The Honesty Exchange (Revisited)

I wrote a post many moons ago about this concept, but it was through the lens of two back-to-back relationships ending. The concept behind it was sound and something I continue to practice in my daily life, but the examples I used to present it back then were, in my opinion, too personal and not the most effective ones to get the message across. This is my attempt to do it better.


In the world of kink and BDSM, we talk about the “power exchange.” I love to focus on the word “exchange,” not as a “one gives and one takes,” but as a mutual give and take between the people involved. It looks a little bit like the symbol for recycling – not a one-for-one exchange, but symbiotic exchange running on a continuous loop.

This particular post isn’t so much about the exchange of power in BDSM, but about the give and take that happens in relationships (I’m more focused on romantic, but this is really a factor in all relationships) when it comes to honesty.

So many people say they want honesty. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and responding to people who are sharing some of their difficulties navigating (mostly) polyamorous relationships in advice forums. A common thread I see is that the person posting feels that they have been lied to in some way by their partner, and want to know what to do to recapture the trust in their relationships.

I hit a wall when I see those posts, because for me lies are a hard limit. I don’t make a habit of giving people a second chance to lie to me, so I just back away from responding because my response tends to be “Walk away from this – the trust is broken.”

But, I also realize that it’s easy for me to expect honesty from the people in my life because I make it very easy for people to be honest with me. That’s part of the Honesty Exchange that I’m talking about.

Expecting honesty from your partner isn’t only about wanting them to be truthful at all time, it’s also about learning to accept honesty graciously when you don’t like what you’re hearing, and learning to give honesty tactfully when it’s not what they want to hear.

I’ll start with that first part. Learning to accept honesty graciously is about not flying off the handle, or abandoning rationality in favor of knee-jerk emotional reactions when your partner tells you something you didn’t want to hear.

I have a very simple default response when I’m being told a truth that I don’t enjoy hearing. It’s similar to that commercial for the candy bar (Twix?) where someone is asked a question or put on the spot and they shove the candy in their mouth to give them a few seconds to come up with something to say….

When someone gives you information that you know to be true, but that is causing you some emotional distress – the default response is to say the following:

Thank you for your honesty.

There it is. That’s all you have to do. Breathe deeply, let your lip quiver, feel the feelings that you feel – but do your best to hold it together long enough to remember that you asked them for the truth.

And thank them for it.

Then, assess your feelings and give them some measured honesty back. Feeling like you’re too angry to discuss it? Say “Thank you for your honesty. This news is a bit shocking. I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions, and I’d like to ask for some time to process before we talk about it further.”

Feeling like your world is falling apart? Say, “Thank you for your honesty. I’m feeling really anxious about this information. What does this mean for us going forward?”

The result of having a measured reaction to bad news is that the next time your partner has something to tell you that you might not want to hear, they’ll feel less hesitant to share it with you than they would if you’d responded to them with white hot anger followed by three to five days of passive aggressive silence or unfiltered snark.

But, just like the recycle symbol, this feeds back into another benefit for you. If you know that your partner is willing to tell you the not-so-great things because they don’t fear you’ll have an extremely negative reaction, that means you can actually believe them when they tell you the super-fantastic things. What reason would they have to lie? The good news gets that much sweeter when you know it’s true.

There is so much relief in just trusting someone. But in order to reach that with someone whose default setting isn’t “be completely open and honest regardless of feelings or consequences” you have to let them know it’s safe for them to give you bad news sometimes.

Otherwise, you’re asking them to tell you the truth only when it’s pleasant, and that just leads to questioning if everything they tell you is 100% honest.

Now to the other part of this equation. The giving of truth when it’s not a pleasant truth to give.

This is sometimes called “diplomacy,” and not everybody is very good at it. Some people are really good at honesty, and go so far as to brag about their ability to be “brutally honest” with people.

I don’t like to be “brutally” honest.

I prefer to be “tactfully” honest, or as some people recently described it, I practice “gentle” honesty.

