Dear (Possible) Future Husband

Every once in a while, I am awestruck by just how drastically different my life and mindset are from someone else’s. It’s very humbling, and very mind-opening, and it just happened again at lovedbyjam’s WordPress blog, with the post “dear (possible) future husband”, which was shared by a few of my Facebook friends.

I am going to attempt to re-write the post, now, but from my mindset. I highly suggest you read her post first. Ready? Go!

bighappyfunhouse.com

Dear (Possible) Future Husband,

I’m going to start of by saying #sorrynotsorry.

I’m not sorry for my past. For being generous with my heart. For forming perceptions based on experience. For learning to trust those who are trustworthy. For having high expectations of you. I’m not sorry for my present. For being “insatiable” as some lovers have called it. For constantly searching instead of being patient.  For not spending every waking thought on you. I’m not sorry for my future mistakes. For not submitting (except when there’s a safeword involved). For letting my emotions drive me at times. For occasionally trusting intuition over logic. For things beyond my control that stop me from keeping promises I damn well knew I could keep when I made them.

I’m not sorry for you. For the beautiful people you see every day, and the beautiful relationships you may have with them. For the girls who rightfully flirt with your sexy self. (I am sorry for the lie that “manhood” is being physically strong and not showing any emotions, but you and I both know that my anti- gender stereotypes game is strong!) I’m still not sorry for having high expectations of you, and don’t mind if you never meet them, as long as you always try. And just like I’m not sorry for my past, I’m also not sorry for yours, because mine made me who I am, and you love me, and yours made you who you are, and I love you.

So, #sorrynotsorry, but there’s more. I’m not scared.

I’m not scared of the bad times, because I know we’ll grow from them. Nor am I scared of not living up to your expectations, because I know you’ll let me know, and you’re worth figuring it out. I’m not scared of being a bad wife…because, um, hello, I’m awesome. And I’m not scared of being a bad mom, because how can I, if I have no intention of becoming one? I’m not scared of fighting, because make-up sex. And I’m not scared of possible financial stresses, because I know that ultimately that does not matter (even though it causes many divorces, so maybe it does matter, so really, I’m not scared because I’m pretty financially independent, thank you very much).

So, I’m #sorrynotsorry, #sorrynotscared, but you know what? I am excited.

I’m excited to meet you. I’m excited for you to experience my awkwardness. I’m excited for the mountains (and the oceans). For the jokes and laughs. For the happy tears. For our future children, if the Lord wills it. For serving the Lord together. For cooking dinners for two instead of one. For dancing and singing in the kitchen. For worship and fellowship in the family room. For the deep conversations. For working the mission field, whatever that may look like. I’m excited for the valleys (and the lakes!). For the trials that will shape our relationship. For the times that we can only get through because of our love for the Lord and His grace. For the times where all we can do is turn to His word because we are without words.

I’m #sorrynotsorry and #sorrynotscared and excited. You may be two months or fifty years away. Maybe our future will never happen. Maybe you and I are each destined to change other lives in other ways. I hope that, whatever the case, you are living your life in a way that makes you happy, just as I am living mine in a way that makes me happy, no matter how many temptations that means each of us gives in to. I hope that we are both leaders in our lives, but both know when it’s appropriate to follow. Most of all, I hope that you’re not wasting your time writing a letter like this to me, because there are more important things in life than sitting around waiting for another person to bring meaning into your life when you could be doing it yourself.

Love,
Your (possible) future wife.

Beyond the Fad: Polyamory and Relevance

As I write this, my fourth post to this blog in as many days, acknowledging a newfound urgency to express the things I’m thinking, I also find that I need to admit one of the reasons I wasn’t posting for so long:

I worried that polyamory had become a fad.

