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Surreal June 14, 2019

Posted by shaunphilly in Personal, Polyamory.
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A week ago, I was in pain. I still am.

A week ago, I embarked on a new path with a person who I have respected and looked up to for many years, and whom I am beginning to love in a new way.

These things are related. Confused? Yeah, me too.

I’m not monogamous. No shit. But being actively polyamorous–or a relationship anarchist or whatever I am–is different from merely not being monogamous. Over the last several years of my life, I’ve dated women who were not nonmonogamous, but were willing to give it a shot. In some cases, it worked out at least for a while. In others, it flamed out spectacularly. Most recently, I lost a person who was very special to me because I made the decision to invite a polyamorous person with whom I’ve had a growing relationship and flirtation to spend the weekend with me, despite the fact that the first relationship was already in jeopardy.

And, you might say that such a decision was not wise. And you are right; it wasn’t wise, and it cost me that relationship. And when I made the decision, it was a last minute, need to decide this now situation. And I hadn’t slept the night before. Excuses? Explanations? Rationalizations? Yes.

And, didn’t I know, deep down, that that would be the result? I mean, if I had really thought about it? I mean, if I had the time to think about it, maybe. Hadn’t I learned that the learning curve for previously monogamous partners is too steep to handle real life, in your face, not owning your partner nor their time?

I understand, from the point of view of the traditional set of relationship rules and expectations, that what I did was too much for her to handle. More than a few people out there would read this and be like “what a dick!” And, from their point of view, it was dickish. I feel a little like a dick, honestly. It’s hard to unlearn those cultural rules.

I understand that accepting that your lover has other lovers is a thing most people can sort of understand; we all have those carnal desires, and deciding to be ok with the people you love actually pursuing those desires, so long as you are open about it, is reachable for a lot of people. It sounds hard, but many people get it and can possibly give it a try. I understand that if most people can keep those things at a distance, it can be fine.

But my mind doesn’t live in the world of traditional relationship expectations and rules.

I understand that from the point of view of polyamorous theory from which I center myself, what I did was a little selfish and sudden, but it was a decision I should be able to make without ending a relationship in doing so. I also understand that theory and real world feelings and expectations do not often mesh. I understand that in doing so, I took a risk which I didn’t need to take. But I also knew that doing so would only be kicking the can down the road, rather than dealing with it now.

And it also meant putting off another thing I’ve wanted for some time, and so when life handed me an opportunity I took it. I don’t believe in gods nor fate, but I know that life is short and truly amazing opportunities do not come around often. If you don’t grab a hold of those rare opportunities, then you may miss them forever.

And now, I have to live with the consequences. One woman I care very deeply for, and now miss, is mad, hurt, and she’s probably gone from my life. I’m sad, and I miss her.

And yet….

And then something amazing happened.

And I don’t think I’m able, even several days removed, to comprehend what has changed, and how significant it could be.

And I feel guilty for also feeling good about what I gained in making that selfish decision. I feel guilty for taking a chance which paid off fantastically (for me). I feel bad that my heart is simultaneously aching from loss and from the pangs of a new love which has been years in the making. It’s too much.

And yet I know it was the right decision to make. And I would make it again, even if I might have handled some of the details differently.

I don’t want to go on, and the truth is I cannot anyway. The gist is I have started a new relationship with a woman who is not new to polyamory. In fact, she is one of the people who, over the years, has been an inspiration to me as well as a person whose wisdom and experience within the community has given me perspective on my own views about the nature of relationships, love, and sex.

And I’m scared. Terrified, in fact. Because new relationships are always a combination of scary and amazing, but also because she’s someone I esteem so much, in terms of her knowledge and experience, that I’m afraid I’m not good enough. Because that never goes away. Not fully.

I don’t have any philosophical point to make here. I don’t have any great lesson or insight here, because I know I’m in the middle of the storm and I’m too emotional and cluttered to make any sense of it all right now. I lost someone I really love because I was selfish, and then I spent a weekend with a woman who was everything I thought she was and more.

And it’s all been surreal.

Perhaps I’ll have more to say when I’m not in the eye of the storm, and can reflect on it with more clarity. For now, I will need to weather the double storm of loss and gain, simultaneously. I think it’s a set of feelings that many polyamorous people have experienced over the years.

