The turbulant seas between Philotes and Eros

Because I am poly polyamorous, having friends of the gender I tend to be attracted to can often be an adventure of uncertainty and transitions.  Some of them I am attracted to, some I am not, and sometimes that attraction leads to something.  Many times it does not.  But when it does, the transition can be, well, it’s a lot of things.

With attractive friends, and acquaintances, who are not already polyamorous, the issue is less uncertain as one learns to curb the attraction because it is not appropriate, and usually not wanted.  Sure, I might flirt, playfully, but I do my best to leave it at that unless the cues are overwhelmingly in my favor.  But then, inevitably, some of those people want to be polyamorous (Who wouldn’t?)  or they were already but for whatever reason things didn’t click at first.  And if they demonstrate interest in me, the flirtation and the relationship in general takes on a different tone.  Interest is communicated, and hopefully requited.  Suddenly I find myself in a place between friendship and something else (assuming we accept the distinctions and roles of those mainstream relationship types, of course).

From a Relationship Anarchy point of view, this transition is less significant.  Yes, there will be actual differences in how people interact when they stop being merely ‘friends’ and playfully flirting to being sexually affectionate, but if we were to reject the model of relationships of our mainstream culture (in which one is either a friend or a lover but not both) then that difference is less meaningful and often less distinct.  And while I have some affinities with Relationship Anarchy, the distinction between these two relationship phases is significant and important to me.  This is mostly for reasons having to do with my level of comfort of physical affection with friends versus lovers (something I’m open to being less dichotomous about, as I grow).

I have few non-sexual friends with whom I’m comfortable being affectionate with beyond things like hugging and basic body contact.  This is because sexuality is extremely powerful and often overwhelming for me, mostly as an emotional and sensual experience.  Being affectionate with a person I don’t have some level of sexual relationship with (especially women, being that I am heterosexual) can lead to spikes in desires which are inappropriate with some people.  There are quite a few women in my life with whom I have no sexual relationship, but am still attracted to, and so I minimize my physical contact with them because physical intimacy can sometimes lead to spikes in sexual desire which are uncomfortable for me to have when I don’t perceive them as reciprocated or wanted by those women.  Respecting other people’s boundaries is especially important to me, and the vast majority of times I will not initiate flirty touching without making sure it’s wanted.

Of course, one of the exceptions to that rule was the night I met Ginny.  And now we’re married.  I don’t know what to learn from that, exactly.  I do know that the lesson is not to just touch whomever I want in the hopes they like it, because boundaries.  Also, non-verbal cues are not always sufficient, because sometimes we mis-read them.  Nonetheless, I have chanced it a few times, and it worked out fantastically once.  I don’t plan on chancing it again, because some people really don’t want that and I don’t want to be that guy.

So when I find myself in a situation where I’ve communicated my interest, that interest has been requited, I find myself in a limbo between knowing those desires are appropriate, wanting to act on them, and still being somewhat nervous to touch those people affectionately, let alone sexually, it is tough for me.  And as the idea of future potential affection and sexual contact hovers over me, the beginnings of New Relationship Energy start to form (let’s call that pre-NRE).  And despite the fact that it is potentially premature to have those feelings, they happen (and sometimes they remain in that pre-NRE stage, which is also fine).  And for a borderline like me, those feelings are often overwhelming and cause days of anticipatory anxiety and anticipation.  I both love it and hate it.  I love it when it genuinely does become NRE (which I define as a multi-way magnification of emotions and desires between 2 or more people, and not personal infatuation towards another), and I fear that what I desire might not materialize at all.  If what I desire does materialize, but never reaches genuine NRE, that’s actually fine.

This experience of pre-NRE (As well as NRE itself)  has another side effect, which I don’t think my current partners mind so much (and I might be wrong here, but I’m sure they will let me know…).  It gives my sex drive a huge boost.  For me, new sexual (requited) attraction has the effect of making me want sex with my current partners even more.  The spill-over effect of being sexually charged is not limited to the source of that desire, at least not completely.  In my experience, my desire for one person can only be fully quenched by them,* but that desire amplifies the already existing desire I have for other people.

Of course that level of excitement doesn’t happen always, but it does happen enough to be a thing worth thinking and talking about.  Those pre-NRE feelings don’t always become overwhelming in the beginning of meeting and conveying interest.  Sometimes, in other cases, the feelings grow slowly.  There are some people I grew to love and desire (more), when in the beginning the attraction existed but was not overwhelming, nor did an emotional attraction exist at first.  Sometimes, in the beginning I just saw us as incompatible, but later changed my mind about that.  I never know what to do in those situations. Mostly, I remain friends with them and wait for what I think will be the right time to say anything.  Sometimes that right time never seems to happen.  Like I said the other day, I’m not always great at communicating my desires.  

