Saturday, 27 March 2010

The internet and the rise of the fantasy romance

I have often got into trouble for telling people their Internet romances are not real, yes there are real emotions involved, yes people can find a certain synergy with people they get to know online, but as I have said often enough, on the Internet, no one knows you are a dog.

And there are dogs. Many of them.
On Internet dating sites we have now a phenomenon I like to call the F.I.P = Fake Internet Personality. This is when someone, through malicious intent or woefully pathetic attention seeking create another personality on the net in the attempt to gain attention.

Sometimes they steal pictures from somewhere else on the net of someone else who is often younger and/or more attractive than they are. They often say they have had a terrible childhood and/or young married life that they were lucky to escape from. If you see a picture that looks like it was taken of a model in a plain professional background, chances are it is stolen from another website.

When they gain interest from a person/s on these sites they tend to agree with everything this person or people say, becoming their ideal partner, this can fool the person courting them into thinking that this person matches them perfectly, in fact, this is a common method of attachment by F.I.P's, they want your attention and so they are going to say anything to make themselves likable, including fitting in with your lifestyle, hobbies, religion, political stance and anything else which you might form an opinion on in conversation.

Often FIPs do not like sending pictures, they either 'don't HAVE any on their PCs' Or they are 'too shy'. You'll find that a video chat will be a no no, there is usually a good excuse at hand for that, but most often it is that they don't have a camera enabled on their machines.

FIP relationships eventually die out once the person/s courting the FIP realise the planned meeting will never go ahead.

There tends to be a lot of sadness left in the wake of a FIP relationship, this is because quite often people make the mistake of getting too involved with people they HAVEN'T MET!!!

I know how easy it is, online it is safe and anonymous, you can express and be open about yourselves, you have your Internet friends who you might discuss issues with that you haven't told your RL friends, this is especially the case in ALT communities when you think that your RL friends might be judgemental about aspects of your life, whether that would be poly, kink or sexuality. People often forget that you are trusting a complete stranger to be honest with you and to be frank, people are not always honest online. They might not be FIPs but they can still be liars, it is worth being cautious until you meet a number of times before letting yourself become emotionally invested. Sadly, people not only get emotionally invested, but create a future with someone who might not be AT ALL the person that they have portrayed themselves to be, so the relationship is entirely created for the selfish pleasure of the FIP to the detriment of the person/people who are taken in by them.

How to avoid a FIP relationship

Firstly, when you set out to approach someone online, always bear in mind that this person is not necessarily kosher just because they have been banging around either a) A forum or b) a personals site, for a long time, they also might be popular and even have 'friends' on that site, on the Internet the rules for friendship differ than in RL, I have had friend requests from people who I have done little more for than welcome them when they joined the site.

Keep in mind that you are getting to know a friend, even if you would eventually like them to become more, put that out of your mind until you meet them in person.

If things are going well by email, move onto a chat facility. Before you suggest it, ask them what kind of machine they use, almost all mid range laptops have integrated web cams, so if they say they are using X machine and don't have a webcam, take that as a red light warning.

Ask to phone them fairly early on, if they don't want you to call them or insist on calling you only at specific hours (for example, only in the day time) wonder why, is it possible that they live with a partner (a surprisingly large amount of FIPs are actually married women and men pretending to be women).

If things are really going well via email and chat and you really want to take things further but you STILL have not seen them, because they 'don't have a webcam' tell them that you will buy one for them, say that you are on Amazon right now and you will order one, it is an offer liable to take a FIP by surprise and they often do not, at first have a good reason to tell you not to do that, often the first thing they might say is they don't want you to buy it because it would hurt their pride accepting money from you. In which case, tell them that it isn't a gift, it is a loan and they can pay you back when they get the money. An experienced FIP might counter with 'I am sorry but I am not ready to give my address out because it is not safe' this is a sensible attitude to take and because of that, it would be easy to give up, however, you can offer to send the money to her via paypal and tell her to buy it herself. If she accepts the money and doesn't buy it within a week or two, depending on how frequent your communications, cut off all contact and consider it a lucky escape, webcams are fairly cheap now and it is totally worth it for peace of mind, do not let yourself be pulled into the 'I just haven't got around to it conversation' trust me, if she was interested, she would want to see you also!

Chatting on webcam has been a huge comfort to myself and my partners during our periods apart these long months, I know of other relationships where it has been important in building a level of intimacy in the early part of a relationship, if they don't want to do this or only want the webcam to be one sided, question why this is so.

FIPs quite often cut off communication very suddenly, you might be having an enjoyable chat session and 'poof' he will disappear quite suddenly and either a) not come back online at all that night or b) Come back on to say that have to go, sometimes without explanation. They might have a perfectly reasonable explanation the next day which doesn't make sense like 'My sister called and was really upset' (really? Do you cut off a conversation for that reason or would you type that at the time and say a nice goodbye whilst still giving your sister her full attention on the phone?).
If on the phone and and he hangs up suddenly, it might be 'someone came to the door'

Again, ask yourself this, would YOU cut off communication suddenly from someone who you are getting to know without an explanation? If it seems to be unreasonable and a fairly lightweight excuse, there is likely to be another reason behind it which is more likely to be that they were taken unawares by their spouse and had to switch off/hang up before the spouse realises what they are up to and especially in the case of the phone, before you hear their voice.



