Links to share this week; most are pretty long, but totally worth it:
Response: Op-ed: An Open Letter to The New Yorker
Links to share this week; most are pretty long, but totally worth it:
Response: Op-ed: An Open Letter to The New Yorker
Links, links, links!
Last week was vagina facts, this week it’s time for: Penis facts!
I’m in love with this website for a documentary made on couples’ relationships; check out the poly/mono clip, cheating clip, best sex clip, and take a look at the activity they provide for couples. I love that they have hetero couples, gay couples, mono couples, poly couples, young and older people, wealthy and poor people: TheAnd
Some research suggests that believing one’s relationship is a journey, and not destiny, make the relationship more resilient to challenges
Let’s redefine our relationships- is monogamy really that common?
And, explaining bisexuality to Larry King
Last week I was at the gym and was completely captivated watching the women crossfit games on the TV. It was like something shifted deeply inside my gut watching buff, strong, muscle-y women lift weights, run, and be all-around bad asses. I am so used to the small and petite women gymnasts, ice skaters, cheerleaders. While I know buff women athletes abound during the Olympics, it’s something different to watch women do typical “manly” exercises like lift massive amounts of weight versus running around a track or swimming. I just loved watching these super fit, but not tiny, women compete with one another. That whole mantra, Fit is the new skinny, could be the tagline for crossfit. It’s not just “fit,” though- it’s “built.” It was inspiring.
Another experience from the week that I felt was worth sharing: I didn’t wear a bra to work one day. I don’t have large breasts, and so I know it’s far less noticeable, but I felt self-conscious the whole day. Upon telling J this via text, he responded with the best thing: “Just treat it like a feminist thing and be proud! You shouldn’t have to wear a bra to make other people comfortable.” When I read that, I sat up a bunch straighter, and felt immediately better. Yeah! Thanks J!
And, for the second very noticeable time in the past couple of weeks, I had an experience that is hammering home one of my most salient personal lessons right now: I’m not the center of attention all the time. I know that sounds juvenile and dumb, but that’s often where personal insecurities lie at their root I suppose. They are complaints from being two years old that have never quite grown up. Realizing that a new love has other new loves and isn’t as interested in creating something deep, and realizing that a new flame has other connections right now- examples of experiences that are hard for me to digest. But the simplicity of being honest about these feelings has helped immensely. I have just felt for moments here and there like this: What? What about me? Pay attention to ME! Hey, come on! I’m not the center of your world?! And then moments later, I snap out of it. It’s embarrassing, but it’s the truth. It is helpful to meditate on the scarcity versus plenty model of life, but only after I’ve snapped out of it.
Besides all that, my fabulous weekend consisted of yummy, hot casual sex, seeing friends, painting, dancing for buku bucks, and beaching. Thank goodness for ten hours of sleep last night!
Okie dokie, more discussion on Amara Charles’ Sexual Agreements.
Like I do, I have pulled out my favorite passages to share with you all, and bolded sections that I found particularly powerful. I enjoy sharing directly from the author, so you can get a true sense of their words and intentions.
Adding on to my general impressions from last week, I will emphasize again that while Charles has a specific viewpoint of what open relationships look like (you always put your partner first, having multiple partners has no name and is necessarily casual, etc), this book is a fresh and fast read for thinking about how, when, and why one would have honest conversations with partners about sex, freedom, and security. I recommend the book as another approach to kick-starting sexual honesty within relationships.
Favorite passages and notes:
“…there is no simple answer to the question of sexual freedom within a relationship. It is a very private and personal agreement between partners. One thing I do know is that when one begins exploring outside the accepted rules that most people live by, serious questions arise. As soon as some of the long-held inhibitions about sex start to shift, a new curiosity sets in. Many partners want to try different things and explore new sexual possibilities. An idea of greater sexual freedom arises. There is the idea of greater communication and more sensitivity, but there is little experience. A lot of miscommunication, fear, and deep emotions can rise to the surface.” (pxv)
“For whatever reason, honest communication about sex can trigger emotional upheavals within our relationships. When we begin to express intimate sexual feelings our fear, jealousy, possessiveness, or anger can easily arise. Sexual energy is very powerful, making it important that we be patient and tolerant with our self and our partner. It takes time and great care to make changes in our sexual ways. There are going to be doubts and mistakes. I haven’t met anyone who started creating sexual agreements without making some mistakes along the way.” (pxvi)
“Consciousness within our relations is the great awakening. It is only because of fear that consciousness remains cluttered. At some point, however, one notices how much of our precious life is wasted by living in the confusion and doubt we carry about sex.” (pxvii)
“Broken agreements can foster tension and mistrust. There is a way, however, to bypass all the drama and emotional battles that ensue. Rather than argue over who did what or who said what, determine why the agreement is not working in the first place. In other words, it is useless to blame each other. Take another look at the agreement itself.” (p4)
“You will know when you have created an understanding between you that is mutually beneficial because living these agreements will generate greater trust and intimacy, and more love between you.” (p5)
Common mistakes made when making agreements: misunderstanding the agreement, boundaries versus agreements (analogous here to to what Veaux and Rickert in More Than Two would call rules versus agreements), making agreements at the wrong time, keeping true feelings hidden, assuming the agreement is finished, ignoring small transgressions, forgetting agreements between self and spirit,
“Treat the fulfilling of agreements as sensitive journeys into new territory, even if you have had the agreement for years.
