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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Newbie drowning in “Hunger Games” dating pool

Dear Mischa and Leon,

OK, so - help. I'll spare you the intricate details, at least for the moment, and do my best to sum up my dilemma.
  • We've been together for 20 years.
  • We were each other's first at 18 and have been each other's only for all this time; vanilla.
  • Solid, faithful, best friends
  • We are living in separate apartments and will be still together, coparenting, and attending as many Open Love NY events as we can, but also are very ok at the moment with the other dating other people on their own.
For me - I'm on OKCupid and I feel like I keep walking into the wrong classroom every time I message someone... or that I'm jumping into the dating game armed only with shit I've seen on TV shows and in movies while in real life it's more like The Hunger Games. At least 75% of the 75% and above matches (even more so >90%) are very attractive bisexual 27-year-olds. Now, lol, as exciting as swimming in that dating pool sounds, and despite the fact that I don't get nervous or embarrassed and can literally talk to anyone, I can't help but feel some kind of hybrid of inadequate/incompatible/intimidated.
I don't want to get chewed up and spat out, or simply not get any responses at all because I'm ringing all the wrong bells. What's up with them visiting my profile, then liking me, and then ignoring totally reasonable, brief, and genuine messages? I'm like. . . but... mutual..?? Ok, digressing... back on track:
  • I want to see other women who are open to the poly lifestyle.
  • I'm 38, never been on a date, and don't know how to proceed.
  • Sex with another woman has been in my imagination for 20 years and boy it sounds fucking awesome, but what the shit... who is going to be #2?!  You know? Like, while I would love to have experiences with many more women in my life, I'm clearly not promiscuous. Are there support groups for this!? lol
  • And holy shit... someone told me that "do you want to come up for a drink?" is not even a thing! How the hell do you even ... I'm clueless. lolol
Ok. That's it. Thanks in advance for any advice you can share and thanks for just... existing and having this site!

Volunteer Tribute


Hello Tribute!
May the odds be ever in your favor! But while my knowledge of young adult fiction and movies may be extensive, my expertise in online dating is not so I'm going to ask my good friend Chrissy (and current Open Love NY president) for advice before Leon chimes in. Chrissy?

First and foremost, cliché as it may be, find ways to relax! Let go of everything you’ve been told about dating and start over. Dating online means you can actively pre-screen for common interests and values. Create an inventory of keywords that have meaning to you and a list of non-negotiable deal breakers and use them in your profile. There’s a browser extension called OkCupid (for the Non-Mainstream User) that’s useful for filtering non-monogamous people. If you’re only getting matched with 27-year-old bisexual women, you can use the plugin to filter your age range accordingly and note what you’re looking for.

Your messages should be short, show proof that you read their profile and only used to establish first contact. Geek out over something you both like in a few sentences. Once you’ve exchanged a few messages, propose a drink, dinner or coffee. I find that the more thought and creativity you put into a suggestion, the more likely the person is to take interest and actually show up. Offer a suggestion that would excite you and leave it open enough for them to counter with a suggestion of their own. Don’t worry about the sex for now. Everyone’s body is different and it’s always a learning experience. We always start over with each new partner.

With your current partner, learn together but independently and share the info as you go. Enjoy community building together at in-person events (like Open Love NY events!) As you begin to navigate the community, you’ll likely be more comfortable navigating dates and talking about yourself and what you need. Welcome again to the dating world, and I hope to see you at future events!

Leon, what do you think? 


Welcome back to the dating pool!  Sounds like you're afraid of drowning without your safety buddy, but like most things, it gets better - and more fun - with practice! 

Instead of writing a traditional online dating profile, why not post a version of what you've asked here?  Something that boils down to: "My partner and I have just opened up our relationship and I'm completely clueless as to what happens next!  Anyone want to hold my hand and explore with me?" might actually get exactly what you're looking for.  Don't try to play by default rules if you're not familiar with them.  Write your own!
Have a friend (or better yet, your partner) recommend some good photos and help you tailor your profile to find the most compatible matches, not the highest number of people.

And for what it's worth, online dating has SO many people on it these days, you're bound to find what you're looking for, as long as you're asking for it in the right way. Hell, my mom goes on more online dates than I do, and she's in her 70s.  Worry less and get excited more!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Can this relationship be saved?

