Back in the cabin again!

I’m typing this blog post in front of a huge picture window overlooking a temperate rainforest in rural Washington state, which means I’m back at the cabin where Eve Rickert and I wrote our polyamory book More Than Two. The cabin kitty, Whiskers, has been happy to see us, and has scarcely stopped begging for treats since we got here.

This time, I’m here to write my memoir, The Game Changer, about my relationship with my partner Shelly and the many and varied ways it changed my life. Poly folks–especially those of us who are poly activists–tend to be salesmen for polyamory, which means we don’t really talk about the ways polyamory can be disruptive…even when we have years of experience and think we have a pretty good bead on how to make it work.

A lot of folks contributed to the croudfunding of this book, and yet, I’m feeling kinda stuck. For years, I’ve written about the lessons I’ve learned and the conclusions I’ve come to, without really writing about how I got there. Now, in this memoir, I’m trying to write something very different from anything I’ve done before: I’m trying to write the personal story of how I came to be who I am, and how I learned the things I’ve learned. And it’s really hard! They say you get good at what you practice. I haven’t practiced this kind of writing.

And that means, for the first time I can remember, I’m grappling with imposter syndrome. I know you all helped support this book financially, and that means you want to read it…and I don’t want to let you down. But I am struggling with how to write this book.

So, for those of you who want to read The Game Changer, I would love if you could tell me a bit about why you want to read it. I’m trying to get this thing out of my head and into the computer, and I could use your encouragement.

Whiskers and I both thank you.

18 thoughts on “Back in the cabin again!

  1. Write it for us newbies.

    I don’t have years of experience with polyamory, and I don’t have a good sense of how to make it work. I have a few good skills, but I’m seriously lacking in other skill sets. I’m finding being poly quite disruptive at the moment, and while I supported the funding campaign, I am almost afraid to read your book. If the guy who maintains a leading blog, and co-wrote the latest book on ethical polyamory is going to tell me how disruptive being poly was for him, then what hope do I have to sort this stuff out?

    My point is – write it for those of us who are thrashing around in the weeds with good intentions but who are also kind of clueless. Write it for people like me who understand broad principles much better with actual concrete examples of how that works in practice. Even better – with concrete examples of what happens when you don’t put them into practice.

  2. Write it for us newbies.

    I don’t have years of experience with polyamory, and I don’t have a good sense of how to make it work. I have a few good skills, but I’m seriously lacking in other skill sets. I’m finding being poly quite disruptive at the moment, and while I supported the funding campaign, I am almost afraid to read your book. If the guy who maintains a leading blog, and co-wrote the latest book on ethical polyamory is going to tell me how disruptive being poly was for him, then what hope do I have to sort this stuff out?

    My point is – write it for those of us who are thrashing around in the weeds with good intentions but who are also kind of clueless. Write it for people like me who understand broad principles much better with actual concrete examples of how that works in practice. Even better – with concrete examples of what happens when you don’t put them into practice.

  3. Aw, hello, Whiskers!

    Personally, I’d like to read the book, because — as you said — poly writing tends to focus on either the trainwrecks to avoid, or the joys to be found . . . without really narrating what it’s like to live as a poly person on a day-to-day basis. Writing an honest, and sometimes rueful, account of what did and didn’t work would bring something to the field that doesn’t currently exist.

    And, having experienced a game-changing relationship myself, I’d like to hear more about how you handled it (I have the sketchy outline, from reading your LJ for years and reading “More Than Two,” but those weren’t necessarily always very personal.) For me, it wound up ending a 12-year relationship that had been rocky for some time, because I now knew what it *could* be like, and wasn’t willing to stay in a situation that was extremely personally stifling.

    But I also felt like I had to dance around the idea that I left my ex “for someone else,” because that wasn’t the case. Neither did I “start a relationship with the next partner while ending the older relationship,” as if people could be used as buffers to ease discomfort.

