Negotiating Nonmonogamy

Gathered for this weekend’s seminar at A Woman’s Touch in Madison, a rough draft:

10 Things to Be Prepared for When Negotiating Polyamory

  1. Become a different person. Adopting a poly mindset and lifestyle in a monogamous world can be a transformative process. The level of communication, self-examination and brutal honesty with yourself and your partners required for healthy poly relationships is very high and tends to provide a challenge to even the most secure and open of people. As you explore and develop poly relationships, you will most likely discover things about yourself and your partners that will fundamentally change how you think and quite possibly who you are and how you view the world. As with any relationship in which long-term love is involved, you will change.
  2. Welcome change and personal growth. If you crave stability and are most comfortable in a world with minimal change, you probably don’t want to be poly. In fact, you probably don’t want to be in a relationship at all, because exposing yourself to another person’s life will most assuredly change yours, no matter how stable you believe that person to be. Be prepared to find out more about yourself, your fears and your capacity to love than you ever wanted to know. Be prepared to drag your fears and insecurities out into the open, hear the same from your partners, and grow by learning how to accept and cope with your own fears as well as your partners’.
  3. Remain friends with past partners and metamours. The non-monogamous community isn’t all that large at the moment, although we’re growing. Unlike with monogamy, it will be unlikely that you’ll be able to break up with someone and never see him or her again. Tribes and personal networks tend to be interwoven, and you will probably have to deal with interacting with people who have hurt you (or whom you have hurt) in social situations for years to come. Heck, one or more of your partners might still be dating that girl or guy you broke up with! You will have to learn how to negotiate an amicable breakup without making any of your friends and partners take sides. Be prepared to learn how to heal and take care of yourself while respecting your former partner and his/her current relationships.
  4. Experience unflattering, powerful explosive emotions. Even if you think you’re not a jealous person, you will experience jealousy at the most unexpected of times and places. You’ll probably also feel insecure, petty, uptight, varying shades of “weird,” envious, angry, hurt, irritated and annoyed. Be prepared to describe honestly whatever you’re feeling as you’re feeling it. Be prepared to ask for help in processing what you’re feeling, and be open enough to trust that your partner will still love and support you, even when you’re experiencing unflattering emotions. At some point, you’ll probably discover that something you discussed rationally and thought you’d be totally OK with ends up freaking you out and sending you into a fit of unreasonable, unexpected emotion. This is normal. Be prepared by adding an asterisk to all relationship discussions: … and I reserve the right to freak out at any time. Don’t expect to be coddled and given in to for having emotions, but do create a space where they can be discussed safely.
  5. Negotiate as a process, not a set in stone thing. When you first consider diving into polyamory, it’s a great idea to have discussions about how you’d feel if something or other happened. You’ll probably go through a lot of imagined scenarios and guess at how you’d feel and make a few (or a lot) of rules to govern you and your partners’ behavior in those cases. These discussions are a great jumping-off point, but be prepared for everything you discuss to change when dealing with real, live people. As they say in the military, “no plan of attack survives contact with the enemy.” People fall in love or lust unexpectedly, and suddenly, the rules will need to change in order for you or your partners to be happy. You might set a rule about not falling in love with partners only to discover six months later that you yourself are struggling to admit that your casual romance has become something deeper. Or you might have a caveat about partners moving in with you that needs to be rediscussed when your partner’s girlfriend becomes a closer part of your poly family. Fluid bonding agreements may need to change; child-rearing might be open to new discussion as well. Keep in mind that what is most important about your relationship negotiations is the process of discussing them, not the set-in-stone rules you end up coming up with. The rules will end up changing; be prepared to see their establishment as a fluid process of communication, not something to be set in stone and forgotten.
  6. Have every assumption challenged. With a traditional relationship structure such as monogamy, it is common (and relatively harmless) for participants to make some basic assumptions about what concepts like “fidelity” and “monogamy” mean. Sometimes, those definitions aren’t discussed at all; they simply remain as tacit concepts floating at the back of the relationship unless and until something happens to challenge them, which might be never. If you’re venturing into polyamory or some branch of non-monogamy, however, be prepared to have every assumption about basic relationship concepts challenged. Think you know what “sex” is? Ask your partner; you might discover that your definitions of what constitutes “sex” or “sexual contact” are vastly different. How about “cheating”? “Fidelity”? “Love”? Being “OK” with something? How about what constitutes a “healthy” or “successful” relationship? When “only” and “forever” are no longer the markers of a relationship’s success, how will you define your relationships’ relative success?
  7. Talk about everything. Be prepared to discuss and communicate about things you never thought you’d have to. Be prepared to have different discussions about the same issues as life and love change around you. You’ll have to be brave enough to bring up unflattering emotions and strong enough to be patient and loving when your partners do the same. Be prepared to create a safe space for your partners to tell you things that are difficult or unflattering to admit, and then find another space in which you can be brutally honest in return. Lack of conflict isn’t necessarily the sign of a healthy relationship, but lack of intimacy will cause its slow demise. Getting into the painful emotions in a safe space is a type of intimacy, and it can bring you closer to your partners than you ever thought possible.
  8. Have a sounding-board. Polyamory is not a traditional relationship structure. You will not know how to deal with the issues that arise; my gods, how could you? I promise that you do not have all the skills and information that you need to have a successful poly relationship right now. So it’s of utmost importance that you have support. Talking to just your partner isn’t enough; you will need the voices of friends and people who have been through this before to give you insight so that you can make your own, informed decisions. Be prepared to reach out to the poly community, whether it be online or in real life, and create a sort of sounding-board of poly-friendlies that you can run your questions or issues by. Again, simply talking to the person you’re sleeping with isn’t enough. Monogamous types ask their girlfriends, buddies and best friends what they think; they kvetch and ask for advice over coffee. Even if you’re not out publicly as poly, be prepared to do the same. Find a community, listen and ask questions, and choose a few folks you trust as your advisory board. If you can, find a poly-friendly therapist, too.
  9. Ask for reassurance when you need it. Be prepared for this to be a wonderful but tough journey of self-discovery. If you haven’t got the message yet, non-monogamy can be gut-wrenchingly tough to negotiate. There will be times when you feel weak or vulnerable; be prepared to ask for reassurance when you need it. Sometimes your partners will know and be able to tell when you need reassurance and offer it unasked, but sometimes you’ll need to be explicit. Just ask.
  10. Be the bad guy. Relationships might be wonderful and healthy for six months, five years or 18 1/2 years. And then, after whatever period of time, there might come a time when all the communication in the world won’t make the participants happy or healthy. Be prepared to have the courage to acknowledge that things aren’t working and to be the bad guy and end the relationship. No one wants to be the bad guy; that’s why people do things such as act weird and distant so that the other person will get annoyed and break up with him/her. Please don’t do that. Being open, honest and vulnerable extends to ending the relationship as well. Do your partner(s) the honor of respecting what you had by respecting the end of your relationship as much as its duration.

