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This is Forty

I turned forty about an hour ago.

Minutes before that, I completed the last act of my 30th year – I turned in all the assignments for the advanced standing section of my coaching certification.

The process was more self-reflective than I imagined it would be. Much of the work I’ve already done. In fact, I went through my blog archives as part of the process of examining many of the “life review” questions I was asked about my childhood and relationships.

I can’t think of a better way to set the tone for the next ten years of my life. I spent the entirety of my 30s working at my current job. It was simultaneously a time of significant change and personal growth in some areas, and a time of stagnation and demoralization in others.

As part of the process, I was asked to idealize what my life as a coach would look like in one year, at three years, at five years, and at ten years.

It amazed me how achievable each one of those dreams is. How within my grasp it all is.

I can do this. I really can do this.

I keep thinking of where I was ten years ago. I wanted a big party for my 30th, and I always loved themed parties. My partner at the time (not yet husband) organized a 60s cocktail themed party at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. It was during the time that Mad Men was all the rage. I bought a pink cocktail dress, got my hair swept up into a beehive up-do, and perfected my cat-eyeliner by tediously studying youtube videos for techniques.

It was the night that the old-school bartender gave me a sampling of all the classic cocktails and I discovered that I love bourbon the most. To this day, a Blanton’s Old Fashioned is my jam.

I was anxious and hopeful that Tony would propose to me that night. Everybody was. He made a speech. We all waited for it. I think he knew that and intentionally decided to wait, just to fuck with us.

It happened a few months later, while he and I were alone on vacation in London.

That night of my 30th birthday party, my brother had just arrived home from his first trip to China. He and his wife had been trying to conceive. My niece will turn ten in nine months.

My brother reminded me that I was ten years off from his prediction – “One day, you’ll turn 40 and decide to write a book. It’ll be a bestseller and you’ll be set for life.”

My future husband laughed. He’d written a best seller. Before he died, he would have written two best sellers.

We were not set for life.

A year later I was married.

Three years later I was widowed.

A year after that, I was here…writing. I found you all, or you found me. I’m not sure which of us is the chicken or the egg.

I spent the second half my thirties undergoing the most challenging and rewarding personal growth spurt I may ever experience. I was confronted with the consequences of 35 years of unhealthy relationship habits and addictions to external validation, codependency, and labels.

Three years ago, the work paid off. I successfully established a relationship with myself that I had previously taken for granted. I have spent the past three years loving myself unconditionally – and in the process, I’ve learned to love and be loved without fear.

These past three years have been, without a doubt, the best of my life. And I know there’s even better to come.

At this point, an hour and 22 minutes into my 4th decade of existence. I’ve successfully completed the first big milestone of the next big step in my ongoing journey. I’m engaged and enthusiastic to continue with the in-person training for the coaching certification next week.

On Monday, I’ll be featured on one of my favorite podcasts – multiamory – as a guest interview on the topic of poly + mono relationships. I’ve had my first paying client (though as I am not yet certified, I asked instead that he donate to a fundraiser I was running for my metamour).

I’m creating a business plan. I’m setting goals. I’m meeting deadlines. I’m networking. I’m investing my time into this dream, and I haven’t felt that excited about anything (other than sex and star trek) in a really long time.

Every time I have a fear, or a doubt, or that little voice of risk aversion in my head that asks me if this is the right thing…. if I should be moving away from a steady career I’ve put 20 years into to start something risky and new…

I think about the woman who had a Mad Men themed birthday party, hoping her boyfriend would propose, who had no idea that less than four years later – every expectation, every plan, and every dream she’d ever had would get thrown out the window.

It’s time for my new dreams to come true.

This is forty. This is when it happens.

I can’t fucking wait to see where this decade takes me.

From the Archives: A love letter to people I don’t like

Originally posted on FetLife in the Summer of 2017, today I was reminded that there are people in the world who don’t like me, and that’s okay.  Because there are people in the world that I don’t like…and that’s okay too. 


Dear people I don’t like,

This is not the first time I pen a message to you. It’s almost as though it happens monthly. I just try not to post them.

Now, you’re not people I hate. I don’t actually hate many people.

But there are a lot of people who I’m on friendly terms with that I really don’t like.And there are some with whom I’m not even on friendly terms that I really don’t like.

Guess what?