    My relationships with my other partners were critically important in my decision, but they also had co-existed with the relationship with my ex for years, so it didn’t make sense to say that I left him *for* them . . . but the existence of those relationships, the emotional and logistical support that they provided, and the glimpse into how relationships could be conducted without walking on eggshells around someone else’s temper — those things absolutely tipped the balance.

    So, personally, I’d be interested in seeing how you can explain the way that a game-changer can revolutionize the way you see the world, and can help you move into a healthier and happier headspace . . . but how those changes can sometimes torpedo existing relationships, rather than serving as an impetus to galvanize positive change in those relationships. (Not everyone wants to make positive change, especially if it means breaking years of bad habits.)

    Wishing you the best of luck in writing this — I understand why it’s difficult — and sending encouragement. I think you’ll do a great job 🙂

    Best wishes,

    — A <3

  4. Aw, hello, Whiskers!

    Personally, I’d like to read the book, because — as you said — poly writing tends to focus on either the trainwrecks to avoid, or the joys to be found . . . without really narrating what it’s like to live as a poly person on a day-to-day basis. Writing an honest, and sometimes rueful, account of what did and didn’t work would bring something to the field that doesn’t currently exist.

    And, having experienced a game-changing relationship myself, I’d like to hear more about how you handled it (I have the sketchy outline, from reading your LJ for years and reading “More Than Two,” but those weren’t necessarily always very personal.) For me, it wound up ending a 12-year relationship that had been rocky for some time, because I now knew what it *could* be like, and wasn’t willing to stay in a situation that was extremely personally stifling.

    But I also felt like I had to dance around the idea that I left my ex “for someone else,” because that wasn’t the case. Neither did I “start a relationship with the next partner while ending the older relationship,” as if people could be used as buffers to ease discomfort.

    My relationships with my other partners were critically important in my decision, but they also had co-existed with the relationship with my ex for years, so it didn’t make sense to say that I left him *for* them . . . but the existence of those relationships, the emotional and logistical support that they provided, and the glimpse into how relationships could be conducted without walking on eggshells around someone else’s temper — those things absolutely tipped the balance.

    So, personally, I’d be interested in seeing how you can explain the way that a game-changer can revolutionize the way you see the world, and can help you move into a healthier and happier headspace . . . but how those changes can sometimes torpedo existing relationships, rather than serving as an impetus to galvanize positive change in those relationships. (Not everyone wants to make positive change, especially if it means breaking years of bad habits.)

    Wishing you the best of luck in writing this — I understand why it’s difficult — and sending encouragement. I think you’ll do a great job 🙂

    Best wishes,

    — A <3

  5. I’ll take a stab at it. There aren’t many people in this world who go through essentially a 180 degree shift in personal philosophy. It takes relentless self-examination, questioning, assessment of results of premises, and a willingness to admit that a previously held belief was *wrong* for themselves. You’ve detailed out the results of your self-assessment journey, but not the sparks that started the thought process, or the early realizations that drove you to begin to question the “why” of the path you were on. I think (and you’ve written about) how you were essentially poly from a young age, but then chose to fit yourself into society’s idea of what a marriage was. Why did you do that?

    What were the pressures that drove you to ask for a modification to your marriage contract? What were the actions/reactions/lightbulb moments that started you down the road back to your original self?

    You’re being asked to write the story of a man returning to a self truth that he tried to deny, and the first steps that helped him complete that journey. Perhaps starting with why you chose to try to fit yourself into a mold that wasn’t ever going to work for you would help.

  6. I’ll take a stab at it. There aren’t many people in this world who go through essentially a 180 degree shift in personal philosophy. It takes relentless self-examination, questioning, assessment of results of premises, and a willingness to admit that a previously held belief was *wrong* for themselves. You’ve detailed out the results of your self-assessment journey, but not the sparks that started the thought process, or the early realizations that drove you to begin to question the “why” of the path you were on. I think (and you’ve written about) how you were essentially poly from a young age, but then chose to fit yourself into society’s idea of what a marriage was. Why did you do that?

