Poly Nirvana

Love, Life and Rational Polyamory

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This morning one of my teenagers woke me up with a hug, and said, “Thanks for feeding me so I don’t starve, Mom.” Understandably confused by this sudden display of gratitude, I asked him what he wanted, thinking that he wanted money or something. “It’s Valentine’s Day,” he said, “and I’m trying to be nice.”

“Thanks, honey,” I said and went back to sleep for another twenty minutes before my youngest daughter was prodding me out of bed to drive her and her brother to school. I should have taken a picture of the Valentine’s Day getup she had put together. Pink and white gingham taffeta party dress. Raspberry and black argyle tights. Pepto-Bismol pink butterfly shaped glasses. Her hair was gloriously bendy from the eight braids she had slept in last night in preparation for her school party. She was a fantastic mess; her very own girl, and she was thrilled with how she looked.

I have long learned to appreciate this kind of individuality. There are probably younger parents who look at her and think I’m crazy. I’m okay with that. At 44, I’m a much different parent than I was when I was at 34. Or 24. I look at her and I hope that she maintains that strong sense of self, and that she remains confident in liking what she likes.

At breakfast, my youngest son told me that my nose piercing was “weird” because I was pretty much fifty.

Now I’m not sure what being almost fifty has to do with anything, but I’m only 44, and I’m just me, I told him. And I like it. “But what about getting a tattoo?” he said. “Most people get their first tattoo in their twenties!”

“So?” I said. “I think it’s awesome.”

And that was the end of that. He starts junior high next year. He cares what people think. I get it.

It’s horrible outside: gray and rainy, with an icky wind. I’m rethinking my date to the hot springs tonight. Sushi and then a movie or something inside sounds much (much) more appealing. (And sex. I’m really looking forward to having some time for sex! This once a week business is for the birds.)



Over the weekend, Special Man and I were in a Dollar Store picking up party supplies, for a “Day of the Dead” themed event I hosted in my home on Saturday night.  I’m not sure how we got on the subject of compersion, of all things, as we walked down the medicine aisle, but he stopped me in my tracks as he said, somewhat loudly, that he was of the opinion that swingers are way better at compersion than polys. (I don’t even know if polys is a word, but I’m making it up if it isn’t.)  I think his exact words were, “To tell you the truth, I think swingers are the ones who have the compersion thing down.”

He kept walking, assuming I was following, and I stood, in the middle of The Dollar Tree, thinking.  And I had a poly epiphany, right there.  Of course, swingers think they’ve got compersion down.  Their focus is so very finite and well defined.  It’s sex.  Usually together, often in the same room, and they go home together.  Every rule and guideline that swingers enforce, is in place to protect The Relationship.  Because sex is just sex.  I get it.

We polys have blown this concept up to embody the entirety of a relationship that doesn’t include us.  Not just sex, not just orgasms, not just bodies on bodies.  Emotions and time and fights and life and inside jokes and a history…and we are supposed to feel compersive about all of it.  The vision I have going in my brain right now, is that of a smiling, glowing Stepford Wife.    That’s what I feel I’m being asked to achieve,  when I read about how compersion is the highest poly state we should be striving for.

I wanted to stop and debate this right then with him, and I’m not sure why.  It may be that it struck me as so kind of, well, smug.  And he can be smug, because he and CC have a significant swinging history, and I’m pretty sure he identifies as a swinger, just as much (if not more) than he does as polyamorous.  While my style of poly includes a lot of self analysis, and processing, both internally and outloud, he is more of a matter-of-fact, black and white, just don’t dwell on it, kind of guy.  If he gets a jealous thought or twinge, he tells me he “just doesn’t think about it.”  He doesn’t dwell.  He waits for it to pass.

Now, lest you think he is perfect: He is not.  These “not dwelling” moments tend to pile up, and then come out all at once, at least with me.  I’m not sure how this dynamic works between him and CC.  Their relationship is in a much different place than ours is after their fourteen-ish years, compared to our two-ish years.  He does get a little jealous sometimes, and I usually don’t hear about it until it is really bothering him.  I, on the other hand, will spill it immediately.  I process out loud, and I know that can be hard on him.  Just as his style can be hard on me, as I can feel blindsided if he’s been acting fine and then all of a sudden, absolutely isn’t.

So this has gotten off on a tangent. Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m going to vomit out onto a blog post, and I guess this is one of those times.  My original thought, was that I was annoyed that Special Man was declaring the swinger team the winner of the compersion trophy.  It’s been a challenge, having a relationship with someone who has both a swinger mentality, and a polyamorous side, and who can compartmentalize each so effectively.  In the beginning I was so confused.  I understood the swinger concepts, of sex being fun, and just something you can do with people you like, or people you’ve just met. But he and I have connected sex, loving sex, hot sex; sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s fun and recreational.  But love is what makes it so good for me.  Was it “just sex” for him?  Where did I fall, into which compartment?  Swinger sex or poly sex, or was there even a difference?

Sidenote: Man, he’s so going to love this post.

