State of the Relationship Address: Call me Jena!

As my partner slid her hands beneath my dress, pushing it up around my waist, I asked “Will you call me Jena?” This is something I had wanted for a long time but for whatever reason the femme side of my gender was rarely on display during my sexual encounters with her. She complied, but I could sense a little unease in her voice as she said my name. So I took over referring to myself in femme ways and relaxing into a roll I so desperately wanted to fill. Doing this for the first time and accepting that part of me was exciting and liberating. Everything inside me had been leading in this direction.

After this experience, I asked my partner how she felt using my femme name (admittedly, something I should have done beforehand). For a little background, my partner is a cis-woman and as straight as they come. By my telling of it, she has never found any part of a woman attractive in any significant way. She is attracted to male-bodied me and yet has been supportive of me wearing whatever female clothing I desire in private or in public.

Still, she said using a femme name for me was not something with which she was comfortable. It did not create any attraction for her. Quite the contrary, I got the impression that it created a kind of repellant visceral response (the opposite of attraction basically).

I want to be clear that I do not fault her for it in any way. While I think there are aspects of attraction that we can control and help shape, there is also a part of desire that cannot be forced. Accepting this duality has been central to my own journey of exploring sexual attraction and even gender identity. I accept and support her boundaries.

Additionally, for about two years we have had an agreement that I could be with other queer folks sexually. For this arrangement I would be non monogamous and she would be monogamous. This was actually her idea initially and one which she mentioned a couple of times before I actually accepted it as a viable possibility. We did this because I wanted to continue exploring my queerdom and retain my visibility as a queer person.  

During that time of being able to “date” (or whatever you want to call it) other folks I had talked to many folks but none who could muster up any interest that went much past the tip of their genitalia. I also found it hard to believe that my partner was one hundred percent okay with this arrangement. Accordingly, I didn’t want to proceed full steam ahead and do irreparable damage to our relationship. As a result, I had only been with one other person who was a dear friend of mine on one occasion.

So when I initially heard that she couldn’t accept calling me Jena I was worried but knew that perhaps I could still explore this aspect of me with others. I felt like I still had a lifeline and an outlet in which to revel in who I was becoming. A week or two later this too came to an end.

My partner told me that while our relationship arrangement made logical sense to her that she couldn’t accept it on an emotional level. Now that she had discovered and spoke her truth, I was happy to focus instead on monogamy. The clarity of monogamy has always felt reassuring and I find simplicity and beauty in the practice.

All of this creates a number of quandaries for me. Is my femme side in any form a problem for her that will eventually surface? For now, I am aware of the possibility, but am accepting that I have heard the truth as best as she currently knows it and am proceeding accordingly. 

The larger issue for me is that now that I am monogamous can I express my femininity in such a way that is still fulfilling for me while not being off putting to my partner? Is it possible to walk this line and leave everyone happy or will tending to her boundaries squelch my identity? Furthermore, is it even reasonable to walk a line at all where gender identity is concerned? Isn’t it more preferable to be who I want and need to be and let the chips fall where they may?

I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers, or any answers, but I do want to talk about what I have discovered while wrestling with these questions.

Realizing My Femme Side

In my past, I had kept my femininity shutoff from the outside world. I was closeted on purpose. Growing up I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand virtually any queer issues nor did they make an attempt. They mainly ridiculed and disparaged those who were different. Twenty some odd years ago, I shared a few pics with the person who was my first spouse. They were of me wearing her undergarments. Later when she was upset about something, she said, “I leave for a week and the first thing you do is dress up in my underwear.” I didn’t know exactly what this meant as it didn’t pertain to the argument at the time but I got the picture. I was expected to knock it the fuck off. 

I had reached out to someone I thought I could trust and I received a scolding that was the death knell to me living openly with her. I didn’t want to experience that again and in small minded (I mean small town) America it was sure to happen each time I tried to publicly become who I needed to be.

So I kept it all under wraps. I dressed in femme ways only when I was alone and my partner was gone. I never mentioned it to her again. Later with other partners I was able to bring this side of me to life but mainly did so only in the bedroom; the most private of spaces.

This year though I have started wearing women’s clothes (pants and shorts) out in public. It is still less than I would like to wear, but it is a process and I am in the middle of it. Still, dressing with femme clothes in public is removing the secrecy around my gender. It is helping to give me some visibility as a queer person.

