Poly But Monogamous

May 1, 2012 at 10:15 am (Polyamory, Real Life, Relationship) (, , , , , )


Since the decision made in January to dissolve my marriage, I’ve been in essentially a monogamous relationship with my boyfriend. Monogamous on my side, to the extent of not having slept with anyone else but the boyfriend since the husband moved into a separate bedroom while he buys his own house. I’ve been on a date or two, and we had a threesome, but the boyfriend is presently my only relationship and my only sexual partner.

He is dating others, and having sex with others, though I’m his most regular partner in both the dating & sex categories. So it remains an open relationship, though I am not actively poly for the time being.

And you know what? I’m totally okay with that. I thought it would be difficult for me to only “have” him while he “has” others. But that’s not been the case at all. I’ve had little twinges of the standard, reflexive jealousy over time he spends with other women, but I’ve found those fears easier to acknowledge and let go, much easier than I ever did with the husband. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed listening to him talk about what’s developing with other partners, experiencing some of the journey through him, and have tried to provide support, encouragement, and at times a bit of reassurance as some things took different directions than he’d hoped.

I realized recently why this is so, and the answer is simple: my needs are being met. I’m very satisfied with this relationship. I don’t doubt that I am valued and cared for. I’m content with what we have, exactly as it is, and there’s no need or desire to make it something else, something different. In the realm of emotional support, intimacy and sex, I’m getting what I need. Which makes me pretty gosh-darn happy.

In comparison, I struggled TERRIBLY with jealousy with my husband. During the period where he was dating and I was not (the first couple years of our open relationship), it was extremely painful for me to let him go, and to hear about the women he was dating. He never developed any serious relationships, and I realize now that may have been, at least in part, because he knew how difficult it would be for me. And it probably would have been. I had many unmet needs throughout the course of this marriage, and through most of it I repressed any expression of those needs and was encouraged in that repression. But this post isn’t about throwing stones and blame about the reasons why my marriage ended. The fact is simply that I’m coming to understand that unvoiced and unmet needs lead to fear, and fear leads to jealousy. It’s as simple, and probably obvious to others, as that.

With the boyfriend, I’ve been encouraged and have challenged myself to ask directly for what I need. There’s an understanding that not every need can or will be fulfilled; we all have limits, and sometimes it’s just time and energy that will prevent need fulfillment. So far, though, all my important needs have been met when I voiced them, which is remarkably effective in helping one overcome the fear of voicing a need. And a lot of the time, my needs are simple – just reassure me. Just tell me I’m still loved. No need to change your course of action, no need to block your own feelings, just give me a few moments of attention and affection that remind me I am not being abandoned. That does wonders for helping me quiet the fearful voices and get back to being supportive and encouraging. And it’s a wonderful thing to have those voiced needs met without accusations of manipulation, or criticism of being “needy”. Positive reinforcement of voiced needs doesn’t make me more “needy”, I’ve found – quite the opposite, I feel like I’m needing less and less reassurance.

So, it’s simple – emotional satisfaction is good, and helps poly work. Geez. No amazing light bulb moment for any reader, I’m sure, but for me it has been remarkable to experience this and see it come together.

I don’t intend to remain monogamous to his polyamorous. In some ways, I’m eager to try bringing another romance into my life to better learn how to balance relationships and to share the love and happiness I feel. But I’m picky, and while I fall into limerance quickly I don’t find qualified candidates for it easily; I’ve only found three men in the past six years who really clicked for me. Also, I feel like I shouldn’t risk any emotional overload until my marriage is completely dissolved and I’m once again living alone. When the time is right, I suspect someone will come along. It always seems to happen that way, when I’m not looking or expecting. I want to be ready. And I can do that by nurturing this happiness and contentment I feel, taking good care of myself, and continuing to learn and grow. I see the value in the hard work. I’m willing to keep doing it.

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More than just a threesome.