It’s the type of honesty that is compassionate in nature. It’s a type of honesty I’ve learned is best shared when requested, because not everybody is as good at receiving the bad news – and when they ask for advice, what they really want is pity.

I feel like the best way to go about being gentle with your honesty is to put yourself in the position of the person who has to hear what you have to say. Figure out how you would want to be told and do your best to be direct, but kind in your delivery.

I’ll give a really basic example. You go to your partner’s place for the first time and they want to cook for you. They spend a few hours preparing a meal and they’re very proud of it. You take a bite and…well, it’s not edible.

They ask you “How do you like it? Be honest.”

Do you lie? You don’t want to hurt their feelings. You don’t want to be an ass and just say “Oh, this is disgusting.” That’s honest, but rude.

So put yourself in their position: How would you want someone to tell you your food isn’t great? How would they tell you this so that your reaction wouldn’t be defensive or self-hatred? (And if you think there’s no way somebody could be honest with you without pissing you off or making you hate yourself, work on that whole “Thank you for being honest,” trick).

Personally, I’d find something good to say about it – “The meat is well cooked, but it’s a little salty for my taste.” Or “The flavor is great, but I prefer it a little more rare.” Or “Well, it’s not what I’m used to…I think I might like it better next time if…..”

What do you do if they’re hurt by your honesty? Be compassionate. Show them that it upsets you to hurt them, but it would hurt you more to lie to them. Give them the space to feel how they feel, and let them know that you aren’t going to react negatively to their negative reaction.

Again, earning the reputation from the people in your life as someone who won’t lie to them and won’t fault them for having reactive emotions has really excellent benefits. People tend not to ask me what I think unless they really want to know. Most of the time, I just listen.

And people respect you because they trust you.

Trust and respect are sexy as hell. I think they’re the best aphrodisiac and my top two kinks of all time.

So, well….hopefully this is a more accessible and comprehensive understanding of the Honesty Exchange as I see it. If you want people to be honest with you, you have to be able appreciate their honesty even when it hurts; and if you want people to trust and respect you, you have to be honest with them and give them the space to react however they’re going to react, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Angry White Woman

I’m angry.

I’m angry, and it’s not just because recent events have exposed my complacency with an imbalanced system because I was under the impression that “things will get better.”

I mean, that makes me angry. It makes me angry to have been so wrong. It means I was believing lies and avoiding truths.

There was a time when I was actively avoiding truths. I wasn’t pretending they didn’t exist, I was just putting on the blinders so I wouldn’t have to see them. I knew they were there.

Like those videos with the animals and the Sarah McLachlan song. I couldn’t watch them without crying and feeling completely heartbroken. So I’d mute the TV, go off to get a drink, or change the channel. I knew that my not watching wasn’t automatically saving all those animals from hardships. I knew that shit was still happening. All I was doing was trying to avoid the additional hardship of feeling helpless to do anything about it (other than send money).

Last year, I started doing a little more. It was either the #BlackLivesMatter movement or the Orlando Pulse shooting that woke me up a little and helped me realize that my blinders were a disservice to my convictions and the causes I believe in. They were making me complacent, and in some ways complicit.

Now, I’m no big social media star. My voice doesn’t have much range in the grand scheme of things, but it has some range.

So I started writing. It’s what I can do. Possibly not the very least, but pretty close to down there.

Then the Flaming Yam* became our national main course. I got really angry because it was pretty much proof that the reality I thought I existed in – the “things will get better” reality – was way off base.

I was so wrong. So wrong.

I tore off the blinders. I started to see, not just where the injustices play out in the media and in the lives of people I’ve never met, but even in my own family and in my own (in)actions.

I struggled hard last week – coming off the high of that incredible show of civil discourse in the March that exponentially eclipsed Captain Tangerine’s inauguration – I struggled with the heavy levels of criticism that came, not from those who oppose everything we stand for, but from within the community of my allies.

