Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fighting Bias - Positive Parenting

The Monkey walked up to me the other morning and asked me if I would watch a movie with him.  "Sure," I replied.  "Do you want to watch Brave?  Or Mommy wouldn't mind watching Tangled."

"No, Mommy.  Those are girl movies.  I'm a boy."

It took me a moment to respond, as I was surprised by this reaction.  "Sweetie, you can watch whatever you want.  You liked Brave, we watched it in the movie theater with the Princess, remember?"

"No.  I'm a boy.  I want to watch a boy movie."


A few weeks ago the Libertine tweeted about the Mister telling the Monkey that My Little Pony was for girls, and he was a boy so he shouldn't watch it.  I wasn't there for the exchange, so I didn't get involved in it.  But now the Monkey is limiting what he watches based on an abstract that an adult set for him.  An adult who would not only encourage a daughter to watch "boy" shows, but whose mother and uncle are both stereotypical homosexuals - she being a season ticket holder to multiple sports teams and he being the kind of gay man you totally want to take shopping.

Before you get indignant about that last bit, understand that I believe that people are born gay/straight/queer/whatever.  I don't think liking sports will make a woman a lesbian, or that appreciating fashion will make a man gay.  The Mister, having homosexual family members, would be the first one to tell you that his mother has always been a lesbian.  But that's another story.

I don't know why the Mister has been feeding the kiddo this bullshit.  The Monkey is your typical 5 year old boy - Transformers, superheroes, anything with wheels.  But watching TV with the Princess has introduced us to things like My Little Pony, Ruby Gloom, and Lalaloopsy.  The Monkey enjoys watching these shows with her, and she enjoys watching "boy" shows with him.

I do know that the Mister and I are about to sit down and have a very serious conversation about gender bias and its effect on how kids behave.  I don't want my sons to have disdain for "girly" activities.  I want them to respect girls for who they are and what they are interested in.  I want them to respect other boys the same way.  Basically, I want them to be good people - to see each person for who and what they are, not for what their label is.

So much behavior that sex-positive people fight against is rooted in gender bias.  Women who sleep around are sluts, men who sleep around are players.  Young girls and women who like sports or other 'boy' activities (gamers, I'm looking at you) are regaled as amazing, hot, and desirable.  Young boys and men who like fashion or other 'girl' activities are ridiculed as weak, unwanted, unworthy.

We are, as a culture, carrying around stereotypes that were created generations ago by people afraid of letting the minorities have a voice.  We are finally on the brink of getting marriage equality as a nation, and that is a stepping stone to getting other alternative lifestyles recognized as legitimate as long as the participants are consenting adults.  Teaching our children the norms that we were taught as children is doing them a great disservice.

I want to raise my sons both sex-positively and gender-positively.  I want them to be prepared to interact with people of all sexual proclivities and gender identifications, and to be confident in choosing their own labels when it comes time.  I don't want them to feel like they have to constrain their behavior based on a cultural norm that is outdated and damaging.

Plus, I kind of like My Little Pony.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Inner Struggle

When it comes to maintaining relationships, I'm a very physical person.  When life gets in the way of my time to be alone with partners to share affection and intimacy, I start to feel very disconnected from them.  I do my best to go with the flow and respect that they are just as tired as I am, that maybe they aren't sleeping well, or work is stressful, or the kids were monsters while I was away at work. 

But after several days of this disconnect I get restless, morose, and out of sorts.  When asked what is bothering me, my first reaction is to shrug it off and blame my mood on work, tiredness, etc.  I know that this isn't helping anyone, that I need to communicate, but who wants to hear "I was just hoping for some intimacy" when they have other stuff on their mind?  Who wants to feel like they aren't satisfying their lover?  Because it's not about being unsatisfied, it's about connecting to someone on a core level, without all the bullshit words and societal nuances we've made up in our culture.

I don't want my partners to feel like the only thing I care about it sex... but it is an integral part of how I operate in relationships.  If we aren't connecting enough to have a healthy, rather frequent sex life, I start to worry that we are falling apart.  If we go from multiple times a day to barely once every three days, I start to see potential problems where there probably aren't any.  I start to over analyze my own actions and needs, thinking maybe I'm too high maintenance or expect too much. 

In short, I get a little crazy. 

I know the answer is to talk to them.  It's just not an easy thing for me to talk about sometimes.  Most men say they would love it if their female partners wanted more sex... but the reality is, they often take it personally when you do ask for more.  They ask, "Am I not satisfying you?"  The honest answer is, yes, you do, and I want more!

So why can't I just say that?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Finding My Kinks

I recently read an article by Jillian Keenan describing how hard it can be to expose a particular fetish, in her case spanking, to our partners. It got me thinking - not only did I used to have trouble expressing my needs to partners, but for most of my life even I wasn't sure what they were, exactly. From almost the beginning of my sexual experiences I remember feeling that something was missing. I remember moments where what was happening was almost what I needed to orgasm, but not quite.

For the first 15 years of my sexual life, I only climaxed from penetrative sex a handful of times, usually on accident. I usually came via manual stimulation if I did it myself with a partner kissing me or helping me. It was not until I found the Libertine, and also discovered kink, that both of those things became easy for me. Looking back, I should have looked for this outlet years ago. I live close enough to a major city, I have plenty of access to the internet and kink-friendly resources, that I should have put two and two together a long time ago. But I didn't.

I remember being a young girl dreaming about my first kiss. I remember the picture in my head clearly: he would wrap an arm around my waist, pulling me close, the other hand holding my head and then clamping down roughly on a fistful of my hair as our lips met. My actual first kiss was trembling, bodies far apart, neither of us sure what to do. For years I looked for a man to kiss me the way I really wanted to be kissed. By the time I got married I had pretty much given up, thinking that perhaps I was being unrealistic and setting the bar too high. The first time the Libertine kissed me I nearly fell over in shock because he read me like a book, and spent several hours giving me exactly the experience I had been craving my entire life.

When I was 12 years old I got into a verbal argument with a boy. I pushed the envelope of the argument to a personal level, and his response was to full-armed slap me across the face. I was thunderstruck, and so conflicted with the excitement that rose in me that I just stood there, never breaking eye contact until a teacher dragged us both off to our punishments. I have thought about that day many times since, and when I first learned to pleasure myself (before I had concrete physical experiences to draw from) I would use it as a focal point. Being slapped still holds the same effect for me as an adult.

When I was 19 years old I ventured into a sex shop by myself for the first time ever. One would think that my first sex toy purchase would have been a vibrator or a dildo, but I was drawn to a set of gleaming steel nipple clamps. I bought them, took them home, and hid them. I only ever used them when I was flying solo. I never showed them to a partner until I met the Mister. He was willing to use them with me but was not really interested, and after one try I put them aside. When I started dating the Prime last March, one of the first things he tested on me was a set of clamps, and I could not believe the response my body gave when they were used by a willing partner. Now, with the Libertine, clothespins and rough play are two of my absolute favorite things in the world.

At age 22 a partner physically assaulted me during a disagreement, throwing me into a wall and then forcing me to the floor. The situation quickly escalated into extremely hot sex, resulting in one of the few times I climaxed during penetration. At 25 a partner grabbed me as I entered his apartment and ripped off my shirt, leaving it in shreds. After our quickie was over, I was forced to wear his hoodie over my bra while we were out with friends for a night on the town. I felt exposed, aroused, anticipatory. He apologized for what he thought was awful behavior, and when I revealed how I felt about it he seemed to disapprove. I have asked every partner that I've had repeated sex with to tie me up at one time or another. Most vanilla men will do this once in a while, but having it done by a man who is as turned on by it as I am? Words cannot accurately express how much that excites me.

