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What I Learned From a Decade of Polyamory

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Polyamory may sound sexy on Saturday night. But on Tuesday morning, you still have multiple relationships to maintain with multiple humans with multiple real-life feelings. Polyamorous relationships can be astonishingly fulfilling, exciting, and fun. But they’re also incredibly challenging. There’s no one-size-fits-all for figuring out whom — and how — to love.

After 10 years in various poly relationships, I’ve learned a lot of things; many of which would have made a big difference in how I approached this lifestyle if I’d known them when I was still a poly newbie.

There’s no “right” way to be polyamorous

There are as many different configurations for polyamorous relationships as there are people on the planet. People who are new to polyamory often want to know what the rules are. They want to feel secure that they are doing it “right.”

The truth? The only steadfast rules of poly are the same rules that apply to any relationship… no matter if you have two or five partners. Ethical polyamory includes transparent communication, authenticity of self, and an openness to others’ wants and needs. Beyond that, polyamory is completely customizable according to your comfort and experience. The key is to share your needs and fears with your partners, and be honest about your intentions and behavior.

As long as you’re being ethical, there’s no wrong — or right — way to have a polyamorous relationship.

Google Calendars will save you

There’s an inside joke that the only people who actually use Google Calendars are polyamorists. Splitting time between multiple partners can be a bit like keeping several plates spinning at once. Google Calendars can be shared with multiple people and help everyone communicate and stay on the same page.

If you’re a poly couple, planning your dates away from your primary partner on the same night can help ward off lonely feelings or worrying about the partner left home. Just offering to share a calendar with a partner can help assure them you’re genuine in your desire to maintain open communication and honesty — which can go a long way in establishing trust in your polyamorous relationships.

Polyamory will not fix relationship issues

If you’re having difficulty being ethical in your monogamous relationships, polyamory is not the solution to your romantic woes. Yes, it’s possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship. This may sound obvious, but all of your partners have to be aware that they are dating someone polyamorous for the relationship to be polyamorous. Otherwise, you’re cheating.

Likewise, adding a partner to the mix is not likely to “spice up” your relationship if someone isn’t getting their needs met. People are not need-filling machines. It takes a lot of communication, self-reflection, and emotional maturity to maintain romantic and sexual relationships with multiple partners.

We don’t always choose metamours

In polyamory, the person your partner is dating besides you is referred to as a “metamour,” or the love of your love. It’s really a wonderful situation when everyone can hang out and play Cards Against Humanity together. You may not be attracted to your partner’s metamour, but accepting him or her as your partner’s partner and maintaining a cordial — if not friendly — relationship makes everything a lot less sticky.

I love being friendly with metamours, but there have been a couple of times in my experience when I had to ask myself, “How can someone I love, love someone like her? We’re so different!” Part of the joy of polyamory is, for some people, variety. That means you might always like the person that your partner dates. But it takes a lot of stamina and emotional maturity to smile and be polite with someone that you don’t have friendly feelings toward.

Some partners negotiate “veto rights,” where partners agree not to date anyone their partner “vetoes.” Other poly people don’t appreciate these kinds of restrictions. Either way has its pros and cons. Regardless of how you choose to manage your metamours, it’s something to discuss with your partners well before the situation presents itself, when everyone is feeling secure, and there is no New Relationship Energy to contend with.

Polyamorous partners are not immune to jealousy

In 10 years of polyamory, I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “Oh I could never be polyamorous. I’m too jealous.” There’s a myth that polyamorous people don’t ever experience jealousy. I wish!

Jealousy is the only emotion that we are allowed to use to excuse all kinds of reprehensible behavior. But the truth is that jealousy is a cover for deep, often intense insecurity and fear. And, I ought to point out, all of this is perfectly normal — and prevalent — for most people. The best way I have found to deal with my own jealousy is to spend time with the person I’m jealous of. They are usually way less threatening and monstrous than I make them out to be in my head.

You won’t always be cured of these insecurities, but over time you develop coping and communication skills that help you get through those difficult moments of self-doubt.

