Tag Archives: monogamy

A selection of Venetian carnival masks

Abuse in (poly) relationships: A link roundup

[Photo above is of Venetian masks — what sort of masks might we be wearing in relationship? Is it possible to safely unmask abusers in our communities?]

Sometimes in polyamory (and other forms of “ethical non-monogamy”), there are things we need to talk about that aren’t much fun. Over the past few months, there’s been a conversation going on about one such topic, that of abuse and predators within the poly community. It’s a challenging conversation in part because people have a desire to separate themselves from it (e.g., “oh that’s not [polyamory/ethical non-monogamy/whatever]; that’s just [cheating/abuse/creepy behavior]”.) All sorts of relationships can be done healthily, or unhealthily. There are abusive monogamous relationships, as well as healthy ones, and there are abusive polyamorous relationships, as well as healthy ones. No relationship style has a lock on either “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

However, in trying to distinguish that not all polyamorous relationships are abusive — which is a normal and natural desire! — we can sometimes, unwittingly, create a situation in which people who are doing these “bad behaviors” can hide out, flourish, and have a perfect place in which to prey on their victims.  There are things about polyamory that make it sometimes more likely that abuse can happen, and there are other ways in which polyamory can complicate an already existing situation.  So how do we talk about this sort of thing, and what sort of response should the community have, when such situations arise?

This is the topic of an upcoming discussion in our local East Bay Poly Potluck community, As background for this discussion, I’m providing some links to discussions that have been ongoing all around the US on this topic in the past few months. There’s a lot I could say about a lot of them, but I’m mostly just presenting them as a list of links.  In a couple of cases there’s a tiny bit of commentary, drawn from the Poly Leadership Network list, where several lively discussions have been ongoing.  Mostly, though, I’m just presenting the links for you to read, digest, and make up your own mind about.

Please be gentle with yourself as you read these. Some accounts can be triggery. Please be mindful of the trigger warnings on some pages, if that applies to you. Take time, take breaks, go for walks; whatever you need to do to keep yourself grounded and safe.  It’s important reading, but equally important that you remain internally safe, as well as externally.

Continue reading

Got Jealousy? Join Me at Conferences & Workshops!

Happy Valentine’s Day (almost)!  I’ll be presenting 4 times in the SF Bay Area this coming week. Perhaps you can join me at one or more events? It’s not too late!  List up front; longer descriptions below:

Continue reading

Myths of Monog. & Nuclear Family: Thurs 10/16/14, 7pm Mtn

Exploring the Myths of Monogamy & the Nuclear Family
(a Teleseminar 10/14/16)

Loving More Non-profit, the longest-running organization supporting polyamory and relationship choice, is running a series of teleseminars. Their next one is this Thursday 10/16/14, at 7pm Mountain time /6pm Pacific/ 9pm Eastern. Robyn Trask — host and head of Loving More — is thoughtful and experienced.  I recommend her highly!

Read the whole announcement on the Loving More Website

October 16, 2014. 7:00PM (Mountain Time)
Exploring the Myths of Monogamy & the Nuclear Family
Cost is $5, Free for Loving More Members
(see below for details)

 Register Now


Are monogamy and the nuclear family really based on inherent human nature? Is the common narrative of male paternity certainty and female security real? This presentation draws strongly from the works of Merlin Stone (When God Was A Woman), Riane Eisler (Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body) and the NY Times Bestselling book by Ryan and Jethá, Sex at Dawn. We will look at the flaws inherent in the study of ancient cultures and sexuality, as well as the possibility of mistakes in the common narrative of sexuality derived from mid-nineteenth century scientists and anthropologists. Sex, power, culture; how are these things linked? Patriarchal culture, religion and morality have greatly influenced the common narrative of sexuality and human relations, but are these narratives accurate? We will explore how these narratives have contributed to a disconnect for many with human sexual nature and contributed to many of the challenges inherent in modern relationships and “battle of the sexes,” as well as ways to see our species in a different light.

