Follow Your Bliss, (Think for Yourself (for Grownups!))

Hello Friends,

I’ve been talking about my blog this week. At the gym during class; with my lovely partner as we chat before bed; with friends during a night out on the town. In each situation, I’ve been asked to clarify what I am trying to do with my writing, and specifically how I am going to use this blog to bring about the changes I want to experience. I’ve been asked to define WHY I am putting my energy in to this project. My response has been the same in each situation; I intend to use this blog and my creative energy to subvert the dominant paradigm in as many ways as possible.

Each of the people I spoke with had a hard time understanding what I meant. I am going to try to be more clear here.

“Subvert the dominant paradigm” sounds like something you might read on a clever bumper sticker, right? Defining each word individually gives you an inclination of the ideas, ideals and philosophy we are working toward, but it doesn’t really tell you what I mean.  It might be helpful to inform you this phrase has been used as a battle cry by the Anarchist movement for years, and remains a strong tenet of the belief system used by those who label themselves “Anarchist”.  I think the Hippies said it best a long time ago: Go Against the Flow. Think for yourself. Be the Change. Catchphrases are a dime a dozen, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!

As a headstrong teenager, fresh out of my parent’s nurturing embrace, I thought subverting the dominant paradigm meant getting a facial piercing and wearing clothes that didn’t really fit me. I raged against conformity and compromise, grew my hair long, and got a tattoo. I wanted so badly to be different. Or at least, I wanted to present myself as being different. Then, all the cool kids I hung out with ended up looking just like me. We all wanted so badly to be unique; to be novel; to be the “other”. We rode skateboards, tagged dumpsters, worked shitty jobs and slept on couches. We knew exactly what we DIDN’T want to be, but we had no idea what we wanted to be instead.

Now, we all have kids, and car payments. We went back to school and earned degrees, and accrued debt. We bathe regularly, eat grass-fed beef, and go to bed at a “reasonable” hour. Some of us still dye our hair crazy colors, lots of us are still saving for our next tattoo, and after living through a whole host of life experience, most of us finally have a good idea of what it REALLY means to subvert the dominant paradigm. We chase our dreams!

We consciously make choices in our lives that constitute a paradigm shift. We spend time and effort creating the lives and relationships we want, and our successes and failures are determined by the effort we are willing to put forth. Though our lives are constrained by many parameters of “mainstream” culture, we use creativity and curiosity to find ways to bend the rules of the dominant culture, or bypass them altogether and create our own set of rules. We are entrepreneurs and independent artists. We are blended families of all variations, and our tribal network extends beyond any tangible boundaries. We are constantly researching, exchanging information, learning new tricks, and working hard to make sure we are better people today than we were yesterday. This last part is what really separates us from the teeming masses: our desire to achieve our needs, wants, and desires through deliberate effort.  We follow our bliss. We determine our own path. We refuse to take ANYTHING at face value. We refuse to do anything simply because we are told to, or because that is the way everyone else does it. We have the tools, the resources, and the intention to live the lives that we want to live.

All we have to do is practice what we preach. Follow your Bliss. Do the extra work to fulfill your needs, wants and desires. Set the example for people who are stuck in apathy and indifference. Go Against the Flow. Change the Rules. Forge your own path. Do your best to resist the urge to buy clever bumper stickers, and instead live a life that authentically displays your core values and ethics to the world, leaving no question whether or not you think for yourself. I think it really is that simple :).

Tell me what “Follow Your Bliss” means to you. What dreams are you chasing right now? What excuses are holding you back? If we are going to change the world, we need to do it RIGHT NOW.

Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

In case you were wondering….

Hello Friends 🙂

Today’s topic is going to raise a little hell. That’s my assumption anyway :). I’ve flirted with this subject before, and perhaps haven’t been as clear and articulate as I could have been. However, other people have written on this subject, and NAILED IT! So, I’m cutting and pasting today, from a website called http://www.xeromag.com and giving you some resources that I believe are essential to understanding POLYAMORY!! Read the whole thing, take notes, check the links, and GET INFORMED. Then, the next time you see me walking down the street, or sitting at a bar with someone who isn’t my beautiful primary partner, I don’t have to try and recite this whole thing from memory. This is real life shit, so treat it as such :). Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

All right, so what is “polyamory”?

The word “polyamory” is based on the Greek and Latin for “many loves” (literally, poly many + amore love). A polyamorous relationship is a romantic relationship that involves more than two people.

You mean, like swinging?

Not exactly. Swinging has a different focus. Swingers focus on recreational sex, though friendships and deeper bonds may develop. With polyamory, deep relationships are the focus, though the sex is often fun.

Oh, I gotcha. So, like, you have a girlfriend on the side.

No. That is something different as well. The technical term for that is “cheating.”

Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

No. The thing that defines a polyamorous relationship is that everyone involved knows about, and agrees to, everyone else’s involvement.

If you are married, and you have a girlfriend that your wife doesn’t know about, or that your wife suspects but isn’t sure about, or that your wife knows about but isn’t happy with, you’re not poly, you’re cheating. Similarly, if you’re banging the milkman while your husband is out of town, you’re not poly, you’re cheating.

Polyamory is defined by informed consent of all the participants.Without it, it ain’t poly. If you can’t invite your lover over to Thanksgiving dinner with the rest of your family because you don’t want anyone to know what you’re doing, it probably ain’t poly.

Poly, schmolly. It’s just a polite way of saying your partner lets you cheat.

No. Cheating is breaking the rules. If you aren’t breaking the rules of your relationship, you are not cheating, by definition.

