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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What have I stepped in?

Today I would like to tackle something conceptually a bit more difficult for a lot of people to grasp. The thought that just because you can enter into a relationship, should you?

I frequently hear people talking about new or potential new, partners and questioning either the satisfaction they expect to derive from the relationship, or the durability. Often there are other factors involved such as SO's, privacy, or even lifestyle. The conversations usually end with the person saying something like "I don't have anything to lose, right?" or "Why not, it couldn't hurt to try, right?” While I can't argue with those sentiments, because I do believe very strongly in taking chances and following your heart, I believe there is a fine line that many don't recognize. That line is drawn between putting yourself out there, taking a chance on love, and entering into a relationship you are fairly certain will end in failure or flames.

Another aspect to the question, and one that may help explain the concept, is ethics. Just because you can screw that hot chick (or hot stud), should you? The same question applies without the sexual aspect; just because you can have a relationship with someone, who may or may not be viewing the relationship from a different perspective, should you?

Let me give you an example. Recently I found myself in an intimate situation with a friend. We enjoyed ourselves and had a good time. I found afterwards that our physical interaction had ignited better conversations and a connection we hadn't experienced before. My friend also began dropping hints that she may be interested in more than just a friendship going forward. It was clear to me that we could easily try to have more than a friendship so I sat down to think about it for a minute. What I realized was that although I enjoy our friendship, and had enjoyed the "play-time" we had experienced, I didn't feel enough for my friend to explore a more emotional relationship, let alone was I feeling "love" in the context of a romantic relationship. I ask myself, "Why not?” Maybe I could develop those feelings; maybe the relationship could be great. I then ask myself; would taking the chance be ethical? My friend is obviously looking for a romantic relationship but if I was just "taking a chance" would we be on the same page with our intentions? I don't think so which for me doesn't feel ethical. In the end although I could have the relationship, or try to have it, I don't feel it would be fair to her since we would be looking at the relationship from different perspectives.

This is where things can get a bit sticky and controversial. I could have sat down with my friend and explained my position. We could have talked about how we may be approaching a relationship from different directions. And we may have agreed to try anyway. Assuming my friend was honest, and didn't let emotion cloud her thoughts, we might have found a workable path for us both. And honestly, there is nothing wrong with that. What I did at that point was consider the possibilities if we could find a workable path. The feeling that remained for me was that even if we could give it a try I honestly didn't see myself loving her the way she was hoping I would. Final answer; it didn't feel like it would be fair to her.

Another aspect of the question that I mentioned above are outside factors such as SO's. Let's try another example. I have a friend who fell quickly in love with a married man she knows. (His marriage is openly polyamorous by the way). Their relationship went well until my friend began to integrate more deeply into her new SO's marriage and create a relationship with the wife. That is when my friend found out, to be blunt, the wife is a loon. (I know the wife personally and have been the focus of her loony behavior so this isn't conjecture or second-hand information). My friend quickly began to struggle with how her SO was treated by his wife. She wanted to interject herself and help her new SO stand up for himself against his loony wife. Her feelings opened a big can of worms to be sure. Was it her place to intercede in their relationship? Would it be ethical for her to do so? The question I posed to my friend was this; Poly people enjoy the variety of multiple relationships. It sounds as if you are imparting your morality and ethics on your new SO. If he is happy with his marriage what right do you have to interfere? And if you can't be involved with him without interfering, should you be involved with him?

For me the answer to that question is No. If I can't have a relationship with someone and accept how differently their other relationships function then I shouldn't be in a relationship with that person. To do so would create a lot of stress for both of us and in reality, I would want to change them. Always a dangerous proposal in my opinion. Could I remain in a relationship with that design? Sure. I could work on "fixing" what I see as problems. But does it really make sense? Not at all.

Polyamory inherently includes the possibility of multiple relationships. Freedom to be involved with others is awesome and can be heady so say the least. But with that freedom comes the need to act responsibly, both to you and to others. I believe that Polyamory opens us up to multiple relationship possibilities which require us to take a deeper look at those possibilities and realistically determine if they make sense. The flip side is that dismissing a potential relationship because it isn't a great fit doesn't diminish the ability to still have multiple relationships. Maybe a better, simpler way, to say it is this; quality is more satisfying than quantity. Which would you rather have, 1 or 2 awesome relationships or 4-5 mediocre relationships? Personally I would rather have the awesome relationships which still allow me time to explore other awesome relationships whereas overloading myself with mediocre relationships is a time suck that ends up limiting me to those mediocre relationships.

