Sunday, 1 September 2013

Poly Means Many - Negotiating with Yourself

Negotiating - we all do it, in every aspect of our lives from work, to friendships and socializing; some better than others. Negotiating within romantic/sexual relationships can be a challenging and fraught experience. This can be doubly so in poly relationships, because there is often a whole lot more to negotiate!

As I have recently begun a new relationship, I have been thinking about and doing a lot of negotiating lately and it struck me how ‘easily’ it was all going. Now it could be that my new partner and I are just that much more compatible, but something else dawned on me; I had spent a great deal of time prior to starting to date again, reflecting on what I wanted, needed, and realistically could give, in and from a relationship.

You know the old chestnut “You cannot love someone until you love yourself”? Well, the same sort of thing goes for relationship negotiations. You cannot negotiate with your partner until you negotiate with yourself.

Before you sit down to negotiate with your partner, it is vitally important that you sit down with yourself and figure out your stance on things. Let’s say you were going to a meeting with your boss to negotiate a raise. You would prepare, wouldn't you? You’d likely spend some time reflecting on your position and while you thought you deserved said raise. Similarly, when entering relationship negotiations, it is equally as important to reflect and prepare.

I should point out, that I’m not necessarily talking about negotiations as a formal, sit-down, serious discussion about Big Things. In relationships negotiations happen all the time - when doing the grocery shopping, waiting for a train, in bed. But being self-aware and having a clear idea of what your own personal boundaries, limits, desires, needs and offerings are can result in those conversations going a whole lot smoother, no matter how serious or ‘off the cuff’ they are.

Say, for example, you were negotiating with a new partner on how frequently you might see them. It would be good for you to have spent time reflecting on how much time you want to spend with them, how much time you think you have to spare, given your other commitments and partners and additionally, where that time is going to come from.

If you have a clear idea of these sorts of things, and why, you’re much more likely to be able to negotiate in a clear and confident manner, and a lot less likely to find it a challenge.

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at

Monday, 4 March 2013

Poly Means Many - Banging Your Head Against the Wall of Love

“Why do you keep banging your head against the wall?”

“Because it feels so good when I stop.”

Albert Einstein is credited with the quote “Insanity: doing the same thing again and again expecting different results”. For a lot of us, this is never truer than in relationships. This time it is going to be different, this time I won’t make the same mistakes.

The truth of it is, figuring out what is right for us is an incredibly difficult thing. Forget paying bills or waking up on Monday mornings, I think it is the single greatest challenge of being a grown-up. And finding the right thing in love and relationships? Well, that is the biggest doozy of them all! Some people are lucky, and figured it out young. Me? I’m nearing 30, and I still don’t quite know.

Looking back over my dating history, I've made a lot of the same mistakes, again and again. It didn't much look like it at the time, but hindsight is 20-20, so they say. I’d like to be able to sit here and say that I made a mistake, learned from it, and never did it again, but that just isn't the case.

The thing is - what is right for us changes. What is right for us at 18 is not what is right for us at 28, and certainly not what is right for us at 58. So how do we figure this out?

I would love to say that I've always known that polyamory was right for me, but recently, I had my doubts. After a string of being ‘unlucky in love’, I thought, perhaps this wasn't what was right for me. Maybe I just couldn't do it. I made myself some ground rules and changed my priorities, vowing not to make the same mistakes again. I said I wasn't going to get into a relationship, and instead focus on school. I said I wasn't going to date someone who already had a primary partner.

I can tell you now, that didn't last long. Without even knowing it, I ended up in a relationship, and with someone who had not 1, but 2 partners already. Insane? Maybe. Was I not just doing the same thing, and expecting a different result? Well, yes and no.

This is the funny thing about love and relationships. The second you say you are not looking, or you are not going to do something, it just kind of lands in your lap. When this happened to me, it made me spend a lot of time reflecting and thinking about why it was suddenly working, when previously it hadn't  Then I realised: it wasn't the ‘being in a relationship’ or even the ‘being in a relationship with someone who already had a partner’ that wasn't working for me, it was that I was trying to control things, trying to make them what they weren't and then being unhappy when that didn't work. Then in order to correct that, I started limiting myself, when one of the things I loved most about being poly, was that there were no limits on love.

As soon as I ‘let go’, and just let things happen; I found something that worked and suddenly became happier than I had been in a long, long time.

