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Death Is Way More Complicated When You’re Polyamorous

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By Simon Davis

death become her

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!

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6 Essential Resources for Victims of Sexual Assault

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This Sexual Assault Awareness month, share these resources who a friend who may benefit from them.

By Katie Mitchell

In the past year, more people have felt empowered to speak openly about sexual assault. As most survivors know, sexual violence is an all too common of an issue and rape culture permeates our everyday lives. As we continue to consume stories about sexual harassment, rape and violence, it’s important to not forget that survivors deal with the aftermath of assault long after an article goes viral or an interview is aired. Often times, it takes survivors decades to heal properly, but healing is possible. Below, find six resources for sexual assault survivors.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, has an online hotline for survivors, their friends, and their family. When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. The trained staff member will give you confidential support and connect you with local resources, referrals, and provide basic information about medical concerns.

On Campus Resources

In recent years, there have been changes regarding how sexual assault on campus is handled. If you’re a student on a college campus, consider visiting the Center for Changing Our Campus Culture, which is an online resource that provides student-specific information regarding rights, instructions, and guidelines for when a sexual assault happens on campus, from how to file a complaint against a school, to how to help bystanders.

Anti-Violence Project

The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is an organization specifically for LGBT and HIV-affected folks. AVP offers support groups, legal assistance, and even “arts expression groups” for victims of hate violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence. AVP’s direct action work is primarily in New York City.

The Network/La Red

The Network/La Red aims to end partner abuse in LGBT, BDSM, and polyamorous communities. Survivors can read through their manuals, which outline  how to identify partner abuse — especially how to distinguish consensual BDSM behavior from abuse. This organization even provides free, short-term housing for those in need residing in Boston.

Therapy

Therapy can help sexual assault survivors with their healing journey by acknowledging what happened and learning new coping skills. Most therapists have specialties, so when you’re choosing a therapist, consider asking them if they have experience working with sexual assault survivors. Therapy for Black Girls is great resource to find therapists in your area.

Healing Retreats

While most healing retreats aren’t specifically focused on sexual assault, it is so common that it’s likely to be what led several participants to the retreat. At healing retreats, you can relax, meditate, journal, do yoga, and much more in a non-judgemental environment with others who are focused on healing themselves as well.

This Sexual Assault Awareness month, share these resources with a friend who may benefit from them.

Complete Article HERE!

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Couples Speak Honestly About Open Relationships

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Polyamory. Ethical non-monogamy. Open relationship. There are many ways to describe the consensual choice a couple can make to live a non-monogamous lifestyle—and ever more ways to navigate it. Maria Rosa Badia’s new short film Polyedric Love, premiering on The Atlantic today, features honest conversations with couples about the rewards and challenges of their unconventional relationships.

“We’ve always been told that there’s this one way of being with someone, and if you retract from it, it’s not right societally,” says a woman in the film. “But if it’s right instinctually…”

Making the film was an eye-opening experience for Badia, who came to see non-monogamous relationships as an inspiration, particularly with regard to overcoming jealousy. “I was moved by the couples’ honest rapport with their partners about their individual needs,” she told The Atlantic, “and how they had a very straightforward communication about it. I realized that what’s necessary for a non-monogamous relationship to work—mutual respect and communication—is absolutely necessary for a monogamous relationship, too.”

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12 Things All Men Should Know About Their Balls

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We don’t want to bust your balls, but how much do you really know about your testicles? Guys talk about them, brag about them, and let clichés about them flow from their lips without a second thought. So take a few moments to think about your down under friends with 12 ball busting facts about your testicles.

What’s in a name?

“Testicles” and “balls” are not exactly the same thing. When men refer to their balls, they are actually talking about three things: the testicles, the scrotum (the skin sac that protects the testicles), and tiny tubes called epididymides that are attached to the testis and which store and transport sperm. Your testicles are your big T (testosterone) producers, so you want to make sure they are healthy and happy at all times!

Location, location, location.

Real estate agents know the value of location, and your testicles aren’t much different. That is, your left ball and your right ball are not exactly next to each other; one hangs a little bit lower than the other (or one is higher than the other, your preference). Each ball is approximately 2 inches by 1 inch, although typically the right testicle is slightly bigger than the left one. However, even though you might think the bigger testicle should hang lower, that’s not the way nature works. Go figure.

Bigger is not necessarily better.

According to a study conducted at Emory University, men who have smaller testes are more likely to be nurturing dads than are their peers who have bigger balls. The authors evaluated 70 American men, including Caucasians, African-Americans, and Asians, who had a child aged one to two years old. Analysis of brain function while the men looked at children and questionnaire responses resulted in the conclusion that “the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating effort and parenting effort, as indexed by testicular size and nurturing-related brain function, respectively.”

Two’s company, three’s a crowd.

An extremely rare condition called polyorchidism is defined as the presence of three—or more—testicles. Only about 200 cases of polyorchidism, more or less, have been reported in the literature, so it’s not a condition that should keep you up at night with worry. However, if you have a unexplained mass in your scrotum, it’s something your doctor may want to rule out.

Pain in the balls.

If you experience painful, swollen, and/or inflamed testicles for no apparent reason (e.g., no one has kicked you down under), it may be time to see your doctor. Trauma to the testicles, such as from a sports injury, usually results in temporary pain. In other cases, however, such as testicular torsion (twisted testicle, which is a medical emergency), epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, often caused by a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhea), inguinal hernia, testicular tumor, or orchitis (inflammation of the testicle from bacteria or viruses), a doctor should be consulted. Sometimes it’s more than just a pain in the balls!

Bumpy balls.

