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Monday, December 31, 2012

Broken Agreement


This one popped up elsewhere lately and I thought it would be good to share. . .

Let me say first of all this is a general “Troubleshooting Guide” I often use. As with any relationship issue, there are always variables and as such this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive, applies to every situation process. It is entirely possible steps will be out of order, skipped, or modified depending upon the individual situation. Think of this instead as a starting point when you have that “I don’t know what to do!” feeling.

Question: What should you do when your Primary breaks an agreement and rather than telling you they have done so, you stumble upon the truth?

First, I try to remember to reserve judgment. In this case things were found out about by accident, not in a controlled manner. I would want to know why. Though on the surface it may sound like deception, maybe there were other reasons; waiting for the right time, wanted to discuss it in person not on the phone, etc. What I’m not trying to do here is assign blame or guilt but just simply start to understand things.

Second, I would try to understand *why* I am upset. Is it the actual *whatever* that happened? Is it that I feel deceived? Was it the way I found out? Understanding what exactly is making me twitchy helps me to focus on the real problem. In the past I’ve found the strong emotional reaction I think I’m having to something is actually a reaction to something else. In this example I might be upset at feeling I was lied to, rather than whatever was done that actually broke our agreement. In actuality, I would be reacting to the agreement we are honest with each other, rather than an agreement about a specific activity (assuming that is what happened here).

Third, I would evaluate the agreement itself. Why did we have that agreement? Was it an agreement I wanted, or simply one to which I agreed to support my partner? Typically if I make an agreement it is to prevent passing one of my Hard Limits.
Hard Limits usually have one of two reactions from me:
1) Point of no return, relationship over.
2) Relationship can potentially be salvaged, but only if specific actions are taken. 
For example; Unsafe sexual activity. If I’ve been lied to about unsafe sexual activity; relationship over. If my partner has engaged in unsafe sexual activity but told me before we have been physical together again so I can evaluate my risk; relationship possibly salvageable after testing and discussion.

Remembering the reason for the agreement often dictates my actions and helps me determine what discussion is actually required, if any.

At this point I’m ready to have a discussion about the problem with the other person. I have the foundation from which to work so we can have a deep conversation about what happened. I have put my emotions in perspective and applied some logic to the situation. In our deep conversation I should now be able to temper my emotions a bit and, working with my partner, determine how we move forward and if we do so together.

First, why did they break the agreement? What was going through their mind at the time? I ask them to explain the situation, setting, and mindset to me. Again, I’m not judging or assigning blame here but simply ensuring I understand things.

Second, did we both have a clear understanding of the agreement or was this a communication failure? In my experience, this is the cause about 90% of the time with relationship problems. I ask if they understand that I believe they broke an agreement and why. Do they feel the same? Did they understand the agreement the same as I did or differently? Was there a perception of latitude within the agreement on their part?

Third, was there malicious intent or intentional disregard? In other words; Did they understand the agreement but consciously decide to break it? Did they feel I would understand their breaking the agreement and if so, why?

Fourth, what do they believe we should do going forward? Do we now have a better mutual understanding of the agreement? Should it be discarded? Rewritten? And what steps do they feel need to be taken to rebuild the comfort level we had prior to the problem? Maybe they feel the relationship is no longer viable?

It is after acquiring this information, usually during the process, that the actions I need to take become clear. Do I still have trust with the person? Is disengaging from the relationship the only way to protect myself? Can it be rebuilt and what is needed to do so? Can we make agreements with an expectation they will be followed, or are we unable to reach an agreement at all? Did I overreact, or possibly react based on perception or emotion, rather than logic? With all this information, are my emotions still valid?

My approach is to view the problem as an opportunity to learn more about my partner, how they think and respond to situations, and create easily followed agreements (if necessary) that will support our relationship going forward. I also see it as an opportunity to figure out where we both failed. What I don’t do is compromise my own needs, values, ethics, or emotions during the process. To do so (IMHO) undermines the relationship going forward.
 
What about you? Do you have a methodical or defined approach to relationship problems? Do you have a mental, or even literal, “Troubleshooting Guide” that you use when trouble appears?