Raising kids in a polyamorous family is complicated

Many of us still believe in this concept that it takes a village to raise a child. And nowadays many of us are well adjusted to the idea of multiple sets of parents providing care for children. In some demographics, more than half of children have step-parents, and split their time between households. Our culture is quickly returning to more communal living, and more step-parenting. So the concept of multi-partner parenting is not entirely new.

The benefit of polyamorous parenting is that children get more one-on-one time with parents, which aids in healthy emotional and social development. And according to some recent studies, children in polyamorous families spend less time in daycare, and have a wider variety of interests and hobbies just from having more people in the household.

The drawback is obviously the occasionally fluid nature of relationships in polyamory. Children can feel some negative emotions when a polycule breaks up and certain parental figures are no longer around. Of course, this also happens in monogamous relationships, evidenced by more single-parent households than ever before.

Love is unlimited. Resources are not.

You may be able to love five different people at once, but that doesn’t mean you have enough resources to maintain that many relationships successfully. There are only 160 hours in each week, and each partner requires time and affection to maintain healthy connections. Don’t forget about the actual costs of dating. All those dinners and movie nights can add up fast. So while your love for all these people may be sincere, you have to balance those romantic feelings with what is practical in the real world.

After looking at the cost/benefit analysis of all your romantic entanglements, you might find in the end that fewer is better.

Compersion is possible

Compersion is the feeling of joy someone gets when they witness their love being well loved by another. It’s the opposite of jealousy. It’s the kind of emotion that fills your heart to the brim and overflows love into a relationship. It’s not easy to reach — more like trying to experience nirvana.

But when you arrive at compersion, there’s almost nothing better. It happens when everyone in the relationship has their needs for time, affection, and attention met; and when everyone is confident that his or her relationship is secure. It happens suddenly. The first time it happened to me, I watched my boyfriend kiss my girlfriend, and the look of peace and contentment on their faces brought me to tears.

I was so thrilled that the people I love loved each other that I couldn’t contain my own joy. I haven’t felt that emotion in every polyamorous relationship I’ve been in, but the times I have felt compersion make it all worth it, and then some.

Complete Article HERE!

Be Brutally Polyamorous.

By

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“I’m polyamorous, but my partner’s new to this. They say they’re okay with what I’ve told them about poly, but… I can tell they’re nervous. So I’m going to damp it down for a while just to be kind to them – I’ll go easy on the side-dating.”

Don’t do that.

Your kindness will rip ’em to shreds.

Because if you give someone an artificial trial period, one where you give them the faux-monogamous experience to make them comfortable, then all you’re doing is lulling them into a sense of “Oh, this is what it’s like.”

And when you start up the dating after a while, they’re going to be *even more* panicky. Because *not only* will they have the usual assortment of jealousies and insecurities that come when you transition into a multi-partner relationship, but also they’ll be thinking, “But… you didn’t date anyone for a year! Now you’re looking for someone else!

What did I do wrong?”

And here’s one of the central truths about relationships: What usually scares people the most is deviations from the established norm. For example, I have a sweetie who’s a swinger: she goes to clubs and gets her itches scratched by all sorts of guys. She tells me about her scheduling problems organizing gangbangs. I think it’s adorable.

But that’s because I met her as a swinger. That’s who she was, and who she continues to be.

If my wife, who’s fairly conservative in who she hooks up with, suddenly started hitting the clubs every night, I would fucking panic.

I’d panic because my wife’s behavior would have changed, and I’d feel like maybe I didn’t know her as well as I’d thought I did, and wonder what I was doing wrong that she suddenly was into freaky anonymous sex. And whereas I know my sweetie loves me thoroughly because “gangbangs” were just part of our background noise when w met, my wife attending ’em regularly would be different.

PolyamoryhumorNot saying I couldn’t get used to it. I could adjust.

But that switch in behavior is what scares people.

Giving them a “trial period” and then dropping the big change of “Oh yeah, I date other people now” is going to hurt someone unfamiliar to polyamory more. Often, a lot more. You are doing them zero kindnesses.

