Polyamorous Fairytales Are the Best Fairytales

A very clever writer named Natalie Zina Walschots is putting together a collection of Polyamorous Fairytales that I’m pretty stoked about, and selfishly I’d like you to help support that project so that I can read them (because happy poly fairies are awesome).

The project is in the pre-Kickstarter stage at the moment, with a super-cool Christmas sweater (and t-shirt… and sweatshirt) fundraiser. Now’s your chance to buy one of these original-design shirts (which feature four different triple-stag poly-friendly motifs) and get in with the cool kids.

front

front

Visit the Hearts On Our Sleeve page at Teespring to see all the designs, styles and prices. But do it fast! They’re only available for a limited time.

Here’s a how Natalie describes the project: “Everyone is looking for their fairytale ending, and everyone’s perfect happily-ever-after is beautifully, gloriously different. Love is big and strange, plentiful and ever-changing. It unlocks new rooms in our hearts–rooms we had no idea were waiting. Fairytales are similarly strange narratives, full of peril and transformation, and it’s no wonder we turn to them as the template for our own love stories. More than anything else, fairytales have been my guide through my own arduous quests, monstrous riddles, and magic spells to be broken.

But fairytales, for all their curiosity and subversiveness, still often end with a neat pair: a prince and a princess, a queen and a king. A rescue and a marriage and a tidy coupling. However, there are so many kinds of happy endings, so many love stories, that end in other wonderful configurations. Princesses who walk off hand in hand instead of competing for the prince. Companies of knights who lovingly adventure together for the rest of their days. Magicians and nymphs who love liminal space snap moving between them. Witches with wonderful friends who shoo away all their suitors and are thrilled on their own. Kings and queens who delightedly look forward to the occasional visit from the dashing duke two kingdoms over. There aren’t enough of those stories in the world.”

For more info about the project you can visit the Facebook page.

Advertisements

Poly and Crippled: When Your Other Partner is Your Disability

Managing your polyamorous relationships obviously becomes exponentially more complex with the more partners you have. Whether you believe in hierarchical relationships (primary, secondary, etc.) or not, there are still times when having to prioritize is inevitable. Everyone has times when they are a squeaky wheel, and as long as it is not part of a pattern of emotional manipulation, I think that’s completely reasonable. After all, if you add kids to the picture, or other situational stressors like death of a family member, or loss of a job, a little extra attention or comfort may be needed that can, in turn, impact the time you spend with other partners. Certainly this is where having metamours that are friendly or understanding with one another’s needs is important, and hopefully there is some give and take and flexibility with scheduling, so that everyone feels their needs are being met fairly.

broken heartBut what if your wheel never stops squeaking? When you suffer from chronic illness (in my case, both physical and mental illness), and you spend much of your time trying to deal with the day to day issues associated with that illness, it can feel virtually impossible to dedicate any kind of emotional energy to multiple partners, never mind one. It is much easier to speak in philosophical tones about polyamory and your theories on ethical non-monogamy than to actually follow through with seeking out and maintaining multiple relationships. The entire process seems impossibly daunting. When your main focus each day is the struggle of getting out of bed, showering (maybe), finding ways to deal with intractable pain, etc., the acts of communication and caring for the emotional and physical needs of another person seem insurmountable. And quite frankly, like work.

It cannot be discounted either, the stress that this puts on the partner of the disabled person. If you are their squeaky wheel, how can they possibly meet the needs of other partners? I have sometimes thought that the solution to this is to seek out partners during periods of stability, but of course as anyone can tell you, finding partners isn’t quite so convenient that they appear out of the woodwork on request (in spite of what some people seem to think on OkCupid). Even if that were possible, who is to say that the new partner would be willing to put up with an over-demanding metamour? It certainly has never been my intention to sabotage my partner’s other relationships, but I cannot deny that it may have occurred in spite of that. When you are dependant upon another human being for many of your daily needs because of disability, it’s a pretty normal reaction to be a) fearful that those needs will no longer be met, and b) filled with guilt over that fear.