The rules need not be explicit; even breaking the tacit rules of a relationship is cheating. If you do anything you cannot feel comfortable telling your mate about, or if you do anything which you know would make your mate unhappy if he or she knew about it, you are quite likely cheating, plain and simple.

Polyamory is a completely different way to define your relationship. Polyamory is an acknowledgment of the simple fact that relationships do not come in “one size fits all.” In a poly relationship–

Okay, okay, I understand. Poly is for people who can’t commit!

No, no, no. Just the opposite, in fact; people who can’t commit to oneperson sure as hell can’t make a lasting commitment to two!

It’s been my experience that many monogamous people actually practice “serial monogamy”–jumping from lover to lover to lover, while claiming to be “monogamous” with each one. While no reasonable person expects every relationship to last, it seems that many “serial monogamists” see their partners as expendable, or more often, stay with one partner only until someone “better” comes along. Polyamory is more ethical than serial monogamy as it is sometimes practiced; polyamorists do not discard their lovers when the next interesting person walks down the road. This flavor of serial monogamy is, I think, the essence of people who can’t commit!

But if you love someone, you shouldn’t want anyone else.

That’s a common idea, but it doesn’t really hold up in practice.

Many people believe that a person who has multiple loves can’t give their “whole heart” to any person. The belief goes that if you love one person, you can express your love wholeheartedly, but if you love multiple people, your love is divided up and is therefore not as deep. This is based on the “starvation model” of love–that is, you only have a limited amount of love, and if you give your love to one person, there is none left to give to anyone else–so if you fall in love with another person, you have to “pay” for it by withdrawing your love from the first person.

Love is not the same thing as money. With money, you have only a limited amount to spend, and when you give it to one person you have less left to give to another. But love behaves in wonderful and unpredictable and counterintuitive ways. When you love more than one person, you soon realize that the more love you give away, the more love you have to give. Yes, you CAN give your whole heart to more than one person, and when you do, you realize it’s the most beautiful feeling in all the world.

Don’t think of the contents of your heart the way you think of the contents of your wallet; it doesn’t work like that.

Some people also seem to feel that it is not possible to love more than one person at a time, so if you’re in a position where you’re in a relationship with one person and you happen to fall for someone else, this “proves” you don’t really love the person you’re with, right? After all, the feeling goes, we are put here on this earth to love only one other person, our one true soulmate in a world of six billion people…the single person who is right for us, and who by some quite astounding coincidence happens to go to the same school, or work at the same place.

This is the “scarcity model” of love–the notion that love is rare, that we can only have one true love, and that once we meet tht one true love, the part of our brains which take notice of other people suddenly and mysteriously shut off.

Anyway, as I was saying, in a poly relationship, it is vital–perhaps even more vital than in a monogamous relationship–for everyone involved to know and understand the rules of the relationship, and abide by them. A successful poly relationship absolutely requires trust and security from everyone involved. If you cannot abide by the relationship’s rules, you cannot expect to make a polyamorous relationship work.

Rules? What rules? You want to sleep with someone else, you do, right?

It doesn’t work that way.

There are, of course, as many different varieties of polyamory as there are people; there’s no one right way to create a polyamorous relationship, though ethical polyamorous relationships do involve honesty, respect, and compassion. But being polyamorous does not give you license to make like a bunny in heat.

A polyamorous relationship isn’t about sex; it’s about building a romantic relationship with more than one person at a time.

And yes, there are rules.

Yeah? Like what kind of rules?

Depends on the relationship.

Some poly relationships, called “polyfidelity” relationships, have rules not much different from a traditional monogamous relationship, only there are more than two people involved. A polyfidelitous triad, for example, may have three people involved, with one person sexually active with the other two, or even with all three people sexually involved with one another. However, nobody in the relationship may take an “outside” lover, just as neither partner in a monogamous relationship is allowed to have an outside lover; if you do, it’s cheating. Cheating, if anything, is amore serious offense in a polyfidelity relationship than in a monogamous relationship–because if you cheat, you are betraying more than one person’s trust.

Other polyamorous relationships may permit the people involved to have “outside” lovers under certain circumstances–often, for example, only if the outside lover is approved beforehand by everyone involved, and only if the outside lover knows the nature of the relationship.

The individual relationships within a polyamorous group may be very complex, as well. In many cases, there may be one “primary” couple–a husband and wife, for example. Either or both of those people may have outside lovers, but those relationships are “secondary” in the sense that they involve less involvement in the partners’ day-to-day lives than, say, a marriage does.

Note: This does not mean that these relationships are of secondary importance, or that the people involved in such “secondary” relationships contribute less or are less valued! It simply means that these relationships have different goals or parameters than the “primary” relationship.

Or, the polyamorous relationship may be such that each individual relationship is as important as all the others, and no single couple is “primary.”

Uh-huh. Says who? Who makes these rules, anyway?

Everyone involved.

Polyamory is not about “I want to go shag that person over there, and if you don’t like it, tough.”

It’s reasonable for everyone involved to expect to have some kind of input on the relationships that go on. It’s reasonable to want to set limits, and it’s necessary and reasonable to want to establish a framework that protects both your feelings and the feelings of everyone else involved in the relationships, directly or indirectly.

You do this by negotiating a clear, explicit, and unambiguous set of conditions that guides the manner in which your relationships form, and establishes that framework that helps to make sure everyone’s needs are being met and nobody’s feelings are disregarded.

It is also important to understand that any breach of these terms is a very, very serious matter–just as serious as cheating in a conventional monogamous relationships! This framework, and the willingness of everyone involved to abide by the terms you set together, are what creates the foundation of trust that a polyamorous relationship requires. Without that trust, it’s reasonable to expect that you or someone you care about will end up miserable.