Presented by: Robyn Trask

Cost:  Live or recorded webinar is $5, Free for Loving More Donor/Members*

It is best to register ahead of time for the webinar. A recording will be available after the webinar (usually by the next day). We recommend people use the call-in by phone option, instead of using your computer, when joining the live meeting as you will get considerably better sound quality.  Space is limited – Click here to register now.

* All webinars are free to Loving More Donor/Members, contact Loving More directly for access code for the webinar.

Email Robyn@LoveMore.com, please include type of membership, annual or monthly, and specific webinar you wish to participate in or view. 

Miss the webinar? Listen later!

Webinars can be attended live and are also recorded to be viewed at your convenience. Live attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the webinar.

Check out past webinars available on the Loving More website!

Past Titles include:

Polyamorous Families and Children
Loving More Survey Highlights
Jealousy: A Journey of Personal Growth
Polyamory Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts of Polyamory Dating and Relating
Negotiating Boundaries and Polyamorous Relationship Agreements
Beyond Monogamy? Introduction to Polyamory and other Open Relationship Choices
8 Keys to Successful Polyamorous Relating

Loving More Members contact Robyn@lovemore.com for access codes to past webinars with a fee. Please include webinar title and type of membership (monthly or annual).

Hope you can listen in, because…

No matter who or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS ok!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Like Teleseminars?  Check out the Jealousy First Aid series that I did last fall with Kathy Labriola!  TIP: Don’t forget to sign up to get the Free Handouts. 🙂

Green First Aid KitJealousy First Aid (JFA #1)
MORE Jealousy First Aid (JFA #2)
More Options for More Jealousy (JFA #3)

 

 

PantheaCon2014 Cover

Join me at 2 upcoming conferences!

Happy almost-Valentine’s Day! I have good news for folks who will be in the SF Bay Area over the next two weekends:  There are two upcoming conferences at which I’ll be appearing, and at which I’d love to meet up with you! PantheaCon2014 Cover

First up is Pantheacon, an awesome gathering of thousands of people from all over the world. Filled with all sorts of Pagans and people interested in and/or practicing various forms of “alternative” spiritualities, this conference every year over the Presidents’ Day weekend offers a dazzling array of concerts, workshops, dealer’s room, rituals, classes, books, costumes, and much, much more. I’ll be co-teaching a class with Francesca Gentille (on the topic of creating your own best relationship model), at 2pm Sunday 2/16, in the Church of All Worlds hospitality suite on the 2nd floor of the Double Tree Hotel in San Jose.  If you’re of a mind to join us for a day or a weekend, check out the link here: http://pantheacon.com/wordpress/ I’d love to see you there!

Next up is the 3rd International Conference on the Future of Monogamy and Non-monogamy, to be held this year February 21-23 in Berkeley, California. With multiple tracks including Academic, Clinical, Art & Folklore, and Public Education, this conference has something to offer almost everyone interested in polyamory, open relationships, and other related topics.  Kathy Labriola (my co-presenter for the Jealousy teleseminars last fall) will also be there. I’m scheduled in the Public Education Track on Saturday, and I’d love to see you there! Click here to find out more and/or buy tickets: https://sites.google.com/site/ipachome/

Whether or not we get to see each other in person soon, I wish you all the best for this Valentine’s Day season of love.

And remember:  No matter who or how many you love, Love is always OK!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  I’m still running my “winter specials” — reduced prices on coaching packages.  I’d love to help you and your loves have relationships that are sizzling hot, and truly fulfilling!  Call me or email to set up a time for your free 30 minute consultation. 🙂

love_outside_the_box_white_on_dark_t_shirts-r734308d7aa2c48a6a7a731d0498738ca_8nfnu_216PPS:  Need something for your Valentine(s)?  You might want to check out my Zazzle Store: (zazzle.com/LoveOutsideTheBox*). I’ve got lots of items for sale, including things with my logo (some are customizable!), and also stuff with the poly “pi flag” design, or other nifty things. Or just shop Zazzle through my link, and find awesome stuff for everyone you love!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2014 Dawn M. Davidson]

C

Consorce — Alternative to Divorce, and/or Poly by Another Name?

