Friday, 30 April 2010

Proud to be weird?

There are many varieties of people who seek a poly life, they run across the political spectrum, they are country folk and city slickers, however according to some, people who practice polyamory (as opposed to other forms of non-monogamy) have one thing in common, they tend to be weird.


When in mixed company I am far too often aware that I am the token weirdo, there is usually a point in the conversation where I am either: a) being looked at strangely because of something I said or b) I find my eyes rolling in my head, due to the inanity of the conversation when it turns to things that more conventional people think are really fascinating. I don't, I just really don't have the ability to pass well in conventional company.

However, in the company of most Polyamorists, I don't feel that way, in fact, I find I am often out weirded....a totally novel experience for me.

People underestimate their ability to cope with the stresses of being 'strange' living an out poly life in a mono world might not only cause estrangement from conventional family and friends, you may, in fact, find out that you are the local weirdo/s, you might be the person/family people whisper about in the supermarket, the ones talked about by neighbours over tea. You know that local eccentric that you have thought rather nuts but basically harmless? Well that's you that is. When you decide you want to live an out Poly life, you'll have to ask yourself, how much does your standing in your community and 'fitting in' mean to you?

Many of us who practise Poly are long time weirdos, we have non conventional ideals and interests, standing out is often expected (or even courted, to those of us belonging to subcultures with distinctive dress like Goths) and therefore, being the one pointed at, or talked about, is not new to us. Being Poly is not only about how you conduct your relationships, it is, if you choose to be out and honest about it, a lifestyle which people WILL judge you on, some will disagree with it quite vocally but harder to deal with, if it is new to you, will be your elevation into the status of 'other'.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mental shackles

I have recently been thinking about the way that our modern way of life makes relationships more difficult, in particular our capitalist paradigm and the ubiquity of porn.

In my view, capitalism makes relationships harder because it pre-programmes us to be selfish and to be "a consumer". In the capitalist world, we are all in individual competition with others for goods or services which are produced with an artificial scarcity.
To quote Margaret Thatcher: "There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families."

So as isolated individuals, and not members of a community, we interact with the world. We compete with others for jobs, status, possessions and all the other "necessities" of modern living. This does not help us to develop the mindset or the skills necessary for living co-operatively or identifying others’ needs, both of which are essential in any real relationship.

As to the ubiquity of porn: this is huge! I would say that for males in our society, porn is often their first sexual experience.

Porn captures and shapes male sexuality, hijacking the creative element of our sexual desire and channelling our fantasies into predetermined avenues. Our intimate fantasies and our very sex lives become an internalised re-run of porn. And of course, porn objectifies both men and women. It turns our sexual desire into a commodity to be courted; a button to be pushed so that we will pay to sate a hunger that has been stimulated by the industry itself. It is, after all, a multi-billion dollar business.

Porn can never show the complex interplay of emotion or the mental aspects of desire. As a result, when young men experience sex with a partner their expectations are often unreal, insecure, skewed and selfish. Sexual gymnastics and the moneyshot are what any girl should do right? Porn numbs our potential to be guided by our natural impulses, numbs our ability to be sensitive to the individual needs and tastes of the partner(s) we have.

How do we (especially young males) deal with this? I find it saddening that we males have been enlisted by the porn industry to defend it from the "feminists and conservatives" who would take it away: after all it is our "right" to have our very minds and sexuality exploited for a buck.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Desperately Seeking

There are a lot of people on poly internet boards who have recently found out about poly, or discovered that they are interested in living a poly lifestyle, and are now keenly seeking their first poly relationship. I can only say...

Don’t. Please. Just don’t. Don’t seek out a poly relationship.

That’s easy for me to say, I know, as I am already ‘living the dream’. And, believe me, I can truly understand the desire to live poly as it is a very rewarding lifestyle for those it suits, despite the additional issues it also brings. So I feel a bit mean advising people to give up looking before they have even started. But I do not mean that people who feel attracted to a poly lifestyle should give up on poly, only on seeking out a partner. And I say this only because I have seen this particular situation go horribly, painfully wrong so many, many times.

