Letter to My Partner’s Parents

Dear My Partner’s Parents:

I am sorry you are hurting so badly. I am sorry that our coming out to you activated such a deep and intense network of past hurt, pain, betrayal, and deceit. My mom keeps telling me, “Hurt people hurt- they hurt themselves and they hurt others. They are in pain.” It’s not an excuse for your behavior, but it definitely provides context for what you are saying and how you are acting, and for managing my own negative reactions to your reaction.

This is what happens when people aren’t able to reconcile their hurt, whether it’s from when they were 1 year old or 2 or 5 or 10 or 17 or 20 or 25 or 32 or last week. And the reasons are numerous- you didn’t have time, money, access to mental health services, support from family, messaging you needed to “suck it up,” internal belief systems that you deserve hurt or dissatisfaction or that life is supposed to be hard, messaging that you have to stick it out in your marriage because of X, Y, or Z. Regardless, the consequences of a lifetime of hurt spill out and ripple out and touch those around you. Like a bandage being ripped off of a wound that never healed- the skin never healed, and the blood comes rushing. But no one can help you, because you lash out like a defensive creature, hurting everyone else around you, and ultimately, you are left with no one but yourself.

This is amazingly difficult for me. I am giving up my image of being part of your family and what that looks like and feels like. I am giving up the idea that I am a loved and supported member of your family. I am giving up the idea that you are two people in my support network. I am giving up the idea that our party in just a couple of weeks will be filled with people who love and support both of us and our relationship. Instead, I am doing my best to envision other possibilities: that I will now be misunderstood, blamed for all wrongdoing, blamed for not loving your son enough and for not being committed to him and for not seeing him as “enough” for me and for not being “enough” for him, demonized and othered as a freak and idiot. That I will no longer be part of your holiday traditions and other family get-togethers. That a few of our guests at our commitment ceremony and celebration will bring with them a cloud of negative, black energy- a swarm that sees our relationship as doomed to fail in tragic divorce.

Because I am in no place to communicate with you (you don’t want to understand me, and I am not going to agree with you that I am wrong and bad), here are some things that I wish I could relay:

We chose the phrase “commitment ceremony” instead of “wedding” to describe our celebration because:
1. It signaled to ourselves and to those who knew about our relationship that we have a nontraditional relationship.
2. As a way to support the LGBTQ community, including my sister and other people in our lives in same-sex relationships. And myself, as I see myself as someone who could easily be in a long term relationship with a woman.
3. To mark another way we were departing from the patriarchal institution of traditional marriage (other ways we are doing that include: both getting engagement rings, proposing to each other, having a mixed gender wedding party, K is keeping her last name, K is not being “given away” by her dad)
However, we view “commitment ceremony” and “wedding” as interchangeable, for us, because:
-We are committed to each other
-We love each other
-We plan on being together indefinitely
-We plan on getting legally married
So, to us, we are having a wedding, a commitment ceremony, a celebration of love, a party. All of those things, to us, describe what we are doing in August.

We have heard from you that you can’t understand how our values are “so different” than yours. We challenge that idea. Our values include:
Love is infinite: This is related to the idea of compassionate and universal love, but also gets applied for us in how we express and feel romantic love. We don’t believe loving other people takes anything away from the love we feel for anyone else, including each other. All love is different, and can’t be measured in quantity or hierarchy. Loving other people simply means to us that there is more love in the world and we both think that is a good thing.
Non-possessiveness and non-attachment: We don’t think it is healthy to think that we control one another, or any other person for that matter. Possessiveness, jealousy, and control are all feelings that can arise for us, but we value striving for freedom and non-attachment in our relationship to one another, so that we can choose our individual behaviors and choices. This also gets down to a basic physical level that is ultimately political- we don’t control what the other person does with his or her body. To do so comports with the systems of patriarchy and ownership over other people, neither of which we see as healthy. Non-attachment is also more of a Zen or Buddhist philosophy, in which we strive to be able to view situations, feelings, people, and relationships as dynamic and always changing. To be non-attached means to let things change as they will, with the flow of life. To try to control anything means fighting life.
Compassionate and nonviolent communication and negotiation: This is extremely important for us in our relationship, and is a key building block in how we have been able to have a healthy and happy relationship together. This communication style includes using “I” statements (not “you” judgments), speaking from personal experience, validating the other person’s feelings, and rephrasing what you hear the other person say so they can be sure they are understood. There is no yelling, name-calling, or hostility. If emotions are running high, we take space in the ways that we need first: K might cry, journal, or talk to other people. J might need to go for a walk by himself. Once we are able to be more calm, we can discuss whatever it is going on.
Consent: This about having the choice to be in the relationship we are in. Neither of us ever consented to being in a monogamous relationship; it just happened. With our current relationship structure, however, we have both consciously agreed to it and the terms, boundaries, and ground rules.
Fidelity and commitment: Fidelity to us means honoring one’s commitments and promises, whatever they may be. Lying and breaking promises or agreements are not okay, just as cheating in monogamous relationships is often not okay. 
Trust, honesty, and respect: It takes a tremendous amount of trust in ourselves and in each other to make a relationship like this work. It means trusting ourselves that we are capable of speaking up about what we need and want, and it means trusting each other to respect each other and each other’s feelings. The level of honesty it takes to have a healthy open relationship is huge- we have to be brutally honest with ourselves when something is not working, and then also take a big step in telling each other what isn’t working. We have to trust one another that being honest about something won’t be the end of our relationship, but that we respect one another and our relationship enough to keep an open mind and heart so we can hear one another’s honest feelings and experiences.
Self awareness and self growth: This also extremely important, in that we recognize that people and relationships are not static. We change every day, and should strive to become better communicators, more compassionate, more assertive, more independent, more patient, and whatever else needs working on. To that end, K has gone to counseling for the past year as a means to continue working on becoming more emotionally independent and more assertive. We don’t see counseling as a failing of an individual or a relationship, but as a tool for investigating oneself and growing, to the benefit of the individual and the relationship.