Dear Leon and Mischa,

So here's the situation - me and the man I love have been at each other's throats for weeks now; he's poly and I have been monogamous to him. For the last month or so he's been taking his ex on trips, leaving me home, telling me to basically eff off, but still wants me around (I think?). He hasn't given me any closeness or sex or anything lately so I decided to take someone up on an offer while he was away with that ex. It wasn't full on sex just some foreplay and getting a man's attention for 4 hours.

Now the poly man I love who throws his poly-ness in my face is hating on me because I sought what I needed. Some more details: he's full-on poly and I was monogamous until the other day when I went outside everything I believe to get a little comfort. He straight out told me he doesn't need or want my permission to do anything and will not be asking for it. I didn't agree to be anything with him; he took me for granted big-time and because he decided to be amazing to me for almost 2 years and I came to expect that.

Out of the blue he shames me, tells me he's going back to full-on poly but he still loves me but don't ask or tell him anything, because it's none of my business. I am not perfect, I have an explosive short fuse, but only because he pushed me to there. It's because he decided to start leaving me home, no sex, no love, and taking his ex out, whom he says he can't stand or live with for more than a week at a time. Like now, he ran away from home yesterday because of our fight and where did he go? To the ex's house. And he hasn't come home yet, he's a man-child. He said I restrict his movement, which is ridiculous, I couldn't tell him what to do if I had super powers. I was so happy to be with just him, but when you start arguing all the time and then he uses it against you, tells you he doesn't take you anywhere because your teeth need to be fixed, you ask to be held and he tells you to hold yourself!!!! WTF!!!

Signed,
Loving Woman Who Thought She Was Good Enough

Dear Loving Woman:

You're in the all-too-common "mutually frustrating relationship death spiral." You're pissing each other off, each trying to make your partner miserable since you're hurting but can't seem to communicate in any other way than leveraging years of acquired knowledge into the most hurtful ways possible. (Your teeth?  Really?)

So... explain to me exactly why you want to save this relationship? This guy sounds incredibly immature, using his version of polyamory as an excuse to be a selfish dick. (Pro tip: polyamory and "none of your business" don't belong in the same sentence.) That's not polyamory, other than he's apparently telling you where he's going and what he's doing. There's that whole thing about AGREEMENTS and BEING ON THE SAME PAGE that he's apparently forgotten. Plus throwing your playdate in your face
- especially after he encouraged you to do it - is an uber-dick move.

Just because you love someone is not a good enough reason to stay in a relationship that isn't giving you what you need - let alone is mentally abusive. You're entitled to pursue what you want out of life, and if you want a connection with someone who is emotionally comforting, supportive, sexually satisfying, communicative, and most of all doesn't act like this guy, go out and find one (or more than one!). Sounds like the totality of NOT being with this guy is way better than all his good parts combined. Jump back into the dating pool and consider the last two years the source of some very valuable life lessons.


Mischa?


I have to agree with Leon that it seems your relationship is in a lot of deep water. Based on recent letters to this column, it seems to me that quite a few people (mostly men, I have to say) define "poly" as a license to "love'em and leave'em." Being poly does not give him the right to ignore and insult you, and you have the right to call him out for using poly as an excuse for his hypocrisy of applying different relationship rules for you than he does for himself.

One of the key tenets of polyamory is consent. People who enter into relationships with other people deserve to know what kind of relationship they are agreeing to, which is why honest and open communication is so vital. He sounds like he wants a relationship with you where he is free to come and go as he pleases, but when you try to do the same he objects. Do you consent to these unequal terms because he identifies as poly and you self-identify as monogamous? What if you were to identify as poly? Would that change the way he views your relationship?

Whatever the answer, you have to make clear what you are willing to agree to in order to remain in a relationship with him. But before you do that, I think you two have to address the current lack of genuine affection and physical intimacy that you're describing. And frankly, the anger and emotional abuse you describe is atypical for a poly/mono relationship. I would suggest that you examine your relationship through the lens of a book such as Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (a current Amazon bestseller) because the early warning signs of abuse are all going off with the behavior you're describing.

Good luck and be safe!



Monday, September 26, 2016

I hate my married partner's new girlfriend!

Hi,
I've been in a relationship for 10 years with a married woman. I am surprisingly comfortable being in this relationship considering her wife does not know. The married woman and I have been doing this without any idea of polyamory anything. This is Issue 1 and that last sentence will make more sense in a second.

My 10-year partner has recently fallen in love with another woman (Issue 2). I found out because I saw all the signs and asked. It was at this point that my partner told me that she loves us all and that even after I said I wouldn't stand in the way.