There is a huge difference between being open to the possibility of a poly relationship, should someone come along who you naturally fall in love with, and seeking out another partner.

It is horribly easy to get carried away by the excitement of the idea of poly and to leap at the first person who is willing to give it a try, regardless of how incompatible you may actually be with them. If everybody involved is interested in a sexual relationship only, or a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, this may work out perfectly well. But if romantic emotions get involved – if one or more people fall in love with the other/s – and then things fall apart, the pain can be terrible, even if the people involved were always completely incompatible and this has been the driving force behind the break-up.

When people are following a dream, there is a kind of self-delusion that comes into play that makes any actions taken towards the fulfilment of that dream seem reasonable. An obsession with the ideal of living poly can all too easily masquerade as obsession with a particular person, whereby a person convinces themselves that the first willing person who comes along is actually the ideal permanent poly partner they have been looking for all their lives, and neatly slots them into the ready-made gap. That delusion will fall apart, sooner or later, as the people involved fail to live up to one or more of the illusory characteristics which have been projected upon them by their partner/s. And it will hurt. Sometimes it falls apart even before the ‘lovers’ meet in the flesh, and it hurts people more than you would believe to lose these internet romances. Other times it may last a few weeks or months in real life.

As a side note, I have noticed that people are often a great deal quicker to make a strong practical commitment to a poly relationship, such as moving in together or having a commitment ceremony, than they would for a mono relationship. So the real-life break-ups can end up being terribly complicated in practical terms, more so than a mono relationship that has lasted the same amount of time. A further complication arises when one or more of the people involved has come out as poly to their family and then the relationship falls apart, confirming all their family’s fears about poly. That person then has to face social humiliation as well as emotional pain. And may face increased scepticism and / or hostility from their family should they start another poly relationship.

There are several things people can do to avoid getting caught up in this sort of situation.

First: Identify specifically what need you have that drives you to seek poly and find alternatives that help feed that need.
• It may be simply that you are lonely: if so, try to get out more and meet like-minded people by joining local clubs that cater for a strong interest of yours.
• If your interest is in intentional community, see if you can find one you are interested in; they may be happy for you to get involved on an occasional basis.
• If your current sex life is unsatisfying, make an effort to spice it up inside whatever relationship you currently have.
• If you are currently in a relationship, find a hobby or other activity which you can share with your partner: anything from role-playing games to home improvement to starting a small business. In other words, anything you can both feel passionately about. Make time for this hobby: it is very unifying to have a common interest and a common goal. And it will prevent poly becoming your only (and obsessive) common interest and therefore reduce the liklihood of you encouraging each other into self-delusion with regard to poly itself or to any person you might meet (sadly, all too common).
You can still live poly if / when the right person / people turn up, but your needs will be met in the meanwhile and you will be less likely to latch onto something or someone unsuitable. In any case, we bring a great deal more to any relationship we are in when we are content within ourselves, and not reaching out in the hope that somebody else will meet our needs.

Secondly: Find out as much about poly as you can, by reading books, joining internet forums etc. People have different opinions on what kinds of poly relationships they prefer, and on how to manage the issues that arise within them. The more different views you see and read about, the more likely you are to find an approach that resonates with you. Reading about how other people have dealt with issues in their poly relationships helps to develop your own skills. Internet forums, especially, can be a kind of cultural immersion: just as growing up in a mono family helps you to learn how to deal with relationship issues in a mono relationship, reading threads on a good internet board, especially those which the OP has updated regularly, gives you examples of how people work through their issues in a poly relationship.

Thirdly: Get out and meet people, in real life and on the internet. But approach those people as friends. If something develops from that friendship in the fullness of time, then that is fantastic. If not, you still have a friend. But looking at everybody you meet as a potential poly partner is likely to lead to poor choices. Plus, as anyone knows who has come across a hopeful but desperate individual in a mono situation, it can be just plain creepy.