Part II: Rejection in the World of Non-Monogamy

In Part I, I talked about how in a monogamous driven society, rejection is something that we try to avoid.  It is not something that is viewed as a necessary skill-set to have.  Instead, it is something that we accept as part of our adolescence but strive to avoid it in adulthood.  We do not regard it as a very important piece of the adult emotional repertoire.  But, as I mentioned at the end of the piece, in the world if non-monogamy things are very different, because not only is rejection unavoidable, but it is a skill-set that you have to be more than proficient at using.  Rejection becomes a natural part of your relationships, and you must be ethical in how you reject others, and emotionally stable enough to handle rejection in return.

At this point, I am going to make a bold statement.  That being non-monogamous is far more intense for your emotional spectrum than monogamy is.  And further, to actually flourish in non-monogamy, you need an emotional IQ that is far more developed, especially comparison to the requirements of monogamy.  And why do I feel this way?  Because, the road traveled in non-monogamy is filled with heartbreak, rejection and requires a heightened awareness of your wants and needs and of all those you want to interact with.  And quite honestly, if you cannot handle that, you are not ready to explore the amazing world of multiple people, even if it is just for sex.  While I am not specifically trying to scare people off, I hope that those who cannot handle their own emotions, take a moment here for some serious reflection.  Even if you have the ability to turn off your emotions when it comes to sex, there is zero guarantee that your partner or the people you are intimate with are doing the same.  And if you cannot handle that fact, then you have zero business opening up your body or mind to others.

I recall reading on a swingers forum a few weeks ago, a post from a guy who said that he could no longer swing because he had just been ghosted by a woman he and his wife were seeing.  The rejection was just too much for him and his marriage, so they were quitting the lifestyle.  He made a choice to avoid negative emotions and the only way to actually accomplish that was to walk away.  And when I read that initially I judged him pretty harshly.  Don’t worry it was only in my head.  But then I realized, it takes a huge amount of emotional intelligence to understand what he could and could not handle in his life.  And rather than trying to pretend that non-monogamy could be a perfect little world free of heartache, he took the more realistic and quite pragmatic view.

And for many when entering a lifestyle filled with more than one person, you become attracted to the shiny and new, and forget to take into consideration all the bad or negative, with rejection being incredibly high on that list.  Just think about the singles dating pool, and how many people you just were not attracted to.  I dare say that you had a connection with 1 – 5 % of the people you met?  Now shrink that pool almost infinitesimally, and try to make a connection, physical attraction or even an emotional spark.  There is a very slim chance that things are actually going be 100% great right from the get go.  And thus, you need to be mature enough for both you and your partner to politely decline people.  While at the same time remembering that it is a small pool, so you do not want to be an ass about it and get a bad reputation.  Nor do you want to be in a position of taking one for the team, or doing anything you are not absolutely on board with.  It’s difficult to navigate.  And for those who hate rejection or try to avoid confrontation at all costs, will find this part of the lifestyle incredibly challenging.  And let’s face it, ghosting is never OK, so there is no way to avoid this.  You just cannot sleep or engage with everyone just because you cannot say a polite, “no thanks”, that would be pretty unreasonable.  So guess what?  You have to toughen up a bit and both accept a “no thanks” with grace, and learn to give the same with courtesy and compassion.  It’s important to dig deep and develop those skills that we often wish we could just avoid.

After reading this, you may ask why in the world would you ever subject yourself to a lifestyle where you are constantly setting yourself up for heartbreak.  Honestly, because the highs are so amazing, it supersedes the pain.  Most people would agree, that the joys of falling in love far outweigh the heartache in trying to find love.  You would be missing out on amazing things if you tried to just avoid being in pain or causing pain, and thus the brave among us, rip off the Band-aid and put ourselves out there.  We open up to the possibilities, despite the potential downfall.  Non-Monogamy is a high, a rush and a bliss that while I could always remember my life in monogamy as sacred with my partner, I instead chose a life where I live to put myself out there, pain and all, for the chance of butterflies or a new connection, and I do it with my partner lovingly by my side.  I accept that in non-monogamy rejection is unavoidable and I take great pride in handling it, and being kind when I have to flex that skill and I hope you do the same.