Likewise, when I was chatting with folks on dating apps I was leaving it up to people to call me by my masculine name or my femme name. Those who chose my femme name lightened my step. It felt foreign to be called Jena but it also resonated with me and made me happy. Having this quality in my life makes me feel more rounded and gives me visibility as a queer person. It’s as if my figurative masculine edges are being sanded down a bit. I like that.

What I’ve Learned . . . Kinda

This revelation is another step in understanding where I have been and in some ways where I am at now. My desire to be femme during intimacy was because I had kept this side of me in relative secrecy. I’m curious to see if having the femme me on display in public will erase the need to be referred to this way occasionally by my partner. If this is the case then I’m not walking any figurative line at all. Problem solved.

Conversely, if I still have the urge to be more femme than my partner can handle then it will be unfair to myself to continue walking someone else’s path. It seems as if this is the more likely outcome. While dressing femme in private led me to also dress in public, the occurrence of the latter has not diminished the occurrence of the former. So it seemingly follows that using my femme name in public is still going to be something I desire during intimate moments as well, though that experiment has yet to be conducted.

It must be admitted though that in a monogamous relationship that one half of the experiment is missing. I can’t use my femme name during intimacy to see how much I need to express that part of me. I just have to wait and see if I think I want it used. If I do, the relationship will end and I’ll have to hope that I was correct and that I didn’t make the wrong choice. It has become a much larger burden under monogamy than it was previously.

I used to feel as if I had a clean slate to explore and write down who I wanted to be. Now the surface of my slate is hemmed in with words to direct my path. I can write down who I am so long as I do not obscure parts of the slate which already contain the writing of others.

Keep in mind, I’m not asking to go back to nonmonogamy. That didn’t work and anyway, I don’t need it. It’s just that now I don’t know how to proceed. However, proceed I must because there is no other option before me.

I have had a difficult time writing this because I do not truly know where I stand. Each line I put down on the page feels shaky and dangerous. How much of what I write here is being constrained by the boundaries of my partner and by my fears? Truthfully, I do not know. Only time will reveal that answer. I have tried to be as kind and yet truthful as possible. I know that being gender fluid is firmly a part of me. I’m unpacking it piece by piece and while it feels good to do so, I’m scared of the consequences that my thoughts on this page could have in my current relationship. Seeing it all typed out here is less than reassuring.

If the romantic aspect of our relationship does not survive then it is no one’s fault. In fact, it will be for the best of all possible reasons. That my gender identity does not line up with her sexual attraction is certainly no one’s fault. It is just one of those unfortunate things which can occur as people grow.

For now, my partner says she is comfortable with me dressing in femme clothes and is good with incorporating these clothes into our intimacy. This gives me hope and currently I could use a little more of that.

Happy Pi Day!

If you aren’t familiar with Kimchi Cuddles, I highly suggest checking out some of her comics spreading awareness about poly, queer, and genderqueer issues in the most hilarious way possible.

piday

Growing up as a polyamorous person stuck in monogamous relationships, I never knew how to explain that my interest in another never took away from the love I had for my partner. This comic hits the nail on the head for me.

 

~~Merasmin~~

State of the Relationship Address: The saga begins

queer_house

I should have wrote this two months ago, because I can already feel myself shifting from this position, but this is where I was then.

—-+—-

Alright folks, gather round fer some truth tellin. So here’s what I know about my relationship situation so far.

I met my first wife when I was 17 years old. When that relationship ended I immediately (like next day immediately) started dating my second wife. Was that smart? Probably not, but you’re falling behind already so try and keep up. So, I’ve been in two concurrent relationships for the last 21 years which means that I only had sex with two people (perhaps shallow but relevant later). I’m now going through my second divorce and as far as break-ups go it’s one of the best. It would seriously go down in the record books for how well we get along and how we immediately moved into being friends.

I’m not afraid to be vulnerable again and in fact I’ve already put my heart in harm’s way a couple of times and I’m better for the experience. However, I have no desire to settle into anything similar to the type of relationship that I recently ended. Not yet. It would be too much too soon. Plus I’ve never really dated so I want to enjoy that experience for awhile.

So where does that leave me? Well, it means that for the moment I don’t want a monogamous relationship. Part of me feels that non-monogamy will be less serious. Not because it is necessarily so, there are some very serious open-relationships out there. However, there seems to be more non-monogamous people who are willing to accept casual as a viable choice. The other is that I want to experience sex in a multitude of forms and with more than one person for awhile. I settled down so fast that I was never able to explore. If it happens that I find myself with one person again I want to do so knowing that I was able to venture in my own way for awhile. I do have a few things to check off of my sex bucket list. (Sex Bucket! Coming to a store near you!) This means that I don’t expect my partners to be monogamous either. This little bit is pretty much all I know. Although, it’s not a bad start.

