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June 29, 2012

Addendum: Collaborative Intimacy

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 3:51 pm

HER: I read your Opposite Triggers Attract post. It reminded me of a theory I first read in Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want.

ME: Huh, I’ve never heard of that. *googles* Oh! Yeah! Imago therapy. This is exactly the thing I was referencing.

HER: I’m a little resistant to theories like that because they feel unprovable. But, of course, when I feel strong resistance to something it’s probably because there’s something in it that I don’t want to admit about myself.

ME: Sure. I think this model is a tool for thinking about relationships, not necessarily a fact about how they work. Although I do think it’s probably generally true that people find themselves in the relationships they’re in — or, at least, stick with the relationships they do — in part because they’re being challenged in them.

HER: Yeah, absolutely. That makes sense. Because if you weren’t being challenged, you’d be too bored to stay. But if you’re being challenged too much, then it’s hard to stay also. So, there’s kind of a sweet spot.

ME: I think that sweet spot, for me, is when I’m being challenged by something about the relationship itself, rather than something about the person I’m in the relationship with. When there’s something about the relationship’s structure that’s difficult. That way, rather than the struggle being between us as individuals, it feels like the person I’m in the relationship with and I have a project to work on together. It can be a really difficult project, but it’s also a way to solidify our connection with one another as people. I also like the way this makes it feel like, potentially, you might be able to stop working on this particular project together, but still have a connection to each other that allows you to come up with different projects to work on in the future.

HER: That makes sense.

ME: Yeah, huh? I kinda want to write that down.

HER: Do it!

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Do Opposite Triggers Attract?

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 4:10 am

Blank page. Writer’s have a lot of shit to say about the blank page. And probably a lot of meta-shit to say about writers saying things about blank pages.

I don’t really have an agenda here. I think I’m just journaling. My mind is pretty blank. That’s rare. I just got out of a hot bath. Turns out that making myself physically warmer is an effective way of tempering anxiety. #self-care On the other hand, the easiest way to make myself physically warmer involves getting into hot water, and the more anxious I am, the more that being immersed in water is scary ’cause…beetles. So, yeah.

I went out to dinner with Ashi tonight. She took me to a very nice restaurant where I probably could not have afforded to eat on my own and we ate a lot of vegan dishes made with various kinds of mushrooms, including a mushroom pâté which…wow. We were having a cute metamour-y conversation about people we’re both involved with, which turned into a more processy friendy conversation about certain ways that relationships are challenging, and that transitioned into a heavier conversation about specific relationship things that I find triggering, and then somehow we were talking about my mom and childhood trauma and I was crying very visibly in the middle of this very nice restaurant and then we took our dessert to go. It was something involving chocolate and pears and we ate it when we got home and after I’d mostly stopped crying and…wow.

Here’s a thing that’s come up in a couple of conversations the past few days. It’s come up around issues ranging from casual sex to conversational tone: Something that I find empowering and healing might simultaneously be something that a person I love finds incredibly triggering and vice versa. This is hard. This also seems to be the case in not a small number of relationships. Which, it occurs to me, is in keeping with my therapist’s (and, perhaps, most therapists’) theory that we get into intimate relationships with the people we choose precisely because they trigger us — not so intensely as to re-traumatize us (not in a healthy relationship, anyway) but enough to “irritate the wounds” and scar tissues of old locked-up traumas in order to stimulate healing.

And so the complementarity of triggery/healing makes sense. Because if I got into a relationship with someone who happened to have some behavior that really triggered me, and it was a behavior they weren’t particularly invested in or got much benefit from, then the most reasonable thing to do would be to just ask them to cut it out — and, chances are, they would. But if I know that my partner’s triggering behavior, while it’s difficult for me, is something they’re doing because it’s really good and healing for them, then I’ll want to support them to continue doing it because I love them and care about their well-being and empowerment. And this will mean either having to work through my own shit around that trigger or being miserable all the time. (And, as with any process, it’s probably often a little of both…)

Hm.

I think I’ll get some sleep now.

June 25, 2012

Metamour Workshop Braindump

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:57 pm

Hello, Blog. It’s been a while. I’ve been busy loving people and learning things. It’s been messy and I’ve been a little too immersed to actually articulate the nature of that immersion until recently. But here I am.