Consorce is a new word derived from the Latin for “cohabitation.” It’s an alternative to “divorce” described in the article Don’t Get a Divorce, Get a ‘Consorce’.* Here’s an excerpt:

“The idea of married couples deciding on a ‘consorce,’ rather than a divorce, is this: Why should a couple split up the family funds, maintain two dwellings, involve the courts in their lives, hire attorneys and cause each other months or years of suffering when they could simply agree that the romantic part of their marriage has ended and that they will remain married and live together as friends and partners, in order to maintain a level of consistency for their children?”

Interestingly, the article insists that those who decide upon a ‘consorce’ arrangement are NOT engaged in an “open marriage,” because they are no longer having sex with one another. I find that an interesting position, and I’m not certain that I would agree.

Here are a few questions that occurred to me as I thought about this concept:

  • Is a ‘consorce’ ethical (especially for someone who originally vowed monogamy)?
  • Is it good for the children, because it keeps the family “intact”?
  • Might it be bad for the children, if, for instance, they remain exposed to volatile emotions, or tension in the home?
  • Is it necessary to lie to the children about what’s going on, to preserve the appearance of a “normal family”?  What about lying to school officials? Neighbors? Family and friends? Is that ethically justifiable?
  • Is a consorce another word for cheating or adultery?
  • Conversely, is it polyamory (or at least consensual non-monogamy or ‘designer relationships’) by another name?
  • Would a consorce be something to use a Time Limited Agreement on? Why or why not?

What do YOU think? As always, I welcome your input! Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS: One of the services I offer is that of creation of “Life Milestone Ceremonies,” such as weddings, relationship change rituals, baby blessings and other markers of significant life events. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to explore creating a handfasting, handparting, consorce agreement, or any other Agreement or ritual with one or more partners. I’m happy to help support you in having the life and relationships of your dreams!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

*[Thanks to Eric C. in private communication for this interesting link!]

Time Limited Agreements [Tip #9]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry about Time Limited Agreements is Tip #9, from my Agreements Workbook series.  Find out below how short term Agreements with built in review dates can help support your relationships.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Do you want to pick my brain about anything to do with poly? Maybe get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you may be interested in the package deals I’m offering on my 1:1 counseling/coaching services. Let me know how I can support your relationships and explorations! I’m happy to do a FREE consultation to get things started.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

Agreements Tip #9: Time Limited Agreements

One incredibly important tool in the Agreements toolbox is that of Time Limited Agreements. These are Agreements that are made with a specific, planned “review date,” at which time the Agreement “expires” and must be re-negotiated, renewed, or dropped (upon agreement of all partners.) I’ve also heard these described as “Time-Bound Experiments,” which is a great way to express it that emphasizes the short-term and experimental nature of these Agreements.

Whatever you choose to call them, putting a deliberate review date on the Agreement is incredibly useful in certain cases.  In particular it helps when one or more of the partners:

  • must give up something temporarily, in service to the relationship as a whole
  • need to agree to do something for the time being that they don’t like, find inconvenient, or would rather not do
  • are in the process of rebuilding trust (see p. ___ [in a future entry.])

Why Time Limited?

Trapped in an experiment?

Feeling Trapped??

Sometimes when making Agreements, one or more partners can end up feeling “trapped” by the Agreement, especially when that Agreement is seemingly “forever,” (e.g., a standard marriage Agreement with an assumption or explicit agreement for monogamy.) Sometimes these feelings can become so intense that it leads people to break or ‘bend’ the Agreement, because they feel (rightly or wrongly!) that there’s no way to ‘win’ or to negotiate something that might work better. Having a short term to the Agreement can help to alleviate these feelings, while still creating the safe container that other partner/s may need for growth or experimentation)

How Long?