Didn’t this whole “free love” thing die out in the sixties?

It never really existed, even back then.

But that’s irrelevant. Polyamory isn’t free love. All these different flavors of polyamory have their own dynamic, but ultimately, they are all about building relationships, not about sex.

Okay, so they are about sex as well. After all, if no sex is involved, then what you have is a monogamous relationship where the couple has other friends. It is, in a sense, the fact that sex is involved that defines polyamory as distinct from monogamy. But the point is, it isn’t just the sex.

And the idea of polyamory predates the sixties, anyway. In fact, it’s at least as old as human history. Examples of non-monogamous relationships can be found in many places at any time throughout history.

Isn’t this all some sexist, misogynistic, male-dominated Fundamentalist Mormon thing, like on that HBO show “Big Love”?

No. The image that many people have in their heads, of one man with many women as in the HBO series, is technically “polygyny.” Polygyny (from the Greek poly many + gynos woman) is the form of polygamy where a man can have more than one female partner, but women are not allowed to have more than one male partner.

In societies where polygyny is practiced, women are usually seen as little more than property. Since people have this mistaken notion of polyamory, it’s easy to understand why they think “polyamory” means “disrespect of women.”

But polyamory is not polygyny. Polyamory applies equally to everybody. In an ethical polyamorous relationship, the same opportunities are afforded to everyone, regardless of their sex. Polyamory is not about collecting a bunch of women for your harem. Polyamory is about sharing some part of your life and sharing your love with more than one other person–and your lovers sharing some part of THEIR lives and some part of THEIR love with more than one other person. Polyamory is not about “owning” your lovers and hiring an army of eunuchs to make sure they don’t stray.

Let’s get back to this sex thing. How do you decide who sleeps with whom?

Depends on the nature of the relationship. If there is a primary couple and secondary relationships, typically the primary couple will determine a set of ground rules for who is boinking whom, and when. In a polyfidelity group, the people work out their interpersonal dynamics themselves. And, of course, if you have a king-sized bed, who knows? Maybe you’ll find that you like an extra pair of feet in your bed!

But the “who is sleeping with whom” question isn’t necessarily the most interesting thing about a poly relationship. Remember, with polyamory, we’re talking about more than one romantic relationship, not just more than one sex partner. The social dynamic can be very complex, and goes way beyond who’s having sex with whom.

I’ll bet. Like, how do you keep from being jealous?

Ah, now that is a real question! In fact, that question has its own page.

But if someone feels jealous, isn’t that their problem?

No, it’s everyone’s problem, and successful resolution of the problem requires you to find out why they feel jealous.

If you treat your lovers as though they are interchangeable, they’ll be jealous. If you don’t take care to make your lovers feel wanted or needed, they’ll be jealous. If you aren’t careful to make it clear to all of your partners that you value them, you won’t keep any of them for long.

Sometimes, it’s easy, especially when you take a new partner, to forget your existing partner in the rush and excitement of exploring a new lover. In fact, some people even have a name for that giddy, infatuated stage of a new relationship; they call it “New Relationship Energy,” or “NRE.”

That’s when everyone involved is particularly prone to jealousy. There aren’t any cure-alls to ensure that your partners never feel jealous, of course, but it helps to make a point to pay attention to everyone, to include everyone in the majority of your activities–you know, to be considerate.

If you were raised with the idea that if your partner is looking at someone else, it’s because you aren’t enough, then you probably won’t be happy in a polyamorous relationship until and unless you can unlearn that idea and understand why it isn’t true.

People do have the capacity to love more than one other person; there isn’t a magical switch inside our brains that says once you love one person, the switch has been flipped and you can’t love somebody else. Any parent who has more than one child knows that it is possible to love more than one person.

But that doesn’t mean that those people are expendable or interchangeable. People with more than one child also know that their love for each child is unique and irreplaceable. Similarly, people in a healthy polyamorous relationship know that their love for each person in that relationship is unique and irreplaceable–and knowing that drives away jealousy.

Riiiight. Just like that, huh? But why would my lover want to shag someone else if I was adequate, hmm, smart boy?

It’s not about adequacy.

Many people are brought up to believe that if you’re interested in sleeping with someone else, it’s because your partner isn’t enough for you. It’s a myth that’s as common and enduring–and as false–as the idea of Santa Claus. Human beings don’t work that way. When we fall in love, the part of our brain that makes us attracted to other people does not magically shut off.

Someone once asked me “How can you stand knowing your lover is with someone else? Don’t you feel like maybe they’re better in bed than you are?”

The long answer to that question is very complex. The short answer is simple: It doesn’t matter. It’s not a contest.

There are a lot of people in this world. If you look far enough, you will find someone who is better than you are at everything. You’ll find people who are better at cooking, better at sex, better at reading and writing and driving and every other thing you can think of. You can’t be the best person in the world at everything. Deal with it.

You know what? It doesn’t matter.

If you really believe that your lover is going to dump you as soon as they find someone better in the sack than you are, well, perhaps youshouldn’t try non-monogamy–but then again, perhaps you’ll want to re-think your romantic relationship while you’re at it.

It doesn’t matter for the same reason that it doesn’t matter if your lover finds a person who is a better cook than you are.

If your lover goes out to a restaurant, do you think “My God, what if the restaurant food is better than mine?” Do you agonize over whether your cooking may seem substandard by comparison? Not if you’re psychologically healthy, you don’t.