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How Do I Get My Partner to Explore Non-Monogamy?

This question, right here, is the question that has been asked over and over again, when a person discovers non-monogamy for the first time.  They ask it in earnest, as if, there is some magical answer that will allow them to keep their spouse and start sleeping with other people immediately.  And it is the most frequent query I personally get when advertising my relationship coaching business.  But for a long time, it was the most difficult one for me to maintain composure and give a thoughtful, well crafted response.  So, I decided to put into writing the best answer I can give, which I hope will encourage any of you asking this question to make healthy decisions and not ruin your current relationship because you discovered something shiny.

First things first, you have to know your partners communication style.  And if you don’t, don’t worry, most couples don’t, but they figure out very quickly what not to do over the course of a relationship.  Finding out both your own and your partners way of thinking, processing and talking is something that is necessary if you want a healthy non-monogamous relationship, because you are going to be talking, and communicating a lot!  If you think a relationship with 2 people takes work, just imagine what happens when you bring new dynamics into the mix.  You need a solid foundation whereby you can talk about safe sex, mistakes, wants, needs, and time management, and do it in a respectful and loving way.  A relationship is a partnership, and your success in non-monogamy will depend on your foundation.

Second, you have to have an idea about what you want in non-monogamy.  Be it simply physical connections (Swinging), dating other people (Open Relationships), or even exploring new relationships (Polyamory).  And here’s the big one, once you figure out what you want, you have to be willing to discuss, and even negotiate (in a healthy way) a relati

onship norm that will actually suit both of you and fit into your current lifestyle.  For example, if you have 3 kids, work 80 hours a week and barely see each other as it is, jumping into a polyamorous relationship may not be feasible.

Third, research, network and more research.  When I first discovered non-monogamy on date one with my current partner, I felt like I was plopped in a foreign world and I made every mistake one could possibly make.  It wasn’t until I started reading books on the subject, in my case open relationships and non-monogamy, and finding online resources that I began to understand it.  Shortly after I started blogging as a way of sorting out my thoughts and emotions and sharing the research that I learned along the way.  And I think it was at about year 4, that I started building a little bit of a community of more open minds.  Friends that I could talk to about what was going on.  And that was when the real turning point was for me.  Once I stopped feeling alone, had done enough research and figured out what I wanted out of non-monogamy our relationship was able to blossom.  So don’t overlook the background and research step, as it may save you many headaches.

Fourth, time.  Let’s say, you have read the book, Sex at Dawn, and you are pretty convinced that humans are non-monogamous by nature, and this is now something that you need in your life.  Perfect, the seed has been planted.  You’ve researched, soul searched and you are ready.  But what about your partner?  An all too common thing I see, is someone rushing home excitedly to tell their partner about this amazing new lifestyle they want to explore and expecting the other person to jump right on board with the new adventure.  And, it almost always ends in disaster.  Why?  Because, we are raised in a society of monogamy.  Flipping a person’s life upside down can take a lot of time to process.  Without getting too much into the coaching side of things, it is an emotional roller coaster for the other person, and often they feel blindsided or worse when presented with the notion the first time.  While non-monogamy may have made perfect sense to you, it often does not immediately resonate with the partner.  And this is where you have to put your own relationship above the needs of your libido.  Giving time, space and allowing the person the opportunity to research, and build their own network of support if this is a direction that they are open to.

And if you get a resounding, Hell No! from the get go, put it on the back burner.  If your relationship started in monogamy, and those were the initial terms that you agreed to, then you may have to accept that that is how it will remain if you stay with your partner.  And remember, the grass is not always greener on the other side.  Non-monogamy is work, yes of course it’s play too, but especially at the beginning it is a lot of hard work and takes an emotional toll at some point or another.

