The return of Badass McProblemsolver!

I know that you all have felt an empty, gaping void in your lives since we stopped releasing the Badass McProblemsolver videos we made for the crowdfunding campaign for the polyamory book More Than Two.

Well, weep no more. Badass McProblemsolver is back, and he’s taking on questions asked by our backers. This first installment answers a question about dealing with family members who are totally out:

Holy shit, you guys! This thing is real!

The polyamory book More Than Two my partner Eve and I have been writing is available for preorder from Amazon! It’s a monster–a 500-page book that covers everything from ethics to hierarchy to finding poly partners to dealing with insecurity to solo poly.

The foreword was written by Janet Hardy, of The Ethical Slut fame. Here’s part of what she has to say about it:

Dossie and I have been described as big sisters (if your big sister is a slutty kinky aging hippie); Franklin and Eve are more like wise neighbors. Think of the guy on the other side of the fence on Home Improvement, calm and wise and funny. Dossie and I write primarily about the sexual aspects of poly; Franklin and Eve are more interested in the day-to-day living part. Dossie and I like to indulge ourselves, just a little, in high-flown realms of abstraction and idealism; Franklin and Eve like to keep their feet on the ground.

I am really, really proud of this book. We’ve worked incredibly hard not just to make it happen, but to give concrete, real-world experiences, ours and other people’s, to illustrate what we have to say.

It’s a bit of a change for me. In my writings over the years, I’ve tended to focus on pragmatism and boots-on-the-ground poly without really talking very much about my own life and experiences. In this book, I talk more about myself and my experiences than I have anywhere else, and I’ve tried to be unflinching about the places I’ve screwed up and the things I’ve done wrong along the way.

It’s only been up for preorder for a little while and it’s already selling strongly. I have a sneaking feeling this thing might just run away from us.

Anyway, I hope you guys like it. Writing it was certainly an adventure.

Breaking up is hard to do…

In the midst of our push to finish the polyamory book More Than Two, we’ve paused just long enough to blog about a backer’s question, “What are some strategies for successfully “de-escalating” relationships, say from romantic or sexual to friendships?” (Yes, that’s right, we stopped writing about polyamory to…write about polyamory.)

Here’s the teaser:

Franklin: Shortly after I moved to Portland, I started a relationship with a woman who was a partner of a good friend of mine. She and I were romantically involved for perhaps six months when she decided we really weren’t terribly compatible as romantic partners. She took me aside one day and expressed that she didn’t want a romantic relationship, clearly and directly. I told her that I was completely in love with her, and that meant I wanted whatever made her most happy–if that was a friendship that wasn’t a romantic relationship, then that’s what we would have.

I think she was a little surprised; she expected a much worse response. We are still close friends, and still very fond of each other.

Eve: So it sounds like you’re saying that you think the key–or at least an important first step–in backing away from a romance to friendship is clear, open communication about what you want? I would agree; I think the compassionate and ethical thing to do is to talk to your partner openly about how you want the relationship to change. I have been in situations where a partner has tried to cool off the relationship passively, by becoming unresponsive or backing away. That’s a painful thing to experience.

You can read the rest of the blog post here. As always, feel free to reply here or over there.

Winter is coming

My sweetie Shelly has written another blog post over at More Than Two. I hope one day to be as wise, compassionate, and insightful as she is.

This post is called “Winter Is Coming,” and it’s about how entering relationships that disempower us can destroy us, even if we knew the conditions when we signed on. There’s a good deal of stuff about the relationship history between her and I in there, and some of that was painful to me to read.

I think there are warnings in here for anyone contemplating a prescriptive polyamorous relationship. We often say that any relationship structure is A-OK as long as the people involved consent to be there. I am not entirely sure that’s true. There are some arrangements which, by their very nature, are not only thickly sown with the seeds of coercion, but almost guaranteed to allow those seeds to germinate…and the cost is very high.

You can read the essay here. Here’s the teaser:

But primary/secondary structures tend to leave a special kind of emotional wreckage. While I freely admit that it is often a mutually beneficial model for all involved, there is a hidden trap. Because sometimes we walk into this structure, with heart in hand, and sometimes our partner meets us there. And then the structure becomes a maze of slamming doors and booby traps. When your partner meets you with real intimacy and love within an externally enforced and non-negotiable framework of limitations, the emotional experience of the relationship is of being simultaneously pulled in and violently shoved out. The cognitive dissonance is even worse. Self-advocacy is often interpreted as homewrecking, and disruptions to the status quo are seen as a hostile act. Remember, you signed up for this, you’re breaking the contract, you’re the bad guy. But don’t be cruel and break his heart, don’t be disruptive and speak for your own. just… just want something else, feel something else, BE SOMEONE ELSE.