It was that feeling again. That uncomfortable feeling, but without the Sarah McLachlan song as a signal it was coming. Why? Because, in a way, they were right.

In every way, they were right.

Now, in reality – in my reality – I’d done as much for the BLM and LGBTQ causes as I did for the Women’s March.

I blogged about them. Again, pretty close to the least I could do. I didn’t show up in person for any of them, to put my physical whiteness on the line for the causes I believe in. I just blogged, under my pseudonym from the safety of my suburban home.

The difference, though, was my intention. If I hadn’t had to work that day, I had planned to go to the Women’s March in Los Angeles.

I had the intention of doing more.

So the criticism, while difficult to face – was right on the money.

For those who follow me on twitter, or who intersect with me on Facebook, you’ve likely seen a change. I’m a little more vocal now and there are a lot more political messages coming out along with the cute pictures of cats doing funny things.

But, I’m also done doing the very least I can do. Earlier this week, I rolled my window down and thanked a homeless man who rushed needlessly to move some things out of the way when I was driving past him. Before? I might have waved and smiled. I took a moment and viewed him as a person and not an extra in the story of my life. (That’s the writer in me that believes every piece of dialogue in a well-written story serves to inform the plot or move it forward, rather than the simple gesture of a hand wave that would have been forgotten by the next scene.)

I’ve RSVP’d and am planning to attend local marches and protests being organized to protest on behalf of a number of causes that don’t personally affect me. I am not black. I have great health insurance. I’m not at great risk of having an unwanted pregnancy. I have the right to marry because I’d choose someone that our oppressors wouldn’t find objectionable (polyamory notwithstanding). I’m pretty darned heterosexual, and as a widow, I’m given a bit more of a free pass for being an unmarried woman without children in this society.

I’ve gotten involved with my local Indivisible chapter and am planning to take a day off from work next week to join a group or citizens in a local visit to my republican representative in congress – a man who won by less than 2% of the vote in my district.

I’m reading a lot more, I’m fact checking a lot more, and I’m allowing myself exposure voices I care about who might not have the nicest things to say about me based on the way that I look.

As a fellow blogger wrote, “they don’t know what’s in my heart.” They don’t know that I identify culturally more along the lines of Latino than Caucasian. They don’t know my first language was Spanish and my parents were immigrants from Latin America, and great grandparents were from Syria and Egypt. They don’t know this by the way I look.

But for how long have they endured living a life where they are under constant scrutiny and prejudice for the way that they look? For how long have I benefited socially from the paleness of my skin and the blue of my eyes?

Maybe it’s time I walk a little in those ill-fitting shoes.

I’m “leaning in” to my discomfort.

I want to thank the people in my life who listened to me as struggled with this over the past week. I didn’t come to this conclusion right away. I had to do some soul searching and a whole lot of listening before I figured out why their truth was so hurtful, even though I knew it was true.

But mostly, I want to thank this woman for posting this video on facebook. This is the one that helped me come to terms with my discomfort. I hope you’ll watch it. I hope you’ll listen.

And I hope you’ll join me in doing a whole lot more than the very least we can do.

(Flaming Yam* taken from a comment someone left on a blog. I can’t take credit for it, but holy shit it gave me a good laugh this morning.)

Trust and responsibility in BDSM

In one of my early posts on Fetlife long ago, I wrote “It’s not that I’m lying when I tell you I’m okay; it’s that it isn’t until much later that I realize I was mistaken.”

This week, there have been a couple posts out and about that are debating the issue of …I guess it’s personal responsibility in a bottom to communicate truthfully to their top on matters of consent, limits, and negotiation.

On the one hand, you have two posts making the point that many bottoms may be failing in communicating their true limits out of the fear that they will be “disappointing” their tops; and another that argues that if this is too often the case then we are setting up a situation where a bottom can’t be taken at their word.

It made me think of that little thought from such a long time ago. That it’s not about “truth” and “lies” so much as it is about being really self-aware and confident that one’s top is not going to be disappointed when a limit has been reached; and likewise that one’s bottom is not going to put you in a position of harming them irreparably.

