Complicated

I’m starting to feel mildly resentful about the goings-on at the play party.

Yes, I enjoyed seeing The Bunny reduced to even more of a puddle than I could have managed by myself.

Yes, elements of the evening turned me on – mostly The Bunny’s reactions to things.

Yes, I was willing to fulfill The Bunny’s fantasy of two women at once, and basically volunteered to.

But what if I hadn’t been up for it?

What if Chibi and I had been sitting there with The Bunny rubbing both our feet and she’d said “what should we make him do for us now?” and all I really wanted was for her to back off so The Bunny and I could focus on each other one-on-one – which is what I’d understandably expected of the evening, after all, since The Bunny was my date and I hadn’t anticipated that Chibi would be there, let alone that she and The Bunny had gotten onto a sexual basis with one another as of that afternoon?

I mean, I guess I could have deflected using something like “Actually, I think The Bunny and I will go over there now.  Talk to you later!” but that would have been awkward as hell, not least because there really wasn’t a “there” to go to.  I didn’t have anyone across the room I knew and could start a conversation with, all the play equipment was currently in use – it would have been really, really obvious that I was just trying to get rid of Chibi.  And honestly, I hold nothing against her – she seems like a cool person, and it was The Bunny’s obligation to tell her our rule about focusing on each other when we’re out together; if he didn’t, how could she know how to behave with us?  I didn’t want her to feel like I was hostile about the two of them seeing each other, and I didn’t want her to feel like she had to avoid us at this public event she had every right to attend.

So, like…I do enjoy the idea of making The Bunny’s big fantasy come true, and would probably have set about making it happen sometime…but I know part of the reason I took things in that direction when I did is that I felt slightly cornered and didn’t know what else to do.  When Chibi said “What should we make him do for us now?” I wasn’t thinking “All I wanna do right now is co-top him!” – I was thinking “Well…I’d been thinking of co-topping The Bunny with someone, anyway, and I actually don’t have any ideas for more things he could do for the two of us…and even if I did, I’d get less pleasure out of having half his attention than I would out of putting my full attention on only half of his body during co-topping…and it’s not like I object to Chibi’s company right now; she seems perfectly nice and I don’t want to tell her to go away, so…fuck it.”

To be clear, if that whole footrub, “What should we make The Bunny do for us now” thing hadn’t happened, I might have suggested co-topping him anyway.  But it would have been fully my decision, dammit, and not tainted by peer pressure.

The Bunny and I have been texting a little bit about all of this, btw – I’m trying to save most of the conversations I want to have until I see him in person, but I just had to ask him the burning question in my mind: whose idea was it for Chibi to come out with him?

It was her idea.  She genuinely wanted to come out to this thing, and was at The Bunny’s apartment that afternoon/evening anyway, so they headed over together.  The Bunny did not invite his newest sex partner to come out on a date with us.

So that makes me feel better.

It seems he did forget our “focus on each other” rule, though.  I asked him if he discussed protocol with Chibi once she decided to tag along, and he said he didn’t because he was unsure of the correct protocol for the situation, himself.

Actually, he said some version of “this is all new to me” a few times during our conversation.  I think he thinks he’s in trouble or something – like my questions are giving him that “summoned to the principal’s office” feeling.  I assured him that it’s okay, it’s all new to me, too.  

We’ll talk more about things tomorrow.

I would really love some input from poly people about all of this – did you ever go through something like this when you were new to poly (assuming you were ever a monogamous type)?  If so, how did you react?  How would you react now?  

And my biggest question: how can you tell the difference between a pang of jealousy that will go away on its own and doesn’t really need addressing, and a thing that genuinely does not feel okay to you?  I’ve been struggling a lot with setting boundaries.  I wanna do “relationship anarchy” in which there are no rules (no “veto power” over metamours, etc.).  Occasionally, something might come up that bugs me and I become tempted to make a rule in order to avoid that discomfort in the future…but most of the time, the discomfort was jealousy and after I acknowledged it and let it sit a while, it went away.  But I do think there are things a partner could do that would genuinely be kind of shitty, and I can’t always tell if what I’m feeling is jealousy or legitimate grievance.  

