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    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013 edited
    Okay, so there's probably a few of us here who don't fall neatly into the heteronormative idea of relationships where we meet the Love of Our Life and stay with that person for ever and ever and ever and never look at another person with lust ever again. Ever. For even a second. Also, probably a few of us are aware of sexuality being more than "get to the genitals and engage hydraulic pistons!"

    It would be interesting to hold a conversation about this sort of thing here. A completely open-minded, sex-positive and non-judgmental conversation on relationships, fetishes, Sex Beyond The Genitals, etc. I don't mean that we all have to be fine with everything that is ever said, but that we refrain from Being Dicks about other people's choices, be they normative or not. Asking questions is a good way to start one's own acceptance of other people's lifestyle choices, saying "Eewwww, you're weird." is not.

    So yeah.

    I kind of have to leave it there for now, but I'd love to hear some thoughts. This was sparked by the August Hugs thread where open relationships have been briefly touched on, so maybe start there? Me and my wife are open, we date and have sexual encounters with other people. I will go deeper into that later on, but I thought I would start us off.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    I had this conversation with a good friend of mine recently about sexual preferences in terms of "kinks," and it had me thinking about the clash between two different cliches. One states that everyone is a little bit freaky, while the other one, in our collective (my friend and I's) experience, is that a lot of people are boring and vanilla as all hell. We were basically alluding to something that we both like to do, but had come to realize others who claimed to be into more non-conventional sex shy away from.
  1.  (11148.3)
    I have nothing against people who play the field.

    I simply do not relate to them.

    My whole thing has always been to fall in love slowly and carefully, and then commit all the way. The reason is I never want to let anybody go. I can't accept goodbyes, when even big problems can usually be fixed when both people are willing to do the hard work. I will fight to stay in the relationship.

    And yeah, monogamy is one of my demands. I demand a lot from my friends and my employers too, so maybe it's just a function of my boring, white bread, square personality.

    You are describing a situation which to me is two things at once. You are in a committed relationship. You play the field too. To you, it is one thing, or perhaps the same thing. I promise not to go back and forth with you in a pointless argument if you care to elaborate on what I'm missing. I know you're not "weird," in fact, I'm probably the one who's in the minority on this. But you and I ARE different.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013 edited
    Yeah, this is one of those topics that is kind of triggering to me because I was told, quite often by people I liked, that I was an unevolved simpleton who didn't "get it" just because I prefer monogamy. Completely missing the point of things by referring to it as Mags did above.

    And on the flip side of things, I have many non-monogamous friends who have been told, by people they like, that they are weird and must be shallow, completely missing the point of things by assuming it as something like what Mags said above.

    I'll be reading this with interest.

    And I trust that I don't need to tell people the difference between "this works for me personally" and "this works", yes? Yes.
  2.  (11148.5)
    When I started dating my first I-think-this-is-serious boy/girlfriend years ago, she and I lived over an hour apart, and couldn't see each other very often, so it went without saying that we were both going to continue to have social lives independent of each other. From there it was just a brief discussion before we'd agreed that "social lives" could include sex. It seriously never occurred to me to ask her to stay celibate maybe 25 days out of each month, and she didn't want that for me either. When we talked on the phone, the subject of "what have you been up to" would naturally include stories about where, when, what ... and who she did. And I'd tell her how my weekend went. We weren't "playing the field" – auditioning prospects to replace each other – any more than when she just went to the bar and met new people (and didn't have sex with them). That's not what an "open relationship" meant to either of us. She had her friends (some of whom she sometimes screwed) and I had mine (ditto). We also had each other, which was something else. I wouldn't say that we were committed to each other, and we eventually broke up, but that was because of other factors – one of us being batshit crazy (opinions differ on which one) – not because either of us was lured away by some other woman/man.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013 edited
    One of my favourite conversations I got into with a friend about poly vs mono was that there was no way for her to not get jealous/upset if her partner had sex with other people. She requires fidelity or else she feels awful. I'm the complete opposite. And we didn't think there was any way to actually change this in each other; it was just how we loved our partners. It'd be like trying to convince someone who was straight that they should be bisexual or homosexual. So I always try to frame it like that - I'm never going to change someone's mind to do things my way and I honestly don't feel the need to get everyone to join my special club. Especially since forcing someone into the situation is likely going to result in emotional damage for everyone involved.

