Sunday, May 9, 2010

What about Jealousy?

Q:  Don't you get jealous?  If you really loved your partner, you wouldn't want them being with someone else?

A:  Of course polyamourous people get jealous.  The notion that they don't really does a lot of damage, I think.  They will feel as if they aren't "poly enough" if they say anything or even acknowledge those feelings to themselves.  Very unhealthy.   Some people say that they are just not "wired" for jealousy.  That may well be true but most likely they've just learned how to identify it and resolve it.

Jealousy comes from one of two things: a sense of being left out or insecurity.  The first is easily dealt with by having something addressing your needs happening when your partner is with someone else.  Go out yourself, spend time with a family member or hole up with a good book or movie.  We are our own primary partner first and foremost.  Have a "me" date.   The issue of insecurity is more complex to resolve.  If you are insecure in the relationship you will worry that the new love is better for your partner in some way and that you could be replaced.  Polyamory will shine a big bright light on the cracks in the foundation of a primary relationship.  Jealousy is a cue that there are issues the primary couple needs to face and resolve before any further intimacy is pursued with other people.  Do not drag innocent people into your nightmare.  It is your relationship and ignoring these cues will hurt a whole bunch of people.  Take responsibility and deal with your own issues.
Frequently the issue is insecurity in one of the individuals involved and not always the person expressing jealousy.  We have to look in the mirror , clearly see what are our own issues and be willing to work on resolving them.

Responses to jealousy can be anything from messy upsets to consent but not really approval to the wonderful state of compersion.  Messy upsets generally happen when someone doesn't own up to their feelings and gives lip service to acceptance or change when in fact they are not being respectful of the others or themselves.  Consent but not approval is fairly common.  We think that if we say  we're poly we have to agree or jeopardize the primary relationship.  I read a quote in Brian Johnson's Philosopher's Notes newsletter recently that describes this mind set well for me.  "There’s a HUGE difference between playing a game trying not to lose and playing the game to WIN."  Telling your partner to do what they want but don't tell me about it and I don't want to know the other woman/man - giving consent but not approval - is playing not to lose.  That's a very negative approach and sets you up to withdraw, be overtly jealous, and/or cause continuing damage to the trust level in your primary relationship.  The best response to jealousy is to identify what the trigger is, address it  and be the dear friend that your partner can gush to as he/she experiences New Relationship Energy (NRE).  NRE is the result of positive feedback that your partner gets from the other love as he/she falls into a new relationship.  You know that he/she is wonderful and sexy and so on  - what a high to find out that someone else agrees with your excellent taste!!  Compersion is when you can enjoy your partner's growth and happiness in another relationship.  When you can be truly pleased that someone else has the good sense to love someone that you love.   

No matter how long you've been in a particular relationship, you are vulnerable to random moments of jealousy.  I recall one such moment when my primary partner was dating a mutual friend of ours.  She was telling me about them walking around downtown holding hands.  I was immediately really pissed which is very silly because they'd been sexually intimate and THAT didn't bother me.   I realized that holding hands was something that he and I did which communicated to me that I was special and loved.  I talked to him about how I felt knowing that he had done that with someone else.  He said that he held hands with women in his company so that he knew where they were in a crowd and so that they didn't dawdle.  Oh.  We laughed and that was resolved.  I recall feeling jealous and confused because the mixed messages coming from another partner and his wife were making me feel superfluous.  Consent without approval was at play and that has happened to me twice.  The first time ended very nastily with hurtful words and broken hearts.  The second time I was able to develop a friendship with my metamour (his wife) and gain the approval as well as a great new friend.  Communication was more open in the second example.  

I also experience jealousy as a long distance partner when my love has local loves and they seem to get all the good stuff.  I find being left out of the information loop feeds my jealousy and I'm much more content if I know what's going on with the other women in his life.  Long distance relationships are really susceptible to jealousy and require much more work to maintain open communication levels.  That partner struggles with feeling left out of my life as well.

For all of that, I find that the men in my life are very fond of each other and experience compersion as I interact with the others.  I have found in my primary relationship many instances of compersion and more so as I grew secure in that relationship.  I find the moments of jealousy that arise in my other local relationship have been around defining who we are to each other in the hierarchy of  our family and have dispelled as we have grown secure in our love for each other and learned to live together with my primary partner as a triad. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Juggling Growth

Q:  How do you manage having two (or more) men in your life?  I can't handle the one I've got!