Now it might be that a person might be quite happy to be seen on the webcam and/or talk on the phone, this does not mean that they are NOT FIPs, a person who is married and pretends to be single is still a FIP, but they might not have the insecurity aspect that some FIPs may have, so don't take the fact that you know what they look like as sound evidence that they are kosher. Some FIPs have partners in the military or work long/awkward hours, some FIPs have jobs which allow them plenty of time to go on the net/use the phone, I used to do a sleeping in job which gave me plenty of time to indulge in webchat and phone calls and I was married at the time, were I inclined to be a FIP, it was the perfect job for it!

However, the number one best way to avoid a FIP relationship is to wait until you meet someone in person before you get emotionally involved, visit them, let them visit you, make sure all the things they say add up, make sure that the personality they gave out online corresponds to the person you see before you. I know in this world of instant communication and the feeling that we are living in a small world, it is SO easy to get involved with someone who lives outside of your geographical region and people, especially people keen for a partner and want to rush things, but let caution be your guide, if someone is right for you, than they would be worth the wait until you can meet.

Being taken in by an FIP has its own particular brand of pain, not only for the loss of the relationship but also, the fact that you eventually find out that there wasn't a relationship to begin with, that it was based upon a person that doesn't exist, that it was just fantasy on your part, that can be terribly humiliating especially if you have publicised your relationship.

Until then, no matter how tempting, keep things non emotive and light, FIPs don't have patience, if they think that you are not falling for their act, they will move onto another victim and you would have saved yourself a world of hurt.

Monday, 22 March 2010

When is a Veto not a Veto?


Following on from my previous post, Just Say No, it has to be acknowledged that there comes a point in many poly relationships where it becomes impossible to give up one partner in favour of another. This is because the relationship has changed: the person you were considering a potential partner is no longer potential, but an actual partner. You have become a dyad in your own right and are too deeply entwined in each other’s lives and consciousness to separate on the say-so of a pre-existing partner.

This is not so likely to happen in less emotionally intense relationships, such as a friends-with-benefits situation, but it may well be a problem in a full-blown romantic relationship. In some cases the point of no return may come a lot sooner than any of the participants expect. You just can’t tell when someone you meet casually might turn out to be a romantic thunderbolt. Franklin Veaux has written a very interesting post on the topic of game-changing events in poly relationships here. Ideally, of course, everybody in the relationship loves everybody else, even if it is purely platonic between some partners, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Does this happen often? Well, I know of three cases online and one IRL in the last 6 months. And I only keep up with two of the many English language poly forums and a few poly blogs, so there are probably many more out there. And it has happened to me, in the dim and distant past, when I was one arm of a V.

When your partner is in love with someone you have absolutely nothing in common with, and that feeling is returned, it can seem as though there are only two options. 1) Grit your teeth and bear it while having as little to do with the new partner as possible and working towards the downfall of the relationship. 2) Demand that your partner instantly end the relationship for your sake, despite all the pain, drama and long-term resentment that would engender. Neither of these is a good option.

So how on earth can a relationship survive such a situation intact and happy? Assuming a situation in which one man has two female partners (example only –genders or sexuality doesn’t matter) one longstanding and one relatively new, the best possible scenario goes as follows.


The Man
When the issue first raises its head:

• Back peddles a bit on the new relationship in terms of time
• Explains to the new partner that he loves her and wants to spend time with her, but that, although he will continue to see her regularly, he will have to see a bit less of her for a while, because they need to make sure that his pre-existing partner feels secure about their relationship
• Keeps in regular contact with the new partner and makes sure that she knows he loves her
Initially and Long term:
• Makes a point of spending quality time with his pre-existing partner and new partner, individually and together
• Shows and tells his pre-existing partner in every way possible that, even though he has a new shiny toy, she is still indispensible and utterly necessary for his happiness. If this is not true, he should not say it, but should instead take a deep, hard look at his pre-existing relationship and try to work out why it is not true, and whether he values this relationship enough
• Shows and tells his new partner in every way possible that, even though he still loves his pre-existing partner deeply, she is still indispensible and utterly necessary for his happiness. Again, if this is not true, he should not say it but should try to work out why it is not true, and whether he values this relationship enough to continue to pursue it
• Makes a point of making up for any additional work or responsibility his pre-existing partner will have as a result of him spending time with his new partner. She might, for example, be alone with the children more often while he is out. In this case, he might make sure that he does extra housework or cooking before he goes out, so that she has less to do while he is away.
• Ensures that all of his home responsibilities are met, regardless of his desire to spend more time with his new partner.
• May need to give up (temporarily at least) a hobby or pastime that currently occupies his spare time. Until this situation is resolved to everybody’s satisfaction, he has to accept that he has very little free time because he will need to get extra time from somewhere to meet the needs of both his partners. He may need to put this hobby on the back-burner indefinitely. If this is too difficult or is unacceptable to him, he needs to ask himself whether he values either of his relationships enough if he is not willing to do whatever it takes to make them work out successfully.