The “focus on me when we’re out together” thing is one example of a boundary I feel good about setting.  I don’t want to make relationship rules based on archaic ideas of possessiveness, but I do not think my wish to be the focus is coming from that; if I went to a social gathering with a platonic friend and they ignored me all night, I’d be pissed off, too.  So I see this rule as common courtesy, not some heteronormative “I own your ass” bullshit.  I mean I even told The Bunny that if we’re out somewhere and he takes a liking to someone else, he can talk to them for a bit and get their number for later – I just want him to spend most of his time with me.

Other times that I feel uncomfortable with something, though, I have a hard time telling whether the discomfort is coming from my gut, or from society telling me I’m supposed to be uncomfortable.  For instance, when The Bunny had that play session with RopeGirl a bunch of months ago, I felt weird and jealous that someone else was topping him.  But I reminded myself that once upon a time I’d’ve felt insanely jealous about a partner kissing someone else, too, but I powered through that and learned that “outside” kisses didn’t affect my relationship at all – ergo, just because I feel uncomfortable about something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t let it happen.  Letting shit happen has been a huge source of personal growth for me (and I did let RopeGirl top The Bunny, and it didn’t affect our relationship, and now I feel more secure about him being topped by other people).  But I could see myself taking it too far: “Okay, my date has now picked up someone else and is ignoring me while fucking her literally across my lap as though I’m a piece of furniture…this is my worst birthday ever!!!  …Well, y’know what, this makes me uncomfortable, but lots of other things used to make me feel uncomfortable and I managed to power through it and grow as a person…maybe I just need to reframe this/wait out the discomfort/etc…”

What do other poly people do?  How can you tell garden variety insecurity from someone actually being kind of a thoughtless dick?

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Complicated

  1. Yay! Sounds like you had a big break-through with play party threesoming. Or something.

    Some things that I noticed that I would’ve liked to go differently even if this would’ve been just a friend.
    – He didn’t ask you “could I bring a friend/third?” beforehand. If I’m expecting to go to a party with someone, I’m not necessarily looking for interacting primarily with someone else just because they happen to know each other. It changes a lot of things. I think these things need to be negotiated. Especially in a situation like *this*.
    – I’d expect to know about the other poly partners before I have to meet them. So, I’d say it’s a bit bad manners to reveal “we just had sex, here’s my new partner!” when she’s *there* even though you guys are not monogamous. I can’t think of a better way to make someone jealous or unsure of themselves even if they’re trying not to be.
    – I would have not been cool with them going at it (kissing etc) and her tagging along in everything without negotiating it beforehand in a non-pressure environment *with the person I’m actually partnered to*! How can you negotiate anything freely when she’s already there, already has her own expectations and you have to be/want to be polite and not make her feel unwelcome… even if she were?

    PC, You are really good at handling your emotions in situations, but it’s no wonder you feel a bit uneasy about what happened, when it was thrown on you like this. From what I’ve understood about poly relationships working is that things need to get negotiated before anything happens. It’s just a way to make sure you don’t end up feeling more shitty than you need to, when overwhelming stuff happens. The Bunny obviously didn’t know what would be the right protocol and since you went along with everything it might be hard for him to understand that actually you need him to act differently in the future.

    It’s a buzzkill for sure to bring this up when he had such a groundbreaking sub-experience at the play party, but that’s what you get for not negotiating. I’m sure you can work out what works for you in the future, since this was kind of new for both of you. And don’t hesitate to tell him about your uncertainties etc. what you need from him. You don’t have to do anything with Chibi even if she is nice. You can just be friends and expect them to behave only friendly in situations like this if that’s what you need. And even if Chibi did like you that way, too!

    It seems pushy to me to come to someone else’s established relationship with this much force to be included in the hugs, the kisses, the petting – the everything from the get go. They might have had sex, but you still have your own unique relationship with The Bunny and for you she’s still just a friendly acquaintance. I don’t know. Maybe the fact that you and The Bunny didn’t discuss and negotiate everything together beforehand makes me feel that it was a little a bit pushy.

    Let’s hope you get the perspective of some more poly people too!

  2. What RogueBambi said. Except I would be really seriously pissed off if something like this happened to me without any prior negotiation. Like WTF? Even if _with_ _prior_ negotiation all of it sounds like big fun.

    Oh, and partners forgetting rules or protocols that were actually talked about before is a huge red flag for me. Shit is important. I’d rather write things down in some sort of mutually accessible rulebook or such, even if it is just one line or two, than have smb forget things in the future. Because I need to be able to count on my partners in this regard, it is a sine qua non for trusting them with my body and my feelings. Things being new is not an excuse for negligence. Quite the opposite, people should pay special attention to agreements and everybody’s feelings in a new situation.

