30 May, 2016

Wants, Needs, and Weeds

One of my many weaknesses is a need to feel needed, and a corresponding need to need.

You shouldn't need anyone in your life: philosophers have been telling us this for millennia. You are complete in and of yourself.

Many, perhaps most, people don't feel this way, of course. They feel as if there are pieces missing, and they seek these pieces in many places. Some think if they only had the right piece of stuff, or a certain amount of money, they'd be complete. Some try to fill the hole they perceive in themselves with drugs, licit or illicit. Or food. And the whole of our society teaches us that we can find the "missing" pieces of ourselves in other people.

This piece of faux-wisdom is so common that it's rarely even questioned. We refer to our spouses as "other/better halves"...and although that supposedly refers to the couple as a single unit, it's nevertheless telling. We write songs and poems extolling our need of other people: pop culture is positively littered with them. "You complete me" is a common love trope.

It's wrong. And it kills relationships dead.

Think about it: when you think of someone as the missing part of you, chances are excellent you are taking a single snapshot of them, however comprehensive, and claiming that as the missing piece. This denies your partner growth. If her life priorities change, if he takes up a new hobby that you have less than zero interest in, if his personality changes as a result of mental or physical illness...is that an extension or refinement of you? Of course it isn't. It's them, all them.

The greatest gift Eva ever gave me in a married life chock-full of great gifts was the ability to be myself, at my own pace, as painfully slow as that has been. I have grown steadily since I met her: it's fair to say I am not the same man I was then. My political beliefs have undergone a deep-sea change; latent thoughts have been encouraged to develop and be expressed in their time; my confidence has grown from non-existent to almost enough to be trusted. I've learned from her to consider things from more than one angle; that there's never an answer that's 100% right and will satisfy every interest; that the people who disagree with me hold their opinions every bit as fervently as I hold mine, and should at least be listened to with an open mind.

Eva has never NEEDED me in her life. Long before I ever met her, she was worlds more self-reliant than I am now. I like to think I have enriched her life, and gifted her with some tools that have helped her through some tough times...but those tools are not mine alone. Indeed, others have shown her (and me) uses of those tools I'd never even considered.

At a very high spiritual level, you're not even supposed to want people (or anything else) in your life. The Universe is a giant copy machine: when you state "I want thus-and-such" to it, you get back that precise experience...of wanting!

The way to get what you think you want is to realize you already have it. Do this wholeheartedly: don't give to get. For instance. Are you poor? Do you want to be rich? There's been a lot of talk about the "1%" in the past few years. Guess what? Chances are you're in that 1%. If you make US$34,000 a year, you're in. That means that even the poorest of the people reading this is actually extremely wealthy by world standards.
Want to put that reframe in action? Give money to someone poorer than you are. Now notice what you did. You thought that you were poor, but in fact you were rich enough to just GIVE somebody money, no strings attached.
I repeat: if you do this thinking about all the wealth you'll get by doing it, you're doing it wrong and it won't work. If you start thinking of yourself as wealthy--wealthy enough to just GIVE people money...well, then, you are. And chances are excellent you'll attract greater wealth.
This works with things besides money. It certainly works with love. The way to get love is to realize you have love to give...and give it. Just as with money, if you give love in order to get it back, you're not doing it right. You love people because they're loveable; whether they love you or not is irrelevant. In loving people, though, you will discover that love is actually yours already. And loving people are loved themselves.

The thing with love, though, is that we've created another pervasive societal trope about it that's just as wrong as the notion that another human can "complete" you. We view love as possessive.

Love is not possessive. If you are my possession, I own you and I use you. We abolished ownership of humans  a long time ago and we look upon it as morally repugnant...and yet our love songs celebrate it.  So here we are wanting something, not recognizing we have it already, possibly because the thing we think we wanting is actually a pale and twisted imitation of the real deal.

Love is not wanting, not really: we want for nothing, remember, we are complete in and of ourselves. Love is CERTAINLY not needing.  Love is choosing.

I love Eva. I choose to be with her. Every day, I make that choice: it's a conscious choice. She does the same with me. The choice is a free choice: she could choose to leave, and so could I. I can't see a situation where that could happen...especially since there are no artificial socially constructed limits on our relationship. It  has evolved and will continue to evolve. Do we need each other? No. Do we choose to experience life's joys and sorrows together? Emphatically yes.