The New Partner
• Understands the pre-existing partner’s need for reassurance, so she co-operates with the time reduction
• Makes an effort (without being intrusive) to befriend the pre-existing partner and build a good relationship between them
• Takes the needs of the existing partner into consideration when making plans with the man

The Pre-existing Partner
• Should recognise that this relationship is something apart from her, in which she has no power to interfere. Her man and his new partner have built a relationship between them, and it would be terribly painful for both of them to lose it. At this point, their relationship has to stand or fall on its own merits. It would be very foolish to stand out against it, as it risks losing her partner’s trust that she wants what is best for him, and wants him to be happy. In any case, the knowledge that demanding an end to the relationship would cause pain should be enough to give her pause. Who would want to be the cause of so much pain?
• Will probably need much more attention and reassurance than before this relationship came up
• Will try to appreciate the efforts being made to reassure her and recognise them as an expression of her continuing importance in her man’s life, and of the respect that the new partner has for her and her relationship with their man
• Makes an effort to build a friendship with the new partner. They do not need to be best friends from the start, but they do need to have consideration for one another
• Takes the needs of the new partner into consideration when making plans with the man

All partners
• Should be completely honest and transparent about their feelings, their current plans and their hopes for the future. Lying and prevarication are never acceptable in this situation.
• Should ensure that their own needs (not wants, but needs) are being met, and should speak up (courteously!) when they are not
• Will negotiate arrangements such as outings all together to ensure that nobody’s needs are overlooked, and that nobody feels left out of the decision-making process. Personal commitments and obligations, such as child care, should never be considered optional in these arrangements.

It is vitally important that the two arms of the V (both women in this scenario) make an effort to get along with each other, to keep in contact and to spend time together, as it will make the situation easier for everybody concerned. It is very easy to resent a person who is an inconvenience in your life, especially if you never see or hear from them. Keeping in contact helps the women to remember that they are dealing with a real person, with her own thoughts and feelings, and this helps them to be more considerate of each other’s needs. It is less likely that either woman will say or do things that may hurt the other if they care about and like each other. Each woman is less likely, for instance, to think that she would be much happier living mono with their mutual partner, and to make a push for it.

Additionally, if both arms of the V are understanding and caring of each other, they will earn the gratitude and appreciation of the hinge and also of the other arm of the V. The poly partner who feels understood and supported is less likely to find mono an attractive option, and choose to dump one person in favour of another, or try to encourage their partner to dump a metamour.

It is critical for the arms of the V to communicate directly with one another rather than have all or most of the communication going through the hinge of the V. Indirect communication (e.g. via the hinge) is more likely to be mistaken, garbled or misrepresented than if it is direct. This often leads to needlessly hurt feelings and resentment. It also permits a lot of opportunities for emotional manipulation on all sides, intentional or unintentional. Communication via the hinge also puts a great deal of pressure on the hinge to negotiate, pacify and problem-solve between the arms of the V, which can be utterly exhausting.

Where possible, communicate face-to-face. If this is not possible, communicate by email, text, IM, phone and video link; video link and phone to be preferred over more impersonal means of communicating. However uncomfortable it may be to open up about your needs to the other arm of the V, it is totally worth it, and it does get easier with practice. Yes, it makes you vulnerable, but if the other arm of the V takes advantage of that, you know where you stand, and it is unlikely to endear them to your mutual hinge. The ultimate goal of all this is to build as close a friendship as possible between the two arms of the V, as this will make it easier all round, and may even lead to a very rewarding, if platonic, relationship between them.

It is impossible to over-state the importance of open, direct communication, of kindness and consideration and of complete transparency and honesty in any poly relationship, but they are particularly critical in a case such as this. Lying, prevarication, selfishness and wilful self-deception will lead to a lot of pain all round, and, almost inevitably, to disaster for the relationships.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Giving up victory

Currently I am trying to argue more constructively. Giving up the need to "win" an argument is an important part of this process. I find that when I can bear this in mind things go much more positively.

We are all human. We all make mistakes. We cannot and do not always behave as our better selves. When this happens it is vitally important to "own your own shit". To be able to acknowledge and accept that you have screwed up and to take responsibility for the consequences.

Seeing how your behaviour hurts another, or if it has been unreasonable, can be hard sometimes and may require someone pointing it out to you, and this can lead to arguments. It is easy to feel on the defensive when we are criticised, and to say whatever we can to defend our position or action, even if it is unjustified.

But arguments are not necessarily completely negative; constructive discussion can lead to resolution of long-standing problems in a relationship and promote new ways of looking at things leading to a happier relationship. The important thing it to try to argue positively.

For this to work there must be honesty, trust and mutual respect. These are the fundamentals of any relationship. There must be a commitment to each other and to making your relationship work.

