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.

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!

 

“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!

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!

Singlehood

“You’ve been single your entire life. Does it ever bother you?” I asked a friend one night.

“Not really. I guess I feel lonely sometimes, but I look at the things my friends who are in relationships go through emotionally, and I don’t think I’m any worse off.”

“Are you eager to find someone who is worth going through all that stuff for?”

“Not particularly. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind; I don’t spend much time thinking about it I guess.”

I had this conversation shortly after writing my entry about SoloPoly and Singlish. Being single was on my mind. You see, I’ve been “involved” with someone in one way or another since about the age of 13, from middle-school “boyfriends” who I would hold hands with and sit next to at lunch, to polyamorous relationships and other forms of ethical nonmonogamy as an adult. Though my Facebook status has read “single” for the last 3+ years, the truth is, I haven’t truly been “alone” in terms of romantic involvement in well over 10 years.

I’ve realized that my perception of “singlehood” is likely very different from others’. My perspective is that of someone who grew up in Los Angeles, where, by the age of 13, having a significant other was a prerequisite to having any social standing above “loner” at school. My perspective is that of someone who moved to St. Thomas at 16 and soon entered a 7-year relationship, which was completely normal in the new cultural context. At the ending of that relationship, I began navigating singlehood without ever straying too far from some kind of romantic connection. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but because of it, I have wondered at my ability to be happy while being completely romantically alone. I have wondered at the ability of others, as well.

There are many studies about whether being married increases a person’s chances of being happy, and a few studies, I believe, about whether just being “in a relationship” does so. A study from MSU published in 2012 actually tracked people’s levels of happiness ten years before and after marriage and compared them to a control group of people who remained unmarried for the length of the study, and found that married people experienced a spike of happiness during their first year of marriage, then declined to pre-marital levels of happiness. Unmarried people’s happiness declined over time, leaving them worse off than married people, except, it appears, in the cases of unmarried people who cohabitate with a long-term partner.

As I search the internet for more of these studies, I can’t help but notice how much of the “happy and single” movement is moved by, and geared towards, women. The friend I had the conversation above with is a woman in her 20’s. She’s happy, if not wishing only for a more challenging career. I somehow expected that, as a woman, she would have experienced some doubts and loneliness about her singleness, if for no other reason than movies and songs and TV shows are constantly telling her that she’s supposed to be in a relationship.

Apparently not. I continue to find evidence that happiness is, ultimately, up to the individual. Perhaps the single people whose happiness declined over time were feeling less happy because they believed that they should have been married by a certain age. Perhaps positive attitudes about singleness could rectify much of this reported unhappiness.

Thoughts from people with perspectives besides my own?

It Keeps on Turnin’

As sometimes happens, it’s been a while.

I am back on St. Thomas, employed as a server at a pub I worked at while in college (and high school, actually). Not much has changed there, though I’ve changed a lot.

It makes me think of cycles: how much changes, how much stays the same. How much I’m glad I’m just cycling through a winter here once again, with plans to return to working Outdoor Education in New Jersey in February or March. I love being in the Caribbean, don’t get me wrong, but I think my biggest problem is that I have yet to find a calling on the island. Until I do, I’m doomed to search in other places for one.

Friends from camp left today after a 10-day visit. It was interesting to watch friends from different walks of my life interact. It was interesting to see how some came together so well, and how some didn’t. It was interesting that I love them all.

Some of my friends are more expressive of their affections than others. Some friends are coming into being comfortable with that kind of expression. Some will always be more private in their expression. As I took time with them in groups and, on occasion, in moments with each of them as individuals, I remembered just how much every person on this planet is limited by their own perspective, including myself. We only know what we know. We have learned only from our own experiences, and, if we’re paying attention, by the experiences of the people we’ve encountered in our lives. Even if we’re very perceptive, our perspective is still, always, severely limited in the great, grand scheme of things.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve watched some friends’ perspectives severely affect their experience of St. Thomas. I’ve watched some friends’ perspectives affect their interpretation of relationships and actions within relationships. I’ve read some friends’ perspectives on their lot in life, their standing, their worth, even.

Perspective is important.

I think I need to read more, get out more. I need to watch more news. I need to talk to more people. I need to listen to more people. I still feel that I do have important things to say…to some people. Some people need to hear what I have to say. People who find this blog need to hear what I have to say about the topics there within. Not everyone does, though. That’s okay. Those people, when I meet them, might have something to say that I need to hear. I need to listen.

I’m ready to listen.

And perhaps, when I have listened for a bit, I will have more to write.

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.

True Love, Self Love

I was recently sitting in a cabin full of my 16-year old female campers. As is usual with 16-year-olds, the topic was relationships.

The girls, most of whom I’d known and watched grow up at camp over the last six years, knew through stories I’d told them that I’d once had a boyfriend, that we’d been together seven years, and that though it was now over, I still regarded the relationship with happiness, and knew I’d been lucky to be a part of something so wonderful. This all blew their minds.

They were asking how it lasted so long (seven years is almost half their lifetimes), and how it came that something that seemed so right ended (people change over time). They also wanted to see a picture of him. I decided to let them see a couple; one of when we were teenagers, early in the relationship, and one of us later, closer to the end, closer to how we look today.

They oooh’ed and ahhh’ed: my ex was, and still is, a very attractive guy.

“How did you land that?!” They all wanted to know.

After explaining that he was certainly not a “that,” I told them the truth: I hardly “landed” that wonderful guy. We met at a birthday party. Most of the other kids there, all high schoolers like us, had dressed up a little for the party. Dresses, or nice, new jeans with button-down shirts or a fancy top. New, clean sneakers for boys and strappy sandals for girls.

I had dressed up, too. But I was (and still am, I sometimes think) an odd bird. My dressed up meant wearing my new black and blue Reebok basketball shoes, blue cargo shorts, and a neon green fuzzy spaghetti strap shirt. And my hair…oh god, my hair. My hair was in about 50 little pony tails, sticking out at every angle from my head, held together by multi-colored rubberbands, like Coolio with Skittles stuck in his hair. There was also a dogtag necklace, probably, and maybe  a dog collar…I’ll have to check the pictures.

Yes, there are pictures.

Point being, I told my girls, I was certainly not trying to do anything but be myself that night and have fun…and that was exactly what I was doing, dancing by myself on the edge of the empty dance floor, when “that” guy walked up to me and asked to dance.

Genuinely.

And we danced, and it was good. We danced, just the two of us on the floor at first, prompting other people to join. We talked while we danced. Our friends later exchanged our numbers for us, and we talked and talked and talked…and so began one of the best experiences of my life.

The 16-year-olds were flabbergasted. I looked at them as I realized something I’d honestly never, ever thought of before. Something I’d always known was true, but I didn’t know why I knew it was true; I just knew.

You really do have to just be yourself, love yourself, and live a life you love. The rest will come. That night, if “that” guy hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have been any worse for wear – I was doing me, I was being me, and I was loving it, like I had been doing and like I continued to do after that night.

I might be crazy…it’s possible. People might balk at my self-identification as a polyamorist and a slut. But I’m happy. And if someone comes along that wants to join this happiness party, kudos to them. Come over here and get on the friggin’ dance floor.

If not; that’s cool. I’mma be over here, dancin’.