It’s Time for a New Chapter

The sudden lack of posts and the sudden rebranding followed by more silence are symptoms of changes in my life offline. Over the last couple of months I have struggled each time I open a blank page to write a new post. There was one thing that I knew I wanted and needed to write about but the timing just hasn’t been right.

Until now.

Polyamory has been a wonderful adventure but it has brought us to an unexpected place. I suppose we all had decisions to make as we came to a sudden realization that our polyamorous relationship had run its course and really wasn’t functional anymore. There was nothing particularly easy or painless about the dawning of this realization and breaking up didn’t bring out the best in any of us.

Maybe the reality is that we all got married too young. I was 22 when I walked the aisle and looking back both Ben and I had a lot of growing left to do as people. We promised to grow together but who he grew to be didn’t have the same love for who I grew to be.

The youthful hope, the ambition, the certainty that we could love differently and take all of life’s challenges together all came to an end in June. It was time for us to face big questions about what we wanted in our partners. Polyamory as a relationship philosophy is not to blame for this so much as incompatibility. While we loved the ideas we’d had for our future, we were unable to bridge the space between us. We weren’t all wanting the same things and where our goals did align we had differing ideas of how to reach those goals.

A part of my life ended. I packed up the pieces of my life that I would keep. I told Tom I couldn’t handle living under the roof with Maggie and Ben as our breakups unfolded but that I was absolutely not leaving him. And I climbed in to my mama’s car to spend some time at her house while it all got sorted out.

And I am pleased to be able to report that despite all the stress, the hurt and all the emotions that go with all that ending and a divorce at the ripe old age of 26… I’m happy.

I think under different circumstances I could have gone on being happy in “the pod” or even just with Ben had “the pod” not happened. Had things shifted a different direction, maybe. That being said, hindsight has shown that there were deep cracks in the foundations of those relationships. Clearly there was more than one path to happiness for me. In the months since the separation I’ve gone blonde and am loving it, dropped 25 pounds, gotten my god damn license at last, acquired a car and landed full time employment. Stable, out of the house employment. Imagine that!

In hindsight the relationships that ended were holding me back in life far more than they were supporting me or moving me foreword. There may have been a time when those relationships didn’t hold me back but this last year I made a lot of sacrifices that preserved the relationships with deep personal consequences. They do say that hindsight is 20/20 – I could never have imagined what such clarity would reveal.

While I made those sacrifices willingly, and lovingly, believing fully in the beauty of the relationships I was growing, the arrangement became unsustainable. It turned out that there was no equality, no return of that kind of love. When I asked others to return the commitment and make sacrifices for my well being only one in three saw the necessity of doing so.

From the beginning of the unravelling it was clear Ben and Maggie planned on staying together. As things unravelled Tom and I were presented with a choice. Our polyamorous journey was initiated by Ben and Maggie and many people wondered if Tom and I had even had a choice about being together. As we processed our marriages ending we both knew without any doubt that we did have a choice. Life was changing in dramatic ways one way or another… we had the opportunity to reflect and figure out if we wanted to change our relationship as well. We made our choice, and we chose each other.

Maybe things do happen for a reason and life pushes us where we need to be so that we meet the right people and take the right opportunities. My heart is so full of love and gratitude for the amazing man I’m with I have to wonder if everything else was just a convoluted way fate had for making sure we found each other. Found, and appreciated each other.

So here we are. I still like writing about all the same stuff. Relationships, and fitness and beauty and any other musings that cross my mind. I guess I just get to add divorce to the list of relationship experiences I can speak to when I write.

I’m still here, still blogging, it’s just time for a new chapter.

Let’s Connect

Let’s Really Talk about What Non-Monogamy Means

Woooo, it’s been a minute, ya’ll. Life got super busy but I missed writing so I’m back here on my favourite little blogging project.

I was thinking this week about how much we all have grown since I started this blog. We’ve all learned a lot, shared a lot and I think it’s safe to say we love where the journey has taken us so far.

One thing I can say for sure is that I see polyamory and non-monogamy popping up in all kinds of articles and conversations. Maybe it’s just true what they say, that when you’re thinking about it suddenly you see it everywhere even if it was always there and you just didn’t notice. Then again, maybe the conversation around different relationship structures is really gaining traction in more and more mainstream spaces.

One thing my mama said when we started this journey and first came out was that the big difference between us and other generations isn’t what we do. We certainly aren’t the first bunch of married people to bend the rules or rewrite relationship boundaries. But as a generation that grew up with a developing social media landscape we have different ideas about privacy than previous generations. We don’t want to keep something private for the sake of other people.