With sex, it’s the same deal.

Sex is a learned skill. Who knows…perhaps if your lover discovers something that you didn’t think of, then they might bring that new discovery into your relationship, and hey! You’re better in bed for it!

But it’s not a contest. It’s not like you have to spend your life trying to rank your skills in the bedroom against everyone else’s. That way madness lies. It isn’t really about sex at all–it’s about opening yourself to the possibility of more than one romantic relationship.

And maybe it’s YOUR new lover who will teach you a thing or two!

So, why? What do you get out of this? Besides shagging a bunch of people, I mean.

For starters, being polyamorous doesn’t mean you’re shagging a bunch of people. It may mean that you only have one other partner.

But that’s beside the point.

The answer to this question actually addresses who we are as human beings. Why do people get involved in interpersonal relationships at all? Why become romantically attached to anyone? The answer, of course, will vary from person to person, but at the end of the day we’re all social animals. People are happier when they’re romantically involved with someone than when they’re not. Intimacy adds to the quality of your life.

Fine. But why isn’t one person enough?

What would you say if you had a child, and you decided you wanted a second child, and your first child said “But why am I not enough?”

The question itself doesn’t really make sense, once you understand that it isn’t about what’s “enough.”

Let’s start with the fact that the majority of people are not intimate with one person. They’re intimate with one person at a time…at least in theory. And with statistics from the General Social Survey suggesting that as many as 34% of men between the ages of 50 to 64 will admit to having cheated at least once, evidence suggests that even the theory isn’t too widely practiced.

But that’s different. That’s cheating.

Precisely. If you want more than one lover–which most people do, in spite of the romantic myth you’ve probably been brought up to believe–then integrity and decency demands that you be honest and up-front about it.

I’ve been approached and propositioned by women who have asked me, point-blank, “So, would you ever cheat?” When I say “I am open to having other lovers, but I would never cheat–we can become lovers as long as my partner approves,” they usually freak out. “Oh, that’s just too weird!”

So apparently there are a lot of people who are perfectly fine with lying and deception, who won’t hesitate to betray their spouse and think nothing of it–but who can’t accept the idea of integrity and honesty.

Those people aren’t my lovers. Anyone who can betray their spouse can betray me as well, and I don’t want people like that in my life.

So you’re saying that everyone is either poly or cheating?

No. Some people seem wired for monogamy. They can stay in a monogamous relationship, and be happy, and never even look at another person. That’s cool. But not everybody is like that; in fact, evidence suggests that most people are not.

Even that isn’t what matters, though. In the end, it’s not about what is “enough.” Some poly people could be monogamous, if they really wanted to; in fact, people who can sustain successful polyamorous relationships tend to be better at obeying the rules of a relationship, and not cheating, than average people. But poly people don’t want monogamous relationships.

What’s wrong with monogamy?

Nothing.

So why don’t you want it?

For those whose relationship inclinations lean toward polyamory, a poly relationship offers more. When you have more than two people involved in your relationship, it offers you resources and perspectives that you don’t have in a monogamous relationship. If one person is feeling down, or has a problem, that person has two, or more, people to turn to for support. With more eyes on a relationship problem or a problem at work or whatever, sometimes the solution is easier to find.

And it’s great for your sex life.

I’m creative in bed. On my better days, I like to think I’m verycreative in bed. But the fact is, no human being has seen or done it all; in fact, no human being can even begin to scratch the surface of Cool Things To Do In Bed. We have six billion people on the planet right now, and thirty thousand years of recorded human history behind us. Someone, somewhere, has thought of something that you would absolutely love, but you’ll never think of yourself.

I’ve learned a lot of things from each of my lovers, both in and out of the bedroom, that I have been able to take with me into my other relationships. Not even just new techniques, but sometimes new ways of looking at things. These things have enriched all my relationships, and my life.

It may not even be what you’re thinking. Not all poly people are into group sex. There are polyamorous individuals who’ve never had a threesome. Being poly doesn’t necessarily make you kinky. Nor does it mean that you’re into orgies, or that you’re promiscuous, or that you want to boink everyone you meet. For polyfidelitous people, being poly really isn’t that much different from being monogamous. Polyamory also doesn’t make you bisexual; in a polyamorous relationship, all the people involved are not necessarily sleeping with everyone else involved. (The idea of being a guy in the middle of hot girl-on-girl action is a cliche as old as time, but don’t think polyamory is automatically going to get you there.)

Okay, so what’s the down side?

The down side is that you have more than two people involved in your relationship.

That is both a blessing and a source of stress. Romantic relationships come with a certain amount of tension built in; I’ve never known anybody, anywhere, who’s never had even a single argument with their lover.

Add another person to the mix, and your potential for disagreements and arguments and tension goes up. A lot. Add two more people to the mix, it goes up even further. The more people you have involved in a romantic relationship, the greater the potential for problems.

It’s not necessarily all bad. Sometimes, having people who you can turn to when you have problems is a big blessing. On the whole, however, managing more than one romantic relationship is, not to put too fine a point on it, harder than managing only one.

It is incumbent on any people in a polyamorous relationship to take care that they follow the rules, and make sure everyone’s needs are met. Without that, the relationship will fail–just as a monogamous relationship will.

The other downside is that being poly is emotionally riskier. The more people you open your heart to, the more likely it is that you’ll have your heart broken.

The people down the street from me tried an “open relationship,” and it all fell apart. This kind of thing never lasts.

The people down the street from me tried a monogamous relationship, but they just ended up getting a divorce. Does that prove that monogamy never lasts?

