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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Part I: Rejection in the World of Monogamy

Remember that first crush you had as a kid?  And remember that gut wrenching feeling when you discovered they didn’t actually like you the same way you liked them?  It felt like your young heart was broken into a million pieces.  And for a moment you wondered what the point of having feelings for anyone really was, especially when the heartache hurt so badly.  The devastation of putting yourself out there for the first time, and not having the feelings reciprocated sticks with us.  In our monogamous driving society we learn, to avoid or prevent those feelings.  And we do so by putting up barriers, or learning to vet out a person before getting hurt.  We rally our friends to feel out our next love interest, to spare us the face to face humiliation of a “just not interested”, being ignored or worse, laughter!  And if you are anything like me, when you fell in love for the first time, and had that love finally returned you vowed that you would do whatever it took to make it work.  Because you had a glimpse of what rejection felt like, and that was more than enough to make you realize that it should be avoided wherever possible.

There is just no denying that getting rejected sucks!  But the reality is, that no one has the time, resources, attraction or even inclination to give every single person a chance.  And thus, we reject people, avoid the whole situation outright, or the latest fad, we ghost a person.  I could spend an entire post talking or rationalizing all the why’s a person rejects someone else, but the thing is, we have all done it at some point.  It would be impossible to like every single human on the planet, so part of growing up is rejection trial and error.  And for me, I had so many errors early on that I decided not to date until I was out of high school.  Which I attributed to the understanding that no one marries their high school sweetheart and stays happy, so why even bother wasting my time.  Let the e-mails from happily married high school sweethearts flood my inbox as I know there are a few of you out there.  I’m just a realist by nature and figured the chances for me were slim! 

Now once I actually started dating as an adult, I, like so many out there, had my fair share of total and absolute let downs that when that first guy that I could stand to both look at and talk to popped into my life, I clung on!  I had serious illusions that I would be the first monogamous person to fall in love and never experience the pain of heartbreak or rejection.  Blood, sweat and a lot of tears were shed in the quest to ensure that we were going to be married and live happily ever after.  And it was a close call.  A very, scary, close call to the I do’s.  I was fearful of being alone, and I was competitively inclined to make that first relationship succeed.  A life without heartbreak, was an opportunity too tantalizing to ignore.  And then, we broke up.  And I don’t have to relate to any of you just what that feels like.  The tightness in your chest, the inability to get out of bed, and the hiding from the sunlight because that represents the whole world seeing your pain and your failures.  It’s agonizing.  But I survived day by day, and then got back together with the same man.  Only to experience heartbreak again a few years later and finally walk away from him forever.  I had failed. I couldn’t avoid rejection or a broken heart, no matter how hard I tried.

The thing was, back then, I would have done anything to avoid that pain.  Hindsight shows me plainly that I was leaning eerily close to marring the devil I knew, rather than explore my options, to protect myself.  And I know I am not alone.  I guarantee that you know a person, perhaps even well, who got married to someone simply because they were tired and emotionally exhausted from getting their heartbroken.  That person decided to make things work with the next person they dated, simply to prevent any more pain.  It’s self preservation.  We want to be with someone far more than we want to be hurt, so sometimes we sacrifice perfection, in exchange for our mental and emotional well being, and just take what’s there.  Is the relationship perfect?  Of course not, but compatible is the next best thing.  And we humans have survived because once we experience pain we learn and adapt to avoid that same negative stimulus in the future.

And that is a huge benefit to living in the monogamous community and one that I never recognized until becoming non monogamous.  For you see, pair bonding for life, within the comfort of monogamy gives you a real chance to never feel that pain again.  We are told after our first heartache, not to fret, because someday, you will find someone amazing.  And you will fall in love, live happily ever after and you will never feel that loneliness again.  I bought into it, hook line and almost sinker.  I desperately wanted rejection to be something of a trial of youth.  But, here I am to tell you, that things are a little different on the non-monogamous side of the fence.  For you see, rejection is unavoidable and in fact, becomes a necessary skill to hone…

 

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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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You Let Your Partner Sleep with Other People???


I would be very well off if I had a loonie every time I’ve heard this question over the years.  And while most repetitive questions seem to lessen in impact the more times I get asked, this particular one still makes me bristle.  And occasionally just go off into a blind rage.  What really gets me, is the whole permissions aspect.  Do I need to seek approval for my body and sex life with other people?  Is he my master?  Keeper of the keys?

When I calm down, I can recognize that the base line of almost any relationship is a series of negotiations and promises to behave a certain way.  And in non-monogamy as many of my readers are already aware, we go past what society has raised us to believe and actually have verbal conversations about all the behaviours we are Ok with.  And we re-negotiate, sometimes with a lot of frequency.  It’s a skillset that makes being in the lifestyle much calmer, and ethical.