What I mean when I say that is that, of course, some parts of our our lives are kept to ourselves but that’s mainly because we like to have things that feel like “just ours”.

Nothing is kept private for the sake of not offending others or because we fear the reactions of others. For us, keeping something private that doesn’t feel like it needs to be a secret becomes more inconvenient and frustrating than the consequences of sharing are.

Even in the early days of my polyamorous relationship we struggled with how starkly different life at home became from life outside the home. Life at home included cuddles and affectionate conversations. Life outside the home meant pretending we were all just friends, carrying on as usual.

It got ridiculous when Tom and I would arrive at a derby first and then Ben and Maggie would show up and the four of us would be trying to explain why we arrived in separate cars with each others spouses.

(Yeah, we’re bad at secrets. People weren’t sure exactly what was happening but they knew something was up)

I blame social media. We all like to share and instead of being super picky about what we share we’re actually just picky about what we don’t share.

Anyway… It’s awesome to see different relationship structures being talked about in mainstream spaces. It truly is. Every *positive mainstream conversation helps others like us feel more welcome to come out and makes the process easier because there’s less to explain. So I’m here today to humbly suggest a sort of “next step” for how this conversation develops.

Let’s break it right down. Instead of saying polyamory and non-monogamy or some generalization like that, let’s be specific about what we want to talk about. While there are some places where those generalizations really do fit the conversation, in most cases we would be better off getting specific.

Right now a lot of conversations are set up as a conversation about monogamy and then all the relationships that are not monogamy.

Is it really fair to have this gigantic pillar of monogamy standing alone against everything that isn’t it?

And is it honest to lump everything that isn’t monogamy in together?

Doing so makes it so hard to appreciate the widely varying mindsets and relationship philosophies of everyone outside monogamy.

I think that’s a problem because most non-monogamous people I’ve talked to just want one simple thing: for other people to say “oh, okay, I can understand how that works.” It isn’t a need for others to sign up to live that lifestyle – I know it’s a shock but the non-monogamous masses aren’t on a recruitment campaign. We just want to be understood. Kind of like how we all understand how monogamy makes sense for some people.

When we lump all of non-monogamy together we make it harder to understand how each different relationship structure functions. While everyone under the umbrella of “non-monogamy” might agree that monogamy isn’t the only way, how exactly we interact with others outside the bounds of monogamy varies from person to person and relationship to relationship.

So I am super excited to see mainstream publications like cosmo, vice and more sharing stories about polyamorous relationships and dishing out details so that non-monogamy and all the relationships that go with it become a more common vocabulary. With that excitement, though, I’m eager to see us dive a little deeper from umbrella terms to sub-cultures and specific relationship terminology.

If there’s interest, I may even model this next step here on the blog with a series of posts exploring what all is under this non-monogamy umbrella with us.

What do you think? What kind of conversations are you seeing, liking and not liking about relationships “these days”?
Do you have certain questions or things you want to see talked about to dive a little deeper here on the blog? =) Drop a comment or email me at ohmymermaidblog@gamil.com

How your Relationship can Weather any Storm

It seems obvious that the days we argue, find ourselves on different pages, and miss each other’s signals are the most difficult days in my relationships.  I mean, duh, right? Nobody likes fighting or feeling like something is just off in their relationship.  It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable and it can feel downright scary when you don’t know how to get back to the good days.

I was blessed in that my parents never fought – well, certainly never in front of me.  If they disagreed or ever felt off-kilter I never saw it. I love this about my childhood and when I talk to people who tell a different story I feel really grateful for the harmony that always existed in my household.  While this blessing taught me a lot, there’s one thing it didn’t teach me: how to weather a storm.

I had an amazing example of what love looked like and what happiness meant but I never witnessed a relationship survive a fight.  I never knew how a marriage could navigate rocky times without sinking or even that a little friction here and there could be normal.

In the first three years or so of Ben and I’s relationship, maybe even longer, we never ever fought.  People who knew us as a couple wondered out loud how we could be so damn happy all the time. I appreciated the praise for our relationship success but I could never articulate how we had achieved it.  For me, it was just natural and normal. It looked like my parent’s relationship and like Ben’s parent’s relationship.  We never had to work at it.

The hard truth is that in those days it might have been easier to live this bliss because life really didn’t have too many serious stresses.  We were in high school and then at University.  We were only just beginning to taste adulthood and we knew then that life was sweet with minimal bills and a lot of time available to spend together.

As we’ve progressed into full-time jobs with more serious bills (ahem, student loans – the very ones that previously made finances so stress-free.) and a lot less leisure time to spend with each other or with anyone, for that matter, we’ve had to face a new and evolving set of challenges.  I think our relationship has faced a couple of unique sets of challenges, actually.

