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    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    How do you even begin to express these things without squirming?

    Haha, oh man. For me it was like rock climbing. The first time you fall it's scary as fuck, but once you know that rope is there to catch and hold you, and once you know what if feels like to fall and have that rope stop you, it becomes easier to do it. The first time is hard but you kind of just have to do it to break the ice. Luckily though get used to it and it gets less squirmy each time. You might also be surprised how at times, you'll start sheepishly with one questions and then suddenly things come tumbling out and your sex life changes for a while as you try all the new things at once. This happened to us.

    Also, and I'm being totally serious here, sometimes when we want something we're really embarrassed to admit, we'll whisper it into each others' ears like a secret. It somehow makes it easier. Also, in my case, I communicate much better in written form than in verbal form, because i have time to write down my thoughts and edit them, so if there's an issue or something I want that i have trouble talking about verbally, I'll ask him over gchat or even in an email.

    Another way, and this one is tough, is to just ask each other as you do things if it's good. "How does this feel?" "Is this alright?" "Do you prefer I do it like this or this?" This one is tough because it puts it on the other person to figure out what you want, and you can't make them ask you questions, but I find it gets easier once one person takes the initiative.

    i hope this helps, i'll add more things as I remember them and when I don't have to leave for work soon.
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    This is brilliant, and I'm really enjoying Dan Savage
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013 edited
    allana 58 minutes ago edited (11148.95)
    Oddcult/anyone else to whom it applies:
    It's not really necessary for you to contribute every instance of your ignorance. You would better serve this discussion by only chiming when you DO relate to something someone else has said.
    Clearly you have some emotional prudishness that outweighs any sexual prudishness, and that's cool, you have a right to your vague sociopathies, but this isn't the place for them anymore.

    Again, whoa!

    I can't believe *i've* been called 'insulting' and given warnings of a sort, when you're happy to say something like this.

    I was talking in generalities, but you're being specifically rude to me now.

    Perhaps you should consider that just because a thread is titled something that you relate to, that does not mean you have the right to police the attitudes of people who are also contributing.

    You're trying to prude-shame me here and are judging me negatively and using some pretty insulting terms about that. Sociopathic, ignorant - not cool.

    This isn't just a club for happy poly people who're the only ones permitted to frame the terms of the discussion, and you're trying to shut me out of that with a highly judgemental and offensive set of prejudices of your own. Not really effective communication there. Especially when I've suggested a different model for relationships, that you're strongly rejecting and being quite dismissive about, which certainly is relevant to this discussion.

    I'm reluctant to draw conclusions from two people that identify as poly telling me I don't have a right to a voice because they don't like what I've got so say, but it hardly seems an example of this open- minded communication that you're claiming to espouse, and feels like the imposition of rules rather than a willingness to negotiate them.

    Why am I 'sociopathic' just because I need downtime and don't feel I owe explanations for that? How's it okay to say that? Now THAT is insulting! I've as much right to want to live that way without being judged for it, as anyone has.
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    @texture I *still* squirm when I talk about the things I want. I don't even think I'm particularly deviant, but a few of my kinks that I discovered did require some stumbly introductions from partners that totally could've gone wrong, but it was generally that heat of the moment/"Is this OK?" sort of experimentation. I even recall that I recently picked up a partner over a year ago who I wanted to try something with (that I will be intentionally vague about!).

    For the talking about it, I poked around at "hey, there's this thing I found online" and then "I bought this thing" and then "there's a thing I'm experimenting with" and then "do you want to introduce this into what we're doing?" It was a combination of text/photo/talking in person based, being flirty and seeing how responsive they were. Because talking about sexy things is sexy! Ultimately, I was still too nervous to work it into our situation. Because of my own shyness. But, that does mean that the next time I find someone who is into it, I'll try again to make it work.