There is a difference between pre-scene negotiation and mid-scene check-ins, and I don’t think anybody has a problem understanding how an s-type might agree to or give consent once their mind has been altered and later regret it. If you do have trouble with that let me know and I’ll clarify in a separate post. That’s why collaborative negotiation ahead of time is really important; especially if the relationship is new.

But there’s something else I’ve been exposed to that helped me a LOT in my ability to set my limits and boundaries during the pre-scene negotiation as well as during mid-scene check-ins. I think I’ve written about it before (though I don’t remember when) and I know I’ve talked about it recently as a panelist for an S-type panel discussion as part of the BDSM 101 series.

It was “safeword training.” See, back when I went by the label of “submissive,” I was one of those submissives that would pressure herself – potentially past my personal limit – out of fear of disappointing my partner. There were many times that I’d end up heavily bruised; and, I am on record as not a fan of heavy bruising.

But I didn’t stop them. I didn’t want to disappoint them by not taking what they wanted to give me.

When I explained as much to a partner I’d been spending some time with, he did what he called “safeword training” with me, where he told me he was going to spank me five times and on the fifth, I was to call “yellow.” I did so, and was able to witness what his reaction would be to my calling “yellow” during a real scene.

Then he did it again, this time, ordering me to call “red.”

And so I did. And so I saw what his reaction would be if I were to do that during a scene.

This was critical in my being able to accept the difference between what he wanted to do “to” me and what he wanted to do “with” me.

He wanted to give me a good experience that was not tainted with regret because I was too afraid to speak up for myself, and for what?

No top I’ve ever been with has actually wanted to harm me. None have ever truly wanted more from me than I would have been willing to give. That takes our scene into the “not fun” territory. And if it’s not fun for me, it’s sure as hell not gonna be fun for my top. Especially afterwards.

But I have played with inexperienced tops as an inexperienced bottom; and I have had tops who had no prior experience with me who have gone too far, and I didn’t stop them until too far had already been reached.

Did they have my consent to spank me? Yes. They did. But I didn’t specify to one that I required a warm-up before he went to town on my ass. And …well, the other accepted my consent after I was already inebriated, and left me passed out on the floor of the dungeon by myself after our scene. In fact, I remember enough of that night to recall that I approached him for the spanking, and not the other way around. He also never checked in with me again. (P.S. that was the last time I ever mixed drinking and kinking).

In the first example, I was self-aware enough to know I was not having a good time. In the second, the onset of that self awareness was quite delayed. Both times I let it happen for longer than I needed to because I was afraid of disappointing the top in question.

So. What to do? We can all write eighty-billion essays urging bottoms to speak up for themselves and to speak truthfully when they’re negotiating a scene for themselves; but remember – sometimes the opposite of truth isn’t a lie, but a lack of self-awareness.

And when someone who wears the label of “submissive” has agreed to something and then during said thing realizes they’re not really loving it – I guarantee you that MANY said submissives will try to grin and bear it because they don’t want to go back on their word and disappoint their tops.

Does that mean that the bulk of the responsibility falls to the top? You gotta question everything? You gotta take their consent with a grain of salt?

Not necessarily. It’s a power exchange. If you’re negotiating something new, or something edgier – try making sure your bottom understands that you won’t be disappointed if they ask you to slow it down because something doesn’t feel right. If you’re the bottom, make sure your top knows if there’s something on their list of things to do that you’re not entirely sure about.

You know….communicate.

And, before you play – make sure you know how you’ll react to a “red” or a “yellow.” Make sure your bottom knows what to expect from you if those words are called. If necessary, consider foregoing safewords and use ENGLISH (or whatever language you speak) to communicate during the early days of your playlationship.

“Ow ow….slow down, I need a minute” or “Oh holy shit STOP” are REALLY great words to use until you’ve gained a level of comfort with your partner where you are allowing them to push you a little further beyond your established boundaries.