Writing all that makes me wonder if any of those friends of mine might wonder if they are one of the people I might have feelings for I’m not expressing. Gah! Blogging is hard! I’m trying to get better at that.  It’s scary.  No, it’s down-right terrifying sometimes.  I have issues. 

So, the times when I am swimming between the shores of one way of interacting with a person to the other is always overwhelming, scary, and exciting for me.  There is the nervousness of whether it will actually happen, the conversations which cross the lines between friendly and potentially sexual flirtation, and the feeling of fuzziness in my head and flutters of butterflies in my stomach as I think about it.  But in any case, I’m surrounded by wonderful, beautiful, sexy people who I love in many different ways.  But don’t worry, I’m not secretly restraining overwhelming sexual desires for all of you out there.

Not all of you.

All this makes it really hard to concentrate on tasks.  That reminds me, I have to change out laundry and eat some lunch.

*and if it doesn’t happen, that sticks with me for a long time.  This situation, which never came to be, still sticks with me now and that was 3-and-a-half years ago! Granted, that was a huge exception to my usual level of sexual attraction

Friendship and polyamory

In my last post, I discussed how monogamy is unlikely to satisfy all of our needs.  I was aware of a few issues tangential to that, but wanted to leave them aside in the interest of keeping posts shorter.  So I will address two issues today; non-sexual friendships and our ability to satisfy needs and desires without relationships.

“The Greatest Love of all”

As I mentioned the other day, in order to have successful relationships, you need to start with yourself.  We need to find where it is possibly, and even preferable in some cases, to find ways to make ourselves happy on our own.

Surely, there will be many circumstances where there will be overlap between this self-satisfying of desires and our relationships with other people.  Our sexual needs, for example, sometimes can be answered with masturbation and sometimes will require, you know, sex with other people.  Also, there will be times when an emotional challenge can be solved by some serious thinking, reflecting, and evaluation of a situation on our own.  Other times we will need the perspective of others to help us, as often other people see things in us we cannot see.

We are not island nations, but sometimes our own domestic policy is sufficient for answering to issues of the day rather than appealing to other nations, (or whatever the UN would be in this analogy) for help.

But the essential point is that when it comes to our needs, simply looking within is a great way to go satisfy them.  Therefore, I encourage everyone to maintain a healthy relationship with the complexity inside our own heads.  I encourage self-love, without getting all hippy about it or something.  Dammit, I think I might be too late….

Polyamory as a footnote to Plato?

…or at least Platonic friendship.

Many of the needs we have in our life, complex as they are, do not require finding a sexual partner at all.  The needs which are not satisfied by our partner(s), which are not satisfied by them, do not necessitate finding another romantic or sexual partner necessarily.  Sometimes just a Platonic partner, or friend, is sufficient.

As I have written about before, polyamory does not require sex to be polyamory.  As a result of this, many people are already polyamorous even if they don’t use the term, or know the term.  Friendships outside of a relationship, especially if they are very close, are so much like what polyamorous people are doing that I often use it as an example of how poly works to people who seem confused by it’s strangeness.  It’s really not that strange.

If you are in a monogamous relationship, there will be things you want and need to do which your partner does not satisfy.  Whether that is watching sports, going shopping, or getting some drinks on a Wednesday night, our friends fulfill many of our needs which our committed, exclusive, relationship do not.

Assuming that one partner in a coupling does not interfere with their partner’s friendships, which does happen (and, I think, is due to the same jealousy which makes most people avoid polyamory), those relationships are highly rewarding, meaningful, and important to us.

Most monogamous people have arrangements just like this, and many of them, in reading this, might be confused why this has anything to do with polyamory.  “So,” the objector may say, “why would people need polyamory when we have friends, ourselves, and our one loving partner to satisfy our needs in life?” Well, if these things actually do satisfy your needs, then perhaps we don’t need to be polyamorous. Where I have the problem is that people ignore, repress, or rationalize away other needs they may have in order to maintain monogamy artificially.  My problem is when monogamy is maintained for its own sake, and not for the sake of authenticity and honesty about what we want.

That is, many people pretend like monogamy+friendship=satisfaction of all needs, when in fact it does not.

What happens when a friend of ours starts to become someone you are very attracted to? What happens when you develop feelings for a person at your gym, book club, or run into an old flame? Why should we ignore this reality, just because we have a sexual/romantic partner? And if so, why?

What’s wrong with enjoying sex, safely, consensually, and transparently with other people whether we, or they, are in a relationship?

What’s wrong with wanting your cake and having it too?


Pursuing every desire?

