when shit gets real.

Everyone likes to put their best foot forward… to look like we’ve got “it” figured out, whatever “it” is. And perhaps we try to fool everyone else just to convince ourselves we know what the heck is going on, that we’ve got this, and that everything… or even just something, anything… is going to be okay. No one wants to admit that life is just one big experiment and, while we can try to learn from other peoples mistakes, we’re all just learning as we go. It’s a scary thing to recognize we don’t have all the answers, and perhaps even scarier to admit maybe no one does.

When this line of thought came to me today I realized I too am guilty of this. Perhaps when you get so much flack for stepping outside the accepted norm, you feel you only have room to share information that supports your decision and affirms why you’re so much happier because of it. But I realized I’m quick to portray the beautiful parts of polyamory (because there are many). And I’m not so eager to discuss the messy hard parts. And there’s value in both. People are all too quick to pretend like they have all the answers, but even if we’ve actually found some answers it helps no one to gloss over the journey that brought us to them.

I think it’s important to note that polyamorous people are still just people, flawed and human. While many want to claim some higher level of enlightenment, I’m here to say that’s bullshit. While I think polyamory takes an advanced set of communications skills to execute *well*, many people don’t have said communication skills and still try and practice poly anyway. No one ever said you had to do something well to claim you’re doing it. And Polyamorous relationships are just relationships. They have just as much potential, or more, to get messy and complicated just like any other relationships out there. Poly people aren’t necessarily any more “enlightened” than anyone else. We haven’t reached some higher plane of existence. We’re simply choosing a different path, a different style of relationship that we believe is more conducive to our own happiness for whatever set of personal reasons. Granted this relationship style often pushes people… it makes us face our fears, insecurities and various causes of jealousy head on in a way that many monogamous relationships may not… or perhaps polyamory just sheds a light on fears, insecurities, and jealousy faster due to the nature of multi-partner relationships; but how you choose to respond to a light being shed on your shit is still up to you. Just because someone identifies as polyamorous or is in a poly relationship does not mean they’ve actually done the self work. Anyone making that assumption is likely setting themselves up for disappointment.
Contrary to some beautifully painted pictures out there, polyamory is not some magic wand that can be waved and all our problems with jealousy, communication, etc. will be solved. It’s really hard. It takes work. It takes some serious soul searching, sometimes heart breaking, gut wrenching self-work. And for anyone who thinks relationships shouldn’t be work if you’re with the right people — I will politely beg to differ. I have some of the most loving, communicative, unusually self-aware, generous, kind, compersion-filled partners out there, and it’s still work! Granted without those qualities it would be a certified shit-show, but because they are loving, communicative, self-aware, generous, kind, etc…. it’s *just* a lot of work.

I met someone recently who asked to meet and talk about their relatively new journey into polyamory and their experience thus far, and also asked me to share about mine. When it really came down to it they just wanted to know they weren’t alone. I realized that is what we are doing when we pretend to have it all together all the time… when we’re not honest about our struggles. We isolate ourselves and create a world in which we’re all going through very similar things, yet we all feel completely alone in it.
So in case no one has told you yet, you are not alone. Whatever kind of relationship you are in, monogamous, polyamorous, or otherwise, and whatever struggles you are facing, whatever self-work you are learning to do at this point in time… you’re not alone.
And for those of you who’ve been convinced of the mythical polyamorous relationship that is free of fear, jealousy and tough emotions simply because everyone is being honest and you’re wondering why you’re the “only one” having a hard time… you’re not alone. Poly people have struggles too… We have depression, we go through pregnancy (whether our own or a partner’s), we suffer from hormonal imbalances, we lose loved ones, we have injuries, we lose jobs, we struggle with our partners dating someone new, we process new fears and emotions (not always gracefully), we sometimes think we know what we want and who we want it with until we have it, then wonder what to do with the complicated web that we’ve already weaved and how to hurt the least amount of people, we struggle to be transparent about something or someone new while worrying about our partners’ reactions… We are human, we are far from perfect, we royally fuck up sometimes… shit gets real. And you are not alone.
As we walk into 2020, I wish us all a new found ability to seek out community and support. I wish us the ability to be real and raw about our struggles, not only our successes, so that we may all feel less alone in our experience. May we use that to propel ourselves forward and motivate ourselves toward growth instead of merely berating ourselves for not yet being where we’d like to be in our journey.
Happy New Year. Let us make it beautiful.

a new season

The day finally came. I thought it would kill me to watch him drive away. 
After much thought and discussion, my partner of 13 years took a job opportunity in another town. Graham had been feeling stuck in a bit of a career rut. He needed a new challenge. I could see the way he lit up when he talked about this possible promotion, and I just couldn’t let him pass it up. 