It's not just these things that should have told me I was looking for more in my sex life. During the early 2000's, when CSI was a huge hit of a show, there were a series of episodes featuring a character named "Lady Heather." She was the madame of an establishment that catered to the BDSM crowd. My boyfriend at the time could only say, "That's some fucked up shit." I could only think, "Oh my god, I want to go there." I've probably read the Claiming of Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rampling (Anne Rice)at least 50 times. Ironically just before I found partners to teach me what I'd been missing, I donated the books out of misery, thinking I should put aside the dreams and try to live in reality.

Today, I'm enjoying an extremely healthy D/s relationship with the Libertine. Giving him the consent to use my body for his pleasure gives me the release I need to achieve sexual fulfillment. Even when we don't play, my response to his touch is immediate and passionate. Finding my kinks has helped me become a better person. I'm no longer constantly wondering what I'm missing, and my confidence in daily life has skyrocketed. I know who I am now.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sexy is a Mindset

Saturday morning found me waiting for the gym to open so I could squeeze 30 minutes of interval running in before going to work. It turns out that the only other people working out at 7am on a weekend fall into two categories, a) insanely physically fit and b) soccer moms using the workout as social hour before their busy day of team sports and suburban insanity.

After my workout I showered and got ready for work in the locker room. I am not shy at all in a locker room situation. If I'm getting dressed and a boob is showing, so what -you've got them, too. I'm not going out of my way to stare at other women, and I'm not going out of my way to hide my body while I'm in the process of dressing it.

So there I was, in my work trousers and a bra, blow drying my hair. Nothing remotely sexual was showing. There wasn't even a hint of an areola to worry about. But over and over women from the above two categories would come into the shower/bathroom side of the locker room, see me, and make this "ew, cover that up" face. I wanted to punch every single one of them.

I'm a plus sized woman. I live in a body that, while pregnant, saw the scale top out at 278 pounds. I cried that day, two days before giving birth to my firstborn, because I thought that I would never ever love my body again. Five years later, I love my body even more now than I did before I got pregnant.
I love the way my hip curves into my backside. I love that despite being rather large and pendulous, my breasts are firm and pleasing to behold. I love that my skin is soft and my hair is shiny. I love my smile, my laugh, my eyes.

So to see these women - these skinny, "average" women - glaring at my naked torso and my satin-clad bosom as though I was disgusting made me irate. What right did they have to decide what beauty is? What right did they have to judge? Sure, I was at the gym, where people go to become skinny - but that's not why I go there. I go there to feel healthier, to breathe better, and to increase my endurance for my other (ahem) physical activities.

I tweeted about my experience, and The Hippy Chick 33 (@TheHippyChick33) pointed out that perhaps these women were simply unhappy with themselves for not being as confident in their bodies as I am in mine. I'm sure that to some extent that is true, and that makes me sad. Every woman should have the ability to feel beautiful in their body. Every woman should be able to feel sexy and desirable.

I don't spend time looking in the mirror and telling myself I'm beautiful. But I do make it a point to do something for myself every day, whether that be painting my nails or going for a run, or making myself a cup of tea and sitting by myself for 20 minutes. I wasn't able to project this confidence until I was able to truly love who I am, from top to bottom. Yes, there are parts of me that I would like to change, and I'm working on them. But overall, the person that I am and the way that I look? I earned that, I've been to hell and back, I made it, and I love it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Stepchild Guilt

The Libertine's daughter stays with us every other weekend.  I love her to death, and so does the Mister.    If you google "stepchild guilt" you get hundreds of stories of step-parents who hate their stepkids.  That's totally NOT the case here.

The problem I have is that I feel like I just don't know her very well.  I don't know what she likes to eat.  I don't know what kinds of toys she is going to want to keep here.  I don't know if she even enjoys being here, to be honest.  I know that she likes to play with the Monkey and the Mongoose, but at times it seems like she is totally overwhelmed at being in a house full of boys (though I can relate on that count).  

The Libertine is doing his best to help me figure it out, but in the gaps between Princess visits things often change, so what was true two weeks ago might not be true this weekend.  This weekend she might eat chicken nuggets, next time she won't touch them.  Last time she was with us we went to the store with her and I asked her to pick out things she wanted to eat, and she was afraid to ask for what she wanted.

I'm afraid that I'm somehow earning the "Stepmother" badge - you know the one.  I never yell at her, I never ask her to do anything that my own kids aren't expected to do (pick up toys, etc), and I try to love on her as much as possible.  I worry constantly that something I'm doing is making her mother angry.  I try to make sure her hair and teeth are brushed each night, that anything she leaves behind is kept safe, and that she has a place in our house that is just hers to keep her things in.  I'm judging myself constantly on my parenting skills of a child that's not mine.  I probably judge myself harder regarding her than I do my own two boys.  

I know this is silly.  The Princess and I will work out a relationship over time.  But right now it is emotionally really hard.  And things happen sometimes that result in knee-jerk emotional responses that make me seem totally crazy.  For example, the last weekend that the Princess was here, her Mom fed her immediately before the Libertine picked her up.  I was at home making a dinner that I knew she was going to want to eat, so when he told me she had already eaten I felt a bit like I'd been punched.  The first thing that popped into my head was "Her Mom doesn't think I feed her.  She thinks I won't make her things she likes and she goes home hungry every weekend."

Isn't that the most irrational, crazy thing ever?  But that's exactly the thought I had.  Maybe it's a subconscious fear I have.  Compared to my kids the Princess does not eat much - my two are almost always eating a piece of fruit or a handful of pretzels.  The Princess reminds me of the little alien dude that Scotty was stuck on the ice planet with in the new Star Trek movie: "You don't eat anything!  You could eat a bean, and you're done!"

When I told the Libertine how I was feeling, he reminded me that they do the pickup/drop off right near a restaurant.  It's only natural that the Princess should see the food advertisements and ask for something to eat - she's 6.  My 5 year old would do the same thing.  

I never expected that I would consider myself a bit of a stepparent.  Having a girl around here is pretty awesome.  I just need to adjust to everything being so different from being the parent of boys.  All of a sudden there is pink stuff, and dress up toys, and theatricality.  The Monkey and the Mongoose love when she comes over.  We'll be out shopping, and the Monkey will see Hello Kitty and exclaim "We need to get that for the Princess!"

I guess we needed a little girl around here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Snapshot of a Day

Well, I missed a day of NaBloPoMo.  Do I get a pass if that missed day was due to an extremely sick toddler?  The Mister took the Mongoose in to the pediatrician yesterday where they did a breathing treatment and prescribed an inhaler every 4 hours and a liquid steroid to help clear his airways.

On the way home the Libertine and I had to stop at the pharmacy for his medicines, which involved a very long line and a lot of whining on my part.  I dislike the pharmacy, and lines.  Once I figured out the new "express pickup" feature at Walgreens, though, I was much less whiny.

By the time we administered an inhaler treatment to a very upset Mongoose, fought with the Monkey about bath and bedtime, and got them both tucked in, I was done for the day.  I snuggled up on the couch with the Mister and the Libertine and watched some science channel before we all passed out before 9pm.

Aren't we a blast?  This is pretty much what every day is like for us, more or less.  We are an extremely normal family, we just happen to have more than two adults in love.  Just because we aren't "mainstream" doesn't mean that our day to day lives are any different from the rest of suburbia.

Although I'm totally NOT a soccer mom.   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Raising Geeks

I spent the greater part of this afternoon completing the first of a set of crochet Star Wars figures.  As I was getting closer to being done, the Mongoose, who is almost 2, kept coming up and taking the partially assembled figure to examine it.  "That's a Jawa," I told him.

He then proceeded to run throughout the house chanting "Jawa.  Jawa.  Jawa.  Jawa.. JAWA."  He thrust the little figure into people's faces, hugged it, and refused to give it up.

