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

Love is Accepting your Partner, flaws and all

They say attitude is everything and from school, to business, to relationships “they” might be on to something.

When I read about other polyamorous relationships and the ideas behind polyamory a lot of the time the biggest lesson is accepting everything about your partner without wishing they would change.

I have been lucky to always be in relationship where I felt accepted and have been reassured about the acceptance if ever it seemed to be in question. Today I want to share a few ideas about what this kind of acceptance looks like.

Forgiving Our Partners their Flaws

Everyone is flawed, in some way. We’re only human, after all. We have a natural urge to help and fix. We imagine that we can make our partner happy by making them be more perfect in our eyes. In reality we cause a lot of stress, doubt and damage this way.

Instead, remember that your partner is human and if you chose them their flaws can’t be so serious or worth picking a fight over.

Seeing and Accepting our own Flaws

A lot of the time the “flaws” we see in others are extensions of our own insecurities. We start to nit-pick and get frustrated when we want our partners to somehow puzzle piece in to our lives in a way that corrects everything we wish we could change about ourselves.

When we practice acknowledging and forgiving ourselves for the things we don’t favour in ourselves it becomes easier to do this for other people.

Don’t take it Personally 

It’s hard to believe, maybe, that not every thought in your partners head is related to you. This comes up with the idea of attraction to someone else, for example.

Thinking someone else is attractive can be just that. Your partner sees another human and thinks they’re attractive. It’s just a reaction to that person. It’s not a statement about you, your attractiveness or your participation in the relationship.

I struggle – as many of us do -with always wondering if every action or thought is somehow related to me and if I’m being a good enough partner. Hint: Nope. It’s not all related to me and that’s okay.

You’re probably tired of hearing this but it all comes down to
communication

Very few parts of a relationship happen in total isolation or silence. If there’s something you’re working on – like being more accepting or embracing different parts of yourself and your partner – talk about it!

A lot of confusion and misunderstanding is avoided by just mentioning the things you’re thi8nking about and working on, even if you’re not asking anything of your partner.

Polyamory: You have to have Humour

People tell us all the time they just couldn’t do what we do because they’d be jealous. We definitely understand that! Don’t think we never feel a little green. The secret is we handle it differently (or try to handle it differently) than we would if we were monogamous.

My best advice: Try replacing jealousy with humour. As long as you trust your partner or partners and know, all emotions aside, that you trust them completely you can start to break down jealousy and embrace other reactions.

I emphasize trust here because ultimately I believe it is the cure to jealousy. Jealousy usually emerges with thoughts about someone breaking the relationship rules or putting some other aspect of their life over you. It happens when we think either we have been wronged (broken rules and boundaries) or we’ve been denied something we deserve (like priority or time, etc).

If you don’t trust your partner, if you truly believe they would break that boundary or that they would make choices that hurt you knowingly, it will be impossible to turn off that feeling of jealousy and mistrust.

If you do trust your partner, though, if when it comes down to it you don’t really believe they could do those things then it becomes possible to answer jealousy and replace it with other emotions.

My recommendation? Humour.

Particularly with polyamory or any open relationship structure you’re going to find yourself in situations you never imagined. You’ll have conversations about the moments you share with other partners, and if you habitate you may even walk in on those moments. It’s the reality of making the relationship choices we have.

Living this lifestyle is going to be a lot more challenging in the long term if each time these unexpected situations occur you react with anger and jealousy.

Instead, laugh at it, a little. Laugh with each other about the surprise of it all and support each other through the unexpected encounters.

Remember that you define your relationship boundaries and part of deciding to involve more people in your life should be a mutual mental preparation for all the consequences of overlapping relationships.

On a final note – don’t feel like you have to deny the existence of jealousy. It’s a totally normal, human emotion and it should be acknowledged. However, when you feel jealous you have some choices about what to do with that jealousy. I recommend humour instead of anger so that the role of jealousy can be reduced and you can prevent it from defining your relationships and the relationships of those around you.