Building a life together brings one set of challenges.  From living together and maintaining the house together, lifestyle choices to mutual bills.  Building a life together has challenges and difficult conversations built in.

On top of that, we’ve had to grow up together. I’ve talked a little bit about this and probably will talk about it again from time to time. As romantic as it is being high school sweethearts if the relationships are really going to last forever there’s some work to be done to transform from teenagers who love each other into adults who function as a team, whose lives work together and who still love each other.

I think we’ve been lucky.  Even with the challenges we’ve faced we really haven’t had to weather too many storms.  That being said I wanted to take a second here on getting through the days we don’t like to talk about.

Finding ourselves lacking harmony some days was really scary because for so long we never felt that way and we didn’t see a lack of harmony in our households growing up so it started to feel like we must really be doing something wrong.  It wasn’t our normal so it felt like a battle neither of us was ready for.

The way we survive and the best advice I can give is simple: love first.

When the love of your life drives you crazy, disagrees with you, makes little mistakes over and over again or just seems to be lacking something you need from the relationship, take a deep breath and love first.

Someone somewhere in something or other I was watching about relationships once said couples have to fight while still being on the same team.  You can be upset with each other and you can ask each other to do better in the relationship but always be on the same team.

When you start to feel like you’re on separate teams in some sort of ultimate opposition everyone loses.

What does that look like?

Sometimes it means pausing the argument to ask yourselves what you want the result to be and finding out if maybe you just have different ways of trying to get to the same place.

This happens to Maggie and I sometimes.  We’re both strongly opinionated, highly organized, goal driven and a tad bit stubborn.  When we see someone else in the pod, particularily each other, veering off the path we really feel we should be on… or if someone asks us to change ours… get ready for a world of resistance and friction.

Then at some point someone asks what the freakin’ point is and we realize we both have the same answer.  We’re trying to force each other to the same destination we’re just trying to get there in different ways.  Realizing we were on the same team and had the same goals the whole time has solved basically any fight we’ve ever had in a matter of seconds.

Fun fact: Want to clear men out of a room? Start an argument with your girlfriend.  Never seen Ben or Tom make themselves dissapear faster than when their women are on the path to disagreement!

Sometimes it looks like creating a compromised vision of how you want it to end so that even though you weren’t fighting for the same thing to begin with you have created a new goal you can both work towards.

Sometimes it means going to bed and seeing how you feel in the morning.

Everyone says you shouldn’t go to bed angry. I sort of agree but I think more importantly you should never go to bed (or anywhere) letting your anger be bigger than your love.

I hate going to bed angry.  It’s a terrible feeling and I never get a good sleep.  But staying up all night depriving yourselves of any sleep at all is going to put ya’ll in a worse mood and move you further away from resolving your disagreement.

Ben and I have never slept in separate beds simply because we refused to sleep together. If we’re not sleeping with each other it’s because one of us isn’t home, because I am only sleeping for a few hours in between classes.  If we’re supposed to be in bed together, we are. Even when we’ve upset each other.

It’s part of putting love first and living the truth that we’re on the same team.  We don’t let frustration and disagreement divide us.

When it feels hopeless let yourself remember all the reasons you’re here.  How did you end up together? How did you end up living under one roof? How did you feel as you laid the bricks one by one and built this life together?  You made a decision – actually, you made a lot of decisions – to get here.

Staying here is a decision, too.  It’s a decision that makes sense with the hundreds and thousands of decisions you’ve made as a couple so far.  But ending it undoes all those other decisions.  Deciding to leave and turn away from love is a decision to remove all those bricks you laid and unbuild this life.

For me, it was worth building and on our worst days, it’s still worth fixing.

Lastly, when I read about peoples worst relationship days they talk about feeling like something is beyond saving.  Another piece of advice in my head that I know I got from somewhere but can’t remember where is that you can build something new.  Deciding that your relationship isn’t working the way it is doesn’t mean you need a new person.  Love is pretty limitless.  When you refocus on love you can assess what parts of the life you built aren’t functioning and focus on rebuilding those and doing better instead of swinging the wrecking ball and walking away.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes relationships end and there’s nothing wrong with deciding that what ya’ll really need is to part ways.  That being said, I believe in love and the way I see it love can weather a lot of storms when you are willing to repair what you’ve built when it gets damaged.

Carmen

Polyamory and Commitment

People sometimes ask us about how commitment fits with being polyamorous. The question can be framed in several ways. We get asked why we got married in the first place, or if we really value our marriages and how we could value our marriages but still want to date other people. We also get asked how we could commit to our partners when we’re already committed to someone else.