We think these values can be incorporated into any kind of relationship, although the outcome can look differently depending on the structure, negotiations, and behaviors. Also, we don’t view “monogamy” as a value, but as a structure, system, and norm- perhaps that is why you have been saying we have different values. If you do see monogamy as a value, then it is true we don’t hold that value for ourselves.
I wish I could help you see that monogamy is a paradigm (define: 1. A typical example or pattern of something; a model.; 2. A worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject.) and as such, is not The Truth. I wish I could help you understand that not “99% of therapists” would say that open relationship are “doomed to fail.” I wish I could offer you books and articles that would describe the positives of open relationships, and that you were in a space to listen and receive. 
I wish you could be more self-aware, and see how your own stuff is dramatically coloring your perception of us and of me. I wish you wanted to be more self-aware and to grow as a person, instead of trying to shove your ideological crap down our throats.

I wish you could not only love your son, but love his partner still (like you did before all this, for the past 6 1/2 years), and support him (and us) in his choice of relationship.

I wish you could understand these ideas:
Relationships that are consciously CHOSEN are usually more rewarding than relationships built on default assumptions.
A partner who CHOOSES to be with you is more satisfying than a partner who can’t leave.
Life is CHANGE.
Don’t look to others to COMPLETE you.
Feelings are not FACT.
Treat those you love with RESPECT.

I wish you could simply see us as different people who have made different choices than you

But I need to stop wishing. I need to accept my reality, I need to accept my present moment.

And that includes two parents who I will now frame as disgruntled, closed-minded, conservative relatives. People who I would not have invited to our wedding if I didn’t feel like I had to, people who I will create emotional distance with, people who I will feel less and less tied to. Just as we have other conservative relatives coming to our wedding that I have superficial relationships with (no politics, religion, values-based discussions, social justice issues, etc), I will come to peace with my relationship with both of you settling out at this place.

I am now affirming:
The joy and peace that fills my heart.
The compassion I feel for everyone I come into contact with, and those that I don’t.
The universal love I feel for everyone that I come into contact with, and those that I don’t.
That I am becoming more adaptable and flexible with the flow of life and with constant change, including change in my intimate and familial relationships.

I will always love you both. But I also love myself, and respect myself too much to allow myself to be part of a toxic relationship with you. 

As our good friend put it: The door is always open, and the house isn’t changing.

You are welcome in when you can enter lovingly.


Feel the Fear… And Do it Anyway

I loved this book.

Basic ideas that I loved:

-At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you. (p7)
-If you know you could handle anything that came your way, what would possibly have to fear? The answer is: Nothing! (p8)
-Five Truths about Fear
1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out…and do it.
4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, so is everyone else.
5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness. [I absolutely love this point.]
-If everybody feels fear when approaching something totally new in life, yet so many are out there “doing it” despite the fear, then we must conclude that fear is not the problem. (p25)

