Your Kink is Not My Kink, but Your Words Fucking Matter

Imagine if I were to ask if anybody else out there has a kink of “playing poly.”  When asked to explain what I mean by “playing at poly,” I described it as “you know, like when you pretend to sleep with everyone indiscriminately and not give a shit about what your partners think.”

I’ll just wait here for those fumes to settle down.

If I were to have asked that question in earnest, then I imagine that the fumes would still not have settled down.  I imagine this because yesterday, someone asked the question regarding “playing at monogamy” and when asked to clarify what they meant by that, they said, “You know, like, when you pretend to get really jealous over a text your partner receives and then have a big fight and then great make up sex.”

Now, I get it. I get that in dominant culture, polyamory is put down, oppressed, and those who practice any form of ethical non-monogamy are frequently met with disdain and derision (unless they’re Hugh Hefner, then they get a TV deal).

So I do get that when you’re in a closed group of mostly people who, like you, practice some form of ethical non-monogamy, it’s really easy to point fingers and laugh at those unenlightened monogamists.  Those poor, pitiful, one-on-one relationship having neanderthals.

Yeah. Except some of us are in relationships with some of y’all.

And even if we weren’t, the implication that “monogamy” is interchangeable with the concepts of jealousy and toxicity in a relationship is about as insulting and offensive as the implication that anybody who identifies as polyamorous is into selfish promiscuity.

But you know what?  It’s not so much that someone asked this question in an offensive manner that really bothered me. I mean, it bothered me, but I probably could have just rolled my eyes and let it go as the myopic word-vomit of an insignificant person.  In fact, many of the other group members, including those who are actively polyamorous, stepped in and made comments supporting the premise that the choice of the word “monogamy” to describe what amounted to a “cheating” fetish was problematic.

(Nobody was questioning the validity of the fetish itself, just the language used to describe it).

What *really* bothered me is that the group admins allowed it, and continues to allow that language to stand. They agreed that the OP was flippant, dismissive, and condescending to those of us who questioned their word choice, but made no request for OP to modify their post. What *really* bothered me is that the third rule in this group’s list of rules includes language against “Comments that deride any relationship structure, including monogamy or polygamy.”

I waited 24 hours, fuming, before I made the decision to leave that group.   I kept hoping the admins would step in and address the issue, to (as I’d seen them do in many posts with problematic language) request that the OP modify their question to remove the implication that monogamy equals jealousy and fighting.

But instead, they defended it.

And so, they won’t see me there any longer.

Don’t you get jealous?

Usually when I tell people that my relationship is unconventional, they have one of two reactions:  curiosity or concern.  Nobody has really shunned me for it.  Some people have surprised me and shared that I’m not the first person they’ve met who’s been involved in a poly-type relationship.

By and large, the most frequent question I get asked when I explain that my partner has multiple partners is, “But don’t you get jealous?”

The way they’re asking the question, you might think they’re talking to someone who smokes two packs a day and asking, “But won’t you get cancer?”  OHMYGOD, NOT JEALOUSY! But jealousy isn’t a fatal emotion.  I mean, I suppose it can be if you let it unhinge you, but I don’t let a whole lot unhinge me in that fashion.

The answer is yes, sometimes I might get a little bit jealous.  Sometimes I get downright resentful.  It doesn’t happen very often, but jealousy is an emotion that is not foreign to me.

When someone asks me, “But don’t you get jealous?” I think of it more like someone watching me walk out the door in a sleeveless dress in November and asking, “But won’t you get cold?”

I live in Southern California.  It rarely gets THAT cold, even in November, and if it does, I grab a sweater and put it on.

When I encounter jealousy within my relationship, the “sweater” is usually a product of some self-examination. For me, jealousy is usually related to some sort of insecurity or perceived “unfairess.”  But, like sunny Southern California, my relationship is pretty darned secure and fairness abounds; so it’s rare that those feelings manifest.

When I feel “jealous” I start asking myself “what’s causing this?”  I examine whether it’s actually “jealousy” (I want to claim something that somebody else has) or if I can deescalate it down to “envy” (I want to have a thing somebody else has without taking it away from them). Are these feelings sourced through the comparison trap? I know that for me, comparing is a no-no in this type of relationship, so if that’s where it’s coming from, it’s time to shut it down.

Sometimes I’m able to do just that: shut down those feelings as easily as I would have put on a sweater on a 68 degree day.  No harm, no foul.

But yeah, even in Southern California, we get actually cold days.  We even had a snow day once when I was in elementary school – so certainly there are going to be days that the jealousy can get the best of me.

So, what do I do?  What’s the equivalent of my polyamorous “wool coat, gloves, and scarf?”

Would you believe it’s communication?

What!?  Another damned poly post touting communication as a freakin’ solution to every problem!

Yeah.  Pretty much.  ‘Cause when it gets THAT cold outside, when we’re talking jealousy jacket weather, I tell my partner, “I’m feeling resentful. I don’t like it and it’s affecting my mood.”

And he says, “Gotcha.”

We talk about what’s bothering me. He validates my feelings. He lets me know that it’s okay to feel that way sometimes and that he totally understands why they’ve come up this time.

And then, usually, I get my period a day or two later and the cold weather passes.

Shooting spitballs at butterflies

They met in the caterpillar colony, under the shade of a broad leaf.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m shooting spitballs at butterflies.” he responded.