A:  Developing one relationship can definitely be more than enough work for two people especially as is often the case only one of the people is actively "working on their stuff".  If you practice polyamory as several separate relationships and withold information by choice or at someone's request you will find it complex and often confusing.  However, I find that viewing each relationship as a special and unique part of a larger relationship is very helpful.  I am able to have the pet names and special memory moments with each of my guys but I can share and seek advise from them in general about the other partners.  They in turn can compare notes about what might be triggers for me or if I seem to be feeling overloaded and needing to talk as well as what my preferences are for lovely surprises.   I am able to talk with other women in their lives and get feedback that takes some of the strain of needing to "manage" my men and pry information or worse "feelings" out of them.  I find that if you don't individually work on your issues and evolve, it will be really apparent to the others that something is needing to be addressed.  When you hear the same message from several people you really hear it and you have to process the information (positive or negative).  This is true of an issue coming up with one of my guys too.  Either the feedback from the other guy is supportive of my observations and hearing it from both of us spurs change or the feedback is such that I alter my response to the issue.  In either case, change and growth are encouraged, supported and celebrated much more frequently than I found in monogamy.  The relationship structure is formative but also men & women drawn to this relationships style seem to be if not more comfortable with discussing issues and feelings at least more cognisant of the fact that they aren't going to be able to avoid it and in the end this very open communication style is highly effective in maintaining loving relationships for the long term.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Flower Power? Like groovy, man.

Q:  All that sharing love hippie stuff sounds like you belong in a commune smoking weed and naked with flowers in your hair.

A:  Well, I like the naked and flowers in my hair part.  There are many polyamorous "Intentional Communities" these days but that's only one configuration under the polyamory umbrella.  The most common form of polyamory is a couple usually legally married who take a third person into their relationship and sometimes home as well.  The next most common is for a couple to date another couple and either share a home or live fairly close to each other with regular activities both of a dating & sexual nature and as one big family unit with their children.  There are also networks of friends where people date several people within a group of friends and couples who each date separately.  The lovers may or may not know each other.  Most often at least some of the lovers do not live together and quite frequently some of the lovers are long distance  - living not only in another country but on another contient.  The variations also depend on whether the parties identify as heterosexual, bi-sexual, gay, or lesbian.  Poly households are found in rural settings, urban settings and in every form of housing imaginable.  We are from every level of society, education background and employment scenario imaginable.   We are free thinkers and rebellious enough to dare to be happy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It isn't all about the sex - it's all about the ethics.

Q: Is that also called "swinging"?

A:  Most people would say no, it isn't swinging.  I, personally, think of polyamory as an umbrella philosophy of sharing and relationship configuration freedom that covers everything from casual swinging to poly-fidelity or group marriage where all parties are exclusive to that relationship.  The defining factor for me is that it is done with the knowledge and consent of all parties.  Ethical adult relationships with mulitple partners whether the shared activities are of a sexual nature, a romantic nature, platonic or on a spiritual level is a variaton on the theme.   Most people who would refer to themselves as a swinger are drawn to the excitement of sex play and while they may well have consistent play partners or develop solid friendships would not be looking for romance.  I've noticed that romance with sex partners is rather intimidating a concept amongst couples who are swingers.  On the other hand, most people who would refer to themselves as "poly" are looking for deep friendships and romance.  That's not to say that romance isn't intimidating and scary stuff for poly couples who are dating other partners but sexual activity is definitely secondary to building a long term loving relationship.
I'm less likely to draw a line in the sand and say oh these are swingers and these are polyamorous people because I've experienced both communities and have seen that there is a blended area in the middle where people are looking for both or looking for just some common ground to build on for starters.  Again, as long as the people involved are honest and open with the loves in their lives and themselves - a rose is a rose and it all smells sweet to me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Polyamory - to love abundantly

Q:  Polyamory? Isn't that just cheating?  Sleeping with whatever guy comes along? What does your hubby say?

A:  Might as well cut to the chase from the get go.  Polyamory means "many loves".  It is when you have two or more loving and likely sexual relationships going at the same time with the knowledge and consent of all of the people involved.  That means that the guys know about each other and if they have wives, girlfriends, lovers etc that those people know about you and everyone is okay with all this going on.  I say "okay with" as people may consent first and approve later as they get to know the other lovers.  It isn't cheating because you have discussed it with your partners and any intimacy restrictions (ie - kissing only no intercourse just yet) as well as safe sex agreements (condoms, full barrier, no sex at all) are in place.  It also isn't sleeping with whatever guy comes along or girl for that matter.  It simply means that if you meet someone that interests you there are options to find out how interesting they really are without violating trust or marriage vows.  It means that the natural inclination of some humans to explore relationship building is not limited to one at a time.  Love is a wonderful thing when unfettered and able to empower, enlighten and inspire.