    In fact, I get so annoyed by the proponents of polyamory because now every time I even bring it up, the first thing people say to me is how they're not going to change their mind on their own desire for monogamy and that I should put away my propaganda/monogamy shaming. It's like I have to start off on the defensive and with multiple disclaimers before I can even talk about myself. Oldhat & I have already talked about that in person ;)

    But quite honestly, I'm new to this, so I'd like a forum to explore it that isn't jumping into a full on community echo chamber, so I'm really happy it came to Whitechapel.

    My previous relationship of 7 years started as open for me, in that I could go sleep with my girlfriends and occasionally bring them home. It ended for multiple reasons, but a huge one was my partner's growing discomfort with the set up, starting with him getting blackout drunk and calling me a slut and the last straw being when he called one of my girlfriends a whore, to her face, behind my back (also while blackout drunk). Around this time, I also started developing anxieties on why I couldn't also sleep with men - to me, there isn't a difference in men or women and I found it insulting to feel like there isn't anything "to be worried about" just because my female partners don't have a penis. As if that's the only thing keeping me around. I know there's a lot more compacted into it, but it's not something I want to deal with.

    So now I have a mister that is completely OK with our lack of definition of a relationship. We started as a casual hookup situation while seeing other people. He's been my best friend for a good part of a decade and I was really happy that when I first changed the situation, he had a girl out in Chicago that he was seeing every other month. He was the first person who encouraged me to go after another guy I wanted to sleep with and as time has gone on, he's more comfortable if I just tell him I can't see him that evening because I'm seeing someone else - one time I was very intentionally vague and he was anxious all night that I was mad at him/hated him for some reason I wouldn't tell him. Before, I'd be in situations where people didn't want to know and I'd just have to make vague "I have a meeting with someone, be out all night" noises. He sees the occasional other woman on the side (he's straight) and sometimes we bring someone home, but we also establish that we want time alone with each other. It's nice and relatively stress free so long as we're open and communicative.

    Which, feeling safe enough to communicate what I want and what I'm doing with myself is all I've ever really wanted. So, so many relationships ended because in the end, I had to hide who/what I am due to my partner's feelings. And then I'd start using someone else as my emotional dump and either end up cheating with said person or essentially cuckolding them as a "boyfriend for emotions only".

    Obviously, everything isn't super perfect double rainbows all the time, but that's where I'm starting off. I've dealt with what makes me feel insecure (I don't really get jealous but I can get worried about cheating and people keeping secrets from me) and for a while I was trying to get into a triad (which is ridiculously difficult and as my first foray with poly people was a bit of a heartbreak). But this is basically all within the past two years in my spare time, when I wasn't focusing on my main mistress, Work.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    I was monogamous early on, with my first three-ish relationships. The third was long-distance and, after about three months, the question simply became "why the hell?" It was just an unnecessary complication to demand fidelity of someone you only saw once or twice a month (as Jason says). After that, I had a series of long-distance casual things amongst a series of localized casual things.

    I didn't date properly again until my current boyfriend, with whom I've never been monogamous. We like each other a whole ton of a lot, but I've always been the travelling one and he's always had stuff going on at home with other people. Now that we live together in a strange new city, we're having all these discussions about logistics and time-sharing and disclosure for the first time. We discussed physical protection, and the basics of how not to lead someone else on, but I've always left his negotations with other partners up to him. So far so good, but certainly there have been a few sticking points.

    For example, I'm starting to get really offended when his other partners don't want to meet me. Like, even casually or accidentally, not in a formalized getting-to-know-you way. I get that it's not everyone's bag, but the vehemence of some people who he dates casually is really bewildering to me. Like, I'm not the enemy, and it's kinda by the grace of my good will that your relationship with my boyfriend is going on at all. Yet you still think so low of me, or are so jealous of my existence, or are so incapable of thinking about the whole package deal you're getting into, that it makes you uncomfortable to even acknowledge my existence? It's only through repetition that it's becoming an issue with me.