Poly Weekly #142: LIVE from Arisia Sci-Fi

The new Polyamory Weekly #142: Live from the Arisia science-fiction convention is up! Direct download is at Poly Weekly #142

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0:00 Introduction and host chat
Intro, under-18 warning and re-direction to www.scarleteen.com; friend me on Twitter and answer questions about what you want on the show, call 206-202-POLY with comments or discuss your own topics at the new FORUMS at http://forum.polyweekly.com.

1:30 Announcements & Promo stuff

  • Next weekend, I’ll be hosting both a podcasting and polyamory panel at Conflation in Saint Louis. This year is a Firefly theme, and I can’t wait to try out my new Inara costume!
  • Next meeting of the Poly Weekly Book Club will be Wednesday, February 27th, 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Center on Halsted, 2nd floor, white couches; we’ll be continuing our discussion of Ravenscroft’s Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless and the Hopeful
  • Upcoming workshops: And Boyfriend/Girlfriend Makes Three: Negotiating Nonmonogamy, Saturday, February 23rd, noon-1:30 p.m., A Woman’s Touch in Madison; or Wednesday, March 19th, 6:00-7:30 in Milwaukee

  • 3:25 Promo for Nawashi, a novel of erotic magic, available from Podiobooks.com
  • The new Poly Weekly promo will be up in the feed next

  • We’re trying to get 100 reviews on iTunes; if you’d like, please review Poly Weekly by clicking here!
  • 5:30 Report: Poly Panels at the Arisia Science Fiction Convention
    Alan interviews Shava from a panel on being poly in a straight world; Michelle Wexelblack discusses poly-mono relationship; 14:00 Dr. Solomon Davidoff discusses the poly community compared to other subcultures; Alan talks about creating a temporary tribe

    17:50 Topic: Why Does My Spouse Irritate Me So Much?
    Minx discusses this article on marriage only getting worse–your spouse will end up annoying the heck outta you!

    21:45 Wrap-up
    Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email cunningminx@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 206-202-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at polyweekly.libsyn.com. Thanks for listening!

    Our intro and outro music is courtesy of Pacemaker Jane, “Good Suspicions”

And girlfriend/boyfriend makes three: negotiating nonmonogamy

Hey, guys! I’m finally getting out and hosting some workshops on poly at A Woman’s Touch, an excellent sex-positive store in both Madison and Milwaukee. If you’re in the area, please come out and join in the discussion!

