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.

“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!

Trending

trends

I’ve had a tab open on my computer with this graph displayed for, oh, a week or so now. It’s from Google Trends, and I was having some fun, and just couldn’t bring myself to close the tab.

What can I gain from this graphic?

It is, at first, hard to read. The highest spike, the yellow one for the search term “open marriage,” is hitting a line labeled “100” at it’s highest point. It appears that 100, though, is simply the value assigned to help us understand the popularity of search terms in the rest of the graph by comparison. i.e.: The blue line’s highest point is at 95, meaning that, at it’s peak, the search term “polyamory” was only 95% as popular as the search term “open marriage” ever was, and “open relationship” only 77% so.

The bar graph on the side, though, marked “average,” suggests that, over this 10-year period, “polyamory” did actually get searched more often than “open relationship” and then “open marriage,” respectively. Interesting.

“Ethical slut,” though supposedly a popularized term by a book published in 1997 and re-published in 2009, has a surprisingly low register, even in 2009. The term “nonmonogamy,” I should tell you, didn’t even earn a blip on this graph.

This makes me remember a conversation I had with a friend once (a very monogamous friend in intent, I should say, and not so much in practice, though never, to my knowledge, unethical). The friend said something along the lines of, “you know, I never hear anyone mention any of these terms….polyamory…ethical slut…but you. I think you’re just in a tiny circle of people who think this way, and you think it’s a lot bigger than it actually is in the real world.”

Harsh. Possibly true, I guess – thought it’s just as possible that he is a part of his own circle that is shut off to these kinds of ideas, or that we both suffer of a combination of both of these problems. If, however, the banner of this blog, my linking my posts to Facebook, and my day-to-day conversations help introduce these terms and, by the transitive property of information, their meanings and the concepts therein, then so be it. I’m always happy to be a bearer of information to the curious, or the instigator of curiosity.

Go ahead, Google search some stuff you see. I want to see the peak on Google Trends.

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!

To Date or Not To Date: Monogamous People

As a single polyamorous person, I’ve read and heard a lot of advice and preferences from other poly folk about the dating world. One phrase I’ve come across quite a few times is, “I don’t date monogamous people.”

I’ve never quite liked it. First off, so many polyamorous people lived monogamous lives up until a certain point. Isn’t it possible that the currently monogamous person you find yourself attracted to possibly has the capacity to be polyamorous, just as you did? If not, could you at least credit them with the emotional intelligence (you are attracted to them, right?!) to decide whether a polyamorous partner is something they could be happy with, be understanding of? If they say no, then that’s that, if they say yes, who knows what could happen? A relationship only exists for as long as both partners want it, and I trust the people I love to let me know if they no longer want it. If we both do – let’s!

Secondly, I’ve always believed that we can’t help who we fall in love with, and that as long as you love someone, and they love you, most obstacles can be overcome. It can be hard, but aren’t relationships always hard at some point? That’s the challenge of relationships, isn’t it? Relish the joy and ecstasy of being in love with someone at the cost of often having to reconcile the fact that you are, in the end, two individual beings with different needs and wants. Relationships are full of compromises; some are big, some are small. This is a big one.

But perhaps I only feel all of this because I am an optimist. When it comes down to it, this is one of those obstacles that is much harder for one partner than the other. Monogamous people often try to do things to prevent their partner (and themselves) from falling in love with someone else and leaving the relationship; polyamorists need to be allowed to love others. Because most romantic pairs are scrutinized under a monogamous light, a polyamorist who dates a monogamist could, in times of duress, be seen as someone who is “getting more than they’re giving,” in the relationship, even if it’s not true. Societal standards are tricky that way.

Perhaps people who choose not to date monogamists simply don’t want to invite the possibility of that being a perceived dynamic. They don’t want to potentially set themselves up to be “the bad guy.” Or, perhaps they simply find it easier to date people who have already explored themselves and their capacity for love, and people who identify as polyamorous have usually at least started that journey. I, ever optimistic, like to think that I fall for people who are capable of deciding whether they want a relationship with me, a polyamorist and ethical slut, or not. I expect them to know what they want, be able to communicate what they want, and decide if I fit that.

Maybe I have high standards, after all.

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.

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.

Progress and Patriarchy

Step 1: Print out manuscript

Check!

It took me over a year to do it, but yes, the manuscript of Love Times Infinity is finally printed and ready for my red pen. I have chosen to reward myself for completing this step by sharing two of my observations this week with you, because sharing feels good. I’m a sharing person, in case you couldn’t tell.

The first was something I stumbled upon while doing research for work. I’ll be teaching an outdoor education lesson on the Native American Lenape people in a week or two, and of course, I began my independent study on their history with everyone’s favorite free and readily available encyclopedia, Wikipedia. I couldn’t help but copy and paste this tidbit, even though at the time I wasn’t sure what I would do with it:

The Lenape kinship system was traditionally organized by clans determined by matrilineal descent. That is, children were considered to belong to the mother’s clan, where they gained their social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the boy children than was their father, who was of another clan.

I’ve read about a culture similar to this before: the Musuo in China, where at a certain age girls get their own room where there is a door that men they invite over can come discreetly through, and when the girls get pregnant, their brothers help raise the children. The fathers of the children are responsible for their sisters’ children, not the ones they father themselves. Like the Lenape, the Musuo are matrilineal. Unlike the Lenape, Musuo children may not know who their biological father is.

This got me thinking about how some have noted that “no matriarchal societies exist”, and how others have countered that perhaps it seems that way, because we expect matriarchy to look like patriarchy, except with women in all the roles of power instead of men. These people argue that matriarchies may actually exist, but we call them “egalitarian”, because when women are given equal power, well, things are more…equal. Thus, matriarchy = egalitarian. (I have more reading to do on this, here.)

So there my head was, swimming in matriarchal, patriarchal, and egalitarian thoughts, when, while out and about one night being an adult with fellow adults, a friend uttered the following phrase:

“Girls who claim to want it hard are cancer.”

We had been having a conversation about sex, and the different ways people like their sex, and at least two of us in the group had voiced our approval of women who are comfortable saying that they like their sex “hard.”

Then, that happened. *sigh*

Unfortunately, because we had been out and about adulting so hard that it was futile to begin an argument with that friend (I doubt he remembers even making the comment, now) I had to spare myself the frustration of calling him out and being the mood-killer by explaining why I was doing it. The feeling followed me until the end of the night, though, where I made sure to jot down a few feelings before I went to sleep.

Patriarchy hurts everyone. Men come of age in a society which cultivates an assumption that the “right girl” will be one who fits into the submissive role for women the patriarchy has established. For some men, society wasn’t needed to foster attraction to submissive women, and that’s fine. But many other men likely miss out on the great women they really want; the forward, bold, aggressive women who say what they want and say it proudly. Those women are sexy, too, but as my friend’s comment revealed, those women are also still seen by some as only sexy, and not…here it is again…”relationship material.”

And all of this, of course, hasn’t even touched what it does to non-normative relationships and trans* people.

There’s still work to do, people. Be you, be proud, and be happy.

 

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