    I haven't dated someone else seriously in the context of this relationship. I still have some long-distance stuff, but it's not common. I'm not particularly anxious to jump that hurdle, mostly because I'm pretty satisfied with him and am too busy to be lonely (and too anti-social to stumble across anyone I can't help liking). When/if it happens, we'll see. I think I'm happy enough to have theoretical non-monogamy that I don't really need to practice it enthusiastically. But I can't really imagine telling the boy to quit his other endeavours. That just seems like a rotten thing to do -- it's a serious part of his identity to meet new people in a romantic context; I doubt it could be stopped without causing him serious emotional damage (even if the last few women he's been with have been disappointing on some level or other).

    Is it a copout to say that he's just drawn that way?
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    Also I find "playing the field" a vaguely offensive phrase.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013 edited
    I do as well. And it's indicative of the lack of knowledge or understanding that happens when a person tries to talk about something they don't personally relate to.

    @longtimelurker, I realize you probably didn't mean it that way, but "playing the field" isn't really correct and insinuates that interpersonal relationships are something that, for many, it isn't and it significantly downplays the emotional aspect of it.

    We're all here to understand things better, is all.
  3.  (11148.10)
    I'm intrigued by this conversation as just last night I was discussing it. Let's hope it goes down in WC history.

    @glukkake - do you think people's fear of it is partly due to the growing media coverage? Here in the UK it was reported almost every other week over spring and summer.

    I currently stand at an interesting point in life that is challenging me to decide either way. I've never had a problem with the spectrum of relationships and I know myself well enough to know I can be a jealous fucker so I keep a lid on that but, currently, life is mostly about work [and I like it that way] so I question if my fairly traditional [though I like some kink] cis ways should continue in this time or if I should try polyamory and see if it suits. Hmmm...

    As I said, this one intrigues me.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    I've found that breaking from monogamy and trying to play it off as just "keeping it casual" or "open" actually stemmed from growing un-realized unhappiness in the relationship I was in. Don't get me wrong, i understand people are wired differently, and there are people fully capable of pulling that off. More power to you. But from personal experience, your emotional ties to not just your significant other, but everyone around you start to dim. Multiple partners has always had that effect on me. I got to the point where I was weary of it and none of it seemed meaningful. I ended up craving some sort of connection, because none of it seemed like it mattered.
  4.  (11148.12)
    Thanks all, especially for noting (and politely) how easily assumptions and phrasing matter in this.

    Some of you know my form on this subject: was in a long-term, somewhat open triad for over 16 years, which ended about 2 years ago. I'm now monogamous to the remaining partner.

    Here's the thing which doesn't get mentioned often - poly is complicated, purely in terms of logistics.

    So: a monogamous pair-bond only has to consider one relationship. Partner A to Partner B.
    A closed triad, the simplest form of poly: That's immediately four relationships:
    Partners A and B
    Partners A and C
    Partners B and C
    And then the entire ABC gestalt.

    This is even before you start sorting out who gets to shag who and when!

    (This is one of several reasons why after all those years of polyamory, Darling Wife & I are staying monogamous for the foreseeable future, and would not consider adding a long-term third person at all now. And it's not a matter of having changed our minds at all - just we're a) too damn tired and b) want to devote more time to each other. Mileage will, as ever, vary.)

    Also: it's a common assumption from outside poly that it's primarily about the sex. Not always true. Which is another reason terms like "playing the field" don't fit too well.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    I think that is a very valid and often looked over fact due to stereotypes and misconceptions: There are quite a few poly relationships built around very genuine love and affection for one another. It kind of goes back to the "They're different than me so it can't be for anything other than sex." Some people just cannot wrap their mind around it.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013 edited
    Should be noted too that asexual polyamorous relationships are indeed a thing that exists.