Talk to each other every time something within an agreement is put to the test. Do this all the time, not just the first time. Even though this may seem obvious or trivial, many forget to connect intimately and thank their partners for their trust and care.” (p15)
“A powerful way to alter patterns of broken agreements in your relationship is to completely honor all your personal agreements. The more care you give regarding your own honesty, truth, and integrity in all matters, the more grace you will have within your intimate sexual agreements. Honor the spirit and the letter of every single agreement you make, and the level of integrity with your intimate partner will increase.” (p16-7)
Sexual agreements within monogamous relationships:
“Agreements that are mutually beneficial nourish each part- ner and allow the deepest gifts of both to flourish. They are not about trapping one another into staying faithful or roping each other into a tangle of heavy obligations. A good agreement is continually clarifying why you want to be together.
To stay with anyone, it is important to keep asking yourself why you want to be together. Most people assume they know. It seems obvious because there are children, a house, and career(s). All these things may be the fruits of your relationship. But if outer things are the reasons you are together, then monogamy will get stale and old—and the sex gets boring.” (p29)
“Being faithful and loyal, making a daily decision that “this is the one person I want to be with intimately” is a profound choice, but only when it’s chosen consciously.” (p30)
Sexual agreements within open relationships: “Freedom in relationships is a consequence of under- standing, care, and sharing good experiences with each other. Freedom does not come from demanding it. Neither does love.” (p41)
“Statistics show that most car accidents happen within 25 miles of home. Something similar happens with the people we are closest to. We relax our communication and we get lazy. We will often say or do things to an intimate partner we wouldn’t dream of saying or doing to a stranger. While we often reserve our “best” for our loved ones, unfortunately we dole out our worst qualities as well.” (p61)
“It’s important to have patience with this, because we were taught that agreements are about telling each other what we can and cannot do. We were not included in making the rules we live by, and we were not taught to create the kind of lives that include enjoying our lovers’ happiness and freedom. Most of us have inherited agreements that were attempts to limit, regulate, and guard what we think belongs to us. We have very little experience with being generous, tolerant, or wise with regard to each other’s feelings and needs—especially when it comes to sex.
Most agreements are efforts to make something turn out the way you want it to. They are attempts to possess someone, maintain the status quo, avoid discomfort, and lessen the shock of the unknown. The desire for some kind of guarantee that “we will be together forever” is actually the ego’s way of expressing its infantile, self-centered feelings of entitlement. Especially in the sexual arena, deep down one feels entitled to affection, love, and sex. The ego tries to protect itself by seeking to obtain a guarantee in hopes of getting what it wants. Making agreements from this position is nothing more than an attempt to get from people what you think they owe you.” (p61-2)
“As a thunderstorm leaves clear fresh air in its wake, the upheavals in our intimate relationships generate waves of opportunity that carry the promise of improving our lives considerably.” (p64)
“The secret to keeping casual sexual experiences as harmonious and empowering aspects within our sexual life is to be clear about what each encounter is, what it is for, and to be clear about what it is not.” (p74)
“…the sweet intimate companionship that an enduring love relationship provides, a casual encounter cannot. Whereas waves of sexual passion will ebb and flow like seasons during the span of an enduring partnership, the whole beauty of a casual encounter is its brevity.” (p75)
“Transformational sex can range from enjoying a cozy evening with our lover, to self-pleasuring with images of the moon and stars, to an unusual encounter with a stranger. It all depends on the intention you carry in your mind.” (p80)
“It is important to understand the difference between our body’s need for sex, and the need we have for intimacy in a relationship. When we are healthy our body has surges of sexual feeling. Totally ignoring the body’s needs is as harmful as carelessly indulging in every sexual urge. Women and men need both emotional intimacy and physical sex. There is no need to feel guilty about either one. At times our needs for intimacy and sex may converge, but at times we can satisfy them separately. It is beautiful when they are met at the same time with the same person, but this may not always be the case. Be clear about the differences and do not mistake one thing for another. What matters is understanding that both our sexual needs and intimate needs are equally important yet different. Sexual passion is as important as sensuous intimacy. They may not always be equally expressed or satisfied and may be met together or separately in different ways.” (p83)
“It is as if we are simultaneously wired to seek the safety of an intimate relationship while at the same time we also want the freedom to enjoy whatever we find attractive. Unless we learn to consciously create both the security we need as well as the room to explore the variety of what arouses us, our agreements are destined to confine us rather than become platforms for lift off into deeper experiences of life. Good sexual agreements ensure that we will have the comforts of intimacy and the freedom to explore our natural sexual attractions as well.” (p85)
I asked J one day last week: “Have you ever experienced new relationship energy with two people at the same time?” I was trying to wrack my brain for past experiences that fit this idea. “I don’t think so,” he replied. I know that for myself, when I am really into someone, that energy and high and walking-on-clouds feeling permeates my life; it can permeate my other relationships, too, and infuse those relationships with more bounciness and happiness. But experiencing NRE with multiple people at the same time? I don’t think that has ever happened for me.