It is important to remember when you disagree that:-
· there is no "winner" and no “loser”
· you are challenging someone's behaviour, not attacking them as a person
· you are dealing with a particular issue for the betterment of your relationship and not just aiming to score points off one another
· you are working together as a team, confronting the issue, rather than one another
· you are working for resolution not "victory"

This way there is more mutual satisfaction and less disgruntlement when the argument ends.

Know that you love your partners and that they love you.

It can be helpful to start with an argument code. The do's and don’ts of arguments e.g. honesty, staying on topic, remembering it is the issue you are arguing, no violence or personal abuse, time-outs etc. An argument code should be agreed by everybody involved, and then it can be kept somewhere visible, to remind everybody to stick to it. There will be backsliding even with the best of intentions, but you do get better at it over time.

Another alternative is the "speaker's staff" where only one person at a time may speak. The person holding the “speaker’s staff” speaks without interruption until they have finished, then it is handed on.

Whatever works for your relationship.

We, as men, must get beyond the competitive win or lose model which is only destructive in any relationship. We have to learn to be emotionally honest and to lose some of the defensive emotional camouflage which we have been trained to use from childhood.

If we wish to be treated as equals in our relationships then we must attain some emotional maturity, even when it hurts.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Just Say No

Something that comes up occasionally on poly forums is a situation where one partner in a couple is anxious to pursue a poly relationship, and the other is opposed.

Is it really possible for a poly-minded person to live monogamously, if that is what their partner needs to feel loved and secure? I know of at least two cases where somebody, having explored the idea of poly, decided against it in the end because his partner said she did not want it. I am absolutely convinced that there are many people out there in good relationships who have decided against poly because their partners dislike the idea.

Every day, people decide against starting relationships which their partner would not like because they honour their feelings: everything from opportunities for cheating to poly are turned down. There are poly-minded couples who have decided against a relationship with a particular person because, although one partner was very attached to the person concerned, the other did not get on with them, and it was clear that pursuing that relationship could only be painful for everyone concerned in the long term.

Everyone in a relationship should honour the feelings of their partner/s. So should we expect our partners to sacrifice a poly lifestyle, or a relationship with a particular person, for our own comfort? There is absolutely no doubt that a poly relationship will result in additional demands on the time and energy of the person in the relationship, and so the original partner will lose in some ways. Poly is very rewarding for those of us who choose the lifestyle, but for those who do not want or choose it, any benefits are vastly outweighed by the losses.

So I would suggest that the issue comes down to a choice between sacrifices. Someone who refuses to 'sacrifice' a desire for a poly relationship when they know that their partner is not, and may never be, ready for it, sacrifices a part of their existing relationship. Specifically, they sacrifice their existing partner’s trust that they love them enough to take their needs into consideration; the trust that they would never deliberately hurt that partner. An element of emotional insecurity is thus introduced into the relationship which will affect them both in the long run.

As long as somebody insists on a 'right' to poly or to developing a particular relationship over and above the wishes of their partner, the partner is likely to remain insecure. An insecure person is unable to give as much to a partner or to a relationship as one who is happy and secure. Pressure will only make a person defend their position more strongly than ever, and become deaf to the feelings of their partner, because an element of competition has been introduced into the relationship: a conflict between what ‘you’ want and what ‘I’ want.

A poly relationship which begins under such circumstances has, I believe, very little chance of success in the long term. Quite aside from the issues between the original couple, it is unethical to bring another person into a relationship which is currently unstable. It will only make the situation worse and the other person desperately unhappy, as well as exacerbating problems between the original couple. It is all but impossible for anyone to keep their poly relationships completely separate: misery or stress in one relationship will inevitably affect any other relationships a person has. In my view, forced poly is no better than cheating, though the third party bears little or no responsibility for the situation.

Sometimes, just knowing that their partner is prepared to forego something important for their sake can be enough to make a previously insecure person completely confident in the love of their partner. Sometimes, so secure that sometime down the line they may suggest poly themselves, because they want their partner to be completely happy. The root of compersion is security.

I am a firm believer that nobody, male or female, should go into poly against their better judgement. It is a difficult lifestyle even when everybody in the relationship loves each other and is very keen to work at it. If someone's partner is trying to coerce them into poly, I think they should examine their relationship very carefully, and strive for open communication. It is very important to be aware that, in some cases, one partner may really not understand what a huge problem this might be for the other: both partners should take care to explain their feelings about poly (or about a particular relationship) very clearly and in such a way that they cannot be misunderstood.

If I had made my feelings plain, and a partner still insisted, I would ask myself: Is it worth staying in a relationship where my partner cares so little for my feelings that they would force their preferences on me against my will? I do not give up on relationships lightly, but I EXPECT my partners to care for my feelings as I care for theirs, and I think everyone, whether mono or poly, should have such high expectations of themselves and of their partners. We can and should, in my view, make choices that respect and honour our existing partner/s. Again, if we do not care to do so, we should ask ourselves how committed we actually are to that partner. Are we really prepared to risk losing the relationship we have in favour of one which may, or may not, turn out to be worth having?