It doesn’t matter. My perception of you isn’t the yardstick by which you should measure your success in life, so it’s okay that I don’t like you. I don’t think you need my approval. I don’t think you should change the way you comport yourself to appease my own desire that everyone on the planet be likable by my standards

Guess what else?

My first impressions are not always correct. There are people I used to consider very close friends, people that I would have said that I loved (as friends) in the past that I barely speak with and actively avoid. There are people I used to try to be closer with that I no longer seek to create a connection with because they’ve shown something in their character that says to me “not necessary to be in your life.”

Did those people change? Not really. Maybe they did…but I wasn’t close enough to notice the difference.

Mostly I’m the one who changed, and the new me has different criteria for who I want hanging around me.

I’ve also been wrong in the other direction. There are people I used to not like so much that now I think might be pretty freakin’ cool. I think I was maybe wrong about them. Or maybe they changed too and now our personalities align better.

So here’s to you, people who make me frown. Go be you.

Over there.

Love,

phi

Question 16: Do you have any concerns or worries about your community or your community involvement?

The title of this post is the next question in the 50+ page “life review” that I am completing as part of my coaching certification program.

What a loaded question. Since it’s not one of the ones with the radio dial buttons for “yes” or “no,” I think it’s time to put into words the whirlwind of thoughts that I have been having on the subject.

Yes I have concerns and worries about my community, both the local and the online one. I’ve been asking myself a lot these past months why, when I’ve identified some distasteful (to me) elements possessed by the culture of these two separate but connected communities, I opt to step back in retreat over stepping up to make a difference.

I think I’ve figured it out. It’s like that old lightbulb joke – about how many therapists it takes to change a lightbulb?

Just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change.

I think the community wants to change in the way that I want to lose weight. Like magic, and overnight, without actually having to sacrifice anything it enjoys or put in any long term effort into the hard work and sweat it’s going to take to build a new set of habits.

The community likes to say that it is inclusive the way I like to order a salad when I eat with people, but take a spoon to a jar of nutella when nobody’s watching.

I think the community leaders are those who once felt like they could make a difference – like they could either reinforce what they loved about it, and/or make changes to help create a better environment for themselves and the ones they care about.

Problem is that once they succeed, they think their work is finished. Just like I thought I was all set when I lost 80lbs and thought that I’d never have to wear anything larger than a size 12 again.

I was wrong.

In order for the community to be better, it has to never feel like it already is.

Yeah, I have concerns about the community.

But I don’t think I’m necessarily any better than anybody else who ever thought they could make a difference, succeeded in making a difference, and then stopped asking “what more needs to be done?”

I’d love to think that I am immune to the corruption and complacency that power and popularity seem to have on so many of our recognized leaders. In politics, in religion, in workplaces, and even in sex positive, polyamorous, and queer communities – we see people who had the best intentions get sidetracked by greed or become intentionally blind to the experiences of others.

How do I know I’d be any different?

I was reminded of something I learned in school – about George Washington and how he had said something upon the completion of his second term that led to a 150 years of Presidents that move aside after 2 terms before an actual constitutional amendment was made to enforce it.

I went to look it up and ended up on a page full of quotes about term limits…some of which seemed similar in theme to the aforementioned whirlwind of thoughts in my head:

The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it. — T.B. Macaulay

You will always find those who think they know your duty better than you know it. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the way to do good to my country were to render myself popular, I could easily do it. But extravagant popularity is not the road to public advantage. –John Adams

I don’t think my concerns over community are new or unique, and I don’t think that they’ll never be addressed, nor do I think I am powerless to address them.

I think when the community is ready, it will seek out the types of leaders and organizers it needs to make those changes. And I hope it never stops trying to be better.

Experiencing “top space” through hedonism

Prologue

I decided to give topping a try a few years ago. I had connected with a submissive male, and we’d talked a lot about what he liked and wanted, and I gave it a go.

We did it once in my home and once in public at the dungeon, and it was entertaining, but the role didn’t sing to me. There was spanking and paddling, lots of teasing, and even a bit of boot worship.

But the reality was, he was getting all of his wants met. My teasing and denial of him (which was totally what he wanted) was also denying myself…and that wasn’t much fun for me.

I’d essentially “bottomed from the top”, because I didn’t do a single thing that gratified me, personally – but he had a lovely time, and the satisfaction I derived from the experience was purely about having done a “good job.”

After this, I positively declared that there wasn’t a single toppy bone in my body, and that was the end of the experiment.


