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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why should I care who you sleep with?


Recently I was talking with a partner of mine about her potential new lover who is a contradiction to her normal tastes and desires. Being a bit confused, I asked some questions to which I got a response that surprised me. Referring to her potential new partner she said, "We are poly. You know I'm going to sleep with other people so I didn't think you would care."

That got me to thinking about conversations I've had with potential new partners of my own. One of my relationship rules is that I know about any new sexual partners they acquire before we have sex together again. Let me be clear with that one. It isn't that I must know before they have sex with a new partner (though that is my preference), I want to know they have had sex with a new partner before I have sex with them again so I can gauge my feelings about safety. Often the response I get to that rule is much like the one my current partner gave; "You're poly. Why would you care if I sleep with someone else?"

I realized I hear that response enough I've become desensitized by it. I fall naturally into a conversation about safety after that, explaining that I will probably want to know about the person and what conversations were had so I can decide if I still feel safe having sex with them or not.

But safety concerns aside, why wouldn't I care? Yes, inherently a poly relationship usually assumes multiple sexual partners by both parties. But as I state clearly during the "interview process" with a potential new partner; I don’t simply want a physical relationship, I want a loving relationship and the emotional connection that goes with it.

If I love you, why wouldn't I care about with whom you are having sex? Isn't it normal to care about your partner's safety? To be interested in their life, including their loves? Shouldn't I want to share in their joy and the happy energy it creates? Just because I feel that people shouldn't be limited to the number of relationships they can have, and that includes the physical aspect of those relationships, doesn't mean I don't care about those relationships.

Where that concerns me some is that I wonder if the person making the statement fully understands Polyamory. Were we engaging in a casual physical relationship I might understand their response better. The same with a Swing oriented relationship or a specific "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" agreement. But Polyamory, mine anyway, is about multiple loving relationships. If I love someone I want to be a part of all aspects of their life. A response like "Why would you care if I sleep with someone else?" gives me the impression that they believe sex is largely meaningless to me, to them, or that I don't care about their actions. All of which couldn't be further from the truth.

Have you run into this before? How do you feel about the statement "Why would you care if I sleep with someone else?" Do you think this is simple confusion or an indication of a bigger problem?

(image from nwso.net)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Weird rules.



Those who read here regularly have probably figured out I find rules fascinating. I'm a fairly logical person so rules make sense and provide me an anchor point. But because I'm logical, sometimes rules just don't make sense if they are based on emotion.

Recently I was in another one of "those" conversations where rules were being discussed. The originator of the conversation seemed to be taking the position that a lot of relationship rules are created primarily as a means of limiting a partner or of promoting feelings of ownership with a partner. For example, a rule such as "The only person allowed to go down on me is my husband."

At first glance we might assume the husband has an issue that resulted in his creating this rule. Maybe he is worried that his wife will find out he isn't as good at oral sex as she had thought, stemming from an insecurity on his part. Possibly he feels if she finds a partner who is better at it than he is she will prefer the new partner. Or maybe it is an infrequent act for him and his wife finding a new partner who enjoys it regularly would be a threat. Or maybe he simply is a control freak and creating this rule is simply an exercise in control. We could go on and on, coming up with an almost limitless number of reasons for the husband to create this rule.

The problem I see here is that an assumption has been made that the husband created the rule. More specifically, he created it based on what most would consider to be negative needs. What if he didn't?

It is entirely possible the wife made this rule and it could easily be restated as “I feel oral sex is particularly intimate and it is something I only want to share with my husband”. At that point the assumption the rule was created out of ownership or control issues is invalid. The woman has decided what she will and will not do with her own body.

The problem here is not with the rule, it is with the assumption that the rule was created for what some would consider negative reasons and judged as having no value. I have seen a fair number of people who make these types of assumptions and/or judgments then argue that a rule is without value or even try to change the mind of the person with the rule. Some will even refuse a relationship with someone who has other relationship rules they feel are illogical. Things which I believe are patently unfair. (Note: I will refuse a relationship with someone who has pre-existing relationship rules that directly conflict with my needs from a relationship).

But what if the husband really did create the rule based on his need for ownership or control? Does that change the function of the rule from my perspective? Many would feel pity for the woman in this situation and think she was being unfairly limited by her husband. But wait a second, she agreed to the rule! If she hadn't, she wouldn't be in the relationship right? If both parties in the relationship agreed to the rule then they must feel it is fair and reasonable. They must feel the rule has value for their relationship, which I respect completely.

