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

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.

 

A Weekend Getaway to Blue Mountain

This past weekend Ben and I went on a little weekend getaway to Blue Mountain resort in Ontario.  Since I share so much of our lives here I thought I’d share our vacation, too!

We did things a little differently. Actually, going on vacation at all is a little different for us. We’re kind of the masters of a day trip. We don’t mind long drives or getting home late so we usually just go to events or go sightseeing and then make the trek home. Deciding to go somewhere and stay not just for 1 but for 2 nights felt like we were spoiling ourselves.

We wanted to make the most of our time there and make it a weekend of indulging things we don’t normally give ourselves time for.

First of all we made room in the budget and also go the style of vacation we would enjoy most by using Airbnb.  This was our first airbnb experience and we are now happily singing its praises. Instead of staying in a shoebox with a bed we were able to rent a 1 bedroom condo 2 minutes from the village. Having a kitchen to cook our fave breakfast food in plus a super cozy space to netflix in the evening made a huge difference in our “lifestyle for a weekend”.

img_0652In the spirit of doing things we don’t normally make time for I took myself to the spa while Ben rounded up some groceries and supplies.  I enjoyed a hot stone massage and a facial at Kalola spa in Blue Mountain village.  It was so relaxing but definitely a splurge that I’ll save for rare occasions and not make a regular habit of. As much as I enjoyed it in the moment it was a pretty fleeting pleasure which made the investment seem disproportionate.  I don’t regret the decision to treat myself at all but it was definitely a vacation lifestyle treat and not a regular lifestyle need.

On Saturday we found an adventure tour company offering ATV tours.  Ben grew up with a 3-wheeler and had a few friends who had 4-wheelers so he was happy to go adventuring on one. I’d never ridden one in my life and so I was super excited to try it out.  It was an idea to satisfy our craving for adventure and something off the beaten path.  I can’t say enough good things about the company and how nice the trails were.  There was a little something for everyone with rugged hill climbs, muddy, winding trails through the trees and wide open well-groomed pathways where we could speed up a little bit.

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I honestly had no idea what to expect from either the experience of riding an ATV or the environment we’d be in so everything was new for me.  I didn’t anticipate the effort it took to maneuver the ATV. I mean, I guess I just never really thought much about how much they weigh or that grippy tires let you do a lot of cool climbs and ride over everything but also take work to control.  You’d think everything after crashing a car for fun would be a breeze but I still took my time getting used to it.

Perseverance paid off, though! By the end of the hour long tour I was really enjoying myself and as soon as we were in the car we were both talking about visiting again.  The company operates all year round so if you like to adventure through heat, mud, raino r snow they’ve got a tour for you and a few different options for what you want to drive.

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The tour guides were super nice and chatted with us after, as well.  People and personal connections can make such a huge difference and these folks are a great example of how good people leave a lasting impression for their business – thank you so much for an amazing experience, ya’ll!

 

In the afternoon Ben and I headed back in to the village (after a hard earned soak in the resort hot tub!) to try out the “Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster” we’d read so much about.

Check out this article to see why we had to check it out:

here we though we’d be gliding gently down the mountain admiring the fall leaves… nope! We got to glide gently up… and up… and up.  On the way down you could pull your breaks if you were really scared but it was strongly discouraged by staff as you slow down everyone behind you and muck up the timing of the track.  It only seemed polite to push forward at full speed wondering how anyone could be afraid… then your cart rattles around the 1st bend far faster than you expect.

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This moment separates the strong from the weak.

We loved every adrenaline-fuelled second so much we rode a 2nd time before going to get dinner.

We wandered around the village, shopped a little and then returned to relaxing at the condo.

On Sunday we went for a scenic drive and hiked around the mountaintop taking pictures of the partially snowy landscape.

We were really picky about what we comitted to with this weekend. We wanted time to relax and focus on each other as a couple while still enjoying the unique experiences the area had to offer.  I think we accomplished this with a few great experiences like the ATV tour and the coaster while taking the rest of our time to relax and do whatever we wanted without stressing out.

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What’s your weekend getaway style? Are you a fully scheduled weekend warrior or a worry-free weekender with an open calendar?

 

 

 

 

How to: Support your Poly Friends

TL;DR: (Yeah, I had a lot to say here, #sorrynotsorry ) Be kind. To all of us. About our relationship. We like pizza and laughing so… less drama and more pizza please.