Now, I know there are all kinds of non-monogamy.   This isn’t a swinging vs. polyamory debate, but I find they tend to exist in the same realm, and here I sit, from my little poly viewpoint, wondering why compersion is so elusive to so many in Polyland, but the swingers have that shit down.  And I think it comes down to degrees.  If I see SM flirt with another woman, it’s cute, but it has big implications…full blown, impactful, relationship implications.  On the other hand, if we were in a strictly swinging context, the implications would be so limited, to that night, to those hours, to the activity of sex and flirting, that I would think that compersion in context, would just be simpler.

This all just leads me back to my opinion that compersion, as I understand it,  is kind of overrated.  I’m still working from a place of pleasant neutrality and acceptance, when he is interested in spending time with someone else.  Some days, that’s the best I can do.  Some days, I’m a jealous, scared little girl. My poly is imperfect.  But it doesn’t mean it isn’t GOOD.

~Compersion, Thou Art A Harsh Mistress~ 



Today SMF teased me a little about slacking on my writing.  It’s nice to know that he keeps an eye on my blog, and is interested in reading what I write.  It also blocks me sometimes, from writing things I might share if I was truly anonymous.  I almost always work through it though, generally by sitting on a draft for a few days, wondering if it’s too much to be posting, until I pretty much say Fuck It and post it anyway.

A few nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night out of a really bad dream, which ended with a mob of people chasing me, as I screamed  Special Man’s name.  There was much more, but as I lay awake, my mind kept replaying that feeling of panic, as my brain tried to analyze it.  Eventually I went back to sleep, only to wake up from a second nightmare revolving around CC, my Metamour.

I don’t know what’s going on in this little head of mine, but obviously my subconscious is trying to work something out.  I have been aware of feeling especially alone this week, and as I lay in the dark, by myself in my big bed after the second nightmare, I had such a sense of singularity, and it felt thick, and it felt heavy.

We talk in PolyLand about no single person being able to fulfill every need and want for one other.  We speak of exploring different loves and of allowing relationships to be what they are going to be; of allowing ourselves to love and be loved with no expectation of What Is Supposed To Come Next.  I love Special Man dearly, and shockingly, I’m realizing how long it has taken for me to confess this, even to myself:  He can’t give me everything I need, everything I want.  He has nurtured me as I transitioned from a broken girl who didn’t believe in love, into this open, wholehearted woman who is still growing.  He loves me with everything he has, and I do not believe that he holds any of his love or emotion back from me.  I have been happy, loved, and satisfied.  But I need more.  And he cannot give it to me.  I get lonely and my bed is empty.  I thought for a long time that things could be different.  We talked of him spending two nights a week with me, on a scheduled, regular basis.  We talked of more domestic entanglement, of more down time together.  Somehow that read to me as security, stability.  Safety.

But after hearing another couple at a local non-monogamy discussion group talk about the way they split time between households, and feeling a stab (or ten) of envy,  I have decided that I have to make peace with the fact that this kind of arrangement may not be in the cards, ever.  Our relationship is wonderful, for what it is.  I am happy today.  I need to release those expectations of him; of us. If having someone to share my bed with is important to me, I need to find that, somewhere else.  Logistically, Special Man simply has a full plate.  I know I am a big part of that, and I have no intention of being without him,  I guess it’s back to OKCupid for this girl.  Sigh.  First dates, how I loathe thee…  

On another note, today I booked flights for the poly conference in Ohio in November.  I’m happy that I will have SMF with me the whole time, and we are both looking forward to meeting people and exploring the bigger poly community.  In addition, my darling friend, the Divine Miss M. thinks we should take a trip ourselves up to Calgary after Christmas.  (I really do hope she’s serious.)I h  ave things to look forward to.  I have people to look forward to.  Despite the car wreck and all the other chaos that has clustered around me of late, I have a good life.  I have good intentions, and I try to have a good heart.  All the rest of it is just details.

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So I drove five and a half hours last week, to Bend, Oregon for a date with a man I had never met in person.  This is not something I would typically do, but there were a few different reasons I wanted to do this.

The Sheriff and I connected through OKCupid.  He is smart and funny and he has a nice smile.  He has a good vocabulary, spells well, and I didn’t feel pressured that this long distance coffee date had expectations attached. (Truth be told, I knew we both had expectations, but I was comfortable, he was comfortable, there was just good mojo all around.)

Sheriff is from a tiny town more than nine hours away from me.  Tiny, like twenty thousand people.  When I heard this, I told him it sounded like the town of Mayberry, from the Andy Griffith Show, and that I was just going to have to nickname him Opie, or, alternatively, just Mayberry.  Apparently neither of these were masculine enough for him, and he requested (demanded) I at least give him Andy, after the Sheriff of Mayberry.  Yadda, yadda, yadda, Sheriff had a good ring to it, and this is often how my brain works.

I think we were both good from the moment we met.  It was comfortable conversation that we fell into, and an easy kind of rapport.  We had been intermittently chatting online, and by text for a couple of months, so it felt natural to be with him in person.

