Should we support this poly family in trouble?

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 3.40.07 PMMany of you have forwarded this IndieGoGo campaign regarding this poly group’s rather lengthy, rambling and emotional plight. They are a poly family fighting a legal battle to keep their children, some of which have already been removed from their home.

The group and their claims have been vetted by some folks of the Poly Leadership Network. Long and short of it: these  are real people, the factual claims and court cases are documented, and the amount of legal fees they claim to have spent already is reasonable considering the circumstances. They have been encouraged to contact National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) to help with their case.

Additionally, you should be aware that this family is one male in his 30s, with all female partners quite young, in their 20s. There are no other male partners. They have 10 children and two more on the way. (Some of the children are by the man’s ex-wife.) They also have an extensive collection of firearms, which is legal in Texas, but which some might find troubling. And they do not appear to be active in any local poly communities.

Due to the people’s lack of ability to communicate their position clearly and concisely and their lack of a clear legal strategy apart from “throw money at it,” I’d recommend donating to NCSF rather than to this family directly. If the NCSF takes their case, it will be with a defined legal strategy designed for maximum effectiveness, and you can be assured your dollars will go to that end.

PW 434: Five things that suck about polyamory

Let’s talk about the things that really suck about being polyamorous!this-sucks-lolcat

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1:00 Announcements

Podcasty stuff

Buzzfeed win So proud to be on Buzzfeed’s list of Top 40 Places to Hear Everything You Never Learned in Sex Ed Class!

Kicking Poly Drama class update Want to take Kicking Poly Drama on Its Ass but have three people in your polycule? We’re now offering the 3-Person-Polycule option for the class for just $169! Lets you share your login with up to two partners.

Trans follow up After my Bastyr chat with a male previously identified as FTM trans, a great book on JUST ONE OF THE GUYS? How Transmen Make Gender Visible at Work by Kristen Schilt, UCLA

10:45 Poly in the News

15:15 Topic: Five things that suck about polyamory

We all love our orientations, whether they be monogamy, swinging, non-monogamy or polyamory. But let’s face it: there are a lot of things that suck about self-identifying as polyamorous. So let’s just acknowledge that!

5. When it’s great, it’s great. When it explodes, it blows up HARD.

4. Communication drain

3. Finding like-minded people

2. Not having enough time to spend with partners

1. Living in a monogamous culture

23:10 Happy Poly Moment

PolyDoc wrote in to share how she had an opportunity to let an 81-year-old patient in a sexless marriage know about polyamory and consensual non-monogamy.

25:45 Feedback

Vlad figures the math of polyamory. Poly Weekly Dork Stamp Award!

29:15 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Dealing with a poly breakup

When your metamour leaves, how do you comfort your husband when you yourself feel ambivalent about the loss?

37920142_sMost listener questions that come into the Poly Weekly inbox aren’t unique to polyamory. However, on last week’s podcast, we dealt with an issue that is unique to polyamory: how do you support your husband through the loss of his girlfriend when the girlfriend was kind of unkind to you?

Sarah has been married to David for 5 years, he has a girlfriend Julie for two years. They all lived together. Girlfriend Julie left abruptly, saying that it was because Sarah wouldn’t be in a sexual/intimate relationship with her. Sarah is trying to empathize with David’s loss, but she also feels frustrated and unappreciated because she did offer emotional, financial and professional career support to Julie. Her question: how do I offer support when I feel frustrated and hurt at times by the person whose loss he’s grieving?

This can be a challenging situation. You want to be supportive, but you have your own emotions about the situation that don’t match his. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Own your own shit

Your emotions are yours to own, and his emotions are his to own. You don’t have to feel the way he feels, and he doesn’t have to feel the way you feel. Both of your sets of complex emotions can exist in the same space, and everything that each of you feels is OK. You do not need to come to a consensus or agreement in order to support each other through this time. It’s 100% OK for you to feel ambivalent or resentful or hurt, and it’s 100% OK for him to desperately want her back.

Take care of yourself

If you need a sympathetic ear and your husband can’t provide it, find someone who can. Turn to a friend or a therapist who can listen and provide support. Treat yourself to journaling, a bath, a massage, a mimosa brunch with friends or whatever else will help with your grieving process. Do what you need to do to grieve your loss and cope with your emotions.