A person in any relationship who desperately wants to live poly or to develop a specific romantic relationship would be wise to pay attention first to developing trust, security and emotional openness in the relationship they already have, and to ensuring that their existing partner is absolutely certain they are loved. Only when these are in place is it likely that an existing partner will feel comfortable with the reality of a poly relationship. Without them, it is likely that any poly relationship will very soon become mono again, one way or another.

People can only be termed ‘polyamorous’ if they are living by the accepted definition of polyamory. Polyamory is often described as ‘consensual non-monogamy.’ Somebody who is brow-beaten into accepting poly, or a particular poly relationship, against their wishes or better judgement is not truly consenting to the arrangement in my book. It is certainly non-monogamy but it is not consensual, so it is not polyamory. There is a word for it. That word is ‘cheating.’

Friday, 5 March 2010

Bare Necessities

To expand on my recent post on my personal blog about Single Issue dating (Read it here) , I have written some guidelines about what people should be looking out for when they are open to finding a new partner, whether they are seeking a poly or a mono relationship.

There are three essential elements when getting to know a person who you are are interested in, without these elements being in sync with yourself and your family, your chances of having a happy home life is greatly reduced.

They are:

Worldview

If your politics, your ideals regarding social issues or your religious convictions are widely different, forget it! Our worldview is the backbone to our principles and who wants to compromise their principles or expect others to compromise theirs, just to get a partner? Is it worth it?
If you are a vegetarian, green, liberal would you expect to have a successful relationship with a hunter who constantly instructs you on the fact that those evil commies are trying to take away their gun rights?

If you are a Christian family do you expect to start a relationship with an atheist who might mock your beliefs normally? Would you hope to convert them? Should anyone have to live with such pressure?

At the end of the day, although someones age, looks and sexuality seems to fit what you want, it is their worldview which helps to shape the person that they are, ignoring that and relying on superficial things to guide your courtship will definitely lead to disaster.

Aims

Similar to worldview, your aims for the future are often guided by the above, how the home will run once the new person joins? Do you want someone to be at home all the time? Do you want children in the relationship? I have seen people who state on forums that they expect any woman they date to be a housewife and mother and then start flirting with Ms. Smith who says that her job is really important to her!!
Why do this?

Similarly, if you have widely divergent aims when it comes to having and disciplining the children you already have, you are looking at major marital disharmony, if they don't believe in sparing the rod and you believe that beating children is abusive, how on earth do you expect anything to work? No one ever likes their parenting techniques being criticised, if you want a harmonious homelife, make certain that this is an issue you are all agreed on, even if none of you have children yet, it can save a great deal of pain.

Also location, if you live in the middle of a rural wilderness and they live in the city and don't want to move too far from it, discuss that beforehand, it might be that they are hoping you would move and you are hoping that they will, but location means a lot more to someone than where they live, it's about being comfortable with the facilities and convenience of the location, if they are social people used to going out every weekend and might be bored senseless on your small farm a mile away from the nearest neighbours, please take that into consideration.

Interests

Your interests and passions are just as important in a relationship as any thing else, long relationships can wither and die when the people involved realise they have little of shared interest outside of the running of the home and trust me, it will be discovered eventually.
If your idea of a good time is curling up with a good book and his is dancing the night away, is this a good match? If family activities are mostly centered around the great outdoors and it might be their idea of hell, this is just a huge store of resentment waiting to explode when the new person in the relationship feels they either they have to conform to the group activity(and be miserable) or be left out when others go off and enjoy themselves (and be equally miserable and lonely to boot) it is just a bad situation. 

If one of your pet peeves happens to be reality television and the couple you are courting are addicted to them, this might be a constant source of annoyance.

Of course there is room for a bit of compromise when it comes to interests and hobbies, neither of my partners is as passionate about films as I am, nor do I get as addicted to novels as either of them, but where they like and enjoy a good film and I like and enjoy a good book, we can meet half way with our interests. Also, I have interests in common with one or both of them and they both have some interests they share that I am less interested in, so these interests overlap meaning that there is always someone to share with and you are not boring a partner senseless talking about your love for Star Wars when they hate sci-fi.

At the end of the day, successful relationships, poly and mono, rely a great deal on chemistry, but we shouldn't allow sexual attraction (or sometimes just the mere fact that someone is single regardless of what they look like) and the fact that they will accept you, be your only guideline for going ahead with a relationship, you have to like a person just as much as love them, without that, you are left with not much else when the NRE wears off.

The Difference between Poly and Swinging

I have seen a lot of posts recently on some anti poly websites which basically consider Polyamory as nothing more than swinging by another name, this was a post I wrote previously on this topic.

I see a HUGE difference between an emotionally and materialistically monogamous couple getting together with other couples for sexual purposes

and

a couple opening up their relationship to one or more people to share their lives sexually, emotionally and materially.

Swinging by its nature is about change and variety, it is supposed to enhance the marriage of the couple by giving them an alternative sex life but keeping their home life entirely separate.