    Hell, asexuality can probably be thrown in to this discussion as well, since there are MANY misconceptions about that as well...
  5.  (11148.15)
    @oldhat - Yeah, chuck it all in!

    A key point here is how you treat people who conduct their lives differently to you. It's a spectrum between (using phrases that work for me, YMMV etc) Your Kink Is Not My Kink and That's OK to You're Doing It Wrong. And it really doesn't matter what said "kink" or "it" is. (Usual disclaimer - Rape=Never OK.)

    As noted above by Glukkake, being told by someone who plays differently to you that somehow you're the one in the wrong is never helpful. I sort of understand why poly folk, raised in a society that severely privileges monogamy (or at least the appearance of same!) would get a little zealous. Doesn't actually forgive them for telling other presumably happy folk that They're Doing It Wrong.

    The thing is... folk are different from each other. And folk have different perspectives along their lifespan. You might find the ides of poly impossible because you see yourself as too jealous... and a few years later, decide you can handle it. Or vice versa.

    For me, asexuality is something I've literally only experienced as an adult when severely ill. Sex is such a part of my whole adult existence that being without it feels like I'm not me. But I hope I can at least be polite and try to learn from asexual folk. Their lack of kink is not my kink - and that's OK.
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    Holy nutballs, what an avalanche! Wow, I'm loving all the different experiences, opinions and thoughts so far. :D

    My head is swinging with all the info, so I might be responding to things without names, apologies for that...

    "Completely missing the point of things by referring to it as Mags did above." That was referring to my example of being a dick, right? I hope I wasn't inadvertently being a dick about monogamy there, because that would suck. Considering that I spent at times deliriously happy 9 years in my current relationship being mono before opening it in 2011, I know very well that monogamy can work just fine. Almost all of my friends are mono, and they're fine too.

    Also: Yes. Asexuality should definitely be part of this. I would love to hear from asexuals, as that's a group that's sadly buried in most conversations on relationships, especially since the conversation is skewed toward "Sex being important" instead of sexual compatibility

    costa K: I think we're all a LITTLE bit kinky. I consider myself "vanilla", but what's really vanilla sex? Genital stimulation? Genital and/or oral stimulation? Is anal vanilla? Some light bondage (which most people have at least TRIED once)? Powerplay can be so subtle that it almost doesn't register for a lot of people, but it's still kinky.

    lontimelurker: Yeah, I'm gonna agree with the others. "playing the field" sounds in my mind like I'm looking for a replacement, which isn't how this works. I'm fully committed to making this relationship work or to end if it needs ending (which can be harder than keeping it together when it shouldn't be) but I'm ALSO having other relationships, which we also have to make some form of commitment to. It all gets very complicated when I want some attention but my wife's squeeze is having a minor crisis and REALLY needs her attention, but we work those things out.

    Glukkake: Definitely agreed on your point about how to frame it. I consider myself an Enthusiast, so I can get really excited when I discuss things I enjoy, which has sometimes lead to me giving some people the idea that I'm Right and They're Wrong. So I try to police the way I speak about stuff like fitness, coffee, gaming and non-monogamy very rigorously, and I make it very clear that not everyone should be poly.

    I also have people very quickly point out that THEY couldn't possibly be poly because THEY are either much more committed than me, more jealous than me or more possessive than me. At that stage, I usually want to point out that none of those three are exclusive to monogamous people. Depending on how well I know the person and how the tenor of the conversation is, I sometimes do mention it. Jealousy and commitment go hand in hand with open relationships, really, but not in the way they do in monogamous ones.

    Allana: Yeah, squeezes who actively don't want to meet my wife or don't want to meet me are immediately a red flag for us. It's fine that they might still feel like an intruder, but we never (consciously) give them a reason to think so and we're very open and friendly about inviting them to dinner/ coffee/ movie nights when possible. Maybe that's why we still haven't really had that issue, though I've had squeezes admit they feel weird meeting my wife before actually meeting her.

