Crystal asked me to shock his Social Movement students at Cal State Monterey Bay. This felt like a high bar, so i offered to entertain them and provoke their thinking.
i presented about all the folks who had said the world was going to end unless we dramatically change our behavior (Club or Rome, Carl Sagan and nuclear winter, Rio 1992 and sustainability, the Peak Oil kids and now climate change). i put them in small groups and asked them to discuss what things they could do a better job of sharing.
But it was (predictably) the second part of the class which got the most eyebrows raised. I talked about polyamory and the astronomy of the Star family (and bragged about various Willowisms). The group exercise was to talk about their relationship with jealousy and report back on if they liked it and how they might change it.
But the thing that Crystal was most excited about was the idea that polyamory was a minority relationships model and as such was discriminated against in most peoples thinking. i pointed out that if you get involved in a poly relationship and it does not work out, you are quite likely to say “Polyamory does not work” or perhaps “Poly does not work for me”.
But if you are on the other side of a failed monogamous relationship you are more likely to say “Joe is an asshole”. It is quite possible that your poly relationship failed because Joe is an asshole, or because Joe is not even poly. We rarely say “Monogamy does not work”
[80% of students reported being shocked.]
The coining of the word “kiss” is often credited to Shakespeare and i think it is an especially brilliant name, further solidifying his genius status in my mind. Perhaps it was called just “snogging” before old Bill came along and saved the day. In this spirit, i have asked Rabbit to come up with a better term for compersion, which is slightly poorly defined as the opposite of jealousy. What compersion really is is feeling excited about your romantic intimate having other romantic intimates. Great idea, terrible name. Oh, and it turns out Shakespeare did not coin “kiss”, but has the first attestation of it (first recorded printing).
A talented group of organizers is putting together this Loud Love conference in June (you can register on line for it). The content is potent and eclectic, including: how to date a sexual assault survivor, how to have a brilliant break up, honest seduction, blues dancingas non-sexual consent practice, transparency tools, how to explain polyamory to your kids, crafting sexy consent, BDSM/kink, becoming a drag king, multiple parallel honeymoons and much more. One of the workshops i am most excited about is on how to transcend jealousy and learn how to be excited about your lover having other intimate relationships.
In polyamory discussions one often hears “Do i have to transcend my own jealousy to be polyamorous?” The answer is no. The stock reply is that you do not have to transcend jealousy to be in a poly relationship, but you do need to be willing to look at the feelings underneath it and communicate honestly about them with your partner. If you can communicate about these and other tricky feelings, you maybe able to navigate through your jealous experiences and maintain multiple relationships. If you can’t talk about it, you are sunk.
There is a fair amount of good stuff out there in the world on how to manage jealousy and there is precious little that i have found on how to build compersion. And by the time Loud Love is actually happening, i am confident we will have found useful stuff on this important topic, and/or we will have found a capable facilitator for this workshop.
And hopefully Rabbit will have found a better name for it by then as well.
i’ve been involved with open relationships for a long time. And there a bunch of things which we have discovered, some are well chronicled and discussed (safe sex agreements jump to mind) and other aspects much less so. This post is about one of the less considered aspects of polyamory.
An intimate of mine is in a new honeymoon. At the same time they have a crush on another person which feels uncomfortable to reveal their feelings about. My intimate (who shall remain nameless for the moment) was thinking that if they could just tell the person that they were silently attracted to that they were feeling drawn to them, then this would reduce the pressure.
“Do you think they are also attracted to you?” i asked
“i think so”
“Then telling them will make it worse.” i replied
Not that i am usually an advocate of withholding expressions of attraction, but the idea that the pent up frustration around an attraction will dissipate once it has been expressed is demonstrably false, especially when the attraction is mutual. What goes from being an uncomfortable, unexpressed emotion turns into a likely even more frustrating open possibility. And in this particular case, it might just lead to one of the more impossible polyamory geometries: parallel honeymoons.
Open relationships depend on people being able to have honest communication and multiple parallel romantic experiences. But honeymoons are different. There is what the some poly writers call New Relationship Energy (NRE), common to not just poly relationships – that special feeling of excitement, possibility and lust you have at the start of a new romance. It is time before you realize their feet stink.
Turns out you cant do honeymoons in parallel. At least i have never seen anyone do it really successfully. There are things you can do to make it seem easier: put the relationships on opposite sides of a large land mass, choose partners of dramatically different cultures or genders. But as sophisticated as some of us poly people occasionally like to think we are, this is a trick that i just dont think can be pulled off.
What do you think?