When we came out we knew the news would be a surprise for a lot of our friends and we were prepared to be patient while they processed this change in our lives.  We couldn’t have fully explained then exactly what we needed or wanted from them that was any different from before – we were in the midst of understanding this ourselves.  However, now that we’ve had some time to live this life and experience what it’s changed and what it hasn’t I have some thoughts I want to share.

In most ways being a supportive friend to any of the four of us hasn’t really changed. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that what we need from our friends didn’t change, just the number of people supporting us did. We’ve all been blessed with friends who included our married partners in the friendships and made sure they always recognized loving us meant loving our marriages.  Well there’s more to love now.  If you loved us and our marriages before please remember we have more partners we want to involve now.  Maybe it won’t be everyone together all the time – we don’t always travel as a group. However, we do travel as a group a lot of the time and it’s awkward and disheartening to think there are spaces where we aren’t welcome to be all of us.

Maybe I should note here that if there’s a real reason you want to invite one or two of us in to a space but not invite all of us, just talk to us! We’re pretty understanding about circumstances.  But if the limitation is being placed just because the plural nature of our relationship makes you uncomfortable, why are you inviting any of us to anything? This is a huge part of who we are.

Think of how you generally show support to your friends: spending time with them, keeping up to date with their lives, listening when they need an ear, offering advice when they need it, and yes, having some sort of friendship with their partner – even if its only because they’re dating and not because you would choose that partner as a friend for yourself.

I think maybe that last bit has been the most complicated for people in our lives, but we’ll get to that.

I want to stress here that I’m writing this with the greatest affection for everyone in all our lives and the deepest gratitude that they want to support us and be a part of our lives. Our friends aren’t the only ones figuring out “how this works” exactly, so we’re here to support them supporting us.

Spend Time with Us: We all have our own lives. Don’t worry – we didn’t become like a single-minded entity that can’t function unless we’re together. We still have our own friends and our own interests.  However, we love our time with all of our partners and we are protective of that time – we only have so much time with each person in a week – so maybe we’re a little picky about how we prioritize, especially when it means less time for our relationships. Try not to hold it against us if we can’t make a certain day or certain something work because we need to be home that night.  If we say we want to make plans work with you, we mean it.

Stay Up to Date with Us: Just ask us what’s up, what’s new, what’s happening.  We are busy, busy people and we’d love to share all the little things that bring us joy, stress us out, drive us crazy and make us laugh in a week. We have stories about the quirks of dating each other, about the side effects of living under one roof, about our various jobs and of course our hobbies.  We want to catch up – let’s pick a time. I think people hesitate to ask us what’s new because they just don’t know what to expect so let me reassure you – it hasn’t changed that much. It includes more people now. But if you’re afraid we’re going to bombard you with awkward amounts of detail about our sex lives or something you can stop worrying.

Let us Talk: You’re our friends – we’ve always been able to vent and rant and just talk with you.  We really highly value being able to speak freely about our lives without holding back when we want to switch from a story about one partner to a story about another.  We crave the ability to and the space to express ourselves without hiding any part of ourselves and our happiness.  But this is pretty well tied in to the next piece…

Give us Advice when Asked for or Needed: Except… don’t discount our relationships. I think it’s easy to assume poly is the root of all problems in our lives but we all have people at work that cause us stress, frustrations with our hobbies or other activities, and generally a whole lot of life that isn’t defined by our relationships.
We live together. We love each other. If we’ve come to you for advice on any topic, just know the recommending a break up is never the answer.

It feels like any time one of us expresses stress it’s easy for people to question if we should rethink our relationships. This gets frustrating because our relationships are a source of comfort, confidence and strength in our lives. Think of your own happy and healthy relationships – regardless of how they’re configured or defined – what do they bring to your life? I hope they bring you happiness, laughter, inspiration and that they feed your soul, feed your fire and enable you to be all that you are outside of those relationships. That’s what our relationships do in our lives.

When people suggest that our relationship structure is the reason we’re stressed about one thing or another I think it just kind of saddens us that maybe that person isn’t seeing how happy we are.

Including the Partner(s): Hey – you didn’t pick them. Your friend might think this person can do no wrong and you might think they’re all sorts of wrong.  That doesn’t change the fact. Friendships, in my experience, work best when friends respect and include a serious partner regardless of if they would pick that partner as a friend for themselves.  In case us living together isn’t the hint you’re looking for: We’re serious about this relationship and each other. You don’t get to pick your monogamous friends partners, and you don’t get to pick which one of us is coming to dinner.  If you message me saying we should get together for dinner and the invite is open to my partners – then it’s open to my partners. When you specify which partner or partners are invited and which aren’t it leaves me with the feeling I’m not really accepted by you. There’s a whole part of my life, a whole person who makes me crazy, insanely happy that you’re trying to ignore just because there are other partners you can focus on and really, that just doesn’t work. Maybe sometimes you want one on one time with me and that’s great but if this is an open invite for partners, it’s open to all of mine, or none of us.