Hell, I’ve been with my partner for over a year now and he LOVES to push me. There have been times when he’s about to do something and I cry out, “NO NO NO!” and he’ll pause, and look at me with a look of pure sadistic pleasure and ask, “No?”

It gives me a moment to pause and consider my answer carefully. It’s like my version of “yellow.”

Because my response is almost always, “Okay, yes,” but even when it’s not, I never feel like he’s disappointed in me.

Ever.

That’s why I am able to be 100% honest. And my honesty is why he’s able to push me further.

That’s the beauty of an exchange.

 


Photo credit: Renata Colette, rope by @MisterBacon, model…me 🙂

Using my words

Once upon a time I thought I was telepathic.

No, not really, but once upon a time, I behaved as though the men I was interested in could read my mind. With a look or a series of hints, I could convey my desires and they’d have the option to either make them happen or not.

I was in a crowded elevator heading to the top of the Eiffel Tower. My parents, my brother, and his girlfriend (now wife) were with me. I was sanding beside the elevator operator, who was eye-fucking me.

I have a thing about pushing my own boundaries. I mean, I was a legal adult, a sexually active one, and I’d spent the previous week sharing a room with my little brother and his girlfriend, without access to a vibrator or any sexual release.

I felt the elevator operator’s attention fixate on me. I fixated back, silently. I imagined him wanting me and touching me. I imagined all SORTS of things while we stood there, nearly touching, on the ride up while everyone else was oblivious to it.

And then he grabbed me by the pussy.

No joke, that’s exactly what happened. He grabbed my cunt and worked his fingers around it over my clothes.

I froze.

I didn’t say anything, I just remembered feeling really confused by what had just happened.

See, there are fantasies I want to make happen and there are some that are better off left in the land of make-believe. This was the latter.

Did I want him to grab me? Yeah, part of me did. BUT NOT THE PART THAT WOULD HAVE SAID SO OUT LOUD.

So now, I don’t leave it up to interpretation. I tell people straight up what I want from them. I tell my partner “I want you to kiss me,” or “I want you to say something nice to me,” or “I want to tease you until you can’t take it anymore and then overpower me.”

Would it be super fun if he could read my mind and life played out like a custom made fantasy?

Not anymore.

I used to think it would. But imagine if every time I thought a guy was attractive and thought something remotely flirtatious and/or sexual about him he acted on it like the guy in the elevator at the Eiffel Tower?

Yeah, I do not want people to act on my thoughts. I don’t want to be grabbed by the pussy by someone who is getting a “message” from me that is not a message I said with my words.

Now, my partner and I have a negotiated relationship. He can grab me by the pussy whenever he wants – because I trust, for example, that he wouldn’t do it in a situation that would make trouble for me with family, coworkers, or law enforcement.

In our VERY FIRST SCENE I gave him verbal permission to touch me wherever he wanted. He chose not to grab me by the pussy that time.

But he was aware he could have.

There’s a lot of writing/talking about consent, and it’s an important conversation to have. What clearly separates assault, abuse, and harassment from what we do here is consent.

And unless you’ve heard me tell you something with my words, step the fuck back.

Change your Cookbook: A monogamuggle’s guide to cookin’ with polyfolk

First, I’ll establish my credentials:

I’m a monogamous (or mono-amorous) person in a relationship with a polyamorous man. My monogamy is my choice, not necessarily his preference just as his polyamory is his choice, not necessarily my preference. We’ve been at it for just over a year now and it’s going really swell.

I have, prior to this relationship, attempted to date in the polyamorous way two (or three, depending on how you define it) times. All those other attempts were total successes if you measure success by learning from your utter failures.

That’s it. There are no degrees, no fancy letters after my name to indicate that I am in any professional way qualified to offer advice. I’m just a monogamous woman in a happy poly relationship with very few major hiccups.

I read a lot. Talk a lot, too, to other people in situations similar to mine. Usually the biggest issue I can identify is that the mono person is applying monogamous concepts to their poly relationship and it’s backfiring.