Some relationships work out; some don’t. Nature of the beast. Some polyamorous relationships work; some don’t. Some monogamous relationships work; some don’t. Yet because monogamy is the accepted social norm, when a marriage fails, people do not blame the instution of marriage…but when a poly relationship fails, people blame polyamory.

A relationship succeeds or fails because of the people involved.

One could argue that most relationships in general don’t last; how many people actually spend their entire lives with the very first person they were ever romantically involved with? A few, but not many.

There are many reason why a relationship might not last, and most of those reasons have nothing to do with the relationship model. It’s tempting to look at a non-traditional relationship and assume that every problem the people in that relationship have is due to the form of the relationship, but it doesn’t actually work that way.

And not all relationships that don’t last are “failures.” It’s common to believe they are, but it isn’t necessarily so; any relationship that teaches you more about yourself or those around you is in some measure a success.

What about disease? If you have several lovers, don’t you worry about STDs?

One of the great advantages of practicing open, honest non-monogamy with partners you are not lying to is that it makes communication about STD boundaries and STD status so much easier.

The folks I know in the poly community tend to be very conscientious about issues like STD risk–more so, in fact, than most of the monogamous folks I know. Many monogamous people do not talk to their lovers about their sexual history, often for fear of causing jealousy; and likewise, many monogamous people don’t insist on things like STD testing before they have sexual contact.

Now, I’m certainly not saying this is true of all people in traditional monogamous relationships. Don’t get me wrong, there are many folks engaged in monogamous relationships who are very careful and conscientious about sexual health! Nor am I saying that all poly folks are automatically safe.

But in my experience, this is not the norm. I do not often see the same level of awareness and care about sexual health among those in traditional relationships as I do among people in polyamorous relationships. This is particularly true amng folks who practice serial monogamy, and even more true still among folks who are nominally “monogamous” but who cheat. A person who is having an affair may expose his or her partner non-consensually to STD risks that the partner isn’t even aware of, and that kind of behavior is almost universally condemned in the poly community.

Let’s assume I buy all this. How do I make it work?

It’s easier to answer the question “How can you make polyamory NOT work?” Which is, in fact, a question I’ve addressed here. And in a handy how-to guide in PDF format here.

As with any relationship, making it succeed is more complicated than making it fail. One of the surest ways to make it fail is to lie. If you can’t be honest with your partner, and I mean about everything, then polyamory isn’t for you. If you can’t abide by the rules of a monogamous relationship, then poly isn’t for you. If you cheat, then poly isn’t for you.

Another good way not to make a poly relationship work is to browbeat your partner, or coerce your partner into accepting it. Poly relationships don’t work if one of the people involved only grudgingly accepts it; it has to be for the benefit of everyone.

I’m with you so far. No lying, no bullying; check. Now what?

Depends on you, and on the person you’re involved with. When in doubt, if you’re considering trying a polyamorous relationship, it’s best to go slowly. Make sure you and your partner feel secure in what you’re doing. Make sure you don’t get so carried away that you forget about your partner’s needs. This is a very easy mistake to make, even if you’re watching out for it!

Also, if you are already in a relationship, it is vitally important to make sure that relationship is solid and stable before you go experimenting with non-monogamy. A relationship that is not healthy to begin with will further erode if you try to change the foundation on which it is built.

So: No lying, no bullying. Remember to consider the feelings of your partners–ALL of them. Don’t forget that everyone has to be happy, or you can bet that nobody will be! Pay attention to your lovers. Don’t get distracted.

Get over the idea that polyamory gives you license to be promiscuous. It doesn’t. Being poly does not mean you sleep with anyone you want. It doesn’t mean that your life is an endless vista of wild orgies. Put aside those ideas before you even start; that is not what it’s about.

A poly relationship works only if everyone involved is happy. While you can’t expect someone to be everything for you, all the time (even in a monogamous relationship), there is absolutely no dishonor in telling your lover point-blank “Look, I don’t think you’re spending enough time with me. You need to pay more attention to me.”

And, of course, some common-sense rules are always good. If you have more than one lover, then for God’s sake, play safe. You already know the whole safe-sex spiel. Well, do it.

But how do I know if I’m even poly at all? How can I tell if this will work for me?

That’s something you have to find out yourself.

If you can imagine sharing your lover, and be happy with that, then that at least suggests that you can be happy in a poly relationship. No guarantee, of course, but at least it’s possible.

Generally speaking, polyamory is not something I recommend people just dive into. You need to be secure in your relationship before you think about opening it up to other people!

I’ve always been poly, my whole life; I even took two dates to my senior prom back in high school. I have had an eighteen-year relationship with a partner who had a very conservative Catholic background. The subject of polyamory didn’t even come up for the first two years of our relationship, because I thought it was more important to establish a good foundation with her first. Even when it did come up, it was over a year before anything happened–and it was her, not me, who took an outside lover first. This was important, because it let her see firsthand that she could have another lover, and it would not hurt our relationship.

One thing that does help enormously, if you are in a relationship and youre considering polyamory, is to get your ducks in a row before you start. Don’t go into polyamory thinking that it can fix whatever is wrong with your existing relationship; the “relationship broken, add more people” approach doesn’t work very well, but it does put someone else in the middle of whatever problems you may have, and that’s not cool. Building healthy polyamorous relationships starts with making sure your existing relationship is healthy.

How do you get started in a polyamorous relationship?

If you’re approaching polyamory for the first time, remember that you have to be willing to work at it. You must listen to your partner, without pressuring that person. You must be willing to concentrate on what’s important, and on making sure your foundation with that person is stable and secure.