One of the reasons I chose to go on this far-away date with the Sheriff, has to do with my relationship with Special Man.  I think I need more of something, though more of what, exactly, I’m not sure.  I wanted to experiment, I wanted to explore some different options. I have a deep level of intimacy with and love for SMF.  It takes a lot of work to maintain that.  I miss him almost all the time.  Not curled-into-the-fetal-position miss him, but I often feel as if I’m waiting for the next time we can be together.  And really, between his work, my work, our family obligations and everything else that constitutes Real Life, I’m not sure how much more of myself there is left to give to yet another person, even an additional casual relationship.

I’ve heard the term, “poly-saturated” before, and I love it.  I like the idea that each of us, who identify as non-monogamous, may have a different level of poly- saturation.  While one person may easily integrate two significant relationships and one casual relationship, another person may be content with one significant and one casual. Of course there are any number of combinations and possibilities, and I want to find that balance between my needs and contentment, and my abilities to maintain my connections.

It was a good date, we stayed overnight in Bend, and I had a good time.  I was a little unsettled, being with someone new, but a preference for familiarity and stability is part of my fundamental personality.  However, all in all, it was a very low-key, easy experience.  There were many conscious pauses, where I took note of my feelings and and then filed them away for later processing.  When it came near time for me to head home, the Sheriff asked me if I could stay another day.

“Maybe,” I said as we walked to breakfast.

Part of me thought it might be fun.  Part of me was ambivalent.   The Sheriff was engaging, attentive, conversational, and complimentary.  But I missed Special Man.   I knew that he would not be comfortable with this change in plans, had I decided at the last minute to stay another night with a new man,  but in the end, I chose not to stay another night because I just couldn’t be comfortable with it.  It felt too new, too unfamiliar, and I didn’t feel like I had the energy for twenty-four more hours with a brand new person.  I needed to be back on familiar ground; my town, my bed, my children.

The unfortunate encounter between a tree and my car on the way home from Oregon, necessarily caused me to delay my thoughts about this date.  I like the Sheriff, and I may see him again.

But I’m still looking for something.



Last night, after dinner out with friends, a margarita and a few bites of Special Man’s Cancun Platter,  I sat with him on my bed as he went through his laptop and compiled a list of music to make a CD for me to take with me on a quick road trip.  He was doing something nice for me, I think, in part to show support for the fact that I’m driving several hours for a date with someone new.  Someone he knows I think is smart and funny.  Someone he knows must have caught my eye, as he is of the (fairly accurate) opinion that I am picky, (though I prefer the term selective).  I know he worries and is protective of me.  He asked me last week, why drive, when there were probably 300 men I could connect with, within a fifteen mile radius of my house; why this guy? (That’s when I told him that the Sheriff was smart and funny and I liked him, and that didn’t happen very often, which may have made him nervous.)

I like to verbally process things.  Special Man is different.  He will listen and discuss and analyze with me when I need or want it, but his process is very different.  He works through most things quietly, and internally.  I’m still learning this.

I think burning this CD for me is his way to poly up and show me that he’s good, even if he’s uncomfortable.

I love that.

(More about the Sheriff later, and no, he’s not actually a Sheriff.)

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Dear Potential Partner (girlfriend, boyfriend, fling, hook-up, or play partner) of Any of My Partners or other Persons Important To Me, Current or Future:

When our paths cross, I will shake your hand, and smile and be honestly pleased to meet you.  I am sure that there are lots of good things about you, things that my partner sees and enjoys, and may even love about you.

I want you to know, that I may be slow to find these things.  I will regard you carefully.  I will watch you from a distance. I will keep my ears open when anyone speaks of you.

I am protective.  I worry that someone I love will get hurt.  I will not think that you are good enough for my Loved One, until you prove to me that you are. I am not jealous, I am not being a bitch; I am not here to sabotage your relationship, whatever form that may take.  I’m careful, and I do not trust anyone quickly or easily, even people who are attempting to get close to me.

I am cautious.  Do not mistake this caution for cattiness.  I am not afraid of being replaced by you. I am secure in my unique relationships.  I have worked hard to develop meaningful ties to my people, and I continue to work to maintain those bonds.  You will make your own place, and find your own space with your Important People.  Eventually you may find yourself close to me, and my mamma bear claws will twitch when new people come around you.

(Or maybe you won’t.)




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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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.



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.


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.


Dating is hard.

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I do love flirting.

I’ve got a new little online friend who says the sweetest things to me, with just a subtle undertone of more to come.  It’s the perfect balance of expectation and a light-hearted back and forth with another person, who is still a mystery to me.  I enjoy the tease, and the anticipation, wondering what might happen.  He lives hours (and hours) away, and we have a coffee date planned for an upcoming weekend when I am in Portland for a girl’s weekend.

Polyamory simply lends itself so easily to different types of relationships.  Significant to casual, time-intensive to intermittent, there’s freedom to allow things, people, relationships, to grow organically;  to be what they are going to be.  My new friend is smart and funny and open, and he lives far away.  So what.  Maybe we will be great friends and occasional lovers.  Perhaps there won’t be an iota of chemistry, and coffee will be the end of it.   Then again…

That’s pretty hot, right?

(I really hope that Portland doesn’t read this before we have coffee next week.  But he probably will.  Because that’s how awkward girls like me roll.)