And can it? I don’t know. It seems like, from my experience, the tunnel vision for one person is part of what makes NRE, NRE: you only have eyes for that one person. Within poly relationships, this gets tricky since it requires the twitterpated person to be very mindful and conscious of how they are interacting with existing partners. There is a ton out there on not letting NRE completely cloud out one’s existing relationships, not making major decisions until the NRE has dissipated quite a bit, and how to interact with a partner experiencing NRE with someone else. It takes conscientiousness, grace, flexibility, and deep trust. With monogamous relationships, this is far less of a concern. NRE encourages exclusive behavior, and while friends and family may not enjoy being left for a new-found love temporarily, I think in general this kind of behavior pattern is expected.
I brought this question to my women’s group this past week as well, and I heard from a couple of people that they have in fact experienced NRE with different people at the same time. And that they think it takes particular conscientiousness on the part of the twitterpated person to stay attuned to existing relationships, including new ones in which they are experiencing NRE.
How about you? Have you experienced NRE for different people at the same time? Does NRE for one person spill over and help fuel NRE for another? How do you ensure that you continue to give time and attention to your existing relationships?
Links to share:
This is a pretty fascinating summary of research done on the perception of different types of nonmonogamy; spoiler alert, poly folks were perceived to be more moral while swingers were perceived to be more adventurous.
A pretty awesome piece written on the lessons to be gained from dating someone in an open relationship
A fun compilation of vagina facts
Ginny on using language to be more gender-inclusive
The Gottman blog on self care, autonomy, closeness, and relationship interdependence
Interesting ideas on why childfree couples seem to cheat less than their counterparts with children
I love this infographic from The Lancet on HIV and sex workers:
A good friend sent me a book about a month ago, and I’m almost done with it: Sexual Agreements by Amara Charles. (I haven’t found it online, which is why there isn’t a link to it). However, Amara’s website is here.
I’ll post a full review once I’m done reading it (probably next Friday), but here are my initial impressions and responses to the book:
-I appreciate her unwavering focus on honesty, emotional boundaries, communication skills, and self awareness. All of these are essential in having positive conversations about sexual needs, desires, and preferences.
-I also appreciate that her book seems to be built on the idea that two people in a relationship deserve to be sexually compatible, and thus deserve to have honest conversations with each other about their sexual identities.
-She has really particular ideas about what open relationships are, and even mentions at what point that “there isn’t a word to describe being involved with more than one person” (something along those lines)…. I’m pretty sure that there are dozens of words to describe those different kinds of relationships. So far, I have only seen her reference or discuss open relationships that are built on a primary dyad in which each person only has casual sex with other people.
-She offers excellent questions for self reflection and reflection with a partner surrounding comfort levels, jealousy, and what kinds of agreements make sense for you.
Next week I would like to offer my favorite passages with further thoughts. 🙂 Let me know if you have read it, or her other book The Sexual Practices of Quodoushka, and what your thoughts are!
Happy Independence Day! How are you celebrating your freedom today? Do you feel free? How can you if you don’t?
I finally finished Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert’s Book More Than Two. Whew. That was a journey for me. Read on for my quotes of note and other impressions. (And please! Someone else read this soon so I can discuss it with someone!) My favorite quotes are bolded.
The most useful parts of this book for me:
-Distinguishing among boundaries, rules, and agreements. Having a really clear sense of what each of these things are and what they mean is really helpful to me. Boundaries are those things you get to set for yourself: you get to decide how and when others enter your space, mind, heart, and body. Rules are about controlling someone else: rules are about you telling someone else how and when others enter their space, mind, heart, and body. Agreements are broader and more general, and as such, allow you to have flexible and negotiable conversations with a partner. Ready for some examples?