My unknowns are vast at this point. Mainly because I’ve never done this type of thing before and society doesn’t write the script for this relationship style. Quite the contrary it is generally frowned upon.

Among the many things that I wonder is how long should these relationships last? Sometimes I feel like it would be better to have shorter relationships in order to make sure I don’t enter into anything too serious before I’m ready, but I can’t reasonably guard against that without being unreasonable to my partners. “Sorry we have a really cool thing going, but it’s been 6 months so we have to stop.” I don’t want that to be my style either.

That brings up the question of whether my ultimate choice for a relationship will be one of monogamy or non-monogamy. The choices I’m making now could very much influence my future. I have to consider the chance that I’ll find one or two people so special that I want to try and live out the rest of my existence with them before I ever officially make a choice.

I don’t know if any of this really seems like a struggle to any of you, but all of this stuff is bouncing around in my head on a near daily basis. I’m trying to be open to all of the possibilities and not force anything, but it’s easier said than done.

Does Polyamory Make Sense for Me?

I wondered what to do with this writing. It provides a snapshot into one particular time of my polyamorous relationship. I figure that there might be other people going through this same situation and maybe they can glean something from it. I can’t say whether that will be a positive thing or a negative, but then maybe that is precisely the value of this story; it’s interpretation can be left to you the reader.

I used to find a lot of stories from the polyamorous trenches, but they always touted the value of being poly. Rarely did I encounter one that laid bare the doubts someone was experiencing as they experienced them. There was always an undercurrent in the culture that made it feel like if someone was expressing doubts then they hadn’t conquered enough of their demons yet. Those people were doing poly wrong. I call bullshit on that.

What I do know is that if this helps you in your poly relationship then run with it my non-conventional brothers and sisters. If it makes you decide that polyamory isn’t for you then so be it. I really don’t care which way it moves you, just that you do whatever is right for you.

I wrote this seven months into our polyamorous arrangement and two months before my wife and I decided to get a divorce. While my marriage didn’t work, keep in mind this is not a necessary blueprint for every couple deciding to venture down the same path. Your results will vary.

In retrospect, I was right to have my doubts, but I had placed too much faith in my wife’s proclamation of polyamorous happiness. In reality, she was happy because she had found someone else she liked better. As it turns out, she’s now in a monogamous relationship with the guy she was seeing while we were married. Her thoughts on this are that she thinks she wanted a polyamorous relationship because something was missing. It’s hard to argue otherwise given the results.

I don’t hold any ill will for those involved. In fact, I wish her and her partner the best of luck. I hope she’s found the one this time. My entire relationship with her was a grand experiment and we knew that from the start. I would do it all again (maybe sans marriage) because it was one of the most beautiful times in my life. I was able to spend three glorious years with someone I loved dearly and I learned so much about myself in the process. That’s a definite win in my book.

So given all of that, here is what I wrote one night on my phone when I couldn’t sleep:

Polyamory makes so much sense and gives a viable alternative to the dominant culture out there. I love polyamory on an intellectual level, practically speaking I’m not so sure.

Truth be told I’m in a polyamorous relationship even though I’m only seeing one person. The thing is my wife has another partner which I have been intellectually supportive of and yet I’m having some emotional trouble with simultaneously.

My conundrum lies with the fact that I’m not sure if this is what I want. It’s possible that I could meet somebody and fall in love with them at the same time that I love my wife. It sounds great except that it hasn’t happened for me yet. Plus, I don’t know if I really want this to happen with my partner and yet it has.

My finding someone isn’t for a lack of trying. I’ve been on dates with men and women but either I haven’t wanted to continue or they haven’t. In the situations where they ended it I was hurt and yes I cried. I didn’t shed tears over the person, I wasn’t super into any of them anyway, but rather the idea that I won’t be able to find someone at all. Moreover that I will always be caught out in a situation where my wife is happily partnered with another, but I won’t be. Right now my present and seeming future with polyamory has been to be the one sacrificing while receiving none of the positive things that I was hopeful would come with it.

Is there something that makes me undateable aside from the fact that I’m a middle age man who is married?