So that is it, that is my advice for finding what works for you. Don’t set up arbitrary limits. It is OK to have boundaries and rules, rules help protect ourselves and those around us, but be open to what comes your way. The things you've oft said you would never do, or weren't right for you, are the things that are sometimes just the ticket.

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at

Monday, 4 February 2013

Poly Means Many - Communication in the Information Age

When thinking about what I wanted to write for this month's topic (communication), several different ideas came up, but most of all, I wanted to write about how I use technology and the internet to manage poly relationships. Namely, I wanted to talk about a few different ways that technology and the internet has helped and some that have hindered.

People who practice polyamory often tote that communication is key. It is the number one cornerstone of being poly aside from, perhaps, honesty. These days, in the so-called Information Age, we have dozens of ways to communicate with each other, often instantly, or at the touch of a button. How does this influence the way polyamory works?

No talk on this topic would be complete without a discussion of Google Calendar. In internet terms, this is the glue that holds poly relationships together. It is a tool that allows all parties involved to have varying degrees of knowledge as to the schedule and whereabouts of other people. It is a great way to be able to pick out a free night to have with a partner. Within a few clicks, one can see that their partner isn't free on, say, Tuesday, because they have a date with another partner. It is a great way to keep track of dates, sleeping arrangements, group events, and generally just keep up with what is going on. It saves a lot of trouble, because it ensures that all parties involved know the score. As wonderful as it is however, it can sometimes create problems, but the best way I have learned to circumvent these, is to ensure that you are discussing things directly with your partner(s), and not letting them find things out for the first time, via your calendar.

Anyone flicking through profiles on the equal parts beloved and hated OKCupid website will notice there are a lot of non-monogamous and poly people on there. It seems like a bit of a haven for those of us in alternative relationships. Because of this, it is often the first port of call for poly people looking to date and meet new people. I have used it to varying degrees of success and I have to say that I’m a fan. It is nice to be able to put out there that you are poly, first and foremost, knowing that whomever you get in contact with knows this, and hopefully you will only be approached by other poly people, or at least those who are ok with it. Some would argue that giving a laundry list of things about yourself before even a first conversation ruins the ‘romance’ of the getting-to-know-you phase of dating, but I quite like being able to weed out the deal-breakers (ie: someone who is not poly, or not ok with it!) before investing any time.

Perhaps our most frequently used method of communication is social media. Most of us have a Twitter account and a Facebook account. I myself use Twitter a great deal. It is a simple way for me to keep up with friends, find interesting links and articles, and share bits of my life with those who care to read it. Social media can be a bit of a minefield in poly relationships though. It quite frequently transgresses that those within our greater poly circles are on the same networks as you, and this offers situations where you are privy to conversations, flirtations and plan-making that you otherwise wouldn’t be. This can create potential for confidentiality issues and jealousy, so I would advise caution, especially when looping in new partners, or during times of instability in relationships. That aside, it can be a great way to keep up with partners you might not see as frequently, and for them to be able to be a part of your daily life when they are not there; a way to feel included.

My favourite form of electronic communication is email. I love it! In the early stages of relationships, I find it a useful way to express myself succinctly. Whilst nothing will ever replace the intimacy and clarity of face-to-face conversation, email and messaging creates an opportunity to reflect on what you want to say, review and edit before hitting send. It is a great tool if you are having trouble getting your point across, or want to talk about something difficult. I often use it in early conversations about sex. Because of my own issues and hang-ups, I sometimes find it hard to verbalise my wants and needs, and find the ability to write things down hugely beneficial.

Also, it is common in poly relationships that you have a partner you don’t see as often. Perhaps they live far away, or they have partners of their own who they spend more time with. It can sometimes be difficult not being able to share your daily life with these partners, but electronic communications make this a lot easier. You can fire them a tweet wishing them luck for their upcoming interview, or post a funny picture if they are having a bad day. You can send them a long email telling them how much you miss them, or what you want to do with them when you see them next. The internet has given us a hundred ways to keep in touch with those we care about, and if used in a healthy way, these methods of communication can make all the difference in multiple relationships.

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at

Thursday, 31 January 2013

My Invisible Freak Flag

Last night during a post-dance class pub discussion on changing identity, I was made to think a lot about how my identity has changed over the years, Mostly, about how I see myself, and about how to world sees me.

