We Are Human First

This article is about consent and negotiation and mistakes and hindsight. It’s about personal responsibility and compassion.

There are reasons I don’t do pick up play and why I like to be at least friends with someone before I do a scene with them. When you play as a bottom you are trusting someone with your physical, mental, and emotional well-being for a certain amount of time. When you play as a Top you are trusting another person to be honest with you up front and not vilify you if you make a mistake. Notice the running theme? TRUST. Now, if you are just starting to play and have just met that person or have only known them a short time, then a whole lot of trust isn’t necessarily there yet. This is why it’s not recommended that you do heavy scenes or attempt to push boundaries and limits with someone in the beginning. You should be developing more trust first.

So what should you trust about a new play partner? Well, as a bottom you should hopefully be able to trust that your Top has good intentions and is looking to play with you in a safe way while adhering to the limits that you have stated during negotiation. That they are not looking to take advantage of you or do things that weren’t discussed just because “well you didn’t say I couldn’t”. (This is also why I teach newbies to negotiate from an “I want to start with just doing x, y, and z” position rather than trying to think of all the things they don’t want to do.) As a Top you should be able to trust that the bottom has disclosed whatever medical issues, triggers, etc that they are aware of, along with things that may be unique to them as a player. For example, bottoms – if when you go into subspace you are barely aware of your surroundings or what year it is, this is something the Top should be made aware of!

However, guess what? Even after all that things can go wrong. The bottom may have forgotten to disclose something. The Top may have briefly had a brain fart regarding one of the bottom’s limits. The bottom may have been triggered by something they didn’t realize they would be triggered by. The Top may have done something that wasn’t spelled out in negotiations (not talking about major stuff). But remember, scenes are supposed to be fun. Especially with a new partner who is likely not to go too “deep” or too far in play the first time. Not everything will be spelled out in the negotiation – it’s not possible. Or, if possible, it would probably be a very boring, predictable scene.

So what do you do about that? Well, for starters, choose to play with people you can have a conversation with. I’m talking about a conversation beyond the negotiation. If these things happen (which they will) don’t jump to anger and blaming the other person. Start with personal responsibility. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what part of that do you hold accountability for? Acknowledge this to your partner. Hopefully they will acknowledge their part of whatever happened as well. TALK about the little things that happened and assume it was not born from manipulation or ill intent. Are some people douche-nozzles? Absolutely. However, most people aren’t looking to hurt you or create a bad reputation for themselves. Most people are doing the best they can or the best they know how to do. So talk about the scene. Make adjustments in your future negotiations if need be.

Just remember when you strip away the titles and the power exchange – we are all just human first.

 

So many closets, so little time.  Well, ok, only two closets, however, I’ve had to come out of them again and again.

When you hear that someone “came out of the closet” you may think, “Good for them, it’s a big step and now they don’t have to worry about it anymore.”  What people may not realize is that once you come out – that’s just the FIRST time.  Essentially you have to come out every time you meet someone new or run into an old friend or family member who perhaps wasn’t around when you made the big announcement.  (That’s how everyone comes out by the way – big loudspeaker type pronouncement over the radio or in a stadium.)

Every time you tell someone new, you run the same risk you did the first time.  Will they react positively or with criticism?  Will your relationship with them change after this conversation?

When I came out the first time it was at the age of 17 and I came out to my friends as bisexual.  (FYI – this is still how I identify – I know – SHOCKER – it wasn’t just a phase…..)  I am proud to say I have wonderful friends who totally accepted me and had no issue.  I got involved with my LGBT group on my college campus and dated the only other bisexual girl in the group because the lesbians wanted nothing to do with us.  (That’s a topic for another day)  Fortunately she was just my type and we had a nice time together.  It was, however, a short romance and pretty soon after we broke up I started dating the man I would eventually marry.

Fast forward 15 years, marriage, two kids and one divorce later.  Time to get back out into the dating pool.  I cast out my net to any and all on the typical dating sites.  Met a few great people – not great matches however.  Then I met a woman – an amazing woman.  We dated for a couple years with some bumps in the road.  However, it was a serious relationship and I felt that it was time to come out to my parents.  Until this point I was “relatively out” – meaning I was out to everyone except my relatives!

So there I was, in my 30’s, coming out to my parents.  Thankfully they are both totally supportive.  My dad thought perhaps it was a post-divorce phase until I explained that she was not my first female partner.

So then there was the kink/BDSM closet that I had newly discovered as I was going thru my divorce.  For many people kink is something they do in the bedroom and they never feel the need to “come out” about it.  However, for me it wasn’t only my lifestyle, it was also my job.  Only a couple years into the scene I worked as a pro-sub and then a pro-Switch.  I eventually felt the pressure to open up to my mom because she kept asking so many questions about my new job in “customer service”.  Nice cover, right?  Fortunately it coincided with the 50 Shades trilogy and my mom happened to be reading the first one.  I used that to come out to her.  Her biggest concern was my safety and my happiness.  I assured her that I was both safe and happy.  She was supportive.  She has even attended one of my classes to try and gain more of an understanding – which I thought was super awesome of her!

Shortly thereafter I told my dad and he was accepting as well.  All of my friends know and I’m not shy talking about it with new friends I meet.  I am a bit more cautious with friends connected to my kids.  However, if you read my article titled The Outsider, you will see I didn’t have much to worry about.