But while I wanted to be so strong for him… I didn’t anticipate just how painful it would be. Graham is the person who knows me better than anyone in this world. He’s the person who makes me feel understood, loved, wholly accepted unlike anyone else has yet shown themselves capable. He’s the one who makes me feel like I’m not alone in this world. He’s…. home. 


Watching my home slowly pack it’s essential belongings and carry them one by one to the car… it was like slowly having the oxygen sucked out of the room. My chest felt tighter. I could hardly breathe. I cried. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be a pillar of strength. But despite what people think of the girl with 4 romantic partners, I don’t always get what I want. And I didn’t get to be a pillar of strength that day. Instead I got to be a wave of emotions… periodically melting into an undefined puddle on the bed. Graham was strong, but kind, compassionate. He wouldn’t let me apologize for my tears. He accepted them for the outpouring of love that they were. He comforted me. 


That day felt so heavy. Eventually I was just a little numb, but knew I needed to not be alone. My girlfriend, Rowan, knew it too. She made me chocolate banana bread and invited me over. She instinctively knew just how hard today would be. She also knew it was likely I hadn’t eaten. She cooked salmon and vegetables for dinner, and we alternated between quiet conversation and comfortable silence for a couple hours. She held space for me. It was exactly what I needed. For someone to be comfortable experiencing my sadness with me…. and just hold space. It was okay to just be


I don’t consider myself a needy person, but I recognize we all need someone at different times. And it’s okay. It’s okay to need people. It’s okay to need help, or support, or love… it doesn’t make you less strong, less independent. It just makes us human. In a world where we feel this expectation to be super human…. to do it all, be it all, at the speed of light…. I’m here to tell you: It’s okay to be human. 


Graham has always made me feel strong and independent. He talks about me like I’m a force of nature. I love that he sees me that way. And I love that he doesn’t see me as less of a force of nature if I need him. I think he knows it’s a compliment… that I let myself need him.

Graham moving was undoubtedly going to change not just my relationship with him, but also my relationship dynamic with my boyfriend, Ethan, with whom we’d both been sharing an apartment. Time, space, who does the dishes when — It all has to adjust, however incrementally. And Ethan is slow to accept change. It’s rarely a smooth transition. More often a rough and bumpy ride in the beginning, but we always figure it out. I think Ethan’s learning that we can figure things out together. He’s still learning that he doesn’t have to do everything all on his own. While I’ve had Graham and we’ve grown and learned together over that past 13 years… and we’ve had the good fortune to be able to take for granted that we’re here for each other always…. Ethan hasn’t had that same life experience. His life experience taught him it’s best to never let yourself need anyone. Life has taught him hat you should figure out how to do everything you can on your own, and ask no one for help. It seems to be a combination of his perception of what it means to be a good man… a strong, independent, self-sustained person… and how he believes one can avoid feeling let down or disappointed; something he seems willing to avoid at great cost.

But we can all learn new things from our significant others. I hope that one of the things Ethan can learn from me is that it’s okay to let yourself need someone…. and that it’s safe to need me. In time I hope I can show him that I’m a partner who loves him completely, that I want to be here for him, and that doing things to help and support him is in no way a burden to me, but rather something that brings me sincere joy. 


We’re all learning. I’m learning it may be safe to lean on people other than Graham. Graham and I are reminded just how much we love and appreciate each other (the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is pretty on point), and we’re learning how to stay connected over long distance for the first time. Ethan and I are learning how to communicate even more and how to share more time and space than we ever have previously in a way that works for us both. I’m also simultaneously learning how to connect as equally as one can with two separate members of a couple (Rowan and Jax), and how to be very transparent with everyone involved. And I think Rowan and Jax, for as sage and wise as they seem, may still have a few things to learn too.