April 23, 2012 at 9:53 am (Polyamory, Real Life, Relationship, Sex) (, , , , )


Those readers who also follow me on Twitter will not be surprised at the story I’m about to tell; they’ve seen it coming, it was just a matter of time. But it’s a complex story, and I fear that no matter how I write it, I cannot do it justice. Because it wasn’t just a threesome, and it wasn’t just a woman. It was so much more. I hope I can convey that clearly.

One of my difficulties in poly has always been a type of sexual jealousy – the fear that my partner might find someone else who is more ______ sexually than I am – more uninhibited, more experienced, more experimental, more orgasmic. It’s part of an underlying lack of confidence, the fear that the only thing I bring to a relationship is my sexual availability, which may not measure up against other women. As the relationship with the boyfriend has strengthened and deepened, I’ve challenged myself to raise my confidence in this area, and not be afraid that his other lovers will diminish me. One way I’ve worked on this is through actively encouraging a flirtation between him and a dear friend. She’s someone I trust, whom I feel a strong connection to, and whom I care about very much. Their interactions began with awareness and involvement, and eventually included private contact between the two of them. I was happy that they liked each other, and I felt little to no fear about their contact, I think largely in part because I was somewhat orchestrating it. Right or wrong, that made it feel safe to me.

As this was developing, I was also doing a lot of pondering on my sexual feelings towards women. I’m becoming increasingly curious to explore in that direction again. I feel much differently towards women than I do men, and I’m not confident enough in my understanding of the nature of those feelings to describe them yet. But I’ve been wanting the chance to interact with a woman on a sexual level, and the best opportunity to do so in a safe space would be with the boyfriend present. Like many boyfriends, he saw no problem with this. And eventually the opportunity arose with our mutual friend.

And here’s where I fear I can’t do the event justice right now, and it will have to be written about later, in more detail, in a different tone. Because it was a sensual, erotic experience, friendly and relaxed, flowing easily and without much if any awkwardness or hesitation. Lovely as it was, I first need to explore the emotional aspects and reactions, before I put the experience out there as an erotic indulgence.

And so… it flowed, from playful spanking, to a man with a woman snuggled on each side, touching him, kissing one and then the other, two mouths pleasuring him together. I watched as he eased into focusing on her, and I felt a calm, fully present joy with this. There were two people I care about very much, taking pleasure in each other in what can be the simplest, most direct and essential way. It was perhaps my first real moment of poly compersion, and I love the memory of it and still feel the echoes of that happiness. His head between her thighs, I knew what she felt, I knew it was good, and I was happy to be next to her while she felt it. I stroked her hair and hesitantly stroked her breast. I kissed her once or twice on the forehead. I believe she came while he licked her, and I was happy to watch her pleasure grow and unfold.

But sadly, this is where some fear started to unfurl inside of me, and I started to withdraw. He expressed a desire to be inside one of us. I gave him a condom and pointed him to her. I lay next to them and watched, still happy to see their shared pleasure, but with a little voice inside me pulling me away. They came, almost simultaneously. He kissed me and told me he loved me. He tried to draw me in but I resisted, almost hid. We lay together, a man with a woman snuggled on each side, and talked for a while longer, then parted ways.

And I fell apart. Because the fear that came to the surface was the one I was, well, afraid of the most. That I’m broken. That I can’t do what other women do. That I can’t have an orgasm without a great deal of effort and difficulty.

Let me stop to state in no uncertain terms that this is not her fault. It is not his fault. I am in no way blaming them for enjoying their contact and taking sexual pleasure in each other, and I don’t want them to feel guilty for doing so. I wanted them to, and it made me happy that they did. These were my own fears and my own insecurities that took those things I watched and made them into a source of pain through comparisons that, again, only I was making. Neither of them in any way excluded me. Neither of them in any way said or did anything to imply that I wasn’t worth the effort to involve any further in this encounter.

It was my choice. I withdrew. I closed up. Because the voice in my head was saying over and over, it will be too much work. Trying to bring me back into the erotic exchange and arouse me, excite me to the point of orgasm in whatever way possible, would require too much effort, and it was too late at night, and I was too nervous, and it wouldn’t work. It wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t worth it.

