Pandora Percolating

“I’m afraid. And I need to acknowledge this verbally, that although I don’t want to, some part of me is holding back in sharing all my love, all this love that I am so desperate to share. And I don’t want that to be the case, but I’m afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?” asked ElkFeather.

“That I will push people away with how intense I can be.” This was, after all, what seemed to happen with Noel.

“Is there anyone in particular you are afraid of pushing away?” he asked me.

In the safety of his arms, in the comfortable embrace, my legs locked around his waist, I could feel the fear melting as I spoke.

“You,” I answered. “I don’t want to drive you away.” Pause. Breathe. “I don’t want to drive anyone away.”

With my cheek resting against his neck, I could feel ElkFeather breathing, smiling. “You aren’t going to drive me away. I’m here.”

Wow. Melt.

There are these walls up within me against myself, and I’m slowly breaking through them.

My greatest fear is my own power. My own full expression of being. I want to unleash and let go. I want to pour my heart out over and over again, and let go of the pain and sorrow, celebrate the joy and the love. And I am so afraid of how overwhelming that can be. Of how I can become so overwhelmed by myself and consumed with that expressiveness that everything else falls by the wayside. Work, commitments, long term plans, everything. I am Pandora, holding this box, sealed tight for fear that what lies within will move without my control. Wild passion. Unbridled. Unrestrained. Powerful. Transformative.

Pandora and her box: a parable of feminine sexuality.

Pandora and her box: a parable of feminine sexuality.

I hold back with partners because, in the past, I have not held back. I have taken advantage. I choosen to not have sex when intoxicated for the simple reason that I don’t trust myself to recognize the other person’s No- whether spoken or bodily communicated- when I am in an altered state of awareness, and I don’t trust that someone else can say no when they are in that state. I have been the person who knew the person they were with was too drunk to resist or say no. I’ve been the one to cross unspoken boundaries and I hate that I have that capacity.

So I hold back. I hold back and hold back. And I can only let go when someone inserts a key. When someone gives me absolute outright permission “Yes, we are having sex. We are getting intimate.” And then it’s a gentle playful zone until… something magical shifts, and I melt. I’m gone. Everything changes. I open. I’m unleashed.

Maybe I will get to a place again when I feel I can trust myself enough with others that I can fully let down those guards and maybe have sex whilst more than a little tipsy, or at the tail-end of a mushroom trip. Who knows. I mean, I love those altered states of consciousness. I just don’t know that I can go there and go into that vulnerably open arena of sexuality with someone else at the same time.

It is said that our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. It is that we are powerful beyond measure. And here I am seeking to unleash the full expression of my sexuality, and holding back because I fear it could take over.

I love the time I get to spend with ElkFeather. Whilst we chat online often, we see each other in person maybe once every few months. There’s a lot of love shared between us. The time we spend together feels genuine. Nothing forced, no agenda. We play. We laugh. We do mushrooms and tumble around his living room. We read our Free Will Astrology for the week. We draw oracle cards to decipher our lives and laugh when the cards tell us the same things. We eat good food and watch TED talks. We share tea. We share kisses. And more.

He reminds me of an elemental forest creature. When we are together, I feel the gentle embrace of the trees, the softness of the moss, the uplifting fragrance of the earth. I reconnect with myself. I find my grounding. Once I know where that grounding is, I’m no longer afraid to spread my wings. I feel- invincible, wide open, free. The fear seems to melt.

On my last morning at ElkFeather’s, before heading back into the city, I was overcome with a wave of sorrow. I don’t know why. It was just, sadness, pouring out of me. I started crying. It was a joyous kind of sadness. He came over and gently touched my foot. “I love you, M” he said, his eyes glowing, his face beaming deep, compassionate love at me. That was all he needed to say. He reminded me of the experience of love, and the sadness evaporated into smiles and sweetness.

I’m reminded that we are all so vulnerable, we’ve all been hurt and wounded, we’ve all carried scars around our sexuality, and yet-we’ve all got immeasurable strength and wisdom to share. The deepest scars can indeed be healed. Our traumas can become our strengths. Each and every twist in our path leads us to opportunities to grow if we choose to see them that way. And relationships, they can be the greatest teacher of all. The people we undress to- physically and emotionally- get to see every little mark on our being, even the ones we forgot were there, and they can help us heal them, if the trust and capacity for sharing love is there.

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What’s Done, Is Done.

“Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what’s done, is done.”

~ William Shakespeare

When I walked into Finn’s place, the cat greeted me immediately with meows of “Where the F*&$ have you been?”

I had come in search of the vacuum bags to go in the vacuum cleaner that had, at one time, been my mother’s. Then, somehow, it became mine. Then I gave it to Finn. Then I got it back. Along the way the spare bags and filters went missing.

It would have been easier to buy new ones, but I was sure I knew where they were at Finn’s place.

Finn wasn’t going to be home for another half hour, but told me to let myself in. We have been separated for almost two years now. His girlfriend has been in the process of moving in with him. It was strange to see all her things intermixed with his. As I searched the house (to no avail) for the vacuum bags, it was weird to come across things like artwork that Finn and I had bought together, sitting alongside things of hers.

This is the first time I have had the feeling of having been ‘replaced’. Seeing things of his that used to sit alongside things of mine, now sitting next to her stuff. It felt eerie.

I’m actually one of people who introduced them to one another, she was part of our extended network of friends when we were just breaking up. Their relationship was one of those things no one could have predicted, but in retrospect their coupling makes perfect sense, and they are good for one another. She does things for him that I never would have done. I have no resentments about their relationship, I just didn’t expect them to live together so soon.

Downstairs I came across a row of Finn’s ties. Almost all of them, I had bought him as gifts. I think there were seven; ironically, one for each year we were married. Damn, I have a knack for finding good ties. And seeing them there, I wanted to rip them down. I wanted to take them back, I wanted to take it all back.

I’ve cleared through so many things from our marriage, and I’m continuing to rid myself of the stuff we jointly acquired. And yet he has hung onto all of it.

