The universe gives you what you ask for.

It’s a simple, but profoundly powerful, idea. The universe gives you what you ask for–indeed, the universe bends over backward to give you what you ask for.

And it’s completely impartial and uncaring. if you ask for misery, you’ll get it; if you ask for happiness, you’ll get it. You may not get it in the form you expect, or at the time you expect, but the universe does have this knack for giving you what you ask for.

Problem is, most people don’t really seem to know what they’re asking for. Often, people can tell you what they want (or what they think they want), yet what they want isn’t what they ask for.

But I didn’t come here to talk about philosophy; I came here to talk about the New Year.

Lat new Year, i resolved to use my powers for evil. I think the universe heard me, and said “Ah, so he’s asking for an adversarial relationship witht he rest of the world, then? Right-O!”

This year, I think perhaps I should be a bit more cautious about my New Year’s resolution.

Some thoughts about polyamory

This post was inspired by something said in the mono_poly community, and it’s something I feel very passionately about.

Someone in mono_poly wrote about the idea that polyamory is a mechanism for a person’s partner to get those needs met which that person cannot directly meet himself.

This is one of the most enduring ideas about polyamory I have ever encountered.

In my experience, it is also one of the furthest from the truth.

You see this idea expressed by both polyamorous and monogamous people. The monogamous person looks at his polyamorous partner sand says “Why am I not enough?” The polyamorous person looks at his polyamorous partner and says “Ah, polyamory lets you have the things I can’t give you.” Implicit in the foundation of both statements is the idea that a person is polyamorous because of the qualities of his partner.

I believe this is utter bunk.

I am not polyamorous because of the qualities, deficiencies, or shortcomings of my partners. I am not polyamorous because my wife is “not enough,” and I am not polyamorous because I have a list of needs and I get those needs met from different people. My polyamory is not a consequence of the people around me at all. It would not matter who I was involved with; it would not make any difference if I were to find a partner who could meet 100% of my needs 100% of the time…I would still be polyamorous. Polyamory, for me, is a consequence of who I am, not a consequence of who my partners are, or how successful my partners are at meeting my needs.

The idea that polyamory is a way of getting one’s needs met from multiple sources also contains a deeper, more subtle flaw: It assumes that relationship needs are transitive. They are not.

I do not have a list of needs, and then seek partners who meet those needs until I have met all the needs on that list. The needs of a relationship are not attached to a person; they are atttached both to people and to relationships themselves.

In many ways, a relationship between two people can be thought of as an entity unto itself. A relationship has its own needs, and in some ways has its own agenda as well. It’s been my experience that relationships are most successful when the people involved pay attention to their needs, the needs of their partner, and the needs of the relationship.

When you look at relationships this way, it quickly becomes obvious that the rules of relationships do not follow the rules of mathematics. If I need A, B, C, D, and E from my romantic relationships, it does not necessarily follow that if I get A, B, and D from Suzie, and C, E, and F from Betty, I will be fine.

In reality, what is more likely to happen is that when I become involved with Suzie and Betty, I find that I need A, B, C, E, and F from Suzie, and I need B, C, D, and F from Betty. Getting F from Suzie does not mean I no longer need F from Betty–and in fact if I need F from Betty and can’t have it, my relationship with Betty may suffer as a result.

Romantic needs are not transitive; people are not interchangeable. If I am getting something from one partner, that does not mean my need for that thing is now discharged and I do not need it from another partner. Romantic relationships simply don’t work that way.

Bottom line: Polyamory is not about external factors; a person is not polyamorous because his partner is insufficient or because he needs things his partner can’t provide. A person is polyamorous because of internal factors, which cut right to the heart of the way that person thinks about relationships, and the blueprint of that person’s heart. Perhaps the polyamorous person is poly because the drive within him to seek out love and intimacy does not switch off when he has found a pertner; perhaps the polyamorous person is poly because of the way he thinks about family. Hell, perhaps the polyamorous person is poly because some subtle quirk of genetics or some environmental happenstance, or both, have conspired in such a way as to make his brain work differently than other people’s.