The others I choose to share my life with--the friends, the loves--it operates on exactly the same principle. It's not looking to find something that's missing in myself OR my marriage: it's simply, and beautifully, a conscious and continuing choice to share life and love on some level.

There's a certain pleasure in needing and getting that need satisfied. There's a POTENT pleasure, for me at least, in feeling needed and fulfilling that need. These are the pleasures of the junkie, who lives for his next hit. Choice doesn't enter into it: once addiction takes over, there IS no choice. I call that level of want -- where you want something or someone so much that you've convinced yourself you can't live without it or them --  a "weed": if you're not careful, weeds can and will choke out all the life around you. That kind of pleasure, in short, is self-destructive. Love, by contrast, is creative: it creates a new expression of joy each time it is expressed. It could be the joy of a screaming orgasm. It could be the quiet joy of a night cuddling by a fire. It could be a newborn babe. Or any of a million million other things.

I choose creative love. I choose love that seeks to genuinely heal. Not to fulfill a need, but to demonstrate that need is an illusion.



29 May, 2016

Fell In Love

Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
--Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody"

They say it's what you make
I say it's up to fate
It's woven in my soul
I need to let you go
--Imagine Dragons, "Demons"
------------------------------------

When will I ever learn?

Obligatory disclaimer: there are probably still folks out there who will misinterpret and minimize everything in this post. People who don't understand polyamory, people who believe the presence of one love detracts from another, people who think any form of nonmonogamy is unethical.
Trust me: poly people have ethics. In some ways our ethics are perhaps even more finely honed: more people to balance, more hearts not to break. And I love Eva more than I even know how to express...which doesn't lessen my love for the others I love, and it sure didn't lessen this, any more than this lessened that.

I've been hit hard by crushes in my time. Loving the way I do, they come on in waves, fairly frequently.  I'm used to revelling in them for a little while, and then letting them go. They're rarely mutual, after all, and even when they are there have been lines, clear lines I have toed playfully on occasion but never crossed.

This wasn't a crush. I fell in love. Head over heels, heart over head, full-throttle balls-to-the-wall love.

The bare fact of that didn't surprise me: it is, after all, the object of the game when you're polyamorous. No, the fact I fell in love didn't shock me.

The fact I fell so hard for a woman I talked to once, never really met, and who was already in a committed relationship...all of that surprised, shocked, and dismayed me. That's not supposed to happen. None of it. Online is dangerous that way--I've said it more than once myself. Intimacy can feel magnified, you can say things to a screen you might not say to a face, and blah blah, blabbledy blah. And the committed relationship? BIG red flag. I don't interfere in committed relationships. I've been tempted once, and pretty easily slapped myself out of the temptation.

This wasn't a temptation. This felt like a fucking compulsion.

That scared me. Exhilarated me, but scared the hell out of me. I couldn't even explain it. I could list off all the things I loved about her and lusted after, and I meant every one of them...but the depth of feeling, after so short a time...

As if time had meaning. I've chatted with her for five hours at a stretch that felt like maybe  twenty minutes. I knew her for next to no time that felt like forever.

There was a devil on my shoulder. It wasn't whispering like it normally did...it was shouting.

We clicked. Instantly and strongly. It was mutual, which added a layer of intoxication. You know the drill: you can talk about anything, nothing's off limits, and the more you know the more you want to know. She hit every single one of my buttons: empathic, stronger than she thinks she is, smart, killer sense of humour that tended towards the naughty. Hurt, and working to overcome that hurt. Desiring and desirous both. Beautiful inside and out.

A dream. A fantasy. But real. She was real. A real dream?

Can dreams be made real?

I pondered this question over several weeks; it rarely fully left my mind. There had to be some way to spend even one night. The boyfriend: still new himself. Not fully certain. I could steer this, exploit it. If I could get them to take a break while she sorted out her feelings for me, that way it wouldn't technically be cheating, would it? Technically, the best kind of correct? How could I best make this happen?

A part of me was horrified. This wasn't me thinking these thoughts. They were selfish, terrible, almost jealous thoughts. Almost jealous: extremely envious. I wanted what he had. I didn't...quite...want to take it away from him to get it. I just wanted to share. Was that too much to ask? To share?