Therefore, when using Time Limited Agreements, it’s important to choose an appropriate time frame for the Agreement to be in effect.  In general, these Agreements should be made for the shortest time possible that will suit the needs of the individuals and the relationship. Only you can know what that will be for you and your situation, of course. That said, I’ve rarely seen any Time Limited Agreement work for more than about 3 months at a time. Often, if an extremely long period is chosen (e.g., a year or more), partners can start to forget that the Agreement existed in the first place, forget details, or forget that it was time limited in the first place (and therefore start engaging in boundary-pushing and other behaviors that the Time Limited Agreement was created to help avoid.)

For most Time Limited Agreements, I generally recommend a time frame between a week and 3 months, with two weeks to a month being the most common.  This seems to give enough time to perform the experiment, test out the feelings, and come to initial conclusions, without triggering either “trapped” feelings, or having one or more partners start to forget aspects of the Agreement.

Keep in mind as well, however, that choosing a time-frame that’s too short can give the sense that you don’t trust your partner/s, or don’t understand what they’re already doing. As in so many things, it’s important to achieve balance.  Here are a couple of examples illustrating time-frames that are too short:

Example A
Suzie asked her partner Tom to forgo engaging in a particular activity for 2 days.  In fact, Tom had already been abstaining from that activity for a week by then, and felt insulted that Susie hadn’t even noticed! When Tom and Suzie changed the Agreement to reflect this, with Tom reporting back once a week to start with, Tom felt supported, not micromanaged, and Suzie felt confident that she was getting accurate information.

Example B
Pat asked partner Robin for help in learning to manage financial resources more effectively.  Robin’s response was to ask Pat to report back daily about activities, and in such detail that it felt utterly intrusive and controlling to Pat. Rather than rebelling completely (though it was tempting!) Pat asked for a different schedule (reporting back 2-3 times per week, using an easy check-off form), that allowed Robin to get the necessary information, without wasting Pat’s time on reporting that Pat felt could better be spent on creating new financial resources, for instance. By finding the happy medium, both partners felt happier and got more of their needs met.

Review

At the end of the period, the next step is to review.  Remember that the Agreement is neither presumed to go on forever (or it wouldn’t be Time Limited!) nor is it automatically dropped without comment. The review date is just that — a time to review, reflect, and possibly renegotiate.  Here are some things to ask during the review:

  • Was the agreement a full success, and it is no longer needed at all?
  • Did it work, but the conditions still apply, and it needs to be extended, exactly as it is?
  • Was the agreement partially successful, but a small change would make it better?
  • Was the agreement not successful at all? Perhaps it’s time to renegotiate a new agreement or set of agreements.  Go back to your Needs Inventory (p. ___) for ideas, if necessary.

All Time Limited, All the Time?

Some folks feel that all Agreements should be time limited ones. There’s definitely an argument to be made for this view.  After all, it’s hard to know what will change in life, and when. People move, babies are born, jobs are lost or won, and each of these things (and more!) can have an effect on relationships and Agreements. As a result, simply making it a habit to date each and every one of your Agreements, and revisit them periodically (say, every year or so, perhaps tied to an anniversary, or in a New Year ritual) can be a useful tool in keeping everyone from becoming complacent, or assuming a permanence to life that isn’t realistic in the modern age. It also helps to reinforce the fact that all relationships — ideally, and in today’s “modern world” — are a matter of free choice. By actively choosing our Agreements, and our partners, over and over again, we keep in mind that we have agency over our own lives, and the power to make new choices if the old ones no longer fit.

Man standing at mirror, trying on clothes

Check the “fit” of your Agreements….

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Check In and Renegotiate (Agreements Tip #10) ]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down ]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

Savaging Dan: Some Thoughts on Poly as Identity

The inimitable Dan Savage has stirred things up again, this time by saying it’s not possible for polyamory to be an identity:

Poly is not a sexual identity, PP, it’s not a sexual orientation. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do. — Dan Savage, 11/21/12

For the record (although Dan’s actual advice to Polyamorous Polymath isn’t so bad — basically “if you really can’t compromise on this, then do both of you a favor and end the relationship as gracefully and as quickly as possible”), I definitely disagree with his statement around polyamory and identity. I think that you should be able to identify however you damn well please, as well as loving (and/or being sexually attracted to) whomever and however many people works for you (and for them.) I don’t think these are mutually exclusive concepts. (For some more good poly critique of Dan’s original post, check out Anita Wagner Ilig’s post in her Practical Polyamory blog.)

