Arcane — It’s with a heavy heart that I tune in now to say goodbye. I hope that this site will continue here, that Cleo will have many thoughts and opportunities to share with you all, and that you’ll keep an eye on this page. I won’t be on anymore, however—at least not without some major swing in the direction things are going.
Cleo and I are getting a divorce. An amicable one, don’t worry; we are still friends, but the nature of our relationship currently precludes any real mutual sexual activity, which kind of hampers my ability to contribute here.
I am, however, concerned that some of you may conclude from this news that a polyamorous relationship can’t work. with my final post I want to assure you otherwise.
The reason this relationship fell apart is that I was unthinking and uncaring. I’ve spent five years of marriage wrapped in a cozy cocoon of believing that it would never end, in part because Cleo told me over and over that it wouldn’t. I understand that a lot of the reason she said this was that she felt pressured by our religion to flee from divorce except under the most extreme circumstances, but the reasoning behind the assurances is largely irrelevant; she said it and I believed it. I came to believe that ultimately my actions would have little to no real consequences. I felt stable, and let myself get lazy, thoughtless, and altogether deserving of nobody.
But I still love Cleo, and I think she loves me, albeit in a new and—if I’m honest—less fulfilling way. But the relationship as we knew it is over.
I’ve often gone on about how communication is the key to a good relationship, but in that analogy I think caring is the lock. If there’s something that’s been missing from the way I have treated Cleo over the years, it’s caring. Caring about her work, caring about her ideas, caring about her everything. Love is more than just trying: love is wanting to try.
In any case, I want to make it clear that polyamory is innocent in this case: it is thoroughly possible to care for more than one person. They just… need to be worthy of that care.
I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Buona notte, and good luck.
Cleo—My turn, I suppose.
I might keep this running, or I might merge it into another blog. If all goes well, Arc and I will still be dear friends after the paperwork and he can come write his experiences in polyamory here too. We don’t have to be married to have a joint blog, right?
(Right? Cause I may be breaking a few rules otherwise. >_>)
Polyamory in a marriage can work, honest. A lot of times it doesn’t, and as long as both partners end up happy, that’s okay. This divorce has nothing to do with that aspect of the relationship.
I’ll be around! and so will Arc, whether he thinks so now or not.
Arcane — You are a pootiehead.
Cleo— I am not!
Even as I sit here furiously masturbating to lesbian pornography, I find some part of me feeling guilty. I’ll take that Best Opening Sentence Ever trophy, thanks.
What’s strange is that I don’t really feel guilty about being with Lady—inadequate, absolutely, and very, very awkward, but not guilty. Strange, isn’t it? I wonder perhaps if the communion of two people together in the act serves to mute the before time, as I’m reminded that here in my arms is someone who thinks this is perfectly acceptable, whereas here, now, I’m just beating my meat to satisfy a carnal urge, all by myself.
I wonder if it’s something like when I’m alone and Cleo’s out and I eat terrible foods. I’m not doing healthy sex, just whacking off in an attempt to get my penis to shut up for the evening. YES. I HEAR YOU. THUP THUP THUP. HAPPY NOW
I don’t think this is guilt. I think this is shame. I think this is wishing I could do better than internet porn on a Friday night, wondering if I have a problem, wondering if I’m establishing another negative habit.
It is encouraging to think that I’m getting out of the guilt phase, and into the self-doubt phase. It’s healthier. Still climbing, but I’ve got a new base camp. Huzzah!
Arcane—I’ve been remiss in posting here lately, but I’ve been hesitant to write anything because we’ve had a rough time lately, and it’s been hard and painful, and not something I felt like sharing to the universe in the middle of it.
Not long ago, Cleo asked me for a divorce. I’d say it came out of the blue, but honestly it felt like the natural progression of where our relationship had been going. It didn’t carry the same terrible weight that a divorce in a traditional marriage would, as no longer being married doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t see each other any more. No, in this case what it meant was that Cleo was absolutely fed up with my lifestyle—which is, to be fair, somewhat rubbish, and we’ll go into it in a second—and was at the end of her rope.