I call that cooking poly ingredients with a monogamous cookbook. The example I’ve given most often is the difference between traditional pasta noodles and healthy (gluten free) zoodles, or zucchini noodles.

If you boil skinny strips of zucchini the way you would boil spaghetti, you’re gonna end up with a soggy, mushy, mess. It’s not gonna taste good, look good, or be at all satisfying.

But, if you take those zoodles, and roast them in the oven (or saute them in a pan) with olive oil, you are gonna LOVE it! Unless you really hate vegetables.

And if you really hate vegetables, you really oughtn’t try to date poly….er…i mean, to cook zoodles.

OK, so that metaphor is out of the way.

Here are some common issues that I’ve seen come up when people try to cook poly ingredients with the mono cookbook:

1. You’re trying to experience the future of your relationship.*
You may have read/heard the concept of the “relationship escalator.” It’s kind of like the idea that there are benchmarks for your relationship that mean it’s “leveling up,” or “succeeding.” You date. You kiss. You fuck. You meet the parents. Move in together. Get joint bank accounts. Spawn. Get a life insurance policy. Buy a house. Invest in an RV. Move to Boca.

Things don’t seem to work that way in poly relationships. I think it’s best not to expect them to work that way at all. What I’ve seen from most smooth-running poly relationships is that the relationship is taking place right now. Every day that shit is working out well is a GREAT FUCKING DAY.

Especially for the poly person. You and me? The monogamuggles? We’ve got it easy. One relationship. One sexual partner. One birthday/anniversary to remember. One potential date to your cousin’s wedding.

They’re in a constant state of juggling. Now, that’s on them. Life choices and all. They wanna do it, and you love and accept them for who they are, so…if they wanna juggle they get to juggle. But all that juggling means that they probably do not have the wherewithal to think about where they might be in three years time in terms of your relationship.

You’re lucky if you can get them to plan a week in advance.

For the polyfolk who are reading along and dating and/or considering dating a fine, upstanding monogamuggle (or anybody else, really) – remember that the other side of this equation is that your juggling skills should be advanced enough that you can handle your number of balls without constantly dropping them. If you’re oversaturated with partners and someone keeps getting hurt because you are not effectively juggling, you should..uh….look into that. Just sayin’.

Bottom line, my mono friend? Try not to get ahead of your relationship. I know it sucks that your partner doesn’t live with you and possibly never will. It is nice to wake up next to their smiling face, and their relationship choices mean that’s always gonna be limited to ‘not every night’. All the more reason to enjoy every opportunity where waking up together is an option and not worry so much about whether they’ll relocate in three years when you graduate from college and get a big job in the city. The day for that question will come…in three years.

2. The nature of their other relationships may (and likely will) change.
So, when you sign on they have one, or two other partners and a couple play partners here and there and a casual one-off they see once in a while, and you decide that’s a set up you can live with.

Yeah. Umm….there’s no guarantee that any of those relationships won’t change over time. In fact, it’s pretty darned certain at some point, they will. The casual person might become more. The metamour you’re used to might move away. The once-in-a-while person may move into town and become a hell of a lot more frequent. The point is, you gotta work on keeping your focus on your relationship with your partner independently of who else might be on their leader board.

That might mean being hit with the realization that you were not the final piece of the puzzle or the one thing they didn’t have that they needed to make them feel complete.

Oh man, that ego takes a HIT when that happens. And all those insecurities bubble up and make you feel like you don’t matter and the little demons in your head start lining you up side by side with all those metamours and compare you to them….

Ooooooffahh.

It’s hell. Seriously.

But if you can maintain focus on YOUR relationship with YOUR PARTNER, you can usually (hopefully) overcome a lot of those brain goblins that get in the way.

That being said, if you end up feeling like you’re not getting the love, attention, or time you need in order to be happy, it’s always your option to walk away. After all, your relationship qualifies as one of the ones that may change.