In a thread on the Poly Researchers list, author Meg Barker (Rewriting the Rules) said,

It is different things for different people, and sometimes at different times for the same person.
To which I added:
“…and for the same person with *different people.*”

As an example, I have some partners where the “fundamental harmonic” is kinky, and some for whom it is not. I literally cannot have vanilla sex with one partner, and I never or rarely have kinky sex with another. It’s about the dynamic BETWEEN individuals, not about some static quality of each person. The fact that there’s a “fundamental harmonic” doesn’t mean that other harmonics are less “real” or less “true” for any particular interaction.

By extension, I think it’s possible for people to be somewhere on the mono to poly/open scale, and to be in a fundamentally poly dynamic with one (or more) partner/s, and in a fundamentally mono dynamic with another.  I think they can APPEAR to change over time, much as bisexual people appear to change over time, when really, it’s more that they’re expressing different parts of themselves at different times with different people.  People are complex, after all!

I even referred to this (in a different context) a couple of months back in my blog:

“…I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….” (http://blog.unchartedlove.com/?p=1594)

Ultimately, I am concluding, I do view polyamory as an orientation — whether a sexual one or “only a relationship one” pretty much doesn’t matter in this case — which might for some of us be/become an identity. As Jessica Burde said on the PLN list, I think it’s possible for poly to be BOTH “something you are” AND “something you do.”  Which, I’ll note, can be true of being “Queer” as well (much as Dan might prefer to skip over that part):  You can certainly engage in same-sex sexual behaviors, without identifying as “queer”; and you can certainly identify as gay, for instance, while not being in any currently sexual relationship whatsoever.

Sarah Taub mentioned in the version of this thread on the PLN list that she views the genesis of this tension (at least in the US, and I’ll add, possibly the driving force behind Dan’s need to exclude polyamory as an orientation or an identity) as being the struggle for rights and freedoms. The GLBT movement leaders largely chose to frame the discussion as a matter of “innate orientation,” saying that people should not be penalized for expressing their true nature (“we can’t help it.”) So therefore same-sex couples and families should not be penalized in terms of marriage rights and tax benefits, for instance, because “they can’t help being who they are.”

(This framework is, not incidentally, problematic for bisexuals (among others), since people who can choose to be in either a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship don’t fit well within an “I can’t help it” framework. This is undoubtedly at least part of why so many bi folk have felt dismissed, denigrated, or just erased by the GLBT rights activists over the years… and why poly folks and bisexuals seem to have found common cause in at least some cases.)

Polyamory banner in the 2005 SF Pride Parade

The polyamory contingent of the SF Pride Parade, on June 26 2005, marching under the registration of the Bay Area Bisexual Network (BABN.)

On the other hand, there’s another common framework for the “fairness” discussion that dates back at least to the founding of our country, which is the idea of “free choice.” This is what our doctrine of “freedom of religion” is based upon:  “everyone gets to choose whether and how to worship deity/spirit, without interference from the government” (at least in theory).

As Sarah said, GLBT activists have mostly used the first frame, and poly activists have mostly used the second.  There are some GLBT activists that choose the second frame (e.g., “everyone gets to choose whom they love, and whom they call family”), but by and large the differences in these frames can explain why the conversation comes up over and over again as a point of tension, and why (inexplicably to me, previously), so many GLBT folks seem to view polys as “the enemy” rather than natural allies.