Does that mean a rule that doesn't make sense or isn't logical to me isn't valid? Not in the least. I tend to try and approach pre-existing relationship rules a bit differently. I try to remember that I was not a part of the decision making process that created the rule, or involved in the intimate conversation between a couple from which a rule may be born. I may never know or understand the base reason for the creation of the rule, and that's okay. Whatever the reason for the rule, they have both agreed to it as a means to support their relationship. That is why I accept pre-existing relationship rules at face value. Out of curiosity or to better understand a rule I may ask why it was created, but I'm not going to take issue with the rule simply because it conflicts with my own logic or beliefs.

The flip-side to this is how people approach my pre-existing relationship rules. If they extensively question or attempt to judge the rules in my relationships I will try to answer their questions and defend the rules as best I can. At the same time I will probably be adding the person to my mental "Do Not Touch" list as someone with questionable respect for my pre-existing relationships and rules.

Where do you fit into the rules? Do you accept pre-existing relationship rules without question, or do you evaluate them for logic? Do you reject those with rules you consider unreasonable, or only if they conflict with your relationship needs? And what is the strangest relationship rule you have ever heard? (The strangest I ever heard was a woman that was allowed only to have anal sex with partners other than her Primary).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lifestyles of the Polyamorous


Lately I've seen the following question come up in more than a few conversations. "Is Polyamory a lifestyle or an orientation?"

Let's first take a look at the dictionary definitions from the good folks at Merriam-Webster:
Definition of LIFESTYLE
: the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture

Definition of ORIENTATION
1
a : the act or process of orienting or of being oriented b : the state of being oriented; broadly : arrangement, alignment
2
a : a usually general or lasting direction of thought, inclination, or interest b : a person's self-identification as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual
3
: change of position by organs, organelles, or organisms in response to external stimulus

Often I look at the two words, as they relate to sexual or relationship issues, as follows:

Lifestyle = Implies a choice was made to follow a particular way of living that one enjoys.
Orientation = Implies an inherent predisposition by a person in which choice was not involved.

As an example: One could choose to be a vegetarian for health reasons despite a fondness for meat. In that example vegan is their lifestyle, carnivore is their orientation. (Strangely, in this example the two seem somewhat contradictory).

Back to the question, is polyamory a lifestyle or an orientation?

My impulse is to answer that polyamory is a lifestyle. Assuming orientation is an inherent sexual preference, someone may be bi-sexual, homosexual, or heterosexual yet still be polyamorous. Those same people could also be monogamous, enjoy open relationships, or prefer the swing community which to me emphasizes poly being a lifestyle or choice, sexual preference being an orientation or inherent.

Interestingly enough I actually believe that for me, and others, polyamory is an orientation. I was involved in poly relationships before I knew what poly was. I've tried being monogamous and although I can do it, I don't enjoy it and feel something is lacking. For me, polyamory is natural and inherent. As much so as my sexuality.

On the flip side of the coin, I believe there are people out there who have chosen polyamory. It isn't something that came to them naturally and they have had to learn how to be poly. For them I would call polyamory a lifestyle.

Now let's test my definitions and theories on Swing. Can someone be bi-sexual, homosexual, or heterosexual and exist in the Swing community? Of course. Can those same people choose not to be in the Swing community? Of course. Sounds like Swing is a lifestyle as well.

But this is where I think it gets more complicated. Orientation, for our purposes, typically refers to sexual orientation. Those who chose to live a Swing life do so because sexually they enjoy multiple partners. Emotionally, they often remain exclusive or monogamous. This would suggest Swing is more of an orientation due to the sexual focus.

Polyamorists on the other hand prefer multiple relationships which usually include sex, but aren't typically specifically created for the purpose of sex, and emotional components. Though this doesn't suggest polyamory is an orientation, it doesn't suggest it is a lifestyle either.

I quoted someone recently as saying "Polyamory is a lifestyle, Swing is an orientation". I really liked that quote and thought it explained a lot of the differences between the two, as well as the continued animosity between those groups. I've also come to realize it may be an over-simplification based primarily on the common sexuality found within each group. That can be proven if you remove sexuality from the definition of both Swing and Polyamory, which seems to render the quote pointless as sex is a basis for the definition of Swing. That would indicate Swing is an orientation, Polyamory is a lifestyle.