I can’t be certain how long this season will last. Graham may be working and primarily living several hours away for many months. So for now I’m trying to focus on the positive, and attempt to be grateful for these difficult changes… because I think this is where our growth lies. 

learning the ropes.

While I haven’t previously considered myself all that kinky (my husband, Graham, disagrees with this assessment), my girlfriend, Rowan, definitely is. And perhaps it’s just natural for someone to want to explore and learn more about what their partner(s) are into. 


So on a Thursday, when I heard that our group meetup location for the evening got changed from a favorite cocktail bar to a rope class…. I decided to be a yes man — err — yes woman, and sign up! I think Rowan was quite surprised by my interest, but she happily agreed to go as a couple. Our guys (her husband, Jax, my boyfriend, Ethan, and my husband, Graham) were all busy with other plans… so we were guilt-free in not inviting them along, and were kind of excited to have some girl time doing an activity just the two of us. I was actually quite enlivened to be trying something new so spur of the moment. Perhaps that’s one on a list of reasons Rowan says that, in addition to the title of girlfriend, I hold the title of her “go to adventure girl”. 


So off to my impromptu Thursday night adventure with Rowan. We met at her place before heading to the class together. I had no idea what to expect, to be honest, but I really enjoyed the vibe of the whole class. It felt very low key, and I found that, while the word “dungeon” may be off-putting to some, it really wasn’t scary in the least. It looked more like… well, a previously large office / study in a 1.5 million dollar home now turned “adult jungle-gym”, to be exact. {Side note: Apparently this was either a side job for the instructor, or I’ve chosen the wrong profession and need to learn how to become a rope / bondage instructor.}

Rope tying (or “rigging”) itself was quite fun. I mean, there we were… like sexy girl scouts earning our knot tying badge. I couldn’t help but grin watching Rowan slowly, gracefully tying a long rope around my waist… with just enough forcefulness. Then she sensually worked her way down my right thigh with a ladder knot…. periodically piercing me with her intensely blue eyes looking directly into mine as she worked her way… carefully, methodically… down to my ankle. It was evident she’d done this before. I tried not to grin too big. Rowan relishes being in control, so already being the rope top (the one doing the tying) at this point… If I gave her too much of a reaction and let her be fully aware of the effect she was having on me it would go straight to her gorgeous red head.

Have I mentioned she’s stunning? Strong, intelligent, bold, vivacious… with a gentle, soft side she doesn’t let many see. I feel honored that she trusts me with that space, actually. She thinks I don’t know how rare it is that she lets her guard down, but I do, and I plan to continue being worthy of that trust. 

She’s my first girlfriend, so I’m definitely learning. I really love that we were friends first, and that things have just grown organically over time. We really bonded on a trip to Mexico together; I feel like we barely just knew each other when she asked me to join her on an international excursion last minute. {A story for another day} To be honest, I really don’t know how I got so lucky… again. Jax and Rowan are so respectful of not only me, but also of my other partners. They’re kind… thoughtful, uniquely intentional and responsible in how they conduct themselves in their relationships… and they’re impeccable communicators. 


While it might appear difficult to be in a relationship with four other people {I believe on average, it’s probably QUITE challenging}, I can say I’m blessed not to have the sole responsibility of considering and protecting the needs of all my partners… because they’re all beautiful, kind, amazing people who are all considering and looking out for each other as well. It’s hard to describe that feeling… when you recognize your partners showing love and consideration to each other… and you love them all even more as a result. It’s nothing short of beautiful.


Rowan and Jax have both have made it clear they value my friendship first and foremost, as well as their friendship with my partners, Graham and Ethan. They’re truly amazing people. We just click. And we’ve all acknowledged we have the potential to be lifelong friends, if not the “more than friends” relationship we’re currently exploring. I think that makes it easier… learning as you go and not fearing the possibility of it not working as a specific form of romantic relationship. That’s one of the joys of polyamory. There’s a much broader definition of success. Poly relationships have a unique ability to adapt over time, change and grow with the people in them. There’s no one size fits all. Instead you get something beautifully tailored, just for you and yours. 


So for now we’re taking things slow… savoring the journey as we learn the ropes… together ♡

fireworks.