Of course it was: of course it is. People don't share other people, Ken, you silly rabbit: polyamory is for dreamers and silly-ass weirdos like you. And by the way, whatever happened to your stated intention to date within your species?

She happened, that's what happened.

---------------

You'll note this is in the past tense.


We've agreed to take a break ourselves. Two months with no direct contact...which quite frankly I don't know if I can do, given that we have been practically inseparable since the day we 'met'.  Good mornings and tuck ins and commiserating over shitty jobs and...and all the rest. A day has not gone by without at least two quick conversations, and usually those conversations go for hours.  What the hell was I thinking?  I even doubled it myself from one month to two. I was clearly insane. But then, this whole thing was insane.


The deal is after two months, if we're still feeling this way, we do something about it; if it's faded for either of us (and I feel reasonably certain it will, at least for her) then it's settled forever.

It took about ten hours to get to that. Ten hours of I think I know where this is going to end up and parting is such sweet sweet sorrow.

My life is not empty without her, I don't want to give you that impression. Far, far from it. I have the love of a damn fine wife, I have friends who care and support me no matter what.

I'm still grieving this, though. I can't help it. I always wanted what's best for her...I just wanted what was best for her to be me, even if for a short time. I'm going to cry some tears...

...and try to move on. But as crazy as this sounds, I'm going to carry a part of her with me forever.











25 May, 2016

You Me Her

You Me Her is billed as a "polyromantic comedy" set in Portland, Oregon.  It stars Greg Pohlear (Amy's brother),  Rachel Blanchard, and Priscilla Faia.

It's the first show I've ever binge watched.  Nine episodes in one night.

I was worried going in. Polyamory on television so far has been exploitative trash, pseudo-"reality" crap like Married and Dating. It makes me feel dirty just watching it: I couldn't make it through one episode.  The news that this show had been vetted by actual polyamorous people mollified me somewhat, but I was still filled with trepidation going in.

You have to understand: well, just that. You have to understand. I was concerned that "You Me Her" was obviously depicting the most stereotypical (even if it's not ACTUALLY the most typical) polyamorous arrangement: one couple, one unicorn. And the synopsis gave me further cause for alarm: short of mutual cheating, it's about the most unlikely entry into polyamory imaginable, something that would be almost certain to die before it started in real life:

Jack and Emma are a married couple in Portland, Oregon. The zippity has gone out of Jack's doo-dah: while it's clear he loves Emma very much, the marriage feels platonic. Jack's brother Gabe, who comes across as a real douche, confesses to Jack that he once hired an escort to spice up his own love life; Jack decides to follow suit. He finds Izzy (Priscilla Faia) online.
Their first date is a tour-de-force of acting from both of them. The instant connection is very apparent. So is the awkwardness and the incipient guilt. They don't get beyond a kiss, but they don't have to.

Jack runs home to Emma and confesses. His wife is angry, but also intensely curious: who is this woman her husband really likes on such short notice? So Emma hires Izzy herself, and finds her to be smart, sexy and very likeable. utterly enchanting. This is where we learn along with Jack (Ken rolls his eyes) that Emma had a hitherto unconfessed woman phase.

That really lifted me out of the story, the thought that a couple could possibly be married for any length of time without the husband knowing that little detail about his wife. I almost stopped watching, especially since the setup was so implausible.

But what convinced me to stick it out was the chemistry between the leads. Izzy and Jack seem very genuine; Izzy and Emma SIZZLE. And after that ridiculous beginning, the relationships all felt real. That includes the relationships between all three people in the triad and their assorted friends, some supportive, some not so much.

There's remarkably little jealousy, and what there is is dealt with far too easily, in my opinion. However, the show tackles the other poly problem -- couple privilege -- head on, with real clarity and insight.

In the framework of the show, Izzy is hired on to be Jack and Emma's plaything. But she rapidly proves she's a real human being with feelings (lots) and agendas of her own, and it takes some beating over the head and several near break-ups for Jack and Emma to come to terms with that. This, and the neighbourhood reaction, is where the show derives much of its drama. Jack has a lot to lose professionally if news of his "arrangement" leaks out, which it inevitably does.

This show takes baby steps into portraying polyamory. It's the least threatening arrangement possible in public perception (one man, two bi women,  it reads like a standard male fantasy).  But what's portrayed has real depth, real heart, and the writing is very good. I'm looking forward to season 2.

You Me Her is up on putlocker.is.