    What were the pressures that drove you to ask for a modification to your marriage contract? What were the actions/reactions/lightbulb moments that started you down the road back to your original self?

    You’re being asked to write the story of a man returning to a self truth that he tried to deny, and the first steps that helped him complete that journey. Perhaps starting with why you chose to try to fit yourself into a mold that wasn’t ever going to work for you would help.

  7. game changers

    … trying to identify the things that speak to me. if i think of my shift from monogamy to polyamory, it might be easy to identify a catalyst/game-changer person or experience ~ i met a poly family; our kids became friends… our families grew close, and along the way, i fell in love with one of the husbands and it was mutual, and i was surprised to have an in-love happen while i was also still in love with my husband ~ in-love is supposed to be sequential, not concurrent, right? what the hell? yet the catalyst (i.e. meeting a poly family) leads to other situations, conversations, and ponderings that let me find pieces of myself that i hadn’t previously seen, or pieces of myself that i had knowingly or unknowingly set aside & never watered, so they didn’t sprout.

    to me, the catalyst is just the context to understand the environment that leads someone to question their own paradigms, cultural norms, and/or find or create new beliefs. and the catalyst is the jumping-off point for the internal and external conversations and work that lead us into transitions where there’s no going back.

    each time there’s been a catalyst in my life, it can seem like i changed to someone so very very different than i was. yet my core values have been pretty consistent throughout my life. even the shift from monogamy to polyamory reflected how i ran every platonic friendship in my life, since childhood. for me, romantic love has a core of best-friendship, so i had to question why i’d expect and implement aspects of romantic love in ways that are more limiting than platonic love? pondering about that led me to interpret some existing values more broadly; to identify that there are more ways to implement some existing values than i realized…etc.

    while some catalysts might change core values, for me it’s been more common to see catalysts that led me closer to who i already was. for each catalyst, people initially tell me how different i am about whatever i’ve changed. and yet… each person also says that actually, i’ve been this way all along. most changes have been shifts that are still so very consistent with my existing values, that in some ways, nothing changed ~ i’m just applying the values differently. and in changing, other questions follow, like snowballs grow, or water ripples, or like dominoes fall.

    maybe that’s not saying anything different about game-changers, yet i guess my personal interest is more in the snowballs, ripples, and dominoes. it’s also interesting to see how people come to terms with the guilt and endings that sometimes happen as a result of transitions. finding peace that some people are in our lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime, and accepting the value of each. in my work, i hear many people’s stories, often based on a catalyst experience. i love to hear about the ripples, and how the changes seem different and yet still connected to who the person always was. i love to hear where they’re heading in their internal ponderings and external work, and why they want to go there. i love to hear what life values fit them, why and what they chose to change, and see how the changes so often reflect who they already are. i love witnessing how people re-shape themselves to be more true to themselves.

    for me, the transition from monogamy to polyamory changed our marriage and family in significant ways, and yet it also reflected how i’ve run every platonic connection in my life. so much changed, in a way that reflects so much also being the same as i ever was.
    ~~~~~
    when i look at catalysts in my life, some stand out vividly. and yet when i look closely, other catalysts have been less visible, yet just as crucial. i can’t say what’s true for you and Shelly and your ex-wife, or anyone else, yet maybe some of your other loves might also be game-changers in other ways? moving across country for love?… the life shifts involved in writing a book with Eve? it seems like the extraordinary vivid catalysts and the less visible catalysts often reflect each other, and that interests me ~ the willingness to question our premises and beliefs and values in little things enables us to also question the bigger things, and vice versa. to me, it becomes a loop of growing the garden that is our selves. that journey captures me.