A good deal of the stress I have personally felt because of my situation dissipated when I accepted the fact that, at least for now, the only other partner I can manage is my illness. Right now, it requires my time and devotion. Accepting that, and setting some goals as to how I can satisfy some of the needs that it represents (like learning how to manage pain and gaining further independence) have allowed me to slowly get back to being a better partner in my primary relationship. I had spent so much time obsessed with ‘poly failure’ guilt, that I hadn’t been tending to either my partner or my disability. I also spent such an enormous amount of time worrying about whether he was unhappy because he wasn’t seeing anyone else that it clouded my ability to deal with anything else that needed to be tackled in our relationship. It’s hard to build emotional stability when you’re in self-protection mode.

Whether it is due to disability or some other life change, it’s tremendously important to take the emotional time to process and if necessary, withdraw. It’s a natural byproduct of polyamory that we check in with others around us in order to determine their needs and how we can best accommodate them. The problem for some (i.e. those of us who are naturally co-dependent and ‘fixers’) is that we don’t always look inward (or rather, if we do, we do not allocate the time to mend our broken bits the way we try to with others). I know a few people in the community who have declared themselves ‘their own primary.’ There are certainly some who, upon hearing such a pronouncement, might consider that a selfish act, but really, it’s pretty hard to attend to other people’s needs when yours are constantly nagging in the back of your mind. Being your own primary, to me, seems like an excellent way to communicate to others that you declare yourself valuable and hold yourself accountable to your own needs.

Obviously some of this can be mitigated by being honest (and forthcoming) about your own needs so that others can help — but I think it is even more important that we try to figure out ways (even small ones) to help ourselves. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help, but there is also a lot to be gained in terms of feelings of self-worth and independence, by taking control and allotting time for yourself.

The first step is acknowledging that those needs exist. And sometimes, the second is acknowledging that your illness is your life partner — you need to take care of that relationship so you can take care of the others.

/rk

Relationship Mono/Poly

Broadly speaking, there seem to be two paths that lead people to polyamory. Some people come at it either right off the bat or early on in their romantic escapades, whereas others seem to arrive at it after a change in trajectory. I envy those who are part of the former group. Like anything that falls into the category of non-normative; a supportive community of family or friends and/or early exposure ends up exacting a huge influence on whether or not we have the confidence to explore certain options later in life.

If you’ve grown up in a culture of heteronormativity and monogamy, the idea that there are different avenues for you to explore may not even occur to you. Or if it does, you might feel intimidated and unsupported, whether explicitly or implicitly: If your community isn’t well versed on these concepts, they aren’t likely to be equipped with the tools to educate or support you.

IMG_0492When I look at young 20-something poly experts, confident in their queer identities and adept at juggling relationship anarchy, I can’t help but wonder how different things might have been for me if I had either been raised in a less normative household, or if I had sought out queer friends in high school and university. Ultimately it was a combination of not knowing what I didn’t know, and not having the confidence to challenge myself to seek out situations that might push me outside my comfort zone.

Monogamy and heterosexuality surrounded me with a lot of hard lines and rules. That wasn’t inherently a bad thing: I like rules (as long as I agree with them). I like clarity and knowing where I stand. The problem with monogamy was that I wasn’t always clear where the lines were.

It wasn’t that I had a hard time being monogamous – I understood clearly what constituted sexual cheating and I believed in fidelity. It was that every other relationship, friendships included, felt like cheating (or at least held the potential for cheating).

It is hard for me to approach a relationship with the notion that it should be categorized with rules for how far it should go, and in what fashion my feelings are allowed to evolve. I don’t, as a general habit, go out of my way to make casual acquaintances. If I choose to develop a friendship with someone, I want the freedom to take it in whatever direction it naturally evolves.