Ask for what you want

Tell your husband what you need in terms of support from him and ask him what he needs. If you can’t provide him with what he’s asking for–for example, listening to him figure out how to get Julie back–then provide him support in other ways that you are comfortable with. Make him dinner, give him a ride home from the bar with the guys, get him a new video game. You set your own boundaries for the the support you can provide. If he asks for something you can’t give, it’s OK to say you can’t do that, and it’s up to you to find another way to show you support him.

If you do decide to listen to him during his grieving process, try responding to the subtext of what he’s saying rather than the actual words. If he says, “I have to get her back,” for example, respond to the subtext, which might be something like, “I am hurting because I love and miss her.” To which you can reply, “I’m sorry this is so hard on you. I know how much you still love her.”

Resist dwelling on the given reason

As I’m sure you’ve experience in your life, the reason a party gives for ending a relationship is rarely the full story. It’s entirely possibly that Julie herself may not be aware of the real reasons for the breakup and may not be for another 20 years. So avoid dwelling on the given reason and work to accept that the relationship simply wasn’t a good fit for making the people in it better versions of themselves.

PW 433: Breaking up is hard to do

breakuplolcatHow do you cope with a breakup with a partner/metamour when you and your partner feel differently about the person who left?

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1:00 Host Chat

  • I visited my mom, one year after coming out
  • Decided to be the loving, supportive family member I wanted them to be
  • Gave her credit and lots of positive reinforcement and ignored the rest
  • Set boundaries for the next visit

8:10 Announcements

11:00 Topic: Dealing with a poly breakup

A listener wrote in to ask how to deal with comforting your partner over the loss of his partner/your metamour when the metamour was not so nice to you? Is it OK to feel ambivalent or even angry or resentful when he just wants her back?

  • Own your own shit Everything you feel is OK; everything he feels is OK. You don’t have to reach consensus with your reactions.
  • Take care of yourself If your partner can’t be the one to guide you through the loss, find a friend or therapist who can. But do what you need to do to grieve your loss. And if you can’t be the one he confides in, support him in other ways—make him dinner, drive him home, bring him flowers.
  • Ask for what you want Tell him what you need for support (maybe you take turns). And it’s OK to set your own boundaries if you can’t listen to him as he mourns—again, support him in other ways.

23:45 Poly movie review: Design for Living

Joreth’s review of Design for Living AND a new podcast devoted 100% to poly movie reviews!

29:30 Feedback

  • Vlad called in about marriage arrangements discussed on episode 130. Has anything changed?
  • Three people called in about gender-neutral third person pronouns discussed on episode 394; my updated take is on episode 430 at 1:00
    • Eleanora said Swedish has adopted the new gender-neutral third-person pronoun “hen”
    • Stephan suggested “co”
    • Jacqulyn said she abides by style guides as well!

37:30 Happy Poly Moment

Ellie Mac shares a happy poly story of challenges resulting in everyone becoming better versions of themselves and of a poly commitment proposal!

41:30 Thank you!

Thanks to Badger, Roy and Christel for their donations this week!

42:00 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Polyamory and BDSM FAQ

FullSizeRender (1)Last night, I was a human “book” on polyamory and BDSM for Bastyr‘s Human Library event. It’s always fun to see what questions naturopath health care providers have about alternative lifestyles, and last night was no exception.

Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions from the four groups of students I had the pleasure of chatting with last night.

What is polyamory?

The practice of having more than one long-term, loving, committed relationship with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved.

I don’t know anything about polyamory. What do I need to know?

  • Nomenclature You may hear terms like non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging, progressive swinging or open. In general, “non-monogamy” is the more encompassing term;  “polyamory” is general used to describe long-term, loving relationships; “swingers” are generally couples that enjoy recreational sex. However, many people find that those definitions and categories don’t exactly fit their self-identifications. Since these words mean different things to different people, you should ask for more information. “Tell me more about what that means” or “Give me the quick tour of your relationships” work great.
  • Relationship formations Relationships take many forms, so don’t assume anything. Ask, “what does that look like?” or “give me a quick tour of your relationships.” You might hear the terms triad (three people in intimate relationships with each other), vee (a relationship formation in which A and B are together and B and C are together, but A and C are just friends), W (an extension of a vee), quad (four people in an intimate relationship with varying configurations), polycule, network or tribe. Feel free to ask for more information, since no two people use these words the same way.
  • Sexual orientation Polys might be heterosexual, heteroflexible, homosexual, bisexual, bicurious or anything else in between. Don’t assume that all non-monogamists are bisexual. Rather than asking “are you bisexual” (assumes a stereotype), ask “what is your sexual orientation?” I once had a gyny who casually asked, “Do you sleep with men, women or both?” I said, “both,” to which she replied, “good for you!” It was refreshing to have a health care professional that wasn’t making the assumption that everyone was straight, monogamous and vanilla.
  • Sleeping arrangements People pair off or have three-or-moresomes according to preferences and lifestyle arrangements. Each relationship falls to its own level, so don’t assume that everyone in a network is sleeping with everyone else (although that may be the case), and don’t assume that all sex is group sex.
  • STIs The rate of STI occurrence is actually lower in non-monogamous communities than in the general public, primarily because the issue is addressed openly and honestly. So please don’t assume that the people involved are at a higher risk for STIs (although some are).

