A love letter to my friends

The other day, I read the words “I deserve to be surrounded by people who appreciate me…” and saw a writing in which someone wrote a letter to her partner’s partners. Two different writings that I’ve since lost track of.

So, with the full disclosure of where this particular writing is coming from, understand that it’s from reading a sentence that began with “I deserve” and reading another post addressing the author’s metamours.

My metamours kick ass.

I don’t know that I could do this type of relationship if they didn’t. For context: I’m not poly, but my partner (and his partners) are.

We’re each very different people. That makes sense, though, doesn’t it? I mean, why would someone get a three-scoop sundae with all three scoops being the same flavor?

But it’s all ice cream in the end, so despite our differences, there are some core similarities in our value systems, our integrity, our honesty, and our kindness and support of one another.

I’ve had people from outside the scene ask me, “Is it like that show “sister wives?”

I gotta answer, “I don’t know, I’ve never watched it.”

(note: upon reading this, H and I agreed not to ever call each other “sister wives.”)

Here’s what I do know. I respect and care deeply for these two friends of mine. These are people who are on my list of people I step up for. There’s a lot of that here on the Fetscape, isn’t there? Lots of “packs” and “houses” and “siblings” and all the profiles state that the people in their headers are the people you’re protective over.

My metamours are quite capable of protecting themselves. In fact, I think they’d probably feel more protective over me if shit ever hit the fan. Of all of us, I’m the least handy with a blade.

But, where I am strong, I share my strength with them. My time, my home, my energy, my heart, and my words will protect them whenever they are needed or requested.

Here’s what I’d write, in my letter to my metamours. I’d probably title it “A letter to my friends,” because that’s what they are, first and foremost.


Dear E & H,

We all love the same man. He’s a lucky man. He’s a good man. I think he deserves our love, don’t you?

When I think about that word ‘deserve’ – it takes me through a series of memories on the journey that brought me to where I am today. My life is not your life. My hardships look different than your hardships and a side by side comparison would have my shit lookin’ easy, for sure. I’m grateful for all the good I had and even more grateful to have survived the bad.

When I think about the word “deserve,” and I look into his eyes – I can honestly say that I feel like I deserve this happiness. Yep. Feelin’ entitled over here. I’m a good person swimming in a positive karmic balance sheet.

When I think about the word “deserve,” and I think about each of you – I feel exactly the same way. I’ve done this thing before, the poly thing with metamours. It wasn’t like this with them. They made me feel threatened. You make me feel safe.

But did you know that when I first started down this road, you both scared the crap out of me? Because I didn’t know. All I had was my past experiences to go on, and those had soured the taste of this lifestyle for me. I had choruses in my head of “these people are not the same people. Their motivations are not the same motivations” on repeat until they pushed those fears away.

I admire each of you for all the ways you are different from me, and feel connected to each of you in all the ways we are alike.

I can look into his eyes and tell him how happy he makes me, but I don’t know that I’ve ever acknowledged (at least to you directly) that you are the reasons I’m happy now. It’s because of you that he’s even in my life. And not just because you’re comfortable with his poly or because you literally introduced us – but also because, as friends and metamours go – y’all are top notch. You’re good people. A testament to his taste, to be sure – but a reason why he feels safe to me. It’s because you feel safe to me.

I’m sure I haven’t always felt 100% safe to either of you. I mean, I know for sure there have been moments when my increasing presence in his life might have been unsettling for either or both of you. I suppose that’s to be expected. I’d feel exactly the same way if the roles had been reversed.

You feel safe to me now. I feel safe in saying something to you now that I wouldn’t have thought possible.

I love you.

And thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been. I think we all deserve to feel that.

Your friend,

phi


(posted with permission from the metamours themselves)

Learning to love without solutions: further insights from a recovering codependent

Many years ago, I had a friend, Brian, who went through therapy and was able to accept that he had codependent tendencies. With his therapist, he began to set boundaries, and by talking about it with his friends, he kept cementing the new value-set in his brain.

Problem was, Brian turned into a bit of a cold-hearted prick in the process. Having to keep reinforcing those boundaries made them stronger and stronger until he went in the complete opposite direction and stopped caring for anybody, ever.

By then, I had been made aware of my own codependent tendencies through my own therapy sessions. What I hadn’t done yet was accept them as a problem. I thought it was still possible to be healthily codependent, and didn’t want to change. I certainly didn’t want to turn into what Brian was turning into.