That model didn’t really fit in with what I thought monogamy was. Rather than reject monogamy, I would avoid making friends when I was in committed relationships. Again, this was more about living in a sheltered environment and not feeling brave enough to break the rules (after all, I didn’t really have anyone to break the rules with). It wasn’t until my late 30s (and the internet, and Facebook, and OKCupid) that it became clear that like my sexuality, my relationship style didn’t have to be something that conformed to what society said was ‘normal.’

Coming to poly later in life affects how you approach concepts of non-monogamy. If you’ve been raised in the poly community or as queer spawn, the odds are that your outlook on pretty much everything is tempered by the attitude of “it’s ok to challenge the status quo.” You’re less likely to compare things to the ‘norm’ – or if you do, it’s probably to celebrate that you are breaking the mold rather than reaffirming it.

It’s a bad habit of latecomers to the poly game that we are prone to comparing the poly styles of ourselves and others to what we know about monogamy, rather than acknowledging that polyamory is less about breaking the rules of monogamy as much as it is embracing the freedom to create a relationship style that reflects the wants and needs of the people involved. The existence of polyamory doesn’t mean that monogamy is invalid. They’re just different.

I think it’s natural, when monogamy is the only thing you’ve experienced (whether positively or not) to use that as your frame of reference. I also think it’s natural to approach your first experiences with poly in a piece-meal fashion. Baby steps.

As such, what inevitably happens is that a huge number of latecomers fit a certain profile: married couples that have decided to open up their marriage. They start by dating other people together and establishing a laundry list of rules to keep their primary relationship ‘safe.’

This tends to earn them a lot of scorn from the early adopters.

So what do you do if you are late to the game, but rather than being married and opening up your relationship to poly, you start out single and your first poly relationship results in marriage?

Here I am, finally comfortable in a relationship and relationship style that frees me to fully explore whatever developments might occur in my friendships, no longer internally regulated out of a false sense of obligation, and yet on the outside, I appear to be in a hetero-monogamous marriage. I’ve gone from being a bisexual woman pursued by unicorn hunters, to being in a poly marriage where everyone assumes we’re unicorn hunters.

I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their own style and approach to polyamory. To me, that’s the whole point, that you define your own relationship style. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also suck to be lumped in with an entire group of people whose beliefs and approach to poly doesn’t match your own.

I don’t regret marrying my husband, but doing so has made so many aspects of my identity invisible. No one sees my bisexuality. No one sees my gender non-conformity. No one knows I’m poly.

I’m finally at a time of my life where I can (and do try to) express myself and be who I really am on the inside. But if no one sees it on the outside, does it really count?

/rk

Poems of Neglect

Between a migraine that refuses to fully depart (if the pain behind my right eye doesn’t develop into laser vision soon, I’m going to be seriously disappointed) and preoccupation with our upcoming move, I haven’t been able to focus long enough to write.  But I hate going more than a day without posting something, so here are a few original poems (which will be in my next book of poetry):

On polyamory:

I’M NOT JEALOUS, I’M ENVIOUS; THERE’S A DIFFERENCE

Honey, you know I love you
And I’m happy he makes you happy
It’s just that I’m not happy
That I’m not happy
With someone else right now
Too

I want to frubble
And comperse
But instead I curse
That your body gets to be poly
While only my mind does
Boo

On vaccines:

MOTHER OF THE YEAR

Although I am clearly
The worst
Most irresponsible mother
Ever

For injecting my child repeatedly
With autism

It is secondary to my crime
Of robbing him of the opportunity
To experience
Character-building

Via measles
Mumps
Rubella
Polio
Tetanus

Because nothing quite equals the strength of character
Gained through

Blood poisoning
Testicular pain
Brain swelling
Paralysis
And death

On religion:

AN ATHEIST BELIEVES

Meeting genuine
Caring
Altruistic
Open-minded true believers

Only serves to reinforce my belief
That the rest of them

Are doing it wrong

/rk