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Heh, I’ve had #relationships where this was in the #fineprint (Taken with Instagram at work | space)

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This is my contribution to ModernPoly’s Faces of Polyamory project. See below for info on how to participate.

I’m a 45-year-old, happy, healthy, sane, stable, solvent, smart, longtime gainfully self-employed, moderately well known journalist, blogger, and media consultant. And I’m polyamorous — and proud of it. Have been for a long time.

For me, polyamory is about: NO AUTOPILOT!  It’s about making a conscious choice to be in the relationships I choose, and communicating well and regularly with my partner(s) about what we each need and want to feel good about the lives we’re leading and the love we share. It’s about not taking anything for granted in intimate relationships.

Life is mostly configurable, if you have the courage to step outside the mainstream and let go of what other people expect from you.

In my experience, allowing major life decisions to be driven mainly by social norms may convey some initial sense of security, belonging, and privilege — but if those norms aren’t truly aligned with your nature and goals, you and your partners will probably end up frustrated, resentful, bored, or miserable in the long run.

You’ve got one life — so live it for YOU, don’t just blindly follow a script someone handed you.

(BTW, my “no autopilot” policy is also why I’ve been self-employed for about 15 years, why I chose never to have children, and why I haven’t owned a car for about six years. These are choices that suit me and allow me to lead the life I want.)

I once followed the monogamous route, mainly because I wasn’t aware there were other viable choices. Monogamy never felt right to me, but I felt like if I wanted to have “real” relationships monogamy was the inevitable price of entry. I felt zero sense of kinship or community with nonmonogamous people until I was in my 30s and married — I fell in love with someone new while still being very much in love with, and committed to, my spouse. So we all worked it out. (I make that sound easier than it was. Big change is always hard.)

One of the main reasons I’ve been publicly “out” as poly for several years is because I remember how painful it was for me to believe that the open, nonpossessive way my heart naturally tends to love was inherently incompatible with having deep, committed intimate relationships. I believe, and hope, that when more people see that people they know are poly (or otherwise nonmonogamous), they won’t be so quick to dismiss, deride, or judge us. And they’ll be aware that they have choices, too.

Privilege is an issue for any non-mainstream choice. I’ve deliberately configured a life where it doesn’t really cost me anything to be out as poly. I’m unlikely to lose my livelihood, the love and respect of my family and friends, custody of a child (I have no kids), my home, or my personal or professional reputation because people know I’m poly. I respect that other poly people do face such constraints — and I’m annoyed that our society is so oppressive. So I’m out on their behalf too. Because I can be.

Also, being out as poly means I get to meet more poly people. And some of them are hot, and most of them are pretty cool too. That kinda rocks :-)

A few years ago my former spouse and I parted ways on the best of terms, and we’re still very close and caring, and visit regularly. We didn’t divorce over polyamory — our marriage simply ran its course after 12 years (plus 6 monogamous years together prior to getting married). That happens, and it’s natural and good. I’ve always been amused by the benchmark that a relationship is officially a “success” only when somebody dies.

Now I live alone and am in a committed relationship with an amazing poly man in the Bay Area. He’s brilliant, kind, loving, caring and intriguing in every sense. He also lives with his partner, who he’s very committed to, and I care for and respect her and what they share.

This summer I’m moving back to Colorado, and he and I will continue our relationship long distance with regular visits. I’m glad I live in the age of the internet and easy air travel. And I am open to dating guys (yes, I’m pretty hetero) in Colorado’s Front Range once I get there.

Because life is full of possibilities. And once you turn off the autopilot, all sorts of options arise. You just need to choose them consciously, and carefully.

ARE YOU POLYAMOROUS? Here’s how to add your face & description of what polyamory means to you to ModernPoly’s Faces of Polyamory project.

A QUOTE

The peer pressure to marry doesn’t necessarily suggest a problem with marriage itself, but a lack of other cultural models. This results in a lot of people choosing marital and family structures by default rather than by intention — a kind of compulsory monogamy. If I were advising young adults today, I would tell them to seek out people who have set up their relationships and lives in a variety of ways, including traditional monogamous marriage. I would tell them to pursue diverse sexual experiences and explore their sexual orientations before committing to monogamy, or consider relationship structures in which continued exploration could be on the table. I would tell them that marriage is hard — incredibly hard. But, I would have to add that the best things in life inevitably are. I don’t regret getting married, but as I make the decision each day to remain married, I believe I’m doing it with greater and greater intention as I glance down more of the roads not taken and realize what it is I’ve actually chosen, and what I’ve given up.

A TEXT POST

Been monogamous so long it feels like dating to me ;-) (response to: What is “dating” to you?)

26.5 years after I met my guy, I still think of it as dating when we go out somewhere in the evening. It is the romance thing, and yes, one of the very most excellent parts of the relationship we have <3

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WHAT DOES “DATING” MEAN TO YOU? 

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER NOW

(More about why I’m asking about dating…)

A TEXT POST

Often odds with someone very early on based on how they think of it (response to: What is “dating” to you?)

