Poly Nirvana

Love, Life and Rational Polyamory


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~Write~

About a month ago, I was referred to on another website as a “blogger”.  Oh pish posh, I thought, I’m not a Blogger.  That sounds kind of serious, like some kind of commitment to have something to say, all the time…  I’m just fooling around a little…

And then, a few days later, it hit me.  Holy fuck. I’m a writer.   

Every day I write.  I can’t stop.  I wake up in the middle of the night composing sentences, and I speak these sentences in my head, as I lay in bed, staring into the dark.  I have a voice, and I have a hundred stories to tell.  Sometimes I think if I can’t write, I will implode.  These stories and sentences will become heavy and dark as they melt together into a mass of tangled words that will never come out.

When I sit down to write, I go into my head and pull out one of these sentences.  I watch, as it appears in front of me, like a magic trick that only I know.  I choose the words, the rhythm, the flow.  My power is in words, and these words are gloriously mine.

When I was a young girl, there were things I knew, without ever being told.  I knew that there was so much more to me than anyone thought. I stayed quiet and good in the world, even as I was screaming in my head that I had something to say.  I knew I had a voice, hidden underneath all of the rules and restrictions and expectations of a false perfection that had been assigned to me.

Today is my declaration of intention.  I’m a writer.  And writers write.  I’m not afraid of it any more.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”   ~Ernest Hemingway

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~Wednesday~

Tonight is a local poly meet-up in my medium-sized city, and I’m looking forward to some grown-up time with interesting people.  At the same time, I’m just a little bit burned out. There’s such a small poly presence in my town, and I’m stuck, not knowing how to reach out to other like-minded people.  If only some big poly activist would move here and organize a bunch of fun events and find all the non-monogamous people so I could have some new friends…

I keep hearing about this person or that person working on a book about polyamory, but none sound like the book that I want to read.  I don’t want a bible on How To Do Polyamory The Right Way.  I don’t want a history of non-monogamy, or a dissection of the varieties or flavors of the different kinds of poly.  I want someone to tell me that imperfect people can do good poly, and that I can feel jealous, or insecure, or *gasp* even resentful, and it doesn’t make me a big fat relationship failure.

I’m going shopping.

This rant brought to you by too little sleep, too many restless dreams, and too much morning coffee. ~Ginger


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~Guilt~

I had a dream recently.  I can’t get it out of my head.

Basically, I was going to be late for work, and I couldn’t get my children away from a perfect looking, motherly angel of a woman who gave them cake on a yacht, and looked at me as if I were a monster as I tried to get my children off of said yacht and into the car so that I could get to the hospital on time.

Five minutes after I woke, I knew this was a mommy guilt dream.  I am a (very) single parent, and I am often leaving my children.  Most of the time, I am leaving them for my job, or to run errands.  But sometimes, I leave them just so I can go and have fun.  Be assured, that my children are old enough to be left alone, in fact my oldest at home just turned eighteen, but sometimes, the guilt pokes and pokes at me.  My mother stayed at home and had babies, and made bread, and always put on makeup right before my father came home.  (She also told me once, that I should always smile at my father, so that he wouldn’t yell at me so much.  True story.)

Today, when my kids were getting ready to leave for their first day of school, we were out of milk causing two of them to eat ramen noodles for breakfast, I hadn’t bought all the school supplies on the endless list, one of them left without saying goodbye, and I didn’t take any pictures to be proudly displayed on that pesky social networking site that starts with an “f”.  After they had left the house, and all was quiet, I sat with my coffee, and wrote.  I didn’t do dishes, I didn’t fold laundry.

It was glorious.


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~After~

I came out of an ugly, sixteen year marriage angry and exhausted.  A lot of my anger was directed at myself.   I had worked so hard to be the wife who didn’t upset him, the woman who didn’t look at him the wrong way, the girl who didn’t say his name in That Tone Of Voice.  As time went on, it became harder and harder to keep the peace, and I was too tired to walk on the eggshells any more.

So I left.

Fast forward to Friday night.  This very last Friday night, August 24, 2013, at approximately 6:15pm, Mountain Standard Time.