But it’s not about having more needs, or getting all your needs met, or about some inadequacy in his partners.

And that’s a feature, not a bug.

Merry Christmas to all, especially the FBI

It’s nice to know, in this chaotic world, that Santa can leave a little cheer for everyone this season, including John Ashcroft and the FBI.

While we were all preoccupied with Saddam Hussein’s capture and dealing with the inlaws for Christmas, President Bush secretly signed into law the Patriot II Act. This new act allows the FBI to get financial information on anybody, even those not suspected of a crime, without a cort order or subpoena and without showing probable clause. It also removes Congressional oversight from the FBI’s use of the powers granted in the original PATRIOT Act.

Happy new year, everyone!

Less than a week to go!

Shelly and I are flying out to San Francisco for eight days on Friday, January 2. We’ll be staying in downtown SF, near the Metreon. We’ll be going to MacWorld, and at some point meeting up with feorlen and altenra, and possibly some other people as well.

Anyone in the SF area up for meeting? Any suggestions for things to do? We’re planning at least one trip to Power Exchange…

Some Thoughts on Romantic Comedies

I don’t understand romantic comedies.

They’re perennial favorites at the box office, and they all seem to be cut from the same basic cloth. The most interesting thing about Hollywood romantic comedies is the peculiar mythology about love they all share in common.

And a mythology it is. When real people behave like the characters in romantic comedies, they get hit with restraining orders. At some level, we all know that the ideas about love that you find in romantic comedies–love at first sight, love conquers all, love persevers over all obstacles, soulmates always find each other in the end–are as mythical as the Tooth Fairy. Yet for some reason, there is a demand for stories that reinforce this myth nonetheless.

I find the whole thing fascinating.

What is the need in modern society for this myth? Why does it seem that we, as a culture, so desperately want to believe things about love which we know are not true?

I personally find the reality of love much more satisfying and empowering than the myth; a relationship, to me, has more value if I choose to make it work, and it succeeds on the merit of the effort that I and my lover pour into it, than if it succeeds because it was fated. I find the idea that I build my relationships more empowering than the idea that they exist because for some cosmological reason they were “meant to be.”

But it’s obvious to me that mine is a minority opinion. It seems that many of the people around me want to believe that love happens because of forces outside their control, and that happiness is a state of being granted by right to anyone who has found their One True Love.

I don’t get it. This idea must be comforting to people, and people seem to see value in it, but I just don’t get it.

In Honor of Stupid People (ganked from elsewhere online)

In Honor of Stupid People

We have to wonder how we have survived this long without the caring corporate world looking after our safety! In case you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods.

On a Sears hairdryer — Do not use while sleeping.
(Damn, and that’s the only time I have to work on my hair.)

On a bag of Fritos — You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.
(the shoplifter special?)

On a bar of Dial soap — “Directions: Use like regular soap.”
(and that would be how???…)

On some Swanson frozen dinners — “Serving suggestion: Defrost.”
(but, it’s “just” a suggestion.)

On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom) — “Do not turn upside down.”
(well…duh, a bit late, huh!)

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding — “Product will be hot after heating.”
(…and you thought???…)

On packaging for a Rowenta iron — “Do not iron clothes on body.”
(but wouldn’t this save me more time?)

On Boot’s Children Cough Medicine — “Do not drive a car or operate machinery after taking this medication.”
(We could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we could just get those 5-year-olds with head colds off those forklifts.)

On Nytol Sleep Aid — “Warning: May cause drowsiness..”
(and…I’m taking this because???…)

On most brands of Christmas lights — “For indoor or outdoor use only.”
(as opposed to…what?)

On a Japanese food processor — “Not to be used for the other use.”
(Now, somebody out there, help me on this. I’m a bit curious.)