The voice told me I wasn’t worth it. And I listened to its lies.

I regret this deeply. I’m struggling to let go of my disappointment in myself. Because I thought, through a lot of work from myself and a lot of support and reassurance from the boyfriend, that I had gotten past this way of thinking, that I’m broken and insufficient and worthless because of how I’m wired. That the difficulty I have in orgasming with a partner is a flaw, a failure. I’ve tried hard to change my perspective. I’ve tried to accept this as the way I am, not a shortcoming, but just reality. We work with it; we get me off together, and he had, in recent weeks, been surprisingly successful in getting me off on his own accord. But there was a rotten core still in there, and this experience pushed it to the surface and I let it take over. I let it talk me into withdrawing from an experience that could have been richer, and in some ways I suspect could have been healing and comforting for me. But I was too afraid to take the chance.

I want a do-over, and I know I’ll get one in time. Both of these wonderful people have been reassuring in their willingness to listen to me try to explain my sad reaction to this happy event. We’ll try it again sometime. And with the light on this fear, keeping it from hiding in the dark corners again, I hope it can be another step towards truly conquering it, towards accepting myself as I am, with affection and desire from people who care about me, whether I have an orgasm or not.

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Poly Introverts

March 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , , , )


One thing I know well about myself is that I’m an introvert. I need a lot of time alone. I feel drained after spending time in crowds, at parties, or otherwise around a group of people. The energy that people generate, the many voices, the activity and restlessness of groups can all overwhelm me. I prefer to build friendships and relationships slowly, one on one. And while I do have some circles of connected friends, I’d much rather spend time with each person as an individual, and at group gatherings I’ll tend to linger in conversation with only two or three people. I’m comfortable with this; I know this is what works for me, and how to balance my somewhat small needs for social interaction with my much larger need for quiet, peaceful, solitary time.

This seems in some ways to be contradictory to the poly lifestyle. Tweets with the #youknowyourepolywhen hashtag often focus on the group dynamics and the “fun” of being part of a large poly circle, family, clan, or whatever you may prefer to call it. Poly people also love to talk about their time-management skills and scheduling tips and techniques, seeming to take pride in having extremely full, busy lives booked months in advance because of all the wonderful sweeties and awesome metamours they have in their lives.

It feels at times like it’s presumed that if you’re poly, you want that kind of life. That peppy, gleeful constant busyness. A poly commune with your extended families all within an arm’s reach. It seems to me that this is set up as the ideal, the way to “win” at poly – the more colors on  your calendar, the better your poly life is. The classic extrovert characteristics – having to be constantly surrounded by people and activity to feel sane, safe and happy.

It’s not for me. And I know it’s not for a lot of others who still identify as poly. Having the capacity, the inclination and the desire to build deep, intimate, loving connections with multiple people does not automatically equate to that extroverted desire to be with people all the time. The thought of communal living has no appeal to me at all; in fact, it sounds like a particularly dreadful form of torture. I need my own space and my own time.  Also, it feels completely unrealistic to me to expect myself to fall in love with multiple connected people at once, or for a lover to expect me to fall in love with his or her partners as well. For me, attraction is a tricksy, unusual thing, involving a weird combination of elements. Sometimes I think finding a lover or partner is difficult enough; so an assumption or expectation that I’ll love your partner just because I love you isn’t going to work for me.

This is probably why I’m comfortable keeping my relationships independent, and why I don’t expect or presume that my lovers will become friends — I don’t even particularly care if they ever meet. To me, relationships are unique. I don’t expect to knit them all together into a glorious afghan of many colors. I’m very content with spending time with individual lovers, as I do individual friends.

As with most of my rambling posts, I share this mainly because there may be others who feel the same. There are, I’m sure, others who wonder if they can have time to themselves, or have independent, intimate relationships, and still be “really” poly. Just like with friendship, just like with monogamy, there are many approaches to polyamory. Group poly is okay if that works for you. Introverts who practice a more individual, independent form of poly are okay, too.

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