PP

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wanna play?

This came up elsewhere and I thought it might be worth posting here. The question is: What do you talk about with your partner(s) before attending a "play party"?


These aren’t necessarily MY required conversations but simply a list of some I’ve used or heard about.

-Is our relationship strong enough to handle this? If we aren’t sure, or this is our first play party, maybe we should go with the understanding we
will only play with each other if we do play.

-Our definition of ‘play party’
-What do we think this ‘play party’ will actually be like?
-Our definition of ‘play’.
-What activities are allowed, what aren’t? (maybe oral is okay, intercourse isn’t)
-What are we okay seeing each other do, what are we not okay seeing each other do?
-Will we only play together, or can we play separately?
-What if one of us is playing with someone the other person wants to play with too? Is it okay if we play together?
-If we bring toys with us, are we allowed to share them with others? Are there restrictions on how they are shared?

-What is our intent with play? Are we looking for something new, just following any connections that might come up, or trying to spark relationships? To me, this one is important because if I’m trying to spark a relationship I may be disappointed if the other person isn’t. Conversely, if I’m only playing and want nothing more from the person and they do I could end up with something of a stalker the next day.
-Is play limited to this party? In other words, if I play with Martin at the party and Martin wants to go back to his place, or play the next day, is that okay? (This might be important so Martin and I can negotiate our ‘play’ appropriately).
-Are we attending the party together, and going home together? Is there anything that could change that? (Nobody wants to be scrambling for a ride home later).
-Are there restrictions for us after the party? Such as: we won’t play together until we have both showered, until a specific amount of time has expired?
-What time are we leaving if we are leaving together? Is that a hard limit, or are we flexible? What if I want to leave and you are in the middle of schtupping Gertrude?

-Who is coming to the party and is on our Do Not Touch list?
-Why are they on our Do Not Touch list? (STD’s, behavior), or simply our own feelings about them.
-Are there exceptions? Such as: I can have intercourse with Martin, but not with Oliver?

-When asked if we would like to play, how will we answer? Give hard limits up front? Wait until playing to express hard limits? How will we define our relationship if asked? Having these answers ready can make things easier.

-Is it required we communicate at the party ‘before’ we play with someone? (I discourage this one personally. I think it can ruin the mood for everyone and create drama. In my opinion, if you have to do this you probably shouldn’t be at a play party in the first place.)
-What if we do need to check in? For example: I can’t remember if we had limits around Martin. How do we let each other know we need to have a quick chat? What if I can’t find you, or you are in the middle of ‘playing’? Can I interrupt? Is there a safe space we can go to talk quickly? What is our agreed upon definition of ‘check in’? A wink, nudge, short conversation, extended conversation, text message?
-If one of us is having a problem with someone (a person not taking NO for an answer for example) how will we deal with it? Will we come find each other? Is interrupting activities okay?

-Decompress afterwards;
-What worked well
-What didn’t work
-What did I see, hear, feel that I liked or didn’t like.
-What should we do differently in the future.
-What do I absolutely NOT want to hear about? What do I want to hear about?
-What is still with me from the party? Did I maybe connect with someone I would like to continue seeing? Did anything happen to put people on our Do Not Touch list, or take them off the list?

-Some people like to reconnect after their partner has had sex with someone else by having sex themselves. Should we expect that and maintain the needed energy reserves?

-A general conversation about trust and confidence. Do we trust each other to make good decisions. Do we realize there may be mistakes made? How will we recover from mistakes; time apart, talking, not having sex?

What things do YOU talk to your partner about before attending a play party? What pitfalls have you encountered and how did you work through them?

PP

Monday, November 5, 2012

Epiphany

As happens infrequently, I had a brief moment of quiet in my day and the free minute to think resulted in something of an epiphany. I’ll try to explain it but, the perspective may be so personal that this may not translate for everyone.