And all of it has memory.

I’m finding that it upsets me that he holds onto it. Like he is still holding on to me.

The cat was happy to see me at least. He purred and rolled around and let me pet his belly before jumping over to his treat box and making eyes at me. I gave in. I gave him a double serving of treats, right from my hand.

I miss the cat. I don’t miss the husband.

I think I feel resentful that all these things that were jointly acquired still play such a huge role in his life. It’s my own judgment of course; I see it as a sign of him not moving on totally. I have to remind myself he has always been a bit of a pack rat, and comes from a family that loves the comfort of many things around them. He probably doesn’t share my outlook on ‘things’ and belongings. Actually, I know he doesn’t. He still has t-shirts that his abusive ex-fiance (years before we met) gave him.

We chatted briefly when he came home. I asked him how he felt about his girlfriend moving in. The words sounded positive “It’s great, it’s a natural direction for things” but there wasn’t emotion behind them.

I felt heavy, almost sick, after being at his place.

We still haven’t filed for divorce. There’s a backlog of joint taxes that have to be filed first (he’s looking after that, apparently), and then, then hopefully we will be able to afford a divorce. It occurs to me that this may be expedited now that he has a live-in partner.

It would have made so much more sense to just buy new vacuum bags. A trip to the hardware store seems less emotionally stressful than a trip to the ex’s. I guess it was worth it to see the cat.

The Compersion Conundrum

Compersion: Describing an empathetic state of happiness and joy brought about by knowing or witnessing the happiness and joy of another individual. Often used to describe the positive feelings an individual can experience when a lover is enjoying another relationship. Considered to be the opposite of jealousy.

Polyamory: The practice, state or ability of having more than one intimate, physical, loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. 

How, and when, do you let your other partners know you are interested in someone else? When do you tell them when you are now seeing someone new?

I find I am fairly laisez-faire when it comes to this. I don’t expect anyone to be beholden to me in relationships, just as I wouldn’t expect to be beholden to them. Still, though, I like good healthy communication, and I am always curious to know about my lovers’ other lovers. I have friends who have joked that I seem to be immune to jealousy. I wouldn’t say that I am totally immune. Just that my capacity for compersion in most cases out weighs the jealous part of my brain.

I’m uber compersive. I can feel compersion at the drop of a hat- at the sight of strangers walking arm in arm down the street; as my friend tells me about his first romantic getaway with his girlfriend; when I am having dinner with a new crush and his wife and see them get snuggly together; even reading gooey Facebook statuses will have me in compersion. I will admit, there are times I even feel compersion and jealousy simultaneously- like they are battling in my head for supremacy. There’s a rationale process that usually wins over and compersion triumphs. See, Jealousy just wouldn’t be logical.

And even so, I cannot feel compersion if I do not know something is happening.

The network of cross-connections amongst my sweeties and metamours is complex- and with so many interwoven relationships, it is healthy to remember to treat every person as an individual, and to honor each relationship as the unique and dynamic phenomena it is. I’ve struggled with this a lot in the past. I think I am getting through that finally.

Well, almost. I found myself tested on that this week.

For a while now I’ve happily watched a flirtatious relationship develop between Orion and one of my best friends, Miranda. The friendship Miranda and I share is one of the closest platonic friendships in my life, and I really value that. I’ve rejoiced at her explorations into polyamory, celebrated her NRE, cried with her heartbreaks. We are bonded by many commonalities in our backgrounds and lifestyles. A few months ago we talked about the possibility of someone wanting to date both of us, and decided it would be weird, tricky, messy. We are in each other’s lives on a daily basis. We share a lot of things; sharing lovers seemed like taking things too far. But I started to see the chemistry between Orion and Miranda, and knew that something was likely to happen.

Orion talked to me about his crush on Miranda a couple of months ago, and I said that he should just go for it. I knew she was attracted to him. I love him, and I love Miranda, and I want them to explore and enjoy. I feel totally confident in the uniqueness of what I share with Orion, and I know how much he has taught me through being my lover- there’s no feeling of ‘I might be replaced’, which could come up in a newer relationship. Orion and Miranda? I instantly knew, right in my gut, that this was a good thing, and something that needed to happen.

I was therefore totally unprepared for the fit of anxiety and jealousy that came upon me when I found out, after the fact, that Miranda had spent the night at Orion’s.

Perhaps the weirdest part was that I had dreamt about it… in those sleepy moments of almost-wakefullness, I dreamt I heard Orion’s and Miranda’s voices talking. When I woke up, it hit me right then- she must have been at his place. But why wouldn’t I know? Shouldn’t I have known?

A little gentle prodding, and Miranda let on that this was, indeed, what had happened. I spent the day questioning myself. Should anyone have told me? Was this something I had some god-given right to know? Not really. Miranda’s always been good at keeping me up to date on her latest goings on. Orion has always told me when he’s got a new crush that might develop into more. And with Orion, I have never felt anything but happiness about him developing his other relationships. I have never wanted anyone to be beholden to me about anything in relationships. All I ever ask of my partners is ‘please be present with me, please communicate with me, please honor our connection whatever it may be’.

So why was I so upset?

I played through alternative scenarios in my head- what if I had known? What if, when Miranda had texted me that she wasn’t free that evening, she had mentioned ‘I’m at Orion’s’? How would I have reacted? I think I’d have sent her a thumbs up and a ‘Yay! Have fun!’ I feel like I was kinda denied that instant compersion because, well, I didn’t know it was happening, and you cannot feel compersion for something you don’t know is happening. The Big Sister in me feels sad that I was left out of knowing about something that I was really excited about, even though it had nothing to do with me. It’s not that I feel there’s an obligation to let me know every little detail. I just feel that in a spirit of perpetual openness, why hide something that might be relevant for someone to know? It’s not like I need a play by play detailed account. And going forward, it isn’t something I need to get too involved in. I just wish I’d had that opportunity to feel the compersion first, before the jealousy. I’m still uncertain how I should have found out though.

