Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scar Tissue

A couple years ago, I was going down the back steps to hop into the hot tub when I missed a step completely, and ended up falling heavily, albeit weirdly, on the front of my ankle.  Not to be overly graphic, but the cement patio scraped a section of skin about two inches around completely off, so deeply the tendons were visible at spots.  Not only did it really hurt, I was concerned about infection, and worried about working, because in my day job, I do therapeutic massage with my feet.

So, I cleaned it up the best I could, applied some antibiotic ointment, one of those big fabric bandages, and hoped for the best.  The next couple weeks in particular were a struggle to bend, extend, and push with that area of my body during work.  It took significant force of will to just do the bare minimums, and I didn't do anything at the gym, or walking, if I could help it.

Eventually, the skin began to regrow, knit together, and form a lump of scar tissue on the top of my ankle, and that became the new struggle: to keep the scar flexible as it healed, so that I didn't lose range of motion.  This is where my job became an asset to me.  Since I move my feet in more different directions in an hour than most people do in a day, the scar tissue healed well, bulky, but flexible. It is stronger than the original skin, but also takes up more space.  It used to be angry and red, but now, two years later, its mostly blends in with the paleness that is the norm for my body.


Things changed in my poly life last year.  There was the loss of a significant relationship, a major shift in my connection with my metamours, and substantial change in the way my parenting landscape works.  It felt like my whole emotional life was a gaping wound, showing my internal weaknesses, and vulnerability.  I couldn't get away from all the ways I failed myself, failed others, even if I could logically see that much of what happened was unavoidable. So, I took a big step back from community, from connection, from dating, from risk.  I holed up, and tried to keep those wounds from getting infected.  Wrapped the pain up tightly, and waited to heal.

The biggest challenge was that those hurts didn't heal up nice and neat.  They kept breaking open, and for a long time that confused me.  I was doing self-care.  I had a supportive and loving partner.  Why weren't things getting better faster?  Then it occurred to me:  The scar was getting stiff, because I wasn't using those areas of my heart that had been damaged.  I'd shut things down in a bid to protect myself, but every time I tried to move forward in some fashion, I hadn't built the flexibility to do that without pulling those wounds open.

So, I started to stretch again.  Cautiously, carefully, and consciously.  I went on a few dates, and for several months, I had limited ability to connect with anyone on a deeper level, so I'd usually flame out pretty quickly, and then take another breather before I tried again.

Eventually, I met a fellow, M, who was newer to the area, and part of a live-in quad, doing the type of poly I like to do, with an extended family feel. We connected well, and formed a solid connection. I met M's wife, and other her partner, and his wife and child.  That was all good, yet hard too, because it felt a lot like what I had, and lost, but this time, I didn't back up.  I kept stretching those wounds, and reaching out towards the people, the bonds, and the environments that feed me the most, and things started to feel a little easier.  I was moving in the direction of being a bit more fully ME again.

Over time, the desire to write, to use my voice again, has been growing.  After having things blow apart, I didn't find much value in sharing my thoughts.  It felt hypocritical to think I had anything of value to contribute.  That's started to change, so I've begun writing. Some of that content you're not likely to see anytime soon, as it's still too raw for public consumption. Perhaps someday in the medium term.  For now, some of what you'll read here is easy, and some will be more challenging. Bear with me... This post is a step in that process.

The drive to create something broadly useful within the community has reasserted itself, so I restarted the Poly Discussion Group, began a Face Book group to support that, and also moderate another poly forum. This time though, I've asked for more help, more input from the people around me to build additional structure, to contribute in ways that don't leave me feeling like this is all my ball to push uphill alone. The first meeting after taking a year off was last weekend, and it was wonderful!  Even better has been the follow through afterwards.  I'm excited and optimistic about the possibilities!

Last week M was out of town, and I got to spend some extra time with my metamour.  That stretched something in me a bit.  To have someone deliberately choose to spend their time and energy with me, even in the absence of our shared partner, because I am comforting and enjoyable to be with.  I've also gotten to spend extra time in other contexts with the other people in their household over the past couple weeks, and have deeply appreciated the extension of energy and acceptance.  Feeling like I have something to offer, to others, and to myself, is my happy place.