I have often found dating to be really confusing and to sort of defy definition. For that reason, I try not to have expectations around it when I am becoming romantically involved with someone. It is so different for everyone, and you often find that you are at odds with someone very early in your relationship based on how they think of it vs. how you do. So I usually just go with the flow.

If I had to define it for me personally, I would say that it’s when you go out places with the expectation that a romantic and sexual relationship will evolve from those “dates.” In a way, it’s almost a pretext to the romance and sex, an excuse to get to know someone better and spend time with them, but you both know the end game. 

Interestingly, though I consider myself bisexual/ pansexual, I have a hard time feeling like I am on a date with female identified people (I am personally female identified). I’m not sure if it’s just the social norms of society that have sort of molded me into this heteronormative mindset, but if I’m out with a woman with the pretext that we are trying to grow a romantic and sexual relationship, I still think of it as just hanging out with a friend who’s female. This doesn’t mean that if she thought it was a date I wouldn’t agree with her and go along with it, it just means that I feel differently about it. I think it could also have to do with a lack of amorous feelings towards women, so I suppose to me both the romantic and the sexual intent are important keys to a “date,” and to defining a relationship as “dating.”

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WHAT DOES “DATING” MEAN TO YOU? 

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER NOW

(More about why I’m asking about dating…)

A TEXT POST

What does “dating” mean to you? Responses so far

Wow, this has been an interesting day. I’m trying my first experiment with using Tumblr for crowdsourcing, and I’ve gotten several great responses to a provocative question:

What does “dating” mean to you?

You can submit your answer if you like. 

Here are the responses I’ve gathered so far (will add more as they come in):

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WHAT DOES “DATING” MEAN TO YOU? 

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER NOW

(More about why I’m asking about dating…)

A TEXT POST

What is “dating” to you? Quick thoughts from Twitter

My friend Cunning Minx, who runs the excellent podcast Polyamory Weekly, asked her Twitter followers to participate in my crowdsourcing experiment to collect answers to this question:

What does “dating” mean to you?

Here are the replies this has sparked so far on Twitter:

@Nathalie_Ottowa said: Dating is discovering possibilities, romance, and talking about our relationship model. Oh wait, that never stops ;)

@Aiden_Wrenne said: Dating means going out on dates. No sex, relationship, or plans required. Just committed time spent with another.

@Vtucherov said: To me, “dating” is that period between when you know someone well enough to want to get to know them better, but before you know them well enough to feel a distinct commitment with them. I think this is an outlier, though.

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WHAT DOES “DATING” MEAN TO YOU? 

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER NOW

(More about why I’m asking about dating…)

A TEXT POST

Dating and the relationship escalator (response to: What is “dating” to you?)

(Contributed by a polyamorous bisexual woman in a hetero marriage, who also has a steady girlfriend. Names changed to protect their privacy. See end of post to learn how you can contribute your definition of dating.)

Initial definition:

DATE:  A date is an agreement to meet at a specific time and place with the goal of enjoying a shared activity or the pleasure of the company of someone you would either like to share a sexual/romantic relationship, or DO share a sexual/romantic relationship.  

This question made me think about what the separation between “dating” and something else is.  

For instance, I still consider myself to be “dating” my girlfriend Raquel, though we’ve been together for close to two years now.  

I don’t consider myself to be dating my husband Tim, and I think the cutoff point in my mind was when we moved in together.  

On the other hand, when Tim and I make advance plans to do something special together that mimics what we might have done during our courtship — like a special dinner alone, or a trip to our local hot tub place — we both call that and consider it a “date.”  (We also both consider time alone during which we engage in such courtship rituals as critical to the ongoing health of our relationship, so much so that we invest serious money and time doing it — we spend every Saturday afternoon together, which at a minimum, costs us $75 just for a sitter).  

I do think the periodicity means something.  I mean, it shares the name with the word we use to indicate a specific day, so “a date” is a specific event, and thus “dating” is a series of such specific events.”  Maybe that’s why I consider the point at which you move in together the point at which you are No Longer Dating — because at that point, you don’t have a discrete series of events, you have a continuous relationship.  

So originally, when I started writing this, I thought: Dating is the thing you do before you either move in together or break up.  

But!  There are plenty of people who are not on the “relationship escalator” (that is: date —> have sex —> present publicly as “a couple” —> move in together —> get married —> have kids and/or mortgage), as well as plenty of people who have ridden the relationship escalator who still do things that they consider a “date.”  

So: revised definition: 

DATE: when two people agree to a prearranged time to share each other’s company or a pleasurable activity.  That can happen in the context of an existing sexual/romantic relationship, or in the process of vetting each other as suitable partners for such a romantic/sexual relationship.  

If I describe someone as “dating,” however, I do generally mean “partners who are not cohabiting.”  Partners who are cohabiting may “have a date,” but I’m not sure they’re “dating.”

…P.S.: There are plenty of relationships that are emotionally serious and committed that do not involve shared property.  

I mean, the whole idea that shared property is what makes a relationship important seems like a conspiracy between maybe Bank of America and IKEA, with help from Focus on the Family and maybe Goldman Sachs. 

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WHAT DOES “DATING” MEAN TO YOU? 

SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER NOW

(More about why I’m asking about dating…)