“Calling people out” can be “Educating”

“So, I’m driving the car with a couple of sexually repressed and slightly tipsy women…”

I mean, it’s fun to start the story that way but it’s not exactly fair. Sexually repressed by my standards, yes – but my standards aren’t exactly the baseline unit of measurement.

Neither, however, were theirs.

I’m gonna step this back for a second to the analogy part, and then I’ll pick back up on this:

As a child, I heard friends say “gypped” as a term to mean “stolen from” or “taken advantage of.” “You got gypped!” when someone paid too much for a candy bar. Or, “You gypped me!” when a player steals my move in a board game.

As a child, I never thought how to spell it. I probably would have attempted “jipped.” It wasn’t until much, much later (probably in college) that someone told me that “gyp” was a slur against gypsies* and quite offensive.

I was horrified that I’d been using what amounted to a racial or cultural slur since I was a kid without knowledge. After learning this, I stopped using the term completely.

Now, I said “someone told me…” as in, they educated me on information I didn’t know about. Let’s say that person had been part gypsy and I was offending them. Rather than educating me or telling me, I might have said they “called me out” on saying something they considered offensive.

In that case I would not have known about their heritage or the etymology of “gypped.” I’d have been super embarrassed, probably.

Back to this drive in the car It was a long drive – the GPS had said it would be about an hour when we left the restaurant.

And the conversation in the backseat turned to an acquaintance that the three other women in the car all knew, but I did not.

That’s when the slut shaming started. But it got worse. It was slut shaming and herpes shaming. Apparently, the proof that the woman they were talking about was a dirty whore (not said in an affectionate way) was because she actually had herpes. A little additional background here, the woman who was charging this “dirty whore” who was not there to defend her dirty whorishness is a medical professional.

I thought about speaking up. I thought about announcing to the car what I am quite open and frank about in my daily life. “I have herpes.” I could have just said that. That would have shut her up.

But I didn’t. It was a long drive. They were friends of my friend and it would have made the rest of the ride uncomfortable for everyone instead of just for me.

Now, my friend in the car did go to the mat on the slut shaming part, though she left the herpes part out of it, figuring that part (which she is well aware of) was up to me.

But that’s her. She’s really good at confronting people who are saying things she finds offensive. Also, she’s known these women since high school. I might have done the same with that relationship history.

I think I need to learn to be a little more like my friend, though. Because I had an opportunity to “educate” someone (ironically, a healthcare professional) about the tactfulness of using “herpes” as a derogatory descriptor in a car with four people, when something like one in five Americans is a carrier.

Perhaps, like with the person who educated me on “gypped,” she might have learned that it’s inappropriate to stigmatize a condition as widespread as herpes with such derision by making it a “whore’s” disease. (And to further stigmatize “whores” ’cause, when used affectionately and with consent that is a term I find rather endearing.)

There had, in fact, been a lot of wine involved that day. I let it go, but thankfully, my friend didn’t. Back at the hotel, after I’d gone back to the room while they stayed outside for a bit, she called her out on it on my behalf.

And of course, I imagine the friend was properly mortified.

It brings me no pleasure that she was embarrassed. Just like younger me didn’t know gypped stemmed from a racial slur, she wasn’t hyper-aware (probably because nobody’s ever told her) that talking shit about people with herpes to someone who has herpes can be really, really offensive – and with the prevalence of herpes, if you’re talking shit about it within a group of people, there’s a fair chance you’re offending someone and making them feel badly over something that is completely benign.

And of course, the slut shaming was just….uncomfortable, yes. But I’m not going to turn it around and “virgin shame” the sexually repressed (by my standards, that I’ve established as not an average standard). My body, my choice. Her body, her choice.

I didn’t speak up this time, but thankfully my friend did. I think I’ll take a page from her book and speak up should I ever find myself in this position again.

_____

* Note: After posting this I received a few messages from friends letting me know that “gypsy” is A) actually spelled “gipsy” and B) a derogatory slur against the Romani and widely accepted as such. In the spirit of being further educated, I am grateful for this information and pass it along to my readers.

When love is like a Netflix subscription

His love isn’t a DVD. I can’t own it, keep it on a shelf and only watch it when I have access to one of those antiquated machines that play them.

His love is a bit like a Netflix subscription.

I can watch the next episode of Supernatural from the tub while his other partners queue up their favorite shows or films from his vast library from their tablet or TV.

We’re all subscribers with the same benefit, and as long as his servers (and our internet access) are up and running, we can all keep on streaming our individual relationships without much interruption.

People ask me if it bothers me that he has other partners. I shrug. “Not really.” They don’t believe me. They give me that look like they just don’t believe that I can tolerate the thought of other people having access to his heart.

But it doesn’t. His feelings for other people don’t affect his feelings for me and vice versa.

