Adventures in Non-Monogamy

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DISCLAIMER:  This post is a bit of a hodge-podge, and it came about because in reading the struggles some of my fellow bloggers are currently experiencing with non-traditional relationship structures, it has occurred to me that I might have something worthwhile to share on this topic.  However – I am not an expert.  I am not a psychologist, a life coach, a circus entertainer, a tantric sex guru, a marriage counselor, a fortune teller, or a magic 8 ball.  This is not advice.  (I loathe advice.)  I am simply a human being, and I am sharing information gleaned from my personal experiences.

NOTICE:  This post has been written with positive intentions.  Anyone who reads and responds in kind is welcome.  If you need further clarification on blog etiquette, please refer to The Rules.  If you wish to be an asshat, just go away.

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ETHICAL NON-MONOGAMY AND OPEN RELATIONSHIPS AND ALL THAT JAZZ

A while back, I answered some interview questions related to polyamory and non-monogamy that were sent to me by the host/author of a blog that focuses on the topic.

Note:  I said I answered some questions.

There were several questions I did not answer.  Like, What led you to ethical non-monogamy?  And, What’s the most challenging thing in your relationship(s)?  Or how about, What one thing (or things) did you learn along your ethical non-monogamy journey that really helped you?

Uhmmm…

Velkrjw sdkj wiel an i wekrj jso rlekj, qpoiuer buti sliekr.

I think if I had answered any of those questions for my interview I would probably have sounded a bit like that.^

And y’all would have been like, “Please sprechen ze English!”

However…

I may be able to articulate my answers to those questions a bit more clearly at this point, even if it’s in a slightly round-about way.  Because a lot of things have changed for me over the past few months, both in and out of my marriage, and in dealing with those changes, I’ve come to realize that I’ve actually gotten GOOD at some of this relationship stuff.  (Gasp!)

So.  Let’s give this a go, shall we?

Q:  What led you to ethical non-monogamy?

Short Answer:  I recognized that I have needs/wants/desires that are unlikely to be met by one (and only one) partner, and I made the conscious decision to be up front about that instead of either (a) reamaining unfulfilled and/or always wondering What if…?, or (b) cheating.

Long(er) Answer:  When I first met my husband, we became fast friends, and I was dating fucking two guys (separately – the MFM threesome thing didn’t happen til much later) at the time.  I called them “the boys” and my activities with them were not kept a secret from him.  What I had with each of them…  It wasn’t worth keeping.  The long and short of it is, I ditched them both in favor of pursuing a more meaningful and intimate relationship with the man (see the difference there?) who became my husband.  So the concept of having multiple partners, and openly sharing about those partners, was not an imaginary/abstract/what-if when we got together.  It was a reality.  And, frankly, the idea that it takes more than one man to satisfy me was (and still is) and immense turn-on for him.  We did the whole cleaving-only-unto-each-other thing for several years ~ though “only unto you” was intentionally NOT part of our marriage vows ~ and then one day I said to him (I’m paraphrasing an hours-long conversation here), “I need something more.”

And we took it from there.

Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say:  We stumbled forward from there.

{There is a much MUCH longer answer, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to get into The Story Of My Life.}

Here’s the thing…

Everybody who moves into non-monogamy ~ regardless of the form it takes (swinging, one-sided open/hall pass, NSA only, polyamory, etc) ~ from a conventionally structured relationship thinks they know what their limits will be or what their feelings will be or what they want to do/try and how they wish to proceed.

nope buttonUhmmm…  Really?

You think you know it all?  Really?!?

Let me tell you right now:  NOPE.

That’s a big nope.

Another nope:  I would caution anybody who is thinking about pursuing multiple relationships or exploring with ancillary partners to put their list of 14,391 Rules and Regulations for Basking In My Awesomeness away.  Put them away.  For one thing, you don’t know what your boundaries truly are until they are pushed.  And for another, throwing your rulebook at a potential partner and just expecting them to nod and go along and everything will be fine – without taking into consideration *their* perspective(s) – is just plain immature, selfish, prima donna assholery. (Unicorn hunters are notorious for this.)  Get over yourself.  Seriously.

Plus:  The Feels.

They kinda suck.

