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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All in the Family

No, not the television show. Do you remember that one? Archie Bunker the bigoted, racist, stereotypical, hot-headed "father" of the family? I wonder what he would have thought of polyamory.

But, I digress. . .

I don't know how things are where you live but, where I live there is quite a good sized poly community. Or at the least, it is developing into a fairly large community. At the same time I'm often surprised at how small the community can be.

The other day I was talking with someone who has a fairly extended poly family. While trying to understand all the relationships, which resulted in a flowchart, we found a connection between our families that we didn't even realize existed. Initially I found this quite amusing but after some time pondering the connection I became mildly concerned. You see, the other family and I don't share the same views on sexual safety. From my perspective, they are a bit lax despite having some restrictive up-front requirements such as producing STD testing paperwork.

Let me step back and explain the scenario a bit.

Imagine a poly family with a core of of about 6 members. Those six members have all produced STD testing paperwork to one another and many are fluid bonded. Most of those six however have other partners which may or may not have produced testing paperwork, and may or may not be fluid bonded. Many have more than 1 other partner. Doing the math that family already includes upward of 15 people at the second level. Add another level and that number almost doubles. The perception within that family is that because paperwork has been provided by the core group, and by most of those who have fluid bonded, they are sexually safe. To a certain point I agree.

But here is where I disagree. STD testing as proof of safety relies on a static situation but, people are dynamic. That's to say if someone is tested then adds no new partners who have other partners then yes, they are probably quite safe. But as soon as anyone is added who hasn't been tested the paperwork from their last STD test is for the most part worthless. Add in the delayed presentation of some diseases and it would be quite difficult to even get retested accurately for several months. Even then, any confidence in safety would again require a static situation for those past several months.

Though I admire the core group for their insistence on paperwork it made me wonder if they are truly safe or placing faith in a process that is at least mildly logically flawed, in my opinion. On the other hand, they are probably safer than many out there so am I being overly cautious and pessimistic?

The question I was left with was this; At what point does an extended poly family become a concern? How big can it grow, and how many levels should be evaluated, when considering safety?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Push and pull

Usually when I'm attracted to someone I pay attention to them. Maybe we hang out more often or I will call them regularly. During the initial phases we will probably flirt a bit, try to sit next to each other, and maybe touch more frequently. Essentially, we enjoy spending time together and start to show affection as our interest increases.

But every once in a while someone different comes along.

The someone I met recently did a lot of the things I already mentioned. The flirting was good, the touching was nice. But then something happened that threw me for a loop, I was pushed away. I noticed that almost every time something nice happened something a bit mean would happen soon after. I would be pinched, punched, pushed, or talked down to. Or even worse, the other person would get upset with me for reasons I couldn't completely understand.

The culmination of this strange behavior was when the person, after pretty much ignoring me during an evening with friends and shamelessly hanging all over the male in the other couple, seemed to get upset with me when I didn't want to get intimate with her. What can I say, I just wasn't feeling it at the time. Watching someone I'm interested in throw themselves at someone else isn't a turn-on for me.

That got me to thinking about intimacy in general and how we deal with potential relationships.

I think most of us become affectionate when we feel a click with someone and want to pursue more than a friendship. But again, there are those that instead use jealousy or maybe feel that any kind of physical contact is good, even if it is painful.

I know for myself that affection does a lot more to acquire my interest than pain or rudeness does. And I've noticed when I'm cranky I have the same effect on my partners. When I started writing this I thought I'd have some interesting insight here but I don't. Really, I'm just confused and I guess I'm looking to you wonderful readers to give me your thoughts.

Why do you think some people act this way, pushing someone away and expecting it to have the opposite effect? Are you excited and interested or turned-off when someone is pinching, pushing, and verbally absuing you? Does someone intentionally making you jealous by hanging over someone else in front of you make you want them more?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Faith

Maybe this isn't an entirely poly article but then again, maybe it will turn into one.

I'm a happy person. I like to discuss problems and difficulties in my life but don't usually whine a lot. On any given day if you see me at the coffee machine and ask how I am you will get a silly response like "awesome, how are you?" or "Just another day in paradise, you?". I'm not one to just pop out and start complaining about burnt toast, the price of gasoline, or how my knee hurts.

But even the eternally happy, have a day now and then when they want to bitch. A day where they can be the whiner.

The supporter needs to lean on someone once in a while. The listener needs to be heard sometimes. Almost everyone has an off day, or is out of character at times. But I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about others. What do you do when someone you are familiar with is acting out of character? Do you recognize that something isn't quite right and try to be supportive? Or do you have little patience for someone who is acting out of sorts?

What is interesting about being poly is the variety of roles you are sometimes required to play in a day. You may have one partner who is usually always happy but having a down day. You will need to be the supporter, the listener. You may have another partner who is struggling with a problem and you will need to provide wisdom or play devil's advocate. Between all of that, you have your own emotional needs which could be strong on that same day requiring you to find someone to lean on. That's where things get tough.

It is often hard to see past our own needs to support someone else. If you are having a bad day and need support, interaction with your partner needing advice may not go so well. They are wanting to talk about a particular problem and have you focused whereas you are wanting to talk about the bad day you are having. Putting your own problems aside for a few moments to help with theirs can be a challenge.

When in that situation I try to have faith that once I help my partner or friend, they are going to return the favor and help me with what I need. To have a relationship I need to know that support is a two-way street. If I'm always supporting but never being supported I quickly lose interest and feel the relationship is one-sided. When I see that happening I'm usually pretty quick to speak up and ask for support. I think some people don't recognize needs in others easily so I'm willing to make sure I communicate mine and ensure there is no doubt. If I still don't get the support I need things are probably not going to last long.

My message to you today is a simple one. . . support your partners. Try to see past your own needs and help others first. I'm not saying you shouldn't get your needs met, simply that ensuring you are meeting the emotional needs of your partners will go a long way toward maintaining a strong relationship. And letting them go first for once might just mean a lot to them. Once they are done then your needs can be met so don't worry, you won't be left hanging. Have faith.