24 May, 2016

It's Not A Competition



What's not a competition?

Everything.

Unless it's explicitly stated...for instance, if you're playing a hockey game or trying to win an audition...it's not a competition. And even if it is explicitly stated, the more you can forget that fact, the better you'll probably do.

We have framed so many things as competitions. We're all competing for limited resources, for instance. Reframe that: there's enough.

There is, you know. There's enough on this planet, allocated properly, to give everyone a reasonably comfortable existence. If the U.S. placed a moratorium on military spending for EIGHT DAYS, that money could eliminate child poverty the world over for one year. In 2006, one percent of the world's population owned 40% of the world's wealth: by October of last year it was 50%.  THERE IS ENOUGH.

We've set up everything from school placements to job interviews to political campaigns as competitions. It even extends past death: our religions are duking it out for a heavenly reward, after all. This fosters us vs. them thinking at every step, which in turn leads to some people declaring themselves superior and others inferior, and the cycle repeats and repeats, ad infinitum.

See, our mindset is always based on one winner and many losers, when -- if we were a truly CIVILIZED species, we would automatically calibrate our every decision on maximizing the number of "winners", minimizing the number of "losers", and also minimizing the effect of "losses".

To tie this to the last post on entitlement, you don't accomplish this by eliminating losses altogether. It is important to keep score: if you don't, you lose sight of objective reality. There are times when that's a good thing to do. But not when personal growth is a possibility.

The idea, though, is to view failure as what it actually is.

We've got this persnickety idea in our heads that failure is the opposite of success. It isn't, not at all.  I've covered this in one of my best-received posts from last year on impostor syndrome. The short version is that even the most abject failure contains two critical elements necessary in success: effort, and knowledge ("well, now we know THAT didn't work!"). While failure is not necessary for success, I would argue that it makes success taste all the sweeter. And of course, without the experience of failure as teacher, the first experienced failure can very well drive a person insane. It seems ridiculous, but when you've been told all your life that there's no such thing....well, when the impossible becomes not just possible but personal...that's a hell of a shock to the system.

The older I get, the more I believe the only way to win at life is not to play. Or rather, to make up your own rules and play by them instead of the ones the world insists on. You'll get friction...oh, hell, you'll get lots of friction. But you'll also find people who play by similar rules, and those people, dear reader, are your tribe. Cherish them and hold them close. Not too close, mind: they are not your prisoners.

I've had people tell me two things in the past week that niggled at me, both having to do with love. Love, of course, is the focus of a lot of competition in the world. Not my world, but the world I have to negotiate.

The first thing was "I hope you find what you need". The second was "how could I compete with her?"

I hope you find what you need. This is phrased with the sweetest of intentions,  but it feels...wrong, somehow. I don't need anyone. I am a complete person in myself. My goal in any and all relationships is most beautifully stated as part of a wedding service published in CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD, BOOK 3, by Neale Donald Walsch:

. . . you are not entering into this [relationship] for reasons of security . . . . . . that the only real security is not in owning or possessing, nor in being owned or possessed . . . . . .not in demanding or expecting, and not even in hoping, that what you think you need in life will be supplied by the other . . . . . .but rather, in knowing that everything you need in life . . . all the love, all the wisdom, all the insight, all the power, all the knowledge, all the understanding, all the nurturing, all the compassion, and all the strength . . . resides within you . . . . . . and that you are not marrying the other in hopes of getting these things, but in hopes of giving these gifts, that the other might have them in even greater abundance.

Also from that series, Book 2 this time:

You know...I seek the same things the rest of the world does:

  • Power
  • Fame 
  • Success
  • Winning
  • The adulation of others
  • Being better
  • Having more
  • Knowing how
  • Knowing why
I just seek them to different ends:
  • Power with, not power over
  • Fame, not as an end in itself, but as a means to a much greater end that has nothing to do with me at all
  • Success, not at others' expense, but as a tool to assist others
  • Winning, not at any cost, but as something which costs others nothing, and even brings them gain
  • The adulation of others, bearing in mind that others are at least as worthy of adulation
  • Being better--not better than others (in a very high spiritual sense there are no others)--but better than I was yesterday
  • Having more...to give
  • Knowing how, and knowing why, not so I can hoard that knowledge, but so that I can share it. This blog is an ongoing example of that: I teach what I have to learn.
How can I compete with her?