Special Man was upset.  Irritable, tired, and a little snappy.  It doesn’t happen often, and it didn’t last long.  He had worked himself up over something I’d said, or not said,  that, to him, looked and felt very different than the actual conversation we’d had a few hours earlier.

I don’t think this exchange lasted much more than ten minutes, before he apologized the first time.

But I couldn’t get over the sick feeling in my stomach.  I told him to just take me back to my house and go home.  He told me no, we were going to dinner, and he kept driving.  I felt like I was going to throw up.

He apologized again.  He said the words, “You’re right.  I’m sorry.”

And I couldn’t get away from it.  All the unspoken things my voice hadn’t let me say for all those years, with a completely different man, were sitting, clenched into a knot, at the base of my throat.  I kept swallowing, and trying not to cry.  I felt afraid, and I felt hopeless.  I had failed to make this man I loved desperately, happy.   I was doing it wrong, and I had messed everything up, because I hadn’t anticipated his unspoken needs.

Even as this anxiety was taking hold, my brain was soothing me, feeding me all the logical and rational comfort that it could push onto my neuro-transmitters:  He is not that man.  He is not your husband.  You are not going to pay for this later.  He loves you, he adores you, and HE IS SORRY.  

By the time we got to dinner, he had not only apologized a third time, but it was over for him.  He was relaxed, he was happy to be with me, he was affectionate and conversational.  He had moved on.  Gradually, I thought it was over for me as well.  We had dinner, and then we spent the rest of the evening in my home with good conversation, plenty of physical touch and periods of comfortable silence.

The next day I woke up feeling unsettled; restless.  He was home with Meta, and as I went through my day I just felt off.   Work necessarily kept him unavailable to me, but I found myself needing to connect.  We had a brief late dinner that night, and though I felt alright, there was a thought playing on a loop in my brain.  What if I say the wrong thing? 

He called me on it.  “What’s going on in your head?”

I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t say.   I started to cry.

“My stomach still hurts from last night”, I said. “I can’t come down from it.”  And then, “Maybe I have PTSD.”  I giggled and tilted my head away from him, wanting to make things light and make things better.  (I’m pretty skilled at deflection.  It’s a gift.)

He just looked at me.  “Maybe you do.”

I couldn’t speak.  “He would go after me for hours,” I said, so quietly, I wasn’t sure he had even heard my words.  I looked away from his eyes, and slid my sunglasses on so that the very busy Mexican restaurant would be spared my breakdown.

“I’m sorry,” he said, again.  “I don’t want to ever make you feel the way he did.”

I tried to tell him, that it wasn’t him, it was me. I wanted to tell him that I was broken and ruined, and maybe I’d never be fixed.  But I couldn’t speak.  He looked at me, and I looked at him, and I stayed silent.  He didn’t look away.

Special Man held my hand, and smiled, and I could breathe again.  He led me outside into the parking lot of the restaurant, and we wandered around a small gathering of  classic cars.  I fell in love with an exquisite, deep red ’53 Corvette.  I stood there, with a man I loved, appreciating a beautiful car, on a summer night.  I wasn’t ruined.  I was loved and cherished.

(Also, I really wanted that car.  I’ve never lusted after a car like that.)

Conditioning is a powerful thing.  The present  reaction I was having to conflict with him, was reinforced by a past bad relationship, an unpredictable, sometimes violent man, and a scared voiceless girl.  I am not that girl anymore, Special Man isn’t that man, and this is not that relationship.  There are so many “inspirational” quotes out there, that speak to not living in the past, not letting the past determine your future, yadda yadda yadda.  I did a quick Google search  for some kind of quote about reconciling past and future,  and I thought my teeth were going to fall out from the sickening sweetness of the sentimentality.

Except for this:

“What’s past is prologue.”  ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

It just IS.


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~Preach~

Once upon a time, there was a Southern Baptist man who told me he was polyamorous.

An hour into our first date, I knew that he was a liar. He had a wife. And she thought they were a happily married, monogamous couple. I was sad and cynical and bitter after my divorce, and for some reason, of which I am decidedly not proud, I went out with him a second time. Then a third. He fascinated me, as I tried to find my place in a world I was new to. I was newly single, I had walked away from the religion I was raised in, and all of a sudden, I was searching to find something I believed in.