Making Relationship Resolutions

We spend these last weeks of the year trying to set ourselves up for a great year. We talk about weight loss and career goals. We start planning and prepping and getting excited. If you’re like me you get obnoxiously excited about setting up your new planner. Well, Wednesdays are my relationship post day so here’s a question:

Do you have relationship resolutions?
Here are 5 Relationship Resolutions for a happy, healthy and romantic year:

Don’t focus on what’s “wrong”

This is hard but ultimately good for all your relationships (Yes, that means the friendships you value and even robust relationships with coworkers). When we focus on something we give it increasing power and significance. By focusing on the things that bother us, the things that upset us, any longer than necessary, we slowly let them define our relationship. We start to see the less attractive qualities as defining our partner or partners. We allow our friends tone known by what we don’t like, instead of why we’re friends in the first place. We create resentment.

When you find your mind constantly circling to something negative turn and face it, address it and mentally close that train of thought. If it keeps coming up remind yourself that it was dealt with. That’s really key, though, do turn and face it. It’s not useful to ignore and push away things that bother us. The key is to be able to calmly say to someone “Hey, this is something that’s bothering me but I value what we have and so I want to work on creating positivity.” In your own words, of course. This gives you both an opportunity to speak on the subject and hopefully make the right decisions to alleviate the irritation.

The sneaky truth about “thinking positive” is that it takes a lot more effort than we ever talk about. We say “think positive” all the time but we don’t talk about doing the work. Once you’ve been able to address what’s bothering you, give yourself permission to let it go and focus on what’s going well.

Remember to Date Each other

This is kind of the flip side of not focusing on whatever feels “wrong”. No matter where you are in your relationship – dating, living together, engaged, married – remember to date each other.

The thing about this advice is that it’s really just a reminder to think of each other and let yourself enjoy all the happiness, and infatuation that you felt in those early days of dating. I like to do this for Tom with really simple things. Like surprising him with mini cheesecakes I came across when I stopped to get an afternoon tea. it’s not a big fancy date night. It’s simply a little something that tells him he was on my mind, even in the middle of my day while he was at work.

As relationships get more serious it’s easy to let the infatuation evaporate because we feel like it doesn’t have a place in the conversations about bills, families, and daily life. But love – infatuation and unreasonable affection for one another – is what separates adults in a relationship from adults with a functional partnership.

My ex and I became a functional partnership without even realizing it. We let go of the flirtation and infatuation and let the day to day operation of our household become the only thing we ever talked about. We didn’t leave space for loving and sweet nothings. It was so subtle but a definite contributing factor to the death of our marriage.

Make time for Each Other

It doesn’t have to be like a “date”. Going out for dinner or to do things is nice. However, it’s not really about that, is it? It’s just about making time to make each other a priority.

Sometimes when we are going to be home, just having a regular night, we think of it as not having plans. We look for something else to do with that time. Somewhere else to be, someone else to see. We choose to go out with our friends or go to an event.

Sometimes we have to just see that open time in our schedule as booked. We have to enjoy that obligation-free time with each other and protect it from the incessant need to fill our calendar with “something else”.

This also means putting down the phone, switching from a show that takes all your focus so you don’t talk, and giving each other attention. The “how was your day” kind of attention. You don’t expect your job, your hobby or anything else to flourish without dedicated time so why would you expect this of your relationship?

Celebrate and Support Independence

Relationship advice tends to tell you how to be together. I want to remind you that you should also celebrate and support independence. Encourage each other to pursue hobbies and things that fuel your soul. In this, don’t make your partner feel you don’t notice their individual wins. It’s okay to say cheer them on without getting outright involved.

Be okay with the fact that there is happiness that isn’t shared. Be okay with your partner loving something that you don’t.

Let them talk to you about it and express their happiness without making them feel guilty for loving something that isn’t you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the bleachers, cheering like crazy – metaphorically speaking (Or not metaphorically, if it applies). You should be there, even if behind-the-scenes it’s not your thing.

Take the time to find your own hobbies and interests, too, and celebrate being a whole person who loves another whole person.

