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.

Blog post: What if my polyamorous partners don’t get along?

On the More Than Two blog, we’ve written about a question asked by one of our backers: “What do I do if two of my partners don’t get along with each other?” We’re certainly getting a workout with our backer questions!

This blog post is a dialog between Eve and me. Here’s the teaser:

Franklin: I’ve been in this situation from every angle: having a partner who doesn’t get along with one of my other partners, being the person a partner’s other partner doesn’t cotton to, and having a partner who’s involved with someone I don’t particularly like. […] When you’re the one who’s in the middle, caught between two partners who aren’t getting along…well, it kinda sucks. It can be easy to end up feeling pulled in two directions. I don’t have a magic solution, though I certainly admire the problem.

Eve: In my experience, it can be hard to hold multiple relationships together without the active support of all your partners for the other relationships, especially if you live with one of them. Situations where partners are just tolerating each other may have a steady undercurrent of stress that can be damaging and hard to manage. But it can be done, and whether you can or want to do it depends a lot on your own coping, communication and boundary-setting skills; your emotional health; and how important both partners are to you.

I don’t have a solution, either, but I think we can offer some management strategies.

The whole post is here. I’d love to hear from folks who’ve been in this position! Experiences? Thoughts? Strategies? Feel free to reply here or over there.

Greta Christina: Guest blog post: Poly ethics

I’ve written a guest post on Greta Christina’s blog about ethics in a poly community. Here’s the teaser:

It’s difficult to talk about polyamory without hearing the expression “ethical non-monogamy.” There’s a bit of a sticky wicket, though, in that we rarely talk about the definition of “ethical,” beyond the obvious “don’t lie to your partners.” That’s a good start, sure, but it’s not enough to construct an entire foundation of relationship ethics on. When we’re living in a society that proscribes everything except heterosexual marriage between exactly two cisgendered people of opposite sexes, how do we even start talking about what makes an ethical non-monogamous relationship? Where do we turn for ethics? What distinguishes an ethical relationship from a non-ethical one? Are ethical relationships egalitarian, and if so, how does that align with BDSM relationships that are deliberately constructed along the lines of power exchange? If two people make an agreement and then present that agreement unilaterally to a third person, who is given few options other than accept the agreement as-is or walk away, is that ethical? What happens when people make relationship agreements, and then their needs change? What are ethical ways of revisiting and renegotiating previous agreements? How do we even define “ethics” in the first place, without resorting to religious or social conventions? What does it take for a person to make ethical relationship choices that aren’t aligned with a religious tradition or a cultural norm?

These are some of the issues we intend to address in our polyamory book, More Than Two, which is going into its last week of crowdfunding now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can read the entire blog post on Greta Christina’s blog here.

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Having made his directorial mark with dark, thoughtful movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and sprawling, epic movies like The Hobbit, Guillermo del Toro has turned his sights onto exploring new territory. And with Pacific Rim, his ambition is plain: he seeks nothing less than to make The Silliest Movie Ever Filmed.

Pacific Rim starts with a simple premise: Giant robots fighting aliens. To that premise, it adds: Giant Robots! Fighting Aliens! And also, More Giant Robots! Fighting More Aliens! Plus, it’s chock-full of scenes of giant robots. Fighting aliens.

In this movie, we see a mysterious underwater crevasse, glowing a hellish red and surrounded by special effects, unleash a gigantic alien. And I don’t mean T. Rex gigantic, oh, no. Or even King Kong gigantic. This is a gigantic alien. The size of the bigness of it would make Godzilla say “wow, that’s a gigantic alien!”

The gigantic alien wades ashore and stomps around San Francisco for a while. It smashes the Golden Gate Bridge, sending cars flying everywhere. It stomps along down Folsom Street, sending more cars flying. The army is mobilized. Tanks get stepped on. F-35 Lightning fighters shoot at it with machine guns, which is odd considering their more typical armament includes Brimstone armor-piercing antitank missiles, which one might think (were one of a clear frame of mind and not screaming “OMG it’s a gigantic alien!”) would be a more effective weapon against gigantic aliens. More cars go flying. The monster is defeated. Another monster appears. More fighter aircraft shoot at it with ineffective weapons–a common theme in this movie, as we shall see–and eventually, a plan is made to fight the monsters using gigantic hundred-foot-tall robots shaped like people, because the basic human body plan is so effective at underwater hand-to-hand combat. Pilots are placed in the giant robots and move them around by thrashing and stomping, because it takes about 750 milliseconds for a person to move a limb, and it was felt that simply controlling the giant robots by thought alone rather than by motion might make the giant robots too fast and too responsive, depriving the alien monsters of a fair chance. Having one pilot per robot overloaded the pilot’s brain because of plot, so the solution was to put two pilots into each robot, thereby adding to the response time and generally making the giant robots that much less efficient.

And that’s before the opening credits roll.

The rest of the movie goes something like this:

Clicky here for more (Warning! Spoilers!)

Polyamory: Ending Relationships

I’ve scarcely had time to blog these days, what with running the crowdfunding campaign for the polyamory book and having kidney stones and all.

One of the perks we have available to backers is the ability to have us write a poly blog post on the topic of their choosing over on the More Than Two blog. Our first backer to ask for a blog post came up with a topic that’s a oozey: how do we end or transition out of poly relationships? Here’s the teaser:

There’s a trope in some parts of the poly community that being poly means staying friends with all of your exes. I’m going to buck poly convention and say that’s not always the best approach, or even possible.

It’s the ideal I strive for personally, but it isn’t always going to happen, and sometimes that’s okay. What happens after a relationship ends depends a great deal about what kind of relationship it was, what course it took, how it developed, and how and why it ended. (I will say “ended” to mean that it’s no longer a romantic relationship. I’ve heard some folks say no relationship ever really ends, they simply change, though if two people who were once romantic partners aren’t anymore, I think it’s reasonable to say the romantic relationship has ended.)

I’ve had relationships end in just about every way you can imagine. I’ve broken up with partners, I’ve had partners break up with me, I’ve had breakups go smoothly and transition into awesome friendships, I have former partners I will probably never see or talk to again, I’ve had breakups that went really badly… you name it.

The most basic lesson I’ve learned from it all is there is no “breakup roadmap.” I no longer try to carry a set of expectations with me about what might happen if and when a relationship should end. Instead, what I try (not always perfectly) to do is to approach relationship endings with the same tools I use to approach relationships themselves: compassion, integrity and kindness.

It’s a tall order. When a relationship ends, especially if it’s the other person ending it, it’s really tough to reach for compassion and kindness through pain and loss. In some cases, it might be appropriate to take enough space to be able to mourn the loss of the relationship and work through the emotions attached to that before trying to go ahead with a friendship; it’s perfectly reasonable to say it might take some time to get there.

You can read the whole thing here. I’s a complicated topic, and will probably be an entire chapter in the book. I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can reply here or over there.