I think ultimately, I’m with Bonefish, commenting on Dan’s blog, who says that whether or not polyamory is a sexual orientation (which arguably it’s not under most current definitions of “sexual orientation”), it most definitely CAN be an “identity.”  The point, ultimately, isn’t “orientation vs. choice.”  The point is actually that regardless of whether polyamory is something innate, or something chosen, it can still be a primary part of one’s identity. And no one — not Dan, not some church, not the government — has a right to tell me (or you!) what and who is important to me. I get to love who I love, and to say that, and I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it, nor fear consequences for speaking out about it (though this latter is still unfortunately true for many people regarding employment and child custody issues in particular. See Woodhull’s Family Matters Project for more on “rights, recognition and respect for all families.”)

To sum up, I think that with regard to the issue of polyamory as identity, Dan has his loud mouth up his proverbial backside, and people have come out in force to tell him so.  What a shame he can’t recognize polyamorous people as potential allies if you doused us in glowpaint and shone a blacklight on us! I’ll surely be looking forward to seeing the responses he posts in next week’s promised follow up on the original post!  Should be very interesting indeed….

I’d be curious to know, by the way, how you identify. Feel free to fill out this quick checkbox form if you’d like. (You don’t even have to leave your email address for this one [ETA: and I’ve even made the name field optional, too]. 🙂

May you have as much love as you want, need, and deserve (no matter what your orientation is!)

~♥ Dawn

PS: It’s kinda funny, actually, because I said some stuff recently that might be read as agreeing with Dan, that poly is something you do rather than are (here in my most recent Agreements Tip, #6.)  To clarify, though, I see it more as a case of AND rather than OR.  Yes, when making Agreements, it’s a good idea to keep sexual behaviors separate from relationship needs.  That’s more about how Agreements (especially ones around Safer Sex) work, though, and not about the validity of viewing polyamory (or GLBT, or…) as either behavior or orientation.

PPS: And as weird as it feels to say this, I find myself agreeing with Tim Graham (Note: a “right wing nutjob” according to Anita) when he says to Dan:

This seems a little bit arbitrary in the world of Anything Goes, doesn’t it? You may behave however you want sexually in Savage World, but the political dictionary is strictly maintained.
That does seem a bit odd, doesn’t it, for someone like Dan who usually argues that no one else should be allowed to comment on his chosen relationship? So who made him god … er … the editor of the “political dictionary” when it comes to polyamory??

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Definitions of poly/open relationships for therapists (and others)

There’s a (relatively) new article out about doing therapy with clients who are in various forms of open relationships, by Kevin J. Zimmerman, published in the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy. (NB: It’s written for an academic therapist audience, so non-therapists may not find it easy reading. Also, the link is to the publisher, where you can buy the article should you choose. I’m sorry, but I’m not at liberty to distribute a free link to the full article on this blog.)

I’ve barely begun it myself, but one thing that struck me is the excellent definition of terms at the outset of the article. Please note that these terms and definitions are the author’s for the purpose of the article– they’re not mine, nor are they meant to be considered to be “the only right way” to define these terms — but I found these descriptions of various subsets of the larger community to be succinct and quite useful, and thought I’d share.  I find them particularly interesting, given the ongoing discussions within the community/communities about the definitions of these words.  Enjoy!

[From p. 273 of the article: Kevin J. Zimmerman (2012): Clients in Sexually Open Relationships: Considerations for Therapists, Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 24:3, 272-289]

“Open relationship is an umbrella term that encompasses any relationship structure that is not monogamous. It is useful at the start to define some common relationship patterns that nonmonogamous clients may bring up in therapy. Partnered nonmonogamy refers to a committed couple that allows for extradyadic sex. Swinging is nonmonogamy in a social context, also referred to as “the lifestyle.” Polyamory allows for partners to have more than one relationship that is sexual, loving, and emotional. Solo Polyamory defines nonmonogamous individuals who do not want a primary partner. Polyfidelity refers to three or more people who have made a commitment to be in a primary relationship together. A monogamous/nonmonogamous partnership is one in which one person is monogamous and the other is not. Open relationships are different from infidelity or cheating because partners agree on the sexual boundaries of the relationship and there is no deception about sex. In this respect, successful open relationships typically involve individuals who privilege authenticity over conformity in their relationships.”