Because what’ll happen by then is that you’ll be so much more attached by the time you find out the other person said they’d be okay with poly, but really, turns out they can’t handle it. It’s not like this happened in the first weeks of dating, when you were soppy with NRE but also shallowly attached – no, it’s been months, you’re both emotionally entangled. To discover after a year that whoops, this whole poly thing is actually a dealbreaker for your other partner hurts way more.

If you’re going to be poly, own it.

Mind you, I’m not saying to go out and date someone you hate to rip off the band-aid! If they’re the currently only person in your life, cool, drift with that. But for God’s sake, if you were dating other people before, keep dating. Don’t give your trying-to-adjust partner the illusion that this is trial period is what they’re signing up for.

They deserve to know what sort of effects dating other people will have on them. Some of them will be every bit as cool with it as they promised. Others will need some adjustment, and hopefully you can fine-tune your caring to give them what they need without selling out your satisfaction. And still others will freak out so much that really, your choices boil down to “be monogamous with them” or “break up.”

All of these things are better to know early on.

So yeah. It seems selfish, but… be brutal. Show them what they’re in for. Polyamory’s not for everyone, and going out of your way to give people the impression that “polyamory” means “occasionally you flirt but really, nothing happens” can demolish ’em once the first dating happens. And if you drop that hammer after they’ve come to rely on your love and support, you’ll be one of those poly folks going, “How could they not know I was poly? I told them! Why are they shocked now?”

They’re shocked because you told them that what you were doing was what they could expect, and it wasn’t.

So keep dating. Give them as much love as you can. Hug them and let them know that your love for them is a unique thing that’s not touched by other people.

But keep dating.

Complete Article HERE!

Death Is Way More Complicated When You’re Polyamorous

By Simon Davis

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Screencap via ‘Death Becomes Her’

In February, Robert McGarey’s partner of 24 years died. It was the most devastating loss McGarey had ever encountered, and yet, there was a silver lining: “I had this profound sadness, but I don’t feel lonely,” McGarey told me. “I’m not without support, I’m not without companionship.”

That’s because he has other partners: Jane, who he’s been with for 16 years, and Mary, who he’s been with for eight. (Those are not their real names.) And while his grief for Pam, the girlfriend who died, was still immense, polyamory helped him deal with it.

There’s not a lot of research into how poly families cope with death—probably because there’s not a lot of research about how poly families choose to live. By rough estimates, there are several million poly people in the United States. And while polyamory can bring people tremendous benefits in life and in death, our social and legal systems weren’t designed to deal with people with more than one romantic partner—so when one person dies, it can usher in a slew of complicating legal and emotional problems.

“Whether people realize it or not, the partner to whom they are married will have more benefits and rights once a death happens,” explained Diana Adams, who runs a boutique law firm that practices “traditional and non-traditional family law with support for positive beginnings and endings of family relationships.”

Since married partners rights’ trump everyone else’s, the non-married partners don’t automatically have a say in end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements, or inheritance. That’s true for non-married monogamous relationships, too, but the problem can be exacerbated in polyamorous relationships where partners are not disclosed or acknowledged by family members. In her work, Adams has seen poly partners get muscled out of hospital visits and hospice by family members who refused to recognize a poly partner as a legitimate partner.

McGarey and his girlfriend Pam weren’t married, so the decision to take her off life support had to go through Pam’s two sisters. The money Pam left behind—which McGarey would’ve inherited had they been married—went to her sisters too, who also organized Pam’s funeral.

This kind of power struggle can also happen among multiple partners who have all been romantically involved with the deceased. The only real way to ensure that everything is doled out evenly is to draft up a detailed prenuptial agreement and estate plan. Adams works with clients to employ “creative estate planning” to ensure that other partners are each acknowledged and taken care of.

Adams is a big proponent of structured mediation as a way of minimizing post-mortem surprises, like when families discover the existence of mysterious extra-marital partners in someone’s will. It’s much better to have those conversations in life than on someone’s deathbed, or after death.

But many poly people remain closeted in life and in death, according to sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, who has studied polyamorous families for 15 years and authored The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. A person might have a public primary partner—someone they’re married to, for example—plus other private relationships. That can make it harder to grieve when one of the non-primary partners dies, because others don’t recognize the relationship as “real” or legitimate in the way the death of a spouse might be.