The new woman and my partner have been together now for two years. The new girl knows about me and the wife. She has expressed to my partner that she is most jealous of me and says things like "I can work with the wife, not [me]." She started making demands and requests that my partner (sadly) has accommodated, thinking it would make this woman happy and feel secure. Requests such as I stop picking up my partner from work, that I not send flowers, that I not call her when they are together - all of which has created two years of arguing hurt and resentment (Issue 3).

Now I want to make something clear: when my partner told me she loved this new girl and I offered to leave, I was devastated. I thought it was over. When she told me that she wanted me to stay  because she was still in love me, and loved us all, I thought OK, I could probably do this because I am pretty much doing it already. I was open to everything. I even extended an olive branch and us three did a lunch (which backfired).

Now things are bad with me and the new girl. She has placed crazy boundaries that limit my interactions with my partner, and my partner accommodates all of them. I don't understand this. When they fight, the new girl tells my partner she is monogamous and that she can't split her time with my partner three ways, that she doesn't want to share. Right now I have one set night a week for a date; they work together so they have 60-70 hours a week. they are intimate every day/night and when they go out, my partner makes arrangements to be out late. This does not happen with me. We get home early because she  has to get home.

The worst thing that happened this week was Monday and Tuesday I made plans to meet my partner on train platforms to travel to our neighborhood together - not on their date night. She can't tell this new woman because she flips out - cries, screams, tells my partner she can't stand that she is with her all day and then ends the night with me. Mind you, I am only traveling home - not on a date! So what my partner does is she leaves me waiting on the Union Square train platform. She can't text me because the woman would flip out. On Tuesday she told me to meet her at 42nd Street and that she was only going to walk with the woman to Brooklyn Bridge and take the train to meet me. Well, the other woman decided to travel with her to 125th. My partner said nothing about me waiting for her or us having plans to meet. She literally leaves me there at 42nd Street and she passes by. Calls me when she gets to 125th, where I guess the woman parted ways with her, and tells me where to meet her. I felt and feel destroyed. Disrespected.

Am I wrong? This is all a slow death of my relationship and this is my partner's way of breaking up with me. Right? Because at this point, my hatred for this new woman is off the charts. I want her gone.  

Signed,
Lady Kept Waiting


Dear Kept Lady,

Usually when poly people (or those acting poly) are having problems, it can be traced back to a communication problem. In your case, it's not so much a problem with communication as a lack of basic human respect on the part of your married partner.

No matter how much it aggravates her new girlfriend, to leave you stranded waiting for her due to changed plans is inexcusable. Where are her manners? This is beyond the bounds of common decency. I wouldn't do that to someone I'd just met, let alone someone I've been with for 10 FREAKIN' YEARS! I'm sorry, but there is no justification for anyone to be controlled to the extent that they cannot tell someone they are running late or have to reschedule - especially in New York!

If your partner says she wants you to stay, then you should ask her to show you the basic courtesy and respect that you deserve. While you generally don't get to dictate how she handles her relationships with other people, you can and should demand that she treat you the way you want to be treated. If the new girlfriend can't handle her treating you like a human being, that is for your partner to work out with her. But no one deserves to be treated that way by someone who claims to love them.

Leon, over to you!


She's not trying to break up with you. She's trying to accommodate the wishes of someone else she loves - that squeaky wheel is taking up a TON of oil here. This monogamous woman doesn't care about anyone other than your mutual partner and herself, and she makes no bones about it. Your partner is bending over backwards to accommodate more and more of this woman's demands because she's trying to "hold it all together" - but it's obviously taken its toll on the rest of the people in this scenario.  

You can't have any sort of healthy relationship with this needy monogamous woman involved to such an extent that it's pushing you out, and I'm betting you're much more passive than aggressive. You're going to have to start asserting your needs with your partner and make clear what you want and expect out of your relationship - including picking her up at work, spending time together, telling the monogamous woman off to her face, whatever you feel you need to get back on track again - or ending the relationship to save your sanity.

Out of morbid curiosity, how can the wife not know there's something going on? I wonder whether she does and is ignoring it all, or whether she herself has a lover or two? I'd love to pick her brain.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I love two women - how do I stop lying to them?

Hello,
I hope you guys could give me some insight. I'll try and make this as short and sweet as I can. Honestly, I am tired of talking about it and thinking about it.