Present Day

We got a little stoned. In this deliciously altered state of mind, while waiting for the timer on our dinner to ring – I was given the direction to “do whatever I wanted with [him].”

I had just over 30 minutes.


I think I found my top space. It was really difficult to hold at times, because part of what I want IS to make him feel good based on his own desires and preferences – but there were moments when my every move stopped being about what I thought would get him excited, and became purely about what was driving my own pleasure. The pace, the angle, and the strength of each thrust were bringing me closer to orgasm, and I was greedily doing what what made me feel good without consideration of how it felt for him.

Not that it felt bad for him in the slightest, but that wasn’t top of mind, you know? It had nothing to do with spanking or paddling or teasing and denying.

It really was about my pleasure. His was a side effect. But then, whenever he’d moan with pleasure, I’d remember how much I enjoyed being the source of it and suddenly I’d revert to bottom space long enough to think about asking permission to orgasm (something I enjoy doing in my bottomy space), and then remembering that the directions were to do whatever I wanted, and back into toppy space I’d go!

It was pretty fucking amazing.

I finally understand what some people get from topping. It’s neat!


As the timer wound down, I started to notice and feel the ways he was reclaiming the top side through his sadism. I don’t know if that was intentional on his part, but that’s how it felt for me and I really enjoyed it. Going from ‘it’s all about my own pleasure’ to relinquishing control through intensifying levels pain was the most incredible fucking rush.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it.


Seriously considering changing my fet role from “bottom” to “hedonist.”

The exchange rate for exclusivity: A potentially divisive opinion

Yesterday I wrote a post that took some solid advice from a relationship blogger Ferrett (theferrett.com) to monogamous people exploring relationships with polyamorous people, and added my own nuanced spin as an actual monogamuggle in a relationship with a polywizard.

Basically, if you really must have exclusivity in your relationship, it’s best not to try to force a non-exclusive relationship to look and feel like an exclusive one; but, if exclusivity is not a requirement, then even though you may have some challenges with dating a polyamorous person – it’s still possible to make those pairings work.

Over in the poly + mono facebook group, a frequent topic of discussion is the question as to whether an openly polyamorous person (and by “openly” I mean that they are not ashamed, hiding, or apologetic of their lovestyle) who agrees to exclusivity with a monoamorous partner is similar in scope as the monoamorous partner accepting the non-exclusivity of their polyamorous partner.

A lot of people think that this is exactly the same thing. I do not.

I anticipate that a lot of people will disagree with this post, and that’s absolutely expected and accepted. I get that there are many, many people who do choose exclusivity to make their partner happy, and who have found contentment with and acceptance of their decision. If it’s working for you, great! This post isn’t intended to pass my judgement on you, nor demand that you reconsider your life choices. My purpose is simply to share my take on the topic.

For the purpose of clarity – my definition of monoamorous differs from the concept of “requiring exclusivity.” I am monoamorous but I do not require my partner to be exclusive with me in order to feel satisfied in my relationship. Some people do. Again, that’s totally fine. Not better, not worse, just different.

And in case you haven’t noticed, I generally avoid using the term “monogamous” unless I’m talking about people who also have marriage as part of their relationship goals. I do not, and therefore stick with using “monoamorous” to describe my current lovestyle.

Onward.

As a monoamorous person who has dated a handful of polyamorous partners over the last four years, I am happy to say that I have never had to increase or reduce the number of people I have wanted to be in a relationship with to make any partner happy. Their relationship preference certainly had an effect on how I approach my core relationship values, but they did not physically affect my autonomy in choosing who gets to put their junk near my junk.

On the other hand, if I were polyamorous and either had, was open to having, or wanted to someday have multiple relationships, then choosing exclusivity for the sake of my monoamorous partner would essentially affect my autonomy in deciding who gets to put their junk near my junk.

This is the key difference and the foundation for my position on this debate.

I should also clarify that I am choosing my words carefully because I differentiate between “behaving monogamously” and “being monogamous.” If a polyamorous person has only one partner, let’s say because they haven’t met anybody else in a while, that doesn’t make them any less polyamorous. If a single person is in between partners, but are eventually hoping to meet someone to marry, then they are still monogamous – even if they’re in the “just looking” or “dating” phase of that search.

Likewise, there are some people who are “ambiamorous,” or can find happiness and fulfillment in either state, so “choosing exclusivity” with a partner when there is nobody else on their relationship horizon works perfectly well for them. It is not something that is a hardship for them, and in fact is an agreeable solution.