I didn’t make any vows, I thought. This is all on him. So I quietly had an affair with a married man for almost nine months.

This man symbolized everything I was, at that time, pushing back against. He wasn’t just a Southern Baptist, he was a minister with his own congregation. He was married with a pregnant wife. He had a position with the local right-to-life organization.

I had a friend tell me, that the irony was so ridiculous, he couldn’t get over it. “Religion completely fucked you over,” he said, “And now you’re fucking a preacher.” I didn’t feel anything. I felt numb. I wasn’t attached to him, though I enjoyed our conversations and our time together was pleasant. He expressed much more moderate views of the world to me, in private, than he did to the public. I felt like he was one person with me, and another away from me. Maybe this was how I justified what I was doing. We joked that we were therapy for each other.

After about six months, I began to feel that I was wronging someone. I was wronging his wife. I was wronging myself. I had found the boundaries of my own personal morality, not a forced set of moral laws set on me by a church or a god, or a society. I was a human being, and human beings should be kind and do right by each other. Even if you didn’t make any vows to them.

After another few months we parted, and I didn’t look back. I didn’t love him, though I wished him well. I told him I hoped he would figure out a way to be true to himself, and to honor his wife’s expectations of their marriage. I don’t know what choices he subsequently made in his personal life, but he continues to lead his congregation, even writing in a public forum, about the dangers and immorality of adultery. I don’t know if he’s a hypocrite, or simply a sinner with good intentions.

I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I am hesitant to post this, even as I know that nobody can judge me as harshly as I judge myself, but it happened, and this experience pushed me to figure out who I really wanted to be, and how I truly wanted to live my life. This was my first introduction to non-monogamy. It wasn’t ethical, and it wasn’t honorable. But the idea was planted, this possibility of open, consensual, loving relationships, where everyone was doing their best for each other and for themselves, and this vision both enthralled and terrified me.

And that hasn’t changed. The concept of polyamory absolutely thrills me.

But some days I’m still a little scared of it.

The end.


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~Peril~

I have a profile on a popular dating site, OKCupid.com.  (This is where I first met Special Man Friend, who, by the way, I messaged first, and I never message first…)  I get four or five messages a week, and generally the messages are short, poorly written, or just plain ridiculous.

“So what I’m seeing is that you are a cougar. With my dates when we become intimate, my first question is how many orgasms would you like? Then I +1. Experience counts. Just saying….”  ~male, 51

“hey there”  ~male, 39

“Hi there how are you? i liked ur profile so go check mine out and if u like what u read and see then get back to me k names Randal look forward to hearing back from u”  ~male, 44

“You are magically delicious!! :)”  ~male, 50

Then there’s the assortment of young twenty-ish males who take one look at my picture and offer themselves up to me to teach them things.  Just tonight, I received a new message from a nineteen year old.  Yes, nineteen.  (He loves my red hair, he’s just about to start college, and his favorite movie is Joe Dirt.)

So I was pleasantly curious when I received a well written paragraph from an age appropriate local man.  I clicked on over to his profile to read more, and looked at some of the “match” questions to compare.  This isn’t something I usually do, but Special Man and I were talking about a week ago, and he said he always looks at questions and answers, as they can tell a lot about a person, and I thought it might save me some time.

Well.

The idea of gay and lesbian couples having children is not acceptable to him.  He thinks homosexuality is a sin, and he believes that a man should be the head of the household.

Next.

Dating is hard.


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Guest post: Reflections on “perfect poly” by an accidental metamour.

Much love to my Meta, CC, who wrote this, and who should be very proud that she is finding her own way, to her own poly.

My husband and I are each two years into our own extramarital relationships, and I still have trouble self-identifying as polyamorous. There are probably people who would place my situation firmly in the “polyamory” area of the nonmonogamy spectrum, and yes, I follow the poly boards and dutifully attend poly discussions and events in my community, but I’m pretty positive that my ideal relationship configuration is not a “true” poly one. Oh, I’ll say I’m polyamorous, but only while I stare guiltily at my feet, unable to lie while maintaining eye contact.