I have only known one couple who tried swinging and they did break up, swinging wasn't the reason though, the reason was she was sick of the marriage and wanted out, desperation makes people consider things they might not normally consider just to make their marriage exciting again. So it was more the symptom than the cause.

I do know a few single people who have had connections to the swinging world and from what I recall, what you would get is a great many of the wives in the kitchen chatting together whilst their husbands were upstairs, The consensus was that they had no interest in it themselves but their husbands would just have an affair if they didn't and they would rather see what they were getting up to.

I don't know 100% because I have not been involved personally with swinging but from what I recall from the various conversations, is that swinging seems more male led and dominated and Poly seems more female led and dominated (though that might upset the Patriarchal folks, the stats don't lie). When women want something to work it works, when they don't, it won't work.

So like everything, it depends greatly on the people (especially women) involved.
If Poly (or swinging or anything that dramatically changes the nature of a particular marriage) is used as a sticky plaster/band aid for a marriage already failing I would say work on your marriage first. If either partner is falling out of love with the other one then Poly will not help. If it isn't something that both people want and/or something they have always intended for their lives (openly, I hasten to add - saying, I always wanted to be polyamorous and so five/twenty-five years into my monogamous marriage with Jackie, I admitted it to her, does not count!) than it probably would be doomed to failure.

If the Primary feels like s/he is being pushed into it, it will fail, if the secondary partner is only going into it because s/he likes the husband/wife (but not poly) or s/he thinks it is something cool and fashionable because it is on HBO, it will fail.

I have never heard about a scientific survey about poly but it would be of great interest to me to be involved in a research study (my scientific brain is going just thinking about it) but you do run the risk of it not being taken seriously by the scientific establishment, after all, what do you consider a successful and healthy poly group? Those who have been together 5, 10, 15, 20 years plus? Is there a standard time line for 'successful'? What if you interview 200 poly families, who you consider successful and ten years down the line they have all divorced? As a scientist, the better option would be to follow a number of couples over a number of years monitoring them every year to check how happy, stable and functional the family are.

You also run the risk of poly people themselves not caring for any conclusion you draw, for example, if you admit ALL poly situations you will likely have those saying 'We are not like that because we are FLDS/Christian/Patriarchal/Egalitarian/polyamorous/bisexual/open/closed/whatever.

In other words there are so many variables that you can either choose to involve everything (which would mean that some will disregard how meaningful it is) or narrow it down, in which case it won't actually show the full scope of polyamorous groupings and therefore it will be scientifically useless.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Where are all the Successful Poly Relationships?

This is a question that comes up time and time again on poly internet sites. It is often raised when people break up painfully (sometimes even publicly) prompting some in polyfi relationships to question their stability and those considering polyfidelity as a relationship option to wonder whether it is actually workable in practice.

It seems to me that there are three main reasons why we don't see very many successful polyfi relationships.

First, it is not that the successful relationships are not out there, but that they are not much publicised. There are quite a lot of people on the internet in successful polyfi relationships: some are very open about it, and others are much less obvious; you would have to read their posts pretty closely to discover it. There are two main factors which limit the visibility of successful poly relationships:-

  • People in successful poly relationships of any kind where there are children or an employment risk involved tend to keep a very low profile, even in countries where they are not actively persecuted. Just in case. Only in countries where polygamy, whether as polygyny or polyandry, is an intrinsic part of the culture are we likely to find a reasonable proportion of people living an openly poly lifestyle, and even then, only those whose lifestyle looks similar to the locally acceptable norm.
  • A lot of the people on poly internet sites are interested in learning about a poly lifestyle, but are not yet actually living poly themselves. It is not uncommon for members of a site, once they have developed a poly relationship, to vanish from the board completely for a period of time, often until they need advice from others about their relationship problems. I suspect this may have something to do with their focussing their energies on building their new relationship, and something to do with a sudden desire to keep a low profile. Once people are actually living poly all the stories of poly problems which they have read online, and which were once just academic curiosities, can become a very real fear or even a reality which may threaten their families and their children.

Secondly, a lot of poly relationships actually do fail. But a lot of mono relationships fail as well. In some cases, it is for the same reason: people rush into relationships enthusiastically and thoughtlessly. This appears to be even more common in polyfidelitous relationships than in monogamous, because we compare polyfi relationships to marriage rather than to other forms of mono relationships (such as co-habiting or non-cohabiting sexual relationships). It is difficult to imagine a mono person proposing marriage to someone with whom they have corresponded for just one month and only seen in the flesh for a single visit of a week or two. But unfortunately this IS sometimes the case in many forms of poly, as people new to poly become so carried away by the dream of 'living poly' that they are willing to plug almost anybody into the empty gap labelled 'second partner.’ They lose sight of who the person is. They are enthusiastic about poly not the person.

It is not always the case: sometimes people do get together very quickly and go on to have a wonderful long-term relationship, but it is the exception rather than the rule. In cases where people have declared a long-term commitment very quickly, it is probably more helpful to regard the early part of the relationship as a dating period rather than as a permanent relationship, regardless of what vows have been exchanged. In mono terms, it is more like a 'living together' period that might or might not lead to a true marriage. The relationship is so very young, and young relationships can be terribly unstable.