What does all of that mean? Not much really. I find the conversation interesting and stimulating because it helps define terms. Intellectually it is a bit of a challenge but beyond that does it mean anything? Probably not. People will live their lives as they see fit, definitions be damned. And whether Polyamory is a lifestyle, an orientation, or simply a deviation doesn't change its valuation.

What's your vote? Polyamory; lifestyle or orientation? What about Swing; lifestyle or orientation?


Friday, January 21, 2011

Legally Monogamous Polyamorous marriage


A while back I wrote an article that talked about divorce rates and to say I was surprised by the numbers is a mild understatement. I was even more surprised that given the current divorce rate, people still get married. (By the way, I'm talking about marriage in the U.S. only).

Think about that for a second. If you were buying a car and I told you there was a 50% chance the car would break down and be completely useless in a year, would you buy it? If I told you there was a 50% chance the house you were buying might burn down in the next year, would you still plunk down 20% and take out a six figure mortgage? Then again, if you were dying of an incurable disease and I told you there was a 50% chance an experimental vaccination might cure you I'm guessing you would give it a shot. But people who are getting married, in general, aren't dying of a terminal illness right? So why do they do it?

I think maybe the biggest reason is that legal marriage is the most commonly, and only legally in most states, recognized form of union between people in the U.S. It is also the most socially recognized form of union. If you want your friends and relatives to know you are committed to someone, you marry them.

But that is where I think a lot of problems begin, rather than end. For some I think the bond of marriage doesn't so much involve a commitment between two people as it does an expectation of commitment. An assumption that because I've married you, you are mine. I don't have to worry any longer about you straying. Because there is a ring on your finger prospective suitors will see it and walk away. A false sense of security supported by a legal contract of marriage is created. A byproduct or sub-category of this is that maybe marriage creates feelings of ownership. That you now have input as to what your partner can do with their body and emotions.

After everyone says "I do", they don't. They stop trying and relax, assuming that since the goal of marriage was achieved they can quit trying so hard. Relying on those false feelings of security and ownership, they don't put as much energy into the relationship anymore. In some ways, it is taken for granted. And when problems start to peek out the sense of security and ownership allows them to be overlooked and ignored because after all, we are married. Committed to each other. Legally bound to love forever. Right?

That is probably about the time things explode and another couple adds to the 50% divorce rate.

I'm curious if those same factors would contribute to divorce rates if poly marriage was legalized. I wonder if because another partner was involved people would continue to put energy into their relationships. Maybe the feelings of ownership and security would be diminished because they were sharing their partner with another. Would there even be feelings of ownership and security? I think those feelings as they apply to monogamous marriage have a lot to do with physical fidelity. With polyamory physical fidelity is often a different animal from the start so maybe they wouldn't even exist.

My experience with polyamory is that a lot more effort must be put into relationships. The reality, in my mind, is that if you want to keep your partner who probably has another lover, you need to put energy into keeping your relationship interesting and fulfilling. The expectations of commitment and security don't seem to be as strong with Polyamory as they do with Monogamy for some reason. I'm not saying you have to constantly step it up a notch to keep your partner, but simply that you can't fall back on the expectation of commitment. Maybe a better way of saying that is with polyamory keeping your partner satisfied so they have no reason to end the relationship is more important than simply attaining the relationship, which seems to be the goal of a lot of folks who get married. A large part of that, ironically, may be due to the lack of a legal marriage.

So where are you with this one? Do you think marriage helps create feelings of ownership and security? Do you see those same feelings in Polyamorous relationships? Would reasons and numbers of divorce remain about the same if poly marriage were legalized or would they change?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The juicy details.


The other night I went on a date with Lucy and we had an awesome time! We had such great conversation at dinner that we decided to go back to her place and continue talking. Well, one drink turned to two and the next thing I knew we were making out on the couch! She is such a good kisser she really blew my mind! And then she blew. . . well, you know. I was amazed how good she is in bed. The woman can bend like a gymnast! And she did this thing in the middle of sex I have GOT to tell you about. . .

That is probably not the conversation you want to have with one of your partners about a date you had. And if you have had that kind of conversation with your partner, count yourself lucky. You either have a very easygoing partner, a very solid relationship, or both. I'm assuming it must be one of those because anything less and they probably would have murdered you in your sleep and you wouldn't be reading this.

The topic today, if you haven't guessed it already, is how much detail to give your partner about a date you have had. This will probably apply to the question of how much detail to give your partner about time you spend with your other partner(s), or OSO's if you prefer.

