August 30th, 2012
While sitting in the theater, waiting for Avenue Q to start, hubby turned and asked me about expectations. Hubby felt that my boyfriend and I had a good handle on setting expectations and asked how we did it. Or more specifically, how He had done it with me. I jokingly said that when you tell a girl for a year and a half that you are a sexually satisfied man, and then start dating her, expectations start out pretty low. In all seriousness, though, he and I usually played three times a week during most of the year prior to dating, and had already started conversations on expectations and happiness.
One of those conversations began with him asking me if I could be happy without him suspending me for a whole year. I had passed through most of my newbie sub-frenzy by that point, so I could actually consider the question. It took a little back and forth before I understood the intent of the question. It wasn’t about him denying me what I wanted, it was about expectation crashing with reality. What if he got hurt (which happened)? What if we lost our suspension point (which has happened repeatedly)? What if I got hurt? The real question was did my happiness depend on suspension, or could I be happy without it? This started the thought process in my brain that expectations have to mesh with the reality of the situation.
Another set of conversations we had was him asking me if I Deserved to be suspended. At the time it felt like a trick question, given the dynamics we were involved in. But it was really about suspension not being a think I could deserve or earn. It was a gift, given because he wanted to. Not because I deserve it or expect it. Giving affection only because it is expected or only when someone has “earned” it can lead to abusive situations. For me, affection must be given because both parties want to give it. But beware putting expectations on what defines affection.
Back to the question that I started with. When he asked if I could be happy without suspension, he wasn’t asking if I would be happy not seeing him for a year, simply without one form of play. In our relationship, I expect to see him fairly regularly and I expect affection. Sometimes that means a hug, sometimes a text message, sometimes a flogging and sometimes it means dinner and a movie. When it’s been a long day, it can simply means his arm around me while he falls asleep. He shows me affection in whatever way he is able, mentally, physically and emotionally. As I do him.
Another way we have set expectations in our relationship was to write them down. In our contract with toy, we wrote out what all the expectations were. What we all did before play, what types of play there would be, and what could preempt or prevent play. It was very clear what we could all expect, and even then there were surprises.
So, what do we do then? What happens when expectations are not met? No matter how clear you think you have been, or how mutual you think your expectations are, you will still face disappointment occasionally. The important thing to do, of course, is to talk about it. What were my expectations? Were they the same as his expectations? What happened that caused them not to be met? Was it reasonable? Were the expectations reasonable to begin with? Was it just a special case that won’t happen again? How can we prevent this situation from repeating itself? Do the expectations need revised, or does one party need to be more conscious of meeting the expectation?
For me, another good conversation to stay on top of is wants and needs. My needs tend to be where I set my expectations, so I have to communicate that those things are needs. And I have to set reasonable expectations of where I’m going to get those needs filled. Being poly, they don’t all have to be filled by one person. Wants are things I would like to have, and I have to communicate them, too, else they won’t have a chance to be fulfilled. But the important thing to remember is that I cannot expect all my wants to be fulfilled all the time. Life isn’t that simple. But I can work on getting them filled through expressing them and making plans. And sometimes my needs aren’t met either, at which point we return to the previous paragraph of questions to have another look.
As always, the most important part of setting expectations has been clear communication. Second to that is acceptance that we are human and life isn’t perfect. Talk about your expectations. Unspoken expectations Cannot be met. Understand that life gets in the way, even of needs sometimes. Be flexible, accepting, and keep talking. And while you are talking, offer solutions. Once the problem has been stated, clarified and understood, move forward and find ways to avoid future disappointment from that source. During your conversations, if the other person has expectations that you cannot meet, have a conversation about why and about what can be done instead, or how to change that expectation. Expectations are a two-way street, both parties must be actively involved in setting, meeting and revising them. Everything changes, keep talking.
June 29th, 2012
One of the things on my mind in the immediate is a lesson I’ve been learning for a long while now, or rather, unlearning the wrong lesson. My body is my own, to do with only that which I want to do. I’m nearly thirty-two years old, you would have thought I’d known this for quite a long time now. And I have gotten better about it. But I’ve also let myself be pressured. I think I’ve posted about this before, but in college, I sometimes viewed my body as a tool, a thing that didn’t really matter. It wasn’t who I was, it was just this outer shell, to use as necessary. I never got into anything terrible or dangerous with this attitude, I just often didn’t care enough to tell someone no, you can’t touch me.
The article I read the other day, went even further than that. It talked about not forcing a child to hug or kiss someone. Letting it be their own choice. The mother in this article had several reasons. One being that she wanted to teach her daughter that her body was her own, to do with only what she wanted. She didn’t want her to grow up feeling like her body was for pleasing others, especially those in authority. The other being because sometimes kids sense things about adults, sense things that make them uncomfortable, and she did not want to force her to hug someone that scared her. How many people do we give physical affection to, just because it’s expected of us? Are we confident enough to say no to someone with their arms out for a hug?