This is more about the people who feel pushed into exclusivity when it’s not their natural or preferred state. I would (and do) have as much of a problem with the insinuation that because my partner is polyamorous, I therefore must be; and/or that in order to be “even” or “fair” I also have to engage in relationships with other people. What’s “equal” and “fair” to me is that I have as much opportunity as my partner has to explore that option if I choose to.

On Camping and Poly + Mono Relationships

Ferrett wrote this essay with a pretty solid metaphor for poly + mono relationships that centered on camping. The metaphor’s tl;dr is: if you hate everything to do with camping, you should not put yourself in a situation where you are forced (by yourself or others) to go camping.

I support this statement.

But, I am reminded of the classic 80s film, Troop Beverly Hills, in which Phyllis, the uber-privileged Wilderness Girls troop leader (played by Shelly Long) abandons a rained-out campsite with her troop to check all the girls into a suite at a swanky hotel. When the regional director shows up to find them in plush surroundings eating room service, she asks, “You call this roughing it!?”

Phyllis replies without hesitation: “One bathroom for nine people? Yes.”

Of course, not everybody does “camping” the same way, but sometimes – the experience can be made far better with the right company, even if the “roughing it” part isn’t your cup of tea. Similarly, not everyone manages their relationship(s) in the same way, and an incompatibility with one potential partner may not be an issue with another.

Over on the book of faces, I run a closed group for the mono partners of polyfolk. It’s a support group of sorts for those of us who straddle two different worlds and perfectly fit in with neither. Our group is starting to hover near 300 people, the majority of whom are making it work. I also admin another group for both the poly and mono folk in mixed poly + mono relationships, which has a membership of over 9,000.

This morning, someone shared about their feelings of fear and discomfort in the knowledge that their partner was going to be having sexual intercourse with somebody outside of their relationship for the first time. They shared that the kind of feedback they received from their friends (who are all monogamous) vilified their partner, and made them feel even worse.

I say it often – that being in any kind of relationship, is not a guarantee that you are never going to have a bad day, or a bad feeling, or a negative reaction to something that’s happening that is outside of your control. But, finding a group of people who can be supportive, show empathy, and remind you to think of the reasons why you made the choice to explore something out of your comfort zone, rather than judge for them, can go a long way in helping you overcome those negative feelings.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I actually do hate camping – and yet: if my partner reallywanted to, I’d be open to having a conversation about what it is I despise about camping, i.e.: no access to toilets or running water, long hikes to reach a campsite, and things (other than my partner) that bite. Because there are campsites that you can drive to that have showers and toilets within a reasonable walking distance, and there are locations and climates that are less prone to mosquitoes and/or bears.

To be honest, the idea of looking up at the stars, fucking in the great outdoors, and the smells, tastes, and sounds of cooking over and making out next to a campfire does have some decent levels of romantic and hedonistic appeal to me.

But, if I were a Phyllis, and the only type of “camping” that could work for me was one that included a 24-hour room service menu, 10,000 thread count sheets, and HBO access – then I think we can all agree that it’s not reallycamping. And, to that point – I do agree with Ferrett 100%. If you’re going to be in a polyamorous relationship (even if you are not polyam yourself), then don’t try to make it look and feel like a monogamous one to protect your delicate sensibilities. Own the reality you’ve chosen, or choose a different reality.

On the other hand, if you’re the polyamorous person who is dating a monoamorous person, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the responsibility for the emotional labor in finding that poly/mono relationship sweet spot is entirely up to your mono partner. You are also part of the relationship equation, and would greatly benefit from learning how to validate and support someone through their uncomfortable feelings even when they’re inconvenient.

Validating does not mean enabling or agreeing with. It simply means saying “I hear you. I believe that it feels that way for you. I support your efforts to push through your discomfort, and I will make reasonable attempts to address your concerns where it’s in my power and appropriate.”

Yes – poly + mono success stories, though they are still a bit rare, are out there; but it’s important to remember that there is no guarantee that every relationship you want to be in is going to be the right relationship for you to be in. Whether you are polyamorous, monoamorous, ambiamorous, relationship anarchist or any other label that resonates with you – if you are absolutely miserable, then you CAN make a different choice.

Unless you can’t. I have compassion for those who feel stuck for reasons that are out of their control (finances, health, dependents, or abuse). I don’t have answers for those situations, but I hope you find yours soon.

Related Posts:

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