How can I get patients to give me this information?

Design a question on your intake form that asks about the relationship structure and offers the options of monogamous, non-monogamous and polyamorous.

Orally, keep in mind that most polys won’t bring this up with a doctor because (a) unless you’re a gynecologist, it’s not really relevant or (b) there is a stigma that can lead to uncomfortable questions. So try asking, “What is your relationship configuration?” or “What is your relationship structure?” Polyamorists are used to everyone (including health care providers) assuming everyone is monogamous and are therefore more likely to see the question as a chance to open up about their non-monogamy.

What is BDSM?

Four initials represent three word pairings: bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; sadism and masochism. Participants in BDSM enjoy activities ranging from impact play such as spanking, slapping or flogging to bondage to fetishes such as medical play or age play. Power exchange dynamics in which one person consensually asserts power over another (dominance and submission) is quite common. I prefer the encompassing term “kink” to refer to everything that mainstream society sees as weird or fringe.

How do I get patients to confide their BDSM proclivities to me?

In most cases, they won’t. And I’ve never discovered a good way to ask about kink affiliations without it sounding like a come-on.

What if they have bruises? How do I distinguish between consensual play and abuse?

Most of us are taught to either make sure bruises don’t show or to make jokes about them. I usually just tell people the truth–that getting them was a lot of fun on date night!

But you can use the opener, “Were those bruises consensual?” which signifies to a patient that you’re aware of the idea of consent in BDSM activities. As you’re aware, most survivors of abuse will make excuses, whereas a kinkster will most likely smile nostalgically at the memory of the kinky play.

PW 432: Navigating a poly vacation

kangaroovacationHow do you navigate a great poly vacation with three or more?

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1:00 Announcements

4:45 Poly in the news

6:10 Topic: Tips for navigating a poly vacation

  • Share your priorities What do you need to have a great vacation? Share your priorities in terms of restfulness, time with partners vs alone and sightseeing.
    • Do you have any emotional baggage about past bad vacations? Share it now.
  • Lay out finances Be brave and have full financial transparency. Lay out the expectations for who will pay for what, and make sure that everyone is comfortable with the level of financial commitment. Ask questions such as:
    • If three people share a room and two share a bed, does the third pay ½ or 1/3 of the bill?
    • If someone requires a four-star versus a two-star or three-star hotel, is everyone comfortable with the additional financial commitment? Do they want any financial considerations in return?
  • Consider biology We are our biology! What does each person need biologically to have a good trip? Consider
    • Eating schedule
    • Sleeping schedule
    • Sex schedule
    • Privacy schedule
    • Medications and backup medications
  • Sleeping arrangements Let each person voice their needs and concerns of privacy versus access (both physical and sexual).
  • Negotiate activities Then we get down to the meat of the vacation: what do you do every day? Have a discussion about whether each person prefers sightseeing or adventure; snorkeling or sunbathing; birdwatching or cliff diving; hiking or boat touring.
    • What are the expectations in terms of group/paired/ solo activities? Is the expectation that everyone will always do everything together?
    • Is there a need for people to pair off for activities?
    • Does anyone need solo time to do activities?
    • How will you decide on any given day what each person or the group will do?

39:00 Thank you!

Thanks to Yang for becoming our newest Poly Weekly Playmate!

40:00 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 431: Takeaways from dating a dishonest monogamist

lion-lolcatMinx and LustyGuy cover the lessons learned from dating a dishonest monogamist 
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Under 18? Stop listening now and visit

1:00 Announcements

3:30 Poly in the news

6:40 Topic: What lessons to take away from dating a dishonest monogamist

SpiderGirl calls in to share a story and ask a question: when you date someone who doesn’t tell you he has a girlfriend/fiancée until after you hook up with him but really want the poly to work, what is the takeaway?