You can't. Don't even try. She is her, after all. You've got no hope. I mean, she's perfect in her imperfections and she's a world unto herself,  a beautiful world of jungles and deserts and deep, deep oceans.  Just forget it.

And I told her the same thing about you. She can't compete with you. I told her to just give up. It's not even close.

And I'll tell both of you the same thing about someone else. 

IT ISN'T A COMPETITION. I love you for you--glorious you! I love her for her--wondrous her! 

This seems, I'm sorry, blatantly obvious to me, perhaps because I've lived with this worldview for so long. But to many people it's as if I'm announcing that 2+2= a red smelly noise. Even when they say they understand it, their words betray them. They insist I must love somebody "more", or that I can't really love two, or three, or x people at once, or that some day somebody will come along who will get all the love I have to give.

Never going to happen. You see...I don't play that game. 



21 May, 2016

Entitlement

"The world does not owe you a living. You owe the world a life."
--Ken Breadner

"Gimme, gimme never gets
Don't you know your manners yet?"
--schoolyard doggerel

I know of entirely too many people who are labouring under some giant misconceptions about how the world works.

I don't know any of them very well, mind you. I make it my business not to know such people well at all.

But oh, how you run across them. I've seen more than a few people who somehow managed to get jobs, then show up for them all shocked and put upon that they're expected to work. I'll never forget the guy who, on his first overnight shift at Sobeys, wondered when nap time was. The scary thing is there was another guy who worked nights there who, so far as I could tell, actually did punch in and go to sleep for seven and a half hours. He sure as hell didn't do any work.
It took several months to fire him. And that's what's wrong with that particular company. I don't know for certain, but I strongly suspect somebody sued them once for wrongful dismissal, and won. Because dead weight takes forever to prune, while (ahem) people with a work ethic go unappreciated.

Come to think of it, that's S.O.P. in any retail environment in my experience, and probably in lots of other places besides.

I had a boss once -- my direct supervisor! -- who made it his life's mission to do as little work as possible. He had thoroughly mastered the art of looking busy, so much so that (again) it took waaaaaaay too long for the people who mattered to even determine what (who) the problem was, much less do anything about it. This manager (!!!) who would come in on his day off to write a grocery order, as was expected of him. That would take him an hour, tops, and from that he'd somehow be owed a day. AND THEY'D GIVE IT TO HIM. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

World's worst kept secret: I'm lazy. I'm actually lazier than most of the slackers I've coached and mentored, and believe you me that's saying something. But I work hard when I'm on the clock. You know why? Simple. If I slack off, time slows to a crawl. The faster I can make time go by, the sooner I get to go home. Wouldn't you rather be at home than at work? I would.

The entitlement culture is everywhere...and it's still spreading. It was bad enough that little Sam was supposed to get straight As for showing up at school, and that Pat couldn't be allowed to lose the baseball game because SELF ESTEEM...but now we're cultivating a culture where I'm entitled NEVER TO BE OFFENDED. If you say something I find offensive, I can ruin you.

Crazy. Where does it end? Is there a further step that can be taken? Thoughtcrime, I suppose. When do we start getting electric shocks  for thinking what a bitch she is, or telling a racist joke in our heads?


We all know where this came from: parents. Wikipedia tells us that helicopter parenting is the product of two social shifts: the economic boom of the 1980s, with its low unemployment and high disposable income; and the entirely misplaced (but remarkably persistent) perception of increased child endangerment.  The former had two first-order consequences:

  • it allowed parents to spend more money on their kids than had hitherto been normal;
  • and with the rise of two-parent employment, parents felt pressured to spend as much 'quality time' with their children as possible. In many cases this meant partial or total abandonment of the traditional parent role in favour of being the child's "best friend".  
And the paranoia that kids were in danger at every step of their existence? That would have been fuelled by the rise of 24/7 in-your-face media. The consequences of that have been incredibly far reaching:
  • a huge spike in child and teen obesity, since physical activity could result in a (gasp) injury;
  • a sharp decrease in self-reliance, since kids doing things for themselves might also result in injury;
  • the rise of hyperparasitic parent-child relationships, where both parties act as parasites on each other
  • and last but not least, that culture of entitlement. It becomes Mommy and Daddy's job to insulate Offspring from any physical or emotional shock. 
I know parents who drive their teenaged children to school each day; who cook their little darlings entirely different suppers from what the parents themselves eat, because "they don't like it"; who wake their teenaged, job-holding kids up in the morning because otherwise they wouldn't get out of bed and they'd miss their shift and be fired.

