“The Line” Between Monogamy and Nonmonogamy

So, A-number-one, as some friends would say, it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Hello. Hi. I am alive, well, and thinking about sex, love, and relationships sometimes but not always, because life is grand and full of awesome and busy and still awesome.

Yes.

B-number-two: that doesn’t change how bad I feel about not updating. I am sorry. I am updating tonight because of a confluence of two unrelated events that were, in my head, related and became necessary to blog about.

Here goes.

I can’t explain how much I enjoy the company I’ve been keeping as of late. I have been happily living and working with people who, in many ways, are very similar to myself, and in many ways, very different from myself. It’s been an interesting flexing and constricting of my personality muscles. It’s been an opportunity to stop and examine the effect of my actions and words on others, and grow. It’s been an unusual situation of being housed with a number of people with very different life experiences and viewpoints than my own, and that’s provided much perspective.

Today, I talked with a friend, revisiting the topic of labels. She has a pretty easy time understanding my indifference towards labels like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” whereas others, not so much. It was interesting to not only hear her take, but also hear the questions she had to ask. Would I expect different things from someone I called “boyfriend”? Would it change things?

I don’t think it would, except to change the difficulty from having to explain that not having a boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t mean that I’m not emotionally invested in someone, to having to explain that, though I call someone “boyfriend”/”girlfriend”, I don’t expect things of them that most people would expect from a person with that label. It’s a pick-your-poison situation, and I guess I like handling the “if I don’t label it, you don’t feel obligated to understand it” poison.

In a completely unrelated parallel universe of my existence, another friend had, days ago, recommended I check out Sex Nerd Sandra, and when I finally got around to it tonight, her most recent podcast was on, you guessed it, Struggling With Monogamy!

In it, one of her guests poses the questions:

But what’s a relationship? And how do you know when you’re in one? And when do you decide that you’re actually in a relationship with someone?

And points out:

Monogamy and nonmonogamy; it’s not as clear-cut as it might seem.

True dat. There’s an honorable mention about polyamory at the end of the podcast, if you’re interested, but it’s mostly along the lines of “oh yeah, people these days are poly, like, ‘yeah, I’m vegan and fair trade and poly…'” before the conversation gets cut off for time. Too bad. The conversation had revolved around stuff I’ve already spent loads of thought-time and blog space on, so I won’t regurgitate it, but if it interests you and you’re new to the nonmonogamous conversation, have a listen.

Last, but not least, C-number-3: I am working on a book about sex for a, ahem, less-experienced friend of mine who would like a book on said topic. It is a very exciting venture, even more exciting at the moment than Love Times Infinity, the novel, so it’s been getting loads more attention. Hopefully, if I get it all put together, I can make it available in an ebook version, and let you all have at it.

You’re welcome.

Until my next break from climbing trees and smelling like campfire; keep smiling!

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Shoutout to the Secondaries

This one goes out to the secondaries out there: the satellite relationships to the primaries, the other significant others, the lovers to someone with a boyfriend/girlfriend, the boyfriends/girlfriends to someone with a husband/wife. The umfriends.

This is for you!

Cheers!

I want to celebrate your awesomeness today, because many people who look at polyamory often don’t realize it, but you are so awesome.

While the media portrays polyamory as an emotional and sexual playground for experimental couples, you are often seen as the toys to be played with. People misunderstand, thinking you are some bonus appendage to be added to the existing relationship, like a really cool monkey tail. The tail makes life interesting; it means you can do new things and experience life in a different way. But, if the tail were lost or detached, life would go back to the way it was before the tail appeared.

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It’s probably more like having a kid…things NEVER go back to the way they were before.

You and I know better.

You and I know that you are not only confident enough to be a part of a relationship where much of the outside world sees you as an underdog, but you are also self-aware enough to know that you are in the relationship you are in because you and the people involved want you to be, and it might be the best thing that ever could have happened to all of you. You know that you like, possibly even love, the person/people you are involved with, that their happiness is important to you and yours important to them, because you are compassionate people.

Of course you have doubts from time to time; you’re human – we all do! Those of us in relationships are especially prone to doubts. We have to doubt in order to assess. We have to doubt in order to make conscious decisions about what is best for us, continually. I don’t say this because I’ve had extensive experience as a secondary: I have been one on occasion, but I was so blissfully engaged in life and loving, that I didn’t think much of it.

And the amazing people who have been in my life and who have been secondaries were often also doing exactly that.

So, to my lovers, umfriends, and especially the other significant other who was so proud to be one for five years of my life –

who-is-awesome

And for those of you who have a secondary in your life – let them know how awesome they are today!

“Relationship Material”

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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.”

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.