It can be challenging to be authentic, especially when your own way of thinking goes against the grain of societal norms. Restricting a person, their choices, and their lifestyle through shame is one way people seek control and safety in relationships. In honor of Pride week, and all of the progress our LGBTQ* cousins have made in proclaiming their authentic identities, here is a past article [originally posted in August of 2012.] I wrote about claiming my own authenticity as a bisexual, polyamorous person. Enjoy!
Who gets to decide who is in your family? In the US at least, the answer to that in many cases is… NOT you! The definition of family is determined at a legal level for a variety of purposes, such as healthcare benefits and hospital visitation. Many of these issues, of course, have been at the heart of the fight over same sex marriage rights.
Now, a family in Connecticut find themselves on the forefront of another aspect of this fight over the definition of “family,” that of zoning laws and housing rights.
Recently we who observe the Gregorian calendar celebrated the turning of the calendar year, that artificial time when we divide one block of time from another, to enable our finite human brains to cope with being part of a slice of the infinite. In other words, Happy New Year!
Today I’m sharing an excellent essay below, by my dear friend Francesca Gentille, on keeping things in perspective, and learning to choose interpretations around certain events. I can sure relate to her plight, having been through something similar just a couple months ago, with drains blocked and hot water shut down so we’d at least have toilets during a private event. (And as one of the priestesses for her ceremony on New Year’s Eve, I was also glad of the heads-up, so I could make sure to pee in advance! LOL)
I also share her perspective in that essay, that life can be made a bit easier by actively choosing interpretations that lead toward happiness. Believing that the world isn’t “out to get me” is generally a stronger, more empowered position to take, in many cases leading to my being able to see more options and possibilities than I could from the “poor me” position.
I also feel it’s important, though, to honor that for some folks — e.g., clinically depressed, or recently bereaved — the ability to make the most empowered interpretation just isn’t there. Continue reading
A month or two ago, I was contacted by some folks who are actually going through a common poly nightmare, at least for parents: A contentious custody battle in which one parent is accused of being a bad parent “because they are polyamorous.” It’s a nightmare in part because there have been some notorious cases in which a family has lost custody of their kids due at least in part to their being polyamorous. This sort of thing varies a LOT by location, and at least as much by the particular judge/s hearing the case. Even when polyamory is brought up as an issue, it does not always (or even often) lead to a loss of custody. But when it’s you and your family undergoing the scrutiny, the situation can be frankly terrifying.
I know this from personal experience, because about a decade ago my own daughter was taken by Child Protective Services (aka CPS) — for a situation that was ultimately unrelated to polyamory, but we didn’t know that at the time. She was eventually returned to us after a harrowing week, once they’d determined that their abuse fears were groundless. It was, however, an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and it has had lasting impacts on our daughter and our family. 🙁
Thus, I was very motivated to provide as much help as possible. I started by sending a couple of links, and then went on to write a detailed letter of some possible issues that might come up, and some possible responses to each one. I asked for and received permission to post the letter (devoid of identifying information of course.)
It is with great sincerity that I hope that no one reading these words ever has need of the advice and links I’ve included below. And it is for those few of you who might ever need these links that I share this information now. If you are going through something like this, please remember:
PS: Would you like to talk to me privately about issues around polyamory and/or child custody? I’m happy to schedule a time to talk to you. I do 30 minutes for free, or 60 minutes for 1/2 price. Contact me, and we’ll find a good time to chat by phone or Skype!
Letter to Polyamorous Parents Facing a Child Custody Battle
Dear [poly parents]:
Let me start by saying that I am so sorry that you all are facing this sort of prejudice. It’s terrible, and I know how very challenging it can be. (((hugs)))
Boundaries and Consent
My apologies, friends, for not getting back to this much sooner. “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans,” of course. (wry smile) But it has recently been impressed upon me again that I need to finish this discussion. Given that we just had our last Poly Pool Party of the season, this may feel a little like closing the barn door after the horse is out. Nevertheless, I’m going to proceed under the sincere intention that this just-past party was NOT the last such party ever, and to address these issues for any future events at my home – or any similar events elsewhere.