I share my Netflix account with my parents. My mom can watch Downton Abbey at her house while I’m binge-watching Supernatural at mine, and neither of us is losing anything from our experience. She’s getting to watch what she wants, and I get to watch what I want simultaneously.

I once wrote (elsewhere) something that described it as having to “share” his love, and he corrected me. It’s shared access, but we each have 100% of his emotional library once we’ve logged into our subscription.

His love lives in the cloud on a shared server. I don’t need to be in his physical presence to feel it or sense it or know that it’s there.

So, how does it work? (more poly stuff)

If you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s someone special in my life. (Cue the fanfare)

But, here’s the fun part, he’s someone special in more than just my life.

That’s right:  phi, the poster child for monogamites everywhere, is dating a polyamorous guy. (womp womp)

Soooooo…..once upon a time I wrote this about my take on poly/nonmonogamy/nonpoly.  You’ll note this section in particular:
I reserve the right to change my mind. What I’m writing right now is how I feel on April 22, 2015. My thoughts and feelings on this topic have evolved a few times over the past few years and I don’t suffer under the delusion that they cannot evolve again.

Look at my opposable thumb of an outlook!

So – here I am.  January 14, 2016.  Not even a year later.  And shit has changed.  Well, sort of.

‘Cause I’m still monogamish.  I’m really happy with the relationship I’m currently in and don’t feel any sort of draw or interest in having other relationships.  I feel my needs are (more than) sufficiently met and am happy with the one partner and the occasional other rope top, ’cause fuck yeah rope.

Last April I wrote “I need to feel special. I need to feel secure in our relationship.” Back then, I thought that meant that I could not possibly have that feeling in any sort of a polyamorous or non-monogamous setup.

Well, the need itself hasn’t changed. I still need to feel that, and I do.  What has changed is my belief that it can’t happen within a non-monogamous relationship structure. Strangely, I’m not experiencing any of the uncomfortable feelings you’d think would come up knowing I’m not the only person that’s special to him. Been trying to figure out why, and the best I can come up with is that I’ve finally learned not to compare relationships.

I mean, yes – occasionally I get those weird little thoughts and moments of sadness but they don’t have to do so much with what he is/might be doing with someone else so much as the regular insecurities/questions that would come up in any nascent relationship, poly or not.  “Does he really care about me?”  “Is he really thinking about me?”  “Do I matter?”

That doesn’t really have anything to do with his other relationships.  What that boils down to is how I feel about his relationship with me. When I look at it that way, I can honestly say I feel really good about that.  The dude digs me in a far out way.  I’m comfortable with that, and him digging someone else in a far out way doesn’t mean that he digs me any less..er….far-outly.

Look, I get it.  This is all coming from a pretty confident standpoint.  I don’t think I could have felt this way back in April.  I wasn’t as confident about myself then as I am now. Certainly not confident enough to catch myself in “comparison” mode and shut it down before my brain goes negative.

So…I know there are others out there who experience similar situations, whether you consider yourself poly or not.  Or maybe you’re “new to poly” and trying it out.  Or you’re like, soooo poly but you still struggle with the jealousy and insecurity.

I don’t know how well the outlook I’ve taken will help anybody else, but it does seem to be working for me, so I thought I’d …y’know, write it down and share it for anybody who is interested.  The one caveat to all of this, however, is this:  my partner and his partners are amazing people.  I can’t stress enough how much that affects my ability to be in this thing.  I am involved with an incredible person who is involved with incredible people. I’m using that word “incredible” with every ounce of its true meaning.

It is hard for me to believe that these people exist outside of my imagination.  They’re wonderful and have as much to do with the success of this relationship as my “brain tweaks” that limit my exposure to any emotional discomfort with the poly of it all.

That being said, here are some of the ways I’ve learned to work the non-traditional relationship model based on past mistakes and a whole lot of learning:

1) Ownership of time His time is his time.  They are not my nights or their nights.  They are all his nights.  He gets to choose how he spends them and I get to be excited when they’re with me, not disappointed when they are not.  But here’s the thing – my time is my time.  I cannot fall into the trap of keeping my calendar open ’cause I’m hoping he’ll make plans with me.  We talked about this early on.  If a friend asks me to hang out and he and I don’t currently have plans (or reasonable expectations for plans) and I accept, I will not break plans with my friend(s) just because he suddenly becomes available.

Now, trust me…I’ll want to.  I’ve wanted to.  But this is how I can maintain enough independence so that I don’t become phi stuffing her face with marshmallows and binge-watching Supernatural on a Friday night ’cause i turned down my friends for movie night hoping that he would come through with plans and then didn’t.