We're training the kids young to appreciate the glory of geekery.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poly Problems: When Incomes Clash

As we are finding our way as a cohabitating poly family, we are finding there are certain aspects of life that are ingrained so deeply that adjusting has been harder than we thought.  The Mister and I are solidly in the "median household income" category of Americans, while the Libertine is not.  We are blue collar workers, while he has a very white collar, flexible schedule type career.  

To the Mister and I, $50 is a lot of money.  We are very experienced at dancing the fine line between making sure there is enough money in savings to cover an emergency and making sure that we have a little bit of fun every few weeks or so.  We splurge on the kids to the point of sacrificing for ourselves - something I'm sure every parent does, but for us it means that I will mend holes in pants instead of just buying new ones or that the Mister will eat a yogurt for lunch for a week straight to make up for the extra spending.

For the Libertine, $50 is nothing.  He will frequently take me out for lunch or dinner and think nothing of paying for it.  I have largely given up trying to pay for my fair share and instead make sure that I'm cooking dinner for him at least 4 nights a week and that I'm keeping up with the housewifery as best I can.  The Libertine is used to just going to the store and getting whatever looks good, something the Mister and I have just never done.  

It's been difficult for me to put aside my pride and my penny-stretching skills and ask the Libertine for help.  He repeatedly asks me how much money we need to accommodate for the addition of another adult to our home, and for a long time I would just dodge the question with "whatever you think is fair."  Lately he has taken to simply handing me random amounts of money, or getting the odds & ends at the store that he knows we need.  Money is a touchy subject, more for me than for him, and just because the Libertine and I love each other deeply doesn't mean that talking money is any easier.  I don't ask him much about his income or his spending, and he doesn't really ask us much about ours.  We each have a general idea of what is going on with the other money-wise, but we really don't get specific.  

It's very hard to change the way someone thinks about money.  The Mister and I are used to not having much to work with and making sure that we have what we need before we get what we want.  The Libertine doesn't really have to worry about delineating those things, so sometimes it's hard for us to communicate about why we can't do something.  For example, it took probably a month longer than necessary for us to get the Libertine a bed of his own in the house.  "We can't afford it right away" was met with "I will just pay for it," and we wanted to feel like we were participating in the changes to the household.  The Libertine just wanted a bed!  He felt like we were trying to make excuses for him not to be here full time, and the honest truth was that we just wanted some time to save up a little money to help pay for things.  

In the end, he did just pay for it.  We are learning, slowly, that we are now dealing with life on a totally different budget and scale.  It's taking us a long time to come up to his level, and a long time for him to come down to ours.  We're sometimes spending more than we intend to, and he's sometimes having to go without something when I come home from the store.  

But that's life, right?

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Response to the "Deli Line" of Polyamory

Amy Shiner is someone I follow on twitter, and she writes occasionally for the Huffington Post about her life as a kinkster and poly person.  Yesterday she posted this article, which prompted me to think really hard about how my interactions with the poly community here in Chicago have shaped the way my relationships have grown and the way I've dated.

When the Mister and I first started this, I was excited to date around and explore getting to know new people.  The first few months I met and dated 3-5 men, and talked to many others online without them getting past the initial screening process.  But as I made more and more contacts with others, I came to realize that many of the people labeling themselves as polyamorous weren't truly looking for relationships, they were looking for friends with benefits.  I'm not trashing their choice of label, I'm saying that their interpretation of polyamory didn't mesh with mine.  Perhaps that's why I had such a hard time finding a place in the community.  

As I got closer and closer to the Libertine, and also the Prime, I realized that I was looking for meaningful, lasting relationships.  I didn't want men to flit in and out of my life willy-nilly.  I didn't mind sharing them with other partners, as long as I was still able to see them often enough to maintain a meaningful bond and not have everything be about sex.  

Now that we are down to just the V, I look back on all the dating and chatting I did... and it was fun, but it was not fulfilling.  I still identify as polyamorous.  I still think that we are sex-positive and open to many different walks of life.  But for US, this family unit we are creating is the lifestyle we currently want.  That's not to say that in the future one of us won't want to date again.  And that will be okay as long as we are able to maintain our family bond through communication and trust.

Polyamory doesn't have to be like a deli line, as Amy describes it.  It can be so deeply fulfilling, and warm, and full of love.  Just like everything else in life, you get out what you put into it.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Teachable Moment in Sex Positive Parenting

A bleary-eyed Monkey stumbled into the Libertine's bedroom this morning.

Monkey: Hi Mommy.

Me, half asleep: Hi Monkey.

Monkey: Mommy, why are you in Mr. Libertine's bed?

Me: Because I love him very much.  

Monkey:  No, you love Daddy.  You sleep in Daddy's bed.

Me: Well honey, I love both Daddy and Mr. Libertine.  Daddy was at work last night, so Mommy slept in Mr. Libertine's bed.  

Monkey: No, you love DADDY.

Me: You can love more than one person.  Do you love Mommy?

Monkey: Yes.

Me: Do you love Daddy?  And Grandma?  And Grandpa?  And the Mongoose?

Monkey: ... Yes.

Me: See?  You can love more than one person.  

Monkey:  Okay.  Can I watch Phineas & Ferb now?

I am so grateful that our kids are young enough that this is just something they are going to regard as normal as they grow.  This is their family, and while it may not be traditional, it's full of love, acceptance, and support.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Proving Ground

In the little more than a month that the three of us have been sharing a living space 24/7, there have been quite a lot of little squabbles and disagreements about a myriad of things. Having two adult men here is proving to be extremely difficult at times. On top of that, one of them is meticulous and the other is, well, not. Playing the role of wife to the two of them involves two completely different approaches, and at times I wonder what I've gotten myself into.

I'm stuck in the middle, and it's very hard because I can see both sides of the argument. I can see that the Mister is a third shift worker and does not operate on the same time table as the rest of us. When he doesn't get the opportunity to sleep during the day he becomes really apathetic to what is going on around him. Daily household tasks simply aren't important to him if he doesn't sleep, and even things like feeding the dogs will get ignored until one of the other adults does it. He is already the free spirit, get to it when I get to it type, so this just becomes unbearable to the Type A, get it done now Libertine. It bothers me, as well, but I've had 5 years to get used to this behavior, so I have a better idea of when it's coming and how to push through it.

There are moments when I think the Libertine has hit his limit, that he is going to simply walk out the door. That's really scary for me because I'm not sure he'd come back, or if we'd continue to see each other if he made that choice. I love him with my whole soul, and I don't know how well I'd handle that kind of rejection.

With the Mister, it's different. We have kids together, and one of the main reasons that we chose to work through our problems and remain married is that neither one of us would want to give up our time with our kids. We made them together, and we want to raise them together. No matter how angry he gets, he is going to come back.

For myself, the real challenge is finding a way to navigate the hurt feelings and the anger of both men. The Mister needs to be comforted when he is angry, he needs to talk and work through and make his point. The Libertine prefers to be left alone, to think through and assess his emotions regarding the situation. I'm a bit in between them. I like a bit of time to process what I'm thinking and feeling, but I don't like for so much time to pass that I start to feel disconnected from the other party.

I know that this process is going to take time. I know that if we can get through this initial hardship and really learn to live together, we're going to make a great day to day team. But holy hell, getting there might kill me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Relationship Update

I've not written in quite a while, mostly because I'm so busy with work that I can't find a spare minute to check my bank balance, let along blog.  I apologize for being gone for so long.

Another reason for the break has to do with the changes I've made in my life in the past few weeks.  When I started writing here, I was writing about my dating experiences, and at first there were a lot of boys to talk about.  As the summer waned, and my time started to become more and more constricted, I realized that I don't really want to date outside my primary V anymore.  I reached a point where the amount of time I was putting in at work, and the amount of time required to maintain my relationships at home with my kids and husbands was so much that dating became too much work.