Of course, some people find themselves in a poly relationship without really considering it first. It’s easy if that happens to feel overwhelmed, insecure, jealous, angry… Take a step back. Look at the situation rationally, with a cool head. What’s happening? Is your partner rejecting you? Is your partner losing interest in you? If the answer is “no,” then you should think very carefully before you allow yourself to become angry or jealous. What’s really going on? How much of an investment in your relationship are you prepared to make? What assumptions are you making about the way your relationship “should” be, and are those assumptions valid?

Yeah, I know, it’s tough.

Assuming you are willing to give it a go, though, here are some things I’d recommend:

  • Make sure, and I mean sure, everyone on the same page. What are you all looking for? Under what circumstances is it OK for you or your partners to take another lover? Do you have a say in your partner’s partners? If so, what kind of say?
  • Be compassionate–both to your partners AND to your partner’s partners. This is especially important if you’re already in a relationship. Often, a couple looking to explore polyamory will be so concerned about preserving that core couple that they will forget the other people involved are human beings, too. An ethical framework should treat everyone involved with respect and compassion.
  • If you can, I highly recommend finding a local poly group. When I first started non-monogamous relationships, nearly twenty-five years ago, I didn’t have the benefit of such a group, and I rather wish I had. It’s really, really helpful to have access to the collective wisdom and experience of people who have made all the mistakes already.
  • Don’t rush. Take your time. There’s no reason to rush in to the first poly relationship that comes your way.
  • Develop good communication and conflict-resolution skills. As sure as night follows day, there will be a time when you need them. (Of course, this is true of a traditional, monogamous relationship as well…)

So where would I even find poly people, anyway?

Where do you find anyone? The world is full of people. It’s hard to walk out your door without running into them.

That isn’t intended to be flippant. My point is, you can’t just go to a certain place and expect to meet people who are poly, or look for a certain sign to tell you when people are poly. It’s like anything else. Where do you meet people in general? I’ve met poly people at conventions, at work, at clubs–you know, the same places you meet anyone else.

And just because someone doesn’t advertise that he or she is poly doesn’t necessarily mean that person is closed to the idea. Many people are open to new ways of looking at relationships; it’s quite often that people will surprise you.

One helpful technique when you’re looking for a partner is not to try to make a grocery list–“I want a redhaired, bisexual woman who listens to Elvis and reads Kurt Vonnegut”–and leave yourself open to the possibilities around you.

So the rest is kind of up to you. I can’t give you a magical Guide to Making It Work, and I can’t tell you where to go to find people who are polyamorous. But I can tell you that, difficulties aside, it can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling way to extend and expand your romantic life.

Prioritize

Hello Friends ,

I’ve been trying to write this post for the past two weeks. Another epiphany struck me, just as summer set in here in Portland. I need to get my sh@# together. Seriously. It is time for me to start taking responsiblity for my life, for my goals, for my wants/needs/desires, for everything that I convince myself I can control in my little universe. What a sweet notion this is :).

With the kids being home from school, and my partner starting night classes at the community college, life got a bit hectic. I think we all handled ourselves pretty well, and there weren’t nearly as many catastrophic freak outs as I thought there would be. However, these changes did help me recognize that I put up with a lot of bullsh#% from myself that is really unnecessary. I make life harder than it needs to be, and this stresses me out, stresses my kids out, and generally makes life unpleasant and chaotic. So, I decided to stop doing all that and PRIORITIZE. Here is a short list of what I am going to put my time and energy into in the coming days/weeks/months. I’d love to hear what you are spending you energy on, so after you read my list, shoot me a list of your own!

I’ve always been adamant about putting family first. It always seems like the hardest to pull off, and it always feels the worst when something prevents me from fulfilling my responsibilities to the people I care most about. I work hardest on this one, because I know if I don’t have the foundation of love, support and accountability I need to continue to grow as a human being, I would be utterly lost in the world. My kids and Alix deserve the most from me, so I am committing myself to being the best partner/parent I can be.

Work only comes second because of how closely it is tied to the my first priority. I need to support my family by doing well at my chosen profession, and diligently endeavor to achieve excellence in whatever undertaking I choose to pursue. My work also gives me purpose and drive to grow academically, and develop my personality to thrive in a variety of different situations. As a coach, I spend much of my time working hard to ensure people clearly understand specific concepts, and teaching them how to articulate those concepts in a physical reality using their own bodies and other implements. Really, it is just excercise, but I will work to make it something special.

Training is a close third because it is also tied so closely to the first two. To be able demonstrate a Muscle-Up, it really helps if you can DO  a Muscle-Up, so I practice ALOT.  Also, physical activity helps me keep an even keel. I won’t ever claim that I have ADHD, but sometimes when I think about it real hard, the shoe fits pretty well, if you know what I mean. I NEED to move. Thrashing around with a barbell, or testing how long I can hold a handstand, or trying to beat my previous burpee record all serve to keep me active, fit, healthy and sane. Training helps me do my job well, which in turn, helps me take care of my family here. I bet you are beginning to see how these are all intertwined…

Friends don’t get nearly enough time, in my opinion. My social schedule obviously revolves around the first three priorities, and those often take up all the hours in the day. When I do socialize, it is often with the same people I train/work with. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad scenario, but it can get a bit awkward sometimes when people don’t act like adults, and they allow the lines of those respective circles to blur, and then shit can get messy. Recently, I have been working on expanding my social circle, but it hasn’t worked very well so far. I’ve also tried contacting a few long, lost friends from my past, but quality time and positive interaction with those people have been fleeting at best. Internet dating sites are a bit awkward, but I am trying it out, just to see who is out there in the big, wide world. You never know, until you look, right?