It’s not easy, you know? For me, rules are comfortable. Black and white. Yes and No. Stop and Go. But reality? It was easy for me to say, for example, “I will never again date someone who suffers from depression.”

And yet….

I have. More than once, since Tony.

It’s a boundary I tried to set because I knew where my personal boundaries are weakest. I want to help people. I’m a problem solver. And depression isn’t a problem that can be “solved,” it’s more like a condition that gets “managed.” I’ve learned a lot over the past few years on where and when to set that boundary and now have allowed myself to get close to people with depression again without falling back into my default responses anymore.

I care for them, and when I start to feel responsible for their feelings, I know it’s time to take a step back and remember that it’s not my job to “fix” anything. My job is to be a good person who cares. That is all.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to stay on either side of that line – codependent or cold and distant, but to locate the healthy boundary and camp out there is sometimes more challenging.

Based on the definition I’ve seen on “empaths,” I’d say I’m probably somewhere on that spectrum, though I’m not woo-woo enough to say so with much certainty. I feel people’s feelings like they’re my own. It’s great when they’re happy, and it’s distressing when they’re sad.

There are going to be times when I have to step away and turn up the emotional A/C. I might go silent for a little while, or not ask things like “how are you?” It’s not that I don’t want to know, it’s that I’m feeling a little bit vulnerable myself and think if the answer is “I’m not well,” it’s going to turn into one of those things where I’m going to absorb those feelings and try to “solve” them.

I got to the point for a while where I got into the habit of never asking “how are you?” It put some of my friends off. They thought I didn’t care. I do care, but….

My old pattern was something like this:

Phi: How are you?
Friend: Eh. Not so great.
Phi: What’s wrong?
Friend: (explains the problem)
Phi: (tries to solve it)
Friend: (pivots and turns the problem into a different problem)
Phi: (tries to solve it)
Friend: (pivots again and turns the problem into a different problem)
Phi: (starts to get frustrated because it feels like this person just wants to be upset)
Friend: (feels even worse because phi is now frustrated with them and they feel worthless)

In order to break that pattern, I stopped asking “how are you?” for a while. A long while. And I fell out of practice of reminding people that I really do care about how they are. I drew the imaginary line from “I’m not doing great” to “please give me advice on how to solve it.” Today, I try to only offer advice when it’s explicitly asked for, but sometimes that old behavior comes out. I frequently have to remind myself that someone admitting that they’re not feeling great is not an automatic request for advice.

You’d think that would be a really basic concept to comprehend, but for me it wasn’t. And it’s still something I struggle with from time to time.

But, just like it’s not my responsibility to solve other people’s problems, it is not other people’s responsibility to mitigate their feelings around me. I have to learn to shield myself and focus on healthy reactions to everyday situations.

I want people to trust that I care for them and understand why I can’t let myself feel responsible for their happiness, and I want those same people not to feel responsible for mine. I’ve worked hard to overcome some of those patterns, and I’m strong enough (and honest enough) to recognize when I need to take a step back.

It’s usually when my reaction to someone else’s distress falls along the lines of “how did I fail? or “what did I do wrong?” or “How can I fix it?” that I know it’s time to reset the tent back a little further from the line.

There are many people in my life, past and present, that struggle with varying levels of anxiety and depression. This isn’t about any one of them in particular. It’s about me. It’s about recognizing that I can care, and I can be present without losing myself in the process.

I don’t have to go all Brian on them.

Even if they never come for me…

I was lucky not to have been born yet when the hate would have been pointed in my direction, not for anything I’d done or even really believed in. Just for being born. For existing and having a last name that identified me as someone worthy of being hated. Also lucky my ancestors got out of town before they started rounding them up and putting them in camps, I suppose, or I’d not be here now.

Of course, in some parts of the world I’m hated for having been born where I was born, and for believing the things I do about people and freedom and love not being mutually exclusive ideas. But living where I live, I’m mostly protected from that hate. Some people in those parts of the world might also hate me because I have a vagina and because my submission is my choice and my education was my right.

Of course, I guess being born where I was born, I could be hated because my parents weren’t. Born here. Technically they didn’t even come here on the up and up, but it’s not like they had a choice in the matter. They were kids when they were brought over.

But we’re not brown looking and by the time they got here, the whole religion thing wasn’t so bad anymore, so…I guess it’s all about timing.

Of course, I’m lucky. Because today there’s not a lot of hate pointed directly at me. Because I live in a place where that hate is not overwhelmingly tolerated. I can hide in my privileged bubble where my life isn’t threatened on a daily basis because of where or how I live or where I pee or who I love or what I wear or how I earn my living.