I still care for the Prime, but I have stopped seeing him.  We have talked a couple of times, awkwardly, but I have a really hard time finding what to say.  I don't like being a heartbreaker, I don't like feeling like the bad guy.  The Libertine told me that I have an adorably naive way of thinking that everything will sort itself out in the end if I just leave it alone long enough - and that's pretty true.  It took a long time and a lot of thinking for me to get to the point where I could say "I can't do this" to the Prime.

The Libertine is basically living with the Mister and I now.  He has his own bedroom, and on weekends that he has the Princess she stays here, too.  There have been bumps and bruises, and we are all learning to live together, but we are getting there.

I guess what I'm getting at is, if you're looking for poly dating advice, I may not be your best option for reading.  But if you want to see what it's like inside a stable, permanent, cohabitating V then this is going to get very interesting for you.  We are learning to function as a family unit, raising children, celebrating holidays, and going to work every day.  Doing this with three adults in the house is often much easier, but sometimes much, much harder.

What would you guys like to hear about?  What aspects of cohabitation interest you the most?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Maintaining Relationships Well Beyond NRE

At the end of August the Libertine and I celebrated six months together, and we went out to a cute little Italian place for dinner.  It was the type of little local place that most people don't notice, but the food was fantastic and the atmosphere was perfect.  Since it was such a cozy environment, the traffic was light.  There were only a handful of other tables being used, despite us being there for several hours.

Occupying another table was a couple that had clearly been married for a long time.  They were barely talking, let alone making eye contact.  They seemed more interested in their phones than in each other.  The wife looked like she was trying to engage her husband's attention more than once, but they just weren't connecting.

At our table, there was talking, laughter, flirting, touching.  We bantered with each other and with our waitress.  We giggled, drank, and generally had a great time.  Our attention was focused on each other, but not to the exclusion of what was going on around us.  Neither of us picked up a phone while we were there, with the exception of checking the time towards the end of the night.

I was facing the wife of the unhappy couple.  She kept shooting me hard, dirty stares across the restaurant.  Her attitude was angry, resentful almost.  I commented on it to the Libertine more than once, because it seemed so unprovoked.  Then I realized that I was on the date she was hoping she would get out of her husband.  I was enjoying the romantic, relaxing evening out, and she was sitting at a dead table and hoping her husband would pull his head out of his ass long enough to notice her.

Here's the thing:  I wouldn't notice her if I was a man.  Where I was wearing a cute, cleavage baring dress and heels, she was wearing a Mom Sweater and sensible shoes.  Where I had carefully done my hair and makeup, she was sporting a quick ponytail and might have been wearing mascara.  I looked sexy and approachable.  She looked tired and angry.  If I was her husband, I wouldn't be very interested in her, either.

As relationships progress, a certain amount of routine and getting comfortable always happens.  We let the people we love the most see us in our worst light.  We feel safe around them, so we let down our guard.  However, we have a duty to our partners to maintain at least some semblance of the image they fell in love with in the first place.  If you get too comfortable, it's easy to lose interest.  I'm not perfect.  The Libertine and the Mister see me in my pajamas, or just after a workout, or when I decide not to get dressed on my day off.  The Prime sees me most often right after work, and my job is pretty physical in nature.  But I make an effort to consistently look good - looking my best isn't an every day thing, but I try to do it often enough that it's not a "special occasion."  I know this sounds old-fashioned, but it works for men, too.

I also treat most dates as though they are first dates (with the exception of my "no fucking" rule).  I try not to vent my frustrations with outside stuff unless invited to do so.  I try to keep my conversation entertaining, funny, and flirtatious.  Just because you've been dating someone a long time doesn't mean that you don't have to make an effort anymore.  In fact, making an effort is even more important!

We all want to be reminded of the person we fell in love with.  This is both a physical and an emotional need.  You don't need to stay a size 2 the entire time you're dating someone, but you do need to try to maintain the feeling of mutual sexual attraction between you.  I'm a plus size woman, but I feel sexy, and I project sexy.  That is the feeling you need to maintain.  My partners may not open doors for me everywhere we go, but the fact that they still do so reminds me of the early days of dating.

Start with little things.  Hold an embrace a little longer.  Say "I love you" a little more.  Wear a dress for no reason.  Do something that you know will make them smile, because at the end of the day you're gonna get out what you put in.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Early in the summer I wrote a post about struggling to find acceptance in the poly/swinger community.  At the time I wrote it, the Libertine was coming to terms with his divorce, and I was sitting in a place where I knew the Mister and I had some major work to do if we were going to stay married.  The Libertine was freshly ostracized from the poly community he had worked so hard to become a part of, both online and in person.  I had never been invited into such a group, but I was branching out with my online presence and becoming more brave with my words and opinions.

What happened was, as the Libertine was cut off from a group of people, I was invited into it.  This was hard for me.  Here was a group that had similar ideas to mine, that thought about relationships in similar ways, and that was as open about sex and love as I was.  I was pleased to see my words accepted and my opinions asked for.  At the same time, it was bittersweet, as the Libertine and his beautiful way with words were simply abandoned by this group, as though he had never existed.

I'm not saying that the Libertine was blameless in this.  Going through what he went through was extremely difficult, both emotionally and socially.  He was removed from a podcast to avoid speaking of drama, even though breakups happen in poly relationships all the time.  People he thought were friends chose sides after each of his breakups, just as happens in mono breakups.  The difference was, in the poly community everybody knows everybody else, so the sides were chosen along much bigger lines.  I believe that even now, months later, his ex-wife and several of his ex-girlfriends are in close contact frequently.  

At the beginning of August we attended a party.  There is a lot to the story that I'm not going to get into, but it boils down to this:  before the party we agreed on a boundary and some expectations, and I neglected both.  I created a situation where there was an argument, which we took outside.  I was the one who behaved badly and was wrong.  

But the people at the party, the people who had invited me into their group and had let the Libertine go, they blamed him.  They asked me if I wanted him to leave.  I was flabbergasted.  He hadn't done anything wrong.  He was angry with me for ignoring boundaries and expectations I had agreed upon before we even arrived.  When he got angry, he simply went outside so as not to create drama during the gathering.  I am the one who followed, calling his name, making people aware that things were not okay.

Since that night, the hosts of the party and the leaders of this group of people have made it clear that they accept me, but not the Libertine.  There hasn't even been a breakup, but sides were drawn.  It frustrates me because both of these men have made comments about how the Libertine treated me badly that night and I deserve better.  And no matter how much I explain to them that I treated him badly, they won't listen.

So here I am, feeling judged and unaccepted once again by the poly/swinger community.  The Libertine and I are deeply committed to each other.  He is moving in with my husband and me.  But it feels as though as long as we are together, I'm not welcome within this group of people.  It sucks, because I found them funny and easy to talk to, and I liked having friends that I could bounce ideas at without an ounce of hesitation or judgement.  But now that's gone.  

Maybe the community really doesn't want to be more unified.  Maybe it thrives on drama and judgmental bullshit more than I realized.  If that's the case, I'm sad for them.  But I'll go on being happy with my boys, even if we have to do it without poly/swinger friends around us. If that's not the case, then hopefully we can all get along again one day soon.   

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Coming Out to Mom

  If you follow me on Twitter, you know that recently the Mister and I came out to my parents as polyamorous.  It was not a planned event, we didn't sit them down at a table and lay it all out for them, it just happened.  I'm actually glad it was spontaneous, because this way no one was able to back out at the last second.