Fifth, do not go into non-monogamy to fix something.  And by this I mean, fix the problem first, talk about it, address it, etc.  Do not, I repeat, do not, expose other people to your relationship issues or use them as Band-Aids.  The goal is to be ethical to yourself, your partner, and all the outsiders that you interact with.  Non-monogamy is not the same as cheating.  It is not a way to get your needs met on the sly, and it is certainly not an easy way to avoid having the tough conversations.  It things aren’t repairable in your relationship, end things before you start swinging or dating together.  Do unto other’s and all that jazz.  No one wants to be used, or find out they were a quick fix, or simply along for the ride in your relationship drama.

And finally, don’t think you have to do it alone.  Many couples on online forums seem to feel all the blood, sweat and tears is more of a badge of honor that each relationship should go through on their own in order to be non-monogamous.  They went through all these mistakes, and you should too.  No shortcuts allowed.   Well, I am here to tell you that if coaching, podcasts, blogs, etc. were an option when I was first introduced to non-monogamy I would have taken that up in a heartbeat.  Learning from other’s mistakes can be as valuable as making them on your own, if you are willing to listen and really learn.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to ask questions, during your exploration and encourage your partner to do the same.  Sometimes all it takes is a little mentorship, or even just an ear to bounce your uncertainties off of to gain the insight you need to move forward.

So have fun out there, practice safe sex and no always means no.

 

If you want to learn more about my non-monogamous coaching services, or would like some reading recommendations please check out my site, www.breakingawayfromrelationshipnorms.com.

Re-Branding Single Men Who Swing

 

In my last post, I discussed the idea of re-branding the outdated term of swinging, or as @HunterGash suggested, adding a new term that better defines his relationship norm and would probably better identify a large group within the lifestyle.  While I personally don’t agree that adding new labels is beneficial in the long term, there was one group that I may actually feel could benefit from a different term, and that is the single lifestyle men.  I know, this may come as quite a shock to many of my readers, especially if you have read a few of my angry rant posts regarding singles in the lifestyle.  But I have given this a lot of thought, and ultimately, I don’t think single men should use the term swingers.

Single men have a lot of hurdles to overcome being a part of the lifestyle.  More in fact than any other group, and the reason is, there is too large of a supply for the actual demand.  As a result, single men are very visible and any bad behaviour is seen, remembered and preventative measures are quickly put in place.  It only takes one bad apple to get a bad reputation for the group, and as there are so many of them, it’s easy for things to get out of hand and therefor simpler to just ban them altogether.  And I have to include myself, because it is much easier to just say single men shouldn’t swing rather than trying the tedious task of weeding out the bad apples or trying to educate them, especially in the heat of the moment.

But, after interacting with a bunch of really great single guys who are positive additions to the swinging community I realized that there has got to be a happy medium between letting them over saturate the community and banning them altogether.  How then do single males become a positive asset within the term swingers?  The best answer I could come up with, is they don’t.  Hear me out…

I think the easiest thing for men to do at this point, is drop the word swinger altogether, and just start saying they are non-monogamous males or something along those lines.  The word swinger is not working, it never really has, and men already have a bunch of terms to pick and choose from that work better anyways, without all the additional stigma of being a swinger added on.  Let’s take a look at a few of the terms available, non-monogamous, single men (a little joke), bulls, bachelors, FWB etc.

To me, single men are not swingers by definition.  Swinging is about partnership, relationships, team building, etc and these are things that single men are not.  Now this is not supposed to be inflammatory or be interpreted as me not wanting to include singles in the lifestyle.  When you’re flying solo, you’re not fully swinging and that’s OK!  Let’s look at single women in the lifestyle, they are given the term unicorn, and I don’t think many people would even think to call them swingers.  They are almost elevated above swingers, as an almost prized possession, whereas single men are below swingers (this is a stereotypical example for a reason and not my personal opinion).  The thing is, singles are not equal to swingers.  Swingers is plural and singles, well, you can do the math on that.