From the example above it is easy to imagine getting carried away and giving your partner far more information than they ever wanted. Seeing the horrified look on their face, or tears running down their cheeks, is not the time to realize you overstepped and told them too much.

The only hard rule I have about dates, or time with OSO's, is that I want to know it happened. I also make it clear to my partners from the beginning that I won't hide time I spend with others and will at least casually mention I had a "date". From there I usually follow the guidelines below.

I prefer to let my partner tell me how much detail they would like. Then I usually give them just a bit less than what they have asked for. If they respond by asking for more details I will give more but again, just a bit less than what they asked for. This allows them to guide the conversation and stop it before they acquire more information than they want. It also assumes they will stop themselves before getting information that will hurt them.

I follow it up by asking how the information makes them feel, and if they have concerns or feelings about it that we need to discuss. Did I give them too much detail? Did I do anything they didn't like? And if I need to change how we talked, what should I do different in the future?

For me, this method has worked well but I think it important to note that it is only one small piece of dealing with jealousy and other issues.

I've heard of couples that have "Don't ask, don't tell" type rules where neither party wants to know anything, particularly details. I've found I do better with some information but maybe not the nitty-gritty details. Insufficient information and my imagination runs wild, I end up feeling jealous. To much information and I begin to question if I need to change my behavior to make my partner happier, acting more like the person they have told me about.

I have also heard of couples that like every detail, down to every kiss and caress, because it adds excitement to their relationship. I'm not completely sure how that works so I can't comment on it much other than to say if it works for them, yay!

So what type of detail do you provide your partners? Is there a method you use, and what is it? Maybe more importantly, what do you not do to preserve your partners happiness when having conversations about your dates?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Polyamory is for idiots!



Did that get your attention? Did your blood start pumping? Did you think about how badly you were going to rip me once the article opened up? Maybe get sweaty palms or think "Oh great, another arrogant jerk on a crusade"?

Good. That was the point. Now we can get down to business in a way that will make more sense.

Chances are you are reading this electronically. Most probably on a PC, laptop, or a mobile device. Our world has become largely electronic and communication is at or very close to the center of that electronic world. Want information on something? "Google it" is what you will be told. So vast is the information that if you can imagine it, you can probably find it on the Internet. Personally I'm glad I'm not an inventor, I just don't know how they do it anymore.

Along with that information and our hunger for communication is the desire for immediate gratification. Yes, electronically most of us are like 5 yr olds in a candy store. The only better piece of candy is a faster one. So we have forums, chats, blogs, discussions, and a dozen other options for communicating faster, more conveniently, and creatively about a plethora of subjects as we see fit.

What a lot of people don't realize however is that a comment on one of these sites is like an STD. Yep, it is the nastiest, ugliest, and one of the most persistent diseases you will ever find. It will infect you and others around you. It will hide away only to come back months or even years later and infect all over again. If you are lucky the damage will be minimal, if not you will pay the price in devastation for a very long time.

I know, you think I'm nuts. Wouldn't be the first time, right? Let me give you an example. I say in a chat room that someone has an STD. As we all know, you can't delete that message. Once the chat scrolls away it will be gone, assuming nobody is logging the chat. The person I'm talking about will try to defend themselves
and people who know them will believe they don't have an STD. Those who don't know them won't believe them. Or, maybe some will and some won't. But their reputation has been tarnished forever. There is no way they can ever erase that. Same example in a forum but instead of chat scrolling away into the ether, the post becomes older and older falling down on the list until most will never see it. That is until someone who is bored and reading through old posts finds it and makes a comment, resurrecting the thread. Or maybe the forum is search engine indexed and pops up in searches for years down the road. The bottom line once again is that conceptually a comment on the internet in a public place is very much like a virus. The right comment can live in infamy almost forever.

The problem I'm seeing lately is people starting chats, forums, etc. for some very honorable purposes. They are trying to build a sense of community, foster open communication, build relationships, and many other good reasons. But at the same time these people often don't have a clue what they are doing. They create these sites then walk away assuming little moderation is required or even worse, that a site will self-moderate. If you are starting a site about a specific topic and don't mind letting the conversation go where it will that is fine. If you start a site hoping to build something, you have set yourself up for potential disaster. Back to the STD analogies, acting in this way would be similar to never wearing condoms for sex because after all you "only pick the nice partners". A nice game of Russian Roulette anyone?

