The term “Casual” and Polyamory

I don’t appreciate when people assume that I just have a string of ‘casual’ relationships, because according to the dictionary:

Casual:

relaxed and unconcerned. (false)

made or done without much thought or premeditation. (false)

done or acting in a desultory way. (false)

done or acting without sufficient care or thoroughness. (false)

not regular or permanent, in particular (false)

occurring between people who are not regular or established sexual partners. (false)

Casual. I hate this word. It seems that it is quite overused in the poly world as a descriptor BY those who are serial monogamists (and even by married poly folks). As if, because poly people have more than one partner, we couldn’t possibly be involved in serious relationships. This bothers me quite a bit. It’s an ingrained belief that there is and ever should be only one person for you. And that’s bullshit. How many people can honestly say they’ve *only* fell in love with one person in their whole life… that there was no one else besides the *one* person they chose to ‘marry’… We have many relatives that we love, we have many friends that we love, but we are only allowed one intimate partner at a time? I call bullshit. Bull. Shit. <— can’t say it enough.

Humans love making boxes and living within ridiculous, limiting rules. I refuse to buy into this. I am not limiting love. Love is limitless – it is not a finite resource or feeling. It is amazingly abundant and the more you give of it, the more of it you receive. Who doesn’t want that?!?

The term “casual relationship” implies that there is no respect for the relationship itself. I, for one, am not and refuse to be intimate with someone that I do not care about. I would imagine it is the same for most people, but because anything *more* than ‘casual’ comes with a whole bunch of other baggage (expectations, rules, etc) that nobody fucking wants… but you know… it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have a deeply emotional intimate relationship and not engage in an escalator (the idea that once you begin a relationship, to be successful, you must go from point A [dating] to point B [living together] to point C [engagement/marriage/etc] or any combination of those points) relationship. “How?” You ask…. simple: communication. By discussing boundaries, comfort zones, wants and needs that are appropriate for you and taking into account those of each particular partner, you shed the unexpected expectations that both of you automatically carry. And yes, we all have expectations and assumptions. The purpose of communication is to limit the misunderstandings that come from holding onto expectations and assumptions of/from/for your partner.

I want and have more than one loving, intimate relationship. I do not seek to ‘advance’ my position to ‘live-in partner’ with anyone. I love living by myself. I also love having a regular sex life. Being an independent person with the ability to go and do and run my household as I see fit, enables me to engage my lovers at the click of my calendar – without regard to others’ opinions, preferences, etc. This ability to move around is preferable to me. However, living this way absolutely does not mean that I do not love my partners. It doesn’t mean that our relationships aren’t mutually fulfilling or that they aren’t serious. Because they absolutely are serious!

I would encourage you to evaluate how you view your own and others’ relationships and if you consider them casual – and if so, what, exactly does that mean to you? Because according to the dictionary, none of my relationships lack concern, thoughtfulness, purpose, thoroughness, or regularity.

As always, having open and honest communication with your partners about what expectations they actually have with regard to the relationship will relieve a significant burden of anxiety about where you actually stand with someone. There is nothing more satisfying than being on the same page.

Feel free to comment with your 2 cents.

 

 

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Perceptions of the Entitled

Being Solo Poly here is challenging. My experiences keep reminding me that while it’s good that I am open, honest, authentic – not everyone can handle the truth and some even misinterpret it. Take for instance, in my last post about moving a lover in with me – that lasted exactly two weeks. While this move was pondered over for the better part of a month, for it to have abruptly ended the way it did, complete with the relationships as well, left me feeling as though 1) I was used for a place to go- I spent time, money and effort to accommodate him and his child- not to mention feeling played emotionally and 2) that life with me was not worth his effort at all. At the first sign of uncomfortable feelings, he ran away as fast as he could as though talking it out wasn’t an option.

Not only did this hurt me, but it hurt and affected my children, and for that I am angry that none of this was seemingly considered on his part. I get that you have to do what’s best for you, but at what cost?  Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” I will certainly take heed of this piece of advice in the future.

Beyond that, I have been seeing two guys the last few weeks, as well as maintaining a relationship with my couple. I’m pretty much polysaturated (yay! for new words).