Now, I grew up in a household where, basically, bad habits were hammered into me from a very young age. Cleo can see and easily identify where most of my bad habits come from, and the fact of the matter is that my whole life has been crippled by the fact that I didn’t come out of my childhood with a single virtue, save for the fact that I’m a really nice guy. I really, absolutely do not have my shit together. We didn’t have enough time for me to figure that out before we got married, and here I am, facing down a divorce.
The weird thing is, that I don’t particularly espouse the traditional establishment of marriage. In fact, aside from tax and legal purposes, I feel that marriage is unnecessary and limiting—after all, in this country you can only have one spouse, and one person being your spouse makes things a little uneven, which isn’t how we feel our mates should be treated. Mates should be on equal terms. In our case, the marriage is convenient, because we have two children, and the government is sweet on families. Huzzah.
So moreso than the threat of divorce was the realization that I could lose Cleo. This possibility had reared its head once or twice before, but in my strange and comfortable place wrapped in orthodoxy, I knew that Cleo could never have brought herself to leave me if I was trying, and try I did. Now, I get the distinct impression that trying isn’t good enough. I need to succeed and be a better person, or risk losing a life living with one of my best friends.
So I’ve been trying, and it’s been hard, because I have 27 years of bad habits to shake. But even harder than that has been coping with the new distance between us; this hideous feeling that I have, that may be unjustified, that I am a kite, and she’s feeding out slack so that one day she can be free of me and I will crash and burn without her holding the string. It sounds terribly dependent of me, and frankly, that’s because it is. I reiterate: I am not good at life. But again, it’s more than that. I’ve been noticing that more and more of her time is spent apart from me, asking me to butt out of her business, which is something that bothers me deeply. I know people need their space, but we’ve been very close up until now, and being cut off like this leaves me feeling very, very alone.
Until now, she’s been my anchor, and with that lifted, I feel adrift.
But the absolute worst part is the looming consequences of failure, which are essentially that I will lose my children. I have no degree, no job, a terrible job history, no job prospects, and I live in an economic shithole. It would be unconscionable for me to ask for custody of the children. So they would have to go with Cleo; and while she says that I could live with them and just keep to myself in my own little room, can you imagine how miserable that would be? I mean, better than nothing, true, but knowing I’m only there because Cleo feels bad about me being such a loser?
And who can I talk to about this? All of my family and local friends are Christians, none of them sharing my ideas. I have some good friends online, but face it, you need a local friend who’s close and really gets you, because sometimes you need your hugs to be more than words on a screen. Up until now that person was Cleo, but lately… I’ve just got to deal with this shit by myself.
So now it’s off my chest. We figured it would be hard, and now you get to see some of the hardship that this sort of thing can present. No relationship is all wine and roses, and we didn’t expect this to be easy; the rough times were part of why we did this to begin with. I guess we’ll see how rough the waters get before they calm down again, if they ever do.
Cleo—So I said I was going to a bar, you remember? Well…
HERE’S HOW THAT WENT.
It was Halloween and I forgot my costume, for which I sort-of kicked myself all night. It would have been a very drafty costume, but I was asked twice what I was and responding “myself” when I had a costume at home was kind of painful. The friend I went with threw something gypsy-ish together involving a corset and a sash with jingly bits on it. My god she looked amazing.
First bar we went to we met up with another friend who was sadly busy that night. I miss her, though. The bar itself was very low-key. Seemed like someplace you’d go to chill out after an exhausting day. We parted ways with our friend and moved on to the next bar, which had fascinating decor. My initial description would be “mod.” Not a lot of people in here, probably having a lot to do with the “weekday” part of Halloween this year. One beer and one shot later and we’ve moved into the cold again towards another bar.
I will confess that this one made me nervous. Very loud music and a dance floor that was (thankfully [for me]) empty. Also very, very bad karaoke going on. My friend and I decided that our ears would start bleeding fairly soon if we didn’t leave, so off we went again.