Stop waiting fo the Break Up: Seriously. How much more do I need to say? Regardless of if a relationship is monogamous or not, holding your breath for us to break up because you’re not sold on the relationship is one of the absolute rudest behaviours I’ve ever witnessed in a friendship. You want me to be happy, yeah? Even if it’s not the exact happily ever after you imagined for me? (Otherwise, why are we friends?) Well then, start breathing because this relationship is built to last and friendships that don’t accept us can’t.

We’ve all gotten less tolerant of “friends” who add stress and drama to our busy lives

There might not be a super cute way to say this one. People who add stress instead of relieving it, people who make us cry instead of laugh, people who manipulate, spread doubt instead of encouragement, and who generally can’t bring themselves to be a positive part of our day… we’ve got less and less time or patience for those people.

And if our attitude shifting in a way that makes us okay with those friendships fading is a problem – if it’s a problem that we’re really over negativity and negative people – well, then our attitude changing really isn’t the reason the friendship is ending.

Carmen

Maggie: My Best Friend

This month I have enjoyed telling our love stories. From explaining what it means to me to call Ben my high school sweetheart to the personal growth I’ve found with Tom as my partner in adventure – it’s truly been a joy to reflect on and share our stories. Finally, I’m excited to share the story of falling in love with my best friend: Maggie.

Maggie literally found me when I was lost in the rain in Arlington cemetery. God only knows why my friends wandered away and didn’t inform the tour guide that I was still in the washroom. Or why the staff thought it was a good idea to send a 15-year-old into this massive cemetery alone to search for a group of other 15-year-olds. As strange and crazy as this chain of events was, it lead Maggie and I to each other and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

I mean, who else could have met me crying my eyes out, lost and frustrated in the pouring rain and decided to keep me around?

Ten years later we have escaped the cemetery, survived University, student organizations and volunteering together.  She did a lot of driving around to help me put my wedding together and even helped me pick my wedding flowers – a meeting Ben had zero interest in. I’m pretty sure my florist thought we were marrying each other – kind of funny, now. Maggie and Tom even picked those flowers up and delivered them the morning of my wedding.

Ben and I drove to Nashville to stand by her and Tom when they married each other. From drinking moonshine that should have killed us (I mean, too drunk to effectively eat french fries or form sentences – just embarrassing) to putting ourselves back together and getting down the aisle. We’ve seen each other through a lot.

I’ve confided in Maggie, always. When I faced turbulence in my friendships and when I needed advice on developing myself as a person and reaching my goals.

Looking back I should have known there was something between Maggie and I. I’ve always admired her. Since high school, she’s been a powerhouse for whatever cause she chooses to champion. When I met her she was rebuilding homes in disaster-struck areas on her holiday. Seriously – I was trying to make it to Canada’s Wonderland when I had a break from school and she was counting down the days till she could literally improve the world.

She then came home and developed events like 24 Hours for Hunger and connecting students with veterans. To me, it was like she never stopped. Now, being even closer to her, it’s still that way.

Maggie’s ambition to improve the world around her, from her hometown to the global community, has always inspired me. It has shown me that my own dreams are possible. It has given me something to aspire to.

How could I not fall in love with her?

Then, getting the chance to know her more it seemed in so many ways we fit together. We found comfort in each other when we discovered we had the same values. When the world didn’t make sense we could console each other. When we needed sound advice on almost anything, we always seemed to find just what we needed in each other.

Falling in love has changed our relationship in subtle ways. It no longer feels entirely appropriate to vent about everything our husbands or boyfriends do to bother us – I mean, those relationships are shared after all. It’s a little awkward to tattle on your boyfriend to his wife or to tattle on your husband to his girlfriend.

Still… she gets it.  She knows when I vent it isn’t because I want to tattle on anybody or even tell her something about her husband or boyfriend. Our relationships with the boys are separate. We actually use the phrases “girlfriend treatment” and “wife treatment”.  It just means that there are traits in Ben’s personality which have more influence on her relationship with him, and less influence or prominence when he’s interacting with me. At the same time, there are traits that Tom has which define his and I’s interactions but don’t play a big role in how he interacts with Maggie. It’s not always a bad thing – in fact, it’s what allows us to develop unique relationships.