Here is my story - I'm a 35-year-old straight male and have been single and dating for a couple of years. I met my current girlfriend two years ago; we dated for over a year and it took me that long for me to even admit I was her boyfriend. Some of the reasons were "Is she the one?" "Am I really that in love?" I just didn't feel that "in love" head-over-heels feeling so I took things super-slow, always questioning. I love her, she's amazing, I care so much about her and I can't see myself not knowing her. We are super-connected, I know that.

A year ago I met another woman through a friend. Right away we hit it off as friends, but obviously it got deeper as the months went by, another special connection, until months later we slept together. I felt horrible, but I continued to see both, feeling it was wrong. I don't want to be that guy, I try to be honest, I try not to hurt anyone but it seems I was hurting everyone, including myself. The lies, the deceit, all that was just killing me.

In December I told the first one I needed a break and it broke her heart and it broke mine. I wanted to say it for so long but I didn't have to courage to do it. So for the last three months I continued to see the other but it didn't feel right because it all felt like lies. I still had the first one on break, she was still on my mind, and I couldn't be there fully with the second even though I wanted to. So obviously we would argue, I would tell her I can't commit right now, and I just feel like I'm ruining two relationships, two amazing women that came into my life, all because I can't decide.

I love both, I never even thought about polyamory until I read something about it this weekend, and it was the first thing that actually resonated with me. I've never gone to therapy, but some friends suggested I go, but it doesn't work. I just love two people and don't know what to do, so I'm reaching out and trying to get some feedback, a different feedback that I haven't received yet.

Thank you so much!
Torn Between Two Women


Dear Torn,
Many years ago, an ex-lover nicknamed me "Poly Yoda" and I'm gonna use a Yoda-ism here - "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

You say you don't want to be "that guy" who lies and cheats and deceives people. I've got bad news for you my friend - you are being THAT GUY. You are the most THAT GUY who has ever written into this blog. And the only reason I'm even bothering to give you advice is that you seem to be remorseful about it.

The feedback that you'll get here that you might not get anywhere else is, maybe you don't have to choose. Do you envision having both women in your life in an open and honest way? If you had been honest from the start, I would say it would have been a possibility. But since you've chosen to be dishonest with them for months, perhaps years now, it's going to be a difficult proposition - made even more difficult since you indicate that at least one of your girlfriends is looking for a commitment that I assume to mean monogamy.

If you really want a long-term solution, you're going to have to commit — to being honest. Brutally honest. Step one is you need to come clean with both women, tell each of them the whole story, and beg for forgiveness. I'm talking hands-and-knees, flowers, chocolates, etc. I'd fully expect one or both of them to never want to see you again because of the trust that you've violated. This is fair payment due for the hurt you've caused (and will continue to cause) to them.

If you get past step one, the next step would be to propose an open relationship that includes both of them. Ask each of them how they envision your presence in their lives making them happy. Think about how you will feel if one or both of them start dating other people. Make a commitment that both of them will get your attention the way they are used to having it, even when everyone knows there are other people in the mix. It will be a bumpy ride, but if you make it this far, I'd be encouraged that there's some really deep love here.

Finally, don't knock therapy until you've tried it. If you don't want to do individual therapy, consider couples therapy or get out and join some poly groups and make some friends who can support you in real life. There are more and more people exploring poly and we can all learn from each others' mistakes. 

Leon, what's your advice?


Whoa, Nelly! That's a whole lot of harsh for a guy who's clearly looking for a happy ending for everyone, and since he's coming over from vanilla world and he's done what he thinks is "the right thing" (because this is inexplicably how they DO things over there), I'm willing to cut him some slack. 

I don't think this is a bad situation at all; in fact I think this is a potentially great situation for everyone, because I personally believe in both happy endings and the healing power of love. And because I'm an irrepressible optimist, here's my take: Yes, you screwed up by cheating. But life doesn't come with a relationship manual, and you apparently did what you thought was right. And you've sort of accidentally wound up in a potentially great launching pad into growing open and honest polyamorous relationships with both your partners simultaneously. 

The catch is, to make this work they both need to be on the same page as you. The key for you would likely be how you approach each: build trust by being honest, share what you've learned, listen to their needs, then determine whether and how you can each get what you want (not just you!). 

If I were you, I'd express to each separately that you've done some soul searching, and you've realized a few truths about yourself. First, that you love them and want to grow a relationship with them. Second, that you're also in love with another person (your ex- or the person you've been dating since you broke up) - and explain how confused it's made you. (At this point, I don't think it's relevant to fess up over the cheating if it's not already been discussed, since you've been openly dating the "other woman" since the breakup and that would open a whole new can of worms.) Third, you have been talking to people with more experience in this area, and you think you have a potential solution you'd like to discuss and have them consider. 