Choosing not to do something that feeds me because I am afraid it will be taken away is a horrid reason to stop reaching.  Yes, take time to close gaping wounds, and remain aware that the scars formed will take stretching, and management on an ongoing basis.  That's what baggage is, and whether it impedes the path forward, or gets unpacked, is up to each of us. Right now, life isn't all sunshine and puppies, but it is something I can work with,  finding the depth of resolve that drives me, and creating anew, even with these scars.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why Won't I Date Someone Who Is Cheating?

    



Although I'd much rather be enjoying the pleasant canoodling I was anticipating, than writing this blog post, some stories must be told, and some things must be said! 

This week, I was going to have a second date with a new prospective partner. We had a mutual kink that we both wanted to explore.  The first meeting went well, but there was just something that seemed off...something I couldn't quite put my finger on...So I kept asking questions, and finally got very direct: "Is there anyone else that might be upset by our interacting?" He said that this kink was one his partner (hadn't been mentioned) wasn't interested in exploring with him, and so he was looking elsewhere without their knowledge.  Please understand that he loves her, they have a good relationship, but he really wants this particular thing in his life.  Just give him a chance.

Sigh.  If I had a dollar for every time I've heard variations on that story...

Too often I've heard the "ethically" non-monogamous justify their involvement as an integral part of a cheating dynamic as it not being any of their business what someone else does/does not do within their other relationships.  They say personal autonomy trumps any responsibility they have to say "No" to involving themselves with someone who is cheating on their partner with the poly person.  They say that the situation is complicated, and it would be too hard for the other person to make changes to create an honest environment.  They say that we shouldn't judge anyone else's actions by our own standards.

Calling bullshit on all that mess.

At the minimum, it is MY standard to assure (as much as I can) that a third party isn't having their ability to consent taken away from them via lack of information, where I would be complicit in that deceit.  It's irrelevant that I personally am not breaking agreements to pursue that connection.  Being a partner of someone who is cheating on their other person isn't who I want to be.  Having a partner who is cheating isn't a partner I want to have.  The potential damage to my world isn't worth that risk.

Most people think it's going to be the end of the world if they rip off the band aid and tell their partner they want additional connections.  They are probably right in assessing it will be disruptive.  Personally, I've done that work, and I want to only date other people that are willing to work that hard too.  No cheaters.  No excuses.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Repeat with me: I am not a special snowflake!

'Tis a common conceit to think of ourselves as unique individuals, and of course we are, in ways that are very similar to other people...��. So why is it that, upon examination of a thorny issue in our personal lives, the tendency is to disregard our own wisdom, and embark on a course that is less than likely to end in a successful outcome? 

Let's say your buddy, Pat, asks your advice on when the best time to come out to a potential new partner is?  Well, of course you know this one!  Sooner is better, and certainly before feelings and physical intimacy have developed.  Then you meet Davon in the bookstore, end up having coffee and talking for hours, have some spontaneous kisses, and somehow it never comes up that you have other partners and choose to have poly relationships...

You listen to someone at a discussion group talking about their attraction (this is feeling like a relationship, with intense feelings) to their coworker, who is in a monogamous relationship.  Their current poly partner isn't so very pleased about this, and it's causing friction there.  Pretty sure they're just jealous...and wonder how they could possibly be ignoring so many red flags, missing the pieces they say their ethical framework is based upon?  Then you find yourself in a similar space, mouthing all the same justifications and rationalizations for why this isn't a complete disaster waiting to happen.  Why?  

Because it's YOU!  Let's face it, you're pretty special, so special, in fact, that the common sense advice you would give any other human being in the same position doesn't really apply.  You're smarter, better, deserve more out of life, and certainly you can mold the world, and the people around you, into a more pleasing outcome than anyone else in the same circumstances would!