-Change how we hold fear from a place of pain to a place of power: framing our lives not with pain words (helplessness, depression, paralysis, I can’t, I should, It’s not my fault, It’s a problem, I’m never satisfied, Life’s a struggle, I hope, If only, What will I do?, It’s terrible) but with power (choice, energy, action, I won’t, I could, I’m totally responsible, It’s an opportunity, I want to learn and grow, Life’s an adventure, I know, Next time, I know I can handle it, It’s a learning experience) (p26-31)
-Reclaim you power through taking responsibility for how your thoughts and attitudes affect your behaviors and experiences
-Embrace positive thinking.
-If you think about it, the important issue is not which is more realistic [negative versus positive thinking], but rather, “Why be miserable when you can be happy?” If being a Pollyana creates a happier world for you and those around you, why hesitate for one more moment? (p62)
-Practice affirmations (for example “I am now handling my fears,” “I am becoming more confident every day,” “I am practicing being peaceful and loving”)
-It is amazingly empowering to have the support of a strong, motivated, and inspirational group of people. (p80)
-The knowledge that you can handle anything that comes your way is the key to allowing yourself to take healthy, life-affirming risks. (p107)
-No-Lose Decision-Making Process:
Before Making a Decision
1. Focus on the No-Lose Model.
2. Do your homework.
3. Establish your priorities.
4. Trust your impulses.
5. Lighten up.
After Making a Decision
1. Throw away your picture.
2. Accept total responsibility.
3. Don’t protect, correct.
-No-Win Decision-Making Process:
Before Making a Decision
1. Focus on the No-Win Model.
2. Listen to your mind drive you crazy.
3. Paralyze yourself with anxiety as you try to predict the future.
4. Don’t trust your impulses- listen to what everyone else thinks.
5. Feel the heaviness of having to make a decision.
After Making a Decision
1. Create anxiety by trying to control the outcome.
2. Blame someone else if it doesn’t work out as you pictured.
3. If it does work out, keep wondering if it would have been better the other way.
4. Don’t correct if the decision is “wrong”- you have too much invested.
-It doesn’t really matter (p121)
-The magic duo- 100% commitment and acting as if you count- allow you to be totally present in each aspect of your whole life (work, contribution, hobby, leisure, family, alone time, personal growth, friends, relationship, etc) and not become excessively dependent on any one aspect, and also able to remain positive if unexpected challenges arise with any one aspect
-Say Yes to your universe. (p143)
-Acknowledgement of pain is very important; denial is deadly. (p148)
-Saying yes means getting up and acting on your belief that you can create meaning and purpose in whatever life hands you. (p152)
-Steps to Saying Yes:
1. Create Awareness that you are saying no.
2. Nod your head up and down- say yes.
3. Relax your body.
4. Adopt an attitude of “It’s all happening perfectly. Let’s see what good I can create from this situation.”
5. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to adopt a “yes”approach to life. Say yes to you!
-If all of your “giving” is about “getting,” think how fearful you will become. (p160)
-When we give from a place of love, rather than from a place of expectation, more usually comes back to us than we could have ever imagined. (p163)
-Give away thanks, information, praise, time, money, love
-If we do not consciously and consistently focus on the spiritual part of ourselves, we will never experience the kind of joy, satisfaction, safety, and connectedness we are all seeking. (p192)
-Why choose to be right instead of happy when there is no way to be right? (p199)

I loved applying these ideas to the fears I have encountered in our open journey (J will leave me, I will be alone, I won’t be loved as much or enough, etc) and to the fears I have in other areas of my life (I won’t be accepted by my parents, I won’t find a job I like, I won’t be able to make enough money and travel like I want to). This book provided a really valuable way for me to re-frame my thinking, and I think it will sit in the same spot as other books that have tremendously helped me (Opening Up, Love in Abundance, Intuitive Eating, Love Freedom & Aloneness, etc)- ready to be picked up again and read, and read, and read.

In the line-up next are:

The Power of Now
Loving What Is

Super excited! :)

Back to the Basics

Part of J’s family’s concerns, anger, and dismay over our relationship are due to their idea that we “hold such different values.” Do we? I don’t think so at all. I think many of the values are the same; the behaviors that result from our values are different. But our values are quite similar. It’s not like J and I are immoral, stealing, lying, murdering, raping… We certainly have values, and many of them did come from our families. We are just choosing to exercise them in different ways.
My values:
Love is infinite
Compassionate and nonviolent communication and negotiation
Fidelity, loyalty, and commitment
Trust and respect
Self awareness and self growth
Love and sex don’t always go together, and don’t have to
Sexual intimacy as just another way to connect with someone else (other ways include emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, spiritual intimacy, etc)
These values can be incorporated into any kind of relationship, although the outcome can look differently depending on the structure and negotiations.
I am having a difficult time reconnecting with who I was two years ago; I feel like J and I have journeyed far enough away from our monogamous selves and relationship that I am finding it challenging to be truly understanding and compassionate for those in J’s family that are having a super hard time with our choices.
It was actually helpful for me to look at the relationship styles presentation I put together for the human sexuality class I took last year. I created it based off of Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up, and made it as accessible as possible for a monogamous demographic. I had a quick thought of using this presentation as a way to bridge the vast divide between myself and, say, J’s sister (someone who is having a really difficult time with learning about our relationship). I remember most students I presented to being really open-minded and curious. Of course, the context is different: learning about something new in an academic setting versus feeling lied to by family members and feeling like your value system has been thrown away in lieu of some “line of bullshit.” Very different experiences.
I am finding comfort in returning to my bottom line: I am loving, compassionate, happy, and peaceful. My relationship is a vehicle for personal growth. I am fulfilled by my choices. Even if I can’t convince others that these things are true, the most important thing is to remain present in myself and positive in my present moment.