Invite them to watch the Polyamory TED Talk with you and explain that this polyamory thing makes a lot of sense to you. Ask under what circumstances they'd consider exploring this with you? What would they need in order to feel safe exploring together? Then do it again with the other. If you do this right, and if they care about you the way you care about them, there's a very good chance you'll have a very good chance. 

 There are a ton of differences between behavior, communication, and expectations in poly relationships compared to the way people relate in default world. This could be a great opportunity for all three of you to potentially find happiness - and at the very least, you'll learn some very important lessons for your future relationships. Like another (albeit less green) wise man once said, "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How can I feel compersion for someone I used to know?

Hi there Mischa and Leon,

I have a partner. He's married. His wife is wonderful. I'm in a relationship with him, but not her. That's fine.

My partner is interested in a friend of mine. Well, I say friend. It's a little more complex than that, but for convenience I'll call her a friend. Basically, she was really close to me about two years ago, but grew apart, and has solidly not budged when I've tried to reconnect in meaningful ways. We no longer share interests that we used to share to the same degree.

I'd be fine about it - people change and that's okay! - except that there's subtle little ways where I've gotten the impression that she doesn't respect me.

My partner likes her, and has said he'll be asking her on a date eventually. He doesn't anticipate it will result in a date. Neither do I - she's pretty mercurial, and while I don't know if she has a 'type,' I have never seen her demonstrate more than friendly interest in a person remotely like him in terms of personality and body.

That being said, what if it does work out? I think he's stellar. What if she does too?

I don't normally struggle with compersion, but with this particular friend, my heart boils with resentment and rage. What if they get along splendidly when my friendship with her fizzled out, outside of my control?

I do feel like this is a case where intellectually, I feel strongly compersive, but my emotions are struggling to follow.

I just had a dream about it last night where his wife and I were spending time with each other because he was off courting this friend, and I was desperately depressed about it, which has spurred me to write this.

Thanks for the thoughts! <3

-Compersionista


Dear Compersionista,

This is a really interesting scenario, and I can think of at least a dozen different outcomes or motivations coming into play. But the bottom line is that if you don't think this ex-friend respects you, you should let your partner know that so he can be fully aware when their conversation inevitably comes around to being about you.

I'm inclined to agree that the relationship won't work out. You don't mention if your ex-friend is into poly or not, but it's a safe bet she's not, given the way the world is right now. That might even be the explanation of why you feel like she doesn't respect you, that she disagrees with your choice of dating someone who is married. So I agree that all this hand-wringing may well be for nothing.

My advice to you for getting your emotional compersion more in line with your intellectual compersion is to engage your curiosity. What if your ex-friend has had some serious calamity in her life that caused her to withdraw from everyone, including you? Perhaps she feels embarrassed or ashamed to contact you directly. Mightn't this be a way for her to re-establish her connection with both of you?

Clearly, there is some resentment on your part due to how the friendship ended, and that's natural. You should tell your partner about it, but I'd advise you to avoid letting it affect what he might possibly have with her, lest you engender his resentment. Maybe this new development will be an opportunity to put whatever resentment you might harbor against her behind you, and that would be a good thing.

Leon, over to you!

Compersion develops most naturally when you're happy with all the people and situations involved; it's easy to root for a relationship when you're arguably all on the same team. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear you've got unresolved issues regarding your former bestie which are acting as a mental roadblock.

Setting aside the issue as to whether or not they'd like each other, the fact you're having nightmares about their potential relationship is enough to break down the reasons why.

You describe yourself as fearful that your partner might succeed where you have failed, but what I'm reading is frustration - I'm guessing because you tried to hold your relationship together and she left anyway, without much of an explanation. It's a pretty classic scenario, just with a poly twist.

I think you'll find that this issue doesn't really have much to do with your partner, and instead revolves around your unresolved issues surrounding your lost friendship. My suggestion is, try to understand better why your relationship petered out, from her perspective. Maybe an email, or handwritten note, or conversation, simply but honestly explaining your feelings and asking for clarity. If you can get out of her why she grew distant, even if you don't agree with her justification, you can begin to let go of your resentment towards how she treated your relationship, and start making space in your heart for both of them to maybe find some happiness without you.