3. Your parents probably won’t get it.
Substitute parents for boss, friends, psychologist, hairdresser, manicurist, or that loud-mouthed lady who waxes your legs. Someone in your life will probably not get it. We’re used to people being happy for us when we’re in relationships; but when we’re in poly relationships a non-zero portion of the people who would normally be happy for you are now in a constant state of hoping it all goes away because the idea of it makes them uncomfortable.

They call it being “worried” about you, but really? They’re waiting until they get to say “I always thought you deserved more.”

It’s a weird feeling, and a little bit isolating. You end up feeling like your friends aren’t really your friends, or that your family isn’t all that supportive, and the next thing you know, you’re hanging out with a lot more poly people ’cause at least they get it; but then they keep forgetting (or not understanding) that you’re NOT poly and you still feel a little isolated.

So. Yeah. When that happens, shoot me a message. We’ll start a support group.

4. Expressions of love aren’t all-consuming and can’t really be weighed or measured
They don’t wanna be your “everything.” In fact, some of them might be a little confused/on edge about the notion of being responsible for all your happiness. That’s not how they’re wired and they don’t always put in as much effort into understanding your wiring as you do theirs.

It’s a common thing I see, where the mono person bends over backwards and a half to make room for and accept the poly person’s life choices and proclivities, but the poly person doesn’t take into account that having a monogamous partner also takes a bit of acceptance on their part.

So, when you say things like “I only want to be with you,” and “I don’t know what I’d be without you,” and “I want to spend the rest of my life with you and only you and nobody else but you,” they’re like….gasping for air.

You gotta learn how to translate your proclamations of all-consuming love into terms that show you understand that they are their own people who have responsibilities and commitments in excess of the ones they’ve made with you.

They love you. Probably. I mean, I hope so. But, yeah – assuming that they do, in fact, love you – then you are gonna have to learn to trust that and not let things like “they didn’t text me back for three hours” translate in your head that they don’t love you as much as you love them. You can’t measure love.

Only time.

And time isn’t indicative of love.

Now, as far as the “they have to understand the way you’re wired” thing, try to remember when you talk about how you love or why you didn’t do anything on Saturday night, that their polyamory is their choice, and your monogamy is yourchoice. They are not to feel responsible for you being lonely when they’re out with their other partner. You are not to make them feel responsible for it.

I mean, you can and they might but that’s gonna end badly and be kind of unhealthy. Try to stay away from that.

Try to remember that neither way is “better” or “worse”. Neither way is more “evolved” than the other.

The evolution is in accepting each others’ different outlooks and still managing to build a relationship around them.

I’ve only got those four for now, ’cause this post is long enough and I’ve already posted two others today.


*Update: Since posting this, I realized that it’s centered more around my experience as an unmarried, non-nesting partner of a polyamorous person.  Your results may vary, and definitely if you’re married to your partner and/or transitioning from a long-term monogamous dynamic to a poly one.  I haven’t done that, so I don’t have anything concrete to say on how to manage it.

If you’re interested in any of my other poly-related writings, the easiest way is to follow this link to the polystuff section of my public blog

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.

Deconstructing the destruction: How Professor Snape and Lily Potter’s eyes can help you process your most recent breakup

I used to “fall in love” online every twenty-two minutes. That’s an exaggeration, but suffice it to say that as a very young adult (and sometimes teenager) I would meet people online and start developing emotional attachments to them very quickly. It was easy to do this. I didn’t know they snored. Or subscribed to the “If it’s yellow, it’s mellow / if it’s brown flush it down” mentality. I didn’t know they were rude to servers, or hated children. I didn’t know because I didn’t ask.

Why the fuck would I ask that?

“So, what’s your favorite color, what did you want to be when you grew up, and are you rude to servers?”

When you’re developing an online romance, you fill in the blanks of what you don’t know with the best case scenario. You assume they don’t do the things you HATE that people do because you are idealizing all the things they say that make you feel so good.