It was a moment of weakness, I admit. I faltered under the weight of the fear that all I wrote might be summed up by readers to simply be anecdotal contributions to the trendy new lovestyle that has garnered so much attention in the media, including TV shows like “Polyamory” on Showtime. I stopped working on my novel because I decided that, by the time I was done writing it, finding an agent, and doing the work necessary to get published, I would have “missed the boat” – the fad would have passed, polyamory would be old news, and no one would want to publish the book.

Discussion and visibility of polyamory has skyrocketed in the last year or two, and while the benefits of that include visibility, the drawbacks include the fact that people enjoy simplicity, and trying to simply define something as complicated as polyamory just doesn’t happen. Instead, people define it by comparing it to things they already know – infidelity, swinging, commitment phobias, sex addiction, etc. I feared being lumped into those definitions.

I should have been stronger. I should have waved away the possibility that I’d be just another voice in the polyamorous cacaphony, just another polyamorous person whining with other polyamorous people about being misunderstood.

But this blog, and my book, and my writing in general, are not about that.

This isn’t about polyamory and its visibility. This isn’t about convincing people that polyamory is okay.

This is about love; about rethinking relationship norms. That will always be worth writing about, even if the whole world suddenly became polyamorous. Ultimately, my biggest hope for every single person who reads what I write is that they stop to think about the way they love, and decide for themselves what ways of loving work for them. If polyamory is not a model for you, I have no intention of trying to “convert” you; I simply want you to know that for yourself because you actually took the time to think about it.

Blogging about polyamory has never, for me, been about getting more views and attention by playing into a popular topic. When I started doing it in 2007, it wasn’t a popular topic at all. Just because it has become one shouldn’t deter me. If it is a fad, then like all fads, it will pass. When the dust settles, I’ll still be here, plodding along, thinking about love, sex, and relationships and how people can be happier with all of those things in their life.

Hopefully, if it is a fad, it will be one that changes some love lives for the better.

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!

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.

SoloPoly, Singleish, Non-Coupled Polyamory

Aaaaand I’m back!

From one set of woods to another, more Wi-Fi enabled set of woods, I am once again active online.

And loving it.

Let’s skip the polite small talk: today I’d like to write about an oft-bemoaned phenomenon as polyamory has risen in popularity visibility, as well as some terms I came across this week that people are using to describe this phenomenon and those sidelined by it.

Couple-Centric, Couple Centric, Couple Centricity

This topic had been broached by bloggers and conversationalists alike before polyamory became more well-known, because many human cultures are couple-centric. Particularly in the western world, we tend to see one of the steps to life fulfillment being that we ultimately find ourselves paired with some amazing person who “feels like our other half.” People who are single tend to be seen as “unfulfilled” or even “immature,” or even perhaps somehow damaged if they haven’t completed this oh-so-important lifetime achievement of finding “The One.”

Polyamory, for the most part, offers an alternative perspective for consideration. Polyamory’s mere existence has opened up a flood of questions about monogamy and our assumptions about human love, romance, jealousy, and whether or not being paired really is a requirement for a fulfilling life. I think polyamory might have even done worlds of good to help people see that not only is it possible that some people can romantically love more than one partner and be happy, but also entertain the idea on the other end of the spectrum: that some people might be able to be happy without a romantic partner in their life.

Sure, it might not sound pleasant (to you) – it may not make a blockbuster movie (or mightn’t it?), but, hey, with asexual and aromantic people out there, it’s a reality. It also means that, gasp!, single people might just be able to live fulfilling lives!

Couple Centricity in Polyamory

Polyamorists, predictably, groan about the difficulty in booking romantic events for three – romantic packages often are designed for couples – though personally, I find that it’s fairly easy to creatively overcome this issue if you just put your mind to it. The problem that tugs at my heartstrings a little more is actually centered around how polyamorists are being represented in the media, again and again, during this sudden rush of public attention. “Polyamory” flashes across the TV screen, and what do we see? A couple, usually a “primary” or married couple, with a third. Despite the literally infinite ways polyamory can manifest, this is, invariably, all the public ever sees.