I, for one, never set out to find a relationship that asked me to share the kinds of roles traditionally filled by a life partner with anyone else. When I arrived at the idea of us actually dating other people instead of just fucking them, I pictured us, complete and whole in our own primary relationship, enriching our own lives and the lives of our partners, who would also of course be complete and whole themselves. I didn’t want the responsibility of meeting the entirety of another person’s relationship needs. I was (and still am) concerned at my ability to meet the needs that a second person expects from a life partner. I was (and still sometimes am) scared that I’m not emotionally equipped to watch my husband play long-term, sole partner to someone else. I didn’t (and still don’t) consider that “true” polyamory.

And that’s what I thought we were doing. When my husband and his first girlfriend parted, she said she needed more than he was giving her, and he said she was asking for more than he was willing or able to provide outside of his marriage. That was comforting to me, because for my entire adult life, my sense of who I am and what I mean to others centered on my relationship with him. I had always relied on an unshakeable confidence in my position in our shared lives to keep me anchored as we opened our marriage first to physical and later to romantic encounters with others. Maintaining a division between primary and secondary relationship roles in this way made me feel safe because it delineated an area for other interactions that was separate from the particular spaces we occupied in each others’ lives.

So it was a difficult moment for me when I realized that, so slowly as to happen without noticing, he had become someone else’s only significant relationship. Any relationship needs she might have would, then, be falling on him.

To this day I have no idea whether this realization caused in him a similar feeling of trepidation and fear, but I was terrified by this knowledge. And yes, resentful that he’d deviated from my vision of what I thought poly was going to look like for us. As those feelings increased, so did the belief that I was “doing it wrong.” Feeling guilty about committing “bad poly” only made me feel more scared and resentful. Wash-rinse-repeat, until the only feeling I was capable of was a grim determination that someday I would either be a better person and be able to accept her, or they would break up. Or that I would prove such an utter failure at relationships that I would have no choice but to leave to spare him from my incorrect and dysfunctional emotions.

After all, if I was really okay with poly, wouldn’t I be happy for him? If I was really okay with poly, would I sink into a depression every time they had a sleepover date? If I was really okay with poly, would I make mental lists of all of “our” restaurants that were now no longer “ours,” or any of the other things people complain about when they vent about their new partner’s awful spouse?

I’m sure that early on he had tried to discuss with me my feelings about their relationship growing more and more serious, and I’m sure that I smiled and nodded and apologized for my wrong feelings and we put off further discussion until I was “ready.”

And we all three spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for me to feel better. To their credit, they were both much more compassionate than I was able to be with myself, but the unstated assumption that entire time was that eventually I was going to “come around” and be happy with the situation. I eventually came to the idea that my feelings were so incorrect, so broken, and so deeply-held that I would never, ever be that “better person” we were all waiting for me to be, and I threatened to hurt myself, partly in a last-ditch effort to show them both I knew how I felt was wrong and that I was sorry for feeling that way.

But you know what I never thought to question? The “okay with poly” part. I hadn’t wanted to be in a “real” polyamorous relationship in the first place. And it didn’t occur to me that it was okay to feel that way, to take some time to feel resentful or disappointed that things hadn’t gone the way I wanted. Instead, I had focused on how badly I had been “doing poly.” It was like someone had gone and signed me up for something I hadn’t really been interested in doing, like running a charity 5K, and then being mad at myself for being tired and winded, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t a better runner.

I’d love to be able to run more than a block, I’d love to be one of those people who likes running, but I just don’t. I DIDN’T WANT TO RUN A GODDAMN RACE TODAY.

But once I was able to say that out loud, to admit that I had found myself in a situation I would never have gotten into on purpose, things got a lot better for all of us. Now my only regret about our relationship is that I held on for so long to the idea that I was just wrong, and that I made things so much harder for all of us by trying to cover my feelings in guilt for not achieving “perfect poly.”

Finding myself in the middle of a race, running alongside the person I love most and the person who he makes feel happy and fulfilled, running for a cause that’s important to both of them, I’m surprised to find how easy and natural it feels. I might not have set out to run. I didn’t have the right shoes with me, and I may have to stop every so often to take giant heaving breaths, but I’m doing it.

Having someone sign me up was just a thing that happened, not a mistake or a way to “get” me or an opportunity to watch me fail or a test of my okay-ness as a person.

It just is. And I can keep running.