Over the summer the Mister and I struggled with our relationship quite a lot.  My Mom is my go-to sounding board, and she was the one who listened to me cry, and let me complain, and then told me to suck it up and work to save my marriage because marriage is hard work and not something you throw away.  After a while it became hard to confide in her because I couldn't really mention the Libertine, so I started to draw back a bit.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago.  My parents took the kids camping, and it was my Dad's 50th birthday.  We were supposed to head up there and have dinner and cake to celebrate.  I was not feeling well that day, and the Mister told her that I might not come but he definitely would.  This set off all kinds of warning bells in my Mom's head, she seemed to think things were still really bad and that we didn't want to be in the same place if we didn't have to.

I ended up texting her that things were okay, that her fears were unfounded, and that while there was something big going on, it was NOT divorce.  She poked and prodded me for a bit before I finally sent her a novel's worth of a text message explaining who the Libertine is, how important to me he is, and how the Mister and I have been non-monogamous for quite a while now.

She didn't say anything for 35 minutes.  Total radio silence.  Finally, I asked her to at least acknowledge that she heard me, and she responded with:

"You and the Mister have to live your life in the way that makes you happy.  I am worried about the kids and don't want them to get hurt if something happens and the Libertine goes away.  But mostly, we just want you to be happy."

Since that afternoon my Mom hasn't brought it up again.  She has not asked to meet the Libertine, nor has she asked about him.  I'm not sure if she is simply pretending he doesn't exist, or if she is just adjusting to the idea of her daugter being in love with more than one person.  She has not asked about any other relationships.

I understand that this is hard for her.  She is very politically in the center, so I'm sure that she'll be okay.  But in the meantime, I have to worry that things I say are hurting her.  I have to worry that she is going to be upset when she asks us what we're doing on a weekend and I say that we're celebrating the Princess's birthday with the Libertine (awesome weekend, I'll recap another time).  But mostly, I think she is upset that she has lost some of her daughter time.

And that's really what every relationship boils down to, isn't it?  How much time we make for each other.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Proper Care & Feeding of (Multiple) Husbands

This post is more of a "how-to" than anything.  But if you're working on a poly family dynamic and this helps, I'm glad!

As we work together to create a poly house, we are starting to come up against some struggles that I knew were coming, but wasn't really prepared for.  With three adults, there are suddenly about twice as many dishes to do every day.  My grocery expectations have been adjusted not once, not twice, but three times.  Keeping up with general housework has become an incredible challenge with the additional foot traffic and clutter.  Along with the physcial clutter is mental clutter.  We each have work stress we need to deal with, we each need our alone time, and some time with our partner, every day.  We each want kid time, too.  Finding time for it all is extremely difficult.  There are times I need to stop and remind myself that this is what we want.  We want a house full of the people we love.  We all want to come home to each other at the end of the day.  But the insanity of it all can sometimes overwhelm me.  

I like to take care of my men.  I like to try to keep their laundry done and the house in at least a general state of order so that when they do find a moment to help with household tasks, they aren't overwhelmed from the start.  The Mister and the Libertine take turns doing the dishes, and they also try to help the boys pick up toys and miscellaneous stuff throughout the house.  I ask them to help when they can.  I try not to get angry when they don't, I try to simply keep my thoughts in my head and do what needs doing.  I don't always succeed, but I try.

I work outside the house, so getting dinner on the table has become something of an art for me.  Two nights a week I'm not even home at dinnertime.  I try to make sure my family has something substantial to eat, no matter if I'm home or not.  The Mister doesn't really cook, and one night a week he and the kids get their favorite "Mom's not home" dinner - mac & cheese and hot dogs.  The rest of the week we try to get an actual dinner on the table.  

A lot of prep work goes into this whole dinner thing.  This past weekend, while we were playing with the Princess and the boys, I cooked my ass off.  I made lasagna in the biggest turkey roaster I own, I made a triple batch of white chili, I made muffins to freeze for quick breakfasts, I made meatballs (so. many. meatballs.), and I made cake and frosting for the Princess's birthday.  Today I'm going to prep chicken for fajitas, for fried rice, and for salads.  Oh, and I'm going to make chicken tenders.

The idea comes from Once a Month Cooking, but I only do it for a two week span because I only have a small freezer.  We realized after this weekend that we're going to have to budget for a chest freezer in the next month or so.  

The idea is this.  All of this stuff is basically ready to go.  The Mister is usually home with the kids in the afternoon because he works third shift, and the Libertine usually gets home before me anyway.  All they need to do is reheat whatever is for dinner that night, and prep the side dish.  Let's say we're having chicken fajitas.  I'll take the chicken out of the freezer in the morning and leave it in the fridge.  The Mister or the Libertine just has to reheat it in a frying pan (the veggies are already frozen in with the chicken), and then prep cheese, tortillas, beans, or whatever.  One of them will usually make a batch of rice so I can throw a quick Spanish rice together when I walk in the door.  Lots of what I pre-freeze is crockpot ready, like the meatballs.  If you didn't know, a meatball is one versatile little dish!  

Cooking like this sounds expensive, and it can be if you don't plan carefully.  I try to stock up on meat when it goes on sale, and I try to keep things simple so that I'm not making really complicated dishes with a million ingredients.  If you can scratch cook, and you're a good planner, you can do this for less than you think.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Anticipating Some Fun

This weekend I don't have to work, and the Libertine and the Princess are coming to spend the weekend with us.  We are so excited to spend the weekend together, to let the kids play and run around, to just be.

The Princess is turning six at the beginning of September, so we are going to make cake, and spaghetti and meatballs, and just have a grand time celebrating.  We're hoping the kids really get into the swing of the weekend and have a camp out in our playroom, complete with sleeping bags and our play tent.  The image in my head is of piles of pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, the kids' mattresses and all of us sleeping after a night of playing and watching movies.

And in the morning, I'm making waffles!  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Poly House

There are so many different flavors of polyamory.  My favorite particular flavor involves lots of family time, whether it's with the Libertine taking a day off with me, or just spending an afternoon with him and the Princess and my kids.  Our children are surrounded by adults that love each other, that support each other.  I love that my kids get to see their mother be loved by multiple partners.  I love that we are raising them in an atmosphere of honesty and consent and trust.  They trust the Libertine, and ask after him when he isn't around.  The Monkey is constantly asking if we get to see the Princess this weekend.  They love the extended pieces of our family.

In the beginning, there was a lot of fear regarding the kids.  The first time the Libertine stayed the night, I made him get up well before the kids and be gone before they were awake.  I didn't want to confuse them.  Slowly, and sort of by accident (alarm clocks can be cruel), the boys became used to the Libertine being home in the morning.  That first morning, we got up and made waffles, and spent a morning being a family.  The Mister came home from work (he works 3rd shift) and the five of us played, watched TV, and relaxed.  And it was awesome.  

We're coming up on six months together, and the Libertine, the Mister, and I are discussing cohabitation.  The Monkey and the Mongoose are so used to seeing the Libertine almost every day, going grocery shopping as a family, just being together, that I doubt it will even register to them that this isn't a nuclear family dynamic until they get to the age where they compare against their peers.  The Monkey goes to preschool, but at his age he doesn't yet understand what a "normal" family is.

Cohabitation sounds like such a big deal, but for us it's just the next thing.  Everyone is on board.  The Mister and I are not struggling anymore.  We're figuring out how to give everyone alone time, how to give each end of the V a chance to connect on a daily basis.  There's a lot of negotiation, and communication.  I know that "communicate!" is something you hear over and over in the poly community, but it is so critical that it can't be stressed enough.  

Without communicating, I wouldn't know that the Mister just wants to hear "I love you" a little more.  Or that the Libertine wanted a space to keep his laptop so that he could work on side projects while at home with us.  Neither of them would know that I need at least 30 minutes to myself when I get home, without interruption from kids or dogs or partners, just to recenter.  

Right now it looks like we'll be changing things and making a second adult bedroom space within the next 6-8 weeks.  The Libertine is keeping his apartment, but at this point he really only stays there 1 or 2 nights a week.  We eat dinner together just about every night.  