What do you think about the author’s definitions and statements here? I’m largely in agreement with him, though I have some small quibbles (e.g., I think “solo polyamory” could easily apply to people who do not have a primary partner, as well as those who don’t want one.)  I was particularly happy with his clear distinction between Polyamory/Open Relationships and Cheating, and with his definition of Polyamory:

Polyamory allows for partners to have more than one relationship that is sexual, loving, and emotional.

Seems like it hits the high points, though I think the concept of “honest” is important enough to include in the definition, if one is quoting it without the rest of the paragraph for context.  Here’s my own previously posted definition as one comparison point:

Polyamory is the belief in and/or practice of multiple loving relationships, with the full knowledge and consent of those involved.

So what does “polyamory” mean to you? Do you agree that “Open relationship is an umbrella term that encompasses any relationship structure that is not monogamous”? Or does “open” have a slightly different meaning to you, as it does to me? (See my blog article I’m Poly AND Open for more details.) Do you have any other comments or observations about how being open/poly/etc works for you, or what sort of things YOU think a therapist should know in working with you? How does the therapist’s understanding of these terms influence your comfort in the session/s?  Are these terms you’d find useful in discussing your own relationships/s with others?

As always, I’m happy talk about this stuff either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. And if you’d like to go into greater depth about your own situation, I’m also happy to set up a private session with you (either a half-hour for free, or longer sessions on a sliding scale.)

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

 

Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Love Outside the Box: Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love is nothing to be ashamed of.

That’s the thought I finally came to, at the end of my journey of processing the request made of me a few weeks ago, that in order to stay in an online course, I agree to never mention my niche or the word polyamory. I was honestly shocked to get this request; shocked and traumatized, all of my worst fears about being ‘out’ about poly come to life. Here I’d signed on to this course to become more confident in bringing my skills and talents to the world, and to help people understand the joys and challenges of polyamory and other “outside the box” forms of relating (at least as I’ve experienced them and learned over 15 years of intensive study) — and merely mentioning my niche brought down censure on my head. Was she (the course leader) right, that polyamory is “not G-rated” and inherently “squirmy”? Was I the one out of line, to think it would be ok to talk openly about polyamory?

We here in the Uncharted waters have had many a discussion (on lists, in discussion groups, on the web…) about whether sex is an inherent part of the definition of polyamory. I generally don’t think it’s required, though of course I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….

Yes, of course, that’s a very extreme and somewhat silly example… but is it any more extreme and silly than presuming that because my context is “polyamorous people,” that when I talk about communication tools, they are necessarily about communicating about sex? What exactly makes polyamory “not G-rated”? For that matter, is sex itself automatically R-rated, never mentionable to anyone under 17? And if so, why do they teach about it in middle school?? I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t my mind making polyamory into a 24/7 lurid group-sex encounter. Though I will admit to amusement when viewing this old ad that was going around on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:

Hanky Panky at the Beach?

Good clean fun at the beach?

No, it seems pretty clear to me that the issue with polyamory being an unfit topic for polite dinner-table conversation was in the mind of that beholder … and unfortunately in a lot of other as-yet uneducated-about-poly minds out there. When she thought about polyamory, she felt “squirmy,” aka uncomfortable, aka shame. One of the pernicious characteristics of shame is that it is “contagious”–it spreads from person to person, often below the level of consciousness.  Her shame triggered my shame. It took me days and a lot of processing to get through it. And that’s AFTER working on this stuff for years. Shame is pretty powerful stuff.

At the Open-SF conference in June, the excellent Charlie Glickman presented a wonderful workshop entitled “Love, Sex, and Shame.” In it he talked about the manifestations of shame (e.g., closed posture, averted eyes/face, mumbling or silence, “shifty”/”squirmy”, energetic disconnection), vs. the manifestations of love (e.g., open posture, direct gaze, easy communication, groundedness/ease, energetic connection, etc). Pretty much, actively experiencing love is diametrically opposed to actively experiencing shame. It’s hard to experience both at the same time.  Isn’t that interesting?