So in short, why as a single male would you set yourself up for double the stigma when you don’t have to?  Why would you even want to use the term swinger?  While many are trying to re-invent it, or rename it, you can just walk away from the label and just be non-monogamous, or bachelors, or even that you enjoy lifestyle parties.  In the words of my old boss, Keep it simple stupid (again, a joke).  Go for what works, and stop fighting what simply isn’t.

And if you want to test out my theory, try putting swinger on your dating profile and watch all your matches disappear.  Then, switch to non-monogamous and while this switch will not open doors, it will keep them from being slammed in your face.  And you are much more likely to get some real conversation going by people who are inquisitive or a little more open minded.  Why is this?  Stigma and taboo are real and very hard to overcome on paper.   So why would you set yourself up for a polarizing hard no right off the bat?  That’s just setting yourself up for failure or at the very least creating just one more difficult hurdle to overcome.  So break free of the double stigma of being single male swingers and avoid all the added negativity of the bad apples who went before you.  Play to your strengths, and don’t hold onto weaknesses.

 

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Re-Branding the Term Swingers

What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the term swinger.  Really think about it for a moment, and allow a picture to form in your mind.  Good!  Now chances are incredibly high that something negative or taboo, or cliché started to form.  Perhaps a fishbowl full of keys, or shag carpets, or some seedy basement reeking of sweat and stale beer, or just a big orgy with lots of pubic hair!  I for one, always picture a 60’s scene pool party with that one dude who is short, greasy, lots of chest hair and an inexplicable amount of scantily clad women hanging off of him.  Now I know from personal experience that this is not the case, but swinging is just not a modern term, and thus it’s difficult to envision the term free of its rich history, it’s just not representative of the modern participant.

 

Now if you are one of the few who either didn’t have an immediate negative image form and instead something funny, or sexy popped into your mind congrats!  But the reality is if you are part of the lifestyle or know people in it, it can be difficult to separate the stigma from the reality.  Or even to look at people who have admitted to swinging without a bit of a skepticism.  You know they look normal, but you may wonder what is wrong with them, or their marriage or just think they are clearly not typical swingers, because swinging is not normal and the word has a lot of visual stigma attached.

 

With all this taboo, and preconception in mind, you can well imagine why so many people who identify as swingers are looking to rebrand the name.  It is human nature to want to be accepted in society, or at the very least not judged at every turn.  And swingers, polyamory, open relationships, and all the other labels on the non-monogamous spectrum have taken their share of societal beatings over the years.  No one group outside of monogamy holds a universally accepted relationship norm.  And that is why, over the last few years we have seen an influx of people trying to break free of stigma and or prove the judgemental people wrong.  And if you’re a regular reader, you know I am one of the many voices trying to promote acceptance and understanding with my own breaking free of monogamy.

 

So let’s take a look at what prompted this post, a little tweet from a friend whom we will call @HunterGash (who you can follow on Twitter): “It’s been my mission for 2 years on the show [Hunter Gash and Alley Cat on GTFO Radio] to find a term that doesn’t have the stigma attached like “swingers” does.  #FWBLifestyle needs to begin…”  In his eyes, the idea of merging friends with benefits and lifestyle is the closest fit for the modern swinger.  It’s kind of catchy hashtag FWB Lifestyle.  And really, I can see something like that catching on, especially from those who are in the know and want a re-invention of the word swingers.

So here is where I am struggling.  I am in my mid 30’s and am experiencing social interaction with a bombardment of labels.  Every group out there is trying to break free of stigma by creating new terminology, better suited labels, and just in general trying to fit into a more descriptive box.  If you read my post about labels, I go into the idea that labels equals exclusionary boxes.  And by using online dating in that post as the main example it does hit the heart of my issue, I don’t like labels.  I like living free, fluid and with the ability to explore all new experiences without being tied down or branded so to speak.  And so when this friend proudly proclaimed his new term for swingers I was immediately against it.