What this means is that if I do need to get something off my chest about a bit of friction between myself and one of the boys, Maggie can listen and be my best friend. As much as she’s also in a relationship with these people, the relationships are different. The moments of friction, and the moments of joy – moments that give the relationships character – are different. That makes it easier to avoid the feeling that I’m simply tattling on her husband or boyfriend to their wife or girlfriend.

It’s taken a while and it’s still a work in progress to figure out what it means to fall in love with your best friend. She doesn’t stop being my best friend – she never has, and I can’t imagine that she ever will. I mean, we literally share everything.

The relationship changed: it became more than it was, I fell in love with my best friend.

Carmen

Celebrating Love at Pride Toronto

 

This is the first pride month that I’ve been out as a bisexual woman, and of course, the first pride month that I’ve been out as polyamorous.  We started our pride festivities with a wonderful Women in Power event at TD. A little while later we attended Pride Night at the Aqueerium at Ripley’s Aquarium and then danced and partied on Church Street.  A day later we were back to march together with TD in the Pride Parade and enjoy Church Street by day.

All this is well and good but pictures tell our Pride story better than words ever could so check out all our photos below =) Especially the last ones.

Carmen

 

Women in Power event at TD – #ForeverProud 

Night at the Aqueerium & Dancing in the Rain on Church Street.

All ready with Rainbow make up, a renewed attempt at body confidence re: crop top style, and the best of friends. Even the rain couldn’t stop our smiles. Also, how adorable is it that google maps showed the parade route in rainbow when I opened the map!?

Just being cute together and celebrating our love after the parade 

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We’re so cute we even made Brett Kissel’s instagram story – how awesome is that? 

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And of course, we answered hate with love.

 

Learning to Practice Pride Every Day

The hardest part of coming out, for me, was realizing that it’s not quite the grand leap out of the closet that you expect. Even with social media, the message doesn’t reach everyone. Even if it did, there’s meeting new friends or colleagues and the assumptions they make (about me at least) are that I’m straight and monogamous.

The fact that I wear wedding rings and have a husband definitely gives people reason to make that assumption. None the less, it can be a bit jolting when casual conversation turns to family life and it turns out, mine isn’t quite what they expected.

In the few weeks or months after officially coming out on social media I wasn’t quite prepared for the situations where I would fine myself inadvertently in the middle of another “coming out” conversation. Especially since the people I had to “come out” to in these odd after-thought conversations were usually co-workers at my old retail job or someone else on the outer rings of my social existence. I don’t usually talk about my personal life at work – I make it a general practice not to – but from time to time it would slip. Now it isn’t strictly the conversations with coworkers specifically that were awkward, it’s the fact that in the grand scheme of my life and coming out these people weren’t important to me.  Once it was a nail lady who asked about my weekend plans and was super confused when I told her I had plans with my boyfriend while she was holding my ring finger and admiring the bling.

When we decided to come out we all created lists of who needed to know. Our parents and family of course.  Then there were the close friends who we wanted to tell personally, rather than letting them find out on social media. After we had these conversations to the best of our ability we figured out how to post and went ahead with the big leap of coming out publicly.  Truthfully we could of gone on forever with the private conversations and there were probably a few people we missed or didn’t contact in time but we were so excited to make our announcement. I took a lot of back and forth for us all to decide exactly how we wanted the announcement to go – we had to figure out what coming out meant to  us and what that looked like. When we finally felt ready, we weren’t patient.

After making it public on social media there were a few follow up conversations and messages from friends and family members we didn’t speak to previously.  Beyond that, it was relatively smooth. At least, none of the turbulence we experienced was completely unexpected, even if some of it was a little more intense than we anticipated.

Then sometimes the moment comes up where you’re about to say something and you hesitate because you don’t want to come out and explain everything. For example, when someone asks my weekend plans and I want to say “I’ll be at a derby with my boyfriend.” but I don’t want to get in to the whole thing.

True story: When I had that retail job I once bunch of underwear at the end of my shift. The coworker ringing me out said something about how happy my boyfriend would be when I got home and another coworker yelled over “Husband – she’s married!”. I laughed all the way home.

Seriously though, moments where being honest about something unrelated could lead to coming out are silently awkward.  There’s a lot of guilt about avoiding a conversation or avoiding having to acknowledge your relationships fully. It felt unfair to Tom or Maggie that I would acknowledge my relationship with Ben but potentially not talk about them the same way because it was easier.