  • Date your species. Don’t date or fall in love with monogamists. Before you hook up, ask about other partners, and give yourself the option of passing if the person is monogamous and seeing someone else.
  • Don’t date someone who requires change. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, dating someone with the hopes of changing him is like trying to teach a pig to dance: it wastes your time and annoys the pig. It’s much wiser to date polyamorists or people already self-identifying as non-monogamous than to try to convert monogamists.
  • Don’t date someone who is lying to someone else. You may be “the only one he can be honest with” now, but lying to a partner is a character flaw that doesn’t tend to be person-specific. If he lies to her, he’ll eventually lie to you.
  • Don’t blame someone who has been denied agency. I don’t believe you fell into this trap, but it’s common in these instances to blame the girlfriend/fiancée/wife for not understanding him, not letting him be himself, and so on. It is remarkably unfair to blame the person who has been denied agency, so please, be respectful and don’t do it.
  • Do what you love. When it comes to dating, be sure to join dating sites that allow you to specify that you’re non-monogamous, but in general, the best dating advice we have is to engage in activities that you love. Live your life, have fun, be the best you you can be.

27:45 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Three ways this relationship bill of rights will save your poly relationship

funny-cat-pictures-lolcats-classic-lolcatThe top three takeaways from the Relationship Bill of Rights

In episode 430 of Polyamory Weekly, Koe Creation and I talk about the simple brilliance that is Franklin Veaux’s and Eve Rickert’s Relationship Bill of Rights. This document began as a Secondary’s Bill of Rights to avoid secondary mistreatment, but Franklin and Eve quickly realized that these rights should apply to every relationship, whether monogamous, non-monogamous, polyamorous or anything in between.

And I’m so glad they did; it was sorely needed!

It’s a bit embarrassing to have to acknowledge that many folks, when trying polyamory, often throw common decency out the window. In trying so hard to define these newfangled relationships and their boundaries, we often throw agency, respect and inclusion away in order to attempt to gain control over unfamiliar situations. And we often end up shooting ourselves in the foot or treating others badly in the process.

I recommend that everyone read and print out a copy of this Relationship Bill of Rights. Tape it to your bathroom mirror. Live it!

As you know, I’ve been on a campaign to end avoidable relationship drama. The Kicking Poly Drama in Its Ass course is still the most popular one I teach; so much so that I’m working to expand it into an online course that anyone can take. The challenge of drama is that when things get rough, we often can have a tendency to clamp down and forget our principles–and that fear-based response is what leads to heartache, heartbreak and drama.

OK, enough on why we need to internalize the RBoR. Here are the three key takeaways to ponder:

  • Agency In the Relationship Bill of Rights, 90% of the content is acknowledging that every person in a relationship has agency. Regardless of position, every person has the right to decide what level of intimacy she wants and needs, to voice how he feels about the things that happen to him,  to set her own limits and boundaries and to be included in decisions that affect him. This is true for husbands, wives, lovers, paramours, fuck buddies, friends with benefits, submissives, dominants, tops, bottoms and everything in between. As LustyGuy often says, “the point of any relationship is to make the people in it better versions of themselves.” Each person has the responsibility to voice what he wants and needs free of coercion, and each person deserves full information to make informed decisions about her own actions. Depriving another person of  his or her agency isn’t cool–including when that person is you.
  • Respect for organic change Are you the same person you were when you first met your current partner(s)? Probably not. You’ve grown and developed over time, and so have your relationships. They might deepen, intensify, fade away or become untenable. Whatever happens, it’s important to acknowledge that people and relationships change over time. We all change, and we all make mistakes. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes. While it’s important to communicate needs and boundaries, it’s equally important to recognize that it’s no one’s job to control anyone else. You will change. Your partners will change. Your relationships will change. The Relationship Bill of Rights does a good job of promoting communication rather than control.
  • seek-patience-main_fullBalance Every relationship is a balancing act of trying to accommodate everyone’s needs while respecting everyone’s voice. All partners, from brand-new ones down to a spouse of 30 years, have the right to have a say in decisions that affect them. Everyone deserves to have plans respected, to choose whom they want to date and when and to expect a balance in what they get from a relationship in relation to what they put in to it. It’s not far or balanced in any relationship to frequently have plans canceled or to be told when and whom you can date. Likewise, it’s not fair to expect one person to bear the brunt of initiating, forgiving or planning. Things happen, and that’s OK. But a pattern of one partner frequently bearing the brunt of initiations, cancellations or forgiveness does not make for a healthy relationship. In fact, the worst thing a poly couple can do is to end a new relationship in order to “focus on their marriage.” Making unilateral decisions isn’t healthy for any relationship, and it doesn’t play well in polyamory, either. Ditto for coercion and lying to “protect” someone.