Unfortunately, much of our culture holds that sex is inherently shameful. By extension, anything that leads to sex (with the possible exception of procreative sex between male and female spouses) is by extension inherently shameful. I think that viewpoint is de facto harmful. Certainly it was harmful to me to hear as a young person that my normal feelings and thoughts were somehow bad and wrong… that *I* was bad and wrong. It’s hard to feel love, and to express it in a healthy way, if at the core you believe yourself to be broken. It took me many years, and a lot of heartache (not to mention a lot of money spent on therapists…), to finally move beyond that toxic frame into the freedom and joy in both love and sex that I now believe to be my birthright (and that of every human being.)

For me, the path of healing wound its way through many places, starting with making a choice to find my own spirituality, and winding up most recently with me refusing to be shamed and silenced for who and how many I love. Each step has involved me finding a bit that has been shamed, and being willing to entertain the notion that it wasn’t ME who was bad and wrong… but instead the unnecessary shame that had been forced on me for no other reason than that who and what I was didn’t fit into the particular box that was on offer at the time.

Understand that I believe that not all boxes are wrong, either. Sometimes boxes (or containers, or marriages–use the word that fits for you…) are places of safety. They’re where we keep our most prized memories. They provide support and boundaries. Sometimes they’re very beautiful; sometimes strong; sometimes fragile. But not all things (nor all creatures, nor all people) fit inside of every box. You know how there’s often that one package at the holidays that just refuses to fit inside the standard boxes, so you end up wrapping a small box with a note in it, or giving them a card, or sticking a million bows on it and hiding it in the back hallway instead?  There’s nothing wrong with the gift for not fitting in that box — in fact, it might be THE best gift of them all because of the very thing that makes it not fit in the box! And there’s nothing wrong with the box either, just because that gift didn’t fit inside. It’s just a bad fit between that box, and that gift.

Well, that’s how I feel about polyamory, and about love. Polyamory is a great gift that doesn’t happen to fit the box that we got issued at the Universal Post Office. Polyamory is so chock full of LOVE that it spills out the sides and cannot be contained in the “usual” ways. (And lest you think I’m all sappy and Pollyanna (ha!) about poly, I also think that polyamory is sometimes the gift that proclaims “some assembly required” and for which the directions seem to be written in a foreign language.)  Polyamory is bold and beautiful and complicated and drama-filled and a damn AFGO (“Another F-ing Growth Opportunity!”), and the worst thing and the best thing that I’ve ever done, all at once. (No, I take that back. The best thing I’ve ever done is to birth my amazing daughter. But poly is a close second.) When you get right down to it, polyamory is just a whole lotta LOVE all squished into one package (some assembly required).

And love, my friends, is nothing to be ashamed of.

Go sing your own song. Go chart your own ways.

Bird Sculpture by Robriel Wolf, archangel.robriel@gmail.com

“A Little Bird Told Me”: Sculpture in wood, metal and glorious paint, by artist Robriel Wolf

Love boldly, safely, and well.

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re looking for some assistance in singing your own song, you can always drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help others in the Uncharted waters (to mix a couple of metaphors!) 🙂

 

♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥

©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

H

Recommended Websites: The New Poly Anna & More Than Two

Have you seen The New Poly Anna?  It’s a site by an fantastic woman I know named (you guessed!) Anna. She writes something she calls “blogtoons,” which are part blog entry, part cartoon, and entirely awesome.  She writes on themes of polyamory, open relationships, and lots of other things in her life. Check it out!

Another thing I ran into this morning that I think is excellent, is this essay A Monogamous Response to Polyamory in the newer website More Than Two by established poly blogger, Franklin Veaux (aka Tacit). An excellent thing to read if you’re wanting to introduce your monogamous partner to polyamory or other forms of open relationships. I think it’s also a good thing to have the monogamous partner read, since they’ll probably feel a great deal of resonance. 🙂

For me, it’s back to the trenches right now, as I try to stay ahead of having put out a Newsletter without much in the way of future entries scheduled.  Eep!

~♥ Dawn

 

♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥

©2012, Dawn M. Davidson