I’ve talked about this with both of them now. I think things are all good. We’ve all learned something out of this.

pompomThis experience has taught me something very important about myself and how I process things. I like to know what’s happening! Once I have shared my love with someone, that is not something I can take back, and even if I am no longer involved, I love to know that they are experiencing beautiful, happy things in their life. I had a huge grin on my face last night as ElkFeather told me about a girl he has a crush on. She’s someone I know peripherally, and I feel like they would be a really lovely pair. I’m rooting for them. This discovery of my desire for compersion brings me as well to understand the frustration I have felt with some other situations in my life: I think two exes of mine are now seeing each other. But I really have no idea. I just pick up on things, and it is sometimes enfuriating to be in the void of ‘not-knowing’. I get a little resentful of it. I’m not sure that there’s any obligation to tell me, of course. But again, they are two people whom I can see being incredibly compatible together  and I just wish I knew for sure if that was actually the case, so I can cheer them on!

I acknowledge this might make me one of the strangest people on the planet. I’ve just never found the head-in-the-sand approach worked very well for me. Whilst looking up definitions of compersion for this article I came across a book, “Compersion: Using Jealousy As A Path To Unconditional Love“, and I think that this concept- that you can transmute jealousy into a positive experience that brings about a feeling of emotional expansiveness- accurately summarizes one of the things I absolutely adore about polyamory: it challenges me on every ounce of selfishness and past-attachment, and the only way through all of that is by continually working on myself to find that place of natural (not forced) unconditional loving. When jealousy turns into compersion, it is a beautiful thing indeed. And I don’t like the feeling of being denied that opportunity to experience compersion with any loves, whether they are still a central feature of my life, or not.

Polysingleish Interviews Franklin Veaux, Part 1: Being Poly

Franklin Veaux www.xeromag.com

Franklin Veaux http://www.xeromag.com

Franklin Veaux has been blogging about polyamory since the earliest days of blogging. As a result, his self-described ‘sprawling web empire’ covers a lot of ground in exploring the realms of polyamory, relationships, kink, and more. The chances are, if you have ever googled polyamory, you’ve read something by him in the search results.
I recently got to cosy up with Franklin (via Skype) and pick his brain about life, sex, relationship expectations, and how many people it takes to make an orgy.

DISCOVERING POLYAMORY

M: How did you know you were Poly?

FV: I knew that I wasn’t mono from the time I was about five. I didn’t know I was poly because I didn’t have a word for it, but I always had this weird thing: when people would tell stories about the beautiful princess who had to choose the suitor, the five year old me was like, “Wait a minute, everyone knows that princesses live in castles, and everyone knows that castles are big, so surely there’s room for both of them, right? I mean, I don’t get it! What am I not getting here?” So it never really made sense to me, and I’ve never been in a monogamous relationship; I lost my virginity in a threesome; I took two partners to my senior prom when I was in high school. There’s never been a point where being monogamous has really made any sense. What I didn’t have when I first started doing this stuff … the word polyamory hadn’t really gotten into circulation then.

M: So how did you build an understanding of what it was? How did you create a framework for your relationship style amidst the fairytale fantasies?

FV: Lots and lots of trial and error. Mostly error, actually. I had very little conception that it was possible to have a committed relationship with someone who felt the same way that I did about relationships, so I was married for a long time to a person who identified as monogamous, and our relationship was not monogamous, but she was never really okay with the idea that I had other partners, so we kept fumbling around trying to make things up as we went along. We managed to make it work for about eighteen years, and then ultimately it fell apart under the weight of her being unhappy being non-monogamous..

M: And, now you are one of the most prolific writers about polyamory on the Internet. You’ve helped in creating a language for people through which they can communicate their relationship style. Are you aware that you’ve done that?

FV: I’ve had people tell me things like that. That wasn’t what I set out to do. I discovered the language of polyamory and other people who were polyamorous sometime around the mid 90s and I sat down and started writing the website for people who were in the position that I was in, for the version of me that didn’t know this was possible. I thought maybe if I write about my experiences, someone else will find that and they’ll be able how to figure out how to make this stuff work without having to make all the trial and error that I had to do. But I never actually imagined that it would run away from me the way that it has. I never thought there were that many people like me in the world.

OPEN-NETWORK POLYAMORY

M: One of the things I see reposted a lot is the diagram of non-monogamous relationship you created.

FV: There are so many ways that people are non-monogamous!

M: Where in the diagram do you fit?

FV: I do open network polyamory which means that the people in my life that I form connections with if I have space and time and energy for it; I can start relationships, and I don’t expect or want to have any sort of power over how my partners interact with other people or form their own relationships. So what that ends up is usually a sort of loose network of relationships. People ask, “Well, where does it end? “I would say people, don’t’ have an infinite capacity for relationships, and when you look at open networks of relationships you will see there’s a few people who have 5 or 6 partners, and a large number of people who have 1 or 2 or maybe 3 partners, and that seems to be the way things shake out.

M: Your network expands across the world.

FV: It does. I have sweeties in London, Canada, and have had partners in the past who have had relationships that have extended all over the place.

M: What does it mean to you then, to have those long distance relationships? Are they someone who, when you are in town, you can fuck? Is there a heartfelt connection? Is there Love? Are there any of the other traditional trappings of a relationship?

FV: I have experimented with the idea of having a partner who is just a recreational sex partner. Doesn’t tend to work very well for me. Physical intimacy seems to open the doorway to emotional intimacy. The long distance partners that I have are definitely loving, heartfelt relationships, that are constrained by geography. And one of the things that I try to do with many of my partners that are long distance is I try to create with them, because that’s one of my love languages- co-creation. I try to do the things that I can to bring them into my life on an ongoing basis. I do things that remind me of them. I will wear bunny ears, which I got from one of my partners in London. I wear a ring from one of my partners who lives in Florida now. So, I try to keep in touch with them that way, keeping them in my day-to-day life. Obviously it’s not as good or effective as living with somebody is. And there are limits to what you can do.