 

But then, being the balanced, person I am, I started questioning his motivations.  And I agree with the why and the how, and the term is useful and accurate.  However, that still leaves me with the predicament of a new label and term to now promote, use and explain.  Is that easier or even the best idea?  Do we fix the broken term or scratch it and start over?  Have we learned enough about our selves and relationships to not screw up this new term too?  Or will we end up in 30 years looking back on #FWBLifestyle going, those people were so weird, and were basically horny rabbits, who spent far too much time in hot tubs ignoring their families, and had absolutely no pubic hair anywhere… EWW!

 

After flip flopping on whether this new term is a good idea, necessary, or will one day replace swinging in our minds I say this.  You do you, and let me do me.  If using a new term helps you find your place, and gives you a defined sense of community then all the power to you.  If labels and boxes give you certainty and comfort, then go for it.  Breaking free of terms that have stigma attached and misrepresent a large community is a completely understandable cause.  For me though?  I prefer to break free of labels and move towards a more fluid existence.  In the real world it seems like labels are less important than on social media.  So perhaps it’s time to pool our resources towards more in depth conversations and explanations of what we already have and do away with trying to re-invent the wheel.

 

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Never Have I Ever

It’s remarkable the changes that can happen in just a few years and the little things that most poignantly display that contrast between who you were and who you now are.  Never Have I Ever is a drinking game, whereby you drink to admit to all the things you have done in your life that the speaker has not.  You go around in a circle, learning all the little dirty secrets of your friends via shot guzzling admission.  And when I first played the game in my late teens I hated it.  Everyone around me was getting drunk, admitting to wild and crazy fun and there I was just sitting sipping my beer and lamenting my choices.  It was a game that made me feel like a prude.  And all I was left with, was being the sober one to clean up all the messes from the guys who got sloppy.  I’m confident that many were lying but that is beside the point.  Even the “Never Have I Ever” statements they came up with were more interesting than what I felt I had accomplished or experienced.

In summation, my life was lame!

Flash forward to a decade and half later, and I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  Whereby I don’t think I can safely survive playing that game now!  And please don’t get me wrong, this is not a humble brag.  In fact, I’m not sure that I can take credit for instigating even half of my amazing experiences over the past 8 years.  The responsibility for me exploring outside of my safe shell lies almost entirely with my partner.  His sense of adventure.  His lust for almost never saying no, and the overall quest to live life to the fullest and actually experience living has brought me to a place where I never expected to be (see what I did there?).

But this blog isn’t about him, it’s about me.

My exploration of non-monogamy has left me unable to safely play drinking games that involve sexual exploits.  I know, what a terrible problem to have.  But the last time I played it was almost embarrassing.  Never have I ever had a threesome… drink.  Had a foursome… drink.  Gone to a swing club… drink.  Got naked in public… drink.  Flashed a stranger… drink.  Sex in public… drink.  And now that I can’t stand up because I am so intoxicated, everyone is staring at me wondering, who is this average looking girl in our midst?  She seemed normal enough.  Does she live some sort of double life?  Is she lying?  Look at how red her face is!  Maybe she doesn’t know how the game works and thought she was supposed to drink every time she agreed with the never have I ever statement…. Hmmmm!

Over the past little while, while doing some soul searching and research for my first book, I find myself laughing quite frequently at where I am right now in life.  19 year old me would be shocked, and maybe a little horrified to know that Never Have I Ever is now a game my liver is terrified of.  And while that may seem like a silly, or minute example to you, in my mind it’s the perfect description of my complete 180.  It’s like I have shed the skin of the shy, timid, prude of the past, and am now looking in the mirror at a whole new me.  A sexy, confident, sex positive force to be reckoned with (well with enough liquid courage, some things haven’t changed that much!).   So farewell, to the drinking games of my past, and perhaps a hello there, to the Twister of my future?

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