Life is Full and Delicious

Crazy past week: life is zooming ahead!

I am starting a new job soon- with the same agency but in a different role. It’s going to be far busier than what I have been doing and I think it will be a positive shift in my day-to-day. I hope I can manage a full work load and school in the fall.

I had a major freak out last week. I found out that somehow I had linked my blog (yes, this blog) to my main Google plus profile. Which means I had been sharing all of my blog posts with people in my circles- some random acquaintances from college and grad school, some family members, some friends. So Mom, Dad, other family, and people on the periphery of my life: if you’ve been following me along, that is totally fine. The irony of this situation is not lost on me. If you ever want to talk to me about stuff you’ve read on here, I am happy to talk. If not, that’s fine too. But I know that you know. So we’re good.

Some old news: that poly speed dating event J and I went to was cool! It was super well coordinated and there were about 100 people there! I definitely recommend going to the next one.

I’m excited about my next open women’s group. We are doing an activity where we will feed one another in silence for a little while- I think it will be a nice, intimate thing to do with one another. And I am looking forward to a new kind of touch and intimacy with some of my best woman friends.

My bestie and her fiance were in town this past weekend with us! It was fabulous, especially since I hadn’t seen her since October. We even took them to our fave nude beach, and they even got naked. I was extremely impressed- they had never been around any other naked people before. Wahoo, vanilla friends gettin’ a little spicy!

[My crummy part of the week: getting totally triggered by a comment a friend made yesterday about someone’s “perfect breasts.” No one is perfect, right? I vented to J several times throughout the evening, and told myself last night as I was trying to fall asleep that I would wake up feeling better. And I did. So I am making some progress on managing my negative thoughts.]

Stay cool this week; it’s warming way up!

Life is Fun in the Sun

My life updates!

-I’m almost done with counseling for my BDD. It’s made a difference. Lots of other things have improved my symptoms the past month, too… like, having J home more, having a new fun workout to do, having some good social time, and feeling like our house projects are coming along.

-I had a lovely massage on Saturday, and then we had a fabulous time at Sesso this past weekend. And then we hosted an awesome party with like 40 people yesterday. Next time, I think I’ll opt to invite a few less people so that I connect with more people. I kind of just walked around, smiling at everyone there! Which is fun, too, but I think I probably looked a little overwhelmed or frazzled or scattered (which I was all of those things at different times). But we got to use our new fire pit and roast s’mores and eat way too many chips. And I loved introducing new friends to old friends and watching connections happen.

-My best friend and her BF and their two puppies from CA are visiting this weekend! I haven’t seen her since October! I am so excited!

-My CA girlfriend and her BF are (hopefully!) visiting the following weekend and going backpacking with us! I want some wilderness time, and having it with such open-hearted, goofy, and loving people sounds so fun.

-We have a trip planned to go visit family in a couple of weeks, and I am so looking forward to getting out of Portland for a few days.

-And, ready for this?? Our three year plan is to: MOVE TO HAWAII. There, I said it! Now y’all can hold us accountable. It’s happening.

-Tomorrow it will be 95 in Portland. Ninety-five. I’m pretty sure my kombucha is going to turn to vinegar in a day from how warm it will get in our house.

What’s new in your world?

Cuddling

My first introduction to the word “polyamory”: we were sophomores in college, and I was helping J move settle in to his new dorm room. Because he was an RA, he was responsible for hanging up flyers on the bulletin boards. One of them proclaimed “Berkeley Polyamory Club! Cuddle Puddle Party!” We laughed uncomfortably, made fun of it. A cuddle puddle? What the heck??

Recently I went on a date with someone whose community consists of folks who actually do have cuddle puddle parties on a regular basis. It sparked some deeper thinking around why the community I am part of and build seems averse to non-sexual touch and physical closeness. I know in the past it’s made me uncomfortable, but largely because I have been unsure about what it would mean: will they think I want to have sex? What if I don’t want to have sex? Will it mean that J and they will have sex? How will I feel if that happens? However, taking sex out of the equation makes cuddling and touching my close friends sound really amazing.