    My biggest hurdle in any relationship (monogamous or not) has been to trust that my partner is on my side. That they're keen on joining me in my adventures and experience, that they don't want me to pretend to be someone I'm not just to spare their feelings, because for some reason I should be unhappy to keep them happy. Once I feel that, the breaking-out-of-my-shell communication comes. It can still take a while and it's scary. But it'll come.
  1.  (11148.5)
    Oh Argos is one wise person :-)

    Texture. My addition to that, is that the sooner you get in there the easier it is. Don't leave it until you are resenting things, and they are wondering what is going on in your head (because humans are incredibly good at 'not noticing' that anything is up, when every fibre of your being is yelling that something is up) because living life in a state of flight or fight is a really bad idea, it does huge damage that persists long after the relationship stuff is 'sorted'.

    (I'm still really struggling with my responses to really ordinary bits of life, I sabotage stuff that is going well, not good with needing to earn and being freelance... knowing who and what I am is about the only thing that is working well, everything else is a work in progress)
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    I've mentioned it before, and opinion on this book is OBVIOUSLY divided among the Chaplains, but you could give The Ethical Slut a go and see if you gain anything from it. There's a lot about opening yourself up to your partner and finding your ways together, negotiating boundaries and dealing with a range of similar situations. Maybe there are other books that are better suited if you're not specifically looking for poly, though.

    Dan Savage is great and I've listened to every single episode (I went through his entire archive when I started listening in 2010). He mentions a book called Sex At Dawn quite a few times, and I've been meaning to check that out. In general, though, he's great at the whole sex-positive advice thing. A good throughline of his is "Don't lay a kink or request out like you have cancer. Give it a positive 'hey, guess what we're gonna try and it's gonna be awesome!' spin rather than 'This is probably really disgusting, but do you think we could try this one thing- oh, never mind, you'll never agree' etc." Also "GGG" is a great one of his. Being Good, Giving and Game. AND, "sex is ridiculous". You should be able to be awkward and laugh about it. Sex is physical, interpersonal play. So Play! :)

    As for what I want... I get asked that question a lot, and I always come up short. I'm like "Uh... biting is nice... A...nal? Maybe light bondage?" and that's about it. I've realised that my sexual repertoire isn't all that well developed.

    It's kinda like my knowledge of web development. I learned to do HTML in the nineties, and I was REALLY fuckin' good at basic HTML, but when CSS came on the scene giving us all these advanced options, I was like "I don't know what to do with this." and for a while I just did HTML and the simplest of CSS bits to set up style. I got REALLY good at basic frames and tables. I was a fuckin' master of tables. And that's me now with sex. I know basic HTML really well (at least if my partners are to be believed) but my CSS skills are severely lacking. The difference is that in SEX I'm now involving myself in a community of people who are really good at CSS so I can expand my horizons a bit, and I'm dabbling myself.

    Wow, that might have been my most contrived allegory yet. :D
  2.  (11148.7)
    @ Magnulus;

    I highly respect how you've manage to keep this environment open throughout.
  3.  (11148.8)
    It might seem contrived to you Magnulus, but its a pretty normal to use one around the geeks...

    and some of them are so very very pretty but have to be hit on the head with a baseball batchunk of code before they notice anyone is flagging an interest...

    Which is where the 'next' issue comes in really. How do, what do others do around letting an interest in someone be known? I'm guessing that my, well, need to be on friendly terms and actually know someone before it (generally!) occurs to me that they are quite nice is the norm, but its sometimes a surprise on the part of others that I'm even looking twice at being friends with them let alone making any space for anything else to occur. Add in that I'm just a fairly friendly person and there are an awful lot of people out there who see a friendly female and *assume* ... argh, and they are never the ones who could assume from my pov!
  4.  (11148.9)
    Why am I 'sociopathic' just because I need downtime and don't feel I owe explanations for that? How's it okay to say that? Now THAT is insulting! I've as much right to want to live that way without being judged for it, as anyone has.
    This is a fair point. First, "sociopathy" is a shotgun term: loaded and imprecise. I'm not qualified to evaluate Oddcult's personality type, but I suspect there's a more descriptive and accurate term that could be used instead. Second, if one is comfortable living in a "non-normative" relationship in which intimacy-building communication may not be "coerced" by asking questions, and one can find one or more consenting adults who are OK with that ... it's no one else's place to judge that.