But today, I was engaging in two difference conversations at two different times with two different men. Obviously, I get messaged quite a bit and sometimes I do feel like chatting. Inevitably, my relationship status comes up. I, being open and honest as I try to be, relay that I’m seeing a couple guys and a married couple to which some form of the following question was asked: “How do I get into that rotation?”  Really? As if I’m some sort of all- you-can-eat buffet – pay one price, fill your plate until you’re satisfied, and all you have to do is stand in line… um… fuck you.

Being solo poly isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t have a ‘rotation’ or a list of people waiting to date me. I am baffled by how my relationship status is interpreted. Relationships are developed and nurtured over days, weeks, months. Some, of course, can be intimate sooner rather than later, or never at all.

In turn, every time I meet up with someone – whether old, new, friend or otherwise and no matter how innocent, my LDL (long distance lover) can only see me having these outings somehow turn into sex and will make comments about protection or get jealous. While, yes, I will admit that (holy shit!) I love sex as much as the next person and would ideally love to have it regularly, that is not always the case and it takes special people to see that side of me. I have come a long way in seeing the true value and purpose of intimacy and trying to relay the fact that not everyone will get that far. But the horrible stigma that surrounds the ‘free agent’ of the Solo Poly person, is unbelievably all too common and uncomfortable.

At some point, no matter how biologically you feel that you are poly and poly is you, it is a conscious choice to remain steadfast in your heart and in your consciousness to be authentic, because it is seemingly a constant reminder, whether its society’s way at looking at gender roles, the view that sexual freedom is taboo, or whatever it is – it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. It feels like trying to swim upstream and keeping your head above water, not wanting to feel weighed down by other people’s sense of entitlement to your time and body. Remaining aware and conscious of all of these players in life and their motivations, mindsets, and communications as well as how they all play a role in how I see myself – feels overwhelming sometimes. I must remind myself daily, of who I am, what my values are and to remain steadfast and unyielding in my belief in myself and what I want for my life, for my autonomy.

It is important for you, reader, to understand where I am coming from when I write here. This is not to point fingers or to make these people in my life feel bad, but to call attention to the ways in which our judgments and perceptions and demands of others are biased, unfair, and sometimes even uncalled for. It is important to remain aware and conscious of the role you play within your interpersonal relationships and the possibility that you are unconsciously judging, using, or abusing a friendship or partnership for your own selfish desires or judging and hurting someone you love unnecessarily, even if it’s meant in jest.

Some people consider solo poly selfish, but I don’t see it that way. In a perfect world, people should not feel obligated to be available to others. I am fine on my own. It’s exactly what I want; however, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for love and understanding to go along with personal and relationship autonomy. The entire purpose of this blog is to foster understanding between those like me and the ingrained monogamous culture here which I am a part.

 

Relationships and Personal Responsibility

I’ve been busy these last couple of weeks. Life is like one big roller-coaster ride. For the most part, I’ve been enjoying it. There have been a few rough moments, relationship wise. One of my lovers, you will find out through-out this blog, is very much a challenge for me – in that her particular attachment style is not something I would have normally tolerated in the past. I consider working on accepting those parts of her that are uncomfortable for me – a part of my growth, in a way. I’m more of the type of person that when things start getting hairy, I disengage entirely. I think it comes from some previous abusive relationships in where I was often in “flight” mode.

She, of course, doesn’t consider herself polyamorous, so there are many aspects of my “lifestyle” that I have to take into account because they may not ‘sit’ so well with her. Most of the time, I never think about that. Being thoughtful is not one of my talents. Being in any relationship takes lots of communication, honesty, and trust.

I threw her a loop when my solo-poly ass made a huge decision to move someone in with me. Now, I value my space and alone time. This move wasn’t made lightly and took a couple weeks of contemplation and talking in circles with another lover of mine. But once a decision like that is made, it impacts all my other relationships. It deeply affected her, and it’s residual effects are still being monitored.