In my day (he wheezed)...well, I can't be sure it wouldn't have crossed my folks' minds to wake me up. Objectively, I think they might have done it once, with a strict warning that if I overslept my shift again, it'd be on me. They'd follow through on that, too. You bet your ass they would. And then I'd be fired, and I'd...well, I'd have bloody well LEARNED something from that experience, wouldn't I have?

We are living in a society where consequences are completely out of whack.  Egregious criminality such as robbing millions of hard-working citizens of their savings gets a pat on the wrist, or more likely a huge bonus; while an off-colour joke (or, on point, an accidental elbow) becomes grounds for nuclear warfare. Meanwhile, an entire generation of kids--two now--have been raised to expect...no, to DEMAND...that they not be allowed to fail. At anything. Ever.

I see it at work daily: we're treated like children. It grates. It grates even more when I'm forced to concede that some of us ARE children, whatever they look like. 

It's Neverland. We're living in Neverland, where nobody ever has to grow up.  I keep hoping for signs the pendulum has reached its apex and is about to start swinging back the other way. I haven't seen it yet, and damn it, I feel entitled to.  



15 May, 2016

From the mailbag: Once a cheater, always a cheater?

You do like the tough ones, don't you? Thanks for this one.

I've written about cheating before, less than a year ago, in fact. Summary of that post: I do not support, encourage, facilitate or condone infidelity; people cheat for various and sundry reasons; often they're unaware of why they do it; and believe it or not, a majority of cheaters of both genders consider their partnership to be a generally happy one.

That last is probably tough for most people to believe. But it's true: in many cases, people are not actually looking to hurt their partner when they have an affair. They're looking to get a need met.

Now, that need is by definition selfish when it involves deceiving your partner. And the selfishness is (of course) the overwhelming focus of the deceived when the affair is found out. The need is often completely ignored.

I have some limited sympathy for cheaters, having been one myself. But it's limited. Cheating is (by definition, again) selfish; and because it is selfish it is (by definition) immature. I try not to judge people for being immature...as the saying goes,

THOU SHALT NOT JUDGE
BECAUSE
THOU HAST FUCKED UP IN THE PAST ALSO.

The process of maturity involves

(a) realizing you did something wrong;
(b) owning up to the wrong thing you did and accepting any consequences thereto;
(c) making a sincere and honest effort to determine why you did wrong, so that you won't do it again;
(d) not doing it again, to the person you wronged or to anyone else

My sympathy evaporates to nothing for people who will not engage in this process...or who, having engaged in the process, are unwilling to see it through. People who deliberately hurt others, and who have no problem doing so...I don't have time or energy for people like that in my life.

Now, here's where the tightrope gets a little frayed. And there's no safety net down there, so watch carefully as I tiptoe through this part...or go splat on my face.

I am convinced that many cheaters are actually poly.

Jesus, it's windy up here, and who greased this damn tightrope?

Many, not all or even most. And anyone using polyamory as an excuse for cheating ought to be hung by their genitalia until further notice, which may or may not ever come.

But consider: it's a socially mandated given that once you've partnered up, the part of your brain that finds other people mate-worthy automagically shuts off. Because, you know, out of seven billion people on earth, you found your soulmate....amazing, how she just happened to work with you, or you just happened to meet in a park. What ARE the odds against that, I wonder. Never mind.  I can't help it: I find the scarcity model of love completely ridiculous, and if it means I fall off the tightrope here and now, no worries, I plan on landing in a big cushy pile of abundant love.

But if you still see me up here, wobbling, permit me to take another step.

Now, suppose you've partnered up, and one or three or six or thirty years down the line you suddenly feel that part of you waking up again. What's your reaction?

Probably a species of horror. This isn't supposed to happen. And yet here it is, happening. What happens next? Do I even want to know?

Often, horror is its own imperative. You may think you're scared, but you're also curious. You want to touch the shape under the covers. Yes. You do. You can feel it pulling at you. You try to resist, and if you are good and strong and upright and walk in the light, you succeed, and stride out of the dark room and go on living the life of the just. But if you allow that shape into your mind, it has a way of permeating your life, until you creep back into the room where it waits and you reach under the cover and touch it there...and there...and especially THERE.