    On the other hand: Oddcult, you ought to understand that your model of a relationship with such limits on communication is "non-normative", and that needing more communication than that is not an act of hostility. Please stop complaining when others state that in their experience that level of incommunication in a poly (or even mono) relationship is likely to lead to a trainwreck.
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    You make some very salient points, Jason, and I'm in no way a moderator or the arbitrator of this thread, but: Can we please leave the discussion with Oddcult behind? It stopped being fruitful about three posts in and I would prefer for it not to continue.

    Littlepurplegoth: I really have no clue. There is very little method to what I do. APPARENTLY, I have a "gaze" that I set upon people without knowing (can you imagine that, Helen? :) ) but generally, I'm a flirtatious but slow-moving guy. I'm terrified of making an unwanted move, so I'll move at a glacial pace unless my vaguer advances are met with unmistakable welcome. I've been told more than once to "shut up and kiss me" either verbally or by simply stopping me talking with a kiss. On the other hand, because I'm so cautious, I've never made a move for a kiss that was not reciprocated, so I guess something's working.

    That's not really helpful. SOZ! :)

    Being in an open relationship is weird when it comes to meeting folk. Some, I can see instantly dismiss me the second I tell them. Some give me the initial dismissal that sounds more like a "That's weird for me... But I want to know more." and which is usually followed by lots of questions leading to an understanding that I'm not a cheat (the most galling piece of conflation I meet: Poly? Oh, so you're "Allowed to cheat") but actually an honest dude. There are the ones who are very intrigued, the ones who almost instantly "switch on" when I tell them, and the ones who are just like "Well, yeah. Makes sense." It always saddens me when I meet the ones who immediately dismiss me as "looking for a shag" when I tell them. I'm looking for love just like everyone else, and though I might not be as PRESENT as a primary boyfriend, I would be at least as loving. Sometimes, we all want a shag, but that's not nearly everything this is about... And some just don't want to see that.

    Which is fine. At least I know, so we know we're not compatible. That's the important part. And that's why I always disclose, despite it sometimes leading to awkward moments. OH WELL!
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    I've been trying to figure out how to write here because I get bogged down in details that don't really seem like they'll express what goes on with me. Either past experiences that went awry or the current singledom that has stretched for years now. It's an unwilling singledom, I don't identify as asexual, but it's one that I haven't worked to correct in any real way. Right now I don't have a relationship so I don't have an approach to share. Right now I have a God-I-could-just-beat-myself-with-a-brick-to-distract-myself-from-the-WANT.

    Maybe it's that monogamous and poly- situations have all left me feeling uncomfortable, constrained and unsure of myself. Or maybe it's just those relationships with those people were ultimately not right for me. It could be be the parameters of who is allowed to do what, or it could be the actual personalities... it's a little hard to say.

    Either way, lying to oneself seems to have been what did the relationships in. Sometimes it was me, sometimes it was my primary partner. We've been talking about communication and it's a pretty complicated subject. But it is absolutely vital because without it there is little reliable emotional health to count on. I've dated people that I knew from the outset weren't the healthiest around and I made the express request that they don't hide their feelings from me. When shit went down guess just what was the lynch pin....

    I think I foul up when I feel like asking the other person to change or to give a little and then I don't because it runs right into the idea that I like them how they are. Basically, it's a personal trap between mind and heart and I haven't figured out how to talk with someone about these areas.

    So either way, yes to communications, with the necessary corollary that it may be best assume that not everyone has the same ability level and that the methods and words we use may be totally and completely different.
    To that, I'd like to quote @allana - "Women especially are exposed to a lot of fiction that describes the height of passion as some wordless communion of souls, which makes us all feel like we're insulting our partners by instructing them. And men are exposed to a lot of experience = authority rhetoric, without any reflection on the nature or quality of that experience. " <---- YES, THIS. TOTALLY THIS.