Quality not quantity, ethics and morality, and knowledge of self. In my mind those are the things that can make Polyamory not just successful, but satisfyingly beautiful as well.

Love well friends,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Entering negotiations.

The past couple of weeks have been pretty busy from a relationship perspective. Not to mention all the other stuff that life hands out to keep us busy like family commitments, work, kids, and on and on. I went on a couple of casual dates with ladies I know and have been interested in dating but haven’t yet. Although both were enjoyable, neither produced the kind of electric connection you would hope to establish with someone that would support a romantic relationship. Such is life in my opinion, no harm no foul.

Where things were more positive was with a woman I met a while back at a BDSM event. Though not someone who is active in the lifestyle, I have explored (including with my current partner) and am interested in learning more. When I heard this woman talk at the event she echoed interests similar to mine such as; building a trusting relationship first, exploring slowly and with emphasis on communication and feedback, not being very interested in a 24x7 or formalized arrangement, and not being interested in what I would call ‘extreme’ BDSM such as needles, cutting/branding, or really anything with pain involved. We are both interested in the psychological aspects of power exchange with a strong focus on sexual activity, rather than daily activities. We are both also quite interested in collaring in a D/s relationship.

The other night we were finally able to meet for dinner and have some conversation on the subject. I had seen her at another event a while back and mentioned that I was interested in what she had said at the BDSM event and would like to discuss things more, so she had an idea at least of what our conversation would be about.

I explained that I felt we were in a similar position with our BDSM or D/s experiences and interests and I would like to talk more about that with the goal of determining whether we could enter into a defined relationship for purposes of exploring those interests. She was agreeable and the conversation commenced!

Some of the things we discussed were:
-Past BDSM, D/s experiences.
-Our general focus. Were we interested in power-exchange, pain, domination, submission, etc. (We were both more focused on power-exchange and testing psychological limits).
-Was there a sexual focus for us both? In other words, would we be exploring in a sexual or non-sexual setting. (We were both sexual focused).
-Was there any interest in integrating our exploration into daily life? If collared, would she be a 24x7 sub, per scene? Would the D/s play extend beyond the bedroom and if so, to what limits?
-Would the relationship be strictly D/s, or would it include a romantic component?
-Would other partners be included in any way?
-What hard limits did we each have?
-What type of communication did we both need?
-Sexual safety including; partner history for the last couple of years, last testing date, contraceptive use, condoms/barriers, etc., and fluid bonding.
-Would the relationship be casual or formalized?

There were a lot of other things we discussed that are more difficult to define such as general feelings about knowing when to stop a scene, what constitutes pain, general likes and dislikes, things like that. We also agreed that were we to enter into such a relationship we would need to start slowly and build up some trust before we started pushing limits.

At this point we are both still thinking about things and have had some follow-up discussions via email when we have thought of new questions, or wanted to further clarify things.

If nothing else, I felt the conversations we had were handled very well by both of us. We both identify as polyamorous which I think helped our talks a lot. Both of us were quite open and honest about our likes and dislikes. When we had finished talking I felt refreshed at having had a very open, honest conversation with someone who doesn’t seem to have a hidden agenda. We were both happy to end our talk with the understanding that we would take a few days and think things over. I was pleasantly surprised that once the woman realized I had an interested in her that included sex, her attitude didn’t change. My experience has been that once you tell someone you are interested in sex with them they either pounce on you or run away. She did neither but continued to engage with me in an intelligent conversation.

So am I just bragging? No, I really do have a point to make here.

As regular readers here have heard me say before; I believe in defining relationships independently of one another. I hold that relationships should be defined by the parties in them. What I hope to have given you above is an example of how I’m applying that same belief to a relationship that isn’t specifically poly. Although the two of us discussing the relationship identify as poly, that isn’t the focus of the relationship, D/s is the focus. Polyamory may support us having the relationship and in that way will be respected, but it isn’t a defining characteristic of the relationship.