    • The Bunny and I have since talked things out, and by the sounds of it he forgot that we had an actual rule about focusing on each other, but still indicated to Chibi that I was his main partner, or his priority, or something. So that’s good to know. He wasn’t being a total opportunistic prick; he just maybe didn’t explain things perfectly well, to me or to Chibi.

      I told him to give me a better heads up in future – like, he should’ve texted me exactly what was up. “Chibi and I hung out this afternoon and ended up having sex. She’s tagging along to the play party because she was interested in going anyway, but she knows you and I are an item and will be playing together.”

      TRANSPARENCY.

  3. “How can you tell the difference between a pang of jealousy that will go away on its own and doesn’t really need addressing, and a thing that genuinely does not feel okay to you?”

    I may not be the best person to advise on this, because I don’t feel jealousy the way most people seem to (this isn’t bragging or saying I’m better at poly or any of that BS; this is trauma->unable to conceive that I “deserve” attention ever->can’t feel like it’s being taken away unfairly). But I’m gonna try. From a basically ethical standpoint, it doesn’t need addressing if it doesn’t involve you. For instance, The Bunny and Chibi’s hitachi play didn’t involve a behavior he needs to correct (unless he broke a specific agreement with you): he did stuff with another partner on his own time, he told you about it, sounds fine. Bringing her along on a prearranged date with you and failing to give you a real opportunity to provide input on your own date *does* need addressing. It involves you. Two arrangements you had with him were modified without your consent, and that’s shitty. He failed to communicate that he was on a date with you to Chibi (and what that denotes), and failed to uphold his agreement to prioritize you on dates. That needs discussion.

    It may be helpful to set up a way to signal that you need a moment alone to talk. Z and the Techie both smoke, which gives them a good excuse to wander outside for a few minutes if they need it. Even something like “I’m having a problem with [some app] on my phone” and just typing a brief message that you need him to do something different or need a moment to talk might work. Or you could be me and say “Okay, I need one-on-one time with this person, can you give us [5 minutes, an hour, until we’ve finished our own scene, whatever]?”

    “I’ve been struggling a lot with setting boundaries. I wanna do “relationship anarchy” in which there are no rules (no “veto power” over metamours, etc.)”

    Set boundaries. Good lord, set boundaries. That isn’t the same as rules. I don’t do vetoes, or set limits on partners’ behavior with other partners. But I set boundaries around their interactions with *me*, because that’s a necessary part of self-care. I have a play partner whose wife is all about rules. No kissing in front of her. No types of play she wouldn’t do. There are so many rules about sex it’s basically not worth it. And the thing I’ve noticed is that none of these make her any less insecure. Every time he and I play, she winds up essentially needing aftercare. Rules are about saying “you can’t do this thing with someone else,” and in general that thing doesn’t seem to be what the rule-maker is concerned about controlling.

    Boundaries are hard and soft limits, and the ways we choose to respond to partners’ behavior. “I will not have sex with the Techie without a condom” is up there with “I will not participate in or watch knifeplay.” Hard limits. Other boundaries involve keeping agreements, communication. If I’m not home by one in the morning and haven’t told Spouse a specific later time I’ll be in, I have to stay out. Not because it’s a rule, but because he wants to be able to go to bed by one, and he isn’t comfortable going to bed without bolting and latching the door. Basically he’s set a boundary about his sleep needs, and I’ve agreed to respect it. The idea of relationship anarchy as it’s usually discussed brushes off the importance of boundaries, self-care, and respect of one’s partners. We need these things. Even when they aren’t sexual, they’re a huge part of our consent and removing them is tantamount to self-erasure.

    • Thank you so much for delineating the difference between rules and boundaries. I was kind of on that track, myself, and having my vague thoughts articulated is exactly what I needed. I feel better about wanting the things I wanted, now.

      But of course, now that he and I have discussed the play party situation and I think solved things, there’s more mysterious bullshit afoot. Which I have now blogged about (you have to skip to the end for that part).

      I am not terribly happy with the boy right now. But also, I barely slept last night and when I’m tired I get FUCKED. UP. So some outside perspective would be nice, when you have the time. Like I guess I’m wondering whether I have valid reasons for being pissed off.

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