And, information overload.  Yeah, there’s that too.  There will be “Why didn’t he?” and “What did she…?” and “Why didn’t you tell me?” and “Dear GOD, I didn’t want to know that!” and sometimes there will be all those things AT THE SAME TIME.  It’s a veritable tilt-a-whirl of thrilling emo joyous angst.

As I said to someone else recently:

It’s so hard to know exactly what you will need (and need to know) until you are in it.  No matter how open, accepting, supportive you are, etc – there are still unexpected pangs, old wounds, and just plain genuine wanting everything to be okay.  I surprise myself with my reactions to things sometimes, both with my un-botheredness in some situations and my emo messiness in others.  It’s not ever the same, and sometimes I’ll have polar opposite reactions to the same situations/players from one meet to the next.  My husband is much the same.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have limits.  You should.

But really, you can “if, then” yourself to death and set up “this is okay, but this is not” all you want.  And you should discuss those things.  Please discuss those things.  Ad nauseum.  And then discuss them some more.

BUT

No matter what scenarios you come up with and solutions you decide on and what you *think* you will feel/want/do/say/not-fuck-up…  It doesn’t change the fact that once there is a flesh-and-blood person (or people) added to the equation – as opposed to the *idea* of a person – all that pre-planning and pre-assuming will have to be re-thought (and re-hashed, and RE-re-hashed, and hashtagged) ASAP.  Because for every red flag there will be insane chemistry, and for every “Wow, she has a beautiful ass” there will be a “Whoa, he is SUCH an ass!”

There is really no such thing as cut-and-dry when it comes to non-monogamous explorations (excepting, of course, one’s hard limits), and while all the “Poly is GREAT!” and “Everything is FINE!” people will just repeat the mantra of “Communicate, communicate, communicate!”, nobody really talks about how.fucking.HARD that is.  And in the material I’ve come across, it is also rarely acknowledged that there is a year’s worth of “This hurts like fuck” before anyone gets to five minutes of “This is great!”

But there are ways to work through it.

AGAIN:  I’m not giving advice.  I’m just sharing.

Some general guidelines that work for me:

  • Be clear, concise, and consistent in communication.
  • Set hard limits, but keep them minimal and realistic.
  • Put the important things in writing, even if it is a simple email.  It is helpful to have something concrete to fall back on, and to work forward from.
  • Have agreed-upon expectations, but realize that people rarely fit into the little boxes we make for them.  Be prepared to (re-)negotiate expectations with all parties and to NOT PROCEED (exercise some self-control!) unless/until all parties are in agreement.
  • Only move as fast as the slowest person in the relationship is willing/able to move.
  • Never go along with something you don’t agree with, or that doesn’t feel right to you.  You need to be able to respect yourself in the morning.
  • Share what you feel, even if it doesn’t make sense.
  • Respect other people’s feelings, even if they don’t make sense to you.  An emotion is a fact, and you can only make informed decisions if you have all the facts.
  • Tell the truth, even when it hurts.
  • Never lie.  NEVER.  Especially by omission.

Regarding that last one…

Sometimes omissions are unintentional.  They are simple things.  Things that would, in any other circumstance, be no big deal.

Yeah. Sometimes it's like that.

Yeah. Sometimes it’s like that.

Things like trying a new food or visiting a specific landmark or shopping at a particular store.  The hurts these things cause may seems silly.  But feelings are not trivial, and sometimes the fact that you forgot to mention that you tried pad thai when you were out with your boyfriend will upset your husband, because he has been after you to try pad thai for three years but every time you visit your favorite Thai restaurant with your spouse, you have better things to do than taste his spicy noodleness.

These things are easy enough to get over.

But there are other things that get omitted, glossed over, or outright lied about that are not easy to get over.  Big things.  Things that betray trust and slice open our deepest wounds.

And you know what?  A lot of times those omissions are made because the person who loves us *doesn’t* want to hurt us.  How’s that for irony?

To quote myself:

The instinct to “protect” by *not* sharing, by filtering due to trying to head off hurt…

Yeah, I get that. I get the motivation behind the silence and I get the hurt when something minor is discovered. I’ve been on both sides, and I’ve learned that it’s the littlest things that cause the biggest hurts. I’ve also learned that there are often hidden ‘wants’- things we may not have previously acknowledged or even noticed about our desires – that can feel like huge mountains to climb, and when our partners want something with someone else that we wanted but never realized/discussed/explored… It gets complicated quickly.