    Cat Vincent: Yes! This! Definitely! Open relationships are INCREDIBLY complex. Time management, emotional affinity, conflict resolution, sexual safety and various other things become super, super important things to not just THINK about but to TALK about. On the plus side: It's also incredibly fascinating! We're learning so much about each other and ourselves with every new connection we make.

    (Asexual people can be kinksters as well, though)

    Okay, some general things:
    Me and my wife started listening to Dan Savage's podcast in 2010, and he brought us far along the path of thinking outside culturally normative views of what sexuality, romance and relationships can be. Or at least, he brought us on from being fairly non-standard already (she proposed to me, she kept her name, she's the breadwinner, we had had a couple of threesomes and we would regularly discuss sexual attractions to other people with no pressure or jealousy surfacing) to being ready for an open relationship. I moved away in 2011 for a year to work at a holiday resort (That's where I did Lazytown) and we said "Whatever happens happens, but we don't want to know about incidents". It never sat right with either of us, so after a long text conversation (the sort of conversation that's a lot easier to do via SMS than in a phone call or face to face) she suggested we open the relationship.

    We kind of just started by going "We can sleep with others and... let's take it from there! If it doesn't work, we'll close the relationship again." That has evolved, through trial and success and error, into us being completely open to having fully fledged relationships outside of our own, though we're still considering this to be the Primary relationship of each of us, if nothing else because we have a house and two cats and 11 years of history together. maybe we'll one day meet that one lady who sweeps the both of us off our feet and we enter into a complete triad. Who knows?! We sure don't, we're just enjoying the ride so far.

    A book I would recommend pretty much anyone to read is The Ethical Slut. It's very realistic about the pitfalls and joys of open relationships, and I love the way they discuss previous relationships with absolutely no bitterness or "failure" in their minds. Their chapters on dealing with jealousy and conflict are incredibly enlightening both for monos and polys. We've never been jealous people, but we've become MUCH better at dealing with conflict than we were before. We were very conflict-AVOIDING before, and the book taught us how to acknowledge and deal with conflicts as they arise, whether they be about someone we're seeing on the side or who left the pizza out overnight to be mauled by Cthulhu.
  6.  (11148.17)
    A couple more variations from my personal history.

    Shortly after the above relationship fell apart, I got into another relationship (I'll call him B), and we made the mistake of not discussing openness. I kind of stupidly assumed it was open (because he was cool and liberal, and therefore must think like me), and B assumed it wasn't. Ironically, since we were living together and I was now getting all the sex I wanted just with him, I didn't pursue any outside, while he was too horny not to ... but thought he had to do it on the DL. So we didn't have The Discussion until after I "caught" him in flagrante delicto. That was followed by a flurry of rumspringen, ménages à trois, and other non-English expressions, until we settled down into monogamy-by-default, which lasted until he was taken from me.

    A few years ago, I took in an acquaintance who needed a place to stay (call him Z), and when it became clear we were going to be more than just housemates, I made sure we had The Discussion. I wasn't really looking for a romantic relationship anymore, and Z (less burned out and cynical than me) was, so the sex stayed casual. He met T ... who ended up moving in with us. They're serious about each other, and usually joined at the hips. But T knows that Z and I have a history, and is confident enough about his place as #1, that he accepts a little physical intimacy between us, including occasional sex when he's not around. Between T and me, on the other hand ... no chemistry whatsoever, which is part of why he doesn't find me threatening: the cocky twerp can't imagine Z preferring me over him. :)
  7.  (11148.18)

    Great points. Can't argue with Ethical Slut recommendation. And yeah, few things sting more than being told you're poly because you lack commitment!

    "Asexual people can be kinksters"... and here we have a perfect example of my own blind spots. Didn't even occur to me to cover that (because in my brain, they're pretty much synonymous). Cheers.
  8.  (11148.19)
    Regarding being "vanilla". Comedian-musician Lynn Lavner has a song called "Enjoy Yourself", which is all about encouraging people to indulge their kinks. My favorite line from it, however, is the reminder: "Vanilla is a flavor too".
    • CommentTimeAug 29th 2013
    @Jason A. Quest, oh my god I'm totally stealing "Vanilla is a flavor too."

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