It's truly becoming a poly household, and I couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Some things are universal, whether you're poly or not. The connections we make with people imprint on us for years after those connections are gone. Relationships have the power to lift us up, throw us down, and fuck us up.

Last night I came within 50 feet of an ex-boyfriend, and the panic that rose in my throat shocked me. I was overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, and the impulse to run. The loop in my head was "don't see me, don't see me, don't see me."

This person is at the core of so much of my baggage. We lived together for several years, none of them great, and when I finally asked him to leave it was messy, awful, scary, and life changing. I'm still unable to tell the story, even to the Mister.

Even this morning, thinking of that brief glimpse of him, I'm stuck in a headspace that reminds me of rock bottom, moving home at 25, broke and with nothing but the clothes on my back. Depression, shame, and guilt are creeping up on me uncontrollably. Rationally I know that it wasn't really my fault, that I needed to go through that experience to get where I am now, but it broke me so completely that 7 years later I can't talk about it.

I love my life right now. I love my partners and my job and myself. I just don't love what it took to get here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

So... that happened.

The Libertine and I have a very active sex life.  In the just over 5 months we have been dating, if you did some math, you would come up with, very conservatively, roughly 450 instances of us fucking.  Which, we admit, is a bit excessive.  The point is, we fuck a lot.

In early June the Libertine moved into a new apartment, and bought a new bed.  We haven't spent much more than a handful of nights at his apartment for logistical reasons, but it would be safe to say we've had sex in his bed somewhere between 20 and 40 times in the roughly 60 days he's owned it.  One afternoon recently we stopped at his apartment for some afternoon delight, and things got even more ... energetic than normal.  Downright acrobatic, even.  So, there we are, with our heads at the foot of the bed, having a great time, and suddenly this amazing metallic groaning began.  It was the same sound of incredible stress and fatigue that the Titanic made when the aft half of the ship separated from the bow, right before it hit the water. Finally, there came the sound of welds popping and the resounding thud of the bed frame slamming into the floor.  

After the initial shock and realization of what had just happened came the most ridiculous bout of laughter I've ever had. We were still mid-fuck, still entwined in each other, but now at the crazy 60 degree angle of a bed that has suddenly lost a corner support. Once the laughter died down, we did the only sensible thing - we kept fucking! For a brief moment I thought we were going to be okay and that we could ride out the crazy angle of the bed until we were finished. Not a second after I finished that thought, the mattress slid even further, depositing me on the floor on my shoulders and neck with my ankles by my ears. The Libertine barely managed to catch himself from going totally over with me by bracing his hands on the wall behind me, legs still trailing behind him on the bed.  

For those of you that know us in real life, I apologize for that mental image.

Also, did you know that trying to have sex while your partner is laughing uncontrollably is extremely uncomfortable for men?  Awkward position and physical and emotional discomfort aside, the Libertine still managed a grand finale. He performed with aplomb. So... that happened.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July Highlights

I haven't done a highlights post in a while.  I think it's time.
  • The Mongoose has learned about a billion new words, among them yucky, Cookie Monster, and cheese.  We were making grilled cheese sandwiches the other night, and he walked into the kitchen, looked at the Libertine, and demanded "CHEESE!!"
  • The Monkey has been asking to see the Princess all week.  During breakfast this morning he looked right at me and said, "We get to see the Princess TOMORROW!  And make CAKE!"
  • Last weekend we attended at party at the Prime's house.  I helped the Prime's wife with party prep beforehand, and got to snuggle on their baby for an hour or so while "helping."  Baby snuggles are the best when it's not your baby.
  • During the party the Prime sought me out a few times to tell me he loves me and that he was happy we came.  It made me feel special.
  • The Mister cleaned half the house while I was at work.  This is better than oral sex to me.  Maybe I should put that in my profile.
  • The Mister, the Libertine, the kids, and I all went grocery shopping together.  Having that third adult along to help with the kid wrangling was AWESOME.
  • Friends have reached out and invited us out socially both with short notice and invitations to parties.  It is nice to see that all the poly snark doesn't extend to everyone we know.
  • The Mister, the Libertine, and I went to see The Dark Knight Returns.  It was a fun afternoon, but the best part was listening to the Libertine tell me about his coworker's reaction to us all going on a date together.  "Wait, so he KNOWS?  And he went WITH YOU?"
  • I got a new dress, and it made both the Mister and the Libertine's jaws drop.  
  • The Monkey has been watching us play Lego Batman.  Whenever the bad guys pop up, he tells the Libertine, "Get the criminals!"
  • The Libertine and the Mister have taken to doing the dishes after dinner.  Love, love, LOVE this.
A lot of the angst and anger of the past few weeks is behind me now.  I'm feeling more secure, less temperamental, less bitter.  I'm loving the direction we are taking now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Feminist Sub

I was raised with feminist values. Women should make the same salary, have the same rights, share the housework, etc. A partner should be just that - a partner who shares your load. My parents split and remarried when I was 11, and I remember watching the different marriage dynamics with fascination. My mother and stepfather split things pretty evenly, he taking most of the outside tasks/home maintenance and she commanding the house like the captain of a ship. My father and stepmother had a much more 1950's vibe going; she was a stay at home mom, and took care of every single thing that needed doing, except mowing the lawn. In both cases the woman managed the money, although my mother and stepfather seemed to share and communicate about it much more.

In my marriage I'm the one who wears the pants. I have most of the power, and not by choice. The Mister is a very passive, free spirited personality; he is perfectly content to simply move through the day and see where it takes him, whereas I am extremely Type A - I plan, strategize, and execute. In my work life I am the boss. Everyone in my building follows my lead, and there is very little question as to who is in charge.

When I'm subbing, I feel this amazing sense of freedom and peace. I have no power. I have no say in what is about to happen. I can stop things with one word if I choose to, but the course of events are not up to me. The Libertine has taken an interest in this aspect of my sexuality, and perhaps because of the immense amount of time we spend together, it's no longer contained to the bedroom.

It's exhilarating. He will allow me to be in collar for hours at a time, just going through a normal day (typically a day we are off together). He will randomly issue a command, and my heart leaps as I rush to obey. I love this aspect of our life together. I love that he enjoys it as much as I do. I love that he expects me to serve him, and I am completely willing to do so.

I don't think that it's at odds with my personality to feel this way. Just because I enjoy subbing doesn't mean I can't be strong-willed, or competent, or have an opinion. It doesn't mean that I want to be subservient in every aspect of my life, either. At the end of the day I still want an equal partner. I still want him to respect me, and admire me. I want him to value my opinions and ask for my input.

But I also want him to fuck me like the whore that I am.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Finding Myself in Songs

I first came across this song in early 2002.  I was finally coming to grips with my self image, and seeing myself as my own person instead of identifying myself through the likes and dislikes of the men I was dating.  2002 was the year that I began aggressively dating for the first time, it was the year my "number" almost doubled.  Every time I hear this song I remember that year, and I see how far I've come, and the lyrics still resonate with me so so much.

All the things we love, all the little addictions we carry around - they make us who we are.  And I am unapologetic about loving who I am, addictions and all.