So… the last time I wrote about this topic, I talked about the aspects of physical safety, around pools in general, and at the San Leandro Poly Pool Party in particular. (It would be great if you could go read that.) This time, I’d like to talk about boundaries and consent.
As you know if you’ve ever signed up to attend one of our Poly Pool Parties, we have a FAQ, and we ask you to read it before attending. Mostly, this has worked, and people who’ve attended our parties have felt welcome, comfortable, and have chosen to return. Occasionally, however, there have been issues. It appears to me that many of these issues stem from either not reading or not understanding the FAQ and the guidelines set out therein. I’d like to invite you to read the FAQ again, and I’ll explain a few things in greater detail, and then to cover some other information not directly covered in our FAQ.
First, I’d like to clarify the intent of this particular party. The Poly Pool Party is a SOCIAL EVENT which happens to be clothing optional. It is NOT a “sexy party.” Sex doesn’t happen at this party. It is not the expectation that people will “hook up” at the party, or after it (though what you do on your own time is your own business.)
Trust me when I say that this is not because we are anti-sex in any way. 🙂 We love sex. We even love sex at parties. We just don’t allow sex at THIS party. Continue reading
This is part 1 of an open letter to folks who attend my Poly Pool Parties. With all the different places I announce the events these days, it’s hard to make sure that folks actually see something like this. So I figured I’d park it here on my blog for easy access. Enjoy!
PS: Happy Bisexual Awareness Week! Are you doing anything fun to celebrate?
Dear Weirdness/poly/open/non-mono friends:
As you may have noticed, I’ve been having more than our usual number of Poly Pool Parties this season (due in part to there being some question as to whether I’ll still OWN the house next summer…; the next one is THIS SATURDAY 9/27; RSVP here!). So maybe the extra parties are why I’m having extra “issues.” Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that a) the parties have been opened to a wider audience in recent years, and b) it’s been a while since I’ve really discussed both safety and consent, and how they apply to this event.
First and foremost, I’d like to encourage everyone to read — or re-read — the PPP Frequently Asked Questions (http://bit.ly/oVjQra). There’s a lot of important information in there that we’ve codified in the 17 years (!) that we’ve been running this event. It would really help me if you’d all actually… you know… READ it. 🙂
Over the next couple of days, I’d like to address three related issues: I) Physical Safety, II) Consent, and III) Emotional Safety/comfort. Today I’m covering Physical Safety (at the PPPs in particular.)
Today I’m offering up one of my early posts that many here may never have seen, expanded and with a few new links. In it I discuss some things around relationship endings, the compulsory monogamy paradigm, and the relationship between correlation and causation. I welcome your input on these thoughts.
Polyamory and Control
In polyamory (and open relationships), we’re often admonished for being “out of control,” or told that we should feel ashamed of who and what we are. “Control” often shows up in polyamorous relationships in various other ways, too. For instance, people sometimes try to control their partner/s — or even more commonly, their partner’s partner/s) through inflexible rules. [Note: these are in contrast to Agreements, which require cooperation; read more here]. Poly people also often try to control their own feelings of jealousy or insecurity by suppressing or repressing them. As Rocky the Squirrel says, “that trick never works!”
Fortunately, there are actually ways to moderate, work through, and get through such difficult situations and feelings. Thanks go to Veronica Monet for this clear, step by step guide to Getting What You Want by Giving Up Control:
How to Get What You Want by Giving Up Control of Self and Other
1) Breathe and Connect to Your Feelings
2) Feel Empathy and Compassion for Yourself
3) Replace Negative Thoughts with Hopeful Scenarios
4) Extend Empathy to Others
5) Let Go of Control and Practice Acceptance
Simple, powerful steps, with powerful results. (The rest of the article is great, too, and I recommend it.)
I myself am receiving powerful messages right now to “let go” in my life. It’s not been something I’ve been traditionally good at. This is part of why I’m reaching out more for help of all sorts. I need some “hopeful scenarios” to replace the negative thoughts, you know?