At times, seeing my partners date others can be a challenge for me. Feelings of insecurity can pop up but usually dissolve as the relationships take form and I get a chance to know my new metamour a bit. This has been something of a challenge for me with a long-term partner who hasn’t had any other partners since we have been together. Those feelings of insecurity have been floating around in my head for a while; what will happen when she does engage with someone? Will I be jealous? Will blinding NRE take her over and ruin us? How will she manage time or affection? Will I find she is actually a serial monogamist when she leaves me?

The flip side of that is that I’ve had several other relationships since we have been together. And she has had difficulty with those. I tend to verbalize my thoughts as I enter new relationships which to me, is something of an evaluation process. Do we fit socially? Emotionally? Physically? Can I fit into their life? Them into mine? And so anyone around me will hear different positions come and go as I think about those things. Some days I may be charging in full force, other days thinking it won’t work, and even other times moving with caution. That is confusing to say the least. And that confusion leads to frustration on the part of my long-term partner as she ends up not having a clue what I’m doing until I’m either engaged, or disengaged, with the new person.

The result is that we both have some frustration along with less than desirable emotions and feelings that pop up.

Those emotions, I think, are somewhat normal. They seem to come from a fear of the unknown and to a lesser extent possibly, the contemplation of change.  The insecurity, in my mind, is born from not comprehending how our partners engage with new people. The rooted fear being that what they are doing is entertainment, distraction, or the search for someone *better* as opposed to engagement with another out of emotion, attraction, or love.

Back to my situation; my fear may be that my partner hasn’t engaged with others due to our relationship and that when she does it will be with the intent of replacing me. In fact, it is simply that she approaches relationships differently. She takes the time to find someone she really connects with deeply before becoming involved. She prefers to take time, get to know someone, and fully evaluate who they are and how a partnership might be formed.

On the other hand, I follow my heart easily. I prefer to explore connections without preconceptions. Maybe those connections flourish into a romantic relationship, maybe they don’t. During my exploration is where I learn if there is a lasting romantic relationship to be built, or if maybe we will just be friends, or maybe there really isn’t anything there at all.

This is where the epiphany struck.

Though both approaches sound different, the intended results are the same. We are both looking, with integrity and ethics, at potential relationships as long-term engagements. Neither of us is looking for a replacement or playing games. Neither approach is better or worse, just different. Realizing that we simply have different approaches, but are both in fact hoping connections will result in similar results, has done a lot to minimize those undesirable emotions. It has helped me to understand emotionally how my partner is feeling, both toward me and toward potential new partners. The epiphany for me;  knowing that in the end my partner and I are more the same than I had realized. It has also allowed me to see that although we follow different paths toward similar goals, and I may not always understand what she is doing, I can possibly learn from her approach as hopefully she can from mine.

My advice to you is this; if you are having mixed feelings about your partners activities with others it may be because you lack confidence in what they are doing. How you find that confidence will be different for everyone so I won’t try to suggest how it be found, but try. I think when that confidence is realized you will find that many of the negative emotions dissolve easily with the knowledge your partner is acting with love in their heart and purpose of mind. It will make it much easier to trust your partner, their approach to new relationships, and allow you both to relax a bit.

As always, love well.

PP

Friday, June 15, 2012

Drop it!

Okay, this one might not be specifically poly focused but I think it still applies.

One of the things I enjoy most about polyamory is the fact you don't have to end one relationship to have another, as with serial monogamy. You can add to your poly 'family' as  you see fit to the point of saturation (polysaturated), and even beyond. Though adding new partners when already polysaturated seems counterproductive to me.

Relationships can and often do change. Lovers become friends and vice versa. Deep loving relationships become more casual, and a fling may turn into a deeply committed relationship. The variations and changes are a big part of what keeps life, and moreso polyamory, interesting.

This is also where the quicksand hides.

You see, people forget that sometimes ending a relationship is a good thing. After all, if you are poly and can engage in multiple relationships, why do you *need* to end one? There are actually some good reasons why. A relationship past the expiration date, or that is damaging to both people, or damaging to those around the relationship, or requires more work than it contains pleasure, are all good examples of relationships that should probably end.