She seemed puzzled. “The butterflies are beautiful and free. Why are you shooting spitballs at them?”

He shrugged. “They’re not any better than we are. And when I hit one, it proves just how fragile they really are. Butterflies aren’t any more special than you are.”

She liked the sound of that, and she crawled over and sat by him.

Time passed. Friends would come and then go.

“You’ve been around a long time,” they’d say. “Yeah, I like being a caterpillar,” he’d say. People can go and be butterflies if they want to, but I like it here on the ground.”

“I want to be a butterfly one day and be free,” said the friend.

“You can be whatever you want to be,” said the caterpillar. Later on, they’d see their friends shedding their cocoons and flying off. “Do you think they’re prettier when they fly?” asked his young friend.

“Nah, they’re alright, but they’re not you.” She liked the sound of that and decided to stay a caterpillar another day.

“Wow. It’s really great up there,” the friends would say when they’d stop off on the leaf for a visit. “Views for days, and when it’s warm out the wind feels great under our wings.”

“That’s cool,” said the other caterpillar. But he saw his young friend beside him look longingly at the colorful butterfly wings.

After the butterfly took off, he looked at her. “They’re no better than you are, you know. Just because they can fly now and have pretty colors. You’re great as a caterpillar. In fact, you’re even BETTER this way.”

And that was the last time she ever thought about building her own cocoon. Instead, she’d curl up contentedly each morning beside him and watch the world from a leaf, never from the sky.

“What are you doing?” she asked him one morning.

“Shooting spitballs at butterflies.”

“But that was our friend.”

“We’re caterpillars. We don’t have butterfly friends. They can’t be trusted.”

Minutes later, she was rolling up spitballs, too.

Shards of Glass

There’s a quote on the white board in the office break room by Carl Jung:

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

I mean, I kinda raised an eyebrow when I read that this morning as I filled my coffee cup for the third time. What was the office manager trying to say, that we annoy her?  That we annoy each other?

Was it passive aggressive commentary about our boss?  (Probably).

But, it’s true.  The thing about what annoys us about others really being about us.  About our own issues, hangups, insecurities. It’s probably why I’m nonplussed about trolls in my comments. They don’t bother me ’cause I don’t require everyone to agree with me in order to feel confident about my opinion being my own.

Like yesterday when someone decided that I’d “settled” because I’m dating somebody poly.

Whatevs, dude. I know me and I know my partner and I know that neither of us feels like we’ve “settled” on anything. The opinion of a stranger who knows neither of us isn’t enough to make me feel insecure enough to get into a shouting match with him.  Let him think I’ve settled. What’s it to me?

(This is probably why I don’t really get many trolls in my posts.  I starve them.)

But if it *had* annoyed me, if it had enraged me that someone would think (or publicly say) such a thing about me, then what it’s really saying is that I either A) am not as confident about my relationship as I claim to be, or B) am not as self-reliant on validation as I’ve worked so hard to become.

And I certainly don’t need a “personal army” of fetlifers to come to my rescue when someone says something mean about me.

Anyway, that’s not the point of this blog.  The point of this blog is to share a metaphor about introspection and self-work that I came up with this morning that tickled me in the clever place.

It’s about identifying when something is about *you* and doing the work to make positive changes in your life, rather than continuing to exhibit negative behaviors in response to things that annoy you.

For context, it was in response to someone seeking advice on how to overcome the negative behaviors associated with their self-acknowledged distrust/jealousy/and control issues.

Here was my metaphor:

The more you dig into the cause of your distrust/jealousy/controlling impulses, the closer you’ll get to overcoming it. It’s kinda like….let’s say you have foot pain. Like, it’s bugging you. Severe, effing, foot pain. You can complain about it and you can walk around limping, or hopping, or constantly try to relieve the foot pain by soaking it in epsom salts.

Or you can investigate the source of the foot pain. Find that you have a tiny shard of glass stuck in the bottom of your heel. Your skin has calloused over it so it’s tough to reach, but that’s why every step you take hurts.

With enough exfoliation, and maybe a pair of pointy tweezers or a needle, you can get that shard out. And, while the relief won’t be instantaneous (it’ll be sore for a while), there will be some relief and the more you carry on without that shard the better it gets.

Sometimes my metaphors run away from me. What I’m trying to say is, when you find the source of your jealousy/insecurity, you can start doing the work to address why you behave the way you do, rather than behaving the way you do to address the insecurity itself.

Earlier today a fet friend of mine wrote something about a step she’s taken in her journey to overcome self-hatred.  She said that where she once felt very free with using the word “hate” in connection with her feelings about herself, she’s now finding that she no longer wants to hate herself.

I told her that was a huge step.  She’s not only identified that there’s a shard of glass embedded in her heel, she’s also decided that she no longer wants to live with the glass in there.

The only thing left is to start doing the work to get it out; but, much like they say in AA that acceptance is the first step – I feel like deciding to *do* something about it is a great leap forward.

I’m a big advocate for personal growth. The term used to have such a new-age-crunchy-granola-bar-eye-rolling connotation to me, but now that I’ve actually experienced it for myself; I think what personal growth really means is self empowerment.

No more limping.

Finding the source of your pain is one thing.  Deciding you want to start living without it is everything.