It was a sunny July 4th. My husband, Graham, was working that day, and I agreed to go to a friend’s 4th of July party. I put on a fun festive outfit… I mean, it doesn’t get much more American than cut off jean shorts and a crop top, right? Graham helped pick out my outfit actually. Looking quite proud of himself he grinned, bit his lip and said “hot” before giving me a kiss and telling me to “have some fun today”.

Arriving at the party, I was greeted by my friends who told me to grab a cold beer out back. There he was… equipped with a spatula and a boyish smile, manning the barbecue. With an outstretched hand, “Hi, my name’s Ethan. What’s yours?”

He later sought me out and asked some solid get to know you questions. We discovered we both love hiking. He mentioned he didn’t have any friends that enjoyed hiking enough to join him. It all started out innocently enough. No one planned on falling in love… just maybe going for a hike sometime.

Graham made it to the party around 9 pm. I was pretty excited that he hadn’t missed the fireworks and we would get to watch them together. Having been together for so long, and despite my usual excitement to see him, we tend to be fairly independent in social situations… We both take pleasure in making our rounds at a party, enjoying a variety of good conversations. I later learned, for those who don’t already know us, it’s not always evident we’re together.

A few beers, watching fireworks from a second story rooftop, several late night rounds of Cards Against Humanity and a lot of laughs later we finally called it a night.

Ethan and I added each other on Snapchat, and it wasn’t long before he asked me to go on a hike. So over a quick few messages we planned a hike for later that week… but he proceeded to ask if I happened to be free for dinner that night. I told him I was meeting Graham after work, and Ethan responded by asking if Graham and I were dating… I froze. I was caught quite off guard by the question. Snapchat showed Ethan was still typing… I waited. He said he hoped I didn’t mind him asking. He’d wondered if Graham and I were together after the 4th of July party, but couldn’t be sure. I began remembering just how un-clingy Graham and I had been the night we all met… not exactly emitting typical “couple vibes”.

I, of course, had to set things straight. I told Ethan that Graham and I were actually married… happily, for 6 years. I said I hoped I hadn’t given him the wrong impression, but that I’d still love to go for a hike as friends. If memory serves me, he responded with a cute joke about how he was still in need of a hiking buddy after all…. so he supposed we could keep our hiking plans. I was relieved. Perhaps I anticipated he might be angry or unkind in some way. It wouldn’t have been the first time I was berated after telling a man, whom I’d gotten caught up in friendly conversation with, that I’m happily married. He told me I hadn’t given him the wrong impression at all, that he thought I seemed like a genuinely great person, and he’d love to get to know me better as friends.

Friends.

We were fast friends. We could laugh at nothing, go for long hikes or just a walk around the park, grab a bite to eat, watch the sunset, talk, not talk. It was just… easy. Ethan was kind, compassionate, thoughtful in a way I found few people to be, and he made me smile till my face hurt. We could just be ourselves, no facades necessary. I loved that he was respectful of my marriage, yet still treated me as an individual. We went to several concerts and festivals that summer with Graham and our mutual friends, and we began seeing each other more and more often. Ethan and I hiked through the summer right into fall. And then came the fall…

While humans are quite capable of controlling their physical actions, we’re not nearly as adept at controlling our hearts as we’d like to be. Ethan and I began to realize we cared for each other more deeply than we’d anticipated. While I hardly knew what to do about it, I did know this — I valued my marriage with Graham and wouldn’t do anything to damage it. I also valued my friendship with Ethan. So believing that if my relationship with Ethan was more (whatever “more” meant) it would end our friendship… I was determined to keep it in a box that was sustainable. I didn’t want to lose the relationship we had. Ethan told me that more than anything he just wanted to be my friend. He said he didn’t know what it meant or what it would look like, he just knew he wanted us to be in each others lives forever. We agreed we could be forever best friends…. weird best friends, that people raised eyebrows at because I was married. But in my heart I didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong.