One of the differences for me between a romantic relationship and someone I ‘just fuck’ is, when you have a partner that is just a sex partner, there isn’t an expectation of continuity. You have sex, and go your separate ways, and if you never get around to talking to that person again, there’s not a sense of loss or expectation you stay in touch. As soon as you start having that expectation of continuity, as soon as you start having that person living with you emotionally all the time, that’s when it becomes a relationship.

Franklin’s infographic map of Non Monogamy. Visit http://www.xeromag.com/sexualinformatics/nonmonogamy2.5.2.gif for the full size image.

SINGLEISH POLYAMORY

M: I like that.  So, going back to the diagram…

FV: I keep meaning to make that into a poster.

M: When I look at the diagram, all the scenarios and examples seem to come from a place of someone being in a primary relationship already.

FV: The map comes from a place of being in relationship of some sort, because it’s a map of relationship types. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s primary relationship. I think a lot of it is about a primary type of relationship because as human beings we tend to form close emotionally intimate relationships and so that’s kind of the default for people to be in when they are in a relationship. But, I think its possible for network polyamory to be a looser style of relationship, and certainly there are lots of poly people I’ve met. And before I started dating I was a single poly person because I knew that I was non monogamous, even before I had a partner.

M: I think I just figured out where in the diagram I would fit! There’s a little overlap between open relationships, polyamorous relationships, and dating around. There’s a purple strip in there. That’s probably where I am, being Singleish.

FV: So, there needs to be an X there with your name attached to it?

M: Sure!

FV: Singleish. I like that. So what’s the difference between single and Singleish and in a relationship?

M: I came to the conclusion that I was single-ish because I didn’t want to be in a “committed” relationship; that model of two people get into a relationship and live happily ever after, it works for some people, but not for me. I tried that. The expectations that came with that were challenging. Mainly, the expectation that the other person is there to complete you and make you whole.

FV: Wow, that’s a tricky one too. The idea that you are not complete in yourself and that it’s your relationships that complete you is something that kind of gives me the heebee geebies!

M: I see a lot of people stuck in that. Anyway, I decided that I needed to be in a primary relationship with myself. And that being in a primary relationship with myself, I could still be having an orgy with the universe.

FV: I like that, having an orgy with the universe. I like that a lot!

M: So that’s where the Singleish approach comes from. I date, and I develop connections, and I want to honor every connection where it is in that moment It’s a lot about living in the moment.

FV: Living in the moment I think is probably the best key to happiness that I have ever discovered. And I discovered it by accident. The word Singleish, that’s kind of interesting. How do you define commitment? I’m curious?

M: I want to build connections that have longevity, that have this honoring, that have this love, whether it is platonic or sexual, but it’s not tied into this expectation of “Oh, we should move in together, we should share bank accounts, lets make a family.”

FV: For me, commitment is an expectation of continuity. You are making that person part of your life, whatever that might look like, going forward. But the word commitment doesn’t necessarily imply anything about what that ongoing relationship looks like, only that you are committed to the idea that it exists, that going forward this person is going to be involved in your life in some way.

MEETING POLY PEOPLE

FV: Everyone asks this question- where do you go to meet poly folks? Well, I go to Polys-R-Us. They stockpile them there. If you go on Wednesday night they have them on sale and you can get two for one!The way you meet poly people is you be open about being poly yourself. I have met poly people at McDonald’s, I’ve met poly people at my client’s sites, conferences: it’s all about that willingness to be open.

M: When I separated from my husband, I learned that very quickly. I started dating a married couple, and just mentioning the fact I had a boyfriend and a girlfriend, it immediately got people’s attention.

FV: It tells people your approach to relationship. It tells people you are non monogamous, that you are bisexual, and if you want to meet someone that has those attributes, then be open about having those attributes yourself

M: There are guys who message me on OkCupid who say, “Oh we have so much in common! You’re poly, I’m poly, lets fuck!”

FV: Well yes of course that means you must be compatible!
I got a message from someone on OkCupid once who was 0% match, 0% friend, 53% enemy. How is this possible?  The only way this could be possible is if this person had answered only five questions. So I look at this person’s profile and no, they’ve answered 2000 questions in common with me, and they’re at 0% match, 0% friend.

M: What did they say in the message?

FV: It was like “Oh hi, your profile looks very interesting!” Does it now?

M: I imagine it would! I’ve seen some interesting discussions about OkCupid. Like, should you only answer the questions that pertain to poly in order to find other poly people?

FV: If you want to find poly people you’re not compatible with, then sure!

M: That was my response too!

DEFINING RELATIONSHIP

FV: How do you define relationship?

M: I look at relationship as big R and small r. I have hundreds of small r relationships. Anyone I consider to be a friend, that’s a relationship and it requires just as much mental energy and honoring as a romantic relationship would. The big R relationships, that’s where it’s hard for me to define. There’s a threshold that gets crossed, and a feeling of love that’s not just the chemical hormonal NRE feeling, it’s the ‘Wow, I really like what you bring out in me, I really love what you bring to my life, I can see ways that we can continue to dance together. ‘

 There’s just something in the emotional connection in my heart that I feel which makes me want to be in Relationship with somebody. Right now there are three people in my life that I feel that I am in a ‘Relationship’ with, but not where there’s an expectation or ‘box’ on it. I consider them all to be dear friends, two of whom were good friends prior to the intimate connection, one who I shared an intimate connection with and that opened the door to becoming really good friends.

FV: So are all big R relationships romantic relationships?

M: In their own way, yes. Maybe not in the “let me buy you roses” way. There’s a sensuality that I think is romantic. For me it has a lot to do with the creative spark.  If I can be creative and throw creative ideas back and forth with someone, that to me is exciting!

FV: I definitely understand that because that co-creating thing is my love language also.

NEW-RELATIONSHIP ENERGY

M: Going back to terminology. NRE.

FV: Oh yes, what other people call being ‘in love’, as opposed to loving somebody. I cringe every time I hear somebody say, “Well, I love him, but I wasn’t in love with him”.

M: How do you define NRE? How do you define Love?