I know that many people don’t feel they can come out about their orientation, their BDSM lifestyle, or perhaps both.  They may fear family shame, ridicule, or job loss.  As for me I feel extremely fortunate to be able to live my life openly.

I am at the point now in my life (perhaps some of it just comes with age) where I figure if you don’t accept me (and all that I am) then I don’t need you in my life.  If you want to know more, however, just ask and I will answer any question you have!

I come out of two closets again and again….and I’m proud of both!

D/s Concepts That Work for Any Relationship

 

I came across an article recently on a vanilla/mainstream psychology website. The article link is below, but basically it talks about doing relationship check-ins.  The author advises couples to sit down on an annual basis and review their marriage – this article advises doing it alongside a professional, such as a therapist.  She relates it to a performance review that may happen in a workplace.  However, I relate it to the relationship contracts we create as part of D/s dynamics.  Once a D/s couple has created a contract, typically it includes an annual review or even a monthly review – or anything in between.  The author basically describes a check-in that consists of creating a safe space to discuss issues that have come up and give one another feedback.  In this sense what the author describes and what D/s partners do is very similar.  We go over our contract and offer feedback as to what we think has been working and what we have issues with.  We go over protocols that may have been forgotten (which is why written contracts come in handy – they work as reminders), others that haven’t worked out well, and confirming the ones that work.  Depending on what we include in our contract, the “review” may include updating limits and/or rules or boundaries surrounding poly dynamics.

For both the vanilla and D/s version of this idea it creates a sense of closeness and connection while identifying issues that may have come up over the past year, month, 3 months, etc.  It also confirms all the things that have been, and still are, working.  For the D/s relationships it strengthens the bond of the power exchange as well.

What I love about all this is that here is an example of something we have done in our community for decades – and the mainstream community is catching on.  I think as we continue to find and expose more examples like this (there are plenty) and could explain what is happening under the kink jargon to mainstream people, we could show why more and more studies are concluding that D/s relationships are just as healthy, if not in many cases healthier, than vanilla ones.  Perhaps some of the stigma we face would be lifted.

Original article link:

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/meet-catch-and-keep/201510/why-relationship-review-can-help-keep-you-together?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost

 

 

A Third Leg

 

No, this article is not about giant members.  lol

So I was watching talk shows the other day.  Well, I use the term “watching” loosely.  More like glancing up at the tv occasionally while they were running in the background as I helped my kids with homework.  Anyway, on one of the talk shows a co-host was mentioning something about how people have been saying that couples last longer if they have a “third leg”.  She went on to describe what this meant.  Basically she was referring to things like having kids, shared tv shows (and being able to watch them together thanks to streaming networks), a common hobby, etc.  Something they can focus their attention on as a couple that is outside of themselves.

The reason for the “third leg” being helpful in keeping couples together and interested in one another is that it gives them something to talk about and connect over.  It’s amazing how much people will thank streaming networks for saving their marriage!  Especially since it used to be that if a couple only had kids to connect over they were at a loss once the kids moved out.  Now with external entertainment at our fingertips we have much more to interact about for an infinite amount of time.

This got me thinking, however, about those of us into kink and/or polyamory.

We have those same things to connect over, tv shows, maybe kids for those in the scene that share children, perhaps common vanilla hobbies as well.  However, in addition we share kink.  For some it is like another hobby we enjoy together, for others it’s our lifestyle.  Either way it’s something else we share with our partner(s) and look forward to.  If we play then we look forward to that – maybe planning scenes or deciding which parties to attend.  If we are involved in a power exchange relationship then we may spend time together communicating about rules, protocol, etc.

When it comes to poly it’s an entirely new level.  If there are other partners then (similar to kids) you have another (or other) actual people to connect over, communicate about, plan things with, and talk to.  With or without other partners you may still be communicating about how poly will work for you.  Discussing finding a new partner or partners.  Perhaps you go out together to meet potential play partners, lovers, and/or life mates.  There are those that have other partners and are also looking for additional partners.  I don’t know where they find the time, but that’s just me!  Also, unlike kids, additional partners don’t necessarily fall under the same developmental timeline of growing up and moving out or away from you.  This doesn’t mean that poly relationships don’t end, however, you are then able to continue opening up to others in the attempt to find and unite with new people.  You can’t just go out and try to find new kids to replace the ones that left for college!

The point of all this is that if you’re involved in kink, poly relationships, or both – you have opened up a whole new world of “third leg” possibilities to connect over.  This not only keeps life interesting, but our relationships as well.

 

 

Pushing a Dynamic

 

This, like most of my articles, is for both sides of the slash.  Let’s start with what you hear of more commonly.  The D-type pushing boundaries or pressuring an s-type, especially the newbies, to act as if they are in a power exchange dynamic.  So all you s-types listen up: Just because you’re AN s-type, doesn’t mean you’re HIS or HER s-type!  If you haven’t heard this before, it won’t be the last time.  A power exchange dynamic, just like play, is something you enter into with consent and communication.

So how might a D-type push these boundaries?