Never (Ever) Air your Dirty Laundry 

My mother gave me some really great advice as a teenager. She told me that the reason I should never air the dirty laundry in my relationship is because I am in love with someone, so forgiveness is part of the deal but for all the friends and family I might vent to when I’m mad, that isn’t true.

I can go running to friends or my mom or whoever and tell them all about how upset a partner made me or some stupid thing they did. At the end of the day I’m going to go home and forgive my partner because that’s how relationships move foreword. Also, because I love my partner. Even when they tick me off I know the love is so much bigger than the moment we’re in and in the private moments between us that nobody ever sees we’ve built something that is so strong.

That person I vented to, though… anyone who saw the dirty laundry… they aren’t in the relationship. They don’t have any reason to forgive. I just make us look bad and my partners reputation isn’t fixed by my forgiveness.

Keep what happens behind closed doors right there behind closed doors.

What are your relationship resolutions?

Let’s Stay Connected

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

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.

 

Poly and Parenting

It’s kind of funny – as I write that title I’m like…  uhh I can’t write this, I’m not a parent yet, duh! But then again, not being a parent, let alone a parent in a poly relationship, has not stopped a single person from sharing their thoughts so hell, why don’t I give it a try.

We get a TON of questions about how our relationship affects our plans to be parents.  It’s not the questions I mind so much – actually we welcome more or less all questions because we’d rather people ask than assume.  The annoying part of these questions is the number of people who ask and then immediately tell us what they feel is the correct answer.

Can I just pause for a second here and tell ya’ll something? We’re not “trying”. We want kids to be a part of our future not our right now. So whatever we haven’t figured out, we’ve got time.

But I’ll be honest. When you get serious in a relationship you talk about the future. You talk about values, what kind of lifestyle you want, what your big life goals are, and what a family looks like or means to you.

If you want to be pessimistic you can imagine a different future for us than what we imagine for ourselves but ya’ll know it’s rude to root against someones love life and what makes them happy. And I know ya’ll aren’t rude.

So let me answer some questions:

Yes, we want children.

No, we don’t know how many but 2 is a good bet.

No, at this point we don’t plan to plan who the biological parents are. Oops – there’s a controversial one. Here’s the thing, we all plan to be the kiddos parents. I’m not going to parent a child any less because they are biologically Maggies or more because they are biologically mine. We all live under one roof and we operate as a family unit.  We plan to keep it that way as we think about bringing children in to our lives. They will be loved and looked after by all of us.  Like any other couple, when we’re ready, we’ll be throwing out the birth control methods and carrying on as usual. What happens from there happens.

I know people think it has to be pretty simple to just plan who you’re getting knocked up by, but it’s not.  I’ve tried to talk on this blog about how each of our relationships is unique and no one relationship gets to set the rules or boundaries for another. For me to say I wanted to have a baby with one man specifically would be allowing my relationship with that man to limit my relationship with the other man in order to ensure the biological parentage of the child. Given that we all expect to parent equally, setting those kind of boundaries doesn’t make sense for the relationships we’ve built.

On a related note, we won’t be announcing the biological parentage of babies born in our family. I mean, why would we need to? We’re assuming that our family and friends who will continue to be a part of our lives as our family grows will love our growing family for what it is: a family.

The world is a confusing place, we’re pretty sure that having 4 loving parents is not going to be a huge problem for our children. I mean, we had this conversation about same sex parents, right? There were a bunch of people who could barely fathom same sex relationships and so were completely unhinged at the idea that a child might not understand having two moms or two dads. But children understand love. Time and time again they’ve proven this to the world. Even the young children in our lives now – children of friends and family – handled us coming out better than most. It goes like this:

“Hey, you know how you have this Aunt and Uncle?”

“Yeah”

“And they love each other?”

“Yep.”

“Well, they also love this other man and woman.”

“Okay.”

“And basically the four of them just all love each other and they’re very happy together.”

“Does this mean I get extra gifts at Christmas?”

That is the most vital question a child has asked about our relationship. Does two more people coming into a relationship they’re familiar with mean that they get more Christmas gifts.  Whoa – so confused.

You can stop worrying about our childrens confusing home life now. They’ll be fine.