2) His other relationships are aspects of his life that aren’t about me.  My late husband had, at one point, a full time job, was writing a book, and loved to play shoot-em-up video games.  These were all activities he participated in that had nothing to do with me.  I didn’t need to know a whole heck of a lot detail about these things.  There was stuff we did together, like TV shows we watched, meals we ate, and …okay, well Tony and I didn’t actually do a whole heck of a lot but lay around eating ice cream and watching TV, but that was our thing.

At work he did whatever it was that made him the boss at work.  And in his office he did whatever it was that made him a best-selling author.  And on the video games he smashed whatever buttons he smashed to kill all the bad guys.  I wasn’t jealous of those things. I didn’t need play-by-plays of those things. I was comfortable with him having aspects of his life that didn’t have to center on me.

So, it’s not that I see my metamours as “jobs” or “hobbies,” it’s that I’m able to not feel threatened by his relationship with them the way I was not threatened by Tony’s relationship with the people he spent 10 hours a day with (or longer during deadlines) in close proximity. Or his writing partner who called himself Tony’s “other wife.”

Ooh…or his daughter.  That’s a better example.  I was not threatened by Tony having a relationship with his daughter or his mother or his high school girlfriend that he kept in touch with all those years.  His relationship with me was separate and different. As is my current partner’s relationship with his other partners.  We’re each separate people and he does a really great job managing his time and emotional resources, as far as I’m concerned.

3) No Comparing  I touched on this already but this is the piece that makes all the other pieces work.  What he does with me is what he does with me.  If I start to think “Well, he does XXX with so-and-so,” I’m already losing.  I can compare myself to myself and that’s it.

So, for example, let’s say our time together starts off super ropey.  Like, rope scenes every week.  And then for a few weeks, he doesn’t even unpack the rope.  I can say, “Hey, so I noticed we used to do a lot of rope stuff and now not so much…what’s up with that?”

But not “Hey, so you haven’t done rope stuff with me in three weeks but I noticed you did rope stuff with your other partner at the party last night.”

NO.  What he does with someone else is not between him and me.  What he does with me is between him and me.  I can’t stress enough the importance of really getting to this place.  About a month ago I was struggling because I was comparing something and it was my very good friend who called me out on it.  Took me a little while to let this sink in, but since it has I have been so good about keeping things in this perspective.

4) Allocation of responsibility I’m monogamish. My responsibilities, relationship-wise, are to my one partner and to be a good human.  We talked about our needs for a relationship to work and I move forward in good faith with adherence to those needs.  He has multiple sets of responsibilities.  He has responsibilities between himself and each of his partners separately from those he has with me.  All this is his choice and he handles it very, very well.

That means if one of his partners is upset because he XYZ’s with me, it is not my responsibility to fix it.  This is reallllllllllllyyyy hard for a recovering codependent, by the way, but it is something I’ve gotten quite good at identifying and working through.  And, if I were to feel insecure or slighted because of something he does with one of his other partners, well…it’s not either of their responsibilities to alter or change anything to appease me.

If I have a problem or a question, I will talk to him about it.  I will, (because it’s my way), offer a solution for it.  And if it’s an agreeable solution, we move forward having left behind the woe-causing incident or emotions.

5) Honesty and Communication  There’s no relationship post of any kind that isn’t going to include this.  I shouldn’t need to say anything else about this.  Or if I do, ask me to point you in the direction of a half-dozen blogs I’ve already written on this topic.  Or a thousand others anywhere on Fetlife and the Internet and Beyond.

6) Appreciation  Every day that this relationship works is a good day.  Seriously, I am not laboring under the “happily ever after” goal.  I care deeply for this man and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean this is going to work forever and ever and ever.  We both know that at some point, I might realize that I can no longer handle being in a relationship like this.  We talked about that.  In the spirit of open and honest communication (see above) we had to acknowledge it as a possibility.

When I’ve said something to that effect to other people there are some that furrow their brows and think me a pessimist because I say “relationships don’t last forever.”  And then I remind them that I’m a widow.

To be honest, thinking about it right now, I wonder if that experience is at the root of all of this rational outlook that is making this work.  I did have my happily ever after once upon a time.  And it ended.  Suddenly and unexpectedly.

I survived it.

There’s no doubt that my experience put a lot of stuff in perspective with regard to life and happiness and priorities.

Everything will end, eventually – whether it lasts five weeks or fifty years.  None of us are gonna get out of life alive.  So I will appreciate the fuck out of every day that I feel happy and loved and fulfilled, whether it’s on my own or in a relationship.

It just so happens that the person who makes me feel that way has a knack for it.  So much so, that I’m not the only one to benefit from his incredible talent.   I appreciate him. I know his other partners appreciate him too.

And you know what?  I really appreciate them.

7) Relationship with the metamours About a month ago there were a lot of blogs posted (on fetlife) about whose responsibility it was to reach out to build a relationship between metamours.  Was it the “new” partner’s responsibility to reach out to the primary?  Was it the primary’s choice whether or not a relationship was even desired or expected?    I did write something about it at the time, but this whole thing was still very new, so I kept quiet because, though it had nothing to do with my current situation, I didn’t want it to be misinterpreted by anybody involved.