The thing is, right now, when walking down the street, or passing through my daily life, I appear as the epitome of privilege. White, middle-class, heterosexual male. This realisation was a bit of a shocker for me. Other than the fact that I’m white, something I cannot change, none of the others are things that I have been, or appeared as, for my entire life. For most of my life, I've been - rather visibly, some sort of marginalised group. I've been a woman, I've been in poverty, I've been queer, I've been homosexual, I've been ‘alternative’. I've also spent most of my life trying to appear ‘normal’. And now that I do, it just feels weird. I've always felt like I had been born with a freak flag etched into my forehead, but I suppose that isn't true.

I think the most shocking of all, was the realisation that I’m pretty much straight these days. I could never say that I was completely heterosexual; I still find men attractive, and it is likely I will have sex with a man again at some point, but the truth of it is, is that I no longer have any interest in dating men. When walking down the street, I no longer find myself ‘checking out’ guys. I seem to be adopting more heteronormative behaviours and mannerisms. It’s all a bit alarming!

I still remember when I started dating women again some years ago. The ability to hold someone’s hand in public or kiss them, without the fear of having the shit kicked out of me was foreign, but exhilarating. I was then, and still am, aware of the privilege this gives me, and I hope beyond hope that in my lifetime, everyone will be able to experience that, regardless of who they are or who they love. I also never have to think twice about disclosing the gender of who I date when talking to new people, colleagues, etc. I have to admit, that most of the time I like this.

I think this sort of ties into some sort of ‘queer-invisibility’ issue. Despite my ‘normal-looking’ exterior, I still feel like an outsider, an ‘other’, a deviant. And I know that I am. I’m trans, I’m kinky, I’m poly. All of these things firmly put me in the ‘not normal’ camp, but I no longer present as that in public.

As someone last night pointed out, there is nothing wrong with all this. We ebb and flow, and change. Who knows, maybe some years down the line, I will be something completely different. But for now, I suppose I need to get used to the way the world views me, how that affects the way in which I move in the world, and how I can use that advantage to help others.

All the while, finding ways to still fly my freak-flag high.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Poly Means Many - NRE or Bust

NRE, or New Relationship Energy, is a phenomenon experienced in all relationships, monogamous or poly, partner or fuck buddy, lover or even friend. It is the surge of wonderful new feelings we get when first seeing someone new. It could be that ‘can’t keep my hands off them’ lust and passion, or feeling like you want to spend all your free time with them. It is what gives you butterflies in your stomach, and makes you think about that person almost non-stop.

Eventually, NRE fades away, and gives rise to a more settled, consistent affection and stability. Things eventually level out and plateau. In popular culture, renewing this energy is what people are striving for when they ‘spice things up’, or ‘rekindle the romance’. It feels wonderful, and as such, it is easy to understand why those in monogamous or long-term relationships make effort to get a bit of that buzz back further down the line.

As polyamorous people, we have the opportunity to experience this feeling more than once, and sometimes simultaneously. When we bring a new partner into the fold, we get NRE with them, just like we did with the partner we already have. There are definite positives and negatives associated with this. It is important, when, for example, we have a stable primary relationship and we start seeing a new person, to not get too caught up in this NRE, and neglect our primary partner. It is also important not to seek this feeling out in order to smooth over or mask cracks in our existing relationships. On the flip side, this NRE can rejuvenate an existing relationship, and give it new life and new energy.

Some people thrive on NRE and lose interest in relationships when it is gone. I’m not one of those people. I find the experience of NRE nerve-wracking, and fraught with stress. The period in which we experience NRE is usually in tandem with the time when a relationship is least stable. We get caught up in the headiness of it, and it can create foster false expectations, false promises and blind us to potential problem areas. But it feels good, and sometimes we can just ‘go with’ things that we might not otherwise.

What I always long for is what comes *after* the NRE; the stability, which some think is mundane, fosters security, consistency, and familiarity. I know what to expect, and where the boundaries are.

It is important however when having NRE with someone new, to occasionally step back and analyse things. Ask yourself: Am I devoting more time/money/resources to this person than I really afford? Is this really love I am experiencing, or is it just lust? Am I devoting as much, or enough attention to my existing relationships, or getting caught up in the excitement of something new? If we are smart about it, and strive to ensure that NRE remains firmly grounded in reality, it can be an amazing and exciting time. Enjoy!