I’m in a relationship right now with someone who is new to being open, and some things have come up recently that have made me go, “Ouch!” It’s never what you expect it to be. Not the reality (versus the oh-so-carefully-planned Rules of Engagement) and not the trigger points (positive OR negative).

But there are also pitfalls to oversharing.

What I need to know varies depending on the situation and the people involved.  I am pretty good at assimilating information and rolling with the changes as long as I have a general outline of where things stand and how people feel, and am informed/included as things progress.

My husband…  Well, let’s just say he processes information very differently than I do. When we first opened up our marriage, he wanted (and was granted) full access to all my communications with other people.  And that worked.  For about five minutes.  And then it went to hell.  (Think:  selective listening applied to multi-modal communication.)  So we had to change that, PDQ.

We’ve had to change a lot of things over time.

Because people change.  Relationships change.

Desires/curiosities/interests/fetishes/intensity of feelings/libido/insert-noun-here change.

Change is pretty much the only constant in life and love.

P.S.  All that changing?  It’s not easy.  And it happens with everyone.  So don’t think you can just figure things out with your spouse and that’s all you need to do.  Nope! You’re just getting started.  You have to figure things out with everyone you’re involved with.  Everyone.  Separately and together.  It is, quite frankly, a metric fuckton of work.  So If you’re not good at that kind of work (talking, listening, engaging, respecting, negotiating, compromising, etc), or not willing to become good at that kind of work, non-monogamy is probably not for you.

Holy schloamoly, this is a long post.

‘Kayso, I think all that gobbledy-gook pretty much covers the “things I learned” and “challenges” portion of the program.

There are a gazillion more things I could say, but I think it’s your turn now.

ANY QUESTIONS?

0 thoughts on “Adventures in Non-Monogamy

  1. wildoats1962

    Everybody processes information differently. Levels of complexity are nonlinear, integration creates polynomials. Euclid is doable, Riemann is too far out. Schrodinger had a cat, and Heisenberg did tensors.

    Speaking the same language doesn’t always share understanding. Getting what you ask for isn’t necessarily the same as getting what you want. Connecting with someone is a string. I have doubts about any truly NSA encounters happening. It might be an extremely tenuous string, but it still exists. Like the square root of two, people are irrational.

    Sometimes I put things into equations.
    Wild

    Reply
    1. vixenincognola

      Lopez uses “equations” for everything which is great for most things in life, but for me love doesn’t make sense, can’t be weighed or compared, it can’t be quantified so he and I speak in two totally different languages – for me, love is and that’s all I need to know. ????????

      Reply
  2. dualdrew

    Very nice post and, well, it somewhat hits home at the moment. Thank you for all the non-advice that looks like advice because it’s, well, spot on, especially if it were advice 🙂 I’m forwarding this one to the husband and, as an fyi, many months later, we now share the Pad Thai.

    On the negative, I am deeply troubled to learn you are indeed, not, a circus entertainer. There goes every fantasy I had built up.

    You know I heart you,

    D

    Reply
  3. Dawn D

    Very interesting post. Made me think about many things.
    One is that I’m lucky this relationship I started has clearly been open from the beginning. I think it will make things slightly easier. At least there won’t be a need to have the ‘I need more’ conversation.
    But we still need to have the ‘this is a relationship, and I love you, but I still want to be able to have others in my life, and I want the same for you’ conversation. Oh, fuck, who am I kidding? We still need to have the ‘this is a relationship and I love you’ conversation 😉
    But thank you for sharing your experience. It will come in handy I’m sure, because I have already experienced some of this. Like the ‘WTF? You took *her* to a club without telling *me* before?’ reaction… 🙂
    I’m looking forward to reading more from you. Even the pet things 😉

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Welcome!

      The ‘this is a relationship and I love you’ conversation is such a hard one for me to have. Those three little words… Well, they’re not so little, are they? And just because I don’t/haven’t *said* it doesn’t mean I don’t *feel* it.