I had already started down a path of self discovery, not remotely aware of where it would eventually lead. I hadn’t fully acknowledged my polyamorous tendencies at that point. However, I had begun to recognize my bisexuality more that year, and I think that self discovery prompted me to realize something more… that, whether I was connecting with someone male or female, I didn’t agree with people’s rigid guidelines. Why couldn’t we just live, breathe, connect with who we connect with, maintain meaningful relationships when we find them, feel love for those we love… ? Why do we deprive ourselves of love, connection, happiness? It seemed so simple in my mind. Meaningful connections bring people joy…. and it just didn’t make sense to me that, in a world with over 7 billion people, we should allow ourselves to connect with only one human being in a meaningful way in our lifetime. Or is it that we’re just expected to only connect in such a way with one person AT A TIME? Either way, we’re truly terrible at monogamy as a species. We’re serial monogamists, at best, believing we’ll be with one person forever… until we breakup or get divorced. Then we believe we’ll be with the next person forever… until we’re not for some reason. Yet somehow so many people are at peace with the tragedy and the heartbreak of people’s lives and love breaking apart because of cast-iron rules and unbending expectations of one another, but they’re outraged at the idea of people having meaningful connections with multiple people simultaneously and people being adaptable, open, honest, and…. well… happy. This lack of logic was astounding to me. Wherever I happened to be in that particular line of thought or mental inquiry at the time, I quickly decided people could keep raising their eyebrows at me until they needed Botox — I just didn’t care anymore.

Ethan and I continued going on short hikes after work… some weeks, more days than not. If I got caught up at work and had to reschedule a hike or dinner plans he’d tell me not to worry and say, “We have forever.”

I did worry now and then that with him spending so much time with me, I may be keeping him from finding someone who could make him happier than I could. I cared for him deeply and that’s all I really wanted for him… to be truly happy. Knowing he wants a family and kids someday, and believing we could only be friends, I was pretty determined to set him up. We would joke that we just needed to find him a girl who wasn’t the jealous type and would be okay with our friendship. I actually tried quite hard to find him a girlfriend.

Technically, I succeeded…

A Christmas present from Ethan, 2017.

be free.

It was my 28th birthday. We traveled so my husband, Graham, and I could hike to the top of one of our favorite spots at sunrise that morning. We sat side by side, as time seemingly stood still, and took in the breathtaking view. I thought about the new year of life ahead of me. I felt a peace I hadn’t felt in a while, and I experienced what he and I call “happy tears” after several surprises including champagne glasses and mimosa makings he pulled out of his back pack, a beautiful engraved necklace, and a hand written card that read… 


“You are a wild soul. You are meant to defy this world, not be a part of it. You choose to be you and never fold to the expectations of others. You always ask why and reject all unsatisfactory answers. You look to expand the realm of possibility and change definitions. Society, people, culture, have no effect on your way of life. You are a fountain of curiosity. You say ‘f*** the rules’. You always choose to be kind over mean-spirited, understanding instead of making assumptions, opposite of everyone else. If you find yourself doing things like everyone else, you stop to ask if you can do it differently. Continue to be wild, because your soul is meant to be free.” 


In this moment I knew all over again just how lucky I got, nearly 11 years prior, to find love with this incredible human being. In that moment, reading his words, I was overwhelmed to feel so… seen… so wholly understood. And through all my growing and changing he’s never stopped seeing me for who I am in each moment in time… juxtaposed against all the incrementally adjusted versions of my being that he’s witnessed along the way… and all the while somehow clearly seeing all my future self’s potential. I only know a small handful of people who have experienced a similar feeling of being so deeply understood by another human being. And I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful gifts you can give… taking the time to really understand someone… to see how their soul dances.   


You see, Graham wrote these words because he saw me… clearer than I allowed myself to see me at that time… and he recognized something even before I could acknowledge it myself.

I’m polyamorous.

I had felt trapped in a box that, although in phenomenal company with him by my side, just didn’t fit. Graham being empathetic, I know he felt this with me. My heart is one that seeks out love and meaningful connection sometimes against my conscious will. I had over recent months fallen in love with one of my best friends, and while I acknowledged we cared deeply for one another, I rationalized and convinced myself we were just “friends who love each other”. We weren’t “in love”… we couldn’t be. Society teaches us that if you fall in love with a second person, you must not have truly loved the first. I was married and still madly in love with my husband. So I couldn’t quite fathom that I’d fallen in love with someone else. Somehow Graham realized I was in love with this other person… still believed I was in love with him and… after questioning EVERYTHING… after painfully soul searching and rethinking everything from relationships to the meaning of life… he chose compassion. He had the kindness to stop and just see me… and love me enough to say “be free”.