimes, a relationship evolves into a different type of relationship, and that’s okay, too.

Everyone, please calm down. It’s not the end of the world; it’s the end (or the evolution) of a relationship. Not every relationship is meant to last forever.

This doesn’t change the fact that breaking up is hard. I’ve been through it. It sucks. You cry. You rage. You self-evaluate. You doubt. You pick the relationship apart in an effort to pinpoint the exact moment it went wrong. Often, it’s impossible. Always, it’s hard. The difficulty of breaking up is likely what most people are trying to avoid when they look into “making it last.” They want to avoid the pain of breakup, and perhaps even the judgement of those who would believe they “failed.”

Why are we so obsessed with longevity equaling relationship “success”, when variety might serve us just as well? I can understand the mindset of loving someone so much that you want them around as long as possible, and you want them as happy as possible. What I don’t understand is the desire to accomplish this at all costs, sometimes even your own happiness. Do the person who loves you a favor: do what makes you happy. Because, if they love you, they want you happy, and they’d rather have you happy without them than miserable with them. If they don’t feel that way, they probably don’t actually love you, or love you in that scary dependent way that necessitates a step in the other direction anyway.

Above all, remember, that it is okay. We fear change, and yet change is inevitable and constant. The more you accept that in your day-to-day life, perhaps the better you’ll get at breaking up. That sounds awful, but if you have the emotional strength to handle a breakup better than you currently do (not well; few people handle a breakup well, I think), is that really such a bad thing? If you can minimize your angst and streamline the road to happiness, I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.

Mourn the death of your relationship, sure, but just as we remember the happy memories we shared with someone who has passed away, remember the happy relationship memories and be grateful that you’re still around to experience that again, even if it seems at the moment that you never will.

Seriously

Take Me Seriously“Do you think anyone will ever take you seriously if you live this way?”

I’ve been asked that a few times in relation to my “lovestyle”. I like to think that yes, I can be taken seriously (in fact, I know that I can be), but the number of times I’ve been asked this sometimes does make me stop and consider the possibility that I’m suffering from some tunnel-vision.

I think that a large number of people can and do have a hard time imagining a “serious” relationship with me. For many, it is because “serious” means sexual monogamy, and if I’m not offering it, then I can’t be serious. Then there are some who don’t mind the sexual nonmonogamy, but they expect emotional monogamy. You know, the whole, “she sleeps with other people but her heart’s all mine,” people out there. That’s fine and dandy if it works for you, but I can’t promise that my heart will be yours all yours and only yours, honey bun. Sorry.

So, what’s left to offer someone who wants something “serious” with me? Honestly, I crave something “serious” just as much as the next person. I’d love to have someone in my life right now to make time for. I’d love to have someone who expects me to make small sacrifices for them. I’d love to have someone who makes me want to work hard and strive to be an even more awesome person. I’d love to have someone to share my travels with, someone to get lost with from time to time, someone to sit around and be honest with, and be honestly in love with.

If those aren’t the desires of someone who wants something serious, then perhaps I need a different word. Fortunately, I’m not so hung up on labels and definitions to spend much time worrying about it. In the meantime, my answer remains: Yes, I do think that the right people can, will, and even DO take me seriously. As seriously as I take them, despite all of their non-normative needs and desires. Because, let’s be fair, there’s hardly a reliable definition of “normative” anyway.

To Assume Makes an ____ of U and Me

A friend shared an amusing story with me last night, which I’d like to relay here.

She began by saying that she has a friend who she’s known for two years, and who has been trying to sleep with her since the day he met her. She’s been constantly having to resist his advances. Then she added that he had a girlfriend he’d been with for five years. “But,” she said, “it’s an open relationship.”

She paused there, so I hazarded an interpretation of her situation: “So, you’re weirded out by sleeping with people who are in relationships, even if they’re open?”

“No!” she laughed, “Let me tell you what I’m weirded out by. He has her permission to sleep with me, and he doesn’t seem to think that he needs MY permission! I’ll tell him, ‘no,’ and he’ll say ‘but my girlfriend says it’s ok!'”

I rolled over laughing.

It’s interesting to note that my own first reaction was to assume that she was squicked by the idea of sleeping with someone who was in a relationship. Clearly, that is what this gentleman is thinking as well: “What do you mean you don’t want to sleep with me? You don’t have to worry about my girlfriend; she gave me permission!”

For more than a few people in open relationships, I think it takes firmly ruling that out as the problem to realize that, hey, perhaps this person just doesn’t want to sleep with me, and wouldn’t even if I were single. I can’t recall if I’ve been guilty of this, though I know I’ve worried extensively about my existing relationships being a problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s once or twice lead me down the same road this gentleman has taken.

Something to consider of yourself if you’re “open,” I think, and worth talking about in the nonmonogamous community.

NaNoWriMo in 5 days!

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

Other than that, I’ve been connecting some points on human matriarchal societies, and perhaps the reason why we don’t know of any on our planet is because they look like egalitarian societies, and collecting evidence to support that…theory?

Will report when I get around to it. In the meantime, slut on!