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.

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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:

Change your cookbook: A monogamuggle’s guide to cookin’ with polyfolk

Monocorn Sanctuary

A New Chapter Begins

Hey y’all 🙂
 
An update on me. I *have* been very quiet, not just here, but on most social media lately. My relationship is stellar. Everything there continues to be fantasmical and the most rewarding and fulfilling relationship I have ever experienced in my (near) 40 years.
 
On the work side, though – things have gotten pretty gnarly. I have worked for this organization for 11 years, and in many ways, I think they still view me as the 20-something year old that first started there. The place is terribly mismanaged, as well – but they make up for this with excellent pay and great benefits.
 
Make up for it. Heh. That’s like saying that an abusive partner makes up for it by paying all the bills and providing shelter.
 
About a year ago, I was ready to walk away. I did research on what it would take to become a life coach and start my own business doing something that brings me a lot of joy and fulfillment.
 
But they sensed I was ready to leave and gave me a raise and my fear of being out on my own without the steady income and health insurance made me back away from the idea.
 
I recently attended a workshop where it became very, very apparent to me that I am holding myself back from making a change out of fear of the unknown. Out of thinking that I might have to significantly change my very comfortable lifestyle because I’m not sure if I’m cut out for self-employment.
 
And, in part because there’s a little voice in my head that asks “Why do you feel like you have anything more/different to offer than anybody else who is already doing it?”
 
The idea of becoming a life coach surfaced again, and I did some research into what it takes to become certified. It’s an investment – both in time and finances. And if I take this on, I have to see it through – I have to at least *try* to make the investment pay off.
 
The course begins in late July. By January, I will be fully certified.
 
If I can hang in there with this job until then, I can handle the financial investment *and* start working on building up my own business while maintaining a steady income and health insurance.
 
Everything that happens after that is unknown.
 
And it’s scary.
 
And it’s time.

On Fat Bottomed Bottoms

Context:  On Fetlife this week, there have been numerous posts on the subject of rope bottom diversity.  People are having a very healthy and (in my perspective) positive discussion on how to make rope bottoming more accessible to those who are not thin, bendy, young, white women.   This is was my post.


Whenever I post a photo or a writing about my rope journey, I receive messages from (mostly) women who tell me they never thought they could be in rope because of their size.

And whenever I see a photo or read a writing from another larger-bodied femme, it makes me feel so happy, and proud, and represented.

When I first started rope bottoming, I had one tying partner that I tied with pretty regularly. I had a couple of other occasional rope partners – most of them said I was fun to tie, and I choose to believe them.

But eventually they all stopped asking. Or maybe I stopped asking them. Not really sure which one of us was the chicken and which was the egg.

I had an internal narrative that they stopped asking because I wasn’t as bendy as their smaller framed partners, or because they thought I didn’t make their rope look good enough, or maybe because I was significantly more hesitant to be suspended and they wanted to “level up”.

But I never asked them, so I don’t really know if that was all in my head or what.

Thing is – even though I’ve had plenty of rope bottoming experience over the past four years, and even though I’ve had numerous rope tops tell me that I’m fun to tie, I still have that internal dialogue.

Imagine someone who’s never been tied at all.

That’s all I can say on the subject, I guess.

Yet another essay about want and need and overcoming codependency

From the archives:  This post was originally published on Fetlife a few years ago.  I’m starting to transfer some of those posts over here.


This one’s hard for me to write. I’ve started it several times and abandoned it along the way.

It’s about need.

In a previous writing that a lot of you did read, I explained that I’m acutely aware of the “distance” between want and need.

There is a difference to me, and I take that difference very seriously. What I want and what I need two different animals and relationship-wise, I can survive (and thrive) on the basics: honesty, trust, desire, passion, respect.

Those are needs. Gotta have ’em all.

But here’s where I never want to go (again). While I accept that I need those qualities in a partner, I don’t want to mistake that for needing a partner.

Likewise, I don’t want to be needed.

Wanted…..fuck yeah. I want like nobody’s business and being wanted is fantastic. Shit, that’s right up there in the “need” category with “desire,” right?

But needing a person – having him be my life support, or vice versa – being someone someone cannot live without….

I can’t. i can’t go there. That’s dangerous territory for me. That’s the space where I lose myself and all my wants (and needs) become swallowed up by someone else’s.

That’s how I end up living with a hoarder in a two-story, four bedroom storage unit with no space for myself and getting sick frequently from the filth.

That’s how I end up playing “cab driver” for someone and all their friends, driving all over town days on end to make it convenient for someone else to see me.

That’s how I eat my cold dinner alone while my boyfriend spends an hour on skype with his other girlfriend after he ate his dinner hot with his cock in my throat.

See, that’s the shit that belonged to the old me. That’s the shit that happened when I let somebody become a need rather than a want.

I can live without a want. I don’t make those kinds of sacrifices for “wants.”

“Oh, but phi – those were just really bad partners.”

Uh-huh. And in this life there is no guarantee that every partner will be perfect. Nobody is. Even me. (I know, so close….)