But had I been born in a different era, a different country, or…even a differentpart of the country, that statement might not be so true.

Today I’m reminded of that famous quote by Martin Niemöller. You know the one? The one that ends with “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me?”

I was lucky.

I am lucky.

What’s happening? What keeps happening? This hate?

It’s not okay.

I’m here. I’m speaking. This hate is not acceptable. It wasn’t then. It isn’t now. It won’t be, ever. Even if it never gets pointed in my direction. Even if they never “come for me” the way they are coming for my friends, loved ones, co-workers, family members, and role models – it’s not okay. Even if I didn’t know a single gay person, black person, trans person, asian person, jewish, muslim, atheist, immigrant, or American person.

It’s. Not. Okay.

It’s not enough to “unfriend,” or “unfollow,” people on my facebook who might support bigotry, or surround myself only with allies so that it stops being in my face. It’s not okay to pretend it doesn’t exist in my cozy corner of my safe little reality the way I avoid watching videos of animal cruelty because it hurts my soul to bear witness to it. It’s not enough to send an angry tweet or change my profile pic or sign an online petition. It’s not enough to sit and cry and feel helpless because there’s NOTHING I can do.

I can’t hold my breath and wait six months and hope it all goes away.

All I can do is keep seeing it. Keep being not okay with it. Keep raising my voice against hate. Keep standing with those who are on the receiving end of injustice and terror.

Not because one day I might need them to stand for me, but because today is a day that we all need to stand together and say this is not okay.

I’ll sign the petitions. I’ll call my elected officials. I’ll write my blogs and share my love and send out hugs and support and give money where and when I can…

But this doesn’t end until we’re all doing it. Not just the ones who agree with us.All of us.

Hate has to stop.

I Choo Choo Choose You!

The topic of the “Veto” came up recently in conversation. While engaging in very healthy communication and negotiation with a new partner, a friend of mine was told that their partner’s wife had “limited veto power.”

Which made the collective group go *gulp*.

My friend communicated back (because yay communication!) for clarification on what “limited veto power” means.

But it got my mind spinning.

And while they (we) were awaiting a response, I posed a question:

What if we re-branded “veto” power to “right of ultimatum?”

I googled it to be sure, but here in the United States, a presidential veto could be overridden by a 2/3 majority vote in congress.

“Does that mean if a “primary” vetoes a prospective new metamour, it goes to vote by the rest of the metamours – and if there’s a 2/3 majority, the new meta gets to stay?”

I mean, I was joking. It got a laugh.

But what if we thought of this “veto” power more like a “right of ultimatum?”

If the established partner (’cause I really don’t like the hierarchical terms) doesn’t like a prospective new partner, they can tell the hinge “I invoke the right of ultimatum. You must now choose.”

I wonder how many would be so quick to invoke the right of ultimatum? For one – the concept of ultimatum is tinged with some negative connotation of manipulation. One might be more hesitant to brand themselves a “manipulator” vs invoke the far more powerful connotation of a “presidential” veto.

By stating, “I am stating my position, but the choice is ultimately yours,” one’s partner would retain agency to make a decision about their own relationship rather than be able to pass off the blame for the ending of a courtship on someone else.

Instead of “I can’t continue to date you because my husband/wife/partner has vetoed you,” it would be “I am choosing not to pursue this relationship for the sake of my existing one.”

The cause and effect are the same, but the responsibility for the decision is transferred to the appropriate party.

And of course, some people react to ultimatums differently. By giving the choice back to their partner, the established partner runs the risk they might choose to forego their existing relationship for someone new.

I think that’s where shit gets tricky. It’s a bit of a fallacy to believe that choice doesn’t exist every single day. Most days when we’re in a relationship, we just take them for granted. Perhaps it would be a trifle scary to actually remind each other that this choice exists in both directions.

“We can both choose to stay or walk away.”

I still think that feels more responsible than “I’m going to let someone else choose for me.”

(Oh, by the way – that friend? The “limited veto” turned out to be more of a set of boundaries – like “don’t date my family members or exes”. Not a “I don’t like the cut of their jib, I object to this union,” situation.)

P.S: As scary as it might be to remind your partner that every day you’re together is a choice, it’s fucking delightful when you remind yourself and let them know you don’t take them for granted. Send ’em a hug or a lovey text or something. Happy Friday!


This thought exercise is based on my personal preference that there be no unnegotiotated or nonconsensual power exchange between metamours. I get that’s not how everyone does polyamory. Do whatever works for you.