Cigarettes and chocolate milk
These are just a couple of my cravings
Everything it seems I like's a little bit stronger
A little bit thicker, a little bit harmful for me

If I should buy jellybeans
Have to eat them all in just one sitting
Everything it seems I like's a little bit sweeter
A little bit fatter, a little bit harmful for me

And then there's those other things
Which for several reasons we won't mention
Everything about 'em is a little bit stranger
A little bit harder, a little bit deadly

It isn't very smart
Tends to make one part
So brokenhearted

Sitting here remembering me
Always been a shoe made for the city
Go ahead accuse me of just singing about places
With scrappy boys faces, have general run of the town

Playing with prodigal sons
Takes a lot of sentimental valiums
Can't expect the world to be your Raggedy Andy
While running on empty, you little old doll with a frown

You got to keep in the game
Retaining mystique while facing forward
I suggest a reading of a lesson in tightropes
Or surfing your high hopes or adios Kansas

It isn't very smart
Tends to make one part
So brokenhearted

Still there's not a show on my back
Holes or a friendly intervention
I'm just a little bit heiress, a little bit Irish, a little bit
Tower of Pisa, whenever I see ya
So please be kind if I'm a mess

Cigarettes and chocolate milk
Cigarettes and chocolate milk

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kids say the damnedest things

The Libertine usually spends Saturday nights with us, and then lazy Sundays playing with the kids if he doesn't have the Princess.  The kids all know the routine now, and they look forward to waffles and bacon and playing Lego video games and reading stories.

This Sunday, my father-in-law happened to be coming for a visit.  This happened over breakfast:

Me:  "Monkey, Grandpa is coming to see you today!  Do you remember him?"

Monkey:  "Yay!  Mommy?"

Me: "Yes?"

Monkey:  "I think Mr. Libertine needs to hide."

Four and a half years old, and already knows that Mommy doesn't share her special friends with Grandma and Grandpa yet.  By this time next year, I hope to change that.

Friday, July 6, 2012


We all have baggage.  My primary one happens to be not being able to trust other people when they tell me I've done a good job, or that I'm attractive, or funny, etc.  I am not good with compliments or praise.  I'm used to not feeling good enough for others, professionally, personally, emotionally.  I'm used to family members saying things that are hurtful, and even though I know they are not doing it consciously, it devalues my relationships with them.  I'm used to the Mister prefacing a comment with "don't take this personally, but..."  I'm used to feeling like my boss dislikes the work that I'm doing.  I'm used to being subtly told that my career choice is a joke.

The baggage we carry affects every relationship we choose to be in.  We make assumptions about current partners based on previous experiences.  Every time the Libertine or the Prime tells me that I'm beautiful, sexy, desirable, I immediately shift to the defensive and throw out a witty rebuttal.  I diminish their compliment by being self-deprecating or coy.  

And the stupid thing is, I have an amazing amount of self confidence.  I know that I'm attractive.  I love my body.  I know that I'm intelligent, and funny, and a fun person to hang out with.  I'm a good mother, and a great cook, and I'm exceptional at my job.

I'm not perfect, but I absolutely love who I am. 

So why do I let the slights of others get me down?  Why do I let the idiocy of past relationships damage the ones I currently have?  It's not just this baggage, either.  There are so many things that I have gut reactions to, defense mechanisms learned through a lifetime of shitty loves, horrible family, jealous friends.  

I am sorry.  To each of my lovers, I am sorry.  I am trying to let it go.  I am trying to look forward, not back.  I am trying to build a life with you, not destroy what we have begun.  

I love you.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Struggling for Acceptance and Nonjudgment in the Poly Community

There's an ugly little truth in the polamorous world.  Things aren't always as perfect as they seem.  My boyfriend is getting divorced.  My primary relationship with the Mister is struggling, for reasons totally unrelated to what is going on with my other partners.  In fact the trouble in my marriage has nothing to do with polyamory at all.  Yes, outside relationships do come up in the course of the arguing, but the core of what is wrong is completely unrelated to having an open marriage.

So, we come to something I've noticed in the past month or two.  There is this tendency in the poly community to pretend that poly relationships, especially poly marriages, are sunshine and puppies all the time.  And they just aren't.  Poly relationships are just that... relationships.  People get hurt.  People grow apart.  People do stupid things.  Relationships are work, and they are hard, and sometimes the cost to benefit ratio stops working in the direction you want it to.

The Mister and I, I don't know what will happen.  My lover and his wife, they couldn't work it out.  The boys and I have had our share of bumps and relationship bruises.  This doesn't make us failures.  This doesn't make us unworthy of being seen and heard and read.  This doesn't disqualify us from using the label polyamorous.  This makes us human. Just because you are poly and unmarried, just because you are poly and your primary relationship failed, does NOT make you less than those whose primaries are successful.  

I think the poly community is missing out on a huge opportunity to hear the stories that no one wants to acknowledge.  Sometimes we fail.  Sometimes we fall.  And every time we do it we learn something new about ourselves and what we need in our relationships.  Just because we do so doesn't mean that we are bad people or that we can't lean on the shoulders of our other lovers.  It doesn't give anyone outside the failing relationship the right to judge you for what they think you have or have not done.  The amount of information out there about being polyamorous or nonmonogamous is so small, and pretending that every poly relationship is perfect all of the time isn't helping anyone.  Shutting people down or boxing them out because they are "failing" isn't making us a bigger community.

The poly community needs to stop being so judgmental all the time.  It's basically a snowglobe of drama just waiting to be shaken up.  The community here in Chicago has given me the cold shoulder on more than one occasion, and the only reason I can think of is that I was with an extremely active and sought after man.  For every warm and welcoming person I've met in the community, I've probably met three who were, quite simply, awful.  It's a clique, and it's not one that I've decided I want to be a part of.

Hearing the stories from OpenSF, listening to the Life on the Swingset panel podcast, I can't shake the feeling that as much as we all want a truly open and bonded community, we aren't going to be able to lose the labels, the judgment, the justifications, and the snark.  Maybe if we admitted that we're all just people looking for connections, and that sometimes those connections aren't great, we'd all be a lot happier.  Maybe if we poly people could admit that we date just as much for the sex as we do for the love, we could be more accepting of swingers.  Maybe if swingers could admit that it can be hard to have sex with someone and not develop a bit of affection for them, they'd be able to see where we're coming from, too.  Maybe if we were able to truly be appreciative of the things we have in common, and not just focus on the things that make us different, we'd be able to make our voices heard by the traditionalists.

We need to stop pretending that we're better than everyone else.  Not everyone can be polyamorous, monogamous, married, single, straight, gay, bi, queer... pick your label.  I identify as polyamorous, straight, and currently married.  During my lifetime some or all of those things might change.  I define my labels, I don't let them define me.  In the community we need to be able to meet someone and genuinely accept them for who and what they are.  It doesn't matter if their kink makes you squirm.  It doesn't matter if your level of nonmonogamy doesn't mesh with theirs.  All that matters is that we are all willing to walk out the door every morning and meet the world as we are.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Negotiating Boundaries & Setting Expectations

With all the changes going on right now, I'm finding that some of the boundaries and expectations previously set with my partners are not quite where I want them to be anymore.  As my relationships grow and change, things that were previously no big deal are suddenly causing huge emotional responses.  Things that were previously extremely important are becoming minor and inconsequential.  I've been with my partners long enough now to know what their hot button issues are, and they know mine.  But what do you do when a new hot button appears?  Or when something that used to get you hot no longer does?

In any relationship, poly, monogamous, or otherwise, you need to be constantly evaluating what you want versus what you need from your partner.  Things change over time.  Feelings deepen, or fade.  What once was new and exciting might become commonplace and familiar (or, gasp, boring).  In my marriage, for example, the Mister and I have a routine in place for day to day tasks.  He takes care of X,Y, & Z.  I take care of A, B, & C.  This arrangement has come about because I realized that I needed him to help with those things.  In the beginning, if he helped it was nice, but not needed.  It was a want, something that was awesome if he could provide but that was not critical to the success of our relationship.  A few kids and more job responsibilities later, and now those things are needs.  I can't physically do them myself on a regular basis, and my want for his help became a need - if he can't step up and help out, it affects our bond.  