FV: My college background was in neurobiology.  I tend to be a mechanist about these things. I define NRE in terms of brain chemistry. NRE is what you’re experiencing when you’re in that part of the relationship when you’re brain is flooded with serotonin and oxytocin and all of these other things and you’re giddy and you see the object of your affection and you know, you get the trembles and the heart flutters, and the palm shaking- this is a biological experience. This is a biological thing. It’s a biological adaptation for social mating whatever whatever. So we feel that way, we fall in love, we feel that giddiness, and we’re like woo this is true love, I will never feel like this again. And you know, it fades over time, because the chemistry changes, and then you meet someone new and you’re like “ooh this is true love, because I will never feel like this again”.

M: Do you think it’s addictive?

FV: Addictive is a tricky word. I think there are people who are drawn to it. And people who feel compelled to seek it out. I am skeptical that anything behavioral can actually be addictive in the true sense of being addictive. I cringe when people talk about sex addiction for example, because it’s really abusing the word addictive. But Yeah I think there are people who can feel compelled to seek that feeling out over and over again.

M: Are they addicted to the surge of hormones?

FV:  Possibly.  Or they’re seeking out the feelings, emotions. They’re seeking out that trembly excitement of oh my god this is so awesome.  It feels good, and there are people who seek out things that feel good. I think that’s probably quite common. The trick is of course realizing it for what it is, and that its not “Oh this is something I have never felt before and this proves I need to sell my house and move in with this person”.

PERMISSION TO SAY NO

M: I would agree. I have struggled with that. With friends who want to take things further and I’m not feeling it. Having to tell them, I’m not there right now, and I’m not sure if I will ever be there. In the past I have made excuses and done the indirect no, but they want to hear yes, so they hear it as a ‘yes eventually’, if they wait long enough I might change my mind. Then they get upset when I start developing other connections that are a definite “Yup, I’m in!”

FV: So, I think when someone asks a question and it doesn’t matter if it’s ‘Do you like pickles on your hamburgers?’ or, ‘Do you want to fuck?’ it has to be okay for the answer to be no. And part of the reason we are indirect about saying no is that it is clear when it is NOT ok for the answer to be no. It’s clear when there’s an expectation that what you want to hear is ‘yes’. And if you are asking a question and its not okay for the answer to be no, then you’re not actually asking the question, you’re making a demand. And that actually goes to expectation management, which is, “It is ok for me to want something from somebody; it is not okay for me to expect something from somebody if that person hasn’t signed on to it”. So, what I try to do for myself, if I am asking somebody a question, whether it’s “Do you want to go out to dinner?” or  “Do you want to date,?” or, “Do you want to have sex?“ I try to do it with no expectation of what the answer has to be and I try to make it clear that its okay for the answer to be no.
So part of the answer to the question is: people who ask need to make it ok to hear a no. And then, people who are asked need to be okay with saying no.

M: So if I get asked a question, and they’ve asked it in such a way that I don’t feel safe saying no….

FV: That puts you in a really bad spot.

M: I need to be assertive in my communication and say, ‘Is it going to be okay if I say no?’

FV: That seems like a workaround, and it feels clumsy, but… since we are so strongly conditioned not to say no, I think that’s a reasonable thing to do. But of course if you really don’t feel safe in saying no, then that suggests there’s another problem there.

M: I’m always worried I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings or offend them, that they will shut down the friendship.

FV: And a lot of people do. If somebody does, if they cant hear a no and shut down a friendship with you because they’re not getting sex, not getting what they are asking for, that’s actually on them and not on you.

M: Yeah, I’ve been figuring that out recently.

FV: Really, what does it say, I’m not going to be your friend unless you give me this, whatever this is, what kind of friendship is that? And unfortunately we do live in a society that lives in this idea that men and women can’t actually be friends. That there’s always this agenda. There’s always sex on the table somewhere, there’s always this goal of the man pursuing sex and the women being the gatekeepers of sex, and that’s a little fucked up.
When you have a society or set of values or cultural assumptions that say you cant be friends with somebody that you are sexually attracted to without sex being on the table, that’s kind of skuzzy.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE AN ORGY?

FV: When we first moved to Portland, we were living in this apartment before we got the house sorted, and there was this pizza place next to the complex and my partner and I would go there and have pizza. There was this woman working there, I can’t even remember her name now. Carolyn maybe? We would see her over and over. My partner and I would always have conversations like, “How do you define an orgy? How many people does it take? Cos you know three people is a threesome, four people is a foursome. What if there are six people and they are three couples and no people crossing- is that an orgy? And so the server who worked there would start getting involved in those conversations, which was awesome! And one time we were having the orgy conversation and she came over and said, “Actually, if its just a bunch of couples, and they aren’t having sex with each other, then I wouldn’t really consider that an orgy.” And this is some random person at a pizza place! God bless Portland, right? So at one point I was in there and I told her,  “You know, I think I have a crush on you’, and she replied, “Really? Thank you.” And that was it. Because there was no expectation attached to it, I wasn’t telling her, “I have a crush on you” with the expectation that she has to say, “Well we should date”. So to hear that without expectation attached to it and just be able to say well, that’s kind of cool, and that was the end of it: that’s the kind of society that I would like to work for.

M:I fully support that.
Speaking of orgies. How many people does it take to make up an orgy?

FV: I think five. Three is a threesome; four people is a foursome. As soon as you get to five, it’s an orgy.

M: I have a theory about prime numbers. I’ve not been able to test it out fully yet. I think sex is better with prime numbers.

FV: Sex is better with prime numbers? Because there’s always going to be one group that has at least three people in it? Because you cant evenly divide it?

M: Yes.

FV: So actually that would mean that its not just prime numbers, its any number of the form (2N+1). Nine is not a prime number, but I think nine would be a very satisfying orgy.

M: That’s true, nine probably would work.

FV: Yes! The best orgies are ones that can be decomposed into (2N+1.) I like that!

Click here to read Part 2 of my interview with Franklin Veaux, where we examine the darker sides of Poly, its connection with the BDSM world, and the responsibility of community leaders… stay tuned, and follow Polysingleish on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new articles!