And, while quads and clans and W’s and pentagrams choose either to complain or to wave it off, there is what I think might be a growing population of polyamorists who want to be acknowledged: “singleish” and “solopoly” people.

I first saw the terms in the comments section of an entry on Jess’ Love is Infinite blog (we have a lot in common). I was directed to solopoly.net and polysingleish.com, and eventually to the Facebook group Singleish and Solo Polyamory.

I had never quite thought of it this way, but it’s true: ever since my break-up in 2010, I have been both polyamorous and single, and it has seemed to confuse people from time to time. I’ve gotten questions like:

“Wait, can you be polyamorous if you’re not currently in a relationship with more than one person?”

“So, you’re a slut?”

“Don’t you think maybe you’re single because you’re polyamorous?”

(Answers, in order of questions: Yes. Yes, but that’s unrelated. And, no, I don’t.)

What am I taking from all this? I’m still figuring it out, but it’s interesting to meet and read things written by people who identify as “solopoly”, some of whom never intend to be a part of a bonded “pair,” some of whom who always intend to live alone, while still having meaningful, possibly even life-long relationships with, perhaps, more than one partner.

I, for one, really enjoyed my time living with someone I was in a relationship with. That’s not something I’m willing to take off the table, which is funny, since I currently make clear that for me, kids are off the table and marriage is something someone would have to make a really strong argument in favor of to sway me.

If the topic piques your curiosity, as it did mine, by all means take a look around. Let me know if you find something interesting – I’m enjoying having something new to research.

Polyamory and Guilt

Businessman Thinking on StepsI had forgotten until recently that guilt is probably something experienced by most polyamorous people as they navigate their needs and desires in our culture of couples.

When I first opened the long-term relationship I was in in 2007, I often felt guilty for wanting to be with anyone other than the amazing person that I was with. This was someone I loved deeply, someone I wanted to marry some day, someone who would do anything for me and who I would do anything for. No one could ask for a better partner. How could I do this? How could I be so greedy as to want more?

The guilt ebbed and flowed depending on what was happening in the relationship. When my partners were getting along, teasing me together, and friends began inviting all three of us to parties as a unit, the guilt was gone. Whenever tensions arose because of my “other significant other”, though, it came crashing back. How dare I bring such difficulty to what was otherwise a happy, perfect relationship? Why couldn’t I just be satisfied with the one perfect partner I’d found and loved for so many years? Was I a bad person?

This struggle is one that I haven’t had to deal with since that relationship ended in 2010. Once I was more or less “single”, I began making it clear to romantic interests that I was polyamorous, and I haven’t experienced that brand of guilt since. My loves know that this is who I am, and if they choose to become involved with me, they understand what it entails. No friendship or relationship of mine has been threatened for three years by polyamory, and that’s been nice.

But that doesn’t mean it’s over for other people. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who haven’t been exposed to the concept of polyamory, and are fighting those thoughts of whether they’re a bad person or not, wondering why their love for the person they’re with doesn’t put blinders on to all other potential lovers. Perhaps they are even hoping and praying that they can stop seeing other people in such betraying ways to their existing relationship. Perhaps they worry that they can never marry since they’ll always have a “wandering eye.” Perhaps they think their life is and will always be unfulfilling, because they never seem to be able to experience love the way we’re all told we are supposed to: all-engrossing, all-encompassing, and making you want to just give yourself entirely to the object of your affections.

MP900314150I’m writing this post to say, no. No, you are not bad people. You love love, and love is a beautiful thing that is meant to bring happiness. Don’t let it bring you sadness. Embrace your love for love, celebrate it honestly and openly; you are NOT doing it wrong. Let people know who you are and what you are feeling. You will bump into other people like you, but you are more likely to find them if you are open about what’s on your mind, because they’ll hear you speaking their language.