All of the answers go back to one truth that is central in our choices and our relationships: How these things fit together really depends on how you think about them and the role you want these things to play in your life as a whole.

Of course, if you think of romantic commitment and monogamy as being the same thing, then it doesn’t fit with polyamory. There are lots of people out there who choose to have open relationships or engage in non-monogamy of some form but still see their long-term lifestyle revolving around one, monogamous partner.  There’s nothing wrong with commitment meaning monogamy for you but that doesn’t mean that the definition or boundary carries over for other people

For us, making a commitment of any kind is simply a personal decision where you decide to incorporate something into your long-term vision of your life.  We all do this with jobs, choosing where to live, lifestyle choices like going to the gym or doing yoga, having kids, etc. We are designing our forever. We are deciding what our goals are for 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now. We are using our current situation and experience to understand what we want from the future. I think we all have a few “never agains” and a few “forevers”.

Therefore, in our lives, it’s okay to decide that a partner who isn’t our spouse is still part of our forever.  We’re looking at our lives right now, our experience of the past year or so, and our experience prior to dating each other and we’re realizing when we imagine our future, we see each other in it.

Sometimes I get the sense that people worry for us and feel we’re taking this big risk.  They fear we’ll get our hearts broken and as people who love us, they don’t want to see us experience any kind of pain, least of all heartbreak.  I love and respect that the people in our lives care for us this way and would do anything to protect us from pain.  Still, I don’t think we’re taking risks that are truly above and beyond the unavoidable risks of love.

Honestly, from day one I have known that it would hurt if I lost Ben. I have loved that man through a lot of ups and downs. We’ve done a lot of growing up together.  If my marriage ended, it would be an unimaginable loss for me. The thing is, marriages do end. When I married him we put ourselves at risk of becoming bitter divorcees.  Falling in love and furthermore, basing your life around that love by moving in together and facing the world together, is a leap of faith.

It’s the same leap of faith whether you do it once, twice or more.  And it’s still the same leap if you make it with one person at a time or three.

I believe love is worth it. Ultimately, I am okay with taking the risk because I believe in love.

Alright, so I’m cheesy. That’s not new!

Maybe that helps clear up some of the misconceptions about the ability to be committed to more than one person. We generally all have more than one person we see in our lives forever. Best friends who talk about our lives, our dreams, and goals with. Best friends who we hope will have kids the same age as ours so they can grow up together, too. In my life, it just happens to be that I’m dating more than one of my forever people.

But there’s another misconception at play, too. Many people who are aware of polyamory or at least various threads of non-monogamy have the idea that while polyamorous relationships might have many goals, commitment isn’t one of them. As polyamory becomes more widely discussed in the media and more widely known, a list of potential relationship goals such as romantic and emotional fulfillment, support of different interests, and meeting different relationship needs is also known. Maybe you have one partner who is more reserved and supports your undying love of watching movies and talking about philosophy while another partner loves to party and supports your need to experience new things and travel.  However, most people don’t imagine polyamorous relationships as committed.

In fact, many of them are!

For us, being polyamorous is a belief about our infinite ability to love and choosing a committed lifestyle is a relationship preference. We could believe in infinite love but not want this “settled down” lifestyle. We could also want this settled down lifestyle without wanting polyamory or even want an “unsettled” lifestyle but with only one partner at a time – none of them gaining our commitment.

You see? Loving one or loving many and loving short-term or long-term are two different preferences. It just so happens, for us, we prefer to have multiple partners who are committed to a long-term life.

Does Attraction to Someone Else mean Doom for your Relationship?

We set a lot of relationship boundaries based on policing our own and our partners’ attraction to others. Regardless of our relationship structure – polyamorous, monogamous, swingers – both in terms of limiting and encouraging it, we have rules about attraction outside the relationship.

It’s a difficult topic and I think the boundaries we ask our partners to agree to and how those conversations go tell us a lot about ourselves and what attraction means to us.

The reason I say it’s difficult is that I believe attraction is a natural feeling that we can’t really promise we will or won’t feel for someone other than our partner.  For me, the more important discussion is how attraction should be handled when you’re in a relationship.  I don’t believe we can ask our partners to deny ever feeling attracted to another person but we can set up rules, guidelines, and boundaries for what to do with those feelings.

From the beginning of my relationship with Ben onward the rule, I suppose, was to just ignore any attraction we felt for others.  Come to think of it, it really wasn’t a big discussion. In trying to think of what the rules and boundaries were in order to guide how I write this I realize they were implied more than spoken.  Perhaps the key was that we never denied the possibility of attraction to another person.  We accepted attraction itself as a normal part of the human experience and, if it ever came to it, emphasized our trust in each others loyalty and commitment.

