What Did You Learn?

This is the post I spoke of putting up on my last blog post, don’t know why it took me so long to get around to posting. I finished writing it a while ago! Anyway, as promised, here are those “things I learned from opencon”:

At Opencon I kept hearing that some people’s experiences of it had been “life changing”. In a way, I suppose I could say the same. It has got me thinking a lot about things in my everyday life and how I interact with people in a way that I’m sure will, in a quite literal sense, change my life. But the funny thing is, I don’t think it was necessarily the workshops that I went to that made the difference. Yeah they were interesting, and it was a lot of fun, and maybe I did learn a thing or two from the content of the discussions. In the end it was the experience, in and of itself, that taught me the most.

The fact that I was surrounded by so many people I respected, and wanted to respect me, meant that I felt quite under pressure from myself to be impeccable and not put my foot in it like I often do. Usually I give myself the excuse that “I don’t really care about these people, so if they judge me who gives?”, but I couldn’t do that here. I’ve been realising how big of an issue this can be for me in various situations, and this weekend it even brought up something between me and Night that we’ve never managed to resolve in the past. It seems like I have two conflicting complexes that mean sometimes I end up hating myself just a little. The first is connected to missed opportunities. I think this might have come from the way my dad has always pushed me into doing stuff right-now-or-you’ll-miss-your-chance. And upon reflection I’m seeing how some of those things weren’t very good ideas at all, and in fact might have been quite rude or awkward. And it seems like I still have that complex about missed opportunities that makes me do or say things that I shouldn’t on impulse. Over the years I’ve become more aware of when I do that, but it hasn’t stopped me from acting this way it’s just made me increasingly embarrassed of myself. And it’s got to the point where I don’t trust myself, and I don’t trust other people not to judge me as being as lacking in self awareness as my father is, just because of the impulsive bad judgement I express on occasion.

All this is just exacerbated by the fact that when I get insecure I overcompensate and act over-secure. So when people see me active over-secure they tend to try and take me down a notch – rather than giving me what I need which is to be reassured that it’s not as big of a deal as I make it out to be in my head. But every time I’m “taken down a notch” the issue gets bigger in my head. To the point where I need to hide away from everyone for half an hour after every time I say something even slightly inappropriate to someone I really like on a silly impulse.

So I guess this weekend I learned that 1) A lot of it is all in my head, 2) I can trust people, especially these people, to see past my blurting and not judge me on that alone, and 3) I can communicate this to other people because I’m definitely not the only one who worries about such things. I wonder how things might change, knowing all this. Definitely putting it in the User Manual. That’s for sure.

Ok what’s next? [checks list]

Ah yes. I’ve noticed that I can be quite impatient sometimes when it comes to flirting. And, though I wasn’t particularly flirting with anyone at opencon, I learned a lot about other people’s boundaries – other women’s in particular. And it hadn’t really occurred to me that being impatient and wanting to flirt with women I fancied straight away might be encroaching on their boundaries. It doesn’t always just mean that they’re not interested. It might just feel like a pressured scenario for them, or remind them of things from the past. I might not be directly pressuring them, but they might feel pressured because of my directness. So keeping an eye on their reaction is important. I’ve also noticed how I’m different in that regard – and how in a way I feel more comfortable flirting or in a cruising space. I haven’t quite deconstructed *why* that is yet… but we’ll see*. Acknowledging that most people are probably the opposite is something that I think is important for me to do.

Another thing I noticed was friendships. It’s no surprise really that the people at opencon form unconventional friendships, that look, from an observer’s perspective, quite a lot like romantic relationships. As someone who’s not used to seeing this, I had to re-assess my assumptions on a few occasions! And this got me thinking about my own attitude to friendships. Something I’ve realised recently is that I tend to have quite a lot of acquaintances, who I don’t know very well, and would like to have a deeper platonic relationship with but never manage to. And then I have my romantic relationships, and that’s where I get all my fulfilment of human interactions from. And perhaps that is one of the bigger reasons to why I’m polyamorous. It’s really easy to go along in life, forgetting that it’s not just romantic relationships that have all these unwritten rules that are implied to follow. Friendships have them as well! I think in a sense I try to escape the implicit rules in romantic relationships by dating women, that seems to have more of a feeling that the rules don’t apply… but with friendships I can’t do that! There’s no easy escape. So I guess you just have to talk about everything! In particular I’ve been thinking about how friends are supposed to show affection, and how a certain level of affection seems to be on a very blurry line between platonic and romantic – things like greeting each other with long hugs, holding hands, stroking hair all that kind of stuff. And what’s the problem in doing that with your friend? The only thing I can think of would be if you weren’t sure where you stood with that person. It seems likely the only reason we might avoid being so affectionate is in order to make sure we’re not giving off the wrong kind of signals. Surely we can just talk about that though? Maybe I should be asking people who have these fabulously close friendships, how do you get to that point? I really suck at friendships, but I think it’s something I need much, much more of in my life.