Can you hear yourself!?!  Just stop.  Take a moment, if you are in a sticky situation, to consider the path you might advise someone else to take, hypothetically speaking, and try doing that instead of what you have been doing!  Perhaps you could even listen to the friends and partners giving you the reasonable sounding advice, and actually change your course.  Do something reasonable that isn't based on the underlying belief that You Are Uniquely Different in a way that exempts you from utilizing common sense.  Do you want to build a snowman?  (Ducks and covers)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cheating Cheaters

It's no big secret that one of the main avenues for people entering poly is via cheating on an existing partner.   Often, people having an affair, who still have feelings and investment within their vintage connection, find that they no longer are satisfied with the lying, the division in their life and personal ethics, and choose to "come clean", attempting to open up into a more ethically non-monogamous environment.  It usually ends in spectacular disaster, often permanently ending relationships.  There are vows to never go back to monogamy, or assertations that poly is a force for destruction, and a tool for people to cheat, and put a pleasant face on it.  Sometimes, the storm is weathered, and people come out the other side stronger and more dedicated, with a new shared vision.

It's an inconvenient truth that cheating doesn't always stop once one becomes poly, and is something we would rather not discuss.  After all, a main differentiation point for poly is that WE are honest in our dealings within our relationships, so cheating behavior is pretty thoroughly scorned, disavowed, and abhored within our community.  Still, it's certainly not unheard of for people who would prefer to think of themselves as ethically non-monogamous to backslide in those ethical ideals, and stray towards cheating behaviors. 

It's confused me.  We're poly!  Our current relationships are all set up that way. We have all this freedom!  Why fuck it up? Why would one ever choose to skip the consent and information sharing section in favor of deceit and deliberate damaging of trust built in their life? Here are a few ideas I've observed being bandied about: 

I'm not willing to do the work to integrate a new person into my existing life.  Either there's a lack of communication skills with one or more involved, or a difference in poly styles that makes the new person incompatible with what currently exists.

I get off on having a Dirty Little Secret.  It feels naughty, taboo, and there is still a charge there, the thrill of having a secret, getting away with something.

It's just faster to get what I want, right now, without the "burden" of consent.  I want what I want, and I want it now!!!  Why should I take the time to send that text message to my partners, or delay the gratification I seek in the now?  I'm a free person, and I can do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, and I'm not sure this opportunity will be there again, if I wait. 

I still feel like it's "wrong/selfish" to desire another person.  There are often mono societal tapes playing in the background, usually with everyone involved, that lead towards guilt.  What they don't know, won't hurt them!

I'm doing this for the protection of my existing partner(s).  They're sick/pregnant/unable to consent in some fashion.  It's finals week.  The timing is just awful.  Seriously.  It'd be selfish for me to bring this up right now.  I'll double back later. 

I've made an agreement that I didn't really desire personally, and don't know how to/if it can be successfully renegotiated.  This one is tricky.  You said yes, and often those sorts of agreements are made to protect your existing partner from something that is hard for them to do, and something you understand the reasons behind.  To change those agreements will take buy in from your existing partner(s), and you may not feel confident in their willingness to do that, or your own worthiness of their effort in this regard. 

I fear that a current partner might look at my new dating choice and feel like I'm missing something major that would preclude that being a good idea to pursue; the Jiminy Cricket Effect.  Most of us are aware that our own judgment can be skewed in the early stages of a relationship, and we may very well be ignoring major, flashing, neon signs that read, "Path to destruction!".  It's harder to ignore those signs when an outside, loved, and trusted source, is pointing them out to you, and also mentioning that they are likely to harmed in this as well.  Better to just sidestep that inconvenience...

There's a semi-comprehensive list of reasons for cheating in poly! Wasn't that fun? That whole section is just a recitation of justifications for poor behavior.  It's bullshit rationalizing to get your own way, without considering larger ramifications. If your brain, or body part of your choice, is headed down any of these pathways, back up the boat!

I've never regretted putting off sex, or not moving faster in a new relationship to attend to the needs of my current partners and relationships, even when I'm crawling out of my skin with NRE.  It's a big old lie based in scarcity thinking that everything worth having must be had NOW, or it will evaporate into the ether. Take the time! Do the work! Get some new skills, if you're in over your head!  Find a mentor!  If you're unable to renegotiate, move out of the current relationship before you embark on the next!  Delayed gratification will not kill you.  Hold the line.  Don't cheat.