The Relationship Bill of Rights is something that we have needed in print for a long time, and I’m incredibly thankful to Franklin and Eve for publishing it. What are your takeaways from it? Was there anything you disagreed with?

PW 430: Don’t try polyamory before listening to this

Minx and Koe Creation review the absolutely essential Relationship Bill of Rightsbillofrights Download the mp3 directly

1:00 Announcements

3:25 Poly in the news

5:35 Topic: What you need to know about poly relationships before trying one

Koe Creation and Minx highlight one of the most important pieces for you to read, review and integrate before trying a poly relationship. No, it’s not about jealousy. No, it’s not about dating. No, it’s not about safer sex. This is a topic that very few people discuss before trying polyamory and is usually the cause of the demise of the first poly relationship. What is it? The rights that every person has in every relationship, regardless of the structure: Franklin Veaux’s and Eve Rickert’s Relationship Bill of Rights.

37:30 Thank you!

Thanks to Shelby for the donation!

38:30 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? 🙂 Check out PolyWeekly at Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Rachel Lark: “I’m a relationship anarchist”

rachel larkHow did Dixie de la Tour lure you into writing ridiculously bawdy songs?

It was an accident. I’ve only written bawdy songs for the past two and a half years. I wrote tortured, angsty songs for years, and that was my thing. I’ve always been a kinky weirdo sort of person in the sex-positive world, but I never expected to be writing this kind of music.

The accident was that Dixie had a cancellation for Bawdy storytelling (a tremendous storytelling shows with live storytellers telling stories related to poly and kink, a powerful and loving experience). Minx: it’s like the Moth Radio Hour with sex. She always likes to have a music guest, and she was supposed to have Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was the night of the show, and someone I’d met at Harbin Hot Springs had a hunch and told Dixie, who asked if I had any dirty songs about fucking. At the time, I had one dirty song that I wrote as a joke called “Fuck My Toe.”

I played this funny little song that I’d never played before, and everyone freaked out. And I proposed to Dixie I write custom songs for her themes. And two years later, it’s most of what I do.

How do you self-identify?

The only reason I hesitate to self-identify as poly is that I don’t know if I have enough experience to say I’m poly. I’m good friends with people who are so well-versed. And also, to me, polyamory is about having multiple relationships, not just having an open relationship, and that’s not an experience I’ve had. I’ve identified as a “relationship anarchist,” and someone told once me, “I think that’s just single.”

What appeals to me about polyamory is that it’s about recognizing that things change and we figure out how we continue in this world relating to one another. And with relationship anarchy, promises are virtually impossible to keep. Intentions, yes, but “I will love you this way forever” is hard to fully commit to. So with relationship anarchy, you can accept that this could change, but you’re not attaching your identity to this outcome.

It’s not that I don’t believe in commitment; I do. But when we say “forever,” does that mean sharing a bed or a bank account for the rest of our lives? When we attach lifestyle stipulations to what that means… there’s some level of love that might be there forever, but we might want something different in the future.

The relationship I’m in now is unique. I’m dating my best friend of the past nine years. We have such a solid basis in friendship, and we both feel so confident in the friendship being the priority.

I think what stops a lot of people from dating their best friend is fucking up the friendship. But with lots of things, you kinda have to go with the momentum and can’t get too intellectual with your pros and cons list and just go with what’s happening.

Are all your songs bawdy now?

rachel lark hungIt gets the most attention. Dan Savage took an interest in my music and commissioned a song, which prompted a Christmas album called Hung for the Holidays. It’s also pay-what-you-want on my BandCamp page–you can download for free. I do have another set that is electronic live looping that is dancey and experimental. I also have a song that I wrote for Bawdy called Flowers Fuck that is all about flower sex.

What is your favorite song from your sexy sets?

I just wrote a new song called “Shut Up and Hit Me,” which was a custom song about spanking that was a reward for one of my Kickstarter campaigns.

To hear the full interview with Rachel Lark and a special performance of her song Born This Way, listen to Poly Weekly episode 428.

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