The rule was that we were exclusive. Period.  Whatever feelings you might feel were normal and we weren’t policing each other.  Instead, we were placing importance on actions and trusting each other to maintain those boundaries.

The attraction was normalized at a very casual level like commenting on the attractiveness of tv or movie characters. It wasn’t a secret endeavor when I went to watch “Magic Mike” in theatres, and of course, it couldn’t be a secret what the selling point of the movie was. Even less so when I went off to watch “Magic Mike: XXL”. Ben never got upset or offended that I’d be interested in these movies.

Likewise, as we came to the time when friends were getting married and bachelor parties are happening I always supported the idea that one party or another may see him and friends going to a strip club or at least a Hooters where the selling point of the trip is no more a secret than the point of a movie called “Magic Mike”.

Was it unreasonable to expect, when we were so open about attraction in an abstract way, that it could also apply closer to home with the people we see on a regular basis?

Actually at about this point in writing this piece curiosity got the better of me and I messaged Ben (because we’re the kind of people that text when we’re in the same house) to ask if he had random crushes or felt attracted to anyone when we were supposed to be entirely consumed with loving each other in the tradition of monogamy.  He admits that there were people he found attractive and, being a man, he wouldn’t call it a crush but none the less.

I realize that feeling anything crush like when you’re in a relationship with someone is this big taboo. We’re supposed to deny that we can be so in love with one person and also kind of hoping some other person thinks we’re cute.  But it’s our nature and there’s nothing really wrong with it.

The trick is knowing what you can or should do with those feelings. For us the answer was to do nothing. Random attractions or crushes always faded but our love never has. Clearly, our love for and commitment too each other wasn’t damaged by knowing there were other attractive people out there.

It wasn’t until the spark between Maggie and I became more than a passing crush that Ben and I had to discuss what taking action might look like instead of quietly ignoring and moving on from a feeling of attraction.

Even in that moment, in those conversations, one truth guided us: Feeling attracted to someone else didn’t really mean anything about the feelings we had for each other.  Admitting that I had feelings for Maggie and an interest in pursuing those feelings never turned in to a statement about my relationship with Ben.

This is the common confusion I think people have for what multiple relationships mean.  People often imagine that developing feelings for and pursuing a relationship with someone outside of your existing relationship means that you’re choosing something instead of that relationship.  There’s a lot of implications that come with it – if my partner wants another relationship have I left them unsatisfied? What are they seeking that I don’t provide? Have I failed them in some way?

These are normal questions but they also reveal a fatal flaw in our thinking about relationships.  They reveal that we expect ourselves to be everything to our partners (and probably expect them to be everything to us in return).  Even with amazing compatibility, this expectation might be a bit much.

Most couples find whatever it is they don’t get in their relationship, whatever it is their partner doesn’t provide, in hobbies and friendships.  Hobbies allow them to connect with others that have similar interests. Their friends can provide different support than their partner. These things alleviate the pressure for our spouses to be all things at all times for us.

Not only that but they alleviate the pressure without anyone having a conversation about it.  You just kind of go off to your hobby or with your friends and don’t identify that what makes them different than your spouse is something you need and that without them there providing it you’d have to seek it.  We kind of act like everything in our lives could be stripped away and if we just had our spouse on a desert island we’d never want anything more.

However, in polyamory we accept the idea that there can be romance just as there can be other satisfying elements to the connections we build beyond our relationship and one romance doesn’t inherently harm or detract from another any more than multiple hobbies or close friends do.

Polyamory has allowed me to explore an interest in cars that Ben doesn’t share, allowed me to build a different network of friends and attend different types of events with Maggie.  It’s given me a lot more dimension and depth to my life without any of my partners being forced to feel inadequate or think of themselves as a failure because they, too, are able to become more whole and explore different sides of what they need outside of the relationship they have with me.

Now I said earlier most people find needs their spouse doesn’t meet by engaging with hobbies, work, friends, and whatnot.  There’s nothing wrong with this at all! We don’t need polyamory but we do need to acknowledge that attraction to someone else or desires outside our monogamous relationships are normal.

 

Ben: My High School Sweetheart

I said at the beginning of this month that I wanted to do a bit of a series for Pride. I also said that in that series I’d talk a bit about the different relationships in my life. Since I always refer to “my three unique relationships”, let’s talk a little about them.

Ben is my husband and the person I’ve been with the longest.  We met and began dating in high school – I know it’s a cliche but we are high school sweethearts. I even changed my university plan to stay with him. I know that changing your big life decisions to make a relationship work isn’t normally recommended when you’re 18 but it worked out for me.