Last night some of our best friends came over to help us paint and install ceiling fans. I was exhausted at the end of my Friday (I fell asleep on my yoga ball at work, and woke up as I was about to fall off), but from the minute they walked in the door my energy perked up, and we talked and worked and hung out until midnight. And after sharing my thoughts with them about nonsexual cuddling, I noticed that we began touching more. And I liked it. I like feeling like I can cuddle up next to someone, and that hugging doesn’t need to lead to anything more. It can just be a cuddle or a hug.

I am really curious as to whether, how, or why I may bring this to the table for any future parties/get-togethers I/we have. I don’t know if it has just been me in the past that is closed off to touch, or if there are others. I’d basically love to experiment with a cuddle puddle party: cuddling, massaging, hugging, but no sex. It sounds liberating and connecting.

I’m not sure exactly why it has taken me as long as it has to come to this light-bulb moment (that I can touch someone and be touched without it leading to sex)- perhaps part of it is because we have dated or slept with a number of our close friends, and I don’t want to confuse the relationship. But I guess that’s where explicit communication comes in 🙂

Do you like cuddling/touching your close friends? Why am I so late to the game?

Value of Relationships

It was 11:42pm (or something like that) on Christmas Eve when I saw my best friend from high school calling; she had already called once and left a message I hadn’t yet listened to. I’m tired, I need to go brush my teeth, I thought and was about to let her go to my voicemail again. Rapidly, I realized why she must be calling: They got engaged. My intuition turned out to be correct.

My BFF and her BF have been together since high school and haven’t dated hardly at all outside of dating each other (that’s something like 8 years I think, with a couple of short breaks during college). And now, they are getting married. They both have huge families, and I imagine their wedding will be fairly big. Their engagement photos have been on Facebook, and many people have shown them support and love. I am sure the encouragement will continue for the rest of their relationship.

Last week, I had the privilege of witnessing my cousin and her girlfriend get married. While they have known each other for about a year (I think!), they have dated for about 4-5 months. Her family has been extremely un-supportive, and while it could be amplified by the brevity of their relationship, the lack of support is more due to the fact that it’s a same sex relationship. My cousin has a much smaller online social network, giving the appearance that, in comparison to my friend, her relationship is far less supported by those in her community. Her celebration was small (there were about 16 of us in attendance), but mighty in spirit.

LongingLoveSS-Post

These two relationships couldn’t be more different in how they appear and how the two individuals came to know one another and how the two decided to get married.

What do they have in common and do they have the same value? Who decides?

For all that other people like to talk and gossip about others’ relationships, isn’t up to those actually in the relationships to determine their worth and value? No one knows better about what relationships are important to them and why and how they want to display them and celebrate them.

Love is love. And we should all encourage, support, and validate LOVE.

The Family Christmas Card & More

This trip away from Portland to see family for the holidays has been largely fine, and some other periods of time have been “fine” in the AA acronym-sense of the word (fucked up, irrational, neurotic, and emotional).

Regular fine moments (from the quiet okayness of family time to the extremely fun and enjoyable) include:

-Doing puzzles with my sister, mom, and J

-Reading two books, and working on others

-Walking with J and our dog in the sunshine

-J and I going to the clothing-optional hot springs

-Seeing the looks of happiness and appreciation on my family’s faces when they saw the new TV J and I got them for Christmas.

-Going to Bend with J’s brother and sister-in-law, including both a wonderful walk with J and one by myself, and a ton of delicious food. Breakfast out is one of my favorite things of being alive.

-Getting a manicure and pedicure with my mom and sister

-Going for a nice hike with J’s family

-Going over to J’s grandma’s for french toast and bacon

-Playing a dance video game with J’s family

-Watching the sonogram of my sister-in-law’s baby

-Getting to visit with J’s ex-girlfriend/friend of ours for like 2 1/2 hours while in the hot tub

-Walking by myself to the coffee shop where I am now, by myself (much needed), drinking a peppermint hot chocolate. I finally feel like I am able to relax today.

AA-FINE-moments include:

-Seeing my mom’s Christmas card. Even though we took family pictures at Thanksgiving, including my sister’s girlfriend, my mom opted to use different pictures. It was extremely apparent to my sister and I that her girlfriend was absent. J thinks perhaps this wasn’t because my sister’s romantic partner is a woman, but because they haven’t been together “long enough” for my mom to warrant inclusion on the card. I don’t know. Whatever.

-Struggling with chronic body image crap (negative self-talk, obsessiveness over eating and exercise, lack of compassion and loving-kindness for myself).