I know that I often struggle with this. I feel guilty if I don’t return a hug to someone offering it. There are certain people I don’t want to hug, so I do everything in my power to keep them from offering one. Either by my body language, keeping a distance, or outright ignoring them. Why don’t I just say no? It’s my body, why should I be more afraid of offending them, than my own feelings of comfort? Because that’s what I was trained to do, programmed from a young age to greet people with a hug.
So, how do I undo that training? First, by being conscious of it. That article made me painfully conscious of it. Second, by looking at myself. When do I behave this way? Why? With whom? Third, taking action. I spoke to hubby a bit about this, about not wanting to feel pressured. He has agreed to help. And I will be more active, and less passive in my offering or denying of physical affection. More conscious. Asking myself to be sure I want to be doing this, and enabling myself to say no, if I don’t.
It is an odd thing to think about. I don’t really have personal space anymore. I don’t mind people being close to me. I don’t understand when people passing a foot away say excuse me. I do excuse myself for doing similar at work, but that’s because I understand other people have personal space. So I don’t mind closeness, but it’s the affection that has me hooked.
My body is my own and I shouldn’t use it to make other people happy, if it doesn’t also please me.
November 3rd, 2011
I don’t know what to post about this week. One of my best friends suggested monkeys. I’m not all that into animals, and monkeys tend to be into scat play, as well. So, I’m just gonna ramble a bit. Whirligig, whirligig, spin spin spin. OpenOffice tells me that’s how it’s spelled. Wants and needs, where’s the line? Emotion is to reactions as logic is to solutions.
Needs. There are physical needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, air. There are emotional needs: love, self-worth, respect, and happiness. Then things get a little muddy. Or perhaps they already were, as meeting those emotional needs can mean a lot of different things. And I tend to get a little muddier around happiness, though I put it on the list. Happiness is nonnegotiable, in the long term, but is unrealistic to expect every moment of every day. Things go wrong, arguments happen, mistakes get made, people get hurt, tragedies occur. But when all these needs are being met, including happiness, it’s hard to feel like life is all that rough.
Then there are the six basic human needs that they talk about in the kool-aid circles, let’s see if I can remember them: Certainty, Variety, Significance, Connection, Growth, and Contribution. I only forgot significance. And, according to Mr. Robbins, everyone puts very different value on these six things. Personally, certainty is the top of my list, followed by connection(love). The rest jockey for position regularly, with significance generally(but not always) coming in last in the broad scheme of things. They say opposites attract, so you know, with certainty at the top of my list, I’m attracted to people for whom variety tops the list. I couldn’t say for certain it is the Very top for all of them, but it certainly seems to rate high.
The ones I rate lower, I tend to feel cross over the line from need to want for me. But it’s that line that gets a bit fuzzy for me. I want to learn new things and grow, but do I need to? They say if you stop learning, you’re dead, but active growth often gets put on the back burner for me. I want to contribute to the world through my writing, but I don’t need to. I appreciate every private message saying how people enjoy my blog or got something out of it, and every comment that gets posted, but if it was really a need, wouldn’t I put more work into it? Significance is trickier. As long as I am important to the people who love me, do I really need to be important to anyone else? Given what I enjoy doing, and what my family do for a living, I’d say staying off the national or world stage is probably best for everyone. Variety. It’s true that I enjoy new things, that I like a lot of different kinks, that I’ve often had two or three partners. So, I certainly enjoy variety, to an extent. But I’m not someone who goes to a big event with a dance card, or is looking for many partners. I don’t want a stable, I just want all my needs and most of my wants met.
So, what about certainty and connection. Well, connection basically means love, and I’ve already listed that at the top. An absolute need. Certainty is what drives me crazy. Look no further for emotional break down than for me to not know what is going on or what to expect. Now, I don’t mind a bit of spontaneity, I enjoy unplanned scenes. But if I don’t know where I’m sleeping on a night, I get a little antsy. If I don’t know how bills are getting paid, I freak out. If a new shiny appears and I don’t know her intentions, or his, I get all wibbly-wobbly. (OpenOffice doesn’t know how to spell that one.) If I’m told something might happen, maybe, but I don’t know what, I get all nervous and jumpy. I like plans. I like lists. I like schedules. And yes, sometimes it’s really hot to be grabbed and dragged off at a moment’s notice for some unplanned, but much needed stress relief.
So what about that line? Needs – Wants. If I have all the physical needs, and emotional needs, and certainty met – is everything else just cream on the top? How do I judge happiness being met? Play makes me happy, not playing doesn’t necessarily make me unhappy. But not playing for a long time can. Or not playing when I really, really want to can. But then, I control my reactions (usually), so if all else is good, not playing shouldn’t make me unhappy. There’s always tomorrow, tends to be my rational to achieve that. Private time with him and hubby makes me happy. Not having that private time on a particular day is disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. Spending time is always happy, but that doesn’t make not spending time a necessary sad. I think I’ve lost my point in here somewhere. I’m trying to sort out whether play, time and private time fall under needs or wants. Given their relationship to happiness. Which isn’t only direct, they also affect the health of the relationship, which is a source of happiness. They are all ways in which affection and love are expressed, but a lack of one does not equate to a lack of love. Most often it is a lack of time, or opportunity. So, they are not necessarily needs in and of themselves, but are wants which fulfill both the needs of connection/love and happiness.