On Sainsbury’s peanuts — “Warning: contains nuts.”
(talk about a news flash)

On an American Airlines packet of nuts — “Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.”
(Step 3: maybe, uh…fly Delta?)

On a child’s Superman costume — “Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.”
(I don’t blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)

On a Swedish chain saw — “Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals.”
(Oh my God…was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)

We can never see past the choices we do not understand.

This idea was expressed several times in the second two Matrix movies. We can never see past the choices we do not understand. It’s absolutely brilliant, and even if it would have been the only significant idea expressed in the entire trilogy, that one idea alone makes the whole movie series worth watching.

We can never see past the choices we do not understand. There’s a reason for this; if we do not understand the choice, how can we understand its implications?

But I didn’t come here to talk about the Matrix. I came here to talk about relationships.

In 1992, I was deeply, passionately in love. Her name was Robin, and she was living with Kelly and I.

It was a disaster. For many reasons, mostly my own, the relationship failed; that relationship taught me that I’m not immune to jealousy, that a cold shoulder is the relationship equivalent of a nuclear weapon, and that some kinds of damage done to any relationship can’t be repaired.

Eleven years later, the structure of my relationship with Kelly still reverbrates with the damage I did during my relationship with Robin, like a bell struck too hard. One of the consequences of my relationship with Robin is that Kelly vowed never again to live with anyone else in general, but particularly with anyone who is my lover.

Shelly wants to live with me. This is something very important to her, and it’s very important to me as well. My relationship with Shelly has reawakened in me the things that have been sleeping for eleven years–the very same things that led me to want to live with Robin all those years ago. At the end of the day, I’m not polyamorous because I want to sleep with a bunch of chicks; at the end of the day, I’m polyamorous because of the way I feel about family, and commitment, and love.

I knew that once, and I forgot it. Now I’ve learned it again.

Last week, Kelly agreed to let Shelly move in with us.

The past year has been extremely hard on all three of us. Kelly is not polyamorous; her ideas about love and family are very different from mine, and from Shelly’s. Kelly would be much happier if I did not love the people I sleep with–or at least, if I did not love them deeply. Many of the reasons for this are rooted in her past; other reasons seem to be a fundamental part of who she is. My relationship with Kelly has been an eighteen-year story of negotiation, and compromise, and seeking to find the middle ground between what is ultimately two fundamentally contradictory worldviews.

The contradiction between Kelly and I creates stresses that are most sharply focussed at the point where someone who loves me resides. Over the past year, Shelly has been hurt repeatedly–not through any deliberate malice on kelly’s part, but simply because Kelly wants a life that does not include anyone else. The exclusive model of family is particularly hard on anyone who wants to join an existing poly relationship in a way that’s inclusive.

Kelly doesn’t precisely understand how she has hurt Shelly. As a result, it’s hard for Shelly to feel safe, and to believe that Kelly won’t hurt her again.

Kelly is, I believe, sincerely trying to understand my relationship with Shelly. And she has decided to invite Shelly to live with us. But she does not understand her decision, because she does not, ultimately, understand my ideas about family, and I do not understand hers.

We can never see past the choices we do not understand.

Kelly has made a series of choices since the start of our relationship. She has made the choice to be involved with me, even knowing that I am polyamorous and that this is such a fundamental part of who I am that I cannot be happy any other way. She has made the choice to accept, even if she does not understand, my relationship with Shelly. She has made the choice to invite Shelly into her home.

But she does not understand these choices, and because of that, I wonder if she understands how hard it will be for Shelly to live with us, knowing that she is making herself vulnerable in a way that means Kelly can easily hurt her very badly.

Shelly is in a difficult position: She loves me, she wants to build a life with me, but she believes that if she does, she will be hurt. kelly is in a difficult position; she is being asked to give up something she feels is important for her, and she is being asked to trust that Shelly and I will take care of her and listen to her needs, and she does not understand how that is possible. I am in a difficult position; my family is broken, and I do not know how to fix it.

We can never see past the choices we do not understand. Wish us luck.