So, there is a special place, at the bottom of all of that, where you realize that the only truly “right” thing you can do is just… find a way to disappear. But not with an explosion (you drama queen). Just find a way to disappear quietly so that no one notices. Do the right thing and just…go away.

In case you missed them…

A couple of recent blog posts over at the More Than Two blog that I’ve neglected to post links to.

First, from my brilliant sweetie Shelly, comes what one commenter described as “by far the clearest, most well laid out, piece written about consent that I have ever read.” Her guest post describing consent in romantic relationships is a must-read. Here’s the teaser:

I would like for this to be the shortest discussion ever. I would like to say that we each have an inalienable right to have domain over our bodies, minds, and choices and end the conversation there. I mean, good people don’t violate consent, and I’m a good person, right?

Well, it’s not really so simple. If there’s one common thread through human history, it’s that we are, collectively, really comfortable violating consent. As children, we are often violated physically, emotionally, legally. As much as we are told that we always have choice, we often find that the choice is between homelessness and an abusive working environment or an abusive living situation. As much as we seem to have finally reached some kind of consensus that rape is wrong, we still seem to be having a cultural dialogue about the kinds of circumstances under which it might actually be deserved.

We may encounter many situations in our lives where we have to put walls up and just absorb the loss of control over our lives, our minds, or our bodies. But the one place where we should never have to do that is in our loving relationships. This may on the surface, seem obvious, but make no mistake–this is a radical idea.

Axiom #1

The people in the relationship are more important than the relationship.

The second, more recent, post is about aligning your ethical compass in polyamorous relationships. In that post, I talk about what the “ethical” part of “ethical non-monogamy” means. Here’s the teaser:

Polyamorous people like to call what we do “ethical non-monogamy.” But when I ask people what “ethical” means, most often the answers I get don’t go beyond “be open and be honest.” While that’s a start, there’s a lot more to being ethical than being honest! If I were to walk up to you, the reader, and say “I’m going to hit you in the face with this railroad tie now” and then I hit you in the face with a railroad tie, I have been open and honest, but I have not been ethical.

The poly community prides itself on ethical non-monogamy. We need to do a better job at thinking about what that means.

In the book Eve and I are writing, we have chosen to align our ethical compass using two guiding principles: The people in a relationship are more important than the relationship and Don’t treat people as things. You will notice that “be open” and “be honest” are not among these axioms, because we believe they are corollaries, consequences of aligning our moral sextant to the stars of these two axioms. Being dishonest deprives people of the ability to offer informed consent; when we make people do what we want them to do, without their consent, we are treating them as things.

There are other corollaries as well. If I am in a relationship, and I am asking, How can I make sure my partner doesn’t leave me? I am forgetting the first moral axiom: The people in the relationship are more important than the relationship. If my partner wants to leave, she should be free to do so. If I seek to keep her against her wishes, through rules, structures or any other means, I am saying the relationship is more important than she is. That is not ethical polyamory.

Here are some other recent blog posts over there:

Franklin writes On Selfishness, and why saying “you’re poly? That’s so selfish!” and “You don’t want rules? That’s so selfish” make no sense.

Eve writes Yes, you’re broken. I’m broken too, in which she talked about why we sometimes make polyamory look easier than it is in our writings.

Eve writes WE DID IT! about our successful book fundraising project.

Franklin writes about the cost of being in the poly closet, and how that cost isn’t borne equally by the people in a poly relationship.

And finally, we answer two backer questions, What are poly problems? and What do poly people want to hear from their parents?.

As usual, please feel free to reply here or over there.

More Than Two blog: Ethical relationship agreements

I’ve just posted a new essay over on the More Than Two book blog. This essay literally came to me in a dream; I had a dream that I was working on this blog post with Eve while we were working in a nuclear power plant, and for some reason I had long hair. There were also inspectors and other things to contend with in the dream, as there always are.

Anyway, when I woke up I raced to the computer and started writing it down, and it came out pretty close to what it was in my dream. The essay is about ethical agreements in poly relationships; it’s an attempt at answering the question “Well, aren’t any poly arrangements OK as long as all the people involved agree?” Here’s the teaser:

Communication, honesty and consent are values the poly community promotes heavily, and these ideas do seem to be intrinsic to strong, ethical relationships. But the more I think about these ideas, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.

Communication and honesty are complex topics that can easily fill a book. Consent seems more straightforward; either we agree to something or we don’t, right? I’ve often heard people say, “As long as everyone agrees to a structure or a set of rules, everything’s good.”

On the surface, that seems reasonable. And yet, I think it’s easy to lose track of how slippery the idea of “consent” can be.

There are a lot of ways to run off the rails on the way to a seemingly consensual agreement. I woke up this morning thinking about this, and somewhere in my foggy pre-caffeinated state I tracked down three ways that an agreement might appear consensual without quiiiiite rising to the level that would be ideal for ethical relationships…

You can read the entire blog post here. As usual, feel free to comment here or over there.