Because of this, Ben and I have grown up together.  I was only 16 when we started dating.  In a practical sense he’s seen me through a lot.  Right away there were big decisions about university and the logistics of applying, registering, etc.  Then there was dorm life, figuring out how to feed ourselves, managing classes, getting jobs… until we mastered living together and planned a wedding … well, I planned the wedding and he showed up at the agreed upon time 😉

From graduating to jobs and everything in between we really have transitioned from teens in love to partners in life together.  People always get really excited and happy to hear that we are high school sweet hearts. We get a chorus of “awww – that’s adorable!” And I do like to think that we are.

When reflecting to write this post though I realize that we tend to think high school sweet hearts are special because they found their partner at such a young age and when many people spend their 20s on an emotional dating rollercoaster we’re already living together and committing to each other. (I walked down the aisle and married Ben when I was 22)

I think what’s really special is that we manage to grow together.  The truth is that it meant choosing our relationship at really critical moments in our lives.  It meant choosing Ben instead of pursuing an interest in moving to Newfoundland for university. That changed my major from journalism and creative writing to English and History.  It also meant moving to Oshawa because that’s where Ben’s career opportunities are and he was in the workforce ahead of me.  It means that the first thing I decided about my identity, values and lifestyle as an adult was that everything about me is connected to him.

I don’t mean to make myself hard done by – let’s be clear.  It has also meant that through really big and intimidating decisions like pursuing grad school and then dropping out of it, making a career of  being a freelancer and transitioning to a polyamorous lifestyle I have had an amazing support system. In these moments where I have designed my adult life and worked to define myself I have always had him, like a lighthouse in moments of uncertainty, he has given insight and lit my way.

I absolutely loved the university I attended and couldn’t have dreamed a better university experience for myself.  I loved living close to Toronto and exploring the GTA.

I love him.

My relationship with Ben, I think, is unique for the history and the safe space we have created for ourselves – hey look, a buzz word! Seriously though, there is no space safer for me then beside Ben. He has seen every side of me. He allows me to talk his ear off, or to be silent. He encourages me to write while he practices bass and takes me on adventures when I need to get out of the house.  He is familiar with the complicated balance required to look after someone who may be extroverted or introverted depending on the day… and he can always, always make me laugh.

He knows me to my bones because he watched me build myself.  He never asked me to choose him – he never did anything to limit my growth or push me in a direction I was unwilling to go. He has always loved me with such certainty and kindness that I knew wherever life took us I would be happy, so long as I had him.

Yes, I am a super cheesy girl, through and through. It’s Pride month and I won’t hide that side of myself anymore than I hide anything else. =)

Hope you enjoyed this little reflection on my relationship with Ben. It’s only the first of three relationship reflections. Watch out for some other pride-related thoughts I’m musing on.

Carmen

New Relationships, New Boundaries

We’re all moved in! And we’re all super excited about it.

I’ve been thinking though, of what I might share about this process.  What have we learned and what has made moving in as a pod different from when I moved in with Ben for the first time?

One of the major learning curves for me has been, in all of my relationships, having two more people outside of it who know everything that goes on.

You see, one of the values my mama instilled in me about loving and being loved was to never air your dirty laundry.  If there was a disagreement between you and your spouse it was just that, between you.  There were a few other things, I’m sure you can guess, that are also on the list of “just between the two of you”.

But there are no secrets in poly.  To be clear, that’s a choice the four of us have made.  When we sat around the campfire and decided to rearrange our lives and let each other in we decided to be very picky about the boundaries we set.  Even the boundaries we originally set quickly became softer as love and trust grew between all of us.

The thing is that all of us were accustomed to open communication and freedom to behave with our spouses however we saw fit – as is true for most monogamous, married couples.  We all knew ourselves and had a strong belief that the success of our marriages came from the relationships developing and progressing authentically.  It didn’t make sense to put a lot of boundaries in our dating lives that would probably be more of an overall hindrance than a help.  Therefore we decided to be very picky and avoid setting arbitrary boundaries.

My mama also taught me not to keep secrets from my husband.  She never kept secrets from my dad and along with keeping your dirty laundry to yourself, she made sure that I knew this was part of a strong and healthy relationship.

So in multiple relationships how do I honor these ideals? How do I contain any disagreements or discord I have between myself and a partner, but not keep those parts of my life secret from partners outside of the disagreement?