One thing you can say about a man’s balls—they aren’t attractive. All those little bumps and lumps sure don’t make them pleasing to the eye, but are they dangerous as well? In most cases, no. However, an enlarged vein called a varicocele can have a negative impact on fertility and be painful. Tiny fluid-filled bumps called epididymal cysts are unsightly but harmless. Only 4 percent of the unusual lumps on the balls end up being cancer. If you have a lump or bump that doesn’t seem quite right or that has appeared suddenly or changed in size or shape, be sure to have your doctor check it out.

Cool balls, man.

Your body temperature may hover around 98.6 degrees, but your balls run about 1 to 3 degrees cooler. Why? It seems to be nature’s way to keep sperm “on ice” so to speak. A cooler temperature keeps sperm in a resting state until they are ready to move on and result in pregnancy or just a vacation away from home. On the other side of the cooler, when men experience a fever or sit in a sauna for a length of time, their sperm counts are temporarily reduced. Cool is where it’s at.

Balls rise to the occasion.

Just before a man ejaculates, his testicles rise up close to his body and make contact at the moment of truth. More specifically, in most men the right testicle begins the journey upwards before the left one. Since the right ball is usually already closer to the body (see “Location, location, location”), it has less of a journey to make.

Pampering balls.

If you want your balls to be all they can be, then pamper them. That means no smoking (lowers sperm count), limit alcohol use (lowers T and sperm count), dress them comfortably (no overly tight underwear, pants, or bathing suits—except on limited special occasions!), wash them daily and gently, and protect them from trauma, especially in sports. On this latter point, wear a protective cup during contact sports and get the right saddle for your bicycle.

Balls have muscles.

Well, not exactly, but there are several types of muscles in the area that are responsible for keeping your balls in motion. For example, the cremasteric muscle works like an elevator, causing your scrotum and testicles to rise and lower (see “Balls rise to the occasion”). Another muscle called cartos causes the testicles to move within the scrotum. This muscle tissue is also the one that can be blamed for the wrinkly appearance of your balls. The good news: you don’t need to work these muscles in the gym!

Ball check.

Once a month, all men should check their balls. Not just a perfunctory pat, but a thorough examination to be sure there are no hard lumps or any bumps that have changed in size or shape. Why? Testicular cancer is not near the top of the disease list, but it does affect about 1 in every 270 men. When caught early, it usually can be cured. The best time to perform this ritual is when showering. If something doesn’t feel right, see your doctor.

Ball busting.

During sexual arousal, a man’s balls can increase in size by 50 percent or more. Of course, most men are too busy thinking about something else while the blood is rushing to their testicles, but their partners may notice the change. This ball busting event is temporary, and the testicles return to normal size once the excitement is over. However, if a man’s balls don’t return to normal size or become enlarged at other times, it’s time for a visit to your doctor.

Complete Article HERE!

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Stuck in a rut?

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The six ways you can spice up your sex life in 2018

By Jacob Polychronis

With 2018 on the horizon, many are taking stock and planning lifestyle changes for the New Year.

And although it may not receive a mention around the family dinner table, spicing things up in the bedroom is set to make the list for some.

Here to tell you how is sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein from the Sex and Life podcast, who has revealed to FEMAIL her six top tips to help your sex life in 2018.

1. RESOLVE CONFLICT 

Before working on anything in the bedroom with your partner, harmony needs to be achieved outside of it, Dr Goldstein said

She added: ‘If you are stuck on issues, you’re not going to want to work on things in the bedroom.

‘If we go with the theory that the brain is the biggest sexual organ – which I believe is true, especially for woman – holding onto a grudge or feelings of resentment because of something a partner did or didn’t do can really affect sexual connection.’

Dr Goldstein said improvement will ‘organically flow’ into the bedroom if conflicts are resolved, as couples begin to feel more connected and in love.

2. IMPROVE SATISFACTION IN THE RELATIONSHIP 

Dr Goldstein said couples should assess the overall level of satisfaction in their relationship and what they can do to improve excitement within it.

Increasing the amount of date nights, spontaneous acts of generosity and even gift-giving can improve relationship satisfaction.

Subsequently, the level of arousal for each other will increase and lead to a positive effect in the bedroom, Dr Goldstein said.

3. TALK ABOUT YOUR DESIRES SEDUCTIVELY 

Individuals have a tendency to review their sex life with their partner in the style of an unemotional report, Dr Goldstein said

She added: ‘We may often talk about sex with our partner, but we don’t know how to do it properly

Listing what desires are going unfulfilled can make partners feel defeated and have a negative effect on intimacy.

‘Instead, discuss your desires but in a seductive manner,’ Dr Goldstein said

‘Say things like: “It would really turn me on if we did this”, or “I had this fantasy and I would really like to explore it with you”.’

4. ENGAGE IN MORE FOREPLAY

While men may be ready in an instant, women take longer to warm up to the thought of having sex, Dr Goldstein explained

Men in heterosexual relationships need to be aware of this and act accordingly to ensure a more pleasurable experience for both parties”

‘More foreplay helps switch on the brain, but also increases blood-flow to the genitals which makes sex feel better,’ Dr Goldstein said.

5. USE MORE LUBRICANT

And for when the time finally comes – use more lube, Dr Goldstein recommended.

‘We are increasingly looking at longer, harder and faster as our aim,’ she said.

‘Whether that’s right or not, people are doing it, and so you don’t want someone to get in an uncomfortable position and reach for the bottle when it’s too late.’

6. DITCH THE OLD ROUTINE

‘This step is about trying something different because we tend to get into behavioural patterns,’ Dr Goldstein said.

Using a sex toy, trying a new position or having sex in a different room are among the variations couples can use to try and spice things up.

Dr Goldstein added: ‘If you look at the definition of ‘kinky’, it’s something different or unusual. It doesn’t have to involve a whip.’

Complete Article HERE!

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