Writing comes last, and for this, I punch myself in the face on a regular basis. Words are my passion, and often, the best way to find common ground with other people.  I assume that is why you all continue to read what I write, and find some value in this blog. Right now, I am trying my best to bang out the last few paragraphs of this essay, so I can grab the kids, and jet off to the river for a bit before the sun tucks itself back behind the clouds. I don’t spend nearly enough time editing, or rewriting, or spellchecking, or idea-finding. I don’t spend nearly enough time using my words to alter the world around me in a positive way. I don’t spend nearly enough time using my worlds to affect social change, or to challenge the dominant paradigm of Amerikan culture, or rage against the injustice and insanity I see around me every day. I don’t spend nearly enough time using my words to tell people I love them, or to spread good cheer, or to make new friends, or send encoragement to someone I know needs it most. I NEED to write more!

This is a pretty short list, but I think it is necessary to pare down and focus. Even with only five items, I know there will always be something that isn’t getting my full attention, and there will always be something that I need to spend more time on. But, at least now I have a starting point, and I have plan of action. What are your priorities today? Who or what do you want to spend more time with? What goals and dreams are you chasing this summer? Drop me a line and let me know what is on your mind :). Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

How Awesome Are You?

Sometimes I forget how awesome I am.

Repeat that to yourself and see how it changes your day. It has taken me thirty-one years to figure out that it is okay for me to remind myself how awesome I am.  See, every year, leading up to my birthday, I spend a week over-analyzing the last twelve months of my life and working to find some significance in my existence. I think I lead a pretty awesome life, so I always come up with some good stuff, but this year was especially poignant and revealing. I’d like to share my epiphany with you now :).

Now, before you label me a narcissistic, egotistical a##hole, please let me be clear. My “awesomeness”, (and your awesomeness as well), does not come from the cornucpoia of gifts we are blessed with, but rather from the plethora of faults, quirks, fu%$ ups, scars, misses and failures that constitute the majority of our lives. I believe these experiences are what teach us all the important lessons in life. I also believe it is an unrealistic expectation to tell oursevles to ignore our broken side, in favor of some impossible search for perfection. Which brough me to my lightbulb moment; I realized this year that it is okay to be who I am, with all the good, bad and ugly stuff that makes me “me”.  I realized that I wanted live the life I want to live. With this realization,  I made the choice to live authentically.

For some of you, my  realization might be a simple reminder for how you already live your life. To you, I say, “well done”.  Accepting yourself, with all the craziness and quirkiness that makes you “you”, is no easy task. The trial and error proccess of finding out who you really are, and then coming to terms with who you are, and then taking responsiblity and ownership of everything that makes you an individual, is not something easily acheived. You deserve all the confidence, self-respect, pride and happiness you’ve earned.

For others, this may be an entirely foreign concept. Like me, you probably grew up comparing yourself to some arbitrary standard, and attempting, with every fiber of your being, to be the person you imaginged other people thought you should be. You made concessions to other people’s opinions and advice, wanting so badly to be part of something bigger than yourself, but never really developing a personality or opinion of your own. As an adult, you continue this pattern by avoiding conflict, staying safe, coloring inside the lines. You are grateful for everything you have, but you have stopped dreaming and reaching for MORE. You are content with your life, but you have stopped pushing limits or taking risks, or tempting fate, because you worry you might ruin the “good thing” you have now. This mentality is killing our souls.

Growing another year older made me think back on the last twelve months of my life and evaluate what significance my life had. What impact did I have on world around me? What impact do I have on the people I spend time with? What challenges have I overcome? What lessons have I learned? What fears have I conquered? After thinking long and hard, I realized that I wasn’t living up to the standard I had set for myself. I was letting myself slip into comfort and safety. I was keeping up a facade in many aspects of my life, and working hard to convince myself that “settling” has it’s advantages. But that is not really who I want to be. That is not who I am.

Now, I am working to make every day an opportunity to life authentically and uapologetically as myself. It is okay for me to be good at what I do, and it is okay to be proud of my work. It is okay for me to be a less-than-perfect parent to my two beautiful children, and it is okay for me to be the best dad ever (when I can pull it off). It is okay for me love my amazing partner, and it is okay for me to show her how I feel in as many ways as I can possibly think of.  Sometimes it is okay for me to be an asshole and a hermit. Sometimes it is okay for me to be vulnerable and broken. Sometimes I will throw a fit, and sometimes I won’t have the right answer and sometimes I will push too hard. But I will do all that knowing I have responsibility for my gifts and my curses, for my faults and talents, and I am living my life as the person I want to be. I encourage you to all try to do the same :).

Until next time..

Peace.Tobias.

On Diversity

Hello Friends,

After finishing this post, I realized I have a bit more to say on the importance of standing out, and the importance of creating and maintaing diversity in our daily lives. I believe I have made my position clear on the value of accentuating your individuality, but I am not sure if I made clear how important diversity is to an effective Living Revolution.

Using the natural world as an example, we see that diversity provides animals, plants, and other organisms the most possible options for success. We also see that because of diversity, a variety of different species can coexist  symbiotically in a fairly small area as each fills a specific niche within a given ecosystem. Healthy, vibrant ecosystems function most effectively when diversity is maintained through the processes of natural selection, evolution, and adaptation.

Look at all the pretty colors! Sweet Diversity!