Another bar with very loud music. Apparently there’s a dancing area upstairs, but it was closed. Approached by a tall guy who I presume was trying to be an aviator. He was nice enough. However, between the music and my naturally quiet voice, conversing was awkward and I was so very glad when my friend came back with her drink and took over the talking portion. Another awkwardness: going up to the bar to find some booze and seeing no bartender. Also knowing that the bartender has a 10% chance of being able to understand me. So, no bartender and I drift back to my friend, who shakes Aviator Man. Friend, who is magic, manages to get my drink for me (doesn’t that sound pathetic?) and we proceed to talk because I’m awkward and there’s no dancing. And my god she looked fantastic. o_o
What happens when I’m drunk is the part of my brain that I can usually ignore gets louder. So the part that says, “You should say this thing! Or do this other thing!” that would normally be shut down like the phenomenally bad idea that it invariably is, gets to push its ideas toward the front of my brain, where the mouth and eyeballs are. Which is why I had such a hard time not staring at my friend’s gorgeousness all night.
Two drinks and much thought-smothering later, we dragged our drunk asses to her place of employment to wait for a cab. We’re both lightweights. And I drink fast.
We’re to do this again on a weekend so that I can get a full dose of the noise and people while I’m drinking. And oddly enough, I’m looking forward to it. I didn’t get to observe the various dynamics as much as I’d have liked this time. It would also be nice to be confident about what I’m wearing, and maybe, maybe not stare so hard at my friend’s neck this time. >:[
Oh, and: If you plow into a girl while she’s carrying a drink and she spills the drink, it’s your fault and if you then run away you are a douchebag. Seriously. That guy? If you’re reading this, you owe me a drink, which I will split with my friend while we laugh at you.
Arcane—Ah ha, I knew it
Cleo—I may be going to a bar next week.
You might say “so what,” but I’ve never been to one. And I’m going with a dear friend, so it should be fun.
She also mentioned dancing, which slightly terrifies me. I don’t dance. Not “I can’t dance” because I flail a lot or anything. I don’t dance. My brain says “do this thing with your hips” and my body goes offline and I stand there looking like a moron. So I don’t dance. But I do like to observe, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, and I’m looking forward to that bit. :3
And of course you will be subjected to my mental spewing afterwards. Look forward to it! Or else I’ll stand there and stare at you awkwardly!
Cleo—I must write this carefully, as it is a topic rather close to me.
I came to the conclusion a while ago that love is both a complicated decision and a chemical reaction. Somebody smells right, looks right, acts right, and it lights up the “ooh yes” parts of your brain, and you decide that you will love them.
The attraction can’t be helped. It aids in the sacrifice inherent in love, and thus serves a purpose.
Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor [love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one loving intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
Polyamory is finding that you are attracted to and are capable of making the decision to sacrifice for more than one person. Add that to an open relationship, and you have what Arc and I have. I count the act of loving more than one person at a time as being separate from the act of having sex with more than one person in a relationship.
This seems logical to me, and entirely natural. It has removed more problems than it has caused in my relationships. So I have a hard time understanding why some people have a problem with it. I also find it odd that I don’t remember how the logic in finding a problem with it works, since I did have a problem with it until about a year ago. I believe it had to do with religion… also that my husband had previously been a dick. Now I understand my faith better and my husband isn’t a dick, and everything is going smoothly.
What I have learned over the past year has left me guilt-free and more independent than I can ever recall being. I can’t imagine running back to what I was. It has brought its own special problems… Its own alienation and pain. I’d still take this over what I had, but if I get do-overs in life, I know who I won’t tell about my love life.
Cleo—This one is hard to write about because it’s hard to fix, but I know I’m not the only introvert with this problem. So: ONWARD!
Let’s discuss my ineptitude involving social interaction.
I am generally oblivious. I have the feeling that I missed a lot of scandalous fun in high school because I didn’t catch one clue or another. I’m prone to candidly discussing sex and love, and I have no idea if I’m implying things. To be more blunt about it, I have issues with reading social cues.