      But saying it out loud, speaking the words…

      Words have power. And, a la Spiderman: With great power comes great responsibility.

      Thank you for reading and relating. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Dawn D

        Well… you probably have had that conversation already since you are married 🙂
        I’m talking about my primary relationship here 😉
        And I agree, the fact the words aren’t spoken doesn’t mean they aren’t felt. I think he can feel them pretty well. And so can I. Doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t hard to have 🙂

        Reply
        1. Mrs Fever Post author

          It was easier with my husband than it was with anyone who came before him. But I’ve had (and chosen NOT to have) that conversation with ancillary partners a few times since, and it doesn’t get any easier for me. If anything, it gets harder every time.

          Vulnerability is not a ‘practice makes perfect’ exercise. The natural inclination is to fortify our defenses over time, not to remove them. And handing your heart to someone… It can leave us defenseless. And we’ve all learned some hard lessons about that, no?

          And then there’s just plain stubborn bullheaded-ness. Which might (maybe, perhaps) have something to do with my ‘not gonna say it!’ attitude. 😉

          *crossing arms and stomping foot*

          Reply
          1. Dawn D

            I like your crossing arms and stomping foot statement!
            I agree, why not just say it.
            If only my mouth would cooperate! Or my mind shut up and let my tongue speak 🙂
            For me, this is the hardest time to have that conversation. Because I’ve said it before, to men, and only recently realised that I didn’t actually know what love was then, so how could I say this?
            And it makes me doubt now: do I know what love is any better now than I did back then? I think I do, but… Sigh!
            I am letting myself be much more vulnerable now than I used to. But I also know my value more and what I am prepared to accept and not. So it’s a good balance 🙂

  4. The Suburban Domme

    I’m not awake enough to do much more than smile and nod….

    But the smile is ear to ear.

    The nod…has me looking like a damned “in the back window of a car” bobble head pup.

    The smile is cuz I count my lucky stars the cosmos saw fit to have us crisscross in the blogsphere.

    The nod is cuz…
    Damn……… it feels good to not have the voices in my head……..be alone.

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      WARNING: To avoid injury, only sip coffee *between* bobbles. 😉

      And I’m nod-nod-nod-ing too, reading this comment. The feeling(s) is/are mutual. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Tom Cooper

    Interesting reading. The most important thing you said? ‘You don’t know what your boundaries are until they’re pushed.’ Indeed. ‘I’m not an expert, but I play one on the Internet . . .’

    Reply
  6. pivoine68

    Excellent post! Thanks for the info Mrs Fever! Makes me realize that the more I think I know…the less I actually know. Practice, practice…

    Bises,
    Dawn (somewhat of a unicorn hunter.)

    Reply
  7. vixenincognola

    Thanks for posting this – it makes me smile

    I admire you in so many ways Feve
    1- for knowing a recognizing your needs
    2- for not settling
    3- for being so open in your experiences

    I unfortunately didn’t recognize my need for “more” than one… I went through a marriage with secrets and affairs and that did more damage to me than it actually did to him (my opinion), but it did teach me that I don’t like life “settling” for what should be or what I though “normal” was. I’m not afraid to vocalize my needs, desires, discontent, happiness… Now

    And I think you are so wise in so many ways, knowing that things have to be in steps, because we do not know our boundaries and definitions in any relationship especially those that have a … More to come… Sort of stance

    Another thing I’ve learned is as you said you have “polar opposite reactions” to same experiences … I’ve learned that while I may have not “enjoyed” a particular activity or thingy with one person, another person has made that same thingy absolute enjoyable. I couldn’t agree more with you in that “being open” is sort of a “repeat” with different controls at times.

    Communication!
    Communication!!!
    Communication!!!!

    That has been the fail and success of every relationship I’ve ever been in… romantic ones, friendship ones, coworkers… Communication- consistent communication.

    And lying by omission is one of the most hurtful kind of lies -For me ugh

    And I’m an over sharer!!! I know it, recognize it and am learning what filters and who needs them for me to be true to me, true to them and still have communication that we are all comfortable with.

    I’m learning… A lot.