This isn’t the post I was going to write. I’ve been wanting to write a post about intimacy, fluidity and loss, and one about the ethics of mind control. But, at the moment, I’m trying to put together a conference proposal for Transcending Boundaries 2012. It’s due by the end of the month. I want to talk about metamourship. And I have SO much I could say that I’m having trouble focusing enough to create something bite-sized. So, I’m just going to braindump here and see what comes out.

First of all: Wow. These past few weeks have been intense. I’m not going to record a lot of personal details, but I’ve basically spent a ton of time and energy processing metamourships — my own and other peoples’. I described it to one person as feeling like a logistical and emotional switchboard for my entire intimate network. And to someone else as synthesizing and defragmenting myself insofar as I am a relationship-building cyborg. I told another person that I’d spent all my mana doing huge magic. And another that I was preparing to run a mental and emotional marathon. All of these statements are true and, still, none of them fully captures what this feels like. It feels good, though. Like I have been working my ass off for something I care about. It’s affirming to be challenged and pushed to my limits in an area where I’m extremely competent; to get to do that work with other awesome, capable, powerful, talented people; and to see really positive results come out of that process. Also, I do not want to do anything like this again for a very long time. 😛

Okay, so now what. How do I talk about any of this to a bunch of strangers at a conference? What do I tell them? Why does this matter to anybody?

Some jumbled thoughts from my travels and before:

* I hate the way that we talk about metamourships as if they exist solely or primarily as a structural support system for other (sexual or romantic) relationships. The “partnered” relationship is even privileged in the way we typically explain what “metamour” means: “Your partner’s other partner” rather than, say, “A person with whom you have a partner or partners in common.”

* Tentatively, given its etymological basis in the idea of abstracted (meta) love (amour), I want to use “metamourship” to describe a positive, affectionate, loving, collaborative, etc. relationship w someone w. whom you have partners in common. This isn’t required for *all* relationships of this nature — tho it has lots of potential benefit (more on this later). Not all relationships that are structurally triadic need/ought to fit this description.

* I also want to point out that a positive “metamourship” is EXTREMELY difficult to access. We live in a culture that tells us that the simple existence of this type of relationship is one that justifies murder. (I’ve been trying to collect pop-cultural artifacts in which people kill their partners’ other partners. Metamoric Murder Ballads, as it were. :P) There’s a lot of poly lipservice to the idea that we should get along w our metamours, but very little discussion about HOW to do such a thing.

* How do we do such a thing? I wanted to start by collecting data and stories about relationships in which people have positive metamourships and then analyzing them for common themes… But I haven’t made the time to do that. So. Mrgh. I can only speak anecdotally from my own experience and the experiences of people I already know personally. How do I do what I do, anyway? I’m not sure. Maybe I should ask the people I’m close to for their perspectives.

* I almost feel like we…don’t exactly horde this info, but just ignore the importance of it because of sexual privilege and dyadism. We act like metamourships are no big deal, take it or leave it. Which is obviously ridiculous (unless you’re dating as a hobby and not because you want to be in relationships with the people you’re dating. Which, I mean, I guess is a thing.) Metamour relationships ought not be institutionalized as any one thing or the other, but that doesn’t mean they’re trivial — the decisions we make about them have a meaningful impact on our own and others’ lives, regardless of what *kind* of relationships (or lack thereof) we decide to build with the people with whom we have partners/lovers/friends/family members/other loved ones in common.

* …I know I was going to say something here. My brain is fried. What?

* One thing I talked w Steffi and Maymay about was transparency: I make an effort to be super transparent about all of my relationships with all the people I’m in relationships with because — and this is key — I can’t actually process all of this data on my own. Hm. I think this speaks to Elizabeth Sheff’s point about the distribution of emotional labor in poly relationships. Maybe I can get a copy of that paper.

* Some benefits to positive metamourships: Creates a “relationship backchannel”. Creates a “personalized mini-support group” for people who are in relationships with the person you’re all in a relationship with. The “only other queer kid at the party” connection. “Many hands make light work.” Conversations you can only have with metamours. (“How ’bout those shower restraints.”) More data for relationship hacking. Yes, also, they are structurally supportive of other relationships you’re in.