  8. game changers

    … trying to identify the things that speak to me. if i think of my shift from monogamy to polyamory, it might be easy to identify a catalyst/game-changer person or experience ~ i met a poly family; our kids became friends… our families grew close, and along the way, i fell in love with one of the husbands and it was mutual, and i was surprised to have an in-love happen while i was also still in love with my husband ~ in-love is supposed to be sequential, not concurrent, right? what the hell? yet the catalyst (i.e. meeting a poly family) leads to other situations, conversations, and ponderings that let me find pieces of myself that i hadn’t previously seen, or pieces of myself that i had knowingly or unknowingly set aside & never watered, so they didn’t sprout.

    to me, the catalyst is just the context to understand the environment that leads someone to question their own paradigms, cultural norms, and/or find or create new beliefs. and the catalyst is the jumping-off point for the internal and external conversations and work that lead us into transitions where there’s no going back.

    each time there’s been a catalyst in my life, it can seem like i changed to someone so very very different than i was. yet my core values have been pretty consistent throughout my life. even the shift from monogamy to polyamory reflected how i ran every platonic friendship in my life, since childhood. for me, romantic love has a core of best-friendship, so i had to question why i’d expect and implement aspects of romantic love in ways that are more limiting than platonic love? pondering about that led me to interpret some existing values more broadly; to identify that there are more ways to implement some existing values than i realized…etc.

    while some catalysts might change core values, for me it’s been more common to see catalysts that led me closer to who i already was. for each catalyst, people initially tell me how different i am about whatever i’ve changed. and yet… each person also says that actually, i’ve been this way all along. most changes have been shifts that are still so very consistent with my existing values, that in some ways, nothing changed ~ i’m just applying the values differently. and in changing, other questions follow, like snowballs grow, or water ripples, or like dominoes fall.

    maybe that’s not saying anything different about game-changers, yet i guess my personal interest is more in the snowballs, ripples, and dominoes. it’s also interesting to see how people come to terms with the guilt and endings that sometimes happen as a result of transitions. finding peace that some people are in our lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime, and accepting the value of each. in my work, i hear many people’s stories, often based on a catalyst experience. i love to hear about the ripples, and how the changes seem different and yet still connected to who the person always was. i love to hear where they’re heading in their internal ponderings and external work, and why they want to go there. i love to hear what life values fit them, why and what they chose to change, and see how the changes so often reflect who they already are. i love witnessing how people re-shape themselves to be more true to themselves.

    for me, the transition from monogamy to polyamory changed our marriage and family in significant ways, and yet it also reflected how i’ve run every platonic connection in my life. so much changed, in a way that reflects so much also being the same as i ever was.
    ~~~~~
    when i look at catalysts in my life, some stand out vividly. and yet when i look closely, other catalysts have been less visible, yet just as crucial. i can’t say what’s true for you and Shelly and your ex-wife, or anyone else, yet maybe some of your other loves might also be game-changers in other ways? moving across country for love?… the life shifts involved in writing a book with Eve? it seems like the extraordinary vivid catalysts and the less visible catalysts often reflect each other, and that interests me ~ the willingness to question our premises and beliefs and values in little things enables us to also question the bigger things, and vice versa. to me, it becomes a loop of growing the garden that is our selves. that journey captures me.

  9. Don’t write for me.

    Forget the audience.

    Writing for is mannered and tends to shallow.

    Instead write the thing that scares you. More than two was the book you wished you had.

    Maybe you should make this book the apologizes you wish you could have understood how to make. To the ladies involved and to the person you used to be and destroyed to become the person you are now.

    It will probably not get you to publishable, it might get you to honest though. One you have an honest core… then you have something real.

    But something you write for me? It will probably never feel right for either one of us.

  10. Don’t write for me.

    Forget the audience.

    Writing for is mannered and tends to shallow.

    Instead write the thing that scares you. More than two was the book you wished you had.

    Maybe you should make this book the apologizes you wish you could have understood how to make. To the ladies involved and to the person you used to be and destroyed to become the person you are now.

    It will probably not get you to publishable, it might get you to honest though. One you have an honest core… then you have something real.

    But something you write for me? It will probably never feel right for either one of us.

