This is it. This is the summer of Fully Exploring Poly. I’ve been holding a lot of resistances and – not quite fears, but wary expectations – of how this summer will play out in my gut and in my heart, and I feel very strongly that, whatever happens, these next two months will be challenging and life-altering. I hope, and expect, that it will also be a time of positive change and joy.
Poly is on my mind more constantly than ever before, and I was pretty obsessed about it while I was in San Francisco. I found a fascinating blog that follows a woman’s personal journey through opening her marriage and trying to figure out if she can be in a relationship with a polyamorous partner; you can probably guess that I’ve already read the entire archive. There are just so precious few resources for having a polyamorous relationship when you yourself feel you have only enough energy to devote to one person at a time – maybe two, if one of them is long-distance.
And, as I process my own emotions and reactions, watch others’ relationship dynamics, and read, read, read (or listen, in the case of the Polyweekly Podcast), I continue to suspect that I lean more towards sexual monogamy than polyamory.
It’s been difficult for me to admit this, because I have read many of the warnings to poly partners against dating monogamous people. There’s this article, for instance. Granted, I have no desire or fantasy of turning Max monogamous with my seductive wiles (snort), but for a while it was easy to conflate the difficult emotions I felt over our relationship with the concept that my not desiring other partners was detrimental to him in some way.
It doesn’t help to be bombarded by a diverse mishmash of messages of what poly should look like, how your relationship to your partner’s other partners should look and feel, and what emotions are and aren’t healthy to feel and express.
To that end, I’ve been working to develop my own, personalized poly primer, which I hope to use as a guideline in defining and shaping my own flavor of relationship style. I’ve begun to realize, now that I’m facing the full brunt of poly, that I have relied very heavily on Max to define “poly” for me – too heavily. And while I certainly haven’t figured it all out yet, if I am to delve into this, I have to be able to identify and communicate the needs I’m looking for from my partner(s). Luckily, these needs are beginning to crystallize as I dig a little deeper inside myself.
My Poly Primer
- Dedicated space – Taken from my friend Red’s post, a space where I fit and belong in my partner’s world. Also, a space where I feel safe to express my emotions, worries, and concerns, without fear of mockery or scorn.
- Collaboration – I need to feel that there is a collaborative effort to sustain and build our relationship.
- Trust – Trust that my partner acts with good intention, compassion, and kindness.
- Support network – Something I’m actively developing and growing, a network of poly-knowledgeable friends that I can turn to for advice, comfort, or a listening ear.
- Self-acceptance – Be able to feel that my being and presence are an asset to my partner’s life, and that my self-worth is not diminished by sharing my partner with others.
- Couple versus partner – Perhaps my biggest epiphany: Desire for a “couple” relationship, versus a “partner” relationship. I say desire instead of need, because I’m not quite convinced it’s a need, but it’s at minimum a very, very strong desire.
- No surprises – Taken from one of Allena Gabosch’s Poly workshops, keep surprises to a minimum. Significant relationship shifts, new additions, NRE – please keep me informed!
- Balancing poly and D/s – I’m … still working on defining this one…
That’s a pretty long list already, and I could add more, but I don’t want it to get too unwieldy from the start.
So, I haven’t written anything about Paradise – here, at least. Privately, I’ve typed up over 44 pages in a journal describing my latest trip to Seattle.
I wish I could say my fears over how Paradise would turn out were for naught, and that I had a grand time being kinky out in the sun and making mischief. It ended up being a difficult week, for a number of reasons. Things definitely took a downward turn, for instance, when I woke up my first morning at Paradise with a UTI.
It’s been 22 days now since I asked for, and received, a cutting from Phoenix. When I approached her that Saturday morning, I was feeling lost, powerless, and maybe just a little crazy. It was reminiscent of how I often felt as a teenager. It’s a terrible state of being.
I’ve “blamed” my decision to ask for the cutting on impulsivity and the need for catharsis. With a little more hindsight, I think it would be more accurate to say now that I needed to take back control – of something. I needed to do something drastic that would leave a permanent impression. A reminder.
Just a little over a year ago, I cut my hair seven inches shorter for that same set of reasons. Control. Action. Change.
That’s not to say catharsis didn’t play a role in the process. I did get some level of release during the cutting. The excruciating pain of having my skin cut open, over and over again, gave me permission to grieve in a way that I couldn’t otherwise. It was an outlet for all my baser emotions. I cursed, screamed, cried, and howled. I did not try to moderate the volume of my voice. I did not care that others could see me crying. I let all of my filters go during that hour.
Phoenix told me afterwards that I would continue to feel the effects of the cutting for weeks, that that was only the beginning. The process of release takes a long time. And it’s true. 22 days later, and I still feel the reverberations of that day echoing through me. Although the cutting has long since healed and the skin is no longer sensitive, its presence on my left shoulder is as strong as it was at Paradise. And, though it sometimes makes me sad to remember the circumstances surrounding it, I don’t regret having this flying fish as a constant companion on my back. It seems like a silly sentiment to admit, but I feel that it has grown with me, like a close friend.
It will be interesting to see how that companionship grows, and whether the cutting will persist or fade away completely.
A story told in images:
I finally landed back in San Francisco late last night, and I have an obscene amount of work I need to catch up on. I am exhausted from the roller-coaster ride the last week has been, and there’s a lot there that I need to reflect on. So, in lieu of any kind of organized thought, a list of some things I took away from this trip:
- Even relaxing, week-long conventions are still conventions and crazy to schedule
- Asking for clarity is almost always better than trying to guess at intentions
- Life will throw wrenches into any planned schedule
- Needs cannot be neglected for very long without personal consequences, and being submissive does not mean forgetting about my own needs
- “Do you need anything right now?” is an open invitation that I should take up more often
- Being at an outdoor kinky event means submitting to the weather and the passage of natural light
- Building a relationship with thought and intention has been a new, satisfying, scary, and intense process
- Poly is hard
- Coming into an established poly family is like taking the graduate level course without having read the primer
- Building expectations in my head without making them known to the people I’m building them around is a sure recipe for miscommunication and unnecessary hurt feelings
- Waiting for what I want to fall in my lap is unproductive and leads to festering emotions
- Relationship lessons are hard, painful, and emotional, but they are important lessons nonetheless
- It’s all worth it. When the dust clears, I feel love and power and connection unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and how can it be wrong to want that?
- Because it’s worth it, it will take work and thought and communication and personal responsibility
- Communication, communication, communication
90% of Paradise was immensely fun, and I am glad for that experience. And while the remainder of my visit was difficult and created some personal turmoil, it was all important to experience as well.
More to come, perhaps, when I’ve more time and thought to devote here, but for now, I know at least the future is hopeful and bright as far as my relationship with Max is concerned, and that is all I need right now.