Monday, September 24, 2012

Maintaining Relationships Well Beyond NRE

At the end of August the Libertine and I celebrated six months together, and we went out to a cute little Italian place for dinner.  It was the type of little local place that most people don't notice, but the food was fantastic and the atmosphere was perfect.  Since it was such a cozy environment, the traffic was light.  There were only a handful of other tables being used, despite us being there for several hours.

Occupying another table was a couple that had clearly been married for a long time.  They were barely talking, let alone making eye contact.  They seemed more interested in their phones than in each other.  The wife looked like she was trying to engage her husband's attention more than once, but they just weren't connecting.

At our table, there was talking, laughter, flirting, touching.  We bantered with each other and with our waitress.  We giggled, drank, and generally had a great time.  Our attention was focused on each other, but not to the exclusion of what was going on around us.  Neither of us picked up a phone while we were there, with the exception of checking the time towards the end of the night.

I was facing the wife of the unhappy couple.  She kept shooting me hard, dirty stares across the restaurant.  Her attitude was angry, resentful almost.  I commented on it to the Libertine more than once, because it seemed so unprovoked.  Then I realized that I was on the date she was hoping she would get out of her husband.  I was enjoying the romantic, relaxing evening out, and she was sitting at a dead table and hoping her husband would pull his head out of his ass long enough to notice her.

Here's the thing:  I wouldn't notice her if I was a man.  Where I was wearing a cute, cleavage baring dress and heels, she was wearing a Mom Sweater and sensible shoes.  Where I had carefully done my hair and makeup, she was sporting a quick ponytail and might have been wearing mascara.  I looked sexy and approachable.  She looked tired and angry.  If I was her husband, I wouldn't be very interested in her, either.

As relationships progress, a certain amount of routine and getting comfortable always happens.  We let the people we love the most see us in our worst light.  We feel safe around them, so we let down our guard.  However, we have a duty to our partners to maintain at least some semblance of the image they fell in love with in the first place.  If you get too comfortable, it's easy to lose interest.  I'm not perfect.  The Libertine and the Mister see me in my pajamas, or just after a workout, or when I decide not to get dressed on my day off.  The Prime sees me most often right after work, and my job is pretty physical in nature.  But I make an effort to consistently look good - looking my best isn't an every day thing, but I try to do it often enough that it's not a "special occasion."  I know this sounds old-fashioned, but it works for men, too.

I also treat most dates as though they are first dates (with the exception of my "no fucking" rule).  I try not to vent my frustrations with outside stuff unless invited to do so.  I try to keep my conversation entertaining, funny, and flirtatious.  Just because you've been dating someone a long time doesn't mean that you don't have to make an effort anymore.  In fact, making an effort is even more important!

We all want to be reminded of the person we fell in love with.  This is both a physical and an emotional need.  You don't need to stay a size 2 the entire time you're dating someone, but you do need to try to maintain the feeling of mutual sexual attraction between you.  I'm a plus size woman, but I feel sexy, and I project sexy.  That is the feeling you need to maintain.  My partners may not open doors for me everywhere we go, but the fact that they still do so reminds me of the early days of dating.

Start with little things.  Hold an embrace a little longer.  Say "I love you" a little more.  Wear a dress for no reason.  Do something that you know will make them smile, because at the end of the day you're gonna get out what you put in.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ostracized

Early in the summer I wrote a post about struggling to find acceptance in the poly/swinger community.  At the time I wrote it, the Libertine was coming to terms with his divorce, and I was sitting in a place where I knew the Mister and I had some major work to do if we were going to stay married.  The Libertine was freshly ostracized from the poly community he had worked so hard to become a part of, both online and in person.  I had never been invited into such a group, but I was branching out with my online presence and becoming more brave with my words and opinions.

What happened was, as the Libertine was cut off from a group of people, I was invited into it.  This was hard for me.  Here was a group that had similar ideas to mine, that thought about relationships in similar ways, and that was as open about sex and love as I was.  I was pleased to see my words accepted and my opinions asked for.  At the same time, it was bittersweet, as the Libertine and his beautiful way with words were simply abandoned by this group, as though he had never existed.