I’ve gotten over that now, clearly.

For this month I promised to reflect on Pride month and come up with some musings.  As I was thinking about how to do this I’ve been thinking about how excited I am that this is my first Pride month being completely out. In that string of thoughts it occurred to me that coming out was a plural experience. And a plural experience that I was not always prepared for, at that.

Having that unexpected series of conversations and experiences has helped me come to practice pride every day. It’s made me realize that when we decided we wanted to come out on social media we really wanted more. We wanted the openness and honesty that had always been part of how we lived our lives and related to others to continue being part of our lives. With this we committed to pride as a daily action.

Almost a year in to it though, it does get easier. When I decided to blog about this life I think I had to commit to practicing pride every day. I love my life so much, how can I avoid celebrating that?

Carmen

Unsolicited Relationship Advice

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I know I grew up lucky, in some (ahem, many) ways. Many of my friend’s parents were divorced, and they moved between two separate homes.  My parents were together.  Perhaps even luckier for me, my parents were happy to be together. Parental yelling matches, dad on the couch or threats to leave are all unfamiliar stereotypes to me.

Perhaps it is because my childhood home was so happy that I find relationships and relationship advice to be such an interesting subject.

I also got married young. In fact, I fell in love young. I’ve been with Ben since I was 16 and got married when I was 23.  Young for my generation in both experiences.

Now, as many of my readers will know I am in three unique relationships and navigating life with five romantic relationships under one roof. Each of us values strength, stability and functionality in our relationships and we work hard to build our relationships around these values and our personal needs.

It must be a combination of all these factors that makes me feel entitled to provide some form of unsolicited relationship advice.

But you know that feeling when you see people struggling with something that comes naturally to you, and you just want to help and provide your knowledge and see if you can make their struggle less, their day easier? Yeah that happens to me a lot.

What the Advice Columns Miss About Fighting

I’ve seen all kinds of advice columns reassure their readers that fighting is normal. There’s a couple thoughts I want to  unpack here, so bear with me.

Let’s remember for a second that normal doesn’t mean necessary. It might not be all doom and gloom for your relationship if you argue from time to time but if you don’t fight at all, that’s okay too. (I’m assuming you don’t fight because you aren’t disagreeing; please don’t bottle it all up just to say you don’t fight. Remember, it can be normal!)

But then don’t the relationship columns also tend to tell us that if we’re fighting about “the big things”, like money, children or lifestyle, we should run for it because there’s no way to build a relationship when you can’t agree on the foundational aspects of a life together?

So, do we fight and stay because it’s normal or fight and run for it because we want different foundations for our life together?

Go ahead and argue, but not about the big stuff.

If you were a fly on our wall and you could catch us in a rare moment when we’re feeling off-kilter, you know what it would be about?

Food.

Yeah, you read that right. Like is it okay to have fries with dinner? Should my husband have brought home the bag of chips I requested or should he have said no because he knows I’m trying to lose weight?

Or can the meal plan be changed, and can anybody spontaneously stop at a store and pick up something that wasn’t on the grocery list?

What’s healthy enough for our healthy lifestyle goals and what’s healthy but not healthy enough?

How do we handle cravings?

Food.

We decided to have talks about what getting serious together meant fairly early on. We didn’t want to come out and fight off all the negativity just to find out we couldn’t really build a life together if we wanted to.

Let me be clear: When we talk about money, children (how many to have, how to raise them, etc), our lifestyle (financially, where we will live, what is important and what we don’t need, etc.) we all agree. In fact, we agree easily.  There are certainly some compromises but they were all easy to make.

So if you’re asking me (which you didn’t, but you read this far so I’ve got something going for me.), let yourself argue when you’ve got a bone to pick but if you’re not laughing at how silly a bone it was to get worked up over once all is said and done, that’s when you should worry about the fighting.

They say never stop dating, but more realistically, never stop infusing your relationship with the little, every day things that bring you joy.

Okay so “never stop dating” has a ring to it and saying it my way is a mouthful. But hear me out.

I’ve been with Ben for seven years. I don’t want to go to dinner and pretend that he doesn’t know anything about me so we can “date”. But you know what does happen at the beginning of a relationship and should be carried forward?

Finding little ways to brighten each others day. It’s bringing home tea from Tim’s when he knows I haven’t left the house today and could use a pick me up. It’s surprising me with something he saw and bought just because it made him think of me.

It’s different than dating – I think it’s more like showing how successful he was at dating me by showing how well he knows me now.