    But, to the original question/discussion point. I'm not strictly monogamous, though I hold out the idea that I could be if I someone I really dug asked me to. Maybe it's a yearning for what Magnus and Bob identified as "it just feels right." I'm open to conversations about alternate sex partners, but I might be more squidgy about romantic partners for various reasons of past experiences. Everything is couched in might and may because it's all horribly subjective to how comfortable I feel with a given partner, who is, at this time, completely hypothetical.

    Someone who up and assumed poly- would be as much a non-starter as someone who assumed monogamy, especially if I weren't allowed to talk about either.

    [And I didn't even get into all the kink stuff.][But yay I kept whining about being single to a minimum. I think.]
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    Also wanted to add one thing that was on my mind all day -

    In my experience, "communication" doesn't mean "All partners must know all details of all sexual activities," rather it means "discuss your needs and wants so we can all be on the same page and gets those needs and wants met." For one person, that need might be to know the details of sexual escapades engaged with other people, while for another person, their need might be not wanting to know any of the details. I've met poly people who discuss everything, poly people who discuss nothing beyond "i fucked someone just fyi," others who want to meet any potential partners their partners might have, others who want nothing to do with their partner's partners, etc...

    What I mean is, it's incredibly reductive to say that "communication" always means spilling every detail about every sexual encounter. It's my experience that communication means being upfront about your needs rather than beating around the bush and then getting all passive aggressive about it.
  5.  (11148.13)
    First off... thank you all who've shared. This thread is enlightening. I want to have an intimate sexual/asexual relationship with each and every one of you now!

    For me it's hard to talk about sex/sexuality without talking about a lot of other shit that is/was wrong with me. I've only ever had monogamous relationships. Even the few (two?) times where I stated that I needed to be able to see other people while maintaining a "dating" relationship with someone, I never actually did. Oddly enough (or possibly not) I would have been completely OK with the other person doing so. I like to think that at least I'm not a hypocrite. That said, I can count the number of relationships I've had that hit the six month mark on one hand and still have fingers to spare so my sample set may not be statistically significant. In my youth, I really wanted to find "the one" and I put a lot of energy into that. The problem was that I was an emotional wreck so only seemed able to connect with other emotional wrecks. It turned out that marrying the first person who would have me didn't actually fix the parts of myself that I didn't like. It just made things worse.

    These days, I've mostly sorted my issues (it turns out that I'm not a consolation prize and fuck anyone who would treat me like I was). In the process I've come to the conclusion that there really aren't soulmates or what-have-yous. There are many people whom I would consider a good match. Most of them are not interested in me romantically, and that's OK. Eventually, I'll find one who is and that will be even better. Trying to define a relationship with that person before I even meet her seems absurd. If she wants an open relationship, I would try it. If it didn't work out because it turns out that I can't deal then I would be sad for a bit and then move on with my life. If the hypothetical woman wants a monogamous relationship, that's fine too. I never had any trouble being faithful in my previous failures, I can't imagine I'd have trouble with someone who A) really wants to be with me & B) meets my emotional needs.

    I expect I would find an open relationship challenging for a couple of reasons. I don't think the sex with other people would bother me but the intimacy might. The other thing is that I'd feel pressure to see other people too and I really am sick of dating. I do it now because I want to have a romantic partner and how the hell else am I going to find one? I may resent the having to do that shit again when damn, the woman I want to spend my time with is at home. And then resent myself for feeling like it's a competition. It's possible that I'd work through that, come out the other side and reach a point where I'd take a "better you than me" attitude. Or possibly I'd pack my emotional bags and move on. Of course dating may be a lot more fun when all the pressure for it to be anything more than it is is gone. Who knows, maybe it would be the greatest thing ever. (Note to self: try and be more like that guy today.)