With regard to polyamory and personal responsibility, I just want to take a minute to express the responsibility that comes with being in a relationship:

While, not two months ago, you would’ve heard me spout off to her something that resembles, “I’m not responsible for your emotions and insecurities. Hit me up when you’re over yourself.” Straight. Up. Asshole. Now, granted, that is very out of context because one of the reasons I like her so much is the fact that she matches my assholiness. Meaning: we fight the same. The reason I’m telling you this is because while on one hand I can’t change the fact that sometimes she is overly emotional and she can be super-insecure (which actually could just comes from being a woman in this society), I AM responsible for how I respond to her when she is feeling that way.

I can’t change her feelings. I can’t FIX it. I can’t do the work needed to be done to quell her own insecurities – but I can love her through them, support her through them, tell her she is a bigger asshole than me, but that I love her anyway; I can make sure that she knows that I know who she is and how she feels, but that doesn’t change who we are to each other. And just that support and comfort is actually my responsibility for remaining in that relationship. I can stop any time. I can say “Fuck this, I’m out,” and keep on going without skipping a beat. But as long as I CHOOSE to stay there and I CHOOSE to remain in her life, then I have a responsibility to my friend to actually be a damn friend. Meaning: Not forsaking her in her time of need. If space is needed, space is taken. If a talk is needed, a talk happens. If it’s too touchy to talk and we hiss like cats at each other via text for an hour, that happens also. But at some point, we have a responsibility, that by choosing to be in a relationship, we are choosing come back to that space of acceptance, of personal responsibility, realizing that our actions have an affect on our significant others, and we choose to help them work it out within themselves.

I think with my past history of abuse by a narcissist, I tend to disengage to anything I could perceive as emotional manipulation. Including other people’s emotions. She and I have talked about this and how sometimes, I am negatively affected by her being upset or angry. Though I tend to also be passive/aggressive, her passive/aggressiveness is a trigger for me. Going outside of my comfort zone and actually talking about these things has helped us both tremendously when it comes to personal growth and responsibility within our relationships.

Communication aftercare is especially important when changes are made that impacts someone (or all those) in your polycule. Remember being poly is not glamorous, weekend-long orgy parties – it’s not just all the fun. It’s all the work and effort. It’s all the love and understanding. It’s also all the reward (including maybe an orgy party or something).  I’m totally kidding, that’s not really my thing.

 

 

The Stereotyping Of Solo-hood: Knowing is Half the Battle

Singlism is defined as the negative stereotyping and discrimination that is directed toward people who are single (Baron & Branscombe, 2012). 

If you’ve ever been “single” or if you’re Solo-poly, chances are you’ve been viewed as having a “condition” or you’re somehow viewed as “faulty” for not being in a monogamous, stereo-typically “successful” escalator relationship. Your parents and family friends often ask you if you’re seeing anyone. You’re friends from college try to set you up on blind dates because you’re “too …[intelligent, witty, attractive]… to be single.”

As a “single parent” I’m often looked at with pity, even though my single status is a lifestyle choice. I am not struggling, much. My children are fed, happy, well-adjusted and well-mannered. Our lives are full of love for each other and our family. Dad is in the picture. My village consists of close friends and family. Our lifestyle works, is open, is genuine, is healthy. We are honest about what works and what doesn’t. We are honest and open about struggles and we applaud and celebrate triumphs.  Life is good, but other people seem to have problems with this. If I were unfortunate enough to have to be in a custody battle, what would the outcome be with me being openly polyamorous in the Bible Belt. What do you think would happen?

According to research compiled by DePaulo and Morris in 2006, single people are stereo-typically characterized in largely negative terms, being viewed as: immature, insecure, self-centered, unhappy, ugly, lonely and independent. Whereas, traits of married people are stereo-typically characterized as being: mature, stable, kind, happy, honest, loving, and giving. 

What’s even more disturbing about this research was the fact that only about 4% of the single people studied recognized that they could be discriminated against based on their marital status. During the study, both single and married people used stereotyping and discrimination against single people.  Negative stereotyping and discrimination against singles serve to protect and glorify an important social institution – marriage – and this is a central reason why it is so widespread and heavily legitimized (Baron & Branscombe, 2012).

I am not immature, nor insecure; I am self-centered in the fact that my life should not be defined by my relationship status, nor is should my life count as more successful because I am living with a man; I’m very happy; I’m also quite attractive, rarely lonely, as I have an active social life, and I’m proud to say I’m independent. So, despite the negative stereotypes, they are still just stereotypes. They are the unwarranted, often unrealistic characteristics we humans use to define our world and make sense of things – however misguided they really are.