*I’ve since worked out why: It’s largely to do with my comfort levels with casual or group interactions in comparison to one on one conversations. I feel like I can be more open, and more myself if I’m talking to someone one on one… and perhaps it’s the most validating when that involves flirting as it is validating my openness when otherwise that might be an aspect of me that is considered inappropriate.

I NEED YOUR TIME

A little discussion with Night, and some thoughts in recent months, have brought me to an interesting conclusion about the problem of “time” when it comes to relationships.

If you know me well, you’ll know that a break up I had this year (I’ll call her L) taught me a lot about myself and relationships. Thinking back to when I was with her and how I needed her time just outlined the fact that it wasn’t her “time” I needed. It was something deeper. I needed security. And that felt like such an urgent need that I became quite needy of her time. And needed her to talk to me, effectively, as validation that she was interested in me. This is not something I get with Night OR C right now. And I have significantly less time with C, it doesn’t make me feel deprived – I just feel sad. And if I try to imagine a time where I can’t spend as much quality time with Night as we do now, that wouldn’t make me feel like I *NEED* something… we’d just be sad.

It doesn’t make me insecure that C doesn’t give me much of her time because I know that she wants to, and enjoys it when we do spend time together. Whereas with L I felt like she was constantly distracted… and not particularly interested half the time really.

So it rings alarm bells for me now whenever I hear about, or feel myself, that more time is a “need”. Getting your fair share of someone, that’s understandable… but if it feels like a need in itself… maybe we should ask ourselves whether there’s actually a deeper need that our instincts tell us could be solved, somehow, by MORE  TIME with that person.

Something to ponder on, maybe.

Mystery: The Unhealthy Romantic Ideal

Every now and then, when discussing my attitude to dating and such like, someone will say that they don’t like my approach because “It ruins the mystery”. And at first I thought maybe that was a flaw in my method, maybe I was missing out on something? But it got me to really think about mystery, and what good it does. My conclusion was basically “if you’re me – none”… And in fact, it’s actually started to annoy me how prevalent an idea “mystery” is in romance, when people never stop to think what is so great about all this uncertainty?

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I guess we should start by asking what is its purpose? Why do people generally feel the need to have mystery in the first place? Well, there are probably a few theories about this that i’ve missed out… but this is what I’ve come up with:

I’ve done a fair bit of dating in the last few years, and it’s really shown me how *few* people out there I am really compatible with, for one reason or another. This is exactly what I expect, we’re all different after all. I think a lot of people will find this hunt for compatibility exhausting and depressing though, and it makes sense – especially if they’re single and feel like they have gone through enough disappointments in their lifetime. I think a lot of people react to this by chasing the mysterious.

When people don’t give much away it leaves everyone else with a blank slate – and our brains are usually pretty good at making up stuff to fill in the gaps: Ohhh how sweet, he’s gazing off into the distance because he’s thinking about (insert desirable thing here). He’s actually probably just thinking about pizza… or something. And the longer that mystery continues the deeper the relationship gets, until you’re in love with a person you’re completely incompatible with! But people would rather be enjoying a relationship based on mystery than still dating, so they’re quite happy to settle for a doomed relationship. It’s understandable. But the part mystery plays in all this is to lengthen that time that you can suspend your disbelief, so that by the time you start noticing all the little things you hate about each other, woops – it’s too late, you’re invested in the relationship.

It makes loads of sense actually. And for those poor single people who have no luck – I’m sort of happy they have mystery to help them find some joy in their lives. But it won’t be with me. And that’s because I believe it to be damaging. So far I’ve come up with four reasons. There’s probably more, but here goes:

1) It encourages repression and bad communication

Do I need to explain this one much? I’ve genuinely had partners in the past tell me they’d prefer it if I didn’t communicate my thoughts and feelings because it “ruins the mystery”. Oh push off would you?

2) It’s manipulative. 