Reading social cues is the art of noticing body language and using it to your advantage. It is a skill I fail at on a regular basis. Are they touching my arm because they’re a touchy-feely kinda person or because they want to be in my space? I have no idea. Why are they watching me? Why are they sitting like that? Are they talking about sex because it’s fascinating or because they want some? I have no idea.
And it’s odd, really, because if I watch other people interact I can generally read them, but as soon as it’s directed at me I’m completely lost. Something of a double standard, I think, revolving around my self esteem problems. Perhaps if I applied what I see to someone else, I could better understand what people want when they interact with me.
In fact, now that I think of it, my complete obliviousness regarding social cues seems entirely dependent upon what I’m seeing. If I’m broaching territory that I think might make someone uncomfortable I’ll go on red alert and note the instant I step across the line, back off and apologize. I’ll sense if they’re amused or angry easy enough. But as soon as whoever I’m talking to makes any overtures to sex, I get confused.
Not interested in me, surely. Not me.
It’s worse via text, worse still when you throw in emotional attachment. Text is generally monotone, which is why we have emotes. There’s no emote for “I mean what I say when I say it this way” or “Sarcasm” or “I don’t actually care, I’m just spewing words at you.” It can take a while for me to understand the unique tone applied to text. It takes longer to understand what thoughts float between the lines.
When you add some emotional attachment, I start wondering at the intricacies of the individual’s thoughts. How deep do these emotions run? How strong? In what direction? To what extent? And there’s no way to find out without having a brain-picking, thought-probing, thoroughly introspective conversation. Not everyone is comfortable being that vulnerable with just anybody (read: me). This applies to every relationship I observe, but it’s slightly more perplexing when I apply it to myself.
When all else fails I’ve found it’s best to swallow my embarrassment and ask. “Why are you doing that,” “What are you feeling.” I’ve had to do it less with my online relationships because I talk to intelligent people who, I believe, choose their words with at least a modicum of care, and I can see their words relax and their personality emerge. What begins as controlled (trying to impress) gradually shifts to loose and silly (I’m comfortable with you). If I wait long enough, I can learn more, faster, via text than I can while I’m sitting in the room with them because I don’t have to put on my mask and I don’t have to hide. It’s easier to ask “Did you choose that word?” and “What do you mean by that” when you have the option to analyze the words used. It’s a bit colder, yes, it’s kind of antisocial, yes, but I’ve developed some astounding relationships with people who have never been in my presence.
All this ramble to say that I need to learn to read social cues and that it’s so, so much easier via the internet.
…And how they suck.
Cleo—At one point in my life, right around when I found out that Arcane was unceremoniously dumped by his previous girlfriend, I made the minor promise to myself that I’d never get into a long-distance relationship. Surely my significant other would drop me for someone else out of sheer boredom. And Arcane was right there. Problem solved, right?
Six years later and I find myself in a long-distance relationship laughing at my past self. Silly past me, thinking that I would have any control over who I wanted to be with.
Now, I am completely insane for my Beloved. I’d give a lot just to be able to hang out with him on a regular basis; hell, I’d give a lot if I could talk to him on a regular basis. And the distance… the distance between us hurts. The circumstances are frustrating and the complications often appear stubbornly insurmountable from this angle. It’s like being at the bottom of a wall with the Mission Impossible theme playing and having to painstakingly craft your own grappling hook out of paperclips and dental floss. You can do it, it’s just not going to be quick or easy.
Has it been worth it? Thus far, yes. Ohhh yes. Leaving aside the pent-up sexual aspects of the relationship, there’s also the unmitigated brain-delving that I’ve been allowed to do. I’ve gained a friend somehow more stubborn about keeping his friends than I am, and I like to think I’ve made a mark on him that he won’t forget. And what else can you ask, really? The mutual eagerness to be near each other just means that I’ll eventually be able to meet a long-distance friend and be somehow more crazy about him than I was when I got there.
The lessons learned: You’re an adult, goddammit. If you want to stick it out for a long-distance relationship do it. Yeah, it’s frustrating, and yes, it can hurt, but having a friend who wants to listen to you and talk to you and generally get as close to you as it’s humanly possible to be… I’d call that worth it.