-Finding out that, somehow, someone told J’s family that I was a stripper. They haven’t asked me directly about it , but somehow, they know. The gossiping drives me nuts.

-Having Christmas dinner with J’s extended family- conservative, Tea Party, highly religious. I kept myself entertained with a puzzle and lots of apple crisp. This worked for the most part.

-J’s sister going off on J about us “not working,” “having zero income,” while “some of us have to work to pay back student loans.” J got pretty frustrated and irritated. We almost left even sooner than we did (which was a day or two ahead of schedule).

-J’s mom flipping the fuck out because we visited with his ex/our current good friend. She spent the whole next day completely stressed out, her puffy eyes indicating to everyone out that she was miserable. But would she offer any information? Absolutely not. (This was the catalyst for us leaving sooner) The communication style within J’s family absolutely drives me insane sometimes. This was one of those times.

-Being with my family, and feeling the intensity of 3 pairs of eyes on my every move (my mom, sister, and dad). I don’t get it. Stop looking at me!! The over-protectiveness and incessant worrying has become easier for me to deal with in recent years, but was a lot harder for me to shake off today. Thus the trip to Starbucks in solitude.

It’s getting close to the end of the year, and the New Year has become increasingly meaningful to me. It’s a time to reflect on the year’s events, to think about growth and change. I tend to make “resolutions” and move toward change throughout the year as I think about it, but I appreciate the formal reminder.

I see in those AA-FINE-moments a lack of transparent and clear communication: a good reminder for me to continually push myself toward asserting my boundaries calmly and compassionately. While it is difficult when the content of the communication is about sensitive/taboo topics, it is more important to me to have honest relationships than to walk gingerly around family for fear of upsetting people.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? How do your families encourage you to change and grow?

Recognizing the Third in Monogamous Relationships

My latest DatingAdvice.com post is live: Can You Be Monogamous and Attracted to Other People? (I like my title better, haha) I based this post off of Esther Perel’s Mating in Captivity, in which she mentions the specter of “the third” (i.e. other people you may be attracted to) and how some couples choose to ignore the third, recognize the third, or invite the third in to their relationship. I wanted to explore some ways that monogamous couples could push the boundaries of their relationship to incorporate sexual explorations, and deepen their sense of honesty and trust.

Here’s my intro:

In Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity,” she discusses the “shadow of the third.”
That is the fact that even when in coupled relationships marked by commitment and love, we often (maybe always) find ourselves attracted to other people.
By acknowledging the third, keeping your communication transparent and striving to know and understand your partner and yourself, cheating may be less likely to happen (thus preserving the commitment to monogamy you both have made).
What are ways two people can be sexually monogamous, but widen the door for more honesty and trust around sexual desires, fantasies and exploration?
The foundation for this is solid trust in your partner and relationship as sexually monogamous and a healthy way of managing your jealousy and insecurities.
I also believe it is a privilege to learn new things about someone, not a right. Being in a romantic relationship doesn’t give you the right to know about your partner’s private sexual thoughts.
If they, and you, are able to share this information, you should take it as a sign of the health and resiliency of your relationship.

I go on to offer the following ways that couples can be monogamous but add honesty and new sexual flavors to their lives; make sure to go read the post on DA so you can see my further explanation!:

Having opposite sex/opposite gender friends
Reminisce about the past
Watch porn and read erotica together
Share fantasies and attractions
Is flirting ok?
Visit strip clubs together
Visit a swingers’ club or party to watch and be watched 

I would love to hear from others: what are other ways that you can be monogamous and recognize “the third” in your relationship?

Our Party!

I’m very thankful for this blog as a way to make sure I keep track of relationship-y things… definitely including our Party!

It was really just a fabulous time. We got down to southern Oregon on Wednesday very late, and we both were so excited to see our friends and family. Thursday we took an easy day and were able to spend time with my family, extended family, and some of J’s extended family. Dinner, frozen yogurt.. we also met with our photographer, who was great and also kind of a nut. Friday I spent the afternoon with our woman Friends of Honor (my sister and her GF, my cousin, my two best friends from high school, my mom) getting our nails done. I thought I was going to cry when I saw my friends from high school- I hadn’t seen either of them in over two years! They’re just the same, but older, doing more adult things in their day-to-day. I love them so much.