Now, for those who visit here frequently you know I'm a strong advocate for relationship renegotiation. I rarely end relationships if possible, prefering to renegotiate and redefine an existing relationship in a way that again brings satisfaction and happiness to both (or more) parties. But I'm writing this article because I'm a realist and sometimes there does need to be a definitive end to a relationship without continuation in another form.

Another quicksand pit exists within the other person. There are people out there who will grasp at any straw of hope that they can regain the relationship they once had. Unfortunately, that hope is usually based on the giddy energy that existed when the relationship was brand new, or upon misconceptions about the ability to change the other person.

In either of the situations outlined, an unhealthy relationship or one in which one person holds out hope for something that can no longer exist, I recommend a definitive end to the relationship. Now, I'm not saying you can't possibly be friends or co-exist socially within a small community. It is quite possible something can be salvaged from the relationship. But that doesn't change the need for a concrete ending to the romantic, emotional, and/or physical aspects of the relationship.

If you have tried, in good faith, to renegotiate a troubled relationship and find things still aren't going well it may be time to end negotiations and the relationship. To continue trying to make a relationship work that is unhealthy may actually cause more damage.

The same is true, in my opinion, when you are engaged with a person who holds onto hope that a relationship can return to a previous form. Someone holding onto such hope can do some strange things such as becoming emotionally unavailable intentionally (waiting), or even accepting behavior from their partner they normally wouldn't. Obviously an unhealthy situation.

My suggestion to you today is to realize when a relationship should end, it should truly end. Don't leave false hopes hanging out in the wind for the other person. This seems to be particularly challenging for males, likely due to societal conditioning that they "Don't hurt girls!". Additionally, don't struggle beyond reason to retain a relationship that is dying. Addressing things early on may leave room for friendship or more but, letting things deteriorate to the point you both are angry or hate each other will probably not even leave you with a friendship.

PP

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Slacker!

It would seem I owe you all an apology. It was brought to my attention by someone (you know who you are, and thank you!) that I haven't posted in a couple of months, nor have I said anything about why I haven't posted. The plain truth is that life got in the way. And once I realized it had, I wasn't sure anyone was listening anyway.
It really wasn't my intention to stop posting, it just happened. Adding a couple of partners making my life poly-saturated was the first event that interrupted things. Then there was an anniversary party and birthday party. The alien teenagers in my life then decided to take up summer sports, internship programs, and acquire cars needing attention. Over the last couple of months the poly group I lead has continued to grow exponentially and is now actively hosting 5 regular events per month. Add to that the menu of BBQ's and parties the warmer months typically generate and my calendar is looking like the graffiti splattered underside of a highway overpass.

Although I don't know when or how, at this time I do plan to continue this blog. As I adjust to recent life changes and better settle into a routine I hope to shoehorn time into life for more writing. In the meantime, I thank you all for your patience, understanding, and hope you will still be here when I can once again post my twisted and warped ramblings for your entertainment.

As usual, love well.
PP

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Starlet's and Bore's

Do our standards with partners change as our dating pool increases and decreases?

Have you ever said "I would never date that person", only to end up dating them later?

Why did you change your mind?

Some of the reasons I hear are things like "After getting to know them I liked them" or "My first impression wasn't fair, so I changed my mind". And sometimes I think those reasons are true. I also think there may be another factor at work here. The theory that with abundance comes selectivity. With dearth of options comes acceptance.

Starting from the bottom let's imagine a single female who hasn't been dating. She just isn't being asked out by anyone. It is easy to then imagine if anyone asks her out, she would accept. Why not? It isn't like there are other options available on her date card. She might as well go do something, right?

Now let's imagine the same woman being asked out infrequently. Maybe once a month she is asked on a date. Assuming a quiet social life she would probably accept the requests and go on the dates. But with a busy social calendar she might be a bit more selective.

And finally, imagine the same woman being asked out regularly, say once a week more or less. Regardless of her social calendar it is easy to think she will probably start being a bit more selective. Are the dates attractive? Is there long-term potential? Are they sexually attractive, financially and emotionally stable?

I believe that as our dating pool increases, so do our standards. By the same token as our dating pool decreases, so will our standards. The two are directly proportionate.