We have similar values about raising children. That’s a big part of how we know our children are safe from the concerns of others. We believe in raising children in a loving environment.  We believe in rules and routine.  We agree when it comes to dicipline. We believe in teaching them about the whole world, not just our world. We agree with each other on the important things.  They’ll be loved beyond belief.

These hypothetical children will be ours. No really, like any parents, parents to be or hypothetical eventual parents the bottom line and most important fact I can possibly provide you: who to have children with, what our household looks like and how to raise them is entirely up to us and absolutely doesn’t need your opinion about what’s best. You might feel that opinion passionately, you might even be a little bit not okay with the idea of us raising children as a polyamorous family. That’s fine. But if you think that your discomfort or opinions are a factor in our family plans I’m not super sorry to inform you, you’re mistaken.

Carmen

 

 

“Date Night” in the Polyamorous Life

There’s many conventions of dating that can change or shift when in a polyamorous relationship.  Deciding to engage in a polyamorous relationship hasn’t taken away our favourite conventions from our days of monogamy but it has affected exactly what those conventions look like. For example, date night.

Of course not every night you’re with a loved one is inherently a date. Especially as a relationship goes on, you move in together, you must handle day to day tasks and not all your time together is spent focused on how much you adore each other.  That’s what makes date nights so special, right? Ben and I have always tried to plan date nights where we can focus on each other and maybe take time to get outside our routine to try something new or do something just for fun. This was part of Maggie and Tom’s marriage, too, so it’s no surprise that we all still love a good date night.

But what exactly does date night mean for us now?

Just the Two of Us

Well – any two of us, really.  I have date nights with Ben, date nights with Maggie and date nights with Tom.  What we do with the time depends on who I’m with and what we need in that moment.

Having multiple relationships pushes each of us to be cognizant of the time, effort and energy that we give each other.  If we weren’t conscious of our actions and efforts it might be easy to become very romantic with one partner while becoming very pragmatic with another.

For example, Maggie and I are both planners. We like organization, timelines, details and knowing exactly how our days and weeks should unfold.  Both Ben and Tom are used to these qualities and leave a lot of planning to us.  This means that in our time together it’s easy for us to get preoccupied with planning.  We check in with each other about upcoming events, meal plans, who needs to be where when…. before we know it dinner is over and we might be super satisfied with the plans we made but we didn’t really take time for ourselves.

Planning a date night is a signal to ourselves as much as it’s a signal to everyone else: This is relationship building time. The practical stuff can wait. Right now, it’s about nurturing our love for each other.

In all three of my relationships I look foreword to our date time and the chance to nurture these unique relationships.

Have Fun you Two!

We often plan date nights according to events we’re interested in. Concerts, plays, and festivals all make great venues for a date.  We also plan according to important dates like anniversaries.  This can mean that a date night for one couple isn’t necessarily a date  night for another.

For example, if Ben and Maggie go to a beer festival that doesn’t automatically mean Tom and I will hunt for date plans.  We’ll more than likely be enjoying the time to ourselves but in a less formalized way.  We might catch up on some t.v, sneak out for icecream and maybe get some derby cars built.

I’ve written before about the effect of “compersion” – the opposite of jealousy. This can really  be felt on a date night where two of us staying home are perfectly content and happy for our partners who are off to enjoy some well deserved time together.

I guess it’s also convenient too as we can choose to invite partners to events that interest them and not force partners that aren’t interested. Maggie and I can catch all the “girly” movies together, call it a date when we get our nails done, and plan shopping trips to spend time together.  Meanwhile Ben can take Maggie to all the beer festivals which they both enjoy and neither Tom or I have interest in.  Tom and I this summer have gone to watch a lot of the derbys he hasn’t participated in while Maggie and Tom have always liked a good dinner and movie date.

Ultimately having multiple partners has meant having more opportunity to connect over common interests and not force date nights in venues only one partner is really interested.

Three’s a Crowd and Four is…?

Not surprisingly there are things that get all 4 of us interested.  Sometime’s it’s a new Marvel movie or a big concert like Trackside Country Music festival in London, Ontario. On these occasions we go as a family.  I guess the idea of being out somewhere and seeing your partner with other partners is very strange to some but it’s become our daily norm.