That night we had our rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and it was so fabulous. I am so glad that J and I made the decision to tell our officiant (the minister I grew up with) about our relationship last summer, because his extra remarks about our independence and strength and bravery were really special and moving to me. He is such an energetic and peaceful person, and it felt amazing to have him speak as our officiant. I was pretty nervous all Friday evening interacting with J’s parents and sister and brother-in-law; I had a stomachache the whole time and felt a little on edge, but I interacted with them minimally and did my best staying focused on everyone else there. It was pretty loving to experience that his parents and sister behaved politely and mostly warmly towards us.

That night we went to clothing optional hot springs with our fabulous sexy friends, J’s men Friends of Honor and couple of their partners, J’s brother, and J’s sister and brother-in-law. I definitely got naked, which was an interesting choice. I had a lot of fun, but I don’t know if J’s sister and brother-in-law did. (I can’t control if they did or not! But I know it was an interesting layer on top of everything else- ie them finding out about our relationship.)

J and I stayed together at the fancy hotel in downtown both Friday and Saturday night, and it was really nice to have a space completely to ourselves to relax in. I woke up early Saturday morning for hair time- the woman who cut my hair from infancy traveled up to Oregon from California to do my hair and all of the other girls’! It was really fun. It was a great way to spend more time with all the girls, and to catch up with my hair lady!

Photos started midday, and I just love that. I am such a ham, and I had so much fun with our whole group dorking around town. We walked down through town, into the park, playing around trees and on jungle gyms and in fountains. We arrived at the park about 45 minutes prior to the ceremony, drank water, said hello to guests arriving (a couple of old college friends, former supervisors from college, and other people we hadn’t seen in forever! AND several of our lovely sexy friends!)… and it also gave me time to get nervous. I was having performance anxiety!! The thought of being in front of so many people, having them witness something so personal, private, and vulnerable made me nervous. Right before J and I walked in together we held hands and he helped me shake the nervousness out. (Thanks lover boy!)

And the ceremony was beautiful. I am so proud of the words we chose.

Afterwards: more photos, and so much socializing. It was so great!!

The food was fabulous. Mexican buffet, delicious cupcakes. The band was totally rockin’. We danced so much! I felt like I was going to throw up at one point. Yes, it was that good. Ha!

I cried when it was time to say bye to my (long-distance) friends. Even though I don’t feel connected to my vanilla friends in the same way as I do to my sexy friends, we share a history and friendship that is important to me. And I miss them.

We spent the night after the reception with J’s guy friends, chatting in our hotel room. It was really fun. Despite our sexy friends’ and my woman friends’ best efforts of making our honeymoon suite sexy (flowers, relaxing music on an iPad, lube, chocolate, wine) we were both exhausted and were more satisfied with socializing with people we don’t get to see often enough.

We woke up the next day saying:

Let’s do that again!
That was pretty perfect.
I loved everything!
BEST PARTY EVER!!!


That’s the best, yeah?

And then the best honeymoon came! A trip to Glacier National Park for ten days, with the tail end in Canada (my first trip to Canada, wahoo!). We hiked our butts off, camped, stayed in historic lodges, and ate lots of pie and ice cream. Another fabulous experience for what I feel is a fabulous relationship.

February was a Busy Month!

Yikes! I can’t believe I haven’t posted in a month and a half! That is way too long… and it’s not because we haven’t been pursuing open opportunities, communicating, negotiating, and having fun… that is precisely why I haven’t posted in so long (that, and school has literally been steam-rolling me. speaking of which, I am procrastinating from writing a take-home final, but I just can’t concentrate on that anymore right now!)… but now for an update!!

So… Valentine’s Day=awesome. J got some “X-Rated Valentine’s Candy Hearts,” the Tenga Air-Flip sleeve, and a subscription to Cosmo. Yes, Cosmo. He likes to read the insane pieces of advice and “insight” into the male brain. For example: you can tell how much a guy is into you by how he holds your hand. If you and your sweetie hold hands and you hold onto each other with your free hand, that means he is really into you- the possessiveness is a key (positive) indicator that he is into you. Whoa.