Yes.

First-time looming infidelity can indeed feel a little like you're in a horror movie. You've surrendered logic and even a degree of sanity and you've turned over control of your body to something that does not have your best interests at heart. And it's going to take you places. In the dark.

Before it does, or maybe after it does, there's a mad rush for meaning. What does it mean, this desire for another? Does it mean I don't really love my partner? Does it mean there's something wrong with our relationship? Does it mean there's something wrong with ME?

Probably not. Possibly not. Definitely not.

Assuming you haven't succumbed, the question then becomes what to do about this impossible desire. Within the confines of what society deems correct, you now have three options.

You can stomp on that desire until it dies. This is ethical, avoids hurting anyone (except maybe yourself) and it reasserts normality with a thud. Love is scarce, damn it. There's no such thing as shapes under the covers, and if there are such things, I'm not going to let them in.

Breaking up with a partner over an attraction is extreme, but we all know serial monogamists who do just that, addicted to the thrill of the chase and never satisfied with the catch. This, to my mind at least, is actually a form of infidelity. It's a bait and switch relationship: Now that I've won you over, I'm going to throw you away. You thought you were getting me, you're not, ergo I cheated you even if I didn't cheat ON you.

The third option...well, I'll say this for cheating. It has the illusion of security about it. You figure  hey, I can do this without throwing my life away over it, and if it doesn't work out, he'll never be any the wiser.
An illusion is all it is, of course. But illusions can be convincing. Ask anyone in a desert (and many would-be cheaters feel, on some level, that they're trudging through some sort of desert).

Those are your options under the scarcity model of love. For a fourth option you have to throw away that scarcity model root and branch and adopt an abundance model in its place. But many people haven't considered that abundance model--it's not exactly something that has much exposure, even now--and so they're stuck with the framework they know.

More than half of all cheaters say there's nothing seriously wrong with their marital relationships. Society's narrative suggests they're delusional. What if at least some of them are telling the truth? It suggests to me that some version of ethical non-monogamy is a potential solution for such people. If it's sex they're after,  an open relationship may work. If there are lots of feelings swishing around being all lovey-dovey, then that's polyamory.  Here's the hard part: talking to their partners about it. AHEAD OF TIME.

You have to be prepared for your partner to bolt the instant you bring this up. That's why so many would rather simply cheat and take their chances.  And pro tip: don't, DON'T, DON'T have a partner in mind when you first discuss the possibility. Or the probability of your partner going poof approaches one hundred percent.

Luckily, Ken has a single simple question that will determine once and for all whether you could be poly.

CAN YOU SHARE YOUR PARTNERS?

Loving more than one is easy. Letting your lover(s) do the same is harder, and for some, impossible. Even some poly people have trouble with this (see: one penis policy, hypocrisy of). Speaking for myself, I learned how to share in kindergarten, but...

Sorry. I really don't mean to be condescending. It's just that after you've lived this way for a while, it can be hard to even remember that most of the rest of the world doesn't. You find yourself turning off romantic comedies in disgust, suddenly remembering that at the end there's going to be one disappointed party who will turn out to have been nothing more than a plot device all along, a device meant to bring the happy couple together. Certainly not a real human being with feelings of his own. You hear people at work wishing their husbands would just take up rock-climbing the way they have and you actually have to slam your mouth shut before you can ever-so-unhelpfully suggest they find a rock-climbing boyfriend.

Polyamory. It actually is a way of seeing the world.

Okay, I'm going to put the poly away now. You're not poly, but you're thinking of cheating, or you have cheated.

Well, let's follow society's narrative. IS there something wrong within your relationship? Are you not being satisfied in some way?  Is your sex life good? Are you getting the right amount of sex, in the right style? How about emotional validation? Do you feel loved, cherished, respected, valued?  Whether the answers are yes or no, do you talk about them?

Are you sure about that? Most people don't, you know. They think they do, but they really don't. "Honey, are you okay? -- "Yeah, I'm fine" is not a relationship talk. Men stereotypically hate these talks, but believe me, men, you'll hate the consequences of silence much more.