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers - ALBJAn Open BookDelightfully QueerMore Than NuclearRarely Wears Lipstick, and The Boy With The Inked Skin - will write about their views on one of them.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Resolve and Resolutions

So earlier this week I wrote a whole blog post on resolutions and what I wanted out of this year, and then promptly deleted it. It was incredibly self-indulgent and ethereal, unrealistic and unattainable.

Recently my friend Amanda posted about Rules for New Years Resolutions, and upon reading it, I was inspired to go back to the drawing board.

Lately I have been trying to move away from the concept of wanting things - in the sense of 'wishing things were different than they were'. I have been trying to live more in the moment, and enjoy the life I am living now, not the life I hope to be living down the road, or even the ups and downs of the life I have already lived.

But, the fact is, there are some changes I want to make in my life. There are some things I feel I could be doing to improve my life, not only for the enjoyment of my life as it is now; but to better my future and heal my past. So this year, instead of whining and wishing, I am going to make actionable, measurable goals which will, if achieved, actually improve on the things about myself and my life that upset me.

Firstly, I identified some common 'complaints' I had, and used them to brainstorm on ways I could healthily, and realistically achieve the core change they revolved around.

Whinge #1 - Displeasure with my body

Whinge #2 - Estrangement from my family

Whinge #3 - Missing travel/hobbies that make me happy

Whinge #4 - I'm broke/I can't afford to... (specifically related to whinge 2 and 3)

And from these, stem my (slightly tardy) New Years resolutions:

  1. Working out - I have already started, and will continue to do my home-based workouts every other day, when possible, with the ultimate aim of being able to do: 50 unassisted pushups, 20 unassisted chin-ups, and 100 sit ups - each in a single set.
  2. I am going to visit my family next year, preferably during the Christmas break. I know this will be incredibly difficult, for many, many reasons, but it is something I really cannot put off any longer.
  3. I am going to go surfing for at least 1 full week in the 2nd half of 2013.
  4. I am going to save the money necessary to achieve the last two resolutions above. I have found a very basic and manageable (even for a student) saving plan that will help me save the money I need to do both. It is called the 52-Week Money Challenge. Adhering to this will ensure that I have earmarked enough to book a flight to Canada and a week's surfing trip.
  5. And, entirely unrelated to the above, but very important to me, are some university-related resolutions. 
    1. Get on a summer research project
    2. Maintain a first overall

So, there you have it folks! Feel free to check in on me and see how I'm doing, and call me on them if you think I'm slacking!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Poly Means Many - Commitment Does Not Mean Exclusivity

Commitment, it’s a word that means so much, to so many people. It’s often linked to marriage; but also to our job, our friendships, or our Sunday afternoon football team. We commit to baking something for the company bake sale, or to attending a friend’s party.

In all these instances, it implies that we are going to do something, to promise to do it no matter what, and to do only that. It implies exclusivity. We commit to going to A’s party on Friday night, even though B invited us to another one. We commit to show up to work, despite having other things we’d rather be doing. We commit to loving our spouse, and only our spouse, until death do us part. It implies sticking to it, even when it is hard. It implies giving everything we have.

So how does commitment fit into being poly? I once had a friend say to me, after I came out as poly, something along the lines of “Oh, yeah, I wouldn't want to commit either”, implying that the reason I was poly was because I couldn't commit and that I didn't want to settle down or limit my options.

The real truth of it is, it means I can commit, and I do commit, but that I commit more. Sometimes I am only committed to one person, sometimes several, but I am committed to each one of them. The nature of the commitment to one may be different to the other, but I commit. I commit to being honest with them, to treating them with respect, to ensuring they know that they are a priority to me, even if they are not my only priority. I commit what I can give, in line with what they want. That may be a few hours a week or it may be my home and my daily life.

Despite the societal implications that commitment means solitary fidelity, we know this isn't always the case. We commit ourselves to, and love more than one friend at a time. We may have a second job, or have two different hobbies. Our capacity to love, and to commit is not limited to one thing or one person. Our only true limitation is our time. There is also the misconception that exclusive commitment means more. For example, the rarity of a diamond (Diamonds are not as rare as we are all led to believe, but that is perhaps a discussion for another time!) is what makes it more valuable.

But, I believe that the conscious choice to remain faithful to a commitment, in a space where there are others, is what truly adds value to it. 

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers - ALBJAn Open BookDelightfully QueerMore Than NuclearRarely Wears Lipstick, and The Boy With The Inked Skin - will write about their views on one of them.