Arcane—This is one of those areas I disagree, but not on a fundamental level (by which I mean, I don’t think that nobody should have long-distance relationships). My experience sucked enough ass that I don’t think I will ever do it again. A rough time is coming for me in that regard, but thankfully it’s only temporary, and I don’t think Cleo is going to dump me. But starting new long-distance relationships? Nuh-uh. To me, part of intimacy is being close, and physical distance strains that incredibly. Being apart from Cleo will test our commitment to its limits; starting a commitment with that handicap seems like looking for heartbreak. Like buying a used car (never doing that again either).
I’m glad it works for Cleo, but I’m done with it. Sorry hopefuls! *wink*
Arcane—One of the things that I’ve been staggered to learn throughout this experiment is the actual importance of sexual interaction to our species. The reason it has staggered me is that the vast majority of folk, at least in western culture, downplay sex incredibly. It’s not just one side of the fence that does it, either.
Most of us will agree that there is a huge swath of libertarian thought that regards sex as inconsequential recreation, like golf or poker. Most of us will also agree that, at least on the surface of it, men are the dominating force behind this viewpoint. Obviously this cheapens sex, and it’s been a major thorn in the side of conservative thought for a long time, because sex is fun, and it seduces us away from good old family values (sound of monocle being adjusted).
Conservatives, however, cheapen sex in their own, albeit subtler, way. In their view, sexual activity itself is not important; it is control of that activity that is important. Abstain until marriage. Be monogamous in marriage. Don’t look at porn. If you must be deviant, do so within your marriage and don’t tell us about it. Sexual attraction is ranked below nearly everything else in terms of marital compatibility. As a result of this viewpoint, sexuality is rendered moot at best, and vilified at worst.
Both sides do what they do for a reason. Our sex drives are powerful and nearly uncontrollable; affairs happen all the time, chastity is practically unheard of, and even people in positions where sexual fidelity or chastity are required (such as political office or religious leadership), you don’t go for more than a few months without hearing about some character who couldn’t keep his or her pants on—like this lady, whose firm stance against gay marriage (and the gay community in general) didn’t stop her from having an extramarital affair.
On the left side, it’s scary to think that something so instinctual could have such a dramatic impact on our lives. Beyond the obvious consequences of sex—kids, diseases, giving off strange odors after your lunch break—there are a myriad more complicated issues, like the effect sex has on a friendship, the psychological impact of sex (and the lack of it), the inevitable interaction of multiple sexual partners, and whether that girl you diddled last week will EVER STOP TEXTING YOU. They play it off as meaningless and insignificant because otherwise they have to acknowledge that there are forces beyond their control having a massive impact on their lives, which goes against a lifestyle of freedom.
On the right side, there are rules and traditions to be upheld. Sex, even of the fun variety, is not forbidden by most western religions, so it must be carefully regulated to prevent those carnal desires from seducing people into debauchery, which threatens the traditional institutions upon which their viewpoint is based. If sex is downplayed, it can be more easily stifled through fear and stigma. How can you say that you were attracted to her because she was pretty? You awful, awful man! You want to have sex with him? You whore!
Contrary to both of these viewpoints, the primary instinctual drives in every species are reproduction and self-preservation (except for giant pandas, who have apparently given up on existing and refuse both to eat anything they’re supposed to and mate with anything even resembling a panda). Sex and staying alive are the most basic ways we connect with each other; even if a man isn’t gay, he’ll still talk about sex with his fellow men. Movies, television, novels, music… these mediums are all saturated with romance and people shooting the bad guy. Sex is massively important, and it’s part of everyone’s life, like it or not.
I don’t really know how people deal with it outside the Church, but in there we lived in constant denial of our sexuality. As a man, I know that I have sexual thoughts; but I would only share them in the context of my “sinful nature”. I would never tell somebody within the church that I am attracted to men, because merely having the thoughts is regarded as a sin. Even today I am plagued with the occasional doubt that I am not normal, but merely a deviant, and that given the ability to know what was in their heads, I would be ashamed. Denial is a powerful force.
But not as powerful as sex.