"to have and not to hold"

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

So after a week in which I spent about half of it ranting about how just because I don't like some aspects of some poly communities it didn't mean I hated polyamorous people (unless they were self-righteous asshats about it), and was told that I was just bitter cause I had bad experiences with polyamory, I had... well. Quite the weekend, really.

It started with a session that was kind of fantastic. I got to do things I really, really enjoy- a bit of cling film, a bit of caning, a bit of assplay. It was made endlessly better by the fact that his sweetie was totally informed and consenting- something that does happen in the sex work world but is pretty rare. It was a great way, too, to reflect on limits, and boundaries, and how there are ways to be nonmonogamous and very upfront and self-reflective while also having those limits and boundaries. Sometimes it's good to challenge those, sure, but if they work for everyone involved... why push it?

I felt glad to see another model of nonmonogamy working, to be honest. It reminded me that I became poly and stayed nonmonogamous because I really do feel that commitment and continuity (along with communication and trust) is what's important to me, and when my relationship is stable, I feel a lot better about having less limitations on being open. It's while those building blocks are still being worked into the foundation that I want more rules- and for the boy and I, that seems to be ok.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It was Kinky Salon this weekend, both in the US and in the UK.

And the boy and I both had a hot date- our first experience trying this out in... well, maybe ever, actually.

With the long distance thing, and some of our past issues, I've been terrified of him sleeping with someone else, because almost every time he has in the past, it's been a disaster. And he's been upset at me sleeping with someone else too, so we've been stagnating, our sexualities clashing, getting crankier and more frustrated. In our attempts to be a more stable couple, we have instead often raged against the boundaries and rules, wanting to be free to do as we liked and (I think) wishing the other person didn't want to sleep with other people. It's one of those things they even list in "Managing Jealousy" resources- "if my partner was happy enough with me, they wouldn't need someone else".

But we both want the other to be happy. And long distance for months without physical intimacy is, honestly, a bit soul-crushing. So it was time to let go a little, to be uncomfortable, to see what happened. And while all that was kind of scary, the fact that we both got to have a sexy date at a fun party made it go a little smoother, I think. I was still pretty nervous though. What if I wasn't ready? What if I was a giant hypocrite and wanted him to be celibate while I fucked around? What if his having sex, even with my permission, made me hate him or freak out? As much as I hoped for it to go well, it was tentatively and with a deep breath that I released my grip.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

So, falcons, right. They're wild birds that are tamed to kill you some game and bring it back, perching on your leather gauntlet. And when they're started out, they're on a tether. But you can't keep them on that tether forever- one day you have to let them go and see what happens. If they fly back, you've created a symbiotic relationship. If not, well... now you know. And as you watch that bird soar into the sky, your heart just sinks because you're so sure that this was a terrible idea and they may be gone forever.

That's a bit how it felt letting the boy go to a play party with another woman, without me there. And I felt a bit fearful that if I went out and had a great time, he would be angry and resentful and it would be miserable and dramatic. At the same time, I am really drawn to this girl I went to KS with- she's gorgeous, brainy, geeky, and stylish, with this sweetness that's the sugar crust on a ferocious passion that's delicious. I wanted to see how things went, and I really wanted them to go well... though I was scared if it went too well he would feel threatened and that would be the end of things. I wanted to have it all.

I can't do it, you say it's killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor's button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

Well...  he came back. :) And I came back to him.

The boy had a great time at KSL with a girl who's been mentioned in this blog before. I initially felt ok about it as I know and trust her and felt that she would not only have a good time with him, she would be very compassionate to me as well. And she was- I felt like they both reassured me and made me feel missed and wanted and cared about.

You know all that stuff I say about feeling able to say no and have that respected makes the yes mean more?

Yeah, that.

I felt like I could say I wasn't comfortable and they would work within what felt ok for me- which made me feel much more ok with letting them do as they wanted. Funny how that can work. And it wasn't painfree- I still feel a little jealous even now, but I'm not really scared that I've lost my partner.

And in addition, the boy made me feel really good about having a nice time on my date. KS's theme was Pussyfest and we had a lovely time- her outfit was adorable and she made me feel like the sexiest woman alive. Best of all, I didn't feel guilty sharing our experiences. I didn't feel resentful. I felt excited for next time, and I loved that we could share in a way that was hot and affirming for us. I felt like I really had his permission and his blessing, and it made the whole experience better.

So why did this all work for me when other extra-pair bonds have been traumatic? I think because both of the dates we had, his and mine, were incredibly understanding and reassuring to the opposite partner. And that made us feel respected as a couple, and cared about as individuals. They did it without asking for a cookie for it, either, but because it was a decent thing to do. It's what we needed, as a couple, and knowing we could have it (knowing it didn't have to be a fight!) is so welcome.

No, I still don't identify as polyamorous, and I still feel annoyed at polyer-than-thou attitudes. But this experiment in nonmonogamy made me feel more secure and happy, turned on and sexy in our relationship.  It's all thanks to the compassion of the people involved. And I'm glad, because I think I want a little more of this feeling, please!

And thank you. You know who you are.

(poem by Marge Piercy, to have without holding)

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