But back to the rage part.  When I hear that question, it is almost always comes off judgemental.  And possessive and all these emotions that I hated in myself when monogamous.  It brings up feelings that I am so grateful to have worked past.  Yes, it is my problem in how I react.  But at the same time, what is the asker really expecting as an answer?  No, he doesn’t let me, I just do it.  Or nope, it’s called cheating for a reason…duh!  Or how about, it’s my body and he’s not the boss of me!

And the answer is not, yes either.  It’s not that simple.  We agree to a lifestyle that works for us in our current relationship dynamic.  He doesn’t let me, and I don’t let him.  We mutually agree to be non-monogamous and have explored a wide range of norms stemming from seeing other people, to swinging, to seeing couples together.  We are evolving and exploring.  And we do it together!

I know that when the question is asked it is done so with incredulity.  Or shock and surprise.  Sometimes there is a very funny brain exploding look in their eyes.  And yes, I get that.  But come on, as a society we have got to start improving how we communicate.  Don’t just ask a loaded question like that.  Ask questions in a way that lends to the sort of answer you want, or is closer to the information you are wanting to receive.  Because honestly, I am getting tired of my blood pressure spiking because you don’t know how to ask an intelligent question.  The truth is, if you get me going, in thoughtful discourse, I can be enlightening, informative and will quite willingly engage you in a wide range of queries.  But when you start off accusatory, I shut down and assume you cannot handle even hearing about my life.  And that is your loss, because I have some pretty fantastic stories.

So, in summary.  I get why you ask.  But please, try to wipe that deer in the headlights look off your face before you open your mouth.  Quit judging and criticizing a frame of living that most definitely does not affect you in the slightest.  Work on your communication and conversation skills, because that my friend will go a long way for everyone!  And don’t be surprised if I ask you something way out of line back, because you deserve every ounce of inappropriate I can dish out!

 

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Monogamy to Ethical Non-Monogamy: A Reflection 16 Years in the Making

Do you remember your first genuine relationship?  Of course you do, that first love stays with you, long after you’ve grown apart or in some rare cases grown together.  Today I was shocked to realize that it would have been 16 years had I stayed in my monogamous relationship/marriage.  I’ve mentioned a few times throughout my blog, that I do believe I would have fallen into non-monogamy eventually.  The fantasies were beginning, and there were sex acts that I just didn’t want to take part in, so I figured a unicorn would be perfect.  And as I have admitted, I was coming closer and closer to cheating all the time.  My then boyfriend and I would have taken the non-monogamous route to keep us together for the sake of the un-realized children.  It’s painful to accept, yet, I realize the truth in those words, having gained such a deep knowledge of myself and my needs.  And I absolutely know that I am not alone in this thinking.  So many have turned to an open relationships to save themselves and their partners.  Or to level the playing field after an indiscretion.  All judgement aside, this is the simple truth to why many have found themselves in the non-monogamous uncertain waters.

In my case, I consider myself lucky in that I ended things when I did.  When I walked away from monogamy and started serial dating I had yet to have heard the term non-monogamy.  So as I have mentioned when I did meet my current partner I had my eyes opened.  I can now say how fortunate I am to have found him and to have ended up where we are.  But as with any relationship we did not start out well.  I think our relationship can be broken down into two distinct parts.  The first, where I was so overwhelmed with being in an open relationship that we were living in an extremely unethical fashion.  Dates were hidden, and extra curricular activities were discovered, rather than discussed.  We began open, but did so, with a rocky and unstable foundation.

So we broke up.  I kept writing and he kept living the exact way he wanted to.  And then, a really surprising thing happened, we started building a new foundation, free of all pressure, just two singles coming together every now and again.  We weren’t intending to get back together, instead we used each others strengths, weaknesses and experiences to start forging ahead with a relationship style that would meaningful for each of us.  By the time we knew what was happening we were living together, and running on parallel paths.  There was a strange symmetry to our work and home lives and the word boyfriend and girlfriend was replaced by that of the title, partner.

Our love story was truly beginning.  And this is when we started looking together for our first couple.  We had been to a swing club, and had mixed feelings about it.  But the take away was the same, our foundation was ready to start building upon.  To start creating experiences together.  It was around this time that I started using the word ethical non-monogamy in my blogging.  I finally understood what it meant, and more than that, was living it.

I look back on these two distinct failed relationships, knowing that I am a direct result of them.  They were both interlaced with non-monogamy, but it wasn’t until I brought the word ethical in that my shift from an uncertain bystander turned to owning my relationship norm.  I cannot help but wonder if there is a parallel universe out there, where I sit here typing in secret about cheating and the mistakes I had made in monogamy.  That perhaps, I would still be a voice, but for those of the pained, rather than those of my current community.  It’s a strange feeling, looking across time like this.  But I feel a calmness in doing so.  It’s a peaceful realization that I am right where I need to be, and perhaps I need to watch a little less sci -fi (Ok, that would and could never happen!).  The path to non-monogamy was never straight and narrow, but I hope, in some small way, my reflection can offer some comfort to someone currently struggling.  After all, the journey is where the real memories are made.

 

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