    Oh and along with my over sharing – I’m a rambler haha

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      I understand what you mean about “damage.” What we do to ourselves in those situations is often far worse than people realize. Recognizing that, and choosing a different path… Every baby step is a giant leap when you’re on a more positive route.

      Oy vey, the opposite reactions! YES. And I get what you’re saying about how a certain activity can be horrible in one circumstance and beautiful in another. This is one reason I don’t believe in bucket lists. My interest in participating in an activity has *everything* to do with WHO I’m engaging in that activity WITH, and what our relationship is. For me, it’s 99% about a person, and only 1% about a practice. And what my boundaries/limits are with my husband are not remotely the same as they are with my lover, because they are two fundamentally different human beings. It only makes sense that my relationship (and what I do / not do) with each would be different. {For some reason, this is often difficult for people to wrap their heads around.}

      Communication…

      I would rather have too much information than too little, especially at first. Even if it’s hard to hear. Because the worst hurts – for me – come from NOT knowing. I’m dealing with a WTF?!? situation right now that has been really challenging. Besides the red flags (there are many), the biggest issue for me has been readjusting my understanding of Who He Is; I was completely blindsided by something that otherwise would have been just part of the process, because I had been kept in the dark.

      Communication = Illumination

      Shed a little light on the subject, please!

      Reply
  8. wildoats1962

    This clip says a lot. It applies throughout all aspects of life. It reminds me of a quote from Mother Theresa, yeah that sounds odd in this forum but bear with me. When asked about why she did so much for the poor she replied that she did the work for her own benefit. I totally get that because she would have blamed herself for doing less than she could. It would have been a “What if” question for the rest of her life. Communication is extremely important in a relationship, but knowing who you are comes first. You can’t tell someone else your needs if you don’t know them. Anyway, I like this video and the general tone of the thread here reminded me of it.

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      “I think that there’s a level of effortlessness that shows up by you enjoying the process of working on yourself.”

      -and-

      “YOU ARE WHAT YOU LOVE.”

      So much truth! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

      Reply
  9. dreamlanddancing

    I think we all have the need to publish a manifesto on our experiences with Love in its many, many forms. It helps define our horizon line, which as you aptly stated, just keeps changing…this really was a metric shit-ton of work and information here, and strangely, I don’t find myself arguing or needing to re-iterate any of it. (as you know, I’ve been reading your posts for some time, and just about the point where I think I disagree, “you give me paws” to at least consider the possibilities…and grow)
    This was like a great meal, that takes some time to digest. Most insightful. You may not consider yourself a Guru (or whatever), but you know how to brainstorm like few can, which is an amazingly creative process.
    And just look at all the minds you’ve stirred up in the process….
    I think my biggest reaction was to your statement about working on yourself…you have to be fearlessly truthful to yourself before you can ever learn to share it.
    You rarely ever disappoint me with your straightforward candor. You have given us all a great deal to process, and hopefully share.
    I find you words inspiring on many levels. It appeals to my sense of Romantic Realism (I still believe you can have your cake and eat it(her) too. 😉
    Venus Trines at midnight in a neighborhood near you as we speak.
    Blessings be.
    Thanks.
    Namasté
    नमस्ते
    Chazz Vincent

    Reply
    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Romantic Realism. I like this term. 🙂

      Your use of the word ‘manifesto’ initially gave me pause (as opposed to paws 😛 ), but upon further thought, I believe it fits. A manifesto is, after all, a declaration. Of intent, of policy, of expectation. And how can one communicate those things clearly without first taking the time to examine themselves and their lessons learned?

      I love what you say about being fearlessly truthful. It’s not easy to do, especially when it means facing things about ourselves that are uncomfortable. Confronting your own ego can be a daunting task. Jousting on camelback without armor in a dark alley would be less arduous. 😉

      Thanks for being here, Chazz. And for ‘getting it’.

      Namaste.

      Reply
  10. Pingback: Poly Interview: Ethical non-monogamy from a married female blogger | Loving Without Boundaries

    1. Mrs Fever Post author

      Thank you!

      They are essentially basic parameters for respectful conduct in group dynamics. It seems like common sense, but common sense is not so common.

      Reply
  11. Pingback: Show Your Blogging Love - Love Sex and Marriage

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