Love feels good. Go out there and love as much and as deeply as you want. The world is full of people who need love, and it doesn’t make any sense for someone who has a lot to give to be holding it back and feeling guilty about it.

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.

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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.

Polyamorous Family on “Wife Swap”

A friend forwarded this to me (I love my friends!) and I just finished watching it and have a couple of things I’d like to note.

Firstly – the kids from both families get an A+ in my book for being complete rock stars. Despite being from two very obviously different families, they all seemed to really encompass some of the values I think those of us in education have really been trying to instill in their generation, particularly respect. They met moms very different than their own, and when time came for the moms to call the shots, the kids pretty much rolled with it. Love it. Gives me lots of hope for the future.

And then, secondly. There’s a moment at about 16:20 where the oldest child of the polyamorous family, Brooke, is answering the religious and political family mother, Gina’s, questions about how she feels about her family. The conversation goes like this:

Gina: How do you feel about having a family that’s kinda different? A dad, kinda two moms?

Brooke: It’s good to be different.

Gina: So what do you think about my different way?

Brooke: It’s fine.

(Cut away to Gina, alone, being interviewed separately.)

Gina: Brooke has had a lot of challenges in her life, and I just hate that she has to live in that defensive shell.

(Cut back to Gina and Brooke sitting together.)

Gina: Do you give your biological mom kind of, like, a little closer? Do you give her like, a special place, over Ashley?

Brooke: No, they’re both the same.

Gina: Interesting.

I literally gave a little cheer when Brooke said, “It’s good to be different.” I mean, again, I work in education, and that is exactly the kind of thing we try to help our students realize: differences are okay; celebrate them, accept them, respect them. Brooke voiced it, and the other kids showed that they could do it. And then, as if to drive the point home, when Gina asks about her own “different way,” referring to her religious, political, conservative family, Brooke tells her the truth: “It’s fine.” Yes, it’s fine! No, it’s not that my family is right and yours is wrong, or the other way around, it’s that our families are different,  and that’s absolutely fine! hashtag-winning

I don’t know if the cutaway was taken out of context; there’s no way to know. For the producers of the show, though, to have an adult voice cut in right after such a great statement from Brooke, to say that those kinds of things represent a “defensive shell” …ugh. I hate that such a wonderful revelation of intelligence in a young person was so quickly dismissed. And if she was being defensive at some point during the exchange – I’m not surprised! Gina’s plastic smile puts up my defenses, and I’m looking at it through a computer screen!

As with these shows, we all know they’re extremely edited and never a true representation. Even without considering that, no one polyamorous or conservative family should be seen as a representative for all families of that kind. And yet, though you and I, dear reader, may know these things, I often worry about the average viewer, who does not, and the impression given them of both sides.

At least the kids were awesome.

Polyamory and Marriage, my Short Version

I appreciate cozy domestic intimacy as much as a monogamous girl, but I’m an introvert who requires blocks of time alone. And one of the things I have always loved about being poly is knowing I can turn to my partner and say, without a shred of compunction, “Darling, I love you, but why don’t you go see your other girlfriend for a while?”

Oh man, what a great line from Mistress Matisse in her post about a month ago titled “You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom – Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen.”

I know that I’m always late to these things, but I think that article really does add to the realizations that I’ve been coming to. There really are infinite ways to love, infinite ways to “be”, and infinite ways to live. None are “right” or “wrong,” they just “are.” When we assume that polyamorous people want to mold polyamory to fit the current acceptable relationship models around us (cuz we have “forever” relationships leading to marriage, right?) we are doing that thing…you know…that thing that makes an ass of u and me?

Have I posted this here yet?

Yeah, so, while I can hardly call this a post of my own, there is what I’ve done today. Now I must get back to learning how to identify trees before Tuesday, because Monday I’ll be busy leading low ropes activities, belaying kids up a climbing wall, and then taking them on a night hike through the woods. And, of course, the weekend is for weekending, sillies!