Take, for example, something like an employee bereavement policy. Guidelines from the Society for Human Resource Management spell out the length of time off given in the event of the death of a loved one: a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Unsurprisingly, extra-marital boyfriend or girlfriend is not on the list. (Actually, “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” aren’t on the list at all.) It’s possible for an employee to explain unique circumstances to an employer, but in her research, Sheff has found that some poly people prefer not to “out” themselves this way. People still disapprove of extra-marital affairs and some poly people, according to Sheff, have even lost their jobs from being outed, due to corporate “morality clauses.”

It’s similar, she says, to the experiences of same-sex couples who are closeted. “It’s much less so now because they’re more acknowledged and recognized, but 20 years ago, it was routine for [the family of the deceased] to muscle out the partner and ignore their wishes—even if [the deceased] hadn’t seen their family for years and years,” Sheff said. “They would come and descend on the funeral and take over. Or when the person was in the ICU. That same vulnerability that gays and lesbians have moved away from to some extent is still potentially very problematic for polyamorous people.”

Legal recognition of polyamorous unions could provide some relief. After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, calls for legalizing plural marriage have only become louder. Adams noted that an argument put forth in Chief Justice John Roberts’s 2015 dissent may provide a legal foothold for legalization advocates. “As Roberts points out, if there’s going to be a rejection of some of the traditional man-woman elements of marriage… those same arguments could easily be applied to three or four-person unions,” she said in an interview with US News & World Report earlier this year.

In 2006, Melissa Hall’s husband Paul died at the age of 52. Both were polyamorous, but Paul’s death presented “no special problems,” since they were legally married and Hall had all the rights of a spouse. Instead, she found unexpected benefits in dealing with her husband’s death: In particular, she told me that “being poly made it easier to love again.” Since they had both dated other people during their life together, Hall knew her husband’s death wouldn’t stop her from dating again.

In traditional relationships, it’s not uncommon for people to impose dating restrictions on themselves to honor the desires of their dead spouses, or to feel guilty when they start dating again. Of course, you don’t win if you don’t date either, as people eventually get on your case to “move on with your life.” All this goes out the window when you’re polyamorous, where dating doesn’t necessarily signal the end of an arbitrary acceptable period of mourning.

More partners in a relationship can certainly mean more support. It can also mean more people dying, and with that comes more grief. In an article about loss among polys published in the polyamory magazine Loving More, one man wrote: “Those of us who have practiced polyamory through our lifetime must be grateful for the abundance of love in our lives. But having those wonderful other loves means we must accept a little more grieving as well, when our times come.”

Is the trade off worth it? McGarey certainly seems to think so. “There is more grieving, but… we are held and cradled in the love of other people at the same time.”

He compares his relationship to the Disney movie Up, which starts with a guy falling in love and marrying his childhood sweetheart. “And then [she] dies, and he turns into this grumpy old man because he lost his love,” McGarey said. “I don’t see myself turning into a grumpy old man. I don’t know if I can attribute that to poly, but maybe that’s why.”

Complete Article HERE!

5 Tips for Better Married Sex

Becoming a sex educator didn’t prepare me for the challenges of married sex, but here’s what I learned along the way.

M:F couple2By Jeana Jorgensen

Around the same time I graduated with a Ph.D. and started to pursue a career as a part-time academic and part-time sex educator, I got married.

I’d heard about how marriage can change a relationship, and I was confident that with my budding sex ed knowledge set and tool kit, I could handle it. After all, I was going to major sex education conferences like Woodhull and AASECT, networking with the stars of our field, voraciously reading books, taking workshops (like the SAR, or Sexual Attitude Reassessment), writing for sites like MySexProfessor and Kinkly, and stuffing as much sexuality knowledge into my head as I could. What could go wrong with this plan?Plenty, as it turns out. I was so focused on acquiring sex facts and tips that I forgot to take into account my own needs, and the needs of my partner, in our marriage. I forgot about how much of a toll major life transitions – and concurrent ones at that – could take on a person’s sex life. Plus, I wasn’t really prepared for how much intertwining my life with another person’s would change how we interacted, which in turn impacted my ideas and expectations around sex. The good news is that we put in the work, and I was able to use my sex ed skills to level up my married sex. Here’s how I did it.