When I say this I’m mostly referring to people who *use* mystery as a way to get people’s interest, as opposed to the people who desire it. I’ve noticed that part of why some people desire mystery is because it gets them a bit insecure – which in effect makes them want the person more, because they are being deprived of that certainty and security. So if someone plays “hard to get” or pretends that they aren’t as interested as they are, it’s kind of playing on the other person’s insecurities. It is probably to protect themselves as well, though in a fairly ineffective way – if someone pretends they’re not into someone and they don’t respond by pursuing them more then they might believe that they’re not interested. So they feel it’s easier to move on, they can pretend they weren’t really interested in the first place. It might not have been true though, as the other person could have been put off by their cool exterior thinking it was genuine disinterest… or worse, they were playing it cool too!

3) It gives way to unhealthy relationship role models. 

It seems that in the media, characters who appear mysterious and brooding will literally get away with abuse. Twilight anyone? Romanticising these uncommunicative, unbalanced individuals will only reinforce this pattern that seems to exist in society (particularly with men) where the least nice and emotionally healthy people will be the most attractive – and therefore the genuinely awesome people will go unrecognised (and often; become bitter and angry towards the world of dating). This is not cool guys. We REALLY need to buck this messed up trend. And on a similar note:

4) It punishes the honest.

I for one would like more direct and honest people in this world, but by demanding mystery; you’re punishing this behaviour. I don’t appreciate having it done to me either.

I’ve also heard arguments that protect the ideal of mystery. For example, some people say you should keep the mystery alive so that you spread out all the information and don’t run out of stuff to tell each other. Well… I’ve been in a relationship for 5 and a half years and we know everything we could possibly think to tell each other about ourselves – yet we still manage to chatter away as if we’ve just met. You learn new things about yourself and life every day – trust me when I say, you’re never going to run out of random stuff to tell each other. And, personally, I prefer feeling like I’m keeping my partners up to speed on my take on things.

The only other argument I can think of is, “It’s just not as fun without mystery”. And that’s an insubstantial argument if I’ve ever heard one. And also totally down to personal preference. I’ve always found it considerably more fun to let my feelings be known to all, than to play along with this silly game just because you twisted my arm.

So that’s pretty much it. I still sort of have my mind open to this, so feel free to start a discussion in the comments. Let me know what you think, is there any decent reason not to abandon this ideal altogether?

Making The Effort

When Night starts having problems it’s my duty to help her sus them out (which I actually quite like to do, believe it or not), and recently she’s been going through some new relationship issues. In the past her boy troubles have been on issues I’ve not been able to relate to (sub blues, uncommunicative closed shut men, etc)… but this time it’s been helping me see how I’ve acted and felt in the past in my relationships. And it’s been revealing to see that I’m not the only one who does these things.

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Is it a choice?

This is a question that I have been pondering on today after discussion on facebook. We’ve all heard that argument on non-heterosexuality about it not being a choice and it being something we can’t help. Sometimes people do the same for non-monogamy and talk about it being a choice.  There does seem to be this tendency to compare polyamory to sexuality, after all you could technically label it under the parachute term “sexuality” if you really wanted to… but I don’t think it’s quite as simple to compare being poly to being gay. At first glance you can see the similarities – gay people are in the minority against straight people, poly people are similarly outnumbered by the norm. However, if you boil it down to simple desires things seem a little different.

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Jealousy as a symptom of monogamy

I’m afraid it’s become a bit of a thing now, bashing monogamy. But I just can’t shake the opinion that it’s doing nothing good for society right now. Maybe it was a good change once upon a time when we lived in an alpha-male-rules kind of structure. Monogamy is clearly a more equal opportunities kind of arrangement when you compare it to the apes (though maybe not the bonobos! They’re a whole other thing). The other males have a chance to mate and eventually the women even have control. But I think it’s about time things changed again, it’s kind of surprising that they haven’t already. You can probably blame religion for playing it’s role in that.

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I answered my own question

I’ve been thinking about polyamory a lot recently … and in turn thinking about my opinions about monogamy. And I realised something about my ‘poly evangelist‘ post. Whenever I’ve heard it come up they always seem to say that these poly evangelists think they’re special just because they’re poly, and I realised that this doesn’t really have anything to do with them thinking poly is better than mono… but more like thinking poly people are better than mono people. Whereas I’m very much a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” kind of person. I can genuinely understand why more people don’t decide to go off the tracks like we do and make our own rules. And for some people, I think, being different is much harder.

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