  11. steps to change

    I think it takes a special person or at least a special awareness of yourself to make a conscious decision to make a large change in so much of you life. What were those ‘seeds’ (as someone above mentioned) and was there something about the combination of them that spoke to you about a change being needed. Not just a ‘new, shiny’ motivation for change, but a thoughtful decision based upon all of those ‘seeds’ that gave the impetus to make a change.
    Many changes in peoples’ lives come from the pressure cooker exploding; being able to recognize the building pressure is key to doing a change like this in a thoughtful, caring way before the explosion. What about YOU made those particular seeds drive you to change? How can people recognize when the pressure gets too high that they need to do something constructive rather than destructive to the people involved. How did you weigh the trade-offs in changing vs striking out into this new territory. What MADE THE CASE for you to do it? How did you work out how to minimize the pain to everyone involved; did you do that jointly or mostly in your own mind?
    Talk to us about how your communication processes with the important people in your life changed over time; when could you (or should have ) start to feel that you and the others were ‘holding back’ and starting to live behind a mask? What were the things that pushed each of you behind a mask (assuming that happened); ‘I wish you wouldn’t…’, ‘no, I don’t want…’, etc. Denying someone close to you the space to do what they want forces them behind a mask; those things don’t go away.

    A bit of a ramble, but Good luck!
    Terry

  12. steps to change

    I think it takes a special person or at least a special awareness of yourself to make a conscious decision to make a large change in so much of you life. What were those ‘seeds’ (as someone above mentioned) and was there something about the combination of them that spoke to you about a change being needed. Not just a ‘new, shiny’ motivation for change, but a thoughtful decision based upon all of those ‘seeds’ that gave the impetus to make a change.
    Many changes in peoples’ lives come from the pressure cooker exploding; being able to recognize the building pressure is key to doing a change like this in a thoughtful, caring way before the explosion. What about YOU made those particular seeds drive you to change? How can people recognize when the pressure gets too high that they need to do something constructive rather than destructive to the people involved. How did you weigh the trade-offs in changing vs striking out into this new territory. What MADE THE CASE for you to do it? How did you work out how to minimize the pain to everyone involved; did you do that jointly or mostly in your own mind?
    Talk to us about how your communication processes with the important people in your life changed over time; when could you (or should have ) start to feel that you and the others were ‘holding back’ and starting to live behind a mask? What were the things that pushed each of you behind a mask (assuming that happened); ‘I wish you wouldn’t…’, ‘no, I don’t want…’, etc. Denying someone close to you the space to do what they want forces them behind a mask; those things don’t go away.

    A bit of a ramble, but Good luck!
    Terry

  13. Reject your reality

    What comes to mind for me is the quote popularised by Adam Savage on Mythbusters: I reject your reality and substitute my own.

    As others have said already, clearly at the beginning you did try to fit yourself into the mould that society said was The Right Way To Live (thou shalt marry and be monogamous, and success is defined as the relationship killing one of you). Now you’ve written your own reality — and described that “new reality” in detail both online and in a book.

    Clearly this was not an overnight transformation brought upon by being struck by lightning/bitten by a spider/$OTHER_SUPERHERO_METAPHOR. Instead it clearly comes from a place of deconstructing your model of the world around you, and rebuilding that model anew in a different pattern.

    I think there are many that wish they lived in a different reality. But do not always realise that to a lesser or greater extent that “different reality” is theirs to construct from the pieces they already have, the choices they make, and the model through which they perceive the world. Or maybe do realise that, but it looks like an “impossible” thing to do given the context of their lives, or perceived impact on others around them.

    So I want to hear about that process of deconstruction of “reality” and rebuilding it in a form that was better suited. Of turning the “shell” that was your world from being constraining into a shell that protects the way you want to live. And about the context in which that deconstruction/reconstruction was happening.

    Ewen

  14. Reject your reality

    What comes to mind for me is the quote popularised by Adam Savage on Mythbusters: I reject your reality and substitute my own.

    As others have said already, clearly at the beginning you did try to fit yourself into the mould that society said was The Right Way To Live (thou shalt marry and be monogamous, and success is defined as the relationship killing one of you). Now you’ve written your own reality — and described that “new reality” in detail both online and in a book.