Date and Time: Saturday, Feb 23rd, 12:00 – 1:30 PM
Location: Madison
Cost: $35.00 per person

Open marriage, swinging, polyamory, oh, my! These days, more and more couples are choosing nonmonogamy for their own intimate relationships. But the path from monogamy to an open marriage, a swinger lifestyle or polyamory can be a tricky one if you’re not aware of the pitfalls you might hit along the way and the discussions that you and your partner need to have in order to avoid them. Plus, those Hot Bi Babes are just a myth, anyway–like unicorns. So forget the unicorns and join Minx for a fun and frank discussion of how to negotiate new boundaries–and discover the joy and intimacy nonmonogamy can bring to your existing relationship. Register here!

In Milwaukee?
Date and Time: Wednesday, March 19th, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Cost: $35.00 per person

Register here!

Loving More “Loving Choices” 1-day Hotel Seminar, Sat. Nov. 3, SF

On Saturday November 3, Loving More non-profit will be presenting a 1-day “Hotel Seminar” in San Francisco. Akien and Dawn will be presenting 2 workshops, along with a number of other stellar presenters from the Bay Area and elsewhere in the country. It’s the first in a series of one-day seminars to be held around the country, aimed at those interested in polyamory and other ethically non-monogamous relationship styles. To register, click here.

This seminar is especially suitable for newcomers to polyamory, therapists and other relationship professionals, and alternative-lifestyle-friendly folks interested in improving their communication and relationship skills. Also, if you’ve ever wished that you could attend one of the Loving More Retreats, but didn’t have the funds for the long weekend, or if you prefer a clothes-ON (rather than clothing optional) environment, this seminar is a great opportunity for you.

If this sounds interesting, please read the full announcement below. If you have specific questions, you can call Robyn at 303-543-7540 (phone is better than e-mail in her case). Or you can bounce them by me in this post, and I might be able to forward them.

Please feel free to forward this announcement to any other people or lists who might be interested in exploring relationship choice and improving their relationship skills.

Loving More “Loving Choices”
A Relationship Seminar Presented by
Loving More Non-profit Organization
303-543-7540
Saturday November 3, 2007
San Francisco, CA
Clarion Airport
8:00am-6:00pm (plus optional evening Social!)

In today’s complex world of romantic relationships, finding and maintaining honest intimate relationships is both challenging and complex. We follow rules and relationship models based on societal standards that may not work for us personally. Polyamorous relating is even more complex. Our relationships start off like a dream come true but over time things fizzle, losing their original spice and excitement or becoming more complicated then we can deal with. With only one dominant and accepted model for loving relationships, it is not surprising that many people are struggling. We at Loving More are aware of these challenges and we are dedicated in helping people become aware of choices and creating new models for loving relationships that work.

Loving More is pleased to announce a new one day Seminar Series “Loving Choices” focused on choosing what is right for you. Who says that love has to follow a specific set of rules that limit how you love others? Why pretend to be someone you’re not? Do you feel like you can’t be your honest and authentic self? Why fake it? Are you already involved in a polyamorous (or other ethically non-monogamous) relationship and are looking to improve your relationship skills? If so…

We invite you to attend the Loving Choices seminar and learn ways to increase your enjoyment at being your authentic self!

Planned presentations include titles and topics such as:
* Relationship Paradigms and Choices
* Practicing Skills for Moving Through Jealousy
* Non-violent Communication (NVC, or Compassionate Communication)
* Polyamory as a Path to Peace
* Creating Empowering Relationship Agreements
* Using Tantric energy for increased connection and trust
* Polyamory and BDSM
* Exploring Intimate Friendship
* Polyamory 101

Who Might Wish to Attend:
* Those seeking to improve their polyamorous (or other ethically non-monogamous) relationships and deepen their connections with partners

* People new to or exploring polyamory as a possible choice in their personal relationships

* Therapists, counselors and others who work in the relationship field

* Those who are looking to better their relationships with new points of view

Following the Seminar is an optional Loving More celebration and evening social. This is a chance to meet and socialize with other poly friendly people in a relaxing atmosphere. Hors d’oeuvres will be provided, and a cash bar will be available courtesy of the hotel.

Registration Information
To register go to http://www.lovemore.com/sfseminar.shtm

Full Day is 9:00am-6:00pm
Half Day is Morning (9:00am-1:00pm) or Afternoon (2:00pm-6:00pm), and
has limited availability.

Full Day Seminar plus Evening Social:
$110 Pre-registered (by 11/1/07)
$135 At the Door

Full Day Seminar Only:
$90 Pre-registered (by 11/1/07)
$115 At the door

Half Day Seminar plus Evening Social:
$90 Pre-registered
$105 At the door

Half Day Seminar Only
$70 Pre-registered (by 11/1/07)
Not available at the door

Evening Social only:
$30 Pre-registered
$35 At the door

Loving More members receive a 10% discount on the seminar.
$25 Cancellation Fee – No Refunds After October 28, 2007

Space is limited and pre-registration is highly recommended.

Sponsored by Loving More Non-profit Organization
303-543-7540
Robyn Trask, Managing Director (robyn [at] lovemore [dot] com)

To register go to http://www.lovemore.com/sfseminar.shtm

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