Then we get down into specifics. Specific types of play, or time, or private time. Specific types of affection and attention. Those are certainly wants. None of them is specifically a need. They are, again, ways to get needs filled, and we often say “I needed that,” but I’d say they are strictly on the want side of the equation. We are referring to the emotional need that got filled by the action when we say we needed it. So, it seems, by my rambling, that for me, the more general a thing, the more of a need it is, and the more specific, the more it lands in want territory.
Toy commented to me she’d been advised to feel her emotions before solving problems. I agreed with this statement. Often, I react emotionally to things, and on the surface, I think the problem is one thing, but as I’m reacting and talking about how I’m feeling, I dig deeper and find the real problem. If I try to solve the problem at first reaction, often I end up trying to solve the wrong problem, or even one that doesn’t really exist. So, I’m learning to ride through the emotions, often getting him to help me dig into them, so I can find out what’s really bothering me and deal with it. A brown leaf, when cut off, doesn’t fix a poisoned root.
The other half of that, is if I ride through the emotions, feel them all and let them rise and fall. After it is done, then I can be logical and find solutions. Nothing drives me more crazy than when I’m reacting and being emotional, and he throws logic at me. I’m often not ready to be logical, yet. Though, sometimes, it’s enough to snap me past the emotions to the point of logic. Other times, I just need to cry, let it out, get all the emotional baggage out from behind my eyes and between my shoulders, or I’m just going to be useless and run in circles. Emotions are good for finding problems, logic is good for solving them.
July 29th, 2011
It’s been a long time since I posted my reflection on the first section of The Ethical Slut, but I finally made it back to Part Two. It’s been a busy week, so I didn’t manage to get a post done on time. I’ve divided the quotes up into four sections, here is the first set. The topic is Polyamory and Boundaries.
“One of the things people get out of multiple relationships is the chance to be all of their various selves. … Being different things to different lovers, we might find ourselves having different boundaries, limits and relationship styles in different circumstances.” (123) I’ve talked about this before, how I have different relationships, boundaries and dynamics with all of my partners. Poly, for me, is a chance to explore all the different sides of myself.
“Forget about fairness.” (123) “Fairness does not mean equity.” (194) “We have to learn to give freedom to our partners if we’re going to get it for ourselves.” (174) For me, these quotes are about making agreements that work for everyone. In poly, not everyone is going to have the same boundaries or rules, things don’t have to be equal and fair, so long as everyone agrees. And it’s important to remember that sometimes, letting your partner have a little freedom will help them feel comfortable giving you a little freedom.
“You may believe that you have to take your share away from somebody else… if someone else gets something, that means there must be less of it for you.” (125) “Time is the biggest real-world limit we encounter in trying to live and love as we like.” (127) “This is not a contest, this is not a race, and no one is the prize.” (157) These quotes are around the ‘economics of starvation’ that many of us learn growing up. Dividing up time in poly is often the most difficult, it’s important to use your time wisely and well, because it is so limited just by life itself. And that goes for non-poly relationships, too. One of the easiest ways to counter starvation economics thinking, when one is being rational and not in the middle of an emotional freak out, is to remember that having more kids in a family doesn’t mean you love the first (or second, or third) less than the newest edition. Love and affection do not run out, they only grow.
“It is impossible for anyone to predict what depth of feeling may potentially exist in any sexual relationship.” (158) “Relationships change, people grow out of them, people change.” (166) “Remember that your soon-to-be-ex-partner is still the same terrific person you used to love. (171) These quotes are about the inevitable changes of people and relationships. You cannot predict when you will fall in love, or out of love. You cannot predict how long a relationship will last, or how it could change. Some relationships last lifetimes, some a few days. Sometimes people fall in love, get married, fall out of love, get divorced and then are the best of friends. Sometimes people never speak again after a relationship is over, sometimes they become play partners or close friends. Sometimes people don’t speak for a year or more after a break up, and then get married a few years down the line. Life is crazy, people and situations change. It can get a bit quantum sometimes – things defined by the way they are observed, even though they are in an ever-changing or undefinable state.
“To be an ethical slut, you need to have very good boundaries that are clear, strong flexible, and, above all, conscious.” (117) This quote is about being clear about yourself and your boundaries. You need to know your boundaries, discuss your boundaries and make sure everyone involved is clear and accepting of them. Some think that poly people have no standards, no boundaries, they just do whatever they want. But that’s not sustainable. You have to take care of yourself and your relationships, or neither will last.