    Clearly this was not an overnight transformation brought upon by being struck by lightning/bitten by a spider/$OTHER_SUPERHERO_METAPHOR. Instead it clearly comes from a place of deconstructing your model of the world around you, and rebuilding that model anew in a different pattern.

    I think there are many that wish they lived in a different reality. But do not always realise that to a lesser or greater extent that “different reality” is theirs to construct from the pieces they already have, the choices they make, and the model through which they perceive the world. Or maybe do realise that, but it looks like an “impossible” thing to do given the context of their lives, or perceived impact on others around them.

    So I want to hear about that process of deconstruction of “reality” and rebuilding it in a form that was better suited. Of turning the “shell” that was your world from being constraining into a shell that protects the way you want to live. And about the context in which that deconstruction/reconstruction was happening.

    Ewen

  15. -I love reading detailed descriptions of people’s most personal emotions, and how those emotions interact with the situations they are in. I’m nosy like that. And it helps me understand humans in general a bit better.

    -In your writing, I always perk up a bit when you share an anecdote from your actual life. But I often wish the anecdotes continued on past where you stopped telling them.

    -Details are key to understanding something novel. Sometimes such details aren’t always included in polyamory writings. Things like who was holding hands with whom in front of which other people, and how this was perceived by all and how they felt about it.

    -I feel that the core of my personality has been pretty stable since I was 13 or so. (I am in my 30s.) So I am very very interested to get a glimpse of what it feels like to have a majorly self-changing journey in one’s adult life.

    -Did I mention I’m nosy? I want to read your story because I want to know stuff about you in particular. Because I’ve been reading your writings for awhile and want to have a clearer picture of you in my head. Basically the same reason I read interviews where celebrities talk about their hobbies and their families.

    -The concept of game-changers is fascinating to me and I’m looking forward to reading more about them. (Although I am probably much more in favor of taking deliberate steps to reduce their likelihood than you are. For instance, I actively avoid certain hobbies that I suspect would be so alluring and involving for me that I would eventually end many of my current commitments in order to pursue those hobbies.)

  16. -I love reading detailed descriptions of people’s most personal emotions, and how those emotions interact with the situations they are in. I’m nosy like that. And it helps me understand humans in general a bit better.

    -In your writing, I always perk up a bit when you share an anecdote from your actual life. But I often wish the anecdotes continued on past where you stopped telling them.

    -Details are key to understanding something novel. Sometimes such details aren’t always included in polyamory writings. Things like who was holding hands with whom in front of which other people, and how this was perceived by all and how they felt about it.

    -I feel that the core of my personality has been pretty stable since I was 13 or so. (I am in my 30s.) So I am very very interested to get a glimpse of what it feels like to have a majorly self-changing journey in one’s adult life.

    -Did I mention I’m nosy? I want to read your story because I want to know stuff about you in particular. Because I’ve been reading your writings for awhile and want to have a clearer picture of you in my head. Basically the same reason I read interviews where celebrities talk about their hobbies and their families.

    -The concept of game-changers is fascinating to me and I’m looking forward to reading more about them. (Although I am probably much more in favor of taking deliberate steps to reduce their likelihood than you are. For instance, I actively avoid certain hobbies that I suspect would be so alluring and involving for me that I would eventually end many of my current commitments in order to pursue those hobbies.)

  17. This isn’t a nice thing to say, but it’s rather relevant:

    I want to read it because you deserve a chance to tell your side of the story. Game changers sound like an excuse to break promises, and tell others that they’re unenlightened and lack emotional integrity for wanting you to keep your word. If they’re not an excuse, if they’re real, momentous things that deserve disruption, the book will prove so.

  18. This isn’t a nice thing to say, but it’s rather relevant:

    I want to read it because you deserve a chance to tell your side of the story. Game changers sound like an excuse to break promises, and tell others that they’re unenlightened and lack emotional integrity for wanting you to keep your word. If they’re not an excuse, if they’re real, momentous things that deserve disruption, the book will prove so.

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