It’s spoiling each other from time to time.  About a week ago Ben offered to pay for my manicure knowing that dinner out would mess with my diet but still wanting to make me feel spoiled.

It’s knowing when he needs time to be an introvert and not burdening him with extensive conversation and crowded situations.

So by all means, keep dating. Recognize that as humans we grow and change so there’s aways new ways we can “get to know each other”…. but as the years go by go beyond “still dating” and make it about knowing and appreciating each other.

Okay just One More Thing…

Hey you’ve read pretty far in to this bit of unsolicited advice – I appreciate that!

This one’s important: Know the difference between joking and teasing. It’s trickier than you think but here’s the key:

It isn’t up to you.

It’s up to whoever is at the other end. For example if you’re making a joke about something your partner doesn’t laugh about (take me and my weight, for example) you’re just teasing and it probably isn’t fun for your partner.

Stick to things your partner can laugh about too. For me – I laugh at my own sense of style because I have enough confidence in it to take a joke from time to time. You kind of have to when you decide to dye your hair blue. So it’s fun for everyone.

Don’t be the person who leaves your partner feeling sad, self conscious or bad about themselves/something about them. Even if you don’t get why they’re so sensitive about something, respect it. As your partner you should be relied on for that.

 

Well thanks for reading – what are the things you wish you could shout from the roof tops when it comes to relationships?

 

 

 

The Art of Balancing Yourself with those you Love

I firmly believe that our relationships should not define us entirely.  Who are you when your spouse is at work? With their friends? Visiting family? Your relationship is, of course, a huge part of your life and will define many parts of the life you build together.  This is no reason to lose sight of who you are when you’re alone.

There’s an art to balancing yourself as an individual – giving attention to that self, doing things you enjoy by yourself – and yourself as part of a partnership, or multiple partnerships.  Come to think of it, this applies to friends too.  For my single girls out there who are living it up and building a life with your close friends (I see you, and I support you.), you are still your own person and not just a member of a friend group.

So here are my thoughts and tips for embracing your identity when you’re alone and balancing it with your identity as its related to other people:

Hobbies that others aren’t invited to

So you say you’re thinking of taking a class on something or trying out a new activity – you don’t always have to invite everyone else who may enjoy it.  You’re not obligated to include them every time. You get to make a decision about when it’s something you want to invite them to do with you and when you want to branch out on your own.

Things you do as an individual you don’t have to do alone

Just because you didn’t invite your partners or close friends to this thing you’re doing for yourself doesn’t have to be a solo activity.  Maybe you’re catching a yoga class or joining a community sports team.  You can meet new people and enjoy a social activity all for yourself.  This isn’t about developing yourself in isolation so much as having a self that isn’t described in relation to another person.

Think of it this way, if you join a community sports team with your partner you’ll be people who joined as a couple – referred to by others on the team as so and so’s partner, etc.  But if you join without your partners you can be known for traits that are all your own, like your humor or your skills.

Family might still be involved

Maybe you’ll have something you always do with your mom, or a sibling.  Someone who has known you outside of your current relationships and will appreciate you in that light.  This walks a line in that if your activity involves other people like a team or class you might still end up defining yourself in that activity by your relationship to the family member you joined with.  That being said it’s a balance between being defined by your relationship to someone else and being known as your own person by the people around you.

It can change over time

You don’t have to have your set of things that you pick right now, and are all yours, and you do them forever.  Maybe there’s a series of new things you try or seasonal activities you enjoy.  It’s more about spending time valuing yourself and nurturing your own identity, and less about consistency in how that time is actually spent.

It’s one of the few areas in our lives where I don’t think consistency is particularily important for success and growth.

It doesn’t have to be only yours forever

When you do fall in love with somthing you might end up inviting people from your important relationships to join you in it after all.  Why deny them the chance to enjoy it just because it started as something you did without them?

There can be other things you do without them, as long as you’re paying attention to giving yourself that time.  Not to mention, if you’re inviting someone into an activity you’ve established yourself in you’ve already escaped totally defining yourself by your relationship to them at the outset.

 

All in all I think it’s easy to do things with our partners because they make us feel safe.  That’s why they became our partners, right? It’s part of loving each other to offer comfort and support to each other, and it’s easy to want to bring that comfort and support with you on new adventures.  In a world where I have three partners who I enjoy spending time and trying new things with I have found the importance of remembering who I am when I’m on my own. It’s a matter of knowing that appreciating and nurturing my own identity does not diminish my relationships or how fully I give myself to them.

What’s your fave hobby that your partners choose to sit out of?

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