Mrr. Um. Grargh. I really don’t know if this is helping me focus. It’s just making me feel more overwhelmed. Because what I really want to do is process everything I’ve figured out over the past month, but I’m totally not ready to do that, and that also isn’t actually necessary for me to be able to run this workshop. I’m having the same problem Dakota was with their Erotic Narratives workshop: Trying to do ALL THE THINGS instead of focusing on core ideas. Maybe I need to get on chat with somebody and throw ideas around in real-time to help me focus.

Okay. Partly, I think I need to accept that even if I can figure out how to articulate exactly what I’m doing (which I can’t), if I only have an hour, I can’t actually teach people how to do it. So, what key things do I want to get across to them? Why does any of this shit even matter. (Wait. Don’t go down that road, Rebecca. That way lies existential crisis. There are people who are interested in this topic. That’s a good enough reason to talk about it. Start from there.)

Hm. Maybe I should ask for advice from those folks who are interested. What do people want to hear about?

ETA: Oh. Or I could just look at my proposal blurb Google Doc to discover that Mai Li already gave me a bunch of useful suggestions and cut my original rambling page-long workshop description down to two succinct paragraphs that sound awesome. D’oh. It’s kind of like I had it pretty much all figured out before. And then I spent a solid month thinking about metamour dynamics and got all confused. 😉 It’s gonna be fine.

As polyamorous folks, we talk a good game about our relationships with our “metamours” — people with whom we have a partner or partners in common. For many of us, a cornerstone of our polyamory is having caring, appreciative, and mutually-supportive metamourships. But poly communities don’t talk much about HOW we develop and maintain these relationships. Meanwhile, mainstream culture tells us that our lover’s other lover is someone we should dislike and distrust. How do we make the leap from “threat” to “family member”? How do we stay connected to our metamours when relationship troubles hit? Why do metamour relationships even matter?

In this hour-long Metamour Intensive, we’ll dig deep into the nature of having and being a metamour. Drawing on the challenging work of Franklin Veaux, Maymay, and David Jay, we’ll discuss what metamour relationships are and WHY we don’t talk about them enough; share concrete strategies for building and facilitating healthy, fulfilling, stable metamour relationships; and untangle how normative cultural programming gets in our way. By the end, you will understand why strong metamour-relating skills are important not just to polyamory but for social justice work as a whole.

June 2, 2012

On Giving Myself Permission to be Messy

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 1:46 pm

I was writing a different post on metamour dynamics but I got distracted talking to Dakota about the language I was using in that post and ended up writing this on Facebook instead:

Idea: What if we jettisoned the implied hierarchies of “metamour”/”partner” language and talked about predicate and predicated aspects of relationships instead?

Key point: These words don’t necessarily describe a WHOLE relationship.

e.g. “I am metamours with Ashi” suggests that our whole relationship is somehow dependent on our “partnerships” with a third party. But Ashi and I have been close friends with since long before I started seeing her partner, Becky. Rather, I have a whole complex relationship w. Ashi of which our 10+ years of friendship are a part, and which also includes certain aspects that are predicated on our mutual intimate relationships with Becky.

Likewise, I might have relationships with new “metamours” that start out almost entirely predicated on relationships that we’re in with others — but that, as they develop, will acquire other aspects that aren’t triangulated through other people.

Finally, ALL relationships have some combination of predicate aspects and some aspects that are predicated on other relationships. This breaks the dyadist notion that some categories of relationships automatically “count” more than others — while still allowing us to acknowledge that some relationships are more structurally supportive/central to our lives than others.

Mostly, this is just another a move toward describing relationships rather than defining them. 😉

So, I’m just putting that here for now because I’m sure I’ll want to reference it later. I might finish the other post later. I might not. One thing I learned from writing it is that it’s really hard to talk abstractly about my personal life. 😛

Another thing I’m realizing is that, because most people I talk to aren’t running the same emotional software I am, trying to process my big-picture intimate network dynamics with others can feel really overwhelming to the people I’m processing them with. I’m trying to figure out ways to ask for what I need without giving so many specifics that it makes others feel helpless.

But, in short, the sub-section of my intimate network that I’m currently trying to get my head around engaging with looks like this. (Names have been blacked out — er, blued out — to protect privacy):

Intimate network diagrams are such a poly cliché.

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed myself.

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