Start With Self-knowledge and Communication.

The ancient Greek oracle Pythia reputedly had the words “Know thyself” inscribed at the entrance to her shrine at Delphi. This is nowhere truer than with married sex.

You need to take responsibility for knowing your sexual preferences. Your spouse cannot know what goes on inside your head, heart or genitals. It’s on you to know what facilitates or impedes your arousal, and then to use your words to tell your partner these things.

Some things it might be useful to know about yourself include:

  • Is there a time of day or night when you feel most aroused or desirous of sex? How can you synchronize your schedules to spend time together then?
  • Do you know if you tend to have responsive or spontaneous arousal, in the words of Dr. Emily Nagoski? Knowing how you respond to sexual stimuli can help you coordinate your arousal patterns with your partner’s.
  • What do you fantasize about? Which fantasies can you share with your partner, either verbally or in the form of role play?
  • What do you need in terms of environment to feel comfortable having sex? Some people like to have sex in every room of a house once they start living together, while others prefer the comfort of a bed. Is having toys, lube and safer sex supplies within reach important to you? Or is part of the fun the sense of immediacy, which can work with a scramble to get your hands on the basics?

Schedule Sex Dates. Yes, Really.

Scheduling sex sounds like such a drag, and many people assume it’ll just kill the mood. But it’s really about being realistic. Married adults tend to get really busy really fast. Sometimes, if you don’t make time for sex, it’ll slide lower on the priority list until it’s rarely happening.

Give Yourself Permission to Play Sensually Without Committing to Sex.

At the same time, if every time you engage with your partner you’re thinking that it has to result in sex or else it’s a meaningless encounter, that’s also a potential mood-killer. Feeling pressured to have sex, even when no one’s intending to apply pressure, can be off-putting to many folks. One way to get around this is to engage in sessions that focus on sensual touch alone. Can you set a timer to make out for just five minutes, promising not to escalate at all? You might be surprised at how sexy that feels!

Learn Your Partner’s Love Language and Use It. Advocate the Same in Return.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of love languages, the brief version is that most people are geared to be more receptive toward affection expressed in one of five ways: giving gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation/praise, quality time, and acts of service. While you can read Gary Chapman’s books that introduce these concepts, be aware that they’re a bit heterosexist and mono-centric, as I note in my review of the first book.

The truth is that learning to speak someone else’s love language can feel weird, arbitrary and fake at first. Poly writer Ferrett describes this awkwardness, and counsels everyone – regardless of their relationship style – to suck it up and learn to speak your partner’s love language anyway. It’ll pay off later.

However, the flip side is that you have to gently, constantly remind your partner to keep taking those baby steps to speak to you in your love language. You have to remember when they’ve failed yet again to do the one thing you’ve asked them to try to do, that it’s probably not malicious. It simply didn’t occur to them because it’s not how their brain works.

Find Ways to Break the Touch Barrier.

The term “touch barrier” has been used by dating coaches and pick-up artists alike (in ways that are sometimes creepy and consent-obscuring), but I believe that in the context of a married or long-term co-habitating couple, it takes on a special connotation. Probably you two have already been physically intimate in some fashion, whatever that looks like in your relationship, so it’s not a matter of touching someone for the very first time.

Instead, my sense is that in a marriage, spouses can get so used to practical touching moments (handing off a baby, folding laundry together) that it becomes difficult to initiate sensual or sexual touching moments. It’s important to challenge the experiences that pile up that reinforce the sense that you’re domestic partners first and foremost, because as Esther Perel has brilliantly noted in her TED talk, security and arousal are often at opposite poles of human experience.

So, what are some ways that you can (consensually, of course) initiate touch with your spouse outside of daily tasks? My spouse, whose main love language is physical touch while mine is most definitely not, suggested playing a game where we competed to see who would remember to lovingly touch the other person first as soon as we both entered the same room. Who won? We both did – it helped put affectionate touch on my radar more often, and he got his touch needs met more frequently.