With Gratitude and Love

We sent the following message to many of the people in our lives that have supported us unconditionally since we opened up over two years ago. I wanted to be sure to post it here for those of you I didn’t get in touch with personally, so that you know, too, that J and I deeply appreciate you.

We want to express the deepest gratitude to everyone in our life who has shown us support and love in the past two years since we opened our relationship.

J ended up telling his mom last week that we have an open relationship. Long story short, we now know what it’s like to have a negative coming out experience. The silver lining of the experience is receiving the reminder that we have so many other supportive and loving people in our lives.

We have been blessed with many open-minded and loving people in our life, and we feel lucky to have a community of friends and family that truly support us in our journeys of independence, interdependence, love, happiness, and health. Thank you from the deepest places in our hearts for being part of our intentional family and for giving us the space to be who we are. We love you all so much and appreciate each and every one of you for the value that you add to our lives.

Finally, we want to acknowledge and appreciate all of you for taking time out of your lives to come to X in a few weeks (and of course acknowledge and appreciate those of you who cannot come to X for our party for whatever reason; we love and appreciate you all, too!). We are so excited to celebrate the relationship we have built over the past 7 years and plan on continuing indefinitely with the continued love and support and help all of you have already provided so much of. Thank you to all of you for making us a priority in your lives – we certainly would not have made it to this point without you.

We Love You! And can’t wait to party in August!!

Soothing Words for Today

If you’re AFRAID to say it, that means you NEED to say it.
Relationships that are consciously CHOSEN are usually more rewarding than relationships built on default assumptions.
Real security comes from WITHIN.
When you hurt someone – and you will – suck it up, take responsibility, and do what you can to make it RIGHT.
Treat those you love with RESPECT.
You can’t be GENEROUS or COMPASSIONATE when you fear loss.
Compassion is most NECESSARY when it’s most DIFFICULT.
Don’t vilify those who hurt you; they are people, too.
The world is as it IS, not as we want it to be.
Life rewards people who move in the direction of GREATEST COURAGE.

~All from Franlin Veaux’s awesome Principles for Good Relationships poster

Today included one of the most difficult interpersonal situations I have ever been in. Ever.

J and I had a video chat with his parents today. It was not a conversation, but them expressing how angry and hurt and upset and sad and disappointed they are that 1) we didn’t tell them about our relationship two years ago, and 2) we will “never know the true intimacy” of being with just one person. They think because we are open, we can’t be truly committed to one another, and thus our commitment ceremony is a lie to everyone we invited. They compared us to pedophiles and zoophiles. They told me the email I sent was heartless, sterile, and unfeeling. They implied that I was coerced into being in an open relationship, told me that I am unhappy, and also accused me of not being loving or committed to J.

The place where I finally was struck deepest was when I realized that this was the heart of the issue I have been working on in counseling: to be seen and heard, to be independent, to articulate my needs and desires and to command attention and listening. I voiced my opinions, my apologies, my love, my desires and needs, and received almost zero respect or love in return. It felt really awful. I feel extremely closed off from his parents at this point, and really unsure of any kind of positive relationship with them returning.

I don’t know where this will all go from here. Our ceremony is three weeks away, and I do know that I want a happy, positive, loving, and supportive group of people around me when J and I have our public pronouncement of our love and commitment to one another. I don’t want people there who don’t support our relationship or see it as “doomed to fail” as his parents do.

Keeping my lavender candle lit for aromatherapy, and my focus on my heart and center.

Cocks & Come

Not Sleeping
Misunderstood, judged, pained, hurt
And then
in this instance, passivity, submissiveness, pleasure
Tongues, licking, biting, rubbing, stroking, vibrating, and
Coming, coming, coming
Cocks, cocks, cocks
(Six of them, to be exact)
All in the name of pleasure, of adventure, of exploration, of desire, of chemistry, of fantasy, of actualization
Later, lying in bed all I feel is my pussy vibrating with the memory of fingers and tongues and cocks caressing it and pounding it and using it
And all I see in my mind are hard cocks, pulsating