Yes, there are people out there I am sexually attracted to who I don’t pursue.  I don’t pursue every potential relationship I find, because I recognize that it sometimes there are complexities of desire which are more than I need or want, and so I don’t pursue every desire.

But sometimes the feelings are too strong, the desire to intense, to ignore.  And depending on how much time I have in my life, I will pursue sexual/romantic partners to various degrees.  Right now, my fiance and my girlfriend take up a lot of my time, so pursuing anything very involved or serious is unwise and unwanted at the moment.  That said, if I really got into someone, I would probably find time, because, well, love is worth the effort.

But finding a friend with whom I can share a sexual relationship, especially if that desire is two-way, is healthy and available to me.  It does not threaten my relationships to do so, and it brings some pleasure and joy to my life.  Why should I not want and pursue such things?

Friendships are great, whether they are Platonic or not.  We should allow ourselves to express how we feel about people without artificial censorship or repression because of some strange obsession with maintaining monogamy in our culture.  So keep up your relationships with yourselves, enjoy your friends, and allow yourselves to have the relationships with the people around you as you want, and let “normal” social expectations and pressures have minimal say in how you do so.

Controversial lifestyles and maintaining friendships

I have been an out atheist for many years.  I have been open about being polyamorous for some time as well.  I don’t hide who I am because I feel it is important to be a face for things that are controversial, because I feel like our culture is not ideally healthy, and controversy often comes from the sickness rejecting some remedy.  There have to be people willing to take the social stigma away, over time and with patience, so that future generations will not have to consider the balance of social stigma to living fulfilled and authentic lives.  Granted, this balance will probably always be a part of the human experience. but if we can mitigate the actual discrimination due to alternate worldviews and lifestyles, it will be a step in the right direction.  I want a future where the argument that keeping quiet is better for your career, social life, and family life is rare. I want atheists, poly people, and other “abnormal” people to feel less insecure about being who they are, openly.

All of this implies that their still remains a cost to living openly as an atheist or as polyamorous.  I have certainly experienced this in my life, and it has effected relationships with people I know.  Now I’m not going to pretend that the alienation I’ve experienced from friends and family is always due to my being an atheist and being polyamorous.  I have made mistakes in my life which have strained relationships with people I once thought of as friends, but it is also true that having strong, outspoken opinions about people’s beliefs makes you come across as unfriendly, overly-critical, and perhaps even a dick.  I accept this outcome, because I understood the ramifications of living as I do.  And while I do sometimes lament what I have lost, I am also finding that there are positive things gained that may have otherwise remained unfound.

One thing that happens, and I believe this to be a common observation that all people notice as they begin to mature, is that the people who stick around even after we make poor decisions, come out as some socially awkward minority, or proclaim some controversial opinion consistently and loudly are your friends.  They are especially your friends if they tend to disagree with you.  I don’t want all of my friends to merely be people with whom I agree, after all.  Further, the people who shy away from you in times of stress and courage to stand firm in the face of such social stigma are not your friends.  They may remain as acquaintances, but it is often best to cut off your losses with people who abandon you with nothing more than a passivity of intercourse.

But those people I still call friends (and this is not a word I use lightly), are people who know me as I am.  They may not agree with me or understand me completely, but they are willing to live among my life without it affecting our relationship.  And as I ride this thing called life I occasionally meet people with who I can ride along with; people who have qualities which complement mine and with whom I can enjoy my time.  The friends that you meet after finding what has meaning to you are different kinds of friends, but nonetheless friends they are.  Alternatively, the people I knew as a child, the friendships that I maintain that are decades old, are special and important because we know each other well in a way that transcends specific adult interests.  And while not all of those relationships have survived the journey, the ones that have are especially meaningful.  They are people who will be friends for life, most likely, and they keep you tied to where you came from, even we drift further from the safe shores of mainstream culture.

And family is similar.  As I ponder the reality of marriage, which implies a wedding with guests, I ponder the realities of family seeing me as I am, not as they knew me as a child.  They will see a ceremony devoid of god-talk, vows devoid of promises of exclusivity, and assuming my new relationship survives until then (and I truly hope it will dwarf that time-period in length) they will see two people marrying each other while being in love with other people with whom we shall dance, kiss, and celebrate with at our party.  And they will not understand.  And they will judge.  And they will think us lost, perhaps.

They will miss the unrelenting beauty of reality that we dance upon with genuine joy and appreciation.  The beauty of a world devoid of gods, but full of complexity and wonder beyond our ability to comprehend.  They will miss the depths of love and intimacy which is shared beyond the artificial limitations of monogamy.  They will miss the wonder that is my life, even as it sits before them, beautified and smiling.