What I am suggesting here is that when compared with mono marriages, polyfi relationships appear to have a poor success rate, but I suspect that when compared to non-marital mono relationships, they are not so very different. I have no figures or research to back this up: it is pure supposition on my part. I would be very interested if anybody could dig up some reputable data which might confirm or refute my theory, but I suspect it will be more difficult to come by than marriage statistics, as marriages are legally recorded and other relationships usually are not.

Thirdly, I can think of just one good reason why, all other things being equal, poly relationships might not work out as well as mono, and that is that they have all the stresses of mono relationships, but also additional stresses peculiar to poly. Certainly, there are emotional and material advantages to polyfi (such as an available friend when you need one or help with childcare, housework or family income, depending on the living arrangements) and these more than balance out the disadvantages, but the advantages only really obtain if all the spice care for and are happy to help one another. For example, in a situation where each of several women in a heterosexual polyfi relationship is focussed only on the man and has little time or concern for the other women, mutual support of any kind is likely to be minimal and competition is likely to be high. In this case, there are no advantages to polyfi over mono for the women concerned, and there are additional emotional and practical burdens (such as limited time with their sole emotional support, and probably additional childcare and home responsibilities owing to his spending time with another woman and therefore having less time to pull his weight domestically).

Is living poly worth it? Well, that depends on the person. To some people, it is totally worth it and to others it is not. There are seriously rocky times in even the best of relationships, mono or poly. But once you have got past the unbearable stress, tiredness or exasperation, had a good night's sleep and are feeling a bit calmer, if you can look at your spice and think: 'I still want to try to make this work, because I really can't imagine walking away from you, or being happy without you,' then it is worth going on. If you know that your life would be more miserable without your spice than it is with them, then it is worth it. And when it is working well, the emotional rewards of polyfi are indescribable.

Adapted from a post written by Deorccwen on SisterWives Yuku

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Men: Emotional Cripples?

As men in this culture, I feel that we are often trained not to express our full range of emotional responses, (anger is sometimes acceptable) through the fear of "being a fag", "not being a real man", "being pussy-whipped" etc and I think that this can have serious consequences when it comes to relationships.

If a man is hiding his deeper-self, expressing only socially acceptable emotions through fear of vulnerability, then there can be no real intimacy in the relationship. He becomes infinitely replaceable, interchangeable with any other man from the same mould.

Our relationships with other men are often flawed and somehow competitive (who is "harder", has the better clothes, car, job, wife etc) or competitive against others as part of a team. Respect is often given through fear of violence or power (eg. in the workplace) and genuine respectful, intimate, unflinching relationships between men as equals are rare.

Through all this men are trained to turn to women for our emotional needs and often we go into a relationship without the tools we need and do our growing up (if we are lucky) in that relationship. This adds a tension to the relationship and sometimes leads one to question the equality of the partners in the relationships one sees. How equal is a relationship where the majority of the emotional needs are being met and the majority of the emotional work is being done by one partner?

I feel that it is vital for us to break away from the competitive and emotionally crippled model of manhood and develop a more whole and truly healthy model. Authors such as Steve Biddulph, Sam Keene and John Lee have written about this much better than I can and are well worth a look.

As Poly men, I think we have to address our issues concerning communication and intimacy so hopefully we will be capable of maintaining genuine intimate unflinching relationships with one or more partners. This is entirely possible and hugely rewarding, after all, being a whole man loved as an individual and respected as a truly equal partner in your relationship is what it is all about.

Adapted from a post written by Kester on SisterWives Yuku

Doomed from the Start

Something that's fairly common in Western cultures is the assumption that women are supposed to do all the emotional housework in a heterosexual relationship. A woman is supposed to be understanding, recognise what the heart of the issue is in an argument and be able to fix all emotional problems, even if the man in her life is emotionally illiterate.

Well, that may work, on a temporary basis anyway, in a monogamous relationship. If all else fails, the woman can choose to bite her lip and put up with it, in the process committing that bizarre form of relationship suicide known as 'keeping the peace.' Not that 'keeping the peace' necessarily leads to divorce, but it certainly does lead to a terminal lack of emotional intimacy in any relationship in which it is regularly practiced. Men in these relationships will typically tell you that their wife is their best friend, while the women, if they are honest, will tell you the name of a close female friend.

But lack of emotional literacy in any partner in a poly relationship seems to be a fast track to a break-up. Poly relationships are more complex than mono relationships simply because there are more people in the relationship, and every person has individual needs which have to be met. A scenario I have seen happen in several heterosexual V (FMF) poly relationships goes as follows:


1) The woman is interested in poly and reads up a lot on the topic, particularly on problems that commonly arise in poly relationships, and on the best way to ensure their success. She looks for a suitable poly partner.

2) The man is interested in poly, and looks for a suitable poly partner.