I'm not saying that the Libertine was blameless in this.  Going through what he went through was extremely difficult, both emotionally and socially.  He was removed from a podcast to avoid speaking of drama, even though breakups happen in poly relationships all the time.  People he thought were friends chose sides after each of his breakups, just as happens in mono breakups.  The difference was, in the poly community everybody knows everybody else, so the sides were chosen along much bigger lines.  I believe that even now, months later, his ex-wife and several of his ex-girlfriends are in close contact frequently.  

At the beginning of August we attended a party.  There is a lot to the story that I'm not going to get into, but it boils down to this:  before the party we agreed on a boundary and some expectations, and I neglected both.  I created a situation where there was an argument, which we took outside.  I was the one who behaved badly and was wrong.  

But the people at the party, the people who had invited me into their group and had let the Libertine go, they blamed him.  They asked me if I wanted him to leave.  I was flabbergasted.  He hadn't done anything wrong.  He was angry with me for ignoring boundaries and expectations I had agreed upon before we even arrived.  When he got angry, he simply went outside so as not to create drama during the gathering.  I am the one who followed, calling his name, making people aware that things were not okay.

Since that night, the hosts of the party and the leaders of this group of people have made it clear that they accept me, but not the Libertine.  There hasn't even been a breakup, but sides were drawn.  It frustrates me because both of these men have made comments about how the Libertine treated me badly that night and I deserve better.  And no matter how much I explain to them that I treated him badly, they won't listen.

So here I am, feeling judged and unaccepted once again by the poly/swinger community.  The Libertine and I are deeply committed to each other.  He is moving in with my husband and me.  But it feels as though as long as we are together, I'm not welcome within this group of people.  It sucks, because I found them funny and easy to talk to, and I liked having friends that I could bounce ideas at without an ounce of hesitation or judgement.  But now that's gone.  

Maybe the community really doesn't want to be more unified.  Maybe it thrives on drama and judgmental bullshit more than I realized.  If that's the case, I'm sad for them.  But I'll go on being happy with my boys, even if we have to do it without poly/swinger friends around us. If that's not the case, then hopefully we can all get along again one day soon.   

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Coming Out to Mom

  If you follow me on Twitter, you know that recently the Mister and I came out to my parents as polyamorous.  It was not a planned event, we didn't sit them down at a table and lay it all out for them, it just happened.  I'm actually glad it was spontaneous, because this way no one was able to back out at the last second.

Over the summer the Mister and I struggled with our relationship quite a lot.  My Mom is my go-to sounding board, and she was the one who listened to me cry, and let me complain, and then told me to suck it up and work to save my marriage because marriage is hard work and not something you throw away.  After a while it became hard to confide in her because I couldn't really mention the Libertine, so I started to draw back a bit.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago.  My parents took the kids camping, and it was my Dad's 50th birthday.  We were supposed to head up there and have dinner and cake to celebrate.  I was not feeling well that day, and the Mister told her that I might not come but he definitely would.  This set off all kinds of warning bells in my Mom's head, she seemed to think things were still really bad and that we didn't want to be in the same place if we didn't have to.

I ended up texting her that things were okay, that her fears were unfounded, and that while there was something big going on, it was NOT divorce.  She poked and prodded me for a bit before I finally sent her a novel's worth of a text message explaining who the Libertine is, how important to me he is, and how the Mister and I have been non-monogamous for quite a while now.

She didn't say anything for 35 minutes.  Total radio silence.  Finally, I asked her to at least acknowledge that she heard me, and she responded with:

"You and the Mister have to live your life in the way that makes you happy.  I am worried about the kids and don't want them to get hurt if something happens and the Libertine goes away.  But mostly, we just want you to be happy."

Since that afternoon my Mom hasn't brought it up again.  She has not asked to meet the Libertine, nor has she asked about him.  I'm not sure if she is simply pretending he doesn't exist, or if she is just adjusting to the idea of her daugter being in love with more than one person.  She has not asked about any other relationships.

I understand that this is hard for her.  She is very politically in the center, so I'm sure that she'll be okay.  But in the meantime, I have to worry that things I say are hurting her.  I have to worry that she is going to be upset when she asks us what we're doing on a weekend and I say that we're celebrating the Princess's birthday with the Libertine (awesome weekend, I'll recap another time).  But mostly, I think she is upset that she has lost some of her daughter time.

And that's really what every relationship boils down to, isn't it?  How much time we make for each other.