One way can be before you ever meet them.  It could be as soon as their first message to you.  Greeting you, making their intention known and then “giving you permission” to call them Sir/Mistress, etc.  Why? Just because you’re an s-type?  Calling someone by a title is something you do as part of a dynamic.  (By the way this is not in reference to those who refer to everyone as Sir or Ma’am out of politeness nor toward those that have it as part of their protocol.)  You in no way “owe” this to anyone, especially someone you’ve never met! Remember you have a voice.  Let them know you aren’t comfortable referring to them that way since you’ve never met.  Or perhaps it wasn’t their first message, but only a handful of messages in.  Either way, whether you’ve been chatting for one minute or one year, titles are things you discuss.  If they get upset, then I would take that as a huge red flag.  Chances are, at best, they are role-playing the D-type thing and really have no idea or interest in how these things work.  At worst, they are purposefully trying to manipulate you.

Besides expecting titles to be used, there are other ways that D-types can push a dynamic.  It could be at a party or munch where they tell you to get them something or expect you to cater to them.  Key words here are “tell you” and “expect”.  It’s one thing to politely ask for a favor, it’s another to simply assume you are at their beck and call just because of how you identify.

Now on to the other side of the issue.  S-types can push dynamic as well.  Here’s how…

So you, a D-type, find someone to chat with on Fetlife.  Things are going well up to this point, only a dozen or so messages back and forth so far.  That’s when the s-type hits you with, “what do you want to do to me Daddy/Mommy?” or “What did Master/Mistress do today?”

Daddy?! Master?!  Mommy?! Mistress?!

Hold on there!  These are titles that should be earned, discussed, and negotiated.  Now, this s-type could be trying to push for a dynamic or relationship prematurely, or they may not know any better.  I think it’s a common misperception that s-types are expected to use titles for every D-type.  This is especially true for those that are new in the scene.  I recommend, if this happens to you, to let them know that they do not need to call you by a title, that your name (or preferred label) is perfectly acceptable until or unless you both agree to enter into something more.  Now, if they disregard that request, then you may have an issue.

What it comes down to is that a power exchange dynamic is something to be respected and taken seriously.  Try not to move too quickly and be wary of those that do.  It’s ok to move at a slower pace, at your pace, until the time is right.

Tips for Using BDSM Dating Sites

BDSM dating sites are an easy way to connect to the fun world of BDSM dating. For a lot of people, they feel nervous trying to find someone in person for BDSM. Plus, they don’t want to have to worry about connecting with people who aren’t interested in BDSM.

Finding the right person on a BDSM dating website is everyone’s goal. In order to help with that, we have written a list of some of the most helpful tips for using BDSM dating sites.

Be Safe

The most important thing that we wanted to include in this article is that you need to be safe. Never give out your personal information online. Instead, meet in a public place and start sharing information from there. If you feel comfortable at the point of meeting up, you can make the decision then.

Start With Regular Conversation

Yes, you are looking for someone who shares the same kinks as you when you are on a BDSM dating website, but people aren’t looking to go straight into sexual talk. Instead, they want to start off with conversation starters, just like normal dating websites.

If you start with a regular conversation you are far more likely to find a match.

Don’t Be Shy

One of the biggest benefits of using a BDSM dating website is that you can start to get to know your potential partner online before meeting them. If you are shy you won’t get anywhere with your online dating goals. Being open doesn’t mean sharing your personal information, it means sharing likes, dislikes, messaging first, and generally not being shy when it comes to messaging and the content of messages.

Fill Out Your Profile Thoroughly

BDSM dating sites are intended for those who are interested in the lifestyle. That means there is no harm to filling out your profile completely. In fact, the reverse is true. If you don’t fill out your profile completely, people might think you are a fake or not serious.

A full profile helps others to learn if they like you as their profile helps you to learn.

Finding The Right Dating Website

Finding a good BDSM dating website like BDSMdatingonly can be hard. You will spend a lot of time looking around the internet in order to find the BDSM website that is right for you. To help make the process quicker, use BDSM Dating Sites. It is a directory of BDSM dating websites for singles to use.

Be Honest

In any relationship, whether it is BDSM or not, you need to be honest. A lack of honesty on your profile, in your messages, or on your first date will be noticed eventually. That can lead to a lack of trust or even the failure of your date.

The BDSM community can be pretty tight knit, but more importantly, they watch out for each other. If you lie to someone the word can spread quicker than you want it to. When word spreads in your local community you might not even be able to find a date.

You Will Likely Send A Lot Of Messages

Chances are that you will spend a lot of time sending messages. Sometimes hundreds. A match doesn’t happen right away and not everyone responds to their messages. Don’t get upset if you find someone you are really attracted to but they don’t message you back.

Don’t swamp one person with messages. One message is enough. It all boils down to being patient.

Use The Block Button

Rudeness and similar traits are something that you don’t want when dating. It is a sign that there is potentially something worse about the person. Plus, you are going to BDSM dating sites to enjoy yourself, not to be berated by a stranger. Block anyone who is rude or who gives you a bad feeling.

The BDSM world is growing rapidly with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Gray and so are the number of dating websites out there. Make sure you take these tips to mind in order to get the most out of BDSM dating. Each one of these tips is picked for its ability to help you succeed in finding what you are looking for in the big world of BDSM.

*Sponsored by BDSMdatingonly.com

Know Thyself

 

Know thyself.  I say this a lot to my classes and my clients.  I have lived and continue to live in a way that I discover more about myself every day.  One thing this community and lifestyle can teach you are lessons about who you are, what your limits and boundaries are, and what you strive for.  Over time these things can change of course, however, growth and commitment to self-exploration are essential.