3) One of them finds a woman who seems suitable. She seems like a friendly person and is attracted to the man. The man is attracted to her.

4) Girlfriend has never before heard of or considered poly, but she's willing to give it a go.

5) They start a serious relationship and sometimes even move in together, probably too quickly. (That's a whole other topic!)

In this scenario, the poly relationship is pretty much doomed unless the man and/or girlfriend do some pretty fast thinking and reading up. This is because neither the man nor the girlfriend has a clue how to manage the emotions that arise in such a situation. It goes like this:

Communication is very poor: this is because the girlfriend complains to the man every time she has a problem with the woman, with the children or with any household arrangements, rather than discussing it directly with the woman or suggesting changes in open three-way discussion. Variation: She may also never discuss with the man problems she has with him, sulking instead in the hope that he will somehow figure it out.

1) The man, who has very few skills in dealing with emotional issues, is completely lost, getting caught up in the problems presented by the girlfriend and unable to resolve them. He wants his new girlfriend to be happy, so she won't leave him, and is distressed that she is not.

2) The man takes the problems to the woman and demands that she resolve them. Because the girlfriend spoke first and is emotional about the issue, he takes her complaints more seriously than the points that the woman tries to make in response.

3) The man does not have the skill to recognise that he should not be interfacing between the two women, but should insist that the girlfriend takes her problem to the woman, if her problem is with the woman; communicate openly with him if she has a problem with him; and raise her problem openly and equally with both of them if the problem is with the children or a household arrangement.

4) The woman cannot fix the situation, however emotionally skilled she is, if the man will not insist on open communication between herself and the girlfriend. She is faced with an unending flow of (usually trivial) complaints and starts to feel resentful. She may recognise the heart of the problem, but is helpless to resolve it.

5) The girlfriend starts to feel that the man is on her side and the woman is the enemy. She leans on him more than ever.

6) The man, listening to an endless list of complaints, starts to get annoyed with the woman for persecuting poor girlfriend and not helping her to feel more at home.

7) The relationship ends. Either the man leaves the woman and stays with new, exciting girlfriend. Or he leaves the girlfriend and stays with the woman. But unless he grows emotionally, he never quite forgives the woman for taking his new, exciting girlfriend away from him.
There is a legacy of resentment. Usually against the woman, regardless of which of them he chooses to stay with.

When the girlfriend has deliberately chosen poly and has read up on it in advance, the problems should be less severe because both women have some basic knowledge of the kind of emotional housework necessary.

But I would argue that for a successful V poly relationship, it is absolutely necessary for everybody involved to have at least strong basic communication and emotional skills. I also think it is essential that everybody wanting a poly relationship should find out as much as possible beforehand, men and women both. At the very least, both partners in a couple should spend a lot of time reading up on poly before starting a poly relationship. And if they meet and love someone who has no prior knowledge of poly, they should encourage her / him to read up and think deeply about the issues also. Before they get serious.

My advice to couples

· If your potential partner has never previously considered poly, forget it unless s/he's prepared to learn a lot, fast.

· If your potential partner is deeply attracted to just one of you and is prepared to practice poly in order to have him/her, but has no emotional commitment to the other, or personal commitment to poly, forget it.

· If your partner will not read up on poly; if s/he says s/he doesn't have the time to learn or cannot even see why you think there might be problems; then please, please, forget about having a poly relationship.

*It is not worth the risk to your relationship.*

Natja's advice to single people

1) You should feel a strong emotional connection to both people in the couple, even if you are only sexually attracted to one. Anything else is just too hard.

2) Read up on poly, and expect the people you are dating to have done the same.

3) If one partner in the couple you are dating complains that the other bottles things up and doesn't ever 'share' and tells you that s/he finds it frustrating, seriously reconsider whether you want to be in a relationship with them, you will have to deal with the same issues.

4) If one partner in the couple confides to you that his/her partner lacks qualities that you make up for, so together he has 'one perfect woman / man'... Run....that is evidence of so much wrong with his or her thinking.

5) Similarly if one partner admits a previous deception by the other but excuses the behavior as something that 'men / women do' or says it is due to his/her upbringing... Run..... It is the best evidence that one of them is not taking emotional responsibility in the relationship and the other is making excuses for him/her, thereby allowing them to abdicate their responsibilities.

*It is not worth the risk to your heart or your mental health*


Adapted from posts written by Deorccwen and Natja on SisterWives Yuku

Kester

A short intro then....
I am a guy in my early 40s, I am really a bit of a hippy, or so all my friends tell me. I'm interested in green issues, politics (more from an anarchist perspective), cooking (especially bread), homebrewing, primitive living, self-sufficiency type skills and that kind of thing. By training I am a postgraduate environmental scientist and by inclination an environmental pagan.

Natja

Hello I am Natja, I have a personal blog here also (Natja's blog) about poly topics, currently in London waiting to move. I am a bit eccentric, gothic and an unabashed movie nut. I also love literature, green and social issues. I have one teenage daughter who is a bit crazy like her mother and I am prone to frequently going off topic.

Where did I leave my glasses?