Dun-dun-dun-dun!! We got engaged! February 18, baby! (officially) We had a very long pre-engagement, as we got my ring right before Thanksgiving. Because we wanted to exchange rings (and yes, believe us, our families do not get it), we had to wait until J’s got made. His ring finally arrived on Valentine’s Day, and we had a lovely weekend going out to dinner and proposing to each other with letters we wrote to each other. Cute, right?!?


We have had a few ups and downs over the past month and a half, mostly related to unknown expectations and communication issues. For the most part, we have retained our sense of cool and gotten through them much more smoothly than bumps in the past. I think the more experiences we have where something might trigger one of us, our refractory periods of needing time to process and think and get over an insecurity or jealousy shortens. For example, my last “bump” so to speak only set me back a few hours. If this situation had happened a few months ago, I think it would have lasted a day or so. Progress!! I have also identified some of our most common communication errors: insufficient information about a partner or interest in a partner, and selective hearing (not really listening to something the other one is saying, but hearing what we want to hear). Identifying these common slips is helpful when communicating, so we can both do it better.


I have continued my vagina quest.. In fact, I met a lovely lady a couple of weeks ago through CL, and she’s pretty awesome. It hasn’t gone very far very fast, but that is fine. We are having a good time so far, so that counts!

J and I have continued to explore our fantasies together… including very dirty dirty talk, spanking, and hair pulling. All in all, I have been burning the candle at both ends…and really need more sleep (who am I kidding?? I would WAY rather get an hour or two less of sleep if I am having kinky, hot sex!)


Another thing that has happened recently that I feel compelled to share is that a very near and dear person to me came out to me in a couple of different ways. She recently started dating women, and is creating an open relationship with a new primary partner. How much she shared with me is completely breathtaking, and I just feel so honored that she included me. I had told her about our relationship last summer, and I remember feeling so nervous to. I hadn’t told a lot of people at that point yet, but I had a feeling she would be open, receptive, and respectful of it. J and I are continually amazed at how if we are honest with people, people usually respond with honesty. I think it is wonderful that I was able to share so much of myself with her, and she in return trusted me enough to share her experiences with me.

We recently hosted some vanilla friends. In fact, it was a friend I had in elementary school that I hadn’t seen since. She and her husband live not too far away from us, and decided they wanted to check out our neck of the woods. I thought it would be great if they stayed with us (despite my uber-stress over school- not a great decision), and it ended up being pretty fun to see them. However, it made both of us realize how open we are with our lives, and how open we love to be with our sexy friends. I remembered that not every couple will disclose their sex life, kinks, fantasies, values, etc with us… J and I were even a little embarrassed when our friends found us in the sex section at the bookstore (not really-we know that is nothing to be embarrassed about-but it was a shock to remember that not everyone talks about sex, haha).


Looking forward… I can’t believe that J and I have been open almost a year. April 1 is our anniversary of opening up, and I am planning on posting a reflection of the past year. I am also taking an independent class next quarter on human sexuality, and the instructor gave me some great stuff to read! I’m sure those books will make their way into the blog. She is also having me present to her undergrad class on a couple of topics of my choice… I will definitely present on alternatives to monogamy 🙂 I also bought “The Sex Diaries Project” and “Sexual Intelligence” and am hoping to read them over our spring break- look for reviews of those, too!!


Happy March!