Many of us do this as we go along in this world.  It’s not like you go through a phase of life where you learn everything about yourself and then you’re just done all of a sudden.  I believe we should be growing and learning until we die.  So it’s not exactly reasonable to tell people to not live this lifestyle or begin to explore until they have everything figured out.  It is, however, reasonable to ask people to at least begin the journey of self-exploration and really start working hard on major issues before they enter into a serious D/s commitment with another human being.  Whether it’s issues from childhood or baggage from past relationships – these things should be addressed with serious concern and attention.  I’m not saying if you discover something that needs work and you are already in a relationship, to break it off and seclude yourself until you figure it out.  However, if you aren’t yet in one – take advantage of this time to sink your teeth into issues that may come up in a dynamic.

Now, many people think this is mostly a D-type issue.  That you can’t lead or be in charge of an s-type if you don’t have your own sh** handled.  While I agree that if you are a D-type you should certainly be working on yourself and have the ability to maintain control over your own life before taking the lead of someone else’s, I definitely don’t think it only applies to D-types.

S-types also have a responsibility to work on self.  We commonly talk about triggers when it comes to play and perhaps working through negative emotional reactions when dealing with poly dynamics or other issues the D-type introduces.  However, an s-type needs to also be working on his or her self as an individual.  An s-type cannot depend on their D-type for everything.  First of all, be a whole human being with individual thoughts, interests, hobbies, and friends.  Learn to develop personal boundaries and respect for yourself and those around you.  These are all things that will support you in contributing to your relationship and your dynamic.  Secondly, heaven forbid the D-type is gone – whether via break up or death.  The s-type needs to be able to function independently.  Otherwise their choice is what?  Flounder around clueless or desperately chase the next relationship which may be unhealthy just because they don’t feel they have a choice?  This is not ok.

I grew up with a mom who used to tell me that getting an education is incredibly important no matter my life plan.  She would tell me she would fully support me if I decided (after getting a degree) to be a stay-at-home wife and mother for the rest of my days.  However, if anything happened to my partner (divorce and death are rarely expected) she would know that at least I had an education to fall back on.  This is a very similar concept when it comes to developing yourself independent of your current or future partners.

As a D-type you should encourage your s-types growth, as you continue to grow as well.  As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, continuously work on self.  You can’t afford to ignore major issues.  If other people point out a problem, don’t let ego get in the way.  Stop and examine what they’re talking about.  Be willing to explore and change/work on what you need to.

Know thyself on either side of the slash.  It will do you, your partners, and this community a lot of good.

This is not my original writing – reference: https://www.morethantwo.com/polymistakes.html

This is a long article, however, if you are in a poly dynamic or thinking about entering one, this hits on many important points.  I like it because it is written for those who are approaching poly from a well-intentioned and compassionate place, yet mistakes and hazards can still happen.

 

Common mistakes in poly relationships

With grateful acknowledgement to Suzie, for her insight and contributions

 

There is an excellent guide to screwing up poly relationships on the alt.polyamory site, which describes in some detail the petty, mean-spirited, malicious things that you can do to help ensure that your relationship fails in the most dramatic, painful way possible.

This is not that page.

This page is designed to describe some of the mistakes you can make in a non-monogamous relationship even if you are compassionate, honest, and well-intentioned. Sometimes, building a stable, happy, non-monogamous relationship is not intuitive, and there are mistakes that can be made along the road no matter how well-intentioned you may be. Ideally, you should seek to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than your own; it’s a lot less trouble.

Don’t make assumptions about your partner or your relationship; talk about everything

There are people in the world who don’t like talking about relationship stuff, or who see it as an onerous chore. The problem with that is you can easily end up in a situation where you think something’s okay with your partner, or that you’re at some place in your relationship with your partner, or that you’re in a type of relationship that allows some things or doesn’t allow others, and your partner has a completely different idea. Finding that out by talking about it is a lot less dramatic than finding it out by crossing a line you didn’t even know existed. Be clear up front about what your partner expects from you (and about what you expect from your partner), and you’ll be a lot happier, trust me.

Don’t ignore the consequences of your actions—even the unintended consequences

The law of unintended consequence is as universal and as inescapable as the law of gravity, and is certainly more than capable of screwing up your romantic relationship beyond all recognition.

Put simply, your decisions and your actions have consequences for both your partners and your relationships, and you bear responsibility for these consequences—even if you feel that your decisions were appropriate and justified, even if you feel that your actions were expressly permitted by the rules of your relationship.

The most common example of unintended consequence can be found in relationships that have “veto” rules permitting one partner to veto another partner’s romantic relationships. Most of the time, veto is a negotiated and mutually agreed-upon rule; the people in a relationship that includes a veto power explicitly give that veto power to their partner.

Yet if your partner falls in love with someone, and you then veto that relationship, you are almost certain to hurt your partner. It does not matter if your partner explicitly agreed to that veto power and explicitly consented to give you that power; when a person loses a romantic relationship, it hurts. That’s the way human beings work. When you hurt your partner, that can and likely will affect your relationship with your partner, even if your partner explicitly gave you that power. Now, I’m not saying you should never exercise a veto; but I am saying that when you make a decision affecting your partner, seek to understand how it affects your partner, and take responsibility for that. Say “Yes, I know this hurts you, and I’m sorry.” Acknowledge that your decisions may affect your relationship with your partner, and take responsibility for those effects, even if they were unintended.