The other day on a forum I saw a comment in which the poster had used a derogatory term. I wasn't offended, it was no big deal, but this was a site about fostering community and bringing folks together with a common interest. I quickly replied to the comment indicating it was questionable, which generated a reply from the group owner asking why I said that. I took the conversation private and explained how the comment could be questionable and inflammatory and should probably be removed which he did rather quickly. In all, I believe the comment was only visible on the forum for an hour or two. Not a big deal right? A few days later I happened to be socializing in real life with people from the forum and guess what one of the biggest topics of the night was? That's right, the mysterious disappearing post.

What people don't seem to realize is that on the Internet arrogance, ignorance, or even inflammatory statements can often provoke a greater response than mild, happy, loving statements. A simple mistake such as using the wrong word can lead you to being labeled, judged, and outcast faster than you can hit the spell-check button. As a moderator of one of the type of sites I'm talking about we need to be aware of this in order to proactively maintain reasonable conversation. Not to protect folks from their own ignorance, but to keep the conversation flowing in a well intentioned direction. If not for the reasons mentioned already, then to simply avoid having your site destroyed by someone with nothing better to do than meddle. Yes, there are people out there who get perverse satisfaction from posting purposefully inflammatory remarks to sites simply to see if they can evoke a hearty response. If they do well enough and cause enough disruption that the site is no longer used it makes them even happier and is considered the most prized victory. I've seen it happen more than once in my long history as both a paid and volunteer moderator.

I'm saying all of this because I want you all to succeed. Whether you are a site owner, moderator, or simply a contributor. Think about what you are saying and how you are saying it. Individual words are important but tone is as well. And if you are an owner/moderator, pay attention to what is being posted. Don't ignore your sites or you may come back to find them in ruin. If you see a questionable post, copy and delete it. Then contact the poster and tell them your concerns. If you end up making a mistake and deleting something in error, the copy you made will allow you to repost it while explaining your mistake, or allow the original writer to repost. And finally, think about where you are posting. Some sites encourage lively discussion and it won't scare anyone away. Other sites that are trying to create or build community or communication may be much more fragile. Adjust your communications for your audience.

Don't be an electronic STD, but don't catch one either :)

PP

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Marriage with a side of Divorce


A friend recently sent me an article/interview from Norway in which Jim Sheehan, a family therapist, talks about causes of divorce in Norway. Below is a link to the article which, unless you speak the language, will need to be translated. www.nrk.no/nyheter/norge/1.7431364

The article got me to thinking about divorce rates in the U.S. which I've understood to be around 50%, so I did a little research:

DivorceRate.org

The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs second or third marriage:
50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.

According to enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America:
The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%

Divorce Reform site
Per capita divorce rates 1990-2002:
1991, 0.47%
1992, 0.48%
1993, 0.46%
1994, 0.46%
1995, 0.46%
1995, 0.43%
1997, 0.43%,
1998, 0.42%,
1999, 0.41%,
2000, 0.41%,
2001, 0.40%,
2002, 0.38%

Admittedly those numbers aren't "golden" by any means. There is a lot of disagreement over how the numbers are even calculated. For example: Should the annual number of divorces be compared to annual number of marriages, or to all existing marriages. With two people getting a divorce does that count as one divorce, or two?

I don't really want to focus on the numbers and debate calculations. Most of the statistics I saw indicated that although calculations differ, the general feeling is that the divorce rate is somewhere between 40%-50% and if it isn't at that level now, it will be very soon. So for purposes of this article I'm going to assume a divorce rate between 40%-50%.

What I'm thinking about is the concept of legal marriage. (I'm thinking I'll dive deeper into causes in another article).

Let's say you are in charge of making rules. If you make a rule is made that is broken by 40-50% of the people governed by the rule, is the rule valid? With a debatable fifty percent divorce rate, does current marriage law make sense? Personally I make rules for myself and my kids and when a rule is being continuously broken I know that either the rule is invalid or something else needs to change to allow the rule to be valid and unbroken.

In the case of legal marriage and divorce I don't see the environment changing much. There are those who would argue the problem isn't the law, it is society. That if people are getting divorced at such a high rate it is due to the failure of family as a priority, or something similar. I agree, but for a slightly different reason. I think society has changed. In my opinion, changing the mentality behind marriage and divorce is unlikely therefore it is the rule that must change. Of course, overcoming the social paradigm of such a concept so far has proven impossible. There is also the challenge that much of our legal system, insurance industry, and on and on are constructed around the concept of a two person legal marriage. And a divorce is simply a way to extract yourself from that system by letting the entities using the system know what you have done in a formal manner.