    Put me down on the side of communication good, regardless of the number of people involved in the relationship. Bram, my advice, for what it's worth, would be to have a conversation about wanting to have a conversation about sex. That way you can be up front about how uncomfortable you are, but since you love your partner and want to make things work, you're putting yourself out there. I can tell you from experience, when sex feels like a chore it becomes one. Of course, I would literally get yelled at in the middle of for changing things (I'm still not sure what I was doing before or after, save that after I felt significantly less like I wanted to have sex anymore), so my experience may be on the extreme end of things.
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    @Littlepurplegoth I basically just lay it right out on the table of "Hi! Yes, that's my partner, but we're in an open dontcallitarelationshipcurrentlybecauseihatethatwordbutwereallyneedaword thing. That means we see people on the side! How do you do?" My blunt and awkward oversharing tends to get my point across pretty well. I also tend to get drunk and just be all "SO I LIKE YOU IN A SEXY WAY". No game.

    For negotiating the fact that they are walking into a poly relationship if I didn't do the overshare thing, I liken it to having the STD talk. "Hey, I like you, I want to take things past the friend thing, but there's something you should know about me..."

    I feel like also establishing what they might come to expect of you helps. I know that navigating with women who have met my dude, they're immediately assuming I'm doing the "OKCupid/come home with us and by us I mean to have my boyfriend fuck you" thing. Which is, arggghnoo. And I find that's where some people get weirded out by meeting/interacting with the primary partner. Like there's this expectation that you should all get along together and eventually become one big triad, which is a whooole other thing, but I just wanted to touch on that since Argos(i think?) mentioned it.
    • CommentAuthorArgos
    • CommentTimeAug 31st 2013
    Yeah, I've met some couples where it's like, every potential new partner has to meet the primary and get along with them and everyone has to be friends. Not necessarily to become a triad, but more along the lines of "if this is someone I don't like enough to be friends with it's not someone I feel comfortable you dating" kind of thing. Which can be okay with some people and intrusive for others.
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2013
    Some choice stuff in Sellmeyoursoul's post!

    Most of them are not interested in me romantically, and that's OK. Eventually, I'll find one who is and that will be even better. Trying to define a relationship with that person before I even meet her seems absurd. If she wants an open relationship, I would try it. If it didn't work out because it turns out that I can't deal then I would be sad for a bit and then move on with my life. If the hypothetical woman wants a monogamous relationship, that's fine too.

    This is a very good way to think about things. Being able to let things go is incredibly important, and understanding that it's not because you don't CARE, it's a realisation that there are other things that take precedence.

    I've been kinda "needy" in the past and felt almost resentful of friends I really wanted to be with in a sexual or romantic way but who were not interested in me like that. I would even get irrationally jealous of their boyfriends if they had/ got them, which is SO WEIRD, because I'm not jealous at ALL with my wife. I would even get jealous of friends' boyfriends when I was in a MONO relationship. I still don't quite understand how that worked.

    Since then, I've been able to chill out and abolish the NEED for people and relationships that I would LIKE to have. If it doesn't happen, that's FINE. I still occassionally get little wibbles when I discover that someone I'm interested in has a partner already, but they're only tiny quick reflexes and are quickly excised.

    The other thing is that I'd feel pressure to see other people too and I really am sick of dating. I do it now because I want to have a romantic partner and how the hell else am I going to find one? I may resent the having to do that shit again when damn, the woman I want to spend my time with is at home. And then resent myself for feeling like it's a competition

    Yeah, we had some bouts of this competition thing early on when we opened. I think it's a fairly normal first few stages of an open relationship. We were still figuring things out and figuring out how this works for us, and we got competitive in our own ways.

    Bram, my advice, for what it's worth, would be to have a conversation about wanting to have a conversation about sex.

    YES! Schedule a discussion about sex a week or so ahead of time. Put her mind to rest that you're only looking for a discussion and not looking to assign blame to anyone for anything, etc, of course. But do PLAN to have the conversation. This means that no one would have to get blindsided by questions. Maybe write down in a little shared notebook any questions you would like to ask each other and check in on it so you can know what you'll be discussing. It's a good thing to have thought through these things, because you can really hone in on what you're thinking about it.