What would your partner say if you said "you know, sweetie, I'm finding myself fantasizing about Oliver from work." Would she believe there's something wrong with you, with her, or with your relationship? Or would he laugh it off, and say "dream away, but do me the courtesy of not acting on it"? Scrub "fantasizing" and substitute "falling in love with". Does your partner's reaction change? (Sorry if you find the mixmastering of pronouns confusing: I always try to be inclusive in these blogs).

YOU NEED TO FIND THIS OUT. Nobody can know for sure before it happens how they're going to react, but you can and should talk about it in the abstract. Because odds are it WILL happen sooner or later, for both of you. That switch only really does turn off in the most devoutly monogamous people...and devoutly monogamous people are not as common as we'd like to think they are.

Are you bored? We dismiss boredom as a trivial thing, but it can be fatal to relationships, especially those founded on a high degree of excitement, and infidelity is often a product of marital ennui. The answer is to talk about it. Maybe you can spice things up. Maybe you can't, and it's time to move on--that's almost as provocative as polyamory, the notion that longevity of a relationship is no guarantor of that relationship's success). Regardless: use your words.

Once a cheater, always a cheater? Like so many other things in this world, it depends.






09 May, 2016

From the mailbag: I bet you say that to all the girls...

Rewording something I put up on Facebook, for those who don't have access to it: I have received a number of private messages asking me questions about my most recent blogs. Thank you so much for those: the Breadbin is only partly mine, and I will seek to answer anything I can here, bearing in mind my respect for privacy is absolute. You WILL NOT be named here; nothing I ever write will permit readers to identify you. 
------------
"How can I really trust someone who says they love me, that I'm beautiful, etc, if I know for a fact they say the same things to other people? Respectfully, it feels like your love is cheap if it's so easy to gain."

Ah. Yes. Good question. Thanks for asking it. 

There are two pernicious assumptions here. I don't blame you for making them, because they're so common as to go almost unquestioned in our world. They're rarely written as baldly as I'm about to write them, however. 

ASSUMPTION #1: WE FALL IN LOVE WITH PEOPLE, NOT THEIR QUALITIES.

ASSUMPTION #2: IF YOU LOVE MORE THAN ONE PERSON, THE LOVES CANCEL EACH OTHER OUT.

The first assumption is easily disputed, because everybody has a set of qualities they're looking for in a potential partner. But once you've found those qualities in that partner, you're supposed to forget that it was the qualities you were looking for and pretend, forevermore, that it was the person who has them. 

I love: sincerity, empathy, humour, and intelligence. These are not rare qualities, any of them (well, intelligence seems to be in short supply),  and even the four of them together aren't exactly impossible to find in one package. If you have all four of these things in copious quantities, you are beautiful, and I don't give a shit what you actually look like.  Beauty like that attracts me like a magnet. Each person I love has those qualities in slightly different proportions and expresses them in different ways...but they're all loveable as far as I'm concerned.

The second is equally stupid...at least I find it so. People have this need to compare themselves with other people, and they always seem to come up wanting. This extends into loves..."well, if you love her, who do you love more? It must be one of us."

No.

There is no "more". What there is, is love. I love you, and I love her, and I love him, too. 

There is different. I think I like the colour metaphor. I was talking to someone I think of as purple this morning and I asked her where my world would be with no purple in it. It would be a purple-less world, and poorer for so being. Other people are other colours, and without any of them, the world as it exists would be impossible. But the existence of purple doesn't eradicate blue, and green doesn't make gold disappear. 

There is TIME, of course, and that, unlike love, has limits. And love takes time, so there's a de facto limit to the love even the most devoutly poly person can experience. We call it "polysaturation"...the inability to take on more partners, simply because there aren't enough hours in the day.

Polyamory does mean that you don't have quite as much time with any loved one as you would in a monogamous relationship. Some people can't stand that thought because they're obsessed with whatever he's doing when he's not with them: those people aren't cut out for poly. For those of us who are, there's frank communication about the generalities of what's going to happen (who, where, approximately how long)...and "go, have fun".  

Because each colour is worth revelling in. The colours together make up a tapestry; the more colours, the richer the tapestry. I don't think purple is cheap (it is, after all, the colour of royalty)...but nor do I think that green is, either. Or pink, or brown, or....


"I bet you say that to all the girls"...well, I do try and make people understand that they're loveable, and many women feel they aren't. But each woman is loveable FOR HERSELF and herself alone.