The reason I am bringing up stereotypes and singlism is to bring awareness that even the best of us sometimes slip into using stereotypes. Let’s say you have a house up for rent and would like to set up a long-term three-year lease, would you be more inclined to rent it to the lady who lives with her two boyfriends, or the married couple? Let’s say I’m buying a house, I have made an offer and so has a married couple with one child. But I’m a single mom with three kids, versus this married couple with just one. Who do you think they’d be more inclined to sell?

This is a daily thing. It requires being mindful of the way you think. Navigating polyamory in the south has allowed me to be more mindful of the ways we view each other and the motives behind our behavior. I know I’ve been passed over for promotions that are challenging and require overtime hours for the simple fact that I have children, so it’s no surprise that single people or anyone that lives and operates outside of the social norms of society will be stereotyped, discriminated against, and otherwise viewed negatively.

I’m not male. I’m not straight. I’m not married. I have tattoos and a potty mouth. I have “no education.” I live in a Red State. I am an Ethical Slut. These are things that I think about with regard to my situation. Bringing them to light, to the forefront of people’s minds, in an effort to get others’ to be aware and to be knowledgeable, mindful of struggle that poly folks face here is my ultimate goal. I want to make sense of it all, and hopefully, by writing about it, bring about change- bring about understanding.

 

The Poly Must-Haves

Yesterday after a conversation that ended in an argument and after some reflection, I came up with this topic of discussion. There are many things within relationships that are a must, and some of those are an amplified must in poly relationships. This is not implying that polyamory is somehow more important or more deserving than monogamy – only that logistically speaking, the larger the polycule, the greater the chances of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, etc. After all, the more humans you are working with, the more chance you have for human error. Again, I am no relationship expert, but from my experiences in life I have found the following to be appropriate. If you feel like I’ve missed some, let me know.