Even if you’re intelligent and good at relationship communication, and even if you’ve got a background in gender/sexuality studies like I do, married sex can pose unique challenges. Take advantage of resources like Adult Sex Ed Month here at Kinkly to stay engaged in learning about not only concrete sex topics but also what sex means to you!

Complete Article HERE!

The SUPER Kinky Sex Act Your Man Is Scared To Tell You He’s Into

By Dawn Michael

Wow! It’s the second highest heterosexual porn search term.

You’ve heard the term “cuckold” and know it’s “kinky”… but what is it really? How does it work? And most importantly … is it for you?

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Sex counselors and sex coaches, like me, are knowledgeable about the practice to some degree. My job as a Clinical Sexologist and Intimacy Counselor is writing educational articles that help enlighten the public about sexuality in all of its forms. Cuckolding is just one of the many kinks people have but do not fully understand.

So, I’m here to answer your curious questions about this kinky ancient marriage practice:

Q. A cuckold marriage … what exactly is it?

I describe cuckolding as a marriage where the husband derives sexual pleasure from watching his wife have sex with a man who has a larger penis.

The couple forms an agreement in their marriage allowing the act of cuckold, which can vary in degree from role play for some couples to an lifestyle of actual cuckolding (the wife engages with sex with other men in front of her husband). This knowledge and tolerance of the wife’s activities with other men makes the husband in such relationships a “wittol,” properly speaking.

Q. Where did the term cuckold come from?

The female equivalent “cuckquean” first appears in English literature in 1562. Cuckold refers to the fact that the man being cuckolded is the last to know about his wife’s infidelity.

This also refers to a tradition claiming that in villages of European time, the community would gather to collectively humiliate a man whose wife gave birth to a child that was not his own. This is where the humiliation aspect of cuckolding first came into play. According to this legend, a parade was held in which they forced the hapless husband into wearing antlers on his head as a symbol of his wife’s infidelity.

Q. What actually happens in a cuckold relationship?

In modern cuckolding, the husband watches his wife engage in sexual activity with other men either right in front of him, or she tells him about her experiences after. The husband feeling like a victim of the cuckold is a major element of the kink.

In the fetish cuckolding subculture, the female is typically sexually dominant while the man takes on a submissive role, only becoming involved with her or her lover when the wife permits it — sometimes he remains completely celibate in the marriage altogether. A main ingredient in cuckolding marriages is humiliation and denying the husband sexual release until his wife decides to allow him to climax. In some marriages, the husband may even wear a male chastity, further allowing his wife control over his orgasm.

Part of the sex play is also the comparison of penis size and the wife shaming her husband for not having a large enough penis to give her full enjoyment of penetration. For this reason, many men in the fantasy of cuckold consider a black man dominant.

Q. Is cuckolding the same as swinging or having an open marriage?

Often people confuse cuckolding with swinging or polyamory, but cuckold is different in that the husband is loved by his wife only. He allows her to experience pleasure with another man. But, he does not want her to fall in love with the other men, only just receive pleasure from them.

Q. Is “shame” the only way the wife makes the man submissive to her?

Sometimes submission elevates through the wife using domination or bondage paraphernalia to tie her spouse up and spank, paddle, or flog him as way of “punishment” or shaming for not fulfilling her sexual desires. This can occur just as sexual role play in the couple’s life, or it can become a way of life for the couple depending on the degree of cuckolding in the marriage.

Q. Is the desire for cuckolding common (and is it normal)? 

Cuckolding has been around for centuries and retains its popularity today. In fact, neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam found (after analyzing the contents a billion online search terms) that “cuckold porn” is second only to “youth” in heterosexual porn searches. (Although, it’s important to note that what you typically see depicted in pornography does not explain the psychological aspect of cuckolding.)

In other words —a man wanting to feel submissive to his wife and have her shame him, but he lives in fear of anyone knowing, is not as uncommon as we may think.

One of the main questions I get asked by men is, “How do I tell my wife I want this? And if she does agree, where do I find a person to start the cuckolding with?” As with any new adventure that a married couple takes with sex play, this should all begin slowly and with respect for each other.

Complete Article HERE!