It’s super awesome that both the other people in my partner’s life are super awesome.  They’re mature, thoughtful, caring, and genuine people. What can I say?  The guy’s got great taste. I’ve gotten to know one a bit more than the other because that’s just the way things have gone.  We have more opportunity to spend time together, so we do.

In an ideal world, all your partners’ partners would be supercool awesome people like mine. It doesn’t always happen.  This goes back to the idea of “allocation of responsibility.”  My responsibility is to my partner and to be a good human.  I do my best every day to do this.  If my version of a good human makes somebody else uncomfortable, then we would just individually be good humans separately from each other.

That being said, I have had the experience of being in a poly-type relationship with a metamour who was not a good human.   That relationship did not last.  It would have been fine (perhaps) if we’d just agreed to never spend time together, but there was an insistence on his part and a little bit on hers that we force a friendship, and the whole thing fell apart.

If your partners don’t get along with each other, don’t force them to. I mean, that seems like common sense – but…yeah.  It’s just a bad idea and probably a breeding ground for passive aggression and manipulation that is just poison to a healthy relationship.

That’s just my opinion, though.

As, of course, all of this is.  I could be full of shit.  The monogamish gal writing a post on how to poly.  Puh-LEESE.

Like I said, this is how it’s working for me on January 14, 2016.  I reserve the right to change my mind, my methods, or my outlook on any and all of this as I see fit.

It’s my life, after all.

Excuse me, but you’re not *MY* primary

This is all hypothetical and nothing to do with my current situation.  It’s the response to a few posts I’ve seen in the ether where I’ve chosen to keep my response private because the people involved in my current situation might misinterpret it to be about them.

In this whole “Metamours’ relationship with the primary” debate there’s one thing that really bugs me about an assumption that is made – and that is that there’s a power dynamic between my hypothetical self as the “new girl” and my partner’s primary partner.

There’s not. Read my lips – there is no power dynamic between us.

My relationship is with my partner, and if there’s a power dynamic within that – well, that’s been negotiated and discussed and agreed upon.  But, honeysugarmuffinlove, YOU and I have not had much of a conversation.

Your relationship with my partner is secondary from my point of view. It might be primary for him and for you, but you’re not the one sticking your dick in me.  See, that’s not YOUR dick between his legs, it’s his.

I make this assumption when getting involved as a play partner with somebody who is poly and/or has another significant relationship:  that he’s sticking to the rules established within your dynamic with each other.

That’s not my responsibility, see?  It’s his. My responsibility is to stick to the rules he and I establish within OUR dynamic.  So, if his responsibility to you is to introduce his partners to you before things get beyond the first smooch – then I’m going to assume he’s going to let me know so we can make those arrangements.  Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to that second smooch.

This doesn’t mean I don’t respect you or accept you or value the longevity and openness of your relationship, which allows him to stick his aforementioned dick in me.  I have insurmountable respect and acceptance and value for you.

But you don’t get to set the tone for my relationship with him ’cause you’re not the boss of me.

So when you say things like “believe me, if I didn’t like you – you’d be gone,” you’re asserting your dominance over me and I reject it.

It may be true.  You may have veto power.  You may be able to tell him “I just don’t like her,” and he’d be bound by the rules established in your relationship to end it with me.  But your issuing a *threat* like that to me is not going to make me want to be kind to you.  It’s going to make me want to avoid the ever-loving crap out of you.

Now – all that being said, I happen to like being on friendly terms with my metamours.  I’m a nice person, they’re nice people, I am rather fond of spending time getting to know them as friends.

But, unless my partner tells me that is something you would enjoy, then I’m in no rush to jump into being BFFs with you.  See, I’m still the new girl, and I am still working on establishing my relationship with that guy we’re both sleeping with.  He’s the one I’m spending the most time with, after all.   Do we need to complicate it if it’s not going to last?

In my current situation, one of my metamours has made great strides in becoming my friend and getting to know me.  That person is kind, thoughtful, and I enjoy the time I spend with them.  The other – well, I’ve met her twice and she makes me feel perfectly at ease, but we’ve never really had much of a conversation.

We will, soon.  I’ve invited the whole gang over this weekend.

Because it’s on my terms that I’d like to get to know all of them better and see how this whole thing works with all of us in the same room.  She could easily have invited me over as well if that was a priority for her and I gladly would have accepted.

But if she were to come at me right off the bat with demands that I make the overtures or threats that my participation in his life is up to her…

I’d probably bow out immediately.  That’s a power-dynamic that wasn’t negotiated or discussed or agreed upon.

And I’m a big fan of consent.