  • Self – Awareness. This is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your significant others, not to mention strangers who ask you questions about your lifestyle. Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Taking time for self reflection to determine what it is you are truly feeling, what your motives are with your decisions and relationships, as well as your desires within your relationships are a must have when it comes to having successful intimate relationships, in my opinion. Self- Awareness is knowing what triggers you, what makes you uncomfortable, what exactly you are feeling in order to be able to express yourself in an appropriate manner. Is it easy? No. Will you always be able to ‘be on top of things’ and act appropriately? Nope. Like me, you are human. You will make mistakes. You will sometimes go against your better judgment, you may lash out in anger, make assumptions, or judge something you know nothing about based on your own perceptions. You are not perfect and that is okay. Realizing you are not perfect is also part of being self-aware. Self-awareness leads to more effective communication
  • Ability to Communicate. Because you are self-aware, you are able to express your thoughts and feelings more effectively than you’d be able to otherwise. If you are confused about what you are thinking and feeling, you sure as hell can’t expect someone else to know what you are thinking and feeling. That would be extremely unfair, not to mention toxic. Have you ever had a conversation with a person who was visibly and audibly angry or upset and when you asked them what was wrong they said, “Nothing?” As if that solves anything. Disregarding your feelings and refusing to communicate them is one of the main causes of dysfunctional breakdowns in relationships. No, I’m no expert, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that one. We ALL have been there. I am no exception. I have only recently, I mean literally within the last two or three years, have been able to effectively and appropriately express myself. My old self is very much the person that would say, “Nothing.” I handled most of my emotions very tight-lipped but passive-aggressive in my actions. Becoming more self-aware has allowed me to be more mindful of those feelings and more mindful of how I respond to triggers that anger or upset me. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am one hard-headed stubborn son of a bitch. So, if I can do it, you can do it.
  • Know your Rights. This is a tough one for around here. You grow up with many old-fashioned standards, which aren’t necessarily bad, but they are rife with gender stereotyping, gender-normative behaviors, which also isn’t necessarily bad. but when you grow up being female here in the Bible Belt, you’re automatically raised feeling like you are subordinate to the males of the household. You leave your father, once your ‘groom’ has asked your father’s permission (not yours) to marry you, then he becomes the one with authority over you. It is ingrained in us. It is so ingrained that even someone self-aware sometimes doesn’t even catch the fact until later that… Holy shit! Why did I let that happen to me? I am a grown woman. I don’t have to put up with that bullshit. But because it is so natural to do so, oftentimes, you don’t even realize it until you are in your moments of self-reflection trying to figure out what you are really feeling, when you come across the fact that you gave up a right to someone, even sometimes a stranger, just because they asserted themselves in such a way that you didn’t even consider that it was a threat to your autonomy. I will link More than Two’s Relationship Bill of Rights as much as possible, because it is such an amazing and MUCH NEEDED resource here – almost like a religious doctrine. You need to be reminded of your rights.
  • Boundaries. I have boundaries and you probably have some also. Being solo poly, you’d think since I live by myself I wouldn’t have need for many boundaries. While I don’t have very many, I do have a few. I’m relatively attractive and my Facebook relationship status says single so I get asked out quite a bit. I also have a full time job, a part-time job, and I’m going to school. Did I mention I am also raising three kids? My time is valuable and I’m busy. I’m also very much an introvert, so I need lots of alone time. Being around people and expending energy takes it’s toll on me, emotionally and physically. My bedroom is my safe haven. My kids are not allowed in my room without permission. When I come home from work, I give them Lugs (love and hugs) and then I go to my room and I have 30-40 minutes to decompress, meditate, and/or nap before they can bother me. At 6 pm, they can come to my door and say “mama” all they want and I will feel refreshed and available instead of tired, drained and stressed out. I don’t ‘go out’ more than twice a week. So, when I am asked on a date, if I already have two dates that week, then I schedule for the next week. When I feel tired, drained, emotional, or feeling like PMS is getting the better of me, I will turn my phone off or on silent and discontinue social media for hours or days depending on what I feel I need at the time. My friends know this and I will usually let them know that I need a break from my phone. They will respect my boundaries. Your friends should also.
  • Consent. Right up there with your rights, is consent. Consent is necessary in healthy long-term relationships, but I am not alone in the fact that I have engaged in non-consensual sex with a long-term partner. One study found that 43% of women engaged in non-consensual sex because they thought it was their “duty”. That’s sickening to me, but it goes back to my earlier bullet point about knowing your rights. You have a right not to be coerced or forced into anything that you do not feel is in your best interest. It isn’t always about sex. It could be about other relationships. Especially in polycules, there is always a risk that taking on a new partner could endanger one of your already established relationships for no other reason than your other partner chooses, for any number of reasons, that you having another partner will not work for them. That’s okay. They also have a right to determine what is best for them, just as you do. Though you are left with making difficult decisions, it’s much better to do so when the level of anger and/or animosity is at a minimum.

I hope this was a bit helpful. All of these are beneficial in all of your relationships, regardless of intimacy level. Some may have to employ boundaries on their parents or neighbors, know their rights when it comes to your best friend, or perhaps working on becoming more self-aware in order to gain more peace of mind with yourself.

Like I said, I’m sure there are more must-haves, this is just a few that I had on my mind for the purpose of this post. There is so much more to relationships than just working all day, raising kids, going on dates together. They require effort, respect, love and communication. It’s not always easy, but nothing really worth having is ever easy to obtain, is it?

Polyamory Isn’t Easy – Relationships Aren’t Easy

Relationships aren’t easy. Having multiple relationships sure as hell isn’t easy. This week has been particularly challenging in that it reminds me that when I am in my feelings in one relationship it affects my other relationships. Being able to have an open conversations, crying to one of your significant others is something that happens and is something that people need to be aware of and sensitive to..

Polyamory can be challenging because it’s opening your heart, it’s being vulnerable, it’s allowing yourself to love- not just someone – but more than one someone. People already have a hard time being honest and vulnerable and open. So, polyamory multiplies the hurt just as much as it multiplies the love. Would I have it any other way? No. Not. At. All.

Here in the Bible Belt, monogamy is the norm, just like it is everywhere else. The reason this blog exists is because I live in an area that’s not liberal, it’s not metropolitan. People are judgmental. Anything different and out of the normal, traditional modus operandi isn’t only looked at curiously, but grossly misunderstood and exceptionally judged by ignorance.