The turbulant seas between Philotes and Eros January 27, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
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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

New Relationship Energy June 7, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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I’ve been in a relationship for some time now with a wonderful woman called Ginny.  The circumstances of how our relationship started have to do with a heart-wrenching break up in January of this year and the right person at the right time and place.  Due to the timing of this meeting, it took a while to allow myself to grow closer to her, although closer I grew and I would not want to imagine life without her now. She will never fully understand how her presence in my life was essential for me through an awful time that still occasionally causes sleepless nights.

Because of the slow emotional growth that occurred between us and my emotional fragility in which it grew, there was not that intense emotional high that often punctuates the beginnings of a relationship.  I was emotionally cautious, having been hurt so badly so recently, and didn’t allow my emotions to flower in ways they had with previous lovers.  I had missed the high of the New Relationship Energy (NRE).

This is not to say that I don’t have intense feelings for her, only that they developed slowly, and thus settled deeper.  There is depth that may not have been created under more normal circumstances.  Well, normal is relative, right?

What I mean is the situation I am in now is relatively normal within polyamorous circumstances, but not so normal outside of that worldview.  You see, there is this girl (who I will leave nameless because I am not sure she would want to be identified)  that I have liked for quite a while now.  In fact, she was among the first people I met when I traveled to Atlanta last Summer to look for apartments for my ex and I to move into.  It just happened to be the weekend of Dragon*Con, so of course there was that too.

When we met, I was instantly attracted to her (and her to me), but I was not in a place to pursue a relationship with anyone else because my ex and I had decided to be exclusive for a while before opening up our relationship.  With us moving from Philadelphia to Atlanta and her constantly traveling for work, the amount of relationship tensions were going to be high so the arrangement seemed prudent.  I respected that arrangement in act and intention (not like it mattered in the long run) and kept a respectful distance between us despite the mutual attraction.

But once the ex abandoned me (after inviting me to move down here 3 months previous) I re-connected with her and re-initiated a friendship.  (You see, the ex didn’t approve of her at all, even as a friend, so…).  We have been talking over the last few months, spent some time together, and then this past weekend we spent a lot of time together.  She met my girlfriend, they liked each other, and I asked her is she wanted to be my girlfriend as well.  The answer is forthcoming (and it looks like she may say yes, but we shall see) but in either case the last couple of days have been filled with that high, that NRE, that I had not felt since the ex who I will not name (not out of any hatred or resentment on my part, but out of reverence for her wishes) and I first started spending time together. Ah, for the blissful days of innocence before the fall….

In any case, I’m experiencing NRE big-time, and I look forward to seeing her again (I will tonight).  I’m all giddy, tingly, and excited just thinking about it. I hope that she will say yes to my proposal, but even if she does not I will want to remain close with her because even if she does not want to be my lover, she’s gotta get with my friends…sorry.

So, what does this mean for Ginny? Well, she approves of my proposal and is happy for me being happy.  There are concerns about how it will effect our relationship, but we have talked (and will continue to talk) about any concerns she has. Open and honest communication is paramount in relationships, especially in arrangements like this.  If she accepts, it will change the dynamic of my relationship with Ginny to some degree.  The ideal is to add to the dynamic in ways that benefit everyone.  Whether that means a triad (three people in relationships with each-other), a “V” (me having separate relationships with both of them, ideally with them on friendly terms), or something in-between is yet to be seen.  But for now I will ride the NRE wave as long as it will last and try to allow it to settle into a relationship of genuine love, affection, and mutual growth.

The key is to not allow the NRE to take away from my existing relationship.  It is easy to get caught up in that NRE and to leave the other person feeling under-appreciated.  This is a difficult avenue to navigate, one that I have made mistakes with in the past, but I hope that I have learned sufficiently to not make those mistakes again.

And certainly this phenomenon is not unique to Polyamory.  How often have you noticed that early in an intense relationship you see your friends less, get less sleep, and otherwise get caught up with the intensity of it all?  Now imagine having this while another lover of yours sits aside watching you ride this wave.  While frubble or compersion might come into play (as it has for Ginny in the last couple of days), often some envy or jealousy might as well.  It is really important to be aware of this (even if it is with friends rather than other lovers), because those close to you will miss you while you ride that wave.

So, be aware that your NRE will affect others around you.  And if you can, try and spread some of those good feelings around; share some of that intensity with others so that they can get an idea of how good you feel.