And yet some will understand, even at a level that is not quite articulate even to their own ears.  And this is the reason I live the way I do; many will not see, but some will.  I live my life to experience the many joys of reality, and reality is awesome.  I will not apologize for it.

Being ‘just friends’ with lovers

I am still in love with a woman I went to college with.  Erin. I have not seen her in around 5 years, maybe 6.  We dated for 2 years in college, and it was with her, and another, that I discovered polyamory.  After some time of being apart from her and my feelings not dissipating, I knew I could never just be friends.  I loved her a way that made just being platonic impossible without great tension and frustration.  It’s easier that I’m not around her, because being in her presence was intoxicating.

I had to be her lover because that’s how I love her.

Some other exes since then I am friends with.  I still love them, but it is different.  I still am attracted to them, I would like to be with them sexually if it were desirable for both of us and it would not deleteriously affect other people, but I am capable of being friends with them, being aound them, without it being unbearable. The way I love them survived not being their lover, even if I would prefer it.  Although with at least one more, Jacque, that preference is close to overwhelming when I’m around her.  I suppose there is a continuum here.

But there are just some people that, for reasons of body chemistry, pheromones, or whatever that make it simply impossible to just be friends with them.  Being around such people is intoxicating and frustrating if you are not currently their lover.  I’ve only experienced this a few times in my life, and one of those times is now.

Just recently I wrote about New Relationship Energy.  This girl…she has an affect on me that is just out of this world.  I didn’t think it would be possible to have so much sexual tension, so raw and powerful.  I have never wanted anyone the way I want her when I’m around her.  To not be her lover is unbearable.  It is just too much.  The way I lust for her is akin to great art; to not be her lover is akin to Beethoven not composing music, a great chef not loving food, or a fat kid not to love cake (anyone else just love that lyric, or do you not get the reference?).  The attraction is simply unbelievable.

And we have never had sex.  We both want it, but for her a relationship is necessary for that to happen.  It’s much more conservative of a position than I am used to, but I just can’t help the way I feel.  When you love someone you just love them, balls to bones.

Now, it’s true that when I first met her the attraction was overwhelming and obvious to everyone–and two-way.  At first it was purely physical.  But as I got to know her, I saw more layers.  She’s intelligent, curious, dedicated, and just lovely in so many ways.  She’s also frustrating in many others, but I love how she makes me feel.  I have recently started to fall in love with her.  I have never told her this (she does not really read this blog, I don’t think, buit if she does then the cat is out….).

I asked her, just recently, to be my girlfriend.  Ginny is all for it, as she likes her too.  At first, it looked like it was inevitable, and a few days went by with the question hanging in the air.  The tension was building, I just couldn’t take it.  She needed time, I needed her, and she needed to think about it.  It is the polyamory, mostly, that is holding her back, although she and Ginny get along very well.

But then two days ago she said the answer was no.  Why? She was not convinced that I cared about her more than physically, and she was scared that if she allowed the relationship to form I would just lose interest.  I only feel this way because I want her so badly (I do), and that once I have it I’ll lose interest.  There is more to it than that, but it is complicated, and the details are not the point.

The point is that I have been telling her that I want more than just the sex, and that if she didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, I would still want to be close with her, to be friends. I really care about her.  But the point is not that I’d be willing to just be friends, it’s whether that is possible.  I could not just be friends with someone I feel this way about, could I?  Does it not betray how I genuinely feel?  I want to be her lover because that’s how I love her.

Yes, I’m willing to just be friends, but the fact is that it would be torture.  The passion I have for her is overwhelming, and this comes across as a bad thing because as a man I am obviously just after the sex, right?  A man who can’t just be your friend does not really care, right? No, I don’t think that’s always true.  Sometimes the attraction is just too intense.  To repress it, ignore it, or otherwise pretend it does not exist is inauthentic, in bad faith, and simply a lie.

I love this girl.  My sexual passion for her is not a sign that I don’t care about her or that I only care about one thing; it is part of how I love her.  I hope she will see that, eventually, because being around her is both intoxicating and frustrating.  I want so much just to love her as she is comfortable to be loved, but when the attraction is this powerful, it is difficult.

Sexual chemistry like this only comes along rarely.  I want to savor every drop and continue to get to know her, to love her, in many ways.  Love is a multi-layered cake, and the icing on top is hot, passionate, intense sex.

I don’t know what I’ll do if she wants to just be friends.  This chemistry is two-way, and while I admire her control over her desires, I wonder if she misses the beauty of this attraction we have.  Sex, after all, is beautiful.

So, here’s to being sex-positive, and to finding great lovers.

Here’s to a lovely girl requiting my love for her in all the ways that lovers love.