Jealousy

I have a good friend from high school, who grew up learning to never say the word “jealous.” Instead, she and her family would say, “I am so ‘j’.” I am not advocating for jealousy: it is an awful feeling. I strongly dislike feeling jealous. It makes me feel out of control and crazy and weak and insecure and small. But we need to own our jealousy, face it, and work through it. Otherwise, it sits there, building up over time, waiting to pour out at the worst moment.
I grew up learning from pop culture, and probably my family and most definitely my friends, that being jealous is appropriate. If you aren’t jealous of your partner giving someone else attention, something is seriously wrong with you! And how many Top 40 songs are about making someone else jealous or being jealous? “Crimes of passion” are much more acceptable and excusable in our society than I think they ought to be. In fact, my most serious high school relationship ended pretty much on account of jealousy. The first four years or so that J and I dated, I was jealous of J’s good girl friends, of girls that got onto the treadmill next to him at the gym (crazy, right?!?!), and of the girl who made his sandwich at the campus store (also whacko!). Opening up our relationship has made my jealousy dwindle to an actual manageable and faceable emotion. It sometimes comes on like a little annoying fly. I am able to hold it, examine it, figure out what is really going on, and let it go.
Since we opened up, my jealousy has evolved quite rapidly. I feel so much freer and happier and more secure in our relationship than I ever did before. At first I thought I might be jealous of seeing J have sex with other people. That quickly diminished after we read Sex at Dawn. In fact, I highly, highly enjoy watching J pleasure and be pleasured by other partners (this is sort of the opposite of jealousy—dubbed “compersion” in the open relationship world; a post on that is sure to come!). I am now on the tail-end of facing and letting go of my jealousies that have resulted from our separate play option: I was at first very jealous thinking about J with someone else, without me there. I realized that it was about a fear of losing J, and mostly about a selfishness of sharing our shared time together. I also quickly recognized that my insecurities spread like a virus when I pictured J with some “faceless” individual: she looks like a supermodel, is super smart, witty, makes him laugh until his stomach hurts, can run super long distances at his pace, skis like a pro, and can make killer cinnamon rolls. The most ideal woman for J pops into my head! Once I realized that my jealousy and insecurity stemmed from the unknown, J and I were able to have a constructive conversation about what to do about that insecurity (thus, our rule about knowing each other’s partners, as J described earlier).
I am also still processing my jealousy surrounding more emotional relationships, where J shares a deeper emotional and/or mental connection with someone else and I am not a part of that. Part of my processing comes from the recognition that J is a separate individual with separate emotions and feelings, with separate dislikes and likes and interests, and separate friends. Understanding that we can both have connections with other people helps me to mitigate this jealousy.
Another deeper jealousy that I think a lot of people in “vanilla” relationships perhaps do not deal with is the idea of one’s partner having a sexual relationship with a close, long-term, “vanilla,” friend. J has an amazing friendship with someone from his junior high years, and I actually have been able to begin confronting and working through the jealous feelings that have arisen when I think about their relationship evolving into something else. Before we began negotiating our open relationship, this would have impossible. I was jealous that he even talked to her on the phone every so often. Another issue that has come up, that has given me jealousy issues to work on, is the idea of J meeting back up with ex-girlfriends. I think because they were from his “vanilla” past, it would be interesting to negotiate a new kind of relationship with them. I would also need to have the chance to get to know them well before anything really happened between J and them.
Feeling jealousy and letting it sit inside of me allows me to move through the emotion. Bottling it up, letting fears and resentments grow, is not particularly healthy or helpful to the process. Crying, journaling, taking hot showers, getting a manicure, talking with J, talking with friends, exercising, and meditating are all ways that I have found to help myself work through jealousy. Naming and processing jealousy are integral to having clear and honest communication in general, and have definitely been important for me in negotiating our open relationship.

Family & Friend Reactions: Coming Out

We decided to tell a select group of family and friends about our adventures outside of monogamy. Part of this for me (K) was about authenticity and honesty in my day-to-day life. I don’t want to feel like I am hiding any part of my identity, and my sexual identity is a major part of who I am. Another part of this for me is a little more intellectual. I feel like our society and culture has a twisted relationship to sex: we are punished for deviating outside the monogamous and married relationship, and yet every advertisement and media message we receive encourages us to dress half-naked, aim to sexually please our partner, and buy products to enhance our attractiveness and sexual appeal. Therefore, it is important to me to begin, in my own small way, to dispel the ideas that sex is “bad,” the only ways to have fulfilling sex is through a married and monogamous relationship, and that having more causal sexual encounters are also “bad.”
 
We began selecting individuals in our lives that we felt would be open to our new ideas and adventures. These individuals are the same ones that we initially invited to read this blog. All of these individuals had one thing in common: they would still love and accept us regardless of how we decided to create our relationship. We didn’t feel like we would be shunned or lectured; all of these people have open hearts and minds. We anticipated awkward conversations, and knew some of the people we told would be surprised or even shocked. But we decided it was important for our sense of honesty and authenticity to be able to tell people that we care about.
 
While the circle of people that we have talked to about all of this has grown a little bit, neither of us has talked to our parents about our decision to open up our relationship. Maybe it’s none of their business, but we would both like to. Perhaps a good way of broaching the subject would be to ask “Have you and Dad (or Mom) ever talked about or thought about having an open relationship?” I don’t know if and when I will be ready for this conversation, but it is one I think about often.