This is true for just about any relationship .  Maybe you are okay with the way your sex life is right now, but you're curious about kink.  Asking your partner to explore with you is a want.  You don't need the expanded sexual experience to have a fulfilling, happy relationship.  But you want it.  Make sure you are being clear with your partners when you are discussing boundaries and expectations.   Don't tell your partner that something you need is really a want.  Being vague isn't going to get you where you want to go, and in fact it might result in the exact opposite! 

While you're evaluating boundaries, consider how your expectations mesh with those of your partner.  Do your wants and needs still line up reasonably well?  Does one of you want a primary relationship while the other only wants to get together twice a week?  That situation isn't going to work for very long.  Keeping relationships healthy and growing requires work, communication, and sometimes a good strong reality check.  If what you need doesn't line up with what your partner needs, it might be time to reconsider the relationship as a whole.  Maybe you need to simply evaluate if you are willing to realign some of your needs to meet theirs and vice versa.  As long as you meet in the middle somewhere, and communicate often, you can make it work.

Something I personally struggle with while assessing the state of my relationships is remembering to look forward, not back.  Yes, things that happened affect where I want my relationships to go, but once the new boundary is set, once a partner and I have learned from the experience and know what to expect, that event needs to stay in the past.  I have a hard time with this because I am an over-analyzer.  I need to figure out where I went wrong, or what I did that exacerbated the problem (even if it wasn't my fault to begin with).  Learning to let go of past events is something I'm working on as a person; no one wants something that happened a year ago to come up suddenly in the middle of a heated argument just because it makes a good barb.  

Everyone knows that relationships are hard work.  Be open to change, be willing to meet someone halfway on the big issues.  Be willing to concede the ones that don't really matter to you but are important to them.  Ask questions, ensure that your partner is getting what they need from you (and at least some of what they want).  Remember that relationships are about balance.  As the Stones said, you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

Conquering the Awkward

For those of you who don't already know, the Libertine is getting divorced.  I know most of you follow both of us, but if you hadn't yet put it together from all the ridiculous tweets, you can find his story here.  Most of the time, the nitty gritty and bullshit of the divorce doesn't impact me much, other than listening when he needs it, holding him when he needs it, and being a shoulder to cry on.  But this weekend, it hit me full in the face.

I had the weekend off, a rarity in my line of work.  A few weeks back the Libertine and I were Skyping with the Princess and I mentioned that Disney's Brave was coming out, and we should all go to see it.  We made plans to go, the Libertine, the Princess, the Monkey, and I.  Now, the Princess is 5, and she doesn't really understand divorce beyond the sad fact that her parents aren't living together anymore.  She asked if her Mommy could come, and since I am a mother, and I know how much this is hurting them all, I said "Of course!"

Cue the awkward.

The Libertine's ex and I have had a tenuous relationship from the start.  I was never really sure that she liked me, and I felt that perhaps there was animosity there that was churning just under the surface all of the time.  She would come have dinner with my family, or meet the Libertine and I for lunch, but it always felt forced or strained.  The Monkey and I arrived at lunch late - and when we arrived the tension was palpable.  The Princess and the Monkey took to each other immediately, just like they always do, leaving the adults to flounder through awkward conversation.

As lunch progressed things would get marginally better, then go back to awkward again.  Little things, like the Monkey needing to use the bathroom, suddenly seemed to be huge potential problems.  He is 4 1/2, and at that age where using the boys' restroom is a really big deal.  Normally when we go out, he simply goes with the Libertine, but having him do that while out with the Libertine's ex felt like it would be uncomfortable.  I'd rather have the argument over using the girls' restroom than be left with the crazy silence.

We made it through the day somehow, we pushed through small talk and watching the kids play (that was the whole point, after all).  This is new for all of us.  Adjusting to a semi-blended family situation is challenging, especially when the kids don't get to see each other as often as they'd like.  All I can do is continue trying to be a part of the Libertine's life.  I love him.  I love the Princess.  The Monkey and the Mongoose love her, too.  We can make this work, somehow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Relationship Reboot

A few months back I had a fantastic first date with someone, but the relationship died during the second date due to something unfortunate.  Looking back on the incident, we both know exactly where we went wrong, but we have remained friendly, chatting here and there, ever since.

This is someone I genuinely like, someone I find funny and charming and worth spending time with.  We have a lot of natural chemistry.  Normally I don't continue to pursue friendships with people if dating them didn't work out, because I find it awkward.  With this boy, it feels natural to allow a friendship to grow.

Last night we met up for drinks and a light dinner.  We talked about his recent experience at the OpenSF conference and all the amazing people he met while there.  We talked about the need for a more diverse and activist poly community here in Chicagoland.  We walked around the shopping center aimlessly, chatting and doing that thing where you keep bumping into each other as you walk.  It felt great.  There was plenty of positive energy, but absolutely no pressure for anything more than chatting, flirting, and enjoying each other's company.

Perhaps the funniest thing about the evening was the expectations of our friends and lovers - they knew we were going out, and most of them assumed that things would get sexy.  Live tweeting during the evening made things even more hilarious - when we decided to go hot tubbing, I got a lot of "nudge nudge, wink wink" type responses.  But even in the water, we just chatted.  There was some incidental touching, and playful banter, but nothing ever felt like it was going to lead to a place we didn't want it to go.

At least not yet.  Who can say what will happen?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Treading Lightly

I'm in a bad place.  I feel like I'm walking through my day carrying a time bomb, and I can't see the timer.  I never know what is going to set it off, I never know if today is going to be a quiet day or a catastrophe.

Mentally I'm feeling vulnerable and laid bare.  It's hard to be really open and forthcoming in this space sometimes; I know that some of the people who read this blog are people who have negative opinions of me, who want me to fail, who think I am not worthy of the relationships I have.  I have scores of drafts sitting in my file, awaiting a click on the "publish" button, a click that will never come.  Censoring myself in order to reduce the drama in my real life, to maintain the peace in my partners' lives, makes me crazy.

The Mister and I are struggling.  

We have been struggling with these issues for far longer than we have been polyamorous.  Becoming poly hasn't amplified the problem so much as it's made me aware that most people don't live with this stress day after day.  We'll go through periods where things are perfect and beautiful and quiet, and then suddenly we'll hit a patch where every day is a battle over nothing.  I'm not going to go into details, that's not the point of this post.  

I'm treading lightly because boundaries are being renegotiated.  Where I want to be and where I'm expected to be are not always the same place lately, and it's stressful.  What I want my life to be is not what I was okay with it being a year ago, and that's hard to explain to the Mister.  While I'm in this place of insecurity, things keep happening which threaten me even more.  It's like trying to navigate foreign territory with no map and no compass.

Yes, I have people I can lean on, but even there things feel tenuous. I don't want to further add to their drama by heaping on my own.  My mother's advice boiled down to "marriage is hard."  The Prime said the same, but he was a great listener and I think truly wanted to help.  The Libertine is doing the best he can to be my rock, but he is going through a divorce and has his own series of challenges to get through right now.  I try to be there for him, too, but lately it's felt like we're pulling at each other instead of working together.

The more I think about what I want and what I need, the more I come back to the following:
  • I cannot go back to being monogamous.  I will not sacrifice any of the relationships I have to keep only one of them.
  • I want to come out to my family within the next year.
  • The Libertine and I need to negotiate the future.  There has been talk of Big Things.
  • I want to be able to write from my heart and publish what I say.   I do not want the "What Ifs" to rule my writing.
  • I want to advocate polyamory and nonmonogamy without having to become an active member of the Chicago poly community (because of incidents of exclusion/cold shouldering).
More than anything, I want to be able to openly express these things without feeling the judgment of others.  I want to be able to admit that my marriage might fail without feeling like I didn't try hard enough.  I want to make peace with the feeling that life is too short to dwell on the little things, the perceived slights, and the mistakes I've made.  I want to be able to stand up and say, "This is who I am, you can like it or hate it, it doesn't bother me either way," and mean it.