It’s really nice to get out sometimes and bond as a family.  However unique our individual relationships with each other we’ve ultimately moved in together and committed to living our day to day lives together. It’s nice when our common interests bring us together.

We’ve had our Weird moments, and Gotten Over It

I guess in conclusion the biggest thing people struggle with is thinking of all the potential for awkward moments and weirdness.  Like is it weird knowing that your spouse is on a date? Is it awkward saying bye to them as they leave, or greeting them when they come home? Do we flip coins for who’s with who for what?

Yeah, we went through that phase too. We spent time staring at each other trying to figure out how to ask for a date night or suggest a date for an event or something.  We wondered what the proper protocols might be for coming and going and how to interact with each other in all kinds of new situations.

Then, all of a sudden we woke up one day and didn’t wonder anymore. We loved each other, we trusted and were happy together, there was nothing to be weird about.

Emotional Responsibility in Polyamory

Sharing emotional responsibility was easy in a monogamous marriage.  I could ask my husband to take some of the burdens if I was feeling less than peachy, and I could do the same for him.  It felt like a normal part of a partnership and truly, there was nothing wrong with it.

But in polyamory that just doesn’t work.  With three partners to balance I can’t expect them to take on my emotional baggage or take on all of theirs myself.

It’s not such a bad thing.  In one-on-one romantic relationships as well as friendships its normal to exchange emotional responsibility.  We always want to lighten the emotional load for those we love (as partners and friends), and we truly do appreciate how they do the same for us.  As I said, there’s nothing actually wrong with this.  As a common practice, it’s a tango we’re all pretty good at.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t value to changing the tempo a bit and taking more responsibility for ourselves.

Let’s start with the big one, shall we:

Jealousy

When I explain to people that I’m in a relationship with multiple people one of the most common questions is how we can love without jealousy.  There’s a couple points that I want to address on that front.

First of all,  we didn’t eliminate jealousy from our range of emotions when we chose this relationship.  However, we did make a commitment to manage all of our emotions, including jealousy, appropriately.

In our language, we tend to attribute jealousy we feel to other peoples actions.  For example: “He was flirty with her all night just to make me jealous.”  We talk about how other peoples actions are the cause of our jealousy and therefore we see it as their responsibility to relieve the jealousy with reassurance.

We might experience jealousy when we witness someone else’s actions but it isn’t something they actually created.  When you see your partner interact with someone else and feel jealous it’s an expression of fear and insecurity. Try this on: “He was flirty with her all night and I was scared he’d like her better than me.” 

Let’s be clear – it’s not inherently bad to have these fears and insecurities in our relationships.  Some people feel them more often or more strongly than others but they’re pretty normal.  My point here isn’t that you should or shouldn’t feel this way – just that you have to own that insecurity and address it.

Think of it this way: “If he chooses her over me – that’s his choice, and not a fault of mine.”

He can appreciate her beauty and still love me just the same.” 

I’m worth loving and we’re happy together. I trust him and don’t hold
his actions against him; I’m not looking for any reason to retract my
trust.”

Taking ownership of the jealousy means we have more power than we originally thought.  We can ease our own emotions and reassure ourselves.  We aren’t relying on someone else to remind us of our value.

It also ties in a way to my post on maintaining your own identity within your relationships – just like having your own hobbies and interests, you should know your worth and that it exists independent of your relationship, even when experiencing jealousy.

To be fair here we’re also humans and we don’t always handle our jealousy as appropriately as we wish we did. It’s hard for everyone but as much as we try to practice owning our jealousy and coping with it effectively we also practice forgiveness when we throw each other off balance.

Compersion is the opposite of jealousy

A word that quickly got added to my vocabulary as Ben and I fell for Maggie and Tom was compersion. This is the feeling of joy and happiness you feel knowing your partner is experiencing joy and satisfaction with someone else (no, it’s not just sexual but a whole and full relationship between two humans!).