On the other end of the spectrum, we have monoculture. Here, the environment has been simplified and reduced to the lowest common denominator. Often, agribusinesses are based on the monoculture model which require massive amounts of fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides to maintain uniformity of the crop. This is not a natural environment and cannot exist without constant human intervention.

These images  symbolize only a fraction of the destructive reality of monoculture, and  it is easy to recognize that the process of creating a monoculture is not the most effective may to interact with the world around us. While a monoculture may yield an amazing amount of wheat or soybeans in the short term, the process is not sustainable in any sense of the word, and eventually the land base will be reduced to a desert wasteland.

Agribusiness offers a terrible example of what a monoculture can produce, but this is not the most important example. This process is often applied to societies by governments, in an effort to make people easier to control. Fear of, and hate for, “the other” are often used to establish a foundation in favor of reducing diversity, and once differences (however arbitrary), are established, the majority is easily led to believe a false reality. It has happened many times, all over the world, with disastrous results.

Does this idea look familiar to anyone else? It reminds me of something…
Ahhh, yes. Now I remember where I saw that kind of conformity.

It must be so confusing to be a racist and bigot. All around us are examples of how diversity, individuality, and heterogeneity make the world a healthier,  more vibrant, more interesting place to live. Especially in America, the mixing pot of the world’s races, ethnicities, and nationalities, it seems almost impossible to be convinced that one kind of person is better than another, or that one small, special group of people would fare better if everyone else were not around. Racism, and prejudice in general, are belief systems that exist despite millions of years worth of evidence to the contrary.  These beliefs go against logic, they go against reason, they go against science. As a species, we thrive on difference. As individuals, we need difference to define ourselves and recognize what makes us unique.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with the Living Revolution. So, I will tell you.

If we are going to achieve any lasting change, if the Living Revolution is going to be effective, we need to recognize the barriers that have been erected in our hearts and minds, as well as the physical barriers we have built in so many different places, and we need to begin working to dismantle those barriers. In the activist community, and in the world at large, we waste so much time evaluating our differences and determining how these differences prevent us from forming symbiotic relationships. We focus on the negative aspects of our differences and convince ourselves there are distinct groups with labels like “us” and “them”. From this mindset, there is a bigger picture that we are missing. If we all want change, and we are all willing to work toward positive change, then why does it matter if you want to get rid of car culture and I want lower taxes for the middle class? If we both aren’t satisfied with how things are now, and we want to create a different world, what does it matter if you want universal health care and I want to get rid of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations? The reality is all these things are connected, so why wouldn’t we all work together to achieve change? An united community all striving for change together is the only scenario that makes sense. For that to happen, we need to recognize our similarities and begin to focus on what brings us all together. Sweet Diversity!!

Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.

The Right Questions

Hello Friends,

In an effort to spur some intelligent response, I think I am going to start asking more questions. Generally, yes, but also specifically here on this blog. I can type a whole bunch of words telling you what I think about the world, but until we engage in a meaningful conversation and exchange points of view, this is really just a whole bunch of mental masturbation. We need more than that.

To begin, I would like to share three important questions from Derrick Jensen. He has written a few great books and I had the opportunity to see him speak a few months back in Portland, Oregon. He has a great sense of humor, considering he writes books explicitly stating that human civilization is killing Earth, and that civilization should be dismantled and destroyed immediately. He actively encourages other people to fight for the destruction of civilization in whatever way they can, and to those who aren’t yet acting, he poses a few questions. I think if we all sit down and think real hard, answering these questions just might end up being the catalyst that sets us off.

The first question is, “which side are you on?”. We need to be able to identify our allies and our enemies. We need to be able to trust the people beside us on the picket lines and in the marches, (or at the gym, or the coffeeshop, or the library).  We need to know that we share a common vision and common purpose. We need to instill our community with a sense of loyalty and peoplehood that removes any doubt about where we stand. So, which side are you on?

Another question Jensen asks is, “why do we continue to lose?”.  Why do we keep getting beat? Is it our small numbers or our mediocre tactics? Is it because we don’t care enough, because we are unwilling to sacrifice enough to achieve success? Is it because our success would mean  we might be forced to live out our beliefs and we can’t really imagine what that would be like? Is it because our opposition is stronger, or more prepared, or better funded, or they cheat? Maybe we should begin moving away from the stockpile of excuses we have accumulated over the years and just starting winning. Maybe we could look hard at all those old excuses, analyze those scenarios, and then develop new, creative ways of avoiding previous mistakes. Maybe we could take a sincere interest in the health and wellbeing of ourselves and our communities and begin acting like we really wanted to see change in our lifetime. What is it that keep us from attaining our goals?

For those who have not yet found a way to positively contribute to saving the world, the most powerful questions is, “what is your threshold?”. What is it going to take for you to act? Put this in whatever context turns your stomach the most. How many more species of plants and animals must go extinct before you will act? How many more tons of plastic will clog our rivers and oceans before you will act? How many more indigenous people will be killed or displaced by corporations seeking to extract and exploit natural resources before you will do something? How many more children will die of obesity or be killed by toxins in their mothers breastmilk before you will make a decision to change your life? How sick will you allow yourself to get before you act against those who are destroying our planet and absolutely do not have your best interest in mind? What will it take to make you act?

Derrick Jensen asks other questions in his books and presentations. Many of his questions are poignant and insightful, and the answers to many of his questions are both disturbing and inspiring. He is asking the “right” questions. Let’s start asking ourselves questions that inspire and disturb. Let’s start asking each other questions that put us outside our comfort zone. Let’s start listening to each other, and then let’s start answering some of these questions, honestly and openly. I can’t wait to see what happens. Until next time…

Peace.Tobias.