We did touch on my other partner briefly during our talks. (The woman I’ve mentioned here isn’t currently partnered). She actually knows my partner and knows my current partner is aware of our conversations and my hope they will result in a relationship.

So friends, take some of those wonderful things you learn from polyamory and apply them to other aspects of your life. And don’t be afraid to explore your interests. Remember, in any relationship you are in control. Control over your own happiness, fulfillment, desires, and needs. Define relationships that make sense to you and make you happy. Talk to potential partners about all aspects of the relationship you want to design, even the difficult things like sex and money, and look for the fit. If it isn’t there during your initial conversations chances are it won’t be there when the going gets tough or the NRE has worn off.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The shape of your Vee.

There is a reason I chose "paradigm" as one of the words in this blog title; I like the concept of looking at things from a different perspective and trying to understand a viewpoint or need that I previously didn't understand or even knew existed.

I had a nice paradigm shift recently when I was asked the following question; "What are the obstacles to entering a relationship, creating a Vee, with one partner of a married couple?"

The question itself, and how it was worded, gave me the impression the questioner was anticipating problems with the OSO in a Vee configuration. I hadn't really thought of it from that perspective so I enjoyed having a nice paradigm shift as I thought about answering the question.

I've always viewed my relationships as independent of one another, at least early in the relationship. I hope that my partners will get along, but it isn't necessary. And if they get along well enough to be friends, that is just awesome sauce on the top! For that reason I also approach new relationships a bit differently. I view them as independent, regardless of pre-existing partnerships, and hope to be friends with any OSO's, but don't feel it is a requirement.

So how do you enter into a new relationship with someone who has an OSO?

The first thing I would recommend to anyone contemplating a relationship with someone who has an OSO is to communicate openly with the potential new partner. Ask about their expectations, and how they envision a final design.

-Would there be a hierarchy involved from their perspective? Would you be in a Secondary type position or would the relationships and decisions within them carry equal weight?
-Do they expect everyone to be friends? More than friends? What happens if a friendship doesn't bloom?
-How would they expect to deal with disagreements or conflicts? Would they be the mediator in those situations or would you and the OSO be expected to work things out yourselves?

And of course there are other questions that personally I feel apply to any poly relationship. .

-Is the person prepared to deal with time management issues? How?
-We talked about their other partner but, what happens when you have one? Are they expecting to be an equal, a Secondary, or something else?
-If you acquire another partner, would they expect to work with that person, have a relationship, and solve difficulties directly if they expect that from you?

Those were some specific questions and thoughts so now let's talk more conceptually.

Monogamy is an intentionally static design. That is to say, a single person finds another single person with whom they share common interests. Should they feel an emotional attachment they create a bond, beneficial to them both in many ways. Negotiation of children is a part of the design, usually when it is created. Once the design is set it doesn't change.

Polyamory on the other hand can be much more dynamic, allowing of course for differences of design. Not only does the relationship grow, the potential for exponential growth is quite possible. As with above, two people join to form a union or partnership. Those same two may also each have another partner, growing the relationship to realistically now include 4 people. Add a partner for each of those people and we now count 6. Add children to the mix. . . I think you can see what I mean.

So what is the bottom line here? Approach any potential poly relationship with scalability in mind. (Yes, I'm throwing IT terms in here). Scalability means essentially the ability to adjust to accommodate future growth in a graceful manner without disruption to current activity. If you approach and design your relationships with scalability in mind from the beginning, adjusting to new partners will be much easier. It also makes some sense with the initial point of this article, entering into a relationship with someone who has an existing SO. The concept of scalability is a good basis for many of the questions that could, and should, be asked before entering the relationship. At the same time, their answers will help outline a roadmap to the future of the relationship and possible changes that can be expected down the road. And if questions of scalability can't be answered, maybe the potential new relationship isn't as strong a potential as it first appeared. At a minimum there is probably some serious negotiation around relationship design that need to take place.

As usual, remember your needs when negotiating any new relationship and you will have a better chance at durability and success.

What other things do you think factor into entering a relationship with someone who has an existing partner?