So, the majority of people that I date are serial monogamists and it’s no surprise that usually they don’t want anything ‘serious’ or ‘committed’ because they just absolutely cannot wrap their minds around the fact that you can be serious and committed in poly relationships, BUT you have to be willing to open yourself up to the same level of vulnerability that you would have in monogamy — only multiplied… and therein lies the issue with many of us poly peeps in the Bible Belt. Finding those wonderfully amazing people that are willing to love and be loved is really, really difficult.

So my being solo poly isn’t glamorous or exciting. I spend most of my time alone and wishing I could find two partners that I could love. I have fallen in love with a monogamous person and that is painful in itself. It gave me something to write about today, but it leaves me thinking about how difficult it can be sometimes.

Please comment if you feel like you have experienced something similar. I would appreciate the feedback as well.

 

 

 

Misconceptions About Polyamory

I think one of the major misconceptions, myths, taboos about polyamory is that it’s an excuse to have sex with other people without losing your relationship. Someone on OkCupid actually accused me of this once saying, “Polyamory is just your excuse to fuck everyone.” Well, to that – I say yes… and no. At first I was offended, because I assure you that there are most likely very FEW people in the world that will have sex with Everyone they come across… I find that improbable. People generally ONLY have sex with people they like very much (unless they are forced or otherwise agree to some form of terms of payment). Then, I had an epiphany of sorts. Honestly, what business is it of his who I have sex with? He is a stranger to me, some unknown person who sent me a message of just that. No “Hello, how are you?” or anything… just his negative implications of my sluttiness. Fine, Mr. Moral Compass, you can suck it. I am a grown woman and if it makes me happy to have a string of one night stands – I will tell you what I tell most people, “I’m grown, I do what the fuck I want.” As long as we live our lives by the motto of Do No Harm, well, there is no harm done. Live and let live.

There is nothing wrong with 1) having more than one person that truly loves you and 2) engaging in intimate relations with said person(s). I mean, really, what happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom and it’s nobody’s damn business.

What I want normalized is ability to walk down the street hand in hand with your boyfriend and your girlfriend, or your boyfriend and his girlfriend, or your boyfriend and y’all’s girlfriend, or your boyfriend and his boyfriend!

You say, what? “I ain’t sharin’!”

Well, technically, you don’t own anyone. People are free and autonomous beings and should be able to be free to engage in friendships that may or may not develop in to more, because who said they can’t? I encourage you to read the Relationship Bill of Rights.

People are not property, which brings about another misconception. Cheating, sharing, or somehow people that are poly can’t be in loving, committed or SERIOUS relationships! This is absolutely false. Again, going back to communication – this is very important! You have to be able to actually voice your wants and needs, dreams and ideals for your relationship in a matter of fact way that your partner(s) can comprehend. Honest communication is tougher than you think! It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable and opening up yourself to someone without knowing what the response would be and that’s scary, but very, very necessary in successful, real relationships. Poly and monogamous, alike.

I do believe that some people are just simply monogamous AND THAT’S OKAY! I have friend that I absolutely love SO MUCH who is monogamous. We are intimate when our schedules allow and I know that one day, he will find his monogamous woman and we will have to be platonic friends (yes, in my head I’m totally throwing a hissy fit because I absolutely adore him). Real love does not seek to change a person. We can only love people as they are and those that seek to make someone different, do NOT truly love them. So, we live with our differences, we love those things we share for the time the Universe allows us to share them.

Life is full of people and experiences, triumphs and trials. The more you surround yourself with positive, loving people, the more fulfilling and greater your experiences. Seek out those people (platonic or not, it doesn’t matter) who allow you to be who you are at your core, support your spiritual and personal growth, and are able to communicate with you what they truly want and need and vice versa. Be You. Be Love. Allow people to be themselves and find the ones that are compatible.

Most importantly, stop judging people who love and who are different than you. I know it’s hard to take that judgment living in the south, where people will “Bless your heart” to your face and turn around and talk shit to everyone in your neighborhood. Just REMEMBER that it’s their problem, not yours. Continue to live your life authentically and real – because real life is what gives everyone else courage to also be authentic. Love trumps Hate. Every day!