What if I can’t connect to someone because I’m not wired that way? What if I only want to love one person and for that person to be devoted to me? I don’t know if these are really statements of how things are. I can say that they are legitimate fears of mine because if these concerns are true then I have no reason to doubt that I would be happiest in a monogamous relationship.

Meanwhile, my wife says she’s never been happier and while I know that means it’s because she’s getting to express an aspect of her personality through polyamory that had long been silent, it’s still hurtful. It signifies that for everything great and wonderful we had, that it wasn’t as good as having her other partner as well. It makes me wonder if I’m not enough and if I ever was.

We always used to say that if we had to stop dating tomorrow that we could go back to having just each other and be perfectly happy. We didn’t know it then but that was a lie. Certain things have become clearer as we’ve moved along.

The first is that you can’t just stop loving another person. I can’t ask my wife to stop seeing her other partner, it wouldn’t be fair to him or to her. Her relationship with him happened under all of our watches and I knew going into this that there was no going back. My wife loves without abandon and she falls hard and fast for someone. It’s one of the reasons that polyamory suits her so well. On top of that she’s wonderfully intelligent, emotionally aware and a truly beautiful person inside and out. It was only a short matter of time before she found someone who would want to be with her and share in that. I also knew that they would both be in love in very short order. That’s how it happened to me after all.

We don’t practice hierarchical polyamory. So we try and keep everyone’s relationship on the same level as much as possible. Just as her partner couldn’t rightfully ask her to stop loving me, I can’t ask her to stop loving or seeing him. The genie is already out of the bottle, consequences be damned.

The second thing is that she couldn’t be happy with just me. Not really, not anymore. I can tell something has changed. It would be like a gay person trying to go back in the closet after feeling the liberation of being out. She is polyamorous and that’s that. Even if I could stop her, presuming I wanted to, she would always harbor a resentment for me and a longing for that aspect of her life back. I would be the reason for her misery and I love her too much for that.

No, polyamory is here to stay. That much I have to accept.

This brings me around again to my central thesis which is what am I? Polyamorous? Monogamous?

Sometimes I catch myself wanting to pull away. I have thoughts about how it might occur that I can’t take it anymore. Sometimes those thoughts culminate in me leaving. Other times, I just imagine how I will break down and wonder if I can ever recover again. Is this purely an emotional response or a way of my mind telling me that it can’t operate this way? Culture certainly hasn’t groomed me to accept polyamory. Does knowing that my partner has another person keep me from loving her as much as I could?

I don’t have any clue. For now all I have are haunting questions that I’m not sure I really want answered just yet.

Getting Dumped, Kind Of: A story of honesty

For those of you who don’t know I’m currently choosing to date non- monogamously. For some of you this probably sounds great because I can have multiple partners. This is technically true, but it hasn’t really worked out that way for more than a week or two at a time. This brings me to the other part of being non-monogamous, that you may not have considered, which is that I end up getting dumped more often.

This just happened to me ten minutes ago (at least at the time of this writing). Here’s the skinny: I met someone online and reading her profile was like reading my own in many ways so I reached out to her and we clicked. On our date it was awesome. We met with a long hug. We laughed and shared intimate moments of our existence with one another such as how she doesn’t share her phone number with people until she can trust them. When I moved closer to her just for the sake of it she closed the gap, kissed me and then told me how great it was. Later upon kissing her neck she moaned. The night was over in a flash, but we had talked for 6 hours. When I walked her to her car we held hands and kissed goodbye.

I sent her a message later that night with my phone number. I told her that she didn’t have to use it until she was ready and that we could use the dating app until that moment arrived. She replied with a text telling me that I had beat her to it.

I was in, or so I thought. The day before our next date she sent me a text to say that our distance was an issue (20 miles) and that a relationship she had with a guy in the same town as me hadn’t worked for that reason. I called bullshit (in my head) on both fronts and decided to remove that excuse. I knew she wanted out and that I wasn’t going to change her mind; so be it, but I wanted to know the truth. I told her if that was all there is to it I could be the one to come see her each time. Of course, such a one-sided solution is not a tenable situation for any relationship, but I was just gambling and cutting through her fake answer.

It worked. “To be honest,” she said, (for the second time) “I was trying to make it easier by saying that. I’m just not feeling it.”

I told her I accepted that and thanked her for being honest. Just knowing the real reason helped me to put most of the situation behind me immediately. I don’t know what to make of everything else that happened, but now that I have the truth, somehow I don’t have to.