In that article, Veronica also quotes Brené Brown, well known expert on shame and vulnerability:
“You cannot shame or belittle people into changing. This means we can’t use self-hate to lose weight, we can’t shame ourselves into becoming better parents and we can’t belittle ourselves or our families into becoming who we need them to be. . . Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” [Brene Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”, page 197]
This speaks directly to what I was talking about a couple of weeks back (in Facebook) when I said I disagreed with the notion that we can hate ourselves into health. It’s also relevant to other situations in my life which are requiring letting go. It is HARD to ask for and accept help, especially when one has always been accustomed to being the one to offer it. It’s especially hard for men in our culture. But it can be hard for women (or people of any gender) as well, in part because it requires letting go of the popular USAian idea that we can be “rugged individuals” and should be able to do everything on our own. It also requires letting go of the shame, and the internal messages that to ask for help is to have failed, or that we’re unworthy, or will never be good enough. It also requires us to give up control over what other people think of us, and the fear that they’ll judge us negatively for who we are, or what we need.
One of the greatest gifts in polyamory (and sometimes in open relationships), in my view, is that of community. As we honestly open ourselves to others, and create bonds and ties and networks, we naturally create a community of not only lovers, but of loving people of all sorts; people who can be there for us in times of loss and hardship, as well as times of joy and celebration. It’s hard (for me, at least)to trust in this net, because of the strong messages of nuclear family, and individual responsibility. But as I allow myself to be more open and more vulnerable, I am finding more and more support — mentally, emotionally, and physically — is available to me.
Of course, this requires that I be open to receive that support, and that can be a challenge for a perfectionist like me. But by following those steps Veronica outlines above, I can breathe through the confusing feelings, and eventually learn to accept what IS. Not always easy, but usually possible.
I find that for me, part of the process is to continually remind myself to stay in a state of gratitude, which allows me to be open to receiving the gifts that may come my way, as well as allowing me to remain relaxed and able to respond appropriately. “Fear is the mindkiller,” after all, and when I’m in a state of contraction, resistance and fear, I often cannot move, quite literally.
So it is now that I end this post where I began my day, in gratitude for my community. I am grateful for so many of you, both those whom I know, and those whom I’ve never met, and may never meet. I am grateful for those who can help me with my physical and financial needs, and for those who can help me with my emotional, mental or spiritual needs. It is an article of faith for me, that in giving to each other, we always give back to ourselves. And I am especially grateful to my friend Adam, at the moment, who is providing an example that yes, it IS possible — through gratitude, acceptance, and letting go — to change for the better.
I hope by sharing these thoughts I can inspire you, as I have been inspired today by my friends and community. And may you always, always remember, that
PS: Are you interested in talking with me about polyamory, or about any of the topics in this blog? I’m happy to give back via a Free 30-minute session, or a 1/2 price 60-minute one. Past clients have reported increased happiness, decreased feelings of shame and jealousy, and have gained clarity and useful tools through working with me in a co-creative process. I’d love to help you understand and manifest your own best life and loves! Contact me and we’ll set up a time that works for you. 🙂
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
[© 2014 Dawn M. Davidson]
I’d intended to continue my series of 5 Ways to Meet Poly/Open People today. But life, as they say, is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Instead, today I’m taking the time to commemorate Tuesday’s passing of Morning Glory Zell, Pagan Priestess, author, and (co-)originator of the word “polyamorous.” Many others will tell her story more fully, and with more historical references. I’ll be telling the ways in which she affected me personally, and how she intersected with my experiences of both Paganism and Polyamory.
Meeting Morning Glory
Morning Glory had an impact on my life long before I knew it. I first met her in the late 80’s or early 90’s, up at Annwfn, the Church of All Worlds retreat center outside of Ukiah, CA. Continue reading
Most of the time, in this blog, I focus on polyamory and other forms of “ethical non-monogamy.” Today, I’m offering something involving another facet of my own “outside the box” nature: Paganism. In a somewhat uncharacteristic way for me, I’m going to offer the poetry first, and the explanations after. So scroll down if you’re interested in more background on how this poem came to be, and why I’m posting it here. Enjoy! ~♥ Dawn
Out In The World, the Goddess Speaks
(A poem by Dawn Davidson, © 2014)
Out in the wind
the Goddess speaks:
Branches whispering to one another, swaying in the wind.
“Bend;” she says, “flexibility is the key,
lest in bearing your natural pressures, you would otherwise break.”