Instead of inspiring fear that he’ll choose Maggie over me, I usually lean the other way and feel happy for Ben that he has such happiness in his relationship with Maggie.  It’s the utmost security knowing that his happiness with her does not diminish his happiness with me and so instead of resenting it and feeling jealous, I celebrate it and feel happy.

It helps that I have a relationship with Maggie that is separate from the boys, and have a relationship with Tom that is also unique.  Knowing from personal experience that loving Maggie and loving Tom has not lessened my love for Ben makes it easier to know that Ben can also love Maggie without it taking anything away from me.

When I read posts from others in a polyamorous relationship that are struggling with jealousy they are often struggling in part because their partner has one or more other partners but, for one reason or another, they do not.  I think that balance isn’t necessary – one doesn’t have to have something just because the other does – but it sure helps with an empathetic understanding of the emotional experience.

Take emotional responsibility In all your Relationships

Learning to be more consciously responsible for my emotions in my romantic relationships has opened my eyes to the value of emotional responsibility in general.  As a student in particular over the past 6 years, it’s been almost necessary to lean on each other.  In the high-stress atmosphere of University with half your friends in an identity crisis and the other half confident in who they are but stressed about their future the emotional exchange helped all of us balance out enough to function.

As I age into adulthood, my stress level, identity and relationships are all stabilizing and I see emotional responsibility as a way to maintain more even and balanced control of our own lives.  There will always be circumstances beyond our control and they will inevitably fuck with our plans.  We will also always be surprised by emotions we didn’t expect to feel – jealousy, anger, sadness, even strange amounts of joy that we may or may not know the cause of.  Managing these emotions on our own limits the havoc they may wreak on our daily lives and stabilizes our sense of self.

Developing Emotional Responsibility

So now that I’ve made the case for emotional responsibility, how can someone begin practicing it?

Reflect before you speak.  Before you share your emotions and get caught up in what others did that contributed to them consider what existing emotions allowed others to have an impact on you (ie: existing insecurities that turn in to jealousy, as explored above.) Consider how you can work through those existing emotions with a focus on your own abilities. When you’re approaching someone else it’s beneficial to both of you if you can ask for support handling certain emotions rather than just asking them to calm those emotions for you.

For example – approaching your partner to say “Hey, in this situation I felt really ______. I know that isn’t what you intended and doesn’t really reflect your intentions or behaviour, but it helps me feel better when you _____.”

Be open with those you love.  Owning and taking responsibility for our emotions doesn’t mean they have to be secrets. Share how you’re feeling and what you can do to alleviate any negative emotions. If I do feel a pang of jealousy or sadness I can say to my partners “I felt a bit jealous when —–, so I’m working through that right now.” It lets them know what’s gong on with me without obligating them to take action on my behalf.

Above all, stay calm. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and quickly fall in to old habits but take a deep breath and assess what’s happening as separate from how you’re feeling. Then assess how you’re feeling and look at how the two connect.  Try to be specific in identifying what you would like to change, what you can change yourself and what you need from others to accomplish the change you want.

Last but not least, before you ask for support consider exactly what you’re asking. Taking emotional responsibility is all about being more self sufficient and managing your own emotions. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask your partners, from time to time, to adjust their phrasing on a certain subject or keep an awareness of how a situation impacts you but asking that they completely change an aspect of another relationship or otherwise let your emotions dictate their behaviour may lead to trouble later on.  Keep this in mind.

Your quest for emotional responsibility may surprise or confuse others.

This has been the most unexpected part of this emotional journey. I think it has affected most of us in our little family. It seems natural to let our new found emotional attitude permeate through all the different relationships in our lives.  Since the most outward aspect of this journey is asking less of others the people around us have sometimes felt we isolated ourselves or abandoned them, depending on their perspective.

People are used to feeling needed just as much as they have need for other people in their lives.  We were focused on guarding ourselves and our relationships against negative emotions like unexpected jealousy or the disapproval of others. It was later we realized that needing our friends less for that emotional support meant finding new ways to look after them and show them that they are just as important to us as they always have been.

 

Well – that was a long one! Thanks for reading!

Carmen