Kickin’ it Kinky

At one point on my OkCupid profile I described myself as something like vanilla ice cream with white chocolate and raspberry swirls, aspiring to be drizzled in butterscotch and meringue pieces.

I’ve got a fun and creative side that has only started to be explored sexually in the last year. There’s all different shades of kinky, its true, and a question that keeps coming up for me is- am I kinky?

I read some blogs that are UBER kinky. I read kinky porn sexy stories. Heck, I’ve been known to enjoy some BDSM porn every now again (especially if its all girls). Almost all of it though seems a little impersonal, and whilst I can get excited as an observer, I find it challenging to get into on a real-life level because so much of who I am is about connecting with lovers on a very personal and profound level.

Rope- I love it. There’s something fun about getting stuck, and its very liberating to experience a freedom within that. Blindfolds, a change in sensory awareness are also fun. And I love to dress up, whether its with the intention of having sex, or not. Chains and collars and whips and paddles and all that jazz? That I’m not so sure about. I mean, it might do something for me. I can’t say I’ve tried everything out yet (and I’ll try anything twice before I decide if its for me or not). The whole handcuffs thing and sexy oil massages…  the only time I really really tried the handcuffs and massaging thing was with my ex husband, and, if you’re one of my twenty adoring hardcore fans, you’ll have read about our unsuccessful ventures into bondage in a previous post. That stuff just doesn’t get me going. And, whilst I’ve often enjoyed being talked dirty to, its a stretch for me to think of anything dirty to say back to my partner- mainly because my brain seems to loose its language capacity when I’m really enjoying myself!

Really, I think I’m more of a tantric kinkster. If, that is, that’s a thing. If its not, I’m making it a thing, as of now.

I went searching at a local new age bookstore for books on Sacred Tantra. All the books I found were either too ‘hippy dippy’- with photos of hemp wearing new age rainbows-and-light folks dancing and leaping through their chakras pre and post orgasm (dude, I can do that already, I don’t need a book)- or they were all science and no spirit- with diagrams and photos of positions and of how the breathing patterns should move and for how long you breathe into each centre, like a scientific manual. Actually they weren’t too dissimilar to the Kama Sutra. If you ever pick up the original text of the Kama Sutra, I dare you to read a bit out loud with your best David Attenborough voice- its really just a scientific commentary on human mating practices, rather than the actual nature of intimacy and energetic connecting that happens during lovemaking. I did find a couple of interesting books that attempted to put a neuvo-spiritual spin on the tantric spiritual and sex practices, with some simple excercises to try out (like eye gazing with your partner during intercourse) and yet lacked the spiritual backbone, and so they skipped over what, to me, is the real gold in the treasure trove that I feel sure is there.

I want a tantra that is sacred and sexual, that’s grounded and enlightening, that teaches you about your body and soul, as well as reveals your partner’s body and soul. Teasing and intimate, present and fun.The kind of pure living-in-the-moment and breathing-creativity that grants you the experience of orgasming with the whole universe. Delicious and decadent. Liberating lovemaking.

I asked Orion about this conundrum of mine. He’s far more experienced in this stuff than I am- hence why he’s my personal rope tutor.

“There’s only two things you need to be kinky,” he said, “Presence, and Imagination.”

Really?

I think I can do that.

Perhaps one of my strengths as a lover is in being creative, and in applying myself to relationships much the same way I do to my creative endeavours- constantly seeking out my edges and daring to traverse them in whatever way works the best for me. Courageously catapulting myself into uncharted territory of tantalizing tantric tenderness.

So here I am, forging my own style of tantric kink.

That might need to be a blog all of its own….

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

Polysaturation [noun]

Describing the phenomena of a poly-identified individual with a full dating/relationship schedule, unable to fit in- logisitically, physically, or emotionally- any new intimate relationships.

It was my friend Margareta who first introduced me to the phrase ‘poly-saturated’. I love it. Immediately groked it. And ever since it’s had me wondering- how do you know when you are polysaturated?

At first, I thought maybe its a logistical thing. I think back to a month ago when I was, I kid you not, going on dates for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Okay, maybe not all three in one day. I can easily skip a meal. My room-mate noticed that I cooked for myself only ONCE in that whole week. Thank god it calmed down as I began to realise the insanity of it, and I consciously backed away from any connections I wasn’t feeling overwhelmingly compelled towards in the moment.

Then I thought, maybe its an emotional thing. Perhaps there comes a point where your heart and/or mind can’t handle any more? I’ve caught myself on a few occasions being in bed with one lover and thinking of another- its a terrible feeling. Being present to each partner is a beautiful challenge, absolutely, and is a grand learning curve in mental self-discipline. I’m pleased to say I’m now finding my way around this- helped, perhaps, by the fact that the two main developing relationships I’m enjoying right now are both so delicious and colorful and exciting in their own unique ways.

So I moved on to considering it might be a physical limitation that lets you know you’re polysaturated. I mean, as sexy as I can feel, as turned on as I can be, there always is a point where enough is enough. I don’t think I’m the sort of person who could be having crazy mind blowing sex every day. I’d get bored. Not to mention I’d be exhausted. I tested myself on this recently- going through a weekend of lots and lots of intimacy (which was great, but felt lacking in intensity), to two weeks with no sex.

Yup, two weeks. Not even masturbating. Oh yeah. That was challenging. Went through a lot of chocolate.

It was good to experience and test myself at the extremes. And oh it was worth it for the earth shattering soul-shaking results.

My conclusion? For me, at least, two or three nights of crazy sex a week is a max. Need at least a day inbetween for rest and recharge. But a bit more time inbetween makes it all the more sweeter and enjoyable. Quality, not quantity.

I asked Noel about this idea of polysaturation last night in bed.