Now is this a bad thing? Generally I don't believe so. Accepting the available date, without respect for quality or fit, allows people to maintain an active social life and keep their dating or social skills up to date. Where I do believe it becomes a problem though is when lowering expectations to maintain a social life is done without consideration of the reasons for dating in the first place. In other words, if you lower your standards to maintain a social life but still expect to find that *perfect partner*, you may be leading yourself into dangerous territory. After all, you are dating people that may not meet your usual standards. Could this explain some of the frustration people have with the quality of those they are dating?

Chasing this a bit further, it would be easy to see how one could be dating someone they wouldn't normally date, only to become frustrated when they turn out to have different standards or beliefs.

Where this theory seems to fall apart a bit is when applied to the poly community. At least, in my experience, plentiful dating options seem for some to actually decrease their standards. People who previously led monogamous lives and had specific standards like lifestyle, income, or education, suddenly begin accepting any offer of a date. I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Don't get me wrong here, I actually think it is a good idea to challenge your self-imposed guidelines once in a while. You never know when you might click with someone on a level you never thought possible. My suggestion is simply this; if you have modified your standards in any way, be consciously aware of doing so. It may help you avoid some heartache, and headaches.

PP

Monday, February 27, 2012

Beware the troll

The moon and stars must be in an unusual alignment today because I got comments on many of my blog entries. Although the moon isn't full, the comments were obviously meant to be inflammatory and originate with a single poster.
Those who read here regularly will know that I can appreciate different perspectives, viewpoints, and opinions. Hence the word "paradigm" in my blog title. I love a good paradigm shift!
So, with that in mind, I've decided to publish the comments in the interest of fairness. I encourage any of you reading to not respond to the comments which will only perpetuate the behavior. Instead I ask you to accept them as a poorly communicated emotional response and difference of opinion. A special, wonderful reminder why those of us who believe in polyamory realize it is the differences in people that make multiple loving relationships an integral, nourishing part of our lives.

Warmest regards,
PP

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thanks for sharing!

When was the last time you thanked your primary partner for sharing you with others?

No really. When was the last time you said "Thanks for being so open and sharing me with others"?

You do thank your primary partner, don't you?

I got to thinking about this the other day and while I appreciate the sentiment, I'm not sure I agree with it. I've seen thanking your partner recommended in some poly related books, and heard it from other poly people I know. I've even said it, paraphrased in one form or another, to more than one of the partners I've had in my life.

When I got to thinking about it though I wondered. . . doesn't thanking your primary for sharing imply that they have rights over you? That maybe they don't have to share you with others and it is a choice they have made? That's when I began to think maybe I don't agree with the concept.

At first this sounded like a very Poly thing to do. My partner is being open. They are sharing me with others. It is a beautiful thing that we can enjoy this type of relationship. Many people wouldn't be open to living this way so yes, I probably should thank my partner. Maybe even get some flowers.

Wait, hold on a second, we have a belief violation here.

See, I believe that being poly is inherent in my being. It isn't so much that I'm poly as Poly is what I am. Not being open to the relationship possibilities I can have with anyone just doesn't compute well for me. But that is a part of me, not my partner. I should thank them for letting me be who I am?

After pondering the idea a bit I have come to think that the concept comes from a monogamous mindset of ownership in a committed relationship. It sounds as if it is based in the tradition of believing there is some form of physical ownership in a romantic relationship. Sorry, but it really isn't something I believe in.

At this point I tried flipping things around a bit. How do I feel if my partner thanks me for letting them go on a date? In the past my response has been that they are welcome but don't need to thank me. I'm not the boss of them, they didn't need my permission, nor my approval. I respect them as a person, with all of their particular and peculiar needs, wants, and desires.

Where does this leave me? Honestly, with the same mixed feelings I had when I first started writing this article. I've had no epiphanies or change of heart. Although I don't think it necessary to thank your partner for allowing you to date someone else, I also don't think it is a bad idea. The next time I thank my partner, instead of simply saying "Thanks for letting me go on a date" maybe I'll say something like, "Thank you for letting me be who I am without trying to change me".  In that way I can show appreciation without implying control or ownership. And I do think it is important to let your partner know that their participation in your lifestyle is recognized and appreciated.