Guess what? They didn’t know the bad stuff about me either. They didn’t know that I regularly leave the cap off the toothpaste. That I wait until it takes DAYS to do laundry to do the laundry. That you will regularly find clumps of my hair circling the drain, and that I get terribly gassy when I eat too much garlic.

Why the fuck would they ask that? They just assume I can tolerate garlic like normal people do.

So, what’s this got to do with breakups and Snape?

There’s a thing that happens when a breakup isn’t amicable. You know, when it’s not the two partners sitting down and negotiating their way out of the relationship the same way we negotiate our way into them. The thing that happens is that one or both of them, (usually the person that was left, and not the leaver …but sometimes the leaver, too) start to question a lot of things. They feel blindsided by the sudden news that they were not wanted.

And it’s hard to process that, because….why the fuck would they have filled in the blanks with “this person does not want me the way I want them?”

Blah, Blah, Blah – communication. Communication, communication, communication. How many half-hour sitcoms would be over in 30 seconds if the comedic duo just TOLD each other what they were thinking instead of relying on innuendo and assumptions?

But, okay – in this case, communication was lacking at some point and the whole thing comes crashing down – and someone gets hurt. This next bit isn’t only about online or long-distance type relationships. It’s about ANY type of relationship.

Think about the Harry Potter films. The early ones, where Snape is such a DOUCHE. OMG, he’s taking that shit out on Harry just because Harry’s dad teased him in High School? GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF, HALF-BLOOD.

And why did he always look so fuckingconstipated?

But when you get to the end of the series and you find out what Alan Rickman knew all along – what he knew since the very beginning that none of the other actors knew – that Snape had the hots for Lily Potter. Not just a schoolboy crush, Snape was in love with her. And that he did everything he did to protect Harry because Harry had his mother’s eyes.

We didn’t have that information. That’s why we cried so much in the end when he died. Fuckin’ Snape was the unsung hero, and we’d had all these horrible thoughts about him, when he was a good guy all along.

That’s basically the OPPOSITE of what happens with relationships that fall apart. In relationships, what we get is the polyjuice copy of Mad-Eye Moody, where we think they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread only to find out they’re really the 10th Doctor with Daddy Issues in disguise.

Wait…hold on…

Whatever. You know what I mean.

The thing that happens after the breakup is that we start questioning EVERYTHING. We don’t understand – “why did he/she say X when now they are doing Y?” I don’t think we’re trying to disprove our current reality – we’re not trying to go back to them and say “No, wait, you can’t be leaving me because three weeks ago you told me that that photo of my grandmother made you think that you couldn’t wait to grow old with me, so therefore you must love me and cannot leave!”

I mean, some people do that – but it doesn’t ever really work out well. I think mostly what we’re trying to do is re-calibrate our instincts. “Wait, was I wrong? How could I be wrong? What were the signs that I was wrong so that I can be more prepared to notice them in the future?”

We go back and watch all the movies again, now knowing what we know and start to see the signs of the truth. Oh yeah, remember that time that he said Cloris Leachman was a babe? Or the time that he insisted on vacationing in Boca Raton in February? Or that time he said it would be fun to learn how to play Bridge?

You go back and suddenly it makes sense why he would say he can’t wait to grow old with you, and then leave you a few weeks later for the octogenarian hottie he met at the Bingo tournament. He wasn’t lying at all. He literallycould not wait.

So. What happens next? You’ve done a rewatch. And a re-read. And you found new clues. And then you do another re-watch. And maybe another re-read and this time you pick up on other clues.

And you think, if I can just keep re-watching this I’ll have deconstructed this entire relationship so shit like this never happens to me again.

Meanwhile, there have been a ton of other great movies and books that have come out. Really good ones with bad-ass babes with bows and arrows and shit. But you’re still re-reading an almost 20-year old series, looking for clues.

Yes, there are stages of grief that include denial, bargaining, anger, and acceptance. It’s that last one – acceptance. There’s not an exact time frame when this should be happening. But, it should eventually happen.