Nonetheless, things don't seem to be working. Why not open legal marriage to include multiple partners? Erase the paradigm created by society from birth of; marriage, fidelity, and monogamy. Maybe if legal marriage is changed people will quit getting divorces because they won't fear being judged by peers and society based on an outdated standard. In other words, if the rule isn't working change the rule and you may also enjoy a change of perception that was previously supported by the rule despite common sense.

But is that going to happen? Probably not unless the government can figure out a way to make it pay better. Let's face facts. The government is collecting a fee for every marriage. The divorce lawyers and government are collecting court costs etc. for every divorce. The construct is making them money and we all know the government doesn't like losing a revenue stream. Interestingly enough, additional fees from the inclusion of more marriage types would likely rise. It would be, theoretically, revenue from divorces that would decline if fewer took place.

So, the question of the day is this; do you believe the current marriage and divorce laws are still valid? Should they be changed? Why, or why not?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A small, small world.


I've said it before and I'll say it again; as big as the poly community feels sometimes, it is actually pretty small.

Let's face it, polyamory is still a minority lifestyle. The Poly community is growing and becoming more vocal. There is more of a presence in media of all types, legal battles are being fought, and blogs like this one are springing up every day. Yet I'd venture a guess that most of the average people out there walking around still don't know exactly what Polyamory is about. That is why it is important for us to continue to build the community.

Some things happening in my area lately got me to thinking about the poly community. There have been some poly groups having issues, others doing so well they have become cumbersome, and even others that are starting over with new direction.

One of the first things I noticed about one of these groups was their self-proclamation of being a "community leader". That sounds wonderful but in reality you can't just say it, you have to do it. Having a group, no matter the size, that is exclusive rather than inclusive either by design or default negates the ability of that group to be a community leader. We all know, actions speak louder than words. To truly be a community leader you have to be prepared to respond to the needs of the community. If the group has grown to a cumbersome level the reasonable response would be to add more meeting times in the hopes of spreading attendance. A negative response would be to try and find a way to limit participation back to a manageable number, or creating independent offshoot groups with no relation to the parent group.

One of the questions I think any group should ask itself, particularly one self-labeling as a "community leader" is; who is our community?
Does community just mean those who are members of the group or does it include those who aren't members yet? Is community defined by geography? If you don't know and define your community it is difficult to serve that community.

The next question I would recommend asking the group is; what is/are our goal(s)? Are we spreading awareness or goodwill? Will we be a physically active group, such as sponsoring highway cleanup and activities, or will we be an intellectual group focusing on advertising and marketing?

What I've seen recently are groups claiming to be community leaders but not exhibiting that behavior. Groups with problems have withdrawn into themselves in an attempt to protect their members and image. Instead maybe they should have drawn on their community for support and help. Other groups have taken a defensive stance when the idea of new groups in their area have been suggested rather than seeing it as an opportunity to build community and lending their expertise. In the case of new groups in an established area the first word often heard is "competition" which is probably the exact wrong direction to take. "Cooperation" should probably be the word used.

Another piece of the puzzle is people. If people in a group, whatever form that group takes, act simply as participants without interest in actively supporting the group or the community outside the group things will stagnate. That isn't to say participants aren't needed because they are. Simply that if the entire group, or even the majority, are only participants the idea of community may be lost on the group.

So how do you not just be a participant in your community? Join a group and take an active role. Help run the group, organize things, market the group, or just take a supportive role lending a hand as needed. In the case of groups that host events such as festivals there is almost always a need for someone to help at whatever level they feel comfortable. If you aren't part of a formal group, join an informal group such as an online group or even online forums related to your interest but be active in the group by joining discussions. However you feel comfortable contributing there is probably a way for you to do so within your comfort level. The important part is that you do participate and contribute in whatever form that takes.

This article is a bit disjointed as I review it for posting. I think that is because the concept of community can be so big and there are such a large number of ways to be involved with community. There are probably many more ways than I can even imagine to foster community! My goal here was to get you thinking about the poly community and your role in that community. Will you be a participant just watching from the sidelines, will you be a supporter working behind the scenes, or will you be a leader braving the way for others?