The short answer is: I don’t. And it’s a good thing. While sharing the less romantic moments of my romantic relationships with others originally made me really uncomfortable it’s become a benefit.  Any dirty laundry still stays between the four of us. But if there’s an issue the four of us solve it together.  I said that our boundaries have softened as our love and trust has grown. This has meant that if an issue arises we can address it as a family of four and it usually makes all of us feel better.

So this is the first change that became super obvious since moving in and in the process of moving in.

Thanks for reading,

Carmen

 

Focusing on Love

I noticed that I’d written two other “focusing on” titles, one for work and one for fitness.  I thought I might as well round out the unintentional series with a few thoughts on finding focus in love.

One of the major mental shifts in the transition from monogamy to polyamory has been paying attention not only to the amount of time I spend with each partner but exactly how we use that time.

When it was just Ben and I we could spend all weekend getting things done like grocery shopping, Costco trips, little fixes around the house and cleaning.  It might easily become much needed time to get to the things that, for one reason or another weren’t accomplished during the week.  As a monogamous couple, this sort of weekday procrastination and weekend productivity worked.  Now however if we blow through a couple days getting a lot of practical things done it feels like we really haven’t had that time together and before we know it we are out on dates with other partners and having second thoughts about what we did with our time together.

Of course, the housework doesn’t stop needing to get done just because our personal lives got busier.  So we have to be more careful about planning so that everything can get done without sacrificing too much personal time.

Since I work from home I try to get a lot of bigger household tasks like cleaning the floors and big clean-ups done during the day while everyone else is at work.  That way these things don’t become pressing on the weekend when someone else has the time to get to them. Besides, it’s easier to clean when there’s only one person home and that doesn’t happen often outside of work hours.

Getting tasks that require focus and labor like floors, windows, and other washing out of the way while everyone at work leaves the more passive tasks like running the laundry machines for evenings and weekends.  These tasks fit more easily into plans because you can just move the items and then go back to your date while the machines do the work.

It’s about more than chores though.  Sometimes even if we aren’t doing chores together we aren’t paying attention to each other either.  Almost eight years of monogamy meant getting used to having endless time together.  So what if one or two nights were lazy, spent doing our own things like me working on the blog and him playing guitar – there was always tomorrow.

Now that isn’t so true.  If we use our time together in separate endeavors we miss each other and again, rethink how we spent that time.

It takes more focus in each relationship to ensure that the time spent together doesn’t slip away without us actually connecting and appreciating that we’re together.

That doesn’t mean we have to drop everything either. It’s as simple as holding hands while you shop, taking a second in the car between stops to let your partner know you’re enjoying the time with them or grateful for them helping you get these things done and maybe stopping to enjoy a meal together while knocking tasks off the to-do list.

It’s funny how we don’t always think about the logistical side of running a relationship in relation to running a household but the two can either support or impede each other depending on how carefully time is considered and valued by all parties.

What’s your favorite way to slip a little romance into everyday life?

Carmen

What Commitment means when you’re Polyamorous

With Valentine’s day around the corner I wanted to put something out there:

Polyamory is the belief that we can love more than one person. There’s no reason why the love you give to multiple people has to be any different than the fairy tale love we’re familiar with.  Polyamorous romances can be just as intense, long-lasting and committed as monogamous ones.

The thing is that when I fell in love with my husband there was a script for what to do with our feelings as a young, monogamous couple. We could easily google, for example, what we legally needed to do to become wed. We could find out about the process of applying for a marriage license, where to send it, what documents we would need to complete this process.

 

Ben and I

My Husband, Ben, and I

We could also find endless resources for how to plan a wedding. We could get ideas on how to make our wedding come together from tv shows, pinterest, magazines, friends or family and everywhere in between.

 

It’s a little different when you’re polyamorous and fall in love.

There aren’t tv shows about planning a poly wedding.  And because in Canada where we live you can’t legally marry more than one person it’s much harder to just google what the process might look like.

That’s kind of scary, for about half a second, and then it’s totally freeing.  There isn’t a script – we get to write it!

So here are a few thoughts on commitment when you’re in polyamorous relationships!

 

Living Outside the Closet

I have a great respect for people who keep some aspect of themselves and their love lives “in the closet”. Whether it’s polyamory, a matter of sexuality, or gender identity – it isn’t easy. We kept our polyamorous relationships secret for the first couple months while we all developed our own understanding of what was happening. We didn’t want to tell people what was happening before we had all the answers. At first, we didn’t even know what to call each other, much less if this was going to last. Until we knew those things, we worked on our relationships strictly in private.

It was hard. Given that we’re all reasonably privileged and had never had to hide a

Maggie and I

My girlfriend, Maggie, and I

relationship before it was frustrating and a constant, irritating limitation to check ourselves – not reaching for each other’ss hands or kissing in public.