Where are you at with this one? Do you thank your partner for letting you date others? And if so, do you feel there is implied permission with the gratitude?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Guess what I want for Christmas?

Once in a while when the poly world is quiet, I'll write about other things. With only a single arrest, an attempted takeover, and some mild backstabbing over the past few weeks my poly community has been quiet and, this is one of those times.

So here I am, relaxing after a busy week and thinking about a couple of women I have been interested in dating. (Ok, so maybe this article is a little bit poly after all). It is actually a bit more complicated than that. I've entered a relationship with one of the women, the other one and I are still flirting. But, you get the picture.

These two ladies are almost as different as night and day as well. One tall, slender, and dark haired. The other short and curvy with red hair. One is well educated, the other a sci-fi gamer girl. One is older, one younger. Once experienced, and one not.

It was those differences that got me to thinking a bit. I wondered what it was that attracted me to two women who are so different from one another. Maybe they both have interests I enjoy. Maybe their differences compliment one another. Maybe I just like variety! Whatever the reason my mind drifted as it often does and I got to thinking about my physical interests in the two ladies, each of which has different *attributes* I find appealing. And no, I'm not just talking about physical attributes. Get your minds out of the gutter people!

That got me to thinking about why guys find different types of women appealing.

I think there are a lot of things that make a woman interesting to a man; lifestyle, beliefs, intelligence, stability, security, sanity, insanity, attitude, and yes sometimes simply physical attributes.

We have all heard the old saying (or a variation thereof); Men want a princess to take home to their Mom, and a slut in the bedroom. And it appears men often follow that saying as you see them court and win the princess only to be unsatisfied with their sex life later, or disappointed their princess isn't a slut in bed. Or on the other hand, they take the less than pristine girl home to mom only to have problems when yep, mom thinks she is a tramp. Men seem to want both in a woman which is somewhat rare.

Now, we can argue psychology all day long. We can debate genetics, society, women's rights or liberation, men becoming emasculated. We could even dissect how global warming could be causing some of our problems. But I have a different theory on the matter; Men don't want a woman who is pure. And despite popular opinion, they don't want a woman who is a slut.

What they desire is a pure woman who wants to be a slut.

That's right; they want a woman who has dreamt her whole life of the white picket fence life, saved herself for marriage, and will devote herself to her man. They also want her to be a closet nymphomaniac with dreams of doing the dirtiest, naughtiest things she has never done before in the bedroom. In line with the quote above, they want a woman they can take home to mom who won't drop a 4-letter bomb, have upsetting opinions of her own, or challenge family beliefs. They then want to take her home and have her wearing 4-inch heels and a garter 30 seconds through the door, prone on the bed with a come hither look while in a deep sexy voice whispering "You can do whatever you want to me". The key here is they want to be the one to do those things to (or with) her. They don't want to ever hear how she learned this from Bob and that from Bill. In other words, she can be a dirty, shameless slut with them but not with anyone else.

I think this because the guys who do get a princess aren't often happy with her. Yes she can meet mom, but she can't imagine new ways to screw 3 times a week. On the other hand, the woman who is already experienced and in touch with her kinky side must have learned it from somewhere and the poop will definitely hit the propeller if mom finds out! Besides, if she knows more than her guy, and is in touch with her sexual desires, maybe her guy won't be enough for her or she will go get her insatiable needs met behind his back.

Now don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying there are absolutes nor am I trying to park women into two categories. Nor am I saying all men fit into two simple categories either. My point is simply that the old saying may not quite be right. Men want a princess who wants to be a slut rather than a princess who is a closet slut. That might even be more rare. (By the way, I use the term *slut* with the utmost respect in this case).

What are your thoughts on this one? Ladies, do you see it this way or do you think I'm off the reservation again? And what about the guys . . . Is it time to update the old saying or was it fine the way it was?

PP