-Having a reminder that my personal boundaries (or lack of) and who I have given power to, deeply impacts my sense of agency and ability to stay happy, regardless of what is happening in my relationships. This is related to this quote:
“Nor is happiness actually a state of being. It is a process, a side effect of doing other things…happiness is something we re-create every day. And it comes more from our outlook than from the things around us.” p9
What didn’t I like about this book?
I kept getting the sense that the authors see “good”, ethical polyamory operating in one way. I felt defensive reading a lot of the book, and I know it’s from experiences I have been through in which I didn’t behave in ways that I liked. So I’m not sure if it’s just me feeling defensive, or if there really was this theme that there’s “one right way” to do polyamory. For instance, the authors are pretty anti-hierarchical polyamory. I totally understand that it is disempowering to say to another party, “Look, you don’t get any say because you’re a secondary partner. If my wife wants to veto our relationship, we have to break up.” I get that that sucks… and I also would like to think that hierarchical polyamory can work well for all partners involved, as long as it is done in a compassionate, transparent way. But I don’t know.
Check in if you’ve read this one! I’d love to hear your thoughts. It’s really thought-provoking, clear, and directed in its approach, and I definitely recommend it to folks exploring multiple intimate relationships.
Ginger at atheist, polyamorous skeptics just recently reviewed the book as well, and she clearly didn’t have the same, strong emotional reactions as I did- so it’s definitely worth reading her in-depth and lovely post here.
J and I have been together over 7 1/2 years and now open/poly for 3 years today! I love that April Fools is our open anniversary. 😀
I feel like we nurture two overlapping relationships. One is the relationship we have had since we met in college. I hold dear the history we have together, the knowledge we have of each other’s ins and outs and highs and lows, the presence we have in one another’s families and daily lives. The other relationship is this dynamic poly relationship that is growing and changing and will forever continue to do so. We have had that relationship for less time than the other and so I know we will continue to experience growth and setbacks and more growth. These two relationships intermingle and give each other support: our monogamous beginnings give me both a sense of stability and motivation for moving away from monogamy, and our open/poly relationship gives me excitement and introspection and fire.
Happy Anniversary, Lover Boy
and Happy Love, however it comes to you, my dear reader
This is one of my all-time favorite clips from the Office.
I’ve never wanted to come out as a Drama Llama, probably because having a penchant for drama is abhorred within the open and poly community. How many posts have I seen by other bloggers about not being dramatic, or ads by couples who refer to themselves and their ideal match as “drama-free”? Countless. And who wants to be marginalized within their marginalized community for not being the “perfect poly person”? Not me!
I looked up the definition of “drama.” In addition to the definitions regarding the type of literature and plays, the third definition on Merriam Webster says:
3a : a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense conflict of forces
In addition, the origin of the word is:
Late Latin dramat-, drama, from Greek, deed, drama, from dran to do, act
I was intrigued by the fact that “from dran, to do, act” is a root of the word. It is helping me to reflect on how I behave when I am caught up in something dramatic in my life: Am I processing my emotions in a mindful way? Am I acting out a script? Am I simply going into automatic drive, falling back on my go-to emotions of aggressiveness and defensiveness without thinking through the situation? How can I remember not to “act” but to rather inquire genuinely and gently into my feelings, and demonstrate them in a more calm and even-handed way?
All that being said, I have also been thinking about why “drama” is given such a bad rap (especially by those in the open community). Emotions can run high. So what? People get angry, say things they don’t mean, apologize, get upset, seek reassurance, cry. “Drama” can be authentic, and not necessarily “acting.” I don’t know that there is anything inherently wrong with engaging with drama, as long as I am conscious of the process and system I am in. I think drama becomes a soul-sucking force when people drive each other to the bottom and don’t help each other back up- when it becomes a game, rather than a real way of interacting and knowing. And, it seems that “drama” runs counter to the image that a lot of open/poly folks try to embody and display: that we are people that have our emotional worlds completely figured out and can thus operate our intimate relationships in a completely clean and easy way.
[I love it when things go smoothly, when emotions and needs are discussed calmly, when my social world feels easy and mellow. I really do love that. It feels mature and connecting and loving, all without the high-octane feelings I remember as a teenager trying to assert my place within my social and romantic world.]
Like J told me last night: “Maybe you should write on a piece of paper: ‘I like drama.’ That way, it’ll remind you to stop and think when you are getting into some, and help you decide whether you want to be involved.”
I think it’s a good suggestion 🙂
Who else is a drama llama? Who can’t stand drama? Why? Is drama a necessarily “bad” thing, or something to look at with disgust? Can it be a healthy part of our relationships?
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