 

That made the decision to come out easy for us. Make no mistake though, not all of the responses we got were easy to handle. We have a strong appreciation for why some people never come out.

But we’re glad we have and it makes thinking about living together, and staying committed easier to be excited about since we won’t have to hide the true nature of our relationships.

Where Do We Live?

Of course Ben and I had a perfectly happy little home, as did Maggie and Tom, before we all started dating. As the feelings grew stronger we had to start seriously asking ourselves where this could go. When we started dating our spouses that script was there to support us: if it’s going well, make it facebook official. When you don’t want to sleep without them anymore move in, and so on.

 

Tom and I

My boyfriend, Tom, and I

What about us now? Do poly people follow that at all?

 

The answer is – sure, if they want to!

And we do, so we are. Ben and I are moving into Maggie and Tom’s house. We have all acknowledged that this isn’t really for practical reasons – we were all perfectly able to run our own households. But we wanted the time together. We spend more time than we care to admit driving back and forth. Our current houses are about a half hour apart so it’s kind of a pain to always be commuting here and there.

When we sat down and thought out what we all value in our households, the presence of the people we love was number one. More broadly, our priorities and goals about how we believe a household should be run were compatible so the move makes sense for us and is underway.

 

To Ceremony or Not To Ceremony

Maybe we won’t do anything. Maybe we’ll just make our home and keep living our lives, happily ever after.  Then again, just because we can’t legally marry our new partners doesn’t mean that we can’t have a wedding. After all the legal part of getting married is a 30 second moment after the ceremony when we actually signed the paperwork.  It’s still a wedding without that moment.

As far as the ceremony goes… we get to make it up!  We can say vows that make sense to us, involve a wedding party or not, invite whoever we want… there aren’t a whole ton of rules for how this is done!

Just think – when I married my husband there were magazines and a tradition full of must’s and mustn’ts that I needed to follow in order to participate in the tradition.  Now though, commitment means designing something that reflects only us and nothing else.

Kids

At this point, children are probably the most popular thing for people to ask us about. Each of us being a couple years into our marriage, and between us having good jobs and stable relationships people were starting to ask us as married couples when we would have kids even before we got together.

The reality is that any thoughts of having kids have been shifted back a few years. We all really value forming tangible commitments before bringing children into the picture.  Give us time to live together and continue building our lives to match the new family structure before expecting us to add to the family!

That being said, people’s main concern seems to be who will parent the children. The short answer is: it’s not their business.

We all love each other. I don’t know who will create children with who, but I know those children will have 4 parents to love them unconditionally. And I expect that to be enough knowledge for the others who love our children.

 

All in all the most complicated part of being committed and polyamorous is figuring out how holidays like Valentine’s day work! We get to write our own script and I love that about the direction our lives are going.

Comment your questions and thoughts!

Carmen

 

What makes Polyamory work for Us

  1. None of us are prone to jealousy and all of us understand our responsibility to cope with jealousy in a healthy way.
    Not being prone to jealousy doesn’t mean we’ll never look at our spouses with their boyfriend or girlfriend and think it might be nice if we had the same thing they have in a given moment.
    Instead, it’s committing to acknowledge those feelings and that jealousy ultimately is about us – not them. As an example: I need to remember, if I’m feeling jealous over something, that nothing between Ben and Maggie takes away from what I have with Ben or what I have with Maggie. Jealousy is sneaky and makes us feel like someone’s got it better than us when in fact we don’t mean to undervalue what we have.
  2. We’re all genuinely happy to see each other happy.
    I guess this goes along with the low levels of jealousy but it’s deeper than that. There have been many aspects of Ben’s life that brought him happiness outside of our relationship – the bands he’s jammed with, music in general, a whole University degree that just dizzy’s my little arts brain (he’s a computer scientist.) I’ve always taken pride in supporting his interests and hobbies outside of our relationship so I guess it was a natural extension to encourage him when sparks flew between him and Maggie. This is just another way he as an individual can experience happiness that compliments, not complicates, our happiness together.
  3. We’re so lucky we sometimes just sit around in amazement
    Seriously – it’s not that surprising that Maggie and I are compatible a partners. We found each other while both lost on a school trip and never let go of each other. We’ve been best friends for a decade and even when we did not see each other often we were always there to support each other. Our romance developing isn’t super surprising.
    But what are the chances that we would also be very compatible with each others husbands?
    Then again, people say Maggie and I are very similar while Ben and Tom are very different. It’s true that Ben and Tom have very different hobbies but at their cores, when it comes right down to values and how they prefer to live, they are not that different.However it happened, we’re glad it did!

Carmen