    Then talk about it for as long as it feels useful and schedule a new chat a week from then. ESPECIALLY stop if you get into an argument. If you're getting nowhere, stop. Breathe. Schedule another discussion. You'll have a LOT to think about and a LOT to digest. You'll most likely be able to resolve that argument that happened once you've both been away and thought about it.

    In my experience, "communication" doesn't mean "All partners must know all details of all sexual activities," rather it means "discuss your needs and wants so we can all be on the same page and gets those needs and wants met."

    This. So much this.

    Jackcrowder: Thanks, man. :) I hate a discussion where everyone doesn't feel comfortable sharing their POV for fear of misdirected anger. I know I can be quite opinionated and sound as if I don't want a discussion, which is really frustrating because I genuinely, actively want to have respectful discussions with people I disagree with. I've had brilliant discussions with pro-gun folk and pro-life folk so I SHOULD be able to keep it civil with someone who's "just mono". :D
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2013
    ITT: I learn how much people who claim to be all about communication actually dislike communication unless it's on their terms and policed by them.
    • CommentAuthorflecky
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2013 edited
    I must be a bit of a square around this subject. When I was younger and had many "sex-buddies", I was really unhappy. I was trying to find some sort of unrealistic love. I was never really able to maintain a relationship longer than a few months, and would then move on to the next one. When talk of sex gets all clinical and detailed I sorta start flinching and feel repulsed. I can't help it; that's my stuff. It's like the world of pornography - I just see damage, pain, and abuse in it.

    I'd like to believe in monogamous relationships, but I can understand poly. Saying that, all I can see is jealousy, shame etc in multiple partners. Even "threesomes" led to resentments and destroyed my friendships. Someone always seems to get hurt.

    I'm at a point in my life where I just can't do relationships. Sex has just become something I associate with my dodgy past. I really fear I've become some sorta sociopath. A reasonably friendly one, but a sociopath nonetheless. Ugh! :)
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2013
    I'm extremely wary of considering sexuality as "lifestyle" - that kind of thing can become coercive without even intending to be. A well meant self-help book can easily turn into a Book of Rules. Not that it has to, or that lifestyling sexuality is inherently bad. The discussion upthread about finding ways to say what you want is core to this, I think. There's urges and wants and all kinds of complicated emotions we want to act on, but to do so we need to somehow explain ourselves; it doesn't even have to be verbal, but you do need to develop some sort of language for it, even if it's just tapping your foot in a certain way in a bathroom stall. A language needs a community of speakers, using the language in a community influence how we think and act - and presto! A lifestyle is born.

    I suspect that almost any arrangement for having your bits rubbed the way you like can be made to work, if you can cook up a language that works for it. My experience of open relationships - supplemented by some discreet asking around - leads me to think there's a lot of sexual strangeness going on which people simply don't know the words to talk about. I see the attractions of taking cues from other people with similar arrangements, but all in all, I think I'll try to defend the hard and thorny road of mostly working things out by yourselves.

    The emotional stakes, and the security stakes are so high, or maybe just really unpredictable, when it comes to sex. For relationships to work, we need to work out ways to communicate not just what we want, but a whole bunch of interpersonal power-related things which sounds really BDSM-y when you get down to the gritty details. Stakes - what do we want out of this particular interaction, and what will we lose if one of us gives up this whole thing? What strategies for getting your way are allowed and not? To get along and make each other happy we all dominate - and we all submit - from time to time. And while we all, in theory, speak the same language, the strategy to elicit submission or dominance that works for one person will cause another person to use the metaphorical safeword and walk away. I really believe every new configuration of people need to work out their own language, their own unique configuration that lets us get along.
    • CommentTimeSep 1st 2013
    And Oddcult's on a break for a bit so he can cool off.

    Similar boring crap will be dealt with the same, except there will be very little warning.

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