I’m immensely curious about his poly experiences. He has this beautiful no-drama attitude towards poly relationships (he attributes this to the positive influence of some wonderful people on the East Coast who were supportive when, several years ago, he and his wife began exploring opening up). Its refreshing, especially when the poly community where I live has grown very close knit and overlapping, and has been known to experience divisions and petty differences. Amidst this almost insular core poly group, Noel walks in with insight on non-monogamy that’s more than just a breath of fresh air; talking with him about poly and open dynamics is like sitting at an Oxygen Bar in zero gravity. (Does that analogy even make sense?) Oh, and the sheer joy on his face when he smiles is more delicious than a lindor chocolate ball…

Anyway, as I was saying. Noel’s got a very wonderful grounded approach to poly. So, talking last night about other lovers in our lives, he mentioned how at one point he had felt too much was going on, and so I asked him: how did you know when you were polysaturated? He pondered for a moment and then answered very simply: “When I no longer had any time for myself”.

Ahhhh.

There’s the answer.

Of course! This makes total sense.

One of my big self-discoveries in my poly persuits is that I need to remember to make myself the priority. My primary relationship is with me.

The moment I run out of time with me, that’s when I need to step back, and either change the frequency with which I see lovers, flovers, and go on dates, or consider if there are some that need to go on pause or move to the back-burner. Another term I’ve heard recently, from my metamor Lily, is ‘dating-lite’. I have to remind myself, there’s no ‘rules’ to this game except to strive for honesty in communication and respect of individuality. Nothing says I can’t be seeing one person weekly, another person bi-weekly, another monthly, and have the occasionally floverly fling, tryst, or orgy.

Its lovely to see how each relationship can unfold in its own unique dynamic. Noel is great at being present to the moment. I’ve noticed that he doesn’t express an attachment to “I have to see you”. Its more like, “Hey, we should hang out again soon. When can we do that?”.

If you aren’t sure just how delighful I find this, then I invite you to check out this video, introduced to me by Margareta. Cringe. Omigod, I never want to be one of those poly people who pull out their schedule to give you that one day of the week they are gonna be able to see you. I know it works for some people. Most certainly doesn’t work for me. Big turn off.

I do, however, need a schedule of some kind.

So here’s what I’ve done.

I’ve asigned days in my week I can go on dates. Its marked in my google calander. Repeating event: Dates. Two nights a week, with a possible third night put aside for ‘light’ dates- you know, the more “hey lets just chill” kind of dates. Then there’s also two nights a week for Me. That’s my time to take myself out for dinner, or yoga, or go dancing. And the rest are pretty flexible. Social nights. Alternative date nights if I need to switch things around.

There we go. A loose structure. And its not like I’m attached to seeing every single lover and flover every single week. In fact, its much sweeter and more delightful when there is space between. Time to process, discover, learn, grow more curious.

My end conclusion in all this?

Really, its not about dating all the people. Or sleeping with all the people.

I’m so clear now that I need to focus my relationships on people who can communicate with ferocious honesty and vulnerability. People I can feel connection, friendship,  camaraderie and a general sense of kinship with. People who share a similar perspective and passion for creativity and spirituality, and are willing to play with combining all of that in bed. And right now, I’m getting that. Oh fuck yes, I am getting that. And still-

Perhaps I’m not as polysaturated as I thought I was.

Maybe- just maybe- there is indeed room for a few more in this current mix.

Perhaps, lots more, depending on the dynamics of things.

And as long as I keep the balance in dedicating time for and with myself, staying in integrity to my values, I think I can step forward and dare to share the love a little more!

Tied-up and Tantalised

I’ve always had a thing about knots.

Learning to tie my shoelaces in school took forever- I had velcro till I was in grade 4 or 5. And I had a pink bag for my lunch that had a pull tie opening. I was always worried something might fall out so I would tie it again and again and again. In sewing clases I could never figure out how to do those nice flat sewing knots, and so would tie at least a half dozen twists to create my very own Gordian Knot.

I once tried to tie myself up, when I was in high school. That didn’t turn out so well. I got stuck. My mom freaked out about it.

On one occasion, again, in high school, I tried to tie up my best friend. In a purely innocent kind of way, naturally.

When Finn and I were married, I once suggested that we try out bondage stuff. I wanted to have my hands tied above my head. I wanted to be blindfolded, to feel out of control and have to surrender totally and utterly. We tried it, and it just didn’t feel right. He was too aggresive, and very uncomfortable with the idea of tying me up. He seemed to struggle with the idea that I was enjoying it. That was our one and only experiment into bondage.

Since then, I’ve had a few lovers who have been willing to play with it. I’ve been handcuffed, tied, blindfolded. I even got to be suspended once at a big party- that was fun, even if I was drunk and more-than-slightly high.

But I really really wanted to experience more.

I wanted to experience rope.

A few weeks back, during a long conversation with a few friends, Orion expressed how he missed having play partners to tie up. My ears perked up like a cat who just heard the can opener twisting around a fresh tin of friskies. We were good friends, like old comrades who had been through some epic adventures and shared a lot of Life stuff with one another, we are on the same page about so much in terms of spirituality and personal growth, but I knew him as more of a light and rainbows kind of person. He played with rope?

Suddenly all the fleeting and ignored what if  thoughts I’d had about him went flashing through my head, and then all the fantasies about rope, and then the little moments of flirtation that had started occurring between us, and I knew I had to find a way to bring it up with him.

I let a week go by. We were doing the summer hanging-out-with-lots-of-friends thing and that just didn’t seem like the right time to bring it up. I was sneaky about it. I just casually dropped it into a facebook chat conversation one day. The next day we met up in person to talk about it more, and the more we talked, the more we realised we had some really wierd kinks and fetishes in common.

Orion is a ‘switch’. Meaning he can dominate one moment, and be completely submissive to me when I want to dominate. I’ve always been able to be more dominant with women, but never with guys. Not for lack of wanting to, I don’t think, but just because I never found myself with men who were okay and comfortable with that.

He’s helping me to get a whole lot more comfortable with that side of myself. And, there’s something quite fun about being able to tie him up too.