Which is why I also don’t want to be a need. I’m not saying I don’t want a partner to desire me or be sad if things don’t work out. There are certainly connection, attachments, and feelings involved. I just …I don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s utter devastation. I don’t want their next breath to hinge on my sticking around, even if I’m not happy.

It’s about personal responsibility for me now. I’m in charge of being the decision maker in my life. I’m in charge of keeping myself from exhibiting the natural instinct to give until there’s nothing left. I’m in charge of me.

In the bedroom, that’s another story….

The shape of me

This past weekend, I participated in a photo shoot arranged by a friend. She had a long time close friend who is an amateur photographer with a specific and openly stated attraction to larger women. It was an opportunity for us to do something fun for ourselves, and an opportunity for him to practice his passion for photography with two pretty delightful (if I do say so myself) subjects.

It’s not my first time in front of a fancypants camera and lighting rig. It’s not even my second or third time. This is a thing I’ve done before with friends in the past. The exhibitionist in me absolutely loves it – being exposed and captured (photographically) gets my blood flowing. I also generally like to see the aftermath – the images I’ve seen from past shoots have helped me learn to appreciate the ways that I can be sexy, and help me grow my confidence.

So far, I’ve only seen a couple of the images from this past weekend – some previews he’s sent over. It took me a few minutes of staring before I realized why these seemed so different from the others.

Because of the photographer’s appreciation for my body type, the images he has captured (that I’ve seen so far) almost celebrate the parts of me that are usually obscured or out of focus in other images I’ve taken or have had taken before.

It took several hours to process what I was seeing when I first looked at the previews. The way I appear is not how I imagined I looked when I was posing. It was mildly uncomfortable – like when you see a flipped picture of yourself, and that freckle is on the wrong side.

But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that if you’re feeling uncomfortable about something, it’s worth investigating further. So, I kept staring at it. I’d go take a meeting and then come back and stare at it some more.

Over the course of a few hours, I started to see the shapes differently, a least, in one of the images. I’m still coming to terms with another one that puts my belly on display front and center, almost as if it’s the focal point of the capture.

It was interesting to me – the way I can see myself the way the photographer saw me. All the bits of me that I try to avoid confronting, he was clearly celebrating. That’s why I think it took such a long time to process what I’m looking at.

Because, I am accustomed to seeing and appreciating an image of myself. I’m accustomed to looking at a picture and thinking, “Oh, I don’t look as bad as I thought I did,” or “Oh, I’m not as fat as I thought I was,” and feeling my confidence grow from it.

What’s new about this one is that I’m thinking “Oh, I look even more round than I thought I did….

…but it still looks beautiful.”

I was once asked if I ever run out of things to write about. This was a few years ago when I was dropping two or three posts a day on Fetlife, and half of them would always start trending.

“No,” i remember answering. “I never run out of things to write about, because I never run out of things to think about.”

It’s still true. I have plenty to say; but I seem to have lost the drive to say it there. The less “safe” that space felt, the less I felt like allowing myself to be publicly vulnerable in it.

There’s stuff I’d love to still be writing about. I have a ton of thoughts on relationships and human connection. A story a week on love and lust and kinky sex. I’d chronicle my exploration with rope suspension and share photos and stories that represent my experiences as a larger-bodied bottom. I’d share my musings on the parallels between life and art (namely in the form of the many, many TV shows that I watch). And so many things to share about the way I’ve been asserting myself at work, because #TimesUp and all that jazz.

I could share about some of the feelings I’ve been having as I form new friendships with new people that are helping me explore different facets of my relationship paradigm. I’d love to openly process where I am emotionally about the potential for one of those friendships to become physical – something I both want and fear simultaneously.

I could keep you updated on my cats and share the whimsy of that time (early this morning) when in a fog of sleep deprivation, I asked Alexa to turn off the cat’s incessant meowing coming from behind my bedroom door.

She did not understand.

I would definitely share with you all the different ways I have been inspired by others. I want to share their blogs and their art and their messages with you, and convey how how much opening up my mind and heart to the things that used to make me feel a measure of discomfort has expanded my understanding of beauty and strength and integrity in so many forms. The way that embracing and elevating and listening to diverse voices has given me so much to be inspired by and has so profoundly enriched my perception of the world around us.

There is so fucking much I want to say.

I don’t even doubt that there are people who want to hear it, and people who have to hear it and people whose lives I can improve by sharing it – and yet….

…and yet, I remain in my silent corner.

I want to blame it on trolls and stalkers, but the truth is – the trolls don’t really come for me, and when they do, I have no qualms in ignoring and/or blocking them. The stalkers, though. That one’s a pickle.

I can pinpoint the moment I started being afraid to share all my thoughts with you to the moment some angry guy on the internet retaliated against my anger toward him for invading my privacy by escalating his implied threats of exposure.

I wish I could have just limited that fear to my exposure on Fetlife – but, no. He made it clear that what happens there does not necessarily stay there.

I changed my behavior after that. I purged my friends list (again). I set all my face pictures (and then subsequently all my pictures) to friends only. I limited the degree of vulnerability I was willing to share openly.

And without that…without that feeling like I could be my most authentic self in that space, I lost the will to post altogether.

I kind of miss it.