This is probably the single most crucial factor to the success of any relationship. Everything you do—whether it’s inviting your partner to some function but not inviting your partner’s partners, or seeking to exclude your partner’s other partners from things that are important to you, or even something as simple as not acknowledging the value your partner sees in his or her other relationships—will affect your relationship with your partner, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in ways that are more obvious. Be aware of the consequences of your decisions as well as your reasons for making them.

Don’t try to micromanage your feelings, or those of your partners

One of the more common problems in a polyamorous relationship arises when one of the people involved, in an effort to feel less threatened or more secure, seeks to control the extent to which his or her partner becomes emotionally involved with another partner. People often feel threatened by emotional intimacy—sometimes, more threatened than by physical intimacy. But trying to micromanage emotions isn’t the way to solve that problem.

Emotions are resistant to being managed that way; it’s virtually impossible to pass a “rule” that says “you may be physically intimate with another person, but you may not be emotionally intimate past this point” and have it stick. It’s not always possible to predict what relationships will become emotionally intimate, or how they’ll become emotionally intimate; attempting to manage insecurity or fear by micromanaging emotional connections is virtually certain to fail. In fact, sometimes, attempts to micromanage emotional intimacy lead to the next problem, which is:

Don’t destroy the village in order to save it

It’s a given in most relationships of any sort at all that hurting one’s partner will hurt the relationship. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you break your lover’s heart, you will cause damage to your relationship.

One way to break your lover’s heart is to force your lover to withdraw from a person he or she loves, which is where rules forbidding emotional intimacy generally end. Because emotions can’t be arbitrarily controlled, and because it’s not always possible to predict in advance when a relationship will become emotionally intimate, people who build relationship structures in which emotional intimacy is forbidden often end up unintentionally violating those structures. When that happens, a choice must be made: the rules forbidding emotional intimacy can change, or the person who’s become emotionally intimate with a new partner can withdraw from that partner. Doing the latter is going to cause a lot of pain, both for that person and for his or her new partner; eventually, that pain is going to affect the existing relationship.

In an effort to avoid making this mistake, though, people sometimes commit the next, which is:

Don’t expect someone to develop the same relationship with both you and your partner

One way people sometimes seek to address the problem of feeling threatened by emotional intimacy is to say “Okay, emotional intimacy is not a problem, as long as a new partner becomes involved with both of us and loves both of us. That way, nobody feels left out, and nobody needs to feel jealous.”

On paper, it looks great. In the real world, however, it’s not usually successful, because it rests on an assumption that isn’t true—namely, that it’s possible to dictate that two separate relationships can develop at the same rate and to the same degree with two different people.

Let’s assume that a person begins dating a pair of identical twins, and that he or she spends the same amount of time with each of them. Even in that situation, it’s not realistic to expect both relationships to develop at the same rate and in the same way. Relationships, like people, are individuals, and it simply isn’t realistic to think that a relationship with two different people will turn out the same.

People will sometimes seek to do this because they feel that it will protect them from insecurity or jealousy—“I feel threatened when my partner has an emotionally intimate relationship, but if the person my partner is involved with has the same relationship with me, I won’t feel left out, so I won’t feel threatened.” The better approach, I think, is to create a relationship that is inclusive rather than exclusive, but that does not rely on an impossible goal like “anyone new must date both of us and must develop the same kind of relationship with both of us.” Inclusiveness does not have to mean “two relationships that are the same”; indeed, it is possible to construct inclusive relationships in which the new person is only romantically involved with one member of an existing couple, but has developed a strong friendship with the other.

And while we’re at it, the second mistake people make along these lines:

Don’t assume that you can prevent jealousy by making sure you and your partner date the same person

This is one of the most common mistakes made by couples who decide to try out polyamory. The idea is that if one of the members of the couple has insecurity or jealousy issues, the way to keep this from becoming a problem is if both of them date the same person. After all, if your partner is sleeping with someone else, but you’re also sleeping with that person, you won’t get jealous, right?

Wrong.

Jealousy doesn’t work that way. Jealousy isn’t rational. It doesn’t make any difference if you and your partner are sleeping with the same person; if you are insecure, or have unresolved fears of loss or of being replaced, you may still feel jealous if your partner has another lover even if that person is also your lover.

The way to keep from feeling threatened or jealous is to figure out what lies at the root of the jealousy and then deal with that, not by creating relationship structures that are intended to make the jealousy go away. Jealousy is rooted in other emotions, such as insecurity or fear of loss. Dating the same person that your partner is dating does not make those other emotions go away.

Don’t forget your priorities

It is completely natural to become so wrapped up in the joy of a new relationship that you neglect your existing relationships; in fact, it often takes a considerable act of will to pay full attention to your existing relationships.

But doing this is necessary. Neglecting existing relationships in the giddy rush to a new relationship can be extremely destructive…to all of the relationships. Don’t get carried away; pay attention to what you’re doing. Take care to make all of your partners feel loved, needed, and secure.

Don’t start new relationships if your existing relationships have problems

Polyamory is not a way to evade problems in your romantic life. In fact, problems in one relationship have a very nasty habit of spilling over into your other relationships if you’re not careful.

If you have a relationship that is facing difficulty, that is not the time to be starting new relationships. Doing so is likely to create problems in the new relationship and exacerbate the problem in your existing relationship. It’s unfair to both your existing lover and to any new lover to begin relationships under these conditions.