Yes, I’ve been learning rope. And we’ve been playing, in this crazy rope and tantric dance, in my tiny little bedroom. And after, we cuddle, and hold eachother, and laugh and giggle hysterically at all of this and talk about spiritual shit and relationships and the singleish life. Its one of the most comfortable and creative sexual partnerships I’ve ever experienced, I think perhaps because of that long standing friendship. I don’t know if most ‘play partners’ share pancake breakfast in the morning, but the fact that we can share a night and morning together is deeply nurturing, and something that was missing in some of my other recent relationships.

Its bondage and spirituality all rolled into one diabolical exploration of intimacy, sexuality, and friendship. And its awesome.

And also, I think its possible I might now be slightly better at tying my shoelaces than I used to be.

Strangers and Surprises

I may have had an epiphany today in the way I’m approaching things.

Well, several epiphanies perhaps.

1. There are three distinct types of relationships that can form right now: lovers in the moment, lovers who become friends, and friends who become lovers. Each one evolves at its own very distinct pace. And its really important for me to figure out quickly, if I’m attracted to someone, which one of these dynamics it might be.

2. The poly community is a small world. Actually, Vancouver is a small world. I’ve had a few cringing moments lately as I have been experiencing a new wave of ‘first dates’, realising that the person I’m on a date with knows someone else I once slept with, or seeing someone I was on a date with a few days prior come in to the same coffee shop where I’m having a date. Ah. Awkward. At what point do I say anything, really? There’s a level at which I say- is it even relevant? And another where I ask myself- what choice would have more integrity?

3. Its good to be clear up front about who I am. In my world, there are no inappropriate questions. If I’m going to be intimate with someone then they’ve got to be ok with my swearing, my quirky humor, my sudden spiritual rants, and all my other eccentricities.

4. Its ok to be patient. In fact, its probably better. This might mean I finally take the plunge and invest in some sex toys (yes, gasp, can you believe I don’t own any?).

5. It can be a lot of fun to meet strangers who you know almost nothing about. I’m endeavouring in my own process to trust my instinct more. Its been scarily accurate about a lot of stuff so might as well see what it can do for selecting who I go on dates with. So rather than engage in lengthy back and forth emails on OkCupid, if I get a good vibe from someone, I’ll say ‘lets meet’. Same on facebook with people from the poly groups who I haven’t met yet, but take a liking to from their comments and posts. The whole process of getting to know a total stranger is really pretty awesome, and can be filled with surprises rather than expectations that lead to disappointments. One recent coffee date, I fully expected a creepy old toothless guy (he uses a pseudonym on facebook and has almost no personal photos), and was very pleasantly surprised to find he was nothing of the sort. Its fun to meet strangers with whom you think you might click .If it ends up that I eventually get to know them naked too, well hey, that could be fun.
I spent a good deal of this summer enjoying a far more fluid lifestyle, travelling and transitioning. This was very conducive to a more fluid lovestyle too, with a lot of spontaneity and fun. But I have to shift gears now. As Joseph pointed out to me, its a small and very intimately connected community, and despite all the attention I’ve been getting, I really shouldn’t let that get to my head. I am relatively new on the scene, and its natural that everyone wants to know me I suppose. Well, who can blame them, I like to think I’m pretty damn awesome, and most certainly worth knowing! But right now, it feels like just a bit too much attention. Its distracting too.

I’m seriously considering avoiding all poly-centric events for a while. Or, if I do go, wearing a potato sack or a burqa. Even better- a potato sack and a burqa. Yes! There we go!

Origins

Image

When did I first know I was polyamarous? There’s a loaded question.

Let’s start at the begining shall we?

Like many little girls born in the 80s, I grew up on a steady diet of Disney fairytales and Barbie dolls. And yet, when it came to my own make believe stories, I crafted out epic tales of a magical alter ego who had not just one, but three (yes, three!) ‘husbands’. I remember telling my mom the original story and being told, “No, no, no, you can only have one husband at a time!”. I went back and a few rewrites later, the story was adapted to fit the societal norms a little closer. Other make believe/fantasties seemed to be ripe with this common theme- more than one significant other.

I wonder now to what extent I was influenced by knowing the stories of my parent’s own pasts. My mother would tell me stories of her ex boyfriends, and I recall thinking that she still had a lot of love for them. And my father, well- prior to meeting my mother he had been living with his ex wife and his girlfriend all in the same house. I’m still not totally clear on how that dynamic worked. I do know that coming out to my dad was a whole lot easier than coming out to my mom. That’s a story for another post though.

I struggled with dating in high school. A lot. Mainly because I couldn’t make up my mind about who I wanted to date. At age 15 I had this complicated chart where I tracked the different boys I had a crush on, and who I was feeling more attracted to that day. Never dated a single one of the boys on that chart. On the other hand, my favorite game to play at parties was truth or dare. Somehow it would always end up being a game of getting everyone to kiss everyone else. I’m pretty sure I was, on more than one occasion, a tad aggressive about getting everyone to play. It was fun, kissing all my friends (wasn’t until 17 that I kissed a girl though) and I seemed to enjoy watching my friends make out with eachother too.

Despite the innocent kissing orgies, I remained ‘single’, with the average ‘relationship’ no longer than 2 weeks, right through till graduating from University.

The best piece of advice came to me out of the blue and from the most suprising source- my ex boyfriend, actually he was my first boyfriend, from when I was a tender 14 years old- we dated a whole two months, making it still, my fourth-longest ‘relationship’. Lets call him Chef, for the sake of this blog. We stayed good friends (and still chat frequently) and one day, after listening to me mope about relationships, he turned to me and said, “It’s not about finding your soul mate, M. It’s about getting to know someone a whole lot better, and in a totally unique way.”

This was the Eureka moment. The oh my god I dont have to be a Disney princess I can just be me and relax about it moment.

It was still several years before I learnt what polyamory was and what that would mean for me in relationships. In fact, its only now that I think I’m really beginning to totally grok what the full implications of that realization are. I knew in the moment, however, that this was the truest piece of advice I had ever had given to me about relationships, and my approach to them began to change and shift from there on.