I'm also interested in hearing your ideas about community. What would be your plan for helping polyamory become a larger, more recognized and socially accepted community? Have you, or a group you are in, done something that worked particularly well to create a sense of community or help others in what you define as 'community'?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Standard Deviation


An interesting conversation I had with one of my partners the other day exposed an interesting theory.

It seems some people prefer to measure potential partners against a predetermined mental list of criteria, quickly dismissing those who don't satisfactorily measure up. I call this person Low Risk in terms of entertaining the possibility of a relationship.

Another type of person is willing to entertain the possibility of a relationship with most anyone who isn't an obvious mismatch. Their approach to relationships is that the result can't be known without actually attempting a relationship. I call this person High Risk in relationship terms, as they are willing to take the risk of a relationship with just about anyone. Obviously these two types are not all-inclusive but rather general and broad in definition.

Where it gets really interesting is in comparing the two styles. The Low Risk person will appear to be quite selective, often seeming to dismiss potential matches easily. They can appear conservative or even dismissive when it comes to engaging physically. The High Risk person on the other hand may appear to dive into relationships quickly, including the physical aspects, and are more prone to heartbreak. They are often judged as loose or promiscuous by their quick involvement with others and number of relationships.

Putting these two types of people together in a relationship may seem like a contradiction and with some, it could even cause some serious problems. The chances of these two types of people judging each other as incompatible for a relationship seems pretty high. However, I have been in a relationship that had these two types and it functioned because we didn't judge each other. We understood they are simply two different styles and both are valid, functional models. At the same time the differences can cause confusion. The Low Risk person may have a hard time understanding why the High Risk person is diving into relationships quickly while the High Risk person may not understand why the Low Risk person seems to frequently dismiss relationship opportunities. Furthermore, the Low Risk person may become frustrated with the frequent emotional turmoil experienced by the High Risk person around their relationships while the High Risk person may feel the Low Risk person is stagnant or even avoiding relationships.

Another aspect to this theory is that either person can change their behavior and shift to the other type. I have often seen people consciously make the decision to either take more risks when it comes to relationships, or to be more careful. This leads to the probability that there some who are a balance between the two types, artfully managing risk and reward against their needs.

Do you agree with this theory? Do you fall solidly into either category or are you a person capable of blending the two? Have you, or do you, switch between the types?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Passively Active Polyamorist

Lately I've been trying to listen to people a bit differently when they talk about polyamory. A lot of conversations I hear, and have, compare polyamory to swing. A lot of relationships also seem to have some overlap with the swinging lifestyle. At the same time, I've noticed two different perspectives on the question of poly vs. swing which has led me to a new theory. And no, I'm not going to try and settle the argument or bash either type.

What I'm thinking is that there may be two mentalities when it comes to polyamory. By the way, I'm talking about a specific set of feelings here and not encompassing the entire picture with respect to either poly or swing so I admit there are other aspects my theory may not address or include.

My theory is this. . .
There is one type of person practicing polyamory who has a conscious desire for multiple, fully involved partnerships. With intent and desire, they strive to continuously have multiple relationships. An important factor to this type of person is the variety of physical intimacy found with multiple partners. I would call this Active Polyamory.

The second type of person doesn't pursue multiple relationships with intent. Instead they literally don't possess the ability to deny feelings of love when experienced. Rather than actively seeking out relationships they prefer to allow for the possibility when they meet someone, allowing partnerships to evolve naturally. I would call this Passive Polyamory.

To expand on the theory a bit, the first type of person would be more inclined to have a swing component or aspect to their relationships. Their desire would include the physical aspect of relationships as strongly as it does the emotional connection, yet their poly beliefs may include some type of separation between emotional and physical relationships. This would allow for the possibility of more casual or physically focused relationships in addition to traditionally balanced physical and emotional relationships.

The second person wouldn't have such a separation between physical and emotional relationship components. They would likely require both aspects for a successful relationship and may even decline relationships that have a strong physical component yet lack a satisfying emotional connection.

The difference I'm proposing would help explain the never ending controversy between swing and poly. The Active Poly with a strong swing component in their beliefs would probably feel swing and poly overlap. The Passive Poly would likely believe that swing and poly are two completely different lifestyles and are possibly incompatible.

What do you think about this theory? Maybe? Maybe not? Do I need psychological counseling?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011

2011

Happy New Year everyone!
May love and happiness grow strong in your life throughout the New Year, 2011!!

PP