And on the flip side of that same mistake:

Be careful about getting involved with an existing couple who haven’t worked out what polyamory is all about

One almost-certain way to run into heartache is to start dating one part (or both parts!) of an existing couple when each of the members of that couple has a different idea about how their relationship should work.

Any time two people are clearly not on the same page about what is and is not allowed, or have different ideas about how their relationship should be conducted, you’re likely to find trouble. And as often as not, when problems occur between the members of the existing couple as a result, you’ll be the bad guy. It pays to do what you can to see that everyone is on the same page before your heart is on the line.

And while we’re on the subject, the flip side of that same coin is…

Don’t get involved in polyamory if you’re still not sure whether or not you have a poly relationship in the first place, or if you’re not prepared to take responsibility for your actions

It should go without saying, but don’t invite someone into your relationship if you aren’t clear whether or not your relationship permits it. If you are partnered, and you think you might like to explore polyamory, be clear with your partner about it before you bring someone else in. And when you do bring someone else in, be clear that this person’s heart is on the line. You are offering this person physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, or both; take responsibility for that. Don’t let him in, create vulnerability, and then turn around without warning and say “well, my partner and I aren’t sure if we’re poly or not.”

Your partners are human beings, not commodities; if you want partners who will treat you well, consider your feelings, and behave with compassion and respect, you need to treat them well, consider their feelings, and behave with compassion and respect yourself. Get clear in your own head and establish with your existing partner how your relationship works and what the terms of your relationship are; don’t make someone else find this out by trial and error! If you’re not sure whether or not you’re in a polyamorous relationship, you aren’t in a polyamorous relationship.

Don’t assume that needs not being met in one relationship can be met in another

Often, people may fall into the trap of believing that if some need is not being met in a relationship, the solution is to meet that need by seeking another relationship. This is particularly common in primary/secondary relationships, where if the secondary’s needs aren’t being met, the secondary may seek out other relationships to meet them.

In reality, many needs are connected to a person, not to a relationship. If you need A, B, C, D, and E, don’t assume you can have needs A, B, and D met from Joe, and needs C and E from Bob. What you may find is that you need A, B, C, and D from Joe, and need A, D, and E from Bob; getting A from Joe does not mean that you do not also need it from Bob.

Don’t try to force your relationships to fit a predefined mold

Many people believe that communication is Rule #1 in a polyamorous relationship. If that’s true, then Rule #0 is: Let your relationships be what they are.

When someone who is in a polyamorous relationship begins searching for a new partner, sometimes the temptation exists to search for a new relationship that will fit within a predefined form—for example, “I want a bisexual female who will date both my partner and me, who is already partnered, and who likes skeeball.”

Like any kind of romantic relationship, a poly relationship isn’t likely to be quite that tidy. Often, a relationship may fail if the people involved in that relationship try to force it to fit some predefined set of conditions, rather than allowing the relationship to grow in whatever direction is natural.

This is particularly true in situations where an existing couple or group seek out a new relationship that will involve everyone equally—for example, “We are a couple looking for another couple in such a way that all four of us will be romantically involved with one another.” The impulse here can be to try to force the new relationships to fit that pattern even in situations where the relationships, if allowed to grow naturally, wouldn’t take that shape.

But this can happen in one-on-one relationships as well. When people say things like “I want a secondary partner,” they may be committing the advanced form of this mistake; you can’t always predict in advance how intimate a romantic relationship will become. You can’t force a light, casual relationship to become deep and passionate—but you also can’t force a deep, passionate relationship to be light and casual!

A very valuable tool that can be used to avoid this problem is to treat any relationship between two people as though it has three components: the needs of the first person involved, the needs of the second person involved, and the needs of the relationship itself. Often, the relationship itself acts like a third, independent entity, and it’s wise to listen to the needs of the relationship.

Don’t try to isolate your relationships

Nothing exists in a vacuum. Often, people try to isolate their relationships from one another, and try to “compartmentalize” the relationships so that each is a separate, distinct entity. This is usually more common with relationships that follow a primary/secondary model.

Trouble is, it doesn’t work. Each relationship can and will exert an influence on the others. It’s important to keep this in mind, and to understand that the things you do in one relationship have consequences for the others.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to go overboard in the other direction, which leads us to the next poly mistake:

Don’t try to combine your relationships, or force them to act as a single relationship

This happens most often in people seeking to create an intentional, equilateral relationship involving three or four people. The impulse is for all the people involved to want to do everything together—to spend all their time together, go out together, and so on.

The dangers here are twofold. First, it can be suffocating to have no space of your own, to always be surrounded by other people. Second, this tends to try to “force” the relationship to fit a mold it might not fit naturally. It’s quite normal for all the people in a triad or quad to relate to one another somewhat differently, even if the triad or quad is equilateral; and two of the people may enjoy doing something together that the third doesn’t enjoy, or doesn’t enjoy as much.

This is normal and healthy. There’s nothing wrong with letting the relationships develop as they will; not everyone has the same needs, the same tastes, and the same desires. It doesn’t mean the relationship is not equilateral.

Don’t try to separate yourself from your lover’s other relationships

This most often happens in situations where one partner is polyamorous by nature and the other is monogamous. A number of factors can cause you to try to distance yourself from your lover’s other lovers: Fear, jealousy, insecurity, and so on.

The reality of your lover’s other relationships is almost never as bad as the fear makes it out to be. Getting to know your lover’s other partners can go a long way to driving out that fear. The fact is, a person who is involved with someone who’s poly is also in a relationship with that person’s other partners—even if it’s not a romantic relationship.

If you see those other partners as competitors, it becomes easy to dehumanize them, and the impulse is to vilify and distrust them. This tends to cause a great deal of stress on your relationship with your lover; it also tends to cause you to go crazy.

Once you see your lover’s other partners as human beings, instead of as competitors, it eases any stress you may be experiencing. It also helps you to establish healthy, happy relationships with them.

If, that is, they want a healthy relationship with you. If they don’t, then it’s important to consider the next common poly mistake, which is:

Don’t be afraid to put your foot down

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn.

Not everyone is a good person, and not everyone is perfect, and not everyone makes an ideal match for your lover. Often, we may want to do things that make our partner happy, even if we know better or if we have to sacrifice our own happiness to get there.

This usually works in the short run, and usually causes pain and grief in the long run. Listen to that little inner voice; it’s rarely wrong. If something bothers you, speak up about it. If you find something completely unacceptable, say so! Even if it’s irrational, your lover should at least be willing to listen to what you have to say about it.

And speaking of being irrational:

Don’t expect human beings to be rational all the time

We are inherently irrational beings. This is a part of the nature of man. Irrational responses are a part and parcel of who we are as human beings, and these things can’t be addressed rationally.

You may find some of your partner’s behavior or emotional response to be irrational in any romantic situation. This is not necessarily bad; love is not rational. Nor is jealousy.

Remember that you are not always rational, either. Do not attack, browbeat, or berate your partner for behaving emotionally; do not expect that your partner will always act in accordance with reason and logic. It’s not going to happen.

If your partner is acting irrationally, you must still be compassionate and respectful—even if you disagree with things your partner says or does! Treat your partner’s feelings with respect and courtesy. Try to find out why your partner feels the way he or she feels. Often, there may be some underlying reason that is not obvious; if you want to address the feeling, it’s necessary first to find out where it comes from.

People often know that it’s important to be compassionate when faced with jealousy, but it’s important to remember that all of your partner’s feelings are important. Even positive feelings, such as love or new relationship energy, can cause your partner to behave irrationally. Try to understand what your partner is feeling, and why, when you address any problems this behavior may bring up.

Develop good communication and conflict resolution skills

This one is obvious, really, but it bears repeating. A relationship is not doomed until the people in it stop talking to each other and start breaking dishes instead.

Talk to your partner. Honestly. All the time. About everything.

Don’t make unilateral life-altering decisions

Partners should include one another in life-altering decisions. Big announcements of major changes in one’s life can often make one’s partners feel alienated.

Talk to all your partners. Don’t relay information through your other partners

This never works. Seriously. Information that passes through an intermediary never quite gets to its destination without getting mangled. If you need to talk to someone, go directly to that person.

And on a related note:

Don’t rely on relayed information

Never trust that what one partner says about what another partner said is entirely accurate (even if no skewing was intended). Go to the source and get confirmation.

Don’t move too fast

There is no such thing as instant polyamory. Don’t think you have to have sex on the first date. Don’t show up with a moving van on the second date. And don’t call it a “relationship” till you’ve actually dating a while. Try letting things grow naturally, and build something lasting instead.

Polyamorous relationships are not different in kind from monogamous relationships, and the beginnings of any relationship are fraught with peril. Take it slow.

Don’t ignore that little voice in your head

This is an easy mistake to make in any kind of relationship, not just a polyamorous relationship. Sometimes, your heart may tell you one thing even when your head tells you another; even if you can’t put your finger on any rational reason why, it’s often a good idea to listen to your heart when it suggests that something might be wrong.

Just because you can’t find a rational reason why something is wrong doesn’t necessarily mean everything is OK. A wise course of action is to start with the assumption that the little voice is trying to warn you about something you have not consciously become aware of, and to delve deeper into figuring out what that may be.

The little voice is not always right, of course, but don’t write it off just because it’s not rational.

Don’t be afraid of change

Often, especially in a primary/secondary relationship, we may have a subconscious expectation that somebody new can come into our lives and our lives will continue pretty much as they were, undisturbed.

But any romantic relationship is going to leave a permanent mark on the people involved. Any time you introduce someone into your romantic life, even as a secondary, that person can and likely will alter your life permanently.

This is a feature, not a bug. If you bring people into your life, don’t expect to continue on untouched.

Don’t assume every problem you encounter is related to polyamory

When you’re involved in any non-traditional relationship model, it can sometimes be tempting to blame every problem you may encounter on that model. This seems particularly true in polyamory, where it might be easy and tempting to blame the polyamory for whatever trouble you may encounter—“If we weren’t poly, we wouldn’t have to deal with this!”

But that’s not necessarily so. Even traditional, monogamous relationships face their fair share of challenges and difficulties.

For example, if you’re in a poly relationship and you feel that you aren’t getting enough of your partner’s attention, it might be tempting to say, “If you weren’t also involved with so-and-so, I wouldn’t be feeling neglected.” But in any relationship, situations exist that may distract your lover’s attention—work, family, and so on. The problem in this case isn’t really polyamory—it’s time management.

Isolating the root cause of the problem, rather than simply blaming the problem on polyamory, is an excellent way to resolve relationship difficulties.

Make sure your actions and your intentions match

This is a valuable rule to apply to any relationship, but it’s particularly important in a poly relationship.

For instance, if you claim to accept or like your lover’s other partner(s), but in practice you manage to avoid acknowledging the other partner(s) as much as possible (such as never asking about them, never taking any initiative to nurture even the most casual or friendly relationship with them, falling silent or changing the subject whenever your lover mentions them, etc.), then you’re sending a clear message that you wish the other partner(s) didn’t exist.

This is very difficult on the lover-in-the-middle, which is made much worse if you deny that you’re doing this.

 

Last updated: June 18, 2011

https://www.morethantwo.com/polymistakes.html

 

NRE: New Relationship Energy

“New relationship energy (often abbreviated as NRE) is a state of mind experienced at the beginning of most significant sexual and romantic relationships, typically involving heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement. It begins with the earliest attractions, grows into full force when mutuality is established, and slowly fades over months to years. It carries an implication of contrast with the feelings involved with “old” or an ongoing relationship.” (Wikipedia)

While the dynamics described by NRE are common to almost all relationships, the term is particularly common in the polyamorous community, in large part because polyamorous people often experience new relationship energy alongside ongoing but older relationships which they also wish to maintain.  This can be the basis for one of the most common issues I see arise with poly clients.  The “original” partner feels the effects of the NRE when one or more of their partners is starting a new relationship.  This is a common place for insecurities to emerge and feelings of jealousy, fear and/or sadness can arise.

So what are a couple of tips for surviving NRE in a poly dynamic?

First is awareness.  Once you, as a couple, decide to open your dynamic to additional partners or if you come together as a poly couple from the start – knowing NRE will occur is extremely helpful.  Part of that awareness is understanding the physical changes it creates.

“That’s right we are actually experiencing changes in brain chemistry – increased dopamine and norepinephrine in particular. New relationships light up the pleasure centers of the brain, including what are known as the addiction-like drives in the brain meaning the drive to get MORE of that as soon as possible. These parts of our brains give us more energy, they can cause us to maintain focused attention and an intense yearning for the recent source of our pleasure. During this early phase of attraction people find that they need less sleep, have strong emotions, may experience intrusive thinking about the person they are drawn to, find it hard to focus on normal daily tasks, and have a heightened sex drive.” Melissa Fritchle, 6/2013

Second is kindness.  Be kind to one another during this transitionary phase.  If you’re the partner that’s starting a new relationship, try to maintain awareness of how you’re acting around your longer-term person.  When you are with them give them your full attention even though you have “puppy love brain”.  Keep in mind they may be struggling a bit and may need a little more reassurance than normal.  Also, don’t abandon your responsibilities.  You may want to spend all your time with the new partner, but that’s no excuse for leaving your long term partner to pick up your slack when it comes to shared household, children, or other responsibilities.

If you are the long-term partner, try to keep in mind that this is a normal and temporary phase your person is going through.  Their actions aren’t personal and you have entered into a poly agreement because you agree that multiple loves don’t diminish what you have together.  Make an attempt to self-sooth when you feel some jealousy – whether it’s self-talk, leaning on friends, or even therapy.  However, that being said, don’t stuff your feelings only to have them evolve into resentment or anger later on.  Communicate with your partner.  Take ownership of your feelings yet let them know if you’re having a tough time.

Especially if this is a first time transition for you as individuals or as a couple – be patient with one another.  NRE is probably something you both enjoyed at the start of your relationship and it’s bound to occur with every new relationship ahead.  So be aware, communicate, and be kind to one another.

So you see people identify as “poly” or “monogamous” (aka mono). Seems pretty clear cut. I wish it were that easy. When it comes to poly there are a gajillion variations. (Not an official number – lol) You can ask a dozen poly identified people to describe how they “do” poly and you are likely to get a dozen different answers.

For some they are romantically mono but agree that they and their romantic partner can play or have sex with others. For some they can only play with others – no romantic or sexual involvement. In some cases, partners have agreed that only one of them can have an additional outside partner – or that they can share one or more partners. Perhaps they share a romantic partner or play/sexual partners. Perhaps it’s closed and only a certain number of partners are allowed or open and people in the poly “pod” are allowed to date, play, and/or have sexual relations with others. The list is really endless when you consider all the various options and combinations.

An interesting twist is that one person may not do the same kind of poly based on their partner. Let me explain what I mean. At one point an individual may find themselves involved with an existing couple – for the purpose of this article I will use the term “secondary” to describe this person. However, let’s say that relationship ends and the person finds their own “primary” partner. The partner, based on what they know of the person’s relationship history, may expect that they are poly in any way. For example, this partner wants to bring in a secondary partner. They expect it to be an easy adjustment based on the fact that their partner has been a secondary in a poly triad. This may not be the case. It may not be the case by a long shot. Just because someone has been in a poly relationship, this doesn’t mean any poly dynamic will be comfortable for them. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, handle the transition just as you would if poly were a new thing for your partner. Because, essentially, it is brand new. This particular type of poly dynamic may be one that they have no experience with. Not all poly is the same and just because you have experience with one structure or one role doesn’t mean other roles or structures will work for you.

Poly can be a wonderful thing. It can lead to multiple fulfilling relationships and/ or fun adventures. However, nobody will say it’s always easy. Part of the difficulty comes back to “know thyself” as in “know thy poly”. Part of the journey is figuring out what kind of poly